Solving a cold case has never been hotter.
Life just isn't fair. Not only is fashion designer Rachel Foster on the wrong side of a locked dressing room door in nothing but her underwear, her humiliation is worse than public. It's witnessed by the one man she never wanted to see again: Travis Gage, the man who pushed her sister to suicide.
In a flash, old wounds--and long-forgotten feelings--lie raw and exposed to his hot, desiring gaze.
Seeing Rachel all grown up and sexy jolts Travis with a surge of lust--and the shock of learning she blames him for her sister's death. His skills as a cold-case detective are exactly what she needs to solve the mystery and lay her sister's ghost to rest. But first, he has to convince Rachel he's innocent...and that she can trust him.
And if she winds up in his bed in the process, he won't be complaining.....
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April 12, 2010
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Excerpt from Hidden Desires by Elle Kennedy
"Is something wrong, Miss?"
Rachel Foster stared at the red-faced teenage boy standing in front of her and wondered, given the situation, how he could possibly ask her that question.
Was something wrong?
What was his first clue? The fact that she was half-naked? Or maybe it was the way she'd run up to him, whispering "help me!" The kid was a real Sherlock Holmes, only with a lot more acne.
"Yes, something is wrong," she hissed, trying very hard not to raise her voice. "I got locked out of the fitting room. And I would appreciate it if you'd--and I'm begging here--open the door so I could get my clothes."
Wild hand gestures accompanied her frantic words. Her assistant often teased her about those gestures, and Rachel realized moving her hands maybe wasn't the smartest choice right now. Especially when any slight shifting made her breasts spill over the lace cups of the minuscule bra.
"Well." The boy's voice cracked and Rachel wished he would wipe that dazed look off his face. "What were you doing in the men's fitting room in the first place?"
Huh. Wasn't that a good question? She'd thought she was saving time, since the women's fitting room had a line as long as the Nile, but in retrospect, stealing over to the men's department of Walton's had been a bad, bad idea.
Rachel had suffered humiliation before, mostly back in high school, when she'd endured constant teasing and taunting about her home situation, but this topped the humiliation meter. Wearing nothing but a bra and dental-floss thong, standing smack in the middle of Men's Sleep Wear had to qualify as a whopping ten.
"What else do you do in a fitting room?" She attempted to cover herself by crossing her arms and leaning her almost-bare bottom against a rack of silk pajamas. "I was trying something on."
The boy's face deepened to a dark shade of crimson as he sheepishly glanced at exactly what she'd been trying on. "But this fitting room is for--"
"Men?" she finished. "I'm well aware of that."
"Please," she cut in, "will you just help me out?"
God, why couldn't this kid stop asking so many questions and just unlock the door so she could get her clothes? She cast a longing look in the direction of the doorway leading into the fitting room then cursed the mirror that had brought her into the open. All she'd wanted was a full-length shot of her lingerie, but the mirror only offered a torso view. She got a kick out of visiting stores and trying on her own designs. She'd created them, after all, so didn't she deserve a better glimpse? She'd left the cramped dressing space, hoping to find a bigger mirror in the hallway. When she hadn't seen one, she'd ventured just a little farther out, only to return to the fitting area and find the door locked.
"Look--" she peered at the boy's nametag, "--Chris. All this small talk is fascinating, it really is, but could you please let me into the room?"
Chris cleared his throat awkwardly. "I don't have a key. I'll have to get the manager."
Oh, Lord. Could this day get any worse?
Rachel raked her fingers through her shoulder-length hair and stifled an exasperated sigh. "All right. Go get him then. And hurry."
Chris turned around and began weaving his way through the racks, leaving Rachel to twiddle her thumbs as she waited.
She swiveled her head just in time to see a forty-something, heavyset man stop in his tracks and stare at her with wide eyes. The items in his hands fell to the floor as his gaze glued to her lingerie-clad body, then with a loud cough, he bent down to retrieve the socks and ties he'd dropped. With one last--and stunned--look, he stumbled away. She cast a longing look at the display of robes about ten yards away. She supposed she could make a run for it, but the racks were right next to the main cashier counter, and much farther than she was willing to go. It was one thing to provide a peep show to the sales guy and a random customer, she wasn't about to put on a show for the entire store.
A wave of hysterical laughter bubbled at the back of her throat. God, this was...she didn't even know how to describe this situation.
"You look like you need some help," a male voice remarked.
Whatever laughter was left in her throat hardened into a lump of pure ice. Familiarity swarmed her body as she shifted around and saw the owner of that husky voice. Travis Gage.
The right adjective for her predicament fluttered into her brain as her gaze locked with Travis's whiskey-colored eyes. Hell.
Of all the people she could have run into at this very moment, why Travis Gage? Why someone from her old high school? Why the one person she'd never wanted to lay eyes on again?
Bitterness surged through her veins as she took in the sight of him. He hadn't changed much since high school. Still had a head of dark hair, a chiseled face and deep dimples, and of course, those intense honey-brown eyes. And yet there was something different about him. Maybe the way his hair was no longer unruly, but cut short and perfectly combed, not a strand out of place. Or maybe it was the black sports coat he wore, how it stretched across his broad shoulders and emphasized his powerful chest. Made him appear professional and dangerous at the same time.
He looked good. Too good. God, what gave him the right to look this good?
"I don't need any help," she replied, her voice as frigid as her body felt.
"Really? Do you make it a habit of frequenting department stores in that attire?" His mouth curved into a whisper of a smile that looked smug and arrogant.
Her nostrils flared at the cocky tone of his voice. Although she hadn't seen him in nearly fifteen years, she decided he was still the same self-absorbed jerk he'd been back in high school.
Fighting the urge to squirm, she noticed his hawk-like gaze sweep over her exposed body. Not only did that evoke a thoroughly unwelcome reaction--like the hardening of her nipples--but it sparked a flicker of irritation. Why was he acting as if he didn't know who she was? He had to know, especially since she hadn't changed much since high school either. Her hair was still the same dark shade of blonde, her eyes the same shade of green. The only difference was that instead of wearing the baggy clothing she'd made her trademark in school, she now stood practically naked.
"Actually, I do wear this when I shop," she said coolly. "So if you'll excuse me, I should get back to, uh, browsing."
Rachel turned around and made a show of examining one of the racks. She grabbed a handful of random items, and it wasn't until she looked down that she saw she'd piled her hands with boxes of men's briefs.
Heat scorched her cheeks as she heard his low chuckle.
"Briefs, huh? And here I thought you preferred thongs."
Her face grew redder as she spun around with the realization that she'd just provided Travis Gage with a very candid view of her bare ass. The amusement glimmering in his mesmerizing eyes didn't soothe her. She wanted to strangle him. Didn't the man realize she wanted him to get lost?
"Would you just go away, Travis?" She tightened her jaw. "I came here to shop, not to be made fun of."
His eyes narrowed at the sound of his name. "Do we know each other?"
Rachel almost laughed aloud. This was priceless. They'd gone to school together for four years, he'd dated her sister, for God's sake. It was funny how a person could have such a huge impact on your life and not even realize it. Travis had broken her sister's heart, and Carrie had ended up taking her own life because of it.
And he wanted to know if they knew each other?