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Authors: Annette Broadrick

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BOOK: Provocative Peril
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"Somehow I see him as too musclebound for that sort of activity." He took a sip of wine and eyed her with interest, waiting for a reaction.

It wasn't long in coming. "What a disgusting thing to say. Brad is very unpretentious about his looks, considering that he makes his living with them."

"I just bet he does," Clay muttered as he took another drink.

"What did you say?" she asked suspiciously.

"Nothing. Not a thing. So did you go make up with your friend from last night—what's his name?"

"Ted, and no, as a matter of fact, I haven't seen him."

"What do they do, take turns?"

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"I mean, how do they know when it's their turn to escort you? Do you have a sign-up schedule or something?"

Carolyn heard the slight edge to Clay's voice and looked at him, puzzled, too relaxed to be irritated by his questions. "No, I don't have a sign-up sheet," she admitted, her eyes dancing, "although that's not such a bad idea, now that you mention it."

"It's a relief to know I can contribute something to the cause." His gaze touched hers, then he looked down at the drink in his hand.

"So far, I go out with whoever asks me first."

"I see. So if I asked you to go surfing with me in the morning, you'd go?" A tiny muscle jerked in his cheek, just above the sculpted line of his beard. Carolyn watched it, fascinated.

"Surfing? I didn't think the water along here was good for that."

"It isn't, particularly, but it makes a change from my scuba diving. Can you surf?"

"I have no idea. I've never tried."

He grinned. "That's an attitude I like. Are you willing to try?"

She thought about it a minute. "Why not? Are you asking me to go surfing in the morning?"

He studied her for a long moment, taking in the way she was tucked into the corner of the sofa, facing him.

"Yes, I'm asking." His voice sounded husky, the low tone causing a tingle to run up Carolyn's spine.

"Won't I need a wetsuit?"

"I can get you one."

The look on his face began to make her uncomfortable. She felt as though she had a smudge on her nose or something, and she glanced down selfconsciously. The front of her robe gaped open, revealing entirely too much, and she grasped the front, hoping he hadn't noticed.

Clay took another sip from his wine, then sat the glass down with calm deliberation. He stood up, carefully removing Carolyn's glass from her hand, and drew her to her feet. She barely came to his chin.

"You really are a tiny thing, aren't you? I forget there isn't that much to you, you seem to loom so large in my thoughts."

Confused by his actions, and even more by his comments, she looked up at him, only to find his large hands slipping around the curve of her jaw, lifting her mouth to his. His lips touched hers softly, as though they were fragile and the slightest pressure would bruise them.

Carolyn's lashes fluttered closed, and she relaxed into his arms. She felt as though she'd been waiting forever for another of his kisses. Clay increased the pressure of his kiss until her lips parted to admit his seeking tongue. His hands slid down the soft silki-ness of her back, cupping her hips and pulling her into his body. Her arms tightened around his neck, reveling in the new sensations she was experiencing. He felt so good and she was no longer afraid to explore the world of the senses, as long as he was the one who took her on her voyage of discovery.

Clay was lost in his exploration of the petite body that had been haunting his dreams. His hands continued to caress the taut bottom that flirted with him every time she ran up the stairs. Then his hands roved to her waist and continued until they each cupped one of her breasts.

Carolyn gasped. Her skin felt on fire. The silky material of her robe intensified the effect of his possessive touch. It was only when his'lips released hers to move to the treasure he was holding that

Carolyn drew a breath of sanity. "Please don't!" She jerked away from him, taking deep gulps of air.

The kiss had affected Clay as well. He hadn't meant to let it go quite as far as it had. "I'm sorry ... I didn't mean to upset you."

His voice sounded so gentle that she wanted to cry. Why should he apologize? She'd made it clear she was enjoying it! "There's no need for an apology." Her voice wavered at first. She leaned over and picked up her glass of wine in what she hoped was a nonchalant manner. "After all . . . what's a kiss between friends?" There. That should let him know she wasn't totally without experience.

"Is that what we are?"

She spun around, her chin tilted. "Well, aren't we?"

He grinned at the picture she made in her silken robe and bare feet, aware from their recent embrace that the robe was the only garment she wore, the thought eating at him along with hundreds of others that kept him awake nights. "Sure, why not? Am I your friend like Ted and Brad are your friends?"

She hated the mockery in his voice, and she didn't understand it. "I'm dating Ted and Brad, Clay."

"Doesn't tomorrow's lesson in surfing count as a date?"

She started toward the stairs, then paused. "No," she decided judiciously, "I think it's more a friendly outing for roommates." She moved up the stairs, and Clay wished he had the strength of mind not to watch her provocative movements. She turned at the top. "I suppose I'll see you at dinner, then."

"Probably."

Her smile appeared—the grin that had knocked him sideways the first time he'd seen her, the grin that was playing havoc with his blood pressure at the moment. "See you later, then," she added and stepped out of sight.


Clay kept himself occupied dancing with the various single women in the room that evening, but he couldn't keep his mind off Carolyn and her obvious enjoyment of Hercules' company. He'd watched them during dinner, seemingly absorbed in conversation. He'd watched them in the lounge, still talking, and now he watched them as they moved around the floor in a semblance of dancing. Carolyn looked as though she were hanging on his every word.

Clay finished his drink and ordered another one. Fine. If that's the way she was playing the game, all he'd needed to know were the rules. It was obvious to him that she was intent on having an affair on her vacation. So why not with him? He was much more convenient than the other two. He noticed Ted sitting alone at the bar, morosely watching her. He must have struck out. What Clay needed to do was plan his strategy, since he seemed to be slow in getting into the swing of things. He would have to be subtle, get her to relax around him. It was just a matter of taking advantage of his opportunities.

He watched Brad and Carolyn return to their table and found himself wishing he knew what Hercules was saying to her to cause such a rapt expression on her face.

"The octopus is a very interesting creature. He has three hearts, a parrotlike beak, a complex brain and highly developed eyes that have the ability to focus a sharp, detailed image. His brain is developed enough so that he can be taught modified behavior patterns. As an example, he can learn to get a crab out of a capped jar through trial and error."

Carolyn's eyes rounded with astonishment. "That's amazing. I had no idea they were anything but a bunch of waving arms grabbing at unsuspecting people swimming by."

"Tentacles, not arms. And that's another thing. The octopus is quite shy. Hollywood is the only place that harbors aggressive octopi."

"Oh."

"Actually, they're very interesting to watch. The marine museum in Newport has one on display that you might enjoy seeing."

"Oh, I would. You mentioned something about our going ..."

"Yes, I thought we might take a run up the coast on Saturday. It's rather a long drive, and once we get there, we'll want to have time to see everything."

Carolyn glanced around the room, realizing that they had been missing some good dance music while they'd been engrossed in their conversation. Not that it mattered to her, she was really getting to enjoy her budding friendship with Brad. She sat back in her chair with a sigh. He was so good looking, in a rather dramatic sort of way. She noticed that several women in the room were glancing covertly in their direction.

Then she met Clay's gaze. There was a young, very attractive blonde cuddled against him at a very cozy table, but the scowl on his face was definitely directed toward herself. Confused, Carolyn switched her gaze back to Brad, who was watching the dancers. He looked back at her. "Care to dance?"

"Love to."

They joined the circling crowd, and Carolyn determinedly pushed the thought of Clay's cold stare to the back of her mind.


Carolyn was awakened the next morning by a smart tap on her posterior. She bolted upright in the bed. When she saw Clay standing at the end of the bed she relaxed, then yawned.

"What time is it?"

"Time to get your rear in gear if you're coming with me."

She remembered her invitation, then her sheer nightgown. "Uh, yes. I'll be right down. Do we eat first?"

"That's up to you. Are you hungry?"

She thought about it for a moment. "Not really, but I'd like a cup of coffee."

"Coffee's made, and here's your wetsuit. Change into your swimsuit and bring this down with you. I'll help you get it on when we're ready to go."

Carolyn couldn't remember when she'd had so much fun. The waves weren't big enough to be exciting, but she enjoyed the challenge of trying to stay on the surfboard. She felt a real sense of accomplishment when she managed to ride it in to shore without falling off, until Clay pointed out that the object of surfing was to stand up on the board, not to wrap one's arms and legs around it in a stranglehold.

She discovered that trying to stand up was an entirely different matter. She heard Clay muttering as they stood in the shallow water along the beach. "What's wrong?"

"Whaddaya mean, what's wrong? I've never known anybody so uncoordinated."

"I am, too, coordinated. I play all kinds of sports quite well."

"Then what do you find so difficult about standing up on a surfboard?"

"Oh," she waved her hand. "That's easy. It won't stand still."

"Have you ever tried a skateboard?"

"Nope."

"Good thing. You'd probably run out in front of a truck."

"So, are you telling me I'm not going to make it as a surfer?" she inquired with interest when Clay finally insisted that they quit and return to their room.

"Let's put it this way. If there's ever a need for a surfer who can manage to stay on a surfboard horizontally one out of every six times, then you're going to be in real demand."

"Oh."

He began to help her out of her wetsuit by sliding the zipper down her chest. Noticing her disappointed expression, he relented. "That's okay, honey. You really did try." His voice dwindled down to nothing as the zipper moved down to the top of Carolyn's bikini bottom. His warm fingers brushed against her abdomen, then slowly trailed up to the abbreviated top that barely covered her breasts.

A shiver ran through her that had nothing to do with cold. She raised her eyes and met his, the blazing warmth adding to the fire his touch always set off within her.

He cleared his throat and dropped his hand. "Why don't you get dressed and I'll see to breakfast?" Without waiting for a response he began to peel out of his own suit, then moved over to his open suitcase and grabbed a shirt.

She quickly removed the wetsuit and hurried up the stairs. In the shower she found herself pretending that the warm water coursing down her body was his hands touching her, loving her. When she stepped out and dried herself off, her face was flushed with the memory of her fantasies.

Breakfast was silent and Carolyn searched for a safe topic. "You really are a good cook. How did you learn?"

Clay wished he weren't so aware of her sitting close beside him. He was supposed to be taking this seduction plan slowly, but the way her knit top stretched tautly across her perky breasts was slowly driving him to distraction. "I learned by trial and error, mostly. I got tired of eating out, so started practicing at home."

He hadn't seemed to mind the question. Maybe he was more willing to tell her something about himself. "Do you live alone?" Had she sounded suitably casual?

He grinned, recognizing her motives. "Yep. Do you?" Two could play the game.

"Oh, yes. I left home when I went to college and found I was too used to my independence to return."

Then he turned the questions back on her. "Is there a chance you and Mitch might get back together?"

"No."

"Is it too painful to discuss?"

"Hardly. It isn't worth taking up the time. Mitch is involved in his own little world; I doubt he's even noticed that I'm gone."

"In other words, he still thinks there's a relationship."

"Nooooo, not exactly. I think he got my message the last time he asked to borrow money from me and I showed him the door."

Clay grinned, remembering the haughty young woman who appeared from time to time in this changeable person. Clearing off the bar, he asked, "Do you have anything planned for today?"

"Not really, why?"

"I thought you might want to play a little tennis."

Her eyes sparkled with anticipation. "I'd love to."

Their tennis match was everything she'd hoped it would be. She found herself playing better than she ever had before, spurred on by his skill. When she returned one of his impossible serves and he deliberately missed the point, she stood there staring at him in disbelief. "I believe that makes it your game," he announced.

"Not when you just gave it to me. Why didn't you return that ball?"

"I thought I'd let you see what it's like to win a game that was given to you."

"I don't like it at all."

"Neither do I. Thought I'd let you know."

"I'll have you know I never gave up any of those points. You beat me and you know it."

"Yes, I just wanted you to understand that my ego isn't quite as fragile as some people's." He stood there watching her for a moment. "Want to play another one?"

"No." She stalked off the court irritated that he could believe she'd want him to give her the point, refusing to acknowledge the lesson he'd just taught her.

He suddenly joined her, dropping his arm across her shoulders. J'How about a drink? Help to cool you off. I thought we might go swimming this afternoon, if you'd like. Then maybe have dinner together tonight."

She looked at him with suspicion. "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why do you want to spend so much time with me?"

His eyes rounded with innocence. "No particular reason. Just figured it would make a nice day. Is there anything wrong with that?"

She thought a moment, then shrugged. "I guess not." She glanced up at the blue sky and nodded. "It's a great day to be out of doors. Sounds fine with me.

When Carolyn came downstairs that evening Clay took a deep breath, held it, then slowly exhaled.

The dress she wore was a shimmery gold with a halter neck, the straps barely widening enough to cover her breasts. The skirt faithfully followed the softly rounded contours of her hips and thighs, skimming the tops of her three-inch sandals. She wouldn't have been able to walk in the form-fitting dress if it hadn't been for the center slit that stopped mid-thigh.

She was playing right into his hands, of course. The dress cried out for seduction, which was fine with him. Exactly what he had in mind. Once he got her into bed he'd no longer have this irrational desire to love and protect her. Love and protection were obviously the last things she was looking for!

Carolyn absently registered the stares as she and Clay walked into the dining room. Ted was sitting with the redhead Clay had shown some interest in a few nights before, but Brad was nowhere to be seen. Probably out checking the tides or something, she thought with a smile.

It was after dinner, when Carolyn leaned across the table to say something to Clay, that the straps on her halter top began to falter in their duty of keeping her decorous. Clay jumped up and grabbed her hand. "I think we'd better dance."

And dance they did. Carolyn's natural grace made her an excellent dancer, and if Clay hadn't spent most of his time worrying about the placement of those damned straps, he might have better appreciated her talent. He discovered that the best way of insuring that every male eye in the place found somewhere else to wander was to keep her pressed firmly against him. Unfortunately, that created another problem.

The soft dreamy music suited Carolyn's mood. As she drifted around the dance floor enveloped in Clay's arms she discovered that there was nowhere else she would rather be. She loved the feel of his chest pressed against her breasts, his thighs moving against hers, his—oh, my, he's reacting to our closeness, isn't he? "Clay, maybe we should go. I'm a little tired, aren't you?"

Clay was feeling several things at the moment, but tired wasn't one of them. "That's up to you, Carolyn. I'm rather enjoying the music, myself."

"Oh, so am I, I just thought that . . . maybe . . . we should get some rest tonight."

"Why, do you have something special planned for tomorrow?" It was unfortunate for Carolyn's peace of mind that when Clay spoke into her ear in that manner, his soft breath sent chills up and down her spine. She was having trouble trying to think.

"Uh, no. Do you?"

"I have a few things in mind."

Another shiver danced up her spine, and Clay's hand moved up her back as though following it. "Such as?"

He pulled back so she could see his eyes. They looked like blue flames ready to scorch her. "Such as spending the rest of tonight and tomorrow getting better acquainted."

His hand had somehow managed to slip around her side so that his fingers nudged against the side of her breast. She was having trouble with her breathing and she tried to pull away from him, realizing too late that by leaning back she gave his hand more room to move under her breast.

"Clay!"

"Carolyn!" he mocked.

She had to let him know she didn't appreciate his behavior. Unfortunately, her weak knees and constricted breathing were having an adverse effect on her thinking processes, and she could only stare into his eyes helplessly.

BOOK: Provocative Peril
11.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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