Under the Jeweled Sky

Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen

Book: Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alison McQueen
these treasures had been doing the rounds for years, making it a tricky business to see that they never ended up in the same hands twice. Catherine Isherwood had dined out on the story for weeks, Lucien’s smile wearing ever thinner as she entertained her entourage at his expense, as she was prone to do.
    â€œI don’t want to rush into a decision that one of us might regret,” Sophie said.
    â€œWho’s rushing? Aren’t you in love with me? Not even a little bit?”
    Sophie blushed under his huge smile. How could she have doubted it? There was something about him that was irresistible, something beyond his broad-shouldered good looks and charming manner. He had a knack of making you feel like you were the only person in the world that mattered, a way of looking at you just so, his attentiveness noticing every little thing. She couldn’t have asked for more, yet she couldn’t help but wonder why he had chosen her, particularly when he and Catherine had been such an item, a woman from whom she couldn’t have been more different.
    They had all seen her, wafting through the Foreign Office every now and then as though she owned the place, dressed from head to toe in the latest Parisian fashions. Whenever she was in the building, the secretaries would whisper to each other about what she was wearing and how her hair was styled, speaking with envy or admiration, wishing they could be her, the very last word in sophistication. Lucien and Catherine had seemed like the model couple, and that they would end up getting married was practically a foregone conclusion. Everybody said so. Then suddenly it was all off, the news ripping through the secretarial offices like wildfire. They all assumed that he must have made her an offer and been turned down, but that was nothing more than idle speculation. Nobody in their department was senior enough to know what had really gone on.
    â€œOf course I am,” she smiled.
    â€œThen what’s to think about, hmm? You can make an honest man of me at last.”
    â€œOne more thing.” Her smile wavered. She forced herself to look him straight in the eye. “Why me?”
    Lucien felt the intensity of her gaze and was for a moment taken aback. He hesitated, giving himself time to think. It was the same question he had asked himself as he had walked through Kensington Gardens last Sunday morning, cutting across the park on his way to Kendal Street rather than hailing a taxi from his flat on Queen’s Gate as he usually did. The episode with Catherine had taught him a salutary lesson, but there was no use in dwelling on the painful details. If anything, she had done him a favor. Beneath his sense of humiliation, he had known all along that it would have been a disastrous coupling, but God, she was beautiful, and passionate too. He would have been prepared to go a long way for the sake of keeping a woman like that, and had hinted to her plenty of times that he would never let her go.
    It would always elicit a smile from her, lying back on the pillow, smoking a cigarette, watching him with vague amusement as he gazed at her, naked against the sheets. She would joke with him that she had every intention of settling on an aristocrat, an earl at the very least, or an American tycoon with vulgar piles of new money. Lucien never got around to the proposal. It was as though she had sensed it coming before dropping him like a hot brick. He had felt like a fool and had sworn to himself that he would never again find himself in that position. But marry he must, and at least he had been spared the folly of making an imprudent choice.
    Yet marriage had been the very last thing on Lucien’s mind when Sophie Schofield caught his eye while he was still licking his wounds from the breakup. She had been called in to record the minutes of a meeting to do with cotton exports and had sat in the corner of the room, unaware that her dress had ridden up, exposing a pale

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