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Scorching hot reads
A SEAL’s Kiss
The Mighty Quinns: Malcolm
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First Published 2014 First Published 2014
First Australian Paperback Edition 2014 First Australian Paperback Edition 2014 ISBN 978 1 488 75162 2 ISBN 978 1 488 75162 2
A SEAL’S KISS THE MIGHTY QUINNS: MALCOLM© 2014 by Tawny Weber © 2014 by Peggy A. Hoffmann Philippine Copyright 2014 Philippine Copyright 2014 Australian Copyright 2014 Australian Copyright 2014 New Zealand Copyright 2014 New Zealand Copyright 2014 Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilisation 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 permission of the publisher, Harlequin Mills & Boon.
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Printed and bound in Australia by McPherson’s Printing Group A SEAL’s Kiss Tawny Weber Two years ago Weddings gave her the heebie-jeebies.
Patriarchal rules wearing the pretty mask of traditions and ancient promises that were rarely kept? Definitely not her thing.
A wedding night might be nice, all things considered.
Champagne and rose-petal-strewn sex with a man who’d just promised to worship you forever? Not a completely horrible idea.
But to sign your life away to get it? To the same man, day in and day out, ’til death do you part?
Sage Taylor gave a delicate shudder.
She’d rather wear a three-piece suit and give lectures to businessmen on the merits of climbing the corporate ladder through backstabbing, undercutting and sexual favors. Or maybe be staked to an anthill naked while covered in hot fudge.
The only celebrating she wanted that included champagne and rose-petal-strewn sex would come—no pun intended—when she found a guy who could keep it up long 8 A SEAL’s Kiss enough to worship her until she melted. And who needed forever for that? All she needed was one good night.
Or maybe a weekend.
“What’d you think of the wedding, dear?” Even though she was pretty sure Mrs. O’Brian couldn’t see the naked all-night-sex images playing out in her imagination, Sage still winced.
“It’s lovely,” Sage said, leaning down so the elderly woman could brush a parchment-dry kiss over her cheek.
Not a lie. She’d never lie, especially not to the woman who’d taught her to read. But lovely was one of those nice, safe statements that could cover so many things.
Like the weather, with its bright sunshine and cool breeze. Just right for a springtime wedding in a winery.
Or the bride, one of Sage’s oldest and dearest friends, who looked so happy she glowed almost as bright as the sunshine.
Or the wine, Sage noted, taking a sip from the glass a passing waiter handed her.
“You made a lovely bridesmaid,” Mrs. O’Brian noted, holding her own wineglass up to peer at it with a connoisseur’s eye. “I’m sure your father was thrilled to see you at the altar. Any chance you’ll be there again soon? Perhaps wearing white?” “Me? White?” Sage wet her lips, nerves dancing in her stomach. The soft green satin of her bridesmaid dress was as close to wedding accoutrement as she wanted to get.
And pretty much as close to wearing white as she warranted. But that wasn’t the kind of thing you told a seventyyear-old woman at her niece’s wedding. “Um, well…” “Sage? AnaMaria wants more pictures,” Nina Wagner said, tucking her arm through Sage’s. The other bridesmaid looked the part much better than Sage ever could. Of course, with her sleek black hair and model looks, Nina Tawny Weber 9 was at home in the strapless satin sheath in a way that Sage, with her dreadlocks and multiple piercings, could never appear.
“Ahh, pictures,” Mrs. O’Brian said with a wave of her hand. “Go, go. Smile pretty, girls.” Sage went, went, as fast as she could move in the footpinching stilettos.
“You looked scared,” Nina said, laughing as she pulled Sage across the room toward the buffet.
“She thinks I should be getting married,” Sage said, shivering at the thought.
“That is scary.” Her arm still tucked tight through her best friend’s, Nina laughed even as she scanned the crowd, scoping out the possibilities. Probably looking for a groom of her own.
At her friend’s low hum of appreciation, Sage followed her gaze across the room.
As usual, Nina had scoped out the best-looking guy in attendance.
Chief Petty Officer Aiden Masters. Otherwise known as the geeky guy Sage had grown up with.
A protégé of her father’s, Aiden was chronologically three years Sage’s senior, and mentally thirty years older.
But growing up he’d been a social infant compared to her natural ease with people. So while her father had nurtured his mind, she’d figured it her job to keep him from becoming a stodgy old man before he was seventeen. Clearly, from his ease at moving through the crowd, she’d done her job well.
It wasn’t just that he was one of the tallest guys there.
Or that the contrast of his short black hair and hazel eyes stood out against the vivid white of his military uniform.
It was that Aiden Masters was hot.
Under that uniform was a body that sent women into 8 A SEAL’s Kiss fantasy mode. Fantasies that, for some bizarre reason, most of them seemed to want to share with Sage. Worse, though, was when one of them managed to make their Aiden fantasy into reality. They liked to share that, too.
Sage was all for reaping the kudos on a job well done, but hearing about Aiden and other women tended to make her teeth hurt.
And the idea of Aiden and Nina?
Their energies wouldn’t match, nor did their personalities. For all her matrimonial goals, Nina was the eat-’emup-and-toss-them-aside type. And Aiden, well, he might be a navy SEAL, but he still needed protection from some things.
“Aren’t we supposed to be joining AnaMaria for pictures?” Sage asked, turning her head toward the bride and groom who were posing under a grapevine arbor across the lawn.
“I just said that to rescue you. Have you already forgotten the cheesy chorus of photos that were taken before the ceremony?” “How could I?” Happy to have distracted her friend, Sage made a show of grimacing and patting her cheeks to see if they’d recovered from all that smiling yet. She glanced over her shoulder at Mrs. O’Brian. The elderly woman was now in deep conversation with a group of people, giving their wine the same assessing looks, definitely not checking to see if Sage was really getting pictures taken. Still, Sage hated lying. Even little lies, since they were like snowflakes. Put enough of them together and they snowballed. And usually hit you splat in the face when you were least prepared.
As if hearing her thoughts, Nina rolled her eyes, pulled Tawny Weber 11 her cell phone out of the tiny purple purse hanging from her shoulder and wrapped her arm around Sage’s waist.
Heads together, they smiled pretty and Nina snapped the shot.
“There. You had your picture taken. Now can we get on to the good stuff?” And this, Sage realized, was what she’d missed about being home. Three months hiking through Tibet was awesome. She’d worked with a charitable organization focused on bringing health care to the women there and had been so touched, she’d written daily blog posts on her website, Sage Advice, that she’d later sold as a series of articles to three magazines to pay for her trip home.
But as great as that’d been, nothing could beat good friends who knew you inside out and had a history that went back to kindergarten.
“What’s the good stuff?” Sage asked, still smiling as she inspected the buffet. As to be expected for a Northern California winery wedding, the tables were heavy with appetizers of local produce, cheeses and gourmet delicacies.
“Your love life, of course,” Cailley Heath, the third bridesmaid said as she joined them, choosing a juicy red strawberry off the fruit bouquet shaped like a heart. “I want to hear all about sex in Tibet.” “Shhh,” Nina hushed. When both Sage and Cailley gave her confused looks, she tilted her head toward the nearby table where two men were sitting, their heads together in serious discussion. Ahh, Aiden had found his other half.
He and Sage’s father tended to become inseparable whenever Sailor Boy was on leave. Discussing the latest theory in quantum physics or evidence of an ancient tribe that’d been discovered in a far-off jungle, no doubt.
Sage snickered, then teasingly shook her head at Nina.
She could have danced naked with every man in the 10 A SEAL’s Kiss room right there on their table, and they wouldn’t have noticed.
“What?” she teased. “You think my father has no idea I have sex?” Not that it was a topic of regular discussion. Typical of the Professor, when it was time for the birds-and-bees talk, her widowed father had a local nurse chat with Sage, filling her in on all of the pertinent details.
After which her friends had filled her in on the juicy ones.
“Your dad might know you have sex,” Cailley teased.
“But does Aiden?” “I’m sure he does,” Sage said with an exasperated roll of her eyes, pretending the words her, Aiden and sex in the same sentence didn’t send a naughty thrill to all the wrong places. “The real question is, why would he care?” “I dunno. The way he looks at you sometimes is pretty intense,” Cailley said, her tone turning serious enough to make Sage twitchy. She shrugged it off, though. Aiden didn’t look at her as anything other than a friend. A flaky, weird friend whose father was his mentor.
“He always looks intense. That’s just Aiden,” Sage said dismissively, focusing on the buffet instead. With all the choices, she wanted to try a little of everything here.
Which would be much more satisfying than talking about a guy who even found ways to straighten the straight and narrow.
“Just as well,” Nina replied, filling her own plate with salad, no dressing. “A sexy SEAL might be fun for a fling, but he’d definitely be a bad idea for the long term. I want a guy who’ll be around all the time. Ready and willing to fulfill my every wish.” Sage laughed, but Cailley gave a dissatisfied grunt.
Tawny Weber 13 “You’ve always known exactly what you want,” the blonde said with a heavy sigh.
True. While Sage had no idea what she wanted, and bounced from idea to idea, first in her one-year attempt at college, then later in her varied and sundry jobs throughout the country.
But Nina was totally focused on exactly what she wanted. After graduation, it’d been to get into UC Davis.
After college, it’d been to get a job as a viticulture researcher at the local winery. And now, at twenty-five they all knew getting married was next up on Nina’s schedule.
“You know what you want,” Nina said in a soothing tone.
“I don’t think move out of my mom’s apartment and find a job that pays enough to cover my student loans is exactly knowing what I want,” Cailley said, her lower lip shifting into a pout.
Poor Cailley. Unlike Sage, who was happy to move on to the next job when one didn’t fit, Cailley was desperately trying to find that perfect match.
“Hey, I met this guy last week who used to work as a headhunter for a big corporation,” Nina said, snapping her fingers. “He’s got lots of training in career counseling. You should talk with him.” Her pout forgotten, Cailley gave an excited yes.
“How about you, Sage? Did you want to talk to him while you’re home, too?” Nina offered tentatively.
“A career counselor? No, but thanks,” Sage refused with a laugh, taking her filled plate to a small table and settling in to enjoy the meal.
“You really should. If you don’t, you’ll just keep bouncing around, not getting ahead.” “I’m fine with that. There is so much out there to see and do and explore.” The possibilities were endless. She 14 A SEAL’s Kiss wanted to find something that touched her soul. That made her spirit sing. All she had to do was keep looking until she found it. “Why dismiss any of the possibilities until I’ve tried them all?” “Is that what you say about the guys?” Nina joked.
“Only until she finds the right guy,” Cailley tossed in.
“As soon as that happens, Sage will settle down fast.” Settle down? As in, quit searching for her bliss? Live in one place, for the rest of her life? Do the same thing day in and day out?
Sage shuddered. If that wasn’t incentive to avoid that particular guy, she didn’t know what was.
One year ago