Bedded for Passion, Purchased for Pregnancy(10)

By: Carol Marinelli


Dutiful Jake was chatting up the old aunties and making them laugh, and Cindy’s eyes had shot knives when Emma had attempted to join a group of women. All in all she’d left it too late to suddenly join in with the others. Everyone was settled in to their little cliques, making her feel like a wallflower. Then Zarios returned.

‘Looks like you’re stuck with me.’

He took her by the wrist, then led her to the dance floor without asking.

Which was a wise move on his part. Because had he asked, she would have declined—not because she didn’t want to dance, but because of how much she did.

He held her loosely at first, swaying to the heavy beat as she willed her heart and breathing to slow down. The second they did, he pulled her closer.

Was it his looks or his status that made him so appealing? Emma begged to know as his arms snaked around her back. And was it just his reputation that held her back? All she knew was that it was a dizzying combination—want and trepidation, curiosity and nervousness, all there fizzing in each cell of the body he was holding.

‘I don’t like cake…’ Zarios smiled down at her ‘…which gives us more time for dancing.’

‘Oh, but my mother thinks of everything,’ Emma quipped. ‘I’m sure there’ll be a fruit platter.’

‘Forbidden fruit, perhaps?’

‘I’m far from forbidden.’ Emma gave a wry smile as her mother danced past them and practically fractured her father’s rib as, none too subtly, she pointed out the lovely couple dancing, clearly delighted at to how well they were getting on. ‘My mother lives for the day we might get together.’

‘While my father shudders at the thought.’

All the ingrained insecurities of her childhood, all her mother’s deepest fears seemed to seep into her pores. But as his hands spread around her waist and he pulled her just a fraction closer, Emma realised she’d misinterpreted him.

‘He has told me many times that, though he would love nothing more than for us to be together…Well, he knows my reputation. He says he would not be able to look at your father if I were to hurt you.’

Her blue eyes jerked to his, her mind screaming for her to be quiet. But the words were out before she could stop them.

‘Then don’t.’ It was the most blatant flirt—the most blatant acknowledgement of their attraction—but she recovered quickly. ‘Anyway—given you’re seeing Miranda…’

‘We broke up.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘I’m not.’ He didn’t miss a beat, either in dancing or flirting, his repertoire as sleek and practised as the body that moved with hers. ‘Maybe we could have coffee or dinner when you are back in the city—somewhere away from our families’ eyes…’

‘Perhaps…’ Emma nodded, trying to shrug, trying to pretend it didn’t matter.

Oh, but it did.

‘Is that a yes?’

‘Yes…’

‘I will ring.’

‘Sure.’ Somehow she managed a casual smile, but her heart was soaring as he pulled her in closer.

‘I like your scent.’

‘It’s just…’ She shrugged, tried to be casual, but for the life of her she couldn’t remember the perfume’s name. ‘I got it for my birthday.’

‘I meant your scent,’ he corrected her, which made her cheeks burn.

She’d never been held like this. He was barely touching her, and they were barely moving, yet it was positively indecent the sensations he evoked. Her internal barometer had shattered, common sense scattering like tiny balls of mercury, irrecoverable as he pulled her right into the circle of his arms. His breath was hot on her ear and suddenly she wanted him to lick it—he didn’t. Lowering his head just a bit further, till she could feel his mouth just inches from her neck, she fought the urge to repeat her mistake of yesteryear. She wanted to turn her face to his like a flower to the sun, to receive the sweet reward of his mouth on hers.

It was a relief when the music ended—a relief to stand apart from him in the darkness as the room broke into song.

Eric smiled broadly as a vast cake was wheeled in, blazing with sixty candles. Still Zarios held Emma’s wrist, his hot fingers wrapped tightly around her flesh as she sang along. Then the candles were blown out and the tent was plunged into full darkness. Tonight she finally received what she’d longed for all those years ago and for way too many moments in between. Finally Emma was rewarded with the prize of his mouth on hers.