She made sure she did not look his way now, though the fact that she knew he was there watching her filled her with a mad, crazy, excited exhilaration as she cut through the water with smooth, darting strokes that barely caused a ripple on the ocean surface.
She was halfway across the cove when he struck, swimming beneath her and closing his hands around her waist. Nell let out a shrill, high-pitched scream and almost drowned as she gulped salt water into her lungs just before Xander lifted her high out of the water, rising like a big, black-eyed Poseidon out of the sea with his catch gripped between his hands.
'You shameless, ruthless provocateur!' he bellowed at her, then brought her sliding down the length of his body until her face was level with his.
Still coughing and choking, and almost hyperventilating with shock, Nell felt her skin slither against hard, tough, hair roughened skin, legs, breast-hips! 'Oh, my God,' she gasped out. 'You've got no clothes on!'
'I have no clothes on?' he bit out angrily. 'What the hell do you think it is that you are wearing?'
Clutching at his satin-tight shoulders because she had to clutch at something, Nell lowered her eyes from the fury burning in his, then wished she hadn't when she saw to her horror that the two wet triangles of silk that should be covering her breasts had shifted and now two tight pink nipples were pouting at her like reckless taunts. Colour pouring into her wet cheeks, she flicked her wide eyes back to his blazing eyes and opened her mouth to retaliate with something-but he got there first, slamming his mouth onto hers with all the angry passion that had driven him through the water, submerged and unseen until he could grab her from underneath.
It was a kiss like nothing she had ever experienced. Open-mouthed, hot, frenzied and deep. It didn't help that they were both still panting from their energetic swim, both hearts pounding like thunder, both straining wildly against each other, her fingernails digging into his shoulders, his like clamps around her slippery waist.
The rough sound of masculine desire ground from his throat and he broke the kiss to lift her high again, eyes like burning black coals as he dipped his head and latched his mouth onto one of her breasts. The greedy suck dragged a shocked cry of pleasure from her, and sent him in search of the other breast.
When he lowered her to recapture her mouth he moved his hands to her wriggling hips, used long, sensually sliding fingers to urge uselessly flailing legs apart then wrapped them firmly around his hips. She took the new intimacy with a breath gulping quiver, felt the bold thrust of his penis, rock-solid and probing against her flesh. The G-string was no barrier. She was going to lose her virginity right here in the ocean to a man balanced on the edge between violence and passion, and what was worse, she didn't care.
His hands were moulding the tight curve of her bottom now, her fingers buried in the wet silk of his hair, fingernails clawing at his scalp. The kiss was so wild and hot and urgent she felt dizzy from it, then it was gone.
With an angry growl he thrust her from him, sending her floundering into the sea. She dropped beneath the surface. By the time she'd gathered enough sense to make the push back to the surface he was already pounding his way back to the beach.
It was the worst, most devastating rejection he had ever dealt her. For a horrible few seconds Nell thought she was going to faint. If she could she would be turning and swimming out to sea just to get away from the fresh burn of rejection she was feeling but he'd sapped her strength, taking it with him like some lethal, heartless virus, leaving her with this hot, sensual, dragging feeling that was so new to her she didn't know what to do to ease herself out of its grip.
She watched him rise out of the water, a beautiful, wide shouldered, long-bodied, bronze-skinned male without a hint of shame in his own nakedness. Toned muscles that moved and flexed in lithe coordination were caught to perfection by the water clinging to his flesh and the loving glint of the sun. He did not look back, and Nell could feel his anger emanating towards her back across the calm ocean and she hated herself for responding to him. Her breasts felt heavy, their tips tingling and tight. Even as she trod water in an effort to keep herself afloat her thighs had clamped together as if to hold in their first experience of a fully aroused man thrusting against the hidden flesh.
It took every bit of will-power she could drum up to make herself follow him, dipping beneath the water in an effort to cool the heat from her face and her body then angrily resettling her bikini top before she allowed herself to surface again then make deeply reluctant strikes for the shore.
By the time she reached it he'd pulled on a pair of smooth fitting trousers, muscles clenching tightly across his glistening back when he heard the splash of her feet as she waded through the shallows to the beach.
Bending down, he scooped up her sarong, half turned and tossed it to her. It landed in a floaty drift of white on the damp sand at her feet, and he was already snatching up his shirt and dragging it on over his glinting wet skin.
Xander thought about apologising but he'd played that hand before and too often to give the words any impact. Anyway, he was not sorry. He was angry and aroused and he could still feel her legs wrapped around him, could still taste her in his mouth. He had an ache between his legs that was threatening to envelop him.
'You will not flaunt your body in get-ups like that excuse for a bikini,' he clipped out, heard the words, realised he sounded like a disapproving father, hated that, uttered a driven sigh that spun him about.
She was trying to knot the sarong with fumbling fingers. Her beautiful hair was slicked to her head. She had never looked more subdued or more tragic.
'And when we get around to making love it will not be out in the open for anyone to watch us,' he heard himself add.
'Behind a locked bedroom door on a bed, maybe,' she suggested. 'How boringly conventional of you.'
Subdued but not dead, Xander noted from that little piece of slicing derision. He could not help the smile that. twitched at his mouth. It eased some of the passion-soaked aggression out of his voice.
'More comfortable too,' he agreed drily. 'I was treading water out there. I don't know how I kept us both floating. Add some of the really physical stuff and I would likely have drowned us in the process.'
'I can swim.'
'Not with me deep inside you, agape mou,' he drawled lazily. 'Trust me, you would have lost the will to live rather than let me go.'
She managed the knot. He had a feeling it cut off the circulation, it appeared so tight. And her cheeks went a deep shade of pink. He liked that. However, the look she sent him should have shrivelled his ego like a prune. It didn't though. The physical part of his ego remained very much erect and full.
'Such confidence in your prowess,' she mocked, stalking past him to scoop up the rest of her things. 'Don't they always say that those who boast about it always disappoint?'
'I will not disappoint,' he assured with husky confidence.
'Well, if you wait until it's dark to prove that, I can always pretend you are someone else, then maybe you won't.' And with the pithy comment to cut him down to size where he stood she put the hat on her head and walked off towards the path.
A lesser man would react to such an insult. A lesser man, Xander told himself as he watched her walk away, would go after her and drag her down in the sand and make her take such foolish words back.
The better man picked up his socks and shoes and followed her at a leisurely pace, while he plotted his revenge by more subtle methods. Then a frown creased his smooth brow when he remembered something and increased his pace, only becoming leisurely
again once he'd caught up with her and tempered his longer stride to hers.
Hearing him coming, Nell pushed her sunglasses over her burning eyes and increased her pace. She received a glimpse of sun-dappled white shirting, black trousers and a pair of long brown bare feet as he came up beside her, but her mind saw the naked man and her tummy muscles fluttered. So did other parts.
'I grew up on this island,' he remarked casually. 'As a small boy I used to walk this path each morning to swim in the cove before being shipped across to the mainland to attend school. Diving from the rocks is an exhilarating experience. The snorkelling is good out there, the fishing too-though I do not suppose the fishing part is of any interest to you.'
'You, used to fish?' Nell spoke the words without thinking then was angry because she'd been determined to say nothing at all.
'You think I arrived on this earth all-powerful and arrogant?' He mocked her lazily. 'In the afternoons I used to fish,' he explained. 'Having been transported back here after my school day was finished, with my ever-present bodyguard as my only playmate.'
Now he was playing on her sympathies by drawing heartstring-plucking pictures of a small, lonely boy protected and isolated from the world because of his father's great power and wealth.
'My parents were always off somewhere doing important things so I rarely saw them,' he went on. 'Thea Sophia brought me up, taught me good manners and the major values of life. The fishing taught me how to survive on my own if I had to. I used to worry constantly that something dreadful was going to happen to those who lived here on the island with me and I would be left alone here to fend for myself. I knew that my father had powerful enemies that might decide to use me in their quest for revenge. Before the age of six I had all my hiding places picked out for when they came for me...'