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Authors Note: Thank you once again to everyone who leaves comments and feedback on my writing, it is much appreciated. Thank you very much to Paul who continues to be my second set of eyes, he is a great friend to help me out so much. I hope you enjoy it. ~ellie
Chapter 6: The one that got away
“So, what should I expect in Panama?” Carrie asked as Sinclair returned from speaking to the pilots.
“Spanish influences,” he shrugged. “Though my House is on a remote property, so transport will be different,” he smiled and took her hand. “I love the sea, and this place has the most beautiful beaches.”
“Do you do much sailing here?” she inquired, tilting her head slightly.
“As much as I can,” he said enthusiastically. “I’m looking forward to spending some time on the water while we’re here, I hope you will leave the collection long enough to come with me.”
“So, is it another library?” she asked, for what seemed the hundredth time. He’d evaded any of her direct questions about his home in Panama.
“In a manner of speaking,” he nodded and took her hand. He enjoyed her excitement at uncovering new artefacts and the information held in his family collections. He’d discovered over the past months that she had very similar interests to his own where the golden age of piracy and its corresponding era in Europe and the America’s were concerned.
“Why do you do that?” Carrie accused. “You know it makes me crazy when you won’t give me straight answers.”
“I know the feeling,” he smirked, knowing how that affected her as well.
“Urg! How long until we land?” she asked, not bothering to keep her frustration from her voice.
“Long enough to make use of our membership to the mile-high club,” he said moving toward her. Carrie put her hand on his chest and leant backwards.
“I’m exhausted and irritable,” she said shortly. “I’d just like to lie down for a little while,” she said, and at the look on his face added, “To rest.”
“It doesn’t sound nearly as fun as my suggestion, but I can see that you have put yourself under a lot of pressure by not delegating nearly enough to your team. You need to be more of a team player, Carrie, or you will burn out long before the exhibition date,” he warned, not mentioning her meltdown of the day before over meeting his parents. “You’ll get back to London eventually, but, for now, let’s just play it safe for another week or two.”
“I’m enjoying the work,” she laughed. “I thought you would be happy that I am taking such care with your family’s treasures.” She undid her lap sash and stood up in the private plane, moving toward the back where the small but cosy bedroom lay.
“I guess I could use a rest too,” Sinclair grumbled, following her into the room and kicking off his shoes. His attraction to this feisty, independent woman had not waned at all since they began living together. If anything, his feelings for her had only increased with their increased intimacy. She turned and narrowed her eyes at him, and he held up his hands in surrender. “Seriously, just rest,” he reassured her.
Carrie left her shoes neatly beside the bed and lay down fully clothed, rolling her eyes at his gesture and words. She rolled to her side so he was facing her back, and smiled to herself as he snuggled in behind her. She had never believed that she could live with anyone contentedly. Even Jordan annoyed her to the point of distraction at times, and she would escape to her room and her personal space. Sinclair’s constant presence never had that effect on her, though, and she found that if he was late getting home, she missed him. She’d never felt this way about anyone, and she could hear her mother’s disapproving voice in her mind as she let out a long slow breath and closed her eyes.
Sinclair felt Carrie relax in his arms and, once he felt she was asleep, rolled to his back keeping his hand on her side. It had been five months since the last theft by the fool, and he had concentrated all his efforts to discover the Fool’s identity on Carrie and her brother. He had assumed that living in close proximity to them both he would discover something to incriminate them further, or at least cast greater doubts on their innocence, but he had found nothing aside of her constant queries about when he would take her to Treasure Island to see the Heart of the Heartless. It was one of the things that kept him wondering if she was as innocent as she seemed.
This trip to his home in Panama had a dual purpose, and he hoped to rattle her demeanour by giving her a glimpse into the association of Hats and their long history, which was intertwined with her family history not so long ago. There was a lot he would expose about himself and his family in Panama, and part of him hoped that showing his trust in her would encourage her to let down some of the walls he felt she had placed between them. His main reason for bringing her here, however, was to keep her safe from whoever was following them and had taken the shot at them while they were rock climbing in Scotland.
Sinclair felt Carrie bahis firmaları stiffen and listened to the soft mumble, knowing it was her mother that haunted her dreams. Robyn’s name had been the only thing he could ever make out clearly when she slept restlessly like this. He knew enough to know that Robyn had been a strict and overbearing mother and that, as much as Carrie had been devoted to her, Jordan had resented her equally. They spoke about her rarely, and he hadn’t pushed Carrie, seeing that it was a sensitive subject she wasn’t prepared to discuss yet. The insight he had gained last night when his parents arrived home, however, had both shocked and horrified him.
The waves of her hair fanned out over the pillow, and he gently smoothed it back down over her shoulder and rolled back toward her with a little more insight into why her mother disturbed her dreams so much. He wanted to know more about her, but the walls Carrie had built up around her herself, and her past, seemed almost impenetrable. She was flippant in her dismissal of most of his questions and blatantly changed the subject when he asked about more sensitive issues, particularly why Robyn had invested so much time training her to be a world class thief and then encouraged her to use her skills for legitimate purposes in recovery and relocation of stolen artefacts. He had been reasonably forthcoming with her questions about his life and family, and he had hoped that as he opened up a little more, she would too, but she had given little in return.
This reticence to talk about herself only added to his continued suspicion of her, despite all evidence to the contrary. There had to be a way through the high walls she held so tightly around herself, and if their time in Panama together didn’t show a few cracks, then he wasn’t sure what else he could do.
A quick glance at his watch told him that they were barely halfway through the long flight, and he considered waking her from the bad dream and putting her back to sleep in the nicest possible way. He nuzzled softly at her neck and smiled as she mumbled sleepily, not even fluttering her eyes in her deep sleep. Sinclair wasn’t tired, but closed his eyes again, seeking some rest as he thought through his plans to protect himself and Carrie, as well as his family and friends. The work he did as part of the association was too important to jeopardise by allowing Rackham’s misguided judgement to risk it in any way, and he wished he could work out why the fool had been targeting the association and thereby discover who it might be. Without knowing why he was floundering around in the dark.
Carrie woke a few hours later with a gasp. The dream had been so real, and Robyn’s scorn of her growing feelings for Sinclair had been as brutal as the punishment she had received for failing to follow the plan. She was required to seduce him, not be seduced; she was not some giddy school girl so easily taken in by a player like Sinclair Mansvelt. The truth was Robyn had equipped her to be a siren. A woman who could attract and lure men into casual liaisons and sexual trysts, but she was totally ill-equipped to deal with the emotions involved in a proper relationship.
“It was just a dream,” Sinclair soothed, smoothing her hair from her cheek.
“Did I wake you?” she asked, rolling onto her back and turning her head to look at him. “I’m sorry.”
“No,” he shook his head. “I was just resting, not sleeping. You dream about your mother a lot, you know?”
“You never mentioned it before,” she accused, wondering what she might have said or if he had heard anything damaging when she talked in her sleep. The revelation both worried and surprised her.
“You never say anything intelligible, mostly you have a whispering mumble, the only thing I have ever heard clearly is Robyn’s name,” he admitted, seeing the tension leave her body at his words. “I find it so…” he searched for the right word, “strange that you never went to school or had sleepovers with friends. How old were you when Jordan came to live with you?”
“Ten,” she said with a sigh. She couldn’t backtrack on what she said now and ruin the trust the confession had gained her from Sinclair. “Robyn realised he was smart and put him on the accelerated learning program I was on, but a more streamlined version. He didn’t have to study languages or the arts. His regime was all maths and science; he passed the scholarship test for University when he was fifteen and left again. Robyn was already sick by then and making plans for our futures.”
“But you had a friend to hang out with for a few years, at least,” Sinclair said. “That must have been nice.”
“Sort of, my physical training was far more advanced than his, so we had different trainers for our downtime and only a few of our lessons overlapped. We ate together, and, when Alice came, we were allowed a little bit of time to go out for dinner with her, and she used to take me shopping for totally impractical things, or books that Robyn would never let me waste time reading. Robyn always seemed a little kaçak iddaa less intense when Alice was around,” Carrie admitted. “Thank you for getting her painting back for her.”
“I understand why it was important enough for you to try and overcome your fear of climbing now,” he smirked.
“I fell!” she snapped.
“You didn’t die, though, did you?” he chuckled, pulling her into his arms so she rested her head on his shoulder as they talked. “You know you didn’t fall as a result of the climbing,” he said sombrely. “Someone shot at us.”
“Another reason not to climb anymore,” she grumbled.
“In our line of work, sometimes climbing is the only way in or out of a place. You did well up until that point, better than a lot of people who have been climbing for years,” he said reassuringly.
“I’ll still be exploring every other option before climbing again,” she asserted.
“After the exhibition is done and life has settled down again we can go back to my friend’s house and try again. Practice will make it easier for you,” he suggested.
“There is no after the exhibition,” she said softly. “We’ve been over this so many times, I don’t understand why you keep bringing it up.”
“Maybe because I want an after the exhibition with you,” Sinclair grumbled loudly and rolled over, pinning her arms above her head. “I don’t understand why you won’t even entertain the idea. Do I seem that shallow to you that I would lose interest just because you are or aren’t the Fool?” He leant down and kissed her. “All this time we are spending together, getting closer getting to know each other, can’t just be dismissed so easily, at least, not for me. You’re different from any woman I have ever met, and I can’t imagine I will want to let you go, regardless of how things pan out next year at the exhibition.”
“Fine, it’s me!” she admitted, trying to pull away from the look in his eyes and what his words meant to her, she struggled against the hold he had on her arms and the weight of his body. “I told you about how I was brought up. I don’t do friendships easily, and, as far as relationships go, I’ve never pursued anything beyond a casual no-strings fling. I don’t like messy entanglements, and you are making this messy!” She bucked and, using her semi-free legs, rolled over the bed, reefing one of her hands free as she did so.
Sinclair looked up into her face as she straddled his hips and put the elbow of her free arm painfully into his shoulder in an attempt to stop him from rolling her again. He purposefully smirked at her as she admitted why she didn’t want to talk or even think about what would happen after the first of April next year. He hadn’t made the connection himself, but now that she had said it, it made perfect sense. Her mother’s version of love had been twisted by her utter control of her daughter’s life, which consisted of success or punishment and nothing in between. There had been no ribbons for doing well or participating, no pat on the back for the focus and determination it took to overcome each hurdle, only a raising of the bar and a new command to jump.
He looked up at her as clarity came to him about why she battled his dominance in sex, why it was always a battle of wills and a contest that she would eventually give in to more often than not on her terms. Perhaps it was time for that to change. She knew that at any time she could stop their battles with the simple word no and he would never force her to do anything she didn’t want to, and, more often than not, the argument had become the battleground and she would give in to prove herself better than him in one way or another. The giving in, however, was always on her terms, and he considered this and how to use it to his advantage to make her see that there could be a future for them, if she could trust him fully.
“Messy is never good,” Carrie sighed and wondered if she had said too much or gone too far as Sinclair lay passively below her staring into her face. “I’m not the type of girl men fall in love with and plan a future with. Men want, need, desire women like me, but they don’t plan a happily ever after. You need someone like Carter Avery who is comfortable in the social life you lead and can be the perfect hostess and partner in your jet-setting world. That’s not me, and you know it.” She sat up, still straddling his hips and looking at him. “So do yourself, and me, a favour, stop talking about future possibilities and just enjoy the time we have together.” She rolled her hips, rubbing her pussy against his groin suggestively.
“So you’ve made your mind up and I get no say in it at all. You have judged me and my life and decided what’s best for me,” he said deceptively softly, making her tilt her head as she looked at him. “Do I strike you as the type of man who does anything I don’t want to do? A man who doesn’t get exactly what he wants?” he asked in the same deceptively mild tone.
“No, but…” Carrie started to speak but was cut off as Sinclair pushed her off him, unceremoniously dumping her to the side of the bed where she landed kaçak bahis sprawled on the floor. Sinclair stood and pulled her up by the hair, pulling her arms behind her back and arching her body at such an angle that she couldn’t kick back at him with any alacrity.
“We started this whole relationship in a den of the perverted and depraved. I saw you sitting beside the king of that debauchery like his cherished pet. Do you think I care about who you’ve fucked or why?” Sinclair growled in her ear. “Do you think I care that the museum mouse probably has a greater I.Q. than me or that the sex kitten is a nymphomaniac who needs a man who can dominate her both physically and mentally?” Sinclair felt her tense in the hold he had on her. “Do you think me so weak that I don’t know my own mind and you can just dictate what I will and won’t do now or in the future?”
“That’s not what I meant!” she gasped.
“So you think you can just dictate the terms of our relationship without any consideration about what I want, is that it?” his voice was dangerously threatening, and she began to struggle again.
“Sin, stop!” she yelled and stumbled forward into the wall as he pushed her away from him.
“With all the women you’ve seen me photographed with and decided that I am a player, did it ever occur to you that I am the unlovable one in that scenario? That my expectations of a partner in a relationship are too high for most women to aspire to, or too difficult for them to achieve that they leave me?” He posed the unlikely question.
“I imagine any one of those women would do whatever you asked just to be seen with you,” she retorted, preparing to battle with him again as he didn’t stop the low, threatening lecture.
“There’s no challenge in subduing a weak and willing slut who will take anything I dish out,” he shook his head. “Even ice princesses will melt with enough flattery and affection or a heroic gesture or two, but not you. You become icier with genuine affection; you need the adrenaline of the battle of wills and the clear roles of dominant and submissive. You don’t want to talk about the future because it scares you that there might be more to life than the next challenge, the next hurdle to jump, the next plan to achieve successfully.” He moved toward her.
“You’re right! Is that what you want to hear?” she spat, holding up her hand to halt his progress toward her. “I don’t want a relationship. I don’t want to meet your family. I don’t want to go to Panama with you, but here I am, because lord knows I don’t want to get shot at for something I didn’t do! I just want to go home, Sin!” She had felt the truth of his words, though she would never admit the reality of that to him. All she had to cling to in her life to make it seem normal was completing Robyn’s plan, and this man was the key to that, and she couldn’t give up now, nor could she think of being with him beyond her betrayal of him. It hurt, she admitted, and once again she heard her mother’s scornful voice in her head about being too soft and emotional.
Sinclair’s anger and harsh words melted as he heard the sadness in her voice. At that moment she seemed almost vulnerable, and he took the last step towards her and took her in his arms and kissed her deeply.
“Because it’s not safe, Carrington,” he murmured, “And although you don’t want to hear it, I care about you and don’t want to see you hurt, or worse.” He kissed her again. He had refrained from using any term of affection stronger than that, not wanting to scare her any further. He’d pushed hard then, and a large crack now showed in that cool calm exterior. It was the first real show of emotion he had seen. Even as she told him why she didn’t want to be on the island with his parents, she had been unemotional about her childhood, just telling him the facts. This time she had melted before him, and he believed he got a glimpse of the frighted little girl beneath the confident, sexy exterior.
He was right. She didn’t want to hear that he cared for her. Carrie ripped at the button on his shirt as their kiss became more heated and moved against him, she wanted to feel anything but the tumbling emotions that assaulted her at that moment. Within minutes their clothes were on the floor, and he pushed her against the wall, lifting one of her legs over his hip. He thrust into her, needing to be in her to possess her and take her without any further challenge to his right to do so now or in the future.
It was an intense, short-lived fuck, but they both collapsed back to the bed satisfied, though for different reasons. Carie curled against him and closed her eyes as his arms circled her, keeping her close. Their life together would be a perpetual series of battles, Sinclair knew, but he also knew he couldn’t imagine anyone else taking her place now.
Carrie craned her neck curiously as they pulled up at a large iron gate set into a high stone wall. The fortified mansion sat on a cliff top near one of the smaller cities on the Caribbean coast on the opposite side of the Panama Canal to the capital, Panama City. The security at this home was greater than she had expected, and she wondered if this fortress-like building was his main residence rather than the island home she had read so much about.
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