Friday, December 6, 2013

'Tis the Season for Seduction

It’s been a long time since Caitlyn Burns has been seduced by anything—or anyone. Winters in Dublin, Ireland, are cold and dreary, and without family, the holidays are bleak and lonely. Its four days before Christmas and Caitlyn is still slinging drinks at the local pub and dreading going home to an empty flat, and an even emptier bed.

For FBI agent Lucas Conner, things are heating up. He’s hot on the trail of a prehistoric-art thief who will be the key to bringing down a notorious drug czar. And he just caught a glimpse of the sexy blond waitress at the bar. Who just happens to be an art student at Trinity College and an expert in ancient Ireland.

It’s the perfect excuse to mix business with pleasure. And Lucas is determined to nail both his quarries….

'Tis the Season for Seduction
Fiona Summerville

Dublin, Ireland

The empty pint glasses clinked together on the tray as Caitlyn Burns wove her way to a small booth wedged into a corner of O’Brien’s Pub.

It was only midafternoon, but the pub, which was located in the heart of Dublin and just a short walk from Trinity College, was jammed with students celebrating the end of exams and the beginning of Christmas break. Laughter and cheerful chatter reverberated around the room evoking a melancholy smile from Caitlyn as she paused beside the corner booth.

She looked down, about to ask the booth’s occupant for his drink order, when her eyes fell upon one of the yellow lined notepads that covered the table.

"That should be thirty-two hundred B.C.,” she said softly.

Despite the din, Caitlyn thought she heard a grunt of acknowledgement but the dark, neatly trimmed head and broad, tweed covered shoulders remained hunched over a guidebook and notepad, scribbling furiously, completely disregarding her remark.

She worried the inside of her lip, debating whether or not to impose any further, but a quick glance at the research notes set out before him on the table bolstered her resolve.  He obviously had the wrong date so the timeline for whatever research he was compiling would be thrown off because of it. She could let it go, but because the focus of her doctorate was Irish Prehistory, she felt almost obligated to correct his mistake.

Shifting the glass filled tray from one hip to the other, Caitlyn pulled out the pencil she kept tucked behind her ear and tapped it on the yellow pad with the offending date.

“Your date…It’s wrong. It should be thirty-two hundred B.C.”

When the customer looked up Caitlyn’s heart dropped like a stone, and she consciously had to work to keep her jaw and the tray from following suit.

Holy feck! The man was gorgeous. Nerdy black-framed glasses, notwithstanding, the guy was not your typical tourist or student or mortal man, for that matter. No, this broad shouldered hunk with soft amber eyes, looked as if he’d stepped off the cover of one of those romance novels her friend Megan was so fond of reading.

"Sorry?" He leaned toward her, straining to hear her over the raucous crowd. "What’d you say?"

Swallowing her new found case of cotton mouth, Caitlyn bent closer, her voice louder, but also huskier.

"Newgrange. The passage tomb dates back to three thousand B.C., not two thousand."

Mr. Buff and Dreamy turned the page of his guide book and cocked a eyebrow. "You’re right."

“I know I am,” Caitlyn announced proudly. “Prehistoric Ireland, Neolithic to be exact, is my area of focus."

Lucas Conner stared up in amazement at the waitress from behind his fake glasses. He’d been so engrossed in his notes that he hadn’t noticed her near his table, but she certainly had his attention now.  

Not only because she seemed to know her history but because she was breathtakingly beautiful. His groin twitched in absolute male appreciation as his eyes raked across loose tawny waves, eyes that sparkled like emeralds and legs that went on for days sheathed in black tights beneath a flirty black mini-skirt. And when she smiled, Lucas almost forget why he was in Dublin in the first place.


"You’re a student?" He asked, regaining his focus.

"A doctoral candidate at Trinity. What can I bring ye?"

"A pint of Guinness. Original, please.”

"Ye’ve got it. Back in a bit."

Lucas shuffled through his notes absentmindedly as he watched the leggy blonde weave her way back to the bar. And when his eyes came to rest on the contents of the notepad in front of him, his interest in her shifted from personal to professional.

He was on the trail of an art thief who specialized in obtaining prehistoric artifacts for a shadowy Miami-based drug lord with discriminating and extremely expensive tastes. Two days ago, the FBI’s Art Crimes Division had received a tip that the thief might be one of the select few spectators who were allowed into the megalithic Newgrange tomb at sunrise on December 22. On that day—and only that day—the rising sun would align at exactly the right angle to illuminate the tomb’s inner chamber.

Despite the fact that art theft ranked fourth in major international crimes after drugs, people trafficking and arms, most law-enforcement agencies—including the FBI—had only limited resources to devote to it. Hence the reason he was the only agent assigned to the case. Not to mention the fact his superiors hadn’t been impressed by the vagueness of the tip. Nevertheless, Lucas had jumped on a plane the next afternoon and landed in Dublin just a few hours ago and was now sitting in a pub, trying to transform himself into a prehistoric art expert. What were the odds that the hot little number that had just taken his drink order was the exact thing he was trying so desperately to become?

His gaze tracked the tawny-haired girl as she delivered drink orders around the room, finally coming to stand in front of his booth.

"That’ll be four euros," she said, smiling down at him. "Or would ye like tae run a tab?"

"A tab, please." He sat back against the dark red leather lined booth, regarding her tentatively. "What’s your name?"

"Caitlyn Burns. And yours?"

"Lucas Conner. Listen, I was wondering—what time do you get off work?"

"And why would ye be askin’, Lucas Conner?"

"I have a proposition for you."

He watched her jaw clench tight before adding quickly.

"A business proposition."

"You got a ticket for Newgrange tomorrow?"

Caitlyn’s voice squeaked, but she couldn’t help it. She couldn’t believe that out of thousands of people – including herself- who put their names in every year for the Newgrange lottery, this guy, an American no less, scored one of the greatest coups in Ireland.

"How in the world did you get so lucky?"

He ignored her question and instead eyed her suspiciously.

"What happened to your accent?"

"Oh. That." She snorted softly and grinned. “I’m an American like you. Born and raised in Sacramento. I did my undergrad and master’s at Stanford, but got a scholarship to work on a doctorate here at Trinity. Two years in Dublin have given me a wee bit of the brogue, doncha know?"

His eyes narrowed as he skimmed a glance over her well-worn black skirt and beer-stained apron.

"You said you’re on scholarship?"

"I am."

"Doesn’t it provide living expenses?"

"It does, but…I have bills. You know how it is."

His eyes held hers. "No, I don’t. Why don’t you tell me?"

Caitlyn bit her lip. Her personal circumstances no one’s business but her own, yet this man’s steady gaze drew a reluctant response from her.

"I was raised by my grandmother. She didn’t have a lot, only a widow’s pension, but she gave me so much love I never realized we were poor. She died during her hip-replacement surgery three years ago."

A knot formed in Caitlyn’s throat. It had been three years and the loss of her grandmother still managed to choke her up. Coming to Ireland to study had eased some of the pain, but the holidays were always hard. Especially Christmas, when the campus emptied, and everyone went home to their families.

"I’ve almost managed to pay off the hospital and funeral bills," she said with a shrug trying to seem nonplussed.

In truth, she’d struggled. Working two part-time jobs while still managing to complete her studies had not only draining, but depressing. Refusing to wallow any longer on her bleak circumstances, Caitlyn changed the subject.

"Waitressing just pays for life’s little extras. Now what’s this business proposition you mentioned?"

Lucas leaned back against the booth. Despite his relaxed posture, he was wary. The instincts that had kept him alive all those years undercover had set the hair on the back of his neck on end when the sexy waitress, had suddenly lost her Irish accent.

Even though her explanation was plausible, he was still suspicious, so he planned to make a few calls when he got back to his hotel. He needed her supposed expertise, but only if she checked out.

"I want to get the most I can out of my visit to Newgrange.

Lucas knew his answer was vague, but it was also honest. He hoped his early morning excursion to Newgrange would result in the apprehension Salazar’s art thief and, through him, eventually, Salazar.

"I want to understand the tomb’s history and that of the people who constructed it. If you have time after you get off work, maybe you could give me a quick and dirty overview. I’m willing to pay whatever the going rate is at Trinity for private tutoring."

"Are y’now?"

Caitlyn’s lips pursed as she considered his offer and Lucas caught himself wondering how her lush bottom lip would taste. How she would taste. Not liking the detour his thoughts had taken or his body’s reaction to it, he shifted slightly to accommodate the sudden tightening in his groin and began rethinking his offer at the same moment she accepted it.

"I’ll be fished up here at six. I could meet you at the library at Trinity College. We could meet in the reading room in the Library for Ancient Books and Manuscripts. Say 6:30. How does that sound?”

“Sure. That works for me, I guess.”

He glanced at his watch. Four hours would give him plenty of time to check in with the office and make the necessary inquiries into the waitress’ background. If she checked out, he would meet her. If she didn’t, he’d spend the night boning up on ancient Ireland on his own.

Lucas found himself mesmerized by the gentle sway of Caitlyn’s hips as she wove her way back to the bar. Dropping his eyes back down to his notes, he tried to refocus, but his thoughts kept turning back to her every time her lilting voice drifted across the room. He sighed and scrubbed his face with his hand as she crossed the pub with another pint in hand for him. Not good. Not good at all. Caitlyn Burns was fast becoming a tantalizing distraction he couldn't afford.


Lucas realized how big a mistake he’d made the moment she entered the secluded alcove in a corner of the reading room some hours later.

Her story had checked out. Caitlyn Burns’ life was easily traceable and verifiable. He’d also been able to gain access to a short summary of her master’s thesis. The girl knew her stuff. Her credentials were impressive and he spent the remaining time he had, preparing himself for a session with a truly gifted academic.

What he hadn’t prepared himself for was the way his heart slammed into his rib cage when she walked into the room, carrying a double stack of books, her cheeks flushed from the cold. Nor had he prepared himself for the way his dick twitched inside his pants at the sight of the hip-hugging jeans and clingy sweater she revealed when she slipped off her pea coat. And, he most certainly hadn’t prepared himself for the warm scent of vanilla that wafted off her skin and swirled around him, drawing him in closer as she sat and opened the first of many tomes.

God. He’d thought her beautiful when he’d first met her in the pub, but here, so utterly at ease and in her element, her beauty was magnified ten-fold. Her green eyes twinkled and shone like emeralds as she shared her incredible depth and breadth of knowledge of the massive stone megaliths that dated back to one of the earliest eras of human history, leaving him awestruck.

No, all in all, he found himself woefully ill prepared for the likes of Caitlyn Burns. The woman was an absolutely lethal combination of beauty and brains. And, as Lucas soon found out, had more experience rutting out antiquities thieves than he did.

"I caught two idiots myself trying to pass themselves off as visiting scholars. Took me all of thirty seconds to realize how little they knew of eighth-century illuminated manuscripts they were reviewing and another thirty to figure out they planned to rip out a page as a souvenir! Can you believe it?!"

He stared at her, completely dumbfounded. Did the woman have any idea how irresistible she was to him at that moment? There she sat, smart as a whip, emerald eyes ablaze with indignation, bottom lip set in a pout that begged to be nibbled. Telling him a tale wrought with intrigue, and, to top it all off, she smelled like a damn sugar cookie.

Lucas choked back a groan disguised in a cough as hunger slammed into him. Shifting in his seat, he forced himself to focus on the floor plan of the tomb Caitlyn had laid out before them on the table.

"Don’t you need those?" Caitlyn asked, nodding to the glasses tucked in his jacket pocket.

Damn! He’d been so entranced by the woman he’d totally forgotten his cover. "Oh...only for fine print," he lied, but pulled them out and put them on anyway.

She shrugged and went back her overview of the tomb layout. Lucas took in the facts and dates and dimensions she doled out until Caitlyn leaned closer to point out a significant design in one of her books and her breast pressed his arm. At her touch his body became a live wire, electrical pulses surging and short circuiting any remaining logic.

"You’ll see this triple spiral at Newgrange."

Lucas sat frozen in place, gritting his teeth as he struggled to maintain his composure. He didn't respond. He couldn't. And before long, she glanced up and their eyes locked. 

Lucas heard the little hitch in her breath, and couldn’t miss the flicker of realization that flared in her eyes. She feels it too. He thought with a stab of fierce male pride as another jolt of heat melted away the last of his resistance.

Giving in to the need that had been on slow burn since their first meeting at the pub, he slid a hand under the curtain of blonde waves and cupped the warm skin of her nape.

Her eyes grew wide. Her mouth parted.

Lucas expected her to pull away, but she didn't. Instead, she leaned in towards him and captured his lips with hers in a mind blowing kiss.

Oh man...was he ever screwed.

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