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McKenna Dixon heard a thump in her hallway and the sound of heavy boots on her wooden floors. Daisy was too young and Leah, her nine o’clock client, was too tiny to make so much noise. Besides, the front door was locked…wasn’t it? After another heavy tread, McKenna walked to the half open door that separated her kitchen from the hallway and watched as a six-foot-something example of pure, undiluted, prime grade male dropped a very battered backpack on her highly polished wooden floor. He looked around her hall, dominated by an impressive, nineteenth century hand carved staircase.
He looked hot, he looked dangerous, he looked like someone she could imagine ripping off her panties and doing her up against the nearest wall. McKenna placed her fist on her sternum and sucked in what she prayed was a calming breath. And this is why I should have regular sex, four or so years is far too long to go without having a proper, non-DIY orgasm. If I’d dated, had sex occasionally, I wouldn’t be standing here, flushed and horny and wearing suddenly damp panties. She’d tried to date, she argued back, and she now had a stalker who wouldn’t leave her alone. Hasthtag EpicFail.
McKenna watched, fascinated as he ripped his sunglasses from his face, revealing deep set eyes under strong brows. Black designer cap, stubble, deep, gold eyes, which looked like road maps, ringed with black. Old, faded, clean, well-fitting jeans with a rip across a hard thigh and grubby, dusty tennis shoes. He yanked the cap from his head and ran his hands through his overlong, caramel-colored hair before shoving it into the back pocket of his jeans and hooking his glasses on the neck of his t-shirt. Seeing a clasp undone on the side pocket of his rucksack, he dropped to his haunches to fix it and McKenna noticed the long, well defined muscles bunching under his thin t-shirt, the curve of his buttock, the strength of his neck. She felt excited and unsettled and a little horrified that she was attracted to this messy, grumpy looking stranger. She didn’t even know who he was….
McKenna yanked in a horrified breath. God, she didn’t know who he was! She was just standing there like an idiot, perving over a strange man, and wondering how good his world class ass would feel under her hands and whether that mobile mouth could deliver the molten kisses she was fantasizing about.
She banged her palm against her temple to kick start her brain. She had the brains of a flea; she wasn’t a hundred percent sure that her stalker was Craig; it wasn’t like he’d signed any of his emails and the phone calls sounded like he was talking through a sock. So, in reality, her stalker could be anyone…this could be him! Or he could just be a handsome, ripped burglar. Or rapist. Or serial killer.
God, she had to stop watching those true crime channels.
Now spooked, McKenna heard light footsteps and she closed her eyes in horror. She peeked through the open door and saw her little daughter skipping down the stairs, black curls bouncing and her smile as big as the sun. Her Rainbow nation child, with her milky, café au lait skin and light eyes, was a stunning mix of her Black Irish and Zoo’s Malay and African ancestry.
“Hello, who are you?” she asked the sexy stranger, interested and curious. Daisy, McKenna sighed, so shy and retiring. Not.
“Hello.” He replied in a deep, mellow, sin-laced voice that sounded more English than American. “I’m Jed, who are you?”
“Daisy May Dixon.” Daisy replied in her piping voice.
McKenna used the cover of her voice to ease the door open and, walking as quietly as she could into the hallway, reached for the baseball bat she kept hidden behind the large, potted ornamental lemon tree. Grabbing it, she lifted it to her shoulder.
“My mommy wants to hit you with a bat. What did you do to make her mad?” Daisy said conversationally and McKenna groaned.
“Nothing yet but the day is still young.” Sexy butt didn’t turn around, didn’t take his eyes off her daughter. “Can I ask you something?”
Daisy’s brilliant blue eyes flashed with excitement. “Sure.”
McKenna felt like an idiot just standing there, holding the bat up, not sure whether to swing or not. Neither the man nor Daisy seemed worried that she actually would take a swipe at his head. Huh.
He lowered his voice. “Is she still checking me out?”
“What do you mean?” Daisy asked, perplexed.
McKenna didn’t give him the chance to explain. “I was not checking you out!” she stated, her voice hot and her face flaming. She lowered the bat and put one fist on her hip.
Sexy guy… Burglar…the trespasser slowly turned and sent her a cocky half-smile. “Yeah, you were. It’s okay, I have no objection to hot women objectifying me.”
“I was not…I…you…dammit!”
“Big people are weird.” Daisy said on a heavy sigh as she continued her descent down the stairs. When she reached the bottom, she looked at McKenna. “Hitting people isn’t nice, Mommy.”
Daisy mimicked her perfectly and McKenna swallowed a hot retort, but she kept a firm grip on the bat. She still didn’t know who the guy was and her next appointment was Leah Hamilton, not this…creature!
“Sometimes it is.”
McKenna glared at him. “Not helpful. Look, who are you and why are you in my house? How did you get in my house?”
He looked at the front door that stood open, allowing sunlight to spill into the hall. “Your front door was open and I walked on in. Is this a bridal salon?”
McKenna waved her hand towards a door opposite them. “The salon is through there. I work by appointment only and I don’t have an appointment with you!”
His face tightened and McKenna caught the confusion that flashed in his eyes. She strengthened her grip on the bat and knew, with every atom in her body, that this man was dangerous. In more ways than ten.
He pinned her to the floor with those penetrating eyes. “I presume that you are McKenna Dixon?”
McKenna slowly nodded as Jed jammed his hands in the front pockets of those well-worn jeans.
Jed looked down at Daisy who, still staring up at him, was utterly fascinated. McKenna couldn’t blame her; he was scrumptious to look at. Speaking of Daisy…she glanced at her watch. They were so late, again. This wasn’t how she liked to start her day, especially when she had appointments with two of the pickiest socialites in Cape Town; one for a bridal gown and one for a ball gown. McKenna Dixon Designs. Who would’ve thought that the ex-party girl would make a reasonable living designing dresses?
“Mommy, when we get our puppies we’re going to name them Dora and Boots.” Daisy told her, sitting on the bottom stair and resting her chin in her hands.
“We’re not getting puppies, Daisy.” God, she couldn’t do the puppy argument now. She didn’t have the time or the inclination, especially since Daisy could give lessons in stubbornness to mules.
Daisy sent Jed a pleading look. “If I don’t get a puppy I’m going to die.”
Yeah, Daisy had definitely inherited Zoo’s dramatic streak. She saw that sexy mouth twitch. He slowly nodded. “Then I definitely think that you should get a puppy.”
McKenna banged the head of the bat on the floor.
“Still holding this, still prepared to use it.” she quietly murmured.
Judging by his relaxed stance, he didn’t look remotely concerned. She really had to work on her intimidation tactics.
McKenna glanced at her watch, realized how very late they were, and blew out a frustrated sigh. God, what a morning! And she still didn’t know why she had a sexy man in her hallway at eight fifty a.m. McKenna turned at the sound of footsteps behind her and Mattie, her cousin and the seamstress who translated her designs from paper into actual dresses, walked into the hall from the kitchen.
“Yep. I’m going to get another lecture from Mean Martha’s African clone.” McKenna shook her head. She was quite convinced the principal at Daisy’s preschool waited at the gate to gripe at her for being late.
“Some things never change.”
McKenna rolled her eyes, knowing that Mattie was referring to the hours she’d spent in the offices of the Lady Principal of the exclusive, and pretentious, girls school they both attended back home in New York. She probably still held the record for being the most-suspended girl at St. C’s. She’d been far too curious for school and her boredom had led to…incidents. Of course, her father—a rebel through and through—had thought that her antics were hysterical and only his hefty donations kept her in the exclusive school. God help her if Daisy’s three-year-old muleheadedness translated into one iota of McKenna’s rebellion. She’d been allowed to run wild, and she remembered how unsettling that was, so, with Mattie’s help and encouragement, she’d decided to raise Daisy in as normal an environment as possible. That meant a mother who was consistently available, a modest house, chores, responsibilities. Everything she never had and needed most. McKenna closed her eyes and sent a prayer winging upwards. Dear Lord, I really don’t want to raise myself.
“You are the general’s son.” Mattie stated and McKenna was jerked back to the conversation. Mattie was holding out her hand to Jed, totally unfazed by his sex appeal or his hotty factor. Mattie was far too sensible to let his good looks impact on her. “You have his eyes.”
“Yes, I’m Jed.” he agreed. Judging by his thinning lips, he didn’t seem happy with the comparison.
“Who is the gen’ral?” Daisy demanded, her puppy quest temporarily forgotten.
It was a fair question…if you were a child, McKenna conceded. But anyone with a lick of general knowledge about current affairs would know that Mattie was referring to Thaddius Hamilton, retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the White House and, thanks to his recent autobiography that was ruffling feathers back in the States, Simons Town’s most famous part-time ex-pat. Jed’s father had been pretty far up the US military and political tree. Jed was the living proof that one did get apples from orange trees since he was the most un-military looking man she’d ever seen.
Of course, if Jed was the general’s oldest son then Leah had to be…a bank bag of pennies dropped in McKenna’s muddled-by-lust brain. Sexy Jed was Leah’s brother and her intended man of honor. Admittedly, she’d only known him for about five seconds but she couldn’t think of anyone less suited to the role.
Mattie looked around. “Where is Leah? Has she already gone through to the salon?”
Jed sent a narrowed eyed glance towards the front door to his right. “No, she hasn’t arrived yet.”
That was standard for Leah Hamilton. There was normal time and then there was Leah time.
Jed placed his hands on narrow hips. “Where the hell is she and why did I have to meet her here, at a bloody bridal salon? Dammit, I’ve been back in town for an hour and she’s already driving me mad.”
Daisy looked up and him and grinned. “Hell, dammit…” Daisy tested his words on her tongue.
“Daisy Dixon!” McKenna snapped her name out, ignoring the smile that appeared on Jed’s face. It transformed him from good-looking to flat-out sexy and she desperately wanted to slap her mouth on his and find out what his smile tasted like.
Oh, God, she was in such deep trouble. She glared at him and Jed held up his hands in apology. “Sorry.” he murmured but his amused expression didn’t match his apology.
McKenna felt Mattie’s hand on her shoulder. “I’ll deal with this.” McKenna sent her a grateful look. “Now, Miss Daisy, on the way to school we’ll talk about what language is appropriate for a three-year-old.”
“It’s not fair! He said them first.” Daisy muttered as she moved into the kitchen with Mattie.
Moving on to problem number two. McKenna looked at Jed; could Leah, minx that she was, really not have told her brother why they were meeting here, at her salon? McKenna pulled her bottom lip between her teeth and wondered how she could frame the next question without letting Leah’s tiger-sized cat out of the bag. “Uh…what did she say when she asked you to meet her here?”
“She just gave me an address and told me to be here. That I shouldn’t ask any questions and that she’d explain when she saw me.”
Oh, crap, Leah hadn’t told him a damn thing. That meant he didn’t know about Leah’s engagement and hell, no, she wasn’t about to tell him. Leah could have that pleasure. Or, she looked at Jed’s frowning face, that pain.
McKenna felt a headache gathering force at the back of her head and silently cursed when her mobile let out a couple of chirrups that stated she had a message. She didn’t want to look; lately all the messages she’d received had been of the “I want to see you suffer” and “I want to show you what happens to women who think they are so damn special” variety.
She swallowed down the rush of fear and reminded herself to breathe. As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t panic. Or let fear rule her. But, really, what had she done do attract this nut job?
And speaking of nut jobs, she sent Jed a cool look. “You can wait for your sister in the salon; she’s normally never more than thirty or forty minutes late.”
Jed narrowed his topaz-colored eyes. “Wonderful.” he muttered.
“Aren’t you going to read that?” he demanded when her mobile chirped again.
McKenna dug the phone out of the side pocket of her skirt and looked down at the number.
It wasn’t a number she recognized and no, she didn’t need to read it. It would be more of the same vitriol from her stalker and her morning had already been tough enough.
There was, she realized, only so much she could cope with in a thirty minute time span.
End of Excerpt