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Authors: Joanna Scott

Dusky Rose

BOOK: Dusky Rose
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Dusky Rose
By
Joanna Scott
Contents

    Dusky Rose

    Marriage to a stranger… Laura had been half in love with David from the moment they met, but her opinion of his employer, D. Jonathan Lattimer, was far from complimentary.

    Then one morning she awoke to find herself married—to
    David
    Jonathan Lattimer! Trapped in marriage to a man she had sworn to hate, a man who thought
    she
    had trapped
    him
    , how could Laura ever explain that she loved her husband?

    He was a stranger to her—no longer the gentle man who had kissed and courted her. But even as he made plans to tear her from his life, she knew he was the only man who would ever fill her heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To my husband and my son

 

 

 

 

 

 

©
1980, Joanna Scott

 

©
1982, Cover Illustration, Edito-Service S.A., Geneva

 

Published by Edito-Service S.A., Geneva,

by arrangement with the Silhouette Division

of Simon & Schuster

 

ISBN 2-8302-0239-2

Chapter 1

 

The early morning fog was a shadowy gray veil hovering above the San Francisco horizon. The rooftops of the towering buildings dominating Montgomery Street were totally invisible as Laura trudged up the hill toward the imposing concrete mass known as the Lattimer Building, corporate headquarters of one of the world's largest conglomerates.

She rapped lightly at the locked glass door until the security guard came forward to admit her. He tipped his hat in greeting.

"How are you today, Miss Canaday? Are you here to spruce up our lobby?"

"Yes, Mr. Leonardi, it's so much easier to do my work when the building is empty."

"I know what you mean, Miss Canaday. Most days this place is like a railway station… people coming and going in all directions… buzzing around like so many bees in a hive. But on weekends, it's as calm and quiet as a church yard."

Laura laughed as she signed her name in the entry log. "That may be true, but I don't think Mr. Lattimer would make a very good reverend, considering his scandalous reputation."

Mr. Leonardi was chuckling to himself as Laura walked through the small entryway into the elegant marble lobby.

A multitude of huge green plants sprouted from every corner of the sterile room, providing a vibrant touch of life in the oppressive silence of the deserted steel and glass building. It was Saturday morning and the army of workers who usually populated the lobby and elevators of the Lattimer Corporation's home office were enjoying a weekend reprieve.

Laura walked gingerly between the profusion of plants, pausing now and then to check the soil moisture in each pot and clip off any brittle, brown-edged leaves.

Her bright blue eyes darkened with anger as she knelt beside a white clay planter containing the gently drooping leaves of a large Ficus Benjamina tree. The corners of her soft coral lips turned down in petulant indignation as she discovered the numerous cigarette stubs and gum wrappers littering the moss-covered soil beneath the graceful branches of the tree. Sighing in exasperation, she reached her white cotton gloved hands into the planter and began removing each unsightly piece of litter from the ash laden soil at the base of the plant. As she worked, she became totally absorbed and her irate features gradually melted into tenderness.

"Poor baby, these inconsiderate people treat your home as their trash bin. They don't deserve a beautiful plant like you," she said, as she began to aerate the hardened soil.

She was so thoroughly engrossed in her work that she failed to notice the tall, muscular man who walked soundlessly from the mailroom into the lobby. He stopped a few feet away from where Laura was working and began studying her as she pushed back the softly curling tendrils which had escaped the pale blue ribbon holding her long brown hair. She was a petite, slender girl whose delicate bone structure and translucent complexion gave her the appearance of a dainty, porcelain doll. This fragility was accentuated by her close-fitting striped madras shirt and faded blue jeans, which clung to each softly feminine curve of her body.

The man's firmly set mouth widened into a droll grin as he crossed his arms and leaned casually against the wall, staring down at Laura with amused interest.

"Do you always talk to plants?" he asked, smiling at her with a wicked enjoyment that he did not attempt to conceal.

Laura's hands froze as she turned her head and looked at a pair of long, lean, camel-colored trouser legs. Her gaze traveled upward over narrow masculine hips, girded by a thick leather belt with a heavy metal buckle. Above the belt she saw the bold stripes of a red and blue rugby shirt that stretched across the taut rippling muscles of his powerfully built chest. She looked past the firmly set jaw, frankly amused mouth and proud aquiline nose, until she encountered the commanding depths of his dark brown eyes. Here her travels came to an end when his piercingly intent dusky eyes seized hers and held them tightly in a paralyzing, hypnotic spell.

As Laura stared, spellbound, into his darkly forbidding eyes, the droll smile slowly disappeared from the man's lips and his features froze as if he too were powerless before the electrifying force passing between them. The faint feeling permeating Laura's body was unlike anything she had ever experienced before and she realized that if she did not look away quickly, she would be drawn toward him like a helpless moth moving toward a brightly burning flame.

When she finally forced herself to tear her eyes away from the magnetic captivity of his powerful gaze, Laura felt the tingling heat of an embarrassed blush spread rapidly through her body and into her cheeks. Her voice was low and trembling when at last she gained sufficient control to speak.

"I didn't think anyone else was here today. It's Saturday, you know, and the building is usually deserted."

The fact that Laura had looked away from him did not make her visitor cease his own searching observation of her and he seemed to be relishing her embarrassed discomfort. He kept his eyes glued to her in an arrogant manner that sent undulating waves of heat racing through her body.

"I had to check out something in the mailroom. I thought I'd best get it done before Monday's rush. But why are you here? It seems to me that an attractive young girl like you could find a better way to spend her weekend than talking to plants."

Laura laughed in spite of her determination to remain serious and in control of her emotions. The man's renewed, easy manner had a curiously contagious quality about it.

"I'm the Plant Lady," she said. "My sister and I own the flower shop on the corner. Lattimer Corporation bought these plants from us with the provision that I come by often enough to keep them healthy. If Mr. D. Jonathan Lattimer were ever to see one wilted leaf, I expect that my plants and I would soon be out on the street."

The man standing above Laura looked strangely perturbed as he raised his dark brows questioningly. "It sounds as if you're not too fond of Mr. D. Jonathan Lattimer."

"Oh, I've never met him," Laura said, as she climbed the stepladder she had kept in the building and began to mist the leaves of the freshly cleansed plant. "And I'd just as soon keep it that way. I hear that he's a cold, demanding person and not at all the type you'd like to pass an afternoon with. In any case, I'm not about to incur his wrath by letting him discover a sickly plant. Lattimer Corporation is one of our biggest accounts and we need the money too much to lose its business by angering the chairman of the board."

The man's relaxed mouth became quietly serious. "I don't think you could make anyone angry and I'm doubly sure that Jon Lattimer would never put you out on the street."

"Oh, I know Mr. Lattimer has a reputation for being quite a ladies' man," said Laura, "but I'm not at all his type."

The man's eyes glinted with interest as it became obvious that he was enjoying the conversation. "Really?" he said. "And just what is Lattimer's taste in women?"

Laura continued misting the plant as she spoke. "Oh, you know, the tall, sultry, sophisticated type. He prefers fashion models and actresses. I'm sure he would find a hayseed from Carmel too boring for words."

"My, my, you certainly know a lot about a man you've never even met."

"Well," Laura said, "many of our customers work for Lattimer Corporation, and Mr. Lattimer's exploits with the opposite sex are a favorite topic of conversation among his employees, especially the women. You'd be surprised at the number of them who are madly in love with the man. He's considered quite a catch, you know. But those girls don't stand a chance. He's not about to waste his time on some silly secretary when every debutante in the country is dying for the chance to become his wife."

By now the man had seated himself comfortably against the wall, drawn his long legs up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. His dark eyes twinkled with interest and the corners of his lips tilted with candid amusement as he listened to Laura speak.

"What about you, wouldn't you like to marry Jon Lattimer?"

Laura laughed, "Me? Marry Mr. Lattimer? That's an idea that would send him into hysterics if he ever heard it. He doesn't even know I exist and if he did, I'm sure he'd never have any romantic interest in me."

"Don't underestimate yourself. You're really quite attractive, you know. I'm sure Jon Lattimer or any other man would enjoy your company immensely."

His quiet compliment only made Laura more agitated as she stretched to mist the leaves on the uppermost branches of the tree. In her confused state, she leaned out too far and lost her balance. She would have fallen to the marble floor, had not the strong arms of her companion reached out, as he quickly stood up catching her and drawing her swiftly against his lean, muscular chest. It was almost as if he'd been patiently waiting for this opportunity to clasp her willowy form to the steely hardness of his body.

BOOK: Dusky Rose
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