Stanton Rourke lives life on the edge. The steely mercenary is dangerous in every way...especially to Clarisse Carrington's heart. She and Rourke were playmates as children, but she's not the innocent girl he once knew. When tragedy robbed Clarisse of her entire family, her life was changed forever. Besides, she's a grown woman now, and there are secrets that hold her back from succumbing to her pursuer. As she struggles to keep her distance, sparks as hot as a Texas summer fly between them. But danger is following Clarisse, leaving her no choice but to rely on Rourke, even as the old wounds lying dormant between them flare up again...
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The prolific author of more than one hundred books, Diana Palmer got her start as a newspaper reporter. A New York Times bestselling author and voted one of the top ten romance writers in America, she has a gift for telling the most sensual tales with charm and humor. Diana lives with her family in Cornelia, Georgia.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
It took forever to get anywhere, Stanton Rourke fumed. He was sitting at the airport on a parked plane while officials decided if it was safe to let the passengers disembark. Of course, he reasoned, Africa was a place of tensions. That never changed. And he was landing in Ngawa, a small war-torn nation named in Swahili for a species of civet cat found there. He was in the same spot where a small commercial plane had been brought down with a rocket launcher only the week before.
He wasn't afraid of war. Over the years, he'd become far too accustomed to it. He was usually called in when a counterespionage expert was wanted, but he had other skills, as well. Right now he wished he had more skill in diplomacy. He was going into Ngawa to get Tat out, and she wasn't going to want to let him persuade her.
Tat. He almost groaned as he pictured her the last time he'd seen her in Barrera, Amazonas, just after General Emilio Machado had retaken his country from a powerful tyrant, with a little help from Rourke and a company of American mercs. Clarisse Carrington was her legal name. But to Rourke, who'd known her since she was a child, she'd always been just Tat.
A minion of the country's usurper, Arturo Sapara, had tortured her with a knife. He could still see her, her blouse covered with blood, suffering from the effects of a bullet wound and knife cuts on her breast from one of Sapara's apes, who was trying to force her to tell what she knew about a threatening invasion of his stolen country.
She was fragile in appearance, blonde and blue-eyed with a delicately perfect face and a body that drew men's eyes. But the fragility had been eclipsed when she was threatened. She'd been angry, uncooperative, strong. She hadn't given up one bit of information. With grit that had amazed Rourke, who still remembered her as the Washington socialite she'd been, she'd not only charmed a jailer into releasing her and two captured college professors, she'd managed to get them to safety, as well. Then she'd given Machado valuable intel that had helped him and his ragtag army overthrow Sapara and regain his country.
She did have credentials as a photojournalist, but Rourke had always considered that she was just playing at the job. To be fair, she had covered the invasion in Iraq, but in human-interest pieces, not what he thought of as true reporting. After Barrera, that had changed.
She'd signed on with one of the wire services as a foreign correspondent and gone into the combat zones. Her latest foray was this gig in Ngawa, where she'd stationed herself in a refugee camp which had just been overrun.
Rourke had come racing, after an agonizing few weeks in Wyoming and Texas helping close down a corrupt politician and expose a drug network. He hadn't wanted to take the time. He was terrified that Tat was really going to get herself killed. He was almost sweating with worry, because he knew something that Tat didn't; something potentially fatal to her and any foreigners in the region.
He readjusted the ponytail that held his long blond hair. His one pale brown eye was troubled, beside the one wearing the eye patch. He'd lost the eye years ago, in a combat situation that had also given him devastating scars. It hadn't kept him out of the game by a long shot, but he'd turned his attention to less physical pursuits, working chiefly for K. C. Kantor's paramilitary ops group as an intel expert, when he wasn't working for a covert government agency in another country.
K.C. didn't like him going into danger. He didn't care what the older man liked. He suspected, had long suspected, that K.C. was his real father. He knew K.C. had the same suspicion. Neither of them had the guts to have a DNA profile done and learn the truth, although Rourke had asked a doctor to do a DNA profile of his assumed father.
The results had been disturbing. Rourke's apparent father had been K.C.'s best friend. Rourke's mother had been a little saint. She'd never cheated on her husband, to Rourke's knowledge, but when she was dying she'd whispered to the doctor, Rourke's friend, that she'd felt sorry for K.C. when the woman he loved had taken the veil as a nun, and things had happened. She died before she could elaborate. Rourke had never had the nerve to actually ask K.C. about it. He wasn't afraid of the other man. But they had a mutual respect that he didn't want to lose.
Tat was another matter. He closed his eye and groaned inwardly. He remembered her at seventeen, the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen in his entire life. Soft, light blond hair in a feathery cut around her exquisite face, her china-blue eyes wide and soft and loving. She'd been wearing a green dress, something slinky but demure, because her parents were very religious. Rourke had been teasing her and she'd laughed up at him. Something had snapped inside him. He'd gathered her up like priceless treasure and started kissing her. Actually, he'd done a lot more than just kiss her. Only the sudden arrival of her mother had broken it up, and her mother had been furious.
She'd hidden it, smoothing things over. But then Tat's mother had taken Rourke to one side, and with quiet fury, she'd told him something that destroyed his life. From that night, he'd been so cold to Tat that she thought he hated her. He had to let her think it. She was the one woman on earth that he could never have.
He opened his eye, grinding down on the memories before they started eating him alive again. He wished that he'd never touched her, that he didn't have the shy innocence of her mouth, her worshipping eyes, to haunt his dreams. He'd driven her into the arms of other men with his hatred, and that only made the pain worse. He taunted her with it, when he knew it was his own fault. He'd had no choice. He couldn't even tell her the truth. She'd worshipped her mother. She had passed away from a virus she'd caught while nursing others. Now Tat was alone, the tragic deaths of her father and young sister still haunting her months after they'd drowned in a piranha-infested river on a tour of local villages.
Rourke had been at the funeral. He couldn't help the way he felt. If Tat was in trouble, or hurt, he was always there. He'd known her since she was eight and her parents lived next door to K.C., who was by that time Rourke's legal guardian, in Africa. Since Tat was ten years old and Rourke was fifteen, and he'd carried her out of the jungle in his arms to a doctor, after letting her get bitten by a viper, she'd been his. He couldn't have her, but he couldn't stop taking care of her. He knew his attitude puzzled her, because he was usually her worst enemy. But let her be hurt, or threatened, and he was right there. Always. Like now.
He'd tried to phone her, but he couldn't get her to answer her cell. She probably knew his number by heart. She wouldn't even pick up when he called.
Now she was here, somewhere close, and he couldn't even get information from his best sources about her condition. He remembered again the way she'd been in Barrera, bleeding, white in the face, worn to the bone, but still defiant.
The steward walked down the aisle and announced that the rebels who held the airfield were allowing the passengers to leave after a brief negotiation. He even smiled. Rourke leaned over and unobtrusively patted the hide gun in his boot. He could negotiate for himself, if he had to, he mused.
He called his contact, a man with a vehicle, to drive him to the refugee camp. This man was one of his few friends in the country. It was Bob Satele, sitting beside him, who had given him the only news of Tat he'd had in weeks.
"It is most terrible, to see what they do here," the man remarked as he drove along the winding dirt road. "Miss Car-rington has a colleague who gets her dispatches out. She has been most sympathetic to the plight of the people, especially the children."
"Ya," Rourke said absently. "She loves kids. I'm surprised that Mosane hasn't had her killed." He was referring to the leader of the rebel coalition, a man with a bloodthirsty reputation.
"He did try," his contact replied, making Rourke clench his teeth. "But she has friends, even among the enemy troops. In fact, it was one of Mosane's own officers who got her to safety. They were going to execute her…"
He paused at Rourke's harsh gasp.
Rourke bit down hard on his feelings. "NATO is threatening to send in troops," he said, trying to disguise the anguish he felt. At the same time he didn't dare divulge what he knew; it was classified.
"The world should not permit such as this to happen, although like you, I dislike the idea of foreign nations interfering in local politics."
"This is an exception to the rule," Rourke said. "I'd hang Mosane with my own hands if I could get to him."
The other man chuckled. "It is our Africa, yes?"
"Yes. Our Africa. And we should be the ones to straighten it out. Years of foreign imperialism have taken a toll here. We're all twitchy about letting outsiders in."
"Your family, like mine, has been here for generations," the other man replied.
"We go back, don't we, mate?" he said, managing a smile. "How much farther?"
"Just down the road. You can see the tents from here." They passed a truck with a red cross on the side, obviously the victim of a bomb. "And that is what happens to the medical supplies they send us," he added grimly. "Nothing meant for the people reaches them, yet outsiders think they do so much good by sending commodities in."
"Too true. If they're not destroyed by the enemy, they're confiscated and sold on the black market." He drew in a breath. "Dear God, I am so sick of war."
"You should find a wife and have children." His friend chuckled. "It will change your view of the world."
"No chance of that," Rourke said pleasantly. "I like variety."
He didn't, actually. But he was denied the one woman he did want.
The refugee camp was bustling. There were two people in white lab coats attending the injured lying on cots inside the few big tents. Rourke's restless eye went from one group to another, looking for a blond head of hair. He was almost frantic with worry, and he couldn't let it show.
"She is over there," Bob said suddenly, pointing.
And there she was. Sitting on an overturned crate with a tiny little African boy cradled in her arms. She was giving him a bottle and laughing. She looked worn. Her hair needed washing. Her khaki slacks and blouse were rumpled. She looked as if she'd never worn couture gowns to the opera or presided over arts ceremonies. To Rourke, even in rags, she would be beautiful. But he didn't dare let his mind go in that direction. He steeled himself to face her.
Clarisse felt eyes on her. She looked up and saw Rourke, and her face betrayed her utter shock.
He walked straight to her, his jaw set, his one brown eye flashing.
"Look here," she began before he could say a word, "it's my life."
He went down on one knee, his scrutiny close and unnerving. "Are you all right?" he asked gruffly.
She bit her lower lip and tears threatened. If she was hurt, in danger, mourning, frightened, he was always there. He'd come across continents to her, across the world, around the world. But he didn't want her. He'd never wanted her.
"Yes," she said huskily. "I'm all right."
"Bob said you were captured, that they were going to kill you," he ground out, his scrutiny close and hot.
She lowered her eyes to the child she was feeding. "A necklace saved my life."
"That cross…" he began, recalling that her mother had given it to her and she never took it off 1—except once, to put it around Rourke's neck in Barrera, just before he went into the capital city with Machado and the others, for luck.
"No." She flicked open the top button of her blouse. She was wearing a seashell necklace with leather thongs.
"This little one—" she indicated the child in her arms "—has a sister. She was dying, of what I thought was appendicitis. I commandeered a car and driver and took her to the clinic, a few miles down the road. It was appendicitis. They saved her." She took the bottle away from the child's lips, tossed a diaper over one shoulder, lifted the child and patted him gently on the back to make him burp. "Her mother gave me this necklace, the little girl's necklace, in return." She smiled. "So the captain whose unit captured me saw it and recognized it and smuggled me out of the village." She cradled the child in her arms and made a face at him. He chuckled. "This is his son. His little girl and his wife are over there, helping hand out blankets." She nodded toward the other side of the camp.
He whistled softly.
"Life is full of surprises," she concluded.
She looked at him with eyes that were quickly averted. "You came all this way because you thought I'd been kidnapped?"
He shook his head curtly. "I didn't know that until I got here."
"Then why did you come?" she asked.
He drew in a long breath. He watched her cradle the child and he smiled, without sarcasm for once. "You look very comfortable with a child in your arms, Tat."
"He's a sweet boy," she said.
His mother came back and held out her arms, smiling shyly at Rourke before she went back to the others.
"Why did you come?" she asked him again.
He stood up, jamming his hands into his khaki slacks. "To get you out of here," he said simply. His face was taut.
"I can't leave," she said. "There isn't another journalist in this part of the country. Someone has to make sure the world knows what's going on here."
"You've done that," he said shortly. He searched her eyes. "You have to get out. Today."
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Descripción Harlequin Books, United States, 2015. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Stanton Rourke lives life on the edge. The steely mercenary is dangerous in every wayespecially to Clarisse Carrington s heart. She and Rourke were playmates as children, but she s not the innocent girl he once knew. When tragedy robbed Clarisse of her entire family, her life was changed forever. Besides, she s a grown woman now, and there are secrets that hold her back from succumbing to her pursuer. As she struggles to keep her distance, sparks as hot as a Texas summer fly between them. But danger is following Clarisse, leaving her no choice but to rely on Rourke, even as the old wounds lying dormant between them flare up again. Nº de ref. de la librería BTE9780373788439