“Oh, for heaven’s sake!” I cried in exasperation. “Alejandro’s fine! He’s standing right by me!”
She sucked in her breath. Her tone changed, became curious. “Then why are you calling me on his phone?”
“He...wanted me to tell you the happy news.” Glaring at Alejandro, I kept my voice gentle as I said, “You’re a great-grandmother.”
“A—” her voice ended in a gasp. A happy gasp. “Alejandro has a child?”
“We have a five-month-old son. I’m the baby’s mother.”
“You’re American? Canadian?”
“Born in Brooklyn.”
“Why didn’t he tell me before? What’s your name? Have we met?” She didn’t seem like the snooty duchess I’d imagined. She continued eagerly, “Did you elope? Oh, I’ll never forgive Alejandro for getting married without me—”
“He didn’t tell you because—well, he wasn’t sure about it. For your other question, we’re not married.” I gritted my teeth. “And we have no plans to be.”
“You have no—” She cut herself off with an intake of breath. Then changing the subject with forced cheer, she said, “So when can I meet my great-grandson? I can hardly wait to tell my friends you’re coming to live in the castle. The pitter-patter of little feet at Rohares Castle at last!”
“I’m sorry. We’re not going to live in Spain.”
“Oh.” I heard the soft whoosh of her whimper. “That’s...all right.” She took a deep breath. “So when are you coming to visit so I can meet him?”
I bit my lip. “I don’t know if we can....”
“I understand,” she sniffled. “It’s fine. Just send me a Christmas card with the baby’s picture, and...it’s fine. I’ve had a good life. I don’t need to meet my only great-grandchild....”
My own fear of spending time with Alejandro, of allowing him more power over me, suddenly felt small and selfish compared with letting her meet Miguel—and even more important, allowing my son to have the family I myself had yearned for. What did I have, a heart of stone?
“All right.” With a sigh, I accepted the inevitable. “We’ll come to Spain in the next day or two. Just for a visit, mind!”
But even with that warning, her cries of joy exploded from the phone. I held it away from my ear, glaring all the while at Alejandro. “I’ll let you talk to Alejandro,” I told her, then covering the mouthpiece, I handed him the phone and grumbled, “I hate you.”
“No, you don’t.” He took it from my hand, looking down at me seriously. “I’ll win your trust, Lena. And then...”
He gave me a sensual smile. “You’ll be my wife within the week.”
* * *
There are many different kinds of seduction.
There’s the traditional kind, with flowers, chocolates, dinner by candlelight. That’s the way Alejandro had seduced me last summer. He called the Kensington mansion, asked for me, invited me to dinner. He showed up at the door dressed in a tux, his arms full of roses—to Claudie’s rage—and greeted me with a chaste kiss on the cheek.
“You look beautiful,” he’d murmured, and took me to the best restaurant in London. He asked me questions, listened aptly and physically grew closer and closer, with the innocent touch of his hand, the casual brush of his body against mine. He held my hand across the dinner table in the candlelight, in full view of the other patrons, looking at me with deep soulful eyes, as if no other woman had ever existed. Afterward, he took me to a club. We danced, and he pulled me into his arms, against his hard, powerful body. Closer. Closer still, until my heart was in my throat and I started to feel dizzy. In the middle of the dance floor, he lowered his head and kissed me for the first time.
It was my first kiss, and as I closed my eyes I felt the whole world whirling around me. Around us.
When he finally pulled away, he whispered against my skin, “I want you.” I’d trembled, my heart beating violently, like a deer in a wolf’s jaws. He’d looked down at me and smiled. Then took me back to his rooftop terrace suite at the Dorchester Hotel.