JAKrentz - Uneasy Alliance

BOOK: JAKrentz - Uneasy Alliance
9.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



June 2006

Jayne Ann Krentz


"I'm not leaving without the truth," Torr stated quietly.

"And if you don't happen to like the truth or believe it?" she retorted.

"Then I probably won't leave at all. At least, not without taking you with me."

Her mouth went dry. "Torr, you can't do this."

"Do what? All I'm asking for is an explanation."

"I've given you one! As well as an apology for breaking our date. What more do you think you're entitled to, anyway? Torr, I don't owe you anything!"

"Are you in love with him?"

"In love with who?" she yelped furiously.

"The man in the photograph."

"No, I am not in love with Ward!" Abby shut her eyes in self-disgust as she realized how much she'd been goaded into saying.


"Never mind. Just leave, Torr. Please. I have to get out of here."

"I'd like a last name to pin on him," Torr remarked placidly, studying the photo.

"Well, you can wait until hell freezes over."

He glanced up, his gaze still and strangely frightening. "Don't you know," Torr uttered very softly, "that the outer reaches of hell are already frozen? Hell is a very cold place, Abby. Not a warm one. Cold and infinitely lonely."















ISBN 1-55166-958-7
Copyright © 1984 by Jayne Ann Krentz.
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher, MIRA Books, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.
All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.
MIRA and the Star Colophon are trademarks used under license and registered in
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t was during the third class in the art of Japanese flower arrangement that Torr Latimer finally permitted himself to acknowledge exactly what it was about Abby Lyndon's designs that stirred his curiosity. They made him wonder if she would bring the same impulsive, warm abandon to a man's bed that she brought to her floral creations.

More than that, he reflected wryly as he carefully added a thistle stalk to his own spare design, Abby's arrangements made him wonder about other things too: such as how she would look sitting across from him at the breakfast table the morning after he had made love to her. His instincts told him she would appear as charmingly cheerful and disarrayed as that design of ferns and jonquils she had put together the week before.

He eyed the long honey-colored hair that was loosely arranged in a topknot. The fact that she was wearing sleek black jeans and a black sweater vaguely amused him. She had worn the black leather trench coat again this evening and the entire outfit was reminiscent of military commando attire. But nothing Abby wore could camouflage the bright, vividly impulsive woman beneath. He wondered why she bothered to try.

Hell, he thought grimly. It had been too long since he'd been with a woman. But that wasn't the real problem. The real problem was that it seemed like forever since he'd actually been thoroughly drawn in, mystified by a woman. When a man was facing forty he had no excuse for not knowing the difference between a passing attraction and something far more risky. Torr knew the difference.

And to think he'd signed up for these classes in flower arrangement because the discipline and austerity of the Japanese way with flowers had appealed to his controlled, severe way of dealing with life. It had been a philosophical whim to take the course.

Who could have guessed that the most interesting aspect of the class would be the least disciplined, least austere student in the room, he asked himself. Abby Lyndon would never master the highly formal floral design if she repeated the four-week class all year long. It had first amused and then fascinated Torr to watch Abby's chaotic, blithe arrangements grow and grow until there was nothing of simplicity or moderation left. She was the despair of the instructor, Mrs. Yamamoto, but Torr found himself enthralled and recklessly captivated.

Tonight he wanted to take Abby Lyndon home and do all sorts of intriguing, foolhardy things. The realization made him strangely restless.

He eyed the exuberant design of Queen Anne's lace and daffodils taking shape under her hands as she worked industriously at the table next to his. She had exciting hands, Torr thought. Long, delicate fingers tipped with graceful, oval nails that had been painted the color of carmine tulips. He watched her add a daffodil at an unstudied angle and lifted an eyebrow in silent surprise.

There was something different about the way she was creating her arrangement tonight. Something too intent and almost desperate about the way she was stuffing the flowers into the plastic holder. If he hadn't been watching her so closely for the past few classes he might not have noticed.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a daffodil stalk break as she stabbed it too quickly into the plastic.

"Oh, nuts." The exclamation was a hiss of disgust as Abby tossed aside the broken daffodil. Her brows drew together in a fierce frown as she contemplated the unbalanced creation in front of her. She shot a surreptitious glance at the beautifully simple design taking shape at the next table. Torr Latimer's materials never accidentally snapped or broke under his careful, precise fingers. She chewed her lip morosely as she studied his work.

He looked up as if he knew she were watching him and a cool, reserved smile curved the corner of his rather grim mouth. Everything about Torr Latimer was a bit grim, Abby decided abruptly. Perhaps that was what had been bothering her about him for the past few weeks. There was a remote, reserved aura about him that made her wary. It hinted at strength and willpower, she told herself. Not bad qualities in a man. It was just that she was always going to be careful around strong, self-willed men. She'd had enough of masculine resoluteness and aggression to last her a lifetime.

"I have some more daffodils if you'd like a replacement," Torr murmured gently in the dark, gravelly voice that always made her think of a riverbed.

"You always seem to have extra materials and I never have enough," Abby observed regretfully. "Mrs. Yamamoto says I still haven't learned restraint." She surveyed the conglomeration of daffodils and Queen Anne's lace in front of her gloomily. "It's just that my arrangements always seem to run out of control."

"They have a charm all their own."

Abby smiled in quick gratitude before frowning once more at her flowers. "That's very kind of you, but it should be obvious by now that I don't seem to be getting the hang of this particular style of floral design. You're a natural at it, though. How can you resist the temptation to add more and more materials?"

Torr shrugged, his eyes on the elegantly simple and vital design he had created. "Perhaps I'm just not as naturally adventurous as you are. Do you want another daffodil?" He picked one up from the small pile of floral materials on his table and extended it to her.

Abby looked at the flower lying across his palm and experienced an unexpected wave of curiosity and uneasiness. The hand that held the flower was a strong square one, capable of crushing far more than a daffodil. But the flower appeared quite at home and protected by the blunt fingers. Why did she hesitate to take it from him?

Annoyed with herself for the odd reluctance, Abby reached out quickly and snapped the small gift from Torr. As she did so, she found herself meeting his remote amber gaze. It wasn't the first time she had met his eyes but the small confrontations didn't get any less disturbing with repetition. That grim watchful expression aroused her sense of caution at the same time as it fascinated her. Abby wondered what secrets lay at the bottom of the intelligent amber pools. A man like this would have a few secrets.

She was getting fanciful, she chided herself angrily. Her own little secret was probably making her oversensitive to nonexistent secrets in others.

"Thanks," she said. As she turned back to her arrangement, she continued with a determined chattiness, "I'm sure Mrs. Yamamoto will say the last thing I need is another daffodil in this thing, but it seems to me it's just crying out for one extra bit of yellow. What do you think?"

"What you do with flowers looks like you," he said calmly. "And therefore I'm inclined to give it what you think it needs. By all means, add some more yellow."

"Very diplomatic," Abby shot back dryly as she eyed her design, wondering where to position the daffodil. "You know very well Mrs. Yamamoto is going to shake her head over my creation and then tell the whole class that you've created another masterpiece!"

He shrugged, not bothering to deny the remark. They both knew it was true. "Mrs. Yamamoto understands and appreciates discipline and restraint. She's naturally going to be biased in favor of my arrangements."

Abby's mouth curved wryly. "Meaning I lack those things?"

"Perhaps. I think I envy you."

She glanced up, surprised. "You're serious, aren't you?" She shook her head quickly as if to negate the question. "Scratch that. Of course you're serious. You're always serious."

"You seem to understand me rather well," he said ruefully.

"I've been watching you work with flowers for three weeks now," Abby said, smiling. "I suppose I've learned something about you."

"Really?" He looked genuinely intrigued. "What have you learned?"

Across the busy classroom Mrs. Yamamoto was occupied with other students. It was obvious to Abby that the instructor wasn't going to appear out of nowhere to provide an opportune interruption. Abby was going to be stuck answering the question she had elicited. Torr was watching her with a cool expectancy that made it impossible to retreat. How had she gotten herself into this?

"Oh, not all that much, to tell you the truth. I was just being a bit flippant. Don't take me seriously."

"As you've already pointed out, it's impossible for me to take things any other way. Tell me what you think you've learned about me, Abby."

"Fortune-tellers get paid good money for this kind of work, you know!"

"I'll pay you."

"For heaven's sake!" she exclaimed, startled at the deliberate way he said that. "I was only kidding. Look, I really haven't learned all that much about you. It's just that I get the impression you're, well, rather cautious and conservative about life in general. You probably don't take a lot of senseless risks or go crazy on weekends or do wild, undisciplined things. That's all." He was just like his designs, she thought privately. Concentrated, elegant, restrained. But darned if she was going to say that part aloud!

Torr nodded his head as she rattled off her description. His black hair with its faint trace of gray suited the dark, controlled strength she sensed in him, Abby thought. The thickness of the black lashes, which framed the amber eyes, were the only soft touches amid the harsh angles and planes of his face. He was dressed, as he usually was, in a manner as reserved and dark as his personality. A conservatively cut shirt in a somber pattern of dense gray and indigo stripes, and a pair of expensive well-cut gray trousers outlined a solidly built, utterly masculine body.

He would crush a woman in bed, Abby found herself thinking suddenly and then knew a fierce, highly uncomfortable awareness as her imagination insisted on visualizing what it would be like to be the woman Torr Latimer overwhelmed in bed. Good grief! What was the matter with her? She had more than enough problems of her own tonight without indulging in flights of erotic fantasy.

Beneath her agitated fingers, the daffodil snapped.

She sighed and said, "Mrs. Yamamoto is probably going to kick me out of class."

Torr watched her curiously as she hastily deposited the second broken daffodil into a brown paper bag, the same bag into which she had stuffed the first. "Do you think you can hide the remains that way? Mrs. Yamamoto is the kind of instructor who can account for every missing daffodil."

"I know and now I've got two bodies in the bag," Abby replied. "Oh, well, there's only one more class session. She probably won't do anything more drastic than shake her head in that sad little way she has. I think she's accepted the fact that I'm not going to make it big in the art of Japanese flower arrangement. I heard her encouraging you to show one of your designs at the festival next month, though. Going to do it?"


Abby stared at him. "Of course you are. How could you refuse? Your work is fantastic," she went on with impulsive warmth. "Mrs. Yamamoto wouldn't be encouraging you if she didn't think you'd do very well."

"I'm just not interested, I suppose. I took the class more out of curiosity than anything else. I don't intend to take up flower arranging as a full-time hobby."

Abby's shock was reflected in her blue eyes. "That's ridiculous. How can you say that? Why should you turn your back on something you do so well? You have a talent and I refuse to let you ignore it."

His expression of sardonic inquiry made her realize how recklessly she had spoken. It certainly wasn't any of her business whether or not he pursued his flower-arranging skills. She ought to have learned by now that her natural streak of impulsiveness was not one of her greatest virtues.

"You're going to refuse to let me ignore it?" Torr queried interestedly, as if the notion of another person telling him what he could or could not do was entirely new to him.

"It would crush Mrs. Yamamoto if you didn't enter the competition," Abby pointed out.

"She'll survive." He waited, clearly expecting further arguments.

"You'd probably get a lot of personal satisfaction out of winning a prize for your talents," she added brightly.

"I doubt it." He continued to wait.

The fact that he fully anticipated another push from her annoyed Abby. That waiting, patient quality in him could be unsettling. He was probably just giving her a chance to try dictating to him so that he could smoothly squash the small act of feminine tyranny. Something told her that Torr Latimer was not the kind of man any woman would ever successfully dominate. But the acceptance of his obvious strength of will was not nearly as intimidating as it probably should have been. Try as she might, it was difficult remaining wary of the man. It was more fun to tease him.

Her rashness was going to get her into a great deal of trouble someday, Abby told herself and then promptly forgot the warning, just as she always did. Her mood turned to one of mischief.

"I have an idea. Why don't you design the arrangement and I'll enter it under my name?"

"You'd cheat?" He didn't sound disapproving, merely intrigued.

"Oh, for pity's sake. You really don't have much of a sense of humor, do you? It was a joke."

"I'm sorry. I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes."

She cast him a disparaging glance. "Don't try the humble, self-effacing bit with me," she advised heartily. "I know very well you're not at all slow on the uptake. You're just more interested in the subtle than in the obvious."

"Something else you've learned from watching me design flower arrangements?"

BOOK: JAKrentz - Uneasy Alliance
9.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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