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Back In The Bedroom
By Jill Shalvis
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTessa Delacantro always paid her taxes, ate at least one serving of fruit or veggies a day and generally was a rule follower. But that didn't mean she didn't yearn for adventure.
In fact, she yearned a lot.
It was why she'd agreed to watch her boss's posh house in La Canada for the weekend while he took his latest fling to Cabo San Lucas.
Tessa had her own place but it didn't have ten thousand square feet or cable or even a degree of poshness, so she looked forward to living like the rich and famous for two nights. As an Art History major without a lot of prospects in the field, she'd spent the past few years as an office clerk here and there, doing some accounting, doing some secretarial work, learning how to run Microsoft programs without crashing anyone's system.
What she hadn't done was figure out how to work in any of that adventure and excitement she wanted, but this was California, Southern California, to boot. The land of opportunity. She was open to anything, and liked to keep her options free. She had high hopes for her latest job as a temp in an agency run by the colorful Eddie Ledger. The sharp, debonair, electrifying man had a myriad of businesses in his empire, most of which ran themselves, leaving him free to do things like go to Cabo on a whim.
She could get into that lifestyle. She parked her car at the top of Eddie's long, curvy driveway, which protected the Tudor-style mansion from view of the street. It had a beautiful yellow-and-white front, with flowers everywhere, lining the grass and steps to the porch.
Letting herself in with the key Eddie had given her, she dropped her purse and keys on the tiled foyer that was bigger than her entire apartment and sighed. From here she could see the large living room and so many windows showing off stunning views of the Angeles Crest Mountains she felt a little dizzy.
Or maybe it was a lack of food. She'd come right from a long day of work and hadn't yet grabbed dinner, so she headed in, looking for the kitchen. Eddie wouldn't mind - her tall, dark and outrageously handsome boss had told her to help herself. He might be as sly as a fox and extremely fond of women, but when it came to his employees, he was sweet and warm and extremely kind.
The kitchen took her breath away. She took in the custom-made maple cabinetry, the granite counters and the Sub-Zero maple-faced fridge. The secret chef inside her salivated.
Her own kitchen could have fit inside the brand-spanking-new Russell six-burner range. If she wasn't so tired, she'd run back out to the grocery store and get a bunch of exciting ingredients, then come back and cook away. It'd be fun if she had a date to cook for, but she didn't. Maybe she'd call her sister to come over and they'd watch the new 007 movie. They could sigh and eat, eat and sigh....
Her footsteps echoed as she crossed the granite tiles, warm from the setting sun beaming in through the myriad of windows here, too. She reached for the handle on the fridge, just to get a quick snack, but hesitated at the loud thump that definitely wasn't her stomach growling. With a frown, she headed out of the kitchen, back into the huge, open living room, and looked down the wide, oak-lined hallway that arched off to the left and vanished.
Someone was down there.
The maid, maybe, but Tessa wasn't sure Eddie had a maid. In any case, she wasn't going to take any chances. La Canada residents were snooty and into their privacy. This house was no exception. Heavily wooded and a bit secluded, she could scream until the cows came home and no one would hear. At home in Glendale - only a few minutes from here, but a world away as far as neighborhoods went - she'd have grabbed her trusty baseball bat and the phone to call the police.
No baseball bat here, and at first glance around the fancy place, she couldn't even find a telephone. But she'd seen plenty of horror flicks in her twenty-six years, and had no intention of being the stupid chick. She'd just get out of the house and then call the police.
The front door seemed extremely far away so she whirled to the sliding glass door behind her instead. But she stopped short when she remembered she'd left her keys on the foyer floor with her purse. She needed those keys for an escape.
And then came another thump.
Spooked, she started running toward the foyer. Track had been her least-favorite sport, but she managed to move like lightning. Funny what fear did for motivation. Ten-thousand square feet was suddenly far too much space, and she felt grateful for her perpetual poverty and six-hundred square feet of closed-in apartment that would have only taken a blink of an eye to run through -
The male voice sounded so polite, coming from behind her, that she actually stopped short and looked over her shoulder.
And faced a man carrying a DVD player. He looked to be twenty-something, and wore jeans and a grungy white thermal shirt on his large, beefy body. With a grimace, he set down the DVD player and straightened. "Another visitor. Terrific." He cracked his knuckles and suddenly looked exceptionally big and menacing. He gestured with a jerk of his chin toward the back of the house. "Okay, sweetcakes, let's go."
She took a step back and shook her head.
He sent a frustrated glance heavenward. "Why me? Look, just tell me you're not a martial arts expert like the other guy."
She eyed the growing bruise on his cheekbone and took another careful step backward. Gee, only fifty more and she'd make it. "What are you doing here while Eddie's out of town?"
"I'm here to mess the place up." His voice was pure annoyance. A put-out bear of a man. "And I get to take whatever I want while I'm at it. Those are my orders. If he's out of town, so much the better."
"G-go ahead, I'll ... just wait outside." She took another step, wondering if he could see that she was shaking like a leaf. Forty-nine more steps ...
He shook his big head. "Don't even bother. We both know I'm not going to let you go until I'm done here and long gone, so I'll repeat myself. This way."
Excerpted from Back In The Bedroom by Jill Shalvis Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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