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By Jayne Krentz
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLater, she would ask herself how she could possibly have missed all the danger signals emanating from the man. With the inevitable wisdom of hindsight, she would feel the lazy menace in him as clearly as she now felt her own deeply intrigued response, and Leya Brandon would wonder bitterly why her normally astute mind and intuition had betrayed her.
It was to be only the second time in all her twenty-seven years that she had allowed herself to be misled by a man, but Leya would take little comfort from that fact. She rarely needed a second lesson in anything.
But for the moment, on the dance floor of the secluded inn on the wild Oregon coast, Leya wasn't thinking of the future. The man held her in such an intimate dancing embrace that she was obliged to rest both hands on his broad shoulders. The way he shaped the curve of her waist made it impossible to concentrate on anything but the present. Leya tipped back her neat head, the long, sable-dark braid falling dramatically over one shoulder and across her breast, and smiled up into Court Gannon's sensuously narrowed tortoiseshell eyes. The look she met in the gold-flecked gaze caused her fingertips to flex ever so slightly against the subtly rough texture of his jacket.
The inviting, waiting look in Court's eyes deepened as he felt the small movement on his shoulders.
"You feel like a kitten trying to decide whether or not to settle in for the night," he murmured in soft amusement, turning his head slightly to touch her wrist with his lips. It was the lightest, most teasing of caresses, yet Leya was aware of the small shiver which coursed through her.
"Not for the night," she made herself answer, with a smiling ease that took a surprising amount of effort. The realization that it was going to be difficult to refuse Court's imminent invitation to share his bed hit her with some force. My God, she thought wonderingly, I've only known him two days! "But a few more dances would be welcomed," she concluded softly.
"It will be my pleasure to provide the dances," he growled in his dark, heavily shaded voice. "But I warn you I intend to use the time to my own advantage." The large, strong hands at Leya's waist tightened meaningfully and the golden brown eyes gleamed.
Leya's full, generous mouth curved a fraction more as she regarded her partner from beneath thick eyelashes. "Coming from someone who doesn't believe in exerting himself unnecessarily, that sounds rather energetic," she observed teasingly.
"The operative word is unnecessarily," he drawled.
"And I'm coming to the conclusion that having you for an entire night is going to be very necessary, indeed!"
Leya felt the warmth flood her face even as she tried to retain her normally abundant common sense. "There's a certain lack of subtlety in your approach tonight," she accused chidingly as she sought for a light way of handling the increasing sensual tension between them.
"I've had the impression from the beginning that the usual games weren't going to be necessary between us, Leya," Court retorted almost gently, his eyes searching her features for the truth of her feelings toward him.
"It's not a question of playing games, Court," she replied, the smallest of frowns drawing her dark brows slightly toward each other. "It's a matter of being sure. Why does a man imply a woman is teasing or playing games when she is only trying to test the depths of her own reactions and those of the male involved?"
"Because he's horribly afraid that if he allows the woman to probe her feelings too deeply, she'll talk herself out of going to bed with him!" Court said and grinned candidly.
"So he deliberately tries to make her feel guilty by accusing her of being a tease?" Leya shot back, silver-green eyes deepening with a nonverbal rebuke.
"Exactly. Can you blame us? All's fair in love and war!"
"Situation ethics, Court? I'm surprised at you. I would have thought you were the type of man who lives by a definite set of principles," she mocked.
"And doesn't alter them to fit the situation? Well, in a sense, you're right." He smiled unabashedly.
"It's just that the principles I choose to live by are my own."
"Developed by you and for you?"
"Ummm," he agreed, his fingers kneading the contour of her lower waist with blatant pleasure.
Leya felt the pleasure in his hands as it communicated itself to her and knew she was going to have difficulty when it came time to say goodnight. She refused to think of how difficult it would be when the moment for good-bye came, as it would in only a few short days.
But vacation romances, however pleasant, were doomed to appallingly short lives, she told herself firmly. They were meant to be enjoyed on a superficial level and then forgotten - light flirtations that could be ended without serious regret. For Leya, that meant not having to live with the knowledge that she had given herself casually to a man who wouldn't remember her name by the time his next vacation arrived.
But regardless of what happened between them, Leya knew she wouldn't forget Court Gannon's name for a long, long time. Nor would she forget anything else about the man with the tortoiseshell eyes and matching hair. Large and solidly built without being an ounce overweight, he topped six feet by about one inch, she estimated and she found pleasure in the way his wide shoulders narrowed into a lean waist and strong thighs.
There was power in this man, and Leya was honest enough to admit it attracted her. Only later would she tell herself she should have been wary of that primitive attraction. But the mastery and strength were cloaked in what was, for Leya, an enormously appealing laziness and self-control.
The variegated deep gold and dark brown of his thick hair was cut short in an apparent effort to tame the broad wave that threatened to fall across his wide forehead. More than once, Leya had been forced to exercise a degree of control in order to restrain herself from reaching up to thrust curious, sensitive fingers through the curve of that hair. She knew her own weakness for tactile sensations and deliberately avoided the temptation.
Excerpted from Stormy Challenge by Jayne Krentz Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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