The law is a lady, p.9
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       The Law is a Lady, p.9

           Nora Roberts
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  “Meat loaf?” she asked dubiously, knowing it was the hotel’s specialty.

  “God forbid. Chicken and dumplings.”

  Tory walked back to him. “In that case I’ll stay.” They sat, facing each other across the folding table. “Shall we get business out of the way, Kincaid, or will it interfere with your digestion?”

  He laughed, then surprised her by reaching out to take one of her hands in both of his. “You’re a hell of a woman, Tory. Why are you afraid to use my first name?”

  She faltered a moment, but let her hand lay unresisting in his. Because it’s too personal, she thought. “Afraid?” she countered.

  “Reluctant?” he suggested, allowing his fingertip to trace the back of her hand.

  “Immaterial.” Gently she removed her hand from his. “I was told you’d be shooting here for about six weeks.” She lifted the cover from her plate and set it aside. “Is that firm?”

  “According to the guarantors,” Phil muttered, taking another sip of wine.

  “Guarantors?”

  “Tyco, Inc., completion-bond company.”

  “Oh, yes.” Tory toyed with her chicken. “I’d heard that was a new wave in Hollywood. They guarantee that the movie will be completed on time and within budget—or else they pay the overbudget costs. They can fire you, can’t they?”

  “Me, the producer, the stars, anyone,” Phil agreed.

  “Practical.”

  “Stifling,” he returned, and stabbed into his chicken.

  “From your viewpoint, I imagine,” Tory reflected. “Still, as a business, it makes sense. Creative people often have to be shown certain . . . boundaries. Such as,” she continued, “the ones I outlined this morning.”

  “And boundaries often have to be flexible. Such as,” he said with a smile, “some night scenes we’ll be shooting. I’m going to need your cooperation. The townspeople are welcome to watch any phase of the shoot, as long as they don’t interfere, interrupt, or get in the way. Also, some of the equipment being brought in is very expensive and very sensitive. We have security, but as sheriff, you may want to spread the word that it’s off limits.”

  “Your equipment is your responsibility,” she reminded him. “But I will issue a statement. Before you shoot your night scenes, you’ll have to clear it through my office.”

  He gave her a long, hard look. “Why?”

  “If you’re planning on working in the middle of the night in the middle of town, I’ll need prior confirmation. In that way I can keep disorder to a minimum.”

  “There’ll be times I’ll need the streets blocked off and cleared.”

  “Send me a memo,” she said. “Dates, times. Friendly can’t come to a stop to accommodate you.”

  “It’s nearly there in any case.”

  “We don’t have a fast lane.” Irresistibly she sent him a grin. “As you discovered.”

  He gave her a mild glance. “I’d also like to use some of the locals for extras and walk-ons.”

  Tory rolled her eyes. “God, you are looking for trouble. Go ahead,” she said with a shrug, “send out your casting call, but you’d better use everyone that answers it, one way or another.”

  As he’d already figured that one out for himself, Phil was unperturbed. “Interested?” he asked casually.

  “Hmm?”

  “Are you interested?”

  Tory laughed as she held out her glass for more wine. “No.”

  Phil let the bottle hover a moment. “I’m serious, Tory. I’d like to put you on film.”

  “I haven’t got the time or the inclination.”

  “You’ve got the looks and, I think, the talent.”

  She smiled, more amused than flattered. “Phil, I’m a lawyer. That’s exactly what I want to be.”

  “Why?”

  He saw immediately that the question had thrown her off balance. She stared at him a moment with the glass to her lips. “Because the law fascinates me,” she said after a pause. “Because I respect it. Because I like to think that occasionally I have something to do with the process of justice. I worked hard to get into Harvard, and harder when I got there. It means something to me.”

  “Yet, you’ve given it up for six months.”

  “Not completely.” She frowned at the steady flame of the candle. “Regardless, it’s necessary. There’ll still be cases to try when I go back.”

  “I’d like to see you in the courtroom,” he murmured, watching the quiet light flicker in her eyes. “I bet you’re fabulous.”

  “Outstanding,” she agreed, smiling again. “The assistant D.A. hates me.” She took another bite of chicken. “What about you? Why directing instead of acting?”

  “It never appealed to me.” Leaning back, Phil found himself curiously relaxed and stimulated. He felt he could look at her forever. Her fragrance, mixed with the scent of hot wax, was erotic, her voice soothing. “And I suppose I liked the idea of giving orders rather than taking them. With directing you can alter a scene, change a tone, set the pace for an entire story. An actor can only work with one character, no matter how complex it may be.”

  “You’ve never directed either of your parents.” Tory let the words hang so that he could take them either as a statement or a question. When he smiled, the creases in his cheeks deepened so that she wondered how it would feel to run her fingers along them.

  “No.” He tipped more wine into his glass. “It might make quite a splash, don’t you think? The three of us together on one film. Even though they’ve been divorced for over twenty-five years, they’d send the glossies into a frenzy.”

  “You could do two separate films,” she pointed out.

  “True.” He pondered over it a moment. “If the right scripts came along . . .” Abruptly he shook his head. “I’ve thought of it, even been approached a couple of times, but I’m not sure it would be a wise move professionally or personally. They’re quite a pair,” he stated with a grin. “Temperamental, explosive, and probably two of the best dramatic actors in the last fifty years. Both of them wring the last drop of blood from a character.”

  “I’ve always admired them,” Tory agreed. “Especially in the movies they made together. They put a lot of chemistry on the screen.”

  “And off it,” Phil murmured. “It always amazed me that they managed to stay together for almost ten years. Neither of them had that kind of longevity in their other marriages. The problem was that they never stopped competing. It gave them the spark on the screen and a lot of problems at home. It’s difficult to live with someone when you’re afraid he or she might be just a little better than you are.”

  “But you’re very fond of them, aren’t you?” She watched his mobile brow lift in question. “It shows,” she told him. “It’s rather nice.”

  “Fond,” he agreed. “Maybe a little wary. They’re formidable people, together or separately. I grew up listening to lines being cued over breakfast and hearing producers torn to shreds at dinner. My father lived each role. If he was playing a psychotic, I could expect to find a crazed man in the bathroom.”

  “Obsession,” Tory recalled, delighted. “1957.”

  “Very good,” Phil approved. “Are you a fan?”

  “Naturally. I got my first kiss watching Marshall Kincaid in Endless Journey.” She gave a throaty laugh. “The movie was the more memorable of the two.”

  “You were in diapers when that movie was made,” Phil calculated.

  “Ever heard of the late show?”

  “Young girls,” he stated, “should be in bed at that hour.”

  Tory suppressed a laugh. Resting her elbows on the table, she set her chin on cupped hands. “And young boys?”

  “Would stay out of trouble,” he finished.

  “The hell they would,” Tory countered, chuckling. “As I recall, your . . . exploits started at a tender age. What was the name of that actress you were involved with when you were sixteen? She was in her twenties as I remember, and—”

  “
More wine?” Phil interrupted, filling her glass before she could answer.

  “Then there was the daughter of that comedian.”

  “We were like cousins.”

  “Really?” Tory drew out the word with a doubtful look. “And the dancer . . . ah, Nicki Clark.”

  “Great moves,” Phil remembered, then grinned at her. “You seem to be more up on my . . . exploits than I am. Did you spend all your free time at Harvard reading movie magazines?”

  “My roommate did,” Tory confessed. “She was a drama major. I see her on a commercial now and again. And then I knew someone in the business. Your name’s dropped quite a bit at parties.”

  “The actor you dated.”

  “Total recall,” Tory murmured, a bit uncomfortable. “You amaze me.”

  “Tool of the trade. What was his name?”

  Tory picked up her wine, studying it for a moment. “Chad Billings.”

  “Billings?” Surprised and not altogether pleased, Phil frowned at her. “A second-rate leech, Tory. I wouldn’t think him your style.”

  “No?” She shot him a direct look. “He was diverting and . . . educational.”

  “And married.”

  “Judgmental, Phil?” she countered, then gave a shrug. “He was in between victims at the time.”

  “Aptly put,” Phil murmured. “If you got your view of the industry through him, I’m surprised you didn’t put up roadblocks to keep us out.”

  “It was a thought,” she told him, but smiled again. “I’m not a complete fool, you know.”

  But Phil continued to frown at her, studying her intensely. He was more upset at thinking of her with Billings than he should have been. “Did he hurt you?” he demanded abruptly.

  Surprised, Tory stared at him. “No,” she said slowly. “Although I suppose he might have if I’d allowed it. We didn’t see each other exclusively or for very long. I was in L.A. on a case at the time.”

  “Why Albuquerque?” Phil wondered aloud. “Lou was impressed with you, and he’s not easily impressed. Why aren’t you in some glass-and-leather office in New York?”

  “I hate traffic.” Tory sat back now, swirling the wine and relaxing. “And I don’t rush.”

  “L.A.?”

  “I don’t play tennis.”

  He laughed, appreciating her more each moment. “I love the way you boil things down, Tory. What do you do when you’re not upholding the law?”

  “As I please, mostly. Sports and hobbies are too demanding.” She tossed back her hair. “I like to sleep.”

  “You forget, I’ve seen you ride.”

  “That’s different.” The wine had mellowed her mood. She didn’t notice that the candles were growing low and the hour late. “It relaxes me. Clears my head.”

  “Why do you live in a room in the hotel when you have a house right outside of town?” Her fingers tightened on the stem of the wineglass only slightly: He was an observant man.

  “It’s simpler.”

  Leave this one alone for a while, he warned himself. It’s a very tender spot.

  “And what do you do when you’re not making a major statement on film?” she asked, forcing her hand to relax.

  Phil accepted her change of subject without question. “Read scripts . . . watch movies.”

  “Go to parties,” Tory added sagely.

  “That too. It’s all part of the game.”

  “Isn’t it difficult sometimes, living in a town where so much is pretense? Even considering the business end of your profession, you have to deal with the lunacy, the make-believe, even the desperation. How do you separate the truth from the fantasy?”

  “How do you in your profession?” he countered.

  Tory thought for a moment, then nodded. “Touché.” Rising, she wandered to the window. She pushed aside the shade, surprised to see that the sun had gone down. A few red streaks hovered over the horizon, but in the east the sky was dark. A few early stars were already out. Phil sat where he was, watched her, and wanted her.

  “There’s Merle making his rounds,” Tory said with a smile in her voice. “He’s got his official expression on. I imagine he’s hoping to be discovered. If he can’t be a tough lawman from the nineteenth century, he’d settle for playing one.” A car pulled into town, stopping in front of the pool hall with a sharp squeal of brakes. “Oh, God, it’s the twins.” She sighed, watching Merle turn and stride in their direction. “There’s been no peace in town since that pair got their licenses. I suppose I’d better go down and see that they stay in line.”

  “Can’t Merle handle a couple of kids?”

  Tory’s laugh was full of wicked appreciation. “You don’t know the Kramers. There’s Merle,” she went on, “giving them basic lecture number twenty-two.”

  “Did they wash all of Hollister’s windows?” Phil asked as he rose to join her.

  Tory turned her head, surprised. “How did you know about that?”

  “Tod told me.” He peeked through the window, finding he wanted a look at the infamous twins. They seemed harmless enough from a distance, and disconcertingly alike. “Which one’s Zac?”

  “Ah . . . on the right, I think. Maybe,” she added with a shake of her head. “Why?”

  “‘Zac Kramer don’t hold with no woman, sheriff,’” he quoted.

  Tory grinned up at him. “Is that so?”

  “Just so.” Hardly aware he did so, Phil reached for her hair. “Obviously he’s not a very perceptive boy.”

  “Perceptive enough to wash Mr. Hollister’s windows,” Tory corrected, amused by the memory. “And to call me a foxy chick only under his breath when he thought I couldn’t hear. Of course, that could have been Zeke.”

  “‘Foxy chick’?” Phil repeated.

  “Yes,” Tory returned with mock hauteur. “‘A very foxy chick.’ It was his ultimate compliment.”

  “Your head’s easily turned,” he decided. “What if I told you that you had a face that belongs in a Raphael painting?”

  Tory’s eyes lit with humor. “I’d say you’re reaching.”

  “And hair,” he said with a subtle change in his voice. “Hair that reminds me of night . . . a hot summer night that keeps you awake, and thinking, and wanting.” He plunged both hands into it, letting his fingers tangle. The shade snapped back into place, cutting them off from the outside.

  “Phil,” Tory began, unprepared for the suddenness of desire that rose in both of them.

  “And skin,” he murmured, not even hearing her, “that makes me think of satin sheets and tastes like something forbidden.” He touched his mouth to her cheek, allowing the tip of his tongue to brush over her. “Tory.” She felt her name whisper along her skin and thrilled to it. She had her hands curled tightly around his arms, but not in protest. “Do you know how often I’ve thought of you these past weeks?”

  “No.” She didn’t want to resist. She wanted to feel that wild sweep of pleasure that came from the press of his mouth on hers. “No,” she said again, and slid her arms around his neck.

  “Too much,” he murmured, then swore. “Too damn much.” And his mouth took her waiting one.

  The passion was immediate, frenetic. It ruled both of them. Each of them sought the mindless excitement they had known briefly weeks before. Tory had thought she had intensified the sensation in her mind as the days had passed. Now she realized she had lessened it. This sort of fervor couldn’t be imagined or described. It had to be experienced. Everything inside her seemed to speed up—her blood, her heart, her brain. And all sensation, all emotion, seemed to be centered in her mouth. The taste of him exploded on her tongue, shooting through her until she was so full of him, she could no longer separate herself. With a moan she tilted her head back, inviting him to plunge deeper into her mouth. But he wanted more.

  Her hair fell straight behind her, leaving her neck vulnerable. Surrendering to a desperate hunger, he savaged it with kisses. Tory made a sound that was mixed pain and pleasure. Her scent seemed focused ther
e, heated by the pulse at her throat. It drove him nearer the edge. He dragged at the silk-covered buttons, impatient to find the hidden skin, the secret skin that had preyed on his mind. The groan sounded in his throat as he slipped his hand beneath the thin teddy and found her.

  She was firm and slender enough to fit his palm. Her heartbeat pounded against it. Tory turned her head, but only to urge him to give the neglected side of her neck attention. With her hands in his hair she pulled him back to her. His hands searched everywhere
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