Provocative About the Author Title Page CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE CHAPTER FOUR CHAPTER FIVE CHAPTER SIX CHAPTER SEVEN CHAPTER EIGHT CHAPTER NINE CHAPTER TEN CHAPTER ELEVEN CHAPTER TWELVE Copyright
That was how she looked. A fine, sleek creature of sensual provocation.
Not that she was aware of any of this, he acknowledged grimly.
Unaware. Just as she was of the fact that her wedding ring gleamed gold on her finger.
His wedding ring. The ring he had placed there. Once a gold ring of love, now a gold ring of betrayal.
MICHELLE REID grew up on the southern edges of Manchester, England, the youngest in a family of five lively children. But now she lives in the beautiful county of Cheshire with her busy executive husband and two grown-up daughters. She loves reading, the ballet and playing tennis when she gets the chance. She hates cooking, cleaning, and despises ironing! Sleep she can do without, and she produces some of her best written work during the early hours of the morning.
Gold Ring Of Betrayal
LONDON. Big house. Big address close to Hyde Park. The time: 17.45 p.m. Six hours since it happened.
And the tension in the formal drawing room was so fraught it picked at the flesh. People were standing about in small clusters, some talking in low, worried voices, some breaking into soft bouts of weeping now and then, others comforting, others holding themselves apart from it all, standing or sitting with a fierce self-control about them which held them silent and still.
Sara was of the latter group, sitting alone on one of the soft-cushioned sofas. She appeared calm, outwardly composed now as she stared down at the pale carpet beneath her feet, seemingly oblivious to everyone else.
But she was far from oblivious. Far from composed. Every movement, each sound was reverberating shrilly inside her head. And she was sitting there like that, straight-backed and very still, because she knew that if she did so much as move a muscle all her severely reined in self-control would gush screaming out of her.
It had already happened once. When the dreadful news had been brought to her, her initial reaction had been one of almost uncontrollable horror. They had tried to put her to bed then. Tried to force tranquillizers down her throat to put her out of her torment. Tried to render her oblivious to it all.
She’d refused. Of course she’d refused! How could any woman—any mother take refuge in sleep at a time like this?
But because they had been alarmed by her reaction, because they’d needed something tangible to worry about and she’d seemed the most obvious candidate, and because she’d found she did not have it in her to fight them as well as fight the multitude of terrors rattling around inside her head she had made herself calm down, pretend to get a hold on herself, and had taken up her silent vigil here, on this sofa, where she had been sitting for hours now. Hours...
Like the rest of them. Waiting for the man who was at the centre of all this trauma to come and take control of the situation.
He was on his way, they’d told her, as though expecting that piece of information to make her feel better. It didn’t. Nothing did. Nothing would.
So she sat very still, blue eyes lowered so no one could see what was happening inside her head, and concentrated all her attention on remaining calm while they, in their own anxiety, did not seem to notice the way the stark blackness of her long-sleeved T-shirt and tight leggings accentuated the whitened strain in her face. Nor did they seem to realise that she was sitting so straight because shock was holding her spine like a rigid rod of iron, or that her hands, clasped quietly on her lap, were in actual fact clenched and cold and so stiff that she didn’t think she could unclasp them again even if she tried to.
But at least they didn’t approach. At least they weren’t trying to comfort her by murmuring useless platitudes no mother wanted to hear at a time like this. At least they were leaving her alone.
The sudden sound of crunching tyres on the gravel driveway outside the house had everyone else jumping to attention. Sara did not move. She did not so much as lift her head in response.
There was the sound of voices in the hallway, one deep, sharp and authoritative, standing out from the rest as special. And the air in the room began to fizz.
Then footsteps, firm, precise, came towards the closed drawing-room door. Everyone inside the room turned towards it as it shot open, their eyes fixing expectantly on the man who appeared in its aperture.
But Sara kept her gaze fixed on the small square of carpet she’d had it fixed on for ages now, carefully counting the tiny rosebuds which made up part of the pale blue and peach design.
Tall, lean-featured, black hair, tight body. White shirt, dark tie, grey suit that sat on him as expensive silk should. Tanned skin—natural, not worked on. Long, thin nose, ruthlessly drawn, resolute sensual mouth. And the sharp and shrewd eyes of a hunter. Gold, like a tiger. Cold, like the features. A man hewn from rock.
He stood poised like that in the doorway for some long, immeasurable seconds, emitting a leashed power into the room that had everyone else holding their breath. His strange eyes flicked from one anxious face to another, surveying the scene as a whole without so much as acknowledging a single person. The young girl sitting in a chair by the window let out a muffled sob when his gaze touched her; her cheeks blotchy, eyes red and swollen, she stared up at him as if she were begging for her very life. Coldly, dismissively he moved on—and on. Until his eyes found Sara, sitting there in her isolated splendour, face lowered and seemingly unaware.
Then something happened to the eyes. What was difficult to determine but it sent an icy chill down the spines of those who saw it. He began to move, loose-limbed and graceful. Without so much as affording anyone else a second glance he walked across the patterned carpet and came to a stop directly in front of her.
‘Sara,’ he prompted quietly.
She did not move. Her eyes did focus dimly on the pair of handmade leather shoes which were now obscuring the patch of carpet she had been concentrating on. But other than that she showed no sign that she was aware of his presence.
‘Sara.’ There was more command