Authors: Jenny Andersen
Tags: #Suspense, #Contemporary
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Jenny Andersen
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Crimson Rose Edition, 2013
Print ISBN 978-1-61217-759-5
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-760-1
Published in the United States of America
Writing a book takes friends. A million thanks to
Shelley, Skully, Nyree, and Jackie
for the endless advice and encouragement.
To Linda, Evelyn, Kathy, and Rachel
and always, to David
for being both supportive and wonderful.
Other Books by Jenny Andersen
available from The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
Tonight would be different.
Since she’d met Zeph Granger three months ago—three months of phone calls and emails and all-too-rare-meetings—Allison Wentworth had turned into a puddle of lust. Every unlikely interruption of what they both wanted had made it worse.
Zeph, tall, elegant, utterly gorgeous Zeph, so different from the veterinary medicine students she’d known in school or the down-to-earth men of Stone’s Crossing. Any woman would be captivated by the gloss of sophistication and the cover-model-hunk body, but she’d seen the genuine man behind that gloss...the one who took embarrassing moments with good humor, the one who rushed to a friend’s rescue without counting the cost. Who could resist a man like that?
She’d scarcely noticed the upscale Los Angeles restaurant—imagine, Allie Wentworth eating at Cut—during dinner while the tension, the wanting, between them went volcanic. Now...
He draped her stole around her shoulders, and she shivered at the touch of his fingers. Waiting for the valet to bring the gleaming black Porsche to a smooth stop in front of them, she swayed toward him, iron filings to his magnet, imagining she could feel the touch of his lips across the scant inches that separated them. She wanted the skyrockets that burst behind her eyelids every time he kissed her.
“Later,” he murmured while he held the door for her, barely brushing her shoulder through her lacy shawl as she sat. The touch zinged shivers of lust through her.
While he walked around the car and slid into the driver’s seat, she sank into the soft leather, fastened her seat belt, and clutched her sequined evening bag so tightly her fingers went white.
“But not much later.” He put the car in gear and left the parking lot, driving carefully through the warm evening, and eased onto the freeway while she simmered.
“Why are you driving like an old maid Sunday school teacher?”
A smile narrowed his eyes, and he shot her a sideways glance. “Because nothing is going to get in the way of our evening. Because there will be no tickets, traffic accidents, or road blocks. No kidnapped friends.”
“Hannah couldn’t help getting kidnapped,” she protested.
Zeph ignored her comment. “No paternal communiqués, no sick horses. Nothing is going to ruin this, Allie. Nothing.”
She closed her eyes against the hot tide that swept her. “Sounds like a plan.”
A scowl creased his forehead. “I know this is tempting fate,” he said. “But we need to stop at the fairgrounds to check your horses, right?”
“Wrong,” she said, pleased that he recognized what was important to her. The warm and cuddly feeling his acceptance of her priorities gave her sat oddly with the lust churning through her. “Hannah’s doing bed check tonight.”
“Hot damn,” Zeph breathed and punched the accelerator. “Lean closer.”
“Because I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do when we get to my house.”
“I can hear from over here.”
“Some things shouldn’t be said out loud. I’ll whisper.”
Intrigued, she leaned over until his breath stirred the wisps of hair over her ear. His first suggestion curled her toes. The flow of words that followed should have come with a warning label.
He whipped the car into a narrow driveway that led uphill to a house. And what a house. She’d expected it to be modern and sophisticated, just like him. The reality exceeded her expectations, an exciting sweep of glass walls and redwood angles, set in some serious landscape design.
“We’re home,” he said as he pulled to a stop by the front door, and her mind gave her an image of him, of homecoming, of together and all that it might mean.
He unhooked his seat belt, and his phone rang.
“Don’t answer that,” he ordered.
Allie lifted her hands. “Of course not. It’s your phone.”
“No. No, no, no. Probably my damned office.”
Allie giggled at his disgruntled expression. “It’s your damned office, so don’t snarl at me.”
The phone chirped, indicating a new voice mail. “Hell,” he muttered and flipped a switch on the dash to activate the message.
The voice boomed through the car, authoritative and urgent. “In the office, Granger. Now. Code Red.”
Zeph leaned forward and banged his head against the steering wheel.
“You have to go.” Saying the words made it real.
“I should have known. Nothing is easy for us.”
Understatement of the year. “Not so far.”
“Will you wait? Please?”
“Come on. I’ve got to get going.” He hurried her inside, tugging her along when she paused to gawk at the open, glass-walled expanse. A wide hall, wood-paneled on one side and glass on the other, led to the kitchen, where he opened a built-in refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of wine. “I’ve been saving this for you,” he said and poured some into a cut crystal goblet. “Enjoy, and I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Before Allie could say a word, he pulled her into his arms and took her mouth with a fervor that spoke of frustration. The exquisite pressure, the touch of his tongue, ignited her own frustration, and she pressed closer.
“God.” He released her with obvious reluctance. “You could make me forget my own name.”
A few minutes later, her lips burning from his high-voltage goodbye kiss, Allie stood in the doorway and waved at his taillights dwindling in the distance. “Yeah, go be a hero,” she muttered and slowly closed the door, locking it as he’d insisted. Not like Stone’s Crossing.
She walked back through the trendy elegance of his home, so not like Stone’s Crossing. Except for the bedroom wing, glass walls ruled. She prowled through office, exercise room, guest room. A bathroom that looked like a spa, with mirrored walls, a stack of the fluffiest towels she’d ever seen—ink black—and a jungle of hanging plants. Definitely not like Stone’s Crossing. She froze in the doorway to his bedroom, an enormous sweep of gray carpeting surrounding a low, wide bed covered in something navy blue and so soft looking that she couldn’t help imagining—imagining—
She tore herself away and continued back down the hall to the kitchen. This time she could take a good look, without the distraction of its owner. Pale ash cabinets, lots of cabinets, swept around the two sides of the room that weren’t glass. An orchid sat on the black granite counter, startlingly white against the darkness. Stainless steel glinted from ovens and cooktop and sinks.
Reaching for the goblet, she knocked against it and splashed a few drops of wine on the gleaming counter. Darn. When she opened the under-sink cabinet to toss the paper towel she’d used to wipe up the spill, several photos that had apparently been tossed carelessly and had caught on the edge of the trash bag fell to the floor. She had to pick them up, of course. When she did, she couldn’t not look, could she? And there was Zeph with his arm around the waist—the tiny waist—of a gorgeous woman whose bosom—not-tiny bosom—overflowed a skimpy gown. Allie crumpled the picture and stuffed it in the trash bag.
The next picture featured the same Zeph with a different woman.
And the next.
She stuffed the whole mess into the trash and stalked out to the deck, ready to let the silvery, moonlit evening and expansive view soothe her the way the mountain landscapes of home always did. After sinking into a luxurious lounge chair on the deck, she sipped the wine he’d poured for her. It tasted like liquid gold, sparkling and soothing at the same time.
After that things went downhill. When she raised her glass, it was to a wall of smog instead of the twinkling lights of Los Angeles. Instead of blissful peace and silence of the forests around Stone’s Crossing, she got the whine of an overpowered sports car peeling rubber and the roar of a big truck engine as the driver relied on his jake brakes. She gave up.
The phone rang just as she walked into the house. Zeph? A frisson of pleasure zinged through her, but before she could find the phone, the answering machine clicked on. A sultry voice cooed “Mmm, Zeph, honey, you haven’t called me in two weeks. I miss you, and I’ve got something for you you’re going to like.” Sex oozed from each syllable.
Allie stalked into the living room. When she threw herself down on the pale suede sofa, something crackled. She reached behind a cushion and pulled out a letter.
She didn’t read other people’s mail. Really she didn’t. But the large, loopy writing practically read itself out loud. She caught the words “...you dint call me for weeks so just call me Zeph. I miss...” before she slammed it face down on the coffee table.
If the purple ink on pink paper hadn’t turned her off, the grammar and lack of punctuation would have done the trick. She wondered if he’d even noticed.
Did he pick his dates by bra size? If so, what was she doing here? Her tidy 34B didn’t overflow or burgeon or any of those things. She gulped some wine and wondered if the misery churning through her could be jealousy, or only distaste for being one of a crowd.
Her whole body ached with the need to get back to Stone’s Crossing. Pokey life style, year-old movies at the one theater, only six stores—she didn’t care.
The phone rang again and she flinched but couldn’t avoid hearing the message.
“Zephram, this is your mother. I missed your call yesterday and I’m worrying. I suppose you’re out with another one of your women. Please let me know you’re all right.”
Allie dashed to the kitchen and picked up the phone. She couldn’t let the woman worry. “Mrs. Granger. He’s fine. He just got called into work. Some kind of urgent code.”
Mrs. Granger made a small irritated noise. “That job.” After a long pause, she added, “Thank you,” and hung up.
All the things Zeph’s mother hadn’t said hovered in the silence. When Allie wrote “your mother called” on the notepad by the phone, her hand shook. What the woman must think of her. Just another one of the crowd.
The soft sound of a car door being eased shut drove the unpleasant thoughts into oblivion. Zeph! Then she remembered the pictures, the phone call, the letter, and tamped down the eagerness. She had a few things to discuss with him.
Someone fumbled with the front door lock, stopping her in her tracks. After a moment of silence, a shadow, one with no resemblance to Zeph’s size and shape, passed the kitchen window.