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The man simply stared at her for a long minute, took her in with an uncompromising glance, noting her faded, shapeless, print dress that suggested anything but seduction, her very pale hazel eyes, and the light hair plaited into two, thick, old-fashioned braids. Not the sort of woman he was used to, she was sure of that.

            “You’re Ms. Alice Treemont?” he asked finally.

            Alice nodded, almost imperceptibly. She couldn’t miss the surprise in his eyes. Surprise? What had he been expecting when he knocked on the door? A nice, elderly, grandmother type who spent endless lonely evenings knitting socks? A scrawny, suspicious old witch who only loved animals and hated human intruders? A hard-boiled, desert woman, cigarette dangling from a corner of her mouth, hair dyed tomato-red?


“I was told by a man in the gas station you take in stray dogs.”

She nodded again, still giving no smile, offering no politeness, meeting his evaluating gaze evenly, examining him in the same way he was observing her, taking him in from head to toe. But not with the same interest most women probably showed when meeting him. No, she’d keep her distance. Because, immediately, she knew he was a charmer, the sort of male women react to. His features were rugged enough to avoid his being too handsome, and his body was tight, strong-looking. The type of look women adore. And they’d smile at him, try to captivate him…

Well, those weren’t reactions he’d get from her. Certainly not. She wasn’t the sort of woman who’d appeal to him anyway. He’d go for those who were sophisticated, elegantly fashionable.

So why did his eyes linger on her lips and leave them with a burning feeling that was as strong as a caress? She fought the sensation, fought the spell of his aura.


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