Alanis stared at him, unable to believe she was hearing right.
“And don't play dumb, it doesn't suit you at all. You know exactly what I’m talking about, Alanis. He knows about your past life, your old boyfriend, this John… What is Jacques Benoit to you? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Yet, I'm left standing there like a fool under the sun. Oh, to hell with it!”
Brody ground out the words through clenched teeth.
“What does it matter anyway?”
“But I don't know Jacques Benoit,” she said confusedly, utterly bewildered by the rage darkening the rugged features.
“Exactly! He’s a stranger to you, a complete stranger, yet he knows more about you than I do. How do you think that made me feel?” Brody asked furiously, his eyes slits of silver.
Alanis must’ve slept in the warmth of the evening sun, but some sixth sense suddenly brought her awake to find herself staring straight into Brody's eyes where he lay propped on his lounger watching her. She couldn't remember falling asleep… Certainly, she hadn't intended to as she had lain there stiff and taut, her mind exploring endless possibilities and explanations that would contest what her heart was telling her. No, she couldn’t be in love with him… This was pure madness. And besides, she didn't want to! She didn't want to love anyone, least of all Brody. But… she did. Utterly, madly, and helplessly. And certainly hopelessly.“Sleeping Beauty…” He smiled lazily as his eyes caressed her face.&l
The day after, their breakfast together was a cool affair, with Brody standoffish and cold behind his newspaper after a superficial good morning and a sharp, penetrating glance at her white face and shadowed eyes. Their journey to the airport, the long flight to the States, the car ride through Chicago to her apartment… all were conducted in the same distant, remote silence, broken only by a casual, impersonal word exchange about the ‘Sea Hawk’ project. When they drew up outside her house, Brody gestured to his chauffeur, who had been waiting at the airport, to remain in the car, and carried her suitcase himself, despite her insistence that she could manage. The tall, commanding tycoon in the designer-cut suit and hand-made Italian shoes
The damn cat! He'd wring its neck himself when he found it! “I promise,” she said shakily. It felt strange to be worried over… Alanis hadn't had anyone show any real concern for what she did for so long that she had forgotten how good it felt. “Okay, Alanis. Now, give me the torch you used and I'll go looking for an hour or two,” Brody said quietly, narrowing his eyes and noticing the exhausted drop of her shoulders and the downward tilt to her mouth. “I… I haven't got a torch,” she admitted guiltily, expecting a further lecture on the seriousness of her crime. But Brody merely stared at her for another moment without speaking, shaking his dark head slowly as though he was lost for words, before turning to leave. “Brody, please… I want to come too…” “No.” &nbs
Thursday was a day she endured with gritted teeth, both dreading and longing for the moment when she opened the door that evening. There was a mountain of work waiting for her concerning the ‘Sea Hawk’ project when she got into the office, but the chaotic pace helped overall, although the lack of sleep the night before had her light-headed by the time Alanis left office at 5. And the apartment was empty. Sickeningly, stomach-wrenchingly empty. Alanis forced herself to make a sandwich that went straight in the bin, swallowed a couple of aspirins for her blinding headache, then went to lie down on the bed to rest her aching head before she started ringing around some neighbors. Alanis had found that the only way she could function that day was to blot all thoughts of Brody out of her mind, and now, as she slippe
The next week passed, and then the next, and the only contact she had with Brody was by telephone or in brief meetings where he was very much the remote tycoon and kept everyone on their toes, bossing everyone around. Alanis flew out to France twice in the next few weeks but made sure her schedule could be accommodated in day trips which didn't necessitate more than a day and a half. She informed Brody's PA each time she planned to go, but Brody didn't join her as she had half expected… and wanted. The period was pretty stressful. She was eating less, sleeping less, working harder, and more confused than she had ever been in the days following the accident. August came, blazed brightly, and left, and in the second week of September, Alanis woke up one morning to the knowledge that it was her twenty-ninth birthday and she was
Brody smiled and invited her in.“Frequented by a resident housekeeper and her handyman husband along with several cats, in case you're worried you will be all alone with the big bad wolf,” Brody drawled mockingly. “Mrs. Clancy has been in the kitchen all day preparing for tonight, so don't run away now,” he added warningly. The interior of the house was stunning, as she had known it would be, from the uniquely beautiful galleried entrance hall to the large, high ceilinged reception rooms, right through to the massive olde-worlde kitchen, where Alanis met the impressive Mrs. Clancy, all flushed and trying to put the last touches on their dinner. Every corner of his house was absolutely amazing. Alanis never thought she could see such a place in Chicago. She loved it all, but then she had known sh
After that evening, Alanis barely survived. For the next few weeks, the strain of keeping her pain hidden by trying to maintain a bright, efficient image at work, brought her near to breaking point. And the last week of October, when she was due to fly out to France to oversee the launch was even worse. She hadn't seen or spoken to Brody since the night of her birthday. All their communication had been through e-mails, texts, and his icy PA, although she had had the strangest feeling more than once that a pair of unseen eyes were watching her every movement. It was stupid, Alanis knew it was stupid, but the sensation persisted right up until the day she flew out to France, alone. She had reserved a room in a fairly mediocre hotel for the duration of her five-day stay, along with a hire car to be delivered t
“Don't you understand that? The price of having me for your wife would be too high, Brody. You would never see your child born, hear its first cry, hold it in your arms. Never search a tiny face, seeking to find a little bit of me, a little bit of you. Never be able to say 'my son'…”“I know, Alanis. I know all that.” If he dodged the issue now, he would lose her forever, Brody knew that. Just as he had known, the moment she lost control, that she loved him. But he might still lose her, and that wasn't an option.“No, Brody! You don't, not really.” Alanis was gasping now, her body shaking in his arms, and, slowly, he lowered her to the ground, to sit on the beach. He was facing her with his hands cupping her face as tears streamed down her cheeks.“I really do, sweetheart. I understa