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“You bastard!” Amanda Montero wailed. Her voice was hoarse from the past hour’s symphony of heartbreaking sobs and angry shrieks. Black stripes from mascara-tinted tears created an abstract design on her cheeks. As her weeping gradually tapered off, she raised trembling hands to her face and then took a settling breath that came out as a shaky sigh.
The range of emotions displayed by the always-unpredictable Amanda fascinated Sebastián. He watched her with the kind of wary fascination a cobra would have demanded. He wasn’t surprised when her mood suddenly shifted and she glared steadily at him — the man who’d just broken her heart. With the speed of the striking snake he’d just visualized, she drew back her arm to slap him, but he caught her wrist before it had a chance to connect with its target.
“Enough!” Seb roared in a tone of voice that left no doubt that he was out of patience. He hardened his expression so that the woman he once thought he could love would recognize that his mind was made up. Their year-long affair was over the moment Mandy began to talk about a wedding and babies as if he’d put a diamond on her hand. Women never believed him when he made it clear that marriage wasn’t part of the deal and neither were children. Although none of them ever heard him say the word love, each inevitably thought she would be the one to change his mind about commitment.
He loosened his tight grip on Amanda’s slim wrist when she grimaced in pain as the diamond tennis bracelet she always wore pressed into her skin. “Enough,” he repeated. This time he gentled his voice in an attempt to soothe. He liked to think that he wasn’t a total bastard and he owed her that.
“But I love you. I’ll always love you,” she whispered, her voice cracking as she rubbed her reddened wrist. When he didn’t answer she raised her head and saw the truth in his hard expression. “You mean it this time, don’t you?”
“Yes.” Sebastián knew there was no way to soften the blow. Experience told him that a clean break always worked best.
Mandy’s tanned shoulders slumped as she turned away and dragged herself back to the luxurious Cabo San Lucas villa they’d shared for the past week. Seb watched her go, relieved that she finally seemed to believe him. He picked up his phone and booked a first class seat on a flight that would have her back in San Francisco by evening, then arranged for a car to the airport and for another to meet her at SFO. He’d ask one of the household staff to pack for her. It was expected and the least he could do.
When the limo arrived an hour later, he carried her bags to the car. “Thank you for arranging the car, but I’m not going home,” she said. If they weren’t in Mexico, her voice would be cold enough to cause a snowstorm.
Sebastián panicked. Was she refusing to leave? Amanda no longer seemed upset and must have finally accepted that he didn’t love her. He couldn’t exactly force her into the car.
“Don’t look so scared,” she said and stroked his face. Her diamond bracelet glittered in the sun.
Despite his tan, Seb grew pale when he spotted the growing bruise on her wrist. He’d never injured a woman — physically at least — and shouldn’t have grabbed her so tightly when she’d tried to slap him. Before he could apologize she stepped away from him. “I’m leaving, but I’m not going home. You can cancel my reservation to San Francisco…or not…I don’t care.”
“Where will you go? I can arrange…” he began, worried about her mental state.
“I called my brother. He’s sending his plane for me. He and I need to spend some time together. He’s…” she hesitated and lowered her sunglasses with one finger. She kept her eyes on Sebastián. “My big brother is very protective.”
Seb wasn’t sure whether her words were a threat or a warning. “Your brother? You never mentioned a brother. Where does he live?”
“My life is no longer any of your business,” she said coolly as she slid into the limo’s back seat.
Sebastián felt immense relief that she was leaving so he paid no attention to her final words, ones he’d heard many times before. Some day one of his women might be clever enough to come up with an original parting shot, but evidently Amanda wasn’t that person. She lowered the black-tinted window and glared at him as rage replaced the calm of a few minutes earlier. “You’ll be sorry for this,” she said, the words delivered almost like a curse.
Amanda had promised herself that she would not let Sebastián see her devastation, but once hidden behind the limo’s black glass, the composure she’d held on to so tightly slipped and she gave in to the tears she’d been holding back.