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The ride across the moonlit Sonoran Desert was exhilarating, exciting, wonderful. Lew held Mollie across the saddle in front of him, his arm wrapped securely around her. They were atop the powerful bay stallion that had once thrown Lew. The big steed raced across the forbidding land, whipping around giant saguaro cactus rising thirty to forty feet above the desert floor, dwarfing the prickly pear and organ-pipe cactus at their base.
In minutes the fleet-footed stallion, snorting and blowing with exertion, had reached the eroded buttes and volcanic rock near Cholla Canyon. Mollie, flushed with anticipation and happiness, lay back in the strong arm supporting her, trusting this magnificent man and this magnificent horse to transport her safely into the longed-for seclusion of the steep-sided canyon.
Lew was silent. His intense gaze was on the tricky terrain before them. Her head resting over his heart, Mollie could feel its heavy beating beneath her cheek. She studied his handsome face, the moonlight causing some features to stand out in high relief, leaving the rest in shadow.
There was about him, more than ever on this hot summer night, a potent magnetism, an aura of impervious determination that intoxicated her. Lying in his arms, she felt at once safe and in peril. Despite the heat and hardness of his lean body pressed so close to hers, she was strangely chilled. Her eyes never leaving his hard-planed face, she recognized her emotions for what they were.
She was half afraid of this dark, godlike creature. The power he held over her was absolute. She knew that now -- knew as he masterfully reined the big mount toward the concealed mouth of Cholla Canyon his beautiful eyes flashing in the moonlight, that she was his to do with as he pleased.
Traces of the indomitable will that had been so much a part of her rose to refute such an appalling admission. She had never been afraid of anyone. She was not afraid of Lew.
Her silent denials vanished as quickly as they had come. She sighed and stuggled closer to Lew's broad chest. She had no desire to fight the dominance of this rugged, virile male. She understood, finally, how it was between a man and a woman. Knew now why her gentle mother had always yielded so willingly to the authority of her father. Mollie realized, with absolutely no regret, that she longed to surrender her will, her body, her very soul to this dark, silent man whose strong arms enclosed her.
Mollie closed her eyes, inhaled deeply, and smiled.
Lew, teeth clenched, nerves raw, neck-reined the big bay through the undergrowth in to the canyon's narrow mouth. He stole occasional glances at the beautiful woman snuggling trustingly in his arms and felt a painful squeezing of his heart.
He had told himself that this night's work would be a snap. A moonlight ride, a few swallows of wine, a few heated kisses, an easy seduction, and . . . the truth. He would finally know her true identity. This woman was either Fontaine Gayerre, in which case he would make patient, gentle love to her, or she was Mollie Rogers. As the moment of truth drew nearer, it no longer seemed quite so simple and easy.
Copyright © 1997 by Nan Ryan. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins.