"Oh, but I'm sure you weren't thinking about lights right now," she nodded toward the set as if mesmerized by it. "Not with your hands all over her breasts."

"As I recall, I was thinking how much I wanted to strangle the director for making us do another take of that same scene."

She ignored that truth completely and said with a hurt that was poorly concealed beneath sarcasm, "I wonder what Glenn Close was thinking just then—when you kissed her breasts."

"She was fantasizing about murdering the director, too, for the same reason."

"Really?" she said sarcastically. "What do you suppose she was thinking about when you rolled on top of her like that?"

Zack reached out and caught Julie's chin, gently forcing her face toward his. "I know what she was thinking about. She was praying I'd get my elbow out of her stomach before she got the giggles again and spoiled another take."

In the face of his calm sincerity and matter-of-fact attitude, Julie suddenly felt foolish and completely unsophisticated. With an exasperated sigh, she said, "I'm sorry for behaving like an idiot. The reason I pretended I wasn't interested in watching your movies was because I dreaded seeing a scene like this with you in it. I know it's stupid, but it makes me feel—" she broke off, refusing to say jealous because she knew she had no right to be that.

"Jealous?" he suggested, and the word sounded even more revolting when spoken aloud.

"Jealousy is a destructive and immature emotion," she hedged.

"One that makes a person irrational and impossible to get along with," he agreed.

Julie said a silent prayer of thanks that she hadn't used that word and nodded. "Yes, well, watching you in those scenes simply makes me wish … we could watch a different movie."

"Fine, whose movie would you like to watch? Name any actor you choose." She opened her mouth to reply, but before she could, he added flatly, "So long as it isn't Swayze, Costner, Cruise, Redford, Newman, McQueen, Ford, Douglas, or Gere."

Julie gaped at him. "Who's left?"

Curving his arm around her shoulders, he drew her close and whispered his answer against her hair. "Mickey Mouse."

Julie didn't know whether to laugh or demand an explanation. "Mickey Mouse! But why?"

"Because," he murmured, sliding his lips to her temple, "I think I could listen to you rave about Mickey without getting 'irrational' again and 'impossible to get along with.'"

Trying to hide the poignant pleasure she felt at what he'd just admitted, Julie lifted her face to his and teasingly said, "There's always Sean Connery. He was wonderful in The Hunt for Red October."

Zack raised his brows in mocking challenge. "There's always the other six of my movies in that cabinet, too."

Now that she'd made a joke of his admission and safely avoided admitting her own jealousy, Julie instantly regretted her cowardice and the fact that she'd belittled a special moment. Sobering, she looked into his eyes and said shakily, "I hated watching you making love to Glenn Close."

The reward for her courage was a brush of his long fingers against her jaw and a rough-tender kiss that stole her breath.

Chapter 37

Julie glanced out the kitchen window at the setting sun, put down her paring knife, and went into the living room to turn on the television set. A satellite dish somewhere on the mountain enabled them to bring in CNN, and she hadn't heard the news since this morning.

Zack had spent the day clearing the drive all the way down to the bridge, using the huge tractor in the garage that spewed snow in a seventy-foot arc from a blower attached to it, and now he was taking a shower. This morning, when he first told her what he planned to do, she'd thought he intended for them to leave today or tomorrow, and she'd been seized with a panic that nearly strangled her. As if he read her thoughts, he said, "I'll tell you the day before it's time to leave." When she tried to get him to say if he already knew what day that was going to be, he replied vaguely that he wasn't certain, which gave Julie the impression he was waiting for something to happen … or for someone to contact him.

He was right, of course, that the less she knew, the better off they both were. He was equally right to insist they simply enjoy each moment of the time they had together and not think beyond that moment. He was right about everything, but it was impossible not to wonder and worry what was going to happen to him next. She couldn't imagine how he could hope to find out who killed his wife when his face was so well known that he'd be recognized immediately wherever he went.

Still, he'd been an actor, so makeup and disguises would be easy for him. She was counting on that to keep him safe. And she was terrified it wouldn't.

The television screen lit up, and she listened absently to some psychologist who was evidently the guest on CNN as she headed back to the kitchen. She was nearly there when she realized the psychologist was talking about her, and she whirled around. Eyes wide with disbelief, she walked toward the television set, staring at the subtitle on the screen that identified the speaker as William Everhardt, Ph.D. With absolute confidence, Dr. Everhardt was expounding on what Julie Mathison was going through emotionally as a result of being taken hostage:

"A great deal of research has been done with hostages like Miss Mathison," he was saying. "I myself coauthored a book on this subject, and I can tell you with all certainty, that the young lady is living through a highly stressful, but very predictable sequence of emotions."

Julie tipped her head to the side, fascinated to learn what was going on in her mind from this unknown expert on the subject.

"During the first and second day, fear is the primary emotion—and a very paralyzing one, I might add. The hostage feels helpless, too terrified to think or act, but they hold out hope that they'll be rescued. Later, usually on the third day, rage sets in. Rage at the injustice being done them and at the victim role they're forced to endure."

With amused derision, Julie held up her fingers and counted off the days, comparing her reality with his "expert knowledge." On the first day, she had gone from fear to fury within hours and tried to slip a note to the clerk in the fast-food restaurant. On the second day, she had tried to escape from him at the rest stop—and nearly succeeded. On the third day, she'd succeeded in escaping. She'd been a little afraid and extremely nervous, but certainly not paralyzed. Shaking her head in disgust, she concentrated on Dr. Everhardt's next remarks:

"By now, Miss Mathison has reached the stage that I like to call the gratitude-dependent syndrome. She sees her captor as her protector, almost an ally, because he hasn't killed her yet. Er—we're assuming that Benedict has no reason to do that to her. In any case, she is now furious with the legal authorities for not being able to rescue her. She is beginning to think of them as impotent, while her captor, who is clearly outwitting them, becomes an object of reluctant admiration. Added to that admiration is a profound feeling of gratitude that he hasn't harmed her. Benedict is an intelligent man with some degree of questionable charm, I understand, which means that she is very much at his mercy, both physically and emotionally."

Tags: Judith McNaught Second Opportunities Billionaire Romance
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