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Tomorrow's Bride

By:Alexandra Scott

Tomorrow's Bride
Alexandra Scott

       CHAPTER ONE

THE shadowy eyelids flickered briefly, revealing a mere hint of intense  violet, drifting closed as she sighed, generous mouth parted on a  shudder of sheer anticipation, while at the same time her head moved in  what could easily have been a gesture of denial. But it was the teasing,  age-old audacity of the born temptress, if the curve of lip or  embracing gesture of one slender outflung arm was anything to judge by.

Light curtains stirred at the open window, sending a golden light across  the room, gleaming briefly on silky strands of dark hair spilling over  the pillow, touching the fringe of dense eyelashes so that she turned  from the disturbance in protest, reaching out for a spare pillow,  cradling it into the curve of her body as if for protection...

It was a dream she was used to, one she welcomed, had yearned for as it  became increasingly elusive. But it had always, as now, come in the  mornings, because-and she never doubted it- because it had been their  special time. The time when, rested but drowsy, they had taken and  given, each to the other, such delight.

Above her she sensed his shape, blotting out that intrusive sliver of  light, and she reached for him eagerly, stretching her arms to link them  about his neck, offering up her mouth and all the while knowing, with  that potent little throb at the pit of her stomach, knowing that in a  moment their eyes would meet, would sparkle at each other in such  perfect love and understanding, and from time to time with even a hint  of amusement and wonder. Yes, always, always wonder.

But the stab of nostalgia was thrust aside; it had been such fun, as  well as all those other superlatives which didn't go halfway towards  describing then- feelings for each other. Such fun and... Another sigh,  throbbing and deep, and then, playing by the rules of the game, which  didn't always work, she allowed her eyelids to drift apart, and then...

Damn. Damn. Damn. A hand went up to cover her eyes and, unable to hide  the twist of pain about her mouth, she took a moment or two to regain  control. She lay back, eyes closed, expression deliberately blank. You  fool, she admonished herself, reverting weakly, when you had so nearly  got your life back together again. And all because yesterday you  glimpsed someone who reminded you-not even a figure, just the back of a  head disappearing into an office. Something about the way the hair lay  against the skull, the set of the broad shoulders... for that you  suddenly flip your lid, go off on a trip like a junkie in need of a fix.

So what? With one lithe, determined move she left her bed, pausing for a  moment to adjust the curtains and fix the window. Gradually over the  years she had learned a painful lesson-that self-indulgence was a futile  exercise. If she allowed herself to stray along that path, she would  never break free, would be permanently inhibited in her dealings with  men and-----

And quite apart from anything else, she determined to jerk herself back  to her usual hard-headed outlook. If she didn't wake up her ideas she  would never be fit for what promised to be an excessively busy day, even  by her own demanding standards. Even when the work was over, this  evening she was expected to attend the reception-the annual shindig  organised for so many of those who were employed by the European  Parliament here in Strasbourg. Funny, she had been looking forward to  it... only, suddenly, she wasn't so sure. But right now a shower was  needed, something to bring her back to her senses, perhaps even a cold  one. She shivered, pushed open the bathroom door and reached bravely for  the tap.



Beauty, opulence, unbelievable luxury-those were her first and  continuing impressions as she climbed the sweeping staircase, Kyle's  hand protectively on her elbow, her mind clicking like a camera  recording detail. Glittering chandeliers, gilded balustrades. She was  aware of intense appreciation as her eye lingered on classical statues  in their shadowy niches, then shock, followed by private amusement, when  she identified the glamorous creature approaching from the mirrored  alcove.

The effect of fine feathers was amazing. She wrenched her eyes away,  though the image lingered, and for the first time she excused her wild  extravagance in buying the dress. After all, it would have been  impossible to venture into such a fairy-tale world in something she had  picked up in a chain-store while at Celine's...                       
       
           



       

The saleswoman had been right to persuade her; the colour was perfect,  the deep blue shades of the Thai silk did enhance the already striking  violet of her eyes, while the tiny velvet bolero jacket studded with  beads and bugles competed successfully with the glitter of jewels worn  by so many of the more affluent women.

It was the new hairstyle which had caused her more reservations, but  here, in such an ultra-glamorous location, it looked sensational rather  than extreme, which her good sense told her it was verging towards.  Certainly, it was wildly at odds with her usual simple styles. But now,  approaching the double doors of the reception-rooms, she straightened  her shoulders and raised her chin as if challenging anyone to remark  that the riot of ebony curls was other than madly attractive.

As they made their way through the room she sensed one or two raised  eyebrows. Her antennae picked up approval-even Sir Alan Barclay, always  regarded as something of a cold fish, allowed himself a tiny admiring  smile, to which she found herself beginning to respond.

That was when Kyle diverted her. The smile was still about her mouth,  sparkling mischievously in the wide, brilliant eyes, when she turned,  and was instantly stricken to the heart by that dark face, those  penetrating... smoky and penetrating eyes and... Reality began to drift  away from her, reason to desert her. She was back in her dream; she must  be. What other explanation could...?

'Leigh, I don't think you've met Patrick Cavour. He's been here for.. .what is it, Patrick? About a week?'

'Less than that.' For the first time in years she was hearing that deep  voice. Deep and immensely attractive, with the faintest brush of an  Irish brogue, it was a voice that from the first had brought weakness to  her knees, shivers of sheer delight to the length of her spine and..  .nothing had changed. Nothing at all. That throb low in her diaphragm,  the pressure in her chest were as potent as ever. 'Here in Strasbourg,  just three days.'

'Leigh Gregory.' As he spoke Kyle draped a casual arm about her shoulder. "The most efficient PA in Strasbourg.'

She felt humiliated by the other man's raised eyebrow, curled mouth,  that same sensitive mouth which had-----Angrily she caught at her  treacherous thoughts, allowing herself to grow increasingly irritated  with Kyle, wishing he wouldn't lay it on so thickly. But then she  realised it was of Anna he was speaking, introducing her as his  secretary.

His secretary? Silently she queried that statement, latching desperately  on to something to absorb her irritation. Until that very moment she  had considered Anna to be her secretary, but possibly, in a manner of  speaking...

No matter. A moment later-and she couldn't understand how it had come  about-she and Patrick were on their own, eyes cagily assessing over the  rims of glasses. At least, hers were; his were quite blatant in their  scrutiny. Almost immediately he spoke, in that soft, tender way that was  so... Irish. 'So... Leigh. How well you look.' The words were spoken in  that beguiling lilt so vividly recalled.

'Thank you.' Smile and manner were both brittle as she forced herself to  remember to be on her guard. Once before this man had-----'And you  too.' Which was the simple truth as well as a cause for considerable  regret, she told herself, in an attempt to damp down her responses. It  would have been easier if he hadn't looked just about twice as  devastating as her memory of him...

It was all too easy for people like her, ordinary people, to be  captivated, even to be intimidated, by people like Patrick Cavour. Those  who came from backgrounds where casual privilege was taken for granted,  from large, close families with servants who were almost invariably  devoted- they enjoyed so many niceties which everyone else could only  read about.

There was comfort in allowing her dyspeptic recollections full rein, in  remembering how the Cavour home had appeared at the end of a long drive,  like something out of Gone with the Wind. Inside all had been discreet,  tasteful luxury, and then there had been the horses, the dogs with  names like Bran and Luath and-----

'It's been a long time-----' Seeing his lips begin to curve, again she  was consumed with fear at her own weakness. Besides, a little shame at  such mean thoughts of people who had shown her only kindness had brought  colour to her cheeks.                       

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