Bedded for Passion, Purchased for Pregnancy(5)

By: Carol Marinelli

‘It is fortunate I am rich then, no?’ Zarios joked, but his father wasn’t smiling.

‘Eric is worried…’ It was only a small lie, Rocco consoled himself. In fact he hadn’t lied, he told himself, just implied…Surely it was better to put Zarios off now, than face Eric after his son had broken his daughter’s heart?

And he would, Rocco thought wearily, mopping his forehead again before folding his handkerchief and putting it back in his pocket. Zarios would break her heart.

‘Don’t get involved with her, Zarios.’ Rocco resumed his walking. ‘It would be far too messy.’

‘You’re early!’ Eric, as laid-back as his wife was neurotic, didn’t worry about things like guestrooms and final layers of lipgloss, instead he was simply delighted as Rocco came through the door, and hugged and embraced his lifelong friend in the effusive Italian way. Zarios stood slightly back.

‘We wanted some time with you before the other guests arrived.’ Rocco beamed, offering Eric a lavishly wrapped gift. ‘Hide that and open it tomorrow.’

‘The invitation said no gifts!’ Lydia scolded, but she was clearly delighted that he had. ‘Zarios—we’re thrilled that you came.’

‘It is good to be here.’

His accent was still rich, his voice low and deep, and Emma could feel the tiny hairs at the back of her neck stand on end as she came down the stairs, attempting to maintain her distant and aloof look, watching as he kissed her mother on both cheeks and then did the same with her father. His black eyes met hers.

‘Emma. It’s been a long time.’ His smile was guarded, and in a split second his eyes took in the changes. The short cut she had once worn had long since grown out, and her hair now hung in a heavy blonde curtain over her shoulders. Her once skinny, overactive body had softened and filled out since then, too, and her feminine curves were enhanced by the soft drape of her dress—a dress that swished around her slender legs as she moved. Zarios was surprisingly grateful for his father’s warning, because without it the night might have taken a rather different direction.

She had always been pretty, but she was stunning now!

‘It has been a long time.’ She walked down the last two steps and hovered on the bottom one, but still he had to bend his head to kiss her on the cheeks. As he did so, he smelt her—again. His body flared in surprised recognition as his lips dusted her cheeks. How nice it would be, Zarios thought wildly, to give her the kiss he had denied her so many years ago.

Had denied himself.

The others moved forward, leaving them alone for just a moment, each lost in their own thoughts.

‘You are looking well.’ He frowned slightly. ‘How long has it been since we’ve seen each other?’

‘A few years?’ Emma shrugged, refusing to acknowledge she knew the exact length of time, down to the month! ‘Four—maybe five?’

‘It’s not that long…’ Zarios shook his head as they headed through to the lounge. ‘It was at your brother’s wedding.’

‘That was five years ago…’ Emma smiled. ‘Actually, it was six!’

‘Come through,’ Lydia scolded. ‘Emma, get our guests a drink.’

At that moment one of the hired help arrived with a hastily filled tray of champagne. Emma grabbed one for herself before Lydia shooed her away.

‘A real drink!’ Lydia hissed to Emma out of the side of her mouth.

‘Whisky?’ Emma checked. That was what Rocco always had when he came over. ‘And a small dash of water?’

‘She has a good memory.’ Rocco beamed.

‘Zarios?’ Emma deliberately forced herself to look him in the eye. ‘What would you like?’ Black eyes held hers, and she could have sworn there was just a fraction of innuendo in the pause that went on for just a beat too long. The torch she had carried for him over the years flared brightly as his eyes held hers, no matter how she tried to douse it.

‘Whisky.’ He added no please or thank you to his order. ‘No water.’

And as easily as if he’d flicked a switch she was lost.

Pouring the golden liquid, she could see her hand was shaking. She hadn’t exaggerated the memory of him. He was as lethal and as potently sexy as he had been all those years ago—and as arrogant and rude, Emma reminded herself. Handing him his glass, trying and failing not to notice the brush of his fingers against hers, she crossed the room and sat on the sofa, as far away from him as possible.