TAKEN BY STORM is the latest electrifying love story from bestselling author Tamara Mataya.
Leilani’s plan was simple: Return for her father’s wedding, house sit for the happy couple while they went on their honeymoon, then get the hell outta dodge. She’d thought the worst thing would be returning to the town she grew up in (and despised). She was wrong.
A flash flood hits the small town, stranding firefighter, Ryan, and a few strangers at the local bar. Worst of all, Leilani, his old high school rival – and last night’s scorching one-night-stand – is one of the people stuck in the bar. With waters rising, they need to stick together and wait for rescue.
The power grid’s knocked out, and cell phones aren’t working. When the others panic and leave, Leilani and Ryan are left alone in the dark. Fortunately, words aren’t necessary to keep the former rivals warm. But when they’re forced to leave the refuge of each other's arms, they must navigate the flood-ravaged town in order to find safe shelter.
The rising waters brought them together, but rising tempers might tear them apart.
TAKEN BY STORM is inspired by true events.
A “heavenly flower” watched him from across the room. Ryan felt the weight of her gaze on him before checking her out more subtly in the mirror behind the small hotel bar. Was it really Leilani, though? By the time he turned to check for sure, she was gone. He shook his head and took another sip of his beer. He tugged at his collar and sent a little hatred at weddings in general. This one wasn’t terrible, less showy than most, though he still had to wear stiff, formal clothes.
Not that his turnouts were comfortable, but at least there was a point to his work gear; it protected him from fires. Nothing protected him from the small talk of the people around him. Yes, it was a nice wedding. Yes, it was amazing how they’d managed to make the room “their own” with only some crepe paper and balloons. No, he wasn’t seeing anyone. Yes, the cucumber sandwiches were delicious. Yes, Mildred’s hat was lovely. No, he wasn’t in a firefighter’s calendar. Yeah, he got the joke about his “pole.” Yes, he was single. No, he wasn’t interested in being set up on a blind date.
He didn’t begrudge good people good things, but it was like life was rubbing his face in the fact he hadn’t found anyone since Melanie had left him just over a year ago. He’d found a lot
of someone’s since her, but a relationship wasn’t something for him. Hell, even Melanie had gotten married.
To the bastard she cheated on him with.
He took another swig of beer, wishing he was somewhere quieter.
He’d met Kyle “Spence” Spencer, four years ago at the twelve-week training program to be a firefighter, and they’d been buddies ever since. They’d saved each other’s lives a couple times, and he was the reason Ryan was sitting in dress pants, dress shirt, and a tie that felt like it was choking him. Ironically, Spence had left his dad’s wedding early to go back to the station, refusing Ryan’s offer to go for him, knowing Ryan had just come off working two twenty-four hour shifts with only ten hours in between. The flu going around was kicking their station in the teeth, and they couldn’t wait until they were only working fifty-six hours a week again.
So here he was at the Spencer wedding. And—duh—that “flower” he’d thought he’d seen. Yeah, it had to be Leilani. Spence’s little sister wouldn’t have missed her father’s nuptials. They just looked so different.
Kyle’s sister. His buddy Kyle’s little sister. His co-worker and buddy Kyle’s off-limits little sister. He hadn’t seen her since he graduated high school—two classes ahead of her—but oh, how she’d grown up.
Still, Spence’s sister was off-limits, even though he’d known her since she was a varsity cheerleader, and he’d been the star quarterback, adored by everyone. He’d played football because he was good at it and it was an easy ride—not because he really loved the game. He’d gotten a full scholarship to college, but had no interest in going pro. He’d wanted to do something with his life. Not like it had done him any good in the present. He was still going home to an empty house--
unless he took someone warm and wild home with him. If Leilani wasn’t his best friend’s sister, they’d be in his truck now.
Instead, he sat watching happy couples do the chicken dance. It was definitely time to go. He hadn’t expected to have a family at this point, but he’d thought at twenty-six he’d have found the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. It certainly hadn’t been Melanie, no matter how badly he’d wanted it to be.
He slid from his stool. Hard work and hot sex were all he wanted. Screw marriage and commitment. They just complicated things. He was good at no strings. He was good at setting a woman’s senses on fire with pleasure and fine with the one-and-done kind of mindless sex.
And maybe that was all he was good for.
She’d spent a good three minutes salivating over his body before she saw his face and realized she knew who he was. Ryan Benton. Two years her senior, his class was one of the wildest to tear through Silver Springs High. They’d banned hazing the year after because the seniors had been so brutal.
Leilani hadn’t been back to this drawn-out yawn of a town since graduation day six years ago. She’d thought nothing could make her return, but her dad managed to guilt her into coming for his wedding to his girlfriend, a lovely woman Leilani adored. It wasn’t the wedding she objected to—it was the location. She even offered, to no avail, to fly everyone to a beach somewhere—an option that looked better by the raindrop. It had been pouring off and on for the past four days, and the heavy rain had forced them to move the ceremony and picnic dinner from Phillip Street Park to the hotel.
The picnic dinner had been switched to a table of refreshments at the dance. Leilani was glad no one would stare at her sitting alone at the wedding party table, wondering why she didn’t
have a date. Dad and her new stepmom had left half an hour ago, needing to make the flight Leilani and her older brother Kyle had gifted to the happy couple for their honeymoon. Kyle had made it for the ceremony but had to return to the station—a couple of the other firefighters had caught a vicious stomach bug going around. Leilani was alone.
Was Ryan alone? Was the high school hero trolling her dad’s wedding for skank? He’d always been a big guy, but rangy, not built like he was now. He’d been the hottest jerk in school, and she’d done her best to ignore him. Not easy when she’d had to cheer for him at every football game, and was in the same social circle. Worse, he’d basically followed her around, stealing her thunder in everything from debate team to talent night.
She’d joined the school paper so she could write articles. The next week he’d come to school bragging about how one of his short stories had been published in a real magazine. The glossy evidence came a couple months later in April’s issue. Asshole. At least he’d been older and she wasn’t forced to suffer his presence for her whole high school experience.
Maybe he wasn’t as hot as he used to be. Some people aged horribly. She did a subtle eye sweep of the room, finding him at the bar. His long limbs and shaggy brown hair were pretty much the same as in high school. His back was to her, but the exact deep blue shade of his eyes was seared into her mind. He turned to the older man next to him and they smiled as they talked about something. Damn it. He was good looking. His nose was slightly too big, but matched the rest of his strong features and only made him look masculine and sexy.
Of course, it would be him. Treacherous subconscious must have known. The way he moved captured her attention right away—everything about him screamed man. He was tall, built, muscular, and hot. But Ryan Benton was off-limits. Completely.
I should ask what the hell he’s doing here. He traced patterns in the condensation on his pint glass, and she imagined those strong, cool, damp fingertips on her skin. She licked her lips before noticing his gaze locked on hers in the reflection of the mirror behind the bar. Shit! She ducked through the closest door, heart pounding, and realized she was in the hallway leading to the washrooms. She pushed open the ladies' door, headed for the sink, and trickled cool water over her wrists, hoping to cool the fever racing beneath her skin.
Her family had moved to Silver Springs halfway through Leilani’s freshman year. The town was tiny, and multicultural diversity non-existent. She’d met Ryan and his friends her first day when they swarmed her table in the cafeteria.
It was her, but she was so different, so warm and open, and her unabashed interest was irresistible. Ryan noticed the way she’d copped a cheap feel when she ran into him in the hallway, but it was endearing and she was even more gorgeous now that there was heat in her eyes. And she was just in town for the wedding—he wouldn’t have to worry about her getting attached. He’d just decided to ask her for a drink when she told him to go to her room. She was his friend’s sister. He should say no.
Her hand was small in his, but she pulled him with a speed and strength that made him feel wanted, and needed. It turned him on and completely obliterated his fatigue. All the times she’d screamed his name on the field came rushing back, every glance he’d caught her giving him across the cafeteria table before the interest left her eyes and she’d looked away. The times when her sharp tongue and flashing gaze had torn his arguments to shreds in a debate. He’d wanted to scream at her … and kiss her.
Maybe it was just high school hormones, but the thought of finally getting her alone and stilling her smart mouth with his was driving him wild. He made it until they were behind closed doors before he gave in to his body’s demands and kissed her. Her tongue stroked his. She was tiny but fierce, and he had the impression she’d have climbed him like a tree if he took too long to kiss her. Her lips curled into a smile and she pulled back. Her eyes were a rich, warm brown that melted his insides.
“No offense, but this—” she gestured from his chest to hers and back again, “is not going to go anywhere.”
“I don’t normally do this. But I’ve had the day from hell and need it to get better right now. Are you in? I want someone who can make me forget where I am. Make me forget my name. Do you want to do that with me? Can you do that?” Her mouth resumed its delicious nibbling and sucking, making it impossible for him to think.
Ryan had one major thing he wanted to forget about, even just for the night. He’d been trying to forget about her for months. Five foot seven, one hundred forty pounds, blue eyes, cheating heart … Leila’s coconut scented hair, and the way she pressed closer made his mouth water and his balls ache. Make them both forget? Yeah. He’d become good at that.
He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tightly against him, reveling in the feel of her warm, pliant body smashed against his. He’d never felt hair so glossy, and it slipped through his fingers as if refusing to be captured. She moaned deep in her throat when he fisted a handful and claimed her lips again. When her hands slid down his back and grabbed his ass, his hips jerked forward, pressing his erection into her. Leila’s tongue went wild inside his mouth, spiraling and wrestling with his at a frenzied pace.
Her flesh was hot beneath the thin red and white summer dress, and he skimmed it up her thighs, and whisked it over her head. He traced the delicate curve of her waist and brushed his thumb just beneath the bottom of her strapless bra. She shivered beneath his hands, made quick work of his pants, and began undoing the buttons of his shirt with a gleam in her eyes.
Tamara Mataya is currently a librarian; she lurked there for so long recommending books to patrons and shushing people, that she suspects they only hired her so it would be less creepy. Now she’s armed with a name tag, and a thin veneer of credibility. She’s also a musician with synaesthesia – which isn't an issue until someone plays a wrong note, which makes her want to squirm inside out. It makes for a good live show.