I wish I had my camera, but Jackson has brought a pocket-sized one that has a decent zoom lens, so at least we’ll be able to document areas to accompany his notes.

I’m thinking about that—and wondering if I need to run back for an extra notepad—when Jackson takes my hand and tugs me to him, then draws me into a long, intense, bone-melting kiss. One hand is twined in my hair, the other sliding down the waistband of my pants. He cups my ass, then squeezes as his tongue teases me, and I know that I am already desperately wet.

I break away, breathing hard. “Not exactly workplace behavior, Mr. Steele.”

“And there won’t be a repeat performance, Ms. Brooks. But I thought a long kiss to tide us over was in order. After all, if I’m not going to get my From Here to Eternity moment in the cold Pacific, I at least wanted a kiss under the hot sun.”

I can’t help but laugh. I’d told him we need to focus on work, especially since we have to be back in the office tomorrow. Apparently he took my admonition to heart.

“Then again, I’m not sure it’s worth trying to keep a professional demeanor,” I say. I point to the security camera that has surely captured that moment.

“Never fear. Your reputation is safe with me.” He goes to the pole, finds the control that raises and lowers the camera, then opens the weatherproof housing and pulls out a memory disk.


“Problem?” He flashes me an innocent look, and I do my best to appear stern.

“You realize that’s just a backup? The feed goes live back to the security office at Stark Tower.”

He just shrugs and grins and tucks the disk in his pocket. “Souvenir,” he says. “I think I’ll pull that image and make it my screen saver.”

I laugh, but point to the pole and the camera. “You must have been a handful when you were a kid.”

“You have no idea,” he says. “Hang on.”

And then he jogs back to the boat while I’m left waiting, and wondering what the hell he’s doing.

When he doesn’t come back immediately I consider following, then decide to spend the time checking the equipment stored here. I’m just about to open the shed when he returns. I cross my arms and tap my foot.

“Just following directions,” he says, then pops the disk back in place before returning the camera to its original position.

“Let me guess. You have a new screen saver.”

“You,” he says as he taps the tip of my nose, “are a very smart woman.”

“You’re very playful.”

“Why wouldn’t I be? I had an extremely excellent night. I woke up beside a beautiful woman. And now I’ve been handed this exceptional canvas.” He sweeps his arm out to encompass the island. “Thank you,” he says, and the genuine sincerity in his voice makes my knees go a little weak.

“I always wanted you,” I confess. “Glau was a very poor substitute.”

“Hell yeah, he was,” Jackson says, and we both laugh.

He picks his rucksack up from where he left it by the security camera, then nods toward the path. “Show me our island.”

Our island.

I like the sound of that.

As it turns out, I’m right about it taking more than three hours to walk the circumference. Instead, it takes six. We spend the time discussing my vision for the resort. The section of the island carved out for couples, the area devoted to families. How the various recreational activities will be woven in. The number and type of restaurants I anticipate.

“This resort will be family oriented, but there should still be some areas that are private. I don’t want someone on a honeymoon or anniversary to feel this isn’t the place for them.”

We’ve made it back almost full circle, and now we’re on a sandy beach a few hundred yards from the dock. “Maybe one exclusive area with upscale bungalows and private beaches. The area with the inlet would be perfect,” he says. “Let me show you.”

He pulls out a notebook and sits in the sand, completely unconcerned about the way his pants are getting soaked or the water coming in to tease his feet, now bare since we tossed our shoes up by the dunes.

I watch his face and the sketch that is coming to life on the paper. He is completely absorbed, lost in this new world that right now lives only in his imagination.

His intensity is compelling, and I drop down beside him, then watch, enraptured, as he continues to put his vision on paper. Even as a sketch, it captures everything I’ve told him I want and yet makes it bolder, better.

He pauses and looks up, his eyes just a little glazed as if he has forgotten where he is. When he focuses on me, though, his eyes clear, and he lifts a brow in question.

Tags: J. Kenner Stark International Trilogy Romance
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