Marooned With A Millionaire
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Covered only by clear water and a full-body blush, she attempted to look pleasant. “This tub is heavenly.”
“It’s also full of water.”
He not only cussed like a typical sailor, he also talked in codes. “Yes. That’s what you usually do. Fill it up.”
He scowled. “I have limited fresh water on board. We have to be conservative.”
He moved closer to the edge of the tub, and Lizzie decided then and there that if he hadn’t seen her in the altogether when he’d entered the room, he certainly could now. What the heck. She couldn’t really cover herself, and frankly she wasn’t 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 tub’s ledge and rested her chin atop them. “I would really like some privacy, if you don’t mind.”
“I’ve seen a naked woman before.”
“Not this naked woman.”
His gaze slid over her once more. “I’m not looking.”
Could’ve fooled her. “Thanks for the T-shirt. Is there anything else?”
He turned toward the cabinet and studied her undies. Guess he didn’t find her drawers at all satisfactory. Obviously he resented her cluttering his bathroom. Or he might just plain resent her.
“Actually, there is something else,” he said. “Several things. First, the rules about bathing on the boat.”
“I promise I won’t take another bath while I’m here.”
“I doubt that.”
“Seriously, Jack, I don’t bathe twice a day unless I happen to exert myself.”
That brought his attention back to her. “It’s going to take us more than a day to get back to land.”
“I didn’t think we were that far offshore.”
“Relatively speaking, we’re not. But we have a few problems.”
From the stony look on his face, Lizzie wasn’t sure she wanted to hear about their problems. But she guessed she might as well. “What’s wrong?”
He rolled his neck on his shoulders, obviously dealing with a pain perhaps directly associated with her. “First 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 there’s not much to speak of. And to top it off, the sails won’t come down because the block was damaged when you hit the mast.”
“Oh.” It was all she could think to say. “Surely the Coast Guard will be here soon.”
“Didn’t you call them?”
“I tried. Your little basket took out the radio antenna.”
She frowned. “Oh, so that’s what that was.”
“Yeah, that’s what that was. I have no way to communicate with anyone.”
Surely things weren’t as dire as he had made them out to be. “Doesn’t this boat have some sort of an engine?”
“Under normal circumstances, yes. But I have no power since something’s caught up on the prop. Would you happen to know what that could be?”
“You did cut the cables, right?”
“What about the tether lines?”
Uh-oh.“The ones that hang from the gondola. They tie down the balloon once you’re grounded.”
His scowl made her want to shrivel and shrink. “Great. Thanks for telling me.” He turned toward the door but before exiting faced her again. “Take your time, princess. Might be your last soak for a long while.”
The nerve of him, calling her princess. Nobody called her that and got away with it. She stood without regard to her nudity. “I’m quite through now, and I’m definitely not a princess.” Ahab.
His silver eyes darkened as he gave her a lingering once-over, from chin to thighs, pausing at intimate places in between. “I could argue that point, but right now I have other things to do.”
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! She’d 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 hadn’t 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. He’d been minding his own business, bothering no one, until she’d dropped in unannounced. But did he really have to be so nasty? She couldn’t help that he’d been the only thing in sight when she’d made her emergency landing. And a nice landing it was, even if he didn’t appreciate it. After all, she could’ve 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 didn’t 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 wasn’t too late. When she reached the platform, she screamed, “Don’t do it!” to his back.
“Sorry, but I have to,” 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. “I’ll be a son of a…. Damn it straight to…” He blew out an angry breath.
It was perhaps the most skilled censorship she’d ever witnessed from a man. A nice thing, Lizzie decided. She didn’t want Baby Hank exposed to too much foul language.
After walking to Jack’s side, she saw nothing but a carousel of bubbles floating on the water’s surface. “What did you murder?”
“Your basket. The thing wouldn’t go away.”
She braced her hands on her hips and stared at him with ire. “Was it really bothering anything? I mean, that poor defenseless gondola has witnessed marriage engagements, golden anniversary celebrations, played host to Boy Scouts. Now you’ve sent it to dark, watery depths to become fish food.”
“The fish won’t touch it.”
“Then explain to me what harm it was doing, hanging on to your boat?”
He crouched with the gun gripped in his hand between his parted knees and his eyes focused on the sea. “Probably no real harm.”
“Until I shot it.”
Now she was really confused. “I don’t understand.”
He rose and tucked the gun into the back waistband of his jeans. “I heard something scrape. I think I just sheared off the damn prop.”
Served him right. “It wasn’t working anyway. And don’t you have a spare?”
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.
“This isn’t Oz,” he said in a low, tempered voice. “No magic here. This is serious business, Dorothy.”
Dorothy? Wasn’t he just the funny man tonight. Two could play that pet-name game. “And it called for killing the gondola, Ahab?”
“I did what I had to do.”
Lizzie knew what she wanted to do—sock him. But she deplored violence, and guns, so she settled for a direct verbal assault. “Well, I wish I would’ve brought my little dog, Toto. I would’ve sent him into attack mode. For protection, of course.”
His frown deepened. “You don’t need protection from me, I assure you.” He held up his gun. “I’ve never had to use this before, but it’s necessary when you’re out to sea alone. Unfortunately, I just wasted all my bullets.”
She laid a dramatic hand across her forehead. “For 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.”
“You thought wrong.” He angled toward her and studied her long and hard. “What you did a minute ago, chasing after me knowing I was armed, wasn’t a very smart thing to do. For all you knew, I could’ve meant to harm you.”
“You could’ve done that by not saving me earlier, but you rescued me anyway. So I figured you wouldn’t murder me, even if you did massacre Bessie.”
“My balloon. And that wasn’t too smart, either.”
“It’s an inanimate object, Dorothy.”
“An inanimate object with propane tanks, Ahab. You could’ve blown us back to Kansas.”
He hinted at a smile, but it didn’t form all the way. “You’re right. I wasn’t thinking.”
“And I wasn’t exactly thinking when I rushed at you knowing you had the gun. I only knew I didn’t want you to hurt yourself.”
He took a step closer. “Why?”
A weird question. “Because everyone deserves to live, even if they are a bit cranky.”
He took one more step. “Cranky?”
She couldn’t exactly back up without being obvious, and for some reason she didn’t really want to. “Yeah. Cranky. Not that you don’t have a reason to be a bit put out.” 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. “I’m sorry. Really I am. I do appreciate everything you’ve done for me and Hank.”
She raised her gaze to his and smiled. “My baby.”
He looked as though she’d announced she intended to birth a skunk. “You call your baby Hank? For God’s sake, why?”
“My father’s name was Hank. He died almost two years ago. I’ve never known a stronger, kinder man.”
Lizzie saw a glimpse of guilt in Jack’s eyes before his gaze dropped to her belly. “Then you know it’s a boy?”
“No. I only confirmed the pregnancy this morning, so it’s too soon to tell.” And what a way to celebrate the news, stranded with a sullen sailor. “But I hope it’s a boy. Not that I don’t like girls. I’ve just always gotten along better with men.”
His features mellowed, from staid to a tad less stoic. “That’s good to know considering I’m a man, and you’re a woman, and we’re going to be spending a lot of time together. In very close quarters.”
Had that really sounded like a sexy, sinful guarantee? No way, Lizzie thought. No how. Not her and him. “Then we’re really—”
“Stuck. Together.” A slight smile surfaced. “You and me, babe. Until someone happens to come along.”
First princess, now babe. He had a lot to learn about her dislikes, and she was more than willing to teach him. “I am not a babe, and doesn’t anyone know where you are?”
Any inkling of a smile disappeared from his face. “I haven’t talked to anyone for a year, except for a few people in port, and now you.”
A year? Had he been without a woman for a year? The prospect that her virtue might be in peril momentarily crossed Lizzie’s mind, and yes, somewhat excited her, but he really didn’t 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. “I’m sure Walker will send someone out to look for me.”
Finally, he put some distance between them. Now Lizzie could breathe normally instead of pant.
“Who is Walker? Your car?”
“Ha, ha. The head of the chase crew.”
He looked hopeful. “And he saw you drifting?”
“As far as I know, he did. When I came awake, I tried to contact him but I couldn’t pick anything up on my radio. That leads me to believe I drifted farther off course than I’d realized.”
“You have a radio?”
“I did. It’s kind of submersed at the moment.”
“Then I guess we’ll have to rely on your good fortune.”
He looked altogether too serious, and almost sorrowful. “Apparently my good fortune ran out a while ago.”
Lizzie didn’t dare ask what life-altering event had driven him onto his boat, by himself, for months, away from all humanity. She’d already done enough damage for one day; no need to rock the boat, figuratively speaking. “Okay. I’m fairly lucky most of the time.”
“Good, because the last time I checked the weather, there was a storm heading our way. That’s the reason I was returning to port.”
“Until I fell from the sky.”
Finally, he smiled all the way, stripping years off his handsome face. “Yeah, but them’s the breaks. Just as long as you know what you’re up against. The weather could get pretty rough.”
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 she’d 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 didn’t 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. “I’m sure everything will work out fine.”
“Just so you know,” he added, “it might get rocky around here.” His eyes narrowed and he took on that look again. The one that said he meant business, she’d like to think the kind that involved undressing and caressing. “Can you handle it?”
Oh, yeah. “Oh, sure. What’s a little wind and rain?” A little bedtime adventure.
“In the meantime,” he said, moving a bit closer, “I’ll have to show you what I need you to do in case the situation calls for it.”
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. “Maybe this is a really bad time to ask, but do you have anything to eat? I’m starving.”
His grin went wicked and a little wild. “So am I, Dorothy. So am I.”
Jack was very hungry, thanks to the woman busily raiding his cabinets. He should’ve thought twice, ten times before he walked in on her in the tub. He should’ve 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 again….
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 he’d wanted to kiss into silence several times today. Right now, even. But she was pregnant with another man’s child, and he didn’t want that hassle, no matter how tempting she could be. He had more than enough to worry about considering his disabled boat.
“Don’t you have anything besides canned meat?” she asked, slamming one cabinet door closed and moving on to the refrigerator.
“I like canned meat. It’s convenient, and it’s not half-bad once you get used to it.”
After closing the refrigerator door, she leaned back against it. “No salad?”
“Not at the moment.”
She threaded her bottom lip between her teeth. “This is not a good thing. I’m a vegetarian for the most part, although I will have poultry on occasion.”
“Maybe you should consider diving for seaweed.”
She rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “You are so amusing, Ahab.”
“Say what you will, but there’s nothing better than a big juicy rare steak.”
“Yeah, the rarer the better.”
Lizzie’s hand suddenly went to her belly, her face as pale as the white galley counter. “Oh, gosh. I think I’m going to be sick.”
Jack rushed to her side and guided her up the companionway. She removed her hand from her mouth long enough to ask, “Where are we going?”
“To the deck,” he said. “I have a rule. Anyone who gets seasick has to do it over the side.”
“It’s probably morning sickness,” 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 he’d ever imagined.
When they reached the stern, he turned her toward the sea and held on to her from behind. “Go ahead.”
She glared over one shoulder. “I can’t do it with you watching.”
“You’re going to have to because I’m not letting you go. If you fall in, then I’ll have to go get you. And babe, I’m thinking that would be a bad idea. Rule one, stay on the boat.”
That brought her around in his arms. “I told you, I’m not a babe.”
“And I’m not Ahab.”
“It’s either that or Captain Hook since we seem to be following a fairy-tale theme.”
“Both my hands are intact.” Definitely so because they’d somehow made their way to her hips.
“I guess you’re right about that, so Ahab it is.”
He couldn’t hold back his smile. “Okay, Dorothy. Are you feeling better now, or do you still need to be sick?”
She drew in a deep breath, thrusting her breasts forward against his chest. Man, he didn’t need that.
“I’m not nauseated anymore, only hungry,” she said. “I just need something to eat.”
Jack needed to kiss her, badly. But he sure couldn’t 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. “Look, I have some Oriental noodles with vegetables. Will that do?”
She grinned. “Perfectly.”
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. “Let’s get you something to eat.”
“And Hank,” 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, he’d 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 didn’t come close to hiding the fact she was still a bit chilled.
Sheesh. Is that what he’d noticed? Well, if so, she’d just have to cover the evidence.
Sitting back in the chair, Lizzie folded her arms across her breasts. “That hit the spot. Not exactly my favorite, but I feel much better now.”
“Good,” he muttered, dropping his gaze to his food.
“I’m really not that opposed to meat unless it’s 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.”
Jack murmured something Lizzie couldn’t quite discern. Obviously he wasn’t too willing to join in the conversation. She wouldn’t let that stop her. “There are lots of replacements for beef, though. Take ground turkey, for instance. Have you had any?”
He glanced up for a moment then resumed pushing the last of his disgusting stew around in his bowl. “Not in a while.”
“Oh, so you have had some?”
“Then I assume you’d agree that it’s not so different from having a regular hamburger.”
His gaze snapped up. “Huh?”
“You know, a big juicy hamburger with all the fixings. Yum, yum.”
He frowned. “That’s a weird comparison.”
“Why? When considering ground turkey versus ground beef, I’d say it was an accurate comparison.”
“Turkey? You were asking me about turkey?”
“Yes, what did you think I was…?” Reality dawned through Lizzie’s own confusion. This was so rich. “Wait a minute, you thought I was asking you if you’ve had any….” She couldn’t finish her sentence, or contain her laughter.
Jack didn’t laugh nor did he look at all amused. “I obviously misunderstood you.”
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