She stopped, and hesitated briefly before inspecting his tall, athletic physique. His blazer looked like it had been poured over his powerful shoulders. The mesmerizing teenage boy had grown into a striking, robust man—one who now wore cashmere overcoats and fancy European tailored suits.
A black limo rolled up. She stepped back, too flustered to care about getting in someone else’s way.
Who was Alexei dissing over the phone? Was it her? It must be so, the conversation had started out about her. She didn’t deserve to be treated this way. Dinner was his idea. Not hers. He was right, though. She did know the score. He had ignored her letters because he wanted to. She was good enough to sleep with and that was it. Nothing more than a teenage tryst.
Disillusion reeled inside Kate’s head and stole her breath away. She propped a steadying hand on the car. Alexei cradled his arm around her shoulder, opened the vehicle’s door and urged her inside.
“Wait...” She used the doorframe for leverage, but it had little influence over Alexei. He swept her into the car with capable skill. The door swung shut, trapping her inside a much too tight compartment with Alexei sitting way too close. Close enough to radiate sensual energy that was intense enough to drive her crazy.
“You look pale. Are you sure you’re all right?” His fingertips trailed over the edge of her face. Chills coursed through her in electrifying waves.
Kate laid her purse on the seat and inched some space between herself and Alexei.
Be strong. One moment of pleasure with Alexei was not worth the pain it could bring their daughter. He’d already rejected Katya once—when he ignored Kate’s letters. She couldn’t risk that happening again.
“I can’t do this.” She scooted toward the door and secured the handle in her hand. “Call me tomorrow, okay?” Her suggestion was half-hearted and it came on the heels of her flinging the door open and scrambling out of the other side of the car.
Instinct pushed her to run, but her legs dragged as if they had weights attached. The idiot in her wanted to look over her shoulder to see if he had gotten out of the car, but she didn’t dare. A single come-hither glance from Alexei could send her back into his arms.
Kate hurried along the sidewalk, telling herself she could cover the distance—two blocks—and disappear inside the building before Alexei caught up to her.
“Katya...” His voice carried on the brisk night air, and she trudged on. Closing in on the US Residence, the quicksand-like tension bogging her legs eased.
Turning up the sidewalk entrance, her dignity started to return. As long as she couldn’t see him, she wasn’t in danger of his charms.
The car pulled up beside her, engine purring. It wasn’t him. Couldn’t be him. She heard no door closing, just Alexei calling after her with that name.
Fear stiffened each muscle and every nerve, freezing her like a statue. Their daughter was tucked away inside the hotel before her, and Alexei was mere steps behind. Kate was the only thing standing between them. If she didn’t get rid of him pronto, things could get ugly.
Move. She commanded, but the icy sidewalk slicked her feet right out from under her. Kate fell to the ground in a blur of slow-motioned terror, landing on her butt. The pain rippled out in waves but it was quickly overshadowed by her head bouncing off the frozen walkway.
Ouch, flickered through her mind just before everything when blank.
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