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Shoulders hunched against the icy sleet pounding Germany's Dresden International Airport, Devon McShay grimaced at the Christmas carols belting from the outdoor loudspeakers.
"Okay," she muttered under her breath. "Call me Mrs. Scrooge. Call me the Grinchette. Call me the ultimate Krank. I hate this time of year."
Well, that wasn't totally true. The hopeless idealist in her still wanted to believe people might someday actually heed the messages of joy and peace the season signified. If they could get past the crass commercialization, that is. Not to mention the hole they dug for themselves every year by splurging on gifts they couldn't afford.
Her parents' increasingly bitter arguments over finances had always peaked this time of year and led eventually to an even more bitter divorce. Christ-mases after that had become a battleground, with each parent trying to outdo the other to win a daughter's love.
Devon's own holiday track record was just as dismal. As she sloshed through ankle-deep slush toward the terminal, she shook her head at her incredible idiocy in falling for a too-handsome, too-cocky newscaster at Dallas's Channel Six. Silly her, she'd actually thought she'd broken the Christmas curse when Blake caught her under the mistletoe and slipped a diamond on her finger. Exactly one year later, she'd walked into the station to find her husband with his hand under the miniskirt of a female Santa and his tongue halfway down her throat.
Devon had put her jerk of an ex out of her life, but even now, three years later, she couldn't work up any enthusiasm for colored lights or eggnog. That's why she'd jumped at the chance to avoid yet another season of forced Christmas cheer when her friend and business partner came down with the flu yesterday, mere hours before she was supposed to leave for Germany.
Devon, Sabrina Russo and Caroline Walters had been friends before they became business partners. They'd met while spending their junior year at the University of Salzburg. Filled with the dreams and enthusiasm of youth, the three coeds had formed a fast friendship.
They'd maintained that friendship long-distance in the years that followed. Until last May, when they'd met for a minireunion. After acknowledging that their lives so far hadn't lived up to their dreams, they'd decided to pool resources, educational backgrounds and interests. Two months later, they'd quit their respective jobs, relocated to Virginia and launched European Business Services, Incorporated. EBS for short. Specializing in arranging transportation, hotels, conference facilities and translation services for busy executives.
The venture was still at the risky stage. The three friends had sunk most of their savings into start-up costs. EBS now had an office, a small staff and a slew of international advertising. They'd landed a few jobs, but nothing big until the call from Cal Logan's executive assistant.
Turns out Logan had played football in college with one of Sabrina's old boyfriends. Said boyfriend had tipped his pal to EBS when Logan mentioned his people were scrambling to lay on a short-notice trip to Germany. Sabrina had worked twenty hours straight on the prep work and had been all set to hop a plane yesterday afternoon when the bug hit.
So here Devon was, her chin buried in a hot pink pashmina shawl, her toes frozen inside her stacked heel boots and her ears assaulted by a booming rendition of "O Tannenbaum," on her way to meet their first major client.
He'd been scheduled to arrive earlier this morning, but his assistant had called to say his corporate jet had been grounded due to icing. After considerable effort, she'd gotten him on the last commercial flight out before JFK shut down completely.
Ah, the joys of traveling this time of year! Conditions here in Dresden weren't much better. Sleet had been coming down all day. Praying her client's plane made it in before this airport closed, too, Devon hurried into the terminal.
Her breath whistled out in a sigh of relief when Logan exited Customs. She recognized him right away from the newspaper and magazine articles Sabrina had found on the Internet during her frantic prep work.
Caleb John Logan, Jr. Thirty-one. Six-two. With jet-black hair, laser blue eyes and a linebacker's shoulders under his charcoal-gray cashmere overcoat. His jaw-dropping good looks didn't score him any points with Devon, however. She'd learned the hard way not to trust handsome heartbreakers like Cal Logan.
But he was a client. An important one. And she was willing to give someone who'd served a hitch in the Marines before earning a B.S. from the University of Oregon, an MBA from Stanford and his first million at the ripe old age of twenty-six the benefit of the doubt.
Right up until he spotted the hot pink pashmina, that is.
Sabrina had indicated she'd be wearing it, and the flash of color was certainly more visible than the sign Devon held up with his name on it. So she wasn't surprised when Logan picked her out of the crowd and cut in her direction. She'd just plastered on her best EBS smile when he whipped an arm around her waist. The next moment, she was sprawled against his cashmere-covered chest.
"Hello, Brown Eyes."
Swooping down, he covered her mouth with his.
Sheer astonishment kept Devon rooted to the spot for a few seconds while her mind whirled chaotically. Her first thought was that her client had downed a few too many drinks during the long flight. Her second, that he'd seriously mistaken the kind of escort and consulting services EBS provided. Her third shoved everything else out of her head.
Whoa, mama! The man could kiss!
His mouth moved over hers with a skill that ignited sparks at a half-dozen flash points throughout her body. Devon hadn't experienced that kind of spontaneous combustion in a while. A long while.
The sparks were still popping when she pushed off his chest, only now they fueled a flush of anger.
"Do you always greet women you don't know with a lip-lock, Mr. Logan?"
A smile crinkled the skin at the corners of his eyes. "As a matter of fact, I don't. That was from Don."
"He said he owed you one from New Year's Eve two years ago and made me promise to deliver it."
She stared up at him in total incomprehension. Logan hooked a brow and attempted to prompt a nonexistent memory.
"He abandoned you at the Waldorf. Five minutes before midnight. To deliver twins."
"I don't have a clue who or what you're"
Understanding burst like a water balloon.
"Wait a sec. Are you talking about Sabrina's old boyfriend? Your buddy, who's now an ob-gyn doc?"
It was Logan's turn to look startled. He recovered faster than Devon had, though. His smile widened into a rueful grin.
"I take it you're not Sabrina Russo."
"No, Mr. Logan, I am not. And if you'd listened to any of the voice mails we left on your cell phone in the past twenty-four hours," Devon added acidly, "you'd know Sabrina came down with the flu and couldn't make the trip."
"Sorry. I've been in the air for twenty-three of those twenty-four hours. I had to make a quick trip to the West Coast before turning right around and heading for Germany."
She knew that. Still, that was no excuse for his behavior. Or what was worse her reaction to it.
"My cell-phone battery crashed somewhere over Pennsylvania," he said, his smile holding an apology now. "I crashed somewhere over the Atlantic. Any chance we can erase what just happened and start again?"
Oh, sure. As soon as her lips stopped tingling and her nerves snapping. Reminding herself that he was a client, Devon forced a stiff nod.
"Good." He shifted his briefcase to his left hand and held out his right. "I'm Cal Logan. And you are?"
"Devon McShay. One of Sabrina's partners."
"The history professor."
So he'd done some checking on the small firm he'd hired to work the details of his five-day, three-city swing through Germany.
"Former history professor," she corrected as she led the way toward the baggage-claim area. "I quit teaching to join forces with Sabrina and Caroline at EBS."
"Quite a career shift."
"Yes, it was."
She left it at that. No need to detail her restlessness after her divorce. Or her ex's very public, very mortifying attempt at reconciliation on the six o'clock news. Dallas hadn't been big enough for both of them after that.
That was when she'd quit her job and joined forces with her two friends. Now Devon the history prof, Sabrina the one-time party girl and Caroline the shy, quiet librarian were hard-nosed businesswomen. With pretty much the future of their fledgling enterprise hanging on how well Devon handled Cal Logan's trip.
After this rocky start, she thought grimly, things weren't looking real good.
Cal matched his stride to the staccato pace of the woman at his side. She was pissed, and no wonder.
He'd pulled some real boners in his time. This one ranked right up near the top of the list.
He'd never intended to follow through on his buddy's joking suggestion that he deliver a long-delayed New Year's Eve kiss. Then he'd exited Customs and spotted the woman he'd assumed was Sabrina Russo.
Tall and slender, with dark auburn hair caught up in a loose twist, she would have snagged any man's attention. Her high, sculpted cheekbones and the thick lashes fringing her brown eyes had certainly snagged Cal's.
Brown Eyes. Don's nickname for the woman he'd dated briefly. Except she wasn't that woman. And her eyes, Cal saw now, weren't brown. More like caramel, rich and dark, with a hint of gold in their depths.
Then there was that scarf. The hot color should have clashed with her red hair. Instead, it seemed to shout at the world to sit up and take notice.
Cal had noticed, all right. Now he'd damned well better unnotice.
Fun was fun, but he didn't need the kind of distraction Devon McShay could represent. Logan Aerospace had too much riding on the delicate negotiations that had forced him to cancel an entire week's appointments and hustle over to Germany.
"I confirmed your meeting with Herr Hauptmann for two p.m.," she informed him as suitcases began to rattle onto the baggage carousel. "I also requested early check-in at the hotel if you'd like to swing by there first."
He scraped a palm across the bristles on his jaw. Given the time change, it was late morning here in Dresden but still the middle of the night U.S. time. Cal needed a shower, a shave and a full pot of coffee in him before his two o'clock meeting. As he waited for his leather carryall and suit bag to make an appearance, he gave Ms. McShay and EBS full marks for recognizing that fact.
Great start, Devon thought while her client filled out a search form for his missing luggage. Just terrific.
Logan had shrugged off the inconvenience with the comment that his American Express would cover the expense of delayed or lost luggage. Meanwhile Devon would have to scramble to supply him with everything from a clean shirt to pajamas.
Assuming he wore pj's. Maybe he went to bed commando. An instant, vivid image leaped into her head and refused to leap out.
Oh, for Pete's sake! She'd known the man for all of fifteen minutes and already she was imagining him naked. Disgusted, Devon tried to put the brakes on her runaway thoughts. The announcement that blared over the loudspeaker at that moment brought them to a screeching halt.
"Aufmerksamkeit, Damen und Herren."
Her head cocked, she listened as an official announced in German, English and Japanese that all flights in and out of Dresden were canceled until further notice. A chorus of groans went up inside the terminal.
By the time she escorted her client to the exit, a mile-long line of travelers was huddled in their overcoats at the taxi stand. To make matters worse, pickup and drop-off traffic had snarled every lane. The limo Devon called on her cell phone couldn't get through the logjam.
Lord, she hated this time of year!
"The driver says he's stuck two terminals over," she related to Logan. "Traffic's not moving an inch. We can wait inside until he gets here. Or we could walk," she added with a dubious glance at the sleet still plummeting from a gunmetal-gray sky.
"I don't mind stretching my legs, but are you sure you're dressed warm enough to walk?"
Except for her boots, she admitted silently as she wove a path through the lines of frustrated travelers. Served her right for choosing style over practicality. The stacked heels and slick leather soles made for treacherous going on the icy pavement. Logan caught her as her foot almost went out from under her.
"At the risk of making an ass of myself for the second time in less than a half hour," he said solemnly, "may I suggest you hang on to me?"
Devon was only too glad to hook her elbow through his. She was also all too aware of the strength in the arm covered by layers of wool and cashmere.