The Heir From Nowhere(8)

By: Trish Morey


‘We can talk about “this situation” when you’ve had some sustenance. It will be easier to talk then,’ he said, taking her forearm to steer her in the direction Simone had disappeared, sending a burst of shooting stars up her arm as she made to follow him. Instinctively she jerked her arm away, but he had already released her and she wondered if it was because he’d felt that same unexpected zing of current. But no. Far more likely that he’d simply achieved what he’d set out to do—he’d bossed her into submission and he could let her go, mission accomplished.

But she was too hungry to argue any more, too prepared to find the logic in his argument as she fell into step beside him. She needed to eat and they needed to talk. She’d probably have enough in her purse for a sandwich or something—anything to distract her from the strange tingling sensations under her skin. Like pins and needles except on the inside.

‘Did I hurt you?’

She glanced up to find him watching her without breaking stride. ‘Your arm,’ he said. And only then did she realise she was absently rubbing the spot he’d held her.

‘No,’ she said, looking away from his penetrating gaze, suddenly afraid he might see too much. What was it about this man that he made her so uncomfortable? Because she knew he didn’t like what he saw? Because he so clearly resented having to have anything to do with her? Well, that was his problem, not hers. And yet still she was the one who felt as skittish as a wild rabbit.

‘Good,’ he said, without glancing down at her. Not that he had to worry about looking where he was going. The crowd before them seemed to part in front of his purposeful stride, clearing a path for him to sweep majestically through, leaving her to wonder what kind of man he was, that he could part crowds with the sheer force of his presence. ‘You’re so thin I was worried I’d broken something. At least I know you will not be getting back on that train without having had something decent to eat.’

So now she was so thin she might snap? She told herself it really didn’t matter a damn what he thought of how she looked and what she weighed. It wasn’t as if they even had to like each other. Because after this baby was born, they’d probably never see each other again. After today if he’d prefer it. Yet still, his tone stung. She wasn’t perfect by any means—she knew that more than anyone—but she’d be as good a mother for this child as she could possibly be in the months it was in her care. What more could anyone ask?

And then she wondered about his absent wife. Why had he brought his PA to this meeting instead of his wife? Surely she’d be curious.

Unless she’d been too upset by the news to come?

Or maybe he hadn’t even told her yet?

Maybe he’d organised this meeting to vet her, to make sure she was actually worthy of carrying their child before breaking the news to his wife.

She stole a glance up at his compelling profile, at the strong blade of nose and sculpted angles of his jaw and suspected Mr Pirelli might be just that ruthless. And if today had been a test, then she had failed. His contemptuous looks were enough to make it clear she simply didn’t make the grade.

She pulled her cardigan tighter around her shoulders, too hot beneath it even with the breeze whipping off the harbour, but needing the camouflage over arms that felt unusually thin. Then again, could she blame him if he was trying to protect his wife? How would she feel if their situations were reversed? Wouldn’t she want the woman carrying her child to at least look human rather than some hollow-eyed stick insect? She’d stopped weighing herself lately. Her doctor had assured her she’d put on weight and look more like her old self as soon as the morning sickness stage passed but lately she was beginning to wonder if that would ever happen.

‘Up here,’ he said, gesturing towards a flight of steps leading inside, his fingers brushing past her elbow and sending another unwanted jolt of electricity up her arm that made her pulse race.

God, but she was jumpy! She hugged her tote closer to her side, pulling her elbows in as she climbed and making sure she kept her distance. Maybe it would be better if they didn’t have to meet again after today. She didn’t know how much of Dominic Pirelli her nerves could withstand.

But her nerves felt no better when she realised the stairs led away from the crowded tourist areas and food courts into an arcade spilling with gilded shops. It was quieter up here, the tone more exclusive. Without him by her side there was no way she’d ever venture up those stairs. They passed galleries displaying native art of dot paintings and carvings, and jewellery shops with windows filled with fat, lustrous pearls along with boutiques the likes of which she’d never have the courage to enter.

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