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The tall, slim blonde seems the perfect diversion for ruggedly handsome hotel magnate Ben Jamieson. He'll bed Carissa Grace on a strictly no-strings basis.
Carissa and Ben soon embark on an all-consuming affair. But for Ben, that's all this can ever be—passionate, but temporary. However, when Carissa finds she's pregnant, Ben demands that she marry him! Even if it is just for their baby's sake....
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Anne Oliver lives in Adelaide, South Australia. She is an avid romance reader, and after eight years of writing her own stories, Harlequin Mills and Boon offered her publication in their Modern Heat series in 2005. Her first two published novels won the Romance Writers of Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year Award in 2007 and 2008. She was a finalist again in 2012 and 2013. Visit her website www.anne-oliver.com.
The scent of her grandmother's perfume was the first sign. The prickle at her nape was the second. While Gran's scent was benign and loving and familiar, the second sign sent a shiver down her spine.
Carissa Grace never ignored signs.
Anxious, she scanned the stream of cars outside Sydney's Cove Hotel. Her stepsister Melanie had insisted on picking her up since Carissa's gig at the piano bar had finished after midnight tonight. That had been twenty minutes ago.
Hurry up, Mel. Something's—
The screech of brakes sheared through the balmy night, an agony of metal on metal over the mellow sound of sax drifting from a nearby nightclub. As the dented Holden mounted the kerb, its headlights loomed like silver lasers before her, terrify-ingly stark against the subtle orange glow of the city night.
For a stunned second Carissa couldn't move. She was one with the crowd as it held its collective breath, movement halted, time suspended, minds frozen.
An instant later the car was gone, leaving only the acrid smell of exhaust fumes and hot bitumen.
'Anyone hurt?' a male voice demanded in a deep timbre that rippled down Carissa's spine like an arpeggio. In the awed hush that followed, a man emerged from the knot of people huddled against the hotel's sparkling lobby windows.
Tall, broad-shouldered. Awesome. He looked as dangerous as the chaos around him, from the heavily shadowed jaw and unkempt brown hair that curled over his neck to the faded black jeans and T-shirt. Not the kind of man she'd have expected to get involved in anything but trouble. Every 'bad boy' fantasy Carissa had ever had vibrated into shocking—and inappropriate—awareness.
'Someone call an ambulance.'His order snapped with authority.
Then she saw the form sprawled on the concrete. In two strides he was there, crouching over the slumped figure, speaking low. It was an old woman, Carissa realised, the bag lady she'd seen scrounging through the bin only moments ago. Despite the heat, she was covered from neck to ankle in a filthy coat. Her limbs flailed as she struggled up.
With no hesitation the man scooped a hand beneath her head, holding her against his thigh, murmuring soothing noises against her ear.
Carissa pulled herself together and hurried to rescue the woman's over-stuffed garbage bag nearby. Ignoring the crowd, which was curious but unwilling to get involved, Carissa set the bag down and crouched beside them. 'Here you go.'
The woman shot her an accusing glare as she grabbed the plastic.
'Is she okay?' Carissa asked.
'I reckon so,' he said, taking the woman's dirt-smudged fingers in his own large hand. 'But I'll get her checked out to be sure.' Preoccupied with his patient, he didn't look at Carissa.
Mingled with the odour of unwashed woman, she detected the distinct smell of male. A purely feminine appreciation sharpened her senses. It had been a long time since she'd smelled earthy masculine sweat. Alasdair always smelled of fancy French cologne. Nor could she imagine her fiancé handling this situation with such calm confidence.
The man sat the woman upright and stroked her back through the coat. His forearm twisted, drawing Carissa's attention to the gleaming silver of an expensive watch on his wrist. A disconcerting tingle spread through her limbs as she watched the muscles bunch and flex beneath his tanned skin. 'Do you think you can—?' A car's horn drowned the rest of his words to the old woman.
Carissa glanced at the street. Her ride. She raised a hand to Melanie as she backed away. Clearly he had everything under control and didn't need her assistance.
'Sorry I'm late,' Mel said as Carissa climbed in. 'Emergency was a war zone tonight. What's going on?' She honked her horn again and pulled into the traffic.
'We've had something of our own war zone.' Carissa's heart was still pounding with the drama. 'It's all under control now.' Thanks to the hero of the day.
Her gaze remained glued to the man as he ushered the bag lady towards the Cove's gleaming entrance. She could see the powerful square shape of his shoulders and his black T-shirt taut over one thick bicep.
A wildly sexy, dangerous man. He looked as if he'd just stepped out of one of her forbidden erotic dreams. The ones she'd been having with disturbingly increasing regularity of late.
She let out a sigh. She'd not seen Alasdair in a year, which made any man with half the rugged sex appeal of that stranger dangerous.
Not that she hadn't been more than willing to wait while Alasdair finished his PhD in France. But the promised twelve weeks had stretched into twelve long months.
She took one last look at temptation before turning to the red rear lights of the cars in front. A girl could only wait so long before that temptation reached out to tickle her fancy.
She shook away the delicious little shiver at the thought of the stranger's long, thick fingers reaching out to tickle her fancy... And bit back a moan. It was sexual frustration, that was all.
In seven days Alasdair would be home, and her bed was already turned down in anticipation. There'd be no more of that waiting he'd told her was the 'right thing'to do. Her already sensitised body hummed at the thought. Everything would be fine when Alasdair came back.
'Alasdair's not coming back.'
With the single handwritten page in her fist, Carissa sat down on the back step beside Melanie. The numbness had worn off enough to trust herself to talk about it. Rationally. Calmly. Maybe.
Mel's eyes widened. 'Oh, Carrie.' She set her iced tea on the verandah and reached for Carissa's hand. 'I'm so sorry,' she said quietly. 'You two have been together, what, seven years? What happened?'
'He's met someone else. I should've expected it with him studying overseas and all those chic mademoiselle research assistants.' She closed her eyes. 'But I didn't expect him to tell me his new love's name is Pierre.'
'Oh. God.' Melanie let out a slow breath. 'I don't know what to say.' She twined their fingers together. 'Are you okay?'
'I will be.' Carissa squeezed their hands briefly, then stood. A restless energy she didn't know what to do with was coursing through her body. 'I trusted him; I waited for him. Even though I wasn't sure any more that he was the One, I waited, at least until I saw him again. I must be the world's most naïve fool.'
'No. It's not your fault he's a two-timing creep—in the worst way. You sure you're okay?'
'Fine.' Enclosing that energy into a tight fist, she crumpled the paper and squinted against the glare of the parched backyard. The hot summer wind kicked up, rattling the loose drainpipe she hadn't gotten around to fixing yet.
'It's been so long, I'm used to it. My life will go on as usual. I've got my own place, such as it is.' She frowned at the sagging porch trim. Her grandparents' old home needed major repairs.
'And a job.You've still got me,' Mel said quietly.
'I know.' She met Mel's eyes with shared affection before turning away. 'Want to know a secret, Mel? I've still got my well-past-its-use-by-date virginity.'
'You mean you and Alasdair never...? Oh...'
Carissa paced up the verandah and back. 'Now I know why Alasdair was so noble and self-sacrificing. Every time I came on to him he said I'd thank him for making me wait.'
'So...days before your twenty-sixth birthday, you're still a virgin?' Melanie blew out a breath. 'Wow.'
'At this rate, on my fifty-sixth birthday, I'll be taking out a full-page ad.'
The urge to lash out rose up like a black wave. She needed to channel the energy productively. Some serious piano-pounding. Something dark and passionate. Bach, she decided. The fly-screen door squeaked on rusty hinges as she swung it open.
Melanie followed. 'Do you really want your life to go on as usual? No man, no sex, no fun?'
Carissa's hand paused on the door. Don't answer that.
'You need a fling, Carrie, a one-night stand.'
The suggestion was outrageous. And at this point Carissa felt almost reckless enough to consider it. 'You know, Mel, I just might take your advice.' She tossed the balled paper in the bin on her way.
'Don't rush it, though,'Mel warned as if she'd gone cold on the idea already. 'You want your piano tuned, you don't call a plumber.'
'So what's wrong with a plumber if he's got the right equipment?' Carissa couldn't help smiling at Mel's frown. She slung an arm around the one person she could always count on to look out for her. 'I'll be careful.'
The usual Saturday evening crowd buzzed in the Cove Hotel's piano bar. Carissa's eyes roamed the faces while she played her selection of dreamy Chopin nocturnes. She noted the few regulars, but most were anonymous tourists with a couple of hours to kill before heading off to Sydney's nightclubs.
So much for finding a man. Working six evenings a week seriously impinged on one's social life. She hadn't had a social life in so long, she wasn't sure she was ready for centre stage in the dating scene just yet.
She saw him the moment he entered the room.
He filled the doorway, all six-feet-four-if-he-was-an-inch of him. Her fingers faltered as she drank in the rock-solid body crammed into faded denim and black T-shirt.
Her mouth watered. God help her, if she could choose, she wanted that body, naked and next to hers. It was the kind of body that made women forget all about sexual equality—there was absolutely nothing equal about it.
Her fingers automatically drifted into Moonlight Sonata as her eyes followed him to the bar. She watched him order a beer, then move to a table near the window where the last rays of sunset turned the water beyond to liquid fire and the white tablecloths crimson, and glittered on his fancy silver watch.
Oh. My. God. It was the guy she'd seen last night. Her pulse rate zipped straight off her personal Richter Scale. He'd shaved.
But he was still dangerous.
She shifted on her stool for a better view of yesterday's hero.
The evening glow accentuated the angular contours of a tanned face on the wrong side of pretty-boy handsome and a strong, shadowed jaw. Mid-thirties, give or take. His teak-coloured hair,...
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Book Description Harlequin, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0373127383
Book Description Harlequin Presents, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110373127383
Book Description Harlequin Presents. MASS MARKET PAPERBACK. Condition: New. 0373127383 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW99.2256186