Read Back in the Bedroom Online
Authors: Jill Shalvis
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #General
Only a moment ago she’d been holding it together just fine, and then Reilly had to bring that long, sleekly muscled body of his close. Didn’t he know what that magnificent near nudity did to a woman?
Tessa shook her head, not sure whether she was refusing his command or trying to rid herself of the images his husky voice brought to mind. Images of hot summer nights, satin sheets and wild, sweet lovemaking…
Reilly took matters into his own hands. He led her to the cot and helped her sit. “Just lie down, right here.”
His head was bent close to hers…his lips definitely within kissing distance. The room shrank in size until it was just about the two of them, their breaths mingling.
“So, tell me, Reilly.” She licked her suddenly dry lips. “If I lie down, do I get a good-night kiss?”
It’s Harlequin Temptation’s twentieth birthday and we’re ready to do some celebrating. After all, we’re young, we’re legal (well, almost) and we’re old enough to get into trouble! Who could resist?
We’ve been publishing outstanding novels for the past twenty years, and there are many more where those came from. Don’t miss upcoming books by your favorite authors: Vicki Lewis Thompson, Kate Hoffmann, Kristine Rolofson, Jill Shalvis and Leslie Kelly. And Harlequin Temptation has always offered talented new authors to add to your collection. In the next few months look for stories from some of these exciting new finds: Emily McKay, Tanya Michaels, Cami Dalton and Mara Fox.
To celebrate our birthday, we’re bringing back one of our most popular miniseries, Editor’s Choice. Whenever we have a book that’s new, innovative,
, look for the Editor’s Choice flash. And the first one’s out this month! In
talented Stephanie Bond tells the hilarious tale of a native New Yorker who finds herself out of her element and loving it. Written totally in the first person,
is a real treat. And don’t miss the rest of this month’s irresistible offerings—a naughty Wrong Bed book by Jill Shalvis, another installment of the True Blue Calhouns by Julie Kistler and a delightful Valentine tale by Kate Hoffmann.
So, come be a part of the next generation of Harlequin Temptation. We might be a little wild, but we’re having a whole lot of fun. And who knows—some of the thrill might rub off….
Associate Senior Editor
I love books where the hero and heroine are forced into proximity right from the get-go. So I really had fun with this heroine who walks into a burglary and ends up locked in a tiny room with a tall, gorgeous man without his clothes. Tessa and Reilly have one thing in common—they want out. Only, a little thing happens along the way…this almost unbearable attraction.
I feel really fortunate to be included in the twentieth anniversary along with some good friends. Happy birthday, Temptation!
P.S. I love to hear from readers! Visit my Web site at www.jillshalvis.com.
771—THE BACHELOR’S BED
804—OUT OF THE BLUE
861—A PRINCE OF A GUY
878—HER PERFECT STRANGER
885—FOR THE LOVE OF NICK
910—ROUGHING IT WITH RYAN
914—TANGLING WITH TY
918—MESSING WITH MAC
5—NATURAL BLOND INSTINCTS
HARLEQUIN SINGLE TITLE
THE STREET WHERE SHE LIVES
42—KISS ME, KATIE!
HUG ME, HOLLY!
57—BLIND DATE DISASTERS
EAT YOUR HEART OUT
85—A ROYAL MESS
HER KNIGHT TO REMEMBER
63—NAUGHTY BUT NICE
ELACANTRO ALWAYS PAID
her taxes, ate at least one serving of fruit or veggies a day and generally was a rule follower. But that didn’t mean she didn’t yearn for adventure.
In fact, she yearned a lot.
It was why she’d agreed to watch her boss’s posh house in La Canada for the weekend while he took his latest fling to Cabo San Lucas.
Tessa had her own place but it didn’t have ten thousand square feet or cable or even a degree of poshness, so she looked forward to living like the rich and famous for two nights. As an Art History major without a lot of prospects in the field, she’d spent the past few years as an office clerk here and there, doing some accounting, doing some secretarial work, learning how to run Microsoft programs without crashing anyone’s system.
What she hadn’t done was figure out how to work in any of that adventure and excitement she wanted, but this was California,
California, to boot. The land of opportunity. She was open to anything, and liked to keep her options free. She had high hopes for
her latest job as a temp in an agency run by the colorful Eddie Ledger. The sharp, debonair, electrifying man had a myriad of businesses in his empire, most of which ran themselves, leaving him free to do things like go to Cabo on a whim.
She could get into that lifestyle. She parked her car at the top of Eddie’s long, curvy driveway, which protected the Tudor-style mansion from view of the street. It had a beautiful yellow-and-white front, with flowers everywhere, lining the grass and steps to the porch.
Letting herself in with the key Eddie had given her, she dropped her purse and keys on the tiled foyer that was bigger than her entire apartment and sighed. From here she could see the large living room and so many windows showing off stunning views of the Angeles Crest Mountains she felt a little dizzy.
Or maybe it was a lack of food. She’d come right from a long day of work and hadn’t yet grabbed dinner, so she headed in, looking for the kitchen. Eddie wouldn’t mind—her tall, dark and outrageously handsome boss had told her to help herself. He might be as sly as a fox and extremely fond of women, but when it came to his employees, he was sweet and warm and extremely kind.
The kitchen took her breath away. She took in the custom-made maple cabinetry, the granite counters and the Sub-Zero maple-faced fridge. The secret chef inside her salivated.
Her own kitchen could have fit inside the brand-
spanking-new Russell six-burner range. If she wasn’t so tired, she’d run back out to the grocery store and get a bunch of exciting ingredients, then come back and cook away. It’d be fun if she had a date to cook for, but she didn’t. Maybe she’d call her sister to come over and they’d watch the new 007 movie. They could sigh and eat, eat and sigh….
Her footsteps echoed as she crossed the granite tiles, warm from the setting sun beaming in through the myriad of windows here, too. She reached for the handle on the fridge, just to get a quick snack, but hesitated at the loud thump that definitely wasn’t her stomach growling. With a frown, she headed out of the kitchen, back into the huge, open living room, and looked down the wide, oak-lined hallway that arched off to the left and vanished.
Someone was down there.
The maid, maybe, but Tessa wasn’t sure Eddie had a maid. In any case, she wasn’t going to take any chances. La Canada residents were snooty and into their privacy. This house was no exception. Heavily wooded and a bit secluded, she could scream until the cows came home and no one would hear. At home in Glendale—only a few minutes from here, but a world away as far as neighborhoods went—she’d have grabbed her trusty baseball bat and the phone to call the police.
No baseball bat here, and at first glance around the fancy place, she couldn’t even find a telephone. But
she’d seen plenty of horror flicks in her twenty-six years, and had no intention of being the stupid chick. She’d just get out of the house and
call the police.
The front door seemed extremely far away so she whirled to the sliding glass door behind her instead. But she stopped short when she remembered she’d left her keys on the foyer floor with her purse. She needed those keys for an escape.
And then came another thump.
Spooked, she started running toward the foyer. Track had been her least-favorite sport, but she managed to move like lightning. Funny what fear did for motivation. Ten-thousand square feet was suddenly
too much space, and she felt grateful for her perpetual poverty and six-hundred square feet of closed-in apartment that would have only taken a blink of an eye to run through—
The male voice sounded so polite, coming from behind her, that she actually stopped short and looked over her shoulder.
And faced a man carrying a DVD player. He looked to be twenty-something, and wore jeans and a grungy white thermal shirt on his large, beefy body. With a grimace, he set down the DVD player and straightened. “Another visitor. Terrific.” He cracked his knuckles and suddenly looked exceptionally big and menacing. He gestured with a jerk of his chin toward the back of the house. “Okay, sweetcakes, let’s go.”
She took a step back and shook her head.
He sent a frustrated glance heavenward. “Why me? Look, just tell me you’re not a martial arts expert like the other guy.”
She eyed the growing bruise on his cheekbone and took another careful step backward. Gee, only fifty more and she’d make it. “What are you doing here while Eddie’s out of town?”
“I’m here to mess the place up.” His voice was pure annoyance. A put-out bear of a man. “And I get to take whatever I want while I’m at it. Those are my orders. If he’s out of town, so much the better.”
“G-go ahead, I’ll…just wait outside.” She took another step, wondering if he could see that she was shaking like a leaf. Forty-nine more steps…
He shook his big head. “Don’t even bother. We both know I’m not going to let you go until I’m done here and long gone, so I’ll repeat myself.
“Goddammit.” He lumbered after her.
Whirling, she ordered her feet to move. Forty-seven, forty-six— An arm hooked around her neck, hauling her back against a rock-hard body, withholding her inherent right to breathe. She opened her mouth to scream, but he slapped a hand against her mouth and nose—she definitely wasn’t breathing any time soon. Lifting her off her feet, he started walking.
Spots danced in front of her eyes. Out of pure des
peration for air, she reached back and grabbed a handful of his hair.
“Ouch! Holy shit, lady!” He gripped her wrist and jerked it down, squeezing her neck at the same time.
Her head was going to pop right off. The spots blossomed into full Technicolor, and now she had an aching wrist to go with them as he dragged her along, back through the kitchen. Her life passed in front of her eyes; her mom and dad, her sister and brother, her cute little apartment where she cooked, read, lived…and then without warning he let go of her and shoved.
She landed on a hard tile floor and spent a moment on her hands and knees concentrating on dragging air into her lungs. A door slammed and she jerked her head up. It was nearly dark outside now and there wasn’t a light on in the small room she found herself in, which was maybe eight feet by eight feet. But there did appear to be a floodlight right outside the very small window on the far wall. Thank goodness for timers, she thought, and tried not to panic. Unlike the rest of the house, this room was gray and bare. The only piece of furniture in the place was a narrow cot—
Oh God. A narrow cot that was filled with the prone body of a man wearing nothing but black knit boxers. Long, sleek and powerful, there wasn’t an inch of excess on him. Even in the meager light she could see he was sinewy, lean and hard, and she took him all in, including the myriad of interesting scars like the long, jagged one on his right pec, and another small puck
ered one—like a bullet wound?—low on his flat, corrugated belly.
Still breathing like a misused racehorse, still shaky, she stared at him as he groaned, slowly sat up and blinked.
So did she, because he was the spitting image of her boss—the forty-nine-year-old, gorgeous Eddie Ledger—only younger and far more serious than she’d ever seen the perpetually smiling Eddie—
He staggered to his feet and put a hand to the back of his head, then pulled it away and stared at his fingers, which came away sticky with…she blinked in the dim light. Blood. Oh God. She really didn’t do well with blood—
“Who are you?” he demanded.
Given the force of his voice, he wasn’t mortally injured. And given the incredible sharpness of his eyes and body, he wasn’t the type to be easily laid flat. She stood there uneasily, not sure who were the good guys and who were the bad. But this man, this six-foot-tall, lean, mean, nearly naked fighting machine looked so much like her boss….
His laser, light-blue eyes looked her over, then met her gaze, and she swallowed hard. Had she really thought he looked like Eddie? Maybe the dark, spiky hair, the see-through eyes, the lean, shadowed jaw were the same, but even though she’d never seen Eddie nearly naked, she doubted he had such a hard, muscled, sleek look to him. He’d certainly never looked so
intense, so unsmiling, so utterly edgy and terrifying in the month she’d been working for him.
Suddenly her last job, doing payroll for a local YMCA, didn’t seem so bad. If only they hadn’t had to reduce their staff, if only she hadn’t been the low person on the totem pole, if only…
“Who are you?” he repeated in that low, husky voice that would have resembled Eddie’s, if it didn’t have all the fury in it.
“T-Tessa Delacantro.” For the second time in a few minutes, she backed to a door. The handle hit her fingers and she jerked at it, but it didn’t budge.
“It’s locked, and like everything else in the house, it’s the best money can buy so it can’t be broken,” Eddie’s evil twin said.
She tried it again anyway, still eyeing him carefully. How many times had her sister told her ninety-nine percent of all men were scum? Not that she’d ever listened.
If she ever got out of here, she’d listen to Carolyn.
He had one hand propped up against the wall as he contemplated her with an enigmatic expression that was probably supposed to be polite, not terrifying.
But he didn’t have the facial features for polite, not with those shocking light eyes and harsh frown. “What are you doing here?”
She tried not to stare, but it wasn’t every day she was so up close and personal to a nearly naked man while
shaking in fear. In fact, she was hardly
this close to a nearly naked man, scared or otherwise. “I’m watching the house for the weekend,” she said. “But…Eddie?”
A short, rough laugh escaped him at that, a sound that had nothing to do with mirth. “No.”
Her heart was flinging itself against her ribs so hard it was amazing they hadn’t all cracked. “Um…” She swallowed hard. “Eddie’s brother? Eddie’s…twin brother?”
His go-to-hell eyes frosted over. “No. I’m Reilly.” Body taut with tension, arms crossed now—which delineated his hard contours in interesting ways, not that she was noticing—he let out a breath. “His son.”
Eddie had told her he had a son, but by the indulgent smile on his face when he’d mentioned him, Tessa had imagined a little boy, certainly someone far younger than thirtyish and not quite so mind-bogglingly magnificent. “But—” She let out a sound of pure confusion and eyed the window. The place had been built on a hill, and naturally, she was hillside and at least forty feet up.
She looked at Reilly again. His stance implied strength and an innate confidence she could only dream of. There was no doubt, this man was in complete control of himself, even injured and half-naked.
Apparently unconcerned with that nakedness, he moved toward her. She flinched back against the door,
but he kept coming, and took the hand she’d unconsciously held to her still-raw and aching throat.
Slowly but inexorably he pulled her hand up and stared at what he’d exposed.
Impossibly, his eyes hardened even more. “They hurt you, too.” He ran a finger over her skin then lifted his gaze to hers. “You were to watch the house for Eddie?”
He made a rough sound. “That figures.”
“He favors the young and innocent.”
The words “young and innocent” came out as if those were the most irritating traits a person could have. How many times had she been told she looked ten years younger than her twenty-six? Plenty. So she looked young, big deal. Did people always have to use the word
when describing her?
She really resented the hell out of that.
“You interrupted them,” he guessed, and grimaced with what actually might have been concern. Then he took her other hand as well, the one she’d been cradling to her belly because her wrist still hurt, and turned it over to expose the mottled bruising already appearing there. He lifted his gaze and held hers for a long moment. “Where else did they get you?”
Still holding her wrist, he looked her over thor
oughly, and she let him because she didn’t feel up to doing anything else.
Besides, he had the air of a man well used to being in charge, the kind of man others would look to in a crisis. The kind of man that would be annoying in everyday life because of it.
Alpha male at its finest. And she preferred beta men. This guy didn’t appear to have a sensitive, compassionate bone in his body. He certainly didn’t feel the need to charm and cajole, or make everyone smile around him as his father did. He simply didn’t have the same easy warmth and charisma.
And in truth, he actually seemed far more dangerous than the thug who’d thrown her in here. She wondered how anyone had ever managed to hurt him, because all that carefully restrained strength was intimidating as hell. He must have been ambushed, and she doubted he’d gone down easily.
And yet the way he was looking her over for unseen injuries softened something inside her, just a little, at least until he touched the back of his head again and cursed, which made her jump. “You’re bleeding,” she said inanely.