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By Sherryl Woods
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2005 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRick emerged from his darkroom at 3:00 a.m., exhausted but pleased with his day's work. The photos for Boston's Cityside magazine were spectacular. Maggie was going to be over the moon when she saw them. If it wasn't so late, he'd call her and take them over to her apartment right now, just so she could see for herself how she'd inspired him, how well they'd collaborated together on his first photo shoot that didn't involve live models. He was as proud of these pictures as he'd been of some of his award-winning fashion layouts. It had been fun trying something new. It had been even more fun getting to know Maggie D'Angelo.
He loved that cozy little nest she'd made for herself in a loft space with its soaring ceiling. She'd filled it with sumptuous overstuffed furniture and sensuous fabrics that suited her passionate personality. They'd made some pretty spectacular fireworks in the huge bed with its satin sheets and down pillows. He got hard just thinking about it.
Not tonight, genius, he told himself. He doubted he could muster the energy to drive across town, much less act on the steamy thoughts racing through his head. Tomorrow would be soon enough to get his fix of the woman who'd taken him to wild new places in bed, then followed up by cooking him a meal that he'd never forget. Maggie was one food writer who definitely knew her way around a test kitchen.
She also had a mouth on her that could drive a man insane. No, not like that. The woman had an opinion about everything. Sometimes Rick agreed with her. Often he didn't, which made for some fairly lively pillow talk. He'd never before realized what an aphrodisiac stimulating conversation could be. It lent a lot more credence to the concept that great sex began in the head, rather than other regions of the male anatomy.
He grinned as he thought of the last heated discussion they'd had. It had led to some even more heated activity.
Damn. It had been nearly a week since he'd seen her, and his body had apparently been keeping track of every minute. He needed to get his head off Maggie and concentrate on something soothing, or he'd never get a wink of sleep tonight.
The one good thing about leading the kind of demanding life he led was that he'd trained himself to sleep anytime, anyplace. As he had for the past five nights, Rick dragged himself over to the cot he kept in the back room at his photography studio for late nights just like this and collapsed, asleep in seconds.
Unfortunately Maggie followed him straight into his dreams, which made for a restless night. As a result Rick was even more irritable when he walked into her office first thing in the morning, a large cup of her favorite latte in hand, only to discover that she'd taken off for parts unknown.
"But I'm here," Veronica offered a little too generously, batting eyelashes that had about four coats of mascara too many. "Maybe I can help you."
The last was laced with unmistakable innuendo. Rick dodged the offer. "Is it like Maggie to just disappear like this?" he asked her assistant.
"No," Veronica admitted grudgingly. She was evidently offended that her overtures weren't going to lead anywhere.
"Where'd she go?"
"I don't know."
"When will she be back?"
Veronica shrugged. "No idea."
Rick fought to keep impatience out of his voice. "You didn't speak to her?"
"She left a note. She said she'd be checking in and to contact her by e-mail if anything urgent came up. That's all I know."
Since it was evident that Veronica was tapped out in the information department, Rick left the photos for the food layout with her, then went downstairs to an over-priced coffee shop for the breakfast he'd been hoping to share with Maggie.
Something about this whole vanishing act of Maggie's struck him as totally out of character. Not that he was an expert on Maggie D'Angelo, but he'd hoped to be, and he'd already picked up quite a few clues about her way of handling things.
For one thing, she met most crises head-on. He'd reached that conclusion when she'd seized on his offer to fill in on one of her photo shoots for a friend who'd had to leave town for an emergency. He'd made his reputation as a fashion photographer, so lighting and shooting food was hardly his area of expertise, but Maggie hadn't hesitated.
Nor had she wasted time berating his friend who'd left her in the lurch. Apparently she'd figured if Rick could click the shutter, he would do. She'd been surprisingly unimpressed with his resume.
In fact, he recalled with amusement, she hadn't trusted him one damn bit. She'd all but crawled all over him to get a peek through the lens to assure herself he had exactly the shot she wanted. Normally Rick would have been offended by the interference, but he'd enjoyed the close contact a little too much to object too strenuously.
So, what would make a strong, opinionated woman suddenly vanish into thin air? Fear, he concluded. He'd beat a few hasty exits himself when a relationship had gotten too hot, so he recognized the symptoms. Heaven knew, their relationship had gotten hot fast, but for once he didn't seem to be the least bit inclined to run. That made it all the more annoying that Maggie had.
Come to think of it, though, he should have anticipated this. He'd detected hints of vulnerability in her eyes from time to time while they were together, but had never called her on them. Obviously he should have.
What the hell, he concluded as he finished his coffee. It wasn't too late. He had a few days to kill before his next assignment, and there was nothing he liked more than the thrill of the chase. Wherever Maggie had gone, he'd find her.
Maybe this thing of theirs would burn itself out like every other relationship in his life, but a tiny part of him seemed to be clinging to the surprising hope that it wouldn't.
Excerpted from What's Cooking? by Sherryl Woods Copyright © 2005 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. . Excerpted by permission.
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