Summer Fever Donna Hill..........................1 One Hot Summer Niobia Bryant.....................125 Too Hot to Handle Zuri Day.......................255
Nina Forbes cruised along the narrow street, checking the scattered addresses against the slip of paper she'd taped to her dashboard. Her GPS—that she'd named Gerty—said in its almost human voice, "Your destination is on the right." She slowed her '97 Honda Accord, turned onto the driveway, put the car in park, and stepped out. "Wow," she said on a breath of awe; 8802 Sheepshead Bay Road was a home straight out of the movies.
The two-story glass and chrome structure glistened and sparkled against the waning light like a hidden treasure in the sand. Yet, curiously enough, with all that glass, she couldn't see inside. She walked around to the trunk, took out her two suitcases, and went to the front door.
Her best friend, Rita Lennox, had given her the key along with a list of instructions for her four-week stay. Rita's boyfriend, Drake, had arranged for a surprise vacation to Hawaii, and Rita hadn't wanted to give the plumb assignment of house-sitting to anyone else. The house belonged to one of Rita's wealthy real estate clients, who turned the house over to Rita during the summer while he vacationed elsewhere.
"You'll love it," she'd said. "The house is fabulous. The beaches are gorgeous. Everything you could want is right there, restaurants, shops ... All you have to do is water the plants, keep an eye on the place, and enjoy a free vacation."
"You sure it's okay with whatshisname—Carlos?"
Rita had waved her hand in dismissal and laughed. "Carlos has so many different properties he only remembers the Hampton beach home when I remind him about it during vacation time."
"Well ... if you're sure." She'd held out her hand and Rita had dropped the keys into her opened palm.
Nina drew in a breath and stuck the key in the lock, turned the key, and pushed the door open.
Sleek, low leather and rattan furnishing dotting gleaming hardwood floors; chrome and glass tables, standing lamps, and a funky chandelier were all straight out of Designed to Sell. The open floor layout led from the entryway to the living room—with a two-sided fireplace that faced the dining room on the other side and the biggest built-in flat-screen television she'd ever seen—then on to the massive stainless steel and granite kitchen.
The layout allowed a clear view straight through the entire first floor onto an indoor pool and yard beyond, complete with a fire pit, industrial grill station, hot tub, and an array of seating.
Nina dropped her bags and did a happy dance. And to think she'd had second thoughts about staying in a strange house for the summer. On her teacher's salary and since helping her mom put her younger sister through college, taking a summer vacation had stopped being an option. This was more than a dream come true, she thought as she climbed the winding wooden staircase to the second level, which boasted three bedrooms, three full bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs, an exercise room, and a small laundry at the end of the wraparound hallway.
Nina chose the bedroom closest to the stairs. She opened the door and stepped into heaven on earth. The room was bathed in the soft afterglow of sunset. One entire side of the room was glass, and she walked over to close the floor-to-ceiling curtains when she remembered that she could see out, but no one could see in.
The other side had a sliding glass door that opened onto a small balcony that faced the back of another house a few hundred yards away. Lights were on in the house.
Nina pushed open the door and stepped out. The warm breeze off the ocean and the distinctive scent of the beach and the soft sounds of music wafted up to her.
She stepped closer to the railing and saw the figure of a tall, slender, shirtless man walking across the backyard deck in the house across from her. He opened the top of his grill and was enveloped in aromatic smoke. The mouthwatering aroma joined the other tempting scents and Nina's stomach rumbled in response. She hadn't eaten in hours and she was starving.
She started to step back inside when the man she'd seen waved and called out, "Hello."
"Hi." She waved back and wished she could make out his features in the twilight and wondered if he had a great face to go along with the chiseled physique. He turned a corner and disappeared into his house.
She wondered if that was Ian, the neighbor who Rita said was edible if she didn't have a man of her own. According to Rita, he only stayed at the house occasionally, but he owned a lounge in town.
Nina stepped back inside and shut the door and, just in case, she drew closed the cream-colored silk drapes. She took a quick look around, then headed downstairs in hopes of finding something to eat.
Much to her delight, the fridge was full and the cabinets and pantry were stocked to near bursting. She had her choice of anything from a basic salad and deli sandwich to a full-course meal.
She found a package of grilled Italian chicken and decided on a salad. Next to the fridge was a smaller one that was stocked with chilled wine. She took out a bottle of white, placed it on the tray with a glass and her hearty bowl of salad, and went to her room. Her room. She giggled at the thought. This was going to be a blast.
Ian was up bright and early. Those exquisite moments before and during sunrise were his favorite parts of the day. It was the time when he was most inspired to paint.
He set up his easel and paints and took a sip of coffee. He looked at his half-completed abstract of the lounge he owned in town. He hoped to make some headway before it got too warm. He glanced over at the house across from him. He'd been back to the Hamptons for nearly three weeks in preparation for the summer rush, and it was the first time he'd seen signs of life from the house. And if his eyes weren't deceiving him, a very sexy sign of life.
He'd met Rita, who'd usually come in the summer, and the woman on the balcony last night was not Rita Lennox. As an artist, part of his job was to understand fine lines, balance, and proportion. The mystery lady on the balcony had all that in spades.
While he sipped his coffee and added new dimensions to his painting, he realized that he'd begun etching in the body of a woman captured among the bold red and black squares and circles, golden trumpets, and silver drums.
He stepped back, the image having taken him by surprise as if the brush had a mind of its own and had brought his dream to the canvas. He glanced toward the balcony. When the hour was appropriate, he'd stop by and welcome his new neighbor to the Hamptons.
She drew in a long breath of sea-washed air and stretched. The day was magnificent. She glanced across to her neighbor's backyard. No sign of the handsome stranger. At the thought of him, she got a fluttering feeling in the bottom of her stomach as vague images began to play in her head. She'd dreamt of him last night! Or at least someone she imagined him to be. She frowned in concentration, trying to recall what the dream was about. She seemed to remember seeing and not seeing him, if that made any sense. And she was trying to find him in the many rooms of the house and out on the beach. Each time she got close enough to touch him, he would vanish.
Nina shook her head. Crazy. The front doorbell rang. She certainly wasn't expecting anyone and no one knew she was here except Rita. She went downstairs to the front door.
"Yes," she called out as she approached. She pushed aside the curtain that covered the front window near the door. Her body jerked and heated all at once. It was the man from her dream ... the man from the house across the way. She was sure of it. She stepped to the door and pulled it open.
No, this vision in front of him was definitely not Rita Lennox. Her wild spiral hair framed a face of dark brown sugar, with eyes as wide and luminous as the future. The body-hugging pink T-shirt outlined her toned body that he calculated was about ...
She tilted her head to the side. "Can I help you?"
"Yes ... I mean, hello. I'm Ian Harrison. I live across the way." He shifted his weight from one leg to the other. "I, uh, saw the lights on last night. I thought Rita was about."
He had the coolest British accent and she had a hard time concentrating on what the hell he was saying and not on the curve of those lips or the way his brows swept across dark, deep eyes. Rita was right. His skin was the color of smooth Hershey chocolate. Totally edible.
"Is she here?"
Nina blinked several times to clear her head and vision. She ran her tongue across her bottom lip as her eyes trailed down his carved torso. OMG.
"Is she here?" he repeated.
"Oh." She tossed her head and sputtered a nervous laugh. "Sorry, no, she's not. Actually she's in Hawaii."
They stared at each other.
"Didn't mean to intrude," he finally said, breaking the trance they were both in. "I should be shoving off."
"No! I mean, you weren't intruding. I was just getting used to the place." She smiled and folded her arms.
He smiled and her stomach did a little dance.
"If you need anything, I'm just across the way."
He turned to leave.
"See ya," she called out.
He glanced over his shoulder. "See ya."
"Nice to meet you."
She stood there for a moment, watching him walk away until he turned the corner. Slowly she closed the door. A tingling sensation began at the bottom of her feet and inched its way up her legs, her thighs, until it settled and stirred in her center. Ian Harrison. Hmmm.
Ian couldn't keep his mind on what he was doing for the rest of the day. His thoughts kept jumping back to the woman next door. When he'd come face-to-face with her, he'd been totally thrown off his stride. She was a vision and he'd lost all sense of intelligent conversation. He'd been so enthralled by her that he'd forgotten to ask her name.
He shook his head. No point in getting all wrapped up in thinking about her. A woman like her was sure to have a man somewhere about. Besides, he was only there for a few weeks and then it was back to Barbados, where he had a life and a business to run. Anyway, he needed to get his head out of the clouds and go over to the lounge and check on things. Opening night for the season was in two days and he wanted to make sure that everything was in order. He got his car keys and the folder that had the information on the vendors, inventory, and contact numbers and headed out.
Nina heard the rumble of a car engine and hurried to the window just in time to see a black BMW pull out from the driveway next door. She felt like jumping in her car to see where he was heading, but that would seriously be stalking. Then again, she did intend to head into town. She grinned, ran and grabbed her purse, and darted out. There were only so many places to go and one main road leading in and out of town.
She hopped into her Honda and pulled off. Maybe she would "casually" bump into him in town. Moments later she was on the main road. She tried to peer around the two cars ahead of her to see if she spotted his Bimmer. This was crazy, she thought as the cars eased down the narrow roadway and she moved behind them. She didn't see his car. What if he'd turned off to go visit friends? Or was driving out of town totally? She pulled up to a stop sign. Never in her wildest dreams would she have thought she would have stooped to trailing some guy like in a James Bond flick. She laughed at her own silliness. Rita wouldn't believe it. She hardly believed it herself. It was so out of character for her. Must be the air. That was the only logical explanation.
Nina took the turn into town. The quaint streets hosted myriad shops and restaurants, from the sole proprietor to well-known cafes and designer outlets. She pulled into a parking space and got out. Everywhere that she looked oozed class and style, from young mothers pushing state-of-the-art strollers to the casual jogger sporting designer running gear to the couples and groups of friends as they strolled, window-shopped, and sipped white wine under the canopies of the outdoor cafes. Suddenly she felt totally out of place in her Old Navy T-shirt, five-year-old white shorts, and Payless sandals.
She drew in a breath. The hell with it. She was just as good as anyone, she determined as she walked across the street, head high and shoulders back. The outfit didn't make the woman. Besides, the elite Hamptonites could use a little urban flavor. She dug in her worn shoulder bag and pulled out her shades, slid them on, and proceeded to blend in.
More than two hours later Nina returned to her car laden with shopping bags filled with two new books—Glorious by Bernice L. McFadden and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson—a bathing suit, sunscreen, juices, fresh flowers, toiletries, and two T-shirts that she paid entirely too much money for, and she had yet to spot Ian. He could be anywhere, she concluded before getting in the car. Probably went to meet his girlfriend and they were somewhere planning their long, romantic evening together, she thought, slamming the car door harder than necessary.
She turned on the car. It sputtered and shut off. Her heart jumped. She tried again with the same result. "No. Do not do this to me." She drew in a breath. "Okay, sweetie, start for mama. Don't embarrass us today. Okay?" She squeezed her eyes shut, said a quick little prayer, and gently turned the key. The engine sputtered then hummed to life. "Thank you," she said on a breath of relief, put the car in gear, and eased out onto the road back to the house.
She was taking her packages out of the car when she saw Ian's BMW easing down the street. He stopped the car in front of the house and got out.
"Hey." He strolled over. "Need some help?"
"Umm, sure." She handed him a bag.
"I see you found your way around town."
Nina laughed and took the other packages from the backseat, tucking one under her arm and carrying the other. She shut the door with a shove of her hip and started for the house.
Ian hurried around her. "Let me get the door."
"The keys are in the front pocket of my purse," she said, angling her head toward her bag, which hung on her shoulder.
He stepped closer and reached into the small pocket. He was close enough that she could smell the clean soap-and-water scent of him ... and something else ... all man.
Ian pulled out the keys and opened the door. He stepped aside to let her pass. She turned to him in the doorway. "Thanks." She set her bags down and reached for the one he had.
Ian handed her the bag. "No problem."
"So ... how well do you know Rita?" If she could keep him talking, she thought, then maybe she could figure out how to get him to ask her out or in or something.
He shrugged slightly. "Enough to say hello, chat from time to time." He paused a beat. "How well do you know her?"
"She's my best friend since high school."
He grinned. "Guess that's pretty well. How long will you be staying?"
"Most of the summer."
"I own a small lounge in town. I'll be here for the summer business. It opens for the season day after tomorrow. You should stop by."
Excerpted from Heat Wave by Donna Hill Niobia Bryant Zuri Day Copyright © 2011 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission of DAFINA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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