A Hint of Scandal(4)

By: Tara Pammi


She reapplied her dark red lipstick. Battle-ready.

She took a deep breath, stepped out of the luxurious suite and walked toward the huge banquet hall. Almost at the entrance, she let her gaze fell on a small veranda to her right, and before she knew it she was looking at miles of gorgeous sand, her feet itching to feel the grainy texture.

With a sigh, she took an about-turn, determined to go for a swim by the end of the day. What was the fun in getting fake married on a Caribbean island if you didn’t even dip your toes in the ocean?

She came to a standstill at the entrance to the hall, stunned by the sight. A lump lodged in her throat at the elegant beauty of the hall. Kim had prepared all this for her beautiful wedding and wasn’t even here to enjoy it. A hundred little questions pecked inside her head. By the end of this charade she was going to ensure one thing. She’d find out what was really going on with Kim.

Round tables covered with the sheerest white lace filled the decadent marble-floored hall, with a single pink orchid in a crystal vase gracing the center of each table. Lanterns designed to look like tiny fireflies hung from the roof, throwing light onto the vases, and the crystal shimmered in thousands of directions.

It all looked gloriously romantic even to someone like her, who didn’t go for the elaborate traditional wedding, the designer gown and the whole status thing that went with the society that Kim and Alexander inhabited.

She couldn’t stop her thoughts from flitting inward. Her chest felt tight, as if a fist had tightened over her heart. One more thing Kim had that she herself never would. A man who loved her. A man who...

Enough.

She wasn’t going to spend another minute thinking about things that could never be. She ran a hand over her stomach and smoothed the silk, feeling as though the hole she kept carefully covered was exposed. She headed straight to the open bar, uncaring of the curious glances thrown her way. Thankfully, the bar itself was empty. She ordered a scotch, her back to everyone. When the drink came she drank it in one swig, needing the fiery liquid to wash away the maudlin nonsense in her head.

Her skin prickled with awareness, every inch of her hypersensitive to the arrival of the man behind her.

“Here’s where you’re hiding.”

Without turning around she silently slid the tumbler back toward the bartender. Kim couldn’t stomach alcohol—much less scotch—a fact she was sure Alexander knew. Schooling her face into a pleasant expression, she turned around. The sight of him dealt her a fiercer kick than the scotch. “More like recuperating,” she replied, placing her hand in his outstretched one.

He tugged her close, his gaze devouring her. A frown creased his forehead. “Did you just have a drink?”

Managing to hold on to another curse by biting the inside of her cheek, Olivia shook her head.

His disbelief hung like a curtain between them. Instantly she tried to remedy her mistake. “I actually took some aspirin for my headache. It just seems to be getting worse.” At least that wasn’t a lie. Her head was beginning to throb as though she had spent all night at a Metallica concert. In the front row.

His brow cleared and his gaze shone with sympathy. “At least no one will find it strange if we escape the reception quickly. After all, it’s our wedding night.”

Her gaze flew to his as he ran a long, dark finger over the sensitized flesh at her neck, tracing the lacy neckline of her dress. Her soft gasp got lost between them as he bent toward her ear.

“I can’t wait to rip that dress off you.”

A shiver traveled up her spine, sparking desire in every inch of her. Locking arms with him, she tucked her head down, fighting for air. His muscled body only heightened her awareness of him. Every second that passed was twisting the hard knot in her stomach tighter. Where the hell was Kim? She didn’t want to be here for another minute, not with the way her body was reacting to his mere presence.

Not when it was another woman’s man. Dear God, he belonged to her twin—the one person who had stood by her no matter what.

Somehow Olivia held on to a semblance of composure as she smiled and talked to the guests, nodding enthusiastically as Kim and Alexander’s friends raved on and on and about how perfect they were for each other, pretending to know them. If they thought it was strange that the always intelligent and articulate Kim was mostly silent, they could put it down to the excitement of being a new bride.

She had to bite the inside of her mouth to stop thrusting her tongue out as her father praised Kim’s success to anyone who would hear... If only he knew...

She had no idea how she lived through the torturous dance with Alexander. Each sinuous, slow movement threw her against his muscled strength, with the pulsating energy between them winding her up, the scent of him seeping into her every pore. Her muscles groaned at her stiff posture by the time the dance came to an end. Only the enticing prospect of sinking into the claw-foot bathtub with numerous silver faucets she had spied back in Kim’s suite kept her standing.

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