Across the River of Yesterday

BOOK: Across the River of Yesterday
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Across the River of Yesterday
Sedikhan [12]
Iris Johansen
Random House Publishing Group (2013)

Let #1
New York Times
bestselling author Iris Johansen sweep you away to an island paradise of passion and temptation.
They met in the most terrible of circumstances. She was lost, terrified, and in grave danger. He was wounded, wary, and unable to ignore the lovely girl who needed his help. Ten years have passed since that bleak day, and now Serena Spaulding is independent, successful, and unwilling to be strong-armed into anything. Even when the strong arms are attached to a devastatingly handsome man--the very same one who rescued her all those years ago.
All he knew was her name . . . and that he had to see her again. Gideon Brandt has never stopped searching for Serena. And the moment she walks back through the gates of his tropical estate, he is flooded by desire--and overcome with the longing he has endured for a decade. Finding her has taken years, and convincing her that true love is worth the risk could take even longer. But from...

Across the River of Yesterday
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

A Loveswept eBook Edition

Copyright © 1987 by Iris Johansen.
Excerpt from
Slow Summer Burn
by Elisabeth Barrett copyright © 2013 by Elisabeth Barrett.
Excerpt from
Taking Shots
by Toni Aleo copyright © 2013 by Toni Aleo.
Excerpt from
After the Kiss
by Lauren Layne copyright © 2013 by Lauren LeDonne.

All Rights Reserved.

Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

L
OVESWEPT
is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc.

Across the River of Yesterday
was originally published in paperback by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. in 1987.

eISBN: 978-0-345-54617-3

www.ReadLoveSwept.com

v3.1

For Karen Nevois, my friend,
who understands about
yesterdays … and tomorrows

 

Mariba
,
Castellano

The girl’s violet eyes were blank and dazed. She seemed scarcely aware of the trio of human carnivores who had backed her against the wall.

Gideon Brandt had seen that expression of dumb, uncomprehending torment once before, and he wanted to look away before the memories of the day in Na Peng came back to him. Hell, he was probably mistaken. It was smoky as the devil, the lighting in the bar was dim, and the girl was on the far side of the room. If she appeared dazed, it was probably because she was on something. Dope was cheap here in Mariba and sometimes it seemed to him that half the population of Castellano was stoned. The clinging white satin gown the girl wore plunged practically to her navel and she was here in Concepción’s place. Those two facts should have made it obvious to him that she was one of Concepción’s girls and here to serve
the exact sexual purpose of the men surrounding her.

“Pretty little thing,” Ross commented as he picked up his glass from the bar. His gaze appraised the girl critically. “Younger than Concepción usually hires them. Are you thinking about taking a trip upstairs later?”

Gideon scowled. “For Pete’s sake, she can’t be a day over sixteen. I don’t go to bed with teenagers.” He forced himself to look away from the girl across the room, and down at the bourbon in his glass. “And we’re not here to try out Concepción’s new merchandise. Where the hell is Ramón? You said he’d arrive before midnight.”

“He’ll be here. He was very interested in your proposition.” Ross’s gaze was still on the girl across the room. “Those three jaspers don’t seem to have your reluctance to indulge in young meat. Their hands are all over her. Hell, they may not make it upstairs before—” He broke off and gave a low whistle. “Well, I’ll be damned. She’s barefoot.”

“What?” Gideon’s gaze swung back to the girl, who was backed against the far wall. She
was
barefoot. One naked foot peeped out from beneath the hem of the satin gown and for some reason that nudity made her appear even more vulnerable and childlike. As he watched, one of the men reached out and slowly covered the girl’s right breast with his large hand and squeezed it.

She didn’t flinch. She didn’t appear to even feel it. Why was he so damn worried about a hooker who’d probably been turning tricks since she was an adolescent? She clearly didn’t mind being fondled by anything in pants, so why should it bother
him? He tossed down the rest of the bourbon in one swallow. It felt hot and good going down, but it didn’t banish the uneasiness he was beginning to feel.

Ross studied Gideon, shrewdly assessing his mood. “You’re edgy,” he said at last. “I told you, nothing will go wrong with the deal. Ramón has been looking for a man like you for a long time. Why should you be worried? You’ll soon be on easy street.”

Gideon’s lips twisted. “There is no easy street on Castellano. Even after you’ve got it all, you have to fight like hell to keep it.”

He knew very well that this island in the Caribbean was one of the most lawless spots in the Southern Hemisphere, its government rivaling its inhabitants in corruption. The lawlessness of this place suited Gideon’s purpose at the moment, but he had no illusions about longevity in Mariba. He intended to make his fortune and get out before someone could corner him in a back alley and slit his throat.

Ross gave another whistle. “Now, isn’t that pretty?” He lifted his glass to his lips, not taking his gaze off the girl across the room. “I might just take a trip upstairs myself and leave you to talk to Ramón on your own.”

Reluctantly, Gideon looked again at the girl’s slender foot, then at the satin-clad slightness of her body. He inhaled sharply. One of the men had pushed down the strap of her white gown and her left breast was fully revealed: Velvet white, pink crested, surprisingly voluptuous.

He felt an unmistakable tightening in his groin
and the muscles of his stomach knotted in a response that was half anger and half lust. Dammit, before long they’d have her stripped naked for every man in the bar to gawk at. Why the hell didn’t she choose one of those bastards and take him upstairs? Didn’t she realize she was inviting a gang bang? He muttered a curse beneath his breath as his gaze lifted to her face.

She
didn’t
realize it. He doubted if she even knew what was happening to her. It was Na Peng all over. Only this time he couldn’t stand by and let it happen. He had been helpless then, but, by God, he wasn’t helpless now.

He set his glass down on the bar. “Tell Ramón we’ll have to postpone our little chat. I’ll send word when I’m available for another meeting.” He turned away from the bar.

“Where are you going?” Ross was staring at him, dumbfounded.

“The girl,” Gideon said simply. “I’m going to get the girl.”

“Right now? Can’t it wait, for heaven’s sake? She seems a little busy at the moment.”

Gideon shook his head. “I’m going to get the girl,” he repeated. “I don’t think she knows what the hell is happening to her.” He started across the room, his tall, lithe body suddenly radiating a near-explosive tension as he cut an unswerving path through the crowded tables toward the girl pinned against the wall in the back of the room.

Ross hesitated, his gaze on Gideon’s broad shoulders. He had an impulse to hurry after him and try to persuade him to forget about the girl. Ramón was important to them both. What a helluva time
for Gideon’s protective instincts to surface. He quickly dismissed the impulse. Gideon might be swayed by arguments if it were a simple matter of his being hot for a choice little hooker, but not if he thought there was a possibility the girl was a victim. Ross was far too familiar with Gideon’s large collection of lame ducks ever to make that mistake. Hell, he was part of that menagerie himself. He sighed morosely. So much for easy street.

He set his glass down and straightened away from the bar. Three against one. Saint George might need some help slaying his dragons. He threw a few bills down on the bar and sauntered slowly after Gideon.

“Get the hell out of here!”

Gideon dumped the girl in the backseat of the jeep and jumped in beside her.

Tables and chairs were crashing and splintering in the bar behind them while Concepción roared Spanish obscenities above the curses of the brawling patrons of her establishment. Gideon grinned with enjoyment and admiration. Concepción had a magnificent vocabulary.

Ross jumped into the driver’s seat, jammed his foot on the gas, and the jeep lurched away from the curb. He cast a glance over his shoulder just as the door of the bar was thrown open, and Concepción, herself, appeared on the sidewalk. Her curses reached a new high in inventiveness as she shook her fist at them. Ross grimaced. “She’s furious at us. You do realize what a sacrifice I made in helping you pluck your little pullet from Concepción’s barnyard? She runs the best
whorehouse on the island and she’s not about to let either of us back in there after that brawl you started.”

“It was the quickest way to get rid of those leeches who were fastened on the girl.” Gideon shrugged. “A few indiscriminate punches and the whole place exploded.” He leaned back in the seat and stretched his long legs as far as he could within the confines of the jeep. “And Concepción will welcome you back as soon as she gets over her little tantrum. You’re one of her best customers whenever you come to Mariba.”

“May I ask where we’re going?” Ross asked dryly. “Now that you’ve got the girl, what are you going to do with her?”

“That’s a good question.” Gideon turned to the girl beside him. She hadn’t said a word since he had appeared at her side, and had allowed herself to be picked up and handled as if she were a doll. Her breast was still naked and he experienced again the hot surge to his loins that signalled instant arousal. He carefully pulled the thin strap up and over her shoulder, then adjusted the satin over her breast. Close now, he could see she wasn’t only pretty, she was truly lovely. Her long dark hair was midnight silk against her pale, perfect complexion, and those wonderful violet eyes lent startling beauty to her regular features. How the hell had Concepción gotten her hands on prime quality like this? The only thing lacking to complete her beauty was animation.

“What about it?” Gideon asked quietly. “Do you live in Mariba? Is there someplace we can take you where you’ll be safe?”

She didn’t answer. Gideon hadn’t thought she would. It was obvious that an emotional shock of some sort had frozen the words inside her. What kind of shock? Rape was a definite possibility, but, if it had been rape, wouldn’t she have responded when those apes in the bar were pawing her? Unless she had been given something.…

His hands reached out and grasped her shoulders. They felt silken-slender and infinitely delicate beneath his palms. He shook her slightly. “Look, are you on something? Were you given anything? Powders or pills or an injection of some kind?”

She didn’t answer. Her gaze met his own with the same blind torment that had first caught his attention across the crowded barroom.

He slowly released her. “It’s all right,” he said softly. “You’re safe now. I won’t let anyone hurt you. Do you understand?”

She didn’t answer.

“Okay.” His voice was as gentle as his palm cupping her cheek. “Talk to me when you feel like it. I’ll be here. Are you cold?” The wind was blowing her hair behind her in a gleaming ebony stream as the jeep negotiated the deserted streets. “It’s cooling down. I think we’re going to have a storm. Come here.” He drew her closer, tucking her slight weight in the curve of his arm. “You’re not exactly dressed for a midnight drive. Where did you leave your shoes?”

She remained silent, but he thought he could detect the slightest relaxation of the frozen stiffness that was enveloping her muscles.

“Not yet? Don’t worry about it. There’s no hurry.”
His hand slowly stroked her temple and his voice was low. “You know, when something bad happens to me, I try to close it out at first and put it behind me. That doesn’t mean one has to close out the present too. I have some friends among the Hopi Indians and they taught me something very interesting: They have no past or future tenses in their language. Only the present. It must save a lot of worrying.” He tucked a silken strand of her hair behind her ear. “If you come back to me, I promise there won’t be anything to frighten you. All you have to do is live minute by minute and not look back. Then, after a little while, you’ll find that your wound has crusted over, and it won’t hurt you nearly so much to think about it.”

BOOK: Across the River of Yesterday
4.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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