Read Dangerous Pursuit (The Protectors) Online

Authors: Margaret Daley

Tags: #Harlequin author, #Debra Webb, #Carla Cassidy, #Romantic suspense, #Rita Herron

Dangerous Pursuit (The Protectors) (5 page)

BOOK: Dangerous Pursuit (The Protectors)
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Seated in the restaurant, Brock seemed content to let the silence lengthen between them. Silence made Samantha nervous, and she sought to fill it.

“What do you do for a living, Mr. Slader?” 

“Brock. Formalities are for the civilized world thousands of miles away.”

Samantha waited for him to answer her question, but he lapsed back into his silence. “Yes, well, Brock, why are you in the Amazon?” she asked, using a different approach to discover more about him.

“Looking around.” He sipped his drink and watched her over the rim of his glass.

“For what?”

“Something to make me money. I have bills to pay just like everyone else.”

“Oh” was all Samantha could think of to say. They lapsed back into silence.

After their meals were served, Samantha tried to think of a way to ask him for his help again. This time she ate her fish with relish while mentally discarding one plea for help after another.

She had to appeal to his chivalrous side. No, he didn’t have one.

Well, then, she could appeal to his greedy side. Yes, that he had.

“I’m glad to see you’ve got your appetite back. That must mean you’re not nervous anymore.”

“No, it only means my stomach overruled my nerves.” 

“I’m glad one part of you has common sense, Sam.”

“Don’t call me that!” Only Mark called her that. When her brother said Sam, it was a teasing name because she had been a tomboy while growing up. But when Brock said Sam, it made their relationship suddenly intimate, familiar.

“Why not?”

She grasped for a reason to put their relationship on a more formal level. “Because—because Mark does.”

“Sam fits you better than Samantha.”

She pressed her lips together and refused to say another word on the subject. If he wanted to call her Sam, she realized he would. She was beginning to see that Brock Slader lived by his own rules. Did the jungle do that to a person? Its harsh, unfamiliar environment certainly demanded a lot.

She waited until they were both through with their dinners before bringing up the subject of his help. She watched as he finished his after-dinner coffee. Now that she had decided what she would offer, how should she broach the subject? Finally she settled on the direct approach.

“You say you’re in the Amazon for money. Well, I’m offering you a way to make some. All I need is a few days of your time. As I told you earlier, I’ll pay you well for your assistance. In fact, I’ll double my offer. Two hundred dollars a day." She inwardly cringed as she pictured all her savings going up in flames. But her brother was worth every penny and more. "And if we find Mark, I’ll throw in a bonus.” She paused to let her suggestion sink in. “From what I gather, you need the money.”

“No.” Not one emotion flickered across his face.

“Do you have anything better to do for the next few days?” What was wrong with her offer? As she traipsed through the city today, she couldn’t imagine a better one coming up any time soon.

“The answer is still no.” He pulled out some money and tossed it on the table. “I’ll take you back to your room, then make the calls from the lobby. If I have any news for you, I’ll contact you.” He rose, towering over her.

“Won’t you at least think over my offer? Please.” She hated to resort to begging, but he had forced her to. She was desperate, and a desperate woman did desperate things.

“We’ll meet tomorrow morning about the phone calls.”

“Then that means you’ll think over what I’m offering. Even in the States that’s good money for a day’s work.”

“No, Sam. I merely meant we’ll have breakfast together, and I’ll give you the rundown on the hospitals and clinics, so you’ll know where you stand. Of course, if I find your brother in one, I’ll let you know immediately.”

“I’ll wait with you in the lobby while you make the calls.”

He gave her an intense stare. “No. I doubt I’ll find out anything, since you would have heard through normal channels. But you look exhausted. There’s no reason for both of us to stay up.”

She was tired and didn’t savor waiting in the Grand Hotel lobby, not after her experience in other hotel lobbies earlier. Her room would serve the same purpose. “You promise you’ll let me know right away if there’s any chance he’s at one of the hospitals?”

“Of course. Then you’re on your own, Sam.” 

Samantha had never felt so deflated in her life, but if he thought she had given up, he had a surprise in store for him the next morning at breakfast. Somehow she would come up with a way to convince him to help her, because as they had searched for her brother that afternoon, she had reluctantly realized that Brock had given her a sense of security. He was a man very capable of taking care of himself—and her. And some of the rough places she knew she would have to go to in her search called for a man like Brock.

As they walked back to the hotel, Samantha asked, “Have you traveled in the jungle much?”

“A bit.”

“Do you know anything about the Para Mission?”

“I’ve never been there, but I know where it is. Why?”

“My brother mentioned it, that’s all.” She lifted her shoulders in a shrug, trying to appear casual.

Again Brock fell silent, and she realized how comfortable he was with silence. She supposed when a person traveled in the jungle he had to be comfortable with isolation. She loved people. That was what she liked most about her job, the customers who came into her store, the small talk they exchanged about what was going on in their lives.

As they mounted the third set of stairs at the Grand Hotel, exhaustion burrowed deep into her bones. She knew she’d never take an elevator for granted again.

At her door she turned toward Brock to set a time for their meeting the next morning. She was startled by his nearness, but with her back flattened against the door, she couldn’t take a step away.

“What time?” Her words rushed out in a breathless stream.

“Tomorrow morning?”

She nodded, her throat tight.

“Eight.”

“Fine. I’ll…” Her voice faded as his hand reached up to cup her face.

His fingers slid around to the nape of her neck, and she thought her legs would buckle. When he started undoing her bun, her eyes grew round.

His gaze darkened and his voice was husky as he said, “I’ve been curious all day what your hair looks like down.”

He combed his fingers through her mass of curls and arranged it about her shoulders. She was paralyzed. No one had ever been so bold, and yet she was mesmerized by his sensual caresses. Samantha couldn’t have protested if she’d wanted to, but she realized she didn’t want to.

“Your hair is beautiful. It’s a shame to put it up.” His voice was rough with passion.

She drew in a deep breath but couldn’t seem to fill her lungs. “It’s so hot. It’s cooler when it’s up.”

His mouth descended toward hers slowly. His fingers slipped again into her hair as his mouth came down on hers in a gentle kiss, a feathery brush across her lips. Then his hands glided down her back to mold her against him, his hips trapping her between him and the door as his mouth covered hers with an enticing force.

When his tongue parted her lips, her tongue met and parried with his, a sensuous dance between them. Their hearts beat as one, like a jungle drum. Their breaths mingled, like the two mighty rivers at Manaus. Their hands discovered, like explorers in the virginal Amazon.

When he pulled away, his labored breathing attested to the effect she had on him. “I think I’d better say good-night, Sam.”

How could he even think after that kiss? she wondered as she watched in a dreamlike state while he put distance between them.

“Yes, you’re right,” she murmured, realizing she was lying. She hadn’t wanted the kiss to end. Too late, that realization sent off alarm bells in her mind.

Across the hall he waited while she unlocked her door. Her lips still tingled where his had been only a moment ago. She managed to let herself into her room without collapsing, but the second the door was closed, she leaned back against it for support.

That was when she saw him, a man, shrouded in the shadows of night, peering in through her window.

She screamed.

CHAPTER FOUR

 

For a timeless second the man on the balcony and Samantha stared at each other. Then another scream ripped from her throat, and the man fled.

“Sam, let me in!” Brock pounded on the locked door behind her.

She couldn’t move.

Brock threw his body against the door, and the wood splintered near the lock. “Sam!”

The force of Brock’s body against the door a second time propelled Samantha into action. She couldn’t afford to replace the door, and the clerk downstairs would charge her an arm and leg for it. She swung the door open, and Brock raced into the room.

Stopping in the middle, he spun around, poised and ready to do battle. When he saw only Samantha, he faced her, confused. His look made it clear what he was thinking. Was she one of those women who got hysterical over the slightest thing, despite her assurances to the contrary?

“Why did you scream?” He relaxed his taut muscles.

Samantha raised a trembling arm and pointed to the balcony door. “A man—a man was looking into the room.”

Brock pivoted, strode to the balcony door, and threw it open. After scanning the balcony in both directions once more, he started to turn back into the room when he saw something and bent over to pick it up. 

When he reentered the room, a frown creased his brow. “Whoever was here is gone now. I found this, though.” He held up the cigar butt for her to look at. "It’s still smoldering."

Seeing the cigar butt explained the smell of cheap tobacco that permeated the air. It also meant that the man had obviously been inside her room. She eased down onto the only thing to sit on in the room, the bed.

Samantha was quaking so badly that Brock could see it. He put the cigar out in the ashtray on the table and sat beside her, drawing her against him. “He wouldn’t dare come back tonight, Sam.”

She buried her head into his shoulder, feeling safe with him so close. “I’m scared.” 

“That’s perfectly normal,” he whispered while stroking her.

“What if he does come back?”

“He won’t. I’m sure your screams frightened him. They sure gave me a scare.” 

Samantha smiled and lifted her face to look up into his. “You should hear me scream when I’m watching a scary movie on television. Of course, I refrain from doing it at the movies, but at home I think it’s my way of letting off steam.”

He smiled. “Now, that would be an interesting sight. Do your neighbors ever complain?”

“Not yet.”

“Tell you what, Sam. I’ll make the calls to the hospitals tomorrow morning. I’ll stay the night here in your room.”

“Here!” Her voice was squeaky, and her eyes widened as her mind raced with thoughts of him in her hotel room.

“On the floor, of course.” His grin was crooked and there was laughter in his voice. “Unless…”

“No, the floor is fine,” she replied quickly, relieved that she wouldn’t have to spend the night alone. 

She needed her sleep, and now at least she would be able to get some—she hoped. The memory of the kiss earlier popped into her thoughts. She would just have to stop her mind from visualizing her and Brock alone… Whoa. What in the world was she doing? Fantasizing about a man she’d only known a day. She never did that. She was too practical and in control for that.

“Let me get a few things from my room. I won’t be gone long. Lock the door after me.”

“Does the lock still work?” she quipped.

“If it doesn’t, just scream. I’ll hear you.”

The first five minutes that Brock was gone, Samantha’s eyes were glued to the balcony door. She was certain the man would materialize again despite Brock’s assurances otherwise. Was that man on the balcony the one responsible for her brother’s disappearance? How long had he been in the room? Why was he spying on her? Had he taken anything?

Samantha forced herself to look away from the balcony door and assess if anything was missing or misplaced. Everything seemed to be in order. Then she thought of Mark’s suitcase. Quickly she knelt on the floor and searched under the bed. It was still there. She pulled it out and examined the piece of luggage. It was locked and appeared as it had earlier. With her teeth gritted she tugged on the handle, trying to open the suitcase. She glanced around for something to use to pry it open.

There was a knock on the door.

Samantha jumped, hurriedly slipping Mark’s suitcase back under the bed.

“It’s me, Sam.”

When she heard Brock’s voice, she sagged with relief. Her nerves were stretched to their limit, she realized, as she went to the door to let Brock in.

He carried a pillow and blanket as well as a few toilet articles and immediately proceeded to make up a bed on the floor. Samantha watched, transfixed by his movements, a study in concise action. What would she have done earlier if Brock Slader hadn’t helped her with the hotel clerk? She shuddered thinking about it.

When he was through, he straightened and glanced over at her. “Are you all right?”

“I think so. But so much has happened this past week.” She swayed, her mind spinning.

Instantly he wrapped his arm about her, supporting her as he led her to the bed. “You’re emotionally and physically exhausted. You need to sleep. We’ll talk in the morning. I’ll be right here, so you’ll be safe.”

He pulled back the sheet, and with her clothes still on, Samantha sank down onto the lumpy bed, oblivious to the world within seconds…

Samantha ran toward the jungle, the pounding footsteps behind her closing in. The plants and vines enclosed her in a world of semidarkness, their branches clawing at her clothes as she tore through the dense foliage in her attempt to evade the men following her. With each step she gasped for air, her lungs burning.

Then suddenly the jungle was no longer surrounding her. She entered a clearing and stopped for a few second. But the footsteps grew even louder. Frantically she scanned the clearing for a way to escape as she rushed toward the opposite side. Plunging back into the thick undergrowth, she had only gone a few yards when she came to an abrupt halt at a cliff overlooking a river and a waterfall.

BOOK: Dangerous Pursuit (The Protectors)
12.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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