Today Return to Rio is proud to highlight Tara Mills brand new release Dark Storms! To celebrate, Tara provided us with a blurb and excerpts to share with you–so dig in and enjoy. Check back here or on Tara’s site (following excerpts) for information on any upcoming blog tours or giveaways!
Fresh out of the Navy, Gabriel Nadeau is more than ready to settle down when he accepts a job on Pelican Cay. He craves peace and serenity—and lands in a tempestuous paradise instead. Barely unpacked, he finds himself entangled with the enchanting free spirit, Adriana Hernandez, marked by a jealous rival, and uncovering an ongoing crime. As the residents prepare for the storm of the century bearing down on them, Gabe discovers the hurricane is the least of his worries and he and Adriana are both in more danger than either realized.
Gabe was sprawled face down on his bed, the twisted sheet draped loosely over one leg and pinned beneath the other, when he was roused by a rap on his door.
He shook himself awake as another knock sounded. The digital clock on the bedside table told him it was nearly two in the afternoon.
Grunting and groaning, he rolled to his side and rubbed his eyes. “Hang on. I’m coming.”
He swung his legs off the bed, grabbed the untucked sheet, and wrapped it around his waist as he shuffled to the door. Still a little drowsy, he tried and failed to manage the chain stop and gave up, pulling the door open without it.
Adriana was on the other side. Her eyebrows shot up and she gave him a wicked grin. “Good afternoon. I brought coffee from the lobby.” She looked him over, very carefully, and her smile widened. “Why don’t you get dressed and meet me on your little patio?”
“Ah…” He followed her eyes down his bare torso to the loose bed sheet and rubbed the back of his neck. “Sure. Be right with you.”
She put a little extra wiggle in her walk as she wandered off. Grateful and grinning now himself, he closed the door. Whatever was on top in the bureau drawers is what he grabbed and took into the bathroom.
Adriana was relaxing in one of his two patio chairs when he joined her. She took in his lightweight track pants and Navy t-shirt and gave a sad little sigh. “Gone, but not forgotten.” Before he could respond, she picked up a thermal mug from the little table next to her and offered it to him.
“Thanks.” The mug was brand new and stamped on the outside with the resort’s logo.
“I didn’t know what you like, so I just went with our special Pelican Cay roast and two amaretto creamers.”
He leaned against the railing and took a taste. “Mmm, works for me. Thanks again.”
“Did you get enough sleep?”
“Plenty. I usually only need about six hours a night.”
She frowned. “So you didn’t go to bed right away?”
“I needed to wind down first.”
“Hmm.” She seemed to mull that over for a moment then shook herself and looked up at him, brows arched. “I noticed you don’t have a shift until tomorrow morning. Would you like me to show you around? I’ll give you a tour of the island.”
“Aren’t you working?”
“It’s slow. I asked if I could leave early.” She winked at him. “I have an in with the boss.”
He took another pleasurable swallow, finally waking up. “Lucky. Sure, I’d love a tour.”
“Bring your trunks. Who knows, we might find time to take in a little swim.” She stood up and tipped back her own cup, draining it. “I have a couple of things to finish. Why don’t you meet me at the front desk? I’ll introduce you to Rosa. After that, I’m all yours.”
It was hard to mistake her invitation when it came coupled with a flirty little smile. Not only were they on the same wavelength, but he was receptive to the idea. “Sounds good. I’ll catch up with you.”
She left him there and Gabe ran back into his quarters to brush his teeth, find his trunks, and grab his wraparound sunglasses. Working his feet into his leather sandals, he looked around, wondering how he was supposed to carry his damn trunks. He didn’t have a bag small enough. Ah, screw it. He wadded them in his hand, slid his wallet into his back pocket and plucked his keys off the bedside table. Out of habit, he tested the door once it closed to be sure it locked properly.
The grounds crew was busy. He could hear the buzz of trimmers being used around beds and borders. At least one riding mower passed nearby, making curving patterns in the grass on its way back between the buildings.
Skipping up the two steps and into the airy lobby, he met Adriana’s gaze over the counter and they both smiled. His heart beat just a little faster at seeing her again. It was ridiculous. She’d just left him five minutes ago. Yet, he couldn’t stop his blazing grin from flaring to life when she looked at him.
“Hey,” he greeted her. “Almost ready?”
“Just about. I have to put the paychecks into the boxes then I’m done. Hang on.” She turned and called, “Mom? Gabe’s here.”
An attractive woman stepped out of the office. She was a little shorter, a bit thicker through the body, but clearly Adriana’s mother. Smiling, she approached the tall counter, giving him a friendly onceover. The women’s smiles were identical. Where they differed was the eyes, or rather the expression in the eyes. Adriana looked at him with familiarity, intimacy, and open amusement.
“Gabe? I’m Rosa. It’s nice to have you here with us. Are you settling in okay? Have any questions or concerns?”
Startled, his eyes cut to Adriana and he shook his head. “Um, no. Your daughter was very helpful.”
Rosa patted Adriana on the back. “I’m glad to hear it. Honey, I’ll take those checks. Don’t make him stand around waiting for you.”
“Thanks.” Handing them over, Adriana gave her mom a quick kiss on the cheek. “I guess we’re out of here. I’ve got my phone if you need to reach me.”
Rosa turned her around and with hands on both shoulders, walked Adriana out from behind the counter.
Summarily dismissed, Adriana spun around. “Wait, I need my bag.”
Gabe was snickering when she came back out of the office swinging a canvas bag by the straps.
“Here.” She opened the top of the bag and thrust it at him. “Drop your drawers.”
Adriana gave him a big smile. “There you are. I thought I was going to have to send a search party.”
“Unnecessary.” He looked her up and down and slowly shook his head. “That’s some suit.” His deep wolf whistle made her laugh.
She turned to show him the back, tossing a saucy look over her shoulder. “It’s new. Do you like it?”
“Very much. Should I read this as an invitation?”
The minx gave him an intriguing little smile. “More like a challenge.”
“A challenge?” He snorted at that. “How so?”
She started backing toward the water, grinning as if they were playing a game, only he didn’t have a clue what the rules were yet.
“Nothing worth having should come too easily. You have to catch me.” With that, she spun around and took off, racing for the waves.
Jolted by her unanticipated move, spurred on by her beckoning laugh, and still raring to go, he dropped his clothes and bounded after her. Adriana took a running dive into the water and swam away from him. He hit the water hard. The splash made her look back and shriek. Her arms dug in faster than ever, and she submerged making him wonder if she’d changed course. Then she resurfaced where he thought she would be and he gave chase, heading right for her.
She was a good swimmer, sleek and powerful, surprising because she was a slim little thing. He felt like a lumbering giant behind her, though he wasn’t a bad swimmer either. Slowly, steadily he closed the distance. Plunging under the waves he saw her bare feet and safely caught her right ankle without getting kicked. He hauled her back to him and she spun and sputtered as they both broke the surface and gasped for air.
Adriana smoothed her wet hair back and blinked at him. Her lashes were long, black and spiked. Paired with those deep brown eyes, it was a good look for her. She bit her lower lip and her expression turned coy. Not expecting that, he caught her around the waist before releasing her foot. He wasn’t entirely sure she wouldn’t swim off again once she was free and he didn’t want to risk it. She surprised him by moving closer instead. Their bodies bumped and slid together. Her arm went around his shoulders and she pressed her chest more firmly into his.
“I’ve got you now,” he told her.
“And I’ve got you. What happens next?”
He wanted to touch her, let his hands and lips explore every slippery inch of her, but they were too far out and he couldn’t touch bottom here. But he could kiss her, and that’s exactly what he did.
About the Author
I’m a contemporary romance writer, wife, mom, new nana, and dog owner. I can be serious and silly. Thoughtful and thoughtless. I fear math and technology, but give me a box of Crayolas or a book and I’m a happy camper. Escape with me into books.
If you like fun and flirty, saucy and sexy, exciting thrills and suspense, or simply a feel good story, I’ve got a title for you. Romance with a heartbeat.
Please visit my website, Tara Mills Romance, for more information on my titles, sneak peeks, and my quirky blog. I’m also on Facebook.