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Come Toy with Me (Harlequin Blaze Series #437)

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Overview

Rugged Dino Angelis, navy captain and special ops agent, has the family Sight. But even that couldn't have prepared him for his hungry reaction to Cat McGuire--toy-store owner, smuggling ring suspect...and his new charge.

Only, Dino can't believe the sexy woman under his protection is a crook. Not when she can plant a kiss hot enough to melt all his good intentions...

For Cat, Christmas is always a hectic season. But this year she's agreed to a...

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Come Toy with Me (Harlequin Blaze Series #437)

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Overview

Rugged Dino Angelis, navy captain and special ops agent, has the family Sight. But even that couldn't have prepared him for his hungry reaction to Cat McGuire--toy-store owner, smuggling ring suspect...and his new charge.

Only, Dino can't believe the sexy woman under his protection is a crook. Not when she can plant a kiss hot enough to melt all his good intentions...

For Cat, Christmas is always a hectic season. But this year she's agreed to a fake engagement, too, just to keep the family peace. It wouldn't be so bad, if only Cat could keep her hands off her new fiancé. After all, he's strong, he's sexy...he's the perfect boy toy. Or he is--until Cat discovers she's just another one of his assignments....

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780373794416
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 12/1/2008
  • Series: Harlequin Blaze Series , #437
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 4.21 (w) x 6.62 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Did Cara Summers always dream of becoming a writer? Absolutely not!

At the age of six, she wanted to become the next Mother Teresa. At eight, her goal was to become a P.I. and drive a car just like Nancy Drew's. In junior high, her interests shifted to science, and she believed that brain surgery was in her future. Then in high school and college, she threw herself into the performing arts and set her sights on a career as a Broadway musical comedy star!

Falling in love and getting married caused her to modify those plans somewhat, and she decided a teaching certificate and a steady paycheck might come in handy. It wasn't until she was sharing most of her waking hours with two little boys under the age of three that she thought of writing (or perhaps moving to a private room in a nice quiet mental hospital).

It was Cara's mom who saved her sanity by handing her a romance novel and saying, "Why don't you try this?"

She did, and it started her thinking. Hadn't her sixth-grade teacher told her what a good writer she was? And there was the award she'd won from the Detroit News for a short, short story she wrote when she was 16....

Was Cara instantly successful in achieving her new dream of becoming a published writer? Absolutely not! It wasn't until she'd battled her way through her fourth romance novel that she made her first sale to Harlequin Temptation.

Ten books later, is Cara happy with her new career? Absolutely! (It's only on the days when her characters are giving her trouble that she wonders if maybe brain surgery would be easier.)

Cara lives in upstate New York with her three sons. When she isn't writing, she teachesinthe Writing Program at Syracuse University and at a community college near her home. Her current hobbies are reading, running, and in-line skating.

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Read an Excerpt

If you have plans for Christmas, cancel them."

Retired Colonel James McGuire fired the order at him the moment Dino Angelis strolled into the office on the top floor of the Merceri Bank Building. Dino took his time walking across the expanse of Oriental carpet as he studied the tall, gruff-spoken man standing behind the carved oak desk.

Admiral Robert Maxwell, Dino's boss, had described his oldest and dearest friend accurately. James McGuire was a tall, lean man in his early sixties who despite his white hair appeared to be several years younger. McGuire had retired from the army two years previously and married his second wife, Gianna Merceri, who would one day inherit the Merceri banking fortune. Since then he'd worked as a VP for the New York City branch. Though he was wearing an impeccably tailored business suit, the colonel's bearing and tone of command marked him unmistakably as ex-military.

"Much as I hate to ruin anyone's holiday, this job may take longer than either one of us would like," McGuire continued.

Dino sighed inwardly. Okay, so his hunch that he wouldn't make it home for Christmas had been right. Ninety percent of the time what his family referred to as his premonitions were extremely accurate. They'd saved his life on more than one occasion. But this would make three Christmases in a row he hadn't been with his family, and his cousin Theo was getting married on December 27th.

Not for the first time, Dino asked himself if there'd been some way of getting out of this assignment that he'd overlooked. But Admiral Maxwell owed Colonel McGuire a favor, and Dino owed his admiral, big-time. For the last two years he'd worked in special operations underMaxwell's command. Three months ago, he'd been shot on one of his missions. A bullet had come within an inch of his spine. Recuperating in hospitals in Germany and later in D.C. had given him time to reevaluate how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. He'd joined the navy because he loved the sea. He'd wanted adventure and to see the world. Plus, he'd sensed it was what he was supposed to do. Now, he wanted a job that wouldn't isolate him so completely from his cousins, his uncle and his mother. He missed the closeness, the connectedness he always found with his family. Admiral Maxwell had not only understood his decision, but he'd worked hard to expedite Dino's discharge, and Dino liked to repay his debts.

So he had committed to do a job that he knew nothing about—except that it involved McGuire's family. Of course, Maxwell had used that information as part of the bait. He knew that for Dino, family was important, given it was one of the main reasons he wanted out of the navy. McGuire also knew Dino had expressed an interest in getting into some kind of investigative or security work when he returned to civilian life and that this assignment would be a good opportunity to give it a whirl.

To make the job even more tempting, the admiral had even given Dino the business card of an old navy buddy, Jase Campbell, who was now running his own security firm in Manhattan. Dino had done his first two special ops missions for Maxwell with Jase at his side, and they'd found their styles complementary. Jase was a meticulous planner, and Dino was good at improvising and going with his hunches.

McGuire made a stabbing motion with the unlit cigar he held in his hand. "The truth is this problem I want you to solve for me may stretch into the new year."

Good thing he hadn't promised his mother that he would make it home. Of course Cass Angelis probably already knew not to expect him. Psychic powers ran strong, especially in the women on his mother's side of the family. His mother claimed the psychic abilities could be traced back to the Oracle at Delphi, and hers were particularly powerful.

When he'd been a kid, he'd been hard pressed to get away with anything. She'd always known what he was up to. But his own hunches had kept him out of scrapes on more than one occasion. Recalling that, Dino bit back a smile and re-focused his attention on the colonel.

"Perhaps you could tell me exactly what kind of a job you're offering. Admiral Maxwell said that it had something to do with a family problem, but he didn't offer any details."

Maxwell had been apologetic about that. He'd explained that his friend McGuire hadn't been forthcoming. All he'd said was that he'd needed the best man Maxwell could come up with. Dino figured that whether or not he was Maxwell's "best" man was debatable. What couldn't be argued was that he was available. With his discharge papers from the navy due to come through within the next month, he'd just been pushing papers for Maxwell at the Pentagon.

Frowning, the colonel gave Dino a brief nod as he set the cigar down on the desk. "A family problem. I suppose that's one way to describe it. My—"

The intercom on his phone interrupted him and a brisk female voice spoke. "Colonel, your daughter is returning your call. She's on line three."

"Thank you, Margie." As he reached for the phone, McGuire met Dino's eyes. "I have to take this."

Taking advantage of the opportunity, Dino glanced around the room, absorbing the details. The wall behind him was made of glass and offered a view of the waiting area—a oneway view that allowed Colonel McGuire to see anyone who stepped into the lobby. He wondered how long the colonel had been studying him while he'd been cooling his heels in the lobby.

Through the wall-to-wall window behind McGuire, Dino could see a wintry view of Central Park. The trees were bare of leaves, the ground a dismal brownish-gray, and a serious snowstorm was promised tomorrow. Over a foot of snow was being predicted and Manhattanites were looking forward to a white Christmas. Now that it was almost certain that he was going to be in the Big Apple for the holiday season, Dino was looking forward to it, too. San Francisco had never offered much in the way of white Christmases.

Bookshelves lined the wall to his right, and a large portrait of a woman graced the wall to his left. The brass plaque beneath the painting read: Lucia Merceri. Admiral Maxwell had mentioned her, describing her as the grand matriarch of the Merceri family, a woman with a will of iron. Though she lived in a villa outside of Rome, Lucia kept close track of her family members in New York. In the painting, she wore a black suit, her white hair was pulled up into a ballerina's knot, and she carried a walking cane in her right hand. But it was the dark, piercing eyes that captured Dino's attention. This was a woman who took no prisoners.

"Cat, darling, I need to see you today. How about lunch?"

At the abrupt change in the colonel's tone, Dino shifted his gaze back to him and was struck by how much his stern expression had softened.

"I know how busy you are. A toy store at Christmas—it must be total chaos. But don't you need a break? I thought I might lure you out to that place on Forty-fifth Street you like so much. You have to eat."

Dino knew that Cat McGuire was the colonel's only child by a first marriage. According to Admiral Maxwell, Nancy McGuire had died of MS when Cat was ten, and during the next eight years until Cat had entered college, the colonel had made sure that his daughter had been with him on every assignment barring those that took him directly into combat zones. Even then, McGuire had tried to station his daughter in a place where he could visit her as frequently as possible.

"A delivery?" Disappointment laced the colonel's tone. "I know there are only five shopping days left until Christmas— yes, right, four and a half. But can't one of your employees sign for it?"

The almost wheedling note in the colonel's voice surprised Dino. This man was a sharp right turn from the one who'd fired orders at him a few minutes ago. McGuire chose that moment to glance at him and wave him into a chair. It was only then that Dino realized he'd been standing at attention ever since he'd stopped in front of the desk.

But Cat McGuire evidently didn't take orders from her father. In fact, she seemed to be doing most of the talking.

Intrigued, Dino settled himself in a comfortable leather chair and stretched out his legs. His admiral's close relationship with McGuire could be traced back to the fact that they'd grown up together in Toledo, Ohio, and graduated from the same high school. Though one had gone to Annapolis and the other to West Point, their friendship had never faded. Maxwell was even Cat's godfather.

The admiral had shown him a framed photo of his goddaughter. The moment he'd glanced at it, Dino had experienced a heightening of his senses and he'd known the same way he supposed his mother knew things that the Fates were offering him something he shouldn't walk away from.

It had been the same when he'd been working special ops under Admiral Maxwell. He'd always sensed which ones to volunteer for. The danger that had lain in wait for him on his last mission had come to him in a vision. On the rare occasions that he experienced one, the image always flashed into his mind like the negative of a black-and-white photo. His pre-knowledge had probably saved his life.

When he'd been looking at Cat's picture, he'd also experienced a very strong attraction. He'd tried to rationalize it. After all, it had been a long time since he'd had a woman in his life. The kind of work he'd been doing for the past two years hadn't left time for anything personal. And she was definitely pretty with long red-blond hair and fair skin. The hint of cheekbones suggested strength and the set of her chin spoke of stubbornness.

But it was her eyes that he'd stared at the longest. They were oval-shaped and in the photo they were a glorious mix of gold and green. Cat's eyes. A man could get lost in them.

Warning bells had sounded in his mind. He was starting a new phase of his life. He wanted more contact with his family, and he needed to find out if the skills he'd been honing in the navy could be translated into a career in the private sector. That was a lot for a man to have on his plate.

It was the wrong time to become involved with a woman— especially one who pulled him the way Cat McGuire did.

Colonel McGuire picked up the cigar again and tapped it on the desk. "If lunch is out, let's meet for drinks once you close up shop… eight o'clock? I thought you closed at seven."

There was a pause, then the colonel continued, "Eight it is. How about meeting me midtown at the bar in the Algonquin?"

The cigar tapped in a faster rhythm. "All right, Patty's Pub it is—right across from your store. Eight o'clock."

When he hung up the phone, McGuire sank into his chair and sent Dino an exasperated look. "Ninety percent of the people I negotiate with are easier to manage than she is. I swear she lives and breathes that store."

"The Cheshire Cat."

"Yes. Alice in Wonderland was her favorite book when she was little." Setting down his unlit and unsmoked cigar, he narrowed his eyes on Dino. "Did my friend Maxwell fill you in on the name of the store?"

"No. I looked it up myself." He'd been curious about it, as well as its owner, so he'd paid it a visit early that morning. Merely as a little reconnaissance mission, he'd told himself. The more you knew before you took on a job, the better.

The Cheshire Cat hadn't opened yet, but he'd checked out the display windows and found himself charmed by the thematic way the toys were arranged in each one. One told a story of pirates, and the other featured a battle between a dragon and a valiant knight.

Then beyond the artfully arranged toys his attention had been caught by Cat McGuire hurrying down a wrought iron spiral staircase in the center of the store. Once she reached the bottom, she'd flown to the door and pulled it open.

Dino had experienced an even greater heightening of his senses than he'd felt when he'd looked at her photo. And no wonder. She'd been pretty enough in the picture, but in person, she was stunning. And tall. In the boots she was wearing, she had to be nearly five ten.

Though Dino had known he was staring, he couldn't seem to stop. She'd fastened her hair back from her face with some feminine bit of magic, and red-gold curls had tumbled to her shoulders. He'd wondered if they would feel warm to the touch. Silver hoops had hung from her ears, and the dark blue sweater she'd worn belted over a long flowing skirt had him thinking fancifully of gypsies dancing in the firelight.

As customers filed into the Cheshire Cat, her gaze had met his—for just an instant. He'd felt the impact like a swift, hard punch in the gut. Then his mind had emptied and all he'd been aware of was her eyes. He'd read the same startled response in them that he was feeling—a reckless, nearly overpowering desire. Then the green had darkened to the color of the Mediterranean Sea at twilight, completely alluring. What color would those eyes turn when a man made love to her? When he was inside of her?

Before he could get a handle on his thoughts, an image had flashed into his mind—he and Cat standing against a wall. Except for a few wispy pieces of lace she was naked, her bare legs wrapped around him. And he was thrusting into her, pulling out, thrusting in again.

Recalling it now, his whole body hardened, his blood heated.

"I checked you out, too," McGuire was saying.

Dino ruthlessly reined in his thoughts. But he had less luck controlling his body's reaction to the image fading from his mind.

"I don't mind telling you that I specifically asked Bobby to find me an army man."

Dino met McGuire's eyes steadily. "Admiral Maxwell told me to tell you that with a navy man you're trading up."

McGuire grinned, then broke into a full belly laugh. The sound filled the room, and Dino felt the corners of his mouth curve.

"That sounds like Bobby," McGuire said. Then his expression sobered. "I trust Bobby to have chosen the right man, and that means I trust you with my daughter's safety.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Holiday Romance

    This is a great romance, perfect for the holidays! I loved reading about another member of the wonderful Angelis family. The romance was hot and the suspense subplot exciting. Cara Summers is one of my favorite authors (I discovered her books last year) and now an "automatic buy" for me!

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