The law is a lady, p.16
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       The Law is a Lady, p.16

           Nora Roberts
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  “What would you have done if he’d gotten violent?”

  “I would have handled it,” she told him, drawing away a bit. “It’s my job.”

  “You can’t—”

  “Phil,” Tory cut him off quickly and firmly. “I don’t tell you how to set a scene. Don’t tell me how to run my town.”

  “It’s not the same thing and you know it.” He gave her an angry shake. “Nobody takes a swing at me when I do a retake.”

  “How about a frustrated actor?”

  His eyes darkened. “Tory, you can’t make a joke out of this.”

  “Better a joke than an argument,” she countered. “I don’t want to fight with you. Phil, don’t focus on something like this. It isn’t good for us.”

  He bit off a furious retort, then strode away to stare out the window. Nothing seemed as simple as it had been since the first time he’d walked into that cramped little room. “It’s hard,” he murmured. “I care.”

  Tory stared at his back while a range of emotions swept through her. Her heart wasn’t listening to the strict common sense she had imposed on it. No longer sure what she wanted, she suppressed the urge to go to him and be held again. “I know,” she said at length. “I care too.”

  He turned slowly. They looked at each other as they had once before, when there were bars between them—a bit warily. For a long moment there was only the sound of the whining fan and the mumble of conversation outside. “I have to get back,” he told her, carefully slipping his hands in his pockets. The need to touch her was too strong. “Dinner?”

  “Sure.” She smiled but found it wasn’t as easy to tilt her lips up as it should have been. “It’ll have to be a little later—around eight?”

  “That’s fine. I’ll see you then.”

  “Okay.” She waited until the door had closed behind him before she sat at her desk. Her legs were weak. Leaning her head on her hand, she let out a long breath.

  Oh, boy, she thought. Oh, boy. The ground was a lot shakier than she had anticipated. But she couldn’t be falling in love with him, she reassured herself. Not that. Everything was intensified because of the emotional whirlwind of the past couple of days. She wasn’t ready for the commitments and obligations of being in love, and that was all there was to it. Rising, she plugged in the coffeepot. She’d feel more like herself if she had a cup of coffee and got down to work.

  ***

  Phil spent more time than he should have in the shower. It had been a very long, very rough twelve-hour day. He was accustomed to impossible hours and impossible demands in his job. Characteristically he took them in stride. Not this time.

  The hot water and steam weren’t drawing out the tension in his body. It had been there from the moment when Tory had driven off to the Swanson ranch, then had inexplicably increased during their brief conversation in her office. Because he was a man who always dealt well with tension, he was annoyed that he wasn’t doing so this time.

  He shut his eyes, letting the water flood over his head. She’d been perfectly right, he mused, about his having no say in her work. For that matter he had no say in any aspect of her life. There were no strings on their relationship. And he didn’t want them any more than Tory did. He’d never had this problem in a relationship before. Problem? he mused, pushing wet hair out of his eyes. A perspective problem, he decided. What was necessary was to put his relationship with Tory back in perspective.

  And who better to do that than a director, he thought wryly, then switched off the shower with a jerk of the wrist. He was simply letting too much emotion leak into the scene. Take two, he decided, grabbing a towel. Somehow he’d forgotten a very few basic, very vital rules. Keep it simple, keep it light, he reminded himself. Certainly someone with his background and experience was too smart to look for complications. What was between him and Tory was completely elemental and without strain, because they both wanted to keep it that way.

  That was one of the things that had attracted him to her in the first place, Phil remembered. Hooking a towel loosely around his waist, he grabbed another to rub his hair dry. She wasn’t a woman who expected a commitment, who looked for a permanent bond like love or marriage. Those were two things they were both definitely too smart to get mixed up with. In the steam-hazed mirror Phil caught the flicker of doubt in his own eyes.

  Oh, no, he told himself, absolutely not. He wasn’t in love with her. It was out of the question. He cared, naturally: She was a very special woman—strong, beautiful, intelligent, independent. And she had a great deal of simple sweetness that surfaced unexpectedly. It was that one quality that kept a man constantly off balance. So he cared about her, Phil mused, letting the second towel fall to the floor. He could even admit that he felt closer to her than to many people he’d known for years. There was nothing unusual about that. They had something in common that clicked—an odd sort of friendship, he decided. That was safe enough. It was only because he’d been worried about her that he’d allowed things to get out of proportion for a time.

  But he was frowning abstractedly at his reflection when he heard the knock on the door.

  “Who is it?”

  “Room service.”

  The frown turned into a grin instantly as he recognized Tory’s voice.

  “Well, hi.” Tory gave him a look that was both encompassing and lazy when he opened the door. “You’re a little late for your reservation, Kincaid.”

  He stepped aside to allow her to enter with a large tray. “I lost track of time in the shower. Is that our dinner?”

  “Bud phoned me.” Tory set the tray on the card table they’d used before. “He said you’d ordered dinner for eight but didn’t answer your phone. Since I was starving, I decided to expedite matters.” Slipping her arms around his waist, she ran her hands up his warm, damp back. “Ummm, you’re tense,” she murmured, enjoying the way his hair curled chaotically around his face. “Rough day?”

  “And then some,” he agreed before he kissed her.

  He smelled clean—of soap and shampoo—yet, Tory found the scent as arousing as the darker musky fragrance she associated with him. Her hunger for food faded as quickly as her hunger for him rose. Pressing closer, she demanded more. His arms tightened; his muscles grew taut. He was losing himself in her again, and found no power to control it.

  “You really are tense,” Tory said against his mouth. “Lie down.”

  He gave a half chuckle, nibbling on her bottom lip. “You work fast.”

  “I’ll rub your back,” she informed him as she drew away. “You can tell me all the frustrating things those nasty actors did today while you were striving to be brilliant.”

  “Let me show you how we deal with smart alecks on the coast,” Phil suggested.

  “On the bed, Kincaid.”

  “Well . . .” He grinned. “If you insist.”

  “On your stomach,” she stated when he started to pull her with him.

  Deciding that being pampered might have its advantages, he complied. “I’ve got a bottle of wine in the cooler.” He sighed as he stretched out full length. “It’s a hell of a place to keep a fifty-year-old Burgundy.”

  “Don’t be a snob,” Tory warned, sitting beside him. “You must have worked ten or twelve hours today,” she began. “Did you get much accomplished?”

  “Not as much as we should have.” He gave a quiet groan of pleasure as she began to knead the muscles in his shoulders. “That’s wonderful.”

  “The guys in the massage parlor always asked for Tory.”

  His head came up. “What?”

  “Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. Down, Kincaid.” She chuckled softly, working down his arms. “Were there technical problems or temperament ones?”

  “Both,” he answered, settling again. He found closing his eyes was a sensuous luxury. “Had some damaged dichroics. With luck the new ones’ll get here tomorrow. Most of the foul-ups came during the crowd scene. Your people like to grin into the camera,” he said d
ryly. “I expected one of them to wave any minute.”

  “That’s showbiz,” Tory concluded as she shifted to her knees. She hiked her dress up a bit for more freedom. Opening his eyes, Phil was treated to a view of thigh. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the town council elected to build a theater in Friendly just to show your movie. Think of the boon to the industry.”

  “Merle walked across the street like he’s sat on a horse for three weeks.” Because her fingers were working miracles over his back muscles, Phil shut his eyes again.

  “Merle’s still seeing Marlie Summers.”

  “Tory.”

  “Just making conversation,” she said lightly but dug a bit harder than necessary into his shoulder blades.

  “Ouch!”

  “Toughen up, Kincaid.” With a laugh she placed a loud, smacking kiss in the center of his back. “You’re not behind schedule, are you?”

  “No. With all the hazards of shooting on location, we’re doing very well. Another four weeks should wrap it up.”

  They were both silent for a moment unexpectedly depressed. “Well, then,” Tory said briskly, “you shouldn’t have to worry about the guarantor.”

  “He’ll be hanging over my shoulder until the film’s in the can,” Phil muttered. “There’s a spot just to the right . . . oh, yeah,” he murmured as her fingers zeroed in on it.

  “Too bad you don’t have any of those nifty oils and lotions,” she commented. In a fluid movement Tory straddled him, the better to apply pressure. “You’re a disappointment, Kincaid. I’d have thought all you Hollywood types would carry a supply of that kind of thing.”

  “Mmmm.” He would have retorted in kind, but his mind was beginning to float. Her fingers were cool and sure as they pressed on the small of his back just above the line of the towel. Her legs, clad in thin stockings, brushed his sides, arousing him with each time she flexed. The scent of her shampoo tickled his nostrils as she leaned up to knead his shoulders again. Though the sheet was warm—almost too warm—beneath him, he couldn’t summon the energy to move. As the sun was setting, the light shifted, dimming. The room was filled with a golden haze that suited his mood. He could hear the rumble of a car on the street below, then only the sound of Tory’s light, even breathing above him. His muscles were relaxed and limber, but he didn’t consider telling her to stop. He’d forgotten completely about the dinner growing cold on the table behind them.

  Tory continued to run her hands along his back, thinking him asleep. He had a beautiful body, she mused, hard and tanned and disciplined. The muscles in his back were supple and strong. For a moment she simply enjoyed exploring him. When she shifted lower, the skirt of her dress rode up high on her thighs. With a little sound of annoyance she unzipped the dress and pulled it over her head. She could move with more freedom in her sheer teddy.

  His waist was trim. She allowed her hands to slide over it, approving its firmness. Before their lovemaking had been so urgent, and she had been completely under his command. Now she enjoyed learning the lines and planes of his body. Down the narrow hips, over the brief swatch of towel, to his thighs. There were muscles there, too, she discovered, hardened by hours of standing, tennis, swimming. The light mat of hair over his skin made her feel intensely feminine. She massaged his calves, then couldn’t resist the urge to place a light kiss on the back of his knee. Phil’s blood began to heat in a body too drugged with pleasure to move. It gave her a curiously warm feeling to rub his feet.

  He worked much harder than she’d initially given him credit for, she mused as she roamed slowly back up his legs. He spent hours in the sun, on his feet, going over and over the same shot until he’d reached the perfection he strove for. And she had come to know that the film was never far from his thoughts, even during his free hours. Phillip Kincaid, she thought with a gentle smile, was a very impressive man—with much more depth than the glossy playboy the press loved to tattle on. He’d earned her respect during the time he’d been in Friendly, and she was growing uncomfortably certain he’d earned something more complex. She wouldn’t think of it now. Perhaps she would have no choice but to think of it after he’d gone. But for now, he was here. That was enough.

  With a sigh she bent low over his back to lay her cheek on his shoulder. The need for him had crept into her while she was unaware. Her pulse was pounding, and a thick warmth, like heated honey, seemed to flow through her veins.

  “Phil.” She moved her mouth to his ear. Her tongue traced it, slipping inside to arouse him to wakefulness. She heard his quiet groan as her heart began to beat jerkily. With her teeth she pulled and tugged on the lobe, then moved to experiment with the sensitive area just below. “I want you,” she murmured. Quickly she began to take her lips over him with the same thorough care as her fingers.

  He seemed so pliant as she roamed over him that when a strong arm reached out to pull her down, it took her breath away. Before she could recover it, his mouth was on hers. His lips were soft and warm, but the kiss was bruisingly potent. His tongue went deep to make an avid search of moist recesses as his weight pressed her into the mattress. He took a quick, hungry journey across her face before he looked down at her. There was nothing sleepy in his expression. The look alone had her breath trembling.

  “My turn,” he whispered.

  With nimble fingers he loosened the range of tiny buttons down the front of her teddy. His lips followed, to send a trail of fire along the newly exposed skin. The plunge of the V stopped just below her navel. He lingered there, savoring the soft, honey-hued flesh. Tory felt herself swept through a hurricane of sensation to the heavy, waiting air of the storm’s eye. Phil’s hands cupped her upper thighs, his thumbs pressing insistently where the thin silk rose high. Expertly he unhooked her stockings, drawing them off slowly, his mouth hurrying to taste. Tory moaned, bending her leg to help him as torment and pleasure tangled.

  For one heady moment his tongue lingered at the top of her thigh. With his tongue he gently slipped beneath the silk, making her arch in anticipation. His breath shot through the material into the core of her. But he left her moist and aching to come greedily back to her mouth. Tory met the kiss ardently, dragging him closer. She felt his body pound and pulse against hers with a need no greater than her own. He found her full bottom lip irresistible and nibbled and sucked gently. Tory knew a passion so concentrated and volatile, she struggled under him to find the ultimate release.

  “Here,” he whispered, moving down to the spot on her neck that always drew him. “You taste like no one else,” he murmured. Her flavor seemed to tremble on the tip of his tongue. With a groan he let his voracious appetite take over.

  Her breasts were hard, waiting for him. Slowly he moistened the tips with his tongue, listening to her shuddering breathing as he journeyed from one to the other—teasing, circling, nibbling, until her movements beneath him were abandoned and desperate. Passion built to a delicious peak until he drew her, hot and moist, into his mouth to suckle ravenously. She wasn’t aware when he slipped the teddy down her shoulders, down her body, until she was naked to the waist. The last lights of the sun poured into the room like a dark red mist. It gave her skin an exotic cast that aroused him further. He drew the silk lower and still lower, until it was lost in the tangle of sheets.

  Desperate, Tory reached for him. She heard Phil’s sharp intake of breath as she touched him, felt the sudden, convulsive shudder. She wanted him now with an intensity too strong to deny.

  “More,” he breathed, but was unable to resist as she drew him closer.

  “Now,” she murmured, arching her hips to receive him.

  ***

  Exhausted, they lay in silence as the first fingers of moonlight flickered into the room. He knew he should move—his full weight pushed Tory deep into the mattress. But they felt so right, flesh to flesh, his mouth nestled comfortably against her breast. Her fingers were in his hair, tangling and stroking with a sleepy gentleness. Time crept by easily—seconds to minutes without words or the
need for them. He could hear her heartbeat gradually slow and level. Lazily he flicked his tongue over a still-erect nipple and felt it harden even more.

  “Phil,” she moaned in weak protest.

  He laughed quietly, enormously pleased that he could move her so effortlessly. “Tired?” he asked, nibbling a moment longer.

  “Yes.” She gave a low groan as he began to toy with her other breast. “Phil, I can’t.”

  Ignoring her, he brought his mouth to hers for long, slow kisses while his hands continued to stroke. He had intended only to kiss her before taking his weight from her. Her lips were unbearably soft and giving. Her breath shuddered into him, rebuilding his passion with dizzying speed. Tory told herself it wasn’t possible as sleepy desire became a torrent of fresh need.

  Phil found new delight in the lines of her body, in the heady, just-loved flavor of her skin. A softly glowing spark rekindled a flame. “I want a retake,” he murmured.

  He took her swiftly, leaving them both staggered and damp and clinging in a room speckled with moonlight.

  ***

  “How do you feel?” Phil murmured later. She was close to his side, one arm flung over his chest.

  “Astonished.”

  He laughed, kissing her temple. “So do I. I guess our dinner got cold.”

  “Mmm. What was it?”

  “I don’t remember.”

  Tory yawned and snuggled against him. “That’s always better cold anyway.” She knew with very little effort she could sleep for a week.

  “Not hungry?”

  She considered a moment. “Is it something you have to chew?”

  He grinned into the darkness. “Probably.”

 
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