Excerpt from Tempt Me with Kisses
Harmony expected the music at the reception honoring the three members of the Land Commission to be exceptionally beautiful and the gaiety of the dancing to reflect the lively spirit of San Francisco. Anticipating a fabulously entertain evening, she wore her pale gold gown that brought out the reddish highlights in her hair, and also the golden flecks in her eyes, making them appear more amber than brown.
The musicians did provide a variety of inviting dance tunes, but her uncle insisted she stand with her cousin Carrie beside him in the reception line. Her smile grew increasingly strained as a seemingly endless queue of San Francisco's finest citizens filed by. Anxious to dance, she leaned forward slightly to look past Carrie to judge how many more people were left to meet.
To her immense delight, the dark-haired man who'd provided such provocative fantasies was fast approaching. Looking forward to her end of the line, his gaze locked with hers, and after a brief moment of uncertainty, he recognized her and broke into the insolent grin she had found so charming on the docks. When he at last took her hand and brought it to his lips, he winked at her. His eyes were as deep a brown as bittersweet chocolate, and framed with a thick fringe of long, ebony lashes that would have appeared feminine on a less masculine man.
"How do you do, Miss Russell?" he asked in a seductive baritone that was as warm as a caress.
Up close, he was even more attractive than Harmony had imagined. He was also several years older, in his thirties rather than his twenties has she had assumed from the thickness of his hair and trimness of his physique. While she had always enjoyed receiving attention from men, she had never experienced such a heady wave of desire at the touch of a man's hand. It wasn't only her cheeks that felt the heat of a bright blush. Completely captivated by him, she would have stared into his dark eyes all evening had Carrie not given her an insistent nudge, signaling it was time for her to present the next guest. Harmony was then embarrassed to admit that she had been so enchanted by the man who still held her hand, that she had missed his name.
"I'm so sorry," she explained in a breathless rush. "I didn't hear your name."
"Dr. Daniel Aragon," he repeated, accenting the second syllable of both names and revealing his Spanish heritage.
"You're a physician?" Harmony's golden brown eyes widened in surprise.
"Yes, I am, but I hope you'll never have need of my services."
The teasing sparkle lighting his dark eyes said that just the opposite was true. It appeared he enjoyed flirting as greatly as she, and he gave her gloved hand a fond squeeze before moving on into the ballroom.
Harmony suddenly remembered that their ship, the Spanish Dancer, had been part of the Aragon line. "Did we just meet the man who owns our ship?"
The awe in Harmony's voice carried to her uncle, who laughed before answering her question. "Yes, my dear, but because his family also owns a large land grant upon which I shall have to rule, you'll not be able to cultivate his friendship."
Harmony swallowed a shriek of frustration at that warning, but she knew how to behave as a lady, if she had to.
Daniel's attorney caught up with him before he reached the bar. "Have you taken leave of your senses? What possessed you to flirt with a commissioner's niece?"
Daniel opened his mouth to reply, and then realized there was no logical way to justify his behavior. "That was stupid of me, wasn't it?" he asked with a lazy grin, and he was the first man to ask Harmony to dance.