She was tired, she was weak, and she wanted to touch him so badly she couldn't keep her arms at her sides but wrapped them around his torso, ran her hands up his powerful back. Cam's skin was still damp, but warm. So warm. He'd surprised her by not showing off today. He'd caught a couple of waves and looked so graceful she'd held her breath, but he'd been awfully low-key about his own prowess and spent hours coaching her.
“Thanks for teaching me,” Jen said, pulling him away when his lips started nudging aside her bathing suit.
“You're welcome. I could teach you a lot more, you know,” he said, running his palms lightly over the nipple-sized bulges in her suit. “You're freezing, let me warm you up.”
He must have been able to tell it was already working; warmth was stealing through her, from his body which was on top of hers, from his hands, his lips, and from the devil lights in his eyes. She felt like she was in the famous scene in
From Here to Eternity
. Any minute now the tide was going to wash over them, and that would be the end of her virtue.
“I'm going to marry Mark Forsythe,” she reminded them both.
His eyes glittered down at her. “Are you?”
What Jennifer Talbot hated most about business travel was the business of travelingâand the unpleasant surprises that cropped up from time to time when she was too tired, jet-lagged, and far from home to deal with them.
The man lounging in the outdoor spa appeared to be one of those unpleasant surprises.
Not that he wasn't gorgeous with that barely civilized, raw-sex Aussie appeal, and she wasn't displeased that the CEO of Crane Surf and Boogie Boards wanted to see her so soon after her arrival in Australia.
It was just that Jen had stumbled out of the cab from Sydney Airport believing the address she'd been given was a hotel. Her suit was rumpled, her feet seemed to have swelled inside her pumps, her eyelids were scratchy from lack of sleep, and her temper was seriously frayed. What she needed was a very large bottle of Perrier, an even larger bed, and about fourteen hours of uninterrupted sleep.
What she had was her client, Cameron Crane, whom she'd come a very long way to do business with, gazing at her like she was one of those prawns they always talked about
putting on the barbie:
as though she were some luscious bit of food he was contemplating devouring in a couple of bites.
“G'day. Welcome to Australia,” he said, steam wafting back and forth across his face giving him a dreamy, fantasy quality. His dirty-blond hair was much longer than necessary and curled roguishly at the ends. He sported a tough-guy jaw, a not-very-successful boxer's nose, and eyes that were both lazy and penetrating at the same time.
“I thought this was a hotel,” she said. It was certainly large enoughâa sleekly modern house set back off the street in barely tamed tropical gardens. The house was right across the street from the beach but if its owner didn't want to walk that far for a swim, there was a good-sized swimming pool at her feet so cool and inviting her feet throbbed just looking at it. And beside it, the spa, steaming silently without its jets on.
Since she'd done her homework, she knew that Crane was a financial wunderkind with a lot of fingers in a lot of very lucrative pies. She'd flown from San Francisco to help him add the USA to his pie collection.
She tried to keep her voice pleasant; he was the client, after all, but even she could hear the edge of irritation. “If you'd told me you wanted to meet right away, I'd have come better prepared.”
“You should have let me send a car for you.”
“It's just as well you didn't, since the plane was delayed several hours.” A fact that only added to her fatigue.
“I don't want you to work tonight. You're staying here as my guest. I thought you'd be more comfortable in my house than in a hotel.”
In a pig's eye.
She wasn't entirely sure why he wanted her under his roof, but she doubted it was for her comfort. “I see. I'm Jennifer Talbot.”
She thought his eyes were a smoky gray-green, but it was hard to tell in the steam. What she could certainly see was the cocky grin that revealed I-could-eat-you-all-up even white teeth. “Thought you might be. Come on in. Water's great.”
She managed a frigid smile. “I didn't bring my bathing suit.”
The grin intensified. “Neither did I.”
She refused to gasp or blush. She had a pretty good idea he'd be only too pleased if she did either, or, preferably, both. She'd met his type before. “All I want to do is go to bed.” Before he could say a word, she added, “Alone.”
He laughed outright at that. “I'm Cam.”
“Nice to meet you.” Though it would have been a lot nicer in an office when she had her wits about her. She eased an aching foot out of a pump and rubbed it against the back of her calf.
“Sit down and take a load off. Like a beer? I think I've got another one in the esky.” He gestured behind him to a small cooler.
She sank into a teak lounger with a green and white striped cushion, unable to resist putting her feet up. “I don't suppose you have a Perrier?”
He scratched his chin, where darkish stubble shadowed a dimple. “Might, I suppose. I'll ring through to the kitchen.” He started to rise, water sluicing down muscular shoulders and a dark-haired chest. As he turned to climb out, she caught a glimpse of the white bulge of his backside and realized he hadn't been joking about being naked.
As hot and cold shivers chased themselves up and down her spine, she opened her mouth to say, “No. Please don't bother. A beer's fine.” But she caught the glance he shot her over his shoulder. He paused for a second, waiting for her to stop him. She closed her mouth and sank back into the lounger.
He wanted to play chicken? Fine.
She wouldn't even look away. In truth, she couldn't have if she'd tried. He emerged from that bubbling water like a Greek god out of the steam of creation. Even in her dehydrated condition, she felt her mouth go dry. His body was muscular and solid, tanned to a rugged bronze, his paler buttocks rounded, but just as solid and muscular as the rest of him. She was accustomed to working with men who appeared better in their business suits than out of them. She had a feeling Cameron Crane looked better in the buff.
There was a smallish dark patch up high on one cheek that she took to be a bruise until the curtain of wafting steam parted and she recognized the company logo. A small crane.
Anybody who had their company logo tattooed on their butt was either way too arrogant, or a complete workaholic.
If he were a subtle sort of man she'd concede a certain ironic humor in the location of the tattoo, but based on five minutes acquaintance, she doubted Cameron Crane kept much subtlety in stock.
Cam watched blondie watching him.
She looked, he thought, like one of those American film and telly stars: tense, tight-arsed, and anorexic.
He hated for anyone to have the upper hand over him, especially a woman. In this case, he had to admit, Jennifer Talbot did. She was here because she was a brilliant marketer with an intimate knowledge of the California market, and since she'd be a key player in introducing Crane products in the U.S., she had a lot of clout.
Which meant he needed to make absolutely certain he had more. Luckily, he had a foolproof plan for maintaining control of their relationship. He'd sleep with her. He'd already decided to seduce her before she even got on the plane.
If she'd gained a few stones, or lost her teeth since her Harvard photo, he still would have bedded her for the sake of his company. But in the flesh she was even nicer than the eight-year-old photo had led him to believe. He'd seduce her all right, for the sake of his company, and his own pleasure.
He used the intercom to alert Marg that company was here and asked for a sparkling water. Then he turned back and found blondie still gazing straight at him.
Beneath a gaze of icy reserve, he caught the gleam of hot intelligence in her eyes. She didn't blush or remove her eyes as he gave her his best view and slowly returned to the spa. She didn't look him up and down like she was going to measure him for a suit, either. He could have been fully dressed for all the reaction he'd caused.
Her eyes locked with his and her eyebrows rose in a challenge. He sank a bit quicker into the swirling water than he'd planned, as something else raised itself. There was nothing he enjoyed more than a challenge.
He reckoned seducing this one, with her hot intelligence and cool beauty, was going to be more fun than he'd imagined. Hell, he might even do the world a favor and loosen her up a bit. In any case, the next few weeks promised to be interesting.
There were two things Cameron Crane was really good at. One of them was making money.