His Mistress with Two Secrets(10)

By: Dani Collins

Not that she wanted him.

Did she?

With an uncomfortable sting in her blood, she picked up her champagne then remembered she had decided to stop drinking now that Vera was gone. She took a sip of water instead.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” he admitted.

“You thought I was a secretary? Airline hostess? Model? Even if I was, those are all honest careers in their own right.”

“They are. And you could model. You’re very beautiful.”

“So could you. You have a face so nice, God made it twice.”

He snorted. “Point to you,” he conceded with a grimace. “I absolutely hate to be reduced to ‘one of the Sauveterre twins.’ We are all more than we appear on the surface, aren’t we?”

Oh, the bastard, now she couldn’t hate him unequivocally.

“Is it bad?” she asked, feeling compelled to do so. “I mean, I see things online all the time that I know have to be pure rubbish. The same nonsense that shows up about all celebrities, saying you’re having an alien’s baby or whatever. Does it bother you, though? Do you resent being famous because of an accident of birth?”

He took a moment to answer.

“I don’t resent being who I am. I don’t talk about my family—” his gaze shot to hers in warning to stay well back “—but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. The attention is a pain in the ass and not something we invite. It annoys me, but I’ve learned to pick my battles.” He said it flatly, but the nail beds of his fingers were white where he gripped his glass.

“Well, I—” She stopped herself, holding out a hand. “Message received about your family,” she assured him. “You’ve earned the right to privacy. But I hope she’s well. Your sister, I mean.”

She was tempted to say more, weirdly yearning to explain that his family’s pain had rippled out to her in the strangest way. She’d been as taken as anyone with the Sauveterre twins. The girls were a little younger than her, but they had seemed like an ideal worth emulating, living much larger than Cinnia even though her family had been doing quite well in those days.

Then Trella had been kidnapped and she’d been terrified for the girl. Of course, she had been compelled to follow the rest of the family’s exploits forevermore. She was as curious as anyone about why his youngest sister had dropped out of the public eye in her teens. Had she gone into rehab? A madhouse? A nunnery? Theories abounded, but Cinnia kept her lips sealed against asking for the truth.

Against asking him if he was still dealing with the fallout.

The butler brought another plate of hors d’oeuvres, this one with tiny deviled quail eggs, caviar and stuffed olives and a whipped salmon mousse with narrow fingers of toasted bread. It was exquisite and she kept her gaze on it to hide how thinking of his past had altered her perception of him. She wanted to dismiss him as a womanizer who should be avoided, but he was human. He’d been hurt. Scarred.

“Why estate planning?”

She dragged her gaze off the plate, heart taking a skip as she met his gaze.

“Many reasons. I started looking into it after my father died. There was a lot to untangle and as I learned what he could have done, I kept wondering why he hadn’t set it up this way or that. My mother would have had it easier if he’d shown some foresight. Looking at it as a career, I saw it was flexible, something you could do without a lot of overhead. You can even work from home if you have to. Everyone needs a will, whether they know it or not. And it’s one of those things that if you’re good and fast, you can make a decent living. I didn’t see a downside beyond its lack of sex appeal.”

“Which you more than make up for in being yourself.”

He said it with gentle mockery. She knew he meant it as over-the-top flattery, but her cheeks still warmed. She tried to hide how affected she was with a dry “I try.”

The fireworks started and they turned to watch.

She was more aware of him than the performance. He was very charismatic with his air of aloof charm and hint of a French accent. He was also subtly demonstrative, lightly caressing her wrist as he drew her attention to the flotilla of boats coming in to watch.

Everything he did made her very aware of herself. Her breaths felt deliberate, her skin sensitized, her movements a dance of grace. She was being seduced and he wasn’t even making an effort to do it. Her mind drifted to thoughts of kissing him. Feeling his weight against her.

Her skin warmed, her nipples tingled and she pressed her knees together to ease the ache in the fork of her thighs.

She was sorry when the fireworks ended and her excuse for being here was over.

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