Liam had left her at the lowest point in her life, and for that she would never forgive him. ‘I hate you,’ she muttered into his back as he walked towards the drive.
‘And the feeling,’ he said, in a strangely bitter voice, ‘is entirely mutual.’
‘PUT me down!’ Scarlett shrieked into the cold white night, but Liam completely ignored her and carried on calmly walking through the snow towards a low black car which was parked at the end of the driveway.
Surely someone would see them go? And think it odd that this towering dark man was carrying the hostess over his shoulder through the snow. Where the hell was Henry, or her stepfather? ‘Put me down, or I’ll scream!’
‘Scream and I’ll have to kiss you quiet!’ he threatened savagely.
And, because she didn’t trust herself to risk that, Scarlett hastily closed the mouth which she had opened to give him the full benefit of her loudest, most ear-piercing shriek, right next to his ear.
He reached the car and pulled open the driver’s door, only to lift her over onto the passenger seat and snap her seatbelt shut. Then, with an agility remarkable for such a tall man, he slid his long legs into the seat next to her, belted himself in and started up the powerful engine, which gave a low, throaty roar as the car shot off.
She pulled at the lock, but it wouldn’t budge.
‘We’re doing fifty, and that door is safety-primed not to open while the car is in motion, so you might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.’
This could not be happening to her. In a minute she would be back at the party, in Henry’s safe and undemanding arms.
‘Stop this car at once!’
‘Where are you taking me?’
‘You’ll see,’ came the implacable reply.
She knew that determined set of his mouth from old—knew that it signalled the inexorable side of his nature. And she sat back in a daze against the soft leather of the seat before her senses began to return, and with them her temper.
‘This is kidnap, you do realise that?’
‘Is it? A court might see it differently—a husband making a last-minute stab at reconciliation...’
Quite without warning her heart gave a sudden lurch as she remembered the nights she’d spent sobbing into her pillow, not really believing that he had walked out on her for good. Oh, the black, heartless devil! ‘But Liam,’ she said coldly, ‘you seem to have missed the whole point of the party which you gatecrashed. I’m going to be married in five weeks’ time. To Henry.’
‘Are you?’ he queried silkily.
‘Yes, I am!’ But Scarlett found herself shivering at his deep, dark voice—hating herself for the little frisson of awareness which traced sensuous fingers up the entire length of her spine. Just what was it about this particular man which sent her senses into overdrive? ‘Where are you taking me?’ she demanded again, hearing her own tame question with appalled disbelief. Why wasn’t she screaming the place down?
Because it wouldn’t do her any good; she knew that. He was too strong to resist. And not just physically either.
He didn’t answer, just gave her a brief sideways glance—in time to see the tremble that convulsed her upper body. ‘You’re cold,’ he remarked, and put out a strong brown hand to turn the heating up.
‘Of course I’m cold!’ she returned. ‘It’s the middle of winter, it’s snowing, and I’m wearing very thin clothes.’
‘And very little underwear, from what I saw,’ he grated. ‘You never used to wear such sexy little bits of nonsense when you were married to me! But then I don’t really remember you wearing much underwear at all. The problem we had, as I recall, was keeping it on.’
Scarlett’s mouth fell wide open as she turned to look at him in disbelieving shock. ‘What was that you said?’
‘You were spying on me!’ she realised in horror. ‘As I was standing in front of the window I knew that someone was out there, watching me. It was you!’
‘Who did you think it would be?’ he mocked. ‘Was the floor show for dear Henry? Hoping to inspire a little passion in him, were you, Scarlett? Let’s hope for your sake that he makes love more accurately than he kisses.’
‘Why, you—!’ Her hand went up automatically.
‘Don’t even think of it,’ his cold voice rang out. ‘I’m driving, remember?’
‘You couldn’t stop me if I wanted to!’ she taunted.
‘Couldn’t I?’ he said quietly. ‘I could stop this car right now and quieten you down very effectively, Scarlett—and I’m sure you don’t need to ask me how.’
Her hand fell to her lap, her cheeks flushed pink in the darkness. This was madness! Sheer madness. Liam was kidnapping her, for God’s sake, and she was just sitting back in her seat like a lemon and letting him!
‘You just can’t do this to me!’ she protested.
‘I just did.’
‘Haven’t you got any consideration for other people? My stepfather will be worried sick about me.’
‘He’ll survive,’ he said coldly.
‘He’ll call the police,’ she said, equally coldly.
‘I don’t doubt it.’
‘And you’ll be arrested. Slung into jail.’ She heard her voice rising sharply. ‘Though it probably won’t be the first time, will it, Liam?’
She saw the merest glimmer of amusement hover around a mouth that was far too delectable for its own good. ‘You think I’ve done time?’ he queried, almost casually.
‘Nothing would surprise me about you!’ she said, with feeling.
‘Well, that’s good, Scarlett,’ he drawled. ‘Never underestimate your opponent—that’s the first ground rule for battle.’
She felt sadness mixed with fury. They were battling now; they had battled then. Their whole brief relationship had been a war, punctuated with wild flurries of peace in the form of their ecstatic lovemaking. She hunted around for the coup de grâce to wound him. ‘Well, I’d like to know where you got the money to pay for this fancy car,’ she said insultingly.
She saw his knuckles tighten for an instant on the steering wheel, but there was nothing but sardonic amusement in his voice as he spoke. ‘Sorry to disappoint you, Scarlett, but your patronising Lady Bountiful act fails to impress me.’
‘It used to, though,’ she said bitterly. ‘I thought that my classy accent turned you on. I thought you liked hob-nobbing with the gentry—almost as much as I liked slumming it with you.’
The lie sounded convincing—even to her. Let him believe that her passion for him had been the youthful experimentation of a naïve young girl, which had quickly faded. Never let him know that he had been the love of her life, the man with whom she had constantly found herself comparing other men. And hadn’t the other men always come up lacking? Wasn’t that why she’d agreed to an eminently ‘suitable’ marriage to Henry—because she’d given up looking for love?
‘Slumming, huh?’ The deep voice was clinical, detached... The old Liam would have exploded with anger at the jibe, stopped whatever he was doing and taken her into his arms with a ruthless passion which would have had her denying anything he’d