Secret Seduction

By: Susan Napier

“I don’t need you, Ryan. I’m willing to put up with you, that’s all!”




“Oh, I think there’s more to it than that, Nina. Much, much more…”



The trailing tip of thumb brushed the corner of her mouth, which parted in alarm.



When had he moved so close? “Don’t touch me!”



“Why not?” His voice dropped to a bittersweet tenderness. “What are you so afraid of? What will happen if I do?”



“Nothing will happen!”



“All right. I won’t—” he turned back to the house “—for now.” He gave her a smoldering smile over his shoulder. “But we both know that I don’t have to touch you for you to be touched by me, don’t we…Nina, darling?”





Amnesia




What the memory has lost, the body never forgets



An electric chemistry with a disturbingly familiar stranger…. A reawakening of passions long forgotten…. And a compulsive desire to get to know this stranger all over again!



A brand-new miniseries from Harlequin Presents® featuring top-selling authors: Penny Jordan, Susan Napier and Lynne Graham



In November don’t miss The Sicilian’s Mistress

by

Lynne Graham

#2139







CHAPTER ONE




ANOTHER salt-laden blast of wind funnelled past the low cliffs at the entrance of the bay and howled across the seething waves to dash itself against the ragged row of houses along the beachfront. In the back room of her rented cottage Nina Dowling flinched as the windows rattled violently in their sun-warped frames and the woodwork creaked and groaned in protest at the assault.

Hunching protectively over her desktop drawing board, she dipped her brush into the narrow-mouthed water jar at her elbow and meticulously reshaped the sable bristles, trying to block out her awareness of the growing tumult outside by concentrating on the intricate task at hand.

So what if she had just heard the radio weather bulletin issue an overnight gale warning for the Hauraki Gulf? Despite its ramshackle appearance, this sturdy bungalow had weathered more than fifty years of winter storms. And, anyway, Shearwater Island was in the southern reaches of the gulf, less exposed to the full force of the storms that regularly blew in from the Pacific Ocean than many of the other hundred or so islands that were scattered off the coast of Auckland.

A few minutes later, Nina gave up pretending that she was going to get any more work done. The ominous crack of approaching thunder was the last straw. Trying to etch the delicate path of a minute leaf vein with the moistened edge of her chisel-shaped brush tip was impossible when her nerves were braced against the next assault of nature. She pursed her ripe mouth as she surveyed what she had just done, her sea-green eyes narrowed with dissatisfaction, her silky dark brows drawn together in a rippling frown. Instead of abrading away the wash of green pigment to expose a hair-thin line of white paper, the nervous jerks of her clenched fingers were in danger of creating a major new vein at the margin of the leaf.

Such botanical incorrectness would give George palpitations! she thought ruefully as she set aside the unfinished illustration and replaced the labelled pot containing the original plant specimen on the crowded shelf by the window. While Nina freely employed a great deal of artistic licence in her own paintings, the bread-and-butter commissions she executed for the local botanist demanded strict biological accuracy. It was exacting work but Nina enjoyed the challenge, and the flat fee that George paid her for each completed watercolour was sufficient to support her in very modest style.

Fortunately, there were few temptations to frivolous spending on Shearwater Island. Most of the islanders were laid-back alternative lifestylers, eccentric loners, or descendants of original owners who either commuted to Auckland to work or merely used their properties during weekends and holidays.

Part of the island was a nature and marine reserve, and the locals jealously guarded their relatively unspoiled environment by enduring rudimentary public services and supporting by-laws that precluded commercial development. That meant there were no chic beach cafés or hotels, or well-serviced moorings for glitzy yachts on Shearwater Island, no flash millionaires’ mansions or noisy helipads.

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