Posted by Lexxie Couper on Saturday, April 4th, 2015
The Foreign Affairs sneak peeks continue. Today…Mari Carr and I give you Cowboy! And don’t forget the entire series is for sale in one box set…four books for the price of two!
Foreign Affairs, Book Two
Flying halfway ’round the world to meet his potential soul mate sounds like a fine idea to Dylan Sullivan—until he discovers said soul mate, Annie, has gone looking for him. In Australia. Now Dylan’s adrift, a bloke from the Outback alone in the bloody big city. Until he’s rescued by Monet, a gorgeous local artist…and Annie’s best friend.
A dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, Monet has never met anyone like Dylan. Taking temporary care of the sizzling-hot cowboy is easy; he’s friendly, funny and interesting. Keeping her hands off him is decidedly not easy. That horny accent, that killer grin…and as a successful artist, Monet is very much a hands-on sort of girl.
Dylan and Monet hold back until they learn Annie is engaged in her own foreign affair in Oz. Then all bets—and clothes—are off. But it can only be a fling. An Aussie cowboy doesn’t belong in New York any more than a city girl belongs in the Outback.
Now if only their hearts would listen.
Dylan Sullivan gazed up at the Empire State Building towering a thousand feet above him and thought, Bugger.
He considered going with the tried and true, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto”, but seeing as he’d never been to the U.S. before now, let alone Kansas, and he didn’t have a little yappy dog prancing around his feet, he decided it was both clichéd and inappropriate.
Dylan’s chest squeezed tight. His dog, Mutt, was on the other side of the world, probably curled up asleep in the back of Dylan’s pickup on the cattle station he and his brother called home. Either that or causing havoc with the wild kangaroos that kept seeking out water around the main house. The fact Mutt wasn’t at his side, where the dog spent pretty much every minute of the day when Dylan was working, just drove home the point that Dylan was out of his comfort zone. Way out.
An Australian stockman had no business being in America. None at all. There wasn’t a cow, kangaroo or shed to be seen.
Reaching up, Dylan removed his hat—a thoroughly beat-up, well-worn Akubra—and dragged his fingers through his hair.
What the bloody hell had he been thinking, flying to America?
What had you been thinking? You’d been thinking about Annie. About finally meeting her face to face. About seeing if she smells as good as you think she does. About finding out if her lips are as soft as they look…
Yeah, that’s what he’d been thinking. Of course, when he’d touched down at JFK International Airport, Annie had been a no-show. Which left Dylan, well…screwed.
Turning away from the Empire State Building, he surveyed the mass of people swarming around him. It had seemed like a good idea at the time to leave the airport. Annie hadn’t arrived but that didn’t mean she’d stood him up. After a few months of talking on the Net, he figured her to be a pretty decent woman. Not the kind to leave a man in the lurch after agreeing to a cross-global meeting. Hell, she’d been all for the challenge of a city girl and a country boy facing off, and he’d told her what flight he was coming in on in his last email. But the moment he’d deplaned, things had started going wrong.
He didn’t believe in omens, not like Aunt Joyce back home who wouldn’t leave her house if she saw a row of ducks break formation, but when he’d gone to collect his luggage—one solitary duffel bag—and found it missing, he should have suspected things wouldn’t go as planned.
After two hours of waiting for Annie, of standing in a busy airport surrounded by people who all looked as if they were in a major rush, Dylan had decided to brave the unknown world beyond the glass doors and seek her out. He had her address. Perhaps there was something wrong? A problem preventing her getting to the airport?
A traffic jam had brought his cab to a halt, however, before he could make it to Annie’s apartment. Determined not to wait in the stuffy vehicle, he’d elected to walk the rest of the way.
He hadn’t expected a doorman who wouldn’t let him pass. Why would he? He’d spent his entire life on Farpoint Creek cattle station, a place half the size of Texas and roughly a thousand kilometers from Australia’s closest high-rise apartment complex.
The man, a round and somewhat squishy bloke decked out in a burgundy suit complete with gold buttons and matching cap, stood in Dylan’s path, staring up at him with unwavering determination. “I’m sorry, sir.” He shook his head, his American accent highlighting how disconnected Dylan felt from everything he knew. “But Ms. Prince is not in residence and I cannot let you pass.”
Dylan frowned, his exhausted brain telling him he’d missed something really important in the man’s statement. “Sorry? What did you say?”
The man straightened a little more. “Ms. Prince is not home.”
Dylan let out a ragged sigh. He removed his hat, raked his fingers through his hair and returned the damn thing to his head. Not home? Maybe she was at the airport waiting for him after all? Could they have just missed each other? “Do you know when she’ll be back?”
If possible, the doorman snapped his spine straighter. Dylan wondered for a jet-lagged second if the bloke thought he was going to throw a crocodile or something at him. “I can’t divulge that information, sir. Now, if you will please step away from the door?”
There was a threat in the words. Even in his tired state, Dylan could hear it. Or a promise. Walk away from the door before I call the authorities.
Dylan walked away from the door. It wasn’t in his nature to back down, but he’d come to New York to meet a woman he’d been flirting with on the Net, not to start an international conflict between Australia and the U.S.
Stepping to the side of the building’s double glass doors, he leaned his back against the cool marble wall. He’d wait it out. Wherever Annie was, she’d come back, find him there—the unmistakable Aussie stockman in a sea of suave New Yorkers—laugh at his obvious fish-out-of-waterness and then they’d go inside and see if they had the same chemistry in the flesh that they did online.
A lifetime on Farpoint Creek had, if nothing else, taught him patience.
Forty-five minutes later the doorman stormed over to him, squishy face set in a menacing glare. “Listen, buddy—”
Dylan stuck out his hand. “Dylan Sullivan.”
The doorman blinked. He jerked his glare—now a slightly confused glower—to Dylan’s extended hand then back up to Dylan’s face. “Err…Tommy. Tommy Taberknackle.”
Dylan gave him a smile and a nod. “G’day, Tommy.”
The doorman blinked again, his hand slipping into Dylan’s. “I…you shouldn’t be…that is, Ms. Prince isn’t…”
A naked, entwined couple moving behind Tommy caught Dylan’s attention.
He frowned, watching the utterly erotic sculpture of a man and a woman making out move along the footpath, wrapped in the slim arms of someone he couldn’t quite see. The sculpture stopped. The arms adjusted the art as a leather-clad knee came up to help balance it precariously before one of the slim arms waved about in the air.
A husky female voice called out, “Taxi!”—a fraction of a second before the sculpture tumbled sideways.
Dylan leapt forward. He snared the sculpture—bronze? Is it bronze?—just as it fell from the unseen husky-voiced woman’s arms.
She spun to face him, a relieved sigh escaping her full lips as Dylan held up the unscathed sculpture. “Don’t worry, love.” He gave her a lopsided grin. “I got it.”
Those full lips curled into a smile. “Thank you,” she said, her accent subtle and—to Dylan’s ears—very, very sexy. She reached out to take the sculpture back but he shook his head.
“It’s all right.” He repositioned the artwork in his arms—definitely bronze, judging by its weight and surface temperature—and smiled some more. “I’ll keep a hold of it until you get a taxi.”
“Thank you again.”
He nodded. “Welcome.” Damn, she was pretty. Even with black sunglasses hiding her eyes, he couldn’t help but notice. The kind of pretty that came from a finely structured face, thick black hair that fell about her shoulders in an unruly mass of waves and a turned-up nose just made for dropping a kiss on.
“Are you Australian?”
Dylan grinned. “The hat doesn’t give it away?”
She laughed, the sound warm and relaxed and thoroughly…stimulating. A twinge of pressure pulled at his groin, making things down there a tad uncomfortable. “The hat may have helped. But I have to admit, it was mainly the accent.”
Dylan did his best to ignore the completely unexpected physical reaction to her laugh. “Bugger. I was hoping I’d blend right in around here.”
The woman’s lips twitched. Dylan got the distinct impression her hidden gaze was taking him in from head to toe. “I think,” she leaned forward as though sharing a secret, “the chance of you blending in anywhere is fairly remote.”
Dylan’s cock jerked. He swallowed, his grip on her sculpture tightening. His sleep-deprived brain told him she’d just paid him a compliment. His red-blooded male hormones told him just as quickly what to do about that compliment. His common sense, however, told him he’d flown halfway around the world to meet with Annie Prince, and whoever the woman with the sexy voice, kissable lips, gorgeous mane of hair and altogether too concealing sunglasses was, she sure as hell wasn’t Annie.
He swallowed again, unable to think of a single bloody thing to say.
“So,” the woman continued. “What’s an Australian cowboy doing in New—”
Her question stopped dead. She stood motionless for a split second, her lips parted, then she pushed those dark sunglasses to the top of her head and stared at Dylan with eyes the color of a cloudless summer day. “You’re Australian.”
Dylan nodded. Hadn’t they already established that?
Her blue gaze roamed over him, from the tip of his hat to his boots and back up to his face. “You’re a cowboy.”
“Stockman,” he said. “We’re called stockmen back home. Or graziers. But yeah, I guess over here you’d call me a—”
“Cowboy,” the woman said, an almost breathless quality to her voice. “You’re an Australian cowboy, theAustralian cowboy. Although I have to say, Annie was right. There’s nothing boyish about you at all.”
“Annie? You know Annie Prince?”
“You’re her Aussie cowboy,” the woman continued, as if Dylan hadn’t said a thing, her gaze taking him in again, her eyebrows knitting in a slight frown. “And you’re here. You’re here and she’s…” Her stare returned to Dylan’s face, her teeth—white and even and perfect—catching her bottom lip.
Dylan’s heart beat faster. “She’s what?”
The woman let out a shaky laugh. “Oh shit. You’re here and Annie’s in Australia.”
The question burst from Dylan a bit louder than he’d intended. He adjusted his grip on the lovers in his arms, fixing the woman before him with a dumbstruck stare. He knew it was dumbstruck by the way his mouth hung open. If he were back home, he’d be catching flies by now. Of course, he wasn’t back home. He was bloody seventeen thousand kilometers away from home. He was on the other side of the bloody world to see a woman he’d met online and now he was being told that woman was back where he’d come from?
Fuck a duck, his brother was going to laugh his arse off when he found out.
“She’s in Australia,” the woman not seventeen thousand kilometers away told him, an expression—part worry, part mirth—playing with her features. “She flew out yesterday.”
“Why the bloody hell did she do that?”
Once again, Dylan’s voice was louder than he’d intended. Of course, nothing had gone as planned in the last twenty-four hours so why should his voice toe the line?
The woman before him laughed, that deep, throaty laugh that played merry hell with his senses. If he hadn’t been so gob-smacked by what she was telling him, he was pretty certain it’d play merry hell with them some more.
“She went to meet you.”
Monet Carmichael knew she shouldn’t be laughing. Nor smiling. The poor cowboy in front of her truly looked like the definition of confusion. But oh boy, what a beautiful definition it was. Okay, not so much that he was confused, but just the way he looked in general. His strong lips and chiseled bone structure, the perfect growth of honey-brown stubble on his jaw and chin, the hat.
Every inch of him screamed MAN. Virile, potent man.
Having grown up a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, Monet was experiencing her first in-the-flesh cowboy—and what a cowboy.
Stockman, Monnie. He’s a stockman.
She caught her bottom lip with her teeth again, the junction of her thighs doing a funky little twisty thing she enjoyed very much.
Man was correct. A beautiful man. A goddamn gorgeous, sexy man. Complete with a goddamn gorgeous body his faded jeans and well-worn flannel shirt couldn’t hide at all.
If it wasn’t for the fact he’d flown from Australia to meet her best friend, Monet could quite happily stand there and undress him with her eyes. Render him naked and imagine all the things a woman could do to a male body like—
She caught the wildly inappropriate thought before it could form a wildly inappropriate image in her wildly visual mind.
“Let me get this straight,” the Australian cowboy said, his light green stare doing all sorts of wicked things to Monet’s resolve. Even his eyelashes were perfect. She could imagine drawing each one in charcoal. Imagine even better the way they would feel against her lips as she—
“Annie flew to meet me in Australia yesterday, despite the fact I flew to the U.S. to meet her?”
Monet nodded. “You sent her an IM with flight details. Well, some flight details. The day, the airline, the arrival time. Although you were wrong by an hour on that last one. Her flight didn’t touch down in Sydney until—”
“Wait, wait, wait.” The cowboy’s confused frown grew deeper, his Australian accent turning the word into a drawling song Monet found quite enjoyable to listen to. “I IM’ed her about a Qantas flight to New York. The one I was thinking of getting. And then the next day I emailed her the actual details of the flight I’d booked a seat on.”
Monet blinked. Annie hadn’t said anything about the email. In fact, Monet had been sitting right beside her best friend when she’d bought her airline ticket to Australia, a Qantas flight touching down in Sydney on the day her online Aussie cowboy…friend…had told her. Surely Annie would have known he was flying over here? How could they get their wires crossed so badly?
She opened her mouth—to say what to the man, she didn’t know. Damn, what was his name? Annie had said it enough times over the last few months, but Monet shut her mouth again when the doorman of their building suddenly appeared at the cowboy’s side.
“Everything okay, Ms. Carmichael?” Tommy’s gaze flicked back and forth between the Australian and Monet. “Mr. Sullivan’s not giving you—”
The cowboy’s name popped into Monet’s head, along with an image of a clean-shaven man without a hat smiling somewhat nervously into a camera.
Monet shook her head, unable to take her gaze from Dylan’s still troubled face. “Everything’s fine, Tommy,” she assured him, even as she compared the beautiful hat-wearing male before her, his stubble as sexy as his accent, his accent as mesmerizing as his eyes, to the clean-cut man in the photo on Annie’s laptop.
“Are you sure?”
She flicked Dylan a quick look, her pulse beating far too fast for her peace of mind. “I’m sure.”
“’Cause he was asking about Ms. Prince—”
“It’s okay.” She cut him off with a smile. “I know Dylan. We were just going to catch a cab to the gallery.”
“Oh.” Tommy nodded. “In that case…” He stepped one foot off the curb and let out a sharp whistle.
Before anyone could say a thing, a taxi pulled to a quick halt on the road beside them.
Monet gave the doorman another smile. “Thanks, Tommy.” She opened the back passenger door of the cab and extended an arm toward the grimy interior. “After you, Mr. Sullivan.”
The brim of his hat cast his eyes in shadow, and for a brief moment Monet thought he was going to refuse. And then he gave her a loose, lopsided grin that made her want to grin back. “I take it the lovers sit between us?”
She nodded. “The lovers do.”
“It’s probably better you climb in first then, love.”
Her pulse fluttered, and for the first time ever, Monet found herself totally flustered by a man. Love.Who would have thought she’d get excited over an almost antiquated term. She despised pet names—no babes or hons or sweethearts allowed, thank you very much. But the term “love” coming from Dylan’s lips…
Her reaction to it was unnerving. The whole situation was unnerving. Annie on the other side of the world. Dylan here in New York. Her unexpected response to the man.
She dove into the cab before Dylan Sullivan, her best friend’s would-be Aussie cowboy, could see the flush painting her cheeks pink.
Oh boy, this was…inconvenient.
Posted by Lexxie Couper on Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
The most awesome Mari Carr and I recently received the rights back to our Foreign Affairs series. Can you see me Muppet Flailing in my kitchen? I flexed my creative muscles and put all my years at art school to use to make us some new covers (what do you think?) and we’ve put together a box set. We’re also able to sell them at an affordable price! The first book, Princess, is FREE, so if you haven’t had a chance to check out this series, you can pick up Princess to give it a try OR…why not go ahead and pick up the boxed set for $5.99? That’s four books for the price of two!
For the next four days…Mari and I are going to do our damndest to entice you to buy them or give them a re-read by sharing the first chapter of all four books. Let’s start with Princess, shall we?
Foreign Affairs, Books One
Annie Prince has impetuously flown halfway ’round the world to visit a man she met online—only to find herself stranded in Sydney. Seems she and Dylan crossed wires, and he’s on his way to New York. His twin, Hunter, saves the day and whisks her back to the family cattle station. Hunter’s as easy on the eyes as Dylan, and even easier to talk to. Annie might have flown to Oz to meet one brother, but soon sparks are flying with the other.
Hunter considered Dylan a dumb arse for jetting off to America for some stranger—until he met Annie. Turns out the New Yorker is a smart, funny, hard-working jillaroo…and hotter than the Aussie desert. Hunter’s not normally one to poach his brother’s women, but he can’t keep his hands, lips, tongue and other body parts off this sexy city girl.
When raging lust leads to emotional attachment, where does that leave Annie and Hunter when her vacation comes to an end—or when Dylan finds out?
Annie Prince sank on to one of the hard plastic seats at Sydney Airport, giving in to exhaustion. She looked down at her very wet, now defunct iPhone—she vowed she’d never text on the toilet again—and decided this trip had been cursed from the word go.
In the past twenty-four hours she’d run the gamut of emotions—anger, frustration, annoyance, disappointment, excitement, happiness, sheer panic and now…nothing but numbness.
She studied the hubbub of the airport again. How the hell did she get here?
She’d roamed the International Arrivals area for nearly an hour before giving in to the realization he wasn’t anywhere to be found. Dylan wasn’t waiting for her.
When she’d replayed this scenario in her mind three thousand, four hundred and twenty-seven times—it had been a long-ass flight to Sydney—she’d always seen him standing in front of the crowd of families and friends waiting to welcome loved ones home. In her mind’s eye, he’d been smiling widely, holding flowers, maybe even a balloon. She’d imagined he’d give a true cowboy woot when she stepped through the doors and every woman around them would watch with jealousy as he rushed over to pick her up, spin her around and kiss her.
Instead, she’d watched all her fellow travelers receive those warm welcomes while she stood completely alone, in a foreign country.
How the hell did I get here?
She closed her eyes wearily, thinking of that fateful night when she’d met Dylan online, the night that had set her on this misguided, insane path.
It was all Monet’s fault.
“I can’t tell you how much better I feel. Thanks for coming over, Monet.”
“Wine cures everything,” Monet announced. “You know that.”
She and Monet had been neighbors in their high-rise Manhattan apartment building for nearly a year. They’d met on the elevator the day Monet moved in and had clicked. Their friendship had flourished through numerous nights of drinking, broken hearts and, “oh my God, I just had awesome sex” chats.
“It cured my lousy day.”
Monet topped up her wineglass. Annie winced when she noticed it was empty. Hadn’t she just filled it up a few minutes ago?
“Damn.” Monet squinted at the bottle. “That one went fast. Should we go for broke and make it a three-bottle night?”
Annie giggled. “Sure. Why not? My hangover is pretty much guaranteed at this point.”
“So what’s wrong?”
“My boss skipped over me for another big assignment, the paparazzi were out in full-force this afternoon and I dumped Joel.”
Monet reared back. “That’s a lot of shit for one day. Let’s tackle this one at a time. Your boss is a prick. Why are you still working there?”
“Because it’s one of the few magazines in New York my father doesn’t own. You know how I feel about making it without his help.”
“Pardon me, Annie, but you’re not ‘making it’. That asshole boss of yours is working against you.”
Annie sighed. “I know.”
“What’s the deal with the paparazzi? Thought they’d become bored with you lately.”
“That’s actually connected to my breakup. Joel did a tell-all interview with People magazine where he casually hinted there may be wedding bells in our future. What the fuck is that about? We’ve been dating five months and I have zero intention of locking myself in wedded hell with anybody right now. He knows that.”
Monet took a sip of wine and looked at her sympathetically. “You think he was trying to force your hand?”
Annie was too familiar with the Joels of the world. Unfortunately, she also sucked at recognizing them until after they’d screwed her—figuratively and literally. “He wants a piece of the Prince pie. I’m freaking done with men.”
Monet rolled her eyes. “No, you’re not. You enjoy sex too much.”
“I’ll hire a paid escort.”
Monet laughed. “You’re a romantic at heart and it’s pretty obvious that’s never going to change. If all your asshole exes haven’t beaten that out of you, we can assume it’s a character flaw that will stick.”
“Great. So I’m destined for life as an old maid because every man in America wants my family’s money a hell of a lot more than they want me.”
“So broaden the search.” Monet leaned over and grabbed her laptop from the coffee table.
“What are you doing?”
Monet didn’t answer. Instead, she quickly tapped several keys on the computer then turned the screen around so Annie could see it.
“An online dating service? Be serious.”
Monet raised an eyebrow. “I’m one-hundred-percent serious. I never joke around about getting laid. Let’s assume that every man in the United States knows your family’s name.”
“Prince Incorporated has large holdings in Europe and Asia too,” Annie pointed out. Her buzz was now full force. “So unless that service can find me a man on Mars, this is a waste of time.”
Monet kept typing. “So we’ll go extreme.” Her eyes widened as her gaze landed on something on the screen. “Ooo la la. What do we have here?”
Annie tried to peer at the laptop, but Monet turned it away from her.
“What is it?”
Monet grinned. “What’s your stance on a sexy Australian cowboy?”
“Jesus. They have those on there? Sign me up.”
Monet giggled—and then she did just that.
Annie sighed and glanced around the airport once again. Sitting and sulking was accomplishing nothing. There were a thousand possible scenarios for why Dylan wasn’t here. Maybe something had come up at the ranch.
Crap. Station. She’d never remember that.
Or maybe he was stuck in traffic, his car broken down. Maybe he’d gotten a nasty stomach flu. She’d walked by a customer service desk at least a dozen times during her trips around the terminal searching for her cowboy. She’d ask them to do an all-call over the intercom. She needed to determine Dylan truly wasn’t here before she tried to figure out her next move.
As she waited in line to speak to the representative, she remembered the morning after her impulsive, drunken decision to join the world of international online dating. She’d woken up bleary-eyed, with a pounding headache, and had decided to call in sick to work. Annie had never taken a sick day, but her boss’s determination to treat her like a nonentity and her queasy stomach made the choice to remain home an easy one.
She walked toward the kitchen for a handful of saltines, stopping to power up her laptop on the way. When she returned to her desk, she discovered an email from someone she didn’t know. Dylan Sullivan. Her hand hovered over the button that would send Mr. Sullivan straight to the trash, but something stopped her. Some niggling memory from the previous night.
She and Monet had drunk way too much and stayed up far too late. Monet had consoled her over work and Joel.
Oh fuck! The online dating gag. Monet had signed her up and then…
Some Aussie cowboy had expressed interest. Monet had talked her into sharing her personal information.
Annie rubbed her aching head. How could she have been so stupid? If the tabloids caught wind of the “practical Prince sister” soliciting for dates online, they’d be ruthless. She might as well give up any hope of avoiding the limelight. Maybe she should just pack it in and join her ditzy sisters’ ridiculous reality show, Life with the Princesses. It’s not like she’d ever be taken seriously after this little tidbit leaked out.
Her hand hovered over the mouse, and then she quickly clicked to open the email. She’d gone this far. She might as well see what she was risking her reputation for. She read Dylan’s message.
His email was nice, well written and humorous. It also seemed pretty clear he had no idea who Annie Prince was.
Feeling like she’d dodged a bullet, Annie responded, explaining nicely that she’d been tipsy when her friend talked her into signing up for the service. She let him down as gently as she could, turned off the computer and crawled back into bed with a couple of aspirin and a tall glass of ice water.
When she awoke later that afternoon, she was surprised to find a very funny response from her would-be Aussie suitor. Dylan had taken her rejection with good grace and he’d even sent her a list of ingredients for the Sullivan family hangover cure. Against her better judgment, Annie tried the hangover recipe, which worked, and then wrote Dylan again, thanking him.
After that, they’d fallen into a pattern of emailing every day. If anyone asked her to list her three closest friends at the moment, Dylan would be included on the list. For the past few months, they’d talked about anything and everything. She’d even taken a huge leap of faith and told Dylan about her family and their money. Monet had been correct. Australians—at least those in Dylan’s neck of the woods—didn’t have a clue who the Prince family was.
“May I help you, miss?”
Annie glanced up and discovered she was next in line. “Yes. I was hoping you could page someone for me. My friend was supposed to pick me up about an hour ago, but I can’t find him.”
The airport employee nodded and gave her what looked like a pitying smile. “Of course. What’s your friend’s name?”
“I’ll page him right away. Should I have him meet you here?”
Annie murmured a quiet “yes, thanks,” then stepped away from the desk to wait as Dylan’s name was broadcast throughout the airport.
Please God, let him hear it. Let him be here.
Not only was her sex life depending on him being the good guy she believed him to be—she’d foolishly hitched the success of her career to Dylan’s wagon as well.
Miraculously, she’d managed to convince her editor, Mr. Lennon, to let her write a four-part series for the magazine about life on an Australian cattle station. It was the only way she’d managed to swing the trip across the ocean and the time away from work on such short notice. He’d only agreed because hisboss saw the picture of Dylan that she’d attached to the proposal. Apparently the editor-in-chief had a thing for Aussie cowboys too. She’d demanded Lennon give Annie the assignment, and he’d begrudgingly complied.
There was no way she could go home without the articles and expect to keep her lousy job.
“Come on, Dylan,” she muttered. “Where the hell are you?”
* * * * *
Hunter ran his finger down the pretty blonde’s arm, enjoying the flirting and easy banter. He’d hit the bar after seeing his idiot brother off at his gate. They’d flown the station helicopter to Sydney, leaving so early this morning it had still been dark. Hunter had a couple of hours to kill while he waited for the flight mechanic to refuel the chopper and clear him for takeoff.
“So you live on a cattle station?” the blonde asked. He’d forgotten her name the second she’d said it. One of these days he was going to have to learn to pay attention to details like that.
“Yep. Farpoint Creek. My family’s owned it forever. Established it back in the 1800s.”
The woman feigned interest, but Hunter could see the disdain in her eyes. She was clearly a city girl and the idea of living out whoop whoop in the Outback was less than appealing to her. Lucky for both of them, he wasn’t considering taking this game of slap and tickle out of the airport.
She leaned closer, accidentally brushing the side of his arm with her breast. They’d started their flirting at different tables. Then he’d joined her. After a few minutes of sexual innuendoes, he’d given up his seat across the table and moved over to share her side of the booth.
“You know, I’m a member of the Qantas Club.”
“Is that right?” he asked.
“I was actually thinking of heading over there and freshening up before my flight. They have showers in the lounge.”
“Showers, eh? Bit bloody fancy.”
She dragged her hand along his leg, starting at his knee and working her way up. He liked a woman who knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to grab it. His dick twitched when her hand crept closer.
“Wish I had someone to wash my back,” she purred.
He started to offer his sudsy services, but something on the PA caught his attention. “What did she say?”
“What did who say?”
The PA announcement was repeated. Dylan Sullivan, please meet your party at the customer service desk located at terminal one.
What the hell? Dylan wasn’t here. At least, he bloody well shouldn’t be.
Hunter reluctantly pushed the woman away while silently cursing his brother. “Sorry, love, but I gotta go do something.” Dylan would pay dearly for costing him a shower with this beauty in the high flyer’s club. He retrieved his hat from the table and put it back on his head.
Hunter nodded regretfully. “Yeah. Afraid it can’t be helped.” He threw enough cash on the table to cover both of their drinks and a generous tip for the waitress. “Sorry.”
He walked toward terminal one, trying to figure out why Dylan wasn’t jetting away from Sydney, getting closer to making one of the dumbest mistakes of his life. He’d loaded his brother on a plane headed for New York over an hour ago.
Hunter had spent most of their morning trek to Sydney trying to convince Dylan that taking off halfway around the world to hook up with some broad he’d met on one of those stupid online dating services made him look pretty desperate.
He’d also pointed out that precious little could come of this trip, besides getting a piece of New York tail. Dylan lived and worked on Farpoint Creek cattle station. In Australia. Trying to hook up with some American chick wasn’t exactly practical.
Dylan, ever the romantic idiot, seemed to think Annie had the potential to be his soul mate. Jesus, his brother had actually used those words—soul mate—and was supposed to be headed to New York to prove that asinine fact.
Had Dylan missed his plane? Hunter couldn’t figure out how. They’d made it to the departure gate in plenty of time. And if so, why would he page himself rather than ask the customer service rep to page Hunter? Maybe Dylan had given his own name as well and the lady had fucked it up.
He glanced at the crowd standing around the service desk as he walked toward the terminal. He and Dylan weren’t lacking in the height department. If his dickhead brother was around, he sure as hell wasn’t standing up; he’d tower over these people. Add the fact he and Dylan hardly ever took off their bloody hats and Hunter should be able to spot him a mile away.
He started to get in line at the desk to ask who’d paged Dylan when a woman walked up to him.
“You’re here!” she said.
Hunter tried to place the woman’s face. She looked vaguely familiar. “I am?” His mother claimed he’d been cursed with a sarcastic streak as wide as Farpoint since the day he was born. While his mum found it annoying, Hunter had never found a good reason to curb that personality trait.
The pretty woman smiled. “I was starting to worry.”
Before he could tell her she had the wrong bloke and should go ahead and hang on to her anxiety, she took a step closer and threw her arms around him.
The hard-on Hunter had managed to batten down as he’d walked away from his potential shower partner reemerged when her firm breasts brushed against his chest. Bloody hell. Who knew the airport was such a great place to pick up women? He might have to fly to Sydney International more often.
Never one to pass up an opportunity, he accepted the embrace, loosely wrapping his arms around her back. The lovely lady was just the right height for him and had some sexy curves. He liked a woman with meat on her bones.
She pulled away slightly and he started to release her, but she kept her arms wrapped around him and upped the ante, kissing him.
It started as a sweet, friendly kiss, but Hunter wasn’t having any of that shit. She smelled and tasted too good. He grasped her soft face and held her close. He turned his head and deepened the kiss, pressing her lips open so he could get an even better taste. He was thrilled when her tongue met his halfway. Jesus. This chick could kiss.
The flash of a camera distracted him and he felt the woman stiffen slightly. He ignored both, pressing his lips more firmly against hers. She relaxed—then another camera flashed. And another.
He thought he heard the woman mutter the word “fuck” as she stepped away.
“We need to get out of here,” she said.
With some distance between them, Hunter’s brain reengaged. It was clear she had the wrong guy, but it was going to be awkward to admit that, given the liberties he’d taken with her mouth.
“Listen, love—” he began.
She ignored him. Bending over, she retrieved her suitcases. Handing one to him, she briskly walked away from the service desk. He dragged her bag and tried to keep up.
“Where’s your car?” she asked.
“Don’t have one.”
That admission stalled her for a moment. “Dylan, the paparazzi have spotted me. We’ve gotta get out of here.”
Two words resonated in his brain. “Dylan” and “paparazzi”.
Who the bloody hell was this woman?
More flashes. Hunter glanced over his shoulder and saw three men with cameras following them. People turned to stare, curiously trying to determine which famous person was walking through Sydney airport.
Hunter grabbed her hand. “Here, this way.”
He led her toward the terminal where his helicopter awaited. He glanced at the time as they passed under a clock. The thing should be fueled up and ready by now. The cameramen continued to dog their steps. There were nearly a dozen people trailing them now as cameras continued to flash. He showed his ID at the terminal, they were ushered through a doorway and, at last, the paparazzi were shut out.
“Who the hell are you?” he asked as they paused in the small hallway that led to the tarmac and his helicopter.
She pulled her hand from his grip and frowned, clearly unhappy about his question. “I told you about my family, Dylan. I warned you this could happen.”
“Love, you didn’t warn me about a damn thing. Why don’t we start at the beginning? I’m HunterSullivan.” He stressed his first name. “Now, who are you?”
The woman paled slightly. Hunter was impressed when she recovered quickly. She looked like she’d been run through the wringer but she clearly wasn’t beaten yet.
“You’re Dylan’s brother.”
He nodded. “We’re twins. Obviously.”
Annie studied his face. “Identical.”
He didn’t respond. She clearly knew his brother’s face well enough to know there wasn’t much to distinguish one from the other. Apart from the fact Dylan shaved less than him, they were mirror images. “And now that we’ve determined who I am, who are—”
“Why did you kiss me back there?”
Shit. Hunter was hoping she’d forget that little tidbit. The answer was simple—pure, instant animal attraction. He’d been worked up and horny as shit after his encounter with the blonde in the bar.
What he told her was different, and he tried not to wince at his own cocky, arrogant tone. “When a pretty broad throws herself at me, I’m not likely to refuse.”
Her eyes narrowed. “I didn’t throw myself at you. If you were any sort of gentleman, you would have told me who you were right away.”
“Kind of hard to talk when someone’s got their tongue in your mouth.”
“You put your tongue in my mouth first.”
Hunter grinned and took a step closer, looking at her lips once more. He raised his eyebrows as if to say he’d do it again if given the chance.
She glanced at the door they’d just walked through. Hunter could read the indecisiveness on her face. He wondered if she’d subject herself to another dash through the airport with the paparazzi hot on her heels or if she’d tough it out with him. Given his current behavior, he’d choose the cameramen if he was her. He was being a right bloody arsehole.
“Listen, maybe if you told me who you were, I could help you get where you need to be. You’re obviously not from here. American, right?” But as soon as he asked the question, a horrifying reality crashed down on his head. “Annie?”
The woman nodded.
“You’re Dylan’s Annie? From New York?” The fact she was here wasn’t sinking into his thick skull as quickly as it should.
“Yes. Is he okay? Is there a reason why he sent you to pick me up? He’s not ill, is he?”
Hunter shook his head. “No. He’s not sick. He’s on his way to see you.” Hunter glanced at his watch. “His plane will land at JFK in about eighteen hours.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I. I’d say you two crossed wires somewhere. Ordinarily I’d suggest we head to the terminal, hit a bar and make a plan about where to go from here, but I suspect you don’t want to go back there with all those cameramen breathing down your neck.”
Annie shook her head.
“Is there anyone you can call?”
She repeated the headshake. “I dropped my phone in the toilet when I was texting Dylan to find out where he was. It’s officially dead.”
Hunter bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. The poor woman was having a rough day.
“Is there somewhere more private we can hide out?” she asked. “Until I figure out what I’m supposed to do now.”
Hunter pointed down the corridor. “I guess we could sit in the chopper.”
He grasped the handles on both her suitcases and began dragging them as he walked toward the runway. He was pleased when Annie followed rather than run in the opposite direction.
“Dylan and I came to the airport in a helicopter.”
Annie gave him a funny look. “You have a thing against cars?”
“You have any idea how big Australia is? We live damn near in the middle of it, love. We could either fly the chopper to the airport in four or five hours or drive to Sydney in just under a dozen. I can’t afford to be away from work for so long, so it was a pretty easy decision. I flew Dylan here early this morning and intend to fly home later today.”
“This can’t be happening,” Annie muttered behind him. “How could this all get so fucked up?”
Hunter picked up the bags and carried them down the stairs to the tarmac, where his chopper sat waiting.
A flight mechanic approached. “You’ve got a full tank, Mr. Sullivan, and I gave everything a quick inspection. It’s ready to roll. Just radio the air traffic control room when you’re ready for takeoff.”
“Thanks, mate. Will do.”
Hunter threw her luggage in the back. Annie paused when he opened the passenger door of the helicopter for her. “Who flies this?”
“Jesus. Are you serious?”
Hunter suppressed a grin. Her American accent was cute. “Yes, Annie. I’m a fully qualified helicopter pilot. Not that you need to worry. We’re just hiding out in here, right?”
Annie bit her lip as she looked up at the propellers nervously. Rather than reply, she tried to climb into the passenger seat. The devil prodded him forward and he gave her a boost, using her arse for leverage. It was firm, tight. It took all this strength not to give it a good squeeze.
She startled when he placed his hands on her rear end, but accepted the momentum he provided to claim her seat. “Thanks.” Her slightly narrowed eyes and sardonic tone almost made him laugh.
“My pleasure.” He crossed in front of the chopper and took his place behind the controls. “So I guess we need to figure out how you ended up here when Dylan said he was going there.”
“He didn’t say he was going to New York. We were chatting on IM and he said something like ‘put your money where your mouth is’. Then he said Qantas, Sydney Airport, November twentieth, and gave me a time. I booked the flight, even though the arrival time he listed was a bit off, but I figured that’s because airlines are constantly changing their schedules.”
Hunter frowned. “I was there when he sent that stupid— Ahem.” He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “I saw him send you the flight details—his flight details—in an email about an hour after that. He forwarded you the information from the airline.”
Annie looked around the helicopter and he wondered what she was thinking. “I never got that email.”
“Well, he sent it.” Hunter didn’t want to mention that satellite reception on Farpoint Creek was sketchy at best. There was a very good chance Dylan’s email was still bouncing around somewhere in space.
Annie sighed. “I swear to you I never got it. I just said ‘challenge accepted’ or ‘game on’ or something in our chat.”
He nodded. “Yeah, Dylan took that to mean you were excited about his visit. Bloody dickhead.”
“But I meant I was coming here. I thought he’d invited me to Australia.”
“Well, I don’t mean to criticize, love, but what woman accepts an invitation to visit a bloke she’s never met in a foreign country and only gives herself four days to prepare? Didn’t your family and friends try to talk you out of this?”
Annie’s shoulders straightened and he could see she was pissed off. “I know Dylan.”
He rolled his eyes. “A few emails and IMs and—”
“We’ve been corresponding for months. Plus we’ve Skyped and talked on the phone and exchanged pictures. I feel like I do know him.”
“And I suppose from that kiss you gave me back in the terminal, you didn’t intend for this to be just a friendly visit.”
She bit her lip again. Hunter wished he didn’t find the gesture so cute. “That’s none of your business.”
He let her off the hook. Her blush answered his question just fine. “What’s the deal with the paparazzi? You an actress or something?”
“Dylan didn’t tell you about my family?”
Hunter shook his head. “Nope. Dylan didn’t share much about you at all. Showed me a photo of you a few weeks ago. Besides that and the fact you don’t read your emails carefully, I don’t know a thing about you.” Hunter didn’t mention the soul mate comment.
“I’m a journalist. I work for a magazine in New York.”
“Didn’t realize journalists were so popular in the States.”
She flashed him a dirty look. “It’s not my job that interests the press, it’s my name. I’m Annie Prince.”
He shook his head. “I’m still not following you.”
Hunter recognized that name even less. “Nope. Haven’t got a bloody clue what you’re talking about.”
“I guess Monet was right. She said there had to be somewhere on the planet where I could live incognito. Go Australia.” She raised one fist in a cheer for his country.
“I don’t know who this Monet is, but that’s not exactly true. You’re in Sydney and there are cameramen following you.”
She blew out a long, frustrated breath. “Yeah. My family owns and operates a huge conglomeration of newspapers, magazines, hotels and other properties. Our net worth is in the billions. For some insane reason, this makes us interesting to people. Not to mention the fact my dad is a bit of a glory hound, constantly doing stuff to draw attention to himself. My two sisters have followed in his footsteps and now star on the most inane, idiotic reality series ever to air on television. And I suppose everyone expects me to be the same, to want the same spotlight cast on my life.”
“But you don’t?”
“God no. Did you see me pose for photos? Your ranch in the middle of the desert actually sounds like paradise.”
Hunter scoffed. “I think you’re the first woman, besides my mother, to ever feel that way. And it’s not a ranch. It’s a station.”
Annie ignored his correction. Maybe she was used to it. He’d heard Dylan tell her a time or two when he’d accidentally eavesdropped on their chats. She let out a wobbly sigh. “What the hell am I going to do now?”
Hunter studied her desolate face and was sorry Dylan hadn’t invited her for a visit. The idea of Annie spending a week or two on their family’s cattle station was very appealing.
Then he recalled Dylan’s comment. She could be my soul mate. He couldn’t poach on his brother’s girl.
“Seems to me your answer’s simple. Go back inside and catch the next flight out of Sydney. Chances are it won’t leave until tomorrow, so you could book a hotel in the city and take in a couple of the sights. No reason the trip has to be a total waste. You’ll only be a day or so behind Dylan. Once you get back, the two of you can take New York by storm. No harm, no foul.”
Annie didn’t respond for several moments. Finally she released another sigh, this one less wobbly. “I can’t go back to New York right away.”
Hunter frowned. “Why not? If you’re worried about those wankers with the cameras, I can talk to security, get you an escort.”
She shook her head. “It’s not that. I’m here for work as well. On an assignment for the magazine. It was the only way I could miss two weeks of work. I haven’t been there long enough to build up any real vacation time.”
“What’s your assignment?”
“I’m writing a four-part series about life on a cattle station. And I’m supposed to interview a real live Aussie cowboy.”
She looked at him hopefully—and he knew he was in trouble.
“I’m a stockman, Annie. We’re called stockmen over here, or grazier, if we’re being more formal. Which we’re not.”
“Oh. Okay. Then I need to shadow a stockman.”
She lifted one shoulder as if to ask why not. “I’d intended to interview Dylan, but he’s not here and likely won’t be for a while. The first piece is due in three days and once I start, I sort of need to stick with the same cow…er, stockman.”
She really expected him to take her back to the cattle station? Let her follow him around for two weeks watching him work? How was he supposed to keep his hands off her if she was under his roof and his bloody brother was half a world away?
Dylan better get his arse back Down Under, and quick.
Otherwise, this was not going to end well.