CHAPTER TEN

Dani drove down a lengthy driveway, not sure what she would find at the other end. A mansion? A trailer? She smiled and then caught her breath when she made a turn and found herself in front of a large, two-story log home.

It was all wood and glass and shaped a little like a fairy-tale castle, which should have looked strange but instead made her feel as if she’d stumbled into someone’s private architectural fantasy.

There were stone steps leading to a long porch that had both chairs and a swing. Old-growth trees soared toward the sky, while lush landscaping added to the dreamlike quality of the place.

Not exactly what she’d been expecting, she thought as she grabbed the bottle of wine she’d brought and got out of her car. But then she hadn’t known what to expect when Alex had called and invited her over for dinner. At least the press had stopped following her a few days ago. She hadn’t had to use James Bond driving to keep them at bay.

She walked up the stone steps. The door opened before she could knock and there was Alex. He looked good. She’d only ever seen him in suits, so the jeans and sweater came as a surprise. While she appreciated fine tailoring as much as the next woman, there was something to be said for a man who looked hot in jeans.

The worn denim emphasized narrow hips and long legs. He’d pushed the sweater sleeves up a little, leaving his wrists bare, which was oddly sexy. Funny how that had never turned her on before. Wrists weren’t anything all that exciting, except on him. Or was it more about the man himself?

“Hey,” he said as he motioned for her to step inside. “Thanks for coming.”

“Thanks for asking me. An interesting invitation, if unexpected.”

“I had a hell of a day,” he said. “I needed to see a friendly face.”

Simple words. Casual words, yet they hit her hard and fast, stealing her breath and leaving her weak at the knees.

She was the friendly face he wanted to see? Her? Not family or friends or that annoyingly beautiful ex-wife of his?

“Great place,” she said. “Have you lived here long?”

“About five months. I bought it after the divorce was final. I wanted privacy and quiet. This has both.”

“Plus it’s a cool place to bring the ladles.”

She was determined to keep things light. It was her only way to stay sane. An excellent plan that turned to dust the second Alex pulled her close and kissed her.

There was no warning, no niceties, no asking for permission. Just his mouth on hers in a kiss that took and offered all at the same time.

His breath was hot and faintly minty, his body hard in all the right places. He took the wine from her, set it on a table and nipped at her lower lip.

His hands were politely at her waist. As she leaned in to him, she wanted him touching her everywhere. She wanted to writhe and moan and be taken so hard that she didn’t have to think. She only had to feel.

Apparently he couldn’t read minds or he wasn’t interested in her that way because he stepped back and smiled faintly.

“You look great,” he said.

“Thanks.” She’d come straight from work, but she was willing to accept the compliment.

“For the record, I don’t bring ladies here, as you put it. Except for family, you’re my first dinner guest.”

Really? In five months there hadn’t been anyone else?

A thrill swept through her before she reminded herself that just because he hadn’t brought anyone here didn’t mean he hadn’t gone somewhere else to get naked. It was unlikely Alex had been celibate since his divorce.

“How’d you find this place?” she asked.

“I got lucky. My agent brought me to see it the day it went on the market. There was a bidding war and I won.”

That’s right. He was a Canfield. His financial resources weren’t limited to his impressive lawyer salary.

He grabbed her hand and led her through the entry way into a large, open great room. There were walls of glass, with French doors leading to a covered patio about the size of her rental. To the right was a massive kitchen, to the left a big television and lots of electronic equipment-the kind designed to make a man very happy.

The room was decorated in earth tones, subdued but welcoming.

“Impressive,” she said. “Did you do this all yourself?”

He chuckled as he set the wine on the granite counter. “You can’t believe that. My mom helped, as did Julie. She’s the next oldest in the family. She’s a sophomore at UW, living on campus. She’s studying psychology, but has a great eye for this kind of stuff.”

“Which you don’t?”

“I’m a guy.”

He was, and an excellent representation of the entire gender.

She set her purse on a stool in front of the counter that separated the open kitchen from the living area in the great room. While he took care of the wine, she sniffed delicately.

“I’m not smelling any food,” she teased. “Should I be worried that I’ll starve?”

“It’s here, in the refrigerator. All it requires is a little heating. Are you hungry or can you wait a little?”

She looked into his dark eyes. Food wasn’t a problem. The thing she didn’t want to wait for was him.

Danger, she told herself. Big, burly, sexy danger. Hadn’t she learned her lesson? Was she one of those sad women destined to repeat the same mistakes over and over again when it came to men?

“I can wait,” she told him. The longer, the better.

He handed her a glass of wine, then led her out onto the patio. The floor was some kind of stone… maybe slate. On one side was a steer-size grill, a built-in sink and under-the-counter refrigerator.

“You could throw a great party out here,” she murmured as he turned on a propane heater and gestured to a wicker sofa lined in soft-looking cushions.

“That’s the plan. When I get the time.”

“Famous last words. You have to make the time. I know from personal experience.”

He settled next to her, angling toward her. “Do you?”

“Not as much as I should. My excuse is that I’m in a new job and trying to learn as quickly as possible. Of course your excuse is that you’re part of a national campaign. I guess you’d win that contest.”

“It’s crazy” he admitted. “Today I sat in on a meeting of lawyers all discussing how to handle the problem of me being charged with assaulting that damned reporter. I’ve never been the subject of a meeting before.”

“I’m guessing you didn’t like it.”

He looked at her, his eyes dark and unreadable. “Not my style. The thing is, I don’t want to be involved. But I am involved. If this screws up the campaign…”

She shook her head. “Sorry. I already have that guilt sewn up. You’re going to have to find something else to feel bad about.”

“You have nothing to do with the campaign.”

“Oh, please. I’m being tracked. So far the American people are delighted to know about me. What happens when that changes? What if I say or do something I shouldn’t? I’m really not the right person for the job. I have a past.”

He smiled. “Not much of one. I know. I had you investigated.”

“How comforting. So nothing about my life is a mystery to you?”

“I know broad strokes. Not details.”

That was something. “Would you be impressed if I told you some of the details are really juicy?”

“I’m already impressed.”

Oh my. “Good to know,” she murmured, then sipped her wine.

He set his glass on the low table in front of them. “Dani, you need to know that as the campaign moves forward and you become a public figure, you may hear from people in your past.”

She was so stunned to hear the words “public figure” associated with herself that she nearly missed the second half of the sentence.

“Like who?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe Hugh.”

“You mean because he’ll want something?”

“He might want you back. Being married to the daughter of a president is a big deal.”

She immediately flashed to Fiona, then pushed the image away. “Hugh isn’t that stupid,” she said. “He knows it’s totally over. I won’t forgive the cheating and I don’t want to go back. I’ve mourned the marriage, listed my regrets and moved on.”

“Just be aware that it could happen.”

She thought about the other men so recently in her life. Gary would never bother her but Ryan? He was stupid enough to try.

“What are you thinking?” Alex asked.

“About who else might suddenly show up.”

“Are you going to name names?”

His voice was low and teasing. Sexy. He made her want to spill state secrets, or make them up if she didn’t have any on her own.

“After Hugh, I got involved with a guy at The Waterfront. It’s one of the family restaurants.”

“I’ve eaten there. Good place.”

“Thanks. We hired a new general manager. Ryan. He was funny and charming and really good-looking.”

“Jerk.”

She laughed. “Actually, he was. He said and did all the right things. I decided he could be my rebound guy.”

“Was he?”

“That and more. Just when I thought he might be someone I could really care about, his wife and toddler showed up. Literally. She came in looking for him and had the kid with her.”

“Ouch.”

Alex stared at her and she met his gaze directly. She had nothing to hide. She might still be dealing with a few regrets for being such an idiot, but there weren’t any secrets.

“The thing that got me the most, more than the lies and betrayal, was what he said. He told me he was sorry I had to find out that way. It was stunning. How did he want me to find out? The point was he was upset I had the information, but not the least bit remorseful that he’d been a cheating weasel dog.”

“Some guys are like that.”

“Did you ever cheat?”

“No.”

His gaze was steady, his voice calm. She believed him.

“I didn’t think so.” She set her wineglass next to his. “So my Ryan relationship was dumb on my part.”

“Why? How could you know?”

“I could have asked more questions. He was playing me. Shouldn’t I have sensed that?”

“You don’t play people, why would you expect others to play you?”

“You’re right. I just felt so stupid. I vowed to never get involved with a guy again.”

“But you did anyway?”

“Oh, yeah. His name was Gary. He’s a quiet, unassuming, sweet sort of guy who made me feel safe.”

“Did I mention he’s a jerk, too?”

“That was Ryan. Gary is fairly jerk-free. I liked him but there wasn’t any chemistry. I thought that might be a good thing, what with chemistry getting me in trouble with Ryan. For a while I thought he was gay.”

Alex chuckled. “Not exactly what a guy likes to hear.”

“Tell me about it. Still, he handled it all with grace and style and when he asked me out, I said yes.” She paused, not sure if she should have started down this particular conversational path. It was one thing to have secrets, it was another to spill the details.

“What happened?”

She drew in a deep breath. “We went to a lovely little neighborhood restaurant he knew about and before we were even seated, this woman walked by and called him Father.”

Alex looked confused. “You got mad because he had kids you didn’t know about?”

“No, I got upset because he used to be a priest”

Alex started laughing. Dani narrowed her gaze.

“It’s not funny,” she told him.

“It is. Come on. A priest? Were you his first date?”

“No, he’d been out before, but I’m not sure he’d… you know. I couldn’t deal with it. I’m sure it shows a lack of moral fiber or character on my part. But the second I figured it out, I knew God was giving me a message from the great beyond. I was not supposed to be with Gary, so I left. Ran, actually. Like the wind.”

He laughed again and this time she joined in.

“I almost feel sorry for the poor guy,” he admitted.

“Almost?”

“I wouldn’t want you with him.”

Right, she thought, her mind going fuzzy with possibilities. Because then she couldn’t be here…with him. That’s what he was talking about, right?.

“So that’s my sorry love life, the recent years, anyway,” she said. “Tragic and funny and nothing I ever expected.”

“It’s been interesting,” he said, reaching for his wine. “Better than boring.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Boring sounds good. Now you know all my secrets. What about yours?”

His eyes darkened slightly. “No one since the divorce. A few dates that didn’t go anywhere.”

Did he count seeing Fiona as dating? Was he seeing his ex-wife? “What ended the marriage?” she asked, knowing it was an intensely personal question but figuring he’d seen hers, so he could show his.

“She cheated,” he said flatly. “I walked in on her screwing some guy.” He frowned. “I don’t even know who he is. I never bothered to find out.”

Dani stared at him. She couldn’t believe she and Alex had cheating in common. “I’m sorry. I know how that feels. I walked in on Hugh. It’s how I found out.”

“They were doing it on the dining room table,” he said.

“Hugh and his groupie were in his office. Equally tacky.” She shook her head. “I hated the betrayal of it. If we hadn’t already started divorce proceedings, I would have left him then.”

“That’s what I did. Once Fiona broke my trust, it was finished. She wanted to talk things over, to give the relationship a second chance. Like your Ryan, I suspect she was only sorry she’d been caught.”

Dani drew in a breath. “So you’re not seeing her?”

“Hell no. Why would I?”

“I ran into her recently and she implied you were getting back together, or at least talking about it.” As had Katherine, although Dani didn’t want to go there.

“She’s one of those people I told you about,” he said. ‘The kind who want to be close to the seat of power. She’s interested now that my father is running for president.”

“Okay. Good. Thanks for telling me.”

There were only a few lights on the covered patio. In the dimness, Dani’s eyes looked more brown than hazel. Still, Alex could read a lot of emotions flashing across them, the last one being relief.

Had she been worried about Fiona? God knows what the bitch had said. Fiona would do just about anything to get what she wanted. At one time he’d admired her single-minded determination. These days-not so much.

Dani was different. There was an honesty about her that he appreciated. She seemed to lead with her heart, which could get her into trouble if she wasn’t careful. Not with him-he had no plans to hurt her, although he wouldn’t mind getting to know her better. Especially if that involved them being naked.

His body tightened as the image filled his mind. There had been a couple of casual sexual relationships after he and Fiona had split up, but they’d been little more than a way to scratch an itch. He hadn’t thought he was looking for anything more, but maybe he’d been wrong.

“What are you thinking?” she asked. “You have the strangest expression on your face.”

“That you’ve changed everything in a very short period of time.”

She sighed. “That’s not a good thing, is it?”

“Why not? Maybe we needed a change.”

“What your mother needs is a vacation,” Dani said. “I hate that this has upset her. Dealing with the reality of me can’t be easy for her. She’s so fabulous. I want to be her when I grow up.”

“You’re grown-up now.”

“Don’t say that. Then I can’t have her as a goal.”

He liked that Dani respected Katherine and that she was sensitive to what his mother was going through.

But talking about his mother wasn’t how he wanted to spend his evening.

“Are you hungry?” he asked. “Want me to start dinner?”

She stood. “You mean heat dinner?”

“Whatever works.”

“Sure.”

She led the way back into the kitchen. As she put her glass of wine on the counter, she turned and they bumped.

He held out his arm to keep his wine from spilling. She reached for it at the same time, but instead of grabbing the glass, her hand ended up on his chest.

Desire hit him with the subtlety of a bomb blast. Need consumed him, made him hard and threatened any self-control he’d learned in the past thirty-plus years. Her eyes widened, her breath caught and he would swear she was just as interested as he.

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said as he put his glass next to hers and then grabbed the hand touching him. “That I lured you to my cabin in the woods so that I could have my way with you. Just so you know… there really is a dinner.”

One they could easily eat later rather than sooner.

“Yes, well, food is good,” Dani mumbled. “It’s not that I’m not interested. You’re very appealing and nice and I like you.”

Appealing and nice? Nice? He dropped her hand. Great. So he’d imagined her reaction to him. She probably thought of him as a brother.

But what about their kisses? She’d been aroused. He’d felt her interest. He refused to believe their chemistry was all one-sided.

“It’s not that I don’t want you to have your way with me,” she continued. “I’m tempted. But we have family issues. The potential for scandal. Not to mention my past. I’ve learned to be very cautious. Relationships are bad, at least for me.”

“You’re comparing me to two assholes and a priest?”

“Ex-priest and I’m not exactly comparing you. It’s just I don’t want to make another mistake. I know it’s unfair that you’re stuck paying for my mistakes, but there we are. I’m starting to think the only way I’ll ever be comfortable getting naked with a guy again is to be totally in charge. I’d probably have to tie him up first.”

Alex leaned against the counter and nodded slowly. “I’ve never done that, but I’m open to the possibility.”

***

Dinner was delicious. A spicy chicken dish with mashed potatoes and vegetables. Dani didn’t know where Alex had picked up the meal, but she wanted the restaurant’s phone number. Not that she’d been able to eat that much. She continued to be in shock, first by the fact that she’d blurted out bondage would be required for her to have sex and second because Alex hadn’t run screaming into the night at the thought.

She knew he could be dangerous to her. Now she had a bad feeling she was in way over her head.

They sat on the sofa in his great room. The lights were low, the music seductive, the man irresistible. Hmm, she might have a problem here. So what was she going to do about it?

Before she could make a decision, mature or not, he put his hand on the back of her neck. Just a light touch, fingers barely grazing her skin. Yet goose bumps broke out on her arms and she found herself wanting to shift so she could rub against him.

She turned to him and found him closer than she’d realized. Close enough that leaning in and kissing him made all the sense in the world.

His mouth was an impossible combination of firm and soft. It was a perfect mouth for kissing and maybe other things, she thought, imagining how it would feel to have him press his lips to her everywhere.

He slid his hand up the back of her neck until his fingers threaded through her hair. He put his other hand on her waist. Again, a light touch, nothing demanding. Just tempting… very tempting.

She strained to get closer, which was probably his plan all along. To make her want him so much that making love would be her idea rather than his. Smart man.

Despite the gentle brush of his tongue against her lower lip, she drew back.

“Alex, I…” She stared into his dark eyes. Fire burned there. Hot fire that made her want to be swallowed in the flames. “I really want to do this.”

“Good. Me, too.”

“There are complications.”

“I have condoms.”

“What? Oh, not that, although I appreciate that you’re willing to use them. I meant us. Who we are. The fact that our lives are oddly intertwined. My hideous past.”

He smiled at her, then kissed her again. “I’m totally open to your terms.”

That took her a second. “My terms?” Then she shrieked. “Bondage. Are you saying bondage?”

“You’re the one who wanted to tie me up.”

“If you have velvet handcuffs in your night-stand, I am so out of here.”

“Ties,” he said as he kissed her again. “Really nice ties. Silk.”

His teasing felt almost as good as his mouth. She gave herself over to his kiss, letting desire sweep through her, the heat of it melting away lingering good sense.

Alex was so much of what she wanted and nearly nothing she didn’t. He was single, funny, open to new experiences and interested in her. He cared about his family, did the right thing, respected vows and hadn’t cheated on his wife. He’d also never been a priest. All pluses.

He wrapped both arms around her and pulled her close. She sank into him, loving the feel of his hard body against hers. She put her arms around his neck and gave herself over to the kiss, parting for him, letting him sweep her away. She needed a good sweeping away.

She let her body sink into his, enjoying the differences a man brought to the table… or the bed. She liked how he was all hard planes and jutting arousal. She liked how her insides got squishy and wet in response. She liked imagining what it would be like to make love to him.

He swept his tongue across hers, exploring, pushing, taking. Then he pulled away from her mouth and began kissing his way along her jaw. He nipped, then licked, making her gasp. He nibbled his way down her neck, pausing to suck on her earlobe. When he dipped lower, along the V of her sweater, she had the sudden thought that she should have worn something much lower cut.

He shifted so he was stretched out on the sofa and she was on top of him. The position gave her the feeling of being in charge, which she liked.

“It’s warm in here,” he murmured as he tugged at the hem of her top. “You must be hot.”

“In a thousand different ways,” she joked.

She helped him pull off the sweater, then bent over him, kissing him as he ran his hands up and down her back.

His touch skimmed over her skin, heating her from the inside out. He moved to her rear and cupped the curves. The action made her rub against him.

There were too many layers of clothing for her to feel much, but the pressure of his hardness against her moist, swollen center made her want him.

He eased his hands up to her waist, then around to her back where he unfastened her bra. She pulled it away and bent over him, letting her breasts hang free.

“Hell of a show,” he whispered as he placed his hands on her breasts.

He moved slowly, discovering her curves, teasing her, circling around and around, getting close to her nipples without actually touching them. She nearly whimpered in anticipation. But instead of using his fingers, he raised his upper body and drew her right nipple into his mouth.

He sucked gently, tugging just enough for her to feel the connection to that place between her legs. Her skin puckered, her toes curled. He used his hand on her other breast which was nice, but not nearly as good. Need built inside of her and she began to move back and forth against his arousal, riding him in an attempt to ease her own tension.

He switched to her other breast, sucking and licking and biting just hard enough to make her breath catch.

More, she thought desperately. She needed more.

“Alex.”

He opened his eyes and looked at her. “We should probably move the party.”

She nodded, then slid off him. She was topless, but not self-conscious. Not when he could barely keep his eyes off her.

They both kicked off their shoes, then he took her hand and led the way down the hallway. As they entered the bedroom, he grabbed a remote that turned on a gas fireplace.

Flames provided enough light for her to see the large bedroom. The furniture was big and masculine and the bed was massive. Then Alex pulled her close and she didn’t care about anything but what they were going to do to each other.

He jerked off his sweater and pulled her closer. Bare skin to bare skin, she thought with a sigh. Now that worked for her in a big way.

He unfastened her slacks and pushed them down, along with her panties. Then they were kissing and she stepped out of her clothes and tried to move backward, only she couldn’t get her legs to work right, probably because he’d slipped his hand between them.

Get to the bed, she told herself. It would be better there. But it was hard to think about anything but the back-and-forth motion of his fingers on her swollen center.

He explored her, finding that one magic place, then worshipping it with a gentle, rhythmic touch. She moaned, then nipped at his bottom lip.

“You’re driving me crazy,” she whispered.

“That would be the point.”

But he released her long enough for her to pull back the covers and scramble onto the bed. She yanked off her socks, then stretched out on the cool sheets.

Alex did a little prep work of his own. He stripped off his clothes in about an eighth of a second and joined her.

“Where were we?” he asked before pulling her close.

She went into his arms, aroused, yet more at ease than she would have thought possible. She was making love with Alex for the first time and didn’t feel nervous or apprehensive. What was up with that?

A silly question, she thought as he stroked her breasts. What mattered was how the man made her feel.

He shifted her onto her back and began to kiss his way down her body. She closed her eyes and gave herself over to him, both tensing and relaxing as he brushed his mouth against her belly, her hips, her thighs, before parting her damp curls and kissing her intimately between her legs.

His tongue was warm and sure, stroking her with just enough pressure to make her catch her breath. He moved slowly, explored thoroughly, circling and licking, pausing until she wanted to scream, then going just a little faster.

He made love to her like a man who enjoyed what he was doing, which made her want him more.

Pleasure shot through her. As he continued the easy pressure, the bottoms of her feet began to burn. She pulsed her hips in time with his movements, urging him on.

More, she thought through a veil of passion. She needed more. But he seemed in no hurry to finish things up. He continued to tease her with his tongue, barely increasing his speed. Her muscles tensed in anticipation of an orgasm that still seemed so far away. She reached for her release, straining, wanting, but it wasn’t time.

He went on and on, driving her crazy in the best way possible. Ribbons of pleasure wove their way through her body. Her skin was tight and sensitive, her breasts ached. Inch by inch she got closer and closer still. So close that coming seemed inevitable and yet she hung there, just shy of the edge, desperate to fall.

“Alex,” she breathed. Do something!

But she didn’t say it. The journey was too exquisite.

He shifted slightly and she felt him slide a finger inside of her. At the same time he sucked on her very center while flicking her with his tongue.

Her release exploded like thunder. One second there was only expectation, the next her entire body was lost in sensations so intense, she thought she might never find her way back.

She cried out, then gasped for breath. She writhed beneath him as he touched her perfectly until the very last ounce of pleasure had flowed from her body.

Dani couldn’t move. She might never move again, which wasn’t a bad thing. Not if she could experience something like that a second time.

He pushed himself into a kneeling position and reached for a condom. After slipping it on, he eased inside of her, filling her, stretching her, making her quiver. Then he slipped his hand between them and slowly rubbed her.

She opened her mouth to tell him he didn’t have to bother. She’d already had her fun. Besides, she would be too sensitive.

But there was something about the gentle touch of his fingers that was surprisingly erotic. Before she could get out the words, she found herself eager for more of what he was doing.

He stayed where he was, inside of her and touching her. He was barely moving, but there was just enough friction to get her attention. Back and forth, back and forth, little pulses that teased. She wanted more.

So when he pushed in, she pushed down, drawing him all the way inside of her. His eyes dilated, his body stiffened. The fingers rubbing her fumbled slightly.

She smiled. “Better.”

“I want you to come again. If I get going too soon…”

She was already halfway there. “I think we should be able to time it right.” She was still sensitive from her recent orgasm. He’d pushed her close; it wouldn’t take much to get her over the edge once more.

“I want you inside of me for real,” she told him. “Stop playing.”

He shifted onto his knees and braced himself over her. Then, as he stared into her eyes, he took her at her word and got serious.

He filled her hard and fast, pushing into her with an intensity that made her nerve endings want to sigh. The sensation of being taken was nearly as exciting as it was arousing. She wrapped her legs around his hips, pulling him in closer, holding him in place. He lowered his head and kissed her.

Pressure built inside of her. The deep thrusts shoved her closer to another release. She tried to hold back, to enjoy what he was doing for as long as possible, then she felt him stiffen. He broke the kiss.

“I can’t hold back,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Good.”

He pushed in once more, then groaned. She felt the first shudder claim him and it was enough to send her over the edge. She clung to him as her second orgasm swept through her. She gasped, she might have screamed. Honestly, she didn’t care one way or the other. The man deserved a scream or two after what he’d done.

Seconds, or maybe minutes, later, Alex rolled onto his side. He touched her face, tucked her hair behind her ear, then kissed her. Then he started to laugh.

“What?” she asked.

“I forgot to have you tie me up. Remember? It was supposed to make you feel safer and more in charge.”

Oh, yeah. She’d been worried about trusting another man. “I guess we can let that go.”

Humor brightened his eyes. “But I was looking forward to trying something new.”

“Next time,” she promised, wondering if he was really as amazing as he seemed and hoping that he was.

Dani figured she caught her breath sometime close to one in the morning. They’d left the fire going, giving Alex’s bedroom a soft glow. She lay curled up against him, her head on his shoulder in a classic postsex pose.

“You okay?” he asked as he stroked her back. “You’ve been quiet.”

“I’m basking in contentment.”

“Basking is good.”

“Better than good,” she said, remembering how he’d made her tremble and shudder and scream. Again.

“For me, too.”

So she could add chemistry to the plus side of the list, she thought. The complications of that chemistry would have to sit on the negative side.

“If anyone knew… ” she began.

He chuckled. She could both hear and feel the sound.

“Tell me about it,” he said. “It would make for some interesting copy.”

“They aren’t getting it from me,” she told him.

He looked at her, then bent close and kissed the tip of her nose. “You didn’t have to tell me that, Dani. I trust you.”

She felt heat inside, but this time it had nothing to do with sexual arousal and everything to do with how she felt about this man. Based on what she knew about his past, he didn’t trust easily.

“I’m glad,” she said. “Maybe we could-“

A faint but distinctive ringing interrupted her. Dani raised her head. “That’s my cell phone.”

It was late. A call at this hour was never good.

She jumped up naked, grabbed what looked like Alex’s shirt and ran back into the great room where she’d put her purse.

“Hello,” she said as she opened her flip phone. “What’s wrong?”

“Dani, it’s Kristie.”

Dani’s body got cold. Kristie was Gloria’s night nurse. The only one still on duty.

“What happened?”

“Your grandmother collapsed. I’ve called 9-1-1 and the paramedics are here. They’re taking her to the hospital. She’s breathing and her vitals are okay. I don’t think it’s another heart attack, but I’m not sure.”

Dani felt the room sway. Then Alex was at her side, urging her to sit on the sofa.

“Okay,” Dani said, not able to think through the panic. What if Kristie were wrong? What if Gloria had had another heart attack? Dani couldn’t stand to lose her. Not now. Not when they’d just found each other after all these years.

“I’ll be right there,” Dani said. “Thanks for calling.”

“No problem. I’ll phone your brothers from the ambulance.”

Dani hung up. “My grandmother,” she said. “She collapsed. She’s going to the hospital. I have to get there now.”

“I’ll go with you,” he said.

She wanted nothing more than having him around to lean on. But before she agreed, she remembered who he was, who his family was and how interested the world was in her.

“You can’t,” she told him. “What if the press found out?”

His mouth twisted, as if he was about to tell her he didn’t give a damn about the press. But they both had to.

“Call me,” he said. “Let me know what’s going on.”

“I will.”

Five minutes later she was dressed. Alex walked her to her car, then cupped her face and kissed her.

“If you need me, I’ll be there.”

She believed him. “My brothers will be at the hospital. I won’t be alone. I’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything.”

He stepped back. She got in her car and started the engine.

As she drove down the long driveway, she felt both worried about Gloria and happy about her evening with Alex. The emotions fought for dominance-and in the end, concern for her grandmother won.

She was thinking more about what could have gone wrong than anything else, so she didn’t pay attention to the odd, moving shadows at the end of Alex’s driveway. It wasn’t until it was too late to turn back that she saw cars and people. People holding cameras.

They parted for her, but she still had to drive slowly. Slowly enough for them to take her picture and yell out questions about her spending the night with the senator’s son.

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