Mackenzie's Magic by Linda Howard

  Mac didn’t believe in making mistakes.

  "How long does it take to get married in Kentucky?" he asked abruptly. "If we can’t get it done tomorrow, we’ll go to Las Vegas—assuming the doctor says you’re all right."

  He hadn’t said he loved her, but she knew he did. She sat back, pleased with the situation. "I’m all right," she said, completely confident.

  Chapter 10

  "Getting married in Las Vegas seems to be a tradition in my family," she mused the next day as her new husband ushered her into their suite. "Two of my brothers have done it."

  "Two? How many brothers do you have?"

  "Five. All of them older." She smiled sweetly at him over her shoulder as she walked to the window to look out at the blazing red sunset. It was odd how completely connected to him she felt, when they hadn’t had time to talk much, to share the details of their lives. Events had swept them along like gulls before a hurricane.

  The emergency room doctor had pronounced her concussion mild and told her to take it easy for a day or so. He had agreed with her that, if she had been going to lapse into a coma, she would already have done so. Over the course of the day her memory had completely returned, filling in the blank spots, so she knew she was okay.

  Reassured, Mac had driven her back to Solomon Green and turned his attention to the job, ruthlessly clearing up details and paperwork so he could concentrate on the business of getting married. While she slept, he and Dean had worked. He had arranged for time off, checked into the details of marriage in Kentucky, decided it couldn’t be done fast enough to suit him and booked them on a flight to Las Vegas.

  Ronald Stonicher had been arrested for conspiracy to commit fraud; he’d had no idea his wife and Randy Yu planned to kill Maris, too, and was shattered by what had happened. Joan had undergone surgery on her arm, and according to the surgeon the nerve and tissue damage was extensive; he expected her to regain some use of the arm, but she would never again be able to write with her right hand, or eat, do or anything else requiring precise movements. Randy was spilling his guts to the feds, implicating a lot of people in the horse world in the scheme to kill off horses for the insurance money. He hadn’t been charged with killing the sixteen-year-old boy. Evidently he had some information on it, though, and was holding that in reserve to bargain for an even bigger break on the charges.

  Maris had called her mother, briefly filled her in on what had happened and told her she was getting married. "Have fun, baby," Mary had told her daughter. "You know your father will want to walk you down the aisle, so we’ll plan another wedding for Christmas. That gives me three weeks. There shouldn’t be any problem."

  Most people would have screamed in panic at the thought of organizing a wedding in three weeks. Mary saw no problem, and from experience Maris knew that while other people might have problems accomplishing what her mother wanted, in the end she would have her way.

  Mac had phoned his family, which consisted of his mother, stepfather and two half-sisters. They would be joining the Mackenzies in Wyoming for the wedding at Christmas.

  During the ceremony an hour before, Maris had learned that her husband’s full name was William Alexander MacNeil. "A few people call me Will," he told her afterward, when she mentioned how difficult it was for her to think of him as Alex. "Most people call me Mac." Since in her mind she had already begun shortening MacNeil to Mac, that suited her fine.

  "Five older brothers?" Mac asked now, walking up behind her and slipping his arm around her waist. He bent his head to nuzzle her pale hair.

  "Five. Plus twelve nephews and one niece."

  He chuckled. "Holidays must be lively."

  "Riotous would be a better word. Wait until you see."

  He turned her in his arms. "What I can’t wait to see is my wife, in bed with me."

  She clung to his neck as he lifted her and carried her into the bedroom. His mouth closed on hers as he lowered her to the bed, and the aching passion that had subsided but never vanished surged back at full force. He crushed her into the mattress in his need, but at the same time he tried not to be rough as he eased her out of her clothes.

  She squirmed against him, pulling at his clothes, the roughness of the fabric against her nakedness driving her crazy. Mac drew back, staring down at her delicate body with open hunger. He was breathing hard, obviously struggling for control, his eyes hard and glittering with lust. Gently he shaped her breasts with his hand, each in turn, rubbing his thumb over her nipples and bringing them to aching hardness.

  "Hurry," she whispered, reaching for his belt.

  He laughed a little, though there was no humor in the sound; instead, it was raw with need. He shed his clothes, kicking them away, and rolled on top of her. A groan of deep satisfaction tore from her throat as his heavy weight settled on her, and she opened her legs to cradle him close. She wanted him with a ferocity that would brook no delay, wanted him as she had never wanted or needed anything else in her life.

  Mac positioned himself, then framed her face with his hands and kissed her as he slowly pushed into her body. Her flesh resisted, and she gasped, surprised by the painful difficulty. She had expected all her riding to have eased the way, but the lack of a barrier had in no way prepared her for his size.

  He lifted his mouth, staring down at her as realization dawned. He didn’t say anything, didn’t ask any questions, but something hot and primitive flared deep in his gaze. As gently as possible, he completed his penetration, and when he was fully home inside her he waited, waited until the tension left her and her body softened beneath him, around him. Then he began moving, a slight rocking at first that did no more than nudge him back and forth, but enough to make her gasp again, this time with sensual urgency, and lift herself to him.

  He took exquisite care with her, restraining the power of his thrusts, maintaining a slow, easy pace even when anticipation clawed at him, making him groan aloud with each movement. She clung to him, desperately searching for her own ease, trying to take him as deep inside her as possible, because instinct led her to that satisfaction. She cried out, overwhelmed by the sheer glory of this dance and struggle they shared, by the generosity of his loving.

  She surged upward, unable to bear it a moment longer, and everything inside her shattered with a burst of pleasure so intense that she lost herself, sucked down in the whirlpool of sensation, a mindless creature knowing only the feel of his body, and hers. And she felt him join her, convulsing, thrusting, hotly emptying.

  He cradled her afterward, stroking her with shaking hands as if to reassure himself she was real, that both of them were still whole.

  "How did this happen?" he asked roughly. He tilted her chin so he could look into her face, and she saw that the glitter in his eyes was wetness now, not lust. "How could I love you so much, so fast? What kind of magic did you use?"

  Tears burned her own eyes. "I just loved you," she said, the words simple. "That’s all. I just loved you."

  The mountain was wreathed with snow, and her heart lifted when she saw it. "There," she said, pointing. "That’s Mackenzie’s Mountain."

  Mac stared with interest at the massive bulk. He’d never known anyone before who owned an entire mountain, and he wondered about the people, and the way of life, that had nurtured this magical creature beside him. In the two days they had been married, he had come to wonder how he’d ever existed without her. Loving her was like becoming whole, when he hadn’t even known anything was missing. She was so delicate and fairylike, with her pale hair streaming over her shoulders and her great black eyes that held all the knowledge of centuries of women, but he’d learned that she was strong, and that the heart of a lion beat beneath her lovely breasts.

  His wife! The unexpected marvelousness of it kept waking him in the middle of the night to look at her, to wonder at how fast it had happened. Only three days before, she had awakened in his arms and politely said, "I’m sorry, but I don’t remember your name," and the realization that she’d been hurt
had jarred him down to his toes. Only three days, and yet now he couldn’t imagine sleeping without her, or waking without seeing her sleepy urchin’s grin as she curled into his arms.

  He had only five days off, so they had to make the best of it. Yesterday they had made a fast trip to San Antonio, where he had introduced her to his family. Both of his sisters had arrived with their broods of kids, three each, husbands in tow, but after the crowd Maris was accustomed to, she hadn’t turned a hair at any of it. His mother had been absolutely thrilled that he’d married at last, thrilled at the prospect of a Christmas wedding on top of a snow-covered mountain in Wyoming. Having gotten the telephone number from Maris, her mother had already called his mother, and they’d evidently become fast friends, judging from the number of times his mother referred to what Mary had said.

  Today they were in Wyoming, and Mac wondered why he was getting a tight feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Tell me about your brothers," he murmured. "All five of them." He knew something about older brothers, being one himself.

  She smiled, her eyes going soft. "Well, let’s see. My oldest brother, Joe, is a general in the air force—on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as a matter of fact. His wife, Caroline, has doctoral degrees in physics and computer science, and they have five sons.

  "My next-oldest brother, Mike, owns one of the largest cattle ranches in the state. He and Shea have two sons.

  "Next is Josh. He was a navy fighter pilot, aircraft carrier, until a crash stiffened his knee and the navy grounded him. Now he’s a civilian test pilot. His wife, Loren, is an orthopedic surgeon. They have three sons."

  "Do any of your brothers have anything but sons?" Mac asked, fascinated by the recital, and growing more worried by the minute. He tried to focus on the mundane. He thought he remembered Maris saying she had a niece, but perhaps he’d been mistaken.

  "Zane has a daughter." There was a different note in Maris’s voice and he raised his eyebrows in inquiry, but she ignored him. "He and Barrie also have twin sons, two months old. Zane was a Navy SEAL. Barrie’s an ambassador’s daughter."

  A SEAL. He wondered how much worse this could get.

  "Then there’s Chance. He and Zane might as well be twins. They’re the same age, and I think their brains are linked. Chance was in Naval Intelligence. He isn’t married." She deliberately didn’t mention what Zane and Chance did now, because it seemed safer not to.

  "I wonder," Mac murmured to himself as he steered their rented four-wheel-drive up the mountain, "why I expected you to have a normal family."

  She lifted delicate brows at him. "You’re a special agent with the FBI," she pointed out. "There isn’t one of those standing on every street corner, you know."

  "Yeah, but my family is normal."

  "Well, so is mine. We’re just overachievers." Her smile turned into a grin, the urchin’s grin that had laced itself around his heart and tightened the bonds every time he saw it. He stopped the Jeep in the middle of the road and reached for her. His kiss was hard, urgent with hunger. Her eyes were slumberous when he released her. "What was that for?" she murmured, her hand curling around his neck.

  "Because I love you." He wanted to tell her one last time, in case he didn’t survive the coming confrontation. She might think her family would welcome him with open arms, but he had a much better understanding of the male psyche and he knew better. He put the Jeep in gear again, and they resumed their drive up the snow-covered road.

  When they topped the crest and saw the big ranch house sprawling in front of them, Maris said happily, "Oh, good, everyone’s here," and Mac knew he was a dead man. Never mind that he’d married her before sleeping with her; he was an unknown quantity, and he was making love to their darling every night. She was the only daughter, the baby, for God’s sake. He understood. If he lived, and he and Maris ever had a daughter, there was no way in hell he was going to let some horny teenage boy anywhere near his little girl.

  He looked at the array of vehicles parked in front of the house, enough vehicles to form a good parade, and wondered if they would give chase if he turned around and headed back down the mountain.

  Well, it had to be done. Resigned, he parked the Jeep and came around to open the door for Maris, clasping his hands around her narrow waist and lifting her to the ground. She took his hand and led him up the steps, all but running in her eagerness.

  They stepped into warmth, into noise, into confusion. A very small person wearing red overalls suddenly exploded from the crowd, racing forward on chubby legs and shrieking, "Marwee, Marwee," at the top of her lungs. Maris laughed and dropped to her knees, holding out her arms in time to catch the tiny tornado as she launched herself forward. Mac looked down at the little girl, not much more than a baby, and fell in love. He lost his heart. It was that simple.

  She was beautiful. She was perfect, from the silky black hair on her round little head to her crystal-blue eyes, dimpled cheeks, rosebud mouth and dainty, dimpled hands. She was so small she was like a doll, and his arms ached to hold her. Little kids and babies had never affected him like this before, and it shook him.

  "This is Nick," Maris said, rising to her feet with her niece in her arms. "She’s the one and only granddaughter."

  Nick reached out a tiny hand and poked him in the chest, in a movement so exactly like Maris’s that Mac couldn’t help grinning. "Who dat?" the little angel asked.

  "This is Mac," Maris said, and kissed the soft, chubby cheek. Nick solemnly regarded him for a moment, then stretched out her arms in the manner of someone who is absolutely sure of their welcome. Automatically he reached out and took her, sighing with pleasure as the little body nestled against his chest.

  Mac became aware of a spreading silence in the room, of what looked like an entire football team of big men getting to their feet, menace in every movement, in the hard faces turned toward him.

  Maris looked at them, her face radiant, and he saw her eyes widen with surprise at their militant stances.

  He eyed the competition. His father-in-law had iron gray hair and the black eyes Maris had inherited, and looked as if he ate nails for breakfast. His brothers-in-law looked just as lethal. Expertly Mac assessed each one, trying to pick out the most dangerous one. They all looked like bad asses. The one with the graying temples and the laser blue eyes, that would be the general, and damn if he didn’t look as if he went into combat every day. That one would be the rancher, whipcord lean, iron hard, a man who faced down Mother Nature every day. The test pilot…let’s see, that would be the one standing with his feet apart in the instinctive cocky stance of someone who cooly gambled with death and never blinked an eye.

  Then Mac’s gaze met a pair of deadly, icy eyes. That one, he thought. That was the most dangerous one, the one with the quiet face and eyes like blue-gray frost. That one. He would bet a year’s pay that was the SEAL. But the one who moved up to stand beside him looked just as lethal, despite the almost unearthly handsomeness of his face. That would be the one in naval intelligence.

  He was in big trouble. Instinctively he moved, depositing Nick in Maris’s arms and stepping in front of them both, shielding them with his body.

  Six pairs of fierce eyes noted the action.

  Maris peeked around his shoulder, assessing the situation. "Mother!" she called urgently, stressing both syllables as she brought in reinforcements.

  "Maris!" There was utter delight in the soft voice that came from what Mac assumed was the kitchen, the cry followed by light, fast footsteps. A small, delicate woman, no bigger than Maris and with the same exquisite, translucent skin, burst into the room. She was laughing as she grabbed her daughter, hugging her and doing the same to him, even though he stood rigidly, not daring to take his eyes off the threat looming in front of them like a wall.

  "Mom," Maris said, directing her mother’s attention across the room. "What’s wrong with them?"

  Mary took one look at her husband and sons and put her hands on her hips. "Stop that right now," she ordered. "I
refuse to have this, do you hear?"

  Her voice was sweetly Southern, as light as a breeze, but Wolf Mackenzie’s black eyes flickered to her. "We just want to know a little about him," he said in a voice as deep and dark as thunder.

  "Maris chose him," Mary replied firmly. "What else could you possibly need to know?"

  "A lot," the one with the quiet, lethal eyes said. "This happened too fast."

  "Zane Mackenzie!" a pretty redhead exclaimed, stepping out of the kitchen and eyeing him in amazement. "I can’t believe you said that! We got married after knowing each other for one day!" She crossed the no-man’s-land between the two battle lines, hugged Maris and turned to glare at her husband.

  So he’d been right, Mac thought. That was the SEAL. It would look good on his tombstone: He Was Right.

  "This is different," said the general, a perfect clone of Wolf Mackenzie except for his light blue eyes. He, too, looked as if nails were a regular part of his diet.

  "Different, how?" asked a crisp voice, and a stylish blonde stepped out of the kitchen. She pinned a sharp green gaze on the six men. "You’re all suffering from an overdose of testosterone. The main symptom is an inability to think." Marching forward, she aligned herself on Mac’s other side. Something that was both heated and amused lit the general’s eyes as he looked at his wife.

  Another bruiser, the test pilot, said, "Maris is—"

  "A grown woman," another feminine voice said, interrupting. A tall, curvy woman with chestnut hair and serene blue eyes took up a position beside the blonde. "Hi, I’m Loren," she said to Mac. "The one who just spoke is Josh, my husband, who usually exhibits better sense."

  "And I’m Shea, Mike’s wife." Another reinforcement arrived. She was dark haired, and sweetly shy. She stood beside Loren, crossed her arms over her chest and calmly looked across at her husband.

Previous Page Next Page
Should you have any enquiry, please contact us via [email protected]