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The Forbidden Twin

By:Susan Crosby

The Forbidden Twin
Susan Crosby

       One


Early March

John Harlan clutched a two-carat, brilliant-cut diamond engagement ring  in one hand and a Glenfiddich on the rocks in the other, his third in  the past hour. Cold had settled in his bones, his heart, his soul. It  probably didn't help that he hadn't turned on the heat or even a lamp  since night fell hours ago. Only the lights of New York City through his  huge picture window illuminated his living room, making a hazy  silhouette of the bottle of scotch on the coffee table. What more did he  need to see than that, anyway?

A few hours ago his fiancée-former fiancée-had gently placed the diamond ring in his palm. He hadn't let go since.

John had thought he knew and understood Summer Elliott. She was  goal-oriented and orderly, like him, and together they were dynamic, a  power couple with great lineage and an amazing future. At twenty-nine,  he was at a perfect age for marriage, and at a perfect point in his  career at his advertising agency. Everything according to schedule.

She'd ended all possibility of a future together that afternoon.

He hadn't seen it coming.

They'd dated for months, long enough to know the relationship worked.  They'd gotten engaged less than three weeks ago, on Valentine's Day,  appropriately, romantically. And now, while he'd been in Chicago working  with a new client this past week, she'd found herself another man-a  rock star, of all people. Calm, sedate Summer Elliott, the woman whose  personality matched his, had found herself a rock star.

John downed his scotch, relished the burn and was contemplating another  when the doorbell rang. He didn't move. The bell rang again. He picked  up the bottle and poured, the ice from the previous drink almost melted.  Knuckles rapped on the door, and a female voice called his name.

Summer? No. She wouldn't come here.

Curious, however, he set the glass on the table and stood, taking a  moment to shove his fingers through his hair and to find his balance.  Although it was uncharacteristic of him to have more than a glass or two  of wine in an evening, he wasn't drunk. At least he didn't think so,  maybe just slightly off-kilter.

He opened his door and did a double take at the sight of Summer standing at the elevator ten feet away, her back to him.

"What are you doing?" he asked, squinting against the light and stepping  into the hall just as the elevator pinged, indicating its arrival on  the fifteenth floor, his floor.

She spun to face him but said nothing. He registered that she looked  different in her short red dress, but couldn't put his finger on exactly  why. Her scintillating light auburn air caught the light, the soft,  natural curl caressing her shoulders and drifting down her back. Her  light green eyes were focused directly on him, her expression open and  caring. Caring? Why should she care? She'd dumped him. Unceremoniously.  Emotionlessly.

Which pretty much defined their relationship. Emotionless. Sexless. A  partnership with a future based on a solid friendship and healthy  respect for each other, if without passion. But he'd loved her and  believed she'd loved him. He'd always figured the passion part would  fall into place at some point, and had respected her wishes to save  herself for the marriage bed.

Had she realized her mistake in breaking it off with him? Was that why she was here?

Why wasn't she talking? She'd come to see him, after all.

"Are you here to apologize?" he asked. Did he want her to apologize?

"Made a mistake," she said so low he could barely hear her. She walked  toward him, her hand outstretched. "A big mistake." Her fingertips  grazed his chest, then she pulled back as if burned, curling her fingers  into a fist that she pressed against her heart.

His gut tightened. Her touch had been light, but lethal to his  equilibrium. Hope tried to shove hours of hurt out of the way. The hurt  resisted giving way … until she reached out again and was suddenly kissing  him-kissing the hell out of him. Caught off guard by her new, surreal  level of passion, he kissed her back until she moaned, even as a  cautionary voice in his head shouted at him not to forgive the woman  who'd never slept with him, her fiancé, yet who'd given herself to a man  she'd just met.

When she pressed her hips to his and moved against him, he was grateful  he hadn't had that fourth drink and could still think clearly enough to  know what to do next. Resisting wasn't an option, even though he'd spent  months doing exactly that. Not this time, however. Not this time.

He scooped her into his arms, carried her to his bed and laid her on the  comforter, deciding that the reason she looked different was that she'd  come dressed to seduce him-something she'd never done before.                       
       
           



       

An unexpected warmth spread through him at the thought that she'd made that kind of effort for him.

"This is out of the blue," he said, turning the words into a question,  wanting to trust her motives, but afraid to. What did it say about him  if he so easily forgave her?

"I never expected to make love with you."

He frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Just that."

It wasn't an answer, but apparently it was all he was going to get. Had  the bad-boy rock star already dumped her? Did it matter? Yes. But … but  John wanted to show her what she'd been missing as he'd reined himself  in all those months, honoring her self-imposed pledge of chastity. His  ego even demanded it.

He turned on a bedside lamp, pulled off his tie and unbuttoned his  shirt, his movements jerky. She wasn't telling him to stop. She was  really going through with it?

He shrugged off his shirt and tossed it aside, reached for his belt  buckle and pulled his belt out of the loops, letting it drop to the  floor, noticing her spiky red high heels there, as well, a vivid  reminder of the strangeness of the evening. He'd never seen her wear  heels that high, which put her equal in height to him.

Equal. Was that the point? To make them equals? She'd suddenly become aggressive, not merely assertive?

His jaw tightened painfully as he searched her face, seeking answers to  questions he didn't ask because he wasn't sure he wanted the answers.  Not only did she not tell him to stop, she didn't even flinch and  instead studied his every move, not a hint of virginal shyness in her  eyes. He toed off his shoes, slipped his trousers down and off, along  with his socks.

His briefs were black and tight, had gone tighter in the past few  minutes. She made a leisurely inspection of him that was more exciting  than any kiss or touch he could remember. She swallowed and lifted her  eyes to meet his again. Her nipples pressed against her dress. His heart  thundered; his fists clenched.

If he took off the briefs, would she run? She'd kept him at arm's length  for months and months, yet after she'd slept with another man, she  wanted him now? What kind of sense did that make? Comparison? It was  totally out of character for her.

And if he slept with her now, would it be in forgiveness … or out of  revenge? He wasn't sure if he even wanted to find out, but an irrational  force made him continue, even knowing he might be shot down or stopped.  Or humiliated.

Except she'd said she'd made a mistake … .

He pushed off the briefs. She rose to her knees and reached out to touch  him, her fingertips gliding down him like warm, silky water. He sucked  in a breath, knelt on the bed and peeled her formfitting dress over her  head, discovering a red lacy bra and matching thong underneath. He  pushed the satin straps down her arms, the weight of her breasts taking  the fabric temptingly lower, the lace hanging up on her nipples. Her  lemony scent drifted up to him.

His mouth went dry. He'd imagined Summer as a white-bra-and-panties woman … .

He lifted his gaze to hers as he laid his palms on her breasts, feeling  the smooth, warm firmness of her flesh, the heels of his hands grazing  her hard nipples. She was so different from what he'd expected. So sexy.  So willing. So …

So not Summer.

"Scarlet?" he managed to ask, taking his hands away, sure of her  identity even as he asked the question. No wonder she was different. Not  Summer, but her identical twin sister. Scarlet had a wild reputation,  but he never would've guessed she would pretend to be her sister. What  purpose did it serve? She'd always been standoffish with him, as if she  didn't like him.

She sat back, confusion in her eyes. "Have you ever seen Summer wear a dress like that?"

He could tell her he was three-quarters drunk, but it would seem like an insult. "I thought she'd come to seduce me."

Scarlet's lack of answer could mean anything. He wouldn't try to second-guess her.

Mistaken identities aside, he was acutely aware that his arousal hadn't  suffered at the recognition of Summer's twin. If anything, the shock of  the revelation excited him even more, though he didn't stop to determine  why-didn't want to determine why, except he'd endured a long  abstinence.

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