Publisher: Phaze Publishing
Length: Novella ♦ Contemporary Romance, Erotic
Romance blooms under the Brazilian sky…but dare she trust again when the stakes are high and her heart is on the line?
Raleigh Campbell just learned that her five year marriage was a sham. To cheer her up, her friends take her to Rio during Carnivale to celebrate her 30th birthday and pending divorce. Little does she know, she’s not the only one her soon-to-be ex has cheated on.
Private investigator Cristo Santiago has been assigned to watch Raleigh’s every move, in search of twelve million dollars of embezzled corporate money, and that’s landed him in the hot waters of obsession. His love for Raleigh is sealed under the starry Rio sky, but can he find the missing money without losing her trust?
Read an Excerpt
Warning: This excerpt may contain material inappropriate for minors and is intended for readers over 18 years of age.
She had been dead to the world for years, but finally, at age thirty, she had come to life. She grinned broadly as the frenetic pulse of the samba buzzed through her veins, invigorating her sedated body. A year ago, she would not have imagined this moment: Raleigh Campbell, dutiful wife and socialite, surrounded by the revelry and spectacle that is the Brazilian Carnival.
She glanced around to the women at her sides, the best friends a girl could have. Robin Jones wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling Raleigh along as she swayed to the music.
After finding her unfaithful ass of a husband in their marital bed with his co-worker, Raleigh had walked out of his life and crawled onto the couch of her ever-supportive best friend. Robin had reacted predictably to the demise of her friend’s marriage, her long ebony braids swinging furiously when she heard the gory details, her kind, liquid onyx eyes set into hard lines of jet-black wrath.
In fact, all of her friends had made the whole experience as painless as possible, willing to listen to Raleigh endlessly discuss Richard’s betrayal until one morning last week. Robin had made up some ridiculous story about an ex-girlfriend who needed help moving. Known for her kindness toward past loves, Raleigh had believed Robin right up until the moment they pulled up to valet parking at Miami International Airport.
* * * *
“Robin!” Raleigh squealed as her friend ran around to the trunk of her car. “Where are we going? You have to tell me!”
Robin grinned mischievously, her expansive smile revealing a row of straight, pearly teeth. “Hold your horses, girl! You’ve been moping around my place for six months, and suddenly you’re all impatient for action? Uh-uh.” She offered Raleigh the handle of her packed luggage.
“You packed for me?” She gave a skeptical glance at the suitcase and then back at Robin. “Did you remember my–”
Robin whirled around from her path to the airport entrance. “You’d better hush. I know your little worrying self likes to be told everything that goes on, but this is a surprise, damn it.”
Raleigh gave her a sheepish smile, sufficiently chastised. “Lead the way, boss.” She trailed Robin through the airport to the check-in counter, thrilled to see her friends Freesia and Diana waiting in line. They waved frantically to her and little goosebumps of excitement covered her arms.
Raleigh giggled with anticipation. “We’re almost to check-in, ladies. Come on, give me a hint.”
Freesia and Diana exchanged impish looks, and then raised their eyebrows at Robin, as if to ask her permission. “She’s going to see it on the ticket in a minute, anyway,” Freesia pleaded.
Robin wordlessly pulled out four boarding passes and waved them under Raleigh’s nose.
“Rio?!” Raleigh gasped. “We’re going to Rio!” The women laughed, jumping up and down and throwing their arms around Raleigh.
“Happy birthday, Raleigh!” Diana cried, her perfectly bobbed auburn hair bouncing with excitement.
“Oh my God, thank you. All of you!” She looked around at the happy faces of her friends. “How long have you been planning this?”
Freesia looked her friend steadily in the eyes. “For only six months,” she complained, her well-known reputation as a planner preceding her.
Don’t cry, Raleigh told herself. It’s only the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for you.
“Enough blubbering,” Robin interjected, knowing Raleigh to be on the verge of happy tears. “Let’s get a drink, girls. I’ve got a burning thirst that only a Bloody Mary will quench.”
After checking their baggage, the women gathered around a table in the airport lounge to await their flight’s arrival. Raleigh could only marvel at the varied nature of her inner circle. Freesia Taylor and Robin Jones had been her college roommates, and oil and water got along a hell of a lot better than the two of them. Free couldn’t even accept a date before checking her day-planner and making a list of pros and cons, while Robin’s Saturday nights would sometimes end up double-booked like some kitschy sitcom episode.
She giggled to herself at the thought. Her eyes flicked from Robin’s hot cocoa skin to her rounded cheekbones and flashing smile. A warmer, bolder, more beautiful lesbian had never lived. Raleigh had always counseled Robin on her string of failed relationships, so her turnabout with Richard was only fair play.
A severe clip held Freesia’s ponytail of chestnut frizzies at bay. Her well-shaped nose turned up slightly at the end, leading down to her pert, little mouth. A similar story bound the well-starched woman to Raleigh. During her freshman year, she had spent so much time helping Free get over a bad breakup with her boyfriend, Zach, that by the time their wedding rolled around almost nine years later, Raleigh felt as if she had known him all her life. Freesia’s natural inclination to plan and worry appealed very much to her, as she had a lot of the same qualities.
A polished redhead with impeccable taste in all things, Diana Simmons had been introduced to Raleigh during a dinner party with Richard’s colleagues and their wives. One well-placed witty comment from Diana about the boring conversation and the two had become fast friends.
“This is the beginning,” Robin said. “The beginning of a new Raleigh.”
“Or the continuation of the old Raleigh,” Freesia interrupted. “Before Richard.”
“Leigh,” Robin continued. “You might not realize it yet, but in a little while, you are going to feel better than you have in years.”
“That’s right,” said Freesia. “All you need is a five-year plan, and you’ll be back on track.”
Diana hooted out a boisterous laugh, cutting through Freesia’s advice with her trademark candor. “I say, all you need is a wild romp with some Brazilian stud to get you feeling right as rain.”
Raleigh took a sip of her daiquiri and glanced around hesitantly. “I’m not sure I’m ready for that, Di. I mean, I’m still technically married. And Richard and I hadn’t … you know, for a while–”
“Figures!” Robin scoffed. “Leave it to a man to let his woman go unsatisfied while he makes it with some floozy from the office.”
“It’s not men that’s the problem. It’s just this man,” Freesia countered. “Zach would never do anything like that.”
“We can’t all have perfect marriages with our childhood sweethearts, Free,” Diana airily replied. “But it’s true. Richard is nothing but a dick.” The girls laughed at the pun, used many times during the past six months as they discussed their favorite whipping boy.
Freesia held her margarita aloft, a conservative drink for a conservative girl. “To Raleigh,” she said. “May you have the happiest of thirtieth birthdays–”
“And the happiest of divorces!” Robin finished. A gale of laughter greeted her exclamation, and Raleigh surprised herself when she joined them.