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Heart of the Wild
chayton Amory kidnapped Kasie Moore the day before her wedding. Her father put him up to it. Now they were trapped on a mountaintop and having to face thier true feelings for one another.
John Douglas asked Chayton Amory to "get" Kasie and bring her to Chayton's cabin so John could talk to her befdore she married rick Springer. Since Chayton would do just about anything for John, he did as he was asked.
Kasie was not only livid about Chayton's tactics, but his timing couldn't be worse. Plus now they were stuck with each other during a blizzard and there was no sign of her father even showing up.
Kasie was subjected to an onry old bear, and the fact that Chayton had no inside bathrooms. Not only that, but he had just ruined her wedding plans.
"Dammit, why me?"
"You're the only one I could ask. The only one I would ask such a thing of."
"Hang on, John," Chayton shouted into the phone, then let it dangle as he stepped outside the confines of the small phone booth. He had to get some air. Put some distance between himself and that phone conversation.
Kidnapping…Lord, what had he gotten himself into? Chayton Amory paced the area, oblivious to the cold north wind that threatened an early winter in his Oregon mountains, as his mind ran rampant over John's last words. Finally, he jerked the door open and grabbed the receiver with a vengeance.
He hated being put in such a position, but there was only one answer, and he already knew it.
"Okay, John, you win. I'll do it."
"I knew I could count on you."
Amory rolled is eyes skyward, as he bit his tongue to keep from swearing. If it had been anyone but John Douglas III, he would have given a flat refusal and hung up. John was the only man big enough to ask such a thing of him. Chayton loved and respected him. John knew that, and used it. Still, when Chayton had lost his parents in a boating accident ten years ago, John had been there for him and Tanka. He couldn't refuse him. And John knew it.
"All I want you to do is go get Kasie before the wedding, and bring her back to the cabin so I can talk to her."
Chayton held his silence, as his long, hard body shrugged with the weight of his decision.
"Look, I know what I'm asking of you, but something tells me I've got to stop this." Emotion filled John's voice. Emotion and John didn't mix.
"John, Kasie's a big girl, now."
"You don't understand. He's a rock star, for crying out loud. Can you imagine our Kasie falling for a rock star?" John nearly shouted. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be taking this out on you. I just feel so damned helpless. Okay, look, I'll level with you. I ran a check on this Rick Springer fella. And on the surface he looks okay, but I dug a little deeper and found out he has a violent temper. He's had a few fights, been arrested once. Of course, they covered that up from the press. I've got to find out if he's taken that temper out on Kasie. Until I know for sure, she's not marrying the son-of--"
"I can understand your concern, but…" Despite his resolve not to care, hairs on the back of Amory's neck raised at this news. Hitting a woman was about as low as they came in Chayton Amory's books. Rick Springer's name suddenly tasted like acid on his tongue.
"I've done my best to stay out of her life, since the day she walked out on us, but I'm still her father. I love her."
John's voice broke again. Chayton cleared his throat and adjusted his stance. The emotion in John's voice had Chayton feeling downright guilty for not wanting to do this for the man. The break in John's voice was real, and clarified his position.
"I'm sure Ava's taken advantage of the fact that she's controlling things. I expect she was the one that convinced Kasie to change her name to Moore, Ava's maiden name. I never thought Kasie would go that far to be rid of me. I mean, I raised that kid, not Ava."
"I know, John. And you did a good job. Don't berate yourself for that. But she's a grown woman, and sometimes we can't change things, even if they are for the better."
"Look, I don't care if you have to hog tie and drag her to get her up there, just do it." When Amory didn't respond, John continued. "I don't know if this is right or wrong, Chayton. She may never forgive me for it. I only know I can't stand by and do nothing."
His concern was genuine, Chayton knew that much. No one loved his kid like John. "She's my only daughter, just like you're the closest I've had to a son. I'd do the same for you if you were in a bad position."
"I appreciate that, but I don't think you realize what you're asking me to do."
"Aw, I know how it gets under your skin, but that was a long time ago. I know this puts you in a awkward position, but I'm concerned for her safety now."
"Look, maybe she'll walk out on him."
"I aim to see she does."
* * *
Kasie balanced the phone on her shoulder as she stirred the batter with her other hand.
"But Mother, I've already explained, I can't afford to come early. I've got my work-"
"Nonsense, of course you can! I've already paid for your ticket, and I don't want to hear another word about it, Kasie. I've reserved a suite for you at the hotel."
Kasie gripped the phone tighter in her hand. "A suite, but I don't need a suite, Mother! Rick and I talked about a small wedding. It could still be beautiful, still have flowers and a big cake, but just don't invite so many people."
"Now Kasie, stop being so difficult, will you? Let me do this for you, darling. It's the only wedding I'll get to throw, so let me do it right. Besides, can you imagine what the papers would say if we threw a small inconspicuous wedding for Rick Springer. His fans might maul you to death."
Kasie didn't answer. That part was true.
"I'll admit I wasn't all for this in the beginning, but I never imagined so many people knew him. I mean, people my age, for goodness sake! He's a sensation out here, darling. Everyone is talking about him, taking pictures, wanting the story of how the two of you met. The photographers are everywhere, and wondering where his bride-to-be is. I want everything to be so perfect for you. Oh, I can't wait! We've so much shopping to do!"
Her mother's voice dripped with excitement.
"Shopping?" Kasie screeched, her fist coming down on the counter so hard that it vibrated the bowls. "But you know I hate shopping."
"Of course you don't hate shopping; you're a woman, aren't you? Now, it's all arranged; you'll fly out tonight."
Kasie sighed, wanting to argue, but knowing it was useless. "Okay, Mama. I'll call my boss and see what I can do."
Feeling that same old queasiness in her stomach at giving in so easily to her mother, Kasie's smile began to fade. But she was tired of arguing with her over trivial things.
"What? I told you never to use that expression, it's so…country."
Mama? Kasie grimaced. Her mother hated the sound of that word. She considered it a hick abbreviation. "I'm sorry, Mother, it just slipped out."
"You would think, after all this time, you would have acquired some sophistication. I guess growing up with your father is to blame."
"You can't blame it on Dad." Kasie defended her dad, for some strange reason.. She hadn't even seen her father in eight years. Besides, I liked calling you that, she thought to herself. She somehow felt that this wedding was bringing her closer to her mother. And she wanted that.
"You're forgiven, darling. It's not your fault. Well, I'll expect you on the 10:40 flight from Dallas, then."
"Did you send Dad a wedding invitation?"
"Good Lord, no. After what he did to you? Trying to marry you off to that-that logger creature. He doesn't deserve an invitation. He'll hear about it soon enough, I'm sure. And he'll probably be livid, knowing how he likes to control things."
Kasie rolled her eyes at the effigy her mother's voice conjured. "You're probably right, Mother. As usual."
"Of course I am, dear. Now, we're set then. Giles will pick you up at the airport and bring you to the hotel. All you have to do is be on the 10:40, darling."
"I really don't think I can make it that quickly. I'm right in the middle of baking a cake for Mrs. Thompson, down the hall. I haven't finished packing, I'll have to call my boss; I've so many things to take care of."
"Mrs. Thompson? Who's that? Do I know her?"
"My neighbor down the hall. She's going to be keeping an eye on my apartment while I'm gone. And she promised to water my plants for me. She's very old, and not in the best of health. She loves sweets."
"Why in heaven's name didn't you just buy one, if you had to do something for her?"
"Because, it's not the same. I wanted to do something special for her, and I am a pretty good baker. I enjoy cooking. I intend to do a lot of it, once I'm married."
"Well, I don't know why you bother. Rick certainly can afford the best restaurants in town. But bake it if you must, and get packed. I just don't feel like arguing tonight. I'm too excited."
"All right, but if I don't get off the phone now, I'll never make the 10:40." Kasie tried to sound anxious.
Another battle lost, Kasie sighed as she hung up the phone. She looked at the phone as though it were the enemy. In eight years the only thing she knew for sure was that her life was not her own. It never had been. It looked as though it never would be. Even marrying Rick wouldn't change things. She was being manipulated, and she hated it. Both her parents had spent most of her life trying to control her.
Her hands still shook as she poured the batter into the pan.
Perhaps marrying Rick would eventually bring her independence from her meddling parents. Yet, she somehow doubted it.
Ava hadn't liked Rick at first, but Kasie had stood firm when she announced they were going to be married. So Ava finally gave in, and threw herself into arranging the wedding. He might only be a rock star, but he was very popular, and made very good money, Kasie had informed her. Ava couldn't deny that. And as long as Ava had some control over her daughter, things went smoothly.
After placing the cake in the oven, Kasie went into the living room. She'd felt restless and edgy all week, not having a clue as to why.
Seeing Rick's picture on the mantle, Kasie sighed again. Most women swooned at the sight of Rick Springer. Most women! She hadn't swooned over a man since--since eight years ago. Since Chayton Amory! At least this relationship was based on something solid--trust and understanding. Who needed love?
Running her fingers over the picture, she wondered why she didn't feel elated about the wedding or Rick. She should miss him by now. She hadn't seen him in over two weeks. He'd flown to Los Angeles for a concert and photo layout for his next album. So why didn't she feel lonesome? Why didn't her heart jump when looking at his picture? Wedding jitters, that's all it was, she told herself as she turned Rick's picture over and placed it face down.
Yet, deep in her heart, she knew there was another reason.
"Silly bird, look what you made me do." Kasie Moore glanced at the seagull that continued to circle above. He seemed more interested in her red ball cap than the fish in the sea, she decided as she bent to retrieve her wet cap from the edge of the shore. "Go build your nest with someone else's cap," she muttered aloud, as she cast the bird a quick appraisal.
Wiping her wet hands on her fish-smeared jeans, she curled her braid back into the ball cap, and slipped it on top of her head.
She didn't know why she felt so grouchy this morning, yelling at a seagull. Perhaps lack of caffeine did it. Rick insisted she needed to lay off coffee. She had tried, but this morning she could almost smell that beautiful blend perking through the lobby of the hotel.
Dammit, didn't Rick realize people needed a few bad habits?
He meant well, though. She shouldn't be mad. It was for her own good. Now, who did that sound like? Her parents!
The Pacific waters stretched forever against an early awakening, California horizon. Kasie sighed with contentment, as her gaze swept the skies. The warm, blue-green blanket of water teased the shore as the gentle breeze whimpered an early winter, and the pungent sea air tickled her nose.
Then without warning, everything changed. The magnificent glow of pre-dawn faded. Her red ball cap disappeared as her head was covered with what felt like a dirty knitted cap. She felt herself being hefted and effortlessly flung against a solid form. Bouncing first one way, then another, on what felt like tremendously strong shoulders, Kasie struggled. Bone and muscle meshed. A corduroy jacket rubbed where her damp sweatshirt rose up from her waist. It felt soft, against a man that was obviously neither. A whiff of pine and woods and clean earth floated about her nose as she twisted her head and struggled with the musky old cap that had been crammed over her head and face.
She grabbed at her neck, and realized the cap had been tied and knotted with a string.
Hair tickled her belly as the man's head turned several times, as though he might be looking for direction. It had to be one of the guy's in Rick's band, playing a joke.
"This is cute. Is Rick having me abducted?"
There was no answer. She formed a tight fist, and let the first punch fly. A grown man should know better.
No answer came, although she thought she heard the man mumble something incoherent under his breath. A dead silence prevailed, and still he kept walking. His gait was light, springy, as though traveling up and down hills on foot were nothing to him.
"Let me go! This isn't funny!" Kasie yelled seconds later from under the thick knitted cap that smothered her words like a audio tape gone bad. She had never liked practical jokes, although Rick had been known to pull some.
"Get this dirty thing off my face!" She struggled for clean air. Tiny flecks of light filtered through the cap, but she still couldn't see. If this was Rick's idea of a prank, she didn't like it.
Her words choked her, as she blindly struggled against the man.
Kasie heard him rumble with what had to be laughter, and an odd sense of knowing hit the pit of her stomach. For a moment, her memory jangled, then left her again as she continued to struggle.
Something about this man seemed familiar. Panic stricken, her mind reeled with possibilities. Most kidnappers were not strangers. At least that was what she'd heard on one of those news talk shows. Thank God, she'd paid attention.
Okay, so the trick was to stay alert. Use the senses, she remembered. She heard the shoreline disappearing into the distance. He walked up a steep incline. It had to be the hill directly above the beach. At least she still had her sense of direction.
The man hadn't even puffed. He was in better shape than most; in top form, in fact. Not brawny, but hard and lean and well acquainted with hard labor. No--he wasn't in Rick's band.
"Who are you? What do you want with me?" she demanded, as she let another punch fly just below his belt, onto a solid backside. Solid and well shaped.
Still no reaction.
Were there people about? Couldn't anyone see what was happening? He couldn't get away with this in broad daylight, could he?
Yet, he was getting away with it.
It was barely five in the morning. Sensible people were tucked into their soft beds, sleeping. That's where her mother was. That's where Rick was, most likely. And that's where she should be. Why hadn't she been able to sleep? Why had this impending wedding disconcerted her so? Why did solitary walks and quick stolen fishing trips seem mandatory now to her? Perhaps because she hadn't wanted a wedding at all. She was happy with Rick, wasn't she? Why couldn't they just live together? People did it all the time. But then, she knew she wasn't that sophisticated. Rick loved her, didn't he? In his way. And she loved him, in her way. Wasn't that all that mattered?
No time to deliberate happiness now, as the kidnapper veered in another direction. She had to pay attention to his moves.
Still, this rock hard man would not get away with kidnapping John Douglas and Ava Moore's daughter. This beast, whoever he was, would pay. Who'd he think he was, Tarzan?
Her feet went into immediate action, coming up hard below the man's waist. He made little more than a grunt and continued on his journey. An ordinary man would have doubled over from that precise blow.
His breathing was labored now. Good, at least something affected him. She continued her assault, hoping to find a weaker spot and best him. It was possible to best a man of his strength, she remembered reading that somewhere, probably Reader's Digest. Funny how the mind seemed to escape into strange places at a time like this.
The man readjusted her, and carried her onward. His big hands clasped her feet, as he gave her one good slap on her bottom and kept moving. She yelped in surprise.
How dare he touch her bottom! But then, he might dare a lot of things, and she needed to prepare to fight him tooth and nail.
Getting a grip on the situation, Kasie tried to grasp which direction he was taking her, but he seemed to be walking in circles, until she became totally confused. Obviously, he wanted to confuse her. He was a very smart man; she must never underestimate him.
The only thing she was sure of was that he carried her away from the beach. The sting of the salty air disappearing told her that much. She heard the swish of passing cars. Could that be the coastal highway in the distance? Yes, he was at the highway now. She had to stay fully alert, and as helpful as possible in her own rescue. She would be rescued; it was only a matter of time. Her mother would have the FBI, the CIA and half the cops in California after him for this.
"You can't get away with this, you idiot," she yelled as loud as she could. An intelligent man would know this.
He obviously wasn't intelligent.
She grabbed for his hair and yanked, finding it velvety soft between her fingers, and much longer than she expected. He could be George Michaels from Rick's band; he had long hair. Only she doubted it would ever be that silky. And George certainly wasn't lean.
Who could this character be, and what did he want? Her mind scrambled for answers.
Kidnapped. She was being kidnapped! Insane! Things like this didn't happen in real life. In the movies maybe, but not in real life.
Being practically shoved into a hard seat, and hearing the door shut behind her, told her she was now in a vehicle. However, this particular vehicle seemed different, somehow. The noise from the traffic sounded louder than it should, perhaps a convertible, or a jeep?
Kasie waited, proud that she hadn't panicked. She sat very still, waiting until she heard him getting in on the other side, and starting the motor. It had to be a jeep; no convertible would sound so loud.
Who did she know that owned a jeep? Who did she know that was built like a hard and lean block of steel? She racked her brain.
She tried another angle. Who would want to kidnap her? Just because her father, John Douglas III, was one of the ten richest men in the country, and her mother, Ava Moore was a movie legend, made her a likely target. Naturally, she'd been warned many times by both her father's close friends and her mother's bodyguard that it could happen. But what were the odds?
Who'd have the gall, knowing the wrath of her parents?
Miles down the road, after complete silence, she heard a deep, rather condescending voice rumble with suppressed laughter.
The tension in her body eased somewhat. So this was a big joke. Perhaps she should view it as such. She could take a joke as well as the next person, even though at the moment it didn't seem that funny.
But his laughter sounded oddly familiar, and when he spoke, he confirmed her worst fears. She jumped in her seat with surprise, glad he couldn't see her stunned expression. She needed time to assimilate the situation, get herself under control.
"Amory? C-Chayton Amory?" Kasie stiffened and straightened. Control; that's what she needed. Lots of control.
"Back to last names again, I see. I liked it better when you called me Chay." He smiled as he gently removed the cap, and glanced at her disheveled face and hair. His eyes moved slowly over her, thoroughly, as though he enjoyed embarrassing her, or looking at her. "Nice to see you, too, Kasie. It's been a while."
"Not long enough!" she snapped. Dear God, her knees were shaking, but eight years ago, Chayton Amory had been a rather gangly young logging engineer. Today he was a Herculean.
She unwound the long braid, so that it dangled down her back to her waist.
"So, to what do I owe this intrusion? Or should I guess, it's dear old dad, isn't it? Naturally, why else would you be here?"
"Guess you got me on that one," he agreed, casting her a mock frown. He watched her toss the dirty cap out the window, and chuckled again. "Sorry about that, Kasie, it's been under the seat since last winter, and I had to tie it, or you would have ripped it off, first thing. And yes, you're right. Your father wants to see you."
"Really." She batted her eyes at him dramatically. "That's too bad, because I'm busy. I've got a wedding to go to tomorrow. Mine! But then, I'm sure he's heard. Everyone has, thanks to Mother." She glanced about, but didn't recognize her surroundings. The beach was still there, but they were already miles down the road from where he'd found her.
"He's aware of it," came the brief reply, his eyes going back to the highway swiftly. Something in his voice had changed, but she couldn't be sure if it was sarcasm or bitterness.
"If he wanted to talk, he should have come in person instead of sending his yes man. I would think he could at least attend my wedding in person, if he's at all interested. I suppose you are representing him? So why the dramatics? Why pull a kidnapping routine? Why scare me out of my wits?" Her voice rose to a scale even she didn't recognize.
"The Kasie I knew didn't scare that easily."
"I'm not that Kasie anymore."
"I guess not. No dramatics, and certainly no routine, Kasie. But you're right, I am sort of kidnapping you."
Kasie turned her body toward him, a big mistake! Her heart stopped, fluttered, and stopped again. Nothing had changed. He could still turn her upside down with one glance.
God, how she wished he was old and ugly. How she wished her fingers didn't itch to run recklessly through his thick, black-brown hair that tapered neatly past his shoulders.
Chayton Amory had stolen her heart eight years ago, and broken it. Raw pain stabbed her without warning. Memories best forgotten rushed into her head as she took in the same strong face, hawk-like nose, and stubborn set chin. Those expressive dark gray eyes looked stone cold at her--like gun metal.
"Are we going to play guessing games all morning, or are you going to tell me what this is all about?"
"It's pretty simple. He wants to talk to you."
"Hasn't he heard of a phone?" She moved to put some distance between them, hugging the door, but the confines of the jeep were too close. As though distance would make any difference. The whole state of California wasn't big enough for the two of them.
"Good question. One I'm sure you'll want to ask him when you see him."
"I'll ask. In case you haven't noticed, I'm not the little, star-struck tomboy you were going to marry eight years ago. And I don't intend seeing my father, now or later. Kidnapping is a federal offense, I hope you both realize. And going anywhere you don't want to go with someone you don't want to go with…is kidnapping."
"I figured you'd see it that way." His voice held an edge, but the smile widened. "And I've noticed."
He glanced at her again, this time his eyes speaking for him.
Those damn bedroom eyes could melt a candle at two feet. Damn his magnetism. Chayton Amory looked as though he wanted to swallow her.
"Look, don't make this anymore than what it is. He sent me to get you, that's all."
"Make it more than it is?"
"That's right, don't dramatize. You always did dramatize, Kasie. Maybe you got that from your mother. And I certainly wouldn't accuse you of being a tomboy, especially in that get-up."
How could she know that a morning fishing expedition could turn into something like this? Kasie glanced at her clothes, rolled her eyes at her tattered jeans and fish-smeared sweatshirt, and continued to try to talk sense into the man.
"Look, I'm not going with you anywhere. I've a previous engagement. Sorry. Now turn this--thing around and put me back on the beach like you found me, or you'll be sorry."
"Sorry. Your plans will have to wait. He wants to see you before the wedding."
"He wants to ruin my wedding?" She gasped, numbed by her own festering rage. "Oh--this is so like him. Still trying to control me, isn't he?"
"Looks that way, doesn't it? Maybe you need to be controlled."
"You always were a male chauvinist."
He showed no signs of guilt or remorse. She cringed inwardly, seething.
"You don't seriously think you're going to get away with this, do you?"
"Afraid so." His smug confidence annoyed her further.
Flabbergasted, Kasie buttoned her lip momentarily. For the time being, she would wait and see where this was leading. The more she antagonized him, the worse this could get. She clenched her jaw tightly, till it hurt, and bit back a retort. When Amory made up his mind to do something, there was no turning back.
Oh, how she wished she had been sensible and stayed in bed this morning. She could be basking in a hot tub of fragrant water right now, waiting for the inevitable shopping spree her mother had planned. But then she never had been sensible, and she hated shopping. She preferred showers to long basks in the tub.
Her eyes drifted over him, reluctantly, curiously. Damn him, he was even more gorgeous than she remembered. His strong, lean frame dominated the jeep. His black jeans hugged his hips as naturally as though he'd been born in them; his jacket was a crushable soft color of faded brown, and his shirt was an oxford cotton in mint green, one of her favorite colors. His hair blew in the wind, creating an uncivilized look. Half Native American, half Irish. He was beyond the word handsome; hard, dark and provocative.
She wondered hysterically if she could jump from the vehicle and survive, but at this speed it would be suicide. Maybe she could step on the gas, and make him wreck the darn thing. Wild thoughts dashed through her head, but none were worth trying.
After a long while of mentally wrestling with the situation, she sighed and sat back in the seat. She wasn't beat yet, but he'd definitely won the first round.
Amory didn't stop driving till nightfall. He didn't waste idle conversation on her, either. The determined look on his face told her not to dally with him. He pulled over at a motel later that evening, eyed her, then pulled her along with him while he registered. After treating her to a simple supper of steak and eggs, he escorted her into one of the cabins.
Once Amory had her safely inside the room, he peered down at her red, angry face with steel-edged determination.
"This all stops, now. The joke has gone far enough. I am not amused!" She tapped her foot loudly. "If you take me home this instant, we'll let bygones be bygones."
He glanced at her foot with amusement, a twinkle lighting his expressive eyes.
"Another little habit you've picked up from your mother, I suppose? Huh, Kasie? Well, cool it, and you better start lowering that pretty little nose of yours a notch or two. Snobbery doesn't become you." He glanced about the room.
"Snobbery? What did you expect, greetings and salutations? You should certainly know me better than that. I want explanations, Amory! My God, do you realize you've ruined the wedding rehearsal?" She choked as she spied the clock by the bed.
"Too bad." He turned away from her, to gaze about the modest confines of the room. "And you'll get your explanations in due time, from your father. So save that fast and furious temper for him."
He wasn't going to listen to reason. He was being his usual calm and quiet self, obviously determined to go through with this ridiculous charade, she decided.
She spotted the phone while his back was turned, and realized the management was only a call away. Surely they could help! He wouldn't get away with this. She'd show him. She could take care of herself. Without further consideration, she dived for the telephone. A big hand suddenly gripped her wrist like a handcuff, and twisted her about. Her wrist tingled from his touch.
Tingled? Dammit! The contact was electrical. She didn't want to tingle. She didn't want to feel anything. Especially with Chayton Amory. She'd fallen prey to his charms once; she wouldn't do it again.
"Good try, but useless."
"Just where in the hell do you think you are taking me?"
He smiled arrogantly. "Such language. You're losing your charm and good manners, too?"
When she stared at him too long, he answered her. "To my cabin in the mountains. You really should stop cussing. It isn't becoming."
"Becoming?" she screeched. "I wish I had something to throw at you. I'd show you becoming."
Amory had stormed back into her life, unannounced and uninvited, making her tingle, and smiling smugly as though he knew it. How dare he!
"You're still a son of a--"
"Now that's the Kasie I know and love."
Silence loomed as she clamped her mouth shut. Love? How could he use the word love around her?
"You actually think you can get away with kidnapping me?"
Had her voice gone up an octave?
"Looks that way, doesn't it?" He seemed to enjoy her discomfiture.
"And to think I almost married you!"
His eyes narrowed on hers, and something stronger than fear shot through her. Awareness. Like lightening bolts, his eyes pinned her without touching her. She had pushed him too far.
Hot, uninvited tears threatened to fall. Ineffective tears. "Why are you doing this?"
"Tears, Kasie? I hadn't expected you to stoop to that. Let's don't play games. You're not crying, and I'm not buying. It's all up to you. Your father wants to see you. I'm taking you to him, that's all. Don't make it what it isn't."
She searched his handsome face long and hard. The contact stunned her. Eight years ago she had fallen in love with this man, only to realize he was wooing her because of her father's wishes. She had overheard their conversation about how pleased her father was about their impending marriage, how he had practically planned every moment between them. Well, she didn't need his planning, and she didn't need Chayton Amory. She had managed for eight years without either of them, and wanted to continue. Besides, she wouldn't marry a man that didn't love her. Now he was back, to ruin another wedding.
"That's not all, and you know it. You're intentionally ruining my wedding. Why?" She cried. "Is this some 'get even' trick?"
"This isn't personal," he said with a smile, and then turned away from her. For a moment he was still, his back very straight.
"Most people don't have you kidnapped to talk. Wouldn't a call have sufficed?"
"I'm sure he has his reasons."
"You haven't changed a bit, have you? Still a yes man for my father. No matter who it hurts, or what the circumstances."
He turned to look at her, his expression serious. He searched her perplexed face as though looking for answers to unasked questions.
"I'm not going to argue with you, Kasie."
"My father wants to stop this wedding, doesn't he? Okay, so why?"
"Everything should be explained in due time. In the meantime, I'm taking you to my cabin, to meet with him. I'm sorry about the way I had to do it, but it seemed the easiest way to get you away from there without a scene. Your mother would never have agreed to an untimely visit. It had to be done this way. I was sure you wouldn't come willingly if I merely stopped by and asked. Now do you understand?"
Kasie cast him a disdainful glance, then after a brief silence she questioned him. "Do you know why he wants to stop my wedding?"
There was no reply, only a look of assessment.
"God, why can't you just open up and talk to me? You never could talk to me, could you? Okay, so who else lives in this cabin of yours?"
"Just me, and, on occasion, Tanka. I'm sure you remember him, don't you? My half brother?"
"Of course I remember Tanka."
After a long silence she questioned him further. "He'll be there?"
"I don't know. You know Tanka as well as I; he's never in one place too long. What difference does that make?"
What difference? Staying in a secluded cabin, in the mountains, alone with Amory was suicide to her heart.
"I'm not staying with you, anywhere," she announced without forethought.
His head jerked up, and his eyes glittered dangerously into hers, a contact she tried to avoid. His smile held her. When Amory smiled, his entire face was lit.
"Of what? You? Hardly! I didn't walk out; I ran."
"Interesting. A woman in control of a situation never runs."
"I wasn't a woman, I was a child. And I'm sure you didn't suffer. But this little scheme won't work. I'll marry Rick with or without his or anyone else's permission. So you see, it's all for nothing."
"Let's get some sleep. We'll be there in the morning."
In the morning? Then why had he stopped here? Why hadn't he continued to drive on?
Did he honestly think she would spend the night in a motel with him? He had to be out of his mind. Surely he wouldn't push himself on her.
Without thinking, Kasie made a mad dash for the door. She was caught by one big hand and slung helpless against the bed. She shrieked. The bed! Her face went pale.
"What are you afraid of, Kasie: me, or yourself?" He towered over her, glaring at her as she tried to get up and run for the door again, only this time he threw her on the bed, his body on top. A powerful body that fit hers like a glove.
"Why you … " She opened her mouth to scream. She had to get away from him, put some distance between them. Lots of distance. Otherwise...
He clamped her mouth shut with his hand.
All thoughts ceased as action took over. She bit him, hard enough to draw blood, deep enough to leave a scar. He swore as he jerked his hand away from her. First he glanced at his hand, then her, as though he didn't quite believe what she had done.
She tasted his blood, and guilt slapped her motionless. She bit back an apology while his expression held surprise.
"Now look, Kasie, stop fighting me, or you are going to be sorry," he said, reaching into his back pocket. She flinched, when he pulled out a bandanna to wrap his hand.
His gaze fastened on hers. "My God, what's happened to you, Kasie? I'm not in the habit of hitting women. You were never afraid of me before."
"You never stooped to kidnapping, before," she retorted. She stiffened and became defiant. Amory wouldn't dare hit her. She didn't care if she hurt him; it was nothing to compare with the hurt she had suffered eight years ago. She couldn't stay in this motel with him.
"Why did you stop here if we could be there by morning?"
Amory eased himself away slowly. "Because, I've been working long hours to finish a logging contract, and have had little sleep. And because I spent last night warring over whether I should come get you or not. And because I don't plan on falling asleep at the wheel, and having an accident."
"I'm not sleeping with you!"
"I don't think I invited you to."
They stood up suddenly, staring at each other across the room. Without another word, he grabbed her with his bleeding hand and pulled her out of the room, as though he, too, realized they couldn't stay the night together.
"Wait…please, I need a shower," She said with hesitation as good sense began to prevail.
"There isn't time, Kasie. We're leaving. You should have thought of that earlier. We've got to get out of here."
She realized she had to stall him. Maybe if she stalled long enough, her mother might have the police looking for her. She had to. She couldn't go with this man. Just being in the small confines of this room was too much. Desperation dogged her.
As he slammed the motel cabin door and left the key in the knob, she tried to make sense of the last few minutes. She had come alive, vibrantly, for the first time in eight years, just being near Chayton Amory again. Being in the same room with him seemed to revive her spirit.
"You actually think you'll get away with this before someone discovers what you are doing?" she rasped. He practically shoved her into the jeep, and slammed the door behind her. She scrambled to get out; he pushed her back in.
"I know I will."
"I can't believe I almost married you."
"Neither can I!"
"If you had been a gentleman, you would have let me change clothes."
"No one ever accused me of being a gentleman."
"How right you are."
He hesitated, then a slow burning smile reached out to her. "Except with you," he added. This time his eyes undressed her, warmed her, taunted her. "I was always a gentleman with you."
Her face paled, "I suppose that was easy for you. You never cared about me in the first place. I was just a naive kid--a tomboy!"
"You're right about the naive kid, Kasie."