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Chapter 75 They Were So Calm

  • THEY WERE SO calm, so confident they could handle anything—Jared, Nathan, even Miranda, Nathan’s wife, serenely serving coffee. They weren’t the least bit perturbed by the call that had come through at six o’clock, giving an update on the situation in Broome.
Christabel wanted to scream at all three of them that they didn’t understand how Rafael Santiso worked. She knew how his evening with Elizabeth King would end. He’d be here tomorrow with Elizabeth’s blessing and he’d walk right in to King’s Eden, not having to breach any defences whatsoever.
Then he’d mastermind taking her and Alicia back out. All for the best, of course. A man who could persuade Bernhard Kruger into appointing him sole trustee of the inheritance could persuade anyone to do anything, and he had six hundred million reasons for doing so. Probably more by now, with his talent for wheeling and dealing.
The thought of returning to the prisonlike mansion in Amsterdam, or the Greek island fortress, set off a convulsive shiver, shaking the coffee cup in her hand. It clattered on the saucer as she set it down.
“Perhaps coffee isn’t a good idea. Keep you awake,” Jared remarked, rising from his chair at the dining table. “Would you like to go for a walk, Christabel? Some fresh air and exercise before you turn in for the night?”
“Yes. Yes, I would,” she gabbled gratefully.
“I’ll look in on Alicia,” Miranda offered.
“Thank you,” Christabel clipped out, jumping to her feet before Jared reached her chair, too agitated to remain still a moment longer. “Should she wake…”
“I’ll sit with her,” Miranda assured her with a warm smile. “Your daughter is a pleasure to be with, Christabel. I hope I can bring up our child as well as you have Alicia.”
The tall, beautiful blonde was just visibly pregnant, and it was obvious both she and Nathan would be very loving parents. For a moment Christabel felt a savage stab of envy. Even if Laurens had lived, he would have been useless as a father. Worse than useless. Damaging. Whereas Nathan would be just as good and kind and caring as Jared…Jared, who still didn’t see that Alicia’s inheritance made everything abnormal, or was being stubbornly blind to the problems it encompassed.
She nodded to Miranda. “You’re very kind.” And she had been, ever since they’d arrived at King’s Eden, taking Alicia under her wing, showing her around the homestead while Christabel had spelled out her situation to both Jared and Nathan.
Neither man had made light of it, yet she had been disturbed by the calm way they had accepted the facts, proceeding to make plans to ensure that her choices and decisions were respected. It was as though they took this outcome for granted, and Christabel was half-fooled into believing they could make it happen, until Elizabeth’s call had revealed Rafael Santiso’s insidious manoeuvring, going straight for the head of the family.
Jared’s hand fell lightly on her shoulder and she turned blindly into the curve of his arm as he drew her with him out of the dining room. Yet not even his physical warmth and strength could comfort her.
“It will be all right,” he murmured, hugging her more tightly to him. “My mother’s not a fool, Christabel.”
She would never have described Elizabeth King as a fool, but Rafael Santiso could pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, however shrewd and smart they were. “She doesn’t know him as I do,” she said flatly.
“One thing our family knows rather well is the art of survival,” Jared assured her. “We don’t give up. Never have.”
But they could give way, Christabel thought despairingly.
It was a clear night outside. No storm today, except the one that had flown in from Europe, bringing the darkest clouds of all. She looked up at a sky full of brilliant stars and thought of the diamonds in her safety deposit box at the bank in Sydney. No chance of getting to them now. The running was over.
She had just this one last night of freedom. Santiso would come tomorrow. He and Elizabeth King would make Jared see that she and Alicia didn’t belong here. A simple story leaked to the media would show the King family fast enough that their lives wouldn’t be their own any more if they chose to keep the Kruger heiress under their roof. The man was ruthless and relentless in pursuing his own ends. And once he had them back under his control, would they die in an accident like Laurens?
“Let’s walk down to the river where the marquee was set up for Nathan’s and Miranda’s wedding,” she said impulsively, remembering that was where she had first felt Jared’s arms around her, his body moving in tune with hers as they danced together.
“Being on the run is no kind of life for you, Christabel. Nor for Alicia,” Jared said quietly. “I know you’re frightened of it but a stand has to be made.”
She didn’t answer. What point was there in railing against the situation he’d forced upon her? It was done and couldn’t be undone. She had one more night with him. That was the only consolation she had, and talking wasn’t what she wanted.
She slid her arm around his waist as they strolled down the slope to the flat beside the river. He rubbed his cheek against her hair, and her heart turned over at the loving tenderness expressed. He really did care about her. Her fear had triggered all his protective instincts, and she realised his need to stand between her and her enemies had driven his actions today. She couldn’t blame him for being the man he was.
“Did you think the inheritance would make a difference to what I feel for you?” Jared asked, a low throb of passionate emotion in his voice.
“It hasn’t touched you yet,” she answered reluctantly. “It probably seems unreal to you. But it’s very real when you live with it, Jared. It…dominates…everything.”
“You would choose to live without it.”
“If I could.”
“Which was why you kept running.”
“And the longest you’ve stayed anywhere has been in Broome.”
“Yes,” she sighed, knowing she’d brought this disaster upon herself by staying too long.
He paused their walk, turning her to face him. “Because of me, Christabel?”
She reached up and laid her hand on his cheek, wanting the skin-to-skin contact with him, longing for more. This was the day of truth. There was no longer any reason to hide anything from him. In a heady rush of release, she spoke what was in her heart.
“I’ve never felt what I’ve felt with you. I shouldn’t have let it…take hold of me so much…but you were there…and I couldn’t put you out of my mind…couldn’t resist having what I could of you.”
“It’s the same for me,” he murmured, covering her hand with his and guiding it to his mouth, pressing a kiss on its palm, then sliding her fingers along his lips, over his chin, down his throat to the open V of his shirt, clearly craving her touch as much as she craved his.
“I can’t bear not to have you,” he said gruffly..
  • “Then have me. Here…now…all night long,” she invited recklessly, both of her hands flying down the buttons of his shirt, wanting it shed, wanting all their clothes shed. “Help me,” she cried. “I don’t want anything between us.”
She whipped off the T-shirt and shorts she wore and he was just as fast in stripping himself, incited by her urgency, her need to recapture what they’d shared before. Her heart was pumping fiercely as she revelled in the sight of his naked body emerging from the trappings of civilisation. Primal man, she thought wildly, strong and hard and vital, poised to claim her as his woman in this place of ancient earth with a universe of stars overhead.
She wanted this so much, so terribly much. It was how it should be—simple, direct, as elemental as the earth and the sky, timeless.
He reached for her, and she slammed against him, exulting in the squash of her breasts against the muscular breadth of his chest, the hard pressure of his arousal against her stomach, the rocklike steadiness of his thighs. Her arms wound around his neck as she went up on tiptoe, her mouth seeking his, and he met it with a kiss that ravaged her soul.
This was her man. It was as though every cell in her body thrummed with recognition of it, rejoicing in the miracle of having found this brilliant sense of rightness. She kissed him back with a feverish passion for all she could have of him, wanting to fill her senses with him, to absorb the whole physical wonder of him and hold it within her forever.
She strained as close as she could, rubbing her body against his, loving the exciting friction, the yielding of her soft flesh to his hard masculinity, the warm skin contact, the slight roughness of his body hair. Her hands caressed the strong column of his neck and roved over his shoulders and down his back, revelling in the smooth delineation of muscles tensed in holding her, binding her to him.
And she wanted to be bound, wanted to be taken and possessed, wanted to possess him. “Stand here, Jared,” she commanded in a fever of desire. “Stand here and let me take pleasure in you.”
It was a husky whisper of longing and love and she felt his hands clench in her hair as she slid down his embrace, adoring his body with kisses, feeling his stomach contract under the softly erotic brush of her lips, rubbing his hardness between her breasts, clasping his taut buttocks as she took him in her mouth.
He groaned as she knelt between his thighs, his whole body tensing at the rhythmic caress of her mouth, and he lifted her hair, wrapping it around him like a fan of silk, taking a compulsive sensual excitement from it as the throbbing need for each other became more and more intense.
With an anguished cry, he hauled her up, then knelt himself, spreading her legs across his thighs as he rocked back on his heels, then bringing her onto him, plunging himself into her so hard and fast it was shockingly glorious, the sensation of his deep penetration and her sheathing him, holding him inside her. She wrapped her legs around his hips and arched back over his supporting arm, wanting the full length of him pushed as far as it was possible, revelling in the sheer ecstasy of encompassing the absolute extent of his male power.
Just as she sighed in blissful satisfaction, he leaned forward and began kissing her breasts, swaying her from side to side as he took each one in his mouth, drawing them into spiralling peaks of pleasure, possessing them as he reinforced the other more intimate possession, rolling her around him.
The sweet flow of climax came in exquisite waves, the rocking from side to side accentuating every ripple of it through her body. Her limbs were going limp. She was hazily conscious of her hair brushing the ground, their bodies bared to the night, the stars overhead pulsing their myriad pinpricks of light at her.
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