Stanton Rourke lives life on the edge. The steely South African mercenary is dangerous in every way…especially to Clarisse Carrington’s heart.
She and Rourke were playmates as children, but she’s not the innocent girl he once knew. When tragedy robbed Clarisse of her entire family, her life was changed forever. Besides, she’s a grown woman now, and there are secrets that hold her back from succumbing to her pursuer.
As she struggles to keep her distance, sparks as hot as a Texas summer fly between them. But danger is following Clarisse, leaving her no choice but to rely on Rourke, even as the old wounds lying dormant between them flare up again…
He fought tears. They played hell with the wounded eye, because it still had some tear ducts. He turned away from the older man, embarrassed.
K.C. bit his lip. He put a rough hand on Rourke’s shoulder and patted it. “I’m sorry.”
Rourke swallowed. He tipped the last of the whiskey into his mouth. “Ya,” he said in a choked tone. “I’m sorry, too. Because there’s no way in hell I can tell her I believed that about her mother. Or that I can undo eight years of torment that I gave her.”
“You’ve had a shock,” K.C. said. “And you really are jet- lagged. It would be a good idea if you just let things lie for a few days.”
“Rourke,” he said hesitantly. “The story she told you was true,” he began.
“What! You just said it wasn’t…!”
K.C. pushed him back down on the sofa. “It was true, but it wasn’t Tat’s mother.” He turned away. “It was your mother.”
There was a terrible stillness in the room.
K.C. moved to the window and stared out at the African darkness with his hands in his pockets.
“I got drunk because Mary Luke Bernadette chose a veil instead of me. I loved her, deathlessly. It’s why I never married. She’s still alive and, God help me, I still love her. She lives near my godchild, her late sister’s only living child. I told you about Kasie, she married into the Callister family in Montana. Mary Luke lives in Billings.”
“I remember,” Rourke said quietly.
He closed his eyes. “Your mother saw what I was doing to myself. She tried to comfort me. She had a few drinks with me and things…happened. She was ashamed, I was ashamed…her husband was the best friend I ever had. How could we tell him what we’d done? So we kept our secret, tormented ourselves with what happened in a minute of insanity. Nine months later, to the day, you were born.”
“You said…you weren’t sure,” Rourke bit off.
“I wasn’t. I’m not. I don’t have the guts to have the test done.” He turned, a tiger, bristling. “Go ahead. Laugh!”
Rourke got up, a little shakily. It had been a shocking night. “Why don’t you have the guts?” he asked.
“Because I want it to be true,” he said through his teeth. He looked at Rourke with pain in his light eyes, terrible pain. “I betrayed my best friend, seduced your mother. I deserve every damned terrible thing that ever happens to me. But more than anything in the world, I want to be your father.”
Rourke felt the wetness in his eyes, but this time he didn’t hide it.
K.C. jerked him into his arms and hugged him, and hugged him. His eyes were wet, too. Rourke clung to him. All the long years, all the companionship, the shared moments. He’d wanted it, too. There wasn’t a man alive who compared to the one holding him. He respected him. But, more, he loved him.
K.C. pulled back abruptly and turned away, shaking his head to get rid of the moisture in his eyes. He shoved his hands back into his slacks.
“Don’t we have a doctor on staff?” Rourke asked after a minute.
“Then let’s find out for sure,” Rourke said.
K.C. turned after a minute, looking at the face that was his face, the elegant carriage that he knew from his own mirror.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” Rourke said. “And so are you.”
K.C. cocked his head and grimaced as he looked at Rourke’s face.
“You’re going to have a hell of a bruise,” K.C. said with obvious regret.
Rourke just smiled sheepishly. “No problem. It’s not a bad thing to discover that your old man can still handle himself,” he chuckled.