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Authors: Annette Broadrick

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BOOK: Provocative Peril
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His reply was slow in coming. Was he out of his mind? This was the only time during the year when he didn't have to meet a schedule, when he could relax and do nothing, talk to no one. Was he willing to give up his privacy to keep from disappointing a complete stranger?

His eyes met hers. Yes, he was definitely out of his mind. "Yes, that's what I mean."

"With no strings attached?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

She blushed. She actually blushed; he couldn't believe it. What had he gotten himself into?

"I mean, I'd want to pay my share of the room, and it would be understood that we share the room, not a—a bed," she stammered, "or anything like that." When she really needed it, where was all the sophistication she'd been practicing for months?

Clay sat back in the chair and grinned, his blue eyes dancing. She began to feel like the complete fool he took her to be. Then he leaned forward and in solemn tones pronounced, "Of course I wouldn't share a bed with you, Miss Kenniwick," he drawled. "Why, I don't even know you!"

Feeling another wave of color wash over her cheeks, she muttered, "That's supposed to be my line."

"I know, but I thought I delivered it rather well, myself, didn't you?"

She ignored him, knowing she was out of her mind even to consider the idea. But, oh, was she tempted. How many months, years even, had she planned a vacation at the legendary resort? Of course, some of that time she'd pictured being with Mitch on their honeymoon. Now that she'd managed to open her eyes and acknowledge those wasted years, she was determined to take her friends' advice—she intended to learn how to enjoy life more, to overcome her lamentable shyness around men. She couldn't give up the chance to break out of her cocoon and change her life just because of a mix-up in room reservations!

Trying to sound as though she had uncertainties regarding the proposal, which wasn't hard to do under the circumstances, Carolyn asked, "Where do you live, Mr. Kenniwick?" She felt ridiculous calling him by her last name. She had never met any one named Kenniwick outside her immediate family.

"Seattle."

"Seattle? But that's in Washington."

"That's right. However, the language and social customs are quite similar to those in Oregon." His smile was quite gentle.

"I mean, why would you vacation on the Oregon coast when you have all of the Puget Sound to choose from?"

He ignored her question for a moment and answered with one of his own. "Where are you from?"

"Portland," she answered with a slight frown.

"Why would you choose the Oregon coast when you have all the Willamette Valley and Cascade Mountains to choose from?"

"Because the Oregon coast is different."

"Exactly."

They stared at each other in silent contemplation. The waitress appeared to see if they wanted refills. Carolyn shook her head. "No, thank you."

She studied the man before her. He had nothing in common with the type of man who attracted her, but that was a plus: She wouldn't, find him distracting. He had a very nice smile and kind eyes. If he made a pass, all she would have to do is leave—she wasn't committed to stay the entire time.

Once again she smiled, causing Clay's heart to play leapfrog with his stomach. "Well, roommate, perhaps you'd better show me to our room."

The suite exceeded Carolyn's fondest fantasies. To begin with, it looked like no hotel or motel room she'd ever seen. One wall was glass, with sliding doors that led to a private deck where a hot tub was cozily ensconced. A small breakfast table with two chairs invited visitors to enjoy the view if the breeze wasn't too brisk.

Facing the room, Carolyn could see what Clay meant about privacy. A large sofa faced a stone fireplace that took up most of another wall. The stairway leading to the loft caught her eye, and she danced up the stairs to discover a king-sized bed and double dresser. Large macrame hangings decorated the cedar-stripped walls, and she darted into the bathroom to discover whether the advertising pictures were accurate. They were. A sunken tub large enough for four adults took pride of place, still leaving room for a long marble vanity containing double sinks. She whirled around and dashed to the top of the stairs. Clay stood in front of the fireplace and glanced up when she appeared. "Do you think it's going to be satisfactory?"

She grinned. "I think it's going to be perfect." Trying to regain some of the dignity she seemed to have misplaced somewhere back in the lobby, she descended the steps. "It really is most gracious of you to be willing to share with me." She glanced over at the large couch. "This is the sofa where I'll sleep, right?"

"Wrong," he answered in a gentle tone. "This is the sofa where I'll sleep. You'll have the bed upstairs."

"Oh, no! I couldn't do that. You shouldn't have to give up your bed. That's not fair."

He stood watching her, noting the transformation from the regal young lady who'd eyed him with such disfavor in the lobby a few hours before. Would the real Carolyn Kenniwick please stand up? "Carolyn, I sleep only a few hours a night," he explained in a patient voice. "I'm usually up and gone long before daylight." He walked over to the sliding door and opened it, the fresh salt smell of the ocean suddenly filling the room. Glancing over his shoulder, he added, "There's no reason for you to sleep down here where my nocturnal wanderings might disturb you, when you can have the privacy of the upstairs." He turned and gazed around the room. "Think about it for a moment. Where would you keep your clothes?"

She followed his gaze as he took in the occasional chair and large coffee table, but no dresser of any kind. Then she walked over to the kitchen and noted that, although small, it was fully furnished. She spotted a second bathroom, which included a shower. "I suppose you're right. That would be more sensible."

"Fine. Glad you approve. Now, why don't we get ready and I'll escort you to dinner?"

Her head jerked around, a look of horror on her face. "Oh, no. You can't do that!"

Clay was at the door sorting through the various pieces of luggage that had been left in the room earlier; he straightened at her panicked tone.

"You don't eat?" he inquired with interest.

She could feel the heat suffuse her face. "Of course I eat," she answered with disgust. "It's just that ... I mean you've already done so much that ..." She waved her hand helplessly, then noticed what he was doing. Relieved to have something to do she took her suitcase and started for the stairway. "I'm already indebted to you for letting me stay here. I don't want to take up your time as well."

She came back down the stairs to find Clay leaning against the wall, his arms folded across his broad chest. "I see ... I think," he murmured, wondering at her heightened color.

Where was her dignity, her calm demeanor when she needed it? Having never been in such a position, she had no experience to draw on. She gave him a tentative smile as she stood by her second suitcase. "I think it would be better if we each went our own way. I don't want to impinge on your freedom."

He grinned. "Oh, now I understand. You don't want me to cramp your style."

"No! I mean, that's not what I mean. You're deliberately trying to misunderstand me."

"All right," he said hastily, his hand up in a gesture of peace. "We'll lead separate lives and our only point of contact will be the shared space. Is that what you want?"

She nodded vigorously. "Yes. I think that will work out best."

He shrugged as he moved away from the wall. "Fine with me." He stopped as he opened the door. "Make yourself at home. In this case, I suppose the Spanish proverb is appropriate: My house is your house."

He closed the door quietly behind him.

Chapter 2

The Tropicana Royale fulfilled Carolyn's fantasies in a most delightful manner. It provided more facilities for its guests than she'd imagined. In addition to both an indoor and an outdoor swimming pool, there were indoor and outdoor tennis courts, racquet ball courts, an eighteen-hole golf course, as well as a miniature golf course, and enough shops to fill a good-sized mall.

During her first week there she learned how to spend her time in a leisurely and thoroughly pleasurable manner. As she indulged in her favorite past-time, soaking in the oversized tub, Carolyn reviewed the previous seven days.

When she had awakened on the first morning, she had been very nervous about facing Clay. She needn't have bothered. After dressing, she had tiptoed downstairs, uncomfortable about sharing the quarters with a stranger, and a male at that, but she quickly discovered she had nothing to worry about. He wasn't there. She went jogging on the beach that first morning, which set up a routine of sorts for the subsequent mornings, but he wasn't in the room when she returned.

When she happened to see him at the swimming pool that afternoon she had offered a tentative smile, but he only nodded and continued to talk to the couple seated beside him alongside the pool.

However, she managed to meet several very nice people as she quickly became absorbed into the festival feeling of the sprawling resort.

Her friends had been right. She'd devoted enough years to getting established in business. Now she needed to learn how to have fun. Her vacation was the first step.

Carolyn was unsure of herself around men. She hadn't known very many in her twenty-three years. She barely remembered her father, an Air Force pilot whose plane had gone down in Southeast Asia when she was a child. Her mother had never remarried, appearing to be content with her life with Carolyn. After college, Carolyn had stayed busy building her business and spending her spare time with Mitch.

Not any more, she thought to herself as she slid her foot along the rim of the tub and the silky water beaded on her shapely leg. Her friends had given her stacks of magazines and books on how to be attractive to a man, how to be glamorous—seductive— alluring—in short, how to become a modern woman. She had dutifully studied them all. She grinned as she recalled some of her experiences during the past week. It had been amazingly simple to smile, then drop her eyes and wait for a response. She'd had several opportunities to pursue a friendship with attractive men. By following the simple instructions in some of the articles, she discovered she could attract most of the men she met. Her purpose for coming to the coast was not to write just a new chapter in her life. She intended to start a new book.

So why hadn't Clay shown any interest in her? Whenever they happened to meet at their room, he treated her like his kid sister. Or worse. He treated her more like his maiden aunt. She couldn't understand it.

Not that it really mattered, but she was curious. Maybe he didn't care for brunettes. Or maybe he preferred tall women. She shifted in the tub, disturbed by her thoughts.

None of the other men she'd met really appealed to her. She had a secret fantasy male, one she'd never mentioned to another soul. He was prominently displayed in national cigarette ads—tall, with bedroom eyes and a smile that suggested untold delights if she only dared to accept his unspoken invitation. Would she ever find someone like that?

Clay's face reappeared in her mind and she abruptly sat up, causing a gentle wave action. Why did she have to keep thinking about him? She began to rinse the soap from her body.

She hardly ever saw him. For all the use he got out of his room, he could have rented a broom closet! When she did see him, he practically ignored her.

What would Pam and Susie think if they knew I was living with a man on my vacation? Her friends would certainly think she'd taken all of their advice and had overcome her shyness around the male of the species. Perhaps it was just as well they didn't know. How could she explain that she'd shared a room with Clay for a week and still knew next to nothing about him? Pam would already have discovered the contents of his investment portfolio by now, not to mention his complete financial picture, while Susie would have learned all about his favorite foods, music, taste in women and his views on politics and religion.

Carolyn sighed.

One afternoon she'd spotted him on the beach with two young boys. All three were engrossed in watching a three-tiered kite fight to stay up in the brisk wind. The grins on the three faces were identical. She wondered if discovering that he likes to fly kites would have impressed Susie. Somehow she doubted it.

By the time Carolyn finally crawled out of the tub, the water was cold and she felt like a prune. Why was she wasting so much time thinking about Clay when she had the evening ahead of her?

Tonight was the night she'd decided to take the plunge and wear her new red dress. She was thoroughly enjoying her brand-new wardrobe, chosen with the help of her friends. They'd helped her to change her image with a new hairdo, new makeup and a new personality. She was indeed a new Carolyn—freer and more adventuresome. The red dress made that statement. As if the color weren't enough of an attention-getter, the styling was also dramatic. The scoop neckline was demure enough, as were the flowing sleeves which fastened daintily at her wrists. However, the dress had no back, which was one of the reasons she'd put off wearing it until tonight. She would have to go without a bra. But the last few days had given her the necessary confidence to become a part of the relaxed vacation crowd. She hoped.

BOOK: Provocative Peril
3.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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