DIMITRI SAW ALL the colour drain from Erin’s face and felt a beat of something which felt very close to satisfaction. He watched as she leaned her head back against the wall—as if the weight of her head were too much for that slender neck to support—and looked at him warily, her green eyes slitted. He didn’t know what had hurt the most. No, not hurt. He didn’t do hurt. Mentally, he corrected himself. What had angered him most. The fact that she hadn’t told him, or the fact that she had lied to him, when once he would have counted Erin Turner as about the only truly honest person he’d ever known. She was still trying to lie—he could see it in the sudden whitening of her face and the way she was nervously licking her lips. He found himself thinking that she would make a useless poker player.
‘Your son?’ she said, as if it were a word she’d never heard before.
Her disingenuous question sealed his rage and Dimitri tensed, not daring to respond until he had his emotions under control, because not once in all his turbulent thirty-six years could he ever recall feeling such anger. Not even towards his cheating mother or crooked father. Instinct made him want to lash out at her. To haul her towards him and hurl his accusations straight into her lying face. To ask why she—of all people—would have betrayed him. But he had been successful for long enough to know that it was far more effective to hide the edge of anger beneath the velvet cloak of smoothness, even if Erin was one of the few people who would know how angry he really was.
‘Oh, come on, Erin,’ he said silkily. ‘Please don’t try to assume the role of innocent, because it insults my intelligence. You should have had an answer to this question by now because you must have been expecting that I would turn up and ask it at some point. Or did you really think I would never find out? Maybe not this year, or even next—but surely you must have anticipated that one day I would be confronting you like this to ask you about your son. My son.’
He thought she looked like a textbook study of guilt. She was looking from side to side, like an animal which had been cornered, and it was difficult for Dimitri to reconcile himself with this new version of her. The white-faced woman in the ill-fitting wedding gown was nothing like the Erin he’d known. The smart and straightforward woman who had worked by his side for years, ever since she’d left secretarial college. Who, unlike every other woman on the planet, had never flirted with him and had thus earned his grudging respect. She was the person who’d been given unprecedented access to all areas of his life and affairs. The one person he had trusted above all others. And yes, sleeping with her that one time had been a mistake. Definitely. It had quickly become apparent that things could never be the same between them afterwards—but even so how dared she keep the consequences of that night from him for all these years?
How dared she?
‘You aren’t going to deny it, are you, Erin?’ he continued mockingly. ‘Because you can’t.’
Her lips opened and she shivered and, powered by an instinct he wasn’t sure he recognised, Dimitri removed his jacket and draped it around her narrow shoulders. The suit’s grey jacket swamped her and made her complexion look even more waxy than it had been before and his mouth hardened. Was she opening those green eyes as wide as a kitten and thinking he would take pity on her? Because if that was the case—she was wrong.
There was a tap on the door and a woman poked her head in, before mouthing sorry apologetically and withdrawing again.
‘Let’s get out of here,’ he said coldly.
He half lifted her out of the chair and ushered her outside, where a cold blast of autumnal air cut right through her and Erin was aware of people turning to stare as if the tall, molten-haired man were abducting the shivering bride. Instantly, a sleek black limousine purred to a halt in front of them and Dimitri opened up the door and bundled her inside. Sliding onto the seat beside her, he gave a peremptory tap on the window and the car began to move away.
‘Where are we going?’ she questioned, looking around her in alarm. ‘Where are you taking me?’
‘Cut the dramatics,’ he snapped. ‘We need to have a conversation, so it’s your place or mine. Up to you.’
His words were greeted with the expression of someone who had just been offered a choice of two poisons to drink, for she bit her bottom lip, bringing a little colour to its plump fullness. And suddenly Dimitri found himself remembering the way he’d kissed her in the register office—a kiss born out of rage and a desire to take control. A kiss intended to show young Chico exactly who was boss—as if any such demonstration were really needed. But it hadn’t worked out quite as he’d intended, had it? He hadn’t meant it to kick-start his libido, but it had. And despite his rage and disbelief, it was as much as he could do not to kiss her again. To pull her into his arms and feel that ripe, young body close to his, opening up like a flower. He’d forgotten just how instantly she went up in flames the moment he touched her. How her fairly commonplace exterior hid a powerful sexuality, which was both unexpected and surprising.
He could see her swallowing—the movement rippling down that swanlike neck of hers. And he could hear the note of anxiety which had entered her voice.
‘Why can’t we just have the conversation here?’
‘I think you know the answer to that, Erin. Apart from wanting complete privacy—and my driver speaks perfect English as well as Russian—I don’t think I trust myself to be in such a confined space with you when we are discussing something which I’m still having difficulty getting my head round.’ His voice lowered into a harsh rasp. ‘Discovering that I have a son and that you have kept him hidden from me for all these years is bad enough and I might be tempted into doing something which I might later regret. So you’d better make up your mind about where we’re going, or I’ll be forced to make the decision for you.’
Erin pulled the jacket closer around her shoulders—grateful for the warmth but wishing that the expensive cloth were not permeated with Dimitri’s distinctive scent. She was trapped—in every which way. She didn’t want to take him to the home she shared with Leo and her sister, Tara. Not because she was ashamed of the rather humble dwelling. No, the truth was more worrying than that. She was terrified of him seeing Leo. Afraid he might just take command and grab the child—stealing him away from her and thinking he was perfectly entitled to. Because mightn’t she attempt something similar if the situation were reversed? If she’d discovered that someone had kept her flesh and blood hidden from her like some kind of guilty secret for all these years?
A feeling of despair washed over her as she contemplated what lay ahead, knowing that further lies and evasion were pointless. And besides, hadn’t this been a long time coming? How many times over the years had she picked up the telephone to tell him about the blue-eyed little boy who was his spitting image? Hadn’t her heart sometimes burned with the pain of denying her boy access to his father? Until she had forced herself to remember the truth about the man and his appalling lifestyle.
She remembered the hours he’d spent in nightclubs and bars and casinos, gambling away millions of rubles as if they were nothing but loose change, in a vodka-or whisky-induced haze. She remembered all the women who had passed through his bed—the ones with the tiny dresses and tottering heels who exuded a dangerous kind of glamour, along with the occasional flash of their knickers. She certainly didn’t want her son growing up to think those kind of women were the norm. Who was to say that the seedy world Dimitri inhabited wouldn’t corrupt her golden-haired boy and introduce him to some unspeakable future?
She remembered his coldness towards her the morning after she’d slept with him—his shocked face when he’d opened his eyes and seen who was lying beside him. With her brown hair and narrow build she must have seemed like a different species from the blowsy women he usually bedded. No wonder he hadn’t been able to wait to get away from her.
‘We’d better go to your place, I suppose,’