‘I DON’T believe it! Where on earth did he spring from?’ Tara Lambert
moved quickly to the door but the tail lights of her partner’s car were
already disappearing into the blackness of the evening, taking with them
any possibility of help from that direction.
She glanced back to where the man was waiting across the street. He too
was staring after Beth’s car, obviously wondering if Tara had gone home
with her partner. Well it was too late to regret refusing the proffered
lift, but if she moved quickly it might not be too late to escape.
Shrugging her raincoat collar up high around her ears she snapped open her
umbrella, stepped out into the wet evening and took off swiftly down the
She had gone only a couple of hundred yards when she heard her name being
called from the other side of the street. Her escape bid had not, after
all, gone unnoticed. With a sinking heart she glanced around her; the
shops were already closed and there was nowhere to seek refuge in the
shuttered street. Even the taxi rank was deserted, although no cabbie
would have thanked her for wasting his time on the short ride to her flat.
She hurried on, urging the traffic lights to stay green and keep the
traffic moving, but even as the thought entered her head they flicked to
She stopped, cursing herself for every kind of an idiot. She could have
stayed in the office and phoned for a taxi.
Maybe it was not too late to beat a strategic retreat.
‘Tara!’ Her name, much closer, startled her and she glanced back before
she could stop herself. He was weaving through the slowing cars and
cutting off all possibility of escape in that direction.
A burst of light shone briefly on the pavement just ahead of her and a
couple emerged and ran, laughing, their arms about each other, along the
road. They had come from the wine bar on the ground floor of a glossy new
office development and shopping arcade. She had watched it come to life
during the past few weeks but a quick glance at the menu outside had
convinced her that it was far too pricey to be included on her list of
lunch venues. It hadn’t surprised her. Everything about Victoria House was
expensive. But right now that was the last thing on her mind.
The urgent sound of closing footsteps propelled her through the door
before she had time to consider what she would do once inside.
It wasn’t quite seven o’clock and it was still busy with people from the
surrounding offices and shops, but there was no one she recognised. She
dumped her umbrella in a stand and hung up her coat. At least there were
plenty of people about, and now she was inside she would have something to
eat. It had been a long, hard day and as the aroma of good food assaulted
her senses she realised just how hungry she was. She would just have to
choose whatever was cheapest on the menu.
As she looked around for a vacant table the door opened behind her.
Galvanised into movement by the sound of his voice she threw herself into
a bench seat hidden from the door by a small grove of potted palms where a
man whose deep concentration on a business document and navy pin-striped
suit suggested a certain safety.
‘Please pretend that I’m with you!’ she whispered, urgently. He looked
up, a frown momentarily creasing his wide tanned forehead and in that
instant she knew, without any doubt, that the impression of safety was all
Despite the touch of silver that streaked across an unruly lock of hair he
was younger than she had thought, in his mid-thirties, no more. Not
handsome. The word implied a smooth perfection that this man did not
possess. His faced was rugged. Dark brows jutted fiercely over sea-green
eyes that seemed to bore into her, seeking out her inmost secrets. His
nose had the unmistakable kink produced by a collision with a rugby boot,
or perhaps a fist, his mouth wide and uncompromising above a hard chin. It
was the face of a plunderer, a pirate, albeit a twentieth century one. And
his reactions were as swift.
A brief assessing glance over her shoulder was enough. Without hesitation
he slipped his arm around her waist and her lips parted on a short,
startled breath as he swept her hard against his chest. She caught the
faint scent of something clean and masculine. Good soap, leather,
His fingers grazed her cheek and slowly he began to wind a long jet strand
of hair that had escaped from restraining pins around his fingers. For a
moment she sat too stunned to move or do anything to stop him. Then, he
tucked it behind her ear and while she was still trying to gather her
scattered wits he moved swiftly to capture her chin, tilting it upwards,
leaving her mouth at his mercy.
‘You’re late, my darling,’ he murmured, his voice a velvet caress. Shaken
by this dashing, if unexpected response to her appeal for help, she began
to protest. Then he smiled and the words died in her throat. ‘But I
He lied. There was nothing forgiving about the kiss he demanded as a
forfeit for his protection. Tara knew the instant his lips claimed hers
that this was no ‘stage’ kiss to fool her pursuer. Whoever this man was,
whatever he was, he had never done anything by halves.
For a moment she was stiff, unyielding in his arms but, infinitely
assured, he teased her lips apart, exciting a response, a flicker of
pleasure that in an instant flamed into desire. She
found herself responding to his unexpected embrace with a warmth
that sent the blood fizzing through her veins and would, if she’d had time
to think about it, have shocked her.
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From the book
A STRANGER'S KISS by Liz
Classic Romance 2012