Bent on revenge against the man he's convinced acquired the necklace through cheating, Calum MacAllister never thought his chief obstacle would be the cheater's gorgeous and gutsy daughter.
|Publisher:||Wings ePress, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.73(d)|
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Val found herself holding her breath just thinking about the experience. She exhaled and breathed in fresh sea-swept air. The washing of soft, frothy waves blended with the distant dance music drifting from the celebration. Calum's compelling presence striding beside her and his firm grip on her arm dispelled any hope for a pleasant stroll.
Her nerves had braced for trouble the moment he touched her. She quickened her pace. Her fear came to fruition when he transferred his strong hands to her shoulders. Val struggled to free herself from his grasp, but his vise-like grip twisted her around, forcing her to face him. "Calum, what is going--"
"Don't put up a fuss, Valerie, and you'll get through this all right. Cause trouble and there'll be a problem."
She opened her mouth to scream but only an ummm came out when he clamped his hand across her mouth. "I told you not to try anything. There's little chance anyone could hear you above the music and reception merriment. Save your breath. You'll need it." The husky pitch of his voice sent shivers through her, yet she didn't dare show weakness. She stilled. He removed his hand from her mouth and put it back on her shoulder.
"Get your hands off me!" She glared at the storm brewing in eyes whose blue coloring no longer appealed to her. "What's this about, Calum?" In an attempt to lessen her panic, Val planted her feet firmly, estimating her chances to outrun him. Although she wanted to hide her fright, she couldn't control the quivering of her lower lip.
"We'll discuss it inside." He glanced around, then grabbed her forearm and hustled her into the winery, bolting the door behind him.
"Let me go, you patheticbastard!" she yelled, then jerked her head away from him lest she feel the hard press of his hand against her lips again.
Calum's tightened hold cut off her blood's flow. Her fingers became a hotbed of pinpricks. She couldn't escape his clutches ... but she could attack. She shifted her body and swung ferociously toward him.
His face mirrored his surprise. She clawed her fingers down his face, gouging narrow furrows on his cheek. In the faint light she could see the streaks welling with blood. He quickly loosened his grip on her.
Remembering her self-defense course, Val brought up her knee and thumped it viciously into his groin. While Calum doubled in pain and shock, she squirmed free of his reach. With the entrance latched just behind him, she dashed into the cavernous wine chamber and slammed the heavy door. She searched frantically for a lock or bar to keep him out. There was none.
Two rows consisting of four wine vats each, separated by a wide aisle, towered above her. Without thinking, she ran to the far end of the room, hoping to find another exit. Two narrow, barred windows set far up near the ceiling let in only the slightest bit of light. The shadowed dark was her salvation for the moment.
The aroma of Pinot Noir--that another time might be pleasing--repulsed her when mingled with the taste of fear. She heard the door creak open, followed by muffled footsteps on the earthen floor.
Val waited for Calum to flick on the lights. The switch clicked, she gasped, but nothing happened. He snapped it again. The room remained dark, dank and scary. She breathed out the air held captive in her lungs.
She backed against the wall, waiting and listening to the footsteps that were in no hurry to claim her. Why should Calum rush? He had her trapped, no doubt hoping that incapacitated by fear, her resistance would lessen. With none of the protection she had so belittled, he forced her to at least keep her wits about her.
Calum removed a handkerchief from his pocket and swiped at the blood trickling down his cheek. The abrasive action stung. Valerie's nails had dug deep; he could feel the blood seeping through his fingers. He hadn't anticipated such violence from a woman who looked so delicate and refined. He must have been delusional. This was turning out to be worse than he had dreaded. In his effort to avoid being ruthless, he was the one getting hurt.
The use of moderate strength should have held her slender body tight enough to prevent injury to either of them, but she'd turned into a slippery, writhing hellcat. He should have expected it, but he'd never before kidnapped a female. And he never would again. This time he'd had no choice. She must be terrified of him and of the dark inside, but his plans, which called for reasoning with her, had gone askew with her distrustful behavior. Now there was no way to lessen her fear or make up for his betrayal later. She'd never believe he was sorry.
Calum quickly returned his hands to his crotch to cradle his bruised masculinity. Minutes had passed before he could recover enough from the blow to stand upright. His plan to return to the party and watch Butch regain consciousness from the tranquilizer Max slipped him hit the skids. Now marred, he didn't dare go to the celebration. Not only would his face invite unwelcome questions, he didn't have a thing to celebrate.
Damn her! If I'm not more careful, this might only be the beginning of such mishaps; it's certainly the beginning of real pain. I just never thought it would be mine. Between his legs lingered an ache deeper than any he'd ever suffered. I could be crippled for life.
Uncupping family jewels far different from the one he'd come after, he winced, then moved toward the room she had entered. Good for her. She's finished! A pain-bound low-key grunt of satisfaction poured from his mouth. The sound of feet running down the stairs drew his attention. Calum stepped into the shadows and watched a dark figure fumble at the fermentation room's door. He lunged to grab the intruder and was met with an instant response: "Hey!"
"Aye, it's me; who else would it be? Where's the lass, Calum?"
"In there with the damn wine," Calum snapped, as pain stabbed at his injury as well as his pride.
"I thought you were going to get her on the yacht?"
Calum was relieved that Max couldn't see him clearly--not in his condition. "Well, there's been a change of plans," he retorted, trying not to massage his tender attachments.
"Think you can get her out of there by yourself, or do you want my help, lad?"
"I don't need any help." In an effort to sound casual, he switched the topic. "How'd you make out?"
"I came to tell you the bodyguard is snoozing under a tree. I took his gun. No one noticed anything. Want the lights on in here?"
"Ah ... no," he lied. "I'm hoping the dark will make her easier to catch." Why doesn't Max leave? More than likely, she's using the darkness to her advantage. "I'd enlist your help, but I want you to keep an eye open at the reception."
"Okay. I've never been involved in anything like this. I think I was made for cloak and dagger stuff." Max headed for the stairs, then turned and asked, "You won't hurt the lass when you catch her, will you?"
"Inflicting pain was never part of the plan. You know that. After I nab her, I'll keep her in the cellar's spare bedroom. Everyone will think she left."
"All right. I'm going back. I'll return when I have more news."
When Max hurried up the stairs, Calum moaned and leaned against a wall. His discomfort bred hostility, even if he had brought it on himself. He heaved a loud sigh, then inched open the door.