Hot Holiday Nights Page 1

Chapter One

Victoria Baldwin determined it had been six months, three days, four hours and—she looked at her phone and calculated—approximately seventeen minutes since she’d last had time off.

She was damned overdue. She normally took holidays more frequently. Working in the sports industry for fifteen years should have netted her vacation time whenever she wanted it, but being a sports agent meant that sometimes you had to work your ass off, and this had been one of those brutal kinds of years.

Not that she was complaining. Picking up a few new clients had meant an uptick in her bank account, which allowed her to take these getaways. So she’d suck it up and do the hard work when it was necessary.

And now she had three weeks off. She could already feel the stress melting away.

She’d vacationed all over the world, from Mexico to Fiji to Europe to Asia to every island in the Caribbean, but she always loved coming back to Hawaii, and especially the island of Oahu. It was the flowers. She loved the smell of the flowers here, and the staff at her favorite hotel on the north shore were incomparable.

She’d been lucky to get in on such short notice. They were booked solid for the international surfing competitions that would start in a few days. Plus it was also the Christmas holiday. But they’d made a suite available for her, knowing she was a preferred customer and she tipped very well.

She threw on her swimsuit, then put on a pair of shorts and a tank top over it, laced up her shoes, lathered up the sunscreen and grabbed her sunglasses. First item on the agenda was a run on the beach. It was the perfect way to release stress and unwind.

She’d landed late last night. When she’d arrived at the hotel she’d done nothing but strip naked, fall into bed and pass out. The time change would play havoc with her for a day or so, but she was used to travel and changing time zones. She needed to acclimate.

She made her way to the lobby, noting the holiday décor. A giant tree stood in the corner, decorated in hues of glittering green and red. The twinkling lights definitely helped to wake her up and put her in a Christmas mood.

At home in New York, it had snowed before she left. Here, it was a balmy seventy-five degrees. Oh yes, she much preferred to spend her Christmas holiday in a warm climate.

She walked through the open-air lobby and onto the sandy beach.

It was a beautiful morning, warm and with a glorious sunrise that made her damn glad to be on vacation. Instead of gulping down caffeine and rushing off to an appointment or to catch a plane, she inhaled a long, solid breath of sweet-smelling air, stretched and set off on a run. She started at a slow jog, adjusting to her surroundings, enjoying the sounds of the gulls as they flew overhead hoping for a seafood breakfast.

She ran every day, not only as a way to keep her body in shape, but also because she liked the way it made her feel. Drawing in oxygen, and the exhilaration she experienced when she dug in hard and pushed her body to its limits was something that never got old.

The waves were rolling higher than what she was used to. Then again, she wasn’t typically here in December. She’d always come to Hawaii in the spring or summer, so the waves this time of year were new for her.

When she saw several surfers grab their boards and paddle out to tackle those waves, she was in awe to see humans battling Mother Nature. She wanted to stop and watch, but she needed to get her run in, so she pushed past, taking deep breaths and digging her feet into the sand.

When she’d gone a mile, she stopped, took a breather, grabbed the water bottle she’d strapped to her hip and drank, then walked for a few minutes, taking a couple of deep breaths, readying herself for the run back. By the time she made her way to the spot where she’d seen the surfers enter the water, there were at least five more. She saw two of them catch a wave at the top and drop down underneath a big wave that rolled over them.

She stopped, jogged in place and watched them as they rode it out all the way to shore.

Amazing.

“Ready to catch a wave?”

She startled, so engrossed in the surfers she hadn’t noticed the guy who’d walked up and was standing right next to her.

He looked like a surfer himself. He was young—younger than her, anyway, but not as young as the two she’d seen out on the water. Early thirties was her guess.

He was also very hot, with gorgeous, sun-streaked blond hair.

Oh so sexy. He wore dark sunglasses and had a killer smile.

“No, I was out for a jog and happened to see them on my way down the beach and back up.”

“You here on vacation?” he asked.

“I am. Just got in last night, so stretching out my stiff muscles. Are you here for the surfing competition?”

“Yes. Alex McConnell.” He held out his hand.

She shook it. “Victoria Baldwin. You look a little old to be a surfer.”

His lips curved upward. “Do I?”

Well, shit, Tori. Nothing like opening your mouth and insulting the guy.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean that. I mean, you’re not too old to surf. Or do anything, quite obviously. Just look at you. Your body is totally hot, and dear God, those abs and . . . I’m going to stop talking now.”

That made him laugh. “All complimentary things. Do keep talking. Nice to meet you, Victoria.”

He had an ease about him, a confident air, plus a sense of humor. She liked that. “Do you compete a lot?”

“I’ve been doing it since I was a kid.”

She laughed. “You’re still a kid.”

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