All hotel manager Carol Lawson wants from her new life in Carefree, Arizona, is to stay busy. Work and more work keep regrets from flooding back. But from the moment tall, dark, and delicious Cody Briggs strides into her life, Carol feels a little reckless. He is a vision out of her dreams—a powerful renegade determined to awaken her senses and heal her broken spirit.
Cody knows what it’s like to feel betrayed by life. A renowned archeologist who refused to trade integrity for profit, he’s faced his demons. But he understands the healing power of this breathtaking land—and in Carol’s timeless beauty and sensuality, he sees the perfect woman to share it with. Can ecstasy bring Carol to the point of no return,where a leap of faith promises a love that is destiny?
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Remember the Time, The Vow, This Fierce Splendor, The Baron, Lightning That Lingers, Tall, Dark, and Lonesome, and Legends.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A man was running across the hilltop, a bare, beautiful man racing against a red sky. His body was gleaming with sweat, the muscles rippling across his chest and back, the long, hard muscles of his thighs tightening and stretching with every swift stride. His hair was black as night, a wild mane flying behind him. His heart was pounding, as if every evil in the world were chasing at his heels. Fleet-footed, he reached the edge of the cliff … and yet he ran on, magically leaping up into the sky, his body transforming from muscle and flesh to feather and talon. He was an eagle, dark and powerful, soaring against the endless blue. And she … she was left far below, a small figure wandering through a maze of old ruins. In the dimness she bumped against a cold stone wall, stumbled on the crumbled rocks covered in the dust of centuries. But she couldn’t leave. She was searching for something, something she’d lost so long ago. She was weeping, her heart broken. When she fell, she could not get up again. Then an old man appeared, an old Indian in a ceremonial robe with feathers and beads, bits of glass sewn on the buckskin. She saw herself reflected there in a hundred tiny mirrors, each image shattered. He reached for her, and it was as if she could hear the words: “Stand. Take off your jacket. Take off your dress, your shoes. Untie your hair. Stand, and take off your skin, your bones, your sorrow. Take the stone out of your heart. Here …” His palm lay open. “Place it in my hand.” But she was too frightened, her arms and hands weighted down with fear. Her body was paralyzed, her feet had taken root. Yet suddenly she was balanced at the very edge of the cliff; there was only air and sky behind her, and the old man moving toward her, closer and closer, his hands outstretched. This time he chanted aloud words that her heart somehow understood: To fly with the eagle is to reach for the stars. And then his hand touched her—
“No! No, stop! Don’t push me!”
Carol Lawson sat bolt upright in bed, her heart pounding, her body wet with a cold sheen of sweat. She took a deep gulp of air and pressed her hand to her breasts, struggling to shake off the last strands of the dream that clung to her eerily. It had been so vivid, so real, so contradictory. She knew all too well that heartbreaking sense of loss, that grief she’d lived with so long. The pictures in the dream were terrifying: Herself lost and searching amidst places and things she’d never seen or even imagined before.
She lay back down and pulled the covers up to her chin, a storm of emotions sweeping through her. Somehow the strange dream had opened a door to the old, terrible sadness, reminding her of a part of her life that she usually was able to keep deeply hidden, even from herself. But mixed with the fear and grief was an unexplainable excitement. There’d been magic in that dream, frightening her, but thrilling her too. How had her subconscious ever concocted such a wild and powerful vision? What did it mean?
Hugging herself, Carol searched for a sensible answer and found it in the moving boxes and suitcases piled around her bedroom. Anyone would be upset the night before starting a new job, a new life. That’s all it was; that’s all it meant. But even as she closed her eyes, her thoughts leapt ahead to the desert Southwest and what might be waiting there.
“Don’t touch that! Don’t touch a damn thing,” growled a deep voice from the dark corner of the lobby.
Carol stepped back quickly from the display of Indian artifacts she’d paused to admire.
The hotel lobby of the Ocotillo was almost empty at midnight, with the exception of the night clerk doing paperwork behind the front desk. The faint sound of a native flute came from the same shadowy corner as the voice, music so lyrical and mystical, it seemed to transform the quiet lobby into the far reaches of the desert itself.
Carol waited expectantly, peering past the glass cases into the darkness. Finally she shrugged. “Hello? I’m sorry. I was just trying to get a closer look.”
“Don’t. It’s closer looks and careless hands that destroy these ancient things.” As he spoke, a man emerged from the shadows, parting the darkness that surrounded him. He was tall, lean, and ruggedly handsome in worn jeans and cowboy boots, the kind of man you had to look at twice. Riveting. Perhaps a bit dangerous. His eyes were masked by the darkness of the room, but Carol could feel him looking at her; she felt his gaze slide over her and linger like a touch.
Her whole body tightened, and for a second she felt something mysterious take hold of her—a jolt of emotion. But was it excitement, fear, or … recognition? She actually took a half step forward, her heart fluttering, before she caught herself and stopped, confused by her response to this absolute stranger.
He frowned, and narrowed his eyes warily as he looked into the blue depths of her eyes and saw his own pain and hunger mirrored there. His heart clenched in his chest. What had he seen? Who was this woman? But in an instant he became stone again, cold and distant. “I’ll be done in an hour. Come back then.”
Lifting her chin, she said, “I may if I have time. I’m the new assistant manager. I came in to do a little paperwork. I didn’t mean to bother you.”
She frowned. “Do you work for the hotel?”
“Occasionally.” Coldly he turned his back and placed a long hunting bow on the shelf next to a quiver of arrows.
“That’s beautiful,” Carol said, giving it one more try. “The whole display looks fascinating. Is it owned by the hotel or on loan from—?”
“There’ll be signs up in the morning. Right now I’ve got work to do.” And with one last piercing look at her, he turned and disappeared back into the darkness.
Carol stared after him. If she had known how to use the bow and arrow, she might have. She wasn’t used to such rudeness … but neither was she used to being looked at in quite that way. Her skin actually tingled.
Jet lag, she thought, rubbing her hands up and down her arms. It was a long flight in from Atlanta, and now she had work to do too. With a shake of her head she went off to find her new office.