Legends

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Authors: Deborah Smith
She didn’t hear it hissing, and she stood too close. It gave her a second-degree burn across the middle of her back. For six weeks everybody in the family took turns changing the dressings. It hurt her so much that she and I always ended up crying.”
    “But how did she miss hearing the steam?”
    He lifted a tube of ointment from the chest and studied the label. “Will this do?”
    “Aye.”
    Kincaid opened the tube with the fingers of one hand, while the other hand continued to hold hers. “She’s deaf. She had a severe infection when she was a baby, and it ruined her hearing.”
    “I’m sorry.” Elgiva marveled at his dexterity as he manipulated the ointment onto her fingers with a featherlight touch. Those brawny hands were very good at small, human things. She pictured Kincaid as she had never imagined him before—a worried, upset teenager gently putting medicine on his little sister’s back.
    “She’s been a great success as a model despite her deafness though,” Elgiva ventured, anxious to know more. “I read about her. Putting her beautiful hands and feet in all those ads. The Queen of Spare Parts,’ someone called her.”
    “You studied my family?”
    “Aye. I know that you bought your mother a mansion in Chicago and that her hobby is managing middleweight boxers. I know that your brother is a professor of archaeology.”
    He chuckled. “You were thorough. Why was my family important?”
    “To learn what you hold dear.”
    Suddenly his hand tightened around hers, the grip almost, but not quite, hurting her scalded fingers. His gaze bored into her. “Is my family in any danger?”
    “No! I swear it!” Elgiva looked at him with such horror that he eased his hold. “And neither are you! I swear it, Douglas!”
    “You have to admit, kidnapping my family would give you more leverage.”
    “Aye, but one Kincaid is all I can handle. Besides, it wouldn’t be fair to terrify innocent people.”
    “Oh, but it’s
fine
to terrify a criminal like me, huh?”
    “You don’t look terrified.”
    “So what did you conclude from studying my family?”
    “That you have your ancestors’ deep need for kinship. A good sign.”
    “Dammit, don’t start with the history lecture again. That’s a hopeless ruse, Goldie.” He finished dabbing ointment on her fingertips. His voice became quaint. “Little girls who make up fairy tales are likely to get burned by their lies.”
    “It was pork grease that did the burning. My lies are not nearly so painful. And I
am
telling the truth about your Scottish—”
    “
I said stop it
.” The expression on his face conveyed fierce and unyielding stubbornness. “If you want this prisoner to stay on good behavior, don’t ever try to pull that Kincaid clan hoax again.”
    “Then don’t ever talk about your plans for the MacRoth estate. If you try, I’ll open the windows and the door and turn off the heat and let you sit and shiver!”
    “It’s a deal.”
    Elgiva bit her lip and looked at him anxiously. So much for those topics of conversation. She’d have to use a difference tactic to coax him.
    She lowered her gaze humbly and said in a low, apologetic tone, “I don’t want you to be angry with me anymore. It’s sad that we could have been such grand friends aside from all this trouble. I truly regret what I’ve taken from us.”
    To her chagrin, he sat back, held his stomach, and let deep shouts of laughter roll out of his throat. Elgiva bristled.
    When he finally got himself under control again, he wiped his eyes and studied her merrily. “Damn. What a performance. You belong on a soap opera.
As the Worm Turns
.”
    Abashed, she looked away and grumbled halfheartedly, “Even if we canna trust each other, can we find some neutral ground and exist in peace?”
    “Until I’m rescued,” he countered.
    “Until I set you loose,” she corrected.
    He took her injured hand again. “All right. It’s a deal. Want to shake on it?”
    Elgiva eyed him with mock

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