A Vow of Obligation

Marriage by Command, book #3

April 20, 2012

May 22, 2012

April 17, 2012

April 17, 2012


From making his bed…

On a mission to steal Navarre Cazier’s laptop to save a fellow chambermaid’s reputation, Tawny Blake is caught red-handed! Blushing brighter than her flame-coloured hair, she’s sure she’ll be fired. Then Cazier presents her with a shocking proposition…To lying in it! The infamous billionaire needs to stop the prying media digging into his scandalous past, and Tawny is the perfect diversion. The seduction of society beauties has always come effortlessly to Navarre, yet getting feisty Tawny to wear his ring, even if just in public, could be his greatest challenge yet!

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‘WERE you seen coming up to my suite?’ Navarre Cazier prompted in the Italian that came as naturally to him as the French of his homeland.

Tia pouted her famously sultry lips and in spite of her sophistication contrived to look remarkably young and naive as befitted one of the world’s most acclaimed film stars. ‘I slipped in through the side entrance—’

Navarre ditched his frown and smiled, for when she looked at him like that with her big blue eyes telegraphing embarrassed vulnerability he couldn’t help it. ‘It’s you I’m concerned about. The paparazzi follow you everywhere—’

‘Not here…’ Tia Castelli declared, tossing her head so that a silken skein of honey-blonde hair rippled across her slim shoulders, her flawless face full of regret. ‘We haven’t got long though. Luke will be back at our hotel by three and I have to be there.’

At that reference to her notoriously volatile rock star husband, Navarre’s lean, darkly handsome features hardened and his emerald-green eyes darkened.

Tia ran a manicured fingertip reprovingly below the implacable line of his shapely masculine mouth. ‘Don’t be like that, caro mio. This is my life, take me or leave me…and I couldn’t bear it if you chose the second option!’ she warned him in a sudden rush, her confident drawl splintering to betray the insecurity she hid from the world. ‘I’m sorry, so sorry that it has to be like this between us!’

‘It’s OK,’ Navarre told her soothingly although he was lying through his even white teeth as he said it. He loathed being a dirty little secret in her life but the alternative was to end their relationship and although he was remarkably strong-willed and stubborn, he had found himself quite unable to do that.

‘And you’re still bringing a partner with you for the awards ceremony, aren’t you?’ Tia checked anxiously. ‘Luke is so incredibly suspicious of you.’

‘Angelique Simonet, currently the toast of the Paris catwalk,’ Navarre answered wryly.

‘And she doesn’t know about us?’ the movie actress pressed worriedly.

‘Of course not.’

‘I know, I know…I’m sorry, I just have so much at stake!’ Tia gasped strickenly. ‘I couldn’t stand to lose Luke!’

‘You can trust me.’ Navarre closed his arms round her slim body to comfort her. Her blue eyes glistened with the tears that came so easily to her and she was trembling with nerves. Navarre tried not to wonder what Luke Convery had been doing or saying to get her into such a state. Time and experience had taught him that it was better not to go there, better neither to know nor to enquire. He did not interfere in her marriage any more than she questioned his choice of lovers.

‘I hate going so long without seeing you. It feels wrong,’ she muttered heavily. ‘But I’ve told so many lies I don’t think that I could ever tell the truth.’

‘It’s not important,’ Navarre told her with a gentleness that would have astounded some of the women he had had in his life.

Navarre Cazier, the legendary French industrialist and billionaire, had the reputation of being a generous but distant lover to the beautiful women who passed through his bed. Yet even though he made no secret of his love of the single life, women remained infuriatingly keen to tell him that they loved him and to cling. Tia, however, occupied a category all of her own and he played by different rules with her. Accustomed as he was to independence from an early age, he was tough, self-reliant and unapologetically selfish but he always restrained that side of his nature with Tia and at least tried to accommodate her needs.

Later that afternoon when she had gone, Navarre was heading for the shower when his mobile buzzed beside the bed. Tia’s distinctive perfume still hung in the air like a shamefaced marker of her recent presence. He would see her again soon but their next encounter would be in public and they would have to be circumspect for Luke Convery was a hothead, all too well aware of his gorgeous wife’s chequered history of previous marriages and clandestine affairs. Tia’s husband was always on the watch for signs that his wife’s attention might be straying.

The call was from Angelique and Navarre’s mood dive-bombed when he learned that his current lover was not, after all, coming to London to join him. Angelique had just been offered a television campaign by a famous cosmetics company and even Navarre could not fault her desire to make the most of such an opportunity.

Even so, it seemed to Navarre that life was cruelly conspiring to frustrate him. He needed Angelique this week and not only as a screen to protect Tia from the malicious rumours that had linked his name with hers on past occasions. He also had a difficult deal to close with the husband of a former lover, who had recently attempted to reanimate their affair. A woman on his arm and a supposedly serious relationship had been a non-negotiable necessity for Tia’s peace of mind as well as good business practice in a difficult situation. Merde alors, what the hell was he going to do without a partner at this late stage in the game? Who could he possibly trust to play the game of a fake engagement and not attempt to take it further?

‘Urgent—need 2 talk 2 you,’ ran the text message that beeped on Tawny’s mobile phone and she hurried downstairs to take her break, wondering what on earth was going on with her friend, Julie.

Julie worked as a receptionist in the same exclusive London hotel and, although the two young women had not known each other long, she had already proved herself to be a staunch and supportive friend. Her approachability had eased Tawny’s first awkward days as a new employee when she had quickly discovered that as a chambermaid she was regarded as the lowest of the low by most of the other staff. She was grateful for Julie’s company when their breaks coincided, but their friendship had gone well beyond that level, Tawny acknowledged with an appreciative smile. When, at short notice, Tawny had had to move out of her mother’s home, Julie had helped her to find an affordable bedsit and had even offered her car to facilitate the move.

‘I’m in trouble,’ Julie, a very pretty brown-eyed blonde, said with a strong air of drama as Tawny joined her at a table in the corner of the dingy, almost empty staff room.

‘What sort of trouble?’

Julie leant forwards to whisper conspiratorially, ‘I slept with one of the guests.’

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