They had no choice but to shoot it. Julio asked me to see to the horses and cattle. Something's wrong. She rubbed the little dent in her chin, frowning a little, hating that everyone on the ranch believed the dog's behavior had something to do with Zacarias's presence.

"Your eyes are sad. Do not feel sorrow for me, my beautiful lunatic." He shrugged. "You believe they all think I am causing this reaction in the animals. It is probably the truth. Animals sense the shadows in me. Even my own people call me k?d, varolind, h?n ku piwt? , which means dark, dangerous predator,and even the most experienced hunters call me h?n ku tappa - which means violent, but more. I am used to others fearing me. It does not bother me. I expect it."

It bothers me, Marguarita admitted, shivering. The water is growing cold and I need to get out. It wasn't the cold water, but more the realization of the enormity of her decision. She had made up her mind to save this man - to love this man - without fully understanding just how different and dangerous he truly was. She didn't regret the decision, but she was feeling her way through a minefield.

He reached almost lazily for a towel and held it, clearly expecting her to step out of the bath in front of him. She had asked for this, she reminded herself. She had wanted to belong to him and she'd told him she would do whatever it took to make him happy. Standing naked for him didn't seem too much, not after the way they'd had wild, abandoned sex, yet she felt herself blush from head to toe as she stepped from the tub and allowed him to envelope her in the large towel.

"Why does it bother you, Marguarita?" he asked, his voice dropping an octave. "These people are nothing to me. What does

it matter if they think I am the devil?"

These are my people, Zacarias, she explained carefully. She stood very still as he gently wiped the beads of water from her body. I love them and I don't want them thinking untrue things of you. I want them to accept you as my choice.

His hands stilled. "Why do you presume they think untrue things about me? Animals are restless in my presence. No horse has ever tolerated me near them. I am certain what they say is true - the cattle and horses are all edgy with my continued presence. I rarely stay near humans or animals. Long ago I noticed the reaction."

His voice was expressionless. Even. Factual. But she felt the little catch in his heart when he specifically mentioned horses wouldn't tolerate his presence. He didn't mind humans shunning him, but it bothered him that horses did. She drew in her breath. Another secret buried deep in his subconscious, one he didn't acknowledge, but she saw it so clearly. She loved horses. Only another horse person would understand the deep need in her to spend time with the proud, beautiful animals. And she understood that unsaid, unacknowledged hunger in Zacarias.

She wanted to put her arms around him and comfort him - but the irony was - he didn't know he needed comforting. He was Zacarias De La Cruz. He felt no pain. No emotion. He was the ultimate killing machine, shadowed and tainted with evil and he accepted that with no self-pity in his heart. He simply was.

How did one stay annoyed with such a man? It wasn't in her to do so, no matter how many silly orders he threw out or how skewed his thinking was. She turned to face him and circled his neck with her arms, linking her fingers behind his head. She leaned her body against his, her breasts rubbing tightly against the towel as she turned her face up to his throat and kissed him. Her heart felt as though it was melting in her body when he simply stood there for a long moment as though shocked by her action. Then his arms came around her, locking her against him and it felt like - home.

I know I did not ask permission to touch you, but I couldn't help myself.

She deliberately pushed a teasing note of mischief into his mind. I know how important these rules are to you, but that particular one is very difficult for me and may take some time for me to fully obey it. I ask for your patience.

His hands immediately swept down her back to her bare bottom, shaping and kneading her firm muscles there. He lifted her a little, tilting her hips so that she rubbed against his thick groin. "Perhaps I will have to overlook your need to touch me."

Butterflies took wing in her stomach at the small note of happiness edging his voice. Thank you, Zacarias. I have a great need to touch you often. I know I would always forget to ask first. I appreciate you relaxing your rule.

"Just the one," he pointed out, a hint of laughter creeping into his eyes.

Her heart stuttered. For one brief moment, there in the steamy room, with the soft light of the candles, his eyes, always so black, appeared a dark sapphire. As his smile faded, so did the deep, true color from his eyes. She had been looking at the real Zacarias as he should have been before the world shaped him into a killing machine.

She held him tight to her, resting her head against the steady rhythm of his heart. He didn't seem in the least impatient, he simply held her close. She waited until the silly emotions choking her were firmly under control before she lifted her head.

I'd better get dressed. I need to check the animals and see what's going on.

He buried his face in her hair, nuzzling the top of her scalp. "I suppose I did agree the other evening when I spoke to Cesaro. I do not like you endangering yourself. If the animals are as vicious as the workers claim, letting you around them is inconceivable."

I love my horses, Zacarias. I need to ride every day. It clears my head and makes me feel so free. You'll have to try it so you can understand.

His hand rubbed her buttocks, lingered, so that her body began to heat. She hugged him tighter and then stepped back.

"No horse has ever tolerated me that close and I refuse to use mind control on them."

You won't have to, she assured with confidence. I know you like skirts, but when I ride, I prefer jeans. It's safer.

His smile was a small quirk of his lips, but the action sent her pulse tripping. It also gave his eyes that dark sapphire glint that robbed her of her breath. His eyes were beautiful in their true color. She couldn't stop herself from tracing that small smile.

You really are beautiful, Zacarias.

He caught her wrist and pressed her fingers to his mouth. "Men are not beautiful. And you are simply trying to distract me from the fact that you are trying to break another rule."

She sent the impression of laughter into his mind. I wish that were true. I wish I wasn't so enamored with you that I could think so quickly on my feet. Was dressing in a skirt really one of your rules?

"I prefer feminine clothing. You are to please me in all that you do. So dressing in skirts is naturally preferable to men's clothing."

She went up on her toes and brushed a kiss across his mouth. She loved his sensual mouth. She was afraid she could stare at it for hours and just fantasize. She didn't even care that he was in her mind reading her thoughts. I could you know, just make up fantasies for hours. But I think men's clothing can be quite sexy as well. Let me try.

"I will not have access to you."

She smiled at him, rubbing his shadowed jaw. Fortunately you can do that thing with your mind.

"What thing?"

Make my clothes vanish. I rather like that little perk.

"This is seduction, Marguarita. Pure seduction to get your way." Once again his hand shaped her bottom. "I suppose I will have to get used to you occasionally getting your way. Men's pants are more practical for riding, although a pided skirt would work."

She stepped away from him and deliberately walked to her dresser, her hips swaying. Just reserve judgment.

She took a pair of lacy thong underwear, the sexiest she had, from her drawer. The sachet of lavender scented the panties.

Zacarias followed close behind her and he held out his hand to inspect the little scrap of black lace. The thin strip would barely cover her crotch, the lacy strap would disappear between her cheeks and four black cords hugged the curve of her cheeks.

"This is underwear?"

She nodded.

"I will see you in these men's clothes and know this is what you wear beneath them?"

She nodded again. The building lust in his eyes sent heat rushing through her body. His gaze settled on her high, rounded breasts and then swept lower to the triangle of black curls guarding his personal treasure.

"And what will you wear to cover your breasts from the eyes of other men?"

His voice rasped over her and instantly her nipples grew hard. Her breath turned ragged, but she obediently pulled a matching black bra from the drawer. She had nothing quite as daring as this particular set she'd bought on a whim. Sheer black lace stretched over her full breasts, edged with black satin. Her nipples would show right through all that lace, peeking at him through the thin material. The underwire gave support and at the same time pushed her breasts up and out.

He accepted the bra and turned the fragile material over and over in his hand before raising his gaze to her breasts.

"Come here."