A Night of No Return(6)

By: Sarah Morgan



‘Hello?’ She closed the door to keep the heat in—how much did it cost to heat somewhere like this?—and then noticed the open champagne bottles, the balloons and the streamers. And a cake. Something about the cake didn’t quite seem right, but she couldn’t work out what it was. Clearly a party was going on somewhere, except there was no sign of any guests, just an overpowering silence that was almost creepy. She half expected someone to jump out from behind the heavy velvet curtains and shout boo!

An uneasy feeling crept down her spine. For goodness’ sake, it was just a house! A big house, admittedly, but there was nothing threatening about a house. And she wasn’t alone. She couldn’t possibly be alone. Lucas had to be here somewhere and a whole load of other people judging from the number of champagne bottles.

Hoping that an enormous guard dog wasn’t about to bound out and close its jaws on a sensitive part of her anatomy, Emma walked over to a large oak door and pushed it open. It was a library, the walls lined with tall bookshelves stacked with books bound in various faded shades of old leather.

‘Lucas?’ She tentatively explored all the obvious rooms on the ground floor and then walked up the staircase. This was ridiculous. She couldn’t search the whole house. Remembering the light she’d seen shining from the tower, she decided to just try there.

Hazarding a guess as to the correct direction, she turned right and walked along a carpeted corridor until she reached a heavy oak door.

She tapped once and opened it. ‘Lucas?’ A spiral staircase rose in front of her and she walked up it and found herself in a large circular room with windows on all sides. Logs blazed in a huge fireplace and out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of a huge four-poster bed draped in moss-green velvet, but her attention was on the low leather sofa because there, sprawled with his feet up on the arm and a bottle of champagne in his hand, was her boss.

‘Lucas?’

‘I thought I told you to get out.’ His savage tone made her gasp and she took a step backwards and almost tumbled down the stairs. Not once in the years she’d worked for him had he spoken to her like that.

One glance told her that he was rip-roaring drunk and she so rarely saw him out of control that her initial reaction was one of surprise. The fact that he didn’t make a habit of it did nothing to soothe her bruised feelings.

While her Friday night had been well and truly ruined, he’d been enjoying himself. He’d switched his phone off not because he was busy with an important business call, but because he was busy getting drunk. She’d risked her neck driving around the English countryside in a snowstorm, while all the time Lucas was warm and snug in front of a roaring log fire drinking champagne. Not only that, he had the gall to tell her to get out.

Emma’s temper, usually slow to burn, began to glow hot.

She was about to slap the file down on the table and leave him to his solitary party when she suddenly realised that what he’d actually said wasn’t get out but ‘I thought I told you to get out.’

She frowned.

He certainly hadn’t already told her to get out. Which could only mean that he thought she was someone else.

She remembered the balloons and the streamers. The abandoned champagne bottles. The cake.

‘Lucas!’ She spoke more clearly this time. ‘It’s me. Emma.’

For a moment she thought he hadn’t heard her, and then his eyes opened.

Across the shadowy room she saw the lethal glitter that told her everything she needed to know about his mood. She was nowhere near him and yet it was as if he’d reached out and touched her. Her body warmed. She shifted uncomfortably. She’d never seen him like this before. The man she knew was always sleek and groomed. His suits were handmade in Italy, his shirts custom-made. He was a man who expected the best in everything. A sophisticated connoisseur of all things beautiful.

But tonight he looked dangerous in every way. In mood. In looks. His shirt was open at the neck, exposing a cluster of dark hair and a hint of powerful chest. Shadowy stubble darkened his strong jaw and, most disturbingly of all, she had the feeling that he was balancing on the very edge of control.

Sensing it, Emma reacted the way she would have reacted had she suddenly been confronted by a snarling Rottweiler intent on ripping her throat out. She froze and tried to project calm. ‘It’s just me,’ she said soothingly, ‘only you seemed to think I was someone else, so I thought I ought to just clarify that … er … it’s me.’

The silence stretched for such an agonizing length of time that she’d started to think that he wasn’t going to answer when suddenly he stirred.

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