His eyes scan my face, now devoid of all make-up. ‘Are you all right?’
Up this close his skin is sun kissed and his voice pure velvet. I fold my arms around my body and resist the instinct to take a step back, such is the immensity of animal power he exudes. It is magnetic and irresistible. It’s trite I know but he reminds me of a caged panther. Prowling and ready to pounce, full of suppressed restless energy. Muscular, strong.
I raise my chin, meet him square in the eye, and in my best secretarial voice, say, ‘Yes, I’m fine. Thank you.’
‘I need to talk to you.’
Oh God, he is going to lecture me. ‘So talk.’
‘Privately—through here, please.’ He gestures with his hand, and is careful not to touch me. The corridor leads to a door. He goes ahead of me and holds it open. I hesitate for a moment, then think, f**k it, I’m not scared of you, and walk through. The room appears to be some sort of library with walls full of shelves filled with leather-bound books. It smells of wood polish and tobacco. I hear him close the door and turn around to face him.
He is leaning against the door and simply watching me.
‘Well?’ I prompt.
‘Are you over eighteen?’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Of course I am,’ I snap. ‘Not that it is any of your business.’
‘What will Lothian get for his money?’
So he did hear. Oh the shame. If the ground could have opened up and swallowed me… Fortunately, a fine anger comes to my rescue. How dare he? The audacity. Overbearing, arrogant bastard. With all the hauteur I can manage under the circumstances, I grate, ‘That’s private if you don’t mind, and if that was all…’
‘It’s not idle curiosity. I’m quite happy to double the sum if it’s what I think it is.’
I stare at him blankly. I can understand why someone like Rupert would have to pay, but Blake Law Barrington? He could have anyone he wants. Then it occurs to me that, perhaps, he is just toying with me. Perhaps it is a thing all rich men do.
My pride comes to the fore. I will not be humiliated twice in one night. ‘Whatever I have offered is for Rupert and Rupert only. Now please get away from that door and the hell away from me.’ My voice has risen in anger.
His eyes spark. ‘Do you know your eyes are like the blue of struck matches when you are angry.’ Then more softly, ‘Why would anyone, let alone a stunner like you, get involved with someone who, if the most impeccable sources are to be trusted, is an absolute brute? He beat one woman so badly he broke her jaw, and blinded her in one eye.’
I have drunk too much champagne. The whole situation has become impossible for me to deal with in my present condition. I have ventured where I should never have gone. I feel the sting of defeat in mybones. ‘What do you want from me?’
He leaves the door and walks towards me: again that sensation that he is a predatory animal. ‘Well for a start…’ He reaches me and suddenly jerks me towards him. I fall forward and am pitched against the unyielding hardness of his body. My palms come into contact with the smooth material of his jacket. Shocked, I am filled with the scent that Rupert called old money and establishment. Difficult to define, but it reminds me of rosemary, not because of its smell, but because it is so clear and distinct. Nothing wishy-washy about it.
Everything takes on an unreal appearance. The fabulously wealthy interior. The man outside that door that wants to rape me for money. The frighteningly remote man in front of me that brings into my body sensations I have never experienced before. A pulse at the base of his throat is throbbing. I watch it curiously. I have never seen it in a man before.
And then an arm comes around me, a fistful of hair close to my nape is grasped and tugged so my confused face is tilted up towards him. ‘This,’ he says and his mouth swoops down to possess mine. His breath smells like brandy or whiskey. Wicked, anyway.
Twice today I have had to endure a stranger’s uninvited and unwelcome lips, but my reaction to this overbearing man is shocking and immediate.
His mouth drives me wild in a way that I could never have imagined. Heat ripples through me, and the reasoning, reliable part of my brain, that part that has never failed me before, stops responding. Stops functioning. My arms snake up to twine around his neck and tangle in the thick hair. I thrill in his possessive hold.
He circles my tongue, sucks it deep into his mouth and kisses me with such ferocity that some slumbering beast inside answers his animal call. A dangerous excitement kicks hard in the pit of my belly. No man has ever done this to me in this way before. I cling to him. Like a blind animal that moves only with instinct I push my body into his. There is only the need to find more of such addictive heat. What I find is the thick hardness of his desire for me. It presses aggressively against the softness of my stomach and excites me beyond all reason.
A pleasure that is at once sweet and piercing courses through my body. This rock-hard erection is mine. I caused it. Heat pools between my legs. And suddenly I am wet with wanting and filled with an irresistible desire to have that hard meat inside me, as deep as it will go…
I totally forget where I am.
It is Rupert’s cold, hard voice that drags me back into that room. We had both not heard him enter. ‘I’m afraid she’s rather spoken for,’ he drawls, but there is so much suppressed anger that his voice is like a blast of icy air.
I snatch my mouth away from Blake’s. He is positioned between Rupert and me so his wide chest hides me from Rupert’s condemnation and my eyes, cloudy with confusion and desire, are still caught in his gaze. For a few seconds more he does not release me, but simply stares into my eyes with something approaching surprise. Then his eyes turn into hard granite chips and his body stiffens even as his hands tighten and curve protectively around my waist. Slowly he turns to face Rupert.
‘But still unpaid for, I believe?’ he says, and looks down with a smile at my flushed, troubled face. I have two very quick impressions. He is a brilliant actor and he is a cold man. A shockingly cold and unemotional being.
Rupert directs his astonished, vicious eyes at me. ‘You offered yourself to him too?’
I stare mutely at Rupert while his gaze moves derisively, hatefully over me. I feel myself cringe horribly, but I try not to show it.
‘Does he know how much you charge?’
One sculptured eyebrow rises gently. ‘Do you doubt I will be able to afford her?’