Craving the Forbidden(2)

By: India Grey

Actually, he wasn’t entirely hidden; she could see his hands, holding the newspaper—tanned, long-fingered, strong-looking. Not the hands of a businessman, she thought abstractly, tearing her gaze away and looking for Libra. ‘Be prepared to work hard to make a good impression,’ she read. ‘The full moon on the 20th is a perfect opportunity to let others see you for who you really are.’

Hell. It was the twentieth today. And while she was prepared to put on an Oscar-worthy performance to impress Jasper’s family, the last thing she wanted was for them to see her for who she really was.

At that moment Edith Piaf burst into song again. She groaned—why couldn’t Jean-Claude take a hint? Quickly she went to shut Edith up and turn her phone off but at that moment the train swayed again and her finger accidentally hit the ‘answer’ button instead. A second later Jean-Claude’s Merlot-marinated voice was clearly audible, to her and about fifteen businessmen.

‘Sophie? Sophie, where are you—?’

She thought quickly, cutting him off before he had a chance to get any further. ‘Hello, you haf reached the voicemail service for Madame Sofia, astrologist and reader of cards,’ she purred, shaking her hair back and narrowing her eyes at her own reflection in the darkening glass of the window. ‘Eef you leaf your name, number and zodiac sign, I get back to you with information on what the fates haf in store for you—’

She stopped abruptly, losing her thread, a kick of electricity jolting through her as she realised she was staring straight into the reflected eyes of the man sitting opposite.

Or rather that, from behind the newspaper, he was staring straight into her eyes. His head was lowered, his face ghostly in the glass, but his dark eyes seemed to look straight into her.

For a second she was helpless to do anything but look back. Against the stark white of his shirt his skin was tanned, which seemed somehow at odds with his stern, ascetic face. It was the face of a medieval knight in a Pre-Raphaelite painting—beautiful, bloodless, remote.

In other words, absolutely not her type.

‘Sophie—is zat you? I can ‘ardly ‘ear you. Are you on Eurostar? Tell me what time you get in and I meet you at Gare du Nord.’

Oops, she’d forgotten all about Jean-Claude. Gathering herself, she managed to drag her gaze away from the reflection in the window and her attention back to the problem quite literally in hand. She’d better just come clean, or he’d keep ringing for the whole weekend she was staying with Jasper’s family and rather ruin her portrayal of the sweet, starry-eyed girlfriend.

‘I’m not on the Eurostar, no,’ she said carefully. ‘I’m not coming back tonight.’

‘Alors, when?’ he demanded. ‘The painting—I need you here. I need to see your skin—to feel it, to capture contrast with lily petals.’

‘Nude with Lilies’ was the vision Jean-Claude claimed had come to him the moment he’d first noticed her in a bar in the Marais, near where they’d been filming. Jasper had been over that weekend and thought it was hilarious. Sophie, hugely flattered to be singled out and by Jean-Claude’s extravagant compliments about her ‘skin like lily petals’ and ‘hair like flames’, had thought being painted would be a highly erotic experience.

The reality had turned out to be both extremely cold and mind-numbingly boring. Although, if Jean-Claude’s gaze had aroused a similar reaction to that provoked by the eyes of the man in the glass, it would have been a very different story …

‘Oh, dear. Maybe you could just paint in a few more lilies to cover up the skin?’ She bit back a breathless giggle and went on kindly, ‘Look, I don’t know when I’ll be back, but what we had wasn’t meant to be for ever, was it? Really, it was just sex—’

Rather fittingly, at that point the train whooshed into a tunnel and the signal was lost. Against the blackness beyond the window the reflected interior of the carriage was bright, and for the briefest moment Sophie caught the eye of the man opposite and knew he’d been looking at her again. The grey remains of the daylight made the reflection fade before she had time to read the expression on his face, but she was left in no doubt that it had been disapproving.

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