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By Kay David
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHannah Crosby lifted her head from the pillow and stared at the man beside her. After their lovemaking, he'd dropped into a light sleep, his chest rising and falling with a rhythm that matched the lengthening afternoon shadows. They'd been in the tangled sheets for almost two hours, and the rays now dipped low enough to bypass the blinds and raise the temperature of the bedroom. The overhead fan did little to help, but then again, Hannah wasn't sure anything could cool the heated blood that still coursed through her body.
Quinn McNichol had that kind of effect on her.
How did he do it? What secret did he know? Where had he learned to make her feel the way he did?
She'd pondered these questions for more than two and a half years - since the day, in fact, that she'd joined the federal bomb squad he'd already belonged to. A firefighter for several years before that point, Hannah had wanted to become a member of EXIT - the Explosives and Incendiary Team - for a long time, but what she remembered most about her first day at work was meeting Quinn, a senior tech in the New Orleans group. She could still recall shaking his hand that morning. His strong grip had set up a chain reaction inside her body unlike anything she'd ever felt before.
And it was still going on.
Sometimes he managed it with just a look. Sometimes he did it with a kiss. Usually, it was just a simple touch - his finger against her cheek, his hand on her arm, his mouth on her neck. Whatever it was, the result was always the same: she would lose control. Another woman would take over Hannah's body and do things with it that the normal Hannah would never consider. Quinn unleashed something in her that no one else had ever been able to even find, much less set free. She'd throw herself into his arms and within seconds, their clothes would be gone. They'd made love in so many strange places, she'd lost count.
She edged closer to him, the scent from their bodies lingering between them. Quinn was a tall, striking man, his skin bronzed from the time they spent outside, the richness of the color spiced by his Cajun blood. His dark hair and even darker eyes garnered looks from women everywhere they went, no matter the circumstances. His looks alone couldn't explain his effect on her, though. She'd been around good-looking, macho men her entire career, from firefighters to cops. None of them had made her crazy.
Maybe it couldn't be explained, she thought suddenly. Maybe it was simply magic. She looked at him a moment longer, then rolled to her back and sighed in frustration. Why did it matter what she called it? He had it and she fell for it. Every time.
Otherwise, she would have left him long ago.
The bed moved and she felt his gaze on her profile. He was a light sleeper - they both were, a habit born from years of dangerous work.
"What are you thinking about?" He reached out for a strand of her hair and twisted it around his finger. His question was rhetorical because he could read her mind as well as her body.
Her eyes met his and she felt their intensity all the way down to the bottom of her feet. "You."
He grinned lazily and another zing shot through her. Using the tip of the curl he'd made, he brushed the ends of her hair over the tops of her breasts. "That's good," he said. "I like it when you think about me."
"You do?" She turned to face him, their lips now inches apart. "Why is that?"
"It makes me think you love me."
"You know I love you."
"That's true, but a little reinforcement goes a long way. Everyone likes to know they're on the right track."
She feathered her fingers over his stubbled jaw. The words she wanted to say would spoil this moment between them, but Hannah couldn't stop herself.
"You're right," she agreed slowly. "Everyone likes to know that, including me."
Their eyes locked and his gaze hardened, his voice becoming deceptively soft as he warned her. "We've had a really great day, Hannah. Don't do this ..."
She shook her head, her hair whispering against the pillows. "I have to, Quinn. It's too important to me - to us - not to talk about it."
He sat up and swung his feet to the floor. "But it's all we talk about." The muscles in his back tensed and rippled tightly. He stayed silent for a moment, then he twisted around to look at her. His jaw was a single line of anger, his lips pursed tightly. "How many times do we have to go over this, Hannah? It just isn't possible right now...."
In the quiet that followed, she could hear the excited cries of the kids down the street. There was an empty lot on the corner, and the evening stillness often rang with the noise the neighborhood children raised as they played tag and red rover and whatever else they could dream up. Hannah loved to listen to them, but right now, the sound was almost painful.
"It isn't possible only because of you. I won't see thirty-two again and time is passing. I want a family. I want a husband. I want -"
He stood abruptly and stalked to the window. "I know what you want, Hannah. Believe me, I know."
With a catch in her throat, Hannah sat up and pulled the sheet around her. Because her own childhood had been just the opposite, she'd always wanted a houseful of children and a special place to call home. Her father's job had demanded constant travel. He'd never been home. Her mother, Barbara, had finally divorced him, saying he was never there, anyway, so why should they stay together?
The answer had become quickly apparent. Without his income, Barbara had had to return to work to support the two of them. They'd sold the home where Hannah had grown up and moved into an apartment on the other side of town. Hannah and her mother became even closer in their adversity - and were still - but with no siblings and none of her friends nearby, Hannah had ended up spending more time than ever alone and she'd been miserable and lonely.
Excerpted from The Target by Kay David Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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