More to love, p.1

More to Love, page 1


More to Love

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More to Love

  Rafe Was Used To Women

  Trying To Seduce Him—

  wanting something from him. But when it came to playing the game, he prided himself on being one of the best, making certain first that everyone knew the rules.

  Molly probably didn’t even know there were rules.

  She smiled at him. When she forgot herself long enough, she was surprisingly attractive. Friendly, warm, engaging…pretty.

  Pretty? Hell, she looked beautiful!

  But what was he going to do about it?

  Dear Reader,

  Welcome to the world of Silhouette Desire, where you can indulge yourself every month with romances that can only be described as passionate, powerful and provocative!

  Fabulous BJ James brings you June’s MAN OF THE MONTH with A Lady for Lincoln Cade. In promising to take care of an ex-flame—and the widow of his estranged friend— Lincoln Cade discovers she has a child. Bestselling author Leanne Banks offers another title in her MILLION DOLLAR MEN miniseries with The Millionaire’s Secret Wish. When a former childhood sweetheart gets amnesia, a wealthy executive sees his chance to woo her back.

  Desire is thrilled to present another exciting miniseries about the scandalous Fortune family with FORTUNES OF TEXAS: THE LOST HEIRS. Anne Marie Winston launches the series with A Most Desirable M.D., in which a doctor and nurse share a night of passion that leads to marriage! Dixie Browning offers a compelling story about a sophisticated businessman who falls in love with a plain, plump woman while stranded on a small island in More to Love. Cathleen Galitz’s Wyoming Cinderella features a young woman whose life is transformed when she becomes nanny to the children of her brooding, rich neighbor. And Kathie DeNosky offers her hero a surprise when he discovers a one-night stand leads to pregnancy and true love in His Baby Surprise.

  Indulge yourself with all six Desire titles—and see details inside about our exciting new contest, “Silhouette Makes You a Star.”


  Joan Marlow Golan

  Senior Editor, Silhouette Desire

  More to Love


  To all of us “generous” women

  Books by Dixie Browning

  Silhouette Desire

  Shadow of Yesterday #68

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  *Keegan’s Hunt #820

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  *Two Hearts, Slightly Used #890

  †Alex and the Angel #949

  †The Beauty, the Beast and the Baby #985

  The Baby Notion #1011

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  Look What the Stork Brought #1111

  ‡The Passionate G-Man #1141

  ‡A Knight in Rusty Armor #1195

  Texas Millionaire #1232

  The Bride-in-Law #1251

  §A Bride for Jackson Powers #1273

  §The Virgin and the Vengeful Groom #1331

  More to Love #1372

  Silhouette Yours Truly

  Single Female (Reluctantly) Seeks…

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  Silhouette Books

  Silhouette Christmas Stories 1987

  “Henry the Ninth”

  Spring Fancy 1994

  “Grace and the Law”

  World’s Most Eligible Bachelors

  ‡His Business, Her Baby

  Harlequin Historicals— Writing as Bronwyn Williams White Witch #3

  Dandelion #23

  Stormwalker #47

  Gideon’s Fall #67

  The Mariner’s Bride #99


  has been writing for Silhouette since 1980 and recently celebrated the publication of her sixty-fifth book, Texas Millionaire. She has also written a number of historical romances with her sister under the name Bronwyn Williams. An award-winning painter and writer, Browning lives on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. You can write to her at P.O. Box 1389, Buxton, NC 27920.


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven


  To think she had actually considered slipping peacefully into a midlife crisis, never mind that according to one article she had read there was no such thing. She’d had all the classic symptoms. Worry about her looks, about broken relationships and career disappointments, about the waning importance to her family.

  Besides, the alternative seemed so selfish. Wanting something for herself.

  But a midlife crisis? At the age of thirty-six? Hardly. And Annamarie was still depending on her, which was the reason she was here. As for her new career, it looked promising, once the electricians and painters and plasterers got finished so that everyone could move in again. Being head housekeeper in an assisted-living home might not be the most glamorous career in the world, but then, Molly was nothing if not a realist. And she was finally doing something about her looks. As for the other symptom—the relationship thing—her one shot at happy-ever-after had given her a genuine distaste for fairy tales.

  Only four days ago Molly had caught her first glimpse of the ocean. She had seen a sand dune that was almost as big as one of her own West Virginia mountains. She had collected a bushel of tourist brochures on her way down the Outer Banks, telling herself she would read every one and see everything that looked halfway interesting.

  And it all did. The miracle was that for once in her life she had time on her hands. The only thing she had to do was feed and water a couple of birds and clean their cages, and look after one elderly cat.

  The ferry ride from Hatteras to Ocracoke had been just the beginning. There was an observation deck, but as it had taken her about twenty minutes of the allotted forty to work
up enough nerve to step out of her car, she had never made it up the narrow ladder. Instead she’d grabbed hold of the metal railing and waited to see if she was going to be sick. It had taken a few more minutes to get used to the gentle rolling motion of the deck, but there was so much to take in that she’d soon forgotten all about her queasiness. Flocks of seagulls following the ferry swooped down to catch scraps of bread tossed by three pretty girls standing at the chain across the stern. They passed another ferry headed in the opposite direction, and people waved. Feeling bold and adventurous, Molly released her grip on the railing and waved back.

  It had to be fate, she remembered thinking at the time. First, the lightning strike that had caused Holly Hills Home where she worked to be shut down for repairs. Next, the fact that Stu and Annamarie had rented a cottage on Ocracoke Island and then decided to take a week off for a side trip and needed someone to look after Pete, Repete and Shag. Molly couldn’t remember the last time she had taken a real vacation. She hadn’t even had to think twice when Annamarie called to ask if there was any possible way she could come down and take care of the critters for just a few days. It was only a five-hour drive, one way. Ferry included.

  Molly had gone right out and splurged on three new outfits suitable for a beach vacation in late April. If she could have found a T-shirt that said Live For The Moment, or Go With The Flow, she would probably have bought it, never mind that she was built more for tents and tunics than T-shirts.

  She remembered singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” under her breath as she’d stood there on the ferry watching the water of Hatteras Inlet flow past. Where better than an island to adopt that attitude?

  The teenage girls had giggled and postured. They were a bit underdressed for the weather, which was still cool. But then, if she’d had their figures she might have done some showing off, too. The ferry had been loaded with fishermen, some of them young and attractive. A few were asleep in their vehicles, a few more were outside comparing fishing gear. Most were watching the girls, except for one who was—mercy, he looked like a young Sly Stallone!—watching her!

  Watching her?

  Pretending she hadn’t noticed, Molly concentrated on a big black bird sitting on a post out in the water, his wings spread as if he were about to take off.

  “Cormorant,” said the Stallone look-alike, edging closer along the railing. “Drying his wings.” Up close, he was only a few inches taller than Molly’s modest five foot two, and already he was showing signs of a beer belly, but he had a nice smile.

  She glanced up at the cloudless sky, then back at Sleepy Eyes. “How did they get wet?”

  “Diving for dinner.”

  She remembered trying to look as if she knew precisely what he meant, but as the whole experience had been so new, she probably hadn’t been too convincing.

  “First time down here?” he asked.

  “Actually, it is.”

  “Me, I come every year, spring and fall. Me and my buddies enter tournaments all up and down the coast. The weather can turn on you real quick this time of year, though. You shoulda waited a few weeks.”

  “Fishing tournaments?”

  He pointed to the small pennant flying from the antenna of his dark green pickup truck. “O.I.F.T. That’s Ocracoke International or Invitational, anyway you want to call it.” He went on to describe several such tournaments and his prowess at each while Molly soaked up the novelty of sunshine and seagulls, a moving deck underfoot and the full attention, for the moment at least, of a handsome young man. Could someone have waved a magic wand, turning plain, plump Molly Dewhurst into someone her own mirror wouldn’t recognize? Had the lumbering old ferryboat been a pumpkin in a previous incarnation?

  “Cut bait’s what you want. Some like bloodworms, but me, I like salt mullet best.”

  All right, so his charm was a little on the rustic side. No one had ever accused her of being a snob.

  Reaching into the back of his truck, he took a can of beer from the cooler, offered it to Molly, and when she refused, popped the top and drained half the contents in one thirsty gulp.

  Molly fingered a strand of blowing hair away from her eyes. Sunglasses. She should have thought to get herself a pair. Big ones. Then she could ogle all she wanted to without getting caught at it. She’d invested in a new lipstick, a new hairstyle and the new outfits, but spending money on herself took practice. She hadn’t quite got the knack of it yet.

  “Where you staying?” he drawled. He had one of those raspy voices that went with his sleepy eyes.

  Molly swallowed hard and tried to sound terribly blasé. “It’s a cottage. My sister’s. Actually it’s not hers. She’s only renting it.”

  “So maybe I’ll see you around?” Was that an opening or a dismissal?

  She took several mental steps back. She didn’t do casual flirtations. The old Molly had never had a chance to learn, and the new Molly needed to work on self-confidence first. “Maybe so,” she said airily. “If I don’t see you again, good luck in the tournament.”

  “When it comes to fishing, I make my own luck.” He flashed her a lazy grin. “There’s sixty teams in this one, with a mile-long waiting list. If you’re a betting woman, put your money on ol’ Jeffy Smith.”

  “Thank you. I’ll, uh—do that.” Molly remembered thinking at the time that men based their ego on the strangest things. Her ex-husband, for instance, made certain everyone knew he’d gone to Yale, never mind that he’d lasted only a single semester. Jeffy Smith evidently took pride in his prowess as a fisherman—or maybe in being a member of an exclusive group. But he’d been friendly. He’d seemed nice. He was attractive in a rough sort of way. And as she had recently cast off her old persona, determined to take a cue from a recruiting slogan and become all she could become, she’d responded with a smile.

  And then Jeffy had tossed his beer can over the side, patted his belly and belched. So much for her ferryboat Prince Charming. He was obviously a man’s man. But then, she’d reminded herself, her ex-husband had been a ladies’ man. Of the two, she preferred the slob.

  Correction. Of the two, she preferred neither. Still, it was a shame. Her very first shipboard romance, and it had ended before it even began.

  “We’ll be landing in a couple of minutes. Now, remember, if you need any help learning how to hold a rod, you just call on ol’ Jeffy.” His eyes had twinkled. He had black eyes, black hair and a three-days’ growth of beard. Molly hadn’t known if it was a fashion statement or one of those things men did when they were off the reservation. With Kenny, it had been just the opposite. When he was home, he never bothered to shave or even comb his hair, but if he’d been going out anywhere at all, it was full-dress parade, from the fancy designer shoes he had charged to her account to the expensive cologne he splashed on his throat before he buttoned his designer shirt and knotted his designer tie.

  Once when he’d gone on and on about designer this and designer that, she’d asked him who designed the clothes that didn’t bear a designer’s label. He’d given her a blank stare and asked for fifty dollars to tide him over.

  That was another thing about Kenny Dewhurst. He was totally devoid of a sense of humor. He was equally devoid of any funds except those provided by his doormat of a wife.

  Ex-doormat, Molly remembered thinking. Breathing deeply of freedom, diesel fumes and salt air, she had smiled at the semi-handsome slob leaning on the railing beside her while the heavy engines throbbed beneath her feet. Here she was, under a cloudless blue sky, off on an island adventure, and before she even set foot on the island, a friendly man had struck up a conversation with her while only a few feet away three really cute girls, size zilch, were flirting with his fishing buddies.

  The engines had changed pitch as the ferry swerved into a narrow channel. Her Stallone look-alike had said, “Guess I’d better load up. So…I guess I’ll see you around, huh?”

  “Probably. I understand it’s a small island.” Nice going, Molly. Not too eager, not too cool. Sh
e had climbed back into her car and watched through the rearview mirror as he rejoined his friends. There were some knowing grins, a few elbows to the ribs, and then they stowed their gear and climbed into their muscle trucks.

  “Stowed their gear,” she repeated smugly now. Pretty nautical for a woman who had never before set foot on an island. Never even set foot outside West Virginia until four months ago.

  She was going to like this new Molly just fine. She had…well, maybe not style. At least not yet. But she had attitude, by heck, and that was the first step!

  That had been four days ago. That very afternoon Stu and Annamarie had caught the last ferry headed north, after writing detailed instructions on how to care for the two African Gray parrots and Shag the cat. The next morning Molly had introduced herself to the next-door neighbor, Sally Ann Haskins, who told her how to find the general store, the post office, and tried to tempt her into taking a puppy off her hands.

  “Mama Dog’s plumb worn out. I’m going to get her fixed. She had seven this time. Last time it was eleven, poor thing. You sure you couldn’t use a nice retriever pup? Your sister said she had too many animals already, but she said you might be interested.”

  “I’d love one, but—” Mama Dog flapped her tail lethargically, but didn’t even lift her head when Molly knelt and reached for one of her squirming babies. “But the place where I live has this rule about animals.”

  “Reckon I could offer it as a prize in the fishing tournament? Biggest catch of the day gets a free puppy? Fishermen mostly drive pickup trucks, and every pickup has to have a dog to ride in the back. It’s a state law.”

  So then Molly had told her all about the ferryboat encounter with a fisherman in a dogless pickup truck. “Just when I was starting to think he had real possibilities, he threw his beer can overboard.”

  “You know the old saying, garbage in, garbage out.” Sally Ann worked for the ferry department, which Molly considered wildly exciting. “Maybe the jerk’ll hook into his own beer can and wreck his gear. They say there’s a big low headed up the coast. Last three years in a row, the weather’s been so bad, most folks left after the first day. You don’t want to try surf fishing in gale force winds—the sand’ll cut the skin right off your face.”

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