One Night With the EnemyBy: Abby Green
Nic was tense as he stood in the open-air courtyard in the middle of his hacienda-style home. His focus was on the imposing entrance doorway, which was still admitting a long line of glittering guests who had travelled from all over the world for this wine-tasting.
Hundreds of candles flickered in huge lanterns, waiters dressed immaculately in black and white moved among the guests offering wine and canapés. But all Nic could think was … would Maddie come? And why had he asked her, really?
Nic told himself it was because he wanted her gone. His belly clenched in rejection of that—it went much deeper. And he knew it. Really what he’d wanted since eight years ago, since he’d had that electric glimpse of her in a club in London, was to see her broken and contrite. To see that pale perfection undone.
MADDIE Vasquez stood in the shadows like a fugitive. Just yards away the plushest hotel in Mendoza rose in all its majestic colonial glory to face the imposing Plaza Indepencia. She reassured herself that she wasn’t actually a fugitive. She was just collecting herself … She could see the calibre of the crowd going into the foyer: monied and exclusive. The elite of Mendoza society.
The evening was melting into night and lights twinkled in bushes and trees nearby, lending the scene a fairy-tale air. Maddie’s soft mouth firmed and she tried to quell her staccato heartbeat. It had been a long time since she’d believed in fairy tales—if ever. She’d never harboured illusions about the dreamier side of life. A mother who saw you only as an accessory to be dressed up and paraded like a doll and a father who resented you for not being the son he’d lost would do that to a child.
Maddie shook her head, as if that could shake free the sudden melancholy assailing her, and at the same time her eye was caught by the almost silent arrival of a low-slung silver vehicle at the bottom of the main steps leading up to the hotel. Instinctively she drew back more. The car was clearly vintage and astronomically expensive. Her mouth dried and her palms grew sweaty—would it be …? The door was opened by a uniformed hotel doorman and a tall shape uncurled from the driving seat.
It was him.
Her heart stopped beating for a long moment.
Nicolás Cristobal de Rojas. The most successful vintner in Mendoza—and probably all of Argentina by now. Not to mention his expansion into French Bordeaux country, which ensured he had two vintages a year. In the notoriously fickle world of winemaking the de Rojas estate profits had tripled and quadrupled in recent years, and success oozed from every inch of his six-foot-four, broad-shouldered frame.
He was dressed in a black tuxedo, and Maddie could see his gorgeous yet stern and arrogant features as he cast a bored-looking glance around him. It skipped over where she was hiding like a thief, and when he looked away her heart stuttered back to life.
She dragged in a breath. She’d forgotten how startling his blue eyes were. He looked leaner. Darker. Sexier. His distinctive dark blond hair had always made it easy to mark him out from the crowd—not that his sheer charisma and good looks wouldn’t have marked him out anyway. He’d always been more than his looks … he’d always carried a tangible aura of power and sexual energy.
Another flash of movement made her drag her eyes away, and she saw a tall blonde beauty emerging from the other side of the car, helped by the conscientious doorman. As Maddie watched, the woman walked around to his side, her long fall of blonde hair shining almost as much as the floor-length silver lamé dress which outlined every slim curve of her body with a loving touch.
The woman linked her arm through his. Maddie couldn’t see the look they shared, but from the smile on the woman’s face she didn’t doubt it was hot. A sudden shaft of physical pain lanced her and Maddie put a hand to her belly in reaction. No, she begged mentally. She didn’t want him to affect her like this. She didn’t want him to affect her at all.
She’d wasted long teenage years dreaming about him, lusting after him, building daydreams around him. And that foolish dreaming had culminated in catastrophe and a fresh deepening of the generations-old hostility between their families. It had caused the rift to end all rifts. It had broken her own family apart. She’d realised all of her most fervent fantasies—but had also been thrown into a nightmare of horrific revelations.