His Final Bargain(10)

By: Melanie Milburne


Eliza had walked over to him and slipped onto the bar stool right next to him. The skin of her bare arm had brushed against the fine cotton of his designer shirt. She could still remember the way her body had jolted as if she had touched a live source of power.

He had turned his head and locked gazes with her. It had sent another jolt through her body as that dark gaze meshed with hers. She had brazenly looked at his mouth, noting the sculptured definition of his top lip and the fuller, sinfully sensual contour of his lower one. He’d had a day’s worth of stubble on his jaw. It had given him an aggressively masculine look that had made her blood simmer in her veins. She had looked down at his hand resting on the bar next to hers. His was so tanned and sprinkled with coarse masculine hair, the span of his fingers broad—man’s hands, capable hands—clever hands. Her hand was so light and creamy, and her fingers so slim and feminine and small in comparison.

To this day she couldn’t remember whose hand had touched whose first…

Thinking about that night in his hotel room still gave her shivers of delight. Her body had responded to his like bone-dry tinder did to a naked flame. She had erupted in his arms time and time again. It had been the most exciting, thrilling night of her life. She hadn’t wanted it to end. She had thought that would be it—her first and only one-night stand. It would be something she would file away and occasionally revisit in her mind once she got back to her ordinary life. She had thought she would never see him again but she hadn’t factored in his charm and determination. One night had turned into a three-week affair that had left her senses spinning and reeling. She knew it had been wrong not to tell him her tragic circumstances, but as each day passed it became harder and harder to say anything. She hadn’t wanted to risk what little time she had left with him. So she had pushed it from her mind. Her life back in England was someone else’s life. Another girl was engaged to poor broken Ewan—it wasn’t her.

The day before she was meant to leave, Leo had taken her to a fabulous restaurant they had eaten in previously. He had booked a private room and had dozens of red roses delivered. Candles lit the room from every corner. Champagne was waiting in a beribboned silver ice bucket. A romantic ballad was playing in the background…

Eliza hastily backtracked out of her time travel. She hated thinking about that night; how she had foolishly deluded herself into thinking he’d been simply giving her a grand send-off to remember him by. Of course he had been doing no such thing. Halfway through the delicious meal he had presented her with a priceless-looking diamond. She had sat there staring at it for a long speechless moment.

And then she had looked into his eyes and said no.

‘Have you heard the exciting news?’ Georgie said as soon as Eliza got to school the following day. ‘We’re not closing. A rich benefactor has been found at the last minute. Can you believe it?’

Eliza put her bag in the drawer of her desk in the staffroom. ‘That’s wonderful.’

‘You don’t sound very surprised.’

‘I am,’ Eliza said, painting on a smile. ‘I’m delighted. It’s a miracle. It truly is.’

Georgie perched on the edge of the desk and swung her legs back and forth as if she was one of the seven-year-olds she taught. ‘Marcia can’t or won’t say who it is. She said the donation was made anonymously. But who on earth hands over a million pounds like loose change?’

‘Someone who has a lot of money, obviously.’

‘Or an agenda.’ Georgie tapped against her lips with a fingertip. ‘I wonder who he is. It’s got to be a he, hasn’t it?’

‘There are female billionaires in the world, you know.’

Georgie stopped swinging her legs and gave Eliza a pointed look. ‘Do you know who it is?’

Eliza had spent most of her childhood masking her feelings. It was a skill she was rather grateful for now. ‘How could I if the donation was made anonymously?’

‘I guess you’re right.’ Georgie slipped off the desk as the bell rang. ‘Are you heading down to Suffolk for the summer break?’

‘Um…not this time. I’ve made other plans.’

Georgie’s brows lifted. ‘Where are you going?’

‘Abroad.’

‘Can you narrow that down a bit?’

‘Italy.’

‘Alone?’

‘Yes and no,’ Eliza said. ‘It’s kind of a busman’s holiday. I’m filling in for a nanny who needs to take some leave.’

‘It’ll be good for you,’ Georgie said. ‘And it’s not as if Ewan will mind either way, is it?’