Tempting fate, p.1
Tempting Fate, p.1Part #2 of The MacGregors series by Nora Roberts
She wasn’t sure why she was doing it. Diana studied the cloud formations spreading beneath her and tried to reason out if the trip she was making had been impulse on her part or calculated. Though she was scheduled to land in less than thirty minutes, she still wasn’t certain.
It had been nearly twenty years since she’d last seen her brother. When Diana thought of him, she thought of him as a remote, exciting, casually affectionate teenager. Diana had loved him with all the single-minded intensity that a six-year-old girl can have for a sixteen-year-old boy.
Her image of him was frozen in the past—a dark, rangy youth with sharp good looks and cool green eyes. She remembered an arrogant sort of pride and self-sufficiency. He’d been a loner. Even at six, Diana had understood that Justin Blade had gone his own way.
With a mild, humorless smile, she leaned back in the soft comfort of her first-class seat. Justin had certainly gone his own way twenty years before. When their parents had died, he had comforted her, Diana supposed. But she’d been too bewildered to understand. She had thought her parents had left because she’d made a fuss about going to school. If she behaved and was quiet and attentive in class, her parents would come back. Then Aunt Adelaide had come, and Justin had gone. For months she had thought he’d gone to heaven, too, tired of her tears and questions. Her aunt had taken her east, to a different world, a different life. Not once in the span of two decades had Justin contacted her.
So now he’s married, Diana mused. Perhaps because she still saw him as an intense, rather brooding teenager, she couldn’t picture Justin as a husband. Serena MacGregor. Diana ran the name over in her mind. Odd that she should find herself with a sister-in-law when she barely felt that she had a brother.
Oh, she knew of the Hyannis Port MacGregors. Aunt Adelaide wouldn’t have considered Diana’s education complete if she hadn’t been made aware of the background of one of the country’s leading families—particularly when they lived close enough to Boston to be considered neighbors. After all, moneyed dynasties were the only royalty America claimed.
Daniel MacGregor was the patriarch, a full-blooded Scot and financial wizard. Anna MacGregor, his wife, was a highly respected surgeon. Alan, the oldest son, was a United States senator earmarked for bigger things.
Caine MacGregor. Here, Diana stopped her mental list. Though he was barely thirty, she’d heard his name bandied about the hallowed halls of Harvard Law School. Both she and Caine had chosen law, and she’d slaved over the books, studied under the same professors and walked the same corridors. At length, she’d passed the same bar. He’d graduated the year before she’d entered and had already begun what looked to be a brilliant career.
Once when Diana had been a freshman, she’d overheard two female upperclassmen talking about Caine MacGregor. And, she remembered with a smirk, they hadn’t been discussing his mind. Obviously, the inestimable MacGregor hadn’t spent all his time sweating over his books.
Then there was Serena. From all accounts, she was brilliant—it seemed to be in the MacGregor genes. She’d graduated from Smith with honors, Diana recalled, then had spent the next few years collecting degrees. She seemed an odd match for the Justin Blade Diana remembered.
For a moment, Diana considered whether she would have attended their wedding if she’d been in the country. Yes, she decided. She would have been too curious not to. After all, it was primarily curiosity that had her traveling to Atlantic City now. Then again, she thought ruefully, it would have been difficult to refuse the invitation Serena had sent her without being childishly rude. If there were two things Aunt Adelaide had taught her, they were never to be childish or rude—at least not to those considered your peers. Diana pushed her aunt’s quaint double standards to the back of her mind and unfolded Serena’s letter.
I was terribly disappointed that you were in Paris last fall and unable to attend the wedding. I’d often requested a sister, but my parents wouldn’t oblige me. Now that I have one, it’s frustrating not to be able to enjoy her. Justin speaks of you, but it’s not the same as meeting you face-to-face—especially since his memories are of a little girl. After all these years, I can think of nothing he’d like better than to meet the woman you’ve become.
Taking a page out of his book, I’m sending you an airline ticket. Please use it and be our guest at the Comanche for as long as you like. You and Justin have a lifetime to catch up on, and I have a sister to meet.
Diana arched a brow as she refolded the letter. Warm, open, friendly, she mused. Not the sort of woman she would have paired up with Justin. With a quiet laugh, Diana leaned back. She didn’t even know a man named Justin Blade.
If there was a part of her that longed to know him, she’d buried it long ago. She’d had to, in order to survive in her aunt’s world. Even now, if her aunt were to discover she was planning on spending time with Justin at a gambling hotel, the woman would be horrified. And, Diana added, the lecture on where and with whom a lady is seen would begin.
She gave her attention to the clouds again. It hardly mattered, she mused. She would meet her brother and his wife, satisfy her curiosity, then leave. The little girl who had idolized unquestioningly didn’t exist any longer. She had her own life, her own career. They’d both been stagnant for too long. It was a new year, Diana reminded herself. The perfect time for beginnings.
* * *
She probably won’t show, Caine thought as he walked toward the terminal. Since Diana Blade hadn’t responded to Serena’s letter, he didn’t understand why his sister was so certain she’d be on the plane. He was less certain why he had allowed himself to be drafted as chauffeur.
Rena would have come if things hadn’t gotten so busy at the hotel, he reminded himself. And since the hell they’d been through only a few months before, Caine found himself willing to indulge his sister’s whims. Otherwise, he mused, he’d be spending his week off skiing in Colorado instead of walking a northern beach in January.
A gust of wind blew down the collar of his coat as he reached for the door at the terminal entrance. A blonde, wrapped in red fox, passed through, pausing long enough to run her gaze up Caine’s body and over his face before her eyes met his. Caine took the brief, speculative look with a half-amused smile and waited for her to move by.
He had a lean, somewhat pale face with sharp, strong bones offset by eyes that edged toward violet. At a casual glance, he might be deemed a scholar—a longer one might reveal the recklessness that was far removed from academia. Because he was hatless, the wind tossed his burnished gold hair around his face. The smile added charm to what were intense, almost wolfish features. He was a man aware of his looks and comfortable with them.
Caine moved through the terminal in a quick, rangy stride, looking neither right nor left. He’d spent enough time in airports to ignore the sounds and crowds. With a brief glance at the monitor, he checked the gate for the incoming flight from Boston, then settled down to wait for a woman he didn’t expect.
When the arrival was announced, Caine sat back in the black plastic chair and lit a cigarette. He’d wait until the last passenger had deplaned, then go back to the hotel. Serena would be satisfied, and he’d have an afternoon workout in the gym. Since completing his term as state’s attorney and resuming his private practice, Caine hadn’t had time for an hour’s relaxation, much less a week’s. When he relaxed, he believed in doing it as thoroughly as he worked.
The next seven days, he told himself, were going to be dedicated to doing nothing. He wouldn’t think of the chaos of his office, the cases he was going to have to turn down because there simply weren’t enough hours in the day, or the reams of paperwork.
Caine knew her the minute h
As she shifted her flight bag to her other arm, Diana’s thick raven hair swung, not quite brushing her shoulders. She wore it loose and nearly straight, so that the tips just curved under, with a fringe of bangs over her forehead. The style suited her, easy but cleverly and meticulously cut, as was the deceptively simple burgundy suit.
Unnoticed, Caine let his eyes trail up, taking in the slender, well-disciplined body, narrow hips, slim waist, strong swimmer’s shoulders. She walked like a dancer, confident, smoothly rhythmic, so that when he stepped in front of her, Diana paused in midstride without any show of awkwardness. Unlike the woman in the red fox, she scanned his face briefly and with no show of interest.
“Excuse me.” The words were perfectly polite and left the unmistakable impression that he was in her way.
Interesting, Caine mused, and didn’t bother to smile. “Diana Blade?”
Diana’s left brow disappeared under the fringe of bangs. “Yes?”
“I’m Caine MacGregor, Rena’s brother.” Keeping his eyes on her face, Caine held out a hand.
So this is the deadly MacGregor, Diana mused, accepting the hand he offered. “How do you do?” She’d expected a smooth palm and was surprised to find her hand clasped against hard, callused skin. A faint prickling of pleasure crept up her arm. Diana acknowledged it, broke contact, then forgot it.
“Rena would have come herself,” Caine went on, still studying her face minutely, “but there were a few minor emergencies at the hotel.” Because he was a man who could be diplomatic or blunt depending on his mood, Caine spoke as he started to take the flight bag from her shoulder. “I didn’t expect you to come.”
“No?” Diana kept her hand on the strap of the bag, refusing to relinquish possession. “And your sister?”
Caine considered engaging in a brief tug-of-war over the bag. Something about those large sleepy eyes made him want to annoy her. With a shrug, he dropped his hand. “She was certain you’d come. Rena believes everyone has strong family feelings because she does.” The fleeting smile softened his features before he took her arm. “Let’s go get your bags.”
Diana allowed him to lead her down the wide crowded corridor, while behind the deceptively lazy eyes her mind was active and sharply alert. “You don’t like me, do you, Mr. MacGregor?”
Caine’s brows lifted and fell, but he didn’t even glance at her. “I don’t know you. But since we’re in the position of being family, so to speak, why don’t we bypass the formalities?”
During the short speech, she had another clue why he was so successful in his field. His voice was gold—rich, mellow gold with a hint of steel beneath. “All right,” she agreed. “Tell me, Caine, if you weren’t expecting me, how did you know who I was?”
“Your bone structure and coloring are very much like Justin’s.”
“Are they?” she murmured as they stopped in front of the conveyor belt.
Caine studied her again with the same thorough, unapologetic intensity as before. Her scent was something he couldn’t quite identify, wild rather than floral, and very French. He wondered if it suited her as well as the smartly cut wool suit. “The family resemblance is there,” he commented. “But I think it would be less apparent if you stood side by side.”
“That’s something I’ve had little opportunity to do,” Diana returned dryly and indicated her bags with a gesture of her hand.
Used to servants, Caine concluded as he hefted the two leather cases. But self-reliant, he added, remembering their silent battle over the flight bag. “I’m sure Justin will be pleased to see you after so many years.”
“Possibly. You seem very fond of him.”
“I’ve known him for ten years. He was my friend before he became my brother-in-law.”
She wanted to ask what Justin was like but swallowed the question. Diana had her own opinion. If she were to change it, it wouldn’t be through Caine’s influence or anyone else’s. “You’re staying at the Comanche?”
“For a week.”
As they stepped out into the frigid January air, Diana automatically stuck her ungloved hands in her coat pockets. The sky was a cold, hard blue, the street slick and grimy with melted snow. “Isn’t it an odd time of year to be vacationing at the beach?”
“For some.” The wind whipped his hair into his eyes, but he didn’t seem to notice. “Then again, a great many people come for the gambling. Weather doesn’t matter when you’re inside a casino.”
Because the top of her head was level with his shoulder, Diana tilted her face back to see his. “Is that what you come for?”
“Not particularly.” He looked down and discovered the sun brought out the faintest hint of gold in her eyes. “I enjoy an occasional game, but Rena’s the gambler in the family.”
“Then she and Justin must be well suited.”
Caine set down her bags and slowly drew the keys out of his pocket. “I’ll let you decide that for yourself.” Without speaking, he loaded her cases in the trunk, then unlocked the car. “Diana …” Caine put his hand on her arm before she could slide in.
She’d never known her name could sound like that—soft and smooth and vaguely exotic. When she turned large, puzzled eyes to his, he brushed at her bangs in a gesture that was completely natural to him. Because his touch surprised her as much as it disconcerted, Diana said nothing.
“Things aren’t always as they seem,” Caine said quietly.
“I don’t understand you.”
For a moment, they merely stood in the windy parking lot with the thunder of planes and smell of fumes. Diana thought she could almost feel the texture of his hard palm through the thickness of her coat. His eyes, she thought, were oddly gentle in such a strongly featured face. Briefly, she forgot his reputation as a demon in the courtroom—and the bedroom. She found herself wanting to reach out to him, for help, advice, comfort, before she was fully aware she needed any.
“You have a beautiful face,” Caine murmured. “Do you have any compassion?”
Diana drew her brows together. “I’d like to think so.”
“Then give him a chance.”
The puzzled, vulnerable look dropped away to be replaced by something cool and guarded. It was a look, though she didn’t know it, that her brother could adopt at a moment’s notice. “Some might consider my coming a sign of good faith.”
“Some might,” Caine agreed, then walked around to slide into the driver’s seat.
“But you don’t,” Diana let the door shut with a peevish snap.
“If I had to guess, I’d say you came primarily out of curiosity.”
“It must be gratifying to be right so often.”
He flashed her a grin, powerful and quickly gone. She almost wondered if she’d imagined it. “Yeah.” The Jaguar roared to life when he twisted the key. “For the sake of our kin, why don’t we try to be friends? How was Paris?”
Idle conversation, she decided. Turn off the brain and give all the standard, meaningless answers. Diana leaned back. She’d enjoy the ride. One of her secret weaknesses was for fast, well-constructed cars. “It was chilly,” she began.
“There’s a little café off the rue du Four,” Caine remembered as he maneuvered the Jag through airport traffic. “The best soufflés on either side of the Atlantic.”
He sent her a curious look. “Yes, you know it?”
“No, not anymore.”
“My aunt will be living there now. I’ve been helping her settle into her apartment.”
“You’re living in Boston. What part?”
“I’ve just moved into a house on Charles Street.”
“The inevitable small world,” Caine murmured. “It seems we’re neighbors. What do you do in Boston?”
Flicking back the hair that fell across her cheek, Diana turned to study him. “The same thing you do.” Caine lifted a brow as he twisted his head to look back at her. “You remember Professor Whiteman, I’m sure,” she continued. “He speaks very highly of you.”
Caine’s grin was quick and off center. “Do the students still call him Bones behind his back?”
With a laugh, Caine shook his head. “So, Harvard Law. It appears we have more in common than we bargained for. Family, alma mater, career. Are you practicing?”
“I’m with Barclay, Stevens and Fitz.”
“Mmm, very prestigious.” He shot her a look. “And staid.”
For the first time, Diana’s features relaxed into a smile. It was both wry and stunning. “I get all the fascinating cases. Just last week I represented a councilman’s son who has a habit of ignoring the posted speed limit.”
“You can work your way up in fifteen or twenty years.”
“I’ve other plans,” Diana murmured. By the time she was thirty, she calculated, she’d be ready for the break. After four years with a respected, conservative firm, she’d have the experience and the backing necessary to start her own practice. A small, elegant office, a competent secretary and then …
She brought herself back to the present. She wasn’t a woman to lay all her cards on the table. “I want to specialize in criminal law,” she said simply.
“A thirst for justice, human rights.” Laughing, she swung her face back to his. “And I love a good fight.”
Caine acknowledged this with a thoughtful nod. Perhaps she wasn’t as polished and proper as the trim suit indicated. He should have gotten a hint of who she was from her choice of scent. “Are you any good?”
“A second-year law student could handle what I’m doing at the moment.” Her chin angled as she rested her elbow on the back of the seat. “I’m much better than that … and I intend to be the best.”
“An admirable ambition,” Caine commented as he swung off the Strip toward the Comanche. “I’ve already earmarked that spot for myself.”
Diana gave him a long, cool look. “We’ll have to see who gets there first, won’t we?”
For an answer, Caine only smiled. Diana thought she could see something of the demon in him now, a hint of that volatile, dangerous energy that had already propelled him far up the ladder. Without speaking, she stepped out of her side of the car. She wasn’t intimidated by wolfish grins or challenging eyes. If there was one area where Diana was completely confident, it was law. Caine MacGregor would be hearing her name over the years, she was certain. He’d remember what she’d said.
“Ms. Blade’s bags are in the trunk,” Caine told the doorman as he handed over a folded bill and his keys. “I’m sure Rena’d like to see you right away,” he went on as he took Diana’s arm again. “Unless you’d rather go to your own rooms first.”
“No.” Rena, not Justin, she noticed. She felt the quick jumpiness in her stomach again and struggled to ignore it.
“Good. Then we’ll go right up.”
“So …” Diana glanced around, taking in the understated elegance of the lobby. “This is Justin’s.”
“He only owns half of this Comanche,” Caine corrected as they stepped into the elevator. “Rena bought in as a full partner late last summer.”
“I see. Is that how they met?”
“No.” When he laughed, she turned her head to eye him curiously. “It’s a complicated family joke. I’m sure Rena will tell you about it—though perhaps you’d have to meet my father to completely understand.” He gave her a long look, then twisted the ends of her hair around his fingers. “On second thought, I’d better see that you don’t meet him, or I’m likely to find myself in a similar situation.” He kept his eyes on hers, stirred by the wildly seductive scent she wore. Was that mouth as passionate as it looked? he wondered. “You really are very beautiful, Diana,” he murmured.
It was the way he said her name, Diana told herself, that caused that odd, almost uncomfortable prickling along her skin. He was an expert at making women uncomfortable, she remembered. And making them enjoy it. She gave him a steady look from half-closed eyes. “You left quite a reputation behind you at Harvard, Caine,” she said mildly. “Not all of it in the lecture halls.”
“Is that so?” Apparently amused, he gave her hair a quick tug before he released it. “You’ll have to tell me about it sometime.”
“Some things are best left unsaid.” When the doors opened, Diana stepped out, then glanced over her shoulder. “Though I’ve often wondered if the … incident in the law library was based on fact.”
“Hmm.” Rubbing a hand over his chin, he joined her. “Suppose I plead the Fifth on that, counselor.”
“Oh, yeah.” He started to stick the key Serena had given him into the lock of the penthouse door, then stopped. “Are they still talking about that?”
Diana struggled with a smile as she studied his face. He wasn’t particularly embarrassed, she mused, more curious. “It’s become the stuff legends are made of,” she told him. “Champagne and passion between Massachusetts Criminal Law and Divorce Proceedings.”
Caine gave a shrug as he turned the lock. “It was beer, actually. These things get blown out of proportion with time.” He gave her a very charming smile. “You don’t believe everything you hear, do you?”
Diana paused long enough to return the smile. “Yes.” With this, she pushed open the unlocked door and stepped inside.
Tempting Fate by Nora Roberts / Romance & Love have rating 4.2 out of 5 / Based on42 votes