Mistress:Hired for the Billionaire's Pleasure(7)

By: India Grey


Reaching the path, Rachel opened her mouth to reply, but her mother had only paused for breath and wasn’t actually expecting an answer.

‘Carlos phoned. I had to tell him you were in the bath. Lord only knows what he’d say if he knew that you’d gone for a walk.’ She made it sound as if Rachel had been skateboarding down the motorway.

‘I thought it was bad luck for the groom to speak to the bride before the wedding?’ said Rachel sarcastically. ‘I’d hate anything to spoil our chances of a wonderful happy-ever-after.’

Her mother threw her a venomous glance. ‘Don’t you dare start all that now, young lady,’ she hissed. ‘You’ll do well to remember how lucky you are to be marrying Carlos.’

Rachel stopped and swung round to face her mother. ‘Rubbish! He couldn’t give a damn about me! He doesn’t love—’

‘Shut up! Just shut up!’ Elizabeth’s face was contorted with rage. ‘You think you’re so clever, don’t you? Well, let me tell you something, Rachel. Love is nothing but a silly fantasy. It means nothing. Nothing! Your father told me he loved me, and where did that get me? I nearly died giving him a baby he didn’t even stay around to watch grow up. Love doesn’t bring you security.’

Rachel felt a jolt as the word lodged in her brain like a bullet hitting the bullseye. For a moment she felt dazed and disorientated as conflicting images and sensations raced through her head. Orlando’s hands on her arms, holding her up. Carlos’s fingers digging into her thighs, hard and insistent, on that awful night in Vienna when he—

She had survived by ruthlessly separating herself from the person who had endured all that. That was Rachel Campion, disciplined pianist, obedient fiancée, dutiful daughter. Not the real her. But the trouble was it was getting increasingly difficult to remember who the real Rachel was.

She’d caught a glimpse of her back there in the graveyard. She was someone who wanted to be courageous. And secure.

She went back into the house and closed the door very quietly behind her.





CHAPTER TWO



AS HE passed the gatehouse into the long straight drive up to Easton Hall, Orlando put his foot down and felt the world fall away in a dizzying rush. The frustration and fury that had needled him on the short drive home was temporarily anaesthetised in the blissful blur of speed.

This was the place where he and Felix had raced—first on their bikes as small boys, then later on horseback and motorbikes. It was here that, returning home for his twenty-first, Felix’s brand-new Alpha Romeo had been written off as Orlando had overtaken him and forced him into the moat.Their rivalry had been as strong as their love for each other.

Protected by birth and privilege, made arrogant by wealth and good looks, they had thought they were invincible. But all it had meant in the end was that they’d had further to fall. All the money in the world, an unblemished bloodline and the looks of an angel hadn’t protected Felix from a rocket attack in his Typhoon, and the lottery of genes that had made up Orlando’s perfect face was now destroying his sight.

There was a certain biblical morality to it.

All too soon Orlando reached the bridge across the old moat and had to slow down. The drive narrowed as it passed through the high gateposts to Easton Hall, and he drove more carefully round the house to the garages at the back. Bringing the car to a standstill in the brick-paved courtyard that had once housed grand carriages, he let his head fall forward to rest on the steering wheel. His hands still held it, as if he couldn’t bear to let go, to take the keys out of the ignition for the last time.

He was giving up his independence.

He felt his mouth jerk into an ironic smile as he thought of the girl in the graveyard. He’d been harsh with her, but her helpless distress had been like acid in his own open wounds. She could take control of her situation. For him, control was inexorably slipping from him, with the inevitability of day sliding into night; there was nothing, nothing he could do. And this was the first measure of his failure. Slowly he opened the door and got stiffly out, blinking in the thin grey light.

‘Will you be needing the car again today, sir?’

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