To Wear His Ring Again(3)By: Chantelle Shaw
Utterly thrown by her reaction to him, she felt an urge to turn and flee back up the stairs. But it was too late; he halted in front of her, standing unnervingly close so that she inhaled the sensual musk of his maleness.
Beads of sweat glistened on his skin. Isobel found herself wanting to run her fingers through the lock of sable hair that had fallen forwards onto his brow and trace the close-trimmed black stubble that shaded his jaw and upper lip. Every muscle in her body tautened defensively as she fought the effect he had on her. She was unaware that she reminded Constantin of a nervous colt who might bolt at any second.
‘Don’t hide in the shadows, cara,’ he drawled. ‘I don’t know why you’re here, but I assume you have a very good reason to let yourself into the house, two years after you ran away.’
His cynical tone hurtled Isobel back in time to the dying days of their marriage when they had been at constant loggerheads.
‘I didn’t run away,’ she snapped.
His heavy black brows rose, but it was his eyes that held her spellbound. The first time Isobel had met him—when she had been a temporary secretary sent by the agency to work for the CEO at the London office of the exclusive jewellery and luxury goods company, De Severino Eccellenza—she had been mesmerised by Constantin’s brilliant blue eyes that were such an unexpected contrast to his swarthy, Latin looks.
He shrugged. ‘All right, you didn’t run. You sneaked out while I was on a business trip. I came home to find your note informing me that you had gone on tour with the band and wouldn’t be coming back.’
Isobel gritted her teeth. ‘You knew I was going to go with the Stone Ladies—we had discussed it. I left because, if I hadn’t, we would have destroyed each other. Don’t you remember the row we had the morning before you went to France, or the argument we’d had the day before, or the day before that? I couldn’t take it any more.’ Her voice shook. ‘We couldn’t even be together in the same room without tension flaring. It was time to end our train wreck of a marriage.’
A throb of pain shot across her brow, causing her to draw a sharp breath and reminding her of the tension headaches she’d suffered during her marriage. She and Constantin were arguing already, mere moments after meeting each other again.
‘Besides, I didn’t let myself into the house,’ she said in a carefully controlled voice. ‘I left my door key with my wedding ring on your desk two years ago.’ The symbolic gesture of pulling her gold wedding band from her finger had dealt the final devastating blow to her heart, Isobel remembered painfully. ‘Whittaker let me in.’ She opened her handbag and pulled out the divorce petition. ‘I came to return this.’
Constantin flicked his eyes to the document. ‘You must be in a desperate hurry to officially end our marriage, if you couldn’t wait until tomorrow to put the paperwork in the post.’
Riled by his mocking tone, she opened her mouth to agree that she was impatient to sever the final links between them. She was wearing four-inch heels but Constantin towered over her and she had to tilt her head to meet his cobalt-blue gaze. It was an unwise move, she realised as her eyes dropped to his sensual, full-lipped mouth and her pulse quickened. Her tongue darted out to moisten her suddenly dry lips, and she glimpsed a dangerous glitter in his eyes as he followed the betraying gesture before he roamed his gaze over her in a leisurely inspection that made Isobel’s skin tingle.
‘You’re looking good, Isabella,’ he drawled.
Her stupid heart performed a somersault, but she managed to respond coolly, ‘Thank you.’ The old Isobel had struggled to accept compliments graciously, but maturity had given her the self-assurance to be able to look in a mirror and acknowledge that she was attractive.
That did not mean she hadn’t spent ages debating what to wear for her meeting with Constantin. Her aim had been to look sophisticated yet give the impression that she hadn’t tried too hard and she had eventually settled on dark blue jeans from her favourite designer, teamed with a plain white tee shirt and—for a confidence booster—a pillar-box-red jacket. She had left her long, layered hair loose, and wore minimum make-up—just mascara to emphasise her hazel eyes, and a slick of rose-coloured gloss on her lips.