মুখ্য Aces High

Aces High

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এই বইটি আপনার কতটা পছন্দ?
ফাইলের মান কিরকম?
মান নির্ণয়ের জন্য বইটি ডাউনলোড করুন
ডাউনলোড করা ফাইলগুলির মান কিরকম?
সাল:
1989
প্রকাশক:
Loveswept
ভাষা:
english
বইয়ের সিরিজ:
Hagan
ফাইল:
EPUB, 171 KB
ডাউনলোড (epub, 171 KB)

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আপনি একটি বুক রিভিউ লিখতে পারেন এবং আপনার অভিজ্ঞতা শেয়ার করতে পারেন. অন্যান্য পাঠকরা আপনার পড়া বইগুলির বিষয়ে আপনার মতামত সম্পর্কে সর্বদা আগ্রহী হবে. বইটি আপনার পছন্দ হোক বা না হোক, আপনি যদি নিজের সৎ ও বিস্তারিত চিন্তাভাবনা ব্যক্ত করেন তাহলে অন্যরা তাদের জন্য উপযুক্ত নতুন বইগুলি খুঁজে পাবে.
1

Jazz Conception for Saxophone Duets

সাল:
1969
ভাষা:
english
ফাইল:
PDF, 4.32 MB
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2

C.J.'s Fate

সাল:
2007
ভাষা:
english
ফাইল:
EPUB, 182 KB
0 / 0
Contents

Synopsis

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Epilogue





Synopsis




Skye Prescott was tall, dark and dangerous, a man who'd never forgotten how Katrina Keller had betrayed him years before...and never stopped hating himself for wanting her still. In a world where survival depended on suspicion, he'd fallen in love--and it had broken him as violence never had. When the beautiful redheaded ghost from his past reappeared in his life, Skye was filled with fury, hurt, a desire for revenge...and an aching hunger to make Katrina burn for him again. Katrina had fought her memories, had tried to heal the pain of losing Skye by building walls around her heart, but once she was in his arms, she couldn't fight him--or her own prima! passion. Skye had marked her once as his, had branded her soul. She was his match, his mate--but belonging to him body and spirit gave him the power to destroy her. Now that Skye faced his most violent enemy, Trina knew the gamble. Could she help her beloved renegade come back alive?





Prologue




The conversation had been going on for some time, and Hagen was beginning to lose what little patience he possessed. Although he gripped the phone with fingers that were tightening slowly, he managed to keep his voice even and calm as he spoke.

"What about Siran?"

"Michael's unavailable." The cool voice at the other end of the line belonged to Daniel Stuart, director of the FBI, and from his tone it was obvious he wasn't in the mood to be helpful. "I've done some restructuring, you know, Chief. Michael's heading my old agency, and he has his hands full."

Hagen found it difficult to contemplate Daniel's recent appointment without gritting his teeth in rage that he himself had been passed over for the directorship. Now he relaxed his jaw and tried to be polite, not his strongest trait. "Congratulate Michael for me. How about one of your bright b; oys?"

"Sorry. Can't spare any of them."

After counting silently to ten, Hagen said, "You pulled your people off the surveillance I needed a while back and never gave me your reasons for doing so. Is that why I'm having such a hard time now, or am I imagining things?"

Daniel laughed shortly. "I told you why then. I owe those ladies, and I'll be damned if I'll help you snatch Josh Long for one of your devious plots."

"I've altered that plan," Hagen announced.

"Good for you."

This time Hagen counted to twenty. It didn't help much; when he spoke his voice held a definite snap. "I don't give a damn about Long or any of that group. I need one man, Daniel, just one good man."

Daniel's second laugh was one of genuine amusement. "Well, you know, Chief, your reputation's growing. Except for a loyal few that you've managed to lose, most of the agents who've worked for you swear they'll never do it again. I'm not sure if they're afraid of getting killed or getting married, but they're quite definite about avoiding you."

Hagen ground his teeth. "I've only lost two agents to marriage: Raven and Kelsey. The rest were one-time volunteers. And Derek, of course, but that wasn't my doing. Sarah still works for me and Michael was always your man."

"Ummm. Still, your name's become synonymous with matchmaking. You've also gotten just a bit too well known for your habit of sending agents into situations with sketchy or deliberately false information. Agents don't care for that. Chief, it makes them nervous."

"Daniel—"

"Look, I don't see your problem." Daniel's voice was sardonic. "Simply draft yourself a few people who haven't heard of you yet. There must be some out there."

Hagen didn't bother to count. He was reluctant to disclose exactly why he needed an experienced man since he always disliked—and generally avoided— sharing the limelight with anyone, but this time he was driven to it. "Daniel, I have good reason to believe I can finally capture Adrian."

There was a moment of silence, and then Daniel spoke slowly. "You always wanted him, didn't you? Even though terrorists aren't, strictly speaking, your field."

"I mean to get him this time," Hagen said flatly.

"Where?"

"Daniel—"

"You want one of my men?"

Hagen swore. "Gigi's place."

Daniel seemed to consider the matter. "That's a hell of a big place. A lot of people could be hurt. Maybe I should—"

"It's my trap," Hagen told him, "and I'll spring it. I just need one of your men, Daniel."

Daniel argued. In fact, he argued for a good ten minutes, hotly at times. But he finally gave in, saying, "Well, I have one agent who hasn't worked with you yet."

"A good man, Daniel."

"Oh, he's good. He spent some time in Europe, but I've had him on the domestic payroll for a few years now. But you treat him like a pro. Chief, or he'll likely put a bullet in you."

"I don't need a hothead."

"He isn't."

"All right, then." With an effort Hagen kept the triumph out of his voice. "Send him to me."

"He's on his way."

Hagen hung up the special scrambler phone and sat alone in his office, smiling. But he undoubtedly would have lost the pleased expression if he'd been privileged to overhear the conversation going on in a Washington, D.C. office.



* * *



"Well? Did he take the bait?"

Daniel leaned back in his chair and grinned at the man sitting in his visitor's chair. "Hook, line, and sinker."





Chapter One




The water level was rising, and Skye Prescott wasn't happy about it; he was a bit feline about water and strongly disliked the clammy sensation of wet clothing. Still, he waded out into the man-made lagoon, cursing under his breath. His eyes probed the sparkling water, scanning the blue-tinted fiberglass bottom. In an hour or so this theme park would open for the day, and phony log boats would enter the lagoon after a manic descent down a chute, sheeting water in all directions. He had hoped to avoid the deeper water in the area under the chute, but he realized now he had no choice. Reluctantly he circled closer to the chute, his eyes still fixed on the bottom.

The water was up to his knees, and the bottom was slippery; he had left his running shoes on, and they weren't getting a good purchase on the slick fiberglass bottom. His jeans were soaked above his knees by the time he reached the area near the end of the chute. As far as he could tell, the water was clear, nothing hidden, nothing suspicious. However, he couldn't see beneath the chute; he guessed it was the danger point.

Swearing, he slowly moved toward it. He was suddenly aware of noise as a number of the rides and exhibits in the park were readied for visitors, and that evidence of activity brought a new curse to his lips. If this ride were started up, water pouring out of the chute would make it impossible to search the water at the foot of it.

Skye reached the end of the chute, and just as he bent to his task heard the sounds of water rushing toward him. Instantly he moved back. He wouldn't have been too concerned if his single glance upward hadn't let him know that a large blunt-ended fake-log boat was hurtling down the chute.

He managed, barely, to get out of the way, and as soon as the boat shot into the lagoon began moving toward it with a number of blistering words leaping from his tongue. But the moment he got a clear look at the occupant of the boat he went utterly still, the clash of emotions inside him closing his throat so that no words could escape.

He had forgotten how her long curling hair caught the sunlight in a vibrant explosion of red; he had forgotten that her big eyes, slanted like a cat's, were so unusual a shade of amber and so thickly lashed; he had forgotten that she had high cheekbones that could have earned her a fortune as a model, along with a perfect nose, and a mouth shaped for kisses and dreams.

Skye knew he was lying to himself. He had forgotten nothing. It was just that he hadn't allowed himself to remember.

"Katrina," he whispered.

She was as still as he was, as shocked. Dismay showed In her eyes, and old shadows of pain, and she had gone so white that the three freckles on her nose stood out starkly.

"Skye." Her faintly husky voice was almost without accent. "What . . . what are you doing here?"

He found his voice. "What am I doing here? What are you doing here? The last time—" He stopped abruptly, then forced himself to continue. "You were in Germany."

She hesitated, then quickly swung her long legs over the side of the lazily floating boat and stood up in the water. Without looking at him she began making her way toward the side of the lagoon. "I work here now," she murmured.

"That's impossible," he said tautly. "Unless—"Again he broke off. I can't go through that again! he thought with a savage kind of bitterness. He followed her stiffly and stood facing her when they both reached the pavement. "Who are you working for, Katrina?"

She was silent for a moment, looking up at him— and she didn't have to look up at many men, since she was five ten without shoes. Her slender body was clothed for summer in green shorts and a yellow tank top. She slid her hands into the pockets of her shorts and replied finally, "I'm working for Gigi. Here at the park."

He stared at her, feeling a sudden sick tightness in his chest, conscious of his heart throbbing. Yet despite everything, he knew he still wanted her. Just as he'd wanted her for six long years—and had hated himself for it.

"I've been here for almost five years," she added quietly.

Skye tried to think clearly. How much did she know about Gigi Fargeau, the manager of this theme park? Did she know that the older woman headed a branch of an international intelligence agency that was based here in the southern United States? And did Gigi, shrewd and experienced as she was in the intrigue game, know who and what Katrina really was? Before he could frame any of those questions, Katrina spoke flatly, seemingly reading his mind.

"I defected, Skye. I don't work for them any longer."

"Do you expect me to believe that?" Without his volition the bitterness he had thought long gone flung a taunt at her. "You were good, Katrina, too good to quit. Unless you were running from something. Was that it? Were you slated for punishment because of your failure with me?"

She drew a deep breath, and the amber sheen of her eyes hid her thoughts well. Softly she said, "There was no assignment with you. None. What happened between us—"

"Was a mistake I'll regret for the rest of my life." he told her harshly.

Katrina took a step back from him, almost as if he had struck her, and for a brief moment hot emotion leaped at him out of her eyes. Then she was calm again, but the three freckles on her delicate nose stood out even more clearly. "I know that. You made it perfectly clear before you left Germany." Her voice was steady.

He felt a pang. knowing he had hurt her, and was furious with himself because he cared. He shouldn't i care, he reminded himself, he shouldn't give a sweet damn whether he hurt her.

"Ask Gigi. She knows all about me." Katrina sounded tired, and she was gazing at the pavement between them as if she didn't want to look at him.

Skye didn't move. Six years before, the bitter agony of her betrayal had nearly destroyed him; he had been a long time in healing, and he quickly realized that merely seeing her again had reopened those terrible wounds. He wanted to lash out at her now as he had then, to hurt her as she had hurt him. But he was older, wiser, and the professional experience he had gained these last years was nagging at him.

There was something wrong here. Communist agents did not defect to become agents for the other side; but if she was here, working for Gigi ... "Do you work in the park?" he asked abruptly. "Just in the park?"

Katrina lifted her gaze and met his eyes calmly. "I work for Gigi."

"You know what I'm asking."

She nodded. "I know. And I've answered. I work for Gigi."

His thoughts tumbled, clashing together as he tried to make sense of what she'd said. "That Isn't possible unless she isn't what she's supposed to be. Or—"

"Or I'm not?" Katrina's smile held the first sign of bitterness he'd seen in her. "If you had listened to me all those years ago, you would have had the answer then. But you didn't. Now that it no longer matters, do you want the answer?"

Skye held his voice steady and made the words blunt. "I'm here to do a job. I have to know if you're a threat."

"That answer is simple. No. Just as I was no threat to you six years ago, not intentionally. You jumped to conclusions, Skye. I understand, and I did in Germany; in our business, survival always depends on being suspicious of everything and everyone." Her voice wavered a bit on the last word, then steadied as she continued. "But you never asked me if what you had discovered was the truth. You believed it instantly. Until then I had thought you trusted me."

"Get to the point," he bit out.

"Very well. You believed I was a communist agent. Not so surprising, they believed it too. They were supposed to believe it. But I was working for the other side, Skye. Your side. I was a double agent."

"Hello, you two!"

Skye turned stiffly to respond to the greeting, feeling curiously numb. He couldn't think, and he didn't dare try. "Gigi," he said in a voice that surprised him because it sounded so normal.

As a child Gigi Fargeau had carried messages for the French Resistance. By her early twenties she had commanded a small but highly effective intelligence-gathering organization operating out of her native Paris. At twenty-six she had married an American military man who had survived Korea but who became one of the first U.S. casualties in Vietnam. After accompanying her husband's body to his homeland, Gigi had chosen to remain in the States.

At a distance of several feet, the petite woman, vibrant with energy, looked twenty years younger than the fifty-eight she cheerfully claimed, but a closer scrutiny revealed that while her face was as smooth as a girl's, her blue eyes were old and wise with experience and loss. She had bronze hair worn short and beautifully kept hands.

"You have met?" she Inquired briskly, her sharp gaze moving between the two standing before her.

"Yes," Skye replied, offering nothing else.

One of Gigi's delicate eyebrows rose, and though she was clearly aware of the tension in the air, she chose to ignore it. "Trina, did you check the boats?" she asked, her voice almost without accent after twenty years in America.

Katrina nodded. "They were clean. So is the top of the chute; and all the controls work properly."

"And the lagoon?" Gigi asked Skye.

"Nothing. I'll have to check the entire length of the chute, though. There's no time today, but I'll look at it tomorrow."

A series of loud whistles echoed through the park then, and Katrina turned away from the other two. "The gates open in ten minutes," she said. "I have work to do."

Skye watched her walk away, conscious of his body's response, as if six bitter years hadn't passed and he were back in Germany, watching her and wanting her with a desire that had been powerful and greedy and total. He turned his head finally to discover Gigi looking shrewdly at him.

"She's one of your agents?" he asked in a voice that was strained now because his mind had begun to work again and the conclusions he was reaching were like knives.

Gigi nodded. "My best. Even years ago, when she was little more than a girl, she had a natural talent."

"Years ago?" His mouth was dry.

"In Germany." Gigi's voice was suddenly deliberate, her eyes steady on his. "I recruited her, you see, while she was still in school. She had an unusual maturity, and she had grown up staring at the wall dividing her country. She hated it, hated what it represented. She was more than willing to make the necessary sacrifices. At least until ..."

Skye waited, staring at her.

Gigi smiled a little sadly. "A young woman of twenty-two may be very mature, yet still bound to follow her heart. Trina fell in love, and had no way of knowing her man was an American agent; he hadn't told her, you see, just as she had kept her own double life a secret from him. It was a tragic thing."

Skye cleared his throat. "Tragic?"

"How could it not be? By the time she discovered what he was, it was too late for her. He had left her, convinced their involvement was only an assignment to her and no doubt horrified himself at having loved a woman who according to all the evidence should have been his enemy. And the KGB, which had believed she was one of theirs, captured her before she could escape. They threw her into an East German prison. It was a year before I could arrange to get her out."

Skye felt his heart stop. "A year?"

Gigi didn't appear to notice his reaction. "Trina couldn't return to West Germany, of course. It was best to bring her here. She is strong, and has put that other life behind her. She smiles now. One day she will laugh. Then that other life will be vanquished."

Skye had forgotten his professional reasons for being at the park, and it was only the second time in his career that he had so lapsed. The first time had been when he had met Katrina. "Where is she?" he asked now, not caring if he were giving himself away.

"When the park is open," Gigi told him, "Trina works in the hotel; she manages it for me."

Without another word Skye turned and headed down one of the paved paths that led to the hotel. He had a map of the park in his head, and knew where he was going.

Gigi gazed after him for a moment. To herself she said, "Almost, I begin to believe in fate. What a strange world this is. So you were the one who left her, Skye. And what now, I wonder. What now?"



* * *



Fantasyland was a major theme park in the Southeast, set on hundreds of acres and divided into a number of Individual sections dealing with particular fantasy themes. There was the Old West. Seafaring Days, the Space Age, Wonderland—boasting the subheading, For Children of All Ages, and containing characters and exhibits from fairy tales as well as from other well-known stories for children. There was the Circus, other minor sections, and In the center of the park all the traditional rides—roller coasters, the log ride, a huge Ferris wheel, a carousel. . . .

There was a large and beautiful hotel for those visitors wishing to spend more than a day at the park, as well as a golf course, swimming pools, and tennis courts. An outdoor theater provided ample seating for the nightly concerts featuring nationally known singers and groups.

Skye walked past the various sights without a glance, his attention focused on the hotel he was nearing, vaguely aware that the park had opened and that the level of activity had increased sharply as the crowd of visitors began pouring in.

"All right?" a low voice asked suddenly from his left.

Skye halted, but didn't turn. He stood gazing at the hotel, aware that a big man decked out as an antebellum riverboat gambler waited for a response. "No," he answered finally.

The gambler stepped closer, though he remained in the shadows of the decorative shrubbery that lined many of the concrete paths. His wide-brimmed white hat kept most of his face shaded, but beneath a neat black mustache his firm mouth looked a bit grim. "What is it?"

Skye was increasingly conscious of the crowd moving into the area, and felt as well as saw a few curious glances directed at the gambler and himself. It was dangerous to stand there, and he knew it. But he couldn't walk away from the question. "A ghost out of the past," he told the other man flatly.

There was a moment of silence between them, and then the gambler said, "I can take over. Hagen wouldn't know." His deep voice was very soft.

Skye shook his head. "No. I... I think I made a bad mistake in Germany. My information may have been wrong."

Bluntly the gambler asked, "And if it wasn't? Could you go through that again?"

Skye shrugged slightly in a jerky response. "You'd better get to the boat," he told the gambler. "The customers will expect to be dazzled by your cardplay. See you." He walked on without giving the other man a chance to say anything more.

The man dressed as a gambler stood where he was for a few moments, then swore in a low voice and turned away. He was almost to the riverboat that was tied up at a pier in the bend of the man-made river running through the park when a petite blond woman approached him. She was in a costume of the same era as he. Dressed scantily as a chorus dancer, she wore a bright red feather in her upswept golden hair.

"Garters," she said darkly, taking the arm he offered and beginning to stroll along with him. "You picked this costume out, didn't you?"

"I like them," he replied simply, looking down with some amusement at the frilly garter encircling her shapely leg just above the knee. "Most especially when you wear them."

In a wondering voice she said, "When you told me your life was complicated, I never realized you meant things like this. I don't have to dance, do I?"

"No, you'll sit on my knee while I play cards."

She chuckled, then asked, "Have you seen Skye?"

"Yes."

Alerted by an undertone in his voice, her hand tightened on his arm, and she asked quickly, "What is it?"

"Somebody threw a wild card into the game." He shook his head slightly at her puzzled look. "I don't know much yet. Skye's shut me out—for the moment, at least."

"Has he ever done that before?"

"Once. Years ago." He sighed roughly. "There's nothing I can do about it now. You and I have to assume our places. Ready, love?"

Following his lead, she smiled and said mischievously, "Ready to watch you become a riverboat gambler? Darling, I can hardly wait!"

Smiling, he led her toward the riverboat.



* * *



Katrina Keller paused briefly at the desk in the lobby of the hotel to make certain there was no crisis requiring her attention, then went up to her suite on the top floor. Neither Gigi nor the owners of the theme park stinted when it came to the comfort of their employees, so Katrina's rooms were very nice Indeed. A corner suite with plenty of windows and bright, comfortable furnishings, it was spacious and lovely.

It was Katrina's home. She had lived there for nearly five years, ever since Gigi had managed to get her out of Germany. Katrina no longer had nightmares about the three-by-five-foot cell in which she'd lived for a year.

She took a quick shower and changed into a pale-gold silk dress that was both businesslike and attractive; since she dealt with guests as a part of her duties as manager, she took care to dress well during her working hours. She always wore her hair up when she was working, and she put It up now in a braided coronet; It was the only style she had found to be neat, since her long, curling hair resisted most efforts to tame it.

Skye had once said—

Katrina canceled the thought instantly, and the face in the mirror never lost its calm expression. One year of her life had taught her the value of control, and it was a lesson the intervening years had done nothing to diminish. Gigi had often called it strength, this ability of Katrina's to focus her thoughts and emotions with total clarity, and Katrina had never offered another explanation to her closest friend.

She could have explained, but she never spoke of that terrible year.

Her mind blank, Katrina slipped her small feet into black pumps and picked up her watch from the dresser, heading toward the living room while she fastened it around her wrist. Three steps into the room she halted, her senses warning her even before she glanced up and saw Skye standing not five feet away.

"We have to talk," he said in a low, hoarse voice.

Her ability to focus and control her thoughts and emotions had never been put to the test in his presence before, but Katrina wasn't surprised to find that ability strained to the limit. Her entire body felt stiff with the effort of keeping calm, and it had never been so difficult to Ignore her own emotions. Looking at him brought too many feelings and memories to the surface.

He appeared much the same as she remembered him, but there were differences both subtle and obvious. He was still strikingly handsome, but his face was leaner and harder, his brilliant violet eyes revealing recklessness that had not been so visible six years before. Always a physically powerful man, the years had added even more strength to his frame so that his shoulders were broader now, and beneath the black T-shirt he wore she could see hard muscles.

He had told her he was a twin, that his brother Dane was identical, but she had always found it hard to believe there could be another man like Skye.

Katrina tore her gaze away from him and glanced toward the door, which she had locked behind her when she'd come in. "Still good with locks, I see," she said, her voice calm.

"Katrina—"

She looked at him, keeping her mind blank, shutting the violent emotions away in dark rooms, where they couldn't harm her. "I'm on duty," she told him. "I must go downstairs."

"Not yet. Please, Katrina."

She had never heard him say please before, not like that, and the effect on her was shocking. The outward control held, but she could feel a change within her, as If something she had thought to be dead suddenly woke from a deep sleep and began stirring restlessly. Without immediately speaking, she turned and went to one of the wide windows, gazing through the glass and down onto the colorful park.

"I knew Hagen was sending an agent," she said finally, relieved to hear her voice emerge steadily. "Gigi told me all about it. Does Hagen indeed believe that this international terrorist, this Adrian, will make an attempt on the governor's life when he comes here in two weeks?"

"He believes it." Skye's voice was closer now, almost beside her. "Katrina—"

"If my presence here is offensive to you, I can arrange to go away until it's over. Or I can remain in the hotel—"

"Stop it," he ordered roughly.

She was silent.

Skye drew an audible breath. "I can't go back and change what happened," he said. "But if I made a mistake about you, if the information I received was wrong ..."

"If," she said In a soft tone. "Such a small word to have so large a meaning. You could never again look at me or speak to me without that word between us."

"What was I supposed to believe?" he demanded. "My God, Katrina, the station chief in Hamburg hit the roof when he found out what I'd done! He couldn't wait to tell me you'd been marked as a communist agent for months, and that my own loyalty was highly doubtful after I'd—"

"Married me," she finished quietly. Before he could respond, she added in the same tone, "The station chief you speak of was Mueller, and since I didn't work for him, he couldn't possibly have known what I really was." She turned suddenly to face him, smiling wryly at him. "But of course I might have known who he was even if I had been completely on the other side. We both know that. Just as we both know there is no proof I can offer you that I was not what you believed."

"I didn't want to believe it." He was staring down at her, his brilliant eyes glittering, and when he went on, his voice had thickened. "I left Germany in pieces, Katrina, so torn up inside I thought I'd die from the pain. I couldn't face anyone, not even my brother. If he hadn't tracked me down a couple of months later, I probably would have managed to get myself killed. God knows I was trying hard enough." He laughed, a strange, rough sound. "That was when I went back for you."

She had gone a little pale, and found it difficult to speak through the sudden tightness of her throat. "You—you returned to Germany?" And when he nodded, she whispered, "Why?"

There was a long moment of tense silence, neither of them moving, the two-foot space between them containing an almost visible barrier they seemed unable to cross. Then, harshly, Skye answered her.

"Because I had to know. I didn't want to believe it, and I couldn't live with the doubt. I told myself you'd still be there in the apartment, that it was all some horrible mistake. I would have believed anything you told me, then. I meant to get you out of the country, bring you back here. But you weren't there, nothing was there except covered furniture and bare walls. And Mueller told me you'd left in the night; he had evidence you'd gone through the checkpoints and into East Germany."

Katrina drew a breath, vaguely aware that her control was slipping further still. He had gone back for her? She tried to keep her voice steady. "I had gone, but not willingly. I should have known they would come for me. I—I wasn't thinking very clearly."

He hesitated, then said, "Gigi told me you were imprisoned."

Katrina nodded, but she didn't want to talk about that, not then, not to him. "Yes. I didn't know until Gigi's friends got me out that you—"

"That I had divorced you?" His voice was still harsh.

She nodded again, and another silence fell between them. It was Katrina who broke it finally, turning a blind gaze back to the window and speaking softly.

"You were right—neither of us can go back and change anything. We both forgot for a while that we had been trained to mistrust and disbelieve. We both forgot what we were. What happened between us was a mistake, and how can either of us blame the other?"

"Do you blame me, Katrina?"

She felt tension creep into her, felt a rising heat that was achingly familiar despite all the years that had passed since she'd last felt It. No. I can't go through it again!

"Do you?" he demanded again.

"No," she answered finally, refusing to look at him. "I did for a while, of course. But I had a great deal of time to think, and I began to understand what you must have felt. To believe your wife was an enemy agent... At least I had the consolation of knowing we were both on the same side."

"Was it a consolation?"

Katrina thought of those endless hours spent staring at four gray walls, even when her eyes had been closed, terror and anguish threatening her very sanity. She tried to push the memories away, but this time they clung stubbornly, and she couldn't find an answer for him.

"Katrina ..."

"I must go to my office. I have work to do—"

He touched her for the first time, his hands reaching out to grasp her shoulders and turn her toward him. And the strength in those hands was something she had never been able to resist, even though he had never been anything but gentle with her. She kept her arms folded stiffly beneath her breasts and fixed her eyes on the pulse throbbing beneath the tanned flesh of his throat.

"Was it a consolation, Katrina? Tell me." And when she remained silent, he shook her slightly, his hands tightening on her shoulders.

"No," she answered finally, hearing the strain in her voice.

"Look at me."

She was trying desperately to focus her mind and emotions, wary of meeting his gaze. She had long ago given up any hope of ever seeing him again, and so had not prepared herself for this attack by her memories and senses. "Let me go, Skye. I must—"

One of his hands left her shoulder to turn her face up, his thumb under her jaw and his long fingers warm and hard against her neck. "I said look at me!"

Katrina blinked and almost flinched at the violence she heard in his voice, but forced herself to meet his intense eyes.

"Do you hate me?" he demanded.

The question surprised her, and she answered honestly. "I don't know. I felt so much—and then so little. I don't know." She tried to think clearly. "It doesn't matter now."

"Yes, it does."

Her strongest emotion at that moment was bewilderment. What did he mean? He still doubted that she had been a double agent; she knew that because he had made no secret of it. Though both of them had forgotten their training six years ago, she was certain he, like herself, had never forgotten it since. There could never again be an easy trust and lack of suspicion in either of their minds—and most certainly not between them.

"I don't understand you," she said at last.

There was an odd, twisted smile curving his lips, and his eyes were hard and bright and reckless. "I did everything I could to forget you," he told her, his voice curiously distant. "Everything. But nothing worked, and I hated myself for it. You've been my own personal demon for six years, Katrina, locked inside me too deeply to be torn out."

"I'm sorry," she whispered, her body going both hot and cold at the contrast of the loverlike words and his remote voice. She felt suddenly just a little afraid of him.

"Sorry isn't good enough."

Katrina bit her lip and saw his gaze drop to fix on the unconscious gesture, and panic swept over her. Revenge? Was that what he wanted? She drew a breath and tried to speak evenly. "I know you hate me, but I can't change that."

"Hate you?" He seemed to consider the words as he looked from her mouth to her eyes, his containing the same hard glitter. His lips curved again in a mocking smile. "Hate's a tame word for what I'm feeling, Trina."

The shortened version of her name used only by him and Gigi did nothing to reassure her. She tried to pull away, but his powerful arm was suddenly around her, his other hand still holding her face tilted up. She found herself held tightly against his taut body, and even though she managed to get her hands up to his hard chest she couldn't force him away.

"Don't! Skye—"

He ignored the desperate protest. "We had only a few weeks together. Maybe that's why I couldn't forget you." His eyes were heavy-lidded now, the glitter half hidden. "I have to know."

Katrina forced herself to be still, all too aware that her senses remembered him and were responding to him despite everything. Her body ached with a sudden wild need, and her heart ached with an even more damaging kind of pain. She had hurt him badly six years before, and it didn't seem to matter to him that she had known no more of his secret life than he had known of hers, that neither of them had been honest; now he wanted revenge.

"Don't do this," she said unsteadily.

"I have to. We were always so good in bed, weren't we, Trina? From the very first night. It was storming that night, do you remember? And it was past dawn when we finally slept."

She remembered. She remembered heat and tenderness and a hunger in them both that had refused to be sated. A hunger she could feel rising inside her now, even stronger than before. She had thought those powerful feelings had been lost to her forever once he had left her, and the realization that they had only lain dormant until now was bittersweet, because his voice was hard and remote.

Skye didn't appear to notice her silence. He moved against her subtly, and her gasp made his smile turn satisfied and utterly male. "I thought so. It isn't dead between us. And it must be the demon I can't get rid of. Because I can't possibly still love you, can I, my sweet Trina?"

His head bent so suddenly that she had no chance of evading him, even if she could have escaped the firm grasp of his hand. And at the first demanding touch of his lips, she felt something give way inside her with a violence that sent a shudder through her body, a dam-burst of sensations and emotions battering her from within. All her hard-won control vanished, she was twenty-two again and in love beyond all reason.

Both his arms were around her now, locking her body to his, and his mouth was hard and rough. She shut out the sight of his handsome, implacable face, accepting his driven passion and returning it because she couldn't do anything else. She remembered a storm, and a tender, passionate man who had loved her.

Skye lifted his head at last, his eyes violent for a moment before they were shuttered closed. "All the ifs don't seem to matter, do they, sweet? I can still make you want me."

Katrina couldn't have spoken if her life had depended on it; she could only stare up at him mutely.

He laughed and suddenly released her, stepping back. His face seemed a bit pale, but the mocking smile remained to taunt her. "Still don't know if you hate me?"

She found her voice at last, though it was little more than a whisper. "Don't do this."

"Why not, sweet? You want me. I'll be back when your shift ends. And don't bother running away. I'd only find you."

Katrina was barely aware of the door closing behind him. She stood staring blindly at the spot where he had been, her body still hot and throbbing, her mind numb. And the sound of her own voice in the silent room startled her.

"I won't let you destroy me. I won't."



* * *



He had to put out a hand to the wall to steady himself once as he went down the hall to the elevator. It should have surprised him, but didn't. He felt dizzy and sick. He couldn't quite catch his breath, as if he'd run some dreadful marathon. There was an awful pressure in his chest. The instant the elevator doors slid quietly shut, Skye leaned against the wall and thrust shaking hands into his pockets, staring at the indicator that told him he was descending.

"Oh, God," he whispered raggedly.



* * *



Across the park aboard a fully detailed riverboat, the gambler looked up from his cards, the tranquility of his expression vanishing for a brief moment as he went pale. Neither his fellow gamblers nor the crowd of fascinated visitors noticed, but the blond sitting demurely on the arm of his chair saw it.

She said nothing, partly because of the crowd around them and partly because she knew what was wrong. It was, he'd told her wryly, both the curse and blessing of identical twins, at least where he and his brother were concerned.

Skye was in trouble.

But not, she realized, in danger, because the gambler's handsome face almost instantly regained its tranquil control, and his free hand lifted hers to his lips briefly as he smiled up at her. She accepted the reassurance and tried to be patient until he could tell her what was going on.





Chapter Two




"Balloons, sir? Balloons for your children?"

Affronted, Hagen barely paused in his quick stride to send the happy clown a cold glare. And even though the clown's wide smile was painted on so brightly that she could hardly help but look delighted no matter what, her startled wince was visible.

"Sorry, sir!" She retreated hastily, and stood holding her balloons and watching the man stride on while admitting to herself he didn't look the sort of man to have children, much less buy balloons. He had a great leonine head with a cherub's face, a decidedly portly figure confined by a badly fitting three-piece suit, and wore both wing-tip shoes and a fedora that had seen better days. A seemingly comical man, but there had been nothing comical in his frosty glare.

A second clown, this one tall with a woebegone expression painted on his lean face, appeared suddenly beside the happy clown and spoke dispassionately. "You'd throw dynamite on a bonfire, darling."

A rich chuckle escaped the happy clown. "I thought I might as well put it to the test. He's early."

"Yes, we'd better alert the others. Good thing we decided to play our roles from the start. And we should find out from Gigi if he means to stay here for two weeks."

The happy clown looked up at her companion with a smile that wasn't painted on. "Regretting the costume so soon?"

"No." He glanced up as a group of children hurried toward them, his rather hard blue eyes taking on a rare uncertain expression. "I suppose it's practice of a kind."

She giggled and turned toward the approaching children. "A very odd kind."

"Don't laugh at me!" he ordered, sounding both harassed and amused.

She threw him a laughing, tender glance over her shoulder, violet eyes bright, then turned her attention to the children clamoring for balloons.

The woebegone clown stood watching her, a smile playing about his firm lips. He had protested the costume, of course, and had very much enjoyed being persuaded by her to accept it. Still, he was conscious of the absurdity; neither of them fit their assigned roles. Several of the others did, though. But she had been right in believing that Hagen stood a greater chance of recognizing the two of them unless they were totally out of character.

Hence the clown suits.

He would have borne a great deal for her sake; this was certainly little enough. And he had his own ax to grind, of course, since he strongly disliked Hagen's Byzantine hand thrusting into his life without so much as a by-your-leave.

"You didn't practice," she observed severely when the children, balloons In hand, raced off.

"I didn't want you to laugh at me," he retorted.

She smiled up at him, the merry smile he had instantly fallen in love with. "I wouldn't. You're going to make a wonderful father, darling."

His blue eyes softened amazingly as they rested on her face. "I love you, you know," he said.

Some moments later a small, childish voice said indignantly, "Clowns don't kiss! And you've let go of the balloons!"



* * *



"I am a great man," Hagen said simply.

Gigi, who was the sole audience to this grand statement, accepted it with a solemnity belled by the laughter that had leaped quickly to her eyes. "Oh, of course. I have often said so." .

Comfortably seated on the couch in the living room of her suite, he sent her an approving look. But his voice was a bit dry when he said, "No, you haven't, my dear."

"Well, not often, perhaps," she admitted, still solemn. "But I do recognize it, I promise you. It is very obvious to me. You're like Charlemagne." She paused for reflection, then added musingly, "Or Hitler."

He ignored that. Splendidly. "Has Prescott discovered anything yet?"

"He hadn't this morning," she replied. "I haven't seen him in hours, however. Hagen, why are you here now? The governor isn't due to come for two weeks."

"Why, I wanted to see you, my dear."

She eyed him with a great deal of understanding and not a little annoyance. "You may have none of my agents," she said.

Hagen looked innocent. "My dear Gigi—"

"None!"

He wore the expression of a man sadly misunderstood. "I hadn't seen you in months, and—"

"You saw me two weeks ago in New York," she said tartly, even more annoyed by this base attempt to disarm her.

"Well, but that was business, my dear."

"Had you something other than business in mind for this trip?" Her voice was wonderfully polite.

He began to look a bit uneasy. "Gigi, if you're still angry with me because of that little argument of ours—"

"Little argument? Little argument?"

Hagen cleared his throat but said strongly, "We're both of us past the age for these stupid quarrels, my dear."

In an unyielding tone she said, "Your bags have been taken to the suite at the end of the hall. I have much to do; was there anything further you wished to discuss with me?"

"Gigi!" He saw that her expression was as fierce as her voice had been, and realized somewhat unhappily that she hadn't changed her mind. He had thought she would have by now; in fact, he had been sure of it. But she was a difficult woman, and in twenty years of knowing her he hadn't managed a single time to sway her once she had made up her mind.

She was his only personal failure. She laughed at him and mocked him and more than once in the past had grossly deceived him in matters of business. She went her own way with a fine disregard for his advice or wishes, and he uneasily suspected she always would.

"Good afternoon, Hagen," she said coolly, and rose to go over and seat herself behind the big desk by the window. Without another word or glance she became absorbed in paperwork.

Finding himself ignored—which wasn't an experience he was at all familiar with—Hagen heaved himself up from the couch and went gloomily toward the door. "Dinner?" he asked with a hopeful expression that would have been effective if he'd looked more like a spaniel and less like a sulky Henry VIII.

She didn't look up. "You'll find a menu in your suite."

He snorted and left, slamming the door.

Gigi's lips twitched.



* * *



Katrina didn't run away. Given a choice, at least during the early part of the day, she might have run, but it happened that she was to meet a man for dinner that night. He was an agent, and the information he was to give her was too important to be missed. Since Katrina served as a conduit to Gigi, she could hardly escape the responsibility.

It wasn't only that, however, which kept Katrina at the hotel and made her endure the passing hours with a surface appearance, at least, of her normal calm. Her instant recognition of the very real power Skye had over her had hardened somewhat as she had thought about the situation. She was too honest with herself to pretend she could fight him once she was in his arms, but the twenty-two-year-old girl who had loved so heedlessly had become a woman who had learned to survive, and that hard-won ability was not one she would willingly give up.

He had told her that he had left Germany in pieces; she had said little about her own torment. But Katrina would fight him with every weapon she could find to avoid the pain he had left her with before. She both understood his actions when he had left her so abruptly in Germany and had long ago forgiven him for them, but that was something she had no intention of making clear to him.

He was a different man now, just as she was a different woman, and she thought that this man would turn any knowledge about her suffering into a weapon. It was obvious he was out for revenge now, or at the very least determined to purge himself of the desire he still felt for her.

But it wasn't in Katrina, innately proud and too aware of both the fragile peace she had found and the wild emotions he could still make her feel, to submit tamely to any man. In her was the certainty that he could seduce reason, that she would not be able to fight him physically, and that she would fight him on every other level.

And so she spent the day in her usual calm way, while her mind worked with the sharpness of desperation behind her tranquil expression. Refusing to accept either the full blame for what had happened to them or his implicit demands, she reached deeply into herself to tap the core of implacable determination that had been born inside a cell in East Germany.

"Trina, do you have the guest list?"

She looked up from paperwork she was going over automatically, and immediately picked up a computer printout at her elbow. "Here it is, Gigi."

Her friend leaned a hip against the desk and began scanning the printout, saying dryly, "Hagen has arrived, and I wanted to check the list before it occurred to him to do so. Ah, good! They are all on the sixth floor, then?"

Katrina nodded. "And all under assumed names. They'll take the freight elevator up and down so as to avoid the lobby." She studied her friend curiously. "Why is Hagen early?"

With a grimace that was both amused and exasperated, Gigi replied, "He wants to mend fences."

"Between you two?" Katrina asked, aware of a long and decidedly stormy relationship that few others knew about.

"Yes." Her fine eyes sparkled in sudden temper. "Do you know that when he arrived he left word at the desk to send his bags up to my suite when they arrived? Fortunately I had the forethought to leave other instructions. That man."

Katrina fought back a smile. Both fascinated and appalled by Hagen—a common reaction, Gigi had told her—she had observed the relationship between him and Gigi these last years with something like wonder. In one sense it was heartening to watch so many tempestuous emotions flourishing between a man and woman who were both fast approaching sixty; in another sense, with two such contrasting personalities it was a small miracle that one of them hadn't killed the other by now.

"He's assuming too much?" Katrina said.

The sound that escaped Gigi might have been a snort in anyone less ladylike in appearance. "Entirely too much. If he thinks he can manipulate me now as he does everyone else he encounters, he will soon learn his mistake!" She reflected for a moment, then added in a much calmer tone and very dryly, "He won't, however. The wretched man has a blind spot where people are concerned, particularly women."

"Why—" Katrina broke off abruptly.

Gigi grinned, and answered the question her young friend had so obviously decided was a nosy one. "Well, you must admit he isn't boring. If I don't kill him, I may marry him."

Katrina blinked and looked at Gigi somewhat warily. In a mild tone she said, "Don't do anything rash."

Handing the printout back across the desk, Gigi laughed softly, "Child, I made up my mind about him twenty years ago."

Katrina didn't know what to make of that, and decided to change the subject. "Do you have a message for Matt? I'm meeting him for dinner in a couple of hours."

"No, no message." Gigi eyed her for a moment, then asked calmly. "Does Skye know?"

"Know what?" Katrina was concentrating blindly on the papers lying before her on the desk.

"That you are having dinner with Matthew?"

After a moment, fully aware that Gigi had no compunction about asking nosy questions, Katrina sighed and leaned back in her chair. Lifting her gaze to that grave face, she said, "Not unless you tell him about it."

"Shall I?"

Katrina hesitated, but she was too good an agent to take the chance of ruining an important rendezvous. "Perhaps you'd better." She managed a small laugh.

Gigi wasn't deceived, and said quietly, "He is the man from Germany."

"Yes." She had never found it easy to confide in anyone, even her best friend, so her response stopped with that.

With a searching look Gigi murmured, "Already he has changed you, cherie. There is a look in your eyes I have never seen before. This will be painful for you."

Katrina shrugged slightly and felt her lips curve in a smile. She wondered what her expression looked like to make Gigi's gaze even more intent. "I'll survive it," she said flatly.

After a moment Gigi straightened from the desk, her face troubled. "It is never wise to Interfere. But if you need me, Trina ..."

"Yes. Thank you, Gigi."

"I will warn Skye about your meeting with Matthew." She left the office without saying anything more.

Katrina worked steadily for another hour until one of the assistant managers came on duty for the second shift. Then she went up and got ready for dinner.



* * *



"Dance with me."

Katrina halted to face the tall man standing squarely before her, a man who looked almost unbearably handsome in a stark black dinner jacket. His face was masklike, his eyes so completely veiled that she could read nothing in them. His command was an abrupt one, but she had the odd feeling he hadn't meant it to be.

Matthew had gone almost an hour before; she had been summoned to deal with a minor crisis in the kitchen, and was only now making her way from one of the hotel's fine restaurants.

This one, unfortunately for her peace of mind, provided music and a dance floor.

When she didn't answer, Skye took her hand and led her toward the cleared space where several other couples swayed together in time to the slow, romantic music. Katrina didn't resist, nor did she avoid his shuttered gaze when he took her Into his arms and held her far too close.

For several minutes they danced without speaking. Then, in that same taut voice, he said, "So silent?"

"Did you expect a scene?" she returned, her own voice as cold as she could make it.

"No, I suppose not." His laugh was hardly a breath of sound. "You haven't changed."

Katrina felt uncertain, and searched his face with an unconscious intensity. He was different, she realized, and she mistrusted the change in him because it seemed so sudden. He had left her only hours before, his implicit demands and remote voice ringing in her ears, having as good as told her they would be lovers again; yet now he was guarded, and she could feel his strain.

"Haven't I?" she managed to say at last.

"You were always so reserved, so calm. I never knew how much you felt."

"You knew," she said before she could stop herself, and wished she had left the words unsaid.

His face tightened. "No. You were loving. Passionate. But always elusive."

Wondering what he could mean, Katrina was silent, unable to say anything between her surprise and the uneasy suspicion of his motives.

"The way you are now," he said abruptly. "Is this going to be your defense, Trina?"

She couldn't misunderstand that. "I'm afraid you're jumping to conclusions—again," she said deliberately. "I'm defending nothing." She thought that he might have winced, but if he did, the expression was so fleeting she couldn't be sure.

His arms tightened around her, and with the fluid grace that was so compelling about him, he began turning the dance into a subtle seduction. His body was hard against hers, his movements so sensuous that her own body responded immediately.

"No?" he muttered.

The sound of the music receded as she felt heat flow through her, and her own heartbeat sounded like a drum in her ears. Only her knowledge of his motives enabled her to keep her expression placid. Her body was his for the taking, and she knew it, but there was more bitter than sweet in that certainty.

"No." She met his gaze steadily, unaware of the clear honesty in the direct look. "If you mean to hurt me this way, I can't fight you. We both know it. But I won't let you destroy me. Not this time."

"Could I hurt you?" he asked roughly. Katrina didn't hesitate. "Passion without love is always hurtful."

He was staring down at her, a muscle jerking in his lean jaw, and his eyes intense. He glanced around as if suddenly aware of where they were, then swore beneath his breath and led her swiftly from the restaurant. Alone with her in the elevator, he held her hand tightly and said in a grim voice, "You seem to bring out the worst in me."

She stole a glance up at his profile and felt a strange tremor within her. There was something in his face she'd never seen before, something she was almost afraid to try to define. She could almost have believed... But it wasn't possible, there was too much bitterness and pain between them; it was only revenge he wanted.

He didn't take her to her suite but to his own room on the eighth floor, and when the door had closed behind them he released her hand and went to the window, standing with his back to her. "You believe I want to hurt you," he said finally in that same bleak tone.

Katrina could have left, but something in the stiffness of his body or the dullness of his voice held her motionless by the door. "You told me—" She broke off as he made a curiously uncontrolled gesture with one hand.

"I know what I told you." He turned suddenly but didn't move from the window. "I said some of the things I've wanted to say to you for six endless years, and it almost killed me."

She swallowed hard. "I don't understand." Was he only toying with her now, attacking from a different direction? She gazed at his white face—and couldn't believe the answer was yes.

He seemed to hesitate, then said steadily, "Can we start over, Trina? Or have I made you hate me?"

Katrina felt oddly suspended; she had nerved herself for a battle, all her will bent on surviving intact, and now she didn't know what emotions were churning inside her. "What do you want from me?" she asked finally, huskily.

"Another chance."

"Why?"

Skye drew a deep breath. "Because I've never been able to forget you. Even when I wanted to. Because you still feel something for me, even if it's only desire. And because we both have to settle with the past."

Her legs felt shaky, and she moved to sit in a chair near the foot of the bed. "No," she heard herself saying.

Skye came toward her slowly and sat down on the bed so that only a few feet separated them. He didn't say anything for a long moment, and when he did his voice was low and somewhat curt. "I don't seem to have much pride where you're concerned. Not enough, anyway, to accept your answer."

She shook her head slightly. "It's impossible. You must see it is so."

"I don't. Trina, I'm sorry for what happened in Germany, and I'm sorry for the way I've acted today. I thought—hell, I didn't think at all. When I saw you again without warning, I knew I still wanted you, that I'd never stopped wanting you. And when you felt something too . . . But that isn't enough, not for us. There's something more between us, even now."

"Wounds."

He hesitated, then nodded jerkily. "I can't deny that. But they were wounds caused by a terrible mistake, and we have to let them heal."

"You wanted revenge," she said, her voice almost inaudible. "You wanted to—to use me."

"No." He made a movement as if he would have reached out to her, but then his hand fell back to clench against his knee. "I know that's how it seemed to you, how it sounded, but I swear I never wanted that. It's just... I don't know how you feel, what you're thinking. You're so damned calm, and I—I'm not. But I realized I could still make you want me, and that seemed to be the only way I could reach you."

"What changed your mind?" she asked steadily.

"It hurt too much," he said, his voice rasping over the simple words. Then he cleared his throat and said, "I know I've made you hate me, but please, Trina, give me a chance to change that."

Katrina was struggling, fighting the effect of his voice, his words. She tried not to look at him and yet couldn't tear her eyes from his pale face, seeing in it a glimpse of anguish she wouldn't have believed possible. And that fleeting emotion defeated her in a way his earlier demands could never have.

"I don't hate you."

He reached out quickly and took both her hands in his, holding them tightly. "Then give me another chance."

"You could never forget Germany," she protested, and his reply surprised her.

"I don't want to."

She looked at him mutely, and his grasp on her hands tightened.

"Trina, what happened was my fault. Both of us had secrets, but I'm the one who didn't trust enough to give you at least a chance to explain. I'll regret that for the rest of my life."

She hesitated. "Today you still had doubts about me, and about what I really was in Germany."

"That was six years of bitterness talking." He shook his head, a rueful smile on his lips. "If I'd been able to think at all, I would have known the truth from the moment I first saw you this morning. If you hadn't been one of our agents, or a double agent then, you couldn't be here now. Mueller had you marked a communist agent, which means the CIA would have known the day you entered this country. For you to be living here—and working for Gigi—is cast-iron proof you were never on the other side."

Katrina had no wish to play devil's advocate, but she had to because his belief in the truth was so vitally important. "Unless it was all set up that way," she offered, watching him Intently. "The entire point could have been to get me here, and in Gigi's confidence. And that could have been why I married an American."

He was still smiling. "No."

"Why not? It is conceivable."

"Certainly it is," he agreed promptly. "And it's just the sort of devious plan the KGB might have come up with. In fact, they have tried variations of it many times. But Gigi has an infallible instinct, and they've never yet been able to fool her for more than a day or so. Five years? And even before, when she recruited you in Germany? No, you never belonged to the other side."

Very conscious of the warmth and strength of his hands, she tried to draw her own away. "Still—"

He refused to let go. "Trina. We live complicated, suspicious lives, you and I, and it's a rare thing for either of us to trust someone deeply. I know we have to find that kind of trust in each other after what happened in Germany, and I know it won't be easy. But I can't walk away from you without at least trying. Not this time."

"Your assignment here—"

"There won't be much happening for the next week or so; you know that. I have to check out the park, all the rides and exhibits, just as a precaution." He hesitated, then added tentatively, "I could use some help, if Gigi can spare you from the hotel."

Katrina gazed at him, and suddenly realized that his eyes were no longer shuttered or hard or reckless; they were more like the eyes she remembered, vivid and filled with life. And she wasn't surprised to hear herself say, "I'll ask."

He lifted one of her hands briefly to his lips and then rose, pulling her to her feet. "I won't push you into anything you're not ready for, Trina."

She half nodded and gently pulled her hands away. "I have to talk to Gigi about the contact I met tonight. So I—I'll see you in the morning."

Skye stood staring at the closed door for a long time before he finally moved. He shrugged off his jacket and tossed it onto a chair, then loosened his tie with one hand as he bent and pulled an attaché case from underneath the bed. The case was locked, though no combination lock was visible. He sat on the bed and placed the case on its side, then touched a sequence of pressure points that were also invisible. The case opened easily.

He studied the contents thoughtfully for a moment, frowning just a little. In cushioned compartments, each separate from the other, reposed a small bundle of high explosive, a sophisticated timing device, and an equally sophisticated detonator.

Skye had spent the afternoon exploring the park casually, and even though his mind had been almost completely fixed on thoughts of Katrina, the professional part of him had been taking stock unconsciously. And that same professional part of him now considered and discarded various places he remembered. Not the log ride, he thought, or the roller coaster; both rides allowed far too much random access by visitors to the park to allow for a specific target— and the target was very specific. The slower rides held better possibilities, but they, too, were annoyingly unsuited to his purpose.

How would it be possible, he mused, to target one person among the thousands in the park at any given time when the method to be used was explosives? It would be a simple matter, of course, to blow up an entire area, but Adrian had shown so much finesse these last few years.

Still frowning, Skye closed the case and returned it to its place beneath the bed. He had barely straightened again when a soft knock came at the door. He rose and crossed the room silently, and after a quick glance through the security spyhole stepped back and opened the door.

"We look odd through that hole," he said.

The gambler, minus his costume, seemed to find nothing strange in the remark. "Do we? I've never noticed." He came into the room and watched Skye shut the door.

"Distorted." Skye looked at him musingly. "Especially you. Must be the mustache. What are you doing on my floor, Dane? If Hagen should see you—"

"Hagen is enjoying his dinner in lonely splendor at the moment. Josh has several of his people on the staff, so we'll be pretty well advised of the great man's movements."

Skye went to the bed and made himself comfortable, leaning back against the headboard. In the same reflective tone he said, "I know the business world would suffer, but Josh really should put his talents to broader use. Between them, he and Raven could straighten out the problems in the United Nations."

Dane grinned a little as he sat on the foot of the bed, but then sobered. "Are you all right?"

Skye looked at his brother's concerned face, identical to his own except for the recent addition of a neat mustache, and smiled a bit wryly. "Yeah. But it's been a hell of a day."

"I got that feeling. The ghost?"

After a slight hesitation Skye said, "I did make a mistake in Germany. She was a double agent, Dane, working for our side."

"What are you going to do about it?" Dane asked quietly.

"Everything I can."

"Guilty conscience?"

"You know better than that." Skye hesitated again, then added roughly, "Did I ever thank you for keeping me from standing in front of a bullet after Germany?"

Dane looked grave, but his eyes were smiling. "Well, no. As I remember, you tried to knock me down the night I found you. I'm probably being vain in thinking you wouldn't have been able to do it even if you hadn't been pickled at the time."

"Very vain!" Skye retorted, but he was smiling. "It's a bit late, but thanks."

"Don't mention it," Dane responded politely. "We always wondered, though, what you were doing in Palermo."

Skye was startled. "Was that where you found me?" He had certainly never believed that period of his life was at all amusing, and in fact he and Dane had never talked about it before, but Skye began to realize only then that Dane had very likely had his hands full and deserved much more than a belated thanks.

"You don't remember?"

Beginning to laugh, Skye said, "All I remember is that I woke up on some godawful cargo plane surrounded by crates full of chickens, and that you swore at me until the damned thing landed in Spain. It was Spain, wasn't it?"

Dane half closed his eyes in a wince. "Yes. You gave me the slip half an hour after we landed, and it took me six hours to find you again. It wasn't that hard, all things considered, because all I had to do was ask people if they'd seen me. I got some odd looks, though." He sighed. "You were about to board a tramp steamer headed east, presumably to get back to Palermo. When I tried to grab you, you swung at me and knocked down a dock worker. He wasn't inclined to be amused about the matter, and neither were the officials called in to stop the brawl. We both spent the night in jail, and not much of a jail at that. When I woke up you were gone, having picked the lock and sneaked out while the guard was asleep."

"I do remember that," Skye offered, grinning.

Dane eyed him. "Uh-huh. Do you also remember where I caught up with you a week later?"

"Palermo?"

"Nice try. Casablanca."

It was Skye's turn to wince.

Dane nodded firmly. "Casablanca. I wouldn't have been surprised to find you listening to sad songs, but in fact you were sitting under a tree playing poker with two Bedouins and a very suspicious Turk."

"Did you bring me home then?" Skye asked hopefully.

Dane refused to laugh. "You had just bet everything in your pockets—and lost. The Turk was, to put it mildly, upset to find your pockets empty. By the time I got him placated, my pockets were empty, and I had one hell of a time arranging transportation back to the States."

Skye cleared his throat. "I didn't give you any more trouble, did I?"

"None to speak of." He reflected, then decided to speak. "Of course, it would have been a more comfortable trip if you hadn't been hell-bent on getting away from me."

Skye was smiling a little. "Sorry. I wasn't thinking too clearly at the time."

Dane nodded. "I know. I knew then, even though you wouldn't talk about it. Just don't put me through that again, will you?"

"God, I hope not!" He laughed suddenly. "It wasn't amusing at the time, and I'll bet you felt like shooting me. I have to admit it sounds funny now, though. Maybe I'll let you tell Katrina about it one day."

Smiling, Dane got to his feet. "When do Jenny and I meet her?"

"Give me a little time to get to know her again. We're both different after six years. We have a lot of catching up to do, and quite a few things to put behind us."

"Does she know you're a twin?"

Skye nodded. "Since you weren't working with me in Germany, I told her."

"I'd wish you luck," Dane said a bit dryly, "but you already have more of that than any man I know. Now that you have another chance with Katrina, maybe you'll stop wasting your luck by stepping in front of stray bullets and angry bulls."

When his brother had gone, Skye remained where he was for a while, thinking. Dane's final words stuck in his mind, and he realized ruefully that his brother hadn't been deceived six years earlier—or in the time since. It didn't really surprise him.

Ties of blood, ties of love. The bond with his brother would never be broken, and the bond with Katrina had resisted all his wild, bitter, painful attempts to break it.

Now if he could only reach her. ...





Chapter Three




Katrina was up early the next morning. It was her habit to wake before the sun, and the staff of the hotel's smallest restaurant always had coffee and fruit ready for her when she came down from her suite. Today, as usual, she sat in her accustomed booth near the huge windows on the east side of the building, drinking her coffee and watching the sunrise. She had finished her breakfast, and the remains had been taken away.

Two things she no longer took for granted: fresh fruit and sunrises.

"Good morning," Skye said. "May I?"

A bit startled by his sudden appearance, she looked at him and nodded, murmuring a greeting while he slid into the booth across from her. Her restless night and the events of yesterday had left her wary and uncertain, and she didn't quite know how to react to him today.

But Skye, his eyes bright and apparently rested despite the early hour, seemed perfectly friendly. "You used to sleep late," he observed in a light tone.

"Things change," she offered lamely.

He didn't probe. "True. Do I have a companion for the day, or has Gigi chained you to your desk?"

He was giving her an out, she realized, and she knew that if she claimed she had too much work to do, he wouldn't press her. Katrina hesitated, then smiled. "One of the assistant managers will cover for me."

He nodded, obviously pleased. "I'm glad." Then briskly he asked, "Do you have any ideas as to where Adrian might decide to ambush the governor while he's here?"

A bit relieved at the businesslike topic, she considered the matter, returning his gaze thoughtfully as he sipped his coffee and waited. "Anywhere, if he isn't particular about killing Innocent people."

"But he is," Skye reminded her. "Or, at least, he has been recently. He's pulled off two hits in the last few months, both against very specific targets. That ambassador in Naples, and the general in Tangier. In both cases only his intended victims were killed."

She shook her head. "But in a crowded theme park? How could he hope to single out one target when he means to use explosives?"

Skye looked reflective. "The governor visits every year, doesn't he?"

"Yes."

"Does he have any favorite rides or exhibits?"

Remembering suddenly, Katrina nodded. "Several. The Haunted Mansion, the pirate ship, the Circus, and the big Ferris wheel. He never misses those."

"Then we concentrate there."

"But the problem is the same. There are always lots of people around. Does it have to be explosives?"

"That was the threat," Skye said. "And Adrian never makes empty threats. It amuses him to watch his intended victims take every possible precaution before he gets them."

She grimaced. "A complete villain."

"He isn't a nice boy," Skye agreed dryly, then immediately went on. "The sun's up, and we have a few hours before the park opens. Want to get started?"

Katrina nodded and slid from the booth, stretching absently in the natural and unconscious movement of one early in the morning. Then she saw Skye looking at her with suddenly darkened eyes as he rose, and she hastily began moving toward the door. "Where to first?" she asked, disturbed at the breathless sound of her own voice.

"The Haunted Mansion is closest," he said steadily.

"Right." Very conscious of him at her shoulder, of his size and the curiously fluid grace of his stride, she walked with him out of the restaurant.

Sometime during the dark predawn hours Katrina had faced the inescapable realization that she felt too much for the man now walking silently beside her. Unwilling to define those feelings, she nevertheless knew there was something primal about them, something far stronger than her memories of what had once existed between them. Before, she had been emotionally young and innocent in many ways, still more girl than woman, and with a girl's recklessness. The passion between them had been astonishingly powerful, the pleasure she found in his arms intense beyond anything she'd ever Imagined, yet she knew, looking back, that her very youth and inexperience coupled with the brief time they'd had together had protected her heart.

She had loved, but Skye had been right in believing that how much she had loved could be questioned. Knowing the answer now, she faced it. She had loved him with a girl's unconscious, unaware selfishness, and the loss of him, though agonizing, had not been crippling. She had survived.

But now... These feelings frightened her. They were too powerful, too compelling. It was desire she felt, but much more than that, sharper, more primitive, essential. Her mind was in turmoil, wary and confused, yet her body and instincts responded to him on a level deeper than anything she had ever felt.

She was no longer a girl, and she knew without question that her woman's heart could not be touched only lightly. Lessons in survival had built a wall around her heart and soul, and If she loved again, that wall would fall into ruins. If she loved him again—if, in the end, he left her again—there would be no surviving that loss.

"Katrina?"

She looked up at him and felt the breath catch in her throat, vaguely aware that they had reached the Haunted Mansion. In spite of the space separating them as they stood there, she could feel the heat of his big body and the sheer physical power that was like a living force inside him. She slid her hands into the pockets of her jeans, and fought desperately to ignore the fierce pull of compulsive attraction.

"Sorry. My mind was—miles away. How do you want to go about this?" Her voice sounded normal to her.

He shook his head slightly, as if throwing off some thought, and said, "First, the way the governor would—as a park visitor going on a ride."

"I'll start it up," she said, moving away from him.

Skye remained where he was, watching her walk toward a side door of the big Victorian mansion. He had told himself he could handle this, that he could be with her companionably, but he was finding his control was In little better shape than his pride was where she was concerned. For the first time in years he wished he had Dane's control, but their differing personalities and talents made that a hollow wish.

Skye had little of his brother's patience, virtually none of his tranquility, and where Dane was cautious, Skye was all too often reckless to the point of madness.

It did no good at all for Skye to tell himself that it would take care and caution this time to build the necessary trust between him and Katrina. And it was useless to remind himself that if he moved too quickly he could lose her forever. That was what he was afraid of—losing her. And because of that fear all his instincts urged him to grab her and hold on tight. His own nature demanded swift action. It quite simply wasn't in him to play a waiting game for very long; he had too many instincts of the hunter.

Just as his first savage Impulse had been to make her respond to him physically, his compulsion now was to see beneath her composure and find the primitive emotions he felt himself. He knew he could reach her through passion. He knew it because he had seen and felt her response to him. And no matter how reasonably his mind warned of the dangers of following that path, he was fighting a losing battle with himself.

He moved finally toward the main door of the mansion, remembering how she had looked in the restaurant as she had stretched lazily. Lord, she was beautiful! Her fiery hair was confined in a single braid hanging down her back; her slender body, clothed in snug jeans and a knit top, was sexier than any other woman's he'd ever seen. It was all he could do to make his voice and words casual when he was with her, and he knew himself too well to believe he could keep himself from touching her for much longer.

She came out of the side door and walked to join him at the main entrance, composed as always. "I've turned on the power," she told him. "The switch is inside beside the first car. Just get in and throw the lever, and the entire system is activated."

"Come with me," he said.

Katrina backed up a step, then drew herself up rather stiffly. "I'd rather not," she said. "This isn't a... a favorite ride of mine."

He reached out and took her hand firmly, leading her through the doorway despite her slight resistance. "You can explain the system while we go through it," he said reasonably. "The cars are designed for two anyway," he added as they saw the line of silently waiting vehicles perched on the double track that wound through the house.

"Skye, I'd rather not," she said steadily.

If he had paused a moment to think, he would have realized why she was reluctant, but her hesitation seemed to him to be a desire to avoid being close to him, and his impulsive temper was ignited. "Get in," he ordered roughly.

She glanced up at his face just once, then silently got into the car and sat on the padded seat, her hands clasped together tensely in her lap. He joined her and reached out to throw the switch that set the car in motion.

The half-shell-shaped car jolted forward, banging through a set of swinging doors and plunging into darkness. Skye heard a gasp beside him, and realized then, in a stark Instant, what he was doing to her.

Oh, God! She hated enclosed places!

Especially when they were dark.

Swearing at his own insensitivity, he slipped an arm around her in the small car and held her tightly to his side, feeling her stiffen even more as eerie howls and moans erupted from the darkness all around them. The car wasn't moving very fast, but Skye didn't know where the nearest exit was and doubted that Katrina did; it wouldn't diminish her fears at all if they left the car and tried feeling their way blindly to an exit.

So he could only hold her and curse himself.

The car wound jerkily through the huge house, moving from total darkness through a variety of weirdly lighted rooms while various creatures leaped out at them and keening sounds echoed off the walls. In some of the rooms dioramas with mechanical figures acted out bizarre scenes, while in others the projected images of ghostly inhabitants danced or ate serene meals.

Skye thought the ride would never end, and the moment their car bumped against the others waiting patiently in the lighted entrance hall he climbed out, pulling Katrina with him—and straight into his arms.

"I'm sorry," he said thickly, holding her tense, shaking body hard against his own. "God, I'm so sorry."

"It's all right." She tried to push herself back away from him, but he wouldn't release her.

"No, it isn't all right, dammit! Trina, I just didn't stop to think. My bloody temper... I wanted you with me, and I—" He had a vivid memory from their days together six years ago of her terror of closets and tiny rooms, particularly dark ones. Now he realized that the months she had spent in prison had very probably made those fears even stronger.

She looked up at him, her amber eyes only beginning to lose the look of terror. "I should have gotten over it by now, but... It was the cell in Germany and they turned out the lights so early... I've finally gotten used to elevators—" She caught her breath, her mouth firming as she stopped the disjointed words and held the fear at bay. "I'm all right now," she finished in a much steadier voice.

Skye didn't let her go. Hating himself for what he'd put her through, what little control he had managed was now gone. His body was reacting to her closeness wildly, and only the ache in his jaw made him realize that his teeth were tightly clamped together. He forced out words that emerged hoarsely. "I'm a thoughtless bastard, sweetheart, but I never meant to hurt you."

"I know." She sounded uncertain suddenly, gazing up at him with dawning awareness.

The soft pressure of her breasts against his chest inflamed his senses, and he half closed his eyes in a pleasure that was pain. "Lord, you feel so good against me. Trina ..."

Katrina couldn't move. The urgency of his voice and words sent a flare of heat through her body until It settled deep in her belly to torment her. She felt her lower body move of its own volition, seeking, pressing against him, and a gasp tore from her throat when his body hardened instantly.

Skye made a rough sound and bent his head, his mouth finding hers in a kiss so deep and filled with need it was almost like a blow. Katrina would have collapsed if he hadn't been holding her so tightly, all her senses spinning in a dizzying rush. He was starving, she was starving, and the blood ran through her veins like fire.

She had forgotten this—or had it been like this before? She didn't know, couldn't remember. All she could do was feel. The stark power of his big, hard body made her shockingly frail, and the heat of him burned her. What a life force he had. Her body, moving against his hardening loins unconsciously, recognized only the raw virility it craved so helplessly.

But she tried to think, tried to remember the price she could be called upon to pay for this heedless passion, and when his lips left hers finally she managed a whispered protest. "No. No, Skye, it's too soon."

"It was almost too damned late," he said harshly against her throat, his mouth moving caressingly, his tongue touching the pulse hammering beneath her soft flesh. "Six years ..." His fingers found the elastic band holding the end of her braid and plucked it away, causing her unruly hair to swiftly unwind itself as though it were alive.

Katrina couldn't remember sliding her arms around his waist, but her hands were somehow probing the rippling muscles of his back through his black T-shirt, and when he widened his legs and pressed harder against her she felt her fingers dig into him.

"I want you," he said gutturally, lifting his head. His blazing eyes caught her dazed stare and his arms were like iron around her.

She shook her head, unable to look away. "I can't think. Please, Skye, don't push me! You said you wouldn't—"

His mouth twisted. "I know what I said. I even meant it. But this waiting is killing me."

"Waiting? We met again less than twenty-four hours ago," she protested, and the truth of that made her husky voice honestly Indignant.

Skye couldn't help but laugh. "I know, I know."

Another truth—he was bent on sweeping her off her feet a second time—gave Katrina both the strength and the will to push herself away from him. She couldn't help realizing, though, that she escaped his hold only because he chose to let her. "You think it's just a matter of time, don't you?" she demanded.

"We both know it is," he said in a taut voice.

"No, you're wrong." She thought of giving way to him and to her own passion, and the fear of that made her voice shake.

"Am I? I know what you were feeling a moment ago, Trina, because I was feeling it too." His hands clenched into fists at his sides, muscles bulging in his arms.

Katrina felt her breath catch In her throat, and a hot shiver rippled through her body. She hadn't fought the feelings between them six years before, and so she had never seen this side of him. His Intensity was a palpable force, reaching out to her, pulling at her. He was impatient, a little rough, almost primitive. He wanted her, and he wasn't prepared to wait much longer.

Wait. He knew they'd be lovers in the end. no matter how much she protested.

She tried to speak evenly. "I'm not denying that, Skye. I can't. But I'm not—not impulsive anymore. I have to be sure this time."

His jaw tightened suddenly. "You weren't last time?"

Katrina hesitated. "I thought I was. I loved you. But I was very young, and we had so little time together. Since then I've learned how important it is to be sure of how I feel."

"You want me," he stated bluntly. "And it's real, Trina."

"Yes." Her voice was soft. "But is passion all? Is it all we're both feeling? If you want only that—"

"What?" His eyes were glittering with a hard light. "You'll spread your legs willingly, sweet? Throw the dog a bone so he'll stop yapping in your ears?"

She stepped back jerkily.

Immediately Skye said, "Dammit, I didn't mean—" He broke off, flushing.

Katrina was so angry she couldn't speak for a moment, and when she forced the words out, her voice was deceptively mild. "If you want to search this house with all the lights on, the switch is over there on the wall. I'll go check out the big Ferris wheel." She turned and walked out the door.



* * *



Dane was up unusually early, and he was already wearing his gambler's costume as he wandered through the park. He knew his restlessness was due partly to Skye; despite his casual attitude the previous night, Dane hadn't been deceived into believing that his brother's troubles were all behind him. The wounds men and women inflict on each other rarely heal quickly, and Skye's own impatience when it came to getting what he wanted was apt to make him act before thinking.

Because those insights were much on his mind as he walked, Dane's first glimpse of the beautiful woman sitting near the Ferris wheel was accompanied by an almost instinctive recognition.

Katrina.

Skye had said little about her since the tragedy of Germany, but Dane remembered his brother's letter announcing his marriage more than six years before. And he had no doubt, as he walked toward her, that this woman with the long, wild red curls and amber cat's eyes was Skye's ex-wife.

She was mad as hell, too, he realized, noting the sparks in those yellow eyes and the firm set of her lips. He wondered what she would make of him, and curiosity as well as the desire to help his brother if he could made up his mind to meet her now.

She looked up as he neared, her eyes widening and then narrowing swiftly, both startled and speculative. And when she spoke, her faintly husky, surprisingly gentle voice was at odds with the lingering temper in her gaze. "You're Dane."

He smiled, stopping before her. "Yes. And you're Katrina."

She looked him up and down with a total lack of self-consciousness. "Identical," she said wryly. "I couldn't believe it when he told me."

"I'm told it's a bit hard to get used to," he offered.

It had taken Katrina almost an hour to check the structure and all the cars of the Ferris wheel, and she was still furious when she had finally sat down on a bench near the ride. Now, looking up at the almost mirror-image of Skye—there was a mustache, but it didn't make Dane look very different—she tried to control her still boiling anger. "He's told you about me, I see."

"Oh, yes," Dane answered mildly. His smile held a softer charm than Skye's, and his voice was lazier.

She studied him curiously, surprised to feel Instantly comfortable with him. There was none of the prickling awareness she felt around Skye, and something told her that this brother had a great deal more patience and perhaps more kindness in him. "You and Skye are very different, aren't you?"

"Very," he agreed, still smiling but with a serious gleam in his eye. Then, sympathetically, he added, "My brother can be a difficult man at times. I don't mean to be nosy, but since you're obviously mad as hell, I gather you two have had a fight?"

It wasn't in Katrina's nature to confide easily, but she was so angry that didn't seem to matter. Remembering Skye's crude words, she winced. "You could say that."

"He has a touchy temper," Dane said in a judicious tone, "and he doesn't always stop to think before he speaks." Then, quietly, he said, "Especially when his heart is involved."

Katrina looked away from those forceful eyes. It was another difference between the brothers, she realized. In Dane, that amazingly strong life force was confined in his eyes, but in Skye it was diffused throughout his entire powerful body. She tried a laugh that didn't quite come off. "He obviously hasn't told you everything if you believe his heart's involved."

"He didn't have to tell me," Dane said simply.

Torn between the need for reassurance and her wariness of the strong emotions Skye could awaken in her, she looked back at Dane's grave face uncertainly.

After a moment Dane said, "Skye's spent a lot of time in the dark these last years—in more ways than one. He hasn't let himself feel very much since Germany, but I believe seeing you again has made splinters of the protective wall he'd built around his emotions. It must feel like being caught in a sudden storm without warning. So if he seems impatient or even rough, maybe you should remember that you can hurt him every bit as much as he can hurt you."

Katrina shook her head slightly and fixed her gaze on the ground, unwilling to believe that.

Dane sighed, and his voice was rueful. "I can see you're as stubborn as he is. I shouldn't be surprised, I suppose. It'll take a hardheaded woman to manage my brother."

Her hard head came up hastily, and she stared at him.

"He needs it, you see," Dane told her solemnly. "It's been my job off and on for the better part of thirty-five years, but I have a wife now, and she's keeping me too busy to give me much time to cope with Skye's recklessness." A bit more seriously he added, "He needs a balance, a center. He needs someone to care about him, so he'll stop and think before risking his neck."

She refused to be moved by the words, ignoring a sudden pang near her heart. "I don't think he needs anything or anyone," she said flatly. "He's too strong to need."

One of Dane's eyebrows lifted and his eyes hardened. "Is he? Even strong men can be shattered if the blow's hard enough and the aim is good. He isn't made of iron, Katrina."

She felt absurdly in the wrong. "I know."

"Good. Convince him, will you?" Dane smiled suddenly, the flinty look gone from his eyes. Before she could respond, he added a light "See you," and moved gracefully away.

Katrina stared after him for a few moments, then fixed her eyes on the pavement again and tried to get her thoughts and emotions under control. She found it hard to accept that Skye felt something other than desire for her, though she had felt that desire and knew only too well how powerful it was.

Vaguely aware of faint sounds and movements as the park was readied for the day's visitors, she struggled to come to terms with her own feelings. Could she accept the passion between her and Skye without looking farther? No. She knew herself too well. It wasn't In her to give her body without giving her heart as well, and she was afraid of the very idea of giving her heart to Skye.

And she didn't know what he wanted. Another chance? What did that mean? Because I've never been able to forget you. Even when I wanted to.

She was beginning to realize, partly due to Dane, that she had never really known Skye. She hadn't looked deeply enough six years earlier. He wasn't a tender man, or even a gentle man; he was too forceful to be either for very long, and she no doubt would have discovered that years before if they'd had more time together. He was hard in many ways, and he could be cruel. His life had taught him to be suspicious, and probably to expect the worst. His temper was as quick as the remorse he felt afterward, both expressed hastily and in blunt words.

But she hadn't seen that six years earlier.

Startling herself by speaking wryly aloud, Katrina murmured, "You fell in love with a beautiful face." She shook her head, no longer surprised that Skye had gotten her totally off balance this time, because now she was looking underneath that beautiful face, and the unexpected force of him was shocking in its intensity.

How could she have been so blind all those years before? So shallow that she had never even tried to understand him? Even though they'd had little time, she should have seen.

And now... Now she was older, and wiser, and always strove to see beneath the surface. She was a woman, and the instincts that had never stirred at twenty-two were torturing her.

He was complex and often rough, and his impulsive temper had already cut her more than once. But the strength and force in him tugged at her like nothing she'd ever felt before, and the sheer primitive passion he aroused in her left her weak and shaking in his arms.

She didn't hear him then, but looked up anyway as Skye approached her rapidly. His expression was stony, and there was so much leashed violence in his pantherlike stride that for a moment she felt a thrill of fear. But then he yanked her up from the bench and into his arms, and his muttered words chased the fear away.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it, Trina, I swear I didn't." His head was bowed, and he rubbed his cheek against her hair. "God, I keep saying that to you, don't I?"

She lifted her face from his shoulder and smiled, wondering dimly what had happened to her anger. "It's probably good for you," she said.

His eyes moved restlessly over her face and his mouth twisted in self-contempt. "I don't know what I'm saying half the time around you. You make me feel like some horny teenager with sweaty hands. I keep hurting you."

"I'll keep your temper in mind from now on," she said a bit ruefully. "But what you said didn't hurt me, it made me mad." Her chin came up. "You had no right to say that."

"I know." He hesitated, then asked, "Will you tell me something honestly, Trina?"

She felt wary, but nodded.

"Has there been anyone since me?"

Katrina couldn't look away, and she couldn't lie to him. Not about this. "No."

"Once burned?" he suggested in an obviously false light voice.

She wasn't ready to be that honest. "I've been very busy," she said evasively, stepping back and feeling both relief and disappointment when he instantly released her.

His eyes gleamed. "So I shouldn't imagine you've been eating your heart out for me all these years, huh?"

"I wouldn't if I were you," she returned dryly, grateful that he was treating this casually. Then he shook her up again by refusing to let the matter drop.

"Still," he said, watching her Intently. "Six years is a long time for a beautiful woman to be alone."

"Five," she snapped. "You forgot prison."

His faint smile died. "I keep trying to forget it, but I can't. Did they hurt you, Trina?"

"Not a mark," she said flippantly, back on balance.

He caught her hand when she would have turned away. "I have to know," he said in a harsh voice.

She looked at him for a moment, then said, "Interrogation techniques are more subtle these days, you know that. Drugs, sensory deprivation. And there wasn't much I could tell them, after all. They didn't really suspect me of being a double agent, they just wanted to know about you. I came through it."

"You should hate me," he said slowly.

"Because of them? I knew the risks. I never blamed you for that, Skye, because it wasn't your fault." She held her voice steady with an effort. "Is that why you want another chance? Because you feel guilty?"

"No. No, that isn't why."

"Then there's nothing more to say about it. Did you find anything in the Haunted Mansion?"

"Back to business?"

"I think we'd better." She could hear the strain in her voice and wasn't surprised by it. She felt buffeted by the storm of emotions that had swept over her during the last twenty-four hours, and didn't know how much more she could take.

Skye must have heard the strain as well, because his expression softened abruptly and he carried her hand to his lips before releasing it. "All right," he said gently. "I'll try to stop pushing." She nodded, wishing she didn't feel like crying when he showed her a rare glimpse of his softer side. "Did you find anything?" she repeated.

"No. How about you?"

"Nothing. The park will open in an hour; we don't have time to go over the pirate ship or the circus tent today."

"There's no hurry. But since you've got the day off, why don't you show me around the park?"

"You've seen it," she objected somewhat weakly.

"Not with you." He smiled. "I promise to be good." Katrina wasn't sure she trusted his smile, but she wanted to be with him and couldn't deny it even to herself.



* * *



For the next three days Skye kept his promise, and Katrina's wariness soon eased. He didn't bring up the past or push her in any way, and since he was an extremely charming man when he put his mind to it, she was quickly disarmed—and was aware of the ease with which he'd accomplished it.

She had refused to abandon her duties for more than one day, though, and Skye hadn't protested. Instead, he turned up often during the day, joining her for meals and spending a few minutes talking to her in her office. Some of the talk was of business, but for the most part the conversations were casual and friendly. He took her to dinner each night, danced with her, and left her at her door with a light kiss.

"Biding his time, isn't he?" Gigi, amused, asked as she passed Katrina in the lobby one morning just after Skye had been talking to her.

Katrina had to smile, because Skye's determined patience was so obvious it was almost funny. But she felt no impulse to laugh; she was grateful to him for giving her time, especially when she could sense the strain lurking just under his composure.

And that it was a strain on him she didn't doubt; it was In his voice sometimes, and in his face there was a finely honed look. He was an impatient man by nature, so the fact that he was forcing himself to be undemanding said a great deal about his determination to develop a new relationship with her.

She appreciated that deeply, but it was a strain on her, too, because she was no closer to sorting out her own feelings, and the pull of physical attraction was growing stronger with every passing day. She was afraid that desire was clouding her judgment, and she didn't know how to cope with it.

She could feel his presence the instant he entered a room, even If her back was to him, and when he was with her she found it almost impossible to look at anything but him.

On the third day It occurred to her with devastating simplicity that she was falling in love with him.

She was sitting at her desk, conscious of the faint smile that Skye had left her with just minutes before, and when the realization dropped into her mind It did so with the clarity of total certainty.

I'm beginning to love him.

She put her pen down with unnatural care and folded her hands on her neat desk blotter, conscious of her heart beating like a drum in her ears. She felt both hot and cold, eager and fearful, delighted and hurting. She hadn't meant to love him. He had crept Into her heart with charm and patience.

And she couldn't let him know, because she was still afraid of giving him her heart.

Despite his careful patience these last days, Katrina knew only too well that the power of his desire for her was an all-consuming thing, stark and possessive. Whatever his feelings for her now, he wouldn't be content with only a "loving and passionate" woman in his bed. He would demand a total surrender this time, driven by his own doubts about the depths of her feelings before to be certain of them now.

Beginning to understand him, Katrina knew that his harsh demands on that first night had not been uttered only with the desire to exact revenge for what he had gone through after Germany. There had been a certain amount of truth in his avowed intention to purge himself of her.

She wondered if he realized himself what he was after this time.

He had gone through hell after Germany; she didn't doubt that. In all truth, he had been more deeply hurt than she had, because the shallowness of her own emotions had protected her somewhat, and because she had known there had been no betrayal. For six years Skye had remembered her, his own feelings eating at him. Then they had met again, against all odds, and he was bent on a "second chance."

Katrina couldn't help but believe that whether or not Skye knew it himself, what he wanted was to get her out of his system once and for all. So she couldn't very well tell him she loved him.

She couldn't.





Chapter Four




Teddy Steele began to push herself into a sitting position on the bed, but then turned somewhat green and hastily fell back onto the pillows. The very powerful arm of her husband reached out with perfect timing, and a cracker was placed between her lips. Teddy didn't waste time with thanks, but munched the cracker with her eyes closed, willing her stomach to settle.

Zach raised himself on an elbow and looked down at his wife's pale face with a worried frown. "Better, honey?"

One of her big brown eyes opened cautiously, then the other, and she sighed in relief as her stomach behaved. Blinking away the morning dryness of her contact lenses, she answered, "Yes, but it's the pits."

"Why don't you sleep in today?" he suggested casually.

Teddy eyed him with loving understanding, her gamine’s smile quirking her lips. "I'm fine, Zach." She reached up a hand to his lean cheek, stroking gently. "I'm not going to lose this one."

Zach had a great deal of faith in his vivacious wife's peculiar psychic certainties, but he had too much experience with the vagaries of fate to share her confidence. He also remembered far too vividly Teddy's miscarriage months before, and the terror he'd gone through at almost losing her. Not all her assurances—or those of the doctor who was still astonished by this second conception—could allay his fears. He caught her hand and held it firmly to his face, his free hand moving to push the sheet aside and cover her very slightly rounded belly. "You should have stayed in New York," he said a bit harshly.

"What, and miss our final hurrah?" she said, deliberately light. "It isn't a jungle this time, remember? There's no danger at all, Zach."

He shook his head slightly. "Honey, there's always danger in a scheme like ours. We've covered all the bases, sure, but it's impossible to plan for the unexpected element. And Hagen's such a wild card. God only knows what could happen."

"Well, you're with me," she said serenely, her faith in her big warrior absolute.

His lips twisted, but his gray eyes gleamed wit