A quick tinge of panic held Elle Monroe’s breath hostage. Her gaze shifted from the masculine, tattooed arm draped over her waist to the door on the other side of the dimly lit room—a ten-foot distance. Maybe fifteen.
It might as well have been a mile-long obstacle course complete with rotating floorboards and mud pits for how easily she could cross the distance without detection. And that was exactly what needed to be done—and sooner rather than later. Once she got back to her own hotel room, she could figure out why it had taken her nearly thirty years to experience the best sex of her life.
With a ridiculously sexy stranger.
In a rural Thailand bar.
To be more accurate, the sex happened in Trey’s room above the bar, repeatedly and with such vigor that her face flushed with each mental replay of the last six hours. Mouths. Hands. Naked, sweaty bodies. He’d worn her out to the point that she’d passed out cold—and woken up feeling way too trapped for comfort.
“Trying to plot the best escape route?” a deep voice rumbled behind Elle’s shoulder, low and husky with the perfect amount of gravel thrown into the mix. Trey With-No-Last-Name drew her deeper into his embrace until her back met his massive wall of a chest. “I heard your breathing change so I know you’re awake. Are you going to answer my question or keep pretending you’re sleeping?”
“No. Yes. I mean…crap.” Elle’s heart climbed higher into her throat. This is what happens when you develop a rebellious streak seventeen years past puberty.
“No, you’re not escaping; yes, to feigning sleep; and crap to answering questions? Is that what you’re saying or am I not following at all?” His mouth brushed against the curve of her neck, conjuring a trail of goose bumps.
Between his spicy musk filling her head and the brush of his morning wood against her left butt cheek, Elle didn’t know what she was saying anymore. It was like her mouth wasn’t attached to her brain.
Trey skated his wide-palmed hand over her hip and gently guided her onto her back.
Don’t look. Don’t look.
Propped up on one forearm and staring down at her, Trey granted her the prime opportunity to ogle every hill and valley of his impressive body. And it was definitely impressive. His chest, broad and covered with just the right amount of hair, couldn’t have been sculpted more perfectly if done by an artist. And covering his right shoulder and arm, a colorful sleeve of tattoos contrasted his bed-rumpled short blonde hair in a sexy, bad-boy-meets-golden-boy combination.
Wicked intent gleamed from the emerald depths of his eyes, and when his attention momentarily dropped to her mouth? Forget it. The man could cause an epidemic of wet panties with a five-second glance. Not even her ex-fiancé had affected her on such a primal level. Of course, James Worth didn’t do a lot of things, including travel anywhere that didn’t have a five-star hotel with a masseuse on speed dial. And that, along with an arm’s length of other reasons, was why they never would’ve worked.
“Look…Trey.” Elle winced at the movie-script cliché about to come out of her mouth. “Last night was nice. Really, it was, but—”
“Nice?” Trey’s lips twitched with a forming grin. “Damn. You really know how to inflate a man’s ego, don’t you?”
“Somehow I don’t think you need help in that department.”
He traced the ridge of her collarbone. “Maybe not, but last night was a hell of a lot more than nice. It was fan-fucking-tastic.”
Well, that was a different way to say incredible. And he was right. It was a lot more. She supposed if a woman was going to have sex with a stranger, it should at least be memorable, and Trey definitely ensured that. But in the light of a new day, she needed to get back to her regularly scheduled life—or as much of it as she was willing to resurrect.
“Look, I get it,” he said first, stopping her upcoming platitude by palming her cheek. “When I came to Thailand, I sure as fuck didn’t expect to meet—much less take to bed—a gorgeous blonde, but I did, and it was—”
“Fan-fucking-tastic?” Elle repeated his earlier sentiment.
His intense green eyes flashed. “Exactly. So why do I get the feeling that you’re itching to make a break for the door?”
Because she was.
Ever since she’d wiped her hands of the nonsense back home—specifically, with James and her father—she’d vowed not to get invested in any one man or relationship. That meant no planning romantic futures. No dating. And no falling asleep after fan-fucking-tastic sex—except she’d already broken that rule and was currently dealing with the consequences.
Elle gripped the starchy bedsheet to her chest like a flotation device and slid out of the bed. “I’ve got to go.”
“Seriously. I have a best friend to let know that I’m not lying dead in a ditch somewhere and a plane to catch.” She expertly avoided direct eye contact with the man, who was watching her every move as she tucked a found shoe beneath her arm.
“I’m sure you know how this kind of thing goes.”
“Yeah, I do,” Trey agreed in a slow drawl, “but I never thought I’d be the recipient of the morning dodge.”
“I guess there’s a first time for everything.”
Trey slowly rose from the bed, as naked and proud as when they’d fallen into it hours ago. The man really was gorgeous from top to bottom. Elle’s gaze strolled lazily up from his muscled legs and over his perfectly chiseled abs. Before him, she’d lumped men with countable abs right up there with flying purple unicorns.
Trey caught her admiring glance. His mouth slid into a naughty grin as he reached for his pants and pulled them on—sans boxers. “I’m sure it happens to some guys, but not to me.”
Elle rolled her eyes despite the fact that it was probably true, and resumed her clothing search. “I’ll consider it an honor to be your first because the second I find my panties, I’m going to be on my way.”
“You mean these?” Her polka-dot bikini briefs hung from the end of his finger.
“Yes, those.” She grabbed the dangling panties, but before she could step back, his tattooed arm slinked around her waist and brought her flush against his sweat-dampened body.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked, her voice going breathy. Dammit…why did this man make her feel like she was walking a high-wire? “Seriously, Trey. I need to get out of here.”
His question took her by surprise. Following her breakup with James, Elle had had exactly two brief flings—one during a crazy, best-friend-sponsored beach vacation nearly immediately post-breakup; the other a temporary benefits arrangement with one of the clinic doctors.They had enjoyed each other’s company and then parted ways. No sleeping. No cuddling. No overdrawn conversations. And neither of them had ever asked why.
“Why what?” she asked carefully.
“Why are you running out of here like the building’s on fire?” Trey clarified.
“Why is knowing so important to you? Or are you just upset that I beat you to the punch?”
Trey’s mouth tightened into a thin line. Sore spot touched. “Yeah, I’ve had sex. A lot it. And I’m not going to deny that I’ve participated in my fair share of morning dodges. Actually, it used to be pretty fucking routine.”
“You don’t need to explain anything to me.”
“I really think I do—because I’m trying to tell you that I haven’t been that man for a while now. I’m fucking routine-less.”
Elle gave his chest a reassuring pat and prayed her forced smile didn’t broadcast the nerves flipping her stomach upside down. “It’s sweet of you to try to paint what happened here as something more than it was, but I came upstairs with you without any kind of expectations.”
“Then I guess that makes one of us.”
His stern tone took Elle by surprise. Most men would’ve sunk to their knees in relieved gratitude that their latest one-night stand wasn’t going to turn into a clingy stalker, but Trey almost looked…pissed.
She shimmied from his hold and nearly tripped over her feet in a world-record rush to collect the rest of her belongings. Then, finally dressed and more than ready to get back to reality, she turned and nearly came nose-to-chest with Trey.
“Jesus. What are you, a freaking ninja?” Elle asked, startled.
He’d gotten closer without her realizing, his laser-beam stare drilling into her from inches away. When he took a step closer, she reflexively took one back, and they repeated the dance until her back hit the wall.
Her heart pounded in her chest, but not in fear. Even after only twelve hours together, she knew he wouldn’t hurt her. He leaned into her space until his muscled arms caged her in. Heat radiated off him in waves, and her body soaked it up, wanting to fall back into bed with him in the worst way. That intensity was what had drawn her to him in the first place; ironically, it was also what fueled her need to escape.
Trey brushed his lips down the curve of her neck as he spoke, the sensation making her work to fight off a whimper. “If your plan is to walk away and not look back, why not stick around and enjoy it a little longer?”
Because of her sanity. After hours in his company, she didn’t know the difference between left and right, and probably wouldn’t even if she held both hands out in front of her to look for the magic “L.”
“Because I really do have a plane to catch.” She plied him with the half-truth.
Her first six-month assignment as lead nurse for the medical relief outfit Caring Hands had come to an end, and it was time to figure out what came next. Most likely it would be another community in need, but until the orders came across her desk, it was girl-time with her best friend.
“Elle.” Trey’s soft murmur was interrupted by the inward burst of the room’s lone window.
Shards of glass and wood chunks rained down on their heads. Shouts echoed from the busy street outside. More things crashed. And then a Mack truck knocked Elle to the ground.
Breathless and dazed, it took a second to realize the Mack truck was Trey’s half-naked body…and to recognize the rolling tap-taps coming from the busy street below.
“Is that—” she started to ask.
“Gunfire,” Trey grumbled. “Stay here.”
He returned to his feet, moving with a speed that shouldn’t have been possible for a man his size. Back against the wall, he skirted the room’s perimeter until he neared the broken window.
Her eyes nearly bugged out of her head. “What the hell are you doing? Are you freaking crazy? Stay down!”
“You stay down, Elle. I mean it. Don’t fucking move.” He looked out to the street and cursed under his breath before producing a cell phone from his pants pocket. After one press of a button, he was talking to someone on the other end, but thanks to a new series of gunshots, only every fourth word or so reached her ears. When he finished the call, she was just climbing to her feet.
He picked up her dropped purse and tucked it back into her arms. “We’re going to get you out of here. Do you have your passport with you or is it back at your hotel?”
“It’s with me, but—”
“Good. Then we’ll get you on the next bus out of town.”
Leaving sounded better by the minute, but Elle didn’t take directives well, probably because she’d lived her whole life being subjected to them. “I don’t know how you were raised, but I’m not leaving my best friend to deal with whatever’s happening out there by herself. Besides, who died and made you my travel agent?”
Agitation flashed in his green eyes. This time when her back hit the wall, she wasn’t so sure what he’d do. The hard angle of his jaw flexed with tension. “I appointed myself your travel agent when trigger-happy yahoos drove into town and started shooting the place up. Are you seriously going to fucking fight me on this, sweetness?”
“Are you seriously going caveman on me, sweetness?”
“If that’s what it’s going to take to make sure you’re safe, then yes. I’ll pull my fucking club out of the goddamned closet and throw your sweet ass over my shoulder—whatever it takes.”
The door to the room burst open, nearly cracking in half. Trey was in front of her in an instant, blocking her from the giant man standing in the doorway. Head-shaven and mountainous with tattoos decorating both arms, he looked mean, lethal—and armed.
Only when the stranger registered Trey’s presence did he lower his gun, and just barely. “What the fuck, man? You in here napping while shit’s going down?”
“What exactly is going down?” Trey asked.
“Hell if I know.” The two men’s familiar banter did little to comfort Elle when Trey’s friend slipped his attention her way. He scanned her from head to toe and back, taking in her very bed-rumbled appearance, and gave the barest of head-shakes.
“It’s a fucking epidemic.”
“Shut it, Vince,” Trey growled. He shifted his stance, the move showcasing the gun clenched in his hand.
While both men were distracted, she shimmied past the walking mountain. “I’ve obviously stumbled into something here, and you two look like you need time alone to talk, so I’m going to make myself scarce.”
“Elle, wait,” Trey barked.
“Thanks for everything. It was fun.”
“Elle!” Something thudded to the floor, making Trey curse. “Stop!”
“Stop!” he shouted again.
No way in hell was she stopping. She moved faster, flying down the stairs as if wings were attached to the heels of her sneakers. Hitting the deserted bar below, she navigated her way through the empty tables and out the back door. The echoing gunshots sounded farther away than they had a few minutes ago, but she stayed watchful as she hustled down the street toward the marketplace.
No one seemed concerned about the happenings a few blocks down. Crowds converged on busy vendors, some people stopping to haggle over the price of produce and handmade jewelry while others briskly walked as if on a special mission.
Elle politely slipped away from an overzealous man attempting to unload his recently caught octopus, and weaved through the throng of people toward the first empty alley—except it wasn’t really empty.
Her gaze landed on the wide-eyed, frightened face of the old Thai merchant first—and then she saw the gun pointed mere inches from his head. Elle skidded to a stop. Her foot smacked into a discarded tin can and the gun-owner snapped to attention. His sharp blue eyes immediately locked in on her, giving her her first glimpse at the puckered scar bisecting his left brow and cheek.
“Elle! You need to wait!” Trey’s voice shouted from down the street.
She glanced over her shoulder to see Trey and his friend winding their oversized bodies through the crowd of shoppers—toward her. Alley Man or Trey. Neither option gave her the warm fuzzies, but she’d pick a one-night stand reunion over an armed gunman any day.
“Don’t you fucking move,” Alley Man growled as if sensing her decision.
He swung his gun in her direction just as a local driving a bicycle cart pedaled in front of her. Elle didn’t need an engraved invitation to move her rear end. She turned and half-ran, half-walked back through the market and toward the other side of the village.
Ten minutes and limp-noodle legs later, she finally slipped into her hotel room—with no Alley Man and no Trey on her heels.
Shay stepped out from the small corner kitchenette, relief written all over her face. “There you are! I was about five minutes away from calling the Thai police! You were supposed to text me every hour so I knew that Hunkalicious didn’t throw you into a trunk or somehow convince you to be his drug mule.”
Shay braced her hands on her ample hips and waited for a response that Elle couldn’t seem to conjure. Since college, Shay Whitney had been single-handedly responsible for every drunken, free-spirited decision Elle had ever made—except she hadn’t been drunk last night. Hell, she’d barely finished her single cocktail before brazenly propositioning Trey back at the bar.
Misreading Elle’s silence, Shay’s full lips broke into a sly grin. “Please tell me you can’t talk because your throat’s raw from some astronomical number of orgasms. And even if that isn’t the case, lie to me and tell me it is.”
It wouldn’t be a lie. Elle had definitely lost count. But instead of rehashing the evening with her friend as she would normally do, she shook her head. “Sorry. I should’ve just come back here with you.”
Shay’s shoulders slumped, her face crestfallen. “Well, damn. He had that look, you know? I guess just because a man has hands the size of dinner plates doesn’t mean he knows how to use them for the good of womankind.”
“Definitely,” Elle agreed, knowing that Trey could no way be lumped into a group with the sexually clueless. Not only had he thrown her off guard, but he’d been the only man who’d ever made her lose her orgasm count.
And she didn’t understand why her first instinct was to keep that information to herself. Copyright 2016 April Hunt