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disappeared into the all-white kitchen. "I have no interest in the seduction
techniques you probably perfected in some sleazy commune."
    He came to the kitchen doorway and lounged against the frame with a
self-confidence that irritated her. There was a distinctly wicked gleam in the
sold and brown eyes as he smiled deliberately.
    "You seem to forget, I won’t be using the sleazy commune-style techniques.
I’m paying off a debt, and I shall endeavor to give you your money’s worth."
    "Go make your telephone calls," she ordered imperiously, running water into a
kettle for the artichokes.
    "You’ll see," he promised, turning away to obey her injunction. "You won’t be
able to resist me. After all, I’m going to be your ideal man!"
    Lacey hid her grin until he was safely out of sight. She hadn’t bargained on
working with someone who had a sense of humor. The whole project had seemed so
serious when she’d first embarked upon it. Somehow having Jed around was taking
the dangerous edge off the matter. Like the time he’d given her surfing lessons,
she recalled wryly. She’d been terrified of the high waves and the fragile
support of the board, but Jed’s easy humor and assured skill had soon made her
forget her fears. Perhaps it had only been her overactive imagination that had
gotten her into this current mess.
    Was that all it was? A case of overreaction to an essentially meaningless
conversation she’d overheard? But she was afraid to take the risk. Rick Clayton
had managed to frighten her, and she wanted out of the relationship that had
been developing between them. And she wanted out in a way that wouldn’t alert
him to the possibility that she knew more than she should about his
import-export business.
    But Jed Merlin was turning out to be a complication for which she hadn’t
bargained. Well, if nothing else, he would help take her mind off the dark
imaginings she had been prone to lately. She’d been afraid to discuss the matter
with anyone else.
    ‘The occasion calls for a glass of wine, don’t you think?" Jed demanded a few
minutes later as he wandered back into the kitchen. "Something white, dry,
reasonably assertive, and a tad fruity. Where do you store the stuff?"
    "On the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Here’s the opener." Lacey smiled
politely as she handed it to him. ‘‘Trying to impress me with your well-rounded
    "Just trying to do my job, ma’am. Just trying to do my job."
    He opened the wine with an aplomb that indicated it wasn’t a novelty for him
to handle expensive bottles of Chardonnay. But, then, why should it be? Lacey
frowned slightly as she lifted the glass he’d poured for her. Just because Jed
had opted out of upper-class opulence somewhere along the line didn’t mean he’d
never experienced it. It was confusing, she decided as she sipped the pale gold
wine. It was complicated keeping this man in his proper box. He had a way of
shuttling back and forth across the stereotypes before her very eyes. And none
of the neat categories quite fit.
    "I’m glad you didn’t carry the black decor on into the kitchen," he was
saying. His gaze roved the white-on-white, highly functional room. "At least
there’s a place to escape to when the front room gets intolerable."
    Lacey’s mouth quirked upward as she set down her wineglass and began
unwrapping the cooked, cracked crab. "Come back in six months and you won’t
recognize the place."
    "Six months?"
    "I change it every six months," she explained patiently. "My apartment is one
of my chief selling tools. I redo it frequently so that prospective clients can
get a feel for my style and for what is currently ‘in.’"
    "Isn’t it a little exhausting having to live your whole life on the wake of
whatever happens to be current?" There was a genuine note of curiosity in the
question, and Lacey found herself answering it seriously.
    "I think of it as part of my job. And there’s a

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