A/N: So a new story, inspired by Sunday, and it's going to be novel-length. Maybe a novel in print eventually, once I can get the story line to connect the way I want it to. For now I'll be posting chapters here. For those of you who read Sunday, you know Jasper isn't a good guy at all, so don't get too attached. Otherwise enjoy!

The petite brown haired girl let out a frustrated growl and shoved the book she was reading across the table. "God, why can't I be finished?"

The second, dark haired girl smiled a little and caught the book just before it hit the floor. "Well, it's almost over. I mean, you've got what, a semester left? Then what?"

"Back to London." Abigail Brown, a twenty-eight year old woman who was just finishing up her Master's degree abroad in the United States, let out another sigh. "I feel like I've been in University for the bulk of my adult life."

"You have been," Emily, her best friend since childhood, said. She laughed and pushed Abby's book towards her. "Come on, just another chapter and then..."

"A term paper," Abby groaned. "God I need a night out. Some random sex. Copious amounts of alcohol. Anything to distract me."

"So let's go out," Emily said. "I think Brian wants to meet up with me anyway, he'll be excited that you're coming out."

Brian, Emily's fiancé and Abby's dear friend, was always pestering the two girls to let loose a little more than they did. "It's because you're uptight Brits," he would say, which, of course, was only partly true.

Abby just wanted to be finished with University, to get her degree, to move back to London and go to work as a reporter. She already had a job working for Sparrow Publications, a political publication, having sent in sample columns and they were well received.

Emily would be working at the same publication as an editor; Abby's editor in fact, which was just an odd coincidence, but a welcome one. All the girls needed to do was finish their degrees so they could move home.

Abby sighed and tugged at a loose lock of hair. "I suppose so. I mean, what do I have to lose, really? Besides my life and career."

"I doubt a single pub-crawl is going to cost you much," Emily said. She reached across the table and took Abby's stack of books and papers away. "Let's go get dressed up like sluts."

"Oh god," Abby said but let Emily drag her from the table and into the bedroom. An hour later, both women were freshly showered, hair primped and tied back. Emily wore a pair of black, skin-tight trousers and a loose, blue tank top.

Abby, as usual, was more casual in jeans with a simple, white blouse. She allowed Emily to do up her makeup a tad more than usual, and before long, they were walking into a loud, overcrowded club.

It only took Emily a moment to find her slick-haired fiancé who was chatting up a nice looking female bartender. "Am I interrupting?" Emily asked as she threw her arm round Brian's neck. She knew well that Brian was a flirt, but she also knew he loved her.

"Not at all," Brian said. "Whatever the ladies want goes on my tab," he said with a wink.

The bartender rolled her eyes a bit and turned her attention to Abby and Emily. "If he's paying, I'll have a butterscotch and Irish Cream," Abby said. She was served the sweet drink and sat back against a stool while Emily and Brian bent their heads in low, talking and laughing with each other.

Abby felt a small pang of jealousy that they had each other. Any affair Abby had engaged in had been short lived and almost always ended bitterly. Emily had met Brian on their first year at the University and they had been nearly inseparable.

Now they were engaged to be married and Brian planned to move to London with Emily when the year ended. Abby was happy for them both, but wondered what was wrong with her that she couldn't have something like that of her own.

She was brooding into her drink when a soft voice spoke in her ear, "Might I have a dance?"

Abby's eyes shot up and she found herself staring at one of the most attractive men she'd ever seen. He was very tall, quite pale with wild, curly hair. He wore a stylish shirt with tight trousers and a smile showed perfectly even, white teeth.

"I don't really dance," Abby stammered. It was true, she wasn't the best dancer and didn't exactly have rhythm.

"How about a stroll round the pub then?" It was just then that Abby realized he wasn't speaking with an American accent. He was British.

What were the chances? "Alright," she said, and rose. He offered his arm and she took it just before shooting an excited look back at Emily who was giving her a thumbs-up.

"I'm Jasper," he said. "Japer Esparza."

"Abigail Brown," she said. "Esparza, why do I know that name?"

"You're British?" he asked, changing the subject.

"London," she answered.

"So am I. Originally from Leeds, but I live in London now."

Abby smiled. "What are you here for, Jasper? In the States, I mean."

"Taking a few courses in American Law," he said. "I'm going to be sworn in as a lawyer, specializing in Political law. I'm going to be working in London, but I want to be proficient in international law. What about you?"

"Political reporter," she said. "Novelist on the side."

"Admirable," he said. "I've always fancied writers; they just have this thing about them that's untamable. I bet that's true for you, even if you are in politics."

"I'm not in politics," she defended. "I'm in the field that uncovers the politicians' dirty little secrets."

"Ah, so as a political lawyer I might want to be afraid."

"Oh yes," she said with a wicked grin.

"There's that wild side. I knew you had it in you," he joked. "Fancy a smoke?"

"I don't, but I'll tag along," she said. They popped outside and went round the corner to a quiet side of the street. It was a rather warm night and Abby was glad to be out of the club crowd. She watched as Jasper drew a cigarette out of his pocket and lit it up.

"That's a habit that will kill you," Abby said as she leaned against the wall.

Jasper smirked. "Name me a habit that won't anymore."

Abby laughed. "I suppose you have me there, sir."

Jasper and Abby made small talk for some time before he suggested they leave the venue. "I'm not very fond of clubs. A friend dragged me out and then proceeded to abandon me for some little tart in a miniskirt. Do you fancy a coffee?"

Abby hesitated. So far Jasper had been great conversation, not to mention he was very charming. But to leave Emily with some bloke she didn't know…

"Let me tell Emily where I'm off to. I rode with her so I should let her know."

"Why don't I go with you and let her know I'll provide your ride home," he said. It was a polite gesture which Abby appreciated.

They found Emily and Brian still at the bar, working on their third drink. Emily had a slightly inebriated, happy smile on her face and she winked when Abby and Jasper approached.

"Hey there, having a nice time?" Emily asked.

Abby flushed. "Not so bad. This is Jasper. Jasper, this is my friend Emily and her fiancé Brian."

Jasper exchanged handshakes with them and introduced himself properly. "If you don't mind, I'm going to steal your friend away from some coffee and conversation. I vow to have her home at a reasonable hour, in one piece."

"Duly noted, though I don't think I'll be home tonight," Emily said.

Jasper smiled and put his arm round Abby. "Well she shall be waiting, impatiently I'm sure, for your arrival home tomorrow to make girl chat all about me."

Abby rolled her eyes and shrugged his arm off. "Let's go before I change my mind."

Jasper and Abby left the club and she followed him down the street to where his car was parked. She slid into the passenger seat and waited, slightly nervous, for Jasper to drive off. He was silent on the short drive to the small café and she found it slightly endearing that he opened her door for her when they got there.

She took his offered arm once more as they entered the shop and they approached the counter to order. Abby intended on going dutch but Jasper waved her attempted payment away and bought both coffees. They headed to a back table where they resumed their previous conversation.

"Do you think you'll stay in London?" Jasper asked her about halfway through the coffee.

"I would like to. My family's far from there," she smiled and added, "we don't get on. It's a large enough city where I can always have a job opportunity and if I really am going to be a political reporter I have to be where it's happening."

"Fair enough," he said. "How would you feel if I rang you when we both return?"

"I suppose that would be alright," she said. "I'm flattered you'd ask."

"I'm flattered you'd agree," he said and took her hand, kissing the knuckles. "I was a bit apprehensive in asking you to dance at the club. You had the look of someone who didn't want to be there and I thought maybe you had a boyfriend."

"I've never really had a boyfriend," Abby admitted. She reluctantly pulled her hand away from Jasper and gripped her paper cup. "Pathetic, I know, especially for someone of my age, but it's the truth. It's just never worked out. I always sort of thought I'd be married by now."

"With a brood of children?" he asked laughingly.

Abby wrinkled her nose. "I wouldn't go that far. Not even sure I want babies, you know. Such a load of work, they are, and I'd rather spend that time on my career and… oh I dunno, maybe a bianual holiday to Bermuda."

Jasper threw his head back and laughed. "You really are my kind of girl, Miss Abigail. Were I more impulsive I would get down on one knee and propose to you immediately."

Abigail smiled shyly. "And were I more impulsive, Mr Esparza, I would say yes." Abby was flustered with herself because that statement was true. She could fall hard for this man, and that scared her. She hadn't let herself fall for anyone, ever. Not after all those relationships ended so bitterly.

The conversation turned to more dull topics such as childhoods, religion and, God forbid, politics. They chatted the night away and it wasn't until Abby realized just how tired she was, that she suggested they go.

"May I see you again?" Jasper asked as they exited the café.

"If I have time," Abby answered truthfully. "I've got term papers coming up and this is my last semester. If I don't buckle down, I won't graduate and if I don't graduate, I lose my job."

"Fair enough. Let me give you my number and you ring me as soon as you have a free moment to yourself." Jasper wrote on the back of a business card and slipped it into her bag. He opened the door to the car for her and the ride to her flat was nearly silent.

"Thank you for the coffee," she said and reached for the door handle. "I want to ask you up, but I don't think that's a good idea."

"May I at least walk you to your door?"

"Are you hoping for a goodnight kiss?" Abby teased.

"What if I am?"

"You are very charming, Jasper. I suppose I might consider it."

Those words caused Jasper to hurry round the car to her door. He let her out and they walked, hand-in-hand to her door. Turning, she looked into his almost unfriendly brown eyes and wondered what kind of man he would turn out to be.

"About that kiss," he said.

Abby closed her eyes and leaned forward. It was only a moment's hesitation before Jasper's mouth was on hers. His kiss was demanding, persistent and rough. She wasn't sure how she felt about it. She wasn't the sort of girl who liked pushy men, but it was also somewhat exciting. He would likely be just as persistent between her sheets.

But she wasn't going to ask him in. She broke the kiss, pressed her closed mouth against his cheek and then went inside. She waited against the closed door until she heard him leave the step and his car drive off.

She had wanted him. If she had been a weaker woman, she would have invited him in and probably enjoyed the best sex of her life. Yet, Abby wasn't looking for the best sex of her life. She'd had great sex, a lot of it.

If she was going to bother with such things again, she was going to go in it for everything. For a relationship. For a companion. For a forever, as ridiculous as that sounded. She wanted that.

Abby heaved her suitcase onto her bed and fell down along side it. The flat was sparsely furnished, just a sofa, chair, bed and wardrobe. But it was home, and Abby was glad to be home. Rolling over, she smiled at Emily who was dropping down onto the floor, just under the open window.

"Lord, I don't remember London being so bloody warm," Emily groaned as a slight breeze fluttered over her upturned face.

"It felt icy until we had to haul all that shit up the stairs," Abby groaned. "I can't believe the lift is broken."

"With your luck, I can," Emily said with a snort. "Let's go get some food."

"Eh, ring Brian and have him bring take away," Abby said. "I don't think I can move."

"I'm not sure I'm comfortable with him navigating London on his own. When he noticed the streets were opposite here he freaked out."

Abby laughed. "Your husband is a loser. Fine, go off with him, then, and bring me something back. I want to catch my breath and start unpacking. The rest of my furniture arrives tomorrow so I want everything in place."

"You're such a perfectionist," Emily snarled before getting up and heading out.

Abby fully intended on rising as soon as she caught her breath, but before she knew it, she'd drifted off. She was rudely woken from her kip when Brian burst through the door.

"Hellooooo," he called.

Abby sat up and realized it had become quite dark. "Shit," she said and fumbled for her mobile. She looked at the time and saw she'd been out for almost two hours. Struggling to her feet, Abby rubbed at her face and headed into the lounge where Brian and Emily were setting the food on the table.

"You didn't do shit in here," Brian said.

"Yeah, I sort of dropped off." Abby yawned and started helping dish out the food. It was curry, and probably the best curry meal Abby'd had in a long time.

The small talk with her two friends was nice, and the bottle of wine was even nicer. They chatted for over an hour before Abby finally decided to tackle some of the boxes. Emily and Brian settled themselves on the sofa, sitting close while Abby settled on the floor.

"Lounge," Abby read off the top. She began to pull out books, setting them off to the side. Next came a smaller box which she kept some various knick knacks from her side tables.

Prying off the top, she sifted through the items absently until her fingers came in contact with a oddly familiar business card. She pulled it out and felt a sudden wave of regret. It was the card Jasper had given her.

The last time she'd set eyes on the man was the night he left her at her door. School and finishing her degree had consumed her so completely she had all-but forgotten him.

"What's wrong?" Emily asked, pulling Abby from her sudden morose thoughts.

"Jasper's card."


"That bloke from the club that night," Abby said. "The cute one."

"You mean that curly haired dude?" Brian asked.

"That would be the one," Abby said. "I haven't thought of him in ages.

Abby stared down at the scribbled number. It was American. She hadn't even bothered to ask for email, so any chance of reconnecting were almost lost. What did she know about him, anyway? He was a lawyer, a bit older than she was, moving back to London in some undetermined time.

That was it.

With a heavy sigh, Abby put the card back into the box and popped the lid back on. She grabbed her bottle of beer, took a long swig and smiled at her friends. "It's so good to be home."

"Your first assignments were well done. I haven't been more impressed with a new hire before," Karen Stork, the Editor of the small publication, said to Abby six months into Abby's employment. " I was a little hesitant to employ Emily as your personal editor but I see now why it was insisted upon. You two work well together and she knows how to make your rough words flow together."

"Thank you," Abby said, unsure if she was supposed to say anything else to that.

"I've just got word that Fiore Esparza, do you know him?"

"Secretary for Defense," Abby said. "Not to mention one of the most publically scandalous politicians we have here in Britain."

"Correct. And he makes for very juicy articles, Abby. Believe me, he's one of the reasons we're still in print today." Karen smirked and shook her head. "Rumour has it, he wants to run for office again and has asked us to do a piece on him."

"What sort?" Abby asked.

"A vindication piece," Karen snorted. "He wants to show that any involvement he's had with prior scandal has been innocent. He wants to show he's a dedicated father, husband and statesman. So I'm giving the assignment to you. Fiore has always been a bit of a show-off, and he wants the interview conducted at his Manor in Leeds. I daresay this assignment could well make your name for you, Miss Brown. Do you accept?"

"Without question," Abby said, feeling elation running through her almost viciously. "When is the interview scheduled for?"

"Tomorrow at nine sharp. I've arranged a car for you, and a room nearby. Go home and pack, be ready to leave in an hour."

"Thanks, Karen. I won't let you down."

"I'm putting trust in you, Abigail," Karen said, which sounded much more like a threat than anything else.

But Abby didn't care. She didn't even bother to look back as she gathered her bag and laptop and hurried out the door.

Abby sat in the back seat of the hire-car, ignoring the driver who seemed intent on making inane conversation. She pulled out her bag and retrieved the file on Fiore Esparza. He was always in the limelight, Fiore, and always involved in some scandal.

And her job was to show how he was actually an honest man? Abby snorted, "What a joke," she whispered to herself. She pulled out several pages she was supposed to address. Money laundering, murder, petty theft? He was also reported to have been involved in some American crimes with the Mexican Mafia involving drug trafficking.

"This is pathetic," she said aloud. "And how many reported affairs?" The paper read twelve confirmed affairs. It was a wonder his wife was still with him after all these years.

There were several pages discussing family life, telling how Fiore and Isabel spent usually less than three months together. She was often in France, her homeland, and he was always in England. They had one son, the paper reported, who was a practicing lawyer.

Jasper Esparza.

Abby felt the blood rush from her face with shock. "Jasper," she whispered. "Oh my god." She fumbled for her mobile and hastily dialed Emily. It was only a second before her friend picked up and she was all-but shouting. "I'm such an idiot, Em! He's Fiore's son! Fiore's son. Esparza! How did I not make the connection? It's not as though Esparza's a common name, now is it? I can't believe this!"

"Abby!" Emily shouted, "What the hell are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about Jasper!" Abby hissed.

"The bloke from the club at University?" Emily asked.

"Yes! Esparza. Jasper Esparza is Fiore Esparza's son," Abby said, now breathless from nearly hyperventilating. I'm on my way to Fiore's manor," Abby said, calming a bit more. "I doubt Jasper will be there. He told me he's got a flat in London."

"Maybe it's a good thing you cut ties with him, isn't it?"

"How so?" Abby asked, her eyes growing wide.

"Think on it, Abby. This is Fiore Esparza's son. I highly doubt the apple fell far from the tree, you know. I mean honestly, I've had to read up on Esparza for this article and Jesus Christ, Abby, this man is a maniac. I can't imagine he raised a son with good morals. Even his wife, what's she called…"


"Right. Even she's always off outside of the country. She wants nothing to do with her insane husband and probably insane son."

"It's not fair of you to judge him like that," Abby said heatedly. She wasn't quite sure why she was defending this man she didn't know, but she felt compelled to do so.

"Abby, if I'm wrong, I apologize, but I also want to make sure you understand this family. It's basic psychology. He had a criminal father, a mother who wasn't ever there for him, probably raised by hoards of nannies and servants and now he's in political law defending men like his father. I can't imagine he walks round thinking he's doing good for the world. I'm sure he knows what Fiore and all the others get up to."

Abby sighed. It was no use arguing with her friend when she was on a rant about the psychology of people. And, although Abby was loathe to admit it, Emily was probably right. Still, there was something about Jasper that was drawing her in and she had a feeling she hadn't seen the last of him,

"I'll take care, Em," Abby finally said. "I'm not a child anymore and I know how to make a well-informed decision. Besides, as I said before, Jasper lives in London, and I'm going to be in Leeds."

"Alright. Phone me as soon as the interview is over, and email me your notes. I want to get started straight away."

"Bye," Abby said and rang off.

The car arrived at the small inn not long after the phone conversation and Abby's head was still spinning from the news. It was chilly, so Abby hurried inside and went straight to her room where she curled up under the duvet and ordered out for food.

She hoped against hope for some decent sleep, but all Abby could think about was the next day, the interview, and being inside the private world where Jasper had come from. True, she didn't know him, but she had spent a night with him, kissed him like a silly teenager, and swore to keep in touch.

Of course, she hadn't held up her end of that last bit and she wondered if Jasper would hate her for it.

By the time Abby's thoughts settled, it was morning. She pulled herself from the bed and ran a hot bath before sending for breakfast. She could barely handle the food, so instead she gulped down three cups of strong, black tea.

She was fussing with her clothing for ages before she realized that she was nearly late for the car. She grabbed her bag and laptop and rushed down where the car was just pulling up.

"Morning, Miss," the driver said.

"Good morning," Abby said. She proceeded to ignore the rest of his questions as they drove up the lane. Abby could see the manor as they rounded the first bend, and was in complete awe of the grounds. They were green, large and the manor, though large, looked humbled by the gardens.

It wasn't long before they were pulling up to the front of the house and Abby had to scold the contents of her stomach into staying firmly in place.

She gave her neat hair one smooth over with her hand before getting out of the car. She slipped her laptop bag over her shoulder and approached the door. She pushed the bell and waited impatiently for the two minutes it took to open.

A butler, dressed in black with a rather plain face, let her in and showed her into the foyer. "Abigail Brown, here with the Sparrow Publications to interview Mr Fiore Esparza." She droned out the rehearsed line to the bored looking man.

"Just a moment," he said and headed up the stairs.

Abby knew she should probably stay firm on the spot, but she couldn't help but wander. She gazed at the foyer walls which were covered in tasteful art pieces, but she was hoping to see family portraits. There were none, and none in any of the room she could see into.

Before she knew it, she heard footsteps on the stairs and she turned to look. It was a shock, for a moment, when she thought she was looking at Jasper. The man coming towards her had the same face and same wild, curly hair.

But his eyes were a fierce blue, and his smile was much less warm than Jasper's had been. When he got closer, Abby could see salt and pepper grey at his temples and he was taller than Jasper .

"Hello there," Fiore said.

"Mr Esparza," Abby said, approaching Fiore with her hand outstretched. "Abigail Brown, here with Sparrow Publications."

"Oh my dear," Fiore said. He brushed her hand aside and put his arm round her shoulders. "My dear, you don't need to make up such stories with me."

"But-" Abby began.

"Unfortunately, as much as it pains me to turn you away at this moment," Fiore said, and honestly did look pained, "my wife has returned from her extended holiday, and my son is upstairs with her."

Abby went cold, and didn't quite process Fiore's strange brush-off. "Jasper?"

"Do you know him?" Fiore asked. "You must have met us at that little record party in London. Anyway, my dear, I also really do have an interview with Sparrow Publications this afternoon. But I'll be happy to have you over later. You are unbelievably delectable."

"But…" Abby said. She fumbled in her bag for her badge and shoved it at him. "I'm Abigail Brown, sir. The reporter."

Fiore frowned at her badge. "You really are my reporter?"

"Yes," Abby said.

Fiore looked up at her and began to laugh. His laugh was hearty and friendly and his eyes lost their cold stare just for the moment. "How lovely. I had no idea they'd send such a vision."

"Is that wise to say?" Abby asked a little coldly. "I'm here to clear your name, after all."

"From scandal," Fiore said. "Being a reporter you must at least understand a marriage of convenience. Marriages of convenience often lack passion."

"I understand that, however, hitting on your reporter isn't exactly clean behavior, is it?"

"Aren't we off the record?" he asked with a wink.

Abby found him almost as charming as his son had been. "For the moment," she agreed.

"I do like you," Fiore said.

Abby realized he was still holding her shoulder and she shrugged him away. She pushed all thoughts of Jasper from her head, as desperately as she wanted to demand his presence. "Shall we begin, Mr Esparza?"

"Do please call me Fiore," he said.

"As you wish, Fiore."

"This way, Miss Abigail, if you please," Fiore said and led the way into a nicely furnished parlor. He gestured to a table near a very impressive bar, and proceeded to pour himself a drink. "Might I offer you something?"

"Not this early, thank you," she said and pulled out her small voice recorder and her notepad.

"Ah, I love youth. So untainted by the bitterness of life. In ten years when I offer you a drink this early in the day, you won't hesitate."

"Don't count on it, sir," Abby said with her first smile of the day. "I intend on having a happy life with a passionate marriage of inconvenience."

Fiore laughed at that and shook his head. "You most certainly are something, Miss Abigail. Remind me to call your boss and let her know just how pleased I am that she sent you."

"Well, er, thank you." Abby didn't know what else to say, so she got straight to the interview. It lasted for the better part of three hours before Fiore asked to wrap it up.

"As much as I adore your charming company, my love, I must ask that we end it."

"Absolutely," Abby said. "I have enough here to make a rather nice piece."

"Nice for me, or nice for your publication?" Fiore asked with a smile.

"I think it will do us both good, sir," Abby said. She packed up her recorder and notebook and extended her hand. "It's been a pleasure."

"Not nearly enough," Fiore said. "I'd like to extend an invitation to lunch."

"I…" Abby stuttered. It was unconventional and she knew Fiore's motivation wasn't innocent. But, if she agreed, she would see Jasper again. However, there was the fear that it would be awkward since she hadn't rung him at all. Not to mention her fear that perhaps Emily was right about him.

"I suppose I could agree, as much as it's against policy," Abby found herself saying.

"Excellent. Although I do wish it were just us today," Fiore said and kissed her hand.

Abby pulled away. "I'm sorry sir, but were it just us, the invitation would have been refused."

"A girl with morals, who is not tempted by power and money. How refreshing."

"I thought you were going to say stupid," Abby said.

Fiore chuckled. "That kind of stupidity is refreshing. Perhaps you will find your Prince Charming."

"Not what I'm looking for," Abby said firmly.

"Let's retire to the lounge," Fiore said. "My son and wife are in there and I'd like to make introductions." They started out of the room and Fiore gave a small pause. "Though, you mentioned my son. Do you know him, or was it all on the information sheet?"

Abby hesitated her answer. If she told Fiore the truth and Jasper denied her, she would look like a total fool. If she denied Jasper and he made a scene, it would also make her look false. She sighed and said, "I met him once when he and I were in the States. Both studying there."

"You got your degree in America as well?" Fiore asked. "At the same University?"

"Don't quite know," Abby said as they walked down the corridor. "We met at a club, and only one night."

"A club? Rather unlike my son," Fiore said.

"He seemed out of his element. We left and spent time in a café. Unfortunately I never found the time to ring him again."

Fiore stopped and gave her an appraising look. "So you're the girl who sent him home so morose. He would never give me details but I know my son very well."

Abby blushed. "I highly doubt that was me, sir."

"Don't doubt your desirability, young lady. Were I ten years younger and unmarried, I'd sweep you off your feet and show you a life you could only dream of."

"I'll take your word on it," Abby said a little uncomfortably.

Fiore smiled again and led her into the lounge. Her heart was pounding when the door opened and Abby immediately saw Jasper. He looked exactly as he had the night they met, and he was sitting next to a woman that was likely his mother.

Abby had expected her to be beautiful, but she wasn't. She was very plastic, fake tan, fake blonde hair, with too much makeup. She had a too-white smile and she didn't bother to rise when Abby and Fiore entered the room.

"Look who I've found, Jasper. Something you've lost?" Fiore joked.

Abby went scarlet. "Hello," she said very quietly.

"Abigail?" Jasper asked. He abandoned his glass of wine and approached her. "Abby from the club."

"Has it been so long you don't recognize me?" Abby asked.

Jasper snorted. "It might be that you only gave me one night of your company before leaving me high and dry."

"I'm so sorry about that," Abby began, but Jasper stopped her.

"What are you doing here?"

"She's the reporter," Fiore said. "The one who's writing the article set to renew my image."

"You?" Jasper asked.

"I did mention I was in political journalism, didn't I?" Abby said.

"I believe you did. What a coincidence." His voice was very distant and very cold.

"So much so," Abby said, unsure how to react to his sudden icy demeanor.

It was a blur after that, of conversation, wine and an oddly good time. Jasper was as pleasant company as he'd been the night she met him, and Fiore only added to the ambiance. Only Isabel was a depressing creature, making snide comments and eventually retiring to her room after several martini's and several inappropriate comments.

Fiore paid her no mind and made no apologies for his wife's behavior. The three remaining had dinner together, Abby forgetting about the time. It was pleasant conversation throughout the entire thing and Fiore was a very gracious host. Although it was clear he was still lusting after Abby, Fiore eventually left to his office and gave Jasper and Abby the final hour of the evening.

The two went to the back gardens to chat.

"So tell me, why didn't you ring me?"

Abby sighed. They were seated shoulder-to-shoulder on the garden swing, huddled under a heavy blanket Jasper had brought down. "Honestly, I hadn't really thought about you. I was so distracted by getting my degree that dating really wasn't on the front of my mind."

"Ah, so I was easily forgotten," Jasper said. He said it with a smile, but there was that coldness Abby didn't miss.

"It wasn't that, you know," Abby said quickly. "When I got to London, I found your number but it wasn't local."

"I had expected you to ring me, so we could keep in touch," he said and now Abby could hear the irritation.

"I don't really know what to tell you," she said. "It wasn't personal."

Jasper fell silent for a moment and then said, "I'm not used to women blowing me off."

Abby laughed. "That's what you think I did?"

"It is what you did," Jasper said. "Usually women are stumbling over themselves to be with me."

Abby's eyes widened and she snorted. "Is that so?"

"It is so," Jasper said. "When I saw you come into the room part of me wanted to pretend you weren't there. I've never been rejected like that. I didn't like it."

"Your father did say you were rather morose when you came back," Abby said. She wasn't sure this could be considered a good date at all, even though they were nearly cuddling under a blanket.

"I was put out. I tried to get over you. Banged several California-hot girls before I came back, but I kept thinking about you and I couldn't stop."

"And now you have me sitting right here next to you. What do you want to do?" Abby challenged.

"Not sure," Jasper admitted. "Part of me wants to snog you stupid, part of me wants to have you escorted off the grounds."

"Hmm," Abby said. "So which is it going to be?"

"Let's just say I'm not a stupid man," Jasper answered quietly before taking her face in his hands and kissing her.