The Russian's Ultimatum(9)

By: Michelle Smart

Belonged...? ‘Your mother is...?’

‘Dead. Yes.’ The way her gaze fixed on him, it was as if she held him personally responsible for her loss. But there was something else there too, a flash of misery, quickly hidden but sharp for all its briefness.

‘I’m sorry.’ He truly meant it, too.

‘So am I.’ Her mouth set in a straight line that he understood to mean this topic is not open for discussion, Emily undid the bun holding the few tresses that had not already escaped before scooping the mass of curls back up and shoving a tortoiseshell comb high on the top, ringlets spilling over her face in a style that accentuated her high cheekbones.

‘Is this really necessary?’ he asked when she sat on the dressing table chair and began applying make-up.

‘Yes,’ she said, cleverly darkening her eyes. While she didn’t go as far as she had at his party, there was more than a little hint of the theatrical when she’d finished.

He hated to admit it but the look really suited her.

He looked at his watch. ‘If you’re not ready in two minutes, I will carry you out of the house.’

‘Good luck with that.’

Her stony gaze met his through the reflection in the mirror. For the briefest of moments, something sparked between them, a look that sent a wave of heat sailing through his skin and down to his loins.

Emily broke the look with an almost imperceptible frown.

‘What’s the weight limit for my luggage?’ she asked, packing cosmetics into a large vanity case.

‘We’ll be travelling on my jet so there are no limits.’

‘Good.’ She dived back into her wardrobe.

‘Now what are you getting?’ His irritation had reached maximum peak, both at her attitude and the unfeasible reaction she seemed to be igniting within him.

The sooner he left her on Aliana Island, the better.

‘My sewing machine.’ She pulled out a large square case and dumped it on the bed beside the suitcase.

‘Would you like me to un-plumb your kitchen sink for you while you’re at it?’

The ghost of a smile curled on her cheeks, but she ignored his comment and slid under the bed.

Exasperated beyond belief, Pascha was suddenly distracted by the sight of dark-blue nail varnish on her pretty toes...and a small butterfly tattoo on her left ankle.

He couldn’t say he liked tattoos but he couldn’t deny that Emily’s was tasteful. Delicate, even.

When she re-emerged, her hair having escaped the tortoiseshell clip and fallen down her back, she pulled out four large cardboard tubes.

‘What’s in those?’

‘Fabric.’ At his questioning look, she added, ‘Well, it’s pointless taking my sewing machine if I have nothing to make with it.’

‘Have you got your passport?’

‘It’s in my handbag.’

Gritting his teeth, Pascha got to his feet and lifted the weighty suitcase. If he’d known she kept her passport on her, he could have taken her straight to the bloody airport without any of this ridiculous carrying on.

Think of the reward at the end, he reminded himself. In one week this would be over. It would all be over.

In seven days, his redemption would be complete.


EMILY SIGNED HER PART of the agreement before they boarded the plane, refusing to climb the metal steps until Pascha had signed his part too. He’d typed it on his laptop on the drive to the airport, printing it off in the executive lounge. She’d also insisted on getting it witnessed by one of the flight crew.

One week of her life and her father’s good name would be restored. He’d receive a quarter of a million pounds too, enough to see him through to old age. If he made it to old age, that was. At that moment, she wasn’t prepared to take anything for granted when it came to her father. He was too fragile to look beyond the next day. Surely the anti-depressants would kick in soon?

She pushed aside thoughts that when her week was up she would likely find herself without a job. The odds were not in her favour. Hugo was temperamental at the best of times. All the leave she’d had to take at the last minute recently, coupled with her request not to travel outside the UK for the foreseeable future, were strikes against her name. A further week’s leave without warning would be the final straw.

The moment they were airborne, she ignored Pascha and tried to immerse herself in the fashion magazines she’d brought with her. Normally she loved flipping through them, finding inspiration in the most obscure things, but today she couldn’t concentrate. Her brain was too wired, as if she’d had a dozen espressos in a row.

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