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In the five years since their marriage ended, Sarah had devoted herself to her beloved twins. Theirs had been a whirlwind courtship. Rafael loved with passion; he created hauntingly beautiful works of art with passion; and Sarah realized now on a tide of pain and regret, he hated with that same emotional intensity.
Hurriedly she set down her coffee-cup, her courage sinking fast. She was afraid to meet his eyes. But certainly contentment had rarely featured in her responses. From the beginning she had loved him wildly, recklessly, and with that edge of desperation which prevented her from ever standing as his equal. Over the past two years, she had swung between ecstasy and despair more times than he would ever have believed.
Or cared to believe. This beautiful, luxurious apartment was her prison. Not his. She stole a nervous glance at him. His light intonation had been deceptive. Luc was silently seething. But not at her.
His ire was directed at some imaginary scapegoat, who had dared to contaminate her with ideas, quite embarrassing ideas above her station. Under the table the fingernails of her other hand grooved sharp crescents into her damp palm.
Had the Santini electronics empire crashed overnight, Luc could not have looked more grim than he did now, pierced by a thorn from a normally very well-trained source. Every scrap of colour slowly drained from her cheeks. She recoiled from the brutal candour she had invited, ashamed to discover that she had, after all, nurtured a tiny, fragile hope that deep down inside he might feel differently. Her soft blue eyes flinched from his, her head bowing. Having devastated her, he relented infinitesimally.
As a lover, I imagine, I am far less demanding than I would be as a husband. In the midst of what she deemed to be the most agonising d;aaenouement of her life, an hysterical giggle feathered dangerously in her convulsed throat. A blunt, sun-browned finger languorously played over the knuckles showing white beneath the skin of her clenched hand.
Even though she was conscious that Luc was using his customary methods of distraction, the electricity of a powerful sexual chemistry tautened her every sinew and the fleeting desire to laugh away the ashes of painful disillusionment vanished. With a faint sigh, he shrugged back a pristine silk shirt cuff to consult the rapier-thin Cartier watch on his wrist and frowned.
Luc rose fluidly upright to regard her narrowly. Is there something wrong? The other matter, she registered in disbelief, was already forgotten, written off as some impulsive and foolishly feminine piece of nonsense. But he had taught her the art of lies and evasions, could only blame himself when he realised what a monster he had created.
She froze into shocked stillness. He strolled back across the room to link confident arms round her small, slim figure, easing her round to face him. And, arrogantly acquainted with that shivery weakness, Luc was satisfied and soothed. A long finger traced the tremulous fullness of her lower lip. Dear God, did he know what he did to her when he said things like that? If he did, why should he care?
In probably much the same fashion he cracked the whip over key executives to keep them on their toes. He was murmuring something smooth about stocks and shares that she refused to listen to. When are you going to find that out? While his hunger for her remained undiminished, she understood that she was safe.
She took no compliment from the desire she had once na;auively believed was based on emotion. For the several days a month which Luc allotted cool-headedly to the pursuit of light entertainment, she had every ttention. But that Luc had not even guessed that the past weeks had been unadulterated hell for her proved the shallowness of the bond on his side.
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