On the way to the airport, the limousine stalled in traffic. Fleur studied the shop windows until a Cityrama bus blocked her view. The limousine crawled forward another thirty feet, swung in front of the bus, and she found herself gazing into Jake’s face on a billboard advertising Disturbance at Blood River. The flat brim of his hat shaded his eyes, his cheeks were grizzled, and he had a cheroot clamped in the corner of his mouth. Bird Dog Caliber-a man without weakness, a man who didn’t need anybody. What had made her think that she could finally civilize him?

She closed her eyes. She had a business to run, and she couldn’t afford to be away any longer, but she needed a few days-just a few days alone-before she went back. She needed to be in a place where no one could find her, a place where she could stop spending her days waiting for a phone call that would never come. She’d healed from heartbreak before. She could do it again.

She’d do it on Mykonos.

The white stucco cottage sat in an olive grove not far from a deserted beach. She toasted herself in the sun, took long, barefoot walks along the ocean, and told herself time would heal her wounds. But she felt numb and color-blind. On Mykonos-where the whites were so white they hurt the eyes, and the turquoise of the Aegean so bright it redefined the hue-everything had faded to gray. She didn’t feel hunger when she forgot to eat, or pain when she stepped on a sharp rock. She walked along the ocean-saw that her hair was blowing-but she couldn’t feel the breeze touch her skin, and she wondered if the terrible numbness would ever go away.

At night, tortured memories of making love with Jake awakened her. His lips on her breasts…the feel of him stretching her, pulsing…If he’d loved her as she loved him, he’d have known she could never betray him. This was what she’d been afraid of all along. This was the reason she’d put him off when he’d suggested marriage. She hadn’t trusted him to love her enough, and she’d been right. He hadn’t loved her enough to stand strong.

By the third day, she knew Mykonos held no magical healing powers. She’d neglected her business too long, and she had to return to New York. Still, she lingered another two days before she made herself call David and tell him when she was returning.

She was numb and grief-stricken, but she wasn’t broken.

By the time she got off the plane at Kennedy, it had begun to snow. Her wool slacks itched her thighs where they were peeling from the sun, and her stomach was queasy from two hours of turbulence over the Atlantic. The snow made getting a cab more arduous than usual, and the one she finally found had a broken heater. It was well after midnight before she slipped the bolt on her door and let herself into her living room.

The house was damp and nearly as cold as the cab. Dropping her suitcase, she pushed up the thermostat and then kicked off her shoes. With her coat still on, she walked down to the kitchen, filled a glass with water, and tossed in two Alka-Seltzers. As the tablets fizzed, the cold from the brick floor seeped through her stockings. She was getting into bed, turning up her electric blanket, and not moving until morning. First, though, she’d take the hottest shower she could stand.

She waited until she was in the bathroom before she pulled off her coat and her clothes. After she pinned her hair on top of her head, she slid open the shower doors and let the hot water wash over her. In six hours she would force herself to get up and run in the park, no matter how bad she felt. This time she wouldn’t crumble. She’d go through the motions one day at a time until, finally, the pain would be bearable.

When she’d dried off, she pulled a beige satin nightgown from a hook next to the shower. She’d forgotten to turn on her electric blanket, so she slipped into the matching robe. The temperature change from Mykonos was too drastic. Even though she’d just gotten out of the shower, she was already cold. The sheets were going to feel like ice.

She pushed open the bathroom door and fumbled to tie the sash of her robe. Odd. She thought she’d flipped the light on before she’d come into the bedroom. God, it was freezing. The windows were rattling from the blizzard kicking up outside. Why hadn’t the furnace turned-

She screamed.

“Stay right where you are, lady, and don’t move.”

A whimper caught in her throat.

He sat on the far side of the room with only his face visible in the patch of light from the open bathroom door. His mouth barely moved. “You do what I say and nobody gets hurt.”

She stumbled backward toward the bathroom. He lifted his arm, and she found herself looking down the long, silver barrel of a gun. “That’s far enough,” he said.

Her heart jumped into her throat. “Please…”

“Let go.”

At first she didn’t understand what he meant. Then she realized he was talking about her robe sash. Quickly she dropped it.

“Now the robe.”

She didn’t move.

He lifted the gun so that it was aimed at her chest.

“You’re crazy,” she gasped. “You’re-”

The hammer clicked. “Take it off.”

Her hands flew to the front of the robe. She opened it and slipped her arms out. The fabric made a soft, hissing sound as it dropped to the floor.

He lifted the barrel ever so slightly. “Let your hair down.”

“Sweet Jesus…” Her hands fumbled with the pins, and as her hair came down, drops of water splattered on her bare shoulders.

“That’s nice. Real pretty. Now the gown.”

“Don’t…” she pleaded.

“Pull down the straps slow. One at a time.”

She slipped down the first strap and then stopped.

“Go on.” He made a sharp gesture with the gun. “Do what I tell you.”


He sat up straighter. “What did you say?”

“You heard me.”

“Don’t push me, Teacher Lady.”

Fleur clamped her arms over her chest.

Shit, Jake thought. Now what was he supposed to do?

“Just hold me for a minute, okay?” she said.

He set the pearl-handled Colt on the table next to the bed and walked over to where she was standing. Her skin was like ice. He opened his parka and put it around her, then cuddled her against his flannel shirt. “You’re no fun.”

She gave a choked sob.

“Hey, are you crying?” She nodded against his jaw. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t mean to make you cry. I guess my timing wasn’t too good.”

She shook her head, too dazed to figure out how he knew about Butch Cassidy and her fantasy.

“It seemed like a good idea,” he said, “especially when I couldn’t decide what to say when I saw you.”

She spoke against his flannel shirt. “Bird Dog can’t resolve this for us. We have to settle it ourselves.”

He tilted up her chin. “You’ve got to learn to separate fantasy from reality. Bird Dog’s a movie character. I like playing him-he gives me a chance to get rid of my aggressions-but he’s not me. I’m the one who’s afraid of horses, remember?”

She stared up at him.

“Come on, you’re freezing.” He led her over to the bed and pulled back the covers. In a daze, she settled between the cold sheets. He quickly divested himself of his parka and boots. Still wearing his shirt and jeans, he slid in next to her. “The pilot must be out on your furnace,” he said. “It’s colder than hell in here.”

She reached over to flick on the light. “Why wouldn’t you take my calls? I went crazy. I thought…”

“I know what you thought.” He settled his weight on his forearm and looked down at her. His face twisted. “I’m sorry, Flower. The press was everywhere, and all the old stuff came back to grab me.” He shook his head. “I couldn’t think straight. I let you down.”

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