BiographyBooklistLatest NewsWriting Stuff/LinksBlogE-mailHome
  Intense, International RomanceKate Hewitt Romance Author  

Excerpt: The Darkest of Secrets

She came around a palm tree, into the pool area, and saw a man cutting through the water with sinuous ease. Even swimming he looked assured. Arrogant and utterly confident in his domain.

Khalis Tannous.

A dart of irritation--no, anger--shot through her. While she was cooling her heels, anxious and tense, he was swimming? It felt like the most obvious kind of power play. Deliberately Grace walked to the chaise where a towel had been tossed. She picked it up, then crossed over to where Khalis Tannous was finishing his lap, her four-inch heels surely in his line of vision.

He came to the edge, long, lean fingers curling around the slick tile as he glanced upwards. Grace was not prepared for the jolt of--what? Alarm? Awareness? She could not even say, but something in her sizzled to life as she gazed down into those grey-green eyes, long dark lashes spiky with water. It terrified her, and she instantly suppressed it as she coolly handed him the towel.

‘Mr Tannous?’

His mouth twisted in bemusement but she took in the narrowing of his eyes, the flickering of suspicion. He was on his guard, just as she was. He hoisted himself up onto the tile in one fluid moment and took the towel from her. 'Thank you.' He dried himself off with deliberate ease, and Grace could not keep her gaze from flicking downwards to the lean chest and lithe torso, muscled yet trim, his golden-brown skin now flecked with droplets of water. Tannous had a Tunisian father and a French mother, Grace knew, and his mixed ethnicity was evident in his unique colouring. He was beautiful, all burnished skin and sleek, powerful muscle. He gave off an aura of power not from size, although he was tall, but from the whipcord strength and energy he exuded in every easy yet precise movement.

‘And you are?’ he finally said, and Grace jerked her gaze upwards.

‘Grace Turner of Axis Art Insurers.’ She reached in the pocket of her coat for her business card and handed it to him. He took it without looking. ‘I believe you were expecting me.’

'So I was.' He slung the towel around his hips, his shrewd gaze flicking over her in one quick yet thorough assessment.

'I thought,' Grace said, keeping her voice professionally level, 'this appraisal was urgent?'

'Fairly urgent,' Tannous agreed. She said nothing, but something of her censure must have been evident for he smiled and said, 'I must apologise for what appears to have been discourtesy. I assumed the appraiser would wish to refresh himself before meeting me, and I would have time to finish my swim.'

'Herself,' Grace corrected coolly, 'and I assure you, I am ready to work.'

'Glad to hear it, Miss--' He glanced down at her card, his eyebrows arching as he corrected himself, 'Ms. Turner.' He looked up, his gaze assessing once more, although whether he was measuring her as a woman or a professional Grace couldn't tell. She kept her gaze level. 'If you care to follow me, I'll take you to my office and we can discuss what you've come here for.'

Nodding her acceptance, Grace followed him through the pool area to a discreet door in the corner. They walked down another long hallway, the windows' shutters open to the fading sunlight still bathing the courtyard in gold, and then into a large masculine office with tinted glass windows overlooking the landscaped gardens on the other side of the compound.

Unthinkingly Grace walked to the window, pressed one hand against the cool glass as she gazed at all that managed beauty kept behind those high walls, the jagged bits of glass on top glinting in the last of the sun's rays. The feeling of being trapped clutched at her, made her throat close up. She forced herself to breathe evenly.

Khalis Tannous came to stand behind her, and she was uncomfortably aware of his presence, and the fact that all he wore was a pair of swimming trunks and a towel. She could hear the soft sound of his breathing, feel the heat of him, and she tensed, every nerve on high alert and singing with an awareness she definitely did not want to feel.

'Very beautiful, don't you think?' he murmured and Grace forced herself not to move, not to respond in any way to his nearness.

'I find the wall quite ruins the view,' she replied, and turned away from the window. Her shoulder brushed against his chest, a few water droplets clinging to the silk of her blouse. Tension twanged through her again so she felt as if she might snap. She could not deny the physical response she had to this man, but she could suppress it. Completely. Her body stiff, her head held high, she moved past him into the centre of the room.     Tannous gazed at her, his expression turning thoughtful. 'I quite agree with your assessment,' he said softly. She did not reply. 'I'll just get dressed,' he told her, and disappeared through another door tucked in the corner of the room.

Excerpt From: THE DARKEST OF SECRETS by Kate Hewitt
Copyright © 2012 by Kate Hewitt
Permission granted by Harlequin Books S.A. All rights reserved.

January 2008