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The Soldier&apos;s Secret Daughter
Cindy Dees

“The roads aren’t in great shape. Would you like me to drive?” he offered. “I have a lot of experience on ice.”

“Uh, okay,” she replied. He opened her door for her and then went around to the driver’s side of her car. He eased the vehicle out of the parking space and started up the ramp.

“Where’d you learn to drive on ice?” she asked.

He couldn’t very well tell her about his numerous illegal forays into Russia. “Alaska,” he replied blandly. In point of fact, he’d done some Arctic training up there that had happened to include some offensive driving classes. Doing donuts on sheet ice was a kick for the first dozen revolutions or so. Then it just made a guy sick to his stomach.

“Cool. I’ve always wanted to go there,” she said brightly.

“So take a vacation there this year, Danger Girl.”

She looked over at him, her eyes sparkling like diamonds. “Maybe I will.”

He maneuvered confidently through the traffic, wary of drunks. But it wasn’t midnight yet, and the majority of partygoers wouldn’t hit the highways for another couple of hours. He turned the heat up full blast, and it had the desired effect. Before long, Emily had shed most of her outer layers. The view was much better now. Despite how slender she was, she had a nicely proportioned cleavage, not huge, but full and round and tempting.

“Wow. You are a good driver,” she commented.

“It’s all about being decisive and knowing what your tires can do.”

Silence fell between them and he pulled out his cell phone, dialed his hotel one-handed and asked for room service. When a female voice came on the line, he responded, “This is Mr. Holtz from room 2467. I’d like surf and turf for two in my room with all the trimmings, plus the Dom Perignon 1983. And a dark chocolate fondue for dessert. Extra strawberries, please. I’ll be arriving at the hotel in a half hour. Anytime after that will be fine.”

He disconnected the call. Emily was staring at him as if he’d grown a third eye in the middle of his forehead. “What?” he asked.

“Are you sure you’re not James Bond?”

Okay, then. That cut a little too close for comfort. He kept forgetting that beneath her playful innocence lay an intelligent and observant woman. He laughed lightly. “Thanks for the comparison. I’m afraid I’m just a regular guy.”

Emily wondered about that, though. Jagger danced like a god, handled a car like a Formula One driver and ordered fancy midnight dinners as if they were an everyday occurrence in his world. Why wasn’t she surprised when he pulled up in front of one of the ritziest hotels in Denver, flipped the car keys to a valet and casually passed her the ticket for her car?

As he escorted her through the lobby his hand came to rest in the small of her back, and he leaned in close as though he was claiming possession of her to any and all who looked. That crazy electricity thing happened again, and it was all she could do to walk across the lobby without falling on her face. Honestly. It was enough to turn a girl’s head.

Enough to make her willing to bust out of her shell and try to become the kind of woman this man might want for longer than one night.

Of course, his room turned out to be a suite with a magnificent view of Denver and the black void of the mountains looming in the distance. Nothing but the best for Jagger Holtz, no, sir. So where did that leave her? Tonight’s consolation prize? Except he hadn’t even looked at another woman at the party. She’d barely taken her eyes off him all evening. She’d have noticed if he was checking the room for other fish.

She was Danger Girl, dammit. She was not about to let her complete lack of self-confidence overtake her now. She’d come this far … she could go the rest of the way toward making years’ worth of fantasies come true.

Jagger took her ridiculous coat from her and hung it up in the front closet while she wandered over to the window to admire the view. She flung the question over her shoulder, “Why me? You could’ve had any woman in the place tonight.”

He strolled up behind her, hands fisted in his pockets. He stopped just behind her shoulder, gazing at her reflection in the black window. “Why not you?” he countered. “You’re beautiful, charming, intelligent, fun, an interesting conversationalist.”

She got hung up on the very first adjective. “Beautiful? Me? I don’t think so.”

“Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder,” he murmured. “I find you positively magnificent.” Tension suddenly poured from him. “Emily,” he half whispered, “I can’t take my eyes off you.” The words sounded torn unwillingly from his gut.

“But why?”

It was as if she’d dug one layer too deep and hit a nerve. The deep restlessness that she sensed ingrained in him went still. His body froze for a moment. His face went blank. It was as if his entire being just … shut down.

It took him several seconds to look up at her reflection and smile crookedly at it. “Can’t you just accept my … compulsion to be with you … at face value?”

He had a compulsion? To be with her? Cool. As long as it didn’t turn out to be some sick obsession. Although he hadn’t given her the slightest hint of any aberrant impulses.

Their dinner arrived, and he lit the tall white candles between their silver-covered plates. The candlelight twinkled off the shiny sterling flatware, lending an unbearably romantic air to the table and to the entire room. He extinguished the other lights until only the twin candles lit the room, leaving the space mysterious and sexy around them.

Jagger murmured, “Like most women, you look ravishing by candlelight.”

She smiled widely. “Like most women, I know it’s all about the lighting and not me.”

“Untrue. Even the most perfect of lighting can only improve mediocrity so much. You’re beautiful, candles or no candles.”

She sighed. “You’re so good for a girl’s ego.”

“I try,” he murmured as he reached for her plate with a pair of lobster pliers.

He served her himself, pulling her lobster from the shell and even ladling dressing onto her salad for her. How was a girl supposed to resist all this pampering? By the bottom of her second glass of champagne, she was beginning to wonder why she should try. And then the fondue arrived. He fed her chocolate-dipped ladyfingers, red raspberries the size of her thumb and strawberries. Mmm, the strawberries. They were decadent.

By the bottom of the third glass of champagne, all thoughts of resisting his charms had flown right out of her head. And yet all he did after the meal was put on a smooth jazz CD and commence dancing with her. Not the big, flashy waltz of before but rather a slow and subtle swaying, just the two of them, body to body. It was … nice. Okay, maybe not nice. More like naughty. Luscious. Sexy. Fabulous.

His restraint made her feel safe. In control. And yet a little voice in the back of her head told her she was already wildly out of control. But hey. Tonight was all about taking chances.

“What kind of accounting work do you do?” he murmured as they continued to talk about anything and everything.

“I track special shipments and document the money trail from pickup to delivery.”

“What kind of stuff constitutes a special shipment?”

She smiled up at him. “I don’t ask, and the clients don’t tell. Stuff in boxes, mostly. Commercial containers. Usually heavy and sealed airtight.” She shrugged. “I figure it’s illegal arms shipments.”

“Seriously?” he blurted.

She laughed. “No, I’m joking of course. I have no idea what it is. I just make sure it’s paid for and gets there on time.”

“Do you do anything else?”

“Well, sure. Sometimes they need me to do other stuff.”

“What kind of stuff?”

“You know. Exciting stuff. Like order food and toilet paper for ship crews. Or relay the fuel load a ship plans to take on when it comes into port.” Her tongue wasn’t cooperating quite as well as she’d like, and rather than sound tipsy, she threw the conversation back in his lap. “What do you do?”

“Stuff.” He laughed down at her.

“I don’t suppose I have to ask anyway. Everybody knows what James Bond does.”

He laughed under his breath. “Are we talking about in the bedroom or out of it?”

She giggled up at him. The bubbles from the champagne had definitely gone to her head. “Personally, I think ol’ James was a little deficient in that department.”
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