Trev, when you least expect it, life grabs you by the short and curlies and
gives you a firm squeeze.”
Trevelyn Sinclair Mershan vented his frustration to the pair of accusing
green eyes, staring back at him from the rearview mirror. Oddly, for an instant he felt as if
he gazed at his twin brother.
Looking at the reflection was like looking at Jago; they were nearly
that identical―on the outside.
Inside they were nothing alike. St. Jago served as the conscience of
the three Mershan brothers.
me? Well, they might wonder if
I have horns hidden in my wavy, blue-black hair.” He laughed. “They might be right,
downshifted the powerful Lamborghini Murciélago, burying the
tac into the red. His fingers
flexed around the gearshift, relishing the engine’s deep growl of
protest; the sound evoked an image of a panther roaring in the night. At one with the darkness surrounding
him, he guided the sleek, black roadster toward his destination. He was a fool to come, he knew
only too well. Regardless, he
was lured onward, unable to resist the siren’s song.
had been tempted to hear. Why
should I be any different?” he said with a touch of self-derisiveness.
more, he glanced to the mirror.
Questions were reflected in the arresting eyes. Ones he didn’t like. They asked why he raced through the
night, compelled toward his goal, despite it being against his nature. It was a stupid, foolish errand, and
he wasn’t even going to summon reasons to justify what he was
doing. They’d be
lies. Shifting to speed through
the sharp S-turns, he ignored the mental finger-pointing. The answers were ones he’d
As a vice-president
of Mershan International, so many responsibilities weighed upon his
shoulders. Frequently, he did
deals before lunch which encompassed millions of dollars, hundreds of
millions. His signature on a
contract often affected thousands of lives. He liked the control, the rule.
it? Bloody hell. I get off on it.”
And women―well, he never had a
need to chase any female. All
he had to do was stand still and they were all over him. It was often humorous, the lengths
they would go to end up on his arm―and in his bed. A parade of beauties had traipsed
through his life, few ever lasting long enough to leave a lingering
impression. Flavor of the
month, Agnes Dodd, his sour-faced secretary, was fond of sneering. Likely, why this restlessness
that propelled him headlong through the night rankled so. He sighed, feeling his body tighten
in age old instincts.
first time in my life, I’m going after a woman.”
merely a woman―Raven Montgomerie. This Montgomerie sister was a
riddle. Perhaps why he’d
been unable to put the portfolio aside and go to bed tonight, leaving all
this business until the gala tomorrow.
The sexy redhead haunted his waking hours. Invaded his dreams. Dreams so vivid, he’d
repeatedly awoken bathed in sweat, his body cramped with agonizing
need. Endless cold showers did
little to chase away the persistent hunger. He was tired of reading reports or
staring at the stack of photographs of Raven, irritated he had a hard time
making the words and pictures go together. Most frustrating of all, he refused
to face the fact that he hadn’t taken another woman to bed since
he’d seen her five months ago.
Jago would howl with laughter if he ever got wind of that fact.
bloody losing it, old son.”
He clucked his tongue in a manner Jago often did when trying to
shame him into being good.
should Raven have such a hold over him when they’d never even
spoken? She was a beautiful
woman, true, but then all the Montgomerie sisters were. One of the pampered granddaughters
of Sean Montgomerie, she’d been raised in the lap of luxury. A silver spoon wasn’t good
enough for her, only a service of gold graced the table of Colford Hall
where she’d been reared.
of the ancient manor came into view as he rounded the bend. In response his muscles tensed, his
heart rate jumped, decades old resentment rising within him. The glimmering windows cast their
pale yellow light out onto the rolled lawn, the epitome of a wealthy
English estate. Trev slowed the
car to a crawl as he wheeled past the towering, ornate gates of the winding
drive, taking in the 14th century manor house that belonged to
Raven’s family. He
swallowed back the black fury at the symbol that obscene house represented
to him, to his brothers. A palace
with its five-story splendor, yet oddly, Raven eschewed living in
residence, instead opted to make her home in a thatched cottage on the far
side of the vast estate.
doing this simply made no sense.
Why live in a small house barely of notice when she could reside in
the regal elegance of Colford and have servants waiting on her hand and
foot? People would kill to have
the life she was born into; contrarily, Raven chose a path of modest means
and generally kept to herself.
He guessed after learning how the other sisters lived, this bent of
Raven’s shouldn’t perplex him to the point of obsession. One of the older sisters,
BarbaraAnne, stayed on a small isle in the north of Scotland, while
Raven’s twin Asha lived in some strange time warp, running several
small businesses out in the middle of bloody nowhere Kentucky.
Contradiction is thy name, Raven Montgomerie. You’re a puzzle I intend to
unriddle. Then you’ll vex
me no more,” Trev spoke softly as he pushed the car to speed.
muscles that bracketed his mouth deepened at the idea Raven was also a
twin. It gave them a
commonality, an understanding of what it was like to share your body with
another while the thoughts and feelings inside were totally different. That alone set Raven above other
women, already burned her into his mind when the face of his last bed
partner was fading into the vague mist in his recollection.
furling, he punched the gas, flying down the little lane. These narrow
roads of the English countryside were like a racecourse, a true challenge
to go as fast as he did, yet calling upon his quick reflexes to keep from
cracking up. “One simply
doesn’t crash a Lamborghini for the fun of it. Damn insurance rate on this
monster’s already high enough.”
short distance later, he slowed to take the turnoff. Most people would zoom past
and never notice it. A narrow
track, the surface was nearly non-existent, possibly remnants of an old
Roman way. It was fortunate the
Lamborghini rode low to the road, for several tree branches bowed almost to
the ground. One slapped at the
car as he passed, fingernails on a blackboard. He grimaced that the mirror finish
would be ruined.
hell, I really like this car.
Oh well, maybe midnight blue for the next one,” Trev mused
arrogantly to his reflection.
He traded cars nearly as often as he did women. His smirk switched to a scowl when
the gas pan dragged in a rut in the road. “Hmm…definitely midnight
the flicker of lights appeared in the distance, he shut off the headlights
and slowed the roadster even more.
He didn’t want Raven to spot his car coming.
things weighed, he wasn’t sure why he’d picked Raven as the
sister to target. Perhaps the
predator in him viewed her as the weakest link. Possibly it was something more, some
influence he didn’t even begin to fathom. He enjoyed strong women, females who
didn’t play coy. A quick
assessment of the Montgomerie sisters would peg them as warrior stock, with
a tendency to intimidate most men.
Not Raven. Haunting vulnerability
wrapped about her like a mantle, and in a strange fashion it intrigued
Trev, evoked a fey response within him that defied labels, unlike anything
he’d ever encountered. As
a rule, softer women failed to hold his attention. He took pleasure in the challenge of
the hunt, the clash of wills, yet none of the other vibrant siblings
mesmerized him in the manner Raven did.
could enumerate excuses why the other sisters failed to conjure his
interest. One-by-one he’d
crossed them off the list, coming up with various logical reasons to give
each a pass. Leaving
Raven. Some might remark as the
last choice. Something told him
that wasn’t true though.
Raven would never be the last choice. She was the first choice, the only
the small knoll materialized in the ghostly fog, he cut the wheel, switched
off the engine and allowed the car to coast across the lawn to halt under
an oak tree. The slight roll in
the landscape saw the mound overlooking the thatched house, nestled into
the odd crook in the land.
what a perfect location for tonight’s bit of work,” he said,
his low voice loud in the stillness of the night. “All the better to spy upon
you, Little Red Riding Hood.”
his keys, he opened the car’s gull wing door, and then paused with
foot balanced on the body’s fame while his eyes took him
bungalow was two stories, though the second level was likely just a bedroom
and bath due to the steep incline of the roof. The only time he’d been in a
thatched house was when he was small, in the months after his father had
committed suicide. He’d
been too young to remember much of that time in Ireland. Des remembered. That period of their lives had left
deep scars in his older brother.
Trev figured he’d look down his nose at Raven’s humble
home. Instead, he was
fascinated. An air of warmth
and welcoming beckoned him toward the cottage, aglow with its amber lights.
sat on the hood of the car and studied the bucolic structure, trying to
pinpoint Raven. Playing Peeping
Tom was easy. The place was
constructed of so much glass. A
gardener’s cottage once, there were two greenhouses―one on
either side of the whitewashed abode.
The first had likely been a hothouse, the other for plants that
required a more temperate clime.
Raven was an artist, a painter.
The report Julian Starkadder had compiled about her said she was
working toward a one woman show for a local gallery come next spring. The smaller glass room had been
turned into a studio. Even from
this distance he could see the easel, though it was too far away to tell
what she currently painted upon the large canvas.
from the two glassed in spaces, a dining room had been added, also with
glass walls. Raven
Montgomerie’s life was on display, but he figured she never
considered that. Some beautiful
women loved to put on a show for anyone looking―even Peeping
Toms. Still, for someone as
gorgeous as Raven, she didn’t live her life on the stage she created
here. He’d be willing to
bet the Lamborghini on that.
Raven was merely far away from people, nothing even remotely close,
so obviously she felt no need to hide behind drapes.
the hell are you, Red?” he asked. “Come out, come out, wherever
all these walls of glass and he couldn’t spot her. He knew she was at home. She’d been working on the
preparation for the gala all day, doing final touches. After supper he’d grown
twitchy, so had driven past the banquet hall that her brother, Cian, had
rented for Montgomerie Enterprise’s big bash. As he spotted her coming out of the
building, he swung into a parking lot down the road and watched while she
slid into her ancient MGB. Keeping
a distance, he followed her until she took the turn off for the
cottage. She was still there. His predator’s sense confirmed
impatient, he pushed off the car and trotted toward the cottage. The MGB was parked at the side of
the house, attesting to her presence within. Staying to the shadows, he circled around
the larger greenhouse and toward the back of the dwelling. As he cornered the far side, he
pulled up when he saw Raven.
Her face was framed in the kitchen window, an overhead light nearly
a spotlight on her. From her
movements, he saw she was washing dishes.
face was more than beautiful, it was arresting, with a hint of feline ethereality.
While her jaw reflected the same Montgomerie stubbornness as her
sisters, the thinness of her countenance softened the effect. Trev shuddered. His whole body cramped with
he echoed aloud.
The word caused
pause. With any other woman
he’d have said lust.
Trevelyn Mershan didn’t long for a woman. He simply wanted to screw them. Once he achieved that aim, they lost
any fascination for him.
Longing required more than animal impulses. It spoke of something much
deeper. And that bothered him.
floated through the night, and it took a moment to identify the song coming
from the kitchen, “Constant Craving”―an oldie by
KD Lang. Raven’s mouth
moved as she sang along with the words. Though he couldn’t hear her, a
shiver slithered up his spine.
Yeah, he knew something about constant cravings. Five months of it. Ever since he’d seen her back
last May at her grandfather’s funeral.
recalled sitting with his brothers at the rear of the small church,
watching the seven sisters in the pews at the front, then later while they
exited the ornate building.
That memory haunted him. So peculiar, beyond her beauty, there was
little about Raven that would normally attract him. No, Raven Montgomerie was not
his taste in women. And yet,
he’d known in that breathless instant when their eyes collided,
outside the ancient Norman kirk, that in five months time he’d be coming
for her, though hell should bar the way. She was the key to getting him
closer to the Montgomeries, so the Mershans could finally mête out
their long-overdue vengeance.
inner voice warned Trev that their objective had damn little to do with his
coming here tonight. A ravenous
need was rising in him, something dark, dangerous. A force primeval.
had auburn hair, straight and flowing down to the middle of her back. The shade was a bit darker than her
twin’s. Right now, it was
swept back in a ponytail, making her lovely face appear younger. Trev wanted to go in to her, pull
that black velvet band from around the dark red tresses, feel the heavy
weight in his hands, then yank her head back and kiss her, kiss her
until…until what? Until
he woke up the sleeping beauty?
He just put his finger on Raven’s existence here in this tiny
cottage―she was hiding from the world. She skirted along the edges of life,
not putting her emotions out there, never taking risks.
bad, Red. Life’s for the
smiled, feeling much like a wolf, targeting a choice lamb to single it from
reached up, snapped out the spotlight, and then moved away from the
casement. It annoyed Trev
he could no longer see her.
Prickly, impatient compulsion crawled over his skin. He inched closer to the house,
daring to go right up to the wall and look into the kitchen window.
was bent over, pouring dry cat food from a big bag into two bowls. The way the stretch jeans molded
across her derrière riveted his attention, leading him to envision
walking up behind her and running his hands over those rounded curves. So intense was his fantasy, it took
him a minute to notice the fat cats at her feet. One grey and one marmalade rubbed against
her calves, meowing. He almost
laughed aloud as a seagull hopped up and began stealing pieces of cat food
from the bowls.
Hopped―because the silly bird only had one leg. The scene grew even more
surrealistic when a fat, black dog wandered in from the greenhouse. Trev blinked thrice, having a hard
time believing his eyes. It
wasn’t a dog, but a tiny pony!
He shook his head as she walked to the backdoor.
on, Marvin,” she ordered―though Trev was unsure whether it was
addressed to the bird or the miniature horse. “You know you’re not
allowed in the main house. Just
the cats and the seagull chowing down on din-din, she marched Marvin the
Pony toward the back of the house. As they were halfway out the
screen door, the pudgy equine midget wheeled around and tried to dodge
between her legs to get into the kitchen.
Raven leaned over and tried to herd the toy pony, barely taller than
her knee, back toward the path leading to the barn. “Marvin, you can’t stay
in the house. Get it out of
watched from the corner of the porch as Raven prodded the pony down the
pathway, to the small stable, at the far side of the heavily landscaped
property, and then inside.
Itchy to see what she was doing, he followed, pulled to her as if
she were a lodestone. Clinging
to the deep shadows, he stood so he could see into the barn. Raven spread straw for the pony and
gave him a scoop of corn and fresh water.
liked watching her, how she moved.
There was a vital strength to the way her muscles shifted,
stretched―sinuous, with the grace of a ballet dancer, though that
body was built for sin. Closing
his eyes for a minute, he fought the waves of longing…hmm, lust…that
racked his body. His erection
pushed hard against the zipper of his slacks to the point of painful. Swallowing back the agony, he opened
his eyes. It had been a long
suddenly felt a tickle to his nose.
He rubbed his hand against it to make the sensation go away. It didn’t. Instead, he felt a sneeze coming
on. If he sneezed, she’d
hear him. Ironically, he
considered that Des would get particularly ticked at him if he were
arrested for trespassing and being a Peeping Tom. His brother would send his man Friday,
Julian Starkadder, to bail him out, and he’d never hear the end of
down, he saw what was provoking the allergy itch―the grey cat rubbed
against his leg. “Bloody
feline,” he whispered.
great! He was allergic to
cats. Not bad. He merely needed allergy shots to be
around them. But that was the
crux of the problem.
he breathed out and shuddered in revulsion.
was something obscene about sticking pieces of metal into your body, thus
he made a point of avoiding shots in any fashion. The sneeze came, but he was quick
enough to pinch his nostrils together, stopping it. Of course, his head felt like a
balloon blowing up. As he was
trying to equalize the pressure, a sharp stab hit his instep. Glancing down again, he saw
the stupid, one-legged seagull was there with the cat.
frowned. “I thought cats
ate birds,” he growled to the seagull.
blasted thing looked up at Trev, cocked its head to one side and then the
other, as if asking who he was and why was he here? When no reply came, the evil
creature began pecking at his foot again. Damn beak was sharp and hard,
too. Trev gently shook his
foot, trying to scoot the bird-brained bird away, but the cat reared up and
rubbed a little higher on his leg.
The resulting sneeze―traveling 165 kilometers per
hour―came and there was no holding it back.
head snapped around.
“Hallo? Is someone
hell,” he muttered under his breath. He dashed back to the house, nearly tripping
as the cat decided this was all a big game and chased around his feet. “Shoo, you mangy
stepped from the barn, putting her hands on her hips. She looked toward the cottage. When she heard nothing more she
cocked her head toward the road, staring out into the night. Trev was positive she couldn’t
see the black car under the centuries old tree. Despite it being autumn, oaks
wouldn’t lose the leaves until winter so it was still heavy with
finally noticed the bird hopping about. “What are you up to,
Atticus? I didn’t know
the barn door, she scooped up the seagull, tucked him under one arm, and
started back to the house. Trev
faded into the shadows of another oak, hiding behind its thick trunk. He rotated a quarter turn around the
tree’s body, keeping to her blind side. She passed so close. If he dared, he could reach out and
touch her shoulder. With the
faint wisps of fog swirling close to the ground and the way the shadows
caressed her face and body, she appeared exotic, mythical, a bespelling
elfin creature, perhaps with powers of the Leanan Sidhe, a fairy
lover conjured to drive a man to torment. Her scent
wafted to him―lemon and cinnamon, as if she had been baking
earlier. Not scents he would
associate with a woman as being sexy, nothing otherworldly. Silly, but his mouth watered.
hand lifted, and for an instant he craved to reach out and touch
her…take her. He ached to
possess her, own her, bring his attraction to this woman down to pure
animalistic cravings. Nothing
more. Then perhaps these
jumbled feelings she provoked within him would be banished and he could
stop acting like a total idiot.
His hand dropped, allowing her to move on by.
stopped on the porch and deposited the bird to the wooden floor. Her hand reached for the knob of the
backdoor. Hesitating, she
slowly rotated to look directly at the tall oak where he hid. Raven stood, her beautiful face
softly lit in the pale yellow shadows from the kitchen light. Perturbed, she stared out into the
night watching, waiting, almost as if she knew he was there. She could sense him.
rippled up the back of his neck as he told himself not to get
fanciful. There was no way she
could see him behind the tree.
No way she perceived his presence.
is there?” Raven asked of
the night. At length, one
shoulder lifted in a shrug and she hurried inside. The seagull hopped to the door and
then pushed through a metal pet entrance built into the frame.
me the Big Bad Wolf,” Trev whispered. “I hope you’re ready,
Red, because I’m coming tomorrow. Enough of these games of cat and
mouse.” As Raven had
stood staring into the darkness, her gentle spirit seemed to reach out to
him. He could almost taste her fragile
femininity. “Bloody tough
luck. You’re about the
meet the badest Mershan of them all.
Enjoy your safe, secure world with your menagerie of misfits one
more night. Tomorrow, Red,
I’ll huff and puff and blow your house down…”
an old tune by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, he made his way to the
car. Pulling his keys from his
pocket, he glanced back to the house to see the light in Raven’s loft
bedroom wink out.
“’You’re everything a Big Bad Wolf could
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