"Heroes Inc., Book 4"
Harlequin® BlazeTM #138
Mass Market Paperback
ISBN: 0373791429
Publisher: Harlequin Books
Pub. Date: June 2004

Chapter One

"Why is she taking off her clothes?"

Jason Parker peered through the monitor focused on the interior of the public bathroom. The security cameras allowed him to see into the restroom but not beyond the closed stall door.

Kimberly Hayward had just tossed over the door the skintight top she'd been wearing, creating an unabashed hunger in Jason to see more of her than her delectable calves and her sensuous feet. If Jason hadn't known better, he might have suspected Kimberly was taunting him, teasing him. Distracting him from his job.

But she couldn't possibly know he was watching. She couldn't know he was on an undercover mission for the Shey Group and that the US government had tagged her for surveillance. Due to 9/11 and the government's priority on topping terrorism, her case didn't warrant a high enough priority for the authorities to assign an official agent to watch her, so the Shey Group's boss, Logan Kincaid had pegged Jason for this mission. Only, Jason hadn't expected the task of watching Kimberly Hayward to be so arousing. He shifted in his seat.

For the past week, Kimberly's flirty eyes, her sassy smile and her look-at-me stride had been driving him crazy. Tonight would probably require another cold shower if he intended to get a lick of sleep.

Not for the first time this week, Jason cursed Logan Kincaid for "volunteering" him for this particular mission—which up until now required the rudimentary skills of a Peeping Tom. As much as Jason preferred fantasizing about her slender body to wondering about her motives, he couldn't help speculating over her peculiar behavior. Why wasn't she strutting down the stacks of library books in search of a good read during their stopover in Cornwall, or using the computer to email back home to the States like every other tourist? He'd like nothing better to report back to Kincaid that there was nothing unusual in Kimberly's behavior.

But no, she had to slip into the British library and remove her clothes in the lavatory. And her hidden strip tease was beating his pulse up another notch.

The library security guard stepped into the office, frowned at the screen and spoke in his crisp UK accent. "We don't allow for that sort of behavior in the loo, sir. If she's on holiday and meeting—"

"She isn't." Kimberly had come to Great Britain alone, a trait Jason found both courageous and appealing. In his experience women tended to travel in twos, either pairing up with a man or going to clubs and parties with a girlfriend. That Kimberly was visiting England alone told him she was comfortable in her own skin, quite lovely skin with her smooth southern California tan and . . . He was here on business. Get a grip. Besides, he hadn't seen her talking with anyone beyond her tour guide or fellow travelers. He doubted she was about to do something deliciously illicit in the library's lavatory.

The guard frowned. "I'll have her removed from the premises."

"Not yet. Maybe she's just changing into another outfit."

At her suspicious antics, Jason's thoughts had shifted from idle to overdrive in two seconds flat. During the past week, he'd watched Kimberly Hayward drink tea in a shimmering dress slit so high above her knee she should have been arrested. He'd watched her toned butt fill out clingy short-shorts as she took the steps two at a time at London Tower. And he'd seen her sunning on Brighton Beach in a mouth-watering bikini. Always fresh-faced and sparkly-eyed, she had an innocent look that a man of Jason's sophisticated tastes rarely saw.

After a week of secretly watching her and waiting for her to make a suspicious move, he'd come to appreciate her slanted green eyes, the angle of her jaw when her curiosity was aroused, and the pursing of her mouth every time she stopped to take a picture. She had kiss-me-lips and a cute little nose, but it was her eyes that fascinated him. Irresistible sloping emerald irises that had pitched him a curve ball.

Oh, yeah. He wanted her.

And he didn't know why. His tastes usually inclined toward voluptuous, big-haired women who wore tight clothes, too much makeup and too-much jewelry. Women who expected nothing more from him than a good-time. Jason liked experienced women, and until this week he hadn't believed that a fresh-faced, starry-eyed, just-out-of-college girl could heat his interest. But heat it she had—to a boil.

Kimberly flung her skirt over the top of the stall door.

"Look at that, mate." The security guard nodded enthusiastically despite his former utterance of disapproval.

When Jason noted the seam of his jeans pressing into his crotch, he swore. The blond, dewy-eyed California coed was getting to him. Did she wear a thong or white cotton panties? Was her bra a sexy V-cut, satin or lace? Jason's frustration rose along with his erection. He gritted his teeth and shifted his weight, again.

Until now, Kimberly had seemed a regular American tourist on a European tour. She hadn't acted suspiciously—at least not since last week when U.S. Customs had caught her going through security with rocks hidden in a padded bra. A dry run, the authorities theorized—in preparation for smuggling. Jason hadn't believed the report. In fact, he thought this entire mission a joke—until now.

When Kimberly draped a sheer white bra over the stall, he swore again end zoomed in on the garment. Small, lacy, feminine. No room for hidden rooks in that scrap of mesh. That a jewel thief of his caliber had been reduced to examining a woman's lingerie didn't sit well with Jason. But a commitment was a commitment. He might be a thief, but he was a man of his word.

Jason had promised Logan Kincaid that he would repay a favor, one large enough to keep Jason out of a jail cell. Otherwise, he never would have been here in the first place. So instead o£ drinking champagne on the French Riviera and hobnobbing with the rich and powerful while he secretly relieved wealthy women of their jewelry, Jason Parker was ogling the wide-eyed American tourist with the golden tan.

That she was standing behind a stall door in just her panties intrigued Jason enough to shove aside his annoyance at his assignment. Besides looking good enough to eat for breakfast, this strip tease was the first interesting thing Kimberly had done all week—if he didn't count her spilling tea on the Earl during a visit to Dumbroke Palace. She was an inquisitive thing too, asking her tour guide so many questions that Jason's head spun.

Two minutes passed and Kimberly pulled the clothes back into the stall. Then she opened the door and exited, fully dressed.

"0h, she's good." Jason muttered.

If he hadn't been a trained observer, if the head of the Shey Group hadn't insisted that the U.S. government considered Kimberly Hayward dangerous, Jason would never have recognized that the sexy blonde woman on a vacation tour had ditched the hottie sandals, flirty skirt and spaghetti-strapped midriff-revealing top for a navy business suit with button-down white blouse, horn-rimmed glasses, a brown wig and what he suspected was a padded bra because her chest size had expanded. She stopped in front of the mirror, wiped her pink lipstick from her mouth and straightened her wig, then with brisk steps that bespoke a woman on a quest, she strode out of the rest room.

Goodbye, carefree tourist. Hello, Madame Serious. With the boldly angled chin and the squared-to-do-battle shoulders of a somber scholar, she'd changed her entire persona. She wasn't just good, she was amazing.

While these clothes weren't as revealing as the ones she'd worn all week, she still projected an unattainable attitude that glued Jason's gaze to the monitor. In stockings, her legs looked, as they said in the UK, smashing, and the conservative jacket showed off her nipped-in waist to perfection.

However, Jason's other instincts had just kicked in, too. Suspicious instincts. Until this moment, he hadn't believed that Kimberly Hayward could possibly be the devious spy her government suspected her to be.

But just when he'd concluded that the mission the Shey Group had sent him an was a wild goose chase meant to torture his libido, his spying was paying off.

Could the sweet-faced girl with the slender body have been fooling him all week? Jason found the unexpected change in her not only unusually fascinating, but compelling. She might even have a talent that paralleled his own light-fingered touch.

And he'd bet the hefty commission that Kincaid insisted on paying him that Kimberly Hayward was shout to get herself invited into the restricted area of the Cornwall Library. But why the disguise? What was her goal?