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Her sister forced her to commit a felony.
Allison CarpenterAlliebent down to pick her twin sister's lock, blocking the door with her body. It was a good thing she'd dated a locksmith, a relationship her sister had thought was rather a waste of Allie's time. But, lookee hereit came in quite handy. Besides, he was a fun guy.
"If we go to jail " Jason warned. Jason Kyoto was Allie's assistant and today her partner in crime. He was Japanese and had one of those simply gorgeous faces, full lips, high cheekbones, smooth olive skin. His deep black hair streaked with red was long and full around his face and cut in a choppy style. With his simply dreamy almond-shaped eyes and a tight, well-muscled, broad-shouldered body it was no surprise women were unable to look away from him.
"Designing the perfect room is worth a little jail time. Although, if we get arrested, remind me to talk to the warden about those hideous orange jumpsuits. Orange just isn't a good color on me." She turned and flashed him an easy smile. "You know you're having fun. Who got me the lock picks?"
Jason rolled his eyes. "You're right. You suck me in every time, and I do have fun."
When Allie had mentioned to him that she needed to pick her sister's lock, Jason hadn't missed a beat. He'd shown up with the exact tools she'd needed. Allie didn't ask questions. Where a gay guy with an impeccable fashion sense had gotten lock picks was beyond Allie.
She'd solidified her plan the last time she'd visited her twin sister and faced the barren rooms. They'd had to sit on the floor, picnic-style, her sister lamenting about not having time to furnish her apartment, let alone decorateit.
Allie knew her sister was in sales, but it did seem strange to her that after all this time, her sister hadn't made time to buy at least a couch.
Allie operated her own design business, Allison Carpenter Designs, and had decided then that she would decorate the apartment for her sister on their birthday, but it had to remain a secret. Her sister had said she would be gone two full weeks and Allie expected her back today. Allie knew for sure because she'd talked to Callie last week.
She paused in her lock-picking when "the feeling" came over her. For a week now, she'd been getting this sense that all wasn't well with Callie. She'd tried to call her sister several times, but without any luck. Allie would have worried more, if it weren't for the fact that "the feeling" could mean anything from a bad-hair day to a break-up.
Actually, she should have had her sister's apartment done days ago. She was thankful for the huge job she'd started in LA for up-and-coming "It Girl," Lily Walden, daughter of U.S. Senator Marion Walden. An It Girl required a lot of attention, much more time than Allie had budgeted. Now Allie was going to have to work like mad to get everything done. But it would be worth it when Callie walked through the door and Allie yelled, "Surprise!"
Allie meant to talk her sister into giving her a key. It wasn't that Allie hadn't made the attempt in the past, but her sister's reluctance to hand out her key was strange, perhaps a throwback to the days when they had to share everything. Or maybe her sister was just being proprietary.
"Hurry up, Allie. I feel completely exposed here," Jason muttered at her right shoulder.
"Hi, Callie. Are you having a problem with your lock?" asked a pretty woman with dark chestnut hair.
"No, just dropped my keys," Allie said with a full smile. It had been fun in the past to pose as her sister. It was still fun.
"Hi, I'm Mandy," the brunette said to Jason.
Jason looked at her blankly until Allie nudged him.
"Oh, hi, doll. It's a pleasure. I'm sure."
He took Allie's cue to pull the girl aside while Allie did some more breaking and entering. She smiled when the lock clicked open and she entered the apartment.
Jason extricated himself from the young woman and followed Allie, closing the door behind him. "You have nerve, lady. I'll give you that," Jason said, taking a look around.
"That's menervy. Although, when I was teaching sky-diving, my mother called me flighty. Of course that was my third job in six months."
Jason laughed. "Flighty, Allie? That's lame."
"No comment from the peanut gallery, thanks. Let's get a move on." Allie smiled as he walked from the living room into the kitchen.
"You know that leaping before you look can be dangerous. Remember what happened when you tried to mix plaids with floral for Mrs. Jamison."
Allie winced. "That was an error in judgment, I'll agree.
But it turned out fine because the floral worked beautifully in her sunroom."
"You always seem to land on your feet." Jason examined the room and frowned. "This apartment sure needs to be done. Does your sister really live here?"
"Yes. She's a sales rep and is always on the go. She claims she doesn't have time to decorate."
"Perish the thought," Jason said wryly.
"Let's get started. We don't have time for chitchat."
Jason winked and pulled out his cell phone.
In a haze of waking, Allie heard the door close. Night had come and she realized she'd fallen asleep in Callie's bed. "Jason? Is that you?" she called.
"It has been some time since we've seen each other your new lover?"
If Allie hadn't been reclining on the bed, she would have fallen to the floor. Yowza, this man was simply gorgeous! The last thing she'd expected after spending almost sixteen hours decorating her sister's apartment was a tall, dark and handsome man dressed in black jeans, black shirt and a leather jacket leaning impudently on the bedroom door frame, his eyes moving over her as though he knew her.
He probably didher sister, that is.
Time to have a little innocent fun.
"Jason and I have been together for a while, but no one could replace you."
A lazy, seductive grin curved his lips. "I bet you say that to all the guys."
"How did you get in?" Allie asked.
"I knocked a couple of times and then tried the door. It was open. We've been friends a long time. How is it that we never hooked up?"
His pose was all arrogant, self-assured male, like he had every right to be there. His thick, midnight-black hair was mussed, dark stubble lined his jaw, and his blue eyes were bright and seductive against all the sinful black he wore. His thumbs were hooked into the belt loops on his jeans, and his booted feet were crossed, giving the impression that he didn't have a care in the world.
"I don't know. Maybe you're not my type or I'm just not attracted to cocky, macho guys." She giggled inside. How long would it be before he realized she wasn't Callie? They had played this game at their prom and it'd taken their dates half the night to discover they had been duped.
He pushed off the doorjamb and sauntered over to the bed. "True, there wasn't much chemistrythen." He studied her. "There's something very different about you now. Something softer, more open. Have you changed your tough ways?"
"No. I'm just as tough as I ever was." Allie had to laugh at that, too. The toughest thing she'd done lately was demand more whipped cream on her mocha latte.
"You look great, by the way."
"I bet you say that to all the gals."
A fond, almost wistful smile softened his masculine features. Those blue eyes were like tractor beams, drawing her attention to him. Up to this point, this was merely a game to Allie, the how-long-can-I-fool-him game. But she couldn't look away. Her body grew very still. Her pulse picked up speed and, too late, warning bells went off inside her fogged brain. As had happened in the past, fun and games sometimes backfired. She should come clean right now. This look-before-she-leapt attitude is what got her in trouble.
She had to wonder why Callie had never told her about this guy. Maybe because he'd said they were just friends. Still, he was worth talking about.
But then he graced her with a bone-melting smile that kicked up her pulse yet another notch and drowned out her good intentions.
He leaned down and whispered in her ear, "Oh, babe, you're not at all like the other gals."
This close to him, she was overwhelmed by the latent power he exuded, could feel the raw eroticism of his hot mouth so close to her tingling flesh. Could feel her body respond instinctively to that intense awareness sizzling between them.
She opened her mouth to tell him she wasn't Callie. Smoothly, without warning, he slid on top of her with stealth and grace that left her almost as breathless as she'd been with his mouth near her skin.
So this was pure, unadulterated lust, she thought with amazement and it felt so good, so thrilling and exciting and forbidden, she wanted to drown in the sensation.
Then his words registered. "I think, with chemistry, it's all about the mix," she said, giving him a very obscure clue that he wasn't dealing with her sister. In a heartbeat, everything changed. He would never know it wasn't Callie, and Allie could find out where these wonderful sensations would take her. There wasn't anything wrong with a kiss. Was there?
"I do have to admit, there is something different about you." His eyes zeroed in on her mouth like a heat-seeking missile, and then they started to glaze over.
The kiss was carnal from the first. Not rough, not aggressive, but hot. Burning hot. Wholly sexual. Warm, soft lips meeting hers, open, inviting, offering. He traced his tongue slowly around the inner edge of her mouth, and then slipped his tongue deeper, probing and exploring. Allie tried to catch her breath and caught his instead, hot and flavored with the taste of cinnamon.
The heat flowed down over her, followed by the man's hands. He ran his palms over her arms, chasing shivers, setting off new ones, sliding lower. Desire swelled inside her, pushing aside sanity, blazing a trail for more instinctive responses. She arched against him, losing herself in the kiss, in the moment. She tangled her hands in the silken strands of his hair and slanted her mouth across his as needs lying dormant emerged. His hands slid underneath her buttocks, kneading, stroking. He caught the hem of her skirt, his big hand warm on her thigh.
Allie felt dizzy, as if she were tumbling through space.
Then his fingers pushed aside her underwear and Allie's world narrowed down to the exquisite sensation. He kissed her with hunger as if he, too, had lost all control.
He swore, low and breathless against her mouth, and when he tried to move his hand away, Allie protested.
She felt on the verge of spiraling apart, her body quaking with need and her inner muscles contracting. She heard herself whimper. Without thinking, she grabbed handfuls of his hair, arched into his skillful, decadent mouth and begged.
He teased that taut knot of nerves and Allie came on a shuddering, mind-bending orgasm that seemed to go on and on and on. The pleasure that shot through her was sharp and riveting and left her panting but amazingly far from sated.
He lifted his head and stared down into her eyes, puzzled and wary. "That wasn't supposed to happen."
Before Allie could utter a word, a sweet-smelling cloth came down over her nose and mouth. As her eyes dimmed, she thought she saw regret in the man's soulful eyes.
Allie came awake slowly, as if it was one of those lazy Sunday mornings. There was a sickly sweet taste still in her mouth. Chloroform? The things she had done were coming back to her in bits and pieces, like a jumbled-up puzzle. She let them fall through her mind and lock into place, giving her the framework of what had happened.
She'd had an orgasm with a complete stranger, a man who was close to her sister.
With a start, she jerked to full wakefulness and found herself in a cold, sterile white room with one-way glass on one wall and a small metal table between her and the only door in the room. She closed her eyes and groaned since the light made her head ache. She opened them again, thinking it looked like an interrogation room. She shifted in her chair. Metal clanged against metal. She was handcuffed, both wrists behind her back.
This could not be good.
A wisp of panic worked its way into her like a slim, deadly stiletto. She shifted in the chair again, pulling at the handcuffs. There had been some kind of mistake. She'd only broken in to her sister's apartment, hardly a dangerous crime. Then the fog cleared in her brain. The man must have mistaken her for Callie. Was Callie in trouble?
If she told them she wasn't Callie, they would let her go. They would let her go, whoever "they" were. What kind of trouble was her sister in exactly? The wisp of panic became a large serrated knife.
She took a deep breath. There was no doubt in her mind that the man who was Callie's friend was a highly trained professional. But was he a cop or one of the bad guys? She shivered at the thought. She'd never been with a dangerous man and the thrill of it touched off vibrations inside her.
The truth had been in every move he'd made. She'd been too much into her game to see the warning signs. She must learn to listen to her head. She bet he was used to thinking fast on his feet, taking action and coming out on top.
Nevertheless, when they discovered the truth, they would let her go. She could take a cab back to her own apartment. Well, hell. She couldn't catch a cab. She had no purse, no credit card, no money, no identification. No keys to her apartment or business. No cell phone. No brains, too, since she'd gotten herself into such a fix, and had no clue as to what to do next.
Her sister would say that was typical of her.
Another Allie story to add to the ones already told at family gatherings. How did she get herself into these predicaments? They happened to her too frequently. It wasn't as if she sat around, thinking of ways she could get into trouble.
The door opened and the man who had seduced her with his eyes and that sensuous mouth walked into the room. Even in her precarious position, she couldn't help noticing the way his dark hair fell over his forehead, and her fingers twitched against the handcuffs as if to brush at it.
He was dressed totally different now. He wore a tight-fitting blue shirt with an empty gun holster strapped around his chest, outlining in relief his thick muscles, dark dress slacks that molded to his powerfully built thighs and shiny black shoes.
He was carrying a manila folder and he slammed it down on the small table between them.
"It's not nice to bug out on Watchdog, Callie. They're depending on you."
Allie was too dumbfounded to say a word.
At her silence, he continued, "Everyone has a price, Callie. What's the going rate for selling out your country these days?"
"Price?" Allie squeaked.
He came around the table and jerked the chair around. "Everyone has a price. What did he offer you to disappear?"
"Can I have something to drink? I'm really thirsty."
"No. The Callie I knew would die before she betrayed her country."
"I'm not Callie."
"And I'm Mickey Mouse."
He released the arms of the chair and turned away, but not before she saw the flash of amusement in his eyes.
"I'm Callie's sister. Her twin. I'm an interior designer. It's our birthday today. At least I think it still is today. Is it?"
"No. That was yesterday."
"Well, happy birthday to me. No cake, no ice cream. My present was to get kidnapped. Meanwhile, my sister gets an apartment makeover. I'd say it wasn't a very good deal. What I don't know is who you are."