Love sometimes hides in plain sight.
Savannah is one of the boys—fun loving, adventurous, a general contractor, and dive master extraordinaire. There isn’t much she takes seriously about herself, or at least that’s the impression she likes to give off. Women often misjudge her based on her looks so she’s gravitated toward a group of men who accept her ‘as is’—her Scuba diving club.
Bill has known Savannah’s wild side for years and has been comfortable playing the role of best friend. As part of the Dallas Divers, he’s shared many adventures with the group from diving the Blue Hole in Belize to exploring the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. When the team heads out to Costa Rica for a series of cave dives, he knows something is off but can’t justify his nerves.
Catastrophe happens shortly after their immersion in the cave. With the entrance blocked from an earthquake and separated from the rest of their team, Savannah and Bill are forced to find another way out while battling aftershocks, rising tides, and an undeniable attraction that they’ve ignored for too long. The question becomes, what’s more dangerous…the earthquake or love?
**The Wanderlust Series consists of stand-alone adventure romance novels. Occasionally, characters from previous novels may make a cameo, but each story truly does stand on its own merits.
She’d had a bad feeling about this trip before agreeing to go and should have gone with her gut. Instead, here she sat thousands of miles from home with friends who normally elevated her mood rather than sunk it.
She had just opened the door to her private balcony facing the canopy of the jungle when a hammering of knocks fell against the front door. Sighing, she ignored them, needing time to regroup.
Focus on the dive. That’s why you’re here. Look at that monkey staring at you. She squinted at the howler monkey perched in an adjacent tree. Gee, I hope he doesn’t throw shit at me.
“You didn’t lock the door. That’s probably not safe.” Bill stood behind her.
“You’re certainly bring the drama on this trip.” She sipped her Mai Tai and waited while he adjusted his long frame into the chair next to hers. “Emily told me that Lexi had an issue with our lunches and talks. I know you said that you didn’t care what people said—and you know I don’t—but it must be eating you up to leave the group. I’ll quit, if that’s what this is. You stay with them. Pretty soon the other guys will have similar issues with me, I’m sure. You’re all too damn polite to say anything.”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“Don’t be a martyr.”
She twisted in her chair to look him in the face. “We’ve been through snake bites, hurricanes, wicked currents, and years of shared secrets. Do. Not. Lie. To. Me.”
He gritted his jaw but didn’t look away. “Fine. I won’t. Yes, I’m leaving the group because of you.”
Well, damn, that hurts.
She felt like he’d slapped her. She’d been holding out hope that her insecurities were getting the best of her. She ripped her gaze from his and stared into her drink, absently poking the pineapple stalk into the alcohol before taking a big bite from it.
“I can’t do this anymore. It’s killing me,” he said.
“What is?” She couldn’t look at him. Sudden tears had blurred her vision.
“Choosing and never being chosen in return.”
“What are you choosing? We’re not playing a game of pick-up basketball. That’s what you sound like—a child who isn’t being picked for the right team.” She rubbed a stray tear with the back of her hand. “What does that mean—choosing and not being chosen?”
“Nothing, Savannah. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Now you’re patronizing me.” Goddamn it, he was pushing her buttons like never before.
“I’d watch that monkey if I were you…he’s eyeballing your drink.”
“I can handle the monkey.” She slid him a gaze that she hoped melted him in place.
“You’re overreacting to my announcement.”
“Announcement? Stewart was right when he said you’re treating us like your employees. What happened between my house and here? What aren’t you telling me? Be straight, don’t give me some bullshit story you’ve obviously made up on the fly. What is killing you? Your word…killing. Me? How? We’re—”
“Stop it, Savannah. You’re making everything worse.” He stood and squeezed her shoulder. “Come back out with the guys. They’re all pissed at me for driving you away. Let’s hit restart on this adventure of ours and have a good night.”
She’d rally because that’s what she did—what she was known for, rallying and never breaking. Even after her fiancé had killed himself, she’d gone on with life and succeeded. She rallied. But right now she didn’t want to laugh this off and be one of the guys. She wanted to drink her Mai Tai, order room service, and spend the rest of her night staring at the jungle surrounding them. Alone.
“Go do that then. I’m not coming.”
“Savannah…this isn’t about hurting you. You and I—”
“—Are such good buddies that you can’t confide in me?” She met his gaze then, eyes devoid of tears, a skill she’d mastered over the years. “We talk every night. I thought we told each other everything, and here you have this resentment toward me—”
“—I don’t resent you at all, couldn’t, that’s not—”
“Then tell me the truth because I know you’re lying.”
He shoved his hands into the back pockets of his jeans and stared at her as if weighing the pros and cons of confession.
“So it’s true? You’re still lying?” She stood then and poked him in the chest with the remainder of the pineapple stalk. “We are dive partners! I trust you with my life and you trust me with yours every damn time we go down. What could you possibly want to hide from me?”
“If I tell you, I’ll lose you.” He clenched his jaw but didn’t break eye contact. “That’s what you do, Savannah. Yes, we know each other really well, which means I know what I can and can’t tell you.”
“What do you mean that’s what I do? Do what? You showed up at my house with Chinese take-out, all smiles and wanting to make plans to go to Denver for Alyssa and Luke’s wedding—then wham you’re suddenly moving to California.” She gestured wide with her hands, more confused than she’d ever been about anything in her life. “Did you get bit by some Costa Rican bug and it’s causing you to lose your fucking mind?”
Without hesitating, he grabbed the back of her head and ground his mouth against hers until they stumbled back against the chair and onto the railing of the balcony. The ferocity of his kiss weakened her knees and shocked her to the core.
She clenched at his shoulders for balance, conscious of leaning precariously against a bamboo railing thirty feet above the ground. Every inch of her trembled at the unexpected passion rolling from his lips and against hers.
But she liked the way he felt against her, enjoyed the way his fists pulled as he wrapped them tightly into her hair, liked the way he ground his mouth against hers until she kissed him back, thrilled at being thrown off balance and needing to cling to his strong shoulders to remain upright.
When she opened her mouth to deepen the kiss, he moaned his appreciation. The sound electrified her blood with a million tiny pinpricks of awareness that pulsated beneath her skin.
As suddenly as he’d kissed her, he let her go.
She sagged against the railing, hands searching for something to hold onto as she watched him walk away. Anger replaced desire in the blink of an eye.
She strode after him and caught him as he was stepping out the front door. “What the hell was that?”
He looked at her, his slow grin adding fuel to the fire burning in her gut. “If I need to tell you, then I guess I didn’t do it right.”
“Bill, I swear to God you’ve lost all sense,” she whispered.
“Maybe it’s the opposite.”
She frowned. “I don’t know what that means.”
“There’s the problem. Right there.” He grabbed her by the shoulders, kicked the door closed and ground his mouth against hers again. Reckless desire communicated itself through the ferocity of his kiss.
She pressed against him, overcome with need and confusion. She matched his passion with her own, no longer thinking about what was right or wrong. Every inch of her skin quivered with awareness.
They fell against the wall, tripped over a low table, and collapsed against the floor in a tangle of limbs. Body heat ignited from the inside out, making the short dress she wore feel constricting even as it rode up her thighs. She writhed against him, peeled his shirt up his back and sunk her fingernails into his skin.
He moved his mouth from hers and trailed kisses down her neck. The weight of him pressing her against the wooden floor combined with the heat of their bodies and the feel of his mouth on her skin while surrounded by wild sounds of the jungle overloaded her senses.
“Savannah, I’ve wanted this for so long,” he muttered against her shoulder.
His voice snapped her back to reality. She dropped her head back against the wood and closed her eyes. The pleasure of the moment conflicting with common sense.
“We can’t do this,” she said with a catch in her voice. “You’re Bill.”
“Glad you know who I am.” He rose up on the palm of his hands and stared into her eyes. “Why not? You’re the only woman I’ve ever thought of as a soul mate—look at how we are together. Friends, confidantes…why not lovers? Why not have it all?”
“Stop it. Soul mate? Where is this coming from?” She wiggled from beneath him and straightened her dress. Breaths came like tortured streaks of air ripping through up her throat. “This is because of your fight with Lexi, isn’t it? She said something about me, about us, and it has you all stirred up. I am not going to risk our friendship for a good fuck.”
“You want me as badly as I want you.” He jumped to his feet.
She couldn’t look at him with his hair a mess from her hands, handsome face dark with desire, and shirt half-up his hard chest without thinking of how good it had felt to have his body on top of hers. Her mind raced for an excuse that wouldn’t damage their relationship.
She needed his friendship more than she needed a lover.
“We’ve got that covered! Why the hell do you keep saying that? What does my name signify to you? Is it that I’m your lap dog and nothing more? Have I been segregated into some weird place in your life where I am permanently in the friend-zone?”
Words failed her. She faced him and shrugged. The hurt in his eyes stabbed her in her heart.
“Bill, wait,” she said when he opened the door again. She grabbed his arm, not knowing what to say but terrified that a crack had formed in their relationship that would never heal. “I need to understand.”
“If I need to spell it out to you at this point, then maybe I’ve been wrong about us for a very long time.” He met her gaze. “That’s why I need to go. You confuse me. I want a life with a wife and kids and big family barbecues and all of that and I’m starting to think this…friendship we have…is standing in the way of the rest of my life. It’s you, always you in my head when I’m with anyone else.”
“You’re my best friend,” she whispered, fear making her voice quake. “That’s always been enough.”
“That’s what I thought, too.”
“Then what changed? We’re Savannah and Bill, we have fun, we’re each other’s go-to person…Why complicate it? Why can’t you have a wife and kids and everything you want with me as your best friend?”
“Is that what you want? Really?” He leaned close enough where the gold flecks in his hazel eyes were only an eyelash away. “Do you want to watch me marry someone else one day? Because I can honestly stand here and say that the idea of you being some other man’s bride tears my heart out.”
She cringed at the idea of being anyone’s bride. “Why are you doing this? Now? Here? Before a dangerous dive?”
“It came up, that’s all.”
“Like hell it did. You’re my partner and now you threw this—”
“Let it go, Savannah. Pretend I never came to your room.” He twisted free of her grip and walked onto the suspended bridge.
Talk about a serious mind fuck.
Deciding to let him have his nervous breakdown on his own, she slammed the door closed and stomped toward the bed. Her dive buddies were her safe haven from the nutty men in the world—or at least they had been before Bill decided to go bonkers. She fell back onto the bed and blinked at the thatched ceiling. Absently, she touched her lips that still throbbed from his kiss.
Okay, so maybe she’d fantasized about him now and then. Perhaps she’d been guilty of comparing other men to Bill and finding them lacking. But crossing that line had never been an option for her. Couldn’t be.
Mae West had once said that a man’s kiss was his signature.
Savannah grinned against her fingertips. Now she knew what Ms. West had meant by that and had to agree. Damn, no man’s kiss had ever curled her toes and boiled her blood like that.
Too bad it could never happen again.
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Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of both nonfiction and fiction. Smart is sexy, according to Easton, which is why she writes strong female heroines who encounter their fair share of challenges but ultimately persevere. In addition to being an author, Easton is also an editor, speaker, and mother of two exceptional young adults. Find out more about her books by visiting http://www.amberleaeaston.com