Mills & Boon, Sneak Peeks

Read a M&B extract: Miss Prim’s Greek Island Fling by Michelle Douglas


Read a M&B extract: Miss Prim’s Greek Island Fling by Michelle Douglas

by Michelle Douglas

An idyllic island retreat…with her Mr. Wrong!

After a devastating betrayal, Audra Russel escapes to her brother’s Greek island to lick her wounds. Only she soon finds her brother’s best friend, Finn Sullivan, is holidaying there too! He may be recovering from a near-fatal accident but the irresistible daredevil is intent on showing buttoned-up Audra how to have a good time – and now that she’s started, she doesn’t ever want to stop!

Miss Prim's Greek Island Fling


IT WAS THE sound of shattering glass that woke her.
Audra shot bolt upright in bed, heart pounding, praying that the sound had been a part of one of her frequent nightmares, but knowing deep down in her bones—in all the places where she knew such things were real—that it wasn’t.
A thump followed. Something heavy being dropped to the floor. And then a low, jeering voice. The sound of cupboard doors opening and closing.
She’d locked all the doors and windows downstairs! She’d been hyper-vigilant about such things ever since she’d arrived two days ago. She glanced at her bedroom window, at the curtain moving slowly on a draught of warm night air, and called herself a fool for leaving it open. Anyone could have climbed up onto the first-floor balcony and gained entry.
Slipping out of bed, she grabbed her phone and held it pressed hard against her chest as she crept out into the hallway. As the only person in residence in Rupert’s Greek villa, she’d seen no reason to close her bedroom door, which at least meant she didn’t have to contend with the sound of it creaking open now.
She’d chosen the bedroom at the top of the stairs and from this vantage point she could see a shadow bounce in and out of view from the downstairs living room. She heard Rupert’s liquor cabinet being opened and the sound of a glass bottle being set down. Thieves were stealing her brother’s much-loved single malt whisky?
Someone downstairs muttered something in… French?
She didn’t catch what was said.
Someone answered back in Greek.
She strained her ears, but could catch no other words. So…there were two of them? She refused to contemplate what would happen if they found her here—a lone woman. Swallowing down a hard knot of fear, she made her way silently down the hallway, away from the stairs, to the farthest room along—the master bedroom. The door made the softest of snicks as she eased it closed. In the moonlight she made out the walk-in wardrobe on the other side of the room and headed straight for it, closing that door behind her, fighting to breathe through the panic that weighed her chest down.
She dialled the emergency number. ‘Please help me,’ she whispered in Greek. ‘Please. There are intruders in my house.’ She gave her name. She gave the address. The operator promised that someone was on the way and would be there in minutes. She spoke in reassuringly calm tones. She asked Audra where in the house she was, and if there was anywhere she could hide. She told Audra to stay on the line and that helped too.
‘I’m hiding in the walk-in wardrobe in the master bedroom.’ And that was when it hit her. She was all but locked in a closet. Again. It made no difference that this time she’d locked herself in. Panic clawed at her throat as she recalled the suffocating darkness and the way her body had started to cramp after hours spent confined in her tiny hall closet. When Thomas had not only locked her in, but had left and she hadn’t known if he would ever return to let her out again. And if he didn’t return, how long would it take for anyone to find her? How long before someone raised the alarm? She’d spent hours in a terrified limbo—after screaming herself hoarse for help—where she’d had to fight for every breath. ‘I can’t stay here.’
‘The police are almost there,’ the operator assured her.
She closed her eyes. This wasn’t her horridly cramped hall closet, but a spacious walk-in robe. It didn’t smell of damp leather and fuggy cold. This smelled of…the sea. And she could stretch out her full length and not touch the other wall if she wanted to. Anger, cold and comforting, streaked through her then. Her eyes flew open. She would not be a victim again. Oh, she wasn’t going to march downstairs and confront those two villains ransacking her brother’s house, but she wasn’t going to stay here, a cornered quaking mess either.
Her free hand clenched to a fist. Think! If she were a thief, what would she steal?
Electrical equipment—televisions, stereos and computers. Which were all downstairs. She grimaced. Except for the television on the wall in the master bedroom.
She’d bet they’d look for jewellery too. And where was the most likely place to find that? The master bedroom.
She needed to find a better hiding place—one that had an escape route if needed.
And she needed a weapon. Just in case. She didn’t rate her chances against two burly men, but she could leave some bruises if they did try to attack her. She reminded herself that the police would be here soon.
For the first time since arriving in this island idyll, Audra cursed the isolation of Rupert’s villa. It was the last property on a peninsula surrounded by azure seas. The glorious sea views, the scent of the ocean and gardens, the sound of lapping water combined with the humming of bees and the chattering of the birds had started to ease the burning in her soul. No media, no one hassling her for an interview, no flashing cameras whenever she strode outside her front door. The privacy had seemed like a godsend.
Until now.
Using the torch app on her phone, she scanned the wardrobe for something she could use to defend herself. Her fingers closed about a lacrosse stick. It must’ve been years since Rupert had played, and she had no idea what he was still doing with a stick now, but at the moment she didn’t care.
Cracking open the wardrobe door, she listened for a full minute before edging across the room to the glass sliding door of the balcony. She winced at the click that seemed to echo throughout the room with a come-and-find-me din when she unlocked it, but thanked Rupert’s maintenance man when it slid open on its tracks as silent as the moon. She paused and listened again for another full minute before easing outside and closing the door behind her. Hugging the shadows of the wall, she moved to the end of the balcony and inserted herself between two giant pot plants. The only way anyone would see her was if they came right out onto the balcony and moved in this direction. She gripped the lacrosse stick so tightly her fingers started to ache.
She closed her eyes and tried to get her breathing under control. The thieves would have no reason to come out onto the balcony. There was nothing to steal out here. And she doubted they’d be interested in admiring the view, regardless of how spectacular it might be. The tight band around her chest eased a fraction.
The flashing lights from the police car that tore into the driveway a moment later eased the tightness even further. She counted as four armed men piled out of the vehicle and headed straight inside. She heard shouts downstairs.
But still she didn’t move.
After a moment she lifted the phone to her ear. ‘Is it…is it safe to come out yet?’ she whispered.
‘One of the men has been apprehended. The officers are searching for the second man.’ There was a pause. ‘The man they have in custody claims he’s on his own.’
She’d definitely heard French and Greek.
‘He also says he’s known to your brother.’
‘Known?’ She choked back a snort. ‘I can assure you that my brother doesn’t associate with people who break into houses.’
‘He says his name is Finn Sullivan.’
Audra closed her eyes. Scrap that. Her brother knew one person who broke into houses, and his name was Finn Sullivan.
* * *

Finn swore in French, and then in Greek for good measure, when he knocked the crystal tumbler from the bench to the kitchen tiles below, making a God-awful racket that reverberated through his head. It served him right for not switching on a light, but he knew Rupert’s house as well as he knew his own, and he’d wanted to try to keep the headache stretching behind his eyes from building into a full-blown migraine.
Blowing out a breath, he dropped his rucksack to the floor and, muttering first in French and then in Greek, clicked on a light and retrieved the dustpan and brush to clean up the mess. For pity’s sake. Not only hadn’t Rupert’s last house guest washed, dried and put away the tumbler—leaving it for him to break—but they hadn’t taken out the garbage either! Whenever he stayed, Finn always made sure to leave the place exactly as he found it—spotlessly clean and tidy. He hated to think of his friend being taken advantage of.
Helping himself to a glass of Rupert’s excellent whisky, Finn lowered himself into an armchair in the living room, more winded than he cared to admit. The cast had come off his arm yesterday and it ached like the blazes now. As did his entire left side and his left knee. Take it easy, the doctor had ordered. But he’d been taking it easy for eight long weeks. And Nice had started to feel like a prison.
Rupert had given him a key to this place a couple of years ago, and had told him to treat it as his own. He’d ring Rupert tomorrow to let him know he was here. He glanced at the clock on the wall. Two thirty-seven a.m. was too late…or early…to call anyone. He rested his head back and closed his eyes, and tried to will the pain coursing through his body away.
He woke with a start to flashing lights, and it took him a moment to realise they weren’t due to a migraine. He blinked, but the armed policemen—two of them and each with a gun trained on him—didn’t disappear. The clock said two forty-eight.
He raised his hands in the universal gesture of non-aggression. ‘My name is Finn Sullivan,’ he said in Greek. ‘I am a friend of Rupert Russel, the owner of this villa.’
‘Where is your accomplice?’
‘Accomplice?’ He stood then, stung by the fuss and suspicion. ‘What accomplice?’
He wished he’d remained seated when he found himself tackled to the floor, pain bursting like red-hot needles all the way down his left side, magnifying the blue-black ache that made him want to roar.
He clamped the howls of pain behind his teeth and nodded towards his backpack as an officer rough-handled him to his feet after handcuffing him. ‘My identification is in there.’
His words seemed to have no effect. One of the officers spoke into a phone. He was frogmarched into the grand foyer. Both policemen looked upwards expectantly, so he did too.
Flanked by two more police officers, she pulled to a dead halt halfway down the stairs, her eyes widening—those too cool and very clear blue eyes. ‘Finn?’ Delicate nostrils flared. ‘What on earth are you doing here?’
The glass on the sink, the litter in the kitchen bin made sudden sense. ‘You called the police?’
‘Of course I called the police!’
‘Of all the idiotic, overdramatic reactions! How daft can you get?’ He all but yelled the words at her, his physical pain needing an outlet. ‘Why the hell would you overreact like that?’
‘Daft? Daft!’ Her voice rose as she flew down the stairs. ‘And what do you call breaking and entering my brother’s villa at two thirty in the morning?’
It was probably closer to three by now. He didn’t say that out loud. ‘I didn’t break in. I have a key.’
He saw then that she clutched a lacrosse stick. She looked as if she wouldn’t mind cracking him over the head with it. With a force of effort he pulled in a breath. A woman alone in a deserted house…the sound of breaking glass… And after everything she’d been through recently…
He bit back a curse. He’d genuinely frightened her.
The pain in his head intensified. ‘I’m sorry, Squirt.’ The old nickname dropped from his lips. ‘If I’d known you were here I’d have rung to let you know I was coming. In the meantime, can you tell these guys who I am and call them off?’
‘Where’s your friend?’
His shoulder ached like the blazes. He wanted to yell at her to get the police to release him. He bit the angry torrent back. Knowing Audra, she’d make him suffer as long as she could if he yelled at her again.
And he was genuinely sorry he’d frightened her.
‘I came alone.’
‘But I heard two voices—one French, one Greek.’
He shook his head. ‘You heard one voice and two languages.’ He demonstrated his earlier cussing fit, though he toned it down to make it more palatable for mixed company.
For a moment the knuckles on her right hand whitened where it gripped the lacrosse stick, and then relaxed. She told the police officers in perfect Greek how sorry she was to have raised a false alarm, promised to bake them homemade lemon drizzle cakes and begged them very nicely to let him go as he was an old friend of her brother’s. He wasn’t sure why, but it made him grind his teeth.
He groaned his relief when he was uncuffed, rubbing his wrists rather than his shoulder, though he was damned if he knew why. Except he didn’t want any of them to know how much he hurt. He was sick to death of his injuries.
A part of him would be damned too before it let Audra see him as anything but hearty and hale. Her pity would…
He pressed his lips together. He didn’t know. All he knew was that he didn’t want to become an object of it.
Standing side by side in the circular drive, they waved the police off. He followed her inside, wincing when she slammed the door shut behind them. The fire in her eyes hadn’t subsided. ‘You want to yell at me some more?’
He’d love to. It was what he and Audra did—they sniped at each other. They had ever since she’d been a gangly pre-teen. But he hurt too much to snipe properly. It was taking all his strength to control the nausea curdling his stomach. He glanced at her from beneath his shaggy fringe. Besides, it was no fun sniping at someone with the kind of shadows under their eyes that Audra had.
He eased back to survey her properly. She was too pale and too thin. He wasn’t used to seeing her vulnerable and frightened.
Frighteningly efficient? Yes.
Unsmiling? Yes.
Openly disapproving of his lifestyle choices? Double yes.
But pale, vulnerable and afraid? No.
‘That bastard really did a number on you, didn’t he, Squirt?’
Her head reared back and he could’ve bitten his tongue out. ‘Not quite as big a number as that mountain did on you, from all reports.’
She glanced pointedly at his shoulder and with a start he realised he’d been massaging it. He waved her words away. ‘A temporary setback.’
She pushed out her chin. ‘Ditto.’
The fire had receded from her eyes and this time it was he who had to suffer beneath their merciless ice-blue scrutiny. And that was when he realised that all she wore was a pair of thin cotton pyjama bottoms and a singlet top that moulded itself to her form. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.
The problem with Audra was that she was exactly the kind of woman he went after. If he had a type it was the buttoned-up, repressed librarian type, and normally Audra embodied that to a tee. But at the moment she was about as far from that as you could get. She was all blonde sleep-tousled temptation and his skin prickled with an awareness that was both familiar and unfamiliar.
He had to remind himself that a guy didn’t mess with his best friend’s sister.
‘Did the police hurt you?’
‘Absolutely not.’ He was admitting nothing.
She cocked an eyebrow. ‘Finn, it’s obvious you’re in pain.’
He shrugged and then wished he hadn’t when pain blazed through his shoulder. ‘The cast only came off yesterday.’
Her gaze moved to his left arm. ‘And instead of resting it, no doubt as your doctors suggested, you jumped on the first plane for Athens, caught the last ferry to Kyanós, grabbed a late dinner in the village and trekked the eight kilometres to the villa.’
‘Bingo.’ He’d relished the fresh air and the freedom. For the first two kilometres.
‘While carrying a rucksack.’
Eight weeks ago he’d have been able to carry twice the weight for ten kilometres without breaking a sweat.
She picked up his glass of half-finished Scotch and strode into the kitchen. As she reached up into a kitchen cupboard her singlet hiked up to expose a band of perfect pale skin that had his gut clenching. She pulled out a packet of aspirin and sent it flying in a perfect arc towards him—he barely needed to move to catch it. And then she lifted his glass to her lips and drained it and stars burst behind his eyelids. It was the sexiest thing he’d ever seen.
She filled it with tap water and set it in front of him. ‘Take two.’
He did as she ordered because it was easier than arguing with her. And because he hurt all over and it seemed too much trouble to find the heavy-duty painkillers his doctor had prescribed for him and which were currently rolling around in the bottom of his backpack somewhere.
‘Which room do you usually use?’
‘The one at the top of the stairs.’
‘You’re out of luck, buddy.’ She stuck out a hip, and he gulped down more water. ‘That’s the one I’m using.’
He feigned outrage. ‘But that one has the best view!’ Which was a lie. All the upstairs bedrooms had spectacular views.
She smirked. ‘I know. First in and all that.’
He choked down a laugh. That was one of the things he’d always liked about Audra. She’d play along with him…all in the name of one-upmanship, of course.
‘Right, which bedroom do you want? There are another three upstairs to choose from.’ She strode around and lifted his bag. She grunted and had to use both hands. ‘Yeah, right—light as a feather.’
He glanced at her arms. While the rucksack wasn’t exactly light, it wasn’t that heavy. She’d never been a weakling. She’d lost condition. He tried to recall the last time he’d seen her.
‘Earth to Finn.’
He started. ‘I’ll take the one on the ground floor.’ The one behind the kitchen. The only bedroom in the house that didn’t have a sea view. The bedroom furthest away from Audra’s. They wouldn’t even have to share a bathroom if he stayed down here. Which would be for the best.
He glanced at that singlet top and nodded. Definitely for the best.
Especially when her eyes softened with spring-rain warmth. ‘Damn, Finn. Do you still hurt that much?’
He realised then that she thought he didn’t want to tackle the stairs.
‘I—’ He pulled in a breath. He didn’t want to tackle the stairs. He’d overdone it today. He didn’t want her to keep looking at him like that either, though. ‘It’s nothing a good night’s sleep won’t fix.’
Without another word, she strode to the room behind the kitchen and lifted his bag up onto the desk in there. So he wouldn’t have to lift it himself later. Her thoughtfulness touched him. She could be prickly, and she could be mouthy, but she’d never been unkind.
Which was the reason, if he ever ran into Thomas Farquhar, he’d wring the mongrel’s neck.
‘Do you need anything else?’
The beds in Rupert’s villa were always made up. He employed a cleaner to come in once a week so that the Russel siblings or any close friends could land here and fall into bed with a minimum of fuss. But even if the bed hadn’t been made pride would’ve forbidden him from asking her to make it…or to help him make it.
He fell into a chair and slanted her a grin—cocky, assured and full of teasing to hide his pain as he pulled his hiking boots off. ‘Well, now, Squirt…’ He lifted a foot in her direction. ‘I could use some help getting my socks off. And then maybe my jeans.’
As anticipated, her eyes went wide and her cheeks went pink. Without another word, she whirled around and strode from the room.
At that precise moment his phone started to ring. He glanced at the caller ID and grimaced. ‘Rupert, mate. Sorry about—’
The phone was summarily taken from him and Finn blinked when Audra lifted it to her ear. Up this close she smelled of coconut and peaches. His mouth watered. Dinner suddenly seemed like hours ago.
‘Rupe, Finn looks like death. He needs to rest. He’ll call you in the morning and you can give him an ear-bashing then.’ She turned the phone off before handing it back to him. ‘Goodnight, Finn.’
She was halfway through the kitchen before he managed to call back a goodnight of his own. He stood in the doorway and waited until he heard her ascending the stairs before closing his door and dialling Rupert’s number.
‘Before you launch into a tirade and tell me what an idiot I am, let me apologise. I’m calling myself far worse names than you ever will. I’d have not scared Audra for the world. I was going to call you in the morning to let you know I was here.’ He’d had no notion Audra would be here. It was a little early in the season for any of the Russels to head for the island.
Rupert’s long sigh came down the phone, and it made Finn’s gut churn. ‘What are you doing in Kyanós?’ his friend finally asked. ‘I thought you were in Nice.’
‘The, uh, cast came off yesterday.’
‘And you couldn’t blow off steam on the French Riviera?’
He scrubbed a hand down his face. ‘There’s a woman I’m trying to avoid and—’
‘You don’t need to say any more. I get the picture.’
Actually, Rupert was wrong. This time. It wasn’t a romantic liaison he’d tired of and was fleeing. But he kept his mouth shut. He deserved Rupert’s derision. ‘If you want me to leave, I’ll clear out at first light.’
His heart gave a sick kick at the long pause on the other end of the phone. Rupert was considering it! Rupert was the one person who’d shown faith in him when everyone else had written him off, and now—
‘Of course I don’t want you to leave.’
He closed his eyes and let out a long, slow breath.
His eyes crashed open. His heart started to thud. ‘But?’
‘Don’t go letting Audra fall in love with you. She’s fragile at the moment, Finn…vulnerable.’
He stiffened. ‘Whoa, Rupe! I’ve no designs on your little sister.’
‘She’s exactly your type.’
‘Except she’s your sister.’ He made a decision then and there to leave in the morning. He didn’t want Rupert worrying about this. It was completely unnecessary. He needed to lie low for a few weeks and Kyanós had seemed like the perfect solution, but not at the expense of either Rupert’s or Audra’s peace of mind.
‘That said, I’m glad you’re there.’
Finn stilled.
‘I’m worried about her being on her own. I’ve been trying to juggle my timetable, but the earliest I can get away is in a fortnight.’
Finn pursed his lips. ‘You want me to keep an eye on her?’
Again there was a long pause. ‘She needs a bit of fun. She needs to let her hair down.’
‘This is Audra we’re talking about.’ She was the most buttoned-up person he knew.
‘You’re good at fun.’
His lips twisted. He ought to be. He’d spent a lifetime perfecting it. ‘You want me to make sure she has a proper holiday?’
‘Minus the holiday romance. Women like you, Finn…they fall for you.’
‘Pot and kettle,’ he grunted back. ‘But you’re worrying for nothing. Audra has more sense than that.’ She had always disapproved of him and what she saw as his irresponsible and daredevil lifestyle.
What had happened eight weeks ago proved her point. What if the next time he did kill himself? The thought made his mouth dry and his gut churn. His body was recovering but his mind… There were days when he was a maelstrom of confusion, questioning the choices he was making. He gritted his teeth. It’d pass. After such a close brush with mortality it had to be normal to question one’s life. Needless to say, he wasn’t bringing anyone into that mess at the moment, especially not one who was his best friend’s little sister.
‘If she had more sense she’d have not fallen for Farquhar.’
Finn’s hands fisted. ‘Tell me the guy is toast.’
‘I’m working on it.’
‘I’ve tried to shield her from the worst of the media furore, but…’
‘But she has eyes in her head. She can read the headlines for herself.’ And those headlines had been everywhere. It’d been smart of Rupert to pack Audra off to the island.
‘Exactly.’ Rupert paused again. ‘None of the Russels have any sense when it comes to love. If we did, Audra wouldn’t have been taken in like she was.’
And she was paying for it now. He recalled her pallor, the dark circles beneath her eyes…the effort it’d taken her to lift his backpack. He could help with some of that—get her out into the sun, challenge her to swimming contests…and maybe even get her to run with him. He could make sure she ate three square meals a day.
‘If I’d had more sense I’d have not fallen for Brooke Manning.’
‘Everyone makes a bad romantic decision at least once in their lives, Rupe.’
He realised he sounded as if he were downplaying what had happened to his friend, and he didn’t want to do that. Rupert hadn’t looked at women in the same way after Brooke. Finn wasn’t sure what had happened between them. He’d been certain they were heading for matrimony, babies and white picket fences. But it had all imploded, and Rupert hadn’t been the same since. ‘But you’re right—not everyone gets their heart shredded.’ He rubbed a hand across his chest. ‘Has Farquhar shredded her heart?’
‘I don’t know.’
Even if he hadn’t, he’d stolen company secrets from the Russel Corporation while posing as her attentive and very loving boyfriend. That wasn’t something a woman like Audra would be able to shrug off as just a bad experience.
Poor Squirt.
He only realised he’d said that out loud when Rupert said with a voice as dry as a good single malt, ‘Take a look, Finn. I think you’ll find Squirt is all grown up.’
He didn’t need to look. The less looking he did, the better. A girl like Audra deserved more than what a guy like him could give her—things like stability, peace of mind, and someone she could depend on.
‘It’d be great if you could take her mind off things—make her laugh and have some fun. I just don’t want her falling for you. She’s bruised and battered enough.’
‘You’ve nothing to worry about on that score, Rupe, I promise you. I’ve no intention of hurting Audra. Ever.’
‘She’s special, Finn.’
That made him smile. ‘All of the Russel siblings are special.’
‘She’s more selfless than the rest of us put together.’
Finn blinked. ‘That’s a big call.’
‘It’s the truth.’
He hauled in a breath and let it out slowly. ‘I’ll see what I can do.’
‘Thanks, Finn, I knew I could count on you.’
* * *

Audra pressed her ringing phone to her ear at exactly eight twenty-three the next morning. She knew the exact time because she was wondering when Finn would emerge. She’d started clock-watching—a sure sign of worry. Not that she had any intention of letting Rupert know she was worried. ‘Hey, Rupe.’
He called to check on her every couple of days, which only fed her guilt. Last night’s false alarm sent an extra surge of guilt slugging through her now. ‘Sorry about last night’s fuss. I take it the police rang to let you know what happened.’
‘They did. And you’ve nothing to apologise for. Wasn’t your fault. In fact, I’m proud of the way you handled the situation.’
He was? Her shoulders went back.
‘Not everyone would’ve thought that quickly on their feet. You did good.’
‘Thanks, I… I’m relieved it was just Finn.’ She flashed to the lines of strain that had bracketed Finn’s mouth last night. ‘Do you know how long he plans to stay?’
‘No idea. Do you mind him being there? I can ask him to leave.’
‘No, no—don’t do that.’ She already owed Rupert and the rest of her family too much. She didn’t want to cause any further fuss. ‘He wasn’t looking too crash hot last night. I think he needs to take it easy for a bit.’
‘You could be right, Squirt, and I hate to ask this of you…’
‘Ask away.’ She marvelled how her brother’s Squirt could sound so different from Finn’s. When Finn called her Squirt it made her tingle all over.
‘No, forget about it. It doesn’t matter. You’ve enough on your plate.’
She had nothing on her plate at the moment and they both knew it. ‘Tell me what you were going to say,’ she ordered in her best boardroom voice. ‘I insist. You know you’ll get no peace now until you do.’
His low chuckle was her reward. Good. She wanted him to stop worrying about her.
‘Okay, it’s just… I’m a bit worried about him.’
She sat back. ‘About Finn?’ It made a change from Rupert worrying about her.
‘He’s never had to take it easy in his life. Going slow is an alien concept to him.’
He could say that again.
‘He nearly died up there on that mountain.’
Her heart clenched. ‘Died? I mean, I knew he’d banged himself up pretty bad, but… I had no idea.’
‘Typical Finn, he’s tried to downplay it. While the medical team could patch the broken arm and ribs easily enough, along with the dislocated shoulder and wrenched knee, his ruptured spleen and the internal bleeding nearly did him in.’
She closed her eyes and swallowed. ‘You want me to make sure he takes it easy while he’s here?’
‘That’s probably an impossible task.’
‘Nothing’s impossible,’ she said with a confidence she had no right to. After all her brother’s support these last few weeks—his lack of blame—she could certainly do this one thing for him. ‘Consider it done.’
‘And, Audra…?’
‘Don’t go falling in love with him.’
She shot to her feet, her back ramrod straight. ‘I make one mistake and—’
‘This has nothing to do with what happened with Farquhar. It’s just that women seem to like Finn. A lot. They fall at his feet in embarrassing numbers.’
She snorted and took her seat again. ‘That’s because he’s pretty.’ She preferred a man with a bit more substance.
You thought Thomas had substance.
She pushed the thought away.
‘He’s in Kyanós partly because he’s trying to avoid some woman in Nice.’
Good to know.
‘If he hurts you, Squirt, I’ll no longer consider him a friend.’
She straightened from her slouch, air whistling between her teeth. Rupert and Finn were best friends, and had been ever since they’d attended their international boarding school in Geneva as fresh-faced twelve-year-olds.
She made herself swallow. ‘I’ve no intention of doing anything so daft.’ She’d never do anything to ruin her brother’s most important friendship.
‘Finn has a brilliant mind, he’s built a successful company and is an amazing guy, but…’
‘But what?’ She frowned, when her brother remained silent. ‘What are you worried about?’
‘His past holds him back.’
By his past she guessed he meant Finn’s parents’ high-octane lifestyle, followed by their untimely deaths. It had to have had an impact on Finn, had to have left scars and wounds that would never heal.
‘I worry he could end up like his father.’
She had to swallow the bile that rose through her.
‘I’m not sure he’ll ever settle down.’
She’d worked that much out for herself. And she wasn’t a masochist. Men like Finn were pretty to look at, but you didn’t build a life around them.
Women had flings with men like Finn…and she suspected they enjoyed every moment of them. A squirrel of curiosity wriggled through her, but she ruthlessly cut it off. One disastrous romantic liaison was enough for the year. She wasn’t adding another one to the tally. She suppressed a shudder. The very thought made her want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over her head.
She forced her spine to straighten. She had no intention of falling for Finn, but she could get him to slow down for a bit—just for a week or two, right?

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