Her passionate plan b, p.1

Her Passionate Plan B, page 1

 

Her Passionate Plan B
 


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Her Passionate Plan B


  She Didn’t Move Away Fast Enough, And Somehow, She Was In His Arms.

  “Daisy,” Kell rumbled softly. “I was hoping I’d just imagined what happened between us.”

  Daisy shook her head. She hadn’t imagined anything. But before she could reply or even pull away, he was kissing her. Softly at first, a mere brushing of warm lips, then it escalated into something far more intense.

  Break away now while you still can, she told herself. Or you’ll never be able to settle for less.

  Daisy twisted her face away from his, her voice uneven as she murmured, “This isn’t very smart.”

  “Believe it or not, I didn’t plan for this to happen,” Kell said, panting as if he’d just finished a ten-mile run.

  “Trust me, sweetie, neither did I.”

  Dear Reader,

  Silhouette Desire is starting the New Year off with a bang as we introduce our brand-new family-centric continuity, DYNASTIES: THE ASHTONS. Set in the lush wine-making country of Napa Valley, California, the Ashtons are a family divided by a less-than-fatherly patriarch. We think you’ll be thoroughly entranced by all the drama and romance when the wonderful Eileen Wilks starts things off with Entangled. Look for a new book in the series each month…all year long.

  The New Year also brings new things from the fabulous Dixie Browning as she launches DIVAS WHO DISH. You’ll love her sassy heroine in Her Passionate Plan B. SONS OF THE DESERT, Alexandra Sellers’s memorable series, is back this month with the dramatic conclusion, The Fierce and Tender Sheikh. RITA® Award-winning author Cindy Gerard will thrill you with the heart-stopping hero in Between Midnight and Morning. (My favorite time of the night. What about you?)

  Rounding out the month are two clever stories about shocking romances: Shawna Delacorte’s tale of a sexy hero who falls for his best friend’s sister, In Forbidden Territory, and Shirley Rogers’s story of a secretary who ends up winning her boss in a bachelor auction, Business Affairs.

  Here’s to a New Year’s resolution we should all keep: indulging in more desire!

  Happy reading,

  Melissa Jeglinski

  Senior Editor, Silhouette Desire

  DIXIE BROWNING

  Her Passionate Plan B

  Books by Dixie Browning

  Silhouette Desire

  Shadow of Yesterday #68

  Image of Love #91

  The Hawk and the Honey #111

  Late Rising Moon #121

  Stormwatch #169

  The Tender Barbarian #188

  Matchmaker’s Moon #212

  A Bird in Hand #234

  In the Palm of Her Hand #264

  A Winter Woman #324

  There Once Was a Lover #337

  Fate Takes a Holiday #403

  Along Came Jones #427

  Thin Ice #474

  Beginner’s Luck #517

  Ships in the Night #541

  Twice in a Blue Moon #588

  Just Say Yes #637

  Not a Marrying Man #678

  Gus and the Nice Lady #691

  Best Man for the Job #720

  Hazards of the Heart #780

  Kane’s Way #801

  *Keegan’s Hunt #820

  *Lucy and the Stone #853

  *Two Hearts, Slightly Used #890

  †Alex and the Angel #949

  †The Beauty, the Beast and the Baby #985

  The Baby Notion #1011

  †Stryker’s Wife #1033

  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

  Rocky and the Senator’s Daughter #1399

  The Millionaire’s Pregnant Bride #1420

  **Beckett’s Cinderella #1453

  **Beckett’s Convenient Bride #1484

  Social Graces #1550

  Driven to Distraction #1568

  ††Her Passionate Plan B #1628

  Silhouette Special Edition

  Finders Keepers #50

  Reach Out To Cherish #110

  Just Deserts #181

  Time and Tide #205

  By Any Other Name #228

  The Security Man #314

  Belonging #414

  Silhouette Romance

  Unreasonable Summer #12

  Tumbled Wall #38

  Chance Tomorrow #53

  Wren of Paradise #73

  East of Today #93

  Winter Blossom #113

  Renegade Player #142

  Island on the Hill #164

  Logic of the Heart #172

  Loving Rescue #191

  A Secret Valentine #203

  Practical Dreamer #221

  Visible Heart #275

  Journey to Quiet Waters #292

  The Love Thing #305

  First Things Last #323

  Something for Herself #381

  Reluctant Dreamer #460

  A Matter of Timing #527

  The Homing Instinct #747

  Cinderella’s Midnight Kiss #1450

  Silhouette Books

  Undertow 2003

  Lone Star Country Club

  The Quiet Seduction

  Silhouette Christmas Stories 1987

  “Henry the Ninth”

  Spring Fancy 1994

  “Grace and the Law”

  World’s Most Eligible Bachelors

  ‡His Business, Her Baby

  DIXIE BROWNING

  A painter and gallery-operator whose interests include archaeology and astrology, folk music and baseball, Dixie Browning branched out in a brand-new direction in 1976, starting with a weekly newspaper column on art. Since then she’s written more than a hundred romances. Now living with her retired husband on North Carolina’s Outer Banks where she grew up, Dixie uses the area she knows best as background for many of her stories.

  For a personal reply, fans may contact her at P.O. Box 1389, Buxton, NC 27920, or through her Web site, www.dixiebrowning.com.

  Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  One

  Daisy, who prided herself on her dependability, was upset that she arrived late for the graveside service. First the blasted phone wouldn’t stop ringing, and then, in the middle of getting dressed, someone had pounded on the front door, causing her to accidentally kick one of her good shoes under the bed. Faylene had been there to answer it, thank goodness—it had been the power people wanting to know when to suspend service.

  She had dashed back upstairs in her stocking feet and retrieved her shoe, in the process pulling a run in her only pair of dark panty hose. As a result of all that, plus the fact that her car was always cranky in wet weather, she was already more than ten minutes late.

  Standing stiffly apart from the few others gathered at the graveside of her late patient, she felt the cold, blowing rain begin to soak through her raincoat, which was old, but at least it was black. Her yellow slicker had seemed somehow inappropriate.

  Egbert, of course, was already there. She’d never known him to be anything other than punctual. Under the cover of a pair of oversize sunglasses, Daisy studied the man she had picked out to marry. When it came to making matches, she was old enough to know what mattered and what didn’t. She wasn’t
about to make the same mistake a second time.

  Egbert hadn’t a clue, bless his heart. It would never occur to him that any woman would deliberately set out to seduce him into marriage—but then, modesty was one of his better qualities. Daisy had scant patience with overt “testosteronism,” or blowhards as she called them.

  For the first time, a slight shift in the few people huddled on the other side of the grave gave her a clear view of the man standing next to Egbert. Now, there, she mused, was the perfect example. If that man had a modest bone in his long, lean body, she would be seriously surprised. Even the way he was standing with his feet spread apart, his arms crossed over his chest, spelled arrogance.

  I came, I saw, so what the hell—I conquered.

  She could almost read his thoughts.

  She could almost feel his thoughts.

  Egbert was wearing his usual dark suit along with a nicely cut black raincoat. A sensible man, he had brought along an umbrella. He really was a nice-looking man, she thought objectively. Maybe not Hollywood handsome, but certainly moderately attractive.

  Daisy was a firm believer in moderation. Unlike her two immoderate best friends, she didn’t have a string of failed marriages behind her, only a single ego-numbing near miss. Once he realized what a perfect wife she would make, Egbert would be her first. Theirs would be a lasting union between two mature professionals, not one of those starter marriages that were so popular these days.

  A noisy flock of ducks flew overhead to settle on the nearby river. She followed the ragged chevron until they were out of sight and then her gaze strayed back to the tall stranger.

  No sensible raincoat for him, much less an umbrella. Rain beat down on his bare head, plastering gleaming black hair to a deeply tanned brow. For reasons she was at a total loss to explain, she felt a shiver of purely sexual interest. If she’d learned one thing from the past—and she’d learned several—it was that the minute sexuality kicked in, common sense flew out the door.

  The man was a full head taller than Egbert, which would have made sharing Egbert’s umbrella difficult even if he had offered. And knowing Egbert, he would have offered, because he was not only polite, he was genuinely caring—another big mark in his favor.

  Between sneezes, the preacher managed to get in a few words about the man they were there to honor while Daisy wondered some more about the mysterious stranger. If she’d ever laid eyes on him she would definitely have remembered, not just because he was the only one present who was not appropriately dressed.

  Although she had to admit that his blue jeans and leather bomber jacket were far better suited to the weather than her six-year-old black dress and leaky black raincoat, not to mention the muddy pumps that were slowly sinking into the wet earth.

  It wasn’t very cold, but the rain was beginning to come down in earnest now. Hardly a time to be wearing sunglasses, but then, people often did at funerals, she rationalized, if only to hide eyes that were red and swollen from tears.

  Or, as in Daisy’s case, to shield open curiosity.

  No, he definitely wasn’t from around here. She knew everybody in Muddy Landing by sight, if not by name. Besides, if Sasha and Marty had ever laid eyes on him, he’d be heading their list of eligible bachelors. That is, if he was eligible.

  She tried to see if he was wearing a ring. He wasn’t, but that was no guarantee. He had tucked his thumbs under his belt with his fingers splayed out over a flat abdomen. The phrase washboard abs came to mind.

  Washboard abs? She’d been watching too much television. Since Harvey, her longtime patient, had died so unexpectedly, she’d had trouble getting to sleep, but from now on she’d stick to the weather channel.

  He hadn’t moved a muscle. Maybe he was from Fish and Game, checking to make sure no one slipped down to the river for a spot of illegal duck hunting. No uniform, though. Besides, his hair was too long for a fed.

  On a day like this, she mused, he could at least have worn a hat. She pictured him in a Stetson—a black one, not a white one, with the brim turned up on one side and a showy cluster of feathers tucked under the band.

  Almost as if he could feel her staring at him, the stranger suddenly looked directly at her across the blanket of drowned flowers and artificial turf. Daisy stopped breathing. There was nothing unusual about blue eyes, but when they were set under crow-black brows in a face the color of well-tanned leather, the effect was…well, riveting, to put it mildly.

  The service came to a hurried conclusion just as a fresh wave of rain blew in off North Landing River. With no family to console, the preacher sneezed again, glanced around and mumbled a few apologetic words to no one in particular before hurrying to the waiting black minivan. The pitifully small group of mourners began to straggle away—all but two.

  Oh, Lord, they were headed her way. Not now—please!

  Pretending not to hear Egbert calling to her, Daisy hurriedly splashed her way through puddles to where she’d left her car in the potholed parking lot. She was in no mood to have anyone—not a stranger and certainly not Egbert—see her with wet hair straggling down her neck, wearing a six-year-old rayon dress and a soggy raincoat that was even older. Not that she was egotistical in the least, but that would probably set her plans back at least six months.

  The timetable she’d set for herself didn’t allow for six months. She wasn’t getting any younger. Three months from now Egbert would have been widowed exactly a year. Timing was everything. She didn’t want to rush him, but neither did she want to wait until some other woman moved in and staked a claim.

  She pulled out onto the highway, the windshield wipers slapping time with her disjointed thoughts.

  She would finish all the sorting and packing that had to be done, and then she would sit quietly and listen while Egbert explained for the third time all the legal whereases, whereinafters and heretofores that prevented him from simply reading poor Harvey’s last will and testament and turning everything over to the beneficiaries. Which in this case were the housekeeper Harvey had shared with Daisy’s two best friends, and a loosely organized, poorly funded historical society.

  A glance in the rearview mirror told her Egbert was two cars behind, driving precisely two miles under the speed limit. Some devil made her press her foot on the accelerator until she was doing five miles above the speed limit.

  Daisy never exceeded the speed limit. Caution was her middle name.

  “We’ve got to do something about Daisy.” Rain droned down outside as Sasha propped her elbows on the table, carefully stroking glittery purple polish on her long fingernails. “She’s showing signs of being seriously depressed.”

  At Daisy’s request, neither of her friends had attended the graveside service. They hadn’t insisted.

  “She’s not depressed, she’s grieving. She’s always like this after she loses a patient, especially a long-term patient. That color clashes horribly with your hair, by the way.”

  Sasha studied her nails, then looked at her friend, Marty Owens. “Purple and orange? What’s wrong with it? You know, the trouble with Daisy is that she takes every case so personally. It’s bad enough working all those long hours, but when she actually moves in with a patient the way she did with poor Harvey Snow…” Sighing, she wiped off a smudge of polish.

  “I guess it made sense when she got evicted and he had that big old empty house going to waste.”

  “She wasn’t evicted. Everybody had to move out after the fire. Where else would she have gone? The nearest motel still open is in Elizabeth City—that would have added at least forty minutes to her daily commute. Anyway, it probably wouldn’t have hit her so hard if either one of them had any other family.”

  Nodding in agreement, Marty poured herself another glass of wine. She was already over her limit, but weekends didn’t count. Trouble was, since being forced to close her bookstore, every day was a weekend. “I never heard her call him anything but Mr. Snow, but you know what? I think she considered him sort of a surrogate grand
father. Who’ve you got in mind for our next match, Sadie Glover or the girl with the thick glasses who works at the ice-cream place?”

  The two women—three, when Daisy was with them—were accustomed to topic-hopping. Sasha said, “How about Faylene?”

  Marty’s eyes widened. “Our Faylene? Well, for one thing, she’d kill us.”

  “Daisy needs a distraction. Can you think of a bigger challenge than to find a mate for Faylene?”

  “She’d be a challenge, all right. The trouble is, we’re running out of male candidates unless we expand our hunting range.”

  “Oh, I don’t know—I’ve got a couple of possibilities in mind,” Sasha said thoughtfully.

  Several years ago it had been Sasha and Daisy who had lured Marty into helping set up a shy, elderly neighbor with the cashier at the town’s only pharmacy. At the time, Marty had just lost her second husband to another woman and needed a distraction. The match had been deemed a success when the neighbor had rented out his house and moved in with the widowed cashier and her seventeen cats.

  The three women had toasted their success and begun looking around for any others who might need a deftly applied crowbar to pry them out of a lonely rut. Soon matchmaking had become their favorite pastime. Not simply shoving a pretty single woman into the path of any eligible man. There was no challenge in matchmaking for winners.

  But for those who had given up hope—for the terminally shy, the jilted, the plain and the socially inept—now, there was a worthwhile cause. Without actually planning it, the three friends began identifying needy singles in the area and tactfully offering makeovers and even a few hints on dating protocol where needed. Often all that was required was a simple boosting of self-confidence. Or as Sasha put it, echoing a song from her humongous antique record collection, accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. After that, they engineered situations that threw the prospective couple together, the local bimonthly box suppers being a favorite venue, and let nature take its course.

  “Forget Faylene,” Marty said now. “Why don’t we just find a man for Daisy?” Of the three women, Daisy Hunter was the only one who had never married. Marty, having buried one husband and divorced another, had officially sworn off men for herself.

 
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