Excerpt

Buck’s ringing cell phone blasted him out of a sound sleep. Cursing, he fumbled for the device on the nightstand and sent it clattering to the floor.

     Damn! He could’ve sworn he’d turned that phone off before collapsing into bed last night. And he would never set the ringer up to its full, earsplitting volume. What the devil was going on?

     Grabbing the phone from the floor, he pushed the answer button. “Hullo?” he mumbled.

     “Where’ve you been Buck?” As always, Diane’s voice scraped his nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard. The worst of it was, between the daughter they shared and the chunk of his company she owned, he’d likely be getting these calls for the rest of his life.

     “Sick.” He forced the word through a throat that felt as if he’d swallowed glue.

     “Well, get un-sick. It’s almost noon. Did you get my voicemail messages? I must’ve left you three or four.”

     “Haven’t checked.”

     “Well, I need you to pick up Quinn.”

     His daughter’s name jarred him to alertness. “Weren’t you supposed to bring her here?”

     “I’ve got people coming for a retreat. If you’d heard my messages, you’d know that. I could bring her up next week, but she’s all packed and ready to go. If she has to wait, she’ll be so disappointed.”

     “Fine. I’ll send Evie Redfeather down in the jet to pick her up.” Evie was his personal pilot. Quinn knew and liked her.

     “You can’t come yourself?”

     “Not today. Tell her Evie’s coming. She’ll be fine with that.” Buck ended the call before she could think of some other way to pull his strings. This last minute change of plans was typical. Diane would have known about her retreat for weeks and could have made arrangements. But why do that when she could create a little drama?

     Diane had been a Vegas showgirl when he’d met her ten years ago. After a hot weekend in her bed, he’d flown home without giving her a second thought. But then she’d shown up pregnant on his doorstep, and he’d done the honorable thing. For a while they’d tried to make the marriage work, but it had been doomed from the first “I do.” After a nightmare divorce settlement, she’d moved to Sedona, Arizona, and opened her own new-age ashram.

     The experience had left Buck with a bitter taste, especially when it came to marriage. But at least he had Quinn. Quinn had been worth it all.  

     The phone shrilled again. Knowing it was Diane, Buck turned it off and lay back on the pillow. He’d come home last night with a pounding migraine and maybe a touch of fever. Feeling like road kill, he’d taken some pills, undressed and fallen into bed. Whatever he’d done must have worked. He felt better today.

     Especially after that crazy, sexy dream he’d had.

     Closing his eyes, he tried to recall it in detail. He’d had erotic dreams before, plenty of them, but this one had been different. It had seemed so . . . real. The warm silkiness of skin against his body. The taste of that luscious mouth. Even the sexy aroma of her skin. He could remember everything about the woman—except her face.

     Damn! He’d gulp down a whole bottle of those blasted pills if it could bring the dream back. His climax had been an explosion of sheer sensual pleasure, so powerful he’d probably drenched the bedding underneath him.

     He frowned, struck by an odd notion. If this dream had been typical, he’d be lying in a damp spot now. But the sheet beneath him felt perfectly clean and dry.

     Perplexed, he sat up, moved to one side and ran his hand across the mattress. Nothing. He shook his head, as if trying to clear out the cobwebs. What in blazes had happened here?

     That was when he noticed something else—a subtle fragrance rising from the bottom sheet. But no, it couldn’t be real. He had to be imagining this. Pressing his face to the fabric, he inhaled the sweet, clean aroma, trying to identify it. This wasn’t the softener the hotel laundry used. And it wasn’t one of the expensive perfumes his sexual partners tended to drench themselves in. It was something else, something fresh but somehow familiar. It was her scent, exactly as he remembered it.

     There could be only one conclusion—the dream had been real. There’d been a woman in his bed, and he’d made love to her.

     But how could that be? There’d been no one here when he’d gone to bed last night. The gate to the property had been locked. The house had been locked. And if the dog had barked at an intruder, he hadn’t heard it.

     Was he losing his mind?

     Even at midday, the closed shutters darkened the room. He sat up and switched on the bedside lamp. The room looked the same as usual. Nothing appeared to have been touched except—

     His gaze fell on the phone.

     Now that his head was clearing, he distinctly recalled turning it off before he went to sleep. But someone had not only turned it on again but adjusted the ring volume loud enough to raise the dead.

     Who would play such a dirty trick on him? 

     Maybe he was still dreaming.

     Sliding his legs off the bed, he pushed to his feet and stood on the sheepskin rug. His legs felt as shaky as Jell-O, probably because the pills hadn’t worn off. Maybe if he went downstairs and got some coffee in his system, he’d be able to think straight.

     His robe was draped over the foot of the bed. He took a step toward it, then jerked back with a grunt of pain. His bare foot had come down on something sharp—some object caught in the thick wool of the rug.

     Bending over, he found it with his fingers, picked it up and held it to the light. It was a small silver earring, inlaid with turquoise and fashioned in the shape of Kokopelli, the hump-backed Native American flute player. He stared at it, recognition slamming him like a mule kick.

     Terri’s earring.

     Buck sank onto the edge of the bed. Lord, could he have just had mind-blowing sex with Terri, who’d always been like a kid sister to him? Terri, that miracle of patience and efficiency who kept the hectic world of Bucket List Enterprises running like well-oiled clockwork?

     No, it was unbelievable. But it was the only possible answer.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Elizabeth Lane
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
 

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