Authors: Lynda Chance
The answer came to her quickly.
She would be rude now
. That would fit the Katie he was used to. She sucked in a deep breath and steeled her nerves, intentionally lacing her voice with venom. "You can't park there."
"Says who?" Zachary raised an eyebrow as he walked around the vehicle and came to a stop on the sidewalk next to her.
"Says the university police. And that
sign." She crossed her arms over her chest and waited.
Zachary seemed to ignore the content of her words and focused on her. He lifted one hand, almost casually, and stroked her cheek with a long finger, sending a quirk of a smile in her direction. "How've you been,
Katie jerked back from him and fired him a look filled with hostility, not expecting the way he said her name so formally, yet teasingly, to feel like a caress. She smothered the feeling and retaliated with heat, "I'm fine. Thank you
. And you? Have you been busy being mean to old people, kicking dogs and traveling the globe with no greater intent than making a boatload of unneeded money?"
"Katie . . .everyone needs more money, sweetheart. Surely that's a lesson you've learned by now. And I promise you, I've never kicked a dog or been mean to an old person." His voice was nonchalant but Katie had the idea that he wasn't really nonchalant at all.
She rolled her eyes at him and contrived to look extremely bored. "Mmmm, you're as charming as ever. But truly, you should move your car because you'll get a parking ticket. The hassle isn't worth it. Besides, I've just come from Hannah's dorm and she's not there." Katie was afraid he would be able to tell she was lying and she felt a trickle of fear settle in the pit of her stomach. It blended and churned with the other feelings she refused to name.
Zach felt the tension pouring from the feminine body standing in front of him. As much as she tried to hide it, the chemistry was there. He knew she felt it; it radiated from every inch of her delicate form. And what she didn't feel yet, he could well take up the slack. She was beginning to frustrate him to no end. "When do you think she'll be back? Where are you headed?"
She began to inch away from him, obviously preparing to turn and leave. "I don't know, why don't you give her a call? I've got some errands to run on campus. I've got to get to the bookstore and Registrars office, for starters." Her voice held dismissal and it grated on Zach's nerves.
He detained her with a hand on her arm. "Why don't I buy you a late lunch? Or an early supper? We need to talk, anyway." He kept the words smooth, trying to maintain a friendly facade that he was far from feeling.
Katie felt a totally unwelcome trickle of awareness at his touch and took a deep breath, trying to calm down. She stood still while she watched him watching her. Would it be safe to be alone with him? She had such mixed emotions about him, and
, he was good-looking.
Had he gotten even better looking in the past months?
She truly had never seen a hotter guy in real life. With every year that passed, his features matured and became more defined, more masculine.
She knew that she needed to get him away from the freshmen dorms as soon as possible, but she didn't want to hear what new threats he might have in store for her or to be pressured in any way. Of course, the last few times she'd seen him, he hadn't been antagonistic toward her at all. If he kept being nice, and if she wasn't careful, all those crazy feelings she used to have when she imagined herself in love with him would come roaring back. And she for damn sure couldn't chance that, not now, not when her emotions were in such a jumble. She took a breath and began slowly, "Mr. McIntyre--"
He cut her off, impatience clearly in his tone. "Zach. Or Zachary. Take your pick. But cut the Mr. McIntyre crap. You're just doing it to piss me off, and it's working. Can't you let it go for a minute? Why can't you get it through that gorgeous head of yours that we're not enemies? Every time I see you it's like I have to knock down the same wall first."
Gorgeous head? Crap.
"You called me 'Miss Turner' first!" she snapped, her confusion escalating.
"Yes, but I meant it as an endearment and you're only trying to irritate me,
There it was again. Her name coming from his lips in a flirting caress. She counted to three in her head and tried to slow her beating heart. "All right," she intoned dryly, even more panicked by his off-handed compliments and subtle teasing. "I'll call you Zach. But I really don't see what we could need to talk about. Let's see if we can limit this discussion to thirty seconds." She paused and her eyes flashed at him angrily, trying to maintain the emotional distance she needed from him. "You don't like me. You don't like my family. You've tolerated my friendship with your sister for the last two years mostly because I've been away at college. And now Hannah is here, at school, with me." She paused and looked into his eyes. "How am I doing so far?"
Zach chuckled. "Pretty good, sweetheart. Keep going."
He found this amusing?
"Okay. You really don't want me hanging around Hannah. You don't want my bad influence to infect your precious little sister. No taking her to frat parties, no keeping her up late at night. All in all, you want me to stay away from her. How's that?"
"That's good, right on the money. You just saved me the hassle of spelling it out for you."
Even though he was smiling down at her and his words held no antagonism, Katie felt a shaft of pure belligerence run down her spine, but she slapped on her sweetest smile when she answered, "
Katie saw the expression that spread over Zach's face and she was floored at the profanity that came from her mouth. She always strived to be ladylike. Being polite and well mannered were characteristics of her personality.
He was the one who pushed her over the edge.
And now he stood staring at her with a look of both amusement and anger on his face.
Jesus Christ . . . and another expression that was scaring the shit out of her. What the hell had she just done?
She abruptly turned to leave and he slid his hand down her arm and took hold of her wrist with firm, steely fingers. "Not so fast."
Katie pulled on her arm only slightly, not wanting to draw the attention of the students milling around the area. "Let me go
she hissed, as a tiny dart of apprehension slid down her spine.
"Not happening, sweetheart. You may think you can spew filth to college boys and intimidate them, but my school days are long past. When you say that word to me, I take it one way, and one way only."
Zach began dragging her toward his car, and Katie was about to dig her heels in when she saw Josh and Hannah coming down the steps arm in arm. Panic gripped her as she prayed Zach wouldn't see the other couple. She soon found herself in the passenger seat of his car. He slammed the door and walked around and got in behind the wheel.
"Buckle up," he told her tersely.
Katie fumbled with the seat belt as Zach put the car in gear and drove off. Her brain turned to mush at the sudden turn of events, and one question blared through her mind as anger at her cousin for putting her in this circumstance came to the fore.
Josh, what the
hell are you doing to me?
They drove away from campus, and Zachary smoothly boarded the interstate. He glanced over at her, as she held herself as far away from him as possible. "So, Katie, what else have you been doing with your time . . . other than issuing blatant invitations to men?"
Now that the initial threat of Zach seeing Josh and Hannah had been neutralized, Katie began to get even madder at both herself and him, as the knowledge that she shouldn't be so panicked made her feel both stupid and broken. "I didn't issue you an invitation; I told you to fuck off and I want out of this car.
"Sweetheart, be a good girl and settle down. I'm not taking you to a hotel or anything to collect on the promise of your . . . potty mouth." He glanced over only briefly and gave her a glimmer of a heated smile. "We're just going to have a friendly little meal. Maybe a drink. Now, calm down, forget this ridiculous idea that we're on opposite sides and tell me what you've been doing. Hannah said you still have the same job at the stockyards." Katie was amazed as Zach calmly watched the road and concentrated on his driving, as if he kidnapped women all the time.
She took a deep breath and tried to answer him as she simultaneously pulled her phone from her bag and began texting Hannah. "I can't have a drink with you. I'm too young to drink,
. You need to choose someone else to harass, someone older. Like yourself."
Katie let out that blistering line in her sweetest voice just as she pressed the
and wants to c u. lose josh, now.
Hannah's replay came back instantaneously.
PLEASE. I only have 2day with josh. get rid of zach.
Zach looked over at Katie texting her friends and ignoring him and a surge of anger rose up his throat. "Put the phone away, Katie, and act like a grown-up."
Katie's hands shook as she typed in
u owe me big
, then slipped her phone into her purse.
"Fine. I put my phone away. Now please stop the car. You can let me off here." Katie put the strap of her purse over her shoulder and acted as if the car stopping was imminent.
Zach made a low sound in his chest that held a note of disgust as well as raw disbelief. "Have you even noticed where we've been driving? Look around you. Are you totally oblivious to the world and to your surroundings? You can't get out of the car in this area of town."
"Fine. Where are we going? Please make this quick. I told you I have things I need to be doing."
"Yeah, I know, Katie. You're an extremely busy girl, but I'm starving. We're going to have a civil meal and talk about how you're going to be a
influence on Hannah. You obviously have the wrong idea about me. I have no problem with you being Hannah's friend. But you're absolutely right that I don't want her going to frat parties or staying out until ungodly hours of the night."
"It's not like you're her father," Katie mumbled.
"Obviously. But I do love her and care about her future. Hannah's special. She's sweet and she's been sheltered her entire life and she needs to be careful. It can't be a secret that she comes from a . . . family with money. Do you have any idea how many scumbags out there wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of that?"
The trepidation that Katie was feeling intensified. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that her cousin loved Hannah
and nothing else, but Zach would probably never believe it. Heartsick, she turned her head away from him and watched the scenery unfolding out the window. For the first time, she noticed they were heading toward Dallas instead of Fort Worth. As they sped along Interstate 30, she saw Six Flags and Ranger Stadium. The city of Arlington began to disappear as they continued on into Dallas. As the miles flew by, she realized that Hannah was, indeed, going to owe her big time, because no way was there going to be anything quick about this trip.
The Dallas skyline even during the day was impressive. She rarely came into Dallas; she had no reason to. But even she recognized uptown when she saw it. The price of real estate was off the charts here. If ever there was a cosmopolitan place in the state of Texas, uptown Dallas was it. Suddenly, she became extremely curious about Zach's life and lifestyle. Up until now, when she'd allowed herself to think of him, it was thoughts of how to stay out of his path, how she could stay friends with Hannah, and how unfair it was that Zach hated her simply because her last name was Turner. When she thought about him, she always envisioned him at the ranch, and for some reason, her mind never turned to where or how he lived for the majority of his time, which was in Dallas.
But now, as he pulled into an underground car park in a lavish high rise and they began walking toward a bank of elevators, her need to know more about the man beside her was paramount.
He held his hand firmly on the small of her back as he guided her inside the elevator and pressed a button that sent them on an upward course.
It wasn't until the elevator rose to the top of the building and opened into an opulent apartment that Katie realized they were in a residential high rise instead of an office building. She'd assumed they were stopping at his office for some reason or other, and only now understood that he had brought her to his home in the city.
Her trepidation was strong, but her curiosity was stronger. As she stepped across the threshold, her breath caught at the beauty and subdued elegance around her. His tastes ran to the traditional, with a masculine bent, but there were eclectic touches everywhere. Large splashes of brilliant color dramatized the interior in paintings that she assumed were original works of art, creating a bold design as well as, undoubtedly, a future investment for him.