“If all we have to do is sit and wait, why can’t we have sex?”
He nearly choked on the banana he’d been munching. “Did you just say what I think I heard?”
She hadn’t expected to have to say it again. But she’d made up her mind and she wasn’t going to back down. “I want to have sex with you, Michael.”
He shifted away from her—clearly establishing both a physical distance and an emotional withdrawal.
“I’m not asking for a relationship or a commitment,” she told him. “I just want to forget, for a while, that every minute on this island could be my last. I want to forget that we could both end up dead.
“And the only thing I can think of that would possibly drive those thoughts from my mind is sex. With no strings attached.”
grew up in a small town surrounded by books and imaginary friends. Although she always dreamed of being a writer, she chose to follow a more traditional career path first. After two years of practicing as an attorney (including an appearance in front of the Supreme Court of Canada), she gave up her “real” job to be a mom and to try her hand at writing books. Three years, five manuscripts and another baby later, she sold her first book—an RWA Golden Heart Winner—to Silhouette.
Brenda lives in southern Ontario with her real-life husband/hero, two heroes-in-training and two neurotic dogs. She is still surrounded by books (“too many books,” according to her children) and imaginary friends, but she also enjoys communicating with “real” people. Readers can contact Brenda by e-mail at email@example.com or by snail mail c/o Silhouette Books, 233 Broadway, Suite 1001, New York, NY 10279.
To Leslie Wainger—
For making me strive harder and write better.
To Susan Litman—
For continuing to guide me on that journey.
To Anna Perrin—
For everything. I’ll always be grateful to the fate that crossed our paths, and to you for your incomparable friendship.
Zane Conroy was dead—shot and killed by police in Fairweather, Pennsylvania.
Michael Courtland wasn’t surprised by the news or the method of his demise.
Conroy had been investigated frequently over the years, but no prosecutor had ever had the guts—or the evidence—to make him stand trial until Assistant District Attorney Natalie Vaughn made it her mission to build a case against him. In a desperate effort to avoid imprisonment, Conroy had taken her hostage to bargain for his freedom. It was in that final confrontation that he was killed.
The news caused shock waves to ripple throughout the entire criminal organization he’d controlled. From Pennsylvania to Florida and all points in between, Mike knew that the balance of power was now in flux. Already alliances were being forged and broken, loyalties tested, rivalries resurrected.
There was no way to predict the outcome of this violent struggle or anticipate the victor’s agenda. No way to know what it meant for Shannon Vaughn, Natalie’s sister and Mike’s current assignment.
He zeroed in on her position on the white sand beach, the vague sense of familiarity nagging at him. He was sure they’d never met before, and yet he couldn’t shake the feeling that he recognized her. His gaze skimmed appreciatively over the creamy skin that showed hints of a golden tan, the fiery hair that glinted like copper in the afternoon sun and the long, lean figure clad in a two-piece bathing suit the same emerald color of her eyes.
There was one thing he knew for certain: he was going to enjoy keeping a very close eye on Shannon Vaughn.
What was she thinking?
It wasn’t really a question so much as a reprimand from her shocked conscience—a reprimand Shannon was finding all too easy to ignore. With Michael’s hands and lips on her, she could barely think, never mind attempt to rationalize her behavior.
Yes, she was acting impulsively. Maybe even recklessly. But she didn’t care. Since the failure of her marriage nine years earlier, she’d focused exclusively on her career. She hadn’t let anything—or anyone—distract her.
Then she’d met Michael Courtland on the beach.
One look in his warm gray eyes, and her knees had gone weak. Then his lips had curved upward in a smile filled with charm and self-confidence, and she’d practically melted like a sno-cone in the Florida sun.
They’d strolled barefoot in the sand, eaten dinner at a little café by the water and lingered over coffee as the sun bled crimson into the ocean. Then they’d kissed under the light of the moon, and she’d invited him back to her room.
She knew his name and very little else about him. Most important, she knew that she’d never need to see him again after this night. That meant she could indulge desires too long forgotten and walk away in the morning, back to her carefully structured life, with no one but herself to ever know about the reckless indiscretion.
She’d always thought of holiday flings as tawdry and clichéd. Casual sex wasn’t something she indulged in—ever. But all her values and beliefs had been thrown into turmoil when her sister was nearly killed.
The close call had reminded Shannon to live for today, because there were no guaranteed tomorrows. So for once, for tonight, she was determined to follow her heart instead of her head.
Of course, what she was feeling right now had more to do with hormones than emotions, but that didn’t make the need any less compelling. She was a scientist. It was her job to accumulate and analyze data, to establish conclusions only after careful and thorough research. But from the first moment she’d set eyes on Michael Courtland, she’d wanted him. Nothing else seemed to matter.
His hands slid up her back, his touch burning even through the cotton barrier of her T-shirt. She wanted those hands on her bare skin; she wanted her hands on him. She wanted to feel his skin against hers, the slide of naked flesh against naked flesh as their bodies moved together in the primitive rhythm of mating.
The need pulsing through her veins was foreign to her, this kind of behavior completely out of character. She knew that regrets and recriminations would follow, but hopefully not until much, much later.
When the elevator dinged to announce their arrival on the eighth floor, Shannon was trembling with a desire unlike anything she’d ever experienced