Bride for RealBy: Lynne Graham
BRILLIANT dark eyes grim, Sander studied the photo of his wife, small and sexy in a scarlet evening gown and wrapped in another man’s arms.
He was disturbed to appreciate that he was in shock. The white heat of the rage that followed made him lightheaded and scoured him inside like a cleansing flame, leaving him feeling curiously hollow. Robert Miller, well, that wasn’t a surprise, was it? Sander had noted at the Westgrave Manor party two years earlier that Miller had wanted Tally the minute he’d laid eyes on her. Just as Sander had, once. But in spite of his simmering fury, Sander pushed the newspaper away with a careless hand and glanced at his watching father to say lightly like a practised card player hiding his hand, ‘So?’
‘When will you be fully free of her?’ Petros Volakis demanded sourly, as if an estranged wife, whose new single life was being fully documented by the media, was an embarrassment to the family name.
‘I’m free now,’ Sander pointed out with a shrug, for although divorce proceedings still had a way to go, an official separation was already in place.
As his attention roamed involuntarily back to the newspaper lying close by he questioned the strength of his reaction to seeing Tally with someone else. They were getting a divorce. It should be no surprise that she was back on the social circuit. But, like a man forced to stand still while hot pitch was slowly dripped onto his skin, Sander was in torment. Why? Prior to their breakup Tally had brandished her indifference to Sander like a banner and he had assumed that no man could breach her barriers. The idea that another man might have succeeded where he had failed outraged and challenged him. ‘I don’t see you featuring in the gossip columns the way you did before you married,’ the older man remarked with more insight than Sander usually ascribed to him.
‘I’ve grown up,’ Sander countered drily. ‘I’m also more discreet.’
‘She was a mistake but we’ll say no more about it,’ Petros commented, noting the hardening of his son’s stubborn jaw line with a wary eye.
His lean, darkly handsome face uninformative, Sander had nothing to say, at least nothing worth saying. He marvelled that his parents, who had not even offered him sympathy on the death of his firstborn son, could think that any aspect of his marriage could be their business. But then, relations had long been chilly between Sander and his mother and father. His elder brother, Titos, the family favourite, had died in a tragic accident and, although it was only thanks to Sander that Volakis Shipping had since recovered from his brother’s disastrous management, Sander was still being made to feel a very poor second-best in the son stakes. And now, all of a sudden, he was disturbingly conscious that his meteoric triumphs in business were in stark contrast to a frankly abysmal rating in his private life
Tally, in contrast, had moved on from their marriage at startling speed and was evidently enjoying considerable success: new business, new home, new man. That knowledge infuriated Sander, who remembered a much more innocent Tally, a glowing girl who had once been too excited to breathe when he’d kissed her. He could not stand to think of her in bed with Robert Miller, and the awareness shocked him because he had never seen himself as a possessive man …
‘WHEN will your divorce from Volakis be final?’ Robert Miller asked casually.
Suspecting that his question was anything but casual, Tally stiffened. Her bright green eyes wary, she averted her head, light glancing over the smooth coil of hair at the nape of her neck and picking out its natural streaks of brighter orange as she leafed through a fabric sample book. ‘In a couple of months …’
‘It feels like it’s been going on for ever,’ Robert complained, his impatience with the situation unconcealed. ‘I’m getting tired of the fact that everyone assumes we’re only friends—’
‘We are friends and you’re my business partner,’ Tally responded lightly, knowing that he wanted more but not at all sure, even yet, that she would ever be able to give it to him.
It was only a year since Sander, the loss of their child and the sad debris of their failed marriage had broken Tally’s heart into tiny shattered pieces. The last thing she wanted in her life was the stress of a man with expectations she couldn’t fulfil. It was fun to meet Robert for casual dinner dates and occasionally accompany him to more formal events but she wasn’t ready for a full-on relationship at present. She valued his friendship and his business guidance and support, but she had yet to feel any desire to take matters to a more intimate level. Sander, she reflected painfully, seemed to have killed those feelings stone dead.