Wife for a Day(6)

By: Kate Walker


The sound of a door opening downstairs jolted her into movement. What was she doing sitting here like this, letting Ronan go? He was her husband! They’d been married for less than twenty-four hours. Was she going to let him leave without a fight?

Frantically she flung back the bedclothes, snatching up the mint-green wrap-around robe that lay on a chair beside the bed. Refusing to allow herself to dwell on the fact that the matching silk and lace nightdress which she had worn so briefly the night before now lay in a crumpled heap on the floor, where Ronan had discarded it in the heat of his passion, she yanked it on, tugging the belt fastened as she headed for the stairs.

The front door stood wide open, letting in the sunlight and the sound of birdsong. The cheerful noise stabbed at her, bringing home the contrast between its light-hearted notes and the dark sense of dread that dulled her own soul.

‘Ronan!’

He was already outside, standing by his car as he loaded his case into the boot. The sight made her heart thud against her chest in shocked recognition that he had meant what he had said. Even now, she had still held on to the weak thread of hope that it had all just been some sick, tasteless joke.

‘Ronan, wait!’

He ignored her, his dark head turned away, the set of his broad shoulders under the tailored jacket seeming to declare unrelenting rejection of her plea without a word being spoken.

‘Oh, please, don’t do this!’ She reached the steps from the main door as she spoke. ‘Ronan, you can’t do this to me. I won’t let you!’

Slowly, deliberately, Ronan reached up and slammed the lid of the boot closed. The dull thud it made reverberated inside Lily’s head, making her think fearfully of steel doors slamming in her face, or the sound of a clock sounding an hour she had dreaded.

But then he turned, and at the sight of his face all other thoughts fled from her mind, leaving it cold and hollow with dread.

This wasn’t Ronan! This wasn’t the man she loved with all her heart, the man she had given herself to, body and soul, only the day before!

It was as if some stranger had moved in, an alien, who had taken over Ronan’s body, ejecting his spirit and leaving behind only the shell of the man to whom she had given her heart. A stranger with the same burnished hair, the same devastatingly attractive features, the same lean, strong build.

But these were not the same eyes—not her Ronan’s eyes. They were cold and hard as tempered steel, lethal as a stiletto-blade, impregnable as metal shutters.

‘You can’t…’ she began again, but her voice had lost all conviction.

The look Ronan turned on her was wintry, bleak as the coldest November day.

‘I can do anything I want,’ he flung at her. ‘Just try and stop me.’





CHAPTER TWO




LILY did the only thing she could think of.

Heedless of the fact that she was wearing nothing but the green robe, and determinedly ignoring the bite of the gravel into the soles of her bare feet, she ran out into the drive and caught hold of the sleeve of Ronan’s jacket, clinging on to it tightly.

‘I won’t let you go until you give me some sort of an explanation! You owe me that at least!’

The words were swallowed back down her throat as she met the inimical blaze of his glare, his eyes burning translucent in the spring sunlight. Ronan shrugged off her clinging hold with a negligence that was positively insulting.

‘I owe you nothing,’ he declared, fastidiously adjusting the fit of his jacket before opening the front door of his car. ‘If anything, the debts are all on your side.’

‘On my… Oh, no, you don’t!’

Seeing that he was about to slide into the driver’s seat, she lurched forward once more, this time fastening her arms around his narrow waist from behind.

She realised just how big a mistake she had made as soon as her fingers locked together above the polished metal buckle on the narrow leather belt he wore. Now her hands were resting on the taut, flat plane of his stomach, her hold bringing her breasts and hips into close contact with the firm line of his back.

She had held him like this last night, only then he had been warm and approachable, not this glacially hostile stranger. He had been wearing only a towelling robe, having got up in the middle of the night for some reason. She had woken to find him staring out of the bedroom window and had crept up behind him, coming close and sliding her arms around him just as now.

But it had been so very different then. Then she had felt his immediate response, his sudden tension, the reaction of his body betraying his hunger for her with a speed that had made her laugh out loud in delight. She had pressed up against the width of his back, sliding her fingers under the loosely tied belt of his robe, sighing her pleasure as she’d encountered the warm smoothness of his flesh.