Diamond bay, p.16
Diamond Bay, page 16
That would be the mysterious “Charles.” Sabin had known who had to be behind things from the moment he had recognized the red-haired woman, Noelle, on the boat. He had known it would be only a matter of time until they locked horns again. Charles was the head of an international terrorist organization that had been growing bolder and more challenging, while at the same time Charles himself had kept at a safe distance, protected by a web of technicalities and politics. Now he had come out into the open, to get Sabin. But he’d made one big mistake: his first attempt hadn’t succeeded, and now Sabin knew that his own organization had been infiltrated. Charles couldn’t afford to stop the search until Sabin was found, dead or alive.
When Kell didn’t ask any questions Rachel shrugged and went into the bathroom to take off her makeup and change into her nightgown. His silence was unnerving; he probably used it as a weapon, to shake people off-balance and put them on the defensive. Well, she wasn’t one of his minions; she was a woman who loved him.
Five minutes later she left the bathroom, her clothing draped over her arm. Sabin was sitting on the side of the bed, taking off his shoes. He kept his eyes on her while she hung her things in the closet, not looking away even when he stood to unzip his jeans.
“The nightgown is a waste of time,” he drawled. “You might as well pull it off and put it back in that drawer.”
Startled, Rachel looked around at him. He was standing by the bed, his hands on the fly of his jeans, and he was watching her with the concentrated attention with which a cat watches a mouse. The air around her suddenly sizzled with tension, and her throat went dry, forcing her to swallow. Slowly he slid down the zipper on his jeans, the denim spreading open in a vee to reveal bronzed skin and the vertical line of downy hair that arrowed down his lower abdomen into the thicker growth of hair just visible in his opened pants. The thick bulge beneath the denim clearly demonstrated his intention.
Her body leaped into immediate response, her heart beating faster and her breath racing in and out of her lungs. It had been like that from the beginning, and she had no more control over it now than she’d had then. He wanted her; that was more than obvious. But he didn’t want to want her, and the knowledge hurt.
She swallowed again, pushing the closet door shut and leaning against it. “It’s silly,” she said, trying for a wry tone but failing miserably. Her voice was taut and shaking. “After this afternoon you’d think I’d be more comfortable about going to bed with you, but I’m not. I don’t know what…what we have, if anything. I thought it would be clearer, but it isn’t. What do you want from me?” She made a brief, dismissive gesture. “Other than sex.”
Silently Kell swore. He was so good at holding people away from him that now, when he desperately wanted Rachel as close as he could get her for what time they had left, she still thought he was pushing her away. They had so little time together that the thought of not grabbing for every moment with her was unbearable, and he didn’t know how to make her see that. Perhaps it was better if she didn’t see it; perhaps it would be easier for her if she never knew how tempted he was to forget all his rules and priorities. But he had to have her, had to stockpile memories against the empty days in the future when she wouldn’t be there. Even now she wasn’t playing games, wasn’t trying to hide behind lies to protect her pride. She was so honest that she deserved at least a fraction of the same honesty from him, no matter how it hurt. But the pain wasn’t only hers.
He looked at her and said, “Everything. That’s what I want. But I can’t have it.”
She quivered, and tears welled in her eyes. “You know you can have anything you want. All you have to do is reach out and take it.”
Slowly he walked up to her and put his hand on her shoulder, sliding his fingers under the strap of her nightgown and stroking his rough fingertips over her warm, satiny skin. “At the risk of your life?” he asked in a low voice. “No. I couldn’t live with that.”
“You make it sound like a concrete fact that anyone close to you is a target. Other agents—”
“Other agents aren’t me,” he interrupted quietly, his black eyes level on hers. “There are several renegade governments and terrorist groups that have a bounty on my head. Do you think I’d ask any woman to share that sort of life with me?”
She managed to smile through her tears. “Don’t try to tell me you live like a monk. I know there have been women—”
“No one close. No one special. No one who could be used or threatened in an attempt to get at me. I’ve tried it, honey. I was married, years ago before it got as bad as it is now. She was wounded in an attempt on my life. Being a smart woman, she got the hell away from me as fast as she could.”
Not so smart, Rachel thought. She knew that she never would have let that drive her away from him. Her throat was so tight that she was almost choking on her words as she stared up at him, the tears finally overflowing and rolling down her cheeks. “It would be worth it, to be with you,” she whispered. “I’d take the chance.”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “I won’t let you. I won’t take the chance, not with your life.” With one thumb he rubbed away the tears tracking her face.
“Isn’t that my decision to make?”
He moved both his hands up to cup her face, sliding his fingers into her thick straight hair and tilting her face closer to his. “Not when you don’t have any real idea of the danger involved. You pulled a little stint as an investigative reporter, and you notice more than is good for you, but you’re as innocent as a baby when it comes to knowing what my work is really like. There are agents who live fairly normal lives, but I’m not one of them. I’m one of a very small minority. My existence isn’t even admitted publicly.”
She had gone pale, her face very still. “I know more about the risks involved than you think.”
“No. You know the movie versions, the cleaned up, romanticized, glamorized crap.”
Rachel suddenly jerked her head away from his touch, her hands clenched into fists. “You think so?” she rasped, her voice rough with pain. “My husband was killed by a car bomb meant for me. There was nothing cleaned up, romanticized, or glamorous about that. He died in my place! Ask me what I know about someone else paying the price for a risk I chose to take!” Tears began falling again, and she dashed them away, glaring fiercely at him. “Damn you, Kell Sabin! Do you think I want to love you? But at least I’m willing to take the chance, rather than run away from it the way you do!”
SHE WAS CRYING, and it was like taking a punch in the gut to watch her. Rachel simply wasn’t a weepy person, and she was trying hard not to cry, but the tears kept rolling down her face as she faced him, and she kept angrily dashing them away. Slowly Kell reached out and brushed her hair away from her damp face, then eased her into his arms and pressed her head against his uninjured shoulder. “Whatever happens, I can’t risk you,” he said in a low, tortured voice.
Hearing the finality in his voice, she knew that there was no convincing him otherwise. He would go, and when he did it would be forever. Desperately she clung to him, inhaling deeply to draw the scent of him into her body, her hands trying to memorize the way it felt to touch him. All she had was this.
He tilted her chin up and bent his head then slanted his mouth over hers, the pressure hard and hungry, even a little angry, because they had so little time when forever wouldn’t suffice. She sighed and opened her mouth to his probing tongue, her fingers flexing on his muscular back, and as always there was that strong, immediate response to him that tightened her breasts and sent twinges of pleasure through her loins. He sensed it, cupping her bottom in his rough hands and lifting her into grinding contact with his own throbbing flesh while his mouth continued to take hers.
He wanted to wipe out the pain he’d seen in her eyes; he wanted to savor her, take his time with her, as he’d been unable to do that afternoon. Sabin could
She was trembling in his arms, the salty taste of her tears on his tongue. Silently he led her to the bed, leaving the light on because he wanted to see every nuance of her expression while he made love to her. He paused to push his jeans off, and Rachel watched him, her hands automatically lifting to her nightgown.
Quickly he stayed them. “No, leave your gown on for now.” Perhaps it would be easier for him if he couldn’t see her stretched out naked and waiting for him. He was caught in his own delicious dilemma, wanting to watch her as he made love to her, as he made her ready to receive him, yet knowing that the sight of her naked body would push him closer to the edge than he wanted to be right now. Just thinking about her was torture enough. His loins were heavy and throbbing, his all-too-accurate memory reminding him just how it had felt to be sheathed inside her.
“Why?” Rachel asked huskily when they were lying on the bed and he was leaning over her with an expression on his face that would have frightened her if she hadn’t trusted him completely.
He smoothed his hand over her breasts, the motion deliberately slow as the thin cotton slid across her nipples, bringing them to tingling prominence. “Why the gown?” he clarified.
It was hard to talk when her breath kept catching. “Yes.”
“Because I’m inciting myself to riot.”
No, it was she who was being incited, tantalized. Everywhere his lightly trailing fingers went they left behind a delicious tingle as her aroused nerve endings pleaded for more. Sometimes he merely brushed her with his fingertips, while at others he stroked her with the flat of his palm, the contact almost hard. And he kissed her: her mouth, her ears, the line of her jaw, the arch of her throat, the exquisitely tender hollow above her collarbones. Finally her breasts knew the warm, moist pressure of his mouth and the probing of his tongue. It was all the more maddening because he didn’t remove her gown; even when his mouth closed hotly on her extended nipple and sucked at it with a strength that made her cry out, it was with the thin barrier of cotton between his mouth and her flesh. In frustration she tried to unbutton the two buttons that closed the top of the gown, to give him access to her bareness, but he stopped her and captured her hands, pinning them to the pillow above her head and anchoring them there with his strong right hand.
“Kell!” she protested, writhing to escape, but he was incredibly strong, despite his half-healed wounds, and she couldn’t wrest herself free. “You’ve got a cruel streak in you!”
“No,” he murmured against her breast, licking her nipple through the wet fabric. “I only want to make you feel good. Don’t you like this?”
There was no way she could deny it; he could easily read the signs of arousal in her body. “Yes,” she admitted, panting. “But I want to touch you, too. Let me—”
“Umm, not yet. You make me feel too much like a teenager, ready to go off like a Fourth of July rocket. I’m going to make it good for you this time.”
“It was good before,” she said, and moaned as his left hand trailed down to the juncture of her thighs, rubbing delicately. Rachel’s breath caught, and her hips lifted blindly to his hand.
“I was too rough, too fast. I hurt you.”
She couldn’t deny it, but the discomfort hadn’t been unexpected, and pleasure had swiftly followed. She started to tell him that, but the words were strangled in her throat. The gown had been pushed between her legs by his exploring hand, stretched tightly across her femininity. With one finger he probed the soft cleft, found and stroked her most sensitive flesh. Rachel’s body jolted with pleasure, and a low whimper came from her throat.
His touch was firm but tender, with just the right amount of pressure. Slowly her head rolled back and forth on the pillow between the frame of her arms, and her back arched. If he had tantalized her before, this was torture, the sweetest torture imaginable. Hot coils wound inside her, heat spreading throughout her body until she was flushed and damp. Her breasts were so tight that they ached. Kell knew exactly when she couldn’t stand it any longer and bent to suck strongly at her nubbed flesh, wringing another soft, wild sound from her throat.
Then his hand was on her bare thigh, under the nightgown, and the relief of feeling skin on skin was so intense that she jerked again.
“Easy,” he breathed, and she held herself as still as she could while his warm, hard hand slowly moved upward, stroking her thigh. Her legs were parted already, in aching need, and she strained toward him.
His palm barely brushed her, then moved to her other thigh and stroked until she thought she would go mad. “You just wait!” she both threatened and promised, hissing the words through her tightly clenched teeth.
He laughed aloud, a low, rough sound of masculine triumph. Dimly she realized that it was the first time she’d heard him laugh. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said, his voice strained. He was hot and damp, too, his eyes glittering with barely controlled passion, his face taut, with hectic color on his cheekbones and his lips. “Are you ready, love? Let me see.” He touched her, and then the light, teasing touches ceased completely. He parted her soft flesh and slid two long fingers into her. Rachel gave a thin, high cry, her hips heaving as she trembled on the verge of ecstasy.
“Not yet,” he breathed. “Not yet. Hold on, honey. I’m not going to let you go just yet. Not until I’m inside you.”
His low, rough words washed over her shaking, twisting body. Crying a little, tormented by those long, probing fingers as he brought her to moist readiness, she tried again to free her hands, and this time he let them go.
“Now,” he crooned, pulling the nightgown up. Rachel lifted herself up to aid in the removal of the frustrating garment, pulling it over her head herself and throwing it across the room. Kell’s face tightened even more as he stared down at her naked body, at her flushed, glowing skin. Briefly his eyes closed, and he ground his teeth together as a heavy surge in his loins threatened his self-control.
Carefully he rolled to his back, favoring his shoulder, and guided her astride him. “Slow and easy,” he muttered, his eyes glittering like black fire as he positioned himself for her. “Let’s go easy, a little at a time.”
“I love you,” Rachel whispered achingly, closing her eyes at the probing of his flesh against her. She braced her hands on his chest, her fingers flexing in the mat of curly hair, and slid onto him. He made a guttural sound and arched beneath her, his hands clenching on the sheet. “I love you,” she said again, and another low animal sound came from him as his control shattered and he grabbed for her hips, grinding her in a rotating motion against him.
“Rachel,” he groaned, shaking. His body was taut and straining beneath her.
She moved on him, rising, sliding, falling. Now it was her turn, and she did a primeval dance of passion, slowing whenever it seemed that her motions would take either of them past the point of no return. She was no longer so painfully empty; she was filled with him, an intense satisfaction in itself. Time became elastic, expanded, then disappeared altogether. She forgot everything but Kell, and she gave herself to him in a way she’d never known would be possible. He had become irrevocably hers when she pulled him from the surf, and she was irrevocably his, perhaps by the same power. For as long as she lived, she would be his.
She was crying again, but this time she was oblivious to the tears raining down her face. “I love you,” she choked, then abruptly she crested, surging against him while her
“LET’S DRIVE INTO town,” he said the next morning after breakfast.
She drew a deep breath, her hands stilling for a moment before she resumed washing the last plate. She handed it to him to dry, feeling the dread rising in her chest to choke her. “Why?”
“I need to make a phone call. I’m not going to do it from here.”
Her throat was so tight she could scarcely speak. “You’re going to call the man you think you can trust?”
“I know I can trust him,” Kell replied briefly. “I’m staking my life on it.” Even more than that, he was staking Rachel’s life. Yes, he trusted Sullivan completely.
“I thought you were going to wait until you had recuperated.” When she turned to look at him, her eyes were shadowed with a stark pain that twisted the knife inside him once more.
“I was, until Ellis came around again. It’ll take Sullivan a few days to check out some things for me and get things organized. I don’t want to push it any longer than that.”
“Sullivan? That’s the man?”
“But you just got your stitches out yesterday,” she protested urgently, lacing her fingers together to keep from wringing her hands. “You’re still weak, and you can’t—” She bit her lip, halting her own desperate flow of words. Arguing wouldn’t change his mind. And how could she tell him he was too weak, when he had made love to her twice during the night and woken her that morning when he slid into her again? She was both stiff and sore, and every step she took reminded her of his strength and endurance. He wasn’t at his own personal peak of strength, but even so, he was probably stronger than most men.
by Linda Howard / Romance / Mystery & Thrillers have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes