His cheeks formed a semblance of a smile. ‘Yes, Emily, you will be dining with me tonight.’

‘I was planning on eating on my veranda. Alone,’ she added pointedly.

‘You can dine alone on your veranda for the rest of the week but this evening I require the pleasure of your company. My staff have set up the beach table for us.’ From the way he enunciated the word ‘pleasure’, it was obvious he found the prospect of her company nothing of the sort.

‘Why not?’ She threw him a brittle smile. ‘You and I are clearly ideal candidates for a romantic meal for two.’

His lips tightened. ‘Circumstances are what they are. I’ll be leaving for Paris first thing in the morning and there are a number of things we need to discuss before I leave.’

‘Excellent.’ She grinned at him without an ounce of warmth. ‘Let’s get this over with, then—with any luck it’ll be the last time we have to suffer one another’s company.’


THE LONG TABLE on the beach had been set up for them just metres from the lapping waves of the ocean, tea-lights in lanterns glowing under the dusky sky.

‘We’re sitting on mats?’ she asked, nodding at the thick cushions on the sand.

‘Do you have a problem with that?’

She shrugged. ‘No. I’m just surprised—I imagined you’d be averse to getting sand on your expensive clothes.’

‘I find the sound of the ocean soothing,’ he answered shortly. Emily’s antagonism towards him was becoming trying. She had no one to blame for her predicament but herself. ‘After the day I’ve had, I could use some respite.’

She settled onto a mat, tucking her bare feet beneath her. They really were the most delicate feet, he noticed: petite, much like the rest of her. Except her luscious mouth, of course.

He’d followed behind as they’d descended the stairs, holding onto the rail while she bounded down the steps without support, her long black hair, free from confinement, springing in all directions.

Emily had an energy about her that zinged. He found it intriguing. He found her intriguing. Any other woman in her predicament likely would have resorted to tears to get her own way. Emily had only become more defiant.

For the first time in a long time the image of Yana came into his mind, startling him. He never thought of his ex, had ruthlessly dispelled all memories of her so she was just a hazy figure in his past.

Yana and Emily were polar opposites, in looks and temperament.

The more time he spent with Emily, the more he was reminded of an uncut fire opal, passionate and vibrant. Yana was as polished as a Plushenko diamond. But by the time he’d ended their relationship she’d been a diamond without the lustre. And it had all been his fault.

He’d never had a problem attracting women but since he’d broken away from Andrei and set up on his own, building a multi-billion-dollar business in less than a decade, the feminine attention had become altogether hungrier. They were all wasting their time, something he spelt out at the outset of any fling. Sex was the most he could offer, the most he could give.

He’d destroyed the cut and polish of one woman. He would never put another in that position.

His thoughts were interrupted by a member of staff bringing out their starter of grilled squid and topping their wineglasses with chilled white before disappearing.

Pascha watched Emily take a bite, her lips moving in a way he could only describe as sensual. She really did have the sexiest of lips.

‘What?’ she asked a few moments later, looking at him quizzically.

To his chagrin, he realised he’d been too busy staring to take a bite of his own food.

He speared his fork into the delicate flesh of the squid. ‘While you’re staying here, I don’t want you feeling you have to hide yourself away.’

‘That won’t be a problem when you’ve left. I’m looking forward to exploring your island.’

‘Good.’ It shouldn’t bother him that she didn’t want to be in his company. It didn’t bother him. ‘You’ll find the island a place of hidden treasures. My staff are highly trained and able to cater for any wish you might have, which leads me to the next item on the agenda.’

‘Do you want me to take minutes?’

‘Excuse me?’

‘You mentioned items on an agenda.’ She put her knife and fork together and pushed her plate forward. ‘Would you like me to act as secretary and write a set of minutes so neither of us forget what’s discussed?’

Were it not for the unexpected spark of light that flashed in her eyes, he could have believed she was serious. ‘I’m sure you’ll remember it all without any problem.’

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