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His Scandalous Mistress: The Master's Mistress / Count Toussaint's Pregnant Mistress / Castellano's Mistress of Revenge

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CHAPTER FIVE

ROGAN was still breathing raggedly as he turned back to face Elizabeth. ‘Well, that was—’

‘Stupid!’ she supplied forcefully, her cheeks flushed and her eyes brightly accusing, her breasts rapidly rising and falling beneath her blouse in her agitation.

His mouth compressed. ‘I was going to say unexpected… ’

This spiky woman—a lecturer in History who catalogued libraries in her spare time, for heaven’s sake!—simply wasn’t his type. Absolutely not.

Except it had aroused Rogan just to be able to pierce through all that prim self-righteousness. To see this obviously controlled woman totally come apart in his arms…

Rogan lived his life as he wanted. As he chose. And where he chose. With no involvements, emotional or otherwise. That had worked for him for the past fifteen years, and he fully intended for it to continue working for him for the foreseeable future.

Even if Elizabeth Brown had succeeded in getting to him, in breaching his guard, in a way Rogan couldn’t remember any other woman ever doing before…

His mouth thinned. ‘You’re right, it was stupid,’ he ac-knowledged harshly. ‘Let’s just forg—’ He broke off as his mobile began to vibrate against his hip. ‘Excuse me.’ He took the mobile off his belt to take the call—no doubt a telephoned answer to one of the e-mails he had just sent.

Elizabeth didn’t know which of them she was most angry with. Herself for having responded to Rogan in the way she had. Or Rogan for the way he had so readily agreed their behaviour had been stupid.

The latter, probably…

‘Tell her I’ll call her when I have the time,’ Rogan said decisively into his mobile, even as he kept his coldly dark gaze fixed steadily on Elizabeth. ‘I don’t give a damn what she wants, Grant; you can tell her I’ll call her when I’m good and ready!’

Her? Don’t give a damn what she wants? I’ll her call when I’m good and ready…

Rogan couldn’t have told Elizabeth any more clearly that there was already a woman in his life. No doubt a woman who also lived in NewYork. A woman who had believed she could trust Rogan to be apart from her for the few days he would be in England without the fear that he would end up with another woman in his arms.

Another woman who had allowed Rogan to kiss and touch her in a way she had never been kissed and touched before!

‘What did I do wrong now?’

Elizabeth had been so full of self-condemnation for her own gullibility that she hadn’t even realised Rogan had ended his call and was now studying her from between narrowed lids. ‘Who said you had done anything wrong?’ She glared at him.

He scowled. ‘Your disgusted expression said it for you.’

Elizabeth scowled at him. ‘I can’t imagine what makes you think that.’

‘Male intuition?’

‘Men don’t have intuition!’ she flashed back.

‘Ah.’ He grimaced. ‘You’re one of those.’

Her eyes widened. ‘I beg your pardon?’

Rogan shrugged. ‘A man-hater.’

Elizabeth felt heat in her cheeks at the taunt. ‘I don’t hate men.’

‘Just me, hmm?’ he said knowingly.

Elizabeth only wished that she did hate this man. But the truth was just being in the same room with Rogan disturbed her more than any other man ever had. As for being kissed by him, touched by him… !

‘Not at all, Rogan,’she denied coolly. ‘But I had no sooner walked in here and found you using my laptop than you began kissing me—which begs the question, how did you get past my personal security code?’ Elizabeth frowned as she suddenly realised access to her computer was supposed to be protected by that code. Supposed to be. It obviously hadn’t been enough to stop Rogan from accessing it.

So much for Rogan’s thinking that kissing Elizabeth might divert her attention away from the fact that he had been using her laptop earlier!

‘You really don’t want to know.’

Her stance became one of stubborn determination. ‘Oh, I really think I do.’

Rogan smiled nastily. ‘I have a doctorate in Computer Analysis, remember.’

Auburn brows rose challengingly.

‘And that allows you to violate another person’s personal laptop any time you feel like it?’

It actually allowed Rogan to access almost any computer system anywhere in the world any time he felt like it!

He grimaced. ‘More or less.’

Elizabeth folded her arms in front of her chest. ‘How much more or less?’

Elizabeth Brown was dogged as well as intelligent, Rogan acknowledged ruefully. ‘Give me a computer, almost any computer, and I guarantee that in a matter of minutes I will have access to all its stored information.’ He gave an unapologetic smile.

‘Isn’t that illegal?’

Rogan’s smile widened into a hard grin. ‘Some might call it that, yes.’

Her mouth thinned. ‘What do you call it?’

‘Useful.’

Elizabeth gave a disgusted shake of her head at the complete lack of apology in his tone. ‘And you don’t see anything wrong in that?’

Rogan made an impatient movement. ‘Why should I, if it gets the job done?’

She became very still. ‘What sort of job could you possibly do that requires that you intrude on information stored on other people’s computers?’

He snorted. ‘If I told you that I might have to kill you afterwards!’

‘Stop teasing me, Rogan.’

‘Who says I’m teasing?’ He quirked dark brows.

‘I do.’ Elizabeth glared at him.

‘I’m not in the habit of explaining myself or my actions to anyone, Elizabeth. And, where I come from, sharing a few kisses with someone doesn’t give them the right to question, or to poke and prod into other parts of that person’s life.’

She drew her breath in sharply. ‘I wasn’t—’

‘Oh, yes, you most certainly were,’ he rasped. ‘And, enjoyable as those kisses were—and probably would be again, given the opportunity—’

‘Which there won’t be!’

‘I think you should know that I don’t do permanent relationships!’ Rogan concluded harshly, as if she hadn’t interrupted.

Elizabeth had never felt so uncomfortable and humiliated in the whole of her life!

Rogan couldn’t have told her any more clearly not to read anything into the kisses they had just shared. As if! Elizabeth was as anxious to forget them as he obviously was.

She gave him a scathing glance. ‘Well, that’s just fine—because neither do I!’

He looked at her speculatively. ‘Does that mean you do casual instead?’

‘It means that where you’re concerned I don’t do any sort of relationship whatsoever! We’re only here together at all because of circumstances.’ And Elizabeth wished now that she hadn’t been goaded into staying on. ‘I suggest that for the rest of your time here we stay well out of each other’s way!’

Rogan gave a terse inclination of his head. ‘I’m glad we got that straightened out.’

‘So am I!’ Elizabeth had never felt quite so much like hitting someone as she did Rogan at that moment.

He gave a slow, taunting smile. ‘Does that mean you won’t be joining me for dinner?’

Dinner? Elizabeth was so angry—with herself as much as Rogan—that she wasn’t sure she would be able to eat anything for the rest of the day!

Her chin rose. ‘I’ll be quite happy to have a tray in my room.’

‘That seems a little unfriendly, don’t you think?’

A frown appeared between her eyes. ‘I thought we had just agreed that neither of us does friendly?’

‘Oh, I do friendly. Just not for ever.’ Rogan regarded her mockingly. ‘Did you eat dinner on a tray in your room when my father was here?’

‘No, of course not.’

‘Then you don’t need to do it now, either,’ he pointed out.

Need? What Elizabeth needed was some time—and space—away from Rogan Sullivan, in which to regain some of her shattered composure. ‘I would like to get on with some work now, if you don’t mind.’ She deliberately turned her back on him.

‘No problem,’ Rogan came back nonchalantly. ‘I’ll see you at dinner.’

Elizabeth continued to stand unmoving in the middle of the library long after she knew Rogan had gone.

Rogan had kissed her, and she had kissed him back. Damn it, she hadn’t just kissed him, she had been hungry for him! Hadn’t been able to get enough of him! To get close enough to him! Still ached with wanting him…

He was everything she had ever fantasised about. Everything she had never thought to encounter in her quite frankly boring academic life, she told herself wryly.

Maybe.

But for her to have totally lost all inhibition with a man she knew nothing about was seriously worrying.

She knew Rogan had kissed her as if he’d wanted to devour her. As if he’d wanted to taste and touch every part of her. As if he’d wanted to bury himself deep inside her and—

She knew nothing positive about the man!

Rogan had arrived in the middle of the night. The only way of contacting him was through a PO Box in New York. He had used her laptop, somehow bypassing the security code, without even bothering to check who it belonged to. He had totally dismissed the need to contact his girlfriend.

Worst of all, he was mysterious about his past, and obviously had no intention of sharing any important details about himself with her.

Elizabeth hadn’t just been stupid when she had responded so wantonly to Rogan, she had behaved totally recklessly. And reckless was something that she never was where a man was concerned. Let alone a man who had so reminded her of her father, with his claim of wanting no permanent ties in his life…

Leonard Brown. Handsome. Charming. Secretive. And totally immoral…

Leonard had been working for industrialist James Britten as one of the man’s senior managers when he had first seen Stella Britten. A tiny red-haired beauty of only twenty-one. Adored by her father, and surrounded by dozens of young men who wished to capture her heart, Stella had barely noticed thirty-year-old Leonard on the occasions when she visited her father at his office.

Then Stella’s father had died unexpectedly, and suddenly Leonard was there, offering comfort, a shoulder to cry on, someone to lean on. Offering to help her deal with everything that needed to be dealt with now that her father was dead. James Britten had left no son to inherit. Only Stella, his beautiful, oh-so-grateful and very quickly so much in love with Leonard and pregnant daughter.

The two had been married within six months of James Britten’s dying, and, although the company had had to remain in Stella’s possession, Leonard had taken over as chairman within three months of their marriage. Something that had suited Leonard perfectly, as he had been able to leave the work to others whilst he wined and dined and travelled abroad ‘on business’.

Over the years Leonard had found a woman, or women, in every foreign city he visited—despite the fact that he’d had a wife and daughter waiting for him at home in London.

A wife who had loved him so much she had been willing to overlook Leonard’s affairs as long as he always came home to her. But as the years had slowly passed she had become more and more disenchanted and bitter over the man who simply couldn’t, or wouldn’t, remain faithful to her. To the extent that Stella had eventually begun drinking whenever Leonard was away from home, in an effort to block out all thought of him with those other women.

Stella had been drinking heavily the night she had driven into a brick wall and been killed instantly…

Eighteen-year-old Elizabeth had stood beside her mother’s newly covered grave only days later, and had watched as her father wept for his dead and disillusioned wife. She had sworn to herself there and then that she would never, ever love someone in the same helpless way that her mother had loved her father.

In the same way Maggie Sullivan had loved her husband?

It was ironic—unbelievable, really—that two people who were as unalike as Elizabeth and Rogan undoubtedly were had both been shaped into the adults they now were by the unhappiness of their parents’ marriages.

Elizabeth: solitary, serious and academic, determined never to fall in love.

Rogan: just as solitary, but wild and untamed—untameable!—and just as determined never to fall in love…

‘Glass of red wine?’ Rogan indicated the glass he held. ‘Elizabeth?’ he prompted with a frown as she made no effort to move away from the doorway of the drawing room.

But for the moment Elizabeth couldn’t move. In fact, she had been rooted to the spot from the moment she had first entered the room and seen Rogan.

A Rogan who looked so handsome this evening he literally took her breath away!

Over the last twenty-four hours she had become accustomed to seeing him in the black clothing and boots he habitually wore, and which somehow seemed to suit the aura of danger that always surrounded him.

Tonight he wore a silk shirt the colour of freshly brewed espresso coffee that hinted at the muscled chest beneath rather than emphasised it, and a pair of expertly tailored trousers in the same dark coffee colour. With his long hair brushed back from that intelligent brow, and those dark, enigmatic eyes, Rogan appeared every bit as threatening, if not more so, as he had in the black clothing he preferred.

‘Elizabeth?’ Rogan pressed again impatiently; what on earth was wrong with the woman?

After her earlier comments concerning the clothes he wore, he had decided to change before dinner. But as the time to eat had drawn nearer, with no sign of Elizabeth, he had been starting to wonder if she was going to join him after all. If he hadn’t frightened her off completely earlier this afternoon after almost taking her on top of his father’s desk!

Only to turn a few seconds ago and see her standing in the doorway. Unmoving, and warily silent. So far in their acquaintance Elizabeth had seemed to have plenty to say about everything. Including himself.

Not that it was any chore to just look at her. Her auburn hair was arranged in its usual perky style, those sooty lashes perfectly framed the deep blue of her eyes, and she had brushed a peach gloss onto the fullness of her lips. In a fitted knee-length sleeveless dress of midnight-blue silk, Elizabeth was certainly easy on the eye.

Who would ever have guessed that, beneath those unflattering cotton pyjamas and the tailored trousers she had worn today, Elizabeth Brown had the most gloriously sexy legs Rogan had ever seen? Lightly tanned, they were slender and shapely, the ankles appearing delicate above the two-inch heels of the strappy dark blue sandals she wore.

Dr Elizabeth Brown wasn’t just beautiful; she was hot!

‘No red wine for me, thank you.’The snappy anger in the deep blue of her eyes as she walked further into the room told Rogan that she had noted his admiring gaze and didn’t appreciate it.

Well, that was just too bad. If she didn’t want anyone to look—didn’t want Rogan to look—then she should have stayed in the safe businesslike black trousers and blouse!

Rogan looked amused. ‘Is that because you would prefer white wine, or would you like something else instead?’

‘No, thank you. I don’t drink alcohol,’ Elizabeth answered abruptly as she sat down in one of the armchairs. ‘At all,’ she added, just so that there should be no more confusion.

‘Good for you,’ he drawled, before moving to sit in the armchair opposite hers, that dark gaze narrow and enigmatic. ‘Do you smoke?’

‘No.’

‘Take drugs?’

Her mouth thinned in distaste. ‘Certainly not!’

‘Sleep with married men?’

Her gaze narrowed impatiently. ‘Rogan—’

‘Just kidding!’ He grinned, even as he held up his hand in apology. ‘So, you’re a woman without vices… ’

It was a statement rather than a question, and Elizabeth didn’t bother to answer. How could she when this afternoon she had literally melted in this man’s arms?

‘How about you, Rogan? Obviously you drink alcohol.’

‘In moderation,’ he put in softly, and he raised his glass in a silent toast to her before taking a sip of the ruby-red wine.

‘Smoke?’

‘Not for years.’

‘Take drugs?’

‘Never,’ he answered, as flatly as she had earlier.

Elizabeth raised auburn brows. ‘Sleep with married women?’

‘Again, never,’ he stated.

Her mouth twisted humourlessly. ‘How about unmarried women?’

‘I’m thirty-three years old, Elizabeth; what do you think?’ he taunted with a hard grin.

Elizabeth thought she should never have joined in this ridiculous conversation! ‘I think, as you pointed out earlier—’ oh-so-succinctly! ‘—that it’s none of my business!’

Rogan’s grin widened, his teeth very white and even against that bronzed skin. ‘My guess is you didn’t mean to ask that last question.’

No, she hadn’t. Of course Rogan Sullivan slept with unmarried women—although ‘slept with’ was probably a complete misnomer for what he did when he was in bed with a woman!

Elizabeth wasn’t happy about the way his dark gaze followed the movement as she nervously crossed one bare knee over the other…

She instantly uncrossed them. ‘Perhaps we should go through to dinner?’

‘You seem a little… tense this evening, Elizabeth?’ He met her gaze with steady intensity.

Her eyes widened. ‘I’m not in the least tense.’

‘No?’

‘No!’ Elizabeth denied vehemently, knowing that her tone, and the way she stood up so suddenly, instantly gave the lie to her claim.

What was it about this man that made her so uncomfortable? So on edge? So totally removed from her normally composed and efficient self? Whatever it was, she had better put a stop to it.

‘I believe it’s time we went in to dinner,’ she reminded him again, more evenly this time.

‘Fine,’ he agreed lightly, and he rose smoothly to his feet beside her.

Instantly making Elizabeth’s already raw and sensitive nerve-endings thrum!

She didn’t drink alcohol, or smoke, or sleep with men—married or otherwise—but just being in the same room with Rogan made her dearly wish she did the latter, at least. Every time she was anywhere near this man she felt the urge to rip the clothes from his body and have her way with him. Her very wicked way with him!

Rogan watched the emotions flicker across Elizabeth’s flushed and expressive face as she looked at him: tension, then desire, quickly followed by dismay. ‘I’d give a thousand dollars to know what your thoughts were just now,’ he murmured throatily.

Her eyes widened in alarm before she quickly looked away. ‘You would be wasting your money.’

‘It’s my money to waste.’

She shrugged. ‘I was only thinking of the books I intend cataloguing tomorrow.’

Rogan gave a casual glance down at Elizabeth’s left hand, knowing by the way it was clenched that she wasn’t telling the truth. Knowing by the way she instantly unclenched her hand that she knew he knew it too!

‘Having a giveaway is annoying, isn’t it?’ he murmured conversationally.

Her chin rose determinedly. ‘I have no idea what you mean.’

‘Sure you don’t… ’ he drawled.

‘I believe you now owe me a thousand dollars… ’

He gave a rueful shake of his head. ‘We both know you just lied and I don’t owe you a damn thing.’Rogan stood back to allow her to precede him out of the room, his politeness owing as much to the fact that he wanted to continue admiring her legs and the gentle sway of her hips as she walked in front of him to the dining room as it did to good manners.

They certainly hadn’t had lecturers like Elizabeth Brown when he’d worked on getting his degree!

‘When did you say you intended returning to the States?’ Elizabeth asked Rogan coolly, once Mrs Baines had left the room after serving the first course of smoked salmon.

The two of them were once again seated at the small family dining table. The evening sun shining in through the huge bay window made the lighting of the candles on the table unnecessary. Thank goodness! Candlelight would have made it appear too much like a romantic dinner for two…

Something this most certainly wasn’t!

Elizabeth didn’t fool herself for a moment, and knew that ordinarily Rogan wouldn’t have even noticed a woman like her. She felt sure that his usual taste in women ran to something a little more exotic than a university lecturer who, at the age of twenty-eight, neither drank, smoked, nor slept around.

In fact, the phrase ‘beggars can’t be choosers’came to mind!

Rogan scowled darkly. ‘I don’t remember saying when I was leaving.’

She frowned slightly. ‘I had assumed that you would only be staying until after your father’s funeral?’

‘Never heard the one about assumption being the mother of all cock-ups?’ he asked.

She gave an inclination of her head. ‘As necessity is the mother of invention?’

‘Something like that.’ Rogan grimaced. ‘I suppose I’ll have to stay until after my father’s funeral,’he accepted tightly.

‘I would have thought so, yes.’ Elizabeth frowned at his obvious reluctance.

‘I’m many things, Elizabeth, but I’ve never thought a hypocrite was one of them.’ His mouth twisted with distaste.

‘Even so… ’

‘Even so… ’ he conceded dryly. ‘No doubt you’re a dutiful daughter and visit your own parents once a week? Probably for Sunday lunch?’

Elizabeth didn’t know what to say in answer to that. What could she say when she hadn’t so much as seen her own father since the argument that had followed the reading of her mother’s will ten years ago?

‘No doubt,’ she answered stiltedly.

Rogan’s gaze became piercing as he heard the lack of conviction in Elizabeth’s tone. ‘Or perhaps dinner on a Friday evening?’

‘Perhaps.’

Rogan was certain of the hollowness to her tone that time… ‘Or perhaps, like me, you prefer to stay the hell away from them?’

Warm colour crept up into the pallor of her cheeks. ‘I don’t believe this conversation was about me—’

‘Sure it was.’ Rogan gave up all pretence of eating the smoked salmon and sat back in his chair to study her through narrowed lids. ‘We can do this the hard way or the easy way, Elizabeth. Your choice.’

‘I don’t think—’

‘Okay, the hard way.’ He shrugged. ‘Are both your parents still alive?’

Her jaw hardened. ‘No.’

‘Both dead?’

‘No.’

‘Mother dead?’

‘Yes.’

‘Father?’

A nerve pulsed in that clenched jaw. ‘Rogan—’

‘Don’t like to talk about yourself much, do you?’ he jeered. ‘Just humour me, hmm, Elizabeth,’ he murmured.

She gave a deep sigh. ‘My father is still very much alive.’

‘And?’

She scowled. ‘And nothing.’

Rogan gave a slow, taunting smile. ‘Admit it, Elizabeth—you don’t like the louse any more than I liked my own father!’

She winced. ‘It isn’t a question of liking or disliking. My father and I lead completely different lives. He—he remarried not long after my mother died, ten years ago.’

And that must have hurt, Rogan guessed easily. ‘Wicked stepmother?’

‘I wouldn’t know; I’ve never met her,’ Elizabeth answered coolly.

‘How about your father? Do you still see him?’

‘We exchange Christmas cards. And he has my mobile number in case of emergencies,’ Elizabeth admitted tightly.

‘And?’

Her mouth twisted humourlessly. ‘So far there haven’t been any.’

Rogan sensed the same anger that he felt towards his own father burning deep down inside her. ‘It would seem that we have more in common than we originally thought, Elizabeth… ’ he muttered.

On the surface Rogan knew that he and Elizabeth were nothing alike. But nevertheless he would guess that the two of them had both been shaped by their childhoods: the pre-mature death of an adored mother, and a fractured love/hate relationship with the father that remained.

Deep down, where it really mattered, he and Elizabeth were more alike than Rogan liked.

Or wanted them to be…

.

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