Her marriage is over. Her newspaper career went belly up.
And it won’t be long before her two teenage sons are off to
college…and then what? Sometimes it seems like the only
thing Ginger Garrison can count on is her beloved Bichon
Frisé and the loyal women in her dog-walking group. But her
luck is about to take a wild turn. . .
A diplomatic snafu has sidelined the globe-trotting nature
photographer Lucio “Lucky” Montevez, a man known as much for
his wild personal life as his wildlife images. Now stuck in
the States and forced to shoot pet portraits for a living,
his prospects look downright tame…until Ginger enters his
world (along with her boys, her spoiled pooch, and her
egomaniacal ex-husband). Lucky’s always been a
love-her-and-leave-her kind of guy, but something about the
spirited, sensual Ginger makes him want to stick around. But
will Lucky’s playboy past end up costing him the only woman
he’s ever really loved?
Technically, Ginger Garrison wasn’t the first bridesmaid to
faint into the arms of Lucio Montevez. That had
occurred nearly twenty years earlier in Las Alpujarras, at
Lucio’s own wedding, when his young bride’s best friend
went into an apoplectic fit of jealousy. The girl managed to
call Lucio a hairy wild boar and pound her fists on his
chest before she collapsed, which added some levity to
the ill-fated event. Sadly, the last time Lucio returned to
Spain, he’d encountered the onetime bridesmaid on the
main street of his village. He said hello. She spat in the
dirt near his feet and continued walking.
Lucio propped the most recent fainting bridesmaid against
his chest, then reached up under a resplendent amount
of green chiffon fabric until he found the back of her
knees. He lifted her, pulled her close, and turned
toward the guesthouse, where he’d learned she was staying.
Lucio knew he should concentrate solely on the
placement of his feet on the stone walk, but the allure of
Senora Garrison’s exposed bosom and satiny throat were
impossible to resist. So he alternated. He looked at
his feet on the stones, then at the glorious swells and
slopes of the woman in his arms. He carefully placed
his feet on the doorstep, then appreciated the graceful
lines of her cheek. The stairs, her cute little nose.
Kicking open the door, her trim waist.
It was too much for him. The instant Lucio entered the
upstairs guestroom – even before he could place her on
the bed – he lowered his lips to the satiny warm skin below
her jaw line. He kissed her there, gently flicking his
tongue against her pulse. She would be fine, he knew. She
simply needed to loosen her dress. So Lucio placed her
on top of the coverlet, rolling her away enough for him
to reach the zipper. Slowly, he pulled it down, and with the
release of each stainless steel tooth, more of the
woman’s taut skin was revealed to his appreciative gaze.
Lucio’s breath quickened as the inches of flawless pink
revealed themselves between her shoulder blades, around
her ribs, along the straight, delicate spine, and lower,
lower, to the top of what was proving to be a perfectly
With great care – and an unexpected surge of self-discipline
– he eased her onto her back, making sure the dress
covered her bare breasts but did not hinder her breathing.
He brushed her left cheek with the back of his fingertips.
“Te fuiste, mi amor,” he whispered. “Wake up, love. You left
me for a moment. Breathe now.”
“That is good,” he said, suddenly aware of a strange sizzle
in the air, an electrical rush moving through his body.
He glanced to check if a breeze ruffled the curtains. But
there was nothing.
Then Ginger sighed, her dainty pink lips parting ever so
slightly, and Lucio felt it again, stronger this time –
a wave, a disturbance in the air, a question and its answer
tucked inside a crackle of energy. Ginger’s eyelashes
flickered. His self-control had been short lived.
“Forgive me,” Lucio said as he lowered his mouth to hers.
“But I must.”
He kissed her. Her lips yielded to his gentle pressure,
opening to him. Lucio groaned in bliss, the energy
coursing through him, the kiss building, surging, growing
hotter and hotter. . .
Until she struck him.
The thud of her palms against his chest knocked the wind
from his lungs. Lucio prevented himself from falling
off the edge of the bed, and managed a smile. “Sleeping
beauty awakes!” he said, bowing slightly.
“You freakin’ pig!”
With that pronouncement, Ginger sat up abruptly, her thick
auburn hair askew, her dress falling far south of
modesty. She choked in outrage, yanking the dress up past a
set of stupendous breasts all the way to her clavicle.
That’s when she screamed.
In the two decades he’d roamed the globe as a nature
photographer for Geographica Magazine, he’d dealt with
hysterical females of every size, shade, nationality, and
demeanor. They’d cursed him in a variety of tongues –
Mandarin, Punjabi, and Cajun French initially came to mind –
and in a variety of exotic settings. The Nepalese
highlands. Kenya’s Rift Valley. Under a canopy of
strangler fig vines over the Upper Amazon. But he couldn’t
remember any of them being as desirable as Ginger
Garrison. There was something beguiling about the woman –
quite tall but, oh, so feminine. He guessed she was in
her mid thirties, at the peak of mature beauty, with fiery
hazel eyes and delicate hands, one of which was, at
that very moment, flying toward his face, palm flat and
The guestroom door flew wide, and Lucio immediately
recognized the cavalry as the other two bridesmaids in
the wedding party, an older, mannish woman named Beatrice
Latimer, and a little dark-haired cutie named Roxanne
Bloom. Though he would have preferred it the other way
around, Roxanne was in a bulky bathrobe and Bea was in
a camisole and panties.
“What the fuck?” Bea said, balling her fists at her sides.
“Allow me to introduce myself.” Lucio rose from the bed and
headed toward the neutral center of the room. “I am
Lucio Montevez, but those who know me well call me Lucky.”
The women did not seem impressed. “Your friend fainted
on the walkway outside, and I brought her here to recover.”
“We don’t care if you’re the Pope!” Roxanne’s eyes flew
wide. “We heard Ginger scream and we’re calling the
Lucio tried not to laugh. “There is no need, I assure you.”
“Really?” Bea took a step toward him, and by the looks of
the woman’s defined quadriceps, she meant business.
“Because it sure looks like you just assaulted her.” Bea
pointed at Ginger. “Her dress is open. She looks
unraveled. That scream was the real deal. Your luck has just
run out, dude.”
“Wait.” It was Ginger. She fumbled with the dress,
clutching it to her chest as she reached around her
back to find the open zipper. Then she blinked, quickly
shook her head, and touched her lips. Her eyes shot
toward him. “I couldn’t breathe. I saw you step out from
behind the roses, then everything went black.” Ginger’s
jaw slackened. Her hand fell to her side. And she stared at
him in shock.
Ginger’s friend had been right – the woman was unraveled.
Lucio certainly hadn’t meant to unnerve her to this
degree. It was only a kiss.
“You said you were waiting for me,” Ginger whispered, horror
in her eyes.
“Then you said something in Spanish. What was it?”
“I merely explained that you’d stolen my heart.”
Ginger’s eyes went wider still. “You kissed me.”
“I had hoped to revive you,” Lucio said, smiling. “I am
happy to see it worked.”
“Ever heard of a cold cloth on the forehead?” Roxanne asked.
Lucio laughed. “This has been a rare pleasure, ladies.
Please let me know if you should need further assistance.”
He headed toward the door, looking back long enough to see
the loathing in Bea’s sneer and the distrust in
Roxanne’s narrowed eyes. Ginger, however, was once again
touching a pair of lips that had drifted into a dreamy
With a nod, Lucio headed down the steps and outside, a smile
of his own spreading across his face. Without a doubt,
loosening the dress of the hazel-eyed, auburn haired Ginger
Garrison had been the most pleasant surprise of the
last three months, and Lucio decided he’d allow himself a
moment to savor it. After all, he deserved a brush with
beauty in the midst of all the ugliness that had
suddenly become his life.
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