Forbidden Fantasy #2
Being desired by more than one man...
Ph.D. student Zoë McNamara can figure anything out — except her mind-numbing attraction to Jed Calhoun. The sexy, secretive man is all she can think about. So she decides to sleep with the big, blond enigma — just once — and get him out of her system for good.
Then Zoë meets tall, dark and handsome Ethan Blair, whose British accent and air of mystery could make him the next James Bond. How could she want him so badly just two days after incredible sex with Jed?
And what is she going to do when she realizes...she can have them both?
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I WANT JED CALHOUN.
Zoë McNamara drew her bottom lip between her teeth and studied the words she'd just written on the first page of a fresh notebook. From the time she'd been a very young girl, she'd developed a habit of writing down her thoughts and feelings. Doing so had always helped her keep her focus and work through problems.
Jed Calhoun definitely qualified as a problem. She'd only known the man for two weeks, yet he could scramble her nerves with nothing more than one of those mocking looks of his. And when he touched her, even in the most casual way — the brush of his arm against hers as they entered a doorway — he sent her pulse rocketing.
Then there was the kiss.
Frowning, Zoë tapped her pen against the edge of the page. It hadn't been a kiss at all, not really, but it had stirred up desires she hadn't acted on in a very long time.
The problem was Jed Calhoun made her want to act on them. Ever since that "almost" kiss, he'd haunted her dreams, waking and sleeping. He was even beginning to interfere with her work. All she thought about was what it might have been like if he'd really kissed her.
Zoë badly wanted to pick up the notebook and throw it at the wall of her office. Better still, she wanted to go after Jed Calhoun and demand that he finish what he'd started. But she'd learned that giving in to what her parents referred to as the "wilder" side of her nature, especially with men, never solved a thing. She'd been there, done that her freshman year in college, and she'd learned her lesson. Hadn't she?
When the phone rang, Zoë jumped. A glance at the caller ID had her stomach knotting. It was her mother, no doubt wanting a progress report on her work.
Letting the call transfer to her voice mail, she rose and circled her desk, then began to pace the small Oriental rug. Lately, her parents had been pleased with her. She was a Ph.D. candidate in Psychology at Georgetown University. The current research she was doing with Dr. Sierra Gibbs on the dating and sexual practices of urban singles would be published, and that together with her degree would ensure her the kind of academic career that her parents felt was right for her.
Genetically, she was very suited to the kind of work she was doing with Sierra Gibbs. Her father, Dr. Michael McNamara, held a chair in theoretical physics at Harvard, and her mother, Dr. Miranda Phelps, was the dean of the engineering school at Stanford. But while raising her they hadn't been content to trust in genes.
They'd schooled her at home, providing her with private tutoring and special classes.
Stifling a little sigh, Zoë glanced around the small, meticulously neat office. This was the kind of world that her parents had raised her to fit into. And she was very good at what she was doing. So why did she feel so...trapped?
Moving to the window, she gazed out at the quad. The slant of the morning sun sent long shadows across the lush green grass. The two times she'd actually done what she'd wanted and strayed from her parents'expectations of her, she'd messed up. After her experiment with life on the wild side her freshman year in college, they'd insisted she go into therapy. They'd refused even to talk to her during the two months she'd worked at the CIA. Poor judgment and a sinful waste of her talents, they'd called it.
Taking the job at the CIA had been her last little rebellion against their plans for her. She'd thought that her work there would bring her the kind of adventure she'd always secretly dreamed about. She'd even studied karate in the hopes of eventually becoming a field agent.
But the only real excitement that she'd experienced in her work as a CIA data analyst had been of a vicarious nature, reading and analyzing the reports of one particular field agent whose code name was Lucifer.
Her job had been to analyze the probability that he'd carried out a hit on a fellow agent. Of course, he hadn't, but in the course of gathering intelligence on Lucifer, she'd become insatiably curious about the man.
His reputation was mythic. He was such a master of disguise that no one even knew what he looked like. His track record for getting the job done was flawless. There was even a theory that he didn't really exist, that Lucifer was merely a code name for a group of agents who performed dangerous and secret missions.
But Zoë didn't believe that. She'd read all of his reports, and there was something very distinctive about Lucifer's writing style, a kind of dry humor that appealed to her. And she admired the careful planning that was a hallmark of any mission he worked on. But the thing she'd admired most about Lucifer was the integrity that lay beneath all of his work. Lucifer was a man who could be trusted.
Was it any wonder that he'd become so firmly rooted in her imagination? He was living the life of adventure that she'd always secretly dreamed about. She'd even created a picture of him in her mind. He resembled his dark angel namesake — with longish dark hair and brilliant blue eyes. As she'd continued to gather and analyze information on him, Lucifer had begun to play a very active role in her fantasy life. She supposed that she'd even fallen a bit in love with him just as Shakespeare's Desdemona had fallen in love with the amazing stories that Othello had told her.
Zoë frowned. Desdemona clearly hadn't seen the real Othello. And her boss at the CIA, Hadley Richards, had told her that she hadn't "seen" the real Lucifer. He'd been very displeased with her final report on the superagent.
Zoë turned from the window to glance back at the notebook on her desk. Come to think of it, Jed Calhoun reminded her a bit of Lucifer. Not that he was a superspy. Her lips curved at the absurdity of that idea. But Jed did have a similar air of mystery about him. There had to be a reason why he was staying with his friend Ryder Kane, but not even her boss, Sierra, who was Ryder's fiancée, seemed to know the particulars. And Jed was living on the houseboat that Ryder kept on the Chesapeake Bay, not in Ryder's apartment in D.C. It was almost as if Jed Calhoun was in hiding. Why?
The sharp knock at her door had her jumping. "Zoë, are you in there?"
Zoë recognized Sierra's voice immediately, but she'd barely turned around when Dr. Sierra Gibbs, her arms full of packages, breezed into the room. A month ago, Zoë mused, her boss would have asked permission before entering her office. But a lot of things had changed about Sierra since she'd met Ryder Kane, her new fiancé.
Before Ryder, Sierra and she had been mirror images of each other — once you subtracted the fact that Sierra was a tall blonde and Zoë was a short brunette. They'd both worn glasses, and they'd both worn their hair pulled back into a ponytail or a braid. They'd even worn the same kind of loose-fitting skirts and sweaters. During the time they'd worked together, she'd not only come to admire Sierra's work but she'd begun to look on her as a friend.
So she'd been happy to see how Sierra had blossomed since she'd met Ryder Kane. Her boss was currently dressed in a well-tailored suit in a shade Zoë would call pomegranate and high-heeled slingbacks that Zoë immediately envied. Sierra's hair fell in loose waves to her shoulders, and Zoë couldn't help admiring the style as her boss turned to glance at her.
It was only then that she saw that Sierra had pulled champagne, two glasses and a bag of imported chocolates out of the packages she'd been carrying.
"Sit down. We're celebrating," Sierra said.
Sierra paused in the midst of uncorking the champagne to stare at Zoë. "You're kidding, right?"
"No. What are we celebrating?" The way Sierra was looking at her made Zoë suddenly feel as if she'd been smeared on a slide.
"Merely the fact that your dissertation committee met this morning. Dr. Holloway just stopped by my office with the good news. Your proposed study has been approved. You're officially on the fast track to your degree. Did you forget that they were meeting?"
"Yes, I —" Zoë ran a hand through her hair. She'd completely forgotten. No doubt, that had been the reason for her mother's call, to make sure that her daughter hadn't fallen off the "fast track" again. "That's...wonderful."
Sierra's eyes narrowed as she handed Zoë a glass brimming with champagne. "You look like you need this, and not just for celebration purposes."
How could she have forgotten? Zoë wondered as she took a good gulp of the champagne and moved behind her desk to sit down. But she knew the answer. It was because she hadn't thought of anything but Jed Calhoun since that damn kiss that hadn't been a kiss at all.
Sierra tore open the bag of candy. "You'd better have some chocolate, too. Ryder gave me these, but on an occasion like this, I'm willing to share."
Zoë bit into a creamy chocolate truffle and tried to gather her thoughts. Sierra was going to grill her. She had that look on her face that she always got when she was interviewing one of the volunteers in their study. In a research situation, what Sierra went after, she usually got.
Sierra sat down and sipped champagne before she said, "Okay, spill it. What's wrong?"
Zoë stalled by taking another sip of champagne. Sierra smiled at her. "I'm going to sit here until you tell me. Confession is good for the soul. That's what my sisters always tell me."
Sierra was the youngest of a trio of sisters. Natalie, the oldest, was a cop, and Rory, the middle sister, was a free-lance writer who'd been published in several major magazines. All three sisters had recently become engaged.
"Of course, I could try the same technique my sisters always use on me," Sierra said.
Zoë"s eyes narrowed. "Does it involve torture?" Sierra's eyes twinkled. "They haven't tortured me since I was little. Lately, they just tell me what they think is bothering me, and then launch right into lecture and advice mode."
Zoë began to relax. She and Sierra had never discussed Jed Calhoun. She'd never even mentioned his name. There was no way that she could know. "Go ahead. Give it a shot. Tell me what's bothering me."
"You're attracted to Jed Calhoun, and you're wondering if you should act on the attraction."
Zoë barely kept her mouth from dropping open. "How did you know?"
"Sweetie, the temperature in the room goes up by at least ten degrees whenever the two of you are together. Not to mention that the sparks shooting between you are so intense that the hairs on my arms stand up."
Zoë badly wanted to pace, but Sierra was now sitting in her pacing space. She was stuck behind her desk just as if she were in an interrogation room. After three beats of silence, she said, "I want him, but I don't want to want him."
Sierra smiled and nodded. "That's exactly how I felt about Ryder the first time I met him. I didn't know him then. I just knew how he made me feel, and I'd never felt that way before."
"Yes, that's it." Zoë gestured with her glass, then took another sip. "He has no right to make me feel this way."
"Men. They're all the same." Sierra topped off their glasses.
"He invades my personal space."
"Isn't that just like a man?"