Tempting fate, p.11
Tempting Fate, p.11Part #2 of The MacGregors series by Nora Roberts
“I’ll check in the bathroom. No sudden stomach pains?” he asked as he went.
“No.” She decided to risk the fries. “I don’t suppose the storm’s letting up?”
“If anything, it’s worse.” Caine came back with two plastic glasses. “Word over at the diner is more than a foot before morning.”
Diana sat on the edge of the bed and took the offered glass. “I suppose we could watch the news,” she mused with a glance at the set. “If you can get the news on that thing.”
Laughing, Caine sat down and unwrapped his hamburger. “Poor Diana, what a shock that must have been.”
“I’m not a prude,” she said primly. “It was simply unexpected.” She took a sip of wine, grimaced and sipped again. “It’s really not too bad.”
“Best in the house,” Caine told her. “A buck fifty-nine a bottle.”
“In that case I’ll sip more slowly. Caine, there is one small detail we should discuss.”
He took a swallow of wine. He’d known it was coming. While he’d trudged through the storm, he’d decided exactly how to handle it. “I’m not sleeping on the floor.”
Diana made a face at his accurate reading of her mind. “There’s always the bathtub.”
“Be my guest.”
“It’s becoming painfully clear that chivalry is dead.”
“Look,” he began over a mouthful of hamburger. “It’s a big bed. If you don’t want to put it to any better use than sleeping—”
“I certainly don’t.”
The sharp answer was precisely what he’d been working toward. If they kept it casual, kept it up front, they both might survive the night. “Then you sleep on one side, and I’ll sleep on the other,” he finished, telling himself it was just as simple as that.
“I’m not certain I like how quickly you agreed to that,” she murmured.
“If you’d like me to convince you otherwise …” he began with a slow smile.
“No. That’s not what I meant.” Frowning, Diana finished off her hamburger. After all, she mused, he’d driven for nearly two hours in that miserable storm. She could hardly deny him a decent night’s sleep. “You stay on your side, and I’ll stay on mine?” she repeated.
He leaned over to fill her glass again. “If you insist. I hate to repeat myself by bringing up Clark Gable again.”
“Clark Gable?” Diana repeated blankly than gave a brief laugh. “Claudette Colbert—It Happened One Night.”
“Exactly,” he said with an amused smile. “In a similar situation they imagined something along the lines of the walls of Jericho.”
She gave him a long look. “How’s your imagination?”
Caine shrugged and sipped his wine. “I told you once I could wait until you admitted you wanted me.” Deliberately, he lifted his eyes to hers, and deliberately, he baited her, knowing she’d step back. He desperately needed her to step back. “I can be very patient.”
Refusing to acknowledge the challenge, Diana merely nodded. “As long as you know the rules.”
“I think I’ll skip the coffee and have a bath before I turn in.” Standing, he ran a casual hand down her hair. “You should get some sleep. It’s been a long day.”
She felt a quick sense of regret, which she firmly stemmed. “Yes, I think I will. Shall I leave the light on?”
“No, don’t bother. It’s impossible to miss the bed in this room.” He wanted to kiss her, badly, and made himself walk away. “Good night, Diana.”
“Good night.” Diana waited until she heard the water running, then slowly rose. You’re being a fool! a voice told her with sharp, surprising impatience. You know there’s nothing you want more than to make love with him. To lose yourself in him.
That’s just it, Diana thought with a sudden panic. I would lose myself, or a part I’m not sure I’m ready to lose. He’s different, and I don’t trust him. Or myself. Diana ran an agitated hand through her hair and listened to the sound. It wouldn’t be the same with Caine as it might with any other man. He’d already broken down so many barriers, once the physical was down, he wouldn’t stop there. She couldn’t—wouldn’t—allow him that kind of hold over her.
Oh, but she wanted him tonight.
Like Caine, Diana let her coffee sit, growing cold. She wanted nothing that might keep her awake and restless while she shared a bed with him. After a moment’s struggle, she stripped down to her chemise. She wasn’t going to be a fool and sleep in her clothes. Carefully, she climbed into bed, keeping close to the edge. She found this more difficult than she had anticipated, as the mattress sagged in the center. Swearing against what Caine would have called fate, Diana switched off the light and, gripping the side of the bed to keep from rolling out of her territory, firmly shut her eyes.
When Caine came out, the room was silent. He could see Diana’s vague outline at the far side of the bed. He’d spoken easily enough about sharing that soft, warm rectangle with her, but the hot bath had done nothing to ease the need. It might be wise, he thought, to use the rest of the wine in lieu of a sleeping pill. God, he was going to need something knowing she was only an arm’s length away. It would have been smarter, he told himself grimly, not to have given her his word he’d stay on his side. But he had.
Caine let the towel drop and got quietly into bed.
Like Diana, he found himself sliding toward the center. Cursing silently, he shifted away.
* * *
With the habit of years, Caine drifted awake slowly and early. Something soft and warm was wrapped around him. Though still more asleep than awake, he knew by the scent it was Diana. Without conscious thought, he drew her closer, then heard her sigh as she snuggled against him. With lazy pleasure, he ran a hand down her, to where the silk gave way to skin, then back again. Diana pressed against him, her fingers sliding lazily over his back.
Murmuring her name, he touched his lips to her forehead while his hand slipped beneath the silk. They gave simultaneous sounds of pleasure, languid and soft. He thought it was no more than a dream—he’d dreamed of having her—but it had never been quite like this, so slow and easy. When he shifted, his leg slid intimately between hers while his mouth began a leisurely journey over her face. With an inarticulate murmur, Diana tilted her head back so that her lips found his.
The dream lingered … the kiss lingered, without pressure, as he continued to stroke and caress beneath the thin silk. There was no place for doubts in soft, drowsy light, no room for reservations on a soft, sagging mattress. He touched her, seducing both of them into sleepy surrender.
Warm, so warm, he thought, feeling the first real tug of desire as he found her breast. Diana moaned a little and arched against him. He thought he heard his own name whispered against his lips, and then her hands were moving over him.
Steeped in her, and the fantasy, he took his mouth to her shoulder, nudging the strap aside. They were as strong as he had imagined, and smooth. Following the gentle slope, he slipped the chemise down farther, pressing quiet, sleepy kisses along her arm.
He could hear her breathing now, a little fast, a little unsteady, and found that his mouth had fastened onto her breast to suckle and nibble. He was unaware of passion until the need was a hard knot in his stomach and his own breathing was labored. Her heartbeat was a hammer against his lips, which were now demanding more. And she was naked, although he wasn’t fully aware that he had pulled the short length of silk from her.
Her fingers were digging into his flesh, her hips moving in a faster-growing rhythm. His name sighed from between her parted lips. For a moment, he tried to clear his head—separate dream from reality, but his body was in full command.
Then he was inside her, driven past fantasies and beyond reason.
The light was a dim, dark gray. Shuddering and stunned, Diana opened her eyes to see only shadows. She was cupped in the center of the bed, nestled beneath Caine and the thin blanket they had shared through the night. Though his face was buried against he
With a quick sound of outrage, Diana struggled from beneath him, then rolled to the far edge of the bed. “How could you?”
Dazed, Caine opened his eyes to stare at her. “What?”
“You gave your word!” She began a furious search beneath the covers for her camisole.
Still throbbing from her, and equally stunned, Caine dragged a hand through his hair. “Diana—”
“I should have known better than to trust you,” she said, pulling the brief covering of the camisole over her before she jumped out of bed. Her body tingled; her limbs felt weighted. In defense, her eyes grew stormier. “God knows why I thought you’d keep a bargain.”
“Bargain?” he repeated blankly.
“You stay on your side of the bed, and I stay on mine,” she reminded him bitterly. “You and your damn walls of Jericho.”
He rubbed a hand over his face. “Are you crazy?”
“I must have been,” Diana ranted, “to have thought you’d understand common decency.”
“Now wait a minute.” In the dim light, Caine could make out little more than her silhouette and the faint gleam of her eyes. But he could feel his own anger growing surely enough and pushed himself out of bed. His temper only increased as he felt a wave of weakness that came from a draining of passion.
“Don’t tell me to wait a minute,” Diana snapped, wrapping her hands around her arms as she started to shiver. “That was despicable.”
Fury, and something he didn’t recognize as hurt, sped through him swiftly. “Despicable,” he repeated in an ominously low tone. “Despicable.” In echoing the word, he fought for control. “You didn’t appear to think so a few moments ago.”
Her own fingers dug into her arms as she tossed back her head. No, she hadn’t thought at all a few moments ago, only felt, only wanted. Caine had been right there—warm, gentle, seductive. “You had no right. No right!”
“I had no right?” he retorted. “And what about you?”
“I was half asleep.”
“Damn it, Diana, so was I!” Dragging a hand through his hair again, Caine struggled against a sensation of confused, frustrated fury. As he fought for calm, he grabbed his pants and stepped into them. Guilt was overwhelming, guilt that he’d taken her beyond the point she’d been prepared for. By doing so, he’d changed things between them just when he’d resolved to keep them stable. “Look, it just happened—I didn’t plan it.”
“Things like that don’t just happen.” Shivering, she whipped the garish bedspread from the tumbled bed and wrapped herself in it.
“This did,” Caine said between his teeth as he pulled on his turtleneck. Even anger couldn’t completely dissipate the feeling that he had woken from some hazy dream. “I don’t even know how the hell it got started,” he muttered. His eyes seared into hers. He might be guilty, but he wasn’t alone. “I know when it ended, and before it ended, you were just as much involved as I was.”
The truth stung—and frightened. “You expect me to believe you didn’t know what you were doing?” she shouted at him. “That you didn’t plan for this to happen?”
On an irresistible wave of fury, he swooped up his coat and marched to her. “Why the hell don’t you blame me for the blizzard?” he demanded. “Or for the fact that this—this dump,” he bit off with a violent gesture of his arm, “only had one room? Or that the damn mattress sags in the middle?”
“I know exactly what to blame you for,” Diana said. “And what to regret.”
The room fell into deadly silence, broken only by the sound of angry breathing and the rumble of the heater. She saw something violent flash into his eyes, darkening them, narrowing them. In her own confused fury, she welcomed it—and a fight.
“You don’t regret it any more than I do,” Caine said softly. Without another word, he pulled open the door, letting windblown snow rush in before he slammed it behind him.
Alone, Diana gripped the spread tightly but still felt the icy chill on her skin. It was outrage, she told herself. Fury. She’d trusted him, and he’d betrayed her, deceived her. He’d … made her feel wonderful, alive, desired.
A tiny, choked sound escaped her as she dropped onto the bed and huddled under the spread. No, no! she told herself as she balled her hands into fists. It shouldn’t have happened. Once she had given in to him, and to herself, it would be only the beginning. Wouldn’t she be right back to having her life dominated by someone who could pick up and leave at any moment? Not again, Diana swore, pounding her fist on her knee. Never again.
She’d barely begun to discover herself for herself. Everywhere, in every aspect of her life, there was Caine who’d been there, urging her to reconcile with Justin. He’d been there with an answer to her professional problems on her return to Boston. Now, he was here, tempting her to strip away her last defenses, expose the last of her emotions.
Would she be any different from Irene Walker if she allowed it? Diana wondered. When a woman was ruled by emotion, didn’t she open herself to whatever a man chose to give her?
Closing her eyes, she bit down on her lip. No, she wouldn’t—couldn’t—allow it. All of her life she’d been forced to accept whatever someone chose to give her.
It had been a mistake, she told herself, and one she could have avoided if she hadn’t dropped her guard. And she had every right to be furious with Caine. He’d exploited the situation; he’d aroused her when she had been drowsy and defenseless. Diana’s shoulders slumped under the spread.
He’d been no more to blame than she’d been herself, she admitted. Hadn’t she been half dreaming when she’d run her hands up his naked back? Couldn’t she remember, if she allowed herself to, that misty, sleepy pleasure in pressing her body against his? Somewhere in the back of her mind, she’d known exactly what she was doing, and yet she’d made no attempt to stop it. Then she had blamed Caine because it was easier than admitting she’d wanted to love him.
Squeezing her eyes shut again, Diana pressed her fingers against her brow. Oh, how could she have said those things to him? How could she have acted like some outraged hypocrite when he’d been every bit as overwhelmed as she had been?
Pushing the hair away from her face, she stared around the empty room. What now? she wondered.
Apologize. Though the answer had her shifting uncomfortably, Diana’s conscience held firm. She’d been wrong—dead wrong—and admitting it was the only way she could live with it. Remembering her hard, accusing words, she knew she couldn’t blame him if he told her to take her apology and go to hell with it.
With a sigh, Diana rose. She’d take a hot shower, dress and wait for him to come back.
* * *
Two hours later, Diana paced the cramped little room, caught somewhere between worry and annoyance. What was he doing out there? she asked herself for the hundredth time. A peek through the drapes showed her that the snow was falling with the same steady speed. Again she considered going out and looking for him, and again she reminded herself that Caine had the only key. Diana wasn’t going to depend on the likelihood of securing another from the clerk.
He’s hardly walking around out there, she told herself as she pushed the drapes apart again. Across the lot, cars were half buried in drifts. She could see no sign of life, only the endless blowing curtain of snow. She imagined Caine sitting over in the diner, enjoying one of his enormous breakfasts and cup after cup of steaming coffee. She grew irritated at the picture, particularly as her own stomach insisted on reminding her it was empty.
He was doing it on purpose, she decided, twitching the curtains back into
Infuriated, and undeniably trapped between four pink walls, Diana snatched up her briefcase and flopped in the center of the unmade bed. She wasn’t going to waste time worrying about Caine MacGregor. She’d catch up on the rest of her paperwork and wait out the storm. If he never came back, she told herself, it was perfectly all right with her. Pulling out her pad, she poured all of her anger and frustration into her work.
Nearly another hour had passed before Diana heard the key rattle in the lock. Tossing down her pad, she continued to sit cross-legged in the center of the bed as Caine walked in. Covered with snow, and in no better frame of mind than when he had walked out three hours earlier, he glanced at her, then shrugged out of his coat.
Her initial intention of greeting him with an apology was overruled, as was her second idea of ignoring him. “Where the hell have you been?” Diana demanded.
Caine tossed his wet coat over the table. “The storm’s due to continue through the afternoon,” he said briefly. “There still aren’t any other vacancies in this place and the next hotel’s ten miles down the road.”
Diana felt another surge of guilt that slipped away as Caine dropped into the chair and calmly lit a cigarette. “It didn’t take you three hours to find that out,” she snapped. “Didn’t it occur to you that I was stuck in here?”
He gave her a glance that would have been mild had his eyes not been so dark. “Couldn’t you find the door?”
On a sound of fury, Diana scrambled off the bed. “You have the only key!”
With a shrug, Caine reached in his pocket, drew it out, then dropped in on the table. “It’s all yours,” he told her as he leaned across to pull a small bag from his coat pocket. “I picked up a couple of toothbrushes.”
She caught one as he tossed it at her. “Thank you,” she said icily. She wouldn’t apologize, Diana thought, if they were stuck in that dreadful little room for the next month. “Since it appears we’re going to be marooned here for another night, we should discuss the arrangements.”
Caine fought back anger as it boiled again. If he lost it this time, he warned himself, he would very likely strangle her. “Make whatever arrangements you like,” he said coolly. “I’m going to shave.” Picking up the bag, he rose.
“Just a minute.” Diana pressed her hand to his chest as he started to walk by her. “We’re going to get this straight.”
The chill in his eyes turned quickly to fire. “Don’t push me, Diana.”
“Push you!” she retorted. “Do you think you can calmly walk back in here, announcing you’re going to shave, after what happened this morning? Do you think I’m going to shrug this off as though it were a slight error in judgment?”
“That,” he returned, taking her wrist and holding it aloft, “would be very wise.”
Jerking her wrist free, she stood firmly in his path. “Well, I won’t. And you’re not going to shave or anything else until you hear exactly what I have to say.”
“I heard all I wanted to hear this morning.” Giving her a none-too-gentle shove out of his way, Caine started toward the bathroom.
“Don’t you dare walk away from me!” As the final hold over her temper snapped, Diana grabbed his arm.
“I’ve had enough.” Pushed beyond endurance, Caine spun back around, grabbing her shoulders with enough force to cause her to gasp in alarm. “I don’t have to take this from you!” he shouted. “I won’t calmly stand here while you accuse me of resorting to some devious plan to get you into bed with me. I don’t need any plan, do you understand? I could have had you last night and half-a-dozen times before without any need for ploys.” He gave her a quick, hard shake. “We both know it. Damn it, I wanted you and you wanted me, but you haven’t got the guts to admit it.”
Eyes wide with fury, Diana pulled out of his hold. “Don’t tell me what to admit! This morning I was asleep—”
“Are you awake now?” he demanded.
“Yes, damn it, I’m awake now, and—”
“Good.” In one swift move, Caine dragged her back in his arms and took her mouth in a hard, savage kiss. He heard her muffled sound of protest, felt her frantic struggles for freedom but only crushed her more tightly against him.
He thought of punishment; he thought of releasing the anger and the tension that had been building and building inside of him since that morning. Then he thought of how much he needed her and thought of nothing else.
With his fingers still digging into her shoulders, he pulled her away. Breathing hard, eyes locked, they stared at each other. Diana felt desire pounding in her, demanding freedom. She shook her head once, as if to deny it, but like an avalanche, it was already thundering its way down the mountain. Surrendering to all the needs raging inside her, she pulled his mouth back to hers and took what she wanted.
There were no gentle, sleepy explorations now. They were both awake, both ravenous, each feeding from the other’s lips as though years had passed since they had tasted this kind of pleasure. Locked together, already struggling against the barrier of clothing, they fell into the bed. Now fury was all passion, and passion all urgency.
Impatient, Diana dragged the sweater over his head then made a deep, pleased sound in her throat as her hands found those tight ridges of muscle. Desperate for more, she shifted until she lay half across him, her mouth hot and avid on his. All the longings she had refused, all the desires she had suppressed, burst out in one violent explosion. She couldn’t get enough of him.
She’d known almost from the first that he would be the one to unlock that last door she’d had so tightly locked.
Freedom. She moaned with the heady, painful thrill of it as she nipped into his bottom lip, wanting to drive him as she was driven. As she began to tug at the hips of his slacks, Caine groaned, rolling on top of her again, pushing her deep into the mattress.
As a lover, he was no less than she had expected—terrifying, vital, exciting. The slow, dreamy loving of the morning had been only a brief sample of what he could bring her to. A wildness was growing in her—some latent savageness she had once feared and now reveled in. With it, there were no rules. Her body was liberated, pulsing everywhere at once, arching, as fluid as hot wine as he pulled clothes from her in a frenzy. She heard a low throaty laugh that she didn’t recognize as her own as he swore at the last barrier of silk.
Tempting Fate by Nora Roberts / Romance & Love have rating 4.2 out of 5 / Based on42 votes