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Chapter Seven

Giovanni lay prone in the warm water, his eyes closed, barely breathing, cursing the woman for a lying, cock-teasing whore. The rock was hard under his cheek, and a dull ache throbbed from the spot on the back of his head where shed hit him. She had led him on, humiliated him, and now she had the rifle. His rifle.

His straining ears caught the faint sounds of her movements as she dried herself and dressed. The temptation was great, but he darent look at her. He imagined her smooth legs as she stepped into the skirt, hiding her cunt, the cheeks of her perfect ass. When she raised her arms to put on the tunic, her breasts would lift and tremble. He stifled a groan as his cock hardened and swelled.

He tensed all his muscles to refrain from leaping up, bending her over one of the rocks, and thrusting inside her. Time yet to make her scream for mercy. All that talk of going with him had been a sham. Diablo! Marco had enjoyed her and he meant to have her too, if he had to beat her black and blue.

The sounds had stopped. Had she finished dressing, waiting for him to move, the rifle pointed at him? He could wait.

He had to hand it to her. She was hard to intimidate, and it looked as if she knew how to handle a gun. He damned his own carelessness for leaving the weapon on the ground, blinded by her wiles. The gun in her hands was the only thing stopping him from jumping on her now. He had to find a way to get it away from her, so he could make her his prisoner again. Tie her up, keep her somewhere she couldnt escape until she understood there was no alternative but to stay with him. He licked his lips in anticipation.

He would have liked to see Marco beat her with the cane in front of all the people. Of course the capo had hesitated, as usual, until it was too late. Marco had agreed reluctantly to only two beatings since theyd been in the caves. One was a woman. She was too friendly with a man in one of the police patrols and although she protested her innocence, she received ten lashes on her bare back. She screamed and wept and begged them to stop. Giovanni felt the blood surge in his groin at the memory.

If he could be sure of one thing, it was that the Englishwomans pride wouldnt let her go back to the cave. Hed told his story well and shed believed it all. She wouldnt go near Marco again and she would be easy to follow.

He thought of all the tracks that were visible from this vantage point, radiating out in different directions, all made by people over the decades. Some of the distances were great, but she would set off and eventually reach one of the villages. He knew the area well, and there were plenty of places where he could get ahead of her and lie in wait.

After a long silence he heard the sound of a rock bouncing down the slope on the other side of the pool and a muffled exclamation. Gravel crunched. She was on the move!

He hauled himself from the water in a swift movement and took cover behind a rock.

No sign of her.

His clothing dripped around him and began quickly to cool. Dio! Add that discomfort to the list of things for which he would make her pay.

He heard another cascade of stones from the path leading back to the caves. To make sure, he scrambled to the highest point above the pool and scanned the other trails. They were empty.

Inferno! She was on her way back to Marco! Once again shed tricked him and caught him unawares. He had to stop her.

Even though his sodden clothes clung to him uncomfortably, he padded after her and soon had her in sight. She walked quickly, although limping slightly. She held the gun at the ready and she was nervous, darting glances around her, stopping once to look back. Of course she saw nothing except the empty track. It wasnt hard to creep closer over the rocks as she picked her way down. Hed lived all his life amongst these mountains and could leap along the trails like a mountain goat.

Then she came to a more difficult section and had to keep her eyes on the ground. The right hand side of the track dropped off into a steep ravine, thick with bushes and underbrush. He narrowed the gap between them.

She stumbled on a loose rock, and the barrel of the gun dipped downward. He seized his chance, covering the space between them in two strides, clasping her in a bear hug from behind and clamping one hand over her mouth.

She fought and struggled like a mad thing, kicking and swearing. He lifted her off her feet, ready to throw her to the ground, but she managed to twist her head and sink her teeth into his ear. A red cloud of anger and pain misted his eyes and brain. He yelled in fury and, in instinctive reaction, hurled her away from him, over the edge of the cliff.

One hand over his torn ear, he watched her roll over into the gully, her arms flailing as she let go of the rifle and tried to clutch at bushes to slow her descent. Her body bounced against an outcrop of rock and he heard her cry out. Small stones slithered and clattered after her until she lay face down, almost at the bottom. He stood panting on the rim, flexing his shoulder muscles, letting the rage subside. It hadnt been part of his plan to dispose of her so soon and he considered the wisdom of going down to finish her off, but knew he would waste precious time clambering back up the steep sides. Above the thick bushes they were covered with loose shale that slid underfoot at every step. The rifle had tumbled lower and was completely buried in the undergrowth. He knew this terrain. It would require a long and difficult search to locate the weapon, if it could be found. He had to take the risk that the woman was too badly hurt to make a search, even if she could get back on her feet.

Her coarse clothing in browns and grays camouflaged her from any casual glance. An overhanging bush screened her head from view. No one would find her until it was too late. In an agony of indecision, he waited, weighing the danger of her coming after him against the need to get to Marco and to be present at the ambush.

He waited a full minute and, when she didnt stir, he brushed his hair back with both hands, straightened his shirt and set off to make his report to Marco and help him prepare to intercept the convoy.

He was wet and his clothes clung to him uncomfortably. Something else for which he would pay her back as he bounded down the slope despite the pain of his ear, the throb in his head and the slowly subsiding ache in his groin.

Chapter Six | Bella Donna | * * * * *