by Penny Jordan
‘You don’t have to say that,’ she told him jerkily, trying to draw away, but his arm round her waist constrained her.
‘What?’ He was frowning again. ‘What don’t I have to say, Kelly?’
‘You don’t have to flatter me,’ she retorted tightly.
‘I wasn’t flattering you.’ His voice was pleasant but firm. ‘Flattery implies that I was speaking with some ulterior motive. I was simply stating facts; that you have lovely skin and hair, which you do.’
With his free hand he touched the shining length of her hair, his thumb tracing the line of her shoulder. Delicious tremors of sensation slid over her skin, and Kelly shivered again.
Before she could protest, she was drawn against him, her skin flushing heatedly as she realised that the smooth warmth she could feel against her back was his naked chest; for he had not worn the jacket of the pyjamas she had put out for him.
‘Don’t panic.’ She could hear the amusement in his voice as it brushed her ear. ‘I’m simply doing the gentlemanly thing and helping you to keep warm while you drink your tea. Here.’ He reached forward and handed her the mug, but Kelly had to hold it with both hands, she was trembling so much; and it wasn’t just her hands, her whole body was trembling, trembling so much that she was spilling the tea, and then suddenly weak tears were sliding down her face, and she was shivering and crying alternately, unable to understand what was happening to her.
‘Kelly, for God’s sake!’
Jake didn’t sound amused now, and he didn’t sound angry either… He sounded…concerned. But why should he be concerned about her?
She felt his hands on her arms, turning her, holding her against the warmth of his chest, her face buried in the curve of his shoulder, his hands on her back, stroking, soothing, calming her overwrought emotions, the murmurs of comfort she could hear above her head, the soothing sound of waves against a beach. She felt lulled and safe, warm and protected, and it came to her on a jolting tide of awareness that she didn’t want to leave his arms. She wanted to stay there. She stilled, and lifted her head.
There was a raw note of warning in Jake’s voice, and she realised for the first time that her breasts were pressed against the exposed flesh of his chest, their only covering the fine satin of her nightgown.
This time her name was a statement of intent, and although he gave her plenty of opportunity to do so, Kelly made no attempt to move away as he lowered his head, touching the stilled softness of her lips. Her eyes clung to his. This couldn’t be happening, Kelly thought heatedly. She couldn’t be in this bedroom, in bed with this stranger, letting him kiss her, wanting him to make love to her, but she was and she did, and she couldn’t understand what was happening to her. Suddenly, she didn’t want to understand, she simply wanted to touch and be touched, to be close to and part of another human being.
Her small choked cry was lost beneath the heated pressure of Jake’s kiss, a potent, drugging kiss that blinded her to what shreds of reason she had left. Her arms crept round his neck, his smothered groan as the brief movement brought her breasts in closer contact with Jake’s chest, activating a response inside her that urged her to press her body closer to his, to exult in the hurried throb of his heart as his hands moved to the neck of her nightgown, unfastening the small bows that fastened it, his eyes darkening as he held her gently away, pushing aside the fabric to expose the swollen peaks that had wantonly incited him to do just exactly that. Kelly couldn’t believe her own behaviour. Her stomach muscles quivered in aching protest, not at what she was doing—no, what she ached for was Jake’s possession; his desire and the knowledge that she was desirable and capable of arousing such a man.
‘Aren’t you going to take it off?’ Her mouth was dry as she whispered the words, Jake’s eyes darkening in acknowledging response as he murmured huskily, ‘Just try and stop me.’ And then he was pushing aside the blue satin, and she should have felt embarrassed about the way he was studying her body, but all she could do was to try and control the fierce tide of exultation that swept her as she saw the dark colour running up under his tan as he studied her, and then he was removing his pyjamas, and she closed her eyes, seeing for a moment Colin, but it was only for a moment, for Jake was nothing like Colin, and her eyes widened in appreciation of his muscular masculinity, her fingers touching the tanned skin with tentative hesitancy as she became lost in a voyage of tactile discovery.
‘Kelly, Kelly, what are you trying to do to me?’ Jake groaned, the sound muffled against her throat as his tongue stroked over the sensitive skin, his hands exploring her body with a much surer touch than hers had on him.
She gasped as he pushed her down against the pillows, one hand tangling in the silky length of her hair while the other cupped one pale breast.
‘I’ve been wanting to do this ever since you walked into that damned office,’ Jake muttered thickly against her skin, and then Kelly was incapable of thinking, of breathing almost as he lowered his head, his tongue stroking urgently against her nipple, her mind reeling with shock and excitement as he savoured the arousal of her flesh, teasing it until she was almost light-headed with the pounding ache of desire in her body.
‘Jake!’ She moaned his name despairingly, touching the dark hair, gasping her shock aloud as his hand slid over her hip and stroked her stomach, the sensations he aroused inside her as he sucked her throbbing breast spiralling wildly out of control until she couldn’t contain them any more and she was clutching anxiously at his shoulders, her body arching willing beneath him, eager for the pleasure he was giving her.
‘So good,’ Jake muttered thickly as his lips caressed her breast. ‘I’ve wanted you like this from the first moment I saw you.’ He sounded almost drugged, his voice roughened by a desire that Kelly felt too. His free hand slid down to her hips, holding her against him, his teeth nibbling seductively at her sensitised skin, his body unashamedly aroused, and incredibly she felt a heated response; a need that burned through her.
The nightmare which had originally woken her was completely forgotten—everything was forgotten apart from Jake and the sensations he was bringing to life in her passion-drugged body. She responded to his touch with a feverish intensity that drove out everything else. She didn’t know what subtle chemistry there was between them that made her react to him in the way she did, she only knew that it was there. She moaned, every nerve-ending tingling erotically, her body crying out for his possession. His hand touched her thigh, his lips murmuring her name hoarsely against her skin, and she shivered suddenly as the memories stormed back, and it was not Jake touching her, but Colin. Colin who called her name and violated her body, her emotions.
She tensed instinctively, dimly aware of Jake lifting his body from hers, watching her, his eyes dark and hard.
‘Kelly? What the hell is this?’ he demanded tersely. ‘What sort of game do you think you’re playing?’
‘Don’t touch me,’ Kelly moaned softly. She was shivering, tears filling her eyes, the past sweeping her inexorably backwards in time, and she shuddered in revulsion remembering how it had been; how Colin had hurt her.
‘Don’t touch you? Don’t worry, I won’t,’ Jake bit out grimly. ‘There’s only one excuse—one permissible explanation for what you’ve just done. If you were a virgin I might…just might be able to understand, but we both know you’re not. So why?’
‘Colin,’ Kelly muttered sickly barely aware of what she was saying. ‘You reminded me of Colin and…’
The oath that ripped through Jake’s throat silenced her, and too late she realised he had misunderstood. He stood over her, pulling on his robe, his face like granite, as he reached for one of the blankets, wrenching it off the bed.
‘I never play substitute,’ he told her icily. ‘Never, Kelly. Got that? Oh, there’s no need to look at me like that,’ he added silkily, ‘I don’t get my kicks from using force. You’re sick, Kell
y. You’re looking for a man who’s prepared to play a part, who’s prepared to be ‘Colin’, but I’m not that man. The next time I touch you, Kelly, it will be because you ask me. Me…not Colin, not anyone else. Me!’
He was angry, furiously, bitterly angry. How could she tell him that he was wrong; that it wasn’t like that? That just for a moment she had remembered the brutality of Colin’s lovemaking, and the memory had turned her from a warm, responsive woman into a terrified numbed child? And what about him? He had wanted her right from the start, he had said, but wasn’t that just exactly the sort of polished line a man like him would use? How many lonely, defenceless women had hoped to find love in his arms? She shuddered again as realisation of what she had been about to do swept over her. She had wanted Jake with a physical compulsion totally outside her experience, and he had played on that, sensing her want, feeding it, but why? He was an attractive, experienced predatory male; he was also, she suspected, a poor one. The conclusions were obvious—so obvious that she couldn’t understand why she herself hadn’t drawn them before!
ONLY ANOTHER HOUR and then they could leave, Kelly decided thankfully, glancing surreptitiously at her watch. The weekend had been a complete disaster in every way, and as for last night! She shuddered, unable to stop her memory from playing back for her a blow-by-blow repetition of the night’s events. What on earth had possessed her? There could only be one word for it—lust! All the repressed desires of all those years since Colin, and she hated herself for what had happened. She would have preferred to pretend that it hadn’t happened, but the aching throb of her swollen breasts reminded her all too uncomfortably that it had.
‘Kelly, you haven’t been listening to me,’ Sue reproached. ‘I was just saying to Jake that it would be lovely if you could both join me at Easter.’
‘I might be able to, Sue,’ Kelly told her, forcing herself to pay attention, ‘but I’m afraid it’s impossible as far as Jake is concerned, isn’t it, darling?’
’Oh, I don’t know.’
She glared furiously at Jake, wondering what on earth he thought he was doing.
‘I dare say something could be arranged,’ he said smoothly. ‘It’s time I had a break.’
‘But you said you were far too busy,’ Kelly improvised wildly.
‘Mmm, perhaps I’m having second thoughts. It’s certainly a tempting prospect: you, me, the sun and the sea.’
‘Quite the romantic, isn’t he?’ Jeremy sneered. An animosity had developed between the two men, brought on, Kelly was sure, by Jeremy’s fury because she had outmanoeuvred him by bringing Jake with her. That at least had been the right decision and made everything else worth while. Sue looked a good deal more cheerful this morning, and Kelly shuddered to think what might have happened if she hadn’t had Jake to keep Jeremy at bay.
‘Oh, please say you will,’ Sue implored, ‘and it needn’t be too expensive. Daddy is letting us have the villa rent free.’
‘Sounds terrific,’ Jake responded with a smile.
No doubt it did to him, Kelly thought sourly, all her previous doubts re-surfacing. Why was he encouraging Sue? To make sure he got a free holiday? What had been behind his behaviour last night? Her heart started to thump uncomfortably. She was a rich woman and a lonely one. Only she knew how close she had come last night to giving in to the most basic impulse of all human beings; the need to be close to another of their own kind. But what if Jake had sensed her need? He was a man who quite patently had expensive tastes and equally obviously did not have the means to indulge them. His clothes were expensive; surely he couldn’t afford them out of the wages he earned from the agency? If he was an actor he wasn’t a very well-known one; perhaps he had grown tired of waiting for the big break of playing the polished escort to rich women. Perhaps he had decided it was time he cashed in on his undoubted attractions? Why should she find the thought so disturbing?
‘So you will come?’ Sue sounded excited and Kelly dragged her mind back to the present.
‘Of course we will, won’t we, darling?’
‘We will what?’ she asked Jake suspiciously. He hadn’t touched her this morning—at least not physically—he undressed her mentally every time he looked at her, and she seethed with bitter indignation as she watched him doing so.
‘We will join Sue at Easter? We could both do with the break.’
‘You may do, but I…’
‘You do too,’ Jake said firmly. ‘After all, I could hardly go without you.’
Too true, she thought ironically. How could he afford it?
‘I’m not sure, Sue,’ she began, suppressing a gasp of pain as Jake gripped her fingers painfully, warning her not to go on.
‘What was all that for?’ she demanded angrily when they were alone. ‘I don’t have the slightest intention of going to Corfu with you and you know it!’
‘Why not? Do you prefer to remain in England—with Jeremy?’
‘Jeremy!’ Funny, but she had almost forgotten him; forgotten the reason she had hired Jake in the first place.
‘Yes, Jeremy,’ Jake mocked. ‘Sue’s husband. Surely you haven’t forgotten him already? If you stay behind, he’s bound to jump to the conclusion that you’ve done so because of him.’
It was true, and Kelly couldn’t deny it. If she remained in London Jeremy would invent some excuse to come and see her.
‘I don’t now what you’re trying to achieve by this,’ she told him angrily, ‘unless it’s a free holiday!’
She had expected him to be angry, but instead he merely laughed. ‘That helps,’ he admitted, ‘but there are other considerations.’
‘Such as the fact that you’re getting tired of being a paid companion,’ Kelly hazarded wildly. ‘Well, if you think…’
‘How would you know what I think?’ he goaded softly. ‘And, Kelly—’ She turned to glare at him. ‘Try backing out of this,’ he said softly, ‘and I’ll see that Sue gets to know the truth about her husband.’
‘Try me,’ he advised grimly.
‘You’re despicable, do you know that?’
‘Then that makes two of us, doesn’t it?’ he said quietly. ‘Or doesn’t what you did last night come into that class in your book? Never mind,’ he told her grimly, ‘it does in mine.’
‘You don’t understand…’
‘Then tell me,’ he invited levelly, but Kelly couldn’t say a word; couldn’t betray to him now, in the cold light of day, the fact that she had withdrawn through fear and remembered pain. Only a virgin, he had said, and she wasn’t that…but he was wrong, she was! And she was beginning to think she was destined to remain so for the rest of her life. Last night she had wanted him, this morning she was bewildered by the emotions he aroused in her.
Easter was less than a month away. Sue talked excitedly all through lunch of the holiday, while Jeremy sulked.
‘That’s right,’ he goaded Sue. ‘Go off and leave me while you enjoy yourself.’
‘Why don’t you come with us?’ Jake interposed smoothly. ‘Surely you could manage a few days?’
‘Oh yes, darling, do,’ Sue breathed.
‘I might,’ Jeremy muttered.
LESS THAN AN HOUR LATER they were on their way back to London. Kelly hunched furiously in her seat as she seethed inwardly at the way in which Jake had manipulated her.
‘Sulking?’ he asked trenchantly as they neared London.
‘You had no right to accept Sue’s invitation. Why did you?’
‘Oh, I have my reasons,’ he told her lazily, ‘and like I said, don’t try backing out, Kelly,’ he warned her, ‘or you know what will happen.’
‘What are you looking for? It can’t just be a free holiday.’
‘Not just,’ he agreed, smiling mockingly at her. ‘Don’t worry, Kelly,’ he drawled as he manoeuvred the powerful car into another lane. ‘I’m not Jeremy, and I have no intention of forcing myself on you.’
No, but he wo
uldn’t need to use force, Kelly admitted, shivering a little. Had he guessed how much he had aroused her? She was rich and she was vulnerable—too vulnerable, and she only wished she knew what was in his mind.
He stopped the car an hour later outside her block of apartments, getting out and retrieving her case.
‘I’ll park this and then see you up,’ he told her easily, not giving her the opportunity to refuse.
He was back within minutes, his hand under her elbow, as he guided her towards the lift.
‘I’m perfectly capable of managing on my own,’ she told him stiffly.
‘Ah, but I must do the job properly.’
He saw her to her door, turning the key in the lock for her.
‘The bill,’ she began hesitantly. Would they invoice her, or did she pay now, or…
‘Leave it until we get back from Corfu,’ Jake advised her carelessly. ‘Still,’ he added thoughtfully, ‘I don’t suppose there’s any harm in my taking a little something on account.’
He bent his head, his lips brushing hers lightly, mocking her startled expression.
‘Why did you do that?’ Kelly demanded when he had finished. ‘You said…’
‘I know what I said,’ he agreed hardly, ‘but perhaps I’ve decided to give you a second chance. See you at Heathrow.’
He was gone before she could respond. What did he mean? she seethed, as she walked into her apartment. He had decided to give her a second chance? A second chance of what?
SHE RETURNED TO HER OFFICE on Monday morning, fully determined to put a call through to the agency and cancel the trip to Corfu, but when she reached the office it was to find that she had to fly out to New York urgently to discuss a new contract. It was ten days before she was back. She tried the agency several times but without getting an answer, resolving that she would just have to keep on trying until she did get through.