The Forbidden Touch of Sanguardo(3)

By: Julia James


‘Now tell me you don’t want me, Rafe, darling,’ she purred.

She let her thighs slacken, easing her hand sensually along the divide between her legs.

He walked to the bedroom door. Turned to look at her. Still repelled.

‘Be gone by the time I get back,’ he told her.

Then he left.

He heard her laughter—that rich, mocking laughter—infused with what he knew was a jibing anger at him for his rejection of her, following him as he shut the front door of his apartment behind him.

It tried to follow him still, that mocking, jibing, angry laughter, as he knew she wanted it to.

But its power was gone.

Just as Madeline had gone. Out of his life—totally.

Now even the thought of Madeline repelled him. As did everything about her...her looks, her attitude, her ambition, her values. Everything.

A hovering waiter pulled him back to where he was, and with a slight smile of thanks Rafael placed his glass on the extended tray. As he turned back, something caught his eye.

Someone.

Walking down the sweeping staircase with an aura about her that made his gaze focus piercingly. Taking in everything about her.

Pale beauty. Hair caught in a chignon the colour of champagne at the nape of her swan-like neck. Her face was in profile. Perfect profile. As perfect as her tall, slender body, sheathed in a single-shouldered ecru gown that moulded slight breasts, draped slender hips and dropped down long, long legs to skim slim ankles, revealed by the draping of her skirts, around which snaked the clasp of her heeled evening shoes.

She must surely be one of the models, he realised. Her height, her slenderness, the way she held herself, the way she wore her clearly couture gown—all indicated that. As she reached the foot of the stairs she blended into the throng and was lost to his view. He craned his head a moment, seeking her, but could not see her.

A sense of frustration at her disappearance caught at him. Then he stilled, frowning for a quite different reason. A jolt of realisation.

This was the first woman who had caught his attention since he had severed all links with Madeline—

Oh, plenty of women had sought his attention—he was well used to that—but in the grim aftermath of Madeline none had been of any interest to him.

So what is it about this one?

Yet even as the question formed he knew it was redundant. He could answer it immediately.

She is nothing at all like Madeline!

Madeline’s richly hued flashy beauty and her egoistic temperament had demanded that everyone look at her. The pale girl descending the staircase had looked as cool as Madeline had been fiery.

But there was more to the difference than looks, he sensed. Madeline would have descended the grand staircase like a drama queen, wanting everyone to gaze at her. To admire and envy her. To desire her.

This pale blonde girl had slipped down the steps as quietly as a ghost—as if she were not quite part of this world, as if she wanted no eyes drawn to her. Odd, he mused, in someone who was a model. If, of course, she was one.

Well, he thought, impatient to see her again, if she were, he had better go and take his seat and find out.

One thing he knew with certainty: whoever the pale, elusive blonde was, he wanted to see her again. His dark eyes glinted. Finally he’d seen a woman to spark his interest—an interest he definitely wanted to pursue. Would that interest survive acquaintance with her? Or would getting to know her put him off, despite that incredible pale beauty of hers?

Will she prove as flawed as Madeline?

That was the question that haunted him.





CHAPTER TWO

THE MUSIC WAS starting up—glitteringly baroque Vivaldi to suit the era of the house—and in well-practised order the models issued out onto the runway constructed down the centre of the long salon.

The first gown was the same one the models had worn while mingling with the guests, and Celeste was glad of it. It was exactly the kind of gown she would have chosen for herself, had she been a guest. Flattering, but revealing nothing more than a bare shoulder, and in one of the pale colours that she liked. Another model had once told her she must like disappearing into the background. Celeste had only smiled slightly. But the girl had been right, for all that.

Muted, understated, discreet—those were the fashion watchwords she adhered to. And one more, too.

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