Wild Rain

By: Christine Feehan

The ram poured down onto the roof. The wind howled and lashed at the windows. He was uneasy, hesitant even, something very unusual for Rio. He looked down, saw his fingertips brushing damp tendrils of hair from her face, his touch almost gentle, and jerked his hand away as if her skin burned him. His heart did a peculiar somersault. Rio pulled the small vial from the field medical kit strapped to his belt. One hand clamped around her leg to hold her still. He poured the entire contents over the gaping wound.

Rachael screamed, the sound tearing up through her ragged throat to pierce the walls of the house. She tried to fight him, tried to jerk into a sitting position, but his strength was implacable. He held her down easily. “I can’t tell you anything. I don’t know anything.” The words were strangled between trying to breathe through the pain and her swollen throat. “I swear I don’t. Torturing me isn’t going to do you any good.” She looked at him, pleading, tears swimming in her dark eyes. “Please, I really don’t know anything.”

“Ssh.” Distaste for hurting her was bile in his mouth and he didn’t know why. Most tasks were done without feeling. Rio had no idea why he would suddenly develop compassion for a woman sent to kill him. He filed her blurted revelations away for a better time to study them. The need to reassure her took precedence and that worried him. He was a man who always wanted knowledge. Information. He wasn’t the type to offer sympathy—especially for someone who had tried to take his head off. “It’s only to kill the germs and fight infection.” He found himself murmuring the words, his tone odd. Unfamiliar. “I know it burns. I’ve used it on myself more than once. Just lie still while I try to repair the damage.”

“I think I’m going to be sick.” It was the last humiliating straw. Rachael couldn’t believe it was happening to her. She had planned everything so carefully, worked so hard, come so far. Everything was lost now. This man was going to torture her. Kill her. She should have known she couldn’t escape.

“Damn it.” He held her head while she was sick over and over into a bucket he dragged out from under the bed. She didn’t want to think what the bucket was used for. She didn’t want to think how she was going to get away from him with a mangled leg, in the middle of a storm with the river flooding.

Rachael lay back, wiping at her mouth with the back of her hand, trying desperately to force her brain to work. Weakness was an insidious enemy, creeping through her body so her arms felt leaden and she didn’t want to lift her head.

“You’ve lost a lot of blood,” he said tersely, as if reading her mind.

“What are you?” The words came out a whisper. The wind stilled for a moment so only the rain could be heard pounding on the roof. Rachael held her breath when he turned the full impact of his cold, merciless eyes on her. He didn’t blink. She saw that his pupils were dilated. She saw that same piercing intelligence, glimpsed the dangerous fire smoldering. Her heart pounded in time with the driving rain.

“They call me the wind of death. How could you not know?” His voice was as expressionless as his eyes. A faint, humorless smile drew attention to his mouth, failing to light his eyes. “They didn’t send you here with much information. Not very smart for an assassin. Maybe someone wanted you dead. You should give that some thought.” He dragged a chair to the side of the bed, lit a lamp and dug into his field kit for more supplies.

Something in his voice gave her pause. She studied his profile. There was acceptance in his voice of who and what he was, not bravado or bragging.

“Why would I be sent here to kill you?”

“Weren’t you? It’s been tried many times and I’m still alive.” He was telling her the truth.

She didn’t understand what he was telling her, but she heard the honesty in his tone. He had a needle in his hand and bent very close to her leg.

Involuntarily she jerked away. “Can’t you just tape it up?”

His hand clamped around her thigh, pinning her to the mattress, holding her still. “Damn cat made a mess of you. It’s all the way to the bone. The lacerations need stitches. There’s nothing I can do about the puncture wounds. I don’t like the look of this. It isn’t helpful with you shaking so much.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Rachael muttered the words resentfully under her breath. She closed her eyes to block out the sight of her own blood. All the while, in spite of everything, she was acutely aware of his hand wrapped around her bare thigh. “You’re obviously one of those he-men seen only on film who can take forty-seven kicks in the ribs and keep on fighting. Don’t mind me for being human.”

“What did you say?” His head swung around, his eyes focusing on her face.

Rachael could feel his gaze stabbing at her but she refused to give him the satisfaction of looking at him. Or at the needle. She’d already thrown up once; she didn’t think a second round would win her any points. “Was it my imagination or did you turn into a leopard?” Not just any leopard. Not a clouded leopard like his two companion cats. “Not like those little cats either. I’m talking a big, for-real large, predatory, man-eating leopard.” She could have groaned the minute the words left her mouth. It was utterly ridiculous. No one turned into a wild animal. Now he was going to think she’d lost her mind completely. And maybe she had. The image of his face contorting, the hot breath, the wicked teeth so close to her throat was very vivid. She’d even felt the brush of fur. And those eyes. She would never forget those eyes. She couldn’t possibly have made up that predatory stare. Unable to prevent herself, her gaze lifted to his, regarding him as if he had two heads. She could see she was really making an impression.