Read an Excerpt
'…He stood in the shadows of the night. Dark. Dangerous. A lethal predator. Glittering black eyes stared in at the woman through the window as she moved about the bedroom wearing only a towel draped about her silken nakedness. A slight smile curved her lips and she remained completely unaware of the danger that lay in wait for her outside in the darkness.'
Elizabeth felt a shiver down her spine as she looked up from the book she was reading to her own bedroom window, wishing now that she had thought to draw the curtains before getting into bed. Except, like the woman in the story, Elizabeth had believed no one would be able to see into the second storey bedroom window of this remote house, perched high on the rugged Cornish cliffs. The tide must be in, covering the sandy beach, Elizabeth realised as she heard the roughness of the sea pounding against the cliffs.
She repressed another shiver before reading the next paragraph of her book.
'Shoulder-length dark hair framed a face of hard, sensual magnetism. Those intense black eyes focused on the long creamy column of the woman's exposed throat and he could see the blood pulsing hotly through her veins. He possessed harshly hewn cheeks, a fierce slash of a nose, and chiselled lips that now drew back in a hiss to reveal elongated incisors as the woman dropped the towel to reveal the naked perfection of her body—'
So intent had Elizabeth been on the description of the sexy predator stalking the heroine that the sound of glass breaking somewhere downstairs made her gasp out loud, even as her fingers tightened about the book that had already succeeded in frightening the life out of her without this added scare!
What the devil was that?
Not a good choice of words, Elizabeth admonished herself shakily as she clutched the book to her before slowly sliding out from beneath the bedcovers.
There was something—or someone—downstairs!
More than likely someone. Elizabeth didn't believe for a moment that her own intruder was a real live vampire; the reason she enjoyed books like Dangerous as the Night was because she knew that the night monsters and predators in these stories were totally fictional.
No, the intruder wasn't any monster or a demon. More likely a burglar. There had been several break-ins in the area recently, and no doubt every burglar within a twenty-mile radius was aware by now that Brad Sullivan, the American owner of Sullivan House, had died of a heart attack almost a week ago.
What those burglars probably didn't know was that academic Dr Elizabeth Brown had arrived two weeks ago, employed for the summer to catalogue the books in the Sullivan library, and, because she didn't know what else to do until one of Brad's relatives arrived or contacted her, she was still in residence!
What should she do about the noise downstairs?
What could she do?
Mrs Baines, housekeeper at Sullivan House for the last twenty years, lived in a flat above the stable complex, to where she had disappeared once she had served Elizabeth her dinner and cleared away in the kitchen. Meaning the other woman probably had no idea that the main house had been broken into. There was no telephone extension in Elizabeth's bedroom, either, and she had stupidly left her mobile in the library earlier, on charge overnight.
Elizabeth's heart began to pound as she heard more muffled sounds from the floor below. It sounded like a voice muttering. A male voice, its tone impatiently aggressive.
Great. She couldn't just have a burglar break in; he had to be an angry one into the bargain!
Well, Elizabeth couldn't just stand here and wait for the man to come up the stairs in search of valuables, only to find her cowering under the duvet in one of the bedrooms, hoping not to be noticed. Burglar or not, she would have to go down and confront him. But obviously not without a weapon of some kind!
Tucking her book distractedly under her arm, Elizabeth moved stealthily across the bedroom to the door, opening it quietly to step out into the hallway, and pausing long enough to pick up the heavy brass ornament that stood on a table in the wide corridor. She made her way softly to the top of the stairs on the first floor so that she could look down into the huge reception hall. An eerie glow told her that someone had put a light on somewhere downstairs since she had gone up to bed half an hour or so ago.
Sullivan House was a three-storey mansion, originally built a couple of centuries ago for the head of some now defunct titled family, and several doors led off the marble-pillared reception hall. All of those doors remained firmly closed, with no visible light showing beneath them, not even a flashlight.
Elizabeth leant further over the polished oak banister, able to see now that the light was coming from the back of the house. The kitchen, most probably. Although what a burglar would find of value to steal in there, she had no idea; the only things that weren't integral parts of the kitchen were a microwave and an electric mixer. But there was also a set of sharp knives on top of one of the work surfaces, Elizabeth remembered in alarm. Any one of which could do serious damage to a person who dared to disturb the burglar!
Get a grip, Elizabeth, she instructed herself sternly, and she straightened her shoulders determinedly. There was no way she could cower and hide and hope that the burglar would just quickly take what he wanted and then go away. Whether she liked it or not—and she didn't!—Elizabeth had to confront the man and hope that her presence here would be enough to scare him off.
If it didn't…
She wasn't going to think about what would happen if the situation backfired on her. She was an independent woman of twenty-eight. A university lecturer who had lived and worked in London for the last ten years. She seriously doubted a Cornish burglar would be half as dangerous as some of the strange people she was forced to share the tube with on a daily basis!
Had the wooden staircase always creaked like this? Elizabeth wondered in alarm as she began to descend it. She hadn't noticed it before, but she did now, as every step she took seemed to make the stairs groan in an alarming way that might alert the burglar to her presence before she was ready to confront him!
'Damn and double damn!'
The curse came from inside the kitchen even as Elizabeth crept stealthily down the hallway and saw the door was slightly ajar, allowing her to look into the kitchen through the narrow crack between the hinges of the door. She pressed herself urgently back against the wall as a dark-clothed figure moved across the brightly lit room.
Of course the man was wearing dark clothing; didn't all burglars?
Elizabeth drew in a deep breath, the shaking fingers of her left hand tightening about the brass ornament even as she reached out with her right hand to push the kitchen door inwards. She stepped inside the room, her blue gaze intent as she quickly scanned the kitchen, looking for the location of the intruder.
'Who the hell are you?'
Elizabeth was so shocked to hear the harsh but melodic voice coming from behind her that as she turned the brass ornament slipped from between her fingers.
Straight onto the burglar's foot, she realised, as the man turned his back on her to bend down and grasp the top of his boot, where the heavy ornament had obviously landed, with painful results, before dropping to the tiled floor and rolling well out of Elizabeth's reach.
She looked around for another weapon to defend herself with, and very quickly realised that the burglar stood between her and that block of sharp knives.
The book she had been reading! Elizabeth had forgotten it was still tucked under her arm, but she grabbed it now and proceeded to hit the man repeatedly over the head with it.
'What the—!' The man straightened and turned, before reaching out to grasp both of Elizabeth's wrists and hold her hands up and away from him, well out of hitting distance. 'Will you stop attacking me, woman?' he growled.
Elizabeth became very still, eyes wide as she stared up at him.
It was the man from the book she had been reading!
The same narrowed and glittering black eyes. The same shoulder-length, silky dark hair. The same harshly sculptured face; prominent cheekbones, a hard slash of a nose, chiselled lips set in a grim line, and a square, determined jaw. The same very tall and lithely muscled body, completely dressed in black…
The same predator?
For the first time in her life Elizabeth fainted…
'Well, that was certainly different!' Rogan drawled derisively, as the woman he had picked up in his arms and then carried to the sitting-room sofa finally began to stir and regain consciousness.
She was a tiny woman, probably aged in her late twenties, and a whole foot shorter than him at only a couple of inches over five feet. She had short, auburn spiky-styled hair, a creamy, heart-shaped face; delicate cheekbones, a short, straight nose, a full bow of a mouth, and a small pointed chin that could be raised determinedly if she felt so inclined. As it had been earlier, when she'd attacked him—first with a brass ornament and then with a book, of all things!
Her eyes, as they opened, were a deep sky-blue, and surrounded by the thickest, darkest lashes Rogan had ever seen, he discovered as she sat up abruptly on the sofa to look across at him with the apprehension of a startled deer.
'Why are you still here?' she breathed warily.
'Why am I still here?' he repeated incredulously.
The woman moistened dry lips. 'You had plenty of time to get away when I—when I…'
'Swooned?' Rogan suggested mockingly.
'Fainted!' A dark frown appeared between those blue eyes. 'A perfectly normal reaction to being attacked by a burglar!'
Yes, that chin could definitely be very determined when this woman wished it to be! The bristling stance of that slender body beneath her slightly over-large cotton pyjamas also attested to her indignation.
Rogan had never particularly cared for the idea of women wearing pyjamas, preferring the woman in his bed to wear either nothing at all or something feminine in silk. Except this woman somehow managed to wear unflattering blue cotton pyjamas and still look sexy!
Maybe it was the way the material only hinted at the curves beneath? Or could it be that the pale blue material made her eyes look bigger and bluer? Whatever it was, his little attacker was one very sexy package.
So what she was doing at Sullivan House?
His mouth tightened slightly. 'Perfectly natural,' he acknowledged. 'Except for two things. Firstly,' he bit out harshly as she raised questioning brows, 'I'm not a burglar. Secondly,' he continued, when she would have interrupted him, 'you were the one doing the attacking. As evidenced by my bruised foot and battered head!'
Elizabeth felt the warm colour in her cheeks. She had attacked him. Firstly by dropping the ornament on his foot, and then by hitting him with the book.
The same book that now lay open across one muscled, denim-clad thigh! As if he had been reading it while waiting for Elizabeth to regain consciousness. Oh, good grief…!
Her chin rose defensively. 'I very much doubt that the police will be too interested in my efforts to defend myself considering that you're the one who broke in!'
'I wouldn't be too sure about that,' the man taunted. 'I've seen several cases in the English newspapers recently where the burglar was given compensation for being attacked by the owner of the house he had just broken into.'
Elizabeth had seen the same newspaper reports—and she questioned the sanity of the legal system!
'There's also the fact,' the man continued relentlessly, 'that I didn't break in.'
'I unlocked the door into the kitchen by using the key from under the third flowerpot to the left on the windowsill outside,' he explained.
What key under the third flowerpot to the left on the win-dowsill outside? More to the point, how had this man known there was a key under that particular flowerpot in the first place?
'Have you been watching the house?' she gasped accusingly.
'Casing the joint, you mean?' he said scathingly.
'Yes!' Elizabeth glared at him indignantly, hating even the thought of someone—this man!—watching the recent daily comings and goings of the members of the household before attempting to break in.
'Interesting thought.' He nodded. 'This house is certainly remote enough; there isn't another house for miles. The spare key was conveniently left under a plant pot outside. No dog to bark at unusual noises in the night. In fact, no real security to talk of. At least none that's actually active at the moment.'
'How do you know that?' Elizabeth screeched. Not even the movement-sensor alarm in the house had been put on at night since Brad Sullivan had been rushed to hospital a week ago, as neither Mrs Baines nor Elizabeth knew how to set it.
'No flashing red light on the sensor.' He gave a pointed look at the monitor near the ceiling in the corner of the sitting room. 'Burglars have to be a bit more high-tech these days.' He shrugged dismissive shoulders beneath a thin black sweater.
Elizabeth's mouth tightened. 'Are you going to leave quietly and empty handed? Or do you intend to wait until the police arrive? I called them before coming downstairs,' she added defiantly as he raised dark, questioning brows.
She was a plucky little thing; Rogan would give her that.
She showed a lot of courage in the face of adversity. Although he very much doubted that a real burglar would have stopped to chat like this, let alone bothered to carry a woman to the sitting room after she had fainted!
He gave her a considering look. 'Did you know that when you lie you tend to bunch your left hand into a fist?'
'I do no—' She broke off her protest to stare down at her clenched fist, carefully unclenching it before adding, 'I did call the police, and they will be arriving any minute!'
Rogan relaxed back in his chair to place the ankle of one booted foot on top of his other black-denim-covered knee with a distinct lack of concern. 'That's going to be rather embarrassing for you,' he drawled ruefully.
Her eyes widened. 'For me?' she said. 'You're the one who broke in—'
'I used a key, remember?'
'Only because you knew it was under the plant pot!' she accused.