Wife By Contract, Mistress By Demand

By: Carole Mortimer

Prologue





‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’

Gabriella raised long, sooty lashes to reveal eyes of so deep a blue they appeared violet, to look across the terrace at Rufus, the man she had fallen in love with a year ago when her mother had married his father, the man her eighteen-year-old heart desperately hoped would fall in love with her, too!

She had heard his hire-car arrive on the gravelled drive at the front of the Gresham family villa in Majorca. She forced down her nervousness and remained stretched out on her lounger soaking up the sun, rather than running to greet him as she wanted to do. Rufus, she had quickly learnt, was not a man that you ran after, but instead waited for him to come to you—even if he was the love of your life and just looking at him made your knees tremble with longing!

He stood in the doorway that led out onto the terrace, having removed the jacket to his light business suit in the intense heat of the early afternoon. His overlong hair was the colour of molasses, glinting golden in the sun, and his eyes—a piercing pale green, Gabriella knew—were hidden behind the black sunglasses he wore.

But his question, and that disapproving slant to his chiselled lips, were enough to tell her that he wasn’t at all pleased at finding her sunbathing alone on the terrace, in a bikini comprised of small scraps of orange material.

Deliberately so. Rufus had a habit of either treating her as an irritating child, or of totally ignoring her altogether. But she so much wanted him to recognize her as a desirable woman.

‘I’m working on my tan, Rufus, what does it look like I’m doing?’ She smiled, at the same time stretching languorously, arching the slenderness of her back, the movement forcing forward the fullness of her breasts, her nipples visibly aroused in her nervousness through the bikini’s orange fabric.

‘I can see that, damn it,’ she bit back scathingly. ‘For goodness’ sake put some clothes on, will you?’ he snapped as he stepped outside onto the terrace.

‘I’m topping up my tan, silly,’ she said poutingly. ‘And why should I bother putting clothes on when there’s no one around to see me but you?’ she added with tentative provocation.

It was one thing wanting Rufus to see her as a desirable woman, something else entirely actually maintaining this provocative pose!

The Gresham family villa, ‘Bougainvillea’, was perched alone on the side of the mountain overlooking the terraced village below, with a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree view of the Mediterranean.

Why bother, indeed? Rufus acknowledged impatiently, grateful for the black shield of his sunglasses that hid his emotions as his gaze swept slowly over Gabriella’s lithely perfect body, already tanned to a golden brown and glistening invitingly from the oil she had smoothed over her torso, arms and those long, long legs.

It was a beautifully slender body, without blemish, that only the very young possessed, and that would be hard for any man to resist.

And Rufus had had plenty of practice at doing exactly that since Gabriella had burst into his life a year ago, making no effort to hide her infatuated interest in him.

An interest, at thirty years of age, he’d had no intention of satisfying!

Or, at least, he hadn’t had any intention of satisfying until he’d walked out onto the terrace a few minutes ago and seen her lying there…

‘Anyone could have walked out here and—’

‘“Anyone” didn’t, you did,’ she reasoned cajolingly. ‘Besides, the women on the village beach won’t be wearing any more than this.’ She frowned.

The village beach, Rufus knew from past experience, would be full of families at this time of day, most of the women wearing bikinis, some even topless, yes—but they weren’t alone with the man they had been shamelessly infatuated with for the last year!

‘Where are your parents?’ he demanded harshly.

A little desperately, he acknowledged with inward self-impatience. At least the presence of his father and Gabriella’s mother, his stepmother, would alleviate this situation. Even if he still found Heather’s role as his stepmother almost as irritating as having this gloriously beautiful creature as his stepsister.

He was only here at all because he had stopped off to visit his father for a couple of days on his way back from a business trip to mainland Spain.

‘James wanted to go into Palma some time today to buy my mother something wildly extravagant for their anniversary, but they should be back in a couple of hours.’ Gabriella sat forward slightly, her violet-coloured eyes smokily inviting now as she looked up at him. ‘They waited in for you this morning, but when you didn’t arrive they checked with the airline and were told that your flight had been delayed for three hours. It’s Margarita’s afternoon off, too.’ She shrugged bare, glistening shoulders. ‘So I said I would stay here and wait for you.’