Sunset Rivalry (The Caliendo Resort, Book Two)

Anya Caliendo left her family and their resort two years ago. She was ashamed and afraid that her family would blame her for some of their father’s ruthless dealings. Now she returns to the resort in secret to find files to clear her name, but she doesn’t plan on running into her one-time lover, Quinn. 


Quinn used to work for Anya’s father too and he’s out to do the same as Anya – clear his name. When he runs into Anya, they strike a deal to help one another. Quinn wonders how he can trust a Caliendo to keep her word. Will she turn out to be just like her father? 


Amid the secret meetings and late-night file searches, Anya and Quinn also fight a connection that seems to draw them closer and closer. Will they be able to clear their names and rekindle a romance or will their past destroy the future they so desperately seek? 

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SUNSET RIVALRY BOOK TRAILER

Chapter One

THE DREARY THICK fog of the summer night made it difficult for Anya Caliendo to confirm the lights were off in each window around the cream-color stucco residence of her family.

The one-level structure peaked with skylights, which lit the tropical paradise inside. The magnificent core of the individual suites built by her father, Robert Caliendo, was literally an indoor heaven get-away with live plants around a pool edged like a rain forest with rocks forming a waterfall and slide.

The private area had eight suites and was a beautiful addition connected to the family business, The Caliendo Resort. The five-star all-inclusive resort was also a five-story magnificent getaway for guests all year around.

Anya watched the west side of the suites first, just as she had for the last three days. It was the section of the building where Anya’s suite was situated between her brother Marc, and her sister Violet’s suites.

Her eyes struggled to verify that both suites were dark, indicating her siblings had retired for the evening. Once confirmation was established, she rounded the bush to the east side of the building to check on the rest of her family.

Anya had purposely chosen the late hour, now almost two in the morning to avoid direct contact with any of her family.

Eliza and Emma’s lights were already off, but it was the youngest Caliendo sibling, Izzy, who Anya thought might still be awake.

Izzy was accustomed to staying up into the early hours of the morning. Anya would bet her trust fund that Izzy hadn’t changed at all in the last couple years. And her trust fund was hefty enough to support a life of luxury without working another day. No work, no job, just play, play, play...thanks to the very trust fund that made it possible for Caliendo siblings to play all day...but not encouraged. 

Izzy’s lights were off.

Thank goodness.

Anya sighed a breath of relief.

She was beginning to feel the exhaustion of sneaking around the last few nights in search of the key card that opened the doors of her father’s forbidden office.

She wondered briefly if any of her family were using her father’s office now that he’d passed away or was it just sitting there collecting dust. Just a turn of phrase really since it was regularly tended to by the maids.

The thought was very short, as she moved around the tree, away from her hiding place, her body sent jolts of pain through her shoulders and down her legs. The aching objection, after another long hike from her parked car and through the bushes that lined the Caliendo’s private residence, was a sign that she was pushing her body to the maximum. But more than the physical pain, the grueling search for a card that wasn’t where she clearly remembered leaving it was tormenting.

Anya would never forget that beautiful, bright, sunny afternoon the day her family buried her father. It was like nature’s unusual way of celebrating the man’s death...and he had enough enemies that Mother Nature wasn’t the only one cheering the occasion. 

Two years ago, after Anya had packed the bare essentials to take with her, she’d placed the key-card where she wouldn’t forget: the top right drawer in her office desk, tucked away and out of sight between the hand-written pages of her leather-bound recipe book. The book contained her prided personal recipes. Recipes she had once prepared for the guests, when she resided as top chef in The Locket, an on-site restaurant at the resort.

That seemed so very long ago. And, just like every other aspect of the resort that popped into her head, she also wondered if The Locket had changed too?

The memory was so achingly long ago and the feeling of accomplishment, pride and...happiness...seemed like a dream she could never seize.

Anya was forced to search every last drawer, every last corner, every last inch of her suite, with the tiniest hope she might find the card. She had no alternative.

This wasn’t the first key card to go MIA on her. A few months before she’d left the resort she’d misplaced her key card. The one with the chip in the corner and the one she had yet to find. It was most likely lost in the lake.

Searching her suite the first night had been a disastrous failure. Not only had she discovered the card was missing, but, while sitting at her desk flipping through the familiar pages of her recipe book, she’d instantly lost the direction of her task.

Each page and each recipe had sentimental meaning that brought forth a flood of emotions she hadn’t been prepared for. As the flashlight in her cell phone moved across the pages, with each word she read, she watched the recipes come to life.

Perhaps it sounded strange to others, that a mere recipe could bring tears to her eyes. She couldn’t explain it either. Cooking was more than a job to her. It was her life’s calling...had been her life’s calling.

Anya hadn’t touched a pot or pan in years, and reading what she had once loved, brought a sensation of passion she had no control over.

She could picture the ingredients and almost feel them in her hands as though she was preparing the meal right there at her desk. She swore the smell of the food, the lit stove, and the spices swirled around her like they did when she moved just as swiftly around the kitchen like it was part of her body...her soul.

It felt like home. It felt like life.

It was a distraction she couldn’t afford right now and, as quickly as she’d been transported back, she was snapped to the present. Not a moment too soon, and it reminded her why she had been holding the holy grail of her career.

By the time she pulled herself away from the pages of her book that first night, she’d let hours pass by and left no time to explore her suite.

That couldn’t happen again.

Anya needed to get into her dad’s office and get the file without her family knowing.

It would have been easier to ask her family for a new key card instead of slinking around in the dead of night, but she was not ready to answer the questions her return would bring.

Where have you been for the last two years? Are you alright? Why haven’t you talked to anyone? What have you been doing? Why have you been doing it?

Those were the questions she feared and requested answers she wouldn’t give them...the answers she couldn’t give them.

Anya emerged from the bushes and crossed the stretch of grass between it and her suite’s front door. She was quick and steady, hoping no one would glance outside and see her shadow moving across the yard.

With her house key clenched in one hand, she hopped up the stairs without stopping her fluid movement and unlocked the front door.

Slipping inside, she shut the door quietly and leaned against it, letting the relief of not being caught calm her quick breathing.

She was too old for this game of cat and mouse and she hated being the devious mouse.

Closing her eyes, Anya let the familiar smell of home tease her homesick senses yet again and dig into the deep desire to return.

But how could she?

How could she face her family and tell them the truth about where she had been the last two years...and the devastating reason why? They wouldn’t look at her the same if she explained that while she’d been trying to right a wrong, she’d made the situation worse...a lot worse.

Not only had her actions affected herself, but it almost cost one individual her life.

Two weeks ago Rebecca opened her confused eyes for the first time since that day two years ago, and sent the world Anya had become accustomed to collapsing down around her.

This time she would make it right. This time she would do what her father had sent her to do in the first place.

Her father.

Anya could so easily turn the blame from herself to her father and her family wouldn’t second guess her.

Robert Caliendo had been a mean, selfish man until the last months of his life. Greedy for money. Greedy for power. Greedy in every sense of the word. And his greed had created a monster. A monster that wrecked the lives of others. Just like Rebecca’s life...just like Anya’s life.

In fact, her family wouldn’t be shocked at all if Anya pointed the blame in Robert’s direction and she didn’t doubt they would rush to support her for being involved in one of his dirty messes. It would be so easy.

Coward...just like your dad.

The intense fear of being caught by her family was trampled down as her guilt-laden conscious scolded herself for even thinking of directing the blame elsewhere. It was a devious Robert move.

Anya would have never been talking to Rebecca two years ago, or been on that street with her, or reached her hand out to stop the hysterical woman, if Robert hadn’t asked his daughter to do so. But it hadn’t physically been Robert that insisted and argued with the other lady on the street that night. It hadn’t been Robert that promised the terrified woman a life of freedom, a life she no doubt ever expected or dreamed possible.

How could Anya resume her own luxurious life when she’d taken one away from another?

Anya could now feel the tears stinging her eyes. It was always like this. Tears stinging and nose sniffling...she had become the saddest person she’d ever encountered. A constant feeling of sickness so severe that she couldn’t even stomach food.

That night played over in Anya’s head every day since, conjuring up how she could have approached Rebecca differently and changed the horrible events that transpired. She should have been prepared for Rebecca’s reaction to who Anya was: A Caliendo.

Anya was responsible for the outcome, the horrific outcome that haunted her nights and weighed down her days. She feared more than her family’s reaction about her involvement with Rebecca, she feared they would play the situation down.

You couldn’t play down a life. Anya wouldn’t play down a life. This was her responsibility, and she was going to fix it and live with the consequences.

Tonight, her hands didn’t automatically reach for the lights, as they had each night before. Instead, her feet moved from the foyer across the marble open-concept floor of the luxurious suite. She passed the kitchen, ignoring where she had once filled the counters with fresh food and boiled, cooked, and fried delicacies and headed down the hall instead toward her bedroom.

Her bedroom and the memory-filled kitchen were the only rooms in her suite she hadn’t searched. 

Even being gone all these years, her bedroom still welcomed her with the smell of soft vanilla, making her want to crawl under her own sheets in her own bed and sleep away the life she was living as a horrible nightmare. She couldn’t.

Anya was quick, checking her dresser first and riffling meticulously through each drawer and its contents.

Nothing.

Her nightstands were next.

When she came up empty handed, she wanted to scream...or cry. She dreaded going on a hunt through her congested closet.

One key card. One file. How was this so difficult?

Anya had been so deeply lost maintaining her fury, that she hadn’t been prepared for the hands that gripped her arms.

It happened so quickly she didn’t have time to release the scream from deep down in her lungs.

There was no warning. Not a sound, not a shadow, not the thud of footsteps behind her...nothing.

The intruder whipped Anya around with such force that even if she’d been prepared, her strength couldn’t compete with the strength of this person.

Her disadvantage disoriented her vision. She fell against a solid chest. A man’s chest. There was no way in hell this brawny torso belonged to her brother. Marc was a fit, trim man, always had been, but he wasn’t built like the machine her body collided with now. Nor was there any way Marc would be creeping around in the dark waiting to attack her...like a cat hunting the sneaky little mouse. She hated this game!

Then, in an instant, just giving her enough time to inhale the deep, rich smell of her attacker, he spun her around. Her feet hardly touched the ground and Anya landed face first on the bed.

Her scream turned into a gasp.

She bounced once off the mattress then the body of the attacker pushed against her back, from her head to her rear, pressing her firmly against the bed.

Oh my gosh, I’m going to die. I’m going to die breaking into my own house. The irony.

Her wrists were bound above her head by the intruder’s firm grip. No tugging would free them, not that the knowledge stopped her from trying.

She could feel his warm breath kiss the side of her face and his warm scent brought back a quick glimpse of a similar incident...only it had been sexually satisfying, where this one was terrifying.

“Breaking and entering is such a Caliendo thing to do. But usually I’m paid to do it so the Caliendo’s don’t get their hands dirty.” The low, harsh whisper sent another wave of hot breath against her ear, subduing the terror as the voice she thought she’d never hear again registered through her pounding fear.

Quinn Barker? Quinn Barker! 

Oh, it figured, her dad’s top man would be the one pinning Anya to her own bed. This man was relentless. This man had no heart. This man definitely got his hands dirty...only he was so good that he didn’t leave a trail of evidence.

What was he doing here? In her suite? At the resort at all? Why hadn’t Marc given him the boot after her dad’s death?

Marc wouldn’t pay Quinn the big bucks their father had paid him to keep him employed. She didn’t believe for a second that Marc had followed in their father’s footsteps of deceit and pain...and yet here was Quinn. The master of digging up the garbage her father needed to bring people to their knees. People like Rebecca.

Through gritted teeth, her body squished between the mattress and this man’s over six-foot tall weight-training body, she said, “You’re going to get more than your hands dirty when I have you arrested for breaking and entering and assault.”

Quinn chuckled.

Chuckled? Chuckled! The nerve.

Having her pinned to the bed, in a non-sexual pleasure sort of way−even if her panties may have been getting wet with each passing second−and he had the nerve to chuckle?

“Get off me,” she demanded.

Besides the fact that this very position was bringing back undeniably breathtaking memories of time spent with this man, there was something deeper going on inside her. Something that had nothing to do with sexual pleasure, but instead like his presence was bringing amity to her core...when she didn’t deserve it.

Anya’s mind was reacting to just the sound of him, telling her to turn around, hug him and let his strength take away all the struggles and fear she was dealing with. He might have her pinned, but was that concern within in his voice?

How could a man who handed over confidential information to a man who destroyed the victims have concern in his voice?

That exact question had plagued her the evening before she left when the truth about his career had been revealed...warning her to walk away from him....which was exactly what she had done.

What had begun as a quick fling, soon turned into something more, but they hadn’t admitted it at the time. Not until Anya confronted Quinn with the truth her father provided. The information should have been an easy out for her. They’d gone into the relationship−if that’s what you could call it−on a sex only basis. Quinn was a “no strings attached” kind of man.

But what did Anya do?

She’d gone and developed feelings for him.

Feelings!

Feelings for a man who guarded himself, and his personal life−a man harbouring pain, regret, and sorrow. He’d fooled himself into believing he hid it from the world.

Was that what first attracted her to him? Her desire to fix him? No, it was his damn hot body first, and then along came her craving to be the woman to heal him...only to discover he was a giant ass who screwed with people’s lives just as ignorant as her father.

Quinn hadn’t denied it either. He’d admitted to working as head of security at the resort was a cover to his real job: Illegally investigating people’s lives for Robert. He’d given no remorse for his actions, leaving her decision to end things between them easy.

Now, wanting him to soothe her made her feel weak.

Soothe it yourself. Fix this yourself. Don’t rely on others.

Ugh.

Now here she was, two years later, and all she could think about was how much she missed Quinn.

What is wrong with you?

“I recall a time when you liked this position.”

Did he have to sound so damn sexy?

She wished every seductive word out of his mouth would make her angry rather than turn on.

You don’t have time for this.

“What do you want?” she snarled.

Quinn didn’t know her deep dark secret. She hadn’t told him about that night and she sure as hell wasn’t about to tell him now. He’d kept enough lies from her about himself and was thankful her father conveyed them with his last dying breath. Otherwise, who knew where they would have ended up?

His next sentence left her debating two possibilities. “The same thing as you...”

You? No, not him. Maybe a little him. Yeah, you need a little of him like you need another secret of your own.

Anya pushed away her current thoughts about him. None of it mattered anymore. Not who she was or what she wanted. She had an obligation to one person: Rebecca. An innocent person doomed by Robert’s wicked ways.

Anya breathed in her strength...but all she smelled was the distinct scent of all man that Quinn was and sent chills of desire through her.

Desire? Are you serious Anya?

“And that is?” She was thankful when her voice came out confident and not trembling like her body and her thoughts.

Quinn paused for a long moment, as if contemplating whether to admit the reason he was following her and restraining her on the bed.

Finally, he said in a low voice, “The file room.”

Anya stiffened.

How did he know? Did he know everything?

Did he know what Anya had done? Did he know about Rebecca?

Calm down. Of course he doesn’t know about Rebecca.

But, then again, it was his job to keep tabs on things.

Was he keeping tabs on her? This entire time?

“So that is what you’re looking for,” he said, taking note of her rigid body and silence.

Darn it.

“You never were good at hiding your true feelings. You’re not like Violet,” Quinn said.

What did that mean? Did he know Anya had felt more for him? She’d never told him.

Anya had had enough of this game. It was far worse than the cat and mouse game earlier. This was lion versus zebra and her pretty stripes were a dead giveaway.

She wanted to push him off her and demand respect, but she knew that wiggling beneath him would be useless and humiliating. Quinn had her cornered, just as he always had. Just like her selfish heartless father.

If Quinn was after the file room it was for one file and that would be the one to save his hide. His own file.

Selfish prick, as usual.

“If you don’t get off me now, I will have you arrested and on top of assault I will add a shit load of your dealings with my dad to the record.”

He let her go, but she knew her threat fell on deaf ears. Quinn could protect himself from anything brought forward...or could he? Maybe that’s why he wanted the file.

The mattress shifted as his weight lifted.

Anya had to dig deep down and pull all the self control she could find inside her trembling body not to scramble to her feet and put distance between them.

Under the circumstances one might presume it was because he’d had her nailed to the bed against her will.

It was quite the opposite.

She feared her willpower would ignore the signs that Quinn was nothing but trouble, and nail him against the wall with her mouth.

Scary and mind blowing.

Anya stood at the end of her bed and resisted the urge to straighten the ponytail she’d pulled her medium blonde hair into, or smooth over her black tights and sweater. She’d tried to dress for rogue and camouflage in the shadows. Apparently, if one was watching and waiting−aka Quinn Barker−it wouldn’t have mattered what she wore.

Now Anya felt foolish, like a teenager sneaking around thinking she was so clever only to be busted by her parents. Only parents didn’t give her the smoky hot eyes of Quinn that bore straight into her soul.

Smoky hot eyes? After all these years? Really?

Swallowing hard, she knew if Quinn gave her the smallest hint that he was interested in more than arguing over a key, she would let him take her.

Right here. Right now.

She would tear every last piece of clothing off his body to feel his strong, flexing muscles beneath her fingertips.

Oh for crying out loud! Now you’re acting like a horny teenager.

Quinn’s dark eyes held hers for what felt like hours locked in a moment of sharing everything they’d done together, and that last night.

Anya’s body trembled remembering how cold he’d been after she confronted him in her suite...right here in her bedroom where they stood now. He’d shut down and detached from her, confirming everything her father had said about him was true.

Now his eyes slowly traveled down her body, in a slow way that perceived every part of her. It was part of his job to assess people, monitor them and then invade and dig into their personal lives, their decisions, their actions...anything to use against them.

Did he notice she’d lost weight?

Anya knew she was stick and bones as a result of her appetite loss, struggling every day to push passed the sickness of her guilt and eat. Eat to survive.

Did he see the sadness in her eyes?

Her life was no longer her own and she was indebted to the life she’d ruined until she found Rebecca’s family and reunited them. Maybe afterwards Anya could resume her life.

Here? At the resort? With her family?

The notion was amazing, but how could Anya resume a normal life after everything that had happened? How could she smile, laugh and be happy? Deep down, she didn’t feel that was a possibility or something she even wanted. 

Quinn saw all of it. It didn’t matter, because he didn’t care.

Anya could hardly stand still as Quinn finished his profile assessment of her and stopped at her eyes, forwarding his unmistakable disapproval in her appearance.

That made her angry.

He had no idea what she’d been through. Who the hell did he think he was giving her a disapproving look?

Without a better solution, she did exactly the same thing as him.

Standing only a few feet away, with her eyes adjusting to the darkness, she ran her eyes down the same dark colors he wore as her.

She might not be able to see the rippling muscles of the workout body she knew was under the clothes, but the width and height of him made her luxury bedroom seem like the size of a mouse hole.

“Marc asked me to find you.” His words came out strong and confident. She would have retaliated if panic hadn’t arose through her body.

Marc? Why?

“When I find you, I’m to report to him.”

Report to him? Clearly she was wrong about her brother. 

Quinn pulled his cell phone out.

The thunderous sound of her own panic inside her head released a no that only she could hear, deafening her.

She wasn’t ready. She couldn’t face her family right now. But that was exactly what would happen if Quinn phoned Marc.

The Caliendos were a close-knit family and although the bonds between them were amazing for support and love, they wouldn’t understand.

“Wait,” she said, as his finger’s touch lit the screen. “What do you want?”

The way his breath released told her he was bargaining for himself. “I want into the file room. Obviously you’ve lost the swipe card−”

“I didn’t lose it.”

Quinn didn’t bother arguing. His raised eyebrow was proof enough that he was fully aware she’d lost the key.

His perspective annoyed her.

“I didn’t lose it,” she repeated, losing her patience.

I left it in my desk, which is no longer there.

Anya didn’t tell Quinn this fact because then he would wonder why her family member had taken it. She wondered the same thing. Another reason not to confront them.

Did they know about the room hidden behind her father’s office? Until her father had passed away she’d been the only one with access to that room and knowledge of the files hidden behind the fake wall.

“How do you plan on getting in without the card?” he asked.

“I plan on finding the card.”

It had to be here somewhere. It had to be one of the damn maids cleaning up when really they should leave well enough alone.

“And asking your family about it...” he inquired, as if that was even an option.

Anya glared at him. “That is out of the question,” she said.

“What swipe card do you need?”

She was wary to answer, but what choice did she have? At least with Quinn on her side, she knew her presence would be left in the shadows.

“My dad’s office. The one just beyond the doors of the suites.”

He nodded.

And in that exact same know-it-all-tone he said, “Consider it done.”

That’s how sneaky this man was. Sneaky and successful with a one hundred percent rate of never getting caught.

“Meet me tomorrow. Same time as tonight, in your favorite hiding place...the bushes.”

He’d been watching her for days and she’d never noticed him.

“I will have the key and you will get us in.”

“How? There are cameras everywhere.”

He stepped toward her, the closeness shrinking the room. He always had this effect. He always left her body shivering with pleasure and fear and craving more.

How had two years not changed that?