Lila McAllister is exhausted. So much so that her grandfather insists for her to go on a sabbatical. She takes off from the big city, and the probing paparazzi, for some rest and relaxation in her family’s home town of Galveston, Texas.
While there she meets Mixed Martial Arts fighter Zach Thomas, who is also taking a break from the world after his latest fight. A rocky first encounter, and even being stuck together in a hurricane can’t seem to dim the passion igniting between these two. However, Zach quickly learns that winning Lila’s heart may be his toughest fight yet.
Targeted Age Group: 18+
The Book Excerpt:
“It’s one in the morning Lila.”
“I’m very well aware of what time it is Zach.”
“Then why are you out here making so much noise?”
She sighed exasperated. “The news reporter stated that the tropical storm forming out in the gulf might be turning into a hurricane. So I’m boarding up the windows.”
He was impressed by how proactive she seemed to be.
“Do you need any help?”
“No thank you,” she said firmly. She picked up the hammer and went back to work.
“Are you sure?”
She turned back to face him. “Look,” she said heatedly, “I’ve been doing this since I was eight years old. I can handle it by myself. Contrary to what you seem to believe about me, I’m not some delicate flower who’s in danger of wilting in the wind.” She turned and began hammering. “Besides, I’m almost d…Ow!” She’d slipped and hit her finger with the hammer.
She swore under her breath, then winced in pain.
“Are you alright?” he asked, stepping toward her.
“I’m fine,” she said, stepping backward while holding her finger.
“Here, give me your hand, let me look at it.”
He reached out for her and she jerked away.
“I said I’m fine!”
He’d had just about enough of her rudeness. Swiftly leaning over, he lifted her up and tossed her over his shoulder.
She let out a shriek, then pounded his back with the hand that didn’t hurt. It didn’t do any good, the man was as solid as a rock. “Zach,” she shouted, “Put me down!”
When he got to the kitchen, he plopped her down on the kitchen island and glared at her.
“Woman would you stop being so damn stubborn and let me help you?”
She sat there in a stare down with him for several moments, then as the pain in her finger became greater, she finally relented and gave him her hand.
He intently studied it, then said, “You didn’t crush it, but the nail is probably going to come off at some point.” He turned and went to the freezer and found an ice pack inside. He wrapped it in a towel gently placed it on her hand.
“When the swelling goes down after awhile, I’ll wrap it up for you.”
“Thanks,” she mumbled looking down at the ground.
They sat there silent for several moments then she asked, “So are you a doctor or something?”
He smiled and she felt her pulse quicken instantly. He shook his head. “No, nothing like that, but I’ve seen my share of bruises and such.”
“Why’s that?” she asked before she could stop herself.
Without warning, he lifted his shirt and her breath caught. Besides noticing his unnaturally gorgeous and fit abdomen, she also saw a few purple bruises on his mocha colored skin. While she was curious to know what the bruises were from, she couldn’t help but admired his chiseled features.
It took all the strength she had not to reach out and run her hand down his stomach.
Finally, she cleared her terribly dry throat and asked, “What happen to you?”
“I’m a mixed martial arts fighter.”
He was taken slightly aback when she actually looked interested.
“Does it hurt?” she suddenly asked. He looked her in the eyes for a moment and felt slightly off balance. She looked like she was genuinely concerned. He then looked away and shrugged.
“Just a few bruises. It’s sore, but it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened.”
“I shudder to think.” And she really did. “I hope the other guy looks worse than you.”
He nodded, smiling. “Very much worse.”
She finally graced him with a true smile and Zach thought his heart stopped. Her entire face transformed and he realized she was even more beautiful than he first thought. Her hair was layered down to the top of her shoulders, framing her flawless cafe au lait skin.
He also noticed that when she smiled, she had the faintest hint of a dimple on each cheek. He figured, since dimples were a genetic trait, they were just making their appearance on her face. He wondered if they would deepen even more as she got older. They were certainly an attractive feature on her face.
“Well, then I hope it’s safe to assume that you won,” she said, interrupting his silent assessment of her.
“You assume correctly.”
He took her hand and took the ice pack off, then examined it. “It’s looking really good. You didn’t seem to hit it too hard,” he said with a wink. “Where’s your first aid kit?” She told him where it was and he went to get it. He came back and took her hand then began to gently wrap her injured finger.
“That was some move you did outside,” he mentioned as casually as possible, while still focusing on her hand. He glanced up just in time to notice her blushing deeply. “Where did you learn that from?”
Looking everywhere but in his face, she answered. “I’m a first degree black belt in Taekwondo.”
Surely he hadn’t heard her right; she had after all spoken so low, it was almost a whisper.
“I’m a first degree black belt in Taekwondo,” she said louder, in an almost annoying sounding tone.
“No!” he said in disbelief. She sat there silent.
“You?” he asked pointing at her.
“There no one else in the room,” she spat out.
He shook his head. “I meant no disrespect, but…well, to be quite honest, you don’t seem like the type who likes to watch fighting let alone practice it.”
“Well,” she said looking away, perturbed, “you would assume wrong.”
“How in the world did you…” when she glared at him again, he toned it down. “How did you get into martial arts?”
“My father, uncles, brothers and male cousins all practiced it. Girls in our family just didn’t do it. But I thought it looked cool, so I bothered them to let me learn. They kept saying no, until I picked a fight with one of my cousins. My father pulled me off of him then told me if I was going to fight, I might as well know how to do it right.” She shrugged like it was no big deal and he stood there staring in awe.
He’d completely misjudged this woman.
He finished wrapping her hand. She looked at it and smiled. “Thanks,” she said.
“It was my pleasure.”
She slid down off the island, but he hadn’t stepped back. Her breathing accelerated at the feeling of their bodies being so close.
They looked at each other, both feeling the chemistry rising between them. They both opened their mouths to speak at the same time. He smiled at her and said, “Ladies first.”
She let out a sigh. “I think we got off to a terrible start this morning. I owe you a long overdue apology for what happened at the airport. I swear I’m not usually so terrible. If you’ll accept my apology for that, as well as letting you stand out in the rain, I’d like for us to start over.”
Clearly, she too had misjudged him.
He smiled at her. “Apology accepted, and I’m sorry, for causing you to hurt your finger.”
“It was my own fault,” she said shaking her head. Then she stuck out her good hand.
He took her hand and brought it up to his mouth. “I’m Zach,” he said, before pressing a gentle kiss to her hand.