Home > Savage Nature (Leopard People #5)(11)

Savage Nature (Leopard People #5)(11)
Author: Christine Feehan

Saria bit back her first retort. Great. Her first real hot-tie and he thought she was young. She kept her back to him, trying not to stiffen her shoulders. Who cared what he thought? Jt because he was the hottest guy on the planet didn’t mean a thing. She didn’t want anything to do with him, but he could see her as a woman, not some little kid.

“I grew up here. If you aren’t familiar with the swamp it can be very dangerous.” She couldn’t help the little bite to her voice. “There aren’t any landmarks out there. If you prefer another guide there are others available. You won’t have any trouble gettin’ anyone with the kind of money you’re payin’.” Like she could afford the loss of income. Pride was a terrible thing, she reminded herself, but she wasn’t going to beg for the job.

“When we asked for someone who knew the swamp, plants and wildlife throughout this area, you came highly recommended by several people,” Drake said. “And you did say it was possible we could extend the time if needed.”

She couldn’t help risking another small glimpse of him. Mon Dieu, he was beautiful. She could spend a lot of time with him—he was that easy on the eyes. And at least he was talking to her now. “Yes, if you let me know a few days in advance, I can arrange it.” Maybe not. Every time she looked at him she lost her mind. There was something compelling about his eyes, those deep gold-green eyes framed with impossibly long lashes. He had a five-o’clock shadow that made him look even more rugged.

She made her way through the small town, avoiding getting too near the church, afraid of running into the priest. She hadn’t been back to confession since she’d given him the letter, and now she didn’t want to chance contact. The long streaks on her back and the bite mark on her shoulder were healing a bit, but they left enough of an ache that, along with the nightmares, she was convinced to mind her own business. She didn’t want Father Gallagher asking her any questions. She’d managed to avoid her brothers, and now, by taking this job, she’d be out in the swamp for at least another week.

“You married?” Drake’s voice was very casual.

Her heart jumped. “No.”

“I didn’t think so. No man in his right mind would let someone like you take strangers out alone into the swamp.”

She touched the knife at her belt. “I can take care of myself.” Why had he asked? She’d seen the way his gaze drifted over her, taking in everything. He couldn’t have failed to note her lack of a wedding ring. Still, maybe some women didn’t wear their ring. She let her breath out. Maybe under that expressionless face he was a little more interested in her than he let on. “Are you?” She couldn’t image it. She couldn’t image any woman holding his interest for long.

Silence stretched between them until she stopped again and looked at him. He gave her a small smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I doubt I could find a woman who would put up with me.”

Her eyebrow shot up. “Are you that difficult?”

“I imagine I might be, yes,” he admitted. His voice dropped an octave—became soft, seductive, an intimacy she was totally unfamiliar with. “You’ll be living with me for the next week. You’ll have to tell me.”

Her mouth went dry. Her heart jumped and damp heat collected. His gaze locked with hers and she immediately experienced the sensation of falling into him. It was bizarre, but she couldn’t look away, as if he’d managed to take her captive in gave her imitive manner. His stare was both charismatic and alarming. Her heart began drumming a very real warning. Everything feminine in her responded to him, yet at the same time urged her to run.

She was lost in his gaze, so she witnessed the abrupt change. The green with golden flecks suddenly went antique gold. The round pupils dilated three times wider. He moved, or did he? She didn’t think she’d blinked, but his body was close to her, almost protective, shielding her from something he’d seen without so much as turning his head. Icy fingers crept down her spine. Her warning radar exploded, and this time the threat wasn’t emanating from the man in front of her. Maybe it hadn’t been all along, but his predatory magnetism had confused her. Whatever the reasons, she hadn’t recognized her alarms for what they were.

“A man is back in the shadows just at the entrance to the trees. He’s watching you.” His voice was pitched very low, nearly inaudible. Had she not had such good hearing, she would have missed the whisper. “Do you know him? Look over my left shoulder.” He took another step closer, bending his head toward hers as if he might kiss her.

Her breath caught in her throat. Everything in her stilled. She placed the palm of her hand on his chest, right over his soundly beating heart, but whether to push him away or to steady herself as she raised her head, she wasn’t certain.

She flicked a quick glance into the tree line and her throat nearly closed. Red eyes glowed back at her. Something was there all right—someone. They knew she cut through the stand of trees to the docks whenever she came into town. Had they known she was picking up a customer? She couldn’t tell who it was, only that human eyes didn’t reflect back light in that manner. Whoever was in the forest of Christmas trees was probably her attacker.

“We don’ need to cut through the grove to get to the dock. This road curves around and then goes back toward the canals. It’s a little longer but . . .”

“I think a stroll through the grove is just the thing,” Drake interrupted.

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