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Joby and I both are proud.”
Tish untied the little black woman’s apron with firm hands. “Go home,” she said. “While Mindy’s
gone, it’s my kitchen, and I’m throwing you out for the night, okay?”
Mattie laughed and shook her gray head. “I always did think you were impossible, sugar cane. All
right, I thank you, and I will go home.”
Impulsively, Tish hugged her. “I kind of like you, you know,” she teased.
Mattie winked. “I kind of like you, too. Good night.”
When she went out the door, Tish started up the dishwasher and was just setting a tray with cups and
saucers when Russell walked in the door.
She froze at the counter, fighting down a burning urge to turn and run. Her gray eyes met his dark ones
accusingly across the length of the room and everything that had been said between them rushed back
into her mind and seemed to separate them like a stone wall.
He stuck his hands in his pockets and leaned back against the doorjamb, just watching her.
“Nothing to say, Tish?” he asked. “You were vocal enough in front of witnesses.”
“Is there anything that’s safe for me to say, Russell?” she asked quietly. “I’m afraid to open my mouth.
If I tease, it’s provocation. If I touch you, it’s attempted seduction. If I hang around you, I’m…”
“I never meant to cut you like that,” he said gently. His voice was soft and slow, although there was
nothing of apology or humility in his brief statement. “But you started it. It doesn’t sit well to have a
woman I raised tell me she hates me. It stung. I retaliated.”
She dropped her eyes, and deep inside she admitted that he might have had some justification, but it
still hurt. “All you do lately is yell at me,” she said flatly.
“If you’d open your damned eyes, you’d see why,” he growled.
She turned away, puzzled. “How was Lisa, Russell?” she asked curtly, with thinly veiled sarcasm.
“Well hidden, I hope?”
She could taste the contempt in the very air around her, and regretted the petty insult even as it left her
lips. “That’s one subject you don’t breach with me, little Miss Piety,” he said, his words cold as ice.
“It’s the one part of my life I share with no one. Is that clear?”
Flushing, embarrassed, she turned her attention to the coffee pot and began to fill the cups with
streaming black liquid. Why had she done that, why had she attacked the other woman’s existence
with such venom? She didn’t know the answer herself.
“Who told you about her?” he asked tautly, his voice slicing like a razor in its controlled quietness.
She shook her head. “Something I…overheard. It’s none of my business, I’m sorry….”
“You’re always sorry,” he growled from just behind her. “Not that you made some damned childish
remark like that, just that it fired my temper.”
She kept her eyes on the steam rising from the full cups, and her fingers touched the tray lightly.
“Randall’s home,” she said, trying to divert him.
“And you sent Mattie home early. Little Saint Joan, out to save the whole damned world!”
he taunted.
Tears pricked at her eyes at the harsh, bitter whip in his deep voice. “Please don’t,” she whispered
His big hands shot out, catching her roughly around the waist with such deliberate pressure that she
flinched. “Don’t what?” he growled at her ear. He was so unnervingly close that she could feel his
breath on her cheek. “My God, I’ve fought this until my nerves are raw, do you know that? I saw you
sitting there so proud and defiant at the supper table, until you looked up into my eyes, and then I
could see the melting start, I could feel the pain. Don’t you think I know how much I hurt you? I did it
deliberately, I had to…Oh, God, Tish, I want you the way I want air to breathe…turn around!”
He whipped her up against his hard body as his mouth found hers in one smooth, perfect motion. The
hard, smoky warmth of his kiss drugged her and the close contact of their bodies and the strength of
the big, powerful arms that held her, caused her senses to swim. He forced her stunned, bruised lips
apart with a gruff murmur. His hand, tangling in her long hair, pulled her head back against his
shoulder while he tasted her mouth slowly, roughly, hungrily….
“Poison,” he whispered against her lips, “damn you, like poison in my bloodstream until I can’t
breathe! Eyes like November rain, and I see them in my sleep….” He nipped at her mouth, soft,
smoky, biting kisses that made her moan in token protest as he tormented her. He drew back to look
into her misty eyes. “My God, I could make you give me anything I wanted, and I’m not even trying.
Madness, all of it, almost fourteen years between us and you’ll never catch up. No, don’t talk,” he
said when she tried to speak, to ask him what he was saying because her mind was too cloudy to
comprehend. “Don’t say anything, just stand still and let me taste that sweet, soft mouth. Kiss me,
sweet…kiss me.”
She obeyed him blindly, her arms reaching up under his jacket and around his waist, her blood
surging at the closeness, her breath gasping as it mingled with his, her mouth hurting from his ardor.
The floor seemed to drop out from under her, and she realized suddenly that it had. He was holding
her clear off the floor in his hard arms, carrying her.
“W…where?” she managed in a shaky whisper.
“My God, where do you think?” he growled huskily, heading straight for the back stairs.
“No,” she protested weakly. “Oh, Russ, no…” she murmured just as another voice merged with hers.
“Tish, where are you?” Eileen came in the door laughing, and suddenly froze at the sight that met her
widening, unbelieving eyes. Tish’s legs felt like rubber as Russell set her back down, and she could
only imagine how she looked with her mouth swollen, her hair tangled by Russell’s hard fingers, her
whole look wild and frightened…
“I…uh…that is…” Eileen stumbled as curiosity turned to puzzled certainty in her round face. “Have
you…seen Frank?” she added weakly, with a smile that trembled.
“Where are you, Tish?” Belle called in a honeyed voice.
“Uh…Grand Central, isn’t it?” Eileen cleared her throat and made a beeline for the door, intercepting
Belle before she could get to it. “Hi, Belle, she’s outside, I’ll show you,” she said gaily and half
dragged the woman away.
“Tish…” Russell began, his deep voice edged with regret.
“It’s…it’s all right,” she whispered, avoiding his dark, steady gaze. “I didn’t mean to push you…”
“You didn’t do anything. I did,” he replied. “Eileen’s not blind, little one,” he added softly. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]


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