His small smile was both self-assured and self-pitying, a curious, intriguing combination. ‘I don’t. Forgive me for the assumption. If you wish you leave, you may do so.’
Again the courteous words laced with arrogance set her teeth on edge. But Perla found she couldn’t look away from the fascinating man, whose extremely powerful aura held a wealth of pain and sadness that drew her...made her hesitate.
She licked her lips and immediately regretted it when his gaze latched onto the movement. ‘I don’t need your permission but I...I’ll stay for another drink.’
He nodded solemnly. ‘Efharisto.’ The way his voice and sensual lips formed the word made her stomach perform an annoying little flip.
‘What does that mean?’
‘Greek, for thank you.’
‘Oh, you’re Greek? I love Greece. I visited Santorini a long time ago for the wedding of a client. I remember thinking at the time it’s where I’d like to get married one day. That has got to rank up there as one of the most beautiful places on earth—’ Perla drew to a sharp halt as his face tightened suddenly. ‘I’m sorry. Mindless chit-chat?’
One corner of his mouth lifted. ‘It’s not as mindless as I thought it would be. So you love Greece. What else do you love?’
Her gaze dropped to the table, then immediately rose to meet his, almost against her will. ‘Is this the part where I say long walks in the rain with that special someone?’
‘Only if it’s true. Personally, I detest the rain. I prefer wall-to-wall sunshine. And the sea.’
‘And the special someone is optional?’
That look she’d caught on his face earlier returned—the cross between ragged pain and guilt—and this time it stayed for several moments before he shrugged.
‘If you’re lucky enough to have the choice, and to hang onto your good fortune.’
She bit her lip but was stopped from answering as the bartender delivered their order. Again silence ensued as they sipped their drinks. Only this time, when his gaze travelled over her, she boldly watched him back.
The silvery strands that blended into his temples coupled with the designer stubble gave him a seriously gorgeous but distinctly imposing look that sent her heart thudding faster. He looked vaguely familiar. Mentally shrugging, Perla concluded she must have seen him in the newspaper or on TV. His air of importance and easy way he commanded power lent itself to that theory. And, of course, he was here, at Macdonald Hall, one of the most exclusive private sport clubs in the country.
His fingers curled around his glass and she watched him lift his drink to his lips, his gaze staying on hers. Heat rushed through her, filling her up in places she’d begun to think were frozen forever. Perla tried to tell herself it was the alcohol but in an angry rush of rejection she forced herself to face the truth. She was done lying to herself, to glossing over the bare truth in order to lessen her pain.
She was attracted to this man. To his gorgeous, pain-etched face, the haunted hazel eyes, the strong stubbled jaw she wanted to run her fingers over just to see if it felt as rough as his manly, callused fingers. The mental pictures reeling through her head should’ve shocked and shamed her. But, for tonight, Perla was determined to suspend shame. And really, when had looking been a crime? And he was as exquisite a specimen as any.
‘Be careful, little one. This big, bad wolf has vicious, merciless teeth.’
The softly voiced caution ripped her from her thoughts.
What was she doing?
In a rush, she put down her barely touched drink, stood up and snatched her handbag. ‘I...you’re right. Caution is usually my middle name so, um...thanks for the drink.’ Her tongue felt thick with the lack of knowledge of the proper etiquette. ‘And for the company.’
Her breath caught when he stood to tower over her. ‘Did you drive here?’ he demanded.
‘Yes, but I barely touched my second drink and—’
‘My driver will deliver you home.’
A mixture of fear and anxiety roiled through her. Imagine the gossip if she returned home in a strange man’s car! Granted it was almost midnight but it would only take one sighting for the rumour mill to spin into overdrive. She had enough on her plate to deal with as it was.
‘No. That’s very kind of you but it’s not necessary.’
His striking, very hypnotic eyes narrowed. In that moment, all Perla noticed were his insanely thick eyelashes and the way his mouth turned down when he was displeased. The urge to take that look from his face shocked her into stepping back. When she took another step back, he followed.