Authors: Iris Johansen
The door opened and Jon came back into the bedroom with several large white towels draped over his arm. He stopped by the closet and slid open the door. “The towels are warm from the heated rack. If they don’t get rid of the chill, I’ll put you in the shower.”
Her eyes widened. “I don’t think that will be necessary.”
He jerked a caftan that was the color of orange sherbet from a hanger, and came back to where she sat. “We’ll see.” He knelt before her, his fingers undoing the buttons of her blouse. “Believe me, I’d like to avoid it as much as you. I’m afraid you’d get dizzy again. Which means I’d have to join you in the shower.” He pushed the blouse from her shoulders, his hands going to the front fastening of her bra. “And who knows where that might lead.”
She looked down at his fingers, as he struggled to undo the fastening. His hands were strong and tanned against the white lace garment. Strong, and yet trembling. Her breath caught in her throat and a tiny quiver shook her.
“You’re shivering. Are you cold?” His gaze lifted to her face, and he inhaled sharply. “No, you’re not cold …”
“No,” she whispered. Heat was throbbing through every vein. She could feel the flush that rose to her cheeks and throat. His knuckles were resting against her full breasts that were also flushed, engorged, aching.
He closed his eyes. “Not now. Don’t do this to me now. I thought I had it under control. It took me most of the damn night but I
thought…” His eyes opened. Burning. Brilliant. Hungry. “You’re not well. I can’t…”
“I’m fine.” She could barely get the words past the dryness in her throat. How had she come this far in so short a time? The words she had spoken were an invitation to intimacy.
He shook his head with a touch of desperation. “No.”
“I’m not very attractive right now.” She laughed shakily. “And about as graceful as a rhinoceros.”
“Not attractive at all,” he said huskily. “Beautiful.” His palms moved down to rest on her abdomen. “This is beautiful. Tight and brimming and full of life. And your breasts …”
She looked up from where his hands lay so close to her breasts. “They ache. I ache. Do you suppose you could just hold me?” she asked sofly.
His eyes were smoky and glazed as he gazed at her. “Yes, I can do that. It’s going to come close to killing me, but I can do it.” Jon’s mouth was coming closer. She could feel his warm breath on her lips. His hand moved from her abdomen to pull her close against him. His chest was moving erratically with the harsh ness of his breathing and the pulse in his temple was throbbing hard, fast. He was being so tender. She wanted to bury her fingers in his
hair and bring him even closer to her. She sat there, every muscle tense, her breath, too, coming shallowly.
His tongue tasted her. Warm. Wet. Erotic.
A shudder ran through her. She gasped against his lips, and swayed toward him, bonelessly pliant. It was as if his lips were jerking hot cords somewhere within her.
“You’ll be more comfortable if we lie down.” He gently pushed her backward on the sun shine-yellow satin of the spread. His fingers were running through her hair, but she was barely conscious of his action. His mouth held all her attention. She raised her mouth mindlessly toward his as she gave a low cry. The sensation was indescribable, his mouth hard, and yet gentle, his tongue moving rhythmically to caress her own. She was lost in the intimacy of the kiss, knowing she’d never be fore shared so much of herself, given so much of herself through the simple, yet passionate, act of kissing. Jon seemed to tap feelings and emotions in her that before now had lain dormant.
She was trembling when Jon finally ended the kiss. He began to make lazy circles on her abdomen with his palm, and the incredible tenderness in his action made her realize she’d never have thought him capable of such warmth. She felt as if she were being torn
apart by her conflicting emotions. Her tongue moistened her lips as she raised her head from Jon’s shoulder. “Jon,” she murmured.
“I told you there was something special between us.” There was a hint of satisfaction in his hoarse voice. “Only with me. We’re going to be perfect together. You will never respond to anyone but me in this way,” he said quietly. She made an attempt to sit up.
“No.” He quickly stilled her. “Stay here. Let me get you whatever you need. You have to be very careful, you’ve had a very full morning.”
He was being so sensitive, so thoughtful. She wanted to give him an indication of how her feelings for him had changed in so short a time. Reaching to trace the outline of his mouth with her finger, she watched his dark eyes as they glowed down at her, his expression as intense as his lips had been when they’d moved over hers.
Withdrawing her finger, she closed her eyes and tried to settle herself down comfortably in the bed, but she was so tired suddenly, that it was difficult to think of moving even a muscle. She didn’t have to move, however, because in an instant Jon was doing everything. Removing the rest of her clothes, running heated towels over her body, slipping the velvet robe over her head. “Sit up, love. Just for a minute.” She
sat up, watching dreamily as he put her arms in the sleeves of the caftan, lifting her to pull the gown down. His lips brushed her forehead as he pulled the yellow coverlet up around her. “Better?”
Better. That was the understatement of the century, perhaps the millennium. She was deliciously content, lost in an afterhaze of plea sure. “Wonderful.”
“I’m glad.” He rose jerkily to his feet. “I’ll go see what’s keeping Gunner.”
“I’m glad something kept him,” Elizabeth said dreamily. “Or I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to realize how—” She stopped, her eyes widening with distress. Jon’s face was taut, the skin pulled tight over his cheekbones. Lines of pain were visible on each side of his mouth. “Oh, Jon, I’m sorry. What a selfish bitch you must think me.” How cruel she had been. She had known Jon wanted her and yet she had taken his tenderness and comfort, never considering the price it had cost him.
He shook his head. “No, this was your time. I wanted it that way.” He grimaced. “But fortunately, since you’ll be here at the lodge for a while longer, I’ll be able to convince you there’s no turning back for us now.”
Jon’s hands clenched at his sides. He was silent for a moment, struggling for control.
“There will be another time. I can wait.” He turned and walked toward the door.
He paused with his hand on the doorknob. “Yes?”
be another time. I promise you.” She smiled at him with a loving joyous-ness that made his heart give a little jerk. “And I think Andrew likes you. You notice he didn’t protest at all when you touched me so ten derly.”
For a moment a flicker of a smile lighted the tenseness of his expression. “I know he likes me. Why not? He’s obviously a boy of impeccable taste.”
The door closed softly behind him.
Elizabeth stared at the door, the smile lingering contentedly on her lips. The room was suddenly very lonely without Jon’s vital presence. There were so many aspects to his complex personality. Gentleness, intelligence, passion, possessiveness. Every passing day un covered another intricate layer. As soon as she began to fathom one facet, it would change and be transformed into something else. He was a man who couldn’t bear to stand still. He had told her that himself. And he would certainly never be easy to understand.
Andrew stirred beneath her heart, and she laughed softly. “Hello. You’ve been very lazy
today.” She lay there, wrapped in warmth and another feeling. A feeling she didn’t wish to label. “He says you like him,” she whispered. “I hope that’s true, because I’m afraid your mother is …” She didn’t finish the sentence, even in her own mind. To complete it would mean a commitment, and there was no hurry. She would let herself be carried along on a sweet silver stream of emotion. Jon would let nothing hurt her. Not even himself.
Jon leaned back against the door, as aching need racked his body. Perspiration beaded his forehead as he concentrated all his energy on subduing the hunger tearing at him like a ravenous animal. Close. It had been so close. He could still taste her on his tongue. He could still see her lying on the yellow satin. He could smell her perfume. He smothered a groan.
Gunner stood at the head of the stairs, a covered rattan tray in his hands. His dark blue eyes were troubled.
Jon straightened. “I was just coming down to see what was keeping you.”
Gunner strolled toward him. “I dallied a bit. I had a feeling I’d be interrupting something.” He smiled gently. “And I never ignore my instincts. They’ve saved my neck too often.”
Gunner’s instincts had saved Jon’s neck a time or two as well. “I’m going for a walk. See that Elizabeth has a good lunch and takes a nap.” He moved jerkily down the hall. His muscles felt as if they were encased by barbed wire. “Did you radio Barnett this morning?”
Gunner nodded. “No sign of Bardot in the area. We still have him running around in cir cles.”
“Good.” Jon edged past Gunner and started down the stairs. “I want to talk to Barnett when I get back. It’s time we set up the refuge. I have to discuss a meeting with Alex Ben Ras-chid.”
“I’ll tell him to stand by for your call. When will you be back?”
Hours. Days. How long would it take to un coil the hunger inside him? He had always had absolute control over his body. Until now. “Give me two hours.”
A frown darkened Gunner’s face. “Be careful; another blizzard is moving in.”
He would welcome a blizzard. It would give him something to fight beside the rigid pain in his loins. “I’ll watch out for it.” He looked back over his shoulder. “You just keep an eye on Elizabeth. No more romping in the snow.”
“I wouldn’t think of it.” Gunner’s lips were twitching as he reached Elizabeth’s door “I’m
sure the lady has … er … ‘romped’ quite enough for today.”
Elizabeth awoke after midnight to find a dampness between her thighs. Panic rose within her.
“No!” Her cry was a cross between a whim per and a frustrated groan. She struggled to a sitting position, her gaze going to the wall of windows across the room. The snow hurling itself against the glass seemed to be a solid blanket rather than individual snowflakes, and the wind was moaning like a lost child. “Not now, Andrew!”
She managed to get up from the bed. A nagging ache in her lower abdomen only in creased her panic. “No wonder you were so lazy today. You were saving all your energy for this, you rascal.” She crossed the room, opened the door, and went out into the hall. “Jon, Gunner, get up. We have to go to the hospital.”
Gunner’s door opened immediately. His blond hair was tousled, and he was hurriedly tying the belt of a wine-colored robe. “The baby?”
“My water broke. We have to get to the hospital. Where’s Jon?”
“I don’t think he’s gone to his room yet. He was still in the library when I came upstairs.”
“What’s wrong?” Jon asked. He was mounting the steps two at a time, and she turned to him in relief. Jon was here. Everything would be fine now. She tried to smile. “Andrew decided he was tired of waiting. We have to get to the hospital right away.”
“Andrew!” Jon was beside her in seconds, scooping her up and heading back down the hall toward her room. “Get clean sheets and towels from the hall closet downstairs.”
“Right.” Gunner was already barreling down the stairs.
“Jon, put me down. You don’t understand.” Elizabeth was struggling helplessly in Jon’s arms as he carried her across the room and set her down on the bed. “We have to hurry. It will take us hours to get to the hospital in this storm.”
“Listen, Beth.” Jon’s expression was grave as he met her eyes. “We can’t risk it. Just look at that storm.” He nodded toward the windows. “The roads are bound to be closed. We couldn’t get through without a snowplow.”
“We could try. Andrew—”
“Andrew will be far safer here than in the truck. What if we got stranded out there? You might have to give birth in the truck and then we’d have the problem of getting a newborn
baby safely through the storm to shelter.” His hand cupped her chin, and his voice was velvet with gentleness. “I won’t risk either you or the child. You’ll give birth to Andrew here where I can make sure you’re both warm and secure.”
Her gaze went to the storm raging outside the windows again. He was right. She knew he was right, but it didn’t stem the panic and frustration she was experiencing. Why now? She had wanted to give birth to Andrew surrounded by doctors and nurses in an antiseptic, sterile environment. She wanted her son to have every chance at survival.
“I’m frightened,” she whispered. “Nothing must happen to my baby, Jon. I couldn’t bear it.”
“Nothing’s going to happen to either of you,” he said gently. “
couldn’t bear it.” His index finger pressed her nose teasingly. “So I’m going to make sure mother and child are going to do fabulously well.”
He was so confident her spirits began to rise buoyantly in response. “And how do you in tend to accomplish this feat? Neither you nor Gunner are doctors.” She made a face. “Or maybe you are. For all I know, you could be anything or anyone.”
“I’m afraid not, but as part of our training we’ve witnessed childbirth before, and we’re
two fairly intelligent men. We’ll manage between us. I’ve been reading up on it lately. It’s all very basic.”
“Basic,” she repeated. “Well, I agree with your choice of words.” She shook her head. “You’ve actually been researching the art of midwifery?”
He shrugged. “We were trained to be pre pared for any eventuality. There was a book in the library written by a nurse who had extensive experience as a midwife in the Belgian Congo. The subject has interested me since I saw my first live birth.”
“Well, it’s certainly more practical than how to fashion stained glass,” she said faintly. “Re mind me to ask you about your ‘training’ when I’m feeling a bit better, and do me a favor and keep the manual handy. For heaven’s sake, don’t wing it.”
“I promise. Strictly by the book. Now, let me help you get out of these clothes.” His hands were on the hem of her gown. “Are you in any pain?”