But the closer she got the less he felt like talking.
As she stopped in front
of him, he reached out and ran a finger down her cheek. She was achingly
beautiful, especially her eyes. They were a spectacular blue, a shade
that perfectly complemented the auburn waves that fell past her shoulders.
He wanted her. No, he needed her.
Her smile deepened, as if she knew what he was thinking, and she tilted
her head back. Staring at her upturned mouth, at her parted lips, a wave
of urgency shot through his body. Giving in to the hunger, he put his
hands on her shoulders and pulled her close, wanting to take what she
was offering quickly before she disappeared again.
Bending down, he felt anticipation and something else, something that
made his heart pound with more than lust.
Jack Walker’s eyes flipped open. Caught up in the raging hunger,
he wasn’t sure whether he was truly awake. Or where the hell he
was. He knew the bed wasn’t his own, but not much else.
He looked around at the shapes in the room. After a few deep breaths,
the patterns made sense to him. He was at the Plaza Hotel in New York,
in the suite he always used when he was in town.
And the woman he still wanted so badly it hurt had disappeared into thin
He stared up at the ornate ceiling in frustration. He hadn’t slept
well the last two nights and he needed some sustained shut-eye soon. He
didn’t have much patience to begin with and lack of sleep wasn’t
getting him any closer to Mother Theresa territory.
The dream was driving him crazy.
Every time it was the same. Just as he was about to kiss her, right before
he knew what she would taste like, he’d wake up slick with sweat
and in a hellacious mood.
Jack pushed a hand through his hair. Without a suitable target for his
frustration, he seethed in the darkness.
He’d only met the woman once and he hadn’t thought she’d
made that big an impression on him.
Restless, he had to fight his way out of the sheets that had gotten tangled
around his naked body. When he was finally free, he walked over to a bank
of windows and looked outside. The view was characteristically New York.
Skyscrapers reaching toward the heavens, taillights flashing in a maze
of asphalt down below. It was late at night, but the city was still hopping.
A couple of days before, he’d come down from Boston expecting to
meet with his college roommate, who was now a top-notch political consultant,
and to buy back a family painting. Picking up a subconscious sexual obsession
had sure as hell not been on his itinerary.
But at least the meeting had gone well. And he’d gotten the portrait.
Although if it hadn’t been for that painting, he probably never
would have met that redheaded woman. He’d gone to preview the piece
at the Hall Foundation before the auction, expecting to quickly verify
it was in reasonable shape and move along. He’d done the former,
but in the process had met the art conservationist who kept waking him
up in the middle of the night.
He’d first seen her as she’d been backing out of an office.
She’d turned around, her deep red hair swinging over her shoulders,
and their eyes had locked. He’d been intrigued, as any man would
have been, but it wasn’t like she’d struck him dumb with her
His old friend, Grace Woodward Hall, president of the Foundation, had
introduced them. The woman, Callie Burke, was an art conservationist and
on a whim, he’d invited her to come with them to view the painting.
Standing over the canvas, he’d been struck by her thorough commentary
on the condition of the painting and her assessment of what needed to
be done to properly care for it. He’d also liked the way she looked
at portrait. Her eyes had clung to his ancestor’s face, as if she
were utterly entranced. When he’d asked if she might like to conserve
the work, though, she had seemed interested and they’d gone their
separate ways. At least until his head had hit the pillow that night.
He’d laughed off the dream at first, pleased to find that at the
age of thirty-eight his sex drive was as high as it had always been. With
each passing night, however, he lost more of his sense of humor.
He’d decided the one saving grace was that they’d never meet
again, so eventually he’d forget about her.
But then last evening, after his successful bid at the auction, his friend
Grace had brought up the woman again. Grace had urged him to follow up
with this Callie Burke, stopping just short of asking him to do it as
a personal favor to her. Evidently, Grace felt confident that Ms. Burke
could do the work and pushed him to look into the conservationist’s
background so he’d know just how talented she was. By the end of
the evening, he’d agreed to play along though he still had no idea
why it was so important to his friend.
Looking out over the city, he figured he’d check into the conservationist’s
background tomorrow and then he’d go find her and ask her again.
He wasn’t much for giving people second chances, but maybe now was
a good time to give it a try. He had to admit he’d been rather touched
by Grace’s ardent support of the woman.
And the dreams? He wasn’t going to worry about them. Hell, he didn’t
even like redheads.
He turned to the bed and looked at the dark shape of Blair Stanford. His
“Sorry I woke you,” he said as she sat up on her elbows.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m all right.”
She reached a hand out to him. “Come back to bed.”
Jack slid between the sheets and felt Blair put her arms around him.
“You’re tense,” she said softly, stroking his chest.
He wove his fingers through hers. “Go back to sleep.”
“Is there something wrong?” she murmured. “You’ve
been tossing and turning every night for the past few days.”
“There’s nothing to worry about.”
He stroked her forearm, trying to get her to relax, but she propped her
head up on her hand.
“Jack, we know each other too well for secrets.”
“True. But who says I’m hiding anything?” He smiled
at how her short, blond hair was sticking out at right angles. He reached
up and smoothed the sides down, thinking she wouldn't have stood for that
kind of disorder if she'd been aware of it. Even in the middle of the
Blair stared down into his face for a long time. “Are you rethinking
“What makes you say that?”
She hesitated. “I was very surprised when you asked me to marry
you and we haven’t really talked about it since.”
“We’ve both been busy. That doesn’t mean I’m having
What he really wanted to say was that she should know by now that he didn’t
do “second thoughts.” Having made the decision that it was
time to get married, and having found a woman he wanted to be his wife,
he had everything arranged.
“It’s just that…” Blair shrugged. “I didn’t
think we’d ever take this step. I keep wondering when I’m
going to wake up from the dream.”
He touched her shoulder, feeling the tension in her. “Where’s
all this coming from?”
“I never thought you were the kind of man who’d settle down.
There were a lot of women before me.”
“Come on, you know the stories of my love life are vastly overblown.”
“Maybe so but there was plenty to go on. And it’s not just
the women. You’re a traveler.”
Jack laughed and thought of his twin brother. “Now you’re
talking about Nate. He’s been around the world how many times? Four,
“That’s not what I mean and you know it. You’ve always
He thought about the odd mix of blood in his veins, the DNA of WASP aristocracy
and Portuguese fishermen combined. She was probably right, though he’d
never thought about it before. He did have a seaman’s need for freedom,
just like his brother, but he’d tempered the drive with his strong
will and a healthy dose of avarice.
“Well, restless or not, I’m staying with you,” he told
He heard her sigh in the dark. “I just want you to be sure.”
“You know how I feel about you.”
“You don’t love me, Jack.”
The quiet words hit him hard. He opened his mouth, not sure what he was
going to say, but she put a slender fingertip on his lips.
“It’s okay,” she whispered. “I’ve always
He grabbed her hand and kissed it, wishing he could tell her otherwise.
There were so many things about her that he liked and respected. She was
a business success in her own right, running a thriving interior decorating
company. She had fantastic style and grace. And she was both caring and
understanding, two things he was going to have to rely on in the upcoming
twelve months. In all likelihood, he was going to run for governor of
the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and he knew she would handle the stress
of his candidacy with the same calm confidence with which she managed
He valued her. He enjoyed having her in his life. The fact that he didn't
love her was the only thing missing, but he didn't consider it a problem.
That particular kind of passion just wasn't something he had in him. For
“So maybe the question is more, why are you marrying me?”
“Because I love you and I think we make a good team.”
“We are a great team.”
“So talk to me. What’s wrong?”
He shook his head resolutely, not about to tell her he was dreaming of
some other woman. “Blair, trust me. There's nothing going on that
you need to be worried about.”
“Okay, okay.” She ran a soothing hand over his shoulder; it
was something she did a lot. She had a way of handling him that he liked.
Calming, but not patronizing. “But I hope you’ll tell me at
some point. I prefer to know bad news sooner rather than later.”
She lay down and gradually relaxed against him, her breaths becoming deep
Jack stared at the ceiling as she slept in his arms. When he finally closed
his eyes, visions of the redhead drifted back into his mind.
It was just a dream, he told himself. The images, the sensations, had
more to do with his libido than some woman he’d met for how long?
Besides, he’d always preferred blonds and he had a loving, wonderful
one right here in his arms. He was a man with a plan and nothing was going
to change the course of his life.