Lantern Lake: The Billionaires of Sanctuary Island 6 (The Billionaire Bachelors)
After all, considering Serena's luck, Mr. Hot Voice would no doubt turn out to be a hundred and five, stooped and balding, and with typically terrible British teeth. Deciding she was probably safe, Serena laughed softly at herself and unlocked the door. Standing on the library doorstep was an impeccably dressed, broad-shouldered man about seventy years younger than her projection.
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He stood straight and tall, easily topping six feet, and the amber glow of the early morning sun turned his dark hair into a thick halo of fiery auburn waves. The man smiled urbanely, showing a mouth full of perfect white teeth, and Serena bit back a sigh.
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Her first impression had been completely correct. Despite the perfectly tailored James-Bond-style trench coat, the glossy leather shoes, and the lazy way he leaned on the handle of his sturdy umbrella, there was absolutely nothing harmless about this man. This man wasn't one of her pre-K story time kids, who all called her Miss Serena in their little, piping voices.
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Serena Lightfoot. He had the good manners to raise his brows as if impressed by the title she'd insisted on when the town council voted to hire her. Maybe it was meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but it meant something to Serena. That title was an achievement — it meant all her hard work, all the loneliness, betrayal and personal sacrifice, had been worth it.
A smile twitched at the corner of the British stranger's well-shaped lips, and Serena lifted her chin. Okay, so the Sanctuary Island Public Library was tiny, a brick shoebox of a building that obviously didn't have room to house enough books to call for a fleet of librarians. But even if it was just Serena and her gaggle of part-time volunteers, she was still the Head Librarian! This wealthy-looking, extremely cultured stranger reminded Serena of how she used to feel in school when the popular kids would approach her solitary cafeteria lunch table and ask for help with their homework.
Shrugging grumpily, Serena jammed her hands into the pockets of her faded corduroy slacks. Another slight, suave, glittering smile. He held out his hand and, reluctantly, Serena took it. The touch of his smooth, strong fingers sent a jolt of heat up her arm, even in the chilly winter air. A flicker of awareness glowed in the depths of Leo Strathairn's silvery blue eyes, and he held onto her hand as he said, "Thank you for opening your doors early — I understand what an imposition this is, but I simply didn't know where else to turn.
I need a favor. Unwilling to be charmed — in her experience, charming people always wanted something from her — Serena worked her fingers free of Leo's light grasp and stepped back over the threshold and onto her home turf. Leo sauntered past her, idly swinging his umbrella, and the moment the library door closed behind them, Serena knew she'd made a huge tactical blunder.
Enclosed within the musty silence of the old library, surrounded by the row upon row of books, the sheer, solid presence of Leo Strathairn was overwhelming. He seemed to suck all the air out of the room, simply by standing there and breathing as he glanced around the stacks with an odd, indecipherable expression tightening his chiseled features.
For the space of a heartbeat, Serena simply watched him take it all in, from the high, arched casement windows that were such a pain to clean, to the colorful crayon art lining the wall behind her desk. If he made fun of this place she'd poured her heart and soul into, Serena knew she wouldn't be granting him any favors. But for the first time since she opened the door and laid eyes on him, all trace of a smile melted away from Leo's face. The sardonic glint in his eyes was overshadowed by something darker yet softer — something like yearning.
Serena caught her breath at the man's odd wistfulness as he stared at her cherished books, but when he met her gaze again, it was gone.
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Had she imagined that fleeting ache of emotion in his eyes? Those light eyes were flat silver now, completely shuttered in the glare of the buzzing overhead fluorescents.
Sanctuary is chockablock with old stuff. But I suppose it's all relative. Serena stiffened. I'm sure there are plenty of bigger, fancier libraries in your neck of the woods. I'm not much for libraries. Scowling, Serena crossed her arms over her chest. No matter how gorgeous he was, and how much that accent made her knees wobble, she couldn't be attracted to a man who didn't care about libraries, reading, and books. Leo smiled engagingly at her, and even the fact that Serena could tell he was exerting himself to be deliberately charming didn't completely negate the effect.
I've been given an assignment, you see, and I haven't the foggiest idea how to go about it. An assignment. Okay, that sounded like they were heading toward solid ground. Smoothing down her messy hair into something a little more businesslike, Serena stepped quickly around her desk and perched on her high chair. More comfortable with the width of the wooden research desk — and the metaphorical professional distance it provided — between them, she was able to return his engaging grin with a tight, cool smile of her own. Is this an assignment for work or for school?
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His rust-colored brows arched up in surprise. He seemed to be a bit obsessed with age. Funny, considering he couldn't be much older than thirty-five. A spasm of darkness flickered across his handsome face. The way he'd tilted his head down threw shadows across his sharp cheekbones and elegant jawline, and the sweep of his lashes was like a fan of cinnamon against his fair English complexion. Trying not to bristle at his casual dismissal of one of the most deeply held convictions of her life, Serena kept her voice neutral.
But I'm afraid we're too pressed for time for me to share more of them — I'll have to open the library soon, and my first appointment of the day is with a group of patrons who do not like to be kept waiting. It was absolutely true — the five-year-olds who had storytime on Tuesdays hadn't learned patience yet. They were liable to stage a riot if she wasn't ready and waiting with the next chapter of Charlotte's Web. Perhaps you know him? And until recently, the three heirs to the Harrington fortune had never set foot on Sanctuary.
Then, last summer they'd arrived one by one, each handsomer than the last, and set the town gossip machine to buzzing.
Serena wasn't a big fan of gossip, and as a relative newcomer to the island, she didn't have a ton of friends, but even she'd heard all about how the Harrington brothers had swooped in and swept three lucky ladies off their feet and into the lap of luxury. What she wouldn't give to have half an hour with a Harrington — any of them! He wants everything about their whirlwind wedding to be perfect, and of course, as his friend, I'm eager to oblige. A tiny thrill of excitement rippled over Serena.
Who didn't like a wedding? And I'm certain you'll be able to find me the perfect one. A switch clicked in Serena's head, flipping through her mental files faster than her fingers could type in the search parameters for the card catalogue.
Let me just pull up a few anthologies and poetry collections, and you can start reading through them. Were you thinking modern poetry or classical?
English or translations? City of swords. The third Caliph Staff of Judea The vanishing tribe 1. Beastly 2. Bewitching 3. The infamous rogue 2. The notorious scoundrel A forbidden love 1.
Too great a temptation 2. Too scandalous to wed 3. Too dangerous to desire 1. All night with a rogue 2. Till dawn with the devil 3. After dark with a scoundrel 4. Sunrise with a notorious Lord 5. All afternoon with a scandalous Marquess 6. Dusk with a dangerous Duke 1. Undeniable 2. Unbreakable A long, hard ride At his mercy. The Bane affair 2. The Shaughnessey accord 3. The Samms agenda 4. The beach alibi 5. The McKenzie artifact 6.
Larger than life 7.