Awaken to Pleasure - By Nalini Singh

Chapter 1
Rain slashed against the windscreen ofJackson's car wit fierce intensity. Aware of the dangers inherent in the dark winter's night, he kept the speed of his powerful car well under control, watching out for reckless pedestrians.

However, in sharp contrast to the usual Friday night crowds, there was an almost deserted air about the brightly lit centre ofAuckland. He knew it was illusionary. The revelers were there but hidden in soundproofed, weatherproofed basements and upstairs rooms, full of pumping music that drowned out the driving rain. He'd passed one such room on his way out of his studio office. It had been the site of a wrap party for a murder drama.

A reed-thin blonde had caught him leaving the building and invited him to join in. Her eyes had been frank with invitation for a much more private party. Unfortunately for her ambition, he didn't play those kinds of games, and ever since Bonnie, blondes held about as much appeal as arsenic.

After the day he'd had, all he wanted was some cognac and a hot bath.Taylorlooked like she could do with both. The poor baby was standing outside in the icy rain, waiting for a bus, her face pinched with cold. She could probably do with a hot man in bed as well but...


Standing in the pouring rain under a barely glowing streetlight, shivering and blue?

"Dio!"He screeched to a stop and then backed up, thanking God for the lack of traffic. As soon as he reached her, he leaned across and threw open the passenger door. "Get the hell in!" The weather obliged, butTaylordidn't.

The sodden woman outside made a face, as if debating whether to take his less than warm offer.

Needle-sharp rain continued to pelt her, hard and certainly painful, even through the thick wool of her pantsuit. "The bus is supposed to come any m-m-m-minute."

Her chattering teeth enragedJackson. For a second, he thought he saw fear in those big eyes of hers but it had to have been a trick of the light. He'd never met a woman less afraid of him than this bedraggled creature. "Get in here right now,Taylor."

She looked like she was going to be obstinate, but then the universe took pity on him. It started to hail.

With a tiny shriek that was undeniably feminine, she scrambled into the car and pulled the door shut. Her trembling hands immediately went to the warm air circulating from the ventilation shafts.

He turned up the heat before pulling away from the curb to make a right turn instead of going left.Taylor lived on the opposite side of the city from him. Outside, the night had become immeasurably darker, but the hailstorm petered away after a short but brutal reign.

"I'm wet ... your car..."Taylorbegan, through lips that were blue with cold.

He was furious with her. "It'll dry." A plume of water from a passing motorist momentarily blanketed the windscreen in sleet. He slowed to a crawl until the vehicle had passed, taking the chance to send a glare Taylor's way. "What the hell were you doing catching a bus at this time of night?" His voice was a lacerating whip. How dare she put herself in such a vulnerable position?

"None of your b-b-business." The sound of chattering teeth destroyed her attempt at a haughty dismissal.

"Taylor,"he warned, in a tone that he only used when his temper was on the thinnest edge, as she very well knew.

"You're not my boss anymore, so don'tTaylorme." His passenger's unrepentant stubbornness was a living being in the air around them.

Jacksonwas used to being obeyed, especially by pretty young women. Everyone loved the man who could get them onto the silver screen, though he remembered vividly thatTaylorharbored no such ambition. He also recalled the steely spine beneath that beautiful exterior. Aware that the more he demanded, the more obstinate she'd become, he tried a calmer approach. "I'm being a Good Samaritan.

Humor me."

She didn't say anything for a while but he figured that was because she was thawing out. When she finally spoke, what she revealed made his blood boil. All thoughts of calming down were consigned to the deepest hell.

"My ride wanted more than I did. I left." Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her huddling into the seat. The small sign of vulnerability tore at him. All of his protective instincts awoke fully armed.

"Did he hurt you?" His hands had turned into claws on the steering wheel.

A pause. "No."


"Don'tTaylorme!" she cried again, but her voice broke at