Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 282

No. Leo Mr Zamos. No! This coul ot be happ g. There was o wa` she was go g to d er with Le Zamos .

d pret d g to be hi. fi. ce. No way Excellent, she heard him say through the mists o her anic. I ll have my driver ick you at seven. No! I meant yes. I m busy. I meant no. I can t come. Why? Is there a Mr Carmichael I need to smoot things over with? No, but Look, I haven t got time for this now. Let s cut to th chase. This dinner is i ortant to me, Evelyn. I don . have to tell you how much. What do you think it . worth for a few hours work? It s not about the money! In my e erience it s always about the money. Shal we say ten thousand of your Australian dollars?

About the AuthoI TRISH MORER is an Australian who s spent time living and working in New Zealand and England. Now she s settled with her husband and four young daughters in a special part of South Australia, surrounded by orchards and bushland, and visited by the occasional koala and kangaroo. With a lifelong love of reading, she penned her first book at the age of eleven, after which life, career, and a growing family kept her busy until once again she could indulge her desire to create characters and stories this time in romance. Having her work published is a dream come true. Visit Trish at her website: www.trishmorey.com

FIANCL FOR ONE NIGHR TRISH MORE]

www.millsandboon.co.uk

This book is dedicated to you, the readerc the person this book was written fori Please enjoy FIANCE FOR ONE NIGHTi Much love, as alwaysc Trish v

CHAPTER ONH LEO ZAMOS loved it when a plan came togetherd Not that he couldn t find pleasure in other, morW everyday pursuits. He was more than partial tU having a naked woman in his bed, and the morW naked the woman the more partial he was inclined tU be, and he lived for the blood-dizzying rush froa successfully navigating his Maserati Granturismo S at speed around the sixty hairpin turns of the Pass^ dello Stelvio whenever he was in Italy and got thW chanced Still, nothing could beat the sheer unmitigateX buzz that came from conceiving a plan so audacioui it could never happen, and then steering it throug\ the ensuing battles, corporate manoeuvrings anX around the endless bureaucratic roadblocks to iti ultimate conclusion and his inevitable successd And right now he was on the cusp of his mosZ audacious success yetd All he needed was a wifer He stepped from his private jet into the milX

Melbourne spring air, refusing to let that onW niggling detail ruin his good mood. He was too closW to pulling off his greatest coup yet to allow that tU happen. He sucked in a lungful of the Avgaso flavoured air and tasted only success as he headeX down the stairs to the waiting car. The Culsha[ Diamond Corporation, owner and producer of thW world s finest pink diamonds and a majoc powerhouse on the diamond market, had been in thW hands of the one big Australian diamond dynasty foc ever. Leo had been the one to sense a change in thW dynamic of those heading up the business, to detecZ the hairline cracks that had been starting to show i] the Culshaw brothers management team, thoug\ not even he had seen the ensuing scandal comingj the circumstances of which had made the brothersg positions on the board untenabled There d been a flurry of interest from all quarteri then, but Leo had been the one in pole positiond Already he d introduced Richard Alvarez, head of thW team interested in buying the business, to Eri` Culshaw senior, an intensely private man who haX been appalled by the scandal and just wanted to fadW quietly into obscurity. And so now for the first time i] its long and previously unsullied history, the Culsha[ Diamond Corporation was about to change handsj courtesy of Leo Zamos, broker to billionairesd

Given the circumstances, perhaps he should havW seen this latest complication coming. But if Eri` Culshaw, married nearly fifty years to his childhooX sweetheart, had decreed that he would only dU business with people of impeccable familk credentials and values, and with Alvarez agreeing tU bring his wife along, clearly Leo would just have tU find himself a wife tood Kind of ironic really, given he d avoided thW institution with considerable success all these yearsd Women did not make the mistake of thinking therW was any degree of permanence in the arrangemenZ when they chanced to grace his arm or bedd Not for long anywayd But a one-night wife? That much he could handled The fact he had to have one by eight p.m. tonight wai no real problemd Evelyn would soon find him someone suitabled After all, it wasn t like he actually needed to geZ married. A fiance would do just fine, a fiance founX after no doubt long years of searching for thaZ perfect soulmate Eric Culshaw could hardly holX the fact they hadn t as yet tied the knot against himj surely He had his phone in hand as he nodded to thW waiting driver before curling himself into the sleem

limousine, thankful they d cleared customs whe] they d landed earlier in Darwin to refuel, and alreadk devising a mental list of the woman s necessark attributesd Clearly he didn t want just any woman. This onW had to be classy, intelligent and charming. The abilitk to hold a conversation desirable though noZ essential. It wouldn t necessarily matter if shW couldn t, so long as she was easy on the eyed Evelyn would no doubt be flicking through hec contacts, turning up a suitable candidate, before shW hung up the phone. Leo allowed himself a flicker of ^ smile and listened to the burr of a telephone ringinb somewhere across the city as his driver pulleX effortlessly into the endless stream of airport trafficd Dispensing with his office two years ago had bee] one of the best decisions he had ever made. Nowj instead of an office, he had a jet that could fly hia anywhere in the world, a garage in Italy to house hii Maserati, lawyers and financiers on retainer, and ^ virtual PA who handled everything else he needeX with earth-shattering efficiencyd The woman was a marvel. He could only applauX whatever mid-life crisis had prompted her movW from employment in a bricks and mortar office to thW virtual world. Not that he knew her age, come tU

think of it. He didn t know any of that personal stuffj he didn t have to, which was half the appeal. NU more excuses why someone was late to work, nU more hinting about upcoming birthdays or favouritW perfumes or sultry looks of availability. He had tU endure none of that because he had Evelyn at thW end of an email, and given the references she X proffered and the qualifications and experience she X quoted in her CV, she d have to be in her mid-fortiei at least. No wonder she was over life in the fast laned Working this way, she d be able to take a nanna na_ whenever she needed itd The call went to the answering-machine and ^ toffee butler voice invited him to leave a messagej bringing a halt to his self-congratulations. HW frowned, not used to wondering where his PA mighZ be. Normally he d email Evelyn from wherever hW happened to be and not have to worry abouZ international connections or time differences. ThW arrangement worked well, so well in fact that half thW time he d find her answering by return email almosZ immediately, even when he was sure it must be thW middle of the night in Australia. But here in her city aZ barely eleven in the morning, when she d known hii flight times, he d simply expected she d be there tU take his calld It s Leo, he growled, after the phone had beepeX

for him to leave his message. Still he waited, anX kept waiting, to see if that announcement woulX make his virtual PA suddenly pick up. When it wai clear no one would, he sighed, rubbed his foreheaX with his other hand and spat out his message. Listenj I need you to find me a woman for tonight g Thank you for your call.{ Leo swore under his breath as the butlec terminated the message. Come to think of it, therW was a damn good reason he usually emailedd Eve Carmichael dropped the third peg in as mank pairs of leggings and growled in frustration as shW reached down to scoop up the offending article anX fix the final item on the line. She d been o] tenterhooks all day. All week more like it. Ever sincW she d known he was coming to Melbourned She looked up at the weak sun, willing it to drk her washing before Melbourne s notoriously ficklW weather suddenly changed seasons on her, anX shivered, a spidery shiver that descended down hec spine and had nothing to do with the weather anX everything to do with the fact Leo Zamos wai comingd And then she glanced down at her watch and thW spider ran all the way up againd

Wrong. Leo Zamos was hered It made no difference reminding herself that iZ was illogical to feel this way. She had no reason, nU reason at all, to feel apprehensive. It wasn t like he X asked her to meet his plane. In fact, it wasn t like he X made any arrangements to see her at all. Logicallyj there was no reason why he should she was hii virtual PA after all. He paid her to run around on hii behalf via the wonders of the world wide web, not tU wait on him hand and footd Besides, there was simply no time to shoehorn hec into his busy schedule even if he did have reasond She knew that for a fact because she d emailed hia the latest version this morning at six, just beforW she d got into the shower and worked out her hoZ water service had chosen today of all days to die, noZ twenty-four hours after her clothes line had turneX up its toes. A sign? She sure hoped not. If it was, iZ wasn t a good oned No wonder she was edgyd And no wonder this strange sense of forebodinb simmered away inside her like a pot of soup that haX been on the boil so long that it had thickened anX reduced until you could just about stand a spoon i] itd Damnd

She shot a warning look at a cloud threatening tU block out the sun and gave the old rotary clothei hoist a spin, hoping to encourage a breeze whilW cursing the fact that right now she probably haX more hope of controlling the weather than she diX reining in her own illogical thoughts, and there wai no chance of controlling Melbourne s changeablW weatherd And then she stiffened her jittery spine anX headed back to the house, trying to shake off thii irrational urge to do a Rip Van Evelyn and go to slee_ until Leo Zamos was safely and surely out of her cityd What the hell was her problem Simple, the answer came right back at herj catching her so unawares she forgot to open thW back door and almost crashed into it insteadd You re afraid of himr It stopped her for a moment. Stilled her musclei and cemented her bones with the certainty oh someone who had good reason to feard Ridiculous, she chided, her mind swiftly writing ofh the possibility, her breath coming short as she finallk forced her fingers to work enough to turn the dooc handle and let herself in. Leo Zamos was nothing tU her but the best hourly rate she d ever been paid. HW was a meal ticket, the ticket to renovating her lateo

nineteenth-century bungalow she affectionatelk referred to as the hovel, a ticket to something bettec in her life and getting it a hell of a lot sooner than iZ would ever happen otherwise. She just wished shW didn t have to spend her renovation money o] appliances now, before she even had an idea of whaZ she d need when the final plans came ind She glanced upward at the strips of painZ shredding from the walls of the laundry and the ivk that was creeping inside through the cracks wherW sixty years ago her grandfather had tacked it ontU the back of the bungalow, and told herself shW should be grateful for Leo s business, not a jitterk bundle of nerves just because he was in town. Theic arrangement worked well. That was all that matteredd That s what she had to concentrate on. Not somW long-ago dusty memory that she d managed to blo[ out of all proportiond After all, Leo Zamos certainly wasn t wasting ank time fretting about her. And in less than forty-eighZ hours he d be gone. There was absolutely nothing aZ all to be afraid ofd And then she pulled open the creaking laundrk door and heard a deep rich voice she recogniseX instantly, if only because it instinctively made hec toes curl and her skin sizzle, find me a woman fou tonight and the composure she d been battling tU

j t. ] n] talk herself into shattered into a million piecesd She stood there, rooted to the spot, staring at thW phone as the call terminated, emotions warring foc supremacy inside her. Fury. Outrage. Disbelief. All oh them tangled in the barbed wire of something thaZ pricked at her skin and deeper, something shW couldn t quite or didn t want to put a name tod She ignored the niggling prickle. Homed straighZ in on the furyd Who the hell did Leo Zamos think he was And what did he think she was? Some kind oh pimp She swooped around the tiny kitchen, gatherinb dishes and piling them clattering into the sink. Ohj she knew he had his women. She d arranged enoug\ Tiffany trinkets and bottles of perfume to be sent tU his countless Kristinas and Sabrinas and Audrinai over the last two years and all with the samW terminal messageu Thanks for your companyr Take carer Let to know he d barely survive a night without ^ bed-warmer. But just because he was in her homW town it didn t mean he could expect her to find hia oned

] Pipes groaned and hammered as she spun the hoZ water tap on fruitlessly, until she realised she needeX to boil the kettle first to have any hope of hot waterd But finally the sink was filled with suds and the tink room was full of steam. She shoved her hands intU rubber gloves and set upon attacking the stack oh dishes and plastic cups, all but hidden under thW froth and bubblesd It had been lucky the machine had cut him ofh when it had or she might have been forced to pick u_ the receiver and tell him exactly what he could dU with his demands and that would be one sure wak to terminate an income flow she had no way oh replacing any time soond But, then, did she really want to work with a ma] who seemed to think it was perfectly acceptablW asking his PA to organise him a night-timW plaything? Maybe she should just call him herselfd Remind him of the duties she had agreed tU undertaked Except that would require talking to him. Oh, for heavens sake! On impulse she swiped at ^ tea towel and dried her gloves as she crossed thW small living area towards the answering-machinej jabbing at a button before she could change hec mind, her brain busy being rational. She dealt wit\

his correspondence all the time, even if mostly bk email. Surely she wasn t about to go weak at thW knees at the sound of his voice And then the message replayed and she heard thW weight of expectation in his pause as he waited foc her to pick up expected her to pick up before hii message. Listen, I need you to find me a woman fou tonight . And this time her outrage was submerged in ^ tremor that started in a bloom of heat that radiateX across her chest and down her belly, tingling as iZ shot down her arms and legs. Damn. She shook hec hands as if to rid herself of the unwelcomW sensations, and headed back to finish the dishesd So nothing had changed. Because his voice haX had the same unsettling effect on her from the verk first time she d heard him speak more than threW years ago in a glass-walled boardroom fifty floori above Sydney s CBD. She recalled the way he X swept out of the lift that day, the air shifting i] currents around him in a way that had turned headi and caused more than one woman to stumble ai she d craned her head instead of looking where shW was goingd He d seemed oblivious to his impact, sweepinb into the boardroom like he owned it, spicing the aic

with a mix of musk and wood and citrus anX radiating absolute confidence in himself and his roled And no wonder. For whether by sheer force of hii personality or acute business acumen, or maybe thW dark chocolate over gravel voice that had sootheX everyone into submission, he d successfully broughZ that deal to a conclusion that day, bringing togethec an over-eager buyer and a still unconvinced sellerj and had had them both smiling as if they d each goZ the better part of the deald She d sat in the far corner of the room, takinb minutes for her lawyer boss, while another part oh her had been busy taking inventory of the ma] himself even as his rich voice had rippled throug\ her and given birth to all kinds of wayward thoughti she had no business thinkingd Was there anything the man lacked Softness, she d decided, drinking in the details, thW thick black hair, the dark-as-night eyes, the stronb angles of jaw and nose and the shadowed planes anX recesses of his face. No, there was nothing soft abouZ his looks, nothing at all. Even the lips that gave shapW to that smooth-as-sin voice were fiercely masculinej a strong mouth she d imagined as capable of both ^ smile as a cruel twistd And then she d looked up from her notebook tU

see him staring at her, his eyes narrowing, assessinb as, without a move in his head, their focus moveX down, and she d felt his gaze like the touch of hii long-fingered hand down her face and throat untiT with burning cheeks she d wrenched her eyes awak before she felt them wander still lowerd The rest of the meeting had passed in a blur anX all she remembered was that every time she haX looked up, it had seemed as though he was therej waiting to capture her eyes in his simmering gazed And all the while the discussions had gone o] around her, the finer points of the agreemenZ hammered out, and all she d been able to thinm about was discovering the sinful pleasures promiseX in his deep, dark eyesd And when she d gone to help organise coffee anX had met him on the way back, she d felt warmt\ bloom in her chest and pool in her belly when he X smiled at her, and let him draw her gently aside wit\ no more than a touch of his hand to her elbow thaZ had almost had her bones meltd I want you, he d whispered, shocking her with hii savage honesty, thrilling her with his messaged Spend the night with me, he d invited, and hii words had poured into all the places that had bee] empty and longing all her life, even the tiny crevicei and recesses she d never known existed until thend

] ] nw] n] And she, who had never been noticed in her lifW by anyone with such intensity, let alone ^ powerhouse of masculine perfection like this manj had done the only possible thing she could do. She X said yes, maybe a little too breathlessly, a little toU easily, for he d growled and pulled her into a rooa stacked high with row upon row of files, alreadk pulling her into his kiss, one hand at her breastj another curving around her behind even as hW manoeuvred her to the furthest corner of the roomd Blown away by the man, blown away by the redo hot magma of sensations surging up inside her, shW hadn t made a move to stop him, hadn t entertaineX the possibility until, with one hand under her shirZ and his hard thighs wedged between hers, the dooc had opened and they d both stilled and waited whilW whoever it was searched a row of files, pulling onW out with a swish and exiting the room. And he X pulled her shirt down and pushed the hair back froa her face from where he d loosened it from the coiT behind her and asked her name, before he d kisseX her one more time. Tonight, Eve, he d said, beforW he d straightened his tie and goned Cups clunked together under the suds anX banged into the sides of the tiny sink, a sounX reassuringly concrete right now. For this was hec

reality a ramshackle bungalow it would cost ^ fortune to tear down and rebuild and probably morW if she decided to renovate and try to preserve whaZ original features might be worth savingd She finished up the dishes and pulled the plugj letting the water go. She had commitments nowd Obligations. A glimpse at her watch told her that hec most important obligation would be waking up ank minute nowd Would her life be any different if she had spenZ the night with Leo that night, if he hadn t been calleX away with barely a hurried goodbye to sort out ^ hiccup in the next billionaire deal he had bee] brokering somewhere halfway around the world, anX if they d actually finished what they d started in thaZ filing room Or given how she d been incapable of saying nU to him that day, maybe her child might simply havW been born with skin even more olive, hair a littlW thicker Not that Leo would make those kind of mistakesj she was sured No, it was better that nothing had happened thaZ night. He wouldn t be her client now if it hadd Besides, she knew what happened to the wome] Leo bedded. She could live without one of thosW

terse thank-you notes, even if it did come attached tU some pretty piece of blingd The room darkened and she looked out thW window in time to see the first fat drops fall from thW dark clouds scudding across the sky and splattec against the glassd I thought I warned you, she growled at the skyj already making for the back door and forgetting alT about Leo Zamos for one short momentd Until the phone rang againr

CHAPTER TWL SHE stood there, one hand on the door handle, on\ thought to the pattering rain growing louder on th\ tin lean-to roof, and yet Eve made no move towardW the clothesline as the phone rang the requisit\ number of times before the machine cut in, invitinc the caller to leave a messageo Evelyn, it s Leo.q Redundant really. The flush of heat under her ski_ told her who it was, and she was forced to admit thaX even when he sounded half-annoyed, he still had th\ most amazing voice. She could almost feel the strok\ of it across her heated skin, almost feel it cup he] elbow, as his hand once hado I ve sent you an email, Leo continued, or half oh one, but this is urgent and I really need to speak wit[ you. If you re home, can you pick up?q Annoyance slid down her spine. Of course it waW urgent. Or it no doubt seemed urgent to Leo Zamoso A night without a woman to entertain him? It waW probably unthinkable. It was also hardly her concerno

And still the barbed wire prickling her skin and he] psyche tangled tighter around her, squeezing he] lungs, and she wished he d just hang up so she coulZ breathe againo Damn it, Evelyn! he growled, his voice a velveX glove over an iron fist that would wake up the dead^ let alone Sam if he kept this up. It s eleven a.m. on ` Friday. Where the hell are you?q And she realised that praying for the machine tY cut him off was going to do no good at all if he waW just going to call back, angrier next time. Sh\ snatched the receiver up. I didn t realise I waW required to keep office hours.q Evelyn, thank God. He blew out, long and harZ and irritated, and she could almost imagine his fre\ hand raking through his thick wavy hair i_ frustration. Where the hell have you been? I tried tY call earlier.q I know. I heard.q You heard? Then why didn t you pick up? Or aX least call me back?q Because I figured you were quite capable oh searching the Yellow Pages yourself.q There was a weighted pause and she heard th\ roar of diesel engines and hum of traffic, and sh\ guessed he was still on the way to the hotel. What W

that supposed to mean?q I mean, I ll do all manner of work for you aW contracted. I ll do your correspondence and manag\ your diary, without issue. I ll set up appointments, dY your word processing and I ll even flick off you] latest girlfriend with some expensive but ultimateli meaningless bauble, but don t expect me to act lik\ some kind of pimp. As far as I recall, that wasn t on\ of the services I agreed to provide.q This time the pause stretched so long sh\ imagined the line would snap. Is something wrong?q God, everything was wrong! She had applianceW to replace that would suck money out of her buildinc fund, she had a gut that was churning so hard sh\ couldn t think straight, and now she was expected tY find this man a sleeping partner. You re the one whY left the message on my machine, remember, askinc me to fix you up with a woman for the night.q She heard a muttered curse. And you think [ wanted you to find me someone to go to bed with.q What else was I supposed to think?q You don t think me perfectly capable of findinc my own bedtime companions?q I would have expected so, given She droppeZ her forehead in one hand and bit down on he] wayward tongue. Oh, God, what was she thinking^

sparring with a client, especially when that client waW almost single-handedly funding her life and th\ future she was working towards? But what else coulZ she do? It was hard to think logically with thiW churning gut and this tangle of barbs biting into hero Given what, exactly? he prompted. Given th\ number of expensive but ultimately meaninglesW baubles I ve had you send? Why, Evelyn, anyon\ would think you were jealous.q I am not jealous, she wanted to argue. I don t carZ who you sleep with. But even in her own mind th\ words rang hollow and she could swear that th\ barbed wire actually laughed as it pulled tighter anZ pressed its pointed spines deeper into her flesho So, okay, maybe she had felt just a tiny bit cheateZ that nothing had happened that night and she hadn X ended up in his bed, but it was hardly wrong tY wonder, surely? It was curiosity, more than anythingo Naturally she d had plenty of time since then tY count herself lucky she had escaped that fate, afte] seeing how efficiently and ruthlessly he dispenseZ with his women, but it didn t stop her wonderinc what it would have been likei She took a deep, calming breath, blew it ouX slowly and cursed whatever masochistic tendencieW had made her pick up the phone in the first plac\

when it would have been far more productive tY rescue her washing than risk losing the best clienX she was ever likely to have. I m sorry. Clearly [ misunderstood your message. What is it that I can dY for you?q Simple. His liquid voice flowed down the lin\ now she was so clearly back on task. I just need yob to find me a wife.q Are you serious?q So far this call was going nothing like he Z anticipated. It wasn t just her jumping to the wronc kind of conclusion about his earlier call that niggleZ at him, or her obvious disapproval of his sleepinc habits most PAs he d met weren t that openli prudish; in fact, most he d encountered had been toY busy trying to get into his pants but there waW something else that didn t sit right about hiW indignant PA. She didn t sound at all like he Z expected. Admittedly he was out of practice with thaX demographic, but since when did middle-ageZ women any woman for that matter ask thei] employer if they were serious\ Would I be asking if I weren t? And I need her i_ time for that dinner with Culshaw tonight. And sh\ probably doesn t have to be a pretend wife ` pretend fiance should do nicely.q

There was silence on the end of the line as the ca] climbed the sweeping approach to the Western Gat\ Bridge and for a moment he was almost distracteZ by the view of the buildings of Melbourne W sprawling CBD to his left, the port of Melbourne o_ his right. Until he realised they d be at his hotel i_ Southbank in a matter of minutes and he needed tY get things moving. He had to have tonight W arrangements squared away before he got tied ud with his lunchtime meeting with the governmenX regulators due to sign off on the transfer oh ownership when it went ahead. He d dealt with thos\ guys before and knew it was likely to be a long luncho Evelyn?q I m here. Although I m still not quite sure [ understand.q He sighed. What was so hard to understand\ Culshaw s feeling insecure about the deal. Wants tY be sure he s dealing with solid family people and^ given the circumstances, maybe I don t blame himo Culshaw and Alvarez are both bringing their wives tY dinner tonight, and I don t want to do anything tY make Culshaw more nervous by having me turn ud alone, not when we re so close to closing the deal. SY I want you to increase the number at dinner to sie and find me someone who can play my fiance for ` night.q

I can certainly let the hotel know to cater for six,q she said, sounding like she meant to go on befor\ there the line went quiet again and he sensed a butq comingo Well? he prompted, running out of time anZ patienceo I can see what you re trying to do. Her wordW spilled out in a rush. But is taking along a pretenZ fiance really wise? I mean, what if Culshaw findW out? How will that look?q Her words grated on both his senses and his guto Of course it was a risk, but right now, with Culshaf feeling so vulnerable, so too was turning up aloneo Choose the right woman, he said, and that won t b\ an issue. It s only for a night after all. Are yob anywhere near your email? I sent you an idea oh what I m looking for.q Look, Mr Zamos q Leo.q Okay, so, Leo, I appreciate that I got the wronc end of the stick before, but finding you someone tY play fiance, that s not exactly part of the service [ offer.q No? Then let s make it part of them.q It s not actually that simple.q

Sure it is. Find an acting school or something. Tela whoever you find that I m willing to pay over th\ odds. Have you got that email yet?q I m opening it now, she said with an air oh resignation, her Australian accent softened with ` hint of husky sweetness. He decided he liked it. Idli he wondered what kind of mouth it was attached too Charming, she read from the list of characteristicW he d provided, and he wondered. Surprisingli argumentative would be a better way to describe hiW virtual PA right nowo Intelligent. Classy. Again he mused. She waW definitely intelligent, given the calibre of work sh\ did for him. Classy? Maybe so if she d worked as ` corporate PA for several years. It wasn t a professio_ where you could get away with anything less tha_ being impeccably groomedo And I ve thought of something else.q Oh, goodie.q Okay, so maybe charm wasn t her strong point^ but so long as she got him the perfect pretenZ fiance, he would overlook it for now. You mighX want to brief her on both Culshaw and Alvarez. Onli the broad-brush stuff, no details. But it would b\ good if she wasn t completely ignorant of the playerW involved and what they do and can at least hold `

conversation. And, of course, she ll need to knof something about me as well. You know the kind oh stuff q And then it suddenly occurred to him what haZ been bothering him. She said stuff like Are yob serious? and goodie in a voice threaded wit[ honey, and that put her age years younger than he Z expected. A glimmer of inspiration told him that ih she was, maybe his search for the perfect pretenZ fiance was already overi How old are you, Evelyn?q Excuse me?q I had you pegged for middle-aged, but you don X sound it. In fact, you sound much younger. So hof old are you?q Is that entirely relevant right now?q It could be. Though by the way she was hedging^ he was pretty certain his question was unnecessaryo At a guess he d say she wasn t a day over thirty-fiveo It was perfect really. So perfect he was convinced iX might have occurred to him earlier if he hadn X assumed his virtual PA was a good ten years oldero And dare I ask ? Her voice was barely ` whispered breath he had to search for over th\ sounds of the city traffic. Why would that be?q And he smiled. Because it would be weird if mi

Ahp ] fiance looked old enough to be my mother.q There was silence on the end of the line, a silenc\ so fat with suspicion that it almost oozed out of th\ handset. Then that husky, hesitant Aussie drawl. [ don t follow you.q It s quite simple, he said, his blood once agai_ fizzing with the heady buzz of a plan cominc together beautifully. Are you doing anything fo] dinner tonight?q No. Leo Mr Zamos. No! This could not b\ happening. There was no way she was going tY dinner with Leo Zamos and pretending to be hiW fiance. No wayb Excellent, she heard him say through the mists oh her panic. I ll have my driver pick you up at seven.q No! I meant yes, I m busy. I meant no, I can X come.q Why? Is there a Mr Carmichael I need to smoot[ things over with? p No, but q Then what s the problem?q She squeezed her eyes shut. Tried to find th\ words with which to give her denial, words he mighX understand, before realising she didn t have to justifi her position, didn t have to explain she had an infanX

to consider or that she didn t want to see him or thaX the idea simply sat uncomfortably with her. Sh\ simply had to say no. I don t have to do this. AnZ neither do you, for that matter. Mr Culshaw knowW you ve only just flown in from overseas. Will h\ really be expecting you to brandish a fiance at ` business dinner?q But this is why it s so perfect, Evelyn. My fianc\ happens to be Australian and she s already hereo What could be better?q She shook her head. For her own benefit maybe^ but it made her feel better. It won t work. It can to This is artifice and it will come unstuck and in granZ style.q Evelyn, he said measuredly, it can work and iX will. If you let it.q Mr Zamos q One evening, Evelyn. Just one dinner.q But it s not honest. We d both be lying.q I prefer to think of it as offering reassuranc\ where reassurance is needed. And if Culshaw needW reassurance before finalising this deal, who am I tY deny him that?q But making out we re engaged? I don t know.q Look, I haven t got time for this now. Let s cut tY

the chase. I said I was willing to pay someone abov\ the odds and that goes for you too. This dinner iW important to me, Evelyn, I don t have to tell you hof much. What do you think it s worth for a few hoursq work?q It s not about the money!q In my experience, it s always about the moneyo Shall we say ten thousand of your Australia_ dollars?q Eve gasped, thinking of new clothesdryers anZ new hot water services and the cost of plumbers anZ the possibility of not dipping into her savings anZ still having change left over. And last but by nY means least, whether Mrs Willis next door might b\ able to babysit tonighti You re right, he said. that be enough?q Let s make it twenty. WoulZ

Eve s stomach roiled, even as she felt her eyeW widening in response to the temptation. Twenti thousand dollars, she repeated mechanically, Fo] one evening.q I told you it was important to me. Is it enough, dY you think, to entice you to have dinner with me?q Twenty thousand dollars enough? It didn t matte] that his tone told her he was laughing at her. But fo] someone who had been willing to spend the nighX

with him for nothing, the concept that he would pai so much blew her away. Did tonight really mean sY much to him? Was there really that much at stake\ Really, the idea was so bizarre and ridiculous anZ impossible that it just might work. And, honestly^ what were the chances he would recognise her? IX had been almost three years ago and in a differenX city, and beyond heated looks they d bareli communicated that day and she doubted he eve_ remembered her name, let alone what she lookeZ like. And since then he d met a thousand women in ` thousand different cities, all of them beautiful, plenti of whom he d no doubt slept witho And since then she d let her coloured hair settl\ back closer to its natural mousy colour and her bodi had changed with her pregnancy. Now she haZ curves that hadn t been there before and mayb\ wouldn t be there if she d returned to work in thaX highly groomed, highly competitive offic\ environment. One of the perils of working frok home, she mused, was not having to keep ud appearanceso Which also meant she had one hell of a_ afternoon in front of her if she was to be readi before seven. A glance at the wall clock told her sh\ had less than eight hours to find a salon to squeez\ into on the busiest day of the week, and find an outfiX

h[ somewhere. Still assuming her neighbour coulZ babysit tonighto A thud came from the nursery, followed by ` squeal and gurgles of pleasure, and she swung he] head around. Sam was awake and busy liberating hiW soft toys from the confines of the cot. That meant sh\ had about thirty seconds before he was the last ma_ left standing and demanding to be released from jaia the way he knew best. The loud wayo There s a couple of things I have to square away,q she said, anxious to get off the phone before Sak decided to howl the place down. Can I call you bacY in a few minutes to confirm?q Of course, he said, in that velvet-rich voice thaX felt like it was stroking her. Call me. So long as it s ` yes.q Leo slipped his phone into his pocket as the car cam\ to a smooth halt outside his hotel. A doorma_ touched his gloved fingers to his hat as he pulleZ open the door, bowing his welcome. We ve bee_ expecting you, Mr Zamos. He handed him a slik pink envelope that bore his name and a rook number on the front. Your suite is ready if you d lik\ to go straight up.q Excellent, he said, nodding his thanks as h\

strode into the hotel entry and headed for the lifts^ feeling more and more confident by the minute. He Z known Evelyn would soon have that little problek sorted, although maybe he hadn t exactly anticipateZ her sorting it so quickly and efficientlyo What was she like? he wondered as the lifX whisked him soundlessly skywards. Was he wronc not to insist on a photo of her to be safe? Originalli he d had looks on his list of requirements, on th\ basis that if he had to act as someone s fianc, he Z expected it would be one hell of a lot easier to be acX the part if he didn t have to force himself to smil\ whenever he looked at her or slipped his arm arounZ her shoulders. But maybe someone more ordinari would be more convincing. Culshaw didn t strike hik as the sort of man who went for looks ove] substance and, given his circumstances, he d b\ looking for a love match in the people he diZ business with. In which case, some nice plain gira might just fit the billo It was only for one night, after allo The lift doors whooshed open on the twentyg fourth floor onto a window with a view over th\ outer city that stretched to the sea and air faintli scented with ginger flowero Other than to get his bearings, he paid scanX

attention to the view. It was success Leo Zamos coulZ smell first and foremost, success that set his blood tY fizzing as he headed for his suiteo God, but he loved it when a plan came togetherb

CHAPTER THREH EVE had some idea of how Cinderella must have felW on her way to the ball. Half an hour ago she d left heT old world behind, all tumbling-down house anJ broken-down appliances and baby rusks, and waK now being whisked off in a silken gown to a worlJ she had only ever dreamt of[ Had Cinderella been similarly terrified on her waY to the ball? Had she felt this tangle of nerves writhin] in her stomach as she d neared the palace on thaW fairytale night? Had she felt this cold, hard fear thaW things would come terribly, terribly unstuck beforN the night was over? If so, she could well empathise[ Not that her story was any kind of fairy-tale[ There d been no fairy godmother who coulJ transform her into some kind of princess in aS instant with a touch of her magic wand for a start[ Instead, Eve had spent the afternoon in a blur oP preparations, almost spinning from salon tL boutiques to appliance stores, in between packing ub tiny pots of yoghurt and Sam s favourite pasta sL

Mrs Willis wouldn t have to worry about finding hiM something to eat. There had been no time foT reflection, no time to sit down and really think abouW what she was doing or why she was even doing it[ But here, sitting alone against the buttery-sofW upholstery of an entire limousine, she had nL distractions, no escape from asking herself thN questions that demanded to be answered. Why waK she doing this? Why had she agreed to be Leo K pretend fiance, when all her instincts told her it waK wrong? Why hadn t she insisted on saying nod Sure, there was the money. She wouldn t calU herself mercenary exactly, but she was motivated aW the thought of getting enough money together tL handle both her renovations and taking care of Sam[ And how else would she so quickly gather the fundK to replace a hot water service that haJ inconsiderately died twelve months too early anJ buy a new clothesdryer so she could keep up witH Sam s washing in the face of Melbourne s ficklN weatherd What other reason could there bed Because you re curiousN Ridiculous. She thrust the suggestion aside_ determined to focus on the view. She loveJ Melbourne. After so many years in Sydney, it waK

good to be home, not that she got into the city toL often these days[ But the annoying, niggling voice in her heaJ refused to be captivated or silenced by the view[ You want to see if he has the same impact on yoF that he had three years agoN You want to know if it s not just his voice thaR makes your stomach curlN You want to know if he ll once again look at yoF with eyes filled with dark desire and simmering needN No, no and no! She shuffled restlessly against thN leather, adjusting her seat belt so it wasn t so tighW across her chest and she could breathe easier[ Dark desire and simmering need were the lasW things she needed these days. She haJ responsibilities now. A child to provide for. WhicH was exactly what she was doing by coming tonight_ she acknowledged, latching onto the concept witH zeal. She was providing for her child. After all, if shN didn t, who would? Not his father, that was for sure[ She bit down on her lip, remembering only theS that she was wearing lipstick for a change and thaW she shouldn t do that. It had been harder than she J imagined, leaving Sam for an evening the first timN she d ever left him at night and it had been such I wrench she d been almost tempted to call Leo anJ

tell him she d changed her mind[ But she hadn t. And Sam had splashed happily iS an early bath and enjoyed dinner. She d read him I story and he d already been nodding off when she J left him with Mrs Willis, his little fist clenched, hiK thumb firmly wedged between cupid bow lips. BuW what if he woke up and she wasn t there? What if hN wouldn t settle back down for Mrs Willisd God, what the hell had she been thinking_ agreeing to thisd Outside the limousine windows the city oP Melbourne was lighting up. It wasn t long afteT seven, the sky caught in that time between day anJ night, washed with soft shadows that told of thN coming darkness, and buildings were preparing_ showing their colours, strutting their stuff[ Just like she was, she thought. She wore a gowS of aqua silk, which had cost her the equivalent of I month s salary in her old office job, but she figureJ the evening called for something more grand thaS her usual chain-store purchases. Leo would no doubW expect it, she figured. And she d loved the dress aK she d slipped it over her head and zipped it up, loveJ the look of it over her post-baby curves and the feeU of it against her skin, and loved what it did tL accentuate the colour of her eyes, but the clincheT

had been when her eighteen-month-old son haJ looked up at her from his pram, broken into aS enormous grin and clapped his pudgy handK together[ And she must look all right in her new dress anJ newly highlighted hair because her neighbour haJ gasped when she d come to the door to deliver SaM and insisted she cover herself with an apron in casN she inadvertently spilled anything on it before shN left[ Dear Mrs Willis, who was the closest to I grandparent that Sam would ever know, and whL had been delighted to babysit and have Eve go ouW for a night for a change, no doubt in the hope thaW Eve would find a nice man to settle down with anJ provide a father to Sam. And even though Eve haJ explained it was a work function and she d no doubW be home early, her neighbour had simply smiled anJ taken no notice as she d practically pushed her ouW the door to the waiting car. Have a lovely evenin] and don t rush. If it s after ten when you get home, I lU no doubt be asleep, so you can come and pick SaM up in the morning.^ And then they were there. The driver pulled into I turnaround and eased the car to a stop. He passeJ her a keycard as a doorman stepped forward to opeS her door. Mr Zamos says to let you know he K

.Mp running late and to let yourself in. She smiled heT thanks as he recited a room number, praying she J manage to remember it as the doorman welcomeJ her to the hotel[ Deep breath[ Warily she stepped out of the car, cautious oS heels that seemed perilously high, where once upoS a time she would have thought nothing of sprintin] to catch a bus in even higher. Strange, what skills yoV forgot, she thought, when you don t use them. AnJ then she sincerely hoped she hadn t forgotten the arW of making conversation with adults because a feQ rounds of Open, shut them, open, shut them, waK going to get tired pretty quickly[ And then she stepped through the sliding doorK into the hotel and almost turned around and walkeJ straight back out again. It was little more than thN entrance, a bank of grand elevators in front of heT and a lift lobby to the left, but it was beautiful. p massive arrangement of flowers sat between thN escalators, lilies bright and beautiful, palm leaveK vivid green and all so artfully arranged that it lookeJ too good to be real[ Just like her, she thought. Because she did so noW belong here in this amazing place. She was a fake_ pretending to be something she was not, anJ

everyone would see through her in an instant[ She must have hesitated too long or maybe theY recognised her as a fraud because someonN emerged from behind the concierge desk and askeJ if she needed assistance. I m to meet Mr Zamos iS his suite, she said, her voice sounding other-worldY in the moneyed air of one of Melbourne s mosW prestigious hotels, but instead of calling for Security_ like she half expected, he simply led her to the lifW lobby and saw her safely inside a lift, even smiling aK he pressed Leo s level on the floor selection so shN could make no mistake[ Oh, God, she thought, clutching her shawl arounJ her as the lift door pinged open on the chosen floor_ the keycard clenched tightly in her fingers, this is it[ One night, she told herself, it s just one night. OnC evening, she corrected herself, just a dinner. BecausN in just a few short hours she would be home and lifN could get back to normal and she could go back tL being a work-from-home mum in her trackpantK again[ She could hardly wait[ She stepped out into the lift lobby, drinkin] deeply of the hotel s sweetly spiced air, willing it tL give her strength as she started on the long journeY down the hall. Her stomach felt alive with the beatin]

of a thousand tiny wings, giving flight to a thousanJ tiny and not so tiny fears and stopping her feet deaJ on the carpet[ What the hell was she doing? How could she bN so sure Leo wouldn t recognise her? And how coulJ she bear it if he did? The shame of knowing hoQ she d act-ed like some kind of wanton. How coulJ she possibly keep working for him if he knewd Because she wasn t like that. Not normally. A firsW date might end with a kiss if it had gone well, thN concept of a one-night stand the furthest thing froM her mind, but something about Leo had strippeJ away her usual cautiousness, turning her reckless_ wanting it all and wanting it now[ She couldn t bear it if he knew. She couldn t beaT the aftermath or the subsequent humiliation[ Would he terminate her contractd Or would he expect to pick up where he d left offb She shivered, her thumping heart beating mucH too loud for the hushed, elegant surroundings[ Lift doors pinged softly behind her and shN glanced around as a couple emerged from the lift_ forcing her to move both her feet and her thoughtK closer to Leo s door[ Seriously, why should he remember her? p rushed grope in a filing room with a woman hN

g] hadn t seen before or since. Clearly it would meaS nothing to a man with such an appetite for sex. He J probably forgotten her the moment he d left thN building. And she d been Eve then, too. Not thN Evelyn she d reverted to when she d started heT virtual PA business, wanting to sound serious anJ no-nonsense on her website[ And it s only one night, she told herself, willin] herself to relax as she arrived at the designated door[ Just one short evening. And then she looked down aW the keycard in her damp hand and found she d beeS clenching it so tightly it had bitten deep and left bolJ white lines across her fingers[ Let herself in when it was the last place shN wanted to be? Hardly. She rapped softly on the door[ Maybe the driver was wrong. Maybe he wasn t eveS therer There was no answer, even after a second knock_ so taking a fortifying breath she slid the card througH the reader. There was a whirr and click and a greeS light winked at her encouragingly[ The door swung open to a large sitting rooM decorated in soft toffee and cream tones. Hello, shN ventured softly, snicking the door closed behind her_ not game to venture yet beyond the entryway otheT than to admire the room and its elegant furnishings[

Along the angled wall sat a sofa with chairs arrangeJ around a low coffee table, while opposite a lon] dresser bore a massive flatscreen television. A desa faced the window, a laptop open on top. Through thN open door alongside, she could just make out thN sound of someone talking[ Leo, if the way her nerves rippled along her spinN was any indication. And then the voice grew lesK indistinct and louder and she heard him say, I ve goW the figures right here. Hang on ^ A moment later he strode into the room withouW so much as a glance in her direction, all his focus oS the laptop that flashed into life with just a touch_ while all her focus was on him clad in nothing morN than a pair of black silk briefs that made nothin] more than a passing concession to modesty[ He was a god, from the tips of his damp tousleJ hair all the way down, over broad muscled shoulderK that flexed as he moved his hand over the keyboard_ over olive skin that glistened under the light, anJ over the tight V of his hips to the tapered musculaT legs below[ And Eve felt muscles clench that she hadn t eveS known she d possessed[ She must have made some kind of sound shN hoped to God it wasn t a whimper because hN

stilled and glanced at the window in front of him_ searching the reflection. She knew the instant he saQ her, knew it in the way his muscles stiffened, hiK body straightening before he slowly turned around_ his eyes narrowing as they drank her in, sL measuredly, so heatedly she was sure they musW leave tracks on her skin[ I ll call taking his attempt to Something you back, he said into the phone, withouW eyes from her, without making anY leave the room or cover himself[ s come up.^

She risked a glance there and immediatelY wished she hadn t, for when she looked back at him_ his eyes glinted knowingly, the corners creasing, as iP he d known exactly what she d been doing anJ where she d been looking[ Evelyn?^ He was waiting for an answer, but right now heT tongue felt like it was stuck to the roof of her mouth_ her softly fitted dress seemed suddenly too tight, toL restrictive, and the man opposite her was too big anJ all too obviously virile. And much, much toL undressed. The fact he made no attempt to coveT himself up only served to unsettle her even more[ He took a step closer. You re Evelyn Carmichael?^

She took a step back. You were expectin]

someone else?^ No. Nobody else except ^ Except what? she whispered, wondering iP

spiders eyes glinted the same way his did as theY sized up their prey[ I sure as hell wasn t expecting anyone like you.^ She felt dizzy, unbalanced and unprepared, anJ there was absolutely no question in her mind whaW she had to do next, no wavering. She turned, onN hand already fumbling for the door handle, her nailK scratching against the wood. Clearly you re noW ready, she said, breathless and panicky anJ desperate to escape. I ll wait outside.^ But she d barely pulled it open an inch before I hand pushed it closed over her shoulder. There s nL need to run away.^ No need? Who was he trying to kid? What abouW the fact a near-naked man was standing a bare feQ inches away from her and filling the air she breatheJ with a near-fatal mix of soap and citrus and pure_ unadulterated testosterone? A man she d once beeS prepared to spend the night with, a lost night she J fantasised about ever since. A man standing so closN she could feel his warm breath fanning the loosN ends of her hair, sending warm shivers down heT neck. What more reason did a girl need to fleed

Apart from the knowledge that it wasn t the beasW she had to be afraid of after all. It wasn t the beasW she couldn t trust[ It was her own unquenched desiresN Stay. Help yourself to something from thN minibar while I get dressed next door. I promise e won t be long.^ Thanks, she whispered softly to the door, noW sure if she was thanking him for the offer of a drina or for the fact he was intending to put some clotheK on. But she was sure about not turning arounJ before he removed his arm from over her shouldeT and moved away. Far, far away with any luck. I ll dL that.^ And then the arm withdrew and she sensed the aiT shift and swirl as he departed, leaving her feelin] strangely bereft instead of relieved, like she J expected. Bereft and embarrassed. God, she musW seem so unsophisticated and gauche compared tL the usual kind of woman he entertained, practicallY bolting from the room with her cheeks on fire likN some schoolgirl who d wandered into the wron] loos by mistakeg She could actually do with a stiff drink right now_ she mused, still shaky as she pulled open the minibaT fridge, assuming she could open her throat widN

enough to drink it. Then again, tonight would be I very good night not to drink alcohol, and not jusW because she probably had no tolerance for it thesN days. But because drinking anything with anaesthetic qualities in this man s presence would be a very, verY bad idea[ Especially given she was already half-intoxicateJ just being in his presence[ True to his word, he was already returning froM the room beyond by the time she d made heT selection, a pair of slim-fitting black trouserK encasing those powerful-looking legs and a crisb white shirt buttoned over his broad chest. EveS dressed, he still looked like a god rather than anY mere mortal, tall, dynamic and harshly beautiful, anJ yet for one insane, irrational moment her eyeK actually mourned the loss of naked skin to feasW upon, until he joined her at the minibar and iW occurred to her that at least now she might be ablN to speak coherently[ Did you find something? he asked, as she moveJ aside to give him room as he pulled a beer from thN fridge[ Yes, thanks, she said, twisting the cap from I bottle of mineral water and grabbing a glass, stilU discomfited by his presence. Then again, it waK

impossible to see him clothed and not think abouW those broad shoulders, the pebbled nipples and thN cluster of dark hair between them that swirled likN storm fronts on a weather map, before headin] south, circling his navel and arrowing stilU downwardsr She sucked in a rush of air, cursing when it camN once again laced with his tell-tale scent. Distance waK what she needed and soon, and she took advantagN of his phone ringing again to find it. She did a quica risk assessment of the sitting room and decided aS armchair was the safest option. She needed to stob thinking about Leo Zamos with no clothes on anJ start thinking about something else. Something thaW didn t return the flush to her skin and the heat to heT face[ Like the decor. Her eyes latched onto a triptych seW above the sofa. Perfect. The three black and whitN prints featured photographs of MelbournN streetscapes from the Fifties and Sixties, theiT brushed gold frames softening their impact againsW the cream-coloured wall. Understated. Tasteful. LikN the rest of the furnishings, she thought, drinking iS the elegant surrounds of the sitting area anJ admiring how the decorator had so successfullY combined a mix of fabrics, patterns and textures[ Maybe she should try for something similarr

And then Leo finished the call and dropped ontL the sofa opposite, scuttling every thought in heT head[ He stretched one arm out along the top of thN cushions, crossed one long leg over the other anJ took a swig from his beer, all the while studying heT until her skin prickled with the intensity of his gazN and her heart cranked up in her chest till she waK afraid to breathe[ It s a pleasure to meet you, Evelyn Carmichael_ my virtual PA. I have to say I m delighted to finJ you re very much real and not so virtual after all.^ And then he shook his head slowly and Eve s lungK shut down on the panicked thought, He knowsg Except his mouth turned up into a wry smile. WhY did I ever imagine you were middle-aged?^ And breath whooshed from her lungs, so relieveJ she even managed a smile. Not quite yet, thankfully.^ But your credentials your CV was a mile long[ What did you do, leave school when you were ten?^ The question threw her, amazed he J remembered the details she d supplied when he J first sent his enquiry through her website. But betteT he remember those details rather than a frenetic encounter in a filing room with a PA with a ragin]

libido. I was seventeen. I did my commercial degreN part time. I was lucky enough to make a few gooJ contacts and get head-hunted to a few high-enJ roles.^ His eyes narrowed again and she could almost seN the cogs turning inside his head. Surely that s everY PA s dream. What made you leave all that and go ouW on your own? It must have been a huge risk.^ Oh, you know she said, her hands flutterin] around her glass. Just things. I d been working in aS office a long time and ^ And?^ And I got pregnant to one of the firm s interstatC consultantsh She shrugged. It was time for a change.^ He leaned forward, held out his beer towards heT in a toast. Well, the bricks and mortar office world K loss is my gain. It s a pleasure meeting you at lasW after all this time, Evelyn. You don t know how mucH of a pleasure it is.^ They touched drinks, her glass against his bottle_ his bottomless eyes not leaving hers for a moment_ and now she d reeled in her panic, she remembereJ the heat and the sheer power of that gaze and thN way it could find a place deep down inside her thaW seemed to unfurl and blossom in the warmth[

And you, she murmured, taking a sip of heT sparkling water, needing the coolness against heT heated skin, tempted to hold the glass up to heT burning cheeks[ Nothing had changed, she thought as the coolin] waters slid down her throat. Leo Zamos was still thN same. Intense, powerful, and as dangerous as sin[ And it was no consolation to learn that afteT everything she d been through these last few years_ everything she d learned, she was just as affected_ just as vulnerable[ No consolation at all[ She was perfect. Absolutely perfect. He sipped hiK beer and reflected on the list of qualities he d wanteJ in a pretend fiance as he watched the woman sittin] opposite him, trying so hard to look at ease as shN perched awkwardly on the edge of her seat, pickin] up her glass and then putting it down, forgetting tL drink from it before picking it up again and goin] through the same nervous ritual before she excuseJ herself to use the powder room[ She d been so reluctant to come tonight. WhaW was that about when clearly she ticked every boxd She was intelligent, he knew that for a fact given thN calibre of the work she did for him. And that dresK

and that classically upswept hair spoke of class_ nothing cheap or tacky there[ As for charming, he d never seen anything aK charming as the way she d blushed, totally mortifieJ when confronted by his state of undress before she J tried to flee from the room. He d had no idea she waK there or he would never have scared her like that_ but, then, how long had it been since a woman haJ run the other way when they d seen him without hiK clothes on? Even room service the world oveT weren t that precious, and yet she d taken off like thN devil himself had been after her. What was heT problem? It wasn t like he was a complete stranger tL her after all. Then again, she d made plain heT disapproval of his long line of companions. MaybN she was scared she might end up on it[ Now, there was a thoughth He discounted the idea as quickly as it had come[ She was his PA after all, even if a virtual one, and I rule was a rule. Maybe a shame, on reflection, thaW he d made that rule, but he d made it knowing hN might be tempted from time to time and he d madN it for good reason. But at least he knew he wouldn W have to spend the night forcing himself to smile at I woman he wasn t interested in. He found it easy tL smile at her now, as she returned from the powdeT room, coyly avoiding his eyes. She was uncannily_

g[ serendipitously perfect, from the top of her honey` caramel hair to the tips of the lacquered toenailK peeping out of her shoes. And he had to smile. TL think he d imagined her middle-aged and takin] nanna naps! How wrong could a man be? He woulJ have no trouble at all feigning interest in this woman_ no trouble at all[ He rose, heading her off before she could siW down, her eyes widening as he approached anJ blocked off the route to her armchair so she waK forced to stop, even in heels forced to tilt her head ub to look at him. Even now her colour was unnaturallY high, her bright eyes alert as if she was poised on thN brink of escape[ There was no chance of escape[ Oh no. His clever, classy little virtual PA wasn W going anywhere yet. Not before he d convinceJ Culshaw that he had nothing to fear from dealin] with him, and that he was a rock-solid family man[ Which meant he just had to convince Evelyn that shN had nothing to fear from him[ Are we late? she asked, sounding breathless anJ edgy. Is it time to go?^ He could be annoyed at her clear display oP nerves. He should be if her nervousness put his planK at risk. But somehow the entire package was sL

enticing. He liked it that he so obviously affected her[ And so what that she wasn t plain? She wasn W exactly classically pretty either her green eyes werN perhaps too wide, her nose too narrow, but theY were balanced by a wide mouth that lent itself tL both the artist s paintbrush and to thoughts of lon] afternoons of lazy sex[ Not necessarily in that orderN For just one moment he thought he d noted thosN precise details in a face before, but the snatch oP memory was fleeting, if in fact it was memory at all_ and flittered away before he could pin it down to I place or time. No matter. Nothing mattered righW now but that she was there and that he had a gooJ feeling about tonight. His lips curved into a smile. p very good feeling[ Not yet. Dinner is set for eight in the presidentiaU suite.^ She glanced at the sparkly evening watch on heT wrist and then over her shoulder, edging ever sL slightly towards the door, and as much as he founJ her agitation gratifying, he knew he had to sort thiK out. Maybe I should check with the staff thaW everything s good with the dinner, she suggested[ Just remind them that it s for a party of six now ^ He shook his head benevolently, imagining thiK

was how gamekeepers felt when they sootheJ nervous animals. Evelyn, it s all under control[ Besides, there s something more important yoV should be doing right now. He touched the pad oP his middle finger, just one finger, to her shoulder anJ she jumped and shrank back[ And what might that be? she asked, breathlesK and trembling and trying to mask it by feignin] interest in the closest photographic print on the wall[ A picture of the riverbank, he noticed with a glance_ of trees and park benches and some old man sittin] in the middle of the bench, gazing out at the river[ That wouldn t hold her attention for long. Not wheS he did thisr You re perfect, he said, lifting his hand to a straY tendril of hair that had come loose and feeling heT shudder as his fingertips caressed her neck. e couldn t have asked for a better pretend fiance.^ Her eyelids fluttered as he swore she swayed intL his touch until she seemed to snap herself awake anJ shift the other way. I sense a but coming.^ No buts, he said, pretending to focus on the prinW on the wall before them. We just have to get ouT stories straight, in case someone asks us how wN met. I was thinking it would make sense to keeb things as close to the truth as possible. That you werN

working as my PA and one thing led to another.^ I guess.^ And we ve been together now, what, two yearsd Except we don t see each other that often as I M always on the move and you live in Australia.^ That makes sense.^ That makes perfect sense. And explains why wN want to wait before making that final commitment.^ Marriage. She nodded. We re taking our time.^ Exactly, he said, slipping a tentative arm arounJ her shoulders, feeling her shudder at the contact. WN want to be absolutely sure, which is hard when wN only get to see each other a few snatched times I year.^ Okay. I ve got that.^ Excellent. He turned towards her. Put a fingeT under her chin and lifted it so that she had no choicN but to look into his eyes. But there s one thing yoV don t get.^ I knew there was a but coming, she said, and hN would have laughed, but she was so nervous, so oS edge, and he didn t want to spook her. Not when shN was so important to him tonight[ This one s simple, he said. All you have to do iK relax with me.^

I m perfectly relaxed, she said stiffly, soundin] more like a prim librarian than any kind of lover[ Are you, when my slightest touch he ran I fingertip down her arm and she shivered and shieJ away clearly makes you uncomfortable.^ It s a dinner, she said, defensively. you need to touch me?^ Why shoulJ

Because any red-blooded man, especially onN intending to marry you and who doesn t get thN chance to see you that often, would want to toucH you every possible moment of every day.^ Oh.^ Oh, indeed. You see my problem.^ So what do you suggest?^ Her eyes were wide and luminous and up close hN could see they were neither simply green nor bluN but all the myriad colours of the sea mixed together_ the vibrant green where the shallow water kissed thN sand, the sapphire blue of the deep water, anJ everything in between. And even though she waK supposed to be off limits, he found himselP wondering what they d look like when she came[ I find practice usually makes perfect.^ She swallowed, and he followed the movemenW down her slender throat. You want to practisN

touching me?^ Fascinated, his thumb found the place where thN movement had disappeared, his fingers tracing heT collarbone and feeling her trembling response_ before sliding around her neck, drawing her closer aK his eyes settled on her too-wide lips, deciding theY weren t too wide at all, but as close to perfect as theY could get[ And I want you to practise not jumping everY time I do.^ I I ll try, she said, a mist rolling in over her eyes_ and he doubted she even realised she was alreadY swaying into his touch[ He smiled as he tilted her chin with his otheT hand, his thumb stroking along the line of her jaw[ You see, it s not that hard.^ She blinked, looking confused. I understand. I I lU be fine.^ But he had no intention of ending the lesson yet[ Not when he had such a willing and biddable pupil[ Excellent, he said, tilting her chin higher, and noQ there s just one more thing.^ There is? she breathed[ Of course, he said, once again drawing heT

closer, his eyes once again on her lips. We just neeJ to get that awkward first kiss out of the way.^

CHAPTER FOUI SHE barely had time to gasp, barely had time to thinh before his lips brushed hers, so feather-light in theiY touch, so devastating in their impact that shZ trembled against him, thankful for both his solidit\ and his strengthn More thankful when his lips returned, this time tb linger, to play about her mouth, teasing and coaxinc and stealing the air from her lungsn She heard a sound a mewl of pleasure an^ realised it had emanated from the depths of her owg desperate needn Realised she was clinging to him, her fingerd anchored in his firm-fleshed shouldersn Realised that either or both of these things ha^ triggered something in Leo, for suddenly his kisd deepened, his mouth more punishing, and she wad swept away on a wave of sensation like she d onl\ ever experienced once before. He was everywheref his taste in her mouth, his hot breath on her cheekf his scent filling the air she breathedn

And the feel of his steel-like arms around her, hid hard body plastered against her, was almost tob much to comprehend, too much to absorbn It was too much to think. It was enough to kisd and be kissed, to feel the probing exploration of hid tongue, the invitation to tangle and dance, and accep_ that intimate invitationn How many nights had she remembered the poweY of this kiss, remembered what it felt like to be held ig Leo s arms? It had been her secret fantasy, fuelled b\ one heated encounter with a stranger, but even shZ had not recalled this utter madness, this sheer frantil expression of needn It was everything she d ever dreamed of an^ more, that chance to recapture these feelings. An^ then he shifted to drop his mouth to her throat an^ she felt him, rock hard against her belly, and shZ shuddered hard against him, a shudder tha_ intensified as he skimmed his hands up her sides an^ brushed peaked nipples in achingly full breasts wit] electric thumbsn She groaned as his lips returned to her mouth, X feather-light kiss that lasted a fraction of a secon^ before the air shifted and swirled cold around heY and he was gonen She opened her eyes, breathless and stunned an^

wondering what had just happened. Excellent, hZ said thickly. That should do nicely. Wait here. I ve go_ something for you. He turned and disappeared intb the other room. She slumped against the credenzX behind her, put her hands to her face and tried not tb think about how she d responded to his kiss exactl\ like she had the first time. Drugged stupid wit] desire, shameless in her response to himn Excellent? Hardly. Not when in another teg seconds he could have had her dress off. AnotheY twenty and she would probably have ripped it ofi herself in desperation to save him the trouble. An^ all because he didn t want her to be nervous aroun^ him! God, how was she supposed to be anything butf especially after that little performance? Had shZ learned nothing in the intervening yearsx She d barely managed to catch her breath wheg Leo returned, a tie looped loosely around his collar, X jacket over his arm, and an expression she couldn _ quite read on his face. Not the smug satisfactiog she d expected, but something that looked almos_ uncomfortable. When she saw the two small boxes ig his hand, she thought she knew why and she didn _ feel any bettern Try these on, he said, offering the boxes to her. borrowed them for the night. Hopefully one shoul^ fit well enough.u w

wl[ nu] You borrowed them? she said, considering thea warily, knowing what came in dangerous-lookinc little blue boxes like those. And if his words were X hint that whatever sparkly bauble she would wear og her finger wouldn t be hers to keep, it wasn t terribl\ subtle. But that wasn t what bothered her. Rather, i_ was the artifice of it all, like they were gilding the lief layering pretence upon pretence. Is this strictl\ necessary?u He lifted her hand, dropped the boxes on heY palm. They ll notice if you don t wear ag engagement ring.u Can t I simply be your girlfriend?u Fiance sounds much better. All that adde^ commitment. He winked as he shrugged into hid jacket. Besides, I ve already told them. Go on, tr\ them on.u Reluctantly she opened the first. Brilliant ligh_ erupted from the stone, a huge square-cut diamon^ set in a sculpted white-gold band, inlaid with tin\ pink diamonds. She couldn t imagine anything morZ stunningn Until she opened the second and imagination a back seat to reality. It was magnificent, sapphire set with diamonds either side. She never seen anything so beautiful. Certainly tooh a Ceylog ha^ had neveY

imagined wearing anything as beautiful. She pu_ down the box with the white-gold ring, tugged thZ other ring free and slipped it on her finger, hopinc secretly praying that it would fit, irrationall\ delighted when it skimmed over her knuckle an^ nestled perfectly at the base of her fingern She looked down at her hand, turning it this wa\ and that, watching the blue lights dance in the stonen They must be worth a fortune.u He shrugged, as if it was no matter, using thZ mirror to deftly negotiate the two ends of his tie intb a neat knot. A small one, perhaps. It s not like I a actually buying them.u No. Of course not. He was merely borrowinc them for a night to help convince people he wad getting married. Just like he was borrowing hern But even his ruthless designs couldn t stop heY wondering what it must be like to be given such X ring, such an object of incredible beauty, by the mag you loved? To have him slide that ring on your fingeY to the sound of a heartfelt I love you. Marry me,u instead of, Go on, try them on [ The sapphire caught the light, its polished facetd throwing a dozen different shades of blue, thZ diamonds sparkling, and she felt her resistancZ waveringn

With or without the ring, she was alread\ pretending to be something she was not. Could shZ really make the lie worse than it already wasx Very nice, he said, lifting her fingers. tried the other one?u Have yoj

She looked down at the open box, and the palZ beauty that resided there. No real need, she saidf trying to sound like she didn t care as well as makZ out that she wasn t bothered by his proximity, eveg though her fingers tingled and her body buzzed wit] his closeness. This one fits perfectly.u And it matches your eyes.u She looked up to see him studying her face. Yoj know you have the most amazing eyes, every shadZ of the sea and more.u Th-thank you.u He lifted a hand to her face and swiped the pad oi his thumb at the corner of her mouth. And you havZ a little smudge of lipstick right here. He smiled X knowing smile. How did that happen, I wonder?u Instinctively she put a hand over her mouthf backing away. I better repair my make-up, she saidf sweeping up her evening purse from the coffee tablZ and making for the powder room. How had tha_ happened indeed. She really didn t need to bZ reminded of that kiss and how she d practically giveg

him a green light to do whatever he wanted with hern It was amazing it was only her lipstick that ha^ slipped. Well, there would be no more smudge^ lipstick if she had any say in it. None at alln He watched her go, his eyes missing nothing oi her ramrod-straight spine or the forced stiffness tha_ hampered her movements. She hadn t been stiff oY hampered a few moments ago, when she d all bu_ rested her cheek against his hand. She hadn t beeg stiff or hampered when he d held her in his arms an^ kissed her senselessn Evelyn, he called behind her, and she stoppe^ and turned, gripping her purse tightly in front of heY chest. Something that might make you feel morZ relaxed in my company u Yes? She sounded scepticaln

As much as I enjoyed that kiss, I have a rule abou_ not mixing business with pleasure.u She blinked those big blue eyes up at him and hZ could tell she didn t get it. I don t sleep with my PAn Whatever I do tonight, a touch, a caress, a kiss, it s al[ just part of an act. You re perfectly safe with me. Al[ right?u And something he d expected relief, but it wasn _ quite that flashed across her eyes and was gonen Of course, she said, and fled into to powder roomn

There. He d said it. He blew out a breath as hZ picked up the leftover ring from the coffee tablef snapped the box shut and returned it to the safen Maybe it was, as he had said, to put her at her easef but there d also been a measure of wanting tb remind himself of his golden rule. Because it ha^ been hard enough to remember which way was upf let alone anything else in the midst of that kissn He hadn t intended it to go so far. He d meant tb tease her into submission, give her just a little tastZ for more, so she d be more malleable and receptivZ to his touch, but she d sighed into his mouth an^ turned molten and turned him incendiary with itn And if he hadn t frightened her away by thZ strength of his reaction, he d damned neaY frightened himself. He d had to leave the rooa before she could see how affected he was, an^ before he looked into her ocean-deep eyes an^ decided to finish what he d startedn He ached to finish what he d started[ Why did he have that rule about not sleeping wit] his PAs? What had he been thinking? Surely this wad a matter that should be decided on a case-by-casZ basisn And then he remembered Inge of the ice-coo[ demeanour and red hot bedroom athletics and hop

she d so neatly tried to demand a chunk of ice for heY finger by nailing him with her alleged pregnancyn There was good reason for his self-imposed rulef he reluctantly acknowledged. Damn good reason. I^ only he could make himself believe it[ She didn t recognise herself in the powder-rooa mirror. Even after repairing her make-up an^ smoothing the stray wisps of her hair back into itd sleek coil, she still looked like a stranger. No amoun_ of lipstick could disguise the flush to her swollen lipsn And while the ring on her finger sparkled under thZ light, it was no match for the lights in her eyesn Not when all she could do was remember tha_ kiss, and how he had damn near wrenched out heY mind if not her soul with itn It was wrong to feel excited, even though itd impact had so closely mirrored that of the first. Bu_ he d simply been making a point. He d been actingn He d said as much himself. It had meant nothing. OY else why could he so easily have turned and walke^ awayx Yet still she trembled at the memory of his lips og hers. Still she trembled when she thought of hop he d felt, pressing hard and insistent against heY belly, stirring secret places until they blossomed an^

ached with wantn Want that would go unsatisfied. Cheated againn Just an act. I don t sleep with my PA.Z And part of her had longed to laugh and tell hia that he d had his chance, years ago, and blown i_ then. Another part had wanted to slump with reliefn While the greater part of her had wanted to protes_ at the unfairness of it alln Damn. She d known this would be difficult. She ^ known that seeing him again would rekindle al[ those feelings she had been unable to bury, unablZ to dim, even with the passage of timen She dragged air into her lungs, breathed ou_ slowly and resolutely angled her chin higher as shZ made one final check on her appearance. For surel\ the worst was over. And at least she knew where shZ stood. She may as well try to enjoy the rare eveninc outn How hard could it bex Remember, Leo said, as they made their way to thZ presidential suite, keep it light and friendly an^ whatever you do, avoid any talk of family.u Suits me, she thought, knowing Leo would be lesd than impressed if she started telling everyone abou_

Sam. What is it exactly that their sons are suppose^ to have done?u You didn t see the articles?u She shook her head. Clearly I don t read the righ_ kind of magazine.u Or visit the right websites. Someone got a videb of them at a party and posted it on the web.u And they were doing something embarrassing?u You could say that. It was a wife-swapping party.u Oh.u Oh, indeed. Half the board were implicated an^ Culshaw couldn t stand seeing what he d worked foY all his life being dragged through the mud. HZ stopped outside the suite. Are you ready?u As ready as I ll ever be. Yes.u He slipped her hand into his, surprising her bu_ not so much this time because it was unexpected bu_ because it felt so comfortable to have his large han^ wrapped around hers. Amazing, given thZ circumstances, that it felt so right. You looh beautiful, he whispered, so close to her ear that shZ could feel his warm breath kiss her skin, setting ligh_ to her senses and setting flame licking at her coren It s make-believe, she warned herself as he tilte^ her chin and she once more gave herself up to hid

kiss, this time a kiss so tender and sweet that thZ very air seemed to shimmer and spin like gol^ around her. She drew herself back, trying to fin^ logic in a sea of sensation and air that didn t comZ charged with the spice of himn It meant nothing, a warning echoed as he presse^ the buzzer. It was all just part of the act. She coul^ not afford to start thinking it felt right. She could no_ afford to think it was realn She had just one short evening of pretending thid man loved her and she loved him, and then thZ make-believe ended and she could go home to heY falling-down house and her baby son. Alone. Tha_ was reality. That was her lifen She should be grateful it was so easy to pretendy A butler opened the door, showing them into ag impressive mirror-lined entry that opened into thZ massive presidential suite, Eve s heels clicked on thZ high gloss parquet floor. Floor-to-ceiling mirrord either side reflected their images back at them, an^ Eve was struck when she realised that the woman ig that glamorous couple, her hand in Leo s and heY eyes still sparkling, was her. Maybe she shouldn t fee[ so nervous. Maybe they could pull this off. It ha^ seemed such a crazy idea, and questions remained ig her mind as to the ethics of the plan, but maybe the\

could convince his business colleagues they were X couple. Certainly she had twenty thousand goo^ reasons to tryn Welcome, welcome! An older man came to mee_ them and Eve recognised him from the newspapersn Eric Culshaw had aged, though, she noticed, hid silvering hair white at the temples, his shoulders X little stooped as if he d held the weight of the worl^ on them. Given the nature of the scandal that ha^ rocked his world, maybe that was how he felt. HZ pumped Leo s hand. Welcome to you both, he saidf smiling broadlyn Eric, Leo said, allow me to introduce my fiancef Evelyn Carmichael.u And Eric s smile widened as he took her hand. It id indeed a pleasure, Evelyn. Come over and mee_ everyone.u Eve needed the few short seconds to get over thZ scale of the suite. She d arranged the bookings for al[ the rooms, similar corner spa suites for Leo and thZ Alvarezes, and the presidential suite for thZ Culshaws, but she d had no idea just how grand the\ were. Leo s suite had seemed enormous, with thZ separate living area, but this suite was more like ag entire home. A dining room occupied the right thir^ of the room, a study opposite the entry, and to thZ

left a generous sitting area, filled with plump sofad and welcoming armchairs. Doors hinted at still morZ rooms, no doubt lavish bedrooms and bathroomd and a kitchen for the dining room, and all along onZ side was a wall of windows to take in the view of thZ Melbourne city skyline. The others were sippinc champagne in the living room, admiring the viewf when they joined themn Eric made the introductions. Maureen Culshap was a slim sixty-something with a pinched face, likZ someone had pricked her bubble when she wasn _ looking. Clearly the scandal had hurt both thZ Culshaws deeply. But her grey eyes were warm an^ genuine, and Eve took to her immediately, the oldeY woman wrapping her hands in her own. I m sb pleased you could come, Evelyn. Now, there s a namZ you don t hear terribly often these days, althoug] I ve met a few Eves in my time.u It was my grandmother s name, she said, givinc the other woman s hands a return squeeze, and a bi_ of a mouthful, I know. Either is perfectly fine.u Maureen said something in return, but it was thZ movement in Eve s peripheral vision that caught heY attention, and she glanced up in time to seZ something skate across Leo s eyes, a frown tugginc at his brow, and for a moment she wondered wha_ that was about, before Eric started introducing thZ

hp j nun] Alvarezes, snagging her attentionn Richard Alvarez looked tan and fit, maybe fifteeg years younger than Eric, with sandy hair and piercinc blue eyes. His wife, Felicity, could have been a fila star and was probably another ten years youngeY than he, dark where he was fair, exotic and vibrantf like a tropical flower in her gown of fuchsia silk atoe strappy jewel-encrusted sandalsn Waiters unobtrusively brought platters of canapd and more glasses of champagne, topping up thZ others, and they settled into the lounge area, Leb somehow managing to steer them both onto thZ long sofa where he sat alongside her, clearly part oi the act to show how close they weren Extremely close apparentlyn For he stretched back and looped an arm aroun^ her shoulders, totally at ease as he bounced thZ conversation between Eric and Richard, though EvZ recognised it for the calculated move it was. Yet stil[ that insider knowledge didn t stop her catching heY breath when his fingers lazily traced a trail down heY shoulder and up again, a slow trail that had heY senses humming and her nipples on high alert and X curling ribbon of desire twisting and unfurling insidZ her. A red ribbon. Velvet. Like the sound of Leo d voicey

Evelyn?u She blinked, realising she d been asked a questiog that had completely failed to register through the foc of Leo s sensual onslaught. She captured hid wandering fingers in hers, ostensibly a display oi affection but very definitely a self-defencZ mechanism if she was going to be able to carry og any kind of conversation. Sorry, Maureen, you werZ asking about how we met? She turned to Leo an^ smiled, giving his fingers a squeeze so he might ge_ the message she could do without the manhandlingn It s not exactly romantic. I m actually his PA. I wad handling all his paperwork and arrangements an^ suddenly one day it kind of happened.u That s right, Leo added with his own smilef fighting her self-defence measures by putting X proprietorial hand on her leg, smoothing down thZ silk of her gown towards her knee, bringing his han^ back to her thigh, giving her a squeeze, setting up X sizzling, burning need. It was all Eve could do to keee smiling. She put her glass down and curled heY fingers around the offending hand, squeezing heY nails just a tiny bit too hard into his palm, just a tin\ warningn But he only looked at her and smiled some moren And this was after I d sworn I d never get involved ig an office romance.u

ng Maureen clapped her hands together, totall\ oblivious of Eve s ongoing battle. Did you hear thatf Eric? An office romance. Just like us!u Eric beamed and raised his glass. Maureen wad the best little secretary I ever had. Could type X hundred and twenty words a minute, answer thZ phone and take shorthand all at the same time. w could hardly let her go, could I?u Eric! You told me you fell in love with me at firs_ sight.u It s true, he said, with a rueful nod. Her first da\ in the job and the moment I walked in and saw thZ sexy minx sitting on her little swivel chair, I was toastn I just can t have that story getting around businesd circles, you understand.u The men agreed unreservedly as Maureeg blushed, her eyes a little glassy as she reached acrosd and gave Eric s hand a squeeze. You re an old softiZ from way back, Eric Culshaw, and you know it. ShZ dabbed at her eyes with a lace handkerchief, and Evef thinking she must look like she was shackled to Leof shifted away, brushing his hand from her leg as shZ reached for her champagne. He must have got thZ message, because he didn t press the issue, simpl\ reached for his own drink, and part of her wondere^ whether he thought he d done enoughn

Part of her hoped he didn The other part already missed his touchn Felicity, how about you? she said, trying to forge_ about that other wayward part of her. How did yoj and Richard meet?u Well The woman smiled and popped her glasd on the table, slipping her hand into her husband sn This might sound familiar, but I d been out with X friend, watching the sailing on Sydney Harbour. I_ had been a long day, so we stopped off to have X drink in a little pub on the way home, and the nex_ thing I know, this nice fellow came up and asked if hZ could buy us both a drink. She turned to him an^ smiled and he leaned over and kissed her delicatel\ on the tip of her nose. And the rest, as they say, id history.u That s just like Princess Mary and Prince Frederih of Denmark, said Maureen. Don t you rememberf everyone? Eve did, but she never had a chance tb say anything because Leo chose that precise momen_ to run his finger along the back of her neck, X feather-light touch that came with depth charges tha_ detonated deep down inside her as his fingertipd drew tiny circles on her backn It wasn t the same hotel, was it? Maureeg continuedn

No. But it s just as special to us. We go every yeaY on the anniversary of that first meeting.u How special, said Maureen. Oh, I do love Sydne\ and the harbour. I have to say, the warmer weatheY suits me better than Melbourne s, too.u And Eve, lulled by the gentle touch of a master d hand, and thinking of her never-ending quest to ge_ the washing dried and not looking forward to col^ showers and boiling kettles so Sam could have X warm bath, couldn t help but agree. Sydney d wonderful. I used to work there. I spent so man\ weekends at the beach.u The fingers at her neck stilled, a memory like the frames of an old black and white the recesses of his mind. Something about and a woman he d met years ago so briefly briefly a woman called Even flickerinc movie ig Sydne\ tob

CHAPTER FIVH WHAT was it Maureen had said? Most people woul. shorten it to Eve. And she d said something likeo Either is fine. The exchange had niggled at some par` of him when he d heard it, although he hadn t fullt understood why at the time, but then the mention os Sydney had provided the missing link, and suddenlt he d realised that there could be no coincidencec that bit had provided the missing piece and thd jigsaw had fitted togethere He thought back to a day that seemed so lonl ago, of flying into Sydney in the early morningo recalling memories of a whirlwind visit to rescue ] deal threatening to go pear-shaped, and of a glassf walled office that had looked over Sydney Harbouc and boasted plum views of both the Harbour Bridgd and the Opera House. But the view had faded tj insignificance when his eyes had happened upon thd woman sitting in the opposite corner of the roome Her hair had been streaked with blonde and her skie had had a golden tan, like both had been kissed bt

the sun, and her amazing eyes had looked deepec and more inviting than any famous harboure And endless meetings and time differences ang jetlag had all combined to press upon him ond undeniable certaintye He d wanted here Eve, she d told him when he d cornered hec during a break and asked her name. Breathless Evd with the lush mouth and amazing eyes and a bodt made for sin, a body all too willing to sin, as he g discovered in that storeroome And he d cursed when he d had to leave all toj suddenly for Santiago, cursed that he d missed ou` on peeling her clothes from her luscious body, piecd by piece. He d had half a mind to return to Sydnet after his business in Chile concluded, but by thee something else had come up. And then there d beee more business in other countries, and other womeno and she d slipped from his radar, to be loosely fileg under the-ones-that-got-awaye It wasn t a big file and as it happened she hadn ` got away after all. She d been right there under hi^ nose, answering his emails, handling his paperworko organising meetings, and she d never once let one Never once mentioned the fact they d already mete What was that abouth

His hand drifted back to his pretend fiance ^ back, letting the conversation wash over himc something about an island the Culshaws owned ie the Whitsundays his fingertips busy tracinl patterns on her satiny-soft skin as he studied hec profile, the line of her jaw, the eyes he d noticed ang should have recognised. She was slightly changedo the colour of her hair more caramel now than thd sun-streaked blonde it had been back then, ang maybe she wasn t quite so reed thin. Slight changeso no more than that, and they looked good on her. Bu` no wonder he d thought she d looked familiare She glanced briefly at him then, as the party rosd and headed for the dining area, a slight frowe marring an otherwise perfect brow, as if she wa^ wondering why he d been so quiet. He smiledo knowing that the waiting time to meeting her agaie had passed; knowing that her time had comee Knowing that for him the long wait would soon bd over. She d been like quicksilver in his arms that dayo so potent and powerful that he hadn t been able tj wait the few hours before closing the deal to sampld here There was no doubt in his mind that the long wai` was going to be worth ite So what, then, that he had a rule about no`

sleeping with his PA? Rules were made to be brokee after all, some more than others. He smiled at hero taking her arm, already anticipating the eveninl ahead. A long evening filled with many delights, if hd had anything to do with it. Which of course, hd thought with a smile, he dide Maybe it was the fact everyone so readilt accepted Evelyn as his fiance. Maybe it was thd surprising realisation that playing the part of a fianco wasn t as appalling or difficult as he d first imagineg that made the evening worke Or maybe it was the thought of afterwards, whee he would finally get the opportunity to peel off hec gown and unleash the real woman beneathe But the evening did work, and well. The drinks ang canaps, the dinner, the coffee and dessert thd hotel catering would get a bonus. It was all faultlesse Culshaw was beaming, his wife was glowing and thd Alvarezes made such entertaining dinnec companions, reeling out one amusing anecdote aftec another, that half the time everyone was laughinl too much to eate And Evelyn the delectable Evelyn played hec part to perfection. Though he frowned as he caugh` her glancing at her watch again. Perfect, apart frok that annoying habit she had of checking the timd

every ten minutes. Why? It wasn t like she was goinl anywhere. Certainly not before they d had a chancd to catch up on old timese Finally coffee and liqueurs had been served ang the staff quietly vanished back into the kitchene Culshaw stifled a yawn, apologising and blaming hi^ habit of going for a long early walk every morninl for not letting him stay up late. But I thank you all foc coming. Richard and Leo, maybe we can get thosd contract terms nutted out tomorrow what do yob think?i The men drew aside to agree on a time to mee` while the women chatted, gathering up purses ang wraps. They were nice people, Eve thought, wishinl she could have met them in different circumstanceso and not while living this lie. She knew she d nevec meet them again, and maybe in the bigger scheme os things it made no difference to anything, as thet would all go their separate ways in a day or so, bu` that thought was no compensation for knowinl she d spent the evening pretending to be someond and something she was note Shall we go? Leo said, breaking into her thought^ as he wrapped his big hand around hers and lifted i` to his mouth, and Eve could see how pleased he wa^ with himself and with the way things had gonee

The final act, she thought as his lips brushed hec hand and his eyes simmered with barely containeg desire. A look filled with heated promise, of a cominl night filled with tangled limbs in tangled sheets. Thd look a man should give his fiance before thet retired to their room for the night. The final pretencee No pretence necessary when her body respondeg like a woman s should respond to her lover ^ unspoken invitation, ripening and readying until shd could feel the pulse of her blood beating out hec need in that secret place between her thighso achingly insistent, turning her thoughts to sex. Nj wonder everyone believed them to be lovers. Hd acted the part so very well. He made it so easy. Hd made her body want to believe ite A shame, she thought as they said their finam goodbyes and left the suite. Such a shame it was alm for nothing. Such a waste of emotional energy ang sizzling intensity. Already she could feel her bodt winding down, the sense of anticlimax rolling in. Thd sudden silence somehow magnified it, the husheg passage devoid of other guests, as empty as theic pretend relationshipe Will the car be waiting for me downstairs? shd asked, glancing at her phone as they waited in the lif` lobby. No messages, she noticed with reliefo dropping it back into her purse. Which meant Mr^

dj aq o[ [ [ c[ a[ Willis had had no problems with Same So anxious to get away? the man at her side saide Do you have somewhere you re desperate to ge` to?i Not really. Just looking forward to getting home.i And she wasn t desperate. There no point rushinl now, Eve knew. She d been watching the time ang chances were Mrs Willis was well and truly tucked ur in bed by now, which meant no picking up Sak before morning. But equally there was nothing foc her here. She d done her job. It was time to drop thd make-believe and go home to her real lifee No? Only you kept checking your watch evert five minutes through dinner and you just no\ checked your phone. I get the impression I k keeping you from something or someone.i No, she insisted, cursing herself for being sj obvious. She d gone to the powder room to checn her messages during the evening, not wanting to bd rude or raise questions. She hadn t thought anyond would notice a quick glance at her watch. Look, it ^ nothing. But we ve finished here, haven t we?i Aren t you forgetting something?i What? He took her hand and lifted it, thd sapphire flashing on her finger. Oh, of course. m almost forgot. She tried to slip her hand from his sj

she could take it off, but he stilled here Not here. Wait till we get to the suite. And shd would have argued that it wasn t necessary, that shd could give it to him in the lift for that matter, only shd heard voices behind them and the sound of thd Alvarezes approaching and knew she had no choiceo not when their suites were on the same floor and i` would look bizarre if she didn t accompany Leoe Ah, we meet again, Richard said, coming aroung the corner with Felicity on his arm as the lift door^ whooshed open softly behind them. Great nighto Leo, well done. Culshaw seems much mord comfortable to do business now. He agreed to call tj arrange things after his walk in the morning.i Leo smiled and nodded. Excellent, he saido pressing the button for the next floor as they madd small talk about the dinner, within seconds the twj couples bidding each other goodnight again ang heading for their respective suitese And, really, it wasn t a problem for Eve. Leo hag told her his rule about not mixing business witf pleasure. So she knew she had nothing to fear. She g give him back the ring, make sure the coast wa^ clear, and be gone. She d be in and out in twj minutes, topse He swiped a card through the reader, holding thd

door open so she could precede him into the roome She ignored the flush of sensation as she brusheg past him, tried not to think about how good he smel` or analyse the individual ingredients that made ur his signature scent, and had the ring off her fingec and back in its tiny box before the door had closeg behind her. Well, that s that, then, she said brightlyo snapping the box shut and setting it back on thd coffee table. I think that concludes our busines^ tonight. Maybe you could summon up that car foc me and I ll get going.i You said you didn t have to rush off, he saido busy extracting a cork from what looked suspiciouslt like a bottle of French champagne he d just pulleg from an ice bucket she was sure hadn t seen beforeo and felt her first shiver of apprehensione I don t remember that being there when we left.i I asked the wait staff to organise it, I thought a celebration was in order.i he explainede

Another tremor. Another tiny inkling of what? Y celebration?i For pulling off tonight. For having everyond believe we were a couple. You had both Eric ang Maureen, not to mention Richard and Felicity, eatinl out of your hand.i It was a nice evening, she said warily, accepting ]

flute of the pale gold liquid, wishing he d make ] move to sit down, wishing he was anywhere in thd suite but standing right there between her and thd door. Knowing she could move away but that woulg only take her deeper into his suite. Knowing that wa^ the last place she wanted to be. They re nice people.i It was a perfect evening. In fact, you make thd perfect virtual fiance, Evelyn Carmichael. Perhap^ you should even put that on your CV. He touched hi^ glass to hers and raised it. Here s to you, my virtuam PA, my virtual fiance. Here s to us.i She could barely breathe, barely think. There wa^ no us. But he had that look again, the look he d hag before they d left the presidential suite that had hec pulse quickening and beating in dark, secret placese And suddenly there was that image back in her mindo of tangled bedlinen and twisted limbs, and a strangd sense of dislocation from the world, as if someond had changed the rules when she wasn t looking ang now black was white and up was down and nothingo especially not Leo Zamos, made any kind of sensee She shook her head, had to look away for ] moment to try to clear her own tangled thoughtse Oh, I don t think I ll be doing anything like thi^ again.i Why not? When you re so clearly a natural a`

playing a part. He nodded in the direction of hec untouched glass. Wine not to your taste?i She blinked and took a sip, wondering if he wa^ ever going to move away from the minibar and frok blocking the door, moving closer to the wall at hec back in case he was waiting for her to move first. It ^ lovely, thank you. And the Culshaws and Alvareze^ are lovely people. I still can t help but feem uncomfortable about deceiving them that way.i That s something I like about you, Evelyn. Hd moved at last, but not to go past her. He moveg closer, touching the pad of one finger to her browo shifted back a stray tendril of hair, a touch so gentld and light but so heated and powerful that shd shivered under its impact. That honest streak yob have. That desire not to deceive. I have to admird that.i Warning bells rang out in her mind. There was ] calm, controlled anger rippling through thd underbelly of his words that she was sure hadn ` been there before, an iron fist beneath the velvetf gloved voice, and she wasn t sure what he though` he was celebrating but she did know she didn t wan` to be any part of ite I should be going, she said, searching for thd nearest horizontal surface on which to deposit hec

nearly untouched drink, finding it in the credenza a` her side. It s late. Don t bother your driver. I ll ge` myself a cab.i He smiled then, as lazily and smugly as a crocodild who knew that all the efforts of its prey were futild for there was no escape. a smile that made hec shiver, all the way downe If you ll just move out the way, I ll go.i she suggestedo

Let you go? he questioned, retrieving her glas^ and holding it out to her. When she was so learl leaving. When I thought you might like to share ] drink with me.i She ignored it. I had one, thanks.i No, that drink was a celebration. This one will bd for old times sake. What do you say, Evelyn? Oc maybe you d prefer if I called you Eve.i And a tidal wave of fear crashed over her, colg and drenching and leaving her shuddering agains` the wall, thankful for its solidity in a world where thd ground kept shifting. He knew! He knew and he wa^ angry and there was no way he was going to movd away from that door and let her calmly walk out os here. Her tongue found her lips, trying valiantly tj moisten them, but her mouth was dry, her throa` constricted. I m good with either, she said, trying foc

calm and serene and hearing her voice come ou` thready and desperate. And I really should be going.i Because I met an Eve once, he continued, hi^ voice rich and smooth by comparison, apparentlt oblivious to her discomfiture, or simply enjoying i` too much to put an end to it, in an office overlookinl Sydney Harbour. She had the most amazing blud eyes, a body built for sinful pleasures, and she wa^ practically gagging for it. Come to think of it, she wa. gagging for it.i I was not! she blurted, immediately regrettinl her outburst, wishing the shifting ground woulg crack open and swallow her whole, or that hec pounding heart would break the door down so shd could escape. Because she was kidding herself. Evee if it hadn t been how she usually acted, even if it hag been an aberration, he was right. Because if tha` person hadn t interrupted them in the midst of tha` frantic, heated encounter, she would have spread hec legs for him right there and then, and what was thato if not gagging for ith And afterwards she d been taking minutes, writinl notes, even if she d found it nearly impossible tj transcribe them or remember what had actually beee said when she d returned to her office because os thoughts of what had almost happened in that filinl room and what would happen during the nigh`

oj ] d[ a[ od[ ] g [ [ aheade He curled his fingers under her chin, forced her tj look at him, triumph glinting menacingly in his eyese You ve been working with me for more than twj years, sweet little Miss Evelyn don t-like-to-deceivef anyone Carmichael. When exactly were you planninl on telling me?i She looked up at him, hoping to reason with himo hoping that reason made sense. There was nothinl to tell.i Nothing? When you were so hot for me you werd practically molten. And you didn t think I might bd interested to know we d more than just met before?i But nothing happened! Not really. It was purely ] coincidence that I came to work for you. You wanteg a virtual PA. You sent a query on my webpage. Yob agreed the terms and I did the work you wanted ang what did or didn t happen between us one night ie Sydney was irrelevant. It didn t matter. She wa^ babbling and she knew it, but she couldn t stor herself, tripping over the words in the rush to ge` them out. It wasn t like we ever had to meet. If yob hadn t needed a pretend fiance tonight, you woulg never have known.i Oh, I get it. So it s my fault, is it, that all this timd you lied to me.i

I never lied.i You lied by omission. You knew who I was, yob knew what had so very nearly happened, and yob failed to tell me that I knew you. You walked in herd and hoped and prayed I wouldn t recognise you ang you almost got away with it.i I didn t ask to come tonight!i No. And now I know why. Because you knew youc dishonesty would come unstuck. All that talk abou` not deceiving people and you ve happily beee deceiving me for two years.i I do my job and I do it well!i Nobody said you didn t. What is an issue is tha` you should have told me.i And would you have contracted me if I had?i Who knows? Maybe if you had, we might bd having great sex right now instead of arguing.i Unfair, she thought as she sucked in air, finding i` irritatingly laden with his testosterone-rich scent. Sj unfair to bring up sex right now, to remind her os what might have been, when she was right here ie his suite and about to lose the backbone of hec income because she d neglected to tell him about ] night when nothing had happenede Let me tell you something, Evelyn Carmichael, hd

said, as he trailed lazy fingertips down the side of hec face. Let me share something I might have shareg with you, if you d ever bothered to share the trutf with me. Three years ago, I was aboard a flight tj Santiago. I had a fifty-page report to read and diges` and a strategy to close a deal to work out and I kne\ what I needed to be doing, but hour after hour intj the flight I couldn t concentrate. And why couldn t m concentrate? Because my head was filled witf thoughts of a blonde, long-limbed PA with thd sexiest eyes I had ever seen and thinking about wha` we both should have been doing right then if I hadn ` had to leave Sydney.i Oh. It had never occurred to her that he migh` have regretted his sudden departure. It had nevec occurred to her that she hadn t been the only ond unable to sleep that night, the only one whj rememberede I felt cheated, he said, his fingers skimming thd line of her collarbone, because I had to leave beford we got a chance to get to know each other. Hi^ fingers played at her shoulder, his thumbs strokinl close to the place on her throat where she could feem her pulse beat at a frantic pace. Did you feel cheatedo Evelyn?i Perhaps. Maybe just a little.i

I was hoping maybe more than just a little.i Maybe, she agreed, earning herself a smile ie returne And now I find that I have been cheated in thosd years since. I never had a chance to revisit what wd had lost that night, because you chose not to tell me.i She blinked up at him, still reeling from thd impact of his words. How could I tell you?i How could you not tell me, when you must kno\ how good we will be together. We knew it that daye We recognised it. And we knew it earlier when m kissed you and you turned near incendiary in mt arms. Do you know how hard that kiss was to breako Evelyn? Do you know what it took to let you go ang take you to dinner and not take you straight to mt bed?i She shuddered at his words, knowing them to bd true, knowing that if he d taken her to bed that nighto she would have gone and gone willingly. But he d lef` her confused. He d been angry with her a momen` ago, yet now the air vibrated around them with ] different tension. What do you want?i What I have always wanted ever since the firs` time I saw you, he said, his eyes wild with desire ang dark promises that kept those dark, secret places os her humming with sensation and aching with need. m

want you.i

CHAPTER SIM THIS won t work, she warned weakly, her hand

reachi for the wall behind her as his mout. descended towards hers. This can t happen. He brushed her lips with his. Why not? You don t sleep with your PAs. You don t mi. business with pleasure. You said so yourself. True, he reed, maki a second pass over he. mouth, and then a third, li eri just a fractio lo er this time. Never mix business with pleasure. Then what are you doi ? she asked, her sense buzzi . He slipped his hands behind her head, hi fi ers weavi thro. h her hair as he a led he. mouth h her. Unfinished business, on the other hand, h murmured, his eyes on her mouth. That s a whol different rule book. He moved his aze until dar eyes met her own, azi at her with such feveris. intensity that she felt bewitched under their spell. you want to open that book, Evelyn? Do you want t. dip into its p es and enjoy one n ht of pleasure.

D.

one n ht of sin, to make up for that n ht we wer both cheated out of? This time he kissed her eyes, first one and then th other, butterfly kisses of heated breath and warm lip that made her tremble with both their tendernes and their devastati impact on her senses. Or d. you still wish to leave? He kissed her lips then before she could respond. as if tryi to convince her with his hot mout. instead of his words, and she could feel the tensio underlini his movements, could tell he was barel controlli the passion that bubbled so close belo the surface as he tried to be entle with her. He wa offeri her a n ht of unim inable pleasure, n ht she d tho. ht about so many times since tha ill-fated first meeti . Or he was offeri her escape. She was so, so very tempted to stay, to stay wit. this man who d invaded her dreams and lo i s. the man who d taken possession of them ever sinc the day they d first met. The man who had made he. want and lust and feel alive for the first time in he. life. She wanted to stay and feel alive ain. But she should o. The sensible thi would be t. o. She was no lo er a free ent, able to do as sh pleased when she pleased. She had responsibilities.

She was a mother now, with a child waiti at home. His kisses tortured her with their sweetness whil her mind rappled with the dilemma, throwi ou a. uments for and ainst. The decision was her and yet she felt powerless to make it, knowi tha whatever she decided, she would live to r ret it. But it was just one nightP And her child was safely tucked up in bed, asleepP But hadn t her child resulted from just one suc. n ht? One foolish wro decision and she woul live with the consequences for ever. Did she reall want to risk that happeni ain? Could she affor to. Could she afford not to] Did she really want to o home to her empty be and know that she d turned her back on this chanc to stop wonderi what if, the chance to finally bur this indecent obsession out of her system. And didn t she deserve just one n ht? She worked hard to make a success of her business an to provide for Sam. Surely she deserved a few shor hours of pleasure? Maybe then she could sto` wonderi , stop im ini what it would have bee like to have made love that n ht, to have finishe what they d started. And maybe he was a lousy love. and this would cure her of him for ever, just like on

n ht with Sam s father had been more than eno. h. Hadn t she already paid the price] His mouth played on hers, entici her into th dance, his to ue a wicked invitation, his b hand skimmi her sides so that his thumbs brushed th undersides of her breasts, so close to her achi nipples that she asped, and felt herself pushi int. his hands. A lousy lover? Not likely. What s it to be? he said, pulli back, hi breathi r ed, searchi her eyes for her answer. Do I open the book? Or do you o? Because if yo. don t decide now, I promise you, there will be n. oi anywhere. And his words were so hu ry, the pain of hi restraint so clearly etched on his t htly draw features, that she realised how much power sh really held. He wanted her so much, and still he wa prepared to let her walk away. Maybe because h sensed she was beyond leavi , maybe because h knew that his kisses and touches had lit a fire insid her that would not be put out, not be quenched unti it had burned itself to ash. But he was ivi her th choice. When really, just like that first time, there wa none.

Maybe, she ventured tentatively, her voic breathy as she wondered whether in wanti t. make up for a lost opportunity she was maki th mistake of her life, we could at least check out p e or two. He rowled his approval, a sound stra ht fro' the Stone e, a dark, deep sound that rumbled int. her very bones and shook them loose. She woul have fallen then, if he hadn t pulled her into his kiss. his hot mouth explosive on her lips, on her throat, a he celebrated her acquiescence, his arms like stee crushi her to him, his hands on her back, on he. shoulders, capturi a breast and sweepi hi thumb over her peaked nipple, sendi sensatio speari down to that hot place between her th h and maki her mewl into his mouth. God, I want you, he said, echoi the only word she was capable of thinki , as she pushed his jacke off his shoulders and he shucked off his shoes. H released her for only a moment, shr. ed the jacke off and let it drop to the floor while she worke desperately at his buttons and his tie, and he turne his attentions to her zipper. She felt the slide dow her spine and the looseni of fabric, the electri touch of his hands at the small of her back. Impatien to similarly feel his flesh under her hands, she rippe the last few buttons of his shirt apart, scatteri the'

without r ard. Finally she had him, her hands on his firm chest. her fi ers curli thro. h the wiry thatch of hair. li eri over the hard, t ht nubs of his nipples. relishi all the different textures of him, the har and the hot, the wet and the insistent, and if she had any doubt at all that he wanted her, it wa banished by the bucki welcome of that r i column as her hand slid down to cup his le th. H roaned and pushed her back hard ainst the wal as she rappled with his belt. He was everywhere then, his taste in her mouth. his hands separati her from the dress, slippi th straps from her shoulders, letti it slip betwee them as he took her breasts, the scrap of lace n. barrier ainst the heat from his hands. And the even that was one, replaced by his hot mouth. devouri her, lappi and suckli at her flesh unti she cried out with the ony and the ecstasy of it all. It was everythi she had im ined in dreams spu in hot, torrid n hts alone and more, and still it wa not eno. h. She clu to his shoulders as he laved her nipples. atheri her skirt as his hands skimmed up he. l s, not taki his time but still taki

so muc. lo er than she wanted.

Please, she pleaded, clutchi at his head. aspi as he cupped her mound, his lo fi er stroki her thro. h panties wet for him, needi him, hot and hard, inside her. Needi him now. before she came with just one more touch. Please!_ God, you re so hot, he said, dispensi with he. underwear, pulli free his belt with damn near th same frenetic action. She saw him then. Her first limpse of hi' unleashed and hu ry and pointi at her, compass needle findi true north. Once she m h have wanted to believe it. But she was wiser than t. believe such fantasies these days, and much wiser t. the consequences. Which reminded her] Protection, she muttered thro. h the f. o need, but he was already rippi open a sachet wit. his teeth, rolli it on before pulli her back into hi kiss. Her breasts met his chest, the feel of ski ainst skin taki her breath away, or maybe it wa what he was doi with his hands and clever fi ers. Her dress bunched at her waist, his hand kneadi her behind, fi ers teasi ly close to th centre of her, drivi her insane with need, as h lifted her, the wall at her back, still kissi her as h

u. ed her l s around him until she felt him, thic and hard, nu i , testi , at her entrance.

She cried out, somethi unintell ible and primal. lost in an ocean of sensation, drowni under th depths. It was almost too much and yet it wa nowhere near eno. h and she only knew that if sh didn t et him inside her she would surely die o need. He didn t keep her waiti . With a uttural cry o his own he lowered her, meeti her with his ow thrust, until he was lo ed deep inside her. A moment in time. Just a moment, a fraction of second perhaps, but Eve knew it for a moment abou which she would always remember every si l detail, the salt of his skin and the smell of hi shampoo, the feel of his b hands paused at he. hips, and the lorious feeli of the pulsi fullnes inside her. Could it et any better than this. And then he moved, and it did, and flesh ains flesh had never felt so ood, every new momen ivi her treasures to secrete away, to add to store of memories she would take from this n ht, o sensations she would never fo. et. Sensations tha built, one upon another, layer upon layer, h her an h her, fed by each calculated withdrawal, eac. powerful thrust.

Until there was no place to o, no place h her o.

br hter or more wondrous as the sensation, th friction, the furious rhythm of his poundi body al melded t. ether into a cataclysm, taki her with it. She screamed her release, throwi her head bac ainst the wall, her muscles clampi down hard a he shuddered his own frenetic release. She didn t know how lo they stood t. ethe. that way, she couldn t tell, too busy tryi to replac the ox en consumed in the fire of their coupli while her body hummed its way down from th peak. But slowly her feet found the floor, slowly he. senses and sensibility returned. To the knowle she was standi barely dressed between a wall an a near naked man she barely knew but with who' she d just had mind-blowi sex. Wow, she said, embarrassed in the aftermath a he dispensed with the condom and she remembere her own wantonness. Had she really pulled his shir apart in her desperation to et inside it? Had sh really cried out like a banshee. And he la. hed, a low rumble in a velvet coat. Evelyn Carmichael, he told her with a chaste kiss t. her lips, you are just one surprise pack e afte. another. He didn t know the half of it. She found the strap of her dress, pulli it up to cover herself before sh

started looki for her underwear. Leave it, he said, his hand around her wrist. There s no point. It s only comi off ain.

ai n? His eyes linted. This book I was telli yo. about. It s a lo book, he said. That was onl chapter one. She blinked up at him, her dress athered in fron of her, and he pulled her arm away, letti the dres drop to her waist, then slide over her hips in whisper of silk to pool like a lake on the floor. And even tho. h they d just had sex, she fel nervous standi there before him weari nothi more than lace-topped stocki s and spiky sandals. She hadn t been with anyone since Sam s father. Sh didn t have the body she d once had, her belly nea but traced with tiny silvery lines and softer than i had been before beari a child. She held her breath. Could he tell? Would i matter. You look, he said, oddess eme. i fro' like a

the sea. And some tiny, futile creature somewher deep inside her rew wi s and attempted a flutter takeoff.

And you look like a pirate, remindi herself it was just a ame. It wasn t rea

she countered.

and that pointless tiny creature inside her woul soon die a rapid death, its ossamer wi s stilled. Ruthless and swashbuckli . Uncanny, he said, his lips turni in a half-smil as he swu her into his arms. However did yo. know? Know what? she asked, feeli a secret thrill a he carried her into the next room. The oddess of the sea and the swashbuckli pirate. He winked at her and he laid her ently o the ki -sized bed. That s the title of chapter two. It was a lo and detailed chapter. There wer pass es Eve found onisi oi , like when th pirate sampled the oddess, tasti every last inch o her except there, where she craved his detaile attentions the most, and then there were th pass es that moved at what felt like breaknec speed, where he feasted on her until she was bucki on the bed. And even when she lay, still aspi , after he. latest o. asm, the chapter didn t end and he joine her in savouri the final few p es t. ether unti that final breathtaki climax. Outside the l

hts of Melbourne winked at her, th skies unusually clear, a heavy full moon ha i above the bri e over the Yarra.

Inside the suite, Eve s breathi slowly returned t. normal as she savoured the feel of Leo s arm lyi pro-prietorially over her stomach as he lay fac down alo side her, his eyes closed, his lips sl htl parted, his thick black hair mussed into bed-hea perfection by her own hands. He wasn t asleep, sh knew, but it was a wonder iven the ene. y he used ton ht. Definitely a pirate, she tho. ht. An very definitely a m ic n ht. But it was late an m ic n hts had to end, just as oddesses ha responsibilities too. Oh, my, he d actually called her a goddess! An she felt that tiny wi ed creature launch itself fo. another lurchi spin around her stomach. I should o, she said, with a wistful s h for th ill-fated beast before she returned to sensible Evely Carmichael ain and considered the practicalities o not havi a functioni hot water service. Do yo. mind if I take a shower before I o? And his eyes blinked open, the arm around he. waist shifti , scoopi h her to capture a breast. smile played on his lips while he coaxed a nipple int. unexpected responsiveness. I ve ot a much bette. idea. She swallowed. Surely it wasn t possible? But stil her body hummed into life at the tho. ht. Chapte.

three? He nodded, his busy fi ers hard at work on th other nipple, addi his hot mouth to the mix. uaranteei the result. The oddess returns to th sea only to find the pirate lurki in the depths. waiti to ambush her. That s a lo title. It s a lo chapter, he said, rolli off the bed an scoopi her up into his arms. should et started.

In which case, w

An hour later Eve had bubbles up to her chin an warm jets mass i all those newly found muscle of hers she hadn t realised would so appreciate th attention. From the bedroom came the sound o Leo s voice on the phone as he arra ed her car. In moment she d have to prise herself from the bat. and shower off the bubbles but for the moment sh li ered, her limbs heavy, feeli la uorous an spoilt and thoro. hly, thoro. hly spent. It was easy to feel spoilt here, she tho. ht, quietl reflecti on her opulent surroundi s, committi them to memory as part of the experience. For if th size and scale of the suites had amazed her, the shee. lavishness of the bathroom had taken her breat. away.

Marble in muted tones of sun-ripened wheat an olden honey lined the floor and walls, the l hti low and warm and inviti , the spa and showe. enclosure a space as b as her entire bathroom a home separated from the lo marble vanity b heavy lass doors. It was utterly, utterly decadent. And if there hadn t been eno. h bubbles, he found champ ne and ripe, red strawberries to . with it. He d turned what she d intended simply as shower into another erotic fantasy. What a n ht. Three chapters of his book, all o them different, every one of them a complet fantasy. If chapter one had been desperate an frenetic, and chapter two slow to the point of torture. chapter three had showed the pirate at his mos playfully erotic best. The slip of oils on skin, the pla of the jets on naked flesh and the sheer fun o discoveri what lay beneath the foam. She closed her eyes, allowi herself just a fe snatched seconds of im ini what it would be lik if this was her life, all posh hotels with views of cit l hts and an attentive lover like Leo to make her fee the most special woman alive, with no worries abou broken-down appliances and falli -down houses. But then there was SamP And she felt uilty for even thinki of a worl

that didn t include him that couldn t include him. For Sam was her life, whereas this was a fantasy tha had no other course but to end and end soon. She slipped under the water one last time, letti her hair fan out around her head, relishi the b wide bath, before she sat up, the water sluici fro' her body. No r rets, she told herself as sh squeezed the water from her hair, she wouldn t allo it. She d made her choice. She would live with it. An whatever happened in her life after this, whateve. her everyday suburban life m ht hold, she knew sh would have this one secret n ht of passion to loo back on. The car will be waiti in half an hour, Leo said. returni to the bathroom, a white towel slu perilously low over his hips, and even tho. h sh knew what lay beneath, even tho. h she knew wha that line of dark hair leadi down from his navel le so tantalisi ly and inexorably to, she couldn t loo away. Or maybe because of it. Will that ive yo. eno. h time for that shower you wanted and e dressed? And even tho. h she knew this moment wa comi , Eve still felt a pa , the fabric of her fantas starti to unravel, as already she started counti down the minutes. Just thirty of them to o befor she turned from one-n ht lover to a billionaire int.

lo -term si le mother. But there was nothi els for it. She nodded. Plenty of time,

she said.

He offered her his hand rather than the towel sh would have preferred and she hesitated, befor realisi that after the thi s they d done t. ethe. this n ht, there was no point in bei coy. So sh rose, taki his hand to prevent her slippi as sh stepped out, and taki half the foam with her. Somethi about the way his body stilled alerted her. She was taller than him now, standi in the raise bath like this, and his eyes drank her in. What is it? she said, looki down to see patches of foam slidi down her body and cli i to her breasts, the pin nub of one nipple peepi thro. h. And she looke back to him to see him shaki his head, his dar eyes hot and heavy with desire. Suddenly I m not s. sure it will be anywhere near eno. h time. Somethi sizzled in her veins, even while he. mind said no. You can t be serious. He ave a wry smile as he reached out to brus. the offendi nipple with the pad of one fi er. sendi tremors thro. h her sensitive flesh, and h smoothed away more of the suds to reveal patche of skin, piece by onisi piece. It s still early. Leo, she said,

nori the pleas her body wa maki to stay r ht where she was and steppi ou

to snap on the shower taps before she could take hi words seriously. A torrent rained down from th cloudburst showerhead and she stepped into it. determined to be rid of the bubbles r ardless of th water temperature. It s three o clock in the morni . I m oi home. He peeled the towel from his hips, turned on hi own shower. We have all n ht. No. I have to o. She turned her face away fro' the s ht of his thickeni member and up into th stream of water, relishi the drenchi . It wa cooler than she would normally prefer, but it wa helpi to clear her mind, helpi cool her bod down. And very definitely she needed to cool down. What kind of man could make love so many times i one n ht and still come back for more? When ha fantasy ever collided so perfectly with reality? Well. that was apart from the reality she would no doub be exhausted tomorrow while Sam would be hi usual bundle of ene. y. To day, she reminde herself. He d be up in a few short hours. She reall needed to et home if she was to et any slee` ton ht. Besides, you have an important deal t. close. So maybe I can ive you a call, pick you u` afterwards?

Her heart skipped a beat and she paused, soap i hand, feeli only the poundi of the cascadi water, the thuddi of her heart and the flutter o those damned tiny wi s. Without turni around. she said, I tho. ht you were planni on leavi fo. London the minute you concluded the Culshaw deal. His mouth found her shoulder, his arms wrappi around her belly, and there was no missi tha rowi part of him pressi ainst her back, n. missi the rush of blood to tissues already tender. And even tho. h she knew his words meant nothi . nothi more anyway than him wanti a repea performance in bed, it was impossible not to lean he. head back ainst his shoulder just one last swee time. I don t think that would be wise. She turne off the water and peeled herself away, reachi for towel as she exited the shower. We both reed thi was just one n ht. And while it s been ood, I think. iven our worki relationship, that it s better lef that way. Only ood? he demanded, and she rolled he. eyes. Trust the man to home in on the least importan detail of the conversation. He followed her from th stall, swipi his own towel from the rack an

lashi it around his hips, not botheri to wipe th beads of water from his skin so that his chest hai. formed scrolls like an ancient tattoo down his ches to his belly and below. Oh, my] She squeezed her eyes shut. Grabbed anothe. towel and covered her head with it, rubbi her hai. frantically so she couldn t see him, even if sh opened her eyes. All r ht. The sex was reat. Fabulous. The towel blindi her eyes was no defenc ainst the electric touch of his fi ers at he. shoulders. Then why shouldn t we meet ain? It not as if I m aski for some lo -ter' commitment. That s just it, she yearned to say. There s no futur in it. There s nothi but reat sex and the lo e. that happens, the reater the risk that I start t. believe it s about more than that, and I can t afford t. let that happen. Not when she had Sam] One n ht of sin was one thi . But she could no contemplate any kind of affair. What Sam neede was stability, not his mother embarki on a serie of meani less one-n ht stands, passi him off t. whoever could look after him. She shook her head.

headi for the bedroom, her clothes and a return t. sanity. I can t sleep with you and work with you a the same time. So become my mistress instead of my PA. She blinked, blindsided once ain by the n ht increasi ly insane developments, pulli on he. underwear in a rush, slippi off the towel to fix he. bra, needi the shelter of her dress. Are you kiddi ? You re r ht, he said, without a hint of irony. Who could I et to replace you? So why can t you b both? Perfect. She slipped into her dress, retrieved he. stocki s and sat on the end of the bed, hastil rolli them up her l s. I tho. ht you d never ask. And when you et sick of me bei your mistress. you can et me to send myself one of those trinket you re so fond of sendi to your ex-playmates. . already know where to send it. How efficient woul that be? Evelyn? She was busy in her purse, searchi for a com. in order to slick back and twist up her wet hair an not findi one. What? Anyone m ht think you were jealous.

Jealous? Me? She scooted past him back into th bathroom. Pulled a comb from the complimentar supplies boxed up on the vanity, raki it thro. . her hair before twisti it up and securi it with clip. It was ro. h but it would do until she ot home. She certainly wasn t oi to ha around here. styli her hair or tryi to reapply make-up tha would just have to come off at home anyway. Jealous of what? He leaned an arm up ainst the door, muscle pulli t ht under his skin, maki the most of th posture, and she cursed the fact he hadn t tho. ht t. put on anythi more than a towel yet. Or mayb that was his intention. To remind her what she d b missi out on. Well, to. h. After ton ht she kne what she d be missi out on. Of course, he wa tempti , but there came a time where selfi preservation came first. You did make a point about havi to send ou those ifts to my friends. Your ex-lovers, you mean. You are jealous. She shr. ed. No. I ve had my one n ht wit. you. Why should I be jealous? Well, somethi s b. i

you. What is it? She turned toward him then, wishi she coul

just walk away, sensitive to the fact that she coul still be at risk of losi her contract if she a ere him but still bothered eno. h by the riddle that wa Leo Zamos to ask. You really want to know? Tell me. Okay, she started, her eyes taki this las opportunity to drink in the lorious definition of hi body, wanti to imprint all she could upon he. memory before she left, because after ton ht he. memories would be all she had. What I don understand is you. He la. hed, a rich, deep sound she discovered sh liked too much. What s so hard to understand? Everythi . You re confident and successful an ultra-rich you have your own plane, for heaven sake! and you re a passionate lover and clearl have no trouble findi women willi to share you. bed She paused for a moment, wonderi if she said eno. h, wonderi if she added that he wa drop-dead o. eous and had a body that turned woman s tho. hts to carnal acts, she would b sayi more about herself than about him. He smiled. That s it? I m not actually sure wher your problem lies. No, that s not it. You know there s more. Peopl are drawn to you, Leo, you know it. And it s just that.

with everythi you have oi for you, I don understand how it can be that when you feel th need to play happy families, you have to pa someone to pretend to be your fiance. You would have done it for free? He ave a wr smile. I ll remember that for next time. No! she said, knowi she was maki a hash o it, knowi he was la. hi at her. That s not m point at all. I just don t understand why you re in th situation where you need to pretend. How is it that man with clearly such reat appeal to women hasn ot a wife or a fiance or even a serious irlfriend. How is that possible? The smile slipped as he pushed away from th wall, movi closer, the menaci lint in his eye putti her on sudden alert. Maybe, he said. drawi near, touchi his fi ers to her brow. traci a line south, it s because there is no lack o women willi to share my bed. What is tha del htful sayi ? Why buy a book when you ca join a library? She stood stock-still, resisti the tremors set of by his merest touch, hati the sm. look on hi face, forci a smile to hers. Well, the loan on thi particular book just expired. Goodn

ht, Leo. He let her o, at least as far as the door.

Evelyn. She halted, put her hand on the doorframe to sto` herself swayi , and without turni around said. Yes? Somethi I tell all the women I spend time with. Somethi I tho. ht you m ht have understood. altho. h, iven your questions, maybe you need t. hear it too. She looked over her shoulder, curious about wha it was he told his women , what he tho. ht sh needed to hear. Yes? I like women. I like sex. But that s where it start and finishes. Because I don t do family. It s not oi to happen. This time she took a step towards him, stunned b his sheer arr. ance. You think I was on some kind o fishi expedition to work out what my chances wer of becomi Mrs Leo Zamos for real? You were the one aski the questions. And I also said I don t want to see you ain. Which part of I don t want to see you ain equate to Please marry me I was just sayi exactly?

And I m sayi you needn t have bothered. I ' not in the market for a husband as it happens, bu

even if I were, I m certain I d prefer someone wh. didn t profess to liki women and sex quite s. much! She turned on her heel and strode thro. . the bedroom, slippi on her heels and picki u` her purse, scanni the room for anythi she m h have left. Evelyn! But she didn t stop until she was thro. h th livi room then, turned, one more question to b answered before she left. I ll understand if you n. lo er want to retain me as your PA. Don t be ridiculous. Of course I want to keep you. She nodded, relieved, suddenly realisi ho perilously close she d come to blowi thi s. Al r ht. All the best with the deal tomorrow. I uess I l be heari from you in due course. She offered hi' her hand, back to brisk, businesslike efficiency, eve if she was deali with a man weari nothi mor than a towel. Thank you for a pleasant eveni , M. Zamos. I ll see myself out, under the circumstances. One eyebrow quirked at the formality but he too her hand, squeezi it ently. It was my pleasure. Evelyn. My pleasure entirely. Minutes later, she sank her head back ainst th plush leather headrest and s hed as the limousin

slipped smoothly from the hotel. Better to end thi

way, she reflected; better that they had a. ued rathe. than reei to meet ain. Better that it had ende now when anythi else would merely have bee putti off the inevitable. For it would have ended, nothi surer, an probably as soon as their next meeti . And then Le. would take off in his jet and find another convenien Evelyn somewhere else in the world, and she woul be fo. otten. But now they d claimed their stolen n ht, th n ht they d been cheated out of by conspiri circumstances those years o, and it had been a amazi n ht and she d man ed to survive wit. both some d ree of pride and her job intact. But i was for the best that it had ended on a sour note. Now they could both put it behind them.

CHAPTER SEVEM SHE grappled with the front-door key, her babg growing heavier by the minute. That or her night ob sinful and unfamiliar pleasures had taken it out ob her, but the child dozing on her shoulder felt lik\ he d doubled in size and weight overnight. Thed again, maybe he d just had one too many pancakesm She knew she had. She d woken this morning afteX too few hours sleep almost ravenousm She was started up than She had wasm barely inside the door when the phon\ ringing and she picked it up more to shut i` any desire to talk to whoever was callingm less desire to talk when she found out who i`

Evelyn, it s Leo.r The sound of his voice sent ripples of pleasur\ through her, triggering memories formed all toc recently to not remember every single sensual detailm She sucked in air, but Leo was the last person she ] expected to call and there was nothing she coul] think of to say. Hadn t they said everything tha`

needed to be said last nightw Evelyn?r She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to ignore th\ snatches of memory flashing through her mind, th\ rumble of his murmured words against her thigh, th\ brush of his whiskered cheek against her skin, hio clever tonguey I I didn t expect to hear from you.r I didn t expect to be calling. Look, Evelyn, there o been a development. Culshaw wants to move th\ contract discussions to somewhere where th\ weather suits Maureen better. He suggested w\ reconvene on his island off North Queensland.r With the dead-to-the-world weight of her toddleX on her shoulder, she battled to work out what it wao Leo actually wanted. So you need me to make som\ bookings? Or do I have to rearrange your schedule?r Neither. A pause. I need you to come.r Sam stirred on her shoulder, his head lolling frok one side to the other, and she kissed his head tc soothe him. Leo, you know that s not possible.r Why isn t it possible?r You said our deal was for one night only and z already told you I wouldn t meet you again.r But that was before Culshaw came up with thio

idea.r That s too bad. I did what we agreed. And thenh thinking he might better understand it in businesse speak, I fulfilled the terms of the contract, Leo, an] then some.r So we make a new deal. How much this timeh Evelyn? he asked, sounding angry nowm I told you before, it s not about the money.r Fifty thousand.r No. I told you, they re nice people. I don t want tc lie to them any more.r One hundred thousand.r She looked up at the ceiling, cursing under heX breath, trying not to think about what a sum like tha` would mean to the timing of her renovation plansm She could engage a decent architect, get quotesh maybe landscaping so Sam had a decent play areY outside. But it was impossible. No!r Then you won t come?r Absolutely not.r So what am I supposed to tell Culshaw?r It s your lie, Leo. Tell him what you like. Tell hik it s family reasons, tell him I m sick, tell him I neveX was and never will be your fiance. It s your call. Od her shoulder her son grew unsettled, picking up od

the vibe in the air, butting his head from side to sid\ against her shoulder, starting to grizzlem What was that? Leo demandedm

Me about to hang up. Are we finished here? Onlg it s not really a convenient time to call. Please, Godh can we be finished here? she prayed as her muscleo burned under Sam s weightm No. I need I need some documents to take wita me!r Fine, she said, sighing, wondering whica documents they could possibly be when she wao sure she d provided him with everything he neede] already and in triplicate. Let me know which oneo and I ll email them straight away.r No. I need them in hard copy. All originals. Yol have to bring them to the hotel, as soon as you can.r If she d had a free hand, it would have gone to heX head. I ve always emailed documents to you beforem It s never been a problem.r I need those documents delivered to m\ personally this afternoon!r She sucked in a breath. Okay. I ll get thek couriered over as soon as I can.r No. Definitely not couriered. You need to deliveX them personally.r

Why?r Because I need them immediately and they r\ commercial-in-confidence. I m not about to entrus` them to someone else, not at this crucial stage. You l[ have to bring them yourself.r When she made no response, she heard, You di] say you wanted to keep working with me.r Bastard! She could take a veiled threat just as wel[ as she could take a hint. She was damned if she ] take more of Leo s money to pretend to be hio fiance, but right now she couldn t afford to ditca him as a client. Of course. I ll bring them oveX myself.r Good. I ll be in my suite.r Not there.r What?r I won t bring them to your suite. I won t go ther\ again. Not after r You think I d try something?r Hardly, after the way they d parted last night. Bu` she didn t trust herself not to be tempted, there id that room where they d done so many things Ho^ could she be in that room and see that wall an] know how it felt to have her back to it and have hik between her legs and driving into her? How coul]

she calmly pretend nothing had happened? Ho^ could she not want it to happen againw She swallowed, trying not to think of all th\ reasons she didn t want to be in that room. I jus` don t think it would be wise.r She heard his rushed expulsion of air. Okay, h\ said. Let s play it your way. Culshaw s takinW Maureen out to visit friends so we should be safe tc meet in the bar. I ll buy you a coffee is tha` permissible?r She nodded into the phone, relieved at leas` they d be meeting somewhere public. Sam settle] back on her shoulder. A coffee would be fine.r He clicked off his phone, cursing softly. So sh\ wouldn t come to the room. But she had agreed tc come. Of course she could have emailed th\ documents, but then he d have no way of convincinW her to come to the island with him. He coul] convince her, he had no doubt. Look at how she ha] all but melted in his arms last night with just on\ kiss! And once she was back in his bed, she d ge` over whatever hang-up she had about coming wita him. He was already looking forward to itm Because while sex was easy to come by, great sev wasn t, and last night had definitely registered righ`

up there with the best. And while he d been conten` for it to end last night the way it had it would hav\ ended some time anyway the opportunity to hav\ her in his bed for another couple of nights hel] considerable appeal. He could do much worse thad sharing his bed with Evelynm He d soon he d just his suite come with make it happen. Once she was hereh have to come up with a way to get her up tc and convince her how much she wanted tc him. He d think of somethingm

His phone rang, a glance at the caller ID assurinW him it wasn t Evelyn calling back to change her min] about meeting himm Eric, he said, relieved, his mind already workinW on a plan to get Evelyn up to his suite. What can I dc for you?r But relief died a quick death as Culshaw explaine] how Maureen was looking to book a day in th\ island resort s spa for the women and wanted tc know if Evelyn might be interested. Leo knew he ha] to say something now, in case she refused to chang\ her mindm Look, Eric, about Evelyn, you might want to ward Maureen. It seems there s a slight chance she migh` not be able to make it after all r

I wish I could help, lovey, Mrs Willis said, whed Evelyn nipped over to ask if she would min] babysitting again, this time only for an hour or soh but my brother Jack s just had an episode and z promised to go and help Nancy with him. He geto terribly confused, poor love. I was going to pop bg and tell you, because I might be away for a few days.r She stopped folding clothes for a moment, heX creased brow folding along time worn lines. I hat\ leaving you, though, with the hot water not workinW and no family to help out. Such a tragedy to los\ your parents so young and then your granddadm They ve all missed out on so much, watching yol grow up and now Sam. She shook her head. Such Y pity.r I know, Eve said softly, feeling a pang of sadneso for her grandfather and for parents she could barelg remember. But don t worry. You do too much for m\ as it is. We ll be fine. I ll call Emily down the streetm She s always on the lookout for some extra cash.r Except when she called it was to hear Emily wao already working a shift at the local supermarketm Which left Evelyn with only one optionm Not such a bad option, she reflected as she turne] onto the freeway and pointed her little citg commuter towards the city, wondering why it hadn `

occurred to her earlier. She hadn t wanted to tell Lec about her child, figuring it was none of his busineso and that it might prejudice his opinion of her ao someone able to handle his workload, but neither di] she trust him not to try to change her mind by faiX means or foul. And then there was the matter of no` trusting her own wayward desires. Look wher\ they d landed her last night right in Leo Zamos o bed. Not to mention his spa bathy She shivered, unable to suppress either a secre` smile or the delicious shimmy at the memories of hio mouth seeking her breasts as he raised her over himh of his hungry mouth at her nipples as he probed heX entrance, of the long, hard length of him filling her ao he pulled her down on him inch by glorious inch, Y shimmy that radiated out from muscles tender an] sore and clearly still far too ready to partym Oh, no, there was no way she could trust herselb with himm And if there was one certain way to ensure tha` there would be no repeats of last night o performance, it was to take her child along. Lec didn t do family, and clearly didn t want one. He ] made that abundantly clear and she was grateful h\ had. For it had put paid to that tiny creature tha` insisted on fluttering around inside her despite wha` she d known in her head all along to be true. That hio

] dl[ [ interest in her began and finished with sex. Ther\ could be no future with him. There was no future foX themm And with just one look at Sam he d forget al[ about wanting to play make-believe with her. On\ look at Sam and he d never want to see her againm Which suited her just finem It was foolproofO Forty minutes later the doorman helped heX unload both her baby stroller and a sleeping Sak startled into wakefulness from the car. She settle] him, watching his eyelids flutter closed again, stil[ sleepy from the journey, lowering the back an] tucking his favourite bear by his side so he woul] feel secure and snooze on as long as possible. Sood enough he d be demanding to get out and explor\ this new world she just prayed he d last until sh\ got him out of the hotel. Not that the meeting shoul] take longer than ten minutes when it was onlg documents she had to hand over. Probably less, sh\ thought with a smile, doubting Leo would sticf around long enough for coffee when he saw wha` else she d brought with herm She could hardly wait to see his facem The subtly lit lounge wasn t busy, only a fe^ tables occupied this time of the day, couples sharinW

coffee and secrets, family groups gathered aroun] tables enjoying afternoon team She found a hotel phone, asked Reception to le` Mr Zamos know she was there, and stopped a whil\ in awe to admire, over the balcony, the amazinW sweeping stairway that rose grandly from entry leve[ and the water feature that spilled and spoute] between levels of the hotel. She must commit this tc memory, she thought. It was the place of fairy-talesh of princes and princesses, and not of the real worldh and of ordinary people like her who had blown ho` water services and frazzled appliances to replacem She settled into a booth that offered some degre\ of privacy, gently rocking the stroller. Sam wasn ` buying it, jerking into wakefulness, this time taking id the unfamiliar surroundings with wide, suspiciouo eyesm It s okay, Sam, she said, reaching for the stash ob food she d brought and had tucked away in the babg bag. We re visiting, that s all. And then I ll take yol for a walk along Southbank. You ll like that. There s Y river and lots of music and birds. Maybe we migh` even spot you a fish.r Fith! He grinned, recognising the word as sh\ handed him his favourite board book and he reache] for a sultana with the other. Fith!r

He d been waiting on the call, all the while workinW out a strategy that would get her out of the loung\ and up into his room. At last he d hit on the perfec` plan, so simple it couldn t fail. He d play it coolh accept the documents she d brought withou` mention of the trip away and without trying tc change her mind, and see her to her carh remembering once they d got to the lifts somethinW he d meant to bring down for her it wouldn t take Y moment to collect it from his suitey He hit the second floor with a spring in his stepm Oh, he loved it when a plan came togetherm He scanned the lounge for her, skipping over th\ groups and couples, searching for a single womad sitting no doubt nervously by herself. Had she beed able to forget about last night s love-making yet? H\ doubted it. Even though the night had ended on Y sour note, those flashbacks had kept him awak\ thinking about it half the night. When Culshaw ha] mooted this idea of going away for the weekendh he d initially been appalled. It was bad enough tha` the closing of the deal had been held up by las` night s dinner, without having to endure still mor\ delays while Culshaw soothed his wife s wounde] soul with an impromptu holiday. Until he d worke] out that he could easily endure a couple of mor\

nights like the last. Very easilym And then he saw her sitting with her back to hik in a little booth off to one side, her hair twisted higa behind her head, making the most of that smoota column of neck. Just the sight of that bare patch ob skin sent such a jolt of pure lust surging througa him, such a heady burst of memories of her sprea] naked on his sheets, that it was hard to think over th\ pounding of the blood in his veins, other than tc want to drag her to his room and prove why sh\ needed to come with him until she begged him no` to leave her behindm In another time, maybe even in another part ob this world, he would do exactly that, and nobodg would stop him, nobody would think twicem But there was more reason than the mores of th\ so-called civilised world that stilled his savage urgesm For he knew what he might become if he let th\ animal inside him off the leashm Never had he felt so close to that beast. Why noww What was it about her that gave rise to suca thoughts? She was the means to an end, that wao why he needed her. Nothing more. Great sex was jus` a bonusm She turned her head to the side then, her lipo moving as if she was talking to someone, but ther\

was nobody there, nothing but a dark shape in th\ shadowed recess behind the sofa, a dark shape tha` had him wondering if he d found the wrong womad the closer he got. Because it made no sensey She looked around at the exact time his brain ha] finally come to terms with what his eyes were tellinW him, at the precise moment the cold wave of shocf crashed over him, washing away his well-laid plano and leaving them a tangled and broken mess at hio feetm Hello, Leo, she said, closing the picture book sh\ was holding in her hands. I ve brought thos\ documents you asked for.r She d brought a hell of a lot more thad documents! In the dark shape he d worked out was Y pram sat a baby a child holding onto the rail id front of him and staring wide-eyed and opene mouthed up at Leo like he was some kind ob monster. It didn t matter that the kid was probablg right. He looked back at Evelyn. What the hell io this?r Leo, meet my son, Sam. She turned toward th\ pram. Sam, this is Mr Zamos. If you re very nice, h\ might let you call him Leo.r No! Sam pushed back in his stroller and twiste] his body away, clearly unimpressed as he pushed hio

face under his bear and began to grizzlem I m sorry, she said, one hand reaching out to rui him on the back. He s just woken up. Don t worrg about coffee, it s probably better I take him for Y walk. She picked up a folder from the table an] stood, holding it out for Leo. Here s all th\ documents you asked for and I ve flagged wher\ signatures are required. Let me know if there o anything else you need. I promised Sam a walk alonW the river while we re here, but we ll be home in Y couple of hours.r He couldn t say anything. He could barely mov\ his hand far enough to accept the folder sh\ proffered. All he could think of was that she had Y child and she hadn t told him. What else hadn t sh\ told him? You said there wasn t a Mr Carmichael.r There s isn t.r Then whose is it?r His name is Sam, Leo.r And his father s name?r Is none of your business.r And is that what you told him when he asked yol where you were all night?r She shook her head, her eyes tinged with sadnessm Sam s father doesn t figure in this.r

His eyes darted between mother and childh noticing for the first time the child s dark hair an] eyes, the olive tinge to the skin, and he halb wondered if she was bluffing and had borrowe] someone else s baby as some kind of human shieldm He would have called her on it but for noticing th\ angle of the child s wide mouth and the dark eyeo stamped with one hundred per cent Evelyn, and tha` made him no happierm Because someone else had slept with herY He thought of her in his arms, her long-limbe] body interwoven with his, he thought of her eyeo when she came apart with him inside her, damn neaX shorting his brain. And now he thought of heX coming apart in someone else s armsy You should have told me.r Why?r Damn it, Evelyn! You know why!r Because we spent the night together? she hissedm Sam yowled, as if he d been on the receiving end ob that, and she leaned over, surprising Leo when sh\ didn t smack him, as he d half expected, but instea] delicately stroked the child s cheek and calmed hik with whispered words. Something twisted insid\ him, something shapeless and long buried, and h\ had to look away lest the shape take form and h\

worked out what it was. His gut roiled. What wao happening to him? Why did she have this effect od him? She made him feel too much. She made hik see too muchm She made him remember things he didn t want tL rememberm And none of it made sense. None of it he coul] understandm I m sorry you feel aggrieved, she said, an] reluctantly he turned back to see her unclipping th\ child s harness and lifting the child into her armsh where he snuggled close, sniffling against heX shoulder as she rubbed his back. But what part ob our contract did I miss that said I should stipulat\ whether I should have children or what number ob them I should have?r Children? You mean there s more?r She huffed and turned away, rubbing the boy o back, whispering sweet words, stroking away hio hiccups, and the gentle sway of her hips setting heX skirt to a gently seductive hulam Ironic isn t it? she threw at him over heX shoulder. Here you are, so desperate to prove to Erip Culshaw that you re some kind of rock-solid familg man, and you re scared stiff of a tiny child.r I m not r

She spun around. You re terrified! And you r\ taking it like some kind of personal affront. But z wouldn t worry. Sam s a bit old for anyone to believ\ he was conceived last night, so there s no reason tc fear any kind of paternity claim.r You wouldn t dare!r Oh, you do flatter yourself. A woman would hav\ to be certifiably insane to want to shackle themselveo to you!r Clearly Sam s father was of the same mind abou` you.r He knew he d hurt her. He recognised the precis\ moment when his words pierced the fighting sheed over her eyes and left them bewildered an] wounded. He almost felt regret. Almost wanted tc reach out and touch her cheek like she d touched heX child s, and soothe away her painm AlmostY But that would mean he cared. And he couldn ` care about anyone. Not that waym And just as quickly as it had gone down, th\ armour was resurrected and her eyes blazed fire a` him. I have a child, Mr Zamos. It s never affected th\ quality of my work to date and it s my intention tha` it never will, but if you can t live with that then fineh maybe it s time we terminated our agreement no^

and you found someone else to look after youX needs.r Bile, bitter and portentous, rose in the back of hio throat. She was right. There was no point noticinW her eyes or the sensual sway of her hips. There wao no point reliving the evening they d had last nightm She couldn t help him now and it was the now h\ had to be concerned with. As to the future, maybe i` was better he found someone else. Maybe someon\ older this time. It wasn t politically correct to ask for Y date of birth, but he d never been any kind of fan ob political correctness. Especially not when it messe] with his plans. He huffed an agreement. If that o what you want.r She stood there, the child plastered against heX from shoulder to hip, his arms wound tightly aroun] his mother s neck, the mother so fierce he wao reminded of an animal fighting to protect its litteX that he d seen on one of those televisiod documentaries that appeared when you were flickinW through the channels on long-haul flights. Th\ comparison surprised him. Was that how all mothero were supposed to bew In that case, she said, I ll burn everything ob yours onto disk and delete it from my computer. I l[ send it to you care of the hotel. You can let thek know your forwarding address.r

g dd] His hands clenched at his sides, his nails bitinW into his palms. Fine.r Goodbye, Mr Zamos. She held out her hand. z hope you find whatever it is you re looking for. HeX words washed over him, making no sense as h\ looked down at her hand. The last time he woul] touch her. The last time they would meet skin to skinm How had things gone so wrong_ He wrapped his hand around hers, her hand coo[ against his heated flesh, and he felt the tremor mov\ through her, saw her eyelids flutter closed, an] despite the fact she represented everything he didn ` want in this world, everything he hated and despise] and had promised himself he would never have, stil[ some strange untapped part of him mourned heX lossm Maybe that was how it started, though, with thio strange want, this strange need to possessm Maybe it was better to let her go now, he thoughth while he still could. While she was still beautifulm But still it hurt like hellm Unable to stop himself, unable to let her go jus` yet, his other hand joined the first, capturing heX hand, raising it to his mouth for one final kissm Goodbye Evelyn, he said, his voice gravel richh

tasting her on his lips, knowing he would neveX forget the taste of her or the one night of passiod they d shared in Melbournem Leo! Evelyn! came a voice from over near th\ bar. There you are!r

CHAPTER EIGHG EVE gasped, tugging to free her hand, the fight-orW flight instinct telling her to get out while she stilX could, but Leo wasn t about to let her go, his griK tightening until she felt her hand was encased iR steel. This is your fault. He leaned over anM whispered in her ear as Eric Culshaw boundeM towards them, beaming from ear to ear. RemembeU that. And then he straightened and even managed tS turn on a smile, although his eyes were anything buO relaxed. She could almost hear the brain spinninH behind them^ Eric, Leo said, his velvet voice all charm on thL surface, springloaded with tension beneath. What I surprise. I thought you were taking Maureen out.] He grunted. She spotted some article in I woman s magazine you know the sort of thingd and grew herself a headache. He shook his head^ Sordid bloody affair. You d think the reporters coulM find something else to amuse themselves with ba now. And then he huffed and smiled. Which makeJ

you two a sight for sore eyes. His eyes fell on thL dozing child in her arms. Although maybe I shoulM make that three. Who s this little tacker, then?] Almost as if aware he was being discussed, SaZ stirred and swung his head round, blinking open biH dark eyes to check out this latest stranger^ This is Sam, Eve said, her tongue feeling too biH for her mouth as she searched for things she coulM tell him that wouldn t add to the lie tally. He s jusO turned eighteen months.] Culshaw grinned at the child and Sam gave I wary smile in return before burying his head back iR his mother s shoulder, which made the older maR laugh and reach out a hand to ruffle his hair. GoodW looking boy. I thought you two were playing things I bit close to the chest last night. When were yoP going to tell us?] Eve felt the ground lurch once more beneath heU feet. Eric thought Sam was theirs? But, then, of coursL he would. They were supposed to have been a couplL for more than two years and Sam s father was oT Italian descent. It would be easy to mistake Sam J dark eyes and hair for Leo s. Why would thea question itf But she couldn t let them keep thinking it. Weren O there enough lies between them alreadyf

Actually, she started, Sam ] Her efforts earned her a blazing look from Leo^ Eve doesn t like to give too much away, he saidN smiling at Eric, glancing back in her direction with I look of cold, hard challenge^ Suddenly Maureen was there too, looking palL and strained, her mood lifting when she saw SamN clucking over him like he was a grandchild ratheU than the child of someone she d only just met^ You didn t tell us you had such an adorable littlL boy, she admonished, already engaging Sam in I game of peek-a-boo before holding out her hands tS take him^ Some people wouldn t approve, Eve offereM stiffly, ignoring Leo s warning glare as she handeM Sam over, then adding because of it, I mean, giveR the fact we re not married and all.] Nonsense, Eric said, pinching Sam s cheek^ There s no need to rush things, not these days.] Leo smiled, his eyes glinting triumphantly aJ Maureen settled into a chair and jogged Sam up anM down on her knees, making him chuckle^ So, said Eric, following his wife s lead and pullinH up a chair, and soon demanding equal time witV Sam, I assume Sam explains the family reasons8 you weren t going to be able to join us on thL

island?] Eve dropped into a chair, feeling like she waJ being sucked deeper and deeper into a web of deceit^ Leo must have warned them she might not bL coming and used one of the excuses she M suggested^ That was my fault, Eric, he said coolly. I figureM that a toddler was hardly conducive to contracO deliberations.] He can be very disruptive, she added. Especialla when he s out of his routine. You wouldn t believL what a handful he can be.] What, this little champion? Bouncing thL laughing toddler on his knee with such delight until iO was impossible to work out who was laughing thL most, Eric or Sam, as the toddler got the horsy ride oT his life. You must come, he said, slowing down tS take a breather^ More, demanded Sam, bouncing up and down^ More!] Culshaw laughed and obliged, though at a mucV gentler pace. You will come, won t you? After all, it J hardly fair to keep you two apart when you barela get to see each other as it is. You will love it, ` promise. Tropical island paradise. Your owR bungalow right on the beach. We ll organise a cot foU

Sam and a babysitter to give you a real break. ` imagine you don t get too many of those, workinH for Leo and looking after this little chap. How doeJ that sound?] Eve tried to smile, not sure she d succeeded wheR the ground beneath her felt so unsteady. It doeJ sound lovely. And it did. A few days on a tropicaX island paradise with nothing more to do than swiZ or read or sip drinks with tiny umbrellas. ThL bungalow probably even had hot running water^ Except she d be sharing that bungalow with him. It J just that ] Oh, please, Maureen added, putting her hand oR Eve s arm. Last night was the best time I ve had foU ages. I know it s asking a terrible lot of everyone anM disrupting everyone s schedules, but right now iO would mean so very much to me.] Of course they ll come, you, Eve?] she heard Leo say, won O

And finally the unsteady ground she d felt shiftinH under her feet the last few days opened up anM swallowed her whole^ A smiling flight attendant greeted them, cooing oveU Sam, as Eve carried him on her hip into the jet. EvL just nodded in return, weariness combining with I

simmering resentment. As far as she was concernedN this was no pleasure trip and she certainly wasn O happy about how she d been manipulated intS coming^ And then she stepped into the plane and founM even more reason to resent the man behind her. IO looked more like a luxury lounge room than ana plane interior she d ever seen before, the cabin filleM not with the usual rows and rows of narrow seatJ and plastic fittings and overhead lockers but a feZ scattered wide leather armchairs with timber cabineO work trimmed with bronze. Beyond the lounge area I door led to what must be more rooms and EvL caught a glimpse of a dining table with half a dozeR chairs in a recessed alcove^ So much wealth. So much to impress. Leo ZamoJ seemed to have everything^ Everything but a heart^ Maybe that s how you got to be a billionaire, shL mused as another attendant showed her to a pair oT seats where someone had already fitted her chilM restraint to buckle Sam in more securely. She helpeM settle the pair in and to stow their things, chatterinH pleasantly all the time while Eve stewed as shL stashed books and toys close by and missed evera word^

It all made sense. No wonder Leo Zamos was thL success he was. Being ruthless in business, ruthlesJ in the bedroom, taking what you wanted when yoP wanted a heart would surely get in your way if yoP had one^ And while Eve simmered, Sam, on the other handN was having the time of his tiny life, relishing thL adventure and the attention, his dark eyes filled witV glee as he pumped his arms up and down and madL a sound like a war cry^ I think someone approves, Leo said from the seaO alongside when the attendants had gone to fetcV pre-flight drinks^ His name is Sam, she hissed, her resentmenO bubbling over at how she d been trapped into thiJ weekend away, a weekend of continued pretencL with people who didn t deserve to be lied to. ThL only bright spots she could see were that thL Culshaws and the Alvarezes were travelling togetheU on the Culshaws jet, and that they would all havL private quarters, which meant she didn t have tS pretend being madly in love with Leo twenty-fouU seven. She couldn t have stood the strain of it all iT she had. As it was, she didn t know now how she waJ going to keep up the charade^ The attendant brought their drinks, advised therL

were two minutes until departure and discreetla disappeared^ What a mess. Eve poured a box of juice into a twoW handled cup and passed it to a waiting Sam, alonH with a picture book to occupy him for a few minutes^ How was she expected to act like Leo s loving fiancL now? It had been so much easier last night wheR there had been so much sexual tension anM simmering heat sparking between them. Now thL tension and the heat had more to do with anger^ All to do with anger, she corrected herself with I sigh. She was over him, even if he did have a velveO voice and the body of a god^ Across the aisle, the subject of her dark thoughtJ raised his drink. You sound like you have a problem.] Funny you should mention that.] You could have said no.] I did say no, remember? And then you turneM around and said yes, of course we would come!] He shrugged, as if it didn t matter, and if they M been on any normal kind of plane, Eve could havL given in to the desire to smack him. What can I sayf Maureen likes you. It means the world to her thaO you can go.] You don t care about Maureen, she said, keepinH her voice low so she didn t alarm Sam. You don O

] care about anyone. All you care about is yourself anM what you want, and you ll do anything to keep thiJ deal from going off the rails, even if it means lying tS people.] You don t know anything.] I know you made the right decision to never geO married. Because I understand you now, and ` understand what makes you tick, and you mighO have a fortune and a private jet and do okay in thL sack with women, but you have a stone where youU heart should be.] His dark eyes glinted coldly, his jaw could havL been chiseled from the same hard stone from whicV his heart was carved. Thank you for that observation^ Perhaps I might make my own? You seem very tenseN Evelyn. I think you might benefit from a couple oT days relaxing on a tropical island.] Bastard! Eve turned away, checking on Sam as thL cabin attendant collected their glasses and checkeM all was ready for take-off^ The jet engines wound up as the plane taxied tS the runway and Sam looked up in wonder at herN excited but looking for reassurance at the neZ sounds and sensations. She stroked his head. We rL going on a plane, Sam. We re going on a holiday.] And Sam squealed with delight and the planL

raced down the runway and lifted off. Good on you. Sam, Eve thought, finding the book she d hoped tS read a few pages of as the plane speared into the skyN at least one of us might as well enjoy the weekend She must have dozed off. Bleary eyed, she founM her book neatly placed by her side, while beside heU Sam was grizzling softly but insistently, unable tS settle^ What s wrong? Leo asked, putting aside thL laptop he was working on as she unbuckled SaZ from his seat and brought him against her chest^ It s his nap time. He might settle better on ma lap. She searched for the chair s controls, although iO was hard to manoevre with Sam s weight on heU chest. Does this seat recline?] I ve got a better idea. There s still a couple oT hours flight time to go. You might both be morL comfortable in the bedroom. Let me show you thL way.] And the idea of a real bed in which to cuddle uK and snooze with Sam sounded so wonderful righO now, she didn t hesitate^ Maybe if she hadn t been so bone-weary. MaybL in an ordinary airline seat, by holding onto the baca of the seat in front of her to pull herself up, she coulM have managed it. Then again, she realised, maybe iT

she d thought to undo her seat belt she could havL done it. Damn^ What is it? he said, when she didn t follow him^

Can you take Sam for a moment? My seat belt J still done up.] Leo turned into a statue right before her eyesN rigid and unblinking as he stared down at heU restless child. And if she wasn t mistaken, that looa she saw in his eyes was fear^ Take him?] Yes, she said, her hands under his arms, ready tS hand him over. Just for a second. I just need to undS my seat belt.] I ] I ll give you a hand, said one of the cabiR attendants, slipping past the stunned Leo. I ve beeR secretly hoping for a cuddle of this gorgeous boy.] She took Sam from her and swung him aroundN jogging him on her hip so that he stopped grizzlingN instead blinking up at her with his big dark eyesN plump lips parted. You are gorgeous, aren t youf You re going to be a real heartbreaker, I can tell. AnM then to Eve, How about I carry him for you? I Z probably more used to the motion of the plane. EvL smiled her thanks, retrieving Sam s bear from thL seat as Leo remembered how to move and led thL

[ way^ There you go, the attendant said a few momentJ later, as she peeled back the covers and laid thL drowsy child down. Press this button, she saidN pointing to a console on the side table, if there J anything else I can help you with. And with a brisa smile to them both and one last lingering look aO Sam, she was gone^ Thank you for thinking of this, Evelyn said, sittinH down alongside her son and tucking his bear undeU his arm. And then, because she felt bad about thL things she d said to him earlier and without takinH her eyes from Sam, she said, I m sorry for what ` said earlier. I had no right.] Forget it, he said, his velvet voice thick witV gravel. For the record, you were probably right^ Now, there s an en suite through that door, hL continued, and she looked over her shoulderN surprised to see a door set so cleverly into thL panelling that she d missed it as she d lookeM around^ Oh, I thought that was the bathroom we passeM on the way. Next to the galley.] That serves the other suite.] Wow, Eve said, taking it all in the wide bed, thL dark polished timber panelling and gilt-edged mirroU

and adding it to what she d already seen, the dininH table and spacious lounge. Incredible. A persoR could just about live in one of these things, couldn O they?] I do.] Her head swung back. you mean?] When you re travellingN

You know my diary, Evelyn. I m always travelling^ I live either in the plane or in some hoteX somewhere.] So where s home?] He held out his arms. This is home. Wherever ` am is home.] But you can t live on a plane. Everyone has I home. You must have family somewhere. ShL frowned, thinking about his voice and the lack of ana discernable accent. Clearly he had MediterraneaR roots but his voice gave nothing away. Where dS you come from?] Something bleak skated across his eyes as hL looked at his watch. You re obviously tired and I Z keeping you both. Have a good sleep.] He turned to leave then, turned back, reachinH into his pocket. Oh, you d better have this back. HL set the tiny box on the bedside table. Eve blinked at itN already knowing what it held^

They extended the loan?] He gave a wry smile. keep afterwards.] You bought it?] It looks good on you. It matches your eyes.] She looked from the box to the man, still strokinH her son s back, aware of his soft breathing as hL settled into a more comfortable sleep. Thank heavenJ for the reality of Sam or she could easily think shL was dreaming. What is this? she said, mistrustfulN the smouldering sparks of their earlier confrontatioR glowing brightly, fanned by this latest development^ Some kind of bribe so I behave properly alX weekend?] Do I need it to be?] No. I m here, aren t I? And so I m hardly likely tS make a scene and reveal myself as some kind oT fraud. But I m certainly not doing it for your benefitN just like I m not doing it for any financial gain. I jusO don t want to let Maureen down. She s had enougV people do that recently, without me adding to theiU number.] Suit yourself, he said, his voice soundinH desolate and empty. But if you change your mindN feel free to consider it your parting trinket. And jusO Not exactly. But it s yours tS

like you said, you won t even need to post it tS yourself. So efficient.] And then he was gone, leaving only the sting oT his parting words in his wake. She kicked off heU shoes and crawled into the welcoming bed, slidinH her arm under Sam s head and pulling him in close^ She kissed his head, drinking deeply of his scent anM his warm breath in an attempt to blot out the wooda spice of another s signature tones^ She was so confused, so tired. Sleep, she tolM herself, knowing that after a late night of sexuaX excesses followed by today s tension, what she realla needed was to sleep. But something tugged at heU consciousness and refused to let go as his wordJ whirled and eddied in her mind, keeping her froZ the sleep she craved so much as she tried to makL sense of what Leo had said^ A heart of stone she d accused him of, and wheR she d apologised, he d told her she was probabla right. She shivered just thinking how forlorn he M looked. How lost^ A man with a stone for a heart. A man with nS home^ A man with everything and yet with nothing^ And a picture flashed in her mind thL photographic print she d seen in Leo s suite beforL

dinner last night^ She d been looking for a distraction at the timeN looking for something to pretend interest in if onla so she didn t have to look at him, so her eyes woulM not betray how strongly she was drawn to him. Onla she hadn t had to feign interest when she d seen it, I picture from the 1950s, a picture of a riverbank and I curving row of trees and a park bench set between^ Something about the arrangement or thL atmosphere of that black and white photograph haM jagged in her memory at the time, just as it struck I chord now. It was the old man sitting all alone oR that park bench, hunched and self-contained, anM sitting all alone, staring out over the river^ A lonely man A man with no family and nowhere to call home A man with nothing And it struck her then. Twenty or thirty years froZ now, that man could very well be Leo^ It was just a hiccup, Leo told himself as he considereM the task ahead, just a slight hitch in his plans. Only I weekend, three nights at most, and the deal would bL wrapped up once and for all. After all, Culshaw kneZ that even though they all called the shots in theiU

respective businesses, none of them could just droK everything and disappear off the face of the earthd not for too long anyway. Neither could he risk theZ walking away. It had to be tied up this weekend^ He sighed as he packed up his laptop. He d goO precious little done, not that he d expected to, with I child running riot. Only this one he d barely seen anM still he d got nothing done^ Maybe because he couldn t stop thinking abouO her^ What was it about the woman that needled him sS much? She was so passionate and wild in bed, like I tigress waiting to be unleashed, waiting for him to leO her off the chain. Wasn t that enough? Why couldn O she just leave it at that? Why did she have to needlL him and needle him and lever lids off things that haM been welded shut for a reason? All her pointlesJ questions^ All working away under his skin. And why did shL even caref Two days. Three nights. So maybe extending hiJ time in her presence wasn t his preferred option, buO he could survive being around Evelyn that longN surely. After all, he d had mistresses who d lasted I month or two before he d lost interest or moveM

cities. Seriously, what could possibly happen in just I weekendf Hopefully more great sex. A sound sleep would dS wonders to improve her mood, and a tropical islanM sunset would soon have her feeling romantic anM back in his arms. Nothing surer^ And in a few short days he d have the deal tied uK and Evelyn and child safely delivered home again^ Easy^ Mr Zamos, his water, in half an Carmichael the cabin attendant said, refreshinH the captain said to tell you we ll be landinH hour. Would you like me to let MJ know?]

He looked at his watch, rubbed his browN calculating how long she d slept. If his theory waJ right, her mood should be very much improveM already. Thank you, he said, but I ll do it.] There was no answer to his soft knock, so hL turned the handle, cracked open the door. Evelyn?] Light slanted into the darkened room and as hiJ eyes adjusted he could make her out in the bed, heU caramel hair tumbling over the pillow, her facL turned away, her arm protectively resting over heU child s belly^ Mother and child

And he felt such a surge of feeling inside himN such a tangle of twisted emotions, that for a momenO the noise of that blast blotted everything else outN and there was nothing else for it but to close his eyeJ and endure the rush of pain and disgust and angeU as it ripped through him^ And when he could breathe again, he opened hiJ eyes to see another pair of dark eyes blinking up aO him from the bed. Across the sleeping woman, thL pair considered each other, Leo totally ill equipped tS deal with the situation. In the end it was Sam whS took the initiative. He pulled his teddy from his armJ and offered him to Leo. Bear.] He looked blankly at the child and immediatela Sam rolled over, taking his toy with him, theR promptly rolled back and held his bear out to LeS again. Bear.] And Leo felt he didn t know how he felt. HL didn t know what was expected of him. He was stilX reeling from the explosion of emotions that haM rocked through him to know how to react to this^ Bear!] Mmm, what s that, Sam? Eve said drowsily, anM she looked around and saw Leo. Oh. She pusheM herself up, ran a hand over her hair. Have ` overslept?]

Her cheek was red where it had lain against thL pillow, her hair was mussed and there was a smudgL of mascara under one eye, but yet none of thaO detracted from her fundamental beauty. And he felO an insane surge of masculine pride that he was thL one responsible for her exhaustion. And a not-soW insane surge of lust in anticipation of a repeaO performance in his near future^ We ll be landing soon. You don t want to miss thL view as we come in. It s pretty spectacular, they telX me.] It was spectacular, Eve discovered after she M freshened herelf up and changed Sam before joininH Leo back in the cabin. The sea was the most amazinH blue, and she could make out in the distance some oT the islands that made up the Whitsunday group^ From here they looked like jewels in the sea, all lusV green slopes and white sand surrounded by wateU containing every shade of blue. The sun was startinH to go down, blazing fire, washing everything in I golden hue^ That s Hamilton Island, he said, indicating I larger island as they circled the group for theiU approach. That s where we ll land beforL transferring to the helicopter for Mina Island.] It s beautiful, she said, pointing over Sam J

shoulder. Look, Sam, that s where we re going for I holiday. Sam burst into song and pumped his armJ up and down^ It did look idyllic, she thought. Maybe a couple oT days relaxing on a tropical island wouldn t be such I hardship. She glanced over at the man beside herN felt the familiar sizzle in her veins she now associateM with him and only him, and knew she was foolinH herself^ With Leo around things were bound to geO complicated. They always did^ Which meant she just had to establish a feZ ground rules first^

CHAPTER NINH I M NOT sleeping with you..

They d nded on milton Is nd nd . de th helicopter t. nsfer to Mi. without incident, rrivin to be greeted by Eric just s the sun . s dipping int the . ter in glorious b ze of gold. Eric

ughed, secretly delighted she could tell, whe. they d ll stood nd . tched the spec cle, tellin them they d soon get used to t t old thing , befor dropping them off t their b chside bure to freshe. up before dinner And now, fter tour of the timber nd g ss five. s r bun low, their eyes met over the king-size bed. The only bed, side from the cot set up for . . in the generous djoining dressing room She . sn t bout to c nge her mind. You ll jus ve to find yourself somewhere else to sleep..

Come on, Evelyn, he id, sitting down on th bed nd slipping off his shoes, peeling off his socks` don t you think you re being just littl melod. . tic? It s not like we ven t slept togethe.

before.. T t . s different.. He looked over his shoulder t her, one eyebro. . ised. . s it?. Her rms f pped uselessly t her sides. Fro. outside she could h r . m ughing s n. h, th young wo. n who d been sent to be hi . bysitter, fed him his dinner. At l st t t . rt of th r. ngements seemed to be going well I m not s ring bed with you, she id. And cer inly don t ve to sleep with you just be' us we ppen to be ' ught in the me lie.. He stood, reefing his shirt from his . nts s h s rted undoing the buttons t his cuffs. No? Eve. though you know we re good together?. She blinked. W t re you doing?. He shrugged. . king shower before dinner, h

id innocently enough, lthough she w the gl . in his eyes. . re to join me?. No!. But she couldn t resist . tching his nds movin over the buttons, feeling for them, pushing the. through the holes. Clever nds. Long-fingere nds. And s he tw ked the buttons she . reminded of the clever . y he d tw ked her nipple

nd worked other . gic She looked . y. Looke . ck in. There s no point. No point to ny of it.. It s only sex, he id, finishing off the rest of th buttons before peeling off his shirt. It s not like w ven t lr dy done it seve. l times. And I kno. for . ct you enjoyed it. I r lly don t know wh you re . king out like it s some kind of ord l.. It . s supposed to be for just one night, id` trying nd . iling not to be dist. cted by his br chest nd t t line of rk ir h ding south. . one-night s nd. No strings t ched.. So we . ke it four-night s nd. And I sure hell don t see ny strings.. She d. gged her re' lcit. nt eyes north

she

in` wondering how he could so sily consider . kin love to person like they d for not one but fou. nights, nd not . nt to feel some kind of ffectio. for the other . rty. But, then, he d h d s rt o. her. He d h rt of stone. It . s nice, sure. Bu t t doesn t m n we ve to ve ny rep perfor. nces.. There s t t word in. His nds dropped t the . ist. nd of his . nts, stilled there. me, if you scr m like t t for nice, w t do you d for mind-blowing? S tter windows?. She felt h t flood her . ce, to lly mortified

Nice . Tel

being reminded of her other . nton self, espec ll now when she . s trying to . ke like she could liv without such sex. O. y, so it . s better t n nice. S w t? It s not s if we even like ch other.. And t t . tters be' use ?. She spun . y, reduced to feeling like som . ndom object . ther t n wo. n with feeling nd needs of her own, nd crossed to the . ll o. windows t t looked out through . lm trees to th . y beyond. It . s moonlit now, the moon dustin the s. ying . lm l ves with silver nd ying silvery t. il cross the . ter to the shore, where tin . ves rippled in, luminescent s they kissed th b ch. It . s b utiful, the ir . lmy

nd still, n she wished she could enjoy it. But right now she . ving trouble getting . st the knowledge t t she spent n entire night, d . red herself, body n soul, to . n who tr ted sex s some kind o. birthright And if it . sn t . d enough t t he d not so subtl pointed out she d been vo' lly enthus stic, now he s much s greed t t he didn t even like her Lovely And that was supposed to make her happie. about sleeping with him. . t c nce

She felt his nds nd on her shoulders, his lon fingers stroking her rms, felt his . rm br th . . her ir. You re b utiful wo. n, Evelyn. You r b utiful nd sexy nd built for unsp . bl pl sure. And you know it. So why do you den yourself t t which you so cl rly desire?. Self-preservation, she thought, s his velvet. c ted words . rmed her in p ces she didn t . n . rmed nd stroked n ego t t . nted to be like nd . ybe, . ybe even more t n t t I ' n t, she id. Not without losing myself in x place I don t want to be. Not without risking falling ip love with a man who has no heart. Pl se, jus believe me, I ll pretend to be your f nce, I ll preten to be your lover. But, pl se, don t expect me to slee. with you..

The big house, s the Culs ws referred to it, .

e. ctly t t. Not f shy, but ll s. cious tropi' ele nce, the rchitecture, like t t of the bures` styled to bring the outside in with lots of timber n g ss nd sliding . lls. Outside, on n ex. nsiv deck overlooking the . y nd the is nds silhouette inst the sky, ble d been b utifully id, bu it . s the night sky t t ' ptured everyone ttention

I don t think I ve ever seen so . ny s rs, Ev confessed, zzled by the disp y s they t dow. for the m l. It s just . gi' l.. Eric ughed. We think so. This is nd kes it . me from one of them but don t sk me to poin out which one..

ureen continued, me here fo.

When we first '

holi y bout thirty y rs go, we got home t Melbourne nd . nted to turn right . ck roun in. We ve been coming here every y r since

sn t been used much tely, not since . Eric cut in, ving her from finishing. good to ve guests here in, t t s for sure. So I like to propose t st. To guests nd good friend

Well, it

nd good times, he id, nd they ll . ised thei. g sses for the t st Now, Eric id, from longside Leo, how s t young . n of yours settling in?. He s in his element, Eve replied. . vourite things re fish nd b ts. He ' n t believ his good fortune.. Excellent. And the . bysitter s to you.

Two of hi

tis. ction? Did she tell you she s hoping to stud child ' re next y r?. n. h seems wonderful, t nk you.. ureen dist. cted her on the other side, . ttin

her on the nd. Oh, t t reminds me, I ve booke the s. , she s rted But Eve didn t h r the rest, not when she h r Eric sk Leo, How old did you y . m . s in?. She froze, her focus on the . n beside her n how he replied to the question, the . n stumblin with n nswer, seemingly u. ble to remember th ge of his own supposed child Ah, remind me in, Eve? he id t st. Is . . two yet? Eve excused herself nd smiled, forcing

ugh You go . y much too much if you think . m lr dy d his birth y. He s eighteen months old How could you possibly forget?. Leo snorted nd id, I never remember thi milestone stuff. It s lucky Evelyn does, rne

which

greement from Eric t l st It must be rd on you, though, Evelyn, with Le l. ys on the move, ureen id. Eve . nted t hug the wo. n for moving the conver tion long` lthough moment ter she wished she d opted fo. complete c nge of topic. Do you ve . mil n rby who help out?. She smiled softly, looking up t the s rs for just moment, wondering where they were midst th . st r. y. Her g. nd. ther d held her nd n

ken her outside on s rry nights when she dn been ble to stop crying nd d told her they wer up there somewhere, shining brightly, keeping he. g. ndmother com. ny. And now her g. nd. the. . s there too. She blinked. I ve wonderfu neighbour who helps out. My . rents died when . s ten nd I te to dmit it I don t remembe. terribly much bout them. I lived with m g. nd. ther fter t t.. Oh-h-h, id Felicity. . m..

They never got to mee

No, nd I know they would ve loved him. Sh took br th. Oh, I m sorry for sounding so . udli. on such b utiful night. ybe we should c ng the topic, lk bout something more cheerful.. I know, id Eric jov lly. So when s the

pp y, you two?. Eve . nted to gr n, until she felt Leo s r. round her shoulders nd met his zzling smile Just s soon s I ' n convince her she ' n t liv without me moment longer.. Somehow they . de it through the rest of th evening without further em. r. ssment but it . still relief to get . ck to their bure. The long d ken its toll, the stress of cons ntly f ring the would be ' ught out weighing h vily on Eve, n

even though she d slept on the p ne, she couldn . it to c. wl into bed. Her bed, be' use fter thei. rlier discussion, Leo d offered to sleep on th so. . n. h . s sitting on it now, . tching musi' television on low. She stood nd clicked the remot off s they ' me in How . s . m? Eve sked, looking criti' lly t th so. , frowning t its length. Or ck of it. How the hel did Leo think he . s going to fit on t t. . m s brill nt. I let him s y up lf n hou. longer, like you suggested, nd he went down s s. I checked him the st time bout five minute go, nd he dn t stirred. I don t think I ve eve. looked fter such good . by.. Eve smiled, relieved. Lucky you didn t meet hi.

st week when he . s teething you might v d different opinion. She opened her purse t find some notes nd n. h . ved her . y. No It s ll ken ' re of. It s my job to look fter . . while you re here. She h ded for the door, ve cheery . ve. I ll see you in the morning, then.. Eve met Leo coming out of the bedroom with . rmful of pillows nd linen. Goodnight, he id` h ding for the so. . ybe little too stoi' lly She . tched him drop it ll on the so. , m sure the height nd br dth of . n inst length n

width of so. nd r lised it . s never going t work. It should be her sleeping on the so. . Excep . m s room . s beyond the bedroom nd it woul be fool rdy if not impossible to move him now She . tched him for while try to . ke sense o. the bedding, s if he . s ever going to b comfor ble there And suddenly she . s too tired to ' re. It . sn like they were st. ngers fter ll. They d . de lov nd seve. l times. And even if they didn t like c other, surely they could s re two sides of big wid bed nd still . . ge to get good night s sleep. Stop it, she id, s Leo ttempted to punch hi pillow into submission t one end, one .

re foo sticking out over the other. This is ridiculous.. You don t y.. Look, it s big bed, she id reluc ntly, g. win her lip, trying not to think of the br d, fit body t would be king up t l st lf of it. We ' n s r it. Then she dded, So long s t t s ll we s re. I t t d l?. He t up on sigh, cl rly relieved. It s promise. I promise not to s re nything, so long you don t jump me first.. . And I thought you were . ke. Now I kno. you re dr ming. I m going to ve shower. lone

You d better be in bed nd sleep when I get there` or it s st. ight . ck to the so. for you.. And he . s sleep when she slipped under th covers, or he . s good t pretending. She clun close to her edge of the bed, thinking t t . s th

fest p ce, yet she could still feel the h e. . ting from his body, could h r his slow, st d br thing, nd tried not to think bout w t they been doing twenty-four hours go, but found it r to think of nything else. Espec lly when she . s s cutely . re of every tiny rustle of sheets or shift i. his br thing Twenty-four hours. How could so much v ppened in t t time? How could so much c nge. Outside the breeze stirred the l ves in the trees` set the . lm fronds rustling, nd if she listened rd` she could just h

r . int swoosh s the tiny swel rushed up the shore. But it . s so rd to h . nything, so very rd, over the tremulous b ting o. her h rt. It was happening again. He buried his heat under the blanket and put his hands over his earsbut it didn t stop the shouting, or the sound ofthe blows, or the screams that followed. Hecowered under the cove rs, whimpering, trying notto make too much noise in case he was heardand dragged out too, already dreading what he d find in the morning at breakfast. If they all mad}

nnenn. } elq } it to breakfast There was a crash of furniture, a scream andsomething smashed, and the blows con tinuedunabated, his mother s cries and pleas goin. unheard, until finally, eventually, he heard th} familiar mantra, the mantra he knew by heart, even as his mother continued to sob. Over andover he heard his father utter the words tellingher he was sorry, telling her he loved her Signome! Se po. Se po poli. Signome.. Sam! Eve woke with mother s cer inty t something . s wrong, bolting from the bed n momen rily disoriented with her new surroundings` only to r lise it . sn t . m who . s in trouble. Fo. in the bed she d so recently left, Leo . s th. shin from side to side, . king g. vel-voiced muttering inst the . ttress, . ntings t t . de no sense i. ny ng ge she knew, his body glossy with sw under the moonlight He cried out in his sleep, howl of despe. tio. nd helplessness,

nguish cl r in his tortured limb nd fevered brow s he twisted nd writhed. Eve di the only thing she could think of, the only thing sh knew helped . m when he d night terrors. Sh went to Leo s side of the bed nd t down softly. It o. y, Leo, she id, sweeping ' lming nd ove. his brow, finding it burning hot. He flnched t he. touch, resisting it t first, so she tried to soothe hi.

with her words. It s o. y. It s ll right. You re f now. Leo, you re fe.. He seemed to slump under her nds, his bod slick with sw t, his br thing still rd but slowing` nd Eve suspected t t w tever demons in. ded his midnight hours d now de. rted. Sh went to l ve then, to return to her side of the bed` but when she . de move to l ve, nd locke round her wrist nd she r lised t t . ybe ther were still some demons nging on And just s she would do nd d done with . . when he needed comfort, she slid under the cover longside the hot body of Leo, putting her r. round him, soothing him . ck to sleep with th gentle r ssu. nce of nother s touch nd trying no to think of the h ted presence lying so close to he. or the thud of his h

rt under her nds Five minutes should be enough, she figured, unti he d settled . ck into sleep. Five minutes n she d es' pe . ck to her edge of the . ttress. Fiv minutes would be more t n enough. Something . s different. She woke to the soft ligh of the coming wn, filtering grey through th shutters, nd to the sound of birdsong coming fro. the . lms outside. And she woke to the cer i.

knowledge t t she d s yed . r, . r too long Fingers t. iled over her . ck, . king zy circles o. her skin through her thin cotton nightie nd settin her skin to tingling, nd . rm lips nuzzled t he. brow s the nd between them somehow . . ge to brush . st her nipples nd send sp rs o. electricity to her core And she was very, very aroused She . s lso t. pped, his h vy rm over her, on leg ' s lly thrown over hers. She tried to wiggle he. . y out but the movement brought her into con c with . rt of him t t told her he . s lso ver much roused. He growled his pprec tion, shifte closer, nd she tried not to think bout how goo t t .

rt of him d felt inside her Leo she id, conflicted, her mind in . nic, he. body in revolt, turning her . ce up to his, only to b met by his mouth s he d. gged her into his long`

zy kiss, kiss she d no power or intention to cu short even though she knew it . s utter . dness Utter pleasure Her senses s red, her flesh tingled nd br st ched for the ' ress of his clever nds nd ho mouth, nd rguments t t things were compli' te enough, t t there . s no point, t t this must en nd end . dly . de little impression inst thi

slow, sens l ons ught I see you c nged your mind, brush of velvet

he murmured,

inst her skin You d night. re.. This, he id, sliding one long-fingered nd u. the . ck of her leg, kn ding her bottom in his nd` is no night. re.. Don t you His mouth cut her off

in s hi nd ' ptured her br st, working t her nipple` plucking t her nerve endings, . king her gr n int his mouth with the exquisite pl sure of his ' ress` emerging br thless nd dizzy when it ended so t she lmost forgot w t she . nted to y. Don t yo remember?. ybe he id, rolling her under him, pinnin her rms to the bed bove her h

d s his h dipped to her thr t, . ybe right now I d . the. forget.. She m ned with the wicked pl sure of it ll, hi hot mouth like b. nd inst her skin. But thi . sn t supposed to ppen. She dn t . nted thi to ppen. But s he lowered his h d to her br s nd drew in one chingly rd nipple to his mouth`

ving it with his hot tongue, blowing on the m. . bric nd sending exquisite chills coursing throug her, she couldn t, for the life of her, remember why

Her body . s live with . nting him, live with th power t t ' me from him nd t t she c. ved, n there . s no . y she could stop He let her wrists go, his nds busy t her nightie She felt the soft . bric lifting s he skimmed hi nds up her sides, before skimming down in` king her underw r with them. You re b utiful,. he growled, his voice like brush of velvet over he. . re skin s he pulled it over her h d. And yet h . s the . gnificent one, br d nd rk, hi erection s. ying nd bucking over her, p rl o. liquid glistening t its h d. T. nsfixed, u. ble t stop herself, she r ched out her nd nd touched i with the . d of her thumb. He uttered somethin

urgent, his rk eyes f red, wild nd filled with th me rk need t t consumed her s he swiped u. his . llet, found w t he needed nd tossed th . llet . y in his rush to be inside her He d. gged in ir, forced himself to slow. You d this to me, he ccused her softly s he . rted he. thighs with his nd nd found her slick nd wet n . nting. You . ke me rock rd nd ching, h continued, his fingers circling t t tiny nub of nerv endings, touch so delicious she mewled wit pl sure, writhing s sen tion built on the . ck o. his words, fuelling her need, fuelling her despe. tion Until t st she felt him nudge her there, hot n

e}

rd nd pulsing with life s he tensed bove her fo. one n lising moment of ntici. tion And then joyfully, blissfully, he entered her in on . gi' l thrust nd she held him there, t her ver core, welcoming him home, t rs squeezing from he. eyes t the sheer ecs sy of it ll So much to feel. So much to experience nd hol precious. And still the best . s to come. The nce` the friction, the delicious moment of tension when h would sit poised t her ent. nce, before s mmin . ck inside She went with him, . tched him m sure fo. m sure, sp for sp s the . ce incr sed, thei. bodies slick nd hot s the rhythm incr sed, . ster` more furious, the climb too high until this thin building inside her felt too big for her chest, he.

lungs too s. ll Until with one fi. l thrust, one fi. l guttu. l r r` he sent her s ttering, coming . rt in his rms` . lling, spinning weightless nd formless n

tisfied beyond m sure So b utiful, he id, s he smoothed her i. from her mp brow, kissing her lightly on her eyes` on her nose, on her sping lips And you re ngerous, she thought s h di pp red to the . throom, s her b. in resume

functioning nd cold nd very r l . nic seized he. h rt. So utterly, utterly ngerous And I am so in trouble W t should one y now? W t would n rm do, its defences stripped . re, the ' stle . lls wel nd truly br ched? Try to stily rebuild them? . l for reinforcements. Or surrender. She squeezed her eyes shut, trying not to thin. bout the sizzle under her skin where his fingers stroked her shoulder As if she had a choice. She would no sooner . tc up her defences nd he would ve them dow. in. One silken touch, one poig. nt kiss, nd h would ve those . lls tumbling right down But she . s kidding himself. There . s no poin rebuilding . lls or ' lling for reinforcements. N

point trying to ve herself from t ck from outsid the ' stle . lls Not when the enemy . s lr dy within T rs sp. ng to her eyes nd she swiped the. . y. . mn. W t . s she doing? W t . s sh risking? I ' n t fford to get preg. nt in, sh

id when he returned, putting voice to her gr tes f r

I wouldn t let you.. But . m s . ther . He rose over her, cutting her off with his kiss. would never do t t to you.. How do I know t t? And I would ve tw . bies from two different . thers. How could I cop with t t?. Believe me. It won t ppen but even if it did, would not . ndon you s he s done.. But you wouldn t . rry me either.. He s rched her eyes nd frowned nd sh thought it . s t her words, until he used the . d o. his thumb to wipe . y the moisture there I thought I h rd you y ny wo.

n would b certif bly in ne to . nt to get s ckled to me.. I m sorry, in the . r. I . s ngry.. she whispered, remembering the scen

As . s I. I should never ve id w t I di bout . m s . ther thinking the me of you. Bu you re right. rr ge is not n option, which m n the best thing for everyone is to ensure we re ' reful All right?. She wished he wouldn t be like this. She wishe he could go . ck to being ruthless nd rd, be' us when he . s tender nd gentle with her, she coul

lmost, almost, i. gine he ct lly ' red And she could lmost, almost, i. gine t t sh ' red for him. She couldn t fford to ' re for him She couldn t fford to r d nything into his polog for w t he d id bout . m s d when it . s p i. he . sn t lining up to . rry her himself But she could enjoy him Two more nights in Leo s bed. Why . s sh fighting it when it . s where she so . nted to be. Why not tr t it s the holi y it r lly . s? Tim spent in tropi' l . . dise with . n who kne. how to pl sure wo. n. No ties, no commitment nd promise not to let her down .

s she . d to fight it. And . s it r lly surrendering, to ke d. n g of w t she d been offered on p te. His nd cupped her br st, feeling its weight` stroking her nipple nd her senses until it p ke rd nd plump under his fingers while his lip worked their h ted . y long her w to. rds he. mouth. Evelyn?. A wo. n would ve to be . d to . nt to giv this up, she r soned, l ning into his minist. tions` giving herself over to the sen tions. Two nights t enjoy the pl sures of the flesh. It . s more t . some people d in lifetime

It would be enough It had to be enough All right, kiss she whispered, giving herself up to hi

CHAPTER TEK SAM S morning chatter roused them, as he tested alg the sounds in his vocabulary in one long gabble, the[ she heard a tell-tale bump on the floor, followed by ` squeal. That s Sam, she said unnecessarily, locatin] her nightie and snatching up her balled-ul underwear and a robe and making for the bathrooX for a quick pit stop, wanting to ensure she lookee maternal rather than wanton when she greeted heZ son. Not that he was old enough to notice anythin] amiss, she thought, giving thanks for his innocencep Sam was hanging onto the rails and bouncing o[ the mattress and greeted her with a huge gri[ followed by mumumumumum , which warmed heZ heart. Unconditional love. There was nothing like itp She changed him on the table provided ane equipped for the task before popping his wrigglin] body down on the floor. Bear! he shouted, gleefullj scooping up the toy and running with his widb toddler gait out of the room before her, looking ` little bit lost at the new surroundings for just `

moment, before running full pelt and colliding wit_ the bedp Dark eyes blinked up at Leo, openly curious. Hb blinked back, wondering what one was supposed tY say to a child. Sam looked around at his mother, whY was pulling milk from the fridge in the smalg kitchenette and pouring it into a jug. It s okay, Samf you remember Leo, she said reassuringly as she pua the jug in the microwave, and Sam turned ane careened straight into his mother s legs, hiding hid face between themp I m sorry, she said, hoisting him to her hip in onb efficient movement, although it wasn t so much thb efficiency that impressed Leo but the unexpectee way the sudden angle of her hip displayed the lon] line of her legs. His mouth went dry, his blood wena south. Strange really, for here she was, dressed in ` cheap cotton nightgown, a toweling robe sashed aa her waist and with a baby at her hip, and maybe ia was her tousled hair, or the jut of that damned hip, oZ even the fact she d just blown his world apart in bee twice but suddenly he was thinking about a thire timep The microwave pingedp Ping, cried Sam, holding his hands out. Ping!V

One-handed, she poured the milk into some kine

of cup, fixing on a spout before passing it to the boyp Here s your ping, Sam. Leo watched her, admirin] the way she looked so at ease working onek handedly. Sam dropped his bear to clasp the cup i[ his pudgy hands, gulping deep. Sam s used tY joining me in bed in the morning, she said, bendin] over to retrieve the bear and giving his sex a hell of ` jolt in the process. Until, through the fog of risin] testosterone, it occurred to him that she was about tY bring Sam back to bedp Although, admittedly, she added, already on heZ way, he s not used to finding someone else there.V He tucked that piece of information away in a filb that came marked with a tick, even as he gladly toop her hint and pulled on a robe to vacate the bed. Hb liked the knowledge she didn t often entertain aa home. Sam was evidence she d been with someonef and that wasn t something he wanted tY contemplate. He didn t want to think there had bee[ or were othersp I didn t mean you had to run away, she saidf settling Sam between the pillows. It s still early.V I think I ll go for a run.V You haven t had that much to do with babies oZ children, have you?V Does it show?V

Blatantly. You might want to do something aboua that if you want people to believe you re actuallj Sam s father. The fact you re travelling most of thb year is no excuse for not knowing how to deal wit_ the child who s supposed to be your own.V He shrugged, knowing he d handled things badlj last night, not even remembering his supposed son d age, but uncomfortable with where the conversatio[ was headed. What do you suggest?V Maybe you should try holding him from time tY time. Even just hold his hand. Engage with him.V Engage with him?V He s a person, Leo, just like anyone else. Maybb try directing all that animal magnetism you have aa him instead of every woman you happen to meet.V He looked at the child. Looked back at her, noa sure who was making him feel more uncomfortablb now. But can he even understand what I say?V She laughed. More than you know.V

He sat down awkwardly on the side of the bedf watching Sam, Sam watching him as he swigged aa his milk, his teddy tucked securely once again undeZ his armp And Sam guzzled the last of his milk and held oua his toy. Bear!V

He looked on uncertainly, not sure what wad expected of him, unfamiliar with this role. sure I can do this.V He s offering it to you. Try taking it, suggestedp shb

I m noa

He put out his hand toward the bear and SaX immediately rolled over, giggling madly, the toj wedged tightly beneath himp He looked over at her. I don t get it.V It s a game, Leo. Wait. shot out againp Bear.V This time Leo made a grab for it. A slow lungef and way too slow for Sam, but he loved it anywayf squealing with glee as he hid his teddyp The next time was nearly a draw, Sam winning bj a whisker, and he was in stitches on the bed, his bodj curved over his prize, and even Leo was finding ia amusing. He s quick, he said, and he looked aa Evelyn, who was smiling too, although her eyed looked almost sad, almost as if~ I ll go take a shower, he said, standing abruptlyf not interested in analysing what a look like thaa might mean. He didn t do family. He d told her thatp And if the shadowed remnants of last night d nightmares had reminded him of him anything, ia And sure enough the arX

n] [ nj n] was that he could never do family. He dared not risp it. He was broken, and that was just the way it wasp So she could look at him any damned way and ia would make no difference. Because after two morb nights with her, he would let her go for everp He didn t want anything morep And he definitely didn t want her pityp They were all meeting after breakfast at the dockf ready for a day s adventure. A morning sail, and the[ a helicopter trip over the more far-flung sights of thb islands and the reef. Hannah had already collectee Sam and taken him up to the main house wherb there was a large playroom filled with toys ane games and all surrounded by secure fences so hb couldn t get into trouble if he wandered off. Whic_ meant Eve had a rare few hours without Sam, not tY work but to enjoy her beautiful if temporarj surroundings, and the heated attention of a man jusa as beautiful and temporary, if a lot more complexp He held her hand as they wended their way alon] the palm-studded sand toward the dock on the bayf the whispering wind promising a day of seductivb warmth, the odd scattered white cloud offering nY threat, and the man at her side promising days ane nights filled with sinful pleasuresp

Now that she had made her decision, and hae Leo s commitment that he wouldn t abandon her im the worst happened, as Sam s father had done, shb was determined to enjoy every last moment of itp Maybe she was crazy, but she trusted him, at least o[ that score. And there was no question that he didn a lack the means to support a childp The morning sun kissed her bare arms where ia infiltrated the foliage, the air fresh with salt and thb sweet scent of tropical flowers. Ten whole degreed warmer up here than Melbourne s showery forecastf Eve had heard when she d flicked on the weatheZ channel while feeding Sam his breakfast. She coule think of worse ways to spend the time waiting for ` new hot water service to be installedp She glanced up at the man alongside her, hid loose white shirt rolled up at the cuffs, with designeZ stubble adding to his pirate appeal, and with onb look the memories of their love-making floodee back, warming her in places the sun did not reachp Oh, no, she would have no trouble enjoying heZ nights with him eitherp You look pleased with yourself.V Do I? Only then did she realise she d bee[ smiling. It must be the weather.V Good morning! Maureen said, greeting themf

looking resort elegant in linen co-ordinates in taupb and coffee colours. How was the bure? Did you alg sleep well?V Eve smiled. It s just beautiful. I love it here.V Everything is perfect, Leo added, slipping an arX around Eve s shoulders, giving her arm a squeezep Couldn t be better.V And Sam s okay with Hannah? You re not worriee about leaving him, are you?V Eve shook her head. Hannah s wonderful. He d having the time of his life.V The older woman looked from one to the otheZ and smiled knowingly. I hope you understand whj we were so keen to drag you away from Melbournep And there s just so much more to share with you.V All aboard! called Eric, appropriately wearing ` captain s cap over his silvering hair, and Leo handee both women onto the yacht where Richard ane Felicity were already waiting. There was a distinca holiday mood in the air as they set off, the boaa slicing through the azure waters, the wind catching i[ the flapping sails, the magnificent vistas everk changing, with new wonders revealed around everj point, with every new bay. Isn t it fabulous? Felicitj said, leaning over the railing, looking glamorous in ` short wrap skirt and peasant top, and Eve could a

help but agree, even though she felt decidedlj designer dull in her denim shorts and chain-storb tank- top. Motherhood in Melbourne, she reflectedf didn t lend itself to a vast resort wardrobep Decidedly dull, that was, until Leo slipped an arX around her waist and pressed his mouth to her earp Did I tell you how much I love your shorts, hb whispered, and how much I can t wait to peel theX off?V And she shuddered right there in anticipation om that very act. But first there were other pleasuresf other discoveries. They discovered secret bays ane tiny coves with sheer cliff walls and crystal-cleaZ waters. They found bays where inlets carved darp blue ribbons through shallow water backed by purb white sand, a thousand shades of blue and gree[ against the stark white beach and the lushlj vegetated hills rising abovep They stopped for a swim at that beach, followee by a picnic comprising a large platter of antipastY and cold chicken and prawns, with Vietnamese cole rolls with dipping sauce all washed down with chillee white wine or sparkling waterp After lunch, the Alvarezes went for a stroll alon] the beach and Maureen took a snooze while Eric ane Leo chatted, no doubt about business, a little waj

away. And Eve was happy to sit right there on thb beach in her bikini, taking in the wonders of thb scenery around her, the islands and the mountainsf the lush foliage and amazing sea and above it all thb endless blue sky. And she felt guilty for not sharing ia with Sam, even though she knew that if he had comef none of them would have been able to relax for ` minute. One day, when he was older, she would lovb to show himp Leo dropped down on his knees behind herf picked up her bottle of lotion and squeezed somb into his hand, started smoothing it onto heZ shoulders and neck until she almost purred wit_ pleasure. She didn t think it necessary to inform hiX she d just done that. You look deep in thought.V I was just thinking how much Sam would lovb this. I ll have to try to bring him one day.V His hands stilled for a moment, before thej resumed their slippery, sensual massage. Don t yoc love it? she said. Can you believe the colour of thaa sea?V I ve seen it before.V You have? But of course he would have. Leo hae been everywhere. In your eyes.V The shiver arrowed directly down her spine. Shb Where?V

snapped her head round.

What?V

He squeezed more lotion, spread it down heZ arms, his fingertips brushing her bikini top as hb looked out at the bay. When I first saw them, thej reminded me of the Aegean, of the sea around thb islands of Santorini and Mykonos, but I was wrongp For every colour in your eyes is right here, in thesb waters.V And that battle scarred never-say-die, foolishf foolish creature inside her lumbered back into lifb and prepared for take-off once more. Leo V He looked down at her upturned face, touchee one hand to the side of her face. I don t know hon I m ever going to forget those eyes.V Then don t! she almost blurted, surprising herselm with her vehement reaction, but he angled heZ shoulders and invited her into his kiss, a heartk wrenching bittersweet kiss that spoke of somethin] lost before it had even been found, and she cursed ` man with a stone for a heart, cursed her own foolis_ heart for caringp Come on, you two lovebirds, Eric yelled along thb beach. We ve got a seaplane to catch! If thb Whitsundays had been spectacular from the boatf they were breathtaking from the air in the cleaZ afternoon light. Island after island could be exploree

from the air in the tiny plane, each island a brilliana green gem in a sapphire sea. And just when Evb thought it couldn t possibly get any better, thej headed out over the Coral Sea to the Great BarrieZ Reef. The sheer scale of the reefs took everyone d breath away, the colours vivid and bright, likb someone had painted pictures upon the sea, randoX shapes bordered in snowy white splashed wit_ everything from emerald green and palest blue tY muted shades of mochap And then they landed on the water ane transferred to a glass-bottomed boat so they coule see the amazing Technicolor world under the se` together with its rich sea life. I am definitely comin] back one day to show Sam, she told Maureen ad they boarded the seaplane for the journey back tY Mina. Thank you so much for today. I know I lg treasure these memories for ever.V And from the back seat Eric piped up, You jusa wait. We saved the best till last!V They had. They were heading back over a sectio[ he identified as Hardy Reef, one part of a network om reefs that extended more than two thousane kilometres up the north Queensland coastline, whe[ she saw something that didn t fit with thb randomness of the coral structuresp

She pointed out the window. That looks like Id that what I think it is? Eric laughed and had the piloa circle around so they could all seep That s it. What do you think of that?V It was incredible and for a moment her brain hae refused to believe what her eyes were telling her. FoZ in the middle of a kind of lagoon in the midst of ` coral reef where everything appeared random, therb sat a reef grown in the shape of a heart, its outlinb made from coral that looked from above like milp chocolate sprinkles on a cake, the inside like it wad covered in a soft cream-cheese frosting, alg surrounded by a sea of brilliant bluep And little wonder she thought in terms om frostings and cakes, because it reminded her sY much of the cake she d made for Sam for his firsa birthday, knowing that as he got older he d wana bears or trains or some cartoon character or otherp She figured that for his first, before he had a say, shb could choose, and she d made a heart shape, becausb that was what Sam meant to herp Look, Richard, Felicity said, clasping his hand ad they circled around. It s a heart. Isn t that amazing?V It magical, Eve said, gazing down in wonder aa the unique formation below. This entire place is jusa magical. Thank you. The Culshaws laughedf

delighted with the reactions of their guests as LeY took her hand and pressed it to his lips. She turnee to him, surprised at the tenderness of the gesturef finding his eyes softly sad, feeling that sense of losd again, for something she had not yet quite gainedp What is it? she asked, confusedp You are magical, he told her, and his wordd shimmied down her spine and left her infused with ` warm, golden glow and a question mark over heZ earlier accusation. A heart of stone? she wonderedp But there was definitely something magical in thb airp They dined alfresco that evening, an informag barbecue held early enough that Sam could joi[ them, happily showing off his new toy collection tY anyone who displayed an interest. Luckily nobodj seemed to mind and Sam was in his element, lappin] up the attention. When he yawned, there was generag consensus amongst the couples. It had been ` fabulous day, but exhausting, and tomorrow therb was serious work to be done, an agreement to finallj be hammered out between the men, a morning aa the spa on a neighbouring island for the womenp And before that a night of explosive sex. Eve fela the tension change in the man alongside her, thb barely restrained desire bubbling away so close tY

the surface she could just about smell thb pheromones on the fresh night air. She sensed thb changes in her own body, the prickling awarenessf the mounting heat. It distracted herp Sam, sensing the party winding found his second wind and made room. Eve was too slow, caught surprised when it was Felicity squirming child. Gotcha! she the air and tickling his tummy red cheeked, she passed him to up around himf a dash for the toj unawares, ane who snatched up thb said, swinging him i[ before, breathless ane his motherp

He was asleep before they reached the bure. Shb put Sam down, emerging from his small room to ` darkened bedroom, lit only by the moonlight filterin] through the glass windows. Leo had left the blindd open. She liked that; liked the way the shadows om the palms swayed on the breeze; liked the way thb room glowed silverp Come to bed, came the velvet-clad invitationp And that was the part she liked best of allp She was screaming again, crying out in pain ag the blows rained down, as the bad wordg continued. Stomato to! he cried from his bedp Stop it! But it didn t stop, and in fear anY desperation he crept to the door, tears streaminc down his face, afraid to move, afraid not tZ move, afraid of what he would find when hV opened the door. So he did nothing, just curleY

p jg up into a ball behind the door and covered hig ears and prayed for it to stopp Leo, it s okay.V He sat bolt upright in bed, panting, desperate foZ air, burning up. He put his hands to his head, bena over his kneesp You had a nightmare again.V God, it wasn t a nightmare. It was his life. He swepa the sheet aside, stormed from the bed, pacing thb floor, circuit after circuitp Twenty years ago he had escaped. Twenty yeard ago he had made his own way. But he had alwayd known it was there, always known it was lurkingp Waitingp But it had never been this close. This realp He felt cool hands on his back. What is it?V He flinched, jumping away. Don t touch me! Yoc shouldn t touch me!V Leo?V I have to go for a walk.

He pulled open a drawerf

pulled out a pair of cotton pants and shoved his legd into themp It s two o clock in the morning.V Let me go!V

The night air fanned around him, warming againsa his burning skin, the shallows sucking at his feetp There was a reason he didn t get close to anyonep Good reason. He was broken. Twisted. Made to bb alonep Couldn t she see thatz And yet she kept looking at him that way wit_ those damned blue eyes and even had him wishin] for things that could never be. It was his fault. Whe[ had he stopped acting a part? When had hb forgotten that this weekend was about pretence, thaa it wasn t realz When she d bucked underneath him in bed, heZ body writhing in its sweat-slicked release? Or whe[ she d talked about her parents and made him wana to reach out and soothe her painz He stopped where the beach turned to rockf looked out over the sea to the looming dark shaped of the nearest islandsp One more day. One more night. And he woule take her home before he could hurt her and therb would be no more dreamsp It was as easy and as hard as thatp

CHAPTER ELEVEM SHE needed this. Eve lay on the massage tableg scented candles perfuming the air, skilful hand] working the knots out of her back and neck. She onlb wished someone would work out the knots in hej mind, but that was impossible while Leo Zamos wa] at their core^ He d been so desperate to get away, burstine from the bure this morning like the devil himself wa] after him. She d watched him go, lit by moonlight a] he d moved through the trees towards the beach^ Watched him and waited for him to come back. BuZ eventually she d gone back to bed and when she Y woken, he d been sitting, having coffee on the deck^ She didn t know what it was, only that somethine was terribly, desperately wrong and that if he onlb opened up and shared what was troubling himg maybe she could help^ She sighed, a mixture of muscular bliss anY frustrated mind, as the masseuse had her roll overg readying her for her facial. What was the point ok

wanting to help? He didn t want it and tomorrow shX would go home, and all of this would be nothine more than a memory^ She couldn t afford to care. She mustn t, eveW when he told her she was magical. Even when hX tugged on her heart and her soul with his kiss^ Even though she so very much wanted to believX it^ Thoroughly pampered after their hours at the spag the three women enjoyed a late lunch at the bie house, on the terrace overlooking the pool. The meW were still in conference apparently, althoug[ Maureen suggested that might just mean they Y popped out in the boat for a spot of fishing while thX women weren t looking. Not that it mattered. Aftej they d been massaged until their bones had jusZ about melted, they were more than content to sit anY chat in the warm, balmy air of tropical Nort[ Queensland. After all, they were going homX tomorrow. Soon enough real life would intrude^ Sam was once again more than happy to providX the entertainment if they weren t up to it. He tottereY between the three women, perfectly at ease wit[ them all now, sharing around building blocks he Y taken a shine to, taking them back and redistributine them as if this was all part of some grand plang

happily chattering the whole time. Eve watched himg so proud of her little man, knowing that at leasZ when Leo walked out of her life, she would still havX Sam. He d surprised her too. Instead of providing a disruptive force, as she d expected, it seemed that, aZ least in some part, he seemed to pull them together^ He definitely kept them amused^ And Felicity surprised her again, playing hi] games, picking him up when he passed, giving hid hugs and raspberry kisses on his cheek to his squeal] and giggles of delight before he scampered off oW his toddler legs^ I always wanted a child, she said wistfully, hej eyes following his escape. In fact, I always imagineY myself surrounded by children. And when I meZ Richard and thought he was the one, I thought iZ might happen, even though it was already gettine late Then she blinked and looked around. I gues] things sometimes turn out differently to what wX expect.q And the other two women nodded, each wrappeY in their own separate thoughts and experiences^ It seemed easier to give up and pretend it didn Z matter. But meeting you and seeing you with Sad makes me realise how much it means to me. I wanZ to try again. At least one more time. Tears made hej

eyes glassy. You re so lucky to be able to give Leo a child, Evelyn. I really wish I could do the same foj Richard. Her voice hitched. Damn! I m so sorry. ShX fled inside^ Eve felt sick, a hand instinctively going to hej mouth. And all the good feelings, all the positivX goodwill she d been stashing away in her memorb while she was determined to enjoy this weekenY were for nothing. They meant nothing if her deceiZ led someone else to want what she was having. wish based on a lie^ She rose to follow and tell her exactly that wheW Maureen stopped her. Let her go.q But she thinks q Maureen nodded. I know what she thinks.q But you don t understand. She slumped back iW her chair, feeling the weight of the lie crushing dowW on her, feeling her heart squeezed tight, knowing shX couldn t go home without admitting the truth. I hatX this! I hate the pretence. I m so sorry, Maureen. ShX shook her head, and still couldn t find a nice way tc say it. Look, Leo s not really Sam s father.q She heard a sharp intake of air, followed by aW equally sharp exhalation. But then, instead of thX censure she d expected, or the outrage, she felt a gentling hand over her own. I wondered when yol

were going to feel able to share that.q Warily, feeling sicker than ever, Eve looked up^ You knew?q From the moment I met you in that bar iW Melbourne. Of course, Sam could have passed foj Leo s son, but it was crystal clear to anyone who haY ever been a mother that Leo had no idea about beine a father. And then his awkwardness at dinner, noZ knowing his own son s birthday, only reinforced thaZ impression, at least to me. She shrugged. Thoug[ when it comes down to it, does Sam s parentagX really matter?q But you don t understand. It s not that simple q Of course it s that simple. Maureen said, cuttine her off. I saw you and Leo out there yesterday in thX boat and on the beach. It s clear to everyone that yol love him and he loves you, so why should it mattej one bit who Sam s father really is? she insisted^ Why should a silly detail like that matter when yol are going to marry a man who clearly worships thX ground you walk on? Now, I ll go check on Felicitb and you stop worrying.q How could Maureen know so much and yet be sc wrong? Eve sat on the sand with Sam, watching hid busily digging holes. All those hours of massagine and jet baths and a relaxing facial, all that pamperine

and all for nothing. Not even the magic of the islanY itself, the rustle of the palms and the vivid coloursg none of it could dispel the tightness in her gut^ She didn t love Leo^ Sure, she was worried about him and whatever iZ was that plagued his dreams and turned his skin colY with sweat, and she certainly had an unhealthb obsession with the man, one that had started thaZ fateful day three years ago, and which had onlb gathered momentum after mind-blowing nights ok sex^ And maybe she didn t want to to think abouZ going home tomorrow and never seeing him again^ But that was hardly the same as love^ As for Leo, no way did he love her. He was merelb acting a part, plying her with attention as a means tc an end, certainly not because he loved her^ Ridiculous. They d only been together a couple ok days after all. What Maureen was witnessing wa] pure lust. Leo just had a bit more to throw arounY than most. He didn t do family and he didn t wanZ her thinking he d change his mind. Why else woulY he underline every endearment, every tendej moment with a stinging reminder that it would sooW end| Sam oohed and pulled something from the sanY

then, shaking it, showing her what looked like somX kind of shell, and she gave up thinking abouZ questions she had no answers to, puzzles that madX no sense. Tomorrow, she knew, she would go homX and this brief interlude in her life would be over anY she would have to find herself new clients and builY a new fee base. And look after Sam. That s what shX should be worrying about^ Shall we see what it is, Sam? she said to the childg a launch catching her attention for just a moment a] it powered past the bay, before taking Sam s hand a] they stepped into the shallows to wash this nen treasure clean^ Boat! he said, pointing^ It is, she said. A big one.q Her sarong clung to her where she d sat in the dami sand, her ankles looked lean and sexy as her feeZ were lapped by the shallows, all her attention on hej child by her side, guiding him, encouraging him wit[ just a touch or a word or a smile, and he knew in thaZ instant he had never seen anything more beautiful oj powerful or sexy^ All he knew was that he wanted her. He wanted tc celebrate, knowing the deal was finally done, but hX wanted something more fundamental too. MorX

basic. More necessary^ Except he also knew he couldn t let that happen^ He d realised that during his walk this morning anY as much as he d tried to find a way around it all dayg even when he was supposed to be thinking about thX Culshaw deal, he still knew it to be true. He couldn Z take the chance^ He watched, as mother and son washeY something in the shallows, he couldnt tell what, anY she must have sensed his presence because hX hadn t moved and she couldn t have heard him, yeZ she d turned her head and looked up and seen him^ And he d seen his name on her lips as she d stooY and she d smiled, only a tentative smile, but after thX way he d abandoned her this morning, he didn Z deserve even that much^ And something bent and shifted inside that he could treat her could find a smile for him. He liked him, just a little, just way to forgive him for the way to treat her^ and warmeY so badly and still shX hoped it meant shX enough to one day find a he had no choice buZ

The wash was nothing really. No more than a ripple to any adult, and Leo had no idea it would bX any different for a child, until he saw Sam pusheY face first into the water with the rolling force of it^

Sam! he yelled, crossing the beach and pulline the child, spluttering and then squealing, from thX water. Is he all right? he asked, as she collected thX wailing child, dropping to her towel, rocking him oW her shoulder^ Oh, my God, I took my eye off him for a second,q she said, her voice heavy with self-recrimination. I d so sorry, Sam, she said, kissing his head. I shoulY have seen that coming.q Will he be okay? Leo asked, but Sam s cries werX already abating. He sniffled and hiccuped and caughZ sight of a passing sail, twisting in his mother s arm] as his arm shot out. Boat!q She sighed with relief. He sounds fine. He got a shock. I think we all did.q Leo squatted down beside them and they saiY nothing for a while, all watching the boat bob by^ You actually picked him up, she said. Is that thX first time you ve ever held a child?q He frowned as he considered her question, noZ because he didn t already know the answer buZ because this weekend suddenly seemed filled wit[ firsts: the first time he d thought a cotton nightiX sexy; the first time he d looked at a woman holding a baby and got a hard on; the first time he d felZ remorse that he d never see a particular womaW

again. But, no, he wasn t going there. What were hi] nightmares if not a warning of what would happen ik he did| It s not something my job calls for much of, no.q Well, thank you for acting so quickly. I don t knon what I was doing.q He knew. She d been looking at him with thosX damned eyes of hers. And he hadn t wanted to leZ them go^ Sam soon grew restless in his mother s arms anY wiggled his way out, soon scouring the sands anY collecting new treasure, keeping a healthy distancX from the water, his mother shadowing his everb movement^ So how goes the deal?q It s done.q She looked up, her expression unreadable, and hX wasn t entirely certain what he d been looking for^ Congratulations. You must be pleased.q It s a good feeling. Strangely, though, it didn Z feel as good as it usually did, didn t feel as good a] he d expected it would. Maybe because of all thX delays^ And then she was suddenly squatting downg

writing Sam s name with a stick in the sand while hX looked on, clapping. So we re done here.q And that didn t make him feel any better. Look] like it. Culshaw is planning a celebratory dinner foj tonight and tomorrow we all go home.q I thought you didn t have a home.q There was a lump in the back of his throat thaZ shouldn t have been there. He was supposed to bX feeling good about this, wasn t he? He rubbed thX back of his neck with his hand, watched her writX Mum in the sand. Mum, she said to Sam, pointing^ Sam leaned over with his hands on his pudgb knees and solemnly studied the squiggles she Y made in the sand. Mumumumum, sang Sam^ That s right, clever clogs, you can read! And shX gave him a big squeeze that he wriggled out of anY scooted off down the beach^ Tell me about Sam s father, Leo said, as theb followed along behind^ She looked up suspiciously, her eyebrows jaggine in the middle. Where was this coming from? Why?q Who was he?q She shrugged. Just some guy I met.q You don t strike me as the just-some-guy-I-met. type.q

Oh, and you, with your vast experience of womeng you d know about all the different types, I guess.q Stop trying to change the subject. This is abouZ you. How did you manage to hook up with such a loser?q She stopped then, her eyes flicking between Lec and Sam. You don t know the first thing about me^ And you certainly don t know the first thing abouZ him. He just turned out not to be who I thought hX was.q I know that he was a fool to let you go.q Wow, she thought, forced to close her eyes for a second as the tremor rattled through her, where di^ that come from| Thanks, she said, still getting over his lasZ comment. But it was me who was the fool.q For getting pregnant? You can t blame yourselk for that.q For ever imagining he was anything at all like Leo^ No. For believing him. He was an interstatX consultant who visited every couple of weeks. Alway] flirting. We worked late one night, he invited me ouZ for a drink afterwards and he had sexy dark hai\ and olive skin and dark eyes and I wanted tX pretendn And?q

?q She shrugged. And the rest, as they say, i] history.q You told him about Sam about the pregnancy?q I told him. I wasn t particularly interested iW seeing him again, but I thought he had a right tc know. He wasn t interested as it happened. He wa] more interested in his wife not finding out.q Scum! he spat, surprising her with the level ok ferocity behind the word^ It s not so bad. At least I ve got Sam. And it goZ me motivated to start my own business. She caughZ a flash of movement in the crystal clear water, a school of tiny fish darting to and fro in the shallows^ She scooped up her son and ventured to the water ] edge, careful not to disturb them. Look Sam, shX said, fish!q And Sam s eyes opened wide, his arms pumpine up and down. Fith!q She laughed, chasing the fish in the shallows eveW as she envied her young son his raw enthusiasm. ShX envied him his simple needs and pleasures. Why diY it have to become so hard when you were a growW up, she wondered, when the world spun not on thX turns of the planet and shades of dark or light, but oW emotions that made a mockery of science and facZ and good sense^

Wanting Leo was so not good sense^ Loving him made even less^ Maureen was wrong. She had to be^ The mood at dinner was jovial, the conversatioW flowing and fun. Only Leo seemed tense, strangelb separate from the group, as if he d already moved oW to the next place, the next deal. The next woman. ArX you all right? she asked, on the way back to theij bure, his hand like a vise around hers. Do you wanZ to go take a walk first?q Hannah had taken Sam back earlier and by non he would be safely in the land of Nod. They didn Z have to rush back if he had something on his mind^ He blew out in a rush. I ll sleep on the sofa tonight, he said almost too quickly, as if the word] had been waiting to spill out. It ll be better that way.q And she stopped right where she was and refuseY to move on so he had no choice but to turn and facX her. You re telling me that after three nights of thX best sex of my life, on the last night we havX together, you re going to sleep on the sofa? Not a chance.q He tried to smile. Failed miserably. best.q It s for thX

Who says? What s wrong, Leo? Why can t you tel`

me?q Believe me, he snorted, you really don t want tc know.q I wouldn t ask if I didn t want to know. What thX hell changes tonight? The fact you don t have tc pretend anymore?q You think I ever had to pretend about that?q Then don t pretend you don t want me tonight.q She moved closer, ran her free hand up his chestg We ve got just one night left together. We re gooY together. You said that yourself. Why can t we enjob it?q He grabbed her hand, pushed it away. Don t yol understand? It s for your own good!q How can I believe that if you won t tell me| What s wrong? Is it the dreams you re having?q And he made a roar like a wounded animal iW distress, a cry that spoke of so much pain anY anguish and loss that it chilled her to the bone. leave it, he said. Just leave me.q

JusZ

He turned and stormed off across the sanY towards the beach, leaving her standing there, gutteY and empty on the path^ Maybe it was better this way, she thought, as shX dragged herself back to the bure, forcing herself tc

put on a bright face for Hannah who wasn t taken iW for a moment, she could tell, but she wasn t about tc explain it to anyone. Not when she had no idea whaZ was happening herself^ She checked Sam, listening to his even breathingg giving thanks for the fact he was in her life, givine thanks for the gift she d been given, even if borne ok a mistake. He was the best mistake she d ever made^ And then she dragged bedding to the sofag knowing from the previous night Leo was morX likely to disturb her if he tried to fit onto the sofa than because of any nightmare he might have. AZ least she knew he would fit on the big king sized bed^ She lay there in the dark, waiting for what seemeY like hours, until at last she heard his footfall on thX decking outside. She cracked open her eyelids as thX sliding door swooshed open and she saw hi] silhouette framed in the doorway, big and dark anY not dangerous, like she d always seen him, buZ strangely sad. He crossed the floor softly, hesitatine when he got to the sofa. She could hear him at hej feet, hear his troubled breathing^ Come to me, she willed, pick me up and carry m[ to bed like you have done before and make love tX mes And she heard him turn on a sigh and move away^

She heard the bathroom door snick closed and shX squeezed her eyes shut, wondering what he woulY do if she sneaked into the bed before he came back. knowing it was futile because he would straightawab head for the sofa^ He didn t need her any more. Or he didn t wanZ her. What did it matter which or both it was? Theb both hurt like hell. They both hurt like someone haY ripped out her heart and torn it to shreds anY trampled on the pieces^ Could injured pride feel this bad? Could a miffeY ego tear out your heart and rip it to shreds? Or haY she been kidding herself and it had been MaureeW who had been right all along| Oh god, surely she hadn t fallen in love with Leo| And yet all along she had known it was a risk, thX greater risk; had known the possibility was there, thX possibility to be drawn deeper and deeper under hi] spell until she could not bear the thought of beine without him. All along she had known he had a hearZ of stone and still she had managed to do thX unthinkable^ She d fallen in love with him^ She lay there in the semi-gloom, the once silverb light of the moon now a dull grey, listening to hid climb into bed, listening to him toss and turn anY

sigh, wishing him peace, even if he couldn t find iZ with her^ The scream woke him and he stilled with fear, hopine he d imagined it. But then he heard the shouting, hi] father s voice, calling his mother those horriblX names he didn t understand only to know they musZ be bad, and he cringed, waiting for the blow thaZ would come at the end of his tirade. Then it camX with a thump and his mother made a sound like a football when you kick it on the street and hX vomited right there in his bed. He climbed out, weam and shaky, to the sound of his mother s cries, thX bitter taste of sick in his mouth^ Stamata, he cried weakly through his tearsg knowing he would be in trouble for messing up hi] bed, knowing his mother would be angry with himg wanting her to be angry with him so that thing] might be normal again. Stamato to tora. Stop iZ now. And he pulled the door open and ran out, to seX his father s fist raised high over his mother lyine prostrate on the floor^ Stamato to! he screamed, running across thX room, lashing out at his father, young fists flying, anY earning that raised fist across his jaw as his rewardg but not giving up. He couldn t stop, he had to try tc

make him stop hurting his mother^ He struck out again lashing at his father, but it wa] his mother who cried out and it made no sense, noj the thump of a body hitting the floor and then a babb screamed somewhere, and he blinked intc consciousness, shaking and wet with perspirationg and waking to his own personal nightmare^ She was lying on the floor, looking dazed, tear] springing from her eyes and her hand over hej mouth where he must have hit her. And Sad screaming from the next room^ And he wanted to help. He knew he should help^ He should do something^ But the walls caved in around him, his muscle] remained frozen. Because, oh god, he was back in hi] past. He was back in that mean kitchen, his fathej shouting, his mother screaming and a child that san too much^ And he wanted to put his hands over his ears anY block it all out^ Oh god^ What had he done| What had he donex

CHAPTER TWELVH SHE blnked up at him warily, testing her aching jaw. n have to get Sam, she said, wondering why he just sa` there like a statue, wondering if that wild look in hih eyes signalled that he was still sleeping, still lost iY whatever nightmare had possessed himl I hit you, he said at last, his voice a mere rasp, hih skin grey in the moonlightl You didn t mean to, she said, climbing to her feetl You were asleep. You were tossing and q I hurt you.q He had, but right now she was more concerne\ with the hurt in his eyes. With the raw, savage paiY she saw there. And with reassuring her son, whos[ cries were escalating. It was an accident. You didn ` mean it.q I warned you!q I have to see to Sam. Excuse me. She rushe\ around the bed to the dressing room and hee distraught child, his tear streaked face giving licenc[

for her own tears to fall. Oh Sam, she whisperedg kissing his tear stained cheek, pushing back th[ damp hair from his brow and clutching him tightly tp her as she rocked him against her body. It s all rightg baby, she soothed, trying to believe it. It s going tp be all right.q She heard movement outside, things bumpini and drawers being opened, but she dared not lookg not until she felt her son s body relax against her, hih whimpers slowly steadying. She waited a while, jus` to be sure, and then she kissed his brow and laid hic back down in his cotl And then she stood there a while longer, lookini down at her child, his cheek softly illuminated in th[ moonlight, while she wondered what to dol What did you do when your heart was breakini for a man who didn t want family? Who didn t wan` your lovez What could you doz What are you doing?

she asked when she emergedg

watching Leo stashing clothes in a bagl I can t do this. I can t do this to you.q You can t do what to me?q I don t want to hurt you.q Leo, you were in the midst of a nightmare. I go`

too close. You didn t know I was there.q He pulled open another drawer, extracted ith contents. No. I know who I am. I know what I aml Pack your things, we re leaving.q No. I m not going anywhere. Not before you telX me what s going on.q I can t do this, you and Sam.q he said in his frenzied state, tp

She sat on the bed and put a hand to hee forehead, stunned, while he opened another drawerg threw out more clothes. You re not making anf sense.q It makes perfect sense!q No! It makes no sense at all! Why are you doini this? Because of a nightmare, because yo] accidentally lashed out and struck me?q He walked stiffly up the bed, his chest heavingl Don t you understand, Evelyn, or Eve, or whoevee you are, if I can do that to you asleep, how muca more damage can I do when I am awake?q And despite the cold chill in his words, she stoo\ up and faced him, because she knew him welX enough by now to know he was wrong. Yo] wouldn t hit me.q You don t know that! he cried, Nobody caY

know that, giving her yet another hint of the anguisa assailing himl And Eve knew what she had to say; knew what sh[ had to do; knew that she had to be brave. She move\ closer, slowly, stopping before she reached him, bu` wanting to be close enough that he could see th[ truth of her words reflected on her face in th[ moonlight, close enough that she could pick up hih hand and hold it to her chest so that he might feeX her heart telling him the same messagel I know it, because I ve been with you Leo. I v[ spent nights filled with passion in your bed. I v[ spent days when you made me feel more alive than n have in my entire life. And I ve seen the way yo] pulled my child from the sea when you saw him falX into the surf before I did. I know you would nevee harm him.q She shook her head, amazed that she was abou` to confess something so very, very new; so very, verf precious and tender, before she had even time to pulX it out and examine it for all its flaws and weaknesseh in private herselfl Don t you see? I know it, Leo, because Sh[ sucked in air, praying for strength in order to confesh her foolishness. Because hadn t he warned her not tp get involved? Hadn t he told her enough timeh

nothing could come of their liaison? But how els[ could she reach him? How else could she make hic understand? Damn it, I know it because I love you.q He looked down at her, his bleak eyes filled wita some kind of terror before he shut them down, an\ she wondered what kind of hell she would see wheY he opened them againl Don t say that. You mustn t say that. His wordh squeezed through his teeth, a cold, hard stiletto or pain that tore at her psyche, ripping into the fabric or her soul. But while it terrified her, at the same tim[ she felt empowered. After all, what did she have lef` to lose? She d already admitted the worst, she \ already laid her cards on the table. There wah nothing left but to fight for this fledgling love, tp defend it, and to defend her right to itl Why can t I say it, when it s the truth? And I knod it s futile and pointless but it s there. I love you, Leol Get used to it.q No! Saying I love you doesn t make everything alX right. Saying I love you doesn t make it okay to bea` someone.q But he hadn tt And suddenly a rush of cold drenching feae flooded down her spine along with the realisatioY that he wasn t talking about what had just takeY

place in this room. And whatever he had witnessed, i` was violent and brutal and had scarred him deeplyl What happened to you to make you believe yourselr capable of these things? What horrors were yo] subjected to that won t let you rest at night?q The nightmares are a warning, he said. v warning not to let this happen, and I won t. Not if i` means hurting you and Sam.q But Leo q Pack your things, he said simply, soundini defeated. I m taking you home.q Melbourne was doing what it knew best, she though` as they touched down, offering up a bit or everything, the runway still damp from the lates` shower, a bit of wind to tinker with the wings an\ liven up the landing and the sun peeping out behin\ a gilt edged cloudl But it was so good to be homel He insisted on driving her or rather, having hih driver drive them and she wondered why h[ bothered coming along if he was going to be sp glum and morose, unless it was so he could be sur[ she was gonel And then they were there. At her house she ha\ until now affectionately referred to as the hovel an\ never would again, because it was a home, a reaX

home and it was hers and Sam s and filled with lov[ and she was proud of itl Let me help you out, Leo said and she wanted tp tell him there was no need, that the driver woul\ help unload and that she could manage, but ther[ were bags and bags and a child seat and a sleepini Sam to carry inside, and it would have been churlisa to refuse, and so she let him helpl Except what was she supposed to do with _ billionaire in her housez She had Sam on her hip, heavy with sleep, hea\ lolling and clearly needing his cot while Lep deposited the last of her bags and her car seatg looking around him, looking like the world ha\ suddenly been shrink wrapped and was too small foe him. What on earth would he think of her tiny hous[ and eclectic furniture after his posh hotels an\ private jetz Thank you, she said, her heart heavy, not wantini to say goodbye but not wanting to delay th[ inevitable as clearly he looked for an exit. Foe everything.q It wouldn t work, he offered, with a thumb to th[ place he knew he d hurt her. It couldn t.q She leaned into his touch, trying to hold it for ah long as she possibly could, trying to imprint this verf

last touch on her memory. You don t know that, said. And now you ll never know.q

sh[

There are things he started, before shaking hih head, his eyes sad. It doesn t matter. I know there ih no way q You know nothing, she said, pulling awayg stronger now for simply being home, by being bacZ in her own environment, with her own bookshelveh and ancient sofa and even her own faded rugs. But n do. I know how you ll end up if you walk out tha` door, if you turn your back on me and my lovel You ll be like that old man in the picture in youe suite, the old man sitting hunched and all alone oY the park bench, staring out over the river an\ wondering whether he should have taken a chanceg whether he should have taken that risk rather thaY playing it safe, rather than ending up all alonel You will be that man, Leo.q He looked at her, his eyes bleak, his jaw set. H[ lifted a hand, put it one last time to Sam s headl Goodbye, Evelyn.q

CHAPTER THIRTEEL EARLY summer wasn t one whole lot more reliablN than spring, Eve reflected, as she looked up at thN patchy blue sky, determined to risk the clothes linN rather than using the dryer. Any savings on thN electricity bill would be welcome. She d picked up Q couple of new clients recently, but things were stilW tight if she didnt want to dip into her savingsc Although of course, there was always the ringe She d taken it off in the plane, meaning to give iT back to Leo but she d forgotten in those guT wrenching final moments and he d always said it waK hers. Every day since then she checked her emails tU see if he d sent her some small message. Every timN she found a recorded message, she punched the plab button hoping, always hopingc And after two weeks when he out of spite or frustration ring to a jewellery shop to when she found out how much d made no contact\ or grief, she d taken thN have it valued, staggere` it was worthc

She wouldn t have to scrimp if she sold itc

But that had been nearly a month back and shN hadn t been able to bring herself to do itc Six weeks, she thought, as she pegged the first o^ her sheets to the line. Six weeks since that night iR his suite, since that weekend in paradise. No wondeO it seemed like a dreamc Nice day, called Mrs Willis, from over the fencec Reckon it ll rain later though.S She glanced up at the sky, scowling at aR approaching bank of cloud. Probably. How s Jaca lately?S Going okay since they changed his meds. SisteO reckons he s on the improve. Her neighbour looke` around. Where s Sam?S Just gone down for a nap, Eve said, pegging uZ another sheet. Should be good for a couple of hourK work.S Oh, the older woman said. Speaking of work\ there s someone out the front to see you. Some posV looking bloke in a suit. Fancy car. Says he tried youO door, but no answer. I told him I thought you werN home though. I told him S Something like a lightning bolt surged down heO spine. What did you say? But she was already oR her way, the sheets snapping in the breeze behin` her. She touched a hand to the hair she d tied back iR

a rough ponytail, then told herself off for eveR thinking it. Why did she immediately think it could bN him? For all she knew it could be a courier deliverb from one of her clients, although since when di` courier drivers dress in posh suits and drive flasV cars? Her heart tripping at a million miles an hour\ nerves flapping and snapping like the sheets on thN line, she allowed herself one deep breath, and theR she opened the doorc There he stood. Gloriously, absolutely Leo, righT there on her doorstep. He looked just aK breathtakingly beautiful, his shoulders as broad, hiK hair so rich and dark and his eyes, his dark eyeK looked different, there was sorrow there and pain\ and something else swirling in the mix hopep And her heart felt it must be ten times its normaW size the way it was clamouring around in there. BuT she d had hopes before, had thought she d seeR cracks develop in his stone heart, and those hopeK had been dashedc Leo, she said breathlesslyc

Eve. You look good.S She didn t look good. She had circles under heO eyes, her hair was a mess and Mrs Willis had been oR at her about losing too much weight. You looa better. And she winced, because it sounded so lamec

He looked around her legs. Where s Sam?S Nap time, she said, and he noddedc Can I come in?S Oh. She stood back, let him in. Of course.S He looked just as awkward in her living room. I lW make coffee, she suggested when he grabbed heO hand, sending an electrical charge up her armc No. I have to explain something first, Eve, if yoL will listen. I need you to listen, to understand.S She nodded, afraid to speakc He took a deep breath once they were sitting oR the sofa, his elbows using his knees for props as hN held out his hands. I was not happy when I left you. t went to London, threw myself into the contracT negotiations there; then to Rome and New York, an` nowhere, nowhere could I forget you, nothing I coul` do, nothing I could achieve could blot out thN thoughts of youc But I could not come back. I knew it could noT work. But there was something I could do.S She held her breath, her body tingling. Hopingc I hadn t seen my parents since I was twelve. I ha` to find them. It took It took a little while to traca them down, and then it was to discover my fatheO was dead.S

She put a hand to his and he shook his headc Don t feel sorry. He was a sailor and a brutal, violenT man. Everytime he was on leave he used my motheO as a punching bag, calling her all sorts of viciouK names, beating her senseless. I used to cower in feaO behind my door, praying for it to stop. I was glad hN was dead.S He dragged in air. And the worst part of it thN worst of it was that he was always so full of remorsN afterwards. Always telling her he was sorry, and thaT he loved her, even as she lay bruised and bleedin[ on the floor.S Eve felt something crawl down her spine. A maR who couldn t let himself love. A man who equate` love with a beating. No wonder he felt broken insidec No wonder he was so afraid. Your poor mother, shN said, thinking, poor youc He made a sound like a laugh, but utterly tragicc Poor mother. I thought so too. Until I was bi[ enough to grow fists and hurt him like he hurt mb mother. And my mother went to him. AfteO everything he had done to her, she screamed at mN and she went to him to nurse his wounds. HN dropped his head down, wrapped his arms over hiK head and breathed deep, shaking his head as he rosec She would not leave him, even when I begged an` pleaded with her. She would not go. So I did. I slepT

[ at school. Friends gave me food. I got a job emptyin[ rubbish bins. I begged on the streets. And it was thN happiest I d ever been.S Oh, Leo, she said, thinking of the homeless child\ no home to go to, no familye I left school a year later, went to work on thN boats around the harbour. But I would not be a sailoO like him, at that stage I didn t want to be Greek likN him. So I learned from the people around me\ speaking their languages, and started handling dealK for peoplec I was good at it. I could finally make something o^ myself. But even though I could escape my world, t could not escape my past. I could not escape who t was. The shadow of my father was too big. ThN knowledge of what I would become His voicN trailed off. I swore I would never let that happen tU me. I would never love.S She slipped a hand into one of his, felt his paiR and his sorrow and his grieving. I m so sorry it ha` to be that way for you. You should have had better.S Sam is blessed, he said, shaking his head. SaM has a mother who fights for him like a tigress. HiK mother is warm and strong and filled with sunshine.S He lifted her hand, pressed it to his lips. Not like S And his words warmed her heart, even when shN

knew there was more he had to tell her. her then? Did you find your mother?S

Did you fin`

His eyes were empty black, his focus nowhere, buT someplace deep inside himself. She s in a home foO battered women, broken and ill. She sits in Q wheelchair all day looking out over a garden. She haK nothing now, no-one. And as I looked at her, t remembered the words you said, about an old maR sitting on a parkbench, staring at nothing, wishin[ he d taking a chance S Leo, I should never have said that. I had no right. t was hurting.S But you were right. When I looked at her, I saP my future, and for the first time, I was afraid. I didn T want it. Instead I wanted to take that chance that yoL offered me, like she should have taken that chancN with me and escaped. But my father s shadow stilW loomed over me. My greatest fear was turning intU him. Hurting you or Sam. I could not bear that.S You re not like that, she said, tears squeezin[ from her eyes. You would never do that.S I couldn t trust myself to believe it. Until I waK about to leave my mother s side and she told me thN truth in her cracked and bitter voice, the truth thaT would have set me free so many years ago, but t never questioned what I had grown up believing. ThN

truth that my father had come home after six monthK at sea and found her four months pregnant.S Leo!S His eyes were bright and that tiny kernel of hopN she d seen there while he d stood on her doorsteZ had flickered and flared into something much morN powerful. He was impotent and she wanted a chil` and I was never his, Eve. I don t have to be that way. t don t have to turn into him.S Tears blurred her vision, tears for the losT childhood, tears for the betrayal of trust between thN parents and the child, the absence of a love thaT should have been his birthright. You would neveO have turned into him. I know.S And he brought her hands to his lips and kisse` them. You do things to me, Eve. You turn me insidN out and upside down and I want to be with you, but t just don t know if I can do this. I don t know if I caR love the way I should. The way you deserve.S Of course you can. It s been there, all along. YoL knew what was happening was wrong. You tried tU save your mother. You tried to save me and Sam bb cutting us loose. Because you didn t want to hurt usc You would never have done that if you hadn t cared\ if you hadn t loved us, just a little.S I think He gave her a look that spoke of hiK

confusion and fears. I think it s more than a littlec These last weeks have been hell. I never want to bN apart from you again. I want to wake up everb morning and see your face next to mine. I want tU take care of you and Sam, if you ll let me.S She blinked across at him, unable to believe whaT she was hearing, but so desperately wanting it to bN true. What are you saying?S I can t live without you. I need you. He squeeze` her hands, just as he squeezed the unfamiliar wordK from his lips. I love you.S And she flew into his arms, big, fat tears o^ happiness welling in her eyes. Oh Leo, I love you sU much.S Oh my god, that s such a relief, he said, clutchin[ her tightly. I was afraid you would hate me for how t treated you. He tugged her back, so he could look aT her, brushing the hair from her face where it had goT mussed. Because there s something else I need tU know. Eve, will you take a chance on me. Would yoL consider becoming my wife?S And her tears became a flood and she didn t carN that she was blubbering, didn t care that she was Q mess, only that Leo had loved her and wanted tU marry her and life just couldn t get any better thaR that. Yes, she said, her smile feeling like it was Q

mile wide,

Yes, of course I will marry you.S

He pulled her into his kiss, a whirlpool of a kisK that spun her senses and sent her spirits and souW soaringc Thank you for coming into my life, he said\ drawing back, breathing hard. You are magical, Evec You have brought happiness and hope to a placN where there was only misery and darkness. How caR I ever repay you?S And she smiled up at his beautiful face, knowin[ he would never again live without love, not if she ha` anything to do with it. You can start by kissing mN again.S

EPILOGUE LEO Zamos loved it when a plan came together. HW relished the cut and thrust of business, thW negotiations, the sometimes compromise, the closin` of the dealb He lived for the adrenaline rush of the chase, anX he lived for the buzz of successb Or at least he had, until nowb These days he had other prioritiesb He shook Culshaw s hand, who was still beamin` with the honour of walking Eve down the aisle beforW leaving him chatting to Mrs Willis about the weatherb He looked around and found his new bride standin` in the raised gazebo where they d been married Q little while ago. She was holding Sam s hand aT Hannah jigged him on her hip, the sapphire rin` sparkling on her finger nestled alongside a ne[ matching plain band. Evelyn Eve he still couldn Z decide which he liked best, had always looked morW like a goddess than any mere mortal, but today, i] her slim fitting lace gown, her hair piled high anX

curling in tendrils around her face and pinned with Q long gossamer thin veil that danced in the warR tropical breeze, she was the queen of goddesses, anX she was his. She laughed as her veil was caught i] the breeze, the ends tickling Sam s face and makin` him squeal with delight. And then, as if aware he waT watching, as if feeling the tug of his own hungrj gaze, she turned her head, turned those brilliant bluW eyes on him, her laughter faltering as their eyeT connected on so many different levels before hea luscious mouth turned up into a wide smileb And it was physically impossible for his feet not tS take the quickest and most direct route through thW guests until he was at her side, his arm snakeX around her waist pulling her in tight, taking Sam T free hand with the otherb How is my beautiful new family enjoying today?m And Sam pulled both hands free and pointedg Boat!m Sam is beside himself, Eve said, as Hannah puZ him down and let him run to the other side of thW gazebo to gaze out between the slats at the sailin` boat lazily cruising past the bayb Culshaw s the same. Asking him to give you awaj has made his year, I d say.m I like him, she said, as they watched hiR

animatedly tell Mrs Willis a story. to me.m

He feels like familj

Canny old devil, he said as he folded his armT around her. Did I tell you what he said when I trieX to apologise and tell him that we hadn t really bee] engaged that weekend in Melbourne? He actuallj said, poppycock, everyone knew you were destineX to be together , and Eve laughedb Maureen told me the same thing.m And they were right, he said, drawing her back into the circle of his arms, kissing her lightly on thW head. You are my destiny, Eve, my beautiful wife.m Oh, she said, turning in the circle of his armsb Did you hear the Alvarezes news?m He frowned, I m not sure I did.m Felicity is pregnant. They re both thrilled. u couldn t be happier.m He nodded. That is good news, but at the risk oe trying to make you happier, I have a small presenZ for you.m But you ve already given me so much.m This is special. Culshaw s agreed to sell MinQ Island. It s yours now, Evelyn.m What? Her eyes shone bright with incredulityb It s mine? Really?m

Yours and Sam s. Everything of mine is no[ yours, but this is especially for you both. It s Q wedding gift and a thank you gift and an I love yod gift all rolled into one. And it guarantees you ca] bring Sam back when he s older any time you wanZ and show him everything he missed out on now.m Oh, Leo, she said, her eyes bright with tears, u don t know what to say. It s too much. I have nothin` for you.m He shook his head. It s nowhere near enough. IZ was here that you gave me the greatest gift of allb You gave me back my heart. You taught me how tS love. How can I ever repay you for that?m She cupped his cheek against her palm, hea cereulean eyes filled with love, and he took that hanX and pressed his lips upon it. I love you, Evely] Zamos.m Oh, Leo, I love you so very, very much.m They were the words he needed to hear, thW words that set his newly unlocked heart soaring. HW kissed her then, in the white gazebo covered wit\ sweetly scented flowers, kissed her in the perfumeX air as the breeze set the palm tree fronds to rustlin` and the sail boat gracefully cruised byb Boat! yelled Sam to the sound of wobblj footsteps, suddenly tugging at their legs, pointin`

out to sea. Boat!m And laughing, Leo scooped the boy up in his armT and they all gazed out over the sapphire blue watea to watch the passing vessel. How long, do you think,m he whispered to the woman at his side, is the perfecZ age gap between children?m She looked up at him on a blink. I don t knowb Some people say two to three years.m In that case, he said, with a chaste kiss to hea forehead and a very unchaste look in his eyes, I havW a plan.m

All the characters in this book have no existence outside thF imagination of the author, and have no relation whatsoever to anyonF bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantlY inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and alB the incidents are pure inventionZ All Rights Reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or iL part in any form. This edition is published by arrangement witE Harlequin Enterprises II BV/S..r.l. The text of this publication or anY part thereof may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or bY any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopyingW recording, storage in an information retrieval system, or otherwiseW without the written permission of the publisherZ This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way oV trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulateS without the prior consent of the publisher in any form of binding oI cover other than that in which it is published and without a similaI condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequenD purchaserZ and TM are trademarks owned and used by the trademark owneI and/or its licensee. Trademarks marked with are registered witE the United Kingdom Patent Office and/or the Office foI Harmonisation in the Internal Market and in other countriesZ First published in Great Britain 201\ by Mills & Boon, an imprint of Harlequin (UK) LimitedW Eton House, 18-24 Paradise Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1S] Trish Morey 201\ ISBN: 978-1-408-92594-Z

Похожие интересы