Cat's Lair(6)By: Christine Feehan
Catarina felt the weight of Ridley’s gaze on her. She knew he was watching her without even looking up. Her body responded just as if he was standing in front of her. For one moment she felt restless, achy, in need even. That something wild crouched inside of her stretched. Her skin itched. She couldn’t breathe and her skull felt too tight. For one terrible moment, her skin went hot and that terrible burn began between her legs. She could barely breathe with the need and hunger.
Horrified, she dragged off the apron and tossed it to David. “I need a break, just a short one.”
Even here in her sanctuary, the one place she could go and be around others, her past tried hard to drag her down. She was aware of Ridley’s attention settling on her instantly, alertly, but she didn’t so much as glance at him. Her past was too close. Even from a thousand miles away, he was controlling her. She couldn’t look at another man without something inside of her turning ugly.
The book aisles were narrow, the stacks rising from floor to ceiling. She wound her way through them to the back door and pushed it open. The night air hit her face, cool and refreshing, enfolding her in its blanket of darkness. She drew in several deep breaths and stepped outside. The cool air felt good on her skin. She dragged the hat from her hair and sank down onto the steps leading to the back door.
Strangely, she’d always had great night vision, and this last month she’d noticed it had gotten even better. She liked that she could see in the dark. She loved the night. There was an entirely different world going on at night and she was part of it. That made her part of something. And Rafe couldn’t take that away from her.
She had to stifle a scream as she twisted, nearly throwing herself off the stairs. Ridley stood behind her, in the doorway, his tall body solid, both terrifying and safe. He stepped next to her and closed the door, sinking down onto the step beside her.
“Are you all right? You went very pale in there.”
His voice could mesmerize. At least it was mesmerizing her. She nodded, because his eyes refused to leave her face, drifting over her intently.
He frowned suddenly “Are you afraid of me? All this time I just thought you were shy, but you’re afraid of me.” He made the last a statement.
She looked away from him. Thankfully whatever was inside of her, threatening to burst free, had subsided along with the terrible need to feel Ridley’s hands and mouth on her body.
His fingers settled gently on her chin and he turned her face toward him. “I wouldn’t hurt you. You don’t know me, but I would never harm a woman. I’m not like that. I’m new in town and you’re at the dojo and make fantastic coffee, that’s all. I wanted a little company. Just to talk to, Cat. That’s all. End of story.”
It was impossible to look into his eyes and not believe him. Up close she could smell him, and he smelled nice. Very nice. Very masculine. His lashes were long and thick, framing his incredible golden eyes. His tattoos were just as intricate and intriguing as he was. They crawled up his arms, drawing attention to his amazing and very defined muscles.
He was still looking at her and hadn’t blinked once. His fingers remained firm but gentle on her chin. She’d forgotten that she’d been so mesmerized by his eyes. Catarina forced air into her lungs and smiled. Before she could speak he shook his head.
“I saw the genuine thing, Cat. You smiled at Bernard. You gave him the real smile, the high voltage one that can knock a man off his feet at two hundred yards. I don’t want a pretend smile. Give me the real thing or don’t smile at me at all. I’m telling you again, I don’t hurt women.”
His voice was pure velvet. She shivered, his tone smoothing over her skin. “I’m sorry. I’m not afraid of you.” A blatant lie. “I just don’t talk much.” That was lame. More than lame. She was a total idiot, but maybe that would save her.
Ridley’s fingers slid from her chin. He didn’t move, his thigh tight against hers on the narrow steps. “Unfortunately for you, Kitten, I am very adept at knowing a lie when I hear one. I’ve done my best to reassure you, but talk is cheap. I guess I’ll just have to show you I’m a nice guy.”