I can't believe my second book with Harlequin Presents and Mills & Boon is here! Proof of Their One Hot Night follows the ice-cold Calandra and playboy Alejandro as they confront the result of their one night of forbidden passion...
To celebrate Release Day, I wanted to share the first chapter of Alejandro and Calandra's romance. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
A big thank you to Morgan Wright (@bymorganwright on Twitter) for the beautiful video and Shupeipa (@shupeipa on Fiverr) for the customized illustration of one of my favorite scenes from Alejandro and Calandra's romance.
Calandra Smythe’s eyes flew open as a warm, muscled arm curled around her stomach.
She met her own gaze in the mirror above the bed and barely bit back a gasp.
Midnight-blue silk covered her chest and hips, but beneath the covers she was most definitely nude, the fabric a cool kiss against her bare skin. Her hair, which she normally kept contained in a bun, flared out in dark brown waves across her pillow. Lips swollen, cheeks tinged pink…
Oh, no. She looked like she belonged on the cover of a romance novel.
So did the naked man with his arm across her belly. His face was buried in his pillow, but his bare backside was on full display in the mirror. Dark hair curled across the nape of his neck; he had broad shoulders and a muscular back that begged for a woman’s fingers to glide over every ridge before trailing lower…
Slowly, Calandra got her racing heartbeat back under control. How the hell could she have let this happen? She never did anything this impulsive. Never let anyone get too close. But last night it was like someone else had taken over her body, made her respond with a smile and a flirtatious laugh instead of the cold stare she usually leveled at people who bothered her. If her boss found out what she’d done, or in this case whom she’d done, the career she’d fought tooth and nail for would be gone.
Sunlight streamed through the blinds and hit her square in the eyes. Squinting against the brightness, she managed to wiggle out from under the heat of her lover’s arm and swing her legs over the edge of the bed. Her feet sank into the plush rug, belying the ache between her thighs. A marble fireplace dominated one side of the room, while a row of windows provided an incredible view of the sun rising over the Hudson River.
Once, a long time ago, she’d been surrounded by opulence like this. Endless toys, designer clothes, trips to France and Italy and Turkey.
She’d been miserable.
But easier to focus on the luxury than the stark-naked man sleeping peacefully behind her. Easier to evaluate details like the spa tub she glimpsed through the bathroom door than to recall the feel of lips trailing over her neck, her breasts, her stomach, leaving sparks of fire burning across her skin. To face the realization that she’d finally given up her virginity to a man whose company she’d despised for the past three years.
She grabbed her phone off the table and stifled a gasp. Six thirty in the morning? She hadn’t slept past four in years.
A delicious shiver danced down her spine. Given how energetic their bed play had been, it shouldn’t surprise her that she’d overslept.
Fortunately, there were no missed calls or texts from Adrian. No matter how incredible the night had been, no experience was worth risking her reputation.
Or her heart. She prided herself on her ability to keep everyone at arm’s length. Indulging in a night of sex had never been worth testing that ability.
Until a night had suddenly seemed worth it. A night of incredible, mind-blowing, soul-stirring sex.
A quick glance over her shoulder verified that he was still sleeping. Sunshine fell upon his back, casting a golden glow over his chiseled muscles. Muscles that had sent a thrill through her veins as her fingers explored every inch of him.
Enough of that.
She turned away and stood. Where had her evening gown ended up? She needed to get dressed and get out of the suite before—
“Buenos días, Callie.”
Alejandro Cabrera grinned as Calandra froze, her stunning body backlit by the morning sun. The light caressed her toned frame, from the delicateness of her swan-like neck to those long, long legs. Perhaps he could persuade her to join him back in bed and kiss his way up from the slender curve of her calves to those luscious lips, with some detours along the way.
Although judging by the tense set of her shoulders and the alarm in her gray eyes, a repeat of last night’s performance wasn’t happening anytime soon.
Too bad. The cold-blooded event manager with a heart of ice that he normally dealt with had thawed and revealed an enticing woman who had intoxicated him with heady kisses and passionate moans as he explored every inch of her supple body.
Her virgin body. That had been an unexpected shock. Yet it had filled him with a possessiveness he’d never experienced, one that had made him an even more attentive and gentle lover.
Although their second round had not been gentle. Calandra had responded with a passion that brought him to new heights of pleasure. Heights, he thought with a grin, he was more than happy to revisit.
He sat up and leaned against the headboard. Calandra’s gaze flickered down to his groin. Just a glance made him stir. Two spots of red appeared in her cheeks, and she looked away.
His grin widened. “Nothing you haven’t seen before.”
A grimace passed over her face. “Please don’t remind me.”
Not the first thing women usually responded with after sharing his bed. He frowned. Had he imagined the passionate temptress in his bed last night? Or worse, had he not been gentle enough? Her virginity had surprised him, but when he’d tried to pause, she’d grabbed his hips and pulled him deep with such demand he’d nearly embarrassed himself.
Before he could say anything else, she darted across the room and scooped her dress off the floor. She fumbled with the soft material before it slipped from her fingers and pooled in a black satin heap at her feet. She stared at it for a moment, as if willing the dress to levitate off the ground and cover her. Then, with a quick breath, she raised her chin and looked right at him.
There. The tiniest fire flickered in her eyes, smoky and defiant. Standing there in all her bare glory, hair unbound and falling in tousled waves over her alabaster shoulders, she looked like a dark-haired version of Aphrodite rising from the black folds of a stormy sea.
He tore his gaze away from the rose-colored tips of her breasts and refocused on her eyes.
Her flat, emotionless gray eyes. Something twisted in his chest. He missed the spark that had flickered to life just last night, then flamed into a blazing inferno as they’d left the empty ballroom behind.
Now that he’d glimpsed the real Calandra, he didn’t want her to retreat back into the detached professional he’d come to know.
Not that it mattered, he reminded himself. He’d be on a plane to New Orleans this afternoon. Calandra would return to her career as event planner for his brother’s company, Cabrera Wines. And their one night of passion, no matter how intensely pleasurable it had been, would gradually fade as time passed and new women graced his bed.
He covered his momentary lapse into maudlin territory with his customary playboy smile.
“Nothing I haven’t seen already.”
With a disappointed sigh, he averted his gaze and stared out the windows at the towers of New York City sparkling in the early-morning light. He hadn’t planned on dropping in for the release party of his brother’s latest wine. But maldición, he was glad he had. It had been a solid month since he’d pleasured a woman. As much as he enjoyed teasing Calandra, he never would have guessed that she would be his next lover.
Or that she’d be untouched. Possession wound itself through his veins, hot and…desperate. Desperate to keep her all to himself, to not let anyone see the treasure that had been lurking beneath her dark clothing and stern expression.
A discreet glance over his shoulder made his chest tighten as he took in the sensual curve of her back, her tapered waist and those gorgeous legs disappearing into her dress.
Yes. Definitely glad.
He suppressed another grin as he turned to fully face Calandra. The gown was in place, wrapped firmly around her body, her lips thin and tight as she stared at him, hands by her sides and curled into fists. The coldness in her gaze would send most men running.
But not him. Not anymore. Not after the delights she had placed within his grasp last night as she’d wrapped those stunning legs around his waist and—
“Sorry, what?” he asked, dragging his mind back from his lurid fantasies.
“Thank you for…” She waved her hand in the air, then shook her head. “I hope you have a safe trip to New Orleans.”
Panic flared in his stomach, unexpected and unwelcome. He never panicked when a woman left his bed. Usually he was the one doing the leaving. So why did it bother him that Calandra was practically running into the living room of the suite? Easier to deal with a woman who left on her own than one who took a single night as a sign of something more.
But Calandra leaving bothered him. Before he could examine his emotions, he gave in to instinct and jumped out of bed, grabbed a pair of sweatpants he’d tossed over a chair and followed her.
She had her hand on the door handle when he walked into the living room. Her eyes widened and focused on his chest and then snapped back up, her face red.
Ah. The ice queen wasn’t nearly as impervious as she portrayed herself to be.
“What are you doing?” Her tone, on the other hand, could have frozen hell. “I said goodbye.”
“It would be rude of me not to walk you back to your room.”
Her lips tightened even further. Ever since Adrian had hired her three years ago, Alejandro had delighted in teasing her, trying to get a rise out of the woman who seemed to prefer business over pleasure.
Until last night. Last night, she had definitely preferred pleasure when she’d gasped his name as her hands had clutched his shoulders. He could still feel the heat of her fingertips on his skin.
“I don’t have a room here.”
Alejandro frowned. “Why not?”
“I’m staying with a friend in the city.”
Jealousy slithered through his chest. “A friend?”
She didn’t bat an eye at the sudden tension in his tone. “Yes.”
“Anyone I know?”
It shouldn’t bother him. They’d had one night together. One night was usually all he made time for. If her fleeing his hotel suite was any indication, Calandra wasn’t interested in anything more, either.
So why was he jealous?
She opened the door and walked out. Alejandro caught the door before she could close it and stepped out into the hall.
“Shouldn’t you put on a shirt?” Calandra kept her gaze averted as she stalked down the hall to the elevator, the plush carpet masking the sound of her heels. An elderly couple walked past him, the woman’s mouth dropping open as she took in his bare chest. The husband made a sound of disapproval and tugged his wife’s hand, urging her along.
“I’m comfortable. Besides,” he added with a grin as the elevator dinged and the doors whooshed open, “nothing you haven’t seen before. Or kissed. Or nibbled—”
“I get it.”
Before she could close the elevator doors in his face, he stepped in beside her and pressed the button for the first floor. The doors closed.
And suddenly they were alone once more in a very tight, very intimate space. He heard the sharp intake of her breath, felt the snap of electricity between them. He went hard in an instant, memories of their lovemaking rushing through his mind as his blood roared in his ears.
Mine, mine, mine.
He risked a glance down. Calandra stared straight ahead. She thrust her shoulders back, pressing her breasts against her neckline. That dark hair tumbled down her back, and he barely stopped himself from reaching out and tangling his fingers in the silky tresses.
The thought of her leaving the hotel room had filled him with a sense of urgency, almost a desperation to keep her in his sights. But now, as he took a step away from her and the temptation to press her up against the wall of the elevator and kiss those luscious lips, warning bells clanged.
Suddenly, he couldn’t wait to be rid of her and the urges she inspired.
The elevator stopped and the doors opened, revealing the lobby. Grecian columns marched down the room, flanked by urns spilling over with deep pink blooms. A row of chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Soft instrumental music shut out most of the noise from Fifty-Third Street as taxis, buses and cars rushed by the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Calandra marched out of the elevator, heels clicking on the rosewood floor. Alejandro followed at a casual pace. As much as he wanted to return to his room, order breakfast in bed and catch a few more hours of sleep before his flight, he forced himself to do the right thing and at least see Calandra safely into a taxi.
The front desk attendant glanced up and did a double take as he passed, her eyes widening behind her enormous glasses.
He winked at her. “I know, forgot my shirt. I’ll make it right in a minute, I promise.”
He quickened his pace as Calandra burst out the front doors and raised her arm. By the time he walked outside, she’d already hailed a cab and was reaching for the car door.
Alejandro opened the door with a flourish and bowed. She tossed him a narrow-eyed glare as she climbed into the car.
“Thank you,” she murmured stiffly.
She turned her head, probably to deliver a cutting remark, but whatever she was about to say was lost as their eyes met. The coldness disappeared once more, steel softening into misty gray that flared bright with desire, longing and…
He blinked. Something so sad it tugged at his heart.
She shook her head and reached for the door.
“Goodbye, Señor Cabrera.”
The door slammed shut, and the taxi sped off. He watched it until it was swallowed up in the sea of New York traffic.
He glanced up at the legendary city’s skyscrapers, despising the ache in his chest. The feeling that something wasn’t quite right had been building for the past few months, a dissatisfaction with the endless parties and, if he dared to be honest with himself, a longing for something more. Something permanent. The two upcoming new ships that would be added to Cabrera Shipping’s fleet had assuaged some of the emptiness. So had the tentative approval of the board to move forward on the La Reina project, despite his father’s increasingly pointed comments about all the things that could go wrong. Not unexpected. He’d gotten used to Javier Cabrera’s disapproval a long time ago.
The future was bright. So why did this longing for something more persist? And why had his night with Calandra tilted his world even farther off its axis?
He didn’t know how long he stood there, staring at the spot where she’d disappeared, an uncomfortable ache tugging at his heart. But a sudden whoop, followed by a “Hey, sexy” from a bleary-eyed woman with smudged eyeliner hanging out the window of a passing cab, yanked him out of whatever nostalgic land he’d ventured to and back into reality.
One night. One night of mind-blowing sex. That’s all it was, and that’s all he wanted it to be.
With that final thought, he turned and walked back into the hotel. The clerk stood behind the desk, arms folded and eyes narrowed. Her black-and-gold name tag proclaimed her name to be Leia.
“Sir, we ask that all our guests wear a shirt, pants and shoes in the lobby.”
He grinned and leaned against the counter. Instead of swooning or eyeballing his chest, her eyes tapered into slits.
Two women who’d resisted him in one morning. Maybe he was losing his touch.
He held up a hand in surrender. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. It won’t happen again.”
She stared at him for another long moment, then nodded toward the door.
“I hope your friend enjoyed her stay with us.”
The smile disappeared from his face. “Yeah.” Why did it bother him that Calandra had fled? He’d left plenty of beds without even a goodbye. He didn’t care for being on the receiving end.
A flicker of compassion crossed Leia’s face. “It could work out.”
He returned Leia’s gaze before smiling slightly. “Thanks. And I am sorry.”
She pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and nodded briskly. “Yes, well…just don’t do it again, Mr. Cabrera.”
He backed away with his hands held up in surrender, shot her another thousand-watt smile that did nothing more than make her roll her eyes and headed for the elevator. The door swished open and a beautiful blonde woman rushed out, head down, hand clutched tightly around her suitcase. She glanced up. Recognition flared. He’d seen her dance with Adrian last night, seen the way his normally uptight brother had looked at her.
He started to say hello, to at least glean her name, but she dashed by so quickly he didn’t even have a chance.
Oh, well. He had problems of his own. Like keeping his company moving forward and forgetting the woman who had run from his bed like the hounds of hell were nipping at her heels.
All while looking insanely sexy and deliciously rumpled.
Step one: cold shower. Step two: get dressed, grab breakfast. Step three: head to the airport. Step four: put Calandra Smythe and their incredible night together out of his mind.
But Alejandro isn't the first Cabrera brother to fall under the spell of love...check out oldest brother Adrian's sojourn into romantic territory with the bubbly yet strong-willed Everleigh in His Billion-Dollar Takeover Temptation!