“You sure love your house very much. It’s a very pleasant place. Extremely welcoming,” Brody said quietly, after devouring a sandwich in a couple of bites, his gaze lingering on a painting on the far wall. “Wow… That's a Kimler, isn't it?” he asked softly as he turned back to her.
“Yes, it is.”
Alanis tried to hide her surprise, which hadn't been very well-received when he'd unexpectedly revealed that he liked cats. Matthew Kimler had only just arrived on the Chicago scene, and although he was an excellent artist and a very pleasant person, he wasn’t well-known and had no influential patrons to smooth his way.
“You like his work?”
“I know a little about him and his work, but my aunt does. She's followed his progress over the last few years, and she was quite thrilled when he left Seattle and moved to Chicago. By the way, I noticed one of his paintings in that art gallery you promoted. Am I to assu
The weekend that came was filled with self-pity and regret. Alanis told herself, over and over again, that she had much to be thankful for. Her career was at its highest point ever, she didn't have, and never had had, the financial worries that dogged so many people all their lives, she was young and healthy and strong in mind and body. And there was even a positive side to the accident too… She would never have to trudge around the house with straddled legs and aching back as she had seen so many expectant mothers do. Morning sickness, dirty nappies, sleepless nights, and all the worries connected with infant inoculations, diseases, illnesses, bullying at school… These would all pass her by. She was her own person, accountable to no one. She could please herself… travel or stay at home, be up at the crack
A blazing hot June gave way to a sultry, humid July. When, on the second of that month, exactly a month after the first fateful meeting in George's office, Alanis received a late-afternoon call from Brody suggesting that she fly out to his chateau in the South of France to familiarize herself with the house and grounds, she found she could answer with only a trace of breathlessness in her voice. “Of course. I was going to suggest something like that myself within the next week or two. I think we're just about ready for the next stage now, and it would be good to meet the French caterers face to face and settle every detail there.” “Very well, then.” Brody's voice was remote, almost expressionless. “I'll come with you, Alanis. There are certain points I want to pick up on myself, and it might be useful if I'm there to smooth the way in the preliminaries.” 'There'
For some reason, that little sign of vulnerability, the knowledge that he was as exposed to danger as the next human being in certain situations, brought an ache to her lower stomach and a constriction in her breathing that made her hands damp. Alanis tried to tear her eyes away but found herself surveying him hungrily in spite of herself. The way his thick, short eyelashes brushed the tanned skin, the heaviness of his eyebrows, the web of laughter lines fanning from the corners of his closed eyes. It was a male face, sensual, virile…“Can I get you anything to drink? Or maybe a magazine to read?” The smooth, cool voice of the graceful flight attendant brought her eyes snapping upwards, and Alanis blushed as hotly as if she had been caught doing something indecent, her cheeks burning until they matche
After he'd helped her to get out from the car, Alanis was disconcerted to find that he kept a casual arm around her waist as they walked to the door, which had just been opened by a pretty little maid complete in a black dress, and immaculate apron. “‘Bonjour, Monsieur McLean. Bonjour, Mademoiselle Roswell.’” (French for ‘Hello, Mr. McLean. Hello, Miss Roswell.’) Bright black eyes flashed interestedly over Alanis's face before being demurely lowered as the girl stood aside for them to enter. “‘Bonjour, Josephine. Comment ça va? Ça va bien? Je suis si content de te revoir après si longtemps.’” (French for ‘Hello, Josephine. How are things? All well? I’m so happy to see you after such long time.’), he said to the little maid in perfect French. As they stepped through the
“Oh, this is so lovely…” Contrary to Alanis's expectations, they had walked right through the dining room and out onto a massive veranda that ran the length of it, where a small wooden table and chairs were set amidst huge terracotta pots filled with scented shrubs, flowers, and trailing ivy. The dining room was situated at the back of the house and overlooked a large rose garden in which several tiny fountains splashed and shimmered among the velvet blooms of pink, red and white. The air was redolent with their heady perfume and filled with the tinkling sound of water.“I thought you would prefer something less… formal,” Brody said softly as he pulled out the chair for her. “My mother always takes her meals here when she visits, unless it is an occasion of some sort. My father had the rose garden planted for h
She'd won? Really? Alanis followed Brody out into the vast hall and up the long, winding staircase to the first-floor bedrooms with a feeling of disbelief tempering the awe that the beautiful house inspired in her. She had the distinct feeling that very few people had ever won a battle of wills with Brody McLean, and she didn't trust him.“Your room.” Brody stopped outside a pale oak door halfway down the landing and glanced down at her, his eyes hooded now and cold.“I'll come back for you in ten minutes when you've got your stuff together.”“There's no need,” Alanis said quickly. “You go down to the pool as you'd planned. I can find my way about and…”“Ten minutes, Alanis!” He opened the door and stood aside for her to enter. After
“You… You wouldn't dare,” she muttered weakly. “Not even you.”“Wrong.” This time the smile was definitely dangerous.“You’re quite wrong, my little fiery fairy. But I won't object if you put me to the test.” He let his eyes run down her slender body in a mockingly lascivious evaluation.“No, I can promise you that at least,” Brody said with a lazy contemplation that sent shivers flickering through her again. She gave him one last glare, opened the door, and flounced inside, banging it hard behind her. It was childish but she just couldn't help it. She was just preparing to walk over to the horribly expensive-looking bags that took up the whole of the sofa in the small sitting room.
Alanis still kept her hot face buried, and it wasn't until she heard him walk away that she dared move.“Are you stupid or what?” she scolded herself faintly. “How could you? How could you have come so near to…?” ‘To what?’ she heard her inner voice. Probably just a kiss. He had probably only wanted a kiss. But then Alanis shook her head at her own gullibility. Men like Brody McLean didn't stop at a kiss in a situation like the one they had been in and she knew it.“You’re so stupid… So, so stupid… How could you have succumbed to such an obvious seduction attempt? What happened with John taught you nothing?” she whispered to herself blindly as burning humiliation set her whole body aflame.&nbs