Tempting fate, p.3
Tempting Fate, p.3Part #2 of The MacGregors series by Nora Roberts
“Why didn’t you run for state’s attorney again?”
“Politics has too many walls.” He sent her an off-center grin. “I imagine you’ve run into a few with Barclay, Stevens and Fitz.”
“Barclay is the epitome of the dry, stern-eyed attorney. Dickens would have loved him. ‘My dear Miss Blade,’” she began in a whispery thin voice, “‘please try to remember your position. A member of our firm never raises her voice or challenges a judge in the courtroom.’ Only on the golf course,” Diana added in a mutter.
Still grinning, Caine swung an arm around her shoulders. “And do you challenge judges, Miss Blade?”
“Frequently. If Aunt Adelaide wasn’t bosom buddies with Barclay’s wife, I’d have been out on my ear by now. As it is, I’m a glorified law clerk.”
“So why are you still there?”
“I have a deep supply of patience.” His arm felt warm and friendly over her shoulder. Without thinking, Diana moved closer. “Aunt Adelaide wasn’t thrilled about my choosing law in the first place, but she was instrumental in my securing a position at Barclay’s.” That rankled. Diana swallowed the light trace of bitterness. Her voice was low and even when she continued. “In her way, she was pleased that I was working for an old friend and a prestigious firm. If I hang in long enough, they might just give me something other than traffic.”
“Afraid of her?”
Instead of being insulted, Diana laughed. The fear had been gone for years. Even the memory was vague. “Aunt Adelaide? I hope I’ve got more spine than that. No.” She tossed her face up to the wind. “I owe her.”
“Do you?” Caine murmured, half to himself. “My father has a saying,” he mused aloud. “There’s no fee for family.”
“He doesn’t know Aunt Adelaide,” Diana remarked dryly. “Oh, look at the gulls!” She pointed skyward as a pair of them swooped overhead and out to sea. “One flew close enough to touch when I stood out on my balcony this morning. I wonder why they make such a lonely sound when they seem perfectly content.” When she shivered, Caine tightened his arm around her.
“Yes.” But she smiled up at him. “I like it.”
His breath was cool against her face, showing itself in a thin white mist that was quickly snatched by the wind. Diana was so entranced by his eyes that she hardly noticed that the arm around her shoulders had shifted, drawing her closer. Then they were face-to-face and her arms had slipped up his back, over the cold, smooth leather. Her heartbeat was a dull thud that might have belonged to someone else. She heard the wind echo off the water and surround them as if they were on some lonely northern island. With one hand, he cupped the back of her neck with cool, strong fingers. Diana felt the cold, wet drops land on her face before she saw the flakes.
“Yeah.” Caine lowered his lips to within a whisper of hers, then hesitated. He heard her quiet shudder of breath before she banished the distance.
Softly, slowly, his mouth roamed over hers. It was a cool, lazy seduction at odds with the biting wind and racing snow. He drew her closer gradually, until her body fit tightly against his. She could feel those hard, seeking fingers run up and down the nape of her neck, teasing her mind with images of what they could do to her body. While she was distracted by them, his mouth became more greedy, pulling response from her before she was aware of the demand.
Her hands hooked around his shoulders and locked tight. Her passion seemed to rise like the wind, but it was hot, sultry, as he took his lips on a long, mesmerizing journey over her face. She heard the thick echo of crashing waves then nothing but the whisper of her own name as he traced her ear with his tongue. Diana pressed herself against him, searching and finding his roaming mouth with her own.
There was no teasing this time, no subtle greed. Now it was all flash, all fire. Neither of them was aware of the cold any longer as they demanded everything the other possessed. Diana felt all of her small, inner secrets slipping away from her, exposed, even as she felt herself being filled again with needs that were as much Caine’s as her own. And the needs were deeper and more complex than anything she’d ever known.
Not just a hunger for the taste of a mouth, not just a desire for the hard, strong feel of a man’s arms—it was a longing for a match, a mate. In her stirred the oldest, most primitive need to be completed physically and the oldest, most basic need to be fulfilled emotionally.
As if she felt herself drowning, she clutched at him but was suddenly unsure if he were anchor or lifeline. The will to survive smothered the yearning for pleasure, and she pulled away. Breathing jerkily, Diana stared at him while the wind whipped her hair and snow into her eyes.
“Well.” Caine’s breath puffed out in a long stream. “That was unexpected.” When he reached up to touch her cheek, she backed out of range. His brows lifted and fell as he stuck his hands in his pockets. “A bit late to throw up walls now, Diana. The foundation’s already crumbled.”
“Not walls, Caine,” she said, calmer now. “Just basic common sense. I’m not your passion-in-the-bookstacks type.”
Something flashed in his eyes, but she couldn’t be certain if it was annoyance or amusement. “The statute of limitations on that misdemeanor must have run out by now.”
“I have my doubts that you’re rehabilitated,” Diana returned mildly.
“God forbid.” Before she could avoid him, Caine reached out to gather her tossing hair in one hand. “Diana.” With a laugh, he brushed snowflakes from her cheek. “You belong in the desert, or someplace steamy with a white sun—wearing exotic clothes that would suit that face of yours.”
She held herself very still to combat the desire to feel his skin against hers again. “I’m very well suited to a New England courtroom,” she retorted.
“Yes.” The smile remained in his eyes. “I think you are—or part of you is. Perhaps that’s why you’re beginning to fascinate me.”
“I’m not interested in fascinating you, Caine.” She met his eyes levelly and with the quick wish that she could knock the gleam out of them. “I am interested in going back in before I freeze.”
“I’ll walk you back,” he said with such apparently boundless amiability that Diana wanted to deck him.
“That isn’t necessary,” she began as her hand was clasped by his.
“I suppose I could walk ten paces behind or ten paces in front.” As she let out a frustrated breath, Caine grinned down at her. “You’re not angry because we exchanged a friendly kiss? After all, we’re family.”
“There was nothing friendly or familial about it,” Diana muttered.
“No.” He lifted her hand to his lips, then lightly nipped at her knuckle. “Maybe we should try again.”
“No,” Diana said firmly and tried to ignore the thrill racing up her arm.
“All right,” he said, a bit too agreeably for her taste, “let’s have some breakfast.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“A good thing you’re not under oath,” he murmured. “You must have eaten all of three bites last night. Well,” he continued before she could think of a comment, “have some coffee while I eat. I’m starving. We’ll talk shop.” He held up a hand, anticipating her protest. “If it makes you feel any better, I’ll even put it on my expense account.”
With a reluctant laugh, she climbed the beach steps with him. “It sounds to me as though you didn’t get out of politics soon enough.”
“You haven’t the eyes of a cynic,” he commented.
“No?” He was climbing the steps quickly now, so she had to jog to keep up.
“They’re more like a camel’s. Careful, it’s getting slick.”
“A camel!” Not certain whether to be amused or insulted, Diana stopped near the top of the steps. “Now that’s a terribly romantic statement.”
“You want romance?” Before she knew what he was doing, Caine had swept her up in his arms to carry her toward the back entrance.
“It worked for Clark Gable. Vivien Leigh didn’t call him an idiot.”
“They were inside at the time,” Diana pointed out. “If you slip on this snow and drop me, I’m going to sue.”
“Some romantic you are,” Caine complained as he pushed the door open with his back. “Whatever happened to women who liked to be swept off their feet?”
“They got dropped,” Diana said flatly. “Caine, will you put me down?” She tried wriggling, but he only tightened his grip and kept walking. “You’re not carrying me into the dining room.”
“No?” For him it was a direct challenge, and he accepted it with a grin. She was light and carried the scent of snow. Her eyes held an indignant laughter that appealed to him. Caine decided then and there to put that expression on her face more often. She had a mouth that was meant to smile, and he had an urge to show her just how little effort fun could be.
“Caine.” Diana lowered her voice as she caught a few interested glances. “Stop this nonsense. People are staring.”
“It’s all right. I’m used to it.” Twisting his head, he kissed her briefly. “Your mouth’s very tempting in a pout.” As she made a frustrated sound in her throat, Caine stopped to give the dining room hostess a smile. “Table for two?”
“Of course, Mr. MacGregor.” Her eyes swept up to Diana for only a moment. “Right this way.”
Diana clicked her teeth shut as he carried her around tables scattered with breakfast customers. She watched a middle-aged woman tug on her husband’s sleeve and point.
“Your waitress will be right with you,” the hostess told Caine as she stopped by a corner table. “Enjoy your breakfast.”
“Thanks.” With a great deal of style, he deposited Diana in a chair, then sat opposite her.
“You,” Diana began in a low voice, “are going to pay for that.”
“It was worth it.” Caine unzipped his coat and shrugged out of it. He’d already decided she needed to be hit with the unexpected from time to time. In his opinion, she’d been pampered, sheltered and restricted. As a MacGregor, he thought they were all one and the same. Absently, he combed his fingers through his hair, scattering already melting snow. “Are you sure you won’t have something more than coffee, love?”
“Quite sure.” Watching him, she began unbuttoning her coat. “Do you always get away with the outrageous?”
“Mostly. Are you always so beautiful in the morning?”
“Don’t waste your charm.” Diana slipped out of her coat to reveal a pumpkin-colored angora sweater.
“It’s all right, I have more.” While Diana gave a disgusted sigh, he smiled at their waitress, who returned his smile and offered them menus. “I’ll have the pancakes,” he told her immediately. “With a side order of bacon, crisp, and eggs over easy. The lady only wants coffee.”
“Is that a normal breakfast for you?” Diana asked when the waitress bustled off.
Caine leaned back, observing she’d already forgotten to pretend she was angry. “I enjoy eating when I get the chance. There are days when I’m lucky to get more than a few gallons of coffee and a dried-out sandwich.”
“Is your private caseload as heavy as it was when you were state’s attorney?”
“Heavy enough, and I don’t have a staff of assistants.” He watched as she added a miserly drop of cream to her coffee. “That’s one of the things I wanted to break away from.”
“No law clerk?”
She had hands made for rings, he thought, but wore none. Caine had to force his attention back to her question. “Not at the moment. My secretary is disorganized, untidy and addicted to soap operas.”
Diana gave him a mild smile as she lifted her cup. “She must have … other virtues.”
Caine laid his elbows on the table and leaned toward her. “She’s fifty-seven, sturdy as a rock and a hell of a typist.”
“I stand chastised,” Diana murmured. “Still, I’d think with your reputation and background, you’d have one of the slickest firms in Boston.”
“I leave that for Barclay, Stevens and Fitz. Don’t you like to get your hands dirty occasionally, Diana?”
“Yes.” With a sigh, she set down her cup again. “Yes, damn it. I’d work for nothing if I could dig my teeth into something that wasn’t cut straight out of a textbook. Traffic violations and property settlements,” she muttered. “I’m not going to get anything else if I don’t stick with the establishment for a while longer. The world of law wouldn’t give me a standing ovation if I opened an office tomorrow.”
“Is that what you want? Standing ovations?”
“I like to win.” The sleepy eyes became suddenly intense. “I intend to make a career out of it. Why do you do it?”
“I have a talent for arguing.” For a moment, he frowned down at his coffee. “The law has a lot of shades, doesn’t it?” Caine lifted his eyes and locked them on hers. “Not all of them equal justice. It’s a very thin rope we walk and balance is crucial. I like to win, too, and when I do, I like to know I was right.”
“Haven’t you ever defended someone you knew was guilty?”
“Everyone’s entitled to legal counsel and representation. That’s the law.” This time Caine lifted his coffee, drinking it black, strong and hot. “You’re obliged to give them your best and hope that justice is the winner in the final analysis. It isn’t always. The system’s lousy and only works part of the time.” Shrugging, he drank again. “It’s better than not at all.”
Interested, Diana studied him with more care. “You’re not what I expected you to be.”
“And what was that?”
“More hard-line, maybe a young, more fiery version of Barclay. Quoting precedents, a little Latin for effect, claiming that the law is carved in granite.”
“Ah, an idiot.” Diana burst into quick spontaneous laughter. He found it warm and wild, like her scent. “You don’t do that enough, Diana—let yourself enjoy without thinking it through,” he explained.
“My training.” Even as she said it, it surprised her. Just what doors was he opening, she thought with a frown, before she had a chance to check the locks?
“Are you going to clarify that?”
“No.” She shook her head quickly, then glanced up. “Here’s your breakfast. I’m fascinated to see if you can really eat it all.”
Secrets, Caine thought as the waitress arranged the plates. Perhaps it was her underlying mystique that had her crowding his mind. There seemed to be so many layers to her, and he couldn’t resist the temptation to peel each one off to see what was underneath. Then there was the vulnerability … it wasn’t often you found a strong woman with that soft, vulnerable edge. The combination, with those unmistakable hints of passion, was very … appealing.
Her manner, her speech, her style shouted Lady with a capital L, but there were those bedroom eyes and that wicked, promising scent.
He remembered her hot, unrestrained mouth on his and found he wanted her taste again … and to feel the skin she kept hidden beneath the discreetly sophisticated clothes. He’d always found women enjoyable puzzles to be solved. In this case, he could pick up the challenge, play the game, and do her the favor of showing her that life wasn’t as full of boundaries and rules as she thought. Yes, he mused, Diana Blade was likely to keep him occupied and entertained for quite a while.
“Want a bite?” he said quietly and offered a forkful of fluffy pancakes.
“Afraid you’ve overdone it?” He only smiled and moved the fork closer to her mouth. With a shrug, Diana allowed him to feed her. “Oh.” She closed her eyes a moment. “It’s good.”
“More?” Caine took a bite himself before offering her another. “Food, like other solutions to hunger, can be habit-forming.”
With her eyes on his, she accepted the second bite, then leaned back. “I’m watching my intake at the moment.”
“Oh, here you are.” Serena swept up to the
“Yes.” Diana found herself at a loss in the presence of such easy kinship and offered a cautious smile. “My rooms are lovely.”
“Want some breakfast?” Caine asked his sister.
“Going to share yours?”
“Well, I haven’t got time, anyway.” Serena made a face at him as he continued to eat. “I was hoping you could stop by the office a little later, Diana. Have you made plans for the day?”
“No, not yet.”
“You might want to take advantage of the health club or the casino. I’d love to show you around.”
“Give me an hour.” Serena shot Caine a look. “Only believe half of what he tells you,” she advised, then was off again.
“Your sister …” Diana trailed off, then with a quick, wondering laugh accepted the slice of bacon Caine offered. “She’s not what I expected, either.”
“Do you always have a picture in your head before you meet someone?”
“Yes, I suppose. Doesn’t everyone?”
Caine merely moved his shoulders and continued to eat. “What did you expect Rena to be like?”
“Sturdier, for one thing.” Diana chewed the bacon absently as she considered. “She seems so fragile, until you really look and see the strength in her face. And I guess I was looking for someone more obviously intellectual, glossier. She’s not the sort of woman I would have pictured Justin married to, though I had difficulty picturing him married at all.”
“It could be,” Caine said quietly, “that he’s not what you think either.”
Her eyes lifted at that, instantly cool and remote. “No, I don’t know him, do I?”
It was difficult not to be annoyed at how easily she could slip into her armor. Caine sliced through his eggs and continued mildly. “It’s never easy to know anyone unless you want to.”
“It isn’t wise to lecture on a subject you know nothing about,” she retorted. “You had a tidy little childhood, didn’t you, Caine?” The futility began to rise in her, and with it, anger. “Mother, father, sister, brother. You knew exactly who you were and where you belonged. You’ve no right to analyze or disapprove of my feelings when you have no way of comprehending them.”
Caine leaned back and lit a cigarette. “Is that what I was doing?”
“Do you think it’s easy to erase twenty years of neglect, of disinterest?” she tossed back. “I needed him once. I don’t need him now.”
“Then why did you come?”
“To exorcise those last, lingering ghosts.” She shoved the coffee cup aside. “I wanted to see him as a man so I’d stop remembering him as a boy. When I leave, I won’t think of him at all.”
Caine eyed her through a thin mist of smoke. “You can’t pretend you’re ice and steel with me, Diana. I was with you yesterday after you saw Justin.”
“You aren’t pleased I caught you being human, are you?” When she started to rise, he gripped her wrist, making no effort to keep his strong fingers gentle. “If you want to be a winner, Diana, you have to stop running away.”
“I’m not running.” Her pulse was beginning to pound. The polish had vanished, and she had her first clear view of the man beneath—strong, threatening, exciting.
“You’ve been running since you stepped off that plane,” he corrected. “And likely long before that. You’re hurt and confused and too damn stubborn to admit it even to yourself.”
“What I am,” she said between her teeth, “is none of your business.”
“The MacGregors take their family very seriously.” His eyes had narrowed, their color only more dramatic when seen through slits. “When my sister married your brother, you became my business.”
“I don’t want your brotherly advice.”
He smiled, and his grip gentled abruptly. “I don’t feel brotherly toward you, Diana.” His thumb brushed across her knuckles in a long, slow sweep. “I think we both know better than that.”
He could switch his mood with more speed than she. Rising, Diana gave him a coldly furious look. “I’d rather you felt nothing toward me.”
Caine took a lazy drag on his cigarette. “Too late,” he murmured, then smiled at her again. “The Scots are a pragmatic race, but I’m beginning to believe in fate.”
Diana picked up her coat and meticulously folded it over her arm. “In the language of the Ute, Comanche means enemies.” She lifted large angry eyes to his, and for the first time, he saw the full power of her heritage in her face. “We’re not easily subdued.” Turning, she walked away in her controlled dancer’s step.
With a smile, Caine crushed out his cigarette. He was beginning to think it would be a very interesting battle.
Tempting Fate by Nora Roberts / Romance & Love have rating 4.2 out of 5 / Based on42 votes