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Seamus swept her up in his arms, his hand shaking as he smoothed a curl from her face, His gray eyes held a stormy battle as if he clutched her to his chest under protest. A trembling breath of dismay caught in Aislyn’s throat. The idea of him stopping…she couldn’t let him back away.
“I’ll shut the doors,” he said, letting her slide down his body until she gained her feet.
“Kiss me first.” A knot twisted in her stomach while she waited in an agony of uncertainty. She could see his hesitation. “I—” The start of her plea broke off when she noticed his gaze falling to her lips. Her heart pumped out an unsteady beat. Nerves dried her throat, and her tongue snaked out to moisten her lips.
Seamus stepped away with a groan. “You’re not playing fair.”
The balcony doors slammed shut at his abrupt touch, screening their bedroom from prying eyes. He prowled across the woolen carpet to her. A sudden attack of nerves propelled her backward, and seconds later, she found her legs pressed hard against the bed. Off-balance, she toppled onto the silky covers.
Seamus dropped down beside her and blanketed her body. His arms held most of his weight, but every one of her senses leaped in welcome. Although she lacked experience, she wasn’t frightened. Instead, impatience simmered through her sensitized body. She wanted more. Much more.
Large, gentle hands tangled in her hair, holding her for his kiss. Gray eyes glittered as his face drew nearer, and his breath puffed across her cheek. Mesmerized by the sight of him, her stomach churned. Beneath the bodice of her dress, her breasts prickled.
Then his lips touched hers in a forceful, no-nonsense kiss. Her breath eased out in a groan, excitement making her wriggle to get even closer. Silently, she demanded more because she craved his touch.
With a hushed murmur, he slid to her side, his hands smoothed down her neck and came to rest on her aching breasts. He rolled his fingers across her nipples, the sensations he created incredible, indescribable. Ribbons of pure energy danced through her body, and she tingled from head to toe, moist heat building between her legs.
“Seamus,” she whispered, craving more of the sweet torment. Her dress was in the way, as were his clothes. “I want…can I touch you?”
She pushed his jacket down his arms as far as it would go before moving her attention to his shirt. She fumbled with the buttons making a simple job difficult. “Please, Seamus. Let me touch you,” she said. “Help me.”
Seamus hesitated, his expression almost torn. He sat up, wavering yet again before bending to remove his black boots. A soft thud sounded when they hit the carpet. After peeling off his socks, he removed his jacket and dealt with the buttons on his cream shirt.
Aislyn kneeled behind him, running her hands over his broad shoulders. She pushed the shirt aside, baring his entire upper body to her gaze. With a shaky hand, she reached out to touch, part of her waiting for him to call a halt. Heat came off his broad back, warming her palms. A pulse pounded at the base of his neck, and she bent to scrape her teeth across the vulnerable spot.
This was a mistake. Seamus sat on the edge of the bed, trying to gain the strength to move. His hands clenched while he stared straight ahead, concentrating on their reflections in the mirror affixed to the wall. She was a copper-hair siren bent on seducing him, but it was the glittering of lust his own eyes that made his breath catch.
He wanted her, despite knowing he shouldn’t have her.
Aislyn nipped his neck again, and a tremor racked his body. Hell’s teeth, they’d barely started, and his body vibrated like an overloaded spring.
Seamus sucked in a deep breath, fighting for control. He twisted around without warning and grabbed her arms, holding them down where they could no longer torment his weak flesh.
“My turn,” he said, a grin escaping at her astonishment.
With ruthless efficiency, he stripped the wrinkled dress from her body, leaving her clothed in a pair of midnight-blue briefs, the exact color of her dress. A tinge of pink highlighted her cheeks while her eyes glowed.
“So beautiful.” His gaze traveling down her face and came to rest on her naked breasts tipped with apricot-colored nipples. He sensed her diffidence and chuckled, charmed at her uncharacteristic shyness. Determined to go slow, his hands skimmed her arms, halting at breast level while he bent to kiss her. He nuzzled her throat and felt the frantic beat of her pulse, the tentative movements of her body as she sought to touch him in return. Their gazes locked. Deep breaths came in unison.
“Touch me, Seamus.”
He shifted his hand and trailed it across her collarbone. Lowering his head, he blew across one pouting nipple. She shuddered. Pleased with the reaction, he repeated the action.
“Please.” One hand tugged insistently behind his neck.
Seamus trailed his fingers down the outer slope of one breast while his other hand smoothed across her stomach. She sighed, her apricot scent filling his senses. Despite the urgency thrumming through him, he kept the pace slow.
Unable to deny either of them a moment longer, his lips closed around one nipple, licking and drawing on it. He massaged her breast, savoring the smooth weight of her and the familiar aroma of apricots.
Aislyn arced upward at the sensation of his moist mouth on her breast. Warm and gentle, his touch forcing a gasp from her. He kissed and petted her for a long time. Growing increasingly brave, she touched him back, kissing him everywhere she could reach. She kissed arms, thick with muscle and the tender skin of his throat, the abrasive curve of his jaw.
Eager for more, she gasped when his hand stole beneath the blue briefs she wore, dipping low and making her entire body clench.
When he moved, she gave a cry of protest, but he murmured soothingly. He rose and dispensed with the rest of his clothes and her panties.
My. Her eyes widened. Seamus was the beautiful one, all sculpted muscles with no surplus fat, just like the naked statues in Lady Wickham’s garden in Glenveagh. In fascination, she explored his chest, skimming her hand over his abdomen. She exalted in his catch of breath, the clenching of muscles. Her hand trailed lower still, her teeth closing on her bottom lip as her trembling hand traced the length of his cock.
His moan shocked her. Startled, she froze.
“Don’t stop. It feels great.”
She curled her fingers around him, learning his shape and watching his responses to each stroke.
“Hell’s teeth,” he muttered. “That’s enough.”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“Of course not. Ah, sweetheart. Hang on. I forgot something.” He levered off the bed and stalked to his bag. He pulled a box of condoms from a side pocket and returned to the bed.
“Will we need all of them?”
“Maybe.” The corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled.
He gathered her into his arms, their bodies sliding together with exquisite friction. Their lips met again, and she moved against him. Seamus bent to trail a path of teasing kisses across her breasts, down her soft belly and across the tops of her thighs. She stirred restlessly, her legs falling apart. His hand drifted lower in a teasing pass down her cleft.
A muffled sigh emerged from him when she gasped and arched upward. Her eyes drifted closed while she savored the way his knowledgeable hands circled lightly. She tensed. Shivered. Sighed, enjoying the wet glide of his fingers, the pleasure suffusing her body.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I want this. I want you.”
Seamus rose over her, smoothed one unruly copper curl off her face, and kissed her hard. Hungrily.
Finally, he guided his cock to her entrance. He pushed inside her, and a sharp pain made her wince.
Seamus stilled but continued to kiss her. Long moments later, he withdrew before invading her again, keeping the pace easy. After a while, he retreated slowly, the friction making her arch and deepen the angle. It felt strange, yet she ached for more now that the sting had lessened. He kissed her, their tongues twining together in an echo of their lovemaking. Then he withdrew and surged deeper.
“Okay, sweetheart? I know it hurts.” His mouth moved from her lips to nibble on her neck. He tugged on her nipple, the pleasurable sensation streaking to her clit.
She moaned, now enjoying the strokes in and out of her body.
He thrust again and again, lighting a fire in her. Sparks of desire sizzled across her nerve endings. Her eyelids grew heavy, drifted shut, and her senses picked up every nuance of the experience—the spicy masculine scent of his body, his hoarse breathing, the touch of his hand. Pleasure pulsed through her, emotions whirling when the fire whipping through her peaked. Burning hot explosions nipped at her body, radiating outward from where they joined.
His next frenzied plunge shoved her into pleasure so good, she let out a sharp cry.
Seamus kept moving, extending the pleasure until she stilled, her body replete.
He clutched her closer, his hips pumped, and seconds later, he froze, his breathing coming in deep, gasping pants.
His arms tightened as he eased away. “Okay?”
She caressed the length of his sweaty back and smiled. “I feel great.” The truth was she didn’t think she could explain her exhilaration—not adequately. Making love with Seamus would change her life. She knew it.
Seamus sat up to deal with the condom. She’d read about this means of human contraception, and she supposed he was right to use one. They were young, and there was plenty of time for children.
He stretched out on the bed beside her. One arm snaked out to draw her flush against his chest. “I didn’t hurt you?”
“A little. I’m fine now.”
His hand danced down her side, smoothed across her hip and cupped a buttock. He pressed a kiss to her temple.
“Why don’t you go to sleep? I’ll check to see if our watcher has left for the night.”
“Stay.” She wanted to remain in his arms with their bodies pressed together. He sighed but tightened his hold, and she relaxed. Her eyes drifted shut, her breathing slowed.
Seamus continued to hold her even when she drifted off to sleep. In slumber, she appeared relaxed and peaceful. Awake, she was in constant movement, seldom still.
Reality hit with gut-kicking swiftness. He’d made a mistake—a hell of an error and one with far-reaching implications. Too bad he’d given up on brain function and let his body take control.
He slipped from the bed and dressed. Feeling like a bastard, he crept from the bedroom to the living area below.
Concentrate on the job.
And the fact he was Guardian, responsible for making sure the colony survived into the future.
Always remember that, son. His mother’s words were cold comfort.
He cursed under his breath. The rule about no magic for financial gain sucked. He suspected life in the past, before rules, had been much easier, certainly, less complicated for the Guardian.
Seamus glanced up the stairs to the bedroom. Hell, all he could think about was crawling back into bed with Aislyn, shaking her awake and making love to her again. Muttering another succinct curse, he slipped out the front door, locking it behind him.
Seeing no sign of surveillance, he took the path to reception, deciding he’d have a drink at the bar. Maybe he’d walk to the far end of the resort and return along the beach.
Their watcher wasn’t where they’d last seen him. Seamus passed the spot and slowed to scan the ground. Several cigarette butts littered the area.
Up ahead, a stone rolled along the gravel path. Seamus ducked out of sight and hid behind a large rimu tree. The long dangling leaves hung to the ground like a curtain, screening him from view.
The Barkers strolled past. Seamus frowned, wondering about their part in the plan. He waited several minutes before venturing from hiding, but another noise up ahead made him pause. Slipping into cover, he waited yet again. The bodyguard. Impatience and plain bad temper made Seamus mutter a low curse. He couldn’t stand here and play freaking musical chairs for the rest of the night.
Seamus turned away from the path and made his way through the dense bush, guided by the sound of the sea and the beam of the torch he’d tucked in his jacket pocket earlier. Dead leaves crackled under his feet as he crept down the hill. A bird called overhead, the shrill shriek mournful and lonely.
He’d have to tell Aislyn about Renee before his betrothal became public knowledge. He should tell Aislyn he was Guardian too. He owed her an explanation—now more than ever.
She must suspect he knew the Guardian’s identity, although she’d never questioned him, not even when he’d taken her through his private portal on the night of the ball.
Deep in thought, he missed his footing. His foot slid between an exposed tree root and the leaf-cover. He struck the ground with a thump, the impact forcing the air from his lungs.
Gasping, he pulled himself upright with a muttered oath. “Pay attention, idjit. Quit thinking about Aislyn.”
He took three exploratory steps. Pain jabbed his thigh and streaked down his leg. “Fuck.” He staggered before grabbing the trunk of a karaka tree for balance.
The sound of waves breaking on the shore was louder now. He glanced down and froze. “Damn.” The tide was almost in, and if he walked along the sand, he’d get soaked. He gritted his teeth and looked back the way he’d come. Nope. The only way was along the beach—the slog along the top of the cliff was too dangerous in the dark.
Grim-faced, he stepped onto the sliver of sand still showing above water. A wave rushed to shore, swallowing the visible sand. Water seeped into his boots and soaked his trousers to knee height. The surge of cold stole his breath, and he shivered at the burst of icy water.
A gust of wind whistled in from the sea, swirling the waves into white, foaming crests that splashed him. The only good thing about being wet through was he couldn’t feel the nagging ache in his leg any longer.
Frozen to the bone, he trudged along the base of the steep hill toward Watson’s cabin.
The chug-chug of an engine had him squinting through the inky darkness. A boat approached, with the lights switched off.
Voices floated on the night air. Watson? Seamus hunkered behind a rock, only partially hidden. With his dark jacket, he might escape detection. Anticipation soared through his veins, his gut telling him he’d chanced on a promising scenario.
As the boat neared the shore, navigation lights popped on. The anchor chain rattled as it sank into the water. He peered into the night and glimpsed a figure ghosting across the deck. A splash told Seamus the figure had lowered a dinghy. Two people crawled over the side of the boat into the rowboat, and a third person handed a package down to them.
He was too far away.
Seamus crept from hiding and noted the rowboat had almost reached the shore. He needed to discover the contents of the box. The bank dropped to knee level, and he climbed from the water, deciding to skirt the bush while trying to move closer.
“Do you have it?”
Seamus stilled. Watson. The Englishman spoke louder than usual, his voice boosted by excitement.
“Yes, sir,” Seamus heard one man reply. Damn, he needed to get closer. He jogged across an open space and hoped like hell no one would notice him. A loud snap sounded as he trod on a small brittle twig. Bugger that had torn it.
With a sinking heart, he watched a large figure peel off the group to head in his direction, and his hand reach into his jacket to pull out a weapon. A gun.
Before the bodyguard reached him, Seamus stepped from his cover. Naïve openness was his only chance. He held his hands out in the open in front of him, palms facing the dark sky as he strode forward and forced a smile into his voice. “Hell, I’m sorry if I startled you. I was miles away. Didn’t even see you there until someone called out.”
Morgan, the bodyguard, approached. “What are you doing?”
Seamus affected both surprise and exasperation. “I’m sorry I frightened you, folks. Had a damn fight with the wife,” he said, trying to look sheepish. “Would you believe it? She wants to invite the in-laws to stay as soon as we get back to Auckland. Hell, we’ve been married all of five minutes, and she wants her family. I mean, what am I? Chopped liver?”
Morgan scrutinized him, weighing his story. “Why did you come down here?” he asked, his dark face full of suspicion.
“I walked to the far end of the resort, then back along the beach.” Seamus shrugged, maintaining eye contact. He gestured at his wet clothes. “The tide beat me.”
Seamus noticed another man split from the group. As he neared, Seamus recognized Watson.
“Hello,” he said.
“Strange time to be out,” Watson commented.
Seamus grimaced. Damn straight, it was a weird time of the night to loiter on the beach. He was positive they wouldn’t produce a single fish if he asked.
“Tell me about it. Aislyn and I had a humdinger of a fight. She made me so angry I just had to get out of the cabin.”
“Why are you wet?”
Seamus glanced down at his wet trousers. “I walked along the beach from the other end. I didn’t realize the tide was on its way in. Once I was halfway along, it was too far to walk back.”
Watson exchanged a glance with Morgan. Seamus held his breath, wondering if his story sounded plausible. He glanced over at the two men who waited by the dinghy, frustration simmering inside. He’d blown it tonight—big-time.
Go for broke. He glanced back at Watson. “Catch any fish?”
“The crew went out for two hours,” Watson said. “Didn’t catch much, though. One John Dory, they said.”
“Good eating fish,” Seamus said.
“Perhaps you should return and make things up with your lovely wife?” The suggestion sounded more like a demand.
“Morgan is heading that way. You can walk together.” An order with a bodyguard attached.
“Yeah, I guess I might as well. I’m soaked through. Although if Aislyn thinks I’m changing my mind about the in-laws coming to stay, she can think again.”
“Good night,” Watson said in his crisp English accent.
Seamus sensed the crate in the rowboat held one of the native species on the scavenger hunt list, yet he was powerless to take further action. Would it be worth contacting Gill to arrange a search warrant? They might get lucky if they searched Watson’s cabin or the boat. They might not too. Seamus suspected the latter since Watson struck him as smart.
“Did you hear me, Mr. Gallagher?” Watson’s voice grew harsh.
“What? Sorry.” Seamus grimaced. “Mind’s on Aislyn.”
“I said, good night.”
Seamus nodded. “Good night. I’ll see you around the resort. Thanks for inviting us to your cocktail party tonight. Aislyn and I enjoyed it.”
Morgan pulled a torch from his jacket pocket. “Let’s go.”
“Sure,” Seamus said. What else could he say under the circumstances?
They walked side by side along the beach, and when they approached the path leading up toward the cabins, Morgan gestured for Seamus to precede him. Not the ideal situation.
His back itched as he climbed the path. The residue of water in his boots sloshed making squelching sounds while his wet jeans clung to his chilled legs with each step. The wind had picked up and howled in from the sea, ruffling his hair, tugging at his clothes, and foretelling of the storm to come.
“Looks like a storm is on the way,” he said over his shoulder.
Behind him, Morgan grunted, a noncommittal sound.
Now that they’d caught him, he and Aislyn might as well leave the resort and return to Auckland. They’d confirmed Watson was a competitor in the scavenger hunt, and it was unlikely they’d discover anything else to help the investigation. Besides, he’d feel better with Aislyn out of reach.
They reached the path branching off to Watson’s cabin.
“I’ll say goodnight,” Seamus said cheerfully. “Thanks for the torchlight. At the rate I’m going tonight, I’m lucky I didn’t break my neck.”
“I’ll walk you back to your cabin.”
“I don’t want to take you out of your way.”
“It’s no trouble.”
Great. The bodyguard intended to escort him back to the cabin, and Seamus would bet the man or someone from the Watson camp would watch over them for the rest of the night.
“The path is lit.”
“Mr. Watson would never forgive me if an accident were to befall you on the way back to your cabin.”
Seamus rolled his eyes. Despite the ache in his leg, he poured on the pace, and the bodyguard sped up too. The cabin soon came into sight.
“Thanks. I guess I’d better see if Aislyn is speaking to me. A shame about the fishing,” he added. “One John Dory won’t feed the number of people in your party.”
Seamus unlocked the door and stepped inside, waving at Morgan before closing the door.
“Damn,” he muttered, knowing he’d made a hash of things. Watson would be on his guard now. Maybe he and Aislyn should stage a public fight. It wouldn’t take much in the way of acting, especially after he told Aislyn about Renee.
Come back next Monday for the following chapter