And, just like that, the lighter mood she’d been trying to create darkened, making her stomach cramp.

Time to move onto safer territory, far away from relationships of any form.


‘Seeing as the subjects of marriage and relationships bring us both out in a cold sweat, why don’t you tell me why you want to buy Plushenko’s instead? My guess is that it has to be personal.’

‘What makes you think that?’

‘You don’t force a woman to travel halfway round the world simply to salvage a deal without it being personal.’

Although the very mention of the word Plushenko was enough to tighten his chest, Pascha found himself grinning. ‘Were you a journalist in a previous life?’

‘You would know the answer to that yourself if you’d bothered to ask about my job,’ she said tartly.

‘I couldn’t get a word in,’ he said, raising his brow. ‘You ask more questions than the old KGB.’

‘That’s because I’m incurably nosy.’

Picking up the wine bottle, he headed back to the table. ‘Tell me about your job first and then I’ll consider telling you about my relationship with Marat Plushenko.’ He topped both their glasses up then deliberately tugged his chair out from under her feet and sat down.

For half a moment he thought she might put her feet back up and onto his lap.

For half a moment his skin tingled with anticipation.

What, he wondered, would she do if he were to lean a hand down and gather those pretty feet onto his lap...?

Emily took a sip of her wine. ‘You want to know about my job?’

‘I do.’ It dawned on him that he wanted to know a lot more than that. Emily Richardson was the most intriguing person he’d met in a long time, maybe ever. A seemingly fearless woman without limits when it came to those she loved. ‘You say you’re in the fashion industry?’

‘I’m an in-house designer for the House of Alexander.’

‘Ah.’ He nodded. ‘You work for Hugo Alexander?’

‘Yep.’

‘All the pieces fall into place.’ The House of Alexander was one of the UK’s foremost fashion houses, famous for its theatrical, off-beat designs. Hugo Alexander’s designs had captured the eye of fashion editors around the world and the imagination of the public. It was one of the fashion houses to buy on his radar.

‘What, you mean the sewing machine and the rolls of fabric I brought here with me?’

‘And all the fashion magazines littering your bedroom.’ And the way you dress, he almost added. He couldn’t think of a more suitable fashion house for her to work for. Not that she was dressed that way now. Since arriving on the island, all her theatricality had been stripped away.

‘You could have been Sherlock Holmes in a previous life.’

Pascha didn’t want to laugh. He didn’t want to find Emily amusing but the truth, as he was rapidly finding, was that he did.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d found anyone fun to be around. It was not a trait he sought. Yes, many of the companies he’d bought over the years were run by flamboyant characters, but these were not people he mixed with on anything but a professional level.

‘Do you remember that party you had when you first bought Bamber?’ she asked.

‘I remember it,’ he said, surprised at her turn of the conversation. Throwing a getting-to-know-you party was something he always did when he bought a new company, wanting to meet his new staff on a more human footing than at their work stations.

‘I was only dressed that way because I’d come straight from work—we’d just had a show and Hugo had steered us all in a gothic focus.’

He looked at her. ‘So you don’t normally dress as the Bride of Frankenstein?’

She laughed. ‘Not to that extent. If I’d had the time, I would have changed into something a little more appropriate.’

‘I thought you’d dressed that way deliberately.’

‘If I’d had the time to change, I would have, but you know what fashion shows are like; the days just don’t have enough hours in them.’

Pascha did know. When he’d bought his first fashion house he’d felt obliged to attend New York Fashion Week. He’d stayed for approximately one hour before boredom had set in and he’d made his escape. He’d felt the energy all the designers, make-up artists and all the other people involved had expelled, like a hive of creative bees working in perfect harmony. He could easily imagine Emily fitting into the hive with ease. ‘How did you get into fashion?’ he asked, curious to know.

‘When I was a kid the only clothes available for little girls were “pretty” clothes and always in pink.’ She pulled a face. ‘I hate pink. I used to draw the clothes I wished I could wear. Eventually I badgered my mum enough that she taught me how to use her sewing machine.’

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