Read Pages of Passion Online

Authors: Dara Girard

Tags: #Fiction

Pages of Passion

“We probably should have gone to your cabin. Mine is shabby compared to yours.”

Michael took off his coat, his gaze never wavering from hers. His look was as soft as a caress. “Your cabin doesn’t interest me right now.”

She swallowed. “Oh.”

He unbuttoned his shirt, the heated flame in his eyes keeping her still. A sensual sizzle electrified the space between them and it was only when he removed his shirt that Noreen remembered she was still fully dressed. She reached behind her for her zipper.

Michael abruptly held up his hand. “Don’t move.”

Noreen blinked, surprised. “Why?”

He crossed the room and stood behind her. “Because I’ve wanted to undress you all night and I’m not going to let you deny me that pleasure.”

Then slowly, teasingly, he pushed the straps of her top off her shoulders, and slowly unzipped her skirt and let it fall to the floor.

Pages of Passion
 
Dara Girard

www.millsandboon.co.uk

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the second book in my Ladies of the Pen trilogy about three writing friends—Suzanne, Noreen and Claudia—and their rocky roads to romance. You’ve already met Suzanne in
Words of Seduction,
and now
Pages of Passion
tells you Noreen’s story.

The quote “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive!” by Sir Walter Scott best sums up the premise of this story. It is a story about deception. When I was a kid I enjoyed the game of charades, and that game gave me the perfect idea for this novel about two people pretending to be someone they’re not for different reasons.

Noreen Webster pretends to be someone else because she needs a vacation. Michael Vaughn pretends to be someone else because he needs excitement. Both characters don’t think they need love, but Fate has other plans—and when these two meet, they certainly get more than they bargained for!
Pages of Passion
shows the ultimate game of charades with a dash of mystery, exotic locales and lots of hot, flaming passion. Enjoy!

Thank you for your continued support. Be sure to look for Claudia’s story in my next Kimani Romance novel,
Beneath the Covers,
in April 2011.

All the best,

Dara Girard

To my fans!

Chapter One

North Carolina


A
bsolutely not.”

“Please, Noreen. It will be fun.”

“I’m not switching places with you, Arlene.”

“We’ve done it before.”

“Years ago.”

“I really need your help.”

“No.” Noreen Webster made a swift, dismissive gesture with her hand then turned back to her computer screen. She sat in her home office surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling black walnut bookshelf filled with hardcovers and paperbacks and a contemporary, clear glass desk crowded with miniature figurines, numerous stacks of papers and an assortment of Post-it notes. Framed covers
of her seven published books were displayed on her wall next to numerous writing awards. “Now, go away. I have work to do.” Noreen rested her hands on the keyboard ready to start typing but before she could hit a key, her sister spun her swivel chair around.

“Please, Noreen,” Arlene said, her tone more urgent than before.

Noreen glared up at her sister. Except for the lack of glasses—her sister didn’t wear the thick, dark-framed ones Noreen favored—and the expression—Arlene looked more determined than annoyed—she could be staring at herself in a mirror. And what she saw was a petite woman dressed to accentuate her curvaceous figure, with big, brown eyes, mocha-colored skin and a head full of light brown curls that she struggled to manage with a red headband. Of course, that’s where the similarities ended, because Noreen would never be caught wearing a tight, short, red jean skirt and a bedazzled blouse that said Cutie Pie. Her sister looked like a high-school senior instead of a woman of twenty-nine. Although they were identical twins, they were on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Noreen glanced down at the dark pair of blue jeans and oversize T-shirt she wore. Even as children, the differences in their personalities were apparent. While Arlene had spent most of the day primping in front of a mirror, Noreen had been busy finding a quiet spot to read the novels she loved and disappearing into her favorite stories. Their differences became even more obvious when, after the age of six, they were no longer forced to dress the same.

Noreen looked up at her sister again and shook her head. “N. O.”

“Just hear me out.” Arlene held out her hands before Noreen could protest further. “Please.”

Noreen sat back in her chair, placing her elbows on the armrest, and sighed, resigned. “Fine.” She waved a finger. “But I’ll only listen on one condition.”

“What?”

“That what you’re asking me to do has nothing to do with Clive.”

Arlene rested a hand on her hip, the bracelets on her wrists clicking together. “His name is Clyde.”

Noreen shrugged, unconcerned.

Arlene frowned. “I think you say his name wrong on purpose.”

Noreen blinked. “I guess I’m just hoping he won’t last long. Just like the others.”

“I don’t know why you don’t like him. He’s different from all the rest.” Her sister touched her chest. “I know it in my heart.”

Noreen stifled another sigh. Her sister’s “heart” was never accurate. Arlene had a terrible history with men. She seemed to be attracted to men other women sensibly left buried under a rock. She’d dated brutes, perverts, ex-cons and men who promised to leave their wives and never did. Arlene was unlucky in love, but Noreen couldn’t blame her. She was unlucky in love too and had survived a bitter divorce to prove it. However, Arlene told everyone she knew that her perfect man was out there, and like a child who believes in fairies she never
lost hope; Noreen, on the other hand, believed in Mr. Right as much as she did in Santa Claus.

“I wish you wouldn’t be so cynical. You’ve only met him twice. He’s always been nice to you, and look at the bracelet he bought me.” Arlene held out her arm and twisted several bangles dangling from her wrist.

Noreen looked and frowned. “Which one is it again?”

Arlene pointed to a silver bracelet. “This one. He said it will bring me good luck and he never wants me to take it off. Isn’t it beautiful?” She didn’t give her sister a chance to reply. “He’s sweet and handsome and charming,” Arlene said in a dreamy voice while she toyed with the bracelet.

Noreen shook her head in pity. “Most jerks are handsome and charming. You should know that by now.”

“And a lot of wonderful men are too. Look at the man your friend Suzanne married.”

Noreen didn’t want to. The recent marriage of her best friend, Suzanne Rand (now Gordon), who was also a writer, should have put a dent in her cynicism but it hadn’t shifted. While she knew her friend was happy and her husband appeared to be a perfect match for her, their love seemed to be an exception. Like a pink rose that happens to grow in a bed of weeds. She didn’t want to talk about her friend’s wedded bliss.

“What do you want?” Noreen asked, eager to change the subject. “I’m listening as long as what you want has nothing to with Clive—Clyde,” Noreen corrected when Arlene frowned.

“It does,” her sister said then rushed on before Noreen could interrupt. “But if you’ll just be quiet for a second I’ll explain.”

Noreen adjusted her glasses and nodded. “Go ahead.”

Pleased that she finally had her sister’s attention, Arlene grabbed a chair nearby and sat down. “He wants me to deliver a package to an eccentric client in St. Lagans.”

“And?”

“And I said I would. Everything is all set for me to travel next week, but I haven’t been feeling well and don’t think I can make it.”

Noreen gave her sister a cursory glance. “You look fine to me.”

Arlene bit her lip. “Today’s a good day.” She cleared her throat. “The thing is…I think I might be kinda pregnant.”

Noreen jumped out of her seat. “Kinda pregnant? That’s impossible. You either are or you aren’t.”

“Sit down and just be calm.”

Noreen remained standing, resting her hands on her hips. “Are you or aren’t you?” she demanded.

“I am.”

Noreen sank back into her chair like a lead balloon. “I see.”

“I think,” Arlene added sheepishly.

Noreen’s tone sharpened. “You don’t know?”

“The first test said ‘yes’ so I tried again and the second said ‘no.’ The nurse told me I’m probably early in my pregnancy and getting false positives
and
negatives.

So I made an appointment with a doctor, but they can’t fit me in until the end of next week. I just can’t handle things right now. Clyde doesn’t know and until I’m sure…”

“So just tell him you can’t do it.”

“What reason can I give him? If I said I’m sick, he might want to take me to see the doctor himself. He’s funny that way. Sometimes I think he keeps track of my cycle more than I do. But that’s not the point. If I see a doctor he’ll want to know why and I just don’t want to have to tell him a bunch of lies.”

Noreen raised her eyebrows, surprised by her sister’s reasoning. “And having me pretend to be you isn’t a lie?”

“Come on, Sis. I need this. It will allow me to get checked out and have some time to think things through. Especially if I am pregnant. You’ll be on the cruise—I mean
I’ll
be on the cruise and he’ll think I’m away and it will give me the space I need to sort things out. I really want to keep him in my life and this is my chance to really impress him.”

Noreen looked at her sister’s perfect figure and pretty face and knew that if Clyde was like any of Arlene’s past boyfriends, he was already impressed. Noreen pinched the bridge of her nose. “Okay, aside from the fact that I’ve never thought it wise to have an affair with your boss…”

“It’s a relationship,” Arlene corrected.

“Right,” Noreen said, not caring about the distinction. “Why did he select you to deliver this package?”

“Because I’m special to him and he’s trying to show
it. He told me so. Three months ago he had another woman, Marnie, but she never came back and Clyde was really upset about it. He said I made him believe in people again. He’s never asked me to do anything and he said he trusts me and no one else. I really want to do this for him. I don’t want to disappoint him.”

Noreen had never suspected her sister’s recent job (she’d had four in the past three years) at an antiques dealership would cause such drama. She’d been working there for less than a year and within three months she was sleeping with the boss and now she was going on a special delivery assignment for him. It didn’t make sense to her, but she knew it would be hard to talk her sister out of it.

“You know I would go if I could,” Arlene continued. “But I haven’t been able to focus and I don’t want to mess this up. Clyde really means a lot to me. He sees me as trustworthy and smart. I’ve never been with a man who thinks that.” Her eyes filled with tears. “Please do this for me. I’ll pay you.”

“I don’t need money,” Noreen said, determined to resist any persuasion, although she felt herself weakening.

“Please, just this once,” Arlene said, wiping a tear away.

But Noreen knew from experience that was a lie. Arlene had been using that line for more than twenty years. “Noreen, just this once finish my project so I won’t fail Chemistry,” “Just this once substitute for me,” or “Just this once, lie to Daddy about where I am,” and Noreen had done it. Their mother had disappeared when
they were six. Except for their grandmother, Arlene was the only other female in a family of males consisting of their three half brothers, their father and an uncle. But as she grew older Noreen wondered if she’d done her sister more harm than good by always enabling her.

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