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Back In The Boss's Bed
By Sharon Kendrick
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One Adam Black's grey eyes glittered like sunlight on a wintry sea. "So, Vaughn?" he questioned softly.
From his wheelchair, the old man looked up at the tall, dark man who dominated the room. "I hate asking anyone for favours!" he rasped. "Even you."
"And I hate granting them," said Adam, his hard mouth relaxing by just a fraction as he acknowledged the old man's indomitable character, recognising in him something of himself. "But in your case, I'll make an exception. What's up?"
There was a pause. "You remember my granddaughter?" Vaughn demanded. "Kiloran? She's been running the business - only she's come up against problems. Big problems."
Kiloran? Adam let his memory stray back, then back further still, and a fleeting image of a green-eyed girl in pigtails flitted in and out of his mind. A little princess of a girl, despite the pigtails and the grubby jeans. But the Laceys had been rich, as rich as Adam had been poor - and the power of money had clung to her like a second skin.
"Yeah, I remember her. Vaguely." He frowned, "Though she would have just been a kid at the time. Nine - ten maybe."
"That was a long time ago. She's not a kid anymore. She's twenty-six, and a woman now. Kiloran is my daughter's child," added Vaughn, his eyes half closed with reminiscence. "You must remember her mother. Everyone remembers Eleanor."
Oh, yes. This particular memory snapped into crystal-sharp focus. He had locked it away, as he'd locked so many things away over the years, but Vaughn's words were the key to the door, and now it swung open. "Yes, I remember Eleanor," he said slowly.
It had been every teenage boy's fantasy, except maybe his.
He had been eighteen, all long legs and muscle - strong as an ox and tanned as a berry. The summer had been hot - too hot to load boxes all day, but that had been his job, his way out of the dark tunnel his life had become. God, it seemed so long ago.
Eleanor must have been about ... what? Forty? Maybe younger, maybe older - it was hard to tell with women of a certain age. All Adam had known was that she'd been a looker.
The men working in the warehouse had just stopped what they'd been doing, their breath hot with lust when Eleanor had walked by, as walk by she so often had - making excuses to visit the factory, wearing tiny denim shorts and a T-shirt which had been rucked tight across her breasts. The beautiful widow - she might have been called the Black Widow, if her hair hadn't been the colour of spun gold.
Adam had listened to them talk. A tease, they'd called her. Look but don't touch. She was protected by the power of her position. The boss's daughter.
She'd known the power of her own sexuality, too - it had radiated off her like a shimmering heat and it had fuelled many fantasies those hot summer nights.
But not Adam's.
Something about her had made him recoil. Something about her hooded, predatory look had made him look away. Maybe it had reminded him too much of what he had left behind at home.
She'd noticed him, of course. He'd been different. He'd been bright and smart. Stronger and bigger and fitter and more ruggedly handsome than any of the permanent loaders. And she'd noticed the way he hadn't noticed her. Some women liked a challenge.
She'd waited until his last week there - presumably not to give herself time to get bored, or to risk angering her father. Vaughn had been a stickler for sticking to the rules and a penniless kid from a rough family on the wrong side of town had not been for his daughter, not in any way.
But Eleanor had had other ideas.
She'd brought him a beer one baking afternoon, when the ground had scorched your feet - the first taste of liquor he had ever had. On such a hot day, it had been too tempting to refuse and it had filled him with a kind of warm wildness. But he had stayed his distance, his eyes as wary as a cornered animal when she had patted the haystack where she'd lain sprawled.
"Come over here," she purred.
"I'm fine where I am," he said.
She didn't like being refused, nor did she take the hint. She knew what she wanted and she wanted him.
She was wearing a flowery little shirt that day - a teensy little thing with buttons all the way down the front, and when she began to brazenly pop them open, one by one, her green eyes meeting his, he froze.
Maybe there wasn't another man on the planet who would have refused what Adam was so freely being offered, but Adam wasn't most men. He had seen what weakness and excess could do. Wasn't his presence here doing a dead-end job the very result of it?
Nothing was said. He simply picked up his denim shirt and thanked her for the beer, and strolled out into the mercilessly hot sunshine. He didn't see her look of frustrated lust, but he felt it. It was the first time it had happened to him, but it wouldn't be the last.
He gave Vaughn a cool look. "Yes, I remember your daughter. What happened to her?"
Vaughn gave a wheezy laugh. "She did what she wanted to do - married a millionaire and moved to Australia." He shrugged. "Said she wanted a better life - and you know what women are like."
There was a pause, while Adam remembered the woman he had taken for dinner on his last night in New York. A sloe-eyed beauty who had cooed into his ear that what he didn't know about women could be written on the back of a postage stamp and still leave room to spare! He hadn't made love to her - his body had been willing but his mind had not, for he had never been able to separate the intellectual from the physical. She had cried. Women always cried when they couldn't get what they wanted, and mostly they wanted him. It was not an arrogant assessment of his attributes as a man and as a lover, it was fact - plain and simple.
"Yes, I know what women are like," he said shortly. "So Kiloran stayed, did she?"
Vaughn nodded. "She went away and then came back. She missed the house." He gave a look of pride. "She loves it just the same as I do. But loving a house is not the same as running a business. I was a fool to let myself think she was capable of taking charge. Yes, she had experience of company life - but it was too big a project to handle." He shook his head. "She twisted me round her little finger - the way she can twist any man around her little finger! And Kiloran always knows best!"
Adam didn't point out the glaringly obvious. That in this instance she had failed completely in her judgement.
"You said you weren't working at the moment," growled Vaughn. "So, in theory, you have a little time on your hands."
Excerpted from Back In The Boss's Bed by Sharon Kendrick Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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