Playing with Fire
Author: Kat Black
Publisher: HarperCollins Mischief
Released: February 26, 2015
Series: Sequel to Melting Ms. Frost
Author contact links: Website
Purchase links: Amazon US, Amazon UK
It was late in the day when they started back to Aidan’s cottage, both more than a little gritty from the site and slightly sweaty from the afternoon heat. Left sitting in the shade by the front door were a square wooden crate and a polystyrene box.
‘I had some supplies delivered as I thought you’d want a quiet night in rather than eating out,’ Aidan said as he bent to pick up the boxes. ‘I know I do.’
Annabel was reminded of Mary O’Meara’s earlier comment. ‘Who’s Grainne?’ she asked as she opened the door for him.
Aidan straightened, shooting her a questioning look. ‘My mother. Why?’
Annabel explained the confusing conversation she’d had in the café as she followed him inside.
‘Well, Mary was half right. We were invited for a family dinner tonight, but I declined. A big Irish welcome is the last thing you need at the moment, trust me,’ he said with a wry smile, setting the boxes down on the kitchen bench. ‘My parents would like to meet you at some point while you’re here, though,’ he added, raising the lid of the polystyrene box and drawing out a chilled bottle of water, which he passed to Annabel before grabbing a cold bottle of beer for himself. ‘But for now we don’t need to worry about anything but a beautiful, sunny evening all to ourselves. Would you like to go down and see the cove? We’ve a couple of hours before the tide turns, we can cool off with our drinks on the beach.’
When Annabel agreed, Aidan grabbed a couple of towels and led her down the rocky incline to the tiny sheltered beach below the cottage. As they made their way across the sand, he drew her attention back to the cliff face, pointing out the entrance to the cave that led to the smugglers’ tunnel and the secret trapdoor in the cottage floor.
Annabel took the towel Aidan handed her and shook out the folds so she could lay it out to sit on. Beside her, Aidan set his own to one side, beer bottle resting on top, and sat straight on the sand to remove his shoes.
‘That’s better,’ he said with a sigh of bliss, burying his toes in the sand and reaching for the beer. He twisted off the top, tipped it to his lips and took several long pulls, ending with a satisfied ‘Ahhh.’
Sitting cross-legged beside him, Annabel watched as he bundled his towel behind his head and lay back, eyes closed against the afternoon sun and a contented smile hovering on his lips.
After having seen him more frustrated and stressed today than ever before, the sight of him relaxing did something funny to her chest. ‘Thank you,’ she said, suddenly overcome with gratitude for the way he’d selflessly come to her rescue, again.
Aidan’s eyes opened and he turned to squint up at her. ‘For what?’
‘For this. For everything. I’m very grateful.’ She held his gaze so he could see she meant it.
‘You’re welcome.’ Smiling, he stretched a hand up and rubbed a fingertip against the side of her nose. ‘You’re also dusty. As am I.’ Planting his beer bottle securely in the sand, he got to his feet and reached down to pull her up too. ‘Let’s go for a swim, wash off the building grit.’
As soon as she was standing, he released her and dragged his T-shirt off over his head.
‘But I don’t have any swimmers,’ Annabel said, watching him because she couldn’t seem to look anywhere else.
‘Why would you need them?’ Aidan asked, hands moving to the fastenings of his jeans.
Well, she wasn’t going to ruin her underwear with seawater if that’s what he thought. The matching sets her mother had packed for her were the most expensive ones she owned. No mere coincidence, she knew, given the other items she’d discovered in the case. With the exception of one practical pair of capri pants and sensible flat shoes, Ellen had dug out Annabel’s most feminine outfits – including the floaty dress she’d worn that night in the Cotswolds, the skimpiest tops and slinkiest silk and lace nightgowns. It was easy to see her mother had packed with romance and seduction in mind.
The sound of Aidan’s phone intruded as he prepared to pull down his jeans. ‘Jesus, five minutes peace!’ he said with an uncharacteristic flash of annoyance. He dug the phone out of his back pocket and didn’t even look at the screen before switching it off and tossing it onto the nearby towel. Then he hooked his thumbs into the waistband of both his jeans and boxers and pulled everything down in a single movement.
Annabel gasped his name even as she threw an alarmed look up at the surrounding cliffs.
‘We’re totally alone, a mhuirnín,’ he assured her, stepping free of the clothing bunched around his ankles and standing gloriously naked in front of her. ‘Well, apart from the snapping turtles. Did Mary O’Meara tell you about those?’ he added with a laugh, turning towards the water.
Frozen, Annabel watched as he took a few steps away before glancing back over his shoulder at her. ‘Come on, it’s just the two of us. Don’t be shy,’ he said, his tone coaxing while his smile dared her.
It was almost impossible to look away from the sight he made, sauntering with his usual loose-limbed grace, obviously entirely comfortable with having every intimate inch of his physique exposed to the elements. And why wouldn’t he be? Letting her gaze trace from the broad shoulders to the tightly rounded muscles of his buttocks to the length of his legs, she couldn’t see any reason why he would be ashamed of his body. He was a man in his prime. A tall, lean, beautifully sculpted specimen.
He turned again as he reached the waterline, this time throwing a look of such blatant male satisfaction over his shoulder that she was left in no doubt he knew she was watching, and that he was enjoying the attention.
‘Come on, Annabel,’ he called and began wading deeper.
Chewing her lip in indecision, she swept her gaze around the cliff tops again. She supposed he was right about them being alone. Out here at the very end of the headland, with Carriglea Bay tucked well out of sight off to the east of private Tulaí land, there was nothing but the empty sea in front of her; the empty sea and a naked Aidan. The temptation was too much.
Almost sure that he was joking about the snapping turtles – were there really such things, anyway? – she stripped off as quickly as possible and dashed after him, keen to get herself into the water and covered. Just in case any of the locals decided to pop up out of nowhere for a chat.
She heard Aidan’s deep laugh as she hit the water at full pelt, the chilly shock of the temperature stealing her breath as she belly-flopped. By the time she found her feet and got her breath back again, he’d disappeared beneath the calm surface, to re-emerge beside her, black hair slick and sleek as a seal’s pelt.
‘Very graceful.’ He grinned, blinking water from his eyes.