by Penny Jordan
‘What’s the matter?’ she demanded crossly, seeing the lazy amusement in his eyes. ‘Surely you aren’t going to tell me you haven’t seen a woman brushing her hair before?’
‘I was just marveling at the transformation,’ he told her drily, touching the long plait. ‘You look about sixteen with this, although…’ his eyes dropped to her body, and Kelly was suddenly conscious of the fact that her breasts were almost visible beneath the fine cotton and, worse, the effect his intent gaze was having upon her body.
‘Feeling better now?’ he asked, switching his gaze from her breasts to her hot face.
Grimly, Kelly nodded her head.
‘You’re going to have to do better than that, you know, if you’re going to convince Benson that we’re still lovers.’
The amused glance he gave her fired the anger that had been simmering inside her for so long.
‘I didn’t invite you to join me on this holiday,’ she breathed bitterly. ‘You blackmailed me into having you along. God alone knows why, although I think I’m beginning to guess!’
‘You are?’ The grey gaze narrowed on her face, watching her, making it difficult for her to breathe, hating the close confines of the car, hating the way he made her feel; the emotions his proximity forced to life inside her, emotions she did not want to feel.
‘Enlighten me, then—let’s see if you’re right.’
He was still smiling, watching her with a lazy satisfaction that reminded her of a jungle cat toying with his prey, and fury boiled up inside her, the sheer pressure of her rage exploding through her normal caution.
‘Well, let’s just say if you’re hoping I’m going to be a meal ticket for life for you, you’re wrong, and forcing yourself on me for this holiday isn’t going to change my mind! If you…’
‘Stop right there!’
The ice-cold words cut through her tirade, and Kelly shivered nervously in the dangerous silence that followed.
‘Let’s get this straight. You think I’m after your money?’
‘Well, aren’t you?’ Kelly challenged dangerously. ‘You’re obviously a man with expensive tastes.’ She glanced disparagingly at his expensive Rolex watch, her eyes skittering away from him as she saw the molten anger banked down under the hard grey eyes.
‘Lady, I feel sorry for you,’ he grated, forcing her to look at him. ‘You’re really screwed up inside, aren’t you? Is it because of what I am, or what you are, that you think you can buy me? Oh yes, you do think that,’ he went on brutally before she could object. ‘You must do. What is it, Kelly, can’t you believe anyone would want you for your own sake? Well, I’ve got news for you,’ he told her, his voice hard with contempt. ‘There just isn’t enough money in the world, never mind in your bank account, to make me want to marry you. I presume that is what all this is about?’ He laughed harshly. ‘My God, I don’t think I’m really sitting here listening to this!’
Despite his sardonic manner, Kelly could sense the anger she had ignited within him, and it frightened her. He had no reason to feel angry, she reasoned. She had every right to think as she did…every reason…
‘Then why did you insist on coming on holiday with us?’ she demanded.
‘Why?’ He grimaced as though he had an unpleasant taste in his mouth. ‘If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me. If I had any sense I’d turn this car right round and get on the first plane back to the U.K.’
‘Then why don’t you?’ Kelly challenged. ‘I don’t want you here.’
‘You’d rather have dear Jeremy, is that what you’re trying to tell me? If it wasn’t for Sue I’d say the pair of you deserve one another, but she doesn’t deserve to be hurt, and for her sake…’
For Sue’s sake! Kelly felt as though someone had stuck a knife straight through her heart and was slowly, painfully turning it until she wanted to cry out with the agony it was causing her. What was the matter with her? What did this man matter to her? By rights she ought to despise him, but he seemed to be the one who was full of contempt for her!
‘What happened to make you so suspicious, Kelly?’ Jake taunted as he set the car in motion again. ‘Oh, I know you lost a husband; but people can only make allowances for so much…’
What would he say if she told him the reason she was so suspicious was Colin himself? She shuddered, wondering what was happening to her. She hadn’t told anyone about Colin. Not anyone! Since the dreadful night of their wedding she hadn’t allowed any man close enough to her to learn the truth, but Jake had got close to her…too close. Was that why she felt so antagonistic towards him? Did her antagonism really mask fear? Kelly wasn’t a fool. If she was genuinely indifferent to Jake he simply wouldn’t have the power to arouse the emotions in her that he did. She was frightened of him and she was frightened of herself, of her reactions to him. He had pushed open a door she had kept locked for too long, and her body still ached with the memory of how she had felt when he touched her.
Colour rushed to her cheeks as she remembered the abandoned way she had responded to his lovemaking. It had had an almost cataclysmic effect upon her, releasing the damned-up springs of emotion, destroying for ever the myth that she was frigid.
THE MILES SLIPPED BY without Kelly being aware of them. She sat rigidly in her seat, conscious of Jake’s tightly controlled anger; of the grim line of his mouth as they left the main road and began to drop through forested countryside, tantalising glimpses of the sea appearing here and there between the trees. Soon they were passing villas set amongst the trees, sugar almond colours, glimpsed through high walls.
They drew level with an open gateway, and Jake turned into it. Sue and Jeremy were just emerging from their hire car, and Sue came hurrying towards them.
‘You made it, then!’
‘Your directions were fine,’ Jake assured her, giving her a warm smile as he switched off the engine. Pain ached through Kelly, tears stinging her eyes. What was the matter with her? Surely she couldn’t be jealous of Sue? Jake was simply someone she was employing to keep Jeremy away, that was all, and she had never been the possessive type even with Colin.
‘Kelly, you look pale,’ Sue commiserated. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Just a headache,’ Kelly mumbled. ‘I’ll be fine.’
She felt limp and washed out beside Sue, who seemed to have taken on a new lease of life all of a sudden. Jake climbed out and came round to her side of the car, opening the door while Kelly was still fumbling with the catch. His fingers brushed the curve of her breast as he helped her out and she recoiled as though she had been stung. Her body actually seemed to burn where he had touched her. She saw the sardonic expression in his eyes, the hardness of his mouth, and trembled without knowing why. Jake seemed to have changed—or was it merely that she was seeing him properly for the first time? She had angered him by telling him that she thought he was interested in her money, but surely it was a perfectly natural assumption, in the circumstances?
‘Come on, I’ll show you to your room,’ Sue told her. ‘Luckily Dad has staff who come in from the village, so everything will be ready for us. There’s quite a British community around here,’ Sue went on. ‘Business-men and so forth. Dad bought the villa when he retired—you’ll like it.’
Kelly did. It was larger than she had imagined, and as she followed Sue through a large lounge, she glimpsed the oval shape of a swimming pool through the picture windows.
‘There is a beach,’ Sue told her, following her glance, ‘but the ground is rocky, and it’s quite a steep walk down. Here’s your room.’ She opened a door, and Kelly walked inside. The room was a good size, decorated in soft muted shades of coffee and peach, with a window overlooking the cliffside and the sea, which Kelly could just glimpse through the pines. Single beds, separated by a white cane table, and a couple of matching chairs were the only furniture in the room.
‘Bathroom off there,’ she went on, indicating one of a pair of doors. ‘The other door is to the dressing room. Sorry about the single beds,’ she a
dded with a grin.
‘Don’t give it another thought.’ Kelly hadn’t realised Jake was behind them. ‘Personally, I don’t think there’s anything cosier than sharing a single bed,’ he drawled, looking at Kelly.
She knew she was blushing, but couldn’t do anything about it. Why was it that those few words conjured up such a picture of intimacy that her whole body felt flushed with heat and excitement? She could picture all too easily how Jake might enjoy sharing a single bed; how his lean body would shape itself to that of his female companion, his arms holding her secure.
‘I’ll leave you to unpack. Dad said he’d arrange for a cold meal to be left for us—I’ll just go and check.’
There was silence when Sue had gone. Kelly couldn’t turn round for the life of her, even though she knew Jake was there. When he closed the door, the faint click sounded like a gunshot and she whirled round in shock.
‘I would have thought this time you’d insist on separate rooms,’ Jake told her cynically, his mouth wry.
’I would have done,’ Kelly agreed tautly, ‘but I didn’t want to arouse Jeremy’s suspicions.’
‘Of course not. Although I should have thought someone like him would just suit you—he’s married, so you needn’t be frightened of him wanting your money, need you? So I’m to be your bodyguard, am I?’ he drawled, eyebrows lifting. ‘Well, in that case, I’ll have to make sure you get value for money, won’t I? I don’t want you feeling that you’ve been short-changed, Kelly.’
‘I don’t know what you’re so angry about,’ Kelly told him.
‘No?’ His hard laugh held disbelief. ‘You aren’t that naïve, Kelly. Damn it all, you’ve handed me the worst insult a woman can hand a man, and you don’t know “why I should be angry”!’ he mocked acidly.
‘It was a perfectly natural conclusion to draw,’ Kelly defended herself. ‘Especially when you’d…’
He was watching her with a look in his eyes that made her wish she’d never started the conversation. She moistened her dry lips with the tip of her tongue, her fingers curling into her palms, tension drawn through her nerves like fine wire.
‘When you’d…made love to me,’ she finished huskily. ‘You…’
‘Made love to you?’ He laughed incredulously, ‘Ye gods, where have you been? That wasn’t “making love”, Kelly!’
No, it hadn’t been, she knew on a savage burst of pain. It had simply been the sort of thing a man like him would do…almost as second nature.
‘However,’ he added grittily, ‘since we were interrupted when we were, it seems I owe you something on account, and since I never like to be indebted to anyone…’
He reached her with three lithe strides, one hand shaping the back of her head, his fingers winding in her hair, so that she couldn’t move, the other stroking the exposed column of her throat as he gradually tugged her head back, his eyes watching the play of emotions over her face.
A tremor of fear pulsed through her. Colin had held her like this. She swallowed nervously, her muscles tightening in dread as Jake bent his head.
‘No!’ She sobbed the word in panic-stricken terror, watching the grey eyes darken and the firm line of his mouth harden.
‘No? Surely you aren’t going to refuse me the chance to repay my debts, Kelly?’ he asked with silky determination. ‘You’re not being very flattering, you know.’ His lips captured the frantic pulse throbbing beneath her skin, and instantly her fear was gone, to be replaced by a languorous awareness of the pleasure being transmitted by the warm male mouth as it moved sensually over her throat.
She had meant his name to be a protest, but somehow it sounded more like a plea. Jake obviously interpreted it as such. His free hand pushed aside the neckline of her loose dress, caressing the curve of her breast. Instantly, Kelly felt her nipples harden in excitement, her breathing unsteady.
‘Jake!’ She tried to push him away, but her fingers caught in the opening of his shirt, tangling with the dark hairs on his chest. A molten fever suddenly seemed to possess her, her senses blind to everything but the warm silk of his flesh beneath her fingers.
Jake’s hand left her breast to find the hollow of her back, holding her against him, the sensitive tips of her breasts aroused by the intimate contact with his body. His tongue stroked over her bottom lip, her mouth parting achingly for his kiss.
She was being sucked down into a giddy whirlpool of pleasure, her whole world enclosed by the heat of Jake’s body and the pressure of his mouth on hers. She arched helplessly against him, mindless in her desire to communicate to him her need.
When he suddenly released her the shock was so great that Kelly clung instinctively to his shoulders.
‘Oh no, Kelly,’ Jake murmured slowly, his eyes moving deliberately over her still aroused body. ‘I’ve paid my debts. You hired me as a bodyguard, not a lover, remember.’
Nausea churned through her, humiliation a sour taste in her mouth. He knew that she had wanted him—he had deliberately aroused her just to prove to her that he could make her want him.
‘I don’t want you,’ she lied bitterly. ‘I could never want a man like you.’
‘You’re a liar, Kelly,’ Jake told her softly. ‘And you don’t even begin to know the first thing about a man like me. One day you’re going to stop living in the past with your ghosts, and you’re going to admit that you’re a real live woman, with real live emotions and feelings.’
He was gone before she could retort; before she could tell him that she would never feel anything for him. God, how she hated him, loathed him, loathed herself for responding to him! She walked blindly into the bathroom, shivering as she ran the water, but no matter how much she scrubbed her soft skin she couldn’t wash away the memory of him touching her, caressing her, bringing her to life in a way she had never been before.
KELLY opened her eyes, tensing as she glanced at the motionless figure in the other bed, but Jake was still asleep, one brown shoulder visible above the thin cotton cover. She had been asleep when he came to bed. Her headache had grown worse during the evening and she had excused herself early, hating the mocking smile Jake gave her as she walked past him. Her body felt heavy and lethargic, aching with an emptiness she didn’t want to acknowledge. Perhaps a dip in the pool would help refresh her?
Jake didn’t stir as she slipped out of bed and gathered up her clothes. Their bedroom opened directly on to the patio by the pool, and Kelly slipped through the window as quietly as she could, expelling her breath slightly when Jake didn’t move. She glanced at her watch; it was barely seven and she seemed to have the morning to herself. The air was pleasantly warm, small fluffy white clouds moving on the merest puff of wind.
The swimsuit she had put on was a new one—it had been years since she had last had a seaside holiday, and she had been pleased to discover an excellent selection of beachwear in the shops before her departure. She had been determined not to wear a bikini, but the swimsuit she had thought so sensible when she bought it was far more revealing then she had realised, dipping low at the front to mould and accentuate her breasts and cut high at the sides, lengthening her legs. If she had realised how revealing it was, she would never have bought it, Kelly decided, catching a glimpse of herself mirrored in the azure water of the pool.
The water was pleasantly warm, and she swam for several minutes before turning over to lie blissfully on her back, paddling idly and letting the tension flow out of her. It had been foolish to be so concerned about her reactions to Jake. He was after all a very handsome and experienced man, it was only natural that she should feel some response to him. It was unfortunate that he was here in Corfu with them, but if she was sensible and level-headed there was nothing to worry about. She bit her lip, remembering his reaction to her accusation and the swift reprisals which had followed. Her body quivered and she turned quickly, swimming strongly for the side of the pool, dashing the water ou
t of her eyes as she pulled herself out.
A prickle of awareness shivered across her skin as she looked up and saw Jake watching her. He was dressed in cream jeans and a thin shirt opened at the neck, and although he looked perfectly relaxed Kelly was aware of a difference in him. She frowned as she tried to pinpoint exactly where it lay; the nearest comparison she could come up with was that he appeared to have changed from a basking indolent jungle cat into a ferociously angry predator deliberately stalking its prey.
He reached for her wrap before her, stretching behind her to place it round her shoulders, his hands lingering deliberately on her still damp skin, tracing the shape of the bones beneath her skin. She shivered suddenly as her eyes met his and read the cynical message in their grey depths.
‘Who chose the swimsuit?’ he drawled, his eyes roaming with almost brutal sexuality over her body.
Kelly could feel her temper rising; resentment filling her.
‘I chose it,’ she gritted.
‘Without trying it on?’
‘What makes you ask that?’
‘You look sexy in it.’ He sounded quite bored, and looked it too, apart from the hard gleam in his eyes. ‘Very sexy,’ he added softly, ‘sexy enough for me to…’ His fingers tightened on her shoulders, pulling her hard against the length of his body, kissing her with a violence that robbed her of breath and even the will to resist. Her lips softened and parted and she was drowning in the sensual spell woven by Jake’s touch, hungry for the feel of his skin beneath her palms. A fierce dry heat invaded her body and she didn’t try to resist when Jake’s lips left hers to explore the slim column of her throat. She couldn’t understand what was happening to her, she thought, Jake only had to come near her and she melted; no, not melted, burned up, consumed by a heat that ached explosively through her body the way it was doing right now. So suddenly that it was a shock for her unprepared body Jake released her, lifting her hands from his chest to the lapels of her own robe where they trembled in rejection and humiliation.