Humiliation swept in a tide of heated colour across Marnie’s face. With a few devastating words Leandro had forced her to acknowledge the holes in their relationship. She had made excuses—he was a busy executive and so couldn’t spend as much time with her as she would have liked. She had told herself it didn’t matter that he had forgotten their anniversary. But with a flash of clarity she saw that she had been fooling herself.
She wished the ground would open up and swallow her. But as she searched his hard-boned face for some small sign of softness anger surged through her, as heated as it was unexpected. Usually she avoided confrontation, but she was overwhelmed by a storm of wild emotions. Surely it wasn’t unreasonable to want to be included in Leandro’s social life, considering they had been in a relationship for a year?
‘Obviously if I’d realised that you hadn’t invited me to the party I wouldn’t have come,’ she said in a low voice, aware that they were the focus of attention of many of Leandro’s staff.
But for once her temper refused to be suppressed as she remembered Fergus’s comment. Leandro’s dirty little secret. Was that how everyone at the party thought of her? Was it how Leandro thought of her?
‘Are you ashamed of me?’ she burst out.
‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ His clipped tone revealed his displeasure.
‘What else am I supposed to think when you never want to be seen in public with me?’ Her voice rose and Leandro’s warning frown intensified her anger. At the same time she was secretly shocked that she was arguing with him, or at least trying to goad him, but he refused to respond, although his lips thinned into a stern line.
Memories of her mother screaming wild accusations at her father sent a shudder through her. Oh, God, was she turning into a hysterical, irrational woman like her mother had been? She wasn’t imagining that people were looking at her. Leandro’s hard-boned features gave no clue to his thoughts, but Marnie sensed from the taut way he held his body that he was surprised by her behaviour, and the steely gleam in his grey eyes told her he was furious.
Her excitement about attending the party with him congealed into a hard knot of misery in her chest. With a choked cry she stepped past him—and stiffened when he placed his hand on her arm.
‘Where are you going?’
‘I’m not staying at the party now I know that you don’t want me to be here.’ She couldn’t disguise the wobble in her voice. ‘What does it matter where I’m going? It’s not as if you care.’
The truth of that last statement felt like a punch in her gut. She shook her arm free from his grasp and walked as quickly as her high heels would allow across the restaurant. She half expected him to follow her, and her heart sank when he didn’t.
* * *
Leandro watched Marnie’s curvaceous figure march away from him and felt a tightening sensation in his groin as he admired the sexy sway of her derriere. He could not actually believe she would walk out on him, and he was puzzled as much as irritated when she exited the restaurant.
She was not prone to temper tantrums—unlike his ex-wife. Marnie was easy-going, and could always be relied upon to agree with him. He appreciated a life without the drama that had been a feature of his marriage, but he had to admit that he was intrigued to discover an unexpected fiery side to her character. Recalling her hurt expression, he cursed his tactlessness. But he did not like surprises, and he’d been shocked when he’d walked into the restaurant and spotted her.
He would have to have words with Julie, who was covering for his usual PA, Fiona, while she was on maternity leave. But he knew he couldn’t blame the temp for the misunderstanding over inviting Marnie to the staff party. He should have made sure that Julie understood that he never mixed his public and private life—and his mistress belonged firmly in the latter category.
He had made it clear to Marnie when they had met that all he wanted was a no-strings affair. His suspicion that she was a virgin had been allayed by her white-hot passion when they’d slept together for the first time. It had blown his mind. But sex was all he wanted from her and the only thing he could offer.