Night Child(9)

By: Ann Major

Dawn felt a premonitory quiver at the base of her spine as she considered what he'd probably do to her. Then she fought to stifle the chill of fear. Son of the Devil, he might be, but he hadn't shot her yet. He hadn't even touched her. And he had something to drink.

She writhed and twisted, straining against her bonds until she hurt all over in an effort to attract his attention.

He was totally absorbed with his gun, rubbing it lovingly, loading it. She watched those long tapered fingers move up and down his weapon as gently as though he were caressing a woman.

When he did look up it was never at her. He kept a sharp eye on what was going on outside the window. There was a predatory silence about him, the careful, patient waiting silence of the hunter, the silence of a man in total control of his body and his emotions.

She was going to have to scoot herself across the dirt floor to get his attention. Very slowly, because of her ankle and her bound hands, she inched toward him, moving her feet forward, placing her hands on the ground, and then lifting her hips, repeating this slow, painful process over and over again.

Suddenly, in reflex to the unexpected motion in the dark room, he whirled. His gun clicked, and she was staring down the shiny black length of it into the steel slits of his narrowed eyes.

She squeezed her lids shut and gulped a deep breath.

He lowered his gun. Carefully he set it down and swaggered toward her, bending down to her level.

"So you're awake at last, sleeping princess?" His voice was smooth and soft, faintly mocking and so sensually pleasant that it made her shiver. "It's about time."

She nodded, furious that she could find any part of him attractive, even his voice. Then she bounced her trussed body up and down on the ground. A torrent of abuse welled in her soul and blazed from her eyes.

He pushed the folds of his kaffiyeh aside, and a sliver of dazzling desert moonlight cut across his harshly chiseled features. She found herself staring into the most beautiful pair of green eyes she had ever seen. They were densely shadowed by the longest, straightest black lashes that no man, let alone this brute, deserved. Every dancer she knew would have gladly sold her soul for such exquisite eyes and lashes. Yet there was nothing feminine about their hot male appraisal as they swept insolently from her face downward, lingering on her small breasts budding against her scanty pink costume.

She had always hated men who stripped women with devouring glances. She especially hated this one. There was something about his eyes, something dreadfully familiar that she didn't dare dwell upon because if she did, it would stir that vague, unnameable terror that came with those blinding white flashes and headaches.

"You look like hell," he murmured, bringing her back to the present with a torrent of abusive gibes, "but at least you're still in one piece. When you've had a bath, you won't be half-bad—for a skinny, bosomless runt."

Bosomless! Runt! Normally she would have bristled from such insults, but she was hopeful that maybe his thinking her less than perfectly endowed was what had thus far kept him from physically attacking her.

This hope was instantly dashed when the bloodied hand she had bitten moved toward her forehead. He meant only to smooth the limp black snarls out of her eyes, but she cringed, afraid of what any gentleness from a man like him might mean.

He read her terror and snapped his hand back as if burned, his expression grim. "I'm not going to hurt you, princess," he growled. "And as for wanting you in that way—" His voice lowered to a sneer. "You're not my type."

He spoke English! This fact finally penetrated. He spoke English! With some sort of twangy Southern drawl! He was an American! A despicable, insulting one, but an American.

He wasn't one of them! But if he wasn't, who was he?

She lifted her trembling chin, and through lowered lashes, she studied him warily. What she saw rekindled all her chilling fears.

He seemed half-tamed and lethal, his large body coiled with a savage inner tension. Smooth, sun-bronzed flesh stretched tightly across his prominent cheekbones, giving him the ruthless aura of an Indian warrior. There were hollows beneath his eyes and grooves etched into his cheeks. His hawklike nose had been broken once and never set.

He was older than she, by at least ten years. She could see the fine lines beneath his eyes as well as the deeper ones bracketing his mouth. A jagged white scar winged from his left black brow and disappeared inside his kaffiyeh. Someone hadn't liked him any better than she did and had split that bitter, arrogant face open.

He had lived a hard life, and it showed in the implacable set of his square jaw, in the thin determined line of his mouth, in the world-weary cynicism of his eyes. Not a trace of boyish softness lingered in his harsh features. He was all man, virile, terrifyingly masculine to the core. Obviously, he was an uncooperative, domineering sort. He hadn't shaved in days, and the shadow of thick black bristles intensified his thoroughly disreputable look.