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Authors: Iris Johansen

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BOOK: Tender Savage
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“Yes,” she whispered. “I’d never felt like that before.”

“How did you feel,

She was silent.

“Tell me. Pretend. Imagine …”

She was suddenly afraid to let herself fall deeper into this make-believe that was becoming more real than the cell around her. Yet her answer came haltingly, tentatively, drawn from her by the sheer power of his personality. “As if you were a part of me that I’d never been aware existed before.”

“Then it was right that I bribed your servant to smuggle me into your bedroom tonight.”

“Is that where we are?”

“You must be as love-struck as I am.” Ricardo’s tone was gently chiding. “Don’t you recognize the ornamental bars your father placed on
the windows to keep out suitors? The leaf-green and ivory Aubusson carpet I’m sitting on?”

She could almost see them, she realized dreamily. “But why are you sitting on the floor?”

“Where else would a suitor sit but at the feet of his lady?” His voice deepened. “Besides, I dare not touch you yet.”

“Why not?”

“I must make sure that you want me as much as I want you.” He began to unbutton his shirt. “You don’t know the ways of passion yet and I must be careful not to hurt you.”

“Yet you sneak into my father’s house to take my virtue?”

“As Romeo did with Juliet. Your father thinks I’m too wild for his gentle daughter.”

“Are you?”

He stripped off his shirt, and his powerful shoulders gleamed golden in the twilight. “Yes.”

She inhaled sharply as she looked at him. Ricardo’s glossy black hair flowed about his shoulders, and his muscles were taut, sinewy with power. He looked wild and untamed, totally different
from the controlled man she had come to know. “Then why should I let you seduce me?”

He stood up, his fingers unfastening his trousers. “Because you’re not the gentle girl your father thinks you are, that you think you are.”

“I should know myself.”

He was quickly stripping. “Then why aren’t you shocked that I’m undressing in front of you?” He turned to face her, his nude body bathed in the influx of light that cast an aura of diffused gold around him. “Do you find me pleasing, Lara?”

“Yes.” She cleared her throat to rid it of its tightness. Her breasts swelled beneath the gauze of her gown as she remembered the feel of Ricardo’s callused palms as he had caressed her.

“Do you want to know how I find you?” He stood unmoving in the pool of light. “But I think you do know. Just as you knew this afternoon when I pulled you down off your horse in the tall grass and rubbed against you like an animal in need. I can still hear those soft, keening sounds you made deep in your throat.”

“I don’t remember doing that.”

“Then I’ll have to remind you.” He moved forward
to stand before her. “You kept saying, ‘Ricardo,
. I love you.’ You arched up against me and our hands were all over each other. I wanted to take you then and there.”

She felt the muscles of her stomach clench helplessly and a liquid burning between her thighs. “Why didn’t you?”

His fingertips touched her cheek and she felt as if that gentle touch was burning her. “Because you’re my lady and not my whore. You must have satin sheets and a chamber scented with lilac and lavender. I would have taken you to my own rancho, but you were frightened of what your father would do. So I came to you.” His hand moved down to cup her throat. “As I’ll always come to you.”

She gazed up at him, mesmerized. Dear heaven, she could actually smell the lilac and lavender, she thought helplessly. And this was her lover who had risked everything so that she might have a night to remember. She whispered, “Why?”

“Because we were meant to be together.” His hand slipped into the opening of her gown and it
trembled as it had before. “You belong to me.” His thumbnail brushed against her nipple, and a streak of fire surged through her. “And I belong to you.”

He withdrew his hand and reached down to kiss her softly, sweetly, lingeringly. “Let’s get rid of the gown, Lara. Lovers shouldn’t have barriers between them, should they?”

“No.” She knelt in a dreamy haze as he pulled the gown over her head and dropped it on the floor. The light was fading and the shadows were merging and becoming darkness as Ricardo pushed her gently back on the cot and moved over her, parting her thighs, cupping her womanhood with one warm hand as he bent and kissed her again.

His tongue invaded her mouth as his hand began to rub, explore in its own sensual invasion.

She moaned deep in her throat as she had in the tall grass when he had first touched her.

He lifted his head and smiled down at her. “Yes, that’s my wild love.” His fingers plunged deep and she arched up toward him with a cry. His breathing harshened.
me, Lara.”

She did want him. She was on fire. Her teeth sank into her lower lip to smother the cries that kept welling from her throat as he stroked, rotated. It was as if a dam had burst and everything inside her was flowing toward him in a hot tide. “Ricardo, it’s—” She stopped, panting as he moved over her. “Yes. Yes.”

“Now?” He whispered, “I may hurt you,
. Your father is right. I’m too wild for you.”

“No, you’re not.” Her hands clutched his shoulders, afraid he’d leave her. “I need you, Ricardo.”

“Do you?” He slowly lowered his head until his lips were hovering only a breath above her own. “Then take me, Lara.”

He plunged deep and her cry was muffled by his lips. He stopped, his manhood within her, his lips pressed to her own, letting her get used to him.

The sensation was indescribable. Fullness, heat, hunger.

He raised his head and looked down at her. His chest lifted and fell with the harshness of his
breathing, and his features were contorted with pleasure. “If I’m hurting you, you’ll have to tell me to stop. I can’t do it on my own.”

She shook her head. She couldn’t force the words past her lips.

He drew a deep breath that she felt within her own body. Then he was moving, plunging, thrusting with the wildness he had warned her might be loosed.

She welcomed the storm, her head thrashing back and forth on the sheet as his hands slid beneath her buttocks, lifting her into each thrust.

She knew she was moaning, whimpering, but she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t do anything but respond to the fiery rhythm he had set. She felt taken, absorbed, possessed, and yet she still wanted to give more.

he whispered against her mouth. “Let it happen.”

She closed her eyes as the rhythm escalated. Tall, fragrant grass, satin sheets, lilac and lavender, her lover coming to her in the darkness.

Her lover …

She lurched upward as the tension broke, shattering into a million shards of sensation.


A guttural groan tore from him as his body convulsed and shudder after shudder racked through him. He collapsed against her, his heart thundering, his breath coming in gasps.

He was shaking and her arms instinctively closed maternally about him as he buried his face in her shoulder.

Her lover …

“It’s all right,” she murmured. “It’s all right, now.”

“Is it?” His muffled voice held a thread of desperation. “Then why can’t I get the hell off you? I want to stay here and …” He flexed within her with mindless hunger. “Dear heaven, but I want to stay here. This is what I’ve wanted from the minute I saw you.”

“When I was riding the palomino,” she said dreamily. No, that wasn’t right, that had only been Ricardo’s beautiful fantasy he had painted for her. She laughed huskily. “Do you know, I almost believed it?”

“So did I.” His hand smoothed her hair back from her temple. “Was it good for you,

“Yes. More than good. Beautiful.”

He bent forward. “Then may I show you more?” He kissed her shoulder. “I can’t seem to get enough of you. I’ll make you want it, I promise you.”

She already wanted him again, she realized with surprise. Maybe she was as wild as he had called her. No, that was the woman of the fantasy—a woman who lived in a
with a red-tiled roof on a rancho with a clear blue lake and tall green grass waving in the breeze.

But the tingling heat flowing through her now was no fantasy. Her arms tightened around Ricardo’s shoulders as her legs wrapped around his hips. “Come to me,” she whispered. “Show me.”

Jurado and the guards came for her at midnight, giving her only time to draw on her gown before the guards pushed her toward the door.

Ricardo leapt from the cot. “Damn you, Jurado, you said you—”

“Compose yourself, Lázaro,” Jurado interrupted. “She won’t be hurt … yet. I quite enjoyed your little charade and I’m very pleased with you. However, I’m sure it will take a few more days to bring you to the point of no return. We just have to make sure you both weren’t playacting for my benefit as well as the woman’s. We have to examine her.”

“For God’s sake, you don’t have to put her through that. She isn’t—”

The slam of the door cut off his words and Ricardo was alone in the cell.

She would be frightened.

The thought made the bile rise in his throat. He couldn’t stand the thought of her alone and frightened with those greasy pigs touching her.

He wanted to kill someone.

He moved to the window and watched Lara walk across the courtyard toward the infirmary between the two guards.

Agony tore through him and he could feel the hot tears sting his eyes.


Lara flew across the room toward him as soon as the cell door slammed behind her.

“I want to go back.” Tears ran down her cheeks as she came into his arms. “Ricardo …”

He held her close. “Lord, you’re cold.”

“I feel cold. I feel as if I’ll never get warm. The table was metal and there was a bare bulb burning above me.” The words tumbled feverishly as her arms closed fiercely around him. “It was ugly. Uglier than it was before.”

“Shh, I know.”

“Everything was ugly. I felt as if I couldn’t breathe without inhaling filth. I want to go back.”

He picked her up as if she were a small child and carried her toward the cot. She was shaking as if with a chill. “Back home to the United States?”

“No.” Her eyes closed as she nestled closer to him. “Why should I want to go there? I want to go back to the rancho.”

He stopped in midstride, looking down at her. She was almost in shock and who could blame
her after all that had happened to her? “You can’t go—” He stopped. She had faced enough ugly reality for one day; a little fantasy could do her no harm. He sat down on the cot and held her on his lap, rocking her back and forth. “We
back at the rancho, Lara.”

She felt light and womanly in his arms and for an instant he felt a familiar stirring in his groin. No, not now. The last thing Lara needed now was sex. She only wanted escape from this sordidness. She wanted the feeling that she was safe and free.

“The tall grass by the lake,” she murmured, as if prompting him.

“We tied our horses to the cypress tree.” He stroked her hair gently. “You brought a picnic basket today and you’re laughing and telling me not to spread the red-checkered tablecloth on the anthill. There are water lilies floating on the lake and my Labrador is racing along the bank chasing a squirrel.”

“I remember the Labrador. You never told me his name.”

“Jaime.” His lips pressed against her temple
and he felt the tenderness well up in him. “His name is Jaime and he loves you very much.”

“Does he?” She cuddled closer. She was silent a moment before whispering, “You must think I’m crazy. I know it’s not true, Ricardo. I just want it to be true for a little while. I
it to be true.”

“Then it is true. It’s all true. Close your eyes and you’ll see it.” His palm passed over her lids, closing them. “The sun is shining on your face and it’s making you drowsy. I’ll spread a blanket on the ground so you can nap before we go back to the rancho.”

“My father will catch us if you take me back.”

“No, have you forgotten? Our rancho. We’re married now. Two weeks ago, in the chapel in the village. You belong to me.”

Lara woke slowly, peacefully, her lids opening to see Ricardo’s face above her. He smiled. “Good morning.”

“Good morning.”

Sunlight streamed into the cell, touching his black hair with vibrant luster. How odd that
she should feel this supreme contentment as she looked at him. It was as if they’d awakened together like this a thousand times before. “What time is it?”

Ricardo glanced at the sun streaming through the bars. “I’d judge it to be close to eight.”

Eight o’clock. After the shocks she’d undergone last night, she hadn’t expected to sleep this late. There wasn’t much time.

Lara quickly sat up and swung her feet to the floor as she ran her fingers nervously through her hair. Lord, she was frightened. What if something went wrong?

“What’s the matter?” Ricardo’s gaze narrowed on her face.

“What could be the matter?” she said softly. “You love me.”

Ricardo darted a glance at the microphone on the wall. “That was only pretense, Lara.”

“No.” Her tone was urgent. “I know you love me. How many times did you whisper it to me last night?”

“Lara, what the hell are you doing?”

“If you love me, you can’t let them hurt me.” Her voice rose hysterically. “You have to tell them what you know. You can’t let them touch me again. None of this is my fault.”

Ricardo sat up, his face suddenly pale. “I said nothing to you last night that couldn’t be said to a child I wished to comfort.”

“You lie.” Her voice was shrill. “Why are you lying to me? You said it was a secret between us that you loved me, that you would always love me. I don’t want them to hurt me. Tell them.”

Ricardo’s gaze desperately shifted to the microphone again. “I’m not lying. You were a good lay and I needed a woman. You mean nothing to me. Nothing.”

“Ricardo.” She tried to make her voice quaver. She didn’t have to try very hard; she was shivering as if with a chill. “I’ve made you angry. Don’t be angry with me. Just tell them what they want to know so they’ll let me go.”

BOOK: Tender Savage
2.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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