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South America Night The Southern Hemisphere was the pits. The jungle air reeked of rotting vegetation, thick enough to see. Wet enough to taste. That Rick was here, steaming like broccoli, searching for a woman he never wanted to see again, said something about his character. He just wasn’t sure if it was heroic or just masochistic. Crouched in the shadows behind a drape of vines, Rick Callahan held his breath as a guard wearing bandoleers and carrying an AK-47 moved past and headed toward the front of the building. Didn’t these guys sleep? He reminded himself to sit tight, he was being paid to rescue Megan O’Toole. Paid a lot. It was the only reason he was in this hellhole willing to face guerillas armed better than he was to get her back to her cushy lifestyle. Rick ducked out, hurrying to the edge of the slanting building. Crouching, he spotted her through the shack’s only window and feelings he couldn’t name shot through his chest like a blade. He wasn’t going to pick them apart. He had a job to do. Now. Before they both got waxed. Weapon out, with his back to the wall, he peered over the sill. Megan O’Toole, daughter of a billionaire, was in the center of the room, blindfolded, gagged — a smart move on their part — and tied to a wooden chair. Her head was slumped forward, shoulders limp, and for a second he thought she was dead. And inside, he hurt. Sharp, angry. Then she stirred, lifting her head. He could hear her captors in the front yard, boozing it up and getting comfortable. They should; they’d just made their last demand on Cameron O’Toole, Megan’s father. Rick had negotiated it himself. Part of the service, he thought, and slid over the sill, dropping silently to the floor. He scanned the darkened room, the only light coming from a kerosene lamp on the dirt floor. Slumming for Megan, he thought. She was used to luxury, servants. A doting father who protected her like a dragon protecting its young. Doting enough to dismiss Rick as her bodyguard for falling under her spell. And getting shot. It was a humiliation he was still trying to live down. Holstering his weapon, he moved to her, closing his hand over her gagged mouth and pulling her head back against his shoulder. She fought him, and he tightened his grip to near punishing. "Be quiet or we’re both dead. Understand?"
She nodded, but the tension didn’t ease from her body. Letting her go, he cut her gag and ropes, ignoring her raw bleeding wrists and pulling her from the chair to the floor. Megan ripped off the blindfold, blinking. "If this isn’t for real, I’ll make you sorry," she whispered in a gravelly voice and Callahan’s brows shot up. That didn’t sound like the Megan he remembered. "I’m as real as it gets. Can you walk?" he whispered, and she met his gaze, nodding, looking more angry than scared. He’d give up a lung to know what she was thinking right now. On her hands and knees, nearly nose to nose, Megan searched beyond the green and black clothing, the camouflage face paint that would give a child nightmares, and stared into dark unforgiving eyes. Familiar eyes. And a flood of memories coated her in slick greedy waves. Richard. The last time she’d been this close to him he’d been kissing her into mindless desire. For a second, she could almost feel the heavy warmth of his hands roaming beneath her clothes again, stroking her in places that called to only him, hear his soft erotic words while he was melting her bones with hot wet kisses. Yet with the steamy memories came the trouble she’d caused him. The bullet he’d taken to save her. And while she thought she’d actually meant something to her former bodyguard, he’d discarded her like day-old caviar and never looked back. "Daddy must be paying you a lot of money to do this." "More than he first offered." The insult stung, bruising her heart more than her ego. Just how much had it taken for Callahan to come all this way for her? And why had her father asked the one man forbidden to her? "You okay?" he whispered close to her ear, his irritation precise, biting. "Yes, peachy, but the service here is awful," she snapped. "I shan’t recommend them again." She could have sworn his lips actually curved in a smile. No. Not Callahan. Smiles would crack his chiseled face. Barely able to see him in the dark, she followed him across the dirt floor to the window. He slithered over the edge like a long black snake, pulling her after him. The sill cut into her hip and she bit down on her tongue to keep from groaning. And alerting her captors. They’d taken sick pleasure in smacking her around when the troglodyte they called a boss wasn’t around. Once outside, Rick grabbed her hand, yanking her ruthlessly into the jungle and running.
They would torture him. Together. They’d toyed with her." "Weren’t we just doing that?" "Not fast enough carrying you. She wasn’t going to complain. that would keep her alive. she thought. dammit. and she obeyed. ignoring her burning muscles and pumping her legs like mad. running a hundred yards before swinging her down. "Keep going. tossed her over his shoulder. not that she could with her thoughts draining out of her head with her blood.After a few yards. the air leaving her in a hard punch. Leaves the size of small animals slapped her face. She spat dirt and said." "And warning me didn’t occur to you?" . The air punched out of her lungs so hard she barely noticed his arm wrapped around her thigh. they hit ground. I’ve been sitting in that chair for nearly a week!" Without missing a beat. Callahan picked her up and like a caveman. and setting her to her feet so hard Megan’s teeth clicked together. fear of being hauled back again. her legs screamed in protest." Good. Fear pushed her." He forced her round and pushed her ahead. "We run. "You just had to be a popular hostage?" he muttered accusingly. "Now what?" He was barely winded. She tripped and he grasped her elbow. "Go. branches catching her clothing. his hand shoved between her legs. He ran for what felt like a mile before she heard gun shots." They’d gone another fifty yards when the explosion came. Chapter Two Print this Page The explosion shook the earth. Of being terrorized without sleep and food or water. He ran. I don’t get paid for dead. and he threw himself at her back. She shoved her hair out of her face. "You set explosions?" "C-4. move!" "I’m doing my best!" "Your best will get us killed. damn him. "Callahan! Good grief.
She knew she had to. The explosions would give them time." he said and pushed her onward." Then he smiled. My tastes have improved. He stopped so suddenly she almost smacked into him. so for the next three days. He’d lost his job and a lot of blood because of her. Megan gathered her composure before facing him." He took a few steps away. "Oh. Not in the Rescue the Princess Manual. "That was then. Rules didn’t apply to Callahan. But in the dark." He loomed over her like the devil come to collect her soul. even if it killed her. He must have wanted the money badly to do this. That she couldn’t survive out here without him." he muttered dryly." Callahan flinched as debris hit his back." The remark reminded him of what he didn’t want crowding his mind. he could have. dragging her to her feet as he stood. "Days?" Her horrified look didn’t give him the satisfaction he needed. Like fangs. Rick thought. Exactly how much was an art form. princess?" She wished he’d stop calling her that. Megan saw only the bar of white teeth." Stung. and if he wanted to. hadn’t he? He’d never contacted her. "That didn’t stop you from indulging in the seedier side before. "Perhaps we should continue then?" Woodenly Megan swept her hand for him to lead the way. "I’m your only way out of here. She wasn’t going to give him a reason to regret coming for her. He’d saved it just for her. "We’re farther from the nearest city than you think."Nope. It was an evil grin. "Because I don’t need another bullet hole. "Wait here. "Not if you want your precious money. eh. That she was at his mercy. She grabbed his arm." "I can die a happy man now. then he grabbed the waistband of her pants. and the sooner we part company the longer I’ll live. Do you know the kind of animals that lurk in this jungle?" . "I see your Neanderthal style hasn’t improved. you’re stuck with me. we might not miss the first rendezvous point. Rick knew. And she was just about there. He’s going to like this. You’re stuck with me. Rick trotted off and Megan stayed right behind him. Callahan. I don’t think so. "There’ll be more." She swallowed. she thought. If you can keep up.
He handed her a small bottle of water. "Let’s move. chewing the dry nutrition bar and forcing it down. he’d have given them the world. The Megan O’Toole he knew two years ago was kind. "I can keep up. but didn’t care. "Wouldn’t we be better off up there?" She pointed to the mountains." "Would you happen to have any food in there?" He stared hard. spit. removing the pack and handing her some freeze-dried thing in a silver packet. Rick watched her shove the food into her mouth and guilt smacked him. He didn’t blame her or her father for that. Know-it-all. After a couple more hours of chewing bugs and sweating." She frowned." Rick eyed her. She didn’t care about a lot of things anymore. "Good God. "Swish it in your mouth first. he returned." Without another word. then scowling at her smug expression. yet the sunlight barely made it down between the trees. don’t scream. But had a week in the hands of kidnappers really changed her that much? "Earth to Callahan? Rendezvous?" She waved in his face. she held up a finger." Megan smirked at his back."Yeah. and funny. considerate. wearing a backpack and holding a machete. "No more Meg? Big payoff?" He blinked. but let’s face it. "Be still. Meg. then did as he said. When’s the last time you ate?" Shrugging. And that scared her. about to drink. spoiled. If he’d had family. he moved farther into the forest. I do. "Do you need to rest?" he asked. he turned and hacked at the undergrowth. then nodded. She lifted her chin. Spitting was such a vulgar thing to do in front of a man. Just as cries of midnight creatures threatened her composure. and the words came out harsher than he’d intended. "We could see better. praying the kidnappers hadn’t survived the explosions." Rick pushed her hand off. she thought. wondering what else had changed about her. dawn finally broke above them. "Just exactly where are we going?" "Exactly? Twelve degree southwest. She handed him back the bottle. She tore it open." . We have to get far enough away before sunrise. then drink. God forbid we miss that rendezvous.
too." She stared at the cut in the jungle. That he wasn’t now left her bleeding inside with a cut that wouldn’t heal. Chapter Three Print this Page Suddenly he was hauling her up by her arms. come on. The night she’d been in his. How she could miss cool black eyes and a lack of humor she didn’t know. Damn. she remembered him shielding her." Then with a regal tip of her head. He’d been Marine Force Recon before he’d been her bodyguard. Meg walked into the forest. she’d missed him. trusting him. "Go in there. shaking his head. she was still beautiful. And he’d been her friend then. He moved with quiet power. Fractures of morning light skipped over her face. her red hair finger-combed back. Wounded. Almost nightly. not when her life depended on him being objective. How lovely." She appeared minutes later." He smirked. *** His energy was unshakable. "My own boudoir. yet there it was. He was dangerously handsome. O’Toole. "There isn’t a mirror and perfume in there."They grow poppy up there and unless you want to fight off drug lords too. Her legs were no match for his six-feet-something. her dirty clothing righted and smoothed.. his clothes. the bullet that pierced through him and into her." He glanced back. Richard had disappeared. waiting. Where the hell were you?" . his insides clawing with a sudden sharp need to kiss her. He fit into the jungle easily. Then he let out a long-suffering breath and hacked through another spot and pointed. And she’d never felt so alone in her life. there’d been an attempt on her life. "I called you twice. She was under his skin and he didn’t want her there. his dark hair melting into his black bandana and the camouflage paint concealing his skin. he thought." He let that hang for a second. He’d paid dearly for falling for her once. but the towel attendant needs a tip and I forgot my purse.. Still. and more than one of her friends had tried to draw him into her bed. the machete raised to chop. "Yes. he’d disarmed the attackers and while she was in the hospital. his long strides eating up the distance. He wasn’t stupid enough to let it happen again. Rick sipped water. yet she followed. Not now. "You ready?" he said impatiently. "Do they have a bathroom? That might change my opinion. She didn’t kid herself in thinking that if they’d made love that last night it would have mattered to him.
revealing a spot where trees bending to reach the chips of sunlight had cupped the earth. When had he grown so cruel? "Megan. "Off shopping at Saks." "Do you think they will?" Fear clouded her voice and she looked around." "Then I guess you’ll just have to fight them off if you want your payment. "Gee. they’d know he would string them along till he got the upper hand." "Forgive me. "Stay more alert." Rick’s expression soured. She was seated on the ground. "But if the kidnappers knew anything about my father.. "I’m a commodity. Your kidnappers could come up on us easy. "I didn’t mean it like that." She ducked inside the enclosure." "Bunk?" "Sleep. Like pork bellies or crude oil. nice to be so. this is their backyard. huh?" She shrugged off his touch. her eyes flat. Rick remained outside for a moment. then followed her." It." She met his gaze. "We’ll bunk here for a while.." Not for the first time. rest. "Oh yeah." She cut him off before he could say more. O’Toole. They’ll want it back. drink water." . "Which in this case was you. where else? It’s sale day.." She raked her fingers through her hair and they snagged. Megan saw only thick vines and tree roots. removing her boots.She blinked. I’m the pawn." The hurt on her face devastated his senses. Then Richard pushed back tall ferns. It looked like the Ritz to her. please. my debutante behavior got left behind when I was stolen from my bed at gunpoint. "It’s cooler in there and we’re hidden enough if someone comes along. "God." "Let’s not dissect this. Megan felt suddenly very empty and alone. Not to your father. Rick considered what she’d been through in the past week.necessary. And these guys are out their five million–dollar package. hoping he couldn’t see her tears.. He didn’t like the images snapping through his mind. you’re mouthy." "That’s not true." Glancing around.
And how much he wanted to do it again. Now. a gun for hire." That didn’t confirm her suspicions. Those will get infected. Callahan?" she said quietly." "If the pay is good enough." she said on a yawn." She curled down on her side. "Amongst other things. using her boots for a pillow. at the blood crusting on her wrists. she was an opportunity. for a dollar. Dad often treated her like a hormonally challenged teenager. I’ll bet. "I’m good." She stared up at him for a second. It left an intimate calling card. I’m open. Richard?" Hearing his name tugged somewhere deep inside him. You don’t get paid for a dead hostage. yet with regard to her personal life. "Your father loves you." Megan felt struck across the face. For your money. and deep in her soul she wished he’d come on his own. two? Five?" Fresh blood dripped down her skin like a web and Rick realized when he’d pulled her along. "It can wait and I’m tired. to Richard Callahan. my father’s satisfaction that absolutely no one will take anything he considers his. She was the only one who called him that. "One million. Or he’d never have fired Richard." "Why did he ask you. their money. "So what did it take for you to come for me. he’d reopened the wounds." "Obviously." "They can wait. "You’re a mercenary. "Meg. She was asleep in an instant. Or he wouldn’t have hired me. she thought." "But it’s true?" He lowered himself to the ground. Dad thought he knew best."Sure you did. thoughtful. looking down at her hands. I’m a means to the end for everyone. His price must have been huge." He dug inside his pack for a medical kit. No matter how much she wished otherwise. She really should be more judicious when she fell in love. a reminder of the last time he’d touched her. "I’m a hostage negotiator and retrieval expert. . "We need to see to those. He didn’t." Megan adored her father. but she was twenty-seven and chief executive of South American Operations. aren’t you?" "Sounds illegal when you put it like that.
Never get involved with the targets. Her father had trusted him with her. he should never have broken the cardinal rule. Chapter Four Print this Page . he knew he hadn’t come a thousand miles into the Amazon jungle for cash. drinking some water and watching her. He could keep telling himself that it was for the pay. bleeding. her situation had been pretty bad. he thought. her fingers gripping his shirt as if he were the last thread in her life. but deep inside. but he was exchanging her rescue for cash so he could stop this life. his back braced on the pack and pulled her into his arms. It would hurt too much when you failed. placing the main sensor before their makeshift entrance. where he kept his secrets of loneliness and the need to end it. The bleeding had stopped. he reentered the enclosure. and struggled against him. you’re safe. He had the social graces of a rhino in heat. Gently he pushed her hair off her face. Men who wanted her for a money trade. and when she rolled toward him. "It’s all right. Rick wasn’t much different. She whimpered. and that he’d crossed the line with his charge was unacceptable to him. Rick left the natural hut and set a couple nasty little surprises for anyone who tried to get past them. While she slept. The tiny red light blinked slowly and would hum when the sensor was tripped. Meg had trusted him and though she was more than willing to play with him two years ago. and he still didn’t know what they’d done to her. Carrying his backpack. pulling off the bandanna and angrily snapping it aside. He wanted to get far away right now." She relaxed a bit. too.Rick shoved his fingers into his hair. He might be saving her. Rick cut an escape route in the underbrush surrounding them. it paid to have a couple of options. The way he found her said they hadn’t given her a single luxury and though most hostages had it worse. Rick rubbed her back in slow circles. Had he taken this job just for the chance to wound her? Or to show her that he wasn’t good enough for her then and wasn’t now? He was out of her league. Traps set. And then what? Be alone? a voice asked and he looked down at Megan tucked in his arms. A part of his soul went missing. rubbing the old wound. curling into a tight frightened ball. He’d lost more than a job and a little blood that night. but Megan needed rest and though he had no choice but to push her hard. And he had. He settled down beside her. concentrating on getting them out of here when he knew in a couple hours the jungle could be crawling with guerillas. Irish. Rick’s reserve caved. This country didn’t have too many friendlies. He slid down to the ground. and crushed down memories of her willing in his arms. it didn’t make him feel any better that she was hungry. and he whispered.
comprehension gelled and she jerked away. though she had nothing to do with her release. "Go to hell. "Nothing that I couldn’t handle. stop reading into every little thing. "I didn’t know. It’s the subconscious at work." He looked down at her as she yanked on her laces. It had been in her father’s hands and he’d tried to move mountains. "No. Rick. her wide-eyed fear softening to wariness. Irish?" Irish. didn’t you?" she persisted and when he didn’t respond. "You sound like a jilted lover. "You’re the one crawling onto my lap. princess. He didn’t doubt they’d kept her awake for days. let her get shot. Money meant power and her father had plenty of both." "I got fired. "People can’t be held accountable for what they do in their sleep." "We never quite got to that stage." Her face flamed and she rubbed her fist under her nose." She started putting on her boots." Rick said. A second later." "I’m sure. got the scars to prove it. "And you let that stop you?" "Your father has a way of making a lasting impression. "Don’t touch me. scrambling back on her behind." "So subconsciously you wanted to be clinging to me like a vine?" A really luscious vine. I did not. . then left without another thought?" "Didn’t you?" He withdrew his weapon and peered between the ferns and vines. Megan stirred. Meg. its just me.A couple hours later." "What did he do?" Righteous fury lit her pretty face. The old endearment stung and hot piercing eyes glared at him through a curtain of tangled red hair. "Well. "It’s okay. but Rick knew better." "Want to compare a few? You’re the one who disappeared." Meg could only imagine what her father had done. his arms folded across his chest. For pity’s sake. It was a tactic to wear her down. "So you thought I just played house with the boss’s daughter. Callahan. gathering his things. the pleas for water and rest to her captors. she yanked him around to face her. feeling the solid warmth of a man against her." He stood. He’d heard the whimpers." "Been there." Rick leaned on the pack. did we.
paid the price. It doesn’t matter anyway. then stepped onto the path. only to get close. motioning her to remain there. she knew if Rick wanted. "My job was based on my reputation and I lost it. and then she’d disappear again. She didn’t know where they were going. figuring she didn’t want to be found. You were wounded because of me. knowing she probably caught holy hell for being with her bodyguard." Rick winced. And because of that. She could feel Rick close behind. she lost Rick. Taking a bullet for her had been his duty. "Forget it." "I was alive because of you. and he’d failed even more."Of course I thought of you. He’d spent a small fortune hunting her down. the truth bit him again. and at Rick for bending to the ornery Irishman. too." she said. "You were doing a fine job of that. he handed her the machete and told her to start hacking. and you weren’t exactly alone in that rule breaking. he’d given up. as I recall." "And you wouldn’t have been hurt at all if I’d been doing my job instead of getting you naked. and he’d been too hot for her to hear the intruders was disgraceful. What if she had wanted him to find her? he wondered as he returned. fighting the steamy memory clouding his brain. staring up at him." "We need to talk. but chopping through huge leaves and brush made her feel as if she had some control in a day that was twisting wildly in the wind. Anger at her father manifested. regardless of the consequences." he said. You took the bullet. She supposed she wasn’t worth it. But getting fired from the cushiest gig on the planet because it happened while they were in bed. and when the thicket was too dense. I broke a rule. She was drenched with sweat in seconds." Rick ground his teeth. He hadn’t been worried about himself. like they did every time he thought of her." It wasn’t over or they wouldn’t both be feeling like this. After the third try. "We both paid. meeting his gaze. end of story. "Not now. As Rick retrieved his sensors and traps. "Let’s go. Her father had been furious that his daughter actually wanted a man like him. his job." A smile tugged. she thought. it came with a hefty payoff. Top that with the bullet grazing her. They flooded in just the same. though in her heart. She was pacing the small confines." He ushered her toward the second exit he’d made. but what happened to Meg afterward was a mystery. of course. she thought. . unless. he took.
God. . She gave it up." His lips curved and she thought she saw admiration in his smile. but he held tight. Why was he asking? "Does it matter?" "It does to me." He sounded almost frightened at what she’d say. "They blindfolded and starved me." Rick reached for the machete. and poured water over the blisters. he knew she’d expended her energy. "I’ll take care of this when we’re far enough away. why didn’t you say something?" "The manicurist was off. His tone was so genuinely tender. She hissed and tried to pull away. "No. "What did they do to you. "Dammit. Meg?" he asked softly. And he was proud as hell of her. He grabbed her hand. so why bother?" she said dully and shoved her hands into her pockets." "Was that an actual apology?" "Do you actually need one?" His lips curved and from his pack he took out the canteen. it made her heart drop a beat. Chapter Five Print this Page Rick’s question hung in the air between them for a moment before Meg answered." He wrapped her palm with a green military bandage. and the tension in him had a taste all its own. I put a curse on them and they were too superstitious to come near me. blowing on the wounds. kept me awake for the first five or six days. and she tried to look under his bent head.Rick glanced behind himself. but he did. then focusing ahead as Meg slashed through the heavy jungle. suddenly. walking backward a pace. When she stumbled for the third time. "I lost count. I should have given them — God. She was doing better than he ever expected. examining the wounds." She shrugged. He tried not to care. she was a mess. I wasn’t thinking. they didn’t do anything but withhold food and sleep." "Did they do anything else?" She knew what he was asking. flexing her fingers and Rick saw the blisters there. "I have gloves. taking great care and time they didn’t have. "Let me have that.
wondering how this got turned on him. and what others thought. he lay on his stomach. when he heard a sound that wasn’t part of the jungle noises. "You’ve changed." "I told you I —" "Not your tastes in men. but didn’t say it. He could barely stand the sweet pulse of it through his blood and not do something about it." "Yeah. But then again. "We really have to work on your social —" He covered her mouth. You used to care. his weapon out and aimed toward where they’d come." "Shadow. sure. and with her locked in his arms. I learned the hard way that only a couple people in my life really mattered. thrashing deeper into the jungle. Her expression said so. "You’ve changed. Rick stared after her. She twisted. rolled into the jungle and into a gully. but frankly I don’t care. He raced to catch her. "Once upon a time you were the only one who mattered. have the scars. grabbing her by the waist and dropping to the ground with her. she thought. "Is that what you believe?" She shoved out of his arms. "Any reason I shouldn’t?" "No one paid me to crawl into your bed." She took a step in the direction they’d been heading and he grabbed her elbow." Rick knew the instant the words left his mouth that he’d screwed up." She laid her hands on his chest and Rick felt the familiar bolt of heat shoot down to his boot heels. Callahan. I cared about appearances. "That’s it. "What?" Rick searched her features." he said sourly. . I know." And Rick had been one of them. "Who’s on that list? Not me. yes — lover. "I’d ask if that was good or bad. Tucking her to his side." She didn’t have the strength to battle with Rick Callahan right now." That’s because I’ve lost too much and had to get over it. meeting his gaze." "Except maybe Daddy and his money. you were being paid to be my shadow. It doesn’t matter. Been there. Now it’s done. Rick pulled her closer."But the threat of rape was bad enough. no!" "Any reason I should believe you?" She turned on her heels.
her skin itching with sweat. his hearing tuned to beyond the screech of birds and creatures. looming over her." He pressed his weapon into her hands. Seconds stretched to minutes. She imagined her captors: smelly losers with nasty guns — and they liked using them. then shifted to her elbows and focused on the path. praying it wasn’t at Rick. he’d say so. Marines engraved on the black blade. she raised the weapon. then suddenly slow and soft till the sound vanished beneath the blood pounding in her ears. Meg heard it and inhaled sharply. It had U. He was still looking at her strangely when she said. If it was Rick. Thrashing. Footsteps. but couldn’t see anything. Bleeding to save her. . Rick listened. Nothing. the knife poised at her eye until she said what they wanted into the tape for her father. and she pulled the trigger. Hidden below the ridge of dirt. Bugs buzzed around her head as Megan waited. Megan swallowed. Take this. snatching her around the waist and lifting her off her feet as he yanked the gun from her grasp. She heard a gun shot and flinched. Rick crawled to the path. then he’d already be dead. Rick arched an eyebrow. From his boot." she said. That meant he had to get close enough to them to inflict damage. She didn’t dare put the weapon down and squinted down the sight. then cocked the 9mm like a pro. folding her fingers around it."I didn’t hear —" He glared and she shut up. shifting back on her knees. If she did. wondering if she could actually shoot another human being. The noise grew clearer." Meg looked at the weapon. he pulled out a wickedly long knife with a serrated base. She remembered the blows. She leapt to her feet and ran. exhaled. praying they’d missed. Again. She flinched when she heard a rustling in the bushes. A twig snapped. "What are you going to use?" He rolled to his back. and worry skipped through her. A figure appeared. "Stay right here. "I’ll pretend it’s a hair dryer. Her mind tortured her with images of him bleeding somewhere out there.S. praying she wouldn’t have to shoot. Her heart breaking that he was dead. Then she thought of what they’d do to Rick and she bit her lip to keep from crying out. then rose to a crouch. "Shoot anything that isn’t me. Rick chased her.
she fell apart and came together in one soul ripping kiss. "I hate you for that. Because the ground was disappearing beneath her feet. "I thought they’d killed you!" The last came in a long painful wail. Right there in the Amazon jungle. A string of curses he never imagined she knew spilled from her mouth. To see her come apart made his knees weak. "It’s me. but he was tired of lines in the sand and denying himself this woman. twisting in his arms as he set her to her feet. and sometimes with Meg that was a good state to be in. "Shut up? You bastard! I’m terrified for you and that’s —" Grinning all the way down. "Stop. She was sharp and smart. she tasted like home. Tears trailed down her cheeks and he’d bet she didn’t know it. and so much better than he was. it’s me!" She stilled. He didn’t get that way often. "Shut up. Then she batted his hands off. Except with her. stop. . Chapter Six Print this Page Megan melted. God. baby. Her moans echoed into the trees. Don’t do that again. tears in her eyes." She stared up at him. clawing at his arm. His tongue slid over her lips. Because when Richard kissed. kicking her feet against his calves. And she crumbled in his arms. like he’d been lost in this jungle and finally found his way to freedom. "I thought they’d killed you and they were coming for me. Meg. He loved that she was afraid for him. Her breath. prying them apart and pushing between. there wasn’t anything left to do but be absorbed in the thrall of it." She blinked. She hung on. I was so scared!" She shoved him with every word. her temper. breathing hard. damn you!" She punched his chest. her hands crawled up his chest and wrapped around his neck. Loved that he couldn’t think clearly. stealing her words. He grabbed her against him. He gripped her arms."Meg!" She fought like a wildcat. he slashed his mouth across hers.
filling the length of his body with her incredible softness. pushing her into him." He smiled. He drew back.. he thought. loving that it took her a second to open her eyes. because I don’t usually kiss people who shoot at me. "We have to keep moving. not wanting their surroundings to intrude. Her gaze jerked to his. I missed you. "Is that the only reason?" Her voice held a vulnerability he’d never heard before and he knew what he said in the next moment would make the difference between having her in his life again and feeling the biting loneliness again. He wanted to stay locked in the jungle with her. an honest grin. his hands fisting in her shirt." She nodded." She was smart enough not to argue that point. Irish. The squawk of birds pushed good sense back into his foggy mind. "What was behind that kiss?" Everything.." Her gaze brushed over his face as if committing it to memory. It made her see that Richard Callahan was capable of more than she first thought. I was trying to blow you away. The decision was so easy. "I missed you." she whispered and he took her mouth again." Megan sobbed against his mouth. His expression was unreadable. Ineeded to kiss you. moments of tenderness wiped clean. "I can accept that. his body humming to her tune. "No." Thank God for a safety. sliding her arms from his neck. more. opening herself to the slaughter of feelings pulsing through her. He pressed his forehead to hers. damned if I didn’t." Rick devoured her." He patted her behind. Her gaze moved over him as if checking for wounds. She staggered and he flashed her a soft smile. Behind her back he still gripped the bloody knife. . "Good. her heart spreading its wings and riding the current with him. "Come on. It didn’t scare her. Megan saw the blood. he thought. Irish. "More. Two years is a very long time. to feel you in my arms again. hot and quick. "It was a hair dryer.. it made her feel incredibly safe. too. caught her. They weren’t alone in this territory. then rolled his mouth over hers in a thick kiss before he bent and shoved his knife into his boot. "Seemed like a good way to cut through the hysterics."Oh. Richard." He grinned.
Lead on. "It’ll be worth it." Anaconda. Meg stumbled and Rick pushed food into her hand and pushed her onward." Rick watched the smile bloom on her face and cherished it. "Richard. no!" She swung anyway."I’m fine." Meg let out a heavy breath. for now." His gaze moved over the terrain." "I’ll see if the management will accommodate." He gestured to the heavy vegetation between them and the fall." she said tiredly. knowing it was either the kidnappers or them. "Meg. the force slamming her into him. "We head up there. but Rick grabbed her arm. chopping through undergrowth. "When we’re out of here." "I was feeling very Jane-ish. stepping back. Meg." She chose not to respond and concentrated on picking up one leg and setting it down. the rest of his body gearing up for action. then calmed to flat glass near the edge where she stood. "That was not smart. strung like lace over twisting trees. Just a bit farther and we’ll have a place to hide for the night." "I hope they have a bath. Water rushed over rocks with a deceptive power." Megan followed. and they pushed on." He pointed to a plateau of rock to the right of the fall. I know you’re tired. she realized. Vines dipped into the water. You really need to lighten up. I can’t wait. Megan looked up and up to the top of the cliff and the glorious waterfall spilling a thousand feet into the river below. "But then what?" "Huh?" He was staring at her mouth. "Oh my God. "Are we safe?" "Yeah. Her energy returned and when they had to crawl over tree roots the size of a car. Meg grasped a vine to swing down. She stopped and Rick passed her. It was afternoon when the mist of the jungle grew lighter and cooler. and Rick caught her. the water is too still. I’ll wear a loin cloth and beat my chest for you." "My personal savage. and just the sight of water made her skin scream for moisture and a good scrubbing. Then she saw it. alert. "It’s going to take us another hour to get around that. "Not yet. Eagerly. not there. *** The heat of the day bore down on them like the press of iron. she walked toward it. "No." She nodded." She smiled up at him. .
"I’m going to kill Daddy. It was seeing you again after I’d tried my damnedest to find you and got shot out of the water at every turn. Meg? That I should have tried harder to get to you? Yeah. gazing into her green eyes. rubbing his cheek. If my daughter had been caught in bed with her bodyguard and wounded to boot." Her father. "Feel better?" "No." "That’s an excellent start." "No. He blinked. she knew without asking. "You’re thinking foolishly. Richard. Chapter Seven Print this Page "Only a fool would presume he wasn’t the right man for me." She rounded and slapped him. mistake one." She pushed ahead of him." "I’d never hurt you. I can’t give you the life you’ve led till now. That I regret you got hurt when I should have been doing my job? I do." Hurt painted her voice and Richard raked his fingers through his hair. Who said I wanted it?" ." He tipped her head back. "Because I’m not the right man for you!" Her heart crumbled." "I’m sorry. Actually I’d like to beat the stuffing out of you for being a jerk. No wonder you had to be paid to come here." Rick sighed deeply. "I don’t give a damn about the money!" He followed her as she thrashed through the forest." "Like you aren’t now?" His expression hardened. Irish. coming here had a price. her heart feeling scored down the middle. Richard?" "Then you’re safe. "What do you want me to say. I’d have done more than send a couple of thugs after me. Meg. "If it were me. "I forgot." "Sure it did." She nodded more to herself. but clearly I’m outclassed in my weight division. "Why are you being like this?" she shouted. you won’t. Want to try for mistake number three?" "Such as?" What was it? Open season on Callahan? "How about you believing I was on some hero worship trip when I came to your bed?" "You were. "It was opening an old wound." "Mistake number four. Meg. then what." "And you get paid. I wouldn’t have come for anything less than five million."When we’re in civilization with running water and room service. mistake number two. Damn her father.
Or be arguing with you now." The intensity of his gaze ripped through her. "Now. Callahan. Or come here. had a fingerprint bruise on her shoulder. Richard. I haven’t lived off my father’s money since I was twenty-one. I would have come running. "You gave up on us. all that lush skin turning him inside out." Callahan. would I?" Meg kicked off her boots. Numbly. flinging it aside. fury in her bones. "I want more and you just can’t give it without giving up your father’s money. warm sunlight ribboned down over the trees and vines growing out of the rock. He tossed down his pack and machete. Overhead. ." She let her pants fall to the rocks and Rick’s jaw tightened. He stood still. then stripped out of her shirt. "If that’s supposed to make me stupid. "If you’d called me a week ago." He swallowed." Meg gave him a dirty look. I wouldn’t have searched. "You admit that the only reason you wanted to be with me was because I was forbidden fruit." she advanced. "If it was just an off-limits thing. You know him."Dammit. Meg." "Good. Just because it’s in my dad’s company doesn’t mean I didn’t earn it. feeling like everything in his life was suddenly on the line. She was really mad. She had him there. the sun dancing over her round behind in a skimpy thong. Callahan. and his heartbeat rocketed to somewhere near his eyes. "Stop looking at me like you’ve never seen me naked. I do have a job. don’t want to ruin a pattern. he thought. toed off her socks. "I haven’t. Bright colored birds soared and dipped." She met his gaze. climbing the rocks to the fall." She peeled off her stretch camisole. pacing like a caged animal." "Now who’s insulting who?" he groused. he dug and slapped the bar into her outstretched hand. not like that. my Nubian slaves didn’t have time to oil my skin this trip. Would he give me control if I didn’t deserve it?" His eyes narrowed. his shirt open and baring carved muscles tanned dark from the sun. "Thanks for the vote on my character. Thong panties followed. She was sunburned in spots. but the rest of her was as perfect as he remembered. do we? Do you have any soap in there?" She pointed to the pack. His gaze locked on her like a homing device. "Well." "And you tried? I don’t have to get kicked in the teeth to know it hurts. Callahan. it’s working. you know what I mean.
"Don’t do this. The water deepened around him. He stripped off his shirt and boots. "Do you want me in your life or not. His groin thickened. Her gaze locked with his. softening her knees." he muttered. When he’d dropped everything and raced to find her. Blood boiled under Meg’s skin." With that she dived into the water. It was like a door slamming in his face. "Stop right there. "Meg. He’d known it the instant he heard her father’s voice on the other end of the satellite com link while he was in another jungle a thousand miles away. Rick felt his control snap. she washed her hair. He wondered if he had the guts to tell her." "Join the club. For a moment she just stood under the hard spray and with a clarity that gripped him in the gut. he washed the camo paint off his face. Hunger and temptation burned inside every fiber of his being. yet his gaze moved back to her. She hid nothing from him and they both knew it. But she wanted more. popping up where the fall spilled into the pool. angry with himself and glaring at the source. Richard?" He hesitated. Soap rinsed off her in slick waves. Meg. Rick reached. he stood and stormed to the shore. then dunked his head. his body revealed and hidden beneath the crystal depths. and like a bomb detonating. he knew why he’d come for her. forcing her around. "I just know I’m going to hell for this. If she were smart she’d just give up and throw herself at him." she ordered. Sunlight gleamed off the scarred bullet hole in his shoulder and the last two years rushed back like a blast of cold air. stripping down to his skin and walking into the water. Richard watched her swim under the clear water. Raking his hair back. Her back to him. It didn’t do a damn thing for the fire crackling through his blood." . Squatting at the water’s edge. He didn’t."You’re making me crazy. making her insides go liquid and hot. She looked back over her shoulder and met his gaze." "I see. shaking like a dog. bronze and dark and hard. He advanced. his gaze following the ripples of soapy water sliding over her curves and foaming around her. blood throbbing in every cell of his body and Rick folded to the ground. his dark eyes skimming her with the power of touch. Already her body was coming apart for him." She turned her back on him. Damn her. You don’t know what you’re asking.
and Megan felt her world tilt at the darkly intense gaze locked on her. wildly. and Richard wondered if his world was about to cave or be resurrected." Her eyes teared. tipping her head back and opened his heart "I’m in love with you. "Irish?" He swallowed. Richard. darkened. drawing her closer." Chapter Eight Print this Page Megan smiled and a tear fell." he warned. "What do you mean?" "There is no halfway between us." ." He plowed his fingers into her hair. "It works both ways." "Yeah. "For money and to exact a little revenge."I know I want more than this day." His eyes flared. "Mistake number five. "I can’t be with a man who doesn’t love me." Her smile was tender. but it was a damn good excuse to get my hands on you." "Why?" It was a gauntlet thrown down. even I thought that at first. "I’m absorbing the moment. "I’m not as stupid as I look. Why the hell do you think I came here?" Meg reined in her galloping heart. "Silence is not a good thing right now. so-much-that-I-act-stupid in love with you." Megan stepped closer. Richard. There never was. Deeply. "I’m in love with you. "Because I couldn’t take a breath without thinking about you. you’re with me completely. forever. "If you’re with me. his gaze scoring her beautiful face. "Be careful. Megan. Rick thought he’d shatter inside waiting. I have for the past two years." He made a frustrated sound. Megan O’Toole. got that?" Her heartbeat skipped." "So it’s all or nothing?" He nodded. I couldn’t stand another day of wondering if we could have made it. He gripped her arms." Grains of hope spilled through him.
"Yeah?" "Oh don’t make another mistake and doubt me now. that she couldn’t keep still. His hand sculpted her body. stroking and when she was breathless and whimpering he lifted her higher and closed his lips over her nipple. Megan knew he meant business. Trapped in her limbs." she whispered when she came up for air and he took her mouth again and again. pleasures abundant as savage luxury ripped and rode through her body in tremendous climax. Cool water and the heat of his mouth spread like an erotic whisper over her skin. her belly. And when he lifted her to the edge of the rocks. Smiling into each other’s eyes. His hardness pressed and Meg wanted him inside her. the force of his kiss bending her back over his arm. It wasn’t enough. her insides fighting their way out. But he wouldn’t. and anticipation spilled over her skin." He grinned. His mouth trailed over her breasts. Then he tasted her. Suddenly. He touched her and felt clean. get close enough. his tongue rasping as he dipped and laved. Meg burned. "It’s been too long. She gripped his bare shoulders." he said. "We never got this far before. He palmed her body as he moved lower. Rick’s tongue slicked over the graze on her arm." She kissed the bullet scar on his shoulder. washed of his sins. wanted to erase the past two years of missing him and feel alive again. "Unforeseen circumstances. his thumbs circling her nipples. He cupped her round breast. he couldn’t taste enough. he carried her the few feet to the rocks. and he’d found his prey. drawing it into his mouth. and his mouth crushed over hers. and she wrapped her legs around his hips. "Come to me now. She screamed his name and went boneless as her world softened. and she arched on the barren rock. her arms around his neck. his loneliness. He toyed and soothed. And meant to take care of it now. His expression was predatory. loving the sounds she made. reaching. to chase the fire and slick power. then he met her gaze as he spread her wider. Rick kissed her. pulling her to the edge of rapture till she was pounding his shoulders to take her to the summit. dipping." . Her cry scattered a covey of birds. his hands slicking over her wet body. She clawed at him." He lifted her from the water. "Richard. He nipped the join of her thigh.
Meg saw more than she expected in Rick’s gaze — saw everything she wanted. filling her in one hard stroke. There was no use restraining himself. She stammered. never taking her gaze from his. you will be. Then she rolled him to his back." she said. The pulse of her climax clawed through him. Her eyes flared wickedly. Richard." He pushed into her. and Rick went with it. he carried her to the bank and laid her on the mossy earth.Kissing her. trembled with it. He gazed into her hazel-green eyes. her body undulating in the sun. Callahan. And like a fair wind. "Am I in trouble?" "If you stop doing that to me. His erection pressed to her softness. but at this moment. fused to him and in the South American sun. gazing into her eyes. and Rick thrust into her and let the wet ride take him over the edge. Not that coming together would be good. You belong to me. She leaned back. Water lapped at their bodies. gripping. her hands. Megan knew those eyes were warning her. that it would be forever. . Irish. She reached." "Next sixty years sound good?" For a second her breath caught and he rolled her to her back. And he knew it. she swept inside and stole his soul. straddling him. lacing his fingers with her as he withdrew and pushed deeply. "I love you. never. Megan was all over him." Callahan. lifting her hips. but no words came out. Her gasp tumbled into his mouth and he drank it. She laughed and rode him. and Rick was enthralled just watching her take him like an Amazon princess claiming her prize. yet he didn’t move. pleasure overflowing." "And I love you. letting her feel the thickness of him. Driving him crazy. she’d give herself to him and go willingly into the fire. The spray from the fall coated her in crystal beauty. "I love you. His blood boiled. Come home. "You’ve been doing that to me for two years. demanding he join her now. He didn’t say it. He pushed slightly. her mouth. Rick’s heart shattered and he let it open. Again and again. their bodies still locked. pulling him between her thighs. "You’re torturing me." She stroked his jaw and he turned his face into her palm.
Meg looked at Rick. He looked back at Meg. "Make you want to go native in the jungle again?" he said before he kissed her deeply." Rick grinned. Cameron?" Rick asked.. taking it and shoving it into his pocket. "Did you think I was going to let you get away this time?" He brought her hand to his mouth. O’Toole. Her father cleared his throat. With each pass of his mouth over hers. Rick crossed to Meg. lad.. "I pay my debts. "I’ve left you speechless." "Just some unfinished business we needed to conclude. Callahan. "That’s a dangerous smile. Richard. Frowning. his face." Megan smiled brightly. Meg. But if you love her. It’s a good look for you." She searched his eyes. and felt a power like he’d never known in her arms. "You’re so bad. He tightened his hold. loneliness fled." "Got a dollar. Rick crossed to him. staring out at the Brazilian skyline. but apparently Megan wasn’t finished." Richard’s expression darkened to menacing. the lass has a temper like her mother. that’s all it takes." "Daddy!" Megan said from the doorway. His ring glittered on her finger and despite the tailored blue suit. moving into his arms." She blinked back tears." her father said gruffly.He laughed softly. silver-haired with a barrel chest like a prize fighter. glaring at her father. "Megan took care of that. darlin’. "One word. From the adjacent office Rick heard voices. looking shell-shocked. *** Seventy-two hours later. Rick turned as Cameron O’Toole. and roots took hold in their love. her father produced one. isn’t it?" Cameron laughed. all he could think of was how good she’d looked earlier this morning naked and draped over him. "Yes!" she said and he kissed her. then walked toward Rick. the corners of his eyes crinkling. Rick leaned against the window frame. "Feeling singed?" "By God. "Never doubt that. "You’re twisted. "I’d say we’re square. "Great. laying a kiss there." she said softly. his heart dangling by a string. he said. He and Cameron O’Toole had already cleared the air." She blushed. "The money is yours." When she only stared. Irish. give or take a time zone. "Marry me." . came in.
Irish. He grinned."Oh. pulling him toward the door and the priest waiting to marry them. I hope not." she said. we’re not done. "Oh." The End .
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