trouble waiting her out.

'It's Daphne,' she said.

'Why are you telling me something I already know? Are you this paranoid with everyone, Daphne?'

She pursed her lips and muttered something under her breath. He could swear he heard the word 'badger' again.

Kevin Tucker didn't even know her name! Let this be a lesson, Molly thought as she gazed at all that dangerous gorgeousness.

Right then she knew she had to find a way to protect herself from him. Okay, so he was drop-dead good- looking. So were a lot of men. Granted, not many of them had that particular combination of dark blond hair and brilliant green eyes. And not many had a body like his, which was trim and sculpted rather than bulky. Still, she wasn't stupid enough to be taken in by a man who was nothing more than a great body, a pretty face, and an on/off charm switch.

Well, she was stupid enough-witness her late, unlamented crush on him-but at least she'd known she was being stupid.

One thing she wouldn't do was come across as a fawning groupie. He was going to see her at her absolute snottiest! She conjured up Goldie Hawn in Overboard for inspiration. 'You're going to have to leave, Ken. Oh, excuse me, I mean Kevin. It is Kevin, right?'

She must have gone too far because the corner of his mouth kicked up. 'We've been introduced at least three times. I'd think you'd remember.'

'There are just so many football players, and you all look alike.'

One of his eyebrows arched.

She'd made her point, and it was late, so she could afford to be generous, but only in the most condescending way. 'You can stay tonight, but I came here to work, so you'll have to vacate tomorrow morning.' A glance out the back windows showed his Ferrari parked by the garage, which was why she hadn't seen it when she'd pulled up in front.

He deliberately settled on a stool, as if to show her he wasn't going anywhere. 'What kind of work do you do?' He sounded patronizing, which told her he didn't believe it was anything too arduous.

'Je suis auteur.'

'An author?'

'Soy autora,' she added in Spanish.

'Any reason you've given up English?'

'I thought you might be more comfortable with a foreign language.' A vague wave of her hand. 'Something I read…'

Kevin might be shallow, but he wasn't stupid, and she wondered if she'd crossed the line. Unfortunately, she was on a roll. 'I'm almost certain Roo has recovered from his little problem with rabies, but you might want to get some shots, just to be on the safe side.'

'You're still mad about the burglar thing, aren't you?'

'I'm sorry, I can't hear you. Probably a concussion from the fall.'

'I said I was sorry.'

'So you did.' She moved aside a pile of crayons the kids had left on the counter.

'I think I'll head upstairs to bed.' He rose and started toward the door, then paused for another look at her awful hair. 'Tell me the truth. Was it some kind of football bet?'

'Good night, Kirk.'

As Molly entered her bedroom, she realized she was breathing hard. Only a thin wall separated her from the guest room where Kevin would be sleeping. Her skin tingled, and she felt an almost uncontrollable urge to take the scissors to her hair, even though there wasn't much left to cut. Maybe she should dye it back to its natural color tomorrow, except she couldn't give him the satisfaction.

She'd come here to hide out, not sleep next to the lion's den, and she grabbed her things. With Roo following, she hurried down the hall to the big, dormitory-style corner room the three girls shared and locked the door.

She sagged against the jamb and tried to settle down by taking in the room's sloping ceiling and the cozy dormers designed for daydreaming. Two of the walls displayed a Nightingale Woods mural that she'd painted while everyone in the family got in her way. She'd be all right, and in the morning he'd be gone.

Sleep, however, was impossible. Why hadn't she let Phoebe know she was driving up here, as she usually did? Because she hadn't wanted more lectures about her hair or warnings about 'incidents.'

She tossed and turned, watched the clock, and finally flicked on the light to sketch some ideas for her new book. Nothing worked. Usually the sound of the winter wind battering the solid log house soothed her, but tonight that wind urged her to throw off her clothes and dance, to leave the studious, good girl behind and cross over to the wild side.

She tossed back the covers and jumped out of bed. The room was chilly, but she felt flushed and feverish. She wished she were home. Roo lifted one sleepy eyelid, then closed it again as she made her way to the padded bench in the nearest dormer.

Frost feathers decorated the windowpanes, and snow swirled in thin, dancing ribbons through the trees. She tried to concentrate on the night beauty, but she kept seeing Kevin Tucker. Her skin prickled, and her breasts tingled. It was so demeaning! She was a bright woman-brilliant, even-but, despite her denial, she was as obsessed as a sex-starved groupie.

Maybe this was a perverse form of personal growth. At least she was obsessing over sex instead of the Great Love Story she wouldn't ever have.

She decided it was safer to obsess over the Great Love Story. Dan had saved Phoebe's life! It was the most romantic thing Molly could imagine, but she supposed it had also given her unrealistic expectations.

She gave up on the Great Love Story and went back to obsessing over sex. Did Kevin speak English while he was doing it or had he memorized a few handy foreign phrases? With a groan, she buried her face in the pillow.

After only a few hours' sleep she awakened to a cold, gray dawn. When she looked out, she saw that Kevin's Ferrari was gone. Good! She took Roo outside, then showered. While she dried off, she forced herself to hum a little ditty about Winnie the Pooh, but as she pulled on a well-worn pair of gray pants and the Dolce & Gabbana sweater she'd bought before she gave away her money, the pretense of pretending she was happy faded.

What was wrong with her? She had a wonderful life. She was healthy. She had good friends, a terrific family, and an entertaining dog. Although she was nearly always broke, she didn't mind because her loft was worth every penny it cost her. She loved her work. Her life was perfect. More than perfect, now that Kevin Tucker was gone.

Disgusted with her moodiness, she shoved her feet into the pink slippers the twins had given her for her birthday and padded down to the kitchen, the bunny heads on the toes waggling. A quick breakfast, then she'd get to work.

She'd arrived too late last night to pick up groceries, so she pulled a box of Dan's Pop-Tarts from the cupboard. Just as she was slipping one into the toaster, Roo began to bark. The back door opened, and Kevin came in, his arms loaded with plastic grocery bags. Her idiotic heart skipped a beat.

Roo snarled. Kevin ignored him. 'Morning, Daphne.'

Her instinctive burst of pleasure gave way to annoyance. Slytherin!

He dumped the bags on the center island. 'Supplies were running low.'

'What difference does it make? You're leaving, remember? Vous partez. Saiga.' She enunciated the foreign words and was gratified to see that she'd annoyed him.

'Leaving isn't a good idea.' He gave a hard twist to the cap on the milk. 'I'm not making any more waves with Dan right now, so you'll need to go instead.'

Exactly what she should do, but she didn't like his attitude, so she let her inner bitch take over. 'That's not going to happen. As an athlete, you won't understand this, but I need peace and quiet because I actually have to think when I work.'

He definitely caught the insult but chose to ignore it. 'I'm staying here.'

'So am I,' she replied, just as stubbornly.

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