Taggart Lancaster wasn't a man who smiled much, but he found himself on the brink as he took in this raven-haired woman with the smoky eyes. "I hope you enjoy your visit, Mr. Wittering," Mary said. Her throaty voice was only a whisper, yet it rang loud and long in his head.
"Call me Bonn," he said, feeling like a tongue-tied schoolboy.
"Thank you." She broke eye contact to face Miz Witty. "Can I get you anything else?"
"No, dear. Go relax for awhile." The older woman poured tea into her cup, then paused. Her brows dipped in a thoughtful frown. "Oh, where are my manners?" She shifted to face Taggart. "Bonny, sweetheart, would you like some tea? Perhaps a snack after your long trip?" Without letting him respond she waved a negating hand. "Of course, you would." She faced Mary. "Mary, dear, please ask Cook for another plate of toast and more tea."
"Right away," Mary said with a smile as she turned to go.
"If you've got coffee?" Taggart broke in, experiencing a prick of disappointment that she was leaving. "I'll serve myself and bring it back here. I'm not hungry."
Mary looked at Taggart. "Don't trouble yourself, sir. I'll get it."
"Absolutely not." He turned to Miz Witty. "I'll be right back." He was having trouble with the idea of seeing Mary O'Mara walk away.
Miz Witty smiled and took up her teacup. "That's very gentlemanly of you, Bonny." Sipping she beamed at Mary, then added, "He's truly a treasure."
The young care-giver smiled at her employer, nodded and shifted to leave, her sneakers soundless as she glided away. Taggart followed her out the door, closing it as he left. Her scent drifted back to him, light and floral, seeming to beckon. Her long hair, falling well past her shoulders, shined as it undulated.
Suddenly, Taggart found it essential to see those eyes again, experience the invigorating warmth of her smile. He had not been gripped by such an unexpected need since that night he'd met Annalisa, and he'd never expected to experience anything even vaguely as intoxicating, ever again. He and Annalisa had fallen in love the night they'd met. They were married three weeks later, so the courtship lasted about as long as it took for them to eat dinner. By dessert they'd been engaged.
For a long time after his wife's death he hadn't dated at all. After three years, his friends finally convinced him to get out, meet women. Since then he hadn't been a monk, but he wasn't a playboy like his boyhood friend, Bonn, who he was reluctantly impersonating.
His work kept him busy. If the truth were known, he was more accustomed to being pursued than pursuing. That's why, when he saw Mary O'Mara, the sense of urgency that overtook him was startling, even strangely disturbing. Where had the dour, guarded Legal Eagle, Taggart Lancaster suddenly gone? He'd never been the sort to chase females down. Certainly, he'd never experienced such a strong craving to speak to a woman since Annalisa's death. He'd never even imagined he would.
"Mary?" He caught up with her, "May I call you Mary?" he asked with a smile. "So you're the Mary who wrote those letters to me."
At the head of the stairs she halted abruptly and shifted to face him. Those beautiful smoky eyes he'd so badly wanted to gaze into again staggered him with their shocking transformation. Her stare was withering, her eyes flaring with fury and malice.
"Yes, I am that Mary." That sexy voice he'd wanted to hear again had become low and hard-edged. "How dare you neglect your wonderful grandmother for so many years, you--you selfish snake!"
Taggart stood there, speechless. Her metamorphosis from sweet to spiteful had been so swift and fierce, he was caught completely off guard.
"For Miz Witty's sake," she went on in a deadly whisper, "When you and I are in the same room with her, I will be polite and pretend to find you less than thoroughly repulsive. I will call you Bonn in her presence, if that is her wish, and I will try not to spit in your eye when you call me Mary. But otherwise, Mr. Wittering," she hissed, "Stay out of my way!"
From the book SURRENDER TO A PLAYBOY, by Renee Roszel
Published by Harlequin books S.A. Copyright © 2003 by Renee Roszel
Publication Date (USA,UK), June 2003, ISBN # 0-373-18098-5
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