She looked over at him. He was watching her steadily. A strange feeling overcame her, like a door was opening in her chest. She had a bizarre yet shockingly strong urge to sink deeper into his dark gleaming eyes . . . to feel his arms close around her.
What the hell was wrong with her?
“Alice? Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” she said through rubbery lips, forcing her gaze out the window again. Her heart began to roar so loud in her ears she wondered if he heard it.
“I was glad to hear you accepted the position at Camp Durand. I wasn’t entirely certain what to expect as far as an answer,” he said neutrally.
She grimaced slightly, grasping for steady mental footing. “Not too shocking, after that interview, I suppose.” He didn’t respond.
“I was just as surprised to get the offer,” she admitted after a moment, feeling strangled by the oppressive silence of the house that surrounded them. By the man.
It was all so strange.
“I did hear a gong sound,” she defended suddenly—stubbornly—as if to push back the haze encroaching on her, the strange, unnameable emotion that approached panic.
“Yes. I just realized what it was you must have heard. I think Marie was responsible. My cook is a bit of a tyrant. I mean that in the fondest sense of the word,” he assured dryly with a sideways glance at her. Alice gave him a shaky smile, relieved by the news. Maybe she wasn’t crazy after all? “Marie occasionally uses an antique gong she found here in the house to alert the catering staff she has something she wants done immediately. She has those poor people hopping around like nervous rabbits. I hadn’t realized you could hear it from here, but that must be the culprit.”
“Oh . . . it really did sound like it came from this room.”
“An old house like this can play tricks on the senses.”
“I’m sorry for—”
“There’s no harm done. I hope,” he added quietly. There it was again, that brief flash of a killer smile. “And I’m sorry. For snapping at you.”
She swallowed thickly. Through the window, she saw Kuvi cross the distance of the terrace and say something pointedly to Dave Epstein. Dave scanned the crowded terrace from his greater height and shook his head.
“I should get out there. I think my roommate is wondering where I went,” Alice said, starting to back away.
“Wait a moment.”
She blinked in surprise at his low, clipped command. Goose bumps rose on her arms. He looked a little embarrassed by his tense declaration. It was strange, to see him off balance—Dylan Fall.
He cleared his throat. “Have you spent a good summer thus far?” he asked.
“Spiffing.” She was confused as to why Dylan Fall was singling her out for garden-party talk before they even got to the garden. Perversely, she didn’t want to play along.
He gave her a dark glance. “Do you always have to be sarcastic?”
“I wasn’t being sarcastic,” she lied.
His gaze scored her. He wasn’t going to be sidetracked. She sighed and began ticking off her boring, very unsophisticated activities this summer. “I signed on with a temporary maid service to help pay the bills now that my student loans are coming due.
Maggie was on sabbatical in Mexico, so I babysat her Irish setter, Doby. He had a bad case of fleas and threw a huge fit when I dragged him to the vet. He nearly broke my wrist, he freaked out so bad in the waiting room.”
She gave him a “well, are you satisfied?” glance, but he was impervious.
“You and Maggie are close, then?”
“Yeah. I live in an apartment over her garage,” Alice replied stiffly, suddenly thinking of an issue that had been niggling at her. “I asked Maggie why she told you about me growing up in Little Paradise. She swore she never did.”
He had the decency to look vaguely embarrassed.
“Why did you say that? And how did you know where I’d grown up?” she demanded.
He frowned as he stared out at the Great Lake. He looked hard and intimidating, and for a second, she couldn’t believe her cockiness in berating him.
“We did a basic security screening on some of the more desirable candidates for Camp Durand,” he said after a pause. He glanced at her and saw her offended expression. “It helps us to narrow down the contestant pool. You can’t really blame us, can you? You’ll be working with children, after all.”
Her defiance flickered out. “I guess not,” she said. “Still, no one likes having someone pry into their private life without permission. Would you?”
“You gave permission in the original paperwork you signed when you applied for the position.” He scowled slightly. “And no. I didn’t like it when it happened to me, either. One of the consequences of the job, I suppose.”
A smile curved her mouth at a thought. “Did you have anything to hide?”
She glanced at him in surprise. She hadn’t expected him to say that. Movement and color caught her eye out on the terrace. One of the Durand managers’ peach-colored skirt billowed in a gust of wind.
“Aren’t you worried you should be out there?” she asked.
“Not particularly,” he said, his gravely voice causing the skin of her cheek and ear to tingle in awareness. “I just received an unpublished quarterly report for Durand. I got caught up in looking at it just now. That’s why I was running behind and wasn’t there to greet you all,” he said.
She raised her eyebrows expectantly when he paused.
“I was wondering if you would consider taking a look at it as well, along with our last quarterly and a few annuals. To see if you spot any significant trends. I admire that knack for numbers you have. There’s no hurry, though. I know you need to get settled in, and your kids are coming tomorrow. You aren’t obligated,” he added when she didn’t respond immediately.
“Sure. I’d be happy to,” she said once she’d gotten over her surprise at his request. The idea of losing herself in numbers—of escaping all this strangeness and surrounding herself with the familiar—sounded very reassuring at that moment. She perked up a little, as if she was finally rising out of the strange oppression that had come upon her since she first entered this house.
He nodded, seeming satisfied by her response. “Thanks. I guess we better go make a showing at the party,” he said, not seeming very excited about that fact. “Shall we?”
Much to her dismay and bewilderment, he fell into step beside her, as if he planned to escort her. Alice couldn’t think of anything to say to stop him. She couldn’t tell him what to do in his home and at his dinner party. They walked through the quiet house together, and down a flight of stairs. When they reached a large, high-tech family/ media room at the back of the house, she hesitated.
“This way,” he said, touching her bare upper arm again, obviously misunderstanding her uncertainty. He unlatched one of many French doors and guided her through the opening. His fingertips lightly touched her bare back, stealing her focus. Suddenly, the entire Durand party was right there in front of her, several of them turning at the sound of the
door opening, their attention snagged when they noticed Fall’s tall, singular form emerge from the house. Alice’s cheeks flamed in embarrassment as their host walked down the steps to greet them, his hand only falling away from her back when they reached the bottom step.
“Glimmer is electrifying, highly erotic . . . riveting. This author never ceases to amaze.” RT Book Reviews
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