The Forbidden Touch of Sanguardo(6)

By: Julia James

She felt her cheeks flush. Well, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter either way. Because from now on she was going to avoid him totally until she could decently get away back to Oxford and the hotel room she’d booked. Staying well out of London and away from Karl Reiner for as long as possible.

But she didn’t want to think about the repulsive Karl Reiner. And she didn’t want to think about the man who had set her nerve-endings firing, elevated her heart-rate. A man who did not repel her.

Who attracted her—

No! A little twist of bitterness clenched inside her. What did it matter if, however inexplicably, he attracted her? It didn’t matter! It couldn’t matter.

It could never matter...

A dull, familiar stab jabbed at her.

I am what my past has made me and nothing can change that—nothing!

And men—all men—could be nothing of her present now.

Face set, she gained the dining room, forcing herself to take a breath—to assume the appearance, if nothing else, of calm. She made her way to one of the buffet tables around the edge, glad to see Zoe, a fellow model, there. They helped themselves to some undressed salad and a slice of chicken each.

‘So,’ said Zoe invitingly as they started to eat their meagre portions, ‘what are you going to do about the guy who couldn’t take his eyes off you? Has he made a move on you already?’

Celeste tensed. ‘No,’ she lied, trying to sound nonchalant.

‘Shame,’ said the other girl. ‘I’d go for him. Looks and dosh! Rafael Sanguardo. South American. He’s a zillionaire investor. Used to hang out with that glitzy redhead on the Top Ten Rich Women list—Madeline Walters. Hotshot and hot totty! She made a fortune for herself and headed for the States to make another pile of dough. Of course...’ she threw a sly glance at Celeste ‘’ve got Karl Reiner panting around after you, haven’t you? Now he’s through with Monique Silva. Mind you,’ she added, ‘I know which man I’d rather have in bed beside me! Señor Tall, Dark and Very Handsome Sanguardo! Creepy Karl wouldn’t get a look-in!’ She drew breath. ‘Well, I’d better network. Plenty of useful contacts out there—and loads of loaded guys! And standing here by all this food is torture. See you!’

She sauntered off, leaving Celeste to her supper and her thoughts.

Rafael Sanguardo...

The name glided through her head. She’d never heard of him, but from the way Zoe had talked about him it sounded as if he was on the ‘Mr Available and Rich’ list that a lot of models made it their business to know about. She speared a sliver of chicken with decided resolve. Rafael Sanguardo was none of her business, and he would stay that way.

‘May I help you to something more from the buffet?’

The deep, faintly accented voice addressing her was familiar.

And very unwelcome.

She turned. It was Rafael Sanguardo.

Celeste felt herself tense automatically. But not just because he was the one person here she wanted to avoid. For the first time she was seeing him in full light, rather than dim glimpses. And everything she’d glimpsed about him was overwhelmingly reinforced. He was, just as Zoe had flippantly called him, Mr Tall, Dark and Very Handsome! But it was not smooth, playboy-style looks that he possessed. His face was lean, with a tough-looking jawline, high cheekbones and a strong nose. But it wasn’t those features that held her. It was the eyes.

They were dark—incredibly dark—with a hawkish look to them, and they were resting on her with an expression in them that instantly made her breathless.

How? How is this happening? she thought with a hollowing of her stomach. It never happened! Men could look her over and she’d be immune to it! Immune the way she had to be. But this man—somehow—was having this extraordinary effect on her, and she didn’t know why.

All she knew, with a surge of intense self-preserving urgency, was that she had to stop it happening. Had to stop looking at him—stop looking at the way his long, lean body, darkly clad in what she knew must be a hand-tailored tuxedo, easily topped six feet, the way his DJ moulded his shoulders. His gleaming white dress shirt performed the same office for his torso, telling her that his physique was as honed as the planes of his face.

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