Authors: Cait London
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #Fiction - Romance, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance: Modern, #Adult, #Romance - Contemporary, #Romance - Adult, #Bodyguards, #Widows
Bracing himself against the dangerous need rocketing through his body, Alexi bent and eased Jessica, complete with pillow and blanket, into his arms.
She snuggled against his chest and Alexi didn’t move, forcing his breath to slow. With her defenses down, Jessica looked young and sweet and innocent.
An involvement with this woman would only bring frustration and pain.
Wanting to rid himself of the danger of this woman, Alexi carried her back to his bed, lowered her slightly and let her fall the last inch. He did not want to touch her in his bed.
He could not touch her.
Alexi clenched his fists and closed his eyes. He sat in the chair and brooded the curse of Chief Kamakani over Amoteh.
Because it was surely the chieftain’s curse that had brought Jessica Sterling anywhere near Alexi.
Welcome to another passion-filled month at Silhouette Desire—where we guarantee powerful and provocative love stories you are sure to enjoy. We continue our fabulous DYNASTIES: THE DANFORTHS series with Kristi Gold’s
Challenged by the Sheikh
—her intensely ardent hero will put your senses on overload. More hot heroes are on the horizon when
bestselling author Ann Major returns to Silhouette Desire with the dramatic story of
The Bride Tamer
Ever wonder what it would be like to be a man’s mistress—even just for pretend? Well, the heroine of Katherine Garbera’s
finds herself just in that predicament when she agrees to help out her sexy-as-sin boss in the next KING OF HEARTS title. Jennifer Greene brings us the second story in THE SCENT OF LAVENDER, her compelling series about the Campbell sisters, with
Wild In the Moonlight
—and this is one hero to go wild for! If it’s a heartbreaker you’re looking for, look no farther than
Hold Me Tight
by Cait London as she continues her HEARTBREAKERS miniseries with this tale of one sexy male specimen on the loose. And looking for a little
himself is the hero of Susan Crosby’s latest book in her BEHIND CLOSED DOORS series; this sinfully seductive police investigator always gets his woman! Thank goodness.
for coming back to Silhouette Desire every month. Be sure to join us next month for
New York Times
bestselling author Lisa Jackson’s
the highly anticipated conclusion to her wildly popular series THE M
Keep on reading!
Senior Editor, Silhouette Desire
The Loving Season
Angel vs. MacLean
The Pendragon Virus
The Daddy Candidate
Maybe No, Maybe Yes
The Seduction of Jake Tallman
The Bride Says No
Miracles and Mistletoe
The Cowboy and the Cradle
The Groom Candidate
The Seduction of Fiona Tallchief
Rafe Palladin: Man of Secrets
The Perfect Fit
Rio: Man of Destiny
Tallchief: The Homecoming
A Loving Man
Tallchief: The Hunter
Hold Me Tight
“Lightfoot and Loving”
“The Nine-Month Knight”
Tallchief for Keeps
Silhouette Yours Truly
Every Girl’s Guide To…
Every Groom’s Guide To…
is an avid reader and an artist who plays with computers and maintains her Web site, http://caitlondon.com. Her books reflect her many interests, including herbs, driving cross-country and photography. A national bestselling and award-winning author of category romance and romantic suspense, Cait has also written historical romances under another pseudonym. Three is her lucky number; she has three daughters, and her life events have been in threes. Cait says, “One of the best perks about this hard work is the thrilling reader response.”
lexi Stepanov decided to let his stalker catch him. At thirty-three years old, he was tuned to his senses and used to hunting in Wyoming mountains. A slight chill penetrated the tinted glass window to touch his skin—or was that chill running up his nape because someone was watching him?
He stood inside the sprawling Amoteh Resort. The luxury hotel’s massive windows faced the night and southern Washington’s Pacific Ocean.
At one o’clock, the resort lay hushed, the social area’s massive pool reflecting the water waves upon the ceiling. In January, only a few guests were vacationing at the resort. Kitchen facilities had been cut to an informal buffet style, a far cry from the elegant dinners served during the busy season.
Outside, the night brewed a winter storm, predicted to bring a mix of rain, sleet and possibly snow. Like a beast, hungry for land, the storm was moving in over the huge, black wind-tossed waves toward shore. Intermittent lightning skimmed over the tops of the churning clouds and the only sound in the
huge room was the sound of water lapping at the sides of the pool.
After a day of remodeling the old house where Alexi’s father would retire, the Amoteh suite provided the welcome comforts of a luxury bathroom and television. Courtesy of Mikhail Stepanov, manager of the resort and Alexi’s cousin, Alexi was temporarily using the manager’s private suite; Mikhail was at home with his wife and daughter.
Could he find peace in this small oceanside community?
Alexi inhaled sharply. On previous visits to his aunt and uncle, and his cousins, Mikhail and Jarek, Alexi had found that he enjoyed the town, also called Amoteh. In Wyoming, there were too many reminders of how his dreams—and his pride—had been strangled—by a woman who wanted more, always more.
As Alexi waited for whomever had been following him to come nearer, a ripple of danger seemed to move through the huge potted tropical plants at his side. He nudged aside a child’s forgotten ball with his boot. If he were attacked, the ball could cause him to lose his balance.
The person who had been stealthily following him could be dangerous. His shearling coat was more suited to the mountains than to this more moderate climate and it could encumber him in a tussle. The thick padding could also protect him from a man Alexi and his brother, Danya, had forcibly removed from this small oceanfront town—a very dangerous man with a grudge against the Stepanovs….
A flash of lightning lit the grotesque masks on the totem poles outside the resort—a reflection of the Northwest Pacific’s Native American heritage—and Alexi thought about the past week.
Someone was riffling through the details of his life; a woman’s voice had queried several people in Venus, Wyoming, about her old boyfriend, Alexi. The name the woman had used when speaking to his father and his brother didn’t really matter; it was probably false. She had supposedly reached the wrong number—striking up a conversation with the new owners of Alexi’s ranch. The innocent pretext led to
a seemingly friendly conversation that released too much of Alexi’s personal information.
She had asked if he was seeing anyone.
Was he seeing anyone? Not likely, not after a woman had taken everything she could from a man, including his pride.
Alexi frowned slightly as a light, cold rain began to hit the ceiling-to-floor windows in the resort’s pool and social area room. Like tiny snakes flowing to join others, the rain slid down the glass as he thought about his ex-fiancée, now another man’s wife. A model bent on a runway career, Heather Pell had moved on to bigger opportunities provided by her millionaire husband.
Three years ago Heather had returned Alexi’s ring and his dreams in a cold note that said she didn’t “want to be stuck on a godforsaken ranch for the rest of my life.”
He’d put almost everything he’d saved into building the home she wanted, into the ranch he wanted.
Did he love her?
Alexi didn’t know now. Looking back, he hadn’t been thinking about love that much at the time. Maybe he was so entranced with his pictured dreams of marriage, home and children that he hadn’t seen the reality of what their relationship was missing—a love like his parents.
In the end he’d sold the ranch at a loss and was glad to be rid of the house his ex-fiancée had designed. Unable to settle into new goals and dreams, Alexi had taken the opportunity to remodel a home for his father and to visit his cousins in Amoteh.
Burned by his ex-fiancée, Alexi had decided to leave attachments of the heart to other men; he wasn’t stepping into that cow pile again, asking for more pain.
Restless with his thoughts and more comfortable in nature’s elements, Alexi opened the resort’s door and stepped out into the night. He decided to lead his stalker away from the Amoteh Resort; he wanted no trouble within his cousin’s luxurious domain.
As Alexi moved through the dormant but manicured gardens, he took the wooden steps downward. They led toward Amoteh the town, which was fed by tourists in warmer weather. Walk
ing slowly, making certain that he could be followed easily, Alexi moved away from the resort. The resort’s exterior lighting framed the huge painted totem poles and Alexi glanced at the eerie shadows thrown against their masks—and the person moving through them, following him.
His stalker was small and quick, agile, too.
Alexi’s senses tightened as rain, changing to a mix of sleet and snow, lashed his face. He left the resort’s steps and moved onto a footpath, which led to his father’s retirement home.
Home? Not yet. In the process of gutting the old house, Alexi wanted it livable by late spring. His father could relocate, enjoy the summer fishing and spend the winter sharing the Stepanov immigrant brothers’ stories with Fadey—next to a blazing fire.
The storm hit Amoteh’s brown sandy beach in a furious crash of waves. Snow fell steadily now, topping the piles of driftwood and tall beach grass. The path led half a mile northward over sand and brush and ended with wooden steps that had to be replaced, a sprawling back porch that was rotting and cluttered with old discarded cabinets, doors and windows. But the house overlooking the Pacific Ocean was sound and, despite cosmetic problems, the skeleton was based on sturdy cedar beams.
Alexi glanced at the ocean, the winds catching the waves, sending sprays from the whitecaps. Violent, elemental, the water called to him, perhaps to his dark, brooding side that few people had ever seen.
If he decided to buy the Seagull’s Perch, a local tavern, he might settle permanently in Amoteh….
Alexi opened the weathered door and stepped inside the house’s sunroom. The plastic he had installed over the open windows rattled, protesting the rising wind.
He waited in the cold darkness; the creak of the wooden porch told him the stalker didn’t match his weight. His visitor might be trained for other work—
When the door creaked and opened, Alexi held his breath. The stalker stepped inside the open door and Alexi kicked it shut. “Looking for something?”
He’d recognize that soft, husky female voice anywhere…and that scent amid a storm of other ones. At the resort’s New Year’s Eve dance one week ago, held for locals and for guests, he’d danced with Jessica Sterling, a guest at the Amoteh.
At around thirty, Mrs. Jessica Sterling—widow of the Sterling Stops magnate—had a feline grace, gliding and sensuous. She had walked slowly through a crowd of people to find him at the seafood buffet. Her face had been in shadow, her silhouette framed by the light behind her. Her hair had been pinned into a neat chignon and that long, slender neck led to gleaming bare shoulders. The black dress had been long and formfitting, clinging to her hips. Her long emerald-chandelier earrings had caught the light, glittering and swaying along her throat as she’d moved toward him.
As she had moved closer, the thigh-high slit in her dress had revealed a gleaming smooth leg before it fell to those well-kept, polished toes in her strappy high-heeled sandals. As Alexi’s gaze had moved upward, he’d found a neat waist and only two tiny straps holding up the low-cut bodice and the smooth-flowing softness within.
In contrast to her sophisticated look, Mrs. Jessica Sterling had carried the scent of soap and fresh air, not Parisian perfume. But her unique scent had disturbed Alexi on a level he didn’t want—her scent was that of a woman, exotic and feminine.
Just two feet from him, she’d stopped and slowly looked him up and down. Inches shorter than his six-foot-three height, her high heels lessened the distance between those slanted, mysterious green eyes and his own. “Alexi Stepanov? I’m Jessica Sterling. Would you like to dance?”
The next day she’d come to the Seagull’s Perch, where he’d been filling in for the vacationing bartender. The owner would soon be retiring and Alexi was working to get the feel of the tavern—balancing his past life against a new one—and the money it would take to make a start in Amoteh. Jessica Sterling wasn’t the barroom type; her long, all-weather raincoat had covered an expensive woolen sweater and slacks. In her brief
visit she’d ordered an expensive white wine from Rita, the waitress—but Alexi knew Jessica was studying him as he worked behind the massive walnut bar.
He’d thought at the time that a woman like her—one who would walk through the night alone to a tavern filled mostly with men—would do nothing but cause trouble.
Now, in the cluttered sunroom amid the scents of freshly cut wood, he caught the fragrance of a woman—
“Alexi Stepanov?” Jessica asked in that same husky voice she’d used to invite him to dance—like the rasp of silk falling, gliding along that curved body to pool at the floor. Tonight her hair was covered by the light designer jacket’s hood, her legs by slacks that probably cost far more than a good bull calf.
Alexi picked up a flashlight and she winced when the beam hit her face. Her emerald stud earrings caught the light and flashed back at him. “Well, Mrs. Sterling? Did you lose something?”
“Turn that flashlight off.” The command came quick and hard, issued by a woman who ran a corporation and who was used to having her orders followed.
Alexi deliberately took his time as she shielded her eyes with her slender pale hand, and an enormous set of emerald wedding rings shot off sparks. Below that hand lay creamy skin and lush full lips, perfectly outlined and gleaming with gloss, but tightened now with anger.
She’d had green eyes, shadowed and mysterious. They had a slow, seductive way of looking at a man—appraising him—that told him that she knew her appeal and how to use it….
Alexi hooked a finger into her hood and tugged it back. A heavy fall of waving hair framed her face and shoulders. A reddish curl caught momentarily on his finger—vibrant, fragrant, seductive, fragrant, soft—like the woman.
Jessica Sterling was exactly the kind of woman his ex-fiancée had been—a pretty, expensive package with a self-satisfying cash register for a heart….
Jessica had danced silently in his arms, looking away from him, her expression unreadable.
But yet, Alexi had sensed that she was circling him, her body yielding to his direction, her waist small and unbound.
There had been no mistaking that genuine softness against his chest and his instincts had told him to press her closer…to take in the rich feel of this woman with a slow sweep of his open hand slightly downward to feel the movement of her hips flowing beneath his touch….
The touch of her had haunted him—
Alexi clicked off the flashlight. He had only glimpsed her face before he moved to click on the battery-driven lantern, but the unsettling impact remained. Beneath the flattering tints and the mascara, her green eyes had flashed up at him, filled with the hot burn of temper.
She didn’t know Alexi. Why would she already dislike him?
Jessica stayed in the shadows of the gutted sunroom, taking in the table saw, the generator, rough workbench and the massive toolbox. Alexi sensed that she was studying him carefully, circling him—
A rich widow out for fun with a Wyoming cowboy wasn’t on his agenda. “Let’s have it,” he said briskly. “Why did you follow me here?”
In the dim light of the unfinished sunroom, her shadow moved on the rough walls stripped of damaged drywall panels. Outside, the mix of weather had changed again, as restless as the woman. Lightning outside the plastic-covered windows lit her face. Her lids were lowered, the length of her dark lashes creating fringe shadows down her cheeks. She ran her manicured hand along a smooth pine board and lifted her face to him. “You’re going to be difficult, aren’t you?”
“Depends. You’ve been researching me for this past week. Why?”
Those green eyes caught fire and then slid downward, shielding her expression. Alexi reached out to capture her chin and lift it. “I asked you a question.”
Beneath his thumb, her skin was creamy and cool with mist. The scent of rain clung to her, fresh and even more alluring than perfume. But he felt the heat beneath the surface, the nick of anger as she tensed, her eyes slowly opening to his, boldly
holding his. He didn’t intend to stroke that flawless cheek, surprised as his thumb moved, contrasting the texture and color of this woman’s fine skin.
“I’m not ready to answer,” Jessica said slowly, huskily, as she raised her hand to push his away from her face. She stepped back as though she disliked being too close and, taking her time, circled the room. Rooms without doors led off the main room. A damp, chilly draft lifted a curl beside her cheek and she impatiently brushed it away.
She walked around the buckets that caught rain dripping from the ceiling. “Nice. You’re remodeling this for your father. He’ll probably want some kind of little shed, some livestock in the few acres attached to this place…maybe a garden. A man from the country usually wants those things. Why are you remodeling this place, and not your brother? Didn’t Danya want to come? Or did you need to get away from Venus and a love gone wrong? Your fiancée married someone else, didn’t she? That must have been difficult for you. Is that really the reason you’re in Amoteh, remodeling this place and tending bar? Changing your life?”