Joe Harrison’s attraction to the young, handsome part-owner of Bowers’ Beautiful Excursions has become an obsession. His purchase of a sailboat, and need for a skilled captain, gives him the opportunity to spend some time alone with the elusive Dazz.
Although sailing a brand-new schooner through pirate infested waters isn’t Dazz’s idea of fun, his desire to know Joe more intimately overrides his caution.
Hijacked by pirates and forced to flee into the jungle, they must overcome all obstacles and fight to recover the vessel. Will their fragile relationship survive the bittersweet trials to come?
Joe Harrison stared down the long, bleached wooden walkway beside the marina to the graceful man working on the schooner’s deck. A gust of wind tumbled the dark blond hair, streaked from long days at sea. The Rio de Janeiro sun glistened over his sweat-soaked body, tanned to a golden brown. His gaze drifted across the distance to the handsome, chiseled face he knew so well. He visualized the man’s blue expressive eyes and the fullness of his lips. He longed to nibble the day-old stubble on his chin and flick his tongue in the corners of his smile.
Joe tilted his head back and closed his eyes, overwhelmed with an ache to sink his fingers into the silky mass falling to the young man’s shoulders. He inhaled. The smell of seaweed mixed with the ocean’s brine drifted through the window. His mind went back to their earlier meeting. Dazz’s preference for expensive French cologne, its citrus fragrance mingled with his natural musk, both surprised Joe and drove him crazy with the need to bury his nose in the man’s neck.
Joe leaned a shoulder against the window frame and watched Dazz secure the rigging with the skill of many years at sea. His cut-off jeans displayed strong thighs and the way the frayed fabric molded to his muscular ass—God! Joe chuckled and swiped at his mouth. The man had become an obsession. Joe gripped the window ledge.
The guy made him hard with one glance of his sapphire eyes. Joe bit his bottom lip. Their lingering handshake earlier upon meeting invaded his mind. The warmth of Dazz’s callused hand and the way his long fingers, burnished by the sun, curled around his palm. Joe groaned. His balls throbbed at the thought of the man’s rough thumb circling his cockhead.
Joe shook his head to clear the image of Dazz stretched out naked on his bed. Did he have a snowflake’s chance in hell with the young guy? Sure, they got on well enough together. How often had he discussed the latest soccer game with Dazz? Okay, so they had sports in common but little else.
With a sigh, Joe contemplated the situation. For a start, Dazz had to be five years his junior. The man of his dreams lived in a different world and had a different class of friends. What chance did he have to fit in Dazz’s “live every day like it’s your last” attitude toward life?
He ran a hand over the small dog tucked under his arm and chewed on his bottom lip. As much as he wanted to run off into the sunset with Dazz, he had a business to run and people who depended on him.
As if the man had read his thoughts, Dazz lifted his head and flashed a brilliant smile in Joe’s direction. Without a second thought, Joe smiled and returned the man’s wave. His face grew hot. Damn, he knows I’ve been watching him.
His idea to become a minor partner in Bowers’ Bountiful Excursions had become a financial windfall. The job had benefits as well. His work marketing the company kept him in contact with Dazz on a regular basis.
Joe pursed his lips. Dazz was a free spirit. He ran with the wind. Tying him down would be like putting an eagle in a cage. The sea was in the young man’s blood.
There had been a buzz between them from the start. Although, to his chagrin, Dazz had remained as elusive as a butterfly—a very sexy butterfly. Joe wet his lips. That gorgeous man is out of my league.
“Harrison, are you drooling over Dazz again?” Patrice Bowers slipped her hand through his arm.
Joe patted her long, slim fingers. “Darling, he has me in the palm of his hand. The trouble is I don’t think I’m his type.”
“You don’t work for Daddy now.” She ruffled his hair. “You need to relax, grow your hair, and lose the suit. He likes you. But I know for a fact, Dazz hates society types.”
Turning away from the window, he led Patrice to a chair. He slid his hip on the edge of the office table. “My business is flourishing and I have clients coming out of the woodwork. I have a position in life, Patrice. In fact, I like who I am and what I’ve achieved. Sure, I’m attracted to Dazz, but I’ll find myself a man sooner or later.” He grinned. “Don’t worry about my love life.”
“You can’t fool me.” Patrice eyed him critically. “But far be it for me to intrude.”
Joe laughed. “Ah, well, I can dream.”
“Dazz has worked with Brian for a long time. Please don’t do anything to cause a problem in the company.” Patrice drummed her fingernails on the desk. “You know, a sour love affair isn’t good for business.”
“What and ruin my investment?” Joe ran a hand through his hair. “Not a chance.”
Bowers’ Bountiful Excursions ran a romantic cruise service for couples from Sao Conrado, Rio’s upscale southern district. Joe knew Dazz’s commitment to his partner in the business, Brian Bowers, was one of long standing. Joe believed his luck had changed for the better the day Bowers married socialite, Patrice Lampton.
How many years had Joe cared for Patrice as personal bodyguard and mother confessor? Ten? Life had been normal before Bowers emerged from the sea like Poseidon with a schooner named after Patrice. Joe doubted anyone could resist such a declaration of devotion.
“When are you moving into your new office?” Patrice inclined her head.
“Yesterday.” Joe winked. “My personal assistant is holding down the fort.”
“Oh! And a personal assistant too. What’s he like?” She leaned toward him. “Sexy as hell, I bet.”
“Spectacular, darling. But unfortunately, he has a boyfriend.” Joe glanced out the window. “Although, I think my tastes have moved to the more rugged type of late.”
* * * *
Dazz caught the grin on Brian Bowers’ face. “What?”
“Oh, come on now, you mean you can’t see Harrison giving you the ‘come hither’ stare? His blatant adoration is so hot I’m surprised it hasn’t set fire to the marina.”
“I like him fine, but he’s a suit.” Dazz rubbed a hand over the sweat on his face smearing a line of grime across one cheek. “Although, he is pretty and embraces his feminine side. That’s a plus.”
“You mean … he’s a transvestite?” Bowers raised a brow. “Nah, I can’t see him in drag. Look at the size of him—he’s too big.”
Biting back a laugh, Dazz regarded his friend with interest. One thing for sure, Bowers was secure in his sexuality. “Hmm, Harrison in drag. Now that’s an intriguing thought. Does Armani make dresses in his size? Do you know, mon ami?” He snorted with laughter. “I don’t think Joe could cope with an off the rack creation from Wal-Mart.”
“Well, what do you mean by embracing his female side?”
Dazz reached for a bottle of water. “Joe can’t go a week without a facial, and a girl arrives at his office every morning to buff his nails. He goes to the beauty parlor to have his hair colored and God only knows what waxed.” He indicated the office window with the bottle. “Have you noticed he hasn’t got one wrinkle on his face and … what is he … forty?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Bowers rubbed his chin. “So what are you planning to do besides underwhelm him with your fake French accent? I’d guess Patrice told him by now you were born in Wichita.”
Dazz rubbed his middle finger over the bridge of his nose.
Bowers chuckled and blew a kiss. “You know, I’ve been hoping you’d find somebody since that asshole Rafael cheated on you. Seriously, I think you have an open door with Harrison. The question on the table is: what are you going to do about it?”
“Well, he told me this morning he purchased a sailboat from somewhere near Santa Vitória do Palmar. He asked me if I’d be interested in going with him to sail it back.” Dazz sipped the water. “As we have a few weeks downtime, I would like to go. That’s if you don’t need me here for a while.” He ran his tongue around his teeth. “I’d like to explore all possibilities, if you get my drift?”
“Yeah, well, there’s not much you can do with the Patrice in dry dock.” Bowers pushed a hand through his hair sending the dark sweat-soaked mass in all directions. “Do you think it’s wise, sailing down that part of the coast?”
Dazz stared out over the ocean. No wind rippled the blue-green glass from the shore break to the horizon. “Believe it or not, Harrison mentioned he had guns on board. Look, I don’t know the guy well, but he doesn’t come across as the macho gun-toting type.”
“Harrison? The man whose constant companion is a white Chihuahua with a pink bow? That Harrison?” Bowers grinned. “Macho isn’t his style but Patrice insists he can handle himself.” He glanced over to the office window. “I like Joe but he looks like a puff of wind could knock him over.”
“I’ve often wondered what he actually did for Patrice’s father.” Dazz scratched his chin. “I’ve tried to find out more about him but he doesn’t talk much about his time as her bodyguard.”
“Bodyguard is stretching the truth. He is Patrice’s best friend. He kept her off drugs, made sure she wasn’t bothered by the paparazzi, and put her to bed when she drank too much. He was more of a companion.” Bowers sighed. “I know he’s a crack shot. I went with him to the practice range last week. I wouldn’t want him to be pointing a loaded gun at me.”
“Ah, mon ami, this is good news because after a week alone with me, the term loaded gun is going to have an entirely new meaning.” Dazz wet his lips. “And that sweet suit is going to be an expert on shooting, Dazz style—n’est-ce pas?”
* * * *
Joe picked up Petal and straightened the dog’s pink bow. He gazed into the miniature Chihuahua’s big, trusting eyes and smiled. “Are you excited, precious? Do you want to come with Daddy on his new schooner?”
The backside of the white body wiggled. The small dog let out two excited yelps in reply and lavished Joe’s hand with doggie kisses.
“Have you lost your mind?” Patrice glanced up from the computer screen. “What if she falls overboard? You can’t keep her locked in a cabin. She’ll die of heat exhaustion.”
Joe met her gaze. “I refuse to put her in a kennel. My God, just the thought of allowing her to mix with mongrels gives me palpitations.”
“So you’d rather see her eaten by sharks?” Patrice snorted. “I thought you loved that ball of hair.”
“Ball of hair?” Joe blinked in disbelief. “My Petal happens to come from a long line of grand champions. In the dog world she is royalty.”
“I don’t think she even knows she’s a dog.” Patrice wrinkled her nose. “Other dogs wouldn’t either. You know, I don’t know any other man who sprays his dog with expensive French perfume.” She grinned. “You don’t even like women’s fragrances.”
Joe hunched. He loved Petal. “Well, I felt guilty after I had her spayed. I want her to believe she is still an attractive female.” He bristled at sight of the tears of laughter running down Patrice’s cheeks. “Oh, don’t be so cruel.”
A whiff of the ocean’s freedom breezed into the room. “What’s so funny?”
Joe spun around and met Dazz’s sparkling gaze. The man ambled inside the office with a smirk of amusement. With effort, Joe composed himself. “Oh, nothing to concern you. Patrice was being her usual bitchy self.”
“Harrison wants to take the dog with him when he picks up his sailboat.” Patrice chuckled. “I was teasing him.”
Dazz pushed a strand of damp hair off his cheek and regarded Joe for a long time. “Will that little bitch put up a fight if you put her in a harness?”
Joe shot a glance at Patrice. He narrowed his eyes. “Why don’t you ask her yourself? Not that I believe you should ask a married woman such an inappropriate question.”
“Not Patrice.” Dazz rolled his eyes toward the ceiling. “Petunia.”
“Petal.” Patrice made a snorting noise and stuffed tissues over her mouth in a vain attempt to stop laughing.
“The dog.” Dazz raised a brow. “Will she wear a harness? Can she actually walk? I can’t say I’ve ever seen that poor animal’s feet touch the ground. Do you need to carry her?”
The musky scent of Dazz flooded over Joe. His body reacted and the blood drained from his brain to settle between his legs. He swallowed hard. In a few seconds with the close proximity of this delicious man, he had turned from an astute executive to a bowl of jelly. Dazz moved toward him, one large brown hand reaching for Petal. Joe inhaled the man’s delicious fragrance and, without a moment’s hesitation, handed him the dog. “Let me see. Yes, she can walk but she prefers me to carry her. I do have a harness for her at home. Why?”
“Cute puppy.” Dazz rubbed the dog’s ears. “I can see you’re attached to the mutt, so far be it for me to suggest separating the pair of you.”
“Mutt? Oh. My. God.” Patrice gripped her ribs and shook with hilarity.
Joe pushed down the desire to take Petal and leave. How dare Dazz insult his pet? He glared at Dazz. “She is not a ‘mutt’.”
“I did mention ‘cute’ somewhere too.” Dazz held Petal under one arm like a football. “Let’s not argue mon ami. I like your dog fine.”
The tension eased from Joe’s chest. He held out his hand for Petal. “Time will tell. Give her to me.”
“You won’t be able to hold her and sail your new schooner.” Dazz smiled at Joe. “Buy a long leash, so when we’re topside she can be tethered. I’m sure you don’t want her tossed overboard.” He handed Petal back to Harrison. “But it’s your job to poop scoop.”
Joe’s heart gave a little twist of emotion. He nodded. “I’ll look after her. She won’t be any trouble.”
“Good. Look, there are a few things we need to discuss about the trip.” Dazz rubbed his chin. “I really need to go home and take a shower. Do you have to return to your office this afternoon? I thought we might chat over lunch.” He smiled. “I don’t mind if you bring … ah, Petal, to my place.”
With effort, Joe pushed down the bubbles of excitement threatening to burst forth like the froth from a bottle of sparkling wine. He cleared his throat. I’m acting like a kid on his first date. “Sure, I’ll get my car and follow you.”
“Nah, leave it here locked in the garage. If you park an imported sports car in my neighborhood, it will be stripped before you step off the sidewalk.” Dazz grinned. “I’ll drop you … and Petal back here in an hour or so.”
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