Mistress:Hired for the Billionaire's Pleasure(6)

By: India Grey


He turned away, and Rachel felt a surge of panic. She had to grip the stony folds of the angel’s robes to stop herself from reaching out to hold him back. It was ridiculous, of course; he was nothing more than a passing stranger. But something about the intensity in his face, the bleak self-control in his voice, the immense strength in his shoulders, had made her believe for a moment that he could help her.

Rescue her.

‘It’s not what I want, but I have no choice!’

He stopped and slowly faced her again. He seemed to look right past her face and into her soul.

‘Of course you do. You’re young. You’re alive,’ he said with ironic emphasis, gesturing with one elegant hand towards his brother’s grave. ‘I’d say you have a choice. What you really lack, Rachel, is courage.’

Rachel felt her mouth open in shock and outrage as she watched him walk away. He moved slowly, almost wearily, in spite of his endlessly long legs and athletic build.

He knew nothing—nothing about her. How dared he say she lacked courage?

He was way off the mark. Wasn’t he?

Courage. Mentally she examined the word. It wasn’t a quality she’d ever been taught to value or develop. Obedience, yes. Discipline, perseverance, patience, selflessness—yes, yes, yes, yes…

Not courage. Courage had always seemed like just another word for selfishness.

Orlando Winterton disappeared from view through the gate to the road, and a moment later she heard the roar of a car engine starting up. Straining forwards, she saw a low dark sports car speed past in a shower of gravel and take the unmarked turning to the left of the churchyard. In the silence following its disappearance she was suddenly aware that she was gripping the carved robes of the angel so hard her short fingernails ached.

She felt bereft.

Closing her eyes, she allowed herself to remember the feeling of his hands on her arms, and the moment when she had been held against his chest. She felt again the roughness of his thick woollen sweater against her cheek, smelled the warm, faint tang of expensive aftershave that had clung to the collar of his long, exquisitely tailored black coat.

In that moment she’d felt as if she was safe. As if she’d come home. As if she’d finally found the shadowy figure she’d spent her childhood yearning for—the one man who would protect her from—

‘Rachel!’

Her eyes flew open as she recognised her mother’s voice, and without thinking she darted back into the cover of the yew tree, hiding behind the vast slab of stone beside her. For a moment all was silent as she crouched there, her heart pounding inside her chest, her cheek resting against the chilly stone where Felix Winterton’s name was carved.

‘Rachel!’

The voice was closer now, and Rachel knew only too well its shrill note of exasperation. I’m twenty-three years old and here I am, hiding from my mother like a naughty child. She squeezed her eyes shut and suddenly the face of Orlando Winterton swam into focus in the darkness, with that hard, bleak smile of his.

What you really lack is courage.

She hesitated, then stood up slowly.

Dressed in a figure-hugging pink velour tracksuit and last night’s high-heeled mules, Elizabeth Campion was making her way in Rachel’s direction with unerring accuracy, and the expression on her well-maintained face was murderous.

‘I’m here.’

For a wonderful moment Elizabeth was lost for words as she watched her daughter emerge from the shadow of the monument, then the full force of her fury was unleashed.

‘What in heaven’s name are you doing?’

Rachel steeled herself against Elizabeth’s indignant screech, letting her mind return to the last person who had asked her that. Except that Orlando Winterton hadn’t said ‘heaven’. She pictured his dark, tormented expression, concentrated on reproducing in her mind the exact gritty rasp of his voice as he had said ‘hell’.

‘Well? I’m waiting!’

With huge effort Rachel dragged herself back to her mother. ‘I went for a walk.’

‘You went for a walk?’ repeated Elizabeth, like an apoplectic parrot. ‘Saints preserve us! Why do you have to be so selfish, Rachel? Today of all days? Haven’t I got enough to do with all the wedding arrangements, without having to chase around after you as well because you’re just too selfish and immature to get yourself organised? Hmm?’

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