Claimed for Makarov's Baby(7)

By: Sharon Kendrick

She remembered the hours he’d spent in nightclubs and bars and casinos, gambling away millions of rubles as if they were nothing but loose change, in a vodka-or whisky-induced haze. She remembered all the women who had passed through his bed—the ones with the tiny dresses and tottering heels who exuded a dangerous kind of glamour, along with the occasional flash of their knickers. She certainly didn’t want her son growing up to think those kind of women were the norm. Who was to say that the seedy world Dimitri inhabited wouldn’t corrupt her golden-haired boy and introduce him to some unspeakable future?

She remembered his coldness towards her the morning after she’d slept with him—his shocked face when he’d opened his eyes and seen who was lying beside him. With her brown hair and narrow build she must have seemed like a different species from the blowsy women he usually bedded. No wonder he hadn’t been able to wait to get away from her.

‘We’d better go to your place, I suppose,’ she said, her voice filled with resignation.

His mouth hardened as he rapped on the window and spoke to the driver in his native tongue, and the car took a left, travelling towards the dockland area of the city.

Erin waited for his interrogation to begin, but when Dimitri took a phone call and began what was clearly a business conversation in his native Russian, she was momentarily perplexed. Until she remembered that his ability to switch on and off was legendary. And he was manipulative—that was one of the reasons he was so frighteningly successful. Right now, he would have realised that by leaving her to stew he would only increase her feelings of insecurity and put him in an even stronger position. His clever mind would be carefully stockpiling a series of questions, but he would ask them only in his time, and on his terms.

And really, there was only one question which she was going to have difficulty answering...

The car took them to his skyscraper apartment overlooking the river and Erin was filled with a horrible feeling of déjà vu as they walked into the magnificent marbled foyer, with its forest of tall, potted palms—behind which sat one of the burly porters who were all ju-jitsu trained. Sometimes she used to come here to take dictation if her boss was getting ready to go abroad, and it was a place she had always liked—a coldly magnificent apartment which was worlds away from her own rented home. She’d liked the river view and the fact that you could push a button and the blinds would float down, or another button would send music drifting out from one of the many speakers. She’d liked pretty much everything about it until the night when she’d overstepped the mark. When she’d offered him comfort during the one time she’d seen Dimitri looking vulnerable.

And he’d responded by taking her virginity on his vast dining-room table, tearing off her panties like a man possessed and making that almost feral moan as he drove deep inside her.

She could see the porter looking her up and down as she stepped out of the revolving door in her badly fitting white dress, with Dimitri’s jacket hanging around her shoulders. Briefly, she felt like some sort of crazy woman, especially when he propelled her into the waiting elevator at great speed.

‘Hurry up,’ he said as he pressed the button for the penthouse elevator. ‘I don’t want my reputation being trashed by being seen with a woman in a second-hand wedding dress.’

‘I didn’t think it was possible for your reputation to sink any lower!’

Pale eyes swept over her. ‘You might be surprised how out of touch you are,’ he said mockingly.

‘I doubt it,’ she spat back.

But as the elevator gathered speed Erin knew she had to forget the past and concentrate on the present. She had to think about the situation as it was, not what it used to be. If only she hadn’t allowed her feelings for him to ruin everything. If only she hadn’t started entertaining romantic fantasies about him—when she knew better than anyone that grand passion brought with it nothing but disillusionment.

She bunched up the material of her white dress as he unlocked his apartment and stood aside to let her pass, and she couldn’t work out whether to be happy or sad when she noticed that very little had changed. The vast, wooden-floored entrance hall still provided the perfect backdrop for all the Russian artefacts which were everywhere. The Fabergé eggs he collected were displayed in a casual grouping, which only seemed to emphasise their priceless beauty. There was one in particular which she used to love—a perfect golden sphere studded with emeralds and rubies, which seemed to mock her now as it sparkled in the autumn sunlight.

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