“I should go.”
“You don’t have to.” His pale blue eyes glittered with unmistakable intensity.
“Yes.” Her voice was shakier than she’d like to admit, matching her resolve. “I do.”
They stared at each other for an instant, the moment awkward, thick with tension. There was a wild and reckless beating in her pulse, one that tempted even as it alarmed. If it had been due solely to animal attraction there would be no choice. She’d be in his bed, wrapped around him, and use him to quench the heat in her blood.
But it wasn’t that simple. He wasn’t that simple.
She took plenty of risks, but only when she could control the situation.
Jake Tarrance didn’t appear to be a man easily controlled.
The Business of Strangers
lives with her husband and children. Besides being a writer, this mother of five works full-time teaching learning-disabled students. Much of her free time is spent in her role as professional spectator at her kids’ sporting events.
An avid reader, Kylie enjoys stories of love, mystery and suspense—and she insists on happy endings. She claims she was inspired to write by all the wonderful authors she’s read over the years. Now most weekends and all summer she can be found at the computer, spinning her own tales of romance and happily-ever-afters.
She invites readers to check out her online read in the reading room at eHarlequin.com. Readers can write to Kylie at P.O. Box 231, Charles City, IA 50616, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Web site address is www.kyliebrant.com.
For Alison, my favorite only daughter. I just knew holding out for a girl would pay off in the end!
Special thanks goes to Candace Irvin for all the great military information and for pointing me, not so gently, toward the army! And another huge thank-you to Ben Swank, for your time and patience with my endless questions about the Army Rangers. Your generous assistance is appreciated more than you can know.
The tropical blue-green waters of the Atlantic beat in lazy rhythm against the pebbled sand beach of Santa Cristo. The simple lullaby of the flow and ebb of the foamy waves was deceptive, for the constant pattern brought both life and death to the myriad of creatures dependent on it for survival. Each new wash of waves ended existence for some. Each new pull back to the sea gave new life to others.
To the woman in the wet suit, the ocean gave both.
Her unconscious body rode the waves into shore and was deposited on the sand as the water went about its business of tides and lunar cycles. She’d survived, barely, all the dangers the ocean had to offer. The natural buoyancy of her body had helped her elude the churning currents that had tried to pull her under and provide her with a final resting place. The predators of the sea had taken no notice of the black-clad body being tossed from wave to wave, like the rest of the flotsam, after last night’s storm.
Perhaps they knew somehow that human predators had already done their worst.
She might have died there, face pressed into the sand, lungs filled with saltwater. Might have slipped from unconsciousness to death in a gradual descent into total darkness that would hold a not unwelcome finality. But dawn had spilled over the nearby mountains and was even now painting the horizon. And on an island gripped by unrest, people rose early, eager to shake off the heavy mantle of darkness that held increasingly ominous threats.
It would be easier to seek oblivion, if it weren’t for the never-ending noise above her.
A voice. She identified the sound finally, if not the words. It took awhile longer to recognize the language as Spanish, the voice as belonging to a female. She couldn’t explain why both those facts eased a measure of the fear welling up inside her.
“Wake up, Angel. I did not go to all the work of saving you to have you sleep your life away. Wake up now and speak to me.”
A soft blanket of darkness summoned, offering to wrap her once again in sweet oblivion. Then she was rolled from her side to her stomach, and white-hot shards of pain stabbed through her, ripping open the cloak of unconsciousness and wrenching a guttural groan from her.
The apology didn’t register, nor did the deliberate gentling of hands. The pain was gleefully gnawing through muscle, tendon, bone. Unconsciousness shimmered tantalizingly, just out of reach, and she clawed toward it, wanting to dive beneath its cloak again and escape the torment.
“I call you Angel because surely God is smiling on you.” A wet cloth, blessedly cool, was laid across her forehead. “How else could you survive two bullets in your back and hours in the ocean during one of the worst storms this year?”
Bullets? Ocean? She waited, but the words summoned no answering memory, and panic began to circle through the pain.
“You must have been on a boat. Were you diving? When my daughter and I found you on the beach, you wore a wet suit. I had to cut it off you to get at your wounds.”
Wet suit. Diving. She understood the words. She waited for a mental association to form. None did. The panic surged through the agony.
“I can do little for the pain, I am sorry. When you are well enough I will go for the doctor. He can bring the police.”
“No.” The woman lunged upward from the bed to grasp her rescuer’s hand with surprising strength, given her injuries. All the command, all the urgency she could muster was in her voice. “No doctor. No police.”
Luz frowned, her free hand rising to replace the cloth that had been dislodged. “I can do no more than I already have. Luckily for СКАЧАТЬ