My Boss’s Secret by Taryn Quinn
“You know what you need, Bunny?”
Ignoring my grandmother and her so-called helpful advice, I tugged at the bodice of my perfectly cute halter dress. At least it had been before we went on vacation. Now the flared sixties’ style looked blah. Boring. I’d gone for sedate blue instead of island appropriate. But I didn’t do tropical flowers. Or plunging necklines. Or anything too revealing—
“You need a good, hard bounce.”
“I have a decent mattress,” I said distantly, reaching behind myself to temporarily tighten the bust area.
I wasn’t one to be showy, especially when it came to my overly large breasts, but I’d gone a size too big. With my runner’s body, it wasn’t logical to have breasts one pint of Ben and Jerry’s away from tipping into Ds.
Still, baggy fabric didn’t help hide anything, just made me look saggier than I was. Maybe I needed a new bra. I’d gotten the one I was wearing on sale forever ago.
“April Anne Finley, look at me.” My petite grandmother stepped in front of me and leaned up to grab my shoulders. She was almost a foot shorter than me. “You’re on vacation. Do you know what people do on vacation?”
I frowned down into her sparkling denim blue eyes. “Party like a rockstar?”
Something I had no clue how to do. I even had trouble partying like an office assistant, who one day might be a paralegal if I finally signed up for that program.
She laughed. “You could do that too, but I meant have a fling.”
“Don’t look so shocked,” she chided, patting my cheek the same way she’d done when I was ten and baffled by some boy kicking my chair at school. “You don’t have to sign on the dotted line to have some fun, baby girl. You desperately need more fun in your life.”
“But I’m on vacation with you, aren’t I?”
“Under duress, and don’t tell me you wouldn’t have been relieved if that codger boss of yours had pulled rank and said you couldn’t go.”
“Codger?” I had to snort. “Preston may be uptight sometimes, but he’s 34. Far from a codger.”
And I’d also been told by Colleen in computer support on the floor below us that he was hot, which I supposed I could see objectively. If I closed one eye and squinted and tried to forget he signed my checks with a flourish every week.
“In any case, you know you didn’t really want to be forced to have fun on this trip.”
“Well, no one mentioned anything about fun.” My grandmother laughed and the sound made me grin despite myself.
Other than my two best friends in the universe, Ryan and Luna, no one made me smile more than my grandmother. When I’d been knee high to a grasshopper, as she used to call me, she’d been the only person capable of drawing me out of my crusty shell.
I’d learned far too early that people couldn’t be trusted, and letting down your guard brought heartbreak. Until she’d brought pure sunshine into my life.
I’d been trying to repay her ever since.
“Okay, okay. Fine. I’m game for some fun. What do you have in mind?” I waggled a finger in her face. “No bouncing.”
“Maybe not for you, but I have a date.”
“A date?” I tried not to sound let down.
It wasn’t as if I’d needed Grams to accompany me every minute. Our vacation was half over already, and we separated every afternoon after lunch to explore and to enjoy the hotel’s amenities.
But if I had to have unplanned fun, surely she wasn’t going to abandon me in my time of need?
Note to self: if Preston is a codger, so are you, toots.
“Yes. Surely you remember what those are like? If not, we have to remedy that.”
“Never mind me. What about this date of yours?”
“He’s tall, dark, and dreamy.” With a wink, she skirted around the needlessly enormous bed in my room to retrieve her big white bag from the nightstand. She took out a compact and dusted her nose. “His name is Pedro.” Her nose wrinkled as she dusted her chin. “Or was it Pablo?”
Only my grandmother. Or maybe Luna. Right now, Grams was exhibiting some post-heartbreak, decidedly Luna-ish free-flowing sexual energy.
And…ick. I mean, good for her, but for my mental picture reel? Definitely ick.
What did it say about me that my sixty-nine-year-old grandmother could get some on vacation when I hadn’t even rated a second look from any of the many hot men we’d seen on the island?
Unleash the Kraken in your bra, and you won’t have to wait long.
My inner voice was a brazen hussy. She was also horny as hell.
I wasn’t keeping track, but it had been a long time since I’d been anything remotely close to naked with a man. Any day now, I expected dust to fly out of my hoo-ha. The esthetician who’d given me my Brazilian wax before vacation—thanks, Luna, for inviting me to such torment—had been the only one to see my lady garden since all my flowers had been replaced with dandelions.
“Is Pedro or Pablo a responsible man?”
Even before my grandmother coughed out a laugh, I winced. Yeah, it was not my place to be asking such questions. It would probably be more enjoyable for my grandmother if he wasn’t.
“You’re sure he’s not a serial killer? On Asher Wainwright’s podcast, he profiled a murderer who preyed on vulnerable seniors on vacation who—”
“Since you’ve been abstinent since the dawn of time and don’t like ‘unplanned fun’, I will allow you to get away with lumping me in with vulnerable seniors. But just once.” She jabbed a finger in the air in my direction. “Try it again and I’ll salt your granny panties.”
I giggled, and the sound was as foreign to me as it was to Grams from her startled expression.
“You need to laugh more, Bunny. It’s such a lovely sound.”
“You do, but not enough.” Her voice was gentle as she dumped her compact back in her bag and slung it over her shoulder. “Go have something exotic for dinner. And when you come back, I’ll have a surprise here for you.”
“You know I don’t like surprises.”
“Exactly why you need more of them.” Hurrying over to me, she arched up to kiss both of my cheeks then headed for the door. “Don’t take it all too seriously. Just remember: any guy you meet here, you’ll never see again. So, feel free to be anyone you want.”
“But I’m me.”
“Sure. But you can try a new you on for size. Just for fun. No pressure.” She grinned and shut the door behind her.
Her words echoed in the silence of my spacious room as I cast another disparaging look at my reflection in the mirror.
Regardless of this whole fun thing, I definitely needed to ditch this dress.
I went down to dinner at the hotel’s dining room, one of our favorites spots to eat. I decided to try the lovo, a traditional Fijian meal typically for special occasions. Hot coals were placed in a pit in the ground to cook the meats and fish, which were bundled in banana leaves. The process took a few hours, so I enjoyed people watching and listening to the local guitar group.
Although some neurotic part of me worried about food safety, everything was delicious. And at the end, one of the men who’d helped to prepare my meal placed a plumeria in my tightly bound braid, and I found myself touching it over and over as I meandered back to my room.
He was a kindly older gentleman, but imagine if he wasn’t? If he was my lover, and he’d put a flower in my hair…
Dammit, Grams, stop giving me ideas.
I wasn’t used to thinking fancifully, and I didn’t like it one bit.
Nor did I like stopping at the end of my bed to find a backless, short, siren-red dress waiting for me.
Backless. Siren red. A neckline that dipped way low in front.
Way, way low.
I held it against me in front of the mirror then stepped out of my halter dress to swap it for this one. Technically, this was a halter too, but it was much different.
I couldn’t wear a bra. And when the silky, snug fabric wrapped over my curves and my nipples beaded, I didn’t want to.
The vision in the mirror could not be me.
I undid my braid and shook out the wild waves over my shoulders. The dress swished against my thighs, and tiny crystals glittered along the sides of the neckline, drawing the eye down my body.
The woman in the mirror wasn’t too curvy up top and too angular in other spots. Everything just seemed to fit together perfectly, as if this dress had been made with my body in mind. All I needed was shimmering shoes to complete the transition into Cinderella.
I spun around a few times to feel the airy material float around my thighs. Grinning, I hurriedly sent my Grams a note.
Thank you! It’s so perfect. You knew just what I wanted, deep down. You always do.
Immediately, a text zinged back at me. It was just a bunch of laughing emojis. The next one, at least, was actual words.
Safety first! I figured rainbow was best. You know, so you can go with the mood.
That was my Grams, always speaking in complete sentences in messages. I was no better. But that wasn’t my main concern right now.
What do you mean rainbow? It’s red. Solid red.
She sent back more laughing emojis interspersed with a few devils.
Oh, is that the vibe for tonight? Hmm, I didn’t think of one of those. I assume those are a personal choice in any case. Have fun, Bunny! Gotta go. Don’t stay out too late.
Then a minute later…
Actually, yes, stay out very, very late. Like tomorrow.
Many hearts followed.
I glanced at my bed. A bright flash of color beneath my pillow caught my eye. I rushed over to pick up the item, which turned out to be a strip of condoms.
A very long, very colorful strip of prophylactics.
I dropped the strip as if it had singed my hand and pressed my palms to my burning cheeks. Oh my God, Grams had bought me condoms.
A lot of them.
A laugh spilled out of me, and I doubled over for a full minute until I got ahold of myself. Then I gazed down at my already beloved dress and smoothed my hands down my hips. Maybe she was just messing with me.
She had to be, right? Where else could this have come from?
I hadn’t made any friends on the island. Not yet. Probably not ever, because I tended to stick to corners and shadows, always observing. Always wishing I could be brave and flirty like my two best friends until I reminded myself that hey, at least I was comfortable. Maybe I wasn’t taking big chances, but I wasn’t risking too much either.
My life was safe. Predictable. Boring.
Though it wasn’t as if Ryan or Lu had found their forever guys yet either. Not that they were looking. I’d been the one everyone figured was born to settle down, and I almost had—until I’d made a mistake and lost everything. I hadn’t even come close.
But that didn’t explain where this dress had come from.
Maybe it had been delivered to the wrong room. My heart sank. God, would I have to give it back? That was the right thing to do. I was honorable. Always.
I sucked in a deep breath and forced myself to go to the room phone on the nightstand. I called down to the desk and asked the question I profoundly did not want to.
“Was something sent by mistake to my room?”
A pause. “Mistake? No, ma’am. The gentleman was very insistent.”
“What gentleman?” I gripped my throat and stared at the door I’d closed and locked behind me as always. “What was his name?”
“He didn’t give his name. But he said it was to be delivered to the lovely blond in 42. That is you, is it not?” He seemed to hesitate. “April Finley?”
“Yes, but there must be some mix-up. I don’t know any man. There’s no one.” For an illogical reason, tears prickled behind my eyes.
He started to reply but a swift knock on the door startled me. Quickly, I thanked him and hung up.
I rushed to the door and then stopped with my hand on the knob.
What if I was being stalked by a serial killer with exceptionally excellent taste and a healthy bottom line?
What if I was the vulnerable one being preyed on now?
Another knock sounded. “I know you’re in there. Open up.”
I clutched my throat again. He’d been watching me. Following me. Buying me sexy dresses.
Maybe he wanted to debauch me. It wouldn’t be hard. Missionary sex seemed like the ultimate indulgence right now.
Forget sampling my watermelon sugar.
The door had a peephole, so I used it. And gasped. Loudly.
Of course I had to meet a serial killer who was stunningly handsome. Even if his head was distorted by the optical glass in the peephole.
His rough chuckle went well with his bedroom voice. I hadn’t known that was a thing until just now. “I saw you go in. Now I hear you. Do I pass inspection?”
I shut my eyes and dropped my forehead to the door. “Who are you, mystery dress man?”
“Names don’t matter. I just want to see you in that dress.” Somehow his voice dipped even lower. “Did you try it on yet?”
This conversation was bizarre. He was obviously a stalker and potentially dangerous to boot.
Did I say any of that? No, of course not. Instead, I asked something totally not relevant.
“How did you know my size?”
“So, it fit.” The pleasure in his tone did something entirely not right to my dormant nerve endings. Specifically, the ones below my waist.
I cleared my throat. “It fit.”
“You’re about the same size as my baby sister, so I guessed. She’s tall and lean like you. At least, most of you is.”
My face heated again. He’d checked me out then. Even in my too-big halter dress. But he’d bought an extremely revealing dress for me, so he had to have paid attention to my…dimensions.
Dear God, what was I supposed to do now?
“Just let me in, okay? I promise I’m not dangerous.”
He had a baby sister that he spoke of with fondness. Surely that indicated he wasn’t psychopathic. “Isn’t that what every dangerous man has said since the beginning of time?”
“I’m persistent, but I’m not a threat. I’m a man of the law, in fact.”
My eyebrows reached for my hairline. “Complete with your dime store badge?”
“Not that kind.” He laughed again. “I saw you two days ago. You were browsing in one of the shops, and you tried on this frumpy big hat.”
I recalled it immediately. “It was not frumpy. I thought it was chic.”
“Whatever. But you kept hemming and hawing, touching everything, buying nothing. So tactile. I wondered if all textures fascinated you, or just the ones you adorn your body with.”
I was pretty sure that was sketchy sex talk. My nether regions offered a weak pulse of confirmation. “Watching people who are unaware is dubious behavior.”
“If I’d approached you, you would have run. I saw you do it several times when men glanced your way.”
“No one looked at me.” I hated that my chin trembled. “No one ever does.”
“Oh, beauty, you’re so wrong.”
Going on instinct, I opened the door. And nearly gasped again.
He was gorgeous. Tall and tanned with tousled golden-brown hair pushed back by his sunglasses and expressive eyes of indeterminate color. They might’ve even been green.
He was dressed casually in typical island wear—white linen pants, floral Hawaiian-style shirt opened just enough to show a smattering of dark chest hair, and sandals. The relaxed attire somehow showed off his broad shoulders and muscular chest even more.
“You’re stunning.” His voice was gravelly sex as he stepped forward to touch one of my loosened curls.
And I let him. I didn’t move. Didn’t say one damn thing.
I never took risks. But I was risking this, because I couldn’t remember when I’d ever needed anything this much.
Then his gaze dropped to my hand and the long strip of brightly colored condoms I still clutched.
The corner of his sinful mouth tipped upward. “If you’re game, so am I.”