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SHE CAUGHT HIS gaze from across the room. Declan Quinn glanced over his shoulder at the beautiful blonde in the slinky blue dress. She gave him a seductive smile, an unspoken invitation to approach, and Dec let his gaze drift lazily from her face to her tanned and lithe body.
Her dress, cut low in the front, left her arms and shoulders tantalizingly bare. Though the length fell slightly below her knee, a deep slit offered a view of a well-toned thigh. From the moment she'd entered the party, they'd been caught in this silent dance, two strangers...interested...attracted.
Declan was never one to shy away from any interest from the opposite sex. But tonight, it could be no more than a casual attraction. Besides, it was obvious what she was looking for. From the huge diamond on her finger and the old man on her arm, she'd settle for a quick roll in the hay with a man half her husband's age.
Dec had a strict policy of never mixing business with pleasure, no matter how stunningly attractive and warmly willing that pleasure might be. He was here in Newport to do a job, to provide security for Edward and Eva Winslow's annual garden party. Screwing one of their guests in the hall closet just wasn't considered professional behavior.
Dec's cell phone buzzed in the pocket of his linen trousers and he snatched it out, turning away from the doe-eyed beauty. "Declan Quinn," he murmured as he stepped off the terrace and into the house.
"Hi, Dec, it's Sally Hughes over at Bonnett Harbor P.D. Your brother asked that I call you."
"Is everything all right?" Dec asked, an uneasy feeling rushing over him. His older brother, Ian, was the police chief in theirhometown of Bonnett Harbor, a small village across the waters of Narragansett Bay from Newport. "Are my folks all right?"
"Sure, sure," she said. "I'm calling about Eden Ross. She's been spotted over at the Sandpiper Motel. As far as we can tell, she called in a report of a car theft in progress in order to slip away from some tabloid press. We sent Delaney and Wilson over there and they're holding the reporters. I figured if you'd like to talk to them, I'll have them brought to the station."
"Where's Eden Ross?" Dec asked.
"She and the guy she was with slipped away sometime after our officers arrived."
"Let me talk to Ian," Dec said.
"I'm afraid he's busy. He's got a couple of agents from the FBI here on some art forgery case."
Dec cursed softly. Just yesterday he'd had Ian in his office in Providence along with an art expert. Somehow, his brother had gotten mixed up with Hector Arantes, a known art forger, and Hector's beautiful daughter, Marisol. The case had obviously taken a turn now that the FBI was involved and Ian would have no time to help Declan track down Eden Ross.
"Call your guys and tell them I'll meet them at the Sandpiper," he said. "I'll be there in ten minutes."
He snapped the phone shut and turned for the door, then felt a hand on his arm. "You're not leaving, are you?"
The blonde slowly circled him, placing herself between him and the door. She leaned into him, her hips pressing against his suggestively. Dec forced a smile. "Business calls," he said.
"There are more important things than business," she said, her fingers sliding down his arm to touch his hand.
Dec chuckled. If he wanted her, he could have her, probably right underneath her husband's nose. They could find an empty bedroom, lock the door behind them, and go at it for ten or fifteen minutes. Or they could make plans to meet later that evening, maybe at a discreet motel across the bay. Hell, there had been a time in his life when he would have welcomed sex without strings. But not now, and definitely not tonight.
"As much as I would like to indulge," he said, "I'm afraid I can't. First of all, I'm chasing a runaway party girl around New England and if I don't find her, her father is going to cancel the million-dollar retainer he gives me to take care of his security needs. Secondly, I just recently promised my two brothers that I'd be celibate for three months and I don't intend to break that promise. And thirdly, your husband is watching us right now and I certainly don't want to have to knock him to the ground when he decides to defend your honor with his fists. There's an obliging waiter passing out champagne over by the pool. I'm sure he'd be willing to satisfy your needs."
She gasped softly as Declan turned and walked toward the front of the mansion. As difficult as it was to turn down a night in bed with a beautiful woman, he did have to keep his priorities straight. After all, he was the one who had challenged his brothers to the celibacy pact and he'd made it three weeks without a regret.
But then, the first week he'd been occupied with tracking down an embezzler for a client in Boston. The second week, he'd been conducting background checks for a client in New York City. And all of this past week had been spent chasing Eden Ross. Celibacy wasn't too difficult if a guy didn't have time to think about sex.
Declan spent the next few minutes coordinating security for the rest of the evening with the three employees he'd assigned to the party. By the time he reached the front door, his car had been brought around and was waiting. He tipped the valet, then hopped inside the BMW sedan and headed out to the main road.
This was the closest he'd come to finding Eden Ross but once again, she'd slipped through his fingers. Still, he knew she was close by and with a little luck, she'd decide to come home on her own. Chasing silly little socialites really wasn't his forte. And the socialite in question had brought her problems on herself, choosing to appear in a naughty sex tape that just happened to make it on to the Internet.
Trevor Ross was his most important client, so Dec had to make an extraordinary effort. But Ross wouldn't be happy at the latest news, especially since Eden had been seen in Dec's backyard. He flipped on the radio and listened distractedly as he steered the car over the Newport Bridge.
"You're tuned to the Ross Radio Network. It's Saturday night, and this is Simply Sex with Dr. Lillian Devine." Dec frowned, reaching out to pop a CD into the player, but the silken tones of the show's hostess kept him listening a few moments longer.
"We're still on the air with Carl from Los Angeles, California. Carl is wondering how he might spice up his sex life. My advice for you, Carl, is to spend some time focusing on your wife's needs. The best way to increase her desire is to make her feel like she's the only lover you could ever want. Invest in her orgasms. Make sure they're the best they can be. Put aside your own desires until you're certain all of her needs are being met."
Dec found himself captivated by her voice, the way words dripped off her tongue like honey. A shiver skit-tered down his spine and he groaned. He didn't need to be listening to this, especially considering his determination to control his sexual urges, at least for the next nine weeks.
But he continued to listen as Dr. Devine discussed the physiology of the female orgasm, the benefits of oral sex and battery-operated substitutes, and the top five female sexual fantasies. And when Dec finally reached the Sandpiper Motel, he found himself strangely aroused by all the frank talk. With a soft curse, he flipped the radio off and stepped out of the car.
"A woman with a voice like that should not be allowed to talk about sex," he murmured as he walked over to the police cruiser. "How can she expect anyone to pay attention to what she's saying? She'd be better off at 1-900-talk dirty to me."
For all he knew, Dr. Lillian Devine was probably some frumpy fifty-year-old Ph.D Just the thought was like a bucket of ice water tossed down his pants.
But if she were beautiful and smart, then that would be one of his top five fantasies. She wouldn't even have to be drop-dead gorgeous. Pretty would do, even cute. But smart and sexy was an irresistible combination, one he hadn't enjoyed in a very long time. And if the woman could talk dirty to him, he'd be in heaven. Unfortunately, heaven was off-limits for the next nine weeks.
Delaney and Wilson, the two officers from the Bonnett Harbor police department, stood next to a car parked across the road from the Sandpiper. Dec approached and Delaney gave him a wave of recognition. "Sally said you wanted to talk to these guys."
Dec nodded. "Are you sure it was Eden Ross?"
"They were," Wilson said, nodding to the two men sitting in the backseat of the police cruiser. "And we ran the plate on the Mercedes parked in the lot. It's registered to Trevor Ross. She must have taken the keys with her. They weren't left in the room."
Shaking his head, Dec ran his hand through his hair. "I guess you guys ought to be happy this girl doesn't take up a life of crime. She is one slippery customer." He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed Trevor Ross's private number. "Mr. Ross, Declan Quinn here. I've got some news on your daughter. It seems she did stop by your Newport house just long enough to steal one of your cars."
Dec heard a curse on the other end of the line. "I want you to bring her and the car back to the house tonight," Ross shouted.
"I'm afraid she slipped by us," Dec said. "But, from what I can see, she's safe."
"Fine. Hell, I'm tired of wasting your time and my money trying to find her," Ross said. "Besides, I have another case I need you to focus on. And it will require your complete attention. Have you ever heard of Dr. Lillian Devine?"
Dec reached into his jacket to pull out his Blackberry, surprised that Ross would bring up the name. "I have," he said. "I just heard her earlier on the radio."
"Her real name is Rachel Merrill and she's one of our most valuable on-air talents," Ross explained. "An important part of our syndication package. I've had my security guys watching over her but she refuses to let them get too close. I don't think she believes the threat is that serious. Now it is."
"How serious?" Dec asked.
"We had a letter delivered to the station tonight that was a blatant death threat. I need you to meet me in my office tomorrow afternoon and I'll have my guys brief you. And then I want you to convince her that a 24-hour-a-day bodyguard is in her best interest."
"How do you expect me to convince her of that?" Dec asked.
"You're a charming guy. You figure it out. I want you on her until this nutcase is caught."
Dec was paid a healthy retainer to be at Ross's disposal, whenever a security concern came up. He listened as Ross gave him more details, putting the afternoon appointment into the PDA along with other relevant information. In truth, Dec had to breathe a silent sigh of relief that he could leave the search for Trevor's wild daughter to others. He hadn't spent four years in naval intelligence and another three building up Quinn Security and Investigations to spend his valuable time chasing silly heiresses around the countryside.