Rich, Ruthless and Secretly Royal. Robyn Donald

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Название Rich, Ruthless and Secretly Royal
Автор произведения Robyn Donald
Жанр Контркультура
Серия Mills & Boon Modern
Издательство Контркультура
Год выпуска 0
isbn 9781408912805

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she was certainly on the mend. The flush had faded, and she was breathing normally.

      A moment later beads of perspiration broke out through her skin. Astoundingly fast, the fine cotton of her dress was soaked, the fabric clinging like a second skin, highlighting the elegant bowl of her hips, the gentle swell of her breasts, the vulnerable length of her throat and the long, sleek lines of her thighs.

      Desire flamed through him, an urgent hunger that disgusted him.

      He eased her off his lap and onto the bed. Once more she made a soft noise of protest, reaching out for him before her hand fell laxly onto the cover and she seemed to slip into a deeper sleep.

      Frowning, he stood and surveyed her. He couldn’t leave her like that—it would do her no good for her to sleep in saturated clothes.

      So what the hell was he to do next?

      The next morning, a little shaky but free from fever, Hani blessed modern medications and wondered who her rescuer—so very judgemental—had been. Kelt Gillan…

      An unusual name for an unusual man. She could vaguely remember him picking her up, but after that was a blank, though with an odd little shiver she thought she’d never forget his voice, so cold and unsympathetic as he’d—what?

      Ordered her to do something. Oh yes, of course. Swallow the pills. She gave a weak smile and lifted herself up on her elbow to check the time.

      And realised she was in one of the loose cotton shifts she wore at night.

      ‘How—?’ she said aloud, a frown pleating her forehead. She sat up, and stared around the room. The dress she’d worn to the party was draped over the chair beside the wardrobe.

      Colour burned her skin and she pressed her hands over her eyes. Her rescuer—whoever he was—must have not only stayed with her until the fever broke, but also changed her wet clothes.

      Well, she was grateful, she decided sturdily. He’d done what was necessary, and although she cringed at the thought of him seeing and handling her almost naked body, it was obscurely comforting that he’d cared for her.

      But for the rest of that day his angular, handsome face was never far from her mind, and with it came a reckless, potent thrill. Trying to reason it into submission didn’t work. Instead of her wondering why she reacted so powerfully to the stranger when any other man’s closeness repulsed her, the thought of his touch summoned treacherously tantalising thoughts.

      Dim recollections of strong arms and a warmth that almost kept at bay the icy grip of the fever made her flush, a heat that faded when into her head popped another vagrant memory—the contempt in his tone when he’d asked her if she was drunk or drugged.

      Although she’d never see him again, so she didn’t care a bit what he thought of her…


      THREE weeks later and several thousand kilometres further south, standing on a deck that overlooked a sweep of sand and a cooler Pacific Ocean than she was accustomed to, Hani scanned the faces of the five children in front of her. Though they ranged from a dark-haired, dark-eyed, copper-skinned beauty of about fourteen to a blond little boy slathered with so much sunscreen that his white skin glistened, their features showed they were closely related.

      What would it be like to have a family—children of her own?

      Her heart twisted and she repressed the thought. Not going to happen, ever.

      It was the small blond boy who asked, ‘What’s your name?’

      ‘Hannah,’ she said automatically.

      Her accent must have confused them, because the older girl said, ‘Honey? That’s a nice name.’

      And the little boy nodded. ‘Your skin’s the same colour as honey. Is that why your mum called you that?’

      In Tukuulu she’d been Hannah; she liked Honey better. Stifling the hard-won caution that told her it might also confuse anyone too curious, she said cheerfully, ‘Actually, it’s Hannah, but you can call me Honey if you want to. Now I’ve told you my name, you’d better tell me yours.’

      They all blurted them out together, of course, but six years of teaching infants had instilled a few skills and she soon sorted them out. Hani asked the older girl, ‘Kura, where do you live?’

      ‘At Kiwinui,’ she said importantly, clearly expecting everyone to know where Kiwinui was. When she realised it meant nothing to Hani, she added, ‘It’s in the next bay, but we’re allowed to walk over the hill and come down here to play if we ask nicely. So we’re asking.’

      It would take a harder heart than Hani’s to withstand the impact of five pairs of expectant eyes. ‘I need to know first how good you are at swimming.’

      ‘We’re not going to swim because we have to have a grown-up with us when we do that,’ Kura told her. ‘Mum said so, and The Duke told us off when he caught us only paddling here, and the water only came up to our ankles.’

      The Duke? Her tone invested the nickname with capitals and indicated that nobody messed with the man, whoever he was.

      Curious, Hani asked, ‘Who is the duke?’

      They looked almost shocked. Kura explained, ‘That’s like being a prince or something. His nan wears a crown and when she dies his brother will be a duke too and he’ll live in a big stone castle on a hill.’ She turned and pointed to the headland behind them. ‘He lives up there behind the pohutukawa trees.’

      The Duke’s brother, or The Duke? Hani repressed a smile. ‘I’m happy for you to play here. Just come and tell me when you’re going home again.’

      With a whoop they set off, except for the small blond boy, whose name was Jamie. ‘Why have you got green eyes?’ he asked, staring at her.

      ‘Because my mother had green eyes.’ Hani repressed a familiar pang of pain. She and her brother had both inherited those eyes; every time she looked in the mirror she thought of Rafiq.

      Surely she should be reconciled to never seeing him again by now!

      Jamie nodded. ‘They’re nice. Why are you staying here?’

      ‘I’m on holiday.’ The day after her last attack of fever the principal had told her that if she didn’t take up the offer to go to New Zealand—‘long enough to get this fever out of your system’—the charity that ran the school couldn’t accept responsibility for her welfare. Her air fares would be paid, and the beach house where she’d convalesce was rent-free.

      Without exactly stating that they’d terminate her employment if she didn’t go, he’d implied it so strongly she’d been persuaded to reluctantly leave the safety of Tukuulu.

      Curiosity satisfied, Jamie said nonchalantly, ‘See you later,’ and scampered off to join the others.

      Hani sat back down in the comfortable wicker chair on the deck. Airy and casually luxurious, the beach house was surprisingly big, with glass doors in every room opening out onto a wide wooden deck that overlooked the cove. Her landlord, an elderly man, had met her flight the previous night and driven her here to what he’d called a bach.

      Remembering his very English accent, she smiled. No doubt those cut-glass vowels were why the children had decided he must be some sort of aristocrat.

      After introducing himself very formally as Arthur Wellington, he’d said, ‘The refrigerator and the pantry have been stocked with staples. If you need anything else, do ring the number on the calendar beside the telephone.’

      Hani thanked him for that, but realised now that she’d missed telling him how much she appreciated being given the opportunity to stay here.

      She’d do that when she paid him for the groceries he’d supplied.

      On a long, soft sigh she took her gaze away from the children