But it had lasted less than a week. Because when they had returned to London, and he to work, she’d found out about his promotion—the one that had depended on him stabilising his personal life. It wasn’t that he’d fallen head over heels for her at all. He’d simply needed a wife—and she’d been the malleable fling of the moment. The naïve fool.
When she’d accused him of it he hadn’t been shy about admitting it, ruthlessly acknowledging that he had no real belief in marriage—that he’d never meant it to be for ever. And so she’d found out—too late—that his life was one big game. He was a playboy. And he’d played her. Sebastian Rentoul got everything and anything and anyone he wanted. That conversation had been short and brutal. She’d walked out—run away. But for her, the worst had yet to come.
So in the end it took only thirty seconds to underline why she was definitely, totally, not going there again. But it was half an hour until the tyre was changed and they got back on board. Seb returned to the seat next to her and her pulse was still too fast, too erratic.
There was nothing for her to do but box on through it. ‘How’s work going?’
He sent her an ironic look. ‘It’s going well. Lots of cases. I’ve been working long hours.’
And partying even longer hours, she bet. She’d been wowed when she’d found out he was a lawyer—had been such an ignorant idealist. But Seb wasn’t that kind of lawyer. He didn’t don wig and gown and go defend the innocent or the persecuted. He did divorce. Representing high-powered wealthy people embroiled in the bitterest of partings.
Seb swung into action for them—dividing, conquering—making sure the cougar kept the house or the serial sleazoid avoided the alimony. Knowing his powers of persuasion, she knew it was a waste of his talent. He should be in the criminal courtroom. He’d have a jury free a man despite evidence caught on camera and with DNA back-up.
‘So you got made partner?’
That was why he’d married her. Not because he’d fallen as madly, deeply, passionately for her as she had for him. Not because he too had been swept away by a kind of madness. No, he’d had a far more clay-based reason for proposing than her helium-filled one for saying yes. There’d been some archaic belief in his old-school firm that the partners needed to have a stable, respectable home life. Not the girls-a-go-go playboy lifestyle that Seb had.
She should have figured it out sooner—that he hadn’t meant any of it. He’d picked her up in a bar, for heaven’s sake—as if that were any real start to a serious relationship? In minutes he’d seduced the brains out of her. Just as he did with a different woman every week. Only she’d been so gullible and needy she’d believed him when he’d said she was special. She’d been stupid enough to step onto a plane with him and take off for a sex-drenched mini-break on an island famed for its sun and sand. An island where, if you were so inclined, you could even get married.
And she’d been so inclined. She’d been so desperate to believe. How badly she’d wanted to believe that someone had fallen in love with her just like that. So stupid—as if that would happen? But a childhood lacking in love and full of loneliness did that to a person.
‘Yes.’ Seb sighed. ‘I checked all the boxes, didn’t I? Have wife, will progress.’
‘You don’t have a wife.’
‘I do,’ he replied, lifting his hand, showing the wedding band.
‘Another one?’ She deadpanned, ignoring the spike of adrenalin. ‘My God. You’re a bigamist.’
He laughed. She stared as his face broke up—she saw his full lips widen, teeth flash and his eyes light. And then there was the sound. It was like having plugs removed from her ears. Hearing that freshness, she felt sweet warmth sweep inside. She couldn’t help responding, her lips curving.
‘Ana. We’re married. Still married, in case you’d forgotten.’
Of course she hadn’t. She was working to end it, wasn’t she? ‘We’re only married on paper, Seb. And not for much longer.’
‘What do you mean only on paper?’ His eyes twinkled brighter. ‘I remember consummating our marriage, Ana. I remember the night on the balcony. I remember the way you—’
‘All right.’ She held up her hand, stopping what she knew was going to be a totally inappropriate recollection. ‘So I’m your wife. How the hell do you explain it?’
‘You don’t like city life.’ He angled his head and looked at her as if he were a medium reading her mind. ‘And for all I know that might actually be true. I decline invitations on your behalf and don’t participate in client functions myself. I’m very devoted.’