Burn (Page 86)

He solved that dilemma, though. He said, "I thought you said you weren’t going Stockholm syndromy on me." Shock and humiliation roared through her. His breath came as hard-fought as hers did, but that was a tiny detail when compared to what he’d just said.

"Do you really think that’s what happening here?" She managed to be calm. She managed to keep her voice even. What she couldn’t manage to do was look at him. She didn’t know if she’d ever be able to look him in the eye again. She had never felt so sick as she did right then, and the plunge from exquisite pleasure to humiliation was so breathtaking it was like a punch in the gut.

"What the hell else am I supposed to think?"

"A kiss and an erection really shouldn’t annoy you so much," she said, determined to keep her voice cool even if it killed her. "I think you have issues."

"I wasn’t the one having the orgasm."

She could look at him, she found. Enough anger worked wonders. "That," she said, "is entirely your problem. I got what I wanted. Too bad you didn’t."

He took her hand in his and headed for shore, practically dragging her along. "We’re going back to the ship, and you’re moving in with Faith and Ryan. Today."

"No," she countered, "I’m not."

He ignored her. "I’m not sure how we’ll explain it, but we’ll think of a way."

"I’m not going anywhere. That’s my suite. If you don’t want to stay there, then move your ass out. You go stay with Faith and Ryan."

They walked out of the water, the last of the cove washing against their feet. She jerked her hand out of his, and they faced off like two gunslingers.

Surprisingly, a sudden grin flashed across his face. "Why am I not surprised that a climax makes you cranky?"


She opened her mouth to blast him, but a family – mother, father, two teenage boys – arrived at the beach, their snorkeling equipment and bags of assorted beach stuff in hand. Her conversation with Cael was over … for now.

Except for the last word. The last word was hers. She said, "There are other people present. Maybe you should wrap your towel around your waist, big boy."

Chapter Twenty-six

THE TRICK TO SUCCESSFUL, LONG-TERM SURVEILLANCE is blending in, becoming invisible. In a way, the cruise ship situation created the perfect cover. If you were living your everyday life and kept seeing the same handful of people near work, on the streets, close to your home, in various restaurants, you’d naturally get suspicious. When you were basically living together in a floating luxury hotel, you expected to see the same people day in and day out.

That didn’t mean they didn’t need to be careful, work in shifts, and maintain their cover.

Cael knew what he needed. He needed to concentrate on work and get the woman who was in the shower out of his head, and out from under his skin.

Like it or not, he and Jenner would be on deck tonight. A Roaring Twenties costume party was scheduled. He hated fucking costumes, even if they did come with a fedora. At some point during the evening there would be a bachelor auction, which he intended to steer clear of. The auction was one of the charity events, so Larkin would likely be there. Life of the party, that one was.

The knock on the door surprised Cael, but when he heard Matt’s voice – "Room service, Ms. Redwine" – he relaxed and crossed the room to open the door. Something must be up; he hadn’t called room service. If Larkin was in his suite he now had a guard outside the door all the time, so he’d told Faith and Tiffany to stay away.

The increased security puzzled him. Why have it now, after the meet in Hilo, after Larkin had passed off the memory stick? Something else was definitely up, though as of now they still had no clue. On the other hand, it wasn’t impossible to imagine that Larkin had more than one buyer lined up.

Matt came into the room with a domed silver tray balanced on one hand. "Sanchez says there’s definitely something going on," he said in a lowered voice, after the door had closed behind him.

"Dean Mills is in the middle of it, but there are several other security guards who’ve put their heads together a few times in what Sanchez says is a suspicious manner."


"Not involved, that Sanchez has seen."

That was surprising. If Dean Mills was involved, how could Larkin not be? He needed more eyes on the inside, but that wasn’t going to happen. If he’d had time he would have placed more of his people in security, but the background checks for those employees were even more stringent than they were for a deckhand and a steward. Given enough time he could have done it, but the security team had been set when this job had come along. He’d been lucky to find Sanchez. So far the man had been steady as a rock, and everything he said a hundred percent reliable.

Matt placed the tray on the dining table. "Compliments of your steward, sir."

He removed the lid with a flourish.

The bed of the silver tray was covered in an assortment of individually wrapped condoms.

Cael stared down at the tray. "What the hell is this?"

Deadpan, Matt responded, "They’re called condoms, sir, a commonly used prophylactic for the prevention of …" He stopped talking when Cael caught his eye, fidgeted, and finally said, "Bridget thought they might come in handy."

"Bridget, huh."

"Actually, she said if these weren’t necessary before the end of the cruise, she’d eat her steward uniform, which she really hates."

Cael lifted a hand, which Matt correctly read to mean silence. Now.

He couldn’t have sex with Jenner, no matter how much he wanted to – and he did, damn it, he wanted it so much he could barely think of anything else. He’d kidnapped, threatened, and frequently handcuffed her, and basically used her to do what had to be done. Logically, he knew it would be all kinds of sick to screw her under these circumstances. His brain was in line; his dick had a mind of its own. The last thing he needed was members of his own group undermining his self-control. They weren’t the ones who had to deliberately say things that would drive a wedge between him and what he wanted most. They weren’t the ones who had to see the hurt and fury in her eyes.