Tempting fate, p.12
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       Tempting Fate, p.12

         Part #2 of The MacGregors series by Nora Roberts
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  As if driven mad by the sound, Caine crushed his mouth to hers again, probing deep as his impatient hand tore the strap of the chemise in an effort to find her. And her lips answered his with equal pressure, equal turbulence.

  It seemed akin to war, this desperate demanding, this frantic challenging. His hands ran bruisingly over her, and she pressed him closer, daring him to take more. She heard his ragged breathing match hers as his mouth rushed down to her breast to ravage greedily until they were both past the edge of control.

  Passion was a blue-white fire now, searing skin to skin. The silk ripped again as he dragged it down, mouth and hands speeding after it, pausing only to find new, surprising points of delight.

  Diana cried out when he drove his tongue into her center, but it was a low, smoky sound, trailing off into a throaty moan. Her body was damp and agile, her movements instinctive. Arousal came in titanic waves, thrusting her up, tossing her back, cresting again and again, and remaining strong. As the musky scent of passion whirled in her head, she was unaware of the breathless, wild demands she uttered. Reality had spiraled down to one man, one need. In a single cloudy moment, she realized they might be one and the same. His name trembled from her lips, but whatever words she would have spoken were only a gasp as he drove her to a staggering peak.

  Then his mouth was fused to hers again, and even as her arms locked around him, he took her over the final verge of reason.

  Lids heavy, body sated, Diana opened her eyes and found herself staring at their twin reflections in the mirror above the bed. Experimentally, she spread her fingers over his back and watched the movement in the glass. How dark her skin looked next to his, she thought hazily. And what a contrast the colors of their hair made when side by side.

  It was odd to watch his body move with the breathing she could hear and feel. She ran her hands over his back again and watched the muscles ripple under them. Strong, she thought with another tingle of pleasure. Strong and reckless. And so, Diana thought with satisfaction, was she. Sighing, she let her fingers dive into his hair.

  Caine made a quick, impatient sound and started to shift away. With a murmured protest, she tightened her arms. “Diana …” Lifting his head, he stared down at her, then with a brief oath he rolled away. “I didn’t mean for that to happen. It sounds a little weak after this morning, but—”

  “Caine.” Diana shifted so that she lay across his chest again. “Don’t.” She pressed her lips to his until she felt resistance ease. “I’m so sorry for the things I said this morning. No.” She laid her fingertips over his mouth. “I was wrong. I knew it even when I was shouting at you, but I couldn’t stop. If I’d stopped, I would have admitted that I wanted you.” Letting her head fall to his shoulder, she shut her eyes tight.

  On a long sigh he ran a hand down her hair. “I didn’t mean to touch you again when I came back here.”

  She gave a quiet laugh as she pressed her face into his shoulder. “And I was going to apologize when you got back.”

  “Somehow,” he murmured, “I think this was a much better idea for both of us. Diana.” He drew her away until their eyes met again. “I’ve never wanted anyone,” he said cautiously, “exactly the way I want you. I don’t want to hurt you. Will you believe that?”

  She opened her mouth to speak but knew he would never understand the doubts, the lifetime of small fears. “No questions now,” she said instead, touching her lips to his again. “No reasons. This is enough.”

  Fighting back the need to press her for more, Caine gathered her close to his side. “For now,” he agreed, and found an astonishing surge of pleasure at simply having her lie beside him. “You know,” he began as his eyes drifted toward the ceiling, “I’m beginning to like this room. After all, it does have a fascinating view.”

  Following the direction of his gaze, Diana gave a wry smile. “The next thing I know you’ll ask me for a quarter for the television.” In the reflection, she saw his brow lift questioningly. “No.”

  “Okay.” He rolled on top of her. “I’ve always preferred doing things myself rather than spectating.”

  “Caine.” As he nibbled at her neck, she sighed, tilting her head to accommodate him. “I hate to bring up something so mundane … but I’m starving.”

  “Mmm-hmm.” He ran his lips along her jawline as he traced the shape of her shoulders.

  “Seriously starving.”

  “How seriously?”

  “As in willing to risk another one of those hamburgers.”

  “That sounds more like desperately,” he murmured, and with a groan, he rolled aside. “Okay, I’ll go buy you another slice of ptomaine.”

  “Thanks,” she said dryly, but sat up as he did. The moment the contact between them had been broken she’d felt some of the tension return. Foolish, she told herself. She was a grown woman and lovemaking was part of life. Wasn’t it as simple as that? “I’ll go with you.”

  “It’s nearly as bad out there as it was yesterday,” he began as he reached for his pants. Why did he have the need to gather her to him again, reassure her, and himself, that nothing had changed? Everything had changed.

  “I’d like to get out of this room for a while.” Diana let her eyes scan the walls. “The pink is beginning to close in on me.”

  Caine tugged his sweater on. “All right, we’ll eat at the scene of the crime.” He lifted a brow as Diana examined her torn chemise. “I suppose you’re going to say I owe you one of those.”

  “I could take you to small claims court,” she declared, slipping into her blouse without it.

  Caine gave a burst of appreciative laughter and grabbed her around the waist. “It’d be worth it just to hear your opening statement.” As she tipped her head back to smile up at him, he was drowned in a wave of emotion too strong to resist. Desire, he told himself almost desperately. Just desire, and desire was easy. “Oh, again,” he murmured before his mouth found hers.

  The fingers that had been buttoning her blouse stilled, her head tilted back in surrender, but her mouth met his aggressively. Through parted lips came a sound of quiet, lingering pleasure that seemed to skip into the core of him and expand. Once before she had felt that strange, soft texture to his kiss. It was infinitely gentle but seemed to demand more than passion. When he released her, Diana was forced to blink to clear her vision.

  “Caine?” she said wonderingly. Was he telling her or asking her? Or was it something within herself that was questioning?

  He took a step back, not quite comfortable with the feeling of uncertainty she could bring out in him. “I’m in the position of telling you to get dressed again.” He smiled, but his eyes remained intense. “Otherwise, I won’t be responsible if you go hungry.”

  With fingers that weren’t completely steady, she finished buttoning her blouse. “I think you like confusing me,” she muttered. “I’m not very good with moods, and yours never stays the same.”

  “Sometimes they keep me guessing, too,” he said half to himself. When she looked at him, her eyes direct, her mouth unsmiling, he consciously fought off the tension. She was vulnerable; he was responsible. He wasn’t at all sure he could handle the responsibility. Play it light, Caine warned himself. Keep it simple. “Maybe I like keeping you in the same mental state I’m in myself.”

  Diana gave him one of her long, deliberating looks before she smiled. “Do I confuse you, Caine?”

  He met the look as he slipped into his shoes. Something vibrated in the room that both of them took great care not to notice. “I’m going to decline to answer that question at this time.”

  “Interesting.” Diana pulled up the zipper of her skirt. “That leads me to assume that I do.” She slipped into her coat. “I think I like that.”

  “You’ll need your gloves,” was all he said as he pocketed the key again.

  The minute they stepped outside, Diana sucked in her breath at the force of the wind and the cold. The flakes were smaller, she thought as she hooked her arm firmly through
Caine’s, but the wind was going to make the drifts treacherous even after they stopped falling. Still, as she looked around, even the battered little motel seemed rather clean and picturesque in its coating of white.

  “It’s not such a bad little place,” she decided while they struggled against the wind.

  “It looks even better after you’ve been out in this for a while.”

  There was a path of sorts through the four feet of snow, where other tenants of the motel had fought their way to the diner and back again. Struggling through this, Diana still found herself buried up to her knees. When she stumbled, she tightened her grip on Caine.

  “Sure you don’t want to go back in and wait?” Caine shouted close to her ear.

  “Are you kidding?” She lifted her face, squinting against the flying snow. “Is that it?” With her free hand, Diana pointed to the dim outline of a building with floodlights making an eerie glow against the unrelieved white.

  “Yeah. The place’s been doing a thriving round-the-clock business since the blizzard. Our notel has all thirty-five rooms booked.”

  “You’re a fount of information. God,” she went on before Caine could retort, “I could eat two hamburgers.”

  “We’ll discuss your suicidal tendencies when we get inside. Here, watch out.” He tightened his grip on her arm to guide her. “There’re steps buried somewhere under here.”

  Breathless, Diana stumbled through the door when Caine pushed it open. The heavy scent of frying grease hung in the air, overlaid by tobacco smoke and something that might have been bacon. Several scratched, plastic-coated tables were scattered around the long room, with vinyl-cushioned chairs and paper placemats. Along the rear of the room was a counter, with many of its stools already occupied by diners, most of whom turned to stare at the newcomers.

  In a covered dessert dish on the far end were a few tired-looking doughnuts, while behind the counter several signs announced the specials. It seemed the meat loaf dinner, with gravy, was only three forty-nine.

  “Back again?” The chubby waitress behind the counter sent Caine a cheery smile. “And brought your lady. Come on in and warm up, honey,” she told Diana. “You could use some coffee, I bet.”

  “Yes.” The dingy atmosphere was forgotten in the face of the friendly greeting. “I’d love some.”

  “Coffee’s on the house as long as it lasts,” the waitress proclaimed, setting two cups and saucers on the counter. “I’m Peggy. Sit yourselves down and drink up. Hungry?”

  “Starving,” Diana said recklessly as she slid onto a stool beside a young, nervous-looking man with flyaway hair and glasses.

  “We got fresh vegetable soup today,” Peggy told Diana as she handed out thin, handwritten menus. “Been simmering all morning.”

  “Sounds fine,” Caine decided with a glance at Diana.

  “Mmm, for a start,” she agreed, chewing on her bottom lip as she studied the menu.

  “Two soups, Hal,” Peggy shouted through the opening that led to the kitchen. “The BLTs are popular today,” she added.

  “Yes, all right, that sounds good.” Closing the menu, Diana reached for a plastic container of cream as the waitress called out the rest of the order.

  Caine leaned over, nuzzling at Diana’s ear as he whispered into it. “Eat all you want. We’re going to stock up on candy bars and canned sodas to get through tonight.”

  “You’re so resourceful,” she murmured, turning her head so that her lips met his.

  “You folks from out of town?” Peggy asked as she refilled the coffee cup of the man beside Diana.

  “Boston,” Caine told her, taking out a cigarette. At the small sound of distress from beyond Diana, he glanced over.

  “Charlie here was on his way to Boston, too,” the waitress said, giving the young man’s hand a sympathetic pat. “With his bride.” She tucked a strand of tumbling blond hair behind her ear and sent Caine a quick wink.

  “Supposed to be our honeymoon,” Charlie muttered, staring into his coffee. “Lori took one look at the room and started to cry.”

  “Oh.” Diana gave him an understanding smile. “I suppose it isn’t exactly what she was looking forward to.”

  “We had reservations at the Hyatt.” He lifted his head then, pushing his glasses back on his nose. “Lori’s very sensitive.”

  “Yes, I’m sure.” At a loss, Diana met the helpless stare. He looked, she thought, a bit like a little boy who hadn’t found his bicycle under the Christmas tree. “Well, ah, perhaps you could make the room a little more—romantic.”

  “That room?” With a snort, Charlie turned back to his coffee.

  “Candles,” Diana suggested with sudden inspiration as the soup was set on the counter. “Maybe someone has some candles.”

  “Well sure, I got a few in the back room,” Peggy said helpfully as she gave the counter a swipe with a rag. “Your bride like candlelight, Charlie?”

  “Maybe,” he mumbled, but his frown became more thoughtful.

  “Of course she does.” Diana stirred her soup while she watched him. “What woman doesn’t like candlelight? And flowers,” she added. “Now where can we get flowers?”

  “Got a few plastic poinsettias in the back,” the waitress cut in, getting into the spirit. “We use ’em at Christmas, you know. Really brightens up the place.”

  “Wonderful.”

  “You think she’d like that?” Charlie asked Diana.

  “I think she’ll be very touched.”

  “Well …”

  “I’m going to go dig them up.” Wiping her hands on her apron, the waitress headed toward the back.

  Charlie leaned forward to look at Caine. “What do you think?”

  Struggling to keep his face grave, Caine glanced up from his soup. “I bow to a lady’s opinion on matters such as this.”

  “Go ahead, kid,” someone down the counter advised. “Give it a shot.”

  “Yeah.” Abruptly decisive, he rose as Peggy came back, arms full. “Yeah, I will.”

  “Here you go, honey.” She passed over three candles in plastic holders and several sprays of plastic poinsettia with large, glittered red bows. “You go fix up your honeymoon suite. Your little bride’s gonna feel better.”

  “Thanks.” He grinned at Diana as he stuffed as much as he could into his pockets. “Thanks a lot.”

  “Good luck, Charlie,” Diana called after him, then swung back to her soup. Catching Caine’s look, she arched a brow. “I think it’s very sweet.”

  “I didn’t say a word.”

  “You didn’t have to, you cynic.” When he only grinned at her, Diana turned back to her lunch. “Eat your soup. Some of us,” she announced loftily, “appreciate romance.”

  “Should I buy another bottle of wine?” he murmured, raising her hand to his lips.

  “Don’t you dare.” Laughing, she leaned over to kiss him.

  Chapter 9

  Behind her desk, with the fire noisily burning, Diana worked at a steady pace. She’d given the Walker case meticulous research, careful thought and long hours. The story, Diana felt, was almost too typical. Irene Walker had been young, fresh out of college, when she had married. She had never worked—her husband hadn’t permitted it. Instead, she’d kept his home and fixed his meals, dedicating her life to his comfort. Now that their marriage was breaking up, Irene had no income, no training for outside work, and a small infant to care for. Diana was going to see to it that she was compensated for the four years she had worked as housekeeper, cook, laundress and hostess. The fact that Irene had been the victim of wife beating only made Diana more determined that her client receive justice.

  And I’ve got him, Diana thought with a sense of satisfaction as she closed a law book. I’ve got George Walker cold. Now if Irene would just stick with those counseling sessions …

  Shaking her head, Diana reminded herself not to get in any deeper. She was already much too emotionally involved in the Chad Rutledge case; she couldn’t afford to spread h
erself too thin.

  Chad, she thought, pressing her hands to her tired eyes a moment. Things were not moving as smoothly there as they were for Irene Walker. Diana had already called over half the names on the list he had given her. So far, none of the people who knew him, or Beth, could give her any corroborating evidence. I need something, she thought, tossing down her pen in disgust. I have to go into court with something more than Chad’s story and my own feelings. If I can’t break Beth’s story on the stand …

  Leaning back in her chair, Diana stared up at the ceiling and thought through the case as it stood. A pretty, well-liked college student, blond, delicate—privileged family background. A tough, streetwise hood with a belligerent attitude and a quick temper. If it came down to his word against hers, Diana had little doubt what the outcome would be. Then there was the medical evidence—Beth’s condition when she was admitted to the hospital emergency room, Chad’s admission that he had been with her. No, she couldn’t go into court with nothing more than a story about star-crossed lovers and expect it to work. Especially when she wasn’t too sure of her client.

  Oh, he was innocent, Diana mused, frowning. She didn’t doubt that. But she was very much afraid that he’d lose his head if she started pressing Beth too hard. Diana wouldn’t put it past him to stand up in open court and make a full confession.

  With a weary sigh, Diana reminded herself that she still had the last few names on Chad’s list to contact. There were two Diana only had first names on, which meant a trip to the university and a bit of detective work. Who said law was all books and briefs? she thought, then managed a smile for the first time in more than an hour. This was what she wanted.

  “Diana?”

  Distracted, she glanced up. “Oh, yes, Lucy.”

  “I’m going to leave now, unless you need me for something.” She found a thread hanging from the sleeve of her dress, wrapped it around two fingers and snapped it off. “Caine checked in about half an hour ago. His meeting ran over, but he said he’d be stopping in here before going home.”

  “Oh.” Diana didn’t notice Lucy’s speculative look as she gazed into the fire. “No, Lucy, you go on home. I have some things I want to finish up here. I’ll lock up.”

  “Want me to make some coffee before I leave?”

  “Hmm? Oh, no.” Smiling, Diana glanced back up. “No, thanks. Have a nice evening.”

  “You have one, too,” Lucy told her with a last meaningful look before she walked back down the hall. “Tell Caine I left his messages on his desk.”

  “All right.” Diana pondered the empty doorway for a moment. Lucy, she decided, was a great deal shrewder than that placid round face indicated. And I thought I was being so discreet, Diana thought with a rueful smile, working very calmly, very practically, day after day with Caine just next door. Keeping up the polite, friendly tone of colleagues in the same office building. But it seemed Lucy had caught something—a look, a gesture, a tone of voice. Diana wondered just how realistic she had been in thinking she could keep her relationship with Caine strictly between them. She wondered suddenly why she had felt it necessary.

  Thoughtful, Diana rose to walk to the fire. It was burning low now, the coals piled high and glowing red. Stooping, she added a log and watched it catch with violent snaps and hisses. Perhaps her emotions had been like that: low and carefully banked until Caine had come into her life. Now she knew what it was to feel wild bursts of flame, fast, crackling heat. It was impossible, always impossible, to remain calm and controlled when she was with him.

  It frightened her—he frightened her—Caine and his ability to make her want him with unrestrained and uninhibited passion. Caine and his ability to make her think of him at odd moments.

  Emotion seemed to come so effortlessly to him, and the demonstration of emotion. She’d been trained for so long to suppress passions, control surges of feelings. Even now that she was freer with them, more comfortable with some of them, she was poles apart from Caine. She’d never have his spontaneity or his careless self-ease. Diana envied him while not completely understanding him. She did understand, however, that Caine had the ability to dominate by force of personality alone.

  Perhaps that was why she had insisted that they keep their relationship on a firmly professional level during business hours. Diana was struggling to hold on to those hours, to keep them as a time where she still had complete control over her actions, her feelings and her thoughts.

  I’m going to fall in love with him if I’m not careful, Diana thought with a flutter of panic as she watched flames lap greedily around the new log. If I haven’t already. Catching her bottom lip between her teeth, she tried to think clearly but found, as she found so often when she attempted to reason her feelings for Caine, that logic had no place there.

  She wished there was a way to escape him. She wished he would come back so that she could be with him.

  With a sound of annoyance, she turned away from the fire, then heard the phone begin to ring in his office. A glance at her watch told her it was nearly six and the offices were officially closed. Shrugging, Diana walked next door to answer.

  “Caine MacGregor’s office,” she said as she fumbled for the switch on the lamp.

  “Is he back yet?” a booming voice demanded.

  “No, I’m sorry.” Diana picked up a pen as she slipped into Caine’s chair. “Mr. MacGregor’s out of the office. May I take a message?”

  “Where is that boy?!” Exasperation came clearly over the wire—so clearly Diana held the receiver a few inches from her ear. “I’ve been trying to reach him all afternoon.”

 
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