His Last Gamble

His Last Gamble by Maxine Barry Page A

Book: His Last Gamble by Maxine Barry Read Free Book Online
Authors: Maxine Barry
was gay.
    So when a man like Payne Lacey suddenly began to court her, of course she was bowled over. She wouldn’t be human otherwise. He was rich, sexy, handsome, exciting. All the things that were supposed to turn a girl’s head.
    But not her heart! There was nothing about the man that touched her heart—there couldn’t be. He was callous, uncaring, and probably didn’t even believe that such a thing as love actually existed. In his world, women were for wooing and bedding then dumping, ready for the next one.
    She thought of his nephew and his defence of some unknown friend’s wife and sighed. OK, so the man wasn’t a total monster. No human being was. But that didn’t mean she’d lost her heart to him. It didn’t!
    She watched the sun go down, the stars come out, and the dark exotic night darken around her. From the shore, the perfume of night-blooming flowers scented the sea breeze.
    Perhaps she was just in love with this place, and with this moment in time. But not with the man. She couldn’t be in love with the man. She wouldn’t let herself be. It was just too . . . unthinkable.
    â€˜Dinner’s ready,’ he said softly, cutting across her agonised thoughts and making her whirl around with a small gasp. She had no idea how she looked in that moment, all barelegged and defensive, eyes widened in alarm and lips softly parted.
    For a second, his eyes seemed to glow as soft as a wisp of wood smoke. But surely that was an optical illusion she told herself unsteadily. There was nothing soft in this man’s make-up!
    And then he stepped aside, and she forced herself forward, back into the yacht’s interior. She must act naturally. It was time she stopped being such a rabbit, she admonished herself, and show some backbone.
    He led her silently to the galley—which had its own dining room off to one side. As a centrepiece it had a small, round dark oak table and matching chairs. Pure white candles, held in intricate silver candlesticks were placed either side of two perfectly laid out table settings. A silver ice bucket contained an opened bottle of wine.
    He pulled out the chair nearest to her, and she sank down gratefully, her heart fluttering in her breast.
    The flicker of the candle glow cast her face into light and shadow, and rendered her silvery gold hair almost magical. When he reached out to pour the wine, his hand was not quite steady. He brought a huge wooden salad bowl to the table, then deftly slipped two perfectly fried pieces of fish onto the plates.
    It looked and smelt wonderful, but Charmaine doubted her ability to force down a single bite.
    â€˜Is everything all right?’ Payne said, sitting opposite her and opening out his napkin. The natural guttering of the candles were doing wonderful things to his dark gold hair and deeply bronzed skin, and she was almost sure she could feel the male strength oozing out of him with his every movement. She supposed working so hard in the gardens every day kept him super fit.
    She wondered what it would feel like to slip her hand under his shirt and explore the washboard hardness of his abdomen and the flat, silken muscles in his chest and biceps. What must it be like to touch a man that way?
    She reached for her glass of wine and took a shaky sip. ‘Of course, everything’s fine. Just perfect,’ she said, with a smile that felt as false as her words.
    And suddenly, and for the first time, it occurred her to what a mean thing she was planning to do. Lucy had got her heart broken by this man, and in spite of her denials to the contrary, she knew that her sister’s ‘accident’ with her sleeping pills had been the result of despair, caused by this man’s heartlessness. But now that she’d actually met and had seen for herself his careless attitude to life, the insane risks he took, and the way his gambler’s, playboy mind seemed to work, she would have bet her last

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