A Christmas Night to Remember(7)

She remembered she had stared at him, fascinated. ‘And is that the only reason you veered on the side of law and order?’

‘I should say no—that deep down I wanted to do the right and noble thing—shouldn’t I?’ he’d answered with the crooked grin which had already become so familiar to her. ‘But the truth of it is I didn’t think that way then. I’d lived in dumps mixing with all kinds of types when I was with my mother, and once in care I developed a huge chip on my shoulder. I was an angry young man, I guess.’ His grin had widened. ‘I’d have been an excellent villain, though.’

She’d laughed with him. ‘I’m glad you chose the route you did,’ she’d said a little breathlessly, somewhat overwhelmed.

His face had straightened and he’d reached across the table for her hand. ‘So am I,’ he said softly, ‘and never more than at this moment. I would have found it very hard to look into your eyes and ask you to love a man like that.’

She’d blinked before murmuring, ‘And is that what you’re asking me to do? To fall in love with you?’

‘I’ve loved you from the minute you stood on that stage and put me in my place, and I’ve never told another woman I love her because it hasn’t been true before. I don’t want to rush you but I want to marry you, Melody. I want you to be my wife, the mother of my children, my partner through life. I love you, I want you, I need you and I adore you.’ He’d let go of her hand and leant back in his seat. ‘Does that answer your question?’ he’d drawled self-mockingly.

They had got engaged that night and married six weeks later, and she had felt her life had only begun the day she had met Zeke. To have someone who was hers, who loved her, had been sweet.

She turned her head from him now, hardening her voice as she said, ‘You shouldn’t have come here today, Zeke.’

‘The hell I shouldn’t. Nothing could have prevented me.’

The snow was coating the windscreen in a blanket of white, shutting them in their own little world. He was so close the faint familiar smell of his aftershave mingled with leather from the car’s interior, evoking memories Melody could have done without. Memories that turned her fluid inside.

She knew he was going to kiss her, and when he turned her chin to face him she didn’t resist, steeling herself instead to show no reaction as his mouth claimed hers. It was a slow, leisurely, sensual kiss, not the hard, possessive onslaught she’d half been expecting, and it took all her willpower not to respond to the magic of his lips. But she managed it. Just.

When his mouth lifted from hers she saw his eyes were narrowed as he searched her face. ‘I see,’ he murmured after a moment. ‘Do you think you can keep it up?’

His body warmth reached out to her, dark and compelling, as she swallowed hard before muttering, ‘I don’t know what you mean.’

He smiled faintly. ‘Of course you don’t.’ He leaned forward again and kissed her thoroughly and with an enjoyment he made no effort to rein in, and by the time he finished Melody was not only kissing him back but trembling with desire.

‘There.’ His voice was very soft as he tilted his head to look down into the clear green of her eyes. ‘That’s better.’ He stroked a strand of blond hair from her cheek, his touch tender. ‘Can we go home now?’

Melody stared into the tough, furrowed face and suddenly a flood of anger burnt up all other emotion. Drawing away from him, she said bitingly, ‘Is that all you think it takes? A kiss and I’m putty in your hands?’

A muscle in his cheek twitched at her direct hit.

‘I’m not going home with you, Zeke. Not today, not tomorrow, not any time.’ Ignoring the cloud of fury darkening his features, she continued, ‘Whether you accept it or not, our marriage is over. Now, if you’re not going to take me to the hotel I’ve booked into, I’ll get there under my own steam. Okay?’

There was a long pause when he turned from her and gripped the steering wheel as though he wanted to break it. Then without a word he started the engine and the powerful car growled into life. ‘Where do you want to go?’ he asked coldly, his tone searing her, and after she’d given the name and street of the hotel he pulled out of the parking space.

She had won. He’d given in. As they passed through the hospital gates she sat still and numb, refusing to feel or let herself think. The time for that could come later, when she was alone. For now she had to remain in the bubble that had surrounded her. It was the only way to retain her sanity.

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