Pointedly Sylvie ignored his question and stared down at where he was still holding onto her arm instead as she demanded icily, ‘Let go of me, Ran.’
‘Let go of you...? Do you realise what you’re saying, what you’re accusing me of doing? You’re not a teenager any more, Sylvie, and if this is some kind of petty attempt to—’
‘No, I’m not.’ Sylvie interrupted him furiously. ‘I’m the Trust’s representative here at Haverton and as such it’s my job to protect the Trust’s interests and its investments... If I think that someone, anyone, is trying to cheat the Trust or misuse its funds, then it’s my job to—’
‘Your job...?’ Ran laughed savagely. ‘You sound very high-minded for someone who’s slept her way into her “job” via her boss’s bed.’
There was a second’s pause and then a white heat, a zigzag of pure fury and frustrated womanly pride, hit Sylvie like a bolt of lightning. Immediately she reacted in the only way her outraged female instincts knew, lifting her hand and slapping Ran’s face in furious rejection of his insult.
Sylvie didn’t know which of them was the more shocked—she who had delivered the blow or Ran who had received it. For a single beat of time they both stood completely still, staring at one another. Sylvie could feel her heart racing, she could see the white, slowly reddening imprint of her hand against Ran’s dark skin and she could see too the vengeful male fury darkening his eyes. Too late to regret her behaviour, or to turn and run; Ran was still holding onto her arm, and as she tried to pull away he dragged her towards him, his eyes glittering with fevered rage.
Sylvie knew, even before it happened, just what he was going to do. She was already closing her eyes and whispering helplessly, ‘No,’ as she felt the hard, bruising pressure of his mouth against her own.
To be kissed like this, in fury, in punishment, and with a blind, searing male desire to dominate, was something totally outside all her experience. Her body had no defences against it, no knowledge of how to deal with it. Panic and anger surged through her body. She was no helpless Victorian virgin, she was a modern woman, able to give as good as she got. Fiercely she returned the anger of Ran’s furious kiss. He was already prising apart her closed lips with his tongue, demanding entry to the intimacy of her mouth, not with the tender touch of a lover but with the forceful pressure of a warrior, a victor. Wildly Sylvie tried to evade him, but he was holding onto her too strongly and all her attempts to break free did was to bring her body into even closer contact with his. She still fought to break free, pummelling his chest with her fists and then, when that did no good and there was no longer any space between their bodies for her to do so, angrily raking her nails down his back.
Somewhere, deep down, in the murkiest of murky waters of her subconscious, lay the knowledge that this wasn’t just about the insult he had given her, nor her angry reaction to it; that this explosion of furious emotion this need to reach out and hurt him, to damage and destroy what was left of the love she had once felt for him, had its roots, its being, in something very, very different from mere insulted female pride.
‘Little vixen,’ she heard Ran muttering thickly against her mouth as he caught hold of her hand. ‘Your elderly lover might need the stimulus of having his back scratched raw when you make love but I certainly don’t.’
Shocked into awareness of what she was doing by his words, Sylvie went still.
Lloyd might not be her lover, but that didn’t really matter; it was the impact of what Ran had just said to her that hurt and wounded so badly, the fact that he was comparing the anger and mutual hatred they were both expressing with an act that, to Sylvie, was one which should be highlighted and hallmarked with tenderness and true emotional love. Suddenly all the anger drained out of her. She felt sickened, not just by Ran’s words but more importantly by what she herself had done. A vixen, Ran had called her, but when animals mated they did so for a specific purpose; their coming together was never an act of cruelty or cynical disregard for everything that sharing the intimacy of one’s body with another should be.
Sylvie could feel her eyes starting to fill with tears. Ran had pulled back from her to look at her, and, taking advantage of his slackened grip, she pulled herself free of him and started to walk quickly, if a little unsteadily, towards the library door.
Startled, Ran called out to her, following her out into the hallway, watching as she disappeared up the stairs. Should he go after her, apologise, explain...? That look he had just seen in her eyes had shocked him. It was more the look of a hurt child than a mature, experienced, worldly woman, and besides... There had been no call for him to make that remark to her about Lloyd. Her relationship with the other man was, after all, her own affair, even if he... God... For a moment there the feeling, the sharp dig of her nails into his skin through the fabric of his shirt, had made him ache so badly for the feel of her naked body beneath his own, the feel, the scent, the taste of her. And if he could have his time again... But what was the point in thinking about, reliving old memories, old mistakes?