The law is a lady, p.10
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       The Law is a Lady, p.10

           Nora Roberts
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  with a sort of wild reverence, exploring, lingering, possessing. She could feel his murmurs as his lips played over her skin, although she could barely hear them and understood them not at all. The room seemed to grow closer and hotter, so that she longed to be rid of her clothes and find relief . . . and delight.

  Then he pulled her close so that their bodies pressed urgently. Their mouths met with fiery demand. It seemed the storm had just begun. Again and again they drew from each other until they were both breathless. Though he had fully intended to end the evening with Tory in his bed, Phil hadn’t expected to be desperate. He hadn’t known that all control could be so easily lost. The warm curves of a woman should bring easy pleasure, not this trembling pain. A kiss was a prelude, not an all-consuming force. He knew only that all of him, much more than his body, was crying out for her. Whatever was happening to him was beyond his power to stop. And she was the only answer he had.

  “God, Tory.” He took his mouth on a wild journey of her face, then returned to her lips. “Come to bed. For God’s sake, come to bed. I want you.”

  She felt as though she were standing on the edge of a cliff. The plunge had never seemed more tempting—or more dangerous. It would be so easy, so easy, just to lean forward and fly. But the fall . . . She fought for sanity through a brain clouded with the knowledge of one man. It was much too soon to take the step.

  “Phil.” Shaken, she drew away from him to lean against the windowsill. “I . . . No,” she managed, lifting both hands to her temples. He drew her back against him.

  “Yes,” he corrected, then crushed his lips to hers again. Her mouth yielded irresistibly. “You can’t pretend you don’t want me as much as I want you.”

  “No.” She let her head rest on his shoulder a moment before she pushed out of his arms. “I can’t,” she agreed in a voice thickened with passion. “But I don’t do everything I want. That’s one of the basic differences between us.”

  His eyes flicked briefly down to the unbuttoned dress. “We also seem to have something important in common. This doesn’t happen every time—between every man and woman.”

  “No.” Carefully she began to do up her buttons. “It shouldn’t have happened between us. I didn’t intend it to.”

  “I did,” he admitted. “But not quite this way.”

  Her eyes lifted to his. She understood perfectly. This had been more intense than either of them had bargained for. “It’s going to be a long summer, Phil,” she murmured.

  “We’re going to be together sooner or later, Tory. We both know it.” He needed something to balance him. Going to the table, he poured out another glass of wine. He drank, drank again, then looked at her. “I have no intention of backing off.”

  She nodded, accepting. But she didn’t like the way her hands were shaking. “I’m not ready.”

  “I can be a patient man when necessary.” He wanted nothing more than to pull her to the bed and take what they both needed. Instead he took out a cigarette and reminded himself he was a civilized man.

  Tory drew herself up straight. “Let’s both concentrate on our jobs, shall we?” she said coolly. She wanted to get out, but she didn’t want to retreat. “I’ll see you around, Kincaid.”

  “Damn right you will,” he murmured as she headed for the door.

  She flicked the lock off, then turned to him with a half smile. “Keep out of trouble,” she ordered, closing the door behind her.

  Chapter 6

  Phil sat beside the cameraman on the Tulip crane. “Boom up.” At his order the crane operator took them seventeen feet above the town of Friendly. It was just dawn. He’d arranged to have everyone off the streets, although there was a crowd of onlookers behind the crane and equipment. All entrances to town had been blocked off on the off chance that someone might drive through. He wanted desolation and the tired beginning of a new day.

  Glancing down, he saw that Bicks was checking the lighting and angles. Brutes, the big spotlights, were set to give daylight balance. He knew, to an inch, where he wanted the shadows to fall. For this shot Phil would act as assistant cameraman, pulling the focus himself.

  Phil turned his attention back to the street. He knew what he wanted, and he wanted to capture it as the sun rose, with as much natural light as possible. He looked through the lens and set the shot himself. The crane was set on tracks. He would have the cameraman begin with a wide shot of the horizon and the rising sun, then dolly back to take in the entire main street of Friendly. No soft focus there, just harsh reality. He wanted to pick up the dust on the storefront windows. Satisfied with what he saw through the camera lens, Phil marked the angle with tape, then nodded to his assistant director.

  “Quiet on the set.”

  “New Chance, scene three, take one.”

  “Roll it,” Phil ordered, then waited. With his eyes narrowed, he could visualize what his cameraman saw through the lens. The light was good. Perfect. They’d have to get it in three takes or less or else they’d have to beef it up with gels and filters. That wasn’t what he wanted here. He felt the crane roll backward slowly on cue. A straight shot, no panning right to left. They’d take in the heart of the town in one long shot. Chipped paint, sagging wood, torn screens. Later they’d cut in the scene of the leading man walking in from the train station. He was coming home, Phil mused, because there was no place else to go. And he found it, exactly as he had left it twenty years before.

  “Cut.” The noise on the ground started immediately. “I want another take. Same speed.”

  At the back of the crowd Tory watched. She wasn’t thrilled with being up at dawn. Both her sense of duty and her curiosity had brought her. Phil had been perfectly clear about anyone peeking through windows during this shot. He wanted emptiness. She told herself she’d come to keep her people out of mischief, but when it was all said and done, she had wanted to see Phil at work.

  He was very commanding and totally at ease with it, but, she reasoned as she stuck her hands in her back pockets, it didn’t seem so hard. Moving a little to the side, she tried to see the scene she was imagining. The town looked tired, she decided, and a little reluctant to face the new day. Though the horizon was touched with golds and pinks, a gray haze lay over the street and buildings.

  It was the first time he had shot anything there. For the past week he had been filming landscapes. Tory had stayed in Friendly, sending Merle out occasionally to check on things. It had kept him happy and had given Tory the distance she wanted. As her deputy came back brimming with reports and enthusiasm, she was kept abreast in any case.

  But today the urge to see for herself had been too strong to resist. It had been several days—and several long nights—since their evening together. She had managed to keep herself busier than necessary in order to avoid him. But Tory wasn’t a woman to avoid a problem for long. Phil Kincaid was still a problem.

  Apparently satisfied, Phil ordered the operator to lower the crane. People buzzed around Tory like bees. A few children complained about being sent off to school. Spotting Tod, Tory smiled and waved him over.

  “Isn’t it neat?” he demanded the moment he was beside her. “I wanted to go up in it,” he continued, indicating the crane, “but Mr. Kincaid said something about insurance. Steve let me see his camera though, even let me take some pictures. It’s a thirty-five millimeter with all kinds of lenses.”

  “Steve?”

  “The guy who was sitting next to Mr. Kincaid. He’s the cameraman.” Tod glanced over, watching Phil in a discussion with his cameraman and several members of the crew. “Isn’t he something?”

  “Steve?” Tory repeated, smiling at Tod’s pleasure.

  “Well, yeah, but I meant Mr. Kincaid.” Shaking his head, he let out a long breath. “He’s awful smart. You should hear some of the words he uses. And boy, when he says so, everybody jumps.”

  “Do they?” Tory murmured, frowning over at the man under discussion.

  “You bet,” Tod confirmed. “And I heard
Mr. Bicks say to Steve that he’d rather work with Mr. Kincaid than anybody. He’s a tough sonofa—” Catching himself, Tod broke off and flushed. “I mean, he said he was tough, but the best there was.”

  As she watched, Phil was pointing, using one hand and then the other as he outlined his needs for the next shot. It was very clear that he knew what he wanted and that he’d get it. She could study him now. He was too involved to notice her or the crowd of people who stared and mumbled behind the barrier of equipment.

  He wore jeans and a pale blue T-shirt with scuffed sneakers. Hanging from his belt was a case that held sunglasses and another for a two-way radio. He was very intense, she noted, when working. There was none of the careless humor in his eyes. He talked quickly, punctuating the words with hand gestures. Once or twice he interrupted what he was saying to call out another order to the grips who were setting up light stands.

  A perfectionist, she concluded, and realized it shouldn’t surprise her. His movies projected the intimate care she was now seeing firsthand. A stocky man in a fielder’s cap lumbered up to him, talking over an enormous wad of gum.

  “That’s Mr. Bicks,” Tod murmured reverently. “The cinematographer. He’s got two Oscars and owns part of a boxer.”

  Whatever he was saying, Phil listened carefully, then simply shook his head. Bicks argued another moment, shrugged, then gave Phil what appeared to be a solid punch on the shoulder before he walked away. A tough sonofabitch, Tory mused. Apparently so.

  Turning to Tod, she mussed his hair absently. “You’d better get to school.”

  “Aw, but . . .”

  She lifted her brow, effectively cutting off his excuse. “It’s nearly time for summer vacation. They’ll still be here.”

  He mumbled a protest, but she caught the look in his eye as he gazed up at her. Uh-oh, she thought, just as Phil had. Why hadn’t she seen this coming? She was going to have to be careful to be gentle while pointing the boy in another direction. A teenage crush was nothing to smile at and brush away.

  “I’ll come by after school,” he said, beaming up at her. Before she could respond, he was dashing off, leaving her gnawing on her bottom lip and worrying about him.

  “Sheriff.”

  Tory whirled sharply and found herself facing Phil. He smiled slowly, setting the sunglasses in front of his eyes. It annoyed her that she had to strain to see his expression through the tinted glass. “Kincaid,” she responded. “How’s it going?”

  “Good. Your people are very cooperative.”

  “And yours,” she said. “So far.”

  He grinned at that. “We’re expecting the cast this afternoon. The location manager’s cleared it with you about parking the trailers and so forth?”

  “She’s very efficient,” Tory agreed. “Are you getting what you want?”

  He took a moment to answer. “With regard to the film, yes, so far.” Casually he reached down to run a finger over her badge. “You’ve been busy the last few days.”

  “So have you.”

  “Not that busy. I’ve left messages for you.”

  “I know.”

  “When are you going to see me?”

  She lifted both brows. “I’m seeing you right now.” He took a step closer and cupped the back of her neck in his hand. “Phil—”

  “Soon,” he said quietly.

  Though she could feel the texture of each of his fingers on the back of her neck, she gave him a cool look. “Kincaid, create your scenes on the other side of the camera. Accosting a peace officer will land you back in that cell. You’ll find it difficult to direct from there.”

  “Oh, I’m going to accost you,” he warned under his breath. “With or without that damn badge, Victoria. Think about it.”

  She didn’t step back or remove his hand, although she knew several pair of curious eyes were on them. “I’ll give it a few minutes,” she promised dryly.

  Only the tensing of his fingers on her neck revealed his annoyance. She thought he was about to release her and relaxed. His mouth was on hers so quickly, she could only stand in shock. Before she could think to push him away, he set her free. Her eyes were sharply green and furious when he grinned down at her.

  “See you, Sheriff,” he said cheerfully and sauntered back to his crew.

  For the better part of the day Tory stayed in her office and fumed. Now and again Phil’s voice carried through her open window as he called out instructions. She knew they were doing pans of the town and stayed away from the window. She had work to do, she reminded herself. And in any case she had no interest in the filming. It was understandable that the townspeople would stand around and gawk, but she had better things to do.

  I should have hauled him in, she thought, scowling down at her legal pad. I should have hauled him in then and there. And she would have if it wouldn’t have given him too much importance. He’d better watch his step, Tory decided. One wrong move and she was going to come down on him hard. She picked up her coffee and gulped it down with a grimace. It was cold. Swearing, she rose to pour a fresh cup.

  Through the screen in the window she could see quite a bit of activity and hear a flood of conversation interrupted when the filming was in progress. It was past noon and hot as the devil. Phil had been working straight through for hours. With a grudging respect she admitted that he didn’t take his job lightly. Going back to her desk, Tory concentrated on her own.

  She hardly noticed that two hours had passed when Merle came bursting into the office. Hot, tired, and annoyed with having her concentration broken, she opened her mouth to snap at him, but he exploded with enthusiasm before she had the chance.

  “Tory, they’re here!”

  “Terrific,” she mumbled, turning to her notes again. “Who?”

  “The actors. Came from the airport in limousines. Long, black limousines. There are a half dozen of those Winnebagos set up outside of town for dressing rooms and stuff. You should see inside them. They’ve got telephones and TVs and everything.”

  She lifted her head. “Been busy, Merle T.?” she asked languidly, but he was too excited to notice.

  “Sam Dressier,” he went on, pacing back and forth with a clatter of boots. “Sam Dressier, right here in Friendly. I guess I’ve seen every movie he’s ever made. He shook my hand,” he added, staring down at his own palm, awed. “Thought I was the sheriff.” He sent Tory a quick look, “’Course I told him I was the deputy.”

  “Of course,” she agreed, amused now. It was never possible for her to stay annoyed with Merle. “How’d he look?”

  “Just like you’d think,” he told her with a puzzled shake of his head. “All tanned and tough, with a diamond on his finger fit to blind you. Signed autographs for everybody who wanted one.”

  Unable to resist, Tory asked, “Did you get one?”

  “Sure I did.” He grinned and pulled out his ticket book. “It was the only thing I had handy.”

  “Very resourceful.” She glanced at the bold signature Merle held out for her. At the other end of the page were some elegant looping lines. “Marlie Summers,” Tory read. She recalled a film from the year before and the actress’s pouting sexuality.

  “She’s about the prettiest thing I ever saw,” Merle murmured.

  Coming from anyone else, Tory would have given the remark no notice. In this case, however, her eyes shot up and locked on Merle’s. What she saw evoked in her a feeling of distress similar to what she had experienced with Tod. “Really?” she said carefully.

  “She’s just a little thing,” Merle continued, gazing down at the autograph. “All pink and blonde. Just like something in a store window. She’s got big blue eyes and the longest lashes . . .” He trailed off, tucking the book back in his pocket.

  Growing more disturbed, Tory told herself not to be silly. No Hollywood princess was going to look twice at Merle T. Johnson. “Well,” she began casually, “I wonder what her part is.”

  “She’s going to tell me all about it tonight,” Merle st
ated, adjusting the brim of his hat.

  “What?” It came out in a quick squeak.

  Grinning, Merle gave his hat a final pat, then stroked his struggling mustache. “We’ve got a date.” He strode out jauntily, leaving Tory staring with her mouth open.

  “A date?” she asked the empty office. Before she could react, the phone beside her shrilled. Picking it up, she barked into it, “What is it?”

  A bit flustered by the greeting, the mayor stammered. “Tory—Sheriff Ashton, this is Mayor Toomey.”

  “Yes, Bud.” Her tone was still brisk as she stared at the door Merle had shut behind him.

  “I’d like you to come over to the office, Sheriff. I have several members of the cast here.” His voice rang with importance again. “Mr. Kincaid thought it might be a good idea for you to meet them.”

  “Members of the cast,” she repeated, thinking of Marlie Summers. “I’d love to,” she said dangerously, then hung up on the mayor’s reply.

  Her thoughts were dark as she crossed the street. No Hollywood tootsie was going to break Merle’s heart while she was around. She was going to make that clear as soon as possible. She breezed into the hotel, giving several members of Phil’s crew a potent stare as they loitered in the lobby. Bicks doffed his fielder’s cap and grinned at her.

  “Sheriff.”

  Tory sent him a mild glance and a nod as she sauntered through to the office. Behind her back he rolled his eyes to the ceiling, placing the cap over his heart. A few remarks were made about the advantages of breaking the law in Friendly while Tory disappeared into a side door.

 
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