Tall, Dark & Rich: His Christmas Virgin / Married by Christmas / A Yuletide Seduction. Carole Mortimer

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      About the Author

      CAROLE MORTIMER was born in England, the youngest of three children. She began writing in 1978 and has now written over one hundred and eighty books for Mills & Boon. Carole has six sons, Matthew, Joshua, Timothy, Michael, David and Peter. She says, ‘I’m happily married to Peter senior; we’re best friends as well as lovers, which is probably the best recipe for a successful relationship. We live in a lovely part of England.’

      Tall, Dark & Rich

       His Christmas Virgin

       Married by Christmas

       A Yuletide Seduction

      Carole Mortimer

       image www.millsandboon.co.uk

His Christmas Virgin

      CHAPTER ONE

      MAC came to an abrupt and wary halt halfway down the metal steps leading from the second floor of her warehouse-conversion home. She’d suddenly become aware of a large figure standing in the dark and shadowed alleyway beneath her.

      A very large figure indeed, she noted with a frown as a man stepped out from those shadows to stand in the soft glow of light given out by the lamp shining behind her at the top of the staircase.

      The man looked enormous from where Mac stood, his wide shoulders beneath the dark woollen overcoat that reached almost to his ankles adding to that impression. He had overlong dark hair brushed back from a hard and powerful face that at any other time Mac would have ached to put on canvas, light and piercing eyes—were they grey or blue?—and high cheekbones beside a long slash of a nose. He also possessed a perfectly sculptured mouth, the fuller bottom lip hinting at a depth of sensuality, and a firm and determined chin.

      None of which was of the least importance—except maybe to the police, Mac wryly acknowledged to herself, if the man’s reasons for being here turned out to be less than honest!

      She repressed a shiver as the chill of the cold wind of an early December evening began to seep into her bones. ‘Can I help you?’ she prompted sharply as she finished pulling on her cardigan, using both her hands to free the long length of her midnight-black hair from the collar. All the time wondering if she was going to have to use the ju-jitsu skills she had learnt during her years at university!

      The man shrugged broad shoulders. ‘Perhaps. If you can tell me whether or not Mary McGuire is at home?’

      He knew her name!

      Not that any of her friends ever called her Mary. But then, as Mac had never set eyes on this man before, he was hardly a friend, was he?

      She glanced at the brightly lit studio behind and above her before turning to eye the man again guardedly. ‘Who wants to know?’

      ‘Look, I understand your wariness—’

      ‘Do you?’ she challenged.

      ‘Of course,’ he confirmed. ‘I’ve obviously startled you, and I’m sorry for that, but I assure you my reasons for being here are perfectly legitimate. I simply wish to speak to Miss McGuire.’

      ‘But does Miss McGuire wish to speak to you?’

      The man gave a hard, humourless smile. ‘I would hope so. Look, we could go back and forth like this all night.’

      ‘I don’t think so.’ Mac shook her head, deciding that perhaps she wouldn’t need to use those self-defence lessons on this man, after all. ‘The Patels shut up shop in precisely ten minutes and I intend to be there before that.’

      Dark brows rose over those light-coloured eyes. ‘The Patels?’

      Mac elaborated. ‘They own the corner shop two streets away.’

      ‘The significance of that being…?’

      ‘I need to get some groceries before they close. That being the case, would you mind stepping aside so that I can get by?’ She stepped down two more of the stairs so that they now stood at eye level.

      Blue. His eyes were blue. A piercing electric blue.

      Mac’s breath caught in her throat as she stared into those mesmerising blue eyes, at the same time screamingly aware of the subtle and spicy smell of his aftershave or cologne. Of the leashed power he exuded. Even so, Mac was pretty sure she could take him; it was skill that mattered when it came to ju-jitsu, not size, and she was very skilled indeed.

      The man looked at her beneath hooded lids. ‘The fact that you’re obviously leaving her home would seem to imply that you’re a friend of Miss McGuire’s.’

      ‘Would it?’

      Jonas deeply regretted the impulse of his decision to call and talk to Mary McGuire this evening. It would have been far more suitable, he now realised—and far less disturbing for one of the woman’s friends—if he had simply telephoned first and made an appointment that was convenient to both of them. During the daylight hours, and hopefully at a time when one of her arty friends wasn’t also visiting!

      The fact that the thin little waif standing on the stairs had long, straight black hair that reached almost to her waist, and almond-shaped eyes of smoky-grey in a delicately beautiful face, took nothing away from the fact that she had obviously taken to heart the persona of the ‘artist starving in a garret’!

      As also evidenced by the overlarge dungarees she wore over a white T-shirt, both articles of clothing covered by a baggy pink cardigan that looked as if it would wrap about the slenderness of her body twice. Her hands were tiny and thin, the skin almost translucent. The ratty blue canvas trainers on her feet were hardly suitable for the wet and icy early December weather, either.

      Jonas had spent the last week in Australia on business. Successfully so, he acknowledged with inner satisfaction. Except he now felt the effects of this cold and damp English December right down to his bones, after the heat in Australia, despite wearing a thick cashmere overcoat over his suit.

      This delicate-looking little waif must be even colder with only that thin cardigan as an outer garment. ‘I apologise once again if I alarmed you just now.’ He grimaced as he moved aside and allowed her to step down onto the pavement beside him.

      The top of her head reached just under Jonas’s chin as she looked up at him with obvious mockery. ‘You didn’t,’ she came back glibly before wrapping her cardigan more tightly about her and hurrying off into the night.

      Jonas was still watching her through narrowed lids as she stopped beneath the lamp at the corner of the street to glance back at him, her face a pale oval, that almost-waist-length hair gleaming briefly blue-black before she turned and disappeared around the corner.

      He gave a rueful shake of his head before turning to ascend the metal steps that led up to Mary McGuire’s studio; hopefully she wasn’t going to be as unhelpful as her waiflike friend. Although he wouldn’t count on it!

      Mac lingered to chat with the Patels for a few minutes after she had bought her groceries. She liked the young couple who had opened this convenient mini-market two years ago, and Inda was expecting their first baby in a couple of months’ time.

      Mac’s steps slowed as she saw the man who had spoken to her earlier sitting on the bottom step of the metal staircase waiting for her when she returned carrying her bag of groceries, those electric-blue eyes narrowing on her coldly as she walked towards him. ‘I take it Miss McGuire wasn’t in?’ she asked lightly as she stopped in front of him.

      It had been fifteen minutes since Jonas had reached