Emerald Heat

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A Brazilian Rainforest and lush passion both contribute to the relationship of Lily and Jim ... but will they be able to survive the horrors, the intrigue, the terror, of this chaotic adventure in a steamy foreign land and still retain their unstoppable passion?
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Overview

A Brazilian Rainforest and lush passion both contribute to the relationship of Lily and Jim ... but will they be able to survive the horrors, the intrigue, the terror, of this chaotic adventure in a steamy foreign land and still retain their unstoppable passion?
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592799886
  • Publisher: Amber Quill Press, LLC
  • Publication date: 10/1/2002
  • Pages: 209
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"My God, it can't be!" Jim Wolfe threw the checklist clipboard to his startled friend, Kadar, and vaulted out of the Lear jet.

He raced across the cement parking apron toward a slender, ebony haired woman who'd just exited from the passenger terminal. Ruthlessly shoving past the airport official, Jim touched her shoulder. "Lily, is it really you?"

She turned to face him. Her eyes widened in shock and confusion. "Jim." Her soft voice vibrated with emotion.

He pulled her into his arms; held her with fierce tenderness. "The doctors told me you were dead, even gave me your wedding and engagement rings." He kissed her with a gentle, hesitant kiss as if she would dissolve. Then he claimed her mouth with passion born from four years of loneliness and grief.

"My love." Lily wound her arms around Jim's neck and melted against him, hungry for his embrace. "They said you had died." She speared her fingers through his familiar wavy brown hair. He felt so good. His clean, masculine scent recalled days of joy and nights of passion.

She closed her eyes. Blindly, she sought his mouth again, and poured a torrent of hopeless longing into her kiss.

Tasting the desperation in her kiss raised Jim's protective instincts to a higher level. In his heightened state, he was aware of the airport official's protests, the sound of jets landing and taking off -- the usual activity of this airport dedicated to use by smaller airplanes and corporate jets. But all that mattered was to have Lily back in his life. He swept his hands along his wife's back and down to her hips, conscious of the warmth of her body through her white, raw silk suit. Blood pounded inhis ears as once more he drank in her delicate fragrance.

"Sweetheart," he murmured against her silky hair, "we have to talk. God, I was devastated when I thought you were dead." Cradling her face in his hands, he lovingly studied her dark, sapphire blue eyes and delicate features. Tears beaded her long sweep of sooty lashes and glittered on her cheeks.

"Jim." Her voice trembled. "You must go. Please, stay away from me."

The agonized fear he saw in her eyes stunned him. "I can't." He brushed his lips across hers. "You're my wife. I love you."

He tightened his arms around her, then cradled her head against his shoulder. "Why are you afraid? I'll protect you. I don't want to lose you again."

For a brief moment, Lily nestled against him.

Oh Jim, she mourned silently. I have to hurt you to save your life.

Her bruised heart ached. If only she could, she'd stay in his arms forever.

Determined to shield him from her grandfather's fury, she said, "I must go. It's important I return to a meeting."

"Come on, sweetheart." He kissed her temple. "I need to hold you and prove to myself you're alive."

She wanted to melt into Jim's embrace, but knew Eric Von Rass, her grandfather's right hand man, would be there soon with all the menace that implied. Her stomach churned. What if Eric saw them together and realized she still loved Jim? It would be the same as signing a document to execute the man she loved.

She had to protect Jim... at any cost. "Release me. There's something you don't understand."

The welcoming light in his eyes darkened. His expression turned grim. "You're right. I sure as hell don't understand what's going on. I do know we belong together."

"Not any more, James Wolfe. That's past." Dropping her arms to her side, she raised her chin and set her features in a cool, haughty expression. Jim had dubbed it her Ice Princess look. "Release me immediately." She stood stiff and cold in his arms. "You betrayed me and tried to kill me."

"Lily, sweetheart, I love you." He dipped his head to kiss her again.

The unruly lock of hair she remembered so well fell over his forehead. She yearned to brush it back as she had many times. No. She had to be strong.

Forgive me, she silently prayed, and slapped his cheek. "I detest you."

"Lily, don't do this." Jim released her, bewildered by her actions. He touched his cheek and stared at her face. It was chalky except for bright banners of emotion-charged color over her cheekbones.

The airport official chose that moment to grab him from behind. Cursing, he pulled away and took a step toward his wife.

"Stay away from me. You deceived me." She stepped backwards. "You once said you loved me, then you abandoned me."

"Sweetheart, I carried you away from the plane wreck myself. You were in bad shape." Frustrated, he raked the lock of hair off his forehead. "The doctors said you died that night."

He hesitated, then pushed his sleeve up to show his left arm, from wrist to elbow. "These scars came from the flames when I pulled you out of the cockpit. Please, believe me. I'd never abandon you."

Lily's heart broke even more. Again, she gazed deep into his hazel eyes. Behind the confusion, gold flecks glimmered with love for her.

She yearned with every drop of blood, with every inch of her being, to fall into his arms and stay there. Be strong for Jim and Arlen's sake.

With a muffled, "Good-bye," Lily turned her back on the only man she'd ever loved.

His quick intake of breath betrayed his hurt. She shivered with cold despair in the warm sunshine.

Stunned, Jim watched Lily walk away toward the building, chin high, back straight. Her whole attitude was regal and cold.

She linked arms with a tall, blond man who'd just walked out past the glass door with another airport official. He was followed by three ominous looking men who appeared to be private bodyguards.

Jim strode after her, determined not to lose her this time. From the corner of his eye, he saw Kadar swiftly crossing the parking strip in his direction.

As he drew close to Lily, Jim heard her say, "Eric, I hate him. He abandoned me when I needed him most. Make him go away."

The bastard held her with one arm and reached inside his elegant suit jacket. "My pleasure, dear Liliana."

Lily moved in front of him and held his arm. "Don't kill him here. You'll get in trouble with Ambassador Arguello."

Jim went cold at her words. He tried once more. "Lily, I know it was a shock..."

She faced him with a cool smile. "Really, James. You've become quite annoying. Please leave before you cause another scene."

A jet revved up near them. Its roar almost drowned her words. Jim stepped closer and reached for her. "We loved each other, Lily."

He saw pain flicker in her eyes. She closed them, briefly. When she looked at him again, they glittered with unshed tears. "Good-bye, James Wolfe. Find another woman to annoy."

"You're my wife. I'll annoy you!" He lunged toward her.

He didn't get any farther. The three guards surrounded him. Two grabbed his arms and held him. The third growled, "The lady said get lost, mister. We're here to make sure you do."

As Jim sized up the odds, one man was jerked from his side and Kadar, in full warrior-of-Duraza mode stood there holding a glittering knife. "My friend does not wish to be detained," he said softly. "I suggest you let him go."

Jim pulled away from the other guard and turned a deadly look toward the man who was their spokesman. "Press charges or release me, but don't tangle with my friend, Nicholas Kadar ben Hamad, Prince of Duraza."

The guards looked at each other. "All right, mister." One of the men helped their associate to stand. He shook his head as if groggy from Kadar's punch. "Don't worry, we'll meet again."

Jim searched past a small group of workers for Lily, and saw her walk into the terminal with the tall man. Her head was bent toward him in an intimate manner. He had a possessive arm around her shoulders. Her airport escort followed respectfully.

"What the hell?" His mind spun in confusion. Lily had made it clear she wanted to be rid of him, yet her kisses had been genuine, passionate.

"I can't just let her go without an explanation." He ran toward her with Kadar at his side.

Two security police officers stopped them at the entrance to the terminal.

One said, "Miss Phillips does not wish to be disturbed."

"That's my wife, Liliana Sarita Wolfe, not Phillips."

The officer placed one hand on the weapon at his side. "Sir, her passport says Phillips. She's here with Ambassador Arguello's party. You'll have to leave."

Jim stared down the long corridor where Lily and the blond man had disappeared at the other end.

His newfound hopes crashed. Wordlessly, he turned and walked back toward his charter company's new Lear jet. His body felt numb. How could she do that to me? Where was she now? Why did she act that way?

Kadar walked beside him. Jim knew he had to be puzzled by his dazed manner. But he didn't intrude by asking Jim questions. That was good because Jim couldn't describe the deep grief that overwhelmed him.

They climbed into the airplane and silently buckled up. Jim sighed and put his face in his hands. "What can I do?"

"How can I help?" Kadar grasped his shoulder.

Jim shook his head. "She's the only one who can help me, and now she's gone." He raised his head and looked at Kadar.

Kadar drew back and stared at him.

Jim raised one hand to the controls, then dropped it. He shook his head. "Kadar, I can't concentrate right now. I'd probably fly us into Signal Hill or ditch us in the ocean. You take us home."

"Gladly, friend." He studied Jim a minute. "Want to talk?"

"Not really." Jim sighed and looked at Kadar's worried expression.

"All right... a little. Four years ago this month, Lily and I were on a belated honeymoon. We'd dated two years before our wedding, and had been married five months. Lily was four months pregnant. We were ecstatic." He rubbed his face, kept his voice flat and under control. "We'd visited her grandfather in San Torreon and were on our way back to the States.

"I was piloting my own airplane." He paused, recalling the horror of what had happened next. "Soon after we left San Torreon Airport, the engine exploded and we crashed. My wife and I were injured."

He took a deep breath, reliving that horrifying time. "The doctors told me she died that night. They gave me her wedding and engagement rings. I didn't get a chance to kiss her good-bye because I was in Intensive Care."

Turning his head, Jim looked across the cement apron at the door where Lily had disappeared with the blond man. "That beautiful woman I just talked with and kissed is my wife, Lily. All these years, I thought she was dead."

Staring out the windshield, he curled his hands into fists. His jaws tensed. Lily's warm kisses and cold rejection revolved in his mind. Why had she rejected him?

Kadar quietly began the procedure to fly back home. He contacted the control tower for instructions. As he waited, he wondered if their friend, Michael Forest, could help. Kadar vowed to also use the resources of his Durazan Security Team.

Automatically, Jim assumed the copilot duties. He felt strangely detached from everything, as if suspended in a void. Only the airplane and its operation felt real.

He thought about Lily and recalled their passionate kiss. Why had she suddenly turned on him? He examined every word, every nuance. Something eluded him, but he couldn't bring it into focus.

Making a conscious effort, he temporarily locked away thoughts of Lily. Instead, he concentrated on monitoring gauges and electronic signals. They were flying in busy airspace over Los Angeles and Orange counties.

• • •

It was a short hop from the airfield west of LAX to the John Wayne airport. The time gave Jim a chance to regain his composure. He called on control from his years in covert work and tried to assume his characteristic attitude of optimism. Later, when he was calm, he'd apply logic to the problem.

Kadar brought the airplane in for a smooth landing and taxied to their tie-down location next to the airport.

"You're a good pilot, Nicholas Kadar ben Hamad." Jim reached for the switches on his side of the panels. "You fly this the way you ride your horses -- brilliantly. I'm proud I was your instructor."

"Effendi, thank you. The prophet wrote, 'It is better to learn at the feet of wisdom than to follow after the brightest folly.' I appreciate what you've taught me." He flashed a smile guaranteed to melt the heart of any susceptible woman, especially his wife. "Besides, you're a damned good pilot and instructor."

Kadar finished the shut down procedures, then followed Jim out of the plane into the late afternoon sunlight. His friend didn't fool him. He knew Jim was still in pain. He'd seen the haunted look in his eyes.

Between one step and the next, Kadar's scalp tingled in the signal foretelling a vision.

He stood at one side of a great, stone-paved courtyard. Tropical sunlight shone on a thick, whitewashed wall, now splattered with bloodstains. He heard someone mutter, "Execution wall." Armed guards had weapons trained on him, but he knew he wasn't the primary target.

In the distance came the sound of marching soldiers. The nearby crowd of spectators grew silent. A woman's sob's were quickly muffled.

Then Jim appeared, hands tied behind his back, walking between a double row of soldiers. A light breeze stirred his hair and carried the fragrance of tropical flowers. He strode erect, a grim smile on his bruised face.

The vision faded. Kadar cursed.

• • •

Lily wanted to shrink from Eric. Instead, she endured his possessive arm around her shoulders. A suffocating sensation tightened her throat. She reminded herself it was safer for Jim and Arlen if she kept up her pretense with Eric.

Jim. Even his name brought her warmth and comfort. If only she could stay with him forever.

The three bodyguards surrounded them, alert for trouble. One brushed against her and she sensed his dark menace. She had to be cautious not to do anything that might jeopardize Jim or their son, Arlen. He was at San Torreon, an unofficial hostage to her good behavior and cooperation.

She hugged one small victory to her heart. Arlen meant "pledge." Her grandfather didn't know it was Jim's middle name and her silent vow to Jim. Arlen was already learning about his father.

Tipping her chin down, Lily's shoulder length, black hair fell forward hiding her expression.

She still had dual citizenship. Her grandfather hadn't forced her to change that, thank God. Someday, maybe... Lily didn't dare think about it too much. She might betray her thoughts to Eric or someone else in the group.

"Are you all right, Liliana?" Eric bent his handsome face closer. Anyone watching would think he was solicitous of her well-being. Lily knew differently. From past events, she knew he was looking for telltale signs of her reaction to Jim.

I must not let him see I still love Jim.

"I'm fine, Eric. You're kind to ask." She looked down, again, in a humble manner because that's what he expected. "It was a shock to see that man." She made her voice sound indignant. "After all, he abandoned me four years ago when I was in and out of consciousness."

"I'll take care of you, my dear." He stroked her arm. Lily repressed the shudder his touch always brought.

"I'd rather not talk about Mr. Wolfe. It's been a long flight. At this moment, I'm overwhelmed. Remember, I haven't been in the United States for four years. Grandfather's compound and holdings are not filled with people the way it is here." Concealing her revulsion, she leaned on his arm as if it were a life line.

"As you wish, Liliana. Ambassador Arguello has asked us to ride with him. I believe his entourage is about ready to go. It is our duty to humor him."

Eric hurried her toward the V.I.P. Lounge. He nodded to the armed guards at the door who stood at attention as they entered. Their three bodyguards followed.

In the space-age decor room done in silver, black, and white with red accents, members of the ambassador's party sat in clusters conversing in low voices.

Ambassador Arguello rose and held his arms wide to embrace Lily. "Liliana. How is my favorite anthropologist today?" His hearty voice filled the room.

Few people ever saw the devious mind behind the hail-fellow-well-met exterior. Lily knew it was there. She had documented proof of his illegal dealings.

Playing the role of meek, compliant woman, she gave him a wan smile. "I'm well, Ambassador, just tired from jet lag. When we reach our hotel, I can rest."

"Eric could help you relax." The ambassador winked at Eric Von Rass. He rocked back on his heels and regarded Lily with narrowed eyes. "When will I receive my invitation to yours and Eric's wedding?"

It didn't take much effort for Lily to keep a tired expression on her face. "We haven't set the date. Eric understands my need to finish a current research project before I can concentrate on anything else."

"I thought your study of the Watua tribe was complete." Arguello turned to Eric. "In my day, we didn't let anything interfere with our engagement."

Eric shrugged. "El Patrón has not asked Liliana to hurry her completion date. I shall be patient." He squeezed Lily's shoulder in a possessive manner. "Good things are worth the wait."

Lily repressed a shudder. Think humble and cool, she told herself.

Arguello clapped one hand on Eric's shoulder. "Perhaps you can sample a little of the more intimate marriage joys on this trip." His sly grin left no doubt to his meaning.

Lily decided it had gone far enough. "Mr. Ambassador, I have my grandfather's promise I can complete my study of the Watua People before making a final decision. That includes my privilege to privacy on this trip." She smoothed a loose strand of hair away from her face. "If you will excuse me, I'll go to the car. I really am quite tired."

"Yes, go and rest, Liliana. I know you have just recovered from one of the more exotic jungle fevers."

In the limousine, Lily relaxed for a few minutes. She had to plan how to meet Michael Forest of M.F. International. She'd heard he was incorruptible. If she saw she could trust him, she had a special packet to leave in his care.

She closed her eyes and thought of Jim. One day, he'd understand why she did the things she had to do. Her eyes ached with unshed tears. She didn't dare let a hint of her true feelings show to anyone in the ambassador's entourage. They were all loyal to her grandfather.

Lily leaned back in the dove-gray leather seat and pressed her temples wearily. When will this four-year nightmare end? The only good things that had happened since the crash were Arlen's birth and her discovery, a year later, that Jim was alive.

She smiled as she thought about hers and Jim's precious son. She vowed that someday Jim and Arlen would be together. In fact, she had already made plans to smuggle Arlen out of San Torreon and into Jim's custody. Arlen would finally be away from his Great-grandfather Phillips and safe.

Lily stirred and opened her eyes. She watched a graceful Lear jet climb toward the blue, May sky. Oh, Jim, if only we had a future together. She consoled herself with the thought that at least their son would come to know his father.

The limo door opened and Eric slid in beside her. "How are you now, Liliana?" He took her hand and carried it to his lips. "My dear, your hand is cold."

Lily gently pulled her hand back, then folded both hands primly on her lap. "I'll be all right once I'm settled by myself, thank you."

Eric studied her pale features. He looked forward to their marriage. Then he could treat her the forceful way all women deserved, instead of dangling after her.

He flicked a speck off his dark blue, silk and wool suit jacket.

Her brat will be sent away to a European boarding school as soon as he's five. Until then, a suitable nanny would be found. One who understood the boy was no longer welcome in his and Liliana's life.

Liliana would have no way to know his plans or negate them. She'd be too busy hopping to his orders.

Eric didn't mind assuming the name Phillips. Let Don Gregory keep the illusion of a Phillips' dynasty. Eric knew he would have, first Lily's wealth, then the great wealth of San Torreon under his control.

Eric paused and considered another idea Don Gregory had planted in his mind. Perhaps a suitable accident would eliminate the child. Then he could turn all his energy to starting his own dynasty.

He smiled charmingly at Liliana. The bitch will obey me in all things. Until their marriage, the brat made an excellent hostage for his mother's good behavior.

He murmured to her, "My dear, I can hardly wait until we're married."

Copyright © 2002 by Barbara Clark

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