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Sharp, painful jabs of sunlight forced open Claudia Stuart's eyelids. She squinted against her pillow, trying to focus on her surroundings through bleary eyes.
"Oh my God."
The soft mewl of agony felt like a shout. Wincing, she fought against the pounding beat of a headache that reverberated throughout her aching body. She tried to center herself by focusing on any one part of her body that wasn't sore. None existed.
A faint, persistent sound filtered through her pain. For a moment, she imagined she was in her own familiar apartment with foghorns from San Francisco Bay echoing in the distance. Her senses slowly emerged from the blanketing haze. She wasn't in San Francisco. She was in Las Vegas. And there was an odd noise coming from the far side of her bed.
Stretching out a shaky hand to balance herself against the spinning room, Claudia brushed against something warm, solid, and most definitely male. She gasped and twisted around to see a dark head partially buried in a mass of tangled covers. A frightening thought reared its ugly head.
The very idea churned her stomach. Franklin had made his intentions clear. She'd made hers even clearer–no. If he somehow breached her defenses and took advantage…
Claudia shook her head. Not possible. She would never be that drunk. Besides, Franklin was in San Francisco. He had no idea she'd gone to Las Vegas. He thought her safely on vacation, visiting her brother in Twentynine Palms, California.
So, if not Franklin, who was she in bed with?
Please don't let him be a stranger.
Or maybe she should be hoping he was a stranger,then she'd never have to face him again.
She squinted at the waves of dark hair.
Wavy? With growing horror she realized that the head nestled next to hers was clipped military-style, with the hair along the side cut tight and the top allowed to grow a little longer, permitting the errant waves.
"Oh my God!"
The loud croak of disbelief aggravated her headache. Claudia didn't care. This was too horrible to believe. It couldn't be! It just couldn't! Of all the men in the world, why this one?
She lashed out under the covers with one foot, whacking him squarely in the rump. "Get out! What are you doing in my bed?"
A muffled "oomph" and a string of curses emerged from the pile of sheets.
"What the hell?"
He bolted upright, clutching the edge of the sheet to him like a maiden bride. It did little to cover his naked body.
Claudia's eyes widened. It was Zach Taylor! What was he doing here, in her hotel room, in her bed? More to the point, what was he doing in her bed without any clothes on? But if the tingle between her legs was any indication, she already knew the answer.
Copyright © 2002 Catherine Snodgrass & Bryndis Rubin