Authors: Jayne Castle
Tags: #Fiction, #General
She dangled the bait -- and he bit. Suddenly Samantha Maitland had the funds to finance the deal of her lifetime -- loaned by an angel with tarnished wings. From the moment they'd met at the posh California spa to his brash arrival at her island home on Puget Sound, venture capitalist Gabriel Sinclair had made it clear he wanted Samantha at any price. What would happen if he discovered the true motive behind her scheme to block Drew Buchanan's Arizona real estate deal? Had Samantha traded her edge in this dangerous game for a reckless passion with Gabriel, a man she barely knew? Or for the ultimate revenge on Drew Buchanan, the lover she couldn't forgive... or forget.
Jayne Ann Krentz
“My God! You’re killing me!” The therapist ignored the
protest, continuing to sweep the length of her client’s bare back with a heavy
hand, her palms sheathed in textured mitts. Chin resting on her hands, eyes
squeezed shut against the breathtaking discomfort of the vigorous rubdown,
Samantha gritted her teeth and willed herself to endure. The pain was not
lessened a bit by the knowledge that she was paying a small fortune for such
refined torture treatments.
“It is absolutely imperative to exfoliate the skin
completely, madam,” the therapist proclaimed, making a serious effort to remove
an entire layer of flesh with a single sweep of the mitts. “The skin must be
thoroughly cleansed of dead cells before it can be properly cleaned and oiled!”
Samantha bit back another moan, having learned during the
past twenty-four hours that it was useless to argue. The fiercely strong and
fanatically dedicated middle-aged woman working over her body was not about to
cease and desist because of the protests of a weakling. The client had paid
good money for the spa treatments, and Miss Carson saw to it that weaklings
like Samantha got their money’s worth. Miss Carson was a professional.
“I’ll kill that travel agent when I get back to Seattle,”
Samantha muttered darkly. But she knew in her heart that it wasn’t the agent’s
fault. It was Samantha who had come across the article on elegant spas in a
fashion magazine, and it was she who had convinced her travel agent to move heaven
and earth to get her reservations. Who would have guessed it was the most
exclusive, incredibly overpriced torture chamber on the California coast? It
had all looked so marvelously relaxing and serene on the pages of the magazine.
Perhaps she could sue the publisher for misrepresentation.
All around the large, white-tiled room other women, all
paying the same exorbitant rates, submissively complied with the demands of the
attendants. Several were stretched out on massage tables, draped as Samantha
was in only a fluffy white towel across their buttocks. Others alternately
froze or steamed in the hot and cold plunges or subjected their muscles to the
throb of a whirlpool bath.
At the far end of the room, glass-walled booths provided a
choice of sauna or steam heat. Down a corridor to her right, Samantha had
learned to her cost, was another room full of exercise machines which appeared to
have been bought at a dungeon yard sale. Elsewhere on the grounds of the
extravagant facility was a restaurant which served from a menu featuring
largely sprouts and yogurt. Samantha had been so disgusted at not finding even
the most modest of wine lists at dinner the previous evening that she had
seriously considered sneaking out at midnight to find a fast-food restaurant.
If her plans for Gabriel Sinclair had not jelled by this afternoon,
she promised herself silently, she would follow through on the scheme to slip
away for a decent meal this evening. It would be tricky. A large, hulking type was
always on duty at the front desk in the lobby, and getting past him would be a
feat. Furthermore the southern California coast was rather wild and desolate in
this area. No telling how far she’d have to drive in order to find something to
eat besides roughage du jour.
“Now, madam, back into the hot plunge. We must open the
pores one more time!” Miss Carson administered one last punishing slap to
Samantha’s thigh and stepped back.
“Anything to get off this table,” Samantha muttered, trying
to sit up and finding her muscles strangely rubberized. “I can’t move!” she
squeaked in horror as the fluffy towel across her derriere fell away.
“Of course you can! Soon you will move better than you ever
have in your entire life!” The stocky woman took hold of one of Samantha’s arms
and pulled her ruthlessly away from the support of the table. The towel, which had
been the only sop to modesty, fell aside completely as Samantha stumbled in the
wake of her martinet of a therapist. She was beyond caring about modesty,
however, other than sending up a silent prayer of thanks for the fact that the
spa catered only to women. The incredible weakness which assailed her limbs was
claiming her full attention.
“I’m not kidding,” she breathed in her soft, slightly husky
voice. “I think you’ve ruined me. Every muscle feels crushed.”
“In you get,” the older woman ordered, ignoring the protest
and the fact that she literally had to support her client with both hands under
Samantha’s armpits. “You will feel much better after the hot and cold plunges.
“This bath is steaming more than the last one,” Samantha
observed dubiously as she carefully stuck a toe into the pool. “I think it’s a
little too hot.” And then, as her toe jerked back out of its own accord: “It is
too hot! Listen Miss Carson, I’m really much more of a shower person. Couldn’t
we try that instead?” She turned pleading eyes on her attendant and saw no pity
in the firm, determined features. Samantha was learning that the staff was
obsessed with a mission, and nothing could alter the course of a true believer.
“The Swiss showers come later. Now you plunge!” Quite
forcefully Miss Carson propelled Samantha into the hot water, an action which
drew a gasp of startled dismay from her victim.
“I’m going to be boiled alive! Really, Miss Carson, I just
read somewhere that hot baths can be dangerous. Bad for the blood pressure. Oh,
Lord!” Her protest trailed off into a squeak of pain, her body now fully
immersed. Up to her chin in the steaming pool, Samantha glared helplessly at
her tormentor who, in turn, studied her victim’s form with professional
The shoulder length, seal-brown hair was drawn into a severe
knot and secured with a wide terry band. The strict line revealed the gentle
planes and angles of a face which, had it not been animated by intelligence and
a subtle hint of passion, might have been deemed ordinary. But the lack of
perfection in the features was just as well. It allowed full scope to the flare
of intellect and lively awareness in the gold and brown eyes. A firm nose and chin
gave evidence of the willpower which guided the basic intelligence, but there
was a nuance of recklessness in the faint tilt of the tortoiseshell eyes.
At twenty-nine years of age it was a face which reflected
character and a sense of self-identity, qualities which had been developed
early in Samantha’s life under the auspices of a mother who had distinct, if
unconventional, ideas on how to raise a daughter. Yet underneath the strong
elements lay a betraying softness, a strange vulnerability that contributed an
emotional element to her nature which Samantha knew she could not blame on
either of her parents. It was, unfortunately, a unique and dangerous quality
with which she had been cursed.
But it was the body beneath the face which was Miss Carson’s
responsibility. Her assignment was to strengthen the slender form which was a
bit too rounded at hip and thigh, according to the spa analysis. With an
experienced eye Miss Carson identified and cataloged the small, high breasts,
the full hips, and the slight curve of her client’s stomach. Too much softness,
the therapist decided.
By the time Samantha left the spa, Miss Carson decided, the
curve of the stomach would be quite flat, and inroads would have been made into
the creeping cellulite at the thighs. But nothing, the therapist knew, would
permanently slow or alter the quick impatient way her client moved. There was a
sense of reckless energy about Samantha Maitland, a dynamic, almost rash force
which, Miss Carson realized, was an intrinsic part of the woman’s nature. It
was temporarily muted now by the extreme effects of the massage and thermal
plunges, but it would return in force once Samantha had recovered. Miss Carson
idly wondered just how much energy her client burned away in simply controlling
her natural impulsiveness. Inefficient.
“Come,” Miss Carson ordered briskly, stepping forward to
assist, “time for the cold plunge.”
“Hell! It’s like ice water!” What had Miss Carson done
before she got this cushy spa job? Interrogation for the CIA perhaps? “I’ll
talk!” Samantha had the urge to blurt out as her body received the full impact
of the cold water.
“Enough of the cold.” Miss Carson held out the white towel. “The
pores have now been tightened again. The cleansing gel is next and then a mist
of water-holding oil will be sprayed on the skin. You will feel like a new
“Good. Right now I feel like a nearly dead woman,” Samantha
muttered as she struggled shakily from the tub. She was appalled at the
unsteadiness of her muscles. It was a little frightening to find oneself so
weak. “I also feel like I need a drink. If I slipped you ten bucks, could you
find me a margarita or a cold beer?”
“The alcohol promotes cellulite!”
“You know, Miss Carson, before I came here I didn’t even
believe in cellulite. I hadn’t realized that there were people like you around
who have dedicated your whole lives to fighting it,” Samantha grumbled dryly.
Miss Carson permitted herself an indulgent chuckle as she
settled Samantha back on the table. “Just wait until this is finished, madam.
You will thank me before you leave the spa. All my clients thank me!”
Samantha withheld her private opinion on the matter, too
weak to argue. What had she done to herself? But it had all seemed so
convenient. So well suited to her scheme. The consummate businesswoman
conducting her affairs in the plush setting of a luxurious spa was just the
image she wished to project. Besides, it would be fun to treat herself while
she waited for the reaction to the bait she had dangled in front of Gabriel Sinclair,
Samantha had decided, and the spa was conveniently close to Sinclair’s home on
the California coast near Santa Barbara.
It had been unbelievably complicated pulling even such minor
details as an address for Sinclair out of the computer, Samantha reflected as
she gritted her teeth against Miss Carson’s pounding. While building his
financial empire, the man clearly had spent a lot of time and energy staying
out of the media spotlight. The very opposite of Drew Buchanan, who gloried in
having his carefully orchestrated deals reported on in
The Wall Street
. That thought made her frown even more than Miss Carson’s less than
gentle ministrations did.
No, there had been very little on Gabriel Sinclair in the
various computerized data bases she had searched. And the very paucity of
information on him had intrigued her. His name had been one of only a handful
of possible people.
For hours her fingers had moved across the keys, drawing
forth information from the computer terminal with the practiced ease of a
musician coaxing a melody from an instrument. Behind the lenses of the pair of
chic designer frames she normally wore, Samantha had eyed the green words which
formed on the screen in front of her. The search had been exhausting, but at
long last she had managed to narrow the list of names down to five.
The winnowing process had been painstaking, the search
requiring all her ingenuity and the full resources of the data bases to which
she had access. But four days ago it had finally come to an end.
On that last afternoon in Seattle a gentle northwest rain
had pattered on the roof of the wraparound porch which cozily encircled the old
Victorian house. The roof of the porch formed a balcony for the bedrooms on the
second level. The rain was a comfortable and familiar sound now to Samantha, as
comfortable and familiar as the computer terminal at which she worked.