Seduction and Sacrifice(9)

By: Miranda Lee


He leant back in his char, breathing in and out quite deeply. Gemma was fascinated by the play of muscles beneath his shirt and his surprisingly broad shoulders. He would look something with that jacket on. 'I was already being over-generous with the three hundred and sixty,' he said.





'Why?'

Gemma's forthright question seemed to startle him for a moment. Then he smiled. 'Well you might ask. Very well. Four hundred. Do you want cash or cheque?'

'Cash.'

'Somehow I knew you were going to say that."

Extracting a well-stuffed wallet from the breast pocket of the jacket beside him, he counted out four one-hundred-dollar notes before returning the wallet.

They rose simultaneously. Gemma folding the notes and placing them carefully into her back pocket.

"Thank you, Mr Whitmore,' she said, and extended her hand.

He shook it. saying, "I thought we agreed on Nathan.'

"Sorry.' she grinned. 'I find it hard to call my elders their first name." Now that the business end of proceedings was over and Gemma had her money safely tucked away, she was feeling more relaxed.

"Elders,' he repeated, a grimace twisting his mouth. "Now that's putting me in my place. Might I ask how old you are?'

'Eigh —' Gemma broke off. She'd been going to say e ighteen, but of course she wasn't. 'I'll be twenty next month,' she guessed.

He looked surprised, and, for a moment, stared at her hard. She gained the impression he was about to say something but changed his mind, shaking his head instead and walking over to open the door for her.

She walked past him out on to the balcony, but as she went to turn to say thank you one last time, she saw something out of the corner of her eye that made her heart leap and her stomach flip over. For there he was, standing





down by the pool, looking huge and menacing, watching and waiting for her.

Panic-stricken, she bolted back into the room, almost sending Nathan Whitmore flying. 'Close the door,' she said in a husky, frightened whisper.

'What?'

'Close the door!' she hissed, backing up till her knees were against the bed.

He did as she asked, then turned slowly to view her rear-filled face with concern in his. 'What is it? What's out-there that's frightened you so much? Is it a man?' he asked sharply. "Is that it?'

'Yes,' she squeaked, appalled with herself that she'd started to shake uncontrollably. Dear God, she'd always thought herself a brave person. But she wasn't brave at all. Not even a little bit.

'Your boyfriend?'

She shook her head vigorously.

'Who. then? Dear God, what did he do to you to make you react like this?'

He was standing in front of her now, holding her trembling shoulders with firm but gentle hands.

Memories of other male hands surfaced from the backwater of her mind, large calloused hands that pinched and poked and probed. . .

A strangled sob broke from her lips, haunted eyes flying to warm grey ones.

'It's all right,' the owner of those eyes soothed. 'You're safe here with me.'

Another sob welled up within her and all of a sudden, she was wrapping her arms around him and hugging him for dear life, a whole torrent of emotions cascading through her, leaving her awash with a fiercely instinctive need to hold and be held.





After a momentary hesitation, Nathan Whitmore answered that need, holding her tightly against him. stroking her neck and back with fatherly tenderness, whispering soothing words as one would to a frightened child. But there was nothing fatherly in the effect such an intensely intimate embrace eventually had on his male body, nothing fatherly at all.

Nathan abruptly held her away from him, pressing her down into a sitting position on the bed. 'I'll get you a drink,' he said curtly, and turned away before the situation became embarrassing. 'And then you're going to tell me what the problem is,' he called back over his shoulder.

Gemma stared after him as he crossed the room, her head whirling with an alien confusion. Who would have thought she would ever find a safe haven in the solid warmth of a man's chest, or enjoy the feel of male arms encircling her?

She was still looking up at Nathan with startled surprise when he returned with a glass of brandy. For a moment their eyes locked and she could have sworn his were as puzzled as her own.

'Here.' He pressed the glass into her hands. 'Drink this up. Then start talking.'

In a way it was a relief to tell someone after keeping it to herself all these years. But she'd been so ashamed at the time. She'd felt so dirty. Yet the words did not come easily. She stumbled over them, faltering occasionally, and finding it hard to explain exactly what had happened.

'So he didn't actually rape you,' Nathan said with relief in his voice after listening to her tortured tale.

'He. . .he tried,' she explained huskily, 'but he. . .he. . .couldn't d-do it. He was very drunk.'