Nightshine, p.29
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       Nightshine, p.29

         Part #4 of Kyndred series by Lynn Viehl
Page 29


  “Help me,” he pleaded, reaching up toward the shadow hovering over him. “Ayúdame, por favor. ”

  “Cämpa tihuällah? Tlein nonacayo?” a voice thundered in his ears. “Mä niquitta. ”

  Where have you come from? What is my body? Let me see it.

  Stanton’s killer spoke as if he were the ancient Cë-Acatl. Dredging up the proper response, he said in stilted Nahautl, “Nimitznottitïlïco in monacayo, To-piltzin. ” I have come to show you your body, Our Beloved Lord.

  “Cämpa tihuällah?” Where have you come from?

  “Ömpa nihuïtz in Nonohualcatepëtl ïtzintlan,” Stanton lied. I have come from the foot of the mountain Nonoalcatepëtl. “Ca nimomäcëhual. ” I am your subject.

  Chapter 13

  “I don’t think your father likes me,” Drew said as he cast off the last line tying the battered old fishing boat to the dock before waving to the elderly Mexican watching from the end of the pier. The old man didn’t wave back. “Is it because I’m American?”

  “No. ” Gracie used a frayed pull cord to start an outboard motor that was only slightly less ancient than the boat.

  He joined her and ran a hand over his scalp. “Is red hair considered unlucky?”

  “If red were an unlucky color, we would not have it on our national flag. ” She moved to the helm and steered the boat away from the dock.

  As they moved out into the bay, Drew looked out over the bow, but all he saw was endless ocean. “How long will it take us to reach this Englishman’s island?”

  “A few hours. ” She nodded to the cramped recess leading belowdecks. “My father has a bunk down there. You should go and sleep while you can. ”

  “And leave you to sail through stormy seas by yourself?” He grinned. “Not a chance, sweetheart. ”

  She adjusted the controls before she turned to him. “The sea is calm, you are exhausted, and I am not your sweetheart. ”

  “You didn’t sleep last night, either,” he reminded her, but his smile faded as he saw the whiteness of her knuckles as she gripped the wheel. “You don’t have to do this, Gracie, not if it’s going to cause trouble with your family. We can turn it around right now and go back. I’ll hire one of the other fishermen to do this. ”

  “No one will take you near the islands. They know the law. If we’re stopped, I can use my credentials. ” She checked the navigational equipment before sitting down in the captain’s chair. “Papi is not angry at you. It’s me. ” She sighed. “It’s always me. ”

  “I noticed he didn’t exactly break out the champagne when we showed up. ” Drew sat down beside her. “Is it because you left home?”

  “My family never approved of my going to school and getting a job in the city,” she admitted. “They wanted me to marry. Papi even had a husband picked out for me. ”

  Longing and jealousy ricocheted inside him, two pin-balls covered with spikes. “Was this husband-to-be a fat, ugly old widower with six kids?”

  “Eduardo? He was young, slim, and handsome. No children, but no desire for an educated, working wife. ” She sounded depressed, but when she looked at him her eyes twinkled. “Now he is older and a little fat. ”

  “And he has six kids?”

  She smiled. “Four. ”

  It might have been the way the sun was gilding the tips of her eyelashes, or the sheen of sea spray on her cheeks, but in that moment Drew knew he had never seen and would never again see anyone as beautiful as Agraciana Flores. “You could have both, you know,” he heard himself say. “The family and the career. Lots of women do it. ”

  “Women in your country. ” She caught a piece of her hair that escaped from the colorful scarf she’d tied around her head and tucked it under the edge. “Here we are not so liberated. ”

  “You should consider emigrating, then. ” He reached out to trace the curve of her cheek, and was startled when she whipped her head away. “Gracie?”

  She stood up, gripping the wheel tightly. “There are some bottles of water in an ice chest below if you are thirsty. ”

  Every time he got close to her, Drew realized, she pushed him away. “I’m not—”

  “I am. ” She gave him a direct look. “Would you bring one for me, please?”

  Drew gave up and went below to retrieve the water. The cramped space had been made into a tidy little living space, complete with a narrow bunk, an ancient but clean cookstove, and a tiny bathroom. It should have been hot and airless, but the old man had rigged some sort of ventilation system, and a steady stream of cool, salt-tinged air wafted in Drew’s face.

  He noticed a crate stashed in one corner that had been filled with magazines and books, all written in Spanish but obviously about sailing and fishing.

  “So Papi likes to read. ” He picked up one paperback and thumbed through it before something fluttered out of the pages. He bent to pick up a small photograph of a petite, dark-haired child in a red dress standing with a younger version of Papi in front of the old boat.

  “She’s still your girl, isn’t she, old man?” He noticed what he first assumed was a sleeve was actually a bandage on the child’s right arm. “But who the hell hurt her?”

  He knew he should have replaced the photo, but he gave in to the impulse and tucked it into his pocket before grabbing a bottle of water.

  Gracie had reverted back to her cool, distant composure when he rejoined her on deck, and thanked him politely when he handed her the bottle. “I apologize for my temper. I never discuss such matters with a stranger. ”

  The photo in his pocket, the image of the child she had been, felt for a moment as stiff as the line of her back. Drew thought of the bandage on the little arm, the unsmiling old Mexican, and all the bits from the sea Gracie had used to decorate her cottage. When they’d arrived at her childhood home, the way she had hesitated, just for a fraction of a second, before speaking to her father was almost as telling as the cold indifference the old man had shown both of them. Drew knew love and fear, and saw both in Gracie, but there was something more. Something had caused a serious rift between her and her family, and he sensed it had nothing at all to do with her working in the city.

  He was also tired of being shut out by whatever it was. “Can you stop the boat?”

  She wouldn’t look at him. “We should keep going. ”

  “We will, in a minute,” he lied.

  Gracie throttled down, shutting off the engine before turning to him. “We don’t have time for—”

  “I’m not a stranger to you. Not since last night. ” Drew took her hands in his. “Talk to me. ”

  “I have nothing to say. ” She tried to extract herself from his grip. “I don’t know you. ”

  “Wrong. ” He held on. “I told you my life story. You know me better than my mother. I’m your friend. ”

  “I am not friends with liars or impostors,” she flared.

  Suddenly Drew understood her aloofness and what she might be hiding behind it. “You don’t have anyone, do you? Ever since you left the village, you’ve been alone. ”

  Gracie paled, and then her shoulders drooped. “There is no time for friends,” she said, her voice thin and hurt. “What I do is more important. I protect what I love. ”

  “So do I. ” The boat rocked a little as he snatched her off her feet and carried her down belowdecks.

  “Drew, what are you doing?”

  “Guess. ”

  Her expression became alarmed. “No quiero. Drew, I don’t want—”

  “I don’t need the translation. I get it. ” He put her down on her father’s bunk, and pinned her there on her back. “I don’t want to do caveman things like this. Ever. ”

  Her eyes narrowed. “Then why are you now?”

  “One of us has to, and you never will. ” He tore open his shirt, popping buttons in the process, and pushed her hand flat against his damp chest. “Now tell me I’m a stranger. ”<
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  Her fingers flexed against his skin. “You’re a stranger. ”

  “A stranger you kissed,” he reminded her. “Like I was the one you’d been waiting for all your life. ”

  “That was how you kissed me. ” She shifted under him. “The only ones who are waiting for you are your friends. ”

  He touched his mouth to a delectable spot beneath her jaw. “So you’re saying that I’m not the man of your dreams. ”

  “I have no dreams. ” Her hand trembled as she ran it up to his neck. “Andrew, please. When you leave, we will never see each other again. Don’t do this to me. ”

  “All right. ” He let go of her and rolled onto his side. He waited for her to get up and hurry away, but when she sat up he put his hand on her shoulder. “I just want you to know one thing. ”

  She looked down at him.

  “You will see me again. Once my friends are safe, I’m coming back here. ” He ran his hand down the length of her back before drawing it away. “For you. ”

  Drew expected Gracie to run off again, not spin around and grab him. Before he could react she was on top of him, her mouth on his, her hands pushing his shirt away from his chest, her legs bracketing his. Astonishment paralyzed him as she poured all her passion into the kiss, her tongue sliding against his, her fingernails scoring his skin as she freed his arms.

  Abruptly she sat up, bracing her palms against his chest as she looked down at him, her hair falling around her beautifully flushed face. “So? This is what you want, yes?”

  “Oh, yes. ” He gripped her hips, shifting her so she could feel his pounding erection. “It’s yours, sweetheart—but only if you want it. ”

  She rubbed herself against him, her eyelids drooping and her lips parting. “I want you. ”

  Drew lifted his hips to take his wallet out of his back pocket. As he flipped it open and reached into the billfold, Gracie’s expression changed to outrage.
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