KRISTI GOLD.

Marooned With A Millionaire





Obviously. Did you really think I would ask you about your sex life?

My mistake.

She leaned forward and propped a cheek on her palm. Well, do you have one?

He looked away but not before she saw discomfort in his eyes. I dont want to go there.

Oh, but Lizzie wanted to. She wanted to know more about him since they would be sharing their time for a while, and whatever else they might decide to share. She was suddenly very warm. I imagine a man like you has certain needs to fulfill. And I imagine there are plenty of women at your beck and call to take care of those needs. You know, a woman in every port.

After pushing his bowl to one side, he clasped his hands in front of him and stared at her. Think what you will, but I dont care to discuss my love life.

Then you do have a love life.

Not anything to write home about. He looked as if hed regretted making that admission. Lizzie was glad he had. At least now she didnt feel so alone in her celibacy.

I can relate, she said. My love life is more or less nonexistent.

That recaptured his attention. Obviously you had one at some point since youre pregnant.

If he only knew the real circumstances behind the pregnancy. One couldnt be wined and dined by a plastic catheter. Youre right, lets not go there.

His crooked smile made a sudden showing. Ah, come on now, Dorothy. You started this.

She stood. And it is now finished, Ahab.

The lights flickered as Lizzie carried their plates to the sink. She stopped and stared at the ceiling. What was that?

Turning, she found Jack with his head lowered, the bridge of his nose pinched between two fingers as if he had one heck of a headache. Then came a long, frustrated sigh. The batteries are going down. Its only a matter of time before the lights go out completely.

Then were going to be completely in the dark?

He looked up. Yeah.

Do you have any candles?

Another rule. No candles on the boat, which means we need to conserve power.

So much for creating a romantic ambience, Lizzie thought. Flashlights?

A couple. But Im out of extra batteries. I do have a kerosene lantern we can use until that fuel runs out.

Just peachy. Lizzie leaned back against the counter. Does this mean were going to have to eat cold food?

Yeah.

And take cold showers in the dark until were rescued?

Yeah. But I was planning on that anyway. Coming to his feet, he headed toward the stairs. Until the water runs out.

Where are you going? Lizzie asked, following behind him in case he decided to shoot something else.

To light some flares.

Can I help?

He stopped and faced her. You can watch.

Thats no fun, she said with a grin. Id really rather participate.

He inclined his head. Would you?

Yes. Dont you think its more productive when two people get in on the act?

That depends on the act.

In a fit of feminine insanity, she brushed her bangs away from her forehead and attempted a coy look.

Did you have a particular act in mind?

His silver eyes darkened with something mysterious and promising and overtly sensual. Flares, Dorothy. Were going to ignite some flares.

Something else was igniting. Something new and different within Lizzie. Something combustible that had to do with chemistry, and not the kind one studied in high school. Combustion between a man and woman. Between Ahab and Dorothy.

Maybe Captain Jack didnt want to acknowledge it now, but he would if Lizzie had any say-so in the matter. They were stranded and had to find some way to pass the time. Life was short, and no one could predict the future. She might as well go for it because this chance might never come again. The chance to experience what it would be like to have a strong, brooding sailor make love to her. A live, virile man. For the very first time.

Then once she returned to her life, she could take the experience with her. And on those lonely nights, she would bring out the memories to keep her company.

If Jackson Dunlap could be persuaded to cooperate.

Three

Jack sent up the flares, only two tonight. Hed save the other two for later if these didnt happen to summon assistance.

Oh, wow.

He glanced at Lizzie who watched the cloudy sky with wonder, as if the display of light had been provided for entertainment.

Theyre so pretty, she said, turning her amazing smile on him. I remember thinking that very thing while watching Titanic.

Good, God. I dont think we should go there, either, Dorothy.

Oh, pooh. It was a nice romantic movie, if you overlooked the ship sinking.

Thats my point. Id rather not discuss sinking ships.

I guess youre right. As she backed up to the railing, her smile vanished but it didnt detract from her wholesome looks. With her wispy layered blond hair framing her face, her wide, guileless blue-green eyes, she seemed almost childlike at times. Yet her body shouted woman. Jacks gaze automatically drifted to her full breasts outlined against the thin fabric, confirming that fact.

Dragging his attention back to her face, Jack tried desperately to ignore her current state of undress, but with her wearing only his shirt and, he suspected, nothing else, his attempts at detachment were futile.

She didnt seem to notice though, much to Jacks relief. Do you think someone will find us? she asked evenly, but she couldnt mask the concern in her voice.

Eventually.

She seemed doubly disturbed despite the reappearance of her smile. Maybe in a day or two, right?

He couldnt bear to shatter her optimism, or to cause her more anxiety. Probably. If someone happened upon them. If the Coast Guard had been notified of their disappearance. If the storm didnt hinder any kind of rescue. And if they were lucky, they had twenty-four hours left before they had to deal with that.

Determined to provide some hope, he said, Look, we still have plenty to eat. Of course, you might have to give up your dietary requirements for the time being.

Her hand came to rest with reverence on her abdomen. I will do that for Hanks sake. He needs food. She wrinkled her nose. Even if it is some kind of questionable goulash.

Jack admired her commitment to her child. Admired her ability to look on the sunny side of the situation. If only he could be that sanguine, but unfortunately he was far too jaded in general, in spite of his financial success.

The waves picked up, jarring the boat. Lizzie lost her footing and luckily Jack was close enough to catch her, close enough to smell her feminine scent mixed with sea air as she looped her arms around his neck.

Whoa there, Dorothy.

Sorry. Guess I dont have my sea legs yet.

She had great legs, Jack thought, and they were brushing against his at the moment. Even though he was wearing chinos, he could still imagine how her bare skin would feel against his. How she would feel beneath him.

He really should let her go, but what if she fell again? She did, closer against him. Isnt good balance required when youre in a balloon? he asked, surprised at the grainy quality of his voice, at his bodys swift reaction to her nearness. At his resistance to turn her loose, which had absolutely nothing to do with courtesy.

Not really, she said in a wistful tone. You have very little sense of movement in a hot air balloon. Its as if youre standing still, and the whole world is falling away from beneath you.

Jack experienced that same sensation at the moment. He felt as if something inside him was falling away, namely his opposition to anything that threatened his solitary life, his emotional fortitude. Sounds great.

It is great, she said on a sigh, her eyes linked with his as solidly as her arms circled his neck. Its incredible.

So was she, Jack decided. Incredible attitude. Incredible eyes, both wise and innocent. Incredible breasts pressed against his chest. And a very incredible mouth. Although it made no sense, he wanted to know that mouth intimately. Soon. Now.

There was no wisdom in his contemplation, no hesitation in the kiss. He simply took it, grabbed for the brass ring, as hed done most of his life. Success had not come to him without risk, but the way Lizzie responded to his explorationthe slide of his tongue against hers, the way phenomenal heat coursed through his bodythis attraction to her was more than risky.

As if hed literally been burned, Jack pulled her arms from around his neck and placed her hands on the rail to steady her. Unfortunately, he wasnt feeling all that grounded, and it wasnt due to his lack of sea legs. I dont know why I did that.

She touched her lips with long slender fingertips. I know why.

Yeah? Mind explaining it to me?

Her grin came with the force of a gale. Youre a boy, and Im a girl. Its nighttime, and we just enjoyed some fireworks.

He couldnt deny that. He also couldnt deny that he wanted her in a big way, but he couldnt act on that need. He had to remember she was pregnant and needed much more than he could give, emotionally speaking. He had to remember that in a matter of days she would be gone, and he would be back to his old life, exactly the way he wanted italone, with no concerns beyond his own welfare. With no worries of letting anyone down.

Sorry, he said. It wont happen again.

With one hand braced on the railing, Lizzie slipped the other down her side, over her hip, and back up to her waist where she planted it, as if displaying her wares. And some nice wares they were. Youre sounding mighty sure of yourself, Ahab.

At least hed sounded that way. I am. Now lets go. Its time for bed.

Is it really now?

He balanced on releasing a very descriptive oath. Yeah. You can sleep in my bunk, and Ill take the fold-down sofa.

Isnt your bunk big enough for both of us? she asked in a raspy, seductive voice.

Not in this lifetime. Id probably roll on top of you.

What a horrible prospect.

Did the woman know no shame? Did she know what she was doing to him with every innuendo she uttered? Damn straight she knew. For some bizarre reason, shed decided to play with him, in every sense of the word. And as bad as he wanted to play, Jack wouldnt. He couldnt.

A woman like Lizzie needed stability, not a man who had spent his adulthood recklessly searching for adventure at every turn. She needed something solid and secure, a man who wouldnt fail her.

His first priorityhis only prioritywas to keep her safe until they again reached shore. Even if he was having a helluva hard time avoiding the fantasy of making love to her.

Lizzie had never been one to put much stock in fantasies, at least where men were concerned. Yet every night since the day shed tried to get pregnant, she had fantasized about her babys father. She knew only what the fertility clinic had volunteered German heritage, mid-twenties, just over sixfeet tall, brown hair, hazel eyes, a recent college graduate who happened to be very smart. Magna cum laude, in fact. She really liked that part. Not that she hadnt been proud of her accomplishments. Just because shed chosen the creative route instead of academics didnt mean she couldnt hold her own in the intelligence department. After all, she had been top in her cosmetology class. The best darned aesthetician in the whole school, as a matter of fact. She had a gift for transforming women into what they envisioned themselves to be, at least from a superficial standpoint.

Unfortunately, shed never been able to physically transform herself, not that shed really wanted to. She had no use for makeup. Who needed the hassle of flaking mascara and reapplying lipstick on an hourly basis? Maybe she wasnt anything special in the looks department, but she knew who she was and what she wanted from life. She had scrimped and saved, squirreled away her tips in order to try her hand at the balloon business. With the demise of Bessie, it looked as though it might be a while before she could start over again.

No problem. She would still have her little one. She only hoped that her child would inherit her creativity and his fathers brains. A nice balance.

Lying back on the pillow in Jacks bunkwhich happened to be queen-sizeshe allowed the steady rock of the boat to lull her into bliss, but it did nothing to bring about sleep. Oh, well. She would just try to imagine the man who had fathered her child.

She saw only Jack Dunlap.

If only she could get him out of her mind. But how could she? The man was sleeping in the next cabin wearing who knew what. Maybe nothing. That consideration brought about both chills and steam running helter-skelter through her body.

How silly shed been to think that she could actually seduce him. They certainly hadnt taught her that technique in school. How ridiculous to believe that he would fall into her bed with the bat of an eyelash. If she chose to consider she couldnt even entice a man whod obviously been by himself for months, then she would definitely be depressed. So she just wouldnt think about it at all.

But she couldnt quit thinking about him, his handsome features, his sober demeanor, his occasional smile that could knock the floor out from under her if she hadnt had good sense to ground her. Not to mention his strong arms earlier on the deck. Boy, had he smelled great. Hed felt great, too. And come to think of it, hed kissed even better.

Though he hadnt taken her up on her offer for a little night magic, he had shown some signs of life when, for reasons unbeknownst to her, he had decided to give her mouth a try. Maybe hed been trying to shut her up.

Rolling to her side, Lizzie curled up into a ball and attempted to generate some heat. Thoughts of the good captains lips aided her somewhat, but she could still use some extra covers. Might not hurt to tell Ahab good-night since an hour ago hed pointed her in the general direction of the bedroom then left her alone. She didnt like being alone.

On that thought, she slipped out of bed and padded into the adjacent living area. The room was shrouded in darkness, the boat continued to sway and she accidentally knocked her knee on the sofas arm.

She stifled her urge to yell out in pain for fear that she would startle Jack, and he might have found more bullets.

Are you awake? she whispered.

No answer.

Ahab? she called, this time a bit louder.

Still no answer.

Having somewhat adjusted to the limited light, she moved toward the sofa now made into a bed and used her hands to feel for Jack, a rather pleasant prospect. He wasnt there.

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