|Pre Order Today!|
by Linda Lael Miller et. al.
with Seducing Tabby by Lucy Monroe
Originally published June 2005 in BEACH BLANKET BAD BOYS
Kensington Brava Mass Market - July 2013
ISBN-10: 0758210957 ~ ISBN-13: 978-0758210951
“Secret Service? Really?”
“Jane said her dad said he heard it from Tom Crane, the realtor.”
“Well, Patty Lane said her mother heard from her hair dresser that he’s nobility, like an earl or something.”
“Maybe he’s both.”
Tabby’s friends spoke in low undertones laced with breathless curiosity. Wearing identical expressions of titillated speculation, the only two women in Port Diamond shyer than she was turned to face Tabby.
“Do you know anything?” asked one.
“He’s got a boat docked here at the marina,” the other added. “A luxury cruiser.”
“My dad runs the marina, not me,” Tabby reminded them.
“But you’ve got to have heard something.”
Tabby had spent most of her adult life being pumped for information about her gorgeous, thin sister, Helene. So, this was nothing new. She was adept at sidestepping answers she did not want to give, but at least when it came to Helene, she could answer the inquiries when she wanted to.
However, Tabby knew nothing more than the other women about the mysterious Englishman who had so recently moved to Port Diamond.
Nothing except that despite the fact she’d never said more than ten words to Calder Maxwell, he sparked a desire in her that fried her nerve endings and froze her vocal chords. She’d woken up pulsing from a dream induced climax for the first time in her life the night she’d met him.
“I can tell you he’s not Secret Service. He’s from England , not Washington .”
“Well, you know what I mean. He looks like he could give James Bond a run for his money.”
Tabby looked across the room at the gorgeous man standing with her dad and Helene and had to agree. A cross between Timothy Dalton and Carry Grant, he was every fantasy she’d ever had rolled into one perfect package - the only flaw being, his obvious interest in Helene.
Just like every other male who came into contact with the Payton sisters, he found Helene’s sweet nature and gorgeous looks irresistible. Tabby had seen them talking on the pier near his boat house a couple of times, but hadn’t been able to nerve herself up enough to join them. Helene wouldn’t have minded. She was always happy to see her sister.
Tabby doubted Calder would have been as appreciative, which is why she’d stayed away...no matter how much she’d longed to simply stand close enough to hear his voice.
Noticing her gaze still fixed on Calder, Tabby’s friend gave a theatrical sigh. “He’s yummy, isn’t he?”
At that moment, the object of their speculation turned and caught the trio of women gawking at him. One corner of his mouth tilted, but it couldn’t quite be called a smile and his dark gaze assessed them with cool regard.
“Oh, my gosh, he’s looking this way. Quick, turn around and pretend to be getting food at the buffet.”
Tabby rolled her eyes. “He’s already seen us. I don’t think he’ll be fooled.” And she didn’t particularly want him thinking she was interested in the buffet.
A throwback to her paternal great-grandmother, she didn’t have the willowy figure of her mom and sister, or anything approaching her dad’s athletic build. Nope, she was a little too round, a lot too curved, and slightly too short for that.
“He’s headed this way!”
And suddenly she was alone, deserted by her gossiping friends.
He stopped in front of her, his tall frame towering over her own five-feet-five-inches. He would fit in with the rest of her family just fine. In fact, he and Helene made a striking couple, she thought with an inner twinge.
“Good evening, Miss Payton.”
Her heart fluttered at the smooth English accent and her lungs refused to issue forth enough air to power words of greeting. It had felt like this the first time they met in her bookstore too. He’d come in looking for a book on home improvement of all things and she’d barely said six words to him between recommending a title and ringing up his purchase.
Feeling crowded by his proximity though he wasn’t standing all that close, she took an involuntary step backward and ran into one of the buffet tables. She grabbed for the edge to steady herself and got a handful of crab salad instead.
Turning to look, she stared in horrified stupefaction at the mess covering her hand. Mom was going to have a hissy fit. The salad required a two-day prep and was her most recent culinary pride and joy. Now an entire buffet size bowl of it was good only for the garbage disposal.
“I can’t believe I just did that,” she muttered.
“Can I help you?”
She looked up at him then, too upset by her predicament to be her usual tongue-tied self around him. “Do you have any suggestions for hiding the evidence?”
“Perhaps, we could take the bowl to the kitchen?”
“And leave a gap on the table?”
He took hold of her wrist and lifted her hand away from the bowl, careful not to let the crab salad anywhere near his dinner suit or her dress. “Go clean up and I will take care of our small disaster.”
In spite of her embarrassed chagrin, the feel of his fingers curled around her wrist was surprisingly nice.
“It’s not your disaster.” She sighed self-deprecatingly. “It’s mine and I can’t leave it to you.” Even if she wished she could.
“Of course, I’m at fault. I startled you.” She opened her mouth to argue, but he shook his head. “Don’t let it concern you. I have some experience in this sort of thing.”
“Rescuing women from the wrath of their temperamental chef mothers?”
He smiled, even white teeth flashing all too briefly. “Hiding the evidence.”
Her eyes widened in mock horror. “Oh, my gosh, you’re a member of the British mafia and here everyone was thinking you were some sort of displaced nobleman or spy, or something.”
That made him laugh and she felt the sound all the way to her toes.
“You have a nice laugh.” She couldn’t believe she’d said that. Trust her to go from mute to uttering inanities. What an improvement.
“And you have a charming sense of humor, but you also have a hand that is about drip crab salad on your lovely dress.”
She extended her arm further from her body, having no desire to ruin the dress it had taken four hours of shopping in San Diego to find. “I’ll just go wash this off.”
She took as long as she could in the ladies room, washing her hands, tidying her appearance and wishing she could fall through a hole in the floor rather than go back out and face Calder Maxwell.
She got a moment alone with the focus of her fantasies and what did she do?
Go diving in a buffet bowl.
She never had been all that handy in the kitchen.