‘Come and sit down. Drink your hot chocolate. You’ll feel better.’

She lifted her chin and met his eyes, just for a moment. He couldn’t read her expression now. It reminded him of when they’d been together at the palace, talking about ending their betrothal.

She looked away. ‘Thanks, but I don’t want hot chocolate.’

Paul curved his other hand around her upper arm, her skin like cool silk.

‘You’re shaking.’

She shrugged. ‘It will pass.’

Not good enough. Paul was used to taking action. Making things happen. Fixing problems.

‘There must be something I can do. Something that would help.’

Another half-smile, this time unmistakeably wry.


‘It’s nothing.’

Paul frowned. If there was one thing he’d learned tonight, it was that Eva could be forthright when she wanted to be. Why wasn’t she now?

Releasing her wrist, he curled his finger under her chin, lifting it so he could hold her gaze.

His breath stalled as he saw how forlorn she looked.

His other hand stroked up her arm to her bare shoulder and back down to grasp her hand.

‘It will be all right, Eva. Truly. It’s over now.’

Her tiny huff of amusement was unexpected. ‘Yes. You’re right. It’s over.’

But though her posture was as perfect as ever and her stare direct, he wasn’t fooled. It wasn’t just the fact that she still trembled. It was the expression in her eyes.

‘Eva. Tell me what I can do to help.’

For a long moment he thought she wasn’t going to say anything. Then he heard, ‘Kiss me. I want you to kiss me.’


Paul stared at her as if no woman had ever wanted to kiss him before. His eyebrows lifted from their deep V of concern and his eyes widened.

At least he looked stunned rather than sorry for her. That was an improvement.

When he’d been kind Eva’s heart had twisted. She’d had a tough night in so many ways and sympathy only cracked her veneer of calm. She’d feared she might slip up and reveal her feelings for him.

And when he’d said there was a link between them… She hadn’t known whether to laugh or cry.

She’d been the one to recognise that link, years ago. To treasure it and dream of a future built on it. Paul had been completely oblivious.

If he’d felt that link tonight…

No, it was just that he felt some responsibility since, in the eyes of the world, they were to be married.

‘Eva? What are you saying?’

Her lips firmed as she fought despair with anger.

‘You heard me, Paul.’

She wasn’t going to say it again. Even though it was true. The one thing that, at this moment, would make her feel better was Paul’s lips on hers. Blotting out tonight’s bitter regrets and searing hurt. Giving her the solace of his caress.

His frown was back, deeper than ever. His hand beneath her chin moved to her shoulder. To hold her at a distance or to deliver a paternalistic pat of solace? As if she didn’t know her own mind.

He’d asked what she wanted and she’d told him.

Abruptly, gloriously, she didn’t care what he thought. Only that this was the last chance she’d ever have to kiss the man she’d adored since she was fifteen. The man who’d cracked her heart wide open and didn’t even know it.

Tomorrow, later this morning, she’d say goodbye to him forever. For now they were alone and she still wanted so much more than he’d ever give her.

Instinct told her to grab this opportunity for just a moment’s solace and that’s what she did. One hand settled on that hard, straight shoulder, the other curled around the back of his neck, learning the texture of hot skin and soft hair. She rose on her toes and pulled his head down.

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