T is for Temptation - Excerpt

Posted by Jianne Carlo | 1:20 PM | 8 comments »

Today, I am sharing the beginning of T is for Temptation with everyone. This is book one in my Witchy Women series set in the Caribbean. Each book features a different island, and T begins in Trinidad at the 'Down the Islands' vacation home, which belongs to my family, Eight Bells. I spent many a summer month at this beloved house, swiminng with the dolphins, surfboarding, sneaking a couple of the parents' ciggies. I'm currently running a contest for a 4 day stay at Eight Bells for a lucky couple. Drop by my web site and enter...you never know..

www.jiannecarlo.com

Here's the excerpt:

T is for Temptation

Tallulah Trent. Tee.
Island siren.
Tortuous temptation.
Recent widow of his bat-slime, criminal partner Tony Trent.
How the hell did he break the news to her?
Even as the sight of Tee deep-sixed his senses, Jake Mathews noted the three parked police cars blocking the cul-de-sac, their blue lights flashing, and the knot of angry uniformed men cordoning Trent and Mathews’ Trinidadian office. A sweeping survey yielded a television camera unit and a reporter wearing an earpiece.
He groaned.
Every muscle bunched, and dormant nerves sizzled, sending a shooting lance to the base of his skull.
Why were the police here?
He had two goals on this spur of the moment trip from his corporate headquarters; close down the local office, and seduce Tee. Already in trouble with the IRS in Florida, he didn’t need any added pressure in Trinidad, and a huddle of six uniformed cops could only mean one thing, trouble.
Imminent scandal loomed, not to mention financial catastrophe, if the pending charges against his firm had become public knowledge. Between Tee’s father’s political aspirations and the conservative, stodgy petroleum industry his business relied upon, media exposure had to be avoided at all costs.
“What the hell’s going on here?”
Jake elbowed the policeman who gesticulated at Tallulah out of the way. He planted his solid form in front of her.
“And who be you?”
The man’s pugnacious, hostile tone took Jake aback, especially when his thick lips bared large rabbit teeth with their gold caps glinting a blinding reflection of the tropical sun.
If anything, Jake’s protective stance ratcheted the cop’s animosity, and the officer’s wrestler-built form angled forward, the veins in his corded neck bulging. He shook a tight, meaty fist at Tee.
“Don’t you go anywhere, Mrs. Trent.” Contemptuous malice laced the detective’s low rumble.
That did it.
Jake’s mouth curled into an automatic belligerent sneer, a reflexive action honed from an adolescence mired in defending the younger boys in his care. At thirty-four, his daily workout alternated between weightlifting, boxing, and martial arts. His obvious fighting expertise, plus the fact he topped the cop by a good six inches, made the man scowl and lean back.
He shifted right so his body blocked Tee from the line of uniformed men that materialized behind the figure he confronted.
“I’m Jake Mathews,” he said, keeping his voice even, but telegraphing promised damage should any one of the policemen decide to become aggressive.
Jake waved a hand at the house to their right, once a family residence, but now converted to a business office because of the Trinidadian oil boom and the lack of space in its capital, Port of Spain.
“This building belongs to my company. Mrs. Trent’s husband was my partner. He died four months ago. What’s the problem?”
“Oh yeah? You were Trent’s partner?” The policeman’s drawled question held derision and a gruesome anticipatory delight. He slapped his hands on ample hips. “You’re American. You can’t own property here.”
The tropical early morning sun warmed Jake’s back, and he cursed the business formality, remnants of British colonial rule, which insisted on a jacket and tie in a country ten degrees above the equator. He twisted around and shot Tee a glance, anxious to protect and shield her from the obnoxious authority figures.
As usual, the sight of Tallulah Trent heated his blood and prickled awareness across every inch of flesh, setting his randy organ into action. He swallowed and drank her in.
Seven years younger, Tee radiated a contradictory, intriguing combination of aristocratic confidence and ingénue, comfortable in diplomatic circles and with royalty, yet retaining a little-girl-lost kind of innocence. She wore a creamy halter dress in a gauzy material.
A warm wind circled the cul-de-sac, and the fabric caressed her athletic body, shaping her slim curves, and her nipples stiffened, straining delicious points against the thin textile. Long, tawny ringlets teased at her bare gold-dusted shoulders framing arms muscled from her Equestrian training. Tee’s mere presence always drew his organ to half-mast, and now his blasted wayward member saluted to military attention, aching with want, need.
His dazed mind didn’t allow the peculiar circumstances to sink in until his gaze reluctantly left Tee and swung back to the immediate problem. He noticed the revolvers strapped to the sides of the gray-clothed men crowding her from behind.
They moved forward in unison, wide-legged stances inches away from contact with Tee’s rear end. The contentious posturing drove Jake’s every chivalrous instinct to the forefront. Fury sent him into a long-legged step when one of the men grabbed Tee by the elbow and yelled an obscenity, the man’s snarling features inches away from her profiled nose.
He snagged the man’s hand, clamping a fist around flabby flesh, and squeezed. “Touch her again, and you’re a dead man. Step back.”
“You can’t do that, Yankee. This is our country.”
Even though the man shouted the words, he retreated, wrenching his forearm out of Jake’s purposeful, painful grip. He rubbed the injured area and glared, careful to maintain a wide berth.
The Trinidadian police force had a notorious reputation for avid participation in both drug running activities and local kidnappings for ransom. Once in their custody, it could be difficult to effect release.
“And you’re supposed to uphold the law, not abuse innocent women.” Jake’s growled, menacing tone gave the officers pause. He read it in their wary repositioning several steps away from Tee. Satisfied he held any threat at bay, he snatched her hand and swung around, careful to shield her with his bulk. “I didn’t say I owned the building. My business leases it.”
He faced the original offender, raking a quick assessment. The man suffered from a Napoleon complex; that much seemed clear. Short, stocky, and pig-snout ugly, his complexion darkened to an odd purple hue.
“Mrs. Trent is Mr. Henry Inglefield’s only child. I’d tread warily if I were you.”
“Yeah? We found cocaine on the premises, and that means I can take her into custody if I feel like it.” The man, an inspector by the insignias decorating his drab uniform, jabbed a finger at his own chest.
“Try it,” Jake said. “I’ll have the American ambassador here before you can blink.” He added, “And I have direct access to the prime minister.”
A blatant lie, but a knockout punch nonetheless as none of them could question his statement. Since the Trinidadian prime minister was the equivalent of the leader of the United States, and Tee’s father rumored to be the next president of the small republic, the men backed down, defeated by Jake’s combination of innuendo and vehemence.
“Jake,” Tee pleaded, and she tugged the sleeve of his jacket. “It’s all right. I called Dad’s lawyer. He told me to leave right away and go about my normal activities.”
He glanced at her, and the concern in her light brown eyes held him entranced for a brief moment. “I’ll handle this, Tee.”
She tiptoed, cupped a hand over his ear, and whispered, “Please, don’t antagonize the policemen. They terrorized the staff, and I only just got them to promise not to take anyone into custody.”
Her warm breath streamed over his earlobe, and he had to tamp down the automatic tightening in his nether regions. They sallied back and forth, her whispering, him growling, until he surrendered to Tee’s entreaties and led her out of range of the still-quarreling police squad.
“What’s going on? What’s this about cocaine?”
Tee’s eyelids squeezed shut, and the strong line of her jaw moved. She sighed, and the rise and fall of those firm breasts mesmerized him for spellbound seconds.
“I’m sorry, Jake.”
To his surprise, she covered his hand with both of hers and met his gaze, but he couldn’t read her expression.
“I’m sorry partnering with him has done nothing but cause you problems.”
The bitter emphasis on the word him only served to reinforce Jake’s growing conviction Tee knew of Tony’s infidelities and she held no grief over his death.
On the plane ride to Florida after his visit last week, the fact she never referred to Tony by his name or with anything but revulsion had hit Jake like a hurricane. That plus their first kiss, his first taste of her sweetness, had convinced him he stood a chance, could persuade her into an affair. Hope had transformed his hunger into pulsating, fervid desire, and he couldn’t resist the temptation to return and test the waters.
Her waters and her deep, hot glove.
The thought of being inside Tee consumed him, compelled every action.
His breath hitched, and he thought of his mad scramble to cancel days of business meetings simply to have more time with her, two more days. It’d been four eternal months since Tony’s death; surely he’d waited long enough.
“And now they’ve confiscated his SUV, and Tricia’s going to be angry with me.”
Always bemused and beguiled in her presence, her words only added to his confusion. “What? Why on earth did they do that?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never had a policeman treat me so, so . . .” Her voice trailed off, and she crinkled her nose. “With so little respect.”
Unsaid words filled in the rest of her meaning. As the daughter of the possible president of Trinidad and Tobago, the authorities treated Tallulah Trent with kid gloves.
“I called Dad, but he’s up to his ears in meetings, and I couldn’t speak with him. It’s Bastille Day, and Henry and Tricia are having a dinner party for the French ambassador and twenty of their intimate friends. You know how my parents are.”
Tee rolled her cat-gold eyes.
“Tricia sent me down the islands to fetch her hibiscus crystals for the occasion. On the way there, I got a phone call about the robbery, and now they’ve taken the jeep, and I’m stuck.”
“Okay, Tee. Slow down a bit.”
He realized jangling nerves had her babbling.
“The office was burglarized?”
“Yes. That’s why the police are here. When the staff came in this morning, they found the offices torn apart. They called me and then the police and tried to figure out what was taken. The computers were stolen, of course, as were all the printers and the fax machine.”
Three puzzled lines drew her tawny brows together.
“The police chucked the staff out and taped off the area. They won’t let anyone in, so how on earth are we supposed to know what’s missing?”
She threw her hands up in the air and rolled her eyes again.
“Why did they confiscate Tony’s car?”
As time ticked by, the sun rose higher in the sky, and the growing intensity of its rays prompted him to shrug off his jacket and loosen his tie. The low murmur of cruising automobiles on the busy main street fronting the quiet cul-de-sac ebbed and flowed.
“The officer said it was because they found cocaine on the premises, which is preposterous. I mean, cocaine of all things. Tony was a—”
She bit her lower lip and studied the asphalt road with a fierce concentration, and her flesh pinkened.
Everywhere.
Tonight, he promised himself, tonight.
Soaring hope and a building sexual fever drove his thoughts. Tony was a what? Did she know how despicable her husband had been? The disgust in her tone didn’t portray a woman grieving. No, it pointed to a betrayed wife.
“Those cops are coming our way.” He cupped her elbow and urged her in the opposite direction. “I have my rental car with me. Let’s get out of here. I’d prefer to speak with my lawyers first if the cops are going to interrogate us. And I definitely don’t want them taking you into custody.”
She glanced around his shoulder at the line of uniformed men bearing their way.
“Dad’s lawyer did say I should leave immediately, and I have to get those damned crystal holders. You’re right. We should go.”
Within the space of a couple of minutes, Jake edged the car onto the roadway, but the snarling, perpetual Port of Spain traffic made their getaway more of a creeping escape. In the rearview mirror, he kept an eye on the cops, and the tension in his neck seeped away when they made no attempt at following them.
During the course of doing business in the Caribbean over the last few months, he’d heard endless horror tales of illegal detentions and powerless embassies. He had enough trouble with Tony’s embezzlement charges in Florida, the last thing he wanted to contend with– was drug charges in Trinidad. He added another possible crime to his dead partner’s slate, drug trafficking, and wondered anew at his own gullibility.
“Jake?”
He swept a glance at her, and the sweet entreaty in those liquid pools of honey arrested his mind and put another impudent organ in charge. Steady, settle down, he urged his prick.
“Tee?” he replied, his brain searching for a secluded, intimate location they could be together, maybe have lunch.
“Would you mind taking me for the hibiscus crystal holders? The police said it would be two days at the earliest before they’d let anyone in the office, so you won’t be able to work anyway.”
Her telltale nervous habit of touching the tip of her delicate pink tongue to the left corner of her mouth distracted him, and memories of their kiss kept all logical thought hostage. He’d have agreed to anything at that moment.
“Sure.”
His delerious member thanked her with jerks and twitches, and Jake shifted in the car seat, adjusting.
“Which way are we headed?”
“To the yacht club. It’s at the western tip of the island. You know how to get to the Foreshore Highway. Just head in that direction, and we’ll end up there.”
Flicking on the left indicator to follow her directions, he said, “Now, explain to me what we’re retrieving and why.”
“It’s my mother. When Tricia entertains, everything has to be perfect. It’s her damned finishing school training.”
“I seem to remember her saying you followed in her footsteps?”
Jake grinned at her rueful expression, so entranced by the curve of her cheek and the long, tanned legs displayed by her short dress, that a wash of unrestrained sentimentality tempered by a powerful lust, threatened his normal discipline. He ordered his prick to behave, hang for an hour or two, and kept his eyes fixed on the road.
“Tricia would boast about that. Well, she went because she wanted to. I went because it was the only way she’d agree to let me go to equestrian college in Vermont.”
He loved the endearing way she crinkled her nose, and he relaxed, content to listen to the sound of Tee’s melodious voice, with that clipped little British edge, and enjoy her company.
“I don’t suppose you know this, and I’m certain it’ll bore you to Hades, but hibiscus flowers close at night. The only way to make them stay open is to pick them early in the morning while they’re in full bloom. Then you put them into a sealed bag in the fridge until after dusk. The crystal containers Tricia wants have a bulb at the tip for water. Just before her guests arrive, she’ll set the flowers into the chilled hibiscus holders and scatter them on her formal dining table. Most foreigners don’t know this technique, and it’s my mother’s best kept secret for impressive entertaining. She likes to hear her audience ooh and aah.”
Their worlds stood more than hemispheres, even polar poles, apart, and her resigned explanation emphasized the yawning gap between them. Jake, the product of an upstate New York orphanage run by retired Catholic priests, and Tee, the daughter of aristocratic British parents whose lineage traced to William the Conqueror.
“I see,” he said, unimpressed. “I’ve heard some of the men at the Union Club talk about down the islands. What does the term mean? Trinidad is, after all, an island. Does it refer to the sister isle, Tobago?”
They passed the impressive national sports stadium; it put any regular US sports arena to shame. Trinidad, referred to as the Hong Kong of the Caribbean, invested its surplus oil revenues in structures designed to impress the rest of the world, and its national team had made it to the World Cup soccer finals, a feat both envied and celebrated by the rest of the islands making up the archipelago.
The inside of the vehicle cooled, and Jake stabbed a button to set the current temperature. Inside a cool seventy degrees, the outside digital readout glowed ninety-two.
“Not at all. Trinidad was once part of South America, actually part of Venezuela. Most experts think a plate shift caused it to break off from the continent. When that happened several small islands formed between the two countries, and that’s what we call Down the Islands,” she said, her fingers forming quotation marks around the phrase. “Um, some families have homes on the islands. Vacation homes.”
A rosy hue warmed her skin, and she averted her eyes. Jake interpreted her silence to mean members of the old-moneyed upper class of Trinidad and Tobago owned these vacation homes. No plebes in this neighborhood.
“It’s actually wonderful. I spent most of my childhood either on a boat or a horse. Being down the islands is like having your own tropical paradise. Dad and I used to go down every Saturday and fish, either trolling for deepwater big catch or banking for smaller snapper. Fishing is so relaxing.”
Total shock had his foot tapping on the brake, and the car jerked in response. The last activity he ever imagined Tee enjoying and participating in was fishing. It didn’t go with his image of her, a vulnerable feminine puzzle, always dressed to perfection, managing to captivate and charm in a delicate way.
“You fish?”
“Yep,” she said, and genuine pleasure at his shock glistened from those wonderful eyes with their golden shimmer.
His fingers tightened around the steering wheel, and he strained to contain the delight the sheer sight of her impishness wrought.
“I much prefer deep water, though. I like a good fight.”
He couldn’t prevent the words. “I know you’re an expert equestrian, but fishing?”
“I can clean, gut, and scale a fish faster than anyone I know.”
His eyes flew to her, and the picture her words painted surprised a chortle out of him.
“Shocked you there, didn’t I?”
A little devil lit her face, and she scrunched her nose.

8 comments

  1. Arkansas Cyndi // February 5, 2009 at 1:51 PM  

    fun excerpt! Love the setting

  2. Cyrano // February 5, 2009 at 5:41 PM  

    Thanks for the post. I enjoyed the excerpt. You have a great sense of setting and I loved your characterization!
    Have a wonderful evening,
    Tamara

  3. Mary Marvella // February 5, 2009 at 5:42 PM  

    Felt like I was there with your characters. Fine job!

  4. Mary Ricksen // February 5, 2009 at 6:06 PM  

    Jianne writes books that put me where the characters are. Imagery is such a big thing for me. Especially when I want to escape.
    And these characters come alive for me. I can see them. So I can believe in them.

  5. Joanne // February 6, 2009 at 8:42 AM  

    Wow--what a great setting. And love those characters. They really come alive for me.

  6. Jianne Carlo // February 6, 2009 at 11:08 AM  

    Thanks for all your kind comments and watch out for my contest with the rum truffles, which starts today.

    JC

  7. Scarlet Pumpernickel // February 6, 2009 at 4:36 PM  

    Boy! what an exciting excerpt! Makes you feel like a part of the story. Great job. I wanna go to Eight Bells!

    Scarlet

  8. Judy // February 7, 2009 at 5:53 PM  

    I love the idea that you're writing about an area that has meant so much to you. Yummy description