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Seducing the Moon
By SHERRILL QUINN
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2009 Sherrill Quinn
All right reserved.
Chapter One"O'Connell, you had better be all right, because if you've broken your worthless neck on my property I'm bloody well going to kill you."
Declan raised his head from the steering wheel, rubbing the sore spot on his forehead where he'd connected with the unforgiving plastic. Already he could feel the slight bump caused by the impact was lessening. Being a werewolf did have its advantages. And from what he'd experienced in the last four months, not that many disadvantages.
He focused on the woman stomping toward him. The deep red T-shirt she wore set off her creamy skin to perfection, and her jeans hugged curves that he hadn't touched in much, much too long. The morning sunlight glinted on her honey blond hair and reflected off the anger glittering in her ocean-blue eyes.
Stripping off her gardening gloves, Pelicia Cobb stopped beside his vehicle and looked at the corner of the historic bed and breakfast that had seconds before become an unplanned hood ornament on Declan's rental car. "Oh, my God. Look what you've done!" She planted her hands on her hips and glared at him. "Where did you get a car?"
"They've set up a small 'cars for hire' booth near the ferry office, darlin', you know that," he said through the open window.
"Like we need more cars onour tiny stretch of roadways." Her scowl deepened. "And don't call me darlin'. I got over that charming Irish brogue a long time ago." Her gaze went back to the corner of the house. Something like a growl came from her throat. When she looked at him again, her eyes were hard with anger. "Just when exactly did your mission in life become one of making my life a bloody impossible mess? Tourist season just got underway and now you've demolished my house."
Thinking to tell her she was overreacting-as a former commando and demolitions expert in the Royal Marines he damned well knew how to properly destroy something, and this wasn't anywhere near what he could have done-he opened his mouth to respond.
She forestalled him with a sharp downward slash of one slender hand. "Never mind," she growled. "I already know the answer. It was two years ago, the last time you deigned to grace me with your presence."
Even with the deep frown on her face, Pelicia was still the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.
"You'd damned well better have insurance, because I can't afford to fix this." She gestured toward the corner of the granite house where several large blocks were clearly askew. "Even with an occasional guest, it's been a hard off-season, as usual."
"It's not like I did it on purpose," he responded, doing his best not to sound like a teenager making excuses to his mum. Although she certainly was doing a bang-up job of making him feel like he was about fourteen again.
He pushed open the car door. The crumpled metal protested with a loud grinding groan, and he had to exert pressure to get it all the way open. He climbed out from behind the wheel. "Besides, you know I'm not anythin' if not responsible."
Her lips twisted. "Ah. Right. How could I forget? The great Declan O'Connell, commando extraordinaire, responsible for eradicating villains from the world one innocent at a time."
Declan gritted his teeth at her sarcasm. Forget fourteen years old. Try five. Though as unfair as her words were, he couldn't fault her for her feelings.
Two years ago, the firm he'd worked for at the time had sent him to London to assist with an investigation into an international document-forging organization-primarily because of his friendship with Pelicia and his knowledge of the Isles of Scilly. In the course of his investigation, he'd been instrumental in getting her arrested. Even though she'd been cleared of all involvement, in the end she'd lost her job and her reputation had suffered. She'd returned to St. Mary's to take over this bed and breakfast after her grandfather-the real talent behind the forgery ring-had been sent to prison.
"Oh, forget it." She sighed and crossed her arms.
She looked so fragile and defenseless that he had to fight to keep from pulling her into a comforting embrace. He knew the second he did he'd have a snarling wildcat on his hands that would quickly dissuade him from thinking she was either fragile or defenseless.
"Just give me your insurance information. Then you can contact them and file a claim."
Without a word he pulled out his wallet. He retrieved the card he carried that had his insurance company information on it. Replacing his wallet in the back pocket of his jeans, he asked, "You have paper and pen?"
"Wait here." She turned and started back toward the two-story house.
Declan found himself unable to look away from her pert derrière. God, but she had the most beautiful ass. It had fit him as if it had been specially made for him.
"Stop staring at my bum," Pelicia called without looking around.
"Can't blame a man for admirin' the view, darlin'."
"Oh, yes I bloody well can." She went inside, slamming the door shut behind her.
He sighed and shoved the card into the front pocket of his jeans. She'd used the word "bloody" three times in as many minutes. Other than a "damn" now and then, it was as close as she got to really cursing, and that she had used it so often spoke to her anger with him. It seemed two years had done little to diminish it.
He heaved another sigh and looked at the car. Circling it, he checked for additional damage. Thankfully he hadn't been going that fast when the tire had blown. Otherwise, he'd have done a hell of a lot more damage. Mostly to the car. Pelicia's bed and breakfast, the Nola-named after her maternal grandmother-was one of those three-hundred-year-old granite cottages that could stand up to a lot more than a car barreling into it. Still ...
Declan assessed the destruction to the stone building. From the outside there didn't appear to be too much structural damage, but he was no expert and couldn't tell what kind of repair might be needed on the inside.
Looking down, he inspected the front of the car, wincing at the thought of what he'd tell the insurance company. Let alone the folks at the rental company. He'd been driving along with no problem and then, all of a sudden, the tire had blown, and he'd lost control of the vehicle. He hadn't had time enough-or room enough-to regain control before he'd slammed into Pelicia's place.
Which was where he'd been headed anyway, giving another go at getting her to talk to him, but this latest wrinkle was not going to aid his quest to get back on her good side.
He hunkered down to look at the tire. He had no idea what he'd run over, but it had ruined the tire-damn thing was completely shredded. A glint of metal caught his attention and he reached down. His fingers closed around a small fragment. As he lifted it, his gut tightened. He stared at the flattened metal slug.
It was a bullet, the type fired from a high-powered rifle.
What the hell!
Still crouched, he twisted around and scanned the surrounding area. If someone had been aiming for him, they'd had plenty of time to take another shot. Hell, another several shots. The sniper had either gotten scared off or ...
Holy shit. Could he have been aiming for Pelicia? With his heart beating a staccato rhythm against his ribs, Declan got to his feet and gazed over the roof of the car. She'd been kneeling by the flowerbed, bent over pulling weeds, when the shot had been fired. If Declan hadn't driven by when he had ...
... that bullet would have struck her.
He headed toward the house. The front door opened and Pelicia came out onto the small portico. Before she could start down the cobbled pathway, Declan grabbed her by one arm, turned her around, and hustled her back into the house. He pushed the door shut behind them.
"What the ..." She yanked away from him and scowled. "What the bloody hell is wrong with you, O'Connell?" She rubbed her arm where he'd gripped her.
He tamped down the annoyance he always felt whenever she referred to him by his last name. He knew she did it to try to keep things more impersonal between them but now wasn't the time to get into it with her. "Sorry." He raked a hand through his hair. "I didn't mean to hurt you. But you need to stay inside."
She blinked. "I need to stay inside," she repeated. Her fine brows lifted. "For any particular length of time? Five minutes, an hour, the rest of my bloody life?" Her lips thinned. "How about if I just cloister myself? That way I wouldn't be any kind of threat to anyone. At all. That should make you happy."
Declan hid a wince. She was angry again. Or still. Probably still. He sighed and scrubbed the back of his neck with his hand. He always seemed to muck it up with Pel when all he wanted to do was to set things right. "My back tire was shot out," he said, twisting around to peek out the window. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but then he probably wouldn't be able to see a camouflaged sniper without a scope of his own. Even with his exceptional werewolf vision. He turned to look at Pelicia. "I don't know if someone was taking a shot at me or at you."
"Me? Why on earth would someone be shooting at me?" She propped her hands on her hips.
"You tell me." Declan folded his arms over his chest. "Maybe someone who's upset with your granddad?"
Her face went blank as she shut down on him. He should have known better than to bring it up. But it was a real possibility he couldn't ignore. His emotional comfort-and hers-was secondary to her safety.
"Pel, it's entirely possible-maybe even probable-that someone's life got majorly screwed up when your granddad got caught and sent to prison." When she shot him a glare, he muttered, "Don't look at me like that." Jaysus. He was amazed his eyebrows weren't singed.
"He's in prison because of you," she spat out. Her hands fisted. "I almost went to prison because of you."
"Your granddad's in prison because he broke the law." Declan reined in his anger with difficulty. He felt guilty enough over what happened without her embellishing the facts and heaping even more blame on him. "And I think you're exaggeratin' a wee bit, darlin'." He let his hands drop to his sides. "You weren't anywhere near bein' sent to prison. You were arrested and released, no charges filed."
He fought back the remorse he felt over the way he'd used her in the investigation. What had started out as a means to get closer to her grandfather had ended up with them falling in love-an emotion she had quickly fallen out of once Declan's perfidy had been discovered.
But once the wheels had been set in motion it had been out of his hands. He'd thought-hoped-that once the dust had settled they could go back to the way things were.
That hadn't happened. Yet. But past experience had taught him that persistence paid off, so he kept pressing on.
A muscle twitched in her jaw. "You are unbelievable." Pelicia shook her head. "Arrogant, patronizing ..." Almost to herself she muttered, "I must have been out of my mind, thinking I was in love with you."
A spark of warmth hit his gut at her admission but was quickly extinguished by her use of the past tense. Was in love. Not am in love.
"Whatever else I am, you know I don't worry without cause. There's somethin' wrong here, Pel. You need to stay inside. Until," he added when she opened her mouth, probably to blast him again, "I check the perimeter and determine it's safe. All right?"
She gave an abrupt nod. "I think you're making an elephant out of a mosquito, but if it'll appease you and get you out of my hair faster, I'll stay inside while you look around."
Damn. Hand him a rifle and tell him to take out an enemy, and he knew what to do, didn't hesitate to carry out the mission. Faced with this hostility, he was flummoxed. He had no idea how to overcome her resistance.
Except through unrelenting perseverance.
When he stood there and stared at her, one slender foot started tapping on the floor and those eyebrows climbed up again. "Anytime you're ready, O'Connell."
Shock and awe, he heard in his head. There was that little devil inside him, pushing him to do something unexpected, something that would push her off-balance. Though it had always driven his sainted mother to distraction, it had yet to lead him wrong. Shock and awe.
Declan walked the few steps it took to bring him close to Pelicia and cupped her face in his hands. He stared down into wide blue eyes a few seconds and then slanted his mouth over hers.
He'd meant to be gentle, to take it slow, but when she gasped, her lips parting under his, thoughts of tenderness fled right out of his head. So did all the blood, rushing away to his cock.
Her lips were like silk under his. He deepened the kiss, sliding his tongue into the hot recess of her mouth. Her lashes fluttered then her eyes closed, and she leaned into him slightly, her hands gripping his waist.
Christ, it had been too long. Too long since he'd held her in his arms, since he'd tasted her lips, since he'd slid his cock through the slick cream of her arousal and into her sweet pussy. But going at her like a battering ram wasn't going to aid his cause. He had to slow down or he'd end up pushing her even further away.
He pulled back and rested his forehead against hers. "We have to talk about what happened two years ago," he murmured. Before she could say anything he drew away. "You know we can't keep avoidin' it, darlin'."
Pelicia clamped her lips together and shook her head.
Stubborn little cuss.
Declan stepped back. "Once I make sure it's safe outside, you and I will have that talk, Pel." He walked to the front door and cautiously opened it, peering around the edge. There was no movement other than a couple of tourists dressed in shorts and floppy hats lingering outside the pub a few doors down. He looked over his shoulder and added, "Count on it."
He started to go outside. Remembering he needed to give her his insurance information, he stopped. He pulled the card out of his pocket and held out his hand, the card between two fingers. "Here. Call the insurance company and see if you can't get the ball rollin'. They'll want to talk to me, but tell them I've asked you to give them your particulars."
She walked toward him but stopped far enough away that she had to lean forward and stretch to take the card.
He shook his head. "Coward." He cocked an eyebrow.
A scowl covered her face. "Piss off, O'Connell."
He tsked her, knowing even as he did so that it would raise her ire. But treading lightly and trying not to upset her hadn't gotten him anywhere in the last four months. Perhaps getting her a little emotional and slightly off her stride would work in his favor. As she began to sputter some sort of indignant response, he pulled the door open wider. After checking the area, he glanced back at her and muttered, "Stay away from the windows," and went onto the portico, closing the door softly behind him.
Let her stew for a while. If there was one thing that would make Pelicia act contrary, it was telling her she was something that she wasn't. Calling her a coward should make her face her fears-and then, perhaps, him.
Pelicia ignored his damned order-really, no one would be shooting at her, but at stubborn, macho, infuriating Declan Joseph O'Connell? She'd believe that in a second. She wrapped her arms around herself and paced by the windows, her gaze fixed on Declan as he prowled around the front garden. The Nola perched on the edge of Hugh Town so there weren't many people moving around nearby. For now, Declan was the only human in her sight.
Watching him as he bent to look at something, she sighed. His jeans pulled taut over the muscles of his ass. He was a sight worth seeing, she couldn't deny that.
She sighed again. What had she been thinking, to let him kiss her like that? After all her posturing, all it took was hearing that sexy Irish brogue of his and one touch of his mouth against hers, and she'd melted like soft butter in a hot skillet.
One kiss and the folds of her pussy were slick and swollen, ready for sex. Her nipples were diamond-hard points that ached. God, she felt like it would take only the briefest, lightest of touches against her pulsing clit for her to splinter in an orgasm.
Declan had always been able to do that to her. Get her revved up in a millisecond, so on fire for him she would do about anything for his touch.
Excerpted from Seducing the Moon by SHERRILL QUINN Copyright © 2009 by Sherrill Quinn. Excerpted by permission.
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