The original quartet of Barefoot Bay books introduced readers to four female friends who, while recovering from a hurricane and building a small, upscale resort and spa, all found love. Then there were three Barefoot Bay Billionaires who swept the most unlikely heroines off their feet on the sands of Barefoot Bay. Up next, three destination wedding planners who run The Barefoot Bay Brides, and each will have a love story of her own.
In BAREFOOT IN WHITE, we meet Willow Ambrose who has fought a battle with the scale for much of her life, but she has finally won the war. She hasn’t just cut calories — she’s cut all ties to her past, too, and successfully carved out a new body and a new life. But when she comes face to face with someone who left an indelible mark on her heart years before, all that threatens to crumble.
Navy SEAL Nick Hershey is on medical leave, doing a friend a favor as a stand in “man of honor” at a beach wedding. He might not be that interested in the nuptials, but the wedding planner catches his eye the minute they meet. When he realizes Willow is a girl he knew in college — and a girl he unintentionally hurt to the core — he knows he has some making up to do.
Willow has learned how to beat every temptation…but Nick’s sweet as candy kisses just might be the one thing she can’t resist. However, the closer they get, the more the past threatens to tear them apart. Nick and Willow learn the hard way that they can’t change history, but does that mean they won’t have a future?
EXCERPT – the first meet! Willow walks into what she thinks is a vacant villa on the resort property, there to deliver a welcome basket to a bride and her maid of honor who are scheduled to arrive later that day. There, she finds a naked man, air-drumming, and wailing a song written by her father…a man she soon realizes she knows:
Willow inhaled the briny bay air, stopping at the wrought iron gate that opened to Artemisia. Positioned on a rise, and angled so that the patio and pool faced the Gulf of Mexico, this butter-yellow villa was one of Willow’s favorites on the property. Setting the basket on the terra cotta steps that led up to the front door, she pulled her resort ID that doubled as a master key out of her pocket, unlocked the door, and scooped up the goodies to go inside.
The living area was darkened from sunshades on the windows, cool and quiet, with the welcoming aroma of sweet gardenias left by the Casa Blanca cleaning staff. Heading to the kitchen, Willow froze mid-step at the sound of…was that running water? No. A footstep? She listened for a minute, heard nothing, then—
“Will ya…will ya…be my girl?”
Singing. Someone was singing. Well, more like howling. Woefully off-key.
“Gotta know if it’s real, gotta know it’s forevah!”
Willow’s heart dropped so hard and fast the basket almost went with it. Was this some kind of joke? That song? That crappy, tacky, mess of metal that…that pretended to be a love song and paid for college and cars and everything else she’d had?
No one at this whole resort, on this island, or, hell, in the whole state of Florida, except for Ari and Gussie, could possibly know—
“No foolin’ around, for worse or for bettah!”
Son of a bitch, who’d found her out? Did Ari or Gussie tell someone that Willow’s father was a rock ’n’ roll household name? They’d promised not to.
Gripping the basket so tight she could crack the wicker, she marched into the hallway that separated the two bedrooms, calling out, “Excuse me!”
“Will ya…will ya…be my…”
“Hey!” She lowered the basket to peer over the top and…oh. Oh.
Ass again. It deserved a second look.
“Girrrrl!” Tanned, muscular arms whacked the air, and a dark head of wet hair shook, sending droplets all the way down to…oh, really, that rear end was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
“Come and take it, don’t ya fake it, we can make—”
She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. The words caught in her throat, lost as her gaze locked on the bare-naked man air-drumming like a raving lunatic in the middle of the bedroom, totally unaware she stood behind him.
“Luh-uuuuve…” He destroyed the note, and not in the good way her father intended when he wrote the song. No, Donny Zatarain would probably weep if he heard his signature rock anthem being butchered by this idiot wearing nothing but noise-canceling headphones.
His arms never missed a beat of the drum solo she had memorized before she was five years old, each stroke tensing and bulging muscles she hadn’t even known existed. She opened her mouth to call out again, but that was a waste of time. Anyway, this particular feast for the eyes was way too good to pass up.
“Will ya, will ya be my girrrrrl?”
But that song had to stop. She reached into the basket and grabbed the first thing her fingers touched: a nice ripe Florida orange. Yanking it out, she lobbed it as he hit the high C on “girl,” except he didn’t come anywhere near C, and the orange didn’t go anywhere near him.
Still, he spun around, jumping into a wide, threatening stance, both arms out like a warrior ready to attack. She blocked her face with the basket, peeking through the top spray of cellophane, silently thanking Ari for choosing clear.
Whoa, that was a big…man.
“What the…” he muttered after a second, whipping off the headset. “I didn’t hear you come in. You can put that down out there. Thanks.”
She didn’t move. Not even her eyes, which were riveted to…his…his…him.
“Thanks,” he repeated, the word tinged with impatience. “You can leave now.”
What if her client had come face-to-face with this? With that exposed…giant…breathtaking… She’d think this took “welcome package” to a whole new level.
“No, you can leave, because you are not in the right villa,” she said.
He scowled. Well, she assumed he scowled. It was difficult to see his face because she couldn’t stop looking at the rest of him.
“I’m in the right villa. Isn’t this Art..Arte…some flower that starts with an A?”
Was she in the wrong place? No, of course not.
Get a grip, Willow. He was just a naked man—okay, an exceptionally stunning naked man—and she had a job to do here. Which was to get him out of the villa.
“Artemisia,” she supplied, her arms starting to burn from holding the basket high enough to cover her face but still see. “And, yes, you are in the wrong villa, because we have guests booked to arrive soon, and you’re not one of them.”
He turned his hands skyward in a less threatening gesture, not that his hotter-than-a-thousand-suns body wasn’t threatening enough. “Yes, I am,” he said. “And if you will please turn around, miss, and leave that in the living room, we’re cool.”
“No, we are not cool.” There was an understatement. “Because I’m pretty sure you have more, um, body hair than the bride or maid of honor we’re expecting.”
He took a step closer, and she hoisted the basket high enough to completely cover her face.
“Man,” he said
“I’m a man.” With two hands, he lowered the basket. “As you’ve obviously noticed. Man of honor. Not maid.”
The words registered, but not the meaning, because she was face-to-face with his broad chest and wide shoulders and a deep-purple tattoo of…oh, really? Was this God’s idea of a joke? That was the earth and star on the cover of Zenith, the number-one best-selling Z-Train record of all time. “Really?”
“Really. I’m the man of honor in Misty Trew’s wedding.” His tone was a mix of waning tolerance and growing amusement.
She finally lifted her eyes, finally coherent enough to process what he’d said, and realize the mistake was hers. “I get it,” she whispered, meeting cocoa-colored eyes as rich and inviting as the truffles in her arms, and a mouth that could be forgiven for whatever sour notes he’d hit with it, and…
Once more, the world slipped out from under her, this time because recognition nearly buckled her knees. “You’re…” Her throat closed.
“The man of honor.”
“No, you’re…” The one who…the boy who…no, now the man who…crushed her spirit.
“A male version of the maid.”
“You’re…” Nick Hershey.
“Naked,” he supplied, adding a slow, sexy, sinful smile. “But you’re not.”
She clung to the basket as if it were the last logical thing on earth because right now, it was. “I’m not…” How long had it been? Ten or eleven years since she’d lived in a dorm at UCLA? And he’d been right down the hall. “Thinking straight.”
“Clearly.” He laughed and reached for the basket. “Here, let me take your junk so you can stop staring at mine.” Placing the basket on the dresser, he held up a hand. “Just a sec. I’ll get your tip.”
Barefoot in White copyright © 2014 by Roxanne St. Claire
Roxanne St. Claire is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty novels of suspense and romance, including three popular series (Barefoot Bay, The Bullet Catchers, and The Guardian Angelinos) and multiple stand alone books.
In addition to being a six-time nominee and one-time winner of the RITA Award, Roxanne’s novels have won the National Reader’s Choice Award for best romantic suspense three times, as well as the Daphne du Maurier Award, the HOLT Medallion, the Maggie, Booksellers Best, Book Buyers Best, the Award of Excellence, and many others. Her books have been translated into dozens of languages and are routinely included as a Doubleday/Rhapsody Book Club Selection of the Month.
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