“I don’t get it.”
The words held such a note of puzzlement, Pamela Singer smiled even as she turned to look at the man who’d spoken them.
The expression of confusion on his face matched perfectly the tone of his voice. He stood taller than her five-foot-seven frame, with black hair long enough to brush his collar. His eyes, an electric blue, drew her gaze almost hypnotically. The gods must have given him that chiselled visage, that classic male beauty. She tried very hard not to notice how good-looking he was. Neither did she acknowledge to herself—overmuch—that something about him put a hum in her bloodstream. Because looking at him was far more pleasing than it should be,she turned her attention instead to the painting he was studying.
The piece, entitled “Dawn Hybrid,” was one the Langdon Gallery in Philadelphia had only recently acquired. Considered a fine example of the Minimalist style and painted in the early nineteen seventies, the painting had been purchased from a private collector. Judging by the way the gallery had showcased the piece, they considered it the cornerstone of their Twentieth Century American collection.
The man turned to her, and Pamela tried in vain to lasso her hormones. Gazing at him in profile had been thrill enough. Seeing him eye-to-eye was almost too much.
“I just don’t get it,” he said again. “This isn’t art. It’s…lines on a canvas. This could have been turned out by any third-grader in any school in the country.”
Normally, Pamela’s love of art would cause her hackles to rise at the sound of such heresy. But for some reason, that sentiment from this man, looking truly confused and adorable as he expressed it didn’t incite her ire at all. Laughing softly, she looked at the painting, trying to see it through his eyes.
“Not many people are fans of the Minimalist style.”
“Minimalist, is it? Usually, I agree with the concept that less is more. But in this case…”
He smiled at her, and when her heart gave a little lurch, Pamela knew she was in deep trouble. Just when she thought she couldn’t sink any farther, a look of chagrin crossed his face.
“Um…I didn’t just insult you or anything, did I?”
Before she could answer, he continued on. “Hell, of course I did. Sorry. My mother spent a lot of time taking me through art galleries, and so I understand more than most that art is in the eye of the beholder. Dylan Pierce.” He held out his hand.
Looking from his now-hopeful expression to his outstretched hand, Pamela knew that she was completely captivated. You would think that after what happened with Dmitri, I’d know better. With a sense of inevitability, she accepted the handshake.
“You really didn’t offend me, though I should have been. Pamela Singer.”
“I think you’re just being generous.”
He flashed another smile and then turned his attention back to the art. “I don’t hate art, really. I just don’t understand it. My idea of what defines art is probably old-fashioned. You know, fruit in a bowl, portraits, that sort of thing.”
“What about Impressionism?”
“Is that where it almost looks like real things but the edges are fuzzed?”
Pamela had never heard the style described in quite that way before. She couldn’t hold back her laugh. “Yes, that would be it.”
He tilted his head to one side and shot her a look she thought should belong to a little boy trying to worm some treat.
“You have a nice laugh.” As if realizing that was perhaps too personal an observation, he broke eye contact, looked back at the painting for a moment, then turned back to her. “Mother tried her best to educate me, but for reasons unknown, my brain refused to absorb details or acquire appreciation. All I really know about art is that I like what I like. And this unfortunately is not it.”
“That’s fair enough. But I have to ask you, that being the case, what are you doing here?”
“We made a large donation to the Langdon to finance this exhibit. As an executive vice president, it was my duty to come and see it.”
Pamela tilted her head, something she knew she did when trying to recall details. “You’re with the Carstairs Hotel Group?”
“I am. Rather unavoidable since my paternal grandmother is Eugenia Carstairs.”
This meant, Pamela reflected, that he came from money, and lots of it. “I’d heard your grandmother retired recently to some place exotic…the Mediterranean, was it?”
“Gran doesn’t know the meaning of the word retirement.”
There was a wealth of affection in his voice, and Pamela felt her heart melt a little more. This was dangerous. All she had to do was look back a few short months to know just how dangerous letting down her guard could be. She’d opened her heart to Dmitri Andropolis, fallen completely under his spell. That transformation hadn’t happened in just a few minutes in an art gallery, either, but had developed over several weeks.
She was still smarting from his fit of temper, although the bruises had long since faded. No man, not even any of her former foster fathers, had ever hit her before.
Pamela was no one’s victim. She’d turned her back and walked away from Dmitri, despite the fact she’d been in love with him. He’d tried to apologize, of course, but after a few weeks had finally understood there would be no second chance from her.
She brought her attention back to the present. Dylan seemed different than any man she’d ever met. The information he’d given as to his identity had been done without airs, as a normal part of the conversation. Any man whose voice softened at the mention of his mother and grandmother was, she decided, a man worth getting to know a bit better. Who knew, he might make a good friend.
She had her sisters, of course, but few other friends at the moment. The only question was could she keep him in that position?
His hands were shaking.
Dylan couldn’t remember if he’d ever before wanted a woman so badly that his hands shook. He knew she saw it, too, as he inserted the key into the lock. He didn’t care about that. He didn’t care that this was the woman who had brought his brother to ruin, either. There was only one thing he cared about: getting his hands on Pamela Singer as quickly as possible. He turned to her the moment the door closed behind them.
He didn’t give her a chance to respond. He seized on her arms and pulled her up and into his kiss.
When he’d tasted her for the first time downstairs, he’d thought—he’d hoped—that sense of destiny, that taste of ambrosia had been a trick of the summer night, the lights, and the joie de vivre of the crowd that had surrounded them.
Heaven. How could she taste like heaven, feel better than every wet dream he’d ever had? Her heat seeped into him, and he pulled her closer, pressing her female curves against his hard and hungry body. Her arms went around his neck as his hands splayed across her bottom, bringing her to his erection.
Drinking her in, he lifted her off her feet, grunting when she wrapped her legs around him.
He’d only been in residence in this penthouse a week, but he found the bedroom without taking his lips from hers. Her tongue danced with his, their flavors mixing in a concoction more potent than a wizard’s potion. Soft and sweet, hot and heady, Dylan felt himself succumb completely to her spell. Not wanting to let her go even for a moment, he fell with her to the bed.
He sought the flavor of her cheeks, her neck, and reveled in her touch, so anxious against his scalp. Pamela was devouring him in turn, and that thrilled him beyond measure. No other woman before her has mattered. The image flashed of a violent sea, of his being lured to rocky ruin on the shore of some forgotten, mythical island. Then the image was gone, forced out by his need for her and his own conscious choice.
He looked down at her while he raced to catch his breath. Her eyes were clouded with passion, edged with confusion.
“I don’t usually—”
Stroking a finger lightly across her mouth, he silenced her. He didn’t want her to speak, didn’t want a call to reason, not for either of them. He knew he was on dangerous ground, knew he should get up, walk away, hell, walk all the way back to Greece. But he couldn’t.
“I know you don’t usually. Neither do I. Let’s not talk. Let’s just feel.”
For one instant, he thought she would refuse him. He’d let her go, of course. He wasn’t an animal. But then her expression cleared, and she stroked his face gently.
A loving gesture, not a lustful one. He realized that, for Pamela, no matter what else there was to her, having sex would never be a matter of whim, of lust only.
He refused to think what more it could be. With fingers that had calmed, he began to open her blouse.
Creamy flesh and white lace enticed him. Compelled, he set his mouth on her, sampling her collarbone, her throat, as his busy fingers finished their task. Lifting her, he swept the silky fabric from her, leaving only her bra covering her plump breasts. He felt his smile spread as he took in the front closure on the garment. His mouth set about freeing her.
Her groan of arousal spurred him on, and he drew a pebbled nipple even deeper into his mouth. Her hands tugged at his clothing. He lifted up from her slightly.
Pamela’s hands were quick and competent as they loosened his tie and then his buttons. The moment the last one opened, he whipped off his shirt, not caring that the fine linen fell to the floor in a heap. The touch of her hands on his chest, her fingers splaying to caress and grip, shot straight to his groin.
Her arms crept up to twine around his neck. He shook his head. Reaching down, he slipped the button on her trousers from its mooring and pulled the zipper down. Their hands worked together quickly to get the clothes off.
The dark hair covering her intimate flesh was the same delectable shade as the rest of her hair and promised to be just as soft. Unable to resist, he stroked her gently, his touch a light and fleeting caress. He chuckled when she bowed off the bed.
Every bit of humor left him when she reached out and returned the intimacy, her hand pressing against the ridge covered by his pants. It took him only moments to shed the rest of his clothes. He reached into the drawer of his bedside table, not taking his eyes from her, and grabbed a tiny foil packet. Tearing it open with his teeth, he pulled out the condom, rolled it on, and covered her.
“Open for me, baby.”
Her legs spread for him, and he had one instant to appreciate the texture of her hot, moist folds against the head of his penis. Then he plunged.
Nicholas couldn’t believe how easy that had been. Glad to be out of the crowded, noisy loft, he let his senses take in the city at night. He’d grown up just across the river in Jersey, but he’d never felt at home here. Never felt at home anywhere, really. Florida suited for now, with its warm temperatures and slower pace. Of course, considering the events of the last three weeks, he’d likely have to relocate.
Hell, he’d probably be so completely bankrupt in the next month that he wouldn’t even have a pot to piss in, let alone a window to throw it out of. Relocating wouldn’t be a problem.
But first, he damn well intended to get some of his own back.
“Is something wrong?”
Nick swallowed his bitterness and took a deep breath. The very last thing he wanted to do was spew his nasty mood onto Twyla. Doing that would end things before they even got started, and he really wanted them to get started.
“Naw. Some of my business didn’t go the way I’d hoped. I know better than to let it get to me, and it’s no way important enough to disrupt our evening together.”
Nick relaxed when they got to the pub. There weren’t many people inside. A quick check of his watch showed him it was ten-thirty, early by New York standards. He reached for Twyla’s hand and then led her over to a secluded booth in the back corner. Rather than crowd in next to her, he sat across from her and tried not to think what she’d taste like.
“What will you have, darlin’?” he asked the question easily, enough of a drawl on the last word that, as he hoped, she smiled.
“A Harp, please.”
“The same,” he told the waitress, then focused on the woman across from him. “You like British beer?”
“I do, on occasion. Coming to an Irish pub, it seems a shame not to indulge.”
“I agree.” He sat back while the waitress delivered their bottles of beer.
“So how many generations back would take you across the pond?” she asked.
“Two of my great-grand fathers were born in Ireland and emigrated. My grandfather had quite the brogue. My father, none at all. What about you?” He liked the way she so delicately poured her beer into the glass, though he bet she really preferred to swig right from the bottle.
“I’ve no idea of my roots, really. So I guess you could say I’m from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”
Something about her smile really got to him. When they’d shaken hands earlier, there’d been a nice little jolt of raw sexuality between them. That, he figured, had everything to do with her and nothing to do with him at all.
He could feel himself sliding, relaxing, and responding to Twyla’s charm, and that would never do. He needed to remember his plan. Twyla seemed appealing and charming and could oh-so-easily slip under his skin. He understood now how she’d earned the nickname, The Enchantress. Enchanting people ranked as her greatest skill. Well, her second greatest. Twyla’s greatest ability lay in an even more interesting venue, more to the point of his being there, of his having crashed a party just so he could meet her.
Twyla Harper might be a beautiful, desirable woman, but she was also something more.
She was a thief.
His arms felt strong, and the burning light in his eyes thrilled her. It had been so hard to hold herself back from him. Even though her brain and heart couldn’t yet trust him one hundred percent, her body wanted him with a hunger that bordered on desperation. This, she thought, had to be the definition of insanity.
The man posed a very real threat to her. He’d gone after her with the single-minded determination to prove her a thief, perhaps even see her thrown in jail, but she couldn’t help wanting him, couldn’t deny that at his core he was a good man.
Then his head lowered and his mouth took hers in a ruthless possession that drove every other thought from her head. His tongue demanded surrender, and without her consent, every bone in her body melted. She clung to him, wild to taste more, and even more of him.
He picked her up, carried her to the bed. She felt conquered, dominated, and wanted to rejoice in it. She didn’t care that it was a tired cliché.
His hand cupped her bare breast before she knew he’d opened her shirt. Eager for the feel of his flesh under her hands, her fingers delved beneath his tee shirt, caressing hot male, scraping against skin that felt better than anything she’d ever touched.
He pulled away from her. His gaze hot, she knew her own matched it. In that instant, she understood they were of one mind.
She pulled the clothing from her own body, baring herself to his needs just as he bared himself to hers.
“Yes, yes!” She needed to feel the weight of him pressing her into the bed, needed to feel his mouth on her breast now. No man had ever laved and nipped and suckled in just that way, pulling the nerves that connected her nipples to her clit. Her heart tripped when he cupped her face and kissed her, his lips and tongue sipping, tasting, cherishing.
“Here, babe, put this on me.”
She’d never done this before, never taken the moment to smooth the sheath over a lover’s penis, preparing him to penetrate her. Such a singularly erotic sensation, to grasp his flesh, savor the heat and the silk of him, bending low to inhale the essence and sip the dew of him, and then to roll the thin covering down, a slow and lingering caress.
“Vixen, you damn near made me come.”
Sultry laughter erupted from deep in her soul as he pushed her onto her back and impaled her in one long, glorious thrust. He filled her so completely. Surely, no other man could fit her so perfectly. The gentle brush of his scrotum against her most tender flesh tantalized. The rhythmic nudge of the tip of his cock against the entrance to her womb enticed. Her heart pounded, her blood raced, and her pussy pulsed.
“Mmm, Twyla, you’re so hot, sweetheart. So hot and wet and good. Squeeze me. I want that amazing pussy of yours to milk me. Make me come, sweetheart.”
Opening her eyes, she met his gaze. Her hands slid from around his shoulders, seeking his. Their fingers entwined, and she felt more connected to him than she ever had to another, and in her heart, in that moment, she fell in love with him.
Having lived a solitary life, Alba had never experienced having two big, strong men surround her in cotton batting to keep her safe from harm.
She wasn’t enjoying it now that she was experiencing it, either. A woman used to doing for herself, to fighting her own battles, she found the inactivity unacceptable.
She’d worked for nearly a decade in a profession that drove some insane, and others to drink. She, however, maintained a healthy lifestyle, healthy relationships—well, except for that whole not-getting-over-Patrick thing—and a healthy balance of idealism and cynicism.
The fault for her current possession of bodyguards could be blamed on her genes, of course. Blessed with a slight frame and elfin-like features, she appeared harmless, bordering on helpless. How ironic the same visage that allowed her to go nearly anywhere at any time unchallenged should work against her now.
Her sisters had been no help in this regard. They, who knew her strengths and talents, stood behind their husbands’ protection scheme one hundred percent. Unfortunately, Alba needed to meet with one of her contacts. He might be able to get information for her, possibly the evidence that would prove her boss a traitor. But the man, very skittish by nature and one to skirt somewhat under the law at times, would suspect a trap if she showed up with either of her brothers-in-law in tow. Even if Dylan and Nick would listen to reason and allowed her to go on her own, they’d have her followed—and her contact would sure as breathing spot the tail.
So Alba arranged for the meeting without telling anyone.
She checked her watch. It was three a.m., the perfect time for skullduggery. She figured she’d be gone and back before her overprotective family became any the wiser.
She pulled her black t-shirt over her head and paused to glance at her reflection in the mirror. Light from the street cast her room in slight illumination, twinkling off the diamond studs in her ears.
She reached a hand up to remove them, then paused. These weren’t as eye-catching as the dangling ones Nick gave her in New York—but as tracking devices they would be just as powerful. She knew this part of the city, knew where she needed to go, and hadn’t been in England long enough for anyone to have tracked her here yet. So there really was no reason to leave them in.
But there was no reason to take them out, either. Besides, on the off chance her family did become aware of this little nighttime adventure, she could point to the earrings as being her lifeline.
She put her right leg on the settee in front of the vanity, and pulled up the leg of her jeans. She’d set her ankle holster out and made quick work now of securing it. This piece of equipment she referred to as her clutch piece. The Kel-Tec P32 fit into the holster easily. The weapon, about the size of a dollar bill, carried an eight shot magazine, .32ACP caliber, and in her hands, was deadly.
Her contact could be considered reliable, but not necessarily trustworthy.
She brought her leg down and shook it slightly, inspecting it to ensure no sign of the weapon could be seen.
Now all she had to do was get out of the house without being detected.
It took her a few more moments to disable the alarm system than she’d anticipated. Nicholas had fitted a nifty little backup device to it that certainly won her admiration.
No wonder his business continued to expand by leaps and bounds.
In a matter of minutes she’d slipped through the house and opened one of the kitchen windows without alerting anyone.
A medium-sized shrub grew just under and to the left of the window and she climbed through the opening and then slid down behind the shrub easily. Once on the ground, she scanned the area.
Two guards patrolled at the back of the house, and only one, she knew, in front. The fence between the Pierce’s house and the one next door had obviously been erected for decorative rather than security purposes. She waited until the guard in the rear and closest to her turned his head away. Her movements quick and lithe, she slid from behind the bush to the fence and was over it in seconds.
No guards watched this neighbor’s yard, but still she climbed a second fence, putting her two doors down from her brother-in-law’s house.
She pulled a watch cap out of her back pocket, slipped it on, then straightened. Taking on the bearing of a teenager with attitude she made her way around the house and out to the street. Alba never once looked toward Nicholas’ house, just reached the sidewalk, turned left and walked away.
She’d go two blocks, and then make a right, and she’d be in the busier neighborhood of Hyde Park. She hoped she didn’t have much trouble getting a cab this time of night, and shouldn’t because tourists flooded to this area. But she could always play tourist and have the concierge of one of the popular, nearby hotels call one for her, if necessary.
Of course, she’d rather not. The fewer people who saw her, the better. She checked her watch. Three twenty-four. Not bad.
“Going somewhere, darling?”
The voice blasted her with an echo from the past, set her senses reeling. Spinning around, she looked up into eyes that glittered bright blue in the face that haunted her dreams.
“I’m sorry, Alba. It’s for the best.”
Before his words fully registered, she felt the sting where his hand clapped her shoulder.
She pulled away from him, and stumbled. Understanding came instantly, surrounded by total disillusionment. She took one more step, faltered, and knew she’d have fallen if he hadn’t caught her.
“Don’t fight it. It will only hurt more if you do.”
His whispered words comforted her, but she knew that comfort to be a lie. She wanted to scream but couldn’t. For one instant she felt the oddly secure sensation of being lifted into Patrick Jamieson’s strong arms.
Then a loud buzzing swamped her brain and the lights went out.
The dream came again, sultry, sexy, taking over her body. Taking over her.
“Do you know what I want to do right now?”
The provocative question vibrated against the skin of Alba Morel’s neck. Patrick’s voracious lips and his smooth tenor wrapped in a sexy British accent coated her skin, tingling her nerve endings and shivering her belly. The sensitive flesh between her thighs moistened, and she clenched her inner muscles to hold the delicious arousal close.
“I have no idea. What do you want to do right now?”
They were alone on the yacht, a ship Patrick had rented for the duration of his vacation on Santa Maria, a small island in the Caribbean. They’d met by chance at a local market, two people from different sides of the Atlantic, vacationing on the same tropical paradise. They’d only been together for two weeks, but already Alba knew he was the man she was meant to spend the rest of her life with.
The boat swayed with the gentle rhythm of the ocean, the breeze light and refreshing. Alba used the fingers of her right hand to comb through her long black hair, pushing it back from her face. Her left hand was braced against the rail of the boat. Patrick put his arm around her, so she wasn’t at all concerned for her safety. His intense blue eyes shimmered with heat, and she knew whatever he wanted to do would be torture of the most exquisite kind.
“Here, let me show you instead of telling you. That is, after all, the hallmark of a good writer.”
Alba chuckled as he gently turned her around and placed both her hands on the rail. He held his body flush against hers as he raised her skirt between them. Strong fingers caressed her bottom, latched on to the tiny scrap of lace she wore over her sex.
She gasped when he tore the insubstantial undergarment from her body.
The sensation of his hand working the snap and zipper of his shorts played out against her naked ass. Following the progress of his hand on its downward trek, she licked her lips in anticipation.
She waited for the motion of his putting on the condom, but he shocked her by thrusting hard and deep into her.
“Darling, I’ve been hard since you came on board my boat. I put the rubber on a few minutes ago, below deck. Now, step back from the rail, spread your legs, bend over and let me just take you.”
She could do nothing else. The power of his thrusts, the incredible hunger of her body for his overwhelmed her. She’d never thought to be so free, so wanton, as she had been with Patrick Jamieson. She never believed she could be that way with any man.
“Your ass is scrumptious, so white and firm. Do you want to experiment, darling? There are so many things I would love to try with you.” She felt him lean closer, change the angle of his thrusts. Sharper, deeper, Alba felt completely full, completely dominated. His tongue tasted her ear. Then he whispered, “I would like to spank you. Will you let me do that one day?”
She would have sworn that the sound of a masculine chuckle, so smug and arrogant would have turned her off. Instead, she wanted only to submit to whatever he wanted to do to her.
“Come on my cock, baby. Come on me so I can drive you up again.”
Alba flew apart, the orgasm tearing through her, wave after delicious wave of rapture flooding her body, mind and soul. Nothing existed, nothing mattered but the explosive sizzle centered where his hard latex-covered cock slid and slammed inside her hot wet sheath. The head of his penis stroked her G spot and Alba wondered if this climax would kill her.
The rapture ebbed, and Patrick slowed his thrusts, giving her time to catch her breath. Firm, knowledgeable hands caressed her bottom, stroked up her back, pushing both skirt and shirt out of the way so they could touch naked flesh. Fingers snaked around until he palmed her breasts. Her nipples, rock hard with the last vestiges of climax, soaked up the attention, telling her pussy to get ready for more.
Alba wasn’t without her own moves.
Relaxing against the rail, she clenched the muscles of her perineum, a long slow embrace. Patrick hissed as he inhaled, and she felt his cock swell even more.
“Come with me this time,” she invited, then clenching and releasing inwardly, moved her hips back a fraction, tilting her pelvis, taking him deeper.