She stopped, unable to hold the silent contempt of the look he was giving her, his eyes smouldering darkly with the dislike he so obviously felt for her in the angry whiteness of his face.
The pain in his head had reached a crashing crescendo, Piers recognised. It infuriated him more than he wanted to admit, even to himself, that Georgia should choose the dog above him; that she should defend Ben so determinedly, so tenderly and lovingly, even though she must know that he was right. And what made it worse was that he suspected that had the shoe Ben had chewed belonged to anyone else other than him she would have taken a completely different stance.
‘You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?’ he accused her furiously.
‘Enjoying it!’ The unjustness of his accusation caused Georgia to retaliate immediately. ‘No, I am not.’
‘Well, you’d better make the most of it,’ Piers advised her as waves of nauseating pain began to lash the inside of his head. ‘Because you’re not going to find the situation anything like so funny when I present you with the bill for my shoes, and even less so when you explain to my godmother how your claims to be able to train her dog have resulted in him displaying the kind of antisocial behaviour that just confirms that he needs to be found a new owner—preferably one who doesn’t wear shoes,’ he finished savagely.
Now Georgia’s face was as white as Piers’s and her pain nearly as great as well, although hers was located in her heart rather than in her head.
‘It isn’t up to you to say whether Ben stays or goes,’ she reminded him protectively.
‘No,’ Piers said softly, with such a vitriolic look that Georgia caught her breath in alarm, immediately moving closer to Ben and putting her hand protectively on his collar.
‘If you try to do anything to hurt or harm Ben...’ she began warningly, and then stopped as she saw the look that zigzagged briefly through Piers’s eyes, her breath catching in her throat. Pain... Piers had felt pain, had looked betrayed. Pain! But how could that be? Surely that meant...? But before she could follow up her intriguing line of thought Piers was turning away from her and heading back up the stairs to his own part of the house.
* * *
As he took the tablets he knew would help the pain of his headache to subside, Piers cursed himself for his lack of self-control. Jealous of a dog... What the hell was happening to him? He closed his eyes and tried to breathe slowly and deeply, telling himself he was doing so simply to speed up the progress of the drug through his system, but in reality he knew there was more to it than that...much more...
To his intense irritation, behind his closed eyelids all he could see was Georgia’s anguished face as she looked protectively towards Ben. Perhaps he had overreacted a little—but what man in love could calmly or rationally accept that the woman he loved cared more about a dog than she did about him?
A man in love!
Since when had he been that? He wasn’t inhuman. He had nothing against people falling in love. Love was a very wonderful and special thing. It was just that, for some reason, he hadn’t imagined it happening to him. Or, rather, he hadn’t imagined it happening to him in quite the fashion that it had. He had assumed that when love finally entered his life it—she would enter it calmly, in a dignified mature fashion. Not sweep in in a whirlwind of complex, volatile, challenging emotions that went from one extreme to the other and then back again in the space of a heartbeat. And certainly never, ever had he imagined that he would be competing for his beloved’s affections with a dog!
The tablets he had taken were starting to do their work, easing the pain out of his head. A glance at his watch revealed the unwelcome fact that it was halfway through the morning and he had things he needed to do.
* * *
Downstairs in the kitchen Georgia was nursing a mug of hot coffee whilst telling Ben severely, ‘You shouldn’t have taken his shoe, Ben.’
Soulfully he looked back at her. Previously, whilst she had known that Piers did not approve of Ben as a pet for his godmother, she had assumed that that was his main objection to the dog, but now...
Her heart missed a small beat as she remembered the look of bitter resentment Piers had given poor Ben. A look almost of hatred, and... And what? Georgia closed her eyes, not wanting to give a name to the look she thought she had seen in Piers’s eyes, and then opened them again as she heard Piers opening the kitchen door. He was dressed in a snug-fitting pair of faded jeans and a soft cotton shirt, and his shoes... She exhaled her breath in a sigh as she saw the casual footwear he had on.
As he followed the direction of her gaze Piers gave Ben a hard look.