A wife on his terms?
It’s been eight years since Prudence’s arranged wedding to Nikolas Angelis. Their relationship was never consummated and they have always lived apart. But now Prudence longs to have her own baby and she wants a divorce. However, Nik is horrified — he is her husband and he will be the father of her child! Prudence reluctantly agrees to a trial marriage with Nik. But conceiving his baby? That’s not a risk she’s willing to take.
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I CAN’T MAKE it to your party,’ Nikolos told the woman reclining on the bed, pulling on the jacket of his suit with the fluid grace that distinguished all his movements.
‘Please…pretty please…’ Naked but for a turquoise silk wrap, Tania Benson leapt up and curled her arms round his neck, deploying her long, rangy, supermodel body like a lethal weapon of persuasion. ‘I want you to be there.’
‘No strings,’ Nikolos reminded her, irritated by her persistence. Their relationship was basic and not exclusive, for they often went months without contact. He only saw Tania when he was in Paris or Brussels. To complement her position in his life, he enjoyed the company of an Icelandic blonde in New York and a sultry Russian model in London.
The redhead pouted. ‘I’ve never asked you for a favour before.’
Nikolos shrugged. She had not had to ask, because he was a very generous lover and she knew the score as well as he did.
‘You couldn’t make it last year either!’
‘I have another engagement.’ His tone was cool, clipped. He came and went as he pleased. Without explanation or apology. That had been the agreement and he had no desire for anything else. Certainly not the whole dating-type scenario of being shown off like some trophy tycoon at a celebrity party. It would also be indiscreet, since his appearance at a fashionable party was a virtual guarantee of photos and comment in the gossip columns. Once, Nikolos conceded grimly, he had been a lot less considerate about the level of public interest his way of life could attract.
Furious at that flat rejection, Tania looked sulky. ‘I know what that engagement is, too…’
His dark golden eyes became semi-veiled, the hard, dynamic cast of his darkly handsome features suddenly still and impassive. ‘The limo will be waiting.’
‘It’s her birthday, isn’t it? Your wife’s?’ Tania launched at him.His brilliant gaze bore the chill of reserve. He swept up his cashmere overcoat and moved to the door. ‘I have to go—’
‘I saw a photo of her in a magazine. She was wearing freaky floral Wellington boots and a woolly hat, and she was holding a rabbit…How can you prefer her to me?’ Tania wailed in melodramatic disbelief.
Pale with outrage below his bronzed skin, Nikolos stayed only long enough to spell out the fact that their connection was at an end and he would not be visiting again. A stormy light in his usually cool gaze, he flung himself into the opulent limo. The floral boots had been one of the very few successful gifts he had managed to choose for his wife. How dare Tania sneer at her? He never discussed Pudding with anyone, not even his family. But the state of his marriage did awaken a good deal of curiosity. After all, he had been married for almost eight years and had lived apart from his wife for most of that period.
Time had done surprisingly little to blot out his recollection of their disastrous wedding. When he recalled his own behaviour towards the close of that day, a raw sense of guilt and insecurity wholly foreign to his forceful nature still assailed Nikolos. He rarely let himself think about it: going there was not productive. He had had to accept Pudding’s refusal to even discuss what had happened that night. Her distress had silenced him as nothing else could have done. While she had been reluctant to even listen to his explanation and his apologies, he had been too proud to admit that he had no memory whatsoever of events on their wedding night. Naturally he had been afraid of what he might have said or done to her during it. Had he sunk low enough to take his angry sense of injustice out on her in bed? Had he been rough?
Those all too male apprehensions still haunted Nikolos in low moments and sent a cold stab of foreboding through him, for he knew his own flaws only too well. He had the devil’s own temper.