Two young and indecently handsome bicyclists visit a village in the French Alps during the summer holidays. Forced by a raging storm to spend the night at the local bed & breakfast, they invade the quiet lives of hostess Anne and her husband, Brian. A power outage plunges the foursome into darkness, encouraging new liaisons to form, life-long secrets to be unveiled, and steamy lessons to be learned. But once the storm moves on, can the four find a balance and resume their normal lives?
A distant boom of thunder made Anne look up from the dinner table, wiping cloth in hand. Outside, black clouds built above the hill tops in the horizon, threatening to embrace the small mountain village. “Hmm, looks like the weather’s changing again.” Nodding, she returned to the wooden table and removed the remaining breakfast crumbs. “We’re in for another one, Brian.”
These storms came quickly in the Alps, grazing the snow covered, fork-like peaks before diving into the deep valleys and ravaging them with inhuman force. After a few hours, the darkness would vanish as if wiped away by a magic wand, once again leaving the villageois with a familiar sense of awe and the tourists reeling in shock at the power of nature.
Anne looked up into his face, seeing him for the first time. How in the world had she missed such a jewel earlier? Among tanned, Latin features, a pair of black diamonds sparkling with mischief stared back without shame. His long, black locks were swept back in a ponytail, revealing a single golden earring in his left lobe. Large chest muscles heaved beneath a tight, pink spandex shirt, begging to be caressed by a woman’s hand, and black chest hairs peeked from the open collar.
Anne tugged at her trapped hand. “Please.” “Oh.” Feigning surprise, the dark beauty lifted an eyebrow and removed his hand, allowing her to retrieve hers. “Sorry,” he added, rolling a thick R with his tongue, keeping his lips parted a second too long. A move so deliberately naughty, her stomach knotted with need. As she retreated, he studied her face with a grin, arrogance and amusement gleaming in his dark eyes, before turning his attention to the two other men.
Todd leaned forward to grab his handlebars and plowed on the pedals. His tires crushed tiny stones on the wet asphalt, spraying them to the sides, the sound ricocheting between house walls. The Italian seemed to hesitate. His mesmerizing black diamonds met her gaze and sharpened. Rain splashed on his cheekbones, giving his tanned skin a glow. What? She raised a brow at him. He ripped his look away from her, sent her husband a courteous nod, and followed his blond friend down the street.
“Anne?” She spun around and stifled a gasp. The handsome Italian stood cross-armed in the doorframe. Despite tired eyes and cold clothes glued to his body—spandex pants leaving nothing to the imagination—his lips were flushed in contrast with his pale, damp skin, and he exuded the same charismatic self-confidence as earlier. He smiled. His first gesture of kindness since they’d met, so touching, her chest ached, and so surprising, it took her a while to recover.
A loud bang detonated somewhere over the village. She counted the seconds until the lightning strike. One, two. A sudden flash of white snuck in between the shutters, enough to reveal the side of Micaela’s face and his curving lips. Blackness took over again. Anne blinked, regretting the new loss of sight. Cold fingers reached out of the void and found her shoulders. She gasped and stepped backward, bumping into hard, horizontal bars—the shelves in the open closet. He followed her.
Heavy rain assaulted the windows and the asphalt outside in a steady, monotonous beat. Playful gusts of wind toyed with the open shutters, provoking small creaks. Raindrops zigzagged on the glass panes in a random maze. If she had any time, she would take a pause to go to the window and watch the wet patterns form and change, dreamily losing herself in their dance.
Mica shrugged with a white-toothed grin and removed his pullover. Damp heat drifted to her, with the smell of musk and sweat. She couldn’t help breathing in his manly scent and wanting to memorize it. When he folded the sweater over the chair arm and straightened, she stifled a gasp of admiration. The man was better looking than any god from Greek mythology. Dim light shone on his tanned and perfectly sculpted torso. She could only gape and stare, transfixed. Blood pulsed in her temples.
Slumped in the passenger seat, Mica stared ahead, occasionally glancing at her without a word. His breathing sounded labored. At one point, he coughed so hard and long she thought he would choke, but she didn’t dare drive faster. The car lights were her only source of illumination. What if she missed a curve? After a dreadful time zigzagging through the windy countryside, a sign indicated they were closing in on the village entrance.
She went back through the hall. Steam poured out of the open bathroom door, giving her an idea of what—or who—waited in the guest room. Pulse beating faster, she peeked inside. Sure enough, Mica stood in front of the bed with a white towel tied around his waist, long, wet hair hanging down his back, gazing at her. A smile widened across his gorgeous face. She drew a breath. What a hunk, despite the feverish glow of sickness in his dark eyes and the slight hunch of his shoulders.
Wind gusts played with the car like a marionette as they followed the winding lane, rain clattering on the roof. The wipers swooshed from side to side, sending waves of water backward. Though she didn’t dare drive too fast on the slippery asphalt, they would be home soon. In the bottom of a deep valley, a sharp turn made her pull the brakes—a good thing because a few meters farther, a fallen log barred the road, huge tentacle-like branches spread on the ground.
She hoped the cold weather wouldn’t worsen Mica’s condition. If it did, his cough could turn lethal, and she wouldn’t know what to do then. The thought paralyzed her. She couldn’t think straight. Thank God his warm, encouraging hand tugged on hers and kept her going. They walked in silence at a steady pace, meeting no one along the road. It seemed the storm had put a stop to all activity on the mountain, and only the neediest, as in their case, dared put a foot outside.
Mica made it to the barn and they sought shelter inside, where hay lay on the floor and the smell of cattle hung in the air. He coughed hard, crouching before going down on his knees. Fearing for his life, she knelt next to him, pulled the hood of her raincoat back, and reached out to pat his back. Her pulse pounded in her ears. He turned to look at her, heaving, sweat beading on his pallid face and black hair sticking to his wet skin. He frowned. “Eh, bella, don’t cry.”
The mirror reflected her beautiful evening dress, its sparkling black silk filling the room with glamour. Her generous cleavage had attracted looks from all around the table tonight, and she’d enjoyed the attention, but what did that help if two of the men were leaving? She went to the sink and leaned forward to check her makeup. Shiny brown eyes returned her intense look. But why are you so sad?