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By Dinah McCall
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWashington, D.C.
Laurel Scanlon was in love. Had been for more than four months now. It was what got her through the days and filled her lonely nights. Knowing the tenderness of his touch, the patience and passion of his lovemaking, and the fulfillment of dying bit by bit each night in his arms as he took her to a climax that left her breathless and often trembling, was more than she'd ever hoped to have in her life.
And tonight was no exception.
After another mindless and seemingly endless night of playing hostess for her father, federal prosecutor Robert Scanlon, it had been all Laurel could do to get undressed before crawling into bed.
She wanted her lover with a need that made her shiver. Longed for the mindless, weightless feeling of coming apart beneath him. Yet even in the deepest part of her soul, she was sorry for the fact that she saw him only in her dreams.
But how could she regret someone who, nightly, was breathing life into her heart and reminding her why she'd been born a woman? She needed him as much as she needed oxygen to survive, craving the freedom of his touch, getting lost in his kisses and ultimately experiencing the mind-numbing shock of sexual release. No one knew he existed, and she would not admit, even to herself, that he was not real. Tonight was no exception.
It was with eagerness that she crawled into bed, rolled over on her side and wearily closed her eyes, waiting for consciousness to subside - waiting for him.
And as she waited, her subconscious slipped into that state between cognizance and sleep, bringing back to her the joke of her existence, wondering why she'd been born different from other women and always the butt of jokes - tolerated only because of her father's status in the upper echelons of Washington politics.
She rolled onto her other side and plumped the pillow beneath her head, trying to block out the pain, but it was with her as surely as the blood that flowed through her veins.
People smiled to her face, but she knew they talked when her back was turned. She knew what the people in the elite circle of her father's life thought about her. They said she was unbalanced. Some even called her crazy. The kinder ones thought she was just given to high flights of fanciful imagination, but nearly all of them figured she would end up in an expensive but distant institution, just as her mother, Phoebe, had done before she had taken her own life.
No one gave credence to the provenance of Laurel's family, or to the legend that the oldest daughter in every family directly related to Chantelle LeDeux, who had disappeared from her family plantation in Louisiana in 1814, had the gift of "sight."
Laurel's so-called gift had been an embarrassment to her father since the day she learned to talk. It had ostracized her during her school years and made her something of a cult oddity in college. Her reputation became the source of amusement at parties, as her so-called friends urged her to "see" into their future. But the day she "saw" one commit a crime before it happened was the day her popularity came to an end.
Trying to hide her disability, as soon as she graduated college, she got a job at a local newspaper, but that, too, soon ended, along with her three-month engagement to the editor's oldest son. Her second engagement to a stockbroker occurred two years later and lasted until he began urging her to give him tips on the market.
For Laurel, it was the last straw. Having to face the fact that he'd believed in her only enough to further his own goals had soured her on ever supposing she would find someone who could ignore the gossip and love her for who she was. Now, at twenty-eight and sick of the vicious cycle that had become her life, she was ready for a change.
Unknown to her father, she was planning to leave
D.C. But until she could decide what she wanted to do and where she wanted to go, having an affair with a man who existed only in her mind seemed like a damned good idea. For now, sleep had become her escape.
And so she waited with expectation, praying for sleep to come. She took slow, deep breaths to clear her thoughts from the meaningless chitchat she'd endured throughout dinner, then exhaled softly. Moments later, she was asleep.
And, just as she'd hoped, he came to her. In her dream ... in her head ... in her heart - slipping into her thoughts without warning. One moment she was alone and dreamless, and the next thing she knew, his hands were on her body, caressing her shape. Then his mouth touched her skin, leaving a thin, wet trail on her breast as he traced its shape with the tip of his tongue.
Laurel moaned and then sighed as she unconsciously rolled over onto her back and parted her legs. She felt his hand sliding across the flat of her belly, pausing just long enough above the juncture of her thighs to make her moan with longing.
She wanted more.
She wanted him.
She wanted it now.
As if he'd sensed her thoughts, he moved from beside her to on top of her. She thought he whispered something shameless as he slid between her legs, but she couldn't quite hear the words. For a heart-stopping moment, he held himself poised above her; then she wrapped her legs around his waist and pulled him in, arching uncontrollably toward the hard, pulsing length of him as he began to rock her world.
Moonlight filtered through the pale blue sheers of the second-story bedroom, bathing the room in an eerie light, but Laurel didn't know and wouldn't have cared. She felt nothing but the impact of their bodies in the ebb and flow of making love.
Her climax came without warning and in the form of a belly-deep moan, shattering Laurel's dream, leaving her awake and shaking and trying to reconcile the loneliness of her existence with the intimacy of where she'd just been.
With a stifled sob, she thrust her fingers through her hair, swept the dark red curls away from her face and then rolled out of bed. She stumbled as she got up, then staggered to the bathroom, hoping to salvage her sanity with the shock of a cold shower.
Excerpted from Mimosa Grove by Dinah McCall Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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