The Mediterranean Prince’s Captive Virgin. Robyn Donald

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Название The Mediterranean Prince’s Captive Virgin
Автор произведения Robyn Donald
Жанр Контркультура
Серия Mills & Boon Modern
Издательство Контркультура
Год выпуска 0
isbn 9781408903254

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       ‘I cannot tell you why you are in danger, but the reason is real. I had hoped that when I came I could let you go, but things did not go according to plan. If you don’t want to stay here out of sight, then I have a compromise to offer.’

      ‘What sort of compromise?’ she asked suspiciously.

      ‘One you’re not going to like, but it is as far as I’m prepared to go. Tomorrow we’ll fly back to London and you’ll move in with me. I want you to act as my—call it my latest interest—for at least a couple of weeks, possibly longer.’

      ‘What?’ Leola had been sure she couldn’t feel any more astonishment, but this—this outrageous suggestion deprived her of speech again. ‘Your latest interest? What the hell does that mean?’

       ‘As my mistress—my lover,’ he elaborated…

      Robyn Donald has always lived in Northland in New Zealand, initially on her father’s stud dairy farm at Warkworth, then in the Bay of Islands, an area of great natural beauty, where she lives today with her husband and an ebullient and mostly Labrador dog. She resigned her teaching position when she found she enjoyed writing romances more, and now spends any time not writing, reading, gardening, travelling, and writing letters to keep up with her two adult children and her friends.

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      SHIVERING a little in the night air, Leola Foster stared down into a square dominated on one side by a Romanesque church and on another by a tall stone watchtower. Jagged blocks of stone along the top of the cliff—all that remained of a ruined wall—reminded her that San Giusto, the southernmost city in the Sea Isles of Illyria, had once needed protection from pirates. Spring was only a few weeks old, and even this far south it wasn’t really warm enough to stand by the shuttered window in her pyjamas.

      But she’d given up trying to get back to sleep. Images from the dream that had jerked her awake still lingered with a sour, humiliating aftertaste. She shivered again, wishing her unconscious would stop replaying the incident over and over again in a never-ending loop.

      Call her naïve, she thought with a bitterness that startled her, but she’d never for a moment suspected that Durand had any interest in her; three months ago when she’d arrived in London from New Zealand, her employer’s partner—in both personal and business senses—had completely ignored her.

      Leola smiled grimly, remembering how excited she’d been, how confident that this was another step up in her chosen career. After all, Tabitha Grantham was a world-famous brand, noted for the cool sophistication and perfect tailoring of the clothes she designed.

      And Tabitha herself had contacted Leola after seeing her line at Auckland’s Fashion Week.

      ‘I like your edge,’ she’d said, interviewing her over cocktails in the opulent hotel suite she shared with Durand. ‘I think you’ll go far and I’d like to help you. You’ll learn plenty, but I have to warn you I don’t pay my interns much, and I’ll expect you to work like a galley slave.’

      And work her hard she had. Not that Leola had objected. She’d found it exhilarating, bewildering, shocking and fascinating, and she’d soaked up every bit of information she could, every scrap of technique, every contact.

      Pity it had all come to an abrupt, mortifying end when Jason Durand decided she’d do as his latest fling.

      Unseeing, her gaze skimmed the dark spires of the cypresses along the ruined wall. Night had worked a transformation on the city. Bustling and noisy and charmingly Mediterranean during the day, San Giusto brooded silently under the Northern hemisphere stars. A violent homesickness gripped her; in New Zealand the stars were familiar and the breeze tangy with a wilder, more primal scent.

      It was still there, she thought wistfully; she could return any time.

      In fact, it looked as though she’d be back there pretty soon. If it hadn’t been for the godmother who’d given her this week in Illyria as a birthday present she’d be maxing out her credit card right now on airfares.

      Her head came up proudly. No, she would not slink back with her tail between her legs—or not until she’d exhausted every option. She didn’t do defeat.

      So she’d find new digs first. Without Tabitha’s subsidy she couldn’t afford the bedsit; she’d had to plead with the landlord to store her suitcases until she came back from this trip.

      So digs first, a new job next.

      Her lips tightened in a mixture of outrage and frustration. Dammit, she’d been fighting Durand off when Tabitha walked into the room three days ago, yet it had made no difference.

      ‘I’m sorry,’ Tabitha had said, her eyes steely, ‘but Durand is more important to me than you are. I don’t want to see you again.’

      Of course Durand was a vital part of the business, but it had been Tabitha’s callous dismissal—as though Leola had been a Victorian housemaid found pilfering!—that had stung, enough for her to threaten Durand with the police or the press when he’d refused to pay out her final week’s wage.

      That had got her the money, but she’d rather have had the internship.

      Leola drew in a deep breath of air scented with pine and salt, figs and grape. She was not going to let betrayal or her fear for the future spoil her week in this lovely place, and if she couldn’t sleep she might as well work her restlessness off. A brisk walk should do it.

      Ten minutes later she locked the door of her apartment behind her and strode towards the deep, mysterious shadows at the base of the ancient tower that marked the cliff walk.

      It was a night from an ancient fable—serenely impersonal sky, the soft sigh of the sea on the rocks at the base of the cliff, a stillness so profound she almost expected to see a nymph flit from one of the trees to join her sisters in classical frolics with dolphins.

      Yet halfway across the square the skin between Leola’s shoulder blades prickled, and she had to resist the urge to swing around and scan the darkened houses behind her.

      Cravenly glad that she’d worn a dark top over her black jeans, she was relieved to reach the shade of the trees at the foot of the tower. Slowly, telling herself she was being stupid, she turned.

      Her breath stopped in her throat. From the corner of her eye she spotted a stealthy movement at the base of the church. Someone—or something—was sliding along the ancient stone.