The Seductress [Song of the Sirens 1]
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by Morgan Ashbury
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: Pamela Singer is rumored to have built a career out of loving and then leaving rich men, but not before she gets her hands on a good chunk of their change first. Enter Dylan Pierce, the stepbrother of one of the men in her wake. Dylan blames Pamela for his stepbrother's fall from the family's graces. Determined to punish her for her crimes, Dylan is deeply pleased when he realizes that Pamela is falling in love with him. The only problem: he's falling in love with her, too. [Erotic Contemporary Romance: Contains graphic sexual content and adult language.]
eBook Publisher: Siren-BookStrand, Inc./Siren, 2008 2008
eBookwise Release Date: November 2008
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [286 KB]
Reading time: 164-230 min.
* * * *
In life we were The Sirens, exiled by the gods of Olympus to a rocky island, there to lure men to their end. Now in death we finally have the chance to be heard. Yes, it is true we did not at first raise the alarm when Persephone was taken by Hades. She asked us to say nothing, for love had drawn her to the lord of the underworld. When she did not return, we searched for her, but to no avail. We could not follow where she had been taken. And Demeter, in her anger, condemned us.
Here, as there, we stand united. We are sisters, we three, of the heart if not of the blood. And we face three sisters, for surely the Moerae are that, though I doubt there is a single heart among them.
We have won this audience to plead our case, but I already know the outcome. How this can be so, I do not understand. In life I had no gift of sight, though it had been said my grandmother could hear the call of the oracle. Beside me, Ligeia trembles, even as Thelxiope holds as still as marble. And I, Peisinoe, mourn for those mortal women as yet unborn, those three we will become again and again throughout the millennia, waiting for the curse we are about to receive to be broken. I acknowledge the irony in my heart, for once more gods decide and the innocent are powerless against them. And so we will be bound, century upon century, until we succeed in winning the hearts of men who believe we have betrayed them.
Three women. Three destinies. One fate. * * * *
"I don't get it."
The words held such a note of puzzlement, Pamela Singer smiled even as she turned to look at the man who'd spoken them.
The expression of confusion on his face matched perfectly the tone of his voice. He stood taller than her five-foot-seven frame, with black hair long enough to brush his collar. His eyes, an electric blue, drew her gaze almost hypnotically. The gods must have given him that chiselled visage, that classic male beauty. She tried very hard not to notice how good-looking he was. Neither did she acknowledge to herself--overmuch--that something about him put a hum in her bloodstream. Because looking at him was far more pleasing than it should be, she turned her attention instead to the painting he was studying.
The piece, entitled "Dawn Hybrid," was one the Langdon Gallery in Philadelphia had only recently acquired. Considered a fine example of the Minimalist style and painted in the early nineteen seventies, the painting had been purchased from a private collector. Judging by the way the gallery had showcased the piece, they considered it the cornerstone of their Twentieth Century American collection.
The man turned to her, and Pamela tried in vain to lasso her hormones. Gazing at him in profile had been thrill enough. Seeing him eye-to-eye was almost too much.
"I just don't get it," he said again. "This isn't art. It's ... lines on a canvas. This could have been turned out by any third-grader in any school in the country."
Normally, Pamela's love of art would cause her hackles to rise at the sound of such heresy. But for some reason, that sentiment from this man, looking truly confused and adorable as he expressed it didn't incite her ire at all. Laughing softly, she looked at the painting, trying to see it through his eyes.
"Not many people are fans of the Minimalist style."
"Minimalist, is it? Usually, I agree with the concept that less is more. But in this case..."
He smiled at her, and when her heart gave a little lurch, Pamela knew she was in deep trouble. Just when she thought she couldn't sink any farther, a look of chagrin crossed his face.
"Um ... I didn't just insult you or anything, did I?"
Before she could answer, he continued on. "Hell, of course I did. Sorry. My mother spent a lot of time taking me through art galleries, and so I understand more than most that art is in the eye of the beholder. Dylan Pierce." He held out his hand.
Looking from his now-hopeful expression to his outstretched hand, Pamela knew that she was completely captivated. You would think that after what happened with Dmitri, I'd know better. With a sense of inevitability, she accepted the handshake.
"You really didn't offend me, though I should have been. Pamela Singer."
"I think you're just being generous."
He flashed another smile and then turned his attention back to the art. "I don't hate art, really. I just don't understand it. My idea of what defines art is probably old-fashioned. You know, fruit in a bowl, portraits, that sort of thing."
"What about Impressionism?"
"Is that where it almost looks like real things but the edges are fuzzed?"
Pamela had never heard the style described in quite that way before. She couldn't hold back her laugh. "Yes, that would be it."
He tilted his head to one side and shot her a look she thought should belong to a little boy trying to worm some treat.
"You have a nice laugh." As if realizing that was perhaps too personal an observation, he broke eye contact, looked back at the painting for a moment, then turned back to her. "Mother tried her best to educate me, but for reasons unknown, my brain refused to absorb details or acquire appreciation. All I really know about art is that I like what I like. And this unfortunately is not it."
"That's fair enough. But I have to ask you, that being the case, what are you doing here?"
"We made a large donation to the Langdon to finance this exhibit. As an executive vice president, it was my duty to come and see it."
Pamela tilted her head, something she knew she did when trying to recall details. "You're with the Carstairs Hotel Group?"
"I am. Rather unavoidable since my paternal grandmother is Eugenia Carstairs."
This meant, Pamela reflected, that he came from money, and lots of it. "I'd heard your grandmother retired recently to some place exotic ... the Mediterranean, was it?"
"Gran doesn't know the meaning of the word retirement."
There was a wealth of affection in his voice, and Pamela felt her heart melt a little more. This was dangerous. All she had to do was look back a few short months to know just how dangerous letting down her guard could be. She'd opened her heart to Dmitri Andropolis, fallen completely under his spell. That transformation hadn't happened in just a few minutes in an art gallery, either, but had developed over several weeks.
She was still smarting from his fit of temper, although the bruises had long since faded. No man, not even any of her former foster fathers, had ever hit her before.
Pamela was no one's victim. She'd turned her back and walked away from Dmitri, despite the fact she'd been in love with him. He'd tried to apologize, of course, but after a few weeks had finally understood there would be no second chance from her.
She brought her attention back to the present. Dylan seemed different than any man she'd ever met. The information he'd given as to his identity had been done without airs, as a normal part of the conversation. Any man whose voice softened at the mention of his mother and grandmother was, she decided, a man worth getting to know a bit better. Who knew, he might make a good friend.
She had her sisters, of course, but few other friends at the moment. The only question was could she keep him in that position?
"I think that's wonderful," she said now in response to his comment about his grandmother. "Too many people think the elderly should just ... go sit in a rocking chair somewhere."
Dylan chuckled. "I'm trying to picture Gran in a rocker. Nope, the picture just won't form. She still walks five miles every day. I hope I'm that agile when I'm in my eighties."
"Haven't you heard? Sixty is the new forty. At least that was one of the headlines flashing on my ISP's home page this morning."
"That seems about right. Listen, I really do feel bad about my insensitive comments with regard to this..." He seemed at a loss for words as he looked at the painting again. Pamela laughed, and it felt good.
"Let's just call it a painting. And there's no need to apologize, really."
"Well, rats. I was hoping to tempt you into joining me for a cup of coffee in the restaurant here. For which I would pay, of course, as a token of my ... um ... remorse."
"I bet you get your way a lot when you use that puppy-dog look."
Dylan's laugh, soft, low, and natural did interesting things to her heart rate.
"Busted. Ms. Singer, may I please buy you a cup of coffee?"
Well, hell. Even without the cute, little boy-slash-sad puppy face, he got to her. Pamela did want to spend just a little bit more time in this intriguing man's company. He made her laugh, and she could always use more laughter in her life.
He wasn't the type of man she usually spent her time with. For one thing, he didn't wear that sheen of polish and sophistication that covered some of the nouveau riche, and the old money types, too. His nose wasn't in the air, and not a speck of arrogance was in sight. Dressed in Levis and a collared shirt, he wore the casual attire with the ease of familiarity and comfort.
She'd bet he didn't have a sterling silver money clip to his name.
He was close to her own age, whereas most of the men who'd engaged her interest and intellect over the last few years had been decades older.
She imagined a shrink would have a field day with that admission.
In short, Dylan seemed to be, despite his wealth, a really nice guy. What would it hurt to share a cup of coffee with a really nice guy?
"Thank you, Mr. Pierce. A cup of coffee sounds great." * * * *
Dylan could certainly see why his brother had fallen for her. Hair the color of rich chocolate framed what he could only call a sweetheart face. Her aqua eyes had startled him, and then when they focused on him, shock had turned to captivation.
Keeping his smile in place, he sent an urgent mental memo to his libido. Don't think of Pamela Singer as a woman. Think of her as a ... a what? An enemy?
The label had been an accurate one right up until she'd turned those amazing orbs on him and smiled. Hers was a smile that animated her entire face, bringing her dimples to life and sending star-like reflections to her eyes. Dylan tried to dismiss the affect she had on him as he walked with her to the elevator.
The lunch rush appeared over in the cozy restaurant on the second floor of the museum. The hostess showed them to a table next to the windows, overlooking the sculpture garden. Dylan offered lunch, but Pamela declined. When the waitress appeared, they both ordered only coffee. She returned in moments with the beverage.
"Have you been in Philadelphia long?" Pamela asked.
He had no business taking note of her full, kissable lips let alone reacting to them. The idea formed that maybe he had taken on more than he could handle with her. Focusing on her question, he decided he'd be better off to answer her truthfully, whenever he could.
"As a matter of fact, no. I missed the States, so about a week ago I flew over from London. I have friends in Philly, whom I haven't seen for a couple of years. I have to say, your city hasn't changed as much as I thought it might have." All true, as far as it went. But the more complete truth was that he only decided to come to Philadelphia after he'd discovered that Pamela was bound for here, from Paris.
"I'm afraid it's not my city. I did grow up here, but I've been living in Europe for the last few years. I'm on vacation." She gave him a little half smile that did things to his belly. Putting his chin on his hand, he tried to give the appearance of hanging on her every word and realized that there was no work at all involved in the exercise.
"But I'm rather at a crossroads," she continued on. "Not sure what I'm going to do next. I finished up my last contract. I've got offers, but I just don't know what comes next."
"Contract? For what?"
"I'm a painting conservator."
Dylan knew what that was, of course. He'd been nothing less than honest when he told Pamela that his mother had taken him around galleries all his life. The gallery his mother ran in Athens had hired a firm a couple of summers ago to restore one of their Renaissance pieces.
"That's very exacting work. Are you with one of the larger conservatories, then?"
"No, I freelance--which suits me. I can pick and choose. There's always a museum looking for someone to help them restore their treasures. And I like working alone. I like it best when it's just me and the work."
"I can see that you do." Her entire face had lit up as soon as she began to talk about her profession. "Are you a frustrated artist? Never mind. That sounded rather scurrilous."
Her laughter washed over him, a modern day Siren's song that was drawing him in. Dylan realized he was in serious trouble.
"That was a reasonable question, really. And the answer is no. Oh, I picked up charcoal and pastels a time or two in college, but I really don't have any great calling--or any great talent. No, the part that captivates me is the mystery of it all. When you begin to work with a painting, you first need to be a detective. Most of the art I've had under my hands has been worked on in the past. You need to see what has been done and look for the original artist's touch. The philosophy of art conservation has changed over the years. Now, whatever I do has to be reversible."
There it was again, a shiver of passion lacing her words. If Dylan didn't know better, he'd swear that Pamela Singer was a forthright young woman dedicated to her career. Of course, he did know better, and it was time for him to remind himself why he was there in the first place. Sharing a cup of coffee was a step in the right direction, but it was only a step. If he had any hope of carrying out his plan, he'd have to go a lot farther down this trail than a cup of coffee.
"So you're on vacation. Is your dance card full? Or does a lonely hotel exec stand a chance?"
Merriment twinkled in her eyes as she copied his pose of moments before. Palm supporting her chin, she scrutinized him for a time before asking, "Stand a chance at what?"
He sat forward and pitched his voice low. "I was thinking dinner, maybe dancing, maybe a walk along the river."
"Those sound like fun activities. You should have a good time."
"They are and I will. But I'd have an even better time if you came with me."
She was nearly laughing now, and Dylan found her humor infectious. He gave in to the urge and chuckled.
"Ms. Singer, would you have dinner with me tonight?"
The humor left her face, and he wondered what serious turn her thoughts had taken. His heart tripped and his breath caught when he thought she was going to say no.
"I can't tonight. But I'm free tomorrow night."
Dylan told himself the relief he was feeling was entirely due to his plans falling into place and had nothing whatsoever to do with the prospect of spending tomorrow evening in the company of a beautiful and appealing woman.
He would be a fool if his motivation was the latter and not the former. Beautiful and appealing Pamela Singer may very well be, but she was also something else.
She was the woman who had broken his brother's heart and ruined his reputation.