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Catch of a Lifetime
By Judi Fennell
Sourcebooks, Inc. Copyright © 2010 Judi Fennell
All rights reserved.
There was a naked woman on his boat.
Logan Hardington shook his head and rubbed his eyes, but the picture didn't change. Lady Godiva was sprawled over a pillow on his deck, a navy blue blanket draped over the bottom half of the curviest ass he'd seen in a long while.
Long, blonde—almost yellow—loose curls tumbled over creamy shoulders all the way down to that blanket, the ends pooling in the dimples above her ass, some strands twirling along the visible portion of her cleft near the light blue markings of a faded bruise.
Shapely legs, one slightly bent, only a shade or two darker than the fiberglass boat deck, trailed from beneath the blanket, one small foot flexing in the soft morning breeze. A hint of upturned nose peeked from beneath the blonde jumble, pink lips pursed in sleep, slender fingers disappearing beneath her cheek. He wondered what color her eyes were.
And why she was naked.
On his boat.
Hungry gulls cawed overhead, but she didn't stir. The wake from McKye's charter jostled the Mir-a-Mar as the day's fishing tour set out, but that didn't rouse her either.
Oh hell. She was probably a drunk co-ed who'd followed some "sailor" home. He'd seen that walk of shame many mornings. Didn't these people think of the repercussions?
Logan looked back down the pier where his son, Michael, chatted with Tony as the wizened old salt chopped chum, and Logan smiled. Ah, the things he would have loved to have seen as a boy. The things he should have been able to show Michael from day one—
And would have if his ex-girlfriend had only mentioned a little thing like a pregnancy ...
Logan tamped down the anger at Christine—who, according to his son, now went by Rainbow for God-only-knew-what reasons—and focused instead on the next female to make him wonder what men ever saw in women.
Then Lady Godiva moved and the blanket slipped to the side and Logan knew exactly what men saw in women.
But not what he wanted his son to see. No matter how much Logan wanted to savor the image.
"Hey, um. Miss." Logan hunkered down and shook one of those shapely legs.
She mumbled something and flipped her head the other way, a tangle of hair tickling his arm. Logan pulled his hand back and captured the curls as they slid across his palm. Silky. Soft. The way a woman's hair should be.
He blinked. What the hell was he doing thinking about her hair? She was naked, for God's sake, and his six-year-old was going to get one hell of a birthday present if she didn't wake up and cover herself.
"Miss, wake up." Logan shook her shoulder, glancing back to Michael. Thank God Tony had a ton of fish tales to keep the boy occupied.
The woman sighed, and her shoulder slid beneath his fingertips. Her skin was just as soft and silky as her hair.
He should not be noticing.
"Lady, you really need to get up." Not that getting up was a problem he seemed to be having. Christ. How long had it been if he was getting hard over the naked back of a lush?
Then she rolled over.
One lone curl encircled a taut, pink nipple.
Oh, boy ...
No problem getting up now.
A naked woman. Right there in front of him. A naked goddess, more like. A gift from the gods just for him.
Except, of course, there was Michael ...
Logan shook his head and reached for the blanket that had slithered to the deck atop some crushed shells and dried seaweed. Fighting with himself the entire time, he tossed it over her.
"What in the sea?" The blonde bombshell awoke as if she'd been tossed overboard, sputtering and spitting the blanket away from those perfect lips, the most incredible eyes widening above that mouth. The color of the sea ... aquamarine. He'd never seen anything like them.
"Um, hi?" The corners of her eyes turned up along with her mouth. A dimple winked high on her left cheek.
"Oh." Logan cleared his throat. She didn't sound drunk. "Hi. I'm Logan Hardington." He rocked back on his heels. "Who are you?"
"I'm, ah ... Angel. Tritone."
She was an angel all right. Straight from Heaven, via the bowels of Hell. A temptress. Flushed with the haze of sleep, innocence and sensuality stared at him from those ocean eyes, and she had the most delectable lips he'd ever seen. Slender arms clutched the blanket to breasts that spilled from the sides, leaving barely anything to the imagination. Not that he needed to imagine since he remembered every splendid inch of those heavenly delights. If this woman wasn't walking temptation, he didn't know what was.
"So, Angel Tritone, did you have one too many last night?" Remember that, Hardington. No matter what kind of influence she 'd be on you, she 'd be a bad one on your son.
Having to kick her off his boat definitely sucked. But he was a father now. A responsible, practical father who didn't fool around with sexy, naked women on his boat.
A horny, recently celibate father who'd love to fool around with this sexy, naked woman on his boat.
But who wouldn't.
Damn. This responsibility thing wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
Angel cocked her head to the side, curls spilling over her shoulders in perfect, centerfold-fantasy mode, and he had to work really hard to keep his groan from escaping.
"One too many what?" Her tongue flicked over her lips again in an unself-conscious and utterly sexy way.
He had to get her off his boat. For sanity's sake. Propriety's, too. Not to mention an impressionable six-year-old's. Logan stood up and held out his hand. "Never mind. Let's get you up and at 'em."
"At who?" She reached for his hand.
Logan forgot the question the minute her fingers touched his. Hell, he almost forgot his own name, and the six-year-old down the pier was fast becoming a distant memory.
Everything was becoming a distant memory, fuzzy and out of focus, because the moment her skin met his, everything else faded to black. Fire, hot and long and needy, sped through his fingers to every extremity, zipping along his nerve endings like a match to gunpowder; the heavy thud of his heart blocking out the call of the birds and the sounds of the marina.
Then she tugged on his hand to stand, and he had to steady himself so he wouldn't fall on top of her—but man, did he want to. Especially when the blanket slid down her body to pool at her feet.
"You're naked," slipped out. Since making that comment was better than falling on top of her, he wasn't too upset.
"I'm what?" Five-foot-nothing dipped her blonde head forward, the curls now caressing his wrist, one encircling his forearm, and Logan had to focus on his breathing. He'd never had such an intense reaction to a woman. Then again, he'd never seen a woman like this before in his life.
Pink stained her cheeks when she glanced back at him and, dog that he was, he compared the color to the tips of her breasts. Only for a second, but it was enough—her cheeks were lighter pink.
But the curls between her legs perfectly matched those brushing her hips.
"Why are you naked?" Oh hell. What kind of a question was that? "I mean, what are you doing here?"
"Sleeping?" She moistened her lips quickly, with just a hint of pink tongue—which was more than enough to get him thinking about that tongue ...
"I gathered that. The question is why?"
"Oh." She ran her fingers through her hair, lifting it off her neck, and glanced toward the ocean. "Well, I was swimming, and ... and there was a shark. Yes. A shark. And he was coming after me. So I climbed aboard your boat, and, well," she shrugged her shoulders and a few strands of hair fell across her breasts, one curling again on her nipple, "here I am."
Logan peeled his eyes off her breasts to meet her gaze. "Here you are."
A moment of silence followed. Well, silence between them. The gulls were making a hell of a ruckus. Logan cleared his throat, then picked up the blanket and handed it to her. "So, is there any particular reason you're naked? Where are your clothes?"
She gathered the blanket against her chest. Not that Logan needed help with that image or anything ... "My clothes. Yes. Um. Well, I was swimming—"
Right. Skinny-dipping. "Alone?"
He was asking solely so he could get her off his boat and back where she belonged; that was it. No other reason.
"Not alone. There was the shark."
"But what happened to your things?"
"Oh. They're gone."
"Gone? Everything? Money, clothes, whatever? Somebody take them while you were swimming?"
She looked away again toward the ocean, her eyes blinking rapidly. "Yes. Everything's gone."
So he had a naked, destitute woman on his boat. And a six-year-old who'd be here any minute.
Logan reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. "Look, I can give you some money. Get you a ticket back where you came from—where are you from?"
She licked her lips again and turned those stunning eyes on him. "Have you ever been to Kansas?"
"Oh. Well, I'm from Kansas."
"You do realize you're a bit of a ways away from Kansas, right?"
She shifted her feet to balance on the rocking deck as another charter left the dock. "Yes. About four-hundred-and-thirty leagues or so."
Leagues? Only if she was swimming, and that he'd like to see from the middle of the country.
"So what are you doing here if you're from Kansas?"
"You're a student?" He'd figured her for a little older than college. Maybe she was a grad student.
And he cared, why?
She looked back at the ocean. "I'm ... doing a field study for the summer."
Ah, yes. Older. "What field?"
"Biology. Maritime biology."
"Don't you mean marine biology?"
"Yes," she said, licking her lips again. He should probably get her a drink. "Of course. That's what I meant. Marine biology."
The boat rocked again and the blanket slid to the side, showing off her shapely leg in all its perfection, toes to thigh.
He should probably get himself a drink. Preferably a stiff one—
Not going there.
"So ... where are you staying? I'll call you a cab." Anything to get her off this boat.
"Actually, I just arrived. I don't have a place to stay."
Logan was about to suggest a local apartment complex when he heard Michael yell, "Thanks, Tony!" and decided he'd worry about where she was going to stay later. Right now he had a six-year-old he didn't want to have to explain the birds and the bees—or naked women—to, so he yanked his T-shirt over his head and skimmed it over Angel's. Yes, it hung on her like a tent, but at least she was covered.
Not that it diminished the image burned into his brain, nor the incredibly hot vision of her in his clothing and nothing else, with her hair askew and that blush on her cheeks.
With his faded green T-shirt bringing out the green swirl in her eyes, the woman could be a mermaid come to life.
"Logan! Look what Tony gave me!" Michael ran down the dock holding up the perfectly filleted carcass of one of Tony's recent catches in one hand and keeping his baseball cap on his head with the other hand. From Michael's abrupt halt and the way his mouth dropped open, Logan knew the moment his son saw Angel.
Great. How was he going to explain this?
"Hey, Michael. Why don't you come say hi to Angel?"
What else was he going to say? Come meet the naked student? The kid would be signing up for college tomorrow.
"But ... how? What ...?" The fish skeleton hit the dock and fell apart, but Michael didn't seem to notice. His eyes were glued to Angel.
"Hi ... Michael? I'm Angel." Even her voice was beautiful—like a song dancing along the crests of the waves.
Oh, hell. Where had that fanciful thought come from? Logan never spouted poetry to beautiful women, preferring to keep every relationship real and out of the realm of fairy tale, though more than one woman had called him her Prince Charming. Usually right before he broke up with her.
"Ang ... Angel?" Poor tongue-tied Michael. Logan could totally empathize.
"She's ... um ... a friend." One he'd just met, who didn't wear clothes and showed up out of nowhere, but the kid was six. It should fly.
"Your friend?" Okay, perhaps the incredulity in his son's voice indicated a need for more proof.
"Um ... yeah." He focused on Michael. "She's new in town and was using the boat because she doesn't have a place to stay."
Michael's face perked up and he jumped aboard, adjusting his baseball hat. "Cool! Then she can stay with us, right?" He went right over to her and shook her hand. "Nice to meet you, Angel. You can be my friend, too."
That wasn't exactly what Logan had in mind.
"I'd like that, Michael."
There was that melodic voice again. Maybe she was a singer. She certainly had the face to be a celebrity, and enough of them flocked to these beaches every year.
Meanwhile, his son was literally jumping all over the place. "So, can she, Logan?"
Can she what? There were a lot of things he wanted her to do—
"Can she stay with us? She can sleep in my room."
Logan tried not to laugh. Sleep in Michael's room? Logan didn't think so. If she was going to be sleeping in anyone's room—
"Michael, I think the guesthouse would be a better idea."
Angel smiled and Michael started bouncing again. "Cool!"
Shit. What had he just agreed to?CHAPTER 2
Angel couldn't believe her good luck. She'd hit the crabpot!
Then she saw Harry's fin circling off the bow for the eighth time since she'd awoken and amended that. Luck had nothing to do with this; Hammerhead Harry did. And wouldn't it tweak his big ol' blockhead to know he could be helping her right into her dream job?
Served the shark right. Try to eat her, would he? Keep her stranded on a boat? Ha. Angel couldn't stop her grin. "Thank you very much for your offer, Logan. I'd love to stay."
"All right!" Michael bounced again—she couldn't wait to try that when she was alone—but his father looked a little green around the gills.
"Michael, I don't think—" The little black box on Logan's hip started playing music. He glanced at it and exhaled. "I need to take this call. We'll discuss Angel staying with us when I'm done."
Long legs carried him fluidly off the boat and up the dock, one arm swinging, head held high as he spoke into the box.
She had studied the way her brother Reel walked hundreds of times. He was the only two-legged Mer in their world, but walking was so different when Logan—Humans—did it. The lack of buoyancy on land made the flexion and extension of the muscles slightly different, requiring the ability to balance between two shifting appendages, the heel-toe rhythm, the contractions of his gluteus maximus ...
"What happened to your tail, Angel? Is it going to grow back? Are you gonna stay here forever? Can I tell Logan that you're a mermaid?" Michael bounced beside her, his whisper loud enough to carry on the warm sea breeze.
Angel guided Michael to a pull-down bench behind the captain's chair, stepping on the lid of the catch box on the deck to make sure it was closed securely. No need for Logan to discover where she'd stowed away last night to escape Harry. Nor that Michael had seen her, helped her, and hid her. All under his father's unsuspecting nose.
She tugged Logan's soft shirt beneath her as she sat. She'd forgotten the nudity part of the transformation. Thank the gods Logan had thought so fast. "My tail will come back if any seawater touches it, so it's very important that doesn't happen around grown-ups, okay?"
Michael's little chest puffed out as he sat on the cushion next to her. "I'm the only one who knows about you, aren't I?"
Angel tapped the rim of his hat. "Yes, you are. And I wasn't even supposed to let you know, so we definitely can't tell Logan."
"Are you gonna get in trouble?"
So much it wasn't funny. Unless she could make this situation work to her advantage. "Not if we keep my tail a secret, okay?"
Yes, Rod, her brother the High Councilman, would be so proud of the lies.
Truth was, she wasn't either, but what could she do? Harry had been all about getting a Mer meal last night, and she'd been the only one around. So she could either have climbed aboard the fishing boat, or ...
Or nothing. Harry or the boat. There was no other choice.
Excerpted from Catch of a Lifetime by Judi Fennell. Copyright © 2010 Judi Fennell. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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