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T is for Temptation [Witchy Women 1] [MultiFormat]
eBook by Jianne Carlo

eBook Category: Erotica/Erotic Fantasy
eBook Description: Tallulah Trent, a conjuring witch with dicey powers, falls for Jake Mathews, her deceased husband's partner. For months Tee's kept her secret. Not once during Jake's visits has she conjured anything peculiar. Then he makes love to her, on a raft in the middle of the Caribbean, and chocolate cupcakes pop up everywhere. Worse, she discovers he believes she and her dead husband embezzled millions from their company. Jake knows Tee's keeping secrets, is positive they concern the persistent aroma of chocolate which seems to follow her. But when dead bodies start popping up and they all point to Tee, he feels a strange over-protective streak erupt. The bottom falls out of Jake's world when Homeland Security comes after him and Tee. Thrown together on the run, they discover each other sexually, but trust doesn't always follow sex, at least not at first. [Erotic Fantasy Suspensful Romance: Contains graphic sexual content and adult language.]

eBook Publisher: Siren-BookStrand, Inc./Siren Classic, Published: 2008, 2008
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2009


13 Reader Ratings:
Great Good OK Poor


"4 Cherries: Full of the unexpected, T is for Temptation is a fun read featuring a witch with unusual powers and the man who wants her. I really enjoyed the little twists in the story and the characters we meet as a result. The story is filled with strong, well-crafted characters including both the main characters as well as secondary characters such as Jake's friend, Alex. Even the bad guys come across as believable and you are never quite sure who to trust or what will happen. I also loved the exotic setting and the author definitely seems to have knowledge of the various locations. From Trinidad and Tobago to London to Scotland, with vivid descriptions and details the author made me feel as though I were actually there and I loved each new discovery about the settings. The different twists and turns captured my attention and really helped to add to my enjoyment. T is for Temptation is a great read full of surprises!"--Lilac, Whipped Cream Reviews


A Dolphin's Trust

Port of Spain; Trinidad

Tallulah Trent. Tee.

Island siren.

Tortuous temptation.

Recent widow of his bat-slime, criminal partner Tony Trent.

How the hell did he break the news to her?

Even as the sight of Tee deep-sixed his senses, Jake Mathews noted the three parked police cars blocking the cul-de-sac, their blue lights flashing, and the knot of angry uniformed men cordoning Trent and Mathews' Trinidadian office. A sweeping survey yielded a television camera unit and a reporter wearing an earpiece.

He groaned.

Every muscle bunched, and dormant nerves sizzled, sending a shooting lance to the base of his skull.

Why were the police here?

He had two goals on this spur of the moment trip from his corporate headquarters; close down the local office, and seduce Tee. Already in trouble with the IRS in Florida, he didn't need any added pressure in Trinidad, and a huddle of six uniformed cops could only mean one thing, trouble.

Imminent scandal loomed, not to mention financial catastrophe, if the pending charges against his firm had become public knowledge. Between Tee's father's political aspirations and the conservative, stodgy petroleum industry his business relied upon, media exposure had to be avoided at all costs.

"What the hell's going on here?"

Jake elbowed the policeman who gesticulated at Tallulah out of the way. He planted his solid form in front of her.

"And who be you?"

The man's pugnacious, hostile tone took Jake aback, especially when his thick lips bared large rabbit teeth with their gold caps glinting a blinding reflection of the tropical sun.

If anything, Jake's protective stance ratcheted the cop's animosity, and the officer's wrestler-built form angled forward, the veins in his corded neck bulging. He shook a tight, meaty fist at Tee.

"Don't you go anywhere, Mrs. Trent." Contemptuous malice laced the detective's low rumble.

That did it.

Jake's mouth curled into an automatic belligerent sneer, a reflexive action honed from an adolescence mired in defending the younger boys in his care. At thirty-four, his daily workout alternated between weightlifting, boxing, and martial arts. His obvious fighting expertise, plus the fact he topped the cop by a good six inches, made the man scowl and lean back.

He shifted right so his body blocked Tee from the line of uniformed men that materialized behind the figure he confronted.

"I'm Jake Mathews," he said, keeping his voice even, but telegraphing promised damage should any one of the policemen decide to become aggressive.

Jake waved a hand at the house to their right, once a family residence, but now converted to a business office because of the Trinidadian oil boom and the lack of space in its capital, Port of Spain.

"This building belongs to my company. Mrs. Trent's husband was my partner. He died four months ago. What's the problem?"

"Oh yeah? You were Trent's partner?" The policeman's drawled question held derision and a gruesome anticipatory delight. He slapped his hands on ample hips. "You're American. You can't own property here."

The tropical early morning sun warmed Jake's back, and he cursed the business formality, remnants of British colonial rule, which insisted on a jacket and tie in a country ten degrees above the equator. He twisted around and shot Tee a glance, anxious to protect and shield her from the obnoxious authority figures.

As usual, the sight of Tallulah Trent heated his blood and prickled awareness across every inch of flesh, setting his randy shaft into action. He swallowed and drank her in.

Seven years younger, Tee radiated a contradictory, intriguing combination of aristocratic confidence and ingénue, comfortable in diplomatic circles and with royalty, yet retaining a little-girl-lost kind of innocence. She wore a creamy halter dress in a gauzy material.

A warm wind circled the cul-de-sac, and the fabric caressed her athletic body, shaping her slim curves, and her nipples stiffened, straining delicious points against the thin textile. Long, tawny ringlets teased at her bare gold-dusted shoulders framing arms muscled from her Equestrian training. Tee's mere presence always drew his cock to half-mast, and now his blasted organ saluted to military attention, aching with want, need.

His dazed mind didn't allow the peculiar circumstances to sink in until his gaze reluctantly left Tee and swung back to the immediate problem. He noticed the revolvers strapped to the sides of the gray-clothed men crowding her from behind.

They moved forward in unison, wide-legged stances inches away from contact with Tee's rear end. The contentious posturing drove Jake's every chivalrous instinct to the forefront. Fury sent him into a long-legged step when one of the men grabbed Tee by the elbow and yelled an obscenity, the man's snarling features inches away from her profiled nose.

He snagged the man's hand, clamping a fist around flabby flesh, and squeezed. "Touch her again, and you're a dead man. Step back."

"You can't do that, Yankee. This is our country."

Even though the man shouted the words, he retreated, wrenching his forearm out of Jake's purposeful, painful grip. He rubbed the injured area and glared, careful to maintain a wide berth.

The Trinidadian police force had a notorious reputation for avid participation in both drug running activities and local kidnappings for ransom. Once in their custody, it could be difficult to effect release.

"And you're supposed to uphold the law, not abuse innocent women." Jake's growled, menacing tone gave the officers pause. He read it in their wary repositioning several steps away from Tee. Satisfied he held any threat at bay, he snatched her hand and swung around, careful to shield her with his bulk. "I didn't say I owned the building. My business leases it."

He faced the original offender, raking a quick assessment. The man suffered from a Napoleon complex; that much seemed clear. Short, stocky, and pig-snout ugly, his complexion darkened to an odd purple hue.

"Mrs. Trent is Mr. Henry Inglefield's only child. I'd tread warily if I were you."

"Yeah? We found cocaine on the premises, and that means I can take her into custody if I feel like it." The man, an inspector by the insignias decorating his drab uniform, jabbed a finger at his own chest.

"Try it," Jake said. "I'll have the American ambassador here before you can blink." He added, "And I have direct access to the prime minister."

A blatant lie, but a knockout punch nonetheless as none of them could question his statement. Since the Trinidadian prime minister was the equivalent of the leader of the United States, and Tee's father rumored to be the next president of the small republic, the men backed down, defeated by Jake's combination of innuendo and vehemence.

"Jake," Tee pleaded, and she tugged the sleeve of his jacket. "It's all right. I called Dad's lawyer. He told me to leave right away and go about my normal activities."

He glanced at her, and the concern in her light brown eyes held him entranced for a brief moment. "I'll handle this, Tee."

She tiptoed, cupped a hand over his ear, and whispered, "Please, don't antagonize the policemen. They terrorized the staff, and I only just got them to promise not to take anyone into custody."

Her warm breath streamed over his earlobe, and he had to tamp down the automatic tightening in his nether regions. They sallied back and forth, her whispering, him growling, until he surrendered to Tee's entreaties and led her out of range of the still-quarreling police squad.

"What's going on? What's this about cocaine?"

Tee's eyelids squeezed shut, and the strong line of her jaw moved. She sighed, and the rise and fall of those firm breasts mesmerized him for spellbound seconds.

"I'm sorry, Jake."

To his surprise, she covered his hand with both of hers and met his gaze, but he couldn't read her expression.

"I'm sorry partnering with him has done nothing but cause you problems."

The bitter emphasis on the word him only served to reinforce Jake's growing conviction Tee knew of Tony's infidelities and she held no grief over his death.

On the plane ride to Florida after his visit last week, the fact she never referred to Tony by his name or with anything but revulsion had hit Jake like a hurricane. That plus their first kiss, his first taste of her sweetness, had convinced him he stood a chance, could persuade her into an affair. Hope had transformed his hunger into pulsating, fervid desire, and he couldn't resist the temptation to return and test the waters.

Her waters and her deep, hot glove.

The thought of being inside Tee consumed him, compelled every action.

His breath hitched, and he thought of his mad scramble to cancel days of business meetings simply to have more time with her, two more days. It'd been four eternal months since Tony's death; surely he'd waited long enough.

"And now they've confiscated his SUV, and Tricia's going to be angry with me."

Always bemused and beguiled in her presence, her words only added to his confusion. "What? Why on earth did they do that?"

"I don't know. I've never had a policeman treat me so, so..." Her voice trailed off, and she crinkled her nose. "With so little respect."

Unsaid words filled in the rest of her meaning. As the daughter of the possible president of Trinidad and Tobago, the authorities treated Tallulah Trent with kid gloves.

"I called Dad, but he's up to his ears in meetings, and I couldn't speak with him. It's Bastille Day, and Henry and Tricia are having a dinner party for the French ambassador and twenty of their intimate friends. You know how my parents are."

Tee rolled her cat-gold eyes.

"Tricia sent me down the islands to fetch her hibiscus crystals for the occasion. On the way there, I got a phone call about the robbery, and now they've taken the jeep, and I'm stuck."

"Okay, Tee. Slow down a bit."

He realized jangling nerves had her babbling.

"The office was burglarized?"

"Yes. That's why the police are here. When the staff came in this morning, they found the offices torn apart. They called me and then the police and tried to figure out what was taken. The computers were stolen, of course, as were all the printers and the fax machine."

Three puzzled lines drew her tawny brows together.

"The police chucked the staff out and taped off the area. They won't let anyone in, so how on earth are we supposed to know what's missing?"

She threw her hands up in the air and rolled her eyes again.

"Why did they confiscate Tony's car?"

As time ticked by, the sun rose higher in the sky, and the growing intensity of its rays prompted him to shrug off his jacket and loosen his tie. The low murmur of cruising automobiles on the busy main street fronting the quiet cul-de-sac ebbed and flowed.

"The officer said it was because they found cocaine on the premises, which is preposterous. I mean, cocaine of all things. Tony was a--"

She bit her lower lip and studied the asphalt road with a fierce concentration, and her flesh pinkened.

Everywhere.

Tonight, he promised himself, tonight.

Soaring hope and a building sexual fever drove his thoughts. Tony was a what? Did she know how despicable her husband had been? The disgust in her tone didn't portray a woman grieving. No, it pointed to a betrayed wife.

"Those cops are coming our way." He cupped her elbow and urged her in the opposite direction. "I have my rental car with me. Let's get out of here. I'd prefer to speak with my lawyers first if the cops are going to interrogate us. And I definitely don't want them taking you into custody."

She glanced around his shoulder at the line of uniformed men bearing their way.

"Dad's lawyer did say I should leave immediately, and I have to get those damned crystal holders. You're right. We should go."

Within the space of a couple of minutes, Jake edged the car onto the roadway, but the snarling, perpetual Port of Spain traffic made their getaway more of a creeping escape. In the rearview mirror, he kept an eye on the cops, and the tension in his neck seeped away when they made no attempt at following them.

During the course of doing business in the Caribbean over the last few months, he'd heard endless horror tales of illegal detentions and powerless embassies. He had enough trouble with Tony's embezzlement charges in Florida, the last thing he wanted to contend with--was drug charges in Trinidad. He added another possible crime to his dead partner's slate, drug trafficking, and wondered anew at his own gullibility.

"Jake?"

He swept a glance at her, and the sweet entreaty in those liquid pools of honey arrested his mind and put another impudent organ in charge. Steady, settle down, he urged his prick.

"Tee?" he replied, his brain searching for a secluded, intimate location they could be together, maybe have lunch.

"Would you mind taking me for the hibiscus crystal holders? The police said it would be two days at the earliest before they'd let anyone in the office, so you won't be able to work anyway."

Her telltale nervous habit of touching the tip of her delicate pink tongue to the left corner of her mouth distracted him, and memories of their kiss kept all logical thought hostage. He'd have agreed to anything at that moment.

"Sure."

His cock thanked her with jerks and twitches, and Jake shifted in the car seat, adjusting.

"Which way are we headed?"

"To the yacht club. It's at the western tip of the island. You know how to get to the Foreshore Highway. Just head in that direction, and we'll end up there."

Flicking on the left indicator to follow her directions, he said, "Now, explain to me what we're retrieving and why."

"It's my mother. When Tricia entertains, everything has to be perfect. It's her damned finishing school training."

"I seem to remember her saying you followed in her footsteps?"

Jake grinned at her rueful expression, so entranced by the curve of her cheek and the long, tanned legs displayed by her short dress, that a wash of unrestrained sentimentality tempered by a powerful lust, threatened his normal discipline. He ordered his prick to behave, hang for an hour or two, and kept his eyes fixed on the road.

"Tricia would boast about that. Well, she went because she wanted to. I went because it was the only way she'd agree to let me go to equestrian college in Vermont."

He loved the endearing way she crinkled her nose, and he relaxed, content to listen to the sound of Tee's melodious voice, with that clipped little British edge, and enjoy her company.

"I don't suppose you know this, and I'm certain it'll bore you to Hades, but hibiscus flowers close at night. The only way to make them stay open is to pick them early in the morning while they're in full bloom. Then you put them into a sealed bag in the fridge until after dusk. The crystal containers Tricia wants have a bulb at the tip for water. Just before her guests arrive, she'll set the flowers into the chilled hibiscus holders and scatter them on her formal dining table. Most foreigners don't know this technique, and it's my mother's best kept secret for impressive entertaining. She likes to hear her audience ooh and aah."

Their worlds stood more than hemispheres, even polar poles, apart, and her resigned explanation emphasized the yawning gap between them. Jake, the product of an upstate New York orphanage run by retired Catholic priests, and Tee, the daughter of aristocratic British parents whose lineage traced to William the Conqueror.

"I see," he said, unimpressed. "I've heard some of the men at the Union Club talk about down the islands. What does the term mean? Trinidad is, after all, an island. Does it refer to the sister isle, Tobago?"

They passed the impressive national sports stadium; it put any regular US sports arena to shame. Trinidad, referred to as the Hong Kong of the Caribbean, invested its surplus oil revenues in structures designed to impress the rest of the world, and its national team had made it to the World Cup soccer finals, a feat both envied and celebrated by the rest of the islands making up the archipelago.

The inside of the vehicle cooled, and Jake stabbed a button to set the current temperature. Inside a cool seventy degrees, the outside digital readout glowed ninety-two.

"Not at all. Trinidad was once part of South America, actually part of Venezuela. Most experts think a plate shift caused it to break off from the continent. When that happened several small islands formed between the two countries, and that's what we call Down the Islands," she said, her fingers forming quotation marks around the phrase. "Um, some families have homes on the islands. Vacation homes."

A rosy hue warmed her skin, and she averted her eyes. Jake interpreted her silence to mean members of the old-moneyed upper class of Trinidad and Tobago owned these vacation homes. No plebes in this neighborhood.

"It's actually wonderful. I spent most of my childhood either on a boat or a horse. Being down the islands is like having your own tropical paradise. Dad and I used to go down every Saturday and fish, either trolling for deepwater big catch or banking for smaller snapper. Fishing is so relaxing."

Total shock had his foot tapping on the brake, and the car jerked in response. The last activity he ever imagined Tee enjoying and participating in was fishing. It didn't go with his image of her, a vulnerable feminine puzzle, always dressed to perfection, managing to captivate and charm in a delicate way.

"You fish?"

"Yep," she said, and genuine pleasure at his shock glistened from those wonderful eyes with their golden shimmer.

His fingers tightened around the steering wheel, and he strained to contain the delight the sheer sight of her impishness wrought.

"I much prefer deep water, though. I like a good fight."

He couldn't prevent the words. "I know you're an expert equestrian, but fishing?"

"I can clean, gut, and scale a fish faster than anyone I know."

His eyes flew to her, and the picture her words painted surprised a chortle out of him.

"Shocked you there, didn't I?"

A little devil lit her face, and she scrunched her nose.

"Unlike the image my family likes to present of me, I've been riding since I was six and began taking care of my own horses by myself"--she emphasized the last two words--"since I was ten. I de-tick manes, ears, and parts of a stallion most people would rather not mention. I learned how to shoe a horse before I was a teenager. I am not a simpering female, even if I did go to damned finishing school."

She folded her arms under those luscious breasts and glowered at him.

He held up a hand. "Hey, have I said a word?"

"Oh, please. You should have seen the look on your face. Fishing and de-ticking were the last activities you ever thought me capable of."

"Tee, I like you exactly the way you are, de-ticking and all," he said, smiling like an adolescent teenager thrilled to have his biggest crush opening up to him.

Her reaction set his heart into a wild staccato and his prick into a happy stretching. She blushed, ducked her chin, and peeped up at him, those saucer big browns entrancing and wide with shy innocence.

"Oh." Color skittered across her skin, and she twiddled her thumbs, one circling the other.

Silence fell.

He shot her quick surreptitious cuts, wondering what troubled her, as the miles flew past and the road hugged a ragged coastline. The quiet lengthened, broken only by the hum of the radio playing steel band music and the odd calypso.

A pensive shadow accentuated the bleak, taut line of her mouth, as if self-disgust haunted her thoughts. The urge to hold and comfort threatened to overwhelm his good intentions, and he sought refuge in banal conversation.

"I've never been to this part of the island."

She jerked her gaze away from the lush, forested landscape on the passenger side.

"This used to be an American military base. Over there is the old headquarters, and opposite it is a helicopter pad. During the Second World War, Trinidad became an important refueling location for submarines. Since the island's never been hit by a hurricane, it was also a safe harbor for warships."

"I didn't know that. I always think of Trinidad as British."

"It is, or was, British for a long time. Columbus discovered it and claimed it for Spain, of course, in 1498. He saw the three mountain ranges from the sea and called it La Trinitaria, for the Trinity."

"You're very proud of the island, aren't you?"

"Yes and no. There's an underside to Trinidad society you haven't seen, and it's not pretty."

She pointed to the right.

"Turn here, Jake. This is it." She added, "Am I wrong, or weren't you supposed to come in on Wednesday?"

"You're right," he said. "I had a few cancellations and decided to come earlier. Is my timing inconvenient?"

"Of course not. I don't have your hectic schedule."

"Why do you say it like that?" he asked, surprised by the intent, self-directed scorn in her voice.

"Nothing." She gestured to the left. "Pull in over there. I haven't been here in ages."

"Why not?"

Her lips flattened, and she shrugged.

He clued in.

"Is this where Tony kept his racing boat?"

She snorted. "It was usually in the water. He kept it at the family home on the island."

Turning the vehicle into a wooden stall with a galvanized roof, Jake kept his foot on the accelerator until the SUV's front bumper paralleled a metal railing. He switched off the engine. Tee had the car door open before he could turn his head, and she hopped out and stuck her head through the narrow opening.

"The club house is down that path," she said, pointing at a crazy-angled, geometric structure fronted by a long, curved pier. "Why don't you change into shorts and sneakers if you have any?" Her eyes angled at his feet. "Oh, you're wearing Timberlands. Those will do fine. I'll get the boat into the water."

She marched in the direction indicated, and Jake nabbed his carry-on from the backseat. Used to being in charge, the one issuing instructions, her commands set his teeth on edge. He caught up with her in quick order, although she seemed oblivious to the squeaking of the carry-on's wheels.

Greeting wizened men in trunks and T-shirts as she walked, Tee ignored his presence. Jake kept a tich behind her along a path leading to a wall of tinted sliding glass doors forming the entrance to the black-and-white-marble-tiled clubhouse.

The eleven o'clock sun lit the surroundings a dazzling white. He squinted as she sprinted to the left, away from him, and he followed her lithe, graceful limbs as she hopped down from the jetty onto a rocky beach, picking her way to an enormous trailer.

This new efficient edge of Tee disturbed and fractured his long-deliberated plans, but it also rocketed his desire skyward. Seduction seemed so much easier if he could protect her and build a fortress for the two of them. Yet the fierce determination evident in her every line, her taut posture, when she flung those gutting and cleaning words sent a shiver of pride through him. Amazon warrior incarnate indeed.

The interior of the clubhouse matched the futuristic exterior; sleek, clean lines with a magnificent mirrored bar to the right of a stainless-steel reception area devoid of a single hint of warmth. A swift survey revealed not a person in sight, and, on the left, Jake spotted a sign for the men's lockers.

While changing, he realigned his strategies with this new Tee opportunity. A quick mental rundown didn't result in any definite ideas, but, with the briefest hesitation, Jake decided to go for it, get inside her as often as she'd let him, starting today.

After stowing the carry-on in a locker and pocketing the key, he strode to the still-empty lobby and rocked on his heels. Thrown into a sudden chaotic eruption of fierce lust by the thought of Tee in a bikini, graphic fantasies blurred his vision.

Low-rise?

Halter top?

Thong?

He closed his eyes and prayed.

Images burned his pupils: little triangles covering pert nipples, wide expanses of bare flesh, those long legs curving into slim hips, her saucy rump so meant for a man's palms, his palms. A thin coat of moisture coated them, and they itched with intent.

"You're ready."

Her words and a waft of rosy perfume broke his train of thought. Lids flickering up, he concentrated on taming the rampant erection scraping against his denim shorts.

"Good. Nice bathing suit. Do all Americans sport red, white, and blue clothing?"

Caught off guard, Jake checked his attire, having pulled on the first pair of shorts he'd found. Sure enough, it was something left over from a Fourth of July sale. An internal groan shuddered through him, and his cheeks warmed in embarrassment until he caught her checking out his rear, those amazing amber eyes sliding a notch to the side. When her face flamed, all awkwardness dissipated.

A staggering macho arrogance drove his movements. Jake leaned in, cupped the back of Tee's head with his palm, swirled his fingers in her silken hair, dipped his mouth, and tasted her honey.

Home, he'd found home.

Tasting Tee consumed every rational thought, focused all his devouring urges, and he drowned in her sugar, an addict's fix, a junkie's craving.

"Well, well. Tallulah Inglefield."

The loud, derisive bark penetrated Jake's foggy brain, and he lifted his head with great reluctance.

"Not quite the ice princess you like to pretend. Wait till the others hear about this!"

A surgically enhanced buxom female, clad in a thong-style bathing suit and a nipple-bearing top, silhouetted the club's doorway. Jake gritted his teeth, recognizing the female as one Graziella Leandro, Tony's sometime paramour.

Timing proved everything in life.

"Jake Mathews. Words fail me. Mister high-and-mighty moral know-it-all. I wish Tony was alive to see this."

The blonde sneered and waved red-taloned fingers in a disdainful, accusing gesture at their intimate embrace.

When Tee tried to turn around, Jake tightened his arms and whispered for her ears only, "Don't. Let me handle it. Okay?"

He raked the bimbo from head to toe and said, "If you know what's good for you, Graziella, you'll keep your trap shut. One word, one word, about Tee, and you'll have to deal with me. I can make things very uncomfortable for you."

The threat made Tee stiffen, and he felt her shudder, and knew he'd have a helluva a time explaining his remark. But, he didn't allow her a fraction of movement, kept her plastered to him, and relished every second of the intimate contact.

The bimbo snorted, did an about-face, and vanished.

Tee shoved her palms against his chest.

"How do you know her?"

"I'll explain later. Is the boat in the water?" He took a step back. "Are we ready?"

"Yes," she replied and shot him a speculative look. "This way."

Dead quiet commanded their every interaction until they'd been travelling in the luxurious fishing cruiser for twenty minutes. Every second clocking by drew out the explosive sexual strain hovering between them, sluicing away the splendor of the navy Caribbean Sea, Trinidad's rugged coastline, and the remarkable scenery flying past. Tee commanded the boat with the lazy expertise of long years spent at the helm.

For the millionth time, he wondered if she'd collaborated with Tony, if the two of them set out to swindle him. He didn't trust his judgment as far as Tee went, his craving for her too potent, too raw, too primitive.

And there was the blasted secretive aspect of her character and the guilt that decorated her face on so many occasions. Then again, maybe his suspicious nature had gone into overdrive because of this desperate need to possess her, this never-before-felt protectiveness.

Perhaps the whole thing came back to the contrasts in her makeup, the endearing vulnerability as opposed to her strong, long-limbed, athletic body, her domain over two-ton stallions versus her subjugation to her mother's every whim. Jesus. He tugged on an earlobe. Tee did things to him no other woman ever had, and he didn't like it, not one bit. No one controlled him.

The wide expanse of ocean narrowed as they approached a steep-mountained island decorated with hordes of picturesque bays and vacation homes, which beggared the mind when contemplating the main mansions of the owners.

He cut to Tee standing behind the wheel, hands manipulating the throttle, and he succumbed to the mindless fantasy of her commanding his throttle, her delicate tongue licking his engine. A shudder wrung through him.

Reality intruded as the roar of the boat's twin props gentled to a hum and the vessel seemed to halt, although it still moved at a clip. The sight before him took his breath away.

A tranquil, horseshoe-shaped bay centered the landscape in front of the cruiser, which lapped and danced over waves created by their earlier speed. Verdant steep inclines drew to a peak as azure sky and emerald mountain collided in an astonishing sparkle where flowering trees shot shimmering gold.

"This is Balmoral Bay," Tee said, staring straight ahead at a house situated in the precise middle of the bay, a charming Indian-red and white structure with a huge wraparound porch and a long, extensive pier jutting out from the rightmost end.

"This is our Down the Islands home," she said, and the defensive bleakness in her voice had him off-kilter for long moments. "I used to love this place, until he took it over."

"Jesus, Tee. Don't do this. Look at me."

Frustration laced his growled entreaty, and it came out as a command.

When she didn't even twist his way, disappointment morphed into desperation, and he hugged her from behind, edging around to see her face.

"What are you angry at? The comment I made to Graziella? The fact I kissed you? What? I can't read your mind, and it's damned frustrating to sift through the clues. Look," he said and drew back, cupping her face with one hand. "I've wanted you from the first time I saw you at that British Embassy cocktail thing. If you didn't know it before, you must have realized it last week when we kissed."

He searched her features and tried to discern the emotions flickering as her eyes widened, pupils dilating and darkening in shocked delight. Her tongue gravitated to the left corner of that sexy mouth, and fear and something else cast those big browns away from him. She wet her lips, and the small movement left him bereft, yawning with need.

"The dolphins are coming in."

Her soft words soothed an inferno raging inside of him, and she shifted in his arms, her expression a peculiar mix of hope and despair.

"Over there, Jake. See the splashing. Every day, a school of dolphins swim into this bay. As a teenager, I'd swim out an hour before they were due and paddle water, waiting. It's the most marvelous, magical feeling in the world when they accept you and trust you not to harm them. Instead of avoiding you, they swim to you. Dolphins are so curious. Alain, one of our friends, he made us stay still until they started bumping us with their noses, inviting a response. To this day, it takes only about three days of swimming out, and we're back to the same childhood pattern. Trust."

Her anguished café latte eyes met his, and she whispered, "I don't think I could ever trust another human being again, not after Tony."

* * * *

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