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All Cameron Duke wanted to do was rip off his tie, grab a beer and get laid, not necessarily in that order. He'd been working too hard for way too long on the current Duke Development project and he was damn tired of living in a hotel suite.
On the other hand, he reasoned as he slid his key card into the door slot, he couldn't really complain about it. After all, he owned the hotel. And the owner's suite of the Monarch Dunes resort hotel was two thousand square feet of luxury: all the comforts of home with a wide terrace, fantastic ocean views and room service. Nope, he couldn't complain about that.
As he stepped inside the foyer of his suite, Cameron vowed that as soon as the hotel's international catering conference was over, he would go fishing. The resort was up and running to capacity, so it was time for him
to take off for a few weeks, get away and do nothing. Maybe he'd rent a houseboat up on Lake Shasta, or grab a raft and float down the King River. Or maybe he'd just make a few calls .
Not to put too fine a point on it, he definitely needed to get laid.
Pulling his tie loose, he dropped his keys on the foyer side table, placed his briefcase on the marble floor and stepped into the living room, where every light in the room was turned on.
"Now, what's wrong with this picture?" he muttered, knowing he'd switched the lights off when he left two days ago.
Not only was every light on in the suite, but the drapes were all closed. Housekeeping knew he preferred the drapes to stay open in order to take advantage of the incredible Pacific view. The room was on the top floor of the Craftsman-style hotel, and the double-paned windows were tempered glass and lightly tinted. It wasn't as if anyone could see inside.
He shrugged out of his suit jacket. Maybe there was someone new working in Housekeeping. They must've left the lights on and closed the drapes without knowing his preferences. It could happen. But it wouldn't happen again.
Taking a few steps into the room, he saw a strange paperback book, opened and facedown on the coffee table. Then his gaze focused in on another foreign object draped over the arm of the couch.
Moving closer, he carefully picked up the soft bit of fabric. Pink, trimmed with paler pink lace around the edges. Lingerie. Expensive. Absurdly feminine. He fingered the fancy silk and the lightest scent of orange blossoms and spice wafted up and enveloped him. The fragrance was vaguely familiar and his groin tightened as an inexplicable need arose in the pit of his stomach.
"What the hell?" He tossed the camisole back on the couch. Not that he didn't appreciate a nice bit of feminine adornment as much as the next guy, but right now he was more concerned with how in the world it got in here.
"Beer first," he decided, and cut through the spacious dining room to get to the kitchen. That's when he saw the high heels. Sexy ones. Red. Tucked under the dining room table.
He hated to repeat himself, but what the hell?
Red high heels? It had to be a joke. Something like this was right up his brother Brandon's alley. And if Cameron hadn't already been annoyed at having his quiet evening interrupted, he might've managed to laugh about it.
He moved cautiously past the bar into the kitchen. No, Brandon wasn't hiding there, waiting to jump out and yell that Cameron had been Punk'd. But that didn't mean his brother wasn't around somewhere. Cameron grabbed a beer from the refrigerator, twisted the cap off, took a long, slow drink, then stared at the row of empty baby bottles lined up next to the sink.
"Okay, that's enough," he said, then shouted, "Brandon? Where are you?" There was no answer.
"I know you're in here somewhere," he said as he walked through the double doors and down the wide hall toward the master bedroom.
That's when he heard the singing.
He froze. A woman's voice, slightly off key, singing some old song about pifia coladas and getting caught in the rain. Some woman was singing in the shower. His shower. In his bathroom.
He glanced at his navy polo shirt neatly tossed over the back of the chair in the corner. Those were his running shoes tucked under the chair, too.
Good. He was in the right suite. Which meant that some woman was definitely in the wrong one. Cameron swore under his breath. This had to be Brandon's work. It would be just like his brother to hire a woman as a "surprise." It was the only explanation, because without the approval of a family member, there was no way the front desk would ever allow a strange woman into his room.
He stood listening to the soft singing and wondered what his next step ought to be. He should probably be a gentleman and wait for whomever it was to finish her shower, dry off and put some clothes on before he kicked her out. But then, he'd never claimed to be a gentleman.
Besides, he wasn't the one guilty of breaking and entering. And showering. So he stood at the entrance to the bathroom and waited as the water was turned off and the shower door opened.
One incredibly shapely, bare, wet leg emerged at the same time as a well-toned, lightly freckled arm reached to grab a towel. Cameron pulled one off the rack and handed it to her. "Allow me."
Her scream was shrill enough to peel the paint off the bathroom wall.
"Get out!" she cried, then dropped the towel in her anxious rush to cover herself up.
"Funny, that's just what I was about to say to you," he told her.
Cameron wasn't normally a voyeur. He should've moved away from the door immediately and given her some privacy, but he couldn't. All he could do was gawk like a school kid at her wet-dream-inducing breasts. High, round orbs with tight pink nipples that he imagined would fit perfectly in his hands. And his mouth. His imagination didn't stop there. He wanted to reach out and touch the smooth skin of her stomach, then let his fingers wander down to the delicious patch of dark blond hair at the apex of her curvaceous thighs.
A spark of light drew his gaze back to her navel, where a small diamond twinkled. She had a pierced belly button. For some reason, that made him smile.
"Will you stop staring and get out of here?" she shrieked as she grappled with the towel, finally covering up those spectacular breasts of hers.
Show's over, his rampant libido thought mournfully, and he brought his gaze back up to her face. Whoa. He would know those flashing dark blue eyes anywhere. They belonged to the one woman he'd never quite been able to get out of his mind.
"Hello, Julia," he said.
"What do you think you're doing here, Cameron?"
He leaned back against the doorjamb. "Well, since I live here, I was thinking I'd throw some shorts on, have another beer and watch the football game." He folded his arms across his chest. "A better question might be, what are you doing here?"
She huffed out a breath as she stepped fully out of the shower, the towel wrapped around her like a terry-cloth shield. "I was told this suite would be unoccupied for the next two weeks."
"I seriously doubt anyone on my staff told you that."
"Well, it's true," she grumbled, then walked into the bedroom and over to a small open suitcase on the luggage rack near the window.
He took a sip of beer as he watched her pull out some clothes. "Maybe when you're dressed, we should have a little talk about boundaries."
"Oh, stuff it," she said irately, but her hands shook as she pushed her wet, wavy hair back off her face. "Why are you here, anyway?"
"Me?" He probably shouldn't be smiling still, but after all, he was just a man, and she was gorgeous. "Last time I checked, this was my suite."
"But you're not supposed to be here!"
"Honey, I own the place."
Gripping her towel together with one hand, she pushed past him to the walk-in closet to dress quickly. She emerged less than a minute later, dressed in loose shorts and a T-shirt.
Cameron swore under his breath. If she thought putting on clothes would decrease his desire to stare at her, she was wrong. The small, thin shirt outlined her breasts vividly and Cameron was even more intrigued now than before.
"So, you ready to explain what you're doing here?" he asked, wondering if it was getting hotter in here.
Fluffing her hair with her fingers to dry it, she began in a calm voice, "Look, Cameron, Sally said that"
"What?" Every nerve ending in Cameron's body began to twitch and not in a good way. "Wait a minute."
Hearing her invoke his mother's name was not a good thing. Sally Duke, the incredible woman who had adopted him when he was eight years old, was a force of nature. Cameron was well aware of her mission to get her three sons married off and knew she wouldn't be satisfied until the deed was done. Damn it, if Sally had something to do with Julia being here, Cameron was in for nothing but trouble.
"Exactly what does my mother have to do with you being wet and naked in my bathroom?"
Julia gazed at him warily, seeming to gauge his temper. "Um, absolutely nothing. I misspoke."
"You misspoke?" he drawled. "About my mother? You're kidding, right?"
"No, I'm not kidding," she said, and straightened her spine in righteous anger. Which caused her breasts to thrust forward. Her wet hair had dampened the T-shirt enough that it molded even more firmly to her skin. But she didn't seem to notice as she persisted. "You're not supposed to be here. And since I was given a key by your hotel management, I think it's only right that you should leave."
"Trust me, that's not going to happen." He prowled toward her, studying her every move. "Now exactly what did my mother tell you?"
Her eyes widened and she took a step back. "Never mind. On second thought, I think I'll just pack my things and get out."
"Not yet," he said, grabbing her arm. "I want to know what my mother has to do with you being here." "All right," she said as she tried futilely to pull away.
"Sally said you'd be gone during the conference and that I would be more comfortable in a suite than a regular room. She told your manager to give me the key."
Her words sent icy tendrils of pure dread down Cameron's spine. Yes, he'd originally planned to stay up north another two weeks, but he'd called Sally yesterday to tell her his plans had changed and he was coming back tonight.
His mother had set this whole thing up.
Did Sally really think that Cameron would take one look at this woman, fall on his knees and beg her to marry him? If so, then Mom was doomed for disappointment.
But as Julia squirmed to pull away from him, Cameron's lower body came to life in a big way. Did it really matter, in that moment, what his mother had done? No. He'd deal with Mom later. Much later.
Right now he had his hands on a lovely, skimpily dressed woman. A sexy woman he'd once known in the most intimate way a man could know a woman.
Holding her close, he again caught that intriguing fragrance of orange blossoms along with something deeper, something exotic. He'd never forgotten her, never forgotten her scent, despite his every effort to do so.
He could still remember meeting her that first time. Talk about lust at first sight.
It all happened after his mother had discovered Cupcake, Julia's bakery in Old Town Dunsmuir. Mom had tried her pastries and cupcakes and had insisted that her sons try them for themselves. They all agreed that her products were incredible and soon thereafter, the Duke resorts began carrying Julia's line of pastries, cookies and breads.
Julia had been invited to attend a one-day vendor orientation at one of the Duke resorts up the coast. She'd planned to stay through the long weekend as a guest of the Dukes. That was where Cameron first saw her, walking across the lobby on her way to the hotel lounge. He'd approached, she'd shown equal interest, and they'd ended up spending that long weekend together.
And that had been the end of it.
She'd haunted his dreams on more than one occasion, but Cameron had refused to contact her again. He had a steadfast rule when it came to women. Once the affair was over, he always made a clean break. He never went back, never looked back. It was safer that way, and simpler. For both parties. Otherwise, women tended to get the wrong idea and hold out hope of a relationship growing. Cameron didn't want to hurt anyone so he stuck to short-term affairs with women who knew the score.
He remembered receiving a few emails from Julia, asking him to call her. He'd thought about it, wanted to, but personal experience had taught him that renewing the affair would only lead to disaster. For her sake as well as his own, Cameron had ignored her requests and eventually, she stopped contacting him.
But here she was, he thought, a year and a half later. In his hotel suite. Wearing those sexy shorts and a practically see-through top. And a belly ring. She gazed up at him with her startling blue eyes and in that moment, he wanted nothing more than to watch those eyes go dark with passion, to taste her lush lips again as well as every other part of her stunning body. Was he honestly going to kick her out of his suite?
Was he nuts?
"Look, I'm sorry," he said in a soothing tone as he ran his hands up and down her arms. "My people must've forgotten I was coming home today. It's late. We can both stay here tonight and I'll find you a room in the morning."
Her eyes clouded with worry. "I suppose I could sleep on the couch."
"We can talk about sleeping arrangements later," he said easily, moving closer. "It's great to see you, Julia."
Smiling tentatively, she said, "Really?"
He skimmed his lips along her hairline and breathed in her fresh scent. "Yeah."
She sighed and closed her eyes, clearly swayed. "But what about your rule?"
Watching her closely, he lowered his head toward hers. "What rule is that?"
Her eyes fluttered open as she whispered, "Once you've finished with a woman, you never go back."
Cameron frowned. "I told you that?"
Nodding solemnly, she said, "It was the last time I saw you. You said you had a great time but you wouldn't call. You said you didn't want me to get the wrong idea." Her voice quavered as his lips hovered within millimeters of hers.