Tempting fate, p.13
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       Tempting Fate, p.13

         Part #2 of The MacGregors series by Nora Roberts
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  “I’m sorry, Mr. MacGregor’s been in a meeting. Shall I have him return your call tomorrow?”

  “Damn boy never could stay put,” the voice muttered.

  “I beg your pardon?”

  “Hah!”

  Diana’s brow lifted at the exclamation. “I’d be happy to take your name and number, and any message you’d care to leave.”

  “This isn’t Lucy,” the man stated suddenly. “Where the devil’s Lucy?”

  Amused, and just a bit perplexed, Diana put down the pen. “Lucy’s gone for the day. This is Diana Blade. I’m Mr. MacGregor’s associate. Is there something—”

  “Justin’s sister!” the voice interrupted in a bellow. “I’ll be damned. Now, I’ve been wanting to have a few words with you, girl. I’d heard you’d set up business there with Caine.”

  “Yes,” she began, growing more bewildered. “Do you know my brother?”

  “Know him?” There was an explosion of laughter. “Of course I know him, girl. I let him marry my daughter, didn’t I?”

  “Oh.” As the light dawned, Diana sat back in Caine’s chair. Hadn’t she been warned about Daniel MacGregor? “How do you do, Mr. MacGregor. I’ve heard a great deal about you.”

  “Hah!” he snorted. “You don’t listen to that son of mine, do you?”

  She laughed, idly toying with the phone cord, not even aware that she was relaxing for the first time in eight hours. “Caine speaks very highly of you, Mr. MacGregor. I’m sorry you’ve missed him.”

  “Hmm, well …” He paused as the germ of an idea formed in his mind. “So you’re a lawyer, too, are you?”

  “Yes, I was at Harvard a few years behind Caine.”

  “Small world, small world. Rena tells me you favor Justin. Good stock.”

  “Ah … well …” A little nonplussed by the phrase, Diana trailed off.

  “Good blood’s an important thing, don’t you know?”

  “Yes.” Brows knit, she shook her head. “I suppose.”

  “No supposing to it, girl, got to keep the line strong. I’ve a birthday coming up,” he announced suddenly.

  “Congratulations.”

  “I didn’t want any fuss,” he began breezily, “but my wife loves a party. Don’t like to disappoint her.”

  “No,” Diana agreed with the beginnings of a smile. “Of course you wouldn’t.”

  “She misses the children, you know. Yes, off they went in every direction,” he said in a pained voice, “and not a grandchild between them.”

  “Ah …” Diana said again for lack of anything better.

  “A few grandchildren to spoil in her winter years,” he continued with a sigh. “But when do children think about their parents’ needs, I’d like to know?”

  “Well—”

  “Anna wants all the children here next weekend,” he interrupted. “A family gathering. We’ll want Caine to bring you along.”

  “Thank you, Mr. MacGregor, I—”

  “Daniel, girl. After all, you’re part of the family now.” Back in Hyannis Port, Daniel gave a crafty, secret smile his careless words disguised. “The MacGregors look after their own.”

  “Yes, I’m sure,” she murmured, then laughed. “I’d love to come for your birthday, Daniel.”

  “Good. That’s settled, then. You tell Caine his mother wants him here Friday night. A lawyer, too, hmm? That’s handy, aye, that’s handy. Friday night, Diana.”

  “Yes.” Baffled again, she stared at Caine’s desk. “Good-bye, Daniel.”

  Diana hung up with the odd feeling she had agreed to something entirely different from a weekend visit to Hyannis Port. Sitting back in Caine’s chair, she thought over the conversation. It seemed, she mused, that Daniel MacGregor was every bit as eccentric as his legend claimed.

  I wonder how much Caine’s like him, Diana reflected idly. Certainly, Caine had inherited his father’s skill in dominating a conversation when he chose. And there was something in the laugh. If she hadn’t been thrown off by the way he’d bellowed into the phone, Diana would have recognized the MacGregor patriarch by the faint Scottish burr. And what in the world was all that business about good stock?

  Hearing the front door open and close, Diana rose from the desk to walk to the top of the stairs. “Hi.”

  As he tossed his coat over a hook on the hall rack, Caine glanced up. “Hi.”

  Recognizing the fatigue in the single syllable, Diana went down to him. “How’d it go?”

  He flexed his back. “Three hours with Ginnie Day.”

  Diana needed no more. Lifting her hands, she began to knead at the tension in his shoulders. “You don’t like her,” she said as Caine let out a quiet sigh.

  “No, I don’t.” He stretched under Diana’s hands. “She’s spoiled, selfish and vain. She has the courtesy of a nasty five-year-old.”

  “It must have been a very pleasant afternoon,” Diana murmured.

  Caine chuckled and lifted his hands to her wrists. “I don’t have to like her, I just have to defend her. It would be easier if Ginnie herself wasn’t the DA’s best weapon. There’s no way to make a jury see her as a sympathetic victim. Most of the emotion’ll be on the prosecution’s side, while I’ll have to stick with straight law.”

  “You’re going for a bench trial,” Diana said as she studied his face.

  A hint of a smile played on his mouth as he nodded in agreement. “I’d rather present this kind of case to a judge. When I told Ginnie, she had a temper fit and fired me.” Laughing at Diana’s outraged expression, Caine cupped her face in his hands, then kissed her. “For about five minutes,” he added. “She might be rude, but she’s not stupid.”

  “It sounds to me as though it would have served her right if you’d taken her dismissal at face value and walked out.”

  “Would you?” he countered.

  Her face relaxed into a smile. “No, but I’d have been tempted. Are you through for the day?”

  “Yeah.” His hand slipped to her waist to gather her closer. “Absolutely.”

  “Then get your coat,” she ordered on an impulse that would have surprised her even weeks before. “I’m going to take you to dinner. Then,” she added as she took her own coat from the hook, “I’m going to lure you back to my place.”

  “Really?”

  “Really. Here.” Gravely, Diana handed him his coat.

  Caine studied her, noting that her eyes were as confident as her words. He touched her hair. “I like your style, counselor.”

  “MacGregor,” Diana returned as she buttoned his coat herself, “you haven’t seen anything yet.”

  * * *

  Flushed with cold and gripping an icy bottle of champagne, Diana opened the door of her apartment. Dinner had relaxed them, slowly nudging the demands of their work, the people whose lives and problems dominated so many of their hours, to the back of their minds. Now they were just a man and a woman with lives and problems of their own.

  “I’ll get the glasses,” Diana stated, handing the bottle to Caine.

  He glanced idly at the label. “I suppose you intend to fuddle my mind with champagne.”

  Coming back with two tulip glasses, she smiled. “I’m counting on it. Why don’t you open that?”

  Lifting a brow, Caine tore the foil from the top of the bottle. “I might not be as easily manipulated as you think.”

  “Oh, no?” Diana set down the glasses, then slid her hands up the front of his suit jacket, slipping it off him. This time, she would test her own strengths and his weaknesses. This time, she wouldn’t be led, she would lead. “An open and shut case,” she murmured, nibbling lightly on his bottom lip as she loosened the knot of his tie. When she felt his arms come around her, she drew back, keeping her lips inches from his. “How about that champagne?”

  “Didn’t we drink it already?”

  On a low laugh, she caught the end of his tie between her thumb and forefinger. “No.” Slowly she slipped the tie off and tossed it aside. She felt a quick t
hrill at her own action and wondered if he felt it, too. “Why don’t you pour it?” she murmured, undoing the first three buttons of his shirt. “I’ll put on some music.”

  As she crossed the room, Diana stepped out of her shoes. She turned the stereo on low, so that the soft, bluesy number was hardly more than a whisper. When she dimmed the lights, Caine glanced over to see her slip off her pine-colored blazer.

  “I think,” he said quietly as he filled both glasses, “I’m in trouble.”

  With a laugh that was more of a sigh, Diana walked back to him. “You are in trouble.” Taking a glass, she sat on the sofa and pulled him down beside her. “Deep trouble,” she added, nipping at his ear.

  “Maybe I should put myself entirely in your hands.” Turning his head, he found her mouth with his, but she allowed him only the briefest taste.

  “My thoughts exactly.” She touched the rim of her glass to his, then drank. “Have I ever told you,” she began while her fingers began to toy with the curls that fell over his ears, “that you fascinate me?”

  “No. Do I?” Caine lifted his hand to draw her closer, but Diana caught it in hers.

  “Yes.” Slowly, she brought his hand to her lips, pressing them against his palm. Tonight she would be all woman, only a woman. “Strong hands.” Watching him, she kissed his fingers one by one. “One of the first things I noticed was that they weren’t the soft lawyer’s hands I’d expected. I wondered how they’d feel on my skin.” She laced her fingers with his as she brought the glass to her lips again.

  Feeling desire sprint through him, Caine stared at her. She was mesmerizing him. He hadn’t known she could, and the feeling left him burning and oddly weak. In the dim light, her eyes were dark and mysterious with the seductively languid look that had stirred him from the first moment. “Diana—”

  “Then there was your mouth,” she went on, letting her eyes linger on it. “Such a clever mouth.” She brushed her lips lightly over his. “The first time you kissed me I couldn’t think of anything else. Exciting,” she whispered, tilting her head back ever so slightly when he sought to deepen the kiss. “And at times indescribably gentle. I could spend hours and hours doing nothing more than kissing you.” But she shifted away to watch him over the rim of her glass as she drank champagne.

  “Diana.” Caine’s voice was low as he cupped his hand around her neck to drag her closer.

  Diana kept herself a frustrating distance away with her hand against his chest. More time, she thought greedily. She wanted more of it to explore a power she’d just discovered. “I like your eyes,” she murmured. She could feel his need—the tension of his need—in the fingers that pressed into her skin. He had always driven her quickly beyond control each time he touched her. This time, she thought, flushed with power, this time she would drive him, then revel in the consequences. “I like the way they darken when you want me. I can see it.” She spread her fingers over his chest. “I love seeing it. You’re tense.” As she felt his heart thud furiously beneath her palm, her own speeded up to race with it. “You should drink your champagne and relax.”

  Throbbing, he met the challenge in her eyes. Through sheer force of will, he lightened his grip and fought back the first flood of need. She fully intended to drive him mad, and knowing it, Caine determined to regain some control. “You know that I want you.” Keeping his eyes on hers, he lifted the glass. “You know that I’ll have you.”

  “Perhaps.” She smiled again as she shook back her hair. Her scent seemed to drift out from it to wrap around him. The wine bubbled icily over her tongue, adding to the sense of power. “I think of storms when I think of making love to you.” Leisurely, she ran a fingertip down his shirtfront, then back up to loosen the rest of the buttons. “That morning on the beach when I first kissed you—that little motel room in the blizzard. Storms and wind. Strange, I never get a picture of anything placid.” She ran her hand over his naked chest, slowly, very slowly, moving down.

  “If you want me to be gentle,” he managed as the soft touch of her fingers tore at his restraint, “this isn’t the way.”

  “Did I say that’s what I wanted?” she asked with a low laugh. Watching him, Diana took his mouth again, this time allowing the kiss to linger.

  His mind clouded—her taste, that wicked scent. Setting his glass aside, Caine plunged both hands into her hair and dove into the kiss. More, was all he could think. He had to have more and still more. Her mouth had softened seductively under his with a deceptive surrender he would have recognized had his mind been as clear as his need. Her quiet sigh seemed to race through him. With his breathing already labored, Caine reached for the zipper at the back of her dress.

  Not yet, not yet, Diana ordered herself as her thoughts began to swim. Passion was lapping at her, as the flames had lapped at the log she had watched in the fire. But she wanted something more tonight. She wanted a few more moments of control; she wanted to prove to herself that she could erase every layer of the polish that lay over the dangerous inner man. She had once feared what would happen if the two of them came together without that safe gloss of sophistication. Now, she craved it. Feeling her dress begin to loosen, she pulled away.

  “Diana …” Caine began on a half groan, but she evaded him and rose.

  “Don’t you want any more champagne?” she asked, pouring more into her glass.

  In one quick move, Caine stood and grabbed her arm. “You know damn well what I want.”

  Another thrill of excitement sped into her, reflecting in her eyes even as she kept her voice low. “Yes.” Impulsively, she drained her glass, then held it lightly by the stem. “Such a civilized drink. Take me to bed,” she invited softly as she stepped closer. “And make love to me.”

  As the last thread of control snapped, Caine yanked her against him. The glass fell to the rug to roll across the room. “Here,” he demanded. “And now.” With his mouth crushed on hers, he dragged her to the floor.

  His hands seemed to be everywhere at once, seeking, finding, while his mouth stayed fused to hers. Diana gloried in it and, while her body wildly responded, sought to drive him further from reason. Her mouth was aggressive, meeting his with a hot, hungry fury that could only partially show the needs raging inside her. She would feed on his desire even while she stoked it.

  She pulled the shirt from his back, and when his mouth freed hers briefly, nipped her teeth lightly into his shoulder. With a half-muffled oath, Caine crushed her roaming mouth with his again.

  He peeled the dress from her, quickly, hands rushing to possess the soft, naked skin. Desire was stabbing at him, painful, forcing him to hurry where he would have lingered, driving him to take quickly what he would have savored. He thought he had felt need before, but it had never been like this: unreasonable, unmanageable. A rough urgency took the place of skill when he at last had her naked beneath him.

  Her taste filled him, but he hadn’t the patience to relish it. Her soft, rounded curves entranced him, but he hadn’t the will to wait. The whispering music seemed to be all bass and drums now—pounding, taunting. And her scent promised no more and no less than the passion of the woman beneath him.

  He swore once, with no knowledge of whom, of what he was cursing, then took her with a force that had her gasping out his name. Half-mad, he covered her mouth with his and swallowed the sounds. He drove her, drove himself, until there was only blinding heat and whirling colors. Caine knew nothing else; savagely he wanted nothing else. Caught in the vortex of the storm, they moved like lightning until, shattered, their strength drained. With something like pain, he felt sanity return.

  Still, he couldn’t move. His breath came in gasps he couldn’t control as he buried his face in her hair. He was trembling, he realized with a small sliver of fear. No woman, no passion had ever made him tremble. What was she doing to him? he wondered as he tried to catch his breath. The last thing he clearly remembered was pulling her to the floor. All the rest came back as sensations. They might have lain there for ten
minutes or for hours. He couldn’t think—even now that the desperation had passed, he still couldn’t think.

  Had he hurt her? His mood had been close to violent when he had dragged her to the floor. There’d been something about the way she had looked at him when she’d told him to take her to bed. In that moment, he had lost all sense of time and place, and any tenuous claim he’d still held to being civilized.

  Dazed, Caine lifted his head to look down at her. Her eyes were open, though those long, heavy lids were nearly closed. Her skin held that flushing glow of passion just spent. Incredibly, he felt fresh desire ripple through him. Dropping his face back into her hair, he took deep, steadying breaths. He needed a minute, he told himself. Good God, he needed a minute or he’d take her like a madman again.

  Sighing his name, Diana ran her hands over his back. There’d been something in his eyes just then she’d never expected to see: vulnerability. She didn’t feel power now, but wonder—and something else that made her touch gentle and soothing. No, she hadn’t expected to see vulnerability, and even as she nestled closer, Diana wasn’t certain she wanted to see it. Seeing it in his eyes only forced her to face her own weakness. Slowly, and with uncanny success, he’d scaled the walls of her defenses. And things weren’t so simple any longer.

  She could feel his heartbeat begin to level. The breath that feathered over her ear grew steadier. When Caine lifted his head again, his eyes weren’t giving away any secrets.

  “You’re a surprising woman, Diana.” He kissed her but touched the lips still warm and swollen from his gently.

  “Why?” she murmured.

  “All that passion, all that … fire,” he added as his lips continued to nibble at hers. “In a woman who takes such pains to be dignified … cool … unflappable. You wanted to make me crazy, didn’t you?”

  She sighed as his mouth began to feast at her throat. Triumph glowed through her. She’d discovered one more part of Diana Blade. “I did make you crazy.”

  His lips curved into a smile against her skin before he lifted his head again. “We’ll have that champagne now before I take you to bed, as you asked.” Caine poured more wine into the glass on the table, then offered it to her. “We seem to have lost the other glass—we’ll share this one.”

  Sitting up, Diana drank, letting the champagne pour through her with its icy effervescence. “It tastes even better now,” she said with a smile as she passed it back to Caine.

  “As you said …” He sipped as his eyes answered her smile. “A civilized drink. Diana …” Caine lifted his hand to her hair and watched his fingers comb through it. “Stay with me at my place this weekend. We can eat in, watch old movies.” The grin touched his eyes again. “Neck on the sofa. We’re both going to be under a lot of pressure these next few weeks with the cases coming to trial. It might be the last time for quite a while that we’ll have the time to be together like this.”

  The picture he painted was tempting—and frightening. One more step into intimacy. Yet even as a part of her wanted to back away, she couldn’t resist. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather … Oh!” With a look of comic dismay on her face, Diana paused in the act of reaching for the glass. “Your father.”

  With a chuckle, Caine took another sip before he handed her the wine. “What does my father have to do with it?”

  “He called. I forgot completely.” Her eyes laughed at him as she drank. “I believe we’ve received a royal summons.”

  “Oh?” Caine traced a fingertip over the slope of her shoulder, enjoying how dark and smooth her skin looked in the dim light.

  “For the weekend,” Diana elaborated, laughing out loud when his fingertip stopped.

  “The weekend?”

  “Your father’s birthday.” Leaning across him, Diana filled the glass again. “He doesn’t want a fuss, you know, but your mother—”

  “Of course.” With a wry smile, Caine shifted so that he could replace his fingertip with his lips. “My quiet, undemanding father would simply treat his birthday as any other day of the year. He’ll only go through the noise and fuss and bother of a party for my mother’s sake. And naturally, he’ll only accept presents because she expects it. If it were up to him, the day would pass without a thought.”

  Chuckling, Diana struggled to concentrate on his words as he began to lightly caress her. “Well, it was very sweet of him to include me in the invitation. I’m looking forward to it. I enjoyed talking to him, even if the conversation was a bit confusing.”

  “How?” He carefully traced her ear with his tongue, taking the glass from her as it began to slip through her fingers.

  “Mmm … He said something about Justin and I being from good stock. Caine …” As he caught the lobe in his teeth, Diana lost track of her own words.

  “What else?” he murmured, pleased that her voice was unsteady and her body pliant against his. It wasn’t often he could coax her into this kind of surrender. Sweet and complete. This time they would go slowly, and he would savor every moment.

  “Something—something about it being handy we were both lawyers.” Somehow she was cradled in his arms, with his lips roaming her face, his hands roaming her body. And she was helpless.

  “I see.” And he did. With a sigh that was half amused, half exasperated, Caine continued to take her deeper. “Did Rena ever mention to you how she and Justin happened to meet?”

  “What?” Drugged, her eyes already closed, her body already melting, she couldn’t understand the question or the need for it. “No, no, she didn’t. Caine, make love to me.”

  He wondered how she would react when she learned his father had engineered Rena and Justin’s meeting in the hope of their making a match. He wondered how she would react when she learned Daniel MacGregor wasn’t above applying a bit of genial pressure to secure what he might feel was a suitable mate for his youngest son. And that she would fit the bill very nicely. He wondered, as his lips toyed with hers, how he felt about the idea himself.

  But it wasn’t a night for thinking, Caine decided as her arms wound around
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