By: Tracy Wolff

“We’re sorry to interrupt, Dr. Moreno,” Harlan said from his spot in the back of the classroom. “I was just showing Mr. Durand around the campus. He’s agreed to teach a miniseminar on diamond production starting in a few weeks and I wanted to give him the lay of the land. Please, carry on with your lecture. It’s fascinating.”

But it was too late for that. All around her, students murmured excitedly. Not that she blamed them. It wasn’t every day that one of the world’s largest producers and brokers of responsibly sourced diamonds agreed to speak to a bunch of first year graduate students. Still, she was the professor here. This was her lecture. She needed to regain control, if not for the class—which was only half-over—then because she refused to let Marc Durand have the upper hand for one second longer.

He’d taken everything from her. Or, to be completely honest, she’d given everything to him, only to have it all tossed back in her face. She’d deserved it then, and had paid for it royally. But that had been six years ago. Since then, she’d moved across the country and built an entirely new life for herself. She’d be damned if she let him come in here and screw that up for her, too.

Refusing to let Marc see just how much his presence here messed with her mind, she continued on with her lecture. Eventually the students settled down again and Marc and Harlan slipped out a lot more unobtrusively than they’d entered.

If anyone asked her what she spoke about for the last twenty minutes of class, Isabella wouldn’t have been able to tell them. Her mind was far away, wrapped up in a past she regretted bitterly but couldn’t change and the man who had altered the entire course of her life. She must have covered pretty well, though, because the students didn’t call her on anything. Then again, they’d all been so enamored of Marc Durand that they probably weren’t focusing on what she had to say, anyway.

Finally, the interminable class drew to an end and she dismissed her students. It was her usual habit to hang out in the classroom for a few minutes to give the students an opportunity to ask questions or chat her up about whatever was on their minds. But today she didn’t have it in her to stay there one second longer than absolutely necessary, not when her insides felt scraped raw and she was certain any wrong move would shatter the peace she had worked so hard to achieve. The peace she had finally found.

Scooping up her books, and the papers her students had turned in that day, Isabella made a beeline for the door. She was parked around back. If she could get to the side exit, she could be in her car and off campus in less than five minutes. Then it would be just her and the convertible, the infinite ocean to her left as she followed the winding, waterfront freeway home.

Except she never got to her car, never even made it to the side door she was so desperate to reach. Instead, a strong, calloused hand grabbed her elbow as she tried to hurry down the back hallway. Though she was facing the other direction, she didn’t need to see him to know who had grabbed her. Her knees turned to gelatin at that first touch, her heart beating wildly out of control. There would be no escape then. No drive by the ocean. No chance to put her thoughts in order before this confrontation.

Not that she was surprised. From the moment she’d looked up and seen Marc in the back of her classroom, she’d known this was inevitable. She’d simply hoped to put it off a little, until she could think about him without losing her ability to breathe. Of course, she’d already had six years and hadn’t been able to change that, so another couple of days probably wouldn’t matter.

Besides, if he was going to destroy everything she’d tried to build for herself with her new name and new identity and new, law-abiding life—then she might as well find out right now. Worrying about it would only make her crazy.

Bracing herself, she put on her best poker face before slowly, slowly, turning to face him. And if her knees trembled as she did, it was nobody’s business but her own.

* * *

She was somehow even more beautiful than he’d remembered. And probably more treacherous, Marc reminded himself as he fought for control over his suddenly rampaging emotions and libido.

It had been six years since he’d seen her.

Six years since he’d held her, kissed her, made love to her.

Six years since he’d kicked her out of his apartment and his life.

And still he wanted her.

It came as something of a shock, considering he’d done his best not to think about her in the ensuing years. Sure, every once in a while her face would flash through his mind. Something would remind him of the scent, the taste, the feel of her. But through the years those instances had grown fewer and farther between and his reaction to them—and to her—had dimmed. Or so he’d thought.