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Authors: Sally Clements

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BOOK: Bound To Love
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She kissed Angelique, then walked to the passenger side of the car.


Salut
, Tempest, I’m in London next month, so we can do it again.’

‘Absolutely, Angel, next time I’ll take you to all
my
favourite places!’

Jake climbed into the car and accelerated out into the traffic, eying the elegant creature beside him.

‘Do you want to take your hat off?’

It was completely irrational, but he really wanted her to, he felt wrong footed by this different Tempest. He wanted his Red back.

‘I think I’ll keep it on until we get home.’

A twitch of those scarlet lips. She knew exactly how he was feeling, and was enjoying the power she was wielding so effectively.

She ran a manicured hand over the leather of the car’s interior, and purred.

‘This is delicious.’

It was difficult to keep his attention on the road as it was, but the sound of her husky voice was almost his undoing. He gripped the steering wheel and fought to get his traitorous body under control.

‘I had a good meeting this afternoon. The team are well prepared for the Louvre and they should be finished within a couple of weeks.’

‘Mmm, that’s good.’ She lifted one elegant leg and crossed it over the other. The movement made her skirt slide higher up her smooth thigh, and heat flooded his body.

At least the apartment is almost in sight
. In a few minutes, she would be in his arms. He pulled into the first available parking space and followed her clicking heels and undulating hips towards the elevator. As the doors closed behind them, he stepped forward but she stepped back out of reach. He raised his eyebrows questioningly, and then understood her motivation as the door slid open on the first floor.

It was torture, being so close and not being able to touch. A torture she didn’t seem to be experiencing. She was all cool composure, no telltale flush this time. The elevator stopped at their floor and he carefully slid back the ornate iron gates, breathing in a waft of some expensive perfume as she brushed past him to enter the apartment.

‘So, do you like my new dress?’ She turned around in a slow circle, showing it off.

‘I like it.’ Jake reached for her.

‘And my new hat?’

‘Yes, will you take it off now?’

In answer, she reached up and removed her sunglasses, placing them carefully on the small circular marquetry table next to the door, and then removed a pearl hatpin that was holding the hat in place, laying it on the table next to her sunglasses.

Her hair was tied up in an elegant topknot. He pulled the pins from her hair, releasing it to tumble in a riot of flaming curls down her back.

‘There’s my woman again.’

He couldn’t believe the primitive macho words that tumbled out of his mouth, and didn’t even try.

‘Jake, I’m all ready to go out. Aren’t we going for dinner?’

‘Later.’ For the first time in his life he was having trouble with a zipper, and she turned in his arms.

‘It might be easier if you can see what you’re doing,’ she said.

Her breathing shallowed as he nuzzled the spot where her neck met her shoulder. She wasn’t immune to his touch, just pretending to be.

Her dress pooled on the floor and the last of his control evaporated as his hands slid down the cream silk teddy.

‘Are you trying to give me a heart attack?’

‘You like it?’ She grinned, pulling off his tie and peeling his shirt from his shoulders as she walked backwards into the bedroom, undressing him efficiently as he followed.

‘You know I love it.’

The shoestring strap of the teddy slipped off her shoulder. Jake stopped dead, staring. Tempest smiled and pushed down the other strap. Slowly, the silky garment slid to the floor. She reached for the garter-belt.

‘Leave it.’

In garter-belt and high heels, Tempest was the living embodiment of one of his fantasies, but as he gazed into eyes darkening to navy she was much more. Time seemed to stop as he stepped closer, his large hands spanning her tiny waist. Their previous lovemaking had been frantic, but now Jake wanted nothing more than to take his time.

‘You’re very beautiful. Have I told you that?’ he murmured, tracing her cheekbones with his lips, and breathing in the lemon scent of her hair. Her head tilted, and his lips dusted over her earlobe.

Her swift intake of breath telegraphed that she was enjoying his slow exploration, and her voice was husky as she answered. ‘You might have mentioned it once or twice … ‘

Jake sat down on the bed, linked his fingers through hers and tugged her onto his lap. ‘I want to kiss every gorgeous inch of you. Starting here.’ He nuzzled her neck, stroking her breasts and feeling his body’s response as she moaned and arched closer.

‘This time, let’s take it slow.’ And even though he wanted her more than he’d ever wanted anyone before, they did.

 

Chapter Eleven

 

Tempest woke to the soft brush of fingers caressing her cheekbone, and opened her eyes slowly. Jake sat next to her on the corner of the bed, fully dressed.

‘Time to wake up, sleepyhead. I’m sorry it’s so early, but we have to get ready. We’re flying down to Marseille in three hours.’

She sat up, and the sheet fell instantly to her waist. ‘OK, it will only take me ten minutes to pack.’

‘But two cups of coffee to be able to face it?’ he teased, lying down next to her on the white linen sheets.

‘Surprisingly, no.’ She looked at him in amazement. ‘You’ve done something to me; I’m waking up in a different mood these days.’

‘You do something to me too.’ He pulled back the sheet. ‘And if it’s only going to take ten minutes to pack, that means we have almost an hour before we have to leave.’

He kissed her ear. ‘Which means we have time.’

‘Oh good.’

Her mouth met his hungrily, as if they had been apart for weeks, rather than hours.

****

Jake had hired a small plane to fly them down to Marseille, and the fight was quick and uneventful. Although it was still only morning, a heat haze came off the surface of the tarmac as they hurried across it, carrying their bags.

‘Jake!’

A lanky, long-haired Frenchman ran towards them.

‘Etienne!
Ca va
? Tempest, this is my cousin, Etienne. He’s giving us a ride.’

Etienne grinned and kissed her on both cheeks, looking her up and down with an appreciative nod.

‘I am most delighted to meet you, Tempest. Follow me, my car is over here.’

Music blared out over fields of lavender as the sun beat down, the breeze coming in through the open window and teasing her hair. Perhaps Angel was right. Perhaps they did have a future together, once they’d ironed out some of the things that kept them apart. Jake clasped her hand in his, squeezing it tightly as they drove into the yard of a picturesque old farmhouse, scattering geese in their path. An old man, arm linked to a younger woman, stepped out of the back door to greet them.

They were barely out of the car before the old man had his arms around Jake, hugging him warmly in delight, his deep voice breaking with emotion in rapid French. Jake kissed his grandfather, easing away to pull Tempest close.

‘This is my grandfather, Jean Luc. And my aunt, Céleste.’

He kissed his aunt.

‘Meet Tempest.’

Céleste kissed Tempest then Jean Luc’s arms squeezed the air out of her as he chatted rapidly.

‘My French is so terrible!’ she whispered, embarrassed that she couldn’t communicate with the old man.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll translate.’ Jake replied. ‘Jean Luc is used to doing all the talking. It’s rare anyone gets a word in, even if they do speak the language!’

Jake turned to his grandfather and French words rolled easily off his tongue. Hearing him speak French set off an uncomfortable tingling deep inside. She shouldn’t be feeling aroused. Not now, with his family around them, but she couldn’t help it. Jean Luc’s rapid nods showed he understood Tempest didn’t speak very good French. She tried to concentrate on the old man, smiling and raising her palms heavenwards. It was easier than concentrating on Jake, at any rate.

‘You must settle in,’ Céleste interrupted. ‘Jake will take you upstairs and show you your room.’

Jake led Tempest upstairs with a parting grin to his relatives. They were sleeping in adjoining rooms. He turned the light on as she walked in, the brilliant sunlight shut out by heavy wooden shutters which covered the open windows. ‘We use the shutters to keep the house cool, and the bugs out. The bathroom’s in here if you want to freshen up.’ He opened a hidden door to reveal a compact bathroom, its window closed and shutters open to reveal a view of the mountains and forest. ‘Make your way downstairs when you’re ready, I’ll go and answer all the endless questions that I’m sure both Grandpère and my aunt are tormenting Etienne with.’

He rolled his eyes.

‘I don’t think you appreciate what a big deal it is, me arriving here with a girl. But believe me, you’ll know all about it by the time those two get through with you!’

She must have looked as worried as she felt. He laughed. ‘Oh come on, you’re well able to deal with the third degree, you told me about your mother, remember? Anyway, you have one advantage that I don’t have.’

‘Oh, and what’s that? Sparkling wit? Charm?’

‘A language barrier.’ He kissed her hard, wrapping his arms around her. ‘The most intense part of the interrogation will be directed at me, in French. You’ll escape all that.’

‘Well, in that case you’d better go and face the firing squad.’

His grandfather called his name weakly up the stairs.

‘It begins!’ Jake said, reluctantly releasing her to go downstairs.

Tempest washed quickly and freshened her make up. She brushed her hair in front of the full-length mirror, and hung the few clothes she’d brought with her in the large, wooden wardrobe. Jake was different in the midst of his family. Younger, less serious.

She checked her appearance once more then went down to join the others for lunch.

‘Out here!’ Céleste called from a wooden table under the scarred olive tree. As Tempest walked closer, the warm, aromatic smell of rosemary and lavender teased her nostrils.

‘Oh, this is just heaven!’

The heat of the sun beat down on her bare arms and Céleste smiled indulgently.

‘I’m so glad you feel that way, I think that every day I lunch out here.’

Céleste turned as Jean Luc, Etienne and Jake came to the table. The meal of fresh, crunchy French bread, local cheeses and salad was delicious.

Jean Luc spoke quickly to his grandsons, shaking his head in answer to a question from Céleste as she walked in from the kitchen, carrying the cafetiere.

‘My grandfather insists that Etienne and I go to the oak forest, the truffière, for a walk. He says we have to go now before fatigue sets in and we disappear inside the house for an afternoon nap.’

He smiled as he translated his grandfather’s next words.

‘He wants to take advantage of the time he has with both of his grandsons at the same time. There’s a big dinner tonight, and he won’t get a word in then.’

Jean Luc slowly got up from the table.

Jake stood too. ‘Apparently all of my cousins are coming over for dinner tonight. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen most of them.’ He raised his eyebrows and lifted his shoulders in a gesture of defeat.

‘Oh, great!’

A large enthusiastic family gathering, when already she was missing half of every conversation as her school French struggled to keep up. She pasted a grin on her face.

Céleste sat down next to Tempest, setting the cups in front of them. ‘Now, you and I will have coffee, and a nice chat.’

‘See you later, darling.’ Jake kissed her soundly on both cheeks and whispered in her ear. ‘You’ll be fine. She’s not as scary as she looks.’


Salut
,’ she responded, biting on the inside of her lip to avoid grinning at his whispered comment.

Céleste’s English was perfect. She would make an expert interrogator in either language. The older woman had declared herself fascinated to meet ‘the first woman he’s ever brought to meet his grandfather,’ and she was certainly giving as much information as she got. ‘Jake was very unhappy when he first came here. He was only twelve, with no French, and no father. He has told you about his father’s death, yes?’

‘Yes, he told me they moved from America after his father died.’

‘After his father was killed;’ Céleste corrected. ‘Vivienne was devastated and she needed her family around her. Also, because John died so young, there was no pension, and Vivienne had to come back to France. She couldn’t afford the rent.’

Her fingers played with the coffee spoon.

‘Jake is an easy man to love, but a difficult man to know. It was hard for him. He had to start again, and the children in the village had never met an American before, even if his cousins were French. He played with Etienne, but he was always, how would you say, weighed down with worry for his mother. It took a long time for her to recover from the murder.’

‘Murder?’ Tempest echoed the word quietly. Jake hadn’t said anything about murder, and she hadn’t asked.

‘Jake never speaks of his father, even to us. It is too painful for him, I think. I am not surprised that he hasn’t told you about it. I don’t think he ever will speak of it again.’ Céleste poured Tempest another cup of the fragrant brew and breathed in deeply. ‘John went to the bank, an ordinary, everyday visit. While he was in line, there was a robbery. The burglars told everyone to lie on the ground, but one woman refused and one of the thieves pointed a gun at her. John got between her and the bullet.’

Tempest’s heart swelled. ‘Oh, how terrible.’

How awful for his mother, to tell her son that his father was dead. And how terrible for Jake, to lose his father so young, and under such circumstances. Jake had told her his mother wouldn’t risk his safety and was desperate to let her know he was unharmed after the raid. He knew his mother would be reliving the horror of his father’s death.

A pale yellow butterfly landed on the table, opening and closing its wings in the sunlight.

BOOK: Bound To Love
10.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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