Read Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It Online

Authors: Lucy Monroe

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Businesspeople, #Romance, #Contemporary

Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It

Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It

 

By

 

Lucy Monroe

 

Marcus pushed away from the balcony wall and came toward her, stopping less than a foot away.

 

 

 

Reaching out, he tugged her face toward him with a blunt finger angled against her chin. "You're frightened of water. You're nervous about heights. You're terrified of me. Is there anything you aren't afraid of?"

 

She opened her mouth to speak, but one look into his mesmerizing blue eyes and she couldn't remember the question. "Wh-what?"

 

He smiled, his eyes going the color of theCaribbean Sea just before sunset. "Never mind. It's not important."

 

He started lowering his head. His lips were centimeters from her own when his earlier words came back to her.

 

In a desperate attempt to head off his kiss, she blurted, "I'm not afraid of water and I'm not terrified of you."

 

She was terrified of what he made her feel.

 

 

 

 

 

ZEBRA BOOKS are published by

 

 

 

Kensington Publishing Corp.

 

Third Avenue

 

New York,NY10022

 

 

 

Copyright © 2005 by Lucy Monroe

 

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

 

 

 

If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the Publisher and neither the Author nor the Publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."

 

 

 

All Kensington titles, imprints, and distributed lines are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchases for sales promotion, premiums, fund-raising, educational, or institutional use.

 

 

 

Special book excerpts or customized printings can also be created to fit specific needs. For details, write or phone the office of the Kensington Special Sales Manager: Attn. Special Sales Department, Kensington Publishing Corp.,850 Third Avenue,New York,NY10022. Phone: 1-800-221-2647.

 

 

 

Zebra and the Z logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

 

 

 

ISBN 0-8217-7771-8

 

 

 

First Printing: December 2005

 

10 987654321

 

 

 

Printed in theUnited States of America

 

 

 

 

For my dear friend and generous mentor

 

Theresa Scott,

 

a writer of talent and peaceful nature who blesses all those she knows.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Danvers hadn't had sex in eighteen months, two weeks and three days.

 

And a mere fifteen feet away stood the reason. Primal recognition roared through him as his nostrils widened, as if to catch her scent, while his body went taut and hard in places that had plagued him since her disappearance a year and a half ago.

 

Her slight body bent toward the marketing director of Kline Technology, and she leaned against the front of the man's desk, talking to him in a low voice. A voice that had haunted Marcus's dreams. The voice of the only woman he had ever considered making a permanent commitment to.

 

Veronica Richards.

 

She bent forward to pick up a stack of papers and silky brown strands swayed against her averted cheek. The blunt cut that ended just below her chin surprised him. A year and a half ago her hair had hit the middle of her back when it was down, although he hadn't discovered that fact until the first time they'd kissed.

 

She had kept a scrupulously buttoned-up appearance in CIS's office, which included wearing her hair in a severe twist on the back of her head. Her black-framed glasses, which somehow enhanced her soft gray eyes, had added to the picture.

 

She hadn't been buttoned-up when he touched her, though. She'd been full of shy passion and innocent ardor.

 

He'd worked with her for three years, assuming the ruthlessly efficient secretary had coolant rather than blood running through her veins. It had shocked him to discover otherwise… almost as much as learning that she had sold out his company's corporate secrets before skipping town.

 

His hand curled into a fist at his side. He wanted to stride across the distance separating them, grab her by the shoulders and spin her around to face him before demanding an explanation for the inexplicable.

 

She hadn't just betrayed her company; she'd betrayed her lover and he wanted to know why.

 

The one-word question had played in the back of his mind for the past eighteen months: why? Why after three years of being the perfect secretary, loyal in every way, had she sold information that soured a deal for CIS? Why after being his lover for two months had she left without so much as a goodbye?

 

Instead of acting on his almost overwhelming impulse to demand some answers, Marcus forced himself to turn to his client. George Kline, the president and owner of Kline Technology, had hired

 

Marcus to find an in-house mole. "You wanted to introduce me to the marketing director?"

 

"Yes." Kline nodded his gray head, the movement decisive. "His team and the project lead teams are the only ones with the kind of advance knowledge the person we're looking for has been leaking."

 

Ronnie turned slightly and Marcus saw that she still wore the black-framed glasses. Typically, her white shirt was buttoned up to her neck and tucked into a neat gray skirt. She looked prim and cool, not at all like the sort of woman who would sell out her boss and lover.

 

With a churning in his gut, he realized his investigation had probably just been made very simple.

 

"You said there are five people on the marketing team with access to the information that has been leaking."

 

"Yes," Kline replied, his green eyes lit with keen intelligence. "The department is a little over twice that size, but only my top people have open access to all our product information, including design team stats."

 

Marcus fixed his gaze on Ronnie's profile and asked, "Did you include admins in that number?"

 

Kline frowned and swore. "No. I didn't even think about our departmental administrative assistants. They've got access to everything."

 

"How many are there?"

 

Kline was briefly silent. "Marketing has three, the project design team has one and the sustaining team has two, but only one would be working with he engineers assigned to each product's launch."

 

"Is she one of them?" Marcus pointed to Ronnie, who had turned toward them, giving him his first full view of her face.

 

Kline gave him a speculative look. "That's Veronica Richards, one of the marketing admins. Came to work for us about six months ago. She has unhindered access to pretty much everything."

 

Kline's voice faded in Marcus's mind as his gaze clashed with Ronnie's.

 

He tried to maintain a detached air as he watched her react to his presence. He waited for first the recognition and then the shock to register. His company, CIS, had its headquarters inPortland and she'd left before he and his partner, Alex, branched out into corporate investigations. She probably thought she was safe in the anonymity of the larger city ofSeattle , a good four hours north ofPortland and across a state border.

 

As her gaze settled on him, recognition widened her eyes instantly. Soft lips that he had once kissed with incredible hunger parted as all color drained from the patrician features of her face. She swayed slightly, her mouth forming one word. He thought it was his name. She looked ready to faint. He cursed silently even as his feet pulled him forward against his will to come to her aid.

 

Kline reached her first. "Good afternoon, Veronica. I'd like you to meet Marcus Danvers. I've hired his firm to do some consulting for Kline Tech."

 

As Marcus listened to Kline give the cover story they had agreed upon to explain his presence, he couldn't help wondering how the older man could be oblivious to Ronnie's distress. Didn't he see the way her body had tensed? Didn't he notice the short little breaths that indicated her anxiety? Was he so blind that he saw only her face, schooled into an emotionless mask?

 

"We're looking at expansion?" Ronnie asked, her usually well-modulated tones tight with stress.

 

"Maybe," Marcus's client responded noncommittally.

 

Marcus turned his attention from her to Kline. "I think there's something you should know."

 

"Marcus…" His name came out like a plea.

 

He ignored it. No doubt she was afraid he would tell Kline about her betrayal at CIS, She didn't need to worry. Not yet. He wasn't ready to do that. If she was not guilty of the espionage he'd been hired to investigate, he didn't want Kline jumping to the conclusion she was and dropping the investigation, leaving himself vulnerable to the real culprit.

 

Besides, Marcus didn't think it would take him very long to find out if Ronnie was up to her old tricks.

 

"Veronica and I already know each other. She worked for CIS for a few years. She's very familiar with our information services to investment clients." He hoped Kline would pick up on his hint hat Ronnie didn't know about CIS's corporate investigation activities.

 

Intelligent enough to build a garage business into a multi-million-dollar company, Kline got the message and the slightly panicked expression in his eyes faded. "I see. Then she'll be the ideal conflict for you here at Kline Tech."

 

Turning with a swift movement, Marcus caught

 

Ronnie's reaction to Kline's suggestion. If she'd looked pale before, she looked green now.

 

She shook her head frantically, her almost abnormal control nowhere in evidence. "No."

 

Kline's gray brows drew together and his green eyes narrowed dangerously. "No?"

 

Ronnie's mouth opened and then closed without anything coming out. Her gaze skittered to Marcus and then away again.

 

"Do you have a problem working with Marcus?" Kline asked, his expression still grim.

 

Marcus could almost pity Ronnie, having to stand under that intimidating scrutiny. Almost. If a corporate spy deserved pity.

 

She made a visible effort to pull herself together. "It's just that I'm so busy right now with the new product marketing research for Cougar, I'm sure there's someone more appropriate to work with Mr. Danvers regarding investment strategies."

 

"On the contrary, I prefer having someone I know answer questions and point me to the right people. Besides, you already know how I work. That makes you a valuable resource." Marcus waited to see if she could wriggle out of that.

 

Her gaze flew to his and for a second he read hope in her eyes before it faded to wariness. "If that is what you wish."

 

He smiled, knowing that it did not reach his eyes. "It is. It definitely is."

 

"It's settled then. Veronica, you can begin by introducing Marcus around the marketing department. I've got some urgent things needing attention on my desk." Kline once again sounded like someone's jovial grandfather, all steely determina-tion gone from his expression now that he had gotten his employee's compliance.

 

Kline walked away and Ronnie stood staring after him in complete silence for a full minute before Marcus spoke.

 

"It's been a long time, Ronnie."

 

Her head whipped up. "Don't.. ." She took a deep breath and expelled it slowly. "Don't call me that. Please."

 

"Why not?" he asked, with mockery, wondering at the pleading in her voice. If he didn't know better, he would think she was vulnerable to him. But she'd proved she wasn't when she disappeared without a backward glance. "It's your name."

 

Or at least the name he'd given her when their relationship had turned intimate.

 

"My name is Veronica. No one but you has ever called me Ronnie. I don't… I don't like it."

 

He wondered at her hesitation but chose to ignore it. "Ido like it. It suits you, or at least it suits the woman I know you to be." Actually Benedict, as in Benedict Arnold, suited the woman he really knew.

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