Read Chapter One of Forbidden by Bestselling Romance Author Kiki Howell
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James Alexander Whitmore III, better known as Jaws as a joke among his co-workers, doesn’t even want to be on this cruise he’s been guilted into.
A rule-breaker in his CEO father’s eyes, he’s a software engineer who designs video games. Although, he’s not your typical geek, either, with his muscular body framed by long, dark hair and home to tribal tattoos from his latest successful game.
After traveling around the world to gain certificates as a personal trainer and yoga instructor, Samantha has finally landed her perfect job working on a cruise ship. As a staff member, Sam has the run of the ship. She can fraternize with the passengers, but being caught in flagrante delicto is grounds for immediate dismissal.
While an adventurer, she’s not a rule-breaker, so this poses a problem when she meets Mr. Tall, Dark and Mysterious. While she can’t imagine fitting into the world of a man who can rent a secluded cabin in the Grand Turks for the five hours they are in port, he just may prove to be her greatest adventure yet, in the bedroom and out.
A slight turn of her head to adjust the yoga mat that had slipped off her shoulder brought her face to face with sweaty tattoos. Her hand touched flesh to steady herself after hitting a rock hard chest, and she looked up into the darkest pair of eyes she’d ever encountered. Her breath caught as she assessed the dangers of her situation, real and erotically imagined.
The firm grip he had on her arms didn’t let up, kept her body against his, her fingers pressed against his bare chest. His black hair fell in wet curls to frame a face with just a hint enough of a tan to make him not look ghostly. Despite the chiseled features that gave him a fierce predator like look, he appeared to be the one to have seen a ghost.
Finding the means to separate herself, her hands slipped away from his body to reveal six pack abs highlighted by the sharp points of a tribal tattoo. Shoulder and sleeve of black ink continued on to swirl in a crescent shape from his upper chest until it disappeared into his black shorts. Not one hill or valley of his abdominal muscles inked, the tattoo made a nice frame for such an exquisite core.
“I’m sorry, are you okay? Please, say something,” he hissed.
“What? I’m sorry,” she apologized as she shook her head to clear the mindless female hormonal haze of attraction. Had to be that bad boy thing she’d heard so much about, but up until now had never experienced for herself. A personal trainer by profession, she’d spent most of her dating life being bored by one jacked up, lunk-head after another, once talk of fitness was exhausted and primal lust satiated.
A good body she’d often seen on men and not given one rat’s ass about. This guy on the other hand, he looked like some dark overlord from some action hero movie. A villain, in fact, one who could steal a woman’s heart and life without thinking twice. Thankfully, the idiotic thought tripped her ability to think again.
“Did I hurt you? You have this dazed look in your eyes and were not responding to my apologies or questions,” he half growled.
The base tones in his voice took her right back to the whole villain scenario. Sadly, she shivered from some primal attraction born of fear but laced with lust. Strange, this attraction thing. Guess her body wanted an adventure. With this guy, though, she just hoped she’d survive it. Tough. Dark. Mysterious. Brooding. Unfortunately, a guest on the ship, she’d never be able to find out. Sex with the passengers was a big no-no, so she knew without a shadow of a doubt she’d lose sleep daydreaming about being kidnapped by this nefarious hero.
“No, I’m fine. I’m made of a bit sturdier stock than that. Just shocked, I guess, for a second. I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking where I was going,” she fumbled the words.
“It’s fine. Guess I wasn’t either, looking where I was going, that is. You just leaving a yoga class?” He helped the incessantly errant yoga bag up over her shoulder again.
“Yes, actually. I teach yoga on the ship.”
“Really, so working, not on vacation?” he grumbled, his voice so deep it vibrated through her as she continued to be mesmerized, maybe even hypnotized by eyes so dark brown she’d have called them black. Slivers of sunlight reflected in them, gave him an evil look that sucked her in, curled her toes, and quickened her already heavy breathing.
“Right, I’m a personal trainer and yoga instructor on the ship. You must be a passenger, and no stranger to the gym.” She paused as she felt the heat rise up her neck and over her face. “Ah, sorry, that came out wrong. You obviously take care of yourself. Just something a PT notices.”
Built, a tad pale, and not at all looking like a typical passenger on a cruise ship, she wondered about this thug-like monster of a man in front of her and why he seemed to have such a dizzying effect on her. He wasn’t her type at all, or at least, she’d never thought so. But damn, this guy was just all that and a slice of dark chocolate cake with a scoop of melty, decadent ice cream, real whipped cream, and more than one cherry on top. Death by over consumption would be more than worth every taste.
“I work out to blow off steam. My job keeps me in an office most of the time, so I need to do something to displace my geeky nature. I find punching the bag especially stress relieving. And, yes, I’m unfortunately, a passenger. Not to knock on your ship here, but it’s not really my thing. My parents drug me on here, some corporate meeting gig they’re doing. Mom worries about me, and feels I need to get out more, so I get guilted and tricked into these things quite often.”
They’d both started walking to the door that opened onto the main deck of the boat, onto a walk overlooking the pool area. Not wanting to stop talking to this enigma, both dark and fierce on the outside, yet seemingly, from a few details, all smart and nerdy on the inside, she’d more have associated him with a street gang than an office.
“Sorry, I have to stop here.” She pointed at the door to the pool deck. “Staff members of the ship can enter all public areas except the pool area. My one restriction. Lots of rules when you work at sea. Guess it keeps the mutiny down to a minimum, but just because people need their paychecks,” she explained, chastising herself for talking too much.
He stopped short. Looked to the forbidden pool, then back at her. She stopped the large exhale of breath burning her lungs, anger crept in that she couldn’t stay with him, follow him anywhere, in fact, like to a shower, then to a bed. Literally, she glanced down at her body, wondering exactly what had gotten into it. She trembled, each nerve ending screaming out to be touched again by this man.
“So, pardon me for saying this out loud,” she continued, prolonging the moment, desperation raising her voice an octave, “but you don’t look like the suit and tie type I see here all the time. And, geek? The word never would’ve crossed my mind looking at you. You do what for a living, exactly?”
“Oh, I’m not the suit and tie type at all. My father is a CEO of some huge corporation. I get drug along, still. For show, mostly. My parents are always hoping I will someday cut my hair and join them in their world full time, not just for appearances. They hate what I do, disapprove of my life. I know, poor little rich boy, right?”
“I’m not sure I would use poor, or even the term little, to describe you. So, forgive me for the interrogation, but again, what do you do for a living, then? You said office, but no suit. So, mafia hit man? No, you wouldn’t have an office. I’m stumped.” She laughed, but the high-pitched noise sounded foreign even to her ears.
What is it with this guy, she asked herself as his laugh practically unnerved her. She couldn’t tear herself away. So unlike her. Yes, she’d had flings, more the adventurous love ‘em and leave ‘em type. Yet, this guy, this puzzle, this man so obviously unlike her in all ways, except working out. She felt this incessant need to get to know him, like her obsession with chocolate during PMS, out of her mind to get her hands on, and then some.
“No, nothing like that. What an impression I must’ve made on you. I’m a software engineer. Fancy words for, I make video games. Actually, I’m quite the nerd, despite what you may think from current appearances.”
“Seriously?” she breathed out.
“Yes, seriously.” He grunted.
He’d rolled his eyes, then let a small smile, a devious upturn to his mouth, break the hard lines of his face.
“I’d have never guessed that…” she left off, censoring herself from voicing the next words that popped into her mind about how he really looked to her. Dangerous. Scrumptious.
“Yeah, I guess I don’t look the part until you get to know me. In fact, my tattoos are from the last game I was part of a team to create. These tribal tattoos were on the main characters. The dragon that goes up my spine is part of the game logo. And, to prove the point that I am an endless, game-playing geek, I have to say, you look like one of the faeries from one of my games. All long, blond hair with emerald eyes, but with an unbelievable body to fight off your enemies. Shit, I can’t believe I just said that.”
Her turn to laugh, she blushed, as well, at his description of her. “It’s fine. My first thought when I saw you was you were some villain from one of those superhero movies, some dark overlord or something. I am an action-adventure movie junkie, myself. We all have our indulgences, I guess. Ours aren’t that far apart, though I have no control over the outcome. Well, it was interesting bumping into you. I have to go get ready for a PT session someone scheduled, get out of these sweaty yoga clothes and into a new workout outfit. Such is my glamorous life.”
“Wait, can I get your name?” Fierce frustration vibrated the gravely tones of his voice.
“Sam, well, Samantha. And, yours?”
“My friends call me Jaws. Stupid as it sounds, I prefer it to my real name. Jaws is a play on my initials and the way I attack my work as well as my play, or so they say. Anyway, it works for me, I guess. The name stuck, regardless.”
“Well, nice to meet you, ah… Jaws. A funny thing to say when you’re out in the middle of the ocean. Have a nice cruise, or what’s left of it.”
“Sure, thanks. Nice to meet you,” he said, his voice falling off more with each word.
She fought her disappointment as she walked away, each step harder and harder to take. What had gotten into her, she didn’t quite know. Sure, the mystery of the man attracted her, as did his body in general. In another time and place, she would’ve considered a one night stand with the guy a grand adventure, something she craved, needed, another walk on the wild side into the unknown. Yet, she could fraternize with the guests but not have any sort of physical relations with them. Being caught in flagrante delicto was grounds for immediate dismissal. Of course, you had to be caught, literally red-handed, with dick in hand, she once heard someone say. There had to be proof, to put it in nicer words.
Eyes were everywhere. Even on a cruise ship this size, the world of the staff was small. There’d always be someone anywhere you went, waiting on the guests hand and foot. A ship crew worked twenty-four, seven, and petty jealousies existed as in any work place. Someone always wanted to get ahead, take your job.
In a sort of tizzy now, sexual frustration having eaten away at all of her zen from her yoga class, she looked forward to giving some guy, named Brad, a good workout.
All the way back to his cabin, Jaws berated himself for letting the faerie comment come out his mouth, for not being at all cool and collected, for losing the I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude he cloaked himself with during these business events with his parents. He’d never encountered such an ethereal creature outside of his beloved games. Seriously, she could’ve been created by code he’d written, and then stepped right out of his TV screen after battling a dragon.
That body of hers, lean and lightly muscled, tough, but still distinctly female, he’d had his hands on and hadn’t wanted to let go. The way her fair-colored ponytail caressed her neck, skin shining from working out in the tropical heat. He could imagine the salty and sweet taste of her on his tongue. The light scent of flowers still invaded his senses. Alone, now, in his cabin, he found himself smelling her, honeysuckle and maybe citrus, still on the palms of his hands.
The light green tank she’d worn had ridden up during their small collision, revealing to him the slight indentations of ab muscles that led to the soft curve of her hips. Long legs, the color of a goddess, he imagined wrapping around his back, powerful enough to hold on as he pounded into her.
“Shit,” he let out a stifled yell as he turned on the water in the shower. Stripping off his sweaty shorts, he swore he needed a second, no, maybe third, and forth go at the heavy bag to work her out of his system. It was day three of a five-day cruise. Not that he’d been counting down or anything, to get off this damnable ship where his parents filled his time with smoozing the rich and unimpressive. Though, to hear them talk about themselves, and they did, quite often, in fact, they were someone you wanted to be friends with if you wanted to be someone. He never had, wanted to be friends or be someone, really, not in their world, at least. In fact, video games, at a very young age, had been his escape from the life his parents had groomed him for.
Shaking the thoughts of his situation from his mind, he realized that only gave him two more days on the ship to run into Samantha again. What were the chances? This place seemed like a small island with rooms enough to fill a large hotel, more restaurants than you could count on one hand, a mini mall in the middle, then a pool and gym and all. When they’d boarded, his mother had actually complained that she couldn’t get the whole ship into one picture on her camera.
What did it matter though? Even if she’d agree to dinner, or dare he dream, to a one night stand with him, and he doubted it, he wouldn’t see her again after that. This was a cruise after all. That shouldn’t matter so soon after meeting a stranger, but somehow, the idea deflated him on many levels like a flawed, and thus unbeatable, game. Frustration mixed with anger left him shaking as a flight or fight response mingled in confusion with the urge to give into defeat.
Sam was beautiful to rival any definition of the word he’d ever seen in the endless parade of women his mother had thrown at his feet without shame or apology. They obviously had nothing in common but severe attraction. He’d felt it, a connection so fierce it had actually weakened him a moment from the spark, and he could still feel the burn in his air-deprived lungs.
After showering in the coolest water he could stand, and getting appropriately dressed for dinner, he suffered through hours of a five-course meal, finding each word spoken at the table grated on his nerves more than usual. The newest money-grubbing airhead his mother was trying to fix him up with sat beside him. Each time she laid her hand on his arm to accent what she’d said, with a lame attempt at overt flirting, sent his mind right back to Sam.
By dessert, in his bored, and so more overly-active than usual imagination, he’d made love to Sam, twice, fierce and fast, like the villain she’d thought him, kidnapping a beautiful faerie from the woods and having his way with her. It wasn’t sick or twisted though; it’d been hot and beautiful. In his dream, she wanted him as much as he wanted her. Her light cured the darkness in him. God, he was a geek, a horny nerd fantasizing about a girl out of his league. A new one for him. Sam had not seemed to be impressed by the amount of money he was worth, if it had even dawned on her at all. Shit, that fact alone made him half in love with her already.
“Son,” his father’s voice interrupted his thoughts.
“It seems you fell asleep with your eyes open. Not sleeping well on the trip?” his mother soothed, stopping his red-faced father from continuing on. “We are ready to go up to the nightclub on the upper deck by the pool for a nightcap. Please escort Suzanne.”
“Yes, mother,” he said, taking his napkin from his lap and placing it on his plate full of food.
He stood, pulled out Suzanne’s chair, and offered her his hand to help her up. Her perfectly manicured fingers in his, he watched her body, covered in a white silk gown, gracefully flow from sitting to standing. She was pretty, in that too perfect way only an obscene amount of money can buy. Unfortunately, nice or not, she belonged in this crowd and he would never fit in. He didn’t want to fit in. Trolls and warriors suited him just fine. At least you knew where you truly stood with characters you created.
Suzanne continued to talk all the way to the upper deck, giving her opinion on the conversation from dinner that had bored him into fantasies about Samantha, or Sam. He liked a girl who could handle a nickname. So many full names were used in this world he grew up in, to ad nauseam, by his parents. Not sure if just his father’s pompous friends tended toward using full names, or if all the overly rich who think themselves famous of the world were this way.
He loved the stupidity of his own nickname. In his office he worked with a Ben rather than Benjamin, a Ton (pronounced like tone) rather than even Tony, let alone Anthony, and so on. Better yet, he couldn’t even remember Chubs real name, and the guy seemed to wear it like a badge of honor, always up for the latest food challenge to come across YouTube. Also, they called Chris, Noob, because he excelled at writing code for video games but sucked at playing them.
As he stood at the bar getting Suzanne some fruity, girly concoction, and a whiskey for himself, he could name a Richard Kent, a Fredrick Stephen, a William David, and a Daniel something or other, all with varying degrees of second or third or more after their surnames.
A tingle of laughter came through the door as someone opened it onto the deck. Turning his head, he saw Sam, looking more a Samantha in a thin, pale yellow sundress flowing with the breeze. A beer in her hand, she laughed with a group of people, her hair waving in the wind looking like strands of silver and gold in the moonlight. More angelic tonight, but still ethereal, shimmering with the backdrop of the ocean standing at the furthest deck of the ship. Even with her brightness, he liked the simple beer in her hand, how it grounded her in the real world.
Picking up the drinks, he obediently trudged back over to Suzanne, only thinking of how to break away to go talk to Samantha.