He ignored that part and whistled. “Check out the bum on that bird.”
“That bird’s bum is mine, and you’re the perv checking me out!”
“Admit it—you liked it.”
Her lips twitched. Yeah, she’d liked it. “Hmpf. Check out the next page,” she said.
He swiped the screen. An image of her eyeing his arse loaded. As were the comments. After reading a few, he shutdown the machine. One should never read comments.
She turned to him. “Time’s up. I left my phone in your car. Be right back. I want to be able to call Isabella and Haven if I need to, that is… if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t,” he murmured. Who would he call? His brother? His cousin? Liam?
“I’ll be back in a minute and I’ll get the sticks. We can look at the…results together.” She hurried to the door. “And then make plans. Or not.”
He frowned, listening to her light footsteps as she ran down the two flights of stairs and out the front door. After the first night, they’d taken to using the side entrance to the house, which was a shame because the front door had been what sold the place for him. The heart-shaped knocker something he’d thought Daisy would fanc—he jumped to his feet.
“Shit, shit, shit,” he chanted, running downstairs. Please don’t let me be too late.
He yanked open the door and there Daisy stood, a sort of blank look on her face. “Does every house in England have heart-shaped door knockers?”
Wordlessly, he shook his head.
“When did you buy this house?” she asked, her voice thin.
“Last spring. A very good friend said I needed to have a happy place,” he said slowly. “So I bought this house with her in mind.”
She opened her mouth, and then shut it. Her pretty eyes became shiny with tears.
“Talk to me, darling. Shout at me…I don’t care, but bloody hell, don’t stay quiet,” he said, reaching out to touch her.
She stumbled back, shaking her head. “Why? Of all the people in the world you could have messed with, why me? What did I ever do to you?”
“It’s not like that. I care about you.” He took a step towards her.
“You only care about yourself,” she spat.
He recoiled. Hadn’t he said nearly the same words to his father after learning about Vladimir’s deception? About his plans for a future Sebastian had no say in. Hadn’t he done the very same thing to Daisy?
“You used me, and you lied to me the entire time.” She struck her fist against her thigh. “You made me lie to the people I love, over and over again. I had to lie to strangers, to some poor woman, who for some unknown reason, is still in love with you.”
“No, I take that back. I know why she loves you, because you’re this charming, tortured man who women think they can bring out the best in. You’re the hero in every romance novel I’ve read. A tortured soul who only needs the love of a good woman to save him. Ha! You’re a liar, and the only thing you want is whatever suits you at the time. I refuse to do that anymore and I sure as hell refuse to save you,” she added.
He stood there, unable to defend himself from the truth. Unable to do anything more than agree with her. “You’re right.”
“I know I’m right.”
“And I would do it again, Daisy.”
She fisted her hands on her hips. “Excuse me?”
He took a step towards her. “I’d lie, steal, and cheat to be with you. I’d pretend to be another man if it meant you’d give me one second of your time. If it meant I could show you another side of me, the one that I’m bloody terrified to show anyone but you.”
“You’d really do this to me again? Are you really that obsessed with me?”
“Hell yes,” he shouted. “I wanted you, I needed to have you, and by God, I got you. And. I. Would. Do. It. Again.”
Another step and another, until he’d successfully backed her into the corner by the front door. “Let me put it another way, so you can understand the extreme depths of my obsession with you: I saw, I came inside of you—” He gently touched her belly and her hand caught him by the wrist, fingers tightening around it as his hand travelled lower, lower still to cup her through her skirt, “—and I conquered.”
“Conquered,” Daisy choked out. “You conquered me?”
No. You conquered me. But he was furious, he was a man, and he was a Romanov by God. It wasn’t done to admit she held his heart in her hands, not when she could crush it at any moment. He moved his hand away and let his arms hang down at his side, fists clenching and heart pounding. “Yes.”
The world closed in around Daisy, shrinking and compressing her into a tight knot of raw nerves. How could she have been so stupid? Everything, the entire truth, had been right in front of her. His convenient knowledge of her likes and dislikes, where her parents were buried…everything. Would a background check have told him all that?
And now! Now she could be pregnant with his child and tied to him forever.
Brushing past him, she swiped at her eyes and marched off in the opposite direction of the house.
“Where are you going?”
“Does it matter?” she called out over her shoulder.
“What about the results?”
“I can’t handle anything else right now.” She started walking, and then paused. “Please give me some time to think.”
His face softened. “My time belongs to you.”
Biting the inside of her cheek so hard that fresh tears welled up, she took off in a run.
“Christ. Don’t run, Daisy,” he said, his voice practically in her ear. “You could slip on the wet grass.”
Her rain boots squeaked and she slowed to a jog. “Fine.”
“I’ll leave you alone, if you promise to be careful,” he said. The scent of him, all male, all expensive cologne and all… Sebastian seemed to wrap around her. She couldn’t help but breathe him in. She couldn’t help that she was still wet between her thighs from his blatant act of possession. From his reminder of the last time they’d made love.
“I promise.” Then she slowed even more, until she was walking.
Hearing the solid crunch of boots, she turned around again, ready to blast Sebastian for not leaving her alone. “Oh, it’s you.”
Ivan smiled grimly. “Mr. Romanov said I must go with you.”