His Mistress with Two Secrets(9)By: Dani Collins
VERA, THE TRAITOR, left with Ramon before the fireworks started.
“That’s what you two were talking about in Spanish?” Cinnia hissed as she had three seconds alone on the balcony to react.
“I told you a language degree opened doors,” Vera joked, then rolled her eyes at the face Cinnia was making. “Come on. Look at them! Surely you’re tempted? It’s long past time you worked Avery out of your system, you know.”
She knew. And, of course, she was tempted. She wasn’t in Vera’s league when it came to sexual gymnastics, but she’d had a couple of long-term relationships that had been nice until they’d gone bad. The first had been an immature thing that should have ended before they went off to separate universities, but she’d clung to what they’d had and he’d wound up cheating. Her heart had been battered at the time, but looking back she knew they’d been far too young for the level of commitment she had expected.
Avery, however, had broken her heart in two, professing love for her while they’d both been struggling through a heavy course load and then trying to make ends meet when they moved to London together. Then he had come into some money and cut her off cold, stating bluntly that her family was too much of a handful and he didn’t need the dead weight. Thankfully Vera had been there for her when he’d kicked her out.
Since then, Cinnia had stayed out of the relationship arena, thinking it wiser to concentrate on getting her career off the ground.
Not that Henri would offer a relationship. She knew that without asking. But she couldn’t deny she was intrigued by him. Every time he glanced at her with male appreciation oozing out of his pores, her hormones swayed in an erotic dance of come-hither. Like the extravagance of the night itself, she kept trying to rationalize indulging in whatever he was offering.
She didn’t do one-time hookups, though. And even if she did sleep with him purely for the fun of it, he would believe she’d done it in exchange for being wined and dined here in this heavenly suite. She hated the idea of him thinking she could be bought. It went right to the core of the insecurities Avery had instilled in her.
“It’s quite a signature for the autograph book,” Vera murmured with a self-satisfied grin. “You know your mother would approve. There’s a first-class trip to Australia in that bag, you know. And a smartwatch and a year’s lease on a sports car. Get what you can out of it!”
Henri came back from taking a call, probably overhearing Vera’s vulgar suggestion—like he needed any more ammunition to believe they were a pair of opportunists.
Seconds later, Ramon came out and said, “The car is waiting. Lovely to meet you, Cinnia.”
He and Vera disappeared like a snuffed flame leaving a wisp of burned friendship hanging in the air.
Henri sat down across from Cinnia at the high-top table, mouth relaxed, but she had the sense he was laughing at her ill-disguised panic. He signaled to the butler to freshen their drinks.
“Where do you think he’s taking her?” she asked as the butler left.
“The nearest hotel with a vacant room, I imagine.”
She shouldn’t have asked.
“Why does it bother you?”
“You’re judging,” he accused. “Why?”
She wanted to deny it. She considered herself open-minded and forward thinking. She didn’t slut-shame. Women had needs and Vera was no one’s victim.
“Vera can do whatever she wants. I don’t like the idea that you’re judging me by her choices, though.” She hated it. Avery’s awful accusations came back to her and she felt raw all over again. Worse even, as she thought of this man who lived like this thinking she wanted a shortcut to the same lifestyle. “I don’t sleep with men for a swag bag. I have a job. I buy what I need and if I can’t afford something, I live without it.”
“What do you do?” He looked like he was asking out of politeness, not like he really believed her speech on self-sufficiency.
She almost blurted “funeral arrangements” just to put him off.
“I have a business degree and I’m a qualified financial advisor, but my focus is estate planning and trust management.”
His stall of surprise was painful in how loudly it spoke of his having underestimated her.
“I’m a very boring person,” she said, wishing she could be more smug at defying his assumptions about her, but she only felt the difference in their stations more keenly. He had obviously written her off as trifling. And yes, she was trying to climb higher than where she’d wound up, but through honest hard work. Still, she would never reach his level and that put him well beyond her reach.