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Authors: Heather Graham

Tempestuous Eden

BOOK: Tempestuous Eden
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Tempestuous Eden
Heather Graham

For Jason, Shayne, and Derek, and for our own little “princess,” Bryee-Annon.

And for the very special people who have made it all possible, generously supplying faith, vision, time, and patience.

Anne, Mary Ellen, and Lydia—a
true
paragon of patience!

Thank you all so very, very much.

Contents

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

INTERLUDE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

INTERLUDE

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

INTERLUDE

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

EPILOGUE

A BIOGRAPHY OF HEATHER GRAHAM

PROLOGUE

M
EMO

From:
Taylor

To:
G.M.

Chief—

As per latest assignment, I have one main question. WHY?

Taylor

M
EMO

From:
G.M.

To:
Taylor

Taylor—

I have one main answer. CLASSIFIED!

Your orders are concise. Stick with Huntington’s daughter; keep her safe; keep her in the dark; move when told.

G.M.

M
EMO

From:
Taylor

To:
G.M.

Sir:

Please! I have faced bullets in Londonderry, bombs in the Mideast, and dysentery in Africa. Don’t do this to me. I am no good at baby-sitting Washington aristocracy.

Taylor

P.S. Couldn’t you send me back to bullets, bombs, or dysentery?

M
EMO

From:
G.M.

To:
Taylor

Taylor—

Sorry. No!

The powers that be have elected
you.
Think of it as a vacation. For you—a piece of cake.

G.M.

M
EMO

From:
Taylor

To:
G.M.

Chief—

I have never been big on pastry. Why not send John Denner? This is much more his line.

Taylor

M
EMO

From:
G.M.

To:
Taylor

Taylor—

Haven’t you heard? “Real men
don’t
eat quiche!” The higher echelon have spoken. My hands are tied. I repeat—consider it a vacation!

Sorry,

G.M.

M
EMO

From:
Taylor

To:
G.M.

Dear Sir!

Harboring some do-gooder socialite is not my idea of a vacation. Withstanding “CLASSIFIED,” can’t she be told to get her cute butt out of Central America?

Taylor

M
EMO

From:
G.M.

To:
Taylor

Taylor—

The woman you have been assigned to protect is hardly a child. But that is inconsequential. Answer is classified.

G.M.

P.S. If you are worried about ennui, relax. I hear our socialite is an independent wildcat who can make bombs and bullets and jungle hells seem tame.

M
EMO

From:
Taylor

To:
G.M.

Chief—

Thanks. Hail Caesar. We who are about to die salute you.

Taylor

M
EMO

From:
G.M.

To:
Taylor

Taylor—

Ha ha! Meeting with Huntington is scheduled for tomorrow at nine sharp. Don’t be late.

G.M.

A man stood at the window of the sparse but elegant office. He was well past any definition of youth, yet his posture was straight, that of a young man despite the cap of white hair upon his head. His face, though weathered by time and the harried life he had chosen to lead, carried an expression of kindly dignity that could best be described as patrician, although he would have laughed with his rare, wry humor to even hear himself so termed. For he possessed another character trait rare for a man of his power—humility.

In four decades of service, Andrew Huntington had seen everything that was to be seen, yet his heart had never hardened.

He turned from the window to stare down at his desk. Manila folders covered parts of the newspaper clipping he gazed upon, but his eyes could still assimilate most of the story. The rest he knew by heart. And he knew it to be false, though by no fault of the reporter.

… seems to have simmered down. With the new government fully in power, the guerrilla activity has been minimal, both near the capital and in the outlying areas. This poverty-stricken and wartorn country appears to be making the first steps toward recovery, receiving the aid of the U.S., other allied nations, and international relief organizations. Roberto Estevez, new head of Foreign Relations, announced yesterday: “The peace we have long fought for is now within our grasp….”

Andrew Huntington was not a man prone to unreasonable anger, but as a violent sweep of his hand sent the paper and the folders to the floor, his low curse described exactly what he thought of the contents of the clipping. From the instant he’d seen the article a few days ago, he had realized that it was time to get some gears moving. Sure, the guerrillas were quiet. And they would stay quiet as long as their intended prize was taken far from their reach.

Classified!
he thought with pained anger. How he was coming to hate the word. The word that had ruled over so much of his life.

The time to take advantage of his position and the friends that he had in high places had come. The result: this morning’s meeting with the visitor who now waited just outside his office door.

At the sharp rap on his door, Huntington bid his guest enter. He looked up as the younger man entered his office, and for a moment allowed himself the luxury of nostalgia. There had been a time when his own physique had been riddled with steellike muscles, when his face had been a basilisk of inner relentless power. A time when his own gaze had been direct, piercing. A time, many years ago.

But the temperance of age had come to him now, and his power lay in his wits. And it was now a time to use those wits for the one person who still gave his life true meaning.

But he also needed this man—this younger man with the physical strength—this practical stranger he had researched to the
n
th degree. He had watched his career with interest for years. An unassuming man of loyalty and principle, sometimes embarrassingly blunt, but straightforward in a way that made him completely trustworthy.

“Thank you for coming.”

Andrew Huntington’s visitor remained standing, hands clasped behind his back. He inclined his head briefly, his piercing yellow eyes set high and wide above a severe, hawklike nose, giving away nothing. And still, the older man stifled a smile. He knew how odious Craig Taylor was finding this assignment. But in all his years Huntington had never made a single request for himself.

Now he wanted a favor.

He wanted the best there was.

“Will you sit, please?”

Craig Taylor complied, crossing long, sinewed legs negligently and reaching into the breast pocket of a quiet but impeccably tailored navy suit. He lit a cigarette with clean, broad hands, inhaled and exhaled, returning a cool scrutiny all the while.

Huntington gave way to the smile tugging at his lips. This stranger didn’t know what he was up against, and yet he was perfect for the job. Despite his polite and restrained manner, he exuded a force of determination. There was a touch of ruthlessness to him, but that was necessary too.

The older man leaned back in his seat behind the massive mahogany desk. “I think you have the details; I just thought that we should meet before you left. I also wanted to give you my personal thanks.”

Craig Taylor finally smiled, but it was a rueful movement, full, sensual lips pulling back to bare a row of hard white teeth. “I won’t lie to you, sir, I’m not happy about this.”

“But you’ll do your best.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Yes.” A little bitterly. “You will have my best effort.”

Huntington grimaced. “You, sir, will need your best effort.”

The younger man merely shrugged, and the white-haired Huntington hid another grin. Craig Taylor didn’t know what he was up against.

“Sir”—an arm that should have belonged to a prize fighter leaned against the mahogany—“this could get very sticky. Possibly very dangerous. I don’t understand. Why can’t you just demand—”

“Please.” Huntington waved a hand in the air and closed his eyes painfully. “I can’t ‘demand.’ My daughter is almost thirty. She is mature, intelligent, and responsible,” he said in a mutter, slightly bitter now himself, “but we’re back to ‘classified.’ I can’t explain further to you—orders on this one are coming straight from the Oval Office. Suffice it to say I have reason to believe we’re past the point where she could leave by conventional means.” His eyes clouded in a moment of unguarded fear. “Far worse things could happen. If she believes you’re a terrorist, she’ll survive. She has spirit.”

“But, sir.” Craig Taylor suffered a moment of discomfort. “She is most certainly going to fight me—”

“And, if and when we reach that point, you will employ
any
means necessary to keep her safe. Give me one month. Just one month. Our boys should have things under control by then.”

“Any means, sir?”

Huntington paused and almost shuddered at the look in the hard, blazing cat eyes. He straightened with a sigh, but he nodded. He had been around a long, long time. Scrapes and bruises healed, so did anger cool and pride regain its strength.

Only life could not be redeemed.

“Any means,” Andrew Huntington echoed softly. “Just keep her safe. Keep her safe, and if it comes to it, get her out.”

Huntington barely recognized the Craig Taylor that sat beside him in an official limousine the next morning. He hadn’t realized that the tawny hair, administered to sharply by a comb the previous morning, was quite so long, nor that a night’s growth of beard could make his severely chiseled features appear so rugged and craggy. His business suit had been exchanged for worn jeans and a blue work shirt. Scuffed hiking boots adorned his feet.

Perfect. No hint to his identity, no way to tie him in.

“The picture I promised you.” Huntington stuffed a Polaroid three-by-five into the younger man’s hands. For a second his leathered features contorted. “She’s all I’ve got.”

“Yes, sir.” Yellow-gold eyes swept the picture.

Princess,
the young man thought. His term for her seemed correct. Emerald green eyes gazed out at him imperiously, a light in their sea depths hinting at the amusement that tinged the corners of beautiful, wide lips. The hair that flowed to her mid-back was a lustrous auburn, picking up highlights from the sun even in a picture. Her brows were delicate arches, high above the seascape eyes.

Her finely sculpted face was that of her father. More refined, more delicate, yet equally hinting of a cool, collected determination.

Terrific,
he thought dryly.
I’m to play baby-sitter to a Park Avenue model.

“Sir—” Craig began as the car came to an abrupt halt.

Suddenly looking very old, Huntington shook his head sadly with a knowing grin. “I doubt if things could be different without the ‘classified’ ratings. She hasn’t much faith … you see, her husband was under protection when he was killed. And remember, she considers herself anonymous in relationship with me.”

The younger man nodded emotionlessly. “Good-bye then, sir.”

“Good-bye and good luck.”

Craig Taylor tossed his duffel bag over his shoulder and strode toward the waiting plane.

Andrew Huntington smiled wanly as he heard the faint echo of his companion’s single expletive.

How concise; he felt that way himself.

BOOK: Tempestuous Eden
4.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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