Prologue

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"Over the winter glaciers,

I see the summer glow,

And, through the wild-piled snowdrift,

The warm rosebuds below."

-RALPH WALDO EMERSON


"Wherever you go, go with all your heart."

-CONFUCIUS


Prologue

Five Years Ago

Bodies slick with sweat and greedy with need, their mouths met and devoured. He wanted her, he'd wanted her all night and had watched her hips sway with song and tune in the lively bar tucked into the French Quarter. He could still hear the drums beating to the jazzy rhythm, intense and full of power, floating up to his second floor hotel room.

Or maybe the music was just in his head.

From the moment he'd seen her—hair a fiery and loose tangle of red, eyes a flickering hazel, changing with every new angle of light—he'd been mesmerized. Her body was pliant under his hands now, just as it had been wickedly and fascinatingly full of life and spirit when he'd watched her dance in the bar they'd just met in.

"Now," she whispered, her breath skimming along his stomach muscles that went tout under her touch.

His eyes, alive with adventure, followed her movements as she straddled him, lifted her dress above her head and tossed it away into the thick New Orleans air. There she raised, all flesh and flame, naked.

"I want you now."

Happy to give into the woman's demands, his hands reached for hers, clasped, then pulled her down for a kiss, a nibble of her unpainted mouth he wouldn't mind taking his time with—some other time—and drove into her.

With people below, loud and calling to the sticky night, the clashing sounds of songs, and the sultry glow of the seductive street shining onto their bodies as they tangled, the two strangers rode well into abandon.

Her hips were wild on top of him, riding, racing, and he watched with wonder and gratitude as her breath hitched and her body gave into sensations that sent her to the brink of satisfaction.

He turned her over, and with one more hard thrust into the warmth, she shattered beneath him, body releasing, surrendering, as he surrendered with her, releasing all that held him.

Her hair splayed out in a fan of fire on his hotel sheets, and her face, soft and pink from pleasure, smiled.

He stayed connected, stayed inside of her, and she opened her eyes once again revealing the mesmerizing mix of hazy gold, glimmering bronze, and hints of mischievous dark chocolate.

"You feel incredible," she purred. "My body is incredibly happy and this night has made up for the fact that I had to fly for this business trip. In an airplane. Through the sky."

His lips met hers then he rolled onto his back, pulled her petite body to tuck into his. "Makes two of us that have happy bodies. So you hate to fly. Do you travel a lot for business?"

"I... Well... It seems beside the point now but I don't think we should make this personal."

His laugh was one of an amused and contented man.

"I know, sounds ridiculous. I mean personal, like exchange names or talk about business."

"No names, no business talk." He mulled it over and decided that he'd give the woman whatever she wanted, just to see her lips curve in a smile, just to see her eyes enlivened by sex, seduction, and satisfaction as they had been.

"Tonight is for adventure," she declared.

"You're speaking my language."

"Good. Then let's just let it be a mystery." There was a grin in her words, a hint of playfulness and a dose of sleepiness.

All skin and sweat and satisfaction, she closed her eyes and murmured, "Mystery man."

Feeling the gentle breeze from the fan above, she let the mystery lull her into a dream.    



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