Arms of a Stranger by J. A. Clarke

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Desperate to reinvent her life after her wedding is canceled, Calliope Marshall chooses an exotic vacation in Costa Rica. The guidebook, however, neglects to mention steamy nights and strip poker games with a man who looks like an archangel. But even an archangel can come, it seems, with a devious, meddling grandmother, and soon Calli finds her quest for independence diverted in an entirely unexpected way.

Matt Holloway is on vacation to keep an eye on his grandmother. He doesn't expect to be rescuing a cute, curvy muse from territorial monkeys and carnivore-infested rivers. The strip poker games in the wee hours of the morning are a bonus, until he finds himself losing more than his clothes.


"First," she said, "you have to get rid of that."

He looked in the direction of her pointing finger and she was positive he shuddered. "Just a little spider. He won't hurt anything. In fact, he'll take care of the other bugs."

"You're scared of spiders."

"Am not." He parked his long frame on the second bed. "How about some poker, mummy?"

She crossed her arms and didn't bother to hide her grin. "Not until that creature disappears."

He sighed and unfolded himself from the bed. "Fine, but I don't do murder." He vanished into the small cubicle, which passed for a bathroom with the minimum necessities. When he reappeared he was trailing two feet of toilet paper from one hand.

Mystified, she watched as he reached high above where the spider hung and tucked an end of the toilet paper into the blind. When he was done, the tail concealed the creature. He brushed his hands together. "Mission accomplished. Let's play poker."

"But it's still there."

"You said it had to disappear. Can you see it?" He sat down and picked up the cards.

"No, but--"

"Then my work is done." He began to shuffle the cards. "Ante up. Colones or clothes?"

"I don't have any colones."

"Strip poker it is then."

She wriggled onto the bed across from him. "Is this how you get dates?"

He began to deal the cards, a grin on his face. "Nah. It's usually about the third or fourth step in my dating strategy. We have to compress things here because our time is so short."

"We're not dating." The idea played leapfrog in her belly. She picked her cards up.

"Sure we are. We've kissed. I rescued you. You dumped me in a carnivore-infested river. We're playing strip poker at the crack of dawn. Ergo we're dating."

"Ergo? Who are you and what do you do? And we're not playing strip poker. Ack!" Another boom of thunder right overhead made her drop her cards. Lightning flashes strobed across the closed blinds.

Matt yawned and patiently redealt the cards. "It'll be over soon," he said. "These storms never last for long. Sounds like we're playing for answers to questions."

  • Published by: Uncial Press

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