Susana was annoyed. There was no doubt about it. The swish of her hips as she led him across the bustling bailey was a dead giveaway, that and the dark glowers she shot over her shoulder. But Andrew couldn’t help but be amused. For one thing, she was damn alluring with she was annoyed.
Hell, she was damn alluring altogether. The curve of her waist alone could drive a man insane, much less that silky tumble of hair. He wanted to wrap it is his fist, wind it around his body. A certain part of his body.
At the thought, his cock rose.
It was difficult to remind himself that he’d vowed to eschew seduction, but try as he might, he couldn’t banish the fantasy of stripping those breeks from her lovely body and laying her down in the heather. Visions of that twitching backside—bare before him—danced in his head.
But he’d made a vow. A sacred vow. And as tempting as she was, he would control his baser urges. He could. Probably.
These thoughts whirled in his head as she led him into the stables, past his men—who were unpacking and seeing to their horses—and through the kennels. Though he was perplexed, Andrew followed. He would probably follow anywhere she led. It was a fact that should have scared him to death or at the very least, concerned him. But it didn’t. However, when she started up a staircase at the very end of the long hall, he had to stop her.
She glared at the hand he set on her arm. He tried to ignore the sizzle that raged through him at their first touch. It was ridiculous how much that touch affected him. And how much he enjoyed her glare.
He edged closer. “Where are we going?” he asked in a purr.
Judging from her frown, his tone irritated her. He rather enjoyed irritating her, he found.
She ripped her arm away and continued up the stairs. He followed and found himself in a narrow loft that ran the length of the kennels. It was dim and a little dusty. Motes danced on the air. The roof was so low he had to duck his head to miss the rafters.
“Your men will stay here,” she said.
Andrew gaped at her. The room was swept clean and empty. A thin shaft of light from the far window illuminated it with a murky light. But the yipping from the kennel and the stench of excrement wafted up from below. For some reason, all thoughts of alluring backsides dissipated. Disbelief gushed through him. “Here?”
She crossed her arms and offered what could only be described as a smirk. “Here.”
He tipped his head to the side. “This is a kennel.”
“I am aware of that.”
“I have twenty-five men.”
“The room is quite large.”
“There are no beds.”
She blew out a breath. “We’ll bring in pallets.”
Andrew blinked. He set his teeth and tried to remain calm. His men were warriors. They did not sleep on pallets. In a kennel. “This will not do.” Surely she saw that. Surely she understood… He caught a glimpse of her smug expression and it dawned on him.
She did. She did understand. She knew damn well what she was doing. Her response only verified his suspicions.
“I’m sorry, but you have descended upon us with no warning whatsoever with a large group of men. I’m afraid this is all we can offer you at this time.” Her smile was deferential, but hardly sincere. The light dancing in her eyes lit a flame in his belly. “Of course, if our accommodations are unacceptable, you can always return to Dunnet…”
Oh, she’d like that, wouldn’t she?
Rather than the exasperation her self-satisfied look should have sparked, Andrew found himself filled with another emotion entirely. Anticipation. Exhilaration. The thrill of a challenge.
For that was what she was, Susana Dounreay. A challenge.
And it appeared she reveled in provoking him.
A pity she didn’t understand he was a dangerous man to provoke.
The tumult her presence sparked within him flared again, burning the edges of his resolution; his inconvenient lust blossomed, and with it, an unruly resolve.
He wanted, very badly, to kiss her. He wanted to wrench her into his arms and cover her sweet mouth with his. He wanted to taste her, consume her, possess her.
And he would.
Clearly he wasn’t the kind of man who could swear off women. Clearly he wasn’t the kind of man who could keep a vow.
So be it.
Damn to hell his ridiculous vow.
Damn to hell the fact that she was his sister-in-law.
He was going to seduce this vixen, and he would start right now.
Desire, like a snarling, snapping beast, rose within him, and he stepped closer.
Susana’s eyes flared as Andrew advanced on her, like a skulking fox that had spotted a plump rabbit. She didn’t mean to retreat, but she had to. She’d seen that expression in his eyes before and she knew what it meant. Something within her howled: Run.
Perhaps it was the expression in his eyes, or the knowledge that she was playing with fire, or the sudden realization that she’d foolishly come here, to this deserted loft with the most dangerous man she’d ever met, but she couldn’t still the urge to whirl and pace to the far end of the room to peer out of the smudged window. She was aware he followed. She felt his presence like a fire in a forge.
Desperation prompted her to continue their conversation, to put some space between them, to raise a shield. “The room is perfectly habitable,” she proclaimed. “And once we have pallets brought in, it will serve you well.”
His voice was low in her ear, a whisper almost. And far too close. She wanted to turn, to confront him, but she knew, if she did, they would be face to face, perhaps lip to lip and she could not allow that. She could never allow that.
The last time he’d kissed her, it had been her undoing.
A pity he didn’t remember.
“My men willna like being housed with the dogs.” Holy God. Was that his hand on her hip? His thumb tracing her waist? “Nae doubt they will all want to find…other beds to welcome them.”
Susana stilled as his words sank in. The threat was clear. And it was rather horrifying. A horde of randy warriors set loose on the innocent maidens of Dounreay? That his hand had slid over to toy with the small of her back, to tangle in the skeins of her hair, didn’t help.
Her pulse thudded and her knees went weak. She couldn’t have it. She couldn’t have this man touching her. She sucked in a breath and slipped to the side, out of his grasp. When she was far enough away for some measure of safety, she turned to face him, a reproachful look fixed on her face. “Are your men so lacking in discipline?” She hoped her frown, her reproving tone, would bring him to heel. She should have known better.
He grinned and stepped closer. His eyes glinted, as though needling her was an amusing sport. “They are verra disciplined…when their needs are met.”
She crossed her arms, as though that could protect her, and pretended to study the room. Pretended she wasn’t aware of his thrumming presence, his heat, his intent. “Well, I shall hold you responsible for any…improprieties.” She took a step toward the staircase, only a tiny one—surely not an attempt to escape.
He chuckled—chuckled, the bastard—making it clear he recognized her cowardice for what it was. And he paced her.
“They’re all good men. They all volunteered to come with me. Each and every one of them is dedicated to the cause of protecting Reay from the villains who have been plaguing you. However…”
The way he trailed off derailed her retreat. She stilled. Glared at him. “However, what?”
“However, they do have…needs. Surely you can find better lodgings.”
She blew out a breath. “In time.” In time.
In time, he would be gone, God willing.
He stepped toward her again, although nonchalantly, as though he were not chasing her across the room. It occurred to her they were engaged in something of a macabre dance. It set her nerves on edge. She hadn’t realized what a long room this was, or how far it was to the stairs.
“Doona leave it too long.” His smile was heinous. It made all kinds of shivers dance over her skin. “My men are…restless.” She had the chilling sense he was talking about himself.
“I shall…do my best.” Like hell. “And now, if you will excuse me, I have things to do.”
His brow quirked. She tried not to notice what a perfect brow it was. “Ah, but I thought you and I could…talk.”
“Talk?” She didn’t intend to squawk, but she could tell from his predatory stance, a conversation was not the primary urge on his mind. At least, not one with words.
He nodded. Though his features were patently earnest, the sincerity was patently affected. “About the defenses you have in place…so I can decide what needs improvement.”
Aggravation rippled. It displaced her concerns about being here, with him, all alone. Fury did that, she’d often found. Overrode common sense and led one into dangerous waters. Her hands curled into fists. She strode toward him until they were nearly nose to nose. “Nothing needs improvement,” she snapped. They didn’t need him. Or his men. Or his stupid ideas.
“Nonsense. Now that we’re here, we intend to make a statement to Stafford, or whatever miscreants are lurking out there thinking Dounreay is an easy target. But before I set my plans in motion—”
“Your plans?” He already had plans? Och! He was so exasperating.
She barely noticed that he stepped closer…until their chests brushed. He was hard and hot; the touch made her tingle. His voice, low and luring made her tingle as well. His gaze skated over her face, then stalled on her lips. “Let’s meet and discuss—”
Her pulse skittered. “I doona have time to meet with you. Not today.” She took a step back. He followed.
“Nae?” A whisper. And his caress over her shoulder, that was a whisper as well. Like a panicked fawn, Susana eased back again. And again. He matched her, step for step.
She swallowed heavily. “I… You have descended upon us with no warning—”
“My brother sent a letter.”
He was too close. Far too close. She swallowed heavily. “Twenty-five men that now need to be housed and fed. On top of that, I have many other duties that need attending.”
He cocked his head to the side. “Which duties?”
“Many duties.” She frowned and glanced toward the staircase. Ah, lord. It was so far… He was too warm. Too broad. Too alluring. Though she didn’t intend to, she took another step back and—
Oh hell. He’d backed her against the wall. That he couldn’t stand straight in the low-ceilinged room was a small consolation.
“Susana,” he said as he leaned closer. His breath was a tantalizing trail over her face.
An unholy thrill snaked through her. Surely that wasn’t anticipation? Hunger? Need?
She could not allow him to kiss her. She could not—
Her knees nearly melted at the touch of his lips. His warmth, his taste, his scent made her mind whirl. Thank God he had his hands on her waist and was holding her steady, or she might well have collapsed.
It occurred to her that she should push him away, fight him, but she couldn’t. Something, something deep within her resisted. Something deep within her needed him. Needed this.
And ah, it was glorious. As glorious as she remembered.
His lips were soft, gentle, questing as they tested hers and then, with a groan, he pulled her closer, melding their bodies together. He deepened the kiss, sealing his mouth over hers and dancing his tongue over the seam.
She opened to him. She couldn’t resist. He filled her senses with his presence, his heat. With tiny nibbles, sucks and laps, he consumed her, enflamed her. All sanity fled. All logic and resolution and anger flitted away as Andrew tasted her, tempted her.
His hands were not still. They roved over her body from her shoulders, down her arms to her waist. They tangled in her hair and stroked her cheek and chin.
Heat blossomed, skittered through her veins. Her body softened, melted, prepared for him.
She should not have responded the way she did. She should not have pressed against him, rubbed against the hard bulge on his belly. She should not have explored the hard flesh of his back, cupped his nape, raked his silken scalp. She should not have moaned.
Surely all these things would only encourage him.
He lifted his head and stared at her, an odd mixture of befuddlement and awe in his eyes. His tongue peeped out and dabbed at his lips, snagging her attention. Surely she didn’t lean toward him in a mute plea for more.
Was she truly so weak?
Aye. She was.