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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hidden by more of the dark-leafed trees that lined the beach, their massive limbs swooping down over the sand.

      A formal house to match her landlord’s formal manner? She hoped not. It would look incongruous in this pristinely beautiful scene.

      Loud shrieks from the beach dragged her attention back to the game taking place in front of the bach, one that involved much yelling, more laughter, and some frenzied racing around. For the first time in months she felt a stirring of energy.

      Smiling, checking that little Jamie didn’t get too close to the water, she failed to notice an intruder until he was almost at the cottage. The soft clink of harness alerting her, she swivelled around and saw a horse—a fine bay, strong enough to take its tall, powerfully built rider without effort.

      Her startled gaze took in the rider. He sat easily on his mount—but that wasn’t why her pulses revved into overdrive.

      For a second—just long enough to terrify and delight her—he reminded her of her brother. Rafiq had the same coiled grace of strength and litheness, the same relaxed control of his mount.

      The same air of authority.

      Then she recalled when she’d seen this man before, and an odd, baseless panic froze the breath in her throat. In spite of the bout of fever she’d been suffering when she met him on Tukuulu, those hard-hewn features and hooded eyes were sharply etched into her memory.

      As was the feel of his arms around her…And the knowledge that he’d stripped her saturated clothes from her and somehow managed to get her into the loose shift she wore at night.

      What the hell was he doing here?

      He swung down, looped the reins over a fencepost and opened the gate to come towards her. Subliminally intimidated by the arrogant angle of his head and the smooth, lethal grace of his stride, Hani forced herself to her feet, stiffening her spine and her knees.

      Although tall for a woman, she couldn’t match him. Her chin came up; unsmiling, breath locking in her throat, she watched him approach while a feverish awareness lifted the invisible hairs on the back of her neck.

      He was—well, gorgeous was the only word she could come up with. Except that gorgeous made her think of male models, and this man looked like no male model she’d ever seen. That effortless, inborn air of command hardened his already bold features into an intimidating mask of force and power, emphasised by a cold steel-blue gaze and a thinning of his subtly sensuous mouth.

      He was handsome enough to make any woman’s heart shake—even one as frozen as hers—but something uncompromising and formidable about him set off alarms in every nerve.

      He had to be The Duke. A swift stab of apprehension screwed her nerves even tighter. Felipe, the man she’d once thought she loved, had called himself a French count.

      It was stupid of her, but the children’s innocent misconception seemed somehow ominous.

      Hani knew she should be relieved when he looked at her with a total lack of male interest. Scarily, she wasn’t.

      OK, so the last thing she wanted was a man to see her as a sexual being, but…On Tukuulu he’d noticed her as a woman; now he looked at her with complete indifference.

      And that stung.

      Trying to keep this meeting on a sensible basis, she said warily, ‘Hello. I didn’t realise that you owned this place. Thank you so much for letting me stay here.’

      ‘I hoped to see you looking a bit better,’ he said curtly.

      ‘I am much better.’ Yes, her voice was fine—crisp, just as cool and impersonal as his, a far cry from her slurred tone that night at the ceremony. Meeting his merciless survey with an assumption of confidence, she hid her uncertainty with a shrug. ‘Another thing I have to thank you for is your rescue of me.’

      One black brow lifted. ‘It was nothing; I happened to be the closest person around.’

      Heat tinged her skin. Trying to sound professional and assured, she said crisply, ‘It was very kind of you. I don’t remember much—’ only the sound of his voice, calm and reassuring, and the wonderful comfort of his arms when he’d held her until the shivering stopped ‘—but I know I didn’t change myself.’

      His eyes narrowed slightly. ‘Once the fever had broken I went back to the school dance floor, but everyone had gone by then. It didn’t seem a good idea for you to sleep in wet clothes, so I removed your dress.’ In a coldly formidable tone, he finished, ‘I behaved as a brother might have.’

      Colour burned into her skin. Hoping her words mingled the right blend of gratitude and distance, she said, ‘Yes—well, I thought as much.’ And then, changing the subject without finesse, ‘Thanks again for being generous enough to let me stay in this lovely place.’

      ‘You’ve thanked me enough,’ he said a little curtly, adding with a faint smile, ‘I went to school with your principal. When he asked if his teachers could use this bach I agreed. It’s not used very often, and it seems a waste to have it sit here empty. You’re the third teacher to come here, and I expect there will be others.’

      So that was the connection. And he was making sure she didn’t think she was special.

      She said with cool assurance, ‘I’m grateful. But to make things very clear, I was neither drunk nor drugged that night in Tukuulu.’

      One straight black brow lifted. ‘I wondered if you’d remember that. I’m sorry for jumping to conclusions—it didn’t take me long to realise you were ill.’

      For some reason she wasn’t prepared to explore, she didn’t want his apology. ‘I sent you a letter thanking you for your help.’

      ‘Yes, your principal passed it on.’

      He hadn’t answered. Well, for heaven’s sake, she hadn’t expected him to.

      Without inflection, he said, ‘I’m glad I was there when you needed someone. I’m Kelt Crysander-Gillan—although I don’t use the first part of my surname—and I live just up the hill.’

      Nothing about being some sort of aristocrat, she noted. Clearly The Duke was just a nickname, perhaps because of the double-barrelled name. They mightn’t be common in New Zealand.

      And he looked like a duke, someone of importance, his very presence a statement of authority. A very sexy duke, sexier than any other duke she’d ever met…

      One who’d taken her clothes off and seen her naked…

      Firmly she tamped down a sizzle of adrenalin. ‘And of course you know that I’m Han-Hannah Court.’

      Oh, he’d really unnerved her! For the first time in years she’d almost given him her real name, catching it back only just in time. Startled, she automatically held out her hand.

      ‘Welcome to New Zealand,’ he said gravely, and his long, lean fingers closed around hers.

      Her heart picked up speed. Cool it, she commanded her runaway pulse fiercely while he shook hands.

      There was no reason for the swift sizzle of sensation that shocked her every nerve. Acting on pure blind instinct, Hani jerked her hand free.

      Kelt Gillan’s brows met for a taut second above his blade of a nose, but he turned when the children chose that moment to surge up from the beach, their shouted greetings a melee of sound.

      He silenced them with a crisp, ‘All right, calm down, you lot.’

      She expected them to shuffle their feet, but although they obediently stayed silent their wide smiles told her he was popular with them.

      Amazing, she thought, watching as he said something to each of them. And again she remembered Felipe, her first and only lover. He’d had no time for children; there was no profit to be made from them…

      Kelt Gillan said, ‘Miss Court has been ill and