awoke at six in the morning and in the semi-darkness of his room rummaged
through the dresser for his running shorts and T-shirt. This was the
perfect hour to run in the Hamptons, when the roads that led past corn and potato
fields and tall privet hedges, planted to screen the houses hidden behind
them, were still empty and peaceful.
He walked silently down the hallway so as
not to disturb his sleeping aunt and descended the stairs. At the kitchen
sink he poured himself a glass of water. As he drank, his eyes strayed
involuntarily across the backyard.
lights shone in the studio. In his mind he pictured Gen's delicately boned
face, the fan of her dark lashes against her cheeks as she lay sleeping on
the futon his aunt Grace had told him the local handyman had moved into
the studio. "I offered Genevieve the bedroom opposite yours, Alex, but she
insisted she was quite happy sleeping out there. Such an
independent-minded girl--not at all like those New York City lemmings,"
she'd added with a sniff of disdain for good measure, so Alex would know
this was meant as a pointed reference to his previous girlfriends.
Grace was right, he thought, and took another sip of water, his gaze still
riveted on the studio. Gen was different from those other women. He'd
known her for less than a week and already she had a more profound hold on
his thoughts than any other woman. And his fascination seemed to grow each
time he saw her.
of habit, Alex left the house by the porch overlooking the beach, so he
could have that incomparable first glimpse of dawn-lit ocean. He stood at
the railing, taking in the wide sweep of sand, the roll of incoming
waves--and froze as he spotted two dark forms bobbing in the surf.
Everything inside him went still, except for the heavy thudding of his
heart, which beat in sync with the waves pounding the shore. Only the bite
of the porch's wooden railing against his palms kept him from thinking
that this was but a continuation of the dreams and fantasies he'd had of
and Murphy were emerging from the surf, the dog bounding through the water
in great deerlike leaps, she timing her advance with the rhythm of the
incoming waves. Alex was filled with an instinctive, immediate urge to
rush to her aid that eased only when he saw how comfortable she was
negotiating the opposing forces of waves and undertow.
he tensed again it was for a different reason.
walked out of the sea like Venus at her birth, sleek, long-limbed . . .
perfect nascent femininity. Alex had never beheld such a glorious
Murphy gave a loud bark and shook himself vigorously, his long fur sending
water spraying. Alex heard Gen's shriek as the water hit her bare skin.
With a laughing reprimand to the dog, who had begun racing over the sand
in crazed zigzags and circles, she bent down and grabbed a beach towel,
wrapping it about her before scooping up the small bundle of clothes by
trudged through the deep sand that was still cool from the night air, and
stepped onto the wooden stairway that led right to the front lawn. The
grass was prickly wet with dew. The moisture plastered the sand to her
feet. As she crossed the lawn in the direction of the outdoor shower, a
flicker of movement on the porch caught her eye.
stopped in her tracks at the sound of Alex's voice. Luckily her arms were
clamped tight about her towel. Though little good that did. Even from the
distance of the porch, his gaze was a physical thing. Her skin tingled
with awareness. And against the thick weave of the towel, her nipples grew
taught and aching. She shivered.
No, she wasn't cold. She felt like she
was melting from a single fiery glance. With an effort, Gen pulled herself
together. "Uh, have you been sitting here long?"
It's beautiful here in the morning; the view's always striking. This
morning especially so. I liked your suit."
decided to brazen it out. After all, she had no hang-ups about her
body--at least she hadn't until three seconds ago. "Ahh, yes," she managed
lightly. "That would mean my birthday suit."
a more becoming one I've never seen. By the way, your mother's wrong.
You're not too thin. You're beautiful," he said quietly. She felt his gaze
slide over her and knew he was stripping her bare, seeing her as she'd
been a few minutes before. Her heart pounded in her chest. "Still, be
careful swimming alone. Much though I enjoyed it, I won't always be her to
watch over you."
that, Alex turned and headed back into the house, leaving Gen to stare
after him. His words flowed through her like a warm, heady current. Had
she acquired her very own guardian angel? she wondered bemusedly. One who,
instead of wings, came equipped with a private plane? Certainly he had the
fierce golden beauty of the Archangel Gabriel. And increasingly, when Alex
looked at her as he had just now, Gen was sure she'd find heaven in the
circle of his strong arms.
strode through the house, leaving by the kitchen door. His hands still
shook with the need to unknot that damnable beach towel and caress every
inch of her damp, salty skin. To touch Gen until she writhed, needing him
as much as he needed her.
ran, pushing himself, making his heart pound and the muscles in his legs
burn as sweat poured off his body. He ran as an act of will to control his
unruly mind and body. He ran, but couldn't escape the memory of Gen's
naked, glistening body rising from the sea.