Taming Natasha Page 33

“This frightens me.” She could feel sensation spear her. “Sometimes people say I think too much. Maybe it’s true. If it is, it’s because I feel too much. There was a time….” She took her hand from his, wanting to be strong on her own. “There was a time,” she repeated, “when I let what I felt decide for me. There are some mistakes that you pay for until you die.”

“This isn’t a mistake.” He set down the brandy to take her face between his hands.

Her fingers curled around his wrists. “I don’t want it to be. There can’t be any promises, Spence, because I’d rather not have them than have them broken. I don’t need or want pretty words. They’re too easily said.” Her grip tightened. “I want to be your lover, but I need respect, not poetry.”

“Are you finished?”

“I need for you to understand,” she insisted.

“I’m beginning to. You must have loved him a great deal.”

She dropped her hands, but steadied herself before she answered. “Yes.”

It hurt, surprising him. He could hardly be threatened by someone from her past. He had a past, as well. But he was threatened, and he was hurt. “I don’t care who he was, and I don’t give a damn what happened.” That was a lie, he realized, and one he’d have to deal with sooner or later. “But I don’t want you thinking of him when you’re with me.”

“I don’t, not the way you mean.”

“Not in any way.”

She raised a brow. “You can’t control my thoughts or anything else about me.”

“You’re wrong.” Fueled by impotent jealousy, he pulled her into his arms. The kiss was angry, demanding, possessive. And tempting. Tempting her so close to submission that she struggled away.

“I won’t be taken.” Her voice was only more defiant because she was afraid she was wrong.

“Your rules, Natasha?”

“Yes. If they’re fair.”

“To whom?”

“Both of us.” She pressed her fingers against her temples for a moment. “We shouldn’t be angry,” she said more quietly. “I’m sorry.” She offered a shrug and a quick smile. “I’m afraid. It’s been a long time since I’ve been with anyone—since I’ve wanted to be.”

He picked up his brandy, staring into it as it swirled. “You make it hard for me to stay mad.”

“I’d like to think we were friends. I’ve never been friends with a lover.”

And he’d never been in love with a friend. It was a huge and frightening admission, and one he was certain he couldn’t make out loud. Perhaps, if he stopped being clumsy, he could show her.

“We are friends.” He held out a hand, then curled his fingers around hers. “Friends trust each other, Natasha.”


He looked at their joined hands. “Why don’t we—?” A noise at the window had him breaking off and glancing over. Before he could move, Natasha tightened her hold. It took only a moment to see that she wasn’t frightened, but amused. She brought a finger from her free hand to her lips.

“I think it’s a good idea to be friends with my professor,” she said, lifting her voice and making a go-ahead gesture to Spence.

“I, ah, I’m glad Freddie and I have found so many nice people since we’ve moved.” Puzzled, he watched Natasha root through a drawer.

“It’s a nice town. Of course, sometimes there are problems. You haven’t heard about the woman who escaped from the asylum.”

“What asylum?” At her impatient glance, he covered himself. “No, I guess not.”

“The police are keeping very quiet about it. They know she’s in the area and don’t want people to panic.” Natasha flicked on the flashlight she’d uncovered and nodded in approval as the batteries proved strong. “She’s quite insane, you know, and likes to kidnap small children. Especially young boys. Then she tortures them, hideously. On a night with a full moon she creeps up on them, so silently, so evilly. Then before they can scream, she grabs them around the throat.”

So saying, she whipped up the shade on the window. With the flashlight held under her chin, she pressed her face against the glass and grinned.

Twin screams echoed. There was a crash, a shout, then the scramble of feet.

Weak from laughter, Natasha leaned against the windowsill. “The Freedmont boys,” she explained when she’d caught her breath. “Last year they hung a dead rat outside Annie’s door.” She pressed a hand to her heart as Spence came over to peer out the window. All he could see was two shadows racing across the lawn.

“I think the tables are well-turned.”

“Oh, you should have seen their faces.” She dabbed a tear from her lashes. “I don’t think their hearts will start beating again until they pull the covers over their heads.”

“This should be a Halloween they don’t forget.”

“Every child should have one goods care they remember always.” Still smiling, she stuck the light under her chin again. “What do you think?”

“It’s too late to scare me away.” He took the flashlight and set it aside. Closing his hand over hers, he drew her to her feet. “It’s time to find out how much is illusion, how much is reality.” Slowly he pulled the shade down.


It was very real. Painfully real. The feel of his mouth against hers left no doubt that she was alive and needy. The time, the place, meant nothing. Those could have been illusions. But he was not. Desire was not. She felt it spring crazily inside her at only a meeting of lips.

No, it wasn’t simple. She had known since she had first tasted him, since she had first allowed herself to touch him that whatever happened between them would never be simple. Yet that was what she had been so certain she’d wanted. Simplicity, a smooth road, an easy path.

Not with him. And not ever again.

Accepting, she twined her arms around him. Tonight there would be no past, no future. Only one moment taken in both hands, gripped hard and enjoyed.

Answer for answer, need for need, they clung together. The low light near the door cast their silhouettes onto the wall, one shadow. It shifted when they did, then stilled.

When he swept her into his arms, she murmured a protest. She had said she wouldn’t be taken and had meant it. Yet cradled there she didn’t feel weak. She felt loved. In gratitude and in acceptance she pressed her lips to his throat. As he carried her toward the bedroom, she allowed herself to yield.

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