Wife for a Day

By: Kate Walker

CHAPTER ONE




RONAN GUERIN looked down at the sleeping face of the woman in the bed and almost changed his mind about the whole thing.

Almost.

She looked so peaceful, so innocent, so damned beautiful. It was impossible not to recall the night he had just spent with her, the incandescent passion they had shared, and feel a pang of regret for the course he had started out on.

But then he remembered Rosalie, every bit as beautiful and just as innocent, and he hardened his heart. Firming his resolve, he reached out a hand and touched her shoulder gently.

‘Lily…’ he said softly.

At first there was no response. She was too deeply unconscious, too exhausted by a night in which sleep had been the last thing on their minds to hear. Refusing to let himself reconsider, to be weakened by the sight of her innocent appearance, he shook her slightly, watching as she gave a faint murmur and stirred, her eyes still closed.

‘Good morning, wife.’

Good morning, wife. The words reached Lily through the clouds of sleep that clogged her brain, making them sound vague and indistinct so that she frowned in drowsy confusion.

Wife?

It was as she moved languorously in the deep comfort of the bed, feeling the soft brush of the fine linen sheets on her naked body, that realisation struck home with the force of an arrow thudding straight into the heart of a target. Her eyes, wide and deep gold, flew open, meeting the steady, watchful gaze of the man who sat on the edge of the bed, his strong fingers still resting on her arm.

‘Ronan?’

Of course! How could she have forgotten, even for a second? How could sleep have wiped away the fact that this was the man to whom she had given her heart so completely that there was never a hope of getting it back—not that she wanted it. The man who, only the day before, had placed a gold wedding band on her finger as he vowed to love and honour her for the rest of his life.

Stretching luxuriously, she turned to face him.

‘Good morning, husband.’

Her smile, with its deliberate edge of sleepy sensuality, was directed straight into his intent blue-grey eyes, the angle of her head calculatedly provocative as it splayed the long blonde strands of her hair out around her heart-shaped face on the immaculate white pillows.

To her surprise, neither the smile nor the inviting gesture earned her the response she had anticipated. Instead, Ronan seemed strangely, almost worryingly distant. The strong-boned features under the silky dark chestnut hair were set in a way that made him look disturbingly remote and cold, light-years away from the ardent, passionate lover of the night before.

Memories of the indulgence of that night brought a rush of colour to her cheeks, and her tongue slipped out to smooth over the soft curve of her lower lip, as if she could still taste the burning kisses he had pressed there. A hot rush of sexual awareness mixed with a heady sense of very female triumph flooded every nerve as she saw the indigo gaze drop to follow the slight movement.

‘Husband,’ she murmured again, savouring the sound of the word.

Her body still ached faintly, and there were one or two tender spots on her skin, but she didn’t care. The pleasure she had experienced last night had been so totally new to her, so mind-blowing in its intensity, that she had been hard put to it to believe that she could feel it and not shatter into a thousand tiny pieces.

And it was something she very much wanted to enjoy all over again.

As she believed Ronan would too. In fact, when she had finally drifted into exhausted and satiated sleep, she had been convinced that she would wake to find herself firmly enclosed by the strength of his arms. That he would greet her with gentle kisses, rouse her body to demanding life, as he had done so easily the night before, his own muscular frame heating, tensing, hardening in matching response.

Which was why it was so disconcerting to find him now sitting beside her, looking so cool and indifferent—and fully dressed.

‘What time is it?’ she asked in some concern, recalling the flight they were due to make that day.

‘Just after nine.’

‘So early! Then what are you doing out of bed?’

Her full mouth formed a petulant moue of disapproval as she took in the clothes he was wearing. They were hardly suitable for someone about to set out on a long-haul trip to the tropical island he had promised would be their honeymoon destination. The immaculately tailored suit in a light grey silk, white shirt and conservative tie only added to her confusion, aggravating the sense of alienation she had experienced earlier.

‘Our plane doesn’t leave until three!’ she protested. ‘We’ve hours yet.’

Lily reached out and stroked his hand where it lay, broad and strong, with long, square-tipped fingers, on the pristine whiteness of the quilt cover.