Read Knight and Stay Online

Authors: Kitty French

Knight and Stay (2 page)

Sophie slid her mug onto the coffee table and pushed her hands through her hair.
Ugh.
Greasy and lank, and no doubt as dishevelled as the week old PJs she was wearing.

Kara was right. It was hard to hear, and impossible to imagine getting off the sofa for more than ten minutes, but the time for wallowing was over. The thought of losing her home was too much to bear, it had become her only constant.

"I don't know where to start, Kar."

Kara must have heard the wobble in Sophie's quiet words, because she gathered her up into a fortifying hug and then held her out again at arm’s length.

"You can start by taking a shower. You stink."

 

Sophie wound the towel around her freshly showered hair and scrubbed a hand over the fogged up bathroom mirror. The face looking back at her through the cleared space eyed her coolly, taking in the slightly more pronounced cheekbones and the dark smudges around her eyes. Neither came as a shock. She could barely keep food down, and sleep wasn't coming easy.

She didn't know herself anymore. So many emotions warred inside her, she felt slashed to ribbons on their blades. Fear. Anger. Resentment.
Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.

It didn't matter that Dan had been cheating on her for three years. She'd relinquished the moral high ground the first moment she'd set eyes on Lucien Knight, because she'd known. She'd taken the job even though she'd known what would happen, when she should have run for the hills. Yes. She deserved her guilt, and it was magnified ten times over thanks to Lucien's behaviour in the hallway last week. This was
her
mess. He had no right striding in and riding roughshod over everyone else to make his point. He'd forced her hand when she should have been the one making the decisions. By taking away her choices, he'd given Sophie one more argument to add to the ever-lengthening list of reasons to resent him. It was almost as long as the list of reasons why she'd allowed him to seduce her in the first place.
Almost.
She'd refused his numerous calls over the last week and ignored his text messages. She hoped and assumed that her failure to turn in for work would act as her unspoken resignation. Her time with Lucien had been brief and blindingly bright, but it was time to quit playing fairy stories about tragic snow princesses and chivalrous Vikings and face the grey, never-ending monotony of her ruined marriage head on. No more running.
Or slumping on the sofa, for that matter.

Sophie followed her nose and found Kara in the kitchen singing along to the radio as she buttered hot toast. Maybe it was just the effect of showering the last week’s grime and tears from her body, but Sophie felt her stomach rumble in response to the homely smell as she sat down at the kitchen table. It felt good to wear clean clothes again. She'd reached instinctively for her slouchiest jeans and a soft, nude pink sweater, looking for any scrap of comfort she could find. In the absence of warm arms, clothes and her trusty sheepskin boots would have to do.

"Your phone beeped.
Seven times
." Sophie cast a hunted glance at her mobile on the work surface. If Kara had looked at it, she'd no doubt have seen Lucien's name flash up on the screen.

"I've been ignoring him."

"He doesn't seem to like it. You have eleven unread messages."

"You've been in my phone?"

Kara shrugged unapologetically. "So shoot me. I'm worried about you, Soph. You can't stick your head in the sand."

"I'm okay." Sophie pulled the sleeves of her sweater down over her fingertips. "Or at least I will be, just as soon as I can find another job."

Kara slid a plate of toast onto the table. "I haven't seen many adverts for PAs to Viking sex gods lately," she observed, deadpan.

Sophie gave her friend a withering look and picked up a piece of toast.

"What are you going to do about him?" Kara's eyes flicked back to Sophie's mobile.

"Nothing."

"Something tells me that nothing isn't one of your options, Soph. You still work for him officially, remember?"

"It's up to me, not him. And I say no."

Kara nodded. "You’d better tell him that, then."

Sophie's shoulders slumped. "I know. I just can't face him yet."

"Send a text?"

Sophie shook her head. "And say what? 'Thanks for the sex and the temporary job, but I've decided to look for something a bit less heart-breaking?' You've never met him Kara. If you had, you'd know he isn't someone you can send packing with a text message."

Kara crossed to the sink to wash her mug. "Err, Soph... did you say he drives an Aston Martin?"

The beautiful black car purred into Sophie's mind. "Yes."

Kara turned away from the window. "Then I hate to say it, but I think he's coming up the garden path."

Both girls froze at the sound of the knock on the door.

"I'm not answering it," Sophie whispered, holding onto her coffee mug so tightly that her knuckles popped white against her skin. "I don't want to, Kara."

"I'll get it then."

"No! Just leave it.
Please.
He'll go away if we don't answer it."

"You reckon?" Lucien knocked again, harder this time. "Fuck, Soph, I know you said he was hot, but he's ay-may-zing." Kara's eyes were on stalks as she craned over the sink to get a better view through the window. "Please let me at least open the door for a proper look."

"I'm serious Kara," Sophie's whisper rose a strangled octave in panic. "I can't speak to him today."

"Sophie." Lucien's deep voice echoed along the hallway, and Sophie closed her eyes as Kara widened hers.

"Open this door, Sophie, or I will." His voice was level, but the threat was clear.

"Christ, is he going to break the door down?" Kara hissed, practically bouncing with excitement.

Sophie put her mug down and glanced worriedly along the hallway. She wasn't sure she could handle another showdown, but it seemed she was destined to have one anyway.

As she walked towards the door, she could make out Lucien's tall, familiar frame through the glass panes and her stomach rolled with nerves. The toast had been a mistake.

"I can see you, Sophie."

Her stomach flipped again, and it had little to do with the toast this time.

"Please go. I don't have anything to say."

"Well, I do. Now you can let me in, or I'll use this key that's right here in the door to let myself in." He paused to let his words sink in. "Which is it to be?"

Sophie's eyes darted in panic to her own keys safely on the hallway table, and then suspiciously towards Kara in the kitchen doorway. The frantic way she was feeling her pockets and the apologetic grimace on her face confirmed the worst. Lucien wasn't lying. He could have walked straight in. He was giving her a chance to invite him before he invited himself.

As her fingers hovered over the door catch, Sophie sighed and laid her head against the glass.

"I really don't want to open this door," she said, mostly to herself.

Lucien was silent on the other side. Waiting. Watching.

Sophie felt Kara's hand squeeze her shoulder in quiet solidarity.

"Open the door, Soph," she murmured. "I'm here. I'll make him leave if you really want him to."

Sophie swallowed hard, then pressed down the latch and pulled the handle towards her.

 

Pain registered first. Pain from the way Kara's fingernails suddenly bit into her shoulder. Sophie wasn't surprised. Meeting Lucien Knight for the first time had had a similar effect on her too.

Her gaze connected with his chest, solid, broad and clad in a battered black leather jacket.

She closed her eyes for a second before looking upwards, taking a moment to mentally assume the brace position. Three, two, one...

"Lucien."

It was the first time she'd said his name since he'd left this same hallway last weekend with Dan's blood on his hands, and it felt like a guilty pleasure on her lips.

His eyes locked onto hers.

"Sophie."

He didn't look away, didn't even seem to register Kara's presence beside Sophie.

"I need to talk to you."

Being so close to Lucien did strange things to Sophie's insides. She was seething mad with him for his previous behaviour, and yet the pure sexual pull of his body called to hers like a siren. How could she be so furious, and so mixed up, and yet still crave him too?

She hated her treacherous body for wanting him. Her resolve stiffened, and she glanced at Kara behind her. "I'll be okay." She patted her friend's hand to encourage her to release her death grip on her shoulder. "You should probably get going."

Kara's uncertain eyes slid from Sophie to Lucien, and then back to Sophie again.

"You're sure?"

Sophie nodded, and Kara's expression seemed to say a million things at once. She saw concern, and she loved her friend for it. She also saw admiration, and felt bolstered by Kara's confidence in her. And lastly she saw 'Let me stay because I want to stare at this man some more,' which Sophie could hardly blame her for.

She hugged her friend briefly and propelled her over the threshold, and Lucien stepped aside to allow her to pass. Sophie shivered and wrapped her arms around her midriff as she watched Kara's retreating back with an increasing sense of panic.

"So," Lucien said. "It's just you and me again."

Oh God.
She couldn't do this. Everything he said came out sounding like a movie hero.

"What do you want, Lucien?"

"My PA back?" His tone was neutral as he held her gaze steadily.

A strangled laugh choked out of Sophie's throat.

"I’ve quit."

"I didn't get your resignation letter. Invite me in."

Sophie didn't want this big man in her small house, but the only other option was to continue the conversation on the doorstep, and she suspected that the neighbours were already having a field day with her marital problems. She could practically see the curtains twitching and hear the phone calls passing between them to alert each other to another potential sideshow going on in the street.

"Fine. Come in."

She turned her back on him and headed for the kitchen. She heard the door close and knew he was in the room by the crackling electricity of his nearness, but she forced herself not to turn around until she'd filled the kettle and reached for mugs.

"Sit down?" She turned and gestured towards a dining chair as she cleared the breakfast debris off the table, still not meeting his eyes.

He moved and sat where she'd indicated, his body somehow far too big for her kitchen. He was dressed in black, and it matched her mood.

Does he have to sprawl like that?
How could he look so comfortable in another man’s kitchen, with another man’s wife? But then again, her husband had never registered highly on Lucien’s respect radar.

Coffee made and on the table, Sophie was all out of delaying tactics. It was time to face Lucien Knight.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

"You didn't come to work on Monday."

Sophie placed the mugs on the table and sat down opposite Lucien.

"Did you seriously expect me to?"

He lifted one shoulder, as if bemused she even needed to ask. "Yes."

She shook her head. He couldn't be serious. "You hit my husband."

"Do you expect me to apologise? He deserved it." Lucien worked hard to maintain his casual bearing but the expression in his eyes went from cool to lava hot, leaving Sophie well aware of how on edge he was.

"You had no right." Sophie's fingernails bit into her palms as her fists tightened. "I wanted to do things my way. You took away my choices."

She watched him digest her words and for the briefest moment, saw uncertainty flicker in his eyes.

"Choices?" He leaned forward and drummed his fingers on the table. "Way I see it, you didn't have any choices to make, Sophie. Your husband's a lowlife, you needed rid of him."

Sophie mirrored his rigid stance across the table. "And there you go again, making my decisions for me."

A pulse flickered along the hard set of his clenched jaw.

"I thought you'd make the wrong one."

"So you made it for me."

He leaned back, folding his arms defiantly across his chest.

"I'm not sorry."

"Men never are." Sophie regretted the cheap generalisation the moment it left her lips, but the last few days had left her more than a little jaded.

"I'm not like him, Sophie." Lucien's words were spoken so softly that Sophie only just caught them.

"No. No, you're not like him," she spat. "You're your very own brand of fucked up, Lucien." 

Her words must have hit home, because he cast his eyes down and sighed heavily. Robbed of the luxury of his expression, Sophie was almost undone by the vulnerability in his new aspect: the sweep of his long lashes against his cheekbone and the fullness of his slightly parted lips. For a split second she was transported back to his office in Norway, looking at the photograph of the boy this man had become, the laughing child with the mother he adored. He was alone in the world, and her point-scoring felt suddenly shoddy.

"I didn't mean to take away your choices." Lucien's voice was quiet but steady.

Sophie believed him. He was a man who operated on his own screwed up set of morals, and in her heart she knew his actions had been driven by anger with Dan rather than a desire to control her.

Fact was, the end result would have been the same either way.

She'd have told Dan about her affair. Dan would have confessed to his affair.

Where do you go from there, really? They'd betrayed each other's trust, trampling their marriage into the dust as they went.

"Lucien." Sophie looked back into his air force blue eyes when he raised them to hers. "What's happened has happened. I need to find a way to get through this, and you need to find a new PA."

He huffed lightly. "I don't want a new PA. Come back to work."

"Never in a million years."

He shook his head. "We could make it work. We're grown ups, Sophie."

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