Forever is not a word…rather a place where two lovers go when true love takes them there.

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Tác giả: Sandra Brown
Thể loại: Tiểu Thuyết
Biên tập: Bach Ly Bang
Upload bìa: Duy Phuc Nguyen
Language: English
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Cập nhật: 2015-10-22 15:11:14 +0700
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Chapter 5
erry fought like a wildcat.
She bit the meaty part of his hand below his wristbone and earned a grunt of pain for her efforts. But when she tried to work her mouth free to scream, his hand only mashed against her lips bruisingly. The sounds she tried desperately to utter were stifled.
She kicked backward against his shins, wiggled and squirmed, scratched and clawed, twisted and turned. But his strength was far superior to hers. His arms felt like a vise about to crush her ribs.
"Shut up and be still for crissake."
Kerry went limp. Her captor was Linc.
While it was infuriating that he would frighten her this way, she was thankful that it was he and not a guerrilla fighter who was dragging her deeper into the jungle and away from the house.
"Um-um-um."
"Shh! Shut up."
His words were nothing but hissing breaths close to her ear. Then new sounds registered with her, sounds she hadn’t noticed before, but which were frightfully distinctive and familiar. The gruff laughter of men. The lilting, melodic tones of conversational Spanish spiced with vulgarities. The clanging of aluminum cooking pots and the clinking of armaments.
Soldiers were making camp somewhere nearby.
Gradually Linc eased his hand away from her mouth. Her lips were bloodless and numb from the pressure he had applied, but she forced them to move, forming words that were mouthed almost without sound.
"Who are they?"
"I didn’t wait to ask."
"Where?"
"On the front lawn of the estate."
Her eyes widened in alarm. She turned on her heels and was about to charge through the brush. Linc’s arm shot out. His hand grasped a handful of her wet shirt and, using that as leverage, hauled her back.
"Let me go!"
"Are you nuts?"
"The children."
"They’re safe."
While this terse conversation was talcing place, he was dragging her through the dark, dense foliage. "Get in there." He moved aside a vine as heavy and thick as a velvet drape and impatiently motioned her in.
"But the children!"
"I told you, they’re safe." When it became obvious that she was going to argue, he spread his hand wide over the top of her head and shoved her down. Her knees buckled beneath her and landed jarringly on the fertile undergrowth. Before she had time to regain her balance, he gave her shoulder a push. She fell over onto her side and rolled into the leafy lair. He scrambled in after her and dropped the natural curtain behind them.
He fit his body against hers like a second skin to maximize the room in their hiding place. "Now lie still and stay quiet," he whispered directly into her ear. "Don’t move. Don’t make a sound."
Kerry would have protested had his arm not increased its pressure against her midriff. It was a reflexive motion ferry understood, since she heard the sounds only seconds after Linc had. Someone was thrashing his way through the jungle, muttering to himself in vernacular Spanish as he came nearer.
His booted feet came dangerously close to where they lay, so close that the downward slash of his machete stirred the plants screening them in the darkness. Kerry sucked her breath in and held it. Linc, whose warm breath had been fanning her neck, did the same. They didn’t move so much as an eyelash.
The soldier went past them, but they didn’t relax. Through the jungle floor, they could still feel the vibration of his footsteps. And as they had expected, he retraced the path he had taken and came near them again, stopping only inches from where they lay behind the vine.
Kerry heard the sound of his slipping his machete into its leather scabbard, then the scratch of a match being struck. The pungent aroma of marijuana smoke filtered down to them. The soldier had decided to take a break from the arduous job of killing and looting.
Linc pressed his face into the nape of Kerry’s neck, and they lay motionless and soundless. She thought of a hundred hazards that could reveal them. An untimely cough. A sneeze. A snake.
She shivered, only partially because her shirt was clinging to her wetly. The shudder was one of stark terror. What if they were discovered? And what about the children? Were they really safe, or had Linc just told her that to get her to cooperate in these self-preserving measures?
No, he wouldn’t do that. But he might. He had told her once that he looked out for himself above anybody.
Thankfully, the soldier didn’t smoke for long. He must have pinched out the cigarette because the sickly, sweet fragrance faded away. They heard the rustling of his clothes as he repocketed the joint, then the soft, rhythmic clank of his water canteen bouncing against his hip as he moved away.
Linc waited a full five minutes from the time they last heard his shuffling tread before the pressure of his arm around Kerry relaxed and he lifted his head. For several moments neither did anything but breathe deeply, gratefully refilling their deprived lungs with air.
"What was he saying?" Linc whispered when he felt it was safe to do so.
"He was complaining that his sergeant sent him out on that scouting mission."
"Anything about us?"
"No."
"Good. I guess they don’t know we’re here. Are you all right?"
She was scared half to death, but she answered, "Fine. The children?"
"They’re safe. I think."
She craned her head around to look at him. "What do you mean you think?"
"Shh. Relax. They were safely hidden when I came looking for you." Over her shoulder she studied his shadowed face. "I swear it," he said, offended by her suspicion.
Kerry was ashamed of her momentary lack of trust. Linc O’Neal was a scoundrel, but he wouldn’t sacrifice children to save his own hide. Even he wasn’t that unscrupulous. "What happened?"
Speaking hi whispers that were barely louder than a deep breath, Linc related what had happened. "I heard their trucks approaching while I was taking that last look around. I figured that if we had thought the deserted house would serve as a good camp, then soldiers would too. I fan back, found you gone, and hustled the children into the root cellar beneath the kitchen."
"I didn’t know there was one."
"I hope the soldiers don’t either," he said grimly. "I put Joe in charge and threatened him with castration-by- machete if he left the cellar before I came to get them. He argued with me, of course, and wanted to go searching for you."
"I shouldn’t have left."
"A little late to be thinking of that, Miss Bishop." His low volume didn’t soften the stern reprimand.
She thought of several biting comebacks, but saved them. Her primary concern was for the children. "Were the children afraid?"
"Yeah, but I calmed them down, tried to make a game out of hiding. They have water. I promised them a treat if they didn’t make a sound. I told them to go to sleep and said that when they woke up, you’d be there."
"Do you think they understood?"
"I hope to God they did. When he wasn’t arguing, Joe was translating for me." Worriedly he added, "I’d hate to have to explain nine hidden children to this bunch of cutthroats."
The memory of the commander and his rough, insulting touch still made Kerry feel slightly sick to her stomach. "Are they the same ones we encountered today?" she asked with dread.
"I don’t know. But they probably aren’t any better, whatever side of the conflict they’re on. I thought it best just to stay out of their way."
"I agree. What about the truck?"
"Luckily, I hid it under brush after we unloaded it."
She lay still for a moment, trying not to think about the way Linc’s legs were pressed against hers. As precisely as her wet shirt was plastered to her torso, his legs were molded to every contour of hers.
"I told you to stay in the house," he said abruptly. "You agreed to do everything I told you to."
"I needed some air," she snapped.
Knowing that he was right stung her pride. It had been reckless of her to leave the house, especially at night. Now, if any harm came to the orphans, she would have to take the blame upon herself. It would be entirely her fault.
"Well you could have gotten a lot of air… through the bullet holes in your body." He unleashed his frustration. "You almost got yourself killed, along with the rest of us. I hope you enjoyed your bath."
"I did. Brief as it was." Suddenly she drew herself up more tensely. "Linc, I left my clothes-"
"I stuffed them behind a banana tree. Let’s hope they’re not discovered."
"Why didn’t you just bring them with you?"
"Look, lady," he said snidely, "I’ve only got two hands. I couldn’t collect your clothes and haul you out of your bath and keep you quiet all at the same time. So I stashed the clothes. Okay? If the soldiers had found you before I did, they would have stripped you naked anyway, and believe me, base as you may think I am, I have more respect for your modesty than they would have."
Kerry wished he hadn’t made even that veiled reference to her nakedness. Now that they were out of immediate danger, she could turn her thinking to her scanty attire and her forced proximity to Linc.
How long would they have to stay hidden, lying close together, unable to move or speak above a whisper? They couldn’t relax their guard for a single moment. Since they weren’t hidden beneath the house as the children were, the density of the jungle at night was the only place they could hide. To go in search of another hiding place would be risky. She was just coming to realize how uncomfortable the next several hours would be.
And not only in terms of being cramped and cold. Linc’s nearness was playing havoc with her senses. She gravitated toward the security his virile frame promised. Her chilled body sought the warmth of his.
"Whatever they’re cooking smells good," she remarked to take her mind off him.
"Don’t think about it." His own stomach rumbled hungrily. She angled her head back a fraction and glanced over her shoulder at him. "It’s probably iguana…or worse," he said in an attempt to banish both their hunger pangs.
"Don’t say that," she murmured, shifting her legs slightly. "I keep imagining creepy-crawly critters moving over me."
"Be still." He clenched his teeth. The slightest movements she made caused her hips to press against the curve of his lap. She was already fitted securely into that notch, and the merest shifting motion of her legs caused her bottom to rub against him.
"I’m trying," she said, "but my muscles keep cramping."
"Are you cold?"
"A little," she admitted.
The jungle was like a sauna in daylight hours, steamy and airless. But they were lying on the damp ground. Sunlight had never penetrated this dense foliage and, as a result, it was abnormally cool beneath the vine. She was so clammy that her teeth had begun to chatter.
"You’d better take off that wet shirt."
Ponderous seconds ticked by. They lay as tense and motionless as they had while the soldier was nearby. Kerry wanted to negate his idea outright. But before she could even form the words, she shivered uncontrollably. Under the circumstances, any maidenly protests would sound ridiculous.
But to lie in Linc O’Neal’s arms wearing nothing but panties…?
"I’m all right," she said stiffly.
He sighed with exasperation. "I’ll take my shirt off. You can wrap yourself in that."
She reconsidered, knowing that catching cold would certainly be untimely. "All right," she said reluctantly. "How… how do we do it?"
"Let me go first."
Moving as little as possible, he wedged his hand between her back and his chest and unbuttoned the few buttons on his bush shirt. With excruciating care not to move a single leaf, he eased himself into a half-sitting position and shrugged the shirt off his shoulders and down his arms. The effort made him short-winded. He was panting by the time he worked his arms free of the sleeves.
"There," he sighed. "Now you."
Kerry was grateful for the darkness which hid them. At the same time, it lent intimacy to their awkward situation. She rolled her lips inward around her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, trying to muster her slipping courage before reaching for the buttons of her own shirt. That was the easy part. The difficulty came when she tried to peel the clinging, damp fabric away from her skin.
"Sit up as far as you can," Linc suggested.
She detected the hoarseness in his voice and passed it off as caution against discovery. She didn’t dare entertain the notion that there might be another reason behind it.
Moving carefully, she raised herself until she could prop her weight on one elbow. Then, lifting and lowering her opposite shoulder repeatedly, she tried to work the wet shirt free.
"Here, let me help."
She felt the warm pressure of Linc’s hand on her shoulder. It moved down her arm, taking the shirt with it, inch by slow inch. At her elbow, he had to give it an extra tug. His knuckles bumped into the side of her breast.
They froze.
"Sorry," he said at last.
Kerry said nothing. The lump of embarrassment lodged in her throat wouldn’t have allowed a word to get past. He slipped the sleeve down until she pulled her hand from it. The position she had to maintain, compounded by tension, had strained all her muscles to the aching point. Tiredly she lay back down and released a grateful breath. The air cooled her back as Linc moved the wet cloth aside.
"Can you manage the rest?" he asked.
"Yes, I think so."
She rolled backward, actually bringing herself closer against him, while she pulled the other sleeve from the arm she’d been lying on. As soon as the shirt was off, she rolled forward again, hoping that in those brief few moments her breasts hadn’t been as vulnerable as they had felt. It was so dark that she doubted he could actually see her. But they both knew that she was completely uncovered.
It was a disturbing thought.
So much so that, when he draped his shirt over her, she clutched at it, pulling it against her chilled skin. It was both a relief and a hazard. It provided warmth and covering, but it also smelled like him. Linc’s scent filled her head and had an intoxicating effect. Holding his garment against her was like being wrapped in his arms.
"Better?"
She nodded her head. Her hair was heavy and wet. She gathered it in her fist and shifted it above her head. But that left her neck and shoulders bare. Now she could feel each breath he took. She knew without looking that he was wearing only the army-green tank top, and that above the deeply scooped neckline grew an impressive pelt of chest hair.
"You’re still shivering." He laid his arm over her and drew her back against him.
Closing her eyes tightly didn’t help to dispel her memory of his arms, leanly bunched with muscles, ribboned with healthy veins. She had seen him shirtless that morning while he washed. As he sluiced water over his head and chest, she had noticed his sleek musculature.
Now she wished she hadn’t paid such close attention. The muscles she had admired that morning were pressed against her back. She felt them twitch, contract and relax, as though they were as jumpy as her nerves.
That morning, the sun had streaked his hair with russet highlights and made his body hair glow a reddish-gold. She could feel its crinkly patterns now against her bare skin. And she knew that his shoulders were sprinkled with freckles, as his cheekbones were.
"Are your legs cold?" Not trusting her to give him an honest answer, Linc ran his hand down the outside of her thighs and felt the goose bumps. "I’m going to put my legs over yours. Don’t be alarmed."
She could almost laugh. Don’t be alarmed. A ludicrous statement. Like, "Don’t turn around, but isn’t that Prince Charles and Lady Di coming through the door?" Or like the dentist saying as he lifts his drill, "You might feel a slight tingle but don’t let it bother you."
It was impossible not to be alarmed. When he laid his thigh across hers, it brought the full solidity of his male-ness directly up against her bottom. The rough cloth of his fatigue pants pleasantly abraded her sensitive skin.
"Aren’t you cold, too?" she asked in a high, thin voice.
"No. I’ve got on pants and you’re wearing nothing but-"
Right. Stop right there, O’Neal. Don’t say it. It was bet-to: left unsaid. Neither of them needed to be reminded that all she was wearing was a pair of panties, and that they were sheer and skimpy and damp. Better that they direct the conversation toward anything – books, movies, politics, the weather – than to even make mention of her attire, or lack thereof.
"I still have my canteen. Do you want some water?"
"No," she replied breathlessly. She didn’t want him to move. Every time he moved, she felt him. Vividly. And her mind kept reverting to when she was trying to get the pistol out of his waistband and how his body had looked. What she had only guessed at then, she could feel pressing against her hips now.
How long would this night last? Hours. And what if the soldiers didn’t break camp and pull out at daybreak, as she and Linc had tacitly assumed they would? She didn’t think her pounding heart could stand the strain. Something had to be done, said, to relieve the tension.
"Tell me about yourself, Linc."
God, she didn’t want to know about him. If she were smart, she didn’t want to know that he sensed her with every nerve fiber in his body. They were alive and kicking, feeling her, smelling her, tasting her. She didn’t want to know how his blood vessels were pumping with desire for her.
He had raced back to the house, the convoy of military trucks only minutes behind him. He had bounded into the large living room, already issuing orders for her to get the children and their pallets up and into the kitchen. He had been dumbfounded when Joe told him that Kerry wasn’t there, that she’d left the house.
Cursing her even while he spoke soothing words that the children couldn’t even understand, he herded them into the dark, dank cellar. It was spooky, but it provided a perfect hiding place. As he sealed the door and moved a cabinet over the floorboards, he cursed the headstrong woman who was loose in a jungle crawling with guerrilla fighters when she could be safely bidden.
Only fear for her safety had contained his fury as he had dashed through the darkness looking for her. He remembered seeing the creek when he had previously scouted around the deserted estate. The refreshing water had tempted him into taking a quick dip. Acting purely on a hunch, he had followed the vine-choked path toward it.
He had felt both murderous and profoundly relieved when he discovered Kerry splashing in the shallow water. Taking time only to hide her pile of clothing in the brush, he’d lifted her out. Snatches of erotic pictures were emblazoned on his brain.
He knew that her breasts were full, and that her nipples were so pointed and pink that a man would go through hell for a chance to touch them with his tongue. He thought about her breasts now, lying soft and unrestrained beneath his shirt and he ached to touch and reshape them in his hands. And a while ago, when she had rolled onto her back, he had known that all he had to do was lower his head and… God, it had been agony not to.
He knew that her derriere was taut and rounded, cute and saucy and sexy as hell. And now that sweet little butt was cuddling his sex. It took every ounce of self-discipline he possessed not to groan out loud with the thought.
He tried not to think of the way her hair had looked with the moonlight shining on it, or the way that silvery light had turned her eyes as deeply mysterious as sapphires. Her lips were strictly off limits. Yet the memory of their taste lingered in his mind. He couldn’t allow himself to think about the most vulnerable, most alluring part of her neck being only inches from his lips.
For someone already denied heaven, one more wicked thought didn’t matter. But he would die and see the gates of hell before the night was out if he continued torturing himself this way.
They needed diversion. Anything. To get their minds off what must surely be as discomfiting for her as it was for him, though for different reasons.
"What do you want to know?" His voice was little more than a growl.
‘‘Where did you grow up?"
"St. Louis."
"Tough neighborhood?" she asked instinctively.
He scoffed. "Lady, you can’t even begin to imagine."
"Your parents?"
"Both dead now. My old man raised me. My mother died when I was just a kid."
"No brothers or sisters?"
"No, thank God."
"Why’thank God’?"
"Because things were rough enough as it was. My dad worked all the time in the brewery. I was on my own after school until late every night. You see, he resented being stuck with me when my mom died. He was a foul-mouthed, mule-headed, hard-drinking man. His ambition extended only to having enough money to pay the rent and buy whiskey. The last thing he wanted was to take care of a kid. I left home as soon as I got old enough. I only saw him twice after that before he died."
"What happened to him?"
"He was bowling one night with a bunch of his cronies and just dropped dead of a heart attack. They buried him beside my mother. I was in Asia. They sent me the details of it in a letter."
Kerry didn’t know what to say. She’d never known anybody who had come from that kind of environment.’’ When did you get into photography?"
"High school. I was flunking something…I don’t remember what now…so they stuck me in the journalism class that put together the school newspaper. They gave me a camera and appointed me photographer as a punishment." He chuckled softly. "It backfired. By the end of the year, I was hooked."
"Where did you go to college?"
"College?" He barked a scornful laugh. "Cambodia, Vietnam, Africa, the Middle East. I got my formal education on the Golan Heights, and in Beirut and Belfast, and in refugee camps in Biafra and Ethiopia."
"I see."
"I seriously doubt that," he said bitterly.
Kerry didn’t know whether his resentment was directed toward her, toward his unloving father, toward his lack of formal education, or a combination of all of them. But she felt it safer not to pursue it.
It was he who finally broke the silence. "What about you? What kind of childhood did you have?"
"Charmed." Kerry smiled with remembrances of golden tones. Before they were tarnished by scandal. Before the nightmare. Before the bubble burst. "Like you, both my parents are dead now, but I had them when I was growing up."
"You went to parochial school, of course."
"Yes," she answered truthfully.
"Let me guess. You wore navy blue pinafores over stiff white blouses. And pigtails so tight they made your eyes water. White stockings and black patent shoes. Your face and hands were never dirty."
She laughed softly. "You’re remarkably accurate."
"And you were taught social graces along with Latin and Humanities."
She nodded, thinking back on all the formal salons she had sat in with her parents, listening to boring conversations, which to a teenager with a passion for the Rolling Stones, had had no relevance. She had never been at a loss as to which fork to use and had always politely thanked the host and hostess for the evening’s entertainment. Linc had had a latch-key, and she had had personalized stationery.
"Yes," she replied, "my father’s work involved considerable travel. You and I might have been in some of the same places at the same time."
He uttered another of those humorless laughs. "Honey, you don’t even know about some of the places I’ve been in."
"I’m not that innocent."
"Compared to you, Sister Kerry, Rebecca of Sunny-brook Farm led a wild life."
Though she couldn’t see his face, she could imagine the sneer on his lips. Knowing now how different his background was from hers, she could understand why he might ridicule her previously sheltered life and lack of worldly experience.
She lapsed into silence. Apparently he was of the same mind. He adjusted himself more comfortably against her. Miraculously they fell asleep.
Kerry came awake suddenly. Every muscle in her body was tense and quivering. "What is it?"
"Shh." Linc laid his fingers against her lips. "It’s only rain."
The huge drops fell heavily on the plants surrounding them. They landed in hard splats. It sounded as though their shelter were being pelleted with BBs. "Oh, Lord," Kerry whimpered and ducked her head so low that her chin almost touched her chest. "I hate this."
Even though the broad leaves of the vine covering them provided some protection from the torrent, rainwater still trickled through the foliage and dripped chillingly onto her exposed skin. Her muscles were cramped. She longed to stretch her limbs in all directions in order to ease their aching and to restore circulation.
"I can’t stay in here. I’ve got to get out."
"No," he said sharply.
"Just for a minute. To stretch."
"And get soaked in the process. Then when you crawl back in, you’ll be even more uncomfortable. No, Kerry."
"We could sneak back into the house," she said in a hopeful rush.
"Uh-huh."
"No one will be watching. We could go through the kitchen and join the children in the basement. They must be terrified."
"They’re probably asleep. Besides, they have Joe."
"No one would see us."
"If s too risky. The soldiers are bound to have posted a watch."
"I don’t want to stay here any longer!"
"And I don’t want to be shot! I don’t think you want to be gang raped either." She sucked in her breath quickly. "Now hush about it. We’re not leaving until I say so."
The racket around them was deafening. It was raining buckets. Kerry felt the jaws of claustrophobia closing around her.
"How much longer?" she asked.
"I don’t know."
"Dawn?"
"I hope."
"What time is it?"
"Around four I think."
"I can’t stand it any longer, Linc." She hated the tremor in her voice, but she couldn’t control it. "Truly, I can’t."
"You’ve got to."
"I can’t. Please let me stand up."
"No."
"Please."
"I said no, Kerry."
"Just for a minute. I’ve got – "
"Turn around."
"What?"
"Turn around. Face me. Switching positions will help." Her muscles were screaming for her to move. She turned onto her back, then did another quarter turn to bring herself face to face with Linc.
He laid his arm across her waist and sandwiched her thighs between his. She placed her hands on his chest and buried her face in the hollow of his shoulder. Tucking her head beneath his chin, he held her close. She basked in the warm security he provided until the noisily splattering rain abated.
Kerry never knew how long they stayed like that. It might have been hours or merely minutes before she gradually became aware that the rainfall had ceased and that the silence was as loud as the downpour had been. She stirred and would have put space between Linc and her, had there been any space available.
"I’m sorry," she whispered.
"It’s okay."
"I panicked. Claustrophobia, I guess."
"You woke up frightened. You’re cold, hungry, uncomfortable. So am I. But for the time being, this is the best we can do."
His voice sounded funny. She didn’t have to ask why. Her own was none too steady. The feel of his breath against her face, the way his fingers were moving comfortingly through her hair, the heat rising from the places where skin contacted skin were the reasons behind her tremulousness.
"Why did you do it, Kerry?"
"What?"
"Commit yourself to a vocation so unsuited to you."
Oh, that. She felt wretched about her lie. With the exception of their bitter quarrels, he had treated her honorably since he had mistaken her for a nun. If he had continued to be aggressive and abusive, she would have taken a blood oath that her life was committed to a religious order. But his nobility demanded the truth. At least a partial truth.
Yet, she stalled. "Why do you say it doesn’t suit me?"
Linc’s head was whirling with discrepancies. Kerry felt more womanly than any woman he’d ever held in his arms. He couldn’t reconcile this young, beautiful, desirable woman with his concept of a nun. The sweet pressure of her breasts against his chest, the way her mouth had yielded to his those few times he had kissed her, just didn’t jibe with black habits and cloistered abbeys. He was streetwise enough to know that some first impressions were sound. And he’d bet his life on this one.
In answer to her question he said, "You don’t look like any nun I ever saw."
"Nuns look like everybody else."
"Do they all wear bikini panties?"
She blushed hotly. "I…1 happen to like frilly underwear. That’s not a sin. Feminine things appeal to me because I’m a woman."
That he didn’t need to be reminded of. She was a woman, all right. He could feel her womanliness with every masculine cell in his body.
"You just don’t have a holy aspect." She stiffened with the affront, but he held her tighter. "I don’t mean that you’re unholy, it’s just that… hell…"
He paused for a moment, searching for words. "I mean, didn’t you ever think about having kids? You’re great with these orphans. Didn’t you ever want to have kids of your own?"
"Yes," she answered honestly.
"And a, uh, you know, a man?"
"I’ve thought about that, yes," she said softly. She wondered if he could feel her heart pounding against his chest. Her answer was truthful. But she’d never thought about having a man as powerfully as she was thinking about it now.
She was recalling the masterful way his tongue had parted her lips and moved inside her mouth, and the manner in which his hands had been both caressing and commanding. She had felt the grinding thrust of his hips against hers. Total possession by this man must be an ultimate sexual experience for a woman.
"You’ve thought about making love with a man?"
She nodded, rubbing her nose in his crisp chest hair.
"You’ve wondered what it feels like?"
She held her lips tightly together to stopper the longing groan that pressed against them from the inside. "Of course."
He sifted his hands through her hair. "If he knows what he’s doing, a man can give you pleasure. Pleasure never dreamed of."
She was liquifying, melting against him. She wondered how he could continue to hold her when surely she must be dissolving in his arms.
"Aren’t you curious to know how it feels?"
"Yes."
"Well then," he asked, hoarsely, "won’t you feel cheated if you don’t ever experience that?"
She held her breath for what seemed like an interminable length of time before blurting out, "I haven’t taken any final vows yet."
He flinched reflexively. "What?"
"I said-"
"I heard what you said. What does that mean?" His breath was hot, as hot as the widespread hand branding the skin on her back.
She was sorely tempted to tell him the truth then and there. Seconds after the words were out of her mouth, he would be making love to her. Of that she had no doubt. Swollen and hard, his manhood pressed against her belly. She was dewy and achy with desire for him. What transporting ecstasy it would be to – But no. Her attention must be focused solely on the nine orphans. Their lives were in her hands. If they were to survive, they needed all the odds in their favor. Neither she nor Linc could be distracted for a single instant.
If they became lovers, that would not only be a distraction, but a complication. When this was all over, when they were safe in the United States, their relationship would be a heart-rending dilemma to her and an albatross to him.
Kerry couldn’t give herself to any man lightly, yet that’s the way this man of vast experience would take her. She had no doubt that when Linc had referred to a man who knew how to give a woman pleasure he was speaking of himself. But that’s all it would be to him. Pleasure. Mutual but temporary. Involvement with a man like Linc O’Neal would only open up oceans of regret for her.
She chose her answering words carefully. "It means that I’m still considering what to do with the rest of my life." It wasn’t a lie. It was a solid truth. She hadn’t planned her future beyond getting the nine children into the United States.
She felt his heavy sigh; it seeped out of him gradually. And with it, his tension. His compliance with her silently expressed wishes made her feel even worse about her deception.
She remained lying in his arms, but there was a tangible difference in the way he held her. Soon, grayish light began filtering through the branches of the vine. Straining their ears, they could hear sounds of morning activity coming from the soldiers’ camp. The smell of coffee and food made them both delirious with hunger. Several times they heard men moving through the jungle, but none came as close as the soldier had the night before. Finally, they picked up the welcome sound of truck engines being pumped to life.
Linc waited about fifteen minutes before he lifted the vine and crawled out. "You stay here."
Kerry obeyed him. She was actually grateful for the moments of privacy. She pulled on her own shirt, which was still damp, and ran her fingers through her hair. It was a mass of tangles. She was still working her fingers through the knotted strands when the curtain of leaves was lifted.
"It’s all right," Linc told her. "They’re gone."
The Devil's Own The Devil's Own - Sandra Brown The Devil