Cave diving in Costa Rica...an earthquake...and love hiding in plain sight coming to light while trapped in the darkest and dangerous of places...We're previewing the romance adventure novel, Proximity, on Tempt Me Tuesday.
Although she usually preferred diving in the Caribbean with its turquoise warm water and sea life, Savannah had to admit that cave diving created a much more primal and intimate experience with nature. She released Bill's hand and moved close to the wall to investigate what appeared to be a marine fossil embedded into the limestone wall. She traced her fingers over the curving image, knowing Bill would follow. Dive partners for years, they were in sync with each other's every movement and breath once in the water.
The mass of him slipped next to her, his light flickering over the wall before he motioned for her to look at him. Holding an underwater camera to his face, he snapped a photo of her next to the fossil.
She grinned over her regulator and winked at him through the mask. As usual, they fell behind the rest of the group. Both had an insatiable curiosity and were known for being the last to surface or the first to get in trouble.
When he moved away, she allowed her gaze to skim over his broad back, tight ass, and long legs. That kiss last night had not only thrown her off balance, but had set off a series of anxiety attacks about the possibility of losing her best friend. Hooking up with Bill had never been an option for her. Not because he wasn't hot as hell but because of the curse.
Every man who had ever loved her had died, with the exception of her father who had come damn close six months ago.
She shook her head to rid herself of the thought and caught up to him. Of course, him suddenly crossing the line into wannabe lover didn't equal love. She understood that yet...there had been something incredibly intense about that kiss that made her jump to conclusions.
Get out of your head and focus, damn it.
The sound of her own breathing competed with the echo of her heartbeat in her ears. Bubbles danced around her face. Only the lights from their headlamps pierced the dark water for glimpses of coral, curling stalagmites piercing up from the depths, and the occasional fossil or pre-Columbian artifacts embedded in the limestone.
She took the lead when presented with a narrow passage that would only allow one body through at a time. The beam of her light showed an almost bottomless deep darkness beneath them surrounded by narrow white walls topped by low hanging stalactites that looked ominously like a series of nails.
Once free of the narrow stretch, she stretched her arms to her sides to simply indulge in having space around her. When Bill gave her the sign indicating he wanted to surface, she immediately followed suit.
"Breathtaking," she gasped at the sight of a sixty-foot waterfall sliding over twisted sheaths of ancient coral and limestone. A sliver of light from the surface danced on the water. Pushing her mask to the top of her head, she blinked at the beauty, not bothering to reach for the camera dangling from her vest because she knew that nothing would capture the sight as vividly as a memory.
"We've lost everyone," he said, swimming to a shelf of rock and pulling himself out of the water. "I'll take a look at that map."
"I thought you had it memorized last night," she said with as much sarcasm as she could muster.
She joined him on the rock while continuing to gaze at the waterfall. Underground rivers were fascinating places, full of surprises and undiscovered treasures. She indulged in the tranquility of the sound of rushing water piercing the profound silence of the cave.
"We're on track, just behind them, that's all. We didn't get lost somehow." He shoved the map back inside his dry bag before leaning against the limestone and looking up at the waterfall.
"What's wrong with them? Why wouldn't they linger here for as long as possible? It's breathtaking."
Both sat there for a few minutes without speaking or taking their gaze from the streaming water. The idea that they were seeing something so rare that maybe less than a dozen other humans had ever laid eyes on it embedded in her mind.
"About those high stakes you mentioned..." Bill curved his hand around the back of her neck and pulled her close.
"You need to stop saying my name like you're shocked that I want to kiss you." A fraction away, he looked her in the eye. "Am I that unappealing?"
"No, I just—"
"Isn't this a romantic setting? Just the two of us sitting in front of a waterfall in a secluded cave far beneath the surface of the earth? How many people do you think have kissed in this spot?" His lips were a whisper away from hers. "We could be the first."
Desire stirred deep in her gut. She slid her mouth against his, feeling like this exploration was more dangerous than any other adventure she'd ever dared. An electric current sizzled across her lips before zapping across the skin of her face. Even her hair tingled. Hands clenched against the cool rock shelf beneath them, she smiled against his mouth.
"Surprised?" he asked before teasing his tongue over hers.
"Shocked," she admitted.
"And here I thought my reputation preceded me." He sucked at her lower lip, hazel eyes gleaming with mischief.
"Oh, it definitely does, but that works against you, my friend." She laughed before he plunged his tongue deep into her mouth and made her forget her apprehension. She pushed his mask from the top of his head and gripped his wet hair as if her life depended on being close to him.
He grabbed her hips and yanked her against his chest. His air tank clanked against the rock as her thigh slid between his. The hooks of their BCUs knocked together, reminding them of the limitations of their impromptu make-out session.
"I can't tell who's winning or losing," she whispered against his mouth after remembering their little game.
"If you chicken out, I win...or maybe lose...and you let me leave." He slid his finger down her face, lips still clinging to hers. "Because I want you, Savannah. I want the whole sha-bang."
"Why now?" She couldn't stop kissing or touching him. Here in this cave sequestered away from the rest of the world all things felt possible and doubts felt sacrilegious.
"Because I can't take one more superficial relationship when the real thing is right in front of me."
"I don't want to lose my friend." She framed his face in between her palms.
"Is this you diving into the ditch?" He quirked an eyebrow.
Remembering their challenge, she licked a drop of water from his chin before grinning against his skin. "Like I said, your reputation precedes you and I don't believe for one minute that you're serious about the whole sha-bang business. You're playing with me, going through some fucked up shit because you're terrified—"
"—Are you a clinical psychologist all of the sudden?"
"Your business has hit the big time, socialites are hunting you, and I'm safe Savannah." She leaned back from him, lifted the mask she'd knocked off of his head and placed it gently back in place before meeting his gaze. Regret for all that could never be stirred between them in that instant. She straightened his headlamp and patted him on the shoulders. "We'd better find everyone before they get worried."
Anger flashed in his eyes before he slid off the shelf and back into the water. With one last look at the waterfall, he shoved the regulator back in his mouth and motioned for him to follow.
She looked up at the sliver of light and wondered who the winner would be if she surrendered to temptation and indulged in an affair with Bill. Unfortunately, she believed that they'd both lose if that line were ever to be crossed...but, damn, she craved him more and more with each kiss.
She sank beneath the surface and kicked after him, the beam of light from her headlamp illuminating the shape of his legs moving a few feet in front of her. He took the lead through the next narrow passage lined with sharp stalactites and stalagmites that made her feel as if they were navigating between the teeth of a mystical creature.
The roar came from the deep. Water started to toss and churn around them, slamming their bodies into the slick walls at their sides. A piece of limestone from above crashed down, barely missing her arm.
She grabbed Bill's ankle to stay connected and also to keep her bearings as the world suddenly spun out of control. Unable to surface and unable to communicate with each other in the narrow space, they had no choice but to keep going forward. She trusted him to press on, kept her eyes locked on the falling chunks of debris, and kicked hard to keep pace.
Finally, the space opened up, but the rocking of the cave increased. In sync, they surfaced and grabbed each other for support against the slamming water.
"What the hell?" she asked after spitting out her regulator.
He looked at her through his mask. "Earthquake."
Love sometimes hides in plain sight.
Savannah is one of the boys—fun loving, adventurous, a general contractor, and dive master extraordinaire. There isn't much she takes seriously about herself, or at least that's the impression she likes to give off. Women often misjudge her based on her looks so she's gravitated toward a group of men who accept her 'as is'—her Scuba diving club.
Bill has known Savannah's wild side for years and has been comfortable playing the role of best friend. As part of the Dallas Divers, he's shared many adventures with the group from diving the Blue Hole in Belize to exploring the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. When the team heads out to Costa Rica for a series of cave dives, he knows something is off but can't justify his nerves.
Catastrophe happens shortly after their immersion in the cave. With the entrance blocked from an earthquake and separated from the rest of their team, Savannah and Bill are forced to find another way out while battling aftershocks, rising tides, and an undeniable attraction that they've ignored for too long. The question becomes, what's more dangerous...the earthquake or love?
**The Wanderlust Series consists of stand-alone adventure romance novels. Occasionally, characters from previous novels may make a cameo, but each story truly does stand on its own merits.
The adventure begins Friday, May 1st! Preorder your copy now.