“I like a woman with a healthyappetite,” a newcomer said. His voice held humor and the twang of theAntipodes.
Curiosity ignited, I angled toface him, clutching the offending dessert plate to my chest. As I stared, hisgaze swooped, taking in the chocolate confection, rising fractionally to my 36C breasts and finally lifting to my face.
“Looks tasty,” he murmured, eyestwinkling in a naughty-boy fashion.
The surge of heat to my face tookme by surprise. At age twenty-four, I was past that flirty girl-boy stuff. Lady Eve Fawkner handled everything the world tossed her way, rolled it in a tidyball and lobbed it back. I stared at the dark-haired stranger. His grinwidened. A dimple winked in his cheek, highlighting his amusement.
Irritated by the flash ofawareness that zapped to my toes, my gaze traveled the length of his rangy body, making a return slow-boat-to-China journey with sightseeing on the way.Evening clothes—black trousers and cummerbund, pristine white shirt and a blackbowtie. Muscles gave the clothes a great shape. A vision appeared in mymind—one with far fewer clothes. Imagination connected the dots. Actually, tasty was a lackluster description for this specimen, but I’d hate to create an ego problem. I kept my poker face intact.
The man chuckled, not disturbed in the least by my leisurely survey.
“I’ll take that for you.” Jemima wrenched the plate from my hands and set it on the buffet table with a thump.“Have you broken up with Seth?”
My father hadn’t raised a fool. Iclutched the excuse with both hands and ran. “Fight,” I said, thinking ofCuddles, my childhood pony, and his death at the ripe age of twenty-five. The tears welled while I mentally apologized to my good friend and neighbor, SethWinthrop.
“Maybe I can help take your mind off…your problems. Would you like to dance?” the sexy stranger asked.
I blinked to clear my tears andthrust out my hand. “My name is Eve Fawkner. You are?”
“Kahu Williams.” His large hand enfolded mine in warmth. “Pleased to meet you, Lady Eve.”
A surge of acute pleasure shot along my arm and sped to my lower belly. My brows arched before I realized I wasn’t doing such a stellar job keeping the scatterbrained image intact.
A short, sharp giggle erupted.“You naughty boy,” I trilled. “Seth and I will make up.” My gaze settled on Seth in the far corner of the ballroom. My best friend was a closet gay. We’d made a deal to help one another by attending social functions together. Nothing romantic about our relationship at all. I allowed my smile to widen to a flirtatious, toothy grin and aimed it at Kahu Williams. “But if you’re game, I don’t mind making him jealous.”
The distaste on his bronzed face made me want to cheer, but I didn’t, now firmly in character again. I seized him by the arm and dragged him onto the dance floor, chatting nonstop. I’d resume my surveillance of the attendees and their jewels while we danced.
When I slid into Kahu’s embrace, I considered the irony. Even though I wore an expensive red Valentino gown matched with the requisite accessories, the noble Fawkner family was broke.
I inhaled and moved closer toKahu, savoring his silent strength when my thoughts rattled around in turmoil.If I were looking for a man, he’d make the finalist list—obviously intelligent,easy on the eye with a slight kink in his nose hinting at an interesting history. The man was a natural on the dance floor, moving like a…well, a cat burglar. A real joy to partner. Pity I wasn’t shopping.
Raising my head, I looked deep into a pair of chocolate-brown eyes. He had the sort of eyes a girl could fall into, if she had the time or the inclination.
“What sort of a name is Kahu?”The question emerged in a breathy tone, and I gave myself a swift mental kick.
“Car-who,” he said,correcting my pronunciation. “It’s a family name. It means Harrier hawk.”
“Evelyn is a family name too.” I wrinkled my nose. “A stuffy one, which is why I prefer Eve. Your accent?”
“Ah.” Good. That was good. It meant he didn’t live in London, and I’d probably never see him again. “Here on holiday?”
“No.” His gaze zeroed in on someone behind me.
Irked by his reticence, I pushed for more. “So what are you doing over here?” The second the demand left my mouth, I cringed. Move over, blonde bimbo—I want to get out. This wasn’t the way to secure my daughter’s safety.
Concentrate. Pick a jewel. Any jewel.
“I’m on a case,” he said, not taking his gaze from whoever snagged his interest.
My feet stopped moving. “Case? What sort of case?”
“What’s wrong?” His gaze sharpened, bringing to mind the bird of prey he was named after.
“I thought I saw someone I knew.” My feet resumed the basic one-two-three pattern and, rattled by his comment, I promptly stood on his foot. “Sorry!” I chirped. “Old boyfriend. Ended badly,you know.” Better. I sounded dizzy again.
In silence, we recommenced dancing while my mind worked frantically. A cop. Of all the gin joints, why the heck did he pick mine? “Caught any crooks lately?” I followed this sally bystepping on his foot again.
“Will you watch where you’re putting those heels?”
Even exasperation sounded good coming from his mouth. Sorta slow and sexy in his antipodean drawl. Oh man, I needed to get a grip. I didn’t even have the excuse of being drunk since Ididn’t drink and hadn’t done so since the eighth of December six years ago. The mere thought of that night made my brain sharpen, my lusty senses deaden to theman who held me in his arms. The vapid smile on my face died, and grim purpose gave my backbone steel. In that moment, I became the Shadow on a job.