Read Rainsinger Online

Authors: Barbara Samuel,Ruth Wind

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction, #Fiction / Contemporary Women, #FICTION / Romance / Contemporary, #FICTION / Romance / General

Rainsinger (2 page)

BOOK: Rainsinger
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Malaria often twisted her vision, so it was no surprise to see the shimmering lights around the face that was so close to hers. Nor was she surprised to find the face itself almost dreamlike in its perfection. It was the sort of face Winona’s fevers were inclined to produce—dark, dominated by cleanly cut cheekbones and beautiful, cocoa-colored eyes with light deep within them. Long, long hair, the color of pecans, fell over his shoulder as he tried to help her up. A lock of hair touched her mouth and she dizzily lifted a hand to it, unsure whether she was dreaming. The hair was cool and coarse and heavy, a vividly sensual impression.

He was
real
.

Terror jumped in her chest. “Joleen!” She had meant to cry out the word, but it came from her throat as a croak.

“Joleen is fine,” he said. “She’s okay. Rest now.”

Winona nodded heavily, and had to close her eyes against the shivery arcs of light. Somehow she found herself again lying down. Gentle hands—his hands?—settled a blanket over her. She thought she felt a lingering hand against her ear, but couldn’t be sure.

The fever carried her away.

* * *

 

“Was that my sister?” Joleen asked, coming into the room.

Daniel straightened, nodding. “She wasn’t really awake.”

“It’s good she woke up a little, though.”

“Is it?”

“Yeah.”

The kid still wore her baseball cap and the painfully ugly glasses. She carried her milk with her into the room, obviously feeling more comfortable as she wandered over by his computer desk.

“You like computers?” he asked.

She shrugged. “I guess. I’ve never seen one this fancy, though.”

“It’s what I do for a living.”

“Make computers?”

“Software.” He was actually supposed to be working now. A major project was due in two weeks, and he was a long way from finished. “Maybe I’ll let you mess around on it in the morning if you want.”

“That’s okay.” She moved away carefully, her face blank. “I know adults have to use them to work.”

He frowned. “Do your parents use computers for work?”

The tiniest flicker of something crossed her schooled face.

“Nope. They died.” As if she’d said no more than she lived in Ohio, she wandered toward the bookshelves. “You have any reading books?”

Daniel grinned. “Reading books?” He picked up the comb he’d been using when Winona had scared him with her shout. A faint, sensual memory of her fingers twining in his loose hair flashed over his vision. Firmly he rewove his braid and fastened it.

“You know, like novels,” Joleen said, tilting her head to read titles.

“Some.” He stood and pointed out the various sections of the bookshelves. They were organized according to the Dewey decimal system. He hadn’t gone quite so far as to put numbers on the volumes, but only because he’d lacked the time for all his projects. “Fiction is over here. It’s alphabetized, so if you take a book, please put it back where you found it.”

The girl paused, looking up at him with a startled expression. “You alphabetize your books?” she asked, biting her lip. “All of them?”

He gave her a rueful smile. “Yep. I hate not knowing where something is.”

“Oh, so do I,” she said fervently.

It was the first real emotion he’d heard from her.

“I used to have all my drawers at home labeled.”

“Is that right?” He smiled. “I guess I don’t have to worry about you messing up my system, then, do I?”

“No, Mr. Lynch.”

He shifted. “Listen, Joleen, I have to work tonight. You can read anything up there, and I also have a bunch of movies in the basement.”

“Movies?” She brightened. “You have movies?”

“Bunch of ‘em.” Television reception at the ranch, unless you had a satellite dish, was next to nothing. “Nothing fancy, but it’s a pretty good TV and VCR. You know how to work a VCR?”

She nodded.

“All right, then. I’ll get you some blankets and you can sleep down there. If you get hungry, you don’t have to ask me—just go into the kitchen and get something. I kind of forget things when I’m working.”

“I understand.”

Something about her fragile maturity tugged at him. This was a child who’d been too much on her own. “Are you okay? Do you need anything?”

“No, thank you,” she said, her blank expression firmly in place. “How do I get downstairs?”

Daniel showed her the door to the basement and flipped on the light, then watched her go down. “Remember,” he said, “you want anything, just come get it. There’s Kool-Aid and fruit and chips. Just help yourself.”

“Thank you,” she said politely from the bottom of the stairs. “I’m fine.”

Daniel nodded. But she wasn’t fine. He could see that easily enough. Poor little waif.

Back in the living room, his gaze fell on the snapshot he’d framed from Luke and Jessie’s wedding. Luke, Jessie and Giselle, a family at last. It reminded him forcefully just why he couldn’t afford to let his emotions get caught up in the needs of lost little Joleen.

His heart had been shredded quite enough for one lifetime.

Chapter Two

W
inona awakened slowly.

First she became aware of a clicking sound. Repetitive, but not rhythmic. A faint, tinny sound of music from somewhere. A soft curse, a pause in the clicking, a cough, and it started again.

The extreme dizziness from her high fever was gone, though she still felt her illness in her limbs and a certain indefinable sensation that meant she wasn’t quite through with this bout. But she was better. Much better.

Without moving, she opened her eyes to get her bearings. A dim room, with a single lamp burning in one corner, illuminating pine-paneled walls she remembered instantly.

Faintly she smiled. They had made it to the ranch. Things had been very fuzzy toward the end. She had a vague recollection of taking her quinine pills at the tax assessor’s office, the excruciatingly bright New Mexico sunshine as they drove to El Durazno, and a blip of herself falling into the waiting arms of the hammock—then nothing.

Or was it nothing? How did she get from the hammock to the couch? A hazy memory of a man’s strong, warm arms—

The clicking paused again and Winona blinked, shifting her head to look for the source of the sound. An elaborate computer with wires going everywhere occupied Uncle Jericho’s enormous desk. Bathed in the blue light from the monitor was the man she thought she’d dreamed.

For a single, breathless moment, her heart squeezed. He was real.

Good Lord.

He sat in profile to her, utterly absorbed in whatever he was doing at the computer. That was the clicking noise: his fingers on the keys. He typed fast and had good hands, lean and long fingered, with the elegance of bone Winona associated with musicians and artists. She remembered how gentle they’d been when he had helped her earlier.

Slowly she followed the line of bones and tendons up his arm, exposed by a simple blue tank top that set off the burnished walnut tone of his skin. The arms themselves were nicely rounded without being ridiculously pumped, as if he labored honestly at some physical profession. She hesitated, afraid she really had dreamed the face.

She raised her gaze and let it settle softly on his profile, and her heart squeezed again. Not a dream. A high, intelligent forehead; prominent cheekbones slanting toward a nose as elegantly carved as an arrowhead; a clean, hard jaw. His mouth was luscious, especially in contrast to the angles above it—a mouth to die for, sensual and mobile, made for a woman’s hungry lips.

And hair. Oh, yes, that long, long hair she had touched. Winona closed her eyes to test the vision, just in case she was still so feverish she had hallucinated him. It seemed impossible that she should find such a man in the world, and that she should discover him at El Durazno, of all places. If she had special-ordered him from heaven he could not have been more perfectly beautiful.

Winona opened her eyes. He hadn’t disappeared. His fingers tapped away at the keys, and he nodded to himself, peering earnestly at the screen. As she watched silently, he picked up a bicycle bottle and drank some dark liquid from it, then took a pencil from behind his ear and scribbled a note on a yellow legal pad at his elbow. He was left-handed.

So was she. It seemed an omen.

She must have made some sound or movement, for he abruptly turned to look at her. “Hey, there, Sleeping Beauty,” he said.

The voice, too, was as she remembered. Low and resonant, ever so faintly lyrical, with an accent she didn’t recognize. “Hi,” she said, and heard the hoarseness in her voice.

He put his pencil down and stood up. Tall, too. Oh, it was too much. Too cruel. No one who looked like this ever gave Winona a second glance.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

Winona moved an arm, up, then out. Pointed her toes. “Okay, I think.” Slowly she shifted to a sitting position. Her hair felt wild and she touched it self-consciously.

Then it hit her. This was no dream. She was at El Durazno, with her fragile little sister, Joleen, and this strange man.

She frowned thunderously. “Where is my sister, and who are you?”

The man’s eyes narrowed, but he quickly righted himself.

“Your sister is downstairs watching movies. And I’m Daniel Lynch.” He paused. “I live here.”

Winona felt dizzy and put a hand to her head. “You’re the one who paid the back taxes,” she said wearily.

“Correct.”

She slumped against the back of the couch. She had no idea what they would do now. “I didn’t know you lived here.”

“Tell you what—let’s not worry about it just yet. Joleen said the malaria lasts a couple of days. Is that right?”

“Usually.” Judging by the way she felt, this attack might not take that long.

“Well, there’s no rush to talk about any of this. Your sister is safe and entertained. You can amble on back to the bedroom at the end of the hall and sleep off the malaria. When you feel better, we’ll talk.”

Winona stared at him, trying desperately to pretend she had a functioning brain. But it was no use. She didn’t. “I’m sorry to impose. I thought the place was abandoned.”

“It was.”

His tone implied that he’d put a lot of work into the house, too. Her heart sank.

As if her face had given her away, he said, “We can talk when you feel better. Nothing has to be decided tonight.”

She nodded. “My sister is downstairs? Will you call her? She’ll feel better if she sees I’ve come out of it a little.”

“Sure.”

He moved out of sight, and Winona didn’t have the energy to turn her head. Lynch, she thought, thinking the name rang a bell. She couldn’t place it.

And while he was safely out of the room, she wanted to go about the embarrassing business of getting up. With a grunt, she pushed herself forward on the couch and put her feet down. Slowly, she eased to a standing position and paused. Dizziness assailed her, but she fought it and stepped forward. Unsteadily.

“Hey, there. You could ask for help, you know.”

Daniel was beside her, one firm hand on her elbow, the other around her waist.

“You don’t appear too steady.”

Winona turned her head, and she had to look up to his face. It was only a little ways up, but it counted. He was taller than she was by a couple of inches, and his chest was deep and strong. “I’m okay,” she said huskily.

He smiled. “No, you aren’t. Your sister said you’ve been in the Peace Corps, but you don’t have to be brave around here. Put your arm around my waist.”

Winona stared, frozen. Put her arm around his waist? Voluntarily put her body in contact with her ultimate sexual fantasy? She’d probably collapse entirely. “I’m fine.”

The grin broadened. “Then I’ll hang on to you.”

Joleen came in behind them and gave a little happy cry. “Winona! You’re better.”

Winona turned too quickly, and the lingering fever bolted through her nerve centers, knocking everything akimbo. Violently she grabbed for the nearest brace, and it was Daniel. She gasped softly as she tried to right herself, and then his arms were loosely laced around her, holding her steady. Their bodies barely brushed, her breasts against his torso, her hips against his. She smelled a sharp, vivid scent of male heat and spice deodorant, mixed with washed skin and salt. His breath warmed her chin and she gripped his arms.

“You okay?” he asked.

Winona swallowed and moved her body out of contact, hoping he didn’t think she’d staged the dizziness. How embarrassing. “Yes.”

Joleen walked over. “Come on, I’ll help you to bed, then bring a big bottle of water. By supper tomorrow night, you should feel much better.”

“Thanks, kiddo,” Winona said, gratefully transferring her hands from Daniel to her sister. She looked at him. “Thank you.”

She’d surprised an oddly intense expression in his eyes.

“Rest” was all he said.

* * *

 

Daniel was amazed at the change in the kid. The mousiness disappeared and she took charge like a little mother when Winona was awake. Maybe, he thought to himself as they left the room, she was just shy around strangers. Not uncommon in thirteen-year-olds.

With a sigh he sat back down at the computer. His specialty was designing individual systems for businesses to streamline their operations and improve communications. This particular project had been a nightmare from the beginning, and it wasn’t getting any easier. He picked up the juice bottle, took a swig and frowned at the screen. The blinking cursor waited for his input.

Winona Snow. A good name for her, with that froth of pale hair and her vividly blue eyes. Her coloring made him think of a winter day in the Southwest. The rest of her made him think of all kinds of things he hadn’t thought about in a long time. Heated things involving mouths and hands and—

With a frown, he put on the mental brakes. Where the hell had all that come from?

Absently Daniel lined up the edge of the keyboard with the edge of the desk. It had been a long, long time since he’d had a woman. His unrequited love for Jessie had kept him celibate for years, and since she’d found Luke, no one had even faintly interested him.

BOOK: Rainsinger
8.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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