Five for Friday

Hello again everyone.

As you guys both noticed and mentioned to Lila, there was no Five for Friday post last week.

It wasn’t my fault, honest! Perhaps you didn’t know this but there is a condition called early absent-minded professor syndrome. It is a thing, honest, and I’m sure my sister (who is a surgeon) will back me up on that.

To the surprise of nobody who knows me, Mr Lila’s Farm Boy here is afflicted by said condition – apart from having the professorship, alas! Last Friday rolled around and I completely forgot that a post was due. 😦 I only realised the error when I suddenly stopped in mid-sentence, while talking to Lila on Friday night!

For what it is worth, I am both truly sorry for and horrified with myself for not posting. In an attempt to make it up to all you devoted Lila fans, a second Five for Friday post will appear at lunchtime today (EST)/mid-morning (PST). Please accept my sincerest apologies (and intercede with Lila so as to spare me a chewing-out/beating).

Anyway, the last Five for Friday post was taken from Calling the Wild, one of the first books Lila ever wrote (though she sat on it for a long time before submitting it for publication). In keeping with the theme of paranormal erotic romance set by that excerpt, here is the opening to Sealed with a Kiss, a short story from early in Lila’s career.

When a man who isn’t human is accidentally enslaved by a woman who has no idea what he is, the result is magical.

A Midsummer Night’s Steam story

Signing up for a one-week adventure vacation, Helena expects to be kayaking in the Pacific, not having every sexual fantasy fulfilled in her guide’s bed.

Ocean is more than he seems, his kayaking business a cover for his deepest secret.

When Helena accidentally enacts old magic, enslaving Ocean, he doesn’t know if she is the luckiest girl on earth, or an enemy of his kind, bent on imprisoning him forever. Ocean’s strange behavior worries Helena but she’s distracted by the mind-blowing sex.

After the truth is revealed, will their budding love be Sealed with a Kiss?

Chapter One

“Now stroke, good, and again, very good.” The wind carried his voice, letting it slip over the skin of her cheek, swirling in the whorls of her ears along with the cold, salted wind.

Focusing on her instructions, Helena placed the left side of her paddle in the water and pulled. The sleek orange kayak jumped over the slight wave in front of them. Thrilled by the rolling motion of moving perpendicularly over the wind-shaped waves, Helena stroked again.

The Pacific stretched out in front of her. At the horizon, still dark at this early hour, the water was grey blue, but directly against the kayak it was murky green. Behind her, Catalina Island, a busy little hub of boats and environmental research centers, crowned by the city of Avalon, sat triumphant.

When the muscles in her arms started to quiver, her biceps twitching inside the wetsuit jacket she wore, Helena turned to look over her shoulder. Behind her in the kayak’s rear seat sat her guide. Dark haired and tan with sapphire blue eyes—now hidden behind sunglasses—he appeared supremely confident, as if he were the master of the waves.

When Helena signed up for the kayak lessons and tour, she’d had two options. The first option allowed her to have her own kayak, with the guide in a separate vessel. While the freedom of that appealed to her, the idea of being alone atop the world’s largest ocean in a vessel that looked like shark food was terribly intimidating. Helena had opted for the double kayak, and was she ever glad she had.

“Getting tired?” Ocean asked.
Helena nodded.
“Rest your arms a minute and let me guide you.”

Nodding again, Helena turned to face front. Once she was sure he could not see her face, Helena rolled her eyes and grimaced at herself. Ocean O’Brian, her guide, was not only beautiful to look at, but kind, charming and easygoing. This meant that Helena had turned into a mute idiot around him. Hot guys intimidated her. She was much more comfortable with guys who were less-than-stellar looking and quiet. Men who let her be the confident one, a role she was more accustomed to playing and one that gave her control.

At this rate, she had no idea how she would make it through the week. She had to talk to him at some point. This was only her second kayaking lesson. The first was yesterday afternoon right after she brought her car over on the ferry. Today was the first full day of her ten-day vacation/mental-health break. Working as a financial planner had its perks, mostly in the salary area, but was incredibly stressful. It was easy for some of her associates to forget the money they moved around represented years of work and savings by their clients. In school, they were taught to see it as a game, but Helena never could. In every dollar she saw someone’s hopes and dreams, and took prudent care of their money. Her deliberate and cautious investment strategies pushed her up the corporate ladder. The series of promotions led to a job with fewer, more significant accounts. Increased dollar value, higher profile clients with impossible demands and an ulcer had come with the promotion.

After being treated for the ulcer, Helena had taken a stand with her boss. As a result, Helena now had a junior-level planner as her assistant and a nice ten-day vacation as a “please-don’t-leave” present. The ten-day kayak training and exploration package was something she’d seen in an outdoor-vacation magazine years ago. She’d saved the article and when this vacation came up, she’d turned right around and booked her trip. With the temperature rising inside the concrete jungle of L.A., a peaceful week on an island had sounded blissful.

“Look. Three o’clock.”
Helena turned her head and scanned the ocean’s surface. There, bobbing just above the wave, was a seal, his head poking out from the rolling swells. They were close enough for Helena to see his long whiskers twitch before he disappeared beneath the water.
“Was that a seal?” It was much easier to talk to him when she wasn’t looking at him.
“Sure was.”
“Isn’t this a bit far for him to be out?” Woo-hoo! Two sentences in a row. By the time this was over, she might be able to actually have a conversation with the man.
“Not at all. He’s probably fishing for his breakfast. Seals come into shore to lie on the rocks or under the pier when they’re tired and want to rest, but they spend most of their life under the water.”
“Do they ever go up on the beach?”
“Only if they’re sick.”
Helena scanned the horizon for more bobbing heads.
“You want to try driving again?”

Helena nodded and lifted her paddle, digging into the water. With nothing but the Pacific in front of her, it was easy to forget that there was land behind her, that there was anything in the world but the wind, water and the sun chasing the night into the western horizon.

Lost in the moment, Helena laid her paddle across her thighs. Fingers spread wide, she reached into the cold water, shivering in pleasure at its salty touch on her flesh. Raising her hands, Helena tilted her head back, letting drops fall on her face, thanking the world for this perfect moment in the only way she could.

Ocean put one paddle in the water, controlling the roll of the kayak. Luckily the motion was automatic, prompted by years of piloting light, sleek vessels over the waves. He was distracted by the brunette in front of him who, until this moment, had been just another client, fit and pretty, but unremarkable.

He watched, stunned, as she dipped her fingers into the water and then raised them to the sky in an offering, a prayer as primal as humanity and timeless as the ocean they sat on. She repeated the motion, her head falling farther back. The wind whipped wisps of her hair from her braid and lifted them so the sun could kiss them, turning brown to red and gold.

When she repeated the motion a ritual third time, a little ripple made its way over Ocean’s skin.

Was this a sign? For her to do this so soon after they saw the seal? Did she know what he was? Was she of the sea?

She lowered her arms and picked up her paddle. He could tell from the hunch in her shoulders that she was embarrassed by what she’d done. Ocean wanted to tell her not to be embarrassed, not to doubt what had been an unpracticed and heartfelt expression of joy and thanks.

She started paddling once more, the subtle muscles in her arms flexing as she propelled them over the water. Shaking himself out of the lingering astonishment, Ocean put his paddle in the water and helped her. Something magical had just happened, and when they reached land, he intended to investigate her most thoroughly.

Read more about Sealed with a Kiss here.

Other International Heat authors with Five for Friday posts include:
Bianca D’Arc,
Jambrea Jo Jones,
Mari Carr and
Rhian Cahill.

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