Authors: Sandra Brown
Tags: #Contemporary, #Suspense, #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Vietnam War; 1961-1975, #Northwest Territories, #Survival After Airplane Accidents; Shipwrecks; Etc, #Romantic Suspense Fiction, #Wilderness Survival, #Businesswomen
Moving back to the table, she reached for his plate. He caug
her hand. The gesture, unlike anything else he'd done since she met him, was unsure, hesitant. "I'm trying to apologize to you for the things
Staring down at the crown of his head, where his hair grew around a boyish swirl, Rusty asked softly, "Did you mean them, Cooper?"
She knew wha
she was doing. She was inviting him to make
to her. She wanted him to. There was no sense in fooling herself any longer. He appealed to her like no man ever had. And apparently the attraction
They would never maintain their sanity if they didn't satisfy
is physical craving. They might live through the winter
becoming lovers, but by spring they would both be
ving maniacs. This passionate wanting, unreasonable as i
ould no longer be suppressed. A relationship between them would be unworkable under
rdinary circumstances. Their circumstances were far from
rdinary. It simply wasn't practical to examine whether their life-
yles or politics or philosophies were compatible. It didn't
atter. What mattered—very much so—was a basic human
for intimacy with the opposite sex.
Cooper raised his head slowly. "What did you say?"
"I asked if you meant them—the things you said."
His eyes didn't even flicker. "Yes. I meant them." He was a man of ac
ion, not of words. He reached up and
rled his fingers around the back of her neck, pulling her head
own for his kiss. He made a sound like
hat of a feasting wild
nimal as he used his lips to rub hers apart. His tongue went
arching inside her mouth. Rusty welcomed it. He stood up, stumbling and off balance. This time his chair
did topple backward. It landed on the floor with a crash. Neither of them noticed. His arms slid around her waist, hers around his neck. He drew her body tightly against his. Where hers was bowed, his arched to complement it.
"Oh, God." He tore his mouth from hers and pressed it against her neck. The fingers of one hand ravaged her hair, threading through it and weaving it between his fingers. It became hopelessly ensnared in his grip, which was exactly what he wanted. He pulled her head back and stared down into her face. His was taut with desire.
his gaze without shyness. "Kiss me again. Cooper.'
His mouth claimed hers again, hotly and hungrily. It drew breath from her. As he kissed her, his hand moved to the front of her slacks. He fumbled with the button and zipper until they were undone. When his hand slid into the elastic waistband of her panties,
gasped. She had thought there would be a sensual buildup, a flirtatious progression, extended foreplay.
She didn't regret that there wouldn't be. His boldness, his impatience, was a powerful aphrodisiac. It set off explosions of desire deep within her. She tilted her hips forward and filled his palm with her softness.
He muttered swearwords that were in themselves arousing because they so explici
y expressed the height of his arousal. Like a Rod Stewart song, they were viscerally sexy; one couldn't hear them without thinking of a male and a female mating.
He struggled with the fly of his jeans until his manhood was freed—a hot, hard fullness probing between her thighs. "I feel your hair against me," he rasped in her ear. "It's so soft."
The erotic message made Rusty weak. She leaned back against the edge of the table and lowered her hands to his hips, inside his jeans. "Please, Cooper, now."
One swift and sure stroke planted him solidly inside her. She gasped at the splendid pleasure/pain. He caught his breath and held it. They clung together like
the survivors of a catastrophe
— which, in fact, they were—as though their very existence depended on never letting go of each other. Oneness was essential
It was impossible
o say who moved firs
. Perhaps it was simultaneous. After that initial instant of sheer delight in his total possession, Cooper began to delve deeper yet. He ground his hips against hers, ex
ending himself, stretching her, his goal seemingly to be to reach the very nucleus of her soul.
Rusty, crying out in ecstasy, flung her head back. He randomly kissed her exposed throat and moved his mouth over her breasts, though she was still wearing her sweater.
But love play was unnecessary. Nothing could heighten this fire. Cooper's plunging body became hot
er and harder with each savage thrust.
Then he had no choice in the matter.
"You're a very beautiful woman."
Rusty gazed up at her lover. One of her arms was folded beneath her head. The other hand was draped over his shoulder. Her pose was provocative. She wan
ed it to be. She didn't mind that her breasts were fully revealed and wan
inviting. She wanted
o display them for his entertainment. She enjoyed seeing his eyes turn lambent every time he looked at them and their pouting tips.
Maybe he'd been right all along. She'd shown a marked lack of modesty since she'd met him. Maybe she had been deliberately seductive because she had wanted him from
he beginning. She had wanted this—this languishing aftermath of a coupling that had left her replete.
hink I'm beautiful?" she asked coyly, running her fingers
hrough his hair and smiling like the cat who had just lapped up
"You know I do."
"You don't have to sound so angry about it."
His fingers trailed down the groove between her ribs all the way to her navel. "I am, though. I didn't want to give in to
our charms. I lost the battle with my own lust."
"I'm glad you did." She raised her head and kissed his
mouth softly. '
He dusted his fingertips over her navel. "For the time being, so am
Rusty didn't want them to be restricted to a time limit. "Why 'for the time being'?"
It hadn't taken
o undress and make up the pallet in front of the fire. Stretched our naked on the pile of furs, hail a rumpled heap of reddish curls, lips rosy and wet from frequent kissing, eyes drowsy with lovemaking, Rusty looked like a conquering vandal's battle prize. Cooper had never waxed poeti
surely not right after having se
x. The thought brought an involunt
ary smile to his lips.
He surveyed her alluring body. "Never mind."
has something to do with you and me and who we are. But I really don't want to talk about that now." He bent his
low and kissed the ginger curls between her thighs. They were damp. They studied and tasted of himself and he felt his body respond. Her low moan worked as surely as a velvet-fisted caress on his rising sex. He sighed his pleasure.
"Did you know that you're very small?" he whispered into the fleec
delta. Her thighs relaxed and parted. His fingers
slipped inside her.
"I'm not all that experienced."
He gazed down at her doubtfully, but her face was guileless. Abruptly he asked, "How many?"
Rusty wrestled with her decision to tell him. Finally, eyes evasive, she said quietly, "Less than
could count on one hand."
In a year?
Cooper stared down at her, searching for any trace of duplicity in her eyes. God, he wanted to believe her, but couldn't. His probing caress was telling him what his mind wasn't ready to accep
, what he should
e known the moment he entered her,
ut couldn't reconcile with his image of her. "Less than five?"
"Less than three?" She looked away. "Jus
one?" She nodded.
did an odd li
tle dance, and the emotion that surged
rough him felt like happiness. But he'd known so lit
e of it, he
ouldn't be sure. "And you didn't live with him, did you, Rusty?"
"No." She tossed her head to one side and bit her lower lip a
his thumbs indolent stroking. The
d pad of it had been gifted with a magical and intuitive touch that paid honor to a woman's bod
. "Why not?"
"My father and brother wouldn't have approved."
"Does everything you do have to meet with your father's approval?"
"Yes... No... I...
... Cooper, please stop," she gasped breathlessly.
can't think while you're doing tha
"So don't think."
"But I don't want to...to, you know...oh,
After the last shimmering beam of light had finall
burned out, she opened her eyes and met his teasing smile. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"
She discovered that she had just enough energy to answer his smile and reach up and touch his mustache with her fingertips. "I didn't
want to do that so soon. I wan
o look at you some more.'
"I guess that ends the discussion of you and your father."
Her brows drew into a frown. "It's very complex, Cooper. He was devastated when Jeff was killed. So was I. Jeff was...." She searched for the all-encompassing word. "He was wonderful. He could do every
Cooper brushed her lips with his mustache. "Not everything," he said mysteriously. "He couldn
—" He bent do
n and whispered what Jeff couldn't do with him, using a street word that brought color rising all the way to Rusty's hairline. But she blushed with pleasure, not with affront. "So, see? There's no reason for you to feel inferior to your brother."
Before she could expound on the subject, he sealed her lips closed with an arousing, eating kiss. "Now, what was that about looking at me?"
Her breath was insufficient. She drew in a deep, long one before saying, "I haven't looked my fill." Her eyes, shining as brightly as copper pennies, roved down his chest. She lifted her hand to touch him, glanced up at him as though asking permission, then laid her fingers against the springy hair.
"Go on, coward
don't bite." The glance she gave him was eloquently sensual. He laughed. "
I do. But not all the time." He leaned down and whispered, "Only when I'm buried inside the sweetest silk I've ever found between two thighs."
While she explored, he nibbled her ear and took love bites out of her neck. When her fingers flitted across his nipple, he sucked in a sharp breath. She jerked her hand back quickly. He recaptured it and pressed it back against his chest.
"That wasn't alarming or painful," he explained in a hoarse, thick voice. "It's like connecting two live wires. I wasn't prepared for the shock. Do it again. All you want."
She did. And more. She dallied with him until his breath became choppy. "Something else needs your attention, but we'd better not," he said, catching her hand on its downward slide. "Not if we want to take this one slow and easy."
"Let me touch you."
Against such a breathy request, he exercised no willpower. He squeezed his eyes shut and withstood her curious caresses until he couldn't bear anymore. Then he lifted her hand off him and satisfied them both with a fervent kiss.
urn." One of her arms was still bent behind her head. Her breasts rose off her chest, perfect domes crowned with delicate, pink crests. He covered each with a hand and squeezed. "Too hard?" he asked in response to Rusty's change in facial expression. "Too wonderful." She sighed.
kissed you...here..." He touched the curving softness of her breast. "Yes?"
"I meant to make the mark."
Her sleepy eyelids opened wide. "You did? Why?"
"Because I'm mean, that's why?"
"No, you're not. You just want everyone to think you are." "I
works, doesn't it?"
She smiled. "Sometimes. Sometimes I've thought you were very mean. Other times I
knew you were feeling a lot of
pain and that being deliberately mean was your only way of coping with it. I think it goes back to your days as a POW."
"Make another mark if you want to."
His eyes darted up to hers. Then he moved above her and kissed her mouth thoroughly while his hands continued to massage her breasts. He brushed her wet and swollen lips with his mustache before dragging it down her neck, nipping h
lightly with his teeth as he went. He kissed his way across her collarbone and down her chest until he reached the upper curve of her breast.
"I'm responsible for the
bruises on your bottom. Then the
passion mark. I guess in a primitive way I wanted to brand you mine. I don't have to put a mark on you now," he said, moving his lips lightly over her skin. "You belong to me. For a lit
e while, anyway."
Rusty wanted to take issue with his choice of words and tell him that she would belong to him for as long as he liked, but his roving lips emptied her mind of the correct phrases. He kissed
inch of her breasts, avoiding
he nipples. Then he licked them all over and at once, like a greedy child with a quickly melting ice-cream cone. When Rust)' didn't think she could stand any more, she clutched handfuls of his hair and pulled his mouth directly above one of the achy, stiff peaks.
His tongue flicked over it, lightly, deftly, until her head was thrashing from side to side. He used his mustache to tickle and tease. When he closed his lips around her nipple and surrounded it with the scalding, tugging pressure of his mouth, she cried his name out loud.
"Oh. baby, you're nice."
e moved his head from one side of her body to the other. His mouth was ravenous, bu
curled her fingers around his
ars and pulled his head up even with hers. "Why'd you do it?"
He avoided looking at her by staring at a spot beyond the top of her head. "You know what." She wet her lips anxiously. "Why did you...withdraw...before...?"
She felt apprehensive and disappointed, just as she had earlier when, at the last possible heartbeat, he'd cheated her out of
ultimate high, that of feeling him come inside her.
He became perfectly still. For a moment she was afraid she'd made him angry and that he was going to leave the pallet. After a long, tense moment, he cut his eyes back to hers. "I guess you're due an explanation." She said nothing. He released her name on a sigh. "We might be here for a long time. I don't think eithe
of us wants or needs another mouth to feed."
"A baby?" Her voice was hushed with awe. She played with the idea of having a baby and didn't find i
repugnant at all. In fact her lips formed a winsome smile. "I hadn't thought of that."
"Well, I had. We're both young, healthy adults.
know you're not using a contraceptive because I know everything that we brought into this cabin with us. Am I right?"
"Yes," she said timidly, like a child confessing a small transgression.
"I didn't pack anything to take with me to the hunting lodge." "But it probably won't even happen." "We can't be sure, I'm taking no chances. So—" "But if it should," she interrupted excitedly, "we'd be found before the child was born." "Probably, but—"
"Even if we weren't, I'd be the one responsible for feeding it."
This talk about a child had his stomach churning. His mouth was set in its familiar, firm, hard line. It softened now when h
saw how earnest Rusty was. Almost naive. "That's just it," he said roughly, his mouth moving toward her breasts. "I ca
stand the thought of sharing you with anyone." But—
"I'm sorry. That's the way it's got to be."
She wanted to protest and pursue the argument. But he used his hands and lips and tongue with such prurient talent that they dissolved in a mutual, simultaneous orgasm before she realized that once again he had withdrawn from her just in time.
They kept each other so sated with sex that they didn't get hungry or cold or tired. They made love all that day and into the evening. Finally, exhausted, they wrapped themselves in fur and each other, and slept.
Only the unexpected rat-a-tat drumbeat of helicopter blades could have disturbed their dreams.
was going to miss the chopper. He knew that. He always did. But he kept running anyway. He always did that, too. Jungle foliage blocked his path. He clawed his way through it toward the clearing. He was running so hard his lungs were on fire. His breathing sounded bud to his own ears.
But he could still hear
blades of the chopper. Close. So close. Noisy.
I've got to make it this time,
he cried to himself
make it or I'll be captured again.
But he knew he wouldn't make it, although he kept running. Running. Running...
As always, after having the nigh
mare, Cooper sat up, chest heaving with exertion and drenched with sweat. God, it had been real this time. The racket of those chopper blades seemed—
Suddenly he realized that he could still hear the helicopter.
Was he awake? Yes, he was. There lay Rusty, sleeping peacefully beside him. This wasn't Nam; this was Canada. And, by God, he heard a helicopter!
He scrambled to his feet and crossed the cabin's chilly floor with running footsteps. Since the day they'd missed the search plane, the flare gun had remained on a shelf next to the door. He grabbed it on his way out. When he dashed across the porch and leaped to the ground, he was still naked, but the flare gun was clutched tightly in his right hand.
Shading his eyes wi
h his left, he scanned the sky. The sun brilliant and just even with the tops of the trees. His eyes teared because it was so bright. He couldn't see a damn thing. He only had six flares. He mus
n't waste them. Each one had to fount. But he could still hear the chopper. So he ac
pulse and fired two of the flares directly overhead. "Cooper, is it—" "A chopper."
Rusty ran out onto the porch and tossed him a pair of jeans. When she had awakened, firs
with the intuitive knowledge t her lover was no longer lying beside her, then with the sound the helicopter, she had hastily pulled on her tattered slacks and bulky sweater. Now she, too, shaded her eyes and searched the sky in every direction.
"He must have seen the flares," Cooper cried excitedly. "He's coming back."
"I don't see him. How do you know?" "I recognize the sound."
Apparently he did. Within seconds, the helicopter swept over the
he trees and hovered above the cabin. Cooper and Rusty began waving their arms and shouting, even though it was obvious that they'd been spotted by
he two men sitting in the chopper. They could even see their wide smiles through the bubble. "They see us
Oh, Cooper, Cooper!"
Rusty launched herself against him. He caught her in a fierce bear hug and, lifting her off her feet, swung her around. "We made it, baby, we made it!"
The clearing surrounding the cabin was large enough to accommodate the helicopter. It set down. Hand in hand,
and Cooper ran toward it. She was heedless of the twinge of pain in her leg. The pilot in the right-hand chair unbuckled his seat belt and stepped out. Ducking under the ro
ing blades, he ran to meet them.
"Miz Carlson, ma'am?" His Southern accent was as thick as corn syrup.
bobbed her head up and down, suddenly shy and speechless. Timidly she clung
o Cooper's arm.
"Cooper Landry," Cooper said, sticking out his hand and pumping the pilot's in a hearty handshake. "We're damn sure glad to see you guys."
"We're kinda glad to .see you, too. Miz Carlson's daddy hired us to look for her. The authorities weren't doing the job to his satisfaction."
"That sounds like Father," Rusty shouted over the clapping sound of the turning blades,
"Y'all the only ones who made it?" They nodded som
"Well, unless y'all want to stick around, let's git
ou home. Your daddy sure is gonna be glad to see ya."
At the mention of
he young woman's father,
he congenial pilot gave Cooper a worried glance, taking in his unfastened jeans. It was obvious that they'd been pulled on in haste and that the man wearing them was naked underneath. Rusty had the debauched, disheveled look of a woman who'd been making love all night. The pilot summed up the situation readily enough; it didn't have to be spelled out to him.
They returned to the cabin only long enough to dress properly. Cooper retrieved his expensive hunting rifle. Beyond that, they came away empty-handed. As she went through the door for the last time, Rusty gave the cabin a wistful backward glance. Originally she had despised the place. Now that she was leaving it, she felt a trace of sadness.
Cooper didn't seem to share her sen
iment. He and the pilot were laughing and joking, having discovered that they were veterans of the same war and that their tours of duty had overlapped. Rusty had to run to catch up with them. When she did, Cooper slipped an arm around her shoulders and smiled down at her. That made everything all right. Or at least better.
"I'm Mike," the pilot told them as he assisted them into their seats. "And that's my twin brother Pat." The other pilot saluted them.
"Pat and Mike?" Cooper shouted. "You gotta be kidding?"
That seemed hilariously funny and they were all laughing uncontrollably as the chopper lifted off the ground and skimmed the tops of the trees before gaining altitude.
"The crash site was spotted by a search plane several days ago," Mike shouted back at them and pointed down.
Rusty viewed the sight. She was surprised that they had co
ered so much distance on foot, especially with Cooper dragging her in the handmade travois. She would never have
survived if it hadn't been for him. What if he had died in the crash? Shuddering at the thought, she laid her head on his shoulder. He placed his arm around her and pulled her close. Her hand curled around the inside of his thigh in a subconscious gesture of trust.
"The other five died on impact," Cooper told the pilots. "Rusty and I were sitting in the last row. I guess that's why we lived through it."
"When the report came back that the plane wasn't burned or anything, Mr. Carlson insisted on searching for survivors," Mike said. "He hired my brother and me out of Atlanta. We specialize in rescue missions." He propped his elbow on the back o
his seat and turned his head
o address them. "How'd you happen onto the cabin?"
Cooper and Rusty exchanged a troubled glance. "We'll save that story and tell it only once, if you don't mind," Cooper said.
Mike nodded. "I'm gonna radio that you've been rescued. Lots of people have been lookin' for ya. The weather's been a real bitch. Sorry, Miz Carlson." I hat s okay.
"We were grounded until yesterday when the weather cleared. Didn't see anything. Then got an early star
again this morning." "Where are you taking us?" Cooper asked. "Y
llowknife." "Is my father there?"
Mike shook his head. "He's in L.A. My guess is that he'll have y'all hustled down there before the day is out."
That was good news to Rusty. She couldn't say why, but she had dreaded having to relate the details of her ordeal
o her father. Knowing that she wouldn't have to face him right away came as a relief—perhaps because of what had happened last night. She hadn't had time to analyze it. She wanted to savor the experience she had had with Cooper.
Their rescue had been an intrusion. She'd been glad about it, of course. Still, she wanted to be alone with her thoughts. The only person she wanted to distract her was Cooper. With that thought, the uncharacteristic shyness stole over her again and she snuggled against him.
He seemed to read her mind. He tipped her face up and peered at her closely. Bending his head, he kissed her soundly on the lips, then pressed her head against his chest. He gathered her hair in a gentle fist. His actions were both protective and possessive.
They stayed in that position for the remainder of the flight. Neither pilot tried to engage them in conversation, but respected their need for privacy. Pertinent questions could wait.
"You've drawn quite a crowd." Mike glanced at them over his shoulder and nodded toward the ground as they approached the airport, which was small when compared to metropolitan airports, but large enough to accommodate jer aircraft.
Rusty and Cooper saw that the airport below was teeming with people. The milling crowd was showing no respect for restricted areas of the tarmac. Vans labeled as portable television-broadcast units were parked end to end. In this remote area of the Nor
hwest Territories, such media hype was virtually unheard of.
Cooper muttered a curse. "Who the hell is responsible for this?" "The plane c
ash made big news," Mike told him with an
apologetic smile. "Y'all were the only survivors. I reckon everybody wants to hear what y'all've got to say about it."
The instant Pat set the chopper down, the crowd of reporters surged forward against the temporary barriers. Policemen had a difficult time forcing
hem back. Several official-looking men ran forward. The helicopter's twirling blades plastered their business suits against their bodies and slapped their neckties against their faces. The rotors finally wound down.
Mike jumped to
he concrete and helped
climb down. She cowered bashfully agains
he side of the helicopter until Cooper jumped down beside her. Then, after profusely thanking the twin pilots from Georgia,
hey moved forward. Their hands were clasped together tightly.
The men who greeted them were representatives of the Canadian Aviation Safety Board and the National Transportation Safety Board. The U.S. agency had been invited to investigate the crash since the passengers involved were all American,