Yesterdays lies, p.16
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       Yesterday's Lies, p.16

           Lisa Jackson
 
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  “Wouldn’t have it any other way.”

  “It’s ridiculous. Keith’s here.”

  “Precisely my point.” He looked up at her and wrapped his hand around her neck, drawing her lips to his. “I’m not taking any chances with your life.”

  “What about Neva and Nicholas?”

  “A private investigator is with them.”

  “And you’ve assigned yourself to me as my personal bodyguard it that it?”

  “Um-hm.” He rubbed his lips gently against hers, then murmured, “I’m going to stick to you like glue.”

  “I just can’t believe that anyone would want to hurt Nicholas or you.”

  He smiled wryly. “Believe it.”

  He pulled on her hand and she tumbled into the chair with him. Though he let out a sharp breath as her weight fell against his ribs, he grinned wickedly. “Maybe it would be best if I came to bed with you,” he suggested, his breath touching her hair.

  “I don’t think so.”

  “Are you worried about what Keith and the rest of the hands will think?”

  She shrugged. “A little, I guess.”

  “Hypocrite.” He nuzzled her neck and she felt her blood begin to warm.

  “There’s nothing hypocritical about it, I’m just trying to use my head. We both need sleep. You can stay in the guest room. It’s only a couple of doors down the hall from mine.”

  “I remember,” he said softly, his voice intimate.

  Tory had to look away from him to ignore the obvious desire smoldering in his eyes. Who was she kidding? How many times had he stolen into her room in the past? He knew the ranch house like the back of his hand.

  “Where does Keith sleep?”

  “He, uh, moved into Dad’s room when Dad passed away.”

  “And the rest of the hands?”

  “Usually go home. Once in a while someone will stay in the bunkhouse, but that’s pretty rare these days.”

  “What about tonight or, say, the past week?”

  “No one is staying on the ranch except Keith and myself.”

  “And Rex?”

  “He has his own place, just north of Len Ross’s spread. He and Belinda have lived there for over five years.” Five years! Once again, Tory was reminded of the time when she was free to love Trask with all her heart. But that was before her world was destroyed by the horse swapping scam, Jason’s murder and the trial.

  She stood up and tugged on Trask’s arm, hoping to break the intimacy that memories of the past had inspired. “Come on, mister, let me help you up the stairs.” As he stood, she eyed him speculatively. “If you give me your clothes, I’ll throw them in the wash so that you have something clean in the morning.”

  “Gladly,” he agreed as they mounted the stairs.

  “Just leave them in the hall outside your door.”

  “Whatever you say,” he whispered seductively and a shiver of desire raced down her spine.

  “What I say is that we both need some time to think about what happened today. Maybe then we can make some sense of it.”

  Trask’s smile slid off his face. “None of this makes any sense,” he admitted, grimacing against a sudden stab of pain.

  A few minutes later Trask was in the guest room, his clothes were in the washer and Tory was lying on her bed wondering if she would ever get to sleep, knowing that Trask was only two doors down the hall.

  CHAPTER NINE

  PALE LIGHT HAD just begun to stream into the bedroom when Tory heard the door whisper open. She rolled over to face the sound and focused her eyes on Trask as he approached the bed. He was wearing only a towel draped over his hips. A dark bruise discolored the otherwise hard muscles of his chest and the cut on his chin was partially hidden by his dark growth of beard. As he walked the towel gaped to display the firm muscles of his thighs moving fluidly with his silent strides.

  “What’re you doing?” she whispered, lifting her head off the pillow and rubbing her eyes.

  “Guess.”

  The sight of him in the predawn light, a mischievous twinkle dancing in his blue eyes, his brown hair disheveled from recent slumber, made Tory’s blood begin to race with anticipation.

  But the purple bruise on his abdomen put everything into stark perspective. Someone didn’t want Trask digging into the past and that person was willing to resort to brutal violence to stop Trask’s investigation.

  “What time is it?” she asked, pushing the disturbing thought aside.

  “Five.” He stopped near the bed and looked down at her, his gaze caressing the flush in her cheeks then meeting her questioning eyes. “I couldn’t sleep very well,” he admitted, his fingers working the knot on his towel. “Knowing you were in the same house with me has been driving me crazy.”

  “You’re absolutely indefatigable...or is it insufferable? It’s too early to decide which,” she murmured, gazing up at him affectionately. “Last night someone tried to beat the living daylights out of you. There’s a good chance you could have been killed and here you are—”

  “Intent on seducing the woman I’m supposed to protect.” He let the towel slide to the floor and sat on the edge of the bed. Bending slightly, he pushed the tousled auburn hair from her eyes and gently kissed her forehead. “Any complaints?”

  “None, senator,” she replied as he threw back the covers and settled into the bed, his naked body pressing urgently against the softer contours of hers.

  “I could get used to a job like this,” he said as he held her face in his hands and gazed into her slumberous eyes.

  Happiness wrapped around Tory’s heart. A cool morning breeze carrying the faint scent of new-mown hay ruffled the curtains as it passed through the open window. Morning birds had begun to chirp and from far in the distance came the familiar sound of lowing cattle. Lying with Trask in her bed as the first silvery rays of dawn seeped into the room seemed the most natural thing in the world. There was a peaceful solitude about dawn and Tory loved sharing that feeling with the only man she had ever loved.

  His arms wrapped around her, pulling her close to him. The warmth and strength of his body was welcome protection. It felt good to lean on him again, she thought. Maybe there was a chance they could forget the pain of the past and live for the future. Looking into his eyes, Tory felt that there was nothing in the world that could possibly go wrong as long as he was beside her.

  “God, I love you,” he whispered as he lowered his head and kissed her almost brutally.

  Through the sheer nylon nightgown, she felt his hands caress her skin. Deft fingers outlined each rib as they moved upward to mold around her breasts and Tory gasped at the raw desire laboring within her.

  Her breast ached with the want of him, straining to be caressed by his gentle fingers. As he found one nipple and teased it to ripe anticipation, Tory moaned. The exquisite torment deep within her became white-hot as he lifted the nightgown over her head and slowly lowered himself alongside of her. His hands pressed against the small of her back as he took first one hard nipple into his mouth and after suckling hungrily for a time, he turned his attention to the other ripe bud and feasted again.

  Tory’s blood was pulsing through her veins, throbbing at her temples in an erratic cadence. Sweat moistened her body where Trask’s flesh molded to hers. She could feel the muscles of Trask’s solid thighs straining against hers and the soft hair on his legs rubbed her calves erotically, promising more of the impassioned bittersweet torment.

  “I love you,” she cried, all of her doubts erased by the pleasure of his body straining against hers. Painful emotions were easily forgotten with the want of him. Her fist clenched with forced restraint and her throat ached to shout his name as he slid lower and kissed the soft flesh of her abdomen, leaving a dewy trail from her breasts to her navel.

  “I’m never going to let you go again,” Trask vowed, his breath fanning her abdomen, his hands kneading the soft muscles of her back and buttocks as she lifted upward, offering herself to him. “Don’t
ever leave me, Tory.”

  “Never,” she cried, the fires within her all-consuming in the need to be fulfilled, to become one, to surrender to her rampant desire for this one, proud man.

  Slowly he drew himself upward and his hands twined in the wanton curls framing her face. His moist skin slid seductively over hers. “I’ll keep you to that promise,” he said, his voice rough and his blue eyes dark with passion. “Make love to me.”

  As she stared into his eyes, she reached forward, her arms tightening around his muscular torso. The warm mat of hair on his chest crushed her breasts as he rolled over her and his knees gently prodded her legs apart. “I want every morning to be like this one,” he said as he lowered himself over her. His lips once again touched hers and she felt the warm invasion of his tongue just as he pushed against her and began the slow rhythmic dance of love.

  Closing her eyes, Tory held him tightly, her fingers digging into the hard muscles of his back and shoulders as he moved over her in ever more rapid strokes. Her heart was thudding wildly in her rib cage. The warmth within her expanded around him and her breathing came in short gasps as Trask pushed her to the brink of ecstasy time and time again before the rippling tide of sweet fulfillment rushed over her and she felt his answering surrender.

  Sweat dampened her curls as the warmth of afterglow caressed her. With Trask’s strong arms wrapped around her, Tory felt there was nothing that they couldn’t do, as long as they did it together.

  She snuggled closer to him and Trask kissed her hair. “I meant it, you know,” he insisted, his voice low. “About never letting you go.”

  “Good, because I’m going to hold you to it.”

  Silently they watched as the pale gray light of dawn faded with the rising sun. Clear blue sky replaced the early-morning haze.

  Tory looked at the clock and groaned. “I’ve got to get up, senator. Rex usually gets here between six-thirty and seven.”

  “Why don’t you call him and tell him to take the day off?”

  Laughing at the absurdity of his request, she wiggled out of his arms. “It’s easier to get a straight answer out of a politician than it is to get Rex to take a day off,” she said teasingly.

  “You’re feeling particularly wicked this morning aren’t you?” But he was forced to chuckle.

  “And what about you? Are you going to take the day off and forget about going to visit Linn Benton and George Henderson in the pen?”

  His voice became stern. “Not on your life.”

  “That’s what I was afraid of.” Concern clouded her eyes as she rolled off the bed and reached for the robe draped over a bedpost at the foot of the bed. “It wouldn’t surprise me if they were behind what happened to you last night.”

  Tenderly rubbing his jaw, Trask shook his head. “They’re in prison, remember?”

  “Yeah, but Linn Benton’s got more than his share of friends.” She shivered involuntarily and cinched the belt of her robe more tightly around her waist.

  “So do I.”

  “I don’t think friends in Washington count. They can’t help you here,” she thought aloud. Mentally shaking herself, she then tried to rise above the worries that had been with her ever since Trask had forced himself back in her life with his damned anonymous letter.

  As she stared at the man she loved, she had to smile. His brown hair was tousled, his naked body was only partially hidden by the navy-blue sheet and patchwork quilt and his seductive blue eyes were still filled with passion. “I’ll go throw your clothes in the dryer.”

  “Don’t bother. I already did. They’re probably dry by now.”

  “You mean that you went creeping around this house this morning with only a towel around you?”

  “I wasn’t creeping. And the only people here are you and Keith.” His grin widened and amusement sparked in his eyes. “Besides I know where the utility room is. Believe it or not, I have done my own laundry on occasion.”

  “Hmph. I suppose you have.” With a shake of her head, Tory went downstairs and into the kitchen. After starting the coffee, she walked into the adjoining utility room and removed Trask’s clothes from the dryer. As he had predicted, the jeans and shirt were warm and dry. She draped them over her arm, climbed the stairs and returned to her room.

  Trask was still lying on the four-poster, his head propped up with both pillows, a bemused grin making his bold features appear boyishly captivating. Tory’s heart beat more quickly just at the sight of him.

  “There you go, senator,” she said, tossing the clothes to him.

  “Can’t I persuade you to come back to bed?”

  “Not this morning. I’m a working woman, remember?”

  “Excuses, excuses,” he mumbled, but reached for his clothes. She sat on the edge of the bed while he pulled on his jeans and slipped his arms through the sleeves of his shirt.

  “So tell me,” she suggested, eyeing his bruised ribs and the cut on his chin. “Have you got any theories about who decided to use you as a punching bag?”

  He looked up from buttoning his shirt. “A few.”

  “Care to share them?”

  “Not just yet.”

  “Why not?”

  “No proof.”

  “So what else is new?” she asked, leaning back against the headboard of the bed and frowning. Here, lying with Trask in the small room decorated in cream-colored lace, patchwork and maple, she had felt warm and secure. The worries of the night had faded but were now thrown back in her face, quietly looming more deadly than ever.

  Trask stood and tucked in the tails of his shirt. “What’s new?” he repeated. “Maybe a lot.”

  “This is no time to be mysterious.”

  “Maybe not,” he agreed while cocking his wrist and looking at his watch. “But I’ve got to get out of here. I want to check on Neva and Nicholas, change clothes at the cabin and be in Salem by ten.”

  The thought of Trask leaving the ranch was difficult for Tory to accept. In a few short days, she had gotten used to his presence and looked forward to the hours she spent with him. The fact that he was leaving to face two of the men responsible for his brother’s death made Tory uneasy. Though she knew that her father had been innocent, the ex-judge Linn Benton and his accomplice, George Henderson, had been and, in her opinion, still were ruthless men more than capable of murder.

  “Look,” he was saying as he walked to the door. “I want you to be careful, okay? I’ll check with John Davis and make sure he has a man assigned to the Lazy W.”

  “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

  Trask’s eyes glittered dangerously. “I hope not, but I’m a firm believer in the better-safe-than-sorry theory.”

  “Oh, yeah?” She stared pointedly at the cut on his chin and the bruise peeking out of his shirt. “Look where it’s gotten you. And now you’re going to talk to your brother’s murderers!”

  He frowned and crossed the room to hold her in his arms. Placing a soft kiss on the crown of her head he let out a long weary sigh. “Believe me, lady, someday this will all be behind us.”

  “You hope.”

  “I promise.”

  “Just don’t tell me that in twenty years I’ll look back at what we’re going through now and laugh, ’cause I won’t!”

  He chuckled and hugged her fiercely. “Okay, I won’t lie to you, but I will promise you that we’ll have plenty of stories that will entertain our grandchildren.”

  “That’s a promise?” Grandchildren and children. Trask’s children. At this point the possibility of marrying Trask and having his children seemed only a distant dream; a fantasy that she couldn’t dare believe would come true.

  “One I won’t let you get out of.” He lowered his head and captured her lips with his. “The sooner we get all of this mess behind us, the better. Then we can concentrate on getting married and filling the house with kids.”

  “Slow down, senator,” she said, her love shining in her eyes. “First things first, don’t you think? Oh, and
if you want a cup of coffee, I’m sure it’s perked.”

  He shook his head. “Haven’t got time. I’ll be back this afternoon.”

  “I’m counting on it.”

  “Maybe then I’ll get a chance to talk to your foreman, Rex Engels.”

  Tory stiffened slightly. “Are you going to put him through the third degree, too?”

  “Nothing so drastic,” Trask promised. “I just want to ask him a few questions.”

  “About last night?”

  “Among other things.”

  “You don’t trust anyone, do you?”

  “Just you,” he said.

  “Hmph,” she muttered ungraciously and crossed her arms over her chest. “I’ll tell Rex that you want to talk to him.”

  “Thanks.” With a broad wink, he opened the door of her room and disappeared. She watched from the window as he walked out of the house, got into his Blazer and drove down the lane. A plume of gray dust followed in his wake and disturbed the tranquility of the morning. As the Blazer roared by the pasture, curious foals lifted their heads, pricking their ears forward at the noise while the mares continued to graze.

  “When will it ever end?” Tory wondered aloud, taking one final look at the dew-covered grass and the rolling green pastures and dusty paddocks. With a thoughtful frown she turned away from the window and headed for the shower.

  * * *

  TORY WAS IN the den balancing the checkbook when she heard Keith come down the stairs. He walked by the study without looking inside and continued down the hall to the kitchen.

  “I’m in here,” Tory called. When she didn’t get a response, she shrugged and continued sorting through the previous month’s checks. A few minutes later, Keith strode into the room, sipping from a cup of coffee.

  He frowned as if remembering an unpleasant thought. “So where’s our guest?”

  “Trask already left for Salem.”

  Keith tensed. “Salem? Why?” His eyes narrowed and he lifted a hand. “Don’t tell me: he plans on visiting Linn Benton and George Henderson in prison.”

 
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