Seduced, p.4

Seduced, page 4

 part  #3 of  Surrender Series

 

Seduced



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  “I was worried about the clouds,” Lia said. “How long until we hit the mainland? I fell asleep, but it must not have been for very long. ” Her voice was slightly tense, but not overly so. After all, their whole trip was less than two hours.

  “I…uh…had to take a detour. ”

  “A detour? Seriously, Shane? The clouds were building up when I fell asleep a bit ago. You had to have noticed!” she exclaimed.

  “I did, but it wasn’t so bad,” he said, knowing he sounded ridiculous.

  “You weren’t thinking at all, Shane! I can’t believe I fell for your stupid trick. Did you believe a nice, romantic boat ride would win my favor back?”

  Well, yeah, actually, he thought, but he stopped himself from saying so. “Look, Lia. It doesn’t matter. There’s a group of islands not far away now. We’ll take cover there, wait out the storm, and then reach the mainland before you know it. ”

  “You’re a pain in the ass, Shane! Do you have any idea what you have done?” she snapped, but he saw the way she was looking out at the rough seas. The ocean could turn from a thing of beauty to a dangerous place in the blink of an eye.

  Yes, he knew what he’d done, and he wasn’t proud of himself. He’d just been trying to get some time alone with her, not put her in danger. Maybe she was the smarter of the two of them. Not that he was saying that out loud, either.

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  A hard wave knocked against the boat, flinging Lia against his side. Shane reached out and caught her before she went stumbling to the deck. Her face was inches from his as her curves pressed tightly against his body, and Shane felt himself sinking into her eyes.

  “Don’t you dare even think about sex,” she said, but the husky quality of her tone gave him hope. He wouldn’t mind at all getting stuck with her overnight. The storm was now looking like a bit of a blessing — that was, if he could get to safety in time.

  As the islands came into view, still too far away for Shane’s comfort, the airstream picked up, whipping through the control room. “Shut the windows,” he called above the screaming wind.

  For once, Lia obeyed with no argument. As they came closer to the islands, the waves swelled larger, angry splashes of water rising high around them, as if on a mission to pull the large vessel deep into the ocean, to take another victim in her merciless grasp.

  Just as Shane started to breathe easier, the boat lurched, then suddenly stalled, nearly knocking him off his feet. Gripping the wheel tightly, he looked out, horrified when he saw the hole in the side of his yacht. He must have hit a reef.

  The boat was going down. “Lia, we have to abandon ship. Grab the emergency pack and we’ll get in the lifeboat. ”

  When she didn’t answer, Shane turned to find her on the floor, knocked unconscious. Letting go of the wheel, he rushed to her side, bending down and feeling her neck. He let out a sigh of relief when he found that she was breathing.

  Not hesitating any longer, he lifted her into his arms and rushed through the yacht to where his emergency raft was holding on tight. Shane carefully laid her inside and dashed to the cupboard opposite so he could grab the emergency supply bag. He tossed it into the boat, following behind it quickly before he released the safety, dropping them into the surging waves of the ocean.

  The waves had been frightening when they’d been in his giant vessel; they were deadly in the small emergency boat. Turning the engine on, he navigated the waters as best he could, grateful they were so close to one of the islands.

  As they moved through the storm, he saw two giant walls of water on either side of him. The small craft was having a difficult time reaching their peaks and getting closer to safety, but she was doing it — just barely.

  As they neared safety, he looked back, his heart nearly breaking as he watched the last of his yacht disappear beneath the heaving black sea. So many memories had just been sucked below to the cold ocean floor. But Shane had no more than a second to dwell on it, so he faced forward and aimed toward the safety of land.

  Nearly there.

  “Shane?”

  This wasn’t the best time for her to wake up. “It’s OK, Lia. We’re almost to land. ”

  Shane spoke too soon. With a jolt, the boat was thrust forward as two waves converged on them, determined to not allow their escape.

  “Hold on!” Shane called as Lia was lifted into the air. This could be it — the end. Almost in slow motion, Shane watched in horror as Lia’s head slammed against the side of the boat for the second time in less than an hour.

  He reached out as her body was flung from the vessel. It capsized, the ocean waves greedily swallowing her in joyous victory.

  Chapter Five

  Ari

  Ari fumbled with her computer bag as she walked toward the doors of her classroom.

  “Computer? Check. Pens? Check. Sanity?… Check,” she mumbled to herself before looking around and making sure no one was paying attention. She shouldn’t be so nervous. They were just students, exactly what she’d been a few months ago.

  Even now, as she worked toward her doctorate, she was a student, but it felt different somehow. It was a lot of work, which was why she was teaching only one course. Still, these kids didn’t have it out for her — not yet, at least! — so she had nothing to be nervous about.

  No matter how much she tried convincing herself of this fact, it didn’t encourage or comfort her in the least. She was still shaking as she moved through the doors. Without thinking about it, she looked around the half-full room, then sighed.

  Was she feeling relief or regret that Rafe wasn’t there?

  Relief! Of course it was relief. She didn’t want him chasing after her. She had been just fine on her own and didn’t need him in her life, messing everything up again. The first months after she’d walked away had been hell, and it had taken everything inside her to be strong. She was strong now, and she wouldn’t allow him to undermine that strength.

  Just as the clock struck the hour, when she faced the class, a giggle sounded. Ari didn’t need to look up to know Rafe had arrived. Only one man she knew could elicit the sigh she heard coming from the front row. Rafe was simply that stunning.

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  Refusing to cower, she reluctantly lifted her head and locked eyes with Rafe. With an instilled arrogance, he sent her a wink before taking a seat on the aisle halfway into the room. The girls were whispering and making eyes, and a few of the men were grumbling.

  It was going to be difficult to keep the classroom’s attention if he was there.

  “Everyone in here needs to be registered for class,” she said and pulled out her newest roster. She hoped Rafe’s name wasn’t there so she could boot him from the room.

  No such luck. When she saw his name right where it should be, under P, she nearly groaned in frustration. He was smarter than she’d given him credit for. Rafe didn’t take no for an answer, and he was apparently on a mission.

  She wondered. If she just bent over her desk and let him take her one more time, would he lose interest? Was this all a game for him? Did he just have to be the last one standing — the one to end their relationship?

  Of course, she would never know, because she had enough pride in herself not to strip down and beg him to take her for the rest of the night. Not that it would be a bad night if they did end up on her desk, but that wasn’t the point.

  She was confusing herself, and she didn’t like it. All she knew for now was that he had a mission in mind, and he wasn’t leaving until he followed through on it.

  She knew she was defeated…for now, so she jumped into her lesson. “I hope you completed Monday’s assignment. There will be a quiz next Monday, so make sure you pay attention today. ” With luck, he’d fail and she could tell him to take a hike.

  There was some grumbling, and a few more whispers. She was sure they were complaining that she had a test coming
so soon. Too bad. This was the real world, and they’d better get used to it.

  Halfway through class, she was shocked when Rafe raised his hand and easily answered her questions. He’d actually read the material. Her respect was grudging, but she had to give him his due. He was taking this seriously, or at least putting some effort into her assignments.

  Did she even know this new Rafe?

  Pulling herself together, Ari focused on her class. “Does anyone know the date the Civil War officially began?” Silence greeted her question. Great, no one had read the material.

  “April 12, 1861. ” Ari looked up in surprise to see Rafe smiling at her. OK, he’d gotten one more answer correct. He was a smart guy. It didn’t mean that he’d actually done the homework. That was absurd. He wouldn’t have any reason to do homework.

  “Very good. Do you know why that’s the beginning of the Civil War?” She looked around the room, hoping anyone other than Rafe would answer. She was out of luck.

  “This was the day the Confederate army fired on Fort Sumter, beginning hostilities. It had been occupied by the Union army in South Carolina a few days after the state had declared its secession in 1860. After the fort’s surrender, President Lincoln called on all states to raise troops to retake lost forts. Within two months, four additional pro-slave states joined the Confederacy, making eleven in total. ”

  She didn’t want to admit to being impressed, but she couldn’t help herself. He’d either done a Google search or he’d actually done his homework. Either way, he wasn’t just sitting in her class; he was participating. She didn’t want to feel any emotions toward Rafe, but she found her heart rate increasing.

  “Does anyone know how long the Civil War lasted?”

  Ari waited, and finally a girl in the front row quietly said, “Four years. ”

  “Very good, yes. The war lasted from 1861 until 1865. With every war, we study it and try to uncover ways we could have prevented the bloodshed, but why is there so much more emphasis on this war?”

  “Because this was where the United States tried to break apart. Had this occurred, we wouldn’t be who we are today,” a student said.

  “Very true, but that’s not all. During this war, though there were threats of foreign intervention, we were on our own. In four years, hundreds of thousands were dead and the South was nearly desolated. The war ended when the Confederacy collapsed, and of course we know that slavery was abolished. But we were left with a people who were told they now needed to put down their guns and all get along. There was a lot of hatred among the soldiers, and many didn’t want just to lay down their weapons. The end of the war didn’t mean it was over for everyone. Too many lives had been lost; too many people had been forever changed. ”

  “How does a nation pick up the pieces after something like that?”

  “Very good question. I guess the best answer would be to focus on what was most important. The South needed to rebuild, and the North needed to step in and help. This was also one of the first industrial wars. During its four-year term, railroads and steamships were used heavily. Communication was carried on through the telegraph, and weapons were mass-produced. And of course, many women stepped up and began working outside of the home since the men were at war. The same thing happened during World War I — those of you who continue in the history sequence will discuss that next semester. The point is that the destruction contained the seeds of the nation’s rebuilding, because instead of brother fighting brother, the country’s people now had to come back together to restore their lives. ”

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  “So they were able to just put it all behind them?”

  “No, I wish it had been that simple. But — no. Some took their own lives after the war because they couldn’t live with what they had done, and people seeking revenge sometimes committed murder. That the South surrendered doesn’t mean all its people did. It would take years before our nation healed. To this day, some people still have hard feelings and are essentially still fighting the Civil War, though it’s been almost a hundred and fifty years since the last battle. Plus, we now had a nation of free men, but a lot of prejudice left against everyone on both sides. Former slaves had trouble getting work, and they no longer had homes; and in the North, the side that had fought for their freedom, many people weren’t happy when they wanted to live there. All of this would take decades to work through. It is still being worked through. These are all good reasons to study this monumental time in our history. ”

  Ari continued teaching and before she knew it, the class ended, and the students piled from the class. Ari knew Rafe would still be there, but she went about gathering her belongings. She had a long night ahead of her, and she was unsure whether she was more excited or nervous about the upcoming conversation.

  “You did a great job today, Ari. I’m impressed. ”

  When she looked up, she saw Rafe was sitting on the edge of her desk. Why did he have to look so devastatingly handsome in his tight jeans and polo shirt? If she hadn’t been attracted to him, this would have all been so much easier on her.

  “Thank you. Considering you have a master’s degree in business, I don’t see why you’re taking a two-hundred-level history course,” she returned.

  “Ah, it’s never a bad thing to learn. I love history, especially the Civil War. You know I had some relatives who fought in it. ” She wouldn’t know he was actually bored while reading the material. When she spoke, he was mesmerized.

  She didn’t want to be interested in what he was saying, but she found herself intrigued. She loved stories from the Civil War, how brothers fought each other, how lines were divided. So many lives had been lost, and so many families had been torn apart.

  “I hope they made it through,” she responded softly after a long pause.

  “I have one of their old journals, if you’re interested. ”

  Oooh, the man was good. Really good. She could feel her palms practically itching to get her hands on such a treasure. Not wanting to ask, but knowing she was going to, she stopped fighting herself.

  “Is it a journal from when the war was going on?”

  “Yep. My great-great-something-grandfather wrote in it. He was fighting for the North and his bride-to-be was in the South. It tells of the pain and heartache that the two of them went through, a night they were together and got caught, how she was captured, and… Oh, I’m sorry, I’m probably boring you. ”

  Rafe waved his hand in the air as he turned to look at a poster on the wall. She wanted to wring his neck. Bored? Not in this lifetime. Should she let him know how eager she was to read this? What would he expect from her in return?

  “Have you read it?” she asked, hoping she didn’t sound too eager.

  “No, I haven’t, but my grandmother used to tell me the stories in it. She was quite the romantic,” he said with a shrug.

  “I wouldn’t mind looking through it,” she said, trying to keep her voice casual, but unable to disguise the excitement she felt at poring over such a find.

  “Why don’t I take you to my place and you can see it?” he asked casually.

  She knew the invitation was anything but casual.

  Ari was torn. She really wanted to see that journal, but she knew it wasn’t a wise idea to go back to his place — the house she’d found the most exquisite pleasure imaginable in — the house she’d had her heart broken in.

  “I…um…have a lot of work to do,” she hedged.

  “What if I promise not to push you…for now? You can come look at the journal, pore over the pages, take notes, whatever you like, and I’ll give you space…for tonight, at least. ”

  She didn’t miss the emphasis on tonight.

  He was giving her the chance to see a real gold mine, and agreeing to back off, but not agreeing to do it permanently. Even if he did back off, that wouldn’t make her stomach any less nervous. Though he wasn’t attacking her outright
, pushing her up against a wall and ravishing her, that didn’t mean she didn’t have the urge to rip his clothes from his body and take him right where he stood.

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  Ari’s eyes lowered over the contours of his muscled stomach, and she found herself gazing at the bulge in his pants. Even at rest, he was impressive to behold. She desired him as if a single day hadn’t gone by. Why did she have to have such urges? Life in a convent would be so much simpler — OK, OK, simpler, but not nearly as satisfying. Not that she was satisfied at all right now.

  “Well…” She knew she shouldn’t cave. If you gave Rafe an inch, he’d take a mile — and a hell of a lot more. If she set foot in his house, she had the feeling that it wouldn’t be long before she was lying beneath him.

  “There’s even a part where he was shot, left alone in abandoned slave quarters. He almost didn’t make it through, but by the grace of God, he was saved by a woman on the run. She fell in love with him, and… Oh, sorry, I don’t want to ruin it. ”

  Ari wasn’t fooled at all! He was making this too enticing for her to resist.

  Fine! He’d won this round. She waited a moment before speaking. She couldn’t let him know how eager she was to get her hands on the firsthand account, because he’d be using it for leverage forever.

  “I wouldn’t mind taking a look at the journal. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt for me to come over. I won’t be able to stay long, though. I have a lot of preparation for Monday’s class,” she said, hoping her voice showed a relative lack of eagerness.

  By the huge grin crossing his features, she didn’t think she was fooling anyone.

  “Right this way, Ari,” he said as he placed a hand behind her back.

  “Stop right there, Rafe. You said there would be no touching,” she reminded him.

  Rafe slowly pulled his hand away before bending very close to her face, taking the breath right from her lungs. “For tonight,” he reminded her, then waited, keeping only a few inches of space between them.

  This is a bad idea, a very, very bad idea, she thought as she followed him from the classroom.

  Chapter Six

 
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