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Diamond bay, p.14

Diamond Bay, page 14

 

Diamond Bay
 


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  She turned and walked away from him, going into the bathroom and closing the door; it was the one place in the house where he wouldn’t follow. She sat down on the rim of the tub, shaking; she had wondered occasionally what it would be like if he slipped the tight rein of his control, but she hadn’t wanted to find out like that. She had wanted him to lose control when he kissed her, touched her. Wanted him to shake with need and desire and bury his face against her. She hadn’t wanted him to lose control in anger, hadn’t wanted to hear what he really thought of her efforts to help. She had been terrified all along of doing something wrong that might jeopardize him; she had agonized over every decision, and he had dismissed her from the start as a bumbling amateur. She knew she didn’t have his knowledge or expertise, but she had done the best she could.

  It was doubly painful after the way he had kissed her and touched her, but now she remembered that even then he had retained his steely control. It had been she who trembled and yearned, not him. He hadn’t even lied to her; he’d told her plainly that it was nothing more to him than casual sex.

  Taking a deep breath, Rachel gathered herself together. Since she was in the bathroom she might as well shower now; that would give her straight, heavy hair time to dry naturally and she wouldn’t have to do anything to it except give it lift and curve with the curling iron. She might be going out with Tod Ellis with all the enthusiasm of attending an execution, but she wouldn’t let him think that she looked on it as anything other than a real date, and that meant taking pains with her appearance.

  She stripped off and got in the shower, briskly shampooing her hair and bathing, not allowing herself the luxury of brooding. Self-pity wouldn’t accomplish anything except wasting time, time that would be better spent considering how to conduct herself that night, how to be friendly without being encouraging. The last thing she wanted was for Ellis to ask her out again! If he did, she’d have to make up some excuse. She’d told Agent Lowell she was making a trip to the Keys; it had been pure fabrication, but perhaps she could use the lie as an excuse for packing, planning and so on.

  She turned off the water and dragged a towel off the top of the shower door, then wrapped it around her head. Just as she started to slide the door open and step out of the tub she caught sight of Kell’s blurred image through the frosted door, and she jerked her hand back from the door as if it had burned her.

  “Get out of here,” she breathed sharply, snatching the towel off her head and wrapping it around her body, instead. The frosted surface of the doors gave her some protection, but if she could see him, he could see just as much of her. Knowing that he had watched her bathe made her feel terribly vulnerable. How long had he been there?

  She saw his hand reaching out, and she moved back against the shower wall as he slid the door open on its track. “You didn’t answer when I called you,” he said curtly. “I wanted to make certain you were okay.”

  Rachel lifted her chin. “That’s not much of an excuse. As soon as you saw I was taking a shower, you should have left.”

  His eyes raked over her, from her wet, tangled hair to her glistening shoulders and down to her slim, bare legs, which had rivulets of water running down them. The towel covered her from breast to thigh, but it would take only a tug to bare her completely, and his black, searching eyes had a way of making her feel even more exposed than she was.

  “I’m sorry,” he said abruptly, finally lifting his gaze to her face. “I didn’t intend to imply that you haven’t been a help.”

  “You didn’t imply any such thing,” Rachel returned, her voice sharp. “You came right out and said it.” She felt both insulted and hurt, and she wasn’t in the mood to forgive him. After what he had said, he had a lot of nerve to stand there eyeing her the way he was doing!

  Suddenly he moved, hooking his right arm around her waist and lifting her out of the tub. Rachel gasped, clutching at him for balance. “Watch out! Your shoulder—”

  He stood her on the fuzzy bath mat, his face hard and unreadable as he looked down at her, his right arm still locked around her waist. “I don’t want you going out with him,” he finally rasped. “Damn it, Rachel, I don’t want you taking any risks on my account!”

  The towel was slipping, and Rachel grabbed for the ends to anchor it more securely. “Why can’t you give me any credit for being an adult, able to accept responsibility for my own actions?” she cried. “You told me Tod Ellis is a traitor, and I believe you. Don’t you think I have a moral responsibility to do what I can to stop him and to help you? I think the situation is critical enough to warrant the risk! It’s my decision, not yours.”

  “You never should have been involved.”

  “Why not? You said yourself that you’ll have to have help. You’ve sent other people into dangerous situations, haven’t you?”

  “They were trained agents,” he snapped, goaded. “And, damn it to hell, I never lay awake at night burning to make love to any of them.”

  She fell silent, her eyes wide as they searched his. His expression gave away nothing but anger and a faintly startled look, as if he hadn’t meant to say that. The arm around her waist had her arched against him, though she had wedged her arm between their bodies in an effort to hold the towel. Only her toes touched the mat. Her thighs were inside his slightly spread legs, his growing hardness nestled against the soft mound at the top of her thighs.

  They said nothing, both of them very aware of what was happening. Their chests expanded and fell rapidly as their breathing quickened, and Rachel’s knees grew weak as she felt him grow stronger and bolder.

  “I’d kill him before I let him touch you,” he muttered, the words wrenched from him.

  She shuddered at the thought. “I wouldn’t let him. Never.” Staring up at him, she shuddered again, as if she’d been struck between the eyes. Tod Ellis had made her realize anew how much danger stalked Kell’s heels. She wasn’t guaranteed three weeks with him; she wasn’t guaranteed tomorrow, or even tonight. For men such as Kell Sabin there was no tomorrow, only the present; it was the brutal truth that he could be killed, that tragedy and terror could strike without warning. She had already learned that lesson once; how could she have been so stupid as to forget? She had wanted things to be perfect, wanted him to feel as she felt, but life was never perfect. It had to be taken as it was, or it passed by without a second glance. All she had with Kell was right now, the eternal present, because the past is always gone and the future never comes.

  His hands were flexing on her flesh, his fingers kneading her as if he were barely able to restrain himself from doing more. His face was rock hard as he stared down at her, his voice raw when he spoke. “I let you back away in the kitchen. By God, I don’t think I can do it again. Not now.”

  Rachel’s breath left her lungs at the look in his midnight eyes, the hard, almost cruel look of savage arousal. The skin was pulled tight over his high, prominent cheekbones, and his jaw and mouth were set. Her heart gave a sudden leap as she realized that he meant exactly what he’d said, and fear and excitement rushed through her veins in a dizzying mixture. Control was impossible for him now, and the primitive force of his hunger was burning in his eyes.

  Her hands trembled on his chest as her entire body began quivering in reaction to the fiercely male intent that was plain on his face, the look of a predator who had scented female. Heat. Heat was rising in her body, melting her insides, turning them liquid. His hand at her back clenched the towel and pulled it free from the tuck at her bosom. It dropped to the floor in a damp heap. Naked, Rachel stood in his grasp, shaking and yearning and gasping for breath that wouldn’t seem to go deep enough.

  He looked down at her, and a low rumbling sound started in his chest, working up to the back of his throat. Rachel’s thighs turned to water, and she swayed, her throat tight, her heart pounding. Slowly he lifted his hand and touched her breasts, high and round, soft, with small, tight brown n
ipples, filling his palm with her to discover anew the warm, velvety texture of her flesh. Then, just as slowly, his hand drifted downward, smoothing over the sleek delta of her stomach and the slope of her lower abdomen, his fingers at last sliding into the dark curls of her womanhood. She hung there, shaking wildly and unable to move, paralyzed by the hot river of pleasure that followed his questing touch. One finger made a bolder foray. Her body jerked wildly, and she whimpered as he touched and teased and explored.

  His gaze lifted from the gut-wrenching contrast of his hard, sinewy hand cupping the soft, exquisitely female mound and drifted back up to her pretty breasts, then to her face. Her eyes were half closed, glazed with desire; her lips were moist and parted, her breath rushing in and out in gasps. She was a woman on the verge of complete satisfaction, and her look of sweet carnality exploded the slim hold he still had on himself. With a wild, deep sound he bent and hoisted her over his right shoulder, the blood pounding so wildly in his ears that he didn’t hear her startled cry.

  He made it to the bed in five long steps and dropped her across it, following her down, spreading her thighs and kneeling between them before she had recovered. Rachel reached for him, almost sobbing with need. He tore off his shirt and tossed it to the floor, then jerked at his pants until they were open, and he lowered himself onto her.

  Her body arched in shock as he thrust into her, and she cried out at both the moment of pinching discomfort and the jolt to her senses and flesh as he filled her. He was… oh…

  “Take it all,” he groaned, demanded, pleaded. He hung over her, his face shiny with sweat, his expression at once tortured and ecstatic. “All of me. Please.” His voice was hoarse with need. “Let yourself relax—yes. Like that. More. Please. Rachel. Rachel! You’re mine you’re mine you’re mine….”

  The rawly primitive chant washed over her, and she cried out again as he moved in and out of her, powerfully, their bodies writhing together. It had never been like this for her, so painfully intense that it was unbearable. She had never loved like this, knowing that the breath would still in her lungs and her heart stop beating in her chest if anything ever happened to him. If this was all he wanted of her, then she would give herself to him freely and fervently, branding him with the sweet burning of her own passion.

  He rolled his hips against her with a heavy surge, and it was abruptly too much for her to bear, making her senses crest and shatter. She gasped and cried out, writhing beneath him in a shimmer of pure heat that went on and on until it caught him, too. She couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe, could only feel. She felt the heavy pounding of his thrusts as he drove himself into her, then the convulsive heaving of his body in her arms. His hoarse wild cries filled her ears, then became rough moans. Slowly he stilled, became silent. His body relaxed, and his heavy weight bore down on her, but she cradled him gladly, her hands still clutching his back.

  Concern began to nudge her as sanity returned, bringing remembrance of the way he had lifted her onto his shoulder and the unrestrained wildness of his lovemaking. His head lay on her shoulder, and she twined her fingers into his coal-black hair, managing only a husky murmur as she said, “Kell? Your shoulder…are you okay?”

  He levered himself onto his right elbow and looked down at her. Her clear gray eyes were dark with concern—for him, after he’d taken her with all the care and finesse of a bull in rut! There were her soft, trembling lips, but he hadn’t kissed them, nor had he caressed her pretty breasts and sucked them as he’d done in his dreams. Love was in those eyes, love so pure and shining that it knotted his insides with pain and shattered a wall somewhere deep in his mind and soul, leaving him vulnerable in a way he’d never been before.

  Now he knew what hell was. Hell was seeing heaven, bright and tender, but being on the outside of the gates, unable to enter them without risking the destruction of what you most treasured.

  CHAPTER NINE

  “JUST WHO IS this woman Ellis has gone so mad over?” Charles asked calmly, his pale-blue eyes never wavering as he watched Lowell. As always, Charles’s manner was detached, but Lowell knew that he missed nothing.

  “She lives in a little house close to the beach. Deserted area, nothing around for miles. We questioned her when we first started looking for Sabin.”

  “And?” The voice was almost gentle.

  Lowell shrugged. “And nothing. She hadn’t seen any­thing.”

  “She must be out of the ordinary to capture Ellis’s attention.”

  After considering it a minute Lowell shook his head. “She’s good-looking, but that’s all. Nothing fancy. No makeup. Outdoorsy type. But Ellis hasn’t stopped talking about her.”

  “It seems our friend Ellis doesn’t have his mind completely on the job at hand.” The comment was deceptively casual.

  Again Lowell shrugged. “He thinks Sabin died when the boat blew up, so he’s not putting a lot of effort into hunting him.”

  “What do you think?”

  “It’s a possibility. We haven’t found any trace of him. He was wounded. Even if by a miracle he’d made it to shore, he’d have needed help.”

  Charles nodded, his eyes thoughtful as he waved Lowell away. He had worked with Lowell for many years now and knew him as a steady and competent, if uninspired, agent. He had to be competent to have survived. Lowell was no more convinced of Sabin’s survival than Ellis was, and Charles wondered if he had allowed Sabin’s reputation to override his own common sense. Common sense would certainly seem to indicate that Sabin had died in the explosion or immediately thereafter, drowning in the warm turquoise waters to become food for the denizens of the sea. No one should have survived that, but Sabin…Sabin was one of a kind, except for that blond devil with the golden eyes, who had disappeared and was rumored to be dead, despite the disquieting talk that had floated out of Costa Rica the year before. Sabin was more shadow than substance, instinctively cunning and damnably lucky. No, not lucky, Charles corrected himself. Skilled. To call Sabin “lucky” was to underestimate him, a fatal mistake too many of his colleagues had made.

  “Noelle, come here,” he called, barely raising his voice, but he didn’t need to. Noelle was never far from him. It gave him pleasure to look at her, not because she was extraordinarily beautiful, though she was, but because he enjoyed the incongruity of such lethal skill housed in such a lovely woman. Her job was twofold: to protect Charles and to kill Sabin.

  Noelle came into the room, walking with the grace of a model, her eyes sleepy and soft. “Yes?”

  He waved his thin, elegant hand to indicate a chair. “Sit, please. I have been discussing Sabin with Lowell.”

  She sat, crossing her legs to best display them. The gestures that attracted unsuspecting males came naturally to her; she had studied and practiced too long for them to be anything else by now. She smiled. “Ah, Agent Lowell. Sturdy, dependable, if a little shortsighted.”

  “Like Ellis, he seems to think we’re wasting our time in searching for Sabin.”

  She lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply, then blew smoke through her shapely lips. “It doesn’t matter what they think, does it? Only what you think.”

  “I wonder if I am bestowing superhuman powers on Sabin, if I’m so wary of him that I can’t accept his death,” Charles mused.

  Her sleepy eyes blinked. “Until we have proof of his death we can’t afford to assume otherwise. It’s been eight days. If he somehow survived, he would now be recovered enough to start moving around, which should increase our chances of finding him. The most logical thing would be to intensify our search, rather than slacken it.”

  Yes, that was indeed logical; on the other hand, if Sabin had survived the explosion and somehow made it to shore, something that seemed impossible, why hadn’t he contacted his headquarters for aid? Ellis’s contact in Washington was completely certain that Sabin hadn’t attempted to get in touch with anyone. That simple fact had convinced almost eve
ryone that Sabin was dead…yet Charles couldn’t convince himself. It was sheer instinct that prompted him to keep his men searching, waiting, poised to strike. He could not believe that it had been so easy to kill Sabin, not after all these years when attempt after attempt had failed. It was impossible to have too much respect for his capabilities. Sabin was out there, somewhere. Charles could feel it.

  He was abruptly brisk. “You’re right, of course,” he told Noelle. “We will intensify the search, re-cover every inch of ground. Somehow, somewhere, we have missed him.”

  SABIN PROWLED THE house, his savage mood reflected on his face. He’d done some hard things in his life, but none of them had been as difficult as having to watch Rachel get ready to go out with Tod Ellis. It went against every instinct he had, but nothing he’d said could change her mind, and he was helpless, handcuffed by circumstance. He couldn’t afford to do anything that would focus attention on her; it would merely increase the danger she was in. If he’d been ready to move he would have gone that night rather than expose her to Ellis, but again he was stymied. He wasn’t ready to move, and to move before he was prepared could mean the difference between success and failure, with his country’s security at stake. He’d been trained for half his lifetime to put his country first, even at the cost of his own life. Sabin could have sacrificed himself without hesitation or even regret if it had been necessary, but the simple, terrible truth was that he couldn’t sacrifice Rachel.

  He had to do whatever he could to keep her safe, even if it meant swallowing his pride and possessive instincts. She was safe enough with Ellis as long as he had no reason to suspect her of anything. To jerk her out of the house and take her away before Ellis arrived to pick her up, as Kell had badly wanted to do, would arouse the man’s suspicions. Kell knew the agent, knew that he was damned good at his job…too good, or he’d never have been able to hide his other activities for so long. He also had a good-sized ego; if Rachel stood him up it would make him furious, and he wouldn’t let it pass. He would be back.

 
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