The Argentinian's Demand(8)

By: Cathy Williams

Furthermore, where was the diamond rock she should be wearing on her finger?

‘I’m not buying it,’ he said.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘You heard me, Emily. I’m not buying it.’

‘ dare you?’

A tidal wave of pure red rushed through her head. The cool, aloof persona—the one that was her constant companion—vanished under the force of her anger. Anger that he had the nerve to think she was lying. Anger at the implied insult that she was just so dull, so boring, that it was inconceivable anyone might want to marry her. Anger that he just couldn’t believe she wasn’t one of those simpering girls who would not have been able to resist the compulsion to blab to her boss about a fiancé in the wings.

The sheer arrogance of the man was unbelievable. But why did that come as any great surprise? Hadn’t she witnessed first-hand just how arrogant he was in his dealings with women? Hadn’t she seen for herself how he treated them? Like playthings to be picked up and then dumped the second their novelty value wore off.

Memories of the past and her own experiences of someone with that same lethal power to destroy hurtled towards her like a rocket with deadly cargo, and she deflected its impact with a little less than her usual practised ease.

‘How dare I what?’

‘How dare you presume to know anything about me?’ Emily bristled. ‘Just because I haven’t mentioned my private life, it does not give you the right to assume that nothing goes on in it!’

‘I’m curious as to the whereabouts of this fiancé of yours when we have spent hours working until all hours of the night—which, incidentally, wasn’t that long ago. In fact...if my memory serves me right...three weeks ago we had a run of several Chinese takeout nights when that Dutch deal was on the verge of completion. I can’t imagine any testosterone-fuelled young man wanting his woman cooped up with her boss into the early hours of the morning... Or maybe those late lie-ins I gave you made up for the inconvenience...?’

He appeared to give this some thought and then shook his head slowly, his dark eyes fixed on her face all the time as his curiosity bloomed into a driving, unstoppable need to know more.

‘No...’ he drawled. ‘You’ve never had any problem with unsocial hours. That would have featured on the menu had this fiancé been on the scene. long has it been going on?’

‘That’s none of your business,’ Emily said through stiff lips.

‘I’m making it my business,’ he responded coolly, ‘in light of the fact that it appears to be influencing your ability to do your job.’

‘It’s not influencing anything...’

‘You’ve already informed me that you have a problem accompanying me to the Caribbean to oversee the end of this project. I’d term that as influencing your ability to do your job... Look, Emily...’ He sighed and raked his fingers through his dark hair. ‘We’ve been working together for almost two years. We’ve had an excellent working partnership—aside, of course, from your simmering resentment about the way I conduct my love-life...’

And where, he wondered, had that come from? Poor experiences in the past with some guy who broke her heart?

‘Is it just so damned inconceivable that I might have a passing interest in something as groundbreaking as your engagement? Forget the fact that you’re going to leave me in the lurch...’

‘I have no intention of leaving you in the lurch. I shall make sure I find a suitable replacement.’

He noticed the way she had clumsily tried to evade his question. Fascinating.

‘Leaving that aside for the moment, how long have you been going out with this mystery man? What’s his name, anyway?’

‘Are these questions still in line with the fact that you’re not buying what I’ve told you?’

‘I’m mystified by the lack of an engagement ring on your finger,’ Leandro said mildly. ‘Perhaps you took it off this morning when you were washing the dishes, but I feel certain I would have remembered seeing it before...’

‘I’m not a great believer in engagement rings,’ Emily mumbled uncomfortably.

‘And yet there must be romance and passion there if you don’t feel comfortable travelling with me for a fortnight to wrap this hotel business up...’

He had never seen her like this before. Her hectic colour brought a liveliness to her face that was captivating. She looked like a different woman. Still beautiful, but animated now, no longer with that impassive mask designed to keep the world at arm’s length.