Trying to keep his lustful gaze off her rounded derriere, Ted had followed her through the mansion with its Persian carpets and magnificent French antiques. Outdoors, he and his partner found twenty young adults, several of them nude, all of them drunk or stoned on pot, frolicking in the swimming pool and shooting skeet off the back terrace. Calming the party down was easy: The moment one of the swimmers yelled, "Oh God, the cops are here!" the revelry screeched to an abrupt halt. Swimmers emerged from the pool and the skeet shooters laid down their shotguns—with one alarming exception: a twenty-three-year-old, high on marijuana, who decided to reenact a scene from Rambo with Ted as his adversary. When he turned the shotgun on Ted, Katherine had screamed and Ted's partner had drawn his service revolver, but Ted had motioned him to put it away. "There's not going to be any trouble here," he told the youth. Improvising quickly, he added, "My partner and I came to enjoy the party. Katherine invited us." He glanced at her and smiled winningly. "Tell him you invited me, Kathy."

The nickname he'd invented on the spur of the moment may well have saved a life, because it either startled the boy enough to tip down his weapon or it convinced him Ted was actually a family friend. Katherine, who had never been called by any nickname whatsoever, had collaborated by hurrying to Ted's side and draping her body against his side, her arm around Ted's back. "Of course I did, Brandon!" she told the young man with only a tiny betraying tremor in her voice, her eyes fixed on the loaded shotgun he still held.

Intending only to play along, Ted put his arm around her, his hand curving around her incredibly narrow waist as he bent his head to say something to her. Whether by accident or design, Katherine misunderstood her cue, and she leaned up on her toes and kissed him full on the mouth. Ted's lips parted in surprise but his arm tightened automatically, and suddenly she turned fully into his arms, kissing him deeply. And just as automatically, he responded to her unexpected ardor—his arms tightened and his body hardened with desire. His tongue slipped between her eager lips and he kissed her back while a bunch of cheering, drunken, stoned rich kids looked on and another kid named Brandon held a loaded gun on him.

"Okay, okay, he's one of the 'good guys,'" Brandon shouted. "So, let's shoot some skeet!"

Ted let go of Katherine and sauntered toward the young man, his gait slow, relaxed, a fake smile pinned to his face. "What'd you say yer name was?" Brandon demanded as Ted neared him.

"Officer Mathison," Ted snapped as he jerked the shotgun out of the young man's hand and spun him around, shoving his face into the fence and slapping handcuffs on his wrists. "What's yours?"

"Brandon Barrister III," came the outraged reply. "My father is Senator Barrister." His voice shifted to an ugly, wheedling whine. "I'll make you a deal, Mathison. You get these cuffs off of me and get the hell out of here and I won't tell my father about the way you treated us tonight. We'll forget this misunderstanding ever happened."

"No, I'll make you a deal," Ted countered, spinning him around and shoving him toward the house. "You tell me where your stash is, and I'll let you spend a nice quiet evening in our jail without booking you on the dozen charges I can think of right now—all of which would deeply embarrass your father the senator."

"Brandon," one of the girls pleaded when the boy balked, "he's being really decent about this. Do what he tells you."

Slightly mollified by their reactions, Ted said, "That goes for all of you. Get in the house, collect all the pot and anything else you've got here and bring it to the living room." He turned to Katherine, who was watching him with a strange, absorbed little smile. "That goes for you, too, Miss Cahill."

Her smile warmed and yet her voice seemed almost shy. "I liked Kathy better than Miss Cahill."

She looked so delicious standing there with the moonlight gilding her hair, wearing a sexy bikini and a Madonna's smile, that Ted had to remind himself that she was too young for him as well as too rich and too spoiled. Remembering all that became even more difficult in the days that followed, because Katherine Cahill possessed all the determination of her pioneering ancestors who'd trekked across half a continent to stake their claim in Texas's oil fields. Wherever Ted went and no matter how coolly he treated her, she seemed to continually reappear. She fell into step beside him when he left the office to go home at night, asking him about police work; she invited him for dinner; she came to the sheriff's office to ask his advice about what car to buy, when he went to lunch, she slid into the booth across from him and pretended it was a chance meeting. After three weeks of such fruitless antics, she tried a final, desperate ploy: She put in a fake burglary call to the police station at ten o'clock one night after making certain Ted was on duty.

When he arrived to check the house, she was standing in the doorway wearing a seductive black silk lounging robe, holding a plate of what she called canapés in one hand and a drink she'd made for him in the other. The realization that the burglary call had been nothing but a childish trick to bring him to her snapped Ted's strained nerves. Since he couldn't let himself take advantage of what she was offering, no matter how badly he wanted to, or how much he'd enjoyed her company, he let himself lose his temper instead. "What the hell do you want from me, Katherine?"

"I want you to come in and sit down and enjoy the lovely dinner I made for you." She stepped aside and gestured with her arm to the candlelit dining room table, which had been set with sparkling crystal and gleaming silver.

To his horror, Ted actually considered staying. He wanted to slide into a chair at that table, to see her face in the candlelight while he savored the wine in the silver cooler, he wanted to eat slowly, enjoying each bite, knowing that she was going to be his dessert. He wanted to taste her so badly he could hardly bear to stand there without dragging her into his arms. Instead he spoke as harshly as he could, attacking her in the one place he knew instinctively she'd be the most vulnerable—her youth. "Stop acting like a childish, spoiled brat!" he said, ignoring the tug he felt when she stepped back as if he'd slapped her. "I don't know what the hell you want from me or what you think you're going to accomplish with all this, but you're wasting your time and mine."

She looked visibly shaken, but her eyes were level and direct, and he found himself admiring her courage in the face of such ruthless opposition. "I fell in love with you the night you came to break up our party," she told him.

Tags: Judith McNaught Second Opportunities Billionaire Romance