Authors: Catelyn Cash
Tags: #Contemporary; Menage
BENEATH A HOT TEQUILA SUN
Beneath a Hot Tequila Sun
Copyright © March 2015 by Catelyn Cash
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Editor: Larke Butler
Cover Artist: Syneca Featherstone
Published in the United States of America
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This e-book is a work of fiction. While reference might be made to actual historical events or existing locations, the names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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To Julie. And your way too vivid imagination.
Kayla McPherson, the only passenger on the narrow wooden boat, clung tightly to her seat as the little craft bounced over the waves. Eagerly, she scanned the riverbank for the first glimpse of her destination.
“Señorita?” The Mexican boatman attracted her attention.
Shifting her gaze to where he pointed, Kayla caught her first breathtaking glimpse of the pyramid rising through the treetops. Her tummy flipped with excitement as he steered them toward a small jetty. The second the engine shut off, the air filled with the sounds of the river and surrounding jungle, and eager to be on her way, she stood too fast, making the slender boat wobble alarmingly.
The boatman had been reluctant to bring her to the island, and now he made a last-ditch attempt to have her reconsider. Kayla’s Spanish was stretched by
una cervesa por favor
, but it didn’t take a linguist to work out he wasn’t happy leaving the crazy Englishwoman alone on a tiny island on a river in the middle of a Mexican jungle. There were many dangers, he indicated with vast but vague gestures.
“Thank you for your concern, but I’ll be fine,” Kayla said firmly.
Clutching her overstuffed bag to her chest, she scrambled onto the jetty.
“Señorita?” The boatman pointed at his watch and raised his eyebrows.
How much time would she need? “Could you leave it as late as possible, please? Before dark?” she suggested.
With an exasperated roll of his eyes and a disparaging wave, he eased the boat back into the fast-flowing river.
Kayla watched him go. Then, with a mixture of apprehension and excitement, she turned to face the island.
The air on the river had been cool, but here on the bank, the fierce heat of the midmorning sun hit full blast. She tied her long blonde hair back and jammed her wide-brimmed hat on her head before smothering every inch of exposed skin in factor gazillion sunscreen. Her outfit—cutoff shorts, hiking boots, and a sleeveless top worn over a hot-pink bikini in case she got a chance to swim later, all covered with a long-sleeved, white cotton shirt as protection against the sun—wouldn’t win any prizes for style, but then, who was going to see her?
Even as she thought that, awareness sneaked around the edge of her consciousness, and she raised her head, warily scanning the island, the river, and the bank, unable to shake the feeling she was being watched. Crazy, right? She could see the
, already a dot in the distance. And the boatman had made it clear that no other vessel had ventured from the village today and none would. Not only was Kayla alone, but as a city girl born and bred, right now she was probably more alone than she had ever been in her entire life.
Again she swept her gaze over the landscape, her attention lingering for a moment on the top of the pyramid visible over the treetops. Nothing moved. Nothing struck her as out of place. Calming her overactive imagination, she put on her sunglasses, slung her bag over her shoulder, and began to climb the steep path, muddied by last night’s torrential rain.
Within minutes she stepped beneath the tree canopy, leaving the sun and the sounds of the river behind. Colorful birds darted and called through the trees, heralding her passage. The rain had barely penetrated here, and dry leaves rustled and crunched under foot.
She climbed for fifteen arduous minutes before once more emerging into the sunshine, her breath stolen by the serenity and beauty of the legendary Ma’ K’âaba ruins. Stone pyramids and monuments in various stages of decay or restoration lined what must have once been an elegant central plaza. Huge trees—already old when Cortés first set foot in Mexico—sprawled everywhere, vines and Spanish moss dripping lazily from the branches. At the far end of the plaza rose the imposing central pyramid Kayla had traveled halfway around the world to see.
Breathlessly, she took it all in. Her books hadn’t done the place justice, and she knew she’d been right to come, even if the trip had taken every penny of her savings. Crossing the plaza, she began yet another grueling climb up the pyramid steps, this time in full sun. It was insanely hot and disgustingly humid, but she didn’t care. She had bug spray. She had water. She had food. She had her sketch pad. And her spare sketch pad. And spare food. And spare water.
At the top, hot and breathless, sweat running from every pore and with her calf and thigh muscles aching, she turned triumphantly to look back the way she had come. Kayla McPherson was on top of the world. And as a bonus, she had the top of the world all to herself.
This high, Kayla could actually feel a faint, cooling breeze. Keen to get the benefit, she peeled off her shirt and raised her arms, her shirt billowing like a bright flag while she dried her underarms. A little uncouth maybe, but of course no one could see her—
Something moved at the edge of her vision, and she turned her head quickly. Too quickly. For a terrifying moment, she swayed off-balance at the top of the steps before she managed to stagger back, away from the sheer, tumbling drop. Then she stood still, heart pounding, catching her breath. She couldn’t afford to be careless, not up here. No one would look for her till the boatman returned this evening, but let’s face it, if she tumbled down a pyramid, there wouldn’t be much to find.
Once she had her heart rate back under control, she searched for what had disturbed her. The top of the pyramid was flat and bare, except for a single-story building set in the center. A magnificent, snarling jaguar mouth, complete with fierce eyes and jagged limestone teeth, framed the entrance. Two low stone plinths had been placed in front of and to either side of the doorway. And in the shade of the building, she saw…a man?
Her immediate reaction was disappointment, which was just plain silly, right? On a normal day there would be boatloads of visitors here, scrambling over the ruins. She had been prepared for crowds, so one man should be insignificant.
He was about twenty feet away, sitting on a white plastic chair, a blue cool box at his feet.
Actually, he wasn’t so much sitting as sprawling, his denim-clad legs stretched out in front of him, booted feet crossed at the ankles. His arms were folded over his chest, and he had an Indiana Jones-style hat pulled down over his face, revealing only a darkly stubbled jaw. He appeared to be asleep. To be honest, he looked as if he had been asleep since the pyramid had last been used as a temple.
Kayla’s surprise turned to anxiety as she tried to make out if he was breathing. She crept toward him, the scrape of her boots against the stone sounding impossibly loud in all the silence. The man didn’t move. Heart in her mouth now, she inched the last few feet, and had reached the alarming stage of looking around surreptitiously for a stick to prod him with when he uttered a soft snore. She slumped in relief. Whew. Not dead, then.
Immediately her concern turned to consternation. A moment ago she had been delighted to be alone on top of the world. Being alone on top of the world with a strange man was very different. Kayla glanced down at her sleeveless top and cutoffs. Should she put her shirt back on? Would he be relieved if she did? Insulted? Would he even care? While she dithered, her companion lifted a hand and raised his hat a fraction, just enough to peer at her with one sleepy eye.
Most of his face remained in shadow. In a nightclub, his dark stubble might have appeared carefully crafted, but here in the wilds it looked more like the result of a three-day bender. He did have a nicely shaped jaw, though, without a hint of jowl. And his long legs suggested he would be tall when he stood—though his pose of boneless relaxation suggested that didn’t happen too often. His white shirt hung open, revealing—
—a torso the likes of which she had only seen on billboards advertising expensive aftershaves. Nice tan, too.
,” she said politely, trying not to stare.
“Buenos días.” He sounded as rough as he looked, and her stomach knotted with renewed anxiety as she wondered if he was some kind of down-and-out, living in the ruins and bumming spare cash off tourists.
She could see something written on the breast pocket of his shirt and craned her neck to read it.
. Kayla had seen those initials before, and her tension dissipated a little. Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia—a government organization in charge of archaeological sites, selling tickets and making sure visitors didn’t get lost or start chipping souvenirs off the monuments. Her guide book said that most sites, however small or remote, had at least one guard. If this man was the guard for Ma’ K’âaba, it would explain the chair and the cool box. Kayla felt a jolt of sympathy for him. This might be the trip of a lifetime for her, but if he sat here, day in, day out, answering endless questions from tourists, he must be bored out of his mind.
“Quiet today,” she said in English, having exhausted her Spanish with “good morning.”
He said nothing but pushed the hat up another fraction, regarding her through one surprisingly clear, slate-gray eye.
“There was a mudslide,” she explained. Thinking for a moment, she made a skiing gesture with her hand accompanied by a whooshing noise—hopefully the international sign of the mudslide.
The one eyebrow she could see lifted a fraction, but she couldn’t tell if he understood or not.