WHEN THE VALET finally pulled Jasper’s car around, J.D. couldn’t help but give a low whistle of appreciation. Even the valet—who undoubtedly encountered many an expensive car while working at the Ritz-Carlton, looked giddily shell-shocked as he stepped out of the driver’s seat and held open the door of the sleek admiral blue Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé. Perhaps not J.D.’s first choice in color—he fancied himself more a jubilee silver kind of guy—but the car made quite an impression nevertheless.
Jasper killed the hush of respect that had momentarily befallen every man within sight of the Rolls by giving Richard another hearty slap on the back. “Thanks for offering to drive, Dick. I think that Baileys they put in my coffee musta done me in.”
J.D. and Payton exchanged amused looks. Or maybe it was the eight whiskeys on the rocks, but who was counting? At least Jasper had the sense not to drive himself home in his condition, or at the very least, the awareness that the three lawyers surrounding him would never let him drive himself home in his condition.
Jasper handed the valet a tip—a generous one, J.D. surmised, judging from the way the guy’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he saw the bill in his hand—and climbed into the passenger side of the Rolls-Royce. But just before he and Richard drove off, Jasper—being Jasper—rolled down the passenger window, unable to resist a few parting words.
“Now you kids be sure to enjoy the rest of your stay, y’hear?” he called out to Payton and J.D.
With a sneaky wink, Jasper rolled up his window and gave a decisive “let’s roll” signal to Richard. Carefully, ever so carefully, Richard nudged the four-hundred-thousand-plus automobile out onto the hotel’s circular drive, and—at a breakneck speed of at least six or seven miles per hour—they were off.
Payton turned to J.D. as the car pulled away. “Is there anything I should know about that wink Jasper gave us?”
“He fished around about us when you and Richard were in the restrooms,” J.D. told her.
Payton stared him in the eyes. “You didn’t say anything, did you?”
“You mean, like how all through dessert you could barely keep your hand off my c—”
“Yes, J.D.’ ” she bluntly cut in, although not without a smile, he noted, “did you say anything about that, or anything else about us in general?”
Now it was J.D.’s turn to give her a look. “Of course not, Payton. I know better than to mix business with locker-room talk.”
Her slow exhale of relief reminded him just how narrowly he had dodged that bullet a few years back. Yes, he certainly did know better.
Now, however, was not the time to drag up unpleasant parts of his past. Right then, all J.D. wanted to do was focus on the present. He reached out and took Payton by the hand. “Come on. There’s something I want to show you.”
“I bet there is,” she said with a laugh.
J.D. grinned. “I meant the beach, sassy. We’ve been here for eight hours and haven’t seen it yet.” He led Payton through the lobby, in the direction of the verandah. When he held the door open for her as they stepped outside, he caught her look.
“What?” he asked.
A light breeze blew her hair across her eyes. With her free hand, Payton reached up and tucked a long blonde strand behind her ear.
“Nothing,” she said. “You surprise me sometimes, that’s all.”
Noticing that this came shockingly close to an actual compliment, J.D. led Payton down the stone steps that would take them to the walkway he had spotted earlier from the balcony of his hotel room. He liked the way her hand felt in his, liked the simple intimacy of the gesture and the way it said—without the need for words—that they were together.
Not that he particularly minded where her hands had been earlier that evening, of course. But there was plenty of time for that later. Although he certainly wouldn’t kick up too much of a fuss if she wanted to forego the romantic moonlight stroll and started grabbing again for his c—
“What are you thinking about?” Payton cut into J.D.’s thoughts. He peered down and saw her studying him curiously.
“You have such a devious look on your face,” she said, her dark blue eyes sparkling with interest.
J.D. laughed, pulling her closer to him. She really did know him too well.
THEY FOUND A gazebo, presumably one used for small weddings, at the end of the walkway. Payton made an executive decision that they should stop there—J.D. wasn’t the only one running this show, after all—and led him to the railing that overlooked the ocean. There, she turned around to face him. Sure, the view was great, but that wasn’t what she stopped for. Without so much as another word, she reached up to J.D. and kissed him.
His hand slid to the nape of her neck, demanding more from the kiss as his tongue met hers. Every part of Payton’s body reacted—she wanted more, too, needed his hands on her, needed to feel him, and her breath caught and she nearly moaned out loud when J.D. pushed her back against the railing and slid between her legs. His mouth left hers and trailed down her neck and along her collarbone. Then he daringly went even further, to the dip in the neckline of her dress, and without any hesitation he pulled her dress and bra aside and lowered his mouth to her breast.
This time, Payton did moan. Only vaguely aware of the sound of waves crashing behind her, she arched her back and tangled her fingers in J.D.’s hair, giving into pure physical need. Wanting to touch him, she pulled his mouth up to hers and slid her hands along his chest, then down his stomach. She felt his abs tighten under her fingers as they came to rest on his belt buckle. She kissed him hungrily as she started to undo his belt. J.D. pulled his mouth away from hers. “Let’s go up to my room,” he whispered.