Authors: Lynda Chance
He comforted himself with the knowledge that he wouldn't have to wait forever. She was already on the cusp of becoming a woman. And what a woman she would be. He
to remember what kind of woman she would become. A manipulative, grasping, destructive bitch. She came from that kind of stock and she damn sure had the beauty for it. Yeah, she was beautiful already, even though she was still a teenager.
But she was eighteen, and legally, that made her an adult
. The seductive truth of that spread through his veins like hot lava.
He tightened his grasp on her as her feminine scent hit his nostrils. He ruthlessly pushed her sexual allure from his brain and focused on the reason he had pulled her into the office in the first place. "What do you want from my sister? What do you hope to accomplish with this so-called
best friends bullshit?
Why are you hanging around here all the goddamned time? This isn't about keeping Hannah company so she won't be lonely. Don't give me that shit. I want the truth." The harsh words spit from his mouth, one by one.
"Let me go," she answered him in a low, tension-filled voice.
He heard what almost sounded like fear in her voice but his grip only tightened. Her fear made him feel strange; it was a feeling he didn't care for. He wanted to feel her hate, not her fear. Why should the glimmer of alarm in her brilliant green eyes make him feel . . . protective toward her? That was utterly absurd. Who had been there to protect
baby, when it needed protection?
He steeled his guts against any softer emotion and his voice dropped an octave. "Answer the question."
Katie's breath caught. She didn't like this man. Really, truly, didn't like the man he'd become. Maybe he thought he had a reason to hate her. But it didn't change things. Emotion pulsed through her as she tried to respond to him with the same kind of antagonism he was showing her. "What do you care? You're never here. You're always in Dallas. You haven't been around for years. If you'd been here, you'd know that Hannah and I have been friends for a long time. Long before your wife--"
His grip tightened even more and Katie's words came to a halt and she thought for a moment that he was going to shake her. "Don't say anymore. That still doesn't explain why you're hanging around a girl so much younger than you."
Katie found the backbone she had once possessed and began to argue with him more easily. "She's only two years younger. Our property borders The Bar M. Why wouldn't we be friends?"
His eyes narrowed on hers. "I think you want something other than friendship with my sister. I think you're after a bigger prize, sniffing out sex and money, just like your deadbeat uncle was doing." The words came at her, hard and gravelly.
Katie registered his meaning and started pulling on her arm again. His grip remained firm as she started to struggle, anger and innate stubbornness coming to the surface. "You? You think I'm after you?" She sneered the words at him.
Zach held her firmly as she struggled. He realized that his heart was begging his brain to have mercy on her but he tamped the emotion down before if could infiltrate his entire system. She
the enemy. He had to remember that. It
to be true. If she wasn't the enemy, then she was just a young girl . . . a young girl who was nice and sweet and cared for his sister. A young girl he'd have to leave alone. He
leave her alone . . . he didn't want to leave her alone . . . so therefore, she had to be his enemy.
His mouth flattened as he held her close and answered her question, "You catch on pretty quickly. Yeah, I think you're after me. I think you're using Hannah to get close to me."
Katie dislodged her arm from his hand and immediately moved away from him toward the door. "You're a freak. An old, used up, ancient
What are you,
like thirty or something?
" Her words were derisive. "Why would I be interested in you?"
"I'm twenty-eight, and don't pretend you don't know that already." His eyes roamed up and down her body, now held so stiffly away from him. "Right. You think I'm old. That's a laugh. You've been doing nothing but watching me from beneath those long lashes of yours for weeks now." He moved toward her again.
Katie rubbed her wrist and backed up, her spine going flush against the wall as he approached her. Had she been that obvious? Was the fact that he disturbed her on several levels there for anyone to see?
He continued the harsh diatribe. "And guess what, sweetheart? You're not so young anymore."
Katie's eyes remained glued to him as he paused and almost gently lifted a lock of her hair and began rubbing it between his fingers. Her breathing snagged as he continued, "You're eighteen, right?" Katie hesitantly nodded and he kept talking, his voice dropping lower. "You know what eighteen means in the great state of Texas? It means you've reached the age of consent. A year past it, in fact. No more jailbait."
Katie stared at him as he stopped speaking but continued to look down at her. She didn't like where this conversation was going. She inhaled deeply and threw her head back as she tried not to notice the gold flecks she could see in his dark brown eyes. "Well, I'm not consenting to anything. I'm going home." She turned to move past him.
His body surged forward and crowded her back against the wall. His hands reached for her more fully, one spearing into her hair and the other landing on her waist. His voice hissed out, "Sure you are. When I say you can. But first we're going prove my theory."
He looked as if he was about to kiss her and Katie stiffened. Her heartbeat accelerated. She'd been kissed before, of course; she'd even had a boyfriend last year she'd finally become intimate with after two years of dating. But when they broke up, the date she'd gone on with someone else had changed her life forever. She pushed the black memory of that night from her mind. Since then, she hadn't given anyone the opportunity to get close to her. Certainly no grown man had ever laid his hands on her. Certainly nobody like Zachary McIntyre. She didn't want him to kiss her. She couldn't stand the thought of him hating her and touching her at the same time. The dichotomy was almost panic inducing. It didn't matter how good-looking he was.
But as much as her mind fought against it, Katie couldn't stop the slight tremor that shook her body. She knew he felt it, too.
"See? I haven't done anything to you yet, and it's happening already." He didn't give her time to answer as his mouth came down and closed over hers. She stiffened and gasped in shock, and when she did, his tongue slid deep into her mouth.
Katie stood frozen in his grasp as his hand tightened on her skull and he began kissing her in earnest. Through a wave of confusion and anxiety, she remained rigid in his embrace, as his warmth, his scent, his masculinity swamped her senses. Her rational mind knew that he wouldn't really hurt her, he was Hannah's brother for God's sake and she'd known him forever. An old, vague memory came to her of a time when she'd felt safe in his arms, when he'd picked her up and rescued her when she'd been a little girl. She tried to blank her mind, tried to temper her mixed emotions, and for a fleeting moment in time, she was another woman. She saw herself as if from outside her body, and felt his touch as if it were happening to someone else.
And then she understood; he knew full well what he was doing, and she realized that he was kissing her in a way she didn't want to be kissed.
Kissing her with the intent to mate
. He knew what he wanted.
It was the same thing they
. If she were any other person, at any other time, maybe she could have enjoyed his embrace. But she wasn't another person, and she couldn't let herself trust any man. The thought scared her and brought her back to herself, and she jerked back from him, her stiffened spine glued to the wall as she turned her face from his.
Zachary must have felt her withdrawal and he spit out a vicious, "Why?"
Distress pierced Katie's numb mind and residual shock bled through her veins. "Please don't touch me," she said in a voice so low, it was almost a whisper.
me to touch you."
She shook her head.
"You need to admit it. Admit why you're here all the time. Admit that it's because of me and not my sister. Admit you want to give it to me."
Katie violently shook off his hands and moved to the door, grasping the handle with shaking fingers. Tears came to her eyes and clogged her words. "I'll
give it to you. Not in a million years. You've turned into a horrible, evil man and I don't ever want to have anything to do with you . . . not ever again. "
Zachary leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest, and watched her with hooded eyes. He saw the tears glistening from her lashes and refused to feel anything. He thought of everything her family had taken from him and hardened his emotions against her. He wouldn't let her youth and seductive beauty sway him. "Don't kid yourself, Katie. You'd give it to me if I wanted it. I just don't want to catch something from a Turner." He tried to stop himself from hurling those words but couldn't and hit out with something that he knew would hurt her. He
her to hurt like he was hurting. "But mark my words, babe, someday you're going to admit you want me, for sex or for money. I don't know which, but someday, you're going to come begging me."
In late June, Hannah and Katie were tanning by Hannah's swimming pool when Zachary's car pulled around back. He slammed out of his vehicle, glanced in their direction, and strode purposefully into the house.
"I didn't know your brother was in town." Katie knew her voice sounded unusually subdued but there wasn't anything she could do about it.
"I didn't know he was, either." Hannah looked toward the house, no doubt feeling her parents' absence. "I haven't talked to Zach much lately--" Her voice trailed off as she looked at Katie.
Katie hadn't seen Zach since that night a few months before when he'd pulled her into the study. He made her uncomfortable . . . more than uncomfortable. Just the mere thought of him made her feel distressed. She continued to stare at the house, turmoil roiling through her stomach. At her silence, Hannah said, "Please, Katie. We can't let it affect our friendship."
Katie glanced at Hannah and tried to smile, knowing that the younger girl was referring to the loss of her sister-in-law and Katie's uncle and the resulting awkwardness that continued to linger. The whole town had known of the affair; that Katie and Hannah had remained friends said a lot about the depth of feelings they had for each other. But Katie knew her face had gone white at Hannah's reference, and she felt the tension that bracketed the lines of her mouth. "I know. We'll try." She swung her legs over the side of the chaise longue and began to slip her flip-flops on.
"Where're you going? You just got here." Hannah's voice was surprised. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said so much . . . " Hannah's words trailed off.
Katie grabbed her t-shirt and began shaking it out as she stood next to Hannah's chair. "It's okay. I don't know why it makes me uncomfortable to be around your brother. I know that I'm not to blame for what happened. But I better leave. I--I'm sorry."
As she stood gathering her stuff, the back door slammed again and Zachary made his way over to the swimming pool. Katie was momentarily shocked into stillness. Tension etched up another notch and anxiety slid down her spine. She had
truly thought she would have enough time to slip into her clothes and leave before he came back out of the house. She really didn't need the menacing accusation she knew she would see on Zachary McIntyre's face. She didn't need to hear his hurtful words. She didn't want to be the focus of his attention. The way she'd been feeling recently, she didn't know if she would ever want a man's attention again, especially a man like him.
Katie's heart began to pump blood rapidly through her system as Zachary came to stand within three feet of them. Standing in her one-piece swimsuit, fumbling with her shirt, she felt naked and exposed as his gaze narrowed and ran up and down her body.
Her hands shook as his eyes coldly moved from her head to her feet and her fingers became clumsy as she tried to get the t-shirt over her head. She was mortified when she almost became tangled in the shirt, and it took longer than it should to cover herself. Finally, she got the shirt in place and slowly, taking his time, his eyes released her from his hold and he moved his attention to Hannah. "Where are they?" his sharp voice asked without preamble.
"At the feed store," Hannah hesitated, and Katie could tell the younger girl was upset that her brother was being so rude. "Zach, you remember Katie, right?"
Katie froze as Zach McIntyre's gaze turned back toward her. A glacial expression crossed his features and her blood ran cold. He stared at her for an agonizingly long moment before turning toward his car and saying to Hannah, "Tell Dad the papers he needed me to sign are on his desk."
Zach drove off and she and Hannah stared after him, lost in their own thoughts and the impossibility of the situation. When his vehicle was out of sight, their eyes met and Hannah said in a rusty voice, "You don't have to leave now."