Shackled by Diamonds

By: Julia James



But in the end it had been a wrap. Every girl had been photographed wearing every different colour stone, with both matching and contrasting gowns. They would be wearing the jewels again tonight, at the grand reception Leo Makarios was holding to launch his revival of the Levantsky jewellery marque. Vanessa in emeralds, Kate in rubies, herself in diamonds and Jenny in sapphires.

Anna’s eyes were troubled suddenly. She’d had her little chat with Jenny, following her into her room when they’d all finally been dismissed. She’d plonked her down on the bed, sat down beside her, and got the truth from her.

And it had shocked her totally.

‘I’m pregnant!’ Jenny had blurted out.

Anna had just stared. She hadn’t needed to ask who by, or just why Jenny was so upset about it.

She’d warned her all along not to get involved with someone whose culture was so different from Western norms, that it could only end in trouble.

And it certainly had.

‘He told me!’ Jenny had rocked back and forth on the bed, clutching her abdomen where, scarcely visible, her baby was growing. ‘He told me that if ever I got pregnant I faced two choices. Marrying him and living as his wife to raise the child. Or marrying him, giving him the child, and being divorced. But I can’t. I can’t do either! I can’t!’

She’d started crying, and Anna had wrapped her up in her arms and let her cry.

‘I can’t marry him!’ Jenny had sobbed. ‘I can’t live in some harem and never get out ever again. And as for giving up my baby…’

Her sobs had become even more anguished.

‘I take it,’ Anna had said, when they finally died away, ‘that he doesn’t know about the baby?’

‘No! And he mustn’t find out! Or he’ll come and get me and drag me back to his desert. Oh, God, Anna, he mustn’t find out. Don’t you see why I was so terrified when Tonio wanted me to strip down? In case it showed—the pregnancy. Supposing someone noticed—they would; you know they would—and it started circulating as a rumour. He’d pick up on it and he’d come storming down on me! Oh, God, I’ve got to get away. I’ve got to.’

Anna had frowned.

‘Get away?’

‘Yes. I’ve got to hide. Hide before anything starts really showing. And I mean hide for good, Anna. If he ever hears I’ve had a baby he’ll know it’s his. He’ll have tests done and all that. So I’ve got to get away.’

She’d turned a stricken face to her friend.

‘I’ve got to get really, really far away—and stay there. Totally resettle. Somewhere he’ll never think of looking.’ She bit her lip. ‘I was planning on Australia. One of the obscure bits, round the northwest. Where the pearls come from. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s the last place he’d look.’

Anna had looked sober.

‘Can you afford to move out there, Jenny?’

She knew Jenny earned good money, but it was patchy. Neither of them were in the very top league of supermodels, and agency fees and other expenses ate into what they were paid. Besides, Jenny’s ill-advised affair with the man she was now desperate to flee from had kept her out of circulation for too long—other, younger models were snapping up work she’d have now been grateful to get.

Jenny hadn’t answered. Just bitten her lip.

‘I can lend you—’ Anna began, but Jenny had shaken her head.

‘You need your money. I know how expensive that nursing home is for your gran. And I won’t have you selling your flat. At our age we’re both looking extinction in the face—you need your savings for when you quit modelling. So I’m not borrowing from you. I’ll manage. Somehow.’

Anna hadn’t bothered to press her offer. Somehow she would make sure Jenny had at least enough to start running, start hiding—even if it meant mortgaging her flat to raise some cash.

Now she lay back in the water, letting the heat drain her tiredness. Poor Jenny—pregnant by a man who valued her only as a body, and who would part her from her baby with the click of his imperious fingers. Neither of the generous ‘options’ he’d given her was acceptable. No, Jenny had to get away, all right. As soon as this shoot was over.

But there was more to get through yet. Already guests had started to arrive. Driven up in chauffeured cars or deposited via helicopter. The rich, the famous, the influential—all invited by Leo Makarios.

She stared at the steam gently rising from the huge claw-footed bathtub.

Leo Makarios.

She was going to have to think about him.

She didn’t want to.

Had been putting it off.

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