PASSAGE OF THE NIGHT
Her plot just had to succeed! She would abduct Francis Grayson and dump the attractive
businessman on a remote mountain in Vermont. And she'd leave him there until her elder
But Kirstie hadn't made any allowance for Francis's quick recovery or his
Nor had it once crossed her mind that she might be just as susceptible to Francis's lethal
charms as Louise....
WHAT a hell of an afternoon it had been.
Francis Grayson shifted his briefcase from one big hand to another to ease aching
shoulders. The light in the lift indicated the basement of the car park building an instant
before the double doors slid open. That corner of the basement was pretty much
deserted, as it was past the rush hour.
He noticed with irritation that construction barriers and orange pylons were up,
sectioning off the corner where he had his parking reservation. Apparently the attendants
had not seen fit to warn him of the inconvenience. He set down his briefcase and quickly
shifted the equipment so that he could get his car through, and made a mental note to
call their office on Monday to complain.
Then, with his customary long, arrogant stride, he crossed the yards it took to reach his
metallic silver BMW. The underground lights threw orange stripes on the asphalt and
created long shadows between the massive concrete pillars. Down here it was hard to
remember that the evening outside was still golden and balmy warm.
To have attained the executive director seat at Amalgamated Trust was no mean feat at
the age of thirty-five. Based here, in New York, the finance corporation held offices in
all the major cities in the States, together with growing concerns in London, Paris, Rome
Such success suggested a certain amount of good fortune, let alone a driving calculated
intelligence. Nevertheless, Francis was no stranger to the kind of day where everything
seemed to go wrong. It was just a pity that this Friday had to fall victim to one of those
He schooled himself to patience. After all, the working day was finished. Perhaps
something could still be salvaged from the evening, despite the fact that his date had
cancelled. He had two tickets to the theatre burning a hole in his pocket, and he had
promised his twelve-year-old niece Jolaine some time ago that he would take her out. He
would give his sister Patricia a call when he got home.
Light footsteps sounded; not quite an echo of his own, for the stride was much shorter.
Automatically Francis glanced in their direction in time to see a blonde woman stroll
around one of the concrete pillars, slight in jeans and nondescript jacket. He was sure he
had never met her before, but something about those large eyes, that greyhound-sleek
bone-structure, was familiar. An odd sense of recognition hovered like a bird about to
perch on his shoulder, but it proved elusive.
The question had barely registered before he wondered where her car was parked, and
then dismissed her presence as irrelevant. He reached the driver's side of his car and set
down his briefcase. Then a very odd thing happened.
The woman walked to the opposite side of his car, pointed a gun at him across the roof
and said, 'Hello, Francis.'
Even unloaded, the revolver had a disturbing unfamiliar weight. The handle slipped
slightly in her sweating palm, and Kirstie tightened her grip until her knuckles were
She wasn't sure why Francis Grayson had surprised her. He wasn't exactly what one
would expect to find on the glossy cover of a magazine. Or perhaps he was. No smooth
good looks here, but the way he had moved through the basement car park had
awakened an irrational, primitive apprehension inside her.
He did not walk; he prowled. His fluid body was woven with a tight, animalistic grace
that paid mere lip-service to the civilised world. The aggressive jut of those broad,
rolling shoulders, the casual swing of the slim hips, those long, distance-eating swift legs
—all spoke of an integral, inherent power only tempered by the laugh-lines by his
mouth, the long, sensitive fingers. There was an all-encompassing masculinity that
surrounded him like a physical scent, and Kirstie's brows drew together in a painful
His face, his powerful body, those beautiful hands— everything about him had gone into
a waiting stillness when she had appeared on the other side with the gun. He said almost
casually, his emerald eyes on the gun, 'I don't suppose it would do any good to point out
that you are making a big mistake.'
Involuntary images crashed through her memory: her agonising over the difficult
decision, the sleeplessness, the anxiety, the heart-stopping point when she had walked
towards this dangerous man. From the moment he had seen her, it had been too late and
they both knew it. She said almost gently, her grey eyes dark, 'No, it wouldn't.'
Several years ago, Francis Grayson had made quite a name for himself playing football
for the University of Notre Dame. He had been one of the nation's leading sports figures
and could have made his fortune as a professional quarterback, had he so chosen. Kirstie
had seen film clips of the old games. His speed had a shocking elegance; the inherent
threat she had witnessed from the moment she first laid eyes on him in the basement was
no illusion, and, even with the car between them and the empty threat of the gun, she felt
exposed, made vulnerable by the very self-containment with which he looked down the
barrel of the gun into her eyes.
Oh, God, she didn't dare underestimate him.
'Stop!' she cried, throwing herself back three steps in panic. Francis froze again. Their
eyes clashed; she felt the impact shudder through her right down to the ground, and
knew by his tight, savage smile that he saw just how afraid of him she really was.
'Believe me,' drawled Francis contemptuously, 'I have no immediate desire to get shot.
My wallet is in my right breast pocket. I will reach for it slowly with my left hand.'
Kirstie shook her head. 'Never mind your wallet,' she said tersely. 'Reach instead for
your car keys— slowly. Unlock the back door and open it. Now slide the keys over to
me and step back. Back off!'
He did so, like a wild animal retreating from attack, checked but unbeaten. His
voracious green eyes ravaged her appearance as he whispered, 'Do you honestly think
that I will let you get away with this?'
So gently said, so implacably meant. Not a threat, not even a warning, just a simple
question ringing with devastating truth. She ignored the question as she began to pull
nylon cord from the inside of her jacket. She had to, for if she thought any more about
all the ramifications of what she did, of how she knew this man would never forgive, or
forget, and how inevitably she would pay the price for subduing him, she would freeze
and it would all be over.
She tossed the length of cord to him and he caught it with an automatic flex of his wrist.
'Make yourself comfortable by sitting in the back seat and tie your ankles together.'
His hard gaze met hers over the intervening roof. Even now he showed no fear, but for
an instant Kirstie saw the real man through that tough, calm exterior, and she sucked in a
frightened breath. She had never seen such rage or reaction shielded with such utter
control behind the mask of his face.
'And if I don't?' he asked, with no more emotion than he would when discussing the
If you don't, I am lost, she thought, and directed the gun with meticulous precision at his
gleaming dark head. 'Then so much for desire.'
After staring for a long moment at her poised, slim figure, at the unwavering grey eyes,
in which were equal measures of pain and driven resolution, Francis eased himself into
the car, bent, and tied his ankles together deftly, well aware that her sharp stare missed
no detail of the act.
It was a major concession. Her shuddering sigh was silently exhaled as she walked
around the back of the car. She tossed through the open door another item, which glinted
steely in the air and chinked heavily as he caught it. Handcuffs. Francis raised
expressive eyebrows and waited.
Concession, but again no defeat. She conceived the wildest suspicion that he had agreed
to go along with her just to see where it led him, not out of fear, not out of any regard for
his safety, and she drove her doubts away with deliberate harshness as she snapped, 'Use
them! Arms behind, not in front of you! Well done. We've gone past first base. Pardon
me, that was baseball. Should I have said the first kick-off instead?'
As she had intended, the dangerously unpredictable rage in those unique emerald eyes
faded to speculation. 'You seem to be a remarkably well-educated thief,' he replied.
Kirstie had lost none of her wariness, for all Francis Grayson's apparent incapacitation.
The sight of that big folded body lent itself to a great many images, but not one of
helplessness. She kept dividing her attention between him and the direction of the lift
doors. Every muscle in her body hurt, she was so tense.
However, she forced it all below the surface as with swift competence she swept his
abandoned briefcase up from the ground and tossed it in beside him. 'You persistently
misunderstand,' she said, prior to slamming the door shut on him. 'You are not going to
be robbed. You are going to be kidnapped.'
Kirstie was very aware of that brilliant gaze dissecting her every movement, assessing
threat and possible weakness. She now moved fast, racing to the front of the car where
she had previously stashed two blankets and a backpack. Scooping them up, she put
everything, plus herself, in the front.
She twisted in the driver's seat to parry the slash of those eyes. The interior of the car
was luxurious. It smelted of fresh clean aftershave and finer scents. Though her victim
was very quiet, the air around him crackled. By sheer force of presence, he dominated
Two lines had begun to cut from either side of her delicate nostrils, and the short hair at
her temples was darkened with sweat. With a movement as compulsive as it was
sneaking, she wiped her mouth.
His attention never wavered; he saw her, damn him to seven kinds of hell. 'It would be a
pity to lose control at this late stage,' he said with hideous softness.
'Pity doesn't come into it,' she attacked back. 'One slip from me and you'd go for my
His eyes shifted down. Malice glittered bright like gold in the air. 'Such a delectable
throat it is, too. Granted, you've done very well so far, but you will slip. And when you
go down, you are quite right. I'll be waiting.'
Her moving lips felt stiff, her eyes cold. 'Don't bother warning me, Francis. I know all
about you. I won't slip.'
Behind his answering silence, she could feel his mind, dagger-sharp and unkind,
working furiously. Quite in control now, her fingers flashed over the fastening of the
backpack to draw out a thermos. She opened it and poured some of the liquid into the
red lid. The bitter smell of coffee filled the interior of the car. She turned back to Francis
and aimed her attack again at his composure. 'Black, no sugar, I believe.'
Most would have noted no reaction to that. Kirstie saw a tiny muscle by his mouth
twitch. 'Very well-educated indeed, for someone I've never seen before,' he said thinly.
'What other information have you managed to dig up about me?'
'Oh, you'd be surprised. It has been a very bad day for you, hasn't it, down to your date
cancelling tonight? What a shame about those theatre tickets. Getting them on such short
notice must have cost you a fortune. I know your favourite meal, how well you ice-
skate. I know about the scar on the inside of your left , thigh.'