Man of passion, p.1

Man of Passion, page 1

 

Man of Passion
 


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Man of Passion


  “Rafe Antonio at your service, Señorita Worthington.”

  As his strong mouth grazed Ari’s hand, a wild series of shocks leaped up her arm. No one had ever kissed her hand before! But the minute Rafe raised his head, she saw that his brown eyes were hard and merciless looking.

  “Ohh…well…thank you, Señor Antonio.” She quickly pulled her hand away.

  “Call me Rafe,” he told her. He didn’t want to like her. He couldn’t bear to think of spending the coming months keeping guard over a woman—especially a woman like this.

  But Morgan Trayhern was counting on him. And Rafe wasn’t the kind of man who would shirk his duty.

  To Karen David, a delightful maverick

  in her own right, and a dear friend.

  ISBN 0-373-24334-0

  MAN OF PASSION

  Copyright © 2000 by Lindsay McKenna

  All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the editorial office, Silhouette Books, 300 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017 U.S.A.

  All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.

  This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

  ® and TM are trademarks of Harlequin Books S.A., used under license. Trademarks indicated with ® are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Canadian Trade Marks Office and in other countries.

  Visit Silhouette at www.eHarlequin.com

  CLS

  Printed in U.S.A.

  Books by Lindsay McKenna

  Silhouette Special Edition

  Captive of Fate #82

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  *A Measure of Love #377

  *Solitaire #397 Heart of the Tiger #434

  fA Question of Honor #529

  fNo Surrender #535

  f Return of a Hero #541

  Come Gentle the Dawn #568

  fDawn of Valor #649

  **No Quarter Given #667

  **The Gauntlet #673 **

  Under Fire #679

  ffRide the Tiger #721

  ff One Man’s War #727

  ffOff Limits #733

  tHeart of the Wolf #818

  tThe Rogue #824

  tCommando #830

  **Point of Departure #853

  °Shadows and Light #878

  °Dangerous Alliance #884

  °Countdown #890

  ttMorgan’s Wife #986

  ttMorgan’s Son #992

  ttMorgan’s Rescue #998

  ttMorgan’s Marriage #1005

  White Wolf #1135

  ÊWild Mustang Woman #1166

  ÊStallion Tamer #1173

  ÊThe Cougar #1179

  AHeart of the Hunter #1214

  AHunter’s Woman #1255

  AHunter’s Pride #1274

  §Man of Passion #1334

  §A Man Alone #1357

  §Man with a Mission #1376

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  Silhouette Books

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  Lovers Dark and Dangerous 1994 “Seeing Is Believing”

  Morgan’s Mercenaries: Heart of the Jaguar Morgan’s Mercenaries: Heart of the Warrior

  Harlequin Historicals

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  Lord of the Shadowhawk #108

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  *Kincaid trilogy

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  **Women of Glory

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  tMorgan’s Mercenaries

  °Men of Courage

  ttMorgan’s Mercenaries:Love and Danger

  ÊCowboys of the Southwest

  AMorgan’s Mercenaries:The Hunters

  §Morgan’s Mercenaries: Maverick Hearts

  A homeopathic educator, Lindsay McKenna teaches at the Desert Institute of Classical Homeopathy in Phoenix, Arizona. When she isn’t teaching alternative medicine, she is writing books about love. She feels love is the single greatest healer in the world and hopes that her books touch her readers on those levels. Coming from an Eastern Cherokee medicine family, Lindsay has taught ceremony and healing ways from the time she was nine years old. She creates flower and gem essences in accordance with nature and remains closely in touch with her Native American roots and upbringing

  Dear Reader

  I’m just as much in love with Morgan Trayhem and his brave men and women who work at Perseus as you are! And after hearing how much you loved my last series, MORGAN’S MERCENARIES: THE HUNTERS, I wanted to find out what Morgan was up to next!

  Morgan’s mercenaries tend to be alpha men and women warriors—mavericks who don’t quite fit into society. In the spirit of the maverick, I decided to write about three men who broke the mold when they were born in MORGAN’S MERCENARIES: MAVERICK HEARTS.

  Rafe Antonio, the hero of Man of Passion, comes from a very rich and noble background, but by turning his back on what his family expects of him, he has severely disappointed his father, the owner of a banking empire in Manaus, Brazil. In South America, the firstborn male of any family is expected to learn the family business and take it over when the father tells the son to do so. But the mysterious AmazonBasin calls to Rafe. That is why he takes the lowly job of a backwoodsman, or forest ranger, working to protect the Indian people.

  Arianna Worthington is a young woman who is trying to find herself. More than anything, Ari wants to fulfill her deceased mother’s last wish. But to do so, she must go against her powerful father and head for the Amazon. When she meets Rafe, she never expects to fall in love. And neither does he….

  I’m celebrating a special milestone with this book—it is my fiftieth for Silhouette! Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

  Sincerely,

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter One

  “Morgan, I’m glad you could make it,” Ben Worthington said, standing up from behind his large cherry desk and thrusting his square hand out toward him.

  “Ben, it’s been awhile since we saw one another,” Morgan replied. Grasping the secretary of the Navy’s hand firmly, he saw Ben’s blue eyes narrow with concern, and wondered once again what had prompted his old friend’s sudden invitation.

  “Have a seat,” Ben invited. “Becky,” he called to his assistant, who sat in the outer office, “is the coffee on the way?”

  Morgan took a seat in the leather wing chair at the corner of Worthington’s desk and looked around the spacious Pentagon office. All kinds of Navy memorabilia—paintings, photos, diplomas—were affixed to the walls. Ben had been a Navy pilot on the carrier Enterprise d
uring the Vietnam War. Ben’s desk looked just as cluttered and busy as his own, Morgan thought. Through the venetian blinds Morgan could see a patch of blue sky and fluffy white clouds. It was spring in Washington, D.C., and hundreds of cherry trees with white perfumed blossoms surrounded the Capitol and nearby monuments.

  As Worthington’s prim and brisk secretary entered the office, silver tray in hand, Morgan gave her a nod. She smiled and handed him a white china cup decorated in gold trim.

  “If I remember right, Mr. Trayhern, you like your coffee straight?”

  Grinning, Morgan took the proffered cup and saucer. “Indeed I do, Becky. You’ve got a long memory.”

  She smiled broadly and gave her boss his coffee. “Details are important around here, as you know, sir.” She set the tray on a cherry coffee table that sat off to one side, near the cream-colored, buttery-soft leather sofa. “And in case either of you wants a midmorning snack, there’s a delicious coffee cake drizzled with caramel just begging to be eaten.”

  Groaning, Morgan thanked the tall, graceful secretary, whose red hair had become peppered with silver since he’d last seen her. In her mid-fifties, Becky had been working for Ben Worthington for a long time, and she was more than just an assistant, she was his right hand.

  “I need that coffee cake like I need a hole in my head,” Morgan confided to Ben as Becky quietly closed the door to the office to leave them in complete privacy.

  Ben raised his thick, sandy-colored brows as he sipped his coffee. “Makes two of us. I don’t get out and exercise like I used to.” He looked around the office. “Maybe it’s this place.”

  “Or the pressures and crises that keep popping up to throw you off your scheduled maintenance,” Morgan said, his mouth twisted wryly.

  “I see you know that one, too.”

  “My middle name is crisis,” Morgan agreed with a chuckle. He eyed the coffee cake. “I shouldn’t, but I’m going to….” Rising to his full height, he unbuttoned his dark blue pinstripe jacket and moved over to the coffee table. Twisting to look over his shoulder at Ben, he asked, “Want to join me in collusion?”

  Laughing, Ben patted his girth. “I’m twenty pounds over right now, Morgan. I don’t dare.”

  “I just thought I’d have some company so I wouldn’t feel so guilty about cutting such a huge piece for myself,” he murmured as he sliced off a healthy portion and placed it on a china plate. Picking up the plate along with one of the forks and white linen napkins Becky had thoughtfully left behind, Morgan moved back to the wing chair and sat down.

  “What’s on your mind, Ben?”

  Scowling, Ben put his coffee aside and picked up one of several gold-framed photographs on one side of his massive desk. “How long have we known one another?”

  Morgan sat back and chewed on the sweet, mouth-melting coffee cake. “Almost as long as Perseus has been in existence,” he replied, referring to the covert government organization he headed.

  Moving his hands over one small photo, Ben studied it. “That was ten years ago. Arianna was only fourteen years old when you formed Perseus.” He looked up. “She’s my youngest of three children.” Turning the photo around, he placed it so that Morgan could get a good look at her.

  “Pretty young lady,” Morgan commented. The photograph showed a woman of perhaps twenty-four or-five sitting among a number of potted plants in a greenhouse. She was delicate looking, with short, blond hair and her father’s sky blue eyes in an oval face. She was dressed in a pair of jeans, a pink tank top and tennis shoes. The expression on her face was one of pure joy.

  Ben leaned back in his chair, his hands folded across his belly. “Arianna was only eight when her mother died of leukemia. She was the youngest and it was very hard on her. She was too young to understand…and her mother’s death changed her forever…. I tried to help, but I was hurting so much myself that I’m afraid I didn’t do a very good job of being a parent at that time….”

  Morgan lost some of his joviality as Ben turned another framed photograph around for him to look at. It showed Ben and his wife, Ellen. “I’m sorry for your loss,” he murmured sincerely. In some respects, Ellen reminded him of his own wife, Laura, who also had blond hair. “Arianna really takes after your wife, doesn’t she?”

  “In every respect,” Ben muttered. “Which is why I asked you to drop by and see me.” Ben waved his hand. “I know you have other appointments today, equally important, and I’m grateful you could squeeze this impromptu visit into your schedule.”

  Morgan finished the tasty coffee cake. He blotted his lips with the napkin and picked up the cup of coffee. “I’m glad I could do it. I gather this involves something personal instead of professional?”

  Ben sat for a moment, his square face stern, his jowls set, his gaze pinned on his daughter’s photograph. Rousing himself, he nodded. “Yes…it concerns Arianna. And what she thinks she’s about to do.”

  Morgan heard the pain in the man’s somber voice and sympathized, though he had a feeling he knew what was bothering him. Ben was a hard-hitting Type A personality—a born leader, who liked to control every nuance of his life. As secretary of the Navy, his commanding leadership was a good thing. But Morgan wondered how Ben’s controlling personality might have impacted his family. He’d seen too many military men who were far too rigid with their wife and children.

  “Fill me in on how I can help you,” Morgan said.

  Ben sighed and picked up the picture of his daughter, holding it as he spoke. “Arianna is so much like her mother that since she’s grown up, I sometimes forget and think Ellen’s in the town house whenever Arianna comes over. Arianna’s twenty-five now, and has just graduated from GeorgetownUniversity with a degree in business and a minor in Spanish.”

  “Impressive,” Morgan murmured. He thought of his own children, who were growing up quickly. Jason was ten now, and little Katy wasn’t far behind. And the fraternal twins, Peter and Kelly, were a year old. “I’ve got a college fund already established for my four kids. I’m hoping they’ll see the benefits of a college education like your daughter, Arianna, has.”

  Worthington’s mouth tightened slightly. “I forced her into getting a degree in business. Maybe it was wrong of me, but I wanted Ari to have a solid foundation, so she could earn money and control her own life instead of having it controlled by others. She’s a very intelligent girl, if she’d just settle down.”

  Touching the frame, Ben continued unhappily, “She’s a dreamer, not a hard-core business type, Morgan. My wife was a dreamer, too. Lord, she had so many dreams. Ellen loved to travel. She wanted to go around the world. She loved orchids, and I had a small greenhouse built for her. Ellen and Arianna spent hours out in that little steamy box where she grew all those orchids. In fact, the year before Ellen died, she made a concerted effort to be with Arianna. They spent a couple hours every day, up until the last two weeks before her death, out in that greenhouse.”

  Touched, Morgan murmured, “It was a parting gift of love that Ellen gave to her then.”

  Ben’s normally hard face softened somewhat. “Yes…Ari was all she had left. Our son, Kirk, was at the NavalAcademy at the time.” He gave Morgan a pained look. “I think you already know our middle daughter, Janis, died at age thirteen. She took a stupid dare from a boy at a riding stable. He bet that the horse she was riding couldn’t jump a four-foot fence. It didn’t, and she fell off and broke her neck, dying instantly. It was a blow to all of us, but especially Ellen.” Rubbing his neck, Ben muttered, “I sometimes think that the shock of her death—the trauma of our loss—triggered Ellen’s leukemia. She contracted the disease six months after Janis died. It’s too coincidental, in my book.”

  “And Ari got shunted aside during that time?”

  “Yes, but she was the kind of little girl who would go off to her room and play for hours in a make-believe world.” Ben roused himself and gave Morgan a half smile. “She still does. And that’s the problem.”

  “How?”


  “One of the things my wife wanted to do more than anything else was take a trip down to the Amazon in Brazil to find orchids and draw them. My wife had a master’s degree in art. She was an incredible artist. She talked to Ari endlessly about all her dreams, and urged her to fill her life with exploration, with adventure, with going places.”

  “All the places Ellen hadn’t gotten to go, right?”

  “Yes.” Grimly, Ben sat up and said, “Ari has it in her head to go down to Brazil, to that damned jungle, and do exactly as her mother said—find orchids, draw them and have a book published on them. The only problem is that Ari is a delicate child. She hasn’t got any backbone. She’s painfully shy and has low self-esteem. Yet,” Ben growled in frustration, “she wants to traipse off to Brazil and do this crazy, stupid thing.”

  “She’s twenty-five,” Morgan said. “Old enough to make up her mind on what she wants to do.”

  “That’s the point!” Ben shot out of the chair and began to pace, his hands resting on his hips. “Ari has been a good girl. She’s been responsible. She’s done everything I’ve ever asked of her. Then, all of a sudden, she comes for a visit and tells me—tells me—that she wants to fulfill this crazy dream for her mother.”

  “Why not let her?” Morgan asked. He could easily understand what was fueling the daughter’s rebellion. In making her mother’s dying wish come true, she would help to heal herself from the loss of her beloved parent.

  “Because,” Ben said, turning and glaring at Morgan, “she’s not an artist! She has no degree in art. Oh, she dabbles with her colored pencils, and her mother did teach her some art techniques…but to think that she’s got the kind of artistic professionalism that a book demands? No. No way. I just don’t want to see her set herself up for disappointment. And risk her neck by running around a foreign country alone.”

  Ben sighed. “Ellen used to read Arianna books on Brazil. They would sit for hours with five or six orchid books spread all across her bed, and they’d make plans about which species should be drawn for the book. Ari has it in her head that she can go gallivanting off to the jungle and draw those orchids.”

 
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