Authors: Lynda Chance
It was a heady feeling.
He slowly lifted his head from hers. She watched his eyes open, slowly focus on her, and what she saw in the depths of his eyes had the breath snarling in her lungs. It was need.
He cleared his throat. "I want you, Katie. I want you bad, baby. I've wanted you so long it feels like I'm dying inside."
She didn't know how to answer. She wasn't ready to give him what he needed. She prayed for more time.
Her prayers were answered.
He smiled softly at her, ran his hand lightly down to cup her shoulder, squeezed slightly, and said, "Go to bed, sweetheart."
Katie uncurled herself from his lap, stumbled to her feet and went to bed.
But it was a long, long time before she fell asleep.
Zach turned off the television and sat in the darkened room. When he held Katie in his arms, he felt things he hadn't felt in a long time, if ever. He was forced to think about things he didn't want to acknowledge.
He truly had, at one time, believed he was in love with his wife. Obviously, that was what had sent him off the rails at her desertion and death. He had been totally blindsided when she had started cheating on him. He'd never seen it coming. In retrospect, he could now see that he had been too busy building his company to pay much attention to her needs. It didn't excuse what she had done, but it did explain it somewhat. He had been furious at himself, as well as with her. The anger he had felt toward her, toward himself, had manifested itself in a bad way. Revenge was never a good idea. But vengeance against the innocent was unacceptable.
He would always feel bitter towards Chris Turner, but the man was dead, and Zach knew he needed to get over it. Katie and her parents had never done anything to him, and deep down, he had always known it. He had needed someone else to blame, because he sure as hell wasn't going to blame himself. When Chris and Cindy had died, it had been extremely easy to shift the blame to the Turner family. Shit, he was probably lucky he wasn't in prison somewhere, or at least faced with a lawsuit. What he had done to them could probably be constituted as harassment, if they wanted to go after him.
The Turner family had never done anything to him, and Katie damn sure hadn't.
What the hell had he been thinking? Could his head get any farther up his ass? Forcing Katie into a contract was one thing, but he'd known all along that he couldn't force her to have sex with him. Not only was it immoral, it was criminal. When this had started days ago, he'd been angry and had assumed when he directed her into bed, when the time was at hand, she'd open up for him. She might be angry at first, but that anger would only lead to more explosive sex. They would have a red hot affair, he would get her out of his system, and that would be that. But now he knew differently. She wasn't going to fall in with his plans. She wasn't going to simply fall into his arms and into his bed. And anyway, that wasn't all he wanted from her anymore.
Had it really ever been?
So where did he draw the line? How far could he take morality without stepping over the edge? How long could he realistically keep her here? It had been a week already. If he did what the situation demanded, he would have to let her go. Let her out of the contract, and give her parents the time to pay him back in a realistic manner. When he thought about it rationally, he could see that her parents had been screwed almost as much as he had. If they lost their home and property, their lives would be radically affected by the actions of two people they had had no control over. And now his sister was marrying Josh Turner. How could he continue as he'd been doing?
And there was the problem. If he let Katie out of the contract now, she would run from him. He couldn't actually foreclose on her parents now, not if he wanted to be able to live with himself. But if she knew he had changed his mind, where would that leave him? By himself? Never to have a chance with her?
That couldn't happen.
It was unacceptable to him. He had to have her. Had to sink into her. Had to hear those beautiful lips form the words, I love you, Zach.
I love you, Zach?
Motherfucker. Where the hell had that come from?
He ran his hand through his hair and when he brought it back down, he saw how badly it was shaking.
God, he was fucked up
He loved her.
Why not be a man, and admit it, at least to himself?
He loved Katie Turner
. He'd always felt protective of her; he'd wanted her sexually since she'd been eighteen years old. He'd been obsessed with her ever since. The want that burned his guts had slowly turned into need. He didn't just want her for sex; he absolutely didn't want her for revenge anymore and hadn't for a long, long time.
He just wanted her, because he'd fallen in love with her.
And he'd treated her like shit.
God, he was absolutely screwed.
Somewhere in the dark hours as he tried to sleep, he decided to up the ante and try to seduce her. He'd been slowly building up to that all along, but his newfound realization had given him a new impetus. Shit could blow up in his face at any given moment, and he needed . . . a certain closeness between them in case that happened. Maybe it wasn't the best idea in the world, but for now, it was the only damn thing he could come up with. Women were supposed to bond through sex, at least that's what he'd always read. And he wanted her bonded so tightly to him that not even a millimeter of space was between them. Yeah, he'd do anything to try to forge a deeper bond with her, even if it was the one thing he'd been dying for all along.
The next evening, Zachary grilled steaks as Katie tossed a salad together and took the French bread from the oven. They ate on the balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. It was a beautiful, calm night and it went a long way to ease Katie's nerves. Zach had told her that the wind was usually stronger this time of year, but on this particular night, it was clear and calm. After a quiet dinner where they had little conversation, but with many heated glances between them, Zach stood up and pressed a few controls that were situated in a private corner of the balcony. The water in the spa began heating and circulating and Katie watched from her chair as he removed a couple of towels from a cabinet.
He poured more wine into their glasses and casually stacked their dinner plates and pushed them to the side. He sat back down and drank his wine as he watched her.
After a few minutes of close scrutiny, he moved to stand directly in front of her, and Katie carefully lifted her eyes to his in an unspoken question. He remained silent, but his hands moved to the hem of her shirt, and with expedient motions, he lifted it over her head before she realized his intention. They had showered earlier, after getting home from the beach, and Katie had dressed in a cotton shirt and shorts.
Her eyes dropped from his and she crossed her arms over her chest, feeling exposed in her bra. Immediate apprehension filled her, and she asked, "What--what are you doing?"
"Getting you undressed. We're getting in the spa." His words reeked of authority as he lifted his own shirt over his head. His chest and arms were corded with muscles, his strength steely, his stomach defined by washboard abs above the low-slung waistband of his board shorts.
"I need a swimsuit."
"No, you don't."
Katie quivered and her muscles tensed. "I thought--I thought you weren't going to pressure me."
Zach moved to the wall and cut the off the few remaining lights. The night turned black around her, except for the stars shining brightly and the small sliver of moon in the sky.
He found her easily in the dark and lifted her to her feet. His hands slid to the snap on her shorts, and with quick work, released the zip and began pushing them from her hips. "I'm not pressuring you, Katie. This isn't about sex. It's about relaxing in the spa. Watching the stars and the lights from the boats on the water."
Katie was stunned to find herself in nothing but her bra and panties, and she quickly moved away from him to slip into the darkness of the water before he could attempt to remove the rest of her clothing. In her mind, she wasn't agreeing to get in the spa; it was just the most expedient way of covering her almost-naked body from view. She sank down to her neck, and the water swirled around her, obscuring her from his view.
He stepped into the water beside her, and Katie was highly thankful for the darkness of the night. He reached out a hand behind her neck, and swirled his fingers around one of her earlobes. Tension soared within her.
With one swift move, he put his arm under her legs and lifted her onto his lap, her legs draped across him. He caught her face in his palm and turned her head to him and began tracing his lips and tongue around her ear and jaw line. She was caught off-guard, and stiffened completely in his arms. She was in her underwear, and the shock of the situation was roaring in her ears. This had happened so quickly.
And he had promised.
She jerked away from him and rapidly moved through the water to the other side of the spa. She turned to him with accusation, "You said you'd give me time."
He followed her over to where she sat trembling on her side of the spa and began wrapping his arms around her again. After the reprieve she had thought she was getting, the shock of this encounter brought hysteria close to the surface.
"Zach, stop." Her voice came out in a shriek.
He continued the relentless pressure on her arms. "Katie, I want to hold you. I want to kiss you. And I know you want it, too. Do you think you're going to make me wait for even that?"
"Pl-please, don't." She began pulling away from him, and the provocation was too much for him. His head swooped down and he took her mouth in a kiss that screamed of his pent-up desire.
Almost immediately, Zach registered that Katie had stiffened in his arms, becoming like a block of ice. He felt her hands pushing against his chest in a desperate movement that although futile against his strength, he knew used every bit of muscle she possessed.
Frustration screaming through him, he dropped his hands from her, and he moved away.
She began to shake and her eyes welled with tears. She took a shuddering breath, and her tears began falling in earnest.
He watched her crying, great, gulping sounds as the tears ran down her face. She wiped at them frantically with the back of her hands, and within seconds her face was streaked with mascara. Her distress was heartrending, and it was confusing to him.
Confusing as hell
He attempted to sooth her while self-disgust bled through his veins. "Hey. It's okay. I'm sitting over here. You can calm down now."
Her shoulder turned toward him in a stiffened posture that screamed of her resistance. She glanced his way, studied him, and looked as if she was trying to regain some control. "I'm sorry. I know you warned me not to cry--"
"What? When did I
you not to cry?"
"That first day in your office."
He thought back to the day she'd come to see him and remembered how angry he'd been. Prior to that, he'd chased her relentlessly, sending those goddamn flowers all the time. His embarrassment had turned into belligerence. In his anger, had he actually told her not to cry? His temper exploded at himself, and at her for taking every word that came out of his mouth so damn literally. "
, Katie. You think I'm a fucking monster?"
She took a shuddering breath and the tears came harder.
He felt her distress like a fist to his solar plexus. He stifled his confusion and impatience and turned his focus to her tears. She was crying so hard now he knew she believed he truly was a monster and he was wondering if she wasn't right. How could he have treated her so badly? His conscience licked fire through what remained of his heart as he tried to gentle his tone. "Baby, I'm sorry. Don't cry. I shouldn't have said that to you before. I was angry when I said it. I just don't want to see you like this."
She wiped the backs of her hands down her cheeks to erase the tears and visibly tried to regain control.
When she looked like she had it within her grasp, he tried again. "I'm not a monster, I don't want you to think of me that way."
She directed a piercing stare at him and hissed, "I don't know what to think about you. One minute you're mean as hell and the next minute you're gentle and the next minute you strip me and attack me."
Her words almost annihilated him. A hit of pain slammed his chest and pierced his heart. "I did not
he said pointedly. "I tried to kiss you and you refused. The end."
"You stripped m-me, Zach." Her voice wobbled and her eyes filled with fresh tears.
"Katie." He wanted her to look at him, to make her understand that his intent had not been to hurt her. Didn't she know the difference between assault and seduction? Again, the thought that she might be a virgin entered his mind. "Katie, sweetheart, I'm sorry I scared you." She refused to look toward him again. "What's wrong with you? Why are you so scared? Are you still a virgin?"
Her head snapped around at that. Heated anger radiated from her eyes. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"