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Authors: Nina Bangs

An Original Sin (21 page)

BOOK: An Original Sin
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“Clumsy women!”

She turned in his embrace to glare up at him with blue eyes sparking danger, and full lips pursed in anger. So close. So tempting. “Mayhap
clumsy
isna the right word.” If he leaned a little closer, he could touch those lips with his—

“It’s these stupid stairs.” She scowled at him as though he were personally responsible for crafting each step. “They’re narrow. They’re winding. They’re dumb. Who in their right mind would build stairs like these?”

Her words momentarily diverted his thoughts from her lips. “Men who had to defend this castle from enemies. Narrow, winding stairs allowed a man to protect himself from any who tried to climb them.”

“Right. I should’ve known. Everything in your time comes back to violence.”

Backing down a step, he stared up at her. “Ye dinna find much to admire about my time, lass.”
Ye dinna find much to admire about me.

An emotion he couldn’t identify flickered in her gaze, then disappeared. “Leith, I come from six hundred years in your future. Everything in our lives is different. How can I admire what I don’t understand?”

“There is one thing that hasna changed.” Reaching up, he pulled her down to him and covered her mouth with his. He kissed her deeply, hungrily. There was no gentleness in his kiss, only the savage need welling in him, the need to prove his time had something hers would never have, that
he
had something her time would never have.

Surprised, he realized she met him with the same urgency. Her tongue tangled with his, searching, drawing the very breath from him. And as her fingers clasped the back of his head, pulling him closer, he thought she’d made a fitting mate for a warrior, a woman who’d stand beside her man and not behind him.

The shock of the thought made him pull back to stare at her. He knew he must wear the same glazed expression as Fortune. Her lips swollen from his kiss and the soft glow in her eyes made him groan with his need to take more, but he must stop now. It would not do to tumble down these stairs a second time.

He smoothed back several curls that had fallen across her forehead. “Mayhap these stairs are haunted, lass.”

“Haunted?” Her breathy reply sounded bemused.

“Aye. Haunted by all the lusty warriors who followed fair maidens up these steps, watching the wondrous sway of their—”

“You mean all the dirty old men who groped fair maidens on these steps and got knocked on their behinds for their trouble. Now I understand who’s tripping me. It’s the spirits of all those lechers who cracked their skulls when they hit the bottom step. Served them right.”

Her smile lit up his heart and scared the bloody hell out of him. “ ’Tis certain ye’d ne’er choose to live in my time.”

She still smiled, but her gaze had turned serious, assessing. “Only if my life depended on it, Leith.”

“Aye.” He didn’t understand his stab of disappointment. After all, he’d expected no other answer. And he’d
never ask her to suffer the primitiveness of his life. So why…

She sighed. “We’d better get some work done.” Turning, she continued up the stairs and into the study. Glancing at the couch, she made an impatient sound. “Mary must’ve put the library books somewhere else. We’ll need them to get the big picture. Why don’t you do a little exploring on the computer while I go downstairs and hunt up those books?”

“I dinna know how.” He kept his tone even, unemotional, and tried to quell the strange hurt. She wouldn’t expect him to understand modern machines, but he couldn’t help his feeling of inadequacy. He didn’t belong here. Lord, let him return to Scotland soon.
Even if it means never seeing Fortune again
? He realized he wasn’t sure.

Hunching her shoulders, she rubbed the back of her hand across her eyes, then smiled up at him. “Sorry, of course you don’t. How could you? But you can learn. Why don’t I show you how to get on the Internet, and you can do some surfing while I go down and get Mary to find those books for me.”

“Aye.” He’d seen the many things one could learn about on the “ ’Net,” although it resembled no net he’d ever seen. “ ’Twould keep me amused.” Like a child. Was that how she thought of him? A primitive child to be kept amused while the adult did the really important work? He ran his fingers through his hair. He must stop being so sensitive. She’d meant only to be thoughtful. “Thank you, Fortune.”

Her brilliant smile rewarded him. “Here.” She beckoned him to sit beside her as she showed him what he needed to know.

Several minutes later he had the basics, and she rose to leave the room. “When I get back we can go over what
we covered yesterday. Since we’ve already done an outline of the massacre, layering in the emotion and other details should be easier.”

He could tell her the story would never get easier for him.

She’d barely left the room before he’d turned eagerly back to the computer. Where should he start—history, science? Perhaps he should start with something simple.

Downstairs, Fortune hunted fruitlessly for the books. She didn’t see Mary, but she did find Stephanie grimacing as she washed soil from her hands.

Fortune grinned. “Escaped garden duty, I see.”

Stephanie sighed and offered her a glimmer of a smile. “Plants hate me. I touch them, and they shrivel up and die.”

Fortune stared at her. That faint smile…Stephanie seemed familiar, but she didn’t know why. Must be her imagination.

They were alone. With no one around, Fortune could ask the question eating at her. There was no need for politeness. “Stephanie, if you love Michael, why do you look at Leith like he’s your favorite dessert?”

Stephanie’s gaze turned cautious. “Who said I loved Michael? We have an…arrangement. We’ll have a kind of modern marriage of convenience.”

Surprised, Fortune stared at her. “Why?”

“My name. It goes back generations, and every generation has passed it on with pride.”

“So?”

“It’s my turn now. I’m the last of our line, and it’s up to me to make sure the name continues.”

First Leith and now Stephanie. How could anyone be obsessed with a name?

“Michael understands. He’s agreed I can keep my own
last name after marriage. And every child I have will understand the importance of carry ing on my name. In return, I’ll give Michael an intelligent, glamorous wife who’ll further his career.”

Fortune thought of the millions of women in her time who’d kill for the love of a man. Her horror must’ve shown because Stephanie looked defensive.

“I have an obligation to the family name.”

“Is there a man you really love, Stephanie?”

Surprised, Fortune watched Stephanie’s eyes fill with tears.

“Yes, but…I can’t marry him.”

“Does he love you?”

Stephanie nodded as a tear slid down her cheek. “But he’s sterile. The family name would die with me.”

Fortune absorbed her bitter stab of envy—that here was a woman free to marry the man she loved—and her anger that Stephanie chose to reject her love.

In her need to influence Stephanie, she put her hand on the other woman’s arm. Stephanie didn’t move away.

“Don’t do this. Your family name won’t keep you warm on a cold winter night. Your family name won’t comfort or hold you during the hard times.”

“But my name is—”

“A name is
nothing.
” Fortune tightened her grip on Stephanie’s arm. “When you’re old with nothing but memories, would you rather remember your name or a lifetime spent with the man you loved? Choose love, Stephanie. It’s too precious to throw away.”

“You…you sound like you’ve had a lot of experience.”

Fortune knew her smile was bitter. “A lifetime.”

“But you have Leith now.”

“Yes, I have Leith now.”
But I still don’t have love, will never have love.

Stephanie gazed at her with uncertainty. “I’ll…I’ll think about it.”

“Follow your heart, Stephanie.” Strangely embarrassed by her outburst, Fortune resumed her search for Mary and the books.

A short while later, carefully watching each step she took, Fortune hurried up the stairs. Finding the books had taken longer than she’d expected.

Had Leith missed her? Would she find him pacing the floor, anxious for her return?

She didn’t know whether to feel relieved or insulted when she found his attention still riveted to the monitor. What could hold his concentration so completely that he didn’t know she’d entered the room? Maybe he’d discovered information about Glencoe. Moving up behind him, she peered over his shoulder.

“Oh!” She clamped her hand over her mouth and resisted the urge to fling her other hand across her eyes.

“What?” He glanced at her over one broad shoulder.

“That…that…” Her vocabulary didn’t include words to describe what he had on the screen.

“Aye, ’tis interesting.” He returned his attention to the screen. “Although I dinna know if I could enjoy making love in that position. Mayhap when I was younger I could have—”

“I can’t believe…” Her gaze trailed down the graphic description beneath the picture. “How…? Where…?”

“I typed in
sex.
” He turned to face her, his eyes dancing with amusement. “Ye must remember that primitive humans dinna spell words of more than four letters, and I couldna think of a more interesting short word. Ye look bonny when ye blush, lass.”

She reached around him to remove the objectionable picture, and he gently but firmly grasped her wrist. The
easy strength in his grip reminded her of what he was, what he could do if he chose. Something in her expression must have mirrored her thoughts because his smile died. He dropped her wrist.

“Ye dinna need to remind me, lass. Ye think me a barbarian, and mayhap ye’re right, but I find nothing to embarrass me in a picture of a man and woman making love.”

While he spoke, Fortune read the rest of the page. “Have you read this?”

A glimmer of his smile returned. “Barbarians dinna read. They just look at pictures.”

Hmm.
She had to finish that last sentence. Scrolling down to the next page, she continued reading.
Interesting. Outrageous, but interesting.
“You know, I can use this stuff.”

“How?”

She couldn’t mistake his hopeful tone. Making note of the website, she clicked off the Internet. Waving him out of her chair, she set up the page for today’s writing.

The intense stab of desire when she thought of field-testing with Leith some of the things she’d read about had caught her by surprise. She’d tried so hard to be rational, to reason away the roiling need he stirred just by being near, but no amount of logic meant a thing where her body was concerned.

“I’ve never even thought of some of that stuff. I bet I could program my men to—”

His swift exhalation spoke of disgust. “And this is the world ye would take me to, where a man is nothing but a thing to be programmed? What would they do to me, lass, when I didna perform the way they wished?”

Surprised, she glanced up at him. “We’re not talking real men here. There’s no emotion involved.”

“If ye think that, then ye dinna know yer own sex verra well. For a woman to find satisfaction with a man that isna real, she must have a fantasy. She must picture a
man growing hard beneath only
her
touch, moaning only
her
name as he spills his seed, needing only
her.
The physical act wouldna be enough.”

He was starting to make her mad. Turning to face him, she placed her hands on her hips. “Oh, and I suppose you know all there is to know about women?”

“I know a great deal more about women than ye know about men.” His frown had disappeared, and the glitter in his eyes suggested he was enjoying their argument.

She tilted her head and glared up at him. “I wouldn’t count on it. For example, I can tell you from personal experience the physical act is quite enough.” When had she become such a liar?
He
was her only personal experience.

He stared at her intently. “Ye think mounting one of yer fakes could make ye scream yer pleasure the way ye did when ye lay beneath me? I dinna believe it.”

She didn’t believe it either, but now that she’d taken her stand, nothing would make her recant.
Stubbornness.
Her many fl aws continued to amaze her.

“Don’t get me wrong, Leith. You’re a very attractive man, and I’m sure that had a lot to do with my pleasure. But I certainly didn’t feel an emotional involvement.”
Right.
If she was going to lie, she might as well tell a big, juicy one.

Dark color gathered along his cheekbones. He looked angry. She immediately felt more cheerful.

“I suppose ye could have mated wi’ Michael and enjoyed it as well?”

Don’t say it. Don’t even think about saying it.
She said it. “Possibly.” Had that word come from her mouth? How could an out-and-out lie feel so exciting?

His eyes narrowed to stormy green slits. “Aye. He could whisper sweet numbers in yer ear. Excite ye wi’ tales of logic.”

She smiled sweetly. “Perhaps.” Her enjoyment escalated
in direct proportion to his anger. That said something about her character she didn’t want to examine right now.

His voice was low, hoarse with emotion. “Take Michael back wi’ ye. He would fit in yer world. He would ne’er grow emotional, ne’er become violent. Ye’d be perfect for each other.”

But he’d never make me feel like this.
She felt she might explode with the joy of battle, the undercurrent of fear. He looked as though he wanted to wrap his hands around her neck and—

The sound of footsteps swung her gaze to the door.

“Sorry to interrupt your…academic discussion, but lunch is ready.” Stephanie gave Leith a long glance before leaving the room.

“Well, that was a productive morning.” Surprisingly, Fortune meant it. She rose and stretched. She felt amazingly energized, and hadn’t the slightest idea why. Yes, she did. As strange as it might seem, she’d had a wonderful time arguing with Leith. And best of all, she’d won! She almost floated down the stairs on a fluffy cloud of triumph.

While she soared high on a cumulus cloud, Leith rumbled along on a black thunderhead of dis pleasure. She gloried in that dis pleasure because…because…Pausing before entering the kitchen, she considered why she was so happy. His anger had focused on her attitude toward their mating and Michael. All of which pointed to a bit of jealousy. Why should his jealousy make her happy? They didn’t have a future together, so what was the point? The point was that she no longer understood herself, and that was a dangerous situation.

BOOK: An Original Sin
4.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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