Holiday Edition Book 8
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
She seeks an escape.
He’s allergic to settling down.
Can a marriage of convenience
blossom into everlasting love?
Ana Zeller Cristiano feels locked inside a life of keys. World-renowned since she was five, the thirty-year-old piano prodigy is desperate for release from her high-stakes existence of overbearing expectations. But running away to figure out who she is hits a serious snag when her car gets a flat… until a sexy military man comes to her rescue.
Sawyer “Nomad” Beckett doesn’t put down roots. Floating between squads when deployed and living in a motorhome when he’s stateside, an offer to permanently join the premier SEAL team gives the former Army brat pause. But when he helps a stranded woman only to discover she’s in the cabin next door at his resort, the wandering warrior is shocked when sparks fly.
Swept up in the passionate weekend and tired of the pressure to marry her manager’s son, Ana presents her new flame with a wild plan and an impromptu marriage proposal. And feeling something fall into place he’s never felt before, Beckett agrees to say “I do” despite being set to ship out to the dangerous battlegrounds of Africa.
Will this insane scheme catapult two lonely hearts into unexpected harmony?
Sawyer ‘Nomad’ Beckett is a SEAL floater. He fills in on teams until an empty position is filled. He’s just returned from deployment with SEAL team Romeo and after joining them for a drink he heads out to a favorite vacation spot. He was supposed to be meeting his parents there but his dad, an army general was sent to Belgium at the last minute.
Ana Zeller Cristiano is a classical concert pianist, she’s been touring for what seems like forever and really needs a break. With the help of an acquaintance she buys a used car, makes reservations and takes off without a work to her family or her manager.
It’s a bit of a coincidence that Sawyer is following her on the last stretch to Lake Kincade as he’s able to assist her when the front tire on her car blows out. He even leads her to a reputable place to get new tires so the car is safe to be on the road, before he heads to his cabin.
It turns out that with her last minute reservation she is in the cabin that had been reserved for Sawyer’s parents and that’s where the attraction begins. Sawyer approaches her as she’s saying hello to the resident dog.
This is a favorite scene the morning after their arrival.
What had Sawyer asked her? Oh yes. Her family.
“No, they won’t be joining me. Yours?”
He shook his head. “Dad got called to Belgium for a meeting and Mom always goes where Dad goes.”
She frowned in confusion. “Belgium?”
“Yeah, Dad’s an Army general. Mom’s a faithful military wife.” He tapped his chest. “I am the ungrateful military brat who joined the wrong military branch— and I enlisted.”
She chuckled. “Let me guess. You were supposed to be in the Army.”
He tapped the end of his nose. “Only following in his footprints to West Point wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
“Didn’t you have other siblings who could have picked up the mantle?”
“Nope. Only child. You?”
“I just realized I don’t know your name. You must be C. Kirk or A. Cristiano.” When her brows wrinkled, he said, “The other two envelopes taped to the office door.”
She laughed lightly. “Ana Cristiano.”
She waited for the name recognition that usually occurred when she said her name. This time, nothing. No reaction at all.
This was excellent. He had no idea who she was.
“Nice to meet you, Ana Cristiano. Do people ever pronounce your name as Anna?”
“Not if they want to live.”
He laughed, a full belly howl of amusement.
“Have you had breakfast?” he asked when he finished chuckling.
She picked up her coffee cup from the porch. “Just the elixir of the gods.”
“There’s a great place just up the road. Pancakes. Belgian waffles. Eggs. Whatever you could want. Want to join me?”
She considered his offer, and then thought about her car. Surely the tires could go that far. Besides, they were going to a public place. No safety risk.
All her life she’d been warned about strangers and safety. Initially, because of her family’s money, but now it was because of her own notoriety. Of course, in this small community, the odds of there being a fan of classical piano were slim. Hadn’t she picked this place because of those odds?
“Um, can I see your ID?”
He grinned. “Smart lady.” He pulled a wallet from his front pocket and flipped out his military identification.
“Thanks,” she replied.
“Don’t blame you a bit,” he said, slipping the wallet back into his pocket. “Lots of fake SEALs running around claiming things that aren’t true.”
“How infuriating that must be.”
“It is. So, breakfast?”
She smiled. “Yes, that sounds lovely. We can take my car.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, no. And I’m not riding in that death mobile until you get tires with some treads. You ever been on a Harley?”
Her eyes widened at the thought. Ride a motorcycle? Her mother would swoon. Her grandmother would have a case of the vapors. Randall would tell her the odds of an accident that could break all her fingers and put her career at risk.
“I haven’t. It sounds exciting. Can I go like this?”
He studied her linen shorts and matching blouse.
“You can if you’re comfortable. Nothing in this town is what I would call classy, so anything casual is fine. Just put on shoes. You might want to change into jeans for safety, if you have some.”
She glanced down at her toes and giggled. “Yeah, barefoot is a little too out there, even for me. I have a pair of sneakers and jeans. What about a helmet?” She might be mad at her agent and family, but she wasn’t nuts.
“I have an extra one. Let’s go.”
“Give me a second to change.”
She didn’t want to admit how nervous she was climbing on his Harley. She’d never been on a motorcycle in all her thirty years. Her heart was pounding like a kettle drum. She was almost embarrassed by a grin so wide her cheeks hurt. Thankfully, he had the kind of Harley with an actual seat for a second rider. Sawyer handed her a purple helmet that matched his bike.
“Helmet. It’s the law.”
She shoved it on. “You know this is going to ruin my coiffure and yours.” Her long hair was limp and stringy this morning since she’d done nothing besides drying it last night before going to bed.
He chuckled. “I’ll risk it,” he said as he pulled down the foot pegs for the her. “Come over to the left side. Now, swing your leg over like you’re going to drive.” He laughed at her wide eyes. “No, Ana, you can’t drive my bike today.”
She climbed on and sat in the main seat.
“Now, scoot back until you’re on the back.”
Once she did, he swung his leg over, righted the bike and fired up the engine.
“Ready?” he asked. “Hold on to me tight.”
She nodded, tapping the front of her helmet into the back of his. Excitement raced through her veins along with a spark of nerves.
This reminded her of the first piano recital she’d given. She’d been seven at the time. Even at that age, she’d known she was good, so she hadn’t been scared of the audience. She’d been excited and nervous to show what she could do. Plus, she’d been in Germany on a military base playing for military families, so if she’d messed up, no one would know. Her piano teacher at the time had said it was the ideal place to get her some playing experience. She hadn’t messed up, and all the children had been given a whole day off from practice.
Sawyer revved the engine, which made the bike vibrate between her legs. That produced a very interesting tingle that bounced around her gut.
“Hang on,” he shouted over his shoulder. “And don’t wiggle around.”
She lightly clasped hold of his T-shirt.
He shook his head. “Like this.” He took her right hand and pulled it to his stomach and then did the same with her left. “And when I lean, you follow my body.”
While her hands were resting on his T-shirt material, she had no difficulty feeling the firm muscles underneath. Her fingers flexed, not making an indent in the hard surface, but able to discern the groves in his abdomen. Six-pack? Eight-pack? Lord. Musicians were the only men she was around these days, and they definitely didn’t sport anything like this.
She squeezed her arms a little tighter and nodded, accidentally clunking her helmet against his again. If she kept doing that, both of them would get a headache. “Sorry,” she shouted. “I’m ready.”
And then they were moving. She squealed with delight.
Cynthia D’Alba. Hot SEAL, Labor Day: SEALs in Paradise (Kindle Locations 276-329). Riante, Inc.
Ana has some thinking to do with regard to her schedule and the pressure her mother and her manager are putting on her to marry Randall, her manager’s son. She’s already told him no but they won’t let up.
One of the first things Sawyer realizes is that Ana doesn’t have much worldly knowledge. She’s been very sheltered and hasn’t done many of the things others take for granted.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book, with every new experience Ana’s reactions are delightful as are Sawyer’s.
There’s plenty of laughter, some tears, and a simmer to sizzle romance that will have you turning the pages for more.
5 Contented Purrs for Cynthia!
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New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Cynthia D’Alba started writing on a challenge from her husband in 2006 and discovered having imaginary sex with lots of hunky men was fun.
She was born and raised in a small Arkansas town. After being gone for a number of years, she’s thrilled to be making her home back in Arkansas living in a vine-covered cottage on the banks of an eight-thousand acre lake. When she’s not reading or writing or plotting, she’s doorman for her two dogs, cook, housekeeper and chief bottle washer for her husband and slave to a noisy, messy parrot. She loves to chat online with friends and fans.
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