had bought her a divorce.
The princess would carry the scars to her
The telephone rang as Michelle was nursing
her second cup of coffee, watching the sun come up and preparing herself for
another day of chores that seemed to take more and more out of her. Dark
circles lay under her heavy-lidded eyes, testimony to hours of twisting
restlessly in bed while her mind insisted on replaying every word John had
said, every sensation his mouth and hands had evoked. His reputation was well
earned, she had thought bitterly in the early hours. Lady-killer. His touch was
burningly tender, but he was hell on his women anyway.
She didn't want to answer the phone, but she
knew John well enough to know he never gave up once he set his mind on
something. He'd be back, and she knew it. If that was him on the telephone,
he'd come over if she didn't answer. She didn't feel up to dealing with him in
person, so she picked up the receiver and muttered a hello.
She went white, her fingers tightening on the
receiver. Had she conjured him up by thinking about him the night before? She
to think of him, to keep him locked in the past, but
sometimes the nightmare memories surfaced, and she felt again the terror of
being so alone and helpless, with no one she could trust to come to her aid,
not even her father.
"Roger," she said faintly. There
was no doubt. No one but her ex-husband said her name in that caressing tone,
as if he adored her.
His voice was low, thick. "I need you,
darling. Come back to me, please. I'm begging. I promise I'll never hurt you
again. I'll treat you like a princess—"
"No," she gasped, groping for a
chair to support her shaking legs. Cold horror made her feel sick. How could he
even suggest that she come back?
"Don't say that, please," he
groaned. "Michelle, Mother and Dad are dead. I need you now more than
ever. I thought you'd come for their funeral last week, but you stayed away,
and I can't stand it any longer. If you'll just come back I swear everything
will be different—"
"We're divorced," she broke in, her
voice thin with strain. Cold sweat trickled down her spine.
"We can be remarried. Please,
"No!" The thought of being
remarried to him filled her with so much revulsion that she couldn't even be
polite. Fiercely she struggled for control. "I'm sorry about your parents;
I didn't know. What happened?"
"Plane crash." Pain still lingered
in his hoarse voice. "They were flying up to the lake and got caught in a
"I'm sorry," she said again, but
even if she'd known in time to attend the funeral, she never would have gone.
She would never willingly be in Roger's presence again.
He was silent a moment, and she could almost
see him rub the back of his neck in the unconscious nervous gesture she'd seen
so many times. "Michelle, I still love you. Nothing's any good for me
without you. I swear, it won't be the same as it was; I'll never hurt you
again. I was just so damned jealous, and I know now I didn't have any
But he did
! she thought, squeezing her eyes shut as guilt seeped
in to mix with the raw terror evoked by simply hearing his voice. Not
physically, but had there been any day during the past ten years when she
hadn't thought of John Rafferty? When part of her hadn't been locked away from
Roger and every other man because they weren't the heartbfeaker who'd stolen
"Roger, don't," she whispered.
"It's over. I'll never come back. All I want to do now is work this ranch
and make a living for myself."
He made a disgusted sound. "You
shouldn't be working that dinky little ranch! You're used to much better than
that. I can give you anything you want."
"No," she said softly. "You
can't. I'm going to hang up now. Goodbye, and please don't call me again."
Very gently she replaced the receiver, then stood by the phone with her face
buried in her hands. She couldn't stop trembling, her mind and body reeling