Vows of Revenge(9)

By: Dani Collins

A short while later, having met up with Ingrid and Huxley en route, Melodie barely kept herself from dancing in place as Roman opened his door to them.

“I’m so sorry,” Ingrid moaned as they entered. “I slipped in the tub the other night and didn’t think it was that bad, but by the time we were on our way here yesterday, it was like this.” She motioned a ballooned wrist.

“She wanted to wait until we’d finished here before going to the clinic, but she was fighting tears in the car,” Huxley said. “I couldn’t let it go untreated.”

“Of course not,” Roman murmured smoothly. “I’m glad it’s just a sprain, and won’t impact your typing and filing once your vacation is finished.”

Ingrid giggled. “He’s being funny,” she said to Melodie over her shoulder. “The office is paperless and we do almost everything talk to text.”

Melodie smiled, wishing that Ingrid and Huxley weren’t pressed to each other like a pair of bubbles that were about to become one. She really needed them to diffuse all this aggressive male energy coming her way. It was as if Roman had developed a ten-fold power of masculinity overnight and it was now all beamed directly at her.

“Excellent photos, by the way. You have a hidden talent,” Ingrid said to her boss, thankfully drawing his attention for a brief moment.

He only said, “The camera loves her,” then trained his intent gaze back onto Melodie as though searching for something.

Huxley wanted to know what they were talking about and Melodie immediately regretted showing the photos to Ingrid. She’d been trying to explain the potential for wedding photos, but now had to brush aside Ingrid’s gushing with a brisk “I was hamming.”

The final shot, where she’d been looking back at Roman, was the most disturbing. Her slender figure against the ivory backdrop of the mansion’s west wing had projected elegant femininity while her expression had been one of sensual invitation. She hadn’t meant to be so...revealing.

Embarrassment struck once again as yesterday’s unfounded yearnings welled anew. This was why she hated having her picture taken. Too much of herself became visible.

“Why don’t we go outside and you can take a few photos yourself?” she suggested, trying to distract everyone.

* * *

As they sat down by the poolside for a light lunch, Roman continued to study Melodie, biding his time, confident yet highly cautious. She was a surprisingly dangerous woman beneath that projected innocence.

He’d thought her pretty yesterday, which had apparently been enough to mesmerize him. Today, having seen the glimpse of unfettered beauty in her photos, he now caught flashes of stunning attractiveness in her as she smiled and exchanged banter with Ingrid and Huxley.

The truth was he was having trouble remembering why he shouldn’t be drawn to her. He told himself he was giving her enough rope to hang herself, but deep down he wondered if he was putting off the denouement of his plan so he could spend a few more minutes admiring her.

It was sick and wrong. She was his enemy. Yet he suddenly found himself ensnared in the meaningful look she was sending him. She practically spoke inside his head as she flicked a rueful glance toward the couple, who had had to take a break from eating to rub noses. See? It never stops.

It was an odd moment of being on exactly the same wavelength. An urge to chuckle over their private joke rose in him while the sparkle in her eye and the flash of her smile encouraged him.

What the hell? How could he be gripped by anything except the fact she was here to commit a crime against him?

“Now that you’ve seen the place, shall I tell my staff it’s set in stone?” he asked Ingrid, pulling them all back to the supposed business at hand. Trying to put his train of thought back on its rails.

“Please,” Ingrid said, offering him a look of earnest gratitude. “And I can’t thank you enough. I’m still reeling that you’ve been so kind as to offer this. It’s his fortress of solitude,” she added in a teasing aside to Melodie. “No one is ever invited here.”

Roman brushed off the remark with a dry smile, but felt the weight of Melodie’s curiosity. He ignored the prickle of male awareness that responded to the intrigue in her gaze, set his inner shields firmly into place and wrote off a trickle of anticipation as a premonition of threat that he would heed.

“We all need a retreat where we can work in peace,” he said, partly to tantalize her—your move, he was saying—but his house was more than a sanctuary. It was a statement that he had arrived, and hosting the wedding would publish that headline.

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