She was breathing hard and barely able to stand when he finally paused to take a breath. “Come upstairs with me,” she said, then hesitated, suddenly uncertain. “That is what you want, isn’t it?”

“Darlin’, I’ve never wanted any woman more than I want you right this second,” he said with flattering sincerity. “Are you sure, though? I don’t ever want you to regret this.”

“I’ve made mistakes and I have my share of regrets, but this won’t be one of them,” she said with total conviction.

She held out her hand and Trace took it. Together they walked up the stairs, past the floor of guest rooms and on to the private quarters on the third floor. In recent years Mae had kept a small room for herself on the ground floor, but Savannah had opted for the privacy upstairs for herself and Hannah. She led Trace to her room, which had a panoramic view of the mountains lit by moonlight glistening on the snow.

She walked to the window and stood looking out. “Every time I look at this view, I feel this amazing sense of peace come over me. It’s so incredibly beautiful.”

She felt Trace come up behind her, his arms circling her waist.

“I think you’re more beautiful,” he said softly, his breath whispering against her cheek.

His hands slid up to her breasts, cupping them. As if the exquisite sensation weren’t enough, the reflection in the window of his hands exploring her so intimately doubled the sweet tug deep inside her.

She was already shivering when his fingers slid beneath her sweater to caress bare skin. Eyes closed, she leaned back against his chest as he made her body come alive. Her breasts were heavy and aching before he undid the zipper on her jeans and repeated the delicious torment between her legs. She shuddered at the deliberate touches, each more intimate than the last, each coming closer to sending her over the edge.

She could feel the press of his arousal against her backside, could feel the heat radiating from him in waves. When she risked another look into the glass, she saw the tension in his shoulders, the hooded look in his eyes as he pleasured her. She’d never known a man could give so much without demanding anything in return.

The complete lack of selfishness inflamed her even beyond the effect of Trace’s touch. Savannah turned in his arms, then slipped from his embrace. Her gaze locked with his, she stripped her sweater over her head, then let her already-unhooked bra fall to the floor. She knew the precise instant when he saw the reflection of her actions in the window, when that image merged with the one before him and deepened his desire.

She shimmied out of her jeans and panties, then reached for the hem of his sweater. She slid her hands over his chest, which felt like a furnace in the chilly room.

“One of us has way too many clothes on,” he said in a husky growl as he tried to push her hands aside to relieve her of the task of ridding him of his sweater.

“Oh, no, you don’t. I get to do this my way,” she challenged.

A smile curved his lips. “By all means,” he said. “Just hurry it up, will you?”

“Some things should never be rushed.”

“And some things can’t be stopped,” he said, drawing her to him, bending down to circle each throbbing nipple with his tongue in a way that had her gasping.

The gesture pretty much destroyed her intent to torment him. Instead, she began to rush the task that only moments before she’d planned to draw out until he felt the same urgency she felt. Within seconds, they were both naked and moving toward the bed, knees weakened by exploring hands, desire ratcheted up to a height Savannah had never before experienced.

When Trace finally entered her, she was already crying out with the first explosive climax. He stilled while the pulsing sensations slowly died away. Then he began to move deep inside her, stirring her all over again, turning restless need into a demanding urgency that stretched every muscle taut with anticipation, until at last, with one sure, deep stroke, he took them both tumbling into a whirlpool of shuddering sensation.

Finally, still cradled in his arms, she fell into the first dreamless sleep she’d had in months.


Trace’s heartbeat was easing, his pulse slowly quieting as he gazed down at Savannah. Such a sweet, innocent face to pack so much heat. If he hadn’t been enthralled before, the last few hours would have been a revelation. She had a wicked, wanton streak that could lure a man into the fires of hell. Who would have thought it?

The strength and resilience he’d seen in her from the beginning took on new meaning when it came to making love. She’d all but exhausted him, yet he couldn’t seem to stop looking at her—touching her—long enough to fall into desperately needed sleep.

Her porcelain-fine skin was still flushed, her hair tousled. Her chest rose and fell with each breath she took, drawing attention to breasts so perfect they took his breath away. Amazingly he wanted her again. In fact, he suspected that after tonight there would never come a day when he didn’t want her.

Forever? The word he’d always avoided like the plague popped into his head and wouldn’t go away. Forever meant commitment. It meant compromising, joining his life with someone else’s, putting her needs above his own. Was he capable of such a thing? Or was he his father’s son in that regard? His father had certainly never considered for a second what his irresponsible choices meant for the rest of the family. Trace had always made sure that there would be no one in his life to be affected by the choices he made.

Oh, really? This time when he heard the voice in his head, it was Mae’s. More than once she’d scolded him for such self-deprecating comments. She’d pointed out that he had hundreds of employees who counted on him for their livelihoods, that he’d never once let them down, that he’d never let her down.

He let his gaze linger on Savannah. Was it possible that he could give her everything she needed? Everything she deserved?

And what about Hannah? Being a stepparent wasn’t easy. Oh, they got along well enough now, but what if the rules changed? What if he were here all the time? Would she balk at any attempt by him to take the place of her father…..in her life or in her mother’s?

He chided himself for getting way ahead of himself. Just because he and Savannah were compatible in bed, just because they’d spent a couple of incredible days that felt magical, didn’t mean there was a future for the two of them. She might not even want that. Hell, he might not want it. If ever there was a time for clear, rational thought, for not looking beyond the moment, this was it.

Just then, Savannah sighed deeply and snuggled more tightly against him. Heat shot through him. Heat and need. The need went beyond sex, he realized. He needed what she represented—steadiness, love, family—things he’d never imagined himself wanting.

It was his turn to sigh then, his turn to tuck his arms more tightly around her. Maybe morning was soon enough for answers. Maybe tonight was simply meant for feeling fresh, new, enticing emotions.

He breathed in her scent—flowers with a hint of musk—then pressed a kiss to her shoulder. In minutes, he was asleep.


Savannah lay perfectly still, her eyes closed against the brilliance of the sun and against whatever she might discover in Trace’s expression. It had been so many years since she’d experienced a “morning after” that she had no idea what to expect. Awkwardness topped the list of possibilities, though.

“You’re playing possum,” Trace teased, his voice low and husky and warm as it whispered against her cheek.

“Am not,” she denied, feeling a smile tug the corners of her mouth.

“Come on, Sleeping Beauty, wake up. We have a million things to do today.”

“I don’t suppose any of them include staying right here in bed?” she asked wistfully.

“Afraid not.”

To her relief, he sounded as disappointed about that as she felt. “And once Hannah’s back under this roof, I suppose any more nights like this are out of the question, too.”

“Your call, but I’d say that’s the sensible way to go.”

She opened her eyes then and met his gaze. Fighting against the uncertainty spilling over her, she asked, “Then this was a one-night thing?”

His gaze never wavered. “Not if I can help it,” he said emphatically. “I think that’s something we need to discuss in detail, don’t you?”

Actions seemed vastly preferable to words in Savannah’s current frame of mind, but he was right. Talking was definitely indicated, someplace and at a time when temptation wasn’t inches away.

“I suppose there’s enough time for me to do this,” he murmured after a quick glance at the clock on the bedside table. “And this.”

Kiss followed kiss until Savannah was writhing and crying out for him to slide inside her. The sweet urgency, the rush for one more taste, one more touch, made their joining even better than any they’d shared during the night before.

“Now we really do have to get up,” Trace said with obvious regret. “The caterer will be here in an hour, and I’ve got to polish the dining room floor and be out from underfoot when he gets here.”

“I’ll fix breakfast,” Savannah said. “And clean up the kitchen.”

Trace’s heated gaze roamed over her. “Or we could take a leisurely shower together, and to heck with breakfast and polishing the floor.”

She grinned. “I think breakfast is highly overrated anyway.”

“Not a sentiment you should be sharing with prospective guests,” Trace advised as he scooped her up and carried her to the shower.

They were still damp and barely dressed when the doorbell rang.

“Nick of time,” he said with a wink. “I’ll get it. You might want to see if you can tone down that blush before you meet Henri. He’s French and considers himself an expert on the nuances of romance. One glimpse of you, and he’ll be offering more unsolicited advice than you ever dreamed of.”

“Heaven help me,” Savannah said wholeheartedly. “I’ll be down in a minute…..or an hour. However long it takes.”

When Trace had gone, she sat down at her dressing table and studied her face in the mirror. He was right. She was flushed in a way that was entirely too revealing. Even so, she couldn’t seem to stop the grin that spread across her face.

“Get a grip,” she told herself firmly. “Tonight’s too important for you to be frittering away time up here.”

But no matter how important tonight was, she had a very strong hunch it wouldn’t hold a candle to last night, especially if Trace refused to share her bed again.


By eight-thirty, Savannah knew that the open house was going to be a roaring success. Neighbors were crowded into every room, sharing holiday toasts, commenting on the delicious food as Henri basked in their compliments. Again and again, they had paused to welcome her and Hannah and tell them how delighted they were that Holiday Retreat would be reopened.

“My parents honeymooned here,” Donna Jones confided when she caught up with Savannah during a quiet moment in the dining room. “My mother claims I was conceived here, since I was born almost nine months to the day after their wedding night.”

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