Dying to please, p.27
Dying to Please, page 27
He would have made it last the rest of the night, if he could have. As it was he stopped whenever he felt his orgasm building, lying still until the urge subsided then slowly stroking again. All the while he was kissing her, caressing her, telling her he loved her as he coaxed her from acceptance to response. He had never concentrated on a woman before as he concentrated now on Sarah, alert for every nuance, every caught breath, every shift of her legs. He'd always been hyperaware of her when they made love, but this was even more so. He felt as if his very survival depended on loving her now, on reforging the link his suspicion had broken.
It was a long time happening, but finally her hips began to move to meet him, and her fingers dug into his shoulders. He kept his pace slow, loving the feel of her tightening around him as if she was trying to hold him inside. The pulse at the base of her throat was hammering, and her nipples were tight, flushed with color. Tension coiled in her finely honed body, lifting her to every inward thrust, her legs sliding around his and locking in that way she had of holding him in, as if she couldn't get enough of him.
Her head tilted back, a groan sounding deep in her throat.
He pushed deep, held there, and felt her begin coming. He was so close, had been on the edge for so long, that he began coming, too, as soon as he felt the first contraction around him. He tried not to thrust, tried to hold himself still and deep for her pleasure, and his own pleasure spread through him like hot melted wax.
She lay beneath him, breathing hard, and tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes to streak into the hair at her temples. “I can't believe I did that,” she choked out.
Struggling for breath, he propped on his elbow and wiped his thumb across her wet cheek. “I'd undo the day if I could,” he said hoarsely. “God, I'm so sorry. It isn't just that I'm a cop; after I was such a stupid fool trusting Shannon, I—”
“I'm not your ex-wife!” she shouted furiously, and shoved against his shoulders. “I don't give a damn what she did. Get . . . off me, damn it; your badge is scratching my stomach!”
Ah, shit. He rolled off her and flopped on his back. He was still wearing his holster, too. He guessed he was lucky she hadn't pulled his pistol and shot him.
She jackknifed to a sitting position and glared down at him, her face still wet with tears. “I'll say this for you,” she said bitterly, “you've taught me a lesson. It'll be a cold day in hell before I trust—” She stopped herself, letting her breath out in a long, weary sigh. “Oh, God. I sound just like you.”
He got up and went into the bathroom, washing and straightening, tucking his shirt into his pants. Sarah got up and came to stand beside him, unconcerned about her nakedness as she washed her face, then wiped away the results of their lovemaking. Their eyes met in the mirror.
“I love you,” he said. “That isn't going to change.”
Her shoulders slumped. “The hell of it is, I still love you, too. I just can't get past this right now.”
“I can wait.” He smoothed her hair back, stroked her cheek. “As long as it takes. But don't throw us away. Don't make any drastic decisions. Give it time, and let's see what happens.”
She stared at him in the mirror, and sighed as if in defeat. “All right. For now. I hope I wouldn't have let you make love to me if there was nothing left, so I have to think maybe there is. Just . . . give me some room, okay? Let me get some of myself back.”
He took a deep breath. He felt as if he'd won the lottery, or a stay of execution. Something.
She made a wry face. “I don't know if it's drastic, but I've already made a hasty decision. I already have another job.”
He felt blank with shock. “What? How? Here?”
“Yes, here. It's someone I'd already met, and he'd offered me the job. He was coming into the hotel this afternoon and saw me, and he made the offer again on the spot. I took it.”
“What's his name?”
“Trevor Densmore.” Her voice was weary, all her temporary energy fading fast.
He didn't remember the name. “Have I already checked him out?”
“No, his name wasn't on my list of possibles.”
“Then why take the job now, if you wouldn't consider it before?”
“It's a place to hide,” she said simply.
SARAH WOKE THE NEXT MORNING ACHING FROM HEAD TO toe. She lay in bed, trying to think of a reason why she should get up today. Though she had slept deeply, she felt as exhausted as she had when she'd gone to bed the night before. The wee-hours visit from Cahill hadn't helped, either.
She'd sent him home, afterward. He hadn't wanted to go, but she supposed he thought he'd won all the victories he was going to win that night. He did take her truck keys so that he could have it picked up and delivered to her. She suspected he'd do it himself; he was in major suck-up mode, and she didn't know if that made her happy or made her want to cry. Maybe both.
She still couldn't believe she'd let him make love to her, not with things the way they were between them. But he'd been achingly gentle, and she had so badly needed to be held. The scent of his body was warm and familiar, excitingly male; she knew all the details of that body so well, from the sandpaper texture of his jaw to the shape of his toes. She'd wanted nothing more than to curl up in his arms and find oblivion, so when he actually did take her in his arms, she caved with embarrassing speed.
He'd never before been so gentle, or so slow. She had gone to sleep with her body still tingling deep inside. But now she ached, her muscles knotting into cramps.
“Damn,” she muttered, wanting to roll over and bury her face in the pillow again. Her menstrual period had started; that's why she was cramping, why she felt so achy. It was right on time, so she shouldn't have been caught unawares, but the trauma of the day before had knocked everything else out of her mind.
Groaning, she rolled out of bed. Thank goodness Cahill had brought over all her personal stuff, or else she'd have been in a pickle. She sorted through the bags until she found the one containing the supplies she needed, then she shuffled into the bathroom for a long, hot shower.
She felt as if she should be doing something, but there was nothing to be done. This wasn't the same situation she'd been in with Judge Roberts's family; she had known them, grown close to them, and they'd depended on her. She had never even met the Lankfords' two daughters, Bethany and Merrill. Her heart ached for them, but she was an outsider, and even if they had wanted her to help she didn't know if she was capable of giving it. Not this time. Not now. She was too emotionally battered, too drained.
After she finished showering, she was shaking with exhaustion, but more than sleep, she needed to be with someone who loved her unconditionally, someone who was always there. She dug her cell phone from her purse, turned it on, and called her mother.
“Oh, hi, sweetie,” her mother said. She sounded unusually frazzled. Sarah's mother was normally an oasis of calm, a master of organization. Sarah was instantly alert.
“Mom? What's wrong?”
To her dismay, her mother burst into tears, but she controlled them almost immediately. By that time, though, Sarah was on her feet in alarm. “Mom?”
“I wasn't going to call any of you just yet, but your father had some chest pains last night. We spent the night in the ER; they did some tests and they said he didn't have a heart attack—”
Sarah's breath whooshed out of her, and she sat back down. “Then what's wrong with him?”
“We don't know. He's still hurting a little, though you know him, he still has that Marine mentality that he's going to tough this out. I've made him an appointment with an internist for later this afternoon for a physical and to schedule some more tests.” Her mother took a deep breath. “I suppose I wouldn't be so scared if he hadn't always been so healthy. I've never seen him in pain the way he was last night.”
“I can be there on an afternoon flight—” Sarah began, then stopped, wondering if she could leave. What had Cahill told her before, after J
“No, don't be silly,” her mother said, her voice more brisk now. “It wasn't a heart attack; all the enzymes or whatever were normal. There's no point in flying down here for what may be nothing more than a severe case of heartburn. If the doctor seems at all concerned this afternoon, I'll call you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course I'm sure. Now, enough about that. How are things going with your new job?”
Sarah had been aching to cry on her mother's shoulder, figuratively speaking, but no way was she going to add to her mother's worries right now. “It didn't work out,” she said. “Actually, I have a new position already, and I wanted you to have the phone number.”
“I thought you really liked the new people, the Lankfords.”
She had. Her throat tightened, and she had to swallow. “It wasn't that. Something unexpected came up and they had to relocate.” She wished she had been able to think of some other lie, because that one was too horribly true; it wasn't a lie at all.
“These things happen.” As a military wife, her mother was a past master at relocating. “Okay, I have a pen. What's the new telephone number?”
Sarah had written it down the night before. She got out her little notebook and flipped to the correct page, then read off the number. “And there's always my cell phone, but I wanted to let you know the new developments.”
“You concentrate on settling in. I'm sure he'll be okay, he's feeling better and already making growling noises about not needing a doctor. I'll have to twist his arm to get him to the doctor's office this afternoon.”
“Call me, okay? If there's the least thing wrong.”
Sarah hung up and sat there for a long time, trying to come to grips with this added worry. There was nothing she could do, at least not right now; she needed to take care of herself so she would be in shape to act if she was needed.
She searched for the aspirin among her scattered effects, found the bottle, and took two. Then she fell back into bed, and was asleep in minutes.
It was almost two o'clock when the phone rang. She rolled over and blinked at the clock in disbelief, then fumbled for the phone.
“I'm bringing your truck over,” Cahill said. “I had a patrolman drop me off at the Lankfords to pick it up, so you'll have to take me back to the station.”
She blinked sleepily. “Okay.” Her voice sounded fuzzy even to herself.
“Did I wake you up?” he asked suspiciously.
“Yeah. I had a rough night,” she said, and let him make of that what he wanted.
“I'll be there in ten minutes or so,” he said, and hung up.
She hauled herself out of bed and stumbled to the bathroom. All her clothes were packed in suitcases, so they were wrinkled. She herself looked like the Wicked Witch of the West on a bad day. Cahill could just wait until she put herself to rights.
He did, but not patiently. She refused to let him into the room, so he went back down to the lobby. When she was ready and started to leave the room, she discovered why she hadn't been awakened by housekeeping: the DO NOT DISTURB sign was out. Cahill must have put it out when he left. She left the sign where it was and took the elevator down to the lobby.
“Have you found out anything new today?” she asked during the drive to the police station.
“Nothing except the same weapon was used to kill all four people. Have you watched any news today, or read the newspaper?”
“I wondered if you could remember ever seeing Jacob Wanetta anywhere.”
“He's the fourth victim?”
“The name isn't familiar.”
A moment later he stopped at a service station and stuck some change in a newspaper vending machine, pulling out the last remaining copy of the morning paper. Getting back behind the wheel, he tossed the paper onto her lap.
She didn't read the story, didn't let herself focus on the headlines. Instead she focused on the grainy black-and-white photo of a dark-haired, heavy-jawed man who gave the impression of bull-like strength. Nothing about him was familiar. “I've never seen him before that I can remember,” she said, laying the paper aside. She couldn't help feeling relieved; at least she had no connection with this killing.
He stopped before they reached city hall and the police department, pulling into a parking lot and turning off the ignition. “Reporters have been hanging around,” he said. “I'll walk the rest of the way, so they don't see you.” He half turned in the seat, the back of his right hand brushing her cheek. “I'll call you tonight. I'll try to see you, but we're working our asses off and I don't know what time we'll call it a night.”
“You don't have to check on me. I'm okay.” She was lying, right now, but she would be okay in the future. She needed to regroup, get a lot of sleep, and let time put a little more distance between her and the murders. She needed a little distance between herself and Cahill, too, some time in which she didn't have to deal with him. She didn't want to think things over; she didn't want to think at all.
“It's for my peace of mind, okay?” he muttered. “I know things aren't straight between us, not yet, so I need to see you every so often to make sure you're still here.”
“I'm not running, Cahill,” she said, stung that he thought she might. “If I leave, you'll know beforehand. And I've already accepted the job with Mr. Densmore, remember?”
He grunted. Even with everything that was going on, he'd made the time to run a check on Trevor Densmore. “For what it's worth, he doesn't have any type of record.”
“I didn't think he would have. I might as well call him and arrange a time to move over there.”
He gave her a worried glance. “Why don't you give it another day? You still look exhausted.”
She knew how she looked: chalky white, with dark circles under her eyes. She felt exhausted, even after all the hours of sleep. Physical tiredness wasn't her problem; it was the overload of stress that was doing her in.
“Maybe I'd feel better if I had something to do. It can't hurt.”
The move into Mr. Densmore's house was accomplished in little time and with little effort. House wasn't the right term, though; it was an estate, a fortress, five acres of prime real estate protected by a high gray stone wall. The entrance was guarded by huge wrought-iron gates that operated automatically and were watched over by cameras positioned at regular intervals.
The house itself was three stories high, made of the same gray stone, which gave it a medieval look. Inside the walls, the grounds were carefully manicured, not a shrub or a leaf out of place, not a blade of grass poking a little higher than the blades around it.
Inside was more of the same. Either shy Mr. Densmore liked a monochromatic color scheme, or his decorator was frigid and lacked imagination. It was more gray, everywhere. The marble in the sleek bathrooms was gray. The plush carpeting was a pale, icy gray. The furniture all seemed to be gray and white, with darker grays thrown in for contrast. The effect was of being in an ice cave.
But he was proud of his home, almost boyish in his eagerness to show it to her, so she had to acquit the decorator. He truly loved the sterile atmosphere that surrounded him. She made appropriate noises of admiration, wondering why he cared what she thought. She was a butler, not a prospective buyer.
She was glad she had been up front with him about it being a temporary position, because she didn't like her accommodations at all. She preferred separate quarters, a small oasis that was hers and gave her a life beyond the job. The room he escorted her to was large and lavishly appointed, like a pricey hotel room. The room was too large, making it seem cavernous. There was a king-size four-poster bed and a sitting area, and the furniture didn't begin to fill up the space. She felt cold just looking at the room. The attached bathroom w
He was almost pink with excitement. “I'll make us some tea,” he said, rubbing his hands together as if he couldn't contain himself. “We can have it while we go over your duties.”
She hoped there were a lot of duties, something to keep her busy. A place this large should have a staff; the Judge's house hadn't been half this big, but it had seemed to pulse with life. This stone mausoleum felt empty.
She carried in her suitcases, but didn't start unpacking. He instructed her to park her TrailBlazer in the four-car attached garage, in the empty bay next to a surprisingly nondescript dark blue Ford. The white Jaguar that sat in the bay closest to the house seemed much more Mr. Densmore's type, or the white S-Class Mercedes parked beside it. When she came through into the kitchen—more dark gray marble, and stainless steel appliances—he was just pouring hot tea into two cups sitting side by side.
“There,” he said, fussing with the sugar bowl and tiny pitcher of cream as if he were an aged spinster entertaining a suitor. It struck her that he might be lonely, here in this huge house by himself, and that made her uneasy.
She was trained to run establishments, not provide emotional or physical companionship. Over time she and the Judge had developed a close, caring relationship, but the circumstances had been entirely different. Mr. Densmore wasn't just a banker, he owned a bank, and though she didn't know his age, she guessed him to be no older than his early sixties at the most. He was young enough to be going to an office every day; banking was a complicated business, and even with capable management there would still be a lot to oversee, decisions to be made. She knew he socialized, because she had met him at a party. So this sterile, empty home life was discordant, somehow, as if his business life didn't bleed over into his private life—as if he didn't have a private life. During the tour of the house, she hadn't seen a single family photograph or any of the individual touches that marked a home.
by Linda Howard / Romance / Mystery & Thrillers have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes