Purchase your copy at http://www.passioninprint.com/ShowBook.php?CR=JHS_QUEST4MAGIC.
What happens when a connoisseur of women decides he wants to bed a never-been-touched actress who just happens to think he’s worthless.
An excerpt from the book
London, England, 1922
This isn’t too bad. I knew you could do better.
Jono snorted. He’d like to stalk out of the flat. Anything to turn off that damned persistent voice in his head. Today it sounded louder and more often, criticizing his every choice, until he felt ready to crash a fist through the window he was standing by. At least now it was saying something more positive.
“Sir, is something wrong? I thought you liked this flat from the outside.” The agent’s worried voice cut through the chaos in Jono’s head.
The poor fellow quite evidently needed this transaction. And after all, it was exactly what Jono had set out to find. An impersonal flat on a nondescript street. He’d tried other residences since his twin Jason had found and married his true love Aislinn. Jono and his brother had seldom been apart. Certainly he’d tried to compensate for his own loneliness with the pleasures of London. First in a fancy hotel, and then in a select gentleman’s club. Both provided every amenity one could ask, but each was so damned impersonal and essentially joyless. He thought he might be ready for a little less strenuous life than one of frantic pleasure. But why did this particular flat attract him?
Again the voice clanged in his head. Take it, Jono. You need to start finding yourself.
He snorted. If he only knew how to strangle the damned voice. The ever-louder clamor was driving him insane.
Jonothan dropped abruptly on one of the few chairs in the flat. The voice talked to him almost every day. Could “doing better” refer to his sex life? Nice if he could reactivate his libido. Just not quite as interested lately. Really strange for him. He’d bedded one beauty after another since Jason had gotten married and deserted him. A beautiful and willing girl took his mind off his loneliness, at least for a while.
He hoped the voice wasn’t urging him to explore the mage power he’d inherited. The powers meaning so much to the rest of his gifted family. He wasn’t at all sure he wanted to be as wise as his siblings. His life suited him. He could have any woman he wanted if he flashed his sexiest grin. He didn’t need to be a mage. He was satisfied being just another regular mortal man.
Are you? You’re already growing bored with the monotony.
Jono considered what to do. Maybe some slight change might be made just to shut off the dratted noise. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to reform a bit and see what happened. He’d never hope to equal his parents or siblings, but on the other hand, the life he’d been living was getting a trifle boring.
He grinned at the thought of improving himself. For the last few months he’d been living like a blasted monk. So unlike him as to be incredible. Actually he’d been admirable, even though it was enough to worry any virile man.
He heaved a sigh. Something definitely must change. He agreed with the damned voice on this at least.
He needn’t alter a lot, did he? Maybe his life was dull right now, but this must be a temporary boredom. Surely all he must do now was meet a woman who intrigued him, and his usual sexual potency would return. Actually, he’d always considered his a rather exceptional potency.
He realized the estate agent was staring at him.
“Can I tell you anything you need to know, sir?” The agent sounded quite anxious, so much so Jono raised his elegant eyebrows.
“What’s wrong with the place?” Jono asked quietly.
The agent, an overly slim young man flushed. “Nothing, sir. Nothing at all. It’s a wonderful flat in an excellent location.”
“But?”Jono looked at him steadily.
The flush deepened. “It’s the lady who lives in the other half of the duplex, sir. She’s an actress. I’ve lost a lot of prospective renters because of her.”
Jono grinned. “She’s so bad, then?”
“No, no, I understand she’s quite talented. But I think she rehearses a great deal. And if your windows are open her voice does carry.”
Jono shook his head. “If she’s talented I can’t see the objection. I’d hate to live next to somebody who murders true drama.”
“Oh, I hear she’s a real artist, sir. I guess some people don’t like classical theatre, and that’s mostly what she does. In fact she’s an understudy for a role of Lady Macbeth. It’s already open on the West End.”
“Lady Macbeth? A difficult role. She must be quite talented indeed. Although if she constantly repeats the same lines I can see how it could be a problem. Macbeth quite wears me out. And Lady Macbeth is a first class shrew.”
The agent looked so worried Jono almost laughed. Then the strains of Un Bel Di came floating through the open window. Jono listened, entranced by the arresting voice singing softy but clearly. He shivered with an almost sexual reaction, his body heating, amazed a voice alone could so affect him. He felt his trousers tighten and blinked in surprise. He hadn’t felt this lovely swelling for a worrisome time. From a mere voice?
Then a tall, slim blonde with furrowed dark eyebrows walked onto the terrace, with the assurance pretty girls always seemed to have. This was one verypretty girl. Quite evidently worried about something, she leaned against the porch railing with unconscious grace. No more than twenty, she seemed quite young to have advanced this far in the difficult world of dramatic theatre. Completely absorbed in her thoughts, she didn’t notice the men standing toward the back of the adjoining porch. Jono frankly stared, glad of the chance to witness such artless beauty, although his body grew even more aroused.
Appealing enough to play the part of any leading lady in any play, she glowed with a loveliness that projected through whatever currently worried her. To his amazement his body reacted even more strongly to this vision than the sound of her singing. He thought her stunning in an ethereal way, as if she’d somehow wandered from her own world accidentally into his. She wouldn’t even have to open her mouth to have the audience at her feet. He stood at the window a moment, not wanting the agent to see his tumescence. When Jono had brought his body back to nearly normal he turned back inside to the agent. “Does she have a guardian or coach living with her?”
“No sir. She took out the lease herself. As far as I know she lives alone.”
“And her name?”
“A poetic name, but I’ve never heard of her.” He stood musing for only a moment. “I’ll take the flat.”
This should definitely solve his boredom problem. Somehow he felt certain she’d be the best bed partner he’d enjoyed for some time. Surprised to find his groin still stirring, he almost barked at the agent.
“Bring the lease this afternoon. I’ll move in immediately.”
Hayley would be the answer to his sexual problems, and he smiled in relief. His inner voice whispered again. She’ll help you in many ways, Jono.
He shrugged. Good sex was all a man needed. He left the happy agent and started back to his club. He shut off the sound of derisive laughter in his head and left to get his clothes and a few personal possessions.
* * *
Jono amazed himself by wanting to make his new quarters more inviting. It had little furniture, and as drab a dÃ©cor as he’d ever seen. He knew even last week he wouldn’t have given his bleak surroundings a thought. Now he wanted something to make him feel more comfortable, to show he, Jonothan Townsend, inhabited these rooms.
He spent an amusing day at one of London’s most famous flea markets, picking up a lamp here, a pillow there, a set of dishes at another stall. He’d had no idea these places could be so interesting and, he thought with a grin, he’d not run into any of his friends. Piling each purchase in his car, he soon found he’d bought much more than he’d ever intended. He wondered if he had chosen all this because of his neighbor. Going to his new home and placing things exactly where he wanted them gave him pleasure so unexpected as to make him laugh out loud. He’d found a small bronze horse, rearing and ready to gallop away. Not quite so surprising was his desire to purchase a large, commodious sofa. One someone with his big frame could comfortably lounge in. And perhaps find more pleasurable activities. The blonde Miss Harcourt might be slender enough they could both fit. In a prone position, of course. He ordered the couch to be delivered immediately and delighted in deciding to place it in a secluded spot, one well away from any windows. He put the rampant horse on a small table near the couch. He moved one new pillow from the sofa to a chair and then stood back admiring what he’d done.
Would Hayley Harcourt like it?
His new neighbor proved an intriguing diversion even though she gave no sign she knew he’d moved in. She did declaim a lot. Her voice was glorious. Today she’d been going over the speech where Lady Macbeth is worried her hesitant husband might not be capable of murder. She’d received his letter telling her of the prophecy he would be king. She gave a depth of sinister undertone to the words, “â€¦yet I do fear thy nature, it is too full of the milk of human kindness,” that made him shiver. Yes, she was a consummate actress, and her thrilling voice only added to her appeal. He’d no doubt she’d someday be a star. She truly was exceptional.
He’d not mind-talked to Jason often since Jason’s marriage to Aislinn. Jason would be amused at his foray into domesticity. Jason never had to close out his thoughts to his twin. The family shared an unspoken understanding not to intrude on the privacy of another. There was still plenty they could talk about.
Now he opened his mind and tapped Jason’s.
He found an ecstatic Jason. One distanced even farther from Jono than he’d expected.
Jono, I’m so glad to hear from you. I’ve been trying to reach you. Our son arrived an hour ago. You’re an uncle. Isn’t this wonderful?
What, no twins?
Jason assured him he’d known it wouldn’t be two this time, although he expected twins in the future. Jono kept silent and let his beloved brother enthuse.
We’re naming him Jonothan Rafael. After you and uncle Rafe, of course. What we’ll call him I don’t know. Aislinn will decide. I’m sure. J. R. sounds good to me. Or Little J for a while.
Jason chattered away, expounding at length on the perfection of his first son. Jono thanked him for giving him a namesake, even as he tried to rally from the news sealing even more strongly their separation as twins. He loved Jason unconditionally. He’d never even contemplated a time when they’d not be of one mind. Now their paths were growing farther apart. Jason would concentrate more and more on his family. Clearly Jono must find his own way. At least he thought that was what the voice in his head meant.
And he didn’t like it at all.
He cut off communications and then the blasted voice tsked and sounded again.
Continue down your feckless way and you’ll be lost.
He leaned back against the bright pillows he’d so recently purchased. At least the words implied he had a choice, and the choice loomed all too clear. Live his carefree life and damn the consequences. Or heed the voice in his mind and try to do better.
Damn and blast. He hated choices. He was happy with his current life. Well, almost happy. Certainly contented, except for the lack of sex.
He’d definitely have to think a bit more. He could talk to Jason again but knew what he’d say. Jason believed strongly in following your inner voice. Jono hated being bossed around by what must be his imagination. His friends never spoke of such strong intuitive feelings. Was this the mage part of his ancestry finally coming to the forefront?
Do better in what way?
That evening Jono retired for bed, thoughts about his new nephew and his brother’s changing life still filling his head. He tossed and turned, unable to sleep until, in the dark hour just before dawn, he managed to drift off.
“Jono, do you see him?” His brother’s cry reverberated in his ears.
Jono grabbed his helmet, holding the radio receiver tight against his head, blocking out the roar of his Sopwith Camel’s engine. “No, I lost him. Where did he come from?”
“He went behind,” Jason said. “I know he’s out there. I can feel him.”
Jono strained to look through his wings. The wind whistled past his face, buffeting his goggles. He looked up, scanning the blue sky. “Jason, I don’tâ€¦no, waitâ€¦there he is. Do you see him?”
Jono looked up, seeing the German Hannover diving toward their plane. The trajectory would bring the enemy plane straight down on top of them. He pushed his throttle forward, forcing the plane into a dive, then tapped it slightly to the left, turning the plane so it would be in profile to the enemy pilot.
“Damn it, Jono.” Jason sounded angry. “I can’t get a clear shot.”
“Hold on. I’m going to bring her around.”
The enemy plane roared directly above them. Jono looked up and saw its dual wings shoot past, its underbelly silvery as it zoomed by. Jono throttled forward, feeling the acceleration force him back into his seat. The plane’s body filled his line of sight. Within a second, darkness framed the tail section. Jono tilted his plane, edging closer. The tail section came into view, the German cross filling his vision. He felt the plane jump as Jason shot at the attacking plane, the guns sounding loud in his ears.
That close, Jason’s shots went through the wooden structure and out the other side, the bullets taking large splinters down to the ocean below. The Hannover banked to the right, pulling away. Jono tried to stay close but the enemy plane had a head start.
“Jono, go after him!”
“I’m trying,” Jono said
“He’s banking.” Jason’s voice was calm now. “He’s coming around.”
Jono looked off to the side. The Hannover was coming straight at them. How had he gotten his plane turned so quickly? Jono put their plane into a dive.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m not leaving you open,” Jono said.
“You’re not giving me any opportunities to shoot.”
“I will in a moment.”
The German too had gone into a dive, following their Sopwith Camel. The plane, already faster moving, began to gain on them. Jono pulled back the stick, letting the plane get ever closer.
“This close enough?”
Jason didn’t respond but started firing immediately. Jono silently cheered.
Silver strafes shot out from the Hannover as it flew through Jason’s line of bullets. Both planes seemed relatively unharmed. Jason had gone silent. Jono realized he must be concentrating on putting up a new Mage’s shield around them both. One of the bullets from the Hannover had shattered the last one. Although even magic could not fully protect them from the rain of fire.
Almost on top of them, the Hannover shuddered. It tilted down, a puff of gray smoke coming from the cockpit. As it flew past, Jono saw the look of horror on the pilot’s face as he struggled to control his dying plane. Flames leapt up and the pilot flailed at them. His mouth opened in a scream, then his plane dropped out of range.
Jono woke, his body soaked with sweat. He could still see the pilot’s face as if the crash had just happened. He dragged his shaking body into the bathroom. Twisting the cold water tap, he cupped water in his hand and splashed it over his face. He took a deep breath, his heart pounding in his chest. If only he could stop reliving the German soldier’s death in his nightmares.
Looking up in the mirror, he stared at his haunted eyes, his pale skin, bloodless lips. War must never happen again. Too many good men had been killed in that war. Men with families. Never, ever again.
Better think of something else. Anything else but the war and destruction.
* * *
To Jono’s pleasure, Hayley Harcourt was a conscientious artist. She practiced her understudy role of Lady Macbeth daily. All the Townsend family were classical aficionados, and as a child he’d joined his siblings in staging acts of some of the Shakespearean plays, as well as those of other playwrights, a favorite form of amusement on rainy days. Reading from the scripts and expounding with drama the immortal words they sometimes didn’t understand. Jono felt quite at home with Hayley’s declamations. On occasion he even answered her softly in his own flat as he assumed the role of Macbeth. Not that he had any use for the cowardly bastard who’d let his wife talk him into a murder for which he owned little appetite. He’d certainly not shown enough fortitude to live with the horrid deed. Still, Macbeth did have some magnificent lines of his own, and Jono formed the habit of occasionally joining her as she practiced her lines. Not loudly, of course, as he never intended her to hear. His untrained voice would arouse only scorn in a professional.
Still, he enjoyed his dramatic neighbor more than he’d expected, even though he could find no opportunity to introduce himself. Perhaps it was just the feeling she wouldn’t welcome an intrusion at this time of intense rehearsals. Surely she’d signal sometime soon she knew he was there. How could she miss him? He paced the garden a lot, but she never came out. Really quite exasperating. Most girls gave one glance at him and practically threw open the door to their bedrooms. Having a twin let him know exactly how he looked. Bronze hair, blue eyes, six foot-two honed frame, and a face women seemed to love. A grin he’d been told was devastating. His looks usually got him in any girl’s bed he chose. What in the name of Merlin was wrong with her?
When he saw Hayley coming home or going out, he stood at the window and admired her. He loved her graceful walk, her blonde hair swinging to her shoulders. Blast, but she seemed far too dedicated to her art. There was something unapproachable in her bearing. A damn waste of beauty. He didn’t like to think he was waiting for a woman to notice him. Something about the proud tilt of her head told him he’d need a foolproof excuse to make her acquaintance.
His body was becoming a problem to him. He found himself lusting for her whenever he tried to sleep. He didn’t like the frustration, and he hated feeling so out of control in the situation. Why did this one woman seem to be the only woman in London he wanted? At least for the moment.
He’d never had to chase a woman. If he wanted her, he took her willing body. Why was this unsuitable desire still haunting him?
He didn’t understand, and he didn’t like it one bit.
* * *
Hayley practiced every moment of her spare time. She knew she had been given a great opportunity to play the understudy and didn’t want to waste a moment. When she’d first landed the part, her mother had encouraged her to take a flat in London so she could be close to the theatre. She wanted to commute from her home but her mother had insisted she stay in town. Hayley would have many late nights, and to take the train would be exhausting. Knowing she would be lonely, her mother had insisted she take the family cat, Sheba. So Hayley now practiced in front of an appreciative audience of one.
Her next-door neighbor was a curiosity, but not one she meant to explore. Mr. Captain Townsend kept quite to himself. He went out every morning for a few hours, returning sometimes in the early afternoon. He didn’t seem to go out very much at night, she noticed on her evenings off. If he did, he was home early. She thought it strange that a bachelor of his notoriety stayed in so often. He rarely had people over to his flat. She had thought he would have lots of parties, but again, he seemed to keep to himself.
She knew he was a war hero and came from a well-to-do family. Where were his relatives. She rarely saw people of any age coming or going from his side of the house. Why had he secluded himself so?
Her phone rang. She reached for the receiver.
“Hayley? It’s your mother. How are you?”
“Is everything all right, Mother?” she asked, immediately concerned. They normally spoke Sunday evenings after dinner on Hayley’s night off.
“Everything is fine here,” her mother said albeit a little hesitantly, “but I am concerned about your sister.”
“We were out to the grocer’s yesterday, and I thought I saw that horrid Mick Johnson following us down the street on our walk home,” her mother explained. “He seemed quite brazen about it, keeping to the other side, yet whenever I looked back, he was staring directly at Thea. He wouldn’t meet my eyes. It was almost as if I did not exist.”
“What does Thea say?”
“She calls him a creepy man and says she has seen him around a lot lately.”
“Yes, I know. I think he’s up to no good again.”
“Have you gone to the police station? I mean, you remember the other girl last year who disappeared? Everyone thought it might be Mick because he went missing, too, at the same time.”
“Yes, so I called up the sergeant when we got home. He said he would keep an eye on Mr. Johnson. He said there was nothing more he could do until Mr. Johnson actually committed a crime.”
Hayley sighed. “What are we going to do? I knew I shouldn’t have taken this place. I’ll come home straight away andâ€¦”
“No, Hayley, you are staying where you are,” her mother said, her voice stern. “I’m going to come up with Thea to spend some time with you.”
“You are?” Hayley said, excited. “It will be wonderful to see both of you. We can go sightseeing. And London is so big, that â€˜creepy man’ will not be able to find us.”
“That’s lovely, dear,” her mother said. “I will call you back with our travel arrangements once I have made them.”
Hayley hung up her phone. It would be good to have some company for a while. Even if it was under frightening circumstances. Mick Johnson was more than a creepy man. He had an evil look about him. The way he looked at young girls turned her stomach. Thea would be safe here until the police back at home decided how to take care of Mr. Johnson.
As she replaced the receiver, she heard a loud meow. She found Sheba at the back door. She’d better put in a cat door so Sheba could come and go at will. Hayley shrugged, and as she held the back door open for her cat to wander outside, she heard loud laughter coming from next door.
So Mr. Townsend had a guest, she thought. She could distinguish the two voices, recognizing her neighbor’s smooth, hypnotizing tones. She stood a while longer, not really listening to the words, just the flow. He would make a good master of ceremonies, she thought, with a little more voice training. His voice caressed her mind, and she closed her eyes. Leaning up against the doorframe, she let her hand touch her chest just beneath her breasts where his voice seemed to settle. She pressed against her blouse, feeling her skin warm. Her thumb pushed upward against the firm roundness of her breasts, her nipples hard against the lingerie. A pulse began between her legs. Her hand moved upward, over the curve of her bra, brushing over a hard nipple, pausing to cup the mound, squeezing it slightly. Her breath caught in her throat. A cool breeze brushed against her heated face. She opened her eyes, realizing that where she stood, anyone walking through the back alley could see, and hastily stepped back inside the flat.
Standing at the back door to watch for Sheba’s return, Hayley wondered what had just happened. Mr. Townsend’s voice had stirred within her body a response she normally only experienced when reading romance novels. But his voice? Only his voice? How could that be? Had the man bewitched her without her even having met him properly yet? Or had she become so wanton living here in London that she lusted after any man with a nice voice?
She was delighted her mother and sister were coming. They would take her mind off her unsuitable neighbor next door. She had no time for anything but her profession.
* * *
Jono didn’t spend all his time in his flat. His friends appeared, laughing and cajoling and trying to entice him back to the haunts he’d always enjoyed. At the moment, he was grinning at Barry, Viscount Alder, who was railing at him.
“I can’t believe you’ve left the comfort of your club, Jono, to live in a common flat. Are you insane? Don’t tell me you cook for yourself. I won’t believe it.”
Barry wandered around the front room, picking up a pillow and putting it down, looking closely at the small horse, but not saying a word. Jono’s smile grew wider. Evidently the common flat aroused no envy in Barry. Jono should show him the stark kitchen with its old-fashioned stove and small icebox. Barry would be horrified. Maybe that would force a comment from him.
“I’m quite adept at heating up soup and buying crumpets. I can even brew tea. I was in the Air Force, remember. I learned to shift for myself, although Jason’s a better cook than I am.”
Barry snorted. “I never met Jason, but he can’t be as good a man as you think.”
Jono smiled with more than a bit of menace. “He is,” he stated in a soft voice. “He’s better.”
Barry snorted again, ignoring the subtle warning that criticizing Jason was a forbidden subject. Just as he started to speak, a new voice sounded from the joint backyards. Only a row of shrubs divided the two, and Jono knew instantly what brought Hayley outside.
“Sheba.” The voice sounded clear, low and beautiful. Like a bell and carrying into every nook of Jono’s mind. “Sheba, where are you? Your food’s ready.”
Barry’s eyes rounded as he heard the rich tones. “My God. What a thrilling voice. Who is she?”
Jono’s grin showed his amusement. “My neighbor. My neighbor who’s an actress. She’s calling her cat.”
Barry seemed struck with astonished awe. “Does she look anything like her amazing voice?”
“Better.” Jono grinned, his eyes crinkling with mischief. “But I’ve only made friends with the cat. Sheba’s a Russian Blue, almost as lovely as her owner. Sheba comes calling quite a bit and scratches to be let in. I hear her now at the door, and I think it’s time to return her in person to her lovely mistress.”
Whom I intend to make my mistress quite soon.
He opened his back door and gave a low whistle. A queen of a cat pranced in with a lithe walk, obviously well aware she was of the highest rank of royalty. Her blue coat was short and heavy, so lustrous Jono could never resist stroking her majesty. The guard hairs were touched with silver, giving her a distinctive silky and lustrous appearance.
Sheba came readily to Jono, rubbing against his legs and purring softly. She stared at Barry with bright emerald green eyes and then proceeded to ignore him as she concentrated on Jono.
Barry laughed. “Jono, I think you’ve perfected charming females of any species. She’s the most beautiful cat I’ve ever seen.”
“And this particular beauty charms me. Isn’t she gorgeous?”
Barry reached out one hand to pat her, and Sheba drew back her head and hissed.
Jono scooped Sheba up in his arms. The cat nestled against him but only after sending a malevolent glance at Barry.
“Barry, I’ve really got to educate you on how to lure females. Now I’ll return this lovely lady to her owner. Sheba generally doesn’t visit when Miss Harcourt is home. It’s more than time we met. This is a perfect excuse.”
Barry stood looking after them as Jono cradled Sheba and walked into the garden. His gaze was envious, as well as a little resentful. The blighter was just too damned smooth and seductive with the ladies, even feline ones. It did seem time someone refused to fall without question into his receptive arms. Andhis equally amenable bed.
* * *
Jono felt his heart pound as he walked to Hayley’s side of the garden-a physical reaction he usually experienced only when about to complete a successful seduction. He’d been celibate far too long. It was past time to introduce himself to his lovely neighbor.
He walked out into the yard and headed toward a break in the shrubbery he’d already discovered. He emerged laughing, raking twigs out of his bronze hair with one hand and cradling Sheba in the other.
Hayley’s distraught look vanished as soon as she spotted Sheba. “Where did you get my cat?”
Her accusing tone raised Jono’s eyebrows. Not exactly the friendly thanks he’d expected. He’d already formed a definite feeling she’d not be easily seduced, and her reaction now proved it. Getting Hayley to his bed might take a while. Not impossible, just not easy. He loved challenges but for now he’d better keep it at a friendly returning of her cat, as expected between neighbors. She couldn’t object to such an innocent introduction. One he’d turn to his advantage later.
“Sheba calls on me frequently. I’m your neighbor. You surely don’t expect those paltry bushes to stop a cat?”
He flashed his winning smile. One guaranteed to charm females, young or old.
Hayley’s face froze. “Evidently it doesn’t stop uninvited visitors, either. I thank you for returning her. Now, if you’ll hand her to me, you may leave.”
Her tone was as cold as her expression. Jono didn’t know whether to be insulted or intrigued, and finally his curiosity won.
“I’m not a bad neighbor, you know. I definitely won’t borrow cups of sugar and never return them. And I’m fairly quiet. No, I’m not bad at all.”
He let loose his most sexy smile. The smile that usually melted females and turned them into a warm blob of pudding. He’d know how to get her in bed once he broke the ice.
If anything, she looked even more hostile.
Maybe he’d better stop thinking of her as Hayley. Definitely he should postpone the bedding a little. Miss Harcourt’s features grew even more disdainful.
“I don’t agree with you at all, Captain Townsend. You’re the worst possible neighbor for me. I’m no fan of the man the papers call â€˜The London Lothario’. She grabbed Sheba, her fingers brushing the top of his hand ever so slightly, and clutched her cat tight as she marched toward her back door. Jono stood staring after her, his hand still tingling from her touch. She knew his name, he’d been his most charming self, and she’d definitely rejected his overtures. She didn’t want him even as a friend.
She turned at the door and glared at him. “We have nothing in common, Captain Townsend. Nothing.” And then, with a flip of her skirt, she hurried into her flat. Jono stood staring after her, rubbing the top of his hand as the persistent tingling warmed his skin, slowly snaking up his arm. The woman must be insane to refuse to even acknowledge his charm. Shaking his head, he went back to confront Barry. At least he could make it into an amusing anecdote. Now maybe his unruly staff would stop stiffening at the thought of her beauty.
A part of him, a plunging in his stomach he’d never experienced, didn’t like this one bit. Rejection didn’t sit well at all. Perhaps he wouldn’t tell Barry after all. The more he thought about it, the more he realized he wasn’t ready to talk about it.
And her face. My God, her face. Close up, it struck him as simply striking, with its high cheekbones and huge dark eyes, their brown so deep as to seem black. And her poignant face could not be easily be forgotten by anyone claiming to be male.
But he was certainly capable of completely dismissing the ridiculous woman. She was more unapproachable than any woman he’d met. Not worth wasting time on, he thought, as the warmth began to fade from his hand.
What the hell was the matter with her?
* * *
Hayley hoped her trembling hadn’t been noticeable when she’d snatched Sheba from the devastating captain’s arms. Up close, the man was disgustingly attractive. Even his confident stride proclaimed sexual allure. She’d never seen a more gorgeous man, at least on his come-hither surface. Broad shoulders and muscles rippling as he handed over Sheba. Tall and as well-built as the hero he was reputed to be. She knew he couldn’t be a hero. Not really. She read too many accounts of his amorous escapades in the London gossip columns. The Latest London Lothario, indeed. One of the famous twin aces of the recent war, used to women falling at his feet or into his receptive arms, more likely. Someone so insensitive to the needs of others could not be a true hero. Yet when her fingers brushed his skin she had felt a charge of electricity dance up her arm, warming her body all over, causing her to catch her breath.
She snorted. How she could have had such a reaction to his voice, she did not know.
A menace to any woman.
Taller than most men, with a masculinity seeming to blaze from him. One able to mesmerize most women the moment they saw him. Hair a color she couldn’t quite determine. A beautiful shade of ripe wheat streaked with gold. Blue eyes promising unimaginable joy if she’d only give him room in her bed. A strapping, magnificent physique that both allured and frightened her.
He was the most dangerous man she could imagine.
A man far too handsome for his own good. Or hers. And much too virile.
Thank heaven she’d made it plain she wanted no contact with him. She could now forget all about him. No man could ignore such a rebuff, which was what she’d intended.
She snorted again, and Sheba looked up at her angry face and then snuggled closer in her mistress’s arms. As she folded her still-tingling fingers into Sheba’s silvery fur, she sighed.
Sheba merely purred. Her cat world was safe, after all.