Secrets & Seductions

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After learning of her mysterious heritage, Emma Wright went to The Children's Connection—and straight to the adoption agency's handsome director Morgan Davis. She wanted the truth, but client confidentiality forbade him from granting her request. But when Morgan offered her a job, Emma jumped at the chance to get closer to the man with the answers. She didn't count on falling for him…hard.

A loner at heart, Morgan didn't consider himself the marrying kind until Emma sauntered into his office. Though passion sizzled between them, he wondered if an ulterior motive lurked behind her bedroom eyes. Morgan was fighting the battle of his life—holding on tight to bachelorhood—and losing!

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"Mr. Davis asked me to convey his apologies for running late. He''ll see you just as soon as he finishes his call." The assistant adjusted her headset and smiled at Emma Wright, who was seated in the small waiting area.

The brass nameplate resting on the corner of the desk next to a potted plant with purple leaves read Cora Hanson. Behind her blond head, the tall windows framed a summer sky that was the same intense blue as the most precious turquoise jewelry.

"Is there anything I could get you?" Cora asked. "Coffee? Some water?"

Emma shook her head. "No, thank you. I''m fine."

Actually she had been anything but fine since first learning about Children''s Connection, an adoption agency associated with Portland General Hospital. Coffee would only make her more jittery. As for water, well, she didn''t want any interruptions once she got in to see Morgan Davis, the agency director.

Scarcely able to contain her impatience after waiting a week for her appointment, Emma had arrived early at the sprawling medical complex. She was meeting a friend for lunch afterward and hoped to have some startling news to share.

After parking her car in the garage, she''d followed the signs directing her past lawns that were still green despite the dry July weather and well-tended flower beds exploding with color.

Now she flipped through the pages of a travel magazine without the slightest idea of what she saw there. Her hands shook with a combination of nerves and anticipation, her palms damp and her heart thudding.

She hadn''t seen it coming, the bomb her parents dropped that shattered Emma''s life as she''d known it. She hadn''t suspected a thing, not until she looked into her mother''s eyes and saw the lie. In just a few minutes, though, she would finally have what she needed to begin piecing the scattered bits of her life back together.

"Ms. Wright?" The assistant had sneaked up without Emma''s notice to hover expectantly. "If you''d come with me, Mr. Davis will see you now."

Emma shot to her feet so fast that she actually felt dizzy. Refusing to give in to the momentary weakness, she clutched her purse tightly as she followed the other woman down a short hallway. Ahead of her was an imposing set of double doors. One of them stood open.

Cora stepped aside and motioned for Emma to go on in.

A handsome black-haired man in a gray suit stood in front of a massive, heavily carved desk. The formality of his appearance made Emma feel slightly self-conscious about her own casual summer top and tan skirt.

"Ms. Wright? I''m Morgan Davis." He extended his hand, his grip warm and firm. "Won''t you come in and have a seat?"

He nodded to his assistant, who shut the door quietly behind her. Emma took one of the purple tub chairs in front of the desk and the tall windows. Willing herself to be calm, she drew in a deep, slow breath.

Instead of returning to his black leather throne, the director surprised her by sitting in the chair next to hers. He was startlingly attractive, with deep blue eyes and cheekbones that would make a photographer weep. His dark tan was emphasized by his white shirt and maroon tie.

Ignoring the awareness dancing across her nerves, Emma stayed focused on her mission. She glanced over at the folder lying open on the desktop behind him. Did it contain the information she had come here to find?

He turned his head for a moment. His profile should have been on a stamp. His jaw was strong, his nose straight and his black eyelashes were as thick as the bristles of a paintbrush. Before she reeled herself back in, Emma wondered if the honey-gold tan of his face and hands extended to the rest of him.

"How can I help you?" he asked, lifting his brows. As he rested his hands on his thighs, a gold ring glinted on one finger.

Thank God he couldn''t read her mind.

Emma crossed her legs, trying not to fidget, and moistened her suddenly dry lips. She''d planned so carefully what she wanted to say, but now her mind threatened to go blank.

"I just found out that your agency handled my adoption," she finally blurted out, lacing her fingers together tightly. "Is that my file on your desk?"

"That''s right," he replied without turning his head. "As you can imagine, our records go back many years." He folded his arms loosely across his chest. His smile flashed even white teeth. "I hope there isn''t a problem."

Sitting rigidly, she lifted her chin. The sense of injustice and pain still raged inside her. "The problem is that I wasn''t told about it until a very short time ago."

He frowned, clearly puzzled. "About this agency?"

"About being adopted," she clarified. "I had no idea until now."

His expression softened as he leaned forward. "I''m so sorry." His voice was husky. "After all this time, the news must have come as quite a shock. I expect it''s been difficult for you."

"Yes, very." She pressed her lips together to keep them from trembling. Her voice wobbled. "That''s why I''m here, to find out what I can."

His frown returned. "I''ll help in any way that I can, of course," he replied, "but I''m not sure what you''re asking."

"I need the names of my biological parents," she said firmly. The Wrights had claimed not to have that information, but her faith in their honesty had taken a major hit and she wasn''t sure that she believed them.

"If you don''t mind my asking, how did this all come about?" He spread his hands wide. "After keeping your adoption a secret for all this time, what made them suddenly decide to tell you, do you know?"

His sympathetic smile and his show of interest threatened to shatter Emma''s composure. Afraid she might break down and start sobbing, she clenched her teeth and stared down at her toes, painted red to match her shirt.

No one else except her parents--her adoptive parents, she reminded herself--knew the situation. Since she was no longer speaking to them, she''d had no one to confide in. She hadn'' t even told her close friend, Ivy Crosby, who''d been out of the country on business.

Ivy had been supportive throughout every bad thing that had happened to Emma, who was beginning to feel like a drama queen. Maybe she''d bring Ivy up to speed on her latest disaster over lunch.

Deliberately Emma stiffened her spine. "I found out just recently that I have a medical condition which is usually considered to be hereditary," she began.

His eyes narrowed with concern. "I hope it''s nothing serious."

"Well, I''m not dying or anything like that," she said quickly.

He made a noncommittal murmur of relief.

There was no point in telling him about her endometriosis, a condition in which cells similar to those found in the uterus formed lesions in other areas of the body. It was a condition that sometimes caused a woman to miscarry.

"It''s just that when I talked to my mother--" Emma shook her head and corrected herself "--my adoptive mother, it became obvious that I didn''t inherit it from her."

Emma swallowed hard as she recalled her feeling of relief that Sally Wright hadn''t had to suffer even the minor discomfort associated with the condition. Her reluctance to discuss it and her uncharacteristic nervousness hadn''t raised Emma''s suspicions until later, when she went back over everything she could remember about their conversation.

"I assumed then that I must have gotten the problem from the paternal side of the family," she continued, "but I was wrong."

"You discussed it with your adoptive father?" he asked.

"With my grandmother the next time I visited her. It was obvious from what she said that she never experienced any of the symptoms."

Emma swallowed the bitter taste of regret. "Sometimes I wish that I had let the subject drop, but I can''t go back, can I?" she asked the man seated across from her.

"If that were possible, I''m sure there are things in all our lives that we would change."

Was that sadness she heard in his deep voice, or merely empathy? With his looks and his position of authority here, plus whatever else he had going, did he still have regrets?

"What did you do after that?" he prompted her gently.

"I did some research on the Web," she admitted grimly, "and then I hotfooted it back to the Wrights'' house with a couple of real burning questions."

"The Internet may not be the best place to get medical information," he reminded her. "There can be many different ways to interpret whatever you might find there."

"Oh, I know." Emma had been bluffing when she brought the subject up again. "I tried not to jump to any conclusions, but there was a look that passed between my parents--"

This time she didn''t bother to correct herself as she bowed her head. The habit of more than a quarter of a century wasn''t going to be changed in a matter of weeks, no matter the sense of betrayal burning in her heart.

"Anyway," she continued, blinking hard, "a red flag went up and I just knew." She looked back at him. "At first they denied everything, but I kept pushing. Finally the whole sordid story came out."

Since he''d read Emma''s file, he knew more about her right now than she did. "Are you sure that it''s sordid?" he asked.

"That''s what I''m here to find out."

His expression changed, becoming more wary. "What do you mean?" He touched the knot of his tie, as though it had suddenly gotten too tight. The fla
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Published on
Jul 1, 2010
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Fiction / Romance / General
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Editorial Reviews

"Helen has weaved a delicately balanced story of intrigue, secrets and passion, which practically melts the pages." -Bare Naked Words

"The love story between Talon and Jade continues in Obsession. An apt title to be sure, because everyone is obsessed. Dear Ms. Helen Hardt, I toss many profanities your way for making me wait. Though I give you my deepest gratitude for building the anticipation of what I’m sure will be an epic culmination to an amazing series. " -Heroes and Heartbreakers

"Talon and Jade's chemistry sizzles and the love scenes will melt your heart and your Kindle." -The Book Sirens

"I am loving this series so freaking much… The story line is one that will have you completely engrossed…" -Wicked Babes Blog

"Helen left my head spinning and my mind racing a mile a minute. I need to know what the secrets are... " -The Book Fairy Reviews


Jade Roberts is in love with Talon Steel but no longer welcome in his home. While she resolves to move on, she still longs for the passion she and Talon shared…and when her boss asks her to dig up information on the Steels, she’s only too happy to comply. Talon and his brothers are hiding something, and Jade is determined to find out what it is.

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Editorial Reviews

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"I'm dead from the strongest book hangover ever. Helen exceeded every expectation I had for this book. It was heart pounding, heartbreaking, intense, full throttle genius. " -Tina at Bookalicious Babes Blog

"WOAH. Helen Hardt has truly blown me away with this series. It is dark, emotional, intense, horrifying, and utterly beautiful all mixed together. " -Pretty Little Book Reviews

"Such a beautiful torment - the waiting, the anticipation, the relief that only comes briefly before more questions arise, and the wait begins again... Check. Mate. Ms. Hardt..." -Bare Naked Words

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