College student Alanna Powell has come back to her hometown of Hibbing, built on the rich ore of the Mesabi Iron Ridge in Northern Minnesota. But it’s more than a just a summer vacation. She’s here to see Kurt Matthews, the man she plans to marry. But Alanna never considered a complication like Kurt’s older brother, Rolt. It was Rolt’s firm that took controlling interest in the Powell family iron mines years ago and made it a success. And now there’s one more thing Rolt wants to take: Alanna’s heart.
For blood brothers, Kurt and Rolt are as different as day and night. Kurt is kind, humble, and considerate. Rolt is conceited and demanding, a strapping giant of a man who goes after what he wants. That includes Alanna. He delights in wreaking havoc on her senses and breaking down her resolve with each stolen kiss. Now, as unexpected as it is, Alanna can’t help but admit that with every torrid summer night her resistance is beginning to melt away.
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Giant Of Mesabi
The Americana Series: Minnesota
By Janet Dailey
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1978 Janet Dailey
All rights reserved.
THE PLANE'S SHADOW skimmed across the treetops. Within the pine forest, the blue of a Minnesota lake winked briefly in the sunlight. A ribbon of concrete ahead beckoned to the plane's shadow.
Inside, Alanna Powell gazed eagerly out the window, her heart quickening as the airport's terminal building came into view. Tawny blond hair framed the fresh-scrubbed beauty of her face. Her pointed chin had a willful thrust, and the sparkling light in her violet eyes, her most outstanding feature, revealed a flashing spirit. Yet her finely-shaped lips displayed a hint of vulnerability.
There was a slight jar as the plane's wheels touched and rolled on the runway. Alanna pressed her lips together, absently checking the freshness of her lipstick. Futilely she searched the terminal for a glimpse of Kurt, knowing it would only be the sheerest luck if she saw him from here.
A tightness gripped her throat. What if Kurt wasn't there to meet her? With an almost imperceptible movement of her head, Alanna shook away the thought. When she had phoned him yesterday to say she would be on this flight from Minneapolis, he had agreed to meet the plane without hesitation. He hadn't even waited for her explanation that she wanted to surprise her parents.
It was crazy to be so apprehensive, she told herself. But, her mouth twisted wryly, that was what love did to a person. She hadn't seen Kurt since the Easter break almost two months ago. He had made it plain that he was attracted to her then, but so much could have happened since then.
The plane rolled to a stop at its terminus of the Chisholm-Hibbing airport. Unfastening her seat belt, Alanna rose to join the file of passengers disembarking. A fluttering hand moved down from the waistband of her wheat tan skirt. Her fingers unconsciously checked to make sure the buttons down the front were securely fastened, except for the last two above the knee that let the hem flap to reveal her shapely legs and hint at the smoothness of her thigh.
There was no sign of Kurt among the group, of people gathered to meet the arriving passengers. A glance at her watch verified that the plane was on schedule. Perhaps he had been delayed. Her steps slowed as she scanned the area.
A familiar male figure was bent over a drinking fountain, and Alanna's heart leaped in joyous relief. All her fears vanished in that instant of recognition.
"Kurt!" She laughed his name, her heels barely touching the floor as she ran to him. "I thought you'd forgotten about me!" As he straightened and turned, she started to fling herself into his arms with uninhibited happiness. A half step away from the broad chest, she realized her mistake. "You!" Anger and astonishment mingled in the accusing pronoun.
Her retreat was cut off by the iron circle of his arms curving around her waist. "Don't stop now," he said, and the faintly cruel line of his mouth twisted into a cynical smile. "If I'm going to stand in for my brother, I might as well receive his kiss, too."
"No!" The strangled denial was wasted breath.
A large hand slid up her spine to twine its fingers in her tawny hair, tugging at the tender roots to force her head back. Her hands strained uselessly against the looming muscular chest while the lower half of her body was crushed against the granite hardness of his.
Alanna couldn't escape the descending mouth or the steel band of his embrace. She had not even time to stiffen in resistance to his invasion as he kissed her with hard, slow pleasure, taking advantage of her momentary paralysis of disbelief.
In the next second, she was released. A pair of blue eyes, a deep shade of indigo, glittered over the vivid flush in her cheeks. A rush of anger flamed within her, the exhilaration of battle flashing through her nerve ends.
"How dare you!" she breathed tightly.
Half-closed eyes surveyed her indignant stand, a thick screen of dark, masculine lashes veiling their expression. A smile without humor curved the mouth that had only seconds ago bruisingly possessed hers.
"Give me your claim tickets and I'll get your luggage. I suggest you wait until we're in the car to unleash your temper and wounded outrage." His gaze flicked around them to indicate the public surroundings.
Her poise was already shaken, and the trace of mockery in his tone didn't do anything to restore it. Indeed, calling attention to their mildly interested audience worsened it. Seething inwardly, Alanna fumbled through her purse for her airline ticket and the baggage checks attached to it. With rigid control, she thrust the papers into his outstretched hand.
How could she have been so blind not to that it wasn't Kurt but his brother, Rolt Matthews, Alanna railed silently. There were surface similarities between the two. Both were tall and dark with leanly muscled physiques. But only a fool would mistake Rolt for Kurt.
Her gaze fastened in a violent glare on the arrogant set of Rolt's shoulders as he walked away from her. He was taller than Kurt by an inch or two, with a catlike fluidity to his easy strides. His dark brown hair was the shade of coffee, shot with a golden hue in the sunlight, not bordering on brown-black as Kurt's was. It grew long and thick about his collar, brushed carelessly away from his face.
Their facial, features were another dissimilarity. The sun-bronzed planes of Rolt's face held a quality of ruthlessness. The carved lines around his mouth were etched with cynicism. Overstamping it all was a rakish air of virility, blatant and overpowering, a dominant force that demanded to be reckoned with.
Rolt Matthews was of the dark world and Kurt was of the day. Handsome and charming, Kurt was the antithesis of his older brother. Alanna had been drawn to him since their first meeting nearly five years ago when she had been fifteen. Yet it was only this Easter that Kurt had taken any notice of her and the attraction she had always felt was able to blossom.
Her lips trembled, tender from the hard mastery of Rolt's kiss. She had never had any time for Rolt Matthews. As surely as she had been drawn to Kurt, she had been repelled by Rolt. Whenever his gaze rested on her, so startlingly blue with its enigmatic glitter, she was uncomfortable. His hooded looks with their trace of mockery disconcerted Alanna more than she cared to admit. Yet Rolt seemed to know it and found amusement in her unease.
That was why he had kissed her, she guessed. Her fingers clenched the clasp of her purse, the metal as hard and unyielding as his chest had been beneath her hands. Her flesh burned where it had been in contact with the male length of him.
During Easter, she had made no secret of her attraction to Kurt. There had been no need, since he returned it. Always when Rolt had been around, which fortunately was seldom, he had watched them with aloof interest, leaving Alanna with the impression that he found their relationship amusing and somehow juvenile.
Juvenile. Alanna breathed in sharply at the word. Heavens, Kurt was twenty-nine, she was twenty-one. They were adults, not a pair of infatuated teenagers as Rolt seemed to regard them. No doubt his five-year advantage caused him to look down on his brother. If the odd bits of gossip were accurate, Rolt's considerably broader and more intimate associations with women probably made him regard their budding romance with a cynical eye.
The approach of firm, purposeful strides aroused Alanna from her inward reflection. Her gaze bounced away from the male figure, effortlessly carrying her heavy luggage. Rolt paused for an instant beside her, his alert gaze sweeping over the profile she presented to him.
"My car is parked in the lot outside," he stated. "Shall we go?"
"The sooner the better," Alanna agreed briskly.
There was a mocking tilt of his head to indicate that she should precede him. The glint in his indigo eyes told her that he knew how much she disliked him and found it amusing. With a haughty sweep of her head, Alanna walked out of the building, only to have to wait for Rolt to point out his car. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him she would find her own way to her parents.
Yet such an action bordered on cowardice, since it indicated that she might be slightly intimidated by his presence.
Stacking her luggage at the rear of a black Mark V, Rolt unlocked the passenger door and reached in to push the trunk button before stepping aside. There was no way Alanna could avoid the strong fingers that clasped her elbow and helped her into the car. The instant the door was closed, she rubbed away the hard imprint. When the luggage was safely stowed in the trunk, Rolt slid behind the wheel.
Loath as she was to break the silence, Alanna knew she would not be able to sit quietly until she had learned why Kurt had not met her. Something told her that Rolt was not going to volunteer the information.
Glancing at his aloof profile out of the corner of her eye, she felt a surge of violent emotion rise inside. He was so self-assured and blandly indifferent to everything except his own desires.
"Why wasn't Kurt able to meet me?" she demanded finally.
His gaze flicked briefly to her, masked and unrevealing. He started the motor and reversed the car out of the parking lot. "There was a breakdown of some equipment at the plant and he was unavoidably detained. An emergency."
The answer was too glib. Alanna guessed it was meant to be, but she couldn't keep from rising to the bait. "Obviously it wasn't so great an emergency that you were detained."
There was a movement of his mouth in what should have been a smile, but other than that, Rolt made no verbal acknowledgment of her comment. His attention remained focused on the road as he pulled into the traffic.
"I don't suppose it occurred to you to handle the emergency in Kurt's place and leave him free to meet me." She compressed her lips tightly, anticipating the answer before he gave it.
"It occurred to me." Again his gaze swung to her for fleeting seconds, lingering suggestively on her glistening lips before returning to the highway. And again there was that mirthless curve of his mouth that was somehow cold and foreboding. "But I would have been denying myself our meeting."
"Why?" Her temper flared at his unnecessary reminder of the kiss he had taken. "It wasn't a pleasant meeting."
"Perhaps not." The wide shoulders lifted in gesture of unconcern for her reaction. "But it's one that isn't easily forgotten."
"Nor forgiven," Alanna added darkly.
"Do you expect me to apologize?" It was obvious by his tone that he found the thought amusing.
Her fingers curved over the leather arm rest, golden tan to match the upholstery of the seats. She wished it was his hard flesh her nails were digging into instead of the pliant leather.
"Not you," she declared in a contemptuous breath. "I don't think you have any code of ethics."
"Ethics?" A dark eyebrow arched. "What does ethics have to do with a kiss?"
Alanna sputtered for a few seconds, too incensed by his apparent disregard for the fact that she was his brother's friend and, she hoped, more than that.
"I am dating your brother," she pointed out tightly. "And I don't think it's accepted conduct to go around kissing his girl."
"Are you his girl?" His narrowed gaze pinned her. Knowing she couldn't answer, he negated the need with a cool smile. "Not that it matters whether you are or not. I've always taught my brother to share."
"I have some say in that," Alanna retorted. "And believe me, I have no interest in you—"
"—making love to you," Rolt finished for her, the wolfish slash deepening near his mouth.
"I was about to say 'paying attention to me,'" she snapped, reddening under his bluntness. "But if you want to be more explicit, I'll agree with that, too."
Her sideways look of reproach did not meet his gaze. After she had glanced away, Alanna found herself looking back at the strong hands gripping the wheel of the powerful car. They controlled it with such ease, supplely guiding the car into curves and around corners. She knew these same hands would be just as expert guiding a female form into the intricacies of love. Their touch would be firm and authoritative yet teasing and arousing as they caressed her—
With a guilty start, she stared straight ahead. Her cheeks flamed at the direction her thoughts had taken. She despised the man! How could she possibly even imagine such things? Had she suddenly lost all sense of decency and self-respect?
"Why are you so upset because of one kiss?" His gaze flicked to her heightened color.
Self-consciously she flipped a thick strand of tawny hair over her cheek, smoothing it over her skin to conceal her embarrassment and appear nonchalant.
"Or do I just rub your fur the wrong way?" His low drawling voice seemed to reach out to stroke it right. "Does it bother you that I find you—"
"Amusing?" Alanna filled in the adjective to deprive him of the opportunity to mock her further.
"Is that what you think?" Rolt returned smoothly.
Her chin lifted a fraction. "It's true. That is the way you think of me—something that's amusing, someone you can tease with your cynical humor. Understand this, Rolt, I will not be an object for your amusement. You'll have to find one somewhere else."
"Maybe I don't want to look elsewhere. What then?" he baited.
Alanna stared out the window to avoid his mocking visage, letting her violet gaze study the commercial district of Hibbing. "Don't toy with me, Rolt," she said tautly. "I'm not interested."
"'But maybe I'm interested in you." He said it quietly and so seriously that Alanna's curiosity forced her to glance at him. The bronze mask of his features told her nothing, but the lazy glint in his eyes seemed to make light of his statement. "Is it so difficult to believe that I might find you attractive?"
His gaze swept over her figure with disturbing assessment. Its brief hesitation on her legs caused Alanna to draw the buttoned front of her skirt together at the hem. The cruel line of his mouth quirked at her action. He had done it deliberately, knowing the way it would unnerve her. And she hadn't disappointed him. She bit into her lower lip to keep from screaming her frustration and anger.
"It's impossible," she insisted, more because she thought there was a chance it could be true and doubted her own ability to fence with a master of the game.
"Tell me, Alanna—" he slowed the car at a stop signal and gave her his undivided attention as the car idled at the red light "—are you still a virgin?"
She breathed sharply. "That's none of your business!"
"You're going out with my brother," Rolt pointed out. She became even more agitated when she noticed he was watching the uneven rise and fall of her breasts. "I was curious."
"You can keep on being curious!" she flashed.
The light changed to green and he shifted the car into drive, laughing softly in his throat. "I don't have to be. You've already answered my question." There was a sliding blue look, glinting and mocking. "Are you saving yourself for Kurt?"
The heat searing her skin was unbearable. "Well, not for you," Alanna hissed. "Never for you!"
"Careful," he warned with laughter in his voice. "Never is a long time."
Alanna was about to argue that it wasn't long enough as far as Rolt was concerned, but at that moment she realized that, instead of turning at the road that would take her to her parents' house, he had stayed on the highway.
"You missed the turn," she pointed out.
"No, I didn't."
He sounded so certain that Alanna glanced back over her shoulder to the crossroads, nearly convinced that she was mistaken. "My parents live down that road."
"I'm not taking you home."
He wasn't serious! One look at his face told her he was. Her mouth opened, speechless for an instant. "Where—"
"Kurt is at the mine. You did want to see him, didn't you?" he mocked.
"Is that where we're going?" Alanna demanded, tired of his games,
"Of course—" taking his foot off the accelerator "—unless you want to go directly home."
"I would like to see Kurt," she admired, seething at his deliberate failure to tell her. Sarcasm coated her tongue as she added, "It never occurred to me that you would take me there. After all, Kurt does have an emergency on his hands."
Her gibe rolled off his back like water from a duck. "I think he can be spared for a few minutes to see you. I can take over for him."
"Just as you could have to let him come to the airport to meet me." Alanna rubbed her fingertips on the throbbing ache in her temple. "The same way you've taken over from my father," she murmured bitterly. "I regret the day he ever sold controlling interest to your company."
Excerpted from Giant Of Mesabi by Janet Dailey. Copyright © 1978 Janet Dailey. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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