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Authors: Kerrelyn Sparks

Wild About You (8 page)

BOOK: Wild About You
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Howard emerged from the shadows, partially lit by a floodlight.

Elsa gasped.

“Blimey,” Alastair whispered. “He’s bloody huge.”

Elsa pressed a hand to her chest as her heart thundered. He was tall, taller than her. And big, bigger than her. Solid as a boulder, yet he moved with a stealthy, fluid grace. She eased forward, waiting for him to enter fully into the light. Any second now.

There.

Her heart lurched up her throat. He was gorgeous. Strong, masculine face, beautiful blue eyes, and thick brown hair. His black T-shirt molded to a wide, muscular chest, and the sleeves stretched across biceps that made her mouth water.

Her skin tingled with goose bumps. Was this what she had anticipated ever since she’d entered the forest? Somehow, she had known something was waiting for her just around the bend. Something big.

He was definitely big. And having a big effect on her. She felt breathless, weak at the knees, and dazed, as if she were in a dream.

He halted suddenly at something Shanna had whispered to him. “
What?

“It’s true,” Shanna said. “She’s here.”

His eyes widened as he turned to stare at the house. His gaze found her on the dark porch, and his mouth fell open. Her heart leaped in response.

He closed his eyes, and his chest expanded as he took a deep breath. Was he trying to smell her? When his eyes opened, they gleamed a richer blue. He looked at her, and his gorgeous mouth curled slowly into a smile.

Alastair snorted. “I don’t think he’ll mind working with you.”

She’d certainly like to work with him. She ventured out of the shadow and into the light.

Howard sprinted toward her, then skidded to a halt in the gravel in front of the porch. He gazed at her, an amazed expression on his face.

“Elsa,” he whispered.

His voice went through her like a delicious shiver. “Hi,” she breathed.

He continued to stare at her. “Hi.”

“How do you do?” Alastair stepped forward, extending a hand. “I’m Alastair Whitfield.”

“Howard Barr.” He glanced at Alastair, then focused once again on Elsa, forgetting to shake hands. “It’s really you.”

“Yes.” She licked her lips, suddenly as nervous as a schoolgirl.

His gaze dropped to her mouth, then back to her eyes. “Do you know how beautiful you are?”

Her heart melted.

“Too bad we don’t have a camera rolling,” Alastair muttered.

“I knew it,” Shanna whispered, her eyes glistening with tears.

“So do we have a deal?” Alastair asked. “We can renovate this house?”

“Perhaps,” Shanna answered. “If I can convince my husband. And if Howard will agree to oversee the project—”

“I will,” he said, never taking his eyes off Elsa. He stretched a hand toward her. “I’m very happy to meet you.”

Her heart fluttered. “Howard.” She placed her hand in his.

An instant frisson of electricity shot up her arm. She gasped and stepped back, stumbling on the porch steps. Howard grabbed her by the upper arms to steady her.

She cried out as a flame of heat seared the birthmark on her right shoulder.

“Are you all right?” Howard leaned close to her, his eyes worried.

She scrambled out of his reach, grasping her shoulder. The heat from her birthmark scorched her left hand, forcing her to let go. “Agh.” Her palm was red. Burned.

Oh God, no.
She curled her injured hand into a fist. It couldn’t be real. Her aunt had always warned her this could happen, but she’d never believed it.

She glanced at Howard, who was watching her with a confused look.
Oh God, no!
Not him.

He’d activated the curse.

Chapter Six

W
hat the hell had happened? He could have sworn she liked him, but now she was recoiling in horror.

“Elsa?” Howard reached out to her, and she jumped back.

Her handbag slipped off her shoulder and she grabbed it, wincing as if in pain.

“Are you hurt?” He could still feel the heat stinging his left hand from when he’d touched her.

“I . . . excuse me.” She gave Shanna and Alastair an apologetic look. “I need to make a personal call.” She rushed down the steps, giving Howard a wide berth, then dashed to her car and climbed into the driver’s seat.

Alastair plastered a wide grin on his face. “The poor girl is exhausted. We started the day in London, don’t you know. It’s been a dreadfully long day.”

Shanna nodded with a sympathetic smile, then glanced toward the car. “I hope she’ll be all right.”

Howard eased a little closer to the car. With his superior senses, he might be able to hear her phone conversation. It was wrong to invade her privacy, but dammit, he had to know what had happened. He couldn’t strategize his next move without more information.

“Shanna, I do hope you’ll allow us to renovate this house,” Alastair said. “It would be perfect for our show.”

Howard turned his head toward Alastair and Shanna so it would look like he was focused on their conversation.

“Aunt Greta,” Elsa whispered urgently into her phone. “I—I think it happened. You told me to call you immediately if my birthmark ever—”

Howard strained but couldn’t catch what the aunt was saying. If only Elsa wasn’t closed up in a car.

“Yes, it’s burning,” Elsa said. “Something terrible.”

He flexed his left hand. It was still sore from touching her. Apparently, the mysteriously hot birthmark was on her right shoulder.

“I’ll discuss it with my husband,” Shanna distracted him as she continued her conversation with Alastair. “We’ll give you an answer tomorrow night.”

“Excellent,” Alastair replied.

“Our biggest concern is the school down the road,” Shanna added. “We can’t allow any mention of it, and none of your employees can go anywhere near it.”

Alastair nodded. “Understood.”

Howard knew Roman and Angus wouldn’t be pleased to have a production crew so close to the academy. It was a definite security risk, but the prospect of having Elsa so close was too tempting to resist. He refocused his attention on her.

“Yes,” she whispered in the car. “I did touch someone. We shook hands.”

He tensed, waiting for more.

“No, he was a perfect gentleman.” Elsa gasped. “Greta! I don’t believe it. There was nothing wild or crazy about him.”

He winced.

“I can’t go home,” Elsa insisted. “I’m working here.” A pause. “No. You don’t need to come here. Really, Greta, I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself.”

“We’ll be staying at the inn in Cranville,” Alastair told Shanna. “I’ll have a contract ready tomorrow night and hope for the best.”

Shanna nodded and gave Howard a questioning look. “You’re all right with representing Roman and me?”

“Sure. No problem.” He caught the end of Elsa’s line.

“I told you I don’t believe in that nonsense!”

He gritted his teeth. What nonsense?

“Do we really have to make such a big deal out of this?” Elsa asked. “He seemed perfectly safe to me. And normal.”

Howard groaned inwardly. The truth was he wasn’t normal. And if he pursued Elsa, he’d eventually have to tell her he was a were-bear. Would she be able to handle it? Maybe, if she liked him enough. He could have sworn she had felt an attraction before his touch had caused her to burn. What the hell was that about?

Elsa sighed. “Okay. I’ll try to avoid him. Yes, I’ll be careful. I’ll call you later. Bye.” She lowered the phone to her lap, frowning.

“I don’t believe in it,” she muttered to herself, then shook her head. “Why should I avoid him?”

Howard agreed. There was no way he’d let her avoid him. He strode to the driver’s side window and tapped on it.

She jumped and gave him a wary look.

“Are you all right?”

She paused, then cracked the door open a few inches. “I’m fine, thank you. We should be going now. If you could tell Alastair—”

“How is your shoulder?”

A fleeting look of shock crossed her face. “I’m fine.”

“I have a first-aid kit in my truck.” He motioned toward his SUV.

“I don’t need anything.” She dropped her phone into her handbag, refusing to look at him. “We’ve put in a really long day, so Alastair and I should go.”

He glanced at Alastair, who was describing some of his plans to Shanna, in no apparent hurry to leave.

“I’ll be right back.” He jogged to his SUV to retrieve the burn ointment from the first-aid kit.

“Here.” He handed her the tube through the narrow crack in the door. “You need to treat the burn on your shoulder as soon as possible.”

“Thank you.” She accepted the ointment, carefully avoiding any contact with his hand. “How did you know?”

“I touched you.” He showed her his palm, still pink from heat. “I felt it.”

She winced. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I—I don’t know why it happened.”

Fate
. That was why. From the moment he’d first spied her on television, he’d felt a bond to her, a strong and irrevocable attachment. He leaned close to the narrow opening. “Did you have dinner? I could meet you and Alastair at the diner in town.”

“Well, I—I am hungry, but . . .”

“Good. I’ll see you there.”

She turned to him with an alarmed expression. “I don’t really know you.”

Howard straightened, dragging a hand through his hair. Maybe he was pushing too fast. “I’m sorry. I’ve been watching your show every week for months, so I feel like I already know you.” But did he know the real Elsa? She might be different than the persona she portrayed on television.

“You . . . watch the show?”

He smiled. “You seem surprised.”

Her cheeks flushed a light pink. “You don’t seem like the type to be into home decorating.”

He was more into watching her, but that admission would probably scare her off. “I love the show. I think you guys do amazing work.”

Her blush deepened. “Thank you.”

“So how about a quick hamburger in town? It would give you and Alastair a chance to know me better, since we’ll be working together.”

She gave him a wry look. “You’re persistent, aren’t you?”

“I don’t give up easily.”
Not when I want something as badly as I want you.

Her eyes met his, and a fierce longing hit him in the gut. He clenched his fists to keep from wrenching the door off her car and pulling her into his arms.

Her words came back to him:
There was nothing wild or crazy about him.
He’d have to control the animal inside him or end up scaring her away.

A multitude of emotions danced in her eyes—desire, fear, frustration, regret. Whatever had caused the burn was making her afraid. But the desire was there—he could hear it in her heartbeat, smell it in her blood, feel it radiating just beneath her skin.

His choice for strategy was obvious. Make her desire greater than her fear. Give her so much joy and pleasure that she had no room for regret. Channel her frustration into more desire until she was burning for him.

The bear inside him growled in anticipation. He smiled slowly. “I’ll see you in about fifteen minutes at the diner.”

She nodded, her cheeks still flushed, then she turned away and tapped on the horn to get Alastair’s attention. He shook Shanna’s hand, then climbed into the car.

Howard stepped back as Elsa drove away. Why did her birthmark burn when he touched her? Dammit, he’d better be able to touch her again without hurting her.

“Well?” Shanna ran toward him, her eyes glittering with excitement. “What do you think?”

“I think you’re one hell of a matchmaker.”

She grinned. “She’s perfect for you.”

“I’m grateful.” He tilted his head. “But curious. How did you know . . .”

Shanna’s smile faded, and she ducked her head. “Well, it’s sorta a long story. Tino was missing you so much that he suggested I move some of your belongings to the school so you could live there with us, and then he mentioned some secret DVDs under your bed—”

Howard stiffened. “You looked through my stuff?”

“Tino said you were watching adult DVDs with a girl and two guys named Big Al and The Hammer—”

He snorted.

“As a responsible parent, I had to check it out.” She flashed a smile at him. “But it all worked out for the best, right?”

“You should have trusted me.”

“I know. But it occurred to me that we don’t really know you very well.”

“I’m a loner. It goes with being a bear.”

She patted his arm. “You don’t have to be alone anymore.”

“Thank you.” He returned her smile. “I appreciate your help, but from now on, I’ll be handling the matter myself without any outside interference. You understand?”

She gave him a wry look. “Is that your polite way of telling me to butt out?”

“Does a bear piss in the woods?”

F
ifteen minutes later, Howard walked into the diner in Cranville. This late at night, it was almost empty. A few people sat at the counter, enjoying a late snack of homemade pie. Elsa and Alastair sat at a table for four.

“We’ve already ordered,” Alastair informed him. “We’re exhausted from traveling all day.”

“I understand.” Howard sat next to Elsa, and she gave him a nervous look. “I just arrived myself. I was in Alaska yesterday.”

“Alaska?” Elsa asked, her eyes wide. “I’ve never been there.”

He smiled at her. “You’d love it.”

She smiled back, her cheeks blushing.

“Business or pleasure?” Alastair asked as he unrolled the paper napkin holding his silverware.

“A bit of both,” Howard replied. “I have family there.”

“Children?” Alastair asked while Elsa winced.

“No children. I’m not married.”

“And what kind of business do you do?” Alastair asked.

Howard’s mouth twitched. Was Alastair interrogating him to make sure he was suitable for Elsa? She was sitting there, looking highly embarrassed with her pink cheeks. “I work for MacKay Security and Investigations. I’m into keeping people safe.”

“Ah.” Alastair nodded. “Elsa tells me you’re a fan of the show.”

“I am.” He waved at the waitress and ordered a hamburger.

BOOK: Wild About You
9.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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