After lunch I was carrying dishes toward the kitchen but paused outside the door when I heard two male voices in conversation.

"Jane believes all that crap she writes about in her books about relationships."

It was Robbie. I went into Lurk Mode, which was becoming a reprehensible habit. I pressed anxiously near the door.

"She thinks people can be involved and not fall in love, the way they do in her books. I'd hate to see her hurt. She's very inexperienced." Robbie sounded exasperated.


Oh, no. I recognized that second voice. Robbie was talking to Marcus.

"I'm reading one of her books," Marcus continued. "I find it hard to believe Jane's as naive as you seem to think she is. I appreciate the fact you're an older brother who wants to take care of his sister. I have sisters, too, and--"

"It's got nothing to do with me being her brother. Jane hasn't had very many long-term relationships."

Marcus laughed. "If she's had even a tenth of the experiences she mentions in her books, then I don't doubt it. Long-term relationships don't seem to be a problem for her characters."

I felt a qualm at hearing that. He wouldn't expect me to live up to the exploits of my heroine, would he?

"That's what I'm trying to say," Robbie said. "About her experience, I mean." He sounded quite agitated.

I hastened to intervene lest he give away more than he had already. I pushed through the door, smiling at the two men leaning against the counter, the remains of a chicken carcass on the table nearby.

"I think we've had a very useful talk today, don't you?" I asked as I stacked the dishes in the sink. "I believe Maggie will have all the help she needs and I'm confident Marcus can handle those annoying letters."

"I plan to go talk to the clerk at the mail store today," Marcus said, finishing his beer then setting the bottle on the counter. "I didn't get there before they closed last night. We're wrapping up the extra security at the fair, so I'll have more time to handle your case."

He smiled at me. I tingled at the thought of him 'handling me'. "Excellent. I'm sure it's just a fan with an overactive imagination."

Marcus flicked a glance at Robbie, who was watching us with a rather stormy expression. "You don't leave much to the imagination in your books, Jane."

I blushed slightly. "I just try to give my audience what they want."

Marcus looked at his watch. "I'd better be going. Walk me to my car?"

I nodded eagerly, anxious to have a few moments alone with him. I was conscious of Robbie watching us as we left, working through the gauntlet of relatives as we made our way to the front door.

Sophie appeared disappointed, then Vanya leaned over and whispered something to her that caused her to brighten. Marcus must have met with Vanya's approval so that was good enough for her.

It was another warm, breezy day but the angle of light told me our summer was fast drawing to a close. Soon it would be Labor Day and we'd begin our autumnal routines. I felt a sudden pang at the thought of summer ending, but banished it when Marcus drew me toward his car. "I was hoping we'd have a few minutes alone," he said.

"I'm sorry. My family is a bit..."

"Yes, they are." He glanced back at the house then moved so a lilac bush obscured us from the sightlines of those inside. His arms went around me. "One kiss before I go?" he asked, his gaze warm and welcoming.

I twined my arms around his neck and raised my face to his. "Only one?"

His soft laugh preceded a kiss that left me weak in the knees. My whole body felt jolted by an electric current, a current that left me wanting more. When he released me, I staggered. He caressed my arm as I found my balance. "What are you doing tomorrow?" he asked, leaning over to nibble a little kiss along my jaw.

I frantically tried to remember my schedule. "I have to go to school," I murmured. "I need to do some work before classes start."

He drew me to him. I felt the hard, insistent bulge of a certain portion of his body as he pressed against me. "Maybe I'll see you there. I need to report in, after all. You're my boss." The hot look in his eyes told me exactly what kind of boss he wanted me to be.

"I think you should," I whispered as I pulled his face to mine. "I demand a lot from my employees."

He laughed. "I aim to please."