Barefoot by the Sea
Barefoot Bay #4
When you think you know your heart’s desire . . .
Tessa Galloway is a gifted nurturer—her verdant garden at Barefoot Bay’s new resort is living proof. If only the woman who can grow anything could grow what she wants most: a baby. Her friends think the right guy will come along, but Tessa doesn’t want to wait. All she needs is the perfect donor to make her dream come true. Then John Brown is hired at the resort. If anyone could make beautiful babies, it’s this gorgeous, mysterious man. So why does Tessa suddenly find herself wanting so much more?
Can you give up all your dreams for love?
It’s been three long years since John Brown had to leave his old life. Forced into the witness protection program, he’s desperate to be reunited with his toddler twins. When he gets that chance, there’s a catch—he must prove he’s got a steady job and a new wife. Landing a gig as a chef in Barefoot Bay is easy enough. And falling for lovely Tessa is even easier. The hard part? Can he win the heart of a woman who prizes honesty—when the truth may shatter it?
Tessa closed her eyes and opened her mouth. Surely the silken flick of this alluring stranger’s tongue in her mouth would shock some sense into her. His scotch-flavored kiss shocked a whole lot of things, but not one of them was sense.
Unless sense resided way, way low in her belly and whipped through her with a snap, crackle, and pop of arousal.
“Wanna get out of here?” he murmured.
She inched back to respond, maybe slow this train down, but he came with her, refusing to let their lips separate. Sense was derailed again.
“Or will your friends have me arrested?” he asked into the next kiss.
“Hard to say.” The way they’d been talking, the girls were likely to shove Tessa into his car and say ‘call us in the morning’ instead of rescuing her from doing something really impulsive and stupid and…and…
His tongue trailed the roof of her mouth sending an avalanche of chills down her spine.
Yeah, doing something like that.
He finally drew away, still so close that she couldn’t focus on anything but the silvery blue of his eyes, the irises rimmed in a smoky charcoal, all fringed with thick black lashes that brushed together as he squinted at her. “I’d prefer they didn’t have me arrested.”
“I’d prefer not to take off with an ax murderer.”
He twirled her hair around one finger, thumbing the nape of her neck with a maddenlingly light touch. “I’m not an ax murderer.” Though deep and rumbly, his voice had a strange flatness to it when he said that. “I’m a guy passing through town and you just admitted you’re looking for a man.”
She had, hadn’t she?
“Not exactly a man…” She said vaguely, her brain finally engaging into something close to ‘functional’ since the moment he’d approached the table and decomposed her gray matter.
“Then what exactly?”
“More like the essence of a man.”
He lifted a brow and fought an amused smile. “What the hell is essence?”
Liquid gold. She swallowed and tried to scoot back but she hit the wall and he didn’t give an inch.
“Can you do complicated?” she asked.
“No.” Still holding her head with fingers tunneled into her hair, he took her chin in his other hand and turned her face away from him, leaning so close his lips grazed her ear. “You want me to tell you what I can do?”
She quivered at the warmth of his breath and the heat of his tone. She managed the slightest nod because, yes, please, every nerve in her body tingled in anticipation of what he could do.
“I can kiss you until you can’t even remember your name…or mine.”
John Brown. She couldn’t forget that.
“And…” He dragged a fingertip under her chin and down her throat, a single stroke of fire, stopping right at the dip between her collarbones. With his thumb, he flicked at the neckline of her T-shirt. “I can strip you out of this top without ever taking my tongue out of your mouth.”
That was…a good trick. Yep. She’d like to see that.
“And I could…” His finger dropped a few inches, settling on her breast bone. “I could lick a tattoo right across this sweet, sweet skin.” He flicked her earlobe in case she hadn’t figured out just how talented a tongue he had.
“And I could…” He took a quick pass right over her nipple with one fingertip, making her suck in a surprised breath as she budded like an acorn, her breasts already aching and heavy with need. “Suck on these sweet, sweet things until you melted like chocolate in the sun.”
“Mmmm.” She closed her eyes. “I like chocolate.” And this. She really liked this.
“Then we’ll get some for you. You can eat it off my…body.”
Silently, she closed her eyes and dug for composure, coming up with nothing but a helpless shudder.
He blew more sweet breath into her ear. “Want to know what else I can do?”
“I’m actually…no, well, yeah. Okay.”
He laughed softly. “How ‘bout I show instead of tell you?”
The suggestion vibrated through her, tightening every muscle in her body, especially the ones between her legs. She tipped her head to get a look at his smoky eyes, the dark shadows of an unshaved face, the perfect bow of lips she’d already sampled and wanted to taste some more. “You better tell me first.”
“Show.” He closed in for a ferocious kiss, wild and hot, his tongue sliding right into her mouth as his finger continued straight down her body, between her breasts, over her stomach and stopped right at the snap of her jeans.
“Um, we’re in a bar,” she murmured into his mouth.
“That can be changed.”
Sense. Common freaking sense disappeared at the sight of him. Was this the desperate act of a woman thinking so much about sex she could have it in bar booth…or was he so unspeakably attractive that she’d let him…
The sound of her jeans or the last shreds of her dignity? “I think we should…take a breather here.” She backed into the wall and he put his hand on her thigh.
“I’m breathing fine.” He inched his hand a little further between her legs. And, God help her, she didn’t push it away. Even though all she wanted was a sperm donor.
Right? Yes…and no. She wanted the sperm, but she also wanted a man. This man. She closed her eyes and tried to take a steadying breath, putting her hand on his but not exactly moving him out off the thigh real estate. Damn, girl, talk about giving mixed messages.
She cleared her throat. “Like I said, it’s complicated.”
“Doesn’t have to be.”
Actually it did. There’d be explanations, interviews, legal documents. So not what this hot kisser had in mind. “I have some important issues.”
He frowned slightly. “Are you married, Tessa?”
Right now? Debatable. “No.”
Finally, he relaxed into a smile, a sinful affair that made his eyes gleam and hinted at sexy dimples under the shadow of his beard. “Plus you’ve got bedroom eyes, a tasty mouth, and…” His gaze dropped to her chest. “A sweet rack. Meets all my criteria. What are yours?”
She finally managed to grip his hand and extricate it completely from her leg. “Availability and attraction is all you need to go to bed with someone?”
“Don’t forget the sweet rack.”
Another soft laugh caught in her throat and she studied him. “Well, you are honest and I like that.”
The faintest, fastest, nearly indecipherable response flickered in his eyes. “What else is on your list for a hook up?”
Someone who didn’t want a hook up. But then, maybe a hook up was exactly what the doctor ordered. No, the fertility doctor ordered sperm, not sex. Couldn’t she have both? Weren’t they supposed to show up at the same party?
“Tessa?” he prompted. “Your list?”
She conjured up the form she’d recently filled out in a clinic. “Blue eyes.” She’d always wanted a blue-eyed baby. Magnetic, mercurial, blinding blue with dark-rimmed irises like the ones she was staring into.
He winked. “Check.”
“Over six feet.” In case she had a boy, she’d want him to have a shot past her own five foot four.
“Plus an inch,” he assured her. “And maybe another quarter past that.”
“Athletic and strong.”
He raised his arm and tensed his bicep, letting the bunched muscle wrapped in a tattoo of deep purple thorns speak for itself.
“No illegal drug use, ever.”
Rattling his ice, he said, “As long as scotch is legal, we’re good.”
Things were looking better, so she decided to push her luck. “Highly intelligent with good math skills.” Because a child would need that in this world.
He raised a brow. “Seriously?”
“You asked my list. Math skills is on it.”
“Fine. You want me to figure Pi to twenty digits?”
“Without a calculator.”
Oh, boy. He might be…perfect. “Okay, then. We need a clean bill of health, no allergies, and absolutely none of those, you know, tight white underwear.”
“I don’t have a cold, won’t get hives, and I don’t think I even own underwear.”
“You are sounding better every minute. Just one last thing…”
He laughed. “Don’t tell me. A quick DNA test?”
“Um, actually, yes.”
His smile froze, then faded. “You’re kidding.”
If only she were. “I’d really like to check for recessive genes that might carry a disease or disorder.”
“What?” He backed away, putting a good six inches between them. “You are serious.”
She swallowed against a bone dry throat. “I told you it was complicated.”
“I’m not marriage material, sweetheart, and by the sound of your list –”
“No, no. I don’t want to get married.” Well, she did, but admitting that was like inviting him to leave.
He frowned, searching her face as though he could figure this out by a careful inspection. She doubted he could. “Then what do you want if not a hook up or a husband?”
“I’m looking for a…” Another failed attempt to swallow nearly choked her. “A sperm donor.”
In the two or three seconds it took to register, a symphony of emotions played over his face. Realization, surprise, disbelief and, finally, rejection.
“Good luck with that.” He started to slide out of the booth.
“No strings attached,” she added, fighting the urge to reach out and stop him. “Not a father, not a husband, I need your –”
“Sorry, not your man.” He sliced her again with that icy blue gaze, one more emotion shimmering in them. Pain. Bone deep, soul-searing, life-changing pain so real it took her breath away, then disappeared so fast she thought she might have imagined it.
“Nice talking to you,” he murmured, getting further away.
She lost the battle not to grab him, closing her hand over his wrist, the sheer width of it surprising her almost as much as the insane rhythm of his pulse under her thumb. “Wait.”
He shook his head and he yanked out of her grip. “Good luck with your list, honey. I’m pretty sure you can find all that in a doctor’s office or something. No need to grill the guys who are trying to get laid at the bar.”
“I…” Any explanation sounded lame. Any explanation was lame. “I’d rather know what I’m getting.”
One mighty shoulder lifted in a shrug that tried to convey he didn’t care but something in his expression said differently.
He might look like a bad ass sex god, but there was more going on in John Brown’s head than getting laid. And, damn if that didn’t make him even more attractive than his dirty talk and smooth tongue.
“Why?” he asked, pausing on his way out of the booth. “Why not do the anonymous thing?”
“I don’t trust…anyone.”
His smile was slow, rueful, and never got anywhere near his eyes. “But you’re willing to trust me?”
“I was thinking about it.”
“Word of advice,” he said, leaning in one more time to a kissably close distance. “Don’t.”
And with that, he headed to the bar before she could even think of a reply.
In the space of one breath, Zoe slid in the booth, directly across from Tessa.
“What’d you do, demand access to his family health history?”
“Shut up, Zoe.”
“You did, didn’t you?”
“He’s not my type.” Tessa turned to look at the crowd, hating that her eyes misted over. Now she was going to moon over this tattooed loser who got her all hot and bothered with one wet kiss and compliment on her rack? Get a grip, Tess.
“Really?” Zoe almost crawled across the table. “Cause he sure looked like your type when he had his tongue down your throat and his hand in your pants.”
“Zoe, stop,” Lacey said, slipping into the booth while she gave a bottle of water to Zoe. “Can’t you see she’s upset?”
“I’m not upset,” Tessa denied.
“I would be,” Zoe puffed, twisting the top off the water. “Dude was totally digging you.”
Jocelyn appeared with two beer bottles in one hand, giving one to Tessa. “What did you say to Channing Tatum’s brother?” she asked. “He practically mowed me down trying to get out of here.”
Tessa closed her eyes, trying to get her heart rate back to normal. “Well, let’s see, first we discussed how he was going to tattoo me with his tongue.”
Zoe’s bottle froze part way to her mouth. “I knew I liked that guy.”
“C’mon, Zoe,” Jocelyn said. “She’s kidding.”
“No I’m not,” Tessa said humorlessly. “He claims he could strip my top off without ever taking his tongue out my mouth.”
“Oooh.” Zoe dropped her chin on her knuckles. “The guy’s got a good tongue.”
“You have no idea.” Tessa lifted the beer bottle but the Blue Moon held little interest now. Zoe’s recently passed Great-Aunt Pasha may have predicted that Tessa would meet her man “after the next blue moon” but she didn’t mean this Blue Moon. She meant the kind that happened about as often as men like John Brown dropped into Tessa’s lap.
Which would be almost never.
“So how did it go from mouth all over you to disappearing act?” Lacey asked.
“Well, I…” Tessa nibbled her lip, knowing they’d get the story out of her so trying to soften the truth was a waste of time. “I kind of told him… I mentioned that I… I thought I should be straight and–”
“You didn’t.” They all said it at the same time, which would have been funny except that right then, nothing was funny.
“Did you actually say the five letter word that starts with s, ends with m, and rhymes with worm?” Zoe demanded.
Tessa took a drink and stared at Zoe, who facepalmed. “Holy, holy, holy hell. She did.”
“How’d that go for you?” Jocelyn asked, rich with sarcasm.
“Not so great,” Tessa admitted. “One minute he was breathing fire down my neck and the next, he turned to stone and disappeared.”
Lacey put her hand on Tessa’s arm. “Maybe you’ll see him again around town.”
“He said he was passing through and, honestly, if I never see him again it’ll be too soon.”
Zoe snorted a laugh. “Famous last words.”
“Spoken by whom?” Tessa challenged.
“All of us,” they answered. In perfect unison, of course.