"Tell me," he said, walking toward her, fully intending to take her in his arms; a couple of kisses might reassure her even more. "You wouldn’t happen to be jealous now, would you?"

"Jealous?" She threw the word back in his face as though he’d issued the greatest insult of her life. "If you can honestly mistake integrity and principles for jealousy, then I truly wonder what kind of man I’ve married."

With that she turned and walked into her bedroom and closed the door. Hannah had probably never slammed a door in her life, he realized.

Air seeped between Riley’s clenched teeth. He’d done it again. Just when he was beginning to make headway with her, he got cocky and said something stupid. It was becoming a bad habit.

He let a few moments pass, then decided to try once again. He knocked on her bedroom door, but didn’t wait for her to answer before turning the knob and walking in. A husband should be allowed certain rights. Hannah turned and glared at him accusingly.

"I didn’t mean what I said."

She held a blouse to her front and stared stonily back at him. "I see. So you fully intend to cheat on me."

"No, dammit." He jerked his fingers through his hair. "You’re purposely misconstruing everything I say." His patience was wearing paper-thin. "I shouldn’t have said anything about you being jealous. Judy doesn’t mean anything to me. I haven’t seen her in weeks. We may have talked twice in the last three months. I’ve been trying to cool the relationship. She resented that."

Hannah deposited the blouse in the closet with the others. "I see."

"I don’t wish to argue with you, Hannah. Can we drop the subject of Judy now?"

She lowered her gaze and nodded. "I…1 didn’t mean to shout earlier. I don’t generally get angry like that…. It must be the pregnancy."

"I understand what you’re saying."

"You do?" Her beautiful gray eyes leveled with his.

He nodded. "You see, I’ve had this problem for several months now," Riley admitted, stepping across the room. "There’s been this woman on my mind."

Her eyes were unbelievably round, and she was staring up at him. Her moist lips immobilized him, and in that moment he knew he had to taste her again. His need was beyond reason, beyond his control. He reached for her, barely giving her time to adjust to his embrace before his mouth smothered hers. He caught her unaware and used it to his advantage to slip his tongue into her mouth. He expected her to protest the unfamiliar invasion, but she surprised him once more by giving him her own. Their mouths played with each other, danced, sang, rejoiced in the intimacy they shared.

Sliding his hands down the length of her spine, he drew her to him, pulling her into the heat of him. For an instant she resisted, and Riley feared he had gone too far, frightening her when that was the last thing he wished. He wanted to make love to her, the way he’d been dreaming about doing for nearly four months. Every minute she made him wait seemed like an eternity.

Hannah wasn’t like any other woman he’d known. She was delicate and sweet and deliciously provocative, innocently provocative. He couldn’t hold her without experiencing the sensation of walking through a field of blooming wildflowers. With his hands at her hips, he dragged her closer, letting her feel the heat rise in him. He edged his way toward the bed, thinking if he were able to get her on top of the mattress, he might be able to remove her blouse. The thought of tasting her breasts, of holding them in his hands once more, was so powerful he lost his balance. He caught himself and her, before they went crashing to the floor. It was then that he noticed the framed picture lying on top of an unpacked box.

He stopped abruptly as a cold chill raced over him. His eyes narrowed as he looked down on her. "Who’s that?" he demanded.

Chapter Five

"Who is he?" Riley demanded a second time. Instinct told him the photo wasn’t one of a relative. He knew he was right when Hannah’s gaze shot toward the box in question. The look that came over her features was incredible, a mixture of pain and of love so strongly mingled that it was as if she were no longer aware of who or where she was.

"Jerry Sanders," she answered in a voice so low Riley had to strain to hear. "We were engaged."

"Engaged?" Riley repeated the word, not because the news shocked him or because he didn’t believe her, but because… if she’d been engaged to Jerry Sanders, then why the hell had she been a virgin? Furthermore, why had she gone to bed with him? Questions came at him like exploding rockets.

"He… died a… few months back… in a car accident." It was apparent that even speaking of her former fiancé was painful for Hannah.

Suddenly everything clicked into place for Riley. The way she’d stared at him that night on the waterfront. The ethereal look about her, the pain and uncertainty he’d read in her eyes. No wonder he’d felt this overwhelming urge to take her in his arms, hold her, protect her, love her. She had been walking around emotionally wounded, absorbed in her grief.


"When?"

She understood his question without him having to elaborate. Tears crowded her eyes, and when she spoke it was with difficulty. "July second."

A sick, sinking sensation landed with a hard thud in the pit of his stomach. Three weeks. Seafair, when he’d met Hannah, had been a scant three weeks following Jerry’s death. No wonder she’d come warm and willing to his bed. She’d been in such grief she hadn’t a clue what she was doing. This also explained why she’d run from him early the following morning.

Closing his eyes, Riley roughly plowed his fingers through his hair. When he opened his eyes, he found Hannah staring at him. "Do you love him?" he asked, his heart pounding like a giant hammer inside his chest. It wasn’t in Hannah to lie. Of that, Riley was certain.

She looked away and nodded.

Riley didn’t know why he felt compelled to ask. Seeing the reverent way in which she’d gazed at the other man’s picture had told him everything he needed to know. The fact she was married to him was damn little comfort.

"You’ve got your nerve talking about fidelity to me," he said forcefully, battling the dual demons of anger and pride. Their entire marriage was a farce, only he hadn’t been smart enough to figure it out. How incredibly stupid he’d been. Exhaling sharply, Riley felt like the world’s biggest fool. For months, she’d had him dangling by a thread, toying with his mind; had him worrying about her, frightened about what had become of her. Their time together, those brief hours he’d treasured beyond all others, had meant nothing to her. Not one damn thing. She’d been looking for him to give her what her fiancé never had; perhaps pretending he was another man the entire time they’d been making love.

She’d used him.

The sickening feeling in his stomach intensified.

"Keep the damn thing out of sight!" he shouted. "You’re married to me now, and I won’t tolerate having another man’s picture in my home. Is that understood?"

Hannah stared at him blankly, her features so pale and drawn he couldn’t look at her.

"Throw it away." If she didn’t do it, by God, he would. Riley would be damned before he’d allow another man to haunt his marriage. When she didn’t immediately comply, he stalked across the room and reached for the photograph.

Hannah let out a small cry, scrambled across the bed and jerked the frame from his reach. From the way she reacted, he might as well have been coming toward her with a chain saw.

"No!" she cried, holding the photograph against her breasts as if it were her most valuable possession. "I’ll keep it out of sight… I promise."

He stared at her, wanting with everything in him to smash the photograph to the ground, and with it destroy the memory of the man she loved. He would have done it, but one look told him Hannah would fight him like a wildcat to see that nothing happened to her precious photograph.

He scowled, then turned sharply and walked out of the bedroom and the house, not stopping until he was outside where his three friends were waiting. He forced himself to smile and loop his arms over the shoulders of Burt and Don. There had never been a time in his life when he felt more like getting fall-down-on-his-face drunk.

Hannah raced to the window in time to see Riley pull away. Tears streaked her face and she brushed them aside with the heel of her hand, feeling wretched. From the first, she’d meant to tell her husband about Jerry, but never like this. Never like this.

He’d made her so angry suggesting she was jealous over Judy. The very idea was ludicrous. Good heavens, she’d never even met the woman. Riley had infuriated her and she’d reacted in spite, knowing he’d eventually notice Jerry’s picture. Once he did, she’d reasoned, then he would realize she couldn’t possibly care one way or the other about his former lady friends.

What was important to her was the sanctity of their marriage. They’d spoken vows before God and man, and the promises they’d made to each other were meant to be taken seriously. The circumstances surrounding their wedding weren’t ideal – Hannah would be the first one to admit as much – but they’d agreed to make an effort to do whatever they could to ensure this marriage worked. If they were to have any chance of that, a fundamental trust had to be implanted early in their relationship. It was for that reason alone that Hannah had brought up the subject of fidelity. Certainly not because she cared one whit about Riley’s on-again/off-again relationship with the mysterious Judy.

A deep, painful breath tore through her chest. The stone-cold way in which Riley had glared at her stabbed at her heart. She knew her confession had wounded him deeply.

Her husband wasn’t a man who often betrayed his feelings. A hundred times in the past week she’d attempted to read him, tried again and again to understand this man with whom she’d vowed to spend the rest of her life. She’d found the task nearly impossible. He was often quiet, more often withdrawn. Other than to order her about, he’d rarely spoken to her.

Every once in a while she’d find him studying her, but when their eyes would meet, gauging his thoughts had been impossible. That wasn’t the case when he’d found Jerry’s picture, however. Riley had been murderous. His eyes, his features, everything about him had spelled out his fury. And his pain. Hannah would give anything she owned to have kept Jerry’s picture safely tucked away in a drawer.

The sardonic way in which Riley had glared at her clawed at her tender heart. Hannah wanted Riley to know about Jerry, but it had never been her intention to hurt him.

Then again, maybe it had.

He was so unreasonable. So demanding. First he’d taunted her about another woman and then he’d infuriated her. In her anger she’d struck back at him, but she hadn’t meant to hurt him. Never that.

She reached behind her and tugged free the scarf that tied the hair away from her face. Regret ebbed over her.

As soon as Riley returned, she’d apologize. She owed him that much.



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