Read Golden Threads Online

Authors: Kay Hooper

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary

Golden Threads (8 page)

BOOK: Golden Threads
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He stared down at her for an instant, something very like frustration tightening his handsome features. Then, with a curse muttered under his breath, he bent his head and kissed her fiercely, as if she were trying to elude him and he could keep her only with the power of his kiss.

Lara knew that she should fight her own response. This extremely complex man baffled her; she had the odd conviction that he was caught up in something beyond his control, just as she was, and that it was tearing him up inside. She was half-afraid to trust him, even though she had; and she tried to remember that some part of him was fighting this.

Yet she knew, with a certainty beyond question, that he needed this, just as she did. The inexplicable bond between them was something neither could fight, as if its roots were embedded too deeply inside them ever to be torn out except at the cost of mortal agony.

And her response came from that
affinity, that
shared, almost desperate need. She didn't understand it, but she could no more fight it than she could willfully stop breathing.

Her arms crept up around his neck, her fingers twining in the silky strands of his black hair. Her mouth came alive beneath the insistent pressure of his, opening to him. She felt one of his arms slip beneath the small of her back to press her firmly to his chest, while his other hand tangled in her hair. She heard a soft murmur of disappointment escape her lips when his mouth left them, but the dissatisfaction ebbed as he began exploring the sensitive flesh of her throat.

"Lara..." His voice was thick, impeded. "Lord, what are you doing to me?"

She caught her breath in a gasp as his lips settled over the pulse beating in her throat and she felt a jolt of exquisite pleasure. His touch evoked a sweet, stinging ache that spread throughout her body like ripples in a pool. She couldn't seem to breathe after that single gasp, as if even that life-giving function had suspended itself in taut waiting.

Then, suddenly, Devon released her, eased her hands away from him, and sat up. His shoulders were stiff, his face drawn. Without looking at her, he said, "Lara..."

Bewildered, she pushed herself up and sat staring at him. "What's wrong?"

In a low voice, he said, "When you believe there may not be a tomorrow, it's easy to follow your impulses.
To give in to desires without dwelling on the consequences."

"Is that what you think I'm doing?"

Devon gave her an odd look,
then
sighed. "You have to be sure, that's all I'm saying."

She scrambled to her feet.
"Fine.
Ready to leave?"

He got up silently, gathering the blanket and basket and following her to his car. But instead of starting the engine immediately, he sat gazing through the windshield.

Lara couldn't help stealing glances at him, even though she felt cold and miserable. Part of her was angry that Devon was being rational about this, yet she was all too aware that he had been at least half-right, she couldn't deny her own reckless willingness to live right now, today. He made her forget everything when he held her in his arms, and she wanted that.

"Are we going?" she questioned abruptly, unable to bear the silence a moment longer.

He glanced at her, hesitated, then swore softly and started the car. When they reached her apartment building, he caught her wrist when she would have gotten hastily out of the car.

"Wait." He studied the front of the building almost absently, his gaze on a van with a landscaping service logo painted on it and two men energetically pruning bushes on either side of the front entrance.

Lara tried to pull away. "You don't have to come inside with me. I'll be fine, Devon."

He looked intently at her. "You've said that before."

"And I meant it." She kept her voice steady. "You were right. The last thing I need today is a fling. I’ll wait and see if there's a tomorrow. Thanks for lunch."

"Your
car's
still at the theater," he said. "I'll pick you up at a quarter to six."

She pulled her hand away and got out of the car, closing the door without another word.

Devon watched her until she vanished inside the building. He returned his gaze to the gardeners at work, who had spared him no more than cursory glances. He put his hand on the gearshift, hesitated, then put the car in gear and drew away from the curb with a bleak sigh.

It was always difficult, he reminded himself savagely. But this time it was far worse than that. Lara wasn't an enemy. She was a lonely, wary woman trapped in a situation not of her making. She was so damned vulnerable, and he couldn't help but wonder if, like Rapunzel, she was bound to fall for the first man who found a way into her prison.

It was that as much as his own deception that was tearing him apart. Did she want him? Or would any "prince" evoke the same response in her? And if she wanted him, how would she feel when she discovered what he really was?

He longed to tell her, but couldn't. Her entire life was a lie, one she hated; what would she think of his lie? The thought wasn't really a question, because he knew what she'd think. He thought it himself. "Bastard," he murmured.

 

"Lara, how about this?"
Nick placed sheet music on the somewhat battered piano that stood center stage surrounded by the chaos of the stage crew.

She slipped onto the bench and studied the music, her pale and delicate face brightening as though someone had handed her a gift. "Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata," she murmured.

"You can play it?" Nick asked.

"Well, it's been a while," she said.

"Try."

From the shadows of the wings, Devon watched as the other actors gathered around the piano. Ching sat on top, motionless as a statue with his ringed tail neatly curled around his striped forepaws; like his human companions, his attention was focused on the woman who ran her long, agile fingers over the ivories experimentally.

Devon hadn't known what to say to Lara after their abrupt parting earlier in the day, and with her attitude of aloof courtesy, she hadn't offered an opportunity to say much of anything. She hadn't sulked or displayed either anger or resentment; she had simply withdrawn from him.

Devon hated that. He needed her so badly that he ached with it, but there was no way he could explain that to her—not without being forced to explain too many other things as well. God knew he wanted to explain it all, for his sake as well as hers, but he couldn't. Not yet.

Nor could he allow this taut distance between them to remain. It was dangerous, far too dangerous, for her to shut him out right now. She had to talk to him, had to confide her feelings and fears and memories. She had to. The answer was there, somewhere inside her, hidden because she couldn't bear to think about the night her father had been killed. And Devon had to have that answer.

He hadn't dared push her—yet. But he was intensely aware that time was running out. And he was left with the bitter knowledge that he would be destroying any possibility of a future between them if he pushed Lara, demanding her deepest trust while denying her his trust.

She wouldn't be able to forgive that.

Devon found that he was watching her as she coaxed resonant notes from the old piano, something in his chest hurting. She had said he had an amazing voice, and his amusement had been brief, quickly replaced by the knowledge that his voice was one of the reasons he was here. He himself heard nothing unusual in his voice, but had accepted the consensus that he could extract information where others failed.

It was his specialty.

Lara glanced up at Nick in surprise. "It's in tune." The piano looked, to put it mildly, as if it had been rescued from a condemned building.

"Yeah, I had it done this afternoon.
Play."

"The entire sonata?" she asked with a smile.

"Sure. We'll pick out the passages we want later."

Lara nodded, and her expression became intent with concentration as she began playing the piece.

After the first haunting notes of the music rose above the noise of the stage crew, Devon wasn't surprised to see the men gradually stop working on the exterior of a pseudo stone tower and begin listening. Susie appeared from the opposite side of the stage with two costume sketches held in her hands and joined the group at the piano, her pretty face reflecting pleasure.

The music went on, a bit tentative in places because of Lara's lack of recent practice. Devon wondered idly what the group would say if he told them that Lara had won an international competition with this particular sonata less than ten years before.

He knew that.
Just as he knew all the statistical facts of her life.

His gaze left the woman playing the piano and roved about the stage, automatically counting and arriving at the correct number; they were all here, and had been for nearly two hours. Nothing unusual had happened since he and Lara had arrived at the theater with Ching.

But she was in danger, dammit, and hell-bent against asking for any kind of help. After he had seemingly blown hot and then cold, she wasn't about to turn to him naturally; he would have to persuade her—and the thought of that left a bitter taste in his mouth.

He was going to be damned no matter what he did.

Devon made up his mind right then. It couldn't go on this way; he had to tell her. He'd see her safely home tonight, and then he'd call—

The thought ended with chilling abruptness.
Her car.
It had been parked behind the theater, right out in the open for anyone to see.
For anyone to get at.

After making certain that the attention of everyone on stage remained focused on Lara, Devon eased farther back into the wings and then silently went backstage. He slipped out the back exit, closing the heavy fire door behind him with scarcely a sound. He went to his own car first, opening the trunk and removing several tools and a small device designed to receive and scan a number of electronic frequencies.

It was dark; there was only one security light behind the theater, and it was located a number of yards from the parked cars. Devon turned on his flashlight as he approached Lara's car, then spent some time on the ground examining the underside of the vehicle. He was quick, but thorough.

Nothing.
The scanner remained mute, which indicated there was no device such as a bomb hidden in or under the car. But Devon knew that bombs weren't the only means of wrecking a car and occupant. He got to his feet and cautiously raised the hood, then bent and very carefully checked the engine, with his sensitive touch as well as the narrow beam of light.

No more than five minutes into his search, he found it. The steering mechanism had been tampered with. He remained perfectly still as he stared at the car. Lara would have left the theater with no idea that the two-mile drive back to her apartment would prove to be a game of Russian roulette; the sabotage was such that the steering might have failed at the first turn or the fifth. And even with the lower speed limit of the downtown area, there was every chance that she could have been seriously hurt.

Devon felt an icy rage grip him. They were playing cat and mouse with her, damn them, toying with her.
First the near miss of the truck, then her apartment—and now this.
They were trying to scare her, panic her. That was only the first step of their deadly little plan, he knew; the ultimate aim was to remove any threat Lara presented.

Time was running out.

He bent to the car again.

"You are terrific," Luke said with obvious sincerity.

Lara shrugged a little, but smiled at him. "Thank you. I'm afraid I'm out of practice, though."

They were standing by the piano; the others were some distance away, occupied with different tasks. Nick was critically examining the "stone" tower, Susie was talking to Melanie about her costume, and Tim was going over lines with the Arnolds. Devon was nowhere to be seen.

"You really are—" Luke began.

Ching interrupted with a muttered curse, staring at the man through slitted eyes.

Luke met that malevolent gaze,
then
looked back at Lara with a sigh. "The tuna didn't go over at all," he said mournfully.

"You tried?" Her tone was sympathetic.

"Yes, while you were trying on your wig backstage. He acted like I was offering him something unspeakable."

"I'm sorry, Luke. He's—he's really an odd cat."

Ching displayed every one of his pearly whites as he hissed softly, still glaring at Luke. His ears were beginning to flatten, while his ringed tail was puffing to twice its normal girth in an indication of feline rage.

"Behave!" Lara told him sharply.

The cat glanced at her,
then
grumbled something that was clearly profane. He turned his head pointedly away from Luke, removing himself spiritually from the entire situation.

Luke shrugged. "He hates me. I don't know why, but he hates me. My after-shave, d'you
think
?"

Before Lara could answer, the cat muttered again. She stared at him.
"Ching."
He looked at her, then leapt from the piano and stalked across the stage toward the wings. His angry noises grew louder with each step, finishing with an emphatic howl that momentarily halted every other sound on stage. Then he vanished into the shadows.

BOOK: Golden Threads
10.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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