Trophy Husband(7)

By: Lynne Graham

Real anger began to rise inside her. Three years ago Sara had stood by, watching Brian pursue Antonia without success. But her cousin would take just for the sake of taking, and throughout the years that Sara had lived in the Dalton home she had been taught that lesson over and over again. Anything she had been foolish enough to value had inevitably been taken from her by her cousin... only this time it had not been a toy or a sentimental keepsake, it had been the man she loved. She clambered dizzily out of the cab with a white, frozen face.

She had never been in MarcoRossini's high-tech photographic studio before. The reception area was incredibly busy. It made her feel claustrophobic. She forced her passage through the throng and trekked down the corridor indicated by the laconic redhead on the desk.

Marco was lying back in a chair inside the perimeter of a blinding circle of lights in an empty studio. He looked half-asleep but his mobile dark brows hit his hairline at speed when he saw Sara hovering, and he sprang upright with a mocking smile. 'To what do I owe the honour? Don't tell me you've finally decided to take me up on my offer? Miss December in red boots and a tasteful sprinkling of holly berries.. .what do you think?'

Sara gritted her teeth as she felt her cheeks burn. She was in no mood to take one of Marco's baiting sessions. Evading his malicious gaze, she murmured flatly as she extended the file, 'These documents require your signature.'

Marco suddenly laughed.

'What's so funny?' Sara heard herself demand almost aggressively, the words slurring slightly.

'Private joke.'

'If it's about me, it's not private!' Sara told him fiercely, standing her ground.

Marco surveyed her with intense amusement. 'There's a price.'

'A price?'

Marco laughed again. 'You tell me something first.. .haven't you ever once got the hots in my brother's radius?'

Sara looked back at him blankly. 'Excuse me?'

'Alex is a very good-looking guy, beats the women off with sticks. If he wasn't family, I'd hate the smooth bastard! Come on, you can tell me...if it wasn't for true love, you'd have given him a whirl, right? You know that movie where RobertRedford pays a million bucks for one night with DemiMoore—Indecent Proposal"! You too could have made your fortune...'

'I don't understand.' It was a lie. Sara just couldn't believe what Marco was insinuating.

Marco dealt her an incredulous glance. 'Are you saying you didn't even notice? Or are you telling me that Alex didn't once chance his arm?'

'If you are trying to imply that your brother is attracted to me, you're wrong—'

'To the tune of a million bucks? He could drop a million without noticing. No, the sum I heard mentioned was two million,' Marco imparted with undeniable relish. 'I think Alex thought just one was bargain basement.'

Sara's head was swimming again. It was so hot beneath the lights that she couldn't concentrate. 'This is a very distasteful conversation, Marco.'

'So Alex wants to jump your bones... is that some sort of crime? Lust makes the world go round,' he told her impatiently.

AlexRossini wanted to go to bed with her? Her lashes fluttered in bemusement. She couldn't believe it.

Marco shook his head slowly. 'You really didn't know, did you? Love is truly blind. But hey, don't let your heart soften in his direction. Remind yourself that you don't like him and steer clear. Marry your insurance salesman and live happily ever after,' he advised very drily as he flipped through the file and began scrawling his signature.

AlexRossini wanted her? Rubbish, nonsense, Marco's deliberate mistake—doubtless another example of his nasty sense of humour. 'You don't like him'. Had her dislike of AlexRossini been so obvious that even his brother was aware of it? She remembered Alex's astonishing kindness and tolerance and a stark arrow of guilt abruptly pierced her.

No, she had never liked AlexRossini—his arrogance, his impatience, his sardonic tongue, his rich man's self-centred motivation which took no account of anything but his own wishes, his own needs. She had never liked the way he treated women either. As if they were things that he could buy and discard when he got bored... and he got bored so fast that your head would spin. Fast cars, fast women, fast-lane life. Nightclubs, movie premieres, gambling joints, summer in the South of France, winter in the Alps. When the beautiful face and body of his latest lover palled, she got twenty-four regulation red roses and a diamond bracelet. Imaginative in that line he wasn't.

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