Proud Revenge, Passionate Wedlock

By: Janette Kenny

She looked away and hugged her middle that pulsed with a hollow ache. The trepidation of returning to the hacienda unnerved her.

Something dreadful had happened there, for the apprehension dancing over her skin was real. But what? That memory was lost in the black void, and willing it to become clear in her mind only left her with a dull headache.

“Fine,” she said, capitulating without argument. “I will visit the hacienda and Cristobel’s grave, then return here.”

“No.” The single word cracked with finality, defying argument.

Her gaze shifted to Miguel standing tall and imposing in the sala. For the first time she noted the changes in him. He’d put on more muscle in his shoulders and torso, making him look formidable. Dangerous even.

He was not a man to be crossed.

Yet she didn’t fear him.

No, there was a mystique in his dark eyes that drew her. But though she’d fallen into his arms before, she’d not make that mistake again.

Never again would she allow herself to be shut out of her husband’s life. She certainly wouldn’t push her heart out there to be trampled again.

“You can’t order me about,” she said.

He inclined his head in arrogant agreement. “I would not attempt to, but if you wish to have an uncontested divorce, you will agree to my proposal.”

The dread in her stomach quivered and knotted, for his threat was clear—agree with him or spend years litigating her divorce. She didn’t have the funds for that and he knew it.

Still, she wasn’t about to capitulate immediately. “I can’t imagine why you’d wish to draw this out.”

His flash of teeth warned her she’d not like his answer. “Let’s call it equitable compensation for the fortune in jewelry you stole.”

She blinked, certain she hadn’t heard him right. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Of course you would deny it.” He prowled the room with lazy insouciance, though his glittering eyes continued to skewer her to the spot. “I will admit this was partly my fault, for I gave you the combination to the safe. I trusted you.”

The accusation she’d stolen anything from him fired her anger. Though the memory of the hours surrounding the accident remained a blur, she knew she’d not availed herself of anything stored in the safe before she’d left the hacienda.

She felt certain that wherever she was going hadn’t warranted her wearing a fortune in jewelry. “All that I took with me that day were my wedding rings.”

He stared at her bare left hand. “Did you hock those as well?”

“I didn’t pawn any jewelry,” she said, hurt and angry that he continued to believe the worst in her.

“You still have them then?”

“I told you all I had with me were my wedding rings.”

He loosed a raw laugh. “Which you no longer wear.”

She stared at the stubborn man she’d lost her heart to and weighed her actions. Really, there was no choice.

“In this, I take delight in proving you wrong,” she said.

Allegra pulled on the gold chain hidden under her blouse until the diamond and emerald engagement ring and gold wedding band that had been created for her dangled free. “I lost a good deal of weight and feared I’d lose these.”

His long, lean fingers closed over the rings that were warmed from nestling between her breasts. A quicksilver glint of longing lit his dark eyes then vanished under his shrewd scrutiny.

“You expect me to believe you wear these all the time?”

“I couldn’t care less what you believe!” She gave the chain a tug, and he released the rings as if they burned him. “Perhaps it was silly of me to continue wearing the tokens of your troth when it is clear you no longer wanted me.”

“I never said I didn’t want you, querida.” A slow rapacious smile curved the lips that had once ravished every inch of her body, and despite her annoyance with Miguel a tingling heat skittered over her body.

“Enough arguing,” she said. “Our prenuptial agreement details my settlement. I’ve no desire to contest it.”

“It would be a waste of time and money to do so.”

A fact she was well aware of. “Fine,” she said again when she felt anything but fine. “What is your proposal?”

“I want you.”

Those three words sucked the breath from her. Surely he couldn’t mean it like that. But as the seconds pounded by and he failed to explain, she suspected this was indeed intended to be a sexual connotation.

“Want me how?” she asked anyway in case her foggy mind was imagining things.

And right now her imagination was running horribly wild. Just the idea of falling into his strong arms again was a temptation she found difficult to reject.

The carnal glint in his eyes threatened to melt her remaining resolve. “As my wife. My lover.”

His words flowed through her veins in a thick, warm rush of need. She should be offended he’d suggest such a thing—at the very least she should be angry he’d demote her to the role of mistress.

But the idea hummed through her senses and made her feel more alive than she had in months. For the life of her, she couldn’t think of a solid argument to throw out there.