‘Why?’ he asked harshly.
She had no answer she could give him.
‘You should have told me.’
‘I didn’t think it was important.’
‘You did not act like a virgin,’ he said icily.
‘How is a virgin supposed to act?’ she asked, every bit as frozen.
Shouldn’t she have enjoyed it? Shouldn’t she have pushed for all that she had? But she had enjoyed it. She’d been unrestrained, unfettered in her actions. And untutored.
She hadn’t been able to control her reaction to him. She’d been utterly lost in that flare of desire for him. And she refused to regret it now. She didn’t want him to regret it either. But it seemed he already did.
Before she could move he picked up her wallet, which she’d tossed to the side in her haste. Before she could think to snatch it from him he’d flicked it open, was reading her identity card.
The last of the delicious heat that had softened her fled. Dread solidified into a cold ball in the pit of her belly.
‘Zambrano... Lieutenant.’ He stood utterly still. ‘No relation of General Zambrano?’ He glanced at her, swiftly taking in her colouring, her features. ‘His daughter,’ he said brusquely.
He didn’t need to look at her as if she’d done something wrong.
‘You should have told me!’ he suddenly shouted. Irate.
But if she had he’d have stopped. He’d have recognised her surname and refused to continue. If she’d told him she was a virgin he’d have stopped then too. And she hadn’t wanted him to stop. She’d wanted this one thing, this one time, for herself.
But she hadn’t stopped to consider the consequences—these appalling moments afterwards. And the possible ramifications for her career.
She hadn’t thought he’d even notice her virgin status. She hadn’t thought it would be so obvious. She led such a physical life she’d not really thought she’d bleed. And she hadn’t thought it would really hurt like that. Nor had she thought it would feel that fantastic.
‘Why did you do this?’ He grabbed her arm. ‘I hurt you.’
The bruise around his eye was livid now—but it was nothing on the anger within his eyes.
A good soldier knew when to attack, when to stand and defend, and when to retreat. There was only one option for Stella now. She jerked her arm—was surprised when he let her go. Then she turned and struggled to pull her sodden shorts back on. She pulled the tee shirt on too. She didn’t bother with the ugly sports bra and plain panties, or even her shoes.
‘What are you doing?’ His voice was lethally quiet now.
‘I need to get back to the base.’
‘I will escort you there.’
‘You will not. You will go...wherever you were going in that.’ She gestured at the sodden sand-splattered suit now in a crumpled heap at his feet.
He glanced down and swore.
Stella turned away from him again—from the sight of him standing there tall and naked and filled with burning emotion. A crazy part of her wanted him all over again.
‘No. There’s no need to say anything.’ She hated it that he referred to her by her rank now. ‘No one will ever know about this. You have my word,’ she said quickly, glancing to see his reaction.
He looked disbelieving.
‘I don’t kiss and tell,’ she snapped.
‘No, you just like to hit.’ He drew a breath. ‘And you are very good at it.’
‘It’s only a bruise. It will fade. There’ll be no scar.’
But what about for her? She feared she’d just got a wound that would run bone-deep and mark her for life. She couldn’t let it. She had to forget it. Her few minutes of heaven would be buried like a pirate’s treasure, deep in the bottom of her heart and mind. Never to be found again.
She turned and faced the cliff.
He grabbed her arm again. ‘You’re not going that way.’
She shook him off. ‘Watch me.’
She didn’t know whether he did or not. But being partially dressed while he was still devastatingly naked meant she had the advantage. She ran and pulled herself up the rocks with a speed and nimbleness exacerbated by adrenalin and anger and the remnants of sensual energy.
When she finally reached the top of the cliff she didn’t stop to turn and look. She just ran back to the base, the need for a fast escape driving her. Before she did something even more stupid like turning back and begging to see him again.