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
Yes, he did!
could deny it until he gasped his dying breath, but she would never believe that he didn't love her—because right after her father had made
hat hateful disclosure, just before Cooper's face had hardened wi
h contempt, she'd seen incredible pain there. She wouldn't have the power to hurt him that badly unless he loved her.
She lay back down, glowing in her resolution and knowing exactly what she had to do the following morning.
Her father was taken off-guard. A strategist as shrewd as General Eatton, he had slipped up. He hadn't expected a surprise attack.
When she made her unannounced appearance in his office the next morning, he glanced up from his highly polished, white lacquered desk and exclaimed, "Why, Rusty! What...what a lovely surprise."
"What are you doing ou
? Not tha
the reason ma
ters. I'm delighted to see you up and around."
had to see you and didn't warn to wait to be worked into your busy schedule."
He chose to ignore the note of censure in her voice and walked around his desk with his hands outstretched to take hers. "You're feeling much better—I can tell. Did Mrs. Watkins offer you coffee?"
"She did, but I declined."
He regarded her casual clothes. "Apparently you're not going to your office." "No, I'm not."
He cocked his head to one si
de, obviously waiting for an ex
planation. When none was forthcoming he asked, "Where are your crutches?"
In my car.
"You drove here?
"Yes, I drove myself.
wanted to walk in here under my own steam and s
and on my own
He backed away from her and propped his hips against
he edge of his desk. Casually he crossed his ankles and folded his arms over his middle. Rus
y recognized the stance. It was the
ical one he assumed when he was backed into a corner
ut didn't want his rivals
o know that he was. "I take it you read the proposal." With a smooth motion of his head, he indicated the folder she was carrying under her arm.
She ripped the folder in
he remnants on the glassy surface of his desk, she said, "Lay off Cooper Landry. Drop the Rogers Gap projec
He laughed a
her sophomoric gesture and shrugged helplessly, spreading his arms wide in appeal. "It's a little late for that, Rus
y dear. The ball has already started rolling."
"Then you're in a real jam with these investors you collected, father—" she leaned forward "—because I'm going to privately and publicly resist you on this. I'll have every conservationist group in the country beating down your door in protest. I don't think you want that."
"Rusty, for Heaven's sake, come to your senses," he hissed.
"I did. Sometime between midnight and 2:00 a.m., I realized that there's something much more important to me than any real-es
ate deal. Even more important to me than winning your approval."
"Yes." Her voice rang wi
h conviction. She was not to be swayed.
But Carlson tried. "You'd give up everything you've worked for
o have him?"
"Loving Cooper doesn't take anything away from what
e done in the past or will do in the future. Love this strong can only embellish, not tear down."
"Do you realize how ridiculous you sound?"
She didn't take offense. Instead she laughed. "I guess I do.
often babble nonsensically, don't they?"
"This is no laughing matter, Rusty. If you do this, it's an irreversible decision. Once you give up your position here, tha
"I don't think so, Father," she said, calling his bluff. "Think how bad it would be for business if you fired your most effective employee." She produced a key from the pocket of her nylon windbreaker. "To my office." She slid the key across his desk. "I'll be taking an indefinite leave of absence."
"You're making a fool of yourself."
"I made a fool of myself at Great Bear Lake. I did
hat for love, too." She turned on her heels and headed for the door.
"Where are you going?" Bill Carlson barked. He wasn'
accustomed to someone walking out on him.
"To Rogers Gap."
"And do what?"
Rusty faced her father. She loved him. Very much. But she
could no longer sacrifice her own happiness for his. With staunch conviction she said, "I'm going to do something that Jeff could never do: I'm going to have a baby."
Rusty stood on the cliff and breathed deeply of
the cool, crisp air. She never tired of the scenery. It was constant, and yet ever changing. Today the sky was like a blue china bowl turned upside down over the earth. Snow still capped the mountain peaks against the horizon. The trees ranged in color from the blue-green of the evergreens to the delicate green of rrees on the verge of spring budding. "Aren't you cold?"
Her husband came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her. She snuggled against him. "Not now. How
"He's having breakfast—to his and his mother's mutual contentment."
She smiled and tilted her head to one side. He inched down the turtlen
ck of her sweater and kissed her beneath her ear. "How's the other new mother on the place?"
"I'm not a new mother yet." She glowed with pleasure as he
his large hands over her swollen abdomen. "Looks that way to me."
"You think this new figure of mine is amusing, don't you?" She frowned at h
m over her shoulder, but it was hard to maintain that expression when he was gazing at her with such evident love.
I love it.
"I love you.
They kissed. "I love you, too," he whispered when he lifted his mouth off hers. Words he had found impossible to say before, now came easily to his lips. She had taught him how
o love again.
"You had no choice."
Yeah, I remember that night you showed up on my thresh
as bedraggled as a homeless kitten in a rainstorm."
I'd just come through
thought I looked pretty good."
"I didn't know whether to kiss you or paddle you."
"You did bo
"Yeah, but the paddling didn't come until much later."
They laughed together, but he was serious when he said, "No fooling, I couldn't believe you drove all that way alone through that kind of weather. Didn'
you listen to your car radio? Didn't you hear the storm reports? You escorted in the first heavy snowstorm of the season. Every
ime I think about it, I shudder."
e pulled her closer, crossing his hands over her breasts and nuzzling his face in her hair.
"I had to see you right then, before I lost my nerve. I would have gone through hell to get here."
"You very nearly did."
"At the time, it didn't seem so bad. Besides,
had survived a plane crash. What was a little snow?"
"Hardly a 'little snow
And driving with your injured leg too."
She shrugged dismissively. To their delight the gesture caused her breasts to rise and fall against his hands. Murmuring his appreciation, he covered them completely and massaged them gen
ly, aware of the discomfort they'd been giving her lately as a result of her pregnancy.
"Tender?" he asked.
"Want me to stop?"
"Not on your life."
h her answer, he propped his chin on the top of her head and continued to massage her.
"I'm glad the operations on my leg have to be postponed until after the baby gets here," she said. "That is, if you don't mind looking at my unsightly scar."
"I always close my eyes when we're making love."
"I know. So do I."
how do you know mine are closed?" he teased. They laughed again, because neither of them closed their eyes while they were making love; they were too busy looking at each other, looking at themselves together, and gauging each o
er's level of passion.
As they watched a hawk lazily circling in downward spirals, Cooper asked, "Remember what you said to me the instant
opened the door that night?"
"I said, 'You're going to let me love you, Cooper Landry, if it kills you."'
He chuckled at the memory and his heart grew warm, as it had that night, when he thought about
he courage it had taken for her to come to him and make that bizarre announcement. "What would you have done if I had slammed the door in your face?"
"But you didn't."
"Assuming I had."
She pondered that for a moment. "I'd have barged in anyway, stripped off all my clothes, pledged everlasting love and devotion, and threa
d you with violence if you didn't love me back."
"That's what you did."
"Oh, yeah," she said around a giggle. "Well, I'd have just kept on doing that until you stopped refusing."
He planted his lips against her ear. "You went down on bended knee and asked me to marry you and give you a baby."
"How well your memory serves you."
hat's not all you did while you were on your knees."
She turned in his arms and said swee
y, "I didn't hear you complaining. Or were all those garbled phrases coming out of your mouth complaints?"
He laughed, throwing back his head and releasing a genuine burst of humor—something he did frequently now. There were times when he lapsed into the moody, withdrawn man he'd been. His mind carried him back to haunting phases of his life where she couldn't go. Her reward lay in the fact that she could bring him out again. Patiently, lovingly, she was eradicating his disturbing memories and replacing them with happy ones.
Now she kissed his strong, tanned throat and said, "We'd bet
er go in and get ready for our trip to L.A."
They made one round-trip a month to the city, during which they spent
wo or three days at Rusty's house. While there, they ate in fine restaurants, went to concerts and movies, shopped, and even attended an occasional social gathering. Rus
y stayed in touch with her old friends, but was delighted with the new friendships Cooper and she had cultivated as a couple. When he wanted to, he could ooze charm and engage in conversation on a wide range of subjects.
Also while they were there, she handled business matters that demanded her attention. Since her marriage, she'd been promoted to vice-president in her fa
her's real-estate company.
Cooper worked as a volunteer counselor in a veterans' therapy group. He'd initiated several self-help programs that were being emulated in other parts of
Now, with their arms around each other's waist, they walked back toward the house that was nestled in a grove of pines. It overlooked a spectacular valley. Horses and cattle grazed in the mountain pastures below the timberline.
"You know," he said as they entered their glass-walled bedroom, "talking about that night you arrived has gotten me all hot and bothered." He peeled off his shirt.
"You're always hot and bothered." Rusty peeled her sweater over her head. She never wore a bra when they were at home alone.
Eyeing her enlarged breasts, he unsnapped his jeans and swaggered toward her. "And it's always your fault."
"Do you still desire me, even though I'm misshapen?" She gestured at her rounded tummy.
For an answer, he took her hand and pulled it into his open fly. She squeezed his full manhood. He groaned softly. "I desire
Bending his knees, he kissed one of her creamy
"As long as you
re you, I'll love you,
"I'm glad," she sighed. "Because, just like after the plane crash, you're stuck with me."