Unlocking the Millionaire's Heart, page 19
The Rosa he’d known, three years before, was probably still thousands of miles away on the other side of the world, chasing whatever dreams he couldn’t be a part of. Dreams she’d never even told him about, even as he’d spilled every one of his to her.
That Rosa couldn’t be here. That was insane. Maybe the latest events in New York had actually driven him mad after all. It would explain the midnight flight to Spain, anyway.
‘Where is Mama? And Anna? And the guests, come to that?’ But as she spoke Jude realised there was no point denying what he was hearing, not any more. Only one person, one voice, had ever made his heart shudder like that.
There was no point hiding. La Isla Marina was his best shot at a hiding place, and she was already here.
Time to face his demons.
Jude turned around.
‘I was expecting—’ Rosa cut herself off, staring. ‘Oh.’
She looked just the same—same wild dark hair, same wide, chocolate eyes with endless lashes. Same sweet, soft mouth. Same curves under her jeans and T-shirt, same smooth skin showing on her bare arms. Same neat, small feet shoved into flip-flops.
Same woman he’d fallen in love with, last time they met.
‘Hello, Rosa.’ Jude tried for a smile—that same smile that graced album covers and posters and photo shoots. The one that never felt quite real, any more. Not since Rosa left. And definitely not since Gareth.
There was no answering smile on Rosa’s face though, only shock. Who could blame her? It wasn’t as if he’d planned this, either.
He might have done, three years ago, if he’d known about this place—or rather, known that this was her home. Because now, too late, all the pieces were falling into place. She’d left him to go back to her mother’s family home, for her grandfather’s funeral—and never come back again. La Isla Marina must have been where she’d run to.
If he’d known that then, would he have followed?
Or would he have accepted that she’d not told him where she was going for a reason?
Oh, who was he kidding? Even if he’d known where she was, he’d have sat there waiting for her to come back because he’d had faith in her. Something that had turned out to be seriously misplaced. And the day he’d realised that was the terrible day that everything had happened with Gareth, and he wasn’t going anywhere for a while. Except down, in a despair spiral he almost hadn’t made it out of. And then, suddenly, up the charts, for all the wrong reasons.
After Gareth, how could he have let himself see her again, anyway? He’d broken every promise he’d ever made for this woman, and she’d walked out anyway, leaving his world destroyed and empty.
Of course he hadn’t chased her across the globe. Even if he’d wanted to, and hated himself for that.
So many conflicting emotions tied up in the curvy, petite woman standing in front of him, all tangled and tight around his heart. Would he ever escape those bonds?
Rosa was still staring at him, stunned, and Jude hunted around for something to say. For some of the many, many words he’d wished he could say to her over the last few years. The accusations, the questions, the declarations, anything. But nothing came out.
‘You two know each other?’ Professor Gray was looking between them, confused.
Something about his voice seemed to snap Rosa out of her shock, as she gave them both a lopsided smile that never quite reached her eyes. ‘Oh, Dad, everyone knows Jude Alexander. He has possibly the most recognisable face in the world, right now.’
Professor Gray turned his curious gaze onto Jude, as if searching for fame in his features.
‘Your daughter photographed me for a publication a few years ago,’ he explained, blandly. No hint of the true story between that four-week study when Rosa travelled with them on tour, capturing every moment of their rise to fame. Of Gareth’s last tour. ‘I’m in a band, you see.’
‘A band?’ Rosa scoffed. ‘Jude is the frontman of The Swifts, Dad. Hottest band of the decade, some are saying.’ She raised an eyebrow at him, and Jude tried not to squirm under it. Not just because of the inevitable uncomfortableness that always came when someone referred to him as the frontman, instead of Gareth. But because he had so been enjoying not being that Jude Alexander for a while.
‘You know I don’t follow popular culture, Rosa.’ Professor Gray dismissed his daughter’s words with a wave of his hand. ‘But Jude here is an almost competent Scrabble player, at least.’
Jude watched as Rosa’s gaze flicked over to him at her father’s words, meeting his for just a second. Just long enough for him to feel the same connection he’d experienced the night they’d met. It hit him deep, inside those tangled threads around his heart, a piercing guilt tied up with want and need and lust.
Still. Nice to know he hadn’t imagined it, that connection. Even if it clearly never had the same effect on Rosa as it had on him.
‘I’m so glad you’ve found a playmate, Father,’ Rosa said, her tone scathing. ‘But Jude’s Scrabble abilities don’t answer any of my questions. Where are Mama and Anna? And what on earth are you doing here?’ She glanced at Jude again as she asked the last question, leaving him uncertain as to whose presence she was most baffled by.
Jude didn’t blame her.
Now the initial shock of her arrival had passed, he found himself watching her more closely, looking beyond the familiarity of the woman he’d known so intimately—if, apparently, incompletely—three years ago. There were changes, ones he hadn’t initially spotted. She was leaner now, he realised, harder even. Her mass of long, dark curls had been tamed back into a braid that hung over her left shoulder, and her dark eyes were far more wary than he remembered. Even in her relaxed jeans and fitted T-shirt, her sunglasses dangling loosely from her fingers, she looked poised to run at any moment. As if this beautiful island resort was more of a trap than her home.
What had made her look that way? And why, after all this time, did he even care?
‘Your mother is talking with the cook about dinner, I believe,’ Professor Gray said. ‘And as for your sister, I have no idea.’
‘She went to Barcelona with Leo,’ Jude put in, since apparently he was paying more attention to the professor’s family than he was.
‘Leo?’ Rosa’s nose crinkled up as she said the name. ‘Who on earth is...? Never mind. Dad, why are you here?’
Professor Gray observed his daughter mildly. ‘Why, is it such a crime for a man to wish to spend time with his family?’
From the look Rosa gave him in return, Jude rather thought her answer might be yes.
‘Professor Gray?’ Maria, the only non-family member of staff that Jude had actually met on the island, appeared in the villa doorway. ‘There is a phone call for you at Reception? From Oxford?’
‘Still no mobile phone, huh, Dad?’ Rosa asked.
‘I have one,’ Professor Gray answered, loftily, as he got to his feet. ‘I merely do not see the requirement for it to always be on my person. Or switched on.’
‘Of course you don’t.’
As Professor Gray made his way into the villa, Jude found himself staring at Rosa again. What was it about this woman that captivated him so, that he couldn’t look away, even now, after everything that had happened because he’d fallen for her? He wished he knew. Maybe then he could break free of it. As it was...
‘So.’ Rosa moved to take her father’s chair opposite him, and Jude knew exactly what was coming next.
She was going to ask him a question, and he was going to have to decide how much of the truth he wanted to tell her. Given that last time he’d told her everything—opened up every part of himself and shared it with her—and she’d left anyway, he had a feeling that this time discretion might really be the better part of valour.
Or, as Gareth would have said, if he were still alive to say it, Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me tw
Jude wasn’t going to let that happen. In any sense of the word.
Rosa sat down, and caught his eye across the table.
‘What are you doing here, Jude?’
Jude opened his mouth, and prepared to lie.
Copyright © 2018 by Sophie Pembroke
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IMPRINT: Forever Romance
TITLE: UNLOCKING THE MILLIONAIRE’S HEART
First Australian Publication 2018
Copyright © 2018 Harriet Nichola Jarvis
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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