Christakis's Rebellious Wife(3)

By: Lynne Graham

Footsteps sounded in the corridor outside and Betsy stiffened. The door handle made a slight noise but the door stayed shut and she froze, her heart leaping into her mouth.

‘Let us do the talking,’ her legal representative, Stewart Annersley, reminded her afresh.

He might as easily have said that Betsy was out of her league in such company but she already knew that, could barely credit that she had spent three entire years in Nik’s world of rarefied wealth and yet contrived to remain easily shocked and gullible. What did that say about her? Was she stupid? A poor reader of people and their motivations? She had been distraught when Nik had taken Gizmo from her. The little dog had been her only comfort and even though Nik was by no means a doggy-orientated male, he had still insisted on taking the animal back. Why?

Betsy believed it was because Nik was the ultimate control freak. Evidently, what was his stayed his, unless it was a discarded wife. His most recent attack had been to go after the house that he had never liked but that she loved. Why? Certainly he owned it and he had paid for the restoration, yet he had only bought the property to please her. Or had he? Had he simply seen Lavender Hall as a promising investment? More and more Betsy doubted the assumptions she had once made about what motivated Nik.

Without warning, the door sprang open and framed Nik’s very tall, well-built body. Her heart hammered madly for a split second and then felt as though it had stopped beating altogether because for a long timeless moment she couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak, couldn’t even blink. He radiated raw sexual charisma.

His extraordinarily light eyes glittered like gleaming emeralds in his lean, darkly beautiful face, startlingly noticeable eyes and shockingly astute. A thousand memories threatened to consume her—from the recollection of their disastrous first date to their idyllic honeymoon and the lonely challenge of her life once reality had set in—and she fought them off fiercely. He wasn’t going to do this to her again, she swore with inner vehemence. He wasn’t going to break her nerve again.

She lifted her chin, squared her stiff shoulders and stared back at him while carefully blanking him out because she could not face direct eye contact. Yet in the back of her mind she was still plunged into sudden agony by his presence, wondering how this had happened to them, how the man she had once adored could have become her worst enemy. Where had she gone wrong? What had she done to make him treat her with such hostility and unkindness?

And even while paranoia and self-pity threatened to overwhelm Betsy for a dangerous instant, it was Nik’s voice she heard inside her head. ‘Stop with the persecution complex and the blame game,’ he had once told her. ‘Not everything’s your fault. You’re not being punished for some sin in this world or the next. The bad stuff is simply what life throws at you...’

Nik scanned Betsy with compulsive intensity. Had she shrunk? She had never been very big in either height or size—indeed she barely weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet. Surrounded by her legal posse she was utterly overshadowed. She had definitely lost weight. He wondered if she was eating properly, an old protective instinct kicking in, instantly stamped down on hard and consigned to the back of his mind as inappropriate. It was none of his business any more, equally none of his business that her lawyer, Annersley, was leaning far too close to her, appreciative eyes pinned to Betsy’s delicate profile as if she were a prize up for grabs. And of course, endowed with even a tithe of what Nik was worth, Betsy would be very much a trophy for some scheming male to snatch up in the future.

That idea didn’t bother Nik, no, it didn’t bother him at all, he told himself fiercely, sliding with a degree of unnecessary force into the chair spun out for him by his own team. Naturally there would be other men in Betsy’s future; she was a beauty. His attention skimmed over her pale profile. She had always reminded him of a spun-glass figurine, fragile in every proportion, the sort of woman a man wanted to protect and cherish. And where had that chivalrous attitude, shown only to her, taken him? he asked himself cynically. On the road to the divorce court and a poorer future like a thousand other foolish men. ‘I want a baby,’ she had said, all tearful blue eyes and trembling lips, breaking their premarital agreement, trying to selfishly, wilfully rewrite history... And she hadn’t even noticed that the bottom had fallen out of his world the moment she spoke.

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