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It was the most glorious kind of morning, and Teddi Whitehall leaned dreamily on the windowsill of the dormitory room overlooking the courtyard below, watching the pigeons waddle like old men over the cobblestones.
The buildings on college campus were romantically Gothic, like something out of another century. But its green and flowering grounds were what Teddi liked most. They were a welcome change from the sophisticated New York apartment where she had to spend her holidays.
She leaned her face on her crossed arms with a sigh and drank in the smells and sounds of the early morning. She dreaded the time when she'd have to board the plane back to New York, away from the exclusive
Connecticut college and her friend and roommate Jenna. There was a chill in the June air, and the beige gown that complemented Teddi's short dark hair and huge brown eyes was hardly proof against it. It was a good thing that Jenna had already gone downstairs, she thought, and couldn't chide her about her impulsiveness in throwing open the window.
Jenna wasn't impulsive. In that, she was like her older brother. Teddi shivered delicately. Just the thought of Kingston Devereaux was enough to cause that reaction. They'd clashed from the very beginning. The big rancher with his Australian drawl and cutting smile might have sent the other girls in the dormitory into swoons, but he only made Teddi want to turn away. He'd made his contempt for her more than evident during the years she'd been friends with his sister. And it was all because of a false impression he had, which nothing she said could change. His snap judgments were as unfair as his treatment of Teddi, and she dreaded visits to the Canadian ranch with Jenna. Teddi had an uncomfortable feeling that Jenna was getting ready to spring another invitation on her, since they were both free until fall quarter began. Kingston Devereaux would fly his plane over from Calgary to get Jenna, and Teddi would find excuses to avoid him as usual
She shook her head miserably. At least Jenna had a mother and brother to go home to. Teddi had no one. Her aunt, who was her only living relative, was somewhere on the Riviera with her latest lover. The New York apartment Teddi shared with her on holidays
was going to be particularly empty now. At least there would be plenty of modeling offers forthcoming, she was assured of that. She'd been modeling since her fifteenth birthday. She was blessed with good bone structure and eyes so large and poignant that one of her boyfriends had likened them to a doe's. The modeling agency that handled her was proud of its star clientif they had a complaint, it was that she was being wasted in the halls of academia.
She felt suddenly chilled to the bone and drew back into the room, closing the window with nervous hands. Modeling was the sore spot with Kingston, who had the immutable opinion that models and virtue didn't mix. It hadn't helped that Teddi's aunt was notorious for her affairs. Kingston was an oldfashioned man with narrowminded views on modern permissiveness. He might have an affair himself, but he had nothing but contempt for women who indulged. And he was certain Teddi did.
She'd never forgotten her introduction to him. She'd met Jenna at boarding school when she was just fifteen, and the two girls had become fast friends. She'd expected Jenna's family to be equally friendly and caring, and had received the shock of her young life when Kingston Devereaux had shown up at Christmas to fly Jenna home to the ranch outside Calgary for the holidays.
His first reaction to Teddi had been strangely hostile, a long, lingering appraisal that had touched Teddi like a cold finger against her bare skin. Jenna's gay announcement that she'd invited Teddi for the holidays
had been met with a cold, gray glare and a reluctant acceptance that had spoiled the trip for her. She'd done everything but move outside to keep out of the big man's way. Then, and since.
She shook off the memories along with her gown, and slipped into a silky beige pantsuit that her aunt had mailed to her for Easterone of a number of presents that were supposed to take the place of love and affection. Teddi ran a comb through her short, thick hair and decided against makeup. Her complexion was naturally olive, her lips had a color all their own, and her longlashed eyes never needed enhancing. She slipped into a pair of lowheeled shoes and went downstairs to find Jenna, idly wondering why her roommate had rushed out in the first place.
She started into the dormitory lounge and stopped, frozen, in the doorway. Jenna was sitting stiffly on the couch, facing a big, elegantly dressed man with goldstreaked blond hair.
" And I said no," Kingston Devereaux stated flatly, his back to the doorway, his Australian accent thick. "She's not going to turn my damned cattle station upside down again the way she did at Easter. Can you see the men getting any work done? Hell, they do nothing but stare at her."
"She won't cause any trouble," Jenna retorted in defense of her friend, venom in her normally sweet tone. Her gray eyes, so much like Kingston's, were flashing with anger. "King, she's nothing like her aunt, she's not what you think !"
"Too right, baby, she isn't rich, and she's never going to be, unless she can get her claws into some poor, trusting male." He rammed his big hands into the pockets of his slacks, stretching the expensive gray fabric across his flat stomach, his powerful, broad thighs. "Well, she isn't going to spend the summer making cow's eyes at my menor at me," he added with a bitter laugh.
Teddi, listening, blushed. That Easter vacation had haunted her.
"King!" Jenna gasped. "You must know that Teddi's frightened of you, you've made sure of it. She'd never."
"Wouldn't she?" he growled. "Surely you noticed the way she stared at me during Easter? An Easter I'd have preferred spending alone with my family," he added with a cruel smile. "Mother should have had another daughter to keep you company, then maybe you wouldn't spend your life picking up strays!"
Teddi's face went white. She stood there like a wounded little animal, her huge eyes misty with the hurt, and Kingston turned at that moment and saw her. The expression on his broad, hard face was almost comical.
"Oh, Teddi," Jenna wailed, grimacing as she, too, caught sight of her and realized that her friend had heard every harsh word of the conversation.
Teddi straightened proudly. "Hello, Jenna," she said softly. "II just wondered if you wanted to have breakfast with me. I'll be at the dining hall."
"King came early," Jenna said helplessly, with a shrug. "We were talking about vacation."
"You'll enjoy yours, I'm sure," Teddi said, forcing a smile to her full, faintly pouting lips. "I'll go ahead."
"I want you to come to the ranch for the summer," Jenna said with a defiant glance at Kingston.
"No, thanks," Teddi said quietly.
"King won't even be there part of the time," the smaller girl said sharply, tossing her long, pale blond hair.
Teddi glanced at the taciturn rancher, whose jaw was clenched taut. "I've spent quite enough of my holidays being treated like an invading disease," she said deliberately. "I'd rather spend this one alone, and I'm sure your brother will be delighted to have his family to himself," she added venomously.
"Teddi" Jenna began.
"I've got modeling assignments lined up, anyway," Teddi added truthfully with a last, killing glare at Kingston as she turned. "Why spend my vacation on a ranch when I can seduce half the men in New York while I make my fortune? " Her lower lip was trembling, but no one could see it now. "Thanks anyway, Jenna, thanks a lot. You can't help it that you've got an insufferable snob for a brother!"
And on that defiant note, she stormed out of the dormitory into the sunshine, her back rigid, the tears welling up in her smoldering eyes.
She walked over the cobblestones numbly, the tears
coming in hot abundance, trickling down into her mouth. How could he be so cruel, how could he? The conceited ass! As if any woman would be stupid enough to get herself emotionally involved with that arrogant Australian the gall of him to accuse her of making cow's eyes at him! She flushed at the memory. He'd never let her live down her foolish behavior at Easter; if only she'd realized that he was teasing .
She fished in her pocket for a tissue. As usual, there wasn't one. She brushed the back of her hand angrily across her cheeks, hating her own weakness. She'd write to Jenna, he couldn't stop her from doing that, and they'd be together when the fall quarter started. Kingston couldn't keep them from being friends, after all. He'd never had a chance once they'd enrolled at the same college.
She passed a couple of her classmates and tried to smile a greeting just as a lean, commanding hand caught her arm and jerked her around, marching her to the shade of a nearby oak.
"Running again?" Kingston Devereaux asked curtly, his glittering eyes biting into hers. "You've done a lot of that."
"Selfpreservation, Mr. Devereaux," she replied coldly, brushing wildly at one stray tear. "You make me forget that I'm a lady."
"A lady?" he drawled. "You?" His eyes ran down her slender body, over the high young breasts and down the tiny waist and sweetly curving hips to her long, graceful legs in their clinging cover.
"Oh, excuse mein your exalted opinion, that's a title I don't deserve," she replied coolly.
"Too right," he ground out. He lifted his broad shoulders restlessly. "Jenna's back at the dormitory crying her damned eyes out," he added roughly. "I didn't come all this way to upset her."
"Upsetting people is one of your greatest talents," Teddi told him, glaring back.
One eyebrow went up as he studied her face. "Careful, tiger," he drawled. "I bite back."
Teddi wrapped her arms around herself, turning her attention to passing students. "You've done nothing but attack me for the past five years," she reminded him. "And for your information, Mr. Devereaux," she added hotly, "if I stared, it was out of apprehension, wondering what minute you were going to start something!"
"You started it the last time, darling," he reminded her, smiling coldly at the blush she couldn't prevent. "Didn't you?"
She didn't like being reminded of that fiasco, and her eyes told him so. She turned away.
"How long did it take you to perfect that pose of innocence?" he asked.
"Oh, years," she assured him. "I started while a
He looked down his arrogant nose at her. The sunlight made gold streaks in his dark blond hair. "You didn't get to your particular rung on the modeling ladder without giving out a little, honey. You'll never convince me otherwise."
"Why bother to try?" she countered. "You're so fond of the playgirl image you've foisted on me. And you're never wrong, are you?"
"Not often," he agreed. "And never about women," he added, with just a trace of sensuality in his deep drawl.
She supposed that he'd had his share of women. Her own small experience of him had been devastating. He had an eyecatching physique and when he liked, he could be charming. Teddi, having seen him stripped to the waist more than once, couldn't find a fault in him. A picture of his bronzed, hairroughened muscles danced in front of her eyes, and she shook her head to get that disturbing memory out of her mind. Kingston disturbed her physically, he always had, and she disliked the sensations as much as she disliked him. He was the enemy, she mustn't ever lose sight of that fact.
"You know very little about the type of modeling I do," she said numbly.
"More than you think," he corrected. "We have a mutual acquaintance."
She let that enigmatic remark fly right over her head as she started walking.
"Going somewhere?" he challenged.
"To inflict myself on someone else over breakfast," she agreed cheerfully. "Strangely enough, there are people who don't think of me as a walking, talking 8 x 10 glossy photograph."
"Fair dinkum?" he murmured, falling into step beside her.
She glared at him. "Believe what you like about me, I don't care." But of course she cared, she always had. She'd gone out of her way to try to make Kingston like her, to earn even the smallest word of praise from him. But she'd never accomplished that, and she never would.
"You can have breakfast with Jenna and me," he said after a minute, as if the words choked him. They probably had, she thought miserably.
"No, thanks," she said politely. "I can't eat wondering if you've had time to sprinkle arsenic over my bacon and eggs."