‘We would have had sex again,’ she blurted thickly, hot colour washing over her face. But he had called a temporary halt because even in the coils of steamy passion he couldn’t face the thought of being trapped by the fear of an unwanted pregnancy all over again. ‘We can’t just pretend it didn’t happen. We have to talk.’
He had gone very still. The muscles of his arm beneath the hand that had stayed him were like rigid iron bars. As if he no longer wanted her to touch him, Zoe decided with anguish.
Noting with a sinking feeling that she’d said having sex and not making love, Javier studied her with dark, intense eyes. Her colour had receded, leaving her skin pale and translucent. She was so lovely, so loved, it made his heart ache. And so sexually responsive it blew his mind. What was she trying to imply? That sex changed nothing? That she still wanted to go? Of course they had to talk, that had always been on his agenda. But his parents’ wretched surprise visit seemed to have robbed him of the time he needed.
Battening down his rage at the untimely interruption to his plans to get his wife well and truly addicted to him, he told her with forced lightness, ‘We’ll talk later. Tonight. That’s a promise. Right now I can’t ensure Mama won’t come steaming back in here in a panic.’
Shuddering inside with the strength of his frustration, he managed a soft placatory kiss on her startled mouth. ‘She’s never had to make a meal in the whole of her pampered life. Even now she’s probably trying to figure out how to make toast and will breeze back in here demanding to know why Teresa isn’t doing the job she’s been handsomely paid to do!’
Zoe’s hand dropped from his arm as he swung away. Even now her every cell fizzed with the erotic memories of what had been happening before Isabella Maria had broken into what would appear to be sheer fantasy.
Her fantasy that sexual desire equated with love. It didn’t; it wasn’t a given. Walking with a marked lack of enthusiasm into the dressing room to pick out something to wear, Zoe focussed on the way Javier had so lightly shrugged off what had happened.
He’d been going to make love to her—no, she amended, determined to call a spade a spade even if it did hurt horribly. He’d been going to have sex with her. The interruption had caused him a minor physical inconvenience. Nothing more. True, he’d promised they’d talk everything through tonight.
But Zoe wasn’t at all sure she would like what he said.
‘LEAVE that to me, Mama.’ Javier took the cafetière from Isabella Maria’s long white hands. He’d showered and dressed at the speed of light to get down before Zoe emerged. He didn’t need an audience when he told his parents to hop it. ‘You don’t put it directly on the stove to boil.’ Ruefully affectionate exasperation roughened his tone as he pointed out, ‘You’re worse than a two-year-old around anything that smacks remotely of domesticity!’ He tipped out the cold water and, at a guess, half a pound of soggy coffee grounds, while Isabella Maria raised her eyes to the ceiling and shrugged her elegant shoulders.
‘Why would I want to know my way around kitchens?’ she asked without a shadow of defensiveness in her voice. ‘There are people about who are paid to see to that sort of thing for me. And, in any case, why is Teresa not here?’
‘I told her her services were not required beyond a daily delivery of fresh produce. Zoe and I wanted to be alone.’ Javier told it as it was as the kettle boiled and he poured the hot water over the fresh coffee grounds. And if that wasn’t a big enough hint then he’d lay it on with a trowel.
And Lionel Masters, hovering in the open arched doorway as he wandered in from the terrace, listening to the exchange with a barely hidden smile, put in, ‘Didn’t I warn you a surprise visit wouldn’t be welcome?’
‘My only son not welcome his mama!’ Black eyes flashed scorn. A pampered, perfectly manicured hand was laid against Javier’s lean bronzed cheek. ‘Do not say such foolish things, husband! What are two, three days? Besides—’ dark eyes held a reproachful gleam ‘—I have a private message for Javier, remember?’
Not waiting for Lionel’s confirmation, Isabella Maria announced primly, ‘I have had rabid phone calls from a former enamorada—Glenda Havers, she called herself. She appears to be quite desperate to see you. She tried Ethel and Joe at Wakeham, but they on your instructions apparently refused to tell her where you were. She tried your London apartment, then the staff at Head Office—but you’d told no one there where you would be, or how long you’d be away. So as a last resort she contacted me, your mama.’
Laying a dramatic hand across her silk-clad bosom, she imparted, ‘Naturally, I didn’t say where you were, I was most discreet. I merely—and reluctantly, I might add—promised to pass on the message.’ She shook her exquisitely coiffed head disapprovingly. ‘Why she should need to have contact with you so desperately and in the shortest possible time, I neither know, or wish to. The likes of that one should have been put behind you since your marriage.’
Outside the door, Zoe heard every word and her stomach curdled. She’d taken her time over choosing what to wear, wanting to look her best to help her face the rest of the day with courage. Get through the long hours before tonight when Javier would finally tell her what he wanted of her and their marriage.
That he’d been going to make love to her didn’t give her the answer. He was a normal virile male, wasn’t he? Why shouldn’t he take advantage of his willing wife? It didn’t mean he was thinking of a lifetime of devotion, stuff like that. Like a lot of men, he could enjoy sex without his emotions being involved.
Her nerves had been on edge and now they were screaming. If she’d breezed straight into the kitchen instead of dawdling reluctantly towards the source of the voices she wouldn’t have overheard. They said ignorance was bliss, didn’t they?
Glenda. Glenda Havers. To her knowledge th
e luscious brunette had stayed the course with Javier for far longer than the few weeks it took him to grow bored with a new conquest.
And not only because she had obliged him by accompanying his self-inflicted ward on the grown-up holiday treats he’d promised her?
Was Glenda Havers still special to him? Had it been her laughter she’d heard when Javier had spoken to her from his hotel room in Cannes? Had she been his close travelling companion on those increasingly regular business trips he’d taken?
And why was she so desperate to make contact with him? Because their affair was long-standing, their relationship running deep, and they couldn’t bear to be out of touch with each other for longer than a day or two?
So many questions and no answers. Zoe took a deep breath, briefly closed her eyes and swallowed convulsively. Later, she would demand those answers. But would Javier tell her the truth?
Would he tell her what she was helplessly trying not to suspect—that in a year’s time, when their marriage was over and his duty was done, he would probably decide it was time to settle down and marry his mistress of many years’ standing?
And would she be able to bear it?
Straightening her slender shoulders, she pinned a smile on her face and walked into the kitchen where Javier was toasting rolls and Lionel was loading a tray with china, fruit and honey ready to carry out to the table on the terrace, the activities watched over by a languid Isabella Maria.
‘Zoe—how lovely you look! I wish I could wear sugar-pink but I can’t, it makes me look positively sallow! And now I’m getting jealous—when I was your age I would not have been allowed to dress in anything as flirty as a sun-dress. How times change for the better!’