''From thrilling romance to driving suspense, Lisa Marie Rice has a magic touch.'' -- Shannon McKenna, New York Times bestselling author
''Rice is skilled at bringing the drama and the heat.'' -- Library Journal, praise for the author
From the Author
"More wine?" Mark Redmond asked, hand around the neck of a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Beneath his stylish and very expensive suit, he was at heart a barbarian, but even he knew it was an excellent wine.
He watched as Harper Kendall, the most enticing woman he'd ever met, pondered his question.
He could almost see the wheels turning in her beautiful head. It really was a good wine and she'd only had one glass to his three. But--was he trying to get her drunk? Trying to seduce her?
No. And yes.
God yes, he was trying to seduce her. He'd been thinking about getting her into his bed since he'd first set eyes on her on the business-class trip from Boston to Paris.
His company had two corporate jets but he had two teams he was sending into failed states and harm's way. He wanted them to get there rested and refreshed, so he had them use the Falcon 8X and the Gulfstream G3.
Going to Paris for a few days before his meeting with the head of a big bank had been a last-minute decision; he hadn't had time off since forever. First class had been fully booked and he'd been amused when he'd caught himself thinking that he'd have to 'settle' for business class.
Especially considering how, in his military days, he'd crisscrossed the world in noisy, cold C-130s strapped to the bulkhead, pissing in a bottle.
In the end, going business class was the best thing to happen to him in a long, long time, when he'd seen the beauty sitting in the seat next to his.
"Sure," she said and nudged her glass closer to him. Mark filled the big balloon glass one third full, the canonical amount. Any less and it would have seemed stingy. Any more and she would have reason to suspect he was trying to get her drunk.
He didn't want her drunk, but he did want her happy.
Being with a woman like Harper was challenging, full of hidden pitfalls. Good thing he was a man who relished challenges.
She sipped, watched him a bit warily over the rim of her crystal goblet. "So, do you know Paris well?"
"Been here a few times but always briefly, for work. In and out."
Her lips curled in a smile. "Plumbing supply imports."
"That's right." Mark leaned back and watched her. He always chose the most boring jobs possible for cover. Plumbing supply importer, accountant, tax software salesman. "Fly in, make a deal, fly out. This time I wanted to take a day or two to sightsee. Do you know Paris well?"
"Yes, I do." She took another sip. "I studied French here for a summer, just out of high school, then came for a semester during my master's. I love this city."
There. An opening. Mark waited for her to offer to show him around Paris. But...crickets. He stifled a sigh. Still, he was a man who knew how to make his own opportunities.
"Maybe some other evening you'd have dinner with me. After work. You're here for research, right?"
"Mmm." She smiled. "Some business and some research."
"For that book?" His gorgeous princess had written and published one book and was writing her second, which he really admired. Mark couldn't write a book to save his life. He could kill a man at a thousand yards, but he couldn't write a book.
The smile grew. "That's right. Linking historical political movements to architectural styles. I'm keeping it accessible though, not a cultural tract. Are you interested in architecture, Mark?"
He sat back. "I can't say I'm particularly knowledgeable about architecture and its history. I'll happily read your first book, though. It sounds really interesting."
"Well, that's kind. You don't have to do that."
"I want to." And he did.
"I'll write down the title for you."
He deliberately didn't smile. "The title has three words in it. I think can remember them. So--how about dinner tomorrow evening?"
She didn't answer, just looked at him. Mark understood exactly what was happening. She was consulting her internal self on whether she wanted a second date and the only intel she had on him was what he was giving her. He couldn't tell her who he really was, but he could give her his essence.
He was a good guy. He wasn't going to hurt her. He wanted sex with her badly, more than any woman he could ever remember, but it had to be mutual and he'd treat her well.
He couldn't say that in words but he could show her via his body language. So he sat very, very still, and watched her face. He was probably emitting pheromones by the ton because she was just so goddamn luscious, and he'd had a semi hard-on all through dinner, but that was okay. She had to know he desired her. They'd been in constant contact since they'd first boarded that flight and though he'd been respectful, he'd also made it clear that he was attracted.
Putting it mildly.
She was, too. This was a strong-minded woman and she wouldn't be sitting here having dinner with him at the Ritz if she didn't want to be.
She sighed. "Dinner tomorrow evening? I don't know when I'll finish up with my work."
"Doesn't make any difference," he answered. "I don't have a timetable. I came in early to rest and to sightsee a little." He shrugged. "I've been working really hard lately, and I decided to just relax for a day or two. So I can work around your schedule, no problem."
Harper made a little humming sound, as if thinking over reasons to say no. But she really wanted to say yes. She was a real beauty, so she'd probably spent half her life saying no to men, decisively. She wouldn't be humming if it was a decisive "no".
She looked at their table, at the remains of an excellent meal, at the elegant room. Everyone dressed up, the waiters the most elegant of all, low voices, the gleaming crystal glasses, the chandeliers like crystal clouds, everyone smiling in their comfortable upholstered settees.
It was a feast for all the senses.
"Okay, but not at the Ritz. And it's on me next time."
"Not a chance, but nice try," Mark said.