Tempting fate, p.5
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       Tempting Fate, p.5

         Part #2 of The MacGregors series by Nora Roberts
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  He might not be back yet, she thought as she lifted her hand to knock. If he’s not, she told herself, I’ll go down to his office and wait. It has to be now. Her hand hesitated and nearly dropped. I have to do it now. Straightening her shoulders, Diana knocked, then held her breath.

  Justin opened it, bare-chested, a shirt slung over his shoulder and his hair still damp from a shower. “Diana? Were you looking for Serena?”

  “No, I—” Her eyes were drawn to the jagged white scar along his ribs. Painfully, she swallowed. “May I come in?”

  “Of course.” After closing the door, he watched her fingers lace and unlace as she walked to the center of the room. “Would you like some coffee? A drink?”

  “No, no, nothing.” She gripped her fingers together again and let them fall in front of her. “You go ahead.”

  “Sit down, Diana.”

  “No, I …” Her voice trailed off, and she shook her head helplessly. “No.”

  “What is it?”

  It would be easier if she didn’t have to look at him, she thought. Easier if she could be a coward and turn away as she said the words. Diana kept her eyes on his. “I want to apologize.”

  Justin lifted a brow as he started to slip on his shirt. “What for?”

  “For everything I haven’t done or said since I came here.”

  He watched her as he buttoned his shirt, but his eyes told her nothing. He knew how to keep his thoughts to himself, she realized. That was why he was a gambler, and a success at it. “You have nothing to apologize for, Diana.”

  “Justin.” His name came out in a plea as she stepped toward him. Stopping herself, Diana turned away a moment. “I’m not doing this well. Strange, I make my living stringing the right words together, but I just can’t find them.”

  “Diana, you don’t have to do this.” He wanted to touch her, but thinking she’d only stiffen, he slipped his hands into his pockets. “I don’t expect you to feel anything.”

  Gathering her courage again, she faced him. “I owe you,” she said quietly.

  Instantly, his eyes were remote and unfathomable. “You owe me nothing.”

  “Everything,” she corrected. “Justin, you should have told me!” she said with sudden passion. “I had a right to know.”

  “To know what?” he countered coolly.

  “Stop it!” she demanded, and grabbed his shirtfront with both hands.

  He thought as he looked down at her that there was more of the girl he remembered than he’d realized. Here was the verve and the fire. Lifting a brow, he studied her stubborn, furious face. “You always were a brat,” he murmured. “Perhaps if you calm down, you might tell me what’s on your mind.”

  “Stop treating me as though I were still six years old!” she demanded as her fingers tightened on his shirt.

  It amused him to hear her shout, and it wiped away the image of the cool sophisticate who had walked back into his life a few days before. “Stop behaving as though you were,” he advised. “There’ve been things you’ve wanted to say to me since I walked into this room and found you here. Say them now.”

  Diana took a deep breath. She’d wanted to apologize, not to shout and accuse. But the control she’d practiced so scrupulously for so many years was lost. “All those years I resented you, even tried to hate you for forgetting me.”

  “I think I understand that,” he said steadily.

  “No.” Shaking her head, she dug her fingers into his shirt in frustration. Tears began to gather and spill, but she didn’t wipe them away because she didn’t feel them. “How could you when I could never tell you? I lost everything so quickly, Justin. Lost everyone.” Her voice trembled, but she couldn’t steady it. “I thought at first all of you had left because I was too much trouble.”

  He made a soft sound and touched her for the first time—a hand absently passed through her hair as he had done from time to time so many years before. “I didn’t know how to make you understand. You were so small.”

  “I understand now,” Diana began. “Justin—” She broke on the word, fighting off a sob. She had to say it all, even if he turned away after she was done. “Everything you did for me—”

  “Was necessary.” He cut her off and was no longer touching her. “No more, no less.”

  “Justin, please …” She didn’t know how to ask for love. If she had one lingering fear, it was to try and to fail. While he watched, she struggled for words. “I want to thank you,” she managed. “You’ve every right to be angry, but—”

  “There’s nothing I’ve done you have to thank me for.”

  She bit down on her lip to stop the trembling. “You felt obligated,” she murmured.

  “No.” He touched her again, just the tips of her hair. “I loved you.”

  Her lips parted, but there was no sound. He was offering her love … He wouldn’t accept gratitude. She wouldn’t give him tears. Instead, Diana reached for his hand. “Be my friend.”

  Justin felt something unknot in his stomach. Slowly, he brought her hand to his lips, then spreading her fingers, he placed her palm to his. “We’re blood, little sister. I’ve always loved you. From today, we’re friends.”

  “From today,” she agreed, and curled her fingers around his.

  Chapter 4

  It was bitterly cold. In defense, Diana had the car heater turned up full as she fought her way through sluggish Boston traffic. Oncoming headlights glared off her windshield so that she kept her eyes narrowed and tried not to remember that her ankles were freezing. By the time her car warmed up, she thought fatalistically, she’d already be inside the restaurant.

  She considered it a wise move on her part to meet Matt Fairman for dinner. As assistant district attorney, he had his ear to the ground. In her current professional position, she didn’t think it prudent to refuse the offer of a casual dinner date, even when she’d rather be home huddled in a warm robe drinking tea and watching an old movie. Diana didn’t feel she could afford to offend anyone with Matt’s kind of connections or to pass up the opportunity to make a few points on her own behalf. In any case, she was confident she could handle him on a personal level. She always had. And he was nice enough, she mused, shivering inside her coat, if you overlooked the fact that his mind worked on two levels. The law and women.

  Matt was a good lawyer, she reminded herself. She thought, but couldn’t be sure, that her feet were beginning to thaw. Pushing this aside, she concentrated on Matt. Besides being a good lawyer, and a shrewd politician, Matt had the inside story on every important case being tried or pending in the Boston area. He was also a gossip. If Diana wanted it known that she was now out on her own, she’d do better with a few words in Matt’s ear than a full-page ad in the Boston Globe.

  She’d resigned from Barclay, Stevens and Fitz the week she had returned from Atlantic City. It had been her way of making a stand against her aunt’s manipulating. Diana knew she was taking a chance, both financially and professionally, and in the two weeks following the break, she’d had her share of small panic attacks. Barclay was security, not only a steady paycheck, but a steady stream—well, at least a trickle—of cases. But Barclay had been her aunt’s choice. She considered the abrupt termination her first real step toward independence. She didn’t regret the decision or the twinges of doubt about the future.

  On a bad day, she pictured herself sharing office space with another struggling lawyer, waiting for the phone to ring, hoping to defend someone over a speeding ticket. On a good day, Diana told herself that she was going to fight her way up the ladder, rung by rung.

  If Diana had a regret, it was that she’d had so little time with Justin once they’d made peace—but she had felt it was essential that she get back to Boston and sort out her professional life. Resigning from Barclay had to be done while the heat of anger, the sting of betrayal, was still fresh—before, Diana had thought, she’d reasoned it out too well. It was too easy to be nervous, to think of all the consequences. Instead, she convin
ced herself that she was in a hurry to start carving out a place and a name for herself. And, she discovered, she was in a hurry to start exploring Diana Blade—all the parts of herself she had tucked away for so many years.

  There’d been another reason for her leaving Atlantic City a few days ahead of schedule: Caine MacGregor. Diana acknowledged the fact that she had wanted to put some distance between them—particularly after that last emotional interlude before she had spoken to Justin. Caine was getting to her.

  A man like Caine made an art out of getting to women, she mused. Smooth one minute, rough-edged and arrogant the next. It was a hard combination to resist, and she was certain he knew it. His reputation with women had been well circulated since his college days. Circumstances, or perhaps fate, had dictated that she had heard of his exploits through her years at Harvard, and then through their mutual associates in Boston. Diana had already known too much of Caine MacGregor before they’d ever come face-to-face—but it’d been then that the problem had jelled.

  If it had been simply a physical attraction, Diana felt she could have handled it well enough. She was used to practicing self-denial, and an affair with Caine was out of the question. They had too many ties, both in business and now in family. He was, by choice and reputation, a womanizer. She was, by choice and reputation, cautious.

  But it was more than desire. He kept reaching inside her and stirring emotions she couldn’t define. She wasn’t ready to define them. So Diana approached the problem logically—first by admitting there was one, then by removing herself from it. Now, she considered it solved because it was past.

  Launching her own practice would take all her time and energy for months to come. The prospect unnerved her, excited her, though she’d yet to find suitable office space and her list of clients was still pitifully short. She’d been alone before, she reminded herself—alone and without resources. This time, there wouldn’t be an Aunt Adelaide to trade security for obedience. This time, she’d make her own decisions, her own mistakes, her own triumphs. She knew exactly what she wanted: work, challenge, success. All she needed was the chance to find it.

  When Diana found a parking space quickly in the crowded lot, she considered it an omen. Things were going to work out according to plan because she refused to allow it to happen any other way.

  The cold bit through her coat as she hurried across the lot. A hard, icy rain had begun to fall, making the asphalt treacherous and oddly beautiful in the glow of streetlamps. She ignored her freezing legs by imagining herself already sitting near the fire in the lounge—a glass of white wine, the soothing notes from the piano, the scent of burning wood.

  The rush of warm air as she opened the door brought out a sigh of pure appreciation. After checking her coat, Diana approached the maître d’.

  “Diana Blade. Has Mr. Fairman arrived yet?”

  The maître d’ glanced quickly at the list on his podium. “Not as yet, Ms. Blade.”

  “When he does, would you tell him I’m waiting in the lounge?”

  Diana moved toward the large, comfortable room where sofas and armchairs were scattered around a huge stone fireplace. The flames were high, fed by thick oak logs that burned with a sweet forest smell. The lighting was soft, just flickering into the shadowy corners, while the hum of conversation and laughter lent an atmosphere of a large family party. Diana spotted an empty chair, and though it was farther from the fire than she might have liked, she settled down to wait.

  I’d like to take off my shoes, she mused, and curl up right here for the next hour, just watching the fire. One day I’ll have a house of my own, she decided, and a room something like this. No tidy little parlor like the one on Beacon Hill, with its sedate, well-behaved fire. I’d lie on the floor and listen to it roaring, watch the shadows and lights dance on the ceiling.

  With a sigh, she snuggled deeper into the chair. I’m getting sentimental, she decided with a glance at her watch. Considering the weather and traffic, there was plenty of time for a drink before Matt joined her. Even as Diana scanned the room for a waiter, one wheeled a small table beside her chair. Diana glanced at the bottle of champagne as he drew the cork. An excellent year, she thought with a twinge of regret.

  “I’m sorry, you’ve made a mistake. I didn’t order that.”

  “The gentleman would like to buy you a drink, Ms. Blade.”

  “Really?” Diana turned her head as the waiter filled a glass. When she saw him, she felt a flare of excitement she couldn’t quite convince herself was annoyance. He had, after all, told her Boston wasn’t such a big town. “Hello, Caine.”

  “Diana.” Taking her hand, he lifted it to his lips, watching her eyes over it. “May I join you?”

  “It seems only fair.” She gestured toward the champagne and two glasses.

  It occurred to her that he looked every bit the smooth, sophisticated attorney in the slate-gray suit. Then she remembered how natural he had looked in the short leather jacket and jeans. It wouldn’t be wise to forget the less genteel side of him. “How are you?” she asked, lifting one of the glasses.

  “I’m fine.” He sat back, studying her over the rim of his glass. He remembered her dress as one she had thrown onto the bed in a rage. It was thin turquoise silk and glowed against her skin. Her choice of colors, he mused, was very much like her choice of scent. Vibrant and daring.

  Diana lifted a brow as he continued to stare at her in silence. “Are you here alone?”


  Sipping, she allowed the champagne to linger on her tongue for a moment, cold and dry. The icy rain outside was already forgotten. “I’m meeting Matt Fairman. I suppose you know him.”

  “Yes,” Caine returned with a hint of a smile. “I know him. Thinking about working for the DA now that you’ve resigned from Barclay?”

  “No, I …” Trailing off, she narrowed her eyes. “How did you know I resigned?”

  “I asked,” he answered simply. “What are your plans?”

  Diana frowned at him a moment, then deliberately relaxed. “I plan to open my own firm.”


  “As soon as I take care of a few details.”

  “Have you located an office yet?”

  “That’s one of the details.” With a frown, she ran a finger around the rim of her glass. She didn’t want to discuss her problems with Caine, certainly not her doubts. Diana shrugged as though it were indeed only a detail rather than her entire life teetering in the balance. “It isn’t quite as easy as I anticipated—if I want a good location and reasonable rent.” Absently, she touched her damp finger to her tongue. “I have three possibilities to check out tomorrow.”

  Her unconsciously provocative gesture was arousing; Caine felt something warm moving through him but checked it. There’d be other times, he promised himself. Other places. “I might know of some office space you’d be interested in.”

  “Really?” As she shifted toward him, her hair swung to her cheek to be quickly tossed back.

  “It’s on the other side of the river, within a couple of T stops from the courthouse.” He drank, noting that the silk clung nicely, draping down from snug shoulders. He’d been wondering for weeks what those strong shoulders would feel like under his hands. The trouble was, he’d also been wondering how she was doing on her own back in Boston, now that she’d learned about her aunt and Justin. He’d wondered particularly after he’d heard she’d resigned her position. The concern he felt worried Caine a great deal more than the desire. “A two-story brownstone,” he continued. “It’s been remodeled to accommodate a reception area, conference rooms, offices.”

  “It sounds wonderful. I can’t think why the agent I’m going through hasn’t mentioned it.” Unless, Diana thought as she lifted her champagne again, it was a matter of the rent being as wonderful as his description. She wasn’t going to touch the trust fund her aunt had set up for her. Her aunt, she corrected silently, or Justin? In any case, she wasn’t going to touch a penny she hadn
t earned on her own. “How did you happen to hear of it?” she asked him.

  “I know the landlord,” Caine remarked as he poured more champagne for both of them.

  Diana caught something in the tone and studied him thoughtfully. “You are the landlord.”

  “Very quick.” He toasted her.

  Ignoring the humor in his eyes, she sat back, crossing her legs. “If you own such a marvelous building, why aren’t you using it yourself?”

  “I am. That color suits you very well, Diana.”

  She drummed her fingers lightly on the arm of her chair. “Why should I be interested in your office?”

  “My caseload’s packed,” he told her, so briskly businesslike it took her a moment to make the transition. “I’m going to have to turn away some clients for the simple reason that I won’t be able to give them my best in terms of time and energy.”

  She lifted a hand, palm up. “So?”


  Her brows drew together as she took a deep breath. “In your clients?”

  “In making them your clients,” he countered.

  Interested? she thought. She’d stand on her head in a snowdrift for the chance at a few choice cases. Diana resisted the urge to kiss his feet. She had to be practical. “I appreciate it, Caine, but I’m not interested in forming a partnership at this time.”

  “Neither am I.”

  Confused, she shook her head. “Then what are you—”

  “I happen to have some space in my building you could rent. I have some cases I’m going to have to refuse or refer. I prefer to refer them.” As yet, he hadn’t completely worked out why he wanted to refer them to her. She was family—that’s what he told himself. He let the stem of the glass twist between his fingers. “It’s a simple matter of supply and demand.”

  Diana was silent for a long moment. Caine knew that though her eyes had that heavy-lidded, sleepy look, she was thinking carefully. He almost smiled. He rather liked the way she plotted her way from point A to point B. By God, she was even more beautiful than he’d remembered, and it had barely been two weeks.

  He’d resisted the urge to call her, until tonight when he’d finally accepted he wasn’t going to get her out of his head. Still, he’d told himself he was just checking on her, one family member to another. Her answering service had told him where to find her. He’d come on impulse, with the offer he’d just made her already forming in his brain. If she accepted, he’d have the advantage—and the disadvantage—of being around her every day. That was business, he reminded himself. Once they’d settled that, he’d begin on the nights. If she was indeed going to begin a discovering of Diana Blade, he wanted to be around for it.

  “Caine,” she began, bringing her eyes back to his. “It’s very tempting, but I’d like to ask you a question.”



  Settling back, he lit a cigarette. “I’ve given you the professional one. We might add that you and I are in-laws in a manner of speaking.”

  “Your family obligations again,” she said flatly.

  “I prefer the word loyalty,” he countered.

  Her face cleared with a look of surprised consideration before she smiled at him. “So do I.”

  “Think about it.” Reaching in his jacket pocket, he drew out a business card. “Here’s the address. Come by tomorrow and take a look.”

  She couldn’t afford to turn her nose up at a ready-made solution. “Thank you. I will.” Diana reached for the card and found her hand caught in his. Their eyes met, his confident, hers wary.

  “I like the way you look in silk,” he murmured, “drinking champagne with just a touch of firelight in your eyes.” His thumb skimmed over her knuckles, and the buzz of conversation around them vanished. “I’ve thought about you, Diana.” As his voice deepened, intimately, she felt a thick, enervating flow of desire. Her hand went limp in his. “I’ve thought about the way you look,” he said quietly. “The way you smell, taste. The way you feel, pressed against me.”

  “Don’t.” The word was a whisper, the whisper desire itself. “Don’t do this.”

  “I want to make love to you for hours, until your body’s weak and your mind’s full of me. Only me.”

  “Don’t,” she said again, and pulled her hand free. Diana sat back quickly, her breathing unsteady. How could he make her feel as though she’d been ravaged with just words? Her body was throbbing as though his hands already knew it. He knew it, she reminded herself. It was a skill he had, one he’d honed to perfection. “This won’t work,” she managed at length.

  “No?” Seeing her struggle against need gave him a small thrill of power—and of pleasure. “On the contrary, Diana, it’s going to work very well.”

  Diana picked up her champagne again and drank. Steadier, she brought her eyes back to his. “I need office space, and I need clients.” She took a deep breath, wondering if her pulse would ever slow to a normal rate again. “I also need an atmosphere of professionalism.”

  “The offer was and is strictly professional, counselor,” he told her with a fresh gleam of humor in his eyes. “Whether you take it or not has nothing to do with other … aspects of our relationship, nor will it change what’s going to happen between us.”

  “Can’t you get it through your head I don’t want any relationship with you?” she tossed back. “I don’t intend for anything to happen between us.”

  “Then it shouldn’t matter if we work in the same building, should it?” With another smile, Caine set his card on the table beside her. “I find it difficult to believe you’re afraid of me, Diana. You strike me as a very strong-willed woman.”

  Her eyes chilled. “I’m not afraid of you, Caine.”

  “Good,” he said amiably. “Then I’ll see you tomorrow. Fairman’s just walked in, so I’ll get out of your way.” Rising, he brushed her cheek with a friendly kiss. “Enjoy your evening, love.”

  Annoyed, Diana watched him walk off. Damn the man for stirring her up!
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