Only a fool would presume he wasn’t the right man for me.”
Rick sighed deeply.
“You’re thinking foolishly, Meg. I can’t give you the life you’ve led till now.”
“Mistake number four. Who said I wanted it?”
“Dammit, you know what I mean.” He swallowed, feeling like everything in his life was suddenly on the line. “I want more and you just can’t give it without giving up your father’s money.”
Meg gave him a dirty look. “Thanks for the vote on my character, Callahan. I haven’t lived off my father’s money since I was twenty-one. I do have a job. Just because it’s in my dad’s company doesn’t mean I didn’t earn it. You know him. Would he give me control if I didn’t deserve it?”
His eyes narrowed. She had him there.
“Now, Callahan,” she advanced, fury in her bones. “You admit that the only reason you wanted to be with me was because I was forbidden fruit.”
“Now who’s insulting who?” he groused, climbing the rocks to the fall. He tossed down his pack and machete, pacing like a caged animal. Overhead, warm sunlight ribboned down over the trees and vines growing out of the rock. Bright colored birds soared and dipped. “If it was just an off-limits thing, I wouldn’t have searched. Or come here. Or be arguing with you now, would I?”
Meg kicked off her boots, toed off her socks, then stripped out of her shirt. “You gave up on us.”
“And you tried? I don’t have to get kicked in the teeth to know it hurts, Meg.”
She met his gaze. “If you’d called me a week ago, Richard, I would have come running.”
She let her pants fall to the rocks and Rick’s jaw tightened, all that lush skin turning him inside out. His gaze locked on her like a homing device, the sun dancing over her round behind in a skimpy thong. She was sunburned in spots, had a fingerprint bruise on her shoulder, but the rest of her was as perfect as he remembered.
“If that’s supposed to make me stupid, it’s working.”
“Good, don’t want to ruin a pattern, do we? Do you have any soap in there?” She pointed to the pack.
Numbly, he dug and slapped the bar into her outstretched hand.
“Stop looking at me like you’ve never seen me naked, Callahan.”
Callahan. She was really mad, he thought. “I haven’t, not like that.”
She peeled off her stretch camisole, flinging it aside. Thong panties followed, and his heartbeat rocketed to somewhere near his eyes.
“Well, my Nubian slaves didn’t have time to oil my skin this trip.” The intensity of his gaze ripped through her. He stood still, his shirt open and baring carved muscles tanned dark from the sun.
“You’re making me crazy.”
“Join the club.” With that she dived into the water.
Richard watched her swim under the clear water, popping up where the fall spilled into the pool. For a moment she just stood under the hard spray and with a clarity that gripped him in the gut, he knew why he’d come for her.
He’d known it the instant he heard her father’s voice on the other end of the satellite com link while he was in another jungle a thousand miles away. When he’d dropped everything and raced to find her. He wondered if he had the guts to tell her.
He stripped off his shirt and boots, angry with himself and glaring at the source.
Her back to him, she washed her hair, his gaze following the ripples of soapy water sliding over her curves and foaming around her. She looked back over her shoulder and met his gaze. She hid nothing from him and they both knew it. Damn her. His groin thickened, blood throbbing in every cell of his body and Rick folded to the ground. Hunger and temptation burned inside every fiber of his being. Squatting at the water’s edge, he washed the camo paint off his face, then dunked his head, shaking like a dog. It didn’t do a damn thing for the fire crackling through his blood.
Raking his hair back, he stood and stormed to the shore, yet his gaze moved back to her. Soap rinsed off her in slick waves, and like a bomb detonating, Rick felt his control snap.
“I just know I’m going to hell for this,” he muttered, stripping down to his skin and walking into the water.
“Stop right there,” she ordered.
He didn’t, his body revealed and hidden beneath the crystal depths. Blood boiled under Meg’s skin, softening her knees, making her insides go liquid and hot. He advanced, bronze and dark and hard. The water deepened around him, his dark eyes skimming her with the power of touch.
Already her body was coming apart for him. If she were smart she’d just give up and throw herself at him. But she wanted more.
Sunlight gleamed off the scarred bullet hole in his shoulder and the last two years rushed back like a blast of cold air. Her gaze locked with his.
“Do you want me in your life or not, Richard?”
He hesitated. “Meg.”
“I see.” She turned her back on him.
It was like a door slamming in his face. Rick reached, forcing her around. “Don’t do this, Meg. You don’t know what you’re asking.”
“I know I want more than this day. I have for the past two years.”
Grains of hope spilled through him. “Be careful,” he warned. “If you’re with me, Megan, you’re with me completely, forever, got that?”
Her heartbeat skipped. “What do you mean?”
“There is no halfway between us. There never was.”
“So it’s all or nothing?”
“It works both ways, Richard.”
Megan stepped closer, and Richard wondered if his world was about to cave or be resurrected. “I’m not as stupid as I look.”
Her smile was tender. “I can’t be with a man who doesn’t love me.”
His eyes flared, darkened. “Mistake number five. Why the hell do you think I came here?”
Meg reined in her galloping heart. “For money and to exact a little revenge.”
“Yeah, even I thought that at first, but it was a damn good excuse to get my hands on you.”
It was a gauntlet thrown down. He gripped her arms, drawing her closer, and Megan felt her world tilt at the darkly intense gaze locked on her.
“Because I couldn’t take a breath without thinking about you. I couldn’t stand another day of wondering if we could have made it.” He plowed his fingers into her hair, tipping her head back and opened his heart “I’m in love with you, Megan O’Toole. Deeply, wildly, so-much-that-I-act-stupid in love with you.”
Her eyes teared.
Rick thought he’d shatter inside waiting. “Irish?” He swallowed. “Silence is not a good thing right now.”
Only a fool would presume he wasn’t the right man for me.”