It was early June, the day before the longed-for vacation and Sunny was packing, which meant that her apartment with its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Marina, was in chaos. Not that it was tidy at the best of times, something that drove Mac crazy. The exception was the kitchen which was as immaculate and scrubbed as an operating room.
Sunny had learned to cook from her Mexican grandmother (Abuelita’s Christmas Eve tamales were a traditional treat never to be forgotten) and she loved her kitchen. She loved cooking for Mac, always taking care to choose a wine that would please a man who had by now become quite the connoisseur. And always taking care to wear something sweet and sexy that would appeal to his heart as well as his palate.
When she’d first met Mac at the press party for his TV show, she’d found herself looking at a rugged guy in jeans and a T-shirt, which she soon came to know was his habitual attire, and whose intense blue eyes were taking her in like she was the best thing he had seen all night. Electricity ran between their fingers when they shook hands. It was, Sunny thought, as though they were connected, grounding that electricity, sending a warm welcoming glow through her body. That was two years ago now and they had rarely been apart since.
Now Mac had become famous; his Mac Reilly’s Malibu Mysteries TV docudrama was shown around the world. He’d resolved some of Hollywood’s long-drawn-out mysteries, crimes of passion, money and violence and had an almost uncanny ability to get into the mind of a criminal—or a killer. Plus somehow he always managed to keep his sense of humor. Add to that, on camera he was so darn attractive in his own beat-up, laid-back way, the way that Sunny found so endearing.
Mac also kept Sunny on her toes helping with his crime investigations. He made her feel as though he couldn’t live without her. He made her laugh and he bought her flowers and, when jealous Tesoro wasn’t around, they made better love that anyone had a right to expect. Life and love were like the same thing for Mac Reilly and Sunny loved him to pieces, though she did wonder how they could ever get married, because of their dogs. She was in her thirties and Mac in his forties. It was perfect timing. She would have given up the Marina apartment in a minute and moved in with him had their dogs not been so antagonistic. Still, she was forced to admit that Tesoro was the main culprit. Poor Pirate had learned to keep his distance when Tesoro curled her lip and bared her teeth in something that could definitely not be called a smile. And in fact, so had Mac, who had the scars to prove it.
Sunny sighed as she hefted yet another pile of clothes from the closet to the bed, already strewn with more than enough garments for a six-month stay and for every social eventuality. Why couldn’t she ever make a decision, cut out two thirds and pack light, the way magazines told you?
Tesoro, sleek, chestnut-colored and pampered beyond belief, sat in the open suitcase, tense as a coiled spring, staring mournfully at her, afraid of being left behind in the kennels near the airport, where in fact she was treated like a princess and was said to have a good time. Of course she would never let Sunny know that. Tesoro knew how to lay guilt on her mistress, thick as hot cream.
"It’s okay, sweetheart, this time you’re coming with me," Sunny promised, depositing Tesoro in the smart Louis Vuitton dog carrier purchased at great expense the previous day. "After all," she said, "a dog can’t go to St. Tropez in just any old carrier, now can she?"
She walked over to the windows and stood looking out at the forest of masts, pennants fluttering under a clear blue sky, still worrying about the packing.
Then the phone rang.
"Hi, babe, it’s me."
Sunny smiled. "And this is the St. Tropez girl, ready to hit the beach and drink that rosé wine."
"Yeah, well . . ."
Sunny heard the hesitation in Mac’s voice and frowned.
"It’s like this, Sunny. I’m calling from the set. There’s a few problems here and I have to reshoot some scenes. It involves rewrites and I’m not going to be able to make the flight tomorrow."
"I can’t leave tomorrow."
Stunned, Sunny said nothing.
"Look, I’m sorry, honey, but you know how it is. I have no choice. Here’s what I thought. Why don’t you go on ahead, take that flight anyway? Chez La Violette’s ready and waiting, the housekeeper will be there so you’ll be looked after, and I’ll join you in a couple of days."
"A couple of days?"
Mac’s voice had a sigh in it. "I’ll do my best, hon, but there’s no reason for you and Tesoro not to leave tomorrow. You have all the necessary papers for the dogs. You can get a head start on that tan. Look, I’ll arrange for a limo to pick you up at the apartment. You can catch the Paris flight, then on to Nice. All you have to do when you get there is go to Hertz, collect the car and drive to St. Tropez. I’ll give you the house keys and the rental agreement Madame Lariot FedExed me."
Sunny was silent until Mac finally said, "What do you think?"
She glared at him down the phone. "I’m thinking," she said, "about what to do with a man who backs out of a vacation trip at the last minute."
"Sun, baby, I’m not backing out. I’ll be there in a few days."
"Two, three at the most."
"Okay," she said reluctantly.
"I’ll be through here around nine. Can I come round and see you?"
"Meet me at Giorgio’s," she said. "At least we can have a farewell dinner."
Even though she was miffed, Sunny made sure she looked good in a sleeveless white linen top and a narrow skirt with a clunky turquoise necklace and her signature red lipstick. Her cloud of softly curling shoulder-length black hair shone and her skin glowed golden in the soft light. She got there on time and sat, sulking, waiting for him.
Mac was half an hour late, hurrying into the small crowded Italian restaurant, dark blue eyes searching for her, pausing here and there on the way to her corner table to shake hands with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes with Posh and Beckham at one table, and Sharon Stone, gorgeous as ever, at another. Everyone knew Mac from his TV show, and everyone liked him because he was up-front, honest and very good at what he did. Sunny’s eyes met his across the room, and despite her disappointment her face lit up. Even tired, in a faded T-shirt and jeans and with the black leather jacket she’d bought him slung over his shoulder, Mac’s long lean lived-in good looks turned her on.
He dropped a kiss on her hair then sat opposite and took both her hands in his. "Will you forgive me?"
"Hey," she said lightly. "It’s not often a girl gets to go to St. Tropez on her own. You never know what kind of trouble she might get up to."
Mac shook his head, glad that she had seen reason and was accepting the inevitable.
"Too true," he said, as the waiter poured the decent Antinori Chianti that Sunny had already ordered. "You just never know. And anyhow you speak French."
"Hah, I worked in Paris for a while, but that was years ago. I’ve probably forgotten most of what I knew."
"I daresay it’ll come back to you. When you’re in France, I mean." Mac gripped her hand across the table. "You won’t be alone for long, I promise." He was glad to see Sunny’s face light up; the old sparkle was back in her eyes.
"I know, I know . . . you just love me too much ever to risk me being chatted up by gorgeous European men."
"You’re right on that, baby."
Mac kissed her hand and they grinned at each other across the table.
"It’s our last night together," she said, giving him a dramatic stare from under lashes that were so long and thick they cast shadows on her cheekbones.
He reached across and ran his finger gently over them. "You’re not gonna cry on me are you, babe?"
The dramatic stare became a haughty glare. "Am I the kind of woman who cries?"
"Well, under certain circumstances . . ."
"Like, sometimes after we’ve made love . . ."
"Hah! That’s an entirely different matter. That’s . . . that’s . . ."
"That’s pleasure," she whispered, her eyes now linked with his in that intimate gaze only lovers possess.
"Did I tell you you look beautiful tonight? Lovelier than I even remember?"
"You’re just saying that to get off the hook."
"Will you let me off the hook then?"
"This time . . . maybe. But only this once."
"Good. Now can we get down to business and order the spaghetti with langoustines?"
Sunny sighed with delight. "You certainly know how to please a woman."
"It’s my specialty."
"That and solving murders."
"Maybe that too."
"But not in St. Tropez." She was firm on that. "In St. Tropez we’re on vacation."
"Of course." Mac took her hands across the table. "Pretty ring," he said.
"Soon there will be two rings."
"I guess you’re right." Mac mentally crossed his fingers behind his back. He loved Sunny totally but this marriage business was another matter. Still, they would have to see what a stay at Chez La Violette and romance in the South of France would bring.
After dinner, driving his customized Prius hybrid, Mac followed Sunny in her Mini Cooper to the condo in Marina del Rey. No gas guzzlers for them. He parked next to her and they took the elevator to the ninth floor, necking passionately all the way.
"I’m gonna miss you, hon," he murmured, kissing her earlobes and feeling her shudder with pleasure.
He’d forgotten about Tesoro, who leapt at him as soon as he stepped through the door. "How could I forget you, you little savage?" he said, negotiating the foyer with Tesoro still sniffing at his heels. "Sun, what’re you gonna do about this dog?"
He looked plaintively at her and she laughed. "Tesoro is my true love, aren’t you, baby?" She got down on her knees and the dog deserted Mac, jumping into Sunny’s arms and licking her face with enthusiastic little yups of delight.
"You’ll miss her when she’s gone," Sunny warned.
"Wanna bet? And anyhow, you’re not gone yet and I need to get close to you."
As though the dog had heard what he said, it turned its head and confronted him, still smugly ensconced in Sunny’s arms, which was exactly where Mac wanted to be. Still laughing, Sunny carried the dog into the kitchen, took out a bag of treats and a large chew bone, and presented them to Tesoro. Tail wagging, the little dog sniffed, then tucked in.
"Happy at last," Mac said, taking her hand and leading her into the bedroom, meaning himself of course, as well as the dog. He stared dismayed at the small mountain of clothes still piled on the bed, next to an almost-empty suitcase.
"Your version of packing," he said stunned.
"Packing is a very personal matter." Sunny scooped the clothes carelessly off the bed and onto the floor, then she walked into his arms and tucked her head into his neck.
Her dark hair smelled like a fresh breeze and tickled his nose. Mac smoothed it gently back, enjoying its texture under his fingers. He pulled her closer. They stood, body to body. She tilted her head back, closing her eyes as he slid his hands up under her skirt, gripping her lace-clad buttocks, pulling her into him. She had recently taken to wearing lacy boy shorts instead of thongs and Mac thought how sexy they were as he slid his hands beneath the lace, hearing her sigh of pleasure.
"Beautiful," he whispered. "How beautiful you are, my Sunny, my most beautiful woman . . ."
She moved away, just a little, enough to allow her to fall back onto the bed, pulling him with her. Her white skirt inched up her golden thighs. The pale blue lace pan ties were just waiting to be taken off by Mac’s trembling hands. He couldn’t wait, not even long enough to remove all her clothes, or his.
"Do you want me, baby?" he whispered, pressing hard against her. "Tell me you want me."
"I do, oh I do," she whispered back. "Even if you are deserting me and sending me off to St. Tropez alone."
"What?" Mac pushed himself up onto his knees.
"Well," Sunny said, lying there, looking up at him, all big innocent amber eyes under the flutter of dark lashes. "After all, you won’t be able to make love to me if you’re not there, with me. Will you?"
"Two days," Mac groaned. "It’s only two days, Sunny."
Her sigh echoed round the bedroom, the lashes fluttered dramatically. "It might as well be two weeks."
Their eyes met. They looked at each other for a long moment in silence. Sunny cracked first. A smile dimpled the corners of her mouth. "Just teasing," she said. And with a groan, Mac fell back on top of her, snuffling her neck, biting her ears, kissing her mouth.
"Will you let me make love to you, even though I’m deserting you in France for two whole days?"
"Maybe three," she reminded him.
"Aw, who cares," he said, quickly divesting himself of all his clothes. He had forgotten all about the dog. That is until a small whirlwind landed on his back, snapping at bits of him he would rather not have had exposed and sending him yelling away from Sunny and tumbling to the floor.
Frantically covering his private parts, Mac heard her laughing, as though it was the funniest thing she had ever seen.
"Bitch," he yelled at her. Then he began to laugh too. When he got to his feet and took a look, the dog was sitting on Sunny’s belly. He could swear there was a triumphant look on its little Chihuahua face.
"I guess we have to wait till France," he said reluctantly.
Sunny was still laughing as she said, "I guess so."
Excerpted from There’s Something About St. Tropez by Elizabeth Adler.
Copyright 2009 by Ardnavarna, Inc.
Published in July 2009 by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.