Jun 1, 2004
Return To Me
THE MIDNIGHT MAN
It’s been seventeen years since bad boy Simon Riley hopped a freight train out of town and Ellen Kent’s given up wondering what happened to him. Running a successful bed and breakfast in Oregon’s LaRue River Valley hasn’t left her a lot of time for fantasizing about the one who got away. She’s put aside her dreams of midnight kisses and secret passion . . . until an unexpected visitor knocks on her door. Simon is back. She had no idea that he was a famous photojournalist, working in war zones around the world. But the man is everything she wants in a lover–and more . . .
THE MIDNIGHT HOUR
Dogged by trouble, Simon swore he’d never return to this backwater town, even to see Ellen Kent. But he had to come back to investigate his uncle’s sudden death–and he must face the demons of his past. El’s lush beauty still tempts him beyond belief. He knows he can satisfy her most hidden desire, to the point of complete abandonment and total ecstasy. And he’s hungry for the sensual tenderness that only she can give–hungry for her.
The last thing Simon would ever do is hurt El, but someone is forcing his hand. Someone who will stop at nothing to keep the past dead and buried–even if it means silencing the woman Simon loves . . .
Read an Excerpt
Ellen followed Simon down the rugged hillside to the creek, keeping her eyes on her feet as she picked her way carefully over the big, tumbled boulders.
“Here we are,” he said. “Earthly paradise.”
She looked up, and gasped. “Oh, wow. I forgot how beautiful it is.”
The canyon was narrow at this point, and dense with pine and fir. The waterfall was about ten feet high, dumping water down a smooth, mossy sluice. It rushed over the lip of stone, pounding and churning the center of the pool into bubbles and foam, rippling out into a wide basin of crystalline water that glowed a deep blue-green.
Simon tugged off his boots while Ellen pulled off her T-shirt and cut-offs. He looked at her modest one-piece, and started to laugh.
“After what we did last night, you still need a bathing suit, babe?”
“We’re outdoors,” she snapped. “Anybody could come along.”
“We’re miles from the main road, on private property,” he pointed out. “If anybody intrudes on our privacy, I’ll break both his legs.”
She frowned. “That’s not a very neighborly attitude.”
“I’m not a very neighborly guy.” His eyes raked her body. “I’d be severly pissed if anybody else saw you naked, sweetheart. But I want to see you naked in this waterfall. I want it bad.”
She caught her breath as he stripped off his shirt and flung it away. He was so incredibly beautiful. Every detail of his lean, muscular body, his golden skin, his striking face. He looked like a god.
“Just so you know. I do not have any intention whatsoever of having sex outdoors,” she told him. “You should know that right up front. I’m a locked-door, clean-sheets, lights-off kind of girl.”
His slow, wolfish grin made her knees wobble. “You don’t even know what kind of girl you are yet, sweetheart.”
“I know what kind I am better than you do,” she said sharply. “So don’t presume to tell me.”
“And we’re arguing over a non-issue,” he soothed. “How about you just come into the water with me and let all those unimportant details sort themselves out as we go along?”
His voice was the soul of sweet reason, but she knew the gleam in his eye. She shook her finger at him. “Don’t even. I’m not falling for it.”
He reached back and pulled the hair tie out of his hair with seductive slowness, muscles flexing and stretching. He shook the thick, heavy mane out over his shoulder, and just stood there, grinning.
“Don’t preen,” she said breathlessly.
He put his arms behind his head, rolled his neck and his muscular shoulders, flaunting himself at her. “Why not?”
“You know perfectly well that you’re gorgeous,” she said. “And conceited, too. You’re showing off like a peacock fanning its tail. Trying to impress me. It’s a silly trick and I see right through it. So stop it.”
He looked fascinated. “How should I interpret this? A subtle cue that you want to see my tail?” He unbuckled his belt and shoved down his jeans. His erection sprang out, bobbing heavily before him. He turned around, legs wide, and lifted his arms. “Do you like my ass?”
It was only the most muscular, tempting, touchable, bitable ass she’d ever seen, in person or in film or photos. “Stop it, Simon!”
He looked around and examined her flushed face. “But it’s working,” he said. “Why should I stop something that’s working?”
She turned her back on his teasing laughter and busied herself by spreading out the picnic blanket on a soft carpet of pine needles and small, feathery ferns. She heard a huge splash, and turned just in time to see his torso explode out of the pool in a shower of glittering drops.
He laughed in delight and flung his hair back off his face. “It’s incredible, El,” he called. “Come on in. You have to feel this.”
She tiptoed over the sliding pebbles to the pool and stuck in her toe. She gasped. “It’s freezing! You must be nuts!”
“No excuses, babe.” He swam across the pool, vaulted out and started towards her. Wet, naked and grinning, his eyes full of purpose.
She backed up, shaking her head. “Don’t you dare, Simon Riley. Don’t even get near me with that look in your eye. I’m not—no!”
He scooped her into his arms. She shrieked and struggled as he carried her to the water, but the shock of cold water when he tossed her in was a blinding delight to every nerve ending. She came up spluttering and giggling. She wiped the water out of her eyes and looked at him.
Their laughter died away.
The waterfall roared behind them, the deep water trembled and rippled. Gusts of cool spray wafted around them. She barely noticed.
His stark male beauty dazzled her. The golden brown skin, the sculptured lines and angles of his forehead and cheekbones and jaw, the expressive grooves around his eyes and mouth, the beads of moisture that clung to his skin. His flat brown nipples were tight with cold. His dripping hair was slicked back from his forehead, clinging to his neck and shoulders like black paint. Water trickled lovingly down every cut and curve and contour of his body, exalting every detail. She wanted to touch him everywhere. Lick every single drop of water away.
His eyes were so somber. Infinitely deep. She could lose herself in the dark enchantment of his eyes and never find her way back.
He drifted closer. “You’re so fucking beautiful, El. It’s unreal.”
She wiped the water off her face. “So are you.”
“Pull your bathing suit down and show me what the cold water does to your nipples.”
She glanced down at the tight nubs pressing against her bathing suit. “You can see it perfectly well through the cloth,” she said.
“I showed you mine,” he coaxed. “Now show me yours.”
“I never asked you to show me yours!” she said. “Do not pressure me, Simon. I’m not comfortable with—”
“—much of anything, right?” he finished. “Skinnydipping must be on that long list of things you’ve never done, huh?”
She bristled. “I’m sorry if I’m too prissy for your tastes, but I—”
“It’s so sad.” He shook his head in mock regret. “You just can’t let yourself go.”
“You’re manipulating me and making fun of me, and it’s not fair!”
He smiled. “Look around, baby.” He waved his arm around in a big circle. “No one’s here. No one will see you but me. Pull that suit down. Feel the wind and the water and the spray against your bare skin. I want to see that tan fading down to ivory on your breasts. And those little raspberry nipples, puckered up all tight and rosy. Drops of water trickling around them. My gorgous water nymph. If I saw you that way, I could die happy. Just do it for me, and I’ll stop pushing you.”
“Oh, no you won’t,” she whispered. “You big liar. You won’t stop.”
He swam around her in slow circles, weaving a spell with his eyes, his smile, his caressing voice. “Please. I’m asking so nicely. I’m being such a good boy. Show me that you’re not afraid.”
He was doing it again. As playful and seductive as he was, she felt the power he wielded like a throbbing force field all around her. He knew just how to position her, how to push her into wanting what he wanted. The water pounded in her ears. Every nerve ending in her body tingled with the cold, but she didn’t feel cold any longer. She was red hot. The water felt pleasantly cool against her feverish flesh.
This time she would play her cards better. She wouldn’t ruin it by talking of love. She would seize the moment, use him for pleasure like he used her, and keep her tender, unwanted feelings to herself. She would take everything she could get of him. No shame, no regrets.
She felt around with her feet until she found a smooth boulder that was the right height to stand on. She rose out of the water so that the water line kissed her navel, seized the straps of the suit, and tugged them down. She peeled the wet fabric slowly over her breasts, let it cling, deliciously suspended on her taut nipples, and finally pop over.
She folded it down to her waist, lifted her arms and spun around, displaying herself to him. “Happy now?”
His eyes devoured her. “Ecstatic.”
The spell he was weaving deepened, tightened. Her breath was sharp and ragged. The drops of water on her skin should be hissing off into pure steam, her face felt so hot. Her naked skin took in so much more sensory information naked, as if she had eyes and ears all over her. Every inch of her skin was wide awake and deliciously sensitive.
“You just love persuading me to take my clothes off, right?” she said breathlessly. “That really turns you on, doesn’t it, Simon?”
“Would you rather I ripped them off you by force and leaped on you like a starving wolf? That could be arranged, babe.”
His predatory smile made her press her trembling thighs together. “Um, no, actually. I’m not the starving-wolf type.”
“I know you’re not,” he murmured. “You’re the golden goddess type. Shy and prim. Never gone skinnydipping in your whole sheltered life.” He reached for her hand, and kissed her fingertips, one by one. “I have to prepare you carefully before I make any sudden moves. I wait until you’re so ready, you’re screaming and yelling and calling me names. And then, oh, God, the payoff. You are white-hot. Explosive.”
She tried to laugh. “So it’s just a calculated seduction technique?”
He swam closer, clasping her waist. “There’s nothing calculated about the way you make me feel,” he said. “I’m riding the rapids with no paddle, El. Just trying to stay afloat.” He rose up out of the water and drew the taut tip of her breast into his hot mouth.
The intense sweetness of the caress made her cry out. Her head dropped back. So hot and wet. His greedy tongue swirling, licking, hungry for her pleasure. She clutched his head to her chest and clung to him as shock waves of bright sensation jolted through her.
He slid his hand between her legs, pressing his fingers gently against her mound through the fabric of her suit, moving in expert, tender circles. She clenched her thighs around his hand. He pulled her hand down and wrapped her fingers around his hard, hot penis.
“Touch my cock,” he demanded. “Touch me while I touch you.”
She lifted her face for his kiss, desperate for more contact, and they kissed and caressed each other, rising and falling on waves of delirious pleasure. She was gasping against his mouth, poised on the brink of an explosive climax—and he suddenly let go.
He pried her hand away from his hard, hot penis and floated a short distance away from her. She felt dazed and adrift without him.
“I’ve got a condom in my jeans pocket,” he said. “What do you say, El? Have you changed your mind about outdoor sex?”
She shook with excitement and frustration. He’d outmaneuvered her again, and she was so hungry for him, she almost didn’t care.
She swam to the edge of the pool and clambered out. Her legs almost buckled when she stood on them. She peeled her bathing suit down, stepped out of it and tossed it over a sunny rock.
She turned to face him, naked in the dappled sunlight.