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"No!" she screamed then quickly scrambled downward, her feet finding a solid place on the rungs, all her fear instantly vanishing. The man, unable to stop his rapid flight, and with nothing in front of him but the cold night air, flew unimpeded through the open window.
Tori cowered as the man fell to his death, his scream filling the night. She hid her head, trembling against the stone tower, wishing for anything but what just happened.
Yet even as the minutes passed, she knew she had to descend. She heard a gun go off directly above her, heard another cry of pain. The surge of feet stopped, but the yells and swearing increased two-fold.
Her fingers gripping the rungs and the gun tightly, she stared in horror and disbelief as a cloaked black shadow moved down the ladder almost on top of her now. Dimly she realized he had been above her watching the scene enfold. How he arrived there didn't matter. That he had come to this spot at this time when she thought she'd succeeded did make a difference.
The shadow she'd seen from her window had not been her imagination. Yet, even though this man was cloaked and heavily masked, she was somehow sure this man was not Quentin Morray.
"Darlin'," came a husky voice.
She had started downward, hoping to escape him, but then at the sound of his voice, she stopped to confront the man.
"No." Freeing one hand from the ladder, she pointed her own gun at the dark shadow. "Stay where you are."
"Hell!" he swore, and kicked out at her hand, the force not hard enough to dislodge the gun. Yet it was so very hard her hand slammed against the tower. "Son of a bitch, drop it," he ordered again. She could not--would not. She tried to move down the ladder. He followed her, a deadly figure in the night.
She thought she recognized that voice. Somewhere, sometime long ago she was sure she'd heard this man. The husky timber was so familiar. But she could not think of it, did not know.
"If you come any closer, I'll shoot!" Tori cried out. "Leave me alone."
"Holster your gun. Now, Victoria DeMontville. Now. Before I lose what little patience I have. I am here to save you."
She ignored his plea and his declaration, shooting one more time. He fell back, the force of the gunshot partially dislodging him from the airy perch. For a moment the shadowy figure, cape billowing, hung precariously by one hand. Even though she knew it had been a direct hit, the man did not even look stunned by the horrible force of the bullet.
"Don't come near me," she said, the night swallowing her words. She could hear the men inside. Any minute now, Sheridan's men would join this man outside. She would not surrender to Morray or one of his men.
"Darlin', you don't know how much I want to do just that," he told her flatly. And in a second, he was eye level with her, his hand gripping the wrist that held the gun. Pain seared through her arm, fingers swiftly growing numb, and the gun plunged to the ground.
Tenaciously he reached out, pulling her against his body, a body that was hard and tight and very well muscled.
And as hot as the infernos of hell.
Terror-struck, she tried to scream, but couldn't. He pulled her even closer, so close that his lips, his leather mask, whispered against her cheeks, his hold upon her, firm yet gentle. "Be still and stop fighting me. I'm not your enemy," he rasped out as if he was trying to convince a frightened child. "Go now. I'll follow and don't run from me when you reach the bottom. If you are to get away from Morray, we have to work together."
"I don't trust you," she cried out.
"Promise you won't run."
"Then you leave me no choice. God forgive me," he muttered. "I do not like this any better than you. I'm trying to save your life," he repeated.