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Authors: Nell Harding

Fire and Ice (21 page)

BOOK: Fire and Ice
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“I was going to!” Kate retorted
hotly. “If you hadn’t sneaked away like a thief in the night-“

“A thief?” Sebastien bellowed,
showing what Kate considered to be a very un-Swiss disregard for what others in
the shop might think. “I was in my own house! I wasn’t the one lying my way
into a job and a family, playing everybody like fools in a big con game,
betraying their trust.”

“Trust?” Kate spat back. “If you
trusted me, why didn’t you stay to ask me my side? Why did you automatically
assume the worst?”

“Because you lied to me!” he
roared. “That’s why I didn’t trust you. Because I had to find out who you
really were from a bloody newspaper column.”

“It’s just a column,” Kate said
pleadingly. Her flash of temper was suddenly extinguished, replaced by an
overwhelming desire to throw herself into the arms of the man in front of her
and kiss him passionately, to make him believe her, to make him see how much
she cared. Instead she spoke softly, as if a loud noise could shatter the
fragile bit of hope that had started to grow in her. “A silly little column.
They’re just sketches of Switzerland, nothing even remotely personal. I never
sold you out.”

“And why didn’t you just tell me?”
The anger was gone from his voice as well. In its place was a genuine-sounding
need to understand. “Didn’t you trust me enough?”

“I needed the job,” Kate answered
simply. “I was in a bind and the real Michelle Clark broke her leg, so I
grabbed the opportunity. Maybe it was wrong, but it wasn’t malicious. My
writing has nothing to do with this, really, but I didn’t think you’d trust me
if you knew I worked for a paper.”

“And after?” Sebastien was staring
at her intently, searchingly. “You still didn’t think you could tell me?”

Kate looked up into those dark
eyes and then looked away. “I meant to. I wanted to. But I kept putting it off
because I was afraid.”

“Afraid I’d fire you once I found
out?” he prompted.

Afraid he wouldn’t love her, she
wanted to say. Instead she found herself pointing out “Well, that’s what
happened in the end, isn’t it?”

“I didn’t fire you, you quit,” he
growled, reaching in his pocket to pull out the letter she had left on the
table and shaking it in her direction. “Without a word of explanation. If I
hadn’t spotted you on the sidewalk, you wouldn’t even have said goodbye.” He
nodded toward the luggage at her feet.

Kate stared at him in
bewilderment. “I guess I assumed that you’d fired me when you took off to India
and told Simon not to give me the photo. I figured you wouldn’t really want an
imposter working for your family, and that you’d never want to see me again.”

His tone became businesslike
again. “Those are two separate issues. I think it’s reasonable to say that
working for Pichard watches seems a bit inappropriate for you now. We can’t
really have somebody from the newspapers working for us as our in-house spy,
now can we? Although I’d have to say you’re a natural at that. And a better
actress than you give yourself credit for.”

“So I am fired.” Kate was
confused.

“No, but I accept your
resignation. Which is a pity, because you really were a natural at the hosting
game with your Irish charm.”

“You are too, you know,” she told
him bluntly. “You never needed me.”

He took one step closer so that he
towered over her. “Didn’t I?” he asked softly, so that only she could hear him.

With his body so close, Kate felt
her pulse starting to race and her mouth go dry. The chemistry between them was
palpable, magnetic.

Sebastien wasn’t finished. “You
wrote that I was “cold”, didn’t you? If I can read between the lines of your
column.”

“I always generalise,” she replied
defensively, while fighting an irresistible urge to run her hands down his strong
chest which blocked out all else.

“Perhaps it is only that I
actually know what it is to be discrete and professional,” he observed coldy.
“Whereas you are far too opinionated, vocal and emotional. Although that’s
exactly what the guests love about you.”

“But you don’t,” she filled in for
him, taking a step backwards.

“I’m not finished,” he informed
her, grabbing both of her wrists to pull her back toward him. “Do you ever know
when to hold your tongue?”

A hint of amusement was starting
to show in his eyes, a tell-tale crinkling in the corners. Kate held her breath
and bit her tongue to keep from blurting out what she most wanted to ask. He
kept her waiting as the silence and tension grew.

“I love everything about you,” he
said finally, tugging her right up against him and murmuring into her hair
discretely. “I love your impetuous nature, your warmth and joie de vivre, your
enthusiasm, even the way you become awkward and embarrassed when you blurt out
the wrong thing.”

A tiny whimper of relief escaped
her lips. Her mind was having troubles keeping up with the rollercoaster of
emotions she was riding along, but her heart had understood. She raised her
face hopefully from his chest to find his eyes waiting for hers. Then his lips
were on her mouth with a ferocity that took her breath away and she forgot
everything else as she dissolved into that kiss.

Even the round of applause from
Mimi’s clients wasn’t enough to break apart their embrace.  Kate lost herself
in Sebastien’s kiss, letting desire and euphoria consume her completely. She
could happily have stayed there forever but eventually a deliberate cough from
Emily broke through to her consciousness.

“I really hate to interrupt,”
Emily was saying, “But if you’re going to catch that plane I’m afraid you’ll
have to rush.”

Sebastien raised his head briefly.
“She’s not going anywhere,” he answered for Kate, before continuing where he’d
left off.   Then he pulled his face away again and said, “Actually, yes, she’s
coming home with me.”

He kept his hands on Kate’s
shoulders to steady her as she slowly opened her eyes, dizzy and weak-kneed. At
the edge of her field of vision she became aware of Mimi mouthing, “A musical
after all.”

“You’d better not be about to
burst into a song,” Sebastien growled warningly.

“If my clients and I now broke
into a chorus and dance, it would be the perfect ending,” Mimi acknowledged
wistfully. “Now go get a hotel room or something before you scare away my
clientele. We’re not that kind of a store.”

“Not a perfect ending, a perfect
beginning,” Sebastien corrected her. “And getting even better. Kate seems to
have learned when to hold her tongue.” He gazed down at her with mock surprise.

“Just trying to keep from
singing,” she responded, feeling a wide smile start to spread across her face.
“Or dancing.”

“Who said anything against
dancing?” Sebastien asked with a twinkle in his eye. He raised one of her hands
above his shoulder and spun her around. “Let me lead you to my car,” he said,
twirling her toward the door.

Kate followed his lead dreamily as
he guided her with an expert hand at her waist. He’d said he loved everything
about her. Despite everything, Sebastien Pichard loved her. Nothing else
mattered. And yet she found herself asking, as he sashayed her to his Range
Rover and lifted her easily onto the passenger seat, “Are you sure you don’t
resent me for having lied to you? I really hate lying, you have to believe me.”

“I do,” he reassured her, climbing
into the driver’s seat to start the engine. He hesitated with his hand on the
ignition. “I have to confess I wasn’t totally honest with you either.”

“About what?” she asked timidly,
afraid of the response.

“I always had a bit of a soft spot
for romantic comedies myself.”

She grinned with relief. “You
loved the pretty actresses, right?”

He turned to face her. “I loved
the happy endings.”

Kate could barely contain the
happiness swelling up inside her. “So what happens next?”

“I take you home and tear your
clothes off,” he told her gruffly, starting the engine.

Right now that was what Kate
wanted more than anything, and she was willing to miss her flight even for just
one more night with this man. And yet...

“And tomorrow?” she insisted,
wondering what this meant for her next step.

“Tomorrow I’ll rip your clothes
off again,” he answered with a smile. “And every day after that. although you
might run out of clothing. And then you’ll just have to stay naked.”

“Won’t that shock your guests?”
Kate asked with a laugh.

“We won’t have guests every
weekend, cherie,” he replied. “Just most. So you’ll have to start working on
your French. Let’s start with “Je t’aime.””

“Je t’aime,” she
repeated. “Je t’aime, je t’aime, je t’aime.”

“So do I, Kate,” he breathed,
kissing her hand. “Let’s go home.”

 

 

Epilogue

 

“So you actually do like walks,”
Sebastien said with a smile, stroking Kate’s hair as she lay back on the picnic
blanket. “I never could understand why your responses were so awkward every
time I asked you a personal question.”

“I hadn’t quite gotten into
character,” Kate said lazily, squinting her eyes as the clouds broke apart to
let the spring sunshine through. “I wanted to make sure you liked the real me.”

“Ah, so you were out to catch me
from the start,” he teased. He let his hand move down from her hair to the
slight bulge in her belly. “Well, you did a good job of it.”

                They had gone for
a walk in the fields above Verbier. The ski season was over and the lower
slopes were already greening, with purple and white crocuses dotting the
hillsides. The higher peaks were still glittering white with snow and ice, but
the temperatures were warm.

Kate was perfectly happy. Nothing
could possibly make these days any better, she reflected contentedly, placing
her hand on top of Sebastien’s.

“When will I feel her move?” he
asked, cupping his hand protectively over the tiny bump.

“Probably when I start singing to
her,” she answered with a grin.

He nodded sagely. “Of course.
She’ll try to move away.”

Sebastien’s telephone buzzed and
he threw it into the crocuses. Kate opened her eyes in astonishment. “You are
allowed to answer it, you know,” she chided him gently. “I think that’s how it’s
supposed to work on the days when you work from home.”

“You heard my mother. No more
bringing work to the chalet,” he countered her. “And this is the chalet garden,
by extension.” He was silent for a moment, drawing lazy circles around her
navel with his finger. “To think, all it took was a grandchild on the way to
bring the sanctity back to the family chalet. I should have done this years
ago. Thank you, little wee one.”

“It’s Stefan who owes her a vote
of thanks,” Kate yawned. “A bit of good news as positive publicity for the Pichards
and all of his scandals are forgotten and forgiven. He’s certainly jumped back
into his social role with gusto.”

Sebastien rolled his eyes. “Not
hard, with that young French actress wanting to model for us.” He was silent
for a moment before continuing. “You know, the grandchild news isn’t completely
positive for the Pichard image.” He reached in his bag to find something.

“No more chocolate for me, I’m
full,” she said with a groan. “So what’s not positive about a baby?”

“Hold out your hand,” he
commanded, ignoring her question and placing a small box on her palm.

Kate recognised it as the one her
Simply Elegant watch had been in and felt a surge of pleasure. “I thought you
must have found that watch and melted it back down in anger,” she said, raising
herself to a sitting position against him.

She lifted the lid to reveal the
familiar square of blue satin. But nestled in the middle, instead of the silver
watch band, was a simple silver ring with a single embedded diamond.

She opened and closed her mouth a
few times but no sound came. Her wide eyes brimmed with tears as she looked up
at him, overwhelmed. Then it was her turn to throw her arms around his neck and
kiss him with wild abandon.

“Was that a yes?” he finally
asked, cupping her chin in his palm and looking into her eyes.

“Yes, yes, yes,” she gushed,
letting the tears of joy flow freely. She finally had the answer to her
question about the next step. It would be a two-step from here on. And that was
all she needed to know.

Upcoming Titles by Nell Harding

If you enjoyed this book, look for
more light-hearted romantic adventures around the world with the following
books by Nell Harding:

 

One Short Harvest

Alex Larousse and Nadia Fischer are complete
opposites. She is a free-spirited and unconventional young woman looking for
adventure, and he is a traditional, strong and arrogant vineyard owner, used to
getting his way. When she comes to pick grapes on his Burgundian estate, he
asks her to pose as his fiancée with no idea of how this will wreak havoc on
his ordered life, or on his heart. Will they be able to overcome their explosive
animosity or to resist their equally explosive attraction in the space of one
short harvest?

 

Sunsets at Simba Hill

Wildlife biologist Megan Hall thinks that she has
landed her dream job when she is asked to remain in the Serengeti to run a
luxury safari camp, until she discovers that she will be sharing the job with
Jack Hamilton, the dangerously charming rogue who broke her heart two years
ago. When neither will back down from this unique opportunity, the serious
scientist and the irresponsible playboy find themselves battling their
differences and their growing attraction in the heart of Africa.

 

North of Superior

Naomi Miller has just returned to Thunder Bay with
her ten-year old daughter, Cody, to help her ailing grandfather and to make a
fresh start when her life becomes entangled again with the sexy NHL player,
Erik Landsverk. After he becomes Cody’s coach and renews his interest in Naomi,
she learns the price of the secret she has been carrying, because he has no
idea that he is the father of her child.

BOOK: Fire and Ice
7.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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