The Forbidden Touch of Sanguardo(7)

By: Julia James


He was addressing her again, in that deep, accented voice that did things to her she did not want it to do! What had he just said? She had to reply—say something, anything—then walk away! Food—he asked you about food! Do you want any? That was it.

With effort, she found a brief reply. ‘Thank you, but this is enough,’ she managed to say.

An eyebrow quirked over the incredibly dark eyes that looked as if they were hewn from some ancient, volcanic rock. Basalt, she thought, or obsidian...darker than slate.

‘It doesn’t look enough for a sparrow,’ he murmured. The dark eyes glanced at her. ‘Fortunately you don’t appear to have the starved, size-zero look about you that so many models have.’

Celeste could hear condemnation of excessive thinness in his voice. ‘Models have to be thin!’ she was stung into retorting. She was not objecting to his criticism of size-zero models, but to the way his eyes had washed over her. The effect that slow wash had had on her...

‘It’s shamefully perverse for women in the developed world to ape those who go hungry from necessity, not fashion!’ he returned sharply.

She took a breath, making herself answer honestly. ‘You are right,’ she admitted.

For a moment she let her eyes meet his in acknowledgement of the truth of what he had just said. It was a mistake. For one endless moment she had the strangest sensation that she was drowning—drowning in a deep, fathomless ocean. Then, with an effort, she pulled her gaze away. Found that she was trembling with the effort.

‘I’m sorry—that was very blunt of me,’ she heard him respond. ‘Though it is a pity that you will not try some of these richer foods.’ He indicated the lavish spread in front of them.

Celeste glanced at them, and then back at the man who was so disturbing her. ‘They do look delicious,’ she allowed. ‘But I mustn’t.’

‘You won’t be tempted?’ he said.

There was a trace of humour now in his accented voice. A trace that did yet more disturbing things to her. As did the glint in his eyes that told her it was more than food he wanted her to be tempted by.

She gave a decisive shake of her head. Time to stop this—right now.

‘No,’ she replied. Her voice was polite, but firm. She put down her now empty plate. Looked back at him. Made herself look at him but not react to him. Made herself say in a polite, social voice, using just the sort of tone she might use to anyone at all, ‘Do please excuse me, but I have to circulate and show off this dress.’

She gave a smile—brief, polite, perfunctory. But this time she did not meet his eyes. Instead, she turned away, tall and graceful, and threaded her way into the throng.

Behind her, Rafael watched her disappear. Her second disappearing act of the evening.

Why? Why does she run from me?

That was the question uppermost in his mind—except for his overwhelming consciousness that in this second all too brief encounter his interest in her had not diminished, but intensified.

There is something about her that is drawing me to her—something powerful, irresistible, overwhelming.

Something that was sending a pulse through him. Something that was engendered by that extraordinary pale, pure beauty she possessed—the turn of her head, the flawless translucence of her alabaster skin, the perfect features of her face, delicate and exquisitely cut, the clear, luminous grey-blue of her eyes.

He knew with absolute certainty that he had felt something when she had turned that gaze on him, fully meeting his own—it was a gaze whose very brevity had told him that whatever the cause of her insistence on walking away from him, which she had now exhibited twice—it was not because she was irresponsive to him.

It is the same for her as it is for me! I know it. The stillness, the betraying dilation of her pupils, the sudden intake of breath, the collision of her eyes with mine—acknowledges, confirms her reaction to me—

It had told him all he needed to know...

Whatever had made her walk away, it was not because she was immune to him. So why had she? An unwelcome explanation intruded. Was it because she was already involved elsewhere? A burning urge to find out consumed him. Yet he did not even know her name.

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