The art of reading is in great part that of acquiring a better understanding of life from one's encounter with it in a book.

André Maurois

 
 
 
 
 
Tác giả: Sandra Brown
Thể loại: Tiểu Thuyết
Biên tập: Bach Ly Bang
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Language: English
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Cập nhật: 2015-10-22 15:11:14 +0700
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Chapter 3
o?"
"Yes."
"Yes, you mean no?"
Lincoln O’Neal crossed his ankles, folded his arms at his waist, and tilted his head to one side. Arrogance incarnate. "No, I’m not excusing you. In fact, I’m not budging."
Kerry couldn’t believe it. "You’d be rude enough to refuse me some privacy?" Sharks had kinder smiles than the one he gave her. "Then forget it," she said sharply. "I just won’t change until we get to the place where I hid the children."
"I thought you said you weren’t faint-hearted."
Her braid almost slapped him in the face when she whipped her head around. The boor was testing her. She couldn’t back down from any challenge issued by those sardonic eyes. Even now he could renege on their deal. She wouldn’t be at all surprised. He obviously had no conscience. For the time being she had no choice but to play along with his asinine little games.
"Okay. I’ll change."
She turned her back on him and reached behind her for the zipper of the dress.
"Allow me."
He moved up close behind her. His hands were large and manly, but sensitive enough to handle intricate cameras and lenses. Apparently he was adept at undressing women, too. The zipper didn’t intimidate him or make him awkward and clumsy. It glided down her back without snagging once.
Accepting a dare was one thing, but actually carrying it out was another. She had thought that taking off her dress in front of him would be no worse than slipping out of a cover-up on the beach. But she hadn’t counted on his taking an active part in her disrobing, or having him stand so close that she could feel his breath on her back. The sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach threatened to weaken her until she would have to lean against him, as she had a mad desire to do.
Inch by inch she felt her back being exposed to him. As it came open, the zipper left in its wake a ribbon of heat, caused only partially by the sun, mostly by embarrassment and the instinctive knowledge that his eyes were following the widening path of that zipper. It seemed to take forever, but it finally reached the end of its track. "Thank you."
Kerry wished her words had carried a more authoritative ring and hadn’t sounded so breathless. She moved away from him quickly. Hesitating only a few seconds, she lowered the shoulder straps down her arms. The flimsy bodice dropped to her waist. She pushed the dress over her hips and stepped out of it.
That left her standing in nothing but a pair of panties and the strappy sandals. The sun’s fierce heat penetrated her naked skin. The humidity settled on it like damp kisses. All the wildlife in the surrounding trees fell silent, as though they were watching from above, awed by her performance. Her hands were shaking as she hastily stepped into the trousers. She was barely able to button them. Next, she shoved her arms into the short sleeves of her chambray shirt. She buttoned only two of the buttons, then tied the shirttail at her waist. She pulled her long braid from beneath her collar and bent down to pick up that sleazy dress, which, under any other circumstances, she would have been only too happy to discard.
It was when she was bent at the waist that Linc placed his hands on either side of her waist. "Leave me alone," she warned him in a low voice.
"Noway,darl-"
The endearment died on his lips when she sprang erect and spun around. His pistol was gripped between both her hands and it was pointed directly at the center of his broad chest.
"You and I have a business arrangement, Mr. O’Neal. It’s strictly business. I wouldn’t give you the time of day otherwise. If you come on to me again, I’ll kill you."
"I doubt that." His features remained unperturbed.
"I mean it!" Kerry shouted. She thrust the pistol an inch closer. "Last night I had to tolerate your disgusting gropings out of necessity, but don’t ever touch me again."
"Okay, okay."
He raised his hands in surrender. At least that’s what Kerry thought he was going to do. Instead, with uncanny speed and humiliating ease, he knocked the heavy pistol out of her hands. It clattered loudly onto the hood of the truck, then slid to the ground. He pinned one of her arms to her side and shoved the other one up behind her.
"Don’t you ever pull a gun on me again, understand? Understand!" He pushed her arm up higher, until her hand was almost between her shoulder blades.
"You’re hurting me," she gasped.
"Not as much as you’d have hurt me if that.357 had gone off," he shouted.
"I’m not even sure how it works," she shouted back.
"All the more reason why you shouldn’t have tried such a damn fool thing."
"I’m sorry. Please." Tears of pain and humiliation were stinging her eyes. He relieved the pressure on her arms, but r i kept her clasped against him.
"I ought to wring your neck for pulling that little stunt," he said. "Instead…" He lowered his head toward hers. "No!" "Yes."
This kiss was just as possessive as those last night had been. His lips were hungry, passionate, hard, and yet incredibly soft. His tongue slid into her mouth. She tensed, but he brooked no resistance. He investigated her mouth thoroughly. Even though his tongue moved leisurely, Linc was the unquestioned director of the kiss. Kerry was the respondent. In spite of herself, when his tongue glanced hers, it made a corresponding movement.
He raised his head. Her eyes came open slowly, as though she’d been drugged. "Disgusting gropings, huh?" His eyes were maliciously teasing. "I don’t think you found my gropings disgusting at all."
With breathtaking boldness, his hand moved to her breast and covered it. He caressed the fullness through her shirt.
"Don’t." She dared not say more for fear that the moan of pleasure she felt building behind his caressing hand would work its way up. "Why not?"
"Because I don’t want you to."
"Yes, you do," he said with audacious conceit. "This could prove to be an interesting expedition after all. For both of us. We might just as well set the mood now."
"Please don’t." Her voice quavered and became a full-fledged moan when the center of her breast rose up to meet the lazy caress of his thumb.
"You like it," he whispered against her neck. "No. No I don’t."
"Oh, yes." He caught her earlobe between his teeth and tugged on it gently. "Even though you put on this prickly, do-not-touch act, you’re a woman who responds to a man." He smiled when a slight repositioning of his hips brought a groan to her throat. He rubbed against her suggestively. "An aroused man sets you off like a flare, doesn’t he? Unless that were true, you couldn’t have enticed me to go with you last night."
"You were drunk. You would have followed any female from that cantina."
"Not so. I was drunk, but I recognized your steamy nature under that cool exterior. Well, nobody stays cool in the jungle, baby. You’ll thaw."
"Stop." She put all her strength into the command, so her protest wouldn’t sound as feeble as the resolve behind it.
‘‘For now," he said, lowering his hand from her breast. "Because I’m still mad as hell at you for pointing that gun at me. When the time is right, you’ll beg me for it."
His audacity had a healthy effect on her. It made her fighting mad. "Don’t hold your breath."
She was successful in pushing him away only because he allowed her to. He merely laughed as he bent down and retrieved his gun. He shoved it into his waistband. Kerry watched, until she realized what she was looking at and hurriedly raised her eyes.
He was smiling at her insolently when he said, "Get in. I’ll drive. You can put your boots on in the truck."
He had already assumed control, and for the moment that was fine with Kerry, Their embrace had rattled her.
Because she had been devoted to her work with the children over the last ten months, she hadn’t missed the companionship of men. There was no one waiting for her to return to the United States. She hadn’t been romantically involved with anyone when she came to Montenegro. Because of that lack of involvement with the opposite sex, her entire being had been assaulted by Linc O’Neal’s sudden intrusion into her life.
He had created a hunger inside her that hadn’t been there this time yesterday. It was both thrilling and shameful. She was afraid of his virility, but fascinated by it, too. He epitomized masculinity in its rawest form. The salty taste and smell of his skin, the roughness of his beard, the huskiness of his voice, all appealed to her. His size and shape and wellhoned muscles were a blood-stirring contrast to her femininity.
Unfortunately, he had a rotten character and an annoying personality. If it weren’t for the orphans, Kerry would take her bruised lips and wounded pride and flee into the jungle to hide.
She had already had one user in her life. She didn’t want another. Her father had been a manipulator and a fraud. At least Mr. O’Neal was straightforward. He freely admitted that he looked out for number one. When her father’s corruption had been uncovered, Kerry had suffered in silence out of shame and love. She wasn’t about to remain silent with Lincoln O’Neal. She owed him nothing but fifty thousand dollars. He certainly didn’t warrant her devotion or respect. If he did anything that wasn’t to her liking, she would tell him so with no compunction.
For all her antipathy toward him, she was grateful that O’Neal was with her. She wouldn’t even admit to herself how frightened she had been at the prospect of transporting the children through the jungle alone. Their chances of surviving the trip and successfully escaping the country were slim, but at least they stood a better chance with O’Neal along.
"There’s a narrow wooden bridge up ahead," she told him now. Once she had directed him to the road, they had ridden in silence. She took petty satisfaction in knowing that he was still nursing a hangover. "Almost immediately after you cross the bridge, there’s a path on your left."
"Into the jungle?" he asked, looking up ahead.
"Yes. The children are hidden several hundred yards from the road."
He followed her directions, until the truck’s progress was impeded by the density of the jungle. "I’ll have to stop here."
"It’ll be okay. We shouldn’t be here long."
He pulled the truck to a halt and Kerry alighted. "This way." She struck out through the trees, anxious to check on the children. Her long braid became ensnared in vines. Branches slapped against her face and scratched her arms. "We could use your machete."
"Hacking through the plants leaves a trail," Linc said. "Unless it becomes absolutely necessary, we’re better off struggling our way through."
Kerry was instantly contrite over her testiness. "Of course. I should have thought of that."
She felt somewhat redeemed when they stumbled upon the hiding place, and it went unnoticed by One. She stopped, turned around to face him and was met with only a quizzical gaze before she called a name softly.
"Joe. Joe, it’s all right. You can come out."
Linc started at a sound on his left. The thick foliage moved, then parted. Several pairs of coffee-colored eyes stared at him from behind fronds as wide as parasols. A tall, slender youth materialized from behind the leafy, green screen.
The boy, whose age Linc placed at around fourteen, had a brooding face that appeared years older than his gangly body. He regarded Linc with a mixture of open hostility and suspicion.
"This is Linc O’Neal," Kerry told the boy. "He’s the one I picked to help us. Linc, this is Joe, the oldest of the group."
Linc glanced at her quickly, wondering if she realized that she had used his first name. She didn’t appear to. He stuck out his hand toward the boy. "Hello, Joe."
Joe ignored Linc’s hand and abruptly turned his back. In soft, rapid Spanish, he called the children out of hiding. In pairs and singly, they emerged from their cover. One of the oldest girls was carrying a toddler on her hip. She walked directly to Kerry and handed the child over to her.
The little girl wrapped her arms trustingly and lovingly around Kerry’s neck. She kissed the child’s grubby cheek and smoothed back her hair.
The other children surrounded her. It seemed that each had something vital to impart. They competed for her attention, though she spread it around as diplomatically as a candidate running for public office.
Linc knew only enough Spanish to keep himself fed and from walking into the wrong restroom. The children were chattering so excitedly that he couldn’t follow what they were saying to Kerry. Only one word, repeated frequently, registered with him. "Hermana?" he said.
"Sister," Kerry told him absently as she gave the child’s cheek a spit bath with her fingers. "Why do they call you – "
Linc’s question was never completed. When realization! struck him, his face went completely blank. If he’d been poleaxed, he couldn’t have looked more stunned.
Laughing at one of the children’s disjointed stories, Kerry glanced up at him and asked distractedly, "I’m sorry, what did you say?"
"I asked why they were calling you sister." "Oh,I-"
She looked at him then, saw his sick expression and realized the conclusion he had jumped to. He thought Sista Kerry had a religious significance. A speedy denial was as the tip of her tongue, but in a split second, she reconsidered. Why deny what he was obviously thinking? He haii accidentally provided her with a way to spurn his sexual ad vances without jeopardizing his loyalty to their mission.
She searched her mind for a reason why she should set him right, but could find none. She also scratched the sui face of her conscience, but didn’t delve too deeply. She was doing this for the welfare of the orphans.
Before her conscience had time to rear up and question her motives, Kerry lowered her eyes demurely. "Why else?’
He called upon a deity, but not in prayer.
Kerry reacted with stern disapproval. "Watch your language, please." When he mumbled an apology, she knew her ruse had worked. It took all her acting ability to keep from laughing out loud. "Would you like to meet the children?"
"Are they all as friendly as Joe?" Linc asked.
"I speak English," the boy snapped with fierce pride.
Linc, unruffled by his faux pas, snapped right back, "Then your manners aren’t worth a damn."
Kerry intervened quickly. "Joe, would you please stir up the fire? We’ll feed the children before we go." Joe cast Linc a resentful glance before carrying out the chore Kerry had assigned him. "Children," Kerry said in Spanish and motioned for quiet, "this is Senor O’Neal."
"Make it Linc," he told her.
She told the children his first name. Eight pairs of eyes stared up at him with curiosity tempered by caution. One by one she introduced him to them. "And the youngest’s name is Lisa."
He acknowledged each introduction solemnly, shaking hands with the boys and bowing stiffly at the waist for the girls, who giggled in response. He playfully tapped Lisa on the nose, being careful not to touch Kerry in the process.
He told them hello in Spanish, which just about exhausted his vocabulary. "Tell them that I’ll take care of them on the journey." He spoke slowly so Kerry could simultaneously translate. "But they must obey me… at all times." He gave her a look that said, "That includes you," before he continued. "When I tell them to be quiet… they must be quiet…silent…. No moving…no wandering away from the group… ever – If they do as I say… we’ll get to the airplane… and it will take us to the United States."
The children’s faces glowed radiantly when they heard the last two words.
"If they’ve been very good on the trip… and have done everything I’ve asked them to…when we arrive in the SU.S…. I’ll take them all to McDonald’s."
"That’s very thoughtful of you," Kerry said softly, "but they don’t know what a McDonald’s is. They couldn’t even imagine it if I tried to explain."
"Oh." He glanced down at the eight faces turned up to him, and his jaded heart twisted. "Well, think of an appropriate reward," he said with feigned impatience.
After eating an unpalatable paste made of beans and rice, they began collecting their scanty provisions. When all that remained to be loaded was the children, Linc brought one of his cameras back from the truck and began snapping pictures.
"Sister ferry, if you would – "
"Please. Just Kerry is fine."
He nodded brusquely. He hadn’t looked at her directly since learning of her vocation. "Would you please assemble everybody for a group picture?"
"Certainly."
In minutes, they were posed for him. The children were excited and smiling. Lisa had her thumb in her mouth. Joe refused to look into the lens and gazed broodingly into the surrounding trees. Kerry’s smile was forced.
"Okay, let’s go," Linc said as he popped his tens cap back on. Draping the camera around his neck by its strap, he shouldered a bundle of canned food that Joe had scavenged from the nearest village the night before.
"Don’t you usually take action shots? Why did you want a posed group picture?" Kerry asked Linc as they tromped toward the truck.
"In case some of them don’t make it."
His curt answer brought Kerry, who was carrying Lisa, to an abrupt halt on the jungle path. She turned to face Linc. "Is that a possibility?"
"Where’s your head?" At that moment, he would have been hard pressed to specify just what had made him so angry at her. "In the clouds? There are soldiers on either side who would murder these kids in a minute just for the hell of it. For an evening’s entertainment."
She quailed, but refused to let him see her trepidation. "You want to back out."
Linc lowered his face close to her. "You’re damn right I do. And if you had any sense, which I’m beginning to seriously doubt, you would too."
"Ican’t."
He cursed expansively and didn’t apologize for it this time. "Come on, we’re wasting time."
When they reached the truck his grim expression reflected his pessimism. The nine orphans were erowded into the bed of the pickup, along with his camera gear, their meager but space consuming supplies, and Kerry.
"I’m sorry you can’t ride in the cab," he said, watching as she took Lisa onto her lap. "But if we’re stopped, I can pass Joe off as my aid." He glanced down at her disquieting figure, which even her safari attire didn’t detract from. "Without that lurid dress, you don’t look much like a, Ufa…"
"I understand. The children will do better if I’m back here anyway. Just warn me in plenty of time if you see a patrol. I’ll pull the tarp over us."
"It’ll be stifling under there."
"I know."
"If we’re stopped, the children must remain absolutely silent and still."
"I’ve explained that to them repeatedly."
"Good," he said with a terse bob of his head. "You’ve got water?"
"Yes. Do you have the map?"
"I know where we’re going." He met her eyes soberly. "I just hope to hell we get there."
They exchanged a meaningful glance before he climbed into the cab of the truck and started the motor.
Kerry had never been more uncomfortable in her life, though she tried to put up a brave and contented front for the children. They were roughly jostled about in the bed of the truck. Its shocks were ineffectual on the washboard jungle road. At least the bouncing motion kept the gargantuan mosquitoes and other biting insects from lighting on them.
They never had to hide under the tarp, but the sun beat down on them mercilessly. And when the trees provided shade, they swapped the fiery sun for humidity so thick it could be cut with a knife.
The children complained of being thirsty, but Kerry carefully rationed their water. Fresh water might not be easy to come by. Besides, the more they drank, the more often she would have to ask Linc to stop. She wanted to avoid asking him for any favors.
He kept driving even after the sun had sunk below the tree line and had pitched the jungle into premature twilight. Darkness had completely fallen by the time they drove through a deserted village. As a safety precaution, Linc had signaled for Kerry to hide herself and the children under the tarp. He checked the village, and when he was satisfied that it was truly deserted, drove a half mile beyond it and pulled the truck into a clearing.
"We’ll stop here for the night."
Kerry gratefully took his hand and let him lift her down. She planted both palms hi the small of her back and arched it, stretching her cramped muscles.
Linc averted his eyes from her breasts, which were emphasized by her stretching exercise. They strained the sweat-damp fabric of her shut. He couldn’t help but remember how responsive they’d been to his touch. He cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Will you be all right if I walk back to the village and scout around?"
"Of course. Can we build a fire?"
"Yes, but keep it small. I’ll take Joe with me. Here," he yanked the pistol from his belt and twirled it, presenting her with the butt of it.
She took it, but looked at it fearfully. "I told you this morning that I wasn’t sure how to use it."
He gave her a quick lesson. "If you have to shoot it, be sure your target is as close to you as I was this morning. Then you can’t miss." He grinned crookedly. She answered his smile. Then he and the boy faded into the darkness.
She put one of the older girls in charge of the younger children and sent the boys to gather firewood. By the time Linc and Joe returned, Kerry had a low fire going. Joe was carrying blankets. The bodies of two scrawny chickens were dangling from Linc’s hand.
"Perfect fire," he told Kerry.
"Thank you."
"These may not go far." Apologetically he indicated the chickens. "But they were all I could find."
"I’ll open a can or two of vegetables and make a stew."
He nodded and moved away from her and the children to pluck and dress the chickens. For which she was supremely grateful.
Though they had dozed while traveling, the children were almost too exhausted to eat. Kerry encouraged them, knowing that this might be their last hot meal for a few days. Eventually they had all been fed and put on pallets in the back of the pickup.
She was sitting near the dying fire sipping a precious cup of coffee when Linc joined her and refilled his cup. "See or hear anything?" she asked in a hushed voice.
"No. Everything’s quiet. Which is almost unnerving. I’d rather know where they are."
"They?"
"Everybody but us." He grinned. The firelight caught his wide, white smile.
Kerry looked away from it. It was disturbingly attractive. "You surprised me."
‘How?"
‘By being so wonderful to the children. Thank you."
"Thank you for the aspirin. They helped improve my headache and my disposition."
"I’m serious. I appreciate your kind handling of these orphans."
"I’ve done some terrible things in my lifetime, but I’ve never abused a child," he said tightly. He sipped his coffee and stretched his long legs out in front of him.
She hadn’t meant to intimate that he had, but thought it best to drop the subject.
"Tell me about them," he said after a long moment. "Mary."
"She never knew her father," Kerry said. "Before Mary was born he was executed for circulating propaganda. Her mother was sent to prison and is presumed dead."
"Mike."
Kerry had already anglicized then: names so that they would start being familiar with the names they would hear hi the United States. She told him about the boy. "Carmen and Cara are the courier’s sisters. His name is Juan."
"And Lisa?"
Kerry smiled. "She’s precious, isn’t she? When her mother was only thirteen she was raped by a rebel soldier. She took her own life after Lisa was born. At least Lisa doesn’t know the heartache of having had and lost."
"What about him?"
Kerry followed the direction of Linc’s gaze. Joe was sitting at the edge of the clearing, staring out into the dark jungle.
"Joe," she said wistfully. "So sad."
"How old is he?"
"Fifteen." She gave him a rundown of Joe’s history. "He has a remarkable mind, but he’s a product of his tragic past. Hostile. Angry. Antisocial."
"In love with you."
"What?" She looked at Linc as though he’d lost his mind. "Don’t be ridiculous. He’s only a boy."
"Who’s had to grow up fast."
"But in love with me? That’s impossible."
"Hardly. By the time a boy is fifteen he’s already had – "He broke off.
"I suppose so," Kerry murmured to cover the awkward pause. "Had you?" She couldn’t imagine what had prompted her to ask him that. She didn’t dare look at him, though from the corner of her eye, she saw the sudden movement of his head as he looked at her sharply.
"I thought taking confessions was a priest’s job."
"So it is. I’m sorry. We were talking about Joe."
"Do you know what he did with that dress you wore last night?’’ She shook her head. "He burned it in the campfire before he banked the flames." When she gazed at him in disbelief, he nodded somberly. "I watched him throw it onto the coals and stare at it until it was consumed."
"But he’s the one who stole the dress. He knew why I had to wear it."
"He also knew it helped get me here. He hates himself for contributing to your shame."
"You’re imagining things."
"Nope. He’s extremely protective of you."
"He’s never been before. We’re not in imminent danger. What is he protecting me against?"
"Me.".
The firelight was reflected in his eyes, making them appear more golden than brown. He had taken off his bush shirt earlier in the day and was wearing only an army-green tank top. His skin was as smooth as polished wood. The upper part of his chest was matted with brown hak that had the same reddish cast as that on his head. It curled crisply against his tanned skin and seemed tipped in gold whenever sunlight – or firelight – struck it.
Uneasily, Kerry glanced away.
When he finally broke the strained silence, his voice was hoarse.’ ‘Why didn’t you tell me?"
"There was nothing to tell," she replied honestly.
"I beg to differ, Miss Bishop." His face was taut and angry. "Why didn’t you stop me from kissing you?"
"If you’ll recall, I tried."
"Not very hard."
She stared at him, aghast over his righteous defense of his actions. "I chose being kissed over being killed."
"You were never under threat of dying and you know it. One word. You only had to say one word and I would have left you alone."
"This morning maybe, but what about last night?"
"That was different."
"Because you were drunk?"
"Yes." He could see that she considered inebriation a flimsy excuse. "Well what was I supposed to think?" he demanded defensively. "How is a man supposed to react to a whore’s solicitation?"
"I’m sure I don’t know," she said coldly.
"Now you do. He reacts to a whore exactly the way I did to you last night. The dress, the hair, the suggestive smile, the whole damn package was an offer no man could refuse. So don’t go condemning me for taking your bait!"
"Sister Kerry, are you all right?"
They both looked up. Joe was standing just beyond the circle of the firelight. His hands were balled into fists and his eyes were trained threateningly on Linc.
"It’s all right, Joe," Kerry reassured the boy. "Go to sleep. Tomorrow will be a difficult day."
He looked reluctant to relax his vigilance, but eventually he backed toward the truck and climbed into the cab, where it had been decided that he and Linc would sleep.
Kerry and Linc stared at the dying embers of the fire. The silence was as dangerous as the jungle that surrounded them.
"What made you decide to do it?" he asked.
"I needed someone’s help."
"No, I don’t mean recruiting me. I meant what made you decide on becoming a… you know?"
"Oh." She pulled her knees against her chest and propped her chin on them. "Things. Circumstances."
He was going to be furious if and when he ever discovered the truth. This morning’s rage would be mild compared to the hell he would raise when he found out. She already dreaded the day. But until they were out of danger and in the United States, she had to continue with her lie. It served as protection against him.
And, if she were scrupulously honest, protection against herself. For all his rough edges, Kerry found him attractive to a disturbing degree. Lincoln O’Neal could have stepped out of a feminine fantasy catalog. He was ruggedly handsome, lived an extraordinary life-style, courted danger, and flaunted his disregard for established rules of behavior.
He would be an excellent lover. He had treated her roughly; his caresses had been somewhat crude; but his brazenness had held an appeal all its own. He was the kind of challenge no woman could resist. A maverick to tame. A hellion to redeem.
Kerry could deny it until she turned blue in the face, but the truth was that he had aroused her. So, to keep herself from doing something extremely foolish, she would consider herself as unavailable as he thought her to be. In a way, she was even now taking a vow of chastity.
He was impatiently jabbing a stick into the fire. Frustration was evident in his every movement and in the gritty sound of his voice. "Being what you are, how could you do what you did last night?"
"I was desperate. Surely you can see that now."
"But you were so damned convincing."
She felt flattered and ashamed at the same time. "I did what was necessary."
She could feel his gaze on her and couldn’t prevent herself from meeting it. Across the fire, they stared at each other. Each was remembering his caresses, the forbidden places where he had touched her, the thorough, intimate kisses they had shared. Their thoughts ran parallel. They were on tongues, and breasts, and innuendoes that would have been better left unsaid.
Linc was the first to look away. His expression was tense. He swore beneath his breath. "Maybe you missed your rightful calling. You played your part so well," he said scornfully. "But then you had to, didn’t you? You had to be certain I’d go along with you, so you lured me with a few feels. A few tastes of you – "
"Stop it!"
"Until I was crazy with lust and not thinking too clearly."
"I lied to you, yes!" she cried. She feared the seductiveness of his words and had to stop them. "I tricked and deceived you, yes. Suffered your insufferable embraces. I’d do it again if that’s what it took to get these children to safety."
"Remember me in your prayers tonight, Sister Kerry," he growled. "I sure as hell need them."
He quickly tossed the dregs of his coffee into the fire. The live coals hissed like a serpent. A cloud of smoke rose up between them, symbolic of the hell he was going through to keep himself from touching her.
The Devil's Own The Devil's Own - Sandra Brown The Devil