Authors: Abby Green
Jesse went upstairs to get her swimsuit, and was passing Luc’s bedroom door when she heard a sound. Without thinking, she glanced in. She could see right through the open door to his bathroom, where his tall and tautly muscled form was stepping out of the shower.
Jesse stopped in her tracks. She couldn’t seem to take her eyes off his body. She’d never seen anything so perfect. Water droplets clung to taut muscles. Not an ounce of fat marred the lean lines. He had stopped too, and was looking right back at Jesse, totally unselfconscious in his nudity.
After a long moment, during which Jesse forgot how to breathe, Luc casually reached for a towel and held it over his penis, doing little to erase the image of the dark thatch of hair which cradled his impressive masculinity. Jesse knew it would be burnt onto her mind like a tattoo for ever.
When she noticed her lungs screaming she took in a deep breath and then, issuing a strangled sound, she reached for Luc’s door to close it.
Just before she did, she heard him say mockingly, ‘You’re the one who stopped to look, Jesse.’
She slammed the door on his incendiary image and was out and down by the pool before she realised she’d never picked up her swimsuit. Beyond angry with Luc, and herself, and everything at that moment, Jesse rebelliously stripped off completely and dived into the pool.
She realised her folly only when her limbs were shaking
with exhaustion and she stopped to come up for air—and saw Luc hunkered down by the side of the pool. He looked very fresh, with his damp hair slicked back, and was dressed in chinos and a shirt. He had a towelling robe in one hand.
‘If I’d known you were going to skinny-dip I would have waited to join you.’
The recent image of him fully naked and so potently masculine made Jesse’s anger surge all over again. She crossed one hand over her breasts and held out the other, making sure to stay under water, where her body would be distorted enough not to give him a clear view. At least it was dusky now, which would also hide a multitude.
Luc straightened up then, to go and stand by the steps which led out of the shallow end of the pool. He held out the robe just over the water. To get to it Jesse would have to walk up a few steps stark naked. She fumed and cursed silently. This was all her own fault. If she hadn’t acted like a teenager after seeing him naked she’d be perfectly decent in a one-piece swimsuit.
‘It’s only fair, Jesse,’ he cajoled softly. ‘After all, you saw me naked.’
She spluttered indignantly. ‘Only because you left your doors open so I couldn’t fail to notice you.’
He shook his head and chuckled softly—and that did all sorts of things to Jesse’s equilibrium. ‘Do you really think I went to all that trouble just in case you walked past at that exact moment?’
Jesse flushed even as goosebumps popped up on her exposed skin. No, she could very well imagine him nonchalantly shedding his towel and stepping into the steaming shower, not caring who saw him.
‘Come on,’ he said more briskly. ‘You’re going to freeze.’
Jesse’s teeth were already starting to chatter; it was cool in the evenings here, with hot summer still a few months
away. Gritting her jaw, and feeling more exposed than she’d ever been in her life, Jesse stepped forward and then up the steps out of the pool. She grabbed the robe out of Luc’s hands.
She put it on awkwardly, and as every nano-second passed with torturous slowness was aware of his eyes on her bare skin. She could have wept when one arm of the robe proved to be stubbornly impossible to find, and stilled when Luc came forward and found it, helping to thread her arm through.
He came in front of her then and pulled the lapels of the robe together, covering her. Jesse belted it firmly, feeling the awful onset of weak tears
. She couldn’t curse Luc any more than she already had. She felt a finger tipping up her chin and gritted her jaw against his hand, her eyes flashing brilliantly in the gloaming light.
Luc was speechless for a long moment. Seeing Jesse emerge from the pool just now … he’d never witnessed such delicately feminine perfection. She was small-boned and tiny-waisted. But her hips flared out from her waist in such a way as to make him ache to put his hands there and mould their shape to his. The small tangle of strawberry-blonde curls covering her sex had made his mouth go dry.
Her breasts were fuller than he’d thought, and firm, with small nipples, tight and hard from the water and pink against her pale skin.
She was looking up at him now, eyes huge in her heart-shaped face, hair slicked back. No make-up. A wealth of emotion brimmed in those grey pools, and Luc was falling into a place he’d never been before.
The words came out of his mouth before he realised he’d even registered them. ‘You’re beautiful.’
He knew then that he’d said them many times before to other women but never really meant them as he did now.
For a second Jesse couldn’t respond. She was in thrall. To this moment and this man, and the way he’d pulled her robe
closed with a kind of proprietorial gentleness, and then the way he’d said
A bird called loudly nearby and the spell was abruptly broken. Humiliation washed over Jesse. He was doing it again—mocking her. The man deserved an Oscar for his performace.
She pulled away and stepped back. ‘Stay out of my face, Sanchis.’
And with that she turned and walked back up to the villa, stopping herself from breaking into a run.
Luc watched her small form, the flash of bare pale legs in the gloom. She stopped by Tigger’s box inside the kitchen door and his own hands clenched into fists at his sides when he imagined those small hands running over the kitten. He wanted those hands running over
. All over his body and particularly where he ached most.
Luc set off back to the villa once he knew Jesse would be in her room. He didn’t doubt he wouldn’t see her again this evening. She was as skittish as a foal. He wondered what had made her like that. She had to be at least twenty-five, if not older …
Forget about torturing
, he thought grimly. The only person he seemed to be torturing was himself. She’d been lucky she’d caught him coming
of his shower earlier, or else she’d have seen the full extent of how easily she turned him on …
Through the tangled haze of frustration in Luc’s brain he had to face the uncomfortable realisation that no other woman had made him feel this hot. Not even Maria, and she had consumed him day and night for weeks.
Even though he could acknowledge now that his youth and inexperience had had a lot to do with how easily she’d seduced him, it didn’t take away the burn of humiliation. He’d been obsessed with her. He’d believed that perhaps everything wasn’t always meant to be tragic and sad. And Eva, his sister,
had been enraptured with her too, captivated by her beauty and the long, luxurious fall of her glossy chestnut hair.
Luc felt sick inside when he recalled that final ugly day, when the extent of how naive he’d been and how ugly Maria really was had spilled out. She’d shuddered visibly and said,
‘And as for your sister—how can you tolerate her in your family? She’s not even all there—and the way she wants to touch me all the time and play with my hair … it disgusts me.’
Luc felt guilty to this day that he’d allowed her near his beloved sister. He thought of Eva and his mother then, and suddenly resented Jesse bitterly for putting him in a position where he might not be contactable in case they needed him.
Anger at that, and anger at the way she was making him feel in general, fuelled him. He bounded up the stairs to Jesse’s room to knock brusquely on the door.
He heard faint movements inside, and then the door opened to reveal her fresh from the shower, with another robe on and a towel around her head. That heady scent that was uniquely hers reached out and wound around him like a siren’s call, bringing with it all sorts of images of tangled sweaty bodies.
He fought against it and gritted out, ‘I need to call my messaging service to check if everything is okay and in case my mother or sister have been trying to reach me.’
Jesse opened her mouth but before she could say anything Luc had planted a hand high on the doorjamb. ‘You’d better let me do this, Jesse,’ he said ominously. ‘Or else this becomes about a lot more than just O’Brien. I have many more business interests other than him, but if my mother or sister need me and I don’t know about it then you will regret the day you were born.’
Jesse looked up into dark, hard eyes and felt ice slither down her spine for the first time since she’d brought Luc to the island. When it came to his mother and sister clearly he
really meant it. For a treacherous moment Jesse wondered what it would be like to have someone that protective of her.
Almost as much to deny that rogue feeling as to give in to fear, Jesse muttered, ‘Fine. I don’t see how that’s not fair.’ Especially as she’d been checking on her own business concerns whenever she had a chance. She looked up at him. ‘But we do it my way, and I’ll supervise every moment. If I think you’re sending someone a message then I’ll terminate the connection immediately.’
‘Fine.’ He was curt.
‘I’ll get changed and come down in a minute.’
She closed the door in his face and quickly threw off the towels, dressing in loose cargo pants and a white shirt. She didn’t bother with a bra, and rubbed her hair briskly and went back outside. She wasn’t wholly surprised to see Luc waiting for her, arms crossed and leaning back against the opposite wall, eyes heavy-lidded and dangerous.
She walked ahead of him down the stairs and to the door of the study, very aware of her lack of a bra now and regretting her haste.
She turned around and looked up at Luc. ‘Wait here.’
She went in and closed the door, jiggling the lock to make it sound as if she’d locked it, then hurried to the safe where she took out the landline phone. She plugged it in and relocked the safe, and then went back and did the same thing again to the lock. She hated these weaknesses: a phobia of blood and locked rooms.
She opened the door and admitted Luc.
His gaze immediately narrowed on the phone, and he quirked a brow at her. ‘What’s to stop me from overpowering you and making the relevant calls to get me rescued?’
‘Nothing,’ Jesse admitted. ‘But you wouldn’t get very far, because there’s a twelve-digit security code you need to put in before any external calls can be made.’
His eyes flashed. ‘And I guess you’re not going to divulge it.’ It wasn’t a question.
Jesse said nothing, just stuck her chin a little higher, determined not to let him intimidate her.
‘Go on, then,’ he bit out. ‘Put it in.’
Jesse went to the phone and covered her hand, putting in the code. A photographic memory was one of the quirky traits that had helped her get a scholarship to Cambridge.
She held out the phone to Luc when she heard the outside dial tone. He took it and glared at her, before punching in the number for his messaging service. Jesse had moved to where the phone was connected to the wall, so she could easily pull the connection out if required.
She saw him register the messages and punch in the relevant numbers to retrieve them. He pulled a notepad and pen to him and wrote some things down. Then he terminated the call himself and looked at Jesse. ‘Not surprisingly there are lots of irate calls from O’Brien’s people, wondering what the hell is going on,’ he said caustically.
Jesse couldn’t even really feel satisfied. She felt numb inside when she thought of that man.
She was about to pull the connection from the wall when Luc said, ‘Wait. I want to call my sister and give her another number to call in case there’s an emergency.’
Jesse battled with her conscience. She couldn’t absolutely trust that Luc’s story about his background was true, but what if it was? What if his sister needed him?
Reluctantly she came over and wrote a number down on a piece of paper. ‘Give her that number. If she calls I’ll let you know.’
She put in the twelve-digit number again and Luc made his call. Jesse resumed her spot by the wall connection and waited with bated breath for Luc to blurt something out to his
secretary or someone else. But instead he turned away from her and she heard him leave a message.
, it’s me. I hope you and Mama and George are having a wonderful trip. In case something comes up and you can’t get through to me straight away on my regular number I have another one …’
He listed off the numbers and then said softly into the phone, ‘I’ll see you soon,
, take care of Mama.
Jesse saw his hand come down to terminate the connection, and as soon as he did so she took the cord out of the wall and came back, wrapping it around her hand.
Luc turned around and put his hands down on the desk, leaning forward. His face was suddenly close to Jesse’s and the breath stalled in her throat. He brought a hand up and traced her jaw with a finger, making her skin tingle all over.
‘You will pay for this, Jesse Moriarty … I will find out all your secrets and you will pay …’
Jesse jerked her head back. ‘I don’t have any secrets, Sanchis.’
He stood up and shook his head, and said mock sternly, ‘It’s not
any more, Jesse. It’s Luc; we’ve gone way too far to go back now.’
With that he turned and left the room. Jesse hugged the phone to her chest for a long moment. She felt ridiculously emotional because the truth was that she had no one to call. No one who really cared where she was, or with whom. Luc’s words floated back to her.
We’ve gone way too far to go back now
As she put the phone back into the safe and locked it again, Jesse pushed down the prickling sense of foreboding.
When she went into the kitchen a little later it was empty, but pans were in the sink—evidence of Luc’s dinner. She tried not to feel hurt that he hadn’t offered her anything, and then realised how ridiculous that was when he was her prisoner
and owed her nothing. But somehow in the past couple of days she’d almost got used to Luc thinking of her needs too.