Authors: Noelle Hart
Tags: #romantic suspense, #murder and romance, #romance adult contemporary, #suspense and romance, #suspense crime thriller, #murder and suspense, #suspense action romance, #love and suspense, #romantic suspense best seller, #stalker suspense
Drew rolled off of her and lay on his
She stared at him, incredulous, her
nerve endings tingling with a searing need yet to be satisfied. “I
brought condoms, Drew. You didn't hear me telling you to
He gazed lazily into her eyes. “You're
mine,” he said. “I don't like to dull the sensation.”
But...” Oh God. It had
started so well and then just... fizzled. At least for her. The
sorriest part is that he seemed quite unaware. Not to mention that
she knew nothing of his sexual history. He could be HIV positive
for all she knew.
Drew knew he'd rushed it. Yes, he'd
heard her plea for him to stop, but when he'd touched her flesh and
felt its heat, there it was, stark and demanding, clawing at his
mind, a deep and seemingly bottomless well of dark desire that had
nothing to do with passion and everything to do with lust. Blood
lust. He'd wanted to... no! Not that. Not again. Closing his eyes
he'd imagined what he'd wanted to do and it had brought him to an
explosive, very premature end.
Turning to face her, he whispered in
her ear, “Give me ten minutes and I'll make it up to
Lying in his arms, Kylie knew she
couldn't allow that to happen. They hadn't used a condom the first
time and she'd be damned if she'd succumb to yet another dangerous
round of sex with Drew, the careless.
And she was now Kylie, the
When he began to snore softly in her
ear, she shimmied out from his loose embrace and gathered her
things, her disillusionment both sharp and bittersweet.
* * * *
Lyle's hands were shaking. Damn it!
What was wrong with him? She's only a woman, he berated himself. So
why did he feel like a giant oaf around her? He took a deep,
calming breath and let Jolene into the diner. They would be alone
at this early hour; he'd told Kim to take a break and come in
She breezed in leaving her trademark
trail of perfume in her wake, wearing jeans with a t-shirt and
requisite slip free rubber soles. Her wild copper curls had been
ruthlessly tamed into a knot at the top of her head but a few
tendrils had already escaped.
Wordlessly he led her into the kitchen
and handed her a white apron and a package with a new hair net. He
produced an onion, a tomato and a zucchini and laid them out on the
butcher block surface alongside a trio of knives. With a sweep of
his hand he indicated that she should cut them up.
Having donned the apron and hair net,
Jolene blinked up at him. “Are we doing this with sign language?
Because if we are, you're going to have to teach me that
I want you to dice these
vegetables. Although technically tomatoes are fruits. Which knife
is the right one for the job?” he quizzed.
She decided to yank his chain and
chose the largest of the three. “This one?”
Tongue in cheek, she chose the
smallest and raised her eyebrows at him.
Wrong again. This one.” He
picked up the middle knife. “It has a long, thin blade that's
perfect for picking out stems as well as dicing. You know what that
Jolene took the knife from him with a
frown. “I'm not an idiot, Lyle. Dicing means you want little cubes.
I've sliced and diced my way through many a meal in my mother's
kitchen. I may not know what the names of these knives are but if
you tell me exactly how you want these veges cut, I'll deliver. I
can angle cut, peel, julienne, and finely chop just about any
vegetable you can throw at me. Want this tomato diced? Watch
Deftly she diced the tomato, then
switched knives and picked up the onion and got to work. As the
fumes rose, tears pricked her eyes and began to stream down her
Lyle stopped her in mid chop. “We
normally use a food processor but in a crunch I need to know you
can do things by hand.” Taking her hands he moved her to the sink
where he placed her fingers under a stream of cold water. The
stinging in her eyes gradually abated.
Wiping her hands on a towel, Jolene
beamed at him. “My first real lesson. Thanks.”
Lyle barely heard her. Soft and
nimble, her fingers had felt supple under his and now he couldn't
move, couldn't push away from her as she grinned up at him.
Surprising himself, he stepped in close and watched her grin shrink
as wary anticipation took over.
The air rippled, vibrant and hot.
Jolene's body snapped to attention even as her mind muddled.
Thoughts vanished, sensations tripped into the vacancy. Her heart
did a quick tattoo against her rib cage as Lyle's considerable
height and girth took up her entire line of vision.
With surprising grace he gathered her
in and crushed her lips with his own, the kiss too hard and too
quick before he released her. He began to step back was wasn't
quick enough. Jolene rose on her tip-toes and pressed her lips to
his with gentle persuasion.
It was like stepping into a fuzzy
dream. Pliable and sweet, her lips played over his, her tongue
luring his out as she kissed him deeply. Arms circled around his
neck, she pressed her entire length against him.
It felt like more.
He didn't know what he'd been
expecting but this was definitely heating up too fast. Already both
were panting, ready to claw at one another. Stronger willed than
her and knowing it, he eased her away to her moan of
All business now, even if his legs
felt like water, “Okay, all over. Now we move on.”
What?” Jolene sputtered.
“Just like that? Don't tell me you didn't enjoy that.”
I enjoyed it alright, I
won't lie about that. But it was highly inappropriate of me. So
let's forget it happened and get busy here.”
This wasn't happening! She felt
herself flush and stared at him in frustration.
Lyle was intensely annoyed with
himself. For initiating the kiss. For feeling so damned alive. For
being such a boar and handling things so selfishly. He knew she had
a thing for him; hell, it was more than obvious. Especially in the
way she'd reacted, as though she expected this to go some place.
And it couldn't. Not even as far a bedroom.
His response was brisk. “Sorry. My
fault entirely.” He raked his sandy mop of hair. “Co-workers
shouldn't take up together; it's a recipe for disaster. So let's
toss it out and start a new one, alright?”
Frustrated, Jolene pressed her lips
together, savoring the lingering taste of what to her seemed like
nectar from heaven. She turned her back on him and focused on the
cutting board, efficiently dicing the zucchini while staving off
Her face was averted but Lyle didn't
miss the dewiness on her lashes. Not only a boar, but a heel.
Gently he turned her to face him and wiped away the single drop
that fell onto her cheek with his fingertip. “You see? Already I've
hurt you. You understand why this cannot be, don't you?”
Then why did you kiss me
He grimaced. “My brain goes to mush
around you. Maybe we should re-think this whole thing.”
Re-think what thing?” It
was Kim, too early for work. He had literally sneaked in on
Lyle made a quick adjustment. “Kim!
Just in time. I was going to show Jolene how to prep the kitchen to
my personal standard. Now you can do it.” He tugged off his apron
and tossed it in a bin. “Got paperwork upstairs.” He bolted, but
not before Jolene branded him with a furious glare. He didn't miss
Kim's muttered, “Coward!” either.
Kim heard Jolene mumble something
incoherent under her breath.
Whatever that was,” said
Kim, “ditto. The big guy is a walking contradiction. C'mon, let me
show you where we keep everything.”
Steering her into the storage room,
Kim knew this had been bound to happen. Oh yeah, he'd caught the
kiss, so intense for them both that neither had heard him come in.
Remaining out of sight until hearing fighting words, he'd
intervened just in time to break things up before his boss made an
even bigger ass of himself. What had he been trying to prove, that
he could be impervious to her? All Kim knew was that if Lyle had it
half as bad for Jolene as he himself had it for his own wife, he
was a goner.
Will chugged off his beer bottle while
flipping turkey burgers on his monster stainless steel grill, then
stared off into the Olympic mountains across the Juan De Fuca
Strait to Port Angeles. The rear patio of his house faced that
large expanse of water offering ever changing views depending on
Mother Nature's temperament. Today was cloudless and hot, so much
so that his beer had already gone warm.
Eileen, cashier and mother goose at
the diner, was setting the picnic table with actual plates, glasses
and cutlery. No paper stuff for his backyard barbeques; he was a
stickler for perfection when it came to serving food.
Other employees wandered the yard with
its flirty summer flower beds. There was Jimmy, their home delivery
guy, and there was old-timer Buster who kept the diner ship shape
maintenance wise, making goo-goo eyes at Eileen.
Sausages sizzled alongside the
burgers. Couldn't be too health conscious or it wouldn't be a
The screen door slammed and Lyle
charged out of the house armed with two six-packs. He dumped them
into a cooler and noisily pushed the cans under the ice, then
cracked one and sauntered over to the grill.
Hey.” Will clinked his
bottle against Lyle's can. “Here's to the lazy days of
I'll drink to
Bluesy jazz drifted up from the garden
speakers and a bumble bee droned past to land on a fuchsia blossom
Who'd you invite this
time?” asked Lyle. It was their custom to bring someone new into
their circle at these bi-monthly summer events.
Will pointed with his bottle. “The
brunette with the ponytail.”
How did you meet
Came in looking for a job.
I'm thinking she might work for our Langford location. Name's
Isn't it a little early to
We open in October, and
once summer dies out we'll need to be ready. Besides, she really
needs the job. I'm going to have her shadow Jolene in a coupla
weeks to see if she's up to snuff. She's never been a waitress
Lyle snorted. “You and your projects.
Hope we don't end up with inferior staff.”
Will bit off a comment about Lyle
making Jolene sous chef without any formal training. “Gotta start
Yeah. Doesn't hurt she's
good looking either, does it?”
As though she'd heard them, Lillian
McFarley spun around and made eye contact with Will across the
yard. He signaled her to come forward. Slender and leggy, sex
appeal oozed out of the woman and while that appealed to Lyle's
male senses, it also put him on guard. The little tattoo of a cupid
on her left ankle was a probable sign of a woman on a
Will made the introductions just as
the back screen door eased open and Dino shot out like a rocket.
Quickly he sniffed their feet and discovering someone new, jumped
up at Lillian. She cringed, her ponytail swinging as she tried to
push him down.
Off!” came a female
command. Immediately Dino backed down. “Sit!” Dino obeyed, his tail
thumping the wood deck. “Good boy,” said the owner of the silken
voice. A slender Asian woman squatted next to Dino and slipped him
Lyle offered her his hand and she came
to her feet. “Everyone, this is Gina Kirby, Dino's vet and my
honorable guest at our prestigious backyard event today. As you can
see she's been helping me keep Dino in line.”
They all shook hands, Lyle and Gina on
one side, Will and Lillian on the other. Lillian fished for
information. “So Lyle, is this your girlfriend?”
Gina looked embarrassed and Lyle
chuckled. “We're just friends. Dino's got jealousy issues. He wants
Gina all for himself.”
I've been needling Lyle to
bring me to one of these barbeques for months,” Gina supplied. “He
told me it's the only time his partner in crime cooks. Wanted to
see for myself how well that goes over.” She offered Will a smile.
“Judging by the smell coming off that grill over there, I think
we're in good hands.”
Will watched how she looped a friendly
arm through Lyle's and decided here was a woman with style. A
differently feathered bird than his own guest selection
Proving just how sharply they
contrasted, Lillian cozied up to Lyle. “Well then,” she cooed,
“would you mind buying me a drink, mister?”
Amused, Gina released Lyle and
murmured, “You heard the lady. Get her a drink.”
Frozen in place, Lyle looked down at
Lillian's too tight and possessive grip on his arm just as Jolene
swung through the screen door carrying a tray of dipping vegetables
in one hand and a bowl of humus in the other. Her summer dress and
mass of copper curls were a stunning backdrop for the equally
stunned looked on her face.