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His sleeping beauty.
Duncan's mouth kicked up at one corner in what passed for an ironic smile. She was beautiful. No question about that. Classic, sculpted features. Ivory skin as smooth as a child's. He gently tucked a stray strand of glossy auburn hair behind a small, shell-like ear, letting his hand linger where the end of the curl touched her pillow. She'd been trying out a longer style for the last few months. He approved. The soft, shoulder-length tendrils framed her face to perfection.
Andrea didn't stir, nor had she moved when he'd jimmied the lock on the door between their hotel rooms and quietly entered hers. She slept with the innocent trust of a small child, motionless except for the slow rise and fall of her breathing. During the secret nocturnal visits Duncan had paid her, three nights running now, he'd only once seen her otherwise. Then she'd been in the throes of a nightmare. He'd watched over her until it passed and she'd once more relaxed into restful slumber.
A yawn caught him by surprise, the unwanted reminder that he seemed to be the one having difficulty getting enough rest. That was his own fault. He hadn't wanted anyone else working this assignment with him. Bad enough that Andrea's grandfather had set him to spying on her.
"For her own good," Aaron Sutherland had insisted.
Maybe. Maybe not. In the five years Duncan had been doing small investigation jobs for Sutherland International, he'd learned the old man didn't mind twisting the truth to suit his own ends.
So far Duncan had seen no indication that Andrea was in any danger of hurting herself while sleepwalking. Hell, he didn'teven have any first hand evidence that she was a sleepwalker.
Leery of waking her, he finally moved away from the bed with excruciating slowness, reluctantly freeing his fingers from the silken bonds formed by a single wisp of her hair.
Why did he go on torturing himself? If he did his job well, Andrea would never even notice him. If he slipped up and she caught sight of him following her, she'd hardly be pleased to see him. It was a no win situation.
Andrea flat out didn't like him or his line of work. At best she regarded what he did for a living as a necessary evil. When he'd last been responsible for guarding her, in that brief period between her husband's senseless murder and the killer's capture, Duncan had managed to alienate her thoroughly. He'd meant well, but she hadn't been ready to hear the truth about her recently deceased husband. She'd been determined to regard Greg as some sort of martyred hero.
Duncan's lips twitched in disgust. Seeing her agony, knowing she was wrongly blaming herself for Greg's death, had driven him to say too much, too soon. He doubted she'd ever forgive him for trying to tarnish her image of ?St. Gregory? Lauderdale.
As silently as he'd approached the bed, he backed away, fighting off another enormous yawn. Tonight he'd have to get some rest or he'd be no further use to anyone, not even himself. That problem, at least, was not insurmountable. He was a light sleeper. All he had to do was leave the connecting door open. He'd hear her the second she got out of bed.
Duncan had been reading up on sleepwalking from the moment he took this case and now had a pretty good idea what to expect. He knew he'd have time to intercept Andrea before she wandered very far. With any luck, he'd be able to tuck her back under the covers without ever waking her.
If she walked in her sleep at all.
If that wasn't just an excuse the old man had come up with to convince Duncan to keep an eye on her. Aaron Sutherland didn't like losing track of what any of his children or grandchildren were doing. When they were out of touch, he couldn't control who they met or what they did.
With one last look at the sleeping beauty, Duncan returned to his own room, stripped quickly, and crawled in between cool sheets. Worn out by the last few long nights, he was asleep within minutes.
~ ~ ~
Morning came too soon. Andrea felt the warmth of Texas sunshine on her face, but at first she refused to open her eyes. She was far too comfortable lying in this big, soft bed, covered by warm, cozy blankets. She didn't even want to contemplate starting the day.
Frowning, she burrowed a little deeper into the bedding. When she did get up she'd have to make a phone call. She was not looking forward to it, not after her last confrontation with her grandfather.
A small sigh escaped her. The snug warmth of the bed had already stopped working its magic. At a long eerie cry, the sound made by one of the hotel's resident peacocks, her sense of security vanished completely.
Time to get up, order a reviving cup of coffee from room service, and pick up the telephone. She'd assure Grampy that she was alive and well, and sound of mind and body. Then she'd steadfastly refuse to tell him the location of her present hide-out.
Stifling a yawn, her eyes still tightly closed against that annoying sunbeam, Andrea rolled over. She bumped up against a warm, solid object stretched out beside her.
For just a second, she thought it must be Greg. Then she remembered. Greg was dead. He'd been dead for nearly eight months.
Andrea's eyes flew open. She gulped in astonishment, swallowing a cry of dismay. There was a man in bed with her, asleep, the covers pulled up to his neck so that only the back of his head and a thick mane of dark, tousled hair were visible.
Who was he? How had he gotten there?
Andrea hadn't the foggiest notion, but as soon as her heart rate slowed enough to allow her to breathe normally, she quickly reviewed the events of the previous evening. There didn't seem to be any gaps in her memory.
She was quite sure no one had been sleeping in her bed when she'd changed into her most comfortable nightshirt, the one decorated with cartoon cats. She'd securely locked her door against intruders, too. She remembered thinking about leaving the door to the balcony open, to let in some fresh air, but had decided against it. Her room was only on the second floor, far too accessible from ground level. Andrea prided herself on being sensible when she traveled.
Feeling more clear-headed now, in spite of an underlying sense of panic, she tried in vain to reconcile all the facts she could recall to her present situation.
She was dreaming, she concluded. She was still asleep.
One hard pinch ruined that theory. Andrea froze, not daring even to rub the small red spot she'd just left on her forearm. What if her unknown companion woke up?
Moving only her eyes, she scanned everything she could see. Another unwelcome revelation greeted her. This wasn't her room. The wallpaper was different. Andrea was sure hers had featured sprays of tiny red roses. Here there were small sprigs of what looked like forget-me-nots.
The blanket that covered the large stranger lying next to her was blue. Hers had been beige. She shivered in reaction. How had she gotten into this man's bed?
And who was he?
Carefully, Andrea levered herself onto one elbow. She had to get a look at his face. She had to know his identity before she fled. With any luck, she'd be safely back in her own room before he awoke, but even at the risk of waking him, she first had to see if he was someone she recognized.
Inching closer, she peered down into a sleeping face that was indeed familiar. In spite of her best efforts to remain silent, a small, startled sound escaped her.
The implications staggered her, but there was no mistake. Even in repose, no one else had such disturbingly saturnine features. The small scar that marred his left cheek was hidden from her view, but the distinctive contours of his noble nose, a nose he'd had broken for him more than once, stood out in stark contrast against the snow-white linen of the pillowcase.
Alerted to her presence by her muffled outcry, Duncan stirred and murmured a name. It was not Andrea's. She thought he called out for Laurie, but she didn't have time to give the matter much thought.
Eyes still closed, a drowsy smile on his face, he began to roll over. Andrea scooted backward, but he was too fast for her. Reaching out, he caught her around the waist with both hands before she could hop off the far side of the king-sized bed. When she made a frantic, futile effort to escape, squirming in his grasp, he just tightened his grip.
Duncan tugged and Andrea tumbled backward ... straight into his warm, sleepy embrace. He turned her in his arms as easily as if she weighed nothing at all. Firm, forceful lips settled over her mouth the moment she was facing him, cutting off any protest she might have wanted to make.
It was an incendiary kiss. Andrea had no more hope of resisting the lure of that flame than did a helpless moth. Her panic faded, replaced by a very different but equally powerful emotion. Desire hummed along her nerve endings, energizing her.
Abruptly abandoning all common sense, along with any interest in getting away from him, she gave herself up to the magic of the moment and kissed Duncan back. Their hearts accelerated in unison. Crazy as it seemed, this sizzling encounter felt ... right.
Of their own volition, Andrea's fingers tunneled through the soft, dark waves of his hair. He smelled faintly of spicy after-shave, and the sleepy sound of pleasure he made as his lips softened and he continued to kiss her with passionate intensity triggered a soft answering moan from her. God, he felt good!
The blanket and sheets seemed to vanish as he maneuvered her closer, pressing her tightly against the entire length of his lean, muscular body. His arousal pulsed hungrily, seeking her heat.
Andrea's shock at that blatantly intimate contact jolted her back to reality. Duncan Glendower was as naked as the day he'd been born.
Horrified as well by her own wanton desire to let him make love to her, she started to struggle. What had she been thinking? She barely knew this man! More than that, she still had no idea how she'd ended up in his bed.
"Duncan, let me go," she pleaded. "This isn't right."
The moment she felt his grip loosen, she went still, embarrassed by the way her every movement had brought them together. With his knee wedged against the apex of her thighs, it took all her willpower to lift her head and look directly into his eyes.
For an instant, they stayed nearly black with desire. Then they changed, narrowing, reflecting an astonishment that mirrored her own earlier reaction. Once he recognized her, his brows knit together until a forbidding scowl obscured all other expression.
Grasping Andrea by the shoulders, Duncan sat up in bed, pulling her along with him. His strength frightened her. Even though she was no longer trapped in a vulnerable position by a very large, very volatile male, she began to shake.
Duncan was having difficulty thinking clearly. He shook his head in an attempt to clear the cobwebs from his brain. That only made him more aware of the fact that he was naked and Andrea was all but.
He was close enough to her to feel the warmth rising from her skin, close enough to smell the lingering scent of her light floral perfume. And although his mind might be short-circuiting, his body was functioning very well indeed, the inevitable result of finding himself in bed and in close contact with luscious feminine curves.
Stay calm, he warned himself. He knew what must have happened. That kiss meant nothing. Less than nothing. And now there was poignant distress in her wide hazel eyes. She was trembling in his grip. Was she afraid of him?
Taken aback, Duncan abruptly released her. Her obvious relief and the speed with which she retreated had the same effect on him as sudden immersion in a cold mountain stream.
As she scrambled to get away, Duncan went in the opposite direction. Turning his back on her, he scooped up the clothes he'd left on a nearby chair and dressed in record time. He swung around just as she reached the door to the hall.
"Andrea, wait. We have to talk."
Slowly, she let her hand fall away from the doorknob. She risked a wary glance at him over her shoulder. "Do you know how I got here?" The words were barely louder than a whisper and she sounded scared.
"I've got a pretty good idea." The disgust in his voice was for himself, for his failure to do his job. So much for hearing her if she stirred.
He'd never had anything like this happen to him before. In fact, he could think of any number of times when, on past cases, such a mistake could have cost him his life. Raking both hands through his hair, he shook off the last vestiges of sleep and tried to find the words to explain to her that she suffered from somnambulism.
"Look, Andrea," he began, "I was asleep when you crawled in next to me, but I?"
"You think I invited myself into your bed!" Outrage laced the words, warning Duncan she'd misunderstood.
She seemed to think he was accusing her of sexual aggression of some sort and that he didn't approve of such behavior. Before he could get a word in to explain, she advanced on him, fire in her eyes. He fell silent before the stunning sight of Andrea enraged.
"Look at me," she challenged. "Do you think this is what any woman in her right mind would wear if she was trying to ... to ... " Words failed her, but with a contemptuous gesture she indicated the oversized nightshirt she wore.
Duncan looked, or rather stared, until color rose into her cheeks as she glowered back at him. Her hands curled into fists at her sides.
His intense gaze dropped to her bare toes and slowly climbed to mid-thigh, where fabric faded by dozens of washings hid features he now knew were soft and rounded and infinitely sexy.
Duncan smiled. He had to admit she was right. A woman bent on seduction ought to be wearing something more alluring, say a lacy black peignoir.
"Relax, Andrea," he said gruffly, wishing his mind hadn't conjured up such a vivid image. "I know you weren't driven into my bed by uncontrollable lust." He should be so lucky!
Exasperation laced her words. "I can't tell you how much that reassurance means to me."
"How long have you been following me?"
"Since you left Boston." He wasn't surprised she'd guessed she was his current assignment. Her quick mind was only one of the things he'd always admired about her.
Her eyes closed for a moment while she struggled for composure. "I felt it the last two nights. That sense of someone watching me. I told myself that I was just being paranoid. That my imagination was working overtime."
"Your grandfather hired me when it became obvious you were going to take off on your own." She'd led him on a merry chase, too, here to San Antonio by way of St. Louis and New Orleans.
Giving him what he could only describe as a "lady of the manor" look, she carefully unclenched her fists. "I'm old enough to be out on my own," she said coldly. "I'll be twenty-seven in less than a month."
"You could be about to turn forty and that grandfather of yours would still be hiring people to keep an eye on you. He was worried, Andrea."
"He has no reason to be," she insisted. "No right to be."
When she wrapped her arms around herself Duncan had to fight a powerful urge to offer comfort. He stayed where he was, certain taking her into his arms again for any reason would be a very big mistake. Better just to tell her the whole story and go from there.
"There has to be some reasonable explanation," she interrupted. "Heck, I wouldn't even rule out a transporter."
"You know. Starship Enterprise. Beam me up, Scotty. Maybe they miscalculated when they sent me back."
"You think aliens were responsible for the fact that you woke up in my bed?"
"Hey, it works for me."
"Right." What next? Ghosts?
"I can't believe I'm still in this room." She glanced again at the door to the hallway, but instead of repeating her attempt at retreat, she gave a short, embarrassed laugh and sank down on the foot of his bed. "I have no idea how far I am from my own room," she confessed. "And I couldn't get back inside even if I did know where it was. I don't have a room key on me."
"Nightshirts rarely come with pockets," he agreed in a dry tone.
Duncan watched her survey the rest of his room and knew the instant she noticed the connecting door. With a little gasp she sprang to her feet and headed toward it. He followed her through the opening. She wouldn't be pleased by what he had to tell her, but at least she wouldn't have to wonder any longer, or invent wild explanations.
"You have a history of sleepwalking," he said.
She turned and glared at him, as if she found his suggestion insulting. "No way."
Her hand trembled as she opened the closet to take out a very plain bathrobe. She was shivering as she shrugged into it.
It did feel chilly in the room, Duncan realized. He crossed to the thermostat and turned the air conditioning down. When he looked at Andrea again, she'd slipped on a pair of fuzzy slippers with puppy dog toes.
A wry smile tugged at his mouth. If the all-concealing robe and the silly slippers were supposed to create an unappealing image, they didn't do the trick. He still found her much too attractive for his own peace of mind.
She appropriated one of the room's two plush chairs and curled up in it, tucking her long legs carefully beneath her. "Have you actually seen me sleepwalk since you've been ... keeping an eye on me?"
"No," he had to admit, "but according to your grandfather, you were a sleepwalker when you were a child and you started doing it again recently. You went wandering around his place in the middle of the night the last time you stayed there."
"That's absurd. Someone would have said something to me." Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "I don't know what he's up to, but I don't believe a word of this sleepwalking nonsense. Surely I'd remember if it were true."
"Not necessarily." He considered explaining, but he had a feeling she wouldn't appreciate a lecture based on the textbooks he'd been reading lately. "Lots of people walk in their sleep," he said instead. "The tendency is nothing to be ashamed of."
Quite often the condition developed in people who were having trouble dealing with some deep psychological conflict in their waking lives. Andrea had probably convinced herself that she'd succeeded in working through her personal trauma, but it was obvious to him that she hadn't yet done so.
"I am not lots of people, nor am I a sleepwalker," she stubbornly insisted, sending another glare in his direction for emphasis. "And frankly, I'd rather believe the aliens were responsible for throwing us together."
Abruptly losing patience, Duncan strode toward her, closing the distance between them before she could even think of trying to escape. His hands clamped down on the arms of her chair, bracketing her body, trapping her. He leaned forward until their faces were nearly touching. Fighting a powerful urge to close that remaining distance, lower his lips, and kiss her until she agreed with him, Duncan fumbled for the telephone on the table just to his right.
"Call him," he said tersely, bringing the receiver up between them, holding it less than an inch from her nose. "Call your grandfather and ask him. Better yet, ask your grandmother." Surely Andrea would believe Leona, even if she had her doubts about Aaron. And about him.
Dropping the phone into her lap, he backed away. Andrea stared at the instrument with loathing. The mere possibility that Duncan might be telling the truth set her stomach roiling. A thin film of sweat broke out on her forehead.
From somewhere in her past, she recalled two people talking. They were discussing a child who'd wandered around the house in the middle of the night, sleepwalking. A little girl had been caught trying to climb out a third floor window. They'd stopped her, saving her in the nick of time from a fall that might have proved fatal.
That child had not been her. Andrea refused to believe it. And yet, now that she was forced to be honest with herself, there had been those two disturbing incidents just lately. One morning she'd awakened to find herself on the living room sofa when she could distinctly remember falling asleep in the bedroom upstairs. Another time she'd hopped out of bed and been amazed to discover that her feet were filthy, as if she'd been out walking in the flower gardens behind the house.
No. Nonsense. Her imagination was working overtime again, fed by Duncan Glendower and his preposterous claims.
Even as she fixed blame on him, he spoke. "You make the call or I will."
Annoyed as much by his threatening tone of voice as by the words themselves, Andrea stood. Clutching the phone to her chest, she quelled an urge to throw it at him. A haughty manner and icy tone would serve her far better.
"I believe I finally understand why monarchs in ancient times used to kill the messenger who brought them bad news."
"Get your grandfather to fire me and we'll both be happier," he suggested, unmoved.
"Oh, don't worry. I intend to." Very deliberately, she looked down her nose at him. "Do you mind? I would prefer to converse with my family in private."
He sketched a mock bow. "Whatever milady wishes." He left her room, but he didn't bother to close the connecting door behind him.
Andrea drew in a deep, strengthening breath. She thought longingly of coffee, but decided she needed to get all of the day's confrontations over with before she lost her nerve. Coffee could wait.
She'd been right to get away, she reminded herself as she braced for the unpleasantness ahead. Grampy was going to be difficult to deal with, even long distance. Still, a telephone conversation had to be easier to endure than what she'd be facing if she was at his house right now. There she'd have to listen to an endless stream of well-meant advice on what he insisted on calling her "unfortunate experience."
The euphemism grated, even though Andrea didn't much like hearing what had happened referred to as "a car jacking that escalated into murder," either. As usual, her mind shied away from contemplating the events that had taken place eight months earlier. She managed to avoid dwelling on the upcoming trial, as well. She'd learned the hard way that every time her thoughts strayed too close to either subject, she was swamped by a sense of helplessness.
And by her own guilt.
Posted June 1, 2013
Posted January 27, 2013