His Desert Bride By Demand - Page 2


CHARLOTTE HEGARTYOPENEDher palm and released the damp earth. Thud by thud it fell onto her father’s coffin, deep brown against a beech veneer, and she felt...nothing. Numb. Completely empty.

Her flimsy ballet flats sank into the mossy ground as she turned her back on the grave and on the empty scene behind her. Empty all but for her and the vicar.

No one had bothered to show up. Not even his drinking buddies. Friends who were only ever there when the drinks were flowing... She took another step, and another, hating the feel of her too-thin blazer and the starched white shirt chafing against her skin. But she kept moving. Away from the past, from the hopes and dreams she’d laid at his feet. Time after time he’d squashed them, choosing the bottle over her. And in the end the bottle had won. It had taken him and any hope that one day he would turn around and see her.

His daughter.

The wake loomed in her mind, as big and dark as the large black ornate gates coming into view. She still hoped someone would remember him. Grieve for him. But there was no free bar at the wake. Only memories. Only pain. Only regrets. His friends didn’t do real, did they? They didn’t want to see the real-world consequences of their lifestyle.

She’d remember him for them.

Her last act as a dutiful daughter. She’d walk to the pub across the road, where she’d been given the back room for free, and pretend to eat the little triangle sandwiches filled with fish paste and cucumber. And then it would be over.

On heavy feet, she closed in on the wooden double doors in desperate need of paint, and opened them with unnecessary force.

She froze. Every atom of her being was suspended as her heart stopped pumping blood to her vital organs.

She’d conjured a ghost.

‘Akeem?’His name left her gaping mouth before she’d processed...him. She took a step forward. ‘You’re here—it’s you.’

‘Here and in the flesh, Charlotte,’ he confirmed, lazing back against the bar.

Her eyes locked on his mouth, to those full brown lips making each syllable of her name sound wrong. Just the way he’d made her feel nine years ago, when he’d reminded her of exactly who she was. Charlotte Hegarty, unworthy of unconditional love. The daughter of an alcoholic, living in the roughest end of London, surviving a poverty-stricken life and barely functioning as a normal sixteen-year-old should...

Bitterness swept through her and it made her ache. Deep in her core.

Her name shouldn’t be in his mouth or in his mind.

He shouldn’t be here.

But he was.

She unfurled herself, squaring her shoulders, and locked her gaze on his. How appropriate, on the day when there was nothing left to fight for but herself, that he’d show up.

‘Why are you here?’

She asked the question she’d spent countless nights rehearsing this very scene with him. But in her solo rehearsals she’d been the definition of cool indifference as he’d begged her forgiveness. The forgiveness she was going to pretend there was no need for and send him on his way.

But she’d never expected itto actually happen—and definitely not today.

Akeem shrugged, one broad, black-sheathed shoulder dipping to expose the pure breadth and size of him. ‘To offer my condolences.’

Indignant rage curled her toes. ‘Still telling lies, Akeem?’ she accused, before the words had time to linger in her mouth. He’d lied his way into her bed and then left her behind without so much as a note.

His movements effortless, he pushed free from the age-stained bar. He was six feet plus of sheer male presence, closing in on her, and he was daring to smile. Full, gleaming white teeth in a sea of a short-cropped black beard.

‘I never lied to you.’

The memory was vivid—visceral. It pulled her gaze back to his mouth, and to the last lie he’d spoken to her while climbing out of her bedroom window. He’d pressed a kiss to her swollen lips before sliding down to the porch roof with promises of tomorrow and for ever.

That lie had hurt the most.

‘Whatever helps you sleep at night,’ she countered, marvelling at the levelness of her tone.

‘Sleep is for the dead.’

His long, lithe legs crossed the wooden floor and she couldn’t breathe. His hair was thick and pushed to the side, as though he’d recently dragged his fingers through it.

He was breathtaking.

‘I’m very much alive, and I never sleep.’ He stopped, statue-still, in front of her.

Heat bloomed in her cheeks, down her throat, to spread out over her chest and deeper—lower. Her body recognised him before she could tell it not to. And she didn’t like it. Not one bit. Because it was terrifying. This effect he had on her by simply being in the same airspace, stealing the air she needed to survive when he simply inhaled it.

Tags: Lela May Wight Billionaire Romance
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