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Alias Smith And Jones
By Kylie Brant
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAnaliese Tremaine didn't go around seducing men. If asked, the available men in Tangipohoa Parish could attest that even thinking of Analiese in a sexual way would be tantamount to signing a death warrant. Her three older brothers were as protective of her as a pack of wild dogs, and since the Tremaines owned just about everything round those parts, a fella could be dead and buried and no one would dare question the disappearance. The talk hadn't hurt Analiese's brothers' reputations a whit, but neither had it done anything interesting for her social life.
She'd never had more reason to regret her dearth of experience. The man she'd traveled a thousand miles to hire was scowling down at her. His face, which might have been handsome without the day's growth of beard, was a mask of impatience. At a time like this a woman could use a bit more exposure to the art of flirtation and seduction. As it was, she could only chalk up one more grievance against her brothers and hope that the smile she aimed at the man looked more confident than desperate.
"Listen, Mr. -"
"Jones. No `mister.' Just Jones."
The fact that he gave no first name made her pause. There'd been no mention of one in her brother's files, either. Just Jones, and a private numbershe'd traced, with no little difficulty, to this island. To this half-naked man.
He either hadn't bothered with a shirt that day or had dispensed with it as the temperature soared. His brown hair was clubbed back into a short ponytail, and the sun had streaked it tawny. His lashes, absurdly long for a man, were tipped with the same color. But there was nothing warm about his expression. Most people would have quailed beneath the menacing look in his narrowed gray gaze, but Analiese considered herself something of an expert in dealing with short-tempered males.
"I'll double your normal fee."
"I said no, lady. I meant it."
He turned and began striding down the dock. Hurrying after him, she divided her attention between her words and her footing. Huge cords of rope lay in jumbles on the dock, a treacherous obstacle course for the unwary. "Do you really think that's wise? You're turning down quite a bit of money. A man who makes his living as you do can't afford to be picky, can he?"
Her remark brought him around, but because her gaze was on her feet, she rammed into him with enough force to jolt her teeth together. Two hard hands clamped around her forearms and set her away, but not before she'd felt for herself the steely muscles beneath that burnished skin. Smelled the mingled scents of sun, sea, sweat. Scents that shouldn't have been so appealing.
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?"
Analiese preferred to blame her breathlessness on the force of the recent impact rather than her proximity to his rock hard body. "I'm ... um ..." Since the sight of his tanned muscled torso seemed to have stricken her dumb, she averted her gaze from the distraction in question and gathered her scattered thoughts. "I meant your occupation, of course. It's dependent on tourists and weather, isn't it?"
When she chanced another look at him, his expression had eased infinitesimally, but was no more welcoming. "Listen, lady ..."
"Smith." Raising her Ray Bans with one hand, Analiese offered him the other, along with the phony name on her passport. "Ann Smith."
He ignored both her hand and the introduction. "Like I said, I've got a three-day fishing party to take out at dawn tomorrow. Try one of the other charter services I told you about. I'm booked."
"Are they as good as you are?"
"No one's as good as I am." His well-formed mouth didn't even quiver with a hint of humor. It was a simple statement of fact from a man who lacked an ounce of humility. "But I'm not available." He turned around again, clearly believing the matter closed.
She trotted after him. "Your party could be sent to one of the other services. They wouldn't have to be inconvenienced at all."
"They won't be. Because they've already got me."
"I'll give you two and a half times your regular fee." Desperation sounded in Ana's voice, and she made a conscious effort to smooth it. It wouldn't do to let this man suspect how badly she needed him. Or why.
"Nope." Nimbly he leaped from the dock to the deck of the gleaming white ship with Nefarious emblazoned on its bow.
She took a moment to wonder if the ship had been named when he'd bought it or if he'd christened it himself. And if he had, what the name symbolized. But frustration edged out curiosity. "Would you mind telling me why?"
He sent a glance her way, then bent forward to more tightly secure the ship's mooring. "No, I don't mind." His sudden verbosity should have warned her. He'd been maddeningly reticent up to now. "Number one - I gave the other party my word. That might not mean much to folks like you, but it does to me. And two ..." He looked at her then, really looked at her. An insolently thorough once-over that left her flesh tingling as though he'd stroked her skin with one callused palm. "... you look like trouble. I don't like trouble."
There was a definite glimmer of satisfaction in his pale gray eyes as he took in her gaping jaw, before he turned his back on her.
When she found her tongue again, she managed, "Trouble? What kind of trouble could I possibly cause?"
"You're a woman, aren't you?"
Her answer, if she'd been able to form one, would have fallen on deaf ears. He'd gone below deck and left her, jaw hanging open and temper on the rise, to bake in the tropical sunshine.
Well, damn. Crossing her arms over her less-than-ample chest, Analiese snapped her mouth shut and fumed. Of all the possible scenarios she'd imagined, somehow this one had failed to occur. Belatedly aware of the interested stares from people on ships docked nearby, she turned, raised her chin and stalked away. The man was being a bit more recalcitrant than she'd anticipated, so she'd have to go back to the motel. Regroup. Form a new strategy. She had until dawn tomorrow to do so.
Because none of the other charter services would do, of course. It had to be Jones. Just Jones.
Excerpted from Alias Smith And Jones by Kylie Brant Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.