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Authors: Annette Broadrick

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BOOK: Provocative Peril
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Chapter 5

Carolyn didn't know what woke her. She lay in bed for a moment, listening, but heard nothing. There was a light on downstairs. She glanced at her travel clock. It was almost 4:00 a.m.

She pushed the sheet away and stood up, uncertain what to do. Was something wrong with Clay? She moved over to the railing of the loft and looked down.

Clay was still reading. He hadn't bothered with the sheet this time, and her eyes were drawn to the expanse of body revealed to her. The light blond hair covering his chest, arms and legs seemed to be spun gold placed there by a delicate brush, faithfully outlining the curves and planes of his well-toned body. She stared with fascination at the whirl of curls that disappeared into the black briefs that inadequately covered him. Once again she experienced the strange feeling that came over her whenever she looked at Clay.

"Voyeurism is a vice, you know."

Clay continued to read without looking up, the sudden sound of his voice causing her to jump. Her face flamed. He'd known she was watching him! Backing away from the rail, she tried for a casual tone. "Why are you still awake?"

There was a brief silence, then a rustle of covers. "As long as you're awake, you may as well come down," he said in a weary tone.

Carolyn hesitated. She was ashamed of her earlier outburst and knew she owed him an apology. Now was as good a time as any to offer it. She reached for the robe that matched her gown, giving no thought to the intention of the designer to incite a hot-blooded male to early fatherhood. When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she looked over at him and saw that he was covered, at least from the waist down. It was unfortunate that she found the sight of his bare chest so fascinating at four o'clock in the morning.

"You didn't answer my question," she prompted.

"What was your question?"

"Why are you still awake?"

He gave her a lopsided grin that caused her to draw a shaky breath. "Because I'm reading a captivating book with an intriguing plot and I can't put it down."

"Oh. What's it about?" She perched on the edge of the chair.

"I haven't the faintest idea." He lost the battle with his conscience and allowed his gaze to feast on the delectable curves accented by the clever creation she wore.

"Clay?"

His gaze wandered to her face, where he noticed her flushed cheeks and the worried expression in her eyes. "Yes?"

"I'm sorry for losing my temper earlier."

"That makes two of us."

"I really am ashamed of myself." Her vulnerable eyes looked at him with a pleading expression. "You've been so nice to me, letting me stay here, and then I go and attack you like that."

"Look, Carolyn, you don't owe me any apologies. You were right."

"Right?"

"Yes. I saw you and your friend in front of the room. It would have been no trouble for me to enter through the back way. It was a despicable thing to do, and I'm the one ashamed of myself."

They sat there quietly, contemplating his confession. Finally, Carolyn broke the silence. "Do I really seem to be a scalp hunter to you, Clay?"

"What difference does it make what I think?" He picked up his glasses and twirled them by one of the stems.

"I'm not sure, but I discovered tonight that it does. I came to the coast to get rid of the old Carolyn Kenniwick, the bore who does nothing but work, who doesn't have time to develop friendships, and I thought the new Carolyn would be more interesting if she dressed the part."

Clay's grin lit up his face. "Hey, lady, I'm not knocking the way you dress; don't get me wrong.

I've become quite an admirer of designer jeans . . . among other things." Once again his gaze touched the neckline of her robe. "As far as getting rid of the old Carolyn Kenniwick, I hope you won't do that." His smile was very tender as he added softly, "I rather like her, myself."

Carolyn stared into his blue eyes, mesmerized. "You know something, Clay? One of the nicest things that's happened to me on my vacation is meeting you," she said in a wondering voice. They were both quiet as they stared into each other's eyes.

"I think you'd better get some sleep. I'm sure you've got a big day planned." He reached over and picked up a glass on the table, draining it.

Carolyn stood, a little shaken at what had passed between them. She wasn't at all sure what it meant, but she knew she felt more at peace with herself and closer to Clay than she'd ever felt toward any other person.

She paused at the top of the stairs. "Good night."

"Sweet dreams," he replied.

Sweet dreams, he thought with disgust. She'll go upstairs and sleep, relieved to have their fight resolved. Did she even understand the knots he was in, being around her? He tried to read, then discovered he had no idea what he'd been reading. Glancing at his watch, he absently noted that it was six o'clock. What was he going to do if he didn't intend to succumb to the luscious temptation presented by his rather naive roommate? He continued to lay there, and a face drifted across his mind. Selena Stanford. What he needed was to get his mind off his present situation. Selena was just the one to help him.

He picked up the phone and dialed.

It rang several times before a husky, very sleepy voice answered. "H'lo."

"Good morning, Selena."

"Clay!" The voice suddenly sounded wide awake. "You monster! Where have you been?"

He moved the phone slightly away from his ear, then grinned. "I'm on my vacation, honey. I told you I was going."

"I know what you told me," came over the wire. "You didn't bother telling me where, you louse."

"That's why I'm calling. I was wondering if you'd be interested in coming to Oregon to keep an old friend from getting too lonesome."

"Oregon! Why are you up there? What's wrong with southern California?"

"Too crowded, too many phones, too many people wanting script changes. I needed some time to myself."

"Yet you call me to keep you company," she murmured with a slight chuckle in her voice.

"That's the point, Selena. I want to choose my company. I'm very selective, as you know."

"Only too well, my friend. I'm not sure how I rate. But Clay, you of all people know how limited my time is right now. It's your television series we're filming."

"Huh-uh, not mine, honey. I only wrote the thing. Once the screen script is approved, I'm out of it." Clay could feel himself relaxing for the first time in days. Selena was good for him. He should have thought of her sooner.

"How can you say that? Derringer Drake is your creation. The James Bond of the eighties—he's made you famous."

"I only write about him. After that, he becomes somebody else's baby. Couldn't you get away for a couple of days?" His voice dropped. "I really would like to see you, honey. You could stay with me."

There was a moment of startled silence. In a cautious tone, Selena asked, "Is this really Clay Kenniwick?"

"Of course it is."

"And you just invited me to stay with you?"

The note of disbelief made him squirm. "All right, Selena, so we don't have that sort of relationship, but dammit, I need you."

"Funny you've never needed me before, and we've known each other for almost a year."

"Okay, so maybe I'm just cautious."

"Hah! The only person I know with a more amorous reputation than you is Derringer Drake." A pause. "Or did you invent both?"

Clay started to laugh. "My amorous reputation belongs to the writer, Kenneth Clay, and you're close, babe, darned close. Both are the figments of overactive imaginations. But, Selena, I really would like some company. I'd even get you a room, but there aren't any available. I can always get a roll-away if you'd come."

There was a long silence, and only the hum of the wire echoed as he waited.

"What's wrong, Clay? Can you tell me?"

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Try me."

"I'm scared to death I may be falling in love."

He looked at the phone with disgust as peals of laughter rang over the line. "It isn't that funny, Selena."

"Oh, but it is, Clay. The invincible one—the lordly 'love 'em and leave 'em' Kenneth Clay in love? That's got to be the funniest story I've heard."

"Well, I was hoping you'd come up here and talk me out of it."

"Talk you out of it? As far as I'm concerned, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy."

"So you won't come," he responded glumly.

"I didn't say that." She was still chuckling. "How can I possibly resist an offer like this?" she asked in a sultry voice that was becoming more famous with every television appearance she made. "If I can get through with my scenes early enough, I'll fly up on the weekend. Will that be soon enough?"

Clay's smile was beatific. "Sounds perfect."

"Will I get to meet this miracle worker who's managed to turn stone hearts to mush?"

Clay sighed as his gaze lifted and fastened on the loft. "You'll do that, all right. She's staying here with me."

"My God, Clay, how many women do you need at once? You know me better than that!"

"It's nothing like that, Selena. You've been living in L.A. too long. It's all very innocent, which is why I desperately need a distraction."

"Well, I could use the break, and it will be good to see you again. Believe it or not, you're one of the few men I can trust to be straight with me. I suppose that's why your offer threw me for a moment. That's just not you, Clay."

"I know. I haven't felt like me since I got here. I was hoping you could talk some sense into me."

"I'll do my best. I almost envy the woman who's managed to get your attention. She's very lucky."

"Glad you think so. Maybe you can convince her of that. I don't seem to know where to start." "I'll see you in a few days, Clay. Hang in there." Clay slowly replaced the receiver. Selena was right. Without being aware of it, they had become good friends during the months they'd been working together. Maybe that's why she'd come to mind. He'd thought her voluptuous blond beauty would provide some distraction, so that Carolyn's charms would no longer be so exaggerated in his mind. However, he had a hollow feeling somewhere inside that told him his call for help had gone out too late.

Chapter 6

Carolyn and Brad spent the following day together studying tide pools. Brad seemed pleased with her eager questions and was a fount of information about the local marine life. He suggested that they visit the marine museum in Newport later in the week, and Carolyn eagerly agreed. When they parted, they made arrangements to meet later in the dining room.

After a relaxing bath, Carolyn slipped into the silk Chinese robe her mother had given her for Christmas and tied the belt. The cross-over neckline plunged a little more than Carolyn was used to, but then no one else ever saw her in it. She glanced at the time and decided it was too early to put on her teal blue evening gown. Peeking over the ledge she noted that, as usual, Clay wasn't there. She decided to relax downstairs with a drink.

Pouring a small glass of an Oregon wine she'd purchased in one of the resort's shops, Carolyn wandered over to the sofa and sat down. She savored the taste of the wine with a sigh of contentment, then rested her head on the back of the sofa as her eyes drifted closed.

The day had been one of those sunny summer days she wished she could capture and keep in a bottle to let loose during a dismal winter day. She smiled to herself at the thought.

"Look who's sleeping in my bed."

Carolyn's eyes flashed open. Clay walked around the end of the sofa and stopped in front of the fireplace, his mocking grin taking in the picture she made in the soft blue silk, the neckline revealing the curve of her breasts. She sat up, careful not to spill her wine, and looked at the man before her.

Once again he wore a well-worn pair of Levi's low on his hips; his feet were encased in moccasins. His bright red turtleneck knit shirt was the only part of his ensemble that was different from what he had been wearing the first time she'd seen him. It must have been the shirt that made him look so attractive this time. His tan emphasized the brightness of his blue eyes, and his closely clipped beard seemed to be touched with gilt.

She lifted her glass in a lazy gesture. "You're welcome to try some of my wine if you'd like."

One brow lifted slightly as though he wondered how much she'd tried. He'd never seen her so mellow. Moving toward the kitchen, he found the bottle and noted that less than a full glass was missing, so it wasn't the wine that had contributed to her mood. Shrugging, he poured himself a glass, then joined her on the couch.

"Did you have a nice day?" he inquired politely.

"Umhmmmm. The tide pools were very interesting."

"You mean you actually went to see tide pools?"

"Of course. I told you that's what we were doing. Brad is really very knowledgeable."

"I don't doubt that in the slightest." He took a sip of his wine before he could say more.

"He's offered to teach me how to play racquet-ball."

BOOK: Provocative Peril
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ads

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