Edge of Hunger:Primal Instinct 01

By: Rhyannon Byrd




CHAPTER ONE


There will be time, there will be time

To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet...

--T. S. Eliot

Henning, Colorado, Friday Afternoon

THE WOMAN WAS TROUBLE.

Ian Buchanan knew it the second he set eyes on her as she climbed out of a banged-up, dust-covered, dark blue rental. Knew it as he set down his hammer, watching her walk toward him, her small frame backlit by the burning orange glow of the sweltering afternoon sun while she carefully made her way through the rugged terrain of the building site.

And the first words out of that soft, pink mouth--her lips glossy and sweet looking, voice mellow with a sexy, husky little rasp to it--confirmed his suspicions.

"Mr. Buchanan, my name is Molly Stratton and I'm here because...well, I know this sounds crazy, but your mother, Elaina, asked me to come and find you."

She didn't laugh. Didn't smile. She just stared up at him with the biggest pair of brown eyes he'd ever seen. Waiting.

"Is that right?" He ignored her small outstretched hand while he pushed his sunglasses up on top of his head, picked up his Coors, and took a long swallow of the beer. The glass rim of the longneck was cool against his sweat-salted lips, the beer even cooler as it went down his dry throat in a long, icy glide. She watched him while he drank, her dark gaze snagging on the column of his throat as it worked. A soft wash of pink warmed the delicate crest of her pale, freckle-dusted cheekbones as she stared, those full lips parted the barest fraction. Something down low in Ian's belly cramped in reaction. His blood went thick.

Oh, yeah, she was trouble, all right.

Ticked at himself for reacting so easily to her, he set the bottle back down on top of his battered cooler with a distinct thud, noting from the corner of his eye the way she flinched at the harshness of the sound.

She was nervous--and obviously crazy as hell. Either that, or a pathetic little con, looking for an easy score.

"So tell me, sunshine," he drawled, injecting just the right amount of ridicule into his deep voice. "You talk to the dead often, or is today just my lucky day?"

Reaching up to hook her windblown hair behind her left ear, she held his hard gaze without so much as a flicker of those long, thick lashes rimming the deep cinnamon brown of her eyes.

"As a matter of fact, I do. How often depends on them...not me."

Ian stared at her while those strange words played through his mind. She'd stopped just a few feet away from where he stood, her gaze both shy and direct in that way that always captured a man's attention. The bristling Colorado mountain breeze played havoc with her shoulder-length, honey-blond curls, carrying a scent to his nose lost somewhere between want and need--and something hot caught fire in his blood, like a burning glow heating him from within. Even down deep, in those forgotten places where things always stayed cool and calm...and lifeless--where nothing and no one could touch him--he sensed an uncomfortable spark of awareness.

Dropping his sunglasses back down to shield his eyes, Ian picked up his hammer and went back to work, bracing the wall he'd just raised. He no longer held her gaze, but he still felt her, like a fine tension that vibrated from her body to his own, its rhythm rapid and quivering.

What the hell?

"I know it sounds...impossible," she added, "but it's true."

Yeah, sure it was.

"Don't they have medication for people like you, Miss Stratton?" he asked with a heavy dose of sarcasm, determined to ignore her...the heat...the irritating beads of sweat snaking down his spine beneath the damp cotton of his T-shirt. Not to mention the unwanted sexual hunger twisting belligerently in his gut. "What'd you do, miss a dose?"

"I'm not psychotic or delusional." She sighed, sounding tired. Weary even. "And I'm not after your money or--"

"Good," he grunted with a low laugh, his grin crooked as he glanced up at her through the dark shield of his glasses, "because I ain't got any. Would you believe I blew every cent I own on the Psychic Friends Network?"

She frowned, but determination etched the delicate angles of her face, giving her the illusion of being tough, when he knew instinctively that she was anything but. Crazy? Obviously. But there was something vulnerable and soft in her that fascinated the hell out of him.

God, he was so fucked.

"Look, I realize this seems like some kind of joke to you, but I'm not trying to scam you," she murmured, her left hand fidgeting with the bottom button of her shirt, just above the waistband of her jeans. "I really don't want your money or anything else. The only thing I'm asking is that you pay attention to what I have to tell you."

"Now see," he replied in a slow slide of words worthy of any natural-born Southerner, "the problem is that I'm too much of a bastard to pay you even that." He pointed the hammer in the direction of her car, needing her gone. Now. Before he gave in and forgot why bedding her would be such a bad idea. "So why don't you just hightail your crazy little ass out of Henning and back to wherever it is you came from."

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