She comes hard, pulsing around my fingers, milking them like a vice and even though I wish it was my dick inside her, my dick that’s so fucking hard it might shatter if provoked, I’m glad I had her come this way. To see her in the wild like this, free and bare and open. See her vulnerable and real and raw, just for me.

No matter what happens between us after this, I know this is a memory that will sustain me for a lifetime.

But even as Nova comes and starts to right herself, shaking off the satiation and stupor of the post-orgasm bliss, she’s already slipping through my fingers.

It was the one thing that used to bother me after I slept with her. How much of a man she acted, for lack of a better word. How after she’d come, she’d wipe away all sense of vulnerability and go back to business like nothing happened.

It’s happening now, right before my eyes.

“We better go back,” she says, pulling away from me and haphazardly tying her bikini behind her neck. She gives me a small smile. “Loan will kill us if we’re late for dinner.”

I smile right back, grateful that at least I’m not getting the deep freeze. “You got that right.”

And so we don’t talk about it while we step out of the surf and onto the shore. My legs are almost shaking for some reason, like it took more out of me to keep from drowning out there.

And we don’t talk about it while we walk down the street back to her house, either.

And we don’t talk about it when we go our separate ways to get ready for dinner.

And we don’t talk about it during dinner.

Or after.

The only thing I say is, “Are you okay?” while she’s heading to her bedroom to sleep.

For a moment there’s a look in her eyes that says she’s not okay.

It’s not in a bad way.

It’s not that I’ve ruined her.

Or that she feels ashamed.

It’s that she needs me.

Wants me.

In her bed tonight.

She doesn’t have to say it but I can read it off her, just like I saw a raw glimpse of her in that water, when I was thinking about how I dreamt about this, how she was thinking the same thing.

But it wouldn’t be Nova if she didn’t nip that in the bud.

“I’m fine,” she says, giving me a quick smile that signifies whatever happened out there in the waves was meant to stay there. “I’ll see you in the morning. Don’t forget me this time.”

I nod and hope my smile looks more carefree than it feels. “I won’t. Good night Nova.”

“Good night Kess.”

And to think I could ever forget about her.

Not when she’s across the hall.

Not when she’s across the office.

Not even if she’s across an ocean.

Chapter Ten


“Kessler said you were upset about missing yesterday’s meeting, so we figured we could hold another one.”

I blink up at George who is standing in my office doorway alongside Andy Walters, the VP. Both of them are staring at me expectantly and I’m not sure if it’s planned or not but they’re both wearing the exact same Hawaiian shirt. “I’m sorry, Kessler said what?”

“Yesterday, he said you were upset you weren’t here,” George said with a knowing smile. “I told you to stay away from those drinks in the City of Sin, they aren’t much better here on Waikiki.” I stare at him. “Anyway, meeting in the office in five minutes.”

And then they’re gone.

What the actual fuck?

Kessler said I was upset?

I pick up my phone and dial Kessler’s extension, but of course he’s not picking up. He never seems to pick up when I’m calling.

How convenient.

So I sit back in my chair and stew for a moment.

Everything is way out of control right now.

It was bad enough when Kessler kissed me the other day in my bedroom, bad enough when I got drunk and he had to drive me home.

Bad enough when he finger-banged me in the ocean last night.

Now he’s told the upper-ups I was upset that I missed the meeting?

Calm down, I tell myself. Kessler might have been trying to do good. He was probably trying to make you look proactive, that you care. He was probably trying to help.

Yeah, but by telling them I was upset that I missed it? That makes me sound like some crazy emotional female!

You are a fucking crazy emotional female.

Oh god, now my thoughts are turning against me. I don’t need this right now.

There’s a rap at my door and I look up to see it open with Kessler grinning at me. “Are you ready?”

My eyes blaze at him. “Did you tell George that was upset that I missed the meeting?”

“Uh yeah. You’re welcome.”

My lower jaw wiggles as I try vainly to dissipate the anger. “Do you know you made me sound like some crazy woman?”

“Isn’t it good to be upset about that kind of thing?”

“Okay, how would you like it if I said the same about you? That you, Kessler Rocha, were upset because you missed a meeting because you were hungover.”

He thinks about it for a moment, then says, “Doesn’t matter. Come on.”

He walks off down the hall to the boardroom.

Fuckity fuck it doesn’t matter.

I grumble to myself and follow him.

My main problem is I was totally ready for this meeting the other day. But now, my brain has been so obliterated by Kessler and his magic fingers, that I don’t even remember what my game plan was.

It doesn’t help that when I enter the boardroom, Kessler is already sitting down with George and Andy and they’re all laughing, obviously some joke that I’ll never know.

“Hi,” I say to them, pausing by the door before I close it, making sure they know I’m here. “Hope I’m not interrupting anything.”

“Not at all,” George says, as the three of them exchange a knowing look and it’s then that I realize it’s me versus three rich white men, and there’s no way I’m going to come out on top.

But I still flash them that genial smile and take a seat beside Andy, across from Kessler and George. Jesus, it’s like Kessler’s already become his right-hand man.

“Nova, we were just discussing Kessler’s winning idea from yesterday. Kessler, did you get a chance to run it by her yet?”

Kessler shakes his head but when he makes eye contact with me, I swear I see a triumphant smirk.

Please let me be looking too hard into things. That smirk doesn’t belong in this meeting.

“No, I don’t think he did.”

The only thing Kessler has run past me in the last twenty-four hours were his fingers.

But god, even though I regret it this morning, at the time it was worth it.

That fucking man is way too talented for his own good.

Something glimmers in his eyes and his smirk widens and I realize I might be an open book right now.

Before I can look away, George says, “Well, Kessler, do you want to fill her in? Heck, let me do it. As you know Nova, the meeting yesterday, and by default today, was to try and come up with some new ideas for the new year, once this holiday Christmas crap blows over. Originally we wanted to focus on Valentine’s Day, but Kessler had the brilliant idea of making every day Valentine’s Day when it comes to the Kahuna Hotel. Inject a little sex appeal, if you will.”

Oh god no. We don’t need Kessler’s kind of sex appeal. He hits you over the head with it. Kahuna Hotels is all about subtle sensuality. If that!

These are all the things on the tip of my tongue along with my ever familiar warning, courtesy of the singer Banks: Try to look smart but not too smart to threaten everything they say.

“Sex appeal?” I manage to repeat.

“Condoms,” Andy says, slapping his palm on the table. “Pineapple-flavored condoms on a stick.”

“Like a lollipop,” George offers with a grin.

My jaw had become unhinged and I’m having a hard time closing it. “Condoms?” I eventually say, looking at Kessler.

He grins at me. No, it’s that smirk again.

“I thought it would be a good idea,” he says. “You never know when you might need one.”

He holds my gaze even though I know what he’s referencing.

Last night.

As if that’s not completely inappropriate right now.

George goes on, “We figured putting the pineapple-flavored condom-pops in every hotel room would be an easy way to say, hey, come spend your sexy times with us.”

“But at the same time,” Andy continues, “protect yourself from STDs.”

“Safe sex is cool now,” George adds.

Oh my god. Get me out of this fucking room.

I look at Kessler and he’s grinning at them and I am watching carefully to see if I see a hint of embarrassment, like he gave this idea as a joke and now they’re running with it and he’s Canadian so he’s too polite to tell them otherwise.

But no. He’s just grinning.

Like a rat bastard.

“So what do you think, Nova?” George asks, and it’s then that I notice how pink his cheeks are and oh god, this is hell because he’s actually embarrassed to be talking about condoms with me.

I swallow all the bile and resentment and try to put my most fake smile on.

“I’m not so sure that’s the right approach,” I say.

Immediately George and Andy glance at each other and then look at Kessler and it’s never been so apparent that this is one big boys’ club. I mean it was always a given, but this is the first time I feel like they’re not bothering to hide it.

This is the first time I feel like I can’t compete.

It’s these men against me.

“So, Nova has had some excellent ideas too,” Kessler offers as he clears his throat. “That’s why she couldn’t wait to hold this meeting again.”

Now, I’m not sure if Kessler is honestly trying to help or trying to throw me under the bus. As much as I hate our relationship at the moment, I have been trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. I don’t want to think the worst of him, it just naturally happens. And so when last night he said we were equals, I felt his sincerity.