Trophy Husband(8)

By: Lynne Graham

Why should he be? Women were easy around AlexRossini. He didn't need to lie and cheat and deceive. He had no need to make promises that he had no intention of keeping...

Oh, Brian, how could you do this to me?

For the first time Sara met her own anguish head-on, and she swayed slightly, her temples pounding. The heat was suffocating her. Her blouse was sticking to her skin. In a clumsy movement she tugged off her jacket and breathed in deeply. Two million pounds... She wanted to laugh like a hysteric. It was so ridiculous...

'You know getting married costs a lot,' Marco murmured reflectively, watching Sara with fascinated eyes as the jacket slid from her limp fingers to the floor. 'Why don't you reconsider my offer? Nobody need ever know. I wouldn't be planning on publishing the shots. It could be your secret... and mine.'

As Sara attempted to focus on him, there was a sudden commotion out beyond the lights. A raw burst of Italian scorched her eardrums. A fist hit Marco on the shoulder, hard enough to knock him back, and suddenly Alex was there, ranting at his brother and with every blistering sentence punching him on the shoulder again, forcing him into retreat, like a boxer playing with a weal opponent.

White-faced, Marco leapt behind Sara. 'Dio...switch him off before he kills somebody!'


SARA’S emerald-green eyes were wide with shock and incomprehension.

'I'm ashamed of you!' Alex roared at Marco, his strong features a mask of dark fury. 'For a bet, for a lousy fifty K. She's smashed out of her mind! She doesn't even know what day it is!'

'She's still a hell of a lot safer with me than she is with you!' Marco condemned furiously. 'And why shouldn't I have asked her?'

'Get out of my sight, you little jerk! Think yourself lucky it didn't go one step further—'

'All I did was make her an offer!' Marco shouted back.

'Then why's she got her jacket off?' Alex demanded j with clenched fists.

'She took it off herself! Big deal! She wears more bloody clothes than Scott did in the Antarctic! Can nobody take a joke around here? I'm sorry, Sara,' Marco breathed harshly, turning back to her. 'I didn't know about your engagement, but now the deck is clear I would go for that two million and not a penny less!'

Shoulders unbowed, Marco walked away out beyond lights. “What the hell did you think you were doing coming OVER here in the state you're in?' Alex demanded with ferotious bite.

It was her turn, Sara registered numbly.

'Didn't I tell you to go and lie down? You could have fallen under a bus or something! When I realised you'd gone out again, I couldn't believe it!' Alex gritted, perfect white teeth flashing against sun-bronzed skin.

'I n-needed his signature on some papers.'

'So why did you take your jacket off?' Alex persisted.

'I was hot,' she muttered heavily.

Alex swept down a lean, impatient hand and lifted the article. 'Dio... I should've worked that out for myself. A woman who wears her skirts below the knee and covers up every inch even in the heat of midsummer is highly unlikely to strip off for the camera. You're too much of a prude.'

Sara went suddenly rigid. Anger roared up through her without warning. 'I am not a prude!'

Alex had fallen very still. 'So you do have a temper,' he murmured in a tone of discovery.

'Just don't put me down,' she warned him unevenly, shaken now by the anger that had mushroomed up inside her and demanded an exit. Alex drew fluidly back several paces and spread graceful brown hands. 'I was worried about you. You see, my creepy little brother laid a bet with me six months ago—' .

'A bet?' Sara echoed with a frown.

'He bet me fifty thousand pounds that he could get you to pose in the nude.'

Sara shuddered, sick mortification flooding her.

'It never occurred to me that there was the slightest possibility you would fulfil that bet. You're not the type. It was a joke, Sara. Marco loves a good joke; sometimes, like today, he's tempted to take it too far.'

Sara studied the floor with burning eyes. She could feel the tears but they were mercifully dammed up. 'A good joke'. Her stomach twisted. A lousy male bet had lain behind Marco's constant baiting. A choked laugh fell from her tremulous mouth. She couldn't meet Alex's gaze. Marco had never had the smallest hope of winning his puerile bet but Alex had still chased after her. Why? Alex was already painfully well aware that she had gone off the rails once today. All along, she registered in anguished embarrassment, he had known that she was drunk.

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