Her green eyes sparked and Lambis felt an answering flare deep in his belly. The Amelie he'd known was charming, attractive, delightful, but never confrontational. Not till she'd arrived at his Greek home. Perversely, he found her vibrancy, the raw energy of her emotions, arousing.

'Have you no heart?' Her finger jammed into his breastbone, right where his heart pumped too hard, too fast. He tried to tell himself it was because no-one else would dare speak to him like this, but he knew it was from the effort of not sweeping her into his arms and kissing her into silence.

It had been there inside him ever since she'd turned up on his doorstep - the clawing hunger that grew more voracious each time they met. That sense he could cheerfully lose himself in this woman and never surface again.

It was outrageous and horrifying, for she could never be for him. He'd taken pains to sever his links with her.

Yet he'd spent untold nights sleepless, wondering how Amelie's lips tasted. How it would feel to meld his body with hers. Seeing her this morning, so outwardly cheerful, yet, he sensed, so close to the brink of emotional collapse, had punched a hole through wall he'd built around himself. A hole he couldn't mend, no matter how often he reminded himself he was no saviour, either for the boy or her.

'Did you hear me?' She looked outraged and delectable.

'I heard, princess.' He captured that jabbing hand, encircling it with his, drawing it down to their side. She was warm and smooth, her flesh soft against his calluses. Even that simple touch seemed erotically charged. At least to him.

Clearly she didn't notice.

'And you have nothing to say?' Indignation coloured her tone. 'You really are some piece of work.' She shook her head. 'To think Irini loved you. She said you were the brother she'd never had. She said she'd trust you with her life.'

A great tremor of pain started somewhere in Lambis's belly and rose, spreading everywhere. Irini had trusted him and he'd let her down.

'What's wrong?' Amelie's words were machine gun fire, aimed at his heart. 'You don't like to be reminded that Irini would expect you to do more for Seb than fob him off?'

'I'm not fobbing him off.' The words ground from him. Hadn't he brought them here? Wasn't he doing his best to protect them?

'You're deserting him. Because you can't be bothered to give up your precious time.' The words peppered him. 'Or...' She tilted her head to survey him. 'Because you're afraid.'

Lambis stiffened, stunned. How did she know? He hadn't even admitted it to himself. But she was right, he realised in shock. He was scared at a bone-deep level he couldn't explain to anyone, especially this bright, brave woman who stared at him with such contempt.

'I can't imagine what your problem is, Lambis. I don't want to know. But you're not the man I thought. Or the man Irini believed you. I don't know how you can live with yourself.'

Lambis didn't respond as the missile words slammed into him. They weren't anything he hadn't told himself. Yet hearing them from Amelie, he felt himself dredge a new low.

But it was nothing to the ragged, raw pain that seared him when he saw her eyes turn overbright with unshed tears.

'Don't, Amelie!' With one urgent movement he tugged her to him so hard he heard the soft huff of her breath as she landed on his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, pinioning her so she couldn't move, pressing her face into the place where his heart thudded like an out of control piston.

His breath sawed through cramped lungs. The whole of him hurt, except where he touched Amelie. For they fit together perfectly, her head tucked under his chin, her feminine softness balm to his rigid body. It was all he could do not to stroke her, soften his hold and explore that lithe body.

Did she feel it too? The rising need? She didn't struggle to pull back.

Who was he kidding? She despised him.

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Released : October 2017 (in stores mid Sept)



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