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Authors: Aimee Laine

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Hide & Seek

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“To say this is well written would be a major understatement … It’s one of those one in a million finds, an exceptional book.”

— The To Be Read Pile

“Hide and Seek is a brilliantly written and sexy book. [with] so much heat, passion and danger you’ll be left breathless for more!”

— Best Books

“I really enjoyed this book. I loved it so much! It was exciting, the characters were amazing, it kept you guessing, and it was so different than the books I am used to reading.”

— Synchronized Reading

“Hide and Seek takes established Greek mythology, sprinkles it with a dash of paranormal, and then shakes it all up with a healthy dose of passionate romance.”

— Bex Book Nook

“I have to say this is one of the best mythology books I have ever read. It completely blew me away, and I could not stop reading.”

— K-Books

“… just know love must, can, will, and does conquer all.”

— J.A. Belfield, author Darkness & Light

Hide & Seek

Aimee Laine

J. Taylor Publishing

HIDE & SEEK

Published by J. Taylor Publishing
www.jtaylorpublishing.com

Copyright © 2012 Aimee Laine

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, events, locations, or any other element is entirely coincidental.

ISBN 978-1-937744-00-7 (Paperback)
ISBN 978-1-937744-01-4 (EPUB)

First Printing: March 2012

To my husband —

Thank goodness opposites attract.

1

The strand of empty coastline stretched for miles before Lexi Shepherd. Hair as dark as the night sky whipped around, slapping at her face. Clumps of sand kicked up as she ran barefoot at the surf’s edge, the hem of her gown trailing in the water. Private deck and promenade lights outlined her path on one side while the moon guided her with a stream of ethereal illumination on the other.

The ocean’s roar reverberated as waves crashed at her feet, sending sea spray into the air. Lexi slowed her pace upon reaching the pier, leaned against a thick pylon and inhaled the scent of coffee and tobacco.

“Do you have it?” His voice came from nowhere.

Lexi withheld a gasp but not the shiver that ran the length of her body. The man hid within the darkness of the structure.

“I … do.”
Sorta.
She masked nerves with a voice of confidence.
Why’d I agree to such a late delivery again?

“May I have it?” Based on the volume of his voice, Lexi guessed him to be a yard or two away.

She stepped into a tiny circle of light created by one of the overhanging deck lamps. Her gown, a tangle of matted Carolina blue silk, had plastered to her legs, the ends trailing in the water. Still, she could not see him.

In her palm, she held a three inch square box. “Why do you want this, Robert?”

“It’s personal.”

She kicked up water with her toe, adjusting her angle and catching his silhouette within a circle just a few feet away. “Your wife said it isn’t yours.”

A quick intake of breath and a low growl emanated from him. “I hired you to find it, not ask questions.”

“You did. You did.” She tilted her head from side to side. “Though … you breached the contract. I don’t look for stolen property.”

He materialized within the blob of light closest to her.

Lexi’s breath caught.

His eyes narrowed, lips pursed. “That’s of no consequence to you.” His palm reflected the glow from above as if she would automatically place the box within it.

“But, well … it is.” She laid one hand over her heart, which beat at a frantic pace. “I won’t be a party to theft.”

“Give it to me!”

Her body trembled as she backed away.

He launched himself toward her.

She tossed the box, but instead of toward him, it arced, flying through the air, and landed within the ocean’s grip.

“No!” His snarl kick-started a rush of adrenaline in Lexi.

She gathered the folds of her dress and took off into the dark, running as fast as her attire permitted. Only fear chased her, the man’s bellows quieting behind the crash of the ocean waves. Lexi slid her fingers along the chain around her neck until she touched the pouch hanging between her breasts.

Why did I want to get into this line of business?

Muscles in her legs burned, insisting she stop. Recognizing her own beach house and the single floodlight her sister Emma would have left on, she dropped to the beach floor.

Lexi leaned back, stretched out and inhaled. “Not easy, but successful.” She’d accomplished her goal.
Now I can quit.

Canis Major and Canis Minor twinkled back at her—miniature white lights in an otherwise black sky—before vanishing behind small tufts of clouds passing high overhead.

Under the moon’s glow, the ink-black ocean appeared thick enough to cross on foot.

“Need some help?” A male voice interrupted her thoughts.

Lexi scrambled to stand, backing away as her heart raced once again. She focused on the one light, realizing she’d plunked herself down two houses too far.

“No, hey … it’s okay.” He waved toward her spot. “Stay.” A fresh-showered smell carried through the salty air.

“I’m—I’m sorry … didn’t mean to squat on your beach.”

He plopped beside the space she’d vacated. “I just came out for some quiet myself.” His voice, deep and resolute, drifted toward her as if called by the ocean. He patted the ground. “Sit.”

She ignored his command, bracing to bolt.

“I don’t bite.”

Like a puppet, she found herself drawn forward, not away.
This is really stupid, Lexi.
“I thought you wanted some time to yourself.”

His head shifted to the side, giving her a glimpse of his face: strong cheek bones, a straight nose and dark hair. The small amount of light from the house caught his eyes, but the color remained a mystery. A miniature hoop graced his earlobe.

His profile disappeared again. “Some company might be nice.”

Lexi lowered to the sand, taking back the spot just to his right. An undeniable desire to sit kept her from running, though she left a foot of space between them.
Watch it, Lex. Instinct had you accepting a job from a liar and running from him, too.

“What brings you out here?” The scratch of sand being wiped from denim merged with the repeated swish of the waves.

“Midnight run?” She swirled a figure eight in the sand, willing her heart to slow down.

“It’s after two, and you’re in a full-length evening gown. Try again.”

Damn. He can see me, though I still can’t really see him.
“Early morning walk?” She turned, catching sight of the edge of a tattoo under the collar of his T-shirt.

When he snorted, she relaxed a smidgen.

He pointed back toward the houses that lined the beach, most with their lights off. “You live around here?”

“Just … uh … visiting.”

“Me, too.” His toes wiggled into the ocean’s soil. “Whatever you’re hiding in your dress is pretty obvious right about now.”

Dammit!
The chain bunched up as the V in her gown bent. She tucked it back in, listening to his chuckles. If she had the gift of foresight, she’d have blown off the dinner date that ran far too long and changed into more suitable attire before her midnight delivery.

His hand brushed her cheek.

Her breath caught.

His finger slid a lock of hair behind her ear.

She jerked back, her muscles tensing to flee.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I should run right now.

“Sorry if I startled you. My sister hates it when her hair gets stuck to her face.”

“Thank … you.”

His hand twirled another string of her hair and tugged her toward him.

Her hands pressed into his chest in a futile effort to separate herself.
Emma is going to have a field day with this if I survive.

“I’m not going to hurt you. I’m just … intrigued.” His eyes shifted as if he studied her face. With their sideways angle, the crystal clear blue of his irises met hers.

Recognition she didn’t understand tugged at memories which didn’t exist.

“About?” She kept her hands against him, fighting to maintain her composure and keep her body from trembling under his touch.

“You. Your presence here tonight. I feel like I’ve met you before, yet I don’t even know your name. Where do you get eyes so damn dark I can barely see the color?”

A smile forced itself to the surface despite her worry. “I think those are questions best left to a date, not a midnight rendezvous with a perfect stranger.”

“Tripp?” A sweet, Midwestern, feminine voice reached them. “You out there? Tripp?” Concern bled through as she called out.

Lexi kept her gaze riveted to Tripp’s. “I think someone’s looking for you.”

“Tripp!” The voice grew whiney.

He shook his head. “Be right there!”

Lexi turned away, facing the ocean, the glistening white caps and the sounds of nature. “So … Tripp. Guess you better get a move on.” Her body relaxed without conscious effort.

He surrendered his hold, drawing up to his knees, but stayed in place at her side.

Lexi let out a long exhale.

He stood and started back.

“Who is she?” The wind took her question.

His pause suggested he’d heard her. “She says she’s my fiancée.” With that, he walked away.

• • •

Bright sun woke Lexi from a night of unfulfilled dreams amid a tangle of sheets. She kicked them off, slid to the edge of the bed and stretched her legs until her toes reached the hardwood. Her foot squished onto the dress she’d dropped when she returned home in the middle of the night. The soft pad of footsteps in the hallway meant Emma would beat Lexi to the kitchen and grab the last of the Fruit Loops.

“Mornin’, sleepy head,” Emma said.

Lexi freed the curls matted together at the side of her head. “Sleepy head, my ass.” Her words held no punch as she stepped over the pile of ruined silk.

Her impromptu night’s run left her muscles in need of some serious yoga. She reached above her head, lifted to her tiptoes and extended the stretch as far as she could as she peered through her bedroom’s sliding glass doors.

A steady trickle of summer’s end and weekend visitors graced the beach down below. Excited screams penetrated the barrier of her house. Lexi followed the stairs down to the first level of their two-story oceanfront home.
How could I mix up my house with his four-story monstrosity?

The tinkle of cereal falling into a ceramic bowl did in fact mean she lost the breakfast game. “How was your date, Em?” Lexi stood with the fridge door open, searching for an alternative food source.

“Enh,” Emma said between bites. “Got back around eleven. How about you? Get ‘the box’ delivered?” Her spoon clanged against the dish.

Not a bit of what remained on the shelves interested her, though the air from the open door did what the night could not: cool the heat an engaged man created within Lexi.
He’s engaged, Lex, let it go.

Emma tapped her spoon. “You gonna stand there all day?”

“Yes.” Lexi’s skin tingled, and her hair stood on end while she deigned thoughts of another woman’s man.

“Ooh. This is gonna be good. So dinner went really well. Is he here?”

“Dinner guy? Hell, no. He left a lot to be desired and had no imagination, among other stuff I don’t even want to think about.”

“Then someone else. After or before? Who’d you meet?”

Lexi should have been better prepared. “Leave me alone.”

“Aha! You did!” Like a bloodhound, Emma Shepherd could smell love and lust even when Lexi didn’t believe it herself. She clapped her hands as if she won a round on a game show. “Are you going to see him again? Was it before or after you met the rat-bastard who set you up to find a necklace that wasn’t his?”

Lexi closed the fridge door, refused to turn to her sister and instead started for the stairs.

“Aw, c’mon, Lex. You can’t leave me hanging like that. We go home in less than thirty hours … back to the grind. This is supposed to be our fun time.” She banged her spoon against the bowl.

The sound alone forced Lexi to turn, covering her ears at the same time.

Emma wiggled her hips on her chair. “You know … ‘fun’. And besides, you haven’t found what you were looking for.”

Lexi couldn’t help her smile. Emma’s five foot two and Dallas Cowboys cheerleader spunk contrasted with Lexi’s more serious nature, yet as sisters, they remained best friends.

“Okay … yes. I met someone on the beach this morning. But he’s got the deal in his four-story behemoth of a house.”
And he’s not exactly what I was looking for on this vacation.

“The family deal?”

“Fiancée.” Lexi scrubbed at her eyes as if sleep threatened to take her down. “And no matter what you say, I won’t poach. When the right man shows up, he better be single, have no baggage and not be out walking in the dead of night.” She rubbed at a spot just above her breast.

“Well, dammit, if that doesn’t bite.” Emma slapped her palms on the counter. “What’re you gonna do if you don’t find a new avenue for your abilities?”

“It was a self-designed experiment, Em.” Lexi waved her away. “Not sure I can handle searching for small stuff in the long run. So, no biggie. We have enough business as it is back home. Adding to it isn’t necessary.” A yawn pulled at Lexi’s jaw muscles. “I should probably go back to bed. It’s a little early for me.”

Emma’s laughter bounced off the walls. “The only reason you’re up before noon on a vacation is if you’re spooked by something.” She swung her straight blonde bob.

The extent of their differences reached into every detail. Born first, by a whopping minute, Lexi took all the dark and Emma all the light.

“I’m a night-owl, Em, not a morning person like you.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. We’re exact opposites. What happened last night?”

“You could say he overloaded my senses.” Lexi leaned on the granite counter as the coffee-enhanced potpourri reached her. Neither she nor her sister drank the stuff, but they both loved the smell.

Emma’s bright eyes sparkled with mischief. “You know you could take him. That is, if you wanted him.”

Lexi looked down at her twin, mimicked the mother-knows-all look and shook her head. “If he weren’t engaged, I might play the game. It’s not fair to test the fates on a guy who’s already accounted for, especially since men don’t stay in my life. That would be akin to stealing, which you know I have no patience for.”

“Pshaw.” Emma waved a bejeweled wrist through the air.

Lexi drew back, blinking. While both liked to taunt the other, neither pressed an issue after more than one round of tease-filled banter. “What’s up with you?”

“I’m worried about you, Lex.” She fiddled with the spoon. “You have a gift that lets you literally find the needle in a haystack, but you aren’t willing to use it to snag a guy.” Emma dropped the silver, crossed her arms and pouted like a four year old. “Big bummer because if you won’t, what’s that leave me to do?”

“Give it a rest, Em. With men it has to be real, true, and have absolutely no ties to anything otherworldly.” Lexi stopped the conversation with a hand up like a crossing guard. “That’s been my rule … forever.”

“Maybe that’s why your past relationships haven’t worked out. I know you want to find love as much—”

“Is that your euphemism for your evenings away this week?” Lexi winked.

Emma laughed. “You’re such a spoilsport. And, no. That was all fun, which you could have had, too, if you’d just let loose a little.” She laid a hand on top of Lexi’s. “Stop waiting. Use that gift of yours. Let the answer to ‘who is my soul mate’ hit you like a ton of feathers—so at least you won’t get hurt.”

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