Chapter 12 Dara struggled against his grasp, but she could feel his arms tighten around her, his hard breath on her. She felt faint as the room began to tilt around her.
Once more Blake asked, “Why have you been hiding from me?” His voice was deep and sonorous, even threatening.
“I…I…don’t…I don’t know,” she gasped.
“Dara, you must tell me why you’ve been running away from me, why you haven’t answered my calls. Tell me,” he said in a commanding voice.
“Let me go,” she gasped, and she struggled against his tightening hold. Finally, he released her, and she sagged against the wall, tears beginning to form around her eyes.
Blake was still breathing hard, his clear blue eyes gazing steadily at her.
She realized she was crying, gently, softly, as tears began to fall slowly down her cheeks.
“Dara,” he said huskily, taking her face in his hands. His long fingers grasped her chin. “Look at me. Look me in the face and tell me."
Dara couldn't trust herself. She tried to look away, but he held her face firmly. Now she began to sob, tears coming unchecked.
“I don’t know what you mean,” she mumbled, as she tried not to look into his piercing blue eyes. She couldn't take the closeness of him, his searching gaze.
More tears came, new tears, and finally she pulled herself away from his grasp, collapsing into a nearby chair.
Blake came to her, gently lifted her out of the chair and held her once more against his hard chest. She could feel the strong pulse of his heart as it beat against her own.
He put his lips against the top of her head and muttered thickly into her hair. “You must trust me,” he said huskily. “Tell me why you’re avoiding from me.”
She was sobbing now. She struggled against the strength of him. Tears changed to panic: “Please, please, let me go!” she sobbed.
How could she tell him what she saw, what she knew! “It’s none of your business!” she cried.
“It is my business,” Blake countered. “Everything about you is my business. I love you. Do you understand? I want to make my life with you,” he said softly but firmly.
She was weeping openly now; deep sobs shook her body.
Finally, reluctantly, Blake released her. She sagged down along the wall, her legs weak and trembling. Through a haze of tears, Dara could see only a blur in front of her. But she could feel his powerful presence, his intense blue eyes as he stared down at her.
She was terrified. She was a trapped animal.
“Oh, God, Dara,” he groaned. “I love you.” He came toward her with one long, stride and took hold of her again, grasping her face between his strong hands.
“Stay away from me,” she whispered, weakly, tears streaming down her cheeks.
But it was too late. His lips came down on hers, pushing ardently against her quivering mouth. He kissed her lips, her face, her eyes. He kissed the shining tears on her cheeks. He kissed her with a hard, desperate passion—the way she had never been kissed before.
“Dara, my love, you are mine. My very own,” he said huskily.
She was sobbing now. She couldn't bear the nearness of him, and she began to give into his ardor, to kiss him back with all her force. She wanted this man. She knew she would always want him.
But she stopped herself. She pulled back, crying, and yanked herself violently from his embrace. “Stop it! Stop it!” she sobbed.
She backed up. She took a long, deep breath to give herself strength and to steady her trembling nerves. She knew she must confront him, the man she loved, with the knowledge she knew would destroy him. But it didn’t matter, as tears and more tears ran silently down her cheeks.
“I saw you,” she said slowly but directly. “I saw you with her. I saw you give her the check, the money.”
His deep blue eyes looked at her penetratingly. But he said nothing.
“And you embraced her, and kissed her, too,” she cried. More tears traced their way down her cheeks. “You've lied to me; you've lied to all of us.”
Finally, she blurted it out, all the pain, all the fear: “You’re the one who’s been embezzling the funds.” You...and...and...that woman...it's been you all along!”
“Oh my God, Dara.” He walked over to his desk. You saw us? You saw me with her?”
Dara’s heart sank. All the while she’d been hoping against all rational reason, hoping that somehow she’d been mistaken. Yet there was no denial, no protest of innocence on his part.
He sat on the corner of the desk, his cold blue eyes focused intently on her. “What exactly did you see?” he asked. His voice sounded almost threatening.
She began to fear…but she went on. “It was four nights ago. I was working late, and I saw her come out of your office. You handed her the envelope. And then you took her in your arms and kissed her and held her for a long time. And then it was over.
Blake stared at her, his face expressionless, at first. Then he put his face in his hands and shook his head. “Oh God, Dara,” he muttered. “Is that what all this is about?”
She stared at him and nodded. She realized that a flood of new tears was running down her cheeks, tears she could not stop.
Blake sighed, a deep, long sigh and shook his head slowly. “I should have told you, I guess. Except that it’s been a secret for so long that I don’t know how to talk about it. In fact, I’m ashamed.”
“No, no” she screamed—but silently, inside herself—“I can’t hear this!”
Outwardly, she was silent, her tears the only external clue to her internal turmoil. This man, whom she had come to love, to adore, whom she had trusted….
She didn't think she could bear to hear his confession, to have him tell her of his guilt. This extraordinary man before her had betrayed not just her own trust, but the trust of so many others.
Quietly, Blake said, “Dara, that woman was my wife.”
Chapter 15—summary In this chapter, Dara learns that Blake had married his childhood sweetheart right out of high school; but it was a mistake, they both knew. The marriage ended without rancor, the two remained friends, and his former wife quickly remarried. But the man she married turned out to be irresponsible and abusive, eventually abandoning her—and their young infant who was born with a serious congenital disorder. Blake stepped in to help support the two, and had been doing so for years.
Chapter 16—last lines Dara lay in Blake’s arms. She was barely awake, but even awake, her life was like a dream. A dream come true.
It had all happened so fast. During the trial of Carshaw Marks, it had been her expert testimony that had convinced the jury of his guilt. Blake had been there in the courtroom watching intently as the web of justice closed in on his previously trusted friend and associate. It was for him a moment of both sorrow and relief when the jury brought in the guilty verdict.
They had married immediately afterwards, a quiet ceremony with a few friends and family members. They both had wanted it that way.
And, now, here they were—in this huge bed on the island of St. Kits, in the bridal suite, wrapped in one another’s arms. Blake lifted his head from the pillow to smile down at her, his eyes still blue. And the warm Caribbean sunlight streamed in through the balcony, full of promise for yet another glorious day—and full of promise for the married life that lay before them.
It was all so perfect. Her books, her numbers, and her calculations could all wait. With Blake she felt whole and happy.