Read an Excerpt
Like A Hurricane
By Roxanne St. Claire
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLeaning against the trunk of a graceful palm tree, Quinn McGrath took a breath of salty air and studied the shallow sapphire waves of the Gulf of Mexico. The fireball that had baked the tourists on the beach all day was about to kiss an indigo horizon. Wispy clouds had turned peachy pink, and the humidity hung as the world anticipated the sun's touchdown.
But Quinn wasn't the least bit interested in the postcard view. It was the mess behind him that brought him to St. Joseph's Island in Florida.
Rolling up his shirtsleeves and blessing his decision to leave his suit jacket and tie in the rental car, he turned his experienced gaze on the ramshackle tile roof, the precarious third-floor balconies and the circa 1950 jalousie windows of Mar Brisas Resort.
No wonder the owner had canceled their late afternoon meeting via a curt e-mail. Although Quinn hadn't met the guy, he knew all he needed to know about Nick Whitaker from the broken banisters, chipped tiles and cracked soffits that hung from elegantly arched windows. Mar Brisas's owner was obviously spending his insurance money on something other than storm-damage repairs.
The change in schedule didn't bother Quinn. He saw it as an opportunity to take an anonymous tour, without Nick Whitaker to sidestep and sugarcoat the real problem areas.
Jorgensen Development Corporation could get this place for a song, he thought as he passed through the deserted pool area. All he had to do was prove to Dan Jorgensen that he knew the tune. His boss had made it plenty clear that full partnership in the development firm was the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.
The air was no cooler in the lobby. No doubt Whitaker was saving every dime by not using the air conditioner. His footsteps echoed on the Spanish tile floor, the once-cozy lobby devoid of guests and, evidently, staff. The place was spotless, he'd give it that. But he'd find the flaws.
He slipped into a stairwell and took the steps two at a time to the third floor. As soon as the door closed behind him, he heard it lock and he cursed under his breath.
At one end of the darkened hall, a stepladder leaned precariously against the wall, surrounded by a white canvas tarp and what looked like roofing paper. This must be where the workmen hung out ... because they certainly weren't working.
Quinn walked in the opposite direction, toward an ancient elevator barely big enough to hold two people and their suitcases. The wooden doors weren't completely closed, he realized and stuck his hand in the inch-wide crack between them. When he gave them a quick shove, they opened with a soft thunk.
At least he thought it was a soft thunk, because at that instant, any blood intended for brain functions such as hearing or speaking or thinking went rushing off to another place.
Holy ... He could only stare. Up. At the sight of two amazing female legs hanging out of an open access panel in the ceiling, dangling a good four feet off the ground. Long, lean, tan and bare, they emerged from a blue skirt, he saw as he slowly leaned in and peered up. A skirt that had ridden just high enough to show the tops of deliciously taut thighs and an edge of similarly colored lace.
"Son of a bitch!"
Quinn jumped back to avoid a screwdriver that sailed from the hole and clattered onto the floor. The tool landed next to a pair of strappy high-heeled sandals, a blue jacket and a briefcase standing on its side.
So the skirt and matching panties had a voice. And, evidently, a toolbox.
He cleared his throat noisily. "Excuse me?"
A loud shriek followed as the skirt wiggled. Quinn's throat constricted against the pounding pulse in his neck. That blood was moving fast. South. This was not your average elevator repairman.
"Would you like some help up there?"
A hand with pink fingernails reached down and frantically pulled at the skirt, hiding the blue-lace trim, but not the thighs. The decidedly feminine backside squirmed, accompanied by another little mewing sound as the skirt - bless the tiny thing - crept higher up in response.
"Oh - oh! I'm stuck!"
He dodged a sudden swing of one long, shapely leg, then watched as the blue material shimmied left and right in a vain attempt to descend and dainty bare feet pointed to the ground. His instinct was to reach out and help her, but he was momentarily paralyzed. Surely his hand would accidentally land on a soft, feminine piece of flesh.
That did it.
The blood reached its destination and Quinn sucked in a breath as arousal sucker punched him. Without thinking, he grabbed the hips, careful to touch only the fabric of her skirt.
She shrieked again. "Hey! What are you doing?"
He held tight. "Trying to get a round peg out of a square hole." He gripped the curve of her hips, inadvertently bunching the material and leaving him with a handful of pure, silky thigh. Oh, man. "If you, uh, just relax, ma'am, I can bring you down."
"Relax?" The muscles under his fingers tightened in sheer defiance of the order.
"Relax," he urged, sliding his hand to a covered area.
He heard a moan, then, "Okay."
"All right, I've got you." It didn't take much strength, but he was thankful for his six-foot-plus height and the hours he'd spent at the gym as he eased her body down. Every one of his senses slammed into full alert while he drowned in the intoxicating feminine scent of her and studied the perfect curves of her backside under the silky material of her skirt as she descended.
Inch by scrumptious inch, he brought her closer to the ground. She let out tiny whimpers of discomfort that made him want to cradle her closer. A narrow waist emerged from the opening, followed by a sleek, toned back, covered only in a thin blue tank top, the same color as the skirt and ... coordinated undergarments.
As her head dipped into the elevator, he saw a twisted mass of thick, dark hair stabbed with a yellow pencil - a pencil?
Once her bare feet were firmly planted on the floor, she kept her back to him as she reached up and yanked her skirt furiously over her thighs. Too bad. He'd miss them.
"Thank you." The tremble in her voice touched him.
"No problem." None. At all. He'd do it again in an instant.
She still didn't turn and he fought the urge to gently twirl her around. He wanted to see her. He needed to see what kind of face went with a body like that.
She stood perfectly still, square shoulders topped by the ridiculous pencil 'do.
He cleared his throat again. "Well. Okay, then." He tapped the wall of ancient-looking elevator buttons. "First floor? Ladies' lingerie?"
The proud shoulders shook in a sudden laugh. Good. It would be a crime if hips and thighs and legs like that didn't have a sense of humor.
Excerpted from Like A Hurricane by Roxanne St. Claire Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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