We are too civil to books. For a few golden sentences we will turn over and actually read a volume of four or five hundred pages.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 
 
 
 
 
Tác giả: Sandra Brown
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Chapter 10
hey chorused their incredulity.
Of the three of them, Cage was the first to overcome his astonishment. "Where did you get that idea?"
"She isn’t a nun?" Linc croaked.
Baffled, Jenny shook her head. "No."
"Has she ever thought about becoming a nun?" Linc asked. "Taken the first steps?"
"Not to my knowledge."
Linc lunged from his chair with such force that he knocked it over backward. Still shell-shocked by his outlandish presumption, the Hendrens sat mutely and watched him storm from the kitchen and race for the stairs. He took them two at a time. If the door of the guest bedroom hadn’t been made of top grade lumber, it would have shattered beneath his hand as he shoved it open. It crashed against the inside wall. He marched in.
The bed was neatly made. The room was empty. The only movement came from the open window overlooking the patio and pool below. Airy curtains fluttered there in the soft, Southern, morning breeze.
Linc spun around and hastily retraced his footsteps to the kitchen. Civilities were the furthest thing from his mind. "You didn’t tell me she was already up," he accused his hosts.
Jenny was staring at him apprehensively and fiddling with a button on her maternity blouse. Cage was nonchalantly sipping coffee. It was he who looked up and said inno cently, "You didn’t ask."
"Where is she?"
"She went horseback riding," Cage told him evenly. "Got up early, even before Jenny."
Linc was holding back his explosive Irish temper with remarkable self-control. The only dead giveaways were the muscles flexing his jaw and his hands, which were held rigidly at his sides while his fingers alternately opened and closed into fists.
"We drank a cup of coffee together, then she asked if she could borrow one of the horses for a while. I helped her saddle it, and she rode off in that direction." Cage hitched his chin toward the endless horizon.
Linc looked in the direction Cage had indicated and studied the prairie through the kitchen window. "How long ago?"
Cage, secretly enjoying Linc’s stewing, contemplated his answer to the simple question for an inordinate length of time. "Oh, about an hour and a half, I’d say."
"Can I borrow your pickup?" Linc had noticed a pickup in the garage the evening before. Unlike Cage’s other cars, which were polished to a high sheen, the pickup had been scarred by every single mile recorded on its odometer.
"Sure," Cage replied congenially and stood up to fish the keys out his tight jeans pocket. He tossed them to Linc.
"Thanks." He turned abruptly and left through the back door, covering the distance between the house and the garage with the long, angry stride of a man bent on getting swift and savage revenge.
Jenny got up and moved to the window. She watched Linc slam shut the door of the pickup and grind the reluctant motor to a start. He cranked the steering wheel around and drove off in a cloud of dust.
"Cage, I don’t think you should have given him the keys. He looks positively furious."
"If Kerry led him to believe that she’s a nun, I’m sure he is. And I can’t say that I blame him."
"But-"
"Jenny," he said soothingly, moving behind her and encircling her with his arms. He linked his hands together beneath her heavy breasts. "Remember the night I chased down that Greyhound bus you were on?"
"How could I forget that? I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life."
Smiling at the memory, he placed his mouth close to her ear. "Well I was just as upset then as Linc is now. Hell or high water couldn’t have kept me from coming after you. We couldn’t have stopped Linc either. If I hadn’t lent him my truck, I think he would have struck out on foot to get to Kerry." He kissed her neck. "I just hope that his wild goose chase meets with as much success as mine did."
Linc, pushing the old truck to perform in excess of its capabilities, had murder on his mind, not romance. He scorched the roof of the pickup with curses and disparagements aimed at Kerry’s character. When he had exhausted those, he started verbally lambasting his own culpability.
What a damn fool he’d been! She must have been laughing up her sleeve at him all this time. She had duped him not once, but twice. First impersonating a whore, then a nun. Two such diverse personifications, and he’d been gullible enough to believe both of them.
What the hell was wrong with him? Had he been plagued with a jungle disease that ate at his brain? Had Kerry Bishop been slipping a mind-altering drug into his water canteen? How could he, Linc O’Neal, have been so goddamn naive?
He’d been around. He wasn’t a lust-blind kid, unacquainted with the wiles of females. Why hadn’t he seen past Kerry Bishop’s beautiful face and into her devious mind? She wasn’t a self-sacrificing churchwoman, but a cunning tease, who evidently had no scruples against manipulating a man to get what she wanted out of him.
Even when she had succeeded in achieving her goal, she I had kept up the pretense. "For her own protection," he said through gritted teeth. "To save her sweet neck," he told the dashboard of the truck.
A luscious figure and a gorgeous face had cost him his common sense and quick-wittedness. He hadn’t been his cold, calculating, cautious self since he’d left that damn I cantina with Wooten Bishop’s deceitful daughter.
The pickup truck bounced over the uneven road, which was actually no more than a pasture trail. Linc had no idea where he was going, but he was in a hurry to get there. He reasoned that ferry wasn’t well acquainted with Cage’s spread either. She probably would have stayed close to the road so she’d be certain to find her way back to the house.
His instincts paid off. After twenty minutes of hard driving over rugged terrain, he spotted a stock tank as large as a small lake. Its steep banks were shaded by the feathery branches of mesquite trees. The spring grass, not yet burned brown by the summer sun, was lush and green. One of Cage’s well-groomed quarter horses was tied to the lower branches of a mesquite on the rim of the bank overlooking the placid tank.
At the sound of the approaching pickup, Kerry, who was lying beneath the tree on a blanket she had taken from the tack room and tied behind her saddle, propped herself up on one elbow. She lifted the other hand to shade her eyes. She thought at first that it was Cage driving the truck, but sprang upright when she recognized the long-legged silhouette approaching her as belonging to Linc.
The incline didn’t slow him down at all. Within seconds he was looming over her, his booted feet planted firmly on the ground at the edge of her blanket. Her eyes moved up his legs, up Ms torso, and straight into a disconcerting golden glower. She didn’t have to guess at his mood. He was enraged. On the inside, she quailed, though she kept her chin up and met that intimidating stare without flinching. "You lying bitch."
Kerry didn’t even pretend to misunderstand. With a sinking heart and rapidly diminishing courage, she knew that she’d been found out. The only recourse she had was to brazen it out.
"Now, Linc," she said, quickly wetting her lips and holding her hands out in front of her as though to stave him off, "before you jump to any conclusions – "
He effectively cut her off by dropping to his knees and roughly grabbing her by the shoulders. "Before I jump on your bones, you mean."
Her face drained of color. He hadn’t made her a seductive promise but a menacing threat. "You wouldn’t."
"The hell I wouldn’t. But before I do, I want to know why you told me that ridiculous lie."
"I didn’t!" She tried to work herself free, but to no avail. The more she struggled, the more inescapable his hold became. "I never told you that I was a nun." "I didn’t dream it up, baby."
"You heard the children call me sister and drew your own conclusions. You – "
Her teeth clicked together when he hauled her up closer to his face, which was taut with fury. "But you sure as hell let me believe it, didn’t you? Why?" he roared. "To protect myself from you." "Don’t flatter yourself."
She went hot ail over at his sneering insult.’ ‘I knew what you had in mind. Don’t deny it. You were thinking that our escape through the jungle was going to be a lark, during which you planned to use me for a bedmate." "Me Tarzan, you Jane."
"It was no joking matter. You forced me to kiss you, to change clothes in front of you."
"I didn’t see anything that you hadn’t advertised by wearing that cheap dress!" he shouted back. "And whether you admit it or not, lady, you loved those kisses."
"I did not!"
"Like hell."
She had to take deep, restorative breaths before she could continue. "I was trying to think of a way to avoid your unwelcome sexual advances when the children inadvertently provided me with a way."
"Why did they call you Sister Kerry?"
"Because when I first got there, they started calling me Mother. I didn’t want them to think of me that way. I was already planning to bring them to the United States for adoption. I thought that being like an older sister would be a healthier relationship. Don’t blame me for your own gross mistake."
"What I blame you for is making a fool of me."
"I didn’t do it maliciously," she cried.
"Didn’t you?"
"No."
"Come now, Miss Kerry Bishop, daughter to one of the chief swindlers of our times, didn’t you take delight in playing me like a puppet? Don’t you come by those manipulative skills naturally?"
Kerry shuddered at the reference to her father and his corruption. Apparently Linc knew all about her background now. His scorn was well-founded, but it still hurt her to the core that he thought she was capable of such machinations.
"I let you think that I was a nun so that we would be concentrating only on the safety of the orphans."
"My ass. You lied to keep yourself safe from my pawing hands."
"All right, yes!"
"And my leering glances."
"Yes!"
"Not to mention all those kisses you claim to have hated."
"Yes!"
"See? By your own admission, you just went on lying."
"I tried to tell you," she cried in self-defense.
"Funny, I don’t remember that occasion."
"When you kissed me that last day. Just before we heard the airplane. I wanted to…tried to tell you then."
"Not very hard you didn’t."
"I didn’t have a chance. Everything started happening so fast."
"It was a long airplane trip from there to here."
"We argued over the money and I was too angry to tell you."
"What about since we got back? Cage and Jenny would protect you from me, wild animal that I am. Why haven’t you told me? You’ve had dozens of opportunities."
"Because I knew you’d react just as you are. That you’d be angry and abusive."
He lowered his voice to a sinister whisper. "Baby, anger doesn’t even come close to describing the way I feel. And you don’t know me very well if you think I’d be abusive."
To her humiliation, her lower lip began to quiver. "I never intended for it to go so far. Honestly. I’m sorry, Linc, truly I am."
"It’s too late for apologies, Kerry."
"I know I misrepresented myself, but I had no choice. I was desperate. I needed you, but I couldn’t cater to your desire. My first obligation was to the orphans."
"Do you think I’d fall for your claims to noble sentiments now?" he asked with a humorless laugh. "No way, sweetheart. I want you humbled. I want you to sink as low on the ego scale as I’ve been lately. Only that will satisfy me."
"What… what are you going to do?"
"What I told you that first morning I was going to do," he said silkily. "I’m gonna make you beg me for it."
"No!"
The husky exclamation died on Kerry’s lips when he pushed her back onto the blanket and followed her down, covering her with his body. He trapped her hands between them. They were useless to her when he secured her jaw with one hand and lowered his mouth to hers.
She struggled, but only succeeded in exhausting her supply of strength sooner. Even her best efforts didn’t budge him. Kicking didn’t help because he sandwiched her thighs between his. His knees kept hers pinned together. She couldn’t turn her head in any direction.
She tried to keep her lips pressed firmly together, but failed. He used his tongue like an instrument of tantalizing torture. It flicked softly over her lips, delved into the corners of them, outlined their shape until her unsteady, frightened breaths became gasps of pleasure. Finally, her lips relaxed and parted, without any force from him.
"That’s it, baby. Enjoy."
His kiss was long, sensual, seeking. He firmly slanted his lips over hers, first at one angle, then another, while his tongue moved inside her mouth with sinf ul skill. She wanted to hate this blatant violation, but she loved it. The texture of his tongue intrigued her. She wanted to feel it not only against hers, but everywhere. She wondered if the myriad textures of his body were this fascinating and thrilling, and yearned to have her curiosity appeased.
But she steeled herself against feeling anything but contempt for him and his hateful kiss. She tried to ignore the heat spilling down her chest and into the lower part of her body, tried to disregard the desire that ribboned through her like a river of wine as golden as his eyes, tried to dismiss the swirls of sensation that licked at her thighs, her middle, bet breasts. She wasn’t entirely successful, but she forced herself to lie still when she wanted to writhe against him like a cat being petted.
"You might just as well participate," he rasped when he felt her body tense. His lips coasted over her cheek, pecking light kisses on her creamy complexion, now tinted pink by exposure to sun and wind during her morning horseback ride. Linc didn’t allow himself to admire it too long. Feeling any tenderness for her was to be avoided at all costs if he were to regain his pride. "Because I’m not letting up until you’re crazy with lust. The longer you resist, Kerry, the longer it will take."
"Go to hell."
He made a tsking sound. "Is that any way for a nun to talk?"
"Don’t." When his tongue playfully batted against the lobe of her ear, she tried to sound irritable, but the protest came out as a low groan of arousal.
Linc recognized the sound for what it was. He’d never had difficulty sexually communicating with women, whether they spoke his language or not. It wasn’t so much what they said as how they said it. And clearer than the single word of denial, was Kerry’s breathless way of saying it.
"You like that?" he murmured, catching her ear lightly between his teeth.
"No."
He chuckled. "We both know you’re a liar. I think you like it a lot."
He kissed the soft skin beneath her ear, nuzzled behind it with his nose, flirted with the rim of it with his tongue. It was hard to tell now whether her fitful movements beneath him were meant to put more space between them or to get closer.
His breath was warm as it drifted over her face. It smelled appetizingly of coffee. And that was just one of the reasons why her lips were far more obliging this time when his, with very little pressure applied, settled over hers. His open mouth moved upon hers, separating her lips for his thrusting tongue. As it speared into her mouth, she felt a correlating stab of desire in the depths of her body.
When he raised his head and peered deeply into her eyes, she thought that she might have made an involuntary sound. He asked, "Feel that?"
At first she thought that he was referring to that sweet ache deep inside herself. Then her eyes went wide with alarm j when she realized that he was talking about the rigid flesh between his own thighs. She clamped her upper teeth over her lower lip and squeezed her eyes shut. His low laugh was nasty.
"I see that you do. Well, thaf s how it’s been, baby. While you’ve been playing your devious little games with me, I’ve been hard with wanting you. All that time we were stalking through the jungle together, I was miserable not only with heat and fatigue and hunger, but with a desire that I couldn’t quench. I was ashamed of it because I thought it was a violation of your holiness." He kept his voice as smooth as expensive brandy, but it had a bite as strong as cheap whiskey. "There’s nothing holy about you, is there?"
He worked his hand between their bodies. When Kerry realized what he was going to do, she went rigid. "No!" It was a soundless cry.
"Why, Kerry, you surprise me. Don’t you want to know the full extent of your powers?"
When he had unbuttoned his jeans, he reached for one of her hands and dragged it down. "No!" This time her protest was stifled by his kiss, a hard, possessive kiss that glued his lips to hers and sent his tongue deep into her mouth.
As he opened her hand over himself, Kerry’s brain recorded a thousand fleeting impressions. One prevailed. She wanted to touch him. She wanted to discover. She wanted to catalogue the smoothness, the hardness, the warmth. She wanted to sink her fingers into the hair that was coarse and springy, but soft.
She fought the temptation as long as she could, but self-discipline didn’t serve her long enough. Her hand stopped resisting the relentless pressure of his. Of its own free will it molded to his shape and became inquisitive.
Making an animal sound, Linc tore his mouth from hers and roughly shoved her hand away. His breathing was unsteady and rapid. "Not that way, Kerry," he said in a voice hardly above a growl. "You won’t get by with that. You never quit playing dirty, do you? I guess it runs in the family. You’ve always got one more trick up your sleeve. Well, your tricks won’t work this tune."
Perplexity filled her dark blue eyes, but he didn’t seem to notice. He was studying the buttons on her casual shirt. He negligently opened the first one. "I vaguely remember how it feels to touch you. You’re small, but nice." The sexist comment brought a wave of resentment rushing through her. He saw the mutiny in her eyes and smiled arrogantly. "And as I recall, your nipples respond nicely."
Her cheeks flared with color, especially when he succeeded in opening all the buttons on her blouse and spreading it open. She and Jenny were of comparable size when Jenny wasn’t pregnant. Kerry’s breasts filled the cups of the lacy brassiere she had borrowed. With the sunlight pouring over them, there was little left to Linc’s imagination.
His eyes turned dark and Kerry thought she saw a muscle in his cheek twitch with something akin to remorse, before his lips formed that hard, unyielding line again. "Open it."
"I won’t."
"Then you can explain to Jenny how the fastener got broken," he said, reaching for the clasp.
"You’re vile."
"Open it."
Setting her jaw stubbornly, she opened the clasp, but left the cups alone. After muttering a snide thank you, he moved them aside and left her bare to his gaze. It was as scorching as the sun overhead.
Kerry’s bravado deserted her. Her eyes closed in shame, so she missed seeing him swallow convulsively. She also missed the spasm of regret that twisted his stern lips as he ran his hands over her. The words he spoke fell like harmful blows on her ears.
"That’s what I thought. Not much there, but what there is, is nice."
She slapped at his hands, but he secured her wrists in one manacling hold. She shrank away from his touch when he cupped the underside of her breast and pushed it up. His thumb whisked across the sensitive tip. When it responded, he laughed gloatingly. Again and again he dragged his thumb across the beaded crest, sometimes with agonizing leisure, sometimes with a quick fanning motion, sometimes raking it gently with his thumbnail, until it was quite stiff.
"Very nice," he said hoarsely. "At least to look at, play with. How do you taste?"
Her back arched off the blanket at the first deft brush of his tongue. "No, no," she groaned, rolling her head from side to side.
‘Tm not convinced you mean that, Kerry." He spoke directly above her, so that even as he formed the words with his lips, they moved against the aching, throbbing flesh of her nipple.
She made a murmur of protest and had to bite her Iowa lip to keep from crying out, not in outrage or fear or disgust, but from pleasure. It was exquisite, the touch of his warm, wet tongue against her breast. He licked her until she was wet and glistening, then let the wind dry her while he treated the other breast to the same torturous pleasure.
"Please, no more," she begged.
"A lot more."
She gave an agonized cry when he took her nipple between his lips and held it within the satin heat of his mouth, He tugged on her gently; she made soft moaning sounds with each squeezing, milking motion of his mouth.
"Please, stop," she gasped.
He raised his head. "What do you want?" His tongue moved capriciously over the raised center of her breast.
"For you to stop."
"Why?"
"Because I hate it. Hate you."
"You might hate me. In fact, I’m sure you do. But you don’t hate this." Again he touched her with the tip of his tongue. "Do you?" He repeated the question, each time nudging her with his tongue or sipping at her with his lips.
"Yes," she said, shivering with need.
"Do you?"
"Yes."
"Do you?"
"Ye…no, no, no." A sobbing sound tore through her throat.
"I didn’t think so."
He lowered his head and kissed her stomach, while he struggled to open the fly of her slacks. Breathlessly, Kerry gasped for ah". She was barely conscious of what his hands were doing. All her concentration was centered on his lips as they moved over her flesh, seeming to touch everywhere at once.
She actually raised her hips and aided him when he worked her slacks down. He kissed her protrudent hip bone, swung his head around and kissed the other. His lips brushed her navel, his tongue danced around it and probed it provocatively. He kissed her mound through her panties.
Kerry gave a startled cry and struggled to free her hands. When she succeeded, she didn’t fight him. Instead she mindlessly entangled her fingers in his hair. He went on kissing her, leaving her flesh fevered and damp where his mouth had been.
"I thought about this that night you slept in my arms." Linc could barely speak, and even then it was a hoarse whisper. "Your breasts beneath my mouth. Your thighs opening to me."
She didn’t remember his getting her panties off, but she suddenly realized that his eyes were hungrily moving over her nakedness. She should have been terrified of his ravenous gaze, but, oddly, she wasn’t. Her single thought was that she hoped he was pleased with her.
His fingers sifted through the dark cloud of hair between her thighs. Reflexively her knees came up. He parted them. Then he lowered his head and placed his mouth where she most wanted to feel him.
When his lips touched her, she cried his name. When his tongue touched her, she died a little. Holding her hips between his strong hands, Linc gave her pleasure with the same dedication with which he did everything else.
He stopped short of bringing her to climax, though he brought her to the threshold time and again. Her face was dewy with perspiration when he bent over it. "Tell me you want me."
It was a miracle that he could even form the words in his mind, much less speak them aloud. His body was pulsing with a need so great it surpassed mere desire. God, he needed to be sheathed inside her body, giving her the passion that threatened to kill him if it wasn’t shared. He was filled to bursting with his need for her.
And suddenly this revenge seemed a thankless, empty victory. He didn’t want to triumph over her. He didn’t want to see her cowed in defeat, but glowing with a desire to match his own. He wanted to see joy in her face, not subjugation.
But habits formed in childhood were hard to break. Nobody got the best of Lincoln O’Neal without knowing his vengeance. He’d had to scrap for every ounce of affection and respect he had ever received. He knew no other way to ask than to make it a demand.
"Tell me you want me," he ground out again, clenching bis teeth in an effort to keep his body from doing what it was primed to do without playing out this senseless game. He slipped the tip of his organ between the moist petals of her sex.
"I want you," Kerry gasped.
"Inside you," he panted.
"Inside me."
Those two words snapped his control. He slipped into her body and gave a mighty push that sent him straight to her womb. He gave a cry of such anguish and regret that it seemed to echo off the endless sky. He wanted to withdraw, but his control was gone.
Knowing that he would be damned a sinner anyway, and powerless over the demands of his body, he made but three shallow thrusts before his climax claimed him. In sublime surrender, he buried his face in her neck and let the exquisite seizures wash over him. He abdicated control to the natural forces of his own body and filled the woman he had wanted for what seemed like a lifetime with the hot, potent issue of his loins.
For long moments afterward, he lay atop her, exhausted, spent, in blissful devastation. When he finally found the strength to pull himself away, he avoided looking at her. With endearing awkwardness, he draped a corner of the blanket over the lower part of her body. Lying there beside her on his back, he gazed up through the sparse branches of the mesquite tree and tried to think of a name despicable enough to call himself.
Because up until a few seconds ago, Kerry Bishop had been as chaste as the nun she had pretended to be. She had been a virgin.
"Why didn’t you tell me?"
"Would you have believed me?"
"No," he sighed, knowing that that was true. He wouldn’t have believed anything she had said.
He rolled to a sitting position and hung his head between his wide-spread knees. For several minutes, he mumbled curses and epithets aimed at himself. Then he lapsed into silence. Finally he risked looking down at Kerry. Tears had left salty tracks on her cheeks, but her eyes were clear and staring straight at him.
"Do you, uh, hurt?" She shook her head. He didn’t believe her. "Do you have any water?"
"The canteen on the saddle."
He stood and hiked his jeans up his hips until he could rebutton them. He went to the saddled horse, which had been docilely grazing through it all. The canteen was hanging from the pommel by a leather strap. He uncapped it, wet the handkerchief he’d put in his pocket that morning, and carried both the canteen and the soaked handkerchief back to Kerry. He extended it down to her and tactfully turned his back while she used it.
"Thank you."
He turned back around to find her dressed and standing quietly, as though awaiting instructions. He’d not only crushed her physically…God, when he remembered how hard he’d been when he sank into her…but he had wounded her spirit as well. Her eyes were no longer sparkling with lights as pure and fine as costly sapphires. They stared at him dully.
"You’ll ride back with me," he said. "I’ll tie the horse to the back of the truck."
When that was done, he came to her, took her elbow, and led her over the rough ground with a solicitousness that would have been comical under different circumstances. It was he who winced when she stepped up into the truck.
It took considerably longer to cover the distance back to the house than it had taken Linc to get to the tank. He drove much slower, in deference to the horse that trotted along behind them and out of regard for the discomfort Kerry must be suffering. He knew the rough ride couldn’t be comfortable for her and cursed himself as a brute with each bumpy, bone-jarring, teeth-rattling turn of the wheels.
When they reached the house, he pulled the pickup into the garage and cut the engine. They sat in the deep shadows for a moment of ponderous silence, then he turned his head and asked, "Are you all right?"
"Yes."
"Is there anything I can do?"
Kerry glanced down at her hands, which were knotted together in her lap. You could say that you love me. "No," she said, choking back tears.
Linc got out. Before he could come around and assist her, she climbed out of the cab and untied the horse. Wordlessly they led him into the stable and turned him over to one of the hands. Still maintaining that strained silence, they headed toward the house.
Everyone was congregated on the terrace. Jenny was bouncing a truculent Trent on her thighs. Cage was sitting in a lawn chair, staring broodily over the waters of the swimming pool, where all the children were splashing in the shallows. Roxie and Gary Fleming were sitting at one of the patio tables moodily sipping cold drinks. Sarah Hendren was clipping roses from an overloaded bush and laying them in the basket that her husband held for her.
The mood, except for that of the gleeful children, was glum.
Cage looked up and spotted Linc and Kerry coming through the gate. It was to her that he addressed his comment. "We’ve got troubles."
The Devil's Own The Devil's Own - Sandra Brown The Devil