Barefoot in the Sun
Barefoot Bay #3
When running is all you’ve ever known . . .
Caught between fight and flight, Zoe Tamarin has always picked flight. Since she was rescued from a nightmare childhood by her great-aunt Pasha, they’ve been on the move, never staying in one place long enough to risk exposing their precarious past. But now that they’ve reached the sun-baked shores of Barefoot Bay, Zoe may have to stay and fight—for her aunt’s life . . . and for a love she ran from years before.
Sometimes the bravest act of all is to stand still.
Oliver Bradbury came to Florida to start over, as both a doctor and a father to his eight-year-old son. He never expected life to hand him a second chance with the woman he lost years ago—but one look at Zoe Tamarin and he knows he’ll do whatever it takes to prove that this time, he can be the man she needs. But when demands of family and friendship threaten to shatter their rekindled passion, Oliver must heal Zoe’s lifelong wounds with more than hot kisses . . . but will that be enough to keep her from flying off with his heart?
As they walked down the driveway and toward the beach, Oliver stopped at an overloaded hibiscus tree and plucked a red bloom.
“Peace offering,” he said, holding it out to Zoe.
She gave him that look, that teasing mix of sarcasm and sweetness, and took the flower, sticking it in her hair. “I’ll have to tell Lacey how effective her marketing brochures are.”
“It wasn’t the brochure that got me here.”
She didn’t react, just kicked off her plastic flip-flops as they reached the edge of the sand. “You won’t want shoes.”
He toed off his Docksides and impulsively yanked off his shirt, too, tossing it on the ground and getting a sideways look from her. “You don’t play fair, doc.”
“It’s a thousand degrees.”
She fought a smile. “So are you.”
“Then I take it you’re not mad at me anymore?” he asked.
“Never was mad.”
“Oh, that’s right. Sometimes you just disappear in the middle of things for no real reason.”
“Define real, Oliver.” She nudged him with her shoulder, forcing them both closer to the water. “Let’s see, I discovered you have a son conceived before we ever dated, you’re divorced and living a few miles from my closest friends, you’re planning to live on the property where I’m currently staying, and you failed to tell me that you received life-changing news the moment I was revealing my biggest secret to you.” She let out a sigh. “Anything I’ve missed?”
He stopped walking to roll up his pants and let the warm, foamy water splash around his ankles.
“My son wants you to be his nanny.”
She let out a little grunt of disbelief.
“You asked if there’s anything I missed, so I thought I’d better get that out there.”
“Good call.” She gave him another shoulder push, but not hard enough to get him in the water. More like she just wanted the body contact. And so did he. “Did you tell him I’d make the world’s worst nanny?”
“I can’t tell him anything,” he said, fighting the urge to put his arm around her. “He’s crazy about you.”
She smiled. “I like him, too.”
“I don’t suppose you’re looking for a summer job?” Son of a bitch, had those words just come out of his mouth? How did she get him to do and say things like he had no control?
Why did those words give him hope? Was he nuts? “On what?”
“Um…” She gave him another saucy smile. “The pay.”
“What’s your fee?”
All the tease disappeared from her eyes. “Quid pro quo. You take care of Pasha and I’ll take care of Evan.”
He closed his eyes on a sigh. “It’s not that simple, Zoe.”
“Too ironic for you? I mean, they are the two individuals who are responsible for taking us apart.”
He stopped walking and turned to the water, staring out at the horizon. “I don’t blame Evan for his timing. Maybe I did before he was born, but then, no.”
“I’m glad,” she said. “That would be an awful thing to put on his shoulders. Do you blame Pasha for her decision to leave?”
“I haven’t,” he said. “All these years I figured the guilty party was…”
“Me,” she supplied.
She didn’t answer. As she stood looking out at the water, the breeze lifted her see-through skirt and the sun poured over her like liquid gold.
“Lacey asked me to walk you through the villa,” she said. “It’s right up here.” Without waiting for his response, she darted up the beach, leaving him alone and wet and staring at the most irrepressible, impossible, desirable woman he’d ever met. Of course, she was running away. And, of course, he followed.
He caught up to her at the path and they walked into the villa together. In a large, inviting living area there was more of the resort’s Moroccan warmth. Dark wood gleamed and a wrought-iron rail curved up a staircase. Beyond the living room, sunshine bounced off the teal water of a screened-in kidney-shaped pool surrounded by a few chaises and a table.
Evan would love it here. And so would Oliver.
“Nice,” he said.
She agreed. “On the positive side, it’s gorgeous, brand new, all hand-crafted wood. You met Will the other night. He’s the carpenter and Jocelyn’s fiance.” She led him through a small dining area.
“On the negative side?” he asked.
She pointed to the kitchen. “There’s no room service yet, since Lacey didn’t get a chance to interview chefs before the baby came and she hasn’t officially opened the kitchen. So you’ll have to cook.” She squinched her face. “Unless Evan’s nanny is expected to cook, in which case, we better hope someone can supply take-out menus.”
He laughed, feeling himself so drawn to her he had to fight physically not to pull her into his arms and drag her to the nearest bedroom. He wasn’t going to win that war for very long. “No, but the nanny might have to stay late.”
“Because you work long hours?”
That wasn’t what he meant, but he nodded. “Some days.”
“We could arrange it,” she said, gesturing for him to go down a hall. “Come see the rest.”
She pointed out features as they went along, but all he noticed was the bright-green bikini under her dress. And she went on and on about the woodwork, but his attention was on her buttery skin, tanned and smooth. By the time they reached the doors to the master suite, he’d have bought the place if it meant he could have her…on that bed.
“All the trimmings of luxury: Jacuzzi, marble, a bed big enough to sleep three or four or nine.” She grinned. “Whatever turns you on.”
She turned him on. “Not three or nine,” he said. Just one. The one he was looking at.
“Upstairs, there are two bedrooms and two baths. Also a game room furnished with a big TV, which I bet Evan would like. You want to see them or this lovely view?” She slipped by him and pushed open another set of french doors to the patio. “So you can roll right out of bed and go swimming every morning.”
“With the nanny.”
She tossed a look over her shoulder. “That’s in the job description?”
Hell, yes. “It’s on the negotiating table.” He gave a rueful smile, joining her so they both stood in the doorway. He was close enough to her that he could see each individual eyelash tipped in gold as she narrowed her eyes at him.
“What do you think of the villa, Dr. Bradbury?”
“I like the tour guide.” He leaned an inch closer, backing her against the wood frame of the door.
They did it against a door once.
He kicked the thought away, stuffing his hands into his pockets again, which seemed to be the only way to avoid temptation with her.
A kiss. That was all he wanted. One kiss. One long, wet, hot kiss to ease the ache that had already started low in his gut. Way low. Everything in him wanted to touch her, to remember the silky feel of her skin, the pressure of her mouth, the warmth of her tongue.
That very tongue darted to wet her lips, her eyes locked on his, the message in them so, so clear.
Kiss me, Oliver.
His reply was silent, too. Just a whisper of warm breath into her mouth that almost instantly became more. A warm, tentative, spark of a kiss that tightened every muscle in his body and did the opposite to his common sense.
She didn’t move, didn’t even breathe, as only their lips touched.
Slowly, he deepened the kiss, opening his mouth, sliding his tongue over her teeth. Their mouths melded as one, and against every will he dragged his hands out of his pockets to cup her jaw and hold her pretty face in his palms.
“Do you interview all the nannies like this?” she murmured into the kiss.
“Just the mouthy ones. Do you give all the renters tongue?”
“Just the hot ones.”
He pressed his body against hers, his cock growing against her belly, eliciting a tiny whimper that caught in her throat.
He kissed her cheek, her ear. “Mmm?”
“You know where this is headed, don’t you?”
“We’re in the master bedroom, so I hope not far.”
Breaking away from the kiss, she slipped from his touch, out to the patio, pulling him with her. Sunshine through palm fronds dappled her in splashes of light, her eyes dancing with a tease. “As if I’d be such a cliché and fall into bed with you,” she said.
“It was worth a shot.”
“There’s a pool.” In a flash of snow-white gauze and lime-green silk and golden-brown skin, she yanked the dress over her head, tossed it in the air, and vaulted into the pool, splashing water all over him.