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Raven on the Wing

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Elusive Dawn (09-1993)

  [bookmark: _Toc206658999][bookmark: _Toc206658952][bookmark: _Toc206655034][bookmark: _Toc206655057]Elusive Dawn (09-1993)

[bookmark: _Toc206659000][bookmark: _Toc206655035]CHAPTER ONE
The party had been going on for nearly an hour, and Robyn was numb from the music and laughter. Vaguely, she wondered where Kris was, and wondered again why she had allowed her cousin to talk her into coming. She had never been very good at parties anyway, and the past year had quite effectively destroyed her ability to laugh.
She was looking around, trying to find her cousin, when a face across the room suddenly caught her attention. It was a hard face in many ways, the planes and angles of it strong and proud, the features roughly hewn and magnetically attractive. And there was something familiar about that face... something hauntingly familiar.
The man looked up and saw her just then, his eyes first widening and then narrowing as they took in her slender figure poised as if for flight. Without so much as a word to the other man at his side, he crossed the room in a few long strides, halting before her to stare down into her dazed eyes.
"Hello," he murmured, a peculiar huskiness in his deep voice.
Robyn stared up at him, only dimly realizing that he was taller than she had first supposed, topping her by a head in spite of her high heels. "Hello," she whispered, barely conscious of the people and noise now, feeling that she was drowning in the darkening green pools of his eyes.
"Dance with me."
It wasn't a request, and Robyn didn't even question her own desire to be in this man's arms. The music had changed to a slow, sensuous beat, and she felt it entering her body, keeping pace with her heart and the blood rushing through her veins as he led her out onto the cleared space reserved for dancing; . With no attempt to be coy, she drifted into his arms naturally, eagerly, feeling his hands at her waist, his breath stirring the hair piled loosely on top of her head. Their steps matched perfectly.
"You're a little thing," he murmured, his large hands easily spanning her waist. "I could almost put you in my pocket and steal you away from whoever brought you tonight." His voice was still husky, low, and intimate.
Silently, dreamily, Robyn allowed her body to mold itself pliantly to his, her hands moving naturally to his shoulders. Her trembling fingers began to stroke the dark hair on the nape of his neck. She was aware of his hands moving slowly over her back, which was left bare by her shimmering aqua dress. She rested her forehead against his crisp white shirt, feeling a pulse pounding and not sure whether it was hers or his.
"You're not real!" he breathed suddenly, pulling her lower body against him fiercely. Their steps were so slow they were very nearly dancing in place. "I dreamed you. I've always dreamed you."
She wished vaguely that he wouldn't talk, would leave her alone to live in her own dream. She felt so safe, so content in a world where pain and tragedy were unheard of.
"Tell me your name," he commanded softly, and when she didn't respond, one of his hands slid down her arm to the delicate silver identification bracelet on her slender wrist, his thumb toying with the tiny charms and then brushing across the name engraved in flowing script. "Robyn?"
She lifted her head at last, nodding slightly as her eyes met his. The music had changed again to a faster beat, but they continued to dance slowly, completely wrapped up in each other and totally oblivious to anything else.
"Robyn," he murmured, the deep voice turning her name into a caress. "It suits you-something small and fragile." He brushed his lips across her forehead and added, "My name's Shane."
Robyn pushed the information aside. It didn't belong in her dream. But his desire did. She could feel his urgency in the tightening muscles of his strong body, could feel the need he made no effort to hide, and it matched her own need. There was an ache in her body which, she somehow knew, could only be assuaged by this man's touch.
She would lose herself in the dream. For this one night, she would forget everything that had gone before.
She looked up at him through long, thick lashes, and her lips parted in instant response as he bent his head to kiss her. She held nothing back, made no attempt to insist on the slow building of passion that was an ages-old rule in the mating game. She felt his lips moving on hers, at first gentle and then demanding.
He made a soft but rough sound deep in his throat, his eyes gleaming with the hard shine of raw emeralds as he drew back far enough to gaze down at her. "Let's get out of here," he muttered hoarsely. "I want to do more than just hold you in my arms."
Robyn followed as he led her from the room, barely noticing the startled faces of the other guests. She had forgotten her cousin, her eyes fixed intently on the man whose hand she held tightly.
He turned in the entrance hall of the apartment, looking down at her almost impatiently. "Did you have a wrap?"
"No," she murmured. "But my purse..." She left him standing there while she went into a small room off me hall and located her handbag. Stepping back into the hall, she suddenly heard her cousin's worried voice.
She half pivoted, staring toward the doorway of the den where her cousin stood. Kris's eyes were concerned, a faintly shocked expression gripping her Florida-golden features.
For a moment, a tiny split second, the dream cracked and allowed reality to seep in. But Robyn knew just how brutal reality could be, and she preferred her dream. Waving good-bye and turning her back on her worried cousin, she walked steadily across the hall and put her hand with absolute trust into Shane's.
His eyes flared oddly, and he made another one of those strange, rough sounds under his breath, carrying her hand to his lips briefly before leading her from the apartment.
He put his arm around her in the elevator, holding her close to his side, and Robyn cuddled up to him like a sleepy kitten. She felt safe, at home; nothing else mattered. She only dimly noticed the luxury of the black Porsche he tucked her into a few moments later.
The Miami night was hot, still, almost waiting, just as she waited for them to reach their destination. She half turned on the seat, watching Shane's profile, bemused and bewildered by the strength of her own need. She didn't remember that; it wasn't part of the dream. But then, it had been so long.
He handled the powerful car easily as they crossed the bay into Miami Beach, weaving it among the late-night traffic common in this tourist city of hotels and night spots. At last the car drew to a stop in front of one of the more luxurious hotels, and he got out and came around to open her door even before the doorman could reach them. Again, Robyn put her hand in his with complete trust and assurance, silently following him into the building.
Five minutes later he was closing the door of the penthouse suite, leaning back against it and watching as she wandered into the sunken living room. She looked at the ultra-modern furnishings, the abstracts on the walls, the ocean view from a row of floor-to-ceiling windows. None of it really registered. Only the man did.
She turned to look at him. What was he waiting for? Did he think she expected the ritual drink, casual conversation. That would be a waste of precious time; they had only tonight. With simple directness, she asked, "Do you want me?"
He slowly pushed himself away from the door, walking toward her as if in a daze, the emerald eyes glowing. "Oh, yes," he breathed, halting before her. "I want you very much."
Robyn dropped her purse onto a chair and stepped closer to him, her arms slipping up around his neck. "Then what are you waiting for?" she asked softly.
He caught his breath sharply, bending to swing her into his arms and striding down the short, carpeted hallway to the bedroom. The room was lit only by moonlight when he carried her in, but after setting her gently on her feet, he reached to turn on a lamp on the night table, casting a soft glow over them and the huge bed.
"Do you mind?" he asked huskily. "I want to look at you."
"No," she murmured, surprising herself by adding honestly, "I want to look at you, too."
His eyes darkened to a mysterious shade that Robyn found completely fascinating, and she could only gaze into those pools, lose herself in them, as his head bent slowly toward her.
His lips touched hers lightly, teasingly, feathering gentle kisses from one corner of her mouth to the other. His hands were expertly unfastening the clasp of her dress, sliding the zipper down. The dress slid to the floor with a mere whisper of sound, and Robyn stood before him clad only in the skimpiest of bras and delicate white panties.
The strange rumble came again from the depths of his chest, and she tried vaguely to identify it as she stared up into his brilliant eyes. The sound reminded her of something, but what? And then she had it: the curious sound was very like the throaty, rumbling purr of a contented lion.
"Undress me," he whispered hoarsely, guiding her hands to the buttons of his shirt. He shrugged from the casual jacket as she willingly complied with the request, her slender fingers moving nimbly from one button to another, her eyes still fixed with almost painful intensity on his face. She pushed the shirt from his broad, tanned shoulders, her fingers lingering for a moment to explore the corded strength of his neck and then sliding slowly down the hair-roughened chest to find the belt riding low on his hips. With unconscious familiarity, she unfastened the belt and then the zipper, pushing the pants down over his narrow hips.
Obviously losing patience with the time-consuming task, he groaned softly and brushed her hands aside, rapidly removing the remainder of his garments. Robyn watched unself-consciously, stepping out of her high-heeled sandals and kicking them aside.
She was astonished at the beauty of his lean body, oddly moved by the tremor of his hands and the naked longing in his eyes. He looked at her the way a starving man might gaze at a feast, she mused to herself, and she was dimly troubled by that. But then he reached out for her again, and she forgot the disturbing image.
His large hands smoothed away her delicate underthings with gentle roughness until at last she stood as nude as he. With a strange catch in his voice, he groaned, "God, but you're beautiful!" One hand rose to cup a small, full breast, his thumb teasing until a nipple rose to taut awareness.
Robyn gasped, her arms sliding up around his neck and her fingers thrusting fiercely into his thick black hair. She needed him so desperately. She rose on tiptoe to fit herself more firmly against the hard length of him. He crushed her to him for a moment, then swept her up and placed her gently on the bed, apparently too impatient to strip away the plush velvet spread.
Robyn didn't mind; she scarcely even noticed. She held out her arms to him as he lowered his weight beside her, and the green eyes flared again with some fleeting emotion she didn't try to identify. Green... his eyes were green. It was a jarring note in her dream. She closed her own eyes and made his blue.
She felt his fingers in her hair, releasing the pins and smoothing the waist-length silky mass over the velvet-covered pillows.
"A siren," he rasped, a peculiar shivering moan in his deep voice. "A raven-haired witch." His lips lowered to drop hot kisses on first one breast and then the other, teasing and tormenting each throbbing nipple in turn. "Such a tiny witch to possess such power..."
"Power?" she asked throatily, her fingers kneading his muscle-padded shoulders, her eyes flickering open in curiosity.
He laughed huskily, lifting his head to stare down at her with green flames in his eyes. "Power," he confirmed softly. "Don't you know, sweet witch, what you do to me? Can't you feel the fire in me-the fire you started? The fire only you can extinguish?"
Robyn trailed one hand down his back, letting him feel the gentle scratch of her long nails, and experiencing, indeed, a strange sense of power when he shuddered and groaned. "Am I putting out the fire?" she teased softly, watching the flames in his green eyes leap even higher.
"No!" he grated, lowering his face to her throat and pressing feverish kisses on the soft, scented flesh there. His hands moved over her body urgently, possessively. "Oh, Robyn, love, I need you so badly! Go on touching me, sweetheart-don't ever stop!"
Robyn wondered briefly at the endearments, then decided that they fit her dream very well. Eagerly, she explored his body, entranced by the strength and heat of his desire. She moaned raggedly as his own fingers searched and probed, finding at last the heart of her quivering need and causing her body to arch almost convulsively against him.
She gasped aloud, dizzily aware of his erotic touch, of the exquisite tension filling her body, her consciousness. "Oh, please, Sh-Shane!" The name rose to her lips uncertainly, her voice trembling with intolerable desire.
With a low growl of answering male need, Shane rose above her, slipping between her trembling thighs and allowing her to feel his heavy weight for the first time. He came to her then. Came to her as though he intended to make her his for all time.
Robyn clung to him, moving with him, staggered by the feelings ripping through her body. The tension built higher and higher, an avid, primitive craving for satisfaction. She was keenly aware of his taut face above her, of digging her nails into his shoulders, and of pleading with him in an unfamiliar, drugged voice.
Then there was an eternal moment of shattering rapture, and she heard him groan her name hoarsely even as she cried out with the force of her release.
Silence reigned in the room for a long time as they lay in an exhausted tangle of arms and legs, hearts gradually returning to normal and breathing losing its ragged edge. It was Shane who finally broke the silence, and there was an unexpected spark of humor in his deep voice.
"Shall we get under the covers, or would you rather freeze in the air-conditioning?"
Robyn giggled sleepily. She was still firmly enmeshed in her dream, and she welcomed the humor that allowed her to resist reality a while longer.
"I gather that means you're leaving it up to me!" He gave a smothered laugh and then went through a series of complicated maneuvers designed to get them both under the covers without his losing his possessive hold on her.
By the time the feat was accomplished, Robyn was giggling even more. Shane drew her firmly into his arms, pulling the covers up around them and then reaching to turn off the lamp. "Don't laugh, witch- next time, I'll make you get the covers!" he warned with a deep chuckle.
Robyn snuggled up to him contentedly, feeling his hands stroking her long hair gently, his arms holding her tightly. Oh, God, it had been so long since she'd gone to sleep in a man's arms! If she pushed the dream a bit farther, she could almost believe...
"Ummm?" she murmured, her voice muffled against the warm flesh of his throat.
"We've skipped a few stops along the way; you realize that, don't you? We're going to have to talk in the morning."
"Ummm," she responded, determined to keep reality at bay just a bit longer.
He laughed softly and drew her even closer. "Go to sleep, honey," he murmured.
Robyn did just that, lulled by the steady sound of his heart beating, the curiously familiar warmth of his hard body against the softness of hers.
She woke in the gray morning hours, immediately aware of what had happened the night before and still reluctant to end her dream. But she had no choice. If she remained with this man... She moved cautiously to free herself from his loosened embrace, holding her breath when he muttered something and then turned his face into her pillow. Still cautious, she eased from the bed and dressed quickly in the aqua dress, her gaze turning again and again to the man sleeping in the huge bed.
Dressed, and aware of the lightening sky over the ocean, she still hesitated, staring at Shane. "Thank you," she breathed to the sleeping man. "You made me feel alive again. But I can't stay. It's better this way... a beautiful night to remember."
She didn't feel the least bit odd in standing there speaking softly to a sleeping man in a room filling with dawn light. She felt that she had to voice her thoughts. It seemed a fitting ending, somehow, to her dream.
"I only wish..."
The wistful whisper died away before she could form the thought fully in her own mind, and she was glad. Wishes too often didn't come true, and she wanted nothing to spoil the memory of her dream.
She slipped silently from the bedroom after a last, lingering glance at the man in the bed, retrieved her purse from the living room, and then left the suite. Her dress whispered softly around her ankles as she walked briskly to the elevator.
She found a cab outside the hotel and climbed in, giving the driver her address and then sitting back for the long ride across the bay. She realized absently that her hair was still loose, mussed from Shane's fingers, but she didn't bother doing anything about it.
The sun was hanging low in the eastern sky when her cab at last drew into the drive of her secluded home a few miles south of Miami. She paid the driver and watched him leave, then turned her gaze to the sprawling, Spanish-style house with its tile roof and mellow, sand-colored stucco finish. High hedges provided privacy, and tropical plants gave the place the look of someone's idea of paradise.
Abruptly, Robyn realized that the place was far too large for just one person-well, two, counting Marty. And, really, it wasn't as if it contained a lot of memories. She and Brian had traveled so much during that year; they had rarely been home, and never for very long.
She slowly moved up the walk, fishing her keys from her purse and silently questioning her decision to keep the house. Why not sell it and move somewhere else? Somewhere with definite seasons-snow up to her eyebrows in the winter! If it weren't for her store... Well, she could have another store, couldn't she?
Still arguing with herself, Robyn aimed the key at the lock, but it never quite connected. The door was pulled open suddenly, and a middle-aged woman with graying hair and a fierce frown on her face regarded Robyn sternly.
"So, you're finally home," she announced with awful politeness. "And just where have you been all night, Miss Robyn? Miss Kristina came by after that party last night and waited here for three hours; she was very upset with you!"
"And you aren't?" Robyn murmured dryly, stepping inside and closing the door firmly behind herself.
The older woman gave a sniff of disdain as she stared at Robyn's rumpled dress and loose hair. "Coming in with the sun and looking like something the cat dragged in!"
"That's enough, Marty," Robyn said mildly.
She was ignored. The older woman followed her into the bright, sunny den, still scolding. "Leaving the party like that and causing poor Miss Kristina to worry! Not to mention me!"
"Let's do mention you!" Robyn dropped her purse onto the couch and turned with a militant lift of her chin. "I seem to remember someone pestering me to get out of this house once in a while. I even remember at least one distinctly pious wish that I would come in with the morning sun!" She glared at the woman who had practically raised her, a challenge in her stance.
Marty maintained her affronted expression for a full minute, then smiled suddenly, her face assuming its usual cheerful look. "So I did," she chuckled. "And it's about time, too! You've been brooding too long, Miss Robyn. There's a time when grieving has to stop. You're too young to bury yourself with Mr. Brian."
Robyn smiled slightly. "I finally let him go, Marty," she confided quietly. "Last night. Even the guilt is gone."
Marty shook her head. "You should never have felt guilt, anyway! You couldn't have stopped Mr. Brian- that day or any other. He was a reckless man; you knew that when you married him."
Robyn shrugged vaguely. "I knew. But... Oh, never mind! If you're through fussing, I'd like to have breakfast. I'm starving!"
Her housekeeper and general mother-hen opened her mouth to comment, then apparently thought better of it. Muttering to herself, Marty headed for the kitchen.
Two hours later, refreshed by a shower and breakfast, Robyn lounged by her pool in a brief bikini and blinked like a contented cat at the shimmering blue water. Her thoughts turned to the night before, and she wondered dimly if Shane would be disappointed to wake and find her gone. Probably not. From the look of him, he could certainly have any woman he wanted-and he probably had! One more or less wouldn't matter to him.
Oddly enough, that thought hurt.
She turned her head, staring at her cousin who was approaching with a strange look on her face. Robyn felt a flicker of amusement at that look, wondering if Kris would scold her or commend her.
"I nearly died!" Kris exclaimed, her long, graceful body collapsing onto the twin lounge beside Robyn's. "For you to just leave like that-and with Shane Justice, of all people!"
Something tapped at the back of Robyn's mind when she heard his last name, but she ignored it. "Something special about Shane Justice?" she inquired, putting on her sunglasses to hide the intense curiosity she felt. "What... is he married?" Sudden dread gripped her even as she haltingly voiced the thought.
"Not that I know of." Kris waved a hand in a vague, bewildered gesture. "But, Robyn-Shane Justice!"
Robyn pulled the sunglasses down her nose and peered at her cousin over the top of them. "So?" she questioned blankly.
"You really don't know, do you?" Kris took a deep breath, then said carefully, "Robyn... Shane Justice races. Stock cars. Like Brian did."

[bookmark: _Toc206659001][bookmark: _Toc206655036]CHAPTER TWO
For an eternal moment, Robyn continued to stare blankly at her cousin. Then she laughed, a strained laugh, just a whisper away from hysteria. "Isn't that ironic," she said very quietly, a statement rather than a question.
"You really didn't know." It wasn't a question either.
"Do you think I would have left with him if I had?" Robyn tossed the sunglasses onto a table between the lounges. "I swore-swore-after Brian was killed that I'd never have anything to do with a man who raced! I must have built-in radar where they're concerned," she went on bitterly. "I'll bet he was the only man there who raced, so of course I had to pick him to- "
"To?" Kris prompted when her cousin broke off abruptly. "Robyn... did you... ?"
"I did," Robyn confirmed dully, her earlier contentment vanishing as though it had never been. "There was just something about him. I guess he reminded me of Brian, and I thought... oh, hell, I don't know what I thought! Nothing intelligent, obviously."
Kris smiled suddenly, her blue eyes showing an unexpected flash of humor. "Oh, I don't know about that! You're certainly looking better than you did this time yesterday. It was just an...unusual thing for you to do. Going off with a virtual stranger, I mean. Why, Brian courted you for six months before you were engaged, and I'm willing to bet you didn't sleep with him the whole time!"
Accustomed to her cousin's cheerfully blunt manner, Robyn only smiled wryly. "Maybe I'd had too much to drink," she murmured, trying to rationalize her behavior of the night before.
"Not a chance! You had one drink-a screwdriver, if I remember correctly-and nursed it for nearly an hour. You'll have to come up with a better excuse than that!" She lifted a questioning brow. "Couldn't be love at first sight, could it? It's hardly in character for you to tumble after a single glance!"
"Hardly," Robyn agreed, staring out over the water. "I don't want to fall in love, Kris!" she blurted. "Especially not with a man who races. Life's too short to watch someone you love risk death on a whim."
Kris was silent for a moment, then said dryly, "My feminist friends would kill me for saying this, but you need a man, Robyn. You're the type of woman who'll never be happy living alone. You should have a husband. And kids."
"Maybe I will one day." Determined to change the subject, Robyn spoke in a light voice. "But that husband definitely will not be Shane Justice, or anyone like him! He'll be a comfortable, sedate man, with a nine-to-five job and a safe hobby-collecting stamps or something."
Kris gave a crow of laughter. "You'd be bored to tears in a month!" she announced. "Robyn, sweetie, you're just not a comfortable sort of woman!"
"Thanks!" Robyn muttered tartly.
"Well, it's true. You've been in limbo for the past year, ever since Brian was killed. And heaven knows you were nearly out of your mind with terror for him during the year you were married. But your personality is a far cry from 'sedate and comfortable'! You have a temper, for one thing, and you're too damn impulsive for your own good!"
"I am not too impulsive!" Robyn defended herself irritably.
"Oh, no?" Kris lifted a mocking brow. "And I suppose last night's decision to leave a party with a man you'd just met, and subsequently spend the night with him, was a carefully thought-out plan?"
A flush crept up into Robyn's cheeks. "I'm twenty-seven years old," she snapped, "and certainly entitled to do whatever I like! If I wanted to spend the night with Shane Justice, then it's my own business."
"Sweetie, I'm not arguing with that." Kris's lovely face brightened suddenly. "In fact, I'm glad you met him! You need the strong, masterful type, and, from what I hear, he's certainly that! But if you're going to see him again-"
"I'm not," Robyn interrupted firmly. She thought again of the night before and shivered slightly. "I'll admit to a certain amount of.. .attraction, but I'm not about to get involved with a man who's so utterly careless with his own life that he looks for ways to risk it! Shane doesn't even know my last name,
"Maybe not," Kris interjected, a certain satisfaction in her voice, "but he's trying his best to find out."
"What?" Robyn asked uneasily.
Kris grinned and settled back in her lounge. "The phone caught me just as I was leaving my place," she explained cheerfully. "It was Tony-the host of last night's party, remember? Anyway, he sounded very rattled, and he demanded to know my cousin's last name. He complained that I'd introduced you simply as 'my cousin Robyn.' Naturally, I wanted to know why he wanted your last name."
"And?" Robyn prompted.
"And," Kris continued obligingly, "he told me that he'd been disturbed at the crack of dawn by a call from Shane Justice, who demanded to know your last name. Tony was so unwise as to ask why Shane hadn't gotten it last night after he left the party with you; he practically got his head bitten off. I gather that Shane can be quite intimidating when he chooses. Anyway, Tony promised to make a few calls and then get back to him. He called me."
"You didn't tell him, did you?" Robyn asked, horrified.
"No, of course not," Kris said soothingly. "I promised to get back to him after I talked to you. I figured that if Shane didn't know your name, you might not want him to know."
"I don't!"
"Then I won't tell Tony. But I have to warn you, sweetie-if Shane is as determined as I think he is, he'll get everything he can out of Tony. And that means my name. What am I supposed to say if he comes knocking at my door?"
Robyn chewed on her thumbnail for a moment. "Tell him-tell him that I was just visiting, and that I've gone home. And make home as far away as you can."
Kris giggled. "You know, you're displaying an unholy amount of panic, Robyn. Why? You can always say no if he asks you out! You're not afraid of him, are you?" she asked solicitously.
"Don't be ridiculous; of course I'm not afraid of him." Robyn wasn't about to confess that what she was afraid of were her own feelings. She wanted to see Shane Justice again, and that realization scared her to death. "He'll forget about me soon and race on to whatever's next on the circuit!" she finished bitterly.
"Daytona," Kris murmured soberly. "Tony mentioned that Shane was in Florida for the race. Apparently, he had some business to take care of here in Miami first."
Robyn tried to ignore the information, but her mental calendar automatically registered that the Daytona race was only two weeks away. "There should be no problem; I can avoid him until then," she said calmly.
"I don't know." Her cousin looked at her a little doubtfully. "I've known Tony for five years, and I've never heard him so completely flustered. And it wasn't just a case of morning-after-the-night-before, either. Shane really shook him up. He wants to find you, sweetie-and very badly, I should think. What did you do-put a spell on him?"
Unwillingly, Robyn remembered a deep, husky voice calling her "sweet witch." And "honey," and "sweetheart." Fiercely, she shoved the recollection aside. "He'll forget about me," she repeated stubbornly.
"And what about you?" Kris smiled faintly. "Will you forget about him?"
"He's forgotten," Robyn replied lightly, lying and knowing it. She hopped up from the lounge, determined to change the subject. "I'm going to get dressed and go shopping. Are you game?"
"When have I ever refused shopping?" Kris laughed and rose also, apparently realizing that the subject was closed.
It remained closed for the rest of the weekend. Robyn refused to allow herself to brood about Shane Justice, and she busied herself almost frantically in order to avoid it.
After shopping, she and Kris went horseback riding and then ended up teaching two beginners' classes as a favor to the stable owner, who was a friend of theirs. Although her cousin's students seemed to have grasped the basics, Robyn had to spend over an hour showing her small group the correct way to fall off a horse. One six-year-old in particular won her heart with his fierce determination to master the art, keeping the rest of the pupils in stitches as he gently slid beneath the patient horse's belly again and again.
Sunday was traditionally Robyn's day to help with the housework and washing. Because that didn't keep her as busy as she wanted to be, she also rearranged her bedroom and re-lined the kitchen cabinets.
If Marty thought the unusual burst of energy odd, she said nothing about it. Robyn was too tired on Saturday and Sunday nights to do more than tumble into bed in exhaustion. But she dreamed of eyes of green flame, and a deep, husky voice...
Kris called early Monday morning, waking Robyn from her dream-haunted sleep. Robyn rolled over in bed and fumbled for the receiver, mumbling, "What?" when she managed to get it to her ear.
"He came. Last night."
"Who came?" Robyn forced her reluctant eyes open.
"Shane Justice." Kris sounded disgustingly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. "He offered me everything but an illegal bribe to tell him your last name."
Sitting bolt upright in bed, Robyn awoke with a vengeance. "You didn't tell him?" she wailed.
"Of course not," Kris laughed. "But the man could probably charm a rattlesnake. As it was, I had to keep repeating the multiplication tables in my head in order to maintain control over my own mind."
"Funny," Robyn muttered.
"I thought so." Kris laughed again, cheerfully wished her cousin a good day, and hung up.
Dragging herself from bed, Robyn thoughtfully dressed for work, wondering when Shane would lose patience and give up. Soon, she hoped. She reached into her jewelry box, removed her plain gold wedding band, and slipped it onto her finger. At Marty's insistence she'd finally stopped wearing it to social events, but she was grateful for its repressive effect on her store's male customers.
Moments later, she was driving her small economy car toward the city, wryly remembering Marty's stern command to eat something filling for lunch. She hadn't had much of an appetite during the past year, but then she'd never really been a big eater. She never, much to Kris's loud envy, gained an ounce.
Arriving at her bookstore, she parked her car and went inside, discovering that her assistant, Janie, had already opened up and was busy with several early customers. Placing her purse behind the counter, she began her own work, putting everything else out of her mind.
The morning was hectic, and it was well after noon when things finally quieted down. Glancing sympathetically at her flushed and weary-looking assistant, Robyn grinned. "Okay, Janie, go ahead to lunch. But don't go too far; if I scream hysterically, you have to be near enough to come running!"
"What is it with today?" Janie demanded, leaning against the counter for a moment to recoup her strength. "Is there a blizzard forecast, or what? I've never seen so many people desperately in need of something to read!"
"Beats me, but don't knock it. And get going, before I change my mind and-" Her blonde assistant snatched up her purse and made a mad dash for the door, in so much of a hurry that she nearly collided with the tall red-haired man who was just then coming in.
Holding several books in her arms, Robyn started toward the new customer, feeling a fleeting sense of where-have-I-seen-you-before. "Good afternoon," she said pleasantly. "May I help you?"
His light blue eyes held a peculiar expression as they swept from the smooth coronet of raven hair braided atop her head down over her entire figure, clothed in a casual sundress.
Irritated, Robyn repeated a bit dryly, "May I help you?"
"Urn, I'm looking for a book," he announced.
Robyn glanced around at her large store, filled wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with books, and then looked back at the customer. "Well, you've come to the right place," she said, and she watched the tips of his ears redden.
"A book about, uh, about witchcraft!" he elaborated almost defiantly.
Choking back a giggle, Robyn pointed toward a corner of the store. "The occult books are in that section." Odd, she thought, he didn't look the type to be interested in the occult. Well, you never knew these days.
The customer wandered toward the section she'd indicated, and Robyn went back to work, sensing his eyes on her occasionally but ignoring him. He came over to the desk a few minutes later and placed a book on the wooden surface. Scanning the title as she picked up the volume, Robyn shot a faintly amused glance at the man.
"Do you participate in seances?" she asked politely.
He started visibly, confirming her suspicion that he'd simply selected a book at random. "Oh, uh, a friend of mine is. The book's a gift," he explained rather lamely.
Still amused, Robyn rang up the purchase and gave him his change and the book. "Hope your friend enjoys the book."
"I'm sure she will. Thank you, Miss-?" He lifted an eyebrow inquiringly.
"Lee," Robyn supplied calmly, pointedly placing her left hand on the countertop. "Robyn Lee."
His eyes dropped to her hand and widened in surprise. Without another word, he turned on his heel and left the store.
Robyn wondered about his abrupt departure but shrugged it off. When Janie returned, Robyn took a break herself, ducking around the corner to a small Italian restaurant she favored. After a quiet lunch, she returned to find the store fairly calm, so she went into the back room to review the account books.
Janie poked her head in a few minutes later. "Robyn, someone to see you."
Robyn look up, frowning. "Who is it?"
"Never seen him before." Janie grinned. "But if I weren't married...!"
Robyn rose from her small desk, groaning, "It's probably a salesman. They're always good-looking. And that radio station's been pestering me to advertise."
"Well, this guy could sell rocks!" Janie grinned again and headed back into the store.
Sighing, Robyn stepped out of the office and looked toward the front counter. And froze. Of all the thoughts tumbling through her head right then, the only clear one was a panicked, How did he find me?
Shane spotted her immediately and began crossing the room toward her. That he was upset was obvious; there was a curious tautness about his lean body, and his face was masklike in its total lack of expression. He halted barely an arm's reach away from her and stood there, staring. She thought she saw relief shine briefly in the emerald eyes-relief and something else, something she couldn't read-but the fleeting expression was quickly gone, leaving only the reflective glow of cut emeralds.
"Hello, Robyn," he greeted quietly.
She felt again that instant attraction, the magnetic pull stronger than anything she had ever known. The sensation frightened her; it was too intense to be real. "H-hello, Shane," she got out weakly.
"You left without saying good-bye."
Robyn gazed up at him uncertainly, puzzled by his voice. He almost sounded as if he were in pain. Nervously clasping her fingers together in front of her, she murmured, "I thought it would be best."
The one word was stark, oddly raw. She had the sudden, insane impression that he was struggling against reaching out and touching her. The impression was so unreasonably strong that she took an instinctive step backward, blinking in bewilderment. Almost immediately, though, she took a firm grip on her imagination.
"Because..." Her voice trailed away as she tried to come up with a logical reason for leaving him without a word. The truth? That she didn't believe in magic, or in anything that was too perfect to be real? That fairy tales happened in fiction but not in fact?
"Dammit, why didn't you tell me?" he rasped suddenly, barely louder than a whisper. "I would have understood, Robyn. People make mistakes. You aren't the type to hop into bed with a stranger just because your marriage went sour; I would have known that. You didn't have to creep away as if you were ashamed of what happened between us! It was special-"
"It wasn't real!" she blurted out suddenly, looking down at the gleaming gold band on her left hand.
Surprisingly, Shane seemed to understand at least a part of what she meant. "It was like a dream," he agreed huskily, a faintly twisted smile softening the tautness of his face as she looked up at him. "And we both felt that. But it was right, Robyn, and you know that as well as I do." He hesitated, then began slowly, "Your husband-"
"Is dead," she interrupted, unable to allow him to go on thinking she had broken her marriage vows. "I'm a widow."
"Then..." He stepped toward her quickly, unhidden eagerness leaping into his eyes.
Startled, she said hurriedly, "But I don't want to get involved with you, Shane!" She watched the flame in his eyes die and a baffled expression replace it.
"Why not?" he asked very quietly.
Robyn bit her lip and again sought reasons. Very conscious of customers moving about in the store, and unwilling to go into a long explanation of her fear of racing, she avoided the subject entirely. "Just let it end, Shane, please," she murmured.
"After a night of heaven? I'm a lot of things, honey, but a fool isn't one of them." His voice was steady.
Desperately, she tried to explain a situation that made no sense, even to herself. "It wasn't me; don't you understand? Something happened and-and I don't know what it was! I'm not used to drinking; maybe that was it."
"No." His voice remained steady, the emerald eyes searching her face intently. "You weren't drunk. Robyn, what does it matter why it happened? We looked at each other and-"
"It matters!" she cut him off abruptly, afraid of what he might have said. "I've never done anything like that before."
"You don't have to tell me that," he said softly.
"You can't know," she managed unsteadily.
"Can't I?" He smiled slowly, something she didn't understand flaring in his eyes.
For a moment, she felt an almost overpowering impulse to give herself to the magic and let it take her where it would, as it had on Friday night. But she mastered the reckless desire, firmly reminding herself of Shane's racing.
"I don't want to get involved with you," she said flatly.
His smile faded. With obviously forced lightness, he asked, "Is it my breath, or what?"
"Don't be ridiculous." To her astonishment, Robyn found herself choking back a laugh.
"That's better." Clearly approving of the airier atmosphere, he smiled again. "If it isn't my breath," he went on solemnly, "it must be something worse. You don't like the way I dress?"
Beginning to enjoy the exchange, despite the inner voice warning her that every passing moment was involving her more and more with this man, she eyed him consideringly. "You look very nice," she said politely after looking over his slacks and sport shirt.
"Thank you." He inclined his head gravely. "Let's see... Green eyes bother you? I'm told mine are a bit startling."
"To say the least," she murmured, thinking of the curious vividness of his eyes. "No, green eyes don't bother me."
"Not that either, huh? Well... You don't like my hair?"
"It's a bit shaggy," she pointed out.
"I'll get it cut," he promptly offered.
An uncomfortably clear vision of herself twining her fingers in that dark, slightly shaggy hair flashed through her mind. "No," she muttered. "No, don't get it cut."
"Whatever the lady wants."
The vision had drained her amusement. "What the lady wants," she said quietly, "is for you to leave her alone."
He reached out suddenly, one hand cupping her cheek warmly, and she was surprised to feel a faint tremor in his fingers.
"I can't do that." The words were carefully spaced, emphasized with soft fierceness. "I can't walk away from you, Robyn. And I won't give up what we found together the other night. I don't know what you're afraid of, but I'm not going to give you up. I'll just go on asking until I find out what's wrong."
Bemused by the tingling shock of his touch as well as by his words, Robyn stared up at him for a long moment. She wasn't quite sure how to deal with this man. His determination to go on seeing her in the face of her refusal seemed unshaken. He hadn't even been angry at finding out-how had he found out?-that she was married; he had seemed more hurt because she hadn't told him herself. How strange. In Shane's place, Brian would have been furious.
She swallowed hard. "This is the twentieth century, Shane. 1 don't have to see anyone I don't want to see."
"Then tell me that." His voice was still softly insistent. "Tell me that you never want to see me again. Truthfully."
Robyn dropped her gaze. "I-"
"Look at me!" His fingers tightened slightly against her skin. "Look me in the eye, Robyn. I have to know that you're telling me the truth."
"You're not being fair," she accused him unsteadily, looking up once more. His emerald eyes allowed her no escape, holding her own with an intensity that bewildered her. "Shane, please..."
He swore softly beneath his breath and glanced around at the busy store. "This is no place for us to talk. What time does the store close, Robyn?"
"What time?" He shook his head slowly as he met the appeal in her eyes. "I can't let it end like this, honey. I can't."
Robyn felt her resolve weakening, something in the emerald eyes draining her willpower. "Five," she murmured at last. "The store closes at five."
"I'll pick you up out front," he said.
Robyn again thought she saw relief flicker in his eyes, but she simply nodded weakly. Her nerve endings tingled again as he softly brushed his fingers against her cheek. Then he was striding from the store.
She stared after him for an eternal moment. Catching Janie's questioning glance, she smiled-reassuringly, she hoped. Automatically looking around to make sure she wasn't needed at the moment, she turned and hurried back to her tiny office.
Sitting behind her desk, she watched her hands shake for a good ten minutes.
"Idiot," she muttered, addressing the boxes of books stacked all around her. "Damned fool. He races. Races. You can't take that again. You know you can't."
Thoughts of racing inevitably brought Brian to mind, and she wondered again at Shane's lack of temper. He hadn't raised his voice once, she remembered. A man worth knowing...
"No," she told the boxes again. "You just miss Brian, that's all."
In spite of herself, she remembered Friday night. She had never felt such grinding need with Brian. She had never felt such a fierce desire, a primitive yearning, to join herself to him body and soul. He had never roused in her the feelings she remembered so clearly from her magical night with Shane.
A little desperately, Robyn pushed the thoughts away. She had imagined the depths of those feelings, she told herself firmly. It was only because she'd been so long without Brian.
It was nothing more than that. Never mind the strange shock of recognition she'd felt in that first moment. Never mind the staggering bolt of electricity arcing between green eyes and gold across a crowded room. Never mind the dazed, churning thoughts that had filled her mind, thoughts of fate and destiny and sheer luck. Never mind the sense of utter belonging she'd felt in his arms...
At five o'clock, determinedly hiding her nervousness, she waved good-bye to Janie and locked up the store, realizing even before she looked that Shane was standing behind her. Dropping her keys into her purse, she turned slowly and stared up at him.
"Ready?" he asked, taking her arm and beginning to lead her toward the black Porsche parked by the curb.
"Would it matter if I said no?" she muttered.
"Not a bit," he told her cheerfully, guiding her around to the passenger side of the gleaming car and opening the door for her.
Robyn sighed as she took her place inside and watched him close her door and walk around the car again. His first words when he got into the car caught her off guard.
"How long have you been a widow?"
She found her fingers twining together nervously in her lap. "A little more than a year."
"And how long have you owned that store?"
"What is this-twenty questions?"
"If you like."
She watched his profile as he started the car and pulled out into the stream of rush-hour traffic. "I've owned the store for about three months," she answered finally.
"Did you work while your husband was alive?"
"No," she replied stiffly. She didn't know why, but she felt very uneasy talking to Shane about her marriage.
He shot a glance at her, and his barrage of questions ceased. She was relieved when he began speaking in a casual, friendly tone. "My family owns a wine business in California. My parents began it more than thirty years ago, and Mother still keeps a firm hand on the reins." He chuckled softly. "She keeps threatening to retire and shove everything onto my shoulders, but I don't think it's very likely. Especially since she violently disapproves of my 'hobby'."
Her relief evaporated. "Your hobby?" she asked politely, already knowing the answer.
"I race stock cars."
"Oh." For the life of her, she couldn't think of anything else to say. Not wanting him to know about her reluctant involvement in racing, she thought it best to betray no knowledge of the sport. He had probably met Brian, and would certainly recognize her married name if she revealed it.
"That's one of the reasons I'm in Florida," he continued cheerfully. "I intend to qualify for Daytona."
Robyn had to change the subject; she couldn't bear to think about racing, let alone talk about it. "Where are we going?" she asked.
He glanced at her again and replied softly, "I know a quiet restaurant nearby. It's a little early for dinner, but we need somewhere to talk. Somewhere public, I think." He seemed to hesitate, then added with outrageous calm, "With other people around, I might- possibly-be able to keep my hands off you."
She felt a flush coat her cheeks in scarlet, and her mind spun crazily. Good Lord, but he didn't pull his punches! Never in her life had she met a man like him. Desire, she had been taught, was a very private thing. Abruptly, she remembered her own behavior of Friday night, and her flush deepened. Well, maybe he had good reason to speak so bluntly!
He was laughing softly. "After Friday night, you surely can't doubt that I want you?" That peculiar huskiness was suddenly back in his voice, turning the soft question into a caress.
Robyn shifted uneasily on the narrow bucket seat. "I don't want to get involved with you, Shane," she repeated for what felt like the hundredth time.
"Too late now," he responded lightly.
She stared at him, her mind working with the grinding slowness of dry gears. No, it wasn't too late. There was only one reasonable explanation for what had happened on Friday night. The magic, the dreamlike feeling... She had pretended Shane was Brian.
It was the only thing that made sense. Hadn't she failed to ask his name because that would have ruined her dream? Hadn't she wished his green eyes blue?
Almost blindly, she watched Shane pull the powerful little car into a parking place in front of an elegant-looking restaurant.
No, it wasn't too late. All she had to do was tell Shane the truth. He had been a stand-in for a ghost. That should quite effectively destroy his hopes for a relationship between them. She wouldn't have to live in fear again...
Shane switched off the ignition, smiled suddenly, and reached out to cup her cheek in one large, warm hand. "Why so worried?" he asked softly. "It can't be as bad as that, surely!"
Robyn felt his thumb move lightly across her lips, and she fought back a shiver as her body responded wildly to the tiny caress. It shouldn't be this way! a panicked voice inside her head screamed.
Before she could begin to think clearly, he groaned deep in his chest and abruptly leaned across the console, his green eyes gleaming like gems.
"Just let me kiss you," he breathed.
Robyn made no effort to stop him, although the little voice continued to scream warnings. His lips touched hers gently, and a sigh seemed to rise from deep inside her.
With his familiar lion's growl, Shane deepened the kiss, his hand sliding down to encircle her throat. His tongue explored her mouth, taking full advantage of her lack of resistance. His free hand moved suddenly, slipping around her waist and then sliding up to draw her upper body firmly against his across the console.
Robyn lost herself in the warm, drugging feel of his embrace, telling herself silently that there was no danger here-not in a car parked at a restaurant. But she knew there was danger. The problem was that the danger was inside her. She couldn't seem to fight the flood of sensations elicited by his touch.
Her hand lifted of its own volition to touch his lean cheek, needing the fleeting contact for some reason her mind didn't begin to understand.
With an obvious effort, he tore his lips from hers at last, muttering a violent, "Damn sports cars!" He drew slowly away from her, the tautness of his body betraying an impatient restlessness. "Next time I'll drive something without a gear console!"
Coming abruptly to her senses, Robyn stared at him with a surge of panic. What was wrong with her? With every moment that passed, she was becoming more drawn into this man, and it would only hurt more when...
"Don't worry, little witch." He was laughing. "We'll talk first. But you're going to have a hard time keeping me at bay!"
Feeling a sudden, aching sadness mixed with weary relief, she watched him slide out of the car and come around to open her door. She would not, she knew, have to keep him at bay. Once he found out why she'd gone with him that night, he would want to have nothing more to do with her.
He would quite probably hate her.
He helped her from the car, and they silently entered the restaurant. The place was dim and shadowy and nearly deserted at that time of day. They were led to a corner table, and Shane looked inquiringly at Robyn when a waiter approached.
"A drink for now? We can order later."
She nodded and murmured, "White wine," then watched as Shane relayed their order to the waiter.
As the waiter left, Shane reached across the table to cover her hands with one of his. His smile suddenly faded. He lifted her left hand, frowning. "Take it off," he ordered.
"What?" She stared at him blankly, not understanding.
"When you're with me, you won't wear another man's ring," he told her tautly. "Take it off, Robyn... please."
She hesitated for a moment, then removed the ring and placed it in her purse. She knew the meek obedience was uncharacteristic, but she didn't feel up to making a stand on the subject of her ring-especially as she was already dreading the anger her confession would certainly provoke.
Still holding her left hand with his right, Shane leaned back in his chair and smiled. "That ring threw poor Eric for a loop," he murmured almost to himself.
He nodded. "Eric. A friend of mine. He knew that I was tearing Miami apart to find a raven-haired, golden-eyed witch named Robyn, he just happened to stumble into your bookstore, and you were wearing a wedding ring. He didn't know whether to call me or just to hope I never found you."
"The man with red hair," she murmured, suddenly realizing why the customer had looked so familiar. "He was with you at the party." She flushed as his comment about tearing apart Miami sunk in, and dropped her gaze to the cream-colored tablecloth.
The waiter approached with their wine, and Robyn tried to pull her hand away from Shane's. She was suddenly aware that they must look like new lovers, and the image disturbed her.
But he wouldn't release her hand, holding it firmly as he smiled absently at the waiter. One of his fingers trailed across her palm in a strangely intimate little caress, and Robyn shivered, feeling nerves all through her body prickle to awareness.
After the waiter had deposited their glasses and left, Shane turned his full attention back to her, his green eyes warming almost as though the sight of her delighted him. "You look very beautiful today," he said softly. "Cool and calm-except for the slight trace of panic in your eyes."
Hastily, Robyn lifted her glass and took a sip of wine. She didn't want him to talk like that, flattering though it was. "Don't you want to know why I don't want to get involved with you?" she asked uneasily.
"Later," he answered easily. "You and I are going to have dinner and talk, get to know each other. Then we'll go back to my place, or yours, if you prefer. That'll be soon enough for explanations."
Somewhat to her surprise, Robyn found herself relaxing as the time passed. Shane, she found, was an interesting conversationalist, and he possessed a sinful amount of charm. He never once broached the subject of her marriage, but his casual questions covered practically every other phase of her life.
Astonished, she found herself telling him about her rootless childhood: about her mother, who'd died when Robyn was three; about her career-army father, whom she'd followed from base to base; and about Marty, who had raised her. Shane told her bits and pieces of his childhood in turn, confessing a love for animals and a powerful affection for his strong-willed mother.
It was a peculiar interlude, Robyn realized. Having leaped headfirst into the most intimate of relationships, they were now backtracking slowly, almost feeling their way.
She wanted to keep the conversation away from racing, but since that was a large part of Shane's life, the subject inevitably came up.
"My family wants me to settle down," he was saying now, casually. "I'm usually on the road from January through September, following the circuit."
"And the rest of the time?" she asked, toying with her wine glass.
"Wine." He smiled slowly at her puzzled expression. "The vineyards," he clarified. "Of course, I take care of a lot of the business even when I'm on the road. But I really get into the thick of things when I'm back home."
"Do you enjoy the wine business?" she asked curiously.
"Sure. I've grown up in it. I helped harvest the grapes when I was just a kid. As a matter of fact, my father used to say that I was always underfoot-and making a nuisance of myself."
Robyn tried to picture an eager, black-haired little boy with bright green eyes, but the grown man across the table from her kept getting in the way. Her awareness of him was so powerful it felt almost like a fixation.
And that was scary. It didn't fit in with her neat little explanation for Friday night. But if Shane hadn't been just a reminder of Brian, then why had she...?
Robyn thrust the half-formed question from her mind. Of course he had been; there was no other possible explanation.
She would tell Shane the truth. He would be angry. Angry and probably disgusted. He would leave her life as abruptly as he had entered it. And he would leave hating her.
But it had to be that way. Involvement with him would only plunge her back into the strangling web of worry and terror that her marriage to Brian had woven around her. She wouldn't let that happen; her confession would drive him away from her. Now... before it was too late.

[bookmark: _Toc206659002][bookmark: _Toc206655037]CHAPTER THREE
Hours later, Shane pulled the Porsche to a stop in the driveway of Robyn's home. She had chosen her own place rather than his hotel mainly because she had a feeling that she just might need moral support once Shane knew the truth. At least here she had Marty, although, judging by the darkened house, Marty was already in bed.
It was late. They had stayed in the restaurant for hours, then simply driven around Miami, still talking. Weary with pondering her emotions, Robyn had allowed herself-or, rather, forced herself-to think of the meeting as just another date, one that would be ending any time now.
"Nice place." Shane got out of the car and came around to open her door. "A little big, though."
Robyn waited until they were standing beneath the front porch light before responding to his comment, and when she did speak it was in a very deliberate tone. "Brian bought it shortly after we were married. We both wanted a large family." She sensed him tensing beside her, but she continued to pay careful attention to locating the keys in her purse.
Once they were found, she unlocked the door and silently moved ahead of him into the house, leading the way to the den, where a lamp burned. She turned on another lamp and dropped her purse into a chair, trying to fight the cravenness inside her that wanted to avoid this confrontation at all costs.
"There's the bar," she said quickly, pointing to one corner of the large room. "Help yourself."
Shane stared at her for a moment, obviously puzzled by her nervousness, then strode across the room and splashed some brandy into a snifter. He looked over his shoulder at her. "What will you have?"
"Nothing." Robyn had never in her life wanted a drink as badly as she did right then, but she knew Dutch courage wouldn't help her. She sank down onto the couch and watched as he came over to lower his weight beside her. When he put his arm around her, she straightened tensely.
"Robyn..." There was a curiously bleak tone to his voice. "Honey, don't pull away from me."
She glanced at him, then rose to her feet, turning to face him and feeling a little less intimidated because he was still seated. Her mind kept repeating Get it over with as though it were a litany.
Steadily, she said, "Friday night was a mistake, Shane. What you think is between us-it isn't real."
He sipped his brandy slowly, watching her through hooded green eyes. "It felt real enough to me," he objected quietly.
"That's because you don't know why-why I left with you. Why it all happened."
"Then tell me." He continued to watch her steadily. "Why did it all happen?"
Almost inaudibly, she whispered, "You reminded me of-of Brian."
For a long moment, she thought he hadn't heard her, or hadn't understood. Then, with unnatural care, he reached out to set his glass on an end table, his eyes never leaving her face. And suddenly those emerald eyes were the only splash of color in his whitened face.
"What?" His voice was quiet, as unnaturally calm as his movements of a moment before.
A flashing memory of some of Brian's rages made Robyn take an instinctive step backward, but even as she did so she realized that Shane wasn't angry. Instead, he seemed stunned. Would the rage come later?
"You... you reminded me of my husband, and I wanted to... spend one last night with him. It was a dream! It wasn't real!" she defended herself shakily.
Shane abruptly rose to his feet, as though he couldn't be still any longer, as though he desperately needed to move. "You pretended I was your dead husband?" he asked in a curiously dazed voice.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, wanting suddenly to unsay the words, to wipe away the horrible stricken look on his face.
"Sorry," he repeated dully. "You're sorry." He turned away from her and walked jerkily to the window, standing with his back to her and staring out the window into darkness. "Too perfect to be real," he murmured, as if to himself.
Robyn wrapped her arms around herself, trying in vain to ward off the chill invading her. She didn't know how to cope with this; the intensity of his emotions unnerved her. Anger she had been prepared for, but this strange, quiet agony was totally unexpected. It was somehow more upsetting than rage would have been.
"You should have just let it end, Shane," she said huskily. "You shouldn't have made me tell you." He swung around abruptly and came toward her, and she involuntarily shrank back.
But the large hands that grasped her shoulders were as gentle as though they held a fragile, frightened bird. Though the green eyes were fierce, there was no anger in them. Only disbelief.
"Tell me you lied, Robyn," he said hoarsely, the words a plea rather than a command. "Tell me there was no ghost in my bed that night!"
She shook her head silently, not trusting herself to speak.
"I don't believe you," he grated softly. "No, I don't believe you." His head swooped suddenly, taking her completely by surprise.
As his lips captured hers, his hands sliding down her back to pull her slender body almost roughly against the hardness of his, Robyn found herself totally unable to struggle. She told herself vaguely that it was the abruptness of his attack, the strength of his embrace, that had drained her resistance.
Except that it wasn't an attack.
His lips moved on hers with gentle, insidious persuasion, pleading for rather than demanding a response. Of their own volition Robyn's arms slid around his neck, her lips parting instinctively beneath his. She felt the now familiar flood of wild emotion sweep her body, and she gave herself up totally to the joy of the feelings he aroused in her.
He slid the zipper of her strapless sundress down, and the colorful material fell in a heap around her feet. The cool air on her skin seemed to intensify the raging sensations in her body, bringing a vivid, almost painful awareness to her fogged senses.
She felt his tongue moving in a possessive invasion of her mouth, and she found herself mindlessly responding, her own tongue joining his in a passionate duel. A sudden feeling of vertigo told her that he had lifted her into his arms, and then she felt the softness of the plush couch beneath her back.
Tearing his lips from hers, Shane pressed hot kisses down her throat to the pulse beating madly in the hollow of her shoulder. Robyn bit her lip with a soft moan as he expertly unfastened the front clasp of her strapless bra and smoothed the lacy material aside.
"Tell me you lied," he whispered raggedly, sensually abrasive fingers tracing the curve of her full breast, thumb and forefinger tugging gently at the hardening nipple. "Dammit, tell me you lied!"
His harsh, cracked voice and the demand he made vibrated against her flesh, somehow making its way through the veils of need and desire. Realizing that her lips had parted to tell him just what he wanted to hear, she felt panic sweep over her.
"No," she moaned desperately, her arms falling away from him as she tried to gain control over her scattered senses.
"You lied," he grated roughly, his fingers locking in her hair as he raised his head and stared down at her. "You lied to me, didn't you?"
Robyn saw something terrible happening in his eyes, on his face. She had never before seen such sheer primitive emotion in a man, such naked hunger, and it awed her as rage never could have.
"No," she repeated in a whisper, trying to shrink away from him. "I told you the truth."
He stared down at her, breathing raspily, for a long moment. Then, as though it were torture for him, he pulled himself away from her to sit on the edge of the couch. "You're afraid of me," he muttered in obvious disbelief, shock adding to the whirlpool of emotion in his eyes. "My God, you're afraid of me!"
Robyn's fear drained away as she realized finally, completely, that Shane wouldn't hurt her. As obviously upset as he was-had been, from the moment of her confession-he was in complete control of whatever disturbing emotions he felt. But before she could say anything, he had risen to his feet, still gazing down at her.
"Dammit to hell, Robyn-" He broke off abruptly and strode to the door, looking back over his shoulder only once, his face taut and masklike. And then he was gone.
Automatically, Robyn fastened her bra and dragged herself from the couch to find and put on her dress. Listening to the violent roar of the Porsche as it pulled out of her drive, she murmured very softly to the empty room, "Liar."
She had lied to him, told him something no one should ever have to hear-that he had been a stand-in for another man.
She knew then that she hadn't pretended Shane was her husband on Friday night. Not even in the beginning. Even when she had wished his green eyes blue, there had been no ghost between them. She had only been trying to find some reasonable, rational explanation for what had been happening between them-for her own irrational, uncharacteristic behavior. And she'd latched on to pretending that a stranger was her husband. It was not an impossible fantasy. Contemptible, perhaps-certainly pathetic. But not impossible.
Love at first sight was impossible. Not reasonable or rational. Not real. A dream. Two people finding one another by chance, by fate, sharing a dream.
But the dream had shattered the moment she'd found out that Shane Justice raced. Like Brian had.
Feeling a misery such as she had never known, Robyn silently turned off the lamps and made her way from the den, heading for the wing of the house that contained its five spacious bedrooms. The hall light came on as she was crossing the foyer, and Marty came forward, wearing a battered robe over her nightgown.
"Robyn?" Dispensing with the half-teasing formality she normally assumed, the older woman sounded concerned. "Are you all right? I thought I heard-" She broke off abruptly as Robyn came fully into the light.
"I'm fine," Robyn answered quietly. Noticing Marty's stare, she put up a hand to find that her cheeks were wet. Odd, she hadn't even realized she was crying.
In a strange tone, Marty said, "I haven't seen you cry since you were a little girl. Not even when your father died. Not even when Brian was killed. What's happened, Robyn?"
Not sure herself, Robyn could only shrug wearily.
Marty glanced toward the front door. "I heard a car leave. Was it the man from Friday night, Robyn?" She had wormed the bare facts from Robyn and Kris and, while not condemning Robyn's behavior, she clearly hadn't entirely approved, either.
"Yes." Robyn tried a smile and knew from Marty's expression that it hadn't come off. "He won't be back, though."
"Why not?"
Almost whispering, Robyn replied, "Because I sent him away, Marty. I sent him away hating me."
Despite the fact that Marty knew who-and what- Shane Justice was, and that she probably had a good idea why Robyn had "sent him away," she asked the question anyway. In the quiet, motherly tone that had pulled Robyn through both childhood disasters and adult tragedies, she urged, "Why, honey?"
Robyn felt fresh tears spill from her eyes; it was beyond her ability to halt them. "Because I'm a coward," she said starkly.
Robyn went to work the next morning at her normal time, and, between the heavier-than-usual makeup and her rigid control, neither Janie nor any of the customers noticed anything out of the ordinary.
Her night had been tormented and sleepless, filled with painful thoughts on the ironies of love. What punishing Fate had decreed that she was to fall in love with two men in her life-both of them obsessed with a dangerous sport that terrified her?
Kris had been right in her speculation, and Robyn no longer fought the knowledge that she had fallen in love with Shane that first night. With that first glance, in fact.
She should have realized from the very beginning. Her own response to Shane should have told her the truth. Sex and love had always been inextricably tied together in her mind. If she didn't feel love, she didn't make love... and she had made love with Shane.
It had taken months for her to be certain of her love for Brian. And even then she had hesitated, torn by her fear of his racing. But her feelings for Shane had overpowered hesitation. She had loved him, and, loving him, had wanted only to be with him.
But Shane raced, and it would have torn her apart to watch him risk his life over and over again.
With Brian, she had been able to stand it for nearly a year. But, although it shocked her to admit it even silently, her love for her husband had been tame compared to the wild, desperate yearning of her love for Shane. What would it have done to her to love him with her entire being-perhaps even to be loved in return-and then lose him?
It would kill her, her heart answered.
So she had driven him away. Before she could commit herself to that love. Before she could-
"Excuse me?"
Robyn looked up hastily, the familiar surroundings of her store-and the red-haired, blue-eyed man staring at her across the desk-coming into focus. Shane's friend. Eric?
"Excuse me, Mrs. Lee-"
"Ms.," she corrected calmly, not wanting to explain that Lee was her maiden name.
"Ms. Lee." He looked a bit uncertain. "I'm looking for Shane. I was wondering if you might know where he is."
Robyn frowned at him, pushing her disturbed thoughts away. "No. Why would I know?"
"He was with you last night..."
She stiffened and then relaxed suddenly, telling herself wryly that she was going to explode one day if she kept letting tension get to her this way. "He left my place sometime around midnight," she told Shane's friend quietly. "I haven't seen him since."
It was Eric's turn to frown. "He hasn't been back to his hotel. It isn't like him to just disappear-"
"I told you years ago not to worry about me, friend."
It was Shane, and Robyn didn't know whether to kiss him or throw a book at him. She did neither. What she did do was stare at him with wide eyes.
Eric, too, turned to stare at his friend, one rusty eyebrow rising. "Well, you're certainly looking chipper," he grumbled in mock disgust.
Not having given Robyn a single direct look, Shane responded calmly. "Why shouldn't I? I had a shave and a shower-at the hotel, by the way. The desk clerk told me I'd just missed you."
Robyn searched his appearance guardedly, noting the still-damp hair, the casual slacks, and the fresh pullover knit shirt. He didn't look as if his night had been filled with violent emotions, but something in his eyes told Robyn that he had slept no better than she. Why was he here?
Eric was speaking in a faintly harassed tone. "Well, next time, how about giving me notice if you plan to stay out all night? I got a call late last night from Sonny. He said the truck broke down in some little town in Georgia, and it'll take a couple of days to find the parts they need. The car won't be in Daytona until the weekend."
Shane frowned and then shrugged. "Soon enough. That'll give me a week before the trials. How about the pit crew?"
"On their way." Eric grinned. "Sonny had to bail three of them out of jail in South Carolina. A brawl in a bar, I think he said."
Shane laughed, but before he could respond, Robyn, tired of being virtually ignored, broke in irritably, "If you gentlemen wouldn't mind very much, I'd appreciate it if you took your business somewhere else. This is a bookstore, not a racetrack!"
As if he hadn't heard her, Shane said calmly, "Robyn, this is the friend I was telling you about. You two haven't been properly introduced. Robyn Lee- Eric Michaels."
"Ms. Lee." Eric was smiling in a friendly manner.
Inwardly sighing, she murmured, "Robyn- please." She leaned an elbow on the high counter and propped her chin in her hand, one part of her ruefully appreciative of the moment. Each time she'd thought herself free of Shane's presence, he'd somehow reappeared. Worse than a boomerang, she silently groused, wishing that her eyes would quit sneaking glances at his face.
Incredibly, her sense of humor had reasserted itself, and she didn't bother to wonder why. She was tired of brooding, tired of worrying about things that hadn't happened yet. One day at a time-that was the ticket. For now, she was just glad that Shane had come back-for whatever reason.
"Robyn it is, then." His smile turning into a cheerful grin, Eric added conversationally, "You know, I meant to tell you yesterday how glad I am that Shane met you. I've been warning him for years that one day he'd join the human race and take his fall just like the rest of us poor mortals. Trouble was, he never believed me. I'm sure he does now, though."
"That's enough, Eric," Shane said mildly.
Robyn looked from one to the other of them, more than a little puzzled. "Clue me in?" she requested politely.
"Eric never makes sense," Shane told her easily, casting a sidelong glance at his friend.
As if that look had been a signal, Eric immediately began making getting-ready-to-leave noises. "Yes. Well. It was nice seeing you again, Robyn. I, uh, I'm having a little party at my place tomorrow night; I'd like for you to come."
"She'll be there," Shane responded before Robyn could even open her mouth. "And, if you ask her nicely, she might even bring her cousin along."
Eric cocked a quizzical brow at his friend. "You mean the leggy blonde I somehow missed at the party Friday night? The one you said was a knockout?"
"The very same."
With a purely masculine gleam in his blue eyes, Eric smiled charmingly at Robyn. "By all means, bring her along!"
"I'll pass along the invitation," Robyn replied, not committing herself one way or the other. No matter what Shane said.
"Good enough." Eric waved cheerfully at them both and left the store.
Robyn watched him go, avoiding Shane's gaze as long as possible. Tuesday was a slow day for the store; at the moment, the place was empty. Janie had gone to lunch, so they were alone.
She finally looked at Shane as he leaned against the counter, very much aware of their solitude. Trying to think of something casual to say, she murmured, "He's more than a friend, isn't he? He has something to do with your...hobby."
Shane nodded, watching her with curious, inscrutable intensity. "He generally takes care of details for me. Deals with the sponsors, makes sure the car and the pit crew are where they're supposed to be. Since I travel so much, Mother saddles me with the family business, and it's a little hectic to take care of both. Eric has a house here in Florida, though. North Miami."
Suddenly determined, Robyn met his gaze squarely. "I didn't expect to see you again."
He shook his head slowly, still watching her intently. "After what happened last night, I'm not surprised."
Robyn made a vague gesture with one hand. "Then why are you here, Shane? Last night-"
"Last night I was upset, and not thinking too clearly," he interrupted flatly. "You threw me a curve, and it wasn't the easiest thing in the world to accept." He sighed softly. "I spent most of the night walking along the beach and thinking. Somewhere around dawn, I finally realized that there was something off-center about your explanation."
"Off-center?" Surely he hadn't discovered the truth!
"Yes. You might very well have... pretended that I was your husband on Friday night." His face tightened on the last words, and there was a brief flash of something uncomfortably grim in his eyes, then he went on softly. "But you weren't pretending last night. You knew damn well who was making love to you. There was no ghost between us. And you wanted me. Me, Robyn."
Robyn hastily picked up a pencil on the desk and began toying with it, watching her fingers. "So?"
"So... despite whatever you still feel for your husband, you want me. You feel the same desire that I feel for you."
"Desire isn't exactly uncommon." She forced an uncaring lightness into her voice. "If you believe movies and television, it's practically epidemic."
"Not the kind we have." He leaned forward slightly, his green eyes darkening. "I'm thirty-four years old, Robyn. I've felt desire for a woman. I've felt desire in a woman. But not like what we have. And I'm not willing to throw that away."
She watched one of his hands reach out to cover her restless ones, and she instinctively looked up to meet his intent gaze. "What are you saying, Shane?" she whispered, her heart clenching in a sudden combination of pain and hope.
Slowly, as if he were uncertain about how to word it, Shane answered, "We owe each other something. We owe each other an opportunity to find out if this desire we feel is real, if it can grow into something more. Our first night together, you may or may not have thought of me as someone else. Last night, I walked out on you. We haven't given ourselves a chance, Robyn."
She felt the hand covering hers tighten, and she sensed a strange tension in him as he waited for her response. Did it matter so much to him, she wondered dimly. "Are you suggesting an affair?" she asked slowly.
Immediately, he shook his head. "No. The opposite of an affair, Robyn. I'm suggesting a friendship."
"Do you think that's possible, Shane?" she murmured.
"Yes," he responded firmly. "It's possible. We started out all wrong. Instead of first becoming friends, we became lovers.. .for whatever reasons." A hint of grimness crept into his tone and then disappeared as he went on. "We broke all the rules by starting out that way-and probably short-circuited all our instincts as well. What we need is a little time to get to know each other, uncomplicated by a physical relationship."
"And-and if we find that we can't be friends?"
"Then we won't have lost anything, will we?" He sighed, the emerald eyes rueful. "I don't expect it to be easy, Robyn-for me, at least. I expect a lot of sleepless nights and more than one cold shower." Robyn felt herself flush at his bluntness, and his voice was amused when he continued, "But I'm willing to try."
Robyn told herself that she'd be an idiot to agree to anything this man asked of her. She told herself that familiarity would only deepen the emotions that already had the power to make her doubt her own sanity. And then where would she be? But she wasn't very surprised to hear herself agreeing to his suggestion.
"All right, Shane."
His hand tightened almost painfully over hers for a moment and then relaxed. "Terrific. Now, I have a question.. .friend."
Robyn felt a smile tugging at her lips as she stared into the laughing emerald eyes. "And what's that... friend?"
"Do you think your assistant could run the store for you for a few days?"
"Because, in the interest of getting to know one another, I propose that we spend some time alone together. I have a little trip in mind."
Robyn thought of Daytona and felt her face stiffen. "A trip?" she asked unevenly.
"That's right. Eric has a sailboat he's offered to lend me. I thought we could take a few days and sail down along the keys." He grinned. "Swim, fish, cultivate an indecent tan. What do you think?"
Robyn was so relieved to avoid the possibility of going near a racetrack that for a moment she couldn't say anything. Shane obviously misunderstood her silence.
"Robyn? Will you trust me to keep to our bargain? We'll have separate cabins on the boat."
"It's not that, Shane. It's just..."
"Just what?"
She paused, uncertain how to object. Suddenly laughing, she challenged: "Who's going to do the cooking?"
With a startled chuckle, he responded, "We'll share the galley duty-how's that?"
"Well, all right. But I have to warn you; the only thing I know about sailboats is to duck when the boom swings across!" She stared at him with mock sternness. "I hope you know more than that, or heaven only knows where we'll end up."
"I know enough to keep us off reefs and sandbars, and to get us there and back in one piece," he said huffily. "It's been a few years, but I've sailed the keys."
Robyn glanced at the door as a customer came in, then looked back at Shane. "Can you afford to take the time? I mean, with the race coming up... ?"
"We should be back by Monday, which will give me plenty of time." He smiled at her. "We'll start out early tomorrow morning, okay? I'll check out the boat and stock the galley this afternoon."
"Fine. What time tomorrow?" Robyn was astonished at her easy acceptance.
"I'll pick you up at eight." He waited for her nod and then turned away, only to turn back. "Uh oh, I just remembered something."
"Eric will kill me if your cousin doesn't show up at his party tomorrow night!"
Robyn laughed. "Give him Kris's number and tell him to call her tomorrow. Once I describe him, she'll go to the party!"
He lifted an eyebrow. "I'd like to hear that description."
She smiled sweetly. "See you tomorrow... friend."

[bookmark: _Toc206659003][bookmark: _Toc206655038]CHAPTER FOUR
"You're going where? With who?"
"Whom," Robyn corrected in a deliberately offhand voice, frowning down at the selection of clothing laid out on her bed. She was trying to think of a reasonable answer to the question she knew her cousin was on the point of asking.
Kris made a rude noise and ignored the correction of her bad grammar. "You're really going sailing with Shane Justice?" She looked over at Marty. "Is she crazy?"
"She says not." Marty's voice was as grim as her face. "I'll take leave to doubt that, though."
Her gaze swinging back to Robyn, Kris said carefully, "You're jumping into this-this relationship with Shane awfully quickly, sweetie. Are you sure, you're not-"
"Rushing things?" Robyn looked up at last, a faint smile lifting her lips. "That's what this trip is for- to make sure we.. .get off on the right foot." Her smile faded but didn't entirely disappear. She added quietly, "Brian's dead, Kris. And he wouldn't have wanted me to grieve forever."
Kris made another rude noise. "He wouldn't have grieved this long. For you, I mean." She hesitated when Robyn frowned at her, then went on coolly, "He wasn't a very deep person emotionally, you know. I'm not saying he didn't love you; he loved you as much as he could, being Brian." When Robyn made no response, Kris sighed and ruthlessly returned to the original topic. "Why go with Shane? He races, Robyn, and you can't take that. You know you can't!"
Robyn rolled up a colorful T-shirt and stuffed it into the duffel bag at her feet. "We're going sailing, Kris, not getting married."
Kris sank down onto the opposite side of the bed and gazed at Robyn with transparent concern. "You're getting involved with him, Robyn. You got involved with him that first night. I don't want to see you terrified out of your mind like you were with Brian. It'd kill you this time."
Hearing Kris echo her own earlier thoughts, Robyn absently stuffed a bikini into the bag, then looked across the bed levelly. "Would it? I don't know. But I know one thing, Kris." She included Marty in her level stare. "I can't walk away from Shane just because I'm afraid. And I can't go through life being afraid of things I can't change. If I do, I'll become an emotional cripple."
Kris was frowning now as she stared at her cousin; Marty looked thoughtful, her face unreadable. Robyn continued calmly.
"I may live to regret it, I know. The thought of going through what I went through with Brian makes me sick to my stomach. But I won't walk away from Shane without giving myself a chance." She hesitated, then finished almost in a whisper, "Love's so rare. I owe it to myself to see if I can find it again. A stronger love. A mutual love."
"Something tells me," Kris said very quietly, "that you've already found it. That's why you're going with Shane, isn't it?"
Robyn abandoned pretense. "It's another chance, Kris. And I can't throw that away."
Robyn thought about her own words as she lay in bed that night, wondering if she were only fooling herself. She turned restlessly and pounded her pillow in irritation. It was useless, this soul-searching. Utterly useless. She and Shane would have a nice little trip, and that would be the end of it. Maybe.
She was still trying to convince herself that that was what she wanted when she entered the den the next morning, dragging the heavy duffel bag behind her. Shane had already arrived. He was standing facing Marty, smiling slightly. Marty, Robyn noted, wore a defiant, minatory frown.
Abandoning the bag in the doorway, Robyn walked into the room, saying immediately, "Marty, take that frown off your face. What have you been saying to Shane?"
Before Marty could answer, Shane turned to face Robyn, his warm green eyes sweeping her faded jeans and full-sleeved pirate blouse. "She was warning me to take good care of you," he replied. "I told her that the warning was completely unnecessary." The look in those emerald eyes brought a flush to Robyn's face.
Trying to ignore her response to that slumbering green passion, Robyn glanced at Marty. "There was no need for that," she said uncomfortably. "He isn't kidnapping me, Marty, and I'm not a child!"
"She was worried about you." Shane strode across the room to her side, casually catching her hand in his. "And I don't blame her. You and I haven't known each other very long, after all."
Robyn sneaked a glance at his face but said nothing more as he led her to the door, pausing only long enough to pick up her duffel bag. Marty spoke to Robyn at last, and her voice was perfectly calm. "You two have fun."
Shane smiled winningly at her. "We'll let you know if something delays us. Otherwise, expect Robyn home by Monday."
Robyn barely had time to wave before Shane was tucking her into the black Porsche and stowing her bag in the trunk. Silently, she watched him handle the powerful car for a few moments, then she spoke wryly. "Why do I get the feeling that you tried to charm Marty?"
He grinned unrepentantly, confessing with a theatrical sigh, "It didn't work. She doesn't trust me."
Smiling in spite of herself, Robyn murmured, "I wonder why?"
Wounded, Shane protested, "I'm a prince among men!"
"Put not your trust in princes," she intoned meaningfully.
Shane started laughing, and Robyn reflected briefly that it was good to laugh with someone, good to share a joke or an understanding remark. She felt close to Shane in that moment, and she had to squash her instinctive alarm and remind herself that she was going to have this chance.
Even if it scared her half to death.
When they reached the marina, Shane helped her from the car, cheerfully reporting that the galley was stocked and everything ready for them. He retrieved her bag from the trunk and carried it for her as they threaded their way through the bewildering maze of boats of every size and description. He finally stopped beside a boat that looked, to Robyn's inexperienced eye, like a battleship. The thing was huge.
Perhaps reading the anxiety in her gaze, Shane assured her, "Don't worry-two can handle it."
"But I don't know anything about sailing," she protested hesitantly, watching him toss her bag aboard and then step neatly onto the deck.
"I'll teach you." Shane appeared unconcerned.
She stared at the hand he held out to her, then mentally burned her bridges. Taking the hand, she made use of the one bit of nautical protocol she'd culled from movies and television. "Permission to come aboard?"
"Granted." He grinned at her, his emerald eyes incredibly bright in the early morning sunlight. He helped her over the side, steadying her as the boat shifted slightly. Robyn suddenly had a horrid thought.
"Oh, no! What if I get seasick?"
He chuckled softly. "I thought of that. There're some pills for motion sickness in the galley. You can take one now, if you like. They really do the trick."
"I think I will," she murmured, releasing her death grip on his hand and bending carefully to pick up her bag. The thought of getting sick drove other thoughts from her mind. She looked toward a doorway and then lifted a quizzical brow at Shane. "Down there?"
"Down there," he confirmed, seemingly amused by her uncertainty. "The galley's to the left when you reach the bottom of the steps. Your cabin's to the right. The galley, by the way, is the kitchen."
Robyn swung the duffel bag over her shoulder and staggered under the weight of it. Glaring up into his amused eyes, she stated with offended dignity, "I'm not that dumb. I know the galley's the kitchen."
She got a firmer grip on her bag and stalked- carefully-toward the doorway. "Are we going to float here all day like a lily pad. or are we going some where?" she questioned huffily over her unburdened shoulder.
"We're going somewhere," he assured her, laughing. "You put your stuff away and take a pill, then come back up here and give me a hand and we'll get underway."
Robyn went down the steps carefully, leaving her bag in the cubbyhole of a hallway while she explored the galley. The cramped room hardly seemed large enough to store anything in, but she soon discovered that quite a large amount of supplies and foodstuffs had been neatly placed in the cabinets and drawers. She puzzled for a moment over the somewhat elaborate latches that secured doors and drawers, then realized that such precautions would be necessary in rough seas.
Her already nervous stomach tightened at the reminder, and she hastily began looking for the motion-sickness pills. She located them in a cabinet over the postage-stamp sized sink. Moments later she had washed down the required number of pills with some orange juice she found in the small refrigerator.
Making sure that everything was again fastened securely, she left the galley. She looked in briefly at the tiny bathroom complete with a narrow shower stall, then opened the remaining door in the hall.
The tiny cubicle, which bore the glorified name of "cabin," was only slightly larger than her closet at home. Two bunk beds took up most of the available room. The remaining space was merely a narrow walkway, lined by the beds on one side and two small chests on the other. Above the chests was a small mirror carefully secured to the wall. Directly opposite the door was a large porthole.
Electing to put her things away later, Robyn lifted her bag to the bottom bunk and then went back out into the hall, shutting the cabin door behind her. She stood there for a moment, knowing there was something bothering her but unable to figure out just what it was. And then she had it.
Separate cabins. He'd said that they would have separate cabins on the trip.
She stared carefully at the three doorways, looked in each room a second time, and then stood in the hall frowning at the steps. Granted, the cabin had two beds. But two beds did not separate cabins make. And Robyn had a feeling that Shane had known exactly how many cabins the boat had before he'd invited her.
Oddly enough, she was more curious to hear his explanation than angry. Climbing to the deck, she blinked in the bright sunlight and briefly took note of the activity going on around them in the marina. Shading her eyes with one hand, she finally located Shane near the front-was that port or starboard, or bow or stem?-of the boat. He'd shed his slacks and stood clothed in a pair of white swim trunks. He was busily engaged in untangling a pile of ropes.
Robyn picked her way carefully along the deck toward him, avoiding more tangles of rope. Reaching his side, she inquired with deliberately deceptive calm, "Weren't we going to try to be friends?"
"Sure." He cast a sidelong look at her, and Robyn had no trouble reading the mischief in his eyes.
"Then tell me something-friend. Why did you lie about there being two cabins on this boat?"
"I didn't exactly lie." He threw her another glance, then bent his attention back to the rope in his hands. "I said we'd have separate cabins. My cabin's out here; I'll sleep on deck."
"On deck?" she exclaimed as though he'd just proposed sleeping in the ocean. "You can't do that!"
"Why not? The weather's supposed to be fine, and I've certainly slept in worse places."
"As a matter of fact, I'll probably be more comfortable than you. The cabin tends to get stuffy at night."
Cutting her off smoothly, he murmured, "And you wouldn't want to share the cabin, now, would you?"
Robyn opened her mouth to suggest just that, and then suddenly acquired the suspicion that she was being neatly maneuvered. Beginning to be able to read his expression and subtle body-language, she studied his faint smile and the almost imperceptible tension in his lean body. So he was plotting, was he?
Smiling sweetly, she folded her arms, careful to keep her feet solidly apart on the shifting deck. "I wouldn't think of it," she returned politely. "Why would I deprive you of the pleasure of sleeping out under the stars?"
He turned to look at her, and she nearly giggled at the look of almost comic dismay on his face. "You're not going to let me get away with much, are you?" he murmured wryly.
"Not if I can help it. But don't worry-when this trip's over, you'll be stronger in character." She reached up to give his cheek a friendly pat, and she nearly gasped at the almost electrifying sensation of flesh on flesh. Hurriedly drawing back her hand, she feigned interest in what he was doing with the ropes. "Can I help?" she asked brightly.
He stared at her for a moment, the green eyes strangely dark, then flexed his shoulders abruptly as if throwing off an unwelcome hand... or thought. "No," he muttered, clearing his throat. "No, not right now. We won't be able to raise the sails until we clear the marina. Have a seat in the stern until we're ready to cast off."
Since the only seat she could see-an L-shaped bench-was in the back of the boat, Robyn assumed that that was the stern. Her nerves jumping after the unexpectedly stimulating sensation of touching him, she wasn't about to protest his order. A little shakily, she made her way to the stern and sank down onto the padded bench.
Good Lord, what was wrong with her? She was about to spend several days alone on a boat with a man, and she couldn't even touch him casually without experiencing a heart-stopping shock! She had a funny feeling that their undemanding "friendship" wasn't going to last very long. Her only hope was to keep things light and humorous-and to avoid touching him as much as possible.
Shane had been right-in her case, anyway. Her instincts were in turmoil. After a year of terror for her husband and a year of grief after his death, she had come alive again-extremely so. And she was all too aware of Shane's magnetic, sensual appeal.
Wide-eyed, she watched him moving about the boat, taking note of his catlike grace and sure motions. She remembered his lion's growl, shivering as her nerve endings responded even to the memory, and directed her gaze out over the water.
She blinked and jumped in surprise to find Shane standing directly in front of her. "I'm ready," she muttered with clenched-teeth determination, feelingas cheerful as if he'd just announced that the dentist would see her now.
Shane laughed, but his eyes were intent on her face. "Regretting the trip so soon?" he asked softly.
Robyn stood up slowly, all at once aware of the heat of the morning sun, the salty sea breeze, and the curiously vivid green of his eyes. And she wondered why she was wasting time with stupid, useless fears. "No," she responded just as softly. "Not regretting."
A muscle leaped in his lean jaw, and one hand jerked up as though pulled by strings. His fingers hesitated just before touching her cheek, then the hand fell heavily to his side. "Don't look at me like that," he warned roughly. "It plays havoc with all my good intentions!"
"Good intentions?" A smile hovered around the corners of her mouth. "I'll bet this is the first time you've ever denied yourself something you wanted."
He gave her a lopsided grin. "Don't rub it in. And stop smiling at me, you little witch! You have no idea what it does to my blood pressure."
Robyn experienced a sense of wonder at the desire he made no effort to hide, realizing that she'd never in her life met a man who spoke so openly about how he felt.
He reached up to rub his knuckles down her cheek with gentle roughness, then turned her around briskly and gave her a firm swat on the bottom. "Grab that line and cast off when I tell you to!"
Rubbing the abused portion of her anatomy, Robyn threw a half-laughing glare at him over her shoulder and stalked away to take the line he'd indicated. "Aye, aye," she said resentfully. "But please don't ask me to do anything desperately important, skipper, or we'll both end up in the drink!"
Within half an hour, they had left the marina behind. Shane had used the small engine to propel the boat until they were well out, and then cut its power and commanded Robyn to take the wheel while he showed her how to raise the sails.
A bit gingerly, she stood behind the big brass wheel and held it firmly, resisting her desire to watch the colorful sails of other boats heading out to sea. Dutifully, she watched Shane at work, trying to make sense of his movements and not having very much success. She nearly lost him once, swinging the wheel instinctively when a large motorized boat came a bit too close for her peace of mind.
Having regained his balance swiftly, Shane gave her a short lecture on maritime law, which inexplicably proclaimed that the smaller boat had the right of way. Robyn listened meekly.
She felt like a fool until he winked solemnly at her, and she realized that he wasn't at all dismayed by her ignorance. After that, it was easier to absorb his instructions.
"Swing it a bit to port," he called back to her, busily tying off one of the innumerable ropes.
Barely able to hear him over the snapping and cracking of the wind-filled sails, she responded hastily, "You're talking to a landlubber, remember! Is port left or right?"
He laughed. "Sorry! Port's left."
Wary after her near-catastrophe earlier, Robyn carefully turned the wheel to the left and felt rewarded when Shane gave her a thumbs-up signal. She swung her head to throw the single heavy braid back over her shoulder, and reflected that it was a good thing she'd decided on that style this morning. Her fine hair tangled easily, and, without the braid, she would have looked like a wild woman by now.
Apparently satisfied with the sails, Shane made his way back to her side. He moved deftly and easily about the heaving deck, and Robyn envied him his steady sea legs. She didn't feel sick-yet-but only her death grip on the brass wheel steadied her balance.
She watched him lean against the side of the boat, his arms folded casually across his chest, and she asked uneasily, "Aren't you going to take over now?"
"Why? You're doing fine." Before she could protest, he went on briskly, "We're going to drill a little nautical terminology into your head so you won't panic."
"I never panic," she informed him indignantly.
"Uh huh. Port's left."
Sighing, Robyn realized he wasn't going to let her get out of learning how to sail. Aware that they were far out to sea, and interested in spite of herself, she resolved to learn. "Port's left," she parroted faithfully.
"Starboard's right."
"Starboard's right."
"The front of the boat is the bow, and the rear is the stem. Or you can call it fore and aft-"
"Let's stick with bow and stern," she interrupted quickly. "There's no need to thoroughly confuse me our first day out."
Solemnly, he said, "You have to learn, Robyn. In case something happens to me."
"In case something-" The boat made a decidedly ungentle lurch as her hands jerked on the wheel. "Shane! I can't sail this thing by myself! If you fall out, I'll never forgive you!"
"Overboard," he corrected, his lips twitching.
"If I fall overboard. Not out."
She glared at him. "Now, look-"
"Right," she supplied irritably. "Shane-"
"Left. Will you-"
"Rear." Her voice held more than a suspicion of gritted teeth.
"Very good," he commended cheerfully. "Think you can remember that much?"
Robyn stared at him for a long moment, then spoke carefully. "Did I ever tell you that I know karate?"
"Nope." His lips twitched again.
"Well, I do. I'm probably a little rusty, but I'm sure I could manage a few lethal moves."
"Should I bear that in mind?"
"I would."
Shane grinned and then sobered abruptly. "I'm not trying to scare you, Robyn. I certainly don't expect any problems between now and Monday. But it's best that you be prepared for anything. You can never take the sea, or the weather, for granted. When we get a little farther out, I'll show you exactly how to raise and lower the sails and the anchor, how to read the compass and handle the radio, and what to do in an emergency." He hesitated and reached out to touch her cheek lightly. "Okay?"
Reassured more by the tingling touch than anything else, she nodded and smiled. "Okay. But don't go too fast!"
"Right." He laughed. "Port?"
"Right. I mean left! Dammit."
Two hours later, Robyn had raised and lowered the sails twice by herself, had mastered the peculiar art of hoisting an anchor, was reasonably certain that she could handle the radio, and could make a