Ashleigh felt like stamping her foot in frustration.
‘You know what the staff are all thinking, don’t you?’ she hissed at him. ‘They think we’re going to hole ourselves up in your room for a night of raunchy sex, fortifying ourselves with champagne and bloody room service!’
Jake’s eyes were still and dark as they met her flashing ones. ‘Is that a problem for you?’
She let out a whooshing breath. ‘Of course it’s a problem for me! This time yesterday I was engaged to Howard Caule. What will everyone think when they see tomorrow’s paper and hear that you are now my fiancé?’
The lift doors opened and Jake stood back to allow her to enter first. The door hissed shut behind them before he responded smoothly. ‘They will think the best man won.’
She let out another infuriated breath. ‘This is all a game to you, isn’t it, Jake? All this talk about winning and losing, as if I’m some sort of prize that everyone’s been bidding for.’
She caught her lip with her teeth and looked away from the glint of satire in his dark eyes. ‘I don’t want to even be here with you, much less sleep with you,’ she said, privately hoping she had the strength of will to follow through on her rash words.
‘You know you don’t mean that, Ashleigh, so don’t go making me get all fired up just so I have to prove it to you.’
She felt a flicker of betraying need between her thighs at his statement, the smouldering fire in his challenging gaze threatening to consume her on the spot.
The lift doors opened and she almost fell out in relief, her lungs dragging in air as if she’d been holding her breath for hours instead of a mere few seconds.
She suddenly felt faint, light-headed and disoriented, the carpeted floor rolling up towards her, the swirling colours getting all mixed up in a stomach-churning pattern that seemed to make the floor unstable beneath her feet…
‘Are you all right?’
She heard Jake’s voice as if he was speaking to her through a long tunnel, the words rising and falling like an echo, here one second, gone the next.
‘I…I think I’m going to…She wobbled, one of her hands clutching at mid-air until she found something strong and immovable to keep her upright.
Jake held her tightly against him as he swiped his key card to his room and, shouldering open the door, scooped her up and carried her inside, the door clicking shut behind him.
‘I…I…I’m going to be sick…’Ashleigh gasped as she put a shaky hand up to her mouth.
‘The bathroom is just through—’
Ashleigh threw up the contents of her stomach all over his chest.
Jake managed to salvage the cream carpet by tugging his shirt out of his trousers to act as a sort of bib-cum-scoop as he led her to the bathroom. He set her down on the edge of the bath, one hand still holding the contents of his T-shirt as he frowned in concern at the pallor of her face.
She swayed for a moment and then lunged for the toilet bowl. He winced as she threw up again, each harsh tortured expulsion of her throat reminding him of the weeks after she’d left him in London when a daily bottle of Jack Daniels had been his only comfort.
He gingerly removed himself from his T-shirt, leaving it in the bottom of the shower stall, and reaching for one of the hand towels, wet it under the cold tap before applying it to her shockingly pale face.
‘Hasn’t anyone ever told you never to drink champagne on an empty stomach?’ he said, gently mopping her brow.
She gave him a withering glance and looked as if she was about to throw a stinging comment his way when her face suddenly drained of all colour once more and she lurched towards the toilet bowl again.
Jake waited until she was done before handing her the rerinsed towel again.
Ashleigh buried her face in its cool, refreshing, cleansing folds, wondering if this was some sort of omen for the rest of their future together.
‘When was the last time you ate?’ Jake asked.
Ashleigh groaned into the towel. ‘Please don’t talk about food!’
‘How many glasses of champagne did you have at your parents’ house?’
‘I don’t know…two…maybe three…’
‘Too many, if you ask me.’
‘I didn’t ask you.’
‘That reminds me,’ Jake said, helping her to her feet, his hands on her upper arms gentle but firm. ‘It has occurred to me that I haven’t actually asked you to marry me.’
Ashleigh stared at him, her stomach still deciding on its next course of action, her throat raw and her eyes and nose streaming.
‘You were right to be angry with me,’ he continued. ‘I didn’t ask you, I just told you that we were going to get married. I didn’t even give you a choice.’