Ivyanne’s footstep halted as the memory of Lincoln’s hands running up her thigh damn near knocked the wind over her. No man had touched her before or since. She paused and looked back the way she had come, breathing heavily, her mind clouding.
Could I? She thought, biting her lower lip and fiddling with her long damp hair. She could go back, he was probably still there. She could lure him into the darkness, offering sympathetic hugs, kissing his tears away…and tomorrow it could be that taboo thing they shouldn’t have down and would never have to speak of. It’s not the full moon yet, I should be safe…no one has to know….
Her good conscience beseeched her to run to the ocean before she ruined her life. She’d been saving herself for decades-to fall prey to a moment of weakness now would be stupid. Regardless of how alluring the idea was, of finishing what she’d started with Link twelve years before. She owed her people more than she owed him. And she always would.
‘Excuse me miss.’ A young mans’ voice called softly. ‘I was wondering if you could tell me where room forty six is?’
Ivyanne looked up, caught off guard. The voice, affected with a soft American accent, had come from a manly silhouette under her porch light. How had he ended up in the staff quarters?
‘You need to head back to the pool, sir, then follow the path to the right,’ Ivyanne had to force the cheerful tone of voice, even though her voice still wobbled tellingly. ‘There are signs indicating which bungalows are down which path-’ Ivyanne’s voice died in her throat when she stepped under the light, and saw the face of the man who had addressed her.
‘Tristan?!’Her temper flared instantly as his perfectly sculpted face came into focus. Suddenly she was assailed by more memories, which were both vague and thrilling at the same time. Did he even remember?
No, she thought. Of course not. I was a child then! The memory blew out of her mind like a piece of paper in the wind and suddenly, all she could see was the typeset of his smug e-mails grandly offering to marry her for the good of the kingdom. ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing here?!’
Tristan grinned at her, his white teeth almost blindingly bright. ‘Taking a holiday…..’ he drawled, hitching his single bag onto his shoulder, looking like a casually posed model from a high-fashion campaign. ‘I came this way a few years ago-beautiful spot.’
Ivyanne put her hands on her hips. ‘You know that you’re not supposed to be here!’
Tristan nodded. ‘I know. But I’m spontaneous-if we’re going to be married, you should know that about me.’ He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Ivyanne couldn’t believe it-first Ardhi, now Tristan. Didn’t anybody respect her wishes at all? Couldn’t they see that they were driving her out of her mind? ‘We are not going to be married.’ She snapped, walking more purposefully towards the door, intending to breeze right by him.
Tristan pouted. ‘So you’ve made your decision already?’
That halted her tracks! ‘No! But-’ Her senses responded to his scent, a mix of tangy salt air and something else, something floral but masculine. The aroma filled her nose and chest, dizzying her. Oh wow. She thought, blinking. She didn’t spend much time with men. Neither her father or Ardhi wore cologne, and Lincoln had always been too young for such a thing. The sudden desire to inhale more deeply now, troubled her. And how could a grown man look so adorable when pouting like a child?
‘Well don’t say things you’re not certain of. Words can hurt, you know.’ His cocky slid back into place, a light dimple appearing in his cheek.
Ivyanne swallowed, scratching at her arm, where the chlorine had irritated her skin. Like all mers, hers was the kind of skin that could weather almost any element-sun, salt, cold and heat. But man-made chemicals reacted badly with a lot of them-chlorine being the worst offender.
But her agitation wasn’t just from the treated water-it was an accumulation of everything. Ivyanne was finding it difficult to even think straight. Especially with him smiling at her in that way, his eyes raking over her like she was a prized thoroughbred he might consider investing in. The same way she wanted to study him. She tried to breathe through her mouth as she was assessed by his light, golden brown eyes.
‘Whatever. Look I’m having a bad day and acting a little irrational, so if you leave now, I won’t make a scene.’
He smirked at her. ‘Sorry Ivyanne, but you can’t make me leave. I’m a paying customer, and you have to be nice to me,’ he stepped into her body, his toffee colored eyes dancing with glee. The closer he drew, the more apparent his beauty became. There wasn’t a visible pore on his golden skin, and the lines of his lips, masculine jaw and perfect nose were so flawless in their symmetry that he was more illustration than human to the eye. ‘And I know it’s been a few years, but I must say…great job growing up, princess.’
Ivyanne’s lungs constricted somewhat. He was so close that his body heat was warming her skin. She ran her fingers through her wet hair in a nervous gesture. ‘Well you look exactly the same.’ She said quietly. ‘Like a snake in the grass.’
Tristan chuckled lightly. He reached up and coaxed her fingers out of her wet mane. His touch sent jolt through her own fingertips. ‘And you look like a snake charmer if I ever saw one. Breathtaking.’