Authors: Karen Robards
Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance
Wild Orchids by Karen Robards
Copyright © 1986 by Karen Robards All rights reserved.
He wanted her hungry—hot and wild, burning with desire for him. She wanted him forever.
All her young life Lora Harding had dreamed of a man whose touch would teach her passion. Then suddenly, on a Mexican vacation, there he was… in her car… holding a gun to her head! The most attractive man she had ever laid eyes on was kidnapping her!
He called himself Max. A soldier of fortune, dark eyed and fierce looking, he was a man on the run, forcing Lora to help his outlawed rescue missions. Lora was both terrified and entranced by his presence. But in a lush jungle hideout high in the mountains, her fear melted into liquid fire when her captor crushed her creamy curves to his body with iron-hard arms, claimed the honey-sweetness of her lips, and tormented her with the sweet promise of ecstasy — and total surrender…
"If you like page-turning passion… erotic contemporary books…Ms. Robards certainly triumphs."
One moment he was a faceless stranger standing on a Mexican street corner; the next, he was opening the passenger side door and sliding into the rented orange Volkswagen Rabbit beside her.
Lora Harding's hands clenched on the steering wheel. Her throat went dry. Her heart began knocking like a jackhammer in her chest. This could not be happening, not to her, she thought, and the thought took on the fervency of a prayer. Horrified, she stared dumbly at the menacing looking man folded into the brown vinyl bucket seat beside her. The glint of something shiny in the vicinity of his blue jeaned thighs caught her eye. She looked down at his lap to see the blue metallic barrel of a gun poking out at her from beneath the folds of a grimy sarape that had been carried over his arm as he stood on the street corner, and now rested in an untidy heap on his legs. Her eyes widened with fright, and flew back up to his face. The wide straw brim of a battered sombrero obscured all but a square chin covered by several days' growth of bristly black beard and a grim mouth that was nearly hidden by an evil looking black mustache. But one thing she could see: the man was big. Overwhelmingly so, as he sat so close that she could feel his hard muscled arm crowding hers, so close that she could smell the tangy aroma of male sweat. The gaudy Hawaiian print shirt he wore stretched tautly over shoulders that could have graced a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. Corded muscles covered in sleek, bronzed flesh bulged beneath the shirt's short sleeves. A wide chest tapered down to a narrow waist and flat belly. Muscles bulged again in his thighs, straining against the faded denim covering the long legs jackknifed under the dash. Dusty maroon and silver running shoes in what must have been a size eleven encased his feet. As her eyes ran back up over him with lightning speed, Lora swallowed. Although she was no dwarf herself, she saw at once that in any straight physical fight for her life against this man she stood not a chance. Fight for her life… She shuddered. This could not be happening. It simply could not be happening. Inoffensive schoolteachers from small towns in Kansas were not routinely shanghaied while on vacation in Mexico. Mexico was safe, for goodness sake! Her travel agent had assured her of that! Certainly this ferocious looking man could not be meaning to kidnap
It was impossible…
," she began faintly, knowing there must be some mistake. She would laugh when she discovered what it was…
"Drive," he said in American-accented English, and to remove any possibility of error pulled back the folds of the sarape so that the gun was clearly visible.
Lora tried. She really did. But she had never driven a clutch-type vehicle before nine o'clock that morning when she had rented the tiny VW from the desk of her hotel. Now terror mixed with her natural mechanical incompetence, and in her agitation she let up on the clutch too fast. The car lurched into the intersection, which was fortunately (unfortunately? she was in too much of a quake to decide) empty, then died. She cast a quick, scared glance at the hulking figure beside her to gauge his reaction. The shabby sombrero hid his expression from her—but there was no mistaking the import of the gun that was suddenly jammed hard into her side. Lora flinched, gasping with pain and fright.
"I said drive!"
Her hands and knees trembled in unison as Lora went through the motions of restarting the car. Feverishly she prayed that this time the balky vehicle would obey her without argument. Would he shoot her if he thought she was deliberately malingering? What would it feel like to be shot? Would she die instantly, or slowly, or… ? Lora shuddered. At her involuntary movement the gun jabbed into her side again in a wordless threat. Her palms went icy cold, and she felt sweat start to bead on her upper lip. When the engine turned over, then the car slid through the intersection and on across the bridge over the lagoon without mishap, he grunted and withdrew the gun to his lap again. Lora's terror subsided only marginally. What happened now?
Establish communication with your attacker. Make him think of you as a person, an individual like himself. Be friendly and polite, but above all be calm… The words of the instructor at the rape prevention course she had taken along with many of the other teachers and nearly all the girl students at Augusta High School began to filter into her shocked brain. So did one important rule for never finding oneself in a situation where acting on such advice would be necessary: Always keep your car doors locked, even when you're inside. Well, it was too late now. Lora took a deep breath, praying it would steady her.
"Where do you want to go?" she asked in what she hoped was a reasonably level voice.
"Shut up and drive." The snarl was accompanied by a threatening gesture with the gun.
So much for communication, she thought, shivering. Though the car's air conditioner worked only sporadically, she suddenly felt very cold. Wetting her lips, she shut up and drove past the Convention Center into the town of Cancun itself.
Cancun was the newest and swankiest of the "in" Mexican resort towns—the travel agent who had sold her the package tour had assured her that it had supplanted even Acapuico— and even in the middle of July, which was about as off-season as one could get, it was crowded with tourists. Every hotel on the luxurious strip along the beach was filled to capacity, and the town itself had only the very worst accommodations still to let. Usually the single road leading from the hotel area into the town was packed with traffic. Speeding local taxis vied with lumbering buses, private cars, bicycles and pedestrians for space. The streets of the town itself were normally jammed with free-spending
and locals trying their wily best to persuade the visitors to buy everything from papier-mache marionettes to "real" Mayan silver. But not now, Lora realized with a sinking sensation. It was two o'clock, the siesta hour, and the streets and sidewalks were almost deserted. The only individuals in sight were two shopkeepers who had settled down to nap in rickety wooden chairs just outside their establishment doors. Like the man beside her, they had huge sombreros tilted over their faces to keep out the blazing afternoon sun. Unlike the man beside her, whose electric blue nylon shirt embellished with bright parrots and palm trees screamed that he was a tourist, the native shopkeepers wore loose, short-sleeved shirts of pastel embroidered cotton in deference to the ferocious heat, which topped one hundred degrees as it had every day of the five Lora had already spent in Cancun. During the day, she had discovered, this fabulous, fun-filled resort was griddle hot; at night it was infested with insects.
Glancing nervously sideways, Lora saw that her captor's overbright shirt was damp with sweat, causing it to cling faithfully to the hard muscles of his chest. He was very muscular… Lora jerked her eyes back to the road, feeling cold all over again. This man with the body builder's physique might well be the death of her…
Clearly there was no help to be had from the somnolent shopkeepers. Even if they had been awake and aware, how could she convey to them that she needed help—and would they help her if they understood her plight? Since arriving for this once-in-a-lifetime vacation, she had discovered that Mexico's was a distinctly male-dominated society. Women got many smiling glances, but little respect. Tourists were treated much the same way. Apparently the natives had long since made up their minds that all
were crazy at best and that the most satisfactory way to deal with this infusion of wealthy foreigners was to smile and agree to everything the
said while proceeding to do just as they liked.
"Turn left at the next corner." The low growl brought her attention effectively back to her present straits. Lora chanced a quick glance at her captor to find that he appeared to be looking straight ahead, his eyes on the road. The gun rested lightly on his thighs with the little hole at the end pointed straight at her hipbone. He did not seem to be holding it very tightly. Lora risked another darting glance up at what she could see of his face. He really did not seem to be paying much attention to her at all. He appeared lost in thought… Was there any way she could grab the gun? Lora considered the possibility for a moment. She could stealthily lift one hand from the wheel, reach over, and snatch the thing away from him before he was even aware of what she intended. It was what the heroine in her favorite detective show on tv would do, she was sure. But she wasn't Laura Holt, and this wasn't tv. It was real life her life. If she grabbed for the gun, it would very likely fire. Of course, there was always a chance that it was unloaded, that the man beside her was bluffing, but she didn't think so. He seemed frighteningly sure of himself and of her. If the gun went off, the chances were good that she would be shot, and that was exactly the circumstance she was trying to avoid. Besides, if she did somehow manage to get her hands on the gun, what would she do with it? She had never shot a gun in her life. And her captor would certainly not just be placidly sitting there beside her, watching as she tried to figure out how to work the dratted thing
"Damn it, I said turn left!"
The menacing snarl just beside her right ear made her jump at least a foot in the air. Dear Lord, she had been so lost in thought that she had almost missed the turn. In fact, she had missed it. The gun gouged her ribs again. Lora cringed, trembling. Her hands swung the wheel around violently. The VW practically stood on its two left tires as it spun, bumping over the curb to finally end up heading in the direction he had wanted it to take. As she righted the car, Lora had a faint, sneaking hope that perhaps her wild driving might attract the attention of the local
"Listen, bitch, you pull something like that again and I'll blow you all the way to Alaska. You drive right, within the speed limit, and no more fancy stuff. I need you for cover, but I don't need you that bad. And I got no aversion to hurting women. You better keep that in mind." The gun was jabbed into her rib cage as her captor released the dashboard, which he had grabbed for balance during her little maneuver, and leaned over to grab her by the throat. Lora started as she felt his hand, large and calloused and hot, tightening around her soft neck. Her eyes were huge with fear as they flew to his face. What she saw there terrified her. He looked cruel, all harsh planes and jutting angles and bronzed, weathered skin. His eyes beneath thick scowling black brows were black, too, and narrowed with a deadly obsidian gleam.
"I'm sorry—please…" She stuttered in her haste to convince him.
"You drive right, bitch," he growled, and released her throat, moving back to his seat. Lora was trembling as she shifted her eyes back to the road just in time to avoid running up on the sidewalk. Dear God, he would probably kill her if she did. She righted the car, practically deafened by the pounding of blood in her ears as the true horror of her situation began to sink in. If she wanted to get out of this nightmare with a whole skin, it would behoove her to do exactly as he told her—at least until she could figure out any kind of sensible alternative.
There had to be an alternative. She could not just meekly drive until he told her to stop, at which point he would quite likely order her out of the car, put a bullet in her brain and drive merrily on his way. She had to do something, and the need grew more urgent as the car headed implacably toward the outskirts of town. If she was going to act, her best chance would be now, while there were still people within shouting distance—how did one scream help in Spanish, for God's sake? Would a simple, generic scream of terror suffice? One was bubbling in her throat at that very moment. But she obviously couldn't scream while still inside the car. That would be worse than useless—it would probably provoke him into killing her instantly. No, she had to get out of the car, and persuading him to stop pointing that gun at her was the obvious first step. If he would only put the gun away, she could slam the car into park—could one do that with a manual transmission? She prayed one could—throw open the door, and run for her life. Or would it be better to jump from the moving vehicle? Lora pondered for an instant. If she jumped while the car was moving, she would have more time to escape, but she might seriously injure herself in the process. On the other hand, if she threw the car into park— could she do that? Why hadn't she paid the small additional amount an automatic would have cost?—he would be thrown off balance by the sudden and unexpected stop, which he would not be expecting. All things considered, she decided it would be best to throw the car into park before jumping. (Should she depress the clutch first? Who knew?) But when? Now?