Sometimes it takes finding your heart to find your voice…
Holy skittle-eating walrus. Briana’s senses were so overwhelmed, she couldn’t even swear coherently inside her own head. Her entire universe had shrunk to the magic place where Gareth’s fingers connected with her skin, and it was all she could do to stop herself from orgasming just from his touch on her back. She hadn’t even realized that was physically possible.
His hands glided down her spine again and she moaned helplessly, unable to stop the sound from streaming unbidden from her normally controlled mouth. Her skin flared in sensation, sparks and heat tracing in an afterglow wherever Gareth touched. This wasn’t a massage; this was foreplay. If she rolled over and the slightest breeze wafted past her nipples, she’d probably come there and then.
Attempting to keep herself from grinding against the table, Briana drew a steady breath and shuddered as Gareth’s fingers traced over her neck. Goosebumps immediately sprang up. So good. She wanted to tell him, wanted to speak the words out loud so he’d know how wonderful he was.
Where did that come from? Brianna never wanted to speak; silence was her friend, a mantle against the world. She didn’t want to talk ever—not when her manager begged her to do radio interviews, not when she was asked to present at the Grammys—not even when a few words might have helped her case against that douchebag Rogers.
No. Briana and silence were a perfect match, in a life that yielded no other pairing as strong as this one. Silence protected, silence attacked, and silence highlighted. It wasn’t, as some people believed, a ploy to protect her vocal cords. Her silence meant that when she sang, her voice was all the more precious, because it was the only time it was used. Diluting the purity of her music with empty words was pointless. She wasn’t about to change that for chitchat with the handsome spa dude.
But still, the desire to engage in conversation lingered. Who are you, Gareth? Do you know my music? Would you like to kiss me? How simple would it be to ask and be answered?
‘You’re enjoying this so far?’ Gareth asked, a rhetorical question considering her physical reactions. Was it her imagination, or was his voice thick with lust? Hell, who needed words? Maybe it was as easy as rolling over and smoothly making an offer with her eyes to take this little oil-fest into the bedroom. After all, that was how it had worked with the rest of her hookups—God knew most guys weren’t interested in talking anyway.
Now. Do it now! She turned her head to the side and looked back to where Gareth stood over her, but before she could flip over, he said, ‘Ms. Brite … I hope I’m not being too forward, but I really need to say something to you.’
Her breath hitched as she lay straight again. Well, this was promising. Maybe he was about to ask her if she wanted to take things further, and then she could casually nod and agree as if it wasn’t all she’d been able to think about for the last hour.
‘I need to say thank you.’
Thank you? What for? With her face mushed into the table hole, her brow creased in confusion.
His knuckles found a knot below her shoulder blade, and he firmly stretched the lumps out as he said, ‘For your music. I … I lost my mom last year, and the only thing that helped me get through were your songs.’
Several emotions hit Briana at once: pride, curiosity, sorrow. Of course she received thousands of daily PMs and tweets praising her music, and she genuinely appreciated them all, but this was different, more intimate in a way she couldn’t understand. She desperately wanted to ask which songs in particular he’d loved, her interest almost winning over her vow of silence.
As if he heard her unspoken question, he replied, ‘Every track from Enshroud really hit home for me.’
Enshroud? Pride took over now. That album was her baby, but it had tanked so badly, she could have thrown a party for everyone who bought the record and held it in a broom closet.
Gareth continued. ‘It was brilliant. It spoke to me. You’re incredibly talented.’
Blushing furiously, something she seemed to be doing often around this man, she said, ‘Thank you.’
It took a moment for her to grasp that she’d spoken, and when the realization landed, she gasped, clamping her lips shut tightly, grateful that she was face down. I spoke? What the hell? It had been years since she’d talked; it was her natural state to keep all the words inside until she was songwriting.
But within half an hour, this man with the magic hands had managed to ply her voice from her chest, and Brianna wasn’t sure how. Maybe he didn’t hear me, she reassured herself, hoping desperately he’d change the subject.
Possibly she’d gotten lucky, because Gareth continued to talk in a tender tone. ‘I can hear that you love what you do. It came through in every note of that album, even the sad songs. When someone loves their work, you can tell. I love massage, even if it’s not my main area of expertise.’
What is? She badly wanted to know, and the words almost tripped out of her again. Dammit. Come on, Brianna. What did she care about the massage boy’s hobbies? In fact, this was sure to be an angle, anyway. This guy was probably an actor or songwriter, hoping to butter her up for connections.
But he surprised her again, speaking as though their conversation wasn’t one-sided. ‘I’m actually trained across a few different natural therapies. I’m a qualified dietician, I’ve studied reflexology, and I’m a naturopath too. Massage was something I did to support myself when I was studying, and it’s still paying the bills now.’
Wow. She felt oddly inferior, something that didn’t often happen to her. She was proud of her career, but realistically her natural talent and inherited good looks weren’t something she’d earned or studied for. This was a guy who’d dedicated himself to his passion for years on end.
She shifted on the table, feeling so relaxed, she was almost boneless. With a lazy twist, she turned her head to look back at him, asking ‘why?’ with her expression.
He understood. ‘Why all the natural healing stuff? It fascinates me. It’s not that I don’t believe in modern medicine because I definitely do, but our bodies try so hard to keep us healthy, and sometimes just a few changes can shift someone’s entire life. Like you.’
Me? With her face back in the table hole, she frowned, her forehead pushing upwards against the towel surrounding her head.
‘One of your shoulders is higher than the other. Did you know that?’
She hated that flaw, the way her left shoulder seemed to always shrug upward slightly. But rather than whine about it, she’d made it work for her, turning that little shoulder shrug into her trademark photo pose.
‘It’s because you’re tight under here.’ Gareth’s hand slid below her armpit, digging through layers of skin and muscle until he found a tender spot.
He pressed in firmly and Briana squeaked, another unbidden sound Gareth had managed to elicit.
‘Just breathe, Briana. I’ve got you.’
If anyone else had done it, she would have furiously pulled away for causing her such intense pain, which was now streaking from her armpit to her fingers and radiating up her neck too. But something about Gareth gave her pause, allowed her to trust he knew what he was doing. She took a deep lungful of air and tried to melt into his ministrations.
After about ten painful seconds, something gave a dull pop under his fingers and she gasped in surprise as the ligaments around her shoulder released.
‘Try sitting up for a second,’ he said, backing away from the table.
Awkwardly, Briana levered herself up, keeping her towel clutched around her chest. She turned her head experimentally. Her shoulder felt … good, looser. She smiled at Gareth in gratitude.
‘And check this out.’ He moved close in front of her, and her senses came alive at his nearness. Gareth’s hands touched her shoulders as he said, ‘This side is lower now. It’s not perfect, but we can keep working on it while you’re here.’
Rolling her shoulders, Briana grinned widely. Her shoulder had been tight for years, since …
Her smile faded away as she put together the timeline. Since I fell out with my parents. She was seventeen, and suddenly on her own, dealing with everything by herself. Her shoulder had locked up one day and never let go.
As if following her thoughts, Gareth ran his finger down her bare arm before pressing gently on another sore place. ‘Sometimes our bodies hold onto stress in a very literal way. Places like this are often tight when we try to shoulder the weight of the world on our backs.’
Who are you? Briana felt her spirit shift, the darkness inside her relenting in the presence of this man who was so calm and deep. There was so much more to discover about him, she could sense it, and her soul clamored to dive into his depths and explore. Her mouth twitched, the questions poised to tumble out, so she clamped it shut.
His gaze was trained on her lips, and his face creased into empathy. ‘Brianna … everyone on this island has signed non-disclosure agreements. If you want to talk, ask me something, you can. You don’t have to be the mysterious, silent singer here. You can just be you.’
They’d drifted closer, Gareth stepping in, her leaning forward, their bodies near, the air heady around them. This moment. It was perfect. Perhaps for one night, she could just be a girl, taking a chance on a guy she liked.
Briana stood and pressed herself against him, only the towel separating her naked chest from his hands. ‘Gareth,’ she whispered, filled with a sense of rightness that he was the man to break her silence, that here in his arms, she could be someone else.
Swiftly, she angled her face up and closed the gap between their lips. Gareth’s eyes flew open, and the connection she felt between them was breathtaking.
Which was why she was even more shocked when he stumbled backwards and said loudly, ‘What are you doing?’
Flummoxed, Brianna shrugged, her left shoulder suddenly hitched high again. What do you think I’m doing?
His cheeks spotted with color, he moved to the other side of the table and began to collect up his things. With his eyes shuttered low, he said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, Ms Brite. I shouldn’t have let that happen.’
Let? Briana couldn’t have spoken if she wanted too. She’d been so sure their attraction had been mutual, and her face burned in mortification.
He seemed to realize his mistake, rambling, ‘I mean, of course I’d like to kiss you. You’re gorgeous, and I’m honored that you’d even want to.’
Then what’s the problem? She let out an exasperated tongue click.
He eased past her, taking obvious care not to touch her as he did so, and began to fold the table up. ‘I’m your massage therapist, and it wouldn’t be right for me to take advantage of you. Star Island has strict policies. Staff can’t have inappropriate contact with guests.’
Smiling sensuously, Briana sidled around the table and ran her fingers along his arm. I won’t tell if you don’t …
He pulled away. ‘Briana, I could lose my job.’
So? I’ll hire you. God, he was hands-down the best masseur she’d ever had. Mentally, she began drafting a contract for him—double his current pay, take him on the road with her when she went on tour in six weeks. Easy.
But then he faced her, and there was torment in his expression. ‘I know it sounds like a cop out, but I need this job. It’s not just about the money.’
‘Please.’ She hadn’t meant to speak again, definitely never intended to beg; it just kind of happened. Feeling the situation slipping out of control, she threw her ego on the floor, and said, ‘Please. Stay.’
The moment grew long. Her body was still trembling from the after-shocks of his touch, and her heart was attempting to shield itself from these new, intense emotions. Slowly, Gareth lifted her hand to his mouth and he kissed her on her palm—somewhere she wasn’t sure she’d ever been kissed before. The unexpected gesture sent lust pooling between her already warm thighs and her knees buckled. ‘Gareth …’
‘I can’t. I’m sorry.’
With that, he twisted away, grabbed his table and bag, and disappeared out the door, leaving Briana in a haze of disbelief and desire.
It wasn’t her fault…
Somehow a run-in with a handsy, but influential, talk show host has landed Briana Brite in big trouble with the press, and even though it was the host that wouldn’t take no for an answer, Briana finds herself banished until the scandal blows over.
It’s not his place…
Gareth might work for some of the richest people in the world, but his job as a masseur at the luxurious Star Island resort is just that – a job. And he really needs the money and the tips and the hours. Getting involved with resort guests is grounds for immediate dismissal, so the last thing Gareth needs is a troubled pop princess making waves.
It’s not meant to be…
However, when Gareth meets Briana, he realises that she’s more than just her voice, more than the media storm, more than even her management knows. But when it comes to his job and his livelihood, how much will he risk for a holiday fling?