When Hannah got home, Randy was sitting in front of the fire staring into the flames. He turned and nodded at her with an exceptionally serious look on his face, his deep-set eyes seeming even darker than usual.

"Looks nice. May I join you?" Hannah felt too exhilarated to sleep, and after her walk she felt refreshed as well. Her head had cleared. She knew it wasn't much, extricating herself from an unwanted sexual encounter like that, but she was proud of herself anyway.

Randy wasn't in the mood to share her exhilaration. "Are you sure you want to associate with a manipulator?" he asked, tucking a lock of hair behind his ear.

"What happened this time?" Hannah asked, shaking her head as she sat down cross-legged on the pillow next to him.

He turned his melancholy eyes on her and the opal in his ear flickered in the firelight. "I've got two women hating me, that's what happened."

Hannah couldn't help laughing. "I thought you all loved each other?"

"That's what I thought too."

"Oh, the trials and tribulations of a lady's man," Hannah sighed.

Randy pursed his lips and tried to look insulted. "Maybe you should keep that tongue in that cheek of yours. If I were a lady's man, they wouldn't have turned on me."

"Well then, you're the next best thing, you charmer."

"A little support is what I need, not sarcasm," Randy complained.

"But you really are a charmer, Randy," Hannah said, almost serious. "And you're intelligent, interesting and affectionate as well."

Randy inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement. "That's more like it."

"But you've got no one to blame but yourself," Hannah said, running one finger gently down the back of a darkly haired wrist. She was still a little drunk.

"I know," Randy admitted, turning his hand over and taking hold of hers. "That's the problem."

"How did all this come about?" Hannah asked, extremely aware of his warm hand enclosing hers. "I thought your lady-loves were reconciled to the situation."

"They put their heads together and decided they weren't. They accused me of all kinds of things--of comparing them, of using them, of not being completely sincere. It has certainly brought my self-esteem down a couple notches."

Hannah laughed softly and shook her head. "For some reason, I don't quite believe you, Randy."

"And now you doubt my word."

"But are you really taking what they said seriously?" Hannah asked. She tried to be objective, but his thumb was gently caressing the back of her hand, making objectivity difficult. "From the outside, it sure looked like you were using them. The situation was perfect for you, you have to admit."

"I wouldn't have objected if either of them took another lover," Randy pointed out.

"Neither of them did, though."

"I was always completely honest with them about my feelings."

"You felt generous affection for them both. And you didn't have to commit yourself to either," Hannah said as the soft fingers began moving up her arm.

"But why should I? It almost sounds as if you're all for old-fashioned possessive love."

"I don't know what I'm for. It all sounds fine in theory, but when you put it into practice, it's another matter entirely." Hannah stroked the hand on her arm absently.

"Now don't you start giving me moral lectures too," Randy complained.

"I don't intend to, silly. I've got enough motes in my own eye. But I do think you make it a little too easy on yourself sometimes. Was Kate giving you moral lectures?"

"She sure was. But where were you tonight, may I ask?" By this time Randy's hand had reached Hannah's shoulder and was caressing it gently.

"Somewhere I shouldn't have been. But I got out in time. Where is Kate?"

"Probably not with the new flame. Something seems to be wrong."

"I wonder why she hasn't told me about it. I haven't even met him yet."

"You're probably too friendly with me."

"That's not like her. I wish Kate were here!"

"Thanks a lot," Randy said sarcastically. "I was actually rather glad she wasn't." His hand was exerting gentle pressure at the back of her neck and Hannah let her head fall forward slightly. Randy took that as encouragement and drew her to him to give her a short, tender kiss. When a man tells you about his love-life, it's usually meant as fore-play.

"Much nicer," Hannah said. "You are definitely not a bulldozer."


"I had an encounter with a bulldozer this evening."

Randy laughed. His hand was still at the back of her neck. "My bed or yours?" he asked.

"Wait a minute," Hannah said. "Not so fast, buddy. You're on the rebound, and my tongue has been out of my cheek enough for one night. The kiss was nice, but let's leave it at that, okay?"

Randy smiled and shrugged, and Hannah was charmed. He really was going to leave it at that! She could hardly believe it. Here was a man with a history of what appeared to be exploitation, and he disdained to use pressure. Apparently she had misjudged him.

Hannah looked back into the fire. "I really do wish Kate was here. I have such a fantastic idea!"