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New York, the city that never slept.
James Wolfe never slept eitherat least not in planes, trains or automobiles. And with back-to-back long-haul flights, horrendous delays and now traffic at a time when in any other city there wouldn't be any, he'd gone more than forty hours without and was about to flip. Only a few more minutes and he could fall into bed. His bedno hostel bunk, no hotel bed, no hastily built bivvy in a newly popped-up tent city. He couldn't wait. He willed the traffic to part to let the taxi keep on moving. To take him home. 'You been travelling?'
Given the cabbie had picked him up from the airport, this was obvious. But James automatically pulled on a smile. The guy had recognised him and James wasn't about to burst bubbles by being rude. Uncomfortable as it was, public attention was now part of the deal. So he nodded and tried to speak. But the words wouldn't come together in his strung-out mind.
'Can't talk about it, huh?'
James slowly shook his head.
'You look beat.' The cabbie didn't seem to expect a reply to that.
Finally the car pulled up outside his apartment building. The cabbie offered to help James with his bag. Given all he had was a small carryall it really wasn't necessary. He managed the 'no thanks' with a smile. Then the guy wanted to give him the ride free of charge.
'If you know who I am, you know I'm good for it.' James pulled out a last burst of comprehensible speech along with the dollars from his wallet. 'But you're working the late shift. You probably need to get paid ' His family probably needed him to.
The cabbie reluctantly nodded. 'Any time you need to go anywhere ' He took the cash and handed James his card. 'Thanks, man. You're'
James widened his smile and got out of the cab before he could hear it. He didn't want to be that good guy, that 'hero'. All he was, at this point in time, was tired.
He waved a hand at the security guy, then took the elevator up to his floor. The wave of exhaustion rose right along with the floor numbers. Bone-deep relief hit as he quietly went into the condo and dropped his bag just inside the door. He didn't bother switching the lights on, the dimness soothed his tired eyes. It took them only a moment to adjust, though there wasn't anything to see anyway. The place had been stripped bare, ready to be completely refitted. He walked through the empty lounge, toeing off his boots as he went and unbuckling his belt and stepping out of his trousers. There was only one place he was headed and he was going straight there. He slowly hauled up the internal stairs, hoping his instructions had been carried out. That on the top level he'd find his bedroom and en-suite bathroom fully refitted, furnished, finished. Ready for occupation.
Two seconds later he stood at the foot of the bed, rubbing his raw eyes. But they weren't deceiving him. The bed was made up all right. A big, brand-new bed with acres of soft-looking white coverings. He felt the thick pile of a luxurious rug under his bare feet. He was certain that if he looked, his bathroom would be gleaming and perfect. But there was something else looking gleaming and perfect: a woman. A beautiful woman was curled up asleep right in the middle of his huge bed.
She'd left the blinds open so the city lights gave the room a pale glow. It made her arm and face luminescent. Her long blonde hair was spread enticingly in a swathe over the pillow. A golden beauty in his bed. Goldilocks herself.
He was dreaming.
He glanced around. There was no bag. No clothes anywhere. The rest of the room was pristine. There was just that too pretty, random woman in his bed.
Real life wouldn't be so cruel to have her actually there. Not at a moment when he had no chance of stringing a sentence together. No chance of talking, let alone doing any of the other things suddenly running through his head.
Ah, hell. He was overtired and had gone without sex too long and now his mind had come up with the ultimate 'willing-woman-lying-waiting' fantasy.
He blinked a couple more times but the vision didn't dissipate. He cleared his throat. She remained still.
Testing, he spoke. His voice rough and low. 'Sweetheart, wake up.'
She didn't wake, but the faintest of furrows appeared between her eyebrows.
Huh, fantasy girl reacted.
So did his body. Hell, she was gorgeous. But this couldn't be. He ached to be unconscious.
'Time to leave, darling.' Oddly he found himself whispering, almost not wanting the mirage to shatter. Maybe she could stay asleep and he could crawl in beside her. He only needed a few hours' shut-eye, then he'd be up to talking and taking.
But her eyes shot open. He saw her focus quickly, right on him. With a gasp she sat bolt upright, clutching the sheet to her chest. Her lips remained parted, as if she was going to scream. But no sound came out.
It was James who dragged in the audible breath. His attention arrowed to her full, shiny lips. In the dim light he imagined they were slicked with some kind of gloss. Flavoured? Maybe cherry or vanilla? He did like vanilla. Yeah, it had been way, way too long if he was off sidetracking like this.
'Who are you?' he asked, rougher than he meant to.
Big, slumberous blue eyes blinked back at him. Her blonde hair tumbled about her sweetheart-shaped face. She looked warm and flushed and ready. A beautifully pliant, silken, tempting woman.
'Who are you?' he repeated, almost plaintively. This so wasn't fair. If this was a dream, he should have more energy.
'What do you want?' she asked, her voice husky.
'Uh ' Dear heaven, this just had to be a dream. A full-scale, torturous sexy dream. She was willing to do whatever he wanted? Asking him in that sultry voice? 'Um honey, I can't do this right now '
She stared at him for a long moment. He noticed her shoulders eased as she spoke with a breathy sigh. 'You're James.'
She knew that? She whispered his name in that honeyed-tone?
'Yeah and I'm sorry, darling,' he said gruffly. 'As gorgeous as you are as good as I know you'd be it's not going to happen tonight.' No matter how pretty she was, he was never going to manage it.
She blinked and didn't move. Just stared at him. Hard. The flush in her cheeks deepened.
A weird prickling sensation pinched at the base of James' spine.
Her frown returneda whole lot bigger than before. 'George told me to come here.'
Huh? Why were thoughts of his brother encroaching on his fantasy?
'George sent you here for me?' he asked, confused. The prickling sensation turned icy. Was she here because she'd been told to, or because she'd been paid to?
No way. This whole thing wasn't even real. And George would never set something like that up. He might have been going on at James to 'get back in the game' for months, but he'd never think paying for a playmate was a solution. The idea was insane. But James' fuzzed-out brain couldn't figure anything any more. He just wanted to be in his bed. Now. He closed his eyes, reckoned she'd be gone when he opened them again.
And her eyes had narrowed, her expression tightened, her pixie chin lifted. 'You think I'm waiting for you?' she asked.
Wasn't she? This was all just some wonderful, weird dream, wasn't it?
He opened his mouth. Shut it. Swallowed.
Caitlin Moore tilted her head back and stared at James Wolfe. She didn't think she'd ever seen such dark brown eyesalmost black, bottomless. Eyes a woman could drown in. Way darker than his twin's George had more golden lights in both eyes and hair. But the main difference between the two was more obvious than that.
The scar snaked out from James' hairline, slashing across his upper cheekbone. She knew how he'd got it. You'd be hard pressed to find a man, woman or child in the world with Internet access who hadn't seen that iconic picture of James Wolfe running through the middle of a landslide struck village, ignoring the blood pouring down his cheek from the gash at his temple as he carried that broken child to safety. He'd been the one to operate on the kid himself. The hero. The ultimate good guy who thought what, exactly, about her?
Deliberately she didn't stare at the scar. Nor did she lower her gaze to stare at the legs he had on show. Or the bronzed arms appearing out of the grey tee that fitted him so much better than the one she wore. But she was aware of his tan, his obvious strength, his size. He was all weary warrior with those muscles, that stubble and the end-of-the-fuse glint in his eye. Well, she had her own fuse burningas good as he knew she'd be?
'Who are you and what did George tell you?' he asked. He looked both confused and. intense.
James Wolfe was a medic, a rescue man. A hero who worked in disaster-ravaged countries. She knew exactly who he was. She knew all those amazing things about him. But he had no idea who she was, where she'd come from. Nothing about the recent nightmare she'd left in London. He'd not read the headlines, the worst of the bile from the Internet. So wasn't it just typical that even someone so 'good' automatically doubted her? Did he honestly think she was his paid plaything for the night? That she was here for his personal use and pleasure?
Caitlin sucked in a breath. Unhelpfully the air burned her lungs. She was already hot enoughwith anger, right?
'You think I'm here to do whatever you want me to?' Caitlin ditched the sheet to reach out and flick on the reading lamp. She remained on the bed. Possession was nine tenths of the law and this was her sleep space tonight.
He didn't answer. Instead he stood frozen at the foot of the bed, staring at her with those wide, bottomless, ninety-eight-per-cent cocoa eyes. Finally a half-strangled sentence emerged. 'You're wearing my T-shirt.'
What, and that then made her his property?
With the light on, Caitlin saw the flush deepening in his upper cheeks and the tension humming through his bodypulling him taller, tighter. Bigger. Her eyes widened as she saw the interest in his. To her horror she felt reciprocal heat build inside. She breathed out, hoping to cool it. No way. No way.
But was the guy attracted to her?
No. She mentally clarified. Not her. It was what he could see. What was with the Paleo instinct that kicked in when men saw skin? Insta-lust central.
Mind you, at this moment she might be found guilty of the same crime. All the muscles and skin he was showing were sure having an effect on her basic instincts. Not that he needed to know it. Not when he'd made such an out-of-line assumption.
'Be grateful I didn't take a pair of your boxers,' she said coolly. 'It was a close-run thing.'
'My ?' He stopped and swallowed. 'So what else are you wearing?'
He almost looked pained. And Caitlin couldn't resist the urge to turn the screw a little tighter.
'Just your T-shirt.' She faked a careless shrug and glanced towards the bathroom. 'My clothes are drying.'
His slightly glazed focus didn't leave her body. 'Just my T-shirt?'
'I figured you had more than enough to spare.' There were about twenty in that walk-in wardrobe.
All neatly pressed and stacked and exactly the same colour.
He blinked, clearly unable to get his head together. What was the guyall animal? Yet she was certain he wasn't. Oddly, despite her near nudity, despite the bizarreness of the situation, she didn't think for a second that she was in any real danger. So she wasn't afraid to bite.
'Who'd have thought that Jameshero with a capital HWolfe likes to have a woman of ill repute waiting for him in bed when he gets back from his oh-so-honourable missions?' she said. It was unbelievable.
He stared at her with that dazed-and-glazed look, obviously trying to process her words. Was he drunk or something?
'So, you're not here for.' He broke off and almost looked uncomfortable. 'Me.'
'No, your brother did not pay me to come and be a sexual plaything for you.' Caitlin smiled sweetly. 'And don't you think' she cocked her head 'that if I were such a "professional", I'd have chosen to be in your bed wearing something a little more sexy than one of your thousands of identical T-shirts?'
Though the shirt was damn sexy on himthe grey bringing out the depth in his eyes and the fit stretching across his chest in a seriously pulse-pounding fashion.
His lips thinned as he turned back to glare at her. She was used to full on media 'glare', but his dark-eyed look was just about the fiercest, most cutting, scrutiny she'd had to withstand.
'Sorry,' she snapped. 'The word you're looking for is sorry.'
'Tired,' he said firmly. 'I'm tired and I made a mistake. And I'm sorry but you can't stay here.'
Okay, maybe she was a little in the wrong here too, given the guy actually owned a third of this apartment. But she couldn't afford to go anywhere else. And with her only clothes hanging wet in the bathroom? Damn.
Because worst of all she needed this space for more than piffling money reasons. She needed to hide. 'Well, it's just that your brother said I could stay for the next month.'
'Month?' His jaw fell open. 'No. No. No.'
Yeah, she already got that her month wasn't going to happen. But she needed to buy time to find a new plan. 'Well, I'm not going anywhere else tonight.'
'You have to.'
She needed this bed. George had said she could use it. But Grumpy James here was going to ruin it for her.
'Look.' She abandoned all dignity and pride. 'We can figure something out. I'll take the floor.'
Rigid, his glare pierced deeper. It was a wonder her bones didn't snap from the force emanating from him.
'You are not sleeping on the floor.'
Caitlin sighed. 'Don't pretend to be all chivalrous now. I've seen the real you unmasked, remember? You know, the guy unsurprised to find what he thinks is a hooker in his home.'
'You are not sleeping on the floor.'