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The Daring Hearts Series
Elle Thompson was raised in Denver. She paints. She hikes. She knows how to avoid cougar attacks.
The only cougars Michael Williams usually worries about are the ones that wear leopard print leggings on 5th Avenue.
But, when his acquisition firm sets its sights on Elle's family business, his tidy life goes awry. As things unravel, so do all his preconceived notions of love and what makes a perfect partner.
“How are you feeling today?” a familiar voice asked behind him. He didn’t have to turn to know who it was, but he turned anyway, temporarily forgetting about his sunburn until he saw the shocked expression on her face.
“Whoa! No sunblock either? I had some, you could have asked,” she said. “That’ll peel for sure.”
Blue! Brilliant, shimmering blue eyes. He hadn’t seen her eyes during their hike, as they’d been hidden behind sunglasses the whole time, and he’d always been a sucker for blue eyes. She wore jeweled sandals, torn jeans and a lime green, long-sleeved shirt with a misshapen Buddha on it, protruding outward over her breasts. Her warm blonde hair hung long, loose, and wavy as she leaned casually against the doorframe.
“I see you’ve already made yourself quite at home here,” she said. “Randall told me he let you use the conference room.”
“What are you doing here?” he asked, in a tone that sounded a bit too firm.
“Oh, no ‘how are you’ or ‘nice to see you’?” She tilted her head to the side, causing a loose curl to graze her breast.
He turned back to the coffee, adding cream and stirring absently. “I didn’t mean to sound rude. You just surprised me.”
She laughed and shrugged. “I was in the neighborhood and stopped by to say hi to Randall. He mentioned you were going to Hamada’s for sushi today.”
He turned around, leaning against the counter. “Yeah, I’ve heard great things about it. Will you be joining us?”
“I’d love to, but actually, I have to run. It was good to see you. I’m sure I’ll see you again soon.” She waved and turned.
He’d truly hoped she was going to join them for lunch, but it was probably best if she didn’t. His mind needed to be clear.
Later that night, Michael flew the red-eye back to New York for a few days, the same as he had the past two weeks, to check in at home and at the office. During the flight, he fell asleep and had an absurd dream that the mountain lion they encountered on the path had spoken aloud to him in Elle’s voice.
“I could eat you alive, you little raccoon,” it had said. The lion produced a pair of chopsticks and pounced on him, while a nude Elle lounged lazily nearby on a fallen tree like a wood nymph, seemingly uninterested in his plight.
He woke with a start to the stewardess asking if he wanted something to drink.
“No, thanks,” he said, and then settled back in the leather seat, staring out the window into dark oblivion and trying to refocus his thoughts on the mess he had yet to sort out at home. Between mountain lions, sunburns, dehydration, and a silent partner that gave new meaning to the word “silent,” he looked forward to returning to New York, where the only cougars he had to worry about were on Fifth Avenue, and the only bears were on Wall Street. It was easy to be anonymous and avoid conversations in the city, and he relished it occasionally.
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