Joan Johnston

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Kate was expecting Jack McKinley, so she answered the knock at her door with a smile on her face. Her heart skipped a frightened beat when she saw who was standing there.

“You look surprised to see me.”

Kate felt a visceral response deep in her womb as she stared into Wyatt Shaw’s steel-gray eyes. Without wanting to, she remembered Shaw as she’d left him in the middle of the night, asleep amid tangled sheets, dark lashes lying soft on sharp cheekbones, rough beard shading the rugged planes and hollows of his face.

“May I come in?”

His raspy voice raised gooseflesh on her arms. He’d used that mesmerizing voice to murmur his approval as she caressed his powerful body, measuring the breadth of his shoulders with her palms and teasing the whorls of black hair on his chest with her fingertips.

He stood quietly at her front door, patiently awaiting her invitation to come inside. All his attention was focused on her, as it had been that long-ago night.

She tried to speak, to send him away, but her heart was caught in her throat. He’d been patient that night, too, coaxing her compliance. She’d been heartsick, feeling unloved and unlovely, a rejected woman seeking revenge against her husband.

Kate closed her eyes to shut out the too-vivid memories, but in her mind’s eye she saw the soft play of light and shadow on his face above her and the fierce look of desire in his eyes. She had never felt more cherished. She had never felt more loved.

“Are you all right?”

She opened her eyes, but it didn’t help. She’d kept the memories at bay for long years, but now that the flesh-and-blood man stood before her, they rushed back with frightening clarity.

She remembered most the urgency of his need. And how it had healed the hurt. The heady feeling as she realized this man craved her body as a dying man craves water in the desert. The soothing balm of his raspy voice as he extolled the pleasure he found in the petal softness of her skin. The laughter that tumbled from her lips as she reveled in the power of knowing he couldn’t get his fill of her. That he could never get enough. That he would always want to touch her, taste her, love her.

She would never forget the satisfied masculine sound in his throat as he’d felt how wet and ready she was for him. At his urging, she’d wrapped her long legs around his whipcord lean hips as he moved inside her. In the throes of passion, she’d gripped handfuls of his thick black hair, running her fingers through the silver wings at his temples that had made her guess his age as much older than he was.

He’d been only twenty-nine.

Which made him thirty-eight.

Her glance skipped to his mouth. She remembered bowed lips that had been soft to the touch, his first kiss so tender it had made her throat ache with unshed tears. There were no signs of softness in him now. His lips were pressed flat and bracketed by deep grooves. His eyes, deep-set and gray, reminded her of thunderous storm clouds.

Shaw hadn’t moved a muscle, hadn’t moved a hair, but she felt the threat of his presence, the threat of…his desire for her.

He was wearing a Savile Row suit that should have made him look civilized. Instead, she saw the tension beneath the masterfully tailored cloth, the power in corded sinew and bone. She felt her nipples peak as his nostrils flared, inhaling the scent of her like a stag in rut. Felt the blood fill her nether lips as she stared into heavy-lidded eyes that told her how much he wanted—needed—to be inside her.

She had to remind herself who he was. Yes, this was the stranger with whom she’d spent the most passionate night of her life. But Wyatt Shaw was also the son of mob boss Dante D’Amato. And a suspected murderer.

Her gaze skipped down to his long-fingered hands. Those hands had caressed her with infinite tenderness. Had they also strangled the woman found naked in his bed? It had only been six weeks since the sensational story had hit the tabloids. Billionaire businessman Wyatt Shaw was accused of murdering a call girl in his suite on the top floor of Shaw Tower.

A call girl?

That gave their night together an entirely new complexion. Had Shaw thought she was a call girl, too? Had she left before he’d put his money on the bedside table? Was the magical night she remembered merely one more sexual encounter with a call girl for him? Had she been lucky that long-ago night to escape with her life?

Kate was afraid to look back up into Shaw’s eyes, afraid the question—the accusation—would be there in her own.

Her knees felt rubbery, and she stiffened them. She glanced beyond Wyatt’s shoulder, searching the street for Jack’s SUV, hoping he would stay away until she could get rid of this apparition from her past, this stranger who’d ruined her sleep for far too many nights over the past nine years.

Kate shuddered at the thought of Texas Ranger Jack McKinley confronting Wyatt Shaw with his gun drawn. She didn’t want Jack killing the father of her sons. Or Wyatt killing the man she loved.

“We need to talk,” Shaw said.

“I don’t have anything to say to you.”

He lifted an arrogant brow that accused her of the terrible wrong she’d done him. But said nothing.

“You can’t have them.” Kate knew the instant the words came out of her mouth that she shouldn’t have spoken them.

“By them do you mean my sons?” he said, the sudden menace in his voice raising the hairs on her nape.

She tried to slam the door, but he was too fast for her. He simply caught the frame with his palm, waited until she let go, waited another moment until she stepped back, then strode inside and closed the wooden door with a quiet snick behind him.

She turned to face him in her tiny living room like a lioness defending her cubs, even though the twins were at school and wouldn’t be home for another hour. “You can’t have them. They’re mine.”

“And mine,” he said inexorably.

She could see that denial was futile. Somehow he’d found out the truth. “Who told you?”

“A private investigator hired by your mother-in-law.”

Kate groaned and lowered her face into her hands. She suddenly lifted her head and asked, “Does Ann Wade know?”

“I have no idea. The P.I. who contacted me was killed shortly after he left my office.”

Did you kill him? The words stuck in Kate’s throat. There was no sense asking, since he was unlikely to tell her if he had.

“When did you know the twins were mine?” he asked.

Kate felt a frisson of fear skitter down her spine. She had never been a good liar. The telltale pink blotches on her creamy skin always gave her away. But she was terrified of what the man standing in her living room might do if she told him she’d known within weeks of that fateful night that she’d gotten pregnant during their liaison.

The same day she’d gotten a positive result on a home pregnancy test, she’d seduced J.D., who’d gloated at how brief her sex boycott had been after she’d caught him in bed with another woman.

“You were a stranger I met in a bar,” she said to Shaw. “I didn’t know your name. I didn’t know how to contact you.”

“You didn’t answer the question,” he said, anger simmering in his eyes. “When did you know?”

“I couldn’t be sure my husband wasn’t the father,” she lied. And felt the sudden heat on her throat and cheeks.

His eyes narrowed. “It’s a simple question.”

Whenever she’d felt guilty over the years that she hadn’t sought out the stranger from the bar to tell him the truth, she’d reminded herself of the circumstances of their encounter. It was a night out of time.

She’d felt vindicated when she’d discovered who he was.

“What did you expect me to do when I found out I’d gotten pregnant while having sex with a perfect stranger?” A stranger accused of graft and corruption, of extortion and murder. And that was before a woman was found strangled to death in your bed.

His brows arrowed down at her admission that she’d known from the start what he’d just learned.

“You could have gone back to the hotel,” he said. “There were people there who knew me. You could have found me.”
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