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Authors: Susan Crosby

Private Indiscretions

BOOK: Private Indiscretions
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Sam Looked Dangerous. Confidence Radiated From Him In White-Hot Heat.

He said nothing but drew her onto the dance floor, then into his arms.

Dana lifted her face, determined not to let him see how he unnerved her. “So. The prodigal returns at last.”

His eyes softened. Warmed. “How are you?”

“I'm well,” she said, aware of his thighs brushing hers as they danced. “Where have you been, Sam?”

“You want fifteen years condensed into a paragraph?”

“Why are you here?”

“It's a long story.”

His hand slid a little farther across her lower back, bringing her closer. His thumb brushed her spine through the silk of her dress.

“I have time for a long story,” she said, her voice catching on the last word.

Dear Reader,

Thanks so much for choosing Silhouette Desire—
the
destination for powerful, passionate and provocative love stories. Things start heating up this month with Katherine Garbera's
Sin City Wedding
, the next installment of our DYNASTIES: THE DANFORTHS series. An affair, a secret child, a quickie Las Vegas wedding…and that's just the beginning of this romantic tale.

Also this month we have the marvelous Dixie Browning with her steamy
Driven to Distraction
. Cathleen Galitz brings us another book in the TEXAS CATTLEMAN'S CLUB: THE STOLEN BABY series with
Pretending with the Playboy.
Susan Crosby's BEHIND CLOSED DOORS miniseries continues with the superhot
Private Indiscretions
. And Bronwyn Jameson takes us to Australia in
A Tempting Engagement.

Finally, welcome the fabulous Roxanne St. Claire to the Silhouette Desire family. We're positive you'll enjoy
Like a Hurricane
and will be wanting the other McGrath brothers' stories. We'll be bringing them to you in the months to come as well as stories from Beverly Barton, Ann Major and
New York Times
bestselling author Lisa Jackson. So keep coming back for more from Silhouette Desire.

More passion to you!

Melissa Jeglinski

Senior Editor

Silhouette Desire

PRIVATE INDISCRETIONS
SUSAN CROSBY

Books by Susan Crosby

Silhouette Desire

The Mating Game
#888

Almost a Honeymoon
#952

Baby Fever
#1018

Wedding Fever
#1061

Marriage on His Mind
#1108

Bride Candidate #9
#1131

*
His Most Scandalous Secret
#1158

*
His Seductive Revenge
#1162

*
His Ultimate Temptation
#1186

The Groom's Revenge
#1214

The Baby Gift
#1301

†
Christmas Bonus, Strings Attached
#1554

†
Private Indiscretions
#1570

SUSAN CROSBY

believes in the value of setting goals, but also in the magic of making wishes. A longtime reader of romance novels, Susan earned a B.A. in English while raising her sons. She lives in the central valley of California, the land of wine grapes, asparagus and almonds. Her checkered past includes jobs as a synchronized swimming instructor, personnel interviewer at a toy factory and trucking company manager, but her current occupation as a writer is her all-time favorite.

Susan enjoys writing about people who take a chance on love, sometimes against all odds. She loves warm, strong heroes; good-hearted, self-reliant heroines…and happy endings.

Readers are welcome to write to her at P.O. Box 1836, Lodi, CA 95241.

For the BABs, Karol, Kathy, Luann and Georgia.
Here's to getting snowed in, good food, great conversation,
Darcy and Bridget—and that's just the beginning.

One

A
n hour before Sam Remington graduated from high school fifteen years ago, he stuffed the sum of his belongings into three grocery sacks and flung them onto the back seat of his 1977 oil-eating Pacer. Five minutes after the ceremony ended he made his final trip through town, his tailpipe spewing a noxious farewell of good riddance.

Today he returned in a black Mercedes so new it didn't have plates. He'd paid cash for it. But Sam wasn't here to advertise his success to the people he left behind. Normally he wasn't one to dwell on the past. Today was different. He'd chosen the day of his return to his hometown specifically. Certainly he could have come another time. Maybe
should
have. But news of his fifteen-year high-school reunion set the date for him. Some unfinished business of his had gone ignored for too long. He had two people to see. He'd just come from seeing the first one. Now he would deal with the other.

Sam negotiated the winding roads of Miner's Camp, a
community of 3,100 people nestled in the Northern California foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. He kept his gaze straight ahead as he passed the turnoff leading to the house where he was raised—the house from which he'd escaped—although the unusually cool August evening took him back to the nights of his childhood, when he'd roamed the countryside, looking for something he never found.

He ignored the bruising memories and headed to the Elks Lodge. The parking lot was full, the fence posts dotted with red and gold balloons, the colors of Prospector High School, which served a community of several small towns.

Sam pulled off the road and slowed to a stop, gravel crunching under his tires. The party was well under way. Laughter spilled from the open doorways and windows as Madonna sang the 1980s classic “Like a Virgin.”

Nostalgia didn't overtake him—he'd never understood the appeal of reunions—still, there was that one person he'd come to see. Only one out of a graduating class of eighty-seven. He was sure she would be in the crowd. And he had something to say to her. To Dana Cleary. Dana Sterling, he amended. Her married name. Then he could close the book on his past forever.

He had a choice in the timing. He could wait until the party ended and catch her at her parents' house, where she would undoubtedly spend the night. Or he could get it over with now and be in San Francisco for his latest assignment before midnight, his past shoveled six feet under….

After a moment Sam turned off the ignition and got out of the car. He'd been in some tight circumstances, life-and-death situations. He'd welcomed the challenges, gloried in the risks, exulted in his escapes. He could channel the adrenaline flow in his body deliberately, but the anticipation of seeing Dana sent a rush through him that he couldn't control. He wondered at the rare sensation, even savored it.

He approached the building but stopped short of entering, waiting for his internal anticipation to settle. Lingering
near an open door he noted more balloons, and a disco ball that dappled the room with speeding stars. Memories washed over him of his junior year and another dance. Watching through a window. Music and laughter, dinner and dancing. A longing so painful…

He'd taken her to the senior prom the next year, but their relationship hadn't changed for having gone to the dance.

None of that mattered fifteen years later as Sam slipped into the Elks Lodge just as the deejay took a break from his chatter and the 1980s music. Candi James bounded onto the stage and scooped up the microphone, the same pep-squad perkiness she'd had in high school still evident as she read from a long list, leading the cheers for such notable accomplishments as who had the most children, who'd come the farthest and on and on and on.

With everyone's attention directed at Candi, Sam moved around the perimeter of the room. He stopped when he spotted Dana. He didn't fight the initial jolt of seeing her again, taking a moment to watch her instead. A little taller than average, she was more angular than curvy, her hair not strictly blond or brunette but a honeyed mix of both, and shoulder length now, not the rich waterfall to her waist that had made him want to wrap his hands in it and pull her close.

He couldn't see her eyes from where he stood, but he knew they were obsidian, pitch-dark eyes that had issued him challenges since elementary school.

She wore an unrevealing, blue couture dress and low heels, understated, practical and elegant, befitting her position, but a far cry from the hot-pink number she'd worn at the junior prom.

“And finally,” Candi said, folding her list and setting it aside, “our three mega success stories. Harley Bonner, who owns the eighth largest ranching operation in the state of California.”

Cheers went up. Sam's blood froze. If he were a vengeful man—

“Lilith Perry Paul, whose radio talk show is now in syn
dication all over the country.” More hoots and hollers. “And finally, Dana Cleary Sterling. Dana—you've made us so proud. Here's to six more years!”

So, Sam thought, the speculation was over. She'd made a decision.

“We'll have music and dancing for two more hours,” Candi shouted over the din. “Don't forget the picnic in the park tomorrow at noon. If you haven't had your picture taken for the memory book, you've only got a half hour left. Remember to sign the update forms, too. Have fun!”

Sam watched as well-wishers surrounded Dana, who seemed surprisingly uneasy at the attention. A barrier went up, an invisible wall that kept people at a distance. She held her wineglass in both hands, a silent signal. No handshakes, please. No hugs. Only her friend Lilith got close enough to bump arms, and that lasted but a second.

The change in her surprised him. When had she become so reserved? When had she lost the outward joy of life? She'd touched people. Him.

The music started again, Sting singing “Every Breath You Take,” blasting Sam with fresh images of the junior prom where he'd painfully watched Dana with her date, her smile bright. She hadn't been a cheerleader, but almost everything else, including student-body president. She'd seemed golden to him, the way she combined academics, sports and extracurricular activities.

Sam shouldered his way past the memories and through the crowd. Conversation quieted enough for him to hear the reaction being voiced at his appearance.

“Who—”

“I think that's Sam Remington—”

“Really? But he's so—”

“Gorgeous. Can't be Sam. He never dressed that good.”

“He sure has filled out.”

Sam never broke stride. When he did, the murmuring stopped. Surprised pleasure stole across Dana's face, star
tling him. The anger he'd harbored for years broke loose from its moorings, leaving only what had been good between them.

He put his hand out to her, invading her invisible barrier. Then he waited. The next move was hers.

 

If it hadn't been for the unmistakable turquoise-colored eyes, Dana wouldn't have recognized him. Gone was the gangly boy. In his place stood a man who commanded attention without saying a word.

She'd looked for him at the five-year and ten-year reunions, more hopeful than she cared to admit. The sharp impact of seeing him now rendered her speechless.

He'd grown, in every way. He looked…dangerous. Confidence radiated from him in white-hot heat. In a room of sport coats and khakis he wore black jeans and a leather jacket. In an evening where no one had gotten too close, he'd come within a foot and put his hand out in such a way that she could either shake it or be led onto the dance floor.

She wanted to dance, but did he? Her dilemma made her heart pound—she'd rejected five other offers. How would it look if she danced with him now? She saw challenge in his eyes. His hand moved fractionally closer to her.

Dana realized she couldn't take any more time to analyze his motives, so she passed her wineglass to Lilith and put her hand in Sam's. She'd waited fifteen years for the chance to talk to him.

“I'd love to dance,” she said, maintaining a smile.

He said nothing but drew her onto the dance floor then into his arms, leaving an acceptable amount of space between their bodies. Even so, she hadn't been this intimate with a man in over two years, and then it had been a comfortable closeness, not this…this breath-stealing turmoil.

She lifted her face, determined not to let him see how he unnerved her. She'd gotten so good at controlling her emotions, it had become cold habit, but now his gaze held hers long enough for her lips to tremble. He exuded con
trol—in his eyes, his posture, the firm touch of his hands. She wanted to shake that control, although she had no idea why. She hated it when someone tried to shake hers.

“So,” she said, making herself smile. “The prodigal Brainiac returns at last.”

His eyes softened. Warmed. “How are you, Blush?”

Their use of their old nicknames brought instant intimacy. She felt herself blushing, then his knowing smile took her back, moments tumbling into other moments.

“I'm well,” she said, coming aware of his thighs brushing hers now and then as they danced. “Where have you been, Sam?”

“You want fifteen years condensed into a paragraph?”

“Have you done so little?” she asked lightly, surprising herself. She was flirting and couldn't stop it.

“I've lived.”

The way he said the words gave her pause. She would bet the long version of the story would be fascinating. “Start at the beginning, then. Where'd you go after graduation?”

“I joined the army.”

Shock left her momentarily at a loss for words. “Why?”

“The opportunity presented itself.”

Which made no sense. According to the math teacher, Mr. Giannini, Sam had been destined for greatness in the math community. “Brilliant” had always preceded his name. She shook her head. “Every year when the Nobel Prizes are awarded I look for your name.”

“Things change.”

“You didn't attend your father's funeral.” She remembered how pitiful it had been. So few people, and none who genuinely mourned.

“You did.”

So. He'd left, but he'd kept track. “Why are you here, Sam?”

“To thank you.”

“For attending the funeral?”

“No.”

She looked away, shaken by the intensity of his gaze. Gratitude was the last thing Dana expected. He'd been furious at her at graduation, rightfully so. And she hadn't been allowed to set the record straight or beg forgiveness. By the time she could hunt for him after the ceremony, he'd left town.

“How can you thank me?” The effort to appear casual for the interested bystanders sent her pulse dancing. “Because of me you were beaten. You could barely walk at graduation. Your eye was swollen shut. That was my fault.”

“It changed my life, Dana, in ways I never could have anticipated.”

How could he be so calm? She wanted to scream,
Mine, too! It changed my life, too.
“Tell me how,” she said.

“It's a long story.”

His hand slid a little farther across her lower back, bringing her closer. His thumb brushed her spine through the silk of her dress.

“I have time for a long story,” she said, her voice catching on the last word as he pressed a finger against a vertebra. When had that spot become an erogenous zone?

“I don't. I've already stayed longer than I intended. Not to mention that everyone in this room is watching our every move.”

She pulled back a little. “I guess I'm used to living under a microscope.”

“And I'm used to putting people under one.”

“Now there's a cryptic comment. Care to explain?”

“No.”

The song was ending. Panicked she would miss her opportunity, she hurried her words. She only had seconds to say what she'd been wanting to all these years. “I was sorry, Sam. You protected me and got hurt because of it. I
became much more aware of the consequences of my actions after. Much more cautious.”

“Is that why you married Randall Sterling? It was the prudent thing to do?”

BOOK: Private Indiscretions
11.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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