Katrina stood looking at him, trying to judge the real reason for his being on her doorstep. She swallowed hard. He was of a much better class than most of the people who had come to her in the past in connection with Charleston.
Shakily, she held onto the door for support, swallowing convulsively.
"Please," she said. She could feel her lips trembling and bit them from the inside for just a moment before continuing. "I told you I have no money. Please, leave me alone."
“You really don’t have much of a choice, you know. I’m here on legitimate legal business and if you don’t cooperate with me now and answer a few questions, I can always return with a police officer and a court injunction which will force you to let me in and to talk with me. Then, we’d also have an audience for your answers.”
She felt the blood leave her face, but still she didn’t move, rooted with dread. She was afraid of a great many things, and a lawyer on her doorstep asking about Charleston comprised most of them.
His voice softened. "Look, Ms. McSwayne. I haven't grown a second head, at least not in the past five minutes. I also refuse to answer any of the questions churning in your pretty little head until I have been invited in and am sitting down. It has been a long and tiring day. I promise that I will not," he added with a smile, "take advantage of my greater physical strength to cause you harm or assault you. I prefer the favors I am given are just that...given. Not taken."
Hands shaking, Katrina closed the door enough to slide the chain free, then opened the door wide enough to admit his broad shoulders. Gavin stepped past her.
Katrina hastily closed the door, bolting it behind him. She wondered what the use was of locking the door with the danger on the inside of it, but her long established habit carried her fingers through their usual ritual. He might be dangerous to her mentally, but there was something about him...a feeling of safety, and...something more which caught her interest. Somehow, she knew he wouldn’t harm her person.
Katrina hoped if she gave him all the answers he thought he needed, he would go away and leave her alone. She felt a brief flicker of depression, and wondered why.
She’d barely laid eyes on the man. What would it matter if she never saw him again? If he knew Charleston, it would be much better if she didn’t. But he hadn’t said he knew Charleston. All he’d actually said was that he needed to ask her questions about Charleston. It may be a different matter entirely. If he didn’t know Charleston, it might be all right if she saw him again. The notion brought a pleasant fluttering in her midsection, but Katrina didn’t pause to examine the thought closely.
She led him to the living room and motioned him toward the couch. He set his briefcase on the floor, then peeled off his coat, laying it over the armrest before he sat.
She went to one of a pair of chairs across from him and quietly seated herself, her trembling hands folded together so he couldn’t see how badly she was shaken by his mere presence. She kept her eyes on the floor, not really knowing what to say, not even daring to look at him.
"He was out of his mind to let you slip out of his grasp," he said.
His words startled her. Katrina took a quick glance at his smiling face, then looked down at her hands. She didn't dare look up again. His eyes said things to her that she hadn't been told in a very long time.
Mr. Browning was quiet. Katrina became more uncomfortable as the silence went on and on. Finally, she gathered her courage and glanced up, catching a very soft look on his face.
The ringing of the telephone startled Katrina, but it also gave her something to do. She quickly stood and walked to the small nook which held the phone, sitting placidly on its directory, and answered it.
"Hello, Katrina speaking."
“Katrina? Jerilynn. The mechanic says the stupid part finally came in. He’ll install it tomorrow. I hate to impose again, but could you possibly…?”
"Sure, Jerilynn, no problem. I can be there by 7:20."
“Oh, Katrina, you’re wonderful! I don’t know how to thank you…and I promise to be ready on time tomorrow.”
Katrina smiled. "Okay, see you then. 'Bye." She replaced the receiver and turned back toward her chair.
Mr Browning had moved. He was standing directly behind her, close enough that she found herself almost in his arms. She felt dwarfed by him. She looked up into his face. Her startled eyes saw warmth there, and something else...but the fleeting look was gone before she had a chance to identify it.
Katrina held her breath. He was too close. He smelled...sexy. The idea was strange to her; she had never thought someone could smell sexy.
She watched him look at her. He drew even nearer. It was like a slow-motion movie. She couldn’t move. She felt like a bird, hypnotized by a snake. She could feel the danger but was powerless to resist. He slowly bent towards her and she knew he was going to kiss her.
Suddenly, she wanted just that, and tilted her face toward him. He captured her lips with his own. It was a very soft, sensuous feeling...his lips on hers, his mustache just brushing her upper lip. She felt herself whirling and drowning in his slight embrace. She wanted it to go on forever. She couldn't remember a time she had been kissed with so much feeling or gentleness.
The slight movement of his arm as it came up to hold her was a small distraction, but it was enough to restore some of her senses and she pulled away. She’d enjoyed the kiss and felt humiliated as hot blood washed over her face; she was blushing again. How could she let a total stranger into her home and then kiss him like that without a fight? She looked at the floor.
"Please." Her voice was a mere whisper. "Don't do that." She swallowed. "Please. Leave me alone. I must insist that you not...um...touch me again." She cleared her throat, keeping her eyes on the floor.
Katrina could not move away; she was trapped in the nook by his body. She wasn't really sure she wanted to move, either. The thought bothered her. She usually kept well clear of men...especially the smooth-talking, good-looking ones. You couldn't trust them; she’d found that out the hard, painful way.
Why, then, did she feel she could trust this man? What made him different? Why did she want him to kiss her again, and go on kissing her forever?
His voice was tender, soft. "Why not, Katrina?" He touched a strand of her hair with the tip of his index finger. His breath fanned her cheek. "Don't you think you deserve some tenderness after what you've been through?"