by Gail Dayton
Sherry woke up from a dream of Mike's thundercloud gray eyes staring at her, swallowing her up, stripping her bare, right past her skin clear down to her soul. She was so disoriented that for a minute, she didn't realize the sharp rapping was someone knocking on a door rather than the pounding of her heart.
Where was Mike? Why wasn't he answering the door?
Sherry scooted out of bed and opened the bedroom door. Immediately she heard distant shower noises. That explained it. She pulled shorts on under her Tweety-bird sleep shirt, ran her hands through her hair so it didn't look quite so wild, and stepped out into the hallway at the exact same moment that a dripping wet Mike, clad only in a towel, stepped out of the bedroom opposite.
She stood nose to nose with his wet, naked chest. Which, she decided, meant that it was more nose to sternum. Nose to collarbone.
Water had plastered down the faint drift of hair across the center of his chest and followed the trail leading down from his navel to vanish beneath the towel he held clutched at one hip. The towel that gaped open to expose a tanned, muscular thigh and an inch or so of untanned hip. She couldn't help herself. She had to look. He was the most magnificent specimen of human male she'd ever seen.
Just then, Mike's front door opened, the door directly across the spacious living room from the hallway where they stood, and a tiny, thin, silver-haired woman danced slowly into the room. She saw Mike and Sherry standing toe-to-toe in the hallway, her eyes got big and round, and she grinned. Ear to ear.
"Oops." She covered her mouth with a hand, for all the world like a naughty child. "Don't mind me. I'm not here. Forget I ever came in." She turned and headed for the door again.
Mike swore. He started across the living room toward his mother--she could be no one else--then looked down at his state of undress, looked up at Sherry, and back at his mother. He swore again, under his breath this time.
"Don't let her leave." He ground the words through his teeth at Sherry as he vanished back into his bedroom.
"Mrs. Scott, wait." Sherry darted across the room to take the woman's arm. It was like handling a songbird, she felt so fragile.
"No, no, I'll go. Don't let me interrupt."
"You weren't interrupting a thing, Mrs. Scott." Sherry steered her back into the room and lowered her into one of the fat leather club chairs. "Except maybe Mike's shower."
"Well, darn." Mike's mother looked so disappointed that Sherry had to laugh. "I was hoping he'd brought some sweet young thing home for a little fun and frolic."
"I gave up frolicking years ago," Mike said, coming back out of the bedroom, pulling on a baby blue polo shirt as he did. Sherry held her breath until he got it down over that distracting chest and abdomen.
"You shouldn't have." Mrs. Scott shook her finger at her son. "All work and no frolic makes Micah a dull boy."
"Besides, I'm no sweet young thing," Sherry said. "I'm a homeless vagrant he found in a bar."
The look Mike shot her as he bent to kiss his mother on the cheek sent flames rushing through Sherry, center out, until she burned head to toe.
"You're not supposed to come over here without your oxygen," Mike scolded gently.
"Oh fiddle. I can walk five feet without sucking on that thing."
"Mom, we made a deal, remember?"
"Aren't you going to introduce me to your friend, the vagrant?" She smiled determinedly at Sherry, ignoring Mike.
He sighed, long and slow. The way he'd sighed at Sherry so often last night. "Mom, this is Sherry Nyland. Sherry, this is my Mom."
"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Scott." Sherry put her hand out to shake, feeling a little peculiar to be making someone's acquaintance while she was dressed for sleeping. This wasn't usually how it was done in Palm Beach. But it was interesting. Part of her adventure.
"Please, call me Clara." Mike's mother took Sherry's hand in a surprisingly strong grip and squeezed once, then used her grip to pull Sherry down into the chair beside hers. "So, what do you think of my handsome son?"
Sherry glanced at Mike, expecting some protest, but he just rolled his eyes and padded away on bare feet, sighing as he went.
"He is handsome," she agreed. "He's nice too. By the way, you make a terrific pot roast. He gave me some last night."
"Which I told you not to cook." He called from the open kitchen where he was clattering around.
"And what would you have given Sherry to eat if I hadn't?" Clara winked at Sherry and patted her hand.
Mike put his head through the open doorway. "Baloney sandwiches."
"See? Pot roast is much better."
He growled and vanished. Sherry tried to hide her laughter.
Clara didn't. "How did you two meet?"
"At La Jolie. He had to throw me out at closing."
"No, really. How did you meet?"
"I didn't throw you out," Mike said from the kitchen. "I just told you we were closing and suggested it was time to go home."
Sherry nodded, chuckling as Clara's eyes got big again.
"You mean, you really are a vagrant? I don't believe it. Not a sweet thing like you."
"Only temporarily." Sherry shrugged.
"Her father kicked her out of her house," Mike said. Ignoring Sherry's protests, he explained her situation in a few succinct sentences.
"Oh, you poor thing." Clara squeezed Sherry's hand tight. "Well, that settles it."
"What settles what?" Mike appeared in the doorway. "Anybody want breakfast?"
Sherry glanced at Clara, then back at Mike. He cooked too? "I could eat," she said.
She helped Clara stand and Mike came over to provide support on the long journey from living room to kitchen.
"Sherry has to stay here with us," Clara said.
"I can't do that," Sherry protested. "One night was more than enough."
"I don't mean here at Micah's. Unless you really want to." Clara winked at her again. "Stay with me next door. Until you can find a place of your own."
"Oh, no. I couldn't impose. Tell her, Micah. Mike."
Mike gave her a long measuring look, long enough that she started to fidget under its weight. "I think it's a good idea," he said finally.
Sherry stared at him, surprised. She had been given the distinct impression that this was a one-night-only deal. What had changed his mind?
He eased Clara down into a kitchen chair, ignoring her hands trying to slap him away.
"Stop fussing," Clara complained. "I'm not an invalid."
"Yes, you are." Mike propped his hands on his hips and looked at Sherry. "It would be a big help if I had someone to keep an eye on her while I'm at work. Someone to make sure she doesn't do things she's not supposed to do. Like sneak over to my kitchen and cook pot roast."
"Well, what am I supposed to do with myself?" Clara demanded. "Sit around and rot?"
"I need to find a job." Sherry didn't want to get into the middle of this family quarrel. "Find a place to live, that sort of thing."
"I'm short-handed just now at the club. I can give you a job there, if you're interested. Daylight hours so you can mom-sit while I'm working. She just needs company."
"Stop talking about me like I'm not here." Clara punched him on the arm, then looked at Sherry. "Stay with me. If you rent an apartment, you have to give them an application fee, and a deposit, and the first month's rent, and your firstborn child, and--"
"Hey, I'm not that bad," Mike protested. "I don't want the kid. Just first and last month's rent. And an arm or a leg. Not both."
"You manage this place too?" Sherry looked around, impressed. Mike Scott was an enterprising man.
He gave her an assessing look. "Yeah. That way the owner gives me a break on the rent so I can afford two apartments. Mom refuses to live with me."
"A man needs his space," Clara said, sounding as if she'd said it many times before. "And Sherry needs a place to live."
"Okay, okay." Sherry held up her hands, laughing. "Now I see where your son got all his stubborn."
"I need it, handling her," Mike said.
"Who's the mother here, and who is the son?" Clara retorted.
Mike set a bowl of hot cereal in front of her. "Shut up and eat your breakfast."
"I already ate." But she picked up the spoon and stirred.
Mike set two plates of scrambled eggs and toast on the table for himself and Sherry, and poured coffee.
"You see how he treats me?" Clara pointed her spoon at the eggs. "Starving me to death. Won't even let me have one measly little egg--"
"They're bad for you and you know it." Mike gestured for Sherry to sit down. "Quit complaining."
"What? And deprive myself of the last bit of entertainment left in my life?"
Sherry ate the food Mike had prepared, wallowing in the atmosphere as she listened to the affectionate bickering between Mike and his mother.
From the book Her Convenient Millionaire by Gail Dayton
Copyright © 2003 by Gail Shelton
Silhouette Desire, May 2003, ISBN: 0-373-76512-6
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
For more romance information surf to eHarlequin.com
Copyright © 2003 by Gail Shelton
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