Authors: Janet Dailey
Whose gun fed a hungry people
. . .
whose passion fed a woman’s hungering heart.
. . .
A man as proud and fierce as the lions that roamed his mountain retreat.
As cool, beautiful, and unyielding as the modern towers that stood as bastions of the fortune that would one day be hers.
Now she was Ráfaga’s captive prize, held for a ransom in gold, struggling against the fire he set in her blood.
She called her captor every name, and lived to take back all but one: Lover.
Books by Janet Dafley
The Great Alone
The Glory Game
The Pride of Hannah Wade
Silver Wings, Santiago Blue
Calder Born, Calder Bred
Stands a Calder Man
This Calder Range
This Calder Sky
The Best Way to Lose
For the Love of God
The Hostage Bride
The Lancaster Men
Mistletoe & Holly
The Second Time
Terms of Surrender
Ride the Thunder
Touch the Wind
Published by POCKET BOOKS
Publication of POCKET BOOKS
POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.
Copyright © 1979 by Janet Dailey
Cover art copyright © 1986 Roger Kastel
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
First Pocket Books printing May 1979
30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23
POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster Inc.
Printed in the U.S.A.
A trio of gold bracelets jingled as Sheila Rogers closed the door of her blue Thunderbird. She turned toward the hotel where Brad worked, sleek, tawny hair swinging freely near her shoulders.
There wasn’t a whisper of a breeze. Beyond the towering hotel structure, the waters of the dammed Colorado River were mirror-smooth. On its downward path, a Texas sun was leaving a long, yellow trail across the surface. The February afternoon air was cool against Sheila’s cheek.
Her amber gaze flicked to her wristwatch as she started toward the hotel entrance. It was nearly five o’clock. She had cut it close again. Her shoulders lifted in a typical I-don’t-care shrug that revealed she was accustomed to having people wait for her. It wasn’t a conscious gesture.
Sheila didn’t admit to being spoiled, although she would concede that, as an only child, she had been indulged by a pair of loving parents.
But not by Brad. She couldn’t wrap him around her
finger as she had the other men she dated. Perhaps that was one of many reasons why she was so fascinated by him. Now Brad would be angry with her for being late, but Sheila was confident she could make him forget his displeasure.
At the thought, a faint smile curved her sensuous lips, glossed a dusty-rose shade. Combined with the promising sparkle of her gold-flecked eyes, the movement gave a look of secretive pleasure to her expression, tantalizingly mysterious to a casual onlooker.
Sheila had nearly reached the entrance door when she saw Brad standing to the side of the building with another male member of the hotel staff. The brown light of his eyes was roughly accusing as he met her gaze. He had to have seen her walking from the parking lot to the entrance, yet he hadn’t called out to her. He would have let her waste precious minutes looking for him inside to punish Sheila for her tardiness.
Poised near the door, Sheila gazed at him, her breath caught in her throat. Blonde hair fell with masculine carelessness across his tanned forehead. Blatant virility was stamped in the handsome lines of his face, a suggestion of arrogance in the set of his jaw. Tall, well muscled, his sun-god looks would have set any girl’s heart beating faster. The hotel uniform of a camel-tan blazer over a white pullover with dark slacks accented his male physique.
Each time Sheila saw him, her reaction was the same. First there was a vague sense of surprise that she could have forgotten how stunningly handsome he was, followed by a sense of guilt that she had kept him waiting, however unintentionally.
True, her steps were unhurried, graceful, almost leisurely strides carrying her forward. Her lips parted into a smile, beguiling and faintly apologetic. The bracelets jingled again as Sheila tucked golden-toast hair behind her ear.
“I’m sorry I’m late, honey.” Her voice was low and warm, designed to soothe his irritation.
Brad Townsend didn’t return the smile. He nodded briefly
to his co-worker and took Sheila’s hand in a finger-crushing grip. She breathed in sharply at the pain as he pulled her after him to the side of the building.
“Brad, you’re hurting my hand,” Sheila protested when they stopped, uncertain if he was aware of his own strength.
He released her numbed fingers immediately, his hands grasping her shoulders as he pulled her roughly against him.
“I don’t like being kept waiting,” Brad growled beneath his breath, its warmth moving hotly over her lips a split second before his mouth smothered them.
The kiss was a combination of bruising punishment and mastery. Sheila struggled against his attempted domination even as she thrilled to his possession. His arms encircled her to crush the minor rebellion, the heat radiating from his embrace. Conquered, Sheila tipped back her head to let his hard mouth explore the sensitive cord of her neck and the hollow of her throat.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured, her eyes closed as a fiery weakness spread through her limbs. “I didn’t mean to be late.”
“That’s what you always say,” he muttered, nipping an ear lobe.
Her fingers slid inside the unbuttoned blazer to curve her arms around him, feeling the burning warmth of his body and the flexing muscles in his shoulders and back. His roving hands were moving over her waist and hips to mold her closer to him.
The musky scent clinging to his smoothly shaven jaw was intoxicating. Sheila breathed it in deeply as she exclaimed, “I was asked to stay for a few minutes after my last class, and the time just slipped away from me.”
He lifted his head. “Which professor was it this time? Not that it matters. You are every professor’s pet,” Brad said with a slight curl to his lips.
“It was Benton.” Sheila ignored the faint jeer. “He had some suggestions to make on the outline I had submitted for this semester’s theme.”
“And you kept me waiting while you talked to that dried-up old prune,” he accused.
“I said I was sorry.”
“Maybe I should find out how truly repentant you are.” Brad said it lightly, the dark light of desire in his brown eyes.
With a breathless laugh, she withdrew her arms from around him, letting her hands rest on his chest to wedge a slight space between them. She felt the strong beat of his heart beneath her fingers.
“But you have to be on duty in just a few minutes,” Sheila pointed out, partially aware that she hadn’t exactly told him “no.”
“Yes,” Brad agreed, lowering his head to let his mouth brush the sensual curve of her lips, “and making love to you isn’t something I would want to hurry.”
An inner heat warmed her cheeks. Not from shyness. It came more from the age-old temptation and fear to explore the unknown.
“Don’t say things like that,” she murmured.
“I could always be late for work,” he added suggestively, and her pulse leaped in that odd combination of fear and excitement.
“No.” But Sheila wasn’t certain what she was denying.
His mouth continued to teasingly trace her lips until they quivered with longing for his kiss. Deliberately, Brad ignored their message. Unable to bear the tormenting nearness of his mouth without receiving his kiss, Sheila curled her fingers into his sun-gold hair and forced his head down.
The initiative was taken from her as he claimed her willing lips. The kiss hardened with fiery passion until Sheila felt engulfed by the flames. Her lips were forced apart by the rough demand of his tongue. His sensuous exploration of her mouth fanned the flames into a raging inferno that seemed to isolate them from the world, but it wasn’t so.
“Come on, Brad!” A voice called out, low and impatient. “It’s a couple minutes after five now.”
Cold reality washed over Sheila like ice water as Brad abruptly ended the kiss, lifting his head. Shaken that someone had witnessed her abandoned behavior, Sheila willingly accepted the support of Brad’s arms, letting him shield her from any knowing looks.
“I’ll be there in a few minutes. Tell the boss I’m here but that I’m helping somebody start their car.”
“I’ll cover for you,” the voice assured Brad in an unmistakably suggestive tone. “Call me if you need help.”
“I won’t need any help,” Brad said with an arrogant laugh.
The footsteps faded behind them. A vague sensation of revulsion twisted Sheila out of Brad’s arms. Yet the weakness from the overwhelming passion he had ignited moved her only a foot away. Her back was turned to him as he stepped after her, his hands settling familiarly on her waist.
The warmth of his breath stirred her hair. Sheila stiffened in spite of the unsatisfied ache in the pit of her stomach. The light touch of his hands seemed to burn through the material of her clothes to her skin.
“Embarrassed?” he mocked softly. “Tom only saw us kissing. That’s all.”
“It’s not that.” Sheila moved her head to the side to deny his assumption.
Brad immediately took advantage of the gesture to bury his mouth in the silken tangle of her hair along the outer curve of her neck. Her senses leaped in answer to the caress as his hands spread across her stomach, drawing her back against his muscular chest.
“I don’t think you realize what you do to me,” Sheila whispered.