Christine Carroll -

Excerpt from The Senator's Daughter

Excerpt Three

Perhaps it was the humid night air, with a fog bank sneaking stealthy fingers inland from the Pacific, maybe it was the scent of something both fresh and sharp that hung about Sylvia . . .

Anticipation hung between them, heavy as the approaching mist.

And Lyle believed he saw clear. It was time to stop pussyfooting around. Hang that her father thought he was looking for her undercover. To hell with everything but this elemental magnetism pulling them together every time he got within forty feet of this woman.

He kissed her wide pouting mouth. Quick heat flared, at the place where their lips brushed and below his belt.

Though their clinch for the "On the Spot" cameras had been undeniably hotter to look at, this bare touch had him going a like house afire. "Sugar," he whispered, thinking she tasted sweet.

"No," she whispered. "Passion fruit."

Lyle chuckled at the identification of her flavored lip gloss.

He wanted every complex ingredient, this sweetness, the salt of their mixed sweat as they twined together naked, even the bitter that might come if their precarious connection fell apart.

God, she was something. With his mouth on hers and his eyes shut, a wave of dizziness buffeted him, as though the two of them stood on the seat of a rowboat on San Francisco Bay.

She pushed at his chest.

He leaned back against the rail to steady them both.

Even with his thighs firm against the boards, he imagined he was about to go over backward.

Sylvia pulled away. "Lyle?"

The two of them remained embracing, yet on alert. A shudder rattled through the porch boards beneath his shoes.

"Earth tremor," he concluded.

As quickly as it came, it was gone, the same as the one earlier in the day.

Sylvia kept her arms wrapped around him. "I hate earthquakes."

"You and me both."

"When that big one hit in 1989, the World Series Quake," she said, "my folks and I were visiting in Santa Cruz. I was eating with the other kids around five p.m. When the house started jerking, I screamed and screamed. Mother and Father must not have heard."

"Sometime I'll tell you my earthquake story."

With all quiet on the seismic front, and the front of Lyle's trousers still strained by his arousal, he turned his attention back to Sylvia. "Let's take this out of the public domain."


Last night, when she and Lyle had almost ended up in bed, she'd been the one to pull back. Tonight, she could no more stop this than prevent the moon from rising. Despite the risk, she intended to have him.

"My room has morning sun," he murmured, pressing warm lips to her temple. His breath grazed her ear, sending shivers down her spine and making her knees wobbly.

He must have sensed she needed support, for he slipped his arm around her waist and drew her against his side.

She expelled a sigh of contentment. She'd never been with a man as powerful as Lyle, but she believed he would channel his strength in ways that empowered her as well as him.

Hip to hip, they moved through the French doors into the darkened lobby. From the corner of her eye, Sylvia noted the black-and-white flicker of the TV in the far corner.

Humphrey Bogart's distinctive voice melded with Ingrid Bergman's. "Casablanca," Lyle identified.

The actors embraced; the scene where Ilsa goes to Rick's room to convince him she still cares for him. Yet, is she only there to procure the letters of transit for her and her husband, Victor?

Sylvia stopped and stared at the screen. "When Rick puts her on the plane and sends her away with her husband, even though he loves her and she loves him . . . it's so . . . so . . ."

"Romantic," Lyle supplied. The timbre of his voice sent a wave of longing through her. Even as the screen lovers had been joined at some elemental level, she believed accepting Lyle was tantamount to opening her soul.

They left Rick and Ilsa behind and entered the intimacy of the hall leading to their rooms.

Together, they walked past her door. Maybe she should grab a robe, but Lyle's arm around her propelled her on toward his corner room.

Her heart began to race.


Lyle pulled out his room key with the big brass tag. Last night he'd unlocked the portal alone, in a similar state of arousal.

Tonight, he just wanted to feel. Skin on skin . . . Even as he tried to believe this could be about pure sensation, he knew he was kidding himself.

Did Sylvia have any concept of how much this meant to him?

What did it mean to her?

Though it would be easy to get distracted by all the reasons this was crazy, he wasn't going to think about why Lyle Thomas and Sylvia Chatsworth made a doomed combination. He would not consider her senator father or his money. He would not try again to tell her how much Chatsworth had offered.

Half a million might be a life-changing windfall to field worker and aspiring attorney, Lyle Thomas. It was probably chicken feed to a woman who drove an eighty-thousand-dollar automobile.

He swung open the door. Sylvia walked ahead of him into the darkened room. "Still got those matches?" she asked over her shoulder.

He reached into his pants pocket, got the box out, and tossed it.

Sylvia pulled out a match, scratched it on the sandpaper, and lit the candle Lyle had failed to notice on the bedside table. Took a woman to see such things.

In the flickering warm light, Lyle did detect other details. Such as how one of the turquoise straps of Sylvia's halter had slipped down her arm and the way her smoky hair tumbled over her bare shoulders.

Lyle closed the bedroom door, and they were alone.

Christine Carroll -