The Forbidden Touch of Sanguardo(9)

By: Julia James


Tight-lipped, Celeste refused to react. She knew very well that the cause of his pique was nothing to do with her not renewing her contract—it was because she wasn’t going to do what Monique Silva had done: show her ‘appreciation’ in bed.

Anger flashed across Karl’s face. ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’ he demanded. ‘Models are ten cents a dozen!’

‘As I say,’ she repeated tightly, ‘I’ve been very appreciative of the opportunity to represent the Blonde range of Reiner Visage, but—’

‘But nothing!’ He cut across her again. His face was set petulantly. ‘I’ve done you favours! Now it’s payback time! You damn well know what I want!’

He grabbed at her arm, closing his fingers around it. She halted, turning an icy gaze on him.

‘Take your hand off me,’ she bit out, jaw clenched. When he made no move to do so, she simply lifted his hand off her and stepped away. ‘Goodnight, Mr Rainer,’ she said decisively, and turned to go.

Infuriated, and despite the presence of other people in the lobby, he lurched at her, grabbing at her wrist again, yanking her round forcibly. His face was contorted in fury.

‘Don’t walk off, you stuck-up little bitch! Who the hell do you think you are? Behaving like a goddamn nun!’ he snarled at her.

The alcoholic fumes of his breath reached her. His voice was loud and carrying.

‘I can pick and choose any model I want—you hear me? And they’ll be grateful! Girls like you put out for anyone who’ll hire you! And since I’ve hired you you’ll damn well put out for me! You’re no different! You’re just a two-bit whore like every other model!’

Celeste gasped in shock. For a second she could not move. Then, behind her, a voice cut through.

‘Let her go,’ it said. It was arctic. ‘Let her go and get out of here before I throw you out onto the pavement.’

Karl’s head swivelled. ‘Who the hell are you?’ he snarled slurringly.

Rafael did not answer him. He simply yanked Karl’s hand away, then took his shoulder and elbow in a punishing grip and frogmarched him to the door, ejecting him onto the pavement.

‘If you try and come back in,’ he said pleasantly, ‘I will pulverise you. Do you understand me?’

He didn’t bother to wait for a reply, just went back into the lobby. His eyes went immediately to the frozen figure standing there, her ashen pallor registering her shock. He went up to her.

‘Brandy,’ he said. ‘Don’t argue. Then I’ll see you home—and don’t argue about that either. That charmless jerk is out on the pavement.’

She couldn’t respond. Couldn’t do anything except stand there, the vile echo of Karl’s accusation slicing through her head.

‘You’re just a two-bit whore like every other model!’

Her face contorted and she felt nausea rise in her throat, foul and choking. Then, from nowhere, her elbow was being taken—not tightly, but firmly—and she was being guided across the lobby and into the hotel bar. Her steps were halting, but she went all the same. Numbness filled her.

Then, as she was helped up onto a bar stool, the numbness was suddenly pierced. Karl Reiner and his vile words disappeared from her consciousness. Replaced, totally, by the realisation of just who it was that was at her side now.

Her eyes flew to the man, tall and lean in a charcoal tailored lounge suit that only emphasised his naturally tanned complexion, who was taking his seat beside her.

Dear God—it was Rafael Sanguardo!

Shock ravined through her. Shock and something much more. Instant awareness, instant consciousness of everything about him that she had sought to suppress these past few days. To force down out of her memory.

Yet he was here now, in all his overwhelming, potent physical presence. Sitting beside her and looking at her with an expression of concern on his face, his dark eyes resting on her.

She hauled her gaze away. She could not cope with this—not now. Not after Karl Reiner’s vile outburst. She could feel herself start to shake.

Immediately she heard Rafael Sanguardo speak. ‘It’s all right. He’s gone. And he won’t be coming back.’

Top Books