Massage therapist Brenna Nakamura is struggling to keep her small business afloat, and she has no time for dating. Besides, the only guys she meets are her clients, and they’re off-limits. But her newest client—a devastatingly gorgeous attorney who’s in Boston for a two-week trial—tempts her to break some of her rules.
After eight years of nights and weekends chained to his desk, Calvin Wilcox, Jr. is up for partner at his prestigious law firm. But even if Cal kicks ass at his next trial, partnership isn’t guaranteed. Some of his colleagues are sticklers for propriety, and getting entangled with a sweet, sexy masseuse is a distraction he can’t afford.
But their best intentions soon unravel. Will they risk their dreams to follow their hearts? The jury’s still out.
READ AN EXCERPT…
Like a heavily laden pack mule, Brenna Nakamura plodded down one of the long corridors of the Rajah Hotel, her footsteps muffled by the plush carpet. Her portable massage table and oversized duffel bag swung in counterpoint to each step of her slow, rolling gait.
Ah, there it was. Room 619 had a choice location near the end of the hall, on the side with a view of the Boston Public Garden’s spring magnificence. She checked the hotel’s folio, confirming her client’s name: Calvin Wilcox.
The man inside that hotel room—most likely a paunchy, middle-aged businessman, in her experience—represented one step closer to financial solvency. For this month, at any rate.
At some point, she’d accept the inevitable and give up her dream. But if Serenity Massage closed its doors, then she’d have to admit that Gregory, her ex-boyfriend, had been right. Her shrinking bank balance was certainly damning evidence that leaving management consulting for massage therapy five years ago was… What had he called it? Oh, now she remembered. The most jaw-droppingly idiotic idea he’d ever heard.
Eh, who was she kidding. Try though she might to forget his harsh words, they still resounded with nauseating clarity every time she “borrowed” a little more from her rainy day fund.
Gregory hadn’t been content with trashing her career plans, either. Dumping her immediately afterward had been his jerkhole-flavored icing on the cake. She couldn’t entirely blame him for kicking her out of their shared apartment, though—after all, his parents had owned the place, and they’d never hidden their disdain for her.
She realized she’d been staring at the room number on her client’s door and exhaled a long, shuddery breath. These negative memories of the past weren’t going to help her achieve her vision of the future.
And she wasn’t going to give up her entrepreneurial ambitions without a fight. So no matter how tired she was as the end of this interminable day approached, no matter how worried she was about her precarious financial situation, she would damn well be wearing a smile when her client opened the door.
She straightened the loose ponytail gathered at her neck. Then she tapped on the thick wooden door. “Mr. Wilcox? It’s Brenna, from Serenity Massage.”
“Hang on,” a husky baritone replied, accompanied by the muffled thud of footsteps approaching her.
Pasting on a friendly expression, she stepped back as the door swung inward. Only to be confronted by a broad expanse of chest, not quite encased in one of the hotel’s signature white terry robes. Her gaze rose to the sturdy column of her client’s neck before stalling out at his face, half a foot above her own.
Her jaw slackened as her expectations valiantly tried to catch up to reality. If she’d had a checklist for Male Aesthetic Perfection, this guy would have ticked every box, from his athletic build to his chiseled jaw and slanting cheekbones. A smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose saved him—barely—from being intimidatingly gorgeous. But his lips were flattened with tension, and his damp, sandy blond hair looked rumpled, as if he’d just run a hand through it.
Brenna could recognize a fellow stressed-out human being when she saw one, and that brought her back to the reason she was there. “Hi,” she said, hoping he didn’t notice how breathless she sounded.
“Please, come in.” The rumble of his voice slid over her like warm honey.
He backed a few steps into the room’s foyer before leading her into the sitting area, which boasted the Rajah’s trademark opulence. Rich fabrics and leather impeccably complemented the modern mahogany furniture. The heavy drapes were already drawn across the floor-to-ceiling windows she knew hid behind them.
She set down her massage gear next to the coffee table, then lowered her duffel onto the sofa. Meanwhile, her client stood near the pristine king-sized bed, looking anywhere but at her.
He wasn’t the only one who was nervous. Clients as good-looking as he was didn’t cross her path often, but they’d never fazed her before. This guy, on the other hand, sent her pulse all thready.
“So, where do you want me?” he asked.
She dug deep for her professionalism and kept her voice low and calm. “It’ll take me a few minutes to set up, so you can just make yourself comfortable for now, Mr. Wilcox.”
He sat on the edge of the bed. “Please, call me Cal. Mr. Wilcox makes me think of my dad.” His attempt at a grin didn’t quite reach his gray eyes, which were pinched at the corners with strain.
She frowned in empathy. “Do you spend a lot of time working on a computer?”
“Way, way more than I’d like,” he replied with gritted teeth. Then he began kneading the back of his neck with one of his big, strong hands. “My head is fuh…reaking killing me right now.”
His tone piqued her interest, even as his word substitution had her hiding a smile. He sounded a lot like she had, before her career change. “What do you do?”
“I’m an attorney. I’m up here for a trial that starts tomorrow.”
“Ah.” That explained a lot. “Let me get set up and we’ll see what I can do for you.”
Brenna shrugged off her belted fleece jacket and laid it across the sofa’s arm, next to her duffel. Underneath it, she wore a silky, purplish-gray tunic and matching pants. The wrap-around top was stylish—for a uniform—but for a fleeting moment she wished she’d had the Serenity Massage logo emblazoned on tailored spa dresses instead of the flowing, practical styles she’d chosen.
Not that it mattered what she was wearing, she reminded herself, so long as her appearance was professional. The Rajah Hotel had called her to Cal’s room because she was a licensed massage therapist lucky enough to have been added to their referral list. Remaining on that list was far more important than trying to make herself more attractive to one of their guests, no matter how much of a hunk he might be.
Right now, she needed to focus on adjusting the height of the massage table, and on setting her newest client at ease. “Have you had a massage before, Cal?”
“Not a professional one.”
Brenna glanced up at him, but he didn’t seem to be insinuating anything by the remark. At least, nothing was evident in his facial expression. Though she’d be surprised if a guy as hot as Cal had never gotten a massage from a girlfriend or lover.
She studiously ignored his gaze, as he watched her stand the table upright and cover it with sheets and a lightweight blanket. Sticking to the task at hand, she gave him her new-client spiel.
“When I’m done setting up, I’ll step into the bathroom to wash my hands while you disrobe to whatever extent you feel comfortable with. You’ll be covered by a drape at all times.” She paused, making sure her expression was as neutral as possible. “The less you’re wearing, the easier it is for me.” To appreciate your spectacular body. She gave herself a mental wrist-slap before continuing. “I can work with anything, though.”
Frowning, he grunted noncommittally.
Brenna let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. “We’ll start with you lying on your front, then I’ll have you flip over.” She inserted a doughnut-shaped face cradle into one end of the table, then lined it with a soft cloth. “There we are.”
She turned around, zeroing in on Cal’s lips, this time. They looked…rather delectable. She swallowed before meeting his tired eyes. “Any questions?”
He shook his head.
“Is it okay if I turn up the heat? I don’t want you to get cold while I’m working on you.”
“Yeah, that’s fine. Whatever you need.”
“Great. I’ll knock to let you know I’m coming back in.”
She pulled her cosmetics bag out of one of the duffel’s outer pockets. Then she adjusted the thermostat by a few degrees, turned down the lights, and escaped into Cal’s bathroom, shutting the door behind her.
Away from his compelling presence, she grew less flustered. After three long years with little time for anything except keeping Serenity Massage afloat, she could be forgiven for finding him appealing. Couldn’t she?
The humid air was scented with a pleasant soapy fragrance, and droplets still clung to the sides of the glass shower recess. A towel was spread out on the heated rack. Do not imagine your hot client in the shower!
Instead, she rummaged in her cosmetics bag until she found what she was looking for—lip gloss. Being mostly a non–makeup-wearing kind of girl, it was the best she could do under the circumstances.
She unscrewed the cap and faced her reflection in the mirror, lip gloss at the ready. Then she straightened, looking herself in the eye. Her lips were fine the way they were. She was there to do her job, not doll herself up. She put the lip gloss away, unused.
Brenna washed and dried her hands before folding a couple of clean hotel towels across her arm. Inhaling deeply, she turned back to the door. Showtime.
She knocked twice, then opened the door a crack. “Cal? Are you ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” he quipped.
She pulled the door all the way open, illuminating Cal’s tousled hair and powerful shoulders. The rest of his body was outlined underneath the sheet and blanket, which now hung askew.
Ignoring the temptation to ogle her client, she stepped through the doorway. Then she shut the door behind her, returning the bedroom to its dimly lit state.
She tucked her cosmetics bag back into its duffel pocket and laid the towels on the coffee table, within easy reach. All that remained was to dig out her pump-bottle of massage oil and its nylon holster from the nearly empty duffel, and strap the holster around her hips.
After sliding a pillow under Cal’s shins, she adjusted the covers. And then it was time to touch him. She was supposed to be calming herself in preparation for the next hour and a half, but her heart wouldn’t stop racing.
Faking tranquility, she moved to his side and started her usual routine. “Okay, Cal, are you comfortable? The headrest is adjustable if you need me to move it up or down.”
“Then let’s begin. Let me know if the pressure is too heavy or too light, or I’ve reached a sensitive area.”
Brenna rubbed her hands together, warming them. Then she folded the blanket down from his waist, leaving the sheet pulled up to his shoulders. She could do this. She’d done this thousands of times since graduating from massage school almost four years ago.
It was just that she hadn’t even wanted to touch a man with more than purely professional intentions in ages. And now that a guy had finally piqued her interest—a guy who didn’t even live in Boston, she reminded herself—her professions’ ethical limitations chafed in a way they never had before. Life was so unfair sometimes.
But her hormones had waited this long; they could suck it up and wait a little longer. Forever, if they had to. She wasn’t going to do anything to jeopardize the referral relationship she’d painstakingly developed with the Rajah. The dozen or so outcall clients the hotel sent her way every month often made the difference between barely scraping by, and being able to save a little toward next month’s expenses.
She rested her hands at the base of Cal’s spine, on top of the sheet. Then she began a series of long strokes that smoothed the sheet against him from the top of his glutes up to his shoulders and down again, until he started to relax. Only then did she undrape his upper body, folding the sheet across his firm butt and tucking it in under each hip.
It was like unwrapping a long-anticipated present. Cal’s broad, beautifully muscled back greeted her, a few little freckles scattered here and there along his V-shaped torso. His well-defined traps and delts gave way to heavy triceps. She was looking forward to the pure sensuality of smoothing slick fingers and palms across warm skin and taut muscle. At least that was well within the bounds of propriety.
She warmed some oil in her palms before placing her hands between his shoulders, at the top of his spine. Pausing, she savored the first moment of skin-to-skin connection. She visualized healing energy passing through her tingling palms into Cal’s tense muscles. With her pulse beating heavily in her throat, she began a series of long effleurage strokes, up and down his back.
Then, forcing her attraction to him into abeyance, she started on his shoulders in earnest. A pained sound escaped him as she began to knead the twin knots where his neck met his torso.
“Cal? Is this too much?”
“Ohhhh, God. I can take it. It’s okay.” Each burst of words came out in a rush, as if she were squeezing them out of him with every press against the bunched-up muscles.
Brenna couldn’t tell if he was trying to convince her or himself, so she eased off as she compressed the trigger points that riddled his back and shoulders. She’d had clients as tense as Cal before, but not many of them.
His breath escaped on a pained hiss when she tugged against one of his shoulder blades, working her fingers into the knots hiding underneath. “Do you ever talk with your clients while you’re working?” he asked.
“Sure. Need some distracting?”
“Yeah.” The word sounded almost like a groan. “Something to take my mind off these knots. I had no idea I had so many.”
Sports was always a safe topic. “Have you watched any Red Sox games while you’ve been in town?”
“Yesterday’s game was unbelievable,” he said. “Did you see it?”
“I didn’t get home until the eighth inning, but I caught Pedroia’s two-run homer in the ninth.”
“You’re a Sox fan?”
“I’ve lived here for nine years,” she said drily. “It’s kind of hard not to be to some degree.”
“Where are you from originally? You look like you’re from an island in the South Pacific or something.”
Brenna stiffened, then forced herself to relax. Maybe he didn’t mean anything by it. Not everyone was like Gregory’s awful family. She would operate under that assumption until Cal showed his true colors, whatever they might be.
“California.” Then she steeled herself to answer the question he was really asking, the question she’d been asked more times than she could count. “My dad’s Japanese. His family came to the US when he was two. My mom is your quintessential blonde and blue-eyed California girl.” As she spoke, her hands continued to press and glide, homing in on areas of tension—which was pretty much all of him. Lord, did this man need bodywork.
“Ah, that’s cool,” he said. “Do you speak Japanese?”
Her concern faded. “A little. My dad didn’t really speak it except with my grandparents. I actually speak more Spanish. Some French, too.”
“I wish I spoke another language. I took French in high school, but it didn’t stick.”
“Quel dommage,” she teased him.
“I remember that one! ‘What a shame.’”
She imagined his grin—lopsided and adorably sexy. Too bad he was lying on his stomach, so she couldn’t see it.
“I’m a Sox fan too, actually,” he said after a moment.
“Because they’re playing well?”
“No, I’m legit. Grew up in New Hampshire.”
“Local boy makes good, eh?” She smiled, even though he couldn’t see her.
“Something like that.”
The tension ebbed from Cal’s upper body as he underwent her ministrations, and they both fell silent. Brenna enjoyed this aspect of her profession the most—helping her clients find peace, both physical and emotional. Cal’s breathing began to slow and even out, and her own gradually matched it.
She moved to his lower back, applying deep pressure as she slid her hands a little way underneath the sheet, then around to the back of his hips. He stiffened up again; this area was plagued by trigger points as well.
“Cal? Would you like me to work these knots in your hips and glutes?” The question was part of her standard routine, but on him it felt way more sensual than normal. And not just because the man had a tremendously fine ass.
“Mmm. Yeah. The knots hurt a bit, but it feels so good when you’re done with them.”
His thick, sleepy voice sent an inappropriate shiver up her spine. Down, girl!
She laid one of the towels across his upper back so he wouldn’t lose too much heat through his oil-slicked skin. Then she redraped him, exposing his right leg and most of the right side of his chiseled butt.
Warming another generous dollop of oil between her hands, she set to work. One hand rested atop the other, so the weight of her body pressed down through just her right palm.
He let out a groan.
Brenna paused. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, sorry. I couldn’t help it,” he murmured, sounding embarrassed.
“No, that’s fine. You do what your body needs to do.” She circled once again up to his lower back before starting another deep glide across his firm glutes.
After a few minutes, he shifted on the table. She thought nothing of it until she became aware he was tensing in cadence with her massage strokes. His breath, she now noticed, was also hitching almost imperceptibly as her hands rounded the curve of his butt to his hips.
In fact, both his repetitively tensed muscles and his increasingly ragged inhalations were getting more obvious. It was almost like…
Brenna bit her lip. Oh, shit. Cal was getting turned on. And a tiny, secret part of her reveled in it.