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Diamond bay, p.11

Diamond Bay, page 11


Diamond Bay

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  “Turn him loose and back away,” Sabin instructed.

  “Why don’t you just go back in the house while I hold him?”

  “Because I’m a prisoner as long as he doesn’t accept me. I may need to leave in a hurry, and I don’t want to have to worry about the dog.”

  Rachel crouched by Joe, her fingers buried in his fur and gently rubbing. Already Sabin was planning to leave, but, then, she had known how it would be. Slowly she released the dog and stepped back.

  “Joe, heel,” Sabin said again.

  Rachel held her breath, waiting for another violent reaction. She could see Joe shake, and his ears went back. Sabin repeated the command. For a moment the dog quivered on the verge of attack, then, abruptly, he went to Sabin’s side and took up the heeling position.

  “Sit,” Sabin said, and Joe sat.

  “Good boy, good boy.” Stiffly he moved his left arm to pat the dog’s head. For a moment Joe’s ears went back and he snarled softly, but he made no move to bite. Rachel slowly released her pent-up breath, relief making her legs wobble.

  Sabin slanted her a quick glance from his midnight eyes. “Now you come sit beside me.”

  “Just like the dog?” she quipped, sinking gratefully onto the step beside him. At her action Joe sprang up and moved to stand in front of them, his ears going back again.

  Sabin put his right arm around her shoulders and hugged her against his bare chest, carefully watching the dog. Joe didn’t like it at all; a growl began rumbling in his chest.

  “He’s jealous,” Sabin observed.

  “Or he thinks you might hurt me.” His arm around her was interfering with her breathing, and to take her mind off it she held her hand out to Joe. “It’s all right. Come here, boy. Come on.”

  Warily Joe came closer. He sniffed at Rachel’s outstretched hand, then Sabin’s knee. After a moment he dropped to the ground at their feet and put his head on his paws.

  “It’s a shame someone abused him. He’s an intelligent, expensive animal, and he isn’t old. He’s about five.”

  “That’s what Honey thinks.”

  “Have you always had a penchant for taking in strays?” he asked, and she knew he wasn’t just talking about Joe.

  “Only the interesting ones.” She could hear the tightness creeping into her voice and wondered if he could hear it, too, if he could guess what caused it. His right hand was lightly rubbing her bare arm, an innocent touch if it hadn’t been for the warm pleasure it gave her. A flash of lightning in the darkening sky made her look up, glad for an interruption.

  “It looks like there’s a chance of rain. A thunderhead passed right over us this morning and didn’t leave a drop.” Right on cue, thunder rumbled and a few fat drops of rain splashed down on them. “We’d better go in the house.”

  Sabin let her help him to his feet, but he negotiated the steps on his own. Joe got up and took shelter under the car. Just as Rachel latched the screen door thunder cracked deafeningly directly overhead, and the heavens opened to release a deluge of rain. The temperature plummeted while they stood there, the rain fresh and cool, and the wind blew a fine mist through the screen door. Laughing, Rachel shut the wooden door and locked it, then turned to find herself in Sabin’s arms.

  He didn’t say anything. He simply closed his fist in her hair and held her head back, and his mouth came down on hers. Her world shuddered, then tilted off-balance. She stood there, her hands on his bare chest, and let him have her mouth as he pleased, unable to do anything except give him what he wanted. His mouth was hard, as she had known it would be. Hungry, as she had known it would be. He kissed her with the slow, hot skill of experience, his tongue on hers, the roughness of his faint beard scraping her softer skin.

  The exquisite pleasure stunned her, and she jerked her mouth from his, her eyes wide as she stared up at him.

  His fist tightened in her hair. “Are you afraid of me?” he asked roughly.

  “No,” she whispered.

  “Then why did you pull away?”

  She couldn’t do anything but give him the truth, staring up at him in the growing darkness while the storm raged over their heads. “Because it was too much.”

  There was a storm in his black eyes, glittering and snapping with hot fire. “No,” he said. “It wasn’t enough.”


  TENSION WAS COILING tightly inside Rachel; it had been increasing as the night wore on. He hadn’t kissed her again, hadn’t touched her again, but he had watched her, and in some ways that was worse. The power of his gaze was like a physical touch, stroking and burning. She couldn’t make small talk to lessen the tension, because every time she looked up at him, he was watching her. They ate; then she turned on the television for diversion. Unfortunately the programs weren’t very diverting, and he watched her, instead, so she turned the set off again. “Do you want something to read?” she finally asked in desperation.

  He shook his head. “I’m too tired, and this damned headache is worse. I think I’ll go back to bed.”

  He did look tired, but that wasn’t surprising. He had been on his feet a lot, considering that he had just recovered full consciousness that morning. She was tired, too, the events of the day having sapped her energy. “Let me take a shower first. Then I’ll help you get settled,” she said, and he nodded in agreement.

  She hurried through her shower and pulled on her most modest nightgown, then belted a light robe around her. He was waiting in the bedroom when she left the bath, and the rest of the house was dark. “That was fast,” he said, smiling faintly. “I didn’t know a woman could get out of a bathroom in less than half an hour.”

  “Chauvinist,” she said mildly in reply, wondering if his smiles ever reached his eyes.

  He unfastened the cutoffs and let them drop, then stepped out of them and limped into the bathroom. “I’ll wash what I can reach, then call you to do the rest, all right?”

  “Yes,” she said, her throat tightening at the thought of feeling his body under her hands again. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t washed him before, but he was awake now, and he had kissed her. It was her own response to him that was making her nervous, not worrying over anything he might do. He was still too much of an invalid to make any serious advances.

  There was no need for her to sleep with him now; it would be easier on both of them if she didn’t make a big deal out of it and simply made a pallet before he came out of the bathroom. Thinking that, she took a couple of quilts from the top of the closet and unfolded them on the floor, then dragged a pillow from the bed and tossed it down. She wouldn’t need a cover; her robe would be enough.

  After twenty minutes he opened the door. “I’m ready for the reinforcements.”

  He wore only a towel knotted around his lean waist, and he was literally weaving on his feet. Rachel looked at him closely, concern driving away her nervousness. He was pale, the skin stretched tautly over his high cheekbones, but his lips were very red. “I think you’re feverish again,” she said, laying her hand against his cheek. He was too warm, but the fever wasn’t nearly as high as it had been before. Quickly she lowered the lid on the toilet and helped him to sit down, then gave him two aspirin and a glass of water before she finished washing his torso, working as fast as she could. The sooner he was in bed, the better. She should have been looking for the fever to flare again after the way he’d pushed himself that day.

  “Sorry about this,” he muttered as she dried him. “I didn’t intend to give out on you this way.”

  “You’re not Superman,” Rachel told him briskly. “Come on, let’s get you in bed.”

  She helped him to stand, and he said, “Wait.” Removing his right arm from around her shoulders, he tugged the towel loose from his waist and draped it over one of the towel racks. Totally and unconcernedly nude, he put his arm back around her shoulders and leaned on her heavily as she hel
ped him walk to the bed. Rachel didn’t know if she should laugh or get huffy with him, but in the end she decided to ignore his lack of clothing. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t seen him before, and if it didn’t bother him, it shouldn’t bother her.

  Even though he was feverish and exhausted, nothing escaped his notice. He saw the pallet at the foot of the bed, and his dark, level brows lowered as his eyes narrowed. “What’s that?”

  “My bed.”

  He looked at it, then at her. His voice was quiet. “Get that damned thing up from there and get in bed with me, where you belong.”

  She gave him a long, cool look. “You’re presuming a lot on the basis of one kiss. You’re a lot better now. I won’t need to get up with you during the night, so I don’t need to sleep with you.”

  “After sleeping with me that many times, why stop now? God knows it can’t be modesty at this stage, and sex is out of the question. Any pass I made would be false advertising, and you know it.”

  She didn’t want to laugh, didn’t want him to know that his logic seemed very…logical. It wasn’t the thought of what he might do that made her wary of sleeping with him now, but rather the knowledge of what it would mean to her to lie beside him in the night, to feel his weight and warmth in the bed next to her. She’d gotten used to sleeping alone, and it was painful to rediscover the subtle but powerful pleasure of sharing the dark hours with a man.

  He put his hand on her throat, his callused thumb rubbing the sensitive tendons running down to her shoulder and making her shiver. “There’s another reason why I want you to sleep with me.”

  She didn’t know if she wanted to hear it. That cold, lethal expression was in his eyes again, the look of a man for whom there were no illusions, who had seen the worst and not been surprised. “I’ll be right there, at the foot of the bed,” she whispered.

  “No. I want you at hand, so I’ll know exactly where you are at all times. If I have to use the knife I want to make certain you don’t accidentally get in the way.”

  She turned her head and looked at the knife, still lying there on the table beside the bed. “No one can break in without waking us.”

  “I’m not taking that chance. Get in the bed. Or we’ll both sleep on the floor.”

  He meant it, and with a sigh she gave in; there was no use in both of them being uncomfortable. “All right. Let me get my pillow.”

  His hand dropped to his side, and Rachel retrieved her pillow, tossing it into place on the bed. Gingerly he eased between the sheets, and a low groan escaped him as he lay back, putting strain on his shoulder. She turned out the light and got into bed on the opposite side, pulling the sheet up over both of them and curling up in her usual position, just as if they had done this for years, but the casual pose was completely superficial. She was tightly knotted inside; his caution was catching. She doubted that he really expected the men who were hunting him to break into the house in the middle of the night, but he prepared himself, anyway.

  The old house settled around them with comfortable squeaks and groans; in the evening silence she could hear the crickets chirping outside the window, but the familiar noises didn’t reassure her. Her thoughts roamed restlessly, trying to piece her snippets of information into a coherent picture. He was on vacation, but he’d been ambushed? Why were they trying to get rid of him? Had he learned something they wanted suppressed? She wanted to ask him, but his quiet, even breathing told her that he had already gone to sleep, worn out from the day.

  Without thinking, she reached out and put her hand on his arm. It was a purely automatic gesture, left over from the nights she had needed to be aware of his every movement.

  There was no warning, only the lightning-fast strike of his right hand as his hard fingers clamped around her wrist with a force that bruised and twisted. Rachel cried out, in fear as much as pain, every nerve in her jolted by his attack. The hand that held her wrist slackened a little, and he muttered, “Rachel?”

  “You’re hurting me!” The involuntary protest was wrung from her, and he released her completely, sitting up in the bed and swearing softly under his breath.

  Rachel rubbed her bruised wrist, staring up at the faint outline of his body against the darkness. “I think the pallet would be safer,” she finally said, trying for lightness. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to touch you. It just…happened.”

  His voice was rough. “Are you all right?”

  “Yes. My wrist is bruised, that’s all.”

  He tried to turn toward her, but his injured shoulder stopped him, and he swore again, halting the movement. “Climb over on this side, so I can sleep on my right side and hold you.”

  “I don’t need holding, thank you.” She was still feeling a little shaken by the way he’d reacted, as violently and swiftly as a snake striking. “You must have a hard time keeping bed partners.”

  “You’re the only woman I’ve slept with, in the literal sense, in years,” he snapped. “Now do you want to take your chances on startling me again, or are you going to crawl over here?”

  She got out of bed and walked around to the other side, and he slid over enough to make room for her. Without a word she lay down, turned her back to him and pulled the sheet up to cover them. In equal silence he positioned himself against her like a spoon, his thighs against the backs of hers, her bottom snuggling his loins, her back against his hard, broad chest. His right arm went under her head, and his left one curved around her waist, anchoring her in place. Rachel closed her eyes, branded by his heat and wondering how much of it was fever. She’d forgotten how it felt to lie like this with a man, to feel his strength wrapped around her like a blanket. “What if I bang against your shoulder or leg?” she whispered.

  “It’ll hurt like hell,” he replied dryly, his breath stirring her hair. “Go to sleep. Don’t worry about it.”

  How could she not worry about hurting him, when she would rather die than cause him pain? She nestled her head into the pillow, feeling the iron hard strength of his arm beneath it; her hand slid beneath the pillow and lightly closed over his wrist, a touch that she had to have now. “Good night,” she said, sinking into his warmth and letting drowsiness take over.

  Sabin lay there, feeling her softness in his arms, the female sweetness of her scent in his nostrils and the remembered taste of her on his tongue. It felt too good, and that made him wary. It had been years since he’d actually slept with anyone; he had trained to such a fine, sharp edge that he hadn’t been able to tolerate anyone close to him while he slept, including his ex-wife. Even while he’d been married he had still been essentially alone, both mentally and physically. It was odd that he could feel so comfortable now, with Rachel sleeping in his arms, as if he didn’t need to be distant with her. He was innately cautious and solitary, on guard with everyone, including his own men; that trait had saved his life more than once. Maybe it was because he was already subconsciously accustomed to sleeping with her, to touching her and being touched by her, though that light touch on his arm had startled him into a violent reaction before he could catch himself.

  For whatever reason, it felt good to hold her, to kiss her. She was a remarkably dangerous woman, because she tempted him in ways he’d never been tempted before. He thought of having sex with her. Every muscle in his body tightened, and he began to harden. Too bad he wasn’t able to roll her onto her back and do all the things to her he wanted to do, but that would have to wait. He would have her, but he’d have to be very careful that it didn’t become anything more than a good time. He couldn’t afford to let it be anything else, for both of them.

  RACHEL WOKE SLOWLY, so completely comfortable she was loath to open her eyes and start the day. She was normally an early riser, wide-awake as soon as her feet hit the floor, and she really liked the morning. But on this particular morning she had burrowed deeply into her pillow, her body warm and relaxed, and she was aware of having slept better th
an she had in years. But where was Kell? She was immediately aware that he wasn’t in the bed; her eyes popped open, and she was out of bed before the thought was even completed. The bathroom door was open, so he wasn’t in there. “Kell?” she called, hurrying out of the bedroom.

  “Out here.”

  The answering call came from the back, and she almost ran to the rear door, which was standing open. He was sitting on the steps, wearing only the denim shorts, and Joe was lying on the grass at his feet. Ebenezer Duck and his faithful flock were waddling around the backyard, peacefully hunting insects. The rain the night before had left everything so fresh it almost hurt to look at it, and now the sun lit a dark-blue sky that didn’t have a cloud in sight. It was a remarkably peaceful morning, warm and sweet.

  “How did you get out of bed without waking me?”

  Bracing his hand on the step, he pushed himself to a standing position; she noticed that he seemed to be moving more easily than he had the day before. He faced her through the screen. “You were tired after taking care of me for four days.”

  “You’re getting around better.”

  “I feel stronger, and my head isn’t hurting.” He opened the screen door and hesitated for a moment, his black eyes swiftly running down her body. It was all she could do to keep from folding her arms across her chest, but she knew that the gown she’d chosen didn’t reveal anything, so the gesture would have been futile. She probably looked a mess, with her hair uncombed, but she’d seen him at his worst, so she wasn’t going to worry about that, either.

  “I’m too used to playing mother hen,” she said, laughing a little. “When you weren’t in the bed I panicked. But since you’re all right, I’ll go get dressed and make breakfast.”

  “Don’t get dressed on my account,” he drawled, a comment she ignored as she walked away. Kell watched until she was out of sight, then slowly made his way back up the steps and inside. He latched the screen door behind him. She didn’t play games by wearing slinky nightgowns and then pretending to be embarrassed by what was revealed, but she didn’t have to. With that pink flowered nightgown and her tousled hair, she looked warm and sleepy and so damned soft a man could sink into her. That was exactly what he’d wanted to do when he awoke to find that her nightgown had ridden up during the night and he was pressed against her bare thighs, with only the thin nylon of her panties keeping him from her. He’d become so aroused that he’d had to get out of bed, to remove himself from the temptation of her body. He swore impatiently at his own physical disability, because it kept him from taking her the way he wanted to take her, hard and fast and deep.

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