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"Sir, the plane is about ready to take off. Please shut down your laptop and fasten your seat belt."
Quade Westmoreland followed the flight attendant's instructions while thinking just how many times he'd heard such a request while flying aboard a commercial aircraft. Over the past eight years he had grown accustomed to the luxury of Air Force One where using a laptop during takeoff was not only welcomed but necessary.
He glanced around. At least he was in first class, which wasn't a bad deal, and no one was sitting in the seat beside him, which made things even better. He didn't like the feel of being crowded or cramped. He liked having his space. That was the reason he'd enjoyed his job with the PSF, Presidential Security Forces, dual branches of the Secret Service and CIA.
But if the truth be knownand there were only a few key individuals who actually knew the truth his particular position entailed a lot more than protecting the president. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the PSF was created and he'd become a part of the elite team. His job was to keep tabs on the president's travels abroad and make sure everything associated with the trips, especially the security, was dealt with prior to the president's visit. It was his responsibility to protect the commander and chief from behind the scenes at all cost.
That was the reason he had been in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt, the night he had met Cheyenne Steele.
Just thinking about her brought an automatic tightening in his chest, as well as a stirring in another part of his body. The woman had gotten that sort of response from him from the first time he had encountered her that night walking on the beach. He had actually felt her presence before seeing her. And when he had gazed into her face, a deep physical attraction had unleashed fierce desire in him, a degree to which he had never felt toward any other woman in all his thirty-six years. It had been hot. Unex-plainable. And luckily for him, the attraction had been mutual.
It didn't take long to discover that she was just as physically attracted to him as he was to her, and after a few brief moments of small talk, she accepted his offer to share a drink in his hotel room.
Although he had known she would be safe with him, he had initially questioned her decision until they'd gotten up to his room. Before going inside with him she had made a smart move by using her cell phone to contact the female friend she was traveling with to let her know where she would be; specifically which room and at which hotel on the beach.
Cheyenne was the only part of her name she had exchanged with him that night and, considering how they'd met and the activities that had followed afterward, he hadn't been sure if Cheyenne had even been her real name. She had been pretty secretive, but then so had he. And like her, he had only shared his first name.
He had constantly thought about her since that night and then a few days ago, while visiting his relatives in Montana, he had seen her face on the cover of a magazine. And it was pretty damn obvious that she was pregnant.
In fact, she looked ready to deliver at any moment. Since the magazine had been October's issue and it was now the first of December, a million questions had been going through his mind. The first of which was whether or not he was the man responsible for her condition.
They had used protection that night, but he would be the first to admit his passion for her, his desire to mate with her, had been uncontrollable. And somewhere in the back of his mind he seemed to recall at least one of the times in which there had not been a barrier. Whether it was true or just a figment of his imagination, he wasn't certain. Even if he had used a condom each time they had made love, condoms weren't without flaws, and when you made love as many times as they had, anything was possible. Even an unplanned pregnancy.
She was the only one who could put his mind to rest by telling him whether or not the childwhich should have been born by nowwas his. If it wasn't, she must have slept with someone else around the same time she had slept with him. That was something he didn't want to think about. And if the child was his, he would do the right thingthe only thing a Westmoreland could do if they were foolish enough to get caught in such a situation. He would ask her to marry him to give their child his name. After a reasonable amount of time they could file for a divorce and part ways.
He could tolerate a short-term wife if he had to. He had recently retired and was about to embark on another career. He had joined a partnership with a few of his cousins to open a chain of security offices around the country.
He refused to be reminded that a marriage of convenience was how things had started out between his brother Durango and his wife, Savannah, and that they were now a happily married couple. Quade was glad things worked out the way they had for them; however, the situation with him and Cheyenne was different.
Durango had fallen hard for Savannah from the first time he had seen her at their cousin Chase's wedding. But it had been lust and only lust that had driven his desire for Cheyenne that night. If it had been more than that, he would have taken the time to get to know her. He'd only had one goal in mind after meeting Cheyenne and that was finding a way to get her into his bed.
One of the downsides of his former job was the long periods he'd had to put his social life on hold. It had been during one of those times, when his testosterone had been totally out of whack, that he met Cheyenne. He'd gone a long time without a woman and Cheyenne had been a prime target for a one-night stand.
But he hadn't meant to get her pregnant if that's what he'd actually done. So here he was on his way to Charlotte, North Carolina, to find out if he was the father of her baby. He had contacted the ad agency and discovered not only that Cheyenne was her real name, but that she was also a model, which was the reason she had been on the cover of that magazine. He shouldn't have been surprised to learn of her profession since she had to have been the most beautiful woman he'd ever met. On the cover of that magazine with her pregnancy proudly displayed for the camera, she had still looked radiant and breathtakingly beautiful.
Quade felt the plane tilt upward as it took off. He leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, deciding now was a perfect time to relive those long and passionate hours he had spent in bed with Cheyenne nearly ten months ago.
Quade felt hot, edgy and he couldn't sleep.
Muttering a curse, he eased out of bed and looked around the hotel room.
The president was to arrive in two days and Quade and his men had checked out everything, especially the route the motorcade would be taking. There had been rumblings of a planned protest, but a spokesman for the Egyptian government had contacted him earlier to say the matter had been taken care of.
He wondered if the bar downstairs was still open. He could definitely use a drink to take the edge off. For some reason this place and sleeping alone in this bed was reminding him just how long it had been since he'd had any sort of intimate physical contact with a woman. Too long.
Instead of getting a drink, Quade decided to take a walk on the beach. He eased into a pair of jeans and pulled a T-shirt over his head. After sliding his feet into a pair of sandals he checked the clock on the nightstand. It was almost one in the morning.
As he left his room, closing the door shut behind him, he thought about the phone conversation he'd had with his mother earlier. She had surprised the hell out of him by saying his cousin Clint had gotten married.
He had just seen his cousin a few months before at his brother Spencer's wedding. They had talked. Clint had been excited. He had just retired as a Texas Ranger to become a partner with Durango and a childhood friend, McKinnon Quinn, in their horse-breeding business. Not once had Clint mentioned anything about a woman. And now he was married? There had to be more to it than the romantic tale his mother had weaved.
Within no time at all Quade had caught the designated elevator, the one that would take him six levels down to a patio that led to the beach. Most of the hotel was empty. The majority of the rooms were already reserved for the president's visit. The first lady would be present on this trip, along with a number of other dignitaries. The visit would last three days and Quade would be working nonstop behind the scenes the entire time.
He inhaled deeply as the scent of the ocean filled his nostrils, and after taking a few steps his sandals hit the soft sand, making him feel as if he was walking on marshmallows. Sharm al-Sheikh was a beautiful place, a developed tourist resort on the Sinai Peninsula that catered to the rich and famous. Even in the moonlit night, he could make out the large five-star hotels that dotted the shoreline.
A number of his men had made plans to hang around after the president's visit to relax
and unwind. Unfortunately, he wouldn't be one of them. He had promised his mother that he would be returning to the States in time to make an appearance at the christening of his cousin Thorn's son.
Quade had to admit that he always looked forward to returning home to Atlanta whenever he could. TheWestmorelands were a large group and getting even larger with all the recent marriages and births. And then there was the possibility that they might find even more West-morelands if the genealogy search his father was conducting proved out. It seemed that their great-grandfather had a twin everyone assumed had died while in his early twenties. It appeared the black sheep Raphel Westmoreland, who had run off with a still-married preacher's wife at the age of 22, was still alive. Both Quade's father and his father's twin brother, James, were eager to find any descendants of their long, lost wife-stealing, great-grand uncle Raphel.
Quade had been walking near the shoreline for a few moments when suddenly he felt an intense yearning in the pit of his stomach, an incredible ache that ran through his body.
He stopped walking as his gaze took in the stretch of beach in his path. It was dark and he could barely see, because a haze had covered the earth in front of him, some sort of low-hanging cloud. He took a cautious glance around him as the ache got more profound. And then seconds later, a woman appeared out of the mist.
She was absolutely the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
He blinked to make sure his mind and his eyes weren't playing tricks on him. His gaze traveled down the length of her body, taking in her white linen pant set and the mass of dark, luxurious hair that flowed recklessly around her shoulders and cascaded around her face. He felt his body respond to her presence. He tried to get his breathing back to normal while at the same time wondering what was going on with him. Why was he reacting to her this way?
She had seen him at the same time he had seen her and he watched her reaction. By the look in her dark eyes, she was feeling whatever it was that he was feeling. It had her in the same intense sexual grip. He could sense it. Just like he could sense the pull he felt toward her, specifically her mouth. She had the kind of lips that made you want to do naughty things to them, lick them, taste them forever. They had a shape just for kissing and were the kind that any man's tongue would want to wet and tease.