Breath of Scandal by Sandra Brown


Before leaving New York, she had packed a pair of high-tech binoculars. She used them now to assess the work in progress across the street. She wanted to learn how the contractor ran his daily operation. Were safety precautions enforced? Were materials wasted? Were his crews diligent or lackadaisical?
Aimed directly across the street at the corresponding floor of her sixteenth-story room, the automatic focusing mechanism instantly brought the construction workers to within touching distance. It was lunchtime. The laborers were idly joking among themselves as they uncapped Thermoses and unwrapped sandwiches. By all appearances, it was a convivial crew, which was a good sign and a tribute to the contractor. Movement just beyond her field of vision caught her eye and she moved the binoculars a fraction.
It was him.
This one man had attracted her attention the first time she had raised the binoculars and pointed them at the unfinished building. For three days he had continued to arouse hat curiosity. Unlike the others, he wasn’t taking a lunch break. It seemed he never rested or associated with co-workers. He worked incessantly and independently, keeping his helmeted head down, his concentration focused on the business at hand.
Now while he was hunkered down consulting a set of blueprints, a sudden gust of wind blew a corn chip bag against his leg. She saw his lips move as he kicked the back toward the circle of workers. One picked up the cellophane bag and hastily stuffed it into his lunchbox.
Good for you, she thought. Keeping the work site clean was one of her prerequisites.
She had seen all she needed to see, but she was irrationally reluctant to lower the binoculars. His separatism intrigued her. His bearded face never smiled. She’d never seen him without his opaque sunglasses. He was wearing clothes similar to those he’d worn yesterday and the day before—old Levis, a faded red tank top, boots, and work gloves. His arms were sleek and well muscled, the skin baked to a dark bronze. The temperature was mild, typical of Southern California, yet through the powerful binoculars she was able to see that sweat had dampened his dense chest hair and had formed a triangle in the cloth of his top.
As she continued to watch, he removed his hardhat only long enough to rake back a maen of sun-streaked brown hair that almost reached his shoulders. Then, just as he was about to replace his hat, he turned his head and looked toward the hotel. As though she had beckoned him, he seemed to be looking straight at her window. It sent a jolt through her.
Guiltily, she dropped the binoculars and jumped away from the window, even though the glass was tinted and mirrored from the outside. He couldn’t possibly have seen her, yet she was shaken. If his stare behind the dark sunglasses was as intense as his stance, he was a man who wouldn’t appreciate being spied on.

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