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December Heatwave

Prologue

 

There was something about the way a woman applied her lipstick. The way she held her mouth, soft, open, inviting.

Striding silently into the bedroom and through to the narrow walk-in closet, Jake hadn’t been aware of her at first, locating the bathroom had been uppermost in his mind. But now, he stopped dead and admired the reflection of the attractive brunette as she added another layer of earthy redwood color to her mouth, emphasizing the shape of her full, sensuous lips.

He perceived her as a princess. Maybe he’d had too much to drink and was imagining things. Shaking his head, he closed his eyes for a moment, but the gorgeous woman was no apparition.

Why hadn’t he noticed her at the party before this?

His body stirred and he adjusted his stance to ease the discomfort. The princess must have noticed the movement for she raised her eyes and caught his gaze in the mirror; compelling him to remain focused on her while she replaced the lipstick cap, and slipped it into the small purse slung from her shoulder.

Breaking the gaze momentarily, she turned to face him, her hazel eyes round and expectant. He’d never seen eyes quite like hers—neither the color nor shape. There was something special and alluring about them.

She stepped forward, and Jake stood aside to allow her passage through the narrow gap between himself and the shelves. She turned side-on to move past him, their bodies barely touching, but Jake could sense the sizzle between them, feel the heat of her body caressing his.

Unable to help himself, he reached out, and leaned his hand on the shelf to prevent her from escaping. Her lips parted slightly, her expression one of surprise. At the same moment, he lowered his mouth and kissed her soft, full lips. The tip of his tongue ventured further, tasting her. Jake, sure there was some reciprocation, convinced himself she didn’t mind one little bit. He deepened the kiss.

Something yanked at his hair, dragging painfully at his scalp. Still locked in his crazy fantasy, Jake wrenched his mouth away, his breath fast and shallow.

The sharp slap of her palm stung his cheek, shattering the sweet remembrance of her kiss.

Her reaction stunned him. His hand moved to his face as he watched her walk away, only then realizing what a foolish move he’d made. No matter what, Jake was certain there’d been at the very least, a flicker of interest in her initial response. A man didn’t imagine these things, nor did he need to rely on alcohol to know when a woman reacted sensually to him.

A short time later, with the party still in full swing, Jake circulated amongst the guests. He found Mark, his best friend and camera man, the other half of their news/documentary team.

“Oh, mate, I’ve just had the most incredible experience,” Jake said, and it irked him that he didn’t even know her name. If he should see her later, would she accept his apology or dismiss him as a stupid jerk?

Preoccupied with the taste of her still on his lips, Jake didn’t notice Mark’s own excitement at first.

“That’s great,” Mark replied, only half-listening, Jake realized. What was the matter with Mark tonight?

“There’s someone I want you to meet.”

Jake followed his friend’s gaze. His heart skipped a beat. The princess! An intro. He couldn’t ask for a better opportunity, and perhaps a chance to apologize away his foolishness. He knew her kiss would haunt him for a long time to come, even if he didn’t get to know her better. Mark held out his hand in invitation for the woman to join them.

At first she seemed a little reluctant, or was that Jake’s overactive imagination?

She glided into Mark’s inviting embrace, her golden honey gaze traveling over Jake.

“Jake, this is Nicolette Oliver. We’re going to be married.” Mark beamed and drew her closer.

The bottom dropped out of Jake’s heart. Forcing a smile, he held out his hand. “Congratulations, Nicolette. Mark is a very lucky man.”

Nicolette’s smooth palm lightly grazed his as if she didn’t want to touch him. She looked down her nose at him, summed him up with one chilling glance. The woman gave him the briefest of forced smiles, but it was the confusion in her eyes that taunted Jake the most.

“Are you in the news field too?” he asked, merely to make polite conversation. With a little luck she’d realize he wasn’t a complete moron.

“I’m a dancer, modern and traditional, some ballet...not exotic.”

One step ahead of him, she’d read his mind. Silently, Jake commended her perception.

“Perhaps I’ve seen you perform?”

“Not likely,” she replied coolly. There was an air of superiority about her he didn’t much care for. He sensed a coldness in her, a complete contrast to the woman who’d shared the heat of that erotic kiss with him. How on earth could a class act like Nicolette Oliver be attracted to a laid back ratbag like Mark?

If Mark didn’t know what he was getting himself into, then it wasn’t up to Jake to tell him.

Chapter One

 

 

Driven by a need to get the long trip over and done with, Jake Harrigan drove his rented car as fast as the speed limit and traffic allowed. Thanks to roadwork and an abundance of vehicles traveling in his direction, the trip from Sydney airport had been hell, and taken far longer than he’d anticipated.

Finally, he reached the historic town of Windsor, nestled on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at the foot of the rugged Blue Mountains. Only about another thirty-five kilometers to Mark’s home, thank God. He’d had enough.

An underlying sense of anticipation at seeing his old friend again kept him humming during the long drive. He and Mark had shared many a hair-raising experience filming news and documentaries in the world’s war-torn zones and hot spots. Mark’s daring and expertise with a camera captured some amazing footage over the years.

Only Mark would understand what he, Jake, had suffered in recent months. Only a kindred spirit like Mark could understand the need to heal both physically and emotionally, to enable him to return to his job as foreign correspondent. And only Mark, could help Jake recover sufficiently to do just that.

Jake turned his attention back to his surroundings. The peaceful countryside was such a contrast to the places he’d been. The road wound through flood plains covered with market gardens or turf-growing farms and small settlements, through bush, national parks and flower farms. Occasionally a jam and pickle stall punctuated the side of the road. Further into the hills, the houses became even more sparsely scattered, an occasional dwelling embedded in the hillside and almost hidden by bush.

The drive seemed endless, but he pushed on in the hope that any minute now he should come to the mailbox marking the entrance to the driveway leading to the home Mark shared with his wife.

Nicolette.

Jake’s thoughts continued to drift. In spite of the December heat, Jake couldn’t prevent the frisson of apprehension that skittered down his spine. Hell, why had Nicolette filled so much of his thoughts lately anyway? For the hundredth time he wondered what Mark saw in her.

She was bossy and a snob, and had forced her husband to give up the adventurous life he loved, not to mention an exceptional career.

But just because she ruined, no, dictated Mark’s life, didn’t mean that he, Jake, had to fall prey to her demands. And no doubt, she’d see his presence as a threat to her cozy life try to boss him about as long as he was under her roof. Hell, no. He’d have none of that. He was a man of the world, an adventurous spirit. Nothing, but nothing, would force him to do something he didn’t want to do.

He’d never allow anyone that much power over him. Especially, not a woman.

But on lonely, desperate nights, that kiss returned to haunt him.

Maybe he’d misjudged her. Hmmm. A possibility. After all, they barely knew each other. But something had passed between them at that first meeting. That kiss had rocked him, shocked him. And Nicolette had never forgiven him for taking advantage. From her reaction, it was very clear to Jake that he hadn’t been the only one who’d been shaken to the core.

If he’d realized who she was right at the beginning, he would never have been so brazen. Though alcohol may have coerced his brain into acting foolishly, his senses had been on full alert. There’d been heat in her response, and though she did her best to veil it, Jake knew for certain it had been there, lurking just below the surface. Alcohol hadn’t dulled his senses one little bit.

Even thinking about that kiss after all this time took his breath away. With the prospect of seeing her again, no wonder he couldn’t get her out of his thoughts.

The mailbox stood out. It was like nothing he’d ever seen before. A cow, made mostly of drums, and painted bright red. Even a blind man couldn’t miss it. Jake smiled. That had to be Mark’s doing. He had an outrageous sense of humor when it suited his purpose.

First checking the rear vision mirror, Jake indicated, then turned left and drove over the culvert, steering the car through the narrow gateway. He couldn’t see the house from here. Much to his surprise, the road leading to the house was paved. It wound down the hill like a dark metallic ribbon which he followed carefully, one eye on the view over the Hawkesbury.

Then he saw the house nestled into the hillside. It was low at the front, the side that faced him, and from the angle of the road, he could tell the house was high at the back. Somehow he hadn’t expected that. The bare timbered walls blended into the surrounding colors of the landscape. The height of the balcony at the back would allow a magnificent view across the tops of the trees on the slope below, all the way to the river.

Jake whistled. “God’s own country,” he muttered as he drove closer to the house.

Just how in the hell did Mark stand living here in the middle of nowhere, so far away from the action, day in, day out?

Jake swore it would drive him crazy. If he weren’t such a worn out mess, he wouldn’t be here. He’d be taking leave somewhere more adventurous, white-water rafting, skiing the snowfields of Europe, skydiving, hot air ballooning, bungie-jumping off impossibly high cliffs. Anything to feed the thrill of an adrenaline rush.

A taste of the quiet life, a change of pace, would be a novelty, though, giving him a chance to heal both mind and body. He hoped the process of healing wouldn’t drive him crazy in such a far-flung backwater.

Sure, the scenery was something else, but the isolation would get to a man, Jake reflected as he brought the car to a halt in the paved parking area at the end of the drive, surrounded by native gardens. Beyond was the river, wide, and brown shimmering in the heat, beckoning him into its refreshing depths.

But then, Mark had Nicolette to keep him company and Jake wondered if she was still as he remembered. Probably. Women like that never changed. They just got worse. More bossy, with higher expectations. How did Mark put up with her? Giving away one’s freedom seemed a high price to pay for the company of a woman. Even if she was the love of your life.

Not that Jake didn’t like women. There were so many to choose from, why would a man want to limit himself to just one? It took only one to break a man’s heart.

Jake shook his head. Never in all his days would he understand the depth of power a woman held over a man. He’d yet to meet the woman who could mold him to suit herself. He didn’t believe such a woman existed.

Jake eased himself out of the car and slowly stretched his stiff, aching body. Most of his outer wounds had begun to heal, save for the bruising he’d sustained from the severe beating at the hands of the rebels. He should have stopped once or twice on the trip to ease the discomfort of sitting for too long, but the thought of catching up with Mark pushed him and he wanted the journey over with.

Jake glanced around. The tall trees of the surrounding bush loomed a few meters from where he stood. The peace and tranquility were almost tangible. Mark did pick a pretty spot to spend his days. Even Jake had to admit that. He pondered momentarily on the river, imagining himself floating lazily along with the current, eventually coursing east on the water’s journey to Broken Bay, before it spilled into, and mingled, with the Pacific.

The water shimmered in the sunshine, but the relentless heat of the December sun beat down on him, leaving him feeling more drained than ever. Jake grimaced. On such a glorious summer’s day like this, a man really appreciated being alive, and God knew, he very nearly wasn’t.

Grabbing his bag from the car, Jake took a deep breath of fresh, clean air, a world away from the acrid smell of gunpowder, smoke, battle, hospital odors and death. His strength was sapped now after such a tedious drive. He didn’t know how long it would be before he fully regained his strength. He needed to get mobile again, get back into the action. What else was there to do with his life? Certainly not spend it in some backwater like this.

Jake let himself through the gate and followed the cobblestone path to the door. The garden was neat and tidy, mostly native species to blend in with the surrounding area.

In a far corner, several cartons of empty wine bottles were stacked up along a garden wall. He grinned, thinking Mark must throw quite a few parties. A party. Now that wasn’t a bad idea, and would liven things up a bit. Perhaps he could get to meet some of the local talent, of the female variety of course. Hmm, things were suddenly looking up.

He knocked briskly, aware of the slight rush of adrenaline, his life’s blood. Man, it would be good to see Mark again. There was so much to catch up on.

The bright yellow door gave way to his knock and slowly opened.

At first, he caught a glimpse of a baby cradled in the crook of an arm. Mark was a father? He couldn’t believe it. But then, Jake realized he’d been out of circulation for some time now.

The door opened wider to reveal an attractive slender woman. She was smaller than he remembered, though she wasn’t quite as thin as his memory suggested. Surprise registered on her elfin, heart-shaped, face.

The delicacy of her features was misleading, he thought wryly. Experience had taught him she wasn’t as fragile as she looked. The cutest looking hat sat perched on top of her short honey-brown hair, the ends of which fell to just below her ears, skimming her jaw. He remembered her hair had been long. The one occasion he’d touched it, the strands slipped silkily against his skin. He’d tried to run his fingers through it right before she’d slapped him.

Hazel eyes rose to meet his. A spark of recognition flickered, and she quickly dragged the combination of raffia and large orange, yellow and pink blooms from her head and tossed it to one side, beyond his view.

Jake’s heart slammed into his chest.

Damn, just seeing her again brought back memories of the party. When he made that ridiculous pass at her, a move she’d made him regret each time they’d met since. Though she hadn’t said anything specific, it was more in the way she looked down that cute little upturned nose of hers that told him exactly what she thought of him.

But now, there’d be no such passes. Even if he had to resort to several daily dunkings in the river, he would keep himself in check as he knew she would. Nicolette was a classy woman and he was left in no doubt of her loyalty to Mark. And his own loyalty to his friend was without question.

Her gaze swept over him and he did his best to ignore the warm feeling stealing through his body.

“Jake. This is a surprise.”

From the tone of her voice, a slight tremble, it was hard to tell whether she was pleased to see him or not.

“What are you doing here? I mean...like this...out of the blue?” She shrugged as if there was nothing left to say, or if there was, she was too stunned to form the words.

The questioning surprise on her face fed his smile. “Hello, Nicolette. It’s good to see you again,” he said, feeling slightly nervous. She did that to him, but strangely, this time she didn’t seem as unfriendly and cold as he’d expected, which threw him a bit. Instead, she looked small and fragile and with a baby in her arms, her vulnerability surfaced to shadow her eyes.

“Surprised to see me?” He couldn’t resist asking. Her face remained impassive. It was as if she struggled to school her features. The myriad of expressions in her eyes told him she was far from calm.

Jake tried not to notice the way she was dressed, but the bright pink fluoro bikini was hard to miss, especially the way the barely-there brief clung to her shapely though narrow hips, and the triangular patches stretched taut to partially cover her full rounded breasts. The shoe-string straps looked as if any minute, they’d give up the task of holding everything together.

Jake’s gaze flicked to the movement of tiny fingers as they played on the soft honey-tanned flesh just above the pink scrap of material. His fingers curled in response. Any minute now he’d have to throw himself in the river to cool off. His reaction had to stem from the December heat. He wasn’t used to it anymore, not since spending so much time in the bitter northern winters.

“You could say I’m surprised. Yes. What brings you here, Jake? I never expected you to turn up on the doorstep. Mark had just about given up hearing from you again.”

Well, she certainly didn’t sound welcoming. Guarded, in fact. “I’m sorry, it’s been a while. I got caught up. Circumstances beyond my control. You know the sort of thing.” But she didn’t know the half of it.

She considered him with close regard.

“Besides, in a war zone, the postal service leaves a lot to be desired.”

Nicolette nodded. “I’m well acquainted with the kind of circumstances. Those where you get whisked off to the other side of the world, to any hot spot, with only a whisker of notice. When are you going to give it up, Jake? You must be sick of that lifestyle by now.”

That sounded more like the Nicolette whose path had crossed with his in the past.

Jake swore under his breath. It was going to be harder than ever not to let this woman get under his skin. One way or another, he was a doomed man.

“Never!” he taunted. “You know me, fun-loving and adventurous, the sort who thrives on a good time and gets his thrills from running the gauntlet with danger and death.”

She nodded ruefully. “I know it all right. The number of times you and Mark got into scrapes. Or more to the point, scrapes you got into and Mark had to get you out of.”

“Ah, yes, we were always there for each other, always will be.”

A curious shadow flitted across Nicolette’s lovely eyes.

“He sent me this.” Jake fished the letter from his pocket. He’d kept it handy as Mark had written directions on how to get to the house. He handed it to her.

She studied the aerogramme, fingering the postmark. She paled. “I didn’t know he’d written this,” she said, in a hushed whisper, handing it back to him. “He said he had trouble locating where you’d gone.”

“In the letter he mentioned he’d only got hold of the address that day. He must have been in a hurry to post it.”

Nicolette nodded. “Fate had a hand in that,” she whispered.

“No doubt,” Jake acknowledged, not quite sure exactly what she meant, instead itching to satisfy his burning curiosity on another matter.

“He yours?” Jake nodded toward the sleeping infant. Motherhood suited her. From the little he knew of her, he’d surmised that was the kind of woman she was, someone who’d dedicate her life to her husband and family. But she was still the damn sexiest woman he’d ever met and the fact she had a baby seemed somehow to enhance her subtle sensuality.

God, he’d been in this sun too long. What was he thinking?

“She. No, she’s not mine. I’m minding her for a neighbor.”

“Oh.” Why did he sound so disappointed? He wasn’t one of those men who believed women should be barefoot and pregnant every damn day of their lives. Women were made to caress and cuddle, to enjoy, for both their brains and their beauty, in and out of the bedroom. To live their lives in any way that fulfilled them as a woman and a person. After all, men were the ones to reap the benefits even then. And he reminded himself again that, as his best friend’s wife, Nicolette was out of bounds.

The silence between them seemed to expand and grow taut. Jake felt sure he’d hear it snap at any moment.

The baby stirred, its little pink fist stabbing at the air, drawing Jake’s gaze. Again a tiny hand came to rest against her breast, and Jake found himself wondering if her skin was the same light tan beneath the pink triangles.

“What are you doing here, Jake?” Nicolette’s voice washed over him.

“I’ve come to take Mark up on his offer to spend a few days.” He patted his shirt pocket where he’d returned the letter for safekeeping. “It’s been quite a while and we have some catching up to do. I have a few days up my sleeve, so...here I am.” It was more than a few, but he hoped desperately that they’d invite him to stay as long as he needed.

Nicolette studied him for a moment. He’d always liked her hazel eyes. At this moment, they were tawny-colored, warm and inviting. Her long lashes fluttered. He could understand very well Mark’s attraction to her.

No wonder he’d been anxious to stake his claim on her, marrying her within a few months after they’d met.

“I think you’d better come in, Jake.” She stood back to let him pass.

Jake entered and followed her through the cool screened verandah, and into the open and airy living room. The huge glass panels and double sliding doors, which formed the best part of two walls, seemed to allow the outside to filter into the house. Huge gum trees shaded the room from the heat of the summer sun.

“Very nice,” he said as he drank in the surroundings. The floors were polished a light gold color, with bright scatter rugs providing a softness and warmth to break up the effect of the wood. The furnishings were casual, mostly cane and a lightly polished pine, and the deeply padded lounge chairs appeared quite comfortable. He noticed how quiet it was, until the loud, musical chirp of the cicadas shattered the silence.

“Have a seat.” She indicated a chair. “I’ll just put this little thing to bed. Won’t be long. She usually goes down no trouble at all.”

He realized now that the scent, which assailed him as soon as Nicolette had opened the door, was the soft sweet smell of baby, and woman.

“Take your time.”

Jake sank back in the comfortable chair. A man could get used to this, he reflected and wondered if the lifestyle would really suit him once the novelty of not being shot at, and sometimes hit, wore off. He watched Nicolette as she walked away. Barefoot, shapely bare legs, and a nicely rounded bottom he wouldn’t mind curving his palm to fit.

Where the hell was Mark anyway?

When Nicolette returned, minus baby, she’d dressed in denim cut offs and a white singlet top, short enough to expose a tantalizing strip of tanned midriff. He could still see the fluoro pink mounds through the white stretch fabric. She looked even more appealing covered up.

She dragged her hands through her short straight hair, her movements emphasizing the suppleness of her lithe body. He watched as the loose strands of hair fell back into place.

“Where’s Mark?” He broke the silence before it became too tense, but he wondered if it was simply his own intensity which filled the air between them.

Nicolette looked troubled. Her lower lip quivered and she sank her teeth into the soft flesh to keep it under control.

“Oh Jake, you don’t know, do you?” Trembling fingers covered her mouth.

Chapter Two

 

 

A sense of foreboding coursed through Jake, and filled him with fear. He felt sick to his stomach.

He braced himself, scarcely game to breathe. “Know what?” His voice came in a hoarse, hushed whisper, his gaze remaining focused on her, on the hazel eyes that flickered with emotion.

She swallowed. “Mark...Mark died almost six months ago. The same day as the postmark on that letter.” A tiny tear escaped from the corner of her eye and trickled slowly down her cheek. She sniffed and dabbed at her eyes with her fingertips.

Aware of the sob in her throat and the waver in her voice, Jake’s heart all but stopped. His hands gripped the arms of the chair until his knuckles turned white. The breath he’d held for too long forced its way out through the thickening in his throat.

Shoulders slumped, he leaned back in the comfortably padded chair and closed his eyes, aware of the dampness lurking there. He felt pain as a little piece inside him shriveled and died. He couldn’t believe it. He felt as if he’d been knifed in the gut, the blade twisting and turning.

“No,” he said. “You’re putting me on.”

“Jake.” He sensed her move closer and opened his eyes to watch her crouch in front of him, her hand resting on his knee. Concern filled her gaze. He lowered his lids again, and let her gentle voice wash over him.

“I’m sorry you had to find out this way. I had no idea where you had got to. I didn’t know Mark had found your address. If I could have tracked you down, I would have let you know. I’m sorry, Jake.”

She spoke softly, her voice comforting, though the words themselves provided little to ease the sadness in his heart. He sensed her rise to her feet and move away.

He opened his eyes, his gaze sought hers, and he wished fervently she was spinning him a yarn. The tortured expression on her face told him this wasn’t one of Mark’s crazy tricks.

He pulled in a deep shuddering breath, dragged himself from the chair and moved toward her. She looked drained, as if the recounting of such sad news took everything she had. His heart went out to her.

“How?” His voice was barely a harsh whisper. That lump was still lodged in his throat.

Nicolette looked away. Her mouth quivered. She took a breath and ran her fingers through her hair. She repeated the action before turning her gaze back to him. “It was...it was...a car accident.”

Filled with a sense of injustice, Jake groaned. There was neither rhyme nor reason why Mark should be dead. It wasn’t fair. A man in his prime, with a beautiful wife and everything to live for. Life was like that, he knew, having witnessed a gutful of inequities in his line of work. He just never thought such unfairness would hit so close to home.

“You mean to say, that after all we’d been through together, barely escaping being blown up and shot at, that he had to come home to be killed in a bloody car accident?” Jake’s distress caused his voice to raise a level. “He wouldn’t have quit his job and come home if it hadn’t been for you! He’d still be alive if he was left to do the job he did best.” The thought made him crazy.

Nicolette flinched at his barb, but rallied quickly. “Don’t you think I know that? I knew what your reaction would be. You always believed I persuaded Mark to give up his line of work. You didn’t want Mark to marry me in the first place!”

The truth of her comment, and her anger, fueled his grief. He felt sick at heart. He couldn’t help it. The past came rushing back—fleeting images of his and Mark’s brushes with death. The first meeting with Nicolette. The strain on their friendship, once Mark declared his intention to end their working partnership, and settle down after his marriage to Nicolette.

Jake cursed silently. He tried to talk Mark out of it, saying he was making a foolish mistake. Their lives had run smoothly until she’d arrived on the scene. And since then, it seemed everything they’d worked so hard to achieve had come apart.

Now, Mark was dead.

“All good things come to an end, Jake,” Mark once said, by way of consolation. And now, he was dead, and his words were poor consolation indeed.

Jake hadn’t even had a chance to say good-bye.

He grasped Nicolette’s arms. He didn’t realize just how firm his grip was until she glanced to where his fingers wrapped tightly around her skin. Her gaze returned to meet his, a clear warning in her darkened hazel eyes.

He let her go, though his voice remained charged with accusation. “You took him away from the life he loved, the only thing he wanted to do.”

She held his gaze, her own defiance evident in the tilt of her chin. Her fine delicate hands rested on her hips. She looked fit to kill.

“That’s what you truly believe, isn’t it? That I came between you two?” Her hands lowered to her sides.

He glared at her, daring her to refute his challenge.

“Whatever you might think, it was Mark’s decision to end the partnership. I didn’t want to influence him one way or the other. I just wanted him to be happy.” Her voice faltered. “I was prepared to walk away, but Mark didn’t want that.”

Her voice lowered. “He wanted me.”

Jake considered her briefly. “Maybe so. But you and he aren’t…weren’t right for each other.” He couldn’t let it go. There was so much unspoken between them. Things that had been left to fester since that first night. That kiss.

“Oh? And how’s that? How do you know what was right for Mark, what he needed, or wanted?”

The strain increased the tautness in Jake’s chest. The distress on Nicolette’s elfin features didn’t help. Hers was a face that shouldn’t suffer such angst. And in spite of her bravado in standing up to him, he couldn’t get past the fact her vulnerability showed, that she was a woman alone, without her mate, here in this isolated wilderness. His mind flicked briefly to the stack of empty wine bottles he’d seen outside and he wondered whether she’d sought solace in the bottle. The thought troubled him.

“I don’t want to get into this any further,” Jake said, knowing if he told her all of what was on his mind, it would most certainly destroy the tenuous link between them. He didn’t think he could live with that. “Just leave it, Nicolette.”

“No, I won’t. You started this Jake, now let’s put the past to rest, shall we?”

Fired up, he stalked around her. “I knew that night you kissed me, you weren’t Mark’s type.”

She drew in a quick breath. “I kissed you? Ha! My recollection is that it was the other way around.”

Jake smirked. “Not the way you responded,” he quipped. “It was good too. Like sweet, warm honey.”

Again her eyes sparked. She stepped closer and stabbed a slender finger at his chest. “You rotten hound,” she accused recklessly, her anger barely controlled. If looks could kill, he’d be dead in a heartbeat. “It was you who did the prowling, maneuvered me into a quiet corner so I couldn’t escape.

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