Zafir observed her from the back of his car, with the window rolled down. He couldn’t quite believe his eyes—that Kat Winters was working in a busy mid-range restaurant in Queens. But, yes…one of the world’s arguably most beautiful women was currently wearing skinny jeans and a white T-shirt with a black apron around her small waist. Her hair was piled up in a messy knot on her head and there was a pencil stuck through it, which she was now fumbling for as she took an order.
Everything in Zafir recoiled from this very banal scenario—except it wasn’t disgust he was feeling, seeing her again. It was something much hotter and more urgent. Even dressed like this and without a scrap of make-up she was exquisite. A jewel such as she could not be hidden in a place like this. What the hell was she doing here? And what the hell was she doing going under another name—Kaycee Smith? And how dared she refuse to even consider the offer he’d sent to her via her agent?
Her agent had sent back a terse response:
Kat Winters is no longer available for modelling assignments.
Please do not pursue this request.
No one refused Zafir. Or warned him off. Least of all an ex-lover.
He issued a curt instruction to his driver now, and his window rolled up silently as he got out of the car and stretched to his full height of six foot four. He recalled Kat in vertiginous heels, the way it had put her mouth well within kissing distance. The way her added height had aligned their bodies so perfectly. He watched her walk away from the table and grimaced when he saw she was wearing sneakers.
Not for long, he vowed as he moved forward to the door of the restaurant. Soon she would be in heels again, and soon that lush mouth would be his again. All of her would be his again.
He had no idea what she was playing at, with this meek little game of being a waitress, but he was certain that once she heard what he had to say she’d be demonstrating her gratitude that he was prepared to give her another chance to be in his life and in his bed again, even just for a few brief weeks, in the most satisfactory way.
It took a second for the significance of that word to sink in. No one here called her Kat. They called her Kaycee. And then there was the voice. Impossibly deep. And the way Kat had been pronounced, with the flat inflection that had always made it sound exotic. And authoritative—as if her name was a command to look at him, give him her attention.
It took another second for the realisation to hit her that there was only one person who could have spoken.
With the utmost reluctance, vying with disbelief, she looked up from the counter-top.
For a moment she simply didn’t believe it. He couldn’t be here. Not against this very dull backdrop of a restaurant in Queens. He inhabited five-star zones. He breathed rarefied air. He moved in circles far removed from this place. This man was royalty.
He was a King now.
And yet her agent had told her only a couple of days ago that he’d asked for her, so she should have been prepared. But she’d blocked out any possibility of this happening. And now she was sorry, because she wasn’t remotely prepared to see the man she’d loved with such intensity that it had sometimes scared her.
She blinked, but he didn’t disappear. He seemed to grow in stature. Had he always been so tall? So broad? But she knew he had. He was imprinted on her brain and her memory like a brand. The hard-boned aristocratic features. The deep-set dark grey eyes that stood out against his dark olive skin. The thick dark hair swept back off his high forehead. That perfect hard-muscled body without an ounce of excess fat, its power evident even under a suit and overcoat.
He was clean-shaven now, instead of with the short beard he’d worn when she’d known him, and it should have made him look somehow less. But it didn’t. It seemed to enhance his virility in a way that was almost overwhelming.
She hadn’t even realised she’d spoken his name out loud until the sensual curve of those beautifully sculpted lips curved up slightly on one side and he said, ‘You remember my name, then?’
The mocking tone which implied that it was laughable she could have possibly forgotten finally broke Kat out of her dangerous reverie and shock. He was here. In her space. The man she’d had dreams and nightmares about meeting again now that her life had changed beyond all recognition.
In her nightmares he looked at her with disgust and horror, and to her mortification she woke up crying more often than not. Her dreams were no less humiliating—they were X-rated, and she’d wake up sweating, believing for a second that she was still whole…still his.
But she was neither of those things. Not by a long shot.
Her pulse quickened treacherously, even though his presence heralded an emotional pain she’d hoped had been relegated to the past but which she was now discovering not to be the case.
She spoke sharply. ‘What are you doing here, Zafir? Didn’t you get my agent’s message?’
He arched a brow and Kat flushed, suddenly aware of how she’d just addressed a man before whom most people would be genuflecting. A man who had two conspicuous bodyguards dressed in black just outside the main door.
She refused to be intimidated. It was almost too much to take in, thinking of the last time she’d seen him and how upset she’d been, and then what had happened…the most catastrophic event of her life.
‘I got her message and chose to ignore it,’ Zafir said easily, his tone belying the curious punch to his gut when he registered Kat’s obvious reluctance to see him again.
Kat folded her arms, as if that could protect her from his all too devastating charisma. Typical arrogant Zafir. He hadn’t changed.
Tersely she said, ‘I’m working, so unless you’ve come here to eat this isn’t appropriate.’ It’ll never be appropriate. But she stopped herself from saying that with some desperation.
Zafir’s smile faded and those unusual dark grey eyes flashed. ‘You refused to engage with my offer, which I do not accept.’
‘No,’ Kat said feeling the bitterness that was a residue from their last tumultuous meeting, when she’d left him. ‘I can well imagine that you don’t accept it, Zafir, because you’re used to everyone falling over themselves to please you. But I’m afraid I feel no such compulsion.’
His eyes narrowed on her and she immediately felt threatened. She’d always felt as if he could see right through her—through the desperate façade she’d put up to try and convince people she wasn’t a girl who had grown up in a trailer with a drug-addicted, mentally unstable mother. A girl who hadn’t even graduated from high school.
Yet Zafir hadn’t—for all that she’d thought he might. Until he’d had the evidence shoved under his nose and he’d looked at her with cold, unforgiving eyes and had judged and condemned her out of his life.
His words slammed into her like a physical blow. He was right. She had changed. Utterly. And this was her worst nightmare coming to life. Meeting Zafir again. And him finding out—
He wouldn’t, she assured herself now, feeling panicky. He couldn’t.
‘Is this gentleman looking for a table for one, Kaycee?’
Kat looked blankly at her boss for a second, but she didn’t mistake the gleam of very feminine appreciation in the older woman’s eyes as she ogled Zafir unashamedly.
Galvanised into action, she took the menu out of her boss’s hands and said firmly, ‘No, he’s not. He was just looking for directions and now he knows where to go.’ She looked at Zafir, and if she could have vaporised him on the spot she would have. ‘Don’t you, sir?’
Her boss was pulled aside at that moment by another member of staff, and Zafir just looked at Kat for a long moment, before saying silkily, ‘I’ll be waiting for you, Kat. This isn’t over.’
And then he turned and walked out.