Silver Bells : Man of Ice Heart of Ice

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2012-09-25
  • Publisher: Harlequin HQN

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New York Times bestselling author Diana Palmer rings in the holidays with two enthralling stories of undeniable passion and unexpected love MAN OF ICE After a less than magical one-night stand, cynical Dawson Rutherford needs the help of the woman he considers seduced him. Barrie Bell, still reeling from their encounter, is ambivalent about aiding his scheme. She's kept a secret from Dawson...one that could free them both to love again! HEART OF ICE Knowing she dislikes him down to his arrogant bones, Egan Winthrop invites Kati James to his ranch to research her next novel. He assumes she knows everything about love. But when passion flares between them, Egan is surprised at how Kati's heat just might be able to melt his heart of ice....

Author Biography

The prolific author of more than one hundred books, Diana Palmer got her start as a newspaper reporter. A New York Times bestselling author and voted one of the top ten romance writers in America, she has a gift for telling the most sensual tales with charm and humor. Diana lives with her family in Cornelia, Georgia.

The prolific author of more than one hundred books, Diana Palmer got her start as a newspaper reporter. A New York Times bestselling author and voted one of the top ten romance writers in America, she has a gift for telling the most sensual tales with charm and humor. Diana lives with her family in Cornelia, Georgia.


There was a cardinal rule that people who gave parties never invited both Barrie Bell and her stepbrother, Dawson Rutherford, to the same social event. Since the two of them didn't have a lot of mutual friends, and they lived in different states, it wasn't often broken. But every rule had an exception, and tonight, Barrie discovered, was it.

She hadn't really wanted to go out, but Martha and John Mercer, old friends of the Rutherfords who'd taken a interest in Barrie since their move to Tucson, insisted that she needed a diversion. She wasn't teaching this summer, after all, and the part-time job that kept her bank account healthy had just ended abruptly. Barrie needed cheering up and Martha was giving a party that was guaranteed to accomplish it.

Actually it had. Barrie felt brighter than she had in some months. She was sequestered on the steps of the staircase in the hall with two admirers, one who was a bank executive and the other who played guitar with a jazz band. She was wearing a dress guaranteed to raise blood pressures, silver and clinging from its diamante straps at her lightly tanned shoulders to her ankles, with a long, seductive slit up one side of the skirt. The color of her high heels matched the dress. She wore her long, wavy black hair loose, so that it reached almost to her waist. In her creamy-complexioned, oval face, bright green eyes shone with a happy glitter.

That was, theyhadbeen shining until she saw Dawson Rutherford come in the front door. Her sophisticated chatter had died abruptly and she withdrew into a shell, looking vulnerable and hunted.

Her two companions didn't connect her stepbrother's entrance with Barrie's sudden change. Not, at least, until a few minutes later when he spotted her in the hall and, excusing himself to his hostess, came to find her with a drink in his hand.

Dawson was more than a match for any man present, physically. Some of them were spectacularly handsome, but Dawson was more so. He had wavy blond hair, cut conventionally short, a deep tan, chiseled, perfect facial features and deep-set pale green eyes at least two shades lighter than Barrie's. He was tall and slender, but there were powerful muscles in that lithe body, which was kept fit from hours in the saddle. Dawson was a multimillionaire, yet being the boss didn't keep him from helping out on the many ranches he owned. It was nothing unusual to find him cutting out calves for branding on the Wyoming ranches, or helping to drive cattle across the spinifex plains of the several-thousand-square-mile station in Australia's Channel Country. He spent his leisure hours, which were very few, working with his Thoroughbred horses on the headquarters ranch in Sheridan, Wyoming, when he wasn't buying and selling cattle all over the country.

He was an elegant man, from his hand-tooled leather boots to the expensive slacks and white silk turtleneck shirt he wore with a designer jacket. Everything about him, from his Rolex to the diamond horseshoe ring on his right hand, screamed wealth. And with the elegant good looks, there was a cold, calculating intelligence. Dawson spoke French and Spanish fluently, and he had a degree in business.

Barrie's two companions seemed to shrink when he appeared beside them, a drink cradled in one big, lean hand. He didn't drink often, and never to excess. He was the sort of man who never liked to lose control in any way. She'd seen him lose it just once. Perhaps that was why he hated her so, because she was the only one who ever had.

"Well, well, what was Martha thinking, I wonder, that rules were made to be broken?" Dawson asked her, his deep voice like velvet even though it carried above the noise.

"Martha invited me. She didn't invite you," Barrie said coldly. "I'm sure it was John. He's laughing," she added, her gaze going to Martha's husband across the room.

Dawson followed her glance to his host and raised his glass. The shorter man raised his in acknowledgment and, catching Barrie's furious glare, turned quickly away.

"Aren't you going to introduce me?" Dawson continued, unabashed, his eyes going now to the two men beside her.

"Oh, this is Ted and that's.. what was your name?" she somewhat abruptly asked the second man.

"Bill," he replied.

"This is my…stepbrother, Dawson Rutherford," she continued.

Bill grinned and extended his hand. It was ignored, although Dawson nodded curtly in acknowledgment. The younger man cleared his throat and smiled sheepishly at Barrie, brandishing his glass. "Uh, I need a refill," he said quickly, because Dawson's eyes were narrowing and there was a distinct glitter in them.

"Me, too," Ted added and, grinning apologetically at Barrie, took off.

Barrie glared after them. "Craven cowards," she muttered.

"Does it take two men at once to keep you happy these days?" Dawson asked contemptuously. His cold gaze ran down her dress to the low neckline that displayed her pretty breasts to their best advantage.

She felt naked. She wouldn't have dreamed of wearing clothing this revealing around Dawson normally. Only the fact that he'd come to the party unbeknownst to her gave him the opportunity to see her in this camouflage she adopted. But she wasn't going to spoil her sophisticated image by letting him know that his intent regard disturbed her. "There's safety in numbers," she replied with a cool smile. "How are you, Dawson?"

"How do I look?" he countered.

"Prosperous," she replied. She didn't say anything else. Dawson had come to her apartment only a few months ago, trying to get her back to Sheridan to play chaperone to Leslie Holton, a widow and former actress who had a piece of land Dawson wanted. She'd refused and an argument had resulted, which led to them not speaking at all. She'd thought Dawson would never seek her out again after it. But here he was. And she could imagine that the widow was still in hot pursuit of him—or so her best friend Antonia Hayes Long had told her recently.

He took a sip of his drink, but his eyes never left her face. "Corlie changes your bed every other day, hoping."

Corlie was the housekeeper at Dawson's Sheridan home. She and her husband, Rodge, had been in residence since long before Barrie's mother had married Dawson's father. They were two of her favorite people and she missed them. But not enough to go back, even for a visit. "I don't belong in Sheridan," she said firmly. "Tucson is home, now."

"You don't have a home any more than I do," he shot back, his voice cold. "Our parents are dead. All we have left is each other."

"Then I have nothing," she said harshly, letting her eyes speak for her.

"You'd like to think so, wouldn't you?" he demanded with a cold smile. And because the flat statement wounded him, he added deliberately, "Well, I hope you're not still eating your heart out for me, baby."

The accusation made her feel even more vulnerable. Her hands clenched in her lap. In the old days, Dawson had known too well how she felt about him. It was a weapon he'd used against her. She glared at him. "I wouldn't waste my heart on you. And don't call me baby!"

His eyes narrowed on her face and dropped to her mouth, lingering there. "I don't use endearments, Barrie," he reminded her. "Not in normal conversation. And we both remember the last time I used that one, don't we?"

She wanted to crawl under the stairs and die. Her eyes closed. Memories assailed her. Dawson's deep voice, husky with feeling and need and desire, whispering her name with each movement of his powerful body against hers, whispering, "Baby! Oh, God, baby, baby…!"

She made a hoarse sound and tried to get away, but he was too close. He sat down on the step below hers and settled back on his elbow, so that his arm imprisoned her between himself and the banister.

"Don't run," he chided. "You're a big girl now. It's all right to have sex with a man, Barrie. You won't go to hell for it. Surely you know that by now, with your record."

She looked at him with fear and humiliation. "My record?" she whispered.

"How many men have you had? Can't you remember?"

Her eyes stared straight into his. She didn't flinch, although she felt like it. "I can remember, Dawson," she said with a forced smile. "I've had one. Only one." She actually shivered.

Her reaction took some of the antagonism out of him. He just stared at her, his pale eyes unusually watchful.

She clasped her arms tightly over her breasts and her entire body went rigid from his proximity.

He moved back, just a couple of inches. She relaxed, but only a little. Her posture was still unnatural. He wanted to think she was acting this way deliberately, in an attempt to resurrect the old guilt. But it wasn't an act. She looked at him with eyes that were vulnerable, but even if she cared as much as ever, she was afraid of him. And it showed.

The knowledge made him uncomfortable. More uncomfortable than he usually was. He'd taunted her with her feelings for him for years, until it was a habit he couldn't break. He'd even done it the night he lost his head and destroyed her innocence. He'd behaved viciously to push away the guilt and the shame he felt at his loss of control.

He hadn't meant to attack her tonight, of all times. Not after the argument he'd had with her months ago. He'd come to make peace. But the attempt had backfired. It was the way she was dressed, and the two eager young men sitting like worshipers at her feet, that had enraged him with jealousy. He hadn't meant a word he said, but she wouldn't know that. She was used to having him bait her. It didn't make him feel like a man to punish her for his own sins; it made him sick. Especially now, with what he'd only just found out about the past, and what had happened to her because of him…

He averted his eyes to her folded arms. She looked like a whipped child. She'd adopted that posture after he'd seduced her. The image was burned indelibly into his brain. It still hurt, too.

"I only want to talk," he said curtly. "You can relax."

"What could we possibly have to say to each other?" she asked icily. "I wish I never had to see you again, Dawson!"

His eyes bit into hers. "Like hell you do." She couldn't win an argument with him. It was better not to start one. "What do you want to talk about?"

His gaze went past her, to the living room, where people were laughing and drinking and talking. Happy, comfortable people. Not like the two on the staircase.

He shrugged and took another swallow from the glass before he faced her again. "What else? I want you to come home for a week or two."

Her heart raced. She averted her gaze. "No!"

He'd expected that reaction. He was ready to debate it. "You'll have plenty of chaperones," he informed her. "Rodge and Corlie." He paused deliberately. "And the widow Holton."

She looked up. "Still?" she muttered sarcastically. "Why don't you just marry her and be done with it?"

He deliberately ignored the sarcasm. "You know that she's got a tract of land in Bighorn that I have to own. The only way she'll discuss selling it to me is if I invite her to Sheridan for a few days."

"I hear that she's hanging around the ranch constantly," she remarked.

"She visits regularly, but not overnight," he said. "The only way I can clinch the land deal and get her to go away is to let her spend a few days at the ranch. I can't do that without you."

He didn't look pleased about it. Odd. She'd heard from her best friend, Antonia Long, that the widow was lovely and eligible. She couldn't understand why Dawson was avoiding her. It was common knowledge that she'd chased Powell Long, Antonia's husband, and that she was casting acquisitive eyes at Dawson as well. Barrie had no right to be jealous, but she was. She didn't look at him, because she didn't want him to know for sure just how vulnerable she still was.

"You must like her if you're willing to have her stay at the ranch," she said. "Why do you keep plaguing me to come and play chaperone?"

His pale green eyes met hers. "I don't want her in my bed. Is that blunt enough?"

She flushed. It wasn't the sort of remark he was in the habit of making to her. They never discussed intimate things at all.

"You still blush like a virgin," he said quietly.

Her eyes flashed. "And you're the one man in the world who has reason to know that I'm not!" she said in a harsh, bitter undertone.

His expression wasn't very readable. He averted his eyes to the carpet. After a minute he finished his drink. He reached through the banister to put the glass on the hall table beyond it.

She pulled her skirt aside as he reached past her. For an instant, his deeply tanned face was on an unnerving level with hers. She could see the tiny mole at the corner of his mouth, the faint dimple in his firm chin. His upper lip was thinner than the lower one, and she remembered with sorrow how those hard lips felt on her mouth. She'd grieved for him for so long. She'd never been able to stop loving him, despite the pain he'd caused her, despite his suspicions, his antagonism. She wondered sometimes if it would ever stop.

He turned sideways on the step, leaning back against the banister to cross his long legs in front of him. His boots were immaculate, as was the white silk shirt under his open dinner jacket. But, then, he made the most casual clothes look elegant. He was elegant.

"Why don't you get married?" he asked suddenly.

Her eyebrows went up. "Why should I?"

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