He might have looked at her as if he’d wanted to devour her on the spot just moments ago, but of course it wouldn’t be long before he realised what he’d been missing.
She watched as he led the young woman into another room and a uniformed staff member took up a position outside, clearly under instructions not to let anyone disturb them.
Feeling sick, Charlotte made an excuse to the people she’d been talking to—fellow diplomatic staff—and escaped the crush of the crowd to find some air, some space.
* * *
When Salim re-emerged into the main room he was still reeling. He immediately looked for a familiar strawberry-blonde head and frowned when he couldn’t spot her immediately. Where was she?
The group of men she’d been talking to had dispersed, and Salim cursed under his breath at the thought that she was in some more private space with the one who had been touching her.
People moved out of his way with widening eyes as he cut a swathe through the room, but he was unaware of the intensity of his expression.
He thought he saw a flash of green in the far corner and followed it, finding himself at the door of another private room much like the one he’d just left.
He went inside. A fire was blazing and the room’s walls were lined with shelves filled with books. There was an elaborately decorated Christmas tree in the corner, but Salim only had eyes for the slender pale figure standing near the fire, watching him.
Immediately something in him eased. Even as desire swept through him, igniting his blood.
He closed the door behind him.
For a moment he forget what had just happened as he stalked towards her. ‘Who were those men you were talking to?’
Her eyes looked very dark in this low light, and the flames of the fire picked out the red hues in her hair.
‘Colleagues...from the diplomatic circuit.’
‘Oh? It’s a circuit?’
Her eyes glittered and he could see the pulse at the base of her neck throbbing.
Her voice was tight. ‘Yes, Salim, it’s a circuit much like any other. Much like the one you inhabit when you return to Europe—you know, where you run into old friends...even old lovers?’
For a second he didn’t compute, and then he remembered.
His gaze narrowed. ‘You saw me talking to Giovanna?’
Charlotte shrugged minutely, hating it that she couldn’t hide her emotions better. ‘Is that her name?’
Salim shook his head and a smile tipped up one corner of his wicked mouth. ‘I do believe you’re jealous.’
Charlotte’s hands clenched into fists. Yes, she was jealous—and she hated it.
Innate honestly forced her to say, ‘I never asked for this, Salim. I shouldn’t really care less what you do, or who with, because I’m sure you couldn’t give a damn what I do.’
She let out a choked sound of anger at herself and went to go past Salim and make her escape. But he caught her with a hand on her arm.
‘On the contrary. I do give a damn. I didn’t like seeing that man touching you. Who was he?’
Charlotte blinked up at Salim, momentarily distracted by the feral glitter in his eyes. She told herself it was just possessiveness, nothing more. ‘It was no one... Peter Harper—a diplomat with the foreign office.’
She found herself melting at the thought that he could be jealous—but then she remembered seeing him disappearing into that room with that sultry dark-haired beauty and she pushed against his chest, forcing him back.
She stepped around him and folded her arms. ‘Who was she?’
Salim ran a hand through his hair, making it even messier. He took off his jacket, throwing it onto a chair, and then he pulled off his bow tie. He turned around and Charlotte nearly took a step back at how wild he looked. Like a caged animal.
Eventually he said, ‘Giovanna Scozza. That’s who she was.’