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She knew little of his tragedy except that for a space of days after it, the  ice man had become a
local legend for his rage, which was as majestic as his bloodlines. Grown men had hidden from him.
On one occasion Bernadette had encountered him when he was dangerously intoxicated and wildly
waving a revolver.... No one knew exactly what had happened, except that Eduardo had come home to
find his infant son dead. His wife had died suddenly soon afterward of a gunshot wound to the head.
No arrest had ever been made, no charges brought. Eduardo never spoke of what had happened, but
inevitably there were whispers that he had blamed his wife for the child s death, and that he had killed
her. Looking at him now she could almost believe him capable of murder. He was as hard a man as
she d ever known, and one she judged to be merciless when he had reason to become angry. He rarely
lost his temper overtly, but his icy manner was somehow more threatening than yelling.
She herself had seen him shoot a man with cold nerve, a drunken cowboy in town who d come at
him with pistols blazing.
Eduardo hadn t even bothered to duck. He stood in a hail of bullets and calmly took aim and fired.
The man went down, wounded but not dead, and he was left at the doctor s office. Eduardo had been
nicked in the arm and refused Bernadette s offer of first aid. Such a scratch, he d said calmly, was
hardly worth a fuss.
She had hoped against hope that her father might one day consider making a match for her with this
man. Eduardo was the very reason her heart beat. Just the thought of those hard, cool hands on her
bare skin made her tingle all over. But an alliance between the families had never been discussed. Her
father had looked only to Europe for her prospective bridegrooms, not closer to home.
 You have no wish to marry? he asked suddenly.
The question caught her unaware.  I have bad lungs, she said.  And I m not even pretty. My father
has money, which makes me very eligible, but only to fortune-seekers. She twisted a fold of her skirt
unconsciously in her slender, pretty hands.  I want to be worth more than that.
 You want to be loved.
Shock brought her eyes up. How had he known that? He did know. It was in his face.
 Love is a rare and often dangerous thing, he continued carelessly.  One does well to avoid it.
 I ve been avoiding it successfully all my life, she agreed with smothered humor.
His eyes narrowed. Still watching her, he pulled a thin black cigar from a gold-plated case in his
jacket. He replaced the case deftly, struck a match to light the cigar and threw the spent match into the
dust with careless grace.  All your life, he murmured.  Twenty years. You must have been ten when
your family moved here, he added thoughtfully.  I remember your first ride on horseback.
She did, too. The horse had pitched her over its head into a mud puddle. Eduardo had found her
there, dazed. Ignoring the mud that covered her front liberally, he d taken her up in the saddle before
him and delivered her to her father.
She nodded uncomfortably.  You were forever finding me in embarrassing situations. She didn t
even want to remember the last one....
 His name was Charles, wasn t it? he asked, as if he d read her mind, and he smiled mockingly.
She glared at him.  It could have happened to anyone! Buggy horses do run away, you know!
 Yes. But that horse had the mark of a whip clearly on its flank. And the  gentleman in question had
you flat on your back, struggling like a landed fish, and your dress 
 Please! She held a hand to her throat, horribly embarrassed.
His eyes went to her bodice with a smile that chilled her. He d seen more than her corset. Charles
had roughly exposed her small breasts from beneath her thin muslin chemise, and Eduardo had had a
vivid glimpse of them before she struggled to get them covered again. Charles had barely had time to
speak before el conde was on him.
In a very rare display of rage, the usually calm and collected Eduardo had knocked the younger
man around with an utter disregard for his family s great wealth until the son of the shipping magnate [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]