Savage Seduction(10)

By: Sharon Kendrick


His eyes darkened, glistened like two fragments of hell’s coal. She saw a muscle begin to work with ominous regularity in the side of the olive cheek, saw his mouth tighten into a hard slash, and then shedid know the meaning of fear, saw suddenly the face of a ruthless man behind the shatteringly handsome mask. All power and strength.

‘Is that what you think?’ he gritted in a low, furious voice. ‘That I am one of these men who expects sex as a form of payment for buying a woman dinner?’

He looked more than angry, she thought, he looked furious, as if she’d deeply offended his code of honour.

‘Of course I don’t!’ she said hurriedly. ‘It’s just—’

‘Just?’

She lifted her shoulders in bewilderment. ‘I didn’t mean to insult you. I don’t know what I meant. When you made that remark about lovers…I didn’t want you to think…’

‘I didn’t,’ he said simply. ‘And as for your con- fusion—do you think I don’t feel it too? Do you think this happens to me every day of the week?’

‘What?’

But he shook his head. ‘Enough. All this talk on an empty stomach. Come. Let’s go and eat.’

She fell into step beside him, giving him her hand when he held his out, walking down the dusty path towards the village, safe within the warmth of his grasp. Sinking into the distance, the giant dinnerplate of a sun flooded them with a rich, crimson light and it felt like being at the centre of some glowing and infernal jewel.

They walked into the village, past the restaurant where she’d seen him yesterday.

He saw the inquisitive rise of her eyebrows. ‘There is little enough privacy in the village,’ he explained. ‘But even less there.’

‘Oh? And why’s that?’

He smiled down at her. ‘My family owns it.’

So—he was in the restaurant business with his family. And he didn’t want her to meet them! Some little English girl he was ashamed to be seen with. She began to pull her hand away, but he wouldn’t let her, instead stopped still on the dusty track and turned her to face him.

‘What’s wrong?’

Peculiarly, it was too important to her to lie about. ‘Of course, if you don’t want me to meet your family—’

‘Agape mou,’ he laughed softly, ‘there is a way that a man can behave with a woman which in Greece would have his family drawing up a wedding list.’

Her heart sounded very loud in her ears. ‘And what way’s that?’

‘Never taking his eyes off her. Not wanting to eat. Not wanting to do anything other than kiss her and make love to her. I’ve seen it happen to other men before; but never to me. The way I intend to behave with you tonight, Jade,’ he finished with quiet emphasis. ‘And I would prefer not to have an audience.’

The darkness was falling and it camouflaged her soft rise in colour, the sharp little intake of breath. It had sounded as if… As if what? As if he was falling in love with her? As she was with him? Oh, stop it, stop it, she thought shakily. ‘But surely,’ she questioned, ‘all the restaurants will be crowded tonight—it’s the height of the season.’

‘Wait and see,’ he promised.

In a dream she walked with him to the outside of the village, to a white building which looked out over the blue and green fragrant hills, the stars be- ginning to glimmer in the indigo velvet of the sky.

A waiter led them to a terrace, where rose- coloured candles burned incandescently on each table against the ever-darkening night. This res- taurant was obviously much more upmarket than the others in the village, thought Jade as Constantine held her chair out for her, because crisp white tablecloths matched the beautifully pleated damask napkins.

There was wine already chilling in the ice-bucket, and Jade accepted a glass, together with the leather- bound menu, her eyes wide with confusion.

‘Where is everyone?’ she whispered. ‘Why are we the only customers?’

He smiled, his teeth showing very white in the olive darkness of his face. ‘Because, as I told you, I wanted privacy.’

‘But how—?’

His eyes narrowed. ‘The proprietor owes me a favour,’ he said implacably, and Jade once again got an overwhelming feeling of a toughness ema- nating from the man who sat opposite her.

She sipped at her drink nervously. ‘You mean- that we’ve got the whole restaurant to ourselves? As a favour to you?’

He gave a little nod. ‘I do.

‘It must have been a very big favour.’ In Jade’s world, people just didn’t do things like that. But this was, after all, Greece. Many parts of it a still very fundamental world, with values light-years away from the superficial mores of life in the highly developed west, or even from life in its capital, Athens. Without knowing why, goosebumps chilled her arms, even though the night air was warm and soft on her skin.

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