Stand-In Bride's Seduction(4)

By: Yvonne Lindsay

She swallowed hard against the lump in her throat. Why were promises so darn hard to keep?

The crowd of travelers she’d arrived with had long since dispersed, and the sidewalks outside the terminal building were nearly empty. Worse, so were the taxi stands. Half an hour later Rina was beginning to wilt as the concentrated afternoon heat continued to build around her. Mindful of her fair skin—the curse of a natural redhead—she’d sought some shade near the side of the building.

A trickle of perspiration ran down Rina’s back, as she flicked another glance at her watch—a gift from Sara and her only really frivolous piece of jewelry with its crystal embedded bezel and bracelet-style strap. Finally, thankfully, a green-and-white taxi pulled up. Tucking her shoulder bag securely against her side, Rina tightened her grip on the extended handle of her practical black suitcase and rolled it to the curbside.

“The Governess’s Cottage, please,” Rina said through the open passenger window.

Was it her imagination or did the driver surreptitiously cross himself as he got out of the taxi and walked around to lift her suitcase into the trunk of his car? Either way, she was too tired to care right now. She could only focus on one thing. Sorting out this wretched mess her sister had left her in.

Rina watched the departing taxi speed down the road for a few minutes, more than a little startled by the haste with which the driver had taken off. Goodness only knew why he was in such a hurry.

She grabbed her suitcase handle for what she hoped would be the last time in the next four weeks and trudged wearily through the pretty iron gate set within a stone wall that surrounded the cottage. “Quaint” really was the only word to describe the ancient structure, Rina decided as she followed the path to the tiny front porch with its stone steps worn by the passage of years of foot traffic.

Pale ocher-plastered brick here and there, the plaster crumbling away, revealing the ancient brick beneath—and with a darker orange tiled roof, it looked like an old-fashioned watercolor. Deep-set mullioned windows, sashed with faded blue wooden trim, gave an insight into sparse, but adequate, furnishings inside. Not entirely Spanish in style, yet not entirely French either, the cottage was a delightfully eclectic mixture of both.

Inside, she thought she could hear a phone ring before the strident chime shut off abruptly for a few moments then started all over again.

Rina dug in her handbag for the envelope Sara had left her. The heavy old key fit neatly into the ancient black lock, and the door swung smoothly open. The telephone, coincidentally, fell silent once more as she stepped inside.

She didn’t take so much as a second to admire the exposed beam ceiling of the main rooms of the cottage, nor the pristine perfection of the charming blue and white tiled bathroom. And she didn’t allow herself more than a single longing glance at the all-too-tempting bed in the room where she’d stowed her suitcase. She was a woman on a single-minded mission. To tell Sara’s fiancé exactly what she’d done. Surely he’d be reasonable. After all, they’d met and become engaged in such a short space of time. They barely knew one another. A certain amount of second thought was bound to occur.

After her shower, Rina grabbed the first thing off the top of her open suitcase and dragged it over her barely dry body, and headed into the open-plan sitting room where she searched for a phone.

Ten minutes later she had exactly what she needed. Thanking Isla Sagrado’s multilingual culture, and the high profile of the del Castillo family, not to mention the helpfulness of the information operator, for making the process so straightforward, she made another quick call and ordered a taxi to collect her and take her into the city, Puerto Seguro, and Reynard’s offices.

By the time Rina arrived at the tasteful high-rise in the downtown section of the port city, she was running on pure nerves. Having been the recent recipient of such a break in relations, she was wary of how to approach this. What did you say to someone you’d never met before when you wanted to tell him that his engagement was very likely on shaky ground?

She smoothed trembling hands over the sleeveless beige silk dress she’d pulled on in such a hurry and hoped her hair wasn’t already escaping the casual twist. She’d secured it with a couple of topaz-colored jeweled clips she’d found scattered, in typical Sara-like fashion, on the bathroom vanity.

A quick scan of the floor directory next to the bank of elevators gave her the last bit of information she needed. Rina stepped into one of the elevator cars and pressed the button for the twenty-first floor. Her stomach lurched as the car started its upward journey, and all the while she ran through her head what she needed to say.

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