If You Dare

Chapter Twenty-two


"That bastard!" What was he thinking, jumping off the coach like that? Who did he think he was? What had she ever done to indicate that this would be in any way acceptable?

She'd called for Coachy, ordered him to stop, but they sped recklessly on, road dust trickling in from the bullet holes.

It wasn't fair. Just as before - it was worse waiting, worse not knowing. Worse being sped away so fast she couldn't even jump from the bloody carriage.

Why not stay with her and run? No, MacCarrick had to make some grand, idiotic gesture. He hadn't even ducked! She crossed her arms in anger, but soon had to uncross them to hold on to the strap inside the rocking coach.

She didn't care. She'd find her brother and get back home eventually. She didn't need Courtland MacCarrick.

"Oh, Mare de D¨¦u," she said with a gasp. She didn't need him.

But she wanted him. Even though he was stubborn and aggressive and Scottish, she wanted him. And he would deny her to be some cursed hero?

Dismal hours passed before the coach finally slowed. She smelled the oddest scent and wrestled the working coach window down to find water stretching before her. The sea. They must have finally reached Calais, just across the channel from England.

She'd never seen the coast and had always longed to. For some reason kept mysterious to her, everyone who ever came back from the sea was happy.

Out of the corner of her eye, the sun was setting brilliantly, the waves meeting it ablaze with color.

And she felt none of the excitement she'd thought she would when she'd envisioned this day again and again.

The driver, inexplicably protective of her when he should be running away from a passenger who'd been ambushed and then abandoned, secured a room at a well-appointed inn directly on a cliff overlooking the sea. He even had a fine meal of fish brought up to her, but she could never eat when nervous. Instead, she stood on her balcony watching the lighthouse in England bandy with the French one on the next cliff up, their lights over the water like chalk on slate.

But where was he? She turned from the scene and paced until she thought she might drop. Why hadn't he arrived yet? She knew the most probable answer and refused it. Refused the deadening in her heart, realizing she'd never be the same if he died.

Annal¨ªa had hated her mother most of her life for her adultery, for throwing everything away for passion. Before MacCarrick, she hadn't understood how anyone could give up so much, but now she knew the feelings that could drive a person to risk it all. She'd give up everything she had to have him back, safe.

Her brows drew together in anguish. Though the night was slow to pass, the sun was rising. And he still was missing. What if he was hurt on the road somewhere? Oh God, what if he was lying in a ditch?

She'd go right back the way they came and retrace their steps. She'd browbeat Coachy if she had to, but she was going back.

Resolved, she yanked open the door. A dark figure stood just outside, and she nearly screamed in fright. "MacCarrick!" He looked more exhausted than she'd ever seen him.

He shoved her in, then slammed the door behind them. Without a word, he ran his hands forcefully over her, looking her up and down for injuries, then stumbled away. She knew he hadn't slept since he'd left her, and her heart constricted when she realized he'd returned to her as quickly as he was able.

Still... "You Highland bastard! Don't you ever, ever do that again. Don't you dare leave me!"

He stood his rifle against the wall. Before it had been shining and new. Now it was scratched all over, coated in mud, the handle dented. What had he gone through out there?

He sarcastically mumbled, "I'm alive and well." He lifted a ponderous chair like it was weightless, then wedged it against the door. "Doona worry yourself."

She watched in dismay as he lurched to the pitcher to guzzle water.

"I've been worried. I didn't know if you'd return."

Running his sleeve over his mouth, he turned. His expression revealed obvious irritation. "Have a feelin' you'd be fine without me."

"Likely! But that doesn't mean I don't want to be with you!"

He frowned as if her words had just stunned him, confused him. He stumbled again as he drew his pistol from his trouser waist and placed it on the table beside the bed. "Canna talk. Need tae sleep, woman. Doona leave this room or I'll make you regret it."

He fell to the bed, flat on his face, and passed out at once.

Her eyes widened, and she leapt forward to turn his head so he could breathe. Clearly he needed someone to care for him now. She discarded her shoes and sat, knees to her chest, beside him. The simple act of watching him sleep made the new feelings she'd experienced earlier return multiplied.

She reached toward him and smoothed his hair from his forehead. With a pang, she watched his brows draw together as if he was unused to the touch. Was he?

Of all the women he'd admitted to seducing, did none of them touch him tenderly afterward? She would when she made love to him.

Well! She hadn't realized part of her had had this discussion, much less that she'd decided. Even so, she believed it was a good decision, especially considering the three attacks on her life that would surely be followed by more. She refused to die with regrets. Now that she had a hint, a taste of what it would be like to make love to Courtland MacCarrick, she wanted it all.

After hours of trying to imagine making love to him, her eyes finally slid closed one too many times.

Near nightfall, she woke, still half asleep, remaining in position until she toppled to her side still in a ball. She could have sworn she heard him chuckle from across the room.

She cracked open her eyes and found him with his hair wet, drying off his very naked body beside a tub. He'd lit only one lamp, probably to let her sleep, but she could see his sculpted muscles tensing and flexing as he took the towel and ran it over his neck, chest, and privates. Continuing to feign sleep, she studied him through her eyelashes, until, to her great disappointment, he finally pulled on his trousers.

"I know you're awake," he said.

With an exasperated sigh, she sat up. "If you knew I was awake and watching, then why didn't you turn away instead of continuing directly in front of me?"

"I dinna hear any complaints."

The man didn't have a modest bone in his body! Yet she wouldn't argue with him because complaining had been the farthest thing from her mind. "So how long have you been up?"

"Not long."

She twined her hair, knotting it behind her.

"How many were there?"


"You killed them?"


He didn't look proud of the fact. She'd learned after the second attack that MacCarrick wasn't bloodthirsty; he was blood weary. "Why didn't you even duck?"

"Would no' make a difference with them. But you would no' know I dinna duck unless you had no' been down as I told you."

"How could I not look? Please don't leave me like that again. I can help you." This amused him and she bristled. "I do believe I took out one of the two on the road to Toulouse. If you gave me a pistol - "

He froze. "I never want to see you with a gun in your hand, Anna."

"Why not?"

"You were no' meant to," he said simply.

"What is that supposed to mean?"

His gaze caught hers, and she saw his eyes were bleak. "It means people like me were put on the earth so people like you never have to do bad things and suffer from them."

After tense moments, she felt a confusing sadness seeping into her and turned away.

As he finished dressing, she asked, "How long will we stay here?"

"We have to wait till the morning tide to cross, then we'll take the train to London."

A train. She'd always dreamed of riding one, but they were rare in France, impossible in Andorra. Now she would, and she couldn't care less.

"I'll go downstairs and get food for you. And a fresh bath, if you'd like it."

She nodded absently, her mind on other things, such as how reluctant she was to see him go now, and how one might go about seducing a Scottish mercenary. Just like any other man, she supposed, which left her no better off.

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