Tracy glanced up. “So do I.”
“Anything interesting on television tonight?”
Tracy continued to read. “There’s a documentary on Discovery I was hoping to catch. Something about frogs.”
“It’s not on too late, is it?”
“Why?” She raised her eyes to meet his.
“I was thinking of making an early night of it.”
Tracy returned to her book. “Any particular reason?”
“Yes.” It was a test of his determination not to laugh. Tracy knew full well what he had in mind. After being married to him all these years, how could she not know?
“You coming to bed early or not?” he asked.
“Oh, I’ll be there,” she said, the corner of her mouth quivering. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
THE CABIN HAD BEEN quiet for more than a hour, and Chrissie was convinced Scott had gone to sleep. His breathing was regular and even. She wished the sound of it would lull her to sleep, as well, but so far it hadn’t. She envied his ability to drift off like this, especially after their heated discussion.
Scott had claimed he loved her—and she’d laughed at him. That probably wasn’t the most tactful response, but she couldn’t help herself. He didn’t honestly expect her to believe him, did he?
No man in his right mind treated a woman the way Scott O’Halloran had treated her. They’d both said some things tonight that would’ve been better left unsaid, and then he’d stalked away, climbed into the loft and promptly fallen asleep.
His ability to put their discussion behind him so quickly only went to prove that she was right. Otherwise how could he possibly sleep now? It made no sense. Not when she worried and fretted, rehashing their argument, the anger and resentment churning inside her. If he did love her as he’d said, then he should be upset, too; he should care. Clearly he didn’t.
Their argument, however, was only part of what was keeping Chrissie awake. Hunger contributed its own pangs to her sleepless state. She and Joelle had eaten a late breakfast, but that was almost twelve hours ago. If she read her watch right, it was now 10:00 p.m. She squinted down at her wrist, trying to make out the miniature numbers on her uselessly elegant watch. Maybe it was only nine, she thought; nevertheless, she was famished.
The way she figured, she had two options. She could stay up, seethe with resentment toward Scott and listen to her stomach growl, or she could be angry with Scott and quietly investigate the canned goods in the kitchen.
The second option held more appeal. As silently as possible, she threw aside the quilts and tiptoed toward the kitchen. The latch on the cupboard door was tricky and she couldn’t see to get it open, no matter what she tried. She felt so frustrated she wanted to slam her fist against it.
“You have to be smarter than a bear,” Scott said from behind her.
Chrissie whirled around. “I thought you were asleep!”
“Oh.” She sighed heavily, wanting to avoid another confrontation with him—although she wouldn’t back down if he started one. Gone was the shy teenage girl he’d jilted and the young college graduate whose heart he’d broken. She was a woman now, and perfectly able to deal with the likes of him.
Chrissie’s nod was stiff, distrustful.
“Breakfast in bed, was it?” he asked in a sarcastic tone.
At first Chrissie was going to disabuse him of that idea, then decided she should let him believe what he wanted. He didn’t know her, and time had proved he never had known her. Not really. “Something like that.” She said the words flippantly.
He reached behind her, his hand grazing her ear, and twisted the cupboard knob. The door instantly sprang open. The top of her ear, where his finger had inadvertently touched, burned hotly. She didn’t want his touch to affect her like this.
“You can leave now, thank you very much,” she muttered fiercely.
“I’m hungry, too,” he said. Leaning forward, he grabbed a can from the shelf. Wanting to avoid any further chance of contact with him, Chrissie stepped to one side, but all she managed to do was position herself more securely in his arms.
His ability to fluster her only irritated her more. She stiffened, and Scott’s brows arched when he noticed her reaction.
“I’ll get out of your way,” she offered, eager to escape the circle of his arms.
He didn’t respond, nor did he move.
She watched as his eyes narrowed. Wondering how much he could see in the firelight, she prayed that not a hint of what she really felt was reflected on her face. Her heartbeat was out of control, and her mouth had gone completely dry. She didn’t dare moisten her lips for fear he’d read that as an invitation to kiss her.
“Scott…let me go.” She waited for him to release her.
He did so with obvious reluctance, dropping his arms to his sides. He stepped away, and she saw his eyes harden—and then he did something so unexpected, so underhanded, that for one shocking moment, Chrissie couldn’t believe it.
He kissed her.
Not in the gentle sweet way she remembered. Not the cherished kisses of their youth, the memory of which she’d carried with her all these years. Instead, his mouth was hard on hers, the kiss wild and dangerous, stealing the very breath from her lungs.
Chrissie gasped and would have protested further if Scott had allowed it. Pinned against the cupboard, Chrissie had no means of escape. She tried to break it off, tried not to enjoy the familiar taste of him. It’d been five years since he’d last kissed her. She shouldn’t remember, shouldn’t savor his touch. She was strong and capable. Yes, she was. But one kiss and already she could feel herself weakening. He’d hurt her deeply, but she found herself thinking there was probably a legitimate reason for the things he’d done. Already she was making excuses for him!
“No!” She wrenched away.
He hesitated, eyes puzzled. “Why did you…?”
Oh, what the hell. But if he was going to kiss her, it would be on her terms, not his. Grabbing him by the shirt collar, she jerked his face toward hers. If he wanted to kiss, then it would be a kiss he wouldn’t soon forget.
Scott gave a deep growl and half lifted her from the floor. Her feet dangled several inches off the ground, but by this point Chrissie wasn’t about to let a little thing like suspended animation distract her. The kiss was unrestrained, intense, and she let it continue, wanting to make sure he knew she hadn’t been lying home at nights wondering about him.
When he ended it, his breathing was ragged. Hers, too. Chrissie pressed the back of her hand to her lips and boldly met his look.
“I hope that answers your questions,” she said as pleasantly as she could.
He reached for her, but she was quick enough to sidestep him. “No, that was a mistake, and one that won’t happen again.”
“Or what?” he demanded. “You’ll take me to court?” Scott returned to the main part of the cabin, dropped into the chair, then leaned forward and ran his fingers through his hair. “Tell me about him,” he said.
Chrissie could hardly believe her ears. “Joel! You want to hear about Joel?”
His response was to glare at her from across the room.
Outraged, Chrissie glared right back. “Is that why you kissed me, because you couldn’t bear the thought of me being with another man?” Whatever appetite she’d experienced earlier faded away, and she merely felt hollow, not hungry. Her legs weren’t all that steady, either. Shocked and a little disoriented, she sank onto the far end of the sofa.
This explained everything. He was jealous. Everything he’d said and done had been prompted by his fear that she was involved with someone else. The minute he learned Joel was really Joelle, his interest would wane. It was all a game to him.
A game Chrissie refused to play any longer. “For your information, it isn’t Joel I go to see, it’s Joelle.”
Frowning, he looked up. “Joelle?”
“She’s twelve, and I’m her mentor.”
“Are you saying—” he spoke slowly, deliberately “—it isn’t a man you fly out to spend time with every other weekend?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. Not a man. A twelve-year-old girl.”
“But you said—”
“I said nothing. All right,” she added, wanting to be as fair as possible, “I might have let you believe it was a man, but you were the one who suggested it in the first place. I don’t know who gave you that impression, but—”
“Ben,” he muttered, his frown deepening.
Chrissie closed her eyes and shook her head. She’d mentioned Joelle once to Mary, who must have told Ben. Clearly he’d either misheard or jumped to the wrong conclusion or both.
“You talked to Ben about me?” she asked suddenly. She didn’t like the idea of Scott discussing her—with Ben or anyone else. That thought angered her even more. “You have some nerve, I’ll say that for you.”
“Don’t Chrissie me. I’m not a naive sixteen-year-old, nor do I have stars in my eyes. I know exactly the kind of man you are.”
He stared at her. “You don’t know me,” he snapped. “If you did—”
“I know all I want to know.”
Refusing to give him the last word, she muttered, “Fine with me, too.”
It seemed a sad way to end their conversation, if indeed it could be considered a conversation. Scott returned to the loft with an opened can of beans and a fork; she jerked the blankets over her shoulders. Wordlessly she sat and guarded the fire, trying to forget Scott’s kisses.
“WELL?” MARIAH O’HALLORAN glanced up from the secretary’s desk where she filled in one day a week at the Midnight Sons office. Years earlier she’d been one of the first women to respond to the O’Hallorans’ advertisement; she’d accepted the position of secretary and ended up marrying her boss.
Christian gently closed the door and slumped into the chair nearest her desk. Her husband wore a strange look, and Mariah didn’t know what to think. “Scott and Chrissie are back, aren’t they?”
“And?” She hated it when Christian made her dig for every little detail. He knew that she and half the residents of Hard Luck were dying to hear what had happened between Scott and Chrissie. Everyone had hoped the two of them would mend their differences while stranded on Lake Abbey.
In her eyes the situation was ideal. The two of them alone together while the storm raged outside. Christian claimed she was an incurable romantic, but if that was true, then so was almost everyone in Hard Luck. “I want to know about Scott and Chrissie.”
“You and the rest of the town. There must’ve been a hundred people at the airfield this morning when they landed.”