Authors: Abby Green
Damn him, Jesse said to herself silently. She didn’t want to
him. At all. She shook her head and made quick work of washing the plates—hers and Luc’s—being careful to keep her thumb out of the water.
When she was finished she glanced at her watch and was surprised to see that it was already after ten p.m. A wave of tiredness washed over her, but Jesse felt the habitual frustration of an insomniac. If she went to bed now she would only wake in a couple of hours, and not get back to sleep until dawn.
Instead Jesse found herself searching through the DVDs in the den, and smiled when she found some computer games which she figured belonged to the Kouros children. Jesse recalled Alexandros telling her with a wry grin that their lives were dominated by their three boys. She gave thanks for their taste in games now, and settled down to play one of her old favourites.
When Luc had got back to his room he’d taken a shower and now lay on his bed in nothing but a towel. He tried to resist, but couldn’t: the memory of how Jesse had felt leaning
against him when she’d been overcome with weakness at the sight of the blood.
Her reaction had shocked him. She’d been so strong all along, despite the small signs of nerves and that damned air of vulnerability.
He could still feel the impression of her small firm breasts. When he’d helped her to sit up straight again he’d been able to see down the loose top of her shirt to the dewy skin of her cleavage. Her breasts had looked enticingly more full than he’d thought. And he’d felt like a teenager ogling his first woman.
He clenched his hands against the erection already growing and gritted his teeth. The first twenty-four-hour stretch of his incarceration had proved to him that this sexual awareness and frustration would only build. He was sure that it was heightened by the fact that Jesse was not his usual type, and further heightened by their enforced close proximity.
In normal circumstances he wouldn’t find her so enthralling. But for now he did. And it would help him to achieve his aim. He would seduce her into revealing the secrets she hid in those flashing grey eyes. And then, when she was at her most vulnerable, he would have her and she wouldn’t be able to deny him anything. Namely: his freedom.
When Luc woke around dawn he was still in the towel on the top of his bed. He was surprised as he had become accustomed to existing on three to four hours’ sleep.
He had another quick shower and, feeling ridiculously refreshed, pulled on jeans from yesterday and a clean T-shirt, scowling at the open doors of the walk-in closet as he did so.
He’d never had a woman buy him clothes before. He’d bought plenty of clothes
jewellery for women, though, and had to wonder now why they liked it so much when it made
feel somehow soiled. He reflected with not a little
irony that the women he lavished gifts on didn’t give any impression of feeling soiled, and yet he could well imagine the distasteful look on Jesse Moriarty’s face if he did such a thing … and he didn’t like how that knowledge made him feel.
He closed the offending doors and padded downstairs in bare feet to the kitchen. He had to admit that under other circumstances he would properly enjoy this villa and the solitude. It was just unfortunate that he was confined within its perimeter fence and cut off from his life and livelihood.
Luc had almost walked past the den before he saw the small foot dangling off the sofa.
He stopped and went in, to see Jesse lying awkwardly on the couch, half-on and half-off, with earphones askew on her head. There was a console remote on the floor near her, and the TV was showing nothing but static.
Something within him moved at the sight of her, all tousled and sleep-flushed, her mouth in a delicious pout. Her T-shirt had ridden up to reveal a pale and very flat belly, her shorts sat low on slim hips.
He reached down and plucked the earphones off her ears. Jesse moved fractionally, whispering something under her breath that Luc couldn’t quite catch. Before he’d really thought about what he was doing he’d slipped his arms under her, one under her back and the other under her legs, and lifted her against his chest.
Jesse was aware that she felt weightless against something hard, and that it wasn’t an altogether unpleasant sensation. And then she became aware of more: a hard chest under her cheek, and someone’s warm and minty-smelling breath on her forehead. Groggily she opened her eyes, to see that she was several feet off the ground and in Luc Sanchis’s arms. She started to struggle, but it was ineffectual because she was still half asleep.
‘Hold still. I’m just taking you up to your bed.’
His voice rumbled out from that chest, covered by only a flimsy T-shirt and Jesse was wide awake and as stiff as a board by the time Luc walked her into her room and deposited her on her bed. To her dismay he didn’t back away. He rested over her on his hands, the muscles in his arms far too close for comfort. As well as that huge body.
‘I … Thank you. I must have fallen asleep.’ Her voice sounded ridiculously husky to her ears.
Please move away from me
, she begged silently, terrified of her body’s response, which seemed to be worse because she hadn’t yet woken up enough to censor it. That had to be why she wanted to reach out and curl her hands into the material of Luc’s T-shirt and pull him closer so that she could—
As if hearing her chaotic thoughts, Luc
move closer then—and Jesse had nowhere to go as she was almost flat on the bed. Breathless, she asked, ‘What are you doing?’
Half-musingly he said, ‘Just checking something.’
And then he was dropping, coming closer, even though not a part of his body was actually touching hers yet. His face came so close to hers that it blurred in her eyesight and Jesse had to close her eyes. But that was worse because then she could smell him.
She was acutely aware of the fact that she was lying on her bed, with Luc Sanchis looming over her like a marauding pirate about to ravish her. And there was nothing she could do because she seemed to have been invaded by some fatal lethargy.
She felt the barest of touches, of his mouth to the corner of hers, before he moved down across the line of her jaw, and down again to where she knew her pulse must be beating hectically at her neck, betraying her like a beacon. She was drowning in his scent and the waves of heat from his body.
And then suddenly he was gone, and Jesse opened heavy
eyes to see Luc staring down at her with a smug look on his dark face, hands on lean hips. She only noticed then that his hair was still damp from a shower. Her insides tightened.
She sat up awkwardly, still feeling slightly uncoordinated, and then stood to face Luc, arms crossed over her chest and the betraying sting of her rock-hard nipples.
‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’
Luc reached out and easily pulled Jesse’s arms apart until she was standing there with her wrists manacled in his huge hands.
She strugged but couldn’t break free. ‘Let me
,’ she demanded.
‘What I was doing,’ Luc said, in a supremely reasonable voice, ‘was proving that you desire me.’
Jesse pulled against his hands to no avail. Anger at him for articulating her worst fear made her spit, ‘Don’t be ridiculous. You’re the last man on this earth that I would desire. Maybe you were right. Maybe I
gay.’ Jesse would have said anything right then to get him to back away.
‘Really?’ Luc glanced down to Jesse’s chest, and to her abject horror and mortification she could feel her breasts swell against the confinement of her bra as if they literally ached for his touch.
‘I don’t think you’re gay at all.’ He dropped one of her hands, and she was so surprised for a second that she didn’t stop him when he reached out and cupped one breast through the thin material of her T-shirt, and lazily rubbed a thumb back and forth over the covered peak.
Far too belatedly Jesse knocked his hand away and moved back well out of his reach. The ease with which he’d been able to hold her captive scared her, but it wasn’t because she feared him being violent or forcing her. It was fear of the fact that she seemed to have no control around him.
Shakily she said, ‘Get out of my room.’
Luc just smiled and held out his hands in a peace-making gesture. But he backed away, which had her breathing easier until he said, ‘You only have yourself to blame for this, Jesse … It’s your fault we’re here on this island, alone together in this house.’
Jesse crossed her arms over her chest again and bit out, ‘This villa is certainly big enough for both of us. Don’t worry—I’ll stay well out of your way.’
Luc’s grin got bigger and momentarily blinded Jesse.
‘I’m going to make some breakfast, if you’d care to join me?’
Jesse muttered something childish about preferring to eat worms, and it was only when Luc had finally walked out of her room and she’d hurried after him to close the door that she relaxed.
She looked at the lock on the door and wished with all her heart that she could turn the key—but she couldn’t. Much like the sight of blood, she had a phobia about being locked into any room, thanks to her father …
Choking back the sudden rise of emotion, Jesse whirled away from the door and went to the bathroom, stripping off angrily before stepping under the shower. Realising that Luc had found her sleeping, the way she’d woken up in his arms and how that had felt, was seriously unnerving.
Luc Sanchis was playing with her because she’d been stupid enough to let him see that he affected her. This was his only weapon. So of course he was going to take advantage.
She would not let him fool her like this. He fancied her about as much as he fancied a block of wood. She’d seen his women on the internet—all buxom and glamorous and confident. Full of that innate feminine beauty that she’d never emulate.
Jesse turned her face up into the drumming spray to avoid thinking about how that made her feel.
Jesse managed successfully to avoid Luc for the rest of that day and evening. She wasn’t sure how. She was just relieved that she had.
She’d gone down to the kitchen and picked at the leftovers of Luc’s food, which had been helpfully left out on a covered plate on the counter. Jesse didn’t want to acknowledge that he’d left them there for her but she had the uncomfortable feeling that he had.
All through the day the magnitude of what had happened that morning had grown bigger and bigger in her head, so that night was another sleepless one, spent tossing and turning. She got up to shower twice, in some kind of effort to relax. She even considered using the pool, but the thought of running into Luc made her stay in her room.
By the following morning she was worn out. She told herself she was being ridiculous. He was only playing with her head, trying to unnerve her, and she was letting him. All she had to do was draw on the cool shell of reserve that had served her so well for years. She told herself firmly to get a grip.
Dressing carefully in jeans and a shirt, all buttoned up, Jesse went down to the kitchen, girding herself to see Luc. And when she did all her recent good intentions melted into a heat haze. He was standing in the kitchen with his back to her, in nothing but a pair of board shorts which were slung low on his hips. The length of his olive-skinned bare back was a vision of muscled male perfection, drawing her helpless gaze all the way down to those lean hips. He was whistling tunelessly, with a tea towel thrown over his shoulder, and something smelt delicious.
sensed Jesse behind him, and something scarily exultant erupted in his chest as he fought not to turn around.
She’d avoided him the entire previous day and night—concrete evidence that he had her good and rattled. His mouth compressed. He’d been rattled enough himself after those moments in her bedroom. It had taken more restraint than he’d thought he possessed not to plunder her mouth there and then. And as for touching her breast …? He grimaced now, recalling the surge of arousal in his body at just that fleeting touch.
He saw a movement beside his feet and bent down. When he straightened up he turned around and affected his best expression of surprise.
When Luc turned around and saw her surprise was etched onto his face—except Jesse didn’t believe it for a second. But then her attention was taken by the squirming tiny bundle of fur in his arms, held close to that bare chest. Curiosity defused her wariness instantly.
‘What is that?’
Luc looked down, and then back to Jesse. ‘It’s a kitten. I found him wandering around the garden yesterday, so I gave him some milk and a wash and he’s been here ever since.’
Jesse was helpless, walking towards them before she knew what she was doing. She and her mother had used to have a cat in her father’s house, and once it had had a litter of kittens.
When her father had found out he’d taken them all and told Jesse malevolently that he was going to put them in a sack and drown them in the river. Whether he had or not Jesse had never found out, but why wouldn’t he? He’d done so much worse. She’d cried herself to sleep for a month after that incident.
Without even thinking about what she was doing she’d reached for and was stroking the tiny grey-striped tabby. It was horribly malnourished and scrawny, but his huge eyes broke Jesse’s heart wide open.
‘Where’s the mother?’ she asked huskily, too emotional to look up at Luc.
She saw Luc’s wide shoulders shrug. ‘She must have died—or else she would have come looking for this little one before now. Feral cats and dogs are all over Greece. The mother cat could have come onto the island on a boat, already pregnant … Here, hold him while I finish making breakfast.’
He handed the tiny bundle into Jesse’s arms and she caught him to her, revelling in his warm weight, light as it was. The kitten snuggled into Jesse like the most trusting thing on the planet.
‘I’m making an omelette. Would you like some?’
Jesse looked up at Luc then, and as much as she’d have liked to say no and insist on burning her own toast she was starving, and completely disarmed after seeing him cradling this tiny animal with such gentleness.
She shrugged. ‘Okay … if you have enough.’ She blushed when she thought of how she’d picked at his leftovers yesterday like some fugitive and turned away. She saw a box in the corner which Luc had obviously set up for the kitten, with paper at the bottom and some milk in a bowl.
He said from behind her, ‘There’s plenty.’
Jesse sat down on a chair and stroked the kitten, which was
purring happily now. Her chest felt tight. This was the last thing she’d expected when she’d steeled herself to see Luc.
He came over to the table after a couple of minutes and put down the fluffiest omelette Jesse had ever seen, with hot buttered toast on a plate beside it.
‘Why don’t you put Stripy in his box while we eat?’
Suddenly Jesse was awfully reluctant to let the kitten go, but she forced herself to get up and put him in the box, seeing him lap hungrily at the milk. When she came back and saw Luc sitting down with his own food she said, ‘Stripy?’
Luc glanced at her. ‘Well, he’s grey and stripy …’
Jesse sat down and tried not to notice the expanse of Luc’s bare chest. He was definitely doing this on purpose, and she was not going to react—even though she already felt hot and wanted to undo some buttons on her shirt.
‘I think Tigger is a better name.’
When she didn’t get a response she risked a glance at Luc, who was chewing his food. He swallowed. ‘Tigger?’
Jesse felt silly now. ‘You know—after Tigger in
Winnie The Pooh
‘Wasn’t he orange?’
Jesse shrugged, embarrassed, wishing she hadn’t said anything. She took a mouthful of omelette and had to stop herself from moaning out loud. It melted on her tongue.
‘Well, I don’t see why he can’t be Tigger too. Who says he has to be orange?’ Jesse swallowed and looked at Luc. Something fluttered in her chest. ‘It really doesn’t matter. He’s only a kitten …’
Luc watched as Jesse ducked her head again. Fascinating. The kitten had obviously moved her so much that it had melted the lines of tension he’d seen in her when he’d first turned around to greet her. He knew his bare chest was a bit
much, but he’d been determined to make her as uncomfortable as possible.
And it would have worked if it hadn’t been for the kitten. She’d softened instantly on seeing it. Transforming her. It was more than a little irritating that a small bit of fluff with four legs and a tail had managed to crack through Jesse’s veneer quicker than Luc had.
With tension rising he finished his breakfast and sat back to watch Jesse finish hers. She cleaned her plate, and his chest tightened when he thought of how she’d taken some of the leftovers he’d left out yesterday.
He cursed himself. For God’s sake, anyone would think
was the victim here! Time to stir her up a little.
He leant forward just as she was wiping her mouth, and he noticed the telltale way she moved back fractionally.
‘Six more nights, Jesse.’
She leant back and pushed her plate away slightly, tense and suspicious. Avoiding his eye. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘I’m talking about the fact that there are six more nights to go in this villa, on this island, before you let me go.’
Jesse mentally counted in her head and then looked at Luc, determined to recover her equilibrium after the kitten had severely demolished it. She told herself stoutly that it had nothing to do with Luc.
‘So what’s your point?’
‘My point, dear Jesse, is how are you going to get through the next few days and nights without admitting how much I affect you?’
Jesse snorted and stood up abruptly, reaching for Luc’s plate and her own skittishly, making them crash together. She stalked over to the sink and busied herself clearing them and washing them. And then promptly dropped one back into the sudsy water when she felt a very large warm presence behind
her and two very naked masculine arms snaked around her, caging her against the sink.
His heat and scent were all around her, and Jesse hated that her treacherous heart was thumping double-time. Her skin prickled with awareness and anticipation.
Luc’s head came down near hers and he said softly, near her ear, ‘Admit it, Jesse, you want me …’
Jesse turned abruptly within the cage of his arms and glared up at him, far too aware of that naked chest only centimetres away and that gorgeous mouth directly above hers. Lightning anger flashed up her spine at how weak he made her feel, at the power he had over her.
‘Never, Luc Sanchis. I’ll never admit such a thing because it’s not true. You’re deluding yourself. Do you think that you’re some God-given gift to women? Well, you’re not. You’re very easily resistible, actually, and you can just stew in your own ego for the next six days for all I care.’
Jesse had wriggled out under his arm before he knew what she was doing and was almost out of his reach. But Luc caught her by the hand and pulled her back to him. He could feel the slender bones of her hand and wrist, and her inherent fragility only made him feel angrier.
‘Damn it, Jesse, why is it so important that you get to have O’Brien?’
To Luc’s utter shock and surprise he saw moisture glint in Jesse’s eyes and she spat out, ‘It just is, and I’ll never tell you why. It’s none of your business.’
Luc let her hand go, but brought both his hands to her arms, clamping them there and drawing her right in against his body—which was on fire now.
‘You made it my business when you hacked into my life and brought me here with no means of escape, damn you.’
Jesse looked up into Luc’s eyes and saw the burning flames
of anger in their depths. Her heart was beating so fast now that she felt dizzy. A desperate yearning was rising within her … to have him kiss her and make all those words disappear. It was so strong at that moment that it scared her to death.
Exerting all her strength, she pulled away from him. ‘Just stay out of my way, Luc Sanchis …’
Jesse backed away out of the kitchen and Luc’s voice was scathing. ‘That’s very mature, Jesse. Are you going to hide in your room for another twenty-four hours?’
Jesse turned and fled, her emotions in turmoil. She
seriously tempted to go up to her room, but his caustic words made her go out through the front door instead. Impulsively she took the key to the Jeep from its secret spot and started it up with a shaking hand. She headed down the drive and through the gates, clicking the button to make sure they were shut again.
And her dominant feeling as she drove away from the villa, leaving Luc behind, locked in, was one of searing guilt.
She finally got to the edge of the airstrip and stopped, pulling over at a skewed angle. She all but fell out of the Jeep and stood in the bright morning sunlight, breathing deeply. Her heart was still hammering. It was as if Luc had reached inside her and effortlessly tied her insides into a knot, while at the same time making her melt as if she were made of nothing more than putty.
The truth was, right now she didn’t know if she could last another week with Luc tormenting her. He had no idea how close he was to the truth of how much she wanted him to touch her … it was getting worse with every moment spent in his company. Once again
was feeling more like the prisoner.
couldn’t she be immune to him?
was he proving to be the one man on the planet who made her feel anything but cold inside? It was so demoralising to be one of the legion of women who fell at his feet in sighing ecstasy. And
why had he had to tell her about his vulnerable younger sister with special needs, and how his mother had become ill after his father’s death?
She thought churlishly that he would make a good model for one of those posters of men holding tiny vulnerable things like babies … or
Immediately Jesse felt trembly again. And emotional. She’d been blocking out emotions for so long now she almost didn’t recognise the tight feeling which got tighter and tighter until she felt moisture running down her face and recognised tears.
She hadn’t cried in years. Not since she’d retreated to a numb place where nothing could hurt her after her mother died. The same numb place her ex-lover had failed so spectacularly to melt. And yet within days of spending time with Luc Sanchis she was blubbing uncontrollably and melting all over.
Jesse fiercely wiped the tears from her cheeks and blew her nose. She had to get it together. This was exactly what he was trying to do—make her crumble so that she’d give in and send for the plane to take him back. She was so close now to her goal. She couldn’t fall at the final hurdle.
Resolutely, after a few shuddering breaths, Jesse got back into the Jeep, turned it around and went back to the villa.
Luc had finished a punishing round of lengths in the pool and was walking back up through the garden, a towel slung casually around his waist. He tensed when he saw Jesse sitting cross-legged in the distance, just outside the kitchen doors, playing with the kitten. For a second he was almost tempted to laugh: his gaoler could hardly present a more benign image. And then he scowled. Because she was all too effective as a gaoler.
He came closer and saw the unmistakable lines of tension come into her body. He cursed inwardly. He didn’t know why it was, but he’d felt like a heel when she’d all but run from the
kitchen earlier. She’d seemed genuinely upset. But he knew he had to knock these weak impulses on the head. It was all an act, designed to keep him off balance. The woman had kidnapped him to further her own nefarious ends. She was about as vulnerable as a poisonous cobra!
When he reached her she said, without glancing up, ‘Is our milk okay for Tigger?’
He reacted inexplicably to our. Her voice had sounded husky, reminding him of how his sister’s voice sounded after she’d been crying.
Had she been crying?
Luc tensed at the hollow feeling in his belly.
‘It isn’t ideal, but it’s all we have … He looks too small to eat anything solid yet.’
The kitten at that moment scrambled out of Jesse’s hands and bounded over to Luc’s bare foot. He reached down and scooped it up in one hand, aware of Jesse valiantly ignoring him and fixing something in the box nearby.
Eventually, giving up on Jesse actually looking up at him, and aware that her proximity even in that shirt and jeans was having an effect on him, he handed the kitten back to her, holding out his hand.
She reached up, slightly akwardly because she wouldn’t meet his eyes, and took the kitten. An electric shock zinged between them when their fingers touched and Luc’s jaw tensed. He quashed any weakness at hearing her husky voice.
Ignore that at your peril
, he told her silently in his head, and finally went back into the villa, thoroughly irritated by everything about Jesse Moriarty.
Jesse breathed a deep sigh of relief. She’d emerged from that encounter relatively unscathed, thanks to the fact that she just hadn’t looked at Luc. But she couldn’t very well behave like that for the rest of the week. She had to keep drumming
it into her skull that he was out to get her and to torture her. She had to resist him at all costs.
Feeling sticky and hot in her jeans and shirt, Jesse decided to have a swim too. At least the pool would be safe now that he’d finished. She carefully put Tigger back in his box and watched him curl up into a tiny ball of fluff, envying him his ease at being able to shut out the world and depend on the kindness of strangers.