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Authors: Tracy Cooper-Posey

Tags: #romance

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BOOK: Bannockburn Binding (Beloved Bloody Time)
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The inside of the tent, he was relieved to see, had been tidied by the pageboy he shared with four other officers. It had been a half-hearted attempt, but the tent at least looked somewhat civilized. The furs on the ground had been beaten and re-laid and his personal belongings stowed in the chest.

Rob lifted the rope around the woman’s wrist up and hitched it to the tent pole, high up above her head so she could not lift the rope off by herself. It raised her hands very high. For a moment, they stood face to face, with only the heavy bole of the tent support between them.

Sweet temptation soared through his veins in a scalding, aching rush. He had only to drop his hand from the rope, slide it down the length of her arm, to tuck his hand beneath the heavy swell of her breast where it lifted her gown in a full, ripe mound….

She was looking him square in the eye. There was not a single whisper of coyness in her glance. He wondered for an insane moment that if he dared let his gaze linger in the depth of her eyes, would he see mutual knowledge there?

He made himself step away. His whole body seemed to pound with the effort it took to move from her.

“Ye arms will lose feeling,” he told her, his words more brusque than he intended them to be. “Then they’re going to throb, the like of which ye’ve never felt before. Then they will start to burn. Ye may want to reconsider giving me your word, before then.” He turned to go.

“Wait!”

He turned back and lifted his brow. In this low light she almost seemed to glow, so pale and flawless was her flesh. Her lips were full and tempting beyond belief.

“My manservant. What do you intend to do with him?” she asked.

“What do ye care? He led you into danger.”

“He…has sentimental value to my family. I would rather he stay by my side.”

“So he can untie ye the moment my back is turned? What sort of fool do ye take me for, m’lady?”

Rob stalked out of the tent, his black temper roused beyond belief. He kicked the servant up off the ground where he lay shivering, to alleviate his mood.

Such scattered, inane thoughts over a pair of dark eyes and pink lips. He was addled.

* * * * *

 

Ursella Shun hated vampires with a carefully hidden distaste and all-encompassing prejudice that humans in bygone centuries had once held for different races and religions. Ursella Shun was the twenty-third century’s bigot.

That was why someone with a sense of ironic humour had appointed her the head of the Historical Defence Bureau, which had oversight jurisdiction of the Chronometric Conservation Agency. It was Ursella’s monthly inspection tour of the Agency and as usual she was making her tour in person.

Nayara sent Christian Hamilton to meet Shun at Halfway Station and escort her the rest of the way to the Agency. Who better to smooth Shun’s feathers and put her in a good mood than a genuine Southern gentleman who had been raised within a system of intricate bigotry and racial differentiation?

The fact that he could draw a sword, take Shun’s head off and sheath it again before she had time to open her mouth and scream probably wouldn’t even occur to Shun. Christian Lee Beauregard Jackson Hamilton knew how to pour on the charm when he needed to.

So Nayara hovered in the receiving lounge, watching the shuttle nudge its way up against the docking clamps with infinite care, and laughed at her own nervousness. The station went through this craziness every month, thanks to Shun insisting on visiting in person. They should be used to it by now. But every month they turned themselves inside out trying to placate the diminutive Shun.

The status lights over the bay doors flickered over to green. After a moment or two, the doors opened. Then Tinker, the human pilot, emerged. He gave Nayara the thumbs up and headed down the passage toward the kitchen and the tiny office he used as his quarters when he arrived at the station. He would grab a quick meal and wait to return Shun to Halfway Station.

Then Ursella Shun and Christian emerged. Christian was bending over the tiny woman, listening respectfully as she spoke. He wore all black as he always did, which made his blonde hair seem even lighter. He glanced up, a single flicker of his green eyes, spotting Nayara. He lifted his hand, silently guiding Shun over toward Nayara as Shun continued to speak.

“Director Shun,” Christian said, breaking into Shun’s monologue. “See, Ms. Ybarra is waiting for you.”

Shun frowned, looking up at Nayara. “Nayara,” she acknowledged, brushing at the long skirt of her pristine white business dress.

“I trust your journey was comfortable, Director Shun?” Nayara asked. “Christian did procure you the best seat on the beanstalk, I trust?”

Shun’s lips thinned. “You know perfectly well I get vertigo in freefall.”

Nayara painted a smile on her face. “Of course, you are always more than welcome to take advantage of the shortest route here.”

Shun didn’t quite shudder. The quickest route to the agency involved direct contact with vampires. Flesh on flesh. Ursella would rather suffer through freefall and twelve hours of travel than have a vampire put their arms around her. But she would never say that aloud. Instead her face grew taut and her eyes neutral. “Of course,” she said stiffly. “Is Mr. Desmond in his office?”

“Ryan is waiting for you, yes.”

“Would you like me to show you the way, Ursella?” Christian asked.

“Thank you, no,” Ursella said shortly. “I know my way from here. Thank you for your company, Mr. Hamilton.” She nodded at him and moved stiffly down the corridor toward the administration section of the station.

Christian blew out a long breath once she was out of hearing range.

Nayara rested a hand on his arm. “Thank you, Christian. What else can I say? I know what she is like, but with you, Ursella does arrive here in a more amenable mood.”

“Oh, I don’t mind soothing her for you, ma’am,” Christian replied, in his soft southern drawl. “Except I know that she’ll be in Ryan’s office for twenty seconds and he’ll have her all riled up once more. That Irish temper of his…” He shook his head.

“It’s not just Ryan,” Nayara pointed out. “Ursella isn’t always a diplomat, either.”

Christian gave her one of his slow, knowing smiles. “Ryan
is
the diplomat, Nayara. Why are you the one pouring all the oil on the waters?”

She couldn’t help smiling. “Want me to pull rank and tell you where to put your nosy question?”

“If you want me to escort the wonderful Ms. Shun back to Halfway, I wouldn’t if I were you.” But he wore a smile, too.

“Damn it, Christian, you have no respect for your elders,” Nayara replied.

Christian touched his hand to an invisible hat brim. “I find it hard to remember to treat you as anything but a lady when you’re so beautiful and sexy, Nayara.” He turned, heading for the living quarters. “’tis little wonder Ryan’s temper is so unstable,” he said over his shoulder. “You really should consider putting him out of his misery, you know.”

Nayara quietened the lurch of her heart Christian’s parting words caused and waited for her breathing to steady before she turned in the other direction and headed for Administration. Christian was irreverent, that was all. It didn’t mean he was accurate. He had simply been deflecting her gentle admonition back. Yes, that was it. He had been on the defensive.

Her mind and heart settled, Nayara tapped back into her messages and tasks as she walked, picking up the myriad strings of her busy day, deliberately dismissing Christian’s barb from her memory altogether.

After all, Christian was no judge. He had his own
affaire de coeur
troubles.

Chapter Two

 

Rob managed to stay away from his tent until sunset, then he could stand it no longer. He found a platter that was near to clean and heaped piping hot stew upon it, grabbed a hunk of honey bread and even managed to scrounge up a spoon. He took it all back to the tent, with a lantern in the other hand.

She was slumped against the tent pole, her face against her arms. His heart leapt into his mouth at the paleness of her. “Natalie, lass,” he murmured. “I’ve food for ye.”

She didn’t move and his fear bloomed larger. After all, she had been doing naught but picking mushrooms. If he’d killed her….

He sat his burdens down and cut her hands free with his dagger. She fell against him, a dead weight.

“Ye should’ve called out sooner, lassie,” he told her, knowing she probably couldn’t hear him. He began to massage her upper arms and shoulders, where most of the strain would have been.

She flashed to life, her knee driving into the front of his kilt, aiming for parts that no maiden should have been aware of. Her arms stiffened, the elbows driving into his chest. Her right elbow landed true and his shoulder instantly numbed, leaving his left arm useless.

She squirmed out of his reach and lunged for the dirk he’d left on the skins behind him.

Both furious and amazed, he threw himself on top of her, reaching over her head to pin her forearm to the floor, even as her fingers closed on the haft of the knife. With his left arm useless, he could only pin her down until his weight and her own struggles exhausted her.

“Wriggle all ye like,” he told her harshly. “It’ll do naught but tire ye and make your meal cold. I have no intention of letting ye take the knife.” He shook his fingers as feeling started to return to his arm. “And the longer ye wriggle the sooner my other hand will recover.”

She lay still and silent. Waiting.

As soon as he was able, he reached with his left hand and tossed the knife far out of the way. Then he flipped her on her back.

Instantly, she heaved upwards with her head, intending to smash her forehead into his and blind him. But he had been ready for such a trick and was out of reach, so she did nothing but strain her already stressed shoulders. She fell back on the skins with a cry of pain, her eyes closing.

It was much too close to a more intimate positioning than Rob cared to consider. He cleared his throat. “Ye cannot win any match against me, Natalie.” His words emerged ragged and harsh. “D’ye not see? Will ye not give it up and let me treat ye civilly?”

She was breathing deeply, but the eyes were slit open, showing dark brown and black. “Give me back my manservant.”

“I canna.”

She turned her head away. “Then I cannot, either.”

“Look at me,” he demanded harshly. When she remained still, he brought both slender wrists under his left hand and gripped her chin to bring her head around. She merely closed her eyes.

So Rob kissed her, intending merely to shock her into opening her eyes. And they did open wide, but that was all he noticed before the sensations of kissing her swamped his senses. Her mouth was soft, pliable and tasted like ripe peaches. Everything about her was soft, warm, and delicate. His tongue slipped between her lips.
Sips of honey
, he thought.

It was the last coherent thought he had. His body took over. He let it happen. The drive to have more of the taste of her, to take more, was overwhelming. He let his body press against hers, feeling her with every inch of his length where she lay beneath him.

And her tongue met his.

Her soft moan as she melted against him made the internal flame blaze up, demanding more and more. Silvery excitement shot through him.

Abruptly, with a cold dash of alarm, he realized what he was doing. What they were doing.

He wrenched himself away and she, too, slithered back until she was up against the tent pole, her arms against her chest defensively. Her veil had dislodged, revealing pale golden hair tied in a thick skein at her back. The brown eyes were very round. “What…do you think you are doing?”

It was the proper question any maiden would ask.

Rob spoke carefully. “I am a block-headed fool. I must be, for the only other truth is that you and I both know what we were just doing.”

She bit her lip.

The small sign of doubt was more endearing than anything else she had said or done this day. “We cannot,” she said and it had a hopeless, final quality to it.

“Aye and I would not, not with you.” He got up, the heaviness in his limbs making his actions awkward.

“Because I am English,” she said, her voice harsh.

He picked up his dagger and slid it back into his boot. “Because ye are my captive. Only the English spoil their winnings, lassie, but ye could say more on that than I.” He pointed to the platter, which was still steaming. His hand shook. “That is for you. I suggest ye eat it, for there’s naught else to be had this night.” He threw the rope aside. “I’ll not tie ye again, so I must guard ye instead. Don’t try to go under the back of this tent, either. It’s dark now. Anyone caught wandering the camp who can’t answer the day’s challenge will be run through.”

And he got himself out of his tent while he still could and let the leather fall across the opening. He hoped it would be barricade enough.

* * * * *

 

Ryan was in the second hour of the month’s three-hour review session with
Ursella
Shun
, so the interruption was more than welcome. It was gruelling having to justify and defend Agency business to a woman who hated his kind and resented the very existence of the Agency, even though the Agency was the reason she had a job.

BOOK: Bannockburn Binding (Beloved Bloody Time)
12.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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