Bennett Montgomery, sixth Earl of Askett, did a double take. ‘Sally?’
Was this really the woman who had haunted his dreams for the last seven years? ‘You haven’t changed a bit.’ Nostalgia and appreciation mingled as he looked her over and rediscovered her rich auburn hair, her green eyes framed by long, dark lashes, her adorably freckled nose.
But this Sally was sophisticated in a designer dress and diamonds. She was no longer the sun-kissed surfer he’d enjoyed one perfect summer with.
‘What an amazing coincidence,’ he continued, surreptitiously checking out her left hand, relieved to see no wedding or engagement ring. ‘It looks like fate did decide to bring us together again. And here in Asturia of all places. It must be kismet.’
There was no answering smile. In fact, her expression was distinctly frosty. Clem stared at her friend, clearly as confused as Ben by Sally’s icy silence. Then her eyes widened as she switched her sharp gaze to him before touching Sally’s arm.
‘Ben? This is that Ben?’
Sally’s frosty expression didn’t thaw as she nodded shortly and Ben heard Clem give a distinct gasp. He could have sworn she mumbled an apology.
What did she have to be sorry about? He and Sally had enjoyed a summer romance a long time ago, parted with pleasurable memories and by mutual accord. There had been nothing in that summer to provoke this kind of reaction.
Uncomfortably aware that the people in the group he’d been chatting with were looking curiously at him, Ben smiled. ‘Excuse us, please. I haven’t seen Sally for a long time. We’ve got some catching up to do.’
Cupping Sally’s elbow, he moved away, forcing her to choose between coming with him or pulling away and causing a scene. He felt a momentary hesitation and resistance before she fell into step beside him. Despite his confusion, his pulse quickened as his fingers slid down her silky smooth arm to clasp her wrist, the memory of how it had felt lying next to her, nothing between them, suddenly overwhelming his senses.
Ben had spent the last seven years pleasurably and profitably, but he couldn’t deny that the idyllic sun-drenched summer days when he’d been lost in Sally had been the happiest in his life—and no relationship since had ever quite replicated the heady mix of desire, laughter and freedom. Occasionally he’d wondered if their decision to leave any future meeting to fate had been a mistake.
But he’d never imagined that if they did meet again, he would be met with such a hostile reception.
Ben steered Sally to an open balcony door. It was October and although the days in Asturia were still balmy, the evenings were distinctly chilly. Ben took off his jacket and draped it around Sally’s shoulders as they stepped onto the ornate stone balcony, but she shrugged it off furiously.
‘It’s a little late for chivalry, Ben. Seven years too late!’
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