“Surely there are some exceptions.
“They are rare.”
After a two-hour meal, which was prolonged by Remy’s and the waiter’s inordinate care in the selection of every course including the wines, he took her dancing at the Savoy.
Being in his arms for the first time all evening at the landmark hotel made her blood tingle and her body heat. Not that he held her all that close. No. But his hand against her spine burned through the delicate silk of her dress and made her imagine how his touch might feel without the gossamer-thin fabric between them.
It was beginning to bother her that again he played the gentleman, deliberately keeping her at a polite distance. She wanted to snug herself against him, to feel his heat and wildness. His badness.
Every time he stared down into her eyes while their bodies moved together in perfect accord, she wondered what he was thinking. Not once did he mention Château La Serene or the vineyard, but she imagined the painting and the properties must be heavy on his mind even as they danced what was left of the night away.
She closed her eyes and pretended that they were on a real date and that she was glamorous and fascinating enough to intrigue him.
It was two in the morning when he brought her back to Carol’s flat. And he at least pretended he did so with as much reluctance as she felt. But after holding her hand for a brief moment and pressing it against his cheek like a lover might, he pushed the door of her building open and said an abrupt good-night.
“I—I had a wonderful time,” she whispered.
“So did I. I wish you a safe journey.” His voice was cool and casual, if a little hard.
Suddenly she felt awkward and shy. “I—I wish you a happy life.”
“Good night.” He let go of the door.
As the glass door fell shut behind him, he turned and began walking away, his strides long and graceful. Not once had he mentioned the château or vineyard or painting. Why had he gone out with her, then? She stared at his retreating broad shoulders with acute dismay.
Suddenly nothing mattered except that he was leaving. Hardly thinking, she flung the door open. Giving a little cry, she flew out into the night after him.
“Would you like to…er…come up? For a drink maybe?”
He whirled. Looking miserable, he shook his head.
“Oh, please…do come up.”
As he stared down at her, his eyes were dark and tortured.
She knew exactly how a Frenchman, especially a man like him, would take such an invitation from a woman at so early an hour in the morning. Still, she stared up at him, her gaze probably too adoring and trancelike, and he stared back as if equally compelled by some dark force.
He must be used to women throwing themselves at him. It had probably happened again and again, especially in the glory days after his races when he’d been a famous champion.
Moving closer, he started to reach for her. Then he scowled and backed away, furiously fisting his hands. Shaking his black head again with more violence than before, she felt as stricken as if he’d slapped her.
Because she felt so vulnerable, his narrowed gaze seemed harsh and unrelenting. “I don’t think that would be wise,” he said. “You have that plane to catch, remember. Like you said this afternoon, you and I are very different sorts.”
When he turned on his heel, she ran after him and seized his hand, pulling him toward her building shamelessly. “I want you to stay. So…much.”
“You little fool!” he muttered, gripping her fingers hotly as he reeled to face her again. Anger and some other fierce emotion hardened his features. “Don’t you understand anything? I am not the kind of man a girl like you invites home.”
“That might be true under normal circumstances.”
“I’m not what you think! I don’t want you to regret tonight. That’s why I can’t stay.”
She wasn’t about to admit she knew who and what he was and that she didn’t care.
“I won’t regret it. I swear.” She flung herself against his chest and was slightly reassured when she felt both his erection and then his heart, which was beating even faster than hers. She ran her hand over his abdomen and then his chest, causing him to shudder.
“You don’t know what you’re doing,” he whispered raggedly.
“I know what I want, and I think maybe you want it, too.” She touched his jaw and then his lips.
“I’m a man,” he rasped, passion flicking through his words like a whip as he pressed his cheek and mouth against the back of her fingers. “But I don’t want to use you…or hurt you like….” He stopped.
This from a man who wanted only a vineyard and a painting?