He's not a playboy. Not a bad boy. Not an alpha.
Admittedly, Aiden McAllister didn't always keep his nose clean, and there are those that might describe him as... well, as any of the above. Most regrettably, he's always been bridled with a bullseye on his forehead that decries him as marriage material, so he ran far and fast to avoid such a suffocating trap.
Natalie is clearly hiding something, and Aiden suspects she is more than the introverted photographer she claims to be.
One fantastic night, and Natalie's former boss connects them as partners in crime. To keep him safe, Natalie has to revisit the past she's been desperate to keep hidden.
(Yes, you can read this as a standalone, but why stop at just one?)
Get lost in love and adventure with the latest installment in the Beachside series.
Linking his hand with hers, Aiden said, “A midnight stroll on the beach? What could be more romantic?” He kissed the back of her hand and flashed her a wink, hoping to bring that light inside her back.
Better yet, she giggled with a beyond-tired slap-happy enthusiasm. “You’re such a dork,” she bumped his arm with her shoulder.
They crawled over a rocky jetty, across a grassy field, then back to another long stretch of sand. The only sounds of the night were the waves receding then crashing, the wind rustling through the long grass.
Any other night, any other reason for being here, he’d have considered the walk to the isolated cabin exactly the romantic getaway he’d teased Nat about. “My parents used to make us play this game,” he said. “Well, that’s what they called it, to try to convince us it was fun. On the way home from every trip, we’d have to tell our favorite part. No smartass responses like, ‘being stuck in the car all day,’ or ‘when Dad got us lost,’ but something that we wouldn’t forget. What’s yours so far?”
Leaning into him, she giggled again, then she looked up him with that you’re nuts look he had figured out actually meant, I adore you. Well, he liked to think so anyway.
Glaring at the three microscopic blank lines, Aiden grimaced. Resigned, he raised his hand and caught the professor’s attention. “It says to provide an explanation on the attached blank page if you need more room, but there is no attached page.” Oh boy. Off to a great start.
“Mr. McAllister, right?”
“That’s right.” And now he would permanently be known as the guy who had a record. A few of his fellow law students looked his way and snickered, already done with their perfectly above-board background checks. Across the room, Ev, his ex-girlfriend, and only friend in the program, rolled her eyes and winked.
Clearing her throat, his professor sauntered toward him with a reem of white paper. “And how many pages do you require?”
“Just one, thank you professor.”
“Remember last year at the beach party? You accidentally relaxed and had fun?”
Heat licked through her as she let herself remember. “How could I forget? I turned to find my shoes, and somehow bumped into your lips instead.”
“Hey, I was just bringing you your shoes. And you jumped me.”
“I wouldn’t say jumped.”
“You only took your tongue out of my mouth long enough to invite me back to your place.”
Like shoving his fingers in a light socket, he was electrified.
Glancing down in genuine surprise, he lost all train of thought at the view. Distressed jeans with more holes than denim, her toned, tanned leg held against his for a whisper of a moment, enough to singe his skin, the heat radiating through his veins and setting his heart into an erratic rhythm… only to pull away.
“Sorry,” he apologized, his voice no more than a whisper, as the ability to speak had flown away with his brain.
“No worries,” she muttered, her eyes not veering from her book. Clearly, she was underwhelmed by the connection that had rocked the f**k out of him.
“You promised me the quiet life,” Ev scowled at him before turning her eyes back to the blank blue wall.
“It will be. I currently work seventy-plus hour weeks. Divide that in half, and we both will be so bored we might just remember what hobbies feel like.”
She crossed her arms and sat on the edge of her desk. “I used to knit.”
“I used to date.”
“That’s not a hobby. Besides, I have a hard time believing you don’t date anymore.”
Against his will, the corner of his mouth tugged up in amusement. “Okay, so I’ve never really had a hobby. But I’ve been thinking about developing one.”
“How about tomorrow night? We could do something fun without those two yokels.” He nodded towards his brother and friend before flashing her a panty-melting grin.
Oh boy. “Sorry, but I don’t do… Well, I don’t indulge on seconds with guys like you.” What had her life become? She hadn’t been on a real date in… ever? And Aiden was about as safe as they came; he was less motivated to stick around than she was.
Snapping her laptop closed, she focused on packing up her stuff. Stop justifying things. You’re just horny.
Aiden winced, biting his cheek and looking away. He almost looked like he was suffering from hurt feelings. As if.
Sliding back out of the booth, he turned abruptly, stilling her hand as she zipped up her backpack. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean anything by it. Whatever you may think of guys like me, or me in general, I’m not the kind of guy to bark up an uninterested tree.”
“I’m not sure that metaphor made sense.”