Carla Hernandez needs to drop off the glamorous Miami grid. Her aunt’s house in Havana seems the perfect place to get over being dumped by her fiancé—and figure out why she keeps messing up her life. But photojournalist Jonah Kane’s unexpected presence is one sizzling mistake she’s hungry to make.
Jonah thought his favorite Cuban refuge would help him get some badly-needed peace. Still, he’s ridden out way worse than the tropical storm trapping him with Carla. And he’s going to handle this spoiled little princess on his own dominant, seductive terms just until the storm is over. Too bad this sexy wild card only makes him only want more. And more . . .
Now Carla’s back home—but not quite alone. When her baby is born, she’s going to raise it on her own, no matter how much she still burns for Jonah. But Jonah can’t get over her irrepressible spirit or the passion they shared. And trying to walk away is only making things too hot to resist . . .
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Carla’s skin was melting. Her cotton romper clung to her melty mess of a body in the heat of August in Cuba. Rivers of mascara ran down her face, and she would shank someone for an afternoon in air-conditioning with a stack of fashion magazines.
I just thought being with a redheaded Cuban girl would be more exciting.
Her ex-fiancé’s words echoed in her head for the millionth time since he dumped her and asked for the ring back. She hadn’t thought an accountant’s wife needed to be exciting, but what the fuck did she know about anything anymore?
She smiled at the driver, probably a guy from Tia Lola’s street. He’d picked her up at the airport to bring her to the family home. Lola’s house was a couple of blocks off the stately, crumbling facades along the Malecón. When he’d put her bag in the trunk, she’d tipped him with American money; she’d seen her father do it the last time they’d visited. She clutched her shoulder bag, remembering exactly how much money she had in there. She didn’t usually carry around thousands of dollars in cash.
When the car had pulled up to her aunt’s house, she tried to give the driver more money. In a few words of rapid Spanish, he refused her and smiled. She grabbed her suitcase out of the trunk, took a deep breath, and walked up to the door.
Even though the exterior needed a whole mess of masonry work, the colonial mansion was still impressive. Carla wasn’t sure how it had stayed in the family. She knew that her father’s aunt ran a casa particulare. She rented out some of the bedrooms to tourists for more money than anyone in Cuba could afford, but she wasn’t sure how that was enough to keep the place up—especially since Americans hadn’t been able to come here for fun for almost half a century.
That was changing, and Carla was here to help turn her aunt’s house into a boutique hotel so that her tia could retire and so that her family’s home could sustain itself.
When she knocked, she was expecting her sixty-something-year-old great aunt to open the massive, carved, wooden door. Instead, a giant stood on the threshold. A bare-chested giant with biceps the size of her head. Her mouth popped open—and went dry to be perfectly honest. She made the mistake of looking down, hoping for more clothing. What she found were thighs, just massive thighs, encased in black boxer briefs.
She was going to find her words, eventually. Right now, she just needed a minute. Her clothes felt even stickier on her body, her makeup more melty, and before she humiliated herself by muttering something like thiiiighs, she looked up at his face. That didn’t make the humidity situation with respect to her panties any better because he had the most perfect face. And the most perfect smirk to go with the most perfect face she’d ever seen. And to go along with the perfect brown skin and the—gah—muscles. The only thing not perfect about him was the scar that bisected one of his dark eyebrows and the furrow between said eyebrows.
“Seen enough, princess?” The giant’s voice resonated to her very marrow, and she nearly shivered with the desire to climb him like a tree. She barely registered that he spoke English with an American accent. She didn’t even take exception to the fact that he’d called her “princess.” That should hit a sore spot, but she wasn’t about to let it. Now that she was single, she needed to store this kind of thing up for her spank-bank.
But she knew it was probably better if she said something sooner or later. Before that drool started from the corner of her mouth and after memorizing the pattern of his chest hair. “Who are you?”
“Who the fuck are you?” He reared back a bit and seemed to pull air with him. That’s the only way she could explain following him into the foyer, pushing past his big body without spending too much time trying to cop a feel. Indeed, who the fuck was she, trying to cop a feel of an angry giant? It might be time to admit that she was beyond needing spank-bank material and right in the neighborhood of need-to-get-laid-right-now.
“Where’s Tia Lola?”
“You mean Señora Hernandez?”
“Do you ever answer questions without questions?”
“Only when I get my questions answered, princess.”
“Stop calling me that.”
“Answer my questions.”
She’d had about enough of his bullshit, but she surmised that the best way to get her questions answered was to give him what he wanted. “Okay. No, I haven’t seen enough because I’ve been sleeping with the same guy for three years, and he doesn’t look nearly as good as you in boxer briefs. Or at least he didn’t before he dumped me.” It felt so good to say exactly what was on her mind. With Geoff, she’d always had to watch her words. She took a breath, and continued while he still looked taken aback. “I’m Carla Hernandez. Lola Hernandez is my father’s aunt. I’m here to bring her—something.” She felt like a drug dealer carrying around this much money, but it was impossible to transfer American money to Lola’s bank account in Cuba. She didn’t want to say money, because while the giant appeared to be benevolent and had certainly made himself at home here, she couldn’t be sure. “Now, who are you?”
“Jonah Kane.” Of course he had to have a name that sounded like he looked. He appeared to be wearing boulders under his skin. Of course his name would be hard, like rock. “I’m here working on a book, and I’m renting a room here.”
“You’re a writer?” she asked, surprised. “I know some writers have crazy rituals to make sure things get done, but leaving the U.S. just to get away from reliable Internet seems extreme.”
“I’m a photojournalist.”
That piqued her interest, but it seemed past due for him to put his pants on. For one thing, his body was going to give her a heatstroke-related seizure if she was exposed to it any longer. He was so hot it was starting to make her mad. For another thing, she could feel his judgmental glare and didn’t like the way he said princess—it was an insult disguised as an endearment, and she didn’t need that.
“Can you please go put some pants on?”
He leaned one hand on the bannister of the stairway leading to the bedrooms, with a sexy, cocky half-smile on his face. “Why? I thought you were getting a great show?”
Carla wasn’t going to rise to the bait of a jerk like that. She’d grown up with two of them—both her father and brother were a handful—so she just pointed upstairs. “Pants now, unbearable ego later.”
* * * *
Jonah stomped up the stairs, still cranky from his rude awakening. Mrs. Hernandez had told him her niece was coming for a visit. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, but it wasn’t the woman who’d showed up at the door.
He’d perked right up when she gave him a slow once over, worrying that he’d have an inconvenient hard-on, one that he couldn’t control, for the first time in years. She wasn’t his usual type. His last girlfriend—if you could call her that—had been a foreign service officer in Kenya. Shannon spoke multiple languages and could handle a bit of rough in the bedroom—hell, she’d loved a bit of rough. Ultimately, the only place they were compatible was in bed, but she was the kind of woman he’d end up with.
Carla Hernandez was a pretty little pixie sprite who reeked of privilege. He wasn’t a big shopper, but it didn’t take a genius to guess that her outfit probably cost more than all the furniture in his New York apartment. She showed up from the U.S. in an all-white little suit thingy—like the kind toddlers wore. If that didn’t say idiotic rich girl, he wasn’t sure what did.
If he’d started in on any of the things he wanted to try with her—pushed her up against the wall and shut up her throaty little cock tease of a voice with his mouth—he’d probably ruin her clothes and maybe crack a rib.
No, the freckled redhead was not his type, but she’d managed to get under his skin in about ten seconds flat, and he hated that. He’d negotiated his way out of getting kidnapped by a terrorist group, and he was having dirty sex fantasies about a woman who would balk at the first hint of a spanking. Maybe he wasn’t being fair, but his gut told him that Carla was trouble, that it would be best to stay away. That pert, upturned nose combined with the deep smoky voice might make her sexy as hell, but he didn’t have time for a regular girl, much less a princess like her. Make him put on pants. He should have dropped his boxer briefs just to see what she’d have done. He smiled at the idea of shocking her.
When he got back downstairs, she was sitting on one of the old, falling-apart chairs in the room that Lola insisted on serving her tea in every afternoon, even though Jonah preferred beer. But, every afternoon he was there. He sat his ass down anyway and drank tea from the chipped service Lola had inherited from her grandmother.
Carla looked fresh and unconcerned as she pressed the cuff of her shorts flat with her fingertip, as if she was ensuring they were still straight. Like a nervous tick. She’d said she was here to give her aunt something, but she hadn’t said what that something was. He’d grown fond of Lola, and he didn’t want anyone taking advantage of her, including her own family.
“What are you really doing here?” His voice was overly harsh, and she jumped. He was usually careful about how he used his voice and his size, which wasn’t necessarily an asset in his line of work. Not many subjects forgot that he was there when he took up so much space.
“I don’t see how that’s any of your business.” She might not see it, but that didn’t matter. He wasn’t about to let any avaricious relatives get at a woman who’d treated him like a son during the months he’d been in Havana. “But, if you must know, I’m here because Lola needs help updating this place.”
Jonah looked around. He could see that, but he still didn’t trust that Carla wasn’t scheming to get this place out from under Lola and ship her great aunt off to some retirement home/purgatory until the woman kicked it. Jonah didn’t trust women with perfectly pleated white shorts or prissy-ass attitudes.
He sat down on the chair opposite her and it creaked in protest. “Doesn’t seem like it needs much updating to me.”
Carla brushed a large strand of red hair off of her face and behind her shoulder, revealing a swath of milky, freckled skin that make him think of summer. Innocence. When he looked up at her face, her plush lips were twisted into a suppressed smile. She’d caught him checking her out. And now she’d be on some power trip about how he wanted her—which, of course, he didn’t.
“It does need updating if she wants to turn this place into a successful B&B once tourism travel completely opens up.”
“She’s never said anything about wanting to do that.” Jonah pulled on his earlobe. “I think this place is charming as is. It’s a historical landmark. You’re probably wanting to tear out everything nice about the place and put in a one-hundred-thousand-dollar bathroom.”
She grimaced. “That’s mighty presumptuous of you. And, like I said, this isn’t any of your business.” She got up on her feet then. Her high heel echoed against the bright, mosaic stone floor. “Where’s my aunt?”
“I’m well aware of our relationship to each other. Where is she?”
“She’s at the park, playing checkers with her friends. She usually comes back around four and makes tea.”
She mumbled, “I hope she has rum for the tea.” She hefted her carry-on and roller bag and walked out of the room.
He had to fight himself to keep from grabbing her bag and carrying it up the stairs for her. And then he had to fight his hard-on again when she turned around. She might be lean, but her ass was to die for. His heart picked up at the thought of palming it, and an image of her mouth, wide with the shock of taking him inside as he grabbed both half-globes, took him over for a split second. Not even her grumbling something about being a gentleman stopped him from thinking about what she’d look like naked and wanting him.
He did not have time for this shit.
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