Marooned With A MillionaireŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
ďIím Not Letting You Go.Ē
Jack turned Lizzie toward the sea and held on to her from behind. ďIf you fall in, then Iíll have to go get you. And, babe, Iím thinking that would be a bad idea. Rule One, stay on the boat.Ē
ďI told you, Iím not a babe.Ē
ďAnd Iím not Ahab.Ē
ďItís either that or Captain Hook, since we seem to be following a fairy-tale theme.Ē
ďBoth my hands are intact.Ē Definitely so, because theyíd somehow made their way to her hips.
ďI guess youíre right about that, so Ahab it is.Ē
He couldnít hold back a smile. ďAre you feeling better now?Ē
Lizzie drew in a deep breath. ďI just need something to eat.Ē
Jack needed to kiss her, badly.
Top off your summer reading list with six brand-new steamy romances from Silhouette Desire!
Reader favorite Ann Major brings the glamorous LONE STAR COUNTRY CLUB miniseries into Desire with Shameless (#1513). This rancherís reunion romance is the first of three titles set in Mission Creek, Texasówhere society reigns supreme and appearances are everything. Next, our exciting yearlong series DYNASTIES: THE BARONES continues with Beauty & the Blue Angel (#1514) by Maureen Child, in which a dashing naval hero goes overboard for a struggling mom-to-be.
Princess in His Bed (#1515) by USA TODAY bestselling author Leanne Banks is the third Desire title in her popular miniseries THE ROYAL DUMONTS. Enjoy the fun as a tough Wyoming rancher loses his heart to a spirited royal-in-disguise. Next, a brooding horseman shows a beautiful rancher the ropesÖof desire in The Gentrys: Abby (#1516) by Linda Conrad.
In the latest BABY BANK title, Marooned with a Millionaire (#1517) by Kristi Gold, passion ignites between a powerful hotel magnate and the pregnant balloonist stranded on his yacht. And a millionaire M.D. brings out the temptress in his tough-girl bodyguard in Sleeping with the Playboy (#1518) by veteran Harlequin Historicals and debut Desire author Julianne MacLean.
Get your summer off to a sizzling start with six new passionate, powerful and provocative love stories from Silhouette Desire.
Senior Editor, Silhouette Desire
Marooned with a Millionaire
has always believed that love has remarkable healing powers and feels very fortunate to be able to weave stories of romance and commitment. As a bestselling author and Romance Writers of America RITAģ Award finalist, sheís learned that although accolades are wonderful, the most cherished rewards come from the most unexpected places, namely from personal stories shared by readers. Kristi resides on a ranch in Central Texas with her husband and three children, along with various and sundry livestock. She loves to hear from readers and can be contacted at KGOLDAUTHOR@aol.com or P.O.
Box 11292, Robinson, TX 76716.
To Captain Jeremy and First Mate Pattie, for all the wonderful insight and nautical details youíve provided during the making of this story. Hereís wishing you both another twenty-five years of smooth sailing.
The sailboatís sudden pitch jarred Jackson Dunlap from his solitude and sent the mug before him into his lap. Bolting from his seat in the galley, he scaled the companionway leading topside at a sprint, covered in coffee and cursing the sudden commotion.
For one solid year, not much had disturbed him as heíd sailed alone off the coast of Florida. At his request, heíd had no visitors, no business calls, no disruptions aside from the necessary returns to port to restock and the occasional patch of rough weather. Until now.
After arriving on deck, Jack shaded his eyes against the midday June sun expecting to find heíd been rammed by some craft piloted by an idiot or a nearsighted whale in the throes of mating season. He didnít expect to see the patchwork purple-and-yellow balloon slowly descending from the sky and deflating not more than a few hundred yards away.
He moved closer to the sight, unable to comprehend what he now witnessed. Some guy in the gondola attached to the balloon was waving like mad until the basket bounced along the surface, toppled, then spilled its human contents.
Spurred into action by a surge of adrenaline and a sudden sense of d?j? vu, Jack raced to the platform at the stern. ďSwim!Ē he yelled as he tossed a buoy in the general direction of the stranger, thankful heíd lowered the sails that morning. At least the boat was somewhat stationary. And luckily the current seemed to be aiding the guy in his efforts. Unfortunately, it was also aiding the balloon and basket to travel in the same direction, toward his prized boat.
Jack feverishly tugged the buoyís line, dragging the stranger through the water at a fast clip. Then suddenly he realized he wasnít a he at all. He was a she. A woman with wide oval eyes and chin-length blond hair that hung down around her face in wet strands.
What the hell was she doing all the way out here?
He planned to ask her thatóand moreóas soon as he had her safely on board.
Once she was within reach, Jack grabbed her extended arm, tugged her onto the platform, tossed her over his shoulder and headed forward.
ďI can walk,Ē she said in a raspy, winded voice. ďSo you can put me down now.Ē
He could, but not until he made sure she wasnít injured. Gingerly he laid her on the deck and sat beside her, uncertain which one of them was breathing more heavily. His ragged respiration had more to do with nerves than exertion because she really didnít weigh all that much. He imagined her labored breath resulted from the swim along with a little added fearóand rightfully so.
When he regained his voice, he asked, ďAre you hurt?Ē
She scooted into a sitting position and stared at him with blue-green eyes almost a perfect match to the sea. Then she opened her mouth and muttered, ďIím okay as long as the babyís okay.Ē
Baby? She had a kid with her? ďWas the baby in the basket?Ē he asked in a moderate tone, struggling to keep the panic from his voice.
She studied him with sandy brows drawn down over confused eyes. Then she laid a hand on her belly and smiled. ďItís in this basket.Ē
Both relieved and shocked, his gaze shot to her slender hand now curved protectively over her abdomen. ďYouíre pregnant?Ē
She pushed her damp hair away from her forehead and exhaled slowly. ďYes.Ē
Great. Just great.
ďAre you sure youíre feeling all right?Ē he asked, genuinely concerned. ďNo pain or anything?Ē
She sat a little straighter. ďIím okay. Kind of tired, but overall pretty good.Ē
Jack decided she looked pretty good all over. Healthy, he corrected. Her still-flat abdomen encased in plain white capri pants, the soaked yellow T-shirt adhering to her torso, made Jack hard-pressed to believe she was actually going to have a baby.
Obviously she wasnít very far along in the pregnancy. Obviously she couldnít lay claim to much common sense, either, which made him really want to shake some sense into her. But sheíd been shaken up enough for one day, so he settled for a little subtle chastising. ďNow let me see if Iíve got this straight. You decided to go off in your balloon to tour the ocean at the risk of harming your unborn child?Ē
She hugged her knees to her chest and glared at him. ďFor your information, ballooning is a very safe mode of transportation. Iím more at risk driving on a Miami freeway. I would never do anything, anything, to hurt my baby. This was a fluke.Ē
A bite of guilt nipped at Jack. He had no call to judge anyone when it came to taking risks. God knew he had taken more than his share, with much more devastating consequences.
He sent her a half smile, a feeble attempt at an apology. ďI suppose itís a lot like sailing. Once itís in the blood, you canít consider giving it up.Ē
She glanced away but not before he caught a hint of sadness in her eyes. ďActually, it was my last trip until after the babyís birth. I was leaving a festival near Miami. Iím not sure what happened. I think I might have passed out or something. The next thing I knew, I woke up out here, wherever here is.Ē
ďWeíre about twenty miles off the coast near Key Largo. You couldnít get back to shore?Ē
ďBy the time I came to, the wind was unstable and I started losing altitude.Ē
He supposed that made sense, as much sense as it could to a man who preferred water to air. Sometimes the elements couldnít be controlled. How well he knew that concept.
She gave him a sheepish smile, revealing a glimpse of white teeth and a dimple at the left corner of her lower lip. ďPretty lucky I happened upon you, huh?Ē
That remained to be seen, Jack decided. ďDid you hit the deck when you were trying to land?Ē
ďIt sounded like you hit something.Ē
ďMore like grazed.Ē
She pointed upward. ďThe mast thingy. I aimed for it on my descent. I wanted to make sure I got your attention.Ē
It had definitely gotten his attention, then and now. And admittedly a smart thing for her to do, not that he cared for it much. No telling what kind of damage sheíd done, but at least she hadnít brought the mast down. At the moment he didnít dare examine the thingy, fearing what he might find. Right now he was barely hanging on to some semblance of calm. Right now he had to deal with another pressing matter.
Coming to his feet, he asked with a great deal of benevolence, ďAre you sure youíre okay?Ē
ďIím fine. Really. Promise.Ē
ďOkay. Iím going to go see where the balloon went. Iíll be right back. You rest.Ē
Her expression reflected gratitude. ďThanks. Iíd appreciate that.Ē
He decided not to tell her that his concern was for his boat, not her balloon. And he hoped like hell the damn thing had changed course.
But it hadnít. He realized that the moment he arrived at the rear platform. The massive fabric billowed portside; the basket was lodged on the end of the swim ladder.
Tethering himself to the platform railing, he lowered to his stomach and inched down until he could reach the rig. With the set of bolt cutters stored aft, he started to work. First he dislodged the gondola and began cutting away the cables attaching the balloon to the framework that housed the burner. He fought the currentís pull, fought the sea spray jetting into his face. Fought his desperation and impatience. He continued practically blind but knew he was making progress when the fabric began pulling away.
Finally, the last cable snapped. His fingers ached, his eyes burned, but he supposed he should feel lucky that the rig hadnít made its way underneath the boat. That could mean certain disaster.
ďWhat are you doing?Ē
He hadnít realized she was standing behind him. Right behind him. Without looking at her, he said, ďIíve freed your balloon.Ē Gave it a nice burial at sea, he almost told her but thought better of it.
ďWhy did you do that?Ē
ďSo it didnít get caught up in the prop.Ē
Standing, he turned to face her and met the most melancholy expression heíd ever seen on a womanís face. He couldnít really blame her. Heíd felt the same way when heíd lost his last boat to a cutthroat competition coupled with a relentless storm. Heíd lost more than that.
At least he had saved her. At least she was alive, unharmed, in charge of all her facultiesÖ.
ďCan you go get the envelopeÖthe balloon itself? We could roll it up and store it on deck.Ē
Obviously she was crazy. Certifiable. ďNot unless you expect me to swim for it.Ē
She wrapped her arms around her middle as she visually followed the flattened balloon now barely perceptible on the horizon. ďOf course, thatís a stupid thing to ask considering what youíve done for me. But that balloon is my livelihood.Ē
When this ordeal ended, heíd buy her another balloon. Hell, he had enough money to buy her fifty balloons, not that he had any desire to tell her that. The less she knew about him, the better. ďIím sorry, but I had no choice.Ē
She gave him a one-shoulder shrug and a surprisingly bright grin. ďIím sure it will all work out somehow. Iíll think of something.Ē
Great. A blond optimist, Jack thought. A tall, blond optimist, not without some fairly liberal curves that were more than obvious beneath her clinging clothing. Admittedly, she was pretty darned cute, even if she was a little scattered. Scattered and sexy. She was also shaking.
Turning his back on all that cuteness, he said, ďFollow me. Letís get you out of your clothes.Ē Oh, hell. ďYou can wear some of mine.Ē
Without protest she complied, and once theyíd made it into the main salon, he faced her again. ďItís a little warmer in here. That should help.Ē Not Jack, though. He was already way too hot under the collar.
ďThanks,Ē she murmured. ďI owe you.Ē
He considered one form of payment that would not be at all appropriate, or advisable. He had no use for women, cute or otherwise. Especially a woman who had interrupted his nice solitary life. A pregnant woman, no less. More than likely a married pregnant woman.
Something suddenly occurred to Jack, something he should have considered long before now. ďAfter you change, we can try to get a message to your husband.Ē
She executed a prideful tip of her chin. ďThat would be futile since I donít have one.Ē
ďBoyfriend?Ē Jack asked, more than slightly curious, regardless of his caution.
She shook her head. ďNope.Ē
Strolling to the navy-and-red plaid sofa, she ran her fingers along the edge. ďIf youíre inquiring about the father of my child, heís not involved.Ē
And it was really none of Jackís business. He sure as hell didnít want her in the middle of his. ďOkay. What about friends and family?Ē
ďActually, the members of my chase crew are probably wondering what happened to me when they saw me drift away.Ē
ďIím sure they are.Ē And Jack wondered what was happening to him. He couldnít stop looking at her now exposed earlobe, her nice full mouth, her long, slender limbsóand imagining things he had no cause to imagine. For Godís sake, he didnít even know her name.
With that in mind, he stuck out his hand. ďJackson Dunlap. I prefer Jack.Ē
Her grin illuminated the dimly lit cabin as she took his hand. ďElizabeth Matheson, and I prefer another name altogether. However, you may call me Lizzie.Ē
Despite his need to remain detached, he couldnít suppress his own smile. ďWell, Lizzie, at least we have a few things settled.Ē
Unfortunately, he felt very unsettled. As crazy as it seemed, the woman glowed, even when she wasnít smiling. Even soaking wet and shivering, she possessed a weird kind of aura that would make most men take immediate notice. He certainly had. He was still noticing.
He didnít have time to notice. He had to check out the mainsail and mast, and get the hell back to port.
Chalking up his disregard for his boat to months of celibacy, he simply said, ďBathroomís in there, if you want to use it.Ē He pointed to the starboard head.
Her gaze swept the room and her smile returned. ďFantastic boat. Itís probably bigger than my apartment. Who owns it?Ē
ďOh. So whereís the rest of the crew?Ē
Long lost to the sea, Jack thought with the same old remorse. ďItís only me. I prefer it that way.Ē
She continued to survey the area. ďReally? You handle this baby all by yourself? Iím impressed.Ē
So was he. Too impressed. With her. ďYou go grab a shower, Iíll go grab you some clothes.Ē And he would do his best not to grab her for the few remaining hours they would spend together.
With a nervous twist of her hands and another luminous smile, she said, ďOkay,Ē then walked toward the head while regarding him over one shoulder. ďYou might want to bring me just a T-shirt since I doubt I could get into your shorts.Ē
Heíd be willing to let her try.
Jackís reaction to her innocent, offhand comment and the image it produced created a not-so-nonchalant response down south. ďFine. A T-shirt it is. Take your time. Iíll get things moving so we can head for land.Ē
The quicker he got rid of her, the better, for the sake of his own sanity and his valued seclusion.
Jackson Carter Dunlap, hotel magnate and self-made millionaire, didnít like the thought of anyone disrupting the way of life he had come to know over the past twelve months. But damned if the woman whoíd fallen from the sky like some misguided Dorothy wasnít driving him to distraction. And it had taken her all of twelve minutes.
If Lizzie never tasted salt again, it would be too soon. At least the accommodations were first-rate, she thought as she sank farther into the garden tub, immersing herself in the warmth of fresh water.
The bathroom was much bigger than sheíd envisioned, but it made sense. A big bathroom for one big strappiní guy with broad shoulders and large hands. Except he had narrow hips, something sheíd noticed immediately while walking behind him, shamelessly scrutinizing his butt.
She had also noticed his silver eyes because heíd had them trained on her from the beginning. Rugged was the first thought that had come to mind when sheíd gotten a good look at him. His brown hair, sun-bleached on the ends, gave him a totally natural look. A good thing because sheíd never gone for the kind of guy who got his highlights from a bottle. Mr. Dunlap wasnít that kind at all. In fact, she couldnít imagine him sitting still for a dye job, or sitting still for very long, period. She really liked his face, his healthy-looking skin. Nice and tan. But before he ruined it, someone really ought to remind him of the dangers of prolonged UV exposure. Maybe she would. Maybe sheíd better not.
Although he could use a little cleanup, a shave and haircut, Lizzie got the definite impression that beneath Jack Dunlapís added fur there existed some interesting territory many a woman would like to explore. But not her. Of course, not her. Being the plain sort, not at all a bombshell blonde, she wasnít really any manís ideal, and for the most part sheíd been fine with that.
Oh, she had lots of men friends, but very few that had viewed her as a romantic prospect. Only one man, in fact. That relationship had happened a long time ago, without great success. Nothing tragic, no broken hearts. Just plain old apathy on the part of both parties. Recently she hadnít met one guy that sheíd cared to try on for size.
Not that Jack Dunlap hadnít jump-started a few of her fantasies. But her host was just a tad bit irritated by her presence even though he had been accommodating. Sheíd sensed that immediately after heíd verified for himself she wasnít hurt. Thank the Lord she hadnít been hurt.
Resting her palm on her tummy, she smiled with relief. ďWell, little Hank, Mommy almost did a number on us this time. But I promise, from now on, Iíll take good care of you. No more balloon flights until after youíre born. Heck, if I ever get off this boat, I might never do anything more risky than jaywalk, as long as thereís no oncoming traffic.Ē
Considering she no longer had a balloon, that wouldnít be a problem. This meant she no longer had a balloon business, either. She couldnít afford to buy another even though she would receive some insurance money. But it wouldnít be enough to replace it, or to pay her crew and a pilot to take over for her until after the baby was born.
She only had limited savings left from her fatherís life insurance, and that was for the baby. The rest she had used to keep the business going, the business her dad had always dreamed of owning. A dream he had never achieved.
Hank Matheson, her beloved father, had raised Lizzie by himself since the year sheíd turned fouróthe same year her mother had died. Heíd taught her how to fly. Heíd taught her a lot, the most important being that life was what you made it. No matter how tough things got, silver linings did exist. Lizzie still believed that and probably always would, even if she didnít have a job at present.
She supposed she could go back to being Lizzie the Makeover Artist at the salon. Less stress than owning her own business. Less money, too.
Lizzie toyed with the necklace at her throat. The chain contained her two most prized possessionsóher fatherís St. Christopher medal and the heart he had given her mother on their first anniversary, four months before Lizzieís birth. Her good-luck charms served as a reminder that everything would work out, as it always had. After all, sheíd survived losing her only family. She would survive this loss, too, because in the end, she wouldnít be alone. She would have her baby.
A grinding sound followed by a loud curse pulled Lizzie out of her musings. Obviously Ahab was in command of some colorful language, even a few compound words she hadnít heard except on cable-TV comedy shows.
Maybe she should just submerse herself underwater until he calmed down from whatever had him so irate. Maybe she was responsible for his rant.
The door flew open and the man with many curses entered the room. ďHereís your T-shirt.Ē He tossed it onto the cabinet where sheíd laid out her clothes and underwear to dry.ŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ