Shopping Cart
Your Cart is Empty
There was an error with PayPalClick here to try again
CelebrateThank you for your business!You should be receiving an order confirmation from Paypal shortly.Exit Shopping Cart

Dragonetti's Mountain

by Sophia Roslyn

Chapter One

All Madigan Dragonetti wanted was a shower—a nice, warm shower without the cracked bathroom tiles or hot and cold running cockroaches of some old run-down truck stop. She wanted a bed that didn't have wheels under it. She wanted to stretch out naked on a soft, king-sized mattress, while sandwiched between clean, crisp, thousand-count Egyptian-cotton sheets. She wanted to sleep, undisturbed, for at least twenty-four hours.

After a solid week and over three thousand miles under her belt, she was exhausted down to the roots of her hair. She was sure her lungs were overdosing on the fumes of diesel fuel. What was I thinking? I'm not set up for trips like this. Thumping her fists against the oversized steering wheel, she reminded herself one more time: I'm the boss; I hire guys to do this. Day trips and overnight trips were fine when she was short a driver, but not for a whole week. Hey, I don't need to justify myself to anyone. Pounding the unforgiving steering wheel again just made her hands ache, which only added to her crankiness.

It was Friday night, and it was late. She'd fought her way north from Jersey, over the Tappan Zee Bridge, through the bumper-to-bumper summer tourist traffic that took forever to crawl forward just a truck-length at a time. Her left calf was cramping from the constant start-and-stop use of the clutch pedal. The twinge in her right calf was getting worse from easing her foot down on the broad brake pedal again and again. She was convinced that small cars with suicidal tendencies came from nowhere for the sole purpose of cutting in front of the Peterbilt. One more time, and I swear to all the gods that I'll turn you people into lumpy speed bumps.

It felt like an eternity as she crept along the interstate with the tourists—in their minivans sporting bicycle racks, in their over-stuffed campers, and in their giant RVs with econo-cars hitched behind them—exposed to eardrum-blasting car radios.

A sign caught her eye. "Next Exit One Mile." Thank God. Breaking away from the summer rat pack, she eased her way off the ramp and threaded her way through town. Reaching the truck yard, she unhooked and dropped the empty trailer at the back row along the fence. Too tired to drag her gear out of the truck's bunk and load it into her Dakota, she decided to bobtail home in the tractor.

Away from the bright lights of the major thoroughfares and with no moon, the Peterbilt's headlight beams barely sliced through the Stygian darkness of the backwoods country road. Now she was feeling silly for not swapping her gear and leaving the tractor at the yard. What was I thinking? Okay, fine, I'm exhausted, I admit it, maybe not my best choice. That added to her level of annoyance. Then again, no one's waiting at the ol' homestead, so who the hell cares if I bring the big truck home?

Only Lonan Brennigan, her nearest—and only—neighbor, a retired NYC cop, had been spending time at the lodge. Not that she was complaining. He was good company—but not that sorta company, not the sexy, romp-in-the-hay, can't-wait-to-shag-you-when-you-get-home kind. Her longing for that sorta company was responsible for her ill-fated foray into computer dating, with its seemingly endless list of online liars and idiots jacked up on testosterone and ego. That situation didn't cheer her up either, and the bitchy inner monologue was not helping her frame of mind.

Hallelujah! The sight of the familiar white marker post was a welcoming beacon to her dull brain. A green wooden sign with graceful gold script—Dragonetti's Mountain Lodge—was illuminated from the ground by a single floodlight. Smoothly downshifting into second gear, she eased the long-nosed Peterbilt around the marker post, then continued along the gravel road for another mile. Maybe I'll just park it in the driveway, and worry about it tomorrow. Fiddle-dee-dee, it worked for Scarlet O'Hara.

Emerging from the gloom, the tractor reached the lighted edge of a wide, circular driveway that could easily park a dozen vehicles—and nearly flattened a sky blue Mercedes Benz SLK-350 Roadster.

"Jeez-us H. Kee-rist in a freakin' sidecar!" Body reacting before brain, she grabbed the steering wheel with both hands for leverage and stood on the clutch and brake pedals simultaneously. Brakes chirped and hissed, ten tires dug into gravel, dust clouds churned . . . and the Peterbilt shuddered to a stop, coming to rest not two yards from the Benz.

Throwing the gearshift into neutral, she popped the big yellow knob on the instrument panel to set the parking brakes, and then hit the switch for the high beams. High-end vehicles were scattered everywhere. There was no way for her to reach the equipment shed so she could park the tractor. People, I am too freakin' tired for this.

Shutting the truck down, she concentrated on breathing slowly and deeply to gain control of her pulse, which was still hammering from the near miss. The driver's window slid down at the touch of a chrome switch on the inside door panel. With the truck silent except for the creaking and pinging of metal cooling, discordant party sounds filled the void. What the hell?

Power window back up, she climbed down from the cab. From force of habit, she locked the doors and pocketed the keys.

Somewhat calmer but still agitated, she strode toward the back side of the sprawling, two-story log dwelling with its massive verandas and balconies, weaving through glassy-eyed people who didn't seem to notice her presence.

As she came around an immense rhododendron bush, a short, wide man with a gaudy flowered shirt, a gold medallion around his pudgy neck, wire-rimmed glasses, and a shiny shaved head lurched into her. Most of his fruity-smelling drink—and the crushed ice—splashed down her front.

"Jeez-us . . . look out!" She yipped as she jumped back.

The man ogled her wet shirt with a leering grin and pointed his finger like he intended to investigate the damage.

"Fella, if you value that hand as much as you value your balls, don't even think about it!" There was no hint of forgiveness in her tone.

Baldy was just sober enough to heed the warning. He nodded crookedly and wobbled away on unsteady legs.

Now soggy and sticky in addition to being jacked up from A Close Encounter of the Mercedes Kind, she continued around to the back of the building. She stopped dead in her tracks at the spectacle. Okay, now what the fuck . . . ?

Two huge, green- and white-striped, open-sided party tents were set up behind the rear gardens. Under the tents, an array of food and endless bottles of liquor covered several long trestle tables. Harried servers attempted to wrestle mounting piles of party debris under some semblance of control.

Trendy people with trendy drinks in hand wandered around in various stages of intoxication. A DJ with spiked blue and red hair blasted annoying, ear-splitting, hip-hop tunes from beneath the second tent. Temporary board flooring flattened the once lush lawn for those pretending they could still maintain their equilibrium.

Long strings of round, multi-colored party bulbs hung from the railings of the second story balcony to each tent. The resulting brash lighting caused the vintage stained-glass window insets of the lodge to look like gaudy carnival lights in the reflections.

Shaking her head, she continued to the back of the lodge. Tucked into a corner of the massive veranda, five elderly gents bellied up to a round wooden table. They appeared to be ignoring the hubbub and concentrating on their card game. The wide, rustic chandelier lit the tabletop and the card players well enough, but left the periphery somewhat in shadow.

Tiptoeing up a short run of wide wooden steps, she snuck up behind the men, the cacophony from the dance tent overriding all other sounds. Pulling a worn and folded baseball cap from the back pocket of her jeans, she chose a target and took aim. Whack! She caught a white-haired geezer in the back of the head.

The old man leaped to his feet. His chair tipped backward, and his beer bottle sailed into his neighbor's lap with a great cascade of yeasty foam. "What in bloody blue blazes . . . ?" he yelled.

Grey and silver heads snapped around as the men shouted and kicked back from the table.

"I leave you in charge and this is what I find? What the hell is goin' on?" she demanded. "Did you turn the place into a freakin' casino while I was gone? As grounds security, you're bloody well fired!"

Hands on hips, she leveled a scowl at the old man's beer-swilling cronies as they tried to focus old eyes on her. "As for the rest of the Over-the-Hill Gang, you aren't much help either, are ya?"

Lonan Brennigan rubbed the back of his head. "Calm down, lass." The Irish brogue was marked. "Don't git yer feathers all ruffled. I asked ya all nice and proper about me nephew usin' the place for the weekend, didn't I? Just before ya took Danny's trips when his little wife had them twins early. Truly, am I right?"

Folding thick, muscular arms across his barrel chest, Lonnie scowled and assumed the posture of the injured party. "Anyways, ya can't fire slaves."

She blinked at him. Her cheeks warmed a bit as comprehension dawned, and the nervous energy drained to her toes. "This weekend? Damn." She stuck her hands in her front pockets. "Guess the date kinda-sorta snuck up on me."

Lonnie sighed in relief. Absolved of a potential transgression, he nevertheless continued with his "I've been wronged" look.

The old man resembled a pissed-off cat caught out in the rain, but she kept that observation to herself. "I thought your nephew was just having a friend or two over. Jeez Lou-eeze, there's a herd of high-dollar rides camped all over everywhere."

Lonnie made a rude noise. "That was the original deal and no mistake." He peered at her more closely. "Yer shirt is wet."

"Let's not even go there," she grumbled. "I suppose no one bothered to ask if it was all right with the owner to move in the heavy party equipment and throw this little shindig. The back lawn is never going to be the same."

"Ah no, 'tis the truth you be sayin'. I knew about it yesterday mornin' when the first o' them delivery trucks arrived with the big tents, then the rest of the lads started to show up. I figgered what the hell, the tents might keep the riff-raff outa the lodge. They even dragged in a couple o' them portable terlets, big things, wheelchair ramps, and all. Can you imagine? Never saw such a high-class deal just for folks to drop their drawers to take a . . . ."

Madigan smacked Lonnie's arm with her hat before he could complete his observations. "Behave yourself." Twisting her hair into a makeshift chignon, she tucked it under the baseball cap as she settled it on her head. "However, since the facilities are handy . . . . I'll be back in a jiffy."

Emerging from the green fiberglass cubicle a few minutes later, she returned to the card table. "Wow, even running water." She blotted her wet shirt with a handful of paper towels. "Who are all these people?"

"I have no earthly idea."

Her body absolutely ached with fatigue, and she dropped into the chair the old man had so unceremoniously vacated. When Lonnie's poker buddies offered to rustle up food and drink, she nodded. They moved in perfect synchronization and scattered—safely out of the line of fire should she start swatting heads again.

She was too tired to be bothered by the party crowd. Settling her dusty, beat-up boots on the next seat, she folded her hands on her lap and closed her eyes while the elderly and fairly decrepit Wild Bunch hunted up some vittles.

High-pitched caterwauling shattered Madigan's very brief reverie. Her eyes flew open, and her boot heels hit the floor. Cripes, now what? She leveled a questioning look at Lonnie, who was shaking his head with a disgusted expression on his face.

"Mother Mary and all the saints," he sighed, "we're in for it now."

A petite harpy with perfect, salon-streaked blonde hair, who looked like she'd been poured into a very expensive lavender sequined cocktail dress that didn't cover much of anything, came toward them. Purple stiletto heels beat a quick tattoo on the wood-planked floor as she bore down on the old man.

"Mister Brennigan! Mister Brennigan! There is a great, huge, ugly ve-hi-cle out there"—she waved one arm wildly in the general direction of the driveway—"that nearly smashed my new car! I can't believe how close it came, and now there's dust all over it! Do you know what it is? Do you? It's a Mercedes Roadster, and now it's covered with dust! Dust! All over my beautiful new car! And the big brute is like blocking everything! Where's the idiot who parked it? This is like a private party. That . . . thing . . . must be moved . . . like right now!"

Lonnie looked up as if beseeching heaven for help. Any guardian angels in the area also heard the harpy's approach and winged away at warp speed, abandoning the old man to his fate.

"Here now, missy, that would be Mad Dog's own rig." Lonnie flinched after he said the words, but it was too late to take them back. He knew he'd pay for the nickname.

"Well, Mister Brennigan, like find this Mad Dog person and make him move that filthy monster immediately so our guests can leave when they choose. This. Is. Not. Acceptable!" Hands on hips, she scrunched her perfectly made-up face like an unhappy Pekingese. "And do it—" She paused to take in a deep breath, then growled, "now!"

A tall man, whose shoulders filled the outline of his navy polo shirt, walked up behind the blonde, hands in the pockets of his khaki slacks, just in time to hear her end of the disagreement.

"You sound like a wailin' banshee. I can hear your screeching over what pretends to be music. I'm sure Uncle Lonnie has whatever it is under control, so there's no need to carry on." His voice was deep, resonant.

With a heavy sigh, Madigan rose. She removed her hat and used it to dust-slap her faded black jeans. Her short-sleeved, black Henley shirt—the front still somewhat damp—sported the same logo as her hat, a dragon embroidered in gold thread. When the hat came off, her long coils of wavy hair—the color of roasted coffee, most people said—unwound and tumbled down her shoulders and back.

The man stared. The harpy glared. Lonnie shook his head.

"I am Madigan Dragonetti," she said, addressing the tall man and ignoring the blonde. Straightening up to her full, lean height, she hooked a free thumb in her front pocket and pointed with the hat in her other hand. "That's my truck, and over there's my driveway. That's my lawn. This is my house. Well, this is my lodge, actually."

The man finally blinked. "Mad Dog. You're a truck driver."

"Madigan, if you don't mind. Maddie, if you must. Mad Dog, if you wish to join Mr. Brennigan at the top of my I shall make you suffer for this later list." Her eyes met his dead on, and neither she nor he flinched. The short hairs stood straight up at the back of her neck. "Yes, that's my truck, so I guess that makes me a truck driver. A transportation specialist. And you are . . . ?"

The blonde looked as if she was working on a retort—her face scrunched up again. Tension radiated from her body posture.

The tall man stepped around the blonde; in the brighter light, Madigan saw his awesome turquoise eyes. He offered Madigan his hand. After a scant moment's hesitation, she shook it, her strong, confident clasp matching his. Zap!Whoa, what was that? Electric. His hand was warm, dry, and slightly calloused, and her skin tingled where he touched her. Actually, other body parts immediately tingled as well. Damn.

"Conan Brennigan. This old reprobate is my uncle, and I guess it's my party." When Madigan stared back at him in silence, he added, "For a few friends."

"Uh huh. If these are a few friends," Madigan muttered, "a real party oughta be a hoot." Oh Great. So this is the Boy Wonder who Lonnie is always bragging up. Just what I need tonight—bad music, worse drunks, a testosterone-laden Irishman, and a screeching princess. Oh yeah, definitely right on the top of my shit-to-deal-with list. She gently massaged her left temple with two fingers. And it seems that the pain in my ass is moving to my head.

The old man gave a snort, and the blonde resumed her foot tapping.

Conan continued. "And this is . . . ."

"BranDee Burbridge," the blonde woman snapped. "And that's Bran-Dee with a big 'D' and two little 'ees'."

Madigan choked back a snort. Aw, how cute, big letters and little letters. What had her parents been thinking, that she was a pet? Note to self: never do that to a poor, innocent child.

Madigan wished she could get the spoiled lap-dog image out of her mind, but it was permanently imprinted on her brain cells. Knowing the bimbo's name with the big and little letters just made it worse. Hello, meet our widdle Pookie-Poo—we call her BwanDeeKins, isn't she just the cutest widdle thing?

"I apologize for the confusion," Conan said. "We were under the impression that the owner . . . well, you . . . would be away." He did not stop staring at her.

"Look, it really doesn't matter. If someone will move the Mercedes and whatever else is in my way, I'll pull the tractor into the long barn so you folks can continue with the bacchanalia. All I want is my own shower and my own bed; so the sooner we get this sorted out, the better. I'm beat."

The Pekingese face wrinkled again in annoyance. "Here? You want to sleep here? I thought this old cabin thing was like nearly abandoned, so I like invited a few of my . . . our . . . friends to sleep over. I . . . we . . . have a catered breakfast planned for the morning. I can't just ask everyone to leave; like what would they think? You certainly can't stay here!" BranDee made an even poutier face and glanced at Conan. "I thought this was like our party," she whined.

Conan threw BranDee a sharp glare. "And I thought the two of us were going to talk somewhere away from this unplanned uproar."

BranDee's gaze immediately darted away.

A stray loop of hair drooped over Madigan's left eye as her eyebrow arched into a pre-confrontational pose. She massaged her temple again, and the eyebrow resumed its normal position. Old abandoned cabin—kiss my creamy white ass.

"Well, then, you have a problem. I'm not sleeping in the truck one more night, and there isn't a hotel, motel, stable, kennel, chicken coop, or foxhole anywhere close. My personal quarters were not part of the deal, and I'm right particular about who sleeps in my bed."

Madigan took a two-second breather, then added, "There are ten guest rooms. Double up and play sleepover in Scooby-Doo jammies for all I care. Move the car."

BranDee crossed her spa-tanned arms under her silicone-enhanced bosom. Perched on her strappy Pradas with three-inch heels, she adopted a wide Wonder Woman stance. "And if I don't?"

Madigan again arched her eyebrow. "No problemo. Number one, you're on private property—my private property. I agreed to none of this"—Madigan spread her arms to take in the party scene—"drunken revelry. Number two, the Peterbilt weighs twenty thousand pounds and has a big ol', fully-chromed, twenty-two-inch, boxed-end, Texas-style front bumper." She stopped for a brief moment, considering. "Never mind, let's make that number one." Hands now on hips, Madigan caught BranDee's eye and stared her down. "Move the Mercedes, or I'll move it for ya."

The blonde backed off, eyes to the ground, looking deflated.

"I'm sure we can work this out . . . ." Conan touched Madigan's arm.

Zap! Damn, he needs to quit doing that!

"I am going to work it out—my way. Okay, people, I am so outa here," Madigan growled.

Because she really didn't give a damn whether or not anyone liked her plan, Madigan did her best to ignore the turquoise stare as she turned away. She strode back down the driveway toward the Peterbilt, her posture upright and tense, her hands clenched at her sides. The short hair at her nape prickled again, and her pulse fluttered uncontrollably. She knew, just knew, that his eyes were following her. Knew it, felt it.

Conan sighed and watched her walk away.

Uncle Lonnie and his fellow miscreants grabbed their chairs and resumed their seats to continue the interrupted card game—until, of course, such time as the potential demolition derby began. They dove into the overflowing plate of finger-foods they brought back for Madigan, being of the "waste not, want not" generation.

Conan's eyes continued to track the jeans-clad woman until she disappeared around the hedgerow.

BranDee grabbed his arm with perfectly manicured talons. "Move the damned cars before that crazy bitch wrecks them. Of all the nerve! I don't want to be up all night waiting for Little Miss Truck Driver to get finished." BranDee sniffled, then pouted.

Conan looked at her. "You might consider being just a bit more reasonable. This is Ms. Dragonetti's home, and all of this"—he waved his arm to take in the tents and other accoutrements—"was not on the original agenda . . . which we have yet to discuss."

BranDee pursed her Botoxed Betty Boop lips. "I need to find Todd," she muttered, spun on her heels, and marched back toward the revelers.

Conan ignored her departure. He listened to the Peterbilt's diesel-fed Caterpillar turn over. The motor caught, sputtered for an instant, and then slipped into a smooth idle. He watched the marker lights glow softly in the gathering mist as the black beast sat there. Rumbling. Waiting.

Slipping his hands back into his pockets, Conan walked toward the Mercedes, hoping the key was in it. There was no doubt in his mind that the stunningly beautiful woman in the truck would make good her threat.

* * * * *

In short order, Conan moved enough vehicles for Madigan to continue along the outside of the graveled circle and pull the Peterbilt into the long barn. After shutting the truck off, she tossed her bags to the ground before climbing down.

Sliding the fourteen-foot-high steel door closed with more force than necessary, she took some small satisfaction in the loud metallic bang the door made when it hit the stoppers. She flipped the latches into the large screw eyes to secure the door from the inside.

She slung the wide strap of her oversized purse over her shoulder, grabbed her overnighter in one hand and the laundry bag in the other. She wiggled a couple of fingers free, then pulled the smaller side door closed behind her.

The obnoxious party crowd was rowdy and raucous and going strong. Madigan suspected that some of them would sleep where they fell; she hoped no one would drown in the koi pond and disturb the fish. The koi were an experiment to see if they could survive the harsh upstate winters—it was surprising what fancy, oversized goldfish cost these days. The lodge's usual patrons were calmer, more composed, the sort to take pleasure in the peace and serenity of the natural surroundings.

Madigan kept to the edge of the crowd and carried her things into the lodge through the kitchen entrance. Reaching the laundry room, she tossed her canvas bag of dirty clothes in the general direction of the washing machine, but kept her overnighter and shoulder bag. She made her way to the nearest staircase, pulled herself up the steps with the help of the substantial, hand-hewn wooden railing. As much as she loved the lodge, this was the only time in her memory that she wished she lived in a single-story ranch house with no stairs.

Reaching the second floor, Madigan felt her blood pressure rise. Matching luggage in lavender leather was piled outside her door, with assorted suitcases and bags stacked in a more orderly fashion at the doors of the other guest rooms.

Just a few friends, yeah right. All this paraphernalia for a one-nighter? Madigan considered the sexual innuendo, imagining the potential drunken grabbing and groping and general debauchery that could be happening later. Certainly not the lodge's typical forms of entertainment.

As Madigan tried to step around the heap of luggage, a small lavender case broke loose, tumbled to the floor. Glancing around surreptitiously, she used the tip of her boot to help the case on a bouncing journey down the wide wooden stairs. Oopsie. She felt better.

After shouldering the door open to her room, Madigan flicked the light switch on with her elbow, then dropped her bags on the rug. An empty lavender garment bag lay across her bed. Assorted apparel were scattered on bed and floor.

Jeez-us, the Barbie-Doll Bitch is really a freakin' slob. Her momentary good humor dissipated, her pulse skyrocketed, and she briefly considered helping the rest of the expensive luggage down the steps. Bugger all. I'll deal with it later.

Relieved to be in her own bathroom, Madigan stripped off her clothes, stuffed them into the hamper. Waiting for the hot water to make its way up to the second floor, she gave her hair a thorough brushing, which left her scalp tingling. She finally stepped into the shower, leaned forward against the back wall, her forehead resting on her folded arms. The warm spray beat across her sore shoulders and down her aching spine. Ahh . . . the Peterbilt's air-ride seat is good, but it ain't that freakin' good.

Thoughts swirled through her brain as her body relaxed. Hot and sensual thoughts about the Irishman who she didn't know from Adam. Hot and sensual thoughts that resulted in the junction of her thighs becoming all soapy and slippery, in need of extra rinsing.

Even immersed in such steamy, sexy thoughts, Madigan was barely functional and in dire need of sleep. She shut off the water, dried herself with a fresh-smelling bath sheet, then grabbed another for her hair. With eyes more than half-closed, she began towel drying her hair as she walked out of the bathroom. When she bumped into the familiar footboard of her bed, she stopped, stark naked with her arms over her head, hair all caught up in the towel. She opened both eyes.

Madigan unwound the towel from her hair, draped it around her neck, placed her hands on her hips. Both eyebrows rose to full mast. Fella, you are so busted.

* * * * *

After he had tapped on the door and heard no response, Conan had cracked the door open and heard the shower running. He was sure he could grab BranDee's stuff in a matter of seconds and be gone before anyone was the wiser. When he heard the shower shut off, he'd begun to count under his breath—he figured he had at least a few minutes to gather BranDee's scattered clothing. His timing, apparently, sucked.

"Hello again, Mr. Brennigan. So careless of me not to lock a closed door. Silly, I know."

Conan straightened up, holding a garment bag and an armful of women's clothing. He had to give himself credit for not panicking and fleeing with Victoria's flimsy Secrets dangling over his forearm. He also didn't move as he stared at his none-too-pleased hostess—his naked, gorgeous, freshly showered hostess.

"BranDee said she left her makeup case in the bathroom, and I was just picking up some of her . . . other things."

With a shrug, Madigan turned her back to him and strolled to the bathroom. In a few moments, she returned, dressed in a long, gold satin robe with chrysanthemums embroidered in red metallic thread from hem to collar. She tossed a lavender make-up case across the bed. After securing the robe's belt, she took her time shaking out and finger combing her damp hair before she faced him squarely.

Conan looked past her annoyed glare, noticed that her espresso-brown curls pinged in different directions as the tips began to dry. The swell of her breasts was enticingly visible. "It's just Conan. Mr. Brennigan sounds so formal."

Madigan stared at "just-Conan" while he continued to gaze at her face like he was trying to commit her features to memory.

Forcing her eyelids to stay open, struggling with failing patience, Madigan sighed in exasperation. She watched him scoop up the make-up case and add it to his armful of size-zero Barbie Doll clothing—but he still did not move toward the door.

Madigan frowned. Jeez-us, doesn't this guy get it? Speaking slowly and clearly, as if to a small child, she said, "Thank you for dealing with the clutter, just-Conan." She waggled the fingers of both hands in front of her as if she was chasing a lost lamb back to its mum. "And for the last time, good bye, shoo, go on now, git, walk on, arrivederci baby, get out, g'night, buena notte, adios muchacho . . . ."

To emphasize her point, Madigan reached toward him, oked his muscular biceps with her forefinger. Zap! Damn. A jolt raced through her body, hit all of her intimate parts. She glanced quickly at Conan's face, but didn't catch any change in his expression. Damn again.

When she poked him, it seemed to Conan that Madigan froze for an instant. Did she get zapped? Then, from the tilt of her head and the look on her face, he was sure that she was going to disrobe again, slide into bed whether he was still standing there or not. He considered that interesting option as he saw her hands moved toward the belt of her robe.

Conan turned with what dignity he could muster while holding an armful of women's garments, locked the door from the inside, then pulled it tight behind him as he made his exit.

Once in the hallway, he kicked a lavender bag aside, then leaned back against the door. His pulse was doing 240. The images of her smooth, olive-toned skin with farmer's tan lines, full, firm breasts, damp nipples goosebumply tight from the cool air, barely furred "V" between her thighs, and her perfect, sassy ass as she calmly walked away from him, were all permanently burned into his retinas and dancing around his brain. No screeching, no hiding, no hurrying—she had been in perfect control. It had taken every ounce of willpower for him not to visibly react to her touch when she jabbed him with her finger.

His rational brain attempted to kick in. Take it easy. More than enough complications in your life at the moment. His cock—which had gone on instant alert when Madigan shook his hand on the veranda—had absolutely no interest in being rational and ignored any speck of common sense. Conan moved away from the door and leaned against the wall. He shut his eyes again, and a closed loop of Madigan images paraded behind his eyelids. Hell, this could cause big trouble.

* * * * *

Music from the clock radio masked the party sounds from outdoors. Naked and comfortable under cool, crisp sheets at last, Madigan snuggled deep. Her last soft, wispy, conscious thought was wondering how Conan Brennigan would look naked. Zap! Damn.

(Warning: This novel contains sexually explicit sex described in graphic detail.)

All contents copyright of the Author, and cannot be used without the Author's express permission.