They call themselves the Three Musketeers: three lifelong friends, men who will put it all on the line in the name of honor and loyalty. Of course, that’s nothing for musketeer Zach Brogan, who risks life and limb daily as the owner of an adventure vacation outfitter. Skydiving into active volcanoes, hang gliding off glaciers, diving in shark-infested waters—Zach lives and breathes heart-stopping scenarios. But nothing can prepare him for seeing his childhood friend Dara again—or for the visceral reaction their reunion incites.
Dara Colbourne is living her professional dream: granting elaborate wishes to ill children. Yet when her new project puts her face-to-face with the guy who teased her all through school, Dara is far from pleased. But she is unprepared for the handsome, flirty man that Zach Brogan has become. As the two spar over trip logistics, the heat rises to levels neither can ignore. Is the thrill of adventure all there is between them, or can Dara trust this magnetic bad boy with her heart?
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as excerpts from these Loveswept titles: Blaze of Winter, Light My Fire, and Santerra’s Sin.
Read an Excerpt
Today her dream job had all the makings of a perfect nightmare. Dara Colbourne rushed down the hallway to her office. “I should have known better than to stop off at Cavendish’s office on the way in.” She swore under her breath, a common occurrence after a meeting with Dream A Little Dream’s founder. “That man gives new meaning to the term benevolent dictator.”
She shifted the pile of folders threatening to topple from her arms, careful not to jostle the cup of now-cold coffee in her hand. She’d hoped to go over her notes one last time before confronting her first appointment. And a confrontation it was likely to be. Having the upper hand right from the start was imperative if she was to get this over with quickly.
Of course, during their history together she’d never once had the upper hand with him, but she was a firm believer in positive thinking. Besides, a lot could change in fifteen years.
“Please, let him be soft and slow,” she muttered, knowing that particular prayer wouldn’t be answered but asking anyway. “And late.”
Using her hip, she bumped open the door. It moved two inches, hit something solid and swung swiftly backward. Directly into her coffee cup.
“Oh!” The cold brew soaked through her favorite white silk shirt. Her once-favorite white silk shirt, she amended silently, staring down at the blotchy brown mess.
Her office door swung open again, and a tall, broad body filled the entrance. Biting down on a curse, Dara looked up. Past faded, dusty jeans that became increasingly formfitting, past the black T-shirt tucked snugly enough to showcase the flat abdomen it covered, past the words “No Fear Gear” scrawled in electric blue across a vast expanse of hard-muscled chest, past the tanned neck framed with unruly blond hair, and came to rest on the pair of mischief-filled brown eyes that had haunted her throughout her childhood.
Eyes she’d once thought—hoped, prayed fervently even—she’d never have to see again.
The cold coffee dripped between her breasts and trickled out beneath her bra to track down her stomach. “Zach Brogan.” She smiled dryly. “How nice to see you again.”
His wink was as sexy as it was audacious. “Sure you saw enough?”
The voice was still teasing, but rather than high-pitched and ornery, it was low and dark. Not sounding remotely like the teenager he’d been the last time she’d seen him. So much for soft or slow.
“I can show you more if you like,” he added easily. His grin spread, flashing even rows of perfect white teeth. It was nothing short of astonishing just how incredibly generous Mother Nature had been to him.
More proof that life wasn’t fair.
A truth she worked to change every day, and one she doubted he had even a passing acquaintance with.
“Well,” she said with studied nonchalance. “The body has improved, Brogan. But the mind is still in grade school.”
He made a sizzling sound and shot her a mock wounded look. “Little Dart, Still a fire-breather, I see.” Zach lifted the pile of folders from her arms without asking, the unwieldy stack looking somehow small and manageable in his big arms. “It’s been a long time.” He inclined his head, motioning her into the office ahead of him.
“Fifteen years,” she responded, moving quickly past him.
“Seems hard to believe we never bumped into each other in all that time.”
It wasn’t hard for her to believe. She’d been fifteen when her mother had remarried and they’d moved from Madison County to Fairfax. Both counties were in the state of Virginia, not fifty miles apart, but back then it had seemed a galaxy away. Her twin brother, Dane, had worked hard over the years to maintain his friendship with Zach.
Dara had just thanked her lucky stars to be rid of him.
She heard him close the door behind her. “We don’t exactly move in the same circles,” she said finally, not really wanting to get into their particular past.
“No. I don’t imagine you travel in a circle at all. More of a straight-line type, I hear.”
The underlying edge in his statement caught her off guard, but she managed to swallow the retort that sprang to her lips. After all, she wasn’t an awkward teenager any longer. She could hold her own against the likes of one Zach Brogan without resorting to childish one-upman-ship.
Leaving him by the door, she walked directly to her desk, grabbing the box of tissues sitting on one corner. His gaze on her back was a tangible thing, and she was surprised at the instant of awareness the knowledge provoked in her. It took an annoying bit of extra concentration to keep her hands steady.
Of all the emotions she’d have expected to feel upon facing her childhood tormentor again, sexual awareness hadn’t even made the list. Oh, Dane had kept her informed over the years of just how charming and dashing all the ladies thought Zach to be. But that had been the case all through school, beginning with kindergarten when he’d wrapped poor Mrs. Potter around his then-pudgy pinky finger by asking her to marry him on the second day of class.
Dara, on the other hand, had been completely immune to it—inoculated early on by his endless pranks at her expense—and she really hadn’t imagined time would change that. His globe-trotting, wild man lifestyle might seem exciting and exotic to some women, but Dara was no longer drawn to bold, larger-than-life males. It had taken several painful lessons for it to sink in, beginning when she was eleven and her much-adored pilot father had died, and finally, mercifully, ending with the death of her athlete fiancé when she was in college.
Bold and brash may have enticed her when she was young; she’d been quite the daredevil herself as a kid. But that was then. She’d grown up and entered the real world. And she’d never looked back.
She certainly didn’t plan to now.
The stack of folders appeared on her desk as she dabbed at the sticky mess on the front of her shirt, jerking her thoughts back to the present. She felt his warm breath on her neck an instant before he spoke.
“I’d help you with that,” Zach said, his deep voice touched with humor, “but I bet Dane we’d go ten minutes before you slugged me, and I don’t want to lose twenty bucks.”
The tissue she’d been pulling from the box ripped in half at the sudden jerk of her hand. “Your money’s safe,” she said after a moment, hating the smile that threatened. “I can handle it,” she added, hoping she wasn’t lying. Yanking a wad of tissues from the box, she edged away from him, dabbing at her blouse while she moved behind her desk.
She’d just made the mistake of thinking of him the way he’d been the last time she’d seen him; an immature teenager just discovering the joys of testosterone. She stupidly hadn’t factored in the reality that he was now a man full grown. A man who likely knew just what to do with all that testosterone.
Steadfastly ignoring the responding tingle that idea brought on, she looked down and swiftly rearranged the stack of folders on her desk. “Please, have a seat.”
He brushed off the back of his jeans and sat in one of the padded leather chairs across the desk, his huge frame dwarfing the hand-tooled seat.
Catching her looking at the fine layer of dust he’d just sent sifting to her Persian rug, he smiled and shrugged. “Desert dust. The Chilean airstrip I used didn’t exactly come equipped with a changing room. And once I hit Dulles, I figured I was beyond redemption.” His grin made it clear he wasn’t the least disturbed by that notion.
Beyond redemption. Even dusty with a day or two’s growth of beard, she was forced to admit he was sexier than sin. And the devil himself would kill for that smile.
She ignored it. “I appreciate your making it here today,” she said, putting all the poised professionalism she’d earned over the last eight years into her voice.
His raised eyebrow questioned her sincerity, but all he said was, “I understand you have a problem with using my company, The Great Escape, in conjunction with a donation made to the foundation.”
“It’s not personal, Zach. Really.”
His smile was as dry as the desert dust coating her carpet. “Really.”
“Really,” she repeated, her tone sharper than intended.
“Well, that certainly explains why I had to scramble to get someone to replace me in the middle of a trip—a very complex, expensive, prepaid trip I might add—because you refused to deal with anyone but me.”
“I had no choice. You know the donor specifically requested you to run the trip he’s funding. Dream A Little Dream Foundation relies solely on private donations to fund the granting of wishes made by handicapped and terminally ill children. Occasionally a donation is made for a specific wish, which is the case this time. You have to understand how important it is that every aspect of each wish we decide to fulfill be thoroughly checked.”
Zach stretched out his long legs and crossed his arms. “This was all explained to my assistant. I know she provided you with everything you requested. What exactly is the problem?”
“My research has raised some serious questions, and I thought it was important to give you the chance to discuss them before I present my report to the board this afternoon.”
“And if I hadn’t shown up?” His tone seemed sincere enough, but his lazy sprawl suggested he wasn’t overly concerned.
“I can’t speak for the board, but I imagine they would have postponed this particular wish request until we could contact the donor and get his approval for another outfitter.”
Zach looked confident. Too confident. “I don’t think you’re going to have much luck contacting the donor anytime soon.”
Dara sighed. He knew about Jarrett. She hadn’t been sure, but it didn’t really surprise her. Though they didn’t see each other often, Jarrett McCullough, her brother, Dane, and Zach, were still good friends.