The Redemption of Darius Sterne(6)

By: Carole Mortimer

* * *

‘It was Xander you were looking at, wasn’t it?’ Kim questioned with concern. Three years older than Andy, she had always taken her ‘protective big sister’ role very seriously, even more so since the loss of their parents.

Andy didn’t reply immediately, continuing to watch Darius Sterne as he suddenly stood up abruptly from his table.

The woman seated at the table with the three men was beautiful, but obviously aged in her fifties, and with her blonde hair and dark eyes she bore a resemblance to Xander Sterne. Perhaps she was the twins’ mother? Although Andy could see no resemblance to Darius whatsoever.

The older man didn’t look like either of the brothers, so perhaps he was the twins’ stepfather?

Whatever the relationship between the Sterne twins and the older couple, it had been impossible not to miss the edge of tension at the table since the twins sat down. A tension that seemed to ease as Darius Sterne now left their company.

Andy’s gaze continued to follow him as he walked towards the back of the restaurant.

‘No,’ she finally answered her sister distractedly, her breath leaving her in a whoosh as Darius disappeared from view down a marble corridor at the back of the restaurant.

Allowing her to realise she had actually stopped breathing, as well as being unable to take her eyes off him until he disappeared, his elegance of movement so like that of a stalking predator. A sleek and powerful jaguar, perhaps, or maybe a tiger? Definitely something feral and lethal!

‘I advise you not to even bother looking at Darius Sterne, Andy,’ Kim said hastily. ‘Admittedly he’s gorgeous, in a dark and dangerously compelling way, but he’s also way out of your league, my love. Well out of any sane woman’s league!’ her sister added with feeling.

Andy took a much-needed sip of the champagne in her glass; her mouth had gone dry just from watching Darius Sterne.

‘There have been stories and hints in the newspapers for years regarding the extent of Darius Sterne’s darkness,’ Kim cautioned as Andy made no reply.

She turned to give her sister a teasing smile. ‘You aren’t saying he’s into black magic?’

‘More like wielding whips and paddles.’

Andy almost choked on her champagne. ‘Kim!’ she finally managed to splutter incredulously. ‘Why is everyone so obsessed with that stuff nowadays?’ Personally, she could imagine nothing more demeaning to a woman than having some man put his collar of ownership on her and demanding she call him master. Or tying her to his bed before doing whatever he wanted with her. Or that same man demanding that she kneel subserviently at his feet until he told her otherwise. It made Andy’s skin crawl just to think about any man treating a woman like that.

Even a man she found as fascinating as Darius Sterne.

Her sister held up her hands defensively. ‘I’m not responsible for the gossip about him.’

‘You’re responsible for reading it,’ Andy scolded. ‘What’s printed in the gutter press isn’t gossip, Kim, it’s pure fantasy most of the time. Sensationalised speculation, and luridly made-up headlines to encourage people to buy their newspaper rather than someone else’s.’

Her sister shrugged slender shoulders. ‘You’ve heard the saying, there’s no smoke without fire.’

She raised her brows. ‘I also remember Mum telling us years ago that it isn’t wise, or fair, to listen to gossip or hearsay, that we should make our own minds up about other people.’

‘If Mum were here, I have no doubts she would also tell you that there’s nothing in the least wise in being attracted to a man like Darius Sterne,’ her sister stated with certainty.

Both girls sobered at the mention of their mother. At the time of their parents’ deaths the sisters, Kim twenty-one, and Andy eighteen, had been absolutely devastated by the loss, but with the passing of time they had both come to appreciate the years they had been able to spend with their parents. Andy had always been grateful that at least they had lived long enough to see Kim happily married to Colin, and they had also been present the night Andy had appeared in the lead of Giselle with England’s most reputable ballet company.

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