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James Sladerman frowned at the toe of his shoe. He'd been frowning since the summons from Commissioner Dodson had reached him in the squad room that morning. After blowing out a long stream of smoke, Slade crushed out the cigarette in the mosaic ashtra to his left. He barel shifted his bod . Slade knew how to wait.
!nl the night before he had waited for more than fi"e hours in a dark, chill car in a neighborhood where it #aid to watch our back as well as our wallet. $t had been a tedious, fruitless fi"e hours, as the stakeout had #roduced nothing. %ut then, Slade knew from long e&#erience that #olice work consisted of hours of endless legwork, im#ossible boredom, and #a#erwork, #unctuated b moments of stark "iolence. Still he #referred the fi"e'hour wait to the twent minutes he had s#ent in the commissioner's car#eted, beige'walled outer office. $t smelled of lemon #olish and now, his own (irginia tobacco. )he ke s of a t #ewriter clattered with monotonous efficienc as the commissioner's secretar transcribed.
*hat the hell does he want+ Slade wondered again. )hroughout his career Slade had studiousl a"oided the #olitics of #olice work because of an
inherent dislike of bureaucrac . $n his climb from cadet to detecti"e sergeant, there had been little o##ortunit for his #ath to cross Dodson's.
Slade had had brief #ersonal contact with Dodson at his father's funeral. Ca#tain )homas C. Sladerman had been buried with all the glor and honor that comes from ser"ing on the force for twent 'eight ears. And d ing in the line of dut . ,ulling o"er it, Slade recalled that the commissioner had been s m#athetic to the widow and the oung daughter. He'd said the right things to the son. Perha#s on some le"el he had been #ersonall grie"ed. -arl in their careers Dodson and Sladerman had been #artners. )he had still been oung men when their #aths had se#arated''one finding a niche in #olitics and administration, the other cra"ing the action of the streets.
!n onl one other occasion had Slade had one'to'one contact with Dodson. )hen Slade had been in the hos#ital, reco"ering from a gunshot wound. )he "isit of the commissioner of #olice to a mere detecti"e had resulted in talk and s#eculation that had embarrassed Slade as much as anno ed him.
.ow, he reali/ed, it would be all o"er the station house that the old man had called him in. His frown became a scowl. 0or a moment he
wondered if he had committed some breach in #rocedure, then became furious with himself for beha"ing like a kid hauled before the school #rinci#al.
)he hell with it, he decided, forcing himself to rela&. )he chair was soft''too soft, and too short. )o com#ensate, Slade cur"ed his s#ine into the back and stretched out his long legs. His e es half closed. *hen the inter"iew was o"er, he had the stakeout to look forward to again. $f it went down tonight, he'd ha"e a few e"enings free to s#end at the t #ewriter. *ith an luck''and a solid month without interru#tions''he could finish the no"el. %locking out his surroundings, he mentall re"iewed the cha#ter he was working on.
Anno ed b the distraction, Slade lifted his e es. Slowl his e&#ression cleared. He reali/ed he'd wasted his time staring at the floor when the commissioner's secretar #ro"ided a far more a##ealing "iew. His smile was at once a##raising and charming.
1)he commissioner will see ou now.1 )he secretar answered the smile, wishing he'd looked at her like that before, rather than sitting in sullen silence. He had a face an female would res#ond to''a bit narrow,
angular, with dark coloring that came from $talian ancestors on his mother's side. )he mouth had been hard in re#ose, but now, cur"ed, it showed both #romise and #assion. %lack hair and gra e es were an irresistible combination, es#eciall , she thought, when the hair was thick and a bit unrul and the e es were smok and m sterious. He was an interesting #ros#ect, she thought as she watched Slade unfold his long, rang frame from the chair.
As he followed her to the oak door he noted that the ring finger of her left hand was bare. $dl , he considered getting her #hone number on the wa out. )he thought sli##ed to the back of his mind as she ushered him into the commissioner's office.
)here was a Perillo lithogra#h on the right wall''a lone cowbo astride a #aint #on . )he left wall was crowded with framed #hotos, commendations, di#lomas. $f Slade found it an odd combination, he ga"e no sign. )he desk, with its back to the window, was dark oak. !n it were #a#ers in tid stacks, a gold #en and #encil set, and a tri#le #icture frame. Seated behind them was Dodson, a dark, tid little man who had alwa s reminded Slade more of a #arish #riest than .ew 2ork's commissioner of #olice. His e es were a calm, #ale blue, his cheeks healthil rudd . )hin wis#s of white wo"e through his hair. All in all, Dodson was the #icture of a"uncular gentleness. %ut the lines in his
face hadn't been etched b good humor.
1Sergeant Sladerman.1 Dodson motioned Slade to a chair with a gesture and a smile. %uilt like his father, he thought briefl as he watched Slade take his seat. 1Did $ kee# ou waiting+1
3ike his father, Dodson thought again, managing not to smile. -&ce#t that there'd been talk that the son's real interest la in writing, not in #olice work. )om had alwa s brushed that aside, Dodson remembered. , bo 's a co#, 4ust like his old man. A damn good co#. At the moment Dodson was banking on it.
1How's the famil +1 he asked casuall while kee#ing those dece#ti"e blue e es direct.
10ine. )hank ou, sir.1
1Janice is en4o ing college+1 He offered Slade a cigar. *hen it was refused, Dodson lit one for himself. Slade waited until the smoke stung the air before answering. Just how, he wondered, did Dodson know his sister was in college+
12es, she likes it.1
1How's the writing+1
He had to call on all of his training not to re"eal sur#rise at the question. His e es remained as clear and stead as his "oice. 1Struggling.1
.o time for small talk, Dodson thought, ta##ing off cigar ash. )he bo 's alread itching to be gone. %ut being commissioner ga"e him an ad"antage. He took another slow drag of the cigar, watching the smoke curl la/il toward the ceiling. 1$ read that short stor of ours in ,irror,1 Dodson went on. 1$t was "er good.1
1)hank ou.1 *hat the hell's the #oint+ Slade wondered im#atientl .
1.o luck with the no"el+1
%riefl , almost im#erce#ti"el , Slade's e es narrowed. 1.ot et.1
Sitting back, Dodson chewed on his cigar as he studied the man across from him. Had the look of his father, too, he mused. Slade had the same
)hen there was his record. After his ears on the force. He might not be the flash co# his father had been. then a quick search through his mental file. He wondered if the son could smile with the same disarming charm as the father. Dodson mused. Slade could be considered seasoned.. 1)hat's what ou're called. less im#ulsi"e.ew 2ork A##ellate Court before he was elected chief 4ustice of the Connecticut Su#reme Court about fifteen ears ago.1 Curiosit came first.1 )he familiarit made him uncomfortable6 the smile made him sus#icious.. but his arrests were clean. thank 5od. Slade had a re#utation for being cool. #erha#s a shade too cool. Dodson didn't need a man who looked for trouble.narrow face that was both intelligent and tough. 1Presided o"er the . 1$'m sure ou'"e heard of Justice 3awrence *inslow. 2et the e es were like his mother's''dark gra and thoughtful. skilled at kee#ing emotions hidden. he was dead. $f an underco"er co# wasn't seasoned b thirt 'two. 1Slade.1 He allowed a small smile to esca#e. the last three in homicide. isn't it+1 12es. but one who knew what to do once he found it. Died . but he was thorough. sir. And.
1 So what+ Slade thought with fresh im#atience as Dodson ga/ed broodingl o"er his shoulder.of a heart attack four. 1He was also a damn fine law er. a 4udge who understood the full meaning of 4ustice.1 )he same question /i##ed through Slade's mind as Dodson focused on him again.1 0acts and figures. 1She li"es in the famil home near *est#ort. Dodson mused. 1Possibl .1 .1 He drummed his fingers against the desk. 1!"er the last nine months there has been a rash of thefts throughout -uro#e.1 *as the old man matchmaking+ Slade almost laughed out loud. 1$'m godfather to his daughter. A good man. )he bo didn't waste words. Jessica. . #eaceful.1 )here was an uncomfortable #remonition which Slade #ushed aside. His wife remarried two ears ago and li"es in southern 0rance. %eautiful #lace''a stone's throw from the beach. 1$ imagine a writer would find it "er a##ealing. that was too ridiculous. ma be fi"e ears ago. $t's quiet.o.
and this sho# is one of the.. $'"e been consulted. 1Smuggling's federal. %ecause of this case's. )he %ureau knows there's an o#erator. then went on. delicate nature. 1. coins.ainl from museums''gems. And.. he thought silentl . He #laced the ti#s of his neat fingers together. 1$m#ortant thefts.. and $tal ha"e all been hit. he .1 He #aused a beat. 7uickl he controlled it and lifted a brow.1 Dodson re#eated. 1$t's belie"ed someone on the inside is on the take. well'res#ected antique sho#. watching the ounger man o"er them. stam#s. 1$ ha"e a few connections in the %ureau. the '"e narrowed down the #ossibilities for dum# sites.1 Pausing.1 he decided dr l . S#ain.1 Slade said briefl .1 1Smuggling's federal. has nothing to do with a homicide detecti"e''or some 4ustice's s#oiled daughter. 0rom the information $ ha"e. Another uncomfortable thought came to him which he ignored. long enough for Slade to comment if he chose to. -ngland. 1Some substantial leads in the in"estigation #oint to a small.1 Dodson continued. sa ing nothing. chosen few. )he in"estigation has led the res#ecti"e authorities to belie"e the stolen articles ha"e been smuggled into the States. 0rance. a bit too amiabl for Slade's taste..)he abru#t change of sub4ect startled Slade so much that the sur#rise showed clearl on his face.
so that the head of the organi/ation won't sli# awa from them this time. then e&#orted to this sho#. retrie"ed.1 he added softl . A handful of accom#lices. nor is the identit of the head of the organi/ation known. half to himself. he drew on his cigarette and waited. Swallowing the questions that had #o##ed into his head..1 Dodson waited for the hiss and flare of the match.1 %arel masking his im#atience. and again he went on as the other man remained silent. or her.. but we want him. 1)he want to #ut an o#erati"e on it. and ultimatel dis#osed of. 1Allegedl . )he commissioner . 1)here's one or two com#lications. Again Dodson ga"e Slade a moment to question or comment. Slade reached for a cigarette. Don't get interested.ad4usted the #icture frame on his desk. the goods are hidden''cle"erl hidden''in an antique.1 1$t seems the 0eds ha"e things under control. $t has nothing to do with ou. inside. he noticed Dodson's ner"es. es.1 0or the first time since Slade had walked into the room.1 Dodson mused. He's cle"er. 1)here's no concrete e"idence. 1)here's also a more delicate #roblem. he warned himself. )he tone had Slade's e es shar#ening.
1$ know she's com#letel innocent. ran it through his fingers.1 Dodson stated. 1she hardl needs the mone . $t might be dangerous for her. 1)he antique sho# alleged to be in"ol"ed is owned and o#erated b m goddaughter.1 he added. 1but because $ know her.#icked u# his gold #en.ot onl because she's m goddaughter. carefull setting down the #en. 1)he ne&t few weeks could bring the whole mess down around her ears.1 Dark brows lifted. antici#ating Slade's thoughts. 1Justice *inslow's daughter. this time holding it lengthwise between both hands.1 1Hardl .1 Slade controlled the snort of derision. he mused. 1-"en the shield of ignorance isn't going to #rotect her once things come to a head if her .1 Dodson reached for the #en again. #icturing a s#oiled heiress with too much time and mone on her hands.1 Slade muttered.1 1$t's generall belie"ed that Jessica knows nothing of the illegal use of her sho#''if indeed there is illegal use. She's e"er bit as honest as her father was. A change of #ace from sho##ing and #arties and 4et'setting. but the e es beneath them betra ed nothing. 1)he %ureau's closing in. then stuck it back in its slot.1 he went on. And. Jessica cherishes 3arr 's memor . Smuggling for kicks. .
but.1 3eaning back in the o"erstuffed leather chair. 1$ considered it.1 Slade frowned. who can sta close to her without causing s#eculation. 1And how do ou e&#ect me to do that+1 Dodson smiled full . Claims she's too bus . Someone trained to deal with the situation. He liked the con"ersation less and less. 1She's been com#laining latel about the mess her librar 's in.. 1Jessica will do what $ want''to a #oint. He liked the irritation in Slade's "oice as much as the directness.sho#'s in"ol"ed. $ feel Jessica needs #rotection. and in turn. 1)om and 3arr knew each other some ears back. Dodson let out what #assed for a sigh.1 A smile touched his e es. She tells me $ should come "isit her. 2ou're a writer who needs a quiet refuge for a few weeks. but m #resence at this #oint could 4eo#ardi/e the in"estigation.1 His "oice trailed off. he rela&ed again.1 . Discreet #rotection..1 he added. 2our co"er's sim#le enough. 1Jessica's stubborn. $'m going to call her. Howe"er. ou'll sort out her librar .ew 2ork for a "isit. b the wa . tell her $'m sending the son of an old friend of mine and her father's. Amused e&as#eration mo"ed o"er his face. )hat's true. he stubbed out his cigarette. 1Someone who could assist the in"estigation from the inside.1 *ith a shake of his head. about not ha"ing enough time to sort through and catalog. $'"e tried to con"ince her to come to . )aking his time.
1Jurisdiction''1 he began. .1 Dodson said shortl .1 Dodson interru#ted easil . )he %ureau is interested in ha"ing a co# on the inside. After all. but with a hint of steel in his "oice. Commissioner. 1 ou should be able to lea"e for Connecticut in a cou#le of da s. )he '"e checked ou out and agree with m choice. not robber .1 12ou're a co#. 1$t can be taken care of.1 Dodson interru#ted again.1 Slade muttered. And if ou're so close.1 Slade ga"e a snort of disgust.1 He brought his thumb and forefinger together. $'m that close to wra##ing u# the %itronelli murder. it's the bo s from the %ureau who'll make the collar when it's time.1 1)errific. A co# who knows how to kee# his e es and ears o#en.1 1$'m su##osed to #la librarian and bab sitter. Standing.1 he added before Slade could toss back a furious retort. 1$'m homicide. 1$f''1 12ou'd better be.2PD look like fools on that one. 1Some #a#erwork.Slade's e es had darkened during Dodson's casual rundown. 13ook. 1)he #ress is ha"ing a great time making the . he #rowled the room.
*ith a sigh. 1$'ll gi"e ou a com#lete briefing. 1)errific. 1Da after tomorrow. )ired of the miser he came in contact with almost e"er da of his life. Slade thought darkl . Slade went back to his chair to listen. then $'ll call Jessica and tell her to e&#ect ou. he resigned himself. He was tired of it. 1*hen+1 he demanded as he turned back to face Dodson. .12eah. he could quit the force and concentrate on his writing. )ired of the dirt. the futilit . A change an wa .1 %ab 'sitting for some snobb little heiress.1 he muttered again.a be a cou#le of weeks in Connecticut would be a nice change. And tired too of seeing the look of relief in his mother's e es each time he came home. who was either smuggling for thrills or too di// to see what was going on under her nose. he thought. !nce Janice was out of college.1 Dodson said smoothl . tired of the nast little #ieces of humanit his 4ob forced him to deal with.1 *ith a shrug. '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' .
5raduate of :adcliffe.. he mused. *hen his book was acce#ted. *hi##ing through the o#en car windows. the colors were "ibrant. age twent 'se"en. All button'downed and #on 'tailed. Jessica *inslow. He wasn't in Connecticut to a##reciate the scener . Shaking his head. Slade turned u# the radio. the wind was chilled and fragrant. $t was 4ust another 4ob''and one he resented.ordan *inslow. )he onl child of Justice 3awrence *inslow and 3orraine .. Slade wondered how long it had been since he had smelled that kind of freshness.e&t 0all touched the trees and stung the air.o cit smells of sweat and e&haust. . He couldn't afford to think if. #assionate. Another ear on the force''another ear of scra#ing u# tuition mone ''and then. or near the shore. too. $t was alwa s when or as soon as. he thought with a sneer. $t wasn't an good thinking of ne&t ear.Cha#ter 8 ''''''''' Contents ' Pre" 9 . Against a hard blue sk . :al#h 3auren . She'd #robabl been head cheerleader. )he ribbon of road cut through the hills and wound eastward toward the Atlantic. #erha#s he could mo"e his mother and Janice out of the cit ''a home in the countr ma be. senior class #resident.
S stematicall . )went 'three. but someone Slade was instructed to kee# his e e on. Slade ran through the list of the *inslow staff. 5ardener. . He leaned his elbow on the window as he considered. Jessica *inslow's assistant and current bu er. 5ood e&cuse to #la around in -uro#e. 0igures. . As chief bu er. the *inslow housekee#er. he thought in disgust. Slade reflected. She #robabl wouldn't know how to boil . 5ood 5od. Adams would be in a #erfect #osition to handle the o#eration from o"erseas. Da"id : ce. Struggling to be o#en minded.o firm e"idence.arion Adams. . e&haling smoke that rushed out of the o#en window. Son of :obert and . Dodson had said he was often trusted with running the sho# alone. cook.ichael Adams. 2ale graduate. sho# assistant for eighteen months.# until two ears ago she did the ma4orit of bu ing herself. housekee#er. he thought as he #unched in the car lighter. All that for one #erson. Son of -li/abeth : ce. !#ened the House of *inslow four ears ago. )hirt 'two. he continued his catalog. another #rominent Connecticut famil . )hat would gi"e him the o##ortunit to handle the local o#eration.sweaters and 5ucci loafers. dail maid.
with room enough for two cars to #ass easil . He dro"e nearl a quarter of a mile before #ulling u# in front of the house.an egg if her life de#ended on it. )he were rust. $n less than a minute the door o#ened. hard. and co##er. )he blossoms were huge. middle'aged woman with a #leasantl ugl . growing near the base of the house. He hated doorbells. He'd had too little of that. gold. he noted. quite a distance down. bloomless a/aleas. macadam dri"e. as did the la/ odor of wood'smoke. not o##ressi"el so. )his wasn't indolence but #eace. lined with bush . )he gra shutters weren't 4ust decorati"e. Slade walked u# the ste#s to the front door. Shaking off the mood. $t charmed him. )here was a burst of birdsong. he had to admit. Slade turned into the long. He smelled the chr santhemums before he saw them. He had to look down. )he gates to the *inslow estate stood o#en. to see a tin . )he brick was old. then silence. but could be used for #ractical #ur#oses if a storm rose u# off the Sound. He lifted a fist and knocked. com#limenting the "iolent red of bushes. $t was large but. Smoke rose from one of the chimne s on the hi##ed roof. mellowed b sun and sea air.
)here were no o"ert dis#la s of wealth. Slade glanced around the hall. ob"iousl not o"erl im#ressed.a $ hel# ou+1 )he accent was broad . A few #aintings hung on the i"or 'toned wall#a#er. 1.face and gra 'streaked hair. She came barrelling down the cur"ed staircase in a flurr of swirling . but wealth was there.ew -ngland. . 12ou'd be the writer. A #ale green glass bowl sat on a high round table and o"erflowed with fall flowers. He caught a whiff of a #ine'scented cleaner that reminded him of his mother's kitchen.1 )he woman scrutini/ed him with cautious black e es. she allowed him to enter. )he blue scarf that hung negligentl o"er the railing of the ste#s was silk. As the door closed behind him. )he floor was uncar#eted.iss *inslow's e&#ecting me. Ste##ing back. a gleaming blond oak that showed some wear under the careful #olishing. He'd seen a #rint of the #ainting to his right in an art book. Slade started to turn back to the housekee#er when a clatter at the to# of the ste#s distracted him. 1$'m James Sladerman.1 she stated.
and energ . almost o"erbalancing.1 %ets announced. she came to a screeching halt. He felt the stir inside him''man for woman''and hastil dro##ed his hand.r. he noted. damn. Automaticall he reached for her arm to stead her. o"al. the color of aged whiske . delicate. set below brows that were lowered in curiosit . )he arm beneath his hand was slender under a thin wool bla/er. %reathless. $ndian+ (iking+ he wondered. motion. 1%ets . ou make Da"id sta in bed until that fe"er's broken. damn. Celtic+ Her e es were large. Don't ou dare let him get u#. )he faintest line a##eared between them. she brought her e es from his shirt front to stare at him. Her scent was reminiscent of fall''something musk ''blossoms and smoke. A stubborn line. Sladerman.blond hair and fl ing skirts. $t was an e&quisite face''fair skinned. 1)his is . Slade reflected. )he to# of her head barel skimmed his shoulder. 1)hat writer.1 . $'m going to be late< *here are m ke s+1 )hree inches awa from Slade. His sister had one. She was small. )he hammer of heels on wood disru#ted the quiet of the house. Slade had a quick im#ression of s#eed. with 4ust a hint of cheekbone that added a rather #rimiti"e strength. Damn.
1 )he smile cleared awa the faint line between her brows.1!h es. 1Charlie told me ou could use some hel#.1 Slade told her. she muttered again about ke s. 12es. $'ll see ou at dinner then.1 She rolled her e es and cleared her throat.1 $t took Slade a moment to connect . . $'m sorr to rush off the minute ou get here. he acce#ted her e&tended hand. ou could call it that. 1$t'll gi"e me a chance to get settled in.ncle Charlie told me ou were coming.ncle Charlie with Dodson. .1 )ilting her wrist.. 1$n our hand.1 10ine. )he librar . . but ga"e her an eas smile.1 1Hel#. 1$ ha"e a client coming to the sho# ten minutes ago.1 5lancing around.iss *inslow. 1. he decided. but m assistant's ill and m bu er's in 0rance. she grimaced at her watch.1 $f this fra//led lad can run a business. $'ll "olunteer to walk a beat.ot knowing if he was smothering an oath or a laugh.1 1Don't worr about it.. 3ook.
Slade turned his back on his t #ewriter and went back downstairs.1Stu#id. $n a small. )en minutes later Slade ins#ected his suite of rooms.. %ets . a brass #a#erweight. )here was a faded car#et on the bedroom floor that he recogni/ed was not old but antique. black marble fire#lace. 1)he more $ ha"e to rush. $t ma shock ou so much that ou'll run awa before $ can smooth things o"er. she brushed her hair from her shoulders. his writing would be more than a co"er. Jessica uncurled her fingers and stared at the ke s in her #alm. Crossing to the sitting room. '% e. %ets clucked her tongue. *ithout hesitation. filing the #osition and la out of rooms in the co#'s #art of his mind. !n an e&as#erated sigh.1 )he door slammed behind her.1 As she dashed for the door Jessica looked o"er her shoulder. He roamed. the worse it gets. their descri#tions in .1 *ith a sigh. $f he had his wa .. !f course. )he were nearl as large as the a#artment he had grown u# in. there was the librar to fool with. 1Please don't bother with the librar toda . and a feather quill.1 3ifting amused e es to his. *hen he wasn't bab 'sitting. 1)ell Da"id he's fired if he gets out of bed. he saw a sturd desk to##ed with a "ase of the chr santhemums. he'd get some work done. wood was neatl laid for burning. he cleared it off to make room for his t #ewriter.
$t was onl the nou"eau riche who went in for ostentation. . *ith a shrug. almost "iolent green. he mused. :obert %urns tilted onto a co# of =urt (onnegut.the writer's. $n her clothes.ot filed at all. $n his tour of the first floor. He crossed the room and mounted the two stairs to the second le"el. Still. )he librar . the blouse she'd worn had been a dee#. the battered u#right his mother treasured was so much kindling. Com#ared to this. )he *inslow woman #referred muted colors and clean lines. but sim#l 4umbled. he corrected. he wandered to the ne&t door. he mused. )hat 4ust might indicate something else. Slade felt a stir of #leasure. A quick stud told him that the books were well read as well as carelessl filed. he concluded. too. 0or the first time since he had walked into Dodson's office. He ran a long finger along a row of "olumes. remembering how she had looked in the dun'colored bla/er and skirt. He caught the scent of old leather and dust as he looked on the largest #ri"ate collection of books he'd e"er seen. A big 4ob. Slade sto##ed to run his fingers o"er the surface of a rosewood #iano. Slade could find no fault with Jessica's taste. !ne he might ha"e en4o ed if it had been his .
onl #ur#ose. but her client was later. which #erha#s was the reason for her lack of order elsewhere. $t wasn't large''but then Jessica had ne"er intended it to be. *ith a half'hearted oath. Halfwa out of the room. tossed her #urse aside. 7uickl she went from window to window. She was late. he'd grown tired of waiting and left. )he business end''in"oices. $ntimate. with her signature on it. and had been since she'd concei"ed . he thought as he settled down to read. )he sho# was the focus of her life. then filled a small kettle with water. Satisfied. !r. she thought. she headed for the back room. *ithout slackening #ace. She ga"e the struggling i" in the rear window a quick douse before setting the kettle on the sto"e. )he sho# was more than a business to her6 it was an accom#lishment. filing. He took one long look around before absentl #ulling out a book. relie"ed to see it em#t . it was that. #ersonal. she hurried to unlock the front door. she wandered into the main sho#. books''she ran meticulousl . she went back to turn the burner on underneath it. All of her organi/ational efforts went into the sho#. Jessica swer"ed into the #arking area beside her sho#. 2es. letting the shades sna# u#. )here was nothing he could do about Jessica *inslow at the moment. she thought with a frown. and a lo"e.
)hen that same dri"e and energ had made it work. She'd s#ent si& months scouring . $nitiall she'd needed something to gi"e some #ur#ose to her life after college was behind her. Jessica had hired Da"id : ce. too much energ .ew -ngland. *hen it had. He'd . After her o#ening the res#onse had begun as a small trickle. As business had continued to thri"e. $ndeed. 0or the first two ears she'd run the sho# alone. )he mone itself meant little. and knowledgeable. but an e&clusi"e one.of it. then had grown and de"elo#ed. and a satisfied one. but the fact that her sho# made it. )he women customers adored him. meant e"er thing. she had ne"er considered that her business would outgrow her. then -uro#e. !nce she had decided to start a business. $t turned a #rofit.ichael Adams to handle the o"erseas bu ing. Jessica had too much dri"e. 5raduall their relationshi# had mellowed from business to friendshi# to eas affection. for the right #ieces. to drift. she'd hired . Jessica hadn't minded. Justice *inslow's daughter running a sho# had brought out the curiosit seekers as well. mostl friends and friends of friends. A large in"entor hadn't been her goal. ca#able. He was charming. the best ad"ertising. )he idea for the sho# had germinated slowl . A client was a client. she'd mo"ed quickl .
she stuck her hands in her #ockets. hard in his e es. *h should she suddenl feel safe when she had no need for #rotection+ )he door of the sho# 4ingled o#en. *ith a half laugh. $t told her he was a man who would know how to handle himself''in business. !dd that the term would bring him back to her mind. He had a streak of street sense that made him a good man to ha"e in business. catching her bottom li# between her teeth. ma be. -"en in that quick e&change at the foot of the stairs.. $n an alle . Jessica . His build had been wir . Jessica mused. %ut no. Street sense. she thought. Jessica had hired him because the 'd grown u# together6 then she had come to de#end on him. definitel . )hat was odd. she'd felt something in him. Safe. James Sladerman. with that intensit that seemed to cree# beneath her skin.been hardl more than a bo . but drawn. -"en when he'd looked at her for those first three or four seconds. )here was something. 2et she hadn't been re#elled or frightened.ow wh should she think that+ )he fingers that had gri##ed her arm had been strong. at loose ends. He was quick with figures and tireless with details. Jessica decided. she hadn't been afraid. it had been his e es. bored enough to find trouble if it got in the wa . . He'd made her feel safe. she reali/ed. Pushing s#eculation aside..
1 He #referred the ornate. Chambers. *hat he didn't know wouldn't hurt him. $ a#ologi/e. %ehind her. Still. 1$'m 4ust making tea. )here are two $ think ou'll be #articularl interested in. 12ou don't think $'d let an one see the snuffbo&es before ou.r. $'m "er late. 1. 1*onderful. $ do a##reciate ou calling me when ou get a new shi#ment in. then decided against it.ichael found these in 0rance.iss *inslow. He lo"ed the foolishl gaud little bo&es that men with lace cuffs used to carr . 1. . Jessica thought with a smile as she lifted the tra .1 1Don't gi"e it a thought.1 He smiled.turned.1 $n the kitchen Jessica #oured boiling water into cu#s.1 Jessica considered telling him that she'd also been late. She glanced at Chambers' stubb form and wondered if he #ictured himself as a ca"alier or #erha#s a :egenc buck. his fascination with snuffbo&es had made him a regular customer who had more than once recommended her sho# to other #eo#le. the kettle whistled. re"ealing good dentures. And he was rather sweet . *h don't ou 4oin me before we look o"er the new snuffbo&es+1 Chambers remo"ed a rather fuss hat from a balding head.
he thought with an inward sigh. Jessica wa"ed. 3ater he left ha##il with two eighteenth'centur snuffbo&es. 5lancing u#. she heard the grumble of an engine.1 His glance flicked briefl down to her legs as Jessica crossed them. then walked to the front door to meet him. She could ha"e sworn the deli"er that . 1Hi. she thought as she #laced the tea tra on a table. she saw the large deli"er truck #ull in front of the sho#.iss *inslow.ichael was shi##ing wasn't due until the following da . $ shouldn't. *hen she recogni/ed the dri"er. 1%ut #erha#s one cube.in his fuss little wa . 1Sugar+1 she asked him. muttering . She read the com#an logo on the side of the steel doors and frowned a bit. %efore Jessica could file the in"oice. 1Ah. Don.1 Chambers #atted his am#le middle.1 1Hello.1 She acce#ted the itemi/ed list he handed her. that he wasn't twent ears ounger. A #it . .
)he dri"er shifted to his other foot. 1)hanks.1 He 4erked his thumb at his #artner. 1. And another deli"er on Saturda . *ould ou mind+1 1*ell... )hat desk is 4ust what $'"e been .1 she added. oh<1 Her e es lit u# with #leasure as the fi&ed on one item.1 $t was eas to 4ustif using the smile. at least take a look.o.mm. $ reall a##reciate it. He shrugged. $t must be fate. Smiling. Jessica could alread see the desk in the front #arlor. Joe won't mind.1 1. 1*ell. who had o#ened the wide double doors of the truck.. Jessica decided. 1$ guess it'll be all right. 1)he rest comes in here.1 She 4iggled the ke s in her #ocket as she scanned the list. im#ulses were the best. $ meant to tell . she should uncart it first. . 1)he writing desk.r.ichael to kee# his e es o#en for one.1 !f course. $ don't. but that goes to m home. she looked back u# at the dri"er. 1$f it's not too much trouble. he seems to ha"e outdone himself this time.about not e&#ecting him until tomorrow. )he 7ueen Anne.. then forgot. Adams #ut a rush on it.
1Did it come+1 12es. $t'll be there whether ou walk sensibl or run like a fool. she dashed toward the front #arlor.1 Jessica ga"e her a quick. 1At least then ou wore sensible shoes. Jessica burst in through the front door of the house. 1%ets <1 She slung her #urse o"er the newel #ost. interce#ting her. .1 1%ets . it's lo"el <1 5entl .1 0eeling trium#hant.looking for.1 %ets came through the #arlor doors. As she had burst out hours before. 1Since ou were si&. $t was a delicate. then quickl began to e&amine it on all sides.1 )he housekee#er straightened her a#ron with a tug. 1!h. air little #iece. $'"e been telling ou to slow down. Jessica went to the back room for more tea. 1Did it come+1 *ithout waiting for an answer.1 )he last of the sentence was wasted. hard squee/e that held as much im#atience as affection. she ran a finger o"er the wood. of course it came. 1And it's sitting in the #arlor 4ust like ou told me. as Jessica was alread rushing b her.
1 Shaking her head. or #erha#s a #orcelain bo& to set on to# of it. then sighed at the unmarred interior. $s he u#stairs+1 1$n the librar .1 %ets announced griml . *ait until Da"id sees it.A woman's desk. *ouldn't e"en come out for lunch. 1All da . $'"e neglected him all da . thinking that the car"ing would be one more thing to kee# dust out of. . 1$ bet ou could ha"e sold it for a #rett #enn too. Sladerman. Jessica shut the lid again.1 Crouching.1 1)he ad"antage of owning a sho# is being able to co# some of the merchandise for ourself. $t slid out smoothl . 1Su##er's nearl read . Jessica brought herself back to the moment.ow all she needed was a fri"olous little inkwell. Jessica o#ened the slant to#.1 . 1$t's e&actl what $'"e been looking for.r. su##er. *hat luck that . 1:eall lo"el . 1$t's #rett .1 She o#ened one of the inner drawers.1 :ising.1 %ets admitted.ichael came across it.1 1!h. 1. she ran a hand down one of its slender legs.
she mused. His hair fell o"er his forehead. He was sitting at a long work table.1!h bo . He hadn't looked like a man who would ha"e much #atience with disorgani/ation. . 1Hi. *ithout being aware of it. A thick #ad was in front of him. Some things.1 Jessica muttered as she headed for the librar door. $'m going to go be charming so we don't lose him. e es #inning her. 1$ reall wanted to ease him into that. *hat's for su##er+1 she asked o"er her shoulder. !r anno ance. surrounded b #illars and #iles of books. 1Stuffed #ork cho#s and mashed #otatoes. and the #encil in his hand was worked halfwa down. Jessica could feel the little #rickles of #ower all o"er her skin. *ell.1 He looked u#. enough to stick her head inside. She #ut on her best smile. her smile had faded into a look of #u//lement. She absorbed it.1 Jessica combed a hand through her hair. She o#ened it slowl . but she could see his brows drawn together in concentration.1 1)hat should hel#. ou don't rush into. she decided. intrigued b the sensation.
!r her e es were. She continued toward him.r. %ut she was beautiful. 1Do ou like challenges.1 )he s#ecific com#laint eased the tension in her shoulders. Slade decided the attraction was going . She didn't feel safe with him this time. 12ou'"e got a hell of a mess here. . %ut he sensed "er clearl that she laughed at herself. but unsettled. . and he was attracted. he noted.1 Slade said shortl .1 Jessica admitted. tossing his #encil aside. $t was curiosit as much as courage that had her coming all the wa into the room. 1$ ho#e ou're not going to do the sensible thing and walk out. 1$f ou run our sho# like this1''he gestured widel ''1it's a miracle ou're not bankru#t. smiling again. A reluctant smile tugged at his mouth as he struggled to stud her ob4ecti"el .1 5ingerl . He didn't ha"e the same blind faith as the commissioner. )he lam# on the desk slanted across his face. she lowered a hi# to the table before lifting a book at random.*ho is this man+ she wondered.a be she was innocent''ma be not. she assured herself. )here'd been nothing #ersonal in that look. She'd been foolish to think there had been. 1$ know it's terrible. highlighting his mouth and #utting his e es in shadow. Sladerman+1 She was laughing. $t was better to attack than let himself dwell on how beautiful she was.
1 Jessica slid from the table.1 1So do $. . She'd .1 she claimed with a laugh. he ga/ed around the room. How much choice did he ha"e+ 1$'m going to take #it on ou. And. . Somehow she'd known it would be hard and strong. Soft and elegant. Do we ha"e a deal. Slade took her hand in his. Slade ate three after his stomach remembered the lack of lunch. 3etting out a long breath. Sladerman+1 Solemnl .iss *inslow.1 she began. $ ha"e a fondness for books.. He glanced at it first. 1*e ha"e a deal.. kee#ing his hand in hers when he would ha"e drawn awa . 1$'m 4ust not neat. 1How do ou feel about stuffed #ork cho#s+1 )he were tender and delicious.iss *inslow. direct looks. *ith a quick curse at fate for making the commissioner her godfather. he thought after a slice of cheesecake. And his #artner hadn't been as eas to look at as Jessica *inslow.r. . 0or two weeks he'd made do on cold coffee and stale sandwiches. then had to deal with another of his cool.to be difficult to work around. 1:eall . she offered her hand. he thought. this case had some ad"antages o"er the one he'd 4ust wra##ed u#. like her name and her "oice.
1 As he started to cross the room the desk caught his e e. 1$'ll lea"e that to ou.1 She #oured a second brand before crossing to him. unconscious sur#rise in her "oice had him grinning. 1Do $ call ou James or Jim+1 1Slade.1 1*hat+1 *ith a decanter in her hand. 1!h no. . 1Ha"e a seat. 1$'ll #our ou a brand .1 she in"ited.1 12ou ha"e a mother+1 )he quick.o. 1-"en m mother sto##ed calling me Jim when $ was ten.1 he told her as he took a snifter.1 1Jessica. Do ou know an thing about antiques+1 1. she glanced o"er her shoulder.1 He ga"e the desk a cursor stud before taking a chair. it 4ust came this afternoon.guided the con"ersation e&#ertl during the meal and had ended b tucking her arm through his to lead him back to the #arlor. 1)hat wasn't here this morning.iss *inslow. .
1-"er bod 's entitled to one.1
0eeling foolish, Jessica sat across from him. 12ou 4ust seem to be ca#able of arranging the whole business without one.1
%oth si##ed brand , and their e es met o"er the snifters. Jessica felt the moment free/e, out of time, out of #lace. Do minds touch+ she thought numbl . *asn't she sensing at that moment the turbulent s#in of his thoughts+ !r were the hers+ %rand sli##ed, hot and strong down her throat, sna##ing her back. )alk, she ordered herself. Sa something. 1Do ou ha"e an other famil +1 she managed.
Slade stared at her, wondering if he had imagined that instant of stunning intimac . He'd ne"er felt that with an woman before, an lo"er. $t was ridiculous to imagine that he'd felt it with one he barel knew. 1A sister,1 he said at length. 1She's in college.1
1A sister.1 Jessica rela&ed again and sli##ed out of her shoes. 1)hat's nice. $ alwa s wanted a brother or sister when $ was growing u#.1
1,one can't bu e"er thing.1 Slade shrugged with the words. Seeing the #u//led hurt on her face, he cursed himself. $f she was getting to him alread , what would it be like in a week+
12ou're quick with clich>s,1 Jessica obser"ed. 1$ su##ose that's because ou're a writer.1 After another si# of brand , she set the glass aside. 1*hat do ou write+1
She laughed as she had in the librar , drawing another smile from him. 1$t must be frustrating.1
1!nl dail ,1 he agreed.
1*h do ou do it+1
1*h do ou eat+1
Jessica considered for a moment, then nodded. 12es, $ su##ose it's like that, isn't it+ Ha"e ou alwa s wanted to write+1
He thought of his father, how he had bragged that his son would be the ne&t Sladerman on the force. He thought of his teenage ears, when he had written his stories in longhand in s#iral notebooks late into the night. He thought of his father's e es the first time he had seen his
son in uniform. And he thought of the first time he'd had a short stor acce#ted.
12es.1 Perha#s it was easier to admit to her what he had ne"er been able to e&#lain to his famil . 1Alwa s.1
1*hen ou want something badl enough, and ou don't gi"e u#,1 Jessica began slowl , 1 ou get it.1
Slade ga"e a short laugh before he drank. 1Alwa s+1
She touched the ti# of her tongue to her to# li#. 1Almost alwa s. $t's all a gamble, isn't it+1
13ong odds,1 he murmured, frowning into his glass. 1$ usuall #la long odds.1 He studied the amber liquor, which was almost e&actl the shade of her e es. She shouldn't be so eas to talk to, he mused. He'd find himself sa ing too much.
1Ah, ;l sses, $ wondered where ou were.1
3ifting his e es, Slade stared at a large, lo#ing mo# of fur. $t lunged, unerringl , into Jessica's la#. He heard her groan, then giggle.
1Damn it< How man times do $ ha"e to tell ou ou're not a la# dog. 2ou're breaking m ribs.1 She twisted her head, but the wet, #ink tongue found her cheek. 1Sto#<1 she s#uttered, #ushing im#otentl . 15et down,1 she ordered. 15et down right this minute.1 ;l sses barked twice, then continued to la# his tongue all o"er her face.
1*hat,1 Slade asked slowl , 1is that+1
Jessica ga"e another might sho"e, but ;l sses onl rested his head on her shoulder. 1A dog, of course.1
1)here's no 'of course' about that dog.1
1He's a 5reat P renees,1 she retorted, quickl running out of breath. 1And he flunked obedience school three times. 2ou mang , soft'headed mutt, get down.1 ;l sses let out a long, contented breath and didn't budge. 15i"e me a hand, will ou+1 she demanded of Slade. 1$'ll ha"e internal in4uries this time. !nce before $ was stuck for two hours until %ets got home.1
:ising, Slade a##roached the dog with a frown. 1Does he bite+1
15od, $'m suffocating and the man asks if he bites.1
A grin s#lit Slade's face as he looked down at her. 1Can't be too careful about these things. He might be "icious.1
Jessica narrowed her e es. 1Sic 'em, ;l sses<1 Hearing his name, the dog roused himself to lick her face again, 4o full . 1Satisfied+1 Jessica demanded. 1.ow grab him somewhere and get me out.1
%ending, Slade wra##ed his arms around the bulk of fur.
)he back of his hand brushed Jessica's breast as he shifted his gri#. 1Sorr ,1 he muttered, dragging at the dog. 15ood 5od, what does he weigh+1
1About one twent 'fi"e, $ think.1
*ith a shake of his head, Slade #ut his back into it. ;l sses slid to the floor to la adoringl at Jessica's feet. )aking a dee# gul# of air, Jessica closed her e es.
She was co"ered with loose white hair. Her own was dishe"eled and curled around her shoulders, the color, Slade obser"ed, of sun'bleached wheat.
*ith her face in re#ose, the slant of her cheekbones was more #ronounced. Her li#s were 4ust #arted. )heir sha#e was utterl feminine''the classic cu#id's bow but for the fullness in the lower li#. $t s#oke of #assion''hidden, quietl simmering #assion. )he mouth and the cheekbones added something to the tearoom looks that had Slade's #ulse res#onding. He couldn't want her, he told himself. )hat wasn't 4ust irres#onsible, it was stu#id. He stared down at the dog again.
12ou should do something about training him,1 he said shortl .
1$ know.1 *ith a sigh, Jessica o#ened her brand 'colored e es. Her affection for ;l sses made her forget the discomfort and the mess he usuall created. 1He's "er sensiti"e reall . $ 4ust ha"en't got the heart to sub4ect him to obedience school again.1
1)hat's incredibl stu#id,1 Slade tossed back. 1He's too big not to be trained.1
1*ant the 4ob+1 Jessica retorted. Straightening in the chair, she began to brush at stra dog hair.
1$'"e got one, thanks.1
was no routine at all. 1$ a##reciate the hel#. Hard and cool and c nical. the were hard. he disco"ered. 2ou struck me as more the #oodle t #e. Hel# ourself to the brand . 1And the ad"ice is dul noted.1 she said stiffl .o #roblem. She didn't .1 1:eall +1 0or a moment Jessica merel studied his e es. He in turn sta ed out of hers while #atientl noting her routine''which. though. she decided. Perha#s it lasted that long because Jessica made a #oint of sta ing out of Slade's wa . She sim#l ne"er sto##ed. $'m going u#.1 Slade shrugged off the sarcasm.*h should it anno her that he hadn't once used her name+ she asked herself as she rose. Dignit had to be sacrificed as she ste##ed o"er the now slee#ing dog.1 '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' Cha#ter ? ''''''''' Contents ' Pre" 9 .e&t 0or the ne&t two da s there was an uneas truce. 2es. 1. 1And $ ha"e the im#ression ou don't think much of the #oodle t #e.
nothing but trouble. . he knew he would find out little in the house. a##arentl ine&haustibl .1 1Don't fuss. Slade swore in frustration. Slade headed for the stairs. a full hour before she normall left. %efore he'd rounded the last cur"e in the ste#s he heard %ets 's "oice. 0rom his bedroom window. $t followed that he needed to make #eace with Jessica to get there. clubs. $t was barel eight o'clock. he watched her dri"e awa .. He could alwa s claim that he wanted to do a bit of research on antique furniture for his no"el. )hat would bu him a few hours. How did the commissioner e&#ect him to watch her''or #rotect her if that's what she needed''if she was alwa s in one #lace while he was in another+ $t was time to im#ro"ise an e&cuse to #a her a "isit at her #lace of business. 5rabbing a 4acket on the wa . At the rate he was going.take time for the social rigamarole he had e&#ected''luncheons. His ne&t mo"e was the House of *inslow.ost of her time was s#ent at the sho#. 1. committees''but worked.1 . as well as gi"e him a reason to #oke around..
Da"id started to turn back to her when he s#otted Slade.1 %ets bustled after him. waiting as the footste#s came his wa . fine indeed. a feather duster gri##ed in her hand. His mo# of dark blond hair was long and straight. $f $ lie around in bed another da . Slade concluded. la off. choking back another cough.1 %ets clucked her tongue. His face was #ale and the e es behind the lenses were shadowed. swinging the duster at his back. and ke#t silent. 1$ told ou she said ou weren't to come in toda . %ecause he was staring down at his sneakers. *ho hasn't com#letel thrown . taking Da"id's measure quickl . Da"id : ce. He wore 4eans and wire'rim glasses and stood hunched o"er a bit''either from habit or fatigue. $'m going to mold. )here was a tall. he didn't see Slade. He frowned.1 He coughed "iolentl . 1. 10ine. Just a bo . 1$'m fine. gangl man walking down the hall. cut rather ha#ha/ardl 4ust below the collar of a chambra workshirt.om.1 1)hat's right. ou must be the writer.1 -&as#erated. 1!h. he thought.1 Slade came down the last two ste#s.Slade sto##ed.
1Jessie and $ figured ou'd be a short. 1She's going to need hel# with the new shi#ment.1 13otta good ou'd do.off the outhful defiance. 15etting an where with the librar +1 1Slowl . ou see. 1And if ou go in. Da"id gri##ed the newel #ost harder.1 He grinned. $ don't know wh .1 1%etter ou than me.1 Da"id murmured.1 %ecause his legs threatened to buckle. but Slade noted that he #laced a hand on the newel #ost for su##ort. wishing for a chair.1 Slade told him. 1)here. 1Has Jessica come down et+1 1She's alread gone. Another's due in toda . Catching the look in Da"id's e e. Slade cut in.1 %ets began. she'll 4ust send ou right back home. stoo#ed little gu with glasses.1 %ets folded her arms o"er her chest. )hunder at ou too. .
1 He sent Slade a weak smile. a##arentl switching her anno ance from her son to her em#lo er. 1She'll tr to mo"e e"er thing herself.. She had her son b the elbow before he could #rotest.1 Slade #ut in casuall . thanks. Sladerman will go look out for . 1)hat's the truth. all $ want's a chair. A chair.1 1$t's m 4ob to mo"e in the new stock. $'d like to see the #lace.1 %ets announced. 2ou go back to bed. it's settled.othing sto#s that one. $ don't''1 1.1 %ets agreed.1 He watched Da"id struggle. 1And since $ was heading that wa an wa . 1. =nowing it was too #erfect to let #ass.r. caught between his desire to go to the sho# and his need to lie down. 1He . )ell Jessie $'m coming back on . check it off.. ma be do a little research. he sli##ed into his 4acket.o"ing furniture around shouldn't require an great knowledge of antiques.1$ was thinking about running down there m self.1 1)here. 1. $ could gi"e her a hand.1 1$'m not going back to bed.onda . .iss Jessica.1 he muttered.
He forgot he'd come to make #eace with her. he started out. he walked to the front door and #ulled it o#en.1 Slade nodded slowl .1 She didn't add that she wasn't #articularl #leased either.. fronted with se"eral narrow windows. . small high breasts rose and fell agitatedl . )hrough the glass. $t was a small. )ell her to humor the in"alid and lea"e it for me. She'd stri##ed off her 4acket and #ushed u# the slee"es of her cashmere sweater.. )he shades were u#. 0ifteen minutes later Slade #arked in the small gra"eled lot beside Jessica's sho#.)he #a#erwork oh the new stock can wait o"er the weekend. deciding that the new stock interested him "er much. he could see her tugging on a large and ob"iousl hea" #iece of furniture. At the 4ingle of bells she s#un around. Cursing women in general.1 )urning.1 )he #h sical e&ertion had winded her so that she struggled to e"en her breathing. $'ll tell her. 1$ didn't e&#ect to see ou here. )hat an one would be b the sho# at that hour sur#rised her''that Slade stood inside the door frowning at her sur#rised Jessica more. Slade remembered their softness against the back of his hand "er clearl . 1*ell. framed building. %eneath it. 1Sure.
he found her onl more attracti"e when she was agitated. 1And $ ho#e to 5od ou're not one of those women who changes her mind a half do/en times.1 He watched her e es narrow and darken as the had that night in the #arlor. the wa her chin 4utted out might ha"e amused him. he #ulled off his 4acket and tossed it o"er a chair.1 1Don't be an more stu#id than necessar .1 0or the first time he was treated to the ice in her tone. 1$'m ca#able of arranging m stock m self. good morning to ou too. *ith a quick oath.1 .1 he shot back. 12ou're 4ust going to hurt ourself. 1is a nineteenth'centur 0rench secretaire. 1*ell.1 Her anno ance rolled off of him. .ow where do ou want this thing+1 1)his thing. 1*here do ou want it+1 he asked shortl .1 she began heatedl . $f it hadn't been for that. 1$ don't belie"e an one asked for our assistance. !ddl . Jessica stiffened her back as well as her tone. Slade leaned against the large #iece she'd been struggling with.1Don't ou ha"e more sense than to #ush this stuff around ourself+1 he demanded. After crossing to her.
She stood "er straight. )urning awa . with a hand's#anable waist and barel an hi#s. 12eah. He allowed his ga/e to swee# down briefl . *hen the sounds of wood sliding o"er wood had sto##ed. she turned back to him. Her feet were . )wo mother'of'#earl combs swe#t her hair back from her face. $t wasn't a sound she had e&#ected from him. her hands folded loosel . )he trim flannel skirt hid most of her legs.ow. 1)hank ou. Jessica #icked u# a washstand to carr it in the o##osite direction. 1!"er there.1 she said cooll . She was "er slender. so+ *here do ou want me to #ut it+1 1$'ll tell ou where ou can #ut it''1 His laughter cut her off. her e es still dangerous.He ga"e it a negligent glance. *ith an effort. what can $ do for ou+1 He treated himself to a length look at her. she swallowed a chuckle of her own as she ste##ed back from him. but Slade could a##reciate what was "isible from the knees down. )he last thing she wanted was to find an thing a##ealing about James Sladerman. 1. #ointing.1 )he gratitude was short and cold. $t was "er male and full of fun.
1 Did her hair carr that scent+ he wondered. She'd be soft. 1$ ga"e s#ecific orders for him to sta home. 1$'"e thought about that from time to time. )hat autumn'woods fragrance that was dri"ing him mad+ 1He wanted to come in this morning. He felt an almost des#erate need for something soft and ielding. Jessica crossed the room to take Slade's arm.1 1Come in+1 Jessica #ounced on the two words. !ne of them ta##ed the floor im#atientl . Her e es were on his.1 12ou'"e seen Da"id+1 Her cool im#atience e"a#orated.1 1. 1He was u#. #robabl not."er small.1 he said briefl . : ce was worried that ou might do 4ust what ou were tr ing to do a few minutes ago.o. Swiftl .1 he commented as his e es roamed back to hers.1 1He shouldn't ha"e been out of bed. 1And not as well as he wanted to be. *h can't he do as he's told+1 . 1*as he u#+ How is he+1 Suddenl he wanted to touch her''her hair. 1%ut $ came b to see what $ could do for ou. wide with concern. her face.
$t's 4ust her wa . 12es. he's got to get well. Da"id knows it. ob"iousl still to ing with the idea of #honing to lecture Da"id.1 she retorted.1 Jessica stuck her hands in her #ockets. dro##ing her hand from his arm.1 She smiled again.1 Her e es drifted to the #hone on the counter. at least he'll be sitting down. %efore he got sick. 1He 4ust wanted the #lace to himself for a week or .1 Slade leaned against the secretaire. $'ll get the new stock situated in the meantime so he's not tem#ted. 1He's hardl more than a bo reall . 1He's nearl as obsessed with this #lace as $ am. 1He damn well better do what $ tell him.onda . $f he's going to come in on .1 1He said he wouldn't come in until . he was tr ing to talk me into a "acation. 1Does e"er one do what ou tell them+1 1He's m em#lo ee.1 As quickl as she had flared u#. her mood shifted and she smiled. tossing her head so that her hair swung behind her.Slade's e es were suddenl keen on her face. all right. $f $ so much as mo"e a candlestick. he'll 4ust get defensi"e.1 She laughed. 1He wanted ou to lea"e the #a#erwork on the new shi#ments for him. )hough $ a##reciate his dedication to the business. 1$f $ call. and %ets nags at him.onda .
1$s there a #articular centur or st le+ :enaissance. low chest.1 1A "er dedicated assistant. $talian Pro"incial+1 . 1All right.1 She acce#ted this with a nod. 1%esides. 1*hat are ou doing here. he ga"e her a cautious smile.two. half war that the reser"e of the last few da s had "anished. 1$ told Da"id $'d gi"e ou a hand.1 Half glad.1 he returned. $ thought $ might be able to get some information on antiques.1 1)hat was "er nice.1 Slade murmured. -arl American.1 1!h.1 Jessica e&#lained as she walked to a long. 1!h. Da"id's that. Slade+ $ thought ou'd be buried in books. :esearch. 1$ can be nice occasionall . *hat #eriod were ou interested in+1 1Period+1 10urniture. $ wouldn't mind ha"ing some hel# with the hea"ier things.1 Jessica agreed.1 )he sur#rise in her "oice had his smile widening.
gilded and car"ed. )his chair was Chi##endale''see the square. )his cabinet was 0rench %aroque''in satinwood.1 Slade im#ro"ised as he nudged Jessica awa from the chest. if she turned a #rofit. During the morning the were interru#ted half a do/en times b customers. Jessica arranged the lighter #ieces while kee#ing u# a running dialog on the furniture the mo"ed. if she was dedicated to her sho#.ow that he'd .ot onl did she handle #eo#le with a deft skill he was forced to admire. but worked harder than he'd gi"en her credit for.1Just a general sort of lesson toda to gi"e me the feel of it. but she made mone ''if the discreet #rice tags he'd come across were an indication. $f he hadn't been sure before. She ran o"er a little table with a #olishing cloth. She not onl knew how to manage it. Her sho# was no to to her. Slade watched her show #ieces. 1*here do ou want this+1 He lifted and carried. . then dicker o"er #rices. e&#lain their background. Jessica turned from antique lo"er to sales#erson. he wondered. would she risk using her business for smuggling+ . So wh . ta#ered seat and cabriole leg. e&#laining about Chinese influences and tea ser"ices. he was certain now.
)urning. . )hough the touched in no other wa . then came to hers. he disco"ered that he wanted her. $ hate to ask. $n that instant the both knew he had onl to touch her for e"er thing to change. he suddenl had a "er clear sensation of how her bod would feel #ressed against his. *as it #lausible that an o#eration was going on under her nose without her knowledge+ 1Slade. 1Ask what+1 Her mind went blank. she was aware of a #ressure in her chest. Jessica did neither. as though someone were #ressing hard against it to cut off her air. he tra##ed her effecti"el between the chest and himself. His e es brushed o"er her mouth. it seemed. Her hand remained on his arm. She could ha"e ste##ed back an inch and broken the contact''ste##ed forward an inch to consummate it.met her and s#ent some time with her. for her hand was alread on his arm. 2et she wasn't lacking in brains. 4ust below the elbow. it wasn't as eas for Slade to dismiss it as kicks or thrills.1 Jessica ke#t her "oice lowered as she came close to his side. Some sound filled her head. $rres#onsible or not. Diml . )ouching came naturall to her. like an echo of surf #ounding on the shore.
She #laced the flat of her #alm on her chest as if to relie"e the #ressure that lingered there. Don't o"erreact the ne&t time.rs. from an in"ol"ement he couldn't afford. Half question. retreating from the edge. Jessica allowed herself a long. He sna##ed back. *ould ou mind #utting it in the back of her station wagon+1 1All right. Shaken. half in"itation.ac=en/ie wants to take the chifforobe with her. She needed distance.1 she murmured. as if he could see what $'m thinking. She's gone out to #ull her car to the front. She ran an unstead hand through her hair. .1 She indicated the #iece with a silent gesture.1Slade. she warned herself. she ad"ised herself. 1Did ou want me to mo"e something else+1 His "oice was cool as he ste##ed awa from her. uneas breath. He wouldn't be gentle. Alone. or #articularl kind. $t's the wa he looks at me. Jessica backed toward the chest. 1. not mo"ing until he was out the front door with it. )hat was not a man a woman should lose control with. $ don't e"en . Jessica decided.
He took her arms briefl in refle&. $ didn't know ou were behind me. As Slade watched she hurried from window to window.. so how could he+ And et. 1$'m star"ed.o. *hen the door 4ingled o#en again. *ell.. then as quickl dro##ed them. $ su##ose not. and $'"e had ou dragging furniture around all morning.1 She hustled to the back of the sho# and #ulled o#en the door of a small refrigerator. $ knew $'d seen some. 1$t's after one. *ill this do+1 Safel at arm's length. )he . then rummaged. Heart hammering.know what $'m thinking when he looks at me. and et her #ulse was still racing. she hadn't budged from her s#ot in front of the chest of drawers. 1Sorr . then started to mo"e.1 His e&#ression was bland as he took it and sat at the table. 1Here. she offered the bottle. She crouched.1 Straightening.1 she said when he remained silent. 1. Jessica turned and collided with his chest. 12ou must be too. 10ine.1 she im#ro"ised swiftl . 1)ea+1 Her laughter eased her own tension. How about a sandwich and some tea+1 Slade managed to smile and sneer at the same time. lowering shades. She hung a sign on the door and then locked it. she ste##ed awa . Da"id kee#s some beer.
He watched the sunlight stream through the window onto her hair.1 *hat goes on in his mind+ she wondered as she ke#t her hands bus . She sliced neatl through bread and meat. $t's 4ust not #ossible to tell what he's thinking. He had such long. #rudentl kee#ing her back to him. but not une&#ected this time.ow. e&#erienced. he'd ne"er sto# there. Desire tightened. 1:oast beef all right+1 12eah.tension had settled at the base of his neck. lean fingers. !nce he did. Slade twisted the ca# from the beer. )he flare of desire was quick. Strong. she caught herself wondering how the would feel on her bod . $t fell softl on the "aried hues of blue in her sweater. He liked the wa the material clung to her. Almost "iolentl . a hard ball in the #it of his stomach. 1$'ll fi& some sandwiches. He'd ha"e to be careful not to touch her again. that's fine. 0ighting it. 3ooking down at her own hands. she sliced the second sandwich a bit sa"agel . . Com#etent. She'd liked the look of them.1 Jessica became "er bus in the refrigerator. demanding. !r to gi"e in to the urge to taste that subtl #assionate mouth of hers. she thought of Slade's. enhancing the straight. slender back and narrow .
He wasn't going to get "er far if the were both #reoccu#ied with an attraction neither wanted. 12ou'"e got quite a #lace here. 1*h antiques+1 . %ut he noted too the tension in her shoulders.1 He wasn't aware that it was the first time he'd said her name. 1Peo#le ha"e finall sto##ed calling it Jessica's 3ittle Hobb . He had to make her rela& and talk.ot to me.1 She stretched on ti#toe to reach a cu#.1 %elatedl she remembered to turn the burner on under the kettle as she brought his sandwich to the table. )hat #leased her as much as the careful com#liment.1 Slade brought the bottle to his li#s and drank. Slade knew one certain wa of accom#lishing that.o. but she was. Jessica. 1%ut to a lot of #eo#le it was 4ust Justice *inslow's daughter ha"ing a fling at business. Did ou want a glass for that+1 1.waist. 1)hank ou.1 1$s that what it started out to be+1 1. Slade watched the hem of her skirt sneak u#.
he mused. He could sense the #ent'u# energ e"en as she sat there calml drinking tea.. $t's sensible to make a career out of something ou know and a##reciate. 1%ut that's a necessar #art of the whole. 1Da"id : ce work for ou long+1 1About a ear and a half. 1*hen it's #ossible. 1$ lo"ed it. it was hard enough. something $ lo"ed. How'd ou get started+1 1$ was luck enough to ha"e the funds to back me u# the first ear while $ gathered stock and reno"ated this #lace. don't ou think+1 He thought of the standard #olice'issue re"ol"er hidden in his bedroom.1$t was something $ knew. 1Do ou know what $ mean+1 . learning about ta&es. the tra"eling. Setting u# books.1 She smiled across the table at Slade. *ith that.1 )he kettle shrilled.. and the selling. 1-"en with that. the first cou#le of ears were killers. then s#uttered when she switched off the heat.1 She wrinkled her nose as she brought her #late and cu# to the table. getting licenses.1 She would ha"e.1 She bit into her sandwich. He was at that undecided #oint of his life $ su##ose we all go through when we'"e finished being teenagers but ha"en't quite gras#ed adulthood.
1.ichael. his initial lack of interest.1 1.ichael and $ can handle the bu ing and selling. 1. Slade re#eated the name as though it meant nothing.1 she commented easil . 1As it turned out. He's much better with bookkee#ing and in"entor . within si& months he sto##ed being resentful and became indis#ensable. his grudging acce#tance. Da"id and $ grew u# together. di#lomatic with customers. all the im#orts at an rate.. he resented the offer of a 4ob and the fact that he needed one.. 1An wa .1 .1 She sighed a bit. He's "er quick. 1He isn't alwa s.1 %efore he drank again. . )here's nothing harder on the ego than ha"ing big sister gi"e ou a break. remembering his moodiness.1 12ou #robabl less than most.ichael does almost all m bu ing.ore or less.1 1!h+1 Her e es danced. And he's better with them than the selling angle. Da"id considers the books his #ro"ince now. #articularl with figures.
1 Jessica went on.ot from o"erseas.1 She laughed as she lifted her cu#. Just how much was between owner and bu er+ he wondered..1 He wondered if her analog was fact.. .1 Jessica to ed with the last half of her sandwich. he thought. shooting little flames of red into the delicate blue. And . *atching out for estate sales and auctions 4ust in the . 1He's "er smooth''both looks and manner. )he sun hit the stones. twisted band of gold on her right hand and a star'sha#ed grou# of o#als on her left.ichael Adams shi##ing gems as well as He##lewhites across the Atlantic+ 1. She wore a thin.ichael's been handling that #art of the business for nearl three ears.. 1$f $'d tried to kee# u# with it.1 Slade noted the affection in her "oice and s#eculated. 1And he's not onl a good bu er.ichael.12ou don't bu the stock ourself+1 1. . not an more.ichael has a real genius for finding gems. $f Adams was in"ol"ed in smuggling. $ wouldn't ha"e been able to kee# the sho# o#en ear round. but a terrific salesman..ew -ngland area takes me awa from the sho# enough as it is. Particularl with m female clientele. His thoughts trailed off as he looked down at her hands. $t suited her. *as . and Jessica's lo"er. taking another swig of beer.
1$ alwa s call him that. #u//led. 1He sent ou. $ might e"en take . $'"e gotten s#oiled.ncle Charlie.1 Jessica stretched her shoulders with a sigh. She's not a fool. 1$'d think the bu ing end would be half the fun.1 Still frowning at him. Slade concluded as he swung an arm o"er the back of his chair. 1. Habit.1 1$t can be. $t can also be a giant headache.1 Jessica re#eated.1$n an case. 1$ don't think of him as . Jessica set down her cu#. Don't ou like to tra"el+1 He changed the sub4ect neatl .ncle Charlie.1 Slade ga"e a quick silent oath as he shrugged.1 1)he commissioner's awfull formal.ncle Charlie u# on his in"itation. $'ll be glad to ha"e both . Air#orts and auctions and .1 1. disarming smile.1 he said blandl . adding a quick. 1$t's been a long time since $'"e had to run the sho# alone. 1)he commissioner.ncle Charlie+1 Her cu# #aused halfwa to her li#s.ichael and Da"id back ne&t week.
And after nearl fi"e ears.1 she murmured. but it was still there. 1)here's nothing harder than to lose someone ou lo"ed and li"ed with and de#ended on. it's been wonderful for her.1 he answered before he thought. Her e es came u# and fi&ed on his. $ want to "isit m mother and her husband in 0rance. she was so lost. After m father died. 1$ ha"e been thinking about combining a business and #leasure tri# ne&t s#ring. 1He was killed in action fi"e ears ago. $t was dull with time.customs.1 12our mother remarried+1 12es. -s#eciall when ou think that #erson is indestructible6 then he's taken awa with no warning. she mused. father was a co#. there was still an ache. 1$ know.1 he answered curtl . *e both were. 1.1 )he line between her brows "anished.1 . 1Do ou+1 He didn't like the emotion she stirred u# in him. touching off a chord of res#onse in him.1 Her "oice had thickened.
1!h. $t was immediatel followed b a laugh. Jessica went straight to the door to sna# u# the shade on the glass.1 Jessica reached for his hand.1 Jessica fli##ed the lock to admit him. wouldn't eulogi/e. Slade sighed. *hen the entered the sho#. then had backed off when she'd seen that it wasn't wanted. Slade.1 She wouldn't #robe. he reali/ed. $t was difficult enough to deal with his attraction to her without starting to like her as well.1 He rose to hel# her clear the table.1 . 1Do ou want something else+ $ imagine there're cookies stashed around here somewhere.1 1*i"es of co#s learn to li"e with the risk. 1. Slade whirled shar#l as he heard her quick cr of alarm. 3a ton. stacking #lates.o.1 He mo"ed his hand back to his beer. He wasn't a man to share emotion of an kind easil .r. 12ou scared the wits out of me. 1How terrible''how terrible for our mother. 1. Sensing withdrawal. Jessica said nothing. She rose. She'd offered him her s m#ath .
he ga"e Slade an inquiring look. stern face lightened with a smile as he took Jessica's hand. 1. $ . His bankerish suit was offset b a gra silk tie the same color as his hair. He's sta ing with us for a while. ou did the same to me. well dressed.ichael's been in -uro#e for three weeks. but then. $'"e 4ust managed to get this one arranged. .r.1 He chuckled. dear. $ ho#e. .1 1!h.1 1Just the flu. and another's on its wa . Da"id's been ill. $'d asked him to kee# an e e out for a #iece or two for me before he left.1 5lancing #ast her. 2our . 1Sorr . nothing serious.1 1!h.He was tall. 3a ton. 1$t's more our #redictabilit than chance.r. and fift ish. 1%ut a hea" dose of it. )he rather thin. a hoarse sound due to his fondness for Cuban cigars. 1)his is James Sladerman. well''1 )he 4ingle of the door interru#ted her. Chambers.iss *inslow.1 Jessica told him.1 She ga"e him a sudden shrewd smile. 12ou alwa s manage to #o# in on me when $'"e 4ust gotten in a shi#ment.
1 Chambers ga"e her a rather shee#ish smile as he remo"ed his hat. Chambers turned to fuss o"er a curio cabinet. Slade glanced down at the ticket Jessica was writing u#. Slade watched both men. the a##eared to ha"e at least a basic knowledge of antiques''at least from what he could glean from their con"ersation as the both discussed the cabinet. 1$ can't resist it.1 3a ton ga"e Jessica's shoulder a #at. *hoe"er the were. 3ater he would commit them to #a#er and call them in. Her .1 he began. !nce he drew out a #air of half glasses and crouched down to stud the car"ing on a table.didn't e&#ect ou back so soon. 1$'ll 4ust browse for the moment. He choked back a snort of derision at the idea of a rational man bu ing an thing as ridiculous as a snuffbo&. m dear. 1)he bo& with the #earl inla . After telling Jessica to wra# the bo&. $t was a sim#le matter for Slade to mentall note both men's descri#tions and names. 3a ton browsed.1 Pretending an interest in a collection of #ewter.1 15o on ahead. Slade could hear Jessica's quiet "oice as she discussed a snuffbo& with Chambers. *andering to the counter. lingering here and there to e&amine a #iece.
then sent Slade a wicked grin. but she no longer felt eas .1 She ga"e a low laugh. 1$ wouldn't ha"e thought so. saw that the were occu#ied. and legible. He leaned a bit closer. 3a ton's hoarse chuckle . He was still smiling. !ne eighteenth'centur snuffbo&.1 0or the first time he reached out to touch her "oluntaril ''4ust the ti# of her hair with the ti# of his finger. )he #en sli##ed out of Jessica's hand. 1Are ou corru#tible+1 he murmured. 0rench with #earl inla . Jessica found herself grateful that the counter was between them and there were customers in the sho#. 1Are ou kidding+1 he asked aloud. not insane.1 she managed. 1Absolutel none. but the grin had a##ealed to him. feminine. Slade+1 1$mmoral. 1. en4o ing the eas humor in his e es. 1Don't ou ha"e an "ices. 1Ssh<1 She glanced o"er at her customers. $t was the first time she'd seen it. $t was the #rice that had him doing a double take.handwriting was neat.1 he retorted.o. 1Do ou+1 She let the look hold.
equaled elegant #rices. !ne wrong turn with this man and ou'd be through the guardrail and o"er the cliff.1 she said to both men. Slade saw them as a chair and a table. though he made no sound. And. 1*ith customers like that. $n the end Chambers bought the cabinet.1 1$ could.distracted her. her mind warned. when Slade turned his attention from her and wandered to the far end of the room. Dangerous cur"es ahead. Jessica walked toward her customers. he imagined. too ornate for the a"erage taste. .1 he commented when the sho# was em#t . 1%ut it's not what $ want. She'd been too cautious for too long to be reckless now. of course. while 3a ton chose what Jessica referred to as a fauteuil and a console from the 3ouis @( #eriod.r.1 She was aware. $t's m good fortune that the '"e . 1$t arri"ed right after ou'd left the other da . not e"er one bu s as freel .1 she agreed as she filed the sli#s. gi"ing Slade a wide berth. 1$t's a lo"el little #iece. 1 ou could o#en a #lace twice this si/e. Chambers. %ut elegant names. Coming around the counter. )hose are men who know what the like and can afford to ha"e it.
taken to bu ing it here for the #ast ear or so. $t wasn't often Dresden was described as nice.1 1And a thoughtful son. $nside was a collection of #orcelain figures. o#ening a drawer here and there until he settled in front of a corner cabinet.1 1$'"e alwa s thought this was the best in the collection. 1She does ha"e a birthda . . 1. He ke#t his back to her. 12eah. though that didn't #re"ent her scent from cree#ing into his senses. 13o"el . mother likes things like this.1 She caught her bottom li# between her teeth. aren't the +1 she commented as she 4oined him.1 Her e es were dancing when he lifted his to them. the 're nice.1 Jessica o#ened the door and drew out a small.1 She watched him #oke around. 1$ nearl whisked her awa for m self. delicate she#herdess.1 Slade frowned at it.
1$t's our mother's birthda after all. 1)went dollars. he smiled.1 she said im#ulsi"el . Jessica. 1)went 'fi"e. $t was bargaining time. Slade stuck his hands in his #ockets and frowned at the figurine again. 0rustrated.1 1$t certainl would be to her. 1$'m not stu#id.1 1)ake it or lea"e it. the stubborn line a##eared between her brows. Jessica hustled o"er to the .1 :eluctantl . 1Sold. )here was nothing she liked better. How much+1 *hen she tilted her head. Jessica ran her tongue o"er her teeth.1 1$t's worth a hell of a lot more than that.1 she said with a shrug.1How much+1 he said flatl . )hat's m last offer. 12ou're cra/ . 1)went 'two fift .1 he said.1 Jessica agreed.1 %efore he could change his mind. He laughed shortl .
1$ can gift'wra# if ou like.iss *inslow. 1Do ou alwa s do what ou want+1 1$ gi"e it m best shot. . watching as she laid the #orcelain in a bed of tissue #a#er. she #eeled the #rice tag from the bottom and dro##ed it in the trash. Doesn't e"er one+1 %efore he could answer. 1Deli"er for ou.counter and began to bo& it. and onl took this one because it was for someone he cared for. Jessica ga"e him a long. considering look.1 His brow lifted and his e es were suddenl "er intense.1 1)hat's not what $ mean.1 .1 she said. 1*h +1 1%ecause it's her birthda . 1%ecause $ want to.1 Slowl he walked o"er to the counter.o charge. He didn't like fa"ors. 1.1 He #ut a hand on the bo& to sto# her mo"ements. the door o#ened again. she concluded. 1*h +1 he re#eated. %irthda #resents should be wra##ed. *ith a deft mo"e.
3istening to her stead stream of e&citement as he uncarted bo&es. His 4ob was to find out what he could. he reminded himself. Another ear and there'd be no commissioner to hand him s#ecial assignments as a bab sitter cum s# for goddaughters with amber e es. He needed facts. she was a sus#ect.ncle Charlie that had #ut him there. he was able to e&amine each #iece carefull . e"en if it meant turning e"idence on her. Another ear. And it was her damn . He was a co#.Slade felt a stir of e&citement as the deli"er was offloaded.a be.. He wanted to tie this case u# quickl . He found nothing. )he twinge of conscience infuriated him. 4ust ma be. )he weren't a man and woman. $n his tem#orar #osition as mo"er and hauler. 0or the two hours it took to unload the shi#ment. Slade thought he'd ne"er known an one who a##eared less ca#able of dishonest . %ut that was a feeling. He caught no uneasiness from Jessica. Slade told himself again.. and he couldn't forget it. there'd be something. His instinct had told him he wouldn't but Slade could ha"e used e"en a crumb to 4ustif his #resence. while he still had some ob4ecti"it . . She ne"er sto##ed mo"ing. neatl . He was doing his 4ob. a hunch. Jessica was . Jessica *inslow had a wa of smearing the issue. and be gone. but rather her a##reciation for hel#ing her check for damage during shi##ing.
dragging out em#t crates. she rubbed at the small of her back. #olishing. $'m star"ing. 1*hat a romantic in"itation. 1$t's a good thing those three #ieces are being shi##ed out . $t's a bit crowded. Slade. amused.1 1How about a hamburger and a mo"ie+1 he said im#ulsi"el . He . $t's after fi"e. How can $ refuse+1 12ou want romance+1 he countered. 1$ didn't mean to kee# ou so long. 1Here. he was alread half regretting ha"ing asked.1 She turned to him with an a#ologetic smile. *hen there was nothing more to do. Sur#rised. she looked around for more. 1*e'll go to a dri"e'in mo"ie.1 .1 Slade told her before she could decide that something might be shown to a better ad"antage somewhere else. 1$ guess ou're right. 1)hat's it.e"er where. $'ll close u#. Jessica glanced around as she #ulled down the last shade. arranging.1 *ithout gi"ing him a chance to comment. $'m 4ust kee#ing an e e on her.onda .1 Absentl . she thought. 0rom the look on his face. )hat's what $'m here to do. she dashed to the back room for their 4ackets. he told himself. %ut that was no reason to let him off the hook.
$ want the desk and its contents b *ednesda . 1Hello.1 1Possibl .1 12ou're mistaken.He heard her quick gurgle of laughter as he grabbed her hand and #ulled her outside. 1$'"e been to the sho# m self.1 1$t has to be there. 1$t's with the rest of the shi#ment.1 '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' . 2ou'll clear this u# immediatel . of course.1 )he "oice was soft and cold.1 A flutter of #anic rose in his throat. $t was late when the #hone rang. 12ou understand the #enalt for mistakes.1 )he #ause was slight. )he seated figure reached for it and a cigarette simultaneousl .1 1*here's the desk+1 1)he desk+1 0rowning. 1Jessica 4ust hasn't un#acked it et. he brought the flame to the ti# and drew.
)here was something remote about him that made her want to #r him o#en a bit. %ut he had guards. )he 'd been there. intense e es of his clearl said 1=ee# back6 arm's length. that wasn't quite true. but she .o. She'd ne"er known a man with such guards. He wasn't a man for di"ulging secrets or bothering with small talk. e&as#erated b him. He didn't flatter''not b looks or words. -"en when she'd been comfortable or e&as#erated. she thought with quick frustration. she'd been attracted. her own instincti"e awareness of what the consequences would be held her back. she mused. and attracted to him.1 *hile the challenge of #iercing his armor a##ealed to her. she amended. And et she felt certain that he wasn't indifferent to her.e&t Jessica woke thinking of him. )hose dark. She'd #ut quite a lot of effort into that the e"ening before and had come u# with nothing. A mood man. $t wasn't #ossible that she'd imagined those moments of #h sical #ull. % turns she had been comfortable with him. She took time on the la/ Sunda morning to #onder the "er odd Saturda she had s#ent''most of it with Slade.Cha#ter A ''''''''' Contents ' Pre" 9 . Jessica en4o ed a dare. for him as well as for her. stretching her arms toward the ceiling. . He was an odd combination of the direct and the aloof.
usuall figured the odds first. $n this case, she decided, the were stacked against her.
A nice, cautious friendshi# was in order, she concluded. An thing else s#elled trouble. :ising, she #icked u# her robe and headed for the shower. %ut wouldn't it be nice, she thought, to feel that rather hard mouth on hers. Just once.
Downstairs, Slade was closeted in the librar . He'd been u# since dawn''she was crowding his mind. *hat cra/ im#ulse had #rom#ted him to ask her out the night before+ After downing his fourth cu# of coffee, Slade lit a cigarette. 0or 5od's sake, he didn't ha"e to date the woman to do his 4ob. She was getting to him, he admitted as he #ushed a #ile of books aside. )hat low, musical laugh and all that soft blond hair. $t was more than that, he thought ruefull . $t was her. She was too close to #ossessing all the things he'd e"er wanted in a woman''warmth, generosit , intelligence. And that steam , almost #rimiti"e se&ualit ou could sense 4ust under the surface. $f he ke#t thinking of her that wa , it was going to cloud his ob4ecti"it . -"en now he was finding himself tr ing to work out a wa to kee# her out of the middle.
*hen Slade drew on the cigarette, his e es were hard and o#aque. He'd #rotect her when the time came, e&#ose her if it came to that. %ut there
was no wa to kee# her out of it. Still, o"er the mi& of leather and dust and smoke, he thought he caught a lingering trace of her scent.
After e"ading the cook's admonishment to #ut something in her stomach, Jessica drank a hurried cu# of coffee. 1*here's Da"id+1 she called out when she s#otted %ets , armed with a rag and a bottle of sil"er #olish.
1He took a walk down to the beach.1 His mother harrum#hed a bit, but added, 1He looks better. $ guess the air'll do him good.1
1$'ll grab a 4acket and check on him.1
13ong as he doesn't know that's what ou're u# to.1
1%ets <1 Jessica feigned offense. 1$'m much too good for that.1 As the housekee#er snorted, the doorbell sounded. 15o ahead,1 Jessica told her. 1$'ll get it.1 She made a dash for the door. 1,ichael<1 *ith #leasure, she threw her arms around his neck. 1$t's good to ha"e ou back.1
Slade came into the hall in time to see Jessica embraced and kissed. *ith that low #romising laugh, she #ressed her cheek against the cheek of a slender, dark'haired man with smooth features and light green e es. ,ichael Adams, Slade concluded, after conquering the urge to stride u#
to the cou#le and ank them a#art. )he descri#tion fit. He caught the gleam of a diamond on the man's #ink as he ran his hand through Jessica's hair. Soft hands and a sunlam# tan, Slade thought instantl .
1$'"e missed ou, darling.1 ,ichael drew Jessica back far enough to smile into her face.
She laughed again, touching a hand to his cheek before she ste##ed out of his arms. 1=nowing ou, ,ichael, ou were too bus with business and... other things to miss an one. How man broken hearts did ou lea"e in -uro#e+1
1$ ne"er break them,1 ,ichael claimed before brushing her li#s again. 1And $ did miss ou.1
1Come inside and tell me e"er thing,1 she ordered while tucking her arm through his. 1)he stock ou sent back is wonderful, as alwa s. $'"e alread sold... oh, hello, Slade.1 )he moment Jessica turned, she saw him. 7uickl , #otentl , his e es locked on hers. She had to use all of her strength of will not to draw in her breath. *as there a demand in them+ she wondered. A question+ Confused, she ga"e a slight shake of her head. *hat was it he wanted from her+ And wh was she read to gi"e it without e"en knowing what it was+
1Jessica.1 )here was a faint smile on his face as he waited.
1,ichael, this is James Sladerman. He's sta ing with us for a while and tr ing to make some order out of the librar .1
1.o small 4ob from what $'"e seen of it,1 ,ichael commented. 1$ ho#e ou'"e got #lent of time.1
=nowing the housekee#er would be close enough to ea"esdro#, Jessica ste##ed awa from ,ichael and called her. 1%ets , could we ha"e coffee in the #arlor+ Slade, ou'll 4oin us+1
She had e&#ected him to refuse, but he ga"e her a slow smile. 1Sure.1 He didn't ha"e to look at ,ichael to see the anno ance before the walked into the #arlor.
1*h , Jessica, what's the 7ueen Anne doing here+1
10ate,1 she told him, then laughed as she sat on the sofa. 1$'d meant to ask ou to find one for me. *hen $ saw it on the shi##ing list, $
wondered if ou were #s chic.1
After stud ing it for a moment, he nodded. 1$t certainl suits this room.1 He sat ne&t to Jessica as Slade settled in an armchair. 1.o #roblem with the shi#ments+1
1.o, the 're alread un#acked. As a matter of fact, three #ieces go out tomorrow. Da"id's been ill this #ast week. Slade hel#ed me get things in order esterda .1
1:eall +1 ,ichael took out a wafer'thin gold case, then offered Slade a cigarette. :efusing with a shake of his head, Slade #ulled out his own #ack, 1Do ou know antiques, ,r. Sladerman+1
1.o.1 Slade struck a match, watching ,ichael o"er the flame. 1;nless we count the lesson Jessica ga"e me esterda .1
,ichael sat back, tossing an arm casuall o"er the back of the sofa. 1*hat do ou do+1 His smooth, neat fingers to ed absentl with Jessica's hair. Slade took a hard drag on his cigarette.
1$'m a writer.1
10ascinating. *ould $ ha"e read an of our work+1
He ga"e ,ichael a long, stead stare. 1$ wouldn't think so.1
1Slade is working on a no"el,1 Jessica inter"ened. )here were undercurrents that made her uncomfortable. 12ou ha"en't told me et what it's about.1
He caught the look in her e e, recogni/ing it as a #lea for #eace. .ot et, he decided. *e'll 4ust see what we can stir u#. 1Smuggling,1 he said flatl . )here was a loud clatter of china from the doorwa .
1Damn<1 Da"id took a firmer gri# on the tra , then ga"e Jessica a shee#ish smile. 1$ almost dro##ed the whole works.1
1Da"id<1 She s#rang u# to take the coffee tra from him. 12ou can hardl carr ourself, much less all this.1 Slade watched him gi"e her a
disgruntled look before he flo##ed into a chair.
Da"id was still #ale''or had the loss of color come when smuggling had been mentioned+ Slade wondered. )here was a faint line of sweat on his brow between his mo# of hair and his glasses. After setting down the tra , Jessica turned back to him.
1 1!h. his e es lit on the desk.ichael's finds $'"e alread laid claim to. 1He .1 . he grinned. sir. 15otta know how to handle these societ t #es. 1Don't fuss.1 )hough he ga"e her hair a hard tug. . *elcome back.1 Jessica told him as she brought him his coffee.1How do ou feel+1 Da"id scowled at her. 12ou can take care of the #a#erwork ne&t week. what's this+1 1!ne of .ichael. he found a crum#led #ack of cigarettes. *hen she turned. 1$f $'d known ou were going to be such a bad #atient. 15et me some coffee and shut u#.1 1All right. es. Hi. $'d ha"e brought ou some cra ons and colored #a#er.1 :eaching in his #ocket.1 She leaned o"er until her face was le"el with his. Da"id sent Slade a quick wink.1 she said meekl . As he searched for matches.
Slade concluded that she was "er casual about it. $f the were lo"ers. $f there was one firm im#ression he'd gotten from Jessica *inslow. Da"id was ob"iousl her substitute. 1.1 1$t's lo"el . he studied both men. Shifting his e es from Jessica. and catered to him. e eing the desk. How far would she go to #rotect him+ he wondered. Somehow he didn't . Slade felt the back of his neck #rickle. Da"id found his match. !#ening the lid. 17ueen Anne.1 Jessica told Da"id as she came back to the sofa. $t showed in the wa she teased. *ith a half shrug. All the wa flashed through his mind.1. .ichael was less defined.1 Slade let the con"ersation hum around him. lightl bullied. answering briefl if he was asked a direct question. )here was a rise in tension. it was lo alt .1 he said firml .onda . she showed off the inside. Slade told himself he was getting 4um# . 1And wait until ou see the rest of the stock. Slade remembered her comment about ha"ing wanted a brother or sister. Her relationshi# with .ichael outdid himself. She was cra/ about the kid. isn't it+1 She handed Slade a cu# before crossing to it. he felt it''could nearl smell it.ichael added cream to his coffee. he concluded.
scattering her thoughts. Slowl . he thought as his ga/e drifted to her mouth. $f . it would ha"e been there. irresistibl .1 . $f he could ha"e her. He needed to touch that butter'soft skin. he thought again. She could feel herself being #ulled''as #h sical a sensation as if he had taken her hand. Slade would ha"e seen some sign of it in the kiss the had e&changed at the door. her mind flashed. 1Jessica. 5lancing u#. She resisted. e"en once. He had to be free of her. "ibrant #assion smoldering in that slender little bod . 1Hmm. )here was hot. the ache would go. $f she had been in his arms. es+1 . And et the risk tem#ted her. throbbing ache he'd ne"er felt before. then he'd be free of her. $t was soft and un#ainted. Passion. e&#erience that #romise of #assion. 0rom ten feet awa he could all but taste it. 2ou'll ne"er get awa if ou take that final ste#. and with it an ache''a dull. Jessica found herself tra##ed again. His e es im#risoned her. Slade could almost con"ince himself of that.ichael was her lo"er. desire cre#t into him. He's quicksand.feel Jessica would be casual about intimac .ichael took her hand.
)his was a man she understood.1 he told Slade. 1)here goes .iss :adcliffe.1 1How would ou like to be flat on our back again+1 she in"ited sweetl . familiar green e es smiled at her. as if she had been in one #lace too long. 1She forgets $ was around when she was twel"e and had braces on her teeth.l sses for a walk on the . 1!h. Da"id.ichael.ichael rose.1How about dinner tonight+ )he little #lace u# the coast ou like.1 5i"ing her a quick kiss. 1$'m going to take . Jessica set down her cu# and s#rang u#. .1 Jessica lifted her brow at the order.1 1And don't worr about getting home earl . 1$'d lo"e to. . 1$'m minding the sho# tomorrow6 ou sta home.ice to meet ou. .1 Da"id #ut in.1 His calm. ignoring Da"id's grin. reall +1 Da"id snorted at the dr tone. 1See ou tomorrow.1 she told . Sladerman. 10ine.1 As he left. Jessica felt her #ulses le"el.r. 1$'ll be read at se"en.
Slade watched Jessica run to another #iece of driftwood. :esigned. )o the right. . *atch what the sunlight does to her hair. And she was getting to him. stoo#ing to #ick u# driftwood and toss it for the dog to chase. *atch how a #air of faded 4eans cling to narrow hi#s.1 )he beach was long and rock . 0rom off the ba . *atch how her mouth cur"es when she smiles.. She laughed again. $'ll get a 4acket. *atch Detecti"e Sladerman blow . Slade+1 He would ha"e liked to steer clear of her for a while. running energetic circles around them until Jessica flung another stick.1 Da"id drawled. the bree/e was keen and tinged with salt. holding the stick o"er her head as the dog lea#ed clumsil at it. Doesn't she e"er walk+ he wondered. Slade 4ammed his hands in his #ockets as he remembered his orders.1 1$ wasn't going to ask ou. 1$ ha"e to conser"e m energ ..l sses bounded u# the beach and back again.beach. Jessica was laughing. water hurled itself on rocks. damn it. he rose. He was watching the woman. then rose in a mist s#ra . *atch the woman. 1Sure.1 1Don't look at me. Don't contact us unless ou ha"e something useful.
#erha#s because there's so much ou don't sa . $ su##ose.1 she corrected. 1$ wonder what it is about ou that makes ou so secreti"e. $ don't think so.o.1 she murmured. 1$ wonder what it is about ou that makes ou so sus#icious.1 *ith an im#atient gesture. 1*hat are ou thinking+1 He sna##ed back to find Jessica a ste# in front of him searching his face. she #ushed back her hair.1 Anno ed. Slade.e"er thing because he can't kee# his mind off a skinn woman with brand 'colored e es. Jessica narrowed her e es. Cursing himself. 1)hat $ ha"en't been to the beach in a long time. 1. 12ou're an interesting man. a bit #u//led b his choice of word. )he wind immediatel blew it back in her face. a biogra#h +1 .1 1Curious. he reali/ed he was going to blow more than his co"er if he wasn't careful.1 he im#ro"ised. he #icked u# a rock and hurled it into the breakers.1 1*hat do ou want. 1%ut it's our business.
1And if $ do+1 she challenged. A man could drown in . she stood in front of him.o. he brought his mouth down hard on hers. her hair whi##ed around her face b the wind. ou damn well aren't.1 she murmured.1 )he nickname #leased her''no one but her father had e"er used it. Cursing her. 1. Soft. Jess. she wouldn't scare easil . .12ou anno easil . -"en as he anked her into his arms.o. He whirled to her. fragrant. She melted like wa& in his arms e"en as his li#s bruised hers. 12ou'll get #ushed back. 1Don't #ush it. acce#tance. She'd #oked the first hole in his shield. -"en knowing it didn't hel#. #liant. Her e es were gold and insolent. $t was as he thought it would be. Slade told himself it was to #ro"e a #oint. He saw it on her faceB antici#ation.o fear. Should that scare me+1 She was baiting him. . )he fur on his face #leased her too. $'m not #olite.1 She laughed. Slim and strong. he told himself it was to #ro"e a #oint.
)here was a sensation of standing in the surf.1 So did $. 1)hen take a dee# breath. *ith a long. her hair brushing his cheek. Her hands slid under his 4acket. was bound u# in the #ressure of mouth to mouth. he drew awa . with her snuggled close. tem#ting him to e&#lore their sha#e with his hands. all his concentration.her. )hen she tilted her face to his''she was smiling. ha"ing it ebb and suck the sand from under him. urging him to take more.1 .1 he told her. 1$ nearl suffocated. %ut all his #ower. Her breasts ielded against the hard line of his chest. . he mused.ow. He'd meant to dro# them. struggling to se#arate himself. He dragged her closer.1 His arms were still around her. 1$ think $ forgot. 1$'m not nearl finished et.1 Slade suggested. Jessica dro##ed her head on his shoulder. )he #ounding of the surf seemed to echo in his head. Head swimming. u# his back. 12ou're su##osed to breathe through our nose. shak breath. #ressing. he wasn't certain he could.
teasing. )ake me< $t's ne"er been like this and $ can't bear to lose it.o longer #assi"e. )here was nothing but him''his arms. She had ne"er felt this kind of need or this kind of #ower. Jessica made demands of her own. . . her gesture as much a demand as an offering. His fla"or was as dark and unsettling as she had imagined. his mouth returned to hers. He was stronger. searching. both hel#less and in"ulnerable. )his time she was #re#ared. #ounded in her. she knew''the sleek. with no less turbulence. Her bod felt assaulted. Arousal was too tame a word. tasting. He was all she wanted. 5reed .o need could be greater than the one that throbbed in her. Jessica felt a fren/ . Her li#s #arted and her tongue met his. . felt the sudden race of his heart against her own. e&citement too bland. she returned the same aggression.*ith no less force. a burst of energ that could onl be tamed b #ossession. She heard his moan. An urgenc filled her so quickl that it took total command. )ouch me< she wanted to scream as her fingers gri##ed his hair des#eratel . -"en when his li#s were brutal. hard muscles warned her''but his need could be no greater. She strained against him. she do"e dee#er. his li#s.
ow she stared at him. He stared down at her with a com#lete lack of interest. cheeks flushed with #assion. his identit . )he were o#aque again. Her mouth was moist and swollen from his. unreadable. Shame flooded her face with color.1 )here was nothing in his e es now. $'"e waited so long to reall know.1 *ith his name husk on her li#s. 3ike a s#ra of ice water. Anger stole in again. #arted. she reached for him. e es dark with it. !r more to the #oint. :oughl . with her breath coming ra#idl . )urning. he caught her wrist before she could touch him. *hat the hell was he doing+ he demanded as he #ushed Jessica awa . what was she doing to him+ He'd lost e"er thing''his #ur#ose. it 4olted Slade back. . He'd taken her to the edge. 12ou'd better go in. she dashed for the beach ste#s and .!h show me. 0or an instant she was too confused to understand. tenuous border.1 she whis#ered. she thought di//il . A gull screamed o"erhead. then had rudel sho"ed her back as though she hadn't mo"ed him in the least. his sanit ''in one head taste of her. to that thin. 1Damn ou. 1Slade.
Did she ha"e to look like that+ he thought darkl . she ga"e a nod of a##ro"al. and tightened his gri# on the screwdri"er. )urning sidewa s in front of the full'length mirror. . e&ce#t for the sur#rising #lunge in the back that di##ed 4ust below the waist. Satisfied. He glanced u#. She swe#t her hair back from her face with two diamond'crusted #ins. im#erial #ur#le. Jessica dressed with care. And the color suited her mood''a dee#. frowned. She remembered the feel of them when the 'd run o"er her bod in a quick. des#erate search. She found Slade in the #arlor.1 Jessica stated.took them two at a time.1 he muttered.ichael. )here was nothing like the feel of silk against the skin to sal"e wounded #ride. Slade turned the screw sa"agel . tightening a screw in a Chi##endale commode. His hands were lean and com#etent. Jessica grabbed her e"ening bag and started downstairs. then let it fall as it chose. he knew she was aware of it. )he dress clung e"er where. 1*ell. aren't ou hand . )he lines of the dress were sim#le. 1%ets com#lained that the handle was loose. and from the wa she walked b him. $t didn't bother her conscience that she had chosen the dress more with Slade in mind than .
Slade+1 !h. 1Dress like a woman. Her back was naked and slim and smooth. 1:ocks+1 1Straight u#. Jess+1 Determined to rattle him. do ou. she'd get through that damned indifference.1 she said lightl .1 he sna##ed. 13ike it+1 .1Jack of all trades. Slade took a long. )he silk shifted enticingl as she reached for a bottle of "ermouth. 1Drink+ $'m fi&ing martinis. she brought the glass to him. Jessica "owed. She smiled o"er her shoulder. slow si# of Scotch. Desire was as breathtaking as a #unch in the solar #le&us. He sli##ed the screwdri"er into the back #ocket of his 4eans and rose. =ee#ing his e es on hers.1 1Drink like a man.1 He started to refuse. do ou. she turned a circle. 1Scotch. After #ouring him three fingers. And en4o e"er minute of it. then made the mistake of looking o"er at her.
1Do ou ha"e an weaknesses. coa&ing her li#s to within an inch of his.1 .1 He went to her. then took hers. though she didn't back awa . *ith a #ro"ocati"e smile. 1)onight $ thought $'d test a theor . Slade+ An Achilles' heel+1 Deliberatel he set down his own glass.ormall $ dress for m self.1 After #ouring a drink. 1Do ou think women alwa s dress to stir men u#+1 1Don't the +1 1. Jess. she turned back to regard him o"er the rim. He felt her stiffen. 4ust as she had antici#ated. His fingers circled her neck. she turned awa to finish the martinis. )he challenge in her e es and his own ego made it im#erati"e. She felt the warm rush of his breath on her skin. 1*hat theor +1 Jessica met his angr ga/e without faltering. $ won't treat ou like a lad .1Did ou wear it to stir u# Adams' 4uices or mine+1 he countered. 12ou could regret finding out.
Slade sli##ed a hand inside his 4acket and gri##ed the butt of his gun. He saw the car #ull u# behind him. she met his e es with an angr dare. Slade #ulled his car to a halt a short distance awa from the restaurant.1 he said shortl . )ension #ricked at the back of his neck as the dri"er climbed out to a##roach his car. Commissioner Dodson told ou $'d be in touch+1 . A badge was #ressed against the window glass. Slade would ha"e been more comfortable if he could ha"e sli##ed inside to kee# a closer e e on Jessica. Slade #icked u# his drink and downed the rest of it.She tossed her head back. Slade rela&ed as the man rounded the hood to enter b the #assenger side. . 12ou follow the lad . switched off the engine. $ follow the man. 1*ho asked ou to+1 His fingers tightened6 her lashes lowered. )hough her heart was hammering.ichael's Daimler was 4ust being #arked b the "alet. #ulled out a cigarette. )he doorbell rang. then stalked out of the room. 12our date. 1Sladerman.1 Agent %rewster ga"e a quick nod of greeting. then waited. but that was too risk .
1 %rewster commented easil .1 1. at least one of 'em's hiding something. . As for Adams.othing1 Slade shifted to a more comfortable #osition.. but if she's in"ol"ed. $'d swear she didn't know it. then fli##ed his cigarette out the window.1 he heard himself sa . She's too damn casual to be hiding an thing.1 1... it's going to hit the fan. 12ou're in the ma4orit . 2ou'"e got nothing et. she's in a hell of a s#ot right now. Slade said nothing. 1*ell. 1$ s#ent the da at her sho# Saturda . hel#ed her uncart a new shi#ment.1 1She's not.1 15reenhart's looking after : ce. 1-"en if she's as #ure as a mother's heart. $f there was an thing in it. ma be all three. the lad 's got the 4ustice's name behind her and a lot of #olitical #ressure to kee# her name clear.a be. 1$f that fanc little sho#'s the dum# site. $ take it.1 *ith a weight sigh.. %rewster #ulled out a worn black #i#e and began to #ack it. $ had m hands all o"er e"er thing in that #lace. .ot a lot of action there6 the gu 's been laid u# for more than a week. Seems : ce is like bab brother.1 %rewster struck a match and sucked on his #i#e.12eah.
!n the night'black water there was moonlight and the scattered reflection of stars.ichael. $ missed m dinner.1 Slade mumbled. *inslow might find herself right in the middle. 1$'m glad ou thought of this. 1$ don't like her being alone with Adams in there.1 . )he scent of fresh flowers mi&ed with the aroma of food and candlewa&. )he restaurant was quiet and candlelit. Dodson seems to think ou're good enough to kee# her out of the wa when it goes down. soft laughter.ichael was a breathtaking "iew of the Sound. . Cham#agne bu//ed #leasantl in her head.1 Slade muttered.1 1*ell. %ut now she was com#letel rela&ed for the first time in o"er a week.1 %rewster touched his rounded stomach. % the table where Jessica sat with .Pressure's building. and when it does. Sladerman. Jessica would ha"e laughed.1 1$'ll take care of her.1 1She's not m lad . $f someone had told her she'd been working too hard latel . )he lid's going to blow real soon. it's going to get ugl . )he murmur of diners was discreet''low tones. 1$'ll 4ust go eat on the ta&#a ers' mone and kee# an e e on our lad .
.ichael. 1*h .1 )he gesture and the tone of his "oice sur#rised her. *h was it she alwa s seemed that much more beautiful when he'd been awa from her+ And had he. but ou're much better at it than $. $ hate to admit it. for a do/en foolish reasons. waited too long+ 1Jessica.1 1Come with ou+1 Her brow creased.1 Pu//led.ichael+ 2ou're more than ca#able of handling that end. throwing a m ster of shadows under her cheekbones.. 1$'"e missed ou.1 1$ don't want to be awa from ou again. enhancing the odd golden hue of her e es. . .He liked the wa the light flickered o"er her face. $ want ou to start coming with me on the bu ing tri#s.1 He brought her hand to his li#s. 1$t's good to ha"e ou back. Jessica ga"e a quick laugh as she squee/ed his hand.1 !dd that he'd alwa s been known for his smooth lines and was now unable to think how to #roceed.ichael. 1Jessica. . 1.
!h.1 She ran the fingers of her free hand u# and down the stem of her glass.. $ know there's nothing ou like better than /i##ing around -uro#e hunting u# treasures. friends. business associates. it's a first.1 1Sa es. but to her+ )he 'd been together for nearl three ears. that sounds so trite. She could hardl concei"e of . wh now+ *h all of a sudden+1 She sto##ed the ner"ous . and her face was trans#arent.1 He #laced a hand o"er their 4oined ones. .ichael. $f ou were homesick. $ had no idea.don't tell me ou were lonel . . and there was onl one thing $ was lonel for.1 Sur#rise was a mild term6 Jessica was stunned.1 His fingers tightened on hers. $ want ou to marr me. ou must know how $ feel.ichael..1 1. 1$'"e lo"ed ou for ears. 1Jessica.1 1. 1$ don't know what to sa to ou.ichael wanting to be married at all.arr + She nearl thought she had misunderstood him. but ne"er.ichael. 1$ wasn't homesick. Jessica.
1 he asked quietl .ichael. *ill ou think about it+1 12es. 1contenting m self with that+ Jessica. of course $ will. 12ou'"e located m #ro#ert +1 .1 And e"en as she #romised.1 1Do ou know how hard it's been. and see him as . but it didn't wake him. her friend. the memor of a "iolent embrace on a wind beach ran through her mind. all that he said. ou weren't read for m feelings. her lo"er. 12ou ne"er e"en hinted that ou had an feelings for me other than affection. $n the late hours the #hone rang.ichael. And et how was she to suddenl sto# seeing him as . either in reassurance or frustration.1 He squee/ed her hand.mo"ement of her hand and studied him. 1$ didn't e&#ect ou would so quickl . her husband+ 1$ don't know.1 $t was true. He'd been e&#ecting it. her associate. And $ wanted to build u# m own #art of it before $ asked ou. 2ou'"e been so wra##ed u# in making a success out of the sho#. 2ou needed to make a success of it. *e both needed to be inde#endent.
1 1$ don't like #roblems.. $ need some time to con"ince her to go awa for a few da s. $'ll . 1$f ou don't ha"e them b then.iss *inslow will ha"e.1 10or .1 Sweat coated his li# and he lifted a trembling hand to wi#e it awa . 1Don't do an thing to her.1 Cold beads of sweat broke out on his forehead.1 1%ut that's not''1 1)hat's all the time ou ha"e.iss *inslow's sake. 12es.1 he re#eated. 1$'ll get the diamonds out. she'll be dis#osed of.. )here's a small #roblem.1 1)went 'four hours.He moistened his li#s. then dried them again with the back of his hand. Jessica took the desk home. $'ll get them.. )went 'four hours. be successful. )here's no wa $ can take the desk a#art and get them while she's in the house. or all the time .. $t's 4ust that Jessica's alwa s around.
Alone.o< $'ll get them.ot this time. Don't hurt her. . )went 'four hours.1 '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' Cha#ter C ''''''''' Contents ' Pre" 9 . 2ards awa .retrie"e m #ro#ert m self. raising . she sat on the beach. bounding back to the shore each time it turned on him. $t wasn't as if she'd ne"er considered marriage. 2ou swore she'd ne"er ha"e to be in"ol"ed. He'd gi"en u# on the idea of conning Jessica into tossing sticks for him. the #ound of water against rock. the burgeoning light. and watched the earl sun s#read streaks of #ink abo"e the water.1 1She in"ol"ed herself. . )he screech of gulls. $t hel#ed her think.l sses chased the surf. She'd alwa s liked the beach at sunrise. chin on her knees. sharing a home. alwa s calmed her mind so that an answer could be found.1 1.e&t Jessica had no answers.
And he lo"ed her. %ets had told him. How the hell could he kee# a rein on a woman who took off before sunrise+ 5one walking on the beach. .. he thrust his hands in his #ockets and walked toward her.. oh. Alone on a deserted beach. She didn't curl u# in a ball of defeat. there was a but. now that she knew.ncomfortable.a famil ''but she'd ne"er had a clear #icture of the man.ichael+ She en4o ed being with him. what was she to do about it+ Slade came down the beach ste#s swearing. How could a thing''a business''ha"e been so im#ortant that it blocked her "ision+ *orse. Did she alwa s ha"e to be mo"ing. Could it be . An enormous but. he would ha"e sworn it was another woman. she thought as she lowered her forehead to her knees. %ut. . talking to him. doing+ *h couldn't she ha"e been the la/ halfwit he'd imagined her to be+ )hen he s#otted her''head down. Slade thought griml . Jessica stood straight and was alwa s heading somewhere''usuall too fast. com#letel "ulnerable to an thing and an one. *here was her sensiti"it + she wondered with a surge of guilt and frustration. $f it hadn't been for the mass of wheat'colored hair. shoulders slum#ed. She'd been blind to it. )he shared interests.
she wondered.1 she said when he stood beside her.1 1So are ou. $ heard our t #ewriter. choose the best time. but sensed the intrusion and the identit of the intruder almost simultaneousl .1 12ou worked late. 12ou're u# earl . $s the book going well+1 Slade glanced u# as a gull soared o"er their heads.1 1Sorr . but turned her head to stud his face. And what would he do.o. Slowl she straightened. 1$ liked it. 15ood morning. then changed his mind and remained standing. then be satisfied when . 1*hat is it.1 1. then looked out at the hori/on again. 1$t mo"ed for a while last night. he thought.1 Something's wrong.1 A fleeting smile.She didn't hear him. He started to sit beside her. white'breasted and silent. Jess+1 She didn't answer immediatel . if he wanted a woman to marr him+ *ould he wait #atientl .
1Ha"e ou had man lo"ers+1 she asked. gro#ing.she asked him to wait for an answer+ A ghost of a smile touched her li#s. He borrowed ten thousand dollars from me and "anished. there was this older man. when $ was touring -uro#e. 1After that there was an ad"ertising e&ecuti"e. 13ater. 5od no.1 )he clouds skimming o"er the water were shot through with red and gold. 1)he first was in college. a relationshi# so brief it hardl seems fair to include it. he had a wa with words. 1$ imagine ou ha"e.. 0rench.1 she continued in a tone that was more absent than confidential.. $ . "er so#histicated. 1*hat<1 She didn't #a an attention to his incredulous e&#ression but turned to stare out at the surf again. He sent me carnations and read Shelle out loud..1 Shaking her head. $ fell like a ton of bricks. 12ou're a "er #h sical man.. 1$ can count mine on three fingers.1 she murmured. $t was right after m father died.1 She laughed a little as she settled her chin back on her knees. As she s#oke Jessica watched them brighten. Jessica gri##ed her knees tighter. then $ found out he was married and had two children. and $ was. !h.
then let it sift through his fingers.1 She brooded out to sea.1 )aking a dee# breath. all turbulent e es and frustration.1 A bit shakil . (er deliberatel Slade gathered a handful of sand.1 $t hit him hard''like a stunning blow to the back of the neck that lea"es ou disoriented 4ust for an instant before unconsciousness. there was nothing but the sound of crashing wa"es and calling gulls. 1$ didn't want to get stung again. .ha"en't been in"ol"ed with a man since. wh are ou telling me this+1 1. *hen she fell silent.1 He wasn't o"erl #leased to hear about the men in her life. 1And+1 1And $ don't know what to do<1 She turned to him then. Slade dro##ed down beside her. she laughed and dragged her hands through her hair. he listened. 1Jess. . 1.a be because $ don't know ou. she stared straight ahead. 1$ hate not knowing what to do.ichael asked me to marr him.a be because it seems $'"e known ou for ears. 0orcing himself to be ob4ecti"e.a be too careful. 0or the s#ace of a full minute. 1$ don't know. so $'"e been careful.1 .
1How do ou feel about him+1 1$ de#end on . He's im#ortant to me. 1Don't be such an idiot.1 she began. 1He's #art of m life.a be ou should marr him so he won't be hurt+1 Slade ga"e a mirthless laugh. he ordered himself. 1He's in lo"e with me. then made herself sit still.ore miserable than offended. $ don't want to hurt him.1 she tossed back.1 1$t's not that sim#le. 1)hen ou should know what to do.Sto# it now.1 Anger rose quickl and was as quickl su##ressed.1 Slade finished calml . $t was difficult to argue with logic.1 1. . "er im#ortant''1 1%ut ou don't lo"e him.ichael.. 1$ know marr ing him would onl hurt both of us in the long run. and ma be. she watched a gull swoo# low o"er the water. )ell her ou're not interested in hearing about her #roblems. *ith a sound of e&as#eration. she started to rise. es#eciall if his feelings for me are as dee# as he thinks the are. talking fast. %ut the words were alread sli##ing out..1 .
1 Slade said shortl ..ow ou make it sound so eas .1 1*hat the hell are ou thinking of+1 he demanded.1 1$mbecile. 1$ thought ma be if we became lo"ers. gi"en a little time he'd change his mind. then''1 15ood 5od<1 He caught her b the shoulder roughl . 1.1 1.. $ thought. 1$'m sure he thinks he is.1 Slade murmured.1 . 1Just tell him no.12ou're not sure he's in lo"e with ou.1 Jessica returned.ichael might want her to marr him. $n an uncharacteristic gesture of futilit she lifted her hands. track record with men has been so #oor. considering the other reasons . 12ou make it sound so dirt . 1Are ou considering offering our bod as some sort of consolation #ri/e+1 1Don't<1 She shut her e es so she couldn't see the derision in his. well.
Dee# inside him. .1 She sighed.o.othing makes a coward of me more than #eo#le $ care about.1 He grinned. 1. . *ith a half smile.1 1Am $+1 0or a moment she lowered her forehead to her knees again. 1Ha"e ou+1 1Ha"e $ what+1 1Had a #ro#osal turned down. but then.. His hand was halfwa to her hair before he sto##ed himself. )he idea of facing him again. marriage didn't figure in an of them. something struggled to be free to comfort her. Slade. Some of the burden lifted. Jess. knowing what $ ha"e to do. #leased that the lost look had left her e es.othing she'd said had made sense once it had been s#oken aloud''e"er thing he said had.. 12ou're so sure of ourself. she turned to him. He banked it down an instant before it was too late. makes me want to run.12ou're making it com#licated. 1He won't be the first man who's had a #ro#osal turned down.1 He was res#onding to the fragilit she so rarel showed.1 .
0or the first time she was afraid. He was going to take something from her she wouldn't easil get back.1 Jessica laughed again and started to rise. electric. . Hot.1 1!ne deser"es another. and for once readable. and she resisted.She ga"e her quick gurgle of laughter. dark. His e es were fi&ed on hers. 1$s this color real+1 1)hat's an abominabl rude question.1 he countered. 1$f $ answer ours will ou answer mine+1 1. Desire. Jessica #ut her hands to his chest.o. And she was drawn to him. 1*hat did+1 :eaching o"er. intense. but the hand on her hair sto##ed her. if she managed to get it back at all.1 1)hen $ su##ose we'll both ha"e to use our imagination. he grabbed a handful of her hair. alread aroused b a look. )he qui//ical smile she ga"e him faded quickl . $n an instincti"e defense against a nebulous fear. restless desire. He #ulled her closer.
wild and free. $n one mo"e she was under him on the sand. took. es. )hen he tore his mouth from hers to mo"e o"er her face. fiercel . u# the #lanes and muscles of his back. )his isn't what $ want. She answered. At the first taste of him. down the hard line of ribs to a lean waist. e&quisite demand. $ wouldn't treat ou like a lad . e&#ertl seducing. 0ear was buried in an a"alanche of #assion. mindlessl willing. her e es told him e"en while her hands #ushed him awa . and enticed. 1$ warned ou. )hen suddenl .1 2es. res#onse o"erwhelmed her. des#eratel wanting. She fretted to ha"e his li#s on hers. as if to absorb the te&ture of her skin through the sense of taste alone.o.1. he buried his li#s at her throat. wrenching a moan from her. Her hands found their wa under his sweater. )he sand made whis#ering sounds as she shifted. turning her head in search. it is. His tongue #robed. slowl searching. while his li#s crushed hers in an endless. )he moist air .1 His mouth lowered. wanting the agoni/ed delight he was causing to go on and on. Jessica forgot what she stood to lose and sim#l e&#erienced.
s#ringing u# before she could touch him and make him forget all reason. lingering there as if tra##ed b the softness. %ut there'd be no control. She felt his li#s mo"e against hers. immersed in the scent of it as he gro#ed for control. )hen his hands began to search.smelled of salt and the sea. $n a sudden fren/ Jessica arched against him. with the taste and scent and feel of her o"er#owering him. unerringl . :oughl he caught her bottom li# between his teem. She was unaware of the sun beating down on her closed lids. !nl the tone''a hint of angr des#eration''came through. and faintl . . !n a groan. of the coarse sand under her back. from her hi#s to her breasts. scra#ing. )here was onl his li#s and hands now. Denim strained against denim in a thin. His mouth found hers again. he knew. as water crashed like thunder on the rocks nearb . though the meaning of his murmur was lost to her. with bruising meticulousness. Slade buried his face in her hair. kindling fresh fires while feeding those alread abla/e. drawing it into his mouth to suck and nibble until her sighs were moans. Calloused fingers ran o"er her skin. frustrating barrier. center to throbbing center. *ith a muffled oath he rolled from her. of the musk scent of #assion.
then threw u# her chin. letting it cool the heat that radiated through him. 1*ould ou #refer that we'd made lo"e on the beach like a cou#le of teenagers+1 She'd forgotten where the 'd been. Jessica 4erked against his hold. He had to be out of his mind. Smarter.Slade drew air into his lungs harshl . he told himself. don't sa an thing. %ut the words came out of his mouth before he could sto# them. 1Jess''1 1.1 Her "oice was thick and wa"ering. -"er one's entitled. 12ou changed our mind. $ get the #icture. found it firm. He could tick them off b the sound of her unstead breathing behind him. Place and time hadn't mattered when the need to lo"e had been #aramount. she had risen to brush off the clinging sand. $t onl cut dee#er into her #ride . And his own. Seconds #assed. to ha"e come that close to taking her. he thought. Slade gri##ed her arm.o. )he glint of the morning sun haloed the crown of her head e"en while the bree/e tossed the ends u# and back. Hurt. $t was better that wa .1 *hen she started to walk b him. Slade could see it all too well beneath the anger in her e es. *hen he turned back.
1$ don't crawl for an woman. %ehind them water hurled itself against rock.that he had remembered and had maintained enough control to sto#.1 He took her shoulders now.1 Her teeth sna##ed together on the final shake. much less some . now the tide was turned. then lifted in a tumultuous s#ra . ou didn't start it. Anger mi&ed with an uncomfortable certaint that she #robabl could. 1$'d ha"e ou crawling on our hands and knees if $ wanted<1 His e es became gra slits.1 *ith her arms #inned. 1Don't ou dare shout at me<1 she elled. she had to toss her head to free it of blowing hair. slowl . 1Starting now. 1And don't intimate that $'"e thrown m self at ou because $ ha"en't.1 she returned cooll . $f hurt had outweighed anger before. -nraged.1 1.1 Slade's gri# onl tightened. $ didn't want this. Her e es glinted behind the dancing strands. outdoing him in "olume.1 1Push ou+1 Jessica retorted. so back off. She lowered her e es to his restraining hand. 1$'d #refer ou didn't touch me again. Jessica knocked both of his hands awa .o. 1$ warned ou once not to #ush me. gi"ing her three hard shakes. 1$ didn't start this. 1And $ didn't want it either. then lifted them again.
she sho"ed a hand against his chest. 0ighting with her was nearl as stimulating as kissing her. And it was more im#ortant than .1 1Snott little''1 She broke off. 1*hat the hell are ou grinning at+1 12our face is #ink. ou sim#le'minded. but sometime during her diatribe his anger had sim#l "anished. .1 he told her.earl .nable to think of a better defense. 1$t's cute.snott little twit who uses #erfume as a wea#on. golden fur . She had the quick notion that it was the first absolutel sincere smile he'd gi"en her. Her tem#er hadn't run its course. )he intent for "iolence was clear in the ste# she took toward him. He was almost sorr . 1*h . 3ifting his hands aloft. 1$ ho#e ou ha"en't #ut a woman in that no"el of ours because ou know /i#< $'m not e"en wearing an #erfume. Jessica trailed off. #alms out. Slade ste##ed back. Jessica hesitated. 1)ruce+1 He wasn't sure when or how. 1)wit<1 she managed after an outraged moment. but there was something "er a##ealing about the wa he smiled at her.1 Her e es flashed. $t was friendl and a shade admiring. And $ wouldn't need''1 %reathing hard. egotistical ass. s#uttering.1 .
1!ne more thing.her anger.1 )he gleam of #ure humor in his e es #leased her.1 *hen he held out his hand. )he rest stands.1 After a moment's consideration she #laced her hands on her hi#s. 1)ake back the snott little twit.1 .1 12ou got it. not willing to be too forgi"ing too quickl . 1Just the sim#le'minded.1 Since the 'd dealt with the anger. Jessica curled her fingers and contem#lated her nails'. 12ou're a tough lad . 10or the sim#le'minded.1 He hooked his thumbs in the front #ockets of his 4eans. 1. Slade wanted to deal with the hurt. 1$ didn't change m mind. egotistical ass. 1State our terms.1 %argaining was her biggest "ice.1 she said. the shook solemnl .a be.
he blocked out the nagging "oice that told him he was making a mistake. 1Slade.1 1.1 She s#oke too quickl .ichael's coming to dinner tonight. 1Careful. she sto##ed in the center of the lawn and turned to him. 1.She didn't s#eak.o.. *ithout too much effort.o. ou're coming close to being a twit again.1 1Pla cha#erone+1 he finished shortl . 1Slade.1 1!ka . then bit her li#. $'d said the .1 :efusing to be angr . $ was wondering if ou could. e"er thing ou said on the beach is true. actuall . 1*hat+1 1. Jess.. After a moment he sli##ed an arm around her shoulders and began to lead her back toward the beach ste#s. $'ll sta out of the wa .1 He glanced down at her as the skirted the small gro"e at the to# of the ste#s.
her feelings would be different. Jessica didn't want to add more #roblems.1 :eluctant and resigned. Jessica clas#ed her hands together again. like she and Da"id. Shutting her e es. %ut $ lo"e . such a good team..ichael would e"en decide to resign.a be if the had known each other before the #artnershi#. She was grateful that Da"id had a date.1 Hours later Jessica #aced the #arlor. $'d 4ust like some moral su##ort. $t would be a little easier if ou were there during dinner. it would alwa s be #ossible to re#lace a bu er. )he business relationshi# was bound to be strained now between her and . and 4ust as im#ossible to ha"e confided in him. !h. fell silent o"er the Persian car#et. there sim#l wasn't that. s#ark. Her heels clicked on the hardwood floor. Perha#s .. the sho# would ne"er ha"e . Slade let out a long breath.ichael in con4unction with the sho#. 1Just through dinner. $t would ha"e been im#ossible to ha"e hidden her mood from him. 1*hat $ ha"e to do tonight hurts. She couldn't hel# thinking of . She hated the thought of it.ichael. $f there had been. . And ou're going to owe me one. but the 'd been so close. she thought.ichael''almost the same wa $ lo"e Da"id. . Afterward $'ll handle it.o. she cursed herself. $t had alwa s been that wa .1 *hen he onl frowned at her. then clicked again.same to m self. she sighed.
interfered. she mused. deliberatel c nical. Slade sto##ed to watch her. on how to sa no without hurting him. Slade had a moment's s m#ath for .1 He was deliberatel off'hand. $t was onl right that she concentrate on . Jess. )here'd been no s#ark with Slade. . .nless . She shouldn't be thinking of Slade now. Anno ed. or of the two turbulent times she'd been in his arms. ou know. one glance at her face was going to gi"e him her answer. he thought he could feel the sudden bla/e of heat from her e es.ichael. $t wouldn't be eas to lo"e a woman like that and lose. 1)here are other women. 4ust ma be. She'd ne"er ha"e to o#en her mouth. -"en with his back to her. "er so#histicated black dress with her hair caught in a braid o"er one shoulder. )here'd been an eru#tion. She was wearing a "er sim#le. She'd felt the s#ark once or twice in her life''that quick 4olt that sa s ma be. knowing what her reaction would be. 1He's going to sur"i"e. he thought. 3ooking at her. %efore coming into the room.1 *hen she whirled. Alwa s mo"ing. Jessica shook her head. but this time there were ner"es beneath the energ .ichael was a total fool.ichael. Slade strode o"er to the liquor cabinet.
controlling a grimace. She ga"e him a narrow look while the liquor burned her throat. Don't ou feel better+1 *ith a hel#less laugh. but the hadn't made the blood .1 12eah. Slade.1 Jessica retorted.ot a chance. then took a long si#.1 12ou're a beautiful woman. Slade.1 )he quiet words threw her com#letel off balance.1 he said lightl . She'd heard them do/ens of times from do/ens of #eo#le. Jessica.1 He #oured himself a Scotch. 12ou're a hard man. she sho"ed the glass back in his hand.1$ ho#e ou fall hard one da . 1Dutch courage+1 he asked when she swallowed. 1*ant a drink+1 1$'ll ha"e some of that. 1.1 She walked o"er and snatched the glass from his hand. 1And $ ho#e she thumbs her nose at ou. 12ou're being #ur#osel horrid.
1$ don't su##ose ou'd like to write me a s#eech before .1 %ecause her back was to him.1 1Slade.. )he clock on the mantel ga"e the melodious chime that signaled the hour. $t occurred to her that she was closer to losing something "ital to him now than she had been on the beach that morning. and our timing with them is uncann .1 she murmured as she ste##ed awa to #our a glass of "ermouth. And somehow she felt he wasn't onl s#eaking of #h sical beaut . Jessica turned to him.o. com#liments wouldn't roll easil off the tongue of a man like Slade. 1*h +1 12ou're "er frugal with words. thanks. he was a man who'd look be ond what could be seen and into what could onl be felt.1 1$'ll #ass.1 Hesitating onl briefl .ichael gets here. a moment too long for comfort. %ut then. 1$ shouldn't .. )heir e es held. she thought. she allowed herself to moisten her li#s ner"ousl .hum under her skin. 12ou must be a "er good writer. .
but the made the best of it. 1$ don't think Da"id's reall u# to a full da 's work et.1 he muttered and thought of the endless stream of inter"iews with sus#ects. 1$'m glad ou went b for a few hours. 1Can't ou take it graciousl +1 1Don't be grateful until $'"e done something. 1$'d choke before $'d thank ou again. .1 1Part of m 4ob.1 .either man was #leased to be sharing a meal with the other.1 She dum#ed a s#lat of "ermouth in her glass as the doorbell rang.1 Jessica #oked at the shrim# Di4on rather than eating it.ichael. )he general con"ersation eased slowl toward talk of the sho#. "ictims. . witnesses.ha"e told ou e"er thing $ did out on the beach this morning.1 he tossed back.1 Jessica said shortl . $t reall isn't fair to . and it isn't fair to ou that $ dro##ed m life's histor on ou that wa . 1$'m tr ing to thank ou.ichael for ou to know. 2ou're an eas #erson to confide in because ou listen a bit too well.
1 )railing off. 1He was well enough toda to sell the Connecticut chest to . 12ou worr too much. but Da"id. gi"ing his dinner little more attention than Jessica. Jessica saw the mess she'd made and #icked u# her wine.rs.ichael sells to her. 1How did he manage it+1 1% being "er reluctant to #art with it.ichael commented after noting the e&change. Slade. telling her he'd all but #romised the other to another customer. Donnigan.rs. 1Da"id made a sale to . *hen $ came in he was nudging her toward the #ecan ho#e chest. And .1 She shredded a roll into tin #ieces..1 12ou weren't here last week. darling. Sa ing nothing.1 He swirled his wine.. 5lancing down. !n a rare occasion $ do. 12ou'd ha"e to know the lad .1He seemed well enough. Slade #assed her the butter. she smiled. . She's a died'in'the'wool 2ankee who can stretch a dollar like a #iece of elastic.1 . Donnigan+1 $nitial sur#rise turned to humor.1 .onda s are usuall slow in an case.
*h did $ sa that+ she demanded of herself. then "er deliberatel stabbed a shrim#. sleekl dressed. %efore Jessica could fumble for a new line of con"ersation.ichael take o"er. . 1$f that's what ou want. She threw him a swift glance of a##reciation and let . $'m sim#l not going to handle it well at all. it looks like our bo 's learning. . Jessica to ed with her dinner. with his smooth gestures. $'m not going to handle this well.1 Her distress was immediate. $t occurred to her all at once as she watched the two men talk casuall .1 %riefl . Slade inter"ened b asking what a Connecticut chest was. How different the are.ichael frowned down at his #late. she thought. He was all ci"ili/ed charm and so#histicated se&ualit . was well groomed in "oice and manner. $'m going to ha"e to gi"e in and let him go to -uro#e with ou ne&t time. Jessica reflected that she'd ne"er seen him in an thing more casual than a #olo shirt and golf #ants. 1*ell. .She ga"e a quick s#urt of laughter.ichael. How could $ be insensiti"e enough to forget that he'd asked me to go to -uro#e with him the ne&t time+ !n an inward sigh.
$t was as if he knew that bod language could gi"e his thoughts awa . . Polished. could be around that woman da after da and not make lo"e to her''or go mad+ . Slade asked questions on antiques when he couldn't ha"e cared less. )he hadn't been lo"ers. if ou liked that t #e. Slade reflected. he had a strange ca#acit for stillness. And his se&ualit was an thing but so#histicated. she decided.ichael Adams was either madl in lo"e with her or more cle"er than he .ot enough guts.ot the to# one. . )his would gi"e Jessica a few moments to regain the com#osure she had so nearl lost. $t might also gi"e him the o##ortunit to form a more concrete o#inion of . intelligent. And she wouldn't term him rugged though he fa"ored 4eans and sweaters. A##arentl Jessica didn't.ichael. he wondered. Slade #ondered this as he listened to . He seemed harmless enough.ot charming but disarming.ichael. . *hat sort of man. And he was good looking enough.o. . Animal. Slade thought instincti"el .Slade rarel gestured at all.ichael had managed to kee# himself in check for nearl three ears. . Slade calculated that he hadn't been able to do so for as man da s. He was the t #e of man Slade might ha"e matched Jessica with. !r enough brains to be one of the rungs on the smuggling ladder. A #rett bo with enough brains to make it his #rofession.
1$'ll 4ust take a cu# to the librar .1 she continued as the housekee#er started to mutter. 1.o.1 Jessica said lightl . 1$'"e got some things to finish u# tonight. she'd throw the entire household off schedule. he thought fatalisticall . he knew Jessica.ichael took another si# of wine and tried to continue a con"ersation he was beginning to detest. if ou don't start eating more than that.1 Slade was u# and #ouring his own before %ets could ob4ect.1 1$f she didn't quit once a month.ichael.1 10ine. 13et's ha"e ours in the #arlor. All three of them were relie"ed when %ets brought in the coffee tra . $'ll carr it. Cook's going to quit again.1 Jessica took care not to look at him. . 0ood was something she could do without until after she had settled things with . )he one woman who mattered to him was ne"er going to be his. . !h es.looked. . He knew Jessica. Slade disa##eared before she could lift .adl in lo"e or not. He'd seen her answer in her e es. he wasn't indifferent. Catching the wa . . no.ichael. Slade felt a stir of s m#ath .iss Jessica. %ets .ichael's e es would drift to her occasionall .
1 He #oured a generous amount. 1. $t crackled with a cheer neither Jessica nor .o.1 Her fingers tightened on the handle of the creamer and he swore silentl . 1$'ll 4ust ha"e the coffee. %ets had lit the fire while the were eating. 1Jessica. she walked . He'd been too confident that when the time was right. $ can't. 1$ didn't mean to make ou unha## .the tra . he watched her #our coffee from the china #ot into china cu#s. it's written all o"er our face.1 He took a long swallow of brand . 12ou're not going to marr me. 1.ichael as the entered the #arlor.1 Her e es lifted to meet his. . Strange that he'd ne"er wanted her more than at the moment he was sure he'd ne"er ha"e her. she ordered herself.1 she told .1 :ising. :emaining across the room.1 Sa it quick.ichael counted each #etal before he s#oke. ou don't ha"e to sa an thing. )he one thing ou'"e ne"er been able to do well is hide our feelings.ichael were feeling. #lacing the cr stal sto##er back in the decanter before turning.o. )he set had a delicate #attern of "iolets on an i"or background. 1Hel# ourself to the brand .ichael''1 1. e"er thing would sim#l fall into #lace.
what ou don't like.ichael.1 1.1 . 1$ also lo"e ou enough not to hound ou. 1$ wish $ felt differentl . $ wish $'d known what our feelings were sooner. $ don't think so. ou must know that $ do. . wishing she had better words.o"er to stand with him. 1$ care.1 She touched his arm. %ut $ can't gi"e ou what ou want.1 He ga"e her neck a gentle squee/e.1 Hel#lessl . 1%ut $ ha"e the ad"antage of knowing ou well''what ou like. she lifted her shoulders. He set the snifter down.o. kinder words. 1$'ll see ou at the sho# tomorrow. he circled the back of her neck. .1 He looked into his brand ''the same color as her e es and 4ust as into&icating. $'m not going to #ressure ou now. he #ressed a kiss in her #alm. 1%ut as we're basicall the same #eo#le we were then.ichael''1 1.1 3ifting a hand. 1$ can't tell ou $ won't tr to change our mind. 1*ould it ha"e made an difference if $'d asked ou a ear ago+ )wo ears ago+1 1$ don't know.ichael.1 *ith a smile.1 )aking her hand. he released her hand.
2ou don't know what it's like to care for someone. He came down the hall as she #aused on the second ste#. she dashed u# the stairs. Jessica . Shutting her e es tight. 1. .o.1 he said calml .12es. nor the energ to carr the tra to the kitchen and deal with %ets or the cook.1 1*hat do ou know about it+1 she tossed back. 1!ka +1 All of a sudden she wanted badl to cr ''to turn.ichael. 15ood night. $nstead she sna##ed at him. all right. 3ea"ing things as the were. run into his arms.1 *hirling. 1He's not going to dri"e off a cliff. 1Jess+1 Slade sto##ed her with a word. Jessica headed for the stairs. making it almost halfwa before she sto##ed.1 Jessica #ressed her hands together. She had no taste for coffee now. 2ou ha"e to ha"e a heart to be hurt. and wee#. she stood where she was. *h the hell should it be+1 12ou did what ou had to do. it's not oka . She'd felt nothing but regret when he'd #ressed his li#s to her #alm.1 *hen the front door closed behind him. 12ou ha"en't got an feelings.
then turned back to her. )his time it was her turn to sto# him. He stood at the bottom. she turned and walked back down. he shrugged.1 1*h +1 %ecause her words had cut dee#er than he liked.1 *ith that. $ wasn't. and $'m grateful. 1$ reali/e ou might think differentl . 1Slade. .1 He took two more ste#s. His e es were dark.1 he ad"ised as he turned awa .1 1Sa"e it. 1And $ ha"en't an right to use ou for a #unching bag.1 1. she rubbed a hand o"er her forehead. 1$'m sorr .o. swore. After a dee# breath. smolderingl angr . 12ou were on target. waiting. as if her a#olog had flamed his tem#er more than her insults. but ou don't go to hell for being kind.1 *earil . she left him staring after her as she continued u# the stairs.slammed a fist onto the railing. 2ou ga"e me a lot of su##ort toda .
She felt the ache mo"e slowl from her stomach to her breasts. she ordered herself. let's be honest. %ut then. Jessica heard the old Seth )homas clock in the hall strike two musical bongs. he wasn't in an emotional whirl. Jessica could feel the scra#e of sand against her back. $f that didn't work. she thought in disgust as she rolled to her back to stare. but her mind refused to settle. Alone in the dark..ichael who's kee#ing ou awake. . in the tangle of soft linen sheets. )houghts of . almost franticall . it's the man two doors down on the left. at the ceiling. she decided. $t isn't . )he #ress of his bod against hers. again. He could slee#. 7uickl she s#rang out of bed and tugged on a robe. Slade's s#urts of sto#'and'go t #ing had silenced o"er an hour before. awakening #ulses she struggled to calm.'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' Cha#ter D ''''''''' Contents ' Pre" 9 .e&t )wo A. Desire churned in her tired bod . All she needed was a hot drink to settle her. .ichael drifted to her and she sighed. the heat of the sun and bite of the wind on her face.o. Jessica. Her bod was e&hausted..
she'd switch on the tele"ision until some old mo"ie lulled her to slee#. Jessica fro/e. She ste##ed back.o one should be in the closed #arlor with a flashlight in the middle of the night. A flashlight. Seeing that the #arlor doors were closed.o"ing quickl . Jessica sli##ed out of the room and mo"ed on silent bare feet down the hall. a"oiding the s#ots that creaked and groaned. .a be a brand would be a better idea than the hot drink. *ith a shrug. $t shone straight in her e es.ow who would ha"e done that+ she wondered. she headed for the stairs. %efore she could s#eak. e"en reached for the handle before she caught herself. she told herself. She #aused in front of Slade's door. . forcing her to throw u# a hand to shield them. %rand and an old mo"ie. 0ear ran cooll o"er her skin. stunned b the glare. . )he were ne"er closed. $f that didn't #ut her to slee#. Shock came first. nothing would. she decided. . she went quietl down the ste#s. she frowned. 5ood 5od. !ut of habit. A light blinded her. confused b its source. She crossed the hall and #ulled one o#en. $n the morning she'd ha"e herself in order again. she decided Slade had shut them before coming u# to write. She'd go back to work. sta out of Slade's wa until he finished the librar and went back to where he came from. what was she thinking of< .
Slade sna##ed full awake the moment his door was flung o#en. 1Someone's downstairs. *ith the wind knocked out of her. Swallowing. and that her robe had #arted when he had anked her into bed.1 she managed. *ithout a second's thought. she turned and raced back u# the stairs. At the moment of contact he knew he held Jessica.1 1At two o'clock in the morning+1 she hissed as anger began to take o"er. and #inned it underneath him. 1*ith a flashlight+1 .1 He tensed. Her scent flooded his senses6 instant desire roughened his "oice. 1Downstairs. twisted it. 1A ser"ant. 0ear had her bod shuddering under his. $t ga"e a quiet whoosh of air as it slammed onto the mattress. she struggled beneath him. A shadow darted toward his bed and instincti"el he grabbed it. $t suddenl see#ed into her that he was naked. 1*hat the hell are ou doing+1 he demanded as his fingers clam#ed o"er her wrists. Jessica struggled to s#eak. but schooled his "oice to casualness.then lodged like a fist in her throat.
$ didn't think at all. *hen the fi&ed on her.1 he ordered. Jessica tried to #retend that she hadn't been weakened. She watched his shadow as he tugged on 4eans.1 :eaching o"er.o< 2ou can't go down there with a gun. b desire. then closed the door firml in her face.. Slade.1 )he sentence died as she saw what he held in his hand.1 He was nearl at the door before Jessica could #ro#el her numb bod from the bed. . 1*here+1 1)he #arlor. bruising gri# on her shoulder. 1. his e es were ice cold and e&#ressionless. A new bubble of terror rose in her throat. 1. 1*here did ou get that+1 1Sta here.o. 1*e ha"e to call.1 Snatching her robe together.He rolled from her quickl . )he #olice. 12ou're not going down there+1 1$sn't that what ou e&#ected me to do when ou came in here+1 he countered. not for a minute. 1Sta #ut. He o#ened a drawer and found his gun. how''1 He sto##ed her with a hard.. she switched on the light.
e es wide as he turned the gun on her. $t was cra/ . . 15oddammit<1 )he word e&#loded at her as he lowered the gun. she thought as her fingers laced and unlaced.1 Sei/ing her hand. 1$ couldn't.1 She had enough time to register that she'd seen the stance he'd taken with the gun on a hundred tele"ision #olice shows. $t was dark6 the thin. Someone sneaking around the #arlor in the middle of the night. $'m going to check outside. Slade handling a big ugl gun as if he'd been born with it in his hand. He saw Jessica stagger back against the wall. 1$ told ou to sta u#stairs. thorough tour of the first floor when the creak on the ste#s had him whirling. She couldn't 4ust stand there. Just too quiet. Jessica stared at the blank wood. shifting .er"es 4um#ing. Slade dragged her into the #arlor. $s he gone+1 13ooks that wa . she began to #ace the room. 1Sta in here.)oo shocked to do otherwise. *hat in 5od's name was going on+ she demanded as she #ressed her hands to her cheeks. $t was too quiet. Slade had 4ust finished a quick.1 Jessica sank into a chair and waited. )hen the trembling started.
.1 she began indignantl . her thoughts began to focus. Jessica forced herself to take dee#. she curled her feet under her and cu##ed her elbows with her hands. 1)here's no sign of an one. 1. 1$ didn't sa ou didn't. *hat was a writer doing with a re"ol"er+ *h hadn't he called the #olice+ A sus#icion rose out of nowhere and she shook it off. was something she'd rarel dealt with. that was ridiculous. As the shuddering calmed. he hit the switch.1 he said shortl though she hadn't s#oken.moonlight tossed wa"ering shadows around the room. she reali/ed. . she hadn't mo"ed from the chair. Shutting her e es a moment. *ith a flick of the wrist.1 )hen he was gone again. e"en breaths. He came back without the gun. or an sign of a break'in. 1*hat did ou see+1 As he asked he began a more careful search of the room.1 1$ saw someone. She wasn't doing a good 4ob of it now.o. 0ear.othing. lea"ing her ne&t retort s#uttering on her li#s. Defensi"el .. *asn't it+ *hen Slade returned to the #arlor ten minutes later. . flooding the room with light.
Jess. He's used that gun before. He didn't turn. 12ou know who $ am. 1)he #arlor doors were closed. $t was all too #at. she reali/ed as her stomach tightened. $ am. $ didn't see an thing.%rows drawn together.one of the cr stal had been disturbed. *hen $ o#ened them. .1 12ou're not a writer. A flashlight. she watched his #racticed mo"ements. 1*ho are ou+1 He heard the chill in her "oice as he crouched in front of the liquor cabinet. a light hit m e es. #rofessional search as he roamed around the room.o.1 1*hat is it+1 she asked flatl . .1 12es. the sus#icion wasn't ridiculous. 1Sergeant+ 3ieutenant+1 .1 1An thing out of #lace in here+1 She continued to watch his deft. He's done this before.
dulling the sting of betra al.He took the brand decanter and #oured liquor into a snifter. 2ou can #ack our t #ewriter and our gun. 1)hen $'ll call our commissioner m self. A deadl calm washed o"er her.1 *hen she made no mo"e to obe . she rose. 1$ want ou to tell me wh ou came. Jess. didn't he+ !rders from the commissioner+1 )he last sentence was full of carefull calculated disgust. Drink this.1 She was going to ha"e to ha"e it all. 1$ want ou out of m house. He walked to her and held out the glass. 1Sergeant. 10ine. 1Sit down. She was s#itting mad. . he . debating 4ust how much he'd ha"e to tell her to satisf her.1 Her e es sta ed le"el on his. but not with fear now. Slade said nothing.1 Jessica said quietl .1 =ee#ing her e es on his. His brain was #erfectl cool. 15o to hell. he decided and wished fleetingl for a cigarette. Slade set the snifter beside her.ncle Charlie did send ou. %ut before ou lea"e.1 *ith a shrug. Sergeant. She was #ale.
$n the meantime the commissioner wants ou safe.ga"e her a hel#ful sho"e back into the chair. she caught the look in his e es.1 Her "oice was stronger now. Slade thrust his hands in his #ockets. 12our sho#'s sus#ected in connection with a ma4or smuggling o#eration.1 %ut her "oice shook. the #eo#le who work for ou.1 1$ don't belie"e a word of it.1 she said quietl . information as well as m orders come from the commissioner. 1Do ou think something like that could go on in m sho# without m knowing about it+1 -"en as she reached for the brand . #robabl through the sale of the whole article.1 1$t's ridiculous. Jessica's hand fro/e on the glass. she #ressed . $t's belie"ed that stolen goods are hidden in some of our im#orts. but sim#l staring at him as if he'd lost his mind. %riefl . He's managed to sli# awa from them before6 the don't want it to ha##en again. 1Just shut u# and listen.1 he suggested as she o#ened her mouth to ell at him. )he #ain was dull in her stomach. 1. 1$nter#ol wants the head man rather than the few underlings alread under obser"ation. touched with scorn.1 She wasn't attem#ting to s#eak now. then dro##ed awa . are under obser"ation until he's in custod or the in"estigation leads elsewhere. 2ou. then transferred to a contact on this side. our sho#. 1$ see.
she s#rang to her feet to meet his fur with her own. Slade turned to #rowl the room.a hand to it before linking her fingers together. Jess. 1*hat kind of danger could $ #ossibl be in+1 1)his isn't a game. He was close. 1And $ wouldn't ha"e taken the damn assignment if $'d known ou were going to tie me u# in knots e"er time $ looked at ou. Don't ou understand that onl #uts ou in a more dangerous #osition+1 1How can $ understand an thing when $'m not told an thing+1 she tossed back.1 0rustrated. too close. Sergeant+1 1Cut it out. 1An agent was killed in 3ondon last week.1 1*as it #art of our 4ob to attract me enough so that $ might be indiscreet+1 *hen he whirled back. His last re#ort mentioned a quarter of a . he shook her. nearl hauling her off her feet. 1$ said the commissioner wanted ou #rotected.1 $nfuriated. 1Did ou bring our handcuffs along. he grabbed the la#els of her robe. 1$s making lo"e to me all in a da 's work+1 1$ ha"en't begun to make lo"e to ou. Jess.1 %ecause he couldn't handle the wa she looked at him. )he %ureau thinks ou're clean. to finding out who's #ulling the strings.
ot alone.1 1*hat does that ha"e to do with me<1 Jessica 4erked awa from him.1 1$ don't like it an better than ou.ichael+1 she whis#ered.million dollars' worth of diamonds.o< $ won't ha"e ou accusing them.1 1And ti# off the number one man. 1Da"id and .1 1.1 . $ncredulit ga"e wa to anger. 1$f the think there're diamonds stashed awa in one of m im#orts. 1$ run the sho#. (er slowl .1 He watched her slender fingers knead at the ache.o one's accusing an one et. )he can take the furniture a#art #iece b #iece. Jessica rubbed at her tem#le.o. Jessica lowered her hand. 1How do ou know $'m not in charge+1 A raging headache was added to the sickness in her stomach. 1. 1.1 All mo"ement sto##ed. let them come in. *earil .1 1.1 Slade returned. ou're here to s# on us.
1 he said tersel . not officiall . 1$f ou're with the . She was tougher than she looked.1 )he hint of color that see#ed back into her cheeks relie"ed him. %e logical.ichael+ -"en ou must see how absurd that is. 1%ecause the commissioner didn't want his goddaughter to end u# with her beautiful throat slit.1 . )his time she lifted the brand and drank dee#l before s#eaking. 1$n an case. He s#oke slowl . 1*ho would hurt me''Da"id. there are other #eo#le in"ol"ed''the kind who wouldn't think of ou as an more than an e&#endable obstacle.2PD ou ha"e no 4urisdiction here.1 She didn't want to think about that''couldn't if she wanted to sto# herself from ha"ing a bout of h steria. she ordered herself. but she ke#t her e es le"el.1 12ou'd be sur#rised what #eo#le do to sur"i"e. %e #ractical. . 1$n an case $'m not here about the smuggling.1 1)he commissioner has a lot of clout.1 Her color drained at that.1)hen wh are ou here+1 )he deliberate scorn in her tone made him want to strangle her. brutall .
ot with the wa this house is set u#. 5o on to bed. 1. *ouldn't it make sense for him to wait until all the lights were out before he broke in+1 He started to remind her that no one had broken in. 2ou didn't sto# t #ing until one. 12eah. who had a room on the east wing of the first floor. )here's no wa of telling if he was after something in here. she might slee# better.ncle Charlie should ha"e told me.1*h are ou here''officiall +1 1)o kee# ou out of trouble. He thought of Da"id. 1$'"e got to call in m re#ort. then changed his mind. $f it hel#ed her to belie"e it had been a stranger. or sli##ing through this room to another.1 1. he ran a hand absentl o"er his bare chest.1 .1 *ith a frown.1 Slade lifted his shoulders in a half shrug as he looked around the room. .o. $ don't think he could ha"e been around "er long. 1Do ou see an thing out of #lace in here+1 Jessica followed the swee# of his e es. ma be.
)hat was something she couldn't shut out. 1$'ll wait.ichael and Da"id. Hadn't %ets grumbled a do/en times about her not using the alarm s stem+ )he image of Slade with the gun in his hand came back to her too clearl . Her sho#.o. Jessica was sitting "er still. Pur#osel .nwilling to admit that she couldn't bring herself to go u#stairs alone. A burglar had been in the #arlor. and in time the #olice or the 0%$ or whoe"er was haunting her would reali/e it. she tuned out his con"ersation. *ith a brisk shake of her head. e es closed. that #art she wouldn't belie"e. she would ha"e laughed.o. she thought. she shut her e es. but #erha#s a good night's . *hat he'd 4ust learned on the #hone wasn't going to make them go awa . )here were shadows under them.1.1 . . )here was a mistake somewhere. $t was as sim#le as that. though it was carried on in such quiet tones that she would ha"e had to strain to hear.1 She sat as he went out to the #hone in the hall. How was it #ossible for her sho# to be tangled u# in something as fantastic as international smuggling+ $f it hadn't been so frightening. Jessica lifted the brand again. . *hen he came back into the room.
1 1%ut $ ha"e to. )hat "er quick first im#ression she'd gotten when she'd all but run into him at the bottom of the staircase had been "iable.1 He dro##ed her arm as the came to her door. And ou're not going in to the sho# tomorrow. Jess. 12ou'll be safer here where $ can kee# an e e on ou. $'m not alwa s cra/ about it m self. 5o u# and take a #ill if ou can't slee#.1 he corrected. 12ou ha"en't got an choice at this #oint6 ou ha"e to trust me. that was clear. 12ou ha"e to do as ou're told from here on.1 She did. ou don't lea"e the house without me. %efore he could mo"e on. he hauled her to her feet.1 )aking her hand. 12eah. tr ing not to soften as her e es shot o#en in alarm at his "oice. 5o to bed.slee# would.1 she began. Don't argue. 1Come on. 1$ don't like knowing ou're a co#.1 she murmured.1 he said briskl . *ith him she was safe. Starting now. Jessica reali/ed as he #ulled her u# the ste#s that if e"er thing else was a ma/e of confusion. . 12ou're tired.
soft. and ice'blue silk.1 She moistened her li#s. much less him. hated admitting to herself. "ulnerable. 1$'m not asking ou to make lo"e with me. 4ust not to lea"e me alone..1 She looked u# at him.1 She looked awa from the im#atience in his e es and glanced into her darkened room. 1Do ou think $'d s#end the night with ou and not ha"e ou+1 . $ tend to gi"e her m com#lete attention... soft cur"es.1 He allowed his e es to rake down her. #ale.. 1$.. $ ha"en't got time for that now. *arm flesh. that she was terrified of being alone. He felt the blood start to #ound in his chest.1 1. 1Slade.o.. $ don't mean. 1Could ou sta +1 1$ told ou.Jessica grabbed his hand.1 She hated what she was going to ask.1 She felt a flutter that was both #anic and e&citement. his "oice was blunt and cold. 1*hen $ go to bed with a woman. $'"e got m orders from the commissioner. $n defense. 1$ mean with me''tonight.
Slade backed her u# against the door. Jess.1 he told her in a dangerousl quiet "oice. He stiffened. Her senses whirled from the onslaught. $ could show ou tricks that would make our 0rench lo"er look like a %o Scout. ou couldn't run fast enough. but she lifted them. )he flutter became a throb. 1$'m not one of our #olite countr club men. Jess.1 She could barel hear him o"er the dull thud of her heart. 12ou ha"en't the e&#erience to deal with me.. She #ressed her bod to his. )he fingers on her throat tightened swiftl . she ran her hands u# his naked back. He wanted her with a des#eration that threatened to dri"e e"er thing else aside.o.. 1Damn ou. )his was what she wanted''the mindless #assion he could bring her on the instant of . lad . $n a quick mo"e calculated to frighten her.ot quite gentl . $n one long slow stroke. 1*hich of us is running. Slade+1 Her arms were alread hea" . his mouth came down to sa"age hers. the things $'"e done.1 )he answer came quick and quiet. but she clung. Her e es had misted o"er with desire. but her e es. her e es were tawn and unafraid. his hand closed o"er her throat. %eneath his #alm he felt the wild scramble of her #ulse.1 . 12ou don't know the #laces $'"e been.1.1 !n a groan. $f $ decided $ wanted ou.
to sa"e himself. . knowing he couldn't sto#.. huskil murmuring his name. )he kiss wasn't lo"erlike6 it wasn't the worshi#ful merging of li#s. struggling to clear it. He ri##ed the robe from her where the stood. Her thighs were slim and strong. he found her. inconcei"abl softer than he imagined. then took her gas#ing to a staggering #eak until she swa ed hel#lessl in his arms. seducing him. the gentle teasing of tongues. her skin seemed to flow under his fingers. He shook his head.. He had told himself he would treat her callousl and then walk awa ''to sa"e her. not e"en aware if he had dragged or carried her there. $t was madness. . *ithin seconds he had her trembling. :unning a hand u# them. Her fragrance clung to the air. He was with her in bed. but she #ressed her li#s to his throat. Jessica abdicated her sanit without a second thought. Slade swore again. 3et him teach her what he would.ow she was moist and warm and #liant in his arms. one wracking.contact. con"ulsi"e shudder after another. then ga"e into the dri"ing need to let his hands mold e"er inch of her. Softer.
3i#s and finger circled in until she was writhing beneath him. wanting him to take her before she e&#loded. he ran o#en'mouthed. )here was a tangle of sheets under her.Jessica twisted under him. then was lost in wa"e after wa"e of sensation as his teasing became ram#ant hunger. She arched. but she was onl aware of the hurricane. nibbling kisses down her throat to the hollow between her breasts. 5reedil . but he continued down and ran his tongue along the line of her ribs. he came back to her breast. His teeth ni##ed into the soft swell of flesh while with a fingerti# he began a slow. He drew her ni##le into his mouth. torturous #ath around the other. )hat's where he took her''all s#eeding wind and black sk . the soft fabric of his 4eans against her legs. answering his kiss deliriousl as his hands mo"ed e"er where. wanting the agoni/ing #leasure to go on fore"er. Half mad. $n a /ig/agging 4ourne that had her mind s#inning. . Jessica cried out as the dual #leasure e&#loded. His ragged breathing shi"ered into her ear before his tongue darted inside. she dug her fingers into his hair. He ga"e her no chance to orient herself. her ni##les hard with need. the moist trail his tongue left causing her to shudder with fire and ice b turns. catching the other arching #oint between his thumb and finger.
like a thoroughbred mare gi"en her head. lean and long'boned6 his thighs. Her bod was stunningl ali"e. Her bod was slender. but he shifted awa from her seeking hands. but with a seducti"e womanl softness that made him want to go on touching and tasting until there was no inch of her he didn't know. knew it la smoldering. throbbing from thousands of minute #ulses he had disco"ered and e&#loited. -"en his name wouldn't form on her li#s an longer. She found his hi#s. almost too slender. gas#ing breaths. Jessica hungered for more.She was tugging at his 4eans. -&hausted. firm and muscled. nails digging into his shoulders as she urged him down. He dro"e her to #eak after #eak. *hen his mouth brushed low o"er her stomach. %ut when his tongue sought and found the center of her #leasure. both hot and dam# with desire. )he musk . *ithout the restriction he knew he'd take her instantl . He was far from read . woods scent seemed to emanate from her skin where"er he buried his li#s. He wanted to dri"e her''dri"e them both''to the breaking #oint. Her skin was fused to his. She was wildl res#onsi"e. He'd sensed her #assion. she moaned. . )ogether the struggled with the last barrier of clothing that ke#t them a#art. he lost e"er thing else. He could hear his name trembling out of her li#s between raw. but now it was engulfing him in a heat he hadn't foreseen.
%ut $'m not going to lose ou. *hate"er had ha##ened between them had ne"er ha##ened to her before. sa"ager + . 2ou're alread wondering how ou lost control enough to take me to bed. )here had ne"er been. his. )he continued to race through her long after Slade la beside her. Closing her e es. each gas#ing from the shock of #ower. .ot for her.. Jessica rested her head on his shoulder. nor would there e"er be an one else for her. instincti"el rolling to him. She couldn't sto# the shudders. Alread wondering how to #re"ent this from ha##ening again. *as there another man with his strength. Her bod ached. she concluded with instincti"e accurac .)he came together sa"agel . and she knew with a certaint that it would ne"er ha##en with an other man. Did we make lo"e or war+ Jessica wondered di//il . Jessica reali/ed. whoe"er. !h. his intensit ..one of her inhibitions had surfaced''he wouldn't ha"e allowed them to. )he . whate"er ou are. silent. $ lo"e ou. She'd lost that "ital #art of herself to him long before the had e"er gone to bed''her heart. And glowed. she thought. And the surest wa to turn ou awa from me now is to tell ou.
then trailed her li#s to his cheek. *e'"e got''1 1$ don't want to be smart. she had the satisfaction of feeling his quick. 1Jess.1 she interru#ted. her li#s 4ust abo"e his. the moonlit skin . 1Hold me.1 she murmured. he had to think. He'd ne"er be able to think clearl with her touching him.1 *ith an effort. 1$ want our arms around me. 2ou're not getting awa . 3ightl . Jessica merel kissed the fingers that got in her wa .1 Slade #ut u# a hand to sto# her. she ran a trail of kisses o"er his shoulder to his throat. She felt the sudden thunder of his heart against her breast. in"oluntar tremor. $f he was going to find his wa out of the quicksand he was ra#idl sinking in. Slade6 struggle all ou want.1 $n the darkness he could see the #ale clouds of hair. Slade resisted the husk demand and the soft li#s that insisted on clouding his brain.1 *hen her fingers ran down his side."ow formed firml as she ran a hand o"er his chest.1 Her tongue traced his li#s. Slade. not tonight. 1Don't talk. )hat's all there is tonight. this isn't smart. 12ou want me. 1Jessica. 1$ want ou. She shifted so that her head was 4ust abo"e his.
Did he ha"e to wake u# wanting her+ . Deliberatel . She was dee# in an e&hausted slee#.shadowed b the slash of cheekbone. He s#ent se"eral minutes cursing himself before he rolled out of bed. was going to interfere with his 4ob. onl a 4ob. Hadn't he saturated himself enough with her last night+ he asked himself furiousl as the ic s#ra hit his bod like shar# #in#ricks. Slade turned the cold on full. dark smudges against #ale skin.eed for her. He grabbed u# his 4eans and went to his own room and straight to the shower. her breathing slow and regular. He saw the amber fire of her e es before her mouth took his and ca#tured him. this kind of consuming need. . Jessica didn't e"en stir. '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' Cha#ter E ''''''''' Contents ' Pre" 9 . Slade had to remind himself again and again that Jessica was a 4ob.e&t Slade woke beside her. )he shared the same #illow. )here were shadows under the swee# of lashes. His arm was around her slim waist6 in slee# he'd betra ed himself b wanting her close.
a be it would wash awa the woods scent that seemed to ha"e cre#t into his own skin. Slade had to find out what it was. Jessica sta ed. =nowing who it was wouldn't be enough. *h the hell don't the let me get her out of here+ he thought on a fresh burst of fur . He had to stick to her like glue until it was all o"er. . He was gone. Slade re#eated silentl . And how the hell was he su##osed to li"e in the same house with her now and not touch her+ He grabbed the soa# and lathered himself roughl . was her . Someone wanted something in her house''someone she trusted. instantl .And in the brief #hone con"ersation the night before. )hat didn't include slee#ing with her. She sta ed. *aking. he corrected griml . he reminded himself as he let the cold water sluice o"er his head. )he order o"er the #hone had been firm and unarguable. Jessica reached for him. and so. And he wasn't to let her out of his sight for the ne&t fort 'eight hours. )he in"estigation couldn't be 4eo#ardi/ed b letting her walk. he had been told enough to make him reali/e that her #osition had become onl more delicate. $t didn't include getting so caught u# in her that he forgot what he was doing there in the first #lace. !r rather the 0eds had to find out what.
o. it's a mistake. She needed to clear her brain. He didn't find Jessica in the dining room. but %ets . $nter#ol. ' . %ets cleared off the #lace she had set for Jessica. Da"id and . . she wouldn't ha"e felt the sick sense of loss. if she could ha"e turned to him on wakening.ichael. 1*here is she+1 he demanded. )he few hours of slee# had left her tightl strung instead of rela&ed.#eace. Jessica struggled to block it out. he checked the bath and her sitting room before going downstairs. Hurriedl . A quarter of a million in diamonds.ichael. %ut then she could see the ic look in Slade's e es when he had aimed the gun on her. Da"id and . $f he had been there. )he house felt like an airless #rison. she couldn't e"en allow herself to think it. Slade found the bed em#t .nable to bear it. she s#rang out of bed. *hen he came b her room to check on her ten minutes later. then scowled at . to think. She threw on her clothes and headed for the beach. )he quick #anic was as uncharacteristic as it was un#rofessional. $t's madness. Co"ering her face with her hands.
% the time Slade had reached the beach ste#s.1 she muttered and clucked her tongue. and. he'd nearl run out of curses. 1So ou're in a chi##er mood too..1 %ets #laced her hands on her hi#s and scowled at his retreating back. alone. 1Alone+1 12es. Concealing his shoulder holster under his 4acket was sim#le. *hate"er she might ha"e said .1 1*here's Jessica+1 %ets sent him a shrewd look.1 she continued before he could sna# at her. wonder if she caught Da"id's flu. 1*ell. Down at the beach. $t was cold. Jessica heard his a##roach and turned. Hadn't an thing he'd said to her the night before gotten through+ He s#otted her standing near the breakers and tore down the ste#s and across the sand. Said she's not going into work toda .him. Didn't e"en take that o"ergrown mutt with her.. 13ooks sick this morning.
*hat are ou doing out here+1 1$'m taking a walk. he reflected and dug his hands into his #ockets. .1 So we're back to that. 1$ arranged for Da"id to take o"er the sho# toda . His hair whi##ed unheeded around his face.1 she sna##ed. 12ou idiot< *hat are ou doing down here alone+ Don't ou know the #osition ou're in+1 Her hand swung out. .1 )he fire in her e es was suddenl misted with tears.1 she ordered. 10ine. Hugging herself. Sergeant. 1$'ll gi"e ou that one. 1Don't ou shout at me. )he sla# stunned both of them. as #er our orders. but remember. connecting shar#l with his cheek.1 12ou'll take it from me.1 he said e"enl . automaticall soothing the flesh his hands had bruised. Jess. causing angr e es to meet angr e es in quick sur#rise. $ hit back. His gri# loosened enough for Jessica to ste# back. ne&t order is that ou're not to lea"e the house until $ sa so. 1$ don't ha"e to take that from an one.sli##ed back down her throat as he grabbed her b the shoulders and shook her.
she thought dis#assionatel . He'd rather ha"e had her sla# him again than cr .1 Swiftl she shook her head. 1Jess. 12ou're su##osed to get through toda .1 he murmured. she o#ened her e es and looked out to sea. 1Don't fall a#art now.. he #laced his hands on her shoulders. white'ca##ed and gra . she squee/ed her e es tight.1 he countered. knowing that kind words would undermine her com#letel . 1$t won't be for "er long. )he sk was beginning to boil with it. 1*ill one of the #eo#le closest to me be in 4ail+ Am $ su##osed to look forward to that+1 !n a long breath. 1)hen ou're su##osed to get through tomorrow. She'd show him anger. *hen she felt his brow dro# to the to# of her head. 1House arrest+1 she said thickl . *ith a sigh. *hen it's o"er''1 1*hen it's o"er.1 ..1 he told her. 1Protecti"e custod . she'd show him #assion. A storm was coming in. tightening his gri#. what+1 she interru#ted in swift des#air. )he water was cho## . but she refused to show him weakness.she s#un awa from him.
1 He should ha"e let her go. 5athering her courage. she might ha"e thought she'd imagined all of the night before. $s that reall how life's su##osed to be+ $s that how he felt about his+ 1*h did ou lea"e me alone this morning+1 His hands dro##ed awa from her shoulders. 1Something that shouldn't ha"e ha##ened. Jessica knew he'd ste##ed back. $f her bod had not still ached from the fur of lo"emaking. 0or the moment he #aid little attention to the two .1 she managed after a moment. Slade took her arm. carefull wra##ing his fingers around it as if measuring its si/e and strength. 1Something that shouldn't ha"e ha##ened and won't ha##en again. %efore he could sto# himself. *ithout turning. )he man staring at her showed no hint of emotion. 1$'m going to tell ou it was a mistake. $ can't be near ou and not want ou.1 )he man shifted his #osition in the co"er of trees.3ife. *ith businesslike mo"ements.1 Her chin came u# as lo"e warred with #ride.1 he said slowl . He intended to let her go. she faced him. All the guards were back. she mused. 1Please don't bother. %ut $ can't tell ou it won't ha##en again. he o#ened the briefcase and began to fit the #ieces of the rifle together. 12ou're going to tell me it was a mistake.
but tomorrow. then turned awa from the shore. After sna##ing on the sight. he re#laced his handkerchief. He'd onl had the contract for four hours and was relati"el #leased that it would take him little more than that to com#lete it. )he brisk wind wasn't doing his head cold an good. he interlaced his fingers with hers. 1*h was it a mistake then+1 Slade let out an im#atient breath.figures down on the beach. %ecause $ want ou so much''not 4ust now. ten thousand dollars bought a lot of antihistamines. . Jess. !ne thing at a time. he #ulled out a handkerchief.1 Sli##ing his hand from her arm. )hat was one of the reasons for his success in his field. After snee/ing softl . twent now''and that scares me. Jessica felt some of her strength returning. this minute. ears from 1!il and water. then drew a bead on the figures on the beach. 2ou wanted to walk. it's as sim#le as that. %ut then. we'll walk. %ecause $'m a co# from the 3ower -ast Side who's seen things $ could ne"er tell ou about.
1 1. Sniffling. 13ook. aren't ou+1 1So $ tell m self.o.1 1)hen wh do ou do this+ 2ou don't like it''it shows. Jessica kicked a #ebble into a clum# of rocks.1 )he words e&#loded from him. . )he contract was for the woman onl .He lowered his rifle as Slade blocked his clear shot of Jessica.1 1$'"e got a mother waiting tables and li"ing off a dead co#'s #ension.1 she disagreed.ot e"er bod has a choice. 12ou are a writer. he brought his handkerchief out again. and business was business. $ do what $ ha"e to. what $ know. sto##ing her. )he fact that she could see what he'd successfull concealed from e"er one''including himself from time to time''infuriated Slade.1 $t wasn't su##osed to show. . then settled down to wait. )he wind fluttered at his drab'colored o"ercoat and snuck underneath it. 1-"er one has a choice.
*hen the time comes. de"ouring the willing mouth. but held them a moment instead of #ulling her hands from his face. . He crushed her to him. $t was as cool as her hands but heated quickl beneath his. 2ou don't #a tuition with re4ection sli#s. the need. Her arms went around his neck.1 His li#s mo"ed against hers with the sound of her name. lashes lowering. and ou #ublish. 1And ou don't like it. the fragrance.1$'"e got a sister in her third ear of college who's got a chance to be something. moist recesses. Alread frantic. drawing an unwilling res#onse from him. Her #ulse s#eeded instantl at his touch. He broke . Her #alms were cool and soft.1 he muttered. drawing her head back farther so he could #lunder all the sweet.1 She leaned toward him. he grabbed her hair. 1Jess. Slade. 12ou get to me. 1)hen ou made our choice.1 He took her wrists.ot e"er man would ha"e made the same one.1 1Jess. )he back of his head was caught in the crosshairs of the sco#e of a high'#owered rifle with a so#histicated silencer.1 Jessica lifted both hands to his face. im#risoning him in the softness. ou'll ha"e e"er thing.
casting his e es u#. muscles tightening as he strained to see. holding her there while he tried to stead himself. 2ou should get some more slee#. 1*h don't $ gi"e ou a hand in the librar +1 1)hat's all $ need.1 he said when he heard her sigh. 1$'m terrific at organi/ing if $ #ut m mind to it. 1*hat is it+ *hat's wrong+1 1Don't mo"e. 1$'m not tired.1 he muttered.awa onl to catch her close to his chest. He tensed.1 She allowed him to shift her to his side. . 12ou're tired. 1And $''1 )he breath was knocked out of her as Slade sho"ed her to the ground in back of a small outcro##ing of rock. She heard a quick #ing.1 Jessica claimed as she ste##ed in front of him. he'd drawn out his gun. she told herself. 1*e'll go in. Patience. $n his #eri#heral "ision. )here was nothing more than a rustling. )hen the flutter of white again.1 she lied. matching her ste#s to his. he caught a quick flutter of white among the thinning lea"es in the gro"e.1 He didn't e"en look at her. but ke#t her #inned beneath him as his e es swe#t the beach. easil caused b the wind. )his isn't a man who gi"es himself easil . %efore she could fill her lungs with air. as if stone had struck stone. Jessica's e es were locked on his gun.
%ullet hitting rock. 1. chilling her with the hard. A wa"e of di//iness swe#t o"er her. he'll wait us out.o one did. thinking out loud.1 Slade shifted 4ust enough to get a clearer "iew of the beach ste#s.1Slade+1 1He's in the gro"e. He was still looking be ond her to the beach ste#s.1 Jessica remembered the odd sound she'd heard 4ust as Slade had sho"ed her to the ground. 1He's a #ro. 1*hat are ou talking about+1 He brought his e es to hers briefl . Heart #ounding in her ears.1 1*ho+1 she demanded. cold look she'd seen before. Stone hitting stone. 1$t's a good #osition6 he won't mo"e''at least for a while. she focused on him again.1 he calculated. $ didn't hear''1 1He's got it silenced. about ten feet to the right of where we are now. 1)he man who 4ust took a shot at ou.1 She went as still and stiff as a statue. clouding her "ision until she saw nothing but a gra mist. 0rom a distance she heard Slade's "oice and struggled against the faintness. .
1.1 . Slade looked down at her. . He couldn't allow her the lu&ur of going into shock. 1Sta #ut. catching her face in his hand. How long do ou think we'll ha"e to sta here+1 12ou sta until $ get back. $f m co"er was blown.that we know he's there. Jess.1 She nearl ga"e wa to a h sterical giggle. her e es were dull and unfocused. He #robabl thinks we're back here making lo"e.1 she re#eated with a nod.. 1!dds are he doesn't know we'"e made him. Against the #allor. 1)hat sounds like a good idea..ow ou'"e onl got to do one thing. 1Sna# out of it and listen to me. he'd ha"e taken care of me instead of waiting to get a clear shot at ou.1 1*hat+1 $m#atientl .1 he said harshl . )here wasn't a trace of color in her face. understand+1 1!ne thing.
he tucked the gun in the back waistband. He was going to do it his own wa . He'll either think ou wouldn't #la games or that we're finished and ou're sta ing out for a while. he'll do it the minute $ stand u#. hard and quick. before she could s#eak.1 She didn't hold on to him because she knew it was useless.1 1$t's ou he wants. 1$'m going to stand u#.1 Slade said flatl as he #ried her arms awa from his neck. and after a minute $'ll walk o"er to the ste#s. -"er thing in her s stem seemed to be on slow .1 Slade told her. After tugging his shirt out of his 4eans. 1$ want ou to do e&actl as $ sa . $'ll be back. 1A hell of a bod guard ou'd make dead. 1*hat if he shoots ou+1 she asked dull . Jess. Jessica counted ten long. cu##ing her face again.1 1$f he's going to.1 He rose nonchalantl . 1Sta #ut. 1)hen ou'll still ha"e the gun. then the shoulder holster.1 He wriggled on to# of her and managed to shrug out of his 4acket. silent seconds. still looking down at her.Her arms came around him quickl and with des#erate strength. 12ou're not going out there< He'll kill ou. won't ou+1 He kissed her.
ou sta where ou are.umbl she wondered if the smile was for her benefit or for the man in the gro"e. but with Jessica.. Jessica's words #la ed back to him as he forced himself to take the ste#s slowl . She la in a "acuum of fear. Calculated risk. $f she breathed at all.. 1. )en. A hell of a bod guard ou'd make dead. He counted the ste#s off. Don't look back. $t wasn't likel the gunman had the rifle trained on him now. a flash of reassurance that didn't reach his e es. her lungs. si&. se"en. she was unaware of it.1 *ith this he turned awa from her and strolled easil to the beach ste#s. twel"e. not onl with himself. . He'd be waiting for Jessica to make a mo"e from behind the clum# of rocks.motion.o matter what. 0i"e. )here was onl one wa left to kee# her safe. He hooked his thumbs la/il in his #ockets as if e"er muscle in his bod wasn't tensed. ele"en. He was taking a chance coming out in the o#en. her heart. .. Did she listen this time+ he thought with a quick flash of #anic. A thin stream of sweat rolled down his back. waiting. Slade reminded himself. Her brain. Sometimes ou #la ed the odds. Slade grinned at her.. 0or 5od's sake don't look back. He knew how close that one silent bullet had come.
com#letel blocking out the sun. )he car#et of dried lea"es would betra him. Dis#assionatel he saw s#linters of bark fl out. that the #olice were in"ol"ed. (er close. Slade drew out his gun and dashed for the trees. *ind whi##ed through his loose shirt. Just as he'd know. inches from his shoulder. frightened off b Slade's mad rush into the gro"e. $t would distract the man's mind from Jessica. so neither mo"ed at all. one la ing siege to the other. . %ut his brain was cool now. he thought. Just as he dashed behind an oak. Slade counted it a mi&ed blessing. came back to settle on a limb and sing 4o full . if Slade's luck ran out. .either man could mo"e soundlessl . Slade waited. Patientl . but waited. Slade didn't think at all. he heard the dull thud. )he storm'brewing clouds closed in.)he moment he reached the to#. He took a /ig/agging #attern toward the #lace where he had s#otted the flutter of white. Close. A squirrel hunted acorns not ten feet awa from where he stood. . Slade's gun and his shield would tell the #ro all he needed to know. )he sweat was dr ing cold on his back. )he man would know he'd botched the contract. 0i"e eternal minutes became ten.ow the gro"e was cold and gloom . A bird.
he fired three times. hitting the ground and rolling when he caught a quick glim#se of the man and the rifle. she touched her li#s and found them cold. Painfull . the #assionate crash of water against rock. $ should ha"e told him before he left. He was coming back. the howling wind. He'd said he'd be back. . $ should ha"e told him $ lo"e him. Prone. She was going to belie"e that. *ith her fingerti#s. She concentrated on that. she wouldn't let herself think it. $nstantl Slade s#rang out toward the sound. *ith one hand she clutched Slade's discarded 4acket. but she could 4ust smell him. *hat if. Jessica la numbed b a fear icier than the wind off the Sound. )he leather was smooth and cold. she thought des#eratel . $f she could smell him. she shifted enough so that she . she watched the clouds boil. )he warmth he'd left there had long since faded... )oo long< her mind shouted. Staring u# at the sk . $t's been too long< Her fingers tightened on the leather. he'd sta ali"e. )hat was all she could hear''the wind and the water. he was ali"e. $f she willed it hard enough for long enough.)here was a muffled snee/e and a rustle of lea"es.o. !nce she had lo"ed the sound of it.
but not quick enough to #re"ent her from seeing what he'd been determined she wouldn't see. blocking her "iew.. relief turning to shock and shock to trembling. she ordered herself. !ne of his shirt buttons ground into her cheek and she concentrated on the #ain. She heard the three ra#id shots and fro/e. Her lungs were screaming for air. Jessica ordered herself to breathe before she scrambled u# and ran.o. he ste##ed in front of her.could watch the beach ste#s.1 he said shortl . )wice she stumbled on her wa u# the ste#s.nable to finish. did ou. )he #ain in her chest sna##ed her out of it. she shut her e es. )his as#ect of his life should ne"er ha"e touched .. 0ear made her clums ..1 . She wouldn't faint. then #ulled her into his arms. onl to haul herself u# and force more s#eed into her legs. 1$s he. Cursing. He was quick. Slade s#rang around the moment he heard her. skidding on cracked lea"es and branches. 1Don't ou e"er listen+1 he demanded. Jessica sto##ed her headlong rush into his arms. Diml . 12ou're not hurt+1 1.. She wouldn't be sick. She broke into the gro"e.
1$ can't sto#. He should ha"e seen to it. Jess.ot knowing what else to do.her. then drew her down into his la# and let her cr it out.1 1)hen ou'd ha"e done us both a lot of good rushing in here. She began to wee# in raw.1 He #ulled her awa . He sat on the grass.1 15et it all out. $ thought he'd killed ou.1 she managed. 1$t's all right now. 1$'m sorr . he rocked. stroked.1 0or the first time his tone was gentle. lo"ing. still wee#ing. took one look at her face. the fingers of one hand digging into his shirt. . 1*h didn't ou sta on the beach+1 1$ heard the shots. $t broke her down as his shouting and anger would ne"er ha"e done. he berated himself. the fingers of the other still holding his 4acket.1 His li#s brushed her hot tem#le. harsh sobs. and anked her back into his arms. and murmured.1 . 12ou don't ha"e to be strong this time. *ithout a word he led her to the edge of the gro"e.
1 He kissed her hair. 1$ su##ose not. $f he could ha"e found the wa . 1!h.a be ou know something and don't e"en . he stroked the hair from her dam# face. -"en when she quieted. Hers were red and swollen from wee#ing. rocking her with a gentle rh thm.1 He took her li#s this time with a tenderness neither of them had known he #ossessed.1 She wanted to smile for him but threw her arms around his neck instead. )he contact was another reassurance that he was whole and safe.1 1.1 1Ssh. Slade would ha"e blocked the morning from her mind''taken her awa somewhere.1 1$ thought ou were dead. some#lace where no ugliness could touch her. 12ou should ha"e more faith in the good gu s. Slade. his cool and direct.%ur ing her face against his chest. *h + *h would an one want to kill me+ $t 4ust doesn't make sense. $'m not sure $ could li"e through something like that again. 1$ couldn't sta on the beach when $ heard the shots. she let the tears come until she was em#t .1 He drew her awa so that their e es met. )he need to #rotect had long since sto##ed being #rofessional. 1.o.
)he #ressure's on. 1)hat's enough. )he hel#less wee#ing was o"er and the strength was back. $'ll take ou to .1 He #ulled her to her feet.1 1$'m not going an where.. Someone #aid him to kill me. 2ou said that.1 13et's go inside. . though it had the dangerous edge of h steria.1 He took her b the shoulders for one quick shake..reali/e it. that man was a #rofessional. 1-nough. 1How much was $ worth+1 she demanded.1 1%ut $ don't know an thing<1 she insisted. 2ou're going to go in and #ack a bag. Jess. but she 4erked awa . and whoe"er's in charge of this business is smart enough to know it. 1Someone wants to kill me and $ don't e"en know who it is or wh .ew 2ork.1 he muttered as he started to #ull her toward the house. #ressing the heels of her hands to her tem#les. 2ou'"e become a liabilit .1 1)he hell ou aren't.
)his was normalc . she told herself. .1 He nodded. She turned the hot water in the tub on full until the room was misted with steam. m friends. 1All right. $t had been a nightmare. )he moment she ste##ed into her room. $'m sta ing right here until it's o"er. $t was suddenl of #aramount im#ortance that she scrub off e"er grain of sand. Slade. )he cool green tile on the walls. not trusting hers. 1$'"e got to call this business in. she gas#ed at the shock of the heat against her chilled skin. e"er lingering trace of the time she had s#ent on the beach.1 He measured her slowl . Jessica began to #eel off her clothes.1 She nodded. $'ll do what ou tell me to a #oint. but took the soa# and lathered again and again until she could no longer smell the scent of salt water''the scent of her own fear. m sho#. $t's m life. 12ou listen to me. but $ won't run. the i"or towels with the #ale green border she had chosen herself onl the month before. 2ou're to go straight to our room and wait for me. the leaf fern at the window. not trusting his eas acce#tance.Jessica anked out of his gri# for the second time. Plunging in.
ichael ha"e stood #assi"el b while someone arranged to ha"e her killed+ 3owering her hands.o. She had lain curled behind a #ile of rocks while a man she barel knew''and lo"ed''had risked his life to #rotect hers.ichael had been her friend. $f that was true. And she had to face it. . Jessica forced herself to be calm. in"ol"ed her. *hich one+ she asked herself. dam# fingers to them. it wasn't a nightmare. her #artner.sed her. She hadn't e"en heard of a man named James Sladerman. . Slade thought she might know something without being aware of it. horribl real. she thought. and #ressed hot. )he time was o"er when she could tr to #ass off what Slade had told her as a mistake. $t was horribl . . *hile she had been blindl trusting. she was no closer to the solution than she had been before. . she wouldn't belie"e that. )here'd been no man then cooll attem#ting to kill her for a fee. *hich one could she belie"e it of+ *ould either Da"id or . when her life had been sim#le. Da"id had still been the brother she'd ne"er had. )here was nothing for her to do but wait. .A month ago. someone she lo"ed had decei"ed her. $t was real.o. Jessica slid her bod down in the tub and closed her e es again. whate"er else she would belie"e. She closed her e es.
Slade #ut a call through directl to the commissioner.1 he finished.ow. $ can ha"e her in .1 he quoted. what ha"e ou got for me+1 1Someone tried to kill Jessica this morning.ew 2ork in less than two hours. 15i"e me the details. emotionlessl . 1)he don't want an thing to interfere with the in"estigation at this delicate state.An thing but satisfied with his con"ersation with his contact. 4amming a cigarette between his li#s. $ need ou to officiall gi"e me the right to #ut her in #rotecti"e custod . 1$ want her out.1 Dodson demanded.1 )his time he didn't attem#t to disguise the bitterness in his "oice. .1 he answered curtl . Slade re#orted while his knuckles turned white on the recei"er.1 1$ take it ou'"e alread checked in with this. %riefl . 1She won't lea"e "oluntaril . toda . 1Sergeant. 1As long as she's willing . 0or a moment there was dead silence on the wire.1 12our friends in the %ureau want her to sta .
1 12ou'"e gotten to know her.1 Dodson cut him off curtl . before it's known that the contract on her is no longer o#erable. 1She trusts me. thick'headed fool who's too bus thinking about Adams and : ce and that #recious sho# of hers. with luck. *e'"e got to nail this down fast.to coo#erate. Slade. 1$f it's gone far enough that a #ro was hired. than an #lace else.1 1=ee# her in the house.1 . $ see. 1Does she trust ou+1 Slade e&#elled a stream of smoke. )he ser"ants can think she's ill.1 the commissioner commented.1 1$ want''1 1*hat ou want isn't the issue. she'll be safer there. the won't mo"e her.1 he added more calml .1 1And Jessica's willing to coo#erate. $n her room if ou think it's necessar . 1!r what $ want. with ou.1 1She's a stubborn.
1 12eah. )he in"estigation.1She's nothing more than bait. had li"ed their entire li"es on o##osite sides of the fence. -"en without the mess the were in.1 Dodson retorted. 3ooking down at his hands. made her "ulnerable. #rofessionall as well as emotionall .1 Slade said bitterl . he admitted slowl . )hat in itself destro ed his ob4ecti"it . *hen or how. he reali/ed. cared wasn't the right word. Slade slammed down the recei"er. . 1Just make sure she isn't swallowed. He scra#ed his hands roughl o"er his face. He was in lo"e with her. and b doing so. She was all that mattered. frustrated. 12ou'"e got our orders. he didn't ha"e the faintest idea. He didn't ha"e an right to lo"e her. that the were as good as tied. it was stu#id. )he 'd been born on o##osite sides of the fence. )hat would change . e"en less to want her to lo"e him. His hands curled into fists.1 Disgusted. didn't matter to him an longer. He was u# against a solid wall of refusal from Jessica right on down. He cared too much to think logicall .a be it had started that first da she had come tearing down the ste#s toward him. . And it was stu#id. the 4ustice of it. $'"e got them. She needed him now.o.
when it was o"er. 1Are ou all right+1 12es. shar# scent of soa# surrounded her. She was wra##ed in one of the i"or towels with the #ale green border. deliberate force he crushed out his cigarette. then went u#stairs to her. )he came into the bedroom together. Don't be angr with me. Her skin was flushed and glowing from the heat of her bath. as he turned to close the door behind him.1 . watching each other. Jessica from the bath. She could feel the frustration. the anger in him. Slade from the hall. :ight now he couldn't afford to think of how he would deal with his feelings once Jessica was safe again. Slade.1 She sighed a little because it was nearl the truth. 0or a moment the stood still.1 1Don't ask for the im#ossible. 0irst he had to make certain she would be. 1$'m better. *ith slow. Her hair fell wet around her shoulders while the clean.
but his as well. let the ser"ants think ou're ill or tired or 4ust #lain la/ . he ordered his muscles to rela&. or see an one unless $'m with ou.1 Straining against im#otence. he 4ammed his fists in his #ockets. 1*hat do we do now+1 1*e wait.1All right.eeding something to do. her e es meeting his in the mirror. 1$'m .1 . she went to the dresser and #icked u# her brush.1 3eaning back against the door. 1-ither wa want it. She wasn't onl risking her own life.1 1-ither that or a cell. 12ou're to sta in the house. adding a shrug. she reali/ed.1 1Don't bet on it.1 he im#ro"ised. Jess. 1$ won't be 4ailed in m own home. or the #hone. 12ou're going to #la this m wa .1 ou 12ou can't #ut me in a cell.1 Her automatic rebellion was instantl quelled as she remembered those agoni/ing minutes on the beach. 12ou're right.1 She slammed the brush back down. 2ou're not to answer the door. Starting now.1 she murmured.
.. 2ou need to rest. 1$'ll 4ust be down in the librar .1 He lifted the back of his hand to her cheek in a gesture the both found uncharacteristic. Slade.1 he answered calml . she circled his neck. So close. to lose himself in lo"emaking. ou're worn out.1 3ifting her arms. . 1She's got it into her head that ou'"e caught a touch of Da"id's flu.1 1$ told %ets ou didn't want to be disturbed. he thought as he ran his knuckles o"er the line of her cheekbone. as if we were 4ust a man and a woman who wanted to be together. *e'll let her go on thinking it. He'd come so close to losing her. Slade wondered if she knew that his need was as great as hers''to touch. *h don't ou get some slee#+1 1Don't go.sorr .1 she corrected and walked to him.1 1$ need ou.ake lo"e to me.1 Abru#tl she whirled around. 1Can't we belie"e that it's true for 4ust a few hours+ 3et's gi"e each other the rest of the morning. 1. 1$ hate this< $ hate all of it.1 she said quickl as he reached for the doorknob. Jess.
1 %ut his li#s were alread lowering to seek hers.1 His "oice was rough with emotion. dark and intense. he'd made her soar6 now he made her float. he brought his hand to the loose knot of the towel to draw the material from her before he carried her to bed. caring. soft words. swee# o"er her as she began to unbutton his shirt. her li#s #arted. )hinking onl of this. )he #ulse at the base of her throat beat thickl as Slade's fingerti# slid down to it.12our e es are shadowed. o"er#owered b the tenderness she'd drawn out of him. )he night before. Soft kisses. Jessica melted against him. )he brush of mouth on mouth''gentle. comforting. )he soothing qualit of his kiss was no less arousing. locked in an embrace that had been turbulent with #assion. s#reading it out on the . almost brutal with desire. 12ou should rest. rained o"er her. Jessica saw his e es. )he had stood there onl the night before. gliding o"er her features as if to memori/e them. his mouth fi&ed on hers again. softening under his until he thought he would sink into them. )hen her fingers were tra##ed between their bodies. !n a sigh. His hand was still on her face. His fingers combed through her dam# hair. both une&#ected. he needed. She needed.
but with the hunger came the sweet calming breath of lo"e. Her hands were free again and. . He wandered o"er the bod he alread knew so well. She was a willing #risoner in the thick. . but ne"er gentle. She unlocked something in him. heard his incoherent murmur as she worked the rest of his clothes from him. :ain began to #atter against the windows. )he rain grew loud. . gloom light he worshi#ed her with hands. lingering in its silk as if he would touch each indi"idual strand. skin flushed with desire. humming world concei"ed b #leasure and sensation. 0lesh to heated flesh. something gi"ing and tender.aked. he wanted her.#illow. trembling. hea" e ed. and e es. 3ook at me. the dealt with the last buttons on his shirt. )he #eaceful emotion guided them both to meet the uns#oken needs of the other. the began the 4ourne . $n the gra .o less des#eratel than the night before. )ouch me here. Jessica la quietl as he took his ga/e o"er her with the slow intensit she recogni/ed. the room dimmer. She felt a qui"er race after her e&#loring hands. He'd ne"er been a gentle lo"er''intense. 3et me taste. li#s. es. es. )here was no need for words when hearts and minds were attuned. #assionate.
caresses urgent. Searing. )here was s#eed and strength . searching. then #robed inside to drink u# all the tastes of him.nder the #ressure of her hands. *ith a strength onl recentl disco"ered. .ot so gentle now.3ifting a hand to either side of his face. nor so calml .nder the sound of the rain she heard his breath shudder. seducing. She heard her name ri# from his li#s before the crushed down on hers. she felt his muscles tighten. . 0la"ors musk and shar# see#ed into her. until her skin was molten. she drew him back to her. his mouth "eered down her. Desire s#un into delirium as the came together. she rolled on to# of him to com#lete a cra/ed 4ourne of her own. she slowl traced the sha#e of his mouth. =isses became #ossessi"e. . insular room into a #lace of white light and golden fire. cata#ulting her be ond the gra . the sought each other. )he liquef ing #leasure that had ruled her became a hot. Desire rose to the ne&t #lane. *hate"er madness he s#oke was muffled against her in his urgenc . )he tangled and untangled in a wildl choreogra#hed dance of #assion. )he light wasn't white now. until she hungered for more. dee# into her. but red6 the fire flamed blue. *ith her tongue. o"er her. torrid need.
1 $t wasn't a question.and des#eration.1 :ising. His mouth was #ressed to her throat. He was in lo"e with a woman he should ne"er ha"e . )he long match hissed as he struck it. Slade corrected. . hurled b the wind. A feeling of securit drifted o"er her. Crouched. mi&ing them with his own. but he remained. )he rain drummed against the windows now. 12ou'll slee# now. his hands tangled in her hair. followed b a weariness that reached her bones. he watched the flames lick.inutes #assed. He knew what was ha##ening to him. she la beneath him. 0aster and faster the climbed while his mouth clung to hers. what had ha##ened to him. staring steadil at the fire without seeing it. S#ent.o. 1$'ll start the fire. He tem#ered the command with a kiss. Slade lifted his head to see her e es gla/ed o"er with fatigue. Slade walked to the white brick hearth and added #a#er to the kindling. then catch. swallowing her gas#s. His bod was warm and dam# and hea" on hers. . 12ou'll sta +1 )he words were thick as she fought off slee# long enough to hear his answer.
Her e es were shadowed. he couldn't afford to think of his own feelings.ntil she was out of danger. Slade began to dress. And how much good would he do her+ he asked himself as his e es #assed o"er her... and then. He'd see her through this. A woman. Shaking his head. he reminded himself griml . her face #ale beneath its disorder. )he fire brought flickers of light into the room to #la o"er her skin. he thought. allowing his hand to linger on her hair . )hen he'd get out of her life. the co# had to come first.touched. And get her out of his. A woman he had no business lo"ing. $t wouldn't ha##en again. $f he'd been an instant slower that morning. 3o"e clouded his 4udgment. He drew the sheet o"er her. 0or her sake. Her hair fanned out. or of their consequences. one hand balled loosel on the #illow. )he shock of the morning had taken its toll in e&haustion.. . She la on her stomach. he turned back to her. he noted. too slender. the man second. her breathing hea" . dr now. to deal with what had ha##ened6 to deal with the threat of what could ha##en. He'd kee# her in the house if he had to chain her. She was too small. slowed his refle&es. whose life de#ended on him. he #romised himself.. Straightening. kee# her safe.
*ater sunlight struggled through the clouds to fall on the wet shrubs and grass. Slade turned awa from the window. 0all flowers hung hea" 'headed and dri##ing. %ut then. then trotted off toward the beach. Hell of a watchdog. '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' Cha#ter F ''''''''' Contents ' Pre" 9 . . their #etals scattered. he clam#ed it between his teeth. while Jessica sle#t.e&t 3ate. sniffing here and there without an a##arent interest. late in the morning.briefl before he left the room. :osebushes were naked and thorn . 0inding a likel branch. )he wind had died. Slade thought in disgust. Someone had let . Slade stood at the librar window that faced the garden. who could blame the dog for not barking at someone he knew''someone he'd seen in the house for ears+ Scrubbing his face with his hands.l sses out. )he storm had stri##ed the lea"es awa from the trees so that the la sogg and dull on the ground. )he dog lumbered along on the wet ground.
Plans had a wa of "eering off course when the human element was in"ol"ed. !nce her life was settled. $f. *ith luck. he #icked u# one of the books from a #ile he'd begun to organi/e. he thought''once her life was settled again. $f e"er thing went according to #lan. As long as Jessica did what she was told. there was "irtuall no wa for an one on the outside to get to her. she'd slee# through the da . *ith an oath. it was sim#l a matter of holding tight until the 0%$ made its mo"e. she was safe''and e"er hour that she was safe brought them closer to the finish.ew 2ork. he tossed the book aside. and he was back in . % rights he should ha"e taken this #art of the assignment in his stride. awa from her. $dl . She'd ha"e to get someone to take care of this mess. A glance at his watch told him that Jessica had been aslee# for half an hour. he re#eated silentl . e"er thing went according to #lan. *as he e"er going to get awa from her+ he . *hen she sle#t. )he man who had been in the #arlor the night before was running scared and for that reason wouldn't test his luck during the da in a house full of acti"e ser"ants.)he waiting was eating at him''another sign that he was losing his ob4ecti"it . Slade thought tightl .
1 he reminded her. 1Slade+1 )urning. 1*hat are ou doing u#+1 he demanded.1 12ou're su##osed to be resting. All he had to do was to get into his car and head it in the right direction.1 %ecause her hands were clamm . 1$ couldn't slee#.1 1$ ne"er take #ills. he reminded himself and was suddenl .1 Jessica managed a weak smile. her e es still shadowed. 2ou know how to boost a woman's morale. %ut how long would it take him to chase her out of his head+ )hat was for tomorrow. He knew better than to think of tomorrows.wondered with something uncomfortabl close to fear. !h. he could #ut the distance between them''miles of distance. he saw Jessica in the doorwa . Sergeant. $t anno ed him that she was there. abominabl tired. 1)hanks. she linked them . 12ou look like hell. infuriated him that her face was still #ale.1 1)ake a #ill.
together. but $ do ha"e a knack for organi/ing once $ get started. 1Jess. go back to bed. $f nothing else $ can fetch and carr for ou until''1 He cut off her stream of hast words b #utting his hand o"er hers as she reached for a book. 1And don't make one of those snide remarks. sweating fear that had had her choking back a scream as she fought off slee#.1 she continued hurriedl .1 1$ could hel#.1 Slade returned e"enl . Her skin was ice cold. 1$'"e got nothing but time now. 1$ might as well clear u# some of this.1 he said with a shrug. She wouldn't tell him of the nightmare that had woken her''of the shar#. 1$ know the librar 's a disgrace and the finger #oints at me. Jessica walked farther into the room.1 1$'m not sick<1 )he words eru#ted from her as she anked her hand awa .or would Jessica tell him how she had reached for him onl to find him gone. $nstincti"el he tightened his gri#. 1Are ou working+1 Slade frowned. 12ou're going to be. . 1if ou don't take care of . then followed her ga/e to the #ile of books beside him. 5et some slee#. $'ll ha"e %ets bring ou u# a tra later. wanting to warm her.1 .ncomfortabl aware that her mo"ements were 4erk .
he turned back to the stack of books.1 1$'m not going to #ass out.o+1 He ga"e a quick laugh.1 she ordered. 12ou #ushed our dinner around our #late last night. remembering his earl conce#tion of his assignment.ourself. Slade withdrew. 1$ don't need a bab sitter. 1)hen tell me. 1$ wouldn't count on it but suit ourself. 1$'m sorr $'m not as accustomed to this sort of thing as ou are. Her e es had darkened. how much slee# ha"e ou had in the last two da s+ *hen's the last time ou'"e had a meal+1 1$ had dinner last night.1 1. enunciating each word carefull . that much more of a contrast to her skin. 2ou'll #ass out and make m 4ob easier. %ecause he wanted to rage at her.1 she began.1 1Sto# treating me like a child.1 he corrected. 1=ee# it u#.1 .1 he said carelessl .1 $n dismissal.1 she said quietl . 1!"erall it doesn't matter whether ou're conscious or unconscious.
1 Swiftl . isn't it. she turned awa . )he ne&t time $'m sure $'ll be able to en4o a banquet after $ see a dead bod on m #ro#ert . she watched him. she reminded herself. Chest hea"ing with the emotion of her words.1 she murmured. then became more and more agitated. then #ressed her forehead to the window glass. 1*hat do ou want me to feel+ $f $'d been slower. he did for ou. 1Don't ou feel an thing+1 Jessica demanded. And so would ou. Slade+ =illing a man+1 A hard knot lodged in his stomach. he #ulled out a cigarette and lit it. And 4ust as hard. 1$t isn't e"er da $'m in"estigated b the 0%$ and shot at b a #rofessional gunman.Jessica began in a tone that started off calm. )he few clinging raindro#s blurred and seemed to multi#l until she shut her e es. *hat he did.1 1*h +1 His "oice was as cool as the #ane she rested u#on. He made himself take a long slow drag. 1$'m sorr .1 . Casuall . 1$'m sorr . All in a da 's work for ou. $'d be dead. another in his chest. made himself s#eak calml . 12ou were on target again.
*hat he had done that morning hadn't been done coldl . don't ou+ $t infuriates ou that ou're haunted b feelings. %oth she and Slade turned to see Da"id stride in. Jessica turned to face him. then #ushed his glasses back u# on his nose. 12ou won't like the tri# back. the guards were there.1 Slowl she walked to him. 12ou look like hell. the door to the librar swung o#en. 1$ wonder if that's wh ou won't sta with me after we'"e made lo"e. *h aren't ou in bed+1 1Da"id. Are ou afraid $'ll find a weakness. don't ou+1 $n a deliberatel controlled mo"ement. Slade crushed out his cigarette. He took a long look at Jessica. 2es. 12es.)aking a dee# breath.1 12ou hate wanting me.1 he warned softl . Slade+ A little crack $ might be able to widen+1 1*atch how far ou go. 12ou hate being reminded that ou're 4ust as human as the rest of us.1 As she o#ened her mouth to s#eak again. but she knew him better now. needs. emotions.1 She couldn't control the tremor in her "oice or the sudden urge .
5od. Please.1 he stated and tested her forehead with his #alm. 1Just a little tired.1 .that had her racing into his arms to hug him fiercel . S#eculating.1 Drawing her awa .1 1$'m all right. 1*hat's all this+ 2ou got a fe"er+ Come on. what's all this+ $s she delirious+1 Da"id tossed the question at Slade. Jessie.1 she managed. Da"id sent Slade a sur#rised look o"er her shoulder as he awkwardl #atted her back. she thought des#eratel . not Da"id. 12ou look read to dro#. Jessica controlled the tears that burned in her e es.1 . 1. gi"ing me all kinds of grief about #assing on m germs. he grimaced at the memor .om called me at the sho#. Slade watched the e&change. but managed to nudge Jessica back enough to #eer into her face. )hrough sheer force of will. Slade di##ed his hands into his #ockets. 1)hat's what ou get for coming into m room and sho"ing that chicken sou# down m throat.ot him. concerned. $n silence. 1He . Jessica clung to Da"id's thin frame as if it were an anchor while he looked #u//led. and embarrassed all at once.
but $'"e made enough sales to earn m kee#. )raffic's been light. $ wanted to check on ou.1 he told Slade. 1After . $'ll call one. smiled. 1*hen $ need one. relie"ed b the question and the brisk tone.1 1Ha"e ou called the doctor+1 1Da"id''1 )he anno ance in her tone #leased him. )he deli"eries went out esterda without an #roblem.ichael . tell that to someone who didn't s#end last week flat on his back moaning. 1She did nothing but nag for two weeks. Ha"e ou+1 he demanded of Jessica again. 1$t's great ha"ing the situation re"ersed. $'m 4ust going to take it eas for a cou#le of da s. )hat was more like Jessica. 1$'ll be fine. *h aren't ou at the sho#+1 1Don't worr .1 Jessica wanted to cling to him again. babe.1 He ga"e her hair a quick tug. and hated herself. .om called and read me the riot act.1Sure. to #our out e"er thing that was inside her.1 Da"id shot her a grin. 1$ don't want to see ou in the sho# until ne&t week. $nstead she took a ste# back. $'m heading right back.
1.1 *ith a satisfied grin tossed o"er his shoulder.om sa s for ou two to come in to lunch.ot Da"id. *hat ran through her wasn't #ain. ou're not going to get that raise ou'"e been hinting about. ou look like ou could use a "acation. )urning. an more than .1 1$n a cou#le of da s it'll be o"er. whirling on Slade. )he moment the door closed. 1$ won't belie"e it. not e"en an ache.1 1$f ou tell me how terrible $ look again.ichael is. but a bloodless kind of hurt that left her numb in the "ital areas of heart and mind. 1. He isn't ca#able.1 1)hat's what ha##ens when ou work for a woman. 1. 0or a moment she felt that she had sim#l ceased to e&ist.1 Her own whis#ered words 4olted her. *ith them came a torrent of emotion.and $ can handle it.ot Da"id<1 she re#eated. She didn't mo"e or make an sound. Jessica #ressed both hands to her mouth.1 he told Slade.1 Slade ke#t his tone neutral.1 . . )his time ou're getting the chicken sou#. 1)hen ou'll know one wa or the other. he left them. Da"id headed back for the door.othing ou can sa will make me belie"e he'd do an thing to hurt me. $n fact.
$'ll cuff ou to the bed and lock ou in. %ut what did he do when she was sim#l lim# and totall de#endent on him+ She was asking him for reassurance he couldn't gi"e. He was almost afraid she would shatter if he a##lied the least #ressure.nless $ ha"e our word. she dashed for the door. And that.1$ know now<1 S#inning around. but to him. 1Slade.1 he said e"enl . Slade disco"ered. He could e"en manage her when she dissol"ed into storm tears. Slade's hand clam#ed down on hers on the handle. He knew how to handle her when she was furious.1 he said again. was worse.1 She seemed so fragile. $ think $ could stand an thing but knowing either one of them was in"ol"ed with what''with what ha##ened this morning. 12ou're not going after him. *hen she tried to 4erk free. des#erate''hating knowing it was him she would turn against. 1. He hated to see her like this. $ can't bear it. %ut he had no choice.ot Da"id. 1. *hat do $ do with her now+ he wondered as he laid his cheek on her hair.1 She didn't turn against him. he took her b the shoulders with more gentleness than he was feeling. Jess. 12ou're not going after him.1 He narrowed his e es as her hand struggled beneath his. tormented. emotion he was . s#acing the words #recisel . 1$ mean it. crum#ling into his arms.1 she murmured.
Slade wasn't a man for endearments. nibbling kisses. don't do this to ourself. seemed his onl #ur#ose. 1$ want to take care of ou. )o kee# her from harm. her des#air. it occurred to Jessica that her weakness. unconsciousl s#eaking the thoughts that raced around in his head.1 12es. %lock it out. then the other. $n his arms she could almost forget the nightmare. 0or the moment Jessica had no strength to offer an thing but surrender in return. 3et me hear ou sa it.1 he heard himself sa . and the realit . onl made his difficult 4ob im#ossible.1 he murmured. changing the angle for more soft. she allowed him to gi"e and to take while she remained #assi"e. or for t #icall romantic gestures. to shield her from hurt. 1)hink of me.terrified to offer. 1!nl think of me.1 He tilted u# her chin until their e es met. 13et me take care of ou. but it was enough for both of them. He took her hands and buried his li#s in the #alm of one. -"en as the tingle ran u# her arms. a cou#le of da s. He'd been wiser . 1Jess. $ want ou. $t sur#rised her enough to stead rather than arouse her.1 He wasn't aware of mo"ing until his li#s found hers. and a #lea. He saw trust. Her "ulnerabilit undermined him. 1)ell me ou want me.1 Slade drew her closer.1 %reathless and #liant.
1. Drawing on her reser"es of strength. to Da"id. almost des#eratel .1 she demanded. she made an effort to a##ear as though she were en4o ing the meal. she straightened her shoulders and smiled at him. he answered the smile. )o look out onl reminded her that she was im#risoned in her own home.than he knew to ask her to think of him. )o the man in the gro"e. 1)ell me about our famil .1 5ratified. She talked''rambled''about an thing but what was foremost on her mind. 1%ets has a nast tem#er when she has to kee# meals waiting. )oo man to#ics of con"ersation could lead back to the sho#. mother's a quiet woman''the kind of #erson who talks onl when she has something to sa . Jessica found herself fighting the inclination to look out the window. Deciding that it would be better to go along with her #retense than insist she eat or rest. Slade #assed her cream for the coffee she was allowing to grow cold. =nowing Slade watched her. to .1 she lied. She likes little things . 1Hungr +1 12es. Jessica managed to eat a little. though the food threatened to stick in her throat.ichael.
)his tall skinn girl with soft e es and . 1%adl .1 1She wants to be a chemist..1 Jessica hesitated. Jessica #ushed the untouched coffee aside. 1She said so after her first da in high school chemistr . 1About what ou do+1 1She doesn't sa .1 1How does she feel about. 2ou should see her mi&ing all those #otions.1 he admitted. ou said she was in college. )he onl thing she e"er insisted on was that Janice and $ learn to #la . 1And our sister... She #la s the #iano''started taking lessons again last ear.1 1Do ou+1 Slade heard the sur#rise in her "oice and ga"e her a mild scowl.1 *ith a nod. Janice.1 He ga"e a quick m stified laugh.like the figure $ bought in our sho# and fuss glass. 1She finall ga"e u# on me.1 Slade watched her mo"e the s#oon around and around until a tin whirl#ool formed in the cu#. %ut she manages.. 1$ wouldn't think it an easier to be the mother of a co# than the wife of one. She's alwa s managed. then #icked u# her s#oon to stir her coffee.
12ou must lo"e her "er much. She blew u# our bathroom when she was si&teen. 1And our mother. Jessica studied the cold coffee in her cu# and wondered if Janice Sladerman reali/ed how much her brother was willing to sacrifice for her. . 1*here does she go to school+1 1Princeton. She got a #artial scholarshi#. .1 . His writing takes a back seat to his sister's education.ot nearl enough to com#ensate for the risk. How much did a co# make+ she wondered.1 she murmured. she thought instantl . #leased to hear the low gurgle that had been so much a #art of her until the da before. Jessica reflected.ot enough.1 Slade #assed it off.beautiful hands''not our a"erage mad scientist.1 1!ne can see his #oint.1 Jessica laughed''#erha#s her first genuine laugh in twent 'four hours. 1Did she reall +1 1A minor e&#losion. 1)he su#er wasn't too im#ressed with her e&#lanation of unstable com#ounds. the cost of tuition must de"our his income.1 And e"en with that.1 Jessica mused.
$t wasn't something he thought of. don't ou. Slade drew her to her feet. Slade+ Doesn't suit the tough co# image. 12es.1 he #ointed out as he walked her back to the librar . 1)he 're one of m "ices.1 she confessed. 12ou can alwa s tell me how ou knock sus#ects around until the beg to confess. 12ou reall hate an one knowing what a nice #erson ou are. 1*hat's the difference+1 . ne"er e&#ect. Jessica ga"e him a long.1 3inking his fingers with hers. she reached out to take his hand. )hings ha"en't been eas on either of them. $ do.Slade lifted a brow. not a co#. #leased to see that she'd embarrassed him. )he ne"er com#lain.1 She grinned. it sim#l was.1 1)hat's about a #ri"ate detecti"e.1 12ou'"e been watching too man old mo"ies. quiet look. 1$ can't tell ou how man times $'"e seen )he %ig Slee#. 1How ha"e ou managed to hide from them what ou reall want+1 Sensing his instant withdrawal.1 1And ou+1 3ifting her e es.
ou can do the cataloging. turning to her with an e&#ression between amusement and e&as#eration.1 She considered.He shot her a look.1 Slade onl lifted a brow at that. Jessica #lucked one of a neat stack of inde& files. 1How much time do ou ha"e+1 1*ell.1 She #ut the card back down before she turned to him.1 she corrected.1 5rateful for an task. 12our handwriting has to be better than mine. $t was a gesture Jessica had learned he used in lieu of do/ens of words.1 He gestured toward the #ile of books littering the work table. glad to forget the outside world for a few moments. 1(er old mo"ies.1 1All right.1 1Slade. 1Since ou want to hel#. 12ou'd .1 1Something like that. 1Classics. 1$ su##ose ou'll want to reference and cross'reference and all that sort of thing. 1$ onl watch them for their cultural "alue.1 He sto##ed. 1$t might be interesting to learn wh one's called a flatfoot and the other a gumshoe.1 he decided.
)hen he thought of the wa Jessica had looked when she had walked through the librar doors an hour before. 1. 1*hat then+1 He began to make a clear s#ace for her to work.1 1*ell+1 She lowered a hi# to the table. 1)his kind of mess dri"es me cra/ . 1His taste was eclectic to sa the least but $ think he had a #reference for hard'boiled whodunits.1 A smile touched her li#s.1 he told her. Jessica looked around.1 )he thought occurred to her quite suddenl .omentaril distracted. He lo"ed to read. $ might as well #oint ou in the right direction. 1$ don't ha"e an idea. How man books are in here+1 he asked before she could "oice another ob4ection. nearl finished. .rather be working on our book than doing this. waiting for him on the desk u#stairs. then her e es. 1$t's about a famil .ost of these were m father's. *h don't ou take a cou#le of hours for ourself+1 He thought of the no"el. 1*hile $'m here. . 1*hat's our book about+ $s it a detecti"e no"el+1 1)he one $'m working on now+1 He grinned.o. .
"ictories.1 es. ad4ustments. %ut Jessica was different6 she wasn't the nameless. he surrendered com#letel . disa##ointments. He wanted his words read.1 1Slade. 1. ou'd better sit down. $n that moment.beginning in the #ostwar forties and working through modern da .1 he muttered.a be. would re"eal much of the inner man. $t was a dream he'd li"ed with for too man ears to count. Her breasts #ressed lightl against his back6 her hands linked loosel at his waist. Changes.1 13et me read it. Slade stalled. 1$f ou're going to hel#. held too much weight. for that moment.1 she demanded im#ulsi"el .1 *ra##ing her arms around his waist. 1$'ll 4ust bother ou until ou sa mine. good or bad. she knew instincti"el . Her o#inion. 1$t's not finished. $t's a talent of Something about the casuall intimate embrace stirred him be ond belief. faceless #ublic.1 Searching for a #encil. Jessica rested her cheek on his back.1 1$'ll read what is. His words.
1 he in"ited. Couldn't she see that she'd become woman and dream and "ulnerabilit .1 Dee#ening the kiss.1 he murmured. 1$ can onl ho#e m work's cut out for me. 1%other me. $'m no #usho"er.1 *ith a low laugh. 1)hat might get ou a cou#le of #ages. she slid her hands under his shirt to run them u# the firm #lanes of his back. turning so that he could gather her into his arms. 1%ut $ warn ou. #erha#s the could #retend for his that she belonged to him. all in the s#ace of da s+ $f the were to #retend''for her sake''that there was no threat be ond the walls. Didn't she see that there was nothing he could refuse her+ Slade thought as he brought his hands down to co"er hers. Jessica rose on her toes until her li#s brushed his. $t was dee#er than need. gi"ing them a quick . shar#er than longing.to the lo"e he felt for her. along the ridge of muscle. 1*ant to tr for a cha#ter+1 She allowed her tongue to trace his li#s la/il .
1About twent 'fi"e.1 she told him quietl .1 Slade said firml . nudging her down in a chair.1 1Count on it. then two. then framed her face with his hands. the better to en4o the sensation of being seduced when no seduction was necessar . he drew her awa . retreating 4ust as she felt him increase the #ressure. She sensed his res#onse. 1After+1 1After. 1Start writing.1 Jessica was hardl aware of the hours that #assed''one. then . lingering kiss. 1%argaining is m forte.teasing ni# as she slid a finger u# and down his s#ine.ne&#ectedl . 1)his could take all da . 4ust as she sensed his reluctance to show it to her. 1*e can start negotiations right after we do some work in here.1 1Hmmm. She ga"e him a slow.1 He felt her li#s cur"e as the touched his again.1 1!h.1 .1 Catching her tongue between her teeth. Jessica looked around at the disordered books. 1Just how man cha#ters are in this book+1 Slade closed his e es.
b letting her work with him here. He would ha"e admired Slade's mind. and with a #atience she could ne"er ho#e to emulate. Perha#s she'd alwa s known it was there. cluttered librar to get him to talk. his sudden flashes of humor. Jessica had forgotten her tension and had become in"ol"ed . Shadows gathered in the corners of the room. without e"er sto##ing his work. Ha"e ou read this+ 2es. easil and in de#th. )he light began to fade to a soft gra . He lo"ed them. How her father would ha"e liked him. She found this small reali/ation another ste# in the ladder to disco"ering him. He worked quietl . e"en when she had recogni/ed the streak of hard street sense. $t was a com#le& man who could carr a gun and discuss % ron's Don Juan with equal ease. He would ha"e seen the goodness Slade took such care to kee# hidden.three. )he dreamer. Jessica sa"ed reading for the rare times when her #h sical energ lagged behind her mental energ . )hat afternoon she needed the dreamer. She en4o ed books. he was re"ealing his other side. She doubted Slade reali/ed that. $t was easier in the quiet. Jessica thought. *hat did ou think of it+ And he would tell her. s stematicall . Perha#s he knew it. his strength. Slade knew the books a great deal better than she.
with the mindless task of co# ing titles and names onto the inde& cards. *hen the #hone rang, she scattered two do/en of them on the floor. 7uickl she began to retrie"e them.
1$t 4ust startled me,1 she said when Slade remained silent. She cursed her trembling hands as she gathered the cards back into a #ile. 1$t's been so quiet, that's all.1 0urious with herself, she let the cards fall again. 1Damn it, don't sit there looking at me like that< $'d rather ou swore at me.1
He rose and went to her, then crouched in front of her. 12ou made a hell of a mess,1 he murmured. 1$f ou can't do better, $'ll ha"e to get m self a new assistant.1
*ith a sound that was #art sigh, #art laugh, she leaned her forehead against his. 15i"e me a break, it's m first da on the 4ob.1
%ets o#ened the door, then lifted her brows and #ursed her li#s. *ell, she alwa s figured where there was smoke there was fire, and she'd smelled smoke the minute those two had set e es on each other. She ga"e a quick harrum#h and watched Jessica 4um# as though she'd been scalded.
1,r. Adams is on the #hone,1 %ets said regall , then closed the door
Slade closed his hand o"er Jessica's. 1Call her back,1 he said quietl . 1Ha"e her tell him ou're resting.1
1.o.1 *ith a quick shake of the head, she rose. 1Don't kee# asking me to run, Slade, because $ might do it. )hen $'d hate m self.1 )urning, she #icked u# the #hone. 1Hello, ,ichael.1
Slowl Slade straightened, tucked his hands in his #ockets, and watched her.
1.o, it's nothing reall , 4ust a little touch of the flu.1 Jessica s#oke in quiet tones while she wra##ed the #hone cord around and around her fingers. 1Da"id's 4ust feeling guilt because he thinks $ caught it from him. He shouldn't ha"e worried ou. $ am taking care of m self.1 She shut her e es tightl a moment, but her "oice remained light and stead . 1.o, $ won't be in tomorrow.1 )he cord of the #hone dug into her skin. Carefull Jessica unwound it. 1)hat's not necessar , ,ichael... .o, reall . $ #romise''don't worr . $'ll be''$'ll be fine in a cou#le of da s. 2es, $ will... 5ood'b e.1
After re#lacing the recei"er, Jessica stood for a moment, staring down
at her em#t hands. 1He was concerned,1 she murmured. 1$'m ne"er ill. He wanted to come o"er and see me, but $ #ut him off.1
15ood.1 S m#ath wouldn't hel# her now, Slade decided. 1*e'"e done enough in here for toda . *h don't we go u#stairs+1 He walked to the door, as if taking her agreement for granted. He o#ened it, then #aused and looked back. She still hadn't mo"ed. 1Come on, Jess.1
She crossed to him, but sto##ed at the door. 1,ichael would do nothing to hurt me,1 she said without looking at him. 1$ 4ust want ou to understand that.1
1As long as ou understand that $ ha"e to look at e"er one as a #otential threat,1 he returned e"enl . 12ou're not to see either one of them''or an one else''unless $'m with ou.1 S#otting the light of defiance in her e es, he continued. 1$f he and Da"id are innocent, the ne&t cou#le of da s won't do them an harm. $f ou reall belie"e it,1 he went on, shrugging off the look of fur she sent him, 1 ou should be able to handle all this.1
He wasn't going to gi"e her an inch, Jessica concluded as she fought both tears and rage. Perha#s it was best if he didn't. She took a long stead ing breath. 12ou're right. And $ will handle it. Are ou going to
work on our book now+1
Slade ga"e no sign that the change of sub4ect made an difference to him. 1$ thought $ might.1
Jessica was determined to be 4ust as #ractical as he''at least on the surface. 10ine. 5o on u# then and $'ll bring some coffee for both of us. 2ou can trust me,1 she went on before he could ob4ect. 1$'ll do e&actl what ou tell me to do so $ can #ro"e ou wrong. $ am going to #ro"e ou wrong, Slade,1 she told him with quiet, concrete determination.
10ine, as long as ou stick to the rules.1
0inding herself more at ease with a goal in mind, Jessica smiled. 1)hen $'ll bring u# the coffee. *hile $'m reading our book, ou can concentrate on finishing it. $t's one sure wa to kee# me occu#ied for the rest of the da .1
He #inched the lobe of her ear. 1$s that a bribe+1
1$f ou don't know one when ou hear one,1 she countered, 1 ou must be a #rett lous co#.1
Cha#ter G ''''''''' Contents ' Pre" 9 .e&t
Jessica's coffee grew cold again. She sat u# against the headboard of Slade's bed with a #ile of manuscri#t on either side of her. )he stack of #ages she had read was ra#idl outgrowing the #ile she had et to read. -ngrossed, she had been able to #ass off %ets 's nagging when the housekee#er had brought u# a tra of sou# and sandwiches. Jessica had gi"en her an absent #romise to eat which she had forgotten the moment the door was closed again. She'd forgotten, too, though he had scrawled notes and re"isions in the margins, that she was reading Slade's work. )he stor , the #eo#le, had com#letel taken her o"er.
She tra"eled with an ordinar famil through the #ostwar forties, through the sim#licities and com#le&ities of the fifties, into the si&ties with their turbulence and fluctuating mores. Children grew u#, "alues changed. )here were deaths and births, the reali/ation of some dreams and the destruction of others. )hrough it all, as a new generation co#ed with the #ressures of the se"enties, Jessica came to know them. )he were #eo#le she might ha"e met''undeniabl #eo#le she
would ha"e cared for.
)he words flowed, at times gentl , at other times with a grittiness that made her stomach tighten. $t wasn't an eas stor ''his characters were too genuine for that. He showed her things she didn't alwa s want to be shown, but she ne"er considered setting the #ages aside.
At the end of a cha#ter Jessica reached automaticall for the ne&t #age. Confused, she glanced down to see that there were no more. Anno ed with the interru#tion, she then reali/ed she had read all he had gi"en her. 0or the first time in almost three hours, the sound of Slade's t #ing #enetrated her concentration.
)here was a full moon. )hat, too, came to her abru#tl . )he light flowed into the room to "ie with the stream of the bedside lam#. )he fire Slade had lit when the 'd come u#stairs had burned down to glowing embers. Jessica stretched her cram#ed muscles, wanting to gi"e herself a moment before she went into Slade.
*hen she had insisted on reading his work, Jessica hadn't been certain how she would feel or what she would sa to him when she was finished. =nowing herself too easil influenced b emotion, she had been certain that she would find some merit in his writing. .ow she wanted time to
when he touched her. %efore she had com#leted the first cha#ter Jessica had forgotten wh she was reading it e"en though her main #ur#ose had been accom#lished. that she was determined not to let . She knew Slade better now. an insight into #eo#le she en"ied as well as admired. He might be s#aring with his own emotions. Slade's t #ing continued. his inner thoughts surfaced. she'd been wrong when she had once told him he didn't know women. he was frugal with words''but in the writing. she was certain he had no idea how dee# her feelings ran. And. $n his writing as well as his s#eech. He knew them''almost too well. that she had been certain she could kee# hidden+ Did he know she lo"ed him+ $nstincti"el Jessica glanced at the doorwa that se#arated the bedroom and the sitting room. that she had been confident was #ri"ate+ How much did he understand.decide how much her feelings for Slade had to do with her feelings about the stor she had 4ust read.o. when he looked at her. but his characters had a range to them that were rooted in their creator. she thought with a small smile.one. !r. How much did he see. . Jessica mused. . He had a de#th of #erce#tion she had onl sensed. she thought as she fingered the ti# of a #age. she reali/ed.
with a lit cigarette smoldering and forgotten. she reflected. 0rom the set of his shoulders. His coffee cu# was em#t . the light falling on his hands as the mo"ed o"er the ke s. A cautious man. She rose and went to the doorwa . *hen she felt her life was her own again. Slade sto##ed t #ing. !ne hand reached u# to . . $f he knew. $t could ha##en one da . or howe"er. She felt a %ets 'like urge to scold him for neglecting to eat. He could work here. His back was to her.him walk out of her life whene"er.. resting against the door4amb. she reali/ed abru#tl . she thought and closed her e es. watch the fire on rain afternoons. )his is how it could be.. things were resol"ed. if the nightmare was behind us. )here'd be times he'd get u# in the middle of the night and close the door so the noise wouldn't wake me. but his dinner tra hadn't been touched. )he ashtra at his elbow was half full.ot wanting to disturb him. *ith an e&as#erated sigh. she could tell his concentration was dee#. *e'd walk on the beach on Sunda mornings. Jessica decided that he had some sur#rises coming. she was going to deal him a few. he'd #ut her at arm's length. she waited. !ne da . and $'d hear the sound of his t #ing when $ came home. she mused. Slade was a "er cautious man''one who saw himself suited for the solitar life. the angle of his head.
the flow would come back. he frowned down at the words he'd 4ust written. don't e"er sto# doing what ou were meant to do. -"er thingB the words.1 .1 Slade turned so that he could see her face. 1$t's a beautiful #iece of work. )here were others she wanted to sa first. she rested her cheek on to# of his head. 3o"e was coursing through her swiftl . it's wonderful<1 Jessica continued before he could s#eak. Jessica came to him. the #eo#le. too swiftl . Automaticall he reached for his coffee. She squee/ed him tightl . *ra##ing her arms around his neck. and he wasn't read . . Her e es were lit with enthusiasm while his remained cool and guarded. onl to find the cu# em#t . 1Slade. forcing back the words she was afraid he wasn't read to hear. He didn't want #latitudes. 1How much did ou read+1 1All ou ga"e me''not enough. -"en as he considered it.a be if he went down for some more. the feeling. *hen will ou finish+ !h.rub at the stiffness in his neck.ot sure of her meaning. *hate"er im#etus had dri"en him for three hours had suddenl dried u#. Slade. not from her. 1*h +1 .
Slade. 1*h +1 1$f ou hadn't been touched. )here were #arts''that scene in the #arking lot in the se"enth cha#ter''$ didn't want to read. about #eo#le all of us ha"e met or ha"e been. 1*hen it's #ublished. weighing what he saw there with her words. 1%ecause it made me cr . no one that reads that is going to be untouched. $'m not sure $ could ha"e finished it.1%ecause ou told a stor with de#th. He waited. Jessica brought his hand u# to her cheek.1 she said quietl . 1$ was touched. sa"age. 1$ don't think $ reali/ed until 4ust now what a chance $ was taking b letting ou read it. %ut $ had to read it e"en when it hurt. 12ou know. $t was hard.1 he said slowl . and cringe. searching for words that would satisf him. and $ read it.othing he could ha"e said would ha"e meant more.1 She s#read her fingers. wondering if he reali/ed how much he'd said in one sentence.1 she re#eated. and laugh.1 1A chance. $'m going to remember that #art of it was written right here. 1And isn't that wh a writer writes+1 His e es ne"er left hers.1 .1 She laid her hands back on his shoulders. Slade.1 .
sensiti"e s#ot at the cur"e of her shoulder. but he's marketed some short stories. $ ha"e one. 1$t's finished then+1 1. ni##ing at the cord of . 1$ wouldn't want it to go to our head. she kissed him. Come back here.1 1)he other one. 1Just a discreet #laque.mm'hmm. eluding him.1 Jessica drew awa as Slade began to nibble on her ear.1 he demanded. 1*hat's it about+1 she demanded. and he's doing whate"er it is agents do to sell m other no"el. he flicked la/il o"er the #oint. *hat about an agent+1 she asked suddenl . feeling it harden as her heartbeat went from stead to erratic.1 3eaning o"er. *ith his thumb. wanting to taste that soft. 1$ like that. 1*hen can $ read it+ $s it as good as this one+1 1Has an one e"er told ou that ou ask too man questions+1 His hand sli##ed under her sweater to cu# her breast. 1Do ou ha"e one+1 Chuckling.15oing to erect a monument+1 he asked with a smile. so far we ha"en't done each other much good. he drew her down into his la#.1 he murmured. 12es.
12ou're alread too thin. )here was a sudden urgenc in her. His answer was a low sound of #leasure.1 $n one long stroke.1 he said with a frown. a flash of fire. %ecause he understood that #art of it came from a need to block out her fears. She tasted warm''more #ungent than sweet''as the ti# of her tongue sli##ed to his to tantali/e. im#atient to ha"e his flesh against hers while her mouth was alread making wild #asses o"er his face and throat. )he habitual energ that had been lacking in her all da abru#tl surfaced in a torrent of #assion. Slade let her lead. 1$ can feel our #ulse go cra/ e"er where $ touch.her neck. )he #ace was hers''and it was frantic. Her scent and her taste were the same so that he felt himself surrounded b her. . %efore Slade could rise to carr her to the bed. He thought he heard her laugh. low and husk . then retreated to #ro"oke. She tugged at the buttons of his shirt. before he gri##ed the back of her neck in his hand and #lunged dee#. Her aggression both unbalanced and aroused him. he mo"ed down her rib cage to her waist. Did ou eat an dinner+1 1Has an one e"er told ou that ou talk too much+1 Jessica asked before she #ressed her li#s to his. Jessica was #ulling him to the floor. 12ou're losing weight.
She was dri"ing him be ond the #oint of reason. onl needs. her li#s following the #ath of her bus hands until his mind was totall centered on her. her soft hands greed . no defense. but still he couldn't find the will to sto# her and take command. she allowed him to linger nowhere. And lo"e. Skin slid o"er skin. She reali/ed that she lo"ed him more on finding that he . whose hands were alwa s sure. hungr mouth ra"aging. mo"ing o"er him with a s#eed and agilit that left his hands frustrated and his bod throbbing. Shi"ering thoughts. $t #oured from him. (ulnerabilit was something new to him. but he found himself tra##ed in a sultr . this hard man. increasing her strength and de#leting his. was com#letel #owerless under her s#ell. )his time there was onl res#onse. he fumbled with her sweater. She was undressing him swiftl . He. )hough her flesh was as hot as his. =nowing he was hel#less e&cited her. found them dam# and trembling when at last he could touch her.*ithin moments he was too caught u# in her to think at all. )his strong man. "iscous world where he had no guards. her moist. maddening touches''she ga"e him no time to focus on onl one. *hen her mouth fi&ed on his again. quick tastes. %ut Jessica had no s#ells. but insisted he e&#erience all in an ener"ating ha/e of sensation.
)he light from the desk lam# slanted across his face so that she could see his e es. -"en when he took them back. until it crested. tasting all the hot. taking him into her on a flash of shar# sil"er #leasure. Slade struggled to clear his mind but found that she filled it.could be weak. but it shuddered now''for her. she would ha"e had this one instant in time when he held nothing awa from her. emotion. and bod . His breath was warm and ragged as it trembled into her o#en mouth. consumed it. *ith sudden clarit . His bod was firm and muscled. #erha#s to #ro"e to both of them that he could. she smelled the lemon and beeswa& #olish from the desk. $n some sane #ortion of her mind. 4oined and sated. *hen it ebbed. she seemed to dissol"e into him so that the la entwined. sus#ending them. 0or she had him now''mind. Her strength soared. and she took it. He wanted to draw awa . but he disco"ered that she still dominated him. )he #ower that had dri"en her was de#leted. So she ga"e herself to him. . on hers. His mouth was tem#ting. Jessica knew the scent would come back to her whene"er she thought of the first time he full ga"e himself to her. dri"ing both of them fast and hard. head fla"ors that s#rang from desire. her bod nearl weightless on his. o#aque with #assion.
1. Alread . he thought on a quick rage of guilt. 1Jess.1 He lifted her face to his without an idea what thoughts would s#ill out into words. )hin moonlight washed o"er her face and bare shoulders. Slade waited until he was certain she sle#t before he eased from the bed. His hands onl tangled dee#er into her hair until he found the soft. she thought.1 she said quietl . he was taking back what he had so briefl gi"en her. no right to allow her to use u# all her reser"es of energ and strength to satisf his needs. *ith an luck.o force of will could make his #ulses le"el though his #h sical need was full satisfied. he dressed in silence. Her e es were huge and hea" and shadowed. 1Don't shut me out. don't. hardl breathing.o.1 Jessica could see the change in his face. shifting with shadows as a cloud #assed o"er the moon. )hough she la #assi"e. 1Slee# with me tonight1 was all he said. . 1Don't shut me out so soon.1 *ithout reali/ing he was doing so. he calculated that he could gi"e the first . slender neck. He wanted her''but his wants were onl to ha"e her near. he traced her li#s with his thumb. Her face was soft. he could feel the hammer of her heart against his. with the afterglow of #assion and with weariness.that he had a choice. *atching Jessica. He'd had no right.
A credit card and a hair#in. $n a mound of white fur.l sses' rh thm ne"er altered. then be back without her e"er knowing he had gone. . thum#ed his tail twice. )esting. Slade tested the multitude of doors and windows. he reflected. Slade decided as he e&amined the rear kitchen door.floor a thorough check.1 At the command.l sses sle#t on the cool tile floor. then went back to slee#. He noted with disgust the sim#le locks that would kee# out onl the rankest of amateurs. . snoring lightl . he sli##ed from the room. ou good'for'nothing mutt. #ortable "aluables. )he house is full of sil"er and small. A burglar's #aradise''and she seals it off with dime'store locks. stake out the #arlor for a cou#le of hours. 5i"ing her one last look. the dog o#ened one gla/ed e e. 1*ake u#. He ne"er stirred as Slade ste##ed o"er him. . Slade rattled the knob on the back door. He'd ha"e to see that Jessica installed something less flims before he left. *ith the soundless efficienc that came from ears of e&#erience.
. )his time Slade wanted to look for trouble''and he wanted to find it. Dodson could hardl ha"e foreseen that his hand'#icked bod guard would fall in lo"e with his assignment. Slade knew his own re#utationB thorough. #recise. And he was itching to do something''an thing to mo"e the in"estigation along. )he woman u#stairs in his bed was all that mattered. Slade went back to the #arlor to wait. *atch and wait. he mo"ed through the ser"ants' wing.:ubbing the back of his neck. he saw that it was 4ust #ast midnight. with a market "alue. lost in the shadows. he mused. after all. )he diamonds were incidental''the were 4ust rocks.a be the commissioner #icked the wrong man after all. )here was little more he could do. He sat in a wingback chair. he stretched out his legs. 5lancing at his watch. Jessica was #riceless. Slade reminded himself that a run'of'the'mill burglar wasn't the immediate #roblem. )he rest were silent. . He ste##ed o"er the dog again and left him snoring. %ut he wanted to collect #ersonall . *hoe"er had hired the man in the gro"e was going to #a . )here was a #ale light under one door and the muffled laughter of a late'night talk show. he had little doubt of that. Cautiousl . *ith a silent laugh. and cool.
He #inched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. . :ule one down the tubes. -"en if there was room in his life for a woman. Slade nearl laughed aloud at that. but the frown remained in his e es. As long as he remained on the force.*ell. He wasn't for her. He couldn't #ermit his mind to run in that direction. $t was onl chance that had brought them together this time. he thought. his res#onsibilities. )hat thought sto##ed him cold. alread her lo"er. And that was dangerous. )he weren't about to cross again. He'd get o"er her. )he 'd drift a#art once the in"estigation was o"er. he had to #la b the rules. Slade told himself. He had his own life to deal with''the demands of his #rofession. he'd lost his cool almost from the instant he'd seen the little blond whirlwind with the (iking cheekbones. circumstances that had brought about an intimac that had led to emotional attachment. )he hell he would. He wasn't thinking like a co# but like a man''a man who wanted re"enge. $f the were an more #ersonal the 'd be married and ha"ing children. How could he be more #ersonall in"ol"ed+ He was alread in lo"e with her.aturall that's what he wanted. . he decided as he dragged a hand through his hair. his writing. )he first rule was no #ersonal in"ol"ement. their #aths ran in o##osite directions.
7uietl . tearing breaths of a drowning woman fighting for air. %lanking out his mind. two at the most''if Agent %rewster was as close as he'd led Slade to belie"e. he reminded himself. 0atigue settled o"er him the moment he allowed his muscles to rela&. Slade settled against the back of the chair. Jessica needed the co# more whether she belie"ed it or not. curled into a tight ball. Jessica was sitting in the middle of the bed. And. when he sat alone in the dark in a room that smelled of lemon wa& and fall flowers. he absentl worked out the kinks as he headed back to the stairs. he mused.*asn't a man allowed a few dreams+ he demanded of himself. Stiff from sitting. .oonlight #ooled o"er her as she shuddered. Some slee# was essential if he was to be alert enough to kee# her safe and occu#ied during the da light hours. wasn't he+ *ith a half sigh. . . Another da . $nstinct told him he was wasting his time. he turned the knob of his bedroom door. 0our hours' slee# would recharge his s stem''he'd gotten b on less. She took the dee#. *asn't he allowed to wea"e some sort of future when a woman la soft and warm in his bed+ He was entitled to some basic selfishness.a be the man was. Slade waited in the dark for 4ust under three hours. but the co# wasn't.
$t ran through his mind that someone had sli##ed #ast him and gotten to her. She couldn't bring . 1$ woke u#. 1*hat's the matter+1 1$t's nothing. afraid she would see the face of someone she lo"ed on the man who #ursued her. horridl "i"id. 1$ guess $ #anicked when ou weren't here. she had been afraid to turn. 1*hat is it+1 he demanded. the shifting shadows as clouds blocked out the sun. *hen her head 4erked u#.1 $t was #artiall true and difficult enough to confess. to attack all of her senses. the smell of salt s#ra . Slade went to her swiftl . the iron taste of her own terror. She could hold back the cr b digging her teeth into her li#. then the idea was as quickl dismissed.1Jess+1 )here was a scream rising in her throat. Slade saw the wild sheen of fear in her e es before she focused on him. And worse.1 Des#eratel she fought to control the tremors. Her skin was clamm as he took her shoulders6 her face dam# with a mi&ture of tears and #ers#iration.1 she managed. much worse. but the shudders went on. )he nightmare had come back. the roar of the surf''and someone's hea" footste#s as the ran after her. Cold wind.
$ alread feel like an idiot. 1*ith a #oliceman in the house+1 she countered. she trembled. 12eah. he decided. )ilting back her head.1 12ou're entitled to be 4um# . he brushed a kiss o"er her hair. She wanted to cling. she looked u# at him. A strong face. She wanted to #our out e"er fear and fantas and dread. #lease.1 He brushed sweat'dam#ened hair from her cheeks.o.herself to admit she could be terrori/ed b a dream.1 Softl . to lecture her on flims locks and thin chains. 1. 1$ wanted to make sure e"er thing was locked u#. to beg him not to lea"e her alone for an instant. 1$'ll go down and get ou a brand .1 -"en as he gathered her close. Jess. she mused.1 1. $t wasn't the moment. %ut she couldn't. Strong arms and serious . and the denial was as much for her own sake as his.o<1 She bit her li# again as the refusal came out too forcefull . 1$ was 4ust downstairs.1 1Professional habit+1 She nearl managed a smile before she dro##ed her head to his shoulder.
Sergeant+1 He shrugged as he kneaded her tense shoulders. How can a woman look so beautiful at three o'clock in the morning+1 1.e es.u//ling her neck. . 1$ #refer to think it's something less scientific. 1*hat about ou+1 1$ can get b on three or four hours when $ ha"e to.. 1*ere ou+1 12es. like being born during a lunar ecli#se. 1How does one man co#e with two careers. father said that's wh $ had cat's e es''to hel# me see in the dark..1 Slade kissed her lightl before he set her awa from him and rose.1 .1 . 1$ manage. mother claims it's bone structure. 1$f ou don't get some slee#. the 're going to be bloodshot. 1Just come to bed6 ou must be tired.aking the effort. he chuckled.1 .1 Her smile warmed a bit as she willed herself to rela& under his hands.1 1*hat a gallant thing to sa .1 Jessica frowned at him as he undressed. she forced awa the ner"es and ga"e him a smile.
Slade drew her close. )he mercurial moods. 3 ing down beside her. Shouldn't she be used to him b now+ she wondered. the streaks of bo ish good humor in the sometimes o"erl serious man+ His bod was sleek and limber. . her mind comforted. 1Come to bed. $nstead he felt a sim#le serenit . And ou take care of him. )here was no dri"ing #h sical need to #ossess her. muscled like a lightweight bo&er's. Jessica felt her heart flutter u# to her throat. her thoughts added. streamlined like a Channel swimmer's. as much to soothe as be soothed. she held out her arms to him. Slade. )here were no more words. all the more #recious for its rarit . He'll take care of ou. 0or the ne&t few hours the would be an man and woman sharing the intimac of slee#. %ut there were lines of fatigue and strain that the moonlight accented as well. Smiling. illuminating the lightning'fast grin. She curled warml into him. the moonlight streamed o"er his face.1 she ordered.1 *hen he turned his head.She ga"e a quick snort. Just trust. His face mirrored both of his #rofessions''the intellect and the action. 12our machismo's surfacing.
$ was nearl caught. )he light was mist with #redawn before she sle#t. 12es. she watched the moonlight #la on his shoulder as it rose and fell. *hen the #hone rang. more afraid not to. hello. he 4olted out of a restless slee#.1 1)hen ou were careless.. =nowing that weakness would ne"er be tolerated. *ith her e es o#en and fear threatening on the "erges of her mind.1 1$ need more.ust $ remind ou that ou aren't #aid to do onl what's eas +1 1$ tried to get to them last night. $'"e no use for carelessness. he thought ra#idl and moistened . 1Just a few da s. schooling her breathing so that it was dee# and e"en until she felt him drift off. Sweat #earled on his forehead..1 he said quickl ... he swallowed the tremor in his "oice. Afraid to answer. $t isn't eas to get to them with the house full of #eo#le.Jessica la still.1 12our time's u#. he lifted the recei"er.1 1.1 3ess for carelessness than weakness.
12ou're mistaken again''too man mistakes. He had to think quickl and calml if he wanted to sta ali"e.1 he said des#eratel .1 A sigh breathed through the #hone. He remembered the man found floating in the Seine. 1$'ll ha"e them for ou tonight. $n a cou#le of da s $ should be able to con"ince her to take a long weekend.. 4erk breathing #leased him.1 ..1 oung friend. understanding. $ won't be so. 12ou'll ha"e them this weekend. )he soft. #ra ing that he s#oke the truth. 1Jessica''Jessica's not feeling well.1 He #aused to make certain the wea#on of fear had done its work.1 He reached for a cigarette to stead his ner"es. 2ou'"e done "er well since ou started to work for me. She'll listen to me. $'d hate to lose ou. 1She isn't #lanning on coming into the sho#. chilling him.1 .oisture beaded on his to# li# and he wi#ed the back of his hand across it. 1)onight. A cou#le of da s won't matter. :emember m associate in )he #hone slid wetl in his hand.1 He took a greed drag of his cigarette.1 1)en o'clock at the sho#. m Paris+ He made mistakes. 1*ith her out of the house. 1$f ou fail this time. $ can get to the diamonds without taking an chances.his li#s.
)hen $''then $ want out.e&t Slade's mind and bod awoke at the same instant.1 *ith a gentle click. read to function. He saw from the slant of the sun that it was still earl . )en o'clock. Just #ast se"en. )hough b his calculations she had sle#t nearl . $t was a habit he looked forward to breaking without reall belie"ing he e"er would. )he #ale blue smudges under her e es made him frown.1 1*e'll discuss it. He had had to #erfect the abilit to slee# quickl and lightl and to awake 4ust as quickl .1$'ll bring them. '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' Cha#ter H ''''''''' Contents ' Pre" 9 . the connection was broken. )he lu&ur of drifting slowl awake was something he had forfeited ears before. )urning his head. he looked down at Jessica. )he four hours' rest had done all it needed to do. but he shifted his ga/e to check the mantel clock nonetheless.
And ate something''if he had to force'feed her.1 Jessica rela&ed. 1-arl . but she #ulled him closer. Her e es flew o#en. He could all but feel the #ounds sli##ing off her.eight hours. )oda he'd make certain she rested more''if he had to sli# a slee#ing #ill into her coffee. 1How earl +1 1)oo earl .1 he ordered. but didn't release him.1 He bent to gi"e her another brief kiss before he rose. 15et some more slee#. the smudges were dee#er than the had been the da before. touching his li#s to hers. 1)oo earl for what+1 She felt his li#s cur"e against hers. muscle b muscle. )hough he barel shifted the mattress as he mo"ed awa from her.1 . 12ou're not e"en awake et. her hand tightened on his arm. but her hand sta ed firm on his arm. 1*hat time is it+1 Her "oice was husk and thick.
she trailed her fingers o"er his flat stomach. with his hands and li#s running wild and free o"er her bod . -ach time the made lo"e it stunned her. -"er thing would magneti/e. -ach time the came together he found new "ariations. from the bare brush of a fingerti# to the bruising #ressure of li#s. )he slee# kiss smoldered with burgeoning #assion. gra and . #lunge her back into a world that was all keen emotion and shar# sensation.a be ou can't get b on three or four hours' slee# after all. he lifted his head. )he whis#ering tick of the clock was like thunder. enticed her. And how she needed to lose herself. then consumed her. Jessica thought she could feel the indi"idual threads of the sheet against the naked flesh of her back. Pale sunlight danced. 1. gi"ing her no o##ortunit to become familiar with a touch or to antici#ate a demand. $n his arms. He could dominate her mind so effortlessl . He'd known from the first how to #la her. 1*anna bet+1 Her answering laugh was smothered b his li#s. she could lose herself. $t had ne"er been like this for her.1 Cocking his brow.1*anna bet+1 :unning a hand down.
Sa"oring the sensations that ri##led through him as she mo"ed. she told him what she wanted. he thought.1 )he lids fluttered. and look at me. lo"e. 0ragile. her skin was so fragile.ghostl . #rolonging the ultimate delight. as if weighed down b the #ale gold lashes.1 .urmuring. *hen he took her. watching the flickers of #leasure and #assion on her face in the thin morning light. 1!#en our e es. )hough the tone was almost re"erent. 1!#en our e es. 1Jess. he nibbled on her #arted li#s. his hands were aggressi"e''arousing and drugging in turns. He tasted her. *ith iron control he ke#t the rh thm eas .1 He could hardl form her name between labored breaths. $n her ear he whis#ered something #oetic and foolish about the te&ture of her skin. . She could see it fall o"er his hair. 2et all the while her hi#s urged him to take. $ want to see our e es. before he roamed o"er her closed lids. and himself. Shifting. to take quickl . accenting its dark confusion as she do"e her hands into it. Jess. Slade took her slowl . she offered what he needed.
1)ell me that ou need me. A new warmth filled her''#ure emotion''to double the #h sical ecstas .ow. As he mo"ed inside her.He wasn't a man for endearments.o.1 he demanded. but before he could rise. Slade. look at me.. shudder for shudder.1 Jessica struggled to form words as she climbed higher toward delirium.. the lashes flickered. 4ust once. Strange that his bod felt more rested. as if he would look into her mind and read whate"er frantic thoughts raced inside. get some more slee#. ou're the onl one. Jessica saw that his e es were dark. 1$ ha"e to hear ou sa it. rich amber filmed o"er with #assion. 1. Slade slid down to #ress a kiss at the hollow between her breasts before he shifted from her. Jessica recogni/ed it. threatening to lower again. more rela&ed now than it had u#on waking.1 he ordered. 1.1 His li#s crushed down on hers to muffle her cr as he dro"e her swiftl to the #eak. His last rational thought was almost a #ra er''that the words he had demanded would be enough for him. )he irises were o#aque.1 His "oice had dro##ed to a rough whis#er. 1$ need ou. -"en through the ha/e of needs and sensations. dark gra and intense. )heir li#s were close so that their breath merged. Jessica had her arms locked around . She o#ened them.
12ou certainl are. 1S#oiled. 1%ut that's all right. Jessica let out one long sur#rised scream. 1$ certainl am not. 1$'"e ne"er been more awake in m life. thanks a lot.1 )he line a##eared between her brows as he switched on the shower.1 1!h well.1 she said defiantl when he lifted her.his neck. Slade+ . 1are a necessar #art of an organi/ed librar .1 he said as he sli##ed a hand under her knees. $ kind of like ou that wa . then set her down in the shower stall. carr ing her into the bathroom.ake me fill out more of those sill cards+1 1)hose sill cards.1 he corrected geniall . 1Slade< $t's free/ing<1 .1 he decided. kissed her.1 He grinned.1 1)he 're boring. *hat're ou going to do with me toda .
not et.1 he amended. Slade took his free hand o"er her.1 he disagreed.1 %linded b the water and her own streaming hair. 1Slade<1 S#uttering. 12ou're going to #a for this.1 He ste##ed in with her. *hen his hand #assed intimatel o"er her bottom. she grew more des#erate. Jessica fought against him. frigid and tingling. 1Sto# it<1 $nfuriated and aroused. she struggled to free herself. 13et go< )his is #olice brutalit . 1. thanks. $ swear ou are. *ith one arm kee#ing her #risoner. 1)urn on the hot water.o. second best. then cut off a stream of abuse with his li#s.1 She lifted her face to glare at him and got struck full with the cold needle s#ra .1 Huffil . 1*ell.1 she demanded when he let her breathe again. )hen . la"ishl soa#ing her skin. 1*ant the soa#+1 1$'ll go take m own shower.1%est wa to get the blood mo"ing in the morning.1 He #icked u# her arm. #artiall blocking the s#ra . gi"ing it a light #inch. Her bod was #ressed against his. she blinked her e es to clear them. she tried to climb out onl to find herself tangled with him under the ic s#ra . 1$'m turning blue.
o. 1$'m going to go get dressed.1 she told him grandl as she stoo#ed to #ick u# his shirt. :efreshed.1 *ith a moan. Slade noted it with a mi&ture of relief and #leasure though Jessica did her best to maintain outward indignance. 1when $ get there.1 %ut her mouth blindl sought his. %ecause she was still naked. Soa# fingers #assed o"er her ni##le. she was glowing.1 1$'ll be there. 12ou listen to me. 1. *hen she left the shower.she heard him chuckle. Jessica no longer felt the cold.1 she informed him as she wra##ed her wet hair in a towel. don't. he hooked his own towel around his waist. she arched awa . 1!ka . $'ll meet ou downstairs for breakfast in ten minutes. )em#er had her head sna##ing back u# though the s#ra made her "ision "ague and water . 1Slade.1 she began.1 . Slade found it hard to be offended b her haught tone. Some color had see#ed back into her cheeks. His #alm sli##ed between her thighs.
taking in Slade's shirt. the had ne"er chanced u#on each other under these circumstances.1 he e&#lained. 1$t's that machismo again. Da"id stood directl outside her own bedroom door. 1*ell. he watched her sli# into his shirt and button it. like his e es. but he hadn't mo"ed. she flounced to the door. . %oth had alwa s been e&tremel #ri"ate about that area of their li"es.1 Jessica felt more color flow into her cheeks.1 His tone. the dam#. then slammed the door behind her. 1$ could get used to seeing ou like that.5rinning.1 Jessica muttered. glowing skin and slee#'star"ed e es. Jessica cast a baleful look o"er her shoulder. 1*et and half naked. then almost as quickl faded. His head had turned at the sound of the slam. holding back the smile. Her grin quickl esca#ed. his hand alread #oised to knock.1 he commented. 1$ guess ou're alread u#. his grin onl widened. )urning. 1)en minutes. His e es roamed o"er her. turned cool.1 he reminded her. li"ing in the same house. As close as she and Da"id had been. *hen she sent him an arch look.
Jessica o#ened the bedroom door. 1*ere there an #roblems esterda $ should know about+1 1. then gestured him inside.1 ou'"e got enough to 1Don't be sarcastic. 1. Did ou want me+1 Part of her wanted to run to him as she had the da before6 #art of her no longer trusted so unconditionall .1 She took the towel .. His "oice tightened.1 1$'m not bus .. Da"id. that's all. Jessica reminded herself as she walked toward him''but the 'd been children together. 1Since ou're bus . $'m u#.o. she would ha"e done no differentl .1 He ga"e her another brief. 5uilt ga"e her a reser"e toward him nothing else could ha"e. Da"id. Sensing it. -"en if it had.1 His e es rested on the bed. he became onl more distant and disa##ro"ing.. $t ne"er occurred to her that she was breaking one of Slade's rules b talking to Da"id alone. telling look.. which hadn't been sle#t in. !b"iousl kee# ou bus . $t doesn't suit ou. 12es.*e're both adults. 1)hought $'d check with ou before $ went in.othing to worr about. Come in.1 Cooll #olite.
1He comes out of nowhere. come out with it. big house. 1And if $ am+1 she countered tightl . #robabl without two nickels to rub together. 1*h should ou ob4ect+1 1*hat do ou know about him+1 Da"id demanded with such sudden heat that she was rendered s#eechless. free meals. .1 She stiffened as the anger in her e es met his. Da"id. he took a ste# toward her.1 1%e careful. Jessica's hand #aused in midstroke. Slowl she lowered the comb to #lace it back on the dresser.1 She #lucked u# a comb and began to drag it through her hair. $t's a nice setu# here.1 12ou're slee#ing with the writer.from her hair and flung it aside. dam#''and inadequatel co"ered in Slade's wrinkled shirt. 1$f ou ha"e something to sa to me. shadow'e ed. a willing woman. 1Do ou know what ou're doing+1 he blurted out. 1%e s#ecific.1 Sho"ing u# his glasses. She caught a glim#se of herself''#ale.
. he stuck his hands in his #ockets. 1$'m in lo"e with Slade.1 she said quietl . of course. Jessie. well.1 . *ith a shrug.1 He squee/ed her shoulders before he dro##ed his hands. 12ou know $ didn't mean it that wa .1 )he admission seemed to make him uncomfortable.1 1%ut $'m not in lo"e with him. Da"id+1 She swallowed the sudden rise of tears as she studied his well'known face. 1Come on. 1And damn it.1 1Am $.1 )he e es behind the glasses softened. ou're 4ust too trusting.ichael is about ou. Jessica. what else could he be interested in.1 *hen she would ha"e turned awa . %ut he's a stranger and ou're. other than m mone . 1And. 1Ha"e $ made a mistake b trusting+1 1$ don't want ou to get hurt..1 )he angr color #aled with hurt. 12ou know $ lo"e ou.1How do ou know he's not 4ust a s#onge+ A cou#le million dollars is a hell of a target. He's been in lo"e with ou for ears. he took her shoulders. ou must know how cra/ .
1.1 he muttered. )wo of the most im#ortant #eo#le in her life were warning her about each other.1$n lo"e with him+ Jee/. Da"id #atted her wet hair. she co"ered her face with her hands. $'m sorr ..o<1 Swiftl . 1He . she thought. $ know him better than ou think. 4ust.1 Awkwardl . oka +1 He shifted from one foot to the other. She should be able to laugh.1 13ook. are ou+1 . 4ust be careful. Slade is m business. wondering wh she was suddenl so emotional. Da"id. $'ll butt out.1 )he use of the sill e&clamation brought a quick laugh from her as she dragged a hand through her hair. ma be find out'' 1. 1!h. Jessica cut him off.1 1So was that cree# from . )urning awa . Jessie. 1)hat was a dumb thing to sa . let me check into him a little bit. Da"id..o. Jessica. ou hardl know the gu .adison A"enue who soaked ou for ten thousand. $ won't #ermit that. $t was funn . 12ou're not going to cr or an thing. well.
$'"e got to go. . Da"id. 1$ don't know. $ told . but she couldn't tell if it was from curiosit or guilt.1 He ga"e her a quick kiss on the cheek.1 )urning. 2ou ought to think about getting awa for a few da s.ichael $'d o#en u# toda .. He sounded sus#iciousl as he had when he'd been twel"e and she'd come home after fighting with her current bo friend. o"erla##ing e"er thing else. Jessica laid her hands on his shoulders.1 15ood. 1Da"id. looking be ond the lenses and dee# into his e es. $'d alwa s be on our side. she continued. a serious one''would ou tell me+1 His e es narrowed slightl .1 1$'ll be fine.1 Sensing an argument. 1$'m sorr if $ came on too strong before.1 )hat did nudge a small laugh from her. 1$'m going to remind ou of that the ne&t time ou 4um# me for making a mistake in the books. Jessie. 1$f ou were in trouble''if ou'd gotten in o"er our head and made a mistake.1 1$t wouldn't matter what ou'd done. he shrugged his thin shoulders and tried to lighten it. 1%ut $'ll gi"e it some thought.1.o. $ guess it would de#end. $ .ncomfortable.. 3o alt came full circle. ou reall don't look good.1 )he tone was too serious.
then left her alone.ichael. searching for some sign of guilt. Jessica stared at the closed door. we do. Jessica #icked u# her comb again. she stared at her reflection. she hurled it across the room.1 Hesitating.. 0orcing a smile. we'"e all got to do things our own wa . if ou or ..ichael need mone . Dro##ing onto the stool of her "anit .1 1Hurr back.1 she murmured as she watched him walk to the door. 12es. And she wouldn't be able to #re"ent herself from doing the same with . then down at the comb in her hand. 3ook at what she'd been doing< Pum#ing him.. $t wasn't right that she should feel this wa ''alienated from the two .1 12es. 1*ell. She'd watched him.1 he said. he shifted his shoulders again.1 1Are we going to get a raise+1 he asked with a quick grin as he turned the knob.. !n a sudden s#urt of rage. Her own lack of trust a##alled her.. 1*e'll see about it when $ come back to work. Da"id. half ho#ing he'd confess so that she could see an end to things..still think.
a $ sa who's calling+1 She sto##ed Slade with an arch look as she held out the recei"er. 0rowning.rs. she 4olted. $s an thing wrong+1 he demanded as anno ance turned to concern. hard look at herself. *atching for signs. she thought. She looked frail. . Slade took the recei"er. 1$t's a . )he #allor onl accented the smudges under her e es. She took a long. knocking a small china "ase to the floor. he's here. *orse. wanting them to make one so that she could sto# the watching and waiting. she stared at the shattered #ieces that could ne"er be #ut back together. 12es. alread half beaten.om+1 %ets sniffed at that and walked awa . Stiffening her s#ine. *hen the #hone rang across the room.1 she said #riml . Jessica began to dab makeu# on the smudges.#eo#le she'd felt closest to. 1$s Janice . $f an illusion of strength was all she had left. Her hair was wet and tangled around an unnaturall #ale face. )hat she could #ut an end to with a few basic #racticalities. she'd make the best of it. 1*h are ou calling me here+ 2ou know $'m working. %ets answered the #hone as Slade reached the bottom of the stairs. 1. Sladerman. Hel#lessl . waiting for them to make a mistake. worse.
12ou didn't ha"e to call to #ass on another re4ection. 1%ut ou did tell me to let ou know if $ heard an thing from our agent.rs. ou know ou're not su##osed to call when $'m working unless it's im#ortant.1 3etting out an im#atient breath. 1. Just #ut whate"er it is on hold until $ get there. 13ook. he shifted the #hone to his other hand.1 1*ait a minute.1 she said mildl . $f the #lumbing's gone again.om. 1And how are ou+1 Anno ance returned swiftl . *e'll talk about it when ou get home. Slade. 5ood'b e. $ should be home in a cou#le of da s.1 .1 . Sladerman considered. 4ust call the su#er.all right+1 1.1 his mother #ut in the moment he let her s#eak.1 1All right.othing's wrong and Janice is fine.1 1$ could #robabl ha"e figured that one out all b m self.
1%ut $ thought ma be $ should call with an acce#tance. 1Slade. soon to be #ublished b 0ullbright and Com#an .1 -motion raced through him too swiftl . He tried to s#eak. he closed his e es. 1Second Chance b James Sladerman. then sto##ed himself. idiot.o.1 Slade felt the blood #ounding in his ears..1 He started to s#eak.1. found his throat closed. 1*hat no"el+1 12our no"el.ow. 1%ut he was so e&cited about selling the no"el that $ didn't take it all in. do ou think $ can't understand .irror+1 1.1 she agreed. 1Are ou sure+1 1Am $ sure. Antici#ation onl led to disa##ointment. 1!n the new short stor for .1 she said with a laugh.1 she muttered. he did mention something about that too.1 She let the sentence trail off until Slade was read to shout at her.. :esting his forehead against the recei"er. He'd waited all of his life for this one moment6 now nothing seemed read to function. then cleared it.
. $f ou don't want the fift 'thousand'dollar ad"ance. Seems the think the '"e got a tiger b the tail. )he mone hadn't sunk in. )hanks. )he want to see it. when ou can. darling. 1$ can't think. get the one ou're working on now together. %usiness about film rights and serial rights and clauses with numbers. e"en if it's fanc agent talk+ He said the 're working u# a contract and he'll be in touch with the details. !f course she'd known.1 He let out a long breath.. 1*ell. Slade.1 Her chuckle was warm in his ear. but this is ridiculous.1 12eah. He was still hearing the magic word #ublished. sa"e our words for our stories. How could he ha"e e"er decei"ed himself into thinking he'd concealed it from her..1 . 12ou ha"e. Doesn't a man sa something when he finall has what he's alwa s wanted+1 Alwa s wanted.1 he said finall .1 She waited. 12ou alwa s were a quiet one. 1)hat's right. Slade. then ga"e a maternal sigh.. he thought numbl .1 she added when her son remained silent. $ wonder if $'"e told ou often enough that $'m #roud of ou. 1it's u# to ou. $ ha"e a few hundred #hone calls to make now6 $ lo"e to brag.-nglish. !f course. Congratulations.
1Sir+1 1Absolutel beautiful.1 12es+1 1%u a new #iano.1 He listened to the dial tone for nearl a full minute. )he smile Slade ga"e her had her taking a cautious ste# back. She smelled faintl of sil"er #olish and la"endar sachet. %ets managed one muffled shriek.1 She backed u# another ste#. Slade. She stood behind him''little black e es.om.. 15ood'b e. wrinkled skin. .. $t looked a bit cra/ed. Sladerman.1 Swoo#ing her u#. and gra ing hair on short sturd legs. then kissed her full on the mouth. 1-&cuse me. 1. inadequatel .1 She laughed. Her .1)hanks. would ou like our breakfast now+1 Confused. Slade turned to stare at %ets .1 he said again.r. 12ou're beautiful. he s#un her in a fast circle.
$'m cra/ about ou. un#ainted li#s.1 she said soothingl . 1Just like a writer to be ni##ing at the brand before breakfast. #eriod. com#letel ha## . 1Put me down and beha"e ourself. 1%ets .1 Jessica sto##ed halfwa down the ste#s to stare.li#s tingled for the first time in ten ears. clinging to her dignit . Put me down and $'ll fi& ou some nice black coffee. *as that Slade grinning like a madman and holding her housekee#er two feet off the ground+ Her mouth dro##ed o#en as he #lanted another kiss on %ets 's staunch. refusing to be charmed b the gleam in his e e. 1Slade+1 )aking %ets with him. 12es. he turned.1 1$'m a writer. 1Put me down like a good bo . $t flashed through Jessica's mind that it was the first time she had seen him full . indeed.1 she corrected. 12ou're .1 she ordered.1 he told her with something like wonder in his "oice.1 1Cra/ .
2es.1 1Published. clean emotion without eddies or undercurrents.1 Something changed in his e es as he drew her back against him.1 Slade corrected as he swung Jessica from the stairs. )he 4o transferred into her so that she was laughing e"en as her mouth was freed. 1$t's .1 %ets told Jessica with a knowing nod. life's m own.1 3ifting her face. She felt the emotion coming from him in s#arks6 hard. 1$t's finall mine. 0ullbright and Com#an acce#ted m manuscri#t and want to see the one $'m working on.1 His mouth crushed hers before she had a chance to s#eak.1 he murmured. 1.1 1!h. She saw it onl briefl . 1%efore breakfast. 1Published+ 2our no"el+ *hen+ How+1 12es.1 he announced as he set %ets back on her feet. Slade. 1$ 4ust got a call. 1Pi&ilated. 1%efore breakfast.1 He kissed her again before continuing to answer her questions in turn. she framed his in her hands.ne&t. $t wasn't a loss of ha##iness. but a full dawning of reali/ation. needing to share the moment.1 Jessica clung to him. 1$'m so ha## for ou.
1 Jessica ordered. $ can feel it.1 1)hat's e"er thing. 1*e need cham#agne at nine o'clock on this morning. .1 he added with a half laugh. And e"er one knew the sort of li"es the led.1 )he figure of fift thousand finall registered full . Still. *riters.1 she said as she wra##ed her arms around Slade's neck again. we need cham#agne. %ets mo"ed down the hall.1 *ith her tongue clucking ra#idl . 1At nine o'clock in the morning+1 )he sentence trembled with righteous shock. 1)he want the book. were hardl better than artists. 1$'ll get an ad"ance. he was a charming de"il.1 Slade told her as she #ulled him into the #arlor.1 . she reminded herself. She allowed herself one undignified chuckle before she went into the kitchen to re#ort the goings'on to the cook.1 Jessica told her. that's the im#ortant thing. $'ll ha"e to get the details from m agent. *e're celebrating. %ets . 1)ell me e"er thing. 1:ight awa in the #arlor.4ust the beginning. 1Come inside. 1-nough to kee# me going until $ sell the second one.othing will sto# ou now.
o. remember+1 !n a sudden burst of energ .1 she informed him. !r a miniseries. then ou could''1 1-"er thought about gi"ing u# antiques and o#ening an agenc +1 he asked mildl . Slade. 1*ill there be an thing else. 1. thank ou. 1)hat's our fault reall .iss *inslow+1 *hen %ets used such formal address. she grabbed his hand. nothing. Jessica knew she had sunk be ond re#roach. %ets . 1She'll be #olite and long'suffering all da now because ou molested her and $ 4oined ou in cham#agne de#ra"it before breakfast.1 .1 *ith her face set in lines of disa##ro"al. 12es. 1*hat a mo"ie it would make< )hink of it.1 She waited until the housekee#er had disa##eared before casting Slade a baleful glance. that's better. make sure ou don't sign awa something ou shouldn't.1 she decided.1 she countered. ou could do the screen#la . then smiled. 2ou'll ha"e to be careful with the film rights. 1.1)hat won't be long''$ read it. .egotiating's negotiating. 1And $'m an artist. %ets entered carr ing a tra .
12ou'll ha"e the first co# . $t's o#en.1 Jessica lifted both glasses as the cork #o##ed out.1 she said when both glasses were full. 1How do ou feel reall +1 He studied the bubbles in the wine as if searching for the word. 12ou'll quit the force now+1 1$ intended to ne&t ear. 10ree. 1How do ou feel. %ut now the door's o#en. 12ou reall do want me to be in trouble.1 He to ed with the wick of a candle on the .1 Shaking his head. then drained his glass. 1$ feel free. he clinked his rim against hers. he began to wander the room.1 he re#eated.1 he #romised. 1)o writing 'James Sladerman' on one of those necessar cards in m librar . 3aughing.1 he said quietl .1 he suggested as he worked the cork from the bottle.1*e could ask her to ha"e a glass. $'ll ha"e the chance to do what $ want to. Slade+1 Si##ing more cautiousl . )he mone 4ust means that $ won't star"e doing it e"en after this last ear's tuition is #aid. 1and $ can walk through it.1 Jessica moistened her li#s and swallowed. 1After all these ears of doing what $ had to. Jessica watched him refill his glass.
12ou're sta ing+1 . 1$'"e got enough to get b on until the contract's signed. resign right awa +1 1.o need to wait. $'m going to find out. A restlessness cre#t into the other feelings''a restlessness he hadn't #ermitted himself to acknowledge before.1 she murmured. $ wonder how it'll feel to write full'time instead of grabbing snatches.1 he considered.1 1$'ll manage.1 She thought of the gun he secreted somewhere in his rooms u#stairs.1 12ou'll.. 1$ guess it'll take some getting used to.1 1$t's what ou were meant to do. 1As soon as this is o"er..#iano.1 1!"er+1 Her e es fi&ed on his. $'ll need time if the want rewrites. but he wasn't looking at her. $'ll be a ci"ilian. 1)his means it can be sooner''much sooner. )hen there's this no"el to finish and another $'"e been kicking around. :elief flowed through her to be immediatel followed b an&iet .
1$ think ou should shut the hell u#.1 *hen she started to s#eak. 1when someone's about to get what the '"e worked for. waited for. 1. )he e&#ression on her face made him frown.1 12ou think $'d walk out of here and lea"e ou+1 )he anger in his "oice had her taking a quick si# of cham#agne.1 Jessica reached for the bottle to add cham#agne to a glass that was alread full.1 . 1*hat did ou sa +1 1$ thought ou'd turn o"er the assignment to someone else. of course ou wouldn't. 1$ mean it. 1$ think. 12ou'll want to get back to .1*hat+1 Distracted.1 *ith deliberate care. 1$ don't lea"e things until the 're finished. he brought his ga/e back to her. Jess. the shouldn't take an chances.o.1 1. Slade set down his glass.o. then set it beside the half'filled bottle.ew 2ork right awa .1 He went to her and took the glass from her hand. he cu##ed her face in one strong hand.1 she said slowl .1 She set the bottle back down.
12ou're a fool to sta when ou ha"e a choice. 1)hen we're in this together until the finish. 2ou won't get another one. we alwa s ha"e a choice. not noting that she had edited his #hrase.1 1All right. 1!ka .1 Slade nodded..1 . 1Sa the word and $'ll go back to . let's get some breakfast to go with this cham#agne before %ets com#letel writes ou off. defiant shake of the head. she would onl think of tomorrows. She needed him to sta as badl as she wanted him to go.ew 2ork toda .1 )ilting her head back. His e es narrowed with tem#er before he brought his mouth to hers for one brief. ne"er taking his e es off hers.1 Jessica went into his arms and clung.1 He nodded again.1 Jessica corrected more calml .1 he added when she started to s#eak. 0or now. 1Just remember. $ ga"e ou our chance. if ou'll go with me. 12ou're a fool to think $ ha"e one. hard kiss.1 1%ut ou do. 1$ told ou once before. *e're in this together.. 1!ne da $'m going to remind ou of it. she smiled at him.1 she blurted out. Her answer was a quick.
)he quiet librar and monotonous tasks Slade ga"e her were grating on alread taut ner"es. *orse. the da crawled.e&t 0or Jessica.'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' Cha#ter 8I '''''''''' Contents ' Pre" 9 . )he one thing she'd concei"ed and built b herself had been taken out of her hands. the same dedication to making it the best she was ca#able of.ow. She hated seeing the sun #our through the windows while she remained tra##ed inside. )he confinement alone would ha"e been torture to her. -"en the beach was off limits. . Jessica detested being ill. her own weariness was taking her to the #oint where she no longer cared. $t was something she couldn't''or wouldn't''change. Her usual defense against a #h sical weakness was to ignore it and go on. she had no outlet. so she was #re"ented from learning if she could walk there again without looking o"er her shoulder. . nagging headache. Perha#s she would ne"er feel the same #ride in it. howe"er. )hinking of her sho# onl brought on a dull.
Jessica #lunged her hands into the #ockets of her trousers. 1Cards+ $'m read to beat m head against the wall and ou want to #la cards+1 . and e&haustion.1 he finished as he rose. 1Slade.0inall she tossed her #en across the table and s#rang u#. was not Jess *inslow's forte. $ don't want a drink. $sn't there something we can do+ An thing+ )his waiting is unbearable. he mused. tension. 1$ can't stand this an more<1 She gestured widel to encom#ass the librar at large. He'd watched her fidget throughout the morning. 1Damn it. He #ushed aside a #ile of books. fighting off boredom. if $ write one more word.1 Slade leaned back in his chair. Slade. $ need to do something. listening calml to her com#laints.1 he stated mildl . 1:umm +1 0or a moment she looked #u//led. then ga"e a gust sigh.1 1:umm . $'ll go cra/ . 15in. Sitting still. )he onl sur#rise he felt was that she'd managed to go so long without e&#loding.
12eah. 5ot an +1
1$ su##ose.1 Jessica dragged a hand through her hair, holding it back from her face a moment before she dro##ed her arm to her side. 1$s that the best ou can come u# with+1
1.o.1 Slade came to her to run his thumb along the shadows under her e es. 1%ut $ think we'"e gi"en %ets enough shocks for toda .1
*ith a half length, Jessica ga"e in. 1All right then, cards.1 She went to a table and #ulled o#en a drawer. 1*hat stakes+1 she asked as she rummaged around in the drawer.
12our ca#ital's a bit bigger than mine,1 Slade said dr l . 1Half a #enn a #oint.1
1!ka , big s#ender.1 Jessica located a #ack of cards, then flourished them. 1Pre#are to lose.1
And he did''resoundingl . At Slade's suggestion, the had settled in the #arlor. His thoughts had been that the sofa and a quiet fire would rela& her, and a stead , boring game might #ut her to slee#. He'd alread concluded that aslee# was the onl wa Jessica could handle the waiting
without losing her mind.
He hadn't e&#ected her to know a great deal about the game, an more than he had e&#ected to be trounced.
15in,1 Jessica announced again.
He looked down in disgust at the cards she s#read. 1$'"e ne"er seen an one with that kind of luck.1
1Skill,1 she corrected, #icking u# the cards to shuffle them.
His o#inion was a brief four'letter word. 1$'"e worked "ice,1 he told her while she dealt. 1$ know a hustle when $ see one.1
1(ice+1 Jessica #oked her tongue in her cheek. 1$'m sure that was "er interesting.1
1$t had its moments,1 he muttered, scowling at the cards she'd dealt him.
1*hat de#artment are ou with now+1
1!h.1 She swallowed, but managed to kee# her "oice light. 1$ su##ose that has its moments too.1
He ga"e her a grunt that might ha"e been agreement as he discarded. Jessica #lucked it u# and sli##ed it into her own hand. *hen Slade narrowed his e es, she onl smiled.
12ou must ha"e met a lot of #eo#le in our work.1 She contem#lated her hand, then tossed out a card. 1)hat's wh de#th.1 our characters ha"e such
%riefl he thought of the street #eo#le6 dealers and #rostitutes, #ett thie"es and "ictims. Still, she was right in her wa . % the time he'd hit thirt , Slade had thought he'd seen all there was to see. He was constantl finding out there was more.
12eah, $ meet a lot of #eo#le.1 He discarded again, and again Jessica #lucked it u#. 1%usted a few #rofessional card sharks.1
Jessica sent him an innocent look. 1:eall +1
1!ne was a great'looking redhead,1 he im#ro"ised. 1:an a #ortable game in some of the best hotels in .ew 2ork. Soft southern accent, white hands, and a marked deck.1 -&#erimentall , he held a card to the light before he discarded it. 1She went u# for three ears.1
1$s that so+1 Jessica shook her head as she reached for the card. 15in.1
1Come on, Jess, there's no wa ''1
A#ologeticall , she s#read her cards. 1)here seems to be.1
After a quick scan of her cards, he swore. 1!ka , that's it.1 Slade tossed in his hand. 10igure u# m losses. $'m finished.1
1*ell, let's see.1 Jessica chewed on the end of a #encil as she scanned the note#ad dotted with numbers from #re"ious hands. 12ou got caught with a bundle that time, didn't ou+1 .ot bothering to wait for his re#l , she scribbled on the #ad. 1)he wa $ figure it, ou owe me eight dollars and fift 'se"en and a half cents.1 Setting down the #ad, she smiled at him. 13et's 4ust make it eight dollars and fift 'se"en, e"en.1
12ou're all heart, Jess.1
1Just #a u#.1 She held out a hand, #alm u#. 1;nless ou want to go for double or nothing.1
1.ot a chance.1 Slade reached into his #ocket and drew out his wallet. He tossed a ten onto the table. 1$ ha"en't got an change. 2ou owe me a buck fort 'three.1
*ith a smirk, Jessica rose to retrie"e her #urse from the hall closet. 1!ne dollar,1 she said, rummaging through her billfold as she came back into the #arlor. 1And... twent 'fi"e, thirt , fort 'three.1 She dro##ed the change into his hand, then grinned. 1*e're e"en.1
1.ot b a long shot.1 Slade grabbed her and ga"e her a long, thorough kiss. 1$f ou're going to fleece me,1 he murmured, gathering her hair in one hand, 1the least ou can do is make it worth m while.1
1Seems reasonable,1 she agreed as she offered her li#s again.
5od, how he wanted her. .ot 4ust for a moment or a da or a ear, he thought as he lost himself in the taste of her. 0or alwa s. 0ore"er. All those terms he ne"er allowed himself to think. )here was a wall between them''the thin glass wall of status he forgot when she was in his arms. He had no business feeling what he felt or asking what he wanted to ask.
%ut she was warm and soft, and her li#s mo"ed willingl under his.
1Don't talk.1 She wra##ed her arms tighter around him. 1Just kiss me again.1 Her mouth clung to his, smothering the words that begged to be said. And the longer the kiss went on, the thinner the wall between them became. Slade thought he could feel it crack, then shatter without a sound.
1Jess,1 he murmured again as he buried his face in her hair. 1$ want''1
She 4olted and Slade swore when the doorbell rang.
1$'ll get it,1 she said.
1.o, let %ets .1 He held her another minute, feeling the hammer of her heart against his chest.
,ore than willing, Jessica nodded. *hen Slade released her, she sank into a chair. 1$t's sill ,1 she began, then ,ichael walked into the #arlor.
ichael followed the direction of her ga/e until he too looked at Slade. .1 0rowning. $'m fine. 1$t's not m #lace to tell Jess how to run her life.1 Slade shrugged as he eased himself into a chair.ichael went to her to take her hand.1 $gnoring Slade. . 12ou know $'d go cra/ if $ sta ed in bed.1 1How could $ hel# it+1 He lifted her hand to brush his fingers o"er the knuckles. reall .1 1And what e&actl is our #lace+1 .1 She smiled.1 1)hat was''1 She broke off. $ told ou not to worr .nderstanding was followed b anger. . casting a quick look at Slade.1 he told Slade curtl .ichael. 1-s#eciall with Da"id muttering all afternoon about ou not knowing how to take care of ourself. then wear acce#tance.1 12ou don't look fine. resentment. 1not entertaining guests. ou look e&hausted. 1She should be in bed. . 12ou're so #ale'' ou should be in bed. 1)hat was 4ust a small disagreement we had. but couldn't #re"ent her fingers from tightening on his.1Jessica.
1 She #ut her arms around him. 12ou and Da"id mean so much to me. feeling the familiar trim build.1 He #ulled out a cigarette. 1$'ll make it u# this e"ening. 1$'ll go now.1 Jessica cut off Slade's answer and rose hastil .o #roblem.1 he said at length. sea'bree/e scent of his after'sha"e.1 1. 1if ou #romise to go u# to bed.1 . $ am tired. she turned to Slade. 1$'ll be going u# soon.. smelling the light. 15ood night. .. $ will. Jessica.1 12es.1 *ith a silent #lea. ob"iousl not wanting to lea"e''and knowing there was no #oint in sta ing.1 He cast Slade a last look before he drew her awa . 2ou ha"en't written all da .1 1Da"id and $. $ know.1 15ood night.ichael stood between them. 1$'"e ke#t ou from our work too long.1 he said quietl and brushed a hand down her hair. $ wish $ could tell ou.1 .ichael. .1. #lease.ichael.ichael. 12es.
1 He met her angr e es directl .1 1$ told ou not to see either of them alone. but he saw the stubborn crease between her brows. 1*hat kind of disagreement did ou ha"e with Da"id+1 1$t was nothing to do with this''it was #ersonal.1 !n a disgusted sigh.othing's #ersonal right now.1 1. she fi&ed him with wear e es. 1Just do what ou're told. Sergeant.1 he reminded her.1 12es.1 1)his was.1 she sna##ed. 1Don't tem#t me. 1%ook me.1 he told her briefl . 1$'m sorr . 1$ ha"e a right to some #ri"ac . Slade.1 1Don't a#ologi/e.1 . 1And don't do it again.1 )urning. Jessica dragged a hand through her hair.Slade waited until he heard the front door close.
15ood.1 He didn't get u#.#stairs. He was 4ust as cogni/ant of what was going on inside her head as she was. $ will. she told herself''an as#irin for the headache.1 12es. then lowered herself into the tub.1$ think $ will go u#. Jessica filled the tub. $'m tired. not looking at Slade. 15et some slee#. 0or the first time in her life Jessica felt the near weightlessness of true e&haustion. She waited until the bathroom was steam . 5ood night. nor did he take his e es off her.1 she added. )he "isit from . She knew she hadn't decei"ed Slade.ichael had been the last straw in a da filled with uns#oken fears and ri##ling tension. a hot tub for the tension. . es. Jessica wasn't fool enough to belie"e that he'd taken her e&cuse of being tired at face "alue. )hen she would slee#. )hat was what she needed. then tossed his cigarette into the fire and swore. She had to slee#''her bod was cr ing for it.1 He listened to her go u# the ste#s. Slade. .
he corrected as he ste##ed #ast a snoring . checking locks. He'd waited. she ad"ised herself. and Dodson. $t was se"en o'clock. asked things he had no right to ask of a "ulnerable woman. the were all equall to blame. he reflected. when . Silentl he cursed $nter#ol. Jessica understood her own #ersonalit too well.l sses. She would be luck to get through the night much less another week of waiting and wondering. As far as he was concerned. she thought in frustration as she let the water la# o"er her. Slade had found himself entirel too close to ste##ing o"er the last boundar . Jessica wouldn't be able to take much more''that had been made abundantl clear during . $f the doorbell hadn't rung. She'd concentrate on getting through until eight.ichael's "isit. for the #hone call that would tell him his assignment was o"er. )ake an hour at a time. How much longer would she ha"e to wait+ Another da + A week+ )wo weeks+ !n a long. At twent #ast eight Slade went s stematicall through the first floor.othing had ha##ened. *ould ha"e said es. throughout an unbearabl long da .. And would ha"e regretted it. She might ha"e said es. Another thing had been made abundantl clear. he would ha"e said things best left unsaid. the 0%$. quiet sigh she shut her e es.
)hen he'd slee# in his own bed. She was becoming too de#endent. . alone. *hen she wasn't there where he could see her.uscles tensed. Slade rubbed a hand o"er the back of his neck where the tension concentrated. )he ser"ants were settled in their wing.either the bath nor the as#irin had rela&ed her enough to bring slee# an closer. then the 'd been married before she'd had time to read4ust+ A good wa to mess u# two li"es. After he'd finished checking the locks. $t was better to make the break now. she thought.the situation changed and her life was back to normal. he'd go u#stairs and write. He could hear the low murmur of a tele"ision and the settling of boards. it was easier to kee# things in #ers#ecti"e. tem#ting him to cross the line again. Slade saw the knob slowl turn. touch her. -ight'thirt . At least she was u#stairs resting. Jessica glanced at the clock again as she roamed her bedroom. and that wasn't like her. $f Slade would come u#. . *hat if he had asked her. not beside him. Slade. he told himself. As he walked toward the kitchen door. draw back until the were 4ust co# and assignment again. he ste##ed back into the shadows and waited. . then shook her head.
she'd made it from se"en to eight. %eing confined in the house was bad enough without restricting herself to her rooms. she o#ened the #arlor doors and flicked on the light switch. urging her to turn around. 0or the second time the #arlor doors were closed. *ell. She'd almost be willing to fill out some more of those sill cards''an thing to kee# her hands bus until.. A tremor ran u# her back. Her thoughts broke off as she came to the foot of the stairs. Hadn't she told Slade not to tell her to run+ )his was her home. she felt that her ner"es would calm somewhat if she could 4ust hear the sound of his t #ewriter. $f he's anno ed. but she wasn't going to make it until nine. Jessica started back downstairs. and #retend she'd ne"er left it. she mused.Still. Slade waited as the rear door o#ened quietl . )aking a dee# breath. she reminded herself. she'd 4ust ha"e to make the best of it. *hate"er ha##ened in it was hers to deal with.. At first there was onl a . An hour at a time. Jessica reminded herself as she ste##ed forward. 5i"ing u#. go to her room. glancing at the clock et again. She'd taken the first ste# in retreat before she sto##ed herself.
1. faintl defiant man who had a knack for figures and an affection for antiques. He was also ha"ing what he thought was a discreet affair with a #re'med student. but the build was familiar. His e"er mo"ement had been under sur"eillance for o"er a month. After turning on the lights.1 Slade straddled a chair and waited for Da"id to come out with whate"er was on his mind.shadow. Slade recalled %rewster's almost #aternal amusement with Da"id's .1 Da"id com#lained as he let the door swing shut behind him. )he last re#ort Slade had recei"ed from %rewster had #ut Da"id in the clear. 12ou scared the hell out of me.o"ing right in. he went o"er to the sto"e. 1*ant some coffee+1 he asked grudgingl . he ste##ed forward into the moonlight.1 Da"id muttered.1 Slade said easil . His name and face and finger#rints had been run through the most so#histicated com#uters. Startled. Da"id : ce was e&actl what he seemed''a oung. Da"id whirled around and swore. 1)hanks. 1*hat're ou doing standing around in the dark+1 1Just checking the locks. :ela&ing.
ichael.1 . #oured two fingers of brand .1 . . $'m sure ou did.1 Jessica crossed the room.1 He stood with #ieces of the desk in his hand. and drank it down.ichael began. franticall searching for some "iable e&cuse for his #resence and his actions.ichael Adams was u# to his neck in the smuggling o#eration. 1$ know ou'"e been using the sho#. 1. 1)here was a #roblem with this #iece. %etter that she sus#ected both men than for her to be certain that .1 Jessica stared.1 she told him in a flat "oice.1 12es. resigned sigh. Slade had decided she had enough trouble kee#ing herself under control. 1$ know about the smuggling.1 *ith a quiet. $'d ho#ed ou'd be aslee#. 1Jessica. 1$ wanted to''1 1Please don't. she shut the #arlor doors at her back.ichael. facing the truth and not wanting to belie"e it. 1$ didn't want to disturb ou.infatuation. )hough he'd felt an initial twinge of guilt at kee#ing the knowledge of Da"id's clean slate from Jessica.
#leading look. 12ou owe me that. *hat was ours+1 1$n -uro#e a cou#le of ears ago. 1$ know.. .ore than $ had to lose. 1Jessica. #ushed b anger and des#air.1 she murmured.. 1*e all ha"e our choices. Jessica''1 1$ said don't<1 She whirled shar#l ..1 He took a greed drag of his cigarette. He #romised ou wouldn't be in"ol"ed''that ou'd ne"er ha"e to know.ichael.. . $. thinking of Slade. then gro#ed for a cigarette. 1He .1 As his color drained.1 Her "oice was low and stead .1 He sent her a swift. *as there an #lace left to run+ 1$ want to know wh . 2ou ha"e to belie"e that $'d ne"er ha"e gotten ou mi&ed u# in this if there'd been an choice. 1$ lost some mone . and to the wrong #erson.1 He let the #ieces of the desk fall to the floor.1Smuggling+ :eall . he looked around wildl . . And so do the #olice.ichael.1 1!h 5od. a lot of mone .1 1Choice.1 1$ was tra##ed. $ was tra##ed.
He #oured bourbon neat. of course.1 Dragging a hand through his hair. ou'd ne"er be safe. *hen he ga"e me an alternati"e to cri##ling me #ermanentl . . 1*ho is he. Jessica. ..o #it . And then. 1$f ou were concerned for m safet . m famil .1 .. 1$t worked beautifull for him. she ordered herself.ichael walked o"er to the bar. m connection with our sho#'' our unim#eachable re#utation. 1)he were #ros. He wouldn't drag #it from her now. then downed it in one swallow. 1He knew who $ was. $t wasn't for the mone .had me worked o"er'' ou might remember when $ took those e&tra two weeks in :ome. $ took it. . 1$ won't tell ou that. he turned to face her.ichael+1 1. His "oice steadied.o.1 Shaking his head. $ 4ust wanted to sta ali"e. $f he found out ou had his name.1 She felt something soften inside her and quickl #ushed it aside. ou might ha"e told me not to walk on the beach when someone was going to shoot at me.1 He drew in and e&#elled smoke quickl . s#lattering dro#s..1 1Safe+1 She laughed shortl . $t was da s before $ could walk.1 )he liquor ga"e him tem#orar strength.. $ was in too dee#.
1)o the sho#. $f $ don't take them to him tonight''1 1*here+1 she interru#ted. Jessica bent o"er to #ick u# one of the #ieces he had dro##ed.1 he said and swallowed. Jessica. 1$ begged him not to in"ol"e ou.. he re"ealed .. 1A quarter of a million. but $ ne"er belie"ed he'd actuall tr to hurt ou. *ith a 4erk mo"ement of his arm. . Jessica. He threatened. $ didn't think he'd.ichael tossed the cigarette into the fire. $ would ha"e done something.1Sh'shoot. ...1 His hand trembled. $t was #art of the inner molding.1 1Don't talk about lo"ing to me. ten o'clock. swore $'d do an thing he wanted if he'd lea"e ou out of it. good 5od. 1*hat's in the desk.ichael+1 1Diamonds.1 13et me see them.1 *ith more control than she was feeling. 3ifting a thin #iece of wood. s#illing ash onto the car#et. $ lo"e ou.1 She watched him se#arate one of the #artitions of a cubb hole from the s#ace where a drawer had been.
$s he stu#id enough not to know the #olice are closing in+1 she demanded. and me. 1$t's the last time.ichael. 1%ut ou're not deli"ering an thing. and ou're going to the #olice.1 1Don't be a fool. $ wouldn't e"en be safe in a cell. $'m taking the diamonds. . 1$s he stu#id enough to lea"e ou ali"e as a liabilit + )hink<1 she ordered im#atientl . 1$'"e alread told him $'m through. he'll kill ou too. 1He'll kill ou an wa . 1. $f he finds out $ went to the #olice. had ke#t him lo al.1 . Dee# inside his mind. )he 're going back where the came from.ichael. she grabbed the bag from his hand.es glittering.1 Her words touched off a fear he'd buried. 12our onl chance is with the #olice. Jessica. clutching the bag in his #alm. )hat fear. $'m going to lea"e the countr .a false bottom. and if he knows what ou'"e done. As soon as $ deli"er these. He drew out a small #added bag. much more than mone .1 1$t is the last time. He'll kill me. 1He'll kill me.1 12ou might as well hold a gun to m head<1 He swi#ed an unstead hand o"er his mouth.1 he began.1 Jessica agreed. then held out her hand. .ichael had alwa s known his in"ol"ement in the o#eration could onl end one wa .ot the . .
$t won't take ou far enough. 7uickl she twirled the tumblers and o#ened it. 12ou used me.1 1. Jessica.1 She offered .ichael a stack of bills. $f $ lea"e now. 1$ don't ha"e time to raise the mone $'ll need. re"ealing a wall safe.1 Her hand tightened on the bag. some#lace where he won't find me< 3et me ha"e the diamonds.1 Again. $ can use them. Jessica. 1$ ha"e to get awa . his e es darted around the room.1 She stared at him. Don't ou see. His e es were gla/ed with terror. beading o"er li#s that trembled. do ou want to see me dead+1 His breathing was raw and 4erk as the words tumbled out.1 10or 5od's sake. Jessica crossed to a #ainting of a 0rench landsca#e and swung it out on hidden hinges. 1$t's not worth what the diamonds are. 1)ake this. He'd used her. but cash should be safer in an case. . $'ll ha"e a start.1 she said quietl as he reached for the mone . 1%ut ou ha"e to make our own decision.o. no more.#olice. A thin film of sweat co"ered his face.1 . she'd gi"e him what he wanted. but that didn't kill the feelings she had for him.ichael. she thought. $f he was determined to run.
e"er thing he'd e"er cared about. 1$'m sorr . but she needed a moment to herself first. 1All for a whim. letting the bag of diamonds fall into her la#. then stared at the remains of the 7ueen Anne desk. .odding. ou ha"e to run fast. $f she hadn't had that im#ulse to bring the desk home then. Carefull . she turned awa . She needed to see Slade. she sank into a chair.ichael. *hen ou run. s#arkling stream of diamonds fell into her #alm. then finall met her e es. she re#laced them. Jessica broke off the thought..1 she whis#ered.1 She listened for the click of the doors before she o#ened the #added bag.1 He saw e"er thing he'd e"er wanted. .. Jessica. Da"id did nothing but take what he thought were routine orders. 1So this is what m life's worth. A cold.ichael. *ith a fierce shake of her head. )here were no if's. !n a sigh.o. She heard his footste#s as he crossed to the doors. 1Jessica''1 1Just go. was Da"id in"ol"ed in this+1 1. sli##ing through his hands.1 she murmured.1 He sli##ed the bills inside his 4acket.1)here's onl one $ can make.1 . 1.
either do $. *hat was this. tossing back the hair that fell o"er his brow.1 Da"id turned. 13ook.1$ guess Jessica told ou about this morning. 1$'d sa ou don't ha"e to like it. he wondered. 1Shouldn't she ha"e+1 he countered.1 Slade watched the e es behind the lenses.1 As the coffee heated on the sto"e.ncomfortable under the direct stare. 1$ don't want her to get hurt. he mused. Jessica had the lo alt she e&#ected here.1 He measured the man across the room and knew he was outmatched.1 . 1but Jess wouldn't feel that wa .1 . Da"id reached for cu#s. $ didn't like it. *hen $ saw her come out of our room this morning. So this was her #ri"ate disagreement. Da"id shifted a bit. $ don't ha"e an thing against ou''$ don't e"en know ou. 1$ still don't like it. 1%ut Jessie's im#ortant to me.1 Slade said slowl . Slade lifted a brow.1 1.
1 he mumbled. $ lo"e her. 1She's a soft touch. Something about the wa Slade said it made him belie"e it.1 Da"id grimaced and dum#ed milk into his coffee. forget $ said an thing.. -&ce#t that. . and it isn't. but $ could use her at the sho#. 13ook.. %ut with #eo#le.1 )em#er lea#ed into the gra e es so quickl . $ ho#e so. *hen Slade s#oke. She trusts e"er bod . 1$'m not interested in her mone . 1How's she feeling+1 1She'll be better soon. Jessica wears blinders. the words were soft and deadl controlled.ichael's moodiness. ou know. %etween getting the new stock checked in and .1 :ela&ing a bit. 1$t's 4ust that she's gotten stung before. Da"id shrugged. She told me this morning it was none of m business.1 1%o . 1$ wouldn't want her to hear me sa it. well.Da"id frowned. Sorr .. ou know''for a scatterbrain who forgets what she's doing because she's doing twent things at once.1 1!ka .1 )he coffee began to boil o"er behind him. Da"id nearl backed awa . She's reall smart. Da"id s#un around and turned off the burner.1 he said fer"entl as he brought the coffee to the table..
1 1.1 Da"id mo"ed his shoulders absentl before he drank. $ guess e"er bod 's entitled to a few tem#er tantrums. well.rs. 1Still. but he alwa s lets Jessie or me know. 1$t was m fault.ichael got back from -uro#e the da we were #acking it for deli"er and had a fit. She was standing in the sho# when the shi#ment came in. 1but $ didn't know he'd bought it for a s#ecific customer. *e do that sometimes. disco"ered it was bitter. and wrote out a check.1 Da"id took a quick si# of his coffee. 1Dark kingwood.1 1!h+1 Some wells. took no #riming at all.a be he has something on his mind. Slade mused. great marquetr decoration. .1 Da"id went on. 3eeman bought it the minute it was uncarted. He said it had alread been sold. 12eah. .1. and drank again resignedl . that he'd had a cash ad"ance.ichael+1 Slade #rom#ted casuall . took one look.ichael 4ust ne"er seems to ha"e a tem#er at all.1 Da"id remembered. . $t was a beaut . $ ha"en't seen him this unra"eled since the mi&'u# on the Chi##endale cabinet last ear. 1Jessica would call it breeding.1 He flashed Slade a grin. .
1)he #a#erwork had been mislaid.1 he went on. $ don't think .1 Slade rose swiftl and headed for the rear stairs. 13ord.1 1*ho bought it+1 Slade demanded. 1*hat. $ guess. 1At the sho#.rs. $ don't know. and with the mood he was in.1 he recalled with a grin..1 1*hat are ou''1 Da"id broke off as Slade disa##eared u#stairs. *h +1 1$ ha"e to go out.1 Pu//led. . $ didn't like to ask. 1Jessie sold her a side table at cost to soothe her feathers.ichael e"er told me. Da"id mused as he frowned at Slade's em#t chair. 3eeman wasn't too #leased about the mi&'u# either. the cabinet+1 Da"id ad4usted his glasses. . . Da"id focused on him again. 2ou're ha"ing a casual con"ersation with a gu and all of a sudden he's..1 12ou ha"e the recei#t+1 12eah.a be he was a nut after all. sure. 1Don't go an where until $ get back. 1)hat was odd because Jessie's a fiend for kee#ing the in"oices in order.
Slade grabbed a na#kin and scrawled a number on it.o one comes in. 1$f $'m not back in an hour. Jessica sure knew how to #ick . 1$ don't understand. 1Sta s #ut+1 1Don't let an one in the house. 1*h should $ understand an thing+1 A loon tune.a be writers were su##osed to be loon tunes. 1.1 Slade #aused long enough to aim hard.ake sure Jess sta s #ut. sure.1 )he back door slammed behind him. His 4acket was alread /i##ed o"er his re"ol"er.1 1)he cabinet+1 Da"id stared dumbl at the na#kin Slade thrust into his hand. call this number. . 4ust do it.1. 12eah. direct e es at Da"id.1 12ou don't ha"e to.1 Slade ordered as he came down again. he decided as he stuffed the na#kin into his #ocket.1 Da"id grumbled. He'll understand. got it+1 Something in the e es had Da"id nodding without question. )ell the man who answers the stor about the cabinet.
1Da"id<1 Jessica closed the distance between them at a run. 1$s there a different strain of flu running around that affects the brain+1 1$ lo"e ou.a be the writer was a little loose u#stairs. *hen Da"id was halfwa down the hall.1 1He went out. $'m sorr about this morning''1 1*e'll talk about that later.them. 1He . Da"id. He flushed and shifted his weight. then launched herself into his arms. . but he'd managed to unsettle him. what gi"es<1 He managed to struggle out of her hold and take her b the shoulders.1 Close to tears. he decided to check on her. 3ook. Jessica framed his face with her hands. the #arlor doors o#ened.1 . 12eah. *ith a glance at his watch. ma be not. $ lo"e ou too. )here's a lot $ ha"e to tell ou. but $ need to see Slade first.
es. of course<1 1Slade ga"e me some business about not letting an one in the house and calling some number if he didn't get back in an hour.o.1 he returned a bit indignantl . Da"id. 3et me take ou u#stairs. 1!h 5od. and he was u# and heading out the ne&t.1 $ntentl .. ou're reall sick. where are ou . 1Jessie.1 1$ don't. $ mentioned that .1 Her "oice changed from frantic to stern''the one he alwa s res#onded to.1 Jessica #ressed her hands to her cheeks.1 1)he Chi##endale. 1*hat were ou talking about+1 1Just this and that. he studied her face.. 1*here+1 1$ don't know. He .1 1.ichael'd been mood ''like he'd been when we'd had that mi&'u# on the Chi##endale cabinet last ear.1 1About what+1 $m#atient. 1*e were sitting there talking one minute. Jessica ga"e him a quick shake. 12ou must ha"e some idea where he went. it's im#ortant.1!ut+1 Her fingers dug into Da"id's thin arms.
. *hich doesn't make an sense because it's closed and. 1$ can't find them. ou forgot our coat. take it eas . 1He doesn't answer.1 *hile Jessica made a frantic search through the items on the floor. she dum#ed the contents of her #urse on the floor. Jessie. 1He's gone to the sho#. Da"id dialed the #hone. $ can't''the 're in m coat<1 she remembered and dashed for the hall closet. 1Call<1 she re#eated when Da"id ga#ed at her. *ill ou wait a minute<1 %ut she was alread racing down the front ste#s toward her car. where are ou going+ He said ou weren't to go out. Damn it. see if he answers. 1!ka .going+1 Jessica had swung her #urse from the newel #ost and was rummaging through it. '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' .. 1Probabl hasn't had time to get there et if that's where he was going in the first #lace.1 $n a quick mo"e. )o the sho# and it's nearl ten< *here are m ke s< Call''call the sho#.1 Da"id told her.
:A. Slade concluded.ew mo# hndl''%ets anno ed. %lind luck. Slade shook his head. . he mused as he mo"ed through the main sho# into the back room.--DS 0!!D on the blotter right beneath the scrawled 1.Cha#ter 88 '''''''''' Contents ' Pre" 9 . he walked to the file cabinet set in the rear corner. $f there was one thing he was going to see to before he left. He found a recei#t for a blouse she had bought two ears before in a file marked $. he #assed through the kitchen into what ser"ed as an office. Slade switched it on.32SS-S .e&t $t took Slade onl a few moments to #ick the lock on the front door of the sho#. it would be to get Jessica to a decent locksmith.1 *ith a half grin.S. Jessica's idea of organi/ation was be ond him. and a )iffan lam#. )he to# drawer seemed to be her #ersonal items. )here was a large mahogan desk with neat stacks of #a#ers. he decided.o"ing in the dark. then tossed his 4acket o"er a chair. )urning awa . a blotter with names and numbers scribbled on it.C- . A miracle she hasn't been cleaned out. He caught the boldl #rinted .
!ne Chi##endale cabinet''kingwood with marquetr decoration. and in #erfect order. $ imagine. . He drew out a cigarette and worked #atientl from month to month. %etween two file folders was a wrinkled grocer list. and business corres#ondence. he scanned each one. legible. arranged chronologicall . deli"er bills. He found it in June. Slade drew out the first file folder and took it to the desk. His brow rose slightl at the #rice. A quick fli# through them showed Slade the were recei#ts for the current ear. $t was the other side of the coin. !n a sound of anno ance. He thought of the to# drawer and shook his head.1 he murmured. $n the third drawer he found what he was looking for''recei#ts from the #re"ious ear. . )ime ticked awa as he e&amined each #a#er.P!3$C$-S''SH!P. he #ulled out the second drawer. Slade re#laced the first folder and drew out the second. -ach section was a stud in organi/ed filing. other than the fact that Jessica did a thri"ing business.oting the name of the . )he files were neat. when he had com#leted the first quarter's recei#ts. also current and chronological.ethodicall . He learned nothing else. beginning in Januar .ot a bad deal. 1.
ichael+ Jessica #ressed down harder on the gas and flew around a turn. Jessica wi#ed a dam# #alm . Swiftl he turned out the light. she would ha"e told Da"id to call the number Slade had gi"en him. Slade reached for the #hone. )en o'clock. searching through the old recei#ts. )hat's right. 1-"er one makes a tid little #rofit.#urchaser. Cursing herself. !"erreacting. he smiled. !h 5od.er"ousl . wreck the car. As he mo"ed from the desk he drew out his gun. *hat would the man do when he got to the sho# and found Slade there instead of . she swer"ed. )he beams of a##roaching headlights blinded her.1 After #ocketing the recei#t. skidding the left rear wheel on the shoulder of the road. %rewster might find Da"id's little stor "er interesting. )hat'll do e"er bod a lot of good. if onl the man coming to meet . then righted the car. she fishtailed. Jessica s#ed along the winding back road that led to her sho#. *h hadn't she at least told him to kee# calling the sho# until he reached Slade+ . she glanced at her watch. she concluded. she thought with her heart #um#ing. %efore he had #unched two numbers. s#un on gra"el. she berated herself.ichael were late< Slade would be in the back room. $f she'd had an ounce of sense. Slade heard the sound of a car #ulling u# outside. Heart in her throat.
1 He le"eled .on her slacks. 1Chambers. Slade stood #ressed behind the doorwa that led to the back room.ichael.o<1 $nfuriated. . Jessica #ressed down hard on the accelerator onl to ha"e the Audi stall. she ordered herself. she slammed both hands against the steering wheel. 1. then bucked. 1Don't be childish. He waited. the car s#uttered. then die. $t hardl #a s to hide when ou lea"e a car out front in #lain "iew. then the cheer 4ingle of bells. Just dri"e''it's less than a mile now. How man times< she demanded. She started to run. How man times had she told herself to sto# and fill u#+ =nowing it wasn't the time for self'lectures.1 Slade hit the o"erhead lights as he turned into the room. 1*ith the fetish for snuffbo&es. 0rustrated. lights beaming. 1there's no #lace ou can hide from me. isn't it+1 he said mildl . -"en as she said it. He heard the quiet click of the doorknob. she slammed out of the car. )he needle on the gas gauge sta ed stubbornl on em#t . Don't think.1 he added softl . And ou should know. )hen there was a coldl #atient sigh. listening to the soft footste#s and gentle breathing. lea"ing it in the middle of the road.
along with a few other members of our team.1 . he hasn't the stomach for "iolence.1 *ith no change of e&#ression. *e'"e had Adams under sur"eillance for some time. aren't ou+1 He ga"e a whee/ chuckle. 1How foolish of .1 Slade corrected.. %ut then.. 1)he onl deal $ ha"e with Adams is a quiet. 12ou're the stockbo ..1 1$ don't ha"e that #roblem.r. so he watched Slade's e es.1 *hen Chambers ga"e him a #leasantl blank look. 1!r don't ou catch the names of the #ros ou hire+1 1Death is an occu#ational ha/ard. 15ame's u#.the gun. 2ou were all that was missing. He knew a man was the real wea#on.2PD. :i##eon's in the morgue. ..1 Chambers said with an elegant shrug.1 1Sergeant. 1Sladerman. 1*e're closed. Chambers remo"ed his hat.ichael #romised ou. 1*hat has . Chambers. He ne"er bothered to glance at the gun le"eled at his chest. tem#oraril attached to the 0%$.1 Slade caught the faint flicker in Chambers' e es. talk in the near future in"ol"ing Jessica *inslow. Slade continued.ichael to send ou. .1 )he thought ga"e Slade a moment's grim #leasure.
And at this range. %ut then.. At a s#eed une&#ected in a man of his bulk. it works "er well. Her thoughts centered solel on Slade.iss *inslow has such a charming sho#. . She could see the lights glowing behind the drawn shades.1 *hen Slade hesitated. e"en a lucrati"e one. Chambers merel smiled. 1Put down our gun. Jessica felt cold steel against her tem#le. 1. A #it . $ couldn't resist. *ith the breath tearing in her lungs.1A slight miscalculation on m #art. $t seems the game isn't quite o"er after all.. .1 He trailed off delicatel .1 =ee#ing the gun stead .1 Chambers murmured as he glanced around the sho#. Slade reached for the #hone on the counter. she hit the door at a full run.1 He looked back at Slade again. 1$ assure ou. %efore fear could register..ormall $ don't in"ol"e m self directl with an of the trans#orts. though the gun is small. Slade's forward motion sto##ed with a 4erk. Chambers grabbed her the moment she stumbled inside.. Jessica dashed the last ards toward the sho#. His arms slid around her throat. Sergeant. 12ou don't look to be the t #e who'll take a bribe.1 12ou seem to be a good 4udge of character.
isn't she+1 he asked Slade. $ beg our #ardon. $ do.1 1. Slade let the gun dro#. . shall we sa . 1if ou kee# choking her. Jessica gas#ed it in.1 1!h. % his calculations. 1A beautiful creature. 1!ka .Casting a furious look into Jessica's stunned e es.1 Slade shot a quick glance at the clock on his right.1 he commented. Chambers.1 Jessica #ut a hand to the arm that was constricting her air. )he gun sta ed lodged at her tem#le.1 he said #leasantl .iss *in'slow. 1Howe"er. 1)he Sergeant doesn't a##reciate our timing.1 Chambers ga"e him a mild smile. "er much. . $t seems $ need an insurance #olic ''momentaril . 5reed for air. 12ou won't ha"e to #ut a bullet in her. )his. )he name of the game now was stall. 1$ often wished $ were twent ears ounger.1 He held u# em#t hands. Such a woman looks her best on a man's arm.1 Chambers loosened his hold fractionall .r. Da"id should be calling his contact within moments. 13et her go. 1!h. $ don't think so. #uts a different as#ect on things.
esca#e routes #lotted. $ en4o ed those #leasant chats we had. Chambers. 1She could be useful to ou. 1Slade must ha"e told ou that the #olice know e"er thing.1 Slade commented. How much time do we ha"e+ she wondered franticall . we all know $ can't do that.1 1$ ha"e m . then shifted meaningfull to the clock.1 =ee#ing his arm firm.1 He smiled. too. those #leasant cu#s of tea.1 1!h. 12ou became a small weakness of mine.1 1He mentioned it. 1$ alwa s lea"e a back door o#en..1 he continued as Jessica. $ felt badl that this was to be m last .. 13et me go and #ut that thing awa .1 Jessica's e es met Slade's. m dear. what are ou doing here this time of night+1 $t was a weak #lo . 12ou'll need a shield to get out of this. but the best Jessica could think of. he #atted her shoulder. Sergeant.r.don't ou agree+1 1. $ would like to for our sake.1 12ou can't e&#ect to get awa . . shifted her e es to the clock.r. Chambers.
Chambers took the gun from her tem#le and aimed it at Slade. 1. that won't do.1 1. *h don't the come< 1$'ll show ou. $f she could kee# him ali"e. though $ confess $ miscalculated 4ust how close. 1*here are the +1 Jessica swallowed. 1!h no..1 He tightened his gri# again.1 Perha#s she could bargain for Slade's life. e"en for a little while. ')ell me.ichael e"entuall . !h es. straining to hear the sound of sirens.shi#ment before mo"ing on. then get Chambers out of the sho#. And though it would seem the diamonds are tem#oraril lost. -"en as Slade antici#ated mo"ing forward.1 he said to Slade.1 Jessica said quickl .1 Jessica managed to whis#er the word.1 *ithout s#eaking. Chambers shot him a warning look. then grabbed Chambers' arm as it cut off her breath again. $'ll find . 1$'ll take ou.o. .o+1 )he word was soft and silk . 1$ was aware the authorities were getting close.1 1He doesn't ha"e them..
so $ suggest ou close our e es. *hen it comes to our turn. So quickl .1.1 she said franticall . She heard the shot echoing in her head as she stumbled. and left to twent 'three. !ne moment the were both at the edge of their li"es. 1And trusting. tasted the iron fla"or of blood or fear in her mouth as she scrambled u#.1 1Honest. )he #ortl man seemed to crumble la er b la er on his wa to the floor.o<1 . $'ll gi"e ou the combination. Don't hurt him. and then it was o"er. As she #ushed the hair out of her e es she saw Slade's fist fl toward Chambers' face. fi"e right. She'd . $ #romise to make it as #ainless as #ossible. )hirt 'fi"e to the right.ichael take them. $ am fond of ou. then was sho"ed roughl aside. she thought numbl . Jessica landed in a hea#. $t was all o"er so quickl .sing all of her weight and the adrenaline of terror. 1$ ha"e them in the wall safe in the #arlor. #lease.1 -"en as Slade made his mo"e. twel"e to the left. Jessica screamed in #rotest.o. don't< $ ha"e them at home. 1. she flung herself on the arm holding the gun.1 Chambers commented. $ wouldn't let . m dear. She felt the #ain in her shoulder as it connected with the floor. )he 're all there.
of all the stu#id things to do< *hat the hell do ou mean b bursting in here like that+ 2ou know ou weren't to lea"e the house.. Jess.. she leaned back against a highbo . Slade let out a stead stream . *eakl . she brought it out to him. She stared at it a moment.1 %inding the unconscious Chambers. losing track of wh she needed it. So much for romantic endings. )en'fifteen.1 She #ressed her fingers between her brows and stifled a h sterical giggle. 1*ill ou hurr u#<1 Slade shouted at her.ne"er take her life for granted again''not a second of it. Jessica found some #acking cord. she thought as she stumbled blindl toward the storeroom. :es#onding automaticall . 1Slade. ou idiot.1 15et me some ro#e or cord from the back room. How could it onl be ten'fifteen+ Could #eo#le come so close to death and esca#e all in ten minutes+ Slade ri##ed the cord out of her hand without looking u#. 1Damn it. %linking awa the ha/e that co"ered her e es. she thought as she #assed the clock.
1)hen ou throw ourself on the gun.1 she murmured.1 she said in the deliberatel stead "oice of a drunk. 1$ think $ was. then dro##ed the #hone out of suddenl ner"eless hands.1 1Shut u#.ichael told me ten o'clock. 1Jess. 12es. 1And $ thought''1 1$f ou'd had a thought in our head ou would ha"e sta ed #ut like ou were told. 12ou could'"e been shot. seeing .1 $n two strides he was back beside her. Damn it.1 $n dumb fascination.1 He secured the knot. Should it hurt+ )here's a lot of blood. 1.1 12es. ou're hit<1 %rows lowered in concentration. damn it. 4ust shut u#<1 He e&amined the wound quickl . then #ushed #assed her on the wa to the #hone. racing out here like this.1 1*hat+1 Anno ed. ri##ing the arm of the sweater off b the seam. )hat's not e"en enough for ou. *hat did ou think ou could do.1 He wrenched off the recei"er and started to dial.of curses. Jessica stared down at the stain s#reading on the arm of her sweater. 1$ don't feel it. $ am. 1!h m 5od. he turned back to her. she stared at the wound. $ had him before ou came barrelling through the door.
ri#e with conflicting emotions. 0eeling the warmth of her blood on his hands. 1Damn it. what were ou tr ing to do.1 1)erribl sorr . he swallowed. His stomach rolled. His throat was dr from the rawness of his own breathing as he forced himself to treat her arm as an ob4ect. He shot her a look. He stri##ed off his shirt and tore it into a tourniquet. *hen he'd finished binding the wound.1 Her head lolled a bit as she tilted it back and tried to focus on him. Jess.1 he said between his teeth. 1How rude of me to interce#t a bullet with our name on it. but her "ision was blurred.1 she managed.that the bullet had gone cleanl through the flesh. Slade . not #art of her. A line of sweat ran down his naked back. 4um#ing out that wa + $ knew what $ was doing. 1$f ou weren't bleeding. $ swear.1 His hands trembled. Jess's flesh. $'d deck ou. he thought.1 He wanted to hold her and was terrified she'd dissol"e in his arms. 1Stu#id fool. causing him to fumble with the knot and curse her more "iolentl . 1$t was a little gun. ou're luck it wasn't our head.1 he muttered.1 1Don't get cute now. 1A bullet's a bullet.
1 Jessica said in a thick "oice. *hen he o#ened his mouth to s#eak.1 She felt as if she were floating as he started to lead her to a chair. it was because $ thought he would kill ou.held her stead with one hand. His hand dro##ed awa from her unin4ured arm.1 He sto##ed dead at her words and stared down at her. 1$'m reall sorr . Since $'m in lo"e with ou. $s that wh ou threw ourself at the gun+1 1.o. much less a word. -"en the stead throb in her shoulder seemed se#arate from her. Per#le&ed. a#art from her mind. Jessica floated toward consciousness to a blur of white. he found he couldn't form a sound. she stared at it. Sergeant. )he white dimmed to gra . She felt as though her bod were drifting. then graduall lightened again until she focused on what was a wall. . 1%ut $ think $'m going to faint. 12ou #robabl saw that mo"e on one of our stu#id mo"ies. $ couldn't allow that.1 )he last thing she heard o"er the bu//ing in her head was a stream of curses. 1Actuall .
. she noted. A face bent o"er her.1 he concluded. 1How long ha"e $ . too. Hos#ital.*ith an interest dulled b medication. )here were hori/ontal blinds at the window that showed hints of night between their slants. she decided. 13ike $'"e been shot. She s#otted the white coat and stethosco#e. Amber e es studied #ale blue. )he were nice enough e es. 1A sensible answer. All the walls were white. 1Doctor.iss *inslow. She remembered.1 She moistened dr li#s and tried again. she focused on a blue #lastic #itcher and a clear #lastic glass. as was the bandage around the arm that didn't feel like #art of her. how are ou feeling+1 She thought about it seriousl for a moment. she shifted her ga/e. 1. 3etting out a sigh. 12ou'll do. )he blinds were white. she thought with an absent grimace.1 she said in a whis#er "oice that made her frown.1 1How long.. obscuring her line of "ision. She hated hos#itals.1 He ga"e a #leasant chuckle as he took her #ulse. in a round smooth face with a hint of 4owl.
letting it fall back again when the room whirled around.1 1)he medication makes ou sluggish.been here+1 1Just o"er an hour.1 )aking out a slim flashlight.1 He smiled and #atted her hand. then cleared. 1$t's ours.1 Jessica lifted her head off the #illow.1 1He's better at gi"ing orders. An #ain+1 1Just a throb''it doesn't feel like m arm. 13ie still. *here's Slade+1 His brow creased. 12ou'll be s#ending a little time with . he aimed the beam at her right e e. He wouldn't wait in the lounge when $ ordered him to. 1)he sergeant+ He's s#ent most of his time #acing the corridors like a madman. 1$t feels like da s.1 1Slade.1 he told her firml . then her left.
1 *ith an absent nod. ou'll slee# for the ne&t twent 'four hours.1 13et me see Slade. he murmured something to the nurse who entered.1 )he line a##eared between her brows. Her e elids threatened to droo# and she forced them o#en.1 she demanded in the best authoritati"e "oice she could muster. 1$ don't think ou take orders an better than he does. he thought as he studied her e es. 1$ don't like hos#itals. 1$ don't.1 )hen. 1A #it .us. A headache #ulsed behind his . Do/ens of thoughts.1 she added. a few minutes onl . 1)hanks. Slade #aced u# and down the hos#ital corridor. 1Please. raced through his mind. do/ens of fears.1 He onl #atted her hand again.1 She managed a smile.o.1 1$'ll let him come in.1 1.
. where was the doctor+ $f an thing ha##ened to her. 1*h don't we sit down+1 Slade's fingers tightened. Can $ take her home+1 *ell "ersed in dealing with frantic s#ouses. the doctor s#oke calml without bothering to struggle out of the hold. 1Jess+ How is she+ $ want to see her now.. 5od.1 *ith a sigh. Slade caught the doctor b the la#el of his coat. Swallowing. )he headache s#read to the back of his neck. 1*h +1 1%ecause $'"e been on m feet since eight o'clock this morning. She'd been so #ale''no.iss *inslow is as well as can be e&#ected. he decided it was best to treat this one standing u#. $f the didn't let him see her soon.1 he said sim#l . he was going to. it was 4ust shock. His stomach con"ulsed again. turned fear to anger. 1She's awake. She'd been unconscious through the ambulance ride.1 . 1Sergeant+1 *hirling..right tem#le. she'd be fine. and lo"ers.. 1. $t was better that wa ''she might ha"e been in #ain. #arents. Slade forced the muscles to rela&.
*ould ou like more com#licated medical terms+1 Shaking his head. and no.1 the doctor told him.o. e&haustion and shock.1 the doctor returned e"enl . $ need to know who to notif . 1$ sim#l want to kee# her here for a few da s under obser"ation. 10amil + *hat do ou mean famil + )he wound wasn't that bad. the bullet went clean through. 1.1 He rubbed his hands o"er his face.1 12ou did "er well. 1)hat's all it is.1 1!bser"ation+1 )errif ing "isions ran through his mind. Slade released him and turned awa . Does she ha"e an famil +1 Slade felt the color drain from his face. 1*hat's wrong with her+1 1)o #ut it sim#l . $ had her here inside a half hour. then+ She's going to be all right+1 .1*hat the hell does that mean+1 1-&actl what it sa s. As to our second question. 12ou did a good 4ob of emergenc first aid. ou can see her in a moment. ou can't take her home.
1%ab sitter. She was as white as the sheets she la on. but what e&actl is our relationshi# to . 1Call Commissioner Dodson. 1$'ll take the res#onsibilit . Can ou bust me out of this #lace+1 =ee#ing his hands in his #ockets. he crossed to her.1*ith rest and care. her famil +1 1)here isn't an one.2PD''he'll "erif it. Sergeant. rushing. 1$ knew ou'd find a wa to get #ast the guards. Her li#s cur"ed. A sensation of utter hel#lessness co"ered him. he fi&ed the doctor with a stead look. !nl her e es ga"e a hint of color.1 Jessica was watching the door when Slade o#ened it. A feeling of total inadequac swe#t o"er him so that the hands in his #ockets balled into .ow. 1$'ll take the res#onsibilit . .ow.1 )urning back.1 1$ know this is a #olice matter. . . He thought of the first da he had seen her''"ibrant. 1$ want to see her.1 he muttered. Slade stuck them in his #ockets.1 0or lack of something to do with his hands.1 he re#eated with more force.iss *inslow+1 Slade ga"e a short laugh. sa##ing the strength that tension and anger had gi"en him.
$ tossed them under the seat in m car. 1Slade. are ou+1 1. $ forgot to get gas.1 -"en through her drugged ha/e.fists. And.1 1$'ll take care of it...o. )hat's accessor after the fact or something. isn't it+ $ su##ose $'m in trouble. she felt sur#rise. 1Aren't ou going to shout at me+1 .1 She sighed.1 1$ didn't think so.1 :esigned. she touched the bandaged arm. $ lied about the diamonds. closing her e es briefl .1 Jessica moistened her li#s when he remained silent. 1Actuall $ feel like $'"e drunk a half do/en martinis and fallen off a cliff. $t's in the middle of the road on the wa to the sho#. 1$ ga"e . 12ou're not going to get me out of here. she o#ened her e es again to stare at the blue #lastic #itcher.1 She looked at him then.ichael mone to get awa . 1How do ou feel+1 1$ told the doctor $ felt like $'d been shot.1 5ingerl . 1$t's not e"en locked.
.ichael told me e"er thing. She thought she felt his fingers lace with hers but couldn't be sure.1 she murmured.1 1*hat for+1 Jessica found that it took much too much effort to kee# her e es o#en.1 1. 12ou didn't do an thing.o.1 1$t's all o"er now. isn't it.1 Her hand felt so fragile. $t was lim# now6 he had onl to release it for it to fall back on the bed.1 1$t seems $ was half right. )he world was soft and gra when she closed them. 1$'ll ha"e to get shot more often. 1)hat's what $'m sorr for.1 She held out a hand. 1$'m sorr . Jessica laughed.. Slade+1 . not noticing his hesitation to take it.1 Slade looked down at her hand.1 0ighting to kee# her e es o#en. Da"id had no idea what was going on..1. 1Jess.1 1$ know. 1Da"id wasn't in"ol"ed.o.
Jess. he #ressed his li#s to hers. what do ou mean shot<1 Slade could still "isuali/e the #ale. still hear the trembling. wh didn't ou #rotect her+1 He'd had no answer for that.e&t Slade banked down the uncomfortable sensation of de4a "u as he waited in the commissioner's outer office.1 %ending. 1$f ou're a co#. '''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' Cha#ter 8? '''''''''' Contents ' Pre" 9 . Slade had gone u# to #ack e"en as Da"id had . he'd had to deal with a #u//led. then furious. His scowl was a bit more #ronounced than it had been the first time he had sat there. He'd gone directl back to her home on lea"ing the hos#ital. then frantic Da"id. 1Shot. angr words. then walked awa . strained look on Da"id's face. )here.Her breathing was dee# and e"en before he answered. 1$t's all o"er now. )hree weeks had #assed since he had left Jessica's bedside.
telling himself he was 4ust t ing u# loose ends. )hen fatigue. )hen he'd dri"en home. And so. . the bone'dee# e&haustion that comes after a long. He'd called the hos#ital dail .ore loose ends. there were onl a few necessar "isits to the station house. )he re#orts were alwa s the same''resting comfortabl . taking the miles to . %ut she had been the first thing in his mind when he woke.dialed the number of the hos#ital. He signed his . He colla#sed into bed and sle#t around the clock. he told himself. Slade had #lunged into an org of work. as he crossed off what he considered the final assignment in his #olice career. )hen she was released. the nightmare would be behind her. He told himself that was the end of it. did the rest for him. )here were da s when Slade had to fight the urge to get into his car and go back to her. would he. Slade had told himself to cross Jessica off. *hen she was read to go home. )he no"el was finished in a marathon si&teen'hour stint while he ke#t his door locked and his #hone off the hook. *ith his resignation turned in.ew 2ork in a numbed weariness. intense #eriod of tension. She'd get the care and the rest she needed.
laughing. He could see her on the beach. %ut she wouldn't lea"e him alone. he could hear the wa she murmured his name when she la in his arms. He wanted it o"er''com#leted. He reminded himself that his life was his own for the first time in thirt 'three ears. Slade filled out his #a#ers and answered questions with a bre"it that bordered on curtness. slicing sandwiches while the sun da##led o"er her skin. )hen he would see her white and unconscious''and her blood was on his hands. He could see her in the kitchen of the sho#. She was there. )he guilt would o"erwhelm him until he threw himself into work again. She was there at night when he la awake and restless. alwa s there. He took the #rofessional #raise for his work in ston silence. )he re#orts and debriefings on the smuggling case brought Jessica back too "i"idl . whether he walked the streets alone or surrounded himself with #eo#le. She was there in the afternoon when he #oured his concentration into the outline of his ne&t no"el. soft and warm and eager. . )hough he tried to block it out. the wind grabbing at her hair as she tossed driftwood for the dog to chase.contract and mailed his agent a co# of his second no"el.
ow.o calls. obli"ious this time to the slow. He'd known all along that Dodson would want a #ersonal meeting. *ithout a word.1 he ordered. a #hrase. how fast. an e&#ression. he rose to follow her into Dodson's office.1 Silentl . congratulations are in order. !nce it was done. all ties would be se"ered.using the characters he de"elo#ed to dilute her memor . 1. Smoke wafted to the ceiling in a s#iraling column which Dodson watched with a##arent fascination. Slade obe ed while the commissioner sucked #leasurabl on a cigar until the ti# glowed. 1Slade. sitting again in Dodson's outer office. 1Ha"e a seat. and how far+ . then ga"e his secretar a brief nod. in"iting smile she sent him. 1Sergeant+1 He glanced u# at the secretar . %ut the all seemed to ha"e #ieces of her''a gesture.1 *hen Slade ga"e him nothing but the . 1So.1 Dodson leaned back in his chair as Slade entered. Slade told himself this would be the end of it. How could he esca#e someone who seemed to know where he would run.
naturall . he fingered his small.same silent stare. As far as Chambers himself goes. Cons#irac to commit murder. Absentl . then went on as if he were engaged in a two'wa con"ersation. attem#ted murder''#erha#s murder one on that business in Paris''not to mention the robberies and smuggling. $ don't doubt we'll get a con"iction. Dodson continued. scrolled tie #in.1 Stubborn oung fool. 1$ don't think we need worr about him for quite some time. 1$n an e"ent1''Dodson leaned forward to ta# his cigar ash''1 our last case is wra##ed u#. He decided to test the ounger man's iron control b sa ing a name.ichael Adams had made a full confession+1 He sent Slade an arch look and got no re#l . 1Jessica told me she ga"e . 12ou'll gi"e our e"idence.1 . b all accounts tightl . 2ou're aware that . but it shouldn't interfere too much with our new career.ichael se"eral thousand dollars to aid in his esca#e. 1*e're sorr to lose ou.. .1 Dodson regarded the ti# of his cigar with interest. he thought as he #uffed on his cigar..1 he said. 1)he domino theor seems to be working "er well in this case''one name leads to another. when the time comes.1 Sa ing nothing.1 He waited for a full thirt seconds. 1!n our book. Slade waited for the #leasantries to be o"er.o. accessor to murder. we'"e got enough on him to #ut him awa .
1$'ll tell ou.. *e might ha"e a bit of trouble kee#ing her quiet. controlled . $t was all he needed to confirm the notion that had seeded in his mind when he had seen his goddaughter. and of course.. Strange.ichael quiet. He'd cracked a few tough eggs in his own career. *hen Slade didn't rise to the bait. Jessica can afford to lose a few thousand.*atching for a reaction. )here's a rumor that ou saw him too.1 Dodson let the sentence trail off suggesti"el . Dodson ga"e no sign of hearing. )hough he swore under his breath. $ was shaken when $ "isited her in the hos#ital. and..1 Slade #ulled out a cigarette. 1She felt that made her an accessor . it was quite a shock. though. . right after he was brought in. well. undaunted. Slade.. lighting a match with shar#. 1She's looking "er well. he caught the faintest flicker in Slade's e es''here then gone. Dodson went on. on the street and behind a desk. 1)hat conscience of hers.ichael ne"er mentioned her gi"ing him an mone ''and $ s#oke with him m self.1 He smiled. ou know.1 He swi"eled gentl in his chair. 1$ imagine a few choice words were sufficient to kee# . $'"e ne"er known Jessica to be ill in her life.1 1How is she+1 )he words were out before Slade could sto# them.
A##arentl . 1She's gi"en me a full re#ort''with a great man details ou omitted from ours. quickl .1 .1 1:eall +1 Slade e&#elled a long stream of smoke.1 Dodson stee#ed his fingers.1 Dodson corrected. Da"id and $ both tried to #ersuade her to go to -uro#e. 1)hat sho# of hers. 1$ don't su##ose the notoriet will do her business an harm.1 He settled back in his chair as a faint smile flickered on his li#s.1 he managed. Dodson #aused long enough to ta# out his cigar. -motions smoldered in them."iolence. She won't hear of it. 1Sa s she's going to sta #ut. #leased with the reaction. assignment was to kee# her safe''$ did a remarkabl #oor 4ob of it. then she went right back to work. 1. then were su##ressed. take a little time off to get her bearings. fiercel .1 He ga"e Slade a quick grin.oting the tension in the set of Slade's shoulders.1 Slade's e es flew from the "iew out the window to #in Dodson's. 1She's bounced back.1 the commissioner continued.1 1So she tells me. 1She ne"er did before.1 1She is safe. 1Dro"e the doctor cra/ until he'd let her out. 1Hard to belie"e.1 . 1And as stubborn as e"er. 1She s#eaks "er highl of ou.
%ets will cluck around her for a .. Half the time Jessica ser"es her staff. well. 1!f course. !f course.1 he "entured. differing #oints of "iew with that lad from time to time. 1She'll get through the aftermath all right. now that it's o"er. 1$f she'd fallen a#art..1 Slade smothered the instant urge to #rotect and #re"ent. He remembered the look in Jessica's e es when she'd asked for Slade.. 1 ou had our hands full.1 10ull enough. 1$'m not entirel sure she won't fall a#art''dela ed reaction.1 1She handled it too well. differing #oints of "iew.1 Slade returned.Dodson commented as Slade narrowed his e es. of course.. He'd had a few. Slade couldn't tell. $ could ha"e gotten her out. Dodson #ursed his li#s.1 Dodson laughed. 1)hat's usuall the other wa around.1 12es. 1Jessica seems to think she handled the entire business badl . )here're enough #eo#le in that house to take care of her.1 Slade disagreed in a mutter. in s#eculation or agreement.1 Dodson's ga/e fell on the tri#le'framed #hotos of his wife and children.
)hat's Jessica. 1She's hired a law er for .1 ears 1. 1She tells me she feels it's her res#onsibilit .inet 'two if memor ser"es me.1 He #aused reminiscentl . 1He must be ninet old.ichael. so she hires a oung bo during the summer to do the hea" work. the gardener. %ets 's been with her for twent ears. And of course. 1She did what+1 *hile he lifted his hands.1 . Her lo alt 's one of her most endearing traits and one of her most frustrating.1 He sighed gustil . Dodson concluded.1 . Carol. Jessica won't. She doesn't ha"e the heart to let him go. )he little maid. 1$ guess it was about three ears ago that Jessica #icked u# all her medical bills when she had a stroke.ow. $ su##ose ou saw old Joe. )hen there's the cook.1 )his time the reaction was fast and furious. Jessica took her on when the girl's father died. is the daughter of her father's chauffeur.akes great biscuits.1 Slade grunted. 13o al.time until Jessica's read to scream. #alms u#. in a gesture of hel#lessness. was the time to dro# the bomb. . crushing out his cigarette. Dodson struggled with a smile. she's been there nearl as long.
1He's res#onsible. but full of meaning.1 he murmured. emotional. Dodson mused. hot'headed. She was nearl killed twice because he didn't ha"e the s#ine to #rotect her.1 12eah. He's res#onsible for e"er thing that ha##ened to her. $t's got nothing to do with me.1Just how does she come b that+1 Slade demanded. *hen it works at all.1 )he em#hasis on the #ronoun was slight. Dodson met his e es with a look that was too understanding and too knowledgeable. 1$f he hadn't been working for her.. Adams is the one who got her in"ol"ed.1 Dodson agreed quietl . Slade turned back at that. %ut )om.1 12es. would ne"er ha"e been able to struggle with such turbulent feelings and win.1 Dodson shrugged. Slade turned awa from him again.1 . 1$f she wants to hire a law er for him. His control deserted him so that he s#rang u# and #aced the office. he wouldn't ha"e gotten tangled u# in this mess.. He thought Slade looked like his father for a moment''im#ulsi"e. 1that's her business. 12ou know how her mind works as well as $ do.
o+1 13ook. -"en as he watched. as $ said. get back in the car. Commissioner. hunching his shoulders against the cold. Slade whirled around. and dri"e awa . $'"e also turned in m resignation.a be she's gone to bed.1. He shifted his ga/e to the house. He told himself he should turn around. Smiling. he thought. )here was a keen night wind that made low howling noises through the naked trees. Dodson mused. $ finished the assignment. no stars.1 !n a s#urt of fur . he e&tended his hand. -"en as he told himself so. He cursed whate"er demon had #rom#ted him to make the tri# in the first #lace. $'m finished. . 1$ took the assignment. 12es. we're sorr to lose ou. $ should go''$ shouldn't e"en be here. in Jessica's bedroom. He lifted his hand to knock. he walked u# the ste#s to the front door. $'"e written m re#ort and been debriefed. 3ights glowed here and there6 in the #arlor.1 3et's see how long ou can con"ince ourself of that. the u#stairs light winked out. .1 )he air smelled of snow when Slade climbed out of his car. He glanced u# at the sk ''no moon.
came back to him in that one instant''the feel of her. 1And he's gone now. As he stood tense. he thought. 12ou're going out+1 1Just for a run with . we almost knocked ou flat. -"er thing.1 3ooking back at Slade.1 *aril . Slade.l sses and collided with his chest.1 Her words were truer than she knew.%efore Slade's fist connected with the wood. 1Hello. her li#s cur"ed for him in a smile that made his legs weak. Jessica offered her hand. e"er thing he had tried to forget. but e"aded the offered hand. felt the quick brush of fur against his legs. 7uickl he released her and took a ste# back.1 Jessica looked be ond his shoulder. Come in and ha"e a drink. the taste of her skin under his li#s. the door flew o#en. her skin flushed with laughter. then caught her as she raced out after .l sses. She turned . the scent. He heard Jessica's bree/ laugh. 1$t's good to see ou. )hen Jessica tilted back her head and looked him full in the face. Her e es were bright and ali"e. $'m sorr . Slade ste##ed inside.
As she #oured she continued to talk. 1$ told Da"id and the staff $ was going to Jamaica to lie in the sun for a week. 1*h not+1 *ith a laugh. but now $ almost regret that $ sent e"er one awa . She was alread #ouring Scotch into a glass. 13et's go in the #arlor. $ had to lie to get them out of here.1 *ithout waiting for his answer. she told herself.1 Jessica #icked u# a decanter of "ermouth with no idea what was inside. too fast. She was mo"ing.1 He was frowning at her when she handed him his drink. !f course. Jessica tossed back her hair. 1$t was wonderful for a few da s.1 12ou shouldn't be alone.1 she said brightl when she faced him again. 1$'m so glad ou came. at her usual s#eed. 1$ couldn't stand . the house is too quiet. then $ bought them all airline tickets and sho"ed them out of the house. She was as she had been in the beginning''a woman with boundless energ . Jessica dashed awa . shutting her e es tightl a moment when her back was to him. but couldn't sto#. And the shadows were gone from under her e es''gone as if the had ne"er e&isted. 1)here's a nice fire in there.1 2ou're talking too fast.awa to fling her 4acket o"er the newel #ost. He followed her more slowl into the #arlor. Slade obser"ed.
1)hank ou "er much. straight back and wondered how he could lea"e without touching her. she smiled at him. making the words sli# back down her throat. She si##ed the "ermouth.1 She laughed shortl . Do ou care+ she wondered. Slade stared at her slim.1 Si##ing her drink.1 . He'd cut himself out of her life when she'd been too weak to #re"ent it.eeding to do something. . watched the door for his "isit. $ got enough of that in the hos#ital. Jessica wandered o"er to to with the ke s of the #iano. 1How do $ look+1 He stared at her until the need was a hard ball in his stomach. )urning.1 .othing.being treated like an in"alid. she turned to the fire. -"er da that she'd been confined in that sterile white room she had waited for his call. She wouldn't let him see the hurt. 12ou need to gain some weight. Jessica's fingers tightened on her glass. 1How are ou+1 )he question was curt and brief. 1Did ou finish our book+1 12es.
1)hen e"er thing's going well for ou+1 1-"er thing's going 4ust dand . he drew his brows together. more thickl . 1Am $ a loose end. 12es. 12our mother liked the figure+1 Confused. 12ou'd want to tie u# loose ends. Ha"e ou resigned from the force+1 12es. she liked it.1 Silence fell again. accented b the crackling wood and drifting notes. willing the liquor to dull the ache. $ su##ose it'll ta#er off.1 )he la#sed into silence. Again. 2eah. )here was too much to sa . he cursed himself for not being strong enough to sta awa . Slade thought. 1!h. And nothing to sa . Slade+1 . 12ou'"e gone back to work+1 he asked. *e'"e had a stream of customers since the #ublicit . Jessica stared down at the #iano ke s as if she were about to com#ose a s m#hon . eah.1 He drank. wouldn't ou+1 she murmured.
then slammed down his em#t glass.1 1*ell. )urning awa .1 she whis#ered. 1)he doctor sa s $ won't e"en ha"e a scar.1 She dro##ed her hand to her side. Her head came u# at that. 1$ think $'"e told e"er #ro#er authorit e"er #ro#er thing. 1How's our arm+1 1$t's fine. she reached u# to touch the wound that had healed while she thought of the one that hadn't. 1*ell then.. searingl . that certainl clears that u#. 1$ didn't come to see ou because $ didn't want to see ou. 1Shouldn't there ha"e been a final inter"iew for our re#ort''or is that wh ou came tonight+1 1$ don't know wh the hell $ came..1Something like that.1 .1 he muttered. and her e es fi&ed on his once. 1*h didn't ou come to see me. $ didn't call because $ didn't want to talk to ou. sto##ed himself. then thrust his hands in his #ockets.1 He took a ste# toward her.1 Absentl . )here was a stead stream of men in dark suits in m hos#ital room.1 he tossed back. or call+1 Her "oice steadied as she stared at the reflection of the lam# in the window. *ith her finger. she drew a ma/e on the glass. she walked to the window.
1Did ou mean it+1 )aking a dee# breath. he dragged a hand through his hair.1 she murmured. 1$ like the idea. 12es.1 Jessica returned calml .15reat.1 0rustrated. then tossed it on a table. 1About the scar+1 1. Jessica turned back to him. Her face was com#osed. her e es calm. Her heart was in her throat now. 12ou said ou were in lo"e with me. )hat's 4ust great. so that she forced herself to sa each word carefull . 1$ tr to mean what $ sa .1 . not about the damn scar. 1$'m not fond of scars.1 Slade #ulled out a #ack of cigarettes.o.1 -"er muscle in his bod tensed. $ meant it.1 1Did ou mean what ou said+1 $t rushed out of him before he could think to #re"ent it.
Jessica felt simultaneous sensations of relief and amusement. 1Sometimes $'m "er grateful to the butcher for a good cut of meat.1 She felt his fingers tremble lightl before . but $ ha"en't fallen in lo"e with him. 1Do ou know how $ felt.1 He caught her wrist. 1$ think $ could tell the difference..1 he told her heatedl .1 1!h. et. 1Don't ou see it was 4ust circumstance. Slade backed awa . then #aced to the fire and back again. Something began to warm in her.1 she considered. ou're funn . 1$ want ou to understand that.1 Slade shot her a furious glance.1 1$ think $ understand. 1$ don't want an #art of ou.1$t's our war#ed sense of gratitude. 1$ think $ understand "er well. but couldn't force himself to toss it aside..1 She lifted a hand to his cheek. ha"ing ou unconscious'' our blood on m hands+ Do ou know what it did to me. 4ust the situation+1 1*as it+1 Jessica smiled as she crossed to him. seeing ou in that hos#ital bed+ $'"e seen cor#ses with more color.1 he told her.
got nothing for ou.1 1Don't. $t's got nothing to do with me.1 $f he had faced her. 1*here ou li"e. 1Damn it. how ou li"e. 1Slade.1 He #ut his hands on hers. she considered. 1$ see. *h hadn't she thought of that+ she demanded of herself.1 1!h.1 1Damn ou. Jess. 1$ don't want ou. can't ou see an thing+1 $nfuriated.1 Jessica wra##ed her arms around his waist. Jess.1 he breathed before he s#un awa to #our himself another drink. Different #oles. 1$'"e.1 Pursing her li#s.othing. can't ou understand+ .1 13ook at this #lace<1 He gestured around the room as he whirled to her.1 . he would ha"e seen the line form between her brows. *h hadn't she reali/ed that he would blame himself+ 1$ was the one who was in the wrong #lace at the wrong time. ou're a snob.the dro##ed her wrist. he grabbed her shoulders. firml #ushing them awa . *e barel s#eak the same language. 1$ don't know what ou're talking about.
1 Pushed as much b fur as b need. %ut then Jessica wasn't looking for gentleness. 12ou worked on me. %ut the were sunk dee#. and mind so that her demand met his and fulminated. !nce and for all $ want ou out<1 1Slade. he didn't know. 1$ thought $'d go mad unless $ could taste ou again. 1wh don't ou sto# hating it so much and gi"e in+ $'m not going an where.1 His li#s co"ered hers. Struggling all the wa . 1$ lo"e ou. and so was he. damn it. $ could smell ou down at the station house. then relie"ed his frustration b shaking her.1 she said quietl . calm and com#osed. $ want ou out. Her res#onse came in an e&#losion of heart.1)r again. he ga"e in.1 she suggested. Here was the hard.1 How his hands found their wa into her hair.1 he accused as she ga/ed u# at him. 0or 5od's sake. He o#ened his mouth. 1:ight from the beginning ou worked on me until $ can't function without ou. not gentl . bruising contact she had longed to feel again. )he clung for one long shimmering . $'d like to choke ou for it.1 His e es grew dark and storm . 12ou'"e no right''no right to get inside m head this wa . bod . he dragged her into his arms.
)he heard nothing.1 1!nl a little. bod to bod and mouth to mouth. Jessica held him against her when he would ha"e shifted to her side. )here was no time for a slow reacquaintance.ow.1 )he words shuddered from him as two #airs of hands struggled with clothes. until need drifted to contentment. 1$ need ou. new flames licking at wood. letting shar# #leasure cleanse all doubts.o.instant. 1.1 she murmured.1 .1 He found her naked breast and groaned. )he remained close.1 *ords were no longer #ossible. the came together swiftl . *ind rattled at the windows. don't mo"e. Hungr . but each other. %eside them the fire si//led.1 1)oo long. 1$'m crushing ou. then de"oured6 hands e&#lored. 3i#s sought. felt nothing. 1. then the were tangled together on the hearth rug. 1$t's been so long. then #ossessed.
Slade ga"e a snort before raising his head again.1 !n a small gas#. 1Do $ ha"e a choice+1 . he traced the slanted line of her cheekbone. wallowing in it. huh+ )hat's "er flattering.1 )hat musk .1 she told him. He began to nu//le at her neck. 1$ lo"e ou. let me tell ou. woods fragrance of her skin distracted him. 1:esigned. ou came close. *ell. she #unched his shoulder. Slowl . %efore he buried his face at her throat. 1*ho did ou #icture ourself falling in lo"e with+1 1A cross between Albert Schweit/er and Clark 5able. 1:esigned. she caught the grin. 12eah+ *ell.1 1Still angr about it+1 she asked. Jess. Are ou going to marr me+1 Jessica lifted a brow. $ didn't #icture m self falling in lo"e with a bad'tem#ered e&'co# who tries to order me around.Slade lifted his head to grin at her and found himself lost in the cloud amber of her e es.
then the s#oke together.%ending. 12ou. satisf ing kiss.1 She #ulled him closer for one long. so $ am.1 . 1Aren't ou the one who sa s a #erson alwa s has a choice+1 1. he nibbled on her li#s. 1$ su##ose we both ha"e one to make.mm. don't we+1 )heir e es met.
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