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Quade: The Irresistible One
By Bronwyn Jameson
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCameron Quade wasn't surprised to see the sleek silver coupe parked in his driveway. Irritated, yes, resigned, yes, but not surprised. Even before he identified the status symbol badge on the car's hood, he'd figured it belonged to his aunt or uncle, one or the other. They probably owned a matched pair.
Who else knew of his impending arrival? Who else had just cause and reason for waving the Welcome Home banner? He'd been expecting Godfrey and Gillian to show up sooner or later but he'd have preferred later. Several years later seemed around about perfect.
As the front door clicked shut behind him, Quade let the weighty luggage slide from his fingers and a weightier sigh slide from his lips. His travel-weary gaze scanned the living area of the old homestead he'd grown up in, then narrowed on a wince.
The place had been unoccupied for twelve months yet the gleam coming off every highly polished surface was damn near blinding. Someone had been busy but his aunt Gillian wielding a duster? If he could have summoned the necessary energy, he'd have laughed out loud.
As he wandered from room to room he did manage to summon a mild intrigue. The funky R & B tune piping from the stereo - a boy band? - didn't seem like Aunt G.'s taste,although the classic gray suit jacket looped over the hall stand did. As for the flowers - he traced a finger along the rim of a hothouse orchid - yeah, the artful arrangement on said hall stand reeked of her touch.
But the woman in Quade's bedroom, the woman in the classic gray skirt peeling back his bedclothes, was not his father's sister.
No way, no how.
"Come on, come on, pick up the phone!"
The woman's voice - low, smoky, impatient - drew his gaze away from the gray skirt and up to the cell phone clamped to her ear. She raked her other hand through her hair, one sweep from brow to crown that brought the thick dark mass into some sort of order. Temporary, he predicted, watching one curl bounce straight back up again.
"Julia. What were you thinking? Did I not specify guy sheets? Something practical, no frills?" She wrenched at the bedding, ripping it free from the mattress. "And you chose black satin?"
Practically hissing the last words, she flung the sheets behind her. They slithered across the highly polished floorboards to land just shy of where he stood, unnoticed, in the doorway.
"Good grief, Julia, you might as well have left a box of condoms on the pillow while you were at it!"
Quade's brows lifted halfway up his forehead. Black satin sheets and condoms? Not the usual home-coming gift, leastways not from his aunt and uncle. And he wasn't expecting welcome-home gifts from anyone else, especially this unknown Julia, the one copping an earful from the stranger in his bedroom.
"Call me when you get in, okay?"
Correction. Whose answer machine was copping an earful.
Equal parts amusement and bemusement curled Quade's lips as the discarded phone skidded across a side table and bumped to a halt against the wall. Still the same blue paint he recalled from his childhood. He'd wanted fire-engine red but his mother had stood firm. Luckily.
His nostalgic smile froze half-formed when the woman leaned across his bed. Holy hell. Quade tried not to stare, but he was only human. And male. And at his lowest point of resistance, completely lacking in willpower. Ten thousand miles of travel did that to a body.
Riveted, he watched her straight skirt ride up the backs of smoothly stockinged thighs. Watched the fine gray material stretch from classic to seam-threatening across a stunning rear end.
It was the first sight to snare Quade's total attention in those thousands of miles of travel.
Hiking her skirt higher, she slid one knee onto the mattress and stretched even farther, and he realized, belatedly, that she was remaking his bed. No, not his childhood bed but the big old double from the guest room - the antique one with the rusty springs. And as she leaned and bent and stretched and tucked, the mattress squeaked and creaked with a sound evocative of another kind of movement, a sound that stoked Quade's warm enjoyment of the scene to hot discomfort.
Hot discomfort as inappropriate as his continued silent observation, he decided with a wake-up-to-yourself shake of his head. He stepped out of the doorway and into the room and asked the first question that came to mind. "Why are you changing the sheets?"
She whipped around in a flurry of fast-moving limbs that put her off the mattress and onto her feet in one second flat. Or, more accurately, onto one foot and one shoe in one second flat. Her other shoe had sailed free midflurry and now lay on its side, stranded halfway between the bed and the discarded sheets. She faced him with one hand splayed hard against her pink-sweatered chest, with her eyes round and startled.
Eyes, he noticed, almost as intensely dark as her hair. Both contrasted starkly with her pale complexion, although her softly rounded face was in perfect harmony with her body.
"I haven't the foggiest who Julia is or why she's been choosing my bed linen," he continued softly, toeing the heap of satin out of the way as he came further into the room, "but I have nothing against her taste."
Her gaze whipped to the phone and back again, and he knew that she knew exactly what he'd overheard, but she offered no explanation, no comment, other than an accusatory, "You're not supposed to be here for another hour. Why are you early?"
She looked annoyed, sounded put out, and there was something about the combination that seemed oddly familiar. Quade tried to place her as he dealt with her objection. "We had a decent tailwind across the Pacific and got into Sydney ahead of schedule. Plus I'd allowed for fog over the mountains but it was surprisingly clear for August. I made good time."
Her attention slid past him, toward the doorway. "You're alone?"
"Should I have brought someone?"
When she didn't reply he lifted a brow, waited.
"We didn't know if you were bringing your fiancée," she conceded. "We decided to play it safe."
Hence the double bed. Hence the black satin and condoms. At least that made some sort of sense, or it would have done if he still had a fiancée to share his bed. As for the rest ...
"We?" he asked.
"Julia and I. Julia is my sister. She's been helping me out." Or not helping, if her disgusted glare at the abandoned sheets was any indication.
Again, he felt that inkling of familiarity. Nothing solid, but ... Gaze fixed on her face, he came a little closer. "Now we have Julia sorted, that leaves you."
"You don't recognize me?"
"I'm Chantal Goodwin." She lifted her chin as if daring him to disagree.
Excerpted from Quade: The Irresistible One by Bronwyn Jameson Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.