“You swim in the Gulf much? Or are you on the East Coast?”

“I’m on the west, and no. I enjoy the beauty but I don’t get in it much.”

“Where in Florida do you live?”

I wavered here, not sure what I should say. I wanted to leave that girl behind. Rosemary Beach was small but it was elite. Everyone knew that wealthy and famous people lived there. He’d wonder. He’d ask questions. I’d reverted to Lila Kate Carter in moments. I didn’t want to be her again.

I sighed. It sounded like I was keeping it from Eli because I didn’t trust him. I was out here alone with him. That was trust right there. “It’s not that. It’s . . . I don’t want to be her anymore. I want to be different. I want to be someone new.”

He stopped as we came to a dark and secluded spot on the beach with nothing but the waves crashing to the right of us and tall sea grass to the left. Houses and condos had tapered off. He turned to me, and his hands took my waist. I would be lying if I said I didn’t hold my breath. When his mouth met mine, I inhaled sharply. His lips were firm, yet they were tender. He knew exactly how to use them too. Our tongues danced as his hands moved down over my bottom then up under my top until both of his palms were cupping my breasts.

My breathing was already erratic when his thumbs brushed my nipples. However, when he lifted my shirt to remove it, I hesitated. I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know him. Could I do this? I lifted my eyes and looked up at his perfectly chiseled face. I decided this was the right time. A real adventure. And he was exactly who I wanted to experience it with.

I allowed Eli to remove my shirt. He stared a moment and let my shirt drop from his hand, then took my bra off and dropped it on top of my shirt. His expression was appreciative. I forgot to breathe again when Eli’s head descended slowly to my chest, his mouth covered my nipple, and he began to suck. I held onto his head because my knees felt weak. He seemed to know exactly what I needed. He stopped to pull off his shirt. He laid it out on the sand then did the same with his jeans. I watched with fascination as his lean muscular body was now on display for me. Once he finished making a makeshift bed, he lowered his tall frame to rest on his clothes, and pulled me down on top of him.

I straddled him, my skirt hiking up my thighs and nothing separating us but his boxers and my panties. His hands threaded through my hair, and he held my head looking into my eyes. “You’re fucking perfect, Lila. That seems impossible.”

“I am so far from perfect.”

He smiled and then his eyes went dark making me shiver. His eyes dropped to my bare chest. “I want to taste you.”

I wanted to kiss him too. “Okay,” I agreed.

In one swift movement, he rolled me underneath him and I could feel his rumpled clothes and sand beneath me. I was startled, but when my knees were put over his shoulders I realized what he had meant and my stomach flipped. I’d never done this. No guy had ever been that up close and personal with me. Nervous didn’t even begin to describe it.

Then his tongue slid over the inside of my thigh and I froze. I don’t know if it was anticipation or fear for what was to come next. Those lips that knew how to move against mine began working the same magic between my legs. With every swipe of his tongue and carefully placed kiss I cried out, trembled, and began to beg. This was the most erotic, exciting moment of my life. I never wanted it to end. Ever.

WATER. I HADN’T drunk enough fucking water. I lie in bed with my head pounding afraid to open my eyes. This was going to be one hell of a hangover. I never drank like I did last night, and this was why. I hated feeling like shit.

Wait . . . that smell. I inhaled again. The scent was still there. Holy shit. I remembered that smell. Almond and cinnamon and maybe vanilla. It sounded like a sugar cookie but that wasn’t what I was smelling. It was her.

I opened my eyes and looked around my bed. No. Just me. I was clothed. But Lila’s smell. I held my arm up to my nose and sniffed. Yes. That was her. But how? From dancing? We’d ate the potato skins I would have to run off today. Then we danced. Then . . . hell if I knew. I couldn’t remember shit.

Had I left her there? Just walked out? I didn’t even know her last name. But then the perfect cookie smelling girl in my drunken memories was probably much less perfect than I had thought. I’d been drunk after all. When had any man made a wise decision drunk? Never.

My phone rang, and I covered it with my other pillow to drown out the annoying sound. Moaning, I sat up and stretched. Water and Tylenol. I needed both now. Even if the idea of standing sounded like hell.

The lights in the apartment were off which meant I hadn’t been too drunk to remember to turn shit off. I just didn’t remember coming back here at all. It was possible Larissa brought me home. That would explain how my truck keys were on the kitchen bar and I was waking up alive.

I took a glass out of the cabinet and filled it with tap water then popped open the bottle of Tylenol rarely used in my drawer. Once both were consumed, I toasted some bread and grabbed an apple then went to sit in the living room with more water. I wanted coffee, but I wasn’t going to touch that after the harm I’d done to my body last night.

Leaning back on the sofa I let out another miserable groan. Why had I let myself get so damn drunk? It wasn’t like I had a lot to be upset over. My job was stable. I was healthy. I had friends. My best friend was engaged, and that sucked, but I was getting used to it. But damned if I hadn’t needed an escape last night.

The toast was all I could stomach. I finished both pieces and left the apple on the table beside me. I couldn’t eat any more. That would have to suffice for now. Once I felt like a human, I would go for a run. Then get brave enough to call Larissa and ask what I did last night.

Other than the fact I had gotten a little drunk. Or a lot drunk. Not me at all. But for the time it had felt nice. I’d enjoyed Lila. I was on a no women streak, but I only flirted and danced with her. Nothing more. Besides she was on her way to find an adventure. I remembered that. It made me smile. That girl and her adventure sounded very Alice in Wonderland-like.

I would have to ask Larissa if she’d been that stunningly perfect or if it had been my drunken state. Just so I could remember her correctly. Then maybe it was best I kept my memories untouched by reality. I hadn’t woken up in bed with her or married. That was a success.

I heard the muffled sound of my phone ringing again. Someone was persistent this morning. Yawning then wincing from the pain in my head, I got up from my comfortable spot and went to get my phone from under the pillow.

Only one side of my bed was messed up. Another positive thing. Or was it? Her smell was still on me, and the way she’d felt in my arms when we danced—it might not have been a bad thing if I’d woken up with her curled up beside me.

I paused and let my imagination take over for a moment. I could see her brown hair and pretty eyes smiling at me. That sweet smell that I could fucking soak in. Eventually, she’d speak and start talking about our wedding and our children and how she would need space in my closet and a panty drawer in my dresser. Stop. Run. That was the reason I was swearing off women for a while. They all wanted to handcuff you and take you to the alter. Not that I didn’t want to get married one day. I did. But not right now. And not until I was hit by a woman that I couldn’t live without.