Can a man who knows he shouldn’t, resist a woman who knows she can’t?

Midnight Temptation
© 2006 Dee Tenorio
Available Now from Samhain Publishing

Raven Remington has secrets. Only one of which is how badly he wants his personal assistant, Vanessa Kaye, the beauty who refuses to be anything more than professional. A smart man would remove himself from temptation, but Raven can’t quite make himself ignore the longing in her eyes or the taste of her kiss. Soon, neither of them can fight their passion.

What Raven doesn’t know is that Vanessa has secrets of her own…

Enjoy the following excerpt for Midnight Temptation:

“I’m not in love with her.”

“I heard you last time,” Sky laughed. “You missed a spot on the back fender!”

Raven shook his head. He’d promised their mother he’d be there early to spend time with the family, but the idea of how to get Vanessa to accept her “company car” hit somewhere around four in the morning and he doubted he’d get another such opportunity to do the work himself any time soon. A fast change into jeans he’d cut only that morning and a pair of work boots he hadn’t worn in years and he’d been ready. Unfortunately, he hadn’t been able to get rid of Sky. He’d rather have been alone, but Sky claimed wild horses couldn’t keep him away.

Raven didn’t have time to stop at the stables to find out.

He brought the hammer down on the trunk. The slide of the handle was nearly as satisfying as the screech and crunch of the head impacting the metal. Paint cracked, flecks flew everywhere. Again and again he raised the sledgehammer, bringing it down from the highest point of his reach until the trunk was a mangled, dimpled mess. Just the way it should be.

“Whose car is that and why do you hate them?”

Raven finished his swing before looking up. Jordan must have talked their best friend into a visit as well because there stood his childhood buddy on a sand dune, looking crisply rumpled and vaguely irritated. You’d think as a doctor he’d be more accustomed to little sleep.

Perry Chase circled the front of the car, eying it from behind his sunglasses before joining Sky near the water’s edge just out of the hammer’s arc.

“Welcome to the fine art of Motor Vehicle Demolition!” Sky pointed with both hands at the mangled machine.

Raven rolled his eyes, took a drink from the water bottle he’d nestled in the sand at Sky’s feet and put it back. “Ignore him, Chase, I think he got into some old RMI samples.”

“Normally, I would, but since you’re the one half-naked pounding a—” Chase tore off his sunglasses. “Oh, God, was that an AMG Coupe?” He sounded pained. He probably was. Chase was a bona fide car buff. Oh well. Raven lifted the hammer again, ready to get back to it.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Sky voice, full of pride and laughter, made Raven’s back twitch.

“You Remingtons are a sick bunch,” Chase grumbled.

“Just wait till he uses the power sander.”

“How long has he been at it?”

“Oh, an hour or two. Can you believe it, he had the forethought to stop at the shop this morning and have them disable the security alarm.”

“Am I supposed to be shocked at the forethought or the destruction?”

“Hell, you can pick. I’ve never seen him like this. I’m amazed he hasn’t broken a window, but he always was good with tools. Could never make a damn thing but handled them well.”

“As you can see,” Raven said over his shoulder to Chase, “Sky’s practicing to become a sports announcer.”

“Or a used car salesman,” Chase agreed dryly. At least someone else thought Sky was out of his mind.

“I’m allowed to be impressed,” Sky argued. Of all the damn things to finally impress him with, why did it have to be this?

“Why are you enjoying this so much? I thought you liked cars.” Chase’s voice bordered on betrayal.

“Raven’s in love.”

Raven wiped the sweat off his brow with a gloved hand, rolling his shoulders to loosen them up. He could forget the car and drag Sky into the ocean, maybe hold him under the water until he got some peace and quiet. Satisfying, maybe, but ultimately unproductive. Better to conserve his energy for what needed to be done. Still, he could request a little silence. “Kiss my ass, Sky.”

“He’s been telling me that all day,” his brother explained to their guest. Did he have to sound so happy about it? Any other day, saying that could ensure a good month of silence.

“I thought there’d have to be icicles all over the place and a little horned, red guys skating around for Raven to fall in love.”

“Thank you!” Raven spun around to tip an imaginary hat to his friend. He leaned on the upside down hammer pole and pointed to Chase for his brother’s benefit. “You see? That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to tell you all damn morning.”

Sky nudged Chase with an elbow. “Would Raven expend this kind of energy destroying a seventy-thousand dollar car for anything but love?” Sky asked, nonplussed. “Take a look at the inside. He cut the leather seats to ribbons, but he’s brilliant with a roll of duct tape. That takes attention to detail. If it wasn’t for her, you think he would have bothered making sure the springs were all safely padded and sealed?”

Chase’s face skewed, his brown eyes inspecting Raven as if he were some kind of lab rat. “He’s got a point. You don’t even wash your own car, much less repair it. Couldn’t you have hired someone to do this?”

Raven stood there, staring at them for a few seconds. He wanted to refute them, but they’d stumbled on the hole in his logic, damn it. It still didn’t mean they were right. It meant he was getting to be as much of a control freak as Sky. He didn’t have time to be arguing with them when he knew what and why he was doing. “Screw both of you.”

“I always figured that when Raven finally fell in love with somebody I’d have to leave the country to maintain my peace of mind. I never thought it would be this much fun.” Sky waved a dismissive hand at him when Raven turned to yell. “Yeah, yeah, kiss your ass, I got it. You’re still missing that spot.”

Annoyed instead of stressless, Raven went back to the repetitive swing of the hammer with more fervor. Obviously, marriage had sucked dry Sky’s once impressive IQ. Sure, he looked deliriously happy. Losing your mind had that effect on you.

Granted, Evie turned out to be a decent, kind hearted woman, galling as that was to admit. Her son did happen to be smart and interesting; he even made Sky laugh. Their daughter might redefine the phrase “cute as a button” and none of them seemed to mind being in each other’s presence, but did that mean love existed?

The car boomed a negative reply.

“Didn’t think so.”

Still, stupid or not, Sky did have an intolerable point. Raven felt…something for Vanessa. Whatever it was didn’t seem in a hurry to go away, either. It was like having a splinter in his mind, this indefinable feeling. Whenever he looked at her—hell, whenever he thought about her—it welled up with a fierceness that almost crippled his control. It was worse when she was walking away from him.

“You’re going to love this,” Sky said, just before Raven tuned him out. No doubt he’d tell Chase all about his problem with Vanessa. Great.

Something had to be done, it was getting out of control. He had to ensure he could burn out the need for her before she realized she wanted more than a casual affair and that he was the last man on earth to give it to her.

His lip curled at the thought of what happened between them being called casual. He’d done casual. This wasn’t it. A woman who made love the way she did… His stomach tightened just thinking about her face, her eyes, her body, even her voice. When it ended, she’d never be able to go back to the monastic life she once led. No, eventually, she’d be casual with someone else.
The hammer came down violently, slipping from his grasp and slashing into the sand several feet away, finally quieting his brother into pensive silence while he heaved in breath after breath.

Someone else?

Raven didn’t like the dark thing slithering through him, something alien and unwanted. It took him another breathless second to identify it and when he did, he was incredulous.

Possessiveness? Him? He didn’t have a possessive bone in his body; never had, never thought he would. But then again, hadn’t he come home after all these years—taken control of Remington Medical Industries—because he longed for something of his own? Something to put his mark on?

He eyed the car. Leaving his mark wouldn’t be a problem any longer. But was he trying to mark the car or the woman? Why? He couldn’t own her. He didn’t want to own her. He just wanted… He didn’t know what the hell he wanted, damn it. All he knew was that this wasn’t it. He wanted her. All of her. He wanted to know what she was hiding. Why she was so afraid. Why she wouldn’t come to him. Most of all he wanted to know why he cared. But the answers weren’t coming, not from this car and not from Vanessa.

Something would have to give.

In a takeover, occasionally concessions had to be made. Unpleasant ones. Change never happened without someone changing the status quo. Vanessa said she wasn’t part of his life. Maybe she wasn’t. But she would be. Soon.

He wasn’t about to go to Sky’s extremes, of course, but he was damn sick of doing nothing at all. Making room in his life for her didn’t mean he was in love with her. It definitely wouldn’t involve marrying her. This was just another acquisitions battle, that’s all. Nothing that would require or inspire his heart.

He smiled, secure at last. How could it?

He didn’t have one.

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