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Diamond bay, p.22

Diamond Bay, page 22


Diamond Bay

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  “I love you,” he muttered hoarsely.

  “I know,” she whispered, and went to sleep. Sabin hung over her bed for several more minutes, memorizing every line of her face for the last time. Then he straightened, and his face settled into its usual hard, blank mask. Walking briskly from the room and down the hall to where Grant and Jane waited, he said tersely, “Let’s go.”

  RACHEL WALKED THE beach as she did every afternoon, her eyes on the sand as she automatically looked for shells. Joe roamed in front of her, periodically coming back as if to check on her, then going off on his own pursuits again. For weeks after she’d collected him from Honey, Joe had been almost paranoid about letting her out of his sight, but that stage had long passed. For Joe, it was as if the events of the summer had never happened.

  It was early in December, and she wore a light jacket to protect her from the cool wind. The fall quarter at the college in Gainesville was finished except for the final exams, but she had enough to keep her busy. She’d worked like a Trojan in the months since July, finishing her manuscript well ahead of schedule and immediately diving into another one. There had been the class to teach, and the increasing number of tourists after the slow days of broiling summer heat had kept the two souvenir shops doing a booming business, which meant she had to drive down at least twice a week, sometimes three times.

  The scar on her right side was the only reminder of what had happened in July. That, and her memories. The house had been repaired, new Sheetrock hung and painted because the damage had been too great to simply plaster over. The windows had new frames, and she had a new light fixture in the living room, as well as new furniture and new carpeting, because she’d given up hope of ever getting the glass out of the old. The house looked normal, not as if anything had ever happened that had taken weeks to repair.

  Her recovery had been uneventful, and relatively short. Within a month she had been going about her normal activities, trying to salvage some of the vegetables in the garden, which had become overgrown from neglect. Still, the pain from her wound had given her some idea of what Kell had gone through exercising his leg and shoulder to regain his mobility, and it staggered her.

  She hadn’t heard from him, not a word. Jane had stayed with her until she was released from the hospital, and had relayed the information that things had gone well in Washington. Rachel didn’t know if Jane knew more but wasn’t saying, or if that was all she’d been told. Probably the latter. Then Jane had left, too, to collect the twins and rejoin Grant at the farm. By now she would be round with pregnancy. For a time Rachel had thought she might be pregnant, too, from that last time Kell had taken her, but it had turned out to be a false alarm. Her system had simply gone awry from shock.

  She didn’t even have that. She had nothing but her memories, and they never left her alone.

  She had survived, but it was only that: survival. She had gotten through each day without finding any joy in it, though she hadn’t expected joy. At best, she would eventually find peace. Maybe.

  It was as if part of her had been torn away. Losing B.B. had been terrible, but this was worse. She had been young then, and perhaps she hadn’t been as capable of loving as deeply as she was now. Grief had matured her, had given her the depth of feeling with which she loved Kell. There wasn’t a minute of the day that she didn’t miss him, that she didn’t live with pain because he wasn’t there. She couldn’t even find out about him from Jane; no information was available on Kell Sabin, ever. He had returned to his gray world of shadows and been swallowed up by them, as if he’d never been. Something could happen to him and she would never know.

  That was the worst, the not knowing. He was there, but unreachable.

  Sometimes she wondered if she’d dreamed it, that he’d come to her in the hospital and bent over her with his heart in his eyes as she’d never seen him before and whispered that he loved her. When she had awoken again she had expected to see him, because how could a man look like that and then walk away? But he had done exactly that. He’d been gone.

  Sometimes she almost hated him. Oh, she knew all his reasons, but when she thought about it, they just didn’t seem good enough. What gave him the right to make decisions for her? He was so damn arrogant, so certain that he knew best, that she could have shaken him until his teeth rattled.

  The fact was that she had recovered from her wound, but she wasn’t recovering from losing Kell. It ate at her day and night, taking away her joy in living and extinguishing the light in her eyes.

  She wasn’t pining away—she was too proud to let herself do that—but she was merely existing in limbo, without plans or anticipation. Walking the beach, staring out at the incoming waves, Rachel faced the fact that she had to do something. She had two options: she could try to reach Kell, or she could do nothing. To simply give up, to do nothing, went against her grain. He had had time to change his mind and come back, if he’d been going to, so she had to accept that he wasn’t going to do it…not without incentive. If he wouldn’t come to her, she’d go to him.

  Just making that decision made her feel better than she had in months, more alive. She called to Joe, then turned and walked briskly up the beach toward her house.

  She had no idea how to reach him, but she had to start somewhere, so she called telephone information to get the number of the agency in Virginia. That was easy enough, though she doubted it would be that simple to get put through to Kell. She called, but the operator who answered the phone denied that anyone by that name worked there. There was no listing for him. Rachel insisted on leaving a message, anyway. If he just knew she had called, perhaps he’d call back. Maybe curiosity wouldn’t let him ignore the message.

  But days went by and he didn’t call, so Rachel tried again and received the same answer. There was no record of a Kell Sabin. She began contacting all the people she had done business with years ago when she was a reporter, asking for advice on how to get through to someone protected by the secrecy of the intelligence network. She sent messages to him through five different people, but had no way of knowing if any of them actually reached him. She continued to call, hoping that eventually the operator would get so frustrated that she’d hand the message on to someone.

  For a month she tried. Christmas came and went, as well as the New Year celebrations, but the focus of her life was on somehow contacting Kell. It took a month for her to admit that either there was no way of getting a message to him, or he’d gotten them and still hadn’t called.

  To give up again, after trying so hard, hurt almost more than she could bear. For a while she’d had hope; now she had nothing.

  She hadn’t let herself cry much; it had seemed pointless, and she had really tried to pick herself up and keep going. But that night Rachel cried as she hadn’t cried in months, lying alone in the bed she’d shared with him, aching with loneliness. She had offered him everything she had and was, and he’d walked away. The long night hours crawled by, and she lay there with her eyes wide and burning, staring at the darkness.

  When the phone rang the next morning she still hadn’t slept, and her voice was dull when she answered.

  “Rachel?” Jane asked hesitantly. “Is that you?”

  With an effort Rachel roused herself. “Yes. Hello, Jane, how are you?”

  “Round,” Jane said, summing it up in one word. “Do you feel like coming up for a visit? I warn you, I have ulterior motives. You can chase the boys while I sit with my feet up.”

  Rachel didn’t know how she could bear to see Jane and Grant so happy together, surrounded by their children, but it would have been small of her to refuse. “Yes, of course,” she forced herself to reply.

  Jane was silent, and too late Rachel remembered that nothing got by Jane. And being Jane, she went right to the heart of the matter. “It’s Kell, isn’t it?”

  Rachel’s hand tightened on the receiver, and she closed her eyes at the pain of just
hearing his name spoken. So many people had denied his existence that it stunned her for Jane to bring up the subject. She tried to speak, but her voice broke; then suddenly she was weeping again. “I’ve tried to call him,” she said brokenly. “I can’t get through. No one will even admit that they know him. Even if they’re giving him my messages, he hasn’t called.”

  “I thought he’d give in before now,” Jane mused.

  By that time Rachel had gotten herself under control again, and she apologized to Jane for crying all over her. She bit her lip, promising herself that it wouldn’t happen again. She had to accept his loss and stop mourning.

  “Look, maybe I can do something,” Jane said. “I’ll have to work on Grant. Talk to you later.”

  Rachel hung up the phone, but she didn’t let herself dwell on what Jane had said. She couldn’t. If she got her hopes up again only to have them dashed, it would destroy her.

  JANE WENT IN search of Grant, and found him in the barn, working on the tractor. It was cold, but despite the chill he was working in only his shirt sleeves, and they were rolled up to his elbows. Two chubby little boys with white-blond hair and amber eyes, snugly bundled against the chill, played at his feet. Grant had started taking them out with him, now that she was so big with pregnancy that it was hard for her to chase after two rambunctious toddlers.

  When he saw her he straightened, a wrench in his hand. Swiftly his gaze went over her, and despite her bulk a certain gleam entered his eyes.

  “How do I get in touch with Kell?” she asked, getting right to the point.

  Grant looked wary. “Why do you want to get in touch with Kell?”

  “For Rachel.”

  Consideringly, Grant eyed his wife. Kell had had his private phone number changed soon after he’d returned home, and Grant had made certain Jane hadn’t discovered it since then. It was too dangerous for her to know things like that; she had a positive genius for attracting trouble.

  “What about Rachel?”

  “I just talked to her. She was crying, and you know Rachel never cries.”

  Grant looked at her in silence, thinking. Not many women would have done what Rachel had. She and Jane weren’t ordinary women, and though they went about things differently, it was the basic truth that they were both strong women. Then he looked down at the little boys playing happily in the hay, crawling over his feet. Slowly a grin cracked his hard face. Kell was a good man; he deserved some of this happiness.

  “All right,” he said, putting the wrench aside and leaning down to scoop the twins into his arms. “Let’s go into the house. I’ll put the call through. There’s no way in hell I’m letting you get his number.”

  Jane stuck her tongue out at him, but followed him to the house with a big grin on her face.

  Grant didn’t take any chances; he made her wait in the next room while he made the call. When he heard the line ringing he called her, and she raced in to grab the receiver from his hand. It took three more rings before the phone was picked up on the other end and a deep voice said, “Sabin.”

  “Kell,” she said cheerfully. “This is Jane.”

  There was dead silence for a moment, and she stepped into the breach. “It’s about Rachel.”

  “Rachel?” His voice was guarded.

  “Rachel Jones,” Jane said, rubbing it in. “Don’t you remember her? She’s the woman in Florida—”

  “Damn it, you know I remember. Is something wrong?”

  “You need to go see her.”

  He sighed. “Look, Jane, I know you mean well, but there’s no point in talking about it. I did what I had to do.”

  “You need to go see her,” Jane repeated.

  Something in her voice got through to him, and she heard the sudden sharpness that edged into his tone. “Why? Is something wrong?”

  “She’s been trying to get in touch with you,” Jane said evasively.

  “I know. I got the messages.”

  “Then why haven’t you called her?”

  “I have my reasons.”

  He was the most stubborn, noncommittal man she’d ever met, except for Grant Sullivan; they were two of a kind. Still, even stone could be worn away by dripping water, so she didn’t give up. “You should have called her.”

  “It wouldn’t do any good,” he said sharply.

  “If you say so,” Jane returned just as sharply. “But at least Grant married me when he found out I was pregnant!” Then she slammed the phone down with a satisfying bang, and a pleased smile spread over her face.

  KELL PACED HIS office, running his hand through his black hair. Rachel was pregnant, carrying his baby. He counted the months; she would be six months along, so why had she waited so long before trying to contact him? Had something gone wrong? Was she sick? In danger of losing the child? Was something wrong with the baby?

  The worry ate at him; it was even worse than what he’d gone through every day since he’d left her in the hospital. The want and need hadn’t lessened; if anything, they had grown stronger. But every time the temptation to call her began undermining his common sense, his memory would dredge up the picture of her lying on the yard with her blood soaking her clothing, and he knew he couldn’t live if his very presence put her in that sort of danger again. He loved her more than he’d known a human being could love; he’d never loved before, but when he’d fallen, he’d gone over hard. It pervaded his bone and tissue; he was never allowed to forget even for a moment. When he slept it was with the memory of holding her in his arms, but more often he lay awake, his body hard and aching for her softness to surround him.

  He couldn’t sleep; his appetite had suffered; his temper was shot to hell. He couldn’t even have sex with other women, because the simple fact was that other women didn’t even tempt him enough to arouse him. When he closed his eyes at night he saw Rachel, with her straight dark hair and clear, lake-gray eyes, and he tasted her on his tongue. He remembered her directness, her honesty, and the games played by women who tried to attract him did nothing other than turn him off.

  She was going to have his baby.

  The messages he’d been getting had been driving him crazy, and a dozen times he’d reached for the telephone. The messages had all been the same, short and simple. “Call me. Rachel.” God, how he’d wanted to, just to hear her voice again, but now those messages took on more meaning. Had she just wanted to let him know that he was going to be a father, or was it more urgent than that? Was something wrong?

  He reached for the telephone and actually dialed the number, but slammed the receiver down before her phone could begin ringing. Sweat broke out on his forehead. He wanted to see her, to make certain that everything was all right. He wanted to see her, just once, heavy and rounded with his child, even if he was never given anything else in this life.

  IT WAS RAINING the next day when he drove down the narrow private road that led toward the beach and Rachel’s house. The sky was low and gray, sullenly pouring rain as if it would never stop. The temperature was in the forties, but that seemed almost warm after the twenties he had left behind in Virginia, and the weather report on the radio had promised clear skies and a warming trend for the next day.

  He had arranged for a flight to Jacksonville, then caught a commuter plane to Gainesville, where he rented a car. It was the first time he’d ever walked out of the office like that, but after what had happened last summer, no one questioned him. It wouldn’t have done much good if they had; once Sabin decided to move, he moved.

  He stopped the car in front of the house and got out, ducking against the rain. Joe was braced in front of the steps, snarling, and it was so much like before that a tight smile tugged at Kell’s mouth. “Joe, heel,” he said. The dog’s ears perked forward at that voice and the command, and with a small bark he bounded toward Kell, his tail actually wagging.

  “That’s quite a greeting,” Ke
ll murmured, leaning down to rub the dog’s head. “I just hope Rachel is as glad to see me.” After he’d ignored all of her messages she might well slam the door in his face. Despite the chill he felt himself starting to sweat, and his heart was slamming against his ribs. He was so close to her; she was just on the other side of that door, and he was shaking with anticipation, his loins hardening. Damn, that was just what he needed.

  He was getting soaked, so he sprinted across the yard and leaped onto the porch with one bound, disdaining the steps. He knocked on the frame of the screen door, then impatiently did it again, harder.

  “Just a minute.”

  He closed his eyes at her voice, then heard her footsteps approaching the door, and opened them again, not wanting to miss even a second of looking at her. She opened the door, and they faced each other silently through the screen. Her lips moved, but no sound emerged. He tried to see her through the screen, but there were no lights on in the living room, and the dim, gray day didn’t help much. All he could really see was the pale oval of her face.

  “May I come in?” he finally asked quietly.

  Without a word she pushed the screen door open and moved back for him to enter. He stepped inside, closed the wooden door behind him and reached to flip the light switch, flooding the room with light. She stood before him, small and fragile and very slim. She was wearing tight jeans and a baggy black sweatshirt; her hair was longer and pulled back from her face on each side with two big tortoiseshell clips. She was pale, her face strained.

  “You’re not pregnant,” he said in a tight voice. Had she lost the baby?

  She swallowed, then shook her head. “No. I’d hoped I would be, but it didn’t happen.”

  Her voice, so low and well remembered, made him shudder inside with pleasure, but her words brought him up short. “You haven’t been pregnant?”

  Now she looked confused. “No.”

  His fists knotted. He didn’t know which was worse, the realization that Jane had lied to him, or disappointment that Rachel wasn’t pregnant, after all. “Jane told me you were pregnant,” he ground out, then abruptly remembered her exact words, and a bark of laughter burst out even through his anger. “Hell, no, she didn’t. What she said was ‘At least Grant married me when he found out I was pregnant!’” he told her, mimicking Jane. “Then she hung up on me. She’s so slick that I didn’t catch it until now.”

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