But a shutter comes over his eyes.
‘How complete is the illusion that beauty is goodness,’ he murmurs.
Vaguely it registers that it is quotation, but my stunned brain cannot locate the source. A hand reaches out to take that escaped lock of hair that has worked free of my efforts to keep it up. Gently he twirls the strands in his fingers and carefully reinserts them into place. His hand drops off.
‘Would you like a drink?’
It occurs to me that I am already a little drunk. ‘No, I had some back at the flat.’
His eyes flash. ‘Champagne.’ He remembered.
I shake my head. ‘Vodka.’
He nods. ‘Food for you then,’ he says.
We are shown to the same table. I look closely at him. Try to see beyond the mask, but his face is deliberately blank. In a daze I order food. It arrives. I pick up my knife and fork. Slip it between my lips. Taste nothing. I lift my eyes to him and catch him watching me. His eyes are ravenous. His food untouched. Between my legs I ache. I swallow the food in my mouth. It becomes a lump that sticks in my throat. I reach for the wine glass and take a gulp, but that only makes me choke. I start to cough. My eyes fill with water. Fuck. Trust me to do something so sexually unappealing.
‘Are you all right?’
‘Fine,’ I say flushing with embarrassment. I need to go to the Ladies and sort myself out.
‘Excuse me,’ I croak, putting the napkin on the table and standing up.
He stands when I do. I leave the table and feel his eyes boring into me until I round the bend. I go into the Ladies and look at myself in the mirror. And again I am surprised by my reflection. I honestly can hardly recognize myself, the new hairstyle, the clothes, the make-up, but more than all of that is the look in my eyes. Wild. ‘I am Lana from the council estate, mother of Sorab,’ I say aloud.
That piece of hair comes loose again. I carefully pull one of the pins out a little and wind the hair around that pin. It seems to do the job. I take a deep breath and go back out to the restaurant.
While I have been away Blake has not touched his food. Instead, he has finished his whiskey and ordered another. He looks at me from above the rim of his glass.
‘Aren’t you hungry?’ I ask.
He puts his glass down and catches my fingers. His hands are exactly as I remember, firm, warm, strong. He turns them over and looks at my nails.
‘Very nice,’ he says softly, and bringing them to his lips kisses them. It is a mocking gesture, but at the touch of his cool lips I tremble with anticipation. I remember them smiling with sexual invitation. He lets his fingers run up the skin of my wrist. ‘Pure f**king silk.’ His eyes rise up to meet mine. Between the thick lashes they are potent, compelling. ‘Have you missed me even a little, Lana?’
For an instant, I forget myself and respond to the emotion I see simmering in his eyes. ‘There is not a day that has gone by where I have not longed for you,’ I whisper.
As if I have slapped him, he snatches his hand away and begins to laugh bitterly. He shakes his head as if in wonder. ‘I see now why I was fooled by you. You’re downright lethal. A very, very dangerous seductress indeed I have caught in my net.’
He drains his glass and, looking away from me, gestures to a waiter for another. When he turns back to face me, his eyes are glittering. ‘So how much did my father pay you?’
I pause. I am in dangerous territory. My contract with Victoria does not allow me to reveal the sum or even tell anyone that I have been paid by her. The waiter arrives with his whiskey and sets it down in front of him.
‘Another,‘ Blake barks.
The waiter nods discreetly and clears his empty glass in one smooth movement. Blake does not take his eyes off me.
Billie is right. My position is untenable. In his eyes I must be the worst kind of slut. Ahead lies only more misunderstanding and pain for both of us. The pain has already begun, a physical ache. It fills my chest. I can never tell him the truth. In his mind I will always be his bad romance. Lady Gaga singing, ‘I want your ugly. I want your disease.’
‘I’m sorry, but I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement,’ I say, with the full knowledge that without the truth he will always despise me. I lean back in my chair feeling soiled. I will never again be clean in his eyes. And there is not a damn thing I can do about it. The waiter returns with more whiskey.
‘I know you’re angry but—’
‘Shut the f**k up. You have no idea,’ he grates through gritted teeth.
I close my mouth. I have never seen him so openly angry. He is always so controlled, so smooth. Even when he was once angry with someone on the phone his fury was so tightly leashed, so frighteningly quiet that I stood stock still behind the door listening.
He shoots his whiskey aggressively, and turning the empty glass on its edge rolls it on the tablecloth. ‘Do you want more food?’
I shake my head miserably. This is turning out to be nothing like I imagined.
A muscle in his jaw twitches. He calls for the bill.
Someone in a suit comes rushing to his side. ‘Is anything the matter?’ he enquires worriedly.
‘Everything is fine.’ He looks at me hard and deep.
‘But your main course…’
Blake does not take his eyes off me. ‘I have unfinished business to take care of, Anton.’
I flush badly and Anton slips away with impressive speed from that which has nothing to do with him. Another waiter, his face schooled into impassive professionalism, comes bearing the bill. Blake signs for it, unfolds himself out of his chair and comes to stand by me. I get to my feet and he leads me out of the restaurant. We do not touch except for his hand splayed on the small of my back. Possessive, the way only a husband’s hand should be.
Not a word is spoken by either of us in the car, but every cell in my body is responding to his nearness. My desire for him is such that my hands are clenched tight against my thighs and my sex is actually throbbing. In fact, the need is so excessive it is almost violent. I sneak a look at him. He is staring ahead, the chiseled cheekbones like stone, but that muscle in his throat is ticking like a time bomb. I know that tick. It tells me what he cannot, how hard and deep he wants to f**k me. He is well and truly snared inside his bad romance.
‘What happened to all the clothes I left behind?’ I ask in the lift.
‘You enquire about last season’s fashions? What about the people you left behind, Lana? Why don’t you enquire about them? Me for instance.’
‘How have you been, Blake?’