A Christmas Bride for the King

Page 48

n’t be able to pick up the pieces of her life again and pretend nothing had happened...
But the tightness around her heart told her otherwise. She felt icy for a second as the memory of her father’s rejection came back—but surely, she reassured herself, this was totally different? She was an adult now, and if she walked away from Salim before he ended things then she’d be in control.
Charlotte knew she didn’t have the strength to walk away. Not just yet.
One more night.
* * *
Salim was still trying to compose himself. But he felt feral. He was oblivious to the people around him because he was fixated on the woman on the other side of the room, talking to a group of people whom she apparently knew.
Why isn’t she by my side? he asked himself again, irrationally.
The dress she was wearing... It was the green dress he’d ordered especially for her, describing what he’d wanted, the colour and style, to an amused French stylist friend of his who had teased him.
‘This one must be special if you are ordering a dress to match her eyes...normally you send in your lovers to dress themselves.’
Salim had answered defensively, ‘She’s not my lover...’
But his friend had just laughed and said, ‘Not yet.’
He’d been right about the colour. Even from here he could see that the green made her eyes look even mossier than usual. The dress was strapless and it clung to her breasts before falling in a swathe of silk to the floor.
But what was really exercising him was the fact that he’d never seen so much of her pale flesh exposed in public before. And now everyone could see the freckles that dusted her shoulders and arms.
Her hair was swept to one side, and one of the tuxedoed gentlemen near her had put a hand on her bare upper back.
Salim was moving forward before he realised that someone had put a hand on his arm and was saying, ‘Please can I have a word?’
He curbed the urge to snarl, and stopped and looked. It was a young attractive woman, with dark eyes and hair, and for some reason a cold shiver went down his spine.
He recognised her at the same moment as she said, ‘Maybe you don’t know me. I’m Giovanna Scozza. My father was—’
‘I know who your father was,’ Salim said grimly, feeling slightly sick.
She took her hand from his arm and Salim could see the shadows in her eyes. She looked nervous.
‘Do you think we could talk privately for a moment?’
She didn’t have to say it, but Salim heard it. Surely you can give me that?
‘Of course.’
He did owe her this—and more.
He instructed a staff member who was hovering nearby to ensure they weren’t interrupted and he took her into a private study off the main ballroom.
* * *
Charlotte’s skin crawled when Peter Harper put his hand on her back—again. Once again she moved subtly from underneath it, automatically seeking out Salim on the other side of the room.
Something sharp lanced her when she saw that he was talking to a tall and very beautiful young woman, with dramatic black hair, olive skin and dark eyes. The woman had put her hand on his arm.
He was looking at her as if...
Charlotte’s heart hitched. She’d never seen him look so arrested before, and her insides turned to water.
This was it.