Read Sensual Stranger Online

Authors: Tina Donahue

Sensual Stranger (7 page)

Where in the fuck did she hail from? Where would she go? As
she’d glanced around the bedroom, he’d seen the expression on her face,
yearning so intense it stunned him to silence. It was as though she’d never
slept in such a nice place, decorated as it was for visitors to a
bed-and-breakfast that hadn’t opened. Not with Meg gone.

Upstairs, the water shut off. The pipes banged in momentary

Zach lowered his head, a part of him relieved that Toni
would only be here for a month, a part of him already considering how empty the
house and his garage would be without her.

A stab of guilt sliced through him, followed by wrenching

He was losing his mind.

With a prolonged sigh, he ordered himself to shake off his
feelings, to get through this night and the next and the next. Finishing his
beer, he pushed away from the fridge to prepare their meal.


At the bottom of the stairs, Toni stopped, not knowing where
to find Zach. She snuck a peek at the formal dining room, appreciating its
quaint beauty, before going down a narrow hall to the surprisingly large
kitchen equipped with new copper-colored appliances and wooden cabinets the
color of honey.

It was also empty.

Toni put her hand on the stove even though she figured he
hadn’t turned it on. The room was too cool. She spotted the microwave on the
rust-colored countertop. Had Zach used it to prepare their meal because he
couldn’t cook any better than she could?

Head turned to the other side of the room, she suddenly
recalled him saying something about grilling steaks. Outside?

Resting her hip against the back door, Toni eased the lacy
curtain from the window and saw the pool, brick barbecue…Zach. Reckless need
rolled through her, driving away everything else. She seized the opportunity to
look at him as much as she wanted, the same as this morning before she’d
approached his garage.

Lips tilting up in a pleased smile, she stroked the door’s
glass as her gaze travelled his length, his wonderfully tight ass, muscular
thighs, his biceps flexing slightly as he shook out charcoal from a large bag.
Dark dust puffed from the top as he set it back on the flagstones. A slight
breeze lifted the hair dangling over his forehead.

Such a beautiful man. So damn virile he stole Toni’s breath.

In a moment of weakness, she allowed herself to imagine what
her future could have been like if Joe hadn’t come into her life. How he’d
changed everything, leading her to work on the circuit, the only thing she
knew, rather than coming home to a man like Zach every night. She pictured them
laughing or bitching about their respective work, showering together, washing
off the day’s grime. Lovingly, she’d tend to every inch of his flesh. On her
knees, she’d wash his balls and cock, pressing her face into his thick, dark
pubic hair, licking the beads of moisture from it and his rigid shaft. After—in
bed—they’d enjoy each other’s wet, naked bodies, feasting on them, restoring
comfort and peace before their meal.

Some days they might forget to eat, too exhausted from
working hard and loving even harder to bother.

Toni’s smile blossomed into a wistful grin even as her eyes
clouded with foolish tears.

As luck would have it, Zach looked over, catching her
staring at him.

His gaze sapped Toni of strength and the will to resist
another moment of separation. Blinking quickly to clear her eyes, she joined
him on the patio. With the lowering sun, the heated air had transformed from
unbearable to temptingly soft. Long shadows flowed from the vegetation on the
surrounding hills. A startling quiet surrounded them, noise from vehicles,
people, civilization gone.

Toni heard the rush of blood in her ears, the fierce
pounding of her heart. Doing her best to sound casual, another act she’d
perfected, she glanced at the grill, then Zach. “Smells good.”

He took in her hot pink tank top and white cutoffs, the best
clothes she had outside of her leather pants and jacket. His expression grew
preoccupied, the same as his voice. “I haven’t cooked anything yet…I just lit
the grill.”

Nodding, she followed the line of his sinewy arm to the long
serving fork he held. Eyes dipping down, she looked at his fly, the thick bulge
behind it. “Are you divorced?” Her gaze lifted to his.

Instantly, she caught caution or irritation, perhaps a bit
of both, crossing his face. He glanced past her at the cedar picnic table.
Sirloins, ears of corn and foil-wrapped potatoes rested on a tray. “I’m not
married, if that’s what you’re asking. How about you?”

She continued to study the food, chiding herself for asking
him anything personal. “Never been close.”

“So, Lucky’s not an ex-husband? He’s just an ex-boyfriend
you’ve been running from?”

Toni’s first reaction was to dodge his questions. One always
led to too many, which she wouldn’t be willing to answer. And yet, something
inside urged her to respond truthfully, to share a bit of her history with him,
as though they did live here together, as if she weren’t a barely invited

“I’d never run from Lucky or Belle.”

Curiosity shone in Zach’s eyes. “Belle?”

“My people. My family,” Toni added with a gentle shrug.

“Your mom and dad?” he asked, obviously confused.

“Here.” She slipped her fingers beneath her tank top and
into her bra cup.

* * * * *

Zach stared, uncertain as to what she was doing.

Before he could think to ask, she pulled out a small
rectangle of laminated paper, the size of a drivers’ license, and offered it to

The fragrance of her freshly washed hair—lavender like her
cologne—and her clean, soapy skin surrounded and embraced him.

Locking his knees to keep steady, ignoring the pain it
caused his leg, he took the item from her. Her body heat had warmed the
plastic. Zach fought an insane urge to press it to his nose to see if it also
bore her scent. Gaze lowered, he saw it was a picture of a man and woman, arms
draped around each other’s waists. Zach guessed them to be in their early

The man—surely Lucky—had long brown hair streaked with gray
that he wore in braids, ala Willie Nelson. Belle’s auburn hair hung over her
right shoulder, the ends reaching her waist. Her lingering beauty told Zach she
must have been a knockout when she was young. With a muscular build and a broad
smile, Lucky was still a handsome man.

Both of them wore turquoise-and-silver Indian jewelry. They
stood in front of a group of motorcycles. Behind them, the storefront sign read
Starr’s Shop.

Zach’s gaze jumped from the picture to Toni and back again.
Not seeing any resemblance between her and them despite the same last name,
which was apparently real, he asked once more, “Your parents?”

“My family.” Toni reached for the photo. “I adopted them.”

With that strange answer, he looked at her. “You mean they
adopted you?”

Not answering, as he kept failing to answer her personal
questions, Toni took the picture from him.

Zach wondered what kind of loneliness would cause a woman to
carry a photo close to her heart of two people who weren’t even related to her.
“Where are they? Where do they live?”

Toni slipped the picture back into her bra, adjusting the
edge of her tank top. “Arkansas.”

He’d expected her to say Texas. On her job app, she’d listed
a town he’d never heard of and general delivery as her home address. “If
they’re in Arkansas with their own shop, what are you doing in Arizona looking
for work?”

Backing away, Toni went to the edge of the pool, regarding
the gently lapping water. “Mind if I put my feet in it?”

“Of course not. Go ahead.”

She kicked off her flip-flops and sank to her ass, dangling
her legs in the water. With her hands on either side of her body, bracing her
torso, she lifted her chin toward the sky, letting her head loll on her
shoulders. “Nice.”

The purr of her throaty voice drove away Zach’s next
questions. Desire licked his groin, scattering his thoughts, until a rush of
air brought the scent of smoking charcoal to him. Remembering their meal, he
placed the already baked potatoes on the grill to heat them up. Reaching for
the corn, he studied Toni’s narrow back, her blue-black hair. Still damp from
her shower, it clung to her pale neck.

“It’s new,” she said.

Not following, Zach shook his head. “What’s new?”

“Belle and Lucky’s shop.” She spoke on a sigh, her voice
relaxed, throaty, sensuous. “They can barely pay themselves, much less me.” She
lifted her right leg out of the water.

Zach stared at the droplets sparkling on her narrow foot and
slender toes. His quick hard-on became painful at the sight of her polished
toenails and that tiny silver ring. He imagined taking it off, really stripping
her bare, having her pale, naked flesh beneath his.

“When I can,” she said.

Realizing she’d been speaking and he hadn’t heard a bit of
it, Zach asked, “What? I didn’t catch that.”

Toni lowered her leg into the water and lifted her other
foot, wiggling her toes. “I send them money when I can.” She inhaled deeply,
releasing her words on a new sigh. “I can really help out when I return to the
circuit in a month from now.”

Although it shouldn’t have, her words aggravated Zach. A
wave of possessiveness gripped him…stunning and ruthless.

Shoving his emotions aside, he told himself he was being

She should be on her way in a month. Hell, she shouldn’t be
here at all. Giving her a job and a place to stay had been a huge mistake. She
wasn’t his to care about. They’d never be anything more to each other than what
they were at this moment—employee and boss, polite acquaintances, lasting

No way would he allow anything else.

Chapter Five


Naked, Toni shoved the bed’s top sheet to the footboard and
spread her legs, running her fingertips over her cleft.

Pleasure gurgled in her throat.

She had no idea the exact time, but knew it must be late.
Even the boisterous crickets had finally settled down, along with any breeze,
bringing an unwelcomed silence.

For hours, she’d slept fitfully, and now she stared into the
darkness, focused on Zach in his bedroom at the end of the hall.

Not wanting to dwell on him any longer, needing something to
calm her down, she ran her fingertips over her vaginal lips, already plump and
damp, her clit fully erect.

A breath caught in the back of her throat, her back arched
as she stroked her rigid nub. Exquisite sensations rippled through her,
bringing with them memories of her meal with Zach.

No. Don’t go there.

Toni tried to push the recollection away, along with her
images of his face and body, scent and touch, but could not.

She recalled them seated at the cedar table, no different
than couples anywhere else, eating their meal, discussing work at the garage,
the crappy economy, the continuing decline in real estate, making certain they
didn’t veer toward anything personal.

They behaved like an old married couple burned by too much

It was when she’d been bitching about the networks’ stupid
reality shows that she’d noticed a bit of sour cream on the side of Zach’s
mouth. Still speaking, she’d reached over and wiped it off with the tip of her
finger, bringing the stray bit of food to her lips.

Only then had her hand stalled as she realized what she’d
done…the effortlessness of her actions.

She’d fallen silent. Zach hadn’t said anything to break it.

Their eyes remained on each other, imprisoned in the moment,
the same as too many other times today in the garage and at the diner. Brute
lust and animal need flooded Zach’s face. Her heart thudded. Not daring to take
a breath, Toni waited for him to haul her close for a merciless kiss, to
acknowledge their hunger for each other.

Seconds dragged by.

At last, Zach forced himself to look away. She saw his
reluctance to do so, his inner turmoil. And yet, he continued eating as though
she hadn’t touched him. Uncertain what to do, Toni watched him cutting his
steak, taking a bite, chewing, swallowing, finishing with a long sip of beer.
He pretended not to notice her scrutiny, finally breaking the uncomfortable
silence with more personal questions.

He’d wanted to know which cities she’d been to, which she
liked most, where her friends lived, where she’d gone to school.

She’d danced around each one, while continuing to ache for
his touch, heat and strength.

Her orgasm neared.

Pressing her face against her shoulder to muffle any wayward
sound, Toni rubbed her clit fast and hard. Too quickly, the pleasure died, not
even coming close to sating the emptiness inside her life, heart and body.


Arm draped over his forehead, fist clenched, Zach regarded
the fading shadows on the master bedroom’s ceiling, then chanced a look at the

A muttered oath escaped his lips. Only ten minutes to go
before the alarm went off and he’d barely slept.

Each time he’d managed to drift off, he’d awakened in a
start from dreams he couldn’t recall. Tension knotted the muscles in his neck
and shoulders. He couldn’t relax his arms or legs. An hour ago, he’d finally
given in and stroked his rigid cock, masturbating like an out-of-control teen,
releasing his cum on the sheet rather than in a warm, soft female body.


Uh-uh. No fucking way. Even if she did stir him as few
females had, she was a complication he just didn’t need.

Rolling over, Zach punched his pillow and buried his head in
it. Instantly, his knee and leg hurt. He adjusted his weight and squeezed his
lids tight.

Images of Toni arrived without pause, snatching his breath,
overwhelming his resistance. He saw the ends of her hair swinging against her
smooth cheeks, her plump lower lip shiny from the steak’s juices, her eyes
searching his, her expression guileless, wanting, receptive.

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