Authors: Ruth Owen
And Babies Make Four
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
A Loveswept eBook Edition
Copyright © 1996 by Ruth Owen
Trying to Score
by Toni Aleo copyright © 2013 by Toni Aleo.
Long Simmering Spring
by Elisabeth Barrett copyright © 2013 by Elisabeth Barrett.
by Sandra Chastain copyright © 1997 by Sandra Chastain.
All Rights Reserved.
Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc.
And Babies Make Four
was originally published in paperback by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. in 1996.
Cover Design: Derek Walls
Cover Photo: OLJ Studio/Shutterstock
To Connie Canright, for her endless energy and unfailing encouragement,
and to Geralyn Williams, for her sympathetic ear and voodoo prayers.
Paradise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, Dr. Noel Revere thought as she shielded her eyes from the high-noon sun and watched the chartered plane climb into the clouds. She saw the flash of its silver wings, signaling its irrevocable departure. She lowered her hand and sighed. There goes finger sandwiches,
The Wall Street Journal
, little bottles of liquor.…
She swept her gaze earthward and looked around the strip of cleared ground known optimistically as the St. Michelle International Airport. The entire complex consisted of the “runway,” a tattered wind sock, and a dilapidated hangar that hadn’t seen a repair since World War II. The only soul in sight was an almost immobile man sitting on a three-legged stool near the hangar’s open door, lazily swatting flies. Once again she glanced heavenward, pulling at the high collar of her fashionable, but stiflingly hot, Dior
blouse. There goes TV, air-conditioning, indoor plumbing, civilization.…
“Hell,” she grumbled as the speck of the plane vanished from sight. But, hell or not, she was stuck with the situation. She’d taken on the assignment after Dr. Bob Harvey, Sheffield Industries’ original choice for this project, had sprained his ankle in a Little League softball game. Personally, Noel thought it was highly suspicious that Bob had tripped over the pint-sized first baseman right after he learned just how primitive the island’s accommodations really were.
The last time Boston-bred Noel had braved the wilderness she’d been eleven—she’d spent two days at a Girl Scout jamboree and the next week in bed recovering from a nasty case of diarrhea and poison oak. Her idea of “roughing it” was a Holiday Inn, but she’d agreed to take Harvey’s place at the request of her boss and best friend, Katrina Sheffield-Fagen. Make that her
best friend. Best friends didn’t talk you into leaving your air-conditioned Miami condominium to spend ten days on a cloyingly humid, practically deserted Caribbean island, researching a theory that had as much chance of panning out as proving the moon was made of green cheese—
The small, plaintive sound came from a pile of baggage and computer hardware sitting beside her on the sunbaked runway. Guiltily, she realized she wasn’t the only one feeling the heat.
Poor babies. Their circuits
must be frying. Dammit, where is that guide Sheffield hired? He was supposed to meet the plane
She wiped her dark, sweat-damp bangs from her frown-creased forehead, thinking wistfully of her luxury condominium just north of Miami, with its cabanas and Olympic-sized swimming pool. If she hadn’t let herself get talked into this assignment she could be there now, sitting by the pool sipping a frozen strawberry daiquiri with Hayward and her other friends. Now
was paradise. But she couldn’t afford wishful thinking—not with Einstein and PINK baking like Maine lobsters in the West Indies sun. She gave the jumble of equipment a gentle pat, then hurried off toward the hangar and the only living soul at this sorry excuse for an airport.
She went up to the man sitting beside the hangar’s entrance. “Excuse me, have you seen a guide named Sam Donovan? He was supposed to meet me here.”
The old man glanced indifferently in her direction. His face was as worn and weathered as a piece of old leather, ugly beyond belief, but his dark eyes sparkled with the keenness of a star-studded night. They wrapped her with a subtle magic, making her think of cool trade winds, lazy mornings that lasted all day, and rosy sunsets that slid gradually into soft indigo nights. The slow pace of paradise unsettled her to the depths of her industrious Puritan soul.
Apparently it didn’t unsettle the old man one bit. He turned away without a word and went back to swatting flies.
I guess I can take that as a no
. “Well then, could you
help me with my computers? I’ve got to get them out of the sun before their circuits are damaged.” She reached into her purse and pulled out her wallet, extracting first a ten, and then a twenty. “I’ll pay you. See? American dollars.”
She waved the bills under his nose, as if the odor could attract him. She was offering a princely sum, and his threadbare shirt and loose, patched pants showed that he could clearly use the money. But the man didn’t even glance at the bills. Instead he ignored her, continuing his leisurely task of batting flies—apparently finding them only slightly more annoying than he did her.
Noel’s jaw tightened. Her reserved and socially prominent grandmother had trained her to keep the temper she’d inherited from her Italian father in check, but the sun and sweat had melted away much of that hard-learned restraint. “Look, mister, I’m not asking for the world—just a few minutes of your time. If thirty dollars isn’t enough, I’ll pay more. What the hell do you want?”
“It’s just a guess,” a deep voice behind her commented, “but I think he’s looking for a ‘please.’ ”
Noel spun around in alarm, an alarm that increased as her gaze slammed into a pair of the bluest, fiercest eyes she’d ever seen. Hurricanes and tidal waves were in those eyes—the violence that was the flip side of paradise. Instinctively she stepped back, pulling her own eyes away from the overwhelming power of his gaze. She caught a brief impression of hard, unforgiving features, a strong chin covered by
several days’ worth of stubble, and shaggy hair streaked gold by the sun. He looked like the kind of man who’d kill her for thirty dollars. He looked like the kind of man who’d kill her for thirty cents.
And he was naked to the waist.
He smelled like sweat and sun, untamed and unmastered. She swallowed, feeling helpless in more ways than she could name as she tried to ignore the muscular expanse of his tanned, fur-dusted chest. Her sensible New England soul rang warning bells of alarm.
I’m virtually alone in the middle of nowhere with a half-naked criminal and a small fortune in computer equipment.
“What, in God’s blue heaven, made you wear that getup?”
A half-naked, fashion-conscious criminal
. “I … it’s my favorite.”
“Not in this climate,” he stated in a voice as rough as new-made whiskey. “Not for long, anyway.”
He gave her a thorough once-over, as if he meant to steal her clothing as well as her equipment. The thought brought a searing blush to her cheeks, but not necessarily from embarrassment.
It’s the heat. It’s making me crazy
Once again she was distracted by a voice behind her, but this time it came from the old man. The words he spoke were low, melodious, and completely unintelligible, but his dark eyes gleamed with laughter. Puzzled, she turned back to the other man. “What did he—hey, what do you think you’re doing?”
While her attention was focused on the old man, the outlaw had walked over and hoisted up several pieces of her heavy, expensive computer equipment as if they were made of plywood. Without even bothering to look in her direction, he strode off toward the far side of the hangar.
“Put those down!”
“Lighten up, sweetheart,” he growled without breaking stride. “My Jeep’s over here. It’s old, but I think it’ll carry most of this junk.”
“Look, if you take that equipment, you’ll be sorry. It belongs to Sheffield Industries, a major international conglomerate. They’ll have Interpol on you in a skinny minute. In fact, they’ve already hired a local man who’s got a background in international security.”
“Really?” the man drawled.
“Yes, and he’ll be here anytime.” Noel hurried after him—not an easy task in stiletto heels and a tight skirt. She prayed that the security man’s reputation was as well deserved as Katrina’s husband, Jack, a former troubleshooter himself, said it was. “His name’s Sam Donovan. You’ve probably heard of him.”
“I’ve done a hell of a lot more than heard of him, Dr. Revere.”
Noel stopped in her tracks. Oh no. It couldn’t be. Katrina and Jack had promised her a seasoned guide with a security background, not some scruffy, half-dressed, ill-mannered desperado. She swallowed, watching him load the equipment into a dented, battle-scarred army Jeep.
“In the flesh,” he replied, not realizing how appropriate the description was. He leaned against the frame, and glanced back at her with his all-too-penetrating blue gaze. “You know, it wouldn’t kill you to help with this equipment, even if you are a Ph.D.”
He made her title sound like a disease.
“I was going to help.” She wished the words didn’t sound so defensive. She’d always done more than her fair share of the “grunt work” at the main office, but she wasn’t about to waste her breath justifying herself. Instead, she marched over to the pile and grasped the handle of one of the heaviest pieces, starting to lug it toward the Jeep.
He pulled it out of her hand, shouldering the weight as if it were a Tinkertoy. “I said help, not get a hernia. If anything happens to you, Jack will take it out of my hide. Use your head, sweetheart. For both our sakes.”
“I’m not your
,” she said as her ire rose to match the temperature. It was bad enough having to give up modern comforts for the ten days it would take to complete her assignment, but to spend it in the company of an arrogant, muscle-bound cretin … “I don’t appreciate being patronized.”
“And I don’t appreciate—” he began, but stopped as the old man again interrupted him.
“Jolly-mon.” He nodded to Donovan. Then he pointed directly at Noel, and said something that he clearly considered a hoot.
Noel was hot, aggravated, and in no mood to be
laughed at in a language she didn’t understand. “What did he say?”
Donovan shrugged and set the heavy box on the ground. He pulled a faded bandanna out of his back jeans pocket and used it to mop the sweat at the back of his neck. It was an insignificant motion, but it drew Noel’s attention like a magnet. She couldn’t help noticing how the sun glanced off the bronzed planes of his chest, and how his worn jeans molded to his muscular thighs like a second skin. Hayward wouldn’t look like that if he worked out for a decade, she thought, then cringed at the unconscious disloyalty. After all, even though they’d ended their romantic relationship months before, he was still a good friend.
Honestly, Noel, you’ve never gone in for that stupid macho stuff