barefoot in the sand
When a hurricane roars through Lacey Armstrong’s home on the coast of Barefoot Bay, she decides all that’s left in the rubble is opportunity. A new hotel is just what Mimosa Key needs, and Lacey and her teenage daughter are due for a fresh start. And nothing, especially not a hot, younger architect, is going to distract Lacey from finally making her dreams a reality.
Love has already cost Clay Walker everything. And if he's going to have any chance of picking up the pieces of his life, he needs the job as Lacey Armstrong's architect. What's not in the plans is falling for the headstrong beauty. Her vision of the future is more appealing than anything he could have ever drafted for himself. Will Clay's designs on Lacey's heart be more than she can handle, or will she trust him to build something that will last forever?
Lacey angled the phone and eyed the architect’s name, imagining the conversation with a man she considered a legend. She’d seen his picture on the company web site and on the internet. The guy looked like Colonel Sanders with all that white hair and a Southern gentleman bow tie. How scary could he be?
Okay. It was time. She turned from the beach so the sight of her daughter wouldn’t distract her and put her finger on the phone to call Clayton Walker.
Should she call him Mr. Walker? His email seemed so...casual, at least for an architectural genius. So maybe he wouldn’t want --
A voice floated up from the beach. A male voice.
Lacey glanced over her shoulder, inhaling a quick breath at the sight of a man five feet away from Ashley. A half naked man, wearing nothing but low-hanging board shorts and sockless sneakers. Shaggy hair, big muscles, and, dear God, was that a tattoo on his arm?
Was he a tourist? A surfer? More likely one of the many debris scavengers who’d popped up all over the island since they’d reopened the causeway, ready to make a buck off the misfortune of others.
Ashley laughed at something he said, and he turned just enough for Lacey to get an eyeful of sweat-glistening chest and abs and...wow.
Ashley flipped her hair and the man took a step closer.
Okay, stop right there, buddy. Lacey launched forward, driven by primal instinct, forgetting the call and ignoring the fiery hot sand on her bare feet.
They both turned at her words, Ashley’s body language screaming disgust as she rolled her eyes. But Lacey barely saw her. Her gaze was locked on the predator, preparing her counter attack in full mother lioness mode, quickly assessing his danger level.
His danger level was...hot.
He stunned her with a blinding smile. He disarmed her with a shake of his honey-colored locks, revealing a handsome, tanned face and a tiny gold hoop in one ear. Then he stopped her in her tracks by stretching out his hand.
“I’m Clay Walker.”
“Are you Lacey Armstrong?”
“No. I mean, yes. But...” She froze, completely thrown, her brain short circuiting at his words.
Colonel Sanders he was not.
He looked nothing like his picture. No white hair, no bow tie - no shirt! He couldn’t be thirty years old and he absolutely couldn’t be Clayton Walker because, well, he was gorgeous.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded, not caring that she was a sweaty mess of venom-spewing, short-short wearing, almost thirty-seven-year-old mom staring at his washboard abs. Or that she still held the phone that she was just about to use to call him. Well, not him. Colonel Sanders.
“I told you I’d check out the property.”
“Oh, I expected someone...” Older. Dressed. Not gorgeous. “...after I called.”
“I didn’t want to wait,” he said. He kept his hand out and she had no choice but to take it, instantly lost in big, calloused, masculine fingers. “I was too intrigued by the idea of building here.”
“So am I.” Intrigued, that was. Intrigued and wary.
“I hope you don’t mind.” He gave a cursory glance to his naked torso. “It’s hot as hell here.”
“It’s no problem,” she lied, extracting her hand and forcing her eyes off his body and onto his face. Like that was any less stupefying. “But there’s been a mistake.”
Dark brows shot up, revealing eyes just about the color of the water behind him. “What’s that?”
“You’re not Clayton Walker.”
“I go by Clay.” He smiled, kind of a half-grin that crinkled his eyes and revealed straight white teeth. “Got ID in my truck if you want me to get it.”
The hint of a drawl fit him as well as the shorts that hung off narrow hips. “That’s not necessary because I’ve been to the web site and I’ve seen Clayton Walker, and he’s not...” Sexy. “You.”
“Don’t tell me.” The smile turned wry. “You were expecting Clayton Walker Senior?”
Senior? Like...his father? “I was expecting the owner of the firm.” The man who designed some of the most stunning hotels in the world, who probably didn’t have hair to his shoulders or an earring or a tattoo of a flame-encircled star on a sizeable bicep. “The Clayton Walker. That’s who I emailed.”
“Actually, you emailed me,” he said simply.
“I got the contact off the web site.”
He shrugged a sizeable shoulder. “I guess my name’s still there. It wouldn’t be the first time someone’s made the mistake.”
“Do you work for him?”
“No, I don’t have anything to do with my father’s business.”
“Oh. That’s a shame.” Disappointment dribbled in her stomach and mixed with some other unfamiliar tightness down there.
“But I am an architect,” he said, an edge taking some of the smoothness out of his voice.
“But you aren’t the Clayton Walker.”
He laughed softly, a rumbly, gritty, sensual sound that reverberated through Lacey’s chest down to her toes. “Look, I’ve been checking out this property for a couple of days and, based on that email you sent, I’m totally capable of doing this job for you.”
Except he wasn’t capable because he was too young and too inexperienced and too...shirtless.