From the first moment they met, they had both been shaken by a passion that could not be denied. But what could the future hold for a man and woman with so many secrets and lies between them...?
Joshua Saxon was frowning. The fascination that his mystery lady in red held for him was fast becoming a compulsion. He'd been holding the two bottles of Perrier, and positioned himself so that he wouldn't miss the lady when she reappeared. But she hadn't. Either he'd missed her. Or she hadn't been as desperate to go to the cloakroom as she'd led him to believe.
He made for the balcony on the off chance that she'd passed him and gone outside. A flash of dark red moved in the gardens below. Alice. He leapt down the stairs that led to the garden.
"You aren't leaving already, are you?"
She turned, her rich red dress swirling around her legs, every line of her body revealing her surprise.
"You were." Outraged, he stared at her. Suddenly it had become critically important to know who the provocative woman was, where to find her. But he couldn't tell her that. Instead he said, "You can't leave before the unmasking." He checked his Rolex. "It's only three-quarters of an hour away. And then the real party begins."
"I need to make this an early night."
Joshua almost laughed. Women rarely used that line on him. "The Saxon ball happens only once a year. No early night tonight."
"I have a big day tomorrow."
"Big day?" His curiosity was well and truly captured.
She definitely wasn't the most talkative woman he'd ever met. And that intrigued the hell out of him. Not that he'd ever admit it.
"Work? On a Sunday?"
She nodded. "Some of us are slaves to demanding bosses."
Her lips curved into an irresistible smile and Joshua found himself smiling back. He couldn't imagine any boss forcing this woman to work against her will. He twisted the cap off one of the bottles of Perrier he held and handed it out to her. "At least take the time to finish the drink you needed so badly." She looked startled, and a little embarrassed colour stained the elegant jaw that the mask didn't cover. "Oh, thank you."
"Do you want a glass?" Joshua twisted the cap off his own bottle.
"No, this is fine."
He gave her a reckless grin. "I probably wouldn't get you one--you might disappear again." Tilting his head to one side, he waited for her response. For an explanation of where she'd been.
But she only drew a sip and said, "Mmm, this is good."
The soft hum of appreciation riveted his attention on her mouth; the lips pursed against the top of the bottle were full and lush as she drank thirstily from the bottle. A sudden stab sexual awareness pierced him.
"Dance with me," he said brusquely. He wanted to hold her in his arms again, feel her body against his.
"Why not?" Joshua moved closer. Out here there were no hordes of dancers to navigate in an over-heated room. It was private in the cool intimacy of the gardens.
She didn't resist as he took the bottle from her fingers and propped it with his against the base of a Nikau palm. Nor did she utter a word of objection as one arm slid round her waist and drew her toward him.
His left hand closed around her right. Their bodies caught the rhythm first, then their feet started to shuffle against the night-damp grass.
She smelt of jasmine and heady notes of ylang ylang. On a conscious level Joshua found his vintner's nose analysing the feminine mix of scents, scents only a woman confident of herself, of her sexuality and her place in the world would wear. The man in him responded to the rich, sensual aromas on anothermuch baserlevel.
Her hip slid against the top of his thigh.
Desire exploded through him. A rush of heat chased through his bloodstream, wild and unwanted. He resisted for an instant in time, then he shifted, giving in to the heat, his leg brushing between hers as they moved. She gave a little gasp, and her body softened into his. Instantly Joshua relinquished her hand and wound his arm around her shoulders pulling her closer. She was slim and soft in the curve of his arms. He bent his head, nuzzled the smooth skin under her jaw, and heard the sharp, telling little exhalation.
"You smell wonderful," he murmured.
"Thank you." She sounded breathless. "You smell pretty good yourself." She gave an awkward laugh. "Goodness, we should start a mutual olfactory admiration society."
He doubted that her sense of smell ruled her life as it did his. While he didn't have his younger brother Heath's highly developed ability, he'd grown up at Saxon's Folly immersed in the art and science of winemaking, and smelling was as natural to him as breathing.
He nuzzled again. "You smell of dewy nights and dark exotic spices." He heard her breathing quicken. This time he pressed a soft kiss under her jaw. She quivered. "So soft," he murmured throatily.
"Oh." A sigh escaped her.
Joshua took that as license to nibble gently, and she arched in his arms, her response unequivocal.
His hands explored the bare skin of her back. Under his fingertips he could feel the electric tension tightening within her. But she didn't push him away. By the time he slid his lips across hers she was ready, her lush lips parted. She tasted fresh and cool. Of mint and the hint of lemon in the Perrier. A powerful surge of hunger swarmed through him. Instead of tasting carefully, proceeding slowly, he yanked her close and devoured her mouth.
A wild sound escaped the back of her throat. Then her hands were raking up the corded muscles of his back, across his shoulders, her touch sparking a rush of energy that pooled in his groin.
His feet gave up all pretence of dancing. Behind his head her fingers rubbed against the exposed skin of his neck, before burying themselves in his hair. He groaned into her mouth. His tongue swept across the soft, slick inside of her bottom lip, tangled with the sleek wetness of her tongue, then plundered the back of her mouth.
Her response was instant and arousing. Her body tensed against his, and desire ratcheted up inside him until he felt that his skin was too tight. She moved too, equally unsettled, and Joshua felt arousal kick up to the next level, his hormones telling his head there was only one place where this could end. His bed.
For a moment he fought the savage urge. Too soon. He'd never bedded a woman he didn't know enough about to be relatively certain he'd still like her in the morning.
"God." He lifted his head, his breathing heavy.
"I should go." But she didn't sound very sure.
"Why?" he demanded and his voice sounded hoarse to his own ears.
"Because it would be the sensible thing to do. And I'm always sensible." But her breathlessness belied her claim.
"Haven't you ever wanted to do something wild? Something totally out of character? Something that might change the rest of your life?" He murmured the inflammatory words against her lips, knowing that was what he was doing now. Allowing his body to rule his brain and letting go with this stranger was the kind of risk he, who liked his odds very carefully calculated, never took.
"Yes, I did that tonight."
He raised his head a little, trying to read the glitter in her eyes behind the mask, in the pale silver light of the crescent moon overhead.
"By coming here at all," she said cryptically.
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MISTAKEN MISTRESS October 2008
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