Dr. Maya Sheppard adores her green-eyed lover, Irish history professor Ashton O'Neill, and the sex is the best she's ever known. She's deep in lust with him, and she adores his storybook house with amazing gardens. But Maya isn't sure they have much of a future anywhere except between the sheets.
Ash, however, has become more than just her passion and when she arrives unannounced to find a stranger in his house. Maya soon realizes there's much more to the man than she ever imagined. Unexpected events draw the pair closer together and with any luck at all, Maya just might realize the kind of love she's dreamed about all her life.
“Aye,” Ash replied. He put his empty teacup down against the saucer with a soft clink of china on china. “It would seem we do. I come from humble folk myself.”
Maya tried to imagine Dr. O’Neill in work garb but couldn’t, not quite. His lean body seemed designed for formal evening clothing or the kind of thing models in GQ would wear.
When he laughed aloud, the noise he made thrilled her. “You don’t believe me?”
“It’s hard,” Maya admitted.
“Oh, in my day I plucked eggs from out beneath the hens and milked the cows,” Ash told her. “I cut hay in the fields too. We lived on the edge of our wee town with just enough acres to grow the odd bit of praties and such.”
“Praties?” she repeated. “Potatoes?”
“Aye,” Ash said. He extended his hand to her, palm upward. “I still garden, but ‘tis flowers, not food I grow. Touch my calluses and you’ll see they are very real indeed. I like the feel of good soil through my fingers.”
Her fingers stretched to his hand and Maya stroked the rougher places with something like awe. Against her touch, his flesh exuded heat and when he curled his hand around hers, capturing it, her senses revved into high gear. “I’d like to see your garden sometime,” she told him, trying to sound casual. “Is it anything like the one outside?”
His lips twitched and then split wide in a beautiful smile. “Ah, love,” Ash said. “Mine is three times as large and far lovelier. You must see it, today. I insist.”
“Let’s go, then,” Maya suggested. She wanted far more than a garden tour and suspected he knew it. “But how could you cultivate such a garden when you’ve just arrived?”
Ash’s smile broadened to the width of the Mississippi back home. “I’m new on campus, indeed,” he told her. “But I came to Los Angeles a year ago. I found I had a wait for an opening in the history department and once one appeared, it took some persuasion to win the position at our California campus. Come, woman, and we’ll go to my garden.”
With her purse strap secured over one arm, Maya stood up. “I’m ready whenever you are,” she told him. “Let’s go.”
If Ash had asked her to guess what part of the sprawling urban area he called home, Maya might’ve thought Malibu or out toward Santa Monica. But he didn’t ask or even offer a hint. As he traveled the network of freeways and busy thoroughfares, her head spun with the possibilities and she speculated with extreme curiosity what his home might be like. She considered a bungalow, a stucco Spanish villa, even something modern abounding with steel and glass––but the house where Ash parked his restored Packard was none of them.
The vintage Craftsman house peered down at the winding street through a screen of delightful foliage and looked over a short wall. As they followed the winding brick pathway to the front door, tucked away through a green wrought iron gate, Maya gaped with wonder. Tropical greenery grew tall and strong beside trumpet vines, exotic lilies, and a bed of Sweet William. Vines twined around posts, many bearing fragrant blossoms. Storybook was the word Maya came up with to describe it, and she spoke her opinion aloud. “It’s like a fairy tale cottage,” she exclaimed. “It’s lovely.”
“You haven’t seen the inside yet,” Ash said. “Or the back gardens, the two patios or the pool. You might change your mind.”
“I don’t think so,” Maya said.
When Ash unlocked the door and they stepped into the entryway, she wasn’t disappointed. Hardwood floors glistened with fresh polish and antique white woodwork gleamed. He led her through a living room with a beautiful white fireplace and mantle––a room of luxury and comfort, with mirrors and track lighting. Maya tried to drink in everything: the formal dining room, the library through a pair of French doors, the compact yet state-of-the-art kitchen, and a cozier room, which led outside. Even through the paned glass Maya saw the burgeoning gardens. Ash paused with one hand on the door. “Would you like to go outside first?” he asked, formal and yet somehow sensual. “Or would you prefer to see the view from the master bedroom first?”
Her heart pounded, wild and erratic. “I think I’d like to see the bedroom, Ash.”
Every breath of oxygen in the room vanished and she swore the walls moved inward, making the space smaller until nothing remained but Maya and Ash. He spread his arms open in invitation and Maya, without a moment’s hesitation, strolled into them as if his embrace had been her planned destination for a long time. Although her body surged to life as every cell alerted the next to the wanton flood of desire spreading through her veins, Maya’s perception shifted into slow, delicious motion. Standing within the circle of his arms, she met his green gaze with her blue one and stared, her soul seeking his. With the graceful finesse of a high diver poised on the highest board, Maya dropped and left behind all artifice, all pretension and every scrap of shyness.
By the time Ash drew her closer and put his lips against hers, Maya lowered all defenses. Her body burned with the fervent flame of a lit candle against the night, illumination against darkness. Heat seared her from his mouth. His lips were fire, dangerous and yet life-giving, and she yielded to him without remorse. His mouth stirred her body into a seething and tense stew. Her breasts perked up at his proximity and her nipples, even before he tweaked first one and then the other with dexterous thumbs, hardened. Between her legs, Maya’s pussy warmed and softened, the inner walls melting to accept Ash when the moment arrived.