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Not Even for Love

By´╝ÜSandra Brown

CHAPTER 1


The man finished the champagne in the fragile crystal stem and set it on the silver tray deftly held aloft by a passing servant. The tuxedoed waiter paused momentarily for the man to avail himself of another glass of the bubbly wine, then disappeared into the chattering crowd.

Reeves Grant sipped at his fresh glass of champagne, wondering why he had even taken it. He didn’t want it. Everything had suddenly gone sour. Even the world’s most expensive vintage left a brassy taste in his mouth. Derisive green eyes swept across the august assembly of celebrities and VIPs, surveying it with tolerant boredom.

An aging but still beautiful French film star was strategically draped on the arm of her new husband, an oil tycoon from Tulsa, Oklahoma. West Germany’s gold–medal– winning Olympic downhill racer was earnestly hustling a sulky, sensuous princess from a Mediterranean country, but she studiously ignored him. A New York designer and his “companion and protégé,” both dressed in flaming pink tuxedoes, were entertaining a group of avid listeners with a malicious tale about a former cover girl model who had gained forty pounds and had come to them for a figure-camouflaging wardrobe.

All in all, the crowd were rich, famous, or important. Or a combination of all three. Or merely outrageously notorious for one reason or another.

Greeting them all with dignified graciousness was the host of the lavish reception. Tall, strong, and lithe of figure, he looked to be exactly what he was, a Swiss industrialist of incalculable wealth. His blond, blue-eyed good looks secured his position on the list of the world’s “beautiful people.”

Disobedient green eyes refused a cerebral command and unerringly moved to the woman standing beside the millionaire. She was dressed in a stunning white gown. White, for God’s sake! he thought snidely.

Twenty-four hours hadn’t dimmed Reeves Grant’s memory of how beautiful she was. The one-shoulder Dior sheath was worthy competition for any other gown there. The opal and diamond necklace around her slender throat was as exquisite as any of the jewelry that bedecked the other women in the room, and its simplicity was almost virtuous by comparison.

Her hair came close to being styled too casually for the formal occasion. It wasn’t loose and flowing as Reeves had last seen it. Instead it was swept up into a knot at the top of her head. But the secreted pins seemed to have a tenuous hold on those dark, thick, glossy strands, a few of which had already escaped their confines. With the least amount of encouragement—say, a man’s caressing fingers—the whole mass would probably come tumbling down around his lucky hand.

Dammit! What the hell is the matter with you? he demanded of himself. He had been suckered, but good. Yet, like some masochistic fool, he couldn’t keep his eyes away from her. The question kept repeating itself in his brain: What had she been doing in that bookshop last night? Or better still, what was she doing here? Among all this? These people? With that man? The tiny modest apartment over the bookshop and this palatial reception room with its frescoed and gilded ceiling, its marble floors, its glittering chandeliers, had nothing to do one with the other. She didn’t belong here. She belonged in that infinitesimal kitchen with its cheery percolator and the smell of fresh coffee. He could still see her curled up in the corner of that short sofa, one of the comfortable pillows hugged to her breasts… Damn!

Leaving the dregs of the champagne, he set the glass on a small table. His Nikon camera hung around his neck by its thin leather cord, and he adjusted it now. He was so accustomed to the camera being like an extension of himself that it didn’t seem incongruous with his evening clothes. The crowd, well used to being photographed, seemed not to notice the camera either as Reeves threaded his way through them, his eyes intent on the cameo profile of the woman as she shook hands with a Belgian diplomat. The man at her side had just introduced him to her.

She leaned over the man several inches shorter than herself and spoke courteously to him, though her words eluded Reeves as he brought the camera up to his expert eye. He adjusted the ring around the lens until the delicate features of her face sprang into focus.

She was accepting the diplomat’s officious kiss on the back of her hand when the photographer snapped the shutter. The automatic flashing device on his camera startled her, and she turned her head in the direction from which it had come. Quickly, he rolled the focus ring again as her face now filled his lens. Her smile was tentative, shy, and self-conscious as he pressed the shutter release.

This time the flash hit her full in the eyes and she was momentarily blinded. A dark forest of lashes blinked over gray eyes several times before she could clearly see. The photographer slowly lowered the camera away from his eyes, green eyes that impaled her with a ferocious, accusatory glower.

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