Read an Excerpt
Tall, Dark And Daring
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter One"What will it be, Tessa? Truth or dare?"
Tessa O'Neal tossed back another Jell-O shot, the South Beach sunset twinkling rainbows through her thick crimson drink. How could she live in this paradise full of gorgeous men and still end up playing adolescent games with her girlfriend on a Friday night?
"Truth," she answered, loud enough for Ines to hear over the salsa music and happy hour crowd at the open-air bar on Ocean Drive. Forget the dare. Ines would think of something really embarrassing for her to do.
Ines Cordova's armful of silver bracelets jangled as she waggled a chiding finger at Tessa. Ines was more than Tessa's boss at Westwood Marketing. The two of them had been friends since Tessa was a freshman in college and Ines had been a grad student.
"That is your third truth in row, chica. I remember a time when you did not always run from a dare."
Tessa started to shake her head, then stopped when the thrum in her temples informed her she'd almost reached her Jell-O shot quota. "Let's not go there." Tessa wouldn't be sitting around getting toasted if she hadn't had a colossally bad day. She'd planned this night out with Ines weeks ago as sort of a last hurrah before Tessa left Westwood to start her own business.
But the night hadtaken a decidedly glum turn since Tessa ended up breaking off her engagement to a perfectly great guy. What had she been thinking to give him his ring back just because he didn't leave her breathless every time he walked in a room like a certain guy she'd dated so many years ago?
She definitely didn't need to go there. Where was the waiter with those shots? "Now is the ideal time to go there." Ines shoved the plate of nachos they were sharing in Tessa's direction. "You say you do not know why you broke things off with Rob, but you do. The man is as much fun as a surfboard in Kansas, querida, and he is all wrong for you."
"He's reliable, and responsible, and he's a grownup." Unlike others she'd dated, especially one playful hunk she wouldn't forget even with a truckload of Jell-O shots.
Ines shook her head. Her long earrings hopped back and forth over her bare shoulders. "You need a man with a sense of adventure to match your own."
Tessa leaned across the table, hoping to make her point. "I've outgrown my sense of adventure, Ines. Maybe racking up one divorce and one broken engagement in five years has sapped it all. But I don't have any desire to dance on the table with a rose between my teeth or start a bunny-hop chain through the bar. It's not me." She pulled off the cheesiest nacho on the plate and crunched a big bite.
Ines scowled. "It was not the bunny hop, it was the locomotion, Tessa, and everyone had a blast."
Mouth full, Tessa shrugged.
"So you'll take a truth over a dare?" Ines asked, crossing her braceleted arms.
"Any day." She'd much rather reveal some inane secret of her past than sing a chorus of "It's Raining Men" on the strip.
Ines smiled. "Remember, you have to tell the truth."
Tessa sighed. "I hope you don't expect me to cross my heart and stick a needle in my eye and all that."
"I trust you. You still want to take the truth?"
"Sometime today. Yes." Tessa stared at her empty ring finger where Rob's engagement diamond had rested just this morning.
"Are you still in love with Mitch Ryder?" The name blasted away all thoughts of Rob and his ring.
Mitch Ryder. The first man she'd ever been with. The man she couldn't help but compare all others to.
The wretch who'd ditched her to travel the world with a snowboarding team.
Her foggy brain realized she was taking too long to answer. "What kind of question is that?"
"It's the kind I want an answer to," Ines replied as she waved away their waiter.
"I can't answer that," Tessa returned, indignant on her own behalf. "That was eight years ago!" She waved the waiter back and ordered another round. She refused to make this a night of sappy regrets.
Ines leaned across the table when their server left. "Then you have to take a double dare."
"Fine." She was too annoyed to care about the consequences of a double dare.
Of course, she most certainly was not still hung up on Mitch Ryder. She'd had one husband and one fiancé since then, so how could she be? The point was, she just didn't want to discuss Mitch with anyone.
Especially not with Ines, who could pry confessions from a priest if given half a chance.
Besides, Tessa knew she might harbor just a little affection for the guy - even if he had walked away from the hottest affair ever to scorch across the northeast.
"Are you sure you don't want to just answer the question?" Ines prodded.
The next round of drinks arrived, and Tessa raised her shot glass full of jiggling cherry alcohol in mock salute. "That chapter of my life is closed, and I'm not talking, so bring on the double dare, girlfriend. I'm ready."
Ines retrieved her purse from the floor and pulled out a manila file folder with the Westwood Marketing seal on one corner. "Then I'd like to reopen the book, so to speak." She passed the file to Tessa.
A business dare? It was unlike Ines to challenge her with something so mundane and something Tessa would actually enjoy. Tessa loved a good test of her marketing skills.
Curious, she opened the file and stared at the business name on the cover sheet.
Mogul Ryders Snowboards, proprietor Mitch Ryder.
"Meet your new client, Tessa. I'm sending you to the beautiful Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York for your last week on the job." Ines sipped her shot as calmly as if she'd just announced she'd decided to paint her bathroom. "I hear there's lots of snow on the ground."
"What?" Tessa's heart kicked up a rhythm so fast her blood outpaced the salsa music. Ines expected her to go back to the scene of her long-ago affair and work with the man who'd turned her world upside down? "That's not a double dare, Ines, that's blackmail!"
"You are right, that's not a double dare, querida. That's just the first part."
"There's more?" The file folder fell closed in her hand as Tessa waited for the other shoe to drop. She suspected the bunny hop would have been a walk in the park compared to whatever torture Ines had cooked up.
"Si." Ines's self-satisfied grin revealed every tooth. "I dare you to stay out of his bed for the whole week, Tessa."
A week? Last time she hadn't been able to stay out of his bed for three days. The man was a walking aphrodisiac.
And somehow, Tessa had the feeling she'd just agreed to a lethal dose.
Excerpted from Tall, Dark And Daring by Rock Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.