Mistress:Hired for the Billionaire's Pleasure(5)

By: India Grey

She held out the bottle to him. He took it, but didn’t drink, instead setting it down on top of the Winterton tomb. ‘So, Rachel, what’s so bad that you’re reduced to sitting out here in the freezing cold drinking with the dead?’

She gave a mirthless laugh. ‘You do not want to know.’

She was right. He didn’t. His own suffering was enough to occupy him on a full-time basis. So why did he find himself saying, ‘I usually decide for myself what I want and what I don’t want.’

Rachel looked up at him. He was staring straight ahead, and there was something in the dark stillness of his face that made her want very much to confide in him.

‘I’m getting married,’ she said desolately. ‘Today.’

She saw one dark brow shoot up before his face regained its habitual blankness. ‘Is that all? Congratulations.’

‘Uh-uh. It’s not a “congratulations” situation. It’s…’

Her voice trailed off as she tried to convey the awfulness of what lay ahead. This afternoon, standing in church before people she mostly neither knew nor cared about making vows she didn’t mean…And worse, much worse, knowing that tonight she and Carlos would be man and wife, with all the expectations that carried.

Orlando Winterton shrugged his broad, dark shoulders, his gaze fixed straight ahead. He looked so distant, so controlled, so very, very strong that she felt her chest lurch. How could he understand? She couldn’t imagine that this man had ever bowed to the will of anyone else in his life.

‘Weddings don’t generally happen by accident or without warning. Presumably you had some say in it?’ He levered himself up from the gravestone and, thrusting his hands deep into the pockets of his coat, began to move away.

‘No,’ she said in a low voice.

There was something in the way that she said it that made Orlando stop, turn, and walk back towards her. His deep-set slanting eyes were the most extraordinary clear green, she noticed, and he had a strange, intense way of looking at her, his head tilted backwards slightly in an attitude of distant hauteur.

‘You’re being forced into this?’

Rachel sighed heavily. ‘Well, there’s no gun against my head…But, yes. Forced pretty much covers it.’

The last thing he wanted to do was get involved, but his sense of duty, dormant for a year beneath self-pity and bitterness, had seemingly chosen this moment to rouse itself. Wearily he rubbed a hand over his eyes. ‘In what way?’

‘There’s no way out,’ she said slowly. ‘No Plan B. No choice. This wedding is the culmination of a lifetime of work by my mother.’ She laughed. ‘If I don’t go through with it she’ll probably kill me.’

But that was almost preferable to what Carlos would do to her if she stayed and married him. She knew, because he’d done it to her already.

‘You can’t get married to please your mother.’

The words were laced with scorn, and Rachel felt her head snap back as if she’d just had an ice cube dropped down her spine.

‘You don’t know my mother. She’s…’

She hesitated, shaking her head, trying to find a word for Elizabeth Campion’s single-minded obsession with her daughter’s musical career; the combination of guile and icy manipulation that would have made Machiavelli green with envy, which had enabled her to bring about the ultimate coup in the form of Rachel’s engagement to Carlos Vincente, one of the industry’s most influential conductors.

‘What? A convicted killer?’ Orlando’s voice was hard and mocking. ‘A cold-blooded psychopath? Head of a crack team of hired assassins?’

His cruelty made her gasp. ‘No, of course not. But—’ It was impossible to keep the desperation out of her voice. She so badly wanted to make him see what she was up against, but the words darted around in her head, refusing to be pinned down, while all the time he held her in that cool, detached gaze. ‘Oh, what’s the point? Just forget it. I can’t make you understand, so there’s no point in trying. Please, just leave me alone!’

‘To drink yourself into a stupor? If that’s what you want…’

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