From the Author
Vanessa stood. The sheriff's department had found her? How?She hadn't used a credit card.
This was the problem with living in a relatively small town.There were no secrets. One call from the police to the front desk in a systematicsearch and the clerk would undoubtedly have remembered her and told them.
It was pretty odd for Vanessa to be at a hotel of thiscaliber, since most people knew her face and reputation --the Outer Banksprincess-- but didn't really know anything about her. They assumed she stilllived off her parents' money, just as Liam had assumed in the bathroom.
She didn't. She hadn't for more than eight years.
It really didn't matter how the officer had founder. She hadto figure out what to do.
They couldn't get out the one window of the room; it was rightnext to the door. There was no window in the bathroom, either.
The pounding on the door came again. Not obnoxiously loud,but firm enough to know whoever was on the other side meant business. "Ineed to speak with Vanessa Epperson."
Tears were running down Karine's face but she made no sound.Vanessa glanced frantically around the room before her gaze settled on Liam.
Who was taking his shirt off?
"Get her into the bathroom then come back out here."He looked at Karine. "Stay very quiet in there. We'll take care ofthis."
The young girl nodded and ran to the bathroom. As soon as sheturned away, Liam kicked off his shoes and socks and started unbuttoning hisjeans, before pulling them, and his underwear, all the way off.
Liam was naked.
Vanessa pulled the bathroom door closed behind her and triednot to stare but could not help herself.
Liam was naked.
He ruffled his own hair so it stood on end, then turned and walkedto the door, opening it a few inches.
"Man, what is going on? Do you know what time it is?"Liam looked down at an arm that didn't have a watch on it. "Neither do I.But it's like the butt crack of dawn."
"Um, excuse me, sir."
Vanessa couldn't see the officer but could hear the discomfiturein his voice.
"We were told that Vanessa Epperson was staying in thisroom."
"Well, she is, man." Liam yawned and ran a hand throughhis hair. "But she's a little worn out right now if you know what Imean."
Liam opened the door a little farther, his nakedness causingthe man to step back rather than step closer to look inside.
"Um, could you put some clothes on, sir? I'd like to talkto Miss Epperson please."
The officer wasn't going to be deterred, although Liam was doinghis best. Vanessa wasn't sure if the officer could enter the room without awarrant, since it was a hotel, not a home, but she didn't want to find out.
She pulled off her pajamas --T-shirt and shorts-- so she wasalso naked, grabbed the sheet off the bed and wrapped it around herself. She wasn'tas bold as Liam and willing to answer the door buck-naked.
"Hey, baby." She walked up behind Liam and slid herarms around his chest, running them over his pecs and abs, feeling them tightenunder her fingers. "What's going on?"
This is all just an act. This is all just an act. This is alljust an act.
Liam put an arm around her and pulled her in front of him sothe sheet was covering them both from the officer outside.
But her very naked back was pressed to his very naked front.All of his naked front. Vanessa couldn't stop the shiver that ran through her entirebody when he reached down and kissed the tender skin joining her neck andshoulder.
This is all just an act.
"This officer of the law was looking for you,"Liam said in that friendly mocking voice only he seemed to be able topull off without offending people. "Have you been a naughty girl?"
Vanessa could tell the more intimate she and Liam pretended tobe, the more uncomfortable the young officer became. She turned partway in Liam'sarms so she was half facing him. "What if I have?"
He leaned down and kissed her, biting her lip with his teethand pulling on it before letting it go. "Well, I'd have to do something aboutthat, wouldn't I?" He nipped at her lip again. "First I'd have to--"
The officer cleared his throat in an embarrassingly loud manner,stopping whatever scene Liam was about to describe.
This is all just an act. This is all--
"Excuse me, sir...ma'am. I'm Officer Atwood. I just havea few questions. Then I'll let you get back to your...business."
Vanessa kept the sheet clutched at her chest, making sure itdidn't fall too low. But she could feel Liam's hands on her waist, rubbing tinylittle circles with his fingers. Moving down to her hips and back up again. Thefeeling was delicious. She wanted to push his hands away but couldn't if she didn'twant to give the officer of the law a peep show.
Liam pulled her back, flush against his body. Vanessa barelykept in the moan that wanted to escape her.
This is all just an act.
"Yes, Officer Atwood. What's your question?"