‘I’ve got a few last-minute details to check. I’ll see you later.’ She blew him a kiss and got to the door before he had a chance to say or do much to stop her. She had to get on with the job—but she was fast running out of options and didn’t know where next to turn.
James lay, half awake, half dreaming of his pleasure princess. He imagined her lying next to him, deep in sleep, her arms stretched above her head as she so often had them, utterly exposed to him, utterly relaxed.
His fingers itched to touch her warm skin, to feel her softness. In the dark, waiting for her return, he admitted how much he’d been enjoying this week. Having her so close to him—having her as his. His blood, his emotions, everything seemed to be pumping nearer to the surface. He felt more alive than ever— and more attracted than ever. It wasn’t just the magnificent sex they had together, but it was her—her company, her conversation, her laughter.
But this afternoon she’d come in with no laughter—looking tired, and pale and lonely. And she’d clung to him, her mouth seeking, hungry for more than just sex. And after, he’d looked deep into her eyes and she’d seemed to be offering a whole lot more than he’d ever expected. More than he’d ever thought he’d want.
It had shaken him. Because he suddenly realised he did want it.
The attraction wasn’t going away. Every moment they had together he wanted ten more—twenty, a million. He had to work out how he was going to get himself out of this without getting hurt. But he was starting to hope that maybe he wouldn’t have to.
She was snippy and smart and sometimes sullen, but she was also sweet and sexy and generous—and seeking something more from life. He knew she was and he badly wanted to believe she was loyal. She’d been working hard this week—really making the effort and he wanted to help her. Maybe he’d been wrong —maybe she was different. But as hope filled him self-mockery soared too. Uncertainty sucked.
He rolled, stretched across the bed, too tired to be able to work it out. He just wanted her to come home to him soon. Lay for hours half dozing before finally tumbling into sleep.
He woke early, alone and grouchy. Not even a triple-strength coffee and a chocolate apricot Danish helped shake the grouch. There was no sign of her return—no shoes flung in the far corner, no glass on the bench from a late-night drink of water. And he refused to knock on the door to see if she was in the other bedroom. Doubt started to gnaw.
He flicked on his computer. Might as well clear emails and check the headlines. He went to the usual pages and then checked out the local newspaper’s site—wanting to see if there was a piece about the party tonight.
The photo showed her blurry, stumbling out of a club. She had a hand outstretched, grabbing onto the arm of the guy by her side.
Princess Elissa looking much the worse for wear. Back on Aristo for a week, it hasn’t taken long for her to get back to her partying ways. Looking uncharacteristically pale, she embarked on a punishing party schedule that saw her at three different clubs through the night…
Last night? He quickly read it through again, checked out the digital clock on the side of the picture— showing time and date. Yes. Last night.
There was another picture pasted alongside—outside another club—and then there was another—taken earlier in the week ? But she’d been with him all night, every night, hadn’t she?
Hell. He thought for a while and realised he couldn’t actually be certain. He’d been sleeping like the dead for the few hours he was in bed. Mentally beat from work and physically worn from all the intimacy with Elissa. Emotionally he was exhausted.
He swore, short and sharp. She could have gone. Of course she’d gone.
The spectre of betrayal had him scorching hot in a flash. Hadn’t he been enough for her? What the hell did the woman want?
Anger exploded within him. Idiot. He had known. He’d warned himself all along. Hadn’t he? Here he’d been thinking she was tired from trying to pull together this party. He’d been dreaming she wanted more from him. Actually imagining that she was falling for him. He’d laugh if it weren’t so awful. What a damn, naïve bloody fool he was. Again.
She was tired because she’d been up all night partying. Who had she been dancing with—had she gone fresh from his arms into someone else’s? Bitterness flooded his body—making him move. He had to do something. He paced as memories and pain tore at him. Why did this happen? Why were the women in his life so disloyal? He stopped walking, tried to claw back some strength. He’d been here before; he’d get through it again.