His proud, fastidious nature would be appalled. That she hadn’t exactly given him the impression that she was the type of girl to sit chastely around knitting doilies for her bottom drawer, should Mr Right ever hove into her limited view, made her shudder right down to the soles of her feet.
No, of course not! she scolded herself as she mounted the stairs to seek her room and rid herself of her wedding finery. Get real! Her supposed lack of morals wouldn’t touch him emotionally. He’d married her out of his strict sense of duty, hadn’t he? Nothing else. He’d decided she was running out of control, and that only by marrying her could he make her toe the line, and that vile note would have reinforced that already entrenched opinion.
Knowing him, and his determination to do the right thing, she’d probably find herself incarcerated in a nunnery for the next two years!
The shadows were softening into hazy dusk as Javier garaged the Jag beside the racy yellow Lotus. Grim satisfaction hardened the sensual line of his mouth. Hooking his discarded suit jacket over his shoulder, he stood to watch the bats’ acrobatic aerial display. His thoughts, mercifully calmer now, winged back over the events of the earlier part of the evening.
Sherman would know better than to attempt to contact Zoe again.
A call at his parents’ home in the village a couple of miles away had had Monica Sherman, a wispy, fluttery woman, apologizing. ‘I’m afraid our son’s out. His friends were here earlier and I heard them talking about a new club that’s opened just outside Gloucester on the Cheltenham road. I’m sure they decided to try it and that means he won’t be in until the early hours—you know what boys are like! Can I give him a message?’
No message, and at around twenty-four Sherman was hardly a boy.
He’d found the club without difficulty. It might be new but the scene had been tediously predictable. Overheated, overcrowded, underlit. Loud, mindless music. He’d located Sherman leaning against a gilded pillar, glass in hand, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, eyes drooping as he’d ogled a redhead in a yellow dress that had looked little larger than a vest.
Javier had confronted him, his bones clenched, his voice harsh as he’d advised, ‘Keep away from my wife
. If you know what’s good for you, you won’t even nod in her direction if you pass her in the street.’
The redhead had giggled. Pique pouting his mouth, Sherman had tried to make himself look taller. Javier had swung away, distaste flattening his mouth. Then had abruptly turned back, going very still as the younger man had sniped, ‘You’re welcome to her but when your first kid turns up get it DNA-tested to make sure it’s yours. Zo’s a bit of a goer!’
With one well-aimed blow Javier had felled him. With icy eyes he’d watched the other man slide down the pillar, his arms sheltering his head, his mouth crumpling as if he’d been about to cry and call for his mother!
Javier had turned on his heel and stalked out.
His anger under tight control, he had driven back to Wakeham Lodge, taking extra care to keep within the speed limit. That initial white-hot rage when he had wanted to kill the creep was over. It wasn’t like him to resort to violence. In fact it was totally unprecedented. He couldn’t understand why he had slapped the little toad when a cutting put-down would have been just as effective and far more dignified.
Logically, the low-life could have been stirring it. And equally logically there was no need to confront Zoe with what her former boyfriend had said. If she had been having sex with him—and it seemed likely in view of the fact that she’d previously announced that she was thinking of accepting his repeated proposals of marriage—his decision to marry her himself to take her out of circulation and keep her safe until she developed at least a modicum of maturity had been the right one.
So why did he suddenly feel empty, as if he was reaching out to find the one thing that would fill the void in his life that was as strange as it was unexpected, not knowing what it was, knowing only that he desperately needed it?
Cynically putting his odd mood down to hunger, he tracked his family down in the conservatory, grouped around the Victorian white-painted cast-iron table lavishly spread with a selection of cold foods.
As he stood unnoticed in the shadows beneath the high arching doorway his breath clogged in his lungs. Zoe had changed into something long, slithery and clingy the colour of old ivory. It left her graceful arms bare and the thigh-high split at the side of the skirt revealed a tantalising glimpse of one elegantly shapely leg.
The light from the amber glass candle-holder near her place-setting flickered across her perfect profile, gilded her pale hair. Something hot and hard balled in his stomach, tightened his loins. The thought of that low-life Sherman mauling her, having sex with her, infiltrated his brain with the red mist of rage.
Sherman had intimated that he hadn’t been her only lover. How many had enjoyed that sensual body? Was she hooked on sex?
The memory of her shattering response to the kiss that had started out, on his part, as a simple, caring need to comfort, rapidly becoming something else entirely, leapt with shattering immediacy into his mind. He just about managed to smother a driven groan.
As if his tension had touched her, she turned, her glorious eyes widening, her smile irradiating his veins with the fire of lust. His mouth pulled back against his teeth, he noted the way her breasts peaked against the soft fabric of her dress as she pulled a sharp breath into her lungs and knew he had to have her, claim what was his by right. Receive what had been so freely given to others if Sherman was to be believed.
Fielding his father’s, ‘Where the hell have you been?’ and his mother’s accusatory, ‘You’ve been neglecting your bride!’ with a smooth, ‘I had to attend to a vital piece of business and I’m about to remedy my bride’s neglect,’ he fastened strong fingers around Zoe’s fragile wrist and drew her to her feet.
Her elusive, utterly tantalising perfume made his head spin. The warmth of her sensuous body as she fluidly closed the space between them sent a shaft of driving need through his nervous system, the force of it rocking him back on his heels.
This was about sex. He knew it; she knew it.
It was there in the hazy glow of her golden eyes, the rapid pulse beat at the base of her long creamy throat, the wild rose colour that stole across her cheeks, the erect nipples angled against his chest just below his thundering heart. There in the quiver of heated flesh beneath slinky silk as he scooped her into his arms, tossing over his shoulder as he walked through the doorway, ‘I know you’ll excuse us. My wife and I have some serious remedying to do.’
JAVIER hadn’t set foot inside the blue suite since Zoe had picked it out for her use when she’d first come to live at Wakeham Lodge. Illuminated as it was by a couple of cream-shaded table lamps, it was like walking into the heart of a cool delphinium, perfect, pristine, no sign of the muddle of strewn discarded clothing or lurid pop-star posters pinned to the walls as he’d automatically expected. Just the softly feminine enclosure of misty blue and the ornate brass bed with its oyster-coloured spread.
He pulled air sharply into his lungs as he conjured up the image of her breathtaking body on that bed. Naked. Willing.
That she was willing was not in dispute here. The moment he’d gathered her up into his arms her own arms had snaked around his neck and stayed there, her head tucked into the angle of his shoulder, just beneath his chin, her body fusing into his as he’d carried her up the stairs.