He was reaching for her, and she jerked up the gun, pointing it straight at his chest. He stopped dead in his tracks. "I know how to use this," she said, trying to control the wobble in her voice. "I'm warning you, don't come any closer."
The hard planes of his face gradually softened and he laughed low in his throat. "Now this is more like the Jess I know." He spread his arms wide and took another step toward her. "Go on, then. Pull the trigger. You can't miss me from that distance. Aim for here." He touched his heart. "What's the matter, Jess? Have you lost your nerve?"
She aimed for the floor, shut her eyes and squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened. It was a mistake that cost her dearly as she knew the moment she opened her eyes. His face was livid with color and his lips were pulled back, baring his teeth.
"Christ! You vicious little bitch! If you had remembered to cock that firing piece, you would have emasculated me."
Though she quailed before the thirteen stone of quivering masculine outrage that loomed over her, there was just enough of Sister Martha in her to be outraged as well. "Blasphemy," she coldly informed him, "is not tolerated in this house."
"The hell it isn't!"
With a suddenness that caught her off guard, he grabbed for the gun and with one yank wrested it from her hands. She had the presence of mind to give him a hard shove, then she took off. She heard another violent oath, then the thud of his boots as he came after her. Panting as though her lungs would burst, she flung into the kitchen and made straight for the paddle beside the brick oven. Without waiting to take aim, she swung it in an arc and caught him a glancing blow on the shoulder. He staggered and cursed, but still came on. There was no stopping this man! She swung the paddle again, missed, and sent the crock of flour she'd set out on the table tumbling to the floor. A fine brown powder floated up.
He gave one of his infuriating low laughs and lunged for her. She swung at him again. This time her paddle collided with the pan of strawberry jam and sent it spinning. It hit the mantel with a resounding thud and exploded in a shower of gooey crimson rain. It rained on the ceiling, it rained on the floor. It rained on him, it rained on her.
Hands on hips, he threw back his head and hooted with laughter. "If you could only see yourself!"
She didn't care what she looked like, not when she was facing a madman. Her eyes were trained on him, watching his every move. Her hands were clenched around the paddle, holding it like a lance. When he came at her, she went for him, but he neatly sidestepped her. As she charged by, he grabbed her from behind, pinioning her arms to her sides, and he lifted her effortlessly off her feet. She bucked, she kicked, she twisted, she squirmed. She could not budge him. He was squeezing her so hard she thought she would suffocate. In a blind panic, she dropped the paddle. Almost at once, the pressure of his arms eased.
When her feet touched the floor, he slowly turned her to face him. "What in hell's name did you think I was going to do to you?" he demanded, giving her a rough shake.
She didn't have the breath to answer him. She was using the dregs of her strength to strain as far back as his hands would allow.
"Dammit, will you stop squirming?"
She stopped squirming.
His brows were a dark slash. His eyes moved slowly over her face. "You're frightened of me," he said, "really frightened."
She wheezed out, "You attacked me."
He gave a crooked half smile. "Jess, you were the one with the gun. You provoked me. You know you did."
He was using the tone of voice she, herself, sometimes used with the children in the orphanage, when she wanted to soothe their fears. He didn't seem like a dangerous lunatic now. In fact, that crooked half smile made him look almost harmless. With that thought, some of the tension drained out of her. She shrugged helplessly. "I thought you were mad."
"And I thought you were . . . sweet."
When he reached out with his hand, she jerked back. "Don't!"
His hand dropped away. Something came and went in his eyes, pain, regret--whatever it was, it made her feel less threatened.
"It's only a blob of jam," he said.
She brushed her face with her hand. "Jam?"
"Allow me." Again, his hand reached for her, but this time she didn't flinch away. With the pad of his thumb, he removed the sticky substance from her chin. "Jam," he said, showing it to her. Then, with eyes holding hers, he spread the jam on his tongue and swallowed.
The muscles in her throat contracted involuntarily. She felt the swift rise and fall of her breasts. A strange expectancy gripped her. As his eyes continued to hold hers, her heart began to pound.
He let his breath out slowly. "It's still there, isn't it, Jess? You feel it, too. Is this why you came back? Is it, Jess? Is it?
No, don't push me away. I won't hurt you. I just want to hold you."
She didn't resist when he drew her into the circle of his arms. Something stirred in her, something that went beyond memory. Her brow wrinkled as she searched his face. Here was someone who could tell her all she wanted to know about Jessica Hayward. Then his dark head descended and she froze as his mouth touched hers.
Before she could draw a breath to protest, every fiber of her being was electrified. The terror she had experienced only moments before at the hands of this man was forgotten, as were the rules she was sworn to uphold as a nun. Sister Martha might never have existed for all the impression she made on Jessica. The kitchen of Hawkshill Manor slipped quietly into oblivion. The only reality she was sure of was the rightness of being in his arms. Her mind might not recognize this man, but there was something in the deepest reaches of her psyche that was profoundly affected. In that moment, she could have sworn he was as familiar to her as the beat of her own heart.
She was captivated by the gentleness of the powerful arms that held her; she was enthralled by the reverence of his lips as they moved on hers. He kissed her again and again, each kiss sweeter than the last. Her lips softened beneath the pressure of his, and her hands moved of their own volition to slide over his shoulders and into his hair.
That small act of surrender changed everything. He tore his mouth from hers and covered her face with hard, random kisses, her throat, her breasts. His chest rose and fell rapidly. Air rushed in and out of his lungs.
"Jess," he whispered hoarsely, "Jess."
She cried out when he lowered her to the table, then she relaxed as he came down beside her. She wasn't afraid. Memories that were born and bred into every cell and sinew of her body had taken over.
He was staring down at her through the veil of his thick dark lashes.
"I trust you," she whispered, and the truth of it awed her.
Excerpted from You Only Love Twice by Elizabeth Thornton. Copyright © 1998 by Elizabeth Thornton. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.