Connecting rooms, p.3
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       Connecting Rooms, p.3

           Jayne Ann Krentz
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  Her response appeared to take Owen by surprise. He staggered a little under the gentle assault. But he did not release her. He recovered his balance immediately and began to rain kisses on her throat.

  “Amy?”

  “Oh, my God, this is amazing.”

  “You can say that again.” Owen scooped her up in his arms and carried her across the room to the bed. “When I think of all the time we’ve wasted.”

  “Yes, yes, I know what you mean.”

  He set her down on the bed and fell on top of her. Her bathrobe had been a faithful friend for years, but it had not been designed to defend its wearer from such treatment. It promptly separated. One of Owen’s jeaned legs found its way between Amy’s thighs.

  “Owen.”

  “Damn,” he whispered. “This is incredible. You’re incredible.”

  Amy was dazed by the waves of passion that were coursing through her. She felt deliciously crushed beneath Owen’s not inconsiderable weight. The heat of his body triggered a series of lightning strikes within her. She could feel the fires they ignited. The flames burned most intensely in her lower body, liquefying all that they touched.

  Owen found the pins in her hair and tore them free. “Like honey in my hands.” He seized a fistful of the stuff and buried his nose in it. “You smell so good.”

  “So do you.” The realization astonished her. She had never before noticed a man’s smell unless she happened to be standing downwind of one who had failed to use deodorant.

  But this unique scent that belonged to Owen was different. Enticing. Enthralling. It did crazy things to her senses. She wanted more of it. More of him.

  “Hang on, let me get you out of this thing.” Owen levered himself up on one elbow and tugged at the sash of her robe.

  Amy gazed at him, fascinated by the passion that blazed in his eyes. Wonderingly, she touched his hard jaw. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

  “The delay was my fault. I was going for the subtle approach.” He put a heavy, warm hand on the bodice of the soft cotton gown. His fingers closed gently around one breast. “Don’t ask me why.”

  “You feel so good.” She flattened her palm against his chest, delighting in the strength of him.

  “So do you.” He bent his head to kiss a nipple. His mouth dampened the fabric of her gown. She gave a small, muffled cry and clutched at his shoulders.

  Owen began to tug the nightgown downward. “Amy, you don’t know what you’re doing to me.”

  Realization burst through Amy’s dazzled senses. “Oh, my God, you’re right. This is all my fault.”

  “Huh?”

  “It’s the case.” She clutched wildly at her sliding nightgown and struggled to sit up. “Don’t you see? It’s the situation we’re in that’s causing you to act like this.”

  “What the hell?” Owen fell to the side as Amy squirmed out from underneath him.

  “I thought this was all very sudden.” Amy tugged the lapels of her robe together and grabbed for the sash. Her hands were shaking.

  “Sudden?”

  “Well, it’s not as though you’ve shown any great interest in me until tonight.”

  “Amy, for God’s sake, listen to me. You’ve got this all wrong.”

  “I don’t think so.” She glowered at him as she scooted to the edge of the bed. “We’ve known each other for several weeks and you’ve never once indicated that you felt anything other than sort of friendly toward me.”

  “Sort of friendly?” Owen was beginning to look mildly dangerous.

  Amy was mortified. “It’s worse than I thought. You weren’t even feeling particularly friendly, were you? That was just my imagination.”

  “Amy, I think we have a small problem here,” he began in an ominous tone.

  “Please, it’s all right. I understand exactly what’s happening.”

  “I’m glad one of us does.”

  “Well, they do say that women are more inclined to analyze situations.”

  “Hell.”

  “I’ve read about this sort of thing,” she said defensively. “But I should have thought that since you’re the expert in these matters, you’d have been alert for just this type of unprofessional occurrence.”

  “Unprofessional?”

  She was suddenly outraged by his obstinacy. “Don’t look at me as if you don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m sure that as a private investigator, you’ve faced this sort of situation hundreds of times.”

  Owen reached out to clamp a hand around her wrist. “For the benefit of this nonanalytical, slow-witted investigator, would you kindly explain what the hell you’re talking about?”

  Amy flushed. “You know what I mean. A situation like this, where two people are thrown together in close confines. A situation in which they face a threat of danger. Why, it’s bound to generate a heightened sense of intimacy. Intimacy often breeds passion. Especially when the two people involved are single and of the opposite sex.”

  “Hold it.” Owen put his fingers against her lips to silence her. “Stop right there. Let’s take this from the top. First, I have been an investigator for over ten years, and I can assure you that I have never, ever made love to a client. Until now, that is.”

  Amy stared at him. “I see.”

  “Furthermore, although I will admit that the situation in which we find ourselves has a built-in degree of intimacy, thanks to the cover story you invented for us, I see absolutely no danger here. Therefore, I think we can discount its impact on our sex lives.”

  Amy frowned. “I’m not so sure about that. We really don’t know what we’re facing yet. There could definitely be some risk involved.”

  “No,” Owen said authoritatively. “There is no threat involved in this damn-fool situation. A certain amount of idiocy on the part of the PI, perhaps. An amazing imagination on the part of the client, definitely. But no threat. Unless you count the threat to my sanity.”

  “Owen, we don’t know that for certain.” Amy got up quickly and tied the sash of her robe. “You haven’t even begun to investigate Arthur Crabshaw. The possibility of danger must be present somewhere in the back of your mind. You’re a trained investigator, after all.”

  Owen flopped back against the pillows and threw one arm over his eyes. “You’d never know it.”

  Amy bit her lip. “Please, I didn’t mean to upset you like this. I should never have knocked on your door tonight. If I’d had any sense, I would have recognized the volatile nature of the situation and waited until morning to discuss the case.”

  “Yeah, right.”

  Amy edged back toward the connecting door. “I’m sorry.”

  “Uh-huh.”

  “It’s the adrenaline and hormones and things like that at work. Not genuine emotion.”

  “Uh-huh.”

  “But you’re right about my imagination,” she added sadly.

  He removed his arm from his eyes and stared at her with sudden intensity. “What?”

  “I do have an overactive imagination. I suppose it’s an occupational hazard for a writer.”

  Owen sat up slowly. “So you admit there’s no real danger involved in this loony case?”

  She shook her head decisively. “No, I still think we mustn’t discount the very real possibility that Arthur Crabshaw is not what he seems. Did you see the way he reacted to Madeline Villantry tonight?”

  Owen hesitated. “Okay, I’ll admit that there may be some kind of connection between them.”

  Amy brightened. “I got the exact same impression. This is amazing, Owen. We’re on the same wavelength here.”

  “That’s a matter of opinion.” Owen sat up on the edge of the bed. A thoughtful expression began to replace the combination of irritation and passion that had burned in his gaze a moment earlier. “Don’t get carried away with your brilliant deduction, Amy. It makes sense that Madeline and Arthur knew each other at some point in the past. It’s a small town, after all, and Crabshaw told us that he worked for Vil
lantry before he went off to Arizona to make his fortune.”

  “The thing is, Madeline Villantry and Arthur Crabshaw would have been worlds apart socially in those days. After all, she was married to the town’s leading citizen. Arthur worked for her husband. But tonight I got the feeling that there was something more intimate between them.”

  “Maybe there was.” Owen stood and began to pace the room. “But whatever happened occurred over thirty years ago. It doesn’t mean anything now.”

  “Then why did Crabshaw get that funny look in his eyes when Madeline stopped by our table tonight?”

  Owen came to a halt and swung around to face her. “I don’t know.”

  Amy was momentarily sidetracked by the sight of him. His dark hair was tousled. His denim shirt had come free of his jeans. All in all, there was a tantalizing, seductive look about him that made her pulse begin to pound once more.

  “Something wrong?” Owen asked.

  “Uh, no. I was just trying to think this thing through.”

  “If you can think clearly at the moment, you’re way ahead of me.” Owen ran his fingers through his hair. “Look, it’s late. Go to bed. In the morning I’ll call some people I know. Have them check into Crabshaw’s Arizona background. I can at least make sure that he doesn’t have a criminal record and that he’s financially solvent.”

  “That sounds like a good start.”

  “Thanks. I do try to give satisfaction.”

  Aware that he was in a strange mood, Amy backed meekly toward the door. She was almost through it when Owen stopped her with another question.

  “Amy, what did you mean a few minutes ago when you said you had an overactive imagination?”

  She paused in the doorway, clutched the lapels of her robe very tightly, and gave him her best real estate saleswoman smile. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

  “Have I told you that you’re a very bad liar?”

  “Don’t ask me any questions if you don’t like my answers,” she flared.

  Owen raised his eyes briefly to the ceiling in a beseeching expression. Then he fixed her with a look of dogged patience. “Amy, the relationship between a private investigator and his client is founded on mutual trust and confidentiality. If I don’t feel that I can rely upon your answers, I won’t be able to work for you.”

  “Oh.” She frowned.

  He took a deliberate step toward her. “I think we need to get this relationship back on track. The fastest way to do that is to be completely honest with each other.”

  “What do you want from me?” she asked.

  He spread his hands. “I’ll get right to the bottom line. Did you really kiss me a few minutes ago because you were driven into a paroxysm of violent passion by the close confines and threat of incredible danger that we face together?”

  “Well, no. At least, I don’t think so.”

  “So why did you kiss me?”

  She gripped the edge of the door and lifted her chin proudly. “If you must know, I kissed you because I’ve been wanting to kiss you ever since I sold you that Victorian horror of a house. There. Are you satisfied?”

  He stared at her as if he’d just walked into a brick wall. “Amy.”

  “Good night, Owen. I’ll meet you downstairs for breakfast. I shall want a complete status report on this case and a detailed outline of your plans for the remainder of this investigation by eight o’clock tomorrow morning. We have no time to waste.”

  Amy slammed the connecting door behind her and hurried into her room. She took a deep breath. After a few seconds she opened the door again. Owen was still standing in the middle of the room, staring at the door. “Why did you kiss me?” she asked.

  His mouth quirked and a sexy gleam appeared in his eyes. “Same reason. Been wanting to do it since I bought the house.”

  Amy felt her insides turn to jelly. “Oh.”

  “See you in the morning.”

  “Right.” Amy closed the door again, this time very quietly. Then she snapped off the light, removed her robe, and threw herself down onto the bed.

  She contemplated the shadowed ceiling for a very long while before she finally went to sleep.

  Chapter 4

  Owen used a copy of the Villantry Gazette to shield his gaze as he watched Amy walk toward him. The no-nonsense impact of her determined stride across the Inn’s coffee shop was severely undercut by the pink in her cheeks and the shyness in her eyes.

  It took a lot to make a real estate agent turn shy, Owen reflected with some satisfaction. Last night’s events had obviously had an unsettling effect on Amy. He took that as a good sign and set about composing his strategy for the day.

  She was self-conscious about what had happened between them, preferring to blame it on adrenaline and hormones. He would act as if nothing at all out of the ordinary had occurred. He would be businesslike and professional. That might help her relax.

  The important thing was that now, after weeks of shilly-shallying around with the subtle approach, he finally knew for certain that she was anything but indifferent to him. She might have concocted a ludicrous reason to explain away the white-hot desire that had flashed between them, but she was definitely not indifferent.

  “Good morning.” He put down the paper and lazily got to his feet as Amy reached the table.

  “Hi.” She gave him a practiced real estate agent’s smile as he pulled out her chair, but her eyes reflected far less certainty. “How are things going?”

  Owen blanked at the question. He seriously doubted that she was inquiring about how he had survived a night complicated by an erection the likes of which he had not endured since his late teens.

  “What things?” Owen asked cautiously.

  “The investigation, of course. You said you were going to make some calls this morning.”

  “Oh, yeah, right. The investigation.” Owen tried a businesslike smile of his own as he resumed his seat. “It’s going just fine. I made my calls before I came downstairs. Should know something by this afternoon.”

  “Great.” Amy opened her menu with a snap. “What about the next step?”

  Owen cleared his throat. He did not delude himself into thinking that she was referring to the next step in their relationship. “We’ll have to see what sort of information comes in from my contacts before we can make concrete plans.”

  “In that case, why don’t we go to the library later this morning.”

  He shrugged. “Why not? There’s not much else to do until I get some response to my calls. We can take a look at this fancy new wing the town plans to dedicate on Friday.”

  Amy looked up from the menu with a small frown. She glanced hurriedly around the room and then leaned forward and lowered her voice. “I meant that we should go to the library to do some research, not to kill time.”

  “Research on what?”

  “On Arthur Crabshaw.”

  “In the library?”

  “For Pete’s sake, you’re supposed to be the trained investigator here. Why am I having to do all the work?”

  “Because you have a natural aptitude for it?” he suggested with bland innocence.

  “Stop teasing me. You know perfectly well why I suggested the library.”

  “I do?”

  “Of course. We might be able to learn something about Crabshaw if we look through old newspapers from the time when he worked for Villantry.”

  “You know something, Amy? You have a one-track mind. I suppose you need it in the real estate business, though, don’t you? What do you do? Sink your teeth into a client and refuse to let go until he signs on the dotted line?”

  She gave him a puzzled look. “I’m just trying to keep you focused on the job at hand. Are you always this vague about your work? Does the pressure get to you or something? Is that what went wrong in Portland?”

  Owen drummed his fingers on the table. “Amy, you are not going to find anything of interest on Crabshaw in thirty-year-old editions of the Villantry Gazette.”


  “What makes you so sure of that?”

  Owen swore under his breath. “Think about it. If Crabshaw had been involved in an old scandal or if he had left town under a cloud, do you honestly believe that Madeline Villantry would have been so polite and gracious to him last night?”

  “Hmm. I hadn’t thought about that.”

  “She went out of her way to congratulate him and your aunt on their engagement. This is a small town, and the Villantrys have obviously ruled it for years. If Crabshaw had done anything thirty years ago that was considered the least bit unsavory, Madam Villantry would not have stopped at our table.”

  “I suppose you have a point.”

  “Thank you. I like to think that I’m not completely unsuited to my work.”

  “Still, it won’t hurt to look in the old papers, will it?” Amy continued brightly. “As you said, it’s not as if we have anything better to do this morning.”

  Owen narrowed his eyes. “Is this why you had to quit your high-powered real estate career in Seattle? In your zeal to close a big deal did you finally manage to push one of your clients a little too far?”

  To his amazement, Amy paled. “That question does not deserve an answer.” She took a deep breath and returned her full attention to the menu.

  • • •

  An hour later Owen found himself reluctantly ensconced in front of a microfilm reader. He was supposed to be perusing the headlines of the old issues of the Villantry Gazette that were rolling slowly past his gaze, but his real attention was on Amy. She sat at the machine next to him, her attention on another reel of the Gazette.

  Owen was still berating himself for the unwitting crack about her real estate tactics. He had obviously stumbled into awkward territory. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that something bad had happened in Seattle. He recalled a remark Bernice had made at dinner. Something about Amy being burned out after “that dreadful incident last year.”

  At the time, Owen had concluded that Bernice had been referring to an affair that had gone sour. He hadn’t paid much attention to the comment because whatever it was, it was in the past. He was only concerned with Amy’s future.

 
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