‘You see only what you choose to see. And what you choose destroys anything we have together. Is that really what you want?’
He wouldn’t trust her. Refused to. She couldn’t understand why—what had she done to make him doubt her like this?
All her secret hopes and dreams died. If he didn’t trust her, he could never love her.
His glare burnt into her, hard, glowing. His jaw set and his mouth barely moved as he ground the words out.
‘I don’t want anything from you.’ He looked away then, his eyes seeming blind as he strode back into his room.
The door slammed louder that time.
Shaken, she silently went into her own room. His rage had been a visible, living thing, but he’d told her everything he needed to in one pithy sentence. She leaned back against the door, her fist pressed to her side as if trying to stop the internal haemorrhage.
Eventually, many deep breaths later, she managed to transform the hurt into a rod of cold steel. She inserted it down her spine. He might say that, but she knew better. He had wanted her and if he was honest he still wanted her. He just didn’t see all that she was. Well, she wasn’t just some plaything—not any more.
She could achieve, had achieved, would achieve more. Whether he chose to acknowledge it or not, she told herself not to care. Impossible of course, but she’d try anyway.
She’d go out there tonight, be proud of what she’d pulled together and hold her head high. James Black be damned.
In the shower she let herself have a moment—just one moment—when hot tears fell unchecked, scalding her cheeks, and the ache in her throat pierced her as she choked back the howl of agony. For just that time she let the break in her heart be fully felt.
Then she locked it away, wishing she had an impenetrable chest—had never known it was possible to feel pain this way. She was just going to have to lock it away for ever; it hurt too badly. Then she made the tears stop and the thoughts be buried. She lay on the bed and blanked everything from her mind. She was not going to go to the ball with red, blotchy cheeks. No man was worth that.
James steered clear of the hotel all the late afternoon. His manager could show the media around. He only needed to be there for the ball and could get away with a brief chat to them then.
The anger wouldn’t go away. The hurt underneath it only seemed to be growing. He wished he’d yelled.
He wished she’d yelled back. Wished she’d told him exactly what she’d been doing and made him look a fool.
But she’d refused. And thus must be guilty. But now, stupidly, he felt guilty. She’d made him feel as if he were the one in the wrong—that typical womanly way of twisting things: fickle with the truth.
He’d just wanted to know.
Glancing at his watch, he realised he was going to have to race to get ready on time. He hadn’t achieved anywhere near as much as he’d wanted to. Tried to focus on business elsewhere but his thoughts were scattered and staying on task proved impossible.
He ran the blade down his jaw with quick, sure strokes. Stepped into his tux almost straight from the steaming shower, his hair still damp. After tying his shoes he took a quick look in the mirror to check everything was in the right place. And for the first time all week didn’t bother putting a condom or three into his pocket. That madness was finished.
Another look at his watch and he walked through to the lounge. Allowed himself to think of her since that moment in there when it had felt as if his guts had been ripped from his body. The guy had been dressed in jeans and looked dishevelled and exhausted—as if he’d been up all night.
She’d looked exhausted too—pale with blue-tinged rings under her eyes. James winced. He already knew she’d been up all night—just not with him.
Where she was now, he had no idea. Who she was with—no idea either. And even if the effort was going to kill him, he was going to train himself not to care.
She couldn’t make too much of a mess of the evening. The hotel itself was a masterpiece. There was wine, there was food. A little music and some chat and it would be OK. Perhaps not the incredible success he’d envisaged, but he’d cope. The sooner he got off this island, the better. He’d assign his next-in-command to take care of it from now on.
He went to the little table by the door where the staff left the paper and any mail for them—and where he usually left his keycard. There was some mail there and he glanced at it. It only took a second to realise it wasn’t for him, but in fact was mail that Liss had written and had put there to be sent. A postcard, writing side up, and he couldn’t stop himself reading part of it. Addressed to Atlanta House, it said how exciting it was that Sandy had given birth to a beautiful daughter and how she couldn’t wait to meet her. She passed on her love and best wishes to the other girls and said she’d be in touch again soon. James pushed the postcard to the side. The warmth so evident in the writing attacked his certainty. Only there was another postcard beneath it, also writing side up, and the address took only a second to scan—to the youthline in Paris. He didn’t read the whole thing, didn’t need to. It was clearly a full-of-chat-and-questions card to the other volunteers who worked there. James blinked. So she still kept in touch with them too?