Despite warnings of annoying mosquitos and beastly spiders, Becca Glover couldn’t be more excited about her expedition to Costa Rica. Rooming with Matt Ritter, however, is an inconvenience she doesn’t see coming. He wields a machete, shaves with a knife and needs to wear a decent amount of clothes to cover the muscles she can’t stop staring at.Hired to lead a group of scientists through the jungle, Matt is convinced the fiery redhead is intent on making his job harder than it needs to be. Rebecca doesn’t listen and seems to invite danger at every turn. Her attitude is as much of a distraction as her curves and emerald green eyes. Now if he could only pay as much attention to his job as he does to her, their one-month adventure would fly by without a hitch.Hot temperatures, wild animals and a shared tree house are just the beginning of Becca and Matt’s obstacles. The real challenge lies in surviving each other.
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It was early evening and the crew had finished dinner and scampered back to their huts. Becca had hoped that tonight they could linger at the dinner table, talk and bide their time, but no, here she was again with her co-habitant. It had been a long day and the power outage had put everyone in a somber mood. They’d made such good progress on their work and now everything was on hold until tomorrow. Matt would repair the generator and hopefully the power would stay on for the rest of the trip.
She’d been moody lately and she attributed that to several things. First, her lost luggage, which she’d finally gotten back yesterday. For a minute there, she’d panicked thinking she’d run out of underwear and other necessities.
Then her ankle had dampened her spirit and she’d been unable to do anything for a couple of days. Quite frankly, she hadn’t expected to be this uncomfortable in her temporary work environment. She’d romanticized the experience before going on the trip.
And finally there was Matt, who seemed to provoke her to no end. He constantly walked around half dressed, wielded a machete like he was Rambo, and insisted on playing the hero. He was everywhere she went and she felt as though she couldn’t escape him. It was enough to drive any woman crazy. She needed to focus on her work now that she was mobile again, not on the security guard. He was a distraction that she couldn’t afford to have.
She took a deep breath and stepped out onto the deck. The rain had fizzled to a light mist and the temperature had cooled down. At least that made her feel better.
The sounds of the jungle reminded her that many creatures were not going to sleep, but just getting their day started. She closed her eyes and listened. She could have been fooled into thinking she was listening to a meditation soundtrack. And then there was a whack. And again.
She opened her eyes and looked down. There was Matt, in the middle of throwing something, oblivious of her high above. She realized he was holding the same knife he’d used to shave with.
He threw it with exact precision into the tree trunk several feet ahead, then walked to the tree, pulled out the knife and proceeded to do the same thing over again. He settled into a rhythm, and every minute or so, the thud of impact reached her ears.
She watched him throw repeatedly, getting lost in her own thoughts and the murmurings of nature.
“You sure you wanna be out here in the dark, princess?” Matt shouted.
She blinked hard and focused on his face grinning up at her. At least she had graduated to being called a princess, she thought exasperated.
“It’s not dark yet and I’ll be fine,” she shouted back.
“I can always light some fires for you,” he joked.
She rolled her eyes and went back inside. The man was impossible. She went to her room and grabbed the book she’d brought from home, then plopped on the couch and started to read. After a page, she looked at the clock. Seven-thirty. Christ.
The thumping noise continued outside, giving her peace of mind knowing Matt was far enough away to leave her alone. The problem was, however, she was all alone. Tomorrow she’d ask the women if she could switch huts with one of them for a couple of days, simply to get some relief and interaction with another female.
By the time Matt walked in, it was dark outside. Becca had made it through the first chapter of the book without knowing what she’d actually read. At least now she was tired and guaranteed to fall asleep with no problems.
Matt took off his sweaty shirt just as she set her book on the coffee table and stood.
“What are you doing?” she asked, feeling as though she was always asking him that.
He looked at her surprised. “Taking my shirt off. And you?”
“Not taking mine off, that’s what.”
“I think we established that,” she heard him mumble under his breath.
He shrugged and started walking away.
“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t undress at any given opportunity,” she said quickly before he disappeared in his room.
He turned to give her an assessing look, then walked to the kitchen counter and set down his knife and sweaty shirt. “In case you haven’t noticed, it’s hot. I’m sweating. You want me to wear a sweater for the remainder of our stay?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she said flustered. She grabbed her book, deciding this discussion was not worth prolonging. She started walking towards her room when he stepped in front of her.
“Where are you going?” he asked with a frown.
“To my room.”
“I don’t think so. You started this, so now we’ll talk about it.”
She couldn’t help from looking at his naked torso standing before her. Oh, for heaven’s sake! Why did she give him the satisfaction of looking?
“There is nothing to talk about,” she said once their eyes locked again. “Just keep your shirt on please.”
“Why?” he wanted to know.
Why? What the heck was she supposed to say? “Because it’s not decent.”
He barked with laughter. “I don’t give a rat’s ass about decency.”
“That much is obvious,” she said dryly. “But since you’re living with me, a woman, you might want to give decency a shot.”
“You’re not the first woman I shared a room with,” he started to say.
“Well, that’s not a surprise,” she mumbled. “And we’re not sharing a room, we’re sharing a house.”
“Whatever. The others didn’t have problems with my decency.”
Oh brother. This conversation was going nowhere.
“Well, I do. I need you to put your clothes on, keep them on and stay out of my way. Every time I try to focus, you’re distracting me and it’s getting annoying.”
His eyebrows shot up. “I’m pissing you off?”
“Yes,” she shot back before she could bite her tongue.
“Guess what? The feeling is mutual. You’ve been nothing but trouble since we got here.”
He was only a couple of feet away from her, but she didn’t care about the nearness. Now she was starting to get annoyed.
“I don’t see what I have done to make your job harder,” she said.
He let out a fake laugh. “It’s no smooth sailing keeping an eye on you, believe me.”
“As I’ve told you before, Mr. Ritter, you don’t need to keep an eye on me. I’m perfectly fine keeping an eye on myself.”
The nerve of that man to say she was difficult. Besides twisting her ankle, she had done nothing else to be an inconvenience to anyone. He, on the other hand, seemed to get some perverse pleasure out of torturing her.
“Whatever you say, sweet cheeks.”
“Stop calling me that!” The nicknames alone drove her crazy.
“Listen, lady. We are stuck together in this jungle and this hut, whether you like it or not,“ he said, taking a step forward. She resisted the urge to step back and insinuate that she was intimidated. She wasn’t. She just didn’t want to stare into his now angry eyes.
“You’re welcome to go sleep out there with the jungle cats,” he continued, “but I doubt you’ll wanna do that. So do us both a favor and calm down. You’re much safer with me here than out on your own. I’m not gonna bite and I keep my hands to myself.” He held up his hands as if to prove that they weren’t doing anything mischievous behind his back.
“Now, are you going to act like a normal person and give me some peace, or do I have to throw you over my shoulder and lock you in your room?” At this point, he was right up in her face.
At the mention of being thrown over his shoulder, she flinched and took a step back. “I thought you’d keep your hands to yourself.“
“I will as long as you don’t provoke me.”
She gulped. She’d definitely not provoke him.
“Are you calm now?” he asked, still much too close. His hazel eyes looked broodingly at her and his skin glistened with perspiration. Damn her for finding that arousing.
“Well?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.
She stared at his mouth, surrounded by the stubble along his jawline. Whatever he’d asked her slipped her mind.
“Are you calm?” he repeated, his voice quieter and raspier than before. His gaze covered every inch of her face and she could only imagine what she looked like from the blasted heat.
“I’m calm,” she responded in a mere whisper. Her heart wasn’t. It was pumping a million times a minute.
He leaned forward. “Good.”
She held her breath, sure that even he could hear her pulse racing. Her chin tilted up and she moistened her lips in anticipation, but he stepped around her and walked away.
She stood like an idiot rooted to the spot. Her breath came out in one long whoosh, like a deflated balloon.