Page 28 of Slade Baron's Bride

She thought about it, though, as the miles ticked away. Where were they going? They were flying along the road in a black Blazer—her first clue that he hadn’t booked them into a Boston hotel. Well then, she’d figured, they were going to Cape Cod…but the turnoff for the Cape was long behind them. Now, even the elegant inns and handsome bed-and-breakfasts that dotted the Massachusetts shoreline were only memories.

And still, Slade didn’t speak.

Lara shot a surreptitious glance at him from under her lashes. Of course, he didn’t speak. How could he, when he’d been chiseled in granite? That hard profile, made even harder by the tight-lipped set of his mouth and the defiant angle of his jaw…

Go on, she thought, sit there like a statue.

It didn’t matter to her how angry he was. Letting her get her hopes up like that. Letting her think he was freeing her from this ridiculous marriage. Lara frowned, folded her arms and hunched deeper into her seat. Why was he so stubborn? This marriage couldn’t work; didn’t he see that? Michael wouldn’t have a very happy home if his mother and father despised each other.

There was no sense in pointing that out, though. She knew that. Slade Baron wasn’t just arrogant and self-centered, he was stubborn as a mule.

He was also the most gorgeous man in the world. And one heck of a terrific kisser.

Lara blinked and sat up straight. Where had that silly thought come from? So he kissed well. Who cared? So he knew how to touch her until she trembled. Who cared about things like that? The only reason he’d gotten so far the other morning was—it was—

It was because she’d wanted him to do it. To do everything. Kiss her mouth. Her throat. Her breasts. She’d wanted him to touch her, to take her, right there on the kitchen counter.

Crazy. Crazy, that’s what it was. She’d never wanted to do anything like that, never even thought about it. It was just a good thing Helga had walked in. If she hadn’t—if she hadn’t…

Heat swept through Lara’s blood. She turned her face to the window, and blanked her mind to thought just as Slade turned off the highway, onto a country road.

They were in Maine, now; a sign a while back had said so. The road narrowed, began climbing. At dusk, he pulled to a jarring stop outside a sagging wooden structure. He switched off the engine, got out of the car and came around to where Lara sat, arms folded, eyes straight ahead.

“Are you getting out?” he said brusquely.

She looked past him to the lopsided building, then back at the road. “I’d rather sleep in the car.”

“You’d have to,” he said dryly. He opened her door. “This is the general store. You want to have something to eat while I buy supplies, fine. You want to sit here and sulk, that’s fine, too.”

Lara glared at Slade. He glared back.

“Suit yourself.”

He was gone for a long time. She sat stiffly in the car, listening to her stomach growl and giving up the idea of a hotel once and for all. Where was he taking her? She’d be damned if she’d ask, not even when he finally reappeared with an enormous box in his arms.

He put the box in the back of the Blazer, then got behind the wheel and dumped a small package in her lap. Lara looked at it as if it might be alive.

“What,” she said with disdain, “is that?”

“A roast beef sandwich.” He glanced at her as he pulled onto the road. “It wasn’t my idea, believe me. Ernie—he owns the place—Ernie spotted you sitting in the car like a martyr—”

“I am not a martyr. I simply want nothing from you.”

“Yeah, well, it’s not from me but if you don’t want the sandwich, hand it over. There’s never been a time since I started coming up here I’d pass up Ernie’s roast beef.”

Lara looked at Slade. Started coming up where? she wanted to say. Instead she unwrapped the little package, lifted the crusty roll to her lips and took a bite. The snap of horseradish mayonnaise filled her mouth and her stomach almost groaned with gratitude.

“Good?” he said, when she was down to the last bite.

“It’s okay.” She looked at the crumbs that were all that remained of the sandwich, licked her fingers and shrugged. Why not admit it? He hadn’t made the sandwich, he hadn’t even bought it for her. “Very good.”

He nodded and concentrated on the ever-narrowing road. It was better than thinking about the way she’d put her fingers between her lips and sucked each one clean.

The way his wife had sucked her fingers clean.

A shudder rocketed through him. He stepped down on the gas, and the car shot ahead.

The trees grew taller, the encroaching forest more dense. Lara had given up all hope of figuring out where they were going. The only thing she was sure of was that no self-respecting hotel would be found in such surroundings. The sun set; stars glittered like jewels caught in the treetops, and still they traveled on.

Finally, when she was beginning to think they were going to drive straight off the edge of the earth, Slade turned down a narrow dirt road that opened into a clearing. His headlights picked out a cabin that looked to be made of as much glass as wood. He shut off the lights, then the engine. Silence, as deep as the forest, closed around the car.

“This is it,” he said.

This is what? Lara thought. There was only the house, the night, the woods…and the man seated beside her. This stranger who was her husband.

Suddenly it was hard to breathe.

“Where…” She swallowed, then cleared her throat. “Where are we?”

“Lake Arrowpoint.” He jerked his head toward the cabin. “I built this place a couple of years ago.”

Slade cleared his throat, too. His voice sounded strained, although he couldn’t imagine why it should. He certainly hadn’t used it much during the last few hours. He got out of the car, went around to Lara’s door, opened it and held out his hand but she ignored it, stepped from the car and brushed past him. The dismissiveness of the gesture angered him, probably more than it should have, but there was something decidedly unpleasant about being treated like an unwelcome annoyance by your own wife.

“The ground’s uneven,” he said, trying for a neutral tone. “And there’s some give in that bottom step. I’ve been meaning to fix it but—”

“I’m really not interested.”

Her words were so curt they were almost cruel. Slade knotted his hands into fists as he watched her climb the stairs to the porch. Her posture was rigid and unforgiving, and suddenly he imagined the three days that lay ahead and how it would be, just the two of them in this isolated place with nothing but their mutual dislike for company.

He’d been foolish to bring her here. Hell, he thought, as he unloaded the groceries and their carry-alls from the car, he’d been worse than foolish. He’d been stupid. They had things to discuss, yeah, but they could do that someplace else. How could he have made such a misjudgment? He’d never brought a woman here before. He’d known better. A man came to a spot like this with a woman, she had to be special. Someone he wanted to be alone with, not just for a night but for days. For weeks, maybe for the rest of his life…

“Are you going to unlock the door or am I supposed to stand out here all night?”

Lara glared down at Slade from the porch. The moon had risen and she could just make out the look on his face, something halfway between anger and disdain and she thought it was exactly the way she’d look, if someone took that petulant tone with her.

It was just that she couldn’t help it.

How dare he bring her to this place? How dare he? A cabin in the middle of no place, isolated, cut off from the world. Would there be running water? Telephones? Electricity? Would there be anything to do for the next few days except suffer Slade’s unwanted company?

She turned her back to him, her head high, and jammed her hands into the pockets of her jeans.

He wanted to talk? Okay. Okay, fine. They could talk in Boston. In New York. They could talk in the middle of the damned street, anywhere

, anyplace…but not here. Not in this peaceful, quiet spot where there’d be nothing to look at but Slade, nothing to think about but Slade, nothing to do but wonder how it would feel if Slade loved her, if he’d brought her here because he wanted them to spend the next days and nights in each other’s arms…

Lara swung away from the door.

“Take me back to the city!”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Did you hear me, Slade?” She put her hands on her hips and glared at him as he trotted up the steps. “I don’t want to stay in this—this godforsaken place.”

“It’s late,” he said brusquely, as he unlocked the door and stepped inside the dark cabin. “You’re tired and irri table and so am I. You’ll see things differently in the morning.”

“I’ll see them just the same as I do now. Listen to me! I do not want to stay here. Is that clear enough, or do you want me to say it again?”

Instead of answering, he dumped their bags inside the door and fumbled for the switch. Light blazed on, illuminating a room she knew she might have admired if she hadn’t been so furious. The walls were made of hand-finished logs; the floor was planked. A long, low sofa stood before a massive fieldstone fireplace.

“I heard you.” Slade put a hand in the small of her back, propelled her forward and shouldered the door closed. “And I’m just heartbroken that you don’t care for the accommodations.”

Lara swung toward him, her face pale except for two bright spots of color high on her cheeks. “What did you expect, Slade? That one look at your—your deep woods hideaway and I’d decide you weren’t such a bad guy after all?” Her chin lifted; her blue eyes snapped with defiance. “I don’t like you. You don’t like me. And all the talking in the world, about Michael, about our differences, won’t change that.”

Tags: Sandra Marton Billionaire Romance