Marooned With A Millionaire
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Covered only by clear water and a full-body blush, she attempted to look pleasant. ďThis tub is heavenly.Ē
ďItís also full of water.Ē
He not only cussed like a typical sailor, he also talked in codes. ďYes. Thatís what you usually do. Fill it up.Ē
He scowled. ďI have limited fresh water on board. We have to be conservative.Ē
He moved closer to the edge of the tub, and Lizzie decided then and there that if he hadnít seen her in the altogether when heíd entered the room, he certainly could now. What the heck. She couldnít really cover herself, and frankly she wasnít all that inhibited when it came to her body. However, the smoldering look in his eyes made her want to roll over onto her belly, face down, to try to rid herself of the heat his presence had generated.
Instead, she came to her knees, folded her arms on the tubís ledge and rested her chin atop them. ďI would really like some privacy, if you donít mind.Ē
ďIíve seen a naked woman before.Ē
ďNot this naked woman.Ē
His gaze slid over her once more. ďIím not looking.Ē
Couldíve fooled her. ďThanks for the T-shirt. Is there anything else?Ē
He turned toward the cabinet and studied her undies. Guess he didnít find her drawers at all satisfactory. Obviously he resented her cluttering his bathroom. Or he might just plain resent her.
ďActually, there is something else,Ē he said. ďSeveral things. First, the rules about bathing on the boat.Ē
ďI promise I wonít take another bath while Iím here.Ē
ďI doubt that.Ē
ďSeriously, Jack, I donít bathe twice a day unless I happen to exert myself.Ē
That brought his attention back to her. ďItís going to take us more than a day to get back to land.Ē
ďI didnít think we were that far offshore.Ē
ďRelatively speaking, weíre not. But we have a few problems.Ē
From the stony look on his face, Lizzie wasnít sure she wanted to hear about their problems. But she guessed she might as well. ďWhatís wrong?Ē
He rolled his neck on his shoulders, obviously dealing with a pain perhaps directly associated with her. ďFirst of all, I went to check on the mast, to see if you did any damage. When I raised the sail, it blew out. The jib might catch some wind, if there was any, but thereís not much to speak of. And to top it off, the sails wonít come down because the block was damaged when you hit the mast.Ē
ďOh.Ē It was all she could think to say. ďSurely the Coast Guard will be here soon.Ē
ďDidnít you call them?Ē
ďI tried. Your little basket took out the radio antenna.Ē
She frowned. ďOh, so thatís what that was.Ē
ďYeah, thatís what that was. I have no way to communicate with anyone.Ē
Surely things werenít as dire as he had made them out to be. ďDoesnít this boat have some sort of an engine?Ē
ďUnder normal circumstances, yes. But I have no power since somethingís caught up on the prop. Would you happen to know what that could be?Ē
ďYou did cut the cables, right?Ē
ďWhat about the tether lines?Ē
Uh-oh.ďThe ones that hang from the gondola. They tie down the balloon once youíre grounded.Ē
His scowl made her want to shrivel and shrink. ďGreat. Thanks for telling me.Ē He turned toward the door but before exiting faced her again. ďTake your time, princess. Might be your last soak for a long while.Ē
The nerve of him, calling her princess. Nobody called her that and got away with it. She stood without regard to her nudity. ďIím quite through now, and Iím definitely not a princess.Ē Ahab.
His silver eyes darkened as he gave her a lingering once-over, from chin to thighs, pausing at intimate places in between. ďI could argue that point, but right now I have other things to do.Ē
Then he was gone, leaving her dripping, naked and totally bumfuzzled. Full of questions she needed answered now, whether he liked it or not.
Princess. Ha! Sheíd just have to show him that when backed into a corner, Queen Elizabeth could be a royal pain in the posterior.
Lizzie grabbed the towel hanging from the bar at the end of the tub and quickly dried. She shoved the T-shirt over her head, thankful it was long enough to provide adequate cover. Refusing to wear soggy panties, she stomped out of the bathroom, barefoot and covered only in thin cotton. If she hadnít lost her canvas slides during the swim, then she could give Ahab a swift kick in his great-looking butt for good measure.
As she left the bathroom in search of the salty seadog, she tried to tell herself that she understood his frustration, his snippy attitude. Heíd been minding his own business, bothering no one, until sheíd dropped in unannounced. But did he really have to be so nasty? She couldnít help that heíd been the only thing in sight when sheíd made her emergency landing. And a nice landing it was, even if he didnít appreciate it. After all, she couldíve landed on his precious deck and swamped the entire boat, then where would he be? Quite possibly on the bottom of the ocean, and so would she.
She searched the living area but didnít find him anywhere. When she started for the closed door at the rear of the boat, the sound of footsteps above drew her up the steps. By Bess, he was going to talk to her even if she had to sit on him. Now that might be fun.
Naughty, naughty girl, Lizzie, she silently scolded as she strode to her destination with wavering purpose, a little nervous over the prospect of facing his wrath. But that would not deter her. When she surfaced on the deck, she noticed the sun had all but set, providing just enough light where she could see him striding to the back of the boat, something silver clutched in his hand.
A gun? What was he doing with a gun?
Driven by a need to prevent his demise, Lizzie ran toward him, hoping she wasnít too late. When she reached the platform, she screamed, ďDonít do it!Ē to his back.
ďSorry, but I have to,Ē he muttered, and without turning around, he aimed the gun and unloaded bullets into the water several times.
Lizzie stood stunned, wondering what in the heck he had killed. Some unsuspecting fish? Dinner? Gosh, she was hungry. No time to consider that now.
He fisted his free hand at his side and clutched the gun in his other. ďIíll be a son of aÖ. Damn it straight toÖĒ He blew out an angry breath.
It was perhaps the most skilled censorship sheíd ever witnessed from a man. A nice thing, Lizzie decided. She didnít want Baby Hank exposed to too much foul language.
After walking to Jackís side, she saw nothing but a carousel of bubbles floating on the waterís surface. ďWhat did you murder?Ē
ďYour basket. The thing wouldnít go away.Ē
She braced her hands on her hips and stared at him with ire. ďWas it really bothering anything? I mean, that poor defenseless gondola has witnessed marriage engagements, golden anniversary celebrations, played host to Boy Scouts. Now youíve sent it to dark, watery depths to become fish food.Ē
ďThe fish wonít touch it.Ē
ďThen explain to me what harm it was doing, hanging on to your boat?Ē
He crouched with the gun gripped in his hand between his parted knees and his eyes focused on the sea. ďProbably no real harm.Ē
ďUntil I shot it.Ē
Now she was really confused. ďI donít understand.Ē
He rose and tucked the gun into the back waistband of his jeans. ďI heard something scrape. I think I just sheared off the damn prop.Ē
Served him right. ďIt wasnít working anyway. And donít you have a spare?Ē
Wrong thing to say, Lizzie realized when his steely gaze snapped to hers. Had it not been for the baby, she might have dived overboard and tried to make it to shore on her own.
ďThis isnít Oz,Ē he said in a low, tempered voice. ďNo magic here. This is serious business, Dorothy.Ē
Dorothy? Wasnít he just the funny man tonight. Two could play that pet-name game. ďAnd it called for killing the gondola, Ahab?Ē
ďI did what I had to do.Ē
Lizzie knew what she wanted to doósock him. But she deplored violence, and guns, so she settled for a direct verbal assault. ďWell, I wish I wouldíve brought my little dog, Toto. I wouldíve sent him into attack mode. For protection, of course.Ē
His frown deepened. ďYou donít need protection from me, I assure you.Ē He held up his gun. ďIíve never had to use this before, but itís necessary when youíre out to sea alone. Unfortunately, I just wasted all my bullets.Ē
She laid a dramatic hand across her forehead. ďFor a minute there I thought you might put your poor disabled boat out of its misery, or use it on yourself in a moment of desperation.Ē
ďYou thought wrong.Ē He angled toward her and studied her long and hard. ďWhat you did a minute ago, chasing after me knowing I was armed, wasnít a very smart thing to do. For all you knew, I couldíve meant to harm you.Ē
ďYou couldíve done that by not saving me earlier, but you rescued me anyway. So I figured you wouldnít murder me, even if you did massacre Bessie.Ē
ďMy balloon. And that wasnít too smart, either.Ē
ďItís an inanimate object, Dorothy.Ē
ďAn inanimate object with propane tanks, Ahab. You couldíve blown us back to Kansas.Ē
He hinted at a smile, but it didnít form all the way. ďYouíre right. I wasnít thinking.Ē
ďAnd I wasnít exactly thinking when I rushed at you knowing you had the gun. I only knew I didnít want you to hurt yourself.Ē
He took a step closer. ďWhy?Ē
A weird question. ďBecause everyone deserves to live, even if they are a bit cranky.Ē
He took one more step. ďCranky?Ē
She couldnít exactly back up without being obvious, and for some reason she didnít really want to. ďYeah. Cranky. Not that you donít have a reason to be a bit put out.Ē She studied her bare feet, unable to look at him directly, not with him so close that she could count the whiskers on his chin and the character lines around his assessing eyes. ďIím sorry. Really I am. I do appreciate everything youíve done for me and Hank.Ē
She raised her gaze to his and smiled. ďMy baby.Ē
He looked as though sheíd announced she intended to birth a skunk. ďYou call your baby Hank? For Godís sake, why?Ē
ďMy fatherís name was Hank. He died almost two years ago. Iíve never known a stronger, kinder man.Ē
Lizzie saw a glimpse of guilt in Jackís eyes before his gaze dropped to her belly. ďThen you know itís a boy?Ē
ďNo. I only confirmed the pregnancy this morning, so itís too soon to tell.Ē And what a way to celebrate the news, stranded with a sullen sailor. ďBut I hope itís a boy. Not that I donít like girls. Iíve just always gotten along better with men.Ē
His features mellowed, from staid to a tad less stoic. ďThatís good to know considering Iím a man, and youíre a woman, and weíre going to be spending a lot of time together. In very close quarters.Ē
Had that really sounded like a sexy, sinful guarantee? No way, Lizzie thought. No how. Not her and him. ďThen weíre reallyóĒ
ďStuck. Together.Ē A slight smile surfaced. ďYou and me, babe. Until someone happens to come along.Ē
First princess, now babe. He had a lot to learn about her dislikes, and she was more than willing to teach him. ďI am not a babe, and doesnít anyone know where you are?Ē
Any inkling of a smile disappeared from his face. ďI havenít talked to anyone for a year, except for a few people in port, and now you.Ē
A year? Had he been without a woman for a year? The prospect that her virtue might be in peril momentarily crossed Lizzieís mind, and yes, somewhat excited her, but he really didnít seem to be in an amorous mood. Except for his proximity. Except for his eyes. He kept looking at her in a way that made her flesh threaten to crawl up her neck and over her head, pleasantly so. In fact, just thinking about him making love to her doused her whole body in slow, scrumptious heat. How goofy to even consider that. Obviously she had been visited by the hormone fairies.
Lizzie snapped her thoughts back on the situation at hand. ďIím sure Walker will send someone out to look for me.Ē
Finally, he put some distance between them. Now Lizzie could breathe normally instead of pant.
ďWho is Walker? Your car?Ē
ďHa, ha. The head of the chase crew.Ē
He looked hopeful. ďAnd he saw you drifting?Ē
ďAs far as I know, he did. When I came awake, I tried to contact him but I couldnít pick anything up on my radio. That leads me to believe I drifted farther off course than Iíd realized.Ē
ďYou have a radio?Ē
ďI did. Itís kind of submersed at the moment.Ē
ďThen I guess weíll have to rely on your good fortune.Ē
He looked altogether too serious, and almost sorrowful. ďApparently my good fortune ran out a while ago.Ē
Lizzie didnít dare ask what life-altering event had driven him onto his boat, by himself, for months, away from all humanity. Sheíd already done enough damage for one day; no need to rock the boat, figuratively speaking. ďOkay. Iím fairly lucky most of the time.Ē
ďGood, because the last time I checked the weather, there was a storm heading our way. Thatís the reason I was returning to port.Ē
ďUntil I fell from the sky.Ē
Finally, he smiled all the way, stripping years off his handsome face. ďYeah, but themís the breaks. Just as long as you know what youíre up against. The weather could get pretty rough.Ē
Living for years in Ohio, smack-dab in the middle of tornado alley, Lizzie had grown up with storms. She had overcome her fear and learned to respect their majesty, their power. Come to think of it, not much seemed to frighten her because long ago sheíd learned you just have to have faith that things would work out.
However, Jack Dunlap did frighten her in a way, or maybe it was his sensual pull. Not that she would tell him that. She didnít dare reveal her attraction to him. In fact, she was determined not to let him see that each time she was close to him, she entertained some really dubious thoughts.
Lizzie pulled her gaze away from his lest she give herself away. ďIím sure everything will work out fine.Ē
ďJust so you know,Ē he added, ďit might get rocky around here.Ē His eyes narrowed and he took on that look again. The one that said he meant business, sheíd like to think the kind that involved undressing and caressing. ďCan you handle it?Ē
Oh, yeah. ďOh, sure. Whatís a little wind and rain?Ē A little bedtime adventure.
ďIn the meantime,Ē he said, moving a bit closer, ďIíll have to show you what I need you to do in case the situation calls for it.Ē
Visions of him instructing her on the finer points of lovemaking leaped into her brain. What a way to weather a storm. She could consider that later. First, she needed food.
Her stomach rumbled loud enough to rouse the Loch Ness monster. ďMaybe this is a really bad time to ask, but do you have anything to eat? Iím starving.Ē
His grin went wicked and a little wild. ďSo am I, Dorothy. So am I.Ē
Jack was very hungry, thanks to the woman busily raiding his cabinets. He shouldíve thought twice, ten times before he walked in on her in the tub. He shouldíve turned around and headed out the door. He should leave her to her own devices now, before he did something really ridiculous, like run his hands down her bare thighs, then up again, then down againÖ.
He had to get his libido in a choke hold and put it to rest. Not necessarily an easy prospect, and only a momentary remedy. He had no idea how long this little liaison would last, or how he would control himself as he spent time with a woman who possessed a strong will, sassy mouth and a body that would be worth investigating. A really nice mouth that heíd wanted to kiss into silence several times today. Right now, even. But she was pregnant with another manís child, and he didnít want that hassle, no matter how tempting she could be. He had more than enough to worry about considering his disabled boat.
ďDonít you have anything besides canned meat?Ē she asked, slamming one cabinet door closed and moving on to the refrigerator.
ďI like canned meat. Itís convenient, and itís not half-bad once you get used to it.Ē
After closing the refrigerator door, she leaned back against it. ďNo salad?Ē
ďNot at the moment.Ē
She threaded her bottom lip between her teeth. ďThis is not a good thing. Iím a vegetarian for the most part, although I will have poultry on occasion.Ē
ďMaybe you should consider diving for seaweed.Ē
She rolled her eyes to the ceiling. ďYou are so amusing, Ahab.Ē
ďSay what you will, but thereís nothing better than a big juicy rare steak.Ē
ďYeah, the rarer the better.Ē
Lizzieís hand suddenly went to her belly, her face as pale as the white galley counter. ďOh, gosh. I think Iím going to be sick.Ē
Jack rushed to her side and guided her up the companionway. She removed her hand from her mouth long enough to ask, ďWhere are we going?Ē
ďTo the deck,Ē he said. ďI have a rule. Anyone who gets seasick has to do it over the side.Ē
ďItís probably morning sickness,Ē she muttered, her words muffled by her palm.
But it happened to be night, Jack thought. He guessed a little nausea was possible. After all, what did he know about pregnant women? Not a thing. He had a feeling he was about to learn more than heíd ever imagined.
When they reached the stern, he turned her toward the sea and held on to her from behind. ďGo ahead.Ē
She glared over one shoulder. ďI canít do it with you watching.Ē
ďYouíre going to have to because Iím not letting you go. If you fall in, then Iíll have to go get you. And babe, Iím thinking that would be a bad idea. Rule one, stay on the boat.Ē
That brought her around in his arms. ďI told you, Iím not a babe.Ē
ďAnd Iím not Ahab.Ē
ďItís either that or Captain Hook since we seem to be following a fairy-tale theme.Ē
ďBoth my hands are intact.Ē Definitely so because theyíd somehow made their way to her hips.
ďI guess youíre right about that, so Ahab it is.Ē
He couldnít hold back his smile. ďOkay, Dorothy. Are you feeling better now, or do you still need to be sick?Ē
She drew in a deep breath, thrusting her breasts forward against his chest. Man, he didnít need that.
ďIím not nauseated anymore, only hungry,Ē she said. ďI just need something to eat.Ē
Jack needed to kiss her, badly. But he sure couldnít do that at the moment, or anytime for that matter. He took a much-needed step back but kept his hands clasped loosely around her waist should she decide to pass out. ďLook, I have some Oriental noodles with vegetables. Will that do?Ē
She grinned. ďPerfectly.Ē
How little it seemed to take to please her. Jack wondered if that held true in all endeavors, including lovemaking. Slapping the thoughts from his brain, he released her completely. ďLetís get you something to eat.Ē
ďAnd Hank,Ē she added.
Even though it was the last thing he wanted to do, Jack laughed. For the first time in months.
The man kept staring at her. Oh, heíd tried not to be too obvious about it, but four times now Lizzie had caught Jack watching her mouth.
Egad! She probably had a Chinese noodle hanging off her chin. Her fingertips immediately zipped to the area, but thankfully she found no strings. Just in case, she grabbed a napkin and swiped at her mouth to remove any latent residue.
He glanced up from his bowl again and this time his eyes homed in on her breasts. Lizzie immediately looked down at her chest, expecting to find a nice brown blob smeared on the borrowed T-shirt. She always seemed to miss her mouth, very odd since it was a more than adequate size.
Nope, no blob. Just cotton. Fairly transparent cotton that didnít come close to hiding the fact she was still a bit chilled.
Sheesh. Is that what heíd noticed? Well, if so, sheíd just have to cover the evidence.
Sitting back in the chair, Lizzie folded her arms across her breasts. ďThat hit the spot. Not exactly my favorite, but I feel much better now.Ē
ďGood,Ē he muttered, dropping his gaze to his food.
ďIím really not that opposed to meat unless itís beef. I love cows. My grandfather named his herd after the grandchildren. Then one day I learned we were having my cousin, Bernie, for Sunday dinner. Literally. Well, not literally. The cow named Bernie. That was the end of that. No more beef for me.Ē
Jack murmured something Lizzie couldnít quite discern. Obviously he wasnít too willing to join in the conversation. She wouldnít let that stop her. ďThere are lots of replacements for beef, though. Take ground turkey, for instance. Have you had any?Ē
He glanced up for a moment then resumed pushing the last of his disgusting stew around in his bowl. ďNot in a while.Ē
ďOh, so you have had some?Ē
ďThen I assume youíd agree that itís not so different from having a regular hamburger.Ē
His gaze snapped up. ďHuh?Ē
ďYou know, a big juicy hamburger with all the fixings. Yum, yum.Ē
He frowned. ďThatís a weird comparison.Ē
ďWhy? When considering ground turkey versus ground beef, Iíd say it was an accurate comparison.Ē
ďTurkey? You were asking me about turkey?Ē
ďYes, what did you think I wasÖ?Ē Reality dawned through Lizzieís own confusion. This was so rich. ďWait a minute, you thought I was asking you if youíve had anyÖ.Ē She couldnít finish her sentence, or contain her laughter.
Jack didnít laugh nor did he look at all amused. ďI obviously misunderstood you.Ē
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