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.“Then why didn’t you stop?” she demanded hotly.The flush got worse.“I didn’t mean it to go that far,” he said curtly.“I swear to God I didn’t.”It didn’t help much, but it helped a little.“I thought you were older,” he added heavily.“Nineteen years old.Dear God!”That helped a little more.He stuck his hands into his pockets.“I fired Max.”“I’m not surprised.”“Which one of those SOBs stabbed you?” he added abruptly.She blinked.“None of them,” she said.“I stabbed myself.It was the only thing I could think of.I was alone and there were three of them.I thought they wouldn’t want a dying hostage.”“You did what?” he exploded, horrified.“I had a pocketknife.I stabbed myself where Dr.Coltrain did the appendectomy.It bled a lot, but I didn’t hit anything vital.It was all I could think of.”He winced.“If Max hadn’t taken it on herself to interfere, they’d never have tracked her to you,” he said.“I could have choked her when she told me.”“She didn’t tell you about the check, I guess?”“No,” he replied curtly.“If she had, she’d never work again.I make a bad enemy.”She knew that already, from personal experience.She studied him quietly.“I thought you were just a comfortably well-off rancher,” she said slowly.“That magazine story said you own oil corporations.”He frowned.“What magazine?”“Max showed it to me,” she said.“You were on the cover.”He let out a short breath.“It just keeps getting better and better,” he gritted.Tony came into the room, angry.“How did you get in here?”“I walked in the front door,” Jared shot back.“You should have called me!”Tony glared at him.“Wouldn’t you be lucky if I did?”Jared glanced from Tony’s hard face to Sara’s hard face.He grimaced.“It isn’t doing your reputation much good to have Tony hanging around here day and night,” he said.“See? He’s got a dirty mind, too,” Sara told Tony.“I have not!” Jared gritted.“I hate to see you being gossiped about.”“Then don’t listen.It’s a small town,” she pointed out.“There’s usually not much excitement going on around here.Gossip is how we get through life.”Jared seemed to draw inside himself as he looked at Sara.All his regrets were in his green eyes.He glanced at Tony.“Give us a minute, will you?”If he’d demanded, Tony would have dug in his heels.But it was hard to argue with politeness.He shrugged.“Okay.I’ll be in the kitchen, Sara.”“Okay,” she replied.Jared stuck his hands deeper in his pockets and looked down at her.“When will you know for sure?” he asked.She fought a scarlet flush.“Dr.Coltrain says it’s too soon to be sure.Two or three more weeks, I think.”“Damn the luck,” he cursed through his set teeth.She glared at him.“You go right ahead and curse,” she said.“But all of this is your fault.”His eyes were sad and full of guilt.She was so young.“I know that, Sara,” he said quietly.“It doesn’t help much.”She sagged back against the pillows.She didn’t know what she was going to do.Her conscience wouldn’t let her take the easy way out, although she was pretty sure that he wanted her to.“Don’t torment yourself,” he said after a minute.“You did nothing wrong, except trust me.That was a mistake.I haven’t had a lot to do with women in the past few months.I just lost it.I’m sorry, if it helps.”It did, a little, but it was too late for an apology to be of much use.“Nobody ever made such a heavy pass at me,” she murmured, not meeting his eyes.“I thought you just wanted to kiss me.”“I did,” he said heavily.“But kisses lead to other things.I thought you were older, more experienced.”“You wish,” she said curtly.He sighed.“Well, we’ll deal with it when we have to,” he said after a minute.He looked down at her quietly, his green eyes searching, curious.“I should never have let them talk me into coming here,” he told her.“Tony wanted the extra protection that some of his old comrades could provide.I didn’t expect to have you drawn into this.”“Neither did I,” she said.She stared at her fingers.“I guess it was hard on you, living in a little hick town, with no suitable women around to date.”He made a rough sound in his throat.“Stop that,” he said shortly.“You weren’t a substitute, Sara.”“Max said you love women until you seduce them, and then you just throw them away,” she returned, staring straight at him.His high cheekbones colored.“Damn Max!”“If you’re filthy rich, I expect you can buy as many women as you want,” she continued conversationally.“I don’t buy women,” he informed her.“I just don’t want to get married.”“I don’t think there’s much danger of that, with Max carrying payoff checks around to all your girlfriends.”“I told you, I didn’t tell Max to do that! It was her idea,” he added.“She said she’d handle everything, and I was drunk enough not to care how.”Her eyebrows arched.“Drunk?”He looked rigid.“You asked me to stop, and I couldn’t,” he growled.“How do you think I felt? I read the situation wrong and threw my conscience to the wind.Then Max told me how old you were.” He winced.“Nineteen.Dear God!”“Well, I’m not exactly a child,” she shot back, growing angry herself.“And I’m no stranger to violence.”“People hit you with books in the bookstore, do they?” he asked, in a condescending, faintly amused tone.She looked him in the eye.“A rebel paramilitary unit in Sierra Leone tossed a grenade into the clinic where my father was dressing wounds,” she replied, watching the shock hit him.“I was standing beside him, holding a bowl of water.I was just ten, it was the only way I was able to help.My father died.I was concussed so badly that I had brain damage.That’s why I can’t match socks and earrings,” she added.“I was right in the path of the grenade.Fragments penetrated my skull.One’s still in there,” she told him.“They were afraid to try to take it out.”His face was white.Absolutely white.“Why were you there?”“My grandfather talked my father into doing a stint at missionary work.Dad had been a medic in the army and he was a lay preacher.He and my grandfather forced my mother into going [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]