Diamonds.â She laughed softly. Who else could it possibly belong to?
âCome on up,â he said softly and disappeared inside. A moment later, lights softly gleamed from the interior.
She took a deep, deep breath and slowly made her way up the gang plank.
Sheâd never been on a yacht before in her life.
She stepped into a stateroom that, even to her untutored eyes, was the second word in luxury. Her feet sank down into thick, thick carpet in a gentle shade of mint green, whilst the palest of apricot covered walls panelled in pale oak. Deep dark brown leather sofas littered what looked like an acre of space; smoky glass and chrome tables held magazines, books, and a frightening-looking hi-fi system.
Through an alcove she heard the sound of pots and pans, and slowly walked around. She was sure one of the oil paintings fastened onto the wall was by a famous French impressionist. An antiques drinks cabinet displayed an exquisite decanter and cut glass tumbler set, as well as alcohol of every description. She sank down onto one of the sofas, only to get up and nervously prowl around again a moment later.
What was she doing here?
Doubtless the âQueen of Diamondsâ had a master bedroom somewhere down below. Probably complete with a mirrored ceiling and black satin sheets!
OK, perhaps not, she admitted to herself a moment later. Not when she had evidence of such exquisite taste all around her.
But it would definitely have a bed. A big bed.
And a man like Payne Lacey would almost certainly expect to be using that bed later on. And not alone, either.
Heâd expect some return for all the time heâd lavished on her today, after all. Why, even now, he was neglecting his precious casino in order to wine and dine her. What happened when it came time to pay the piper?
âPan fried sea-bass with a tossed salad all right?â he asked from just behind her, making her jump like a startled cat and shoot around.
âOh, er, yes. Yes. Fine,â she stammered.
He returned to the kitchen, or galley, she supposed it should be called, and a moment later heard the sizzling of fish.
Nervously she pulled open some French doors and found herself out on deck, with the glorious panorama of a sunset over the ocean spread out in front of her in all its glory.
She should be happy.
She was exactly where she wanted to be. Her plan to snare and break Payne Lacey seemed well on track. She was young, about to dine with a rich and handsome suitor on his fabulous yacht, and she had all the delights of the Caribbean right there at her fingertips. So why did she feel so . . . . . . miserable?
Because, she realised a moment later, it was all a sham. The man cooking her dinner was not her lover, but a man she despised. She was not here in pursuit of love, but for cold, meagre revenge.
Her life, suddenly, felt like nothing but a forgery, and her immediate future held nothing in store but a pile of comfortless ashes.
And it was then that it hit her, with all the force of a hammer blow. She was in love with Payne Lacey!
Charmaine clung weakly to the deck rail. In love? Now where had that preposterous notion come from? Of course she wasnât in love. Not with Payne Lacey, the man who wooed, threw over, and nearly killed her sister. She couldnât possibly be in love with him, of all men.
She shook her head, fighting off a giddying sense of panic. She was just . . . overwhelmed. Yes, that was all. After all, that was understandable, she told herself fervently.
As a child sheâd always been shy, and in the shadow of her famous family and her beloved sister. So sheâd sought refuge in her one talent, and through sheer hard work and diligence, had succeeded in the world of fashion design. But although her career had always been as bright and shinning as anyone could have wished for, her social life had been nonexistent. She had, literally, no experience of men. Even her closest male friend