A pretend boyfriend, a murder and a lost heirjust another day for the Adair family
What harm could there be pretending a sexy FBI agent is her boyfriend? Plenty, socialite Landry Adair discovers when she must work with Derek Winchester to locate the missing Adair heir. Pretend hugs, pretend kisses, and before she knows it, their sizzling attraction is dangerously real!
But as Landry and Derek race to uncover family secretspossibly her father's murderermore danger arises. Coming close to the truth draws out a killer desperate to get the two out of the way. Only then does Landry realize she's more warrior than society princess and she'll fight tooth and nail for a real chance at love!
About the Author
Addison lives in Dallas. You can find her at her home on the web at www.addisonfox.com or on Facebook (facebook.com/addisonfoxauthor) and Twitter (@addisonfox).
Read an Excerpt
Landry Adair flipped and pushed herself off the concrete wall of the pool. The heated water kept her body comfortable while the cool morning air coated the back of her skin as she swam lap after lap.
The words echoed in her head, a promise that she had only six more laps to reach her daily goal.
Spring was in the air, and each time she took a breath the light scent of alfalfa mixed with a deep, rich citrus that wafted up from the lush valley that formed the backdrop of Adair Acres.
Even if it had felt more like a prison these past months.
She turned off the pool wall with an extra hard push, images of her father's funeral and the ensuing madness since filling her thoughts. Secrets. Kidnapping. And murder.
Her father might have been a distant man, but she'd never given up hope Reginald Adair might come to be the real father she'd always craved.
The pain she'd worked so diligently to push to the back of her mind reared up and swamped her, choking her throat and pushing her up out of the pool, gasping for breath. Hot tears spilled over her cheeks, made even hotter by the cool spring air that blew over her skin.
When would it stop? The moments of abject pain that came up and simply swallowed her when she thought of her father, his life snuffed out by the will of another.
A hard cough drew her from her thoughts, and she ran wet hands over her cheeks to remove the tears before turning. No one interrupted her morning sessions in the pool, and it was jarring to know someone was there.
And they'd seen her tears.
Whatever embarrassment that might have caused faded as she took in the large male form that stood at the edge of the pool. Long and lean, she caught only a vague sense of dark features as the early-morning sun limned his frame, highlighting an impressive set of shoulders in a rich patina of gold.
Wrapping the haughty demeanor she'd perfected through the years around her own shoulders like a shawl, she climbed up the pool ladder to get a better look at their visitor. Because of the lingering threats of the past few months, no one got onto Adair property without passing several security checkpoints.
If he was here, he was meant to be here.
But who was he?
He spoke first, his voice rich and deep. She ignored the outreach as she grabbed her towel, curious when a buzz of nerves lit her stomach.
Landry dried her face but let her body drip water on the Spanish tiles that made up the length of the pool terrace. Although she hated scrutiny, she knew well enough how to use her long, lithe body as a weapon, and the water would only highlight her curves.
It might have been a trick as old as time, but it remained a surprisingly effective tool against the male of the species.
"Landry?" Sharper now, but with a hint of something husky and warm in that deep baritone.
"I'm Derek Winchester. I'd like a moment with you."
"It's awfully early for a moment, don't you think?" She kept her gaze cool but allowed it to roam over his body. Was this the man her brother Carson had spoken to her about?
He certainly fit the bill with that long, rangy form so tall and straight he appeared to stand at attention.
Reluctantly fascinated, she continued her assessment, cataloging his features as she looked her fill. His skin was a rich bronze, set off by short black hair and deep, piercing eyes nearly as dark as his hair.
He was attractive in a wholly masculine way. There was nothing pretty about him; rather, he exuded a mix of confidence and stoicism that drew the eye.
"It's early for a swim that could fell an Olympian, too. That doesn't make my business any less urgent."
Although the urge to bait him was strong, she reached for her pool wrap and slipped underneath the thin black material. Showing off her body to gain an advantage was one thing. Sitting there half naked during a business transaction was tantamount to stupid. And she wasn't stupid.
"Please have a seat." Landry gestured to the long glass-topped table that dominated a section of the patio. "Help yourself to whatever you'd like."
She busied herself with drying her hair and took a few more moments to assess her adversary. He crossed to the long table the kitchen staff set up each morning, filled with coffee service, an assortment of pastries and fresh fruit. When he returned with nothing more than a cup of black coffee, she was curious.
Was he nervous?
In her experienceand she had plenty with the size of her familymen ate breakfast.
She crossed to the buffet to fix her coffee, then her usual plate of fruit. The kitchen's world-famous blueberry muffins beckoned, but she suppressed the urge to take one and added a few extra pieces of melon.
"So, Mr. Winchester. What can be so urgent you needed to interrupt my morning?"
Her brother's earnest request that she play along echoed through her thoughts but she tamped it down. If Derek Winchester was the man they thought, then he should be able to handle anything she threw at him, too.
"I thought it made sense to get started."
And why did that word sound like a promise?
A shudder of awareness prickled her spine that had nothing to do with the light breeze that coated her skin. She turned away from the buffet and kept her voice light. Unaffected. "Started for what?"
"Effective immediately, I'm your new boyfriend."
* * *
Derek sat back and waited for the fireworks as a series of reactions flashed across Landry Adair's expressive face. For the first time since receiving this asinine mission from his old boss and trusted friend, Kate Adair, he actually had a moment to enjoy himself.
So the resident princess did have a bit of heat underneath that cool demeanor.
The thought surprised him as it took root and he turned the words over in his mind. Why should he care if Landry Adair ran hot or cold? She was a job, nothing more.
Even if he hadn't felt any heatfor anythingin far too long.
Nor had he found himself captivated by the long arch of a woman's neck, where it tapered down to meet her shoulder in a delicious dip just made for his mouth, in an equally long time.
Shaking off the lush images of running his lips over her skin, he shifted his attention to the valley that spread out as far as the eye could see.
Or simply "the ranch," as he'd already heard it called more than once.
A shockingly gorgeous stretch of land that spoke of money and promise, hard work and fierce ambition. His gaze drifted over the lush vista, the light scent of citrus wafting from the rolling hills full of grove after grove. Oranges and avocado, grapefruit and lemons.
It was a far cry from the street gangs of LA or the more refinedyet no less deviousminds of Washington, DC.
Which only reinforced the question he'd been asking himself since fielding a phone call from Kate Durant Adair O'Hara, former vice president and current whirling dervish.
What had she gotten him into?
While he respected the heck out of the former vice presidentand he appreciated her belief in his abilities more than he could ever put to wordshe still didn't fully see how he could help her.
But no amount of skepticism had put Kate off her plan.
"What are you playing at, Mr. Winchester?"
Landry had stilled at his rash comment, and while he'd expected the hostility, he hadn't expected the cool, assessing look in her vivid blue eyes.
Or the sudden realization that fake or not, no one would ever buy Landry Adair hanging off his arm.
"Your aunt Kate wants me to look out for you."
"And what makes her so sure I need looking after?"
Whatever momentary gain he had with his opening salvo faded as she collected herself, wrapped in an aura of predatory cool.
Damn, but the woman was a looker. Tallhe'd put her around five foot ten to his six onewhich gave him the unusual opportunity to practically look her in the eye without craning his neck. Her body was long and lean, lethal in its perfection.
He contrasted that perfect form with memories of Sarah's petite frame. They'd never quite fit, and he'd always felt like a giant standing next to her. He'd never have hurt her, of course, but he could never quite shake the feeling that he lumbered next to her small, pixielike build.
Shaking off memories of his ex-fiancéememories that belonged in the locked box where he'd shoved them six months agohe refocused on the here and now.
And the very real fact that he needed to convince Landry Adair that it was in her best interest not only to cooperate with him, but to work with him, too.
She brushed past him with her plate of food and took a seat at the large patio table. The morning sun beat down on her still-wet hair and he guessed at the shade he'd seen only in photographs. Dark layers, mixed with a refined blond.
The fresh scents of citrus from the groves below enveloped him while something more potent mingled underneath. Lush and erotic with the lightest touch of honeysuckle.
Heat still sparked under his skin where she'd brushed his arm, and he lifted his coffee mug for a sip, taking a moment to right himself.
Focus on the job.
It should have been easy, Derek knew. He'd been the job for so long he didn't even remember how to be anything else.
"Surely you're not immune to what's happened here. Your father's killer is still on the loose."
Pain flashed in her eyes, electrifying those blue depths, before she laid down her fork. "You think to come into my home and scare me?"
"I'm here to protect you."
She reached for a pair of sunglasses lying on the middle of the table and twirled the frame as she kept her gaze steady on his. "I'm a big girl, Mr. Winchester. I haven't needed protecting for a long time."
A wholly inappropriate thought sliced through his midsection at her words. She was all grown-up, with a woman's curves and a woman's beauty. Although she'd put on a wrap, the swells of her breasts were visible through the dark V-neck, a greater temptation than when she'd worn only her swimsuit.
Steeling himself against the temptation, Derek focused on why he was here. Whatever arguments she attempted to push his way, he'd deflect.
And for the very real chance to earn back a bit of the self-respect he'd lost over the past six months. He needed this job. And he needed some damn sense of purpose again.
"You may want to rethink that, since you've never been up against a nameless killer or a missing-person's case."
"Ah yes, family drama worthy of a nighttime soap." She eyed him over the rim of her coffee mug, more amusement in her gaze than any trace of fear, before leaning forward. "Does my aunt Kate think my mother killed my father, too? That's the prevailing wisdom, you know."
The urge to hold back was strong, but he went with honesty. For her own protection, Landry deserved at least that much. But on a deeper level, he sensed he'd gain far more by appealing to her inherent intelligence than placating her as he suspected too many others did. "She hasn't ruled anything out. And your mother's mad dash to Europe hasn't put suspicious minds to rest."
"She's also an easy target. Kate has never cared for my mother."
"From what little I've gathered, I'd say that's a sport around here."
Derek saw the moment his words registered, her eyes going round in her face before the first genuine smile curved her lips. "Now that's one you don't hear every day."
"I'm not here to placate anyone. And I suspect I'd be rather bad at it if I tried."
Her smile faded, their moment of connection lost. "What else did my aunt say?"
"She believes you're all in danger, you especially. And she believes that danger won't pass until the identity of your brother Jackson is discovered."
Landry settled back in her seat, the aggression fading from her shoulders. "Ah yes, the missing Adair heir. It's all anyone can talk about."
If the past few days had shown him anything, it was that the Adairs knew how to keep to themselves. Yes, they had a legion of staff at their disposal, but they were a family that lived at the highest echelons of society. Babbling about their family business wasn't in their nature. And he suspected that what conversation had gone on was done behind closed doors so even the servants couldn't hear all the details.
"No, it's all you and your family can talk about. And it's the real reason Kate asked me to come."
Her gaze roamed over his face, and he fought the urge to shift in his seat under that direct stare. Before she could say anything, he pressed on. "My expertise is missing-persons cases. It's what I do for the FBI and I'm damn good at it."
That admonition whispered like smoke through his mind, and he ignored it. Ignored that pervasive sense of failure that had dogged his heels like the hounds of hell since his last case went unsolved. Ignored the resulting sense of loss at his failure to protect an innocent young girl.
Landry Adair wasn't Rena.
And he wouldn't fail again.
"So that's the gig? You pose as my new boyfriend so you can nose around here and dig into the past?"
Landry slipped on her sunglasses, the shielding of her eyes as clear a message as simply standing up and walking away. "I'll consider it on one condition."
"We're partners on your little investigation."
"I work better alone."
"Then you can head right back the way you came. Despite what she may think, my aunt doesn't have a say in what goes on in this house. Neither do my brothers. And while I may love all of them to pieces, I'm not going to follow along like some frightened puppy."
"I'm a trained professional."
"And I live here. You'll do far better as my ally than my enemy."
Derek knew he had a stubborn streak a mile wide and twice as deep. He also knew when it made sense to step back and let the target think they had the lead. He'd give Landry Adair her head for a few days. From all the intel he had, it was easy to assume she'd get bored in less time, anyway.
"No one can know what I'm after."
"Not even your mother."
"Then it won't be a change from how we usually get on. I don't tell my mother anything. And as you so succinctly mentioned, she's out of the country right now anyway."
With her eyes shaded, he couldn't see any hint of emotion deep in her expressive gaze, but even sunglasses couldn't hide the subtle tightening of her slim shoulders. "So we're agreed?"
She extended her hand across the table and Derek hesitated, the implied contract not lost on him. When she only waited, he slid his fingers over hers, her delicate skin soft under his calloused palm.
It didn't make sense, nor was it rational, but in that moment he knew his world had reordered itself. And he knew with even greater certainty that nothing would ever be the same again.
Her hand slipped from his as she stood, her breakfast untouched. "Well, then. You'd better get ready."
"We've got a governor to go meet."