The next few days sped in a flurry of organisation and mild panic. She fired an email to Cassie via Sebastian, giving her travel details. Cassie wasn’t coming to the ball—with all the hoopla surrounding Sebastian’s abdication the last thing they wanted was to be out at the mercy of the gossipy Aristan socialites. None of the others were going either—there was too much going on, with Alex on the hunt for the diamond and the succession so uncertain. Liss would be the only royal present. Liss understood why, but she would have loved to have had a friendly face there. And it would have been great to have someone see her success. But it wasn’t to be. Hopefully she’d have time to meet up with Cassie in the days after.
So on she worked, finalising details, checking, double-checking that everything she’d planned would result in perfection. And as every day passed the anticipation, the adrenalin, built in her body—more and more, until finally she felt unable to sleep, unable to eat. She missed him. Every day she came into work hoping he’d be there, fighting the disappointment when he wasn’t. Hope then built again—that he might appear during the day. She was turning into a scatterbrained mess and she had to find some method of release. Finally she fell back on her all-time favourite way of letting off steam—she’d go dancing.
After seeing the photo in the paper of the two of them at the art gallery, James delayed his return to Sydney until the afternoon before they were scheduled to fly to Aristo. He could no longer trust himself not to give into temptation and he didn’t want to risk being recorded by some paparazzi. Getting snapped with her a second time would lead to serious speculation in the tabloids—they’d blow it way out of proportion. As it was he knew there’d be some questioning looks in his office. He told himself he could cope with that, but only on his terms—and privacy was one of them. The humiliation of Jenny’s so very public betrayal had been enough. If they were to deal with this, they would, but no one would know. And until then, physical distance was the only answer.
Landing back in Sydney and getting to the office late, he found the staff had left for the day. But he knew he couldn’t go another night without seeing her. He headed out to the usual nightspots—eventually finding her down on the dance floor of one of them.
He couldn’t stop going nearer to her, watching her over the balcony area above. As she swayed to the relentless rhythm of the bass he tried to control his body’s basic reaction. His jaw ached from clenching his teeth so hard. All he could think about was that kiss—where he’d been singed and his hands still hurt from not holding her. He badly wanted a repeat. He’d known it would be good. He hadn’t known it would go ballistic. And he refused to believe it had been ‘just’a kiss for her too. The way she looked at him, the awareness in her body, the way she flushed if he got too close—she was totally strung out.
Good. Because so was he.
He was sick of this heavy sense of foreboding. Desire was driving him now—his arms were empty and aching. The urge to haul her close was overwhelming and he knew he couldn’t fight it any more.
He glanced around the room. Saw many others watching her too. She was dancing with a group of girls— all of them attractive, but it was Liss that the crowd was watching, the one who many were wanting.
He knew what he was getting himself into. He wouldn’t invest any emotion. It would be purely physical. It wouldn’t take much to make the flame burn out. A fast and furious glow and it would be over.
It was different from Jenny because this time he had his eyes wide open. He already knew not to trust Liss. She wasn’t about to be hurt—she’d find some other beau before James would have the chance to blink. He gritted his teeth harder at the wave of rage that rose with that thought. Damn it, he had to control that. And he decided the only way was to give her an experience she’d never forget—make sure it was so damn good she’d be ruined for the next guy. Because there would be a next guy. It was only a matter of time. For women like Liss, one lover would never be enough.
He watched her dance for another moment, but couldn’t take it any more. He walked out without saying hello to anyone.
They were flying out to Aristo tomorrow. Just the two of them. There would be no observers, no paparazzi on the plane. Just him, just her. And it was time to fight the fire with fire.
‘LAT E night, Liss?’
Hiding behind her large dark glasses, she took the hint of disapproval on the chin. After her nil response they rode to the airport in silence but the atmosphere was thick with swirling heat. She stared out the window, not able to cope with seeing James as well as having him up close in the back of the taxi. He was looking too gorgeous in a white cotton tee that wasn’t too tight, but tight enough to show off that broad chest and long arms, jeans that were a relaxed fit but with enough shape to make her appreciate the length of his legs and the hint of their concealed power. She badly, badly wanted to touch.