Sex On The Beach Book Club
Jennifer Lyon Books (March 20, 2017)
A Sexy Romance…
Holly Hillbay is a love-burned private investigator who relishes chasing down cheating scumbags. Hot on the trail of another two-timing spouse, Holly goes into stealth mode to find out if the owner of Books on the Beach, Wes Brockman, is slipping between the covers with her client’s adulterous wife. Joining the book club, she soon realizes that Wes isn’t her philandering Casanova, nor is he a mild-mannered book store owner. He’s way too dark, hunky and mysterious, pinging Holly’s interest… and lust. Holly’s heart is on ice, but her body is all for a little beach romance as long as it doesn’t interfere with the job. That works great until Wes becomes her job, her lover and maybe her destruction.
An Incriminating Murder…
Wes’s bookstore is a new chapter in his life, and he’s closed the book on his old one. When Holly shows up in his club breathing snarky attitude and raw sexiness he can’t keep his hands off her. The woman ignites more than his lust, she makes him feel alive—which is saying something since he’s been technically dead for years. It’s not until a book club member is murdered in his store that Wes learns Holly’s an uncover P.I. But now he needs her more than ever and hires her to find the killer… and because he can’t bear to let her go. Wes is falling hard for the sexy sleuth while guarding his dangerous secret that could get people he loves—including Holly—killed.
The Lethal Consequences…
Secrets and betrayals explode, and Holly discovers that falling in love with a bookstore owner can be devastating…and deadly.
Note: This title is a reissue of a 2007 release.
Read an Excerpt
Holly Hillbay was the best damned private investigator in Goleta, California, but you couldn’t tell it from the week she was having. Losing her bread-and-butter client, whom she did routine new-hire background checks for, was bad enough. But she knew Brad the Cad, her ex-fiancé, had something to do with that, which made her furious.
She channeled her frustration into her new case—going undercover in a book club. That was what brought her to the Books on the Beach bookstore on a Tuesday evening. Pausing outside the door, she inhaled a breath of the damp, salty air from the nearby ocean. The preppy, probably over-educated bookstore owner Wes Brockman, and the very married Tanya Shaker, were about to have their sordid little affair exposed like a celebrity biography.
That thought cheered her up and she went inside. The ringing bell over the door still echoed as she quickly scanned the bookstore. The first thing she saw was an inviting sitting area done in white wicker with ocean blue cushions. That was bookended by a checkout counter with a coffee and beverage station next to it on her right, and a wall-sized bookcase featuring new releases directly across from the door. Beyond the sitting area were rows of dark bookcases. The whole atmosphere exuded sophisticated comfort where readers could leisurely browse until they selected the books they wanted to buy.
A deep voice from behind her asked, “Can I help you?”
Holly turned around and felt a slap of lust that could have been right out of a romance novel. Since she wasn’t a big romance reader, she was going to have to blame it on the man—he was hot. Sun-streaked brown hair and vivid green eyes set in a face that had a little George Clooney going on. His mouth was full and oozed sensual promises. His jaw wore just enough of a shadow to make her want to run her hand along his cheek to feel the texture.
Oh yeah, he could help her end her long dry spell in the bedroom. She blinked and reminded her deprived hormones that she was on the job. Damn it. “Hi, I’m Holly. I’m here for the book club.” She hoped her week had taken a turn for the better, and this guy turned out to be anyone but Wes Brockman.
He smiled, crinkling the skin around his green eyes. “I’m Wes. Book club is just getting started.” He held a hand up toward a door that opened on the left side of the store.
It figured. She revised her opinion of the bookstore owner: Sexy as hell, preppy and probably over-educated. Oh, and he screwed married women, probably because he could. Her hormone levels banked down to a mere sizzle. Managing to look past her lust, she saw his expensive clothes mixed with the self-confidence that came with money and success. Holly immediately pegged the bookstore as his hobby and not the career that made him rich and sophisticated.
Tearing her gaze from him, she turned and headed toward the room he indicated. It was about the size of the master bedroom in her condo, and had four long tables set in a rectangle shape. She estimated about eighteen people gathered around it. Thermoses of coffee and plates of cookies were set out on the tables. A brief look around showed her a door that led to a small bathroom and another door that was closed— probably a storage area or office. There were poster-sized book covers on the walls, adding color and energy to the room.
She scanned the more than a dozen women and three men, and spotted Tanya Shaker. She looked just like the picture Holly had of her, shoulder-length blond hair, lots of makeup, and an industrial-strength bra that pushed her breasts up to her chin in her low-cut black T-shirt. She sat with a lifeguard-handsome man on her right and an empty chair on her left.
“Holly, take a seat anywhere,” Wes’s hand brushed her arm then was gone.
A warm shiver rolled down her spine, catching her off guard. Must be a full moon or something. Clearly her libido had not gotten the message that Wes was a player. She didn’t date rich men who indiscriminately screwed women. In fact, she didn’t date much at all these days. Men were a troublesome distraction from her career.
Pulling her thoughts back to the job, she walked over to Tanya and slid into the seat next to her. “Hi, I’m Holly. Have you belonged to the book club long?” In Holly’s experience, women talked more than men—usually because they mixed up sex and love.
Tanya did the girl-to-girl scan and said, “About a month.”
Holly got to work. “I just heard about the book club. Thought I’d give it a try. Only three men, huh?” There was Wes Brockman at the end of the tables on her right. A guy sitting next to him who was a little older, darker, wearing blue- tinted glasses that didn’t mask the deep suspicion in his dark eyes. Then there was the man on the other side of Tanya, who leaned forward and looked at Holly.
“I’m Cullen. Would you like to use my book?” He pushed the book toward her. “I’m sure Tanya will let me share with her.”
Holly took the book and glanced at the title. “Wicked” Women Whodunit.
Tanya grinned at her. “It’s good. I read it and I’m not much of a reader.”
Holly swallowed the urge to ask what the hell she was doing at a book club if she didn’t read. But she knew why Tanya was there. What really surprised her was how careful Tanya was being. Women usually gave it away long before the men did. Especially the player types like Wes Brockman. They were used to woman after woman moving through their beds and seldom gave them a thought outside of the sheets. “Yeah, I read it. Love those women who go after what they want.” She had actually read the book.
Tanya turned to look the other way. “Me, too.”
Holly presumed Tanya was looking down the table at Wes. A secret lover’s look?
“Holly,” Wes said from his end of the table. “Did I hear you say you read this book?”
She felt it again—that zing as his gaze met hers. What kind of crap was that? It was like a drippy movie moment and she refused to acknowledge it. She focused on her answer instead. “Yes, I did. I guess I’m surprised that your book club picked a book like this.”
He arched his eyebrows. “Like what?”
She knew a challenge when she heard one. This was more comfortable territory for her. “This blatantly sexy. The heroines in this book get caught up in a mystery and are aggressive about solving it. And they aren’t shy about sleeping with the man they choose.”
Cullen, sitting on the other side of Tanya, said, “My kind of woman.”
Wes cut his gaze from Holly to him. “Why is that, Cullen?”
Cullen flashed a boyish grin. “I don’t see why men should always have to chase women. I don’t mind being chased. Or caught.”
Laughter rolled down both sides of the table.
Except, Holly noticed, for the three women who sat across from her. They looked at one another, all three of them wearing tight-lipped expressions. She could almost feel their collective reaction to Cullen. What was that about? What had Cullen done to annoy or embarrass those three?
One of the women spoke up. “The stories in this anthology are not just about sex. They’re about a relationship developing when a man and woman are thrown together in mysterious circumstances.”
“Very well stated, Nora,” Wes said.
Holly studied Nora, seeing a woman who had home-dyed brown hair, brown eyes, and a gentle manner. Maybe she’d been a romantic when she was younger and still believed just a little bit.
The woman next to Nora said, “The men just want sex.”
“That’s a little harsh, Maggie,” Wes answered.
Maggie wore a tailored suit and constantly checked her cell phone. She glared at Cullen before she dropped her gaze back to her phone.
All kinds of undercurrents were going on in this book club, the kind that usually had to do with sex. Was this a book club or a sex club? The women all seemed pretty easygoing with Wes. It was Cullen who was causing reactions.
And guess who was sitting next to Cullen? Had Holly’s client, Tanya’s husband Phil, been wrong about who Tanya was doing the sheet tango with?
Just as an awkward silence was ready to engulf the room, Wes tossed out another question. “Does murder break down social expectations and up the stakes so that the characters are more likely to come together sexually?”
The man was smooth. Holly snorted and looked up at Wes.
He cocked an eyebrow. “Did you say something. Holly?”
What did she care? She was here to do a job and once it was done, she would never see these people again. So she told the truth. “That’s crap. It’s lust, pure and simple. Lust has been around for centuries. Women feel lust, too.”
“Oh yeah,” Tanya whispered in a low sexy voice, and leaned, boobs first, into Cullen on the other side of her.
Oh yeah, Holly thought, Phil suspected the wrong man of sleeping with his wife.
Wes recaptured her attention when he asked, “What about love? Traditionally, women have searched for love.”
She couldn’t look away from him. Everyone had turned to watch her, but she couldn’t care enough to break the connection between her and Wes. There was something deep and mysterious about him, and it called to all Holly’s instincts to solve the puzzle. What brought a man like Wes to owning a bookstore in a beach town? His question tugged at her old wounds, but she lifted her chin and told him her truth, a truth she learned the hard way. “I prefer lust over love. Lust is simple and straightforward.”
* * * * *
Wes had no idea how he’d gotten through the remainder of the book club. Holly’s lust over love comment had burrowed into his brain and taken up residence in his sex drive. There was something incredibly sexy about the newest member of his book club.
Watching Holly as she got up from the table, he thought she looked a little like the character Lilly Rush, from the Cold Case TV show. She had her hair tucked up in that same casual-messy style, though it was a darker blonde. Since he’d had the pleasure of walking up behind her, he got an eye full of her long lean figure and her mouthwatering ass. But when she’d turned around, it had been her blue eyes that captured his attention. Gray-blue, the color was hard to define—a bit of clear blue sky mixed with the churning waters of a stormy ocean.
Oh yeah, she’d caught his interest. She’d made him feel something when he hadn’t felt anything in a hell of a long time.
So yeah, she was sexy, he was interested—but he was also wary, more from habit than anything. Holly seemed to have more interest in the people of the club than the book. He hadn’t seen her in the bookstore before and no one else in the room seemed to recognize her. So how had she found out about the book club? Or had being in hiding for three years just made him paranoid?
Gazing around the room, he saw that Helene Essex had cornered Cullen, while Tanya looked daggers at them. That torrid situation was going to explode soon; he just hoped it didn’t happen in his bookstore. He didn’t need the attention and headaches it would bring.
Cullen was the kind of man Wes despised. He used and discarded women, notching his belt as he went along. Wes had nothing against honest sex for the sake of sex alone. Over the last few years, it had been the only sex he had. But he never lied to the women about his feelings or let them believe he was interested in a long term relationship. Tearing his gaze from Cullen, he looked for the woman who was occupying his thoughts.
He spotted Holly holding a copy of “Wicked” Women Whodunit and talking to a couple of women, then she broke away. He intercepted her. “Hey,” he said, watching as she turned to him, settling her smoke-blue gaze on him. His gut clenched with a thread of desire. He really liked her eyes, and the way she looked right at him. But he didn’t know if that was real or a phony sincerity. Wes had spent years ferreting out exactly what people’s intentions were. Surely he could handle one young woman. He pulled out his most charming smile. “So how did you find out about our book club?”
“Word of mouth.” She grinned. “But this isn’t what I expected from a book club.”
“No?” Leaving his answer open-ended to see how she’d reply, he noted her vague answer and change of subject. His interest kept ramping up, but the instincts that kept him at the top of his game in his old job told him that Holly was interested in more than just his book club. She was almost too alert, and she didn’t volunteer anything about herself.
She shook her head. “I expected Oprah books.”
“Ah. The realistic, and predominately tragic, endings. I’ve had enough of those in my life, how about you?” He didn’t let his thoughts stray to the tragic endings, or the deadly mistakes he’d made. He lived with the guilt, but he didn’t wallow in it.
Her eyes hardened. “Who doesn’t?”
She wasn’t going to spill her guts in the first minute. Damn, she was a challenge. He decided to try a little flirting. “So you don’t like books with tragic endings. But you do like sexy anthologies.”
She leaned her hips back against the table. “Fast-paced and sexy are more my style. You?”
Hell, yeah. Looking at her, with her breasts pushing against that tank top, and her intense gaze, he was completely and one hundred percent into fast-paced and sexy. If flirting, companionship, and maybe sex was what she wanted, he was on board and ready. “Fast-paced and sexy work for me. Are you free tonight to get a drink or coffee?”
Her blue eyes shaded to nearly gray. “I would think someone like you would have plans.”
Wes narrowed his gaze. What was her game? Her remark had come out more like an accusation. “Nope. No plans once I close up the store.” He left the ball in her court.
She smiled, but her gaze roamed around the room then down to her watch. “Can I have a rain check? I have to run. Thank you for an interesting evening.”
Ice water chased out the heat in his gut as suspicion climbed up over his sex drive. She was up to something. “You’re in a hurry?”
She started moving away. “Afraid so.”
Wes followed her to the front of the store to see what she had been watching. As she opened the door and left, he caught sight of Tanya and Cullen walking ahead of her.
What was Holly doing? It appeared to him she was following Cullen and Tanya. Why? Could she be one of Cullen’s castoffs? But Cullen hadn’t acted as if he knew her. Wes was so intent on watching her walk away, he nearly jumped at the voice behind him.
“Check her out before you get in her pants.”
Wes turned to his best friend. These days, George played the retired businessman. He fudged the facts on the business he retired from and other minor details—like his name, rank, and social security number. But then, who was he to complain? George was the one who helped Wes obtain his new name and social security number. “She look dangerous to you?”
“Hell, yes. That woman instantly drained the blood from your head to your dick. That’s the kind of shit that can get you killed.”
Wes laughed. “I must be getting old if I’m that obvious.” He sobered up. “But that woman is up to something. She seemed surprised at what book the club is reading, so why did she want to be in our book club?”
George looked over his glasses at Wes. “Want me to find out?”
Oh no, this one was all his. Wes was going to get to the bottom of sexy Holly. “No, I want you to stay here and watch the store. I’m going to go see just what Ms. Lust Over Love is up to.”
Since Wes knew where Cullen and Tanya were going, if Holly really was following them, it shouldn’t be hard to catch up to her.
* * * * *
Holly stood on the docks a mile from the bookstore and watched as the boat motored away, carrying Tanya and Cullen under the full moon. No two ways about it, she was screwed. She had done her preliminary research on Tanya Shaker and Wes Brockman.
But she had the wrong guy. Judging by the hand-holding, giggling, and Cullen’s hand on Tanya’s ass, Tanya was having an extramarital affair with Cullen, not Wes. Her client had been so sure his wife was cheating with the bookstore owner, Wes. “Shit,” she muttered to herself.
Holly jumped as she watched Wes walk out from the shadows between two stores on the other side of the dock. Had he been spying on her? What the hell? She glared at him. “What are you doing here? And why are you sneaking up on me?”
He leaned against the wood rail. “Following you, which requires a certain stealth.”
She studied Brockman. The evening was cool, the moon was full, and there was a spill of lights from surrounding businesses now that he had emerged from the shadows. He looked dangerous, sexy, and very Bond-like in his expensive clothes and casual demeanor. As if following a woman he just met was perfectly acceptable for a man who owned a bookstore. Not in Holly’s world. Who was this guy? “What are you, some kind of stalker?”
His eyes crinkled, but he didn’t quite smile. His full lips did a slight, sarcastic curve. “Call me curious. Why did you follow Cullen and Tanya?”
Seriously, what did he care? She tried to control her annoyance enough to fix a sincere smile on her face. “I wanted to return his book.” She raised her hand to show him the book Cullen had loaned her, then had forgotten in his hurry to get Tanya out to sea and naked.
Wes dropped his gaze to the book then looked back to her face. He pushed off the rail and took a long step toward her. “Give the book to me. I’ll return it to him.”
Inhaling, she caught his scent, something very woodsy mixed with male heat. Sensual. A little quiver danced in her stomach. She blinked and made herself focus. Her target wasn’t Brockman, it was Cullen, who had just sailed off for an evening of moonlit sex. Experience taught her that the illicit lovers wouldn’t be back for a couple of hours. In the meantime, Wes knew Cullen so she could get the information she needed from him. “I’d really like to thank Cullen myself. What’s his last name? I’ll look him up.”
He leaned down and said in a low tone, “And how do I know you’re not a stalker with murder on her mind?”
Oh boy, she was getting a bad case of poor judgment. Wes was a little mysterious and a little dark, two qualities that made her very curious. Why would he follow her to the docks? Because she turned down his invitation for drinks? Or another reason? And damn it, did he have to be so powerfully male? Sexy? He had that deep, passionate quality in a man that made a woman think that when she was naked with him, he’d be solely focused on her. Maybe her hormones needed a dip in the ocean. To Wes, she answered, “Why would I be stalking Cullen? I just want to return his book.”
Wes moved close enough to touch her, to make her feel like he might touch her. But he didn’t. “Guess you’ll have to find another way.” He turned and walked away.
Holly stood there, a little stunned. Was that payback for her turning him down in the bookstore? Shaking it off, she put Wes out of her mind. She could find out Cullen’s last name on her own. She went around to a couple of the businesses, and stopped people on the docks, asking questions. But she drew a big fat zero in her quest for information on Cullen.
After twenty minutes. Holly knew she was wasting her time. She needed Cullen’s last name to start doing research on him, and for her reports. Her client needed pictures and detailed reports—including Cullen’s last name—to prove Tanya was cheating on him. Phil needed those to invoke a clause in the prenuptial agreement that would significantly reduce the amount of money Tanya would get.
She was sure that Wes knew Cullen’s last name. All she had to do was convince him to tell her. Holly hurried through the cool night and reached the bookstore just in time to see Wes come outside, turn around, and lock the door.
Slowing her pace, she walked up. “Hi.” Damn, he was still sexy in that overbearing male way.
He pulled his key out of the lock, then turned his gaze on her. “Change your mind?” He glanced down at the book in her hand. “Want me to return Cullen’s book?” He added a grin that should be labeled as dangerous.
Holly leaned against the side of the bookstore and shrugged. “I have time to kill. Thought I’d see if you still wanted to get a drink. Unless”—she opened her eyes wide—“you really are afraid that I’m a stalker with murder on my mind.”
A small smile tugged at his mouth as he shoved his keys into his pants pocket. “If not murder, then what—sex?”
Oh yeah. Wait, no! God, she was weak tonight. Maybe it was her bad week. She decided to change tactics. “I asked you out for a drink, Brockman. All you have to say is that you aren’t interested.” She started to walk away.
“Does that work?” he called after her.
She’d only gone a couple feet when she pivoted. “What?”
“The offensive. Does it work?”
A grin tugged at her mouth. “Most of the time. But then, I don’t usually have to beg men for their company.”
He directed his gaze in a slow examination down her body, clad in a burgundy tank top and form-fitting jeans, then back to her face. His green eyes darkened. “Tell me more about this begging.”
Down, girl. What was it about him? She shot back, “For that, you’d have to buy the drinks.”
He stepped closer, throttling his voice down to a dangerous rumble. “Sex on the Beach?”
She swore the ocean roared in her head. Her hormones surged up into huge waves of longing washing over her. “You’re offering me sex on the beach?”
His grin widened, crinkling his gorgeous eyes. “The drink. What did you think I meant?”
Her thighs tightened in response. Get a grip, Hillbay—it’s just a reaction to a handsome man and a long dry spell of no sex. Holly was all for sex, but on her terms. She always kept her emotions in check. She was the cool one—the one that walked away when the relationship had played out. It was time to take back the power. “That information will cost you more than the price of a drink.”
He didn’t hesitate. “Name your price.”
“Steak.” She was hungry. And food might keep her from thinking about sex.
“Done. You can follow me in your car.”
She was practically dizzy from the pace he set. Or maybe that was pent-up lust breaking free. “Follow you where?”
“My house on the beach. I’ll make the drinks and we’ll grill some steaks out on my deck and watch the waves. Or maybe listen to the waves, since it’s dark out.” His grin suggested more than wave-watching.
She thought about that, but in the end, Wes had what she wanted. Information on Cullen.
She lifted her chin. “I’ll follow you. I can spare an hour or so.”
He nodded like it was no more than he expected.
Annoyed, she said, “I’m not sleeping with you.”
He moved up to her until she felt the brush of his breath. “No?”
A tremor in her belly spread wet heat. Keep control of the situation. “I don’t go to bed on the first date.”
He reached down and picked up her free hand in his larger one. “Kiss on the first date?”
She should put a stop to this, but the feel of his hand wrapped around hers was warm and sensual. She opened her mouth to tell him they weren’t dating, but ended up saying, “If I like the man.”
He ran his thumb over her palm. “You like me. Make out?”
Regaining her wits, she jerked her hand away. “Ain’t gonna happen, book boy.”
His face blanked at the nickname, then a grin spread out over his face. “Why don’t we go to my house and take these rules of yours for a test drive?”
Playing with fire. Wes was not the man she expected when she’d walked into his bookstore. She had a strange compulsion to peel back the layers and find out just who this man was.
Could she do that and keep her clothes on? Or maybe do it naked, but keep her emotions in check?
One way to find out. “Lead on, book boy.”