Night Child(10)

By: Ann Major

She had always liked elegant, sophisticated men, not he-men, brute male chauvinists without an ounce of culture like this gorilla.

Her eyes glittered with disdain. He read her mind. When she frowned in distaste, his magnificent knowing eyes sparked with the faintest trace of insolence before he deliberately obliterated it.

She forced herself to look away as though she had grown bored with him.

Awareness of his tightly-coiled, awesome maleness consumed every pulsating sense in her body.

"I guess I don't look any better to you than you do to me," he drawled dryly. "Like it or not, we're stuck with each other, and believe me, I don't like spending my time with some sissy-girl in toe shoes any better than you like being with me."

She struggled, fought against her bonds, chewed on her gag in rage.

"Hey, hey," he whispered, grabbing her arms and holding her still. "When you think you can control your urge to scream like a shrew or attack me like a spoiled brat—" Her eyes riveted guiltily to his bitten hand. "I'll let you go. You damn near chomped off my thumb back there."

She hesitated, glaring at him sulkily, hating having to strike any bargain with such an odious individual, especially one who was responsible for her helplessness and gloating over the power he held over her.

"Look, lady, I've come through hell to try to get you out of this jam you so stupidly got yourself into."

Stupidly! What did this Neanderthal know of charitable deeds, of the sacrifices civilized people and entertainers made to help those less fortunate? She'd come here as part of an international goodwill troupe. The proceeds of the ballets she had danced were to be given to feed hungry children in Africa.

"Princess, do you have any idea of the danger you've put us in? We're right smack in the center of Aslam Nouri's terrorist camp in a remote village he controls. Worse, we're slap-dab in the middle of one of the world's most inhospitable deserts. I just beat the hell out of the guy and took his prime hostage. He's the most vengeful revolutionary fanatic this hellish country possesses. He would love nothing better than to rip out our hearts with his dagger and cook them over one of those wretched camel-dung fires that's stinking up this luxury suite. The only thing keeping us alive right now is an avaricious peasant I bribed into lending us this stable until daylight. If we get out, I've promised to make him a rich man until he dies. I'm your only hope, honey. Do I make myself clear?"

She stared at him in wide-eyed horror.

"Now, if I take off your gag and you make the slightest suspicious sound, we're both dead. And believe me, honey, these people have vengeful natures. They know how to make the most of a woman, even a skinny one, before they kill her."

He traced a callused fingertip from her lips, down the length of her throat, to the crest of her breast, his sensuous male touch saying more than ten thousand words.

His finger had burned a blazing trail down her skin. She shuddered, aware of him in a way she had no desire to be.

And he knew it!

His hand lingered for an infinitesimal second, near her nipple, heating her flesh, making her tremble. Something hot and dark and possessive flashed in his eyes. At last he pulled his hand away.

"So if you think you can squelch those murderous urges you feel toward me and keep quiet, I'll untie you," he muttered grimly. "Otherwise, I'll leave you like you are. Nod your head if you plan to behave."

She twisted her head up and down urgently.

When he hesitated, obviously reluctant to untie her, she bobbed it back and forth even more frantically. His eyes were skeptical, but at last he leaned over her and very gently untied her hands, her feet. Then her mouth.

She ran a bone-dry tongue across her crusted lips. "I'll despise you forever for the way you treated me,, macho-man Neanderthal," she whispered, her low, ragged voice filled with loathing.

"If I'm so lucky," came his sardonic snort.

"What do you mean?"

"I just hope I've got—a forever. Then suit yourself, your highness." He shot her a leering grin. "Hate me."

All he was interested in was saving his own despicable hide.

She tried again to lick her lips with her dry tongue. "I'm thirsty," she whispered.

Casually he handed her his jug. She took one drink, wrinkled her nose, and wrenched the jug away from her lips with a grimace. "What is this stuff? I want water. Not this hot, putrid..."

"It's camel's milk, my high and mighty princess," he said with a smirk. "I sprinkled in a tad of bourbon to improve its flavor."

"I hate bourbon."

"I hate camel's milk. Drink it. The water here is even worse."