Less capable of impassivity, her body hopelessly immune to logic, Kate’s breathing turned ragged as he leaned in close.
Dominic was finely attuned to female arousal. Considering his vices, it was a valuable asset. He could have changed Miss Hart’s mind.
‘Good night, Miss Hart,’ he said instead. ‘Pleasant dreams.’
But he stood there for a moment after she shut the door, a ghost of a smile on his face.
Christ, who knew? He had scruples.
If he had scruples, they’d disappeared by morning.
When Kate walked into the dining room, shortly after eight, she came to a sudden stop. ‘What are you doing here?’
Dominic was seated at the small table by the window, eating. ‘I own this house,’ he pleasantly said, setting down his fork. ‘Would you care to join me?’
‘Don’t you have your own apartment?’
‘I do. Did you sleep well?’
‘No, as a matter of fact.’
‘Neither did I. It must be the weather.’ And he began eating again.
She could turn around and leave or she could join him and have some of the delicious-smelling breakfast spread out on the table.
It wasn’t a difficult decision. She was hungry.
Dominic rose as she approached and moved around the table to pull out her chair. Once she sat, he returned to his seat. ‘Coffee or tea?’ He indicated two pots on the table.
He poured her a cup, then said, ‘If you’d like something other than what’s on the table, I’ll call Mrs Van Kessel and you can tell her.’
‘That’s not necessary.’
‘Would you like me to serve you?’
He laughed. ‘Feel free to express yourself.’
Then he went back to his Dutch paper. She surveyed all the delicious options on the table and ultimately made herself her favourite sandwich. Piling crisp bacon on a piece of white toast, she substituted the Green Goddess dressing next to the cold salmon for her usual mayonnaise, placed another piece of toast on top of the bacon, smashed it down and happily took a bite just as he lifted his gaze from the paper. ‘My favourite,’ she said through a mouthful of sandwich because he was squinting as though seeing a bacon sandwich for the first time. Then she went back to savouring the fabulous flavours. Really, the bacon was first rate, the toast almost as good as Nana’s homemade bread, and she was hungry. Although she was almost always hungry. Like her mother, Nana had explained, and Kate had always liked the connection. From that point on, only the sound of turning pages and silverware audible in the ornate, posh chamber. Since her breakfast companion seemed oblivious to her presence for the most part, she took the opportunity to contemplate God’s gift to women for the last time.
He was casually dressed in black sweats, moccasins and a black, long-sleeved Armani T-shirt that revealed his broad-shouldered musculature in all its glory. He apparently hadn’t shaved yet because black stubble shadowed his jaw. His long dark lashes shaded his eyes as he read, but occasionally when he looked up to turn a page, the blue of his eyes made her dizzy with their saturated colour.
He caught her staring once and smiled, then went back to his reading while her face turned cherry red. She vowed to keep her gaze on her plate after that and mostly succeeded, although his stark beauty was so alluring, she found herself sneaking an occasional glance.
She wouldn’t be seeing him again. She was allowed.
When she finished her third sandwich, she set her plate aside and cleared her throat.
He looked over the top of his paper and lifted a brow.
She flushed under his cool, blue gaze. If he wanted to act as though nothing had happened last night, she was more than willing. ‘I just wanted to say thank you for everything, Mr Knight,’ she said, forcing herself to speak in a neutral tone. ‘I enjoyed working on the project.’ She began to shove back her chair.
‘Just a minute, Miss Hart.’ He set the paper aside.
There was something in his voice that made her nervous and when she looked up, her eyes held a hint of disquiet. ‘Yes?’
‘Don’t look so frightened. It’s nothing alarming. It’s just that our plans have changed. I need you in Singapore. The bank manager is proving more difficult than I anticipated. And as you know, you still have eight days on your contract.’
‘You said I could walk when I finished the project.’
‘But I just told you the Singapore bank isn’t cooperating. So you’re not finished yet.’
‘What if I say no?’
He smiled. ‘I suppose I could sue you.’
‘Do I have a choice?’
‘We all have choices, Miss Hart. Yours has to do with the contract you signed.’
‘So I don’t have a choice,’ she said in measured tones.
‘I wouldn’t necessarily say that.’
‘What would you say?’
‘First, I’d say you should have read the contract. Then I’d say you can’t afford to fight a lawsuit. Nor would it be sensible when I only need you for eight more days at the most.’
‘That’s it? Eight days?’
‘Just for the record, I’d prefer not going.’ Mostly her libido would prefer it because it was going to be under some real strain if she had to be close to the man who’d played a starring role in last night’s X-rated dreams.
‘I understand.’ Dominic rose from his chair. ‘The car will be downstairs in twenty minutes. Wear something comfortable. It’s a long flight. And you should think about eating something other than bacon sandwiches for breakfast. Some fruit, perhaps.’
As he walked away, Kate forced herself to count to ten. She’d eat what she damn well pleased. And the car’s downstairs, wear something comfortable? Jesus, did he ever quit? She didn’t remember signing up for someone to manage her life! If Mrs Van Kessel hadn’t come in just then, she would have sworn in frustration.
‘Are you done, miss?’
She managed a polite smile. ‘Yes, thank you. It was excellent.’
‘I’ve sent your luggage down. Mr Knight had something delivered for you to wear on the plane. It’s in the wardrobe. May I wish you a pleasant journey.’
Restraining her spiking temper, Kate smiled at the housekeeper. ‘Thank you, and thank you for taking such good care of me.’ She waited until the housekeeper was gone before she gave vent to a few pithy curse words. Something to wear on the plane? Christ, who the hell did he think he was?
Her lord and master?
The Mercedes was parked outside the town house, the driver and Max in the front seat, Dominic in the back. Max half turned in his seat. ‘You – waiting for a woman?’ He grinned. ‘Is the rapture near?’
Dominic glanced up from the report he was reading. ‘Cute.’ Then he smiled. ‘Although a different kind of rapture is possible.’
‘Maybe not. I don’t see her sitting here.’
‘She’s just fucking with me. It’s not a problem.’
‘Since when?’ Dominic didn’t wait for anyone.
A sardonic look. ‘You writing a book?’
‘Not yet, maybe later.’
‘You could try.’ His employees all signed non-disclosure agreements. Dominic sighed, averse to discussions of his private life. ‘Jake, go in and hurry her along. Tell her we have a flight on hold.’
As the driver left the car, Max slid his arm along the back of the seat, turned his head and lifted one brow. ‘Were you satisfied with the toned-down version of the play last night? Kees wanted me to ask you.’
A faint eye-roll. ‘They did what they could. It was fine. She recovered outside.’ Dominic smiled. ‘She wondered if you go there often.’
‘And what did you say? That unlike you, I’m a happily married man and don’t know everyone there by their first name?’
‘I didn’t say anything. As for being happily married, consider yourself fortunate. By the way,’ he briskly added, ‘did you tell Liv you’ll be back in Hong Kong soon?’
Max nodded. Dominic’s change of subject was typical whenever marriage was mentioned, his wife’s death still an unhealed wound. ‘It’s been too long this time. Almost three weeks.’
‘We shouldn’t be in Singapore more than a day, two at the most.’ The naked pain locked away once again, Dominic spoke with a cool urbanity.
‘What about Miss Hart? Will she go on to Hong Kong with us?’
‘I haven’t decided yet. And don’t look at me like that. I don’t need another conscience. I have one somewhere.’