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Authors: Diana Palmer

Man of ice

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Ice Man: Dawson Rutherford, our 100th Silhouette hero!

His scheme: Plan a mock engagement to help secure the land he so desperately needed.

Only one woman had the power to drive this seemingly heartless cowboy wild, and now he needed her to pose as his bride-to-be! A tempestuous night long ago had forced Dawson to abandon all hope of making Barrie his lawfully wedded wife, but there was not telling what sharing a spread with this hot-blooded woman would do to the man of ice…

DIANAPALMER

Man of Ice

Also available from Diana Palmer

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CONTENTS

Prologue

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Prologue

DAWSONRutherford hesitated on the front steps of the Mercer home. As the butler held the carved wooden door open for him to enter, he was only absently aware of music and voices and the clink of ice in glasses. He couldn’t remember ever feeling so unsure of himself. Would she welcome him? He smiled with cold mockery. When had Barrie Bell, his stepsister, ever welcomed his presence in recent years? She’d loved him once. But he’d killed her feelings for him, as he’d fought to kill all the violent emotions she inspired in him since her mother had married his father.

He pushed a big, lean hand through his short, wavy gold hair, only barely disrupting its neatness. His pale green eyes were thoughtful as he stood there, elegant and dramatically handsome, drawing the gaze of women. But he had eyes for none of them. They called him the “ice man.” And it wasn’t because he came from a cold country.

Through the open door he could see her on the steps, her long, wavy black hair curling down her bare shoulders, sparkling in a silver dress. He was all she had left since both their parents had died, but she avoided him. He couldn’t blame her, now that he knew at last about the other casualty of his turbulent relationship with Barrie; one that he’d only just found out about recently.

He hesitated to go in there, to see her again, to talk to her. They’d argued at their last meeting over the same issue he was going to bring up now. But this time he needed it as an excuse to get her back to Sheridan, Wyoming. He had to undo five years of pain and heartache, to make up to her for what she’d endured. In order to do that he was going to have to face some private demons of his own, as well as the fear he’d taught her to feel. He didn’t look forward to it, but it was time to erase the past and start over. If they could…

One

THEREwas a cardinal rule that people who gave parties never invited both Barrie Bell and her stepbrother, Dawson Rutherford, to the same social event. Since the two of them didn’t have a lot of mutual friends, and they lived in different states, it wasn’t often broken. But every rule had an exception, and tonight, Barrie discovered, was it.

She hadn’t really wanted to go out, but Martha and John Mercer, old friends of the Rutherfords who’d taken a interest in Barrie since their move to Tucson, insisted that she needed a diversion. She wasn’t teaching this summer, after all, and the part-time job that kept her bank account healthy had just ended abruptly. Barrie needed cheering up and Martha was giving a party that was guaranteed to accomplish it.

Actually it had. Barrie felt brighter than she had in some months. She was sequestered on the steps of the staircase in the hall with two admirers, one who was a bank executive and the other who played guitar with a jazz band. She was wearing a dress guaranteed to raise blood pressures, silver and clinging from its diamanté straps at her lightly tanned shoulders to her ankles, with a long, seductive slit up one side of the skirt. The color of her high heels matched the dress. She wore her long, wavy black hair loose, so that it reached almost to her waist. In her creamy-complexioned, oval face, bright green eyes shone with a happy glitter.

That was, theyhadbeen shining until she saw Dawson Rutherford come in the front door. Her sophisticated chatter had died abruptly and she withdrew into a shell, looking vulnerable and hunted.

Her two companions didn’t connect her stepbrother’s entrance with Barrie’s sudden change. Not, at least, until a few minutes later when he spotted her in the hall and, excusing himself to his hostess, came to find her with a drink in his hand.

Dawson was more than a match for any man present, physically. Some of them were spectacularly handsome, but Dawson was more so. He had wavy blond hair, cut conventionally short, a deep tan, chiseled, perfect facial features and deep-set pale green eyes at least two shades lighter than Barrie’s. He was tall and slender, but there were powerful muscles in that lithe body, which was kept fit from hours in the saddle. Dawson was a multimillionaire, yet being the boss didn’t keep him from helping out on the many ranches he owned. It was nothing unusual to find him cutting out calves for branding on the Wyoming ranches, or helping to drive cattle across the spinifex plains of the several-thousand-square-mile station in Australia’s Channel Country. He spent his leisure hours, which were very few, working with his Thoroughbred horses on the headquarters ranch in Sheridan, Wyoming, when he wasn’t buying and selling cattle all over the country.

He was an elegant man, from his hand-tooled leather boots to the expensive slacks and white silk turtleneck shirt he wore with a designer jacket. Everything about him, from his Rolex to the diamond horseshoe ring on his right hand, screamed wealth. And with the elegant good looks, there was a cold, calculating intelligence. Dawson spoke French and Spanish fluently, and he had a degree in business.

Barrie’s two companions seemed to shrink when he appeared beside them, a drink cradled in one big, lean hand. He didn’t drink often, and never to excess. He was the sort of man who never liked to lose control in any way. She’d seen him lose it just once. Perhaps that was why he hated her so, because she was the only one who ever had.

“Well, well, what was Martha thinking, I wonder, that rules were made to be broken?” Dawson asked her, his deep voice like velvet even though it carried above the noise.

“Martha invited me. She didn’t invite you,” Barrie said coldly. “I’m sure it was John. He’s laughing,” she added, her gaze going to Martha’s husband across the room.

Dawson followed her glance to his host and raised his glass. The shorter man raised his in acknowledgment and, catching Barrie’s furious glare, turned quickly away.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me?” Dawson continued, unabashed, his eyes going now to the two men beside her.

“Oh, this is Ted and that’s…what was your name?” she somewhat abruptly asked the second man.

“Bill,” he replied.

“This is my…stepbrother, Dawson Rutherford,” she continued.

Bill grinned and extended his hand. It was ignored, although Dawson nodded curtly in acknowledgment. The younger man cleared his throat and smiled sheepishly at Barrie, brandishing his glass. “Uh, I need a refill,” he said quickly, because Dawson’s eyes were narrowing and there was a distinct glitter in them.

“Me, too,” Ted added and, grinning apologetically at Barrie, took off.

Barrie glared after them. “Craven cowards,” she muttered.

“Does it take two men at once to keep you happy these days?” Dawson asked contemptuously. His cold gaze ran down her dress to the low neckline that displayed her pretty breasts to their best advantage.

She felt naked. She wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing clothing this revealing around Dawson normally. Only the fact that he’d come to the party unbeknownst to her gave him the opportunity to see her in this camouflage she adopted. But she wasn’t going to spoil her sophisticated image by letting him know that his intent regard disturbed her. “There’s safety in numbers,” she replied with a cool smile. “How are you, Dawson?”

“How do I look?” he countered.

“Prosperous,” she replied. She didn’t say anything else. Dawson had come to her apartment only a few months ago, trying to get her back to Sheridan to play chaperone to Leslie Holton, a widow and former actress who had a piece of land Dawson wanted. She’d refused and an argument had resulted, which led to them not speaking at all. She’d thought Dawson would never seek her out again after it. But here he was. And she could imagine that the widow was still in hot pursuit of him—or so her best friend Antonia Hayes Long had told her recently.

He took a sip of his drink, but his eyes never left her face. “Corlie changes your bed every other day, hoping.”

Corlie was the housekeeper at Dawson’s Sheridan home. She and her husband, Rodge, had been in residence since long before Barrie’s mother had married Dawson’s father. They were two of her favorite people and she missed them. But not enough to go back, even for a visit. “I don’t belong in Sheridan,” she said firmly. “Tucson is home, now.”

“You don’t have a home any more than I do,” he shot back, his voice cold. “Our parents are dead. All we have left is each other.”

“Then I have nothing,” she said harshly, letting her eyes speak for her.

“You’d like to think so, wouldn’t you?” he demanded with a cold smile. And because the flat statement wounded him, he added deliberately, “Well, I hope you’re not still eating your heart out for me, baby.”

The accusation made her feel even more vulnerable. Her hands clenched in her lap. In the old days, Dawson had known too well how she felt about him. It was a weapon he’d used against her. She glared at him. “I wouldn’t waste my heart on you. And don’t call me baby!”

His eyes narrowed on her face and dropped to her mouth, lingering there. “I don’t use endearments, Barrie,” he reminded her. “Not in normal conversation. And we both remember the last time I used that one, don’t we?”

She wanted to crawl under the stairs and die. Her eyes closed. Memories assailed her. Dawson’s deep voice, husky with feeling and need and desire, whispering her name with each movement of his powerful body against hers, whispering, “Baby! Oh, God, baby, baby…!”

She made a hoarse sound and tried to get away, but he was too close. He sat down on the step below hers and settled back on his elbow, so that his arm imprisoned her between himself and the banister.

“Don’t run,” he chided. “You’re a big girl now. It’s all right to have sex with a man, Barrie. You won’t go to hell for it. Surely you know that by now, with your record.”

She looked at him with fear and humiliation. “My record?” she whispered.

“How many men have you had? Can’t you remember?”

Her eyes stared straight into his. She didn’t flinch, although she felt like it. “I can remember, Dawson,” she said with a forced smile. “I’ve had one. Only one.” She actually shivered.

Her reaction took some of the antagonism out of him. He just stared at her, his pale eyes unusually watchful.