Excerpt: The Black Sheep

Book 1: North Moon Bay Series

The Black Sheep by Patricia Ryan

Harley stood waist-deep in the pool and looked at Tucker, and her pure, unadorned beauty took his breath away. The water’s phosphorescent glow reflected onto her in quivering waves of light. With her gold-green eyes and sleek bronze hair, she looked like a virgin goddess emerging from the sea at midnight.

“Join me,” she said.

Her words inspired an instant physical reaction in him that took him completely by surprise. Words—such innocent words, at any rate—had never done that to him before. To cover his speechlessness, he drew on the cigarette again, then tapped it into the jar lid he held in his other hand.

He cleared his throat. ‘‘Haven’t we already had this conversation?”

She took a couple of slow-motion steps toward him in the water. “Come on. Let me see if you can swim a lap.”

“Look, Harley, I’ll save us both a lot of effort. My leg’s been destroyed. I can’t swim a lap. End of story.”

“How do you know? You haven’t tried.”

He stabbed the cigarette into the lid. “Trust me, I know what my body’s capable of.”

“You don’t have a clue what your body’s capable of if you haven’t even tried. I’d have a lot more respect for you if you tried and failed than if you didn’t even give it a shot. That’s like giving up without a fight.”

He chuckled. “No offense, but that’s a pretty lame excuse for inspiration. Your friend Eve what’s-her-name had the right idea. What did she tell those wounded vets? ‘Catch me and you can have me?’ That’s motivation.”

“Would that work with you?”

He met her eyes and smiled. “Try it and see.”

There was a pause. She looked down at the bright water for a moment, and then she looked up and said, “All right. Catch me and you can have me.”

He studied her eyes, trying to read her intent. “You’re not serious.”

Her eyebrows drew together. “I’m always serious. And I always do—”

“What you say you’re going to do,” he finished. “Yeah, but… I know. You’ve got some loophole, some way of getting out of it if I catch you. That’s exactly the kind of thing they teach you in business school.”

“No loophole,” she said. “Catch me and you can have me.”

“‘Have me,’ meaning…”

“Have me for the night.”

“For the purpose of…”

“For any purpose you want, although I’ve got a pretty good idea what that purpose will be. Even virgins aren’t that dense.”

He said, “Yeah, now that you mention that, are you sure you want to make deals like this, given your… lack of experience?”

“If it doesn’t bother you, it doesn’t bother me.”

“Why would it bother me? Down through history, men have paid top dollar for virgins. And here I’ll be getting one for the price of a lap.”

“First of all, virgins might have been some big prize once upon a time, but take it from me, they’re no longer in such hot demand.”

He allowed himself a slow smile. “Call me old-fashioned.”

“Second, what makes you think you’ll be getting me at all? By your own admission, you can’t even swim a lap.”


“Ah,” she mocked.

He sat up and used his cane to help him stand. “Yeah, but like you said, how do I really know if I haven’t tried?” He dropped the cane onto the chaise and whipped his T-shirt over his head. Tossing the shirt aside, he ran his hands through his hair, noting with amusement Harley’s nonplussed expression. “So how does this work?”

“‘This’? Oh, uh… why don’t we just do it the way Eve did with her vets? You start at the shallow end, against the wall. I start at the drop-off to the deep end. When I say, ‘Go,’ we swim one lap. If you catch me before I touch the deck at the deep end… well, then—” she shrugged and spread her arms in offering “—one virginity, yours for the taking.”

“Freestyle okay with you?”

“Whatever stroke suits your fancy.”

“Mmm-hmm.” He squatted at the edge of the pool. “You’ll have a pretty big lead on me.”

“You get to push off the wall.” she told him. “You’ll make up most of it that way.”

He grimaced, trying to picture using his bad leg to push off the wall. “Right.” Stepping out of his moccasins, he sat at the edge of the pool and lowered himself into the water. It was cold but not too bad. His baggy shorts were instantly waterlogged; they would weigh him down. He started undoing the fly. “Mind if I lose these?”

She glared at him. “Yes!”

He held up a placating hand as he rezipped with the other. “Just wanted to see you angry. For inspiration.”

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