Driven by Fire(8)

By: Anne Stuart

Ryder shrugged. “If you say so.” He turned back to Jenny. “What’s wrong with you overseeing her welfare?”

Jenny found she was nervously picking at the hem of her skirt and she quickly released it. She hated the way he made her feel—all edgy and itchy inside. She couldn’t rid herself of the feeling that he could see right through her. “I have other clients, Mr. Ryder,” she said with admirable calm. She’d also run out of favors, but she wouldn’t admit that to this man. If she’d had a viable choice other than coming here she would have used it, but for some reason she’d hit a brick wall every time she tried to make arrangements for Soledad.

“And you think I’m just sitting around with my thumb up my ass?”

“I think you have a larger staff and a much larger financial war chest than I do. You have connections all over the world. It would take a phone call from you to see her safely settled.”

“Ms. Parker, you must have a very high opinion of me. I don’t work miracles and I’m not omnipotent. Arranging for your little waif’s future requires more than a simple phone call.”

Jenny looked at him, her expression impassive. She had learned early on that silence was the best way to get what she wanted. Pleading was a waste of time, logic got her nowhere, but men hated a vacuum, even dangerous, inhumanly controlled men, and if she just sat there long enough, quietly enough, he’d come up with an answer.

It took longer than she expected, but then Ryder was no ordinary man. She was about to give in and say something when he finally spoke.

“So what is it you expect me to do?” He was sounding more irascible, and he hadn’t touched his drink. If he really was a drunk, he’d be wanting to get rid of her so he could get back to his bottle, and she was in the catbird seat. She had less to fear from a drunk, no matter how well he covered it up.

But she didn’t think he was. There was a bright-burning intensity about him that unsettled her, and it wasn’t simply a matter of her guilty conscience. There was no way he could know what she’d done—Billy was long gone, out of harm’s way, and even if Ryder suspected something he’d have no way to prove it. Then again, he struck her as a man who didn’t need hard-and-fast proof before he acted, and he wouldn’t be the forgiving type.

“What are you blushing for?” he demanded suddenly.

“I’m not,” she said defensively.

“Is it your temper? I’ve always heard that redheads have a hell of a temper.”

“I’m not a redhead,” she snapped. “My hair is brown.”

“If you say so. That looks like russet to me. And you’ve got the freckles to go along with it. In fact, if you had a better personality you’d be downright cute.”

Jenny made a low growling noise in the back of her throat. “I’m not interested in your opinion of my physical attractions,” she said, and could have kicked herself. Cute, she thought. What a revolting image. She needed to keep her mouth shut, though, because once again she was sounding like a repressed virgin.

“Of course you’re not,” he drawled, and she couldn’t tell whether he was being sarcastic or not. Surely he couldn’t have any idea about her shameful crush on him? After all, she’d seen him only one other time besides their initial meeting, when she’d run into him at the DA’s office, and he’d done everything he could to annoy her and drive her away. Unfortunately it hadn’t worked.

“Too bad I’m not interested in playing your games, Ryder,” she said. “Just tell me whether you’re going to help me or not and I’ll leave you alone.”

“You almost convince me.”

She ignored him, plowing on valiantly. “I need an apartment for Soledad as soon as possible. She needs a job, and I wouldn’t mind if she had a bodyguard for the first few weeks, just until I’m sure she’s not in any danger.”

If she wasn’t so preternaturally aware of him she might not have noticed the sudden sharpening in his cool blue eyes. “Why should she be in danger?”

“She’s made enemies in her home country,” Jenny said. “And I don’t think they counted on her escaping her fate. You know she was hiding in the infirmary when your men raided the ship, and she was so terrified that you were there to kill her that you almost didn’t find her.”

Also By Anne Stuart

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