‘What are you, Holly? What’s the correct name for a woman who sleeps with a guy for money?’
Her body was trembling. ‘I haven’t asked you for money.’
‘I’m sure what you earned from the newspapers will keep you and Eddie going for a while. What did you have planned—monthly bulletins to keep the income going? Now I understand why you thanked me.’
‘As you kissed me in the window.’ His mouth curved into a cynical smile. ‘You thanked me for what I’d given you.’
‘But that was—’ She broke off and gave a little shake of her head. ‘I was feeling really low that day. The reason you walked over to me in the first place was because I was crying. And I thanked you because you made me feel good about myself. Nothing else. Up to that point in my life, I knew nothing about the way the media worked.’
‘You expect me to believe that it’s coincidence that you’ve been in hiding for over two weeks? You were holding out for the big one. The exclusive to end all exclusives.’ He saw panic in her eyes and felt a flash of satisfaction. ‘I don’t think you have any idea what you’ve done.’
‘What I’ve done? You were there, too! You were part of this, and I think you’re being totally unfair!’ Her hands were clasped by her sides, her fingers opening and closing nervously. ‘I’m having your baby. Frankly, that in itself is enough to make me feel a bit wobbly, without you standing there accusing me of being a—a—’ She choked on the word. ‘And, as if that isn’t bad enough, you’re telling me you don’t believe it’s yours!’
‘You want to know what I think?’ His tone was the same temperature as his heart—icy cold. ‘I think you were already pregnant when you turned on the tears and had sex with me on my table. That’s why you were crying. I think you were panicking about how you’d cope with a baby on a waitress’s salary. And you saw me as a lucrative solution. All you had to do was pretend to be a virgin, and then I wouldn’t argue a paternity claim.’
‘That’s all rubbish! I had sex with you because—’ She broke off and gave a hysterical laugh. ‘I don’t know why I had sex with you! Frankly the whole episode was pretty shocking.’
Their eyes collided, and shared memories of that moment passed between them like a shaft of electricity.
His eyes dropped to her wide, lush mouth and he found himself remembering how she’d tasted and felt. Even though he now realised that she couldn’t possibly have been a virgin, he still wanted her with almost indecent desperation.
‘Stop looking at me like that,’ she whispered, and Casper gave a twisted smile, acknowledging the chemistry that held them both fast. Invisible chains, drawing them together like prisoners doomed to the same fate.
‘You should be pleased I’m looking at you like that,’ he drawled softly, ‘Because good sex is probably the only thing we have going for us.’
Even as his mind was withdrawing, his hands wanted to reach out and haul her hard against him. He saw her eyes darken to deep emerald, saw her throat move as she murmured a denial.
‘I honestly don’t know what’s going on here,’ she muttered. ‘But I think you’d better leave.’
Somehow her continuing claim at innocence made the whole episode all the more distasteful, and the face of another woman flashed into his brain—a woman so captivating that he’d been blind to everything except her extraordinary beauty. ‘What sort of heartless bitch would lie about the identity of her baby’s father?’ Ruthlessly he pushed the memories down, his anger trebling. ‘Don’t you have a conscience?’ His words sucked the last of the colour from her cheeks.
‘Get out!’ Her voice sounded strange. High pitched. Robotic. ‘I don’t care if you’re a prince, just get out!’ Her legs were shaking and her face was as white as an Arctic snow-field. ‘I was so pleased to see you. That day when you comforted me when I was upset—I thought you were a really nice, decent person. A bit scary, perhaps, but basically nice. When I opened the door and saw you standing there I actually thought you’d come to see if I was OK—can you believe that? And now I feel like a complete fool. Because you weren’t thinking about me. You were thinking about yourself. So just go! Go back to your palace, or your castle, or wherever it is you live.’ The wave of her hand suggested she didn’t care where he lived. ‘And do whatever it is you want to do.’
‘You’ve robbed me of that option.’
‘Why? Even if the world does think I’m having your baby, so what? Don’t tell me you’re worried about your reputation. You’re the playboy prince.’ There was hurt in her voice, that same voice that only moments earlier had been soft and gentle. ‘Since when has reputation mattered to you? When you have sex with a woman, everyone just smiles and says what a stud you are. I’m sure the fact that you’ve fathered a child will gain you some major testosterone points. Walk away, Your Highness. Isn’t that what you usually do?’
‘You just don’t get it, do you?’ His voice was thickened and raw. ‘You have no idea what you’ve done.’
What exactly had she done?
Appalled, Holly stared at him.
The anger in his face was real enough. It was clear that he genuinely believed that he couldn’t be the father of her baby. And her only proof was the fact that she’d been a virgin.
But he didn’t believe her, did he?
And could she blame him for that? It was true that she hadn’t behaved like a virgin. The entire encounter had been one long burst of explosive chemistry. It had been the only time in her life that she’d been out of control.
And that chemistry was back in the room, racking up the tension between them to intolerable levels, the electricity sparking between them like a live cable. His gaze dropped to her lips and she saw in his eyes that his mind was in exactly the same place as hers.
It was like a chain reaction. His glance, her heartbeat, harsh breathing—her or him?—and tension—tension like she’d never experienced before.
Streaks of colour accentuated his aristocratic cheekbones and he stepped towards her at exactly the same moment she moved towards him. The attraction was so fierce and frantic that when she heard a ringing sound she actually wondered whether an alarm had gone off.
Then she realised that it was the phone.
Hauling his gaze from hers, Casper inhaled sharply. ‘Don’t answer that.’
Still reeling from the explosion of sexual excitement, Holly doubted she’d be capable of answering it even if she’d wanted to. Her legs were trembling and the rhythm of her breathing was all wrong.
She watched dizzily as he crossed the room and lifted a bunch of papers from the printer.
Mouth grim, shoulders tense, he leafed through them and then lifted his gaze to hers. ‘What were you doing? Profiling your target?’
Having completely forgotten that she’d actually printed out some of the sheets on him, including a particularly flattering picture, Holly suddenly wished she could sink through the floor. ‘I—I was looking you up.’ What else could she say? She could hardly deny it, given that he was holding the evidence of her transgression in his hands.
‘Of course you were.’ He gave a derisive smile. ‘I’m sure you wanted to know just how well you’d done. So, now we’ve cleared that up, let’s drop the pretence of innocence, shall we?’
‘OK, so I’m human!’ Her face scarlet, her knees trembling, Holly ran damp palms over her tee-shirt, wishing she could go and change into something else. He looked like something out of a glossy magazine, and she was dressed in her most comfortable tee-shirt that dated back at least six years. ‘I admit that I wanted to find out stuff about you. You were my first lover.’
‘So you’re sticking to that story.’ He dropped the papers back onto the desk and Holly lifted her chin.
‘It’s not a story. It’s the truth.’
‘I just hope you don’t regret what you’ve done when you have two hundred camera lenses trained on your face and the world’s press yelling questions at you.’
She shrank at the thought. ‘That isn’t going to happen.’
‘Let me tell you something about the life you’ve chosen, Holly.’ Tall and powerfully built, he looked as out of place in her flat as a thoroughbred racehorse in a donkey derby. From the stylish trousers and long cashmere coat, to the look of cool confidence on his impossibly handsome face, everything about him shrieked of enormous wealth and privilege. ‘Everywhere you go there will be a photographer stalking you, and most of the time you won’t even know they’re there until you see the picture next day. Everyone is going to want a piece of you, and that means you can no longer have friends, because even friends have their price and you’ll never know who you can trust.’