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Anna Berzani bent over the drafting table, spreading a layer of vellum over the site plan. Her laptop sat open next to her, flashing the photos she had taken while visiting the site. Sketching quickly, she outlined her idea for the new building, translating the vision in her head from three dimensions to two. She could see the contours of the land cradling the glass, steel and concrete. Resting her chin on her fist for a moment, she considered the drawing before curving one line and changing the angle on another.
Anna froze. Her pencil fell to the table. She knew that deep voice with the thread of amusement running through it. But it couldn't be him—it couldn't. He was three thousand miles away. Slowly, she turned her head, looking over her shoulder to the door.
A tall man stood smiling at her from the doorway of her office. He was gorgeous: his jaw chiseled, nose arrow-straight. His short blond hair gleamed like old gold under the harsh florescent lights. Anna's fingers itched to touch it, to thread through the silken strands. Beneath the perfectly tailored suit he wore, she knew his shoulders were broad, tapering to a narrow waist. Probably well tanned, too; the memory of him standing on the dock in the hot summer sunshine in nothing but swim trunks made her mouth go dry. His casual stance—hands tucked into the pockets of his gray suit trousers—made him look like a model from a glossy magazine: fashionable, smooth and slightly dangerous.
In seconds, she was snared by laughing green eyes, mischief radiating from them, luring her in. The man of my dreams, Anna thought hazily as she straightened and turned toward him, pulled by some unbidden force. He walked to her, holding her eyes captive with his. Her breath caught as he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. The feel of his warm lips on her skin sent a shiver down her spine.
"How's it going, Anna-Banana?"
Anna cringed at the nickname and came back to reality with a bump. "Now I remember why I never miss you," she said tartly.
Evan McKenzie laughed. "Oh, you miss me," he said, tapping a finger on her chin. "You just won't admit it."
"What are you doing here?"
"I was in the neighborhood, so I thought I'd stop by."
Anna folded her arms and leaned back against the table with a studied nonchalance that belied her inner turmoil. Her heart was thudding crazily and she felt as if there wasn't enough air in the room. She wanted to move away from Evan—the next state wouldn't be too far—but that risked revealing how much he had unsettled her. She knew better than to show any weakness.
Evan shook his head. "You're a hard woman to fool, Anna Berzani."
"And don't you ever forget it." Anna tilted her head to one side. "How did you get in here, anyway? I'm supposed to have a secretary out there to intercept intruders like you."
Evan walked over to her desk and picked up a paperweight. As he shook the small globe, sparkles of color shifted and whirled around a miniature Golden Gate Bridge. He grinned and slid a glance over at Anna.
"She's a lovely woman. Very helpful. I'd give her a generous bonus."
"Meaning you smarmed your way past her." Refusing to be charmed herself, Anna shook her head in exasperation. She didn't hold her secretary's laxness against her. Evan McKenzie could sell honey to bees and coax the stars from heaven.
"Oh, Annie," he said with a frown, setting the globe down and turning to face her. "You shouldn't be so cynical. Besides, I'm not an intruder, I'm practically family."
Anna snorted. "Not hardly."
"Your mother claims me."
"She's never been very discriminating."
Evan walked back over to stand directly in front of Anna again.
Despite her best efforts, she felt a flush of color mount her cheeks as his gaze traveled over her face. This close to him, she could smell the faint aroma of his aftershave— citric and sharp—with another underlying scent that was Evan alone. Dropping her eyes, she focused on the neatly knotted yellow paisley tie at his throat. When he reached out an arm, she tensed in anticipation—of what, she didn't know.
His hand slipped past her, pointing to her computer. Lashes flying up, Anna realized he was looking at the screen of her laptop, not at her. The click of the mouse as he scrolled through her photos sounded loud to her ears. Cursing herself, she willed her heart to settle to a safe, steady pace.
"Arcata. I'm designing a resort."
"Beautiful site. What kind?"
"It's primarily for company retreats, but there's a full spa along with three pools, a gym and two restaurants that will be open to the public, too." Anna shifted away from Evan to look at the pictures—any excuse to put some distance between them. "I'm going to site the building overlooking the valley. The corner will go here, with balconies out this way." She tapped her pencil on the rough sketch she had done.
Evan looked at the paper, his eyes narrowed. "Yes, and if this line curved in over here, you could hide that pool behind this clump of trees. It would make it more private."
Anna frowned as she absorbed his observation. Looking down at the drawing, she realized he had a point. She penciled in his suggestion with a few quick strokes. It would work surprisingly well. Adding a couple extra shrubs at the base of the trees, she cocked her head to one side, contemplating the change. Yes. And that would make this part of the building—
"Don't worry. I won't tell anyone that you got help from an unlicensed amateur," Evan said with a chuckle.
Anna glanced up to find him watching her. She flushed again and put down the pencil. "Why are you here bugging me, anyway?" she asked irritably.
Evan's eyelids lowered for a moment. When they lifted, all laughter had vanished, as if a shutter had been drawn over his thoughts. Anna couldn't read his expression now and that worried her. What did he want? He would not have flown across the entire country on a whim. There was a reason for him to be in San Francisco. She just had to figure out what it was and send him back to Maryland.
Startling her from her thoughts, Evan took her hand, his fingers lightly lacing into hers. Anna was shaken by the sizzle of heat that flared from that simple touch. Stiffening her spine, she stared at him, refusing to look away this time. She knew he was playing with her; he teased her every chance he got. Why was it so hard to keep herself from taking it seriously?
"Come on. What do you want, Evan?" she asked, keeping her voice even with effort. "Stop playing around and spill it."
His gaze flickered down to her mouth for a second, then lifted back to her eyes. The emerald depths drew her into their heat and promise. "It's simple," he said softly. "I want you, Annie."
Anna pulled her hand from his. Reaching back, she gripped the edge of the worktable, searching for some solid foundation in a suddenly teetering world. The words were a shock. She had waited a long time to hear them—thirteen years, to be exact—ever since she was fifteen years old. She swallowed hard, her throat dry.
"Here's your coffee, Mr. McKenzie. I'm sorry it took so long, but I made a fresh pot for you."
Anna jerked as the bright voice of her secretary cut through the haze in her brain. Evan kept his gaze locked to hers for another moment longer, then turned to face the other woman. Anna sucked in a deep breath. The hard edge of the table bit into her palms, bringing some measure of sanity. What the hell had just happened?
"You didn't have to do that, Sarah," Evan said. "Thank you."
"Oh, no problem," she said with a chirp. "Can I get you anything else?"
"Not a thing. This is more than enough."
Anna watched the exchange in silence, glad for the respite. She used the opportunity to slide past Evan and walk around her desk, again putting distance between herself and Evan McKenzie. She sat in her chair, grateful to get off her wobbly legs, and stared blindly at the papers strewn across the desk.
Once, she had had a crush on Evan McKenzie. Her older brother's best friend, he had been a constant visitor to their house, a fixture in her life for years. She didn't know when it had happened exactly, but she had gradually come to realize that she was in love with him. He, of course, hardly knew that she was alive. Well, she corrected herself, he knew she was there, he just didn't know she was female. Five years older, Evan had not been interested in a skinny redheaded girl, the little sister in his adopted family.
His indifference hadn't spared her from heartache; it only intensified the pain. She had watched longingly as he paraded a series of girlfriends past her, wishing all the time she could be the one he touched, cuddled and kissed. The only attention he granted young Anna was merciless teasing, the sort with which any brother tormented his little sister. Eventually, Anna left for college, giving her the chance to outgrow her crush. Time and distance had cured her. She had thought they had. Until today.
Anna looked up at Evan. He was turned away from her, but she saw Sarah backing out of the office, still smiling and chattering. Her secretary's face bloomed rosy with blushes he had no doubt cultivated.
Sighing, she rubbed a hand over her forehead. Somehow, his sudden appearance had caused her to slip back to the age when she was young and too hopeful. She didn't want to be that aching teenager again. She wasn't in love with Evan McKenzie now. God knew, Evan would never be in love with her. As far as she knew, he had never been in love with any woman.
Evan set his mug down on Anna's desk. "Why the fierce look, Annie? Does your secretary making coffee for me offend your feminist principles? "
Anna frowned, then flicked a hand in a dismissive gesture. "That's her business. No one orders anyone around here. We all pitch in to get the work done, whatever the job requires."
"How egalitarian of you." Evan sat in the chair across from her, hitching up his pant legs and settling himself comfortably. He looked relaxed and cool, everything Anna wasn't.
She leaned back in her chair, forcing herself to act unperturbed. "And speaking of jobs, I ought to get back to mine."
"Ah, but you are working. You're meeting with a potential client right now." When Evan smiled, Anna tensed even more.
"You?" she asked, her eyes narrowing on his face. "I thought you just bought a new house."
"No. It's bigger than that. Much bigger."
"Does this involve Patrick in some way?"
Evan tilted his head. "It might." His face was innocence personified. "Why'd you ask?"
Anna snorted in derision. "I'm not getting snared into one of your schemes. Every stunt you guys dream up usually ends in disaster of some kind."
"Give us a chance, Annie," he said, his eyes alight with mischief once more. "You haven't heard the details."
"I don't need to. I've experienced some of the details before," Anna said drily. "Remember that submarine idea you two cooked up?"
"We were kids then."
"And you're so mature now." She shook her head. "Patty should have known I'd say no, Evan. Is that why he sent you to do the dirty work?"
"He thinks I can be more persuasive in this particular situation," Evan said with a smirk.
"I see." She tapped a pencil on the desk. "Just out of curiosity, what big idea are we talking about?" she asked. If she was wise, she would skip the question and get rid of him. Immediately.
"Nothing special. Just redeveloping your parents' property."
"What?" Anna stared at him. Of all the possibilities, this was the last thing she expected him to say. "The boatyard? Into what?"
"Anything but a boatyard. It's a beautiful location," Evan said. "Perfect for a few condos, some retail, maybe even a restaurant."
"But what about the business?" Anna asked, bewildered.
"We definitely keep the marina. It'll be a real draw once we get all the other stuff in place." Evan leaned forward. "Here's the deal. First, you do the design. Next stop is the planning commission, which should be a slam dunk, and we're in business. We could break ground by March first."
"Wait a minute here," Anna said, holding up one hand. "March first? It's August, Evan."
"I know it's pushing it, but we can do it, Annie."
"You're nuts." Anna shook her head. "Even if I—"
"Okay, we don't have to break ground by March," Evan said. "But we have to get the planning commission stamp by November first. After that we can relax the schedule."
"November?" Anna's voice rose to a squeak. The man was insane. "What is the rush?"
"Funding," he said, his green eyes intent as they stared into hers. "There's a temporary federal program, the Small Community Development Fund, to help encourage projects like this one. We qualify and honestly, we can't do the project without that money. But it expires sooner than we thought."
Anna's head was spinning from all the information Evan had thrown at her. The fact that her parents wanted to redevelop the boatyard was the first mystery, but she set that aside for the moment. She had to nip this craziness in the bud.
"It's completely unrealistic. First off, the planning process alone is likely to take months."
"I have a connection on the commission. Miriam Sher-mer. She's a pretty strong voice. If we give her plans and applications, she'll get us the approval we need in time."
"Even still, there's a lot to be done before you apply for permits, like site surveys, traffic studies, a public comment period. And all that takes place after the design is worked out."
"That's why I'm here. You know the property, the area and, most important, the clients," he countered smoothly. "You can put together a design your parents will love in no time at all, Annie."
"That's presuming my parents even know what they want."
"Since when does your father not have an opinion about anything?"
"Knowing my father, he probably has ten opinions, all contradictory to each other," Anna said with a snap, then gave an irritated sigh. "This is ridiculous. I haven't lived in Crab Creek for eleven years, Evan. I have no idea what's being built out there. I'd have to dig through all the local ordinances for restrictions, variances, zoning. Besides that, I'm not licensed in Maryland."
"Don't worry," he said, waving a hand in dismissal. "I know an architect who's willing to do a reciprocal stamp for you. Whatever you don't know, he can fill in the gaps."
"Then why aren't you using him?"
"Because we want you."