bookcover
Harlequin Presents
ISBN: 0373127340
June 2008
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Mills & Boon
ISBN: 0263864111
March 2008
Buy from Amazon.co.uk

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Mills & Boon
Anthology
ISBN: 0263887472
May 20, 2011
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Excerpt from Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife

CHAPTER ONE

The hands on the clock didn't seem to have moved even once in all the time that she had been sitting here. Alannah could have sworn that every time she glanced up at the big white circle that hung on the green painted wall opposite then the big hand and the little hand were in exactly the same position as they had been the last time she had looked, making a mockery of the audible sound of the minutes ticking away.

She felt as if she had been here all afternoon — almost all her life. And yet time hardly seemed to have moved on from the moment she had arrived and taken her place in the rather worn armchair in the middle of the room.

From here she could watch the door. She could see the approach of anyone coming near through the clouded pane of glass, and be ready if the door should open and the man she was expecting appeared.

The man she was expecting? Dreading would be more like it, Alannah admitted to herself, green eyes clouding rapidly.

She shook her head so that the red-gold swathe of her hair tossed along her shoulders, straggling strands escaping from the black elasticated band into which she had confined it before leaving home that morning, and rubbed the back of her hand across her eyes in a vain attempt to drive away the weariness and apprehension that clutched at her.

She knew she looked pale and wan. The stress and sorrow of the past few days and drained every last drop of pink from her cheeks, tears had dimmed the brightness of her eyes, and the set of her fine features reflected the strain of the nightmare week she had just endured. The grey skirt she had pulled on together with a plain black, long-sleeved tee shirt, her mind too battered to even think of anything else, did nothing for her appearance. It took even more colour from her skin and left it looking lifeless and wan. And she hadn't had either the time or the inclination to think about adding any artificial colour with a touch of makeup before she had left her flat. The need to know that her mother was settled at her aunt's house, heavily sedated because of the shock, had been much more important than any personal grooming.

Still, what did that matter? The man she was here to see wouldn't give a damn about her appearance or how she was dressed. He wouldn't want to see her here in the first place and he'd be even less happy about it when he heard what she had to say.

'Of course Mr Marcin . . ..'

A sudden bustle in the corridor beyond the door alerted her, the sound of the all-too-familiar name confirming her suspicions. Not that she'd needed them confirmed. Whenever and wherever Raul Marcín appeared, it seemed that instantly everything was bustle and activity. Even the air around him appeared enlivened, stirring and swirling in a way that left other more ordinary humans catching their breath in the suddenly rarefied atmosphere.

Once she had been part of that atmosphere, carried along on the tidal wave of energy and power that Don Raul Esteban Marquez de Marcín created as he strode through life, arrogant dark head held high, golden eyes blazing. But not any more. Not since she had fled that world and all it brought with it.

And she was well out of it.

It was a world of power and money, yes — but there had also been cold deceit and even icier hearted manipulation. Don Raul Marcín took what he wanted from people - from women — and used them to fulfil his own desires, without a thought for their feelings. He'd done that to her. And he would have discarded her too, she had no doubt. He would have tossed her aside when the purpose she had served was finished — done with. But luckily for her vulnerable heart and before the foolish emotions she had allowed herself to feel had become so deeply embedded in her spirit that she could have had no hope of ever tearing them out by the roots, she had discovered the truth about their relationship. And that truth had set her free. Making her run as far and as fast as she could, never looking back, and never wanting to see Raul Marcín ever again.

Which was how she would have wanted it to stay. Except that now she had no choice. None at all. She had to face Raul Marcín once again. Face him and tell him things she had no doubt that he did not want to hear.

'If you would just wait in here . . .'

A hand pushed open the door, bringing with it, Alannah would have sworn, a rush of swirling air, and a male voice murmured a word of thanks, although with an edge of impatience on the sound.

Immediately Alannah found that her hands had gone to smooth her hair, straighten her top and with a mutter of annoyance and reproach she forced them still again. She didn't want him thinking that she wanted to improve her appearance for him; or having him believe that she was in the least concerned what he would think of her. Once that might have mattered to her; once she might have wanted more than all the world that he would look at her and smile, desire flaring in his eyes — but that had been in the past. Now desire was the last thing she wanted him to feel, so it didn't matter a damn if she was as scruffy and unkempt as some street urchin in a small village on his family's vast estate.

'I'll get that sorted out straight away.'

'Gracias,' that voice said again, sending shivers of recognition down Alannah's spine. Once they would have been shivers of recognition and response, but she wasn't going to let herself feel any such thing. Not now. Not after all that had happened.

She heard him come into the room, felt his presence in the atmosphere, but still didn't dare bring herself to lift up her head and actually look at him. The sudden quiver of awareness that flashed through her body twisting in nerves that were already stretched, turning her natural apprehension into something that was close to a physical pain, took all her strength to subdue so that she could only stare at the floor, focusing her gaze on the green and grey pattern of the slightly worn carpet at her feet.

'Perdón!'

He had become aware of her silent presence at the far side of the room and out of the corner of here eye she noticed how the tall, lean body stilled, stiffened. She couldn't see his face but there was a quality in his stillness, in that worrying silence, that told her his expression was changing, turning from polite greeting to realisation, to awareness. To . . .

'Alannah?'

Oh dear God but she had forgotten the way his use of her name affected her. That husky accent, the way that just the sound of his voice seemed to coil around her like warm, scented smoke, making her heart clench painfully.

'Alannah?'

She had to look at him now. She had option. It was either that or let him know just how much he affected her and that was something she really didn't want him to know.

If she was honest, she'd been taken by surprise at it herself. She'd told herself that she could do this. That she could meet him, face him, tell him what he had to know and then go on her way, back to her life, the life she had built since she'd left him, all over again. She was away from him, she was free and nothing could change that. She was never going back.

But just the softly accented sound of her name on his lips had threatened that conviction so disturbingly. She didn't know what it meant, but she was sure as she could be of one thing. She didn't want him to know about it.

'Hello, Raul.'

Trite and inane as it was, it was all that she could manage. And now she had to look at him. It was either that or make it obvious that she was holding back deliberately, that she was trying to do anything but look into his face.

So she lifted her head, forced her drooping eyelids wide open, and met his bronze stare head on.

Excerpt from The Spanish Billionaire Innocent Wife © Kate Walker

 

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