Under by Duress(4)

By: Kayla Stonor

His lips twitched. “Mannaggia, you are one bewitching woman.”

Tahima was so startled she could not speak.

Her unexpected admirer shook his head. His eyes softened. “Look, I meant what I said. I won’t hurt you, but I do need to borrow your radio. Maybe a couple of aspirin, too?”

Tahima glanced at the cut on his head. It had stopped bleeding, even though his heart must be pounding from chasing her. She quelled a bubbling sympathy before it undermined her defenses. He had emerged from the crash almost unscathed. He had caught up with her easily. He was fine.

She did allow him to propel her forward. He wanted to use her radio. That implied someone would come to help. Another person was good. Also, her only means of defense was back at the lodge.

“You don’t need to keep hold of me,” she said after a few minutes of walking.

“Oh, I think I do. You’re so wound up I’m worried you’ll snap. I don’t want to be on the receiving end.”

Tahima flicked her wrist to escape his grasp, but he countered her easily. Frustration boiled over. “Who the hell do you think you are?”

He cast a sly look her way. “I thought you recognized me.”

“A name would help.”

“You don’t need to know my name, or my business. I’m not asking for yours. Look, I’ll call someone to pick me up and then get out of your hair. But for the moment, you’re stuck with me.”

Tahima set her jaw.

“Don’t sulk. It doesn’t suit you.”


A thick tension stifled further conversation, which was probably just as well because all she could think about was that his hand restraining hers was making her moist below. Only the more she focused on his possession of her hand, the more he reminded her of Stephen. She shivered at the thought.

Her unwanted escort pulled her to a stop. “It’s getting chilly. You should put your jacket on.”

She fell in with the suggestion, preferring him to think she was cold than consider another alternative. He let go long enough for her to shrug the coat on then grasped her hand the instant it emerged from the sleeve.

Tahima’s mouth tightened. Her stomach curled deliciously.

“Do you know how beautiful you are when you’re angry?” he observed.

“I’m not angry very often, so I wouldn’t know.” She made to move off, but he pulled her back.

“Ah, bella donna, look at me. Show me those lovely green eyes.”

His soft tone was seductive, no doubt practiced at coercing obedience from its victims. Tahima refused to play. Instead, she stared at his white shirt and teal-colored tie. She couldn’t help notice his suit fit him like a glove, and that it looked really expensive.

“I said—”

“I’m not yours,” she muttered, resenting the feelings he was arousing in her. Saints alive, this man put Stephen in the shade.

Gentle fingers tipped her chin up, making her look at him. “No. You’re not.” His eyes darkened. “But you could be, if I wanted you to be.” He leaned forward.

Tahima held her breath. She knew this power. It was potent. She shifted uncomfortably. He was stoking fires she had thought all burned out. When his lips brushed hers, the touch was so gentle she wasn’t sure he’d kissed her at all.

He smiled when her tongue flickered over her lips. “I know the rules, bella donna. I promise you. You’re safe with me.”

Tahima felt hot. Uneasy. He knew. “If that’s true,” she took a deep breath, “then you have no reason to hold on to my hand.”

He studied her. Frowned. Then he dipped his head and released her. “You’re right. I’m relieved we have an understanding. Now . . . bella donna . . . will you please let me use your radio?”

She nodded. She really didn’t have much choice. Her heart skipped a beat; he had noticed the color of her eyes. More disturbing though was a sudden desire to feel those fingers close around her wrist again. Damn it. Had she learned nothing?

~ Chapter Two ~

When they reached the lodge, Tahima’s nerves had settled. Surprisingly, his implicit acknowledgement of his dom status made her feel safer. He wasn’t going to hurt her; she wasn’t his and he respected that. He would have his own way, just not his wicked way. She could cope with that to be rid of him.