The Rings that Bind(2)

By: Michelle Smart


He studied her with narrowed eyes before pulling a document wallet out of his top drawer and handing it to her. ‘Translate that for me.’

The document was in Russian. She scanned it for a moment before translating. When she was done, Nico leaned back on his chair, a thoughtful expression on his face. ‘When can you start?’

And that was it. The job had been hers. She had started immediately.

Now, she inhaled deeply and slowly, pulling the ponytail at the back of her head as tight as she could.

If there was one thing she had learned it was that when there was a potentially unpleasant job to do it was better to face it head-on. Get it over with. Even if it meant telling her husband news for which she had no way of knowing how he would react.

It wasn’t until she heard movement from the door connecting the house with the underground garage that she snapped out of her stupor and jumped down, wincing as her bare feet hit the cold floor.

Shoving the phone into her pocket, she used all her powers of concentration to keep her hands steady and pour coffee into the waiting mug without spilling it everywhere.

Would he even bother seeking her out? Or would he hide away in his study as he so often did nowadays?

She listened to the sound of the study door being opened, followed less than a minute later by the sound of the same door closing. Muted footsteps grew closer until he was there, leaning nonchalantly against the kitchen doorframe, filling the space, arms folded across his broad chest.

‘Hello, Rosa.’

‘Hello, Nico.’ She threw him a brief smile, praying he couldn’t see the way her knees knocked together. Even though it was Sunday, and he had spent a good portion of the day travelling, he was impeccably dressed in a crisp white shirt, an incredibly snazzy silver-and-pink tie, and tailored dark grey trousers. It made her pale blue jogging bottoms and white T-shirt look positively grungy by comparison. ‘Good trip?’

He considered, folding his arms across his chest. ‘It could have been worse. I’m not yet convinced they are the kind of people I wish to do business with.’

Which undoubtedly meant he would not be investing in the mineral extraction facility he had spent the best part of a week scrutinising.

‘Coffee?’

He nodded. ‘Where’s Gloria?’ he asked, referring to their housekeeper.

She opened a cupboard and pulled a mug out. ‘Her grandson has a bad dose of chicken-pox and she wants to give her daughter a break, so I’ve given her the weekend off.’

A furrow appeared on his brow. ‘Why would you do that?’

Rosa rolled her eyes and poured coffee into the mug before adding a splash of milk. A few drops spilled onto the granite worktop. She wiped it absently with her wrist. ‘I did it because she was worried about her daughter.’

‘Her daughter is a fully grown woman.’

‘That doesn’t mean Gloria has abdicated her maternal feelings.’ Not that Rosa knew anything about being the recipient of maternal feelings. Not since the age of five, when her mother had abandoned her. She held the mug out to him. ‘Besides, it worked in my favour. I need to talk to you.’ And she would prefer not to talk in front of an audience.

‘That can wait for a minute. I have something for you.’ Unfolding his arms, Nico produced a small gift-wrapped package and handed it to her, taking his mug in exchange. ‘Happy birthday.’

Stunned at the gift—two days too late—she stared up at him. ‘Thank you.’

His light green eyes sparkled. ‘You’re welcome. I’m sorry I didn’t make it back in time to take you out.’

‘Don’t worry about it. Business comes first.’ She tried to speak without rancour. Business always came first. In effect, their whole marriage was nothing more than a business transaction.

When she had agreed to what could only be described as a marriage of convenience, she could not have known there would come a point when something she accepted as part of the pact they had made would start to eat at her. She could not have known that something inside her would shift.

The idea of marriage—indeed, the deed itself—had come about in California. They had spent over a week there, working on the purchase of a mining facility. Once the final contract had been signed Nico had insisted on treating the whole team to a meal to celebrate.

They had been the last two standing. After ten days of continuous slog, Rosa had been ready to let her hair down. To her surprise, Nico had been in the mood to cut loose too.

When he’d suggested a drink in the bar that jutted out over the calm ocean she had readily agreed.

It was the first time they had been alone together in what could have been described as a social setting.

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