Heiress Behind the Headlines

Heiress Behind the Headlines by Caitlin Crews Page B

Book: Heiress Behind the Headlines by Caitlin Crews Read Free Book Online
Authors: Caitlin Crews
she have forgotten what a threat this man was? How had she managed to shove that aside? Had the unexpected—and highly unlikely—fantasy of domestic bliss completely addled her? Or was it the surprising memories of her time in Provence, that she normally kept as hidden away as possible?
    “I don’t make pronouncements about whether I’ve changed,” she said, tilting her head back to look him in the eye. Pretending she felt strong. “How pompous. Have you ever heard someone make an announcement like that without then proving—usually shortly thereafter—that they hadn’t changed at all?”
    “Rarely,” he said. But his gaze was trained on her mouthand darkening by the moment. “But then, not everyone has quite as far to go as you do, do they?”
    There was some part of her that wanted to hate him for that comment, so snide and so offhanded—and part of her did hate him for it. It was the same part that curled up into a tight ball and wondered how she had ever let her defenses down, how she had ever given him the opportunity to hurt her. Because she’d expected more, somehow, after the way this odd evening had gone. That was her mistake. She’d expected better from him, from this. More fool, she. Would she never learn?
    “No, of course not,” she said, trying desperately to shove her walls back into place. Trying to prop them up again, keep him out somehow. “I am the poster child for ruin. Thank you for reminding me.”
    Why should she feel as if her usually hard, impenetrable defenses had been broken, somehow? Chipped? From one simple dinner? She couldn’t even call this strange interlude an act of kindness on his part—it had been much more a simple lack of active malice. Was that all it took to make her lose her head? Was she that pathetic?
    She knew, of course, that she was. Or that it was Jack who soothed her into a false sense of security, who made her forget herself. Who made her want to believe in fantasies—who made her remember too much, expose herself too much and
feel
too much. Hadn’t she run from exactly that five years ago? Hadn’t she known better even then? On some level, hadn’t it been that weekend with Jack that had inspired her to walk, eyes wide open, into a loveless, controllably numb engagement to Theo?
    “Why do I want to believe all the things you’re saying tonight, Larissa?” His voice was a whisper, a low rasp of sound, and she shouldn’t have felt it like a caress. She shouldn’t have felt it trace patterns of swirling heat downher arms, across her belly, and below. He shifted closer, and she was
aware
of him with every cell of her body. Aware of his height, the strength and width of his shoulders, the hard cage of his powerful chest. Aware of his beautiful mouth, his knowing gaze, too close to hers. “And if you’re not who I think you are, why don’t you defend yourself?”
    She laughed slightly, but it was a blocking maneuver more than any kind of humor. “Never defend, never explain,” she said airily, though the light tone cost her. “Didn’t someone famous say that?”
    “If you can’t defend,” he urged her, his mouth so close, too close, not nearly close enough, “then you really should explain. There’s only the two of us here. No one will know but me.”
    “And me,” Larissa replied. The crazy part was that she wanted to tell him. She wanted to explain everything to him, to share it all with him. What kind of insanity was that? And to what end? Did she think he could save her somehow? He was far more likely to ridicule her. And on some level she knew that this time she had to save herself, whatever that might look like. Whatever it took.
    “Larissa …” He said her name like it was a song. A curse. His strong hands cupped her face, then slid back to bury themselves in her hair. She felt a kind of drumbeat roll through her, low and deep, insistent.
    She was so afraid of this man. And at the same time, she’d never felt more awake. More alive.

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