On the edge, p.1
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       On the Edge, p.1

           Jayne Ann Krentz
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On the Edge


  On the Edge

  Contributors:

  Jayne Ann Krentz

  Stella Ann Cameron

  Mel Curtis

  Melinda Curtis

  Copyright © 2015 by:

  Sweet Christmas Kisses

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

  This book was built at IndieWrites.com. Visit us on Facebook.

  160526.184835

  Introduction

  Bestselling authors Jayne Ann Krentz, Stella Cameron, and Mel Curtis bring together three romance novels in one boxed set. From a sultry island, the steamy bayou, and the heat of Hollywood – you’ll be taken on romantic journeys you won’t soon forget.

  Coral Kiss by New York Times Bestselling Author Jayne Ann Krentz

  As far as Amy Slater was concerned, she and the mysterious Jed Glaze had the perfect relationship...they were good friends. Amy needed someone who wasn't demanding and Jed needed someone who wouldn't ask questions when he disappeared for weeks at a time. It worked, until...

  Amy and Jed jet off to an island paradise to uncover the source of Amy's crippling nightmares. Together they will reveal the island's secrets and their true feelings for each other.

  French Quarter by New York Times Bestselling Author Stella Cameron

  The shocking death of her employer and patron Errol Petrie, the excesses suggested by the murder scene, and the investigation that is sure to follow are just some of the pieces of Celina Payne's nightmare. And the last man she trusts is now the only man she needs.

  Errol's business partner and friend Jack Charbonnet, is powerful, enigmatic, and not about to let Celina hide from the truth. Somebody in New Orleans' French Quarter killed Errol and Celina Payne tops the list of suspects. Jack's past is as mysterious as the sultry bayou. He is said to be too dangerous to know, and deadly if crossed. Jack holds the key to Celina's deliverance or her destruction...

  Blue Rules by USA Today Bestselling Author Mel Curtis

  Blue Rule has enjoyed his Hollywood bachelor lifestyle. Until now. Some of his ex-girlfriends have banded together for revenge. Is getting real with a reality show and producer Maddy Polk his redemption? Or will it send his exes over the edge?

  A Coral Kiss

  Jayne Ann Krentz

  Copyright

  Copyright © 1987 by Jayne Ann Krentz

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

  Chapter 1

  He had no right to make the phone call and he knew it. But he had dialed the number, so it was too late to hang up, even if he managed to convince himself he should. She was supposed to be a friend and tonight he needed a friend.

  With a grim concentration necessitated by the pain pills he had been gulping for the past several hours, Jed leaned his head against the gleaming payphone, closed his eyes and listened to the ringing on the other end of the line. He couldn’t remember feeling this bad before in his life. He hurt, he was exhausted and his mind wasn’t functioning anywhere near its normal level of awareness.

  Everything around him seemed to be annoying. He couldn’t tune out the inconsequential. The constant background noise of the L.A. airport terminal was grating against all his senses. He couldn’t seem to think straight because of the way the silly chatter of travelers, the roar of engines and the smell of hot dogs and fuel was sinking into his nervous system. Jed knew the pain pills probably amplified the uncomfortable effect, but the knowledge didn’t help. He tried to concentrate more intently on listening to the phone—one ring, two rings, three. Maybe she wasn’t home. Christ, for all he knew, she was with another man.

  Not tonight, he thought as he gripped the receiver a little more tightly in an effort to steady himself. Don’t let there be anyone else there tonight.

  He sought reassurance by reminding himself that Amy hadn’t seemed interested in any other man during the three months Jed had known her. Not that she was all that interested in him, Jed told himself wryly—except, of course, as a friend. He found himself praying she hadn’t turned up any other friends during the few weeks he had been gone.

  She answered the phone in the middle of the fourth ring. Jed felt relief wash through him with a more comforting effect than his little white pills had had. He wondered why he had been so worried. Amy was always at home at night. Lately, when he was on assignment, Jed had found himself taking an obscure kind of comfort in that knowledge. He could close his eyes at any time and picture her sitting home alone in the evenings, perhaps curled up on the old couch in her front room with an album from her collection of early rock music on the stereo.

  “Amy? It’s Jed.”

  “Jed! Good grief, it’s almost midnight. Where are you? Are you home?”

  He heard the bright welcome in her clear, warm voice. Sometimes Jed thought it was Amy’s voice he started thinking about first when he was headed home. He lifted his lashes with an effort and found himself eyeball-to-eyeball with the reassuring symbol of AT&T. Some things, at least, were constant in the universe—Amy’s voice and AT&T.

  “I’m in L.A. My plane gets into Monterey in an hour and a half.” His fingers tightened on the receiver. “Amy, I hate to ask, but can you meet me?”

  “Meet you?”

  Maybe she was with another man there. Jed shook off the sudden, tight anger that materialized out of nowhere. The pain pills again, he told himself. He had no right allowing himself to react to the possibility of Amy being with another man. He had no claim on her, just as she had no claim on him. They were friends. Their friendship might be odd, and unlike any he had ever had before in his life, but it was still a friendship. That was all Amy seemed to want.

  “Amy, if you’re busy…” He let the sentence trail into nowhere, unwilling to let her off the hook completely unless he was forced to do so. He wanted her at the airport—no, needed her there. He had to get home tonight and he was almost certain he couldn’t drive. The pills, pain and exhaustion were hitting him too hard.

  “No, Jed, I’m not busy. I can meet you. Hang on a second while I grab a pen.” She was back in an instant. “Okay. Give me the flight number.”

  “Flight number,” Jed repeated a little helplessly. “Yeah, just a second.” Of course there was a flight number. What the hell was the matter with him? His brain had apparently shut down. He groped for the ticket envelope in his shirt pocket. He stared at the three digit number for a few seconds before it made sense. Then, very carefully, he read it aloud to her.

  With relief, he now realized that the surprise he had at first heard in her voice wasn’t a prelude to refusing to meet him. Amy was really surprised at being asked to meet him. Her reaction was perfectly understandable, he thought. At no time during the past three months had he asked her to meet him at the airport. He had always rented a car and driven back to Caliph’s Bay from Monterey. His homecoming routine was just that: routine. He rarely violated his own rituals. When a man reached the point where he didn’t pay much attention to his past or his future, he found himself dependent on his own little rules.

  “All right, Jed, I’ve got it. I’ll be there.”

  “Thanks, Amy. I’ll see you in a while.”

  There was a small pause before her clear, warm voice asked hesitantly, “Jed? Is anything wrong?”

  Jed looked down at the cane he was gripping in his left hand. He didn’t feel like attempting casual explanations over the phone. He would work them up on the flight to Monterey. He was good at doing that sort of
thing. Every man was blessed with one or two talents, and inventing convincing explanations was his. “No, nothing’s wrong. I just thought it might be tough to get a rental car at this hour of the night. Drive carefully. Amy.”

  After they had said good-bye, Jed hung up the phone. Then, gathering his strength with an effort of sheer willpower, he pushed himself away from the phone and, using his cane to brace himself, made his way back to the flight lounge. Halfway there, he saw the flower cart. Something clicked in his fogged brain.

  He had formed the small habit of presenting her with flowers when he returned from his trips. He did it partly as a thank you for the questions she never asked and partly as an apology for the answers he never offered. Another ritual.

  Jed made his way over to the cart and bought a handful of yellow roses, so perfect they looked almost plastic. They weren’t really Amy’s kind of flower; there was nothing plastic about her. But he didn’t have much choice. He cradled them carefully as he finished the trek to the waiting lounge.

  He almost went to sleep waiting for the boarding call. When it came, he roused himself enough to follow the other passengers on board. A few minutes later, seatbelt fastened and with the yellow roses stowed alongside his thigh, he did go to sleep. But not before he had a last, anticipatory image of Amelia Slater waiting for him in Monterey.

  She would be easy to spot in the crowd, if there was one at this hour of the night, Jed thought. She wasn’t particularly tall and she wasn’t particularly lovely. Taken separately, there was nothing unusually inviting about her intelligent, near-green eyes, shoulder-length, golden brown hair and soft mouth. Jed knew she was the sort of woman other women said could be attractive if she just bothered to wear a little makeup. Amy seldom bothered. Her body was slender, small on top and invitingly lush below the waist, but certainly not possessed of thoroughbred elegance or pin-up voluptuousness. Yet somehow, to Jed, her beauty was so vivid, she reminded him of one of the covers of the science fiction books she wrote—all bright hues, a promise of excitement and a barely controlled nervous energy.

  The fantasy of tapping into that feminine energy in bed had been plaguing Jed with increasing frequency.

  Tonight the fantasy was stronger than ever, in spite of the effect of the pain pills, or perhaps because of it. Ever since he had met Amy Slater, Jed had found himself letting her structure the odd relationship that had begun developing between them. What Amy had chosen to build was a delicate web of companionship, a loose friendship from which the sexual element was plainly missing. On the handful of occasions they had spent together during the past three months, Amy had seemed satisfied with the situation. Jed was wondering how much longer he could tolerate it. But the last thing he had wanted to do was push her.

  But he had another reason for allowing the relationship to continue as it was, he reminded himself. The last thing he needed was a clinging woman who would begin to question his frequent, extended absences, his lack of plans for the future and his reasons for having reached his mid-thirties without having married. Once a man started sleeping with a woman on a regular basis, the woman usually felt she had a right to ask questions about things like that.

  Jed told himself he didn’t need questions—or a woman who asked them—in his life. Amy would be easy to handle as long as she didn’t probe. Unfortunately, he was beginning to crave her in a way that could no longer tolerate simple friendship. Sooner or later the situation was going to explode. Jed wasn’t at all sure what the results would be when it did.

  His last conscious thought before he let himself be taken by sleep was a vague curiosity about Amy’s reaction when she saw him limp off the plane. When he had left almost a month before, he had had no cane and no injuries to explain. Even a woman who normally never asked awkward questions was bound to wonder what had happened. He ought to get to work on the cover story he planned to tell her.

  The perfect yellow roses took the full shock of Jed’s not inconsiderable weight when he finally let himself sag against the left side of the seat. The flowers went down without a struggle, their plastic perfection crumpling into a squashed yellow mess.

  For a few minutes after she hung up the phone, Amy sat staring out her window at the night darkened sea. Jed’s call had taken her by surprise. When the phone had rung, she had assumed her father was calling to remind her yet again that he and her mother were expecting her for her semiannual visit to the island. She had put it off long enough. It had been nearly eight months since she had visited them on Orleana. In years past she had eagerly looked forward to going out to the Pacific island every six months. Belatedly she realized it was much too late for a call from the island.

  But she had been taken completely off guard when she heard Jed’s voice. Jed, who never called while he was away. The first she usually knew of his return from a trip was when he showed up on her doorstep carrying flowers.

  A heavy fog crouched over tiny Caliph’s Bay tonight, otherwise she might have been able to see the lights of Pacific Grove and Monterey in the distance. It was a good half hour’s drive to the airport, but with the fog she had better allow more time.

  Not once during the past three months had Jed ever asked her to meet him at the airport when he returned from one of his consulting trips. But then, Jed never imposed, never made demands. He was content to take whatever she offered. The arrangement suited Amy perfectly.

  But tonight he had broken his own, unspoken rules. He had asked a favor.

  Amy shook off the odd sense of anxiety that had gripped her the instant she had heard his voice. She got to her feet and headed toward the bedroom to dress.

  Following the advice in one of the many books on insomnia that she had bought during the past few months, she had been going through an elaborate routine in preparation for bed. With the usual optimism of such self-help approaches, the author of the book had suggested that the body and mind must relearn the anticipation of sleep. The theory was that a concentration on the repetitive, nightly ritual of undressing, tooth brushing, face washing, and the rest was one approach to reacquainting oneself with an expectation of sleep. It sounded as plausible as anything Amy had tried lately, and heaven knew she had tried a variety of techniques. She had just put on a high-necked, long-sleeved flannel nightgown when the phone had rung a few minutes ago. So much for this evening’s little ritual of anticipation.

  No loss, she told herself in resignation as she quickly put on a pair of black jeans, a bright yellow shirt and a knitted orange vest. The odds were against her having gotten much sleep tonight, anyway. She rarely got a good night’s sleep lately, no matter how many books she read on the subject. No book could cure her underlying problem. No book could wipe out the memories of what had happened eight months ago on Orleana shortly before her twenty-seventh birthday.

  She had been right about the drive to the airport, Amy realized some time later as she eased her compact car out of the drive and onto the narrow, two-lane highway. The fog was not impenetrable, but navigating it definitely required concentration and care.

  Amy gave most of her attention to her driving, but a part of her mind couldn’t stop wondering about the reason she was on the road at this hour of the night in the first place. She wondered if Jed would offer any explanation for his unusual behavior. She doubted it. And even if she had been inclined to ask, Jed was not the sort of man a woman nagged. Amy was proud of the way she never asked questions, offered suggestions or otherwise tried to impose her will on him. And Jed seemed to appreciate her circumspection. She sensed deep down that Jedidiah Glaze had his own secrets, just as she had hers, but she didn’t want to examine that conclusion too closely. A part of her suspected that one of the reasons she never asked any questions was because she didn’t want to hear the answers.

  Jedidiah. Amy let his full name ripple through her mind. It was a good name for him. The first time she’d met him Amy had decided immediately that Jed could have been the reincarnation of an old-style fire-and-brimstone preacher. Not one of
the new soft, sleek media conmen who dominated the religious airways, but a rock-hard, unrelenting Calvinist from the old school or the Old West. A man with big, strong hands and a face carved from unyielding stone. One of those men who could look you in the eye and make you believe in hell.

  She had quickly realized that Jed Glaze had little interest in religion, but the initial impression hadn’t vanished. The blunt, hard lines of his face were well suited to the equally blunt, hard lines of his body. He was somewhere in his mid-thirties, but his hazel eyes seemed to have seen at least an extra generation’s worth of the world. On some level, Amy knew, Jed’s cool, watchful gaze had been what initially attracted her to him. But the easygoing quality of their relationship was what held her. She had discovered Jed was good at relaxed friendships. And she needed someone who was content not to make demands.

  Still, she found the thought of any kind of relationship with Jed Glaze odd. Amy knew that under normal circumstances she would never have gotten involved with him. He was not really the gentle, honest, and straightforward kind of man she had once sought. He wasn’t the kind of male a woman knew instinctively could be domesticated, the kind who would make a good husband and father. Amy knew that even though he was good at projecting whatever facade seemed suitable to the occasion, there was an underlying darkness in him that would have threatened, even repelled her eight months before. But she was no longer living under “normal circumstances.”

  The simple truth was that Amy was not the same person she had been eight months before. For some strange reason the change in her left her open to viewing Jed Glaze in a different manner than she once would have done. On some level, the hardness and darkness in him actually appealed to her now. Perhaps, she thought, she subconsciously longed to have some of that dangerous internal strength for herself.

 

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