"No!" he snapped.

"You must be the biggest coward on earth!" Julie taunted, too furious to quail before the murderous look tightening his face. "Either that or else you killed her yourself!" She opened the door to her room, turned back, and added scathingly, "I'm leaving here in the morning, and if you intend to stop me, you'd better be prepared to use that gun!"

He raked her with a contemptuous glance. "Stop you?" he jeered. "I'll carry your bag out to the ear!"

Julie slammed the bedroom door on his last words. Fighting back tears, she heard him go into his room as she stepped out of her slacks and pulled on a T-shirt from a dresser drawer. Not until she'd turned off the lamp and gotten into bed, did she let herself lose control. Dragging the thick down comforter up to her chin, she rolled over onto her stomach, and buried her face in the pillow. She cried with shame and anger at her stupidity, her gullibility, and her humiliation. She cried until her tears were spent and she was exhausted, then she rolled onto her side, staring blindly out the window at the moonlit winter landscape.

In his own bedroom, Zack pulled off his sweater, trying to calm down and forget the scene in the living room, but the effort was futile. Her words hammered in his mind, more agonizing each time he remembered the contemptuous look on her face when she called him a coward and a murderer. During his trial and imprisonment, he'd inured himself against feeling anything, but somehow she'd gotten under his guard. He hated her for that and himself for letting it happen.

Flinging the sweater onto the bed, he stripped off his pants. It hit him then—the only plausible explanation for her ridiculously volatile reaction to what he'd said in the living room—and he stopped cold in the act of dropping his trousers on the bed.

Julie thought she was in love with him. That's why she thought she had "rights" where he was concerned.

She probably thought he was in love with her. And that he needed her.

"Son of a bitch!" he swore and flung the trousers onto the bed. He didn't need Julie Mathison, and he sure as hell didn't need the added guilt and responsibility for a naive small-town schoolteacher who didn't know the difference between sexual desire and that nebulous emotion called love. She'd be better off if she hated him. He'd be better off, too. Much better off. There was nothing between them except sex, which they both wanted and she was denying them out of some infantile urge to retaliate.

With some half-formed notion of proving all that to her and himself, he stalked toward his bedroom door and pulled it open.

Julie was dismally contemplating what to do tomorrow if he reneged on his remark about letting her go when the bedroom door abruptly opened and Zack strode in, naked. "What do you want?" she demanded.

"That question," he mocked, sweeping the comforter off of her, "is almost as asinine as your decision to sleep in this bed because I won't come to heel."

Infuriated by his obvious intention to sleep with her, Julie flung herself to the opposite side of the bed and scrambled out of it, trying to bolt diagonally for the door. He caught her as she rounded the foot of the bed and pulled her against his bare chest.

"Let go of me, damn you!"

"What I want," he informed her, belatedly answering her original question, "is the same thing you want every time we look at each other!"

Flinging her head back, Julie stopped struggling, gathering her strength for her next move. "You bastard! If you even think of raping me, I'll murder you with your own gun!"

"Rape you?" he repeated with icy scorn. "I wouldn't dream of it. You'll beg me to make love to you in three minutes."

Julie struck just as his mouth seized hers: bringing her knee up hard, she aimed for his groin and then screamed as she missed and landed on her back beneath his heavy body.

Instead of retaliating for her missed blow to his groin by ramming himself into her, which she half expected him to do, she felt his fingers slide into the hair at the juncture of her thighs, probing very lightly, starting to massage and caress with familiar, unerring skill. He wasn't going to force her, Julie realized; he wanted her full cooperation, and if she gave it to him, it would be far more damaging to her pride than being a helpless victim. Her body was already responding against her will, and she was so furious with herself and with him that she actually tried to force him to finish the act before she capitulated completely. "Get it over with, damn you!"

His answer was a whisper as cold as his heart: "Why? So you can call me a rapist as well as a murderer and a coward?" His fingers searched deeper, moving. "Not a chance." His mouth closed over her nipple, tongue circling, lips tugging, and Julie swallowed a scream of furious protest. She bucked her hips beneath his hand, and he laughed softly, sliding his finger deeper inside of her so that she rode it. She stopped abruptly, tensing every muscle in her body to resist what he was doing to her, and in silence, he forced her treacherous body to betray her, his eyes watching her face every moment of the time.

"You're soaking wet," he said, and not even the calculating heartlessness of what he was doing to her could quell the quick, piercing, stabs of desire already beginning to jolt her. "Do you want me, Julie?"

She wanted him inside her, she wanted the climax she knew he could give her so badly she felt like she was going to die. "Go to hell!" she gasped.

"I am in hell," he whispered, moving his body up along hers, and for the first time he kissed her, forcing her lips to part. Abruptly, he gentled the kiss, his lips moving on hers with melting hunger as he slowly moved his hips, forcing her into vibrant awareness of his rigid erection. "Tell me you want me," he coaxed.

Trapped beneath the exquisite promise of his aroused body and the driving persistence of his mouth, her own body began to shake with uncontrollable need, and the words tore out of her in a tormented sob. "I want you—"

The moment she capitulated, he drove into her instantly, circling his hips hard, driving her to a shattering climax within moments. He pulled out while her body was still racked with shudders and lifted off of her, shrugging free of her embrace. "Three minutes was all it took," he told her.

The door slammed behind him with the finality of a death knell.

Julie lay there, physically exposed and freezing with shock, unable to absorb the proof that he was actually vile enough to prove his point this way. Emotionally spent, she crawled slowly to the head of the bed, pulled the comforter off the floor, and closed her eyes, but she did not cry, would not shed one more tear because of him. Ever.


Tags: Judith McNaught Second Opportunities Billionaire Romance
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