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Authors: Abby Green

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BOOK: Exquisite Revenge
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‘You didn’t attempt to escape last night?’

Luc finished chewing his last mouthful and looked at Jesse. He sat back and took a long sip of coffee, put his cup down.

He shook his head. ‘No—as you well know. Because if I had the sensors would have set off the alarm and the sound of the sirens would have split our eardrums.’ He elaborated.
‘I have the same security system on several of my own properties. I know that it’s so good it precludes the need for bodyguards. And I know how futile it would be to set it off.’

‘Oh,’ Jesse said now, still struck by how reluctant she seemed to be to leave. She was finding it curiously easy to be sitting across the table from the man she’d kidnapped the day before.

‘Where did you learn to cook?’

Immediately a shuttered look came over Luc’s face, his eyes going dark and mysterious. Jesse’s gaze narrowed on him, her curiosity piqued properly now.

Luc regarded the woman across the table. She was in another loose top today, albeit a short-sleeved one. It showed off her slender pale arms and tiny wrists and hands. Immediately he was furnished with a graphic image of one of those hands wrapped around a certain part of his anatomy, and was rewarded with blood rushing to that strategic region in his pants. Curse her anyway.

Anger galvanised him into answering her, because this anger would help remind him of why it was so important to get out of here.

‘I learnt to cook because my father died when I was twelve and my mother had a breakdown. I had to look after her and my younger sister.’

He saw Jesse’s face blanch and her eyes grow wide. As if she cared.

Anger at her response spurred him on. ‘My sister had—
has
special needs. She was deprived of oxygen at birth, and as a result has been mildly brain-damaged all her life. When my father died and my mother became ill she was only eight. She was terrified, so I had to try to keep things as constant as possible. Keeping her routine the same, including her meals, was part of that process. She’s slightly autistic too, so any change in her routine was inordinately more threatening to
her than to another person with the same needs … though she’s much better now.’

Because, Luc reflected, he could now afford the best round-the-clock care and support.

Jesse’s voice was husky, and it had an immediate effect on Luc’s body. ‘I’m sorry. It must have been a tough time.’

‘The toughest,’ he agreed grimly.

Suddenly he felt very exposed, sitting here and telling Jesse Moriarty, of all people, about the most cataclysmic time of his life, when all his anger and rage had coalesced into a lifelong ambition to see justice meted out.

‘So how is it that you
can’t
cook? I take it that burnt toast is just the tip of the iceberg?’

CHAPTER FIVE

J
ESSE
felt very vulnerable all of a sudden, and wondered if Luc had just furnished her with a fake story. But then she recalled the intensity on his face and in his eyes and she had to believe him—even though she didn’t like the sympathy he’d evoked within her.

She looked down at the blackened remains on her plate and found herself saying, ‘My mother died when I was nine. She was a brilliant cook, but she hadn’t started to teach me yet … She kept saying she would but there never seemed to be time. She was so busy …’ Jesse trailed off remembering her harried and stressed mother, whose face would be red and sweaty as she struggled to put together a meal for one of her father’s dinner parties with the usual little or no notice.

One time when something had gone wrong he’d come downstairs, flushed in the face with drink, and slapped her mother so hard that she’d fallen over the kitchen table, bringing pots and plates to the floor, waking Jesse up.

Feeling seriously disorientated at having remembered that, Jesse forced it from her mind and said lightly, ‘And then I just never learnt … I was terrible at home economics at school.’

‘But brilliant at maths and computer sciences?’

Jesse glanced at Luc and shrugged minutely. ‘They made more sense to me than sewing or baking.’ She had lost herself
in numbers and algorithms far more easily than the more
nurturing
classes.

‘What about your father?’

Jesse forced her face to stay blank, not to respond. Tightly she said, ‘My mother was a single parent; I never knew my father.’

She hadn’t really. Not in the traditional sense. She’d always been the unwanted reminder downstairs. Hidden away. Until she’d had the temerity to come out and risk his wrath for the second time in her life. And that had had dire consequences.

Luc was moving and Jesse glanced up, a little disorientated to find that they’d been conversing so easily. He was heaping leftovers of egg and salmon onto his plate. He glanced at her and she felt breathless.

‘Are you sure you don’t want any?’

Jesse shook her head vigorously, realising that they’d gone way off track, sitting here talking relatively companionably. When Luc came back to sit down Jesse stood up and took her plate over to the sink to wash it. She felt prickly all over and, most betrayingly of all, as if she might cry.

Without saying anything to Luc she left the kitchen, walking as nonchalantly as she could, horribly aware that he might be looking at her. Only when she was around the corner and had ducked into the empty study that had so incensed him the day before did she breathe out shakily.

She walked to the window and looked over the stunning view of the garden at the side of the house. Crossing her arms over her chest, she told herself that she would have to be very careful not to trust this more civil side of Luc Sanchis.
Or
be moved by his stories of a difficult childhood. Her heart felt funny when she visualised him taking care of his vulnerable sister.

Jesse had to remember that he would be working tirelessly for a way to get off this island before he lost his chance to save
O’Brien. Undoubtedly he was up to something, and she’d be the biggest fool to forget that for a second.

That evening Luc was sitting in a chair on the terrace outside the kitchen. He’d just eaten a perfectly prepared steak with Béarnaise sauce and a salad, and was washing it down with a robust Merlot. He had to concede, much to his chagrin, that this enforced
doing nothing
wasn’t entirely unwelcome. It had been a long time since he’d had no pressure on his time and energy. And it had been a long time since he’d indulged in cooking for himself. He’d forgotten how much he liked it.

He scowled faintly. Although he
hated
not being in control. When he’d watched Jesse saunter so nonchalantly from the kitchen that morning he’d wanted to send a cup flying after her to smash against the wall. To smash through that brittle shell that seemed to surround her all the time, making him want to delve underneath.

She made him feel all sorts of things, and he hated to acknowledge that anger at his kidnapping wasn’t usually the uppermost emotion.

He heard a noise now and turned his head to see her in the kitchen. She’d been avoiding him all day. When he thought back to their conversation earlier he got the distinct impression that just as he’d spilled his guts far more than he’d intended so had she.

He hadn’t missed the way she’d tightened all over at the mention of her father. Clearly that was a red button he should push again, seeking any means to unnerve her.

She’d obviously not seen him out on the terrace, and he sat back even more and observed her as she opened the fridge and took out the bowl of Béarnaise sauce he’d made. She lifted it to sniff and he found himself smiling at her wrinkled-nose expression. Curious as to what she would do with the raw
materials in the fridge, he almost felt sorry for her when he saw her admit defeat and take out a yoghurt.

She had to be starving. Nothing had been moved from the fridge at lunchtime. Luc didn’t like the feeling of protectiveness that came over him, and quashed it ruthlessly. A woman had inspired that in him before, and it had nearly cost him his burgeoning reputation and career. He certainly wouldn’t give in to it here and now, with someone infinitely more dangerous.

Silently he stood up and went to stand with a shoulder propped against the open patio door, his eyes on the petite figure as she stood and ate the yoghurt.

‘So, where have you been hiding all day? I missed you.’

Jesse went rigid as that deep, mocking voice washed over her and snuck in somewhere very private and vulnerable. She forced herself to be as cool as a cucumber before she turned around to face her nemesis. It was laughable, but right now she felt far more the victim than Luc Sanchis.

She could scent the tantalising aroma of something he’d cooked in the air. No doubt he must relish the thought of her starving.

He was standing with arms folded across his chest, one shoulder propped against the door. He jerked his head back to where he’d been eating. ‘I made a steak. I didn’t think to ask you if you wanted one. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think the prisoner usually cares much about feeding the kidnapper.’

Jesse flushed and willed down the wave of hunger that almost knocked her sideways. She could well imagine that his steak had been as delicious as his breakfast. Churlishly she wondered if this was how he’d wear her down—by acute food envy. And why did the man have to be so proficient in the kitchen anyway? Why couldn’t he conform and be some stereotypical male who was as blind in a kitchen as she was?

‘Now, now—no need to look so fierce.’ Luc straightened
up and went out, only to reappear seconds later with a glass of wine and a bottle. He tipped it towards Jesse. ‘Wine?’

Jesse shook her head. On her empty stomach a glass of wine would be suicide. She backed away and said suspiciously, ‘Why are you so cheery?’

Luc calmly poured some more wine into his own glass, and then came into the kitchen to put the bottle down on the counter-top. He took a sip.

‘Like I said earlier, I’m making the best of a bad situation. As you pointed out, I can’t hope to get off the island, and you’re not going to let me near any means of outside communication, so what else can I do for the moment except feed myself and relax?’

Jesse recalled looking down from her bedroom that afternoon to see Luc stretched out in the family-sized hammock which was hung between two trees. He’d been bare-chested in those low-slung jeans, reading a book with an arm behind his head, showing off his pectoral muscles to great advantage.

She’d been transfixed for far longer than she cared to admit, with a slow upswelling of heat making beads of sweat pop out between her breasts before she’d realised what she was doing and moved away.

Abruptly, almost as if he’d touched her and she’d flinched, Jesse moved back. Angry. ‘I’m not completely helpless, you know. I can make a sandwich or … something.’

She flung open the fridge door again and eyed a loaf of bread balefully. Resolutely she took it out, and then took out some cheese and mustard. Determined to show Luc that she wasn’t to be pitied for being so culinarily challenged, she found a chopping board and set about cutting a slice of bread.

Perhaps it was his intent, mocking gaze on her, or the fact that she was left-handed, which always made her cut things awkwardly, having been brought up to use her right hand,
but the knife slipped and sharp pain lanced her thumb, making her cry out.

Instantly she was aware of a blur of movement to her right, and then her hand was being cradled in a much bigger one and she was being led over to the sink. Already the awful numbing tide of sickness was coming over her at the sight of bright red blood. It got worse when Luc ran the water over the cut and she could see it flowing down the sink.

Sweat broke out on her brow as she fought back the wave of nausea. Blood had always sickened her. Ever since she’d seen her own blood running on the floor from the welts on her back and legs.

Seriously weak now, Jesse’s legs were trembling violently. She felt rather than saw Luc cast her a swift glance.

‘What’s wrong with you? It’s only a small nick.’

Jesse’s tongue felt heavy in her head. ‘The blood. I can’t stand blood.’

Her legs gave way just as she heard Luc curse, and then she was being lifted against his hard chest and put down on a chair. His hand was on the back of her head, pushing it between her knees.

‘Just breathe,’ was his curt instruction.

She could feel him doing something to her thumb, wrapping something around it. Slowly the nausea was receding and her stomach was calming down.

She felt him move away from her and attempted to come back up, but he said roughly, ‘Stay down until I say so or you’ll get dizzy again.’

Jesse said nothing, just obeyed, too mortified to come up, too afraid to see what would be on Luc’s face at her pathetic weakness. She couldn’t cut a slice of bread without nearly cutting a finger off, and then she almost fainted. And, not only that, she was terrified of the response that had swept through
her like a forest fire at being held so closely to his body as he’d all but carried her to the chair.

Eventually she saw his bare feet appear in her line of vision and heard something being put on the table behind her. She felt his hands on her arms and she was urged upwards. Her head swam for a moment, but then it cleared. Luc was looking down at her, his eyes searching her face.

Jesse could feel heat and colour rushing back. As if satisfied to see it, Luc propelled her chair around and she saw a plate with what looked like a steak sandwich on it and a glass of water.

Luc sat down on the chair nearest to her and motioned to her. ‘Go on—eat. You need something in your belly.’

Jesse saw then that a plaster had been put on her thumb. It was throbbing a little, but there was no sight of blood, thank God.

She looked from the sandwich to Luc. ‘I … I’m sorry. I don’t know what …’

‘Just eat.’

His voice was disarmingly gentle, doing funny things to her insides as she picked up the sandwich and took a bite. She nearly closed her eyes as the delicious taste of the meat hit her tastebuds. She’d never tasted anything so succulent and tender. She demolished it all in record time, and took a long sip of water before wiping her mouth with a napkin.

Luc was watching her with a slightly mesmerised look on his face. He shook his head. ‘For someone so tiny you could put a mariner to shame, the way you eat.’

Jesse flushed and said, ‘Just because I don’t cook much for myself doesn’t mean I don’t have an appetite.’

Luc felt the slow lick of desire as he found himself wondering if Jesse’s ravenous
appetite
ran to the more carnal kind. He watched her face and could see expressions flit across it like clouds scudding across a bay in high wind. Did she realise
how transparent she was? Unless, of course, he mentioned a
verboten
subject like her father.

He was finding her more and more intriguing, and he was finding it difficult to focus on the fact that because of her his years of well-laid plans would all be for naught.

As if she could feel his intense regard, Jesse got up abruptly and took her things to the sink. Luc saw her hesitate for a second, as if afraid in case she saw blood again, but he’d been careful to wash it all away.

He didn’t like the way his heart constricted slightly now. The line of her back looked incredibly delicate, and his eye travelled down over that T-shirt and the shorts she’d changed into during the afternoon. Her legs were smooth and pale. So slender he imagined wrapping a hand around one calf. And then he noticed something else: a long silvery line down one thigh that reached to the back of her knee, like a faded scar.

Just then Jesse turned, and he looked back up. Her face was a bland mask, and Luc held his tongue when what he wanted was to ask her about the scar. She’d retreated into her cool shell, and he had to curb the desire to stand up and walk over to her and kiss her.

He was disconcerted to find that as much as he wanted to do it to unsettle her, with a view to getting off this island, he also wanted to do it just for the sake of doing it.

Unwilling to explore this unwelcome desire, Luc stood up. His mood wasn’t helped by the way Jesse’s eyes widened fractionally, showing more of that dark grey intensity. Saying something vaguely coherent, Luc made for the door.

He stopped when he heard a tentative-sounding,
‘Luc?’
He realised that it was the first time she’d said his first name out loud.

Feeling more and more threatened, he forced himself to turn around. He saw Jesse biting her lip before blurting out, ‘Thank you …’

‘It was nothing.’ His voice was gruff. Disgusted, because he felt as if he was running away, he left and went to the sanctuary of his room.

Jesse sank back against the sink and looked at the empty doorway. Luc Sanchis had just been incredibly sweet to her. Since her mother died, she couldn’t recall anyone being so nice to her—even making her a sandwich like that and sitting there till she ate it. In all of her foster homes invariably the parents had had children of their own, and more often than not had been stressed and busy. Jesse had often wondered why they’d bothered taking kids in when they couldn’t seem to care for them properly …

BOOK: Exquisite Revenge
13.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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