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Alone and expecting, Eva needed to find a husband...at least a temporary one. And with Adam she was certain she'd have no ...
Alone and expecting, Eva needed to find a husband...at least a temporary one. And with Adam she was certain she'd have no trouble ending the charade. But she hadn't expected Adam to be so compelling, so sexy...so male. Nor did she guess that she'd start to crave their moments together with a need that took her breath away.
Adam Grayson shifted the telephone receiver from his ear and leaned forward to stare through the crack in his door. Eva Burgess, the only person visible in the hall of Sheffert, Logan and Brace, Certified Public Accountants, was pouring hot water from the coffee machine into a hefty mug. Her dark hair was pulled back in an ever-present twist. The clean lines of her pale green business suit tried but failed to hide her tantalizing curves. But it was her legs, shapely and long and drop-dead sexy, despite her low-heeled shoes that were the stuff of which fantasies were made. Adam tugged at his collar. Had the air-conditioning buckled under the unusual September heat, or had his own cooling system gone on the fritz?
Eva briefly met his gaze, little more than a flash of her eyes, before she quickly turned away.
"Grayson, you still there?" Weckworth gruffly muttered as Adam pressed the receiver back to his ear.
"Yeah, I'm here." Which was a damn shame. He'd much rather be drifting somewhere off the coast of Jamaica on his thirty-five-foot sailboat, Eva Burgess stretched out on deck, the hot, exotic sun melting away her truckload of inhibitions and tingeing her skin with color.
Adam swiveled his chair around, away from the door and junior partner Eva Burgess. He rubbed his forehead, censuring himself for lusting after a woman who was supposed to be one of his superiors. Especially since a few days before she'd turned down his dinner invitation. Though his come-on had little to do with Eva's legs, and more to do withwhat she knew about her wily boss, her rejection had bothered Adam in a way that wasn't in the least professional.
John Weckworth cursed in his ear. "You've been at that place too long. You're starting to act like an accountant. Did you even hear a word I said?"
"I am an accountant," Adam reminded John.
"You may be a CPA, but you're no ordinary accountant, Grayson. You're one of the best field agents in the FBI Financial Crimes Unit. Big difference."
Maybe. Adam stared at a boring sketch he'd inherited three weeks earlier from Oliver Pinney, his office's previous occupant. He lowered his voice to prevent anyone from overhearing. "Anyway, yes, I got what you said. You told me you can't justify keeping me on the job any longer."
"Nada, nothing, zip. That's what three weeks of trying to nail Sheffert for tax evasion has gotten us. You're losing it, Grayson. Two years ago, you would have had Sheffert strung up by the shorts in a week."
"Yeah, and two years ago I was infiltrating militia groups trying to figure out who was actually financing their adventures. Not some nickel-and-dime accounting firm whose senior partner happens to have a couple of criminal friends and knows how to hide his dirty laundry."
"Don't forget, he also knows how to hide a body or two, that is, if Pinney's ever shows up," John said. "Now, you got anything on this guy, or should I pull you out?"
Adam straightened his blue-and-red-striped tie, half of him wanting to tell Weckworth to shut down the entire operation. He'd had it with playing Adam Gardner, the socially challenged CPA. And he was especially tired of hiding behind a pair of geeky glasses and cheesy, off-therack business suits. Besides, the day marked the beginning of Labor Day weekend and Norman Sheffert was off to the Cape until Tuesday. Adam had already tapped out his sources at Dun & Bradstreet Corp. in New York, finding no trace of the usual a.k.a."s for any of Sheffert's clients, or hidden assets. And his use of the program NetMap on Sheffert's main computer had also failed to turn up any evidence of collusion and fraud.
Adam's muscles bunched and he rolled his shoulders, admitting that despite the drawbacks of the assignment, the blasted competitive side of him refused to admit defeat. And there was the fact that he'd yet to gain exclusive access to two key accounts: Honeycutt and Rockwood. Not that he expected to find anything useful in them. The rest of the accounts he'd reviewed had been so remarkably clean, he'd been surprised they hadn't reeked of virtual detergent.
He scratched his chin. There was that one little avenue left unexplored by way of Eva Burgess, Sheffert's right-hand gal. Besides, if he left, he couldn't enjoy ogling her legs anymore.
He bit back a curse. John was right. He was losing it. "Look, John."
Someone rapped lightly on the door frame. He swung around to find Eva standing there, smiling anxiously.
"Sorry," she said quickly. "I didn't realize you were on the phone."
Adam snapped up in his chair and waved her in. He didn't try to check his surprise. Eva hadn't come to his office once in the past three weeks. "No problem, I'm almost done here. Come in and have a seat."
"Grayson? Damn it, what's going on? Are we still having a conversation or what?" Weckworth's voice echoed from the receiver.
Adam ignored John's baiting question and concentrated instead on Eva.
If he didn't know better, he'd think she was nervous about something. But nothing rattled Eva Burgess. He watched her smooth down the side of her suit jacket several times before finally stepping toward the cafeteria-like chair in front of his desk. She put her steaming mug on his desk, then shifted the mountain of files on top of the chair to the floor.Adam fought not to eye the way she tugged on the hem of her skirt to keep it from riding up as she crossed those marvelous legs.
"Grayson?" Weckworth barked.
Adam budged his gaze to stare into Eva's face. He honestly didn't know what intrigued him about the woman. She wasn't his type. Sure, she had a lot going for her in the looks department, but he met enough challenges in his career. For that reason alone he preferred flirty types who knew the power of their femininity. The sort of women who were undemanding when he moved on, as he always did, for reasons he told himself were professionalâ€¦though even he admitted to questioning those arguments lately.
Still, he'd never dated a dynamic ice queen of Eva's caliber. He didn't plan to, either. Life was too short.
He grimaced. Then why did he want to jump in a cold shower every time he saw her?
Eva must have taken his silence to mean she should speak, for she quietly cleared her throat.
"I need a favor, Adam. A big favor. Will you, I mean, can you!" She drew a deep breath, then blurted, "Marry me, tonight?"
Adam nearly dropped the telephone. Every last thought in his head rushed out, leaving him uncommonly speechless. His gaze brushed Eva from head to toe. He searched for a sign that this was some sort of bad joke, a candid-camera prank that would leave him looking the fool.
Eva Burgess appeared dead serious.
Coughing, Adam dragged the receiver back to his mouth, purposely keeping his words ambiguous. "Uh I'll call you back."
The tinny sound of Weckworth's voice echoed through the otherwise silent room as Adam missed the cradle once before finally hanging up the receiver.
He sat forcefully back in his chair, causing the springs to give a punctuating squeak. Had Eva Burgess said what he thought she'd said? He narrowed his eyes. He'd come across many a bold proposal in his time, but this outranked them all.
He couldn't resist a hesitant grin. "Don't you think we should try dinner first?"
She blinked at him, eyeing the relaxed, unperturbed way he sprawled in the chair. Instantly, Adam sat straight. For a moment the baffling woman had made him forget his role. Big mistake.
"Uh, sorry, it's just that what you saidâ€¦well, I must have been hearing things, because I could swear you just asked me to marry you and!" Adam let his sentence drift off into a hesitant never-never land.Atactic that worked well even for a geek. It placed the other person in the position of finishing.
A warm blush colored Eva's cheeks. "That didn't quite come out the way I planned. I!" She gestured with her hands. Hands that usually stayed clasped before her, whether on her desk, or at the conference table. Adam found her gesturing more natural. "I don't mean that I literally want you to marry me. That would be."
"Ludicrous," he supplied.
A wary shadow darkened her eyes. "Yes. It would be ludicrous. I mean, we haven't even known each other three weeks, and then only at work."
She suddenly stopped and Adam stomped down the urge to apply the silent treatment to get her to spill more. He used his index finger to push the bridge of his glasses up on his nose. "Then what is it you are asking meâ€¦exactly?"
Her throat contracted as she swallowed. "I need someone to be my husband this weekend. I mean, someone to play the part of my husband."
Adam eyed her. "I see. And, naturally, I'm the first person you thought of for the role."
She frowned and smoothed back her already smooth hair. "The fourth, actually. If it helps any, you are the first I've asked." Her cheeks burned a bright scarlet. "I've been putting together a speech all day, and for the life of me, I can't remember a single word of it." She smiled, obviously frazzled. Not at all like the woman he'd come to know. "You see, my mother called this morning. My father's illâ€¦how ill, I'm not sure. But it must be serious for my mother to summon me home. Anyway, I promised to come tomorrow. My mother ended the conversation saying she looked forward to seeing me andâ€¦well, my husband."
Adam carefully listened to her words. What did any of this have to do with him? In all honesty, he hadn't known Eva Burgess was married. She didn't wear a ring, and still wasn't, a quick glance verified. No one around the firm knew much about her private life. Not that that surprised him. When he'd asked her out, her refusal had been about as warm as an Arctic wind. And any attempts at forming a casual friendship with her around the coffee machine had earned him little more than one-sided polite chitchat. On his side.
She had to be in dire straits indeed to have shared that much of herself with him.
Adam pulled on the tail of his tie and tried to work his way around his surprise.
"Then I'd say it would be a good idea to take your husband," he said carefully. She dropped her gaze. "You do have a husband, don't you?"
"Yes. I mean no." She reached for her mug on the desktop, nearly spilling the contents of what he guessed was tea as she lifted the cup to her lips. She appeared to have difficulty swallowing. "At least I did. Weâ€¦our divorce was recently finalized."
Adam felt an instant twinge of relief. She was divorced. Good. No possessive husband to worry about when they sailed off into the wild blue yonder for a weekend of hot sex. He picked up a pencil and tapped it against the desk, feigning a fumble that sent the pencil flying to the floor in front of Eva. She put her cup down and bent to retrieve the pencil. The crisp V neck of her white blouse under her jacket bowed open, giving the briefest, tiniest flash of creamy lace. Adam stifled a groan.
She handed the pencil back to him. "I see. Your parents don't know about your recent difficulties?" he murmured.
His gaze must have lingered a little longer than he intended for she tugged at the lapels of her jacket, pulling them tightly together over her blouse. "No. No, they don't. My parents live in Louisiana. A place some seventy miles southwest of New Orleans. The town's little more than a bayou village called Belle Rivage. Not exactly nearby."
Louisiana? Adam arched an eyebrow. He was usually pretty good with accents, but hadn't pegged hers. She must have moved to Jersey some time ago and made a conscious effort to train the accent out of her throaty voice.
"My family has never met Bill"that's my ex-husband" in case you're wondering how I could pull this off."
Adam committed the name to memory.
Eva leaned forward earnestly. "Look, I know this is a lot to ask, but if you agree to play the role of my husband, I promise you won't have to stay longer than a day. I'll explain you have to get back to work, and keep you away from the family as much as possible. I'll foot all the expenses, of course, and even include a side trip to New Orleans if you'd like. A bonus, of sorts, for doing this for me."
Adam toyed with his tie, hoping she would buy the nervous gesture. He considered the opportunity she just handed him. At a virtual dead end in his attempts to get any damning evidence against Norman Sheffert, Eva was opening a door he was loath to close. She was his last hope in this investigation. Being in close contact with her for twenty-four hours meant he would have access not only to her personal effects, but to her and whatever knowledge she had of her employer's illegal dealings.
Besides, taking her up on her offer meant spending more time near the woman herself.
Adam hesitated. Accepting the offer too hastily would not only put his undercover status at risk. He had little doubt it would make him suspect in Eva's eyes as well, despite her urgent behavior.
"Iâ€¦don't quite know how to respond to this," he said, pretending an interest in straightening the business cards in a holder on his desk. "In the words of Spock, this request of yours is highly illogical."
The beginnings of a smile softened her harried expression. "Why doesn't it surprise me that you quote Spock?"
Adam feigned a wounded expression. "Sorry," she said quickly. "Anyway, I know howâ€¦illogical my proposal is. And I don't think I've gone about this in a very direct way, either. But I hadn't anticipated this situation and, well, I'm not very good at putting plans together so fast."
He looked up from his business cards. "Well, if I say yes, this is one way of getting my date with you, isn't it?"
Eva's gaze flicked over his face and for a moment he thought she could see right through him. "Actually, if you do agree to do this favor for me, Adam, I must insist you not try anythingâ€¦personal. I'm." she cleared her throat "I'm not looking for a relationship with any man. I think it's better we get that straight right now."
Adam watched the way she thumbed the base of her bare ring finger. "Until now, I had everything perfectly straight. But I am a bit thrown, what with your proposal of marriage and all. Even if it is only for a day."
Posted December 9, 2008
FBI Financial Crimes Unit Agent Adam Grayson is undercover working as an accountant at Sheffert, Logan and Brace, Certified Public Accountants, in order to find evidence of income tax evasion by partner Norman Sheffert. The assignment is boring except for his boss at the firm junior partner Eva Burgess, the star of his daydreams and night fantasies. Not only has she refused to date him, his Fed superior Wentworth informs him the case is a bust unlike Adam¿s efforts following the terrorist money trail.--------------- However, Eva asks the ¿geeky¿ Adam for a favor. She needs a temporary spouse to take home with her when she visits her ailing father, as she has just gotten a divorce and her parents, who never met her husband, are unaware that she is single. . He agrees as he sees this is his last chance to salvage the investigation not the official one involving Sheffert, but the personal one between Adam and Eva.----------------- This is delightful reprint of the first team Carirngton tale from the early 1990s and surprisingly in spite of the Internet explosion the story line holds up quite nicely. Readers will appreciate Adam¿s brain turning to mush as the CPA operative cannot think with his upper head when Eva is nearby. Though pretending a husband seems inappropriate even with good intentions, new readers will see why fans have a CONSTANT CRAVING for more from this authoring duo.----------- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.