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Man-Hater Page 11

by Penny Jordan

  As though he read her mind and sensed victory, Carne pulled her towards him, triumph flaring in his eyes.

  ‘Admit it, Kelly,’ he breathed, nauseating her with his self-conceit, his wine-fumed breath reminding her that he had probably had a considerable amount to drink.

  This was confirmed as he raised his free hand and started to fumble clumsily with the straps of her dress, and although what he had had to drink didn’t appear to have affected his strength—he was still holding her arm in a bruising grip—it did seem to have affected his co-ordination.

  A miasma of panic settled round her like a mind-paralysing cloud as she tried to fight free of him, her body tensing automatically against the intrusion of his hands against her skin, anger giving way to stark terror and the age-old human instinct to fight for survival.

  ‘Hellcat!’ Carne swore thickly at one point as Kelly scratched frantically at his face, his hand going automatically to the long red welts she had drawn along his skin. Momentarily free, Kelly reacted, instantly, racing for the open door, finding her way almost by blind instinct up the nearest companionway, lungs bursting, heart pounding with the fear that fuelled her flight. On the deck her flight was suddenly impeded by a solid mass that crushed the breath out of her body, the bite of strong fingers on her shoulders making her shudder with panic and despair.

  ‘Kelly…Kelly… What the hell’s going on?’

  ‘Jake?’ She stared at him in utter disbelief, suddenly galvanised into action as she heard Carne swearing and breathing heavily down below.

  Jake registered her panic and smiled cynically.

  ‘What’s the matter? Did lover boy prove too much for you?’

  ‘He told me he wanted to talk about business,’ Kelly muttered, feeling foolish and very much on the defensive.

  ‘And you’re trying to tell me you fell for it?’

  Kelly flinched as she heard angry footsteps on the companionway, clutching instinctively at Jake’s arm, her eyes widening with fear.

  ‘Oh, please, let’s go!’

  Carne had gained the deck and stood there, swaying slightly, his face livid with rage.

  ‘Just who the hell are you?’ he demanded thickly, advancing on Jake.

  ‘I’m a friend of Kelly’s,’ Jake replied evenly. ‘Thank the kind man for his hospitality, Kelly,’ he drawled mockingly. ‘It’s time we left.’

  For a moment, Kelly thought Carne was going to hurl himself at Jake and she held her breath, terrified by the thought of more violence. But half a dozen feet short of Jake Carne came to an uncertain standstill.

  ‘Get her out of my sight,’ he muttered angrily. ‘Frigid little bitch, I didn’t really want her anyway!’

  All the way back in the boat the words reverberated endlessly through her mind, an acid refrain that seemed to burn through her frail protection, reminding her achingly of Colin and the taunts he had thrown at her, destroying the frail self-possession she had built up in the years between and leaving her as vulnerable to his rejection as she had been then.

  She was shivering by the time Jake stopped the motorboat, barely aware of him standing up to throw anchor over the side.

  ‘Come on, jump out, you’ll have to wade the rest of the way.’

  She shivered, backing away from him instinctively as he reached out his hand. The boat rocked wildly. Kelly heard Jake curse and then she was overbalancing, falling backwards into the cold dark water, her startled cry of protest choked off by the seawater filling her mouth and nostrils.

  Her panic subsided almost instantly as her feet touched the sandy bottom, and by the time Jake reached her she had regained her balance. The cold water had the effect of shocking her back into an awareness of the present; of Jake’s angrily icy face, and the bedraggled picture she must present in her seawater-doused hair and soaking dress. Why had Jake come to look for her and, more important, how had he known where to look?

  ‘Sue was concerned about you,’ he told her, obviously reading her mind. ‘She couldn’t find you, and she seemed to think you might be…upset, for some reason.’

  Kelly was glad of the darkness as her face flamed. Sue meant that she had thought she would be jealous because Jake had disappeared with the blonde.

  ‘That doesn’t explain how you knew where to find me,’ she retorted coolly, dragging the rags of her composure around her, retreating into the protection of the cold hauteur that had worked so well in the past.

  ‘You were seen leaving with Wrayman,’ Jake told her tersely, as he waded on to the beach and turned to help her. The moonlight fell sharply on his face and for a second his features seemed to tense, a muscle beating violently in his jaw. He looked angry, and more…

  ‘Kelly, come on. We’re both soaked through. We can’t stand here all night. I take it you don’t want to go back to the party?’

  ‘Meaning you do? I’m perfectly capable of returning to the villa on my own,’ she told him acidly, ‘so if you want to return to your girl-friend…’

  ‘My girl-friend?’ He frowned, and then his expression changed, a mocking smile playing round his mouth. ‘Ah yes, of course. But, Kelly, you are forgetting something. You are my girl-friend—at least, you are while I am still in your employ.’

  For some reason she wanted to cry. She felt the tears sting the back of her eyes and knew with detached certainly that this was only the beginning of the pain she was going to experience. Where and why it had happened she didn’t know, but she had fallen in love with Jake.

  In a daze she followed him up the beach, barely aware of the fact that he had turned to wait for her, until she felt the warm clasp of his hand on hers.


  She nodded, wondering if she was hallucinating and imagining the tenderness in the word.

  The night air was quite warm, but the sea and the shocks she had sustained had left her chilled to the marrow. By the time they reached the garden of Sue’s father’s villa she was shivering so much that her teeth were chattering. Jake, although equally wet, seemed impervious to the cold.

  ‘Come into the sitting-room and I’ll pour you a stiff drink,’ he suggested curtly as they entered the house. ‘It will help combat the shock.’

  ‘No!’ Kelly didn’t want to tell him that she always associated the sort of drink he meant with the one the police constable had given her when he broke the news about Colin.

  ‘I’ll go and have a shower. I’m just cold, that’s all.’

  Jake shrugged, the powerful shoulders damply encased in the thin silk shirt, his jeans clinging to his body in a way that made her senses respond over-poweringly to the masculinity of him.

  The shower helped, but she couldn’t banish the ice-cold knot of sickness lodged inside her heart. Carne’s final words had left a barb that festered powerfully, no matter how she tried to blot them out, and this, coupled with the knowledge of her love for Jake, left her feeling totally disorientated and achingly vulnerable.

  She longed to go to bed and sleep so that she could blot out what had happened—forget everything, but she knew that sleep would be impossible, and then she remembered Sue saying that she had some sleeping tablets her doctor had prescribed. Ordinarily, Kelly wouldn’t have dreamed of taking medicine prescribed for someone else, but tonight she couldn’t endure to lie knowing that Jake was either lying in the opposite bed or, more likely, sharing the bed of the blonde girl who had made her admiration of him all so plain.

  She was heading for Sue’s bathroom when the living-room door opened and Jake emerged.

  He frowned when he saw her, and Kelly was absurdly aware of the brief towel she had wrapped around her body—and the insulting remarks Jake had made earlier. Her face burned as he looked at her. Did he think she had done this purely to attract his attention?

  ‘I wanted to borrow a couple of Sue’s sleeping pills,’ she muttered jerkily. ‘I’m sure she won’t mind, and I…’

  ‘Want to forget what happened on board the yacht, is that it? What did happen, by the way? We
re you genuinely running from Wrayman or were you simply egging him on?’

  A sudden rush of tears to her eyes blinded her momentarily, and she smothered a tiny, betraying protest, turning swiftly on her heel. It was too dangerous to risk bandying words with Jake feeling the way he did at the moment—she could only lose.


  It seemed he wasn’t content with reducing her to tears. His fingers grasped her arm, spinning her round so hard that she gasped, fingers clutching nervously at her towel as it slipped precariously low over her breasts.

  ‘Do these mean that it was genuine?’ Jake demanded softly, his fingers oddly gentle as they brushed the dampness from her cheeks.

  She tried to speak, to tell him coldly that if she was crying it was simply reaction, but instead, to her horror, the tears flowed even faster, like a dam bursting, falling harder as she struggled to suppress them and the emotions storming through her.


  Jake spoke her name with unmistakable urgency.

  ‘I know—you hate seeing women cry,’ she tried to joke—but suddenly it wasn’t a joke any longer as Jake smothered a curse, pulling her savagely into his arms as he muttered hoarsely, ‘I hate seeing you cry. God, if Wrayman had hurt you…’

  ‘It was my own fault. I should never have gone with him. God knows I’ve spent enough time avoiding similar situations, but tonight…’

  Within the circle of Jake’s arms, she shrugged, realising in amazement how easily she had confided in him.

  ‘Would you like me to stay with you—until you fall asleep?’

  Oh, she was tempted!

  ‘Let’s start again, Kelly,’ Jake was murmuring softly. ‘Somehow we got off on the wrong foot and we’ve stayed that way ever since, apart from one or two illuminating incidents. I could have killed Wrayman when he walked off with you tonight.’

  ‘You saw us?’ Kelly was astonished, and raised her head to look at him.

  He grimaced slightly, his dark eyes darkening as they probed the shadowy swell of her breasts where her towel had slipped.

  ‘I saw you,’ he confirmed. ‘I thought you were doing it to annoy me.’

  When she looked puzzled, he said softly, ‘Oh, come on, Kelly, you know how much I want you, you aren’t blind—but then, of course, I’m not keeping to my place if I want you, am I? I’m only the hired help.’


  Her voice was wondering, hesitantly hopeful. Jake wanted her. She searched his face distractedly for signs that he was lying, but there were none. She could see the sharp hunger in his eyes, echoed in the tautness of his body against hers, as he held her.

  ‘Don’t play with me, Kelly,’ he warned her, his voice rough with emotion. ‘Let’s have no misunderstandings this time. I want you, and…’

  ‘And I want you, Jake,’ Kelly told him huskily, her fingers trembling as she touched his face, trying to reassure herself that he was real, ‘but first there’s something I have to tell you.’

  She wanted to tell him about Colin, about why she had been so bitterly suspicious of him. It didn’t matter that he had no money, or how he earned his living, she decided passionately. What mattered was the way they felt about one another. He wanted her, and every feminine instinct she possessed told her that she would be a fool if she turned her back on this chance of happiness simply because of pride and money. What did it matter if she was rich and he was poor? What did it matter what anyone else thought? What did anything matter except for this wonderful, glorious happiness bubbling up inside her?

  ‘Later, Kelly,’ Jake was saying roughly, ‘tell me about it later. Right now—right now…’ he added huskily, ‘I can think of better ways of communicating than simply by the spoken word.’

  He lifted her in his arms and Kelly clung to the breadth of his shoulders, her heart pounding shakily as he pushed open the door to their room.

  She was still in his arms when Jake bent his head to kiss her, her lips parting eagerly beneath his, her body trembling with heated urgency as he gradually slid her to her feet, every contour of her moulded against him so that she could almost feel his pulse beat.


  She let him unfasten her towel, her own fingers making eager inroads into the buttons on his shirt, peeling it back, her eyes mesmerised by the sight of his body. His hands cupped her breasts and they swelled instantly to his touch. Her skin felt as though it were on fire with a burningly dry heat, the frenzied kisses she pressed against Jake’s throat and shoulders eliciting a husky imprecation and the fierce assault on his mouth against her skin, his hands moving hungrily over the body, touching and exploring, bringing her to a fever pitch of sexual excitement.

  Kelly was completely lost in the storm of sensual pleasure Jake evoked, stroking his torso so feverishly as he savaged her mouth in explicit demand, releasing her lips to mutter hoarsely, ‘For God’s sake, Kelly, what are you doing to me?’

  And then he was lifting her in his arms, and striding towards the bed, lowering his head to capture one taut nipple with his lips before he released her, savouring its burgeoning sweetness until Kelly sobbed out loud with pleasure, her stomach muscles cramping excitingly, her body throbbing tormentingly as Jake lowered her on to the bed.

  She shivered for a moment as the coolness of the night air struck her skin, and then Jake was beside her, covering her trembling flesh with the warmth of his, and the feel of him against her was nothing like the humiliation she had known with Colin.

  It was easy to give herself up to the seduction of his touch, to respond with caresses of her own, taking fierce delight from the harsh sounds of pleasure her fingers drew from his throat, and the kisses that followed them.

  When his hand stroked along her inner thigh she tensed, nightmare memories flooding back, but her desire and love for Jake were more powerful than her fear, and intense waves of pleasure followed her initial fear, her body arching; wanting and inciting with age-old instinct the union of their flesh.

  In the darkness she heard the ragged, charged quality of Jake’s breathing, and felt the perspiration beading his skin as he muttered hoarsely beneath his breath, cupping her face and stroking her lips with his, until she clung mindlessly, exulting in the fierce thrust of his body and the savage passion of his kiss.

  Somewhere, dimly in the recesses of her mind, she was registering pain, but she didn’t care; she wanted this pain, wanted the fierce maleness of Jake with a need that overrode everything else, and when he tensed, withdrawing from her, she was plunged into a pit of bitter rejection, cringing away from him as he snapped on the bedside lamp.

  ‘Kelly, look at me.’

  She quivered under the harshness of his tone.


  ‘No! Please, I…’ To her horror she started to cry, not silent tears, but tearing sobs that shook her body and made her throat ache.

  ‘Kelly, for God’s sake!’ She shrank beneath the whiplash of anger, shivering with self-loathing and humiliation. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

  It was pointless and undignified trying to pretend she didn’t understand.

  ‘I tried to,’ she managed wearily, ‘but you wouldn’t listen.’

  ‘Are you going to tell me about it?’

  ‘What do you want to hear?’ Her voice sounded bitter and sour, but she couldn’t help it, couldn’t rid herself of the taste of rejection. ‘Would you like to hear how my husband only married me for my money; how he tried to rape me on our wedding night, but how he couldn’t bring himself to possess me in the end—he didn’t really want me, you see, he only wanted my money, and making love to me was a price he found in the end he simply couldn’t pay. So he left me and went to his girl-friend, only he was killed on the way. Funny, isn’t it really…’

  She started to laugh, a high bitter sound that went on and on, until Jake shook her roughly and then smothered the sound with his lips, kissing her until she was fighting for breath; fighting for the control to reject him as he had rejected h

  ‘You don’t have to make love to me,’ she told him when she finally managed to pull away. ‘I’ll still pay you.’

  ‘I damn well ought to thrash you for that!’ Jake ground out, and in the darkness she caught the burn of anger in his eyes, ‘and besides, you’re wrong. I do have to make love to you.’ He said it so quietly that at first she thought she had misheard, but then he added slowly, as though he wanted every single word to sink in:

  ‘I’m sorry for what happened with Colin and it explains a great deal I couldn’t understand before—but, Kelly, I’m not Colin, and you can’t spend the rest of your life punishing yourself because one man didn’t want you. I want you,’ he said quietly, ‘and the only reason we aren’t already lovers is simply that it threw me to realise that you were still a virgin.’

  ‘Meaning that you’d prefer me to have more experience,’ Kelly said bitterly. ‘I’m sorry if I don’t come up to your undoubtedly high expectations, but…’

  The crudity of the expression he used shocked her into silence. She stared across at him in the darkness, wondering if she was being a fool, but her body still ached for him, and she still loved him.

  ‘Virginity is more a state of mind than an actual physical reality—at least that’s my view, and my strongest feeling at the moment is one of pity—oh, not for you,’ he said tersely, ‘for Colin, for being fool enough to turn his back on you. No, I tell a lie,’ he added drily. ‘If I’m honest, my strongest feeling right now is my desire for you, but I don’t intend to force any issues, Kelly. I want you—and badly, but I want you to want me too. I want you to experience pleasure in my arms, not simply give me pleasure. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?’

  Her mouth had gone dry. Jake was being unfair, forcing her to make the decision, and yet inwardly she acknowledged that he was right; that it was her decision, and the fact that he had the strength to allow her to make it only increased her love for him.

  ‘I…I want you, Jake.’

  They were the hardest words she had ever had to utter, and for one terrifying moment when he made no response she thought it had all been a trick, a trap, and panic welled up inside her, fear crawling along her spine.


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