His Mistress with Two Secrets(7)

By: Dani Collins

At least tonight it gave him an excuse to hold her arm as he leaned down to speak in her ear, liking the silken brush of her hair against his nose as he inhaled a scent that was cool English roses and warm woman.

“In fact, when one of us changes out of what the other is wearing, we inevitably spill something and have to go back to the first outfit.”

“You’re joking.”

He shrugged off her skepticism. His sisters were connected on an emotional level. He and his brother were more outwardly aligned. They had very different personalities, were competitive as hell with each other, but often spoke in unison or followed a similar thought process, inevitably arriving at the same end result. As Henri had been calling his brother to suggest they host this year’s planning sessions in London instead of their usual Paris or Madrid, Ramon had been accepting the invite to this club opening.

“I’m, um, Cinnia. Whitley.” She offered her hand as they arrived on the upper floor.

“Henri.” Her skin felt as soft as it looked and was warmer than the pale tone suggested. She had a firm grip for a woman. He didn’t want to let her go, but she pulled her hand free to glance behind him at Guy, who had followed them, then frowned at Oscar ahead of them, already stepping through the door to the suite where Ramon waited with her friend.

“Do you have bodyguards?”

“It’s just a precaution.” They followed into them the suite.

While Oscar inspected the room, Guy brought out his phone and sent a brief text—a request for a background check on both women no doubt. Helping Guy along, Henri introduced himself to the brunette, learning her name was Vera Phipps.

Aside from relying on men’s wallets rather than their own, Henri judged both women to be harmless. Vera sent a “jackpot” look to Cinnia when a butler arrived to take their order, then she followed Oscar’s path through the room, trailing fingers on the low-slung sofa and chairs as she circled, glancing to the flat screen hung on the wall, and stepped onto the balcony for a quick sniff of the air off the Thames.

She came back just as quickly to fetch one of the swag bags from the coffee table. “Oh! A gold one! Everyone below got silver. And yours is bigger.”

“I hear that a lot,” Ramon said with a smirk, making Vera laugh throatily.

“I bet you do. May I look?” She batted her lashes suggestively.

Cinnia did not flirt so blatantly. She offered a demure thank-you as the butler poured their champagne and moved outside to glance at the colored lights swirling on the water. In the middle of the river, the technicians on the float set off a test flare.

It was a warm evening without a breeze. Her gaze lifted to the sparkle of lights across the water and up to the stars.

“I’m surprised you stayed below as long as you did when you had this to retreat to,” she said as Henri padded out to join her. He was compelled. Drawn. It was strange and not something he would typically indulge. The strength of his attraction made him a little uncomfortable.

Below them, people began filing out to the outdoor lounge while the music followed them.

Ramon was the one who liked crowds. Henri preferred a quieter atmosphere, but he said smoothly, “Good thing we did or I wouldn’t have met you.”

Her snort was delicate, if disparaging. Most blondes with blue eyes played up the suggestion of vulnerable innocence in their coloring. Not Cinnia. Her vintage hairstyle framed her face in a waifish way, but her brows had a sharp, intelligent angle. Her lashes stayed low and her gaze watchful, not cynical, but not goggling or overly impressed by any of this.

He liked that sign of inner confidence and strength. It was compelling, sparking his curiosity. “You feel differently?”

“I feel this is a well-oiled machine you two are operating.” She flicked her glance to the plate of canapés that appeared like magic on the glass table next to them.

“I would call that distrustful,” he said, waiting until the server had gone to swing his gaze back to hers. “If I didn’t think you two were running a similar routine. I’ll call it hypocritical instead.”

Her blue gaze flashed to his, but inside the suite, Vera was laughing at something Ramon had said. The two were meshing like cogs rolling against one another to turn out a foregone conclusion. Cinnia’s mouth tightened.

“Unable to deny it?” he taunted gently.

“You approached us,” she reminded with enough pique to amuse him.

“I was invited.”

“I didn’t mean to stare.” Her gaze returned to the view, chin coming up.

It had been more than a stare. She had smiled at him.

He watched with fascination as the fringe across her breasts quivered under an indignant breath. He would bet her cheeks were pink if the light was high enough to tell.

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