SEALed WITH A TWIST
It’s a new week here at Lady Smut and we are still agog about our smokin’ new look–and thrilled to feature the emotional and sexy new book from Lady Smut blogger Kiersten Hallie Krum–SEALed With A Twist.
In this follow up to Kiersten’s wildly popular, RONE award finalist novel, Wild on the Rocks, fan-favorite, Navy SEAL Grant “Twisted” Sisti, returns to Barefoot Bay for the second wedding of his friends, Quinn and Jasper (from Wild on the Rocks)…and runs straight into the arms of a mysterious woman from his rocky past.
“I remember you.”
The words were so soft, it took several seconds for them to resonate in Skye, a slow earthquake that rippled out with increasing impact as their meaning and consequence took root.
“But you changed your look,” Grant continued. “Dyed your hair. Added some new tattoos I should’ve figured were temps. Slathered on enough makeup to make me wonder who you’re trying to hide from. Even with all that, there was something was so familiar about you. Couldn’t figure out how or why.
“Now I know.” His head slid to the side and Skye trembled for a different reason when he nipped at the jittery pulse in her neck. Her neck stretched back with an invitation he was eager to take. His hand slipped to pull one strand of her top out of his way before she felt his tongue on her throat as his mouth followed the line of it up to her ear. “I remember how you taste. How you feel when I’m inside you. How you sound when I make you come.”
That was an uncomfortably thorough and arousing account. Her legs shifted on the sand and restless with the need to relax beneath him and take all that was promised by his hard body and hot words.
“And sweetheart,” he continued, head lifting out of her neck so he could stare into her face. “When a girl runs out on you after a night of spectacular sex, it’s the definition of unfinished business.”
“You left first,” she accused, a child’s defense, but all she could manage against a tsunami of arousal. Dammit.
He released her wrists and brushed her hair back from her forehead before spearing his fingers through the bunched strands to cradle her head in his wide palm. “My friend needed me,” he explained, no less terse for the gentle way he touched her. “The same friend, funny enough, who got remarried last night, no small part because six months ago, I left a sexy debutante passed out in my bed to help him get his head outta his ass and make up with his then ex-wife. I didn’t think you’d bail the second I was gone!”
Remembering how hurt she’d been when she realized he’d run out on her re-ignited Skye’s ire. “Then you should’ve left a note!” She shoved at his shoulders, not that she could move him, but so frustrated, she couldn’t hold back. “Let me up!”
He cursed under his breath, but set her free, sliding off to her right so he shielded her while she set her suit to rights.
“I figured,” he growled, over his shoulder, “that after a night that good, you’d want more. I damn well did.” Checking she was decent, he flipped back around to face her. “Because, you’re right. What happened between us was a goddamn sexual unicorn. I wanted more. I wanted you. All the while, you were using the security guard to work out your rich-girl issues. Daddy cut off your trust fund again?”
She sucked a breath in through her teeth and lurched upright. “You have no idea what I was dealing with that night.”
“Ditto, princess,” he shot back.
“I’m not a princess.” She’d been cleaning toilets for long enough to bring that fact home.
Grant cocked an elbow on his bent knee and sneered, “You are. An American princess. Privileged and entitled. I grew up with your kind, sweetheart. I know your kind.”
“You do not know me.” Skye swept sand off her arms with a regal sniff, unconsciously giving weight to his label. “Amazing that you suddenly recall such salient details of our…dalliance when last night it escaped your memory entirely despite the fact that I stood naked before you. How convenient for you to stumble upon the details now. When, exactly, did you deign to remember you had…Biblical knowledge of me six months ago?”
The corner of his mouth twitched. “Biblical?”
“So help me, if you laugh…”
“This morning.” He cut her off before she could finish what they both knew would’ve been an empty threat. “I remembered this morning when Jasper and Quinn surprised me with morning-after breakfast. He brought up when I pulled you from the pool back then and—” He snapped his fingers so close to her face, she started in place. “Your puzzle pieces clicked together.”
“I am not a puzzle!”
“Baby, you are a Rubik’s Cube of contradictions. Fortunately, I’ve been well-trained in decoding all possible combinations.”
That was be disastrous.
God, he remembered. And in detail. Skye floundered for a retort, floored by too many quick changes to find stable footing.
As if sensing his advantage, Grant tugged her back in his arms. One calloused thumb rubbed her button lip; it caught on wind-chapped flesh, so that her tongue shot out to moisten his digit. She watched his pupil flare into a sharp green as desire drew skin taut across the craggy planes of his face.
A low keen hit her ear and Skye was too turned on to be mortified when she realized it came from her.
“Oh yeah,” Grant said, his words a sibilant sound against her cheek. His hand cupped her jaw, thumb sweeping back over her parted mouth. “I remember that too.”
This was bad. This was very, very bad. She was getting sucked back under when he’d already turned her down once. Truth was, she didn’t want to find someone else to be with for however long she had left here on Mimosa Key. Not when she was drawn to him like an opposing polarity, constantly failing to break the laws of magnetism and getting stuck on him over and over again.
And when he touched her…
Lord, was she in trouble.
It’d been that way since the night she’d slept with him. A night when she’d been given a glimpse of something she knew she’d never have again, not from any other man. And it wasn’t the orgasms or Grant’s physical prowess in her bed. It was how he’d lifted her up and carried her away from her deepest humiliation, from a lifetime of being less than, and made her feel like the most important woman in the world.
“It might’ve been a one-night stand for you, but waking up to find you gone killed me.”
Grant’s shock at her words was no less that hers for having said them. He reared back liked she’d slapped him. “The hell you say.”
But the gate had been breached and half a year of emotional trauma ripped out of her, raw and unrestrained. “That night—that was the worst night of my life. I was a joke, a punchline, and everyone at that bloody wedding knew it. So, yeah, tequila and the pool. Since if I was already publicly humiliated, best to make it really memorable.”
“But then you were there, laughing like I was the best time you’d ever seen. You jumped in the pool and…plucked me up like I weighed nothing.” She latched onto his shoulders, nails digging into his skin. “Cripes, I’ve never known anyone as strong as you,” she mused, fingers tracing the lateral muscles that bunched under her touch. “You took me out of that…horror show and made it…” she sighed heavily, “so much better. And god, the sex was amazing. Don’t look so smug. I may not have a lot of experience, but even I know three orgasms in one night isn’t customary. And then you were gone.”
She’d felt so ashamed and at the same time, so devastated by his absence. “After all that, you made me feel like some filthy cliché,” she said in a small voice. “I was fighting the first hangover of my life. Sick and…so very ashamed for…so many reasons. I had to get out of there before anyone saw me.” She bristled now, embarrassed at how naïve she’d been. “I get it now. I understand how such things work. But Grant, whether you meant to or not, you broke my heart.”
The hand cradling her head slid around to cup her chin. “Skye,” he murmured. “I didn’t know.”
Drained from her emotional purge, Skye merely nodded. “I know.”
He struggled with something for a moment before exhaling hard. Releasing her, he scrubbed both hands over the scruff on his face and considered her over the tips of his fingers.
“That night,” he began. He hesitated. “I—fuck—I was dealing with some shit too. Still am, for fuck’s sweet sake. You were blitzed. Totally shitfaced.” His face softened as if seeing her again. “And so beautiful. Stunning and tragic.”
She winced at the description. “I sound irresistible.”
“Utterly,” he said with simple sincerity. “And I—” His eyes clouded and he ducked his chin to gaze out toward the water. “I needed to forget for a while. I took advantage of that. I took advantage of you.”
The admission cost him. More, she saw the memory of what had driven him then continued to claw at him. ““What happened to you?” she asked softly. When he didn’t answer, she risked pushing a bit more. “You’re different. You’ve changed.” Now he looked at her.
“You come with me right now, back to the villa, and I’ll show you how much I haven’t.”
She’d be lying if she said the idea didn’t tempt her. “Don’t do that,” she gently admonished. “Tell me what you wanted to forget that night. Tell me what haunts you.”
“Tell me why you were drunk in that pool,” he countered. “Tell me what you’re hiding from now.”
“Grant,” she said. Only his name, but it hung there between them, weighted with meaning that didn’t require articulation.
“Let it go, Skye,” he demanded, brusque in a way that was meant to be obeyed.
Unfazed, she tilted her head to catalog his nuances. To anyone looking, he probably came off cool and aloof. A seasoned warrior at rest, perusing the beach with watchful eyes, never fully off-duty, but enjoying the bright side of life.
But all of it was a skillful mirage. The leveled lines of his shoulders remained locked tight, braced against whatever turmoil broiled right beneath his surface. His jaw was set, an acute angle that restrained some unholy impulse.
Beneath all that was…pain. His beautiful irises were dull and flat, deadened by the damage he kept locked away. A knot twisted in her plexus, making her chest feel concave with empathy. She wanted to hold him close, overwhelmed by an instinctive urge to protect this man no one else seemed to notice was quietly falling apart.
So Skye, with the lack of self-preservation no Thornquist breeding could fully wash out, led with her heart.
“Something’s changed in you.” She tried for a smile but knew it was weak. “I can see it there, behind your eyes. You’re not hiding it from me; I think, for some reason, you’re not trying that hard to.”
He started to reply, no doubt more assertions of how wrong she had him, but the alarm on her phone interrupted them. “Time to go,” she announced softly. “Mandy is treating me to a spa appointment.”
She rolled onto her side and pushed against the yielding sand, feeling ungainly and awkward through the modified yoga pose that got her to her feet. Once steady, she gazed down at him, strong and imposing even posed at her feet, self-assured if strangely aloof.
He stood in a rush with far more grace than she’d managed, as though the shifting sand was as solid beneath him as concrete.
Skye bent to gather her shorts and tee, pulling both on mechanically. Casting him a look from under her lashes, Skye searched her feelings, but they were too conflicted for her to settle on one. This was when being bold became uncomfortable risky. By the pool, in the dark of night, she could blame emotional trauma and the mistakes only the night would forgive. In bright sunshiny day, it was much harder to come up with excuses she could live with.
“Stay safe, Grant,” she said, feeling lame but somehow as if it was the right thing to say.
“If you can’t be safe, be fucking deadly,” he returned, then explained, “Something we say on the Teams.”
“Well.” That was certainly…definitive. “Try to be both. Not that I want you to be deadly per se,” she floundered as what she’d said registered. “I mean, I do, if that’s what it takes to make you and your friends safe, but it’s not like I want other people dead.” She winced when humor flashed through his eyes. “Just—keep breathing. For my sake, if not your own.” She studied his stalwart face for a moment. “Because I have a feeling you really don’t care whether you do or not.”
“But you do.”
“Yes,” she confirmed without hesitation. “I do.”
Those arms rippled as he again crossed them over his chest, a move she recognized as defensive but felt more aggressive coming from him. “Not sure what you want me to do with that, Skye.” And, by that flat, unyielding tone, he wasn’t too keen to find out.
Her smile turned wane. “Me neither.” She laid a hand on one bulging forearm. “But I care whether you live or die, Grant Sisti. What puzzles me is why you don’t.”
She gave him a squeeze, and left it at that, stepping back while swinging her bag up and over her shoulder before starting the short walk back to her putt putt.
Before she was three steps in, Grant snagged her hand and pulled her up short. “Skye,” he said in a sibilant tone, too masculine to be a whisper but pitched for her ears only. She shot an inquisitive glance over her shoulder.
Grant closed the distance between them in one stride. His hand skirted up her spine to squeeze the back of her neck. “Don’t try to get into my head,” he warned. “You won’t like what you find.”
“Maybe not,” she allowed. Going with her gut, she twisted at the waist and leaned into his touch, stretching her neck up to briefly press her lips against his. “But I bet I’ll still like you.”
SEALed With a Twist is now available exclusively from Amazon Kindle
Debutante. Heiress. Lady.
Skylar Thornquist has been called them all. But when her family insisted she stand as bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding to Skye’s ex-fiancé, she rebelled, drowning her public humiliation in tequila and a one-night stand of carnal debauchery with Grant Sisti. To escape her family’s iron grip, Skye now hides out cleaning toilets at the Casa Blanca Resort & Spa, masking her breeding and identity under a dye job, heavy makeup, and a smattering of fake tattoos while she tries to discover which label sticks to her best.
Doctor. Joker. Warrior.
Navy SEAL Grant “Twisted” Sisti has been them all. But since he failed to prevent the violent death of his teammate six months ago, Grant isn’t sure he can be any of those men anymore. He’s back at the Casa Blanca Resort & Spa for his best friend’s wedding, but Grant knows he’s reaching the end of his rope. A state that isn’t improved by finding the help swimming naked in his private villa’s pool.
They never expected to find each other again on Barefoot Bay, both hiding from who there were, both wondering who they should be. Until Skye’s identity is compromised and the Thornquist iron grip gets a stranglehold on her new life…only this time there’s a Navy SEAL by her side.
Kiersten Hallie Krum writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. She is the author of the prestigious RONE award finalist, Wild on the Rocks, and its follow-up, SEALed With a Twist. She is also a past winner of the Emily Award for unpublished novelists.
A member of the Romance Writers of America, the New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Long Island Romance Writers, Kiersten has been working in book publishing for more than twenty years in marketing and promotion. At other times in her career, she’s worked back stage for a regional theater, managed advertorials for a commerce newspaper in the World Trade Center, and served as senior editor for a pharmaceutical advertising agency.
Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. Born and bred in New Jersey (and accent free), Kiersten sings as easily, and as frequently, as she breathes, drives fast with the windows down and the music up, likes to randomly switch accents for kicks and giggles, and would be happy to spend all her money traveling for the rest of her life.