The Forbidden Twin

By: Susan Crosby


Early March

John Harlan clutched a two-carat, brilliant-cut diamond engagement ring in one hand and a Glenfiddich on the rocks in the other, his third in the past hour. Cold had settled in his bones, his heart, his soul. It probably didn’t help that he hadn’t turned on the heat or even a lamp since night fell hours ago. Only the lights of New York City through his huge picture window illuminated his living room, making a hazy silhouette of the bottle of scotch on the coffee table. What more did he need to see than that, anyway?

A few hours ago his fiancée—former fiancée—had gently placed the diamond ring in his palm. He hadn’t let go since.

John had thought he knew and understood Summer Elliott. She was goal-oriented and orderly, like him, and together they were dynamic, a power couple with great lineage and an amazing future. At twenty-nine, he was at a perfect age for marriage, and at a perfect point in his career at his advertising agency. Everything according to schedule.

She’d ended all possibility of a future together that afternoon.

He hadn’t seen it coming.

They’d dated for months, long enough to know the relationship worked. They’d gotten engaged less than three weeks ago, on Valentine’s Day, appropriately, romantically. And now, while he’d been in Chicago working with a new client this past week, she’d found herself another man—a rock star, of all people. Calm, sedate Summer Elliott, the woman whose personality matched his, had found herself a rock star.

John downed his scotch, relished the burn and was contemplating another when the doorbell rang. He didn’t move. The bell rang again. He picked up the bottle and poured, the ice from the previous drink almost melted. Knuckles rapped on the door, and a female voice called his name.

Summer? No. She wouldn’t come here.

Curious, however, he set the glass on the table and stood, taking a moment to shove his fingers through his hair and to find his balance. Although it was uncharacteristic of him to have more than a glass or two of wine in an evening, he wasn’t drunk. At least he didn’t think so, maybe just slightly off-kilter.

He opened his door and did a double take at the sight of Summer standing at the elevator ten feet away, her back to him.

“What are you doing?” he asked, squinting against the light and stepping into the hall just as the elevator pinged, indicating its arrival on the fifteenth floor, his floor.

She spun to face him but said nothing. He registered that she looked different in her short red dress, but couldn’t put his finger on exactly why. Her scintillating light auburn air caught the light, the soft, natural curl caressing her shoulders and drifting down her back. Her light green eyes were focused directly on him, her expression open and caring. Caring? Why should she care? She’d dumped him. Unceremoniously. Emotionlessly.

Which pretty much defined their relationship. Emotionless. Sexless. A partnership with a future based on a solid friendship and healthy respect for each other, if without passion. But he’d loved her and believed she’d loved him. He’d always figured the passion part would fall into place at some point, and had respected her wishes to save herself for the marriage bed.

Had she realized her mistake in breaking it off with him? Was that why she was here?

Why wasn’t she talking? She’d come to see him, after all.

“Are you here to apologize?” he asked. Did he want her to apologize?

“Made a mistake,” she said so low he could barely hear her. She walked toward him, her hand outstretched. “A big mistake.” Her fingertips grazed his chest, then she pulled back as if burned, curling her fingers into a fist that she pressed against her heart.

His gut tightened. Her touch had been light, but lethal to his equilibrium. Hope tried to shove hours of hurt out of the way. The hurt resisted giving way…until she reached out again and was suddenly kissing him—kissing the hell out of him. Caught off guard by her new, surreal level of passion, he kissed her back until she moaned, even as a cautionary voice in his head shouted at him not to forgive the woman who’d never slept with him, her fiancé, yet who’d given herself to a man she’d just met.

When she pressed her hips to his and moved against him, he was grateful he hadn’t had that fourth drink and could still think clearly enough to know what to do next. Resisting wasn’t an option, even though he’d spent months doing exactly that. Not this time, however. Not this time.

He scooped her into his arms, carried her to his bed and laid her on the comforter, deciding that the reason she looked different was that she’d come dressed to seduce him—something she’d never done before.