Authors: A Kiss in the Dark
EVEN IN THE DARKNESS OF THE MOONLIT NIGHT HE SAW THE PASSION
BLAZING IN HER GREEN EYES....
His kiss was hot and powerful, a primal act of male domination. She
hated him, hated herself for responding to Mitch Durant, the man who stole her
heart with a kiss, the lawyer who destroyed her father in court five years
earlier. Now she was back, engaged to another man--but determined to get even
....Until she was framed for theft and murder and Mitch was her only way out.
His price for defending her was total trust--and a promise to never investigate
his shrouded past ....
Royce was a journalist at the top of her form, challenging him
with her beauty, brains--and a fiance Mitch despised. But not even Mitch
Durant, San Francisco's top criminal attorney, could have anticipated the
felony-murder charges that drove her into his arms. He was her only refuge.
Mitch, the man she hated, was willing to risk his life to clear her name--and
to catch the killer who stalked her every move ....
MITCH NUDGED HER, THE HEAT OF HIS LOWER BODY PENETRATING THE
GOSSAMER SILK OF HER DRESS. "BE CAREFUL, ROYCE, I'M ARMED AND
She would never be certain how long they stood in the dark.
Kissing. It was a raw act of possession. There had always been something
untamed, slightly wild, about Mitch, something she had to admit she found
A disturbing thought struck her, a deep, unsettling premonition.
She'd remember this moment, this kiss. Forever.
Her heart was pounding lawlessly when she noticed a strange sound.
The look on Mitch's face told her that he'd heard something too. . . .
What if someone saw her and told Brent? Royce thought, coming to
her senses with a jolt. Kissing Mitch Durant. How could she? She couldn't even
look at him now for hating him. And herself.
"Ambition," Mitch said, his voice a shade shy of a
whisper, "it's a double-edged sword. It brings out the best in us—and the
worst. Think about it."
She looked at Mitch, truly speechless now, but the darkness masked
his angular features. He reached into his pocket and yanked out something
white. A business card, she realized.
"Call me." Mitch tucked his card into the hollow between
her breasts. "Anytime."
Published by Dell Publishing a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell
Publishing Group, Inc.
New York, New York 10036
Copyright © 1995 by M. Sawyer-Unickel
Printed in the United States of America
This book is dedicated to the memory of Judge Rand Schrader, who
fought for everyone's rights no matter what the personal cost. And never far
from my mind, and always in my heart, are the happy memories Al Singer-man gave
to all of us who were lucky enough to call him our friend.
The best way to love anything is as if it might be lost. G. K.
The too-real nightmare that soon became Royce Anne Winston's life
began very simply, very innocently. With a kiss in the dark.
A forbidden, erotic kiss.
A kiss that changed her life. Forever. It brought her love, the
kind of love she'd only dreamed existed. And danger.
But the chain of events set in motion by that passionate kiss
didn't become apparent to Royce for a long time. Even when the cell door
clanged shut, she didn't suspect a kiss in the dark would result in her arrest
Now looking back, she saw how naive she'd been not to realize
someone she trusted had diabolically set out to deceive her....
"I hope they haven't sat down to dinner," Royce said as
her fiance, Brent Farenholt, escorted her up the steps of the San Francisco
mansion on the evening of the fateful party.
"I'll tell my parents we couldn't keep our hands off each
"Oh, sure. You'll come up with some excuse, though. You
always do." Royce told herself she didn't give a hoot what Brent's parents
thought. Not quite true. Within the year they'd be her in-laws. Try to get
along with them.
Dance music drifted out of the French doors, filling the spring air
with the sounds of a live band. One more party where the hostess tries to outdo
her friends, Royce thought, already dreading the night ahead. What she wouldn't
give to spend a quiet evening alone with Brent. Instead she braced herself for
another encounter with San Francisco's elite.
Most of them called the city home but actually lived here only a
few months a year. The rest of the time they spent at country estates or villas
in the South of France. Royce found many of them, especially Brent's parents, to
be arrogant. Insulated by their money, they knew no life beyond their closed
circle of friends. The real world simply did not exist.
Inside, the foyer's black-and-white, diamond-patterned floor
gleamed in the soft light of the chandelier overhead. Royce and Brent greeted
Eleanor and Ward Farenholt, then Brent fed his parents some line about the
traffic making them so late. Royce doubted he'd fooled the Farenholts.
Being late was merely a symptom of a much greater problem, one
she'd diagnosed as terminal Royce Anne Winston. The Farenholts were never going
to forgive her for stealing their only son from Miss Perfect—Caroline Rambeau
of the Napa Valley winery Rambeaus, the San Francisco society Rambeaus, their
best friends, the Rambeaus.
"Royce, over here," called Talia, one of Royce's closest
She left Brent with his parents. "Wow! Talia, you look
Beneath bangs the color of bittersweet chocolate, Talia rolled her
dark eyes and swayed her slim hips from side to side, fluttering the tiers of
her black silk dress. "Not as good as you. If I could wear a strapless
sheath like that, Brent would have proposed to me."
"You don't think it's too low cut?"
"There won't be a man here tonight who won't remember
The midnight-blue gown accentuated Royce's blond hair and
contrasted with her green eyes, making them appear even greener, but the gown
was very revealing. She peeked at the prim cocktail dress Eleanor Farenholt
wore. One more black mark against Royce. This one she might actually deserve.
What had Daddy always said?
Royce, you're a bit of a Gypsy—all
those vibrant prints and bright colors.
She refused to wear black even
though Eleanor Farenholt insisted it was the "only color" for
evening. Black made Royce feel like one of the herd. And black reminded Royce
of funerals —first her mother's, then her father's.
"Don't worry about your dress," Talia assured her.
"Everyone adores you. They all read your column. Just be your usual witty
self. To hell with the Farenholts."
"Right. To hell with them."
Talia pointed to the small evening bag that fit neatly into the
palm of Royce's hand. The bag was a cat of glittering crystal stones—except for
the eyes, which were brilliant green. "Where'd you get the money for a
Judith Leiber bag?"
"Brent insisted on buying it for me."
"He's going to spoil you rotten."
"I'm loving every minute of it. This bag is very impractical,
though. All I can get inside is a lipstick and my keys." She leaned closer
and whispered. "Carrying such an expensive purse makes me feel guilty.
This would have cost my father a week's salary. Will I ever get used to all
Brent's money?" She shook her head, her hair fluttering across her bare
shoulders, then she studied Talia, realizing her friend looked distracted.
"Are you all right?"
"Fine. I haven't touched a thing. I promise."
Royce slipped her arm around Talia and gave her an affectionate
hug. "If you need me—anytime, day or night—call."
"You've been terrific, but don't worry about me." Talia
smoothed back her long hair, hooking one dark strand behind her ear.
"There's good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?"
This was a game she'd played with Talia for years, so Royce
answered the way she always did. "The good, then the bad."
"You're not sitting with Brent."
"Why on earth not?"
"This hostess throws dinner dances so her friends can meet
interesting people—musicians and actors and artists— colorful types who
normally wouldn't be included in these circles. Who knows? If you and Brent
weren't engaged, she might have invited you anyway—for color."
Suspicious, Royce remembered the hostess was one of Eleanor
Farenholt's "oldest and darlingest friends." Was that why she'd been
seated elsewhere? "Where
"Don't lose your temper, but he's sitting with his parents...
"Brent and I picked out a diamond today," Royce said,
bridled anger underscoring each word. "The ring will be ready next week.
Why's his ex-girlfriend with him?"
"It's a last-ditch effort. Brent and Caroline were
practically born in the same crib, that's how close the families are, but he
didn't marry her, did he? No. He meets you and three months later you're
"True, so why does this upset me so much?"
"Because if your parents were alive, they'd disapprove of you
marrying a Farenholt."
"You're right," Royce conceded. Her parents had been
liberal and literary with lots of "colorful" friends, not
arch-conservatives who never ventured beyond their clique and had voted the
party line since dirt was brown. "But Papa would have liked Brent. He's
nothing like his parents."
"Just be cool. Ignore the Farenholts' pettiness."
"Okay," she said reluctantly, "but they are
beginning to get to me. I'm having second thoughts about my relationship with
Brent." She sighed, struggling to convince herself the Farenholts would
learn to accept her. "Don't tell me that not sitting with Brent is the
"Part of it. You're at the Dillinghams' table."
"All right!" Arnold Dillingham owned a local cable
television station. Royce was one of two women vying for the hostess position
San Francisco Affairs
program. Her first trial show was next
Friday night, with the second scheduled the following week.
The downward sweep of Talia's lashes hid her dark eyes, and Royce
knew she wasn't going to like this. Talia always faltered before saying
something upsetting. "Now for the bad news. Tonight your favorite attorney
is seated beside you."
"Obviously not Brent; then someone else in the Farenholt
"No. Mitchell 'I'll Defend You to Your Last Dollar' Durant."
"Sweet Jesus, not that bastard."
"I know how much you hate Mitch, but for once, don't be a
Every muscle in Royce's body tensed. Mitch Durant. The Farenholts
detested him—at least they agreed on something —so why was he seated beside her?
They had to be responsible for this fiasco.
"While you were living in Rome, Mitch Durant defended the
Dillinghams' grandson on a drunk-driving charge and got him off with community
service. Arnold Dillingham thinks Mitchell Durant hung the moon. Don't ruin
your chances of becoming the
San Francisco Affairs
hostess by attacking
Mitch in front of Dillingham. Be polite even if it kills you."
"Shouldn't I say that if it hadn't been for Mitch Durant in
his days as a hotshot in the district attorney's office, my father would still
be alive? Shouldn't I?"
"No. Only a few of us make the connection between Mitch
Durant and your father's death. If you attack Mitch the way you did at your
father's funeral, your career as a television personality is
A wellspring of grief swept through Royce.
Papa, dear Papa. You
won't be here to walk me down the aisle.
This was such a happy time in her
life, a time to share with the one person who'd loved her the most—her father.
But he was dead. In the ground five long, lonely years now. Thanks to Mitchell