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Explosive danger creates a whirlwind of heat between two strangers…
At forty years old, Candy Cartright isn’t eager to indulge in girlish dreams of ‘happily ever after’ when she attends her friend’s wedding. When she runs into a suit and tie guy at the hotel bar, she thinks he’s a geeky businessman.
Retired US Marine Mike Compton finds it amusing that Candy at first mistakes him for a nerd. He’s not looking for a hookup, but he can’t resist the challenge in her eyes. However, when unexpected danger forces them into tight quarters, they discover there’s a hell of lot more to both of them than meets the eye.
She felt a man settle on the stool next to her at the same time she caught a whiff of freshly showered skin. She glanced over at him. Contradicting impressions threw her off kilter. Although her platform high heels made her close to five ten, this man was big. Big in one of those, don’t-even-consider-messing-with-me ways. Her attention snagged first on his body. Broad shoulders were encased in a casual gray sports jacket and under that an open-collared white shirt. He wore khaki’s and casual brown shoes. Candy jerked her attention to his face. He had very short, thick dark brown hair. He owned an aggressive face with a Roman nose and the dorkiest black glasses she’d ever seen. Nerdy. Well, okay. Not exactly nerd city, but he sort of looked like an accountant. His jaw showed a hit of five o’clock shadow.He looked a little tired around the edges, as if he’d made a long journey and had little time to recover. All right. Not a stereotypical accountant. He looks too rough for that. Right. Probably a married businessman slamming down a drink before heading upstairs to his room and a phone conversation with his wife. Her gaze landed on his left hand. No ring and no sign of a tan line to indicate he wore a ring. Still, some married men didn’t wear wedding rings.
Before she could return her attention to her whiskey, the man caught her staring. Heat warmed her cheeks as he captured her gaze and held it. His startling green eyes flashed with definite intensity and a sudden interest that made the heat in her face spread down over her body. Uncomfortable with her reaction and embarrassed he’d caught her staring, she could have turned away or left.
Instead she swallowed her discomfort. “Sorry, didn’t mean to stare.” She put her hand out to shake. “Candy Cartwright.”
His big hand clasped hers, warm and assured without smashing her with his grip. He swept her with a thorough, hot gaze that belied any idea she might have about cool green eyes. He liked what he saw.
He released her hand, and the subtle caress of his callused palm made her fingers tingle. “Mike Compton. Nice to meet you.”
His warm, deep voice had rumble to it. Something in his tone made her think of sex. Bang up against a wall sex. Her face flamed again and she considered asking the bartender for a glass of ice water to put out the fire. Okay, girl. Where did that idea come from? He’s just a man you know nothing about. Rein back the crazy.
The bartender asked Mike what he wanted to drink, and Mike ordered a beer. Curiosity played with her. She could usually pick out a military guy on a dime—this man could be anything from an insurance agent to CPA.
“What brings you here?” he asked.
“You one of Jessica’s friends?” he asked.
“Yes. From Denver.”
“Are you a lawyer like Jessica?” The bartender placed a tall glass of beer in front of him, and Mike took a swig.
She shook her head and smiled. “Executive Assistant. I work at the federal building in Denver. Well, at least I did until a month ago. I’ve been on—”
She cut herself off, mortified she’d launched into her life story before she knew a damned thing about a stranger.
Too late. His eyes narrowed as he turned slightly toward her. He pushed the big black glasses back up on the bridge of his nose. “Been on?”
She drew in a slow breath. “My mother was…dying. Cancer. She hung on for a long time and then needed some help at home. She wanted to…she had home hospice care.”
Candy swallowed hard as an unexpected rush of tears surged into her eyes. She drew in a shuddering breath and managed a smile, jamming back the waterworks by sheer force. The unexpectedness of her reaction took her off guard.
“Sorry. I don’t usually dump my history in a person’s lap like that,” she said, keeping her gaze pinned on her whiskey.
“Hey.” His voice rumbled again, but this time it held genuine warmth and concern. “It’s okay. I’m sorry to hear about your mother.”
She was ready with another smile to prove she didn’t ache inside. “Thanks. It’s a little raw yet.”
His wide shoulders made a subtle shrug. “Of course.” Behind those glasses his gaze was thoughtful and filled with compassion. “My Dad was killed in a construction accident when I was ten. I still grieve his loss sometimes. It hits me at weird times when I don’t expect it.”
A lump stayed lodged in her throat and she nodded because she couldn’t squeeze a word out at first.
She drew in a deep breath. “I’m so sorry about your father. That’s got to be hard for a little boy.”
“It was. Mom was amazing, though. She held it together as best she could.”
A comfortable silence formed. A slow song came over the speaker system and the lights lowered. Voices hushed a little under the melody’s seduction.
“Would you like to dance?” he asked.
She looked down at her ridiculously high heels. “Uh, these shoes aren’t made for dancing.”
“What are they made for?” The low vibration in his voice was husky and soft.
Um. Well. “Good question. Crazy fashion?”
His gaze skimmed from her ankles up her legs. She’d worn a long sleeved, knee length red sweater dress that hugged her curves. She felt the sizzle as his attention finally landed on her face.
“I don’t usually wear heels this high.” Candy shrugged. “I had a momentary aneurism when I bought these, I guess.”
He smiled, and the grin was megawatt. “Dance with me. I won’t let you fall.”