Caught Between a Rock and a Hunka Man
Fun, flirty, and romantic!
Dedicated accountant Marla Blackhorne has vowed to get her family name back on the Readner & Son Accounting Firm signage. Even if it means she has to work 24/7 and compete with her ex for the coveted partnership position. She’s close to realizing her goal…until hunka-hot Reed Readner, her teenage crush, careens back into her life.
An offshore marine salvager, Reed barely escaped the family accounting business and the soul killing nine to midnight hours. There’s no way he’s ever going back to Serendipity Island…until his mom guilts him into a cruise to celebrate his dad’s birthday. But when Reed encounters sweet and sassy Marla on board, not even his fear of being tied down can save him from falling hard and fast.
When a storm strands them on a deserted island, and the competition for the partner’s position heats up, will the other castaways—all the people who love to poke and pry into their lives—ruin Marla and Reed’s burgeoning relationship? Or will these two seemingly different people discover that love and compromise are the road to happily-ever after?
This story includes an uptight accountant with too much guilt and not enough privacy, one reluctant hero who is about to lose his boat—and his heart—on the family cruise, naughty lingerie, Sex-on-the-Beach, meddling mothers, unexpected friendships, and a battle-of-the-sexes secondary romance.
Complete Character List:
- Marla Blackhorne: Accountant Marla Blackhorne is determined to get her family name back on the Readner & Son Accounting Firm sign, even if it means she had to work 24/7.
- Reed Readner: Reed escaped the soul killing job at the Readner & Son Accounting Firm once, and he’s never going back.
- Betty Blackhorne: Marla’s mom, who wants nothing more than a dozen grandchildren to keep her company.
- Paul Readner: Marla’s boss, her surrogate father, and the man she trusts most in the world.
- Mary Readner: Paul’s wife. She’s brought together all of the people who matter most to Paul to help him celebrate his sixty-fifth birthday.
- Trudy Melnyk: Twenty-one year old receptionist at the accounting firm. No one will take her ambitions to become an accountant seriously, not even her boyfriend.
- Bill Taylor: Marla’s ex-husband and Trudy’s boyfriend. He loves being a bachelor, except his new girlfriend has grander plans for their relationship.
- Steve Blackhorne: Marla’s dad, who ran away from home when she was just a toddler.
- Travis McNeil: Reed’s partner and friend.
Extras & Tidbits: Want to get the inside scoop on this story? Then check out the blog posts below.
Ever since the release of book three in the Caught Between series (Caught Between a Rock and a Hunka Man), I’ve wanted to change out the series covers to better differentiate the books from my Rocky Mountain series. After all, the Caught Between series is all fun and...read more
Fun, flirty, and romantic! Dedicated accountant Marla Blackhorne has vowed to get her family name back on the Readner & Son Accounting Firm signage. Even if it means she has to work 24/7 and compete with her ex for the coveted partnership position. She’s close to...read more
I’m always taking courses to improve my skills—writing, plotting, and all things business related. Recently I discovered Marie Forleo who is a life and business coach. Her Marie TV episodes are funny and informative and I never miss a single one of them. Marie also...read more
The other morning, reluctant to get out of bed but knowing full well that I should, I snuggled into the covers and let my mind wander. I’d spent the last month puzzling over a couple of important plot points that I needed for the end of Caught Between a Rock and a...read more
It's hard to believe 2015 is almost over. Every year whips past so fast, but I guess that means I'm having fun, right? 🙂 This year was devoted to family, a carryover from all of the busyness in the latter part of 2014. Now that Youngest Son's house is almost...read more
CAUGHT BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HUNKA MAN
Marla Blackhorne steered her compact Ford Focus off Tranquility Drive into the crowded dockside parking lot of the Serendipity Dive Shack, and prayed for a miracle. All she wanted to do was survive the three day excursion with her mother, her teenage crush, her ex-husband and all the other people who liked to pry and poke and interfere in her life.
Of which there were many. Way too many.
Oh yay! Three fun-filled days on the water, in a nuthouse…oh, make that a forty-foot cruise-boat.
Stuck between her life and insanity.
“It’s those suitcases,” her mom, Betty Blackhorne, said from the passenger seat where for the past thirty minutes, she’d purled and cast and clicked the knitting needles in her hands with a vengeance that she was now about to unleash on her only daughter. “They haven’t been out of the hall closet since your father took me to Matrimonial Bay for our honeymoon…which got me thinking.”
“Oh no, not again,” Marla muttered as she spied a narrow parking stall and stepped on the gas before someone else beat her to the empty space.
Beside her, the needles in her mother’s hands went silent. “You love to hear this story.”
She gritted her teeth. “No I don’t.”
“Yes you do.” Her mom continued as though she hadn’t told the story a thousand times before, as though Marla hadn’t begged her to never tell it again. “That was the weekend I got pregnant with you.”
Marla cranked the wheel and maneuvered the small car into the narrow stall, then breathed a sigh of relief that they’d arrived scratch-free. These days, the traffic on the small Caribbean island coastal highway reminded her of rush hour in New York City, especially during the height of tourist season.
She turned to face her mother, took in the offended expression, and let her annoyance fade. “I know you love to reminisce, Mom. Honestly, it wouldn’t be so bad if you’d just leave out the details.”
“Details? But those are your favorite parts.”
“No, they’re your favorite parts. I happen to think that they’re embarrassing and personal and way too much to be shared with anyone.”
Her mom worked the needles—click, click, click—and huffed out her annoyance. “You love that story. You’ve told me so a zillion times.”
Mothers. They only saw and heard what they wanted to see and hear, then ignored the rest, which was why, on the rare occasion that Marla felt it necessary to have a serious conversation with her mom, she usually didn’t bother.
And yet, today seemed different, she thought as she studied the older woman.
There was something going on, something that had been festering for the last six months, something that had started the day Marla turned thirty-two, dragged her personal possessions back to her mother’s house, announced she was getting a divorce, and moved back into her old room.
That was the day her mother had taken up knitting and begun to fill Marla’s closet with sweaters too hot for the Serendipity Island sunshine. “Okay, spill. What’s up?”
The needles stopped clicking. “Why do you think anything is up?”
“Because ever since we left the house, you’ve been working those needles like a knitting junkie high on new wool. What’s on your mind?”
“Honey, I don’t want to spoil your trip before we even get started.”
“You’d rather wait till we’re on board the boat?”
“Maybe,” her mother hedged while she grabbed the bag at her feet off the floor, plunked it on her lap and stuffed away the knitting. Knitting which looked suspiciously baby-like. “At least then you won’t be able to escape.”
“That’s not what I do, Mom.”
“Yes it is.” There was a heartbeat of silence while her mother stared at her and she stared back. And then the older woman said the one thing guaranteed to raise her only child’s hackles. “You’re just like your father.”
Marla turned away. She pulled the key out of the ignition, pushed open the car door, careful to keep her mouth shut because if she opened it, she’d say something her mom would make her regret for the rest of her life.
As she stomped around to the back of the car, the warm ocean breeze blew stray strands of her hair into her face. She pushed them back and attempted to tuck them into the twist of hair she’d piled on top of her head.
Escape? She’d never do such a thing. She was always there, for her mother, her boss, and her marriage. Other people bailed, but not her.
Marla pressed the button on her key FOB and the trunk popped open.
Betty joined her at the back of the car, her apologetic tone guaranteed to draw just the right amount of guilt from her already guilt-ridden child. “You’ve been living with me for six months already.”
This was so not the conversation she wanted to have moments before she stepped on board the boat for the three day trip to hell. “You know I appreciate it, Mom.”
“Well, it’s not natural. You should be in your own house with your own family.”
Determined to keep her emotions under control, Marla lightened her tone of voice. “Are you kicking me out of the house?”
“It’s not that I don’t love your company, dear.”
She stopped and gaped at her mother. “Seriously? You’re booting me out?”
“Of course not, dear.”
Relief swept through her, easing the tightness in her chest and the knot in her stomach. She lifted the lid of the trunk, grabbed hold of the first piece of luggage, an ancient hardside Samsonite that once belonged to her grandma, and gave a tug. It didn’t budge. “What did you pack in here? Rocks?”
“Here, let me help you.”
She waved her mother away, this time putting all of her muscle into the task, and gritted her teeth as she dragged the suitcase onto the pavement without scratching up anything but the rubber bumper on the car. And her left knee. With a glare at her loving parent, she rubbed the injured body part. “If you’re not going to tell me to move out, then at least tell me what’s on your mind.”
“It’s been troubling me since your divorce.” Her mother reached down and checked the lock while Marla straightened her back and flexed her shoulder muscles in anticipation of the second suitcase. “There’s more to life than excel spreadsheets and working till midnight every night of the week.”
Marla huffed as she yanked out the second suitcase and thumped it onto the ground beside the first. “Seriously, Mom, what did you pack?”
“The list of clothes you gave me, some books, suntan lotion—you know how you burn—and a few things to keep us entertained.” She checked the second lock, then straightened, apparently satisfied everything was secure, and fixed her daughter with a direct stare. “Sex. Remember sex?”
“Just barely,” Marla mumbled as she grabbed the suitcase handles, realized the luggage was too old for wheels, and awkwardly dragged them toward the dock.
Sex had never been all that memorable. It was her fault, or at least that’s what her ex-husband used to say. And now here she was, thirty-two and divorced, persuaded out from behind the comfort of her desk, dragged out of the familiarity and safety of her windowless office, forced into a three day boat trip by the only man she couldn’t say no to—Paul Readner, her boss, surrogate father, and the man she trusted most in the world.
Paul would never abandon her to chase after some stupid dream. Nor would he kick her out of his home, especially if she had nowhere else to go.
Marla headed for the Anchors Away yacht and nearly tripped over her own two feet when she spotted the one man in the world guaranteed to make her a nut case even more than her mom.
Reed Readner, Paul’s son, who was headed their way, his stride easy and relaxed, his shirt open and blowing in the breeze, revealing shoulders so broad, a chest so yummy, abs so enticing, that every female cell in her body halted in appreciation.
A moment later, those uncontrollable female hormones started a tap-dance routine and the gun shy, and oh-so unadventurous woman in her wanted to dive for the safety net of her bed at home and pull the covers over her head.
Marla released her grip on the suitcases and they hit the pavement with a thud. “I’ve changed my mind about the trip.”
“You can’t. We’re here and we’re going on a real adventure.” Marla knew the moment her mom spotted Reed by the sound of the low wolf whistle. “With him, I hope.”
“Hello, French Fry,” Reed said when he reached them, as though it hadn’t been seventeen years, four months and twelve days since he’d run away from his father’s accounting firm so he could become a beach bum dive instructor with no responsibility to anyone but himself.
Her scattered thoughts turned her brain to mush, and all she could do was stand there with her mouth open while she gawked at his manly naked chest and hard abs.
Until her mom kicked her in the shin and gushed, “Little Reed Readner. My, oh, my, how you’ve grown.”
“Hello, Mrs. Blackhorne,” he replied while he smiled the familiar smile that simultaneously gave a tug on Marla’s traitorous heart and thoroughly pissed her off. “Let me help you with your luggage.”
Marla came alive and blinked up at him. No way would she lean on another man ever again. She grabbed for the first suitcase, then was surprised when Reed’s large warm hand slipped over hers to grab hold of the handle.
“I’ve got it,” she said as his gaze fixed on her face and he remained hunched to take the suitcase, one hand resting on top of hers, patiently waiting for her to remove her hand so he could be all macho and chivalrous and manly. Like it was part of his DNA code.
Just like those female hormones that she’d learned to control so well were suddenly disorderly and hell bent on body domination. The part of her DNA code that she hated. This was absolutely not the time to think about the press of a hard male body against hers, sinking into her, leashed power between his legs.
Marla allowed her gaze to roam from his hand to his strong forearm, up bulging biceps and across broad shoulders, to a face which made her insides jumble and her brain freeze. She gripped the handle of the suitcase a little tighter. “Don’t call me French Fry.”
“It’s your name, kid,” he said with a smile.
And didn’t that just piss her off even more. He’d probably always think of her as the geeky kid with the coke bottle glasses and the thin scrawny body and the ever present bag of french fries in her hand as she followed him around the island like a devoted puppy dog.
“Welcome to the Anchors Away boat, ladies. As soon as French Fry lets go of her stubborn streak—” He gave another tug on the suitcase handle. “—I’ll take your luggage on board.”
That was it. Teeth ground together so tight her jaw ached, Marla tugged on the handle again. “I said, let go.”
He didn’t let go of the handle, but he did give her the grin that when she was thirteen and he was sixteen used to turn her world topsy turvey and make her all weak in the knees and stupider than a light post.
Duh, apparently, it still did.
She glared at him and reminded herself she was older now. Much smarter, too. Sexy charm didn’t do it for her anymore. Except when his gaze raked her from head to foot, then settled on her face, a little bit hotter, a whole lot more amused, she felt like she needed to climb into her mother’s freezer until she turned back into a popsicle.
He tugged on the handle. “Come on, French Fry. Don’t make me get physical. It’s not like you could actually beat me. I used to let you win just so you wouldn’t cry like a little girl.”
“What?” Indignation roared to the foreground and still she couldn’t stop herself from noticing how the muscles of his tanned arms flexed and retracted, how his hand over hers was all warm and firm and domineering, how his crooked smile still caused her heart to go pitter-patter.
And she just knew. A two second struggle with this man and she’d win, but only if she ended up flat on her back with him straddling her body.
Marla tugged hard, fully expecting him to give in. Except he tugged harder. All of a sudden the latch gave way and she stumbled back, shocked as a wild assortment of pink and black and white and red lingerie—which didn’t look anything like her dull drab whites that were now gray—flew into the air and scattered like wild flowers on a breeze.
The kaleidoscope of silk and satin underwear floated on the gentle breeze, landed willy nilly on the dock, in the water, and on the top of the light post. A seagull swooped down and picked up a hot pink pair of crotchless panties in his beak, then flew off, squawking to let his mates know about the treasure chest of material at their disposal.
Marla glanced over at Reed and cringed as a bright pair of G-string panties floated out of the sky, and landed on the top of his head.
Despite her kill-me-now embarrassment, she couldn’t help but notice the too small, too sexy underwear made him look masculine, adorable, and sexier than hell.