“When I what?” he demanded, his body an inch from hers.
When he’d ruined her father.
When he’d taken a mistress.
When he’d broken her heart…
“Did you ever love me?” she whispered. “Did you love me at all?”
He grabbed her wrists, causing her to gasp. But it was the intensity in his obsidian gaze that pinned her to the wall.
“You ask me that now?” he ground out. But there was a noise down the hall, and he turned his head.
Three maids stood with their arms full of linens, gawking at the sight of their employer pressing Anna against the wall. It probably looked as if they were having hot sex. Heaven knew, they’d done it before, though they’d never been caught.
He lifted a dark eyebrow, and the maids scattered.
With a growl, he grasped Anna’s wrist and pulled her into the privacy of the nearby library. He shut the heavy oak door behind him. The sound echoed against the high walls of leatherbound books, bouncing up to the frescoed ceiling, reverberating her doom.
His dark eyes were alight with a strange fire. “You really want to know if I loved you?”
She shook her head, frightened at what she’d unleashed, wishing with all her heart that she could take back the question. “It doesn’t matter.”
“But it does. To you.”
“Forget I asked.” She tried desperately to think of a change of subject—anything that would distract him, anything to show that she didn’t care. But he was relentless.
“No, I never loved you, Anna. Never. How could I? I told you from the start I’m not a one-woman kind of man. Even if you’d been worthy of that commitment—which obviously you’re not.”
Pain went through her, but she raised her chin and fired back, “I was loyal to you when no other woman would have been. You kept me prisoner. You fired me from the job I loved. When you took Lindsey in my place I should have left you. But it wasn’t until I saw what you did to my father…”
“Ah, yes, your sainted father.” He gave a harsh laugh. “Those papers you found, Anna, what did they prove? That I withdrew all financial support from your father’s company?”
“Yes. Just when he needed you most. He’d been doing so well, finally getting the company back on its feet, but just when he needed extra cash to open a new factory in China, to compete in the global market—”
“I withdrew my support because I found out that your father embezzled my investment—millions of dollars. There was no new factory, Anna. He’d laid off most of his workers in New York, leaving Rostoff Textiles nothing more than a shell. He used my investment to buy cars and houses and to pay off his gambling debts to Victor Sinistyn.”
“No.” A knife-stab went through her heart. “It can’t be true.” But even as she spoke the words she remembered her father’s frenetic spending in those days. He’d stopped pressuring her to marry Victor, and instead had suddenly been prosperous, buying a Ferrari for himself, diamonds for Mother, and that crumbling old palace in Russia. He wanted to remind the world of their royalty, he’d said, that the Rostoffs were still better than anyone.
“I didn’t tell you,” Nikos continued, “or press charges, because I was trying to protect you. I cut off his lines of credit and informed the banks that I was no longer responsible. If he’d just asked me for the money I would have given it to him, for your sake. But he stole from me. I couldn’t allow that to continue.”
She turned to stare blindly at a nearby gold and lacquer globe. Turning the smooth surface of the world, her fingers rested near St. Petersburg. She wished with all her heart that she was still there, in the dark, cold, crumbling palace without a ruble to her name. She wished Nikos had never found her and dragged her back to luxury. Russia was numb peace compared to this hell.