“Yes, he recognized me. The others didn’t, I’m sure. I’m old news. Really, it’s not a problem.” She stepped back, mindful of their audience and the way Caine was staring at her, as if he were seeing her for the first time.

“It looks like a problem to me—you’re whiter than a ghost.”

She tugged her elbow out of his grip. “Really, I’m fine. I just wasn’t expecting to see the photographers here. Can we let it drop?”

A waiter swung past and she scooped a glass of champagne from the tray. She took two hefty gulps, willing her fingers to stop trembling as the chilly bubbles quenched the desert in her throat.

He was still watching her with that inscrutable look on his face.

Too unnerved to meet his gaze, she stared at their surroundings.

Men in tuxedos and dinner suits and women in designer gowns milled around them, dipping into the trays of canapés, sipping from champagne flutes, like exotic birds in a luxury zoo, many of them watching her and Jared with undisguised curiosity.

“I think I’ve made enough of a scene, don’t you?” she asked, sipping more slowly. To think she’d once been a part of this world, briefly... She’d never felt more alien from it now.

“You didn’t make the scene, they did,” he said, the rough texture of his voice surprising her. He almost sounded sympathetic. Unfortunately it was a sympathy she knew she didn’t deserve.

“They’re just doing their job,” she said.

“Their job is to take photos, not harass people,” he said, the forbidding frown surprising her even more.

He clicked his fingers above her head and the well-built man who had spoken to them when they’d arrived appeared as if he were on a magic leash that Jared had just tugged.

“I want a photographer called Jess Barton escorted off the estate,” Caine said to the young man. “Tell him his press pass has been revoked, and if I see any of the photographs he took tonight in print or on the Internet he’ll be sued. Then inform the resort’s PR and marketing team he’s not to be readmitted under any circumstances. And tell Granger to draft a written warning to the others. I’ll sign off on it tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir, Signore Caine.” The security guard nodded and then sped off to do Jared’s bidding, as if such a request were perfectly normal.

Katie swallowed convulsively, the fruity bubbles of the champagne doing nothing to ease the emotion welling in her throat.

Why had Caine done that?

Surely he of all people believed the attention she got from the press was a justifiable penance for all the foolish things she’d done to attract their notice?

“You didn’t have to do that,” she managed at last, determined not to read too much into his actions.

“Yes, I did.”

“But won’t this jeopardize your contract with the resort’s management?” she asked, even more confused and concerned for him. However rich he might be, and however successful his company, she did not want to mess things up for him because she’d freaked out over a few photos. “This is an investor’s event—I’m sure they will want photos in the press.”

His lips quirked, as if he thought her concern was somehow endearing.

“As I’m one of the resort’s principle investors, the management works for me, not the other way around.”

“Oh.”

“But, anyway, that’s beside the point.”

“It is?”

“Yes. The purpose of this event is to gain investors, not to harass the guests. Barton stepped over the line.”

“I... Okay.” She drained the champagne, blinking back the foolish sting in her eyes.

She walked past him through the crowd, trying to get a grip on the foolish feeling of validation. Of support. She wasn’t a child anymore, looking for approval, and Jared Caine certainly wasn’t her father. It really didn’t matter what he thought of her.

She took a moment to calm herself by absorbing the splendor of her surroundings. The building’s starkly modern interior belied the eighteenth-century architecture. Polished marble floors added majesty to the domed atrium, where a winding staircase accessed a second level. The elaborate chandelier suspended from the ceiling several floors above was the décor’s only nod to the building’s history. Large double doors stood open, leading the guests onto a veranda that looked down over ornate terraced gardens.

A fountain dominated the main garden below them, the elegant geometric pattern of lawns and hedges edged with a profusion of rose bushes, climbing vines and a series of grottos and follies which must have been part of the original layout.


Tags: Heidi Rice Billionaire Romance
Source: www.StudyNovels.com
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