He scowled at her for a moment, then moved through a doorway into what looked from a glimpse like a bathroom. He came back in a moment with a big backpack crammed with a shockingly well-stocked first-aid kit. A person could practically perform surgery out of it. Growing up on a farm far from any immediate help, she and her siblings had all learned basic first aid early. It was surprising how much veterinary medicine applied to human beings in a pinch, too. She rummaged through the supplies until she found what she needed.
“Let’s go into the bathroom. When I flush out that wound, it’s going to make a mess.”
He sighed, but did as she suggested. In the end, they both stepped into the big, Roman-tiled shower, clothes and all. He stood under the water until the sand and blood were gone, then she soaped up his back gently but thoroughly and finally he rinsed off again.
He turned to her, his hair slicked back from his strong, tanned features. He looked like a freaking cover model, even if he was white around the mouth at the moment. An errant urge to kiss away his pain washed over her. Focus, girlfriend. The Plan.
“Thanks,” he murmured.
Butterflies leaped in her stomach and she took a step backward, her back coming up against the cool, tiled wall. He braced his left hand beside her head and smiled down at her a slow, lazy, sexy smile that promised hours and hours of mind-blowing lovemaking.
“Have you got any scratches I can clean out for you?” he drawled.
“I…I don’t know.”
“We’d better check. Cuts infect fast in this climate.”
He plucked at the scrap of cloth clinging to her shoulder and she glanced down. Then stared down in shock. In the dim light of the oil lamp flickering on the counter outside the shower, the remnants of her silk shirt and her lace bra clung to her breasts transparently, leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. She watched, mesmerized as his brown fingers trailed over the pale fabric, around the outside curve of her breast, then lightly along the sensitive underside of the mound. Her nipples puckered hard, standing up proudly, begging for his touch. She closed her eyes in mortification—and longing. Something warm and firm touched her temple.
His mouth. He was kissing her again. Her toes started to curl. Ohboyohboyohboy. The… What was it that she wassupposed to remember? He straightened and she tipped her mouth up to his. In the midst of the warm spray of water, he captured her lips with his, sucking her lower lip into his mouth and laving it with his tongue.
Her hands crept up to his shoulders. Urged him closer. His arm swept around her waist, pulling her away from the wall and against his big, hard body. The shower pounded down, raining heat and steam all around them.
He sucked in a hard breath as the spray hit his back and she lurched. His injury. And here she was, crawling all over a wounded man. She sagged against him in frustration, pressing her forehead against his chest for a moment before pushing herself away from him.
“Let’s get you out of here and get that cut dressed and covered,” she sighed.
He matched her sigh with one of his own. “But I didn’t finish scrubbing your back yet.”
“Promise there’ll be a next time?”
Whoa, baby. There’d be a next time if she had anything to say about it! Belatedly, she recalled herself. Madeline C. The Plan. This man was trouble with a capital T.
They stepped out of the shower and dried themselves quickly, and Maddie—Madeline—then used paper towels to blot his wound dry. She couldn’t bring herself to ruin one of the fluffy, snow-white Turkish towels from his linen closet. She had to give the guy credit. She would never have guessed he even had a linen closet, let alone one neatly stocked with high-end bath and bed linens.
She carried the oil lamp back into the kitchen and set it down on the counter beside the first-aid kit. “So do you not have electricity at all, or is this a temporary power outage?”
“I haven’t tried the lights. It’s usually pretty reliable, though.”
“Then why in the world am I trying to patch you up in the dark?”
“I prefer to live simply.”
Simply? The very word made her shudder. Give her every electrical convenience modern technology could summon up, thank you very much. She liked her zoned air-conditioning, and her blow dryer, and towel warmer and wireless-Internet-capable cell phone/camera/television.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake. Where’s a light switch? I need to see what I’m doing.”
He sighed and pressed a rocker switch on the wall beside him. Bright halogen lights imbedded in the beams overhead suddenly shone down, making her squint for several moments. Tom’s wound came into focus.
“This definitely needs stitches. It’s pretty deep.”
“Just slap some butterflies on it and call it good,” he growled.
She sighed. “All right, but you’re going to have to be careful. I don’t know if butterflies will hold or not.”
He threw her a look so hot it made her bare toes bend into hard little knots of anticipation. “I can be careful,” he murmured. “Very careful.”
Her hands inexplicably shaky, she tore open a half-dozen sterile wrappings and laid the butterflies out on the counter as he turned his back to her.
“Are you always this cussedly independent?” she asked as she gently drew the edges of the wound together and commenced taping them in place.
“Nope. I’m usually worse.”
“Great.” She finished with the butterflies and laid a strip of rayon over the wound, covered it with gauze pads and secured it all with long strips of adhesive tape. She studied the bandage, pondering its chances of staying in place. Not good. She rummaged in the first-aid kit and found an elastic bandage. Perfect.
She held one end of the long, beige wrap against his left side and passed the three-inch-wide strip under his right arm. Her palms skimmed across his ribs, and her own stomach couldn’t help but contract at the way the slabbed muscles of his abdomen tensed into impressive ridges under her touch. To reach all the way around him to pass the bandage from her right hand to her left, she had to lay her cheek against his chest and all but hug him. His big body radiated enough heat to scald her.
Her hands wanted to stray lower, to test his desire for her. Sheesh! The poor guy was hurt, for goodness’ sake, and here she was, pawing him like some sex-starved desperado. Except, at the moment, she felt exactly like a sex-starved desperado.
She jerked back, startled by the thought. She did not chase after guys. She didn’t even particularly crave sex! Yet here she was, her palms itching to run all over his naked body. Must be some weird hormonal reaction to almost dying.
Forcing herself to pay attention to the job at hand, she moved around behind him, passing the bandage carefully across the cut and leaning forward to reach around him again, this time from the back. And again, a visceral need, electric and disturbing, ripped through her as she hugged his athletic form. Wouldn’t you know it—the end of the bandage ran out smack dab on top of his stomach. She ducked under his raised arm to pin the end of the bandage in place.
And made the mistake of looking up at him. His eyes blazed, black as night, consumed by a fire that incinerated her to her very fingertips. Yowza. She jerked her hands away from him, and actually glanced down at her palms to see if the skin burned from touching him. Her every nerve felt raw and exposed.
She stumbled backward, staring at his back hungrily as he carried the first-aid kit into the bathroom. She looked away hastily as he came out. He offered her the bathroom for a solo shower and she didn’t hesitate to take him up on the offer. Did cold showers work on women, too?
She chickened out on testing the theory and opted instead for the relaxation of a nice, hot shower. However, when she finally turned the water off and stepped out into the bathroom, she was appalled to see a neatly folded man’s T-shirt lying on the counter beside the sink.
He’d come into the bathroom while she was bathing? Her gaze whipped around to the shower door, and she was relieved—and disappointed—to see it was milky glass with wavy patterns through it.
“Hungry?” he asked as she slid onto one of the bar stools.
“I don’t know. I suppose so.” She’d been so wrapped up in staying alive and then her inexplicable reaction to him that she hadn’t stopped to think about anything as mundane as food. But now that he mentioned it, she realized she was ravenous. And thirsty.
He set a beautiful double old-fashioned glass on the counter in front of her. The elegantly carved crystal caught the light from overhead and cast prisms all over the mahogany kitchen cabinets. She recognized the crystal pattern. Her brows lifted slightly. Waterford crystal? Who was this solitary pilot for hire? Silently, he poured water from a pitcher he took from the brushed stainless-steel refrigerator for her. She drank down the whole glass in a few gulps. He filled it again, seeming to know that she’d be desperately thirsty.
He went to the refrigerator and emerged with a green and yellow fruit about the size of his fist. He pulled a knife out of a drawer and peeled and sliced it efficiently. He stabbed a piece of the fruit and held it out to her on the end of the knife.
“Mango,” he announced.
She nodded and took the juicy fruit. It was sweet, a cross between a peach and an orange. Odd, but tasty.
“Are you sure this place belongs to you?” she asked dubiously.
He frowned at her. “Yeah. Why?”