Location: Beach. Action: Frantic lovemaking.
Caitlyn Hart’s cheeks warmed and her pulse thumped in her veins. The bound script slipped from her fingers, landing with a thud on the coffee table. No matter how many times she read the words they still came as a shock.
Pull it together, Cait. You’re an actress. Act.
The only problem was she had no idea how she was supposed to. Short of picking up a stack of blue movies the next time she was in Rio, there was no way to learn how she was meant to act in that particular scene.
Thrumming her fingers against the wooden table top, Caitlyn glared at the glass wall. Rain pattered against the small villa in a soothing rhythm. She tried to relax, but couldn’t quite alleviate her temper enough to do so.
It was bad enough filming had been delayed a week already, now they would have to wait until the rain passed before they could begin. This, however, was all dependant on whether or not her co-star would actually show up. Jake Campbell, movie star and playboy alike, was the only true star in the low budget movie, Caught in Action.
Caitlyn’s phone vibrated on the table, and she slid her finger over the screen to read the text.
Hey, Cait. God, I’m terrified about the show. Wish you were here already! How’s filming going? xxx
Amanda’s text kicked her anger up a notch. Her younger sister looked to Caitlyn as a mother figure at times. In three months, Amanda was doing her first fashion show and her twenty-two year old sister wasn’t strong. Amanda needed support, and Caitlyn was the only one who had been there to provide it. Not that she would have ever done anything differently, but sometimes she wished she had someone she could rely on.
She sent a quick reply to Amanda promising she would try and be there. She had to be there. Rather than spend the week sulking or worrying she wouldn’t be finished filming in time, Caitlyn had spent most of it learning as many of her lines as possible.
The character she played was so unlike herself that it was exhilarating; Sandra Fell was a kick-ass detective with only one goal—to find the man who killed her family in a drug bust and put him behind bars. Caitlyn was never forthright, nor had she ever confronted anyone in her life.
Not to mention, it was a vast change from playing a spoiled socialite on an American soap opera. Still, Caitlyn had to admit that while she was enjoying lying in the sun all day—yet still managing to stay surprisingly chalk white—she was eager to get the movie shot and head home. The private island the filmmakers rented was beautiful, but felt crowded with most of the cast. She rapped in a staccato beat on the mahogany table top with her fingers. Was it really too much to ask that someone showed up at a job when he was supposed to?
The sound of helicopter blades chopping through the air caught Caitlyn’s attention and her fingers froze mid-rap. She knew it must be Jake. Everyone else had taken a speed boat from Rio, facing wind and water spray to get here. It figured a hot shot movie star like him would find that mode of transportation beneath him.
As she rose from the armchair, its legs scraped the tiled floor. She paced across to the glass wall and cupped a hand over her eyes to see out. The sun had set and the island was in darkness. Of course the ugly black clouds in the sky hadn’t allowed much light through when it had been daylight. It reminded her of English autumns, though she’d never returned to the UK since she left all those years ago.
About fifteen feet away, she saw a makeshift landing pad, illuminated by spotlights pointing toward the gloomy sky. The beams highlighted the sheets of rain which fell diagonally, hitting the sand with such force that little divots were left behind and the grains scattered at impact.
After a moment, the chopping sound grew louder and Caitlyn saw the dark outline of a helicopter as it flew into the prism of light created by the spotlights. Once grounded, the pilot practically stumbled out of the aircraft until he had opened the rear door—as if it were a limousine!
Flabbergasted by the grandiose behavior, Caitlyn squinted so she could see more clearly. A tall, muscular figure stepped out from the helicopter and landed as gracefully as a jungle cat on the sand. Once straightened, the man towered above the pilot. Golden hair glinted in the light and Caitlyn’s tummy flipped.
It was Jake.
Her anger at his lack of professionalism and consideration for others’ schedules boiled to the forefront of her mind. The way he casually strolled across the sand—with the air of a Greek god—followed by the pilot and another man, all struggling with his luggage, made her temper flare hotter.
And that is exactly why actors and actresses are considered high maintenance.
The lights of the larger villa opposite Caitlyn’s flared on and she ducked into a shadowed corner of the glass wall to continue snooping. Jake at least held the door open for the men as they carried his cases inside. When the two emerged, Jake pulled out a roll of notes from his tight jeans, counted out several bills, and then handed them over as if it were nothing. Caitlyn couldn’t see his expression from this far, but his lazy actions suggested he perhaps wore a casual sneer.
Never having met the man, she really shouldn’t judge. Although anyone who didn’t take their work seriously enough to actually show up on time couldn’t be all that nice. After the door closed and the two men retreated to the heliport, Caitlyn made a decision. Before she could change her mind, she pulled on a crocheted cardigan and headed for the door.
It was about time Mr. Campbell realized that he couldn’t just arrive when it suited him, especially not when they were on such a tight schedule. Sure, he was absolutely gorgeous in the magazines and films she’d seen him in, but good looks—or even great looks—didn’t excuse poor manners. Caitlyn was new to the film industry, but she’d worked on Days and Nights since she was eighteen, a solid eight years of acting experience.
As she threw open the door and the wind whipped rain across her face in hard slashes, Caitlyn’s anger grew. To her, work was a way of supporting those she loved—namely her younger sister and her nephew, Kale. Family was everything to Caitlyn, and it was what she’d lived for all her life.
Wet sand flew up around her ankles with sludge-like consistency as she stomped her way across to Jake’s villa. The rain plastered her hair to her scalp and the humidity made her feel sticky, but she didn’t care. She was mad on too many levels to worry about appearances.
As she neared his house, illuminated with lights shining from every window, the better part of herself was screaming reason at her.
What on earth are you doing? He’s your co-star, and let’s face it, the only star! Why antagonize him when the movie needs him?
But the voice of logic was grossly overruled by her newfound temper. After all, it was his job to be there. So why let everyone wait in limbo—no, wait for him—for a whole week before strolling onto the island like nothing was out of sorts? Well, she was about to find out.
She had to make it back to LA in time for her sister’s fashion show. Ever since Caitlyn had run away from their alcoholic and abusive father, taking her fourteen-year-old sister with her, she’d been there for Amanda every day. The acting—although a way to escape real life, if only for a little while—was for Amanda as much as it was for herself. Caitlyn wanted to support her in every way she could, and now that Amanda had Kale, she needed to help more than ever. Amanda relied on her. Caitlyn took her work, and her family obligations, seriously. After all, Amanda was all she had left. Jake was making that task impossible.
She climbed the step and reached out a hand to knock. For a split second, Caitlyn wondered if this really was the best idea.
How about sticking up for yourself for once?
Decided, Caitlyn knocked once. After a few seconds ticked by, her impatience rose. She turned the handle, pushed the door to the villa open, and gasped at the sight before her.
* * * *
Whiskey was exactly what Jake needed.
After spending the morning at the bank and then the rest of the day and night traveling, he was exhausted. Yet he knew sleep wouldn’t come. Not when his father’s company was in the state it was.
Disposing of his shirt—the humidity from the storm was stifling—Jake made his way through the coffee colored hallway, heading straight for the kitchen. Sean Brennon, the director and his long time friend, knew Jake’s choice of refreshments and he had no doubt a bottle of the finest Scotch would be in there somewhere.
And it was. A bottle of malt sat on the center of the metallic breakfast bar. A crystal glass sat next to the whiskey with a white envelope propped against it. Jake lifted the note.
Hey, man. Hope your day wasn’t too shitty. I really appreciate this. The fridge is stocked with British crap and there’s another bottle of Scotch in the cupboard. Knock yourself out, and give me a call when you’re ready to start filming. The crew’s getting antsy.
Jake dragged his free hand across his face. It had been a hell of a day. Filming this low-budget movie was a risk, and not something he particularly needed at this point in time. All week, he’d been held up in London trying to find a way to keep his father’s business, which was now run by his two brothers, afloat.
After their parents died, Jake had taken over the business, and while he’d enjoyed the challenge running the UK’s leading engineering supplies procurement company presented, he’d also felt trapped and suffocated.
For the last seven days, he’d been arguing with his brothers about the best way to proceed. Jake had tried to push them to sell given the recession, but Tom and Sam vehemently disagreed. Knowing he had other commitments, Jake finally invested a chunk of capital into the business to keep the company afloat until filming ceased. When he got back to London, he’d convince them to change their minds. He had to. With his youngest brother Sam’s sole skill being selling, and Tom lacking even basic people skills, they had no chance of running the business without him and there was no way he could face running his father’s company all over again.
It had been enough to be the sole guardian of his younger brothers after their parents were killed, never mind taking control of the family business as well—and all at the age of eighteen. And then there was Sarah and her ultimatum. Jake poured a two-finger nip of whisky and swallowed it in one burning gulp. The burn helped push away the lingering rage just thinking of Sarah brought. Still, it wasn’t enough.
Pouring a heftier shot, his mind unconsciously wandered back to the months after his parents had been killed. No one, not the social worker, the principal at his high school, or the counselor wanted him to take over the reins of Campbell Engineers. They’d all tried to persuade him to finish school and let the social department look after his brothers, all so he could go to college.
Jake shook his head at the absurdity of the memory. Like he’d ever let his brothers go into care. Another sip and the warmth of the alcohol spread through him, making it easier to ignore the confused guilt welling up inside.
Three months, he told himself. After that he could get back to London and work on his brothers. Surely they would see the logic in selling a failing company in today’s economy. They could use the proceeds to start their own small business, maybe even invest in the stock market. After all, share prices were at their lowest in decades.
Yet, as he relaxed back into a lazy-boy recliner and stared out at the darkness beyond the patio doors, an uneasy feeling swelled in his chest. Was he wrong in asking his brothers to give up on their legacy?
Before he could convince himself he was being an idiot, Jake heard scuffling coming from the front of the house. A moment later, the sound of flip-flops slapped against the stone stairs leading to the door of the villa and then, a light knock. Jake propelled himself out of the chair, headed for the hallway—picking up the coat rack just in case—and waited. The door swung open and a tiny, dark figure entered the house.
Jake flicked the light switch and after his eyes adjusted, he raised his brows in surprise at the sight before him. Caitlyn Hart, his co-star whom he’d yet to have the pleasure to meet, stood in his doorway resembling a drowned mouse.
The rain had turned her fiery red curls a dark cherry shade, enhancing the creamy skin of her face and neck. A familiar burn coursed through his veins as his gaze lowered to her white top, clinging to her like wet, translucent skin. He noticed the twin peaks pointing at him from her chest and swallowed. How had he missed how utterly sexy she was when he’d seen her on television commercials and in magazines?
Caitlyn cleared her throat in irritation and he realized his gaze was still molded to her breasts. He lifted his head and met her glare head on, resisting the urge to laugh at her expression. Her scowl was adorable.
“Would you mind getting dressed? I was hoping we could talk.”
Jake felt his eyebrows pull together before it hit him that he was standing there shirtless, wearing only a pair of jeans. Still, she was the first woman who had ever asked him to cover himself up. His lips curved.
“And let you miss all this?” Jake swept a hand across his torso. “I’m not that selfish.”
Most girls would have giggled at the joke. He waited, but her scowl only deepened. What was her problem? He placed the coat stand down, folded his arms across his chest, and then lounged against the door frame.
Her gaze darted down to his folded arms and for a moment, the scowl vanished. Her expression was hard to decipher, but before he could figure it out, her attention focused back on his face. He noted the emerald color of her eyes had darkened and a flush glowed in her cheeks.
Caitlyn wiped her expression—was it lust?—clean of any trace of emotion and glared at him some more. “Since it seems you’d rather do this half naked—” At that he did laugh and her frown deepened. “—then I guess I’ll say what I came to. You may think you’re some big shot movie star who doesn’t need to abide by the rules, but your actions have consequences for others!” Caitlyn’s voice rose as her anger flared.
He was gobsmacked at her outburst. Falling back on his charm to try to alleviate some of her anger, Jake grinned from ear to ear.
Her eyes flashed. Caitlyn stomped toward him and poked her finger into his chest. “Some of us have lives,” she continued her angry torrent. “Commitments, things we have to do after work. You know, work? Where you were supposed to be last week? Now filming will run on longer and I have places to be in three months.”
Jake eyed his co-star with his brows drawn together and his jaw taut. What kind of a woman would come into a man’s house and give him grief just because his timekeeping didn’t suit her? Exactly the same kind of woman Sarah was. He couldn’t marry Sarah quick enough for her liking.
But Jake wasn’t twenty-one anymore and didn’t let women try to rule him. Plus, he had to work with Caitlyn. If he threw her out now, surely the next three months would be torture. He considered whether to continue to play the dumb, self-centered hot shot movie star she had accused him of being and decided it would be fun. Well, more fun than telling her the truth about the week of hell which made him late. Not that he would ever confide such a thing in someone like her in the first place.
Jake shrugged and pulled his expression into his best I-don’t-give-a-crap look. “Sweetheart.” Caitlyn visibly bristled and he had to fight a smile. He grabbed the finger still prodding his chest and for a second, saw fear flash in her eyes before she pulled her hand out of his grasp. “We all have commitments. So we’re stuck on a fancy island off the coast of Rio with all the luxuries we will ever need for the next few months. I don’t see what the problem is. I could think of worse places to be.” The last part was true. Back home, shouldered with the responsibility of his family’s company, was one of them.
“You are beyond selfish!”
Caitlyn spun around and headed for the door. Her black leggings clung to a perfectly shaped bottom. His heart raced at the sight and arousal hit him like a knee to the groin, effectively dissolving his irritation. With his exhaustion from the long journey forgotten and the whiskey creating a warm glow inside—not to mention her sexy body messing with his head—Jake decided to at least try to make amends. Being at odds with her while filming was a headache he didn’t need, regardless of what he thought of her. Time to turn up the charm.
“Caitlyn, don’t go. Come on, let’s have a drink. We can get to know each other.”
Meeting his gaze head on with eyes burning green fire, she said, “I think I already know enough about you.”
Jake cursed under his breath. Yeah, he’d acted like a shallow arse, but mostly just to annoy her. Even though she reminded him of his witch of an ex, he liked it when she was all fiery. It suited her. But working with someone for three months who couldn’t stand him would be a nightmare.
She had the door open by the time he reached her, but he managed to grab her hand, turn her around, and then close the door. With her petite curves squeezed between him and the exit, he forgot what he was supposed to be doing. The scent of pine and berries drifted from her damp hair and those nipples straining against her top were now piercing his chest.
He was harder than a steel girder instantly and he despised his body’s reaction to her. Hadn’t it learned the first time around with Sarah? Her eyes grew huge as she stared up at him, but she didn’t push him away. He noticed her lips stood out like a single red rose in a bouquet of white against her angular face. This close, he could see her skin was bare of makeup—a sight he didn’t see very often.
The women he dated would never leave the house without makeup. Hell, half of them made sure they woke up before him just so they could be polished and pristine by the time he was up. He found Caitlyn’s natural look appealing, and although it irked him to no end, he couldn’t pull himself away. He wondered if Caitlyn tasted as good as she smelled.
With a different part of his anatomy overpowering his judgment, Jake decided to find out and lowered his head. The need to taste those lips and find out for himself whether she tasted as sour as she appeared overruled his common sense.
* * * *
One moment, she’d been storming away, intent on avoiding Mr. Big Shot as much as possible, and now she was squeezed between the door and an undeniably magnificent chest. Caitlyn’s breath sped and her heart pounded. With her thoughts in a confused muddle and the heat from Jake seeping through her wet shirt, the anger drained away, replaced by a fierce fire burning at her core.
His head tilted toward her and his blond waves cascaded around his head like a halo. With a face seemingly carved from tanned marble and eyes the color of Swiss chocolate, he truly was beautiful.
For a moment she was lost in his eyes, which seemed to turn darker as she stared. Before she knew what was happening, Jake’s head descended toward her and she caught a whiff of whiskey on his breath.
Her thoughts spun back almost ten years. It wasn’t Jake in front of her anymore, but her father pinning her to the floor, his beefy hand bruising her shoulder and the smell of stale alcohol on his breath choking her senses as he yelled at her.
Fear burned adrenaline through her veins and she dashed to the side, maneuvering away from both him and the door. The old terror of entrapment made her heart pound wildly in her chest. She edged into the hall, trying not to resemble a skittering rabbit and failing horribly. He stepped closer and Caitlyn feinted back.
She knew he wasn’t her father, but still the fear gripped her. She’d spent her whole life carefully avoiding the opposite sex as much as possible. The intoxicated beatings her father had subjected her to were only one of the many reasons for her wariness.
And now, here she was, flirting with danger, all because she was angry he was making her late. It wasn’t any of her business if Jake Campbell was a self-centered, unreliable, egotistical male. The possibility of missing her sister’s fashion show was hard to accept, but she’d work something out. She would work with him and do nothing else. Why had she been so stupid as to come over to confront him?
“Caitlyn, are you all right?” Concern etched Jake’s forehead.
Some of the terror eased. Logically, she knew she was overreacting and now her cheeks burned with embarrassment. “I have to go.”
His eyebrows shot up his forehead. “I’m sorry.” He held both his hands up in a gesture of surrender. “How about we start over?”
His grin made her knees weak and her pulse race—but not from the fear. No, her body’s want for him had almost eradicated that. Jake really needed to put a shirt on. She couldn’t think around the jitters in her tummy his near-naked state was causing.
As he was blocking the door, she didn’t have the option of leaving. For now. “Could you please put on a shirt?”
Jake’s grin grew huge and she immediately regretted saying anything. Now he knew his half-nakedness bothered her, she wouldn’t be surprised if he slipped off his jeans.
For a second, she was distracted by the idea, but she forced herself to focus—no easy task when he stood in front of her, muscles rippling and smooth, velvety skin on display.
“Does my shirtless state offend you?” The teasing glint in his eyes contradicted the note of innocence in his voice.
“No, it’s just rude to be half-naked when you have company.” Caitlyn bristled at her prissy tone.
Jake stepped closer and panic tightened her chest. She tried to quash it. He wasn’t her father, he was in the public eye and if he was prone to violence, wouldn’t the world know about it? But then again, so was her ex-boyfriend, and it didn’t stop him from dishing out verbal attacks.
God, get a grip, Cait! You’re acting like a crazy person.
Jake bent down outside a closed door in the hall, unzipped a suitcase, then pulled out two white cotton t-shirts. After slipping one on, he held the other out to her. Caitlyn’s brows drew together as she looked at it.
“Put this on. You’re not topless, but you might as well be. Water makes most white clothes transparent.”
Caitlyn glanced down at her top and to her utter horror noticed it was see-through! Without thinking, she grabbed the shirt, turned her back on Jake and pulled the soft cotton over her head.
“I’ve clearly pissed you off,” Jake said, stating the obvious.
She nodded, even though it wasn’t a question. The familiar prickle of fear tingled her spine and, though a part of her thought it was sensible to feel it, she felt utterly stupid. She’d been alone with men—albeit in public places—since she ran away from her abusive father. But men in general scared her. Especially after Archie had turned nasty when she’d refused to sleep with him.
“Because you have somewhere to be after the scheduled filming?” Jake pressed, dragging her from the murky thoughts. Caitlyn nodded again. Before he could carry on with whatever it was he was going to say, his mobile rang. Jake pulled a Blackberry from his front pocket and cursed when he read the caller display. “This won’t take long. You can wait in the lounge. I’ll just be a minute.”
He stalked through to the end of the villa and closed the kitchen door behind him. Along with the annoyance crossing his expression when the phone rang, she’d also seen guilt flicker across his features.
Caitlyn stared at the closed door and saw it as her only opportunity. Now that most of her anger had gone, she felt horribly embarrassed for her outburst, not to mention the fact she’d shown him fear.
She’d learned from early on if she showed fear in front of a bully, the beatings were always much, much worse. Not that she had proof Jake was one. No, he was just an inconsiderate ass. Still, old habits died hard.
She needed to get away, regroup, and figure out how to work with someone who both infuriated her and made her feel all hot and bothered at the same time.
She removed her flip-flops, sneaked toward the front door, and fled before his call ended, realizing the only danger she was in now was from her own wayward feelings.
Thanks for reading! If you want to find out what happens next you can grab the book here