Joan Pickart.

Taming Tall, Dark Brandon






Andrea Cunningham Was A Menace. Letter to Reader Title Page Dedication About the Author THE BACHELORS: Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Epilogue Copyright

Andrea Cunningham Was A Menace.

She did tricky little things to his mind and wreaked havoc with his body. The two weeks that she was scheduled to stay at the hotel couldnt pass quickly enough as far as he was concerned.

Two weeks. Then Andrea would repack her suitcase, settle her bill and leave. Shed be gone, never to be seen again.

Never? his mind echoed.

Well, sure. That was how it was with guests of the hotel. They came, they went, end of story. Unless Andrea decided to visit Prescott again at some point in the future and stayed at Hamilton House while doing so, in two weeks shed be out of sight, out of mind forever.

Wrong, Brandon thought in the next instant. He had a sneaking suspicion that it would take a while to dismiss Andrea Cunningham from his mind... .

Dear Reader,

Why not sit back and relax this summer with Silhouette Desire? As always, our six June Desire books feature strong heroes and spirited heroines who come together in a highly passionate, emotionally powerful and provocative read.

Anne McAllister kicks off June with a wonderful new MAN OF THE MONTH title, The Stardust Cowboy. Strong, silent Riley Stratton brings hope and love into the life of a single mother.

The fabulous miniseries FORTUNES CHILDREN: THE BRIDES concludes with Undercover Groom by Merline Lovelace, in which a sexy secret agent rescues an amnesiac runaway bride. And Silhouette Books has more Fortunes to come, starting this August with a new twelve-book continuity series, THE FORTUNES OF TEXAS.

Meanwhile, Alexandra Sellers continues her exotic SONS OF THE DESERT series with Beloved Sheikh, in which a to-die-for sheikh rescues an American beauty-in-jeopardy.

One Small Secret by Meagan McKinney is a reunion romance with a surprise for a former summer flame. Popular Joan Elliott Pickart begins her new miniseries, THE BACHELOR BET, with Taming Tall, Dark Brandon. And theres a pretend marriage between an Alpha male hero and blue-blooded heroine in Suzanne Simmss The Willful Wife.

So hit the beach this summer with any of these sensuous Silhouette Desire titles...or take all six along!

Enjoy!

Joan Marlow Golan

Senior Editor, Silhouette Desire

Please address questions and book requests to

Silhouette Reader Service

U S 3010 Walden Ave., PO. Box 1325, Buffalo, NY 14269

Canadian: PO. Box 609, Fort Erie, Ont. L2A 5X3

Taming Tall, Dark Brandon

Joan Elliott Pickart


www.millsandboon.co.uk

With special thanks

to Tara Gavin, Editor Extraordinaire!

JOAN ELLIOTT PICKART is the author of over seventy novels. When she isnt writing, she enjoys watching football, knitting, reading, gardening and attending craft shows on the town square. Joan has three all-grown-up daughters and a fantastic little grandson. In September of 1995, Joan traveled to China to adopt her fourth daughter, Autumn. Joan and Autumn have settled into their cozy cottage in a charming small town in the high pine country of Arizona.

THE BACHELORS:

Brandon Hamilton:

Age 35. Hotel owner. 6ft., nicely built. Black hair, dark eyes. Principled, protective ... powerfully attractive. TAMING TALL, DARK BRANDON, June 1999, Silhouette Desire

Taylor Sinclair:

Age 36. Accountant. 6ft., trim. Light brown hair, brown eyes. Self-confident, smart, stylish...sexy. THE IRRESISTIBLE MR. SINCLAIR, July 1999, Silhouette Special Edition

Ben Rizzoli:

Age 35. Doctor. 6ft., rugged. Black hair, dark eyes. Private, precise, proud...purely potent. THE MOST ELIGIBLE M.D., August 1999, Silhouette Special Edition

These bachelor best friends have bet that marriage and

family will never be part of their lives.

But theyll learn never to bet against love....


Meet Brandon, Taylor and Ben

in bestselling author Joan Elliott Pickarts engaging new miniseries

One

The sleek, candy-apple-red sports car hugged the curving mountain road as the powerful engine beneath the shiny hood won the challenge of the steep climb with ease.

Andrea Cunningham drove the vehicle at the exact speed limit, nodding in approval at the performance of her new possession.

The car was an early Christmas present to herself, an indulgence that had surprised even her when shed purchased it two weeks before.

Shed been researching automobiles for well over six months, reading consumer reports, price comparing at various dealerships, and going for test drives in sedate, compact cars.

The only color shed even considered had been white, due to the extreme heat in Phoenix. Shed wanted the best gas mileage, a proven history of easy maintenance, and ease of maneuverability in the congested, big-city traffic.

But shed been in a strange, out-of-character mood the day shed walked onto the new car lot and seen the gleaming red sports car that seemed to be calling her name.

An hour later, she had driven away in the catchme-if-you-can red car.

Andrea flicked on the blinker, pressed on the gas pedal and whizzed past an eighteen-wheeler that was struggling to ascend the mountain. Safely in front of the big truck, she eased back into the right lane, then reduced her speed again to the exact number posted on the signs along the highway.

What on earth was she doing with a vehicle like this one? she thought, with a mental shake of her head. Granted, it had given her a bit of a rush to zoom past that big truck, knowing that if she was still driving her little compact car shed be chugging slowly behind the eighteen-wheeler.

But this new car had cost her far more than shed budgeted for when she finally admitted that her ten-year-old vehicle had to be replaced.

She, Andrea Cunningham, vice president of the firm of Challenge Advertising, was actually behind the wheel of a roaring, red sports car? It was unbelievable, ridiculous, and borderline embarrassing.

This car was not who she was, it was as simple as that.

Andrea sighed, her shoulders sagging a bit as a wave of fatigue swept through her, accompanied by the beginning of a throbbing headache.

She was furious at herself, at her body that hadnt kept up with the pace shed been keeping at work. The whole situation was so frustrating she could scream.

Shed been literally run out of town by her doctor, Andrea fumed. Shed finally gone in for a checkup, complaining of headaches, insomnia, lack of appetite, the inability to concentrate for great lengths of time and being so tired on occasion shed been close to tears.

She was, the mighty medical man declared, suffering from complete physical exhaustion. Hed ordered her to take two full weeks off. No, she couldnt just cut back on her hours at the office, she was to get away, go somewhere peaceful and quiet, where her staff couldnt reach her. Only Jack, her boss, should be informed of her destination.

The doctor knew her personal history, was aware that she had no family to spend the holidays with. Her-parents had been killed in an automobile accident when Andrea was only four.

There had been no loving relatives waiting in the wings to make a home for the frightened little girl, who had had her serene world shattered by the death of her mother and father.

Shed been raised in foster homes before shed struck out on her own when she was eighteen.

Now she was heading to the small town of Prescott, where shed never been before, and where her two-week sentence would include the Christmas holiday.

Being away from home on Christmas didnt matter. She paid little attention to the festive event. She gave gifts to a few close friends, but politely refused all invitations to Christmas dinner. It was a day for families, and Andrea had no desire to be odd-woman-out at anyones table.

But being in Prescott for Christmas wasnt what had her hopping mad. It was the emotion of inadequacy, of not being up for all shed taken on and promised to do. Complete physical exhaustion. That was infuriating.

The pain in Andreas head increased, but she now knew the frequent headaches were caused by fatigue. They even had the official medical diagnosis of fatigue headaches.

She was only twenty-seven years old, for heavens sake, not one hundred and seven. She was five foot six, weighed one hundred and twenty-two pounds, and had thought she was in tip-top shape.

Ha! What a joke. She was falling apart. A total wreck. Talk about embarrassing. This whole situation was mortifying.

What was she supposed to do in dinky little Prescott for two weeks? Sit in a rocking chair with a blanket over her knees and knit? She didnt know how to knit, and she certainly didnt know how to spend lazy days doing absolutely nothing.

She hated this. She really, really hated this.

Andrea was pulled from her fuming thoughts by the sudden slowing of traffic and the realization that she was approaching Prescott.

Glancing quickly at the piece of paper she had taped to the center console, she shifted into the lefthand lane. Shed written precise instructions to herself after carefully studying a map shed spread out on her kitchen table.

An image of her empty apartment flitted in her mental vision, but it evoked no nostalgia or homesickness.

It was a group of rooms where she ate, slept and spent very few leisurely hours, the majority of her life being centered on Challenge Advertising.

As her mind roamed from room to room in the high-rise apartment in Phoenix, she couldnt remember the last time shed rearranged the furniture or purchased something new, pretty and personal for the place shed called home for the past five years.

Why was she suddenly thinking about her dull apartment? she wondered. Shed do well to pay attention to her surroundings, or shed probably drive right past Hamilton House, the hotel where shed made reservations for the next two, long weeks.

Oh, great, Andrea said aloud, frowning. Its starting to snow. Isnt that just dandy?

She hated cold weather. She hated snow. She hated Prescott, Arizona, and the reason that she was there.

Her doctor had suggested the small town, saying it was picture-perfect beautiful, with friendly people thrown in as an added bonus. Not having the time, nor the energy, to consider her options, shed settled on Prescott without further thought.

The crummy doctor might have mentioned that it snowed up here, Andrea said, stopping at a red light. Oh-hh, Im really hating this.

Brandon Hamilton stood behind the registration desk of Hamilton House, humming along with the carols that played softly in the large lobby of the hotel.

Excellent, he thought, looking down at a leatherbound registry. Once Ms. Andrea Cunningham arrived, Hamilton House would be booked solid through Christmas.

He couldnt ask for better than that, especially since this was the first Christmas that hed had the hotel up and running after the extensive renovations hed put the charming old building through.

Brandon swept his gaze over the lobby, unable to curb the smile that formed on his lips.

Lookin good, he thought. The huge, decorated Christmas tree in the front window was spectacular, and the gleaming, baby grand in front of it sat ready to be played.

Three separate groupings of high-backed, Victorian-era easy chairs surrounded low, round tables. The carpeting was authentic, cabbage roses on a black background, worn in spots but holding its own, considering that it had been on the floor since the turn of the century.

It was all paying off, he thought with a nod of satisfaction. The months of stress, of sleepless, worryfilled nights, of spending nearly every penny he had, plus the funds from a hefty loan from the bank, to restore Hamilton House to the majestic hotel it had been, had definitely been worth it.

Now all he needed was for Andrea Cunningham to show up and take possession of her room to give him that final emotional rush of knowing that the hotel was filled to the brim with happy guests.

Brandon glanced at his watch.

Two fifty-two, he thought. Check-in time was three oclock. Where are you, Ms. Cunningham? He glanced at the front door, anticipating the sight of her smiling, ready-for-the-holidays face. Any moment now she would enter the hotel, filled with Christmas cheer.

Andrea got out of her car in the designated parking lot across from the hotel. She read the sign mounted on a post and frowned.

According to the instructions, she was to leave her luggage in her vehicle, if she chose to do so, and a member of the staff of Hamilton House would deliver it safely to her room.

Not a chance, she thought, glaring up at the large flakes of falling snow for a second. She was not about to announce, for all to hear, the description of her flashy car. She was having enough trouble adjusting to the fact that she actually owned the silly thing, without telegraphing the news to the world.

A few minutes later Andrea began her trek out of the parking lot, tilting slightly to one side due to the weight of her heavy suitcase.

The wet snow was sticking to the ground, causing her to slip and slide on her two-inch heels. The snow was also soaking the dark blue business suit that she wore with a pale blue silk blouse.

She didnt own a heavy coat, had no use for one in Phoenix. In her exhausted mental state, it just hadnt occurred to her to investigate the possible difference in weather between the valley and this mountain town.

Prescott was only a hundred miles away, for heavens sake. That it was perched over five thousand feet up on a mountain was information she hadnt known until she had been well under way to arrive here.

It wasnt like her to be so disorganized, she thought, struggling to keep her footing as she crossed the street. But then, nothing about her life was in its proper order at the moment.

Andrea shuffled along the snowy sidewalk, shivering as she headed for the front door of the hotel, the suitcase feeling heavier with every treacherous step.

Her dark brown hair, which she kept in a blunt cut to just above her shoulders, was plastered to her head, creating icy-cold rivulets of water that dribbled inside her blouse collar and down her back.

She struggled with the stained-glass double doors to the hotel, pushed her slippery suitcase inside the building, then skidded in behind it, nearly toppling over the large piece of luggage.

Shed made it, she thought, and she could easily think of ten other places shed rather be.

Brandon looked toward the front doors as the copper bell overhead tinkled that they had been opened. He did a double take as the incredible sight before him registered in his mind.

A woman, who was definitely teetering on her feet, was soaking wet and dotted with snowflakes. Her hair was streaming water, her suit appeared glued to her body, and she was not smiling with holiday cheer.

He had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that this very wet and obviously freezing cold woman, who was becoming more furious with every passing second, was Ms. Andrea Cunningham.

Oh, hell, Brandon muttered.

He rushed from behind the registration desk and across the lobby, then came to an abrupt halt in front of the woman, frantically searching his mind for something brilliant to say.

Ms. Cunningham? he said, beaming. Im Brandon Hamilton. Welcome to Hamilton House.

Before attempting to respond to the syrupy-sweet greeting, Andrea took a deep, much-needed breath, then another, then one more. As she exhaled for the third time, a strange buzzing noise hummed in her ears and black dots paraded in front of her eyes.

She looked up into the dark eyes of Brandon Hamilton, blinked, then without having managed to speak one word...she fainted.

Oh, Lord, Brandon said, his eyes widening.

As the woman he assumed was Andrea Cunningham began to crumple forward, Brandons arms shot out instinctively. He scooped her up before she reached the highly polished tile floor of the entryway.

Brandon stood perfectly still for a moment, staring at the soggy bundle now nestled in his arms.

If this really was Andrea Cunningham, he thought, she was lovely, absolutely beautiful, in a wholesome way. Her eyes, which were now closed, were big and dark, her features were delicate, and her lips were made for kissing.

She was as light as a feather, even with soakingwet clothes. She was fairly tall, maybe five-six, but she was exactly right for his six-foot frame.

How old was she? Maybe twenty-six or twenty-seven. The only thing that marred her pretty face were purple smudges of fatigue, or illness, beneath her eyes. She was

Cripe, Hamilton, he said aloud, snapping back to attention. Dont just stand here. Do something.

He turned and saw the dining room hostess crossing the lobby.

Jennifer, he called. I need help.

The attractive woman hurried to where Brandon stood.

My gosh, Brandon, she said. What happened? Who is that? Whats wrong with her?

I think shes our guest, Andrea Cunningham, he said. Please get on the phone and call Ben Rizzoli. Tell him we need a doctor over here...quick. Then have Mickey take that suitcase behind the counter, and find someone to cover the front desk.

Got it, Jennifer said, then hurried away.

Andrea stirred in Brandons arms as he strode across the lobby and into his office. He kicked the door closed behind him and settled his precious cargo on a soft, beige leather sofa that was placed against one wall.

Hello? he said, hunkering next to the sofa. Ms. Cunningham? Andrea?

My, my, Andrea thought foggily, what a marvelously masculine voice that was calling her name. She was in the middle of the nicest dream, featuring one of the most ruggedly good-looking men shed ever seen. He was tall, dark and handsome personified. The kind of man who appeared only in dreams or on the movie screen, but never walked around loose in real life.

He was holding her in strong arms against his rockhard chest. He had broad shoulders, thick dark hair, and eyes so dark they appeared obsidian.

The timbre of his voice was perfect; deep, rich and nimbly. Hed said his name. Oh, what was it? Brandon. Yes, that was it. It suited him.

Andrea? Brandon said. Can you hear me? Open your eyes. Please?

Her name had never sounded so lovely, so feminine, Andrea thought. Brandons voice floated over her, caressing her like plush velvet.

Oh, my, yes, this was a fantastic dream. But like all dreams, it had to end. She had to get up, go to work. She had so much that was waiting for her attention at the office.

Besides, she was terribly cold, chilled to the bone, in fact. The blankets on her bed felt clammy, as though shed forgotten to put them in the dryer after removing them from the washing machine.

She wouldnt have made up her bed with wet linens, would she? No, of course not. Handsome man named Brandon or not, shed had enough of this.

Andreas lashes fluttered, then she opened her eyes slowly, taking a steadying breath in the process. In the next instant she gasped as she found herself staring at obsidian-eyed Brandon, the man from her dream.

What are you doing here? she said, attempting to sit up. Dont you know the rules about dreams? Im awake now, so get out of my bedroom.

Easy; easy, Brandon said, pressing gently on her shoulders to keep her prone. Are you Ms. Andrea Cunningham?

Yes, I am, but

Im Brandon Hamilton. Do you know where you are? he said. Was she beautiful, but nuttier than a fruitcake? Rules about dreams? She thought she was in her own bedroom? Just think for a second.

Youre Brandon? Andrea said, frowning. This doesnt make sense. The man in my dream said his name was Her eyes widened in horror. Oh, my gracious, it wasnt a dream. Im in Prescott. This is Hamilton House, and

And you fainted right after you arrived, Brandon finished for her.

Cancel nuts, he thought. Andrea was hitting on all cylinders and was none too pleased with her reality. He had to keep her calm before she became hysterical or did something else that would disturb the tranquility of the hotel.

Theres a doctor on the way to see you, he said. Everything is under control, Ms. Cunningham. Andrea. May I call you Andrea? Were not exactly strangers, you know. You fainted right into my arms, just like in the movies.

I dont believe this, Andrea said, pressing one hand to her forehead. Ive never fainted in my life. Im mortified, absolutely mortified. Im going home.

No, no, Brandon said quickly. Theres no need to be embarrassed. He produced his best hundredwatt smile. You cant leave. Youre my lucky charmthe guest who filled Hamilton House to capacity for the holidays. Lucky charms have responsibilities, you know.

That, Andrea said, glaring at him, is some of the corniest bunch of malarkey Ive ever heard.

Brandons smile slid off his chin. Oh. He paused. I have to admit, you scared the socks off me by fainting the way you did. Ive never had that experience before here at Hamilton House.





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