Wilder Days
Linda Winstead Jones

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She didn’t think so. She didn’t think they were going to be at all okay.

She had once loved Del Wilder so deeply and intensely that he had been her entire world. The love hadn’t lasted nearly as long as the anger, the disappointment, the heartbreak. Vic didn’t let herself expect anything from the people in her life, not anymore. She always ended up disappointed, but these days no one broke her heart. Del had been an important part of her life, long ago, but she didn’t owe him anything.

Or did she? If they were going to die here, did he deserve to know that he had a daughter?

Vic had always looked like an angel: flowing wavy hair caught somewhere between brown and gold, cat’s eyes of green and gold, lush lips just made for smiling and kissing. She wasn’t a girl anymore, she was a woman, nicely filled out and without the little bit of baby fat that had made her cheeks round and pink, years ago. She was leaner in the face today, shapelier everywhere else.

But of course Vic was not an angel and never had been. She was a mere mortal, with flaws all her own. Del took some comfort from the fact that she was currently sweating like a pig.

Where was Shock? He should have been here by now. Something had happened, something had delayed the planned rescue. They were going to have to get out of here themselves.

“Know what I remember about you?” he asked, smiling crookedly at Vic.

“What?” she asked, as if she really didn’t want to know. Smart girl.

“Your flexibility.”

She looked offended. “That’s what you remember?”

“You could twist your legs, turn your body, bend…”

“All right,” she snapped. “I get the picture. Know what I remember about you? I remember that you were nothing but trouble. I remember that you were the most stubborn, arrogant, possessive, egotistical…”

“Vic, this isn’t helping matters any.”

“And your observations have some deeper meaning?”

Again, he smiled. “There’s a knife in my right boot.”

Her anger faded. “There is?”

“I can’t reach it, but maybe you can.”

She nodded, shook her hair back and began to tilt to the side, her face taut with determination.

“Vic, honey,” Del said calmly. “My other right boot.”

She straightened quickly, gave him a sharp glance that told him it was somehow his fault she had moved to her right and not his, and began again.

Vic was the woman he had spent the past sixteen years trying to forget. Some days he actually succeeded. But when he’d heard her name being whispered over the phone, his heart had just about stopped. Maybe because she was his first. First love, first lover, first real experience with pain. It was perfectly natural that he sometimes remembered her fondly.

And surely it was also perfectly natural that as she moved to the side and her shirt shifted, he was distracted by the new expanse of breast that was exposed. A pale, soft-looking swell of flesh that momentarily took his mind off of everything else.

Del did his best to shake off the distraction. Couldn’t the woman wear a bra? If he didn’t know better, he’d think Vic was doing this to him on purpose.

Vic’s shorts were short, the legs that were wrapped around him were smooth and strong. He hated that his hands were tied. More than anything, he wanted to run his palm up her leg, slow and easy.

Her fingers skimmed down his calf as she reached blindly for the sheath and the knife inside his boot.

What was wrong with him? He hadn’t seen her for sixteen years, and their last parting had been ugly, to say the least. She was married, a mother, the woman who had once been the girl who had broken his heart. In the years since he’d left her behind, he’d cursed her, longed for her and almost forgotten her.

And right now he wanted her. Nothing else mattered enough to get in the way of that.

“Almost there,” she whispered, licking her lips as she stretched and moved just a little bit more. She smiled when she finally found and grabbed the handle of the knife. “Got it.” A grin that didn’t last long flitted across her face. It was the first time he’d seen her smile since he’d walked into this room. Of course, she hadn’t had much to smile about today.

Vic straightened cautiously, the knife behind her back.

“If you can just knick the edge of the tape at your wrists,” Del said calmly, “you should be able to rip it apart. Once your hands are loose, we’re home free.”

She nodded and began, her face once again rigid with concentration. Those cat’s eyes were fixed on the center of his forehead as she worked.

“I wish it wasn’t so hot in here,” she said softly. “My palms are slick with sweat.”

“It’s okay, baby. You’re doing great.”

Her eyes met his, briefly, and then she stared at his forehead again as she continued her efforts. “So close,” she whispered beneath her breath. “I just can’t quite…”

She cursed, flinched, and the knife clattered to the floor. Her eyes met his again, and he saw something new. Panic.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I tried to catch it, I did, but it just slipped right through my fingers.”

“Did you cut yourself?”

She nodded.

“How bad?”

“Not too bad, I think. It just stings a little.”

He kept his knife sharp. If the blade had brushed past her fingers, the cuts might be deep.

Cuts on Vic’s fingers were the least of their problems, and still that knowledge bothered Del more than it should. If she wasn’t here, he’d knock the chair to its side and try to free himself from that position, but he couldn’t take the chance. What he’d seen on the side of the explosive device that had been taped to the bottom of the chair looked to be a tilt detonator. If the chair tipped over, the bomb would go off. He didn’t mind taking chances with his own life. He wouldn’t—couldn’t—take that risk with Vic’s.

“I’m sorry,” she said again, softer this time.

“It’s okay,” he said, trying to ease her distress with a smile.

“You keep saying that,” she said, growing visibly frustrated. Her cheeks flushed, her chest rose and fell with deeper, faster breaths. “Nothing is okay!”

While he thought about what came next, he had to calm her down. He had to get her talking about something else, anything else. “A daughter, huh?”

Her eyes widened, her spine straightened. “Yes.”

“What’s she like?” Mothers liked talking about their kids, right? He might have asked about the husband, but in truth he didn’t want to know about Vic’s marriage. He didn’t want to hear her talk about the man who shared her bed.

Vic took a deep breath. “Noelle,” she said. “Her name is Noelle.”

Del nodded. “Nice name. How old is she?”
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