Authors: Kristi Gold
Jack turned Lizzie toward the sea and held on to her from behind. “If you fall in, then I'll have to go get you. And, babe, I'm thinking that would be a bad idea. Rule One, stay on the boat.”
“I told you, I'm not a babe.”
“And I'm not Ahab.”
“It's either that or Captain Hook, since we seem to be following a fairy-tale theme.”
“Both my hands are intact.” Definitely so, because they'd somehow made their way to her hips.
“I guess you're right about that, so Ahab it is.”
He couldn't hold back a smile. “Are you feeling better now?”
Lizzie drew in a deep breath. “I just need something to eat.”
Jack needed to kiss her, badly.
Top off your summer reading list with six brand-new steamy romances from Silhouette Desire!
Reader favorite Ann Major brings the glamorous LONE STAR COUNTRY CLUB miniseries into Desire with
(#1513). This rancher's reunion romance is the first of three titles set in Mission Creek, Texasâwhere society reigns supreme and appearances are everything. Next, our exciting yearlong series DYNASTIES: THE BARONES continues with
Beauty & the Blue Angel
(#1514) by Maureen Child, in which a dashing naval hero goes overboard for a struggling mom-to-be.
Princess in His Bed
bestselling author Leanne Banks is the third Desire title in her popular miniseries THE ROYAL DUMONTS. Enjoy the fun as a tough Wyoming rancher loses his heart to a spirited royal-in-disguise. Next, a brooding horseman shows a beautiful rancher the ropesâ¦of desire in
The Gentrys: Abby
(#1516) by Linda Conrad.
In the latest BABY BANK title,
Marooned with a Millionaire
(#1517) by Kristi Gold, passion ignites between a powerful hotel magnate and the pregnant balloonist stranded on his yacht. And a millionaire M.D. brings out the temptress in his tough-girl bodyguard in
Sleeping with the Playboy
(#1518) by veteran Harlequin Historicals and debut Desire author Julianne MacLean.
Get your summer off to a sizzling start with six new passionate, powerful and provocative love stories from Silhouette Desire.
Senior Editor, Silhouette Desire
Cowboy for Keeps
Doctor for Keeps
His Sheltering Arms
Her Ardent Sheikh
His E-Mail Order Wife
The Sheikh's Bidding
Marooned with a Millionaire
has always believed that love has remarkable healing powers and feels very fortunate to be able to weave stories of romance and commitment. As a bestselling author and Romance Writers of America RITA
Award finalist, she's learned that although accolades are wonderful, the most cherished rewards come from the most unexpected places, namely from personal stories shared by readers. Kristi resides on a ranch in Central Texas with her husband and three children, along with various and sundry livestock. She loves to hear from readers and can be contacted at [email protected] or P.O. Box 11292, Robinson, TX 76716.
To Captain Jeremy and First Mate Pattie, for all the wonderful insight and nautical details you've provided during the making of this story. Here's wishing you both another twenty-five years of smooth sailing.
he sailboat's sudden pitch jarred Jackson Dunlap from his solitude and sent the mug before him into his lap. Bolting from his seat in the galley, he scaled the companionway leading topside at a sprint, covered in coffee and cursing the sudden commotion.
For one solid year, not much had disturbed him as he'd sailed alone off the coast of Florida. At his request, he'd had no visitors, no business calls, no disruptions aside from the necessary returns to port to restock and the occasional patch of rough weather. Until now.
After arriving on deck, Jack shaded his eyes against the midday June sun expecting to find he'd been rammed by some craft piloted by an idiot or a nearsighted whale in the throes of mating season. He didn't expect to see the patchwork purple-and-yellow
balloon slowly descending from the sky and deflating not more than a few hundred yards away.
He moved closer to the sight, unable to comprehend what he now witnessed. Some guy in the gondola attached to the balloon was waving like mad until the basket bounced along the surface, toppled, then spilled its human contents.
Spurred into action by a surge of adrenaline and a sudden sense of dÃ©jÃ vu, Jack raced to the platform at the stern. “Swim!” he yelled as he tossed a buoy in the general direction of the stranger, thankful he'd lowered the sails that morning. At least the boat was somewhat stationary. And luckily the current seemed to be aiding the guy in his efforts. Unfortunately, it was also aiding the balloon and basket to travel in the same direction, toward his prized boat.
Jack feverishly tugged the buoy's line, dragging the stranger through the water at a fast clip. Then suddenly he realized he wasn't a he at all. He was a she. A woman with wide oval eyes and chin-length blond hair that hung down around her face in wet strands.
What the hell was she doing all the way out here?
He planned to ask her thatâand moreâas soon as he had her safely on board.
Once she was within reach, Jack grabbed her extended arm, tugged her onto the platform, tossed her over his shoulder and headed forward.
“I can walk,” she said in a raspy, winded voice. “So you can put me down now.”
He could, but not until he made sure she wasn't injured. Gingerly he laid her on the deck and sat
beside her, uncertain which one of them was breathing more heavily. His ragged respiration had more to do with nerves than exertion because she really didn't weigh all that much. He imagined her labored breath resulted from the swim along with a little added fearâand rightfully so.
When he regained his voice, he asked, “Are you hurt?”
She scooted into a sitting position and stared at him with blue-green eyes almost a perfect match to the sea. Then she opened her mouth and muttered, “I'm okay as long as the baby's okay.”
Baby? She had a kid with her? “Was the baby in the basket?” he asked in a moderate tone, struggling to keep the panic from his voice.
She studied him with sandy brows drawn down over confused eyes. Then she laid a hand on her belly and smiled. “It's in this basket.”
Both relieved and shocked, his gaze shot to her slender hand now curved protectively over her abdomen. “You're pregnant?”
She pushed her damp hair away from her forehead and exhaled slowly. “Yes.”
Great. Just great.
“Are you sure you're feeling all right?” he asked, genuinely concerned. “No pain or anything?”
She sat a little straighter. “I'm okay. Kind of tired, but overall pretty good.”
Jack decided she looked pretty good all over. Healthy, he corrected. Her still-flat abdomen encased in plain white capri pants, the soaked yellow T-shirt
adhering to her torso, made Jack hard-pressed to believe she was actually going to have a baby.
Obviously she wasn't very far along in the pregnancy. Obviously she couldn't lay claim to much common sense, either, which made him
want to shake some sense into her. But she'd been shaken up enough for one day, so he settled for a little subtle chastising. “Now let me see if I've got this straight. You decided to go off in your balloon to tour the ocean at the risk of harming your unborn child?”
She hugged her knees to her chest and glared at him. “For your information, ballooning is a very safe mode of transportation. I'm more at risk driving on a Miami freeway. I would never do anything,
, to hurt my baby. This was a fluke.”
A bite of guilt nipped at Jack. He had no call to judge anyone when it came to taking risks. God knew he had taken more than his share, with much more devastating consequences.
He sent her a half smile, a feeble attempt at an apology. “I suppose it's a lot like sailing. Once it's in the blood, you can't consider giving it up.”
She glanced away but not before he caught a hint of sadness in her eyes. “Actually, it was my last trip until after the baby's birth. I was leaving a festival near Miami. I'm not sure what happened. I think I might have passed out or something. The next thing I knew, I woke up out here, wherever here is.”
“We're about twenty miles off the coast near Key Largo. You couldn't get back to shore?”
“By the time I came to, the wind was unstable and I started losing altitude.”
He supposed that made sense, as much sense as it could to a man who preferred water to air. Sometimes the elements couldn't be controlled. How well he knew that concept.
She gave him a sheepish smile, revealing a glimpse of white teeth and a dimple at the left corner of her lower lip. “Pretty lucky I happened upon you, huh?”
That remained to be seen, Jack decided. “Did you hit the deck when you were trying to land?”
“It sounded like you hit something.”
“More like grazed.”
She pointed upward. “The mast thingy. I aimed for it on my descent. I wanted to make sure I got your attention.”
It had definitely gotten his attention, then and now. And admittedly a smart thing for her to do, not that he cared for it much. No telling what kind of damage she'd done, but at least she hadn't brought the mast down. At the moment he didn't dare examine the
, fearing what he might find. Right now he was barely hanging on to some semblance of calm. Right now he had to deal with another pressing matter.
Coming to his feet, he asked with a great deal of benevolence, “Are you sure you're okay?”
“I'm fine. Really. Promise.”
“Okay. I'm going to go see where the balloon went. I'll be right back. You rest.”
Her expression reflected gratitude. “Thanks. I'd appreciate that.”
He decided not to tell her that his concern was for his boat, not her balloon. And he hoped like hell the damn thing had changed course.
But it hadn't. He realized that the moment he arrived at the rear platform. The massive fabric billowed portside; the basket was lodged on the end of the swim ladder.
Tethering himself to the platform railing, he lowered to his stomach and inched down until he could reach the rig. With the set of bolt cutters stored aft, he started to work. First he dislodged the gondola and began cutting away the cables attaching the balloon to the framework that housed the burner. He fought the current's pull, fought the sea spray jetting into his face. Fought his desperation and impatience. He continued practically blind but knew he was making progress when the fabric began pulling away.
Finally, the last cable snapped. His fingers ached, his eyes burned, but he supposed he should feel lucky that the rig hadn't made its way underneath the boat. That could mean certain disaster.
“What are you doing?”
He hadn't realized she was standing behind him. Right behind him. Without looking at her, he said, “I've freed your balloon.” Gave it a nice burial at sea, he almost told her but thought better of it.
“Why did you do that?”
“So it didn't get caught up in the prop.”
Standing, he turned to face her and met the most melancholy expression he'd ever seen on a woman's face. He couldn't really blame her. He'd felt the same way when he'd lost his last boat to a cutthroat com
petition coupled with a relentless storm. He'd lost more than that.
At least he had saved her. At least she was alive, unharmed, in charge of all her facultiesâ¦.
“Can you go get the envelopeâ¦the balloon itself? We could roll it up and store it on deck.”
Obviously she was crazy. Certifiable. “Not unless you expect me to swim for it.”
She wrapped her arms around her middle as she visually followed the flattened balloon now barely perceptible on the horizon. “Of course, that's a stupid thing to ask considering what you've done for me. But that balloon is my livelihood.”
When this ordeal ended, he'd buy her another balloon. Hell, he had enough money to buy her fifty balloons, not that he had any desire to tell her that. The less she knew about him, the better. “I'm sorry, but I had no choice.”
She gave him a one-shoulder shrug and a surprisingly bright grin. “I'm sure it will all work out somehow. I'll think of something.”
Great. A blond optimist, Jack thought. A tall, blond optimist, not without some fairly liberal curves that were more than obvious beneath her clinging clothing. Admittedly, she was pretty darned cute, even if she was a little scattered. Scattered and sexy. She was also shaking.
Turning his back on all that cuteness, he said, “Follow me. Let's get you out of your clothes.”
“You can wear some of mine.”
Without protest she complied, and once they'd made it into the main salon, he faced her again. “It's
a little warmer in here. That should help.” Not Jack, though. He was already way too hot under the collar.
“Thanks,” she murmured. “I owe you.”
He considered one form of payment that would not be at all appropriate, or advisable. He had no use for women, cute or otherwise. Especially a woman who had interrupted his nice solitary life. A pregnant woman, no less. More than likely a married pregnant woman.
Something suddenly occurred to Jack, something he should have considered long before now. “After you change, we can try to get a message to your husband.”
She executed a prideful tip of her chin. “That would be futile since I don't have one.”
“Boyfriend?” Jack asked, more than slightly curious, regardless of his caution.
She shook her head. “Nope.”
Strolling to the navy-and-red plaid sofa, she ran her fingers along the edge. “If you're inquiring about the father of my child, he's not involved.”
And it was really none of Jack's business. He sure as hell didn't want her in the middle of his. “Okay. What about friends and family?”
“Actually, the members of my chase crew are probably wondering what happened to me when they saw me drift away.”
“I'm sure they are.” And Jack wondered what was happening to him. He couldn't stop looking at her now exposed earlobe, her nice full mouth, her long, slender limbsâand imagining things he had no
cause to imagine. For God's sake, he didn't even know her name.
With that in mind, he stuck out his hand. “Jackson Dunlap. I prefer Jack.”
Her grin illuminated the dimly lit cabin as she took his hand. “Elizabeth Matheson, and I prefer another name altogether. However, you may call me Lizzie.”
Despite his need to remain detached, he couldn't suppress his own smile. “Well, Lizzie, at least we have a few things settled.”
Unfortunately, he felt very unsettled. As crazy as it seemed, the woman glowed, even when she wasn't smiling. Even soaking wet and shivering, she possessed a weird kind of aura that would make most men take immediate notice. He certainly had. He was still noticing.
He didn't have time to notice. He had to check out the mainsail and mast, and get the hell back to port.
Chalking up his disregard for his boat to months of celibacy, he simply said, “Bathroom's in there, if you want to use it.” He pointed to the starboard head.
Her gaze swept the room and her smile returned. “Fantastic boat. It's probably bigger than my apartment. Who owns it?”
“Oh. So where's the rest of the crew?”
Long lost to the sea, Jack thought with the same old remorse. “It's only me. I prefer it that way.”
She continued to survey the area. “Really? You handle this baby all by yourself? I'm impressed.”
So was he. Too impressed. With her. “You go
grab a shower, I'll go grab you some clothes.” And he would do his best not to grab her for the few remaining hours they would spend together.
With a nervous twist of her hands and another luminous smile, she said, “Okay,” then walked toward the head while regarding him over one shoulder. “You might want to bring me just a T-shirt since I doubt I could get into your shorts.”
He'd be willing to let her try.
Jack's reaction to her innocent, offhand comment and the image it produced created a not-so-nonchalant response down south. “Fine. A T-shirt it is. Take your time. I'll get things moving so we can head for land.”
The quicker he got rid of her, the better, for the sake of his own sanity and his valued seclusion.
Jackson Carter Dunlap, hotel magnate and self-made millionaire, didn't like the thought of anyone disrupting the way of life he had come to know over the past twelve months. But damned if the woman who'd fallen from the sky like some misguided Dorothy wasn't driving him to distraction. And it had taken her all of twelve minutes.
If Lizzie never tasted salt again, it would be too soon. At least the accommodations were first-rate, she thought as she sank farther into the garden tub, immersing herself in the warmth of fresh water.
The bathroom was much bigger than she'd envisioned, but it made sense. A big bathroom for one big strappin' guy with broad shoulders and large hands. Except he had narrow hips, something she'd
noticed immediately while walking behind him, shamelessly scrutinizing his butt.