And then the impossible brass ring--twelve elegant staterooms had been reserved for twelve lucky random couples, to hobnob with the world’s obscenely rich and shameless. The "Lucky Twelve" contest had commanded more media attention than the latest five presidential scandals combined.
Ex-Marine Mitch O’Neill couldn’t believe that he’d been randomly chosen. Things like that just didn’t happen to him! Then he discovered that the elegant young woman in charge of the grand voyage was none other than his estranged lover, Lady Guenevere Thurmond...and he was sure that someone had deliberately arranged for him to be on board.
Seven years ago, Gwen had vanished without a trace, only to explode into the media spotlight by marrying Lord Winston Thurmond, a British lord nearly 40 years her senior. Mitch had never forgotten, or forgiven, her heartless betrayal.
Who could possibly want to reunite them? And why?
Against his better judgment, Mitch finds himself unwillingly drawn to Gwen again. But Gwen is hiding a tragic secret of her own--and revealing it could cost her everything, and everyone, she holds dear!
~~~~~ Excerpt ~~~~~
“Don’t you make a charming picture!”
Gwen was languidly brushing a long-haired pup when his bitter words rang out of the darkness. She knew that low, husky voice! And it was so achingly familiar that every nerve in her body went on instant alert, and her heart began to pound wildly. The brush fell from her numb fingers as she whipped around, hardly daring to breathe.
“Mitch?” His name emerged as a hoarse, disbelieving whisper.
“Don’t act so surprised.” Sneering, he emerged from the shadows, and balanced his long frame against the doorframe to keep it from tipping drunkenly back and forth. “You know very well that your loving husband arranged for me to keep you company on this delightful little pleasure cruise!
“Or was it you?” His eyes narrowed suddenly as stunned heat flushed her pale cheeks. “By God, it was, wasn’t it? You arranged to have me here! He doesn’t have a clue what you did!”
The blank shock on her face was too real to be contrived. But ripe fury was overwhelming his common sense. All the long-suppressed anger and betrayal was churning in his gut, bubbling over, finding a handy and oh-so-perfect target. And nothing else mattered but letting it spew out in a hot, vicious torrent.
“What’s the matter, sweetheart?” He took an unsteady step forward, and clenched his big fists until the knuckles turned white. “Finally tired of your feeble old charity case? Isn’t he man enough to satisfy your needs?” Oh, how he’d love to wrap his long fingers around her lying little throat and squeeze, until she’d paid for every sleepless night since the day she’d run away from him!
Gwen scooted back against the wall as terror and elation warred for command. Outrage won by a narrow margin, and gave her the strength to scramble to her feet. “What are you talking about? You aren’t...I didn’t...”
She sputtered for a second, then backed away again when he advanced, with murder clearly visible in his dark eyes. How could she have forgotten how big he was? Those rugged hands could snap her into tiny little pieces!
“Did you think I wouldn’t figure it out?” His arms shot out to block her escape, and he deliberately loomed over her, forcing her to cringe against the sturdy wall. “I’m no Einstein, but even a moron could see through your flimsy motives!”
“You’re insane!” Her voice shook as she punched both fists against his wide chest. It was like hitting a granite boulder. “Mitch, let me go!” Rising panic made her voice shrill as he crushed her between his muscular body and the wall. Every nerve began to scream warnings as she felt his unbridled rage... and God help her, his fierce arousal.
This wasn’t the Mitch O’Neill she’d worshiped, the consummate lover she still dreamed about every night! This man was a terrifying stranger, bent on destroying her!
His harsh mouth descended on hers, choking off her frightened cry. So familiar, and yet not... And even so, some insane part of her own mind arched into the savage kiss with a wild passion she hadn’t even known she possessed.
But when his long fingers closed over her tender flesh, something snapped. Just as he’d taught her all those years ago, she twisted slightly to one side, then brought her knee up with explosive force.
He was drunk--but no man alive could be drunk enough to ignore that visceral agony!
The air exploded from his lungs, and he staggered back a pace. That was all the room she needed. Snarling, she brought her knee up again, and felt it connect a second time, squarely on target. And as his long body folded like a snapped twig, she clenched both fists together and swung them, like an iron mace, at his unprotected throat.
“And you taught me never to lower my guard!” Panting, she glared down at his writhing frame. Serve him right if he walked funny for a whole month!
“Gwen...” His contorted face was a sickly green. “Jesus, Gwen!”
“You deserved it!” Vigorously she wiped a hand across her mouth. “Remember that the next time you get stinking drunk, you two-timing...”