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Read Chapter 9 here.
Read Chapter 10 here.
Read Chapter 11 here.
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Going out on assignment thrilled her even if it was with Seamus. None of the realities had registered. Until now. Aislyn smiled until her jaw hurt. If Seamus touched her again or called her sweetness in that soppy voice, she’d deck him. She forced another smile for the benefit of the receptionist at the Kowhai Lodge Resort, an elderly maternal type who bore a visible romantic streak. After Seamus’s lectures during the drive here, Aislyn’s nerves jangled as she tried to remember everything. The list of rules was long and varied. And she thought she’d escaped the specter of regulations on leaving the colony. If the situation wasn’t so dangerous, she’d have laughed herself silly.
This time the joke was on her.
“I’m sure we’ll have a lovely time, won’t we sweetness?”
The gleam in Seamus’s eyes told her he knew how close she walked to the edge. Too bad. Two could play at that game.
She sidled closer until her breasts flirted with his arm and stood on tiptoe to brush a warm, moist kiss right below his ear. “I will adore our stay here, honey. And such a surprise,” she gushed, smiling at the receptionist. “Do you know I’d no idea of our honeymoon destination? This man is an angel. I will love marriage.”
“Shall we go to our room, sweetness?”
Aislyn smirked. His words implied togetherness, but sparks of irritation shot from his stormy eyes. The firm grip on her upper arm would leave a bruise. Satisfaction blunted her own irritation.
“Sure, honey. After traveling, I’m feeling grubby.” Ugh, the saccharine endearments were enough to make a female sick. She fluttered her eyelashes at her new husband. “I might take a quick shower then soak in the spa pool.” She allowed a soft girlish giggle to escape, before leaning forward to breathe in his ear, “With no clothes on.”
His body jerked. Aislyn witnessed the color highlighting his cheekbones in fascination. The man was good and rattled, and it felt damn fine standing in the instigator’s shoes.
“Let’s go,” he said.
Impatient man, especially when things weren’t going his way.
“Remember to complete your breakfast order and leave it on the door outside before you retire. We find that newly married couples get hungry.”
Aislyn grinned while the muscles in Seamus’s arm tightened even further. No teasing smile lit the woman’s face. She was deadly serious.
“Thank you,” Aislyn said. “We won’t forget.” She didn’t dare glance at Seamus again because of the steamy images the woman’s words created in her mind. She fanned her face with her free hand. Was it hot in here?
“Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to make your stay more comfortable.”
“Thanks,” Seamus gritted out.
At one with the idea of escape, they trailed the porter waiting to direct them to their suite. Once they’d climbed aboard the motorized golf cart, the porter set off down the narrow sloping track.
The resort sat on a small peninsula overlooking the sea with bungalows tucked away to blend with the trees. According to their chatty driver, the main resort area included two restaurants, a bar with views out to sea, two swimming pools, and several exclusive shops catering to the discerning tourist.
When they arrived at their cabin, Aislyn followed Seamus and the porter, admiring the décor. Polished wooden floors glowed in the sunlight while the sea view was spectacular. Lush green ferns filled the small foyer and water tinkled in an indoor water feature. Native birdsong drifted inside through the open windows.
With privacy guaranteed by the resort, it was no wonder John Watson chose to stay here. The proximity to the offshore islands offered an even bigger incentive since he was right in the back yard of the scavenger hunt competition.
To her right was a small kitchen and breakfast bar. The granite counter held a large bowl of red and green apples, oranges, kiwifruit, and bananas. A crystal vase of white roses filled the vicinity with their delicate scent. On her left, two comfortable chairs flanked a Persian rug. A glass coffee table sat nearby. Very spiffy and not bad for a fake honeymoon.
The porter placed their luggage on the floor. “The bedroom and bathroom are upstairs. Should I show you the features, sir?”
“We’ll be fine.” Seamus handed the porter a ten-dollar note to hurry him on his way.
The man shot a grin in Aislyn’s direction. “Of course, sir.”
It wasn’t difficult to read the young man’s thoughts, and to Aislyn’s annoyance, heat surged to her cheeks. The young man thought they intended to leap into bed to celebrate their nuptials.
Maybe she should seduce Seamus? Immediately her nipples pulled hard, the friction against her bra sending messages of lust streaming through her body. The heat in her face intensified.
The instant the front door shut behind the porter, she turned to Seamus. “I think I’ll jump in the shower.” Escape—she needed time to regroup.
“Not so fast,” Seamus snapped.
“Sweetheart, I’m hot and grubby. I need a shower after the long trip here.”
“What do you mean by kissing me?”
She allowed her mouth to fall into a pout. “Do you mean I wasn’t doing it right? I’m new to this acting game. You’d better tell me what I did wrong, so I don’t repeat my mistake.”
“Quit fooling around.”
“Have your shower before I put you over my knee. I’ll bring up the bags.”
Seamus glared after her when she sauntered up the stairs. Each sensual sway of her hips heated his body, and tension thrummed him, his cock painfully erect. He’d almost lost it when she kissed him at reception. Her scent, the soft press of breasts, almost made him forget why they were here. A mistake he couldn’t afford.
He stepped onto the balcony in the hope the breeze would cool his raging libido.
He had to stop letting Aislyn rile him.
During his quick visit to the colony, he’d signed a betrothal agreement with Renee from the French territory. He was officially off the ranks of single men. Pity his libido hadn’t caught up with the fact.
The wedding he’d provisionally planned for Summer Solstice would become a reality. And he’d become a married man. He gripped the balcony railing with his hands, tension humming through him.
A voice raised in song drifted to him. His stomach lurched, and the blood that had seeped from his cock rushed right back, forcing it into prominence.
The one and the only reason his body resonated with sexual tension.
He glared in the direction of the singing. Aislyn was his best friend’s baby sister and the one female with whom he couldn’t conduct a simple affair.
The splash of water registered and an X-rated image of sleek feminine curves, water-beaded skin…not a scrap of clothing in sight rushed to mind.
He was not walking up those stairs.
“You said you’d bring up my suitcase.”
Damn. “All right.” Seamus stalked inside and grabbed his bag and Aislyn’s battered suitcase. When he lifted her suitcase, the strap holding it shut broke, and the case burst open, spewing clothing across the wooden floor.
He swore, scowling as delicate pieces of lingerie fluttered to the ground. Some items weren’t much bigger than the scraps of cloth Aislyn used to tie her hair off her face. He cast a guilty gaze toward the bedroom and quickly grabbed the non-lingerie items.
“Seamus, how much longer are you going to be? Should I come and get my case? I think there’s a robe…”
Hell, that’s all he needed—Aislyn to catch him pawing through her silk and lace underwear. He snatched up a lacy confection in blue and thrust the silky apparel into the case. Now he’d start wondering what she wore beneath her jeans and T-shirts.
“What are you doing?” The feminine screech of horror made his ears ring.
Caught—holding the evidence. Seamus glared at the scrap of silk in his hand and thrust it out of sight under a wooly jacket.
“The strap holding your bag shut broke.”
She clattered down the stairs, the robe she wore billowing around her legs. From his crouched position, Seamus caught a flash of slender legs and tanned thighs. He reminded himself of the betrothal, but the vision played over and over through his mind’s eye. He kept picking up the scattered clothing. Man, this day kept getting worse.
Seamus smelled apricots and knew Aislyn stood a few feet from him. The delicate scent of freshly bathed female battered his senses, creating havoc with his good intentions.
“You’re creasing my clothes.”
He wanted to do way more.
“I was going to soak in the spa, but maybe we should explore the resort first. What do you think?”
What did he think? He was in charge here and made the decisions.
Seamus sucked in a fortifying breath and puffed it out quick before Aislyn’s scent snapped his fragile control. He raised his brows and risked a direct look. “You’re not going dressed like that?”
“No, I need my case.”
Seamus thrust the case at her and retreated two steps. “I’ll wait outside.”
Two seconds later, he dragged in great breaths of Aislyn-free air. He glanced at his watch. They’d been here what? Forty minutes. And already, he felt like a coiled spring.
How was he going to cope with a week of up-close-and-personal with Aislyn?
Gill had volunteered for the assignment, but that wasn’t gonna happen. Seamus knew of his friend’s reputation firsthand and no way was he letting him loose with Aislyn. Gill had agreed to let Seamus pose as Aislyn’s husband and had worn a smirk ever since.
The clunk of the cabin door opening made him freeze. The click of heels jerked him free of the spell. Do something. Anything. Don’t let Aislyn rile you.
He turned and almost knocked her off her feet.
“I’m ready, sweetheart,” she cooed.
Seamus’s hands whipped out to catch her. He did a double-take at her clothes. She wore the shortest mini-skirt he’d ever seen, teamed with a skintight lacy top and heels that made her legs seem endless.
“Are you ready?” she demanded. “I want to explore and take a walk on the beach.”
His gaze caressed her legs. “You expect to walk along the beach in those shoes?”
She lowered one eye in a saucy wink. “You’re nice and strong.” She inched closer and, right about the time her scent hit him, she reached out to trail one hand down his chest.
Her touch jolted him clear to his toes. His gaze flicked from left to right, checking the vicinity. “We’re alone,” he said, jerking out of her reach. “You don’t have to keep the pretense every single minute.”
“I read a book about method acting last week.” Her smile held more than a smidgeon of craftiness. “The process sounded interesting.”
Anger warred with plain lust. Seamus barely trusted himself to speak. He hurried through the front door and along the gravel path, intent on putting space and fresh air between them.
“Let’s go,” he growled over his shoulder. He jerked his gaze off Aislyn and directed his eyes front. Hell, if Gill saw him now, he’d bust a gut laughing.
The thought of Gill reminded him of work. Aislyn was right. They needed to reconnoiter. Unwillingly, he slowed his pace for her to catch up. Maybe if he concentrated on the job, he’d make it through the week.
“We’ll wander around the main resort area. If we’re lucky, we’ll see either Watson or his bodyguard.”
“And work out which cabin they’re in.”
“Cross your fingers, we get lucky.” Seamus paused, stricken by the unfortunate choice of words. His mind clicked into top gear. A big bed. Silky sheets and Aislyn. A long night of lazy loving followed by an equally slow wake-up call. He cursed under his breath. “What was I saying?”
“We need to locate Watson,” Aislyn inserted smoothly.
If it weren’t for the wicked gleam in her blue eyes, he’d think she had no idea of the effect she was having on him. The twinkle gave her away.
Seamus stopped dead in the middle of the path. Aislyn halted too. From where they stood, the central part of the resort remained hidden. Waves crashed to shore in the distance, and closer, an insect clicked in an insistent beat. The sounds should have soothed him.
They didn’t. They reminded Seamus he and Aislyn were consenting adults. They were alone together in a luxurious resort, ensconced in the honeymoon suite.
“I’ve worked out your game.”
“What game?” she murmured in a throaty voice, one that sent his hormones hopping.
“Your flirting—the sexy lingerie and come-hither looks. You and Gill have a bet.”
“I’d never play a trick like that.” A shocked expression settled on her face while her eyes twinkled.
Years of dealing with criminals made Seamus an expert on body language, except when it came to her. He frowned, and his confidence wavered. “I don’t have time for this.”
“Good. I want to see the rest of the resort.” She captured his hand and twined their fingers together.
Seamus started in shock but left his hand in hers. It couldn’t hurt. “Are you hungry?”
“Not really, but I wouldn’t mind a drink.”
They wandered along the path to the main resort. Seamus steered her to the bar by the swimming pool.
“You sit there while I get the drinks.” He leaned closer and whispered, “Tell me if you see either of our men.”
“I’ll have a glass of white wine.”
Aislyn thought he’d protest. Instead, he nodded and strode to the bar. She whipped a pair of dark sunglasses from her pocket and pushed them on her nose. Neither Watson nor his bodyguard was present, but the resort covered a large area. They’d find him eventually, and when they did, she’d be in the thick of the action.
After a quick scan of the vicinity and the people near the pool, she turned her attention to Seamus. Her husband. Probably as close as she’d ever come to marriage with him.
At the bar, Seamus grinned at the barmaid pouring his drinks, an easy grin that made Aislyn wish she were the recipient. With his dark hair, gorgeous gray eyes, and his muscular body, he attracted attention.
She’d never seen him with a woman human side. Gill conducted a parade of women through his bedroom, but she knew nothing of Seamus’s love life. She’d suspected he and Christel were close, but his recent visits to the colony were of short duration. They couldn’t see much of each other.
He picked up the drinks and, after smiling at the barmaid again, headed to Aislyn. When he wasn’t snapping and snarling, he was a fun companion. Maybe she should stop baiting him.
“One glass of white wine.” He placed the glass on the small table and dropped into the seat opposite.
“Thanks.” She traced a finger around the rim of the glass and leaned toward him. “Our men aren’t around the pool.”
“Early days yet. The resort organizes trips out to the old goldmines, and they do bush walks. There’s no law against them playing tourist.”
Aislyn snorted. “Hardly likely, though.”
“Gill and I arrested a man for murder last year who attended a church meeting every Friday night, right before he met with his latest cyber date and raped them. Takes all sorts.”
Conceding the point, she took a sip of wine. Tart and crisp with a faint hint of peaches, the cool liquid slid down her throat. Much better than the wine at the pub. She closed her eyes to concentrate on her next sip. A croak made her eyes fly open, and she caught Seamus gazing at her with an intensity that sent her stomach swirling.
“How are the cat remedy tests coming along?”
That was the reason for the attentiveness? “I received a new shipment three days ago.”
Seamus grinned suddenly, and her heart did a distinct flip-flop.
“Have any of the products worked yet?”
“I’ve tested two from this batch. The first one made Joe and I sneeze. The second one was a siren. It made every dog in the vicinity howl for an hour solid. We left them to it and went for a walk at Mission Bay.”
Seamus regarded her with a lazy smile. “You walk your cat?”
“He hates being left in the flat on his own. If I don’t take him with me, he just turns up. I’ve no idea how he finds me, but it’s easier if I don’t leave him alone.”
“You didn’t bring him to the resort.”
“I left him with Gary. He adores Gary.” Aislyn chewed on her lip. “Even the way I found him was strange. You don’t think he’s magical?”
Seamus almost spat out a mouthful of beer. “Imagine the mass panic, if the colony inhabitants thought they were in danger from a new strain of magical cats.”
“Seamus, on your right at two o’clock. That’s John Watson’s assistant.”
He leaned over and brushed a casual kiss on her lips. “The big guy?”
“Yeah.” She couldn’t take her gaze off his mouth. She wanted him to kiss her again.
As if he read her mind, his lips brushed hers. “Which direction is he heading? I can’t see, and I don’t want him to notice me staring.”
She forced herself to concentrate. “He’s heading to the reception desk.”
“Stay here and finish your drink. I’ll inquire about the bushwalking tours.”
He left before she could protest. Irritated with him for leaving her out of the investigation, she sipped her wine and stewed. No doubt, he’d leave her out as often as he could.
Seamus returned a few minutes later. “They’re staying in the two cabins nearest the beach. We’ll wander to the beach now, and, with luck, he’ll pass us on the track when he returns to his cabin.”
“Sneaky.” She wobbled when she rose to her feet.
Seamus glanced at her empty glass. “Did you eat before we left?”
“I didn’t have time. You told me not to be late.”
“Never mind. Damn, he’s finished in reception.” Seamus propelled her into a brisk walk. “Hurry, or we’ll lose him.”
“You go after him, and I’ll go back to the cabin. How about if I grab your swim gear and meet you at the beach?” Suddenly the high hopes she’d entertained of becoming closer to Seamus seemed pointless. He wasn’t interested.
“Grab a towel for me. My swim shorts are on top of my bag.”
“I’ll find them.” Aislyn watched Seamus hurry after the bodyguard and sighed. All work and no play.
Back in the cabin, she hunted for the bikini she’d purchased while on a shopping jaunt with Gary. The man was knowledgeable when it came to fashion. She changed clothes, mindful of Seamus waiting. She pulled a dress over the top and dug a pair of sandals out of her case.
Seamus’s bag sat in the middle of the spacious living room. She jerked the zipper open and grabbed his swim shorts. About to leave, the edge of a photo caught her curiosity. She hesitated, torn. Taking a deep breath, she gently pushed the photograph clear of the zipper and shut his bag.
She grabbed two of the large beach towels provided by the resort and hurried down the stairs. Halfway down, she stopped. She needed to look at the photo.
Glancing at her watch, she tried to decide how long ago she’d left him. Ten minutes? Fifteen? She wasn’t sure. Without giving herself time to rethink, she retraced her footsteps and opened his bag to pull out the photo.
She grimaced. Of course. A brunette, her hair reached halfway down her back. It was difficult to tell, but she seemed tall. There was no doubt about her curves.
On the back, someone had scrawled Renee.
A sharp pain jerked her back to the present. She shoved the photo away, wishing she’d never succumbed to her curiosity.
Seamus had a girlfriend.
She picked up the towels again and trudged the stairs, locking the door after her. Nothing like reality to bring you back to earth with a thump.
After three minutes of fast walking, the trees gave way to a clearing, and the path ended. She smelled the salty tang of the sea before she saw it. Huge gnarled trees clung to the bank, and cliffs ran along the beach to her left.
She bent to remove her shoes, eager to experience the sand beneath her feet. At the far end of the beach, Seamus waved at her. After finding the photo, she needed every ounce of her acting ability. She walked to the water’s edge and paddled in Seamus’s direction, careful to keep the towels from trailing in the water.
Someone had moored a small motorboat out to her right. The people on board held fishing poles and occasionally raised their lines to check the bait. Farther out the offshore islands were smudges on the horizon.
She glanced the other way, wondering about the location of the other cabins. She mentally kicked herself for the lack of attention.
“You took a long time,” Seamus said when she approached him.
“I couldn’t find my bikini top.” She handed him a towel and his swim shorts.
He shrugged off his shirt, and his hands dropped to the button on his trousers. “If you want to spare your blushes, look away.”
Aislyn turned to scan the horizon. She tried to concentrate on the scenery and her assignment, but the rustle of Seamus’s clothes distracted her. His zipper whined when he yanked it down. The soft denim of his jeans made a whooshing sound.
Abruptly, she squatted to spread her towel on the sand. She tugged the buttons of her dress and let it slide down her body. She’d heard cold showers worked. Perhaps a swim in the sea would do the job too.
Return next Monday for the following chapter