Hagen, but now Sarah only wanted to thank him. He had pitchforked her into an uncomfortable situation, forcing her to accept a kind of intimacy with a stranger, and the jolt of that and her instant attraction to Rafferty had been enough to set her free. The passionate interlude on the beach had completed the cure.
She didn’t feel familiar to herself, and though that was unsettling, it was also pleasing. She could be anyone, test herself beyond the limits she had come to accept until now.
In a peculiar way—and not consciously recognized by herself—Sarah had only now, belatedly, come of age. She had been pushed by circumstances beyond her control. A personality dampened firmly by rational caution had just received a heady breath of fresh air and freedom, and like any unfamiliar atmosphere, it was rapidly going to her head.
Rafferty found her by the window when he returned from his shower, and he stood gazing at her for a moment. Her tousled hair, still damp, flowed about her head and shoulders in dark gold strands, its natural tendency to wave untamed. The white robe she wore was long, but it parted around a tanned leg as she scuffed her bare toes in the thick carpet, and her slender fingers toyed with the towel she held in front of her.
Rafferty felt his mouth go dry as his eyes watched the terrycloth rise and fall with her breathing, and he knew that neither the sudden storm nor the shower had done anything at all to cool his heated blood. The memory of her instant passion wafted through his mind, torturing him.
He wanted to finish what had begun on the beach, wanted to sweep her off her feet and into the bed in the next room. He wanted to feel her silky legs cradle him, wanted to … wanted. He wanted so much to make love to her. Needed to so much … but he had no intention of conducting a “shipboard” romance, two strangers meeting on a temporary voyage and indulging in a temporary passion. He could never, he knew, be satisfied with that. He wanted Sarah in his bed, not a stranger who would wave farewell at journey’s end with an indifferent smile.
He didn’t want a memory.
But when Sarah turned and smiled at him, he fought an impulse to take whatever he could get. Going over to her, he took the towel fromher hand and began using it with intentional briskness to dry her hair. “I don’t want a sick wife,” he told her, pleased by the casual sound of his voice.
Laughing a little, she peered up at him with bright eyes through the damp red-gold tangle. He was wearing slacks and a knit shirt, and though Sarah had no experience in matters such as this, she instantly recognized the signs that Rafferty was more levelheaded than she was at the moment.
Curiously enough, she felt no sense of rejection, and her own reckless enjoyment didn’t diminish a bit. If anything, it increased dramatically. She felt aware, sensitized, and the possibilities seemed endless and fascinating to contemplate. And this new Sarah said something that should have surprised the old one. But, somehow, it did not. “Your wife in name only, from the look of it.”
If Rafferty hesitated in his task, it was only for a fleeting instant. Lightly, he said, “Restraint is supposed to be good for the soul; I’mtrying to build my character. Don’t mess it up for me, huh?”
“I wouldn’t know how to be a siren,” she confessed, unaware that her eyes certainly knew.
Shrewdly, Rafferty said, “But you’d enjoy the opportunity to try?”
A little startled, Sarah realized he was right. She’d gone too far to resurrect shyness, but a faint flush did color her cheeks. “I suppose. I never thought of myself like that.” Then she blinked. “Oh, that’s ridiculous, Rafferty. With all we have to do …”
“I don’t know,” he murmured. “It might be fun.” Mentally, he apologized to a body appalled by the very thought. He was, he knew, inviting torture and sleepless nights. There was much about Sarah Cavell that intrigued