Sun, Sea and Satisfaction Guaranteed by Hannah Murray
General Release Date: 13th July 2021
Word Count: 49,054
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
BONDAGE AND BDSM
What’s a vacation without a fling?
The last place Clio Reed wants to be in the middle of July is on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, but when the matriarch of the Reed family calls for a family vacation, everyone listens. Clio figures this vacation will be an exercise in annoyance and frustration, but she didn’t count on her great-aunt’s new husband—or his son…
Fox may be her new step-cousin, but after one look at the dark-haired, green-eyed hottie with the perpetual grin and amazing forearms, her feelings for him are anything but familial.
Maybe this cruise won’t be such a drag after all.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of anal sex.
Clio Reed closed her eyes, drew in a deep breath, and reminded herself that she was on vacation.
The little cabin was perfect. Nestled in the woods on the edge of Lake Michigan, it was accessible only by an unmarked dirt road hidden so well that even the people who owned the cabin would have trouble finding it. The wide porch was screened to keep the bugs out, and held a pair of thickly cushioned lounge chairs which were perfect for lazy summer days. She could stretch out after a morning swim in the lake with Cecil, snuggle into the thick cushions with her e-reader after lunch, and watch the sunset over the lake with a glass of wine after dinner. Cecil would stretch out on the deck’s wooden planks, snoring as he slept off a day of romping in the water. She’d sleep cozy and comfortable in the king-sized bed, and the next morning, they’d get up and do it all again.
She could take leisurely walks, play with her dog and read as many romance novels as she wanted, blissfully alone. If she concentrated hard enough, she could almost smell the lake and the rich, loamy scent of the woods.
The knock on the door made her concentration waver, but she ignored it and drew another deep breath. She imagined she could hear the sounds of the woods, the chirp of crickets and the gentle rush of the wind through the trees, the creak of the porch boards under her feet as she walked to the lounger and settled in to read—
Knock, knock, knock.
Her vision wavered, nearly disappearing at the three hard raps. She grunted, an annoyed rebuke for whoever was pounding on her door forming on her tongue. She swallowed it down, wiggled to settle more firmly into her cross-legged position, and pulled the image clear into her mind once more. There was her cabin, lovely and perfect. She was lying on the lounge chair, Cecil’s furry bulk on the chaise beside her, no one around to inter—
Knock, knock, knock. “Come on, Clio. I know you’re in there.”
“Leave me alone,” she mumbled under her breath, eyes still closed, mentally in her lakefront paradise, an e-reader in her hand and her dog at her side. “I’m on vacation.”
“Mom wants everyone out on the upper deck for a family meeting. She sent a message on the family chat, so I know you got it.”
No, I didn’t, she thought smugly. Because her phone was tucked away in a drawer, turned off as a hedge against just such a maneuver.
“You were supposed to be there ten minutes ago. You’re holding everything up.”
This floating nightmare isn’t even underway yet, and it’s already started. Ignoring her younger brother—and the small pang of guilt—with the ease of long practice, Clio rolled her shoulders, straightened her spine, and tried to find paradise in her mind once again.
“Dammit, Clio.” Bam! Bam! Bam! “I’ve got better things to do than be Mom’s errand boy.”
“Tell her no,” she shot back, then bit her lip.
“I heard that,” he crowed.
“Shit,” Clio muttered and opened her eyes.
Instead of the rolling waves of Lake Michigan lapping at a sandy shore, she saw the industrial carpet, cream-colored walls, and impersonal décor that made up her stateroom on the Duchess Dream cruise liner.
Since it was a third of the size of a budget hotel room, stateroom was a stretch, but calling it a floating cell had earned her a disappointed look from her mother. Cam knocked again, then rattled the knob. “Come on, Clio. You know if I go back up there without you, she’s going to come to get you herself.”
“I’m coming,” she called, resigned and resentful, and slid off the too-soft bed to open the door.
Her brother’s handsome face wore a predictably smug smile, which went perfectly with his frat-boy-on-spring-break outfit of a Ron Jon Surf Shop T-shirt, board shorts, and flip flops. “What took you so long?”
“Ha,” she replied, and walked back into the room, leaving him to follow.
“Wow,” he said, looking around. “This is small.”
“I know.” She sat down on the tiny couch, which was really just a wide, shallow chair with two small, hard cushions. The couch was too hard, the bed was too soft—she felt like Goldilocks on the cruise from hell. “Mom says it’s my fault for making my reservations at the last minute.”
“She’s not wrong.” He wandered over to look out of the porthole over the double bed. “If you’d booked when Tara and I did, you’d probably at least have a window.”
“I was hoping Mom would cave.”
“What an optimist.” Cam sat beside her, wincing as he settled on the hard cushion. “It won’t be so bad. She’s been pretty mellow, actually.”
“Which is why she sent you down here to fetch me.”
“Okay, so mellow is probably an exaggeration.” Cam patted her knee in sympathy. “But I’ve got something that might help.”
“A prescription for tranquilizers?” she asked hopefully.
“I’m not medicating our mother.”
“I meant for me.”
“I’m not medicating you either.” He pulled a small velvet box out of his pocket and flipped the lid open. “I’m going to ask Tara to marry me.”
“Holy crap, Cameron.” She stared at the ring. “Is that Grammy Reed’s ring?”
“Yeah.” He turned the box so the diamond caught the light. “Dad gave it to me when I told him I was going to propose. I wanted to make sure that was all right with you.”
She blinked in confusion. “You want my blessing?”
“No. I mean, I’m happy to have it, but I’m talking about the ring. You’re older than me, so technically, it should go to you.”
“Technically, it should go to Carter,” she countered. “He’s the oldest.”
“Dad said he’d offered it to him when he and Gabe got engaged, but they didn’t want it.”
Clio looked at the ring again, its delicate gold filigree and central stone gleaming in the light. “Yeah, I don’t think it would fit Gabe.”
“Dad told them they could keep it for their kids, but Carter said he was fine with it going to one of us.”
“Cam.” She reached up to cradle his face in her hands. “I’m so happy for you.”
“Thanks.” He squirmed a little, delighting her. “You’re not going to get mushy, are you?”
“Hell, yes,” she said, and pinched his cheeks for emphasis. “It’s absolutely okay with me if you give Grammy’s ring to Tara. It’s perfect for her.”
“Yeah.” He looked down at the ring again, his smile going sappy. “Yeah, it is.”
“When are you going to ask her?”
He snapped the box shut and tucked it away. “Tonight, at dinner. I can’t wait to see Mom’s face.”
Clio started to point out that it wasn’t their mother’s moment, then bit her tongue. If Cam and Tara didn’t mind, it was none of her business. “She doesn’t know you’re planning to propose?”
He shook his head. “I asked Dad not to say anything. You know she can’t keep a secret.”
Clio snorted. “He better hope she doesn’t find out about that.”
“Although if she’s mad at him, she won’t have time to nag me this week,” she mused. “Would it make me a terrible daughter if I threw him under the bus?”
“Yes.” He pushed to his feet and held out a hand. “Speaking of which, we better go.”
She made a face and allowed him to pull her to her feet. “Can’t you just tell them I took a sleeping pill and I’m too groggy to come out on the deck because I might lose my balance and fall into the ocean?”
“No.” He dragged her to the door.
“Wait!” She tugged her hand free and ran the three steps back to the bed for her long-sleeved shirt and wide-brimmed sun hat. “Okay, I’m ready.”
“You know it’s ninety degrees out, right?”
“Believe me, I’d prefer fewer layers.” She hated covering up the cute pink top, and could have gone without the sweat she knew would gather under the brim of the hat and soak into her hair. Shorts would’ve been nice, too, instead of the loose cotton pants, but at least this way, she wouldn’t fry to a crisp in the Florida sun.
Being a natural redhead, with the accompanying pale-as-Casper skin, could be a real bitch. Especially when both of her brothers, her parents, and every other member of her family except for Great-Aunt Francine looked like they’d just stepped out of the pages of a surfing magazine after five minutes of sun.
“Can’t you just wear sunblock? You look like somebody’s grandma.”
She smacked him on the arm. “I’m wearing sunblock, you ass. I still burn.”
“Like a vampire,” he muttered, wincing when she smacked him again. “Ow. Quit hitting me.”
“Quit being a dick,” she shot back and smacked him one more time for good measure. “Let’s get this over with.”
“Wait.” He turned back at the door. “Tara asked me to get her a bottle of water. Can I have one of yours?”
“I don’t have any bottles of water.”
“What’s that?” he said, pointing past her to the nightstand.
“That’s distilled water.”
“So, it’s for my CPAP.”
She pointed at the sleek little machine on the nightstand. “The thing that helps me breathe while I sleep?”
“Oh, right. Can’t you refill it at the sink?”
“No, jackass, I can’t. I have to use distilled water, or the minerals in the tap water fuck up the machine.”
He frowned. “That sounds made up.”
She shoved him out of the door. “You can’t have the water, Cameron.”
“Then I have to go back to our room to get one of ours.”
She checked her pocket to make sure she still had her key card, then pulled the cabin door shut behind her. “So go. I’ll meet you up there.”
He narrowed his eyes, suddenly suspicious. “Give me your key.”
“I don’t trust you not to go back in there and bar the door.”
She rolled her eyes as though she hadn’t been considering exactly that. “Get a grip, Cameron.”
She headed down the narrow hallway, Cam on her heels. “Listen, our room is on the deck above you. Why don’t you come with me? You can have a bottle of water, too.”
“I don’t need a bottle of water, I’m very well hydrated.” She bypassed the bank of elevators in favor of the wide central stairwell and began to climb. “Go, Cam. I promise I won’t run away.”
“Okay. Tell Mom I’ll be right there.”
She waved a hand and continued up the stairs as he veered off. Half a flight later, she heard footsteps behind her again and stopped climbing with an aggravated sigh.
“Cam, I said I would go,” she began, turning to confront her brother, and found herself face to face with a stranger. “Oh. You’re not Cam.”
“No, I’m Fox,” he said, and smiled. “Hello.”
“Hello,” she replied automatically, while her brain sounded the hot-guy alert.
Seriously hot guy. He was big, towering over her even though he stood two steps lower, and handsome. He had dark hair curling over his ears, misty green eyes, and a jaw covered in dark stubble that looked like a vacation beard in the early stages. He wore a plain black T-shirt, khaki cargo shorts and flip flops, and a smirk on a beautiful mouth that, aside from his hair, looked to be the only soft thing about him.
She blew out a breath and tried not to drool.
She didn’t speak, and would’ve sworn that her expression didn’t change even a smidge. But his smirk deepened and his eyes lit with amusement, and it made her want to kiss him and punch him at the same time. To prevent herself from doing either, she said, “What kind of a name is Fox?”
“Family name.” His gaze flicked down then up again, and she fought the urge to squirm in her long pants and long sleeves and grandma hat. “It’s Foxworth, but since that makes me sound like one third of a tight-ass accounting firm, I just go by Fox.”
“Good call,” she said, and with nothing to say besides can I sit on your face?, turned and began climbing the stairs again, automatically keeping tight to the rail so he could walk past her.
She paused and turned to frown at him, still two steps below her. “What?”
“Who’s Cam?” he repeated. “You said, ‘you’re not Cam’, so who’s Cam?”
“My brother,” she said absently, trailing her gaze down his body again. His shoulders were broad, his chest and arms thick. He had actual, visible muscles in his forearms, which were tan like the rest of him and dusted with dark hair. Forearm porn of the highest caliber, she thought hazily and turned to continue up the stairs, holding on to the railing so she wouldn’t fall, trip him, and drag him on top of her.
“What’s your name?” he asked, keeping pace behind her.
“None of your business,” she replied automatically, because really, it wasn’t.
“True,” he said easily, her don’t-fuck-with-me tone having no effect on his friendly cheer. “I only asked because it’s expected. Social niceties and all. I don’t really want to know.”
That was just what she needed, sarcasm from a hot stranger. She sniffed and kept climbing, trying not to be annoyed because her ass looked flat in these pants.
“I don’t need to know, anyway,” he continued. “It’s not like we’re family or anything. Hell, we’ll probably never see each other once we get out of this stairway.”
“If there’s a God,” she muttered, already mourning the loss of his forearms.
“Unless we want to see each other outside of this stairway, of course.”
“Why would we want that?” she blurted out without turning around.
“I don’t know.” He was, annoyingly, not at all out of breath from the climb. “Maybe because you think I’m hot.”
She missed the next stair and stumbled, barely catching herself on the railing in time to keep from falling on her face.
“Careful there,” cautioned a young man in a crew uniform coming down the stairs. He had soft brown eyes, a pretty face and what looked like a pleasingly muscled form under his crisp uniform. “You all right?”
“Yes, thanks.” She smiled at him, and his smile broadened in return.
“Here, let me help you.” He stepped closer, holding out a hand.
“She’s fine,” Fox said from behind her and hauled her up with a strong arm around her waist. “Aren’t you, darling?”
“Peachy,” she said through gritted teeth and resisted the urge to kick him.
“Right.” The young man’s smile went from warm and interested to coolly polite. “Keep hold of the railing, now.”
“Thanks,” she said, watching as he continued down the stairs, taking her first prospect of a shipboard hookup with him. Annoyed, she turned to glare at Fox. “Do you mind?”
“Sorry,” he said, not sounding sorry at all, and pulled his arm from around her waist. “Just trying to help.”
“Cockblocking me from the cute sailor is not helpful,” she muttered under her breath and started climbing again.
“Sorry, what was that?”
“Nothing.” She stopped on the stairs again and turned to glare at him. “What did you say?”
“I said ‘sorry, what was that?’,” he replied with a frown. “Did you hit your head?”
“No, I did not hit my head. Before that, when I fell. You said something.”
“Oh.” His frown faded and the smirk reappeared. “The part about you thinking I’m hot?”
She tried not to stare at the way his shoulders moved in the black t-shirt. Or the way his forearms flexed as he shoved his hands into his pockets. And she certainly didn’t remember how it had felt around her waist, thick and hard and deliciously restraining. “I don’t.”
“Don’t think you’re hot.” Liar, liar, pants on fire.
She planted her hands on her hips and scowled. “No.”
“Oh.” He shrugged and smiled, unconcerned. “Sorry. My mistake.”
“Don’t mention it,” she replied, oddly disappointed, and started up the stairs again.
“I probably shouldn’t have assumed that,” he continued, “just because you were staring at me.”
I wasn’t staring. In fact, I made a point not to stare.
“The fact that I checked you out doesn’t mean anything either,” he went on blithely as she ground her teeth together. “I mean, I did check you out, but that certainly doesn’t mean I find you hot.”
Clio kept silent as she reached the top landing, biting her tongue to keep quiet, and crossed to the doors leading out to the deck.
“Not that you’re not attractive.” He followed her out, unfortunately catching the heavy door before it slammed in his face. “You seem lovely, even in those clothes. Are you a member of some kind of religious order that prohibits shorts or something?”
She jerked to a stop and turned to him, her scowl not at all feigned this time. “Yes, actually. Sister Theresa Grumpy Pants of the Order of Perpetual Boob Sweat. Nice to meet you. Would you like a brochure?”
He flashed a grin, quick and delighted. “Hey, you do have a sense of humor.”
“I’m a fucking laugh riot,” she muttered and kept walking, completely unsurprised when he fell into step beside her. “Is there a reason you’re following me?”
“I’m not following you,” he told her. “I’m meeting my family up here.”
“Seriously. Not everything is about you, Theresa. Can I call you Terry?”
She refused to smile. “Sure. Foxworth.”
“Touché.” He leaned forward to peer at her face, keeping pace with her easily. “Are you sure you don’t think I’m hot? We could have dinner later. Maybe play a game of shuffleboard.”
“Are you using ‘shuffleboard’ as code for some deviant sexual act?”
“Would you say yes if I was?”
She just might. He was hot, and charming, and she figured he owed her an orgasm or two for cockblocking her with the sexy, brown-eyed crewman. The possibility of a shipboard romance with a handsome stranger—and by romance, she meant wild sexual romp with absolutely no feelings involved—was the only thing keeping her from diving over the side of the ship and making a break for it. Well, that and the knowledge that her mother was a very strong swimmer, and would no doubt come after her.
She sent him a speculative glance, taking in his cheerful grin and handsome face. There was a slight breeze out on the deck, making his hair float up around his head like a dark halo. And his forearms were still flexing, porn-like.
He caught her eye and sent her a saucy wink. “Okay, just dinner. We’ll find a secluded table for two and you can tell me all about perpetual boob sweat. Who knows? Maybe I’ll join the order.”
“I only have to get two more recruits to win the toaster oven.” She refused, absolutely refused to laugh. “Are you always this chatty?”
“Depends on how much the other person talks,” he said easily. “Though I am sometimes very, very quiet.”
She gave a skeptical snort. “When?”
“When I’m sleeping, eating, or performing cunnilingus.”
The laugh burst out before she could catch it, and he grinned.
“There it is,” he said. “I knew you had at least one in you.”
“Have you been trying to make me laugh?”
“Sure. People are always more willing to say yes to things when they’re in a good mood.”
“What are you trying to get me to say yes to?”
His grin was wicked. “Me.”
“Of course,” she said, more than tempted to say yes to dinner and cunnilingus. A tongue that got as much exercise as his did was bound to have stamina. But she could see her family ahead, her mother’s blonde head next to her father’s blond head, her other blond relatives nearby, and the anxiety that had been surprisingly absent since he’d said, “No, I’m Fox,” in the stairwell was creeping in again.
It was remarkably difficult to say, “I’m afraid I’ll have to pass.”
“You sure? Satisfaction guaranteed. I’ll even wear a gag if you want.”
She managed to choke back another laugh. “Intriguing, but yeah. I’m here with my family.”
“Ah. Well, if you change your mind, I’ll be around. It was nice to meet you, Sister Theresa.”
“And who knows? Maybe our paths will cross again.”
They were only a few feet away from her family now. She shook her head. “I doubt it.”
“Never say never,” he said with a wink, just as a tall figure with bright red hair broke free from the crowd.
“Darling, there you are!” Aunt Franny, resplendent in a flowing orange caftan with purple flowers and gold trim, came flying toward them. She wore chandelier earrings that brushed her shoulders, blue eyeshadow, and her bright red hair—cut in the same Dorothy Hammel hairstyle she’d been wearing for as long as Clio could remember—was topped with a tiara that sparkled in the late afternoon sun.
“Aunt Franny,” she began, then stood stock still, her mouth open in shock, as Franny’s outstretched arms wrapped Fox in an enthusiastic hug.
“Hi, Mom,” he said and winked at her over Franny’s silk-covered shoulder.
About the Author
Hannah has been reading romance novels since she was young enough to have to hide them from her mother. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband—former Special Forces and an OR nurse who writes sci-fi fantasy and acts as In-House Expert on matters pertaining to weapons, tactics, the military, medical conditions and How Dudes Think—and their daughter, who takes after her father.
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