Vows of Revenge(3)

By: Dani Collins

“Are we being filmed right now?” she asked with a lilt of surprise.

“The cameras are only activated when an alarm is tripped.”

So it was just him was watching her, then. Nerve-racking all the same.

A formal dining room stood off to the right. It could be useful for the waitstaff, perhaps, since the four hundred wedding guests would eat in tents outside. And yes, the property allowed plenty of room for the ceremony, tents, a bandstand and a dance floor. Arched breezeways lined the house where it faced the Mediterranean. In the courtyard stood a square pool with a quarter circle taken out of it like a bite for a small dining area. Beyond its turquoise water a half dozen stairs led to a long strip of sandy beach. Off to the right a tethered helicopter stood on a groomed lawn. Once it had been removed, that space would be perfect for the ceremony and reception.

Melodie had grown up in luxury, but nothing as extravagant as this. Roman Killian was a very rich man. It was difficult to hide how awed she was.

She brought her gaze back to the bougainvillea training up the colonnades, and smaller pots of roses and geraniums and flowers she couldn’t identify. They gave off scents of anise and cherry and honey, dreamy and adding to the magical atmosphere of the place.

“This is all so beautiful,” she murmured, trying not to see herself as a bride, spilling in a waterfall of white lace down the stairs, emerging to blinding light and a strikingly handsome groom. The sunset would paint their future in rosy pink. Candlelight would burn like their eternal love.

She met Roman’s gaze and found him eyeing her as if reading her thoughts, making her blush and look away.

“It’s very generous of you to offer it,” she managed.

“Ingrid is an exceptional employee,” he said after a brief pause, making her think that wasn’t his real reason for offering his home. “Why didn’t you all come together? Are you not staying at the same hotel?”

“They’re newly engaged,” Melodie said wryly. “I’ve been feeling very third wheel since meeting them at the airport.” It was only four days, she reminded herself.

“Job hazard?” Roman guessed with a twitch around his mouth.

She couched a smile, suspecting he had a much lower tolerance than she did for witnessing nuzzling and baby talk.

“It can be,” she replied, aiming for circumspect, because this was only her second wedding and her first international society one. Her business was still so new the price tag hadn’t been clipped off, but he didn’t need to know that. She’d organized state dinners in her sleep, and this was exactly the sort of event she was ready to build her livelihood upon.

“How long have you been living here?” She was highly curious about him.

His manner changed. Their moment of commonality evaporated and she had the impression he stepped back from his body, leaving only the shell before her.

“It was completed last year. What else can I show you? The kitchen?”

“Thank you,” she said, hiding her surprise at how quickly she’d been shut down.

He waved her toward the end of the house, where he introduced her to his personal chef. The Frenchman was standoffish but had nothing on his employer. She was able to get a few details about the catering cleared up as Roman stood watch, keeping her on high alert.

* * *

Roman expected the single pulse from his silenced watch to be a notification that the rest of his guests had arrived. One glance at the face told him it was actually a request that he review an important security alert.

Given that security was his business, he didn’t take the request lightly, but an immediate threat would have been flagged as such and dealt with at the perimeter. And he had a guest. This wisp of a woman flickering through his home like sunlight and shadow through a copse of trees fascinated him. The conviction that she was familiar was incredibly strong, yet he’d sensed no lie when she’d assured him they were strangers.

Roman had a reliable radar for lies, one he listened to without fail. The one time he’d ignored his gut and convinced himself to have faith, he’d lost everything up to, and almost including, his life.

So even though he should have forced himself to the panel on the wall to review the alert, he stayed with his PA’s wedding planner, keeping her under observation—partly, he admitted to himself, because her backside was delightfully outlined by her snug skirt, proving she was round and perky in the right places. He liked listening to her voice, too. Her accent wasn’t heavy like Americans from the Deep South, but it had a lick of molasses, sweet and slow with a hint of rough darkness as she elevated and dropped each word. Very engaging.

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