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A Daughter For Christmas

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NANNY WANTEDSexy tycoon seeks live-in nanny… Nicholas Kendall is a playboy tycoon who, until recently, had no idea he was a father – because Leigh has spent months agonizing over whether to reveal that his affair with her sister resulted in a beautiful baby girl… .Now Leigh has custody of little Amy, but Nicholas adores his secret daughter and wants her for keeps – with Leigh as nanny! In fact, he wants the three of them to become a real family… by Christmas. Leigh is in turmoil: having the irresistible Nicholas Kendall as her boss is one thing – but marrying him?
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“You slept with my sister, Mr. Kendall.”

He leaned forward, and the black threat on his face made Leigh draw back sharply.

“Yes, I did, Miss Walker. Two consenting adults. And if you’re going to try and blackmail me, then you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“I have no intention of blackmailing you, Mr. Kendall.” Just what sort of world did this man move in, where blackmail featured on the menu? “I’ve come here to break some rather...unexpected news. I’ve come to tell you that you’re a father. You have a seven-year-old daughter. Her name is Amy.”

Dear Reader,

A perfect nanny can be tough to find, but once you’ve found her you’ll love and treasure her forever. She’s someone who’ll not only look after the kids but also could be that loving mom they never knew. Or sometimes she’s a he and is the daddy they are wishing for.

Here at Harlequin Presents® we’ve put together a compelling series, NANNY WANTED!, in which some of our most popular authors create nannies whose talents extend way beyond taking care of the children! Each story will excite and delight you and make you wonder how any family could be complete without a nineties nanny.

Remember—nanny knows best when it comes to falling in love!

The Editors

Look out next month for:

A Nanny for Christmas by Sara Craven (#1999)

A Daughter For Christmas

Cathy Williams



THE decision to contact Nicholas Kendall had been a difficult one, arrived at after months of soul-searching and after every other option had been exhausted.

Or at least as far as Leigh could see.

And then there had been the big question of how precisely to establish contact. Should she telephone him? It was too big an issue to deal with over the phone. Should she just find out where he lived and pay him a surprise visit? No, he might die from shock. She had no idea how old he was or, for that matter, what the state of his heart was. So she was left with the ubiquitous letter.

But, then, how much should she say? Enough to arouse his curiosity but not so much that he dismissed the situation without a second glance. After all, she knew precious little about the man.

Jenny had told her about him in one shocking emotional outburst, but a hospital bed had been no place to ask all those questions that had forced themselves to the surface, shattering in ten charged minutes the calm, contented surface which had comprised her sister’s life. And now there was no Jenny around to tell her anything at all.

She had posted the letter ten days ago.

Now, holding his reply in her hand, she felt exactly as she’d imagined she would. Unsure. Had she done the right thing? Had she betrayed her sister’s confidence or would she have understood? She stared down at the sheet of thick paper, at the black handwriting and wished she hadn’t found herself forced into this corner.

‘What’s the matter?’

Leigh looked up from the letter and hurriedly stuffed it into the pocket of her cardigan, then she shook her head and smiled down at the child, staring earnestly up at her.

‘Nothing. Have you brushed your hair, Ames? You can’t go to school looking like that.’ She looked fondly at her niece and tried to eliminate the traces of worry from her face. Children could be unnervingly clever at picking up shades of feeling, and the more Amy was spared the better. She had already been through enough.

‘It’s the house, isn’t it?’ Amy said in a small voice. ‘They’re going to take the house away from us, aren’t they?’

‘What on earth makes you say that?’ Leigh felt her heart sink.

‘I heard you talking to Carol about it on the phone last night.’

They stared at each other and, not for the first time, Leigh felt an overwhelming sensation of helplessness. Helplessness in the face of events over which she had no control. Helplessness at being caught up in a cyclone. Helplessness at being unable to run away because there was Amy, her sister’s daughter, who needed looking after. Oh, God, how on earth was she ever going to explain what was going on?

‘You should have been asleep, Army!’

Amy didn’t say anything. She just stood there in her winter school uniform. Seven years old, with long dark hair and solemn, green eyes.

‘Yes, darling, there are a few problems with the house. I’m working on it.’

‘Will we have to move out?’

‘We’ll see.’ She paused and sighed. ‘We might, yes.’

‘But you won’t leave me, will you?’ she asked in a high whisper, and Leigh knelt on the ground and took the child’s face between her hands. It wasn’t the first time that she had had to do this—to persuade her niece that she wasn’t about to disappear, that she’d be there when evening came and when the following morning rolled around as well. The school psychologist had told Leigh that it was a reaction she could expect and one which could last for years after the deaths of Amy’s parents—a need to be reassured and a tendency to cling like ivy to the support systems that remained in her life.

‘No chance, dwarf,’ Leigh said soberly. ‘You’re stuck with me, like it or not. Now, your hair. Then breakfast, then school. At this rate we’ll never get this show off the road.’ She smoothed back the long hair from Amy’s face and kissed her forehead. ‘And hurry. You know what Mrs Stephens is like when it comes to punctuality! I shall have another lecture on time-keeping and then I shall be late for work.’

She went downstairs and prepared breakfast, acting as normally as she could, and all the while that little letter burnt a hole in her pocket.

Nicholas Kendall had agreed to meet her. In two days’ time. At his club in the City. There had been no questions asked, and she assumed that he was waiting—wait—ing to see what turned up. He must be curious, but there had been no hint of it in his note. No hint of anything at all, in fact. Nothing to tell her what sort of man he was.

She wished she had had the foresight to ask Jenny a few more questions at the time, but the circumstances following the accident had been so overwhelming and the confession so startling that all she had done was listen in amazement.

‘I’m sorry, Leigh,’ her sister had said weakly, her breathing shallow. ‘I know that this is a shock but I don’t want to leave, carrying this secret with me. I can’t do that to you. I need to tell you, need to explain...

And Leigh hadn’t asked a thing. She had been too aghast at what she had been hearing. Roy had been Amy’s father. Amy’s father and Jenny’s husband. Or so she had always thought

Now she was being told that it had all been an illusion. A third party had been brought in, some man she had never heard of in her life before. It had been a one-night stand, Jenny had said, a moment’s impulse when she had been driven by despair and desperation, a moment’s insanity that she and Roy had put behind them, but all things came home to roost in the end, didn’t they?

Leigh desperately wished that she had asked questions, instead of simply sitting there, mouth agape, as though this sort of thing didn’t happen all the time. All she had been told by her sister during her last, frantic jumbled ramblings had been the man’s name and the fact that he lived in London.

And Leigh had stuffed the insidious information to the back of her mind for well over a year and a half.

At first it had been easy just to bury the name she had scribbled on that piece of paper to the back of a drawer. There had been so much to do, arrangements to be made, and, of course, Amy to look after now both her parents were dead. One minute Leigh had been cruising along, going to art school, planning a future as a graphic artist in some advertising firm—dreaming her dreams—and the next minute she’d been handed the mantle of responsibility.

Almost immediately the financial problems had reared up, like a freakish, multi-headed monster, twisting in every direction and blocking all the exits. The painting and decorating business, which had been Roy’s domain, and the interior design side of it, which had been Jenny’s—both of which Leigh had naïvely thought had been doing well—had been breaking under the weight of the economic recession.

Their accountant had given Leigh precisely one week’s reprieve after the funeral, before calling her and laying all the cards on the table.

Leigh had sat through it all in a daze. She’d had no idea of finance and had stared in bewilderment at the sheets of figures which had been produced for her to see.

‘Can’t we just find someone else to run it?’ she had asked a little wildly. ‘I mean, what’s going to happen to the men in the company? Bob and Nicky and Dan?’

‘What happens to all people who find themselves out of work.’ The accountant had shrugged, not entirely unsympathetic but businesslike. ‘There’s no point, employing someone to try and rescue the business,’ he had told her in a kinder voice.

‘Think about it. It doesn’t make sense, does it? To spend money hiring someone for a business that’s in the process of failing. There have been no new orders for your sister’s side of things since...’ he glanced down at a sheet of paper ‘...the middle of the year. No one wants to spend money on redesigning the insides of their houses!’

‘But it can’t fail! There’s Amy! I can’t help with money! I’m still at college...’

‘You could always put your studies on hold for a while, try and see what you can do. I’ll give you my services free...’

That had been one and a half years ago and she had given it everything she had. She had abandoned her beloved dreams of a career in art and had taken an interminably mundane office job, the only merit of which was that it brought some money in. And it seemed as though, overnight, she had aged into an old woman.

It hadn’t been enough. The creditors, circling at first, had gradually moved in closer and closer. The bank had lost sympathy. By the time Ed, the accountant, advised her to let go, she was utterly defeated.

Heaven knows, she might have been able to carry on with the office job, scraping pennies together and dreaming her pointless dreams in the privacy of her head, but then the bank had foreclosed on their house, and that had been the last straw.

It was only then that the piece of paper, lying at the back of the drawer like some forgotten incantation, had begun to beckon.

She would be opening a can of worms and might well end up making things even worse than they already were, but the time had come for the gamble to be taken.

For the next two days Leigh wavered somewhere between dread and a despairing kind of forced optimism which would break down the minute she questioned it too closely.

In front of Amy she preserved a façade of carefree joviality, but it was a strain and once or twice she had caught her niece looking at her with huge, worried eyes. It hurt tremendously that there was very little she could do to reassure her, apart from promising faithfully never to leave her. That much she could do at least.

There were absolutely no other promises of security she could hope to offer, and she still hadn’t decided what she would tell Amy when the time came for decisions to be made. A lot rested on what this Nicholas Kendall had to say, whether some sort of meeting ground could be reached, but of that she held out very little hope.

What man, presented with the sudden appearance of a seven-year-old daughter he never knew existed, would greet the situation with a chuckle and open arms? The most she could hope for was someone who would at least hear her out.

But, Lord, she knew precious little about him, though considerably more than she had done a year and a half ago. She had done her homework, and it hadn’t been that difficult to discover who he was—a mover and shaker in financial circles, a wealthy, dynamic man, apparently, whose listing in Who’s Who had made her swallow with nerves. This, it seemed, was the man who had fathered her niece.

Oh, Jen, why? But there was no point in crying over spilt milk. Besides, she knew why.

She dressed very, very carefully that Friday morning. Admittedly, there wasn’t much she could do with her face. It steadfastly resisted all attempts to be glamorised and she had faced that fact a long time ago. Her reddishgold hair was too short to look chic, her eyes were too blue and too widely spaced to look feline and sexy and, of course, the freckles everywhere were the final straw. Winter or summer there they were, forever sabotaging her efforts to look her age—giving her the gamin-like appearance of an overgrown elf, or so she thought whenever she looked in the mirror.

She looked in the mirror now and concentrated on the wardrobe she had donned, wondering whether it looked right. She wasn’t quite sure what she was aiming for, considering she had never met the man, but she knew that whatever she wore would have to give her confidence.

Amy sat on the bed and watched Leigh while she fiddled with her long hair, brushing it and plaiting it.

‘Where are you going?’ she asked, when her hair had been neatly pulled away from her face and plaited.

‘What makes you think that I’m going anywhere?’

‘You don’t normally take this long getting dressed.’

‘Sometimes I do!’ Leigh protested, glancing at the reflection of the child in the mirror and grinning. ‘OK. I give in. Hardly ever. I just thought that this might make a nice change. What do you think?’

She twirled on the spot, holding one corner of the flowing red and black skirt between her fingers.

‘You look beautiful,’ Amy said honestly, and Leigh could have hugged her. ‘Are you meeting someone?’

‘Oh, you know, the usual.’ She shrugged and smiled vaguely. ‘What are you going to be doing in school today?’ she asked, changing the subject.

‘Maths, science, sports.’ Their eyes met and Leigh smiled.

‘Have you had the results of that test you had last week?’

‘We get them today,’ Amy said glumly.

‘We can treat ourselves to a burger and a milkshake after school if you do OK,’ Leigh said. A rare indulgence, she thought, and Amy deserved it. When times had been good she had had as many burgers and milkshakes as she could have eaten, and now that times were rocky she hadn’t complained once about what she was now missing. She had just adapted, in that curious, malleable way children had, accepting their straitened circumstances without complaint.

‘What if I do badly?’ Amy asked with concern.

‘Well, we’ll treat ourselves anyway. Consolation prize, so to speak.’ By four this afternoon, Leigh thought, I’ll be in much the same boat myself. Whether things go well or not, I’ll be just so damn relieved that a burger and milkshake will be just the thing.

‘Anyway,’ Leigh told her niece, as an afterthought, ‘it doesn’t matter whether you pass or fail that comprehension test, just so long as you put all your efforts into trying.’

‘That’s what Mrs Spencer keeps telling us.’

‘Well, there you go, then. We can’t both be wrong, can we?’ She turned to the little figure on the bed and grinned reassuringly. What she saw, though, wasn’t Amy sitting on the bed with folded legs, but Amy in the future, bombarded by revelations that would redefine the whole contours of her life.

She slipped the long-sleeved woollen turtleneck over her head and only inspected herself again when they were about to leave the house.

She looked, she decided, reasonably all right—neat and combed, at any rate, which for her made a change, and for once colour co-ordinated—black and red skirt, black, clingy turtleneck just showing under the black jumper, black coat because although it was only the end of October the weather was unseasonably cold and flat black shoes. Sober attire, she reflected. Highly appropriate, given the mission in hand.

Her first stop was to drop Amy off at school, then there was an hour and a half during which time she knew that she would simply freefall in a fever of apprehension. She had never been as strong and assertive as her sister. Jenny had always protected her from unsavoury problems, and it had only been in the last sixteen months or so that she had begun to show her own strengths.

Of course, it was the uncertainty which was gnawing away at her. She knew that. That and the knowledge that everything depended on her. The whole of Amy’s future rested on her shoulders because there were no other relatives to fall back on—no conveniently placed grandparents who could help out, no aunts and uncles to tide them over. Leigh had never missed the presence of a family as much as she did now.

It wasn’t even as though she had a boyfriend to lean on, someone to give her strength when she felt her own failing. True, there had been someone. Sensitive, moody, artistic Mick, with his long hair tied back into a ponytail and his enviable contempt for the bourgeoisie, but that hadn’t lasted. It seemed that he was also allergic to responsibility. The thought of helping her to share the strain of bringing up a young child had been just a little too much like hard work for him. ‘I’m a free soul,’ he had told her. ‘Can’t be tied down.’ And that had been that. Leigh couldn’t think about it, without feeling the sour taste of bitterness in her mouth.

It took her ages to find the club, which was about as far from the Underground as it could be, and as she couldn’t afford the luxury of a taxi she had to walk the distance, getting lost several times along the way, despite her A to Z.

She was feeling quite frazzled by the time she stood outside the club, which resembled a large Georgianfronted house more than anything else.

Her legs, which had covered the distance on autopilot, now seemed to be nailed to the pavement outside. She literally couldn’t move a muscle, couldn’t take a step forward. She just stood there, a small, motionless figure amidst a throng of pedestrians, with her hair blowing in every direction as she looked nervously at the edifice. The cold October air pinched her cheeks, turning them rosy, and made her eyes smart.

It was only when she felt the chill seeping into her bones, that she took a deep breath and made herself walk forward.

Inside was like stepping into another world. Leigh caught her breath and gazed around her in a disoriented fashion. Everything was so subdued. There was no noise. It was as though the twentieth century was something that was happening outside, something that was abandoned once the doors had closed behind her.

The furnishings were lavish, though faded, with the sort of well-worn elegance she associated with country mansions which had been handed down through the generations.

She looked a little wildly around her, feeling thoroughly out of place in what she was wearing. Her carefully co-ordinated outfit was frankly a joke in a place like this. She raked her fingers through her short hair in a nervous gesture, and then summoned up her courage to start looking for the dining room.

She wasn’t allowed to get very far.

A middle-aged man materialised in front of her and asked, pointedly, whether she was a member.

‘No, but—’

‘This establishment,’ he said, eyeing her up and down and clearly finding her wanting, ‘is not open to the public. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.’ He looked like the sort who disapproved of women in general, having access to the club, members or not. The fact that she was not obviously reduced her to the status of the undeserving. He placed his hand on her elbow and Leigh sprang back angrily.

‘Wait just a minute!’

‘Now, miss,’ the gimlet-eyed man said, his voice hardening, ‘I hope I’m not going to have any trouble from you.’

And vice versa, Leigh thought acidly, but she forced herself to remain calm.

‘I have an appointment to meet someone here,’ she said coolly, bristling as he threw her a dubious look.

‘And might I ask whom?’

‘A Nicholas Kendall.’

The name was enough to bring about a complete transformation. The man deigned to smile, stiff though the smile was.

‘Of course, Miss...?’


‘Miss Walker. Ah. If you would care to follow me, I will show you to Mr Kendall’s table.’ He set off at a leisurely pace, talking all the while. ‘I do apologise if I appeared rude, Miss Walker, but we really cannot be too careful here. In winter, particularly, people have an alarming tendency to try and take refuge in here from the cold. The tourists mistakenly think that it’s some kind of up-market restaurant.’ Complete idiots, his voice implied. ‘Others simply try and use it as a bolthole out of the weather.’ By ‘others’ he evidently meant undesirables.

Leigh didn’t say anything. She looked around her, taking in the large sitting room areas, all with the same dark furnishings and hushed atmosphere, where businessmen—and a very few businesswomen—sat on comfortable chairs, reading newspapers over lunch or else chatting in library tones. It was, she felt, the sort of place where faces might be recognised—politicians, perhaps, or celebrities of one kind or another. No one so much as glanced in her direction as they walked past. A well bred lack of curiosity.

They went up a flight of stairs past what appeared to be a very large library with leather chairs placed seemingly at random and then entered a formal dining area.

She could feel her stomach going into tight, painful knots as destiny drew closer. She blindly followed her guide, staring straight at his back in a useless attempt to ward off the inevitable, and only refocused when they stopped and she became aware of a man, sitting at a table, in front of her.

‘Mr Kendall, this young lady, a Miss Walker, is here to join you for lunch, I believe...?’

What, she thought, would he do if the great and good Mr Kendall shook his head and disclaimed knowledge of any such thing? Would she be hurled out of the place by the scruff of her neck, like someone in a cartoon? Would all these discreet, eminent people rise up in anger at having their private bolthole invaded?

‘That’s right.’ The voice was deep, commanding, and she finally forced her eyes to take in the man on the chair. He was scrutinising her, and making no attempt to disguise the fact. Green eyes, not translucent but the peculiar colour of the unfathomable sea, looked at her unhurriedly. There was no open curiosity but calculated assessment. She had the strangest feeling that she was being committed to memory. It was disconcerting.

‘May I fetch you an aperitif?’

Leigh nodded distractedly and said, clearing her throat, ‘A mineral water. Please. Sparkling.’ She could hear the awkward timbre of her voice and realised how, like her clothes, it betrayed her gaucherie in these surroundings.

‘Same for me again, George.’ Nicholas Kendall continued to look at her as he spoke and, despite the fact that she had never felt so uncomfortable in her life before, Leigh couldn’t seem to tear her eyes away from his face.

She had seen one or two pictures of him when she had been doing her research, grainy newspaper photos which had not prepared her for the immediate impact of his looks.

He had a mesmerising face. As someone who had studied art, she could appreciate the harsh definition of its contours. There was nothing soft or compromising about this face; it held a great deal of strength. It would be a wonderful face to try and capture on canvas but a difficult one because, aside from the physical layout of the features, there was a sense of real power and self-assurance there and that was what held her transfixed.

His hair was dark, almost black, as were his lashes, and contrasted disconcertingly with the inscrutable seagreen of his eyes.

‘Do you intend to sit down, Miss Walker?’ he asked unsmilingly, ‘or do you intend to remain clutching the back of the chair and staring at me?’

His words snapped her back to her senses and she sat in a rush of embarrassed confusion. She could feel her heart pounding under her ribcage, and the sheer enormity of trying to sift out what she was going to say left her tongue-tied

It didn’t help that he offered no encouragement whatsoever. He may well have agreed to meet her—a brief interlude between meetings, judging from his impeccably tailored grey suit—but he wasn’t going to make her task easy.

‘I’m sorry,’ she began, ‘to have sprung myself on you like this.’ She laughed nervously and fiddled with the stem of her empty wine glass. He neither smiled nor did his expression relax. He merely folded his arms and waited for her to carry on. Leigh felt as though she finally knew what it must have felt like, trying to plead your case before the Spanish Inquisition. She didn’t dare meet his eyes.

‘I guess you must be a little curious as to why I made contact with you...?’ She left that as an unspoken question, hovering in the air between them.

‘A little...yes,’ he drawled.

Their drinks were brought to them, and Leigh gulped a mouthful of mineral water. Anything to steady her nerves. She wished she had ordered a double whisky on the rocks. She could have bolted it back in one swallow and that would have loosened her up, if nothing else.

There were no menus. George, who looked much more human now that she had proved herself to be no intruder, informed them that there was a choice of roast beef, with all the trimmings, roast lamb, with all the trimmings, or poached salmon.

They both ordered the same thing—the salmon—and as George left them she looked at Nicholas’s hard, immutable face with helpless foreboding.

‘So,’ he said finally, ‘are you going to tell me why you contacted me? I’m intrigued, but not so intrigued that I intend to waste my time, trying to drag it out of you bit by reluctant bit.’ He swallowed some of his whisky and tonic and surveyed her dispassionately over the rim of the glass.

Leigh wondered what her sister could have seen in this man. Sure, he had a certain style, but he was hardly full of warmth and gaiety, was he? Or maybe, she thought, in the right circumstances he was a bundle of laughs. Then, again, her sister had probably not seen him at all. He had simply been the recipient of her own personal, distressing frame of mind at the time.

‘I’m not sure where to start,’ Leigh said honestly. She wished that she had never arranged to meet him. She wished, frantically, that she had never found herself in the situation that she had, torn between the devil and the deep blue sea, assured of disaster whatever course she chose to take. In a way she almost wished that her sister had never burdened her with this terrible confidence, although she could understand why she had done it. She had wanted to go with a clear conscience.

‘Try the beginning’ he told her abruptly.

‘Right In that case, I have to start around eight years ago.’ She lowered her eyes, as though not seeing him might dull the impact of what she had to say. She could feel his attention on her, though, wrapped around her like something tangible and forbidding.

‘Majorca, nearly eight years ago. A large, expensive, secluded hotel on the coast.’

Business had been booming then. Order books had been full. She could remember it clearly. Jenny had been married a year at the most and she should have been in the throes of newly wedded bliss, but she had been depressed.

At the time Leigh had questioned her but she hadn’t persisted. She had only been a teenager then and her sister’s problems had hardly been able to dent the youthful bubble around her. Besides, she’d naively assumed that nothing could really be amiss with Jenny—Jenny, who had always been there for her, always looked out for her, the prop which had never wavered ever since their parents had died, leaving them with only each other to turn to.

‘Majorca.’ Nicholas frowned, and she could see him trying to dredge up memories from years back. ‘I could have been there.’ He shrugged noncommittally. ‘What’s the relevance? If you’re going to try and convince me that I met you there, you’d better try again. I’ve never seen you in my life before, and I never forget a face.’

No, he didn’t strike her as the sort of man who ever forgot a face. Who ever forgot anything, come to that.

Their food was served. It was a reprieve from trying to figure out just how she was going to tell her little tale, and Leigh gazed at it, weak with relief for the temporary distraction.

Nicholas Kendall had a strong effect on her, though she didn’t quite know what it was. She assumed it was because he represented a type she had never encountered in her life before. Certainly, he was as far removed from her sister’s husband as to make you wonder whether they even belonged to the same species.

Roy had been a simple, cheerful man, with the rounded frame of someone who enjoyed his food and drink a bit too much. She had always wondered, in fact, what her sister had ever seen in him. Physically, that was, because Jenny was everything to look at that she, Leigh, had never been. They had been the same height, but there the similarity had ended.

Blonde as opposed to Titian, long, wavy hair as opposed to short and straight, a voluptuous body as opposed to the boyishly slender build which Leigh had long ago discovered did very little to bolster her attractiveness to the opposite sex. In the end she had simply accepted the truth that opposites attract.

Now, though, it was something of a shock to be confronted by the man with whom her sister had had her fated one-night stand.

‘I’m still waiting to hear what you have to say, Miss Walker.’

Leigh looked at him and eventually said in a low voice, ‘You’re quite right, Mr Kendall. We’ve never met before. But you did meet my sister.’ She paused in the face of the difficult task of persuading him of the veracity of the claim. Someone more ordinary might well have remembered the isolated incident with Jenny. This man was not ordinary, however. Would he remember one face, one night, eight years ago amid a sea of doubtless willing women?

The eyes, focused on her, were sharper now, picking up clues and trying to fit the pieces together.

‘Jennifer Stewart,’ Leigh said in a low voice. ‘She looked nothing like me. She was blonde, very extrovert. She was in Majorca for a week, mixing business and pleasure. She had a contract to do the design work for a part of the hotel they were in the process of extending.’

‘I had to get out of England, away from Roy. I felt awful, but I just had to think... I was mad, griefstricken’ she had told Leigh in the hospital, her voice barely audible.

Nicholas Kendall recognised her. Leigh could see it in his eyes. She didn’t know whether it had been the description or whether he remembered Jennifer because she had been there on business, but remember her he did. He stiffened very slightly. His eyes, which had been uninviting to begin with, now regarded her coldly, as though suspicious of whatever motive had brought her to this encounter. He was, she thought, waiting to shoot her down in flames.

‘Quite an eye-stopper’ he said, looking at her and making comparisons.

‘Yes, she was.’ She looked him fully in the face. ‘Unlike me.’

He didn’t deny it. ‘I remember her because she seemed driven at the time. A little too full of it. Too much laughter, too much chatter, too much drink. How is she?’

It was a polite question. Jennifer had meant nothing to him. She was a quick gallop down memory lane. How ironic that a passing memory would now rise up from nowhere to alter everything in his life, whatever his reaction to her news might be.

‘She died in an automobile accident sixteen months ago,’ Leigh said abruptly. She toyed with the food in front of her, eating it half-heartedly and shoving the remainder around her plate the way Amy did with her vegetables.

‘You have my sympathy.’ He glanced at his watch. ‘I still don’t understand what all this has to do with me, however.’

‘Mr Kendall,’ Leigh said slowly, putting down her knife and fork and looking ruefully at the half-finished plate of food. It was delicious food but her appetite had deserted her, if it had ever been there in the first place. ‘Are you married?’ Magazine and newspaper articles had made no mention of a wife, but who knew how these people operated? Fast-lane lives with open marriages.

Thickly fringed green eyes narrowed on her. ‘Why do you ask?’

‘Are you?’

‘I am not.’

Leigh released her breath. Well, that was one less issue that would have to be navigated. The Lord knew, there were enough obstacles, without that being one of them.

‘Just say what you have to say, Miss Walker. I’m getting very tired of playing these word games with you. I have no idea why you’re here and, frankly I’m beginning to regret my decision to meet you in the first place. You said in the letter that you had something to tell me. Well, tell me.’ He took another glance at his watch. ‘I haven’t got all day.’

‘You slept with my sister, Mr Kendall. One night...’

He leaned forward and the black threat on his face made her draw back sharply. ‘Yes, I did, Miss Walker. Two consenting adults. If you’re going to try and blackmail me in any way whatsoever you’re barking up the wrong tree.’

‘I have no intention of blackmailing you, Mr Kendall.’ She stared at him with loathing. Just what sort of world did this man move in where blackmail was something that featured on the menu? ‘I’ve come here to break some rather...unexpeeted news. I’ve come to tell you that you’re a father. You have a seven-year-old daughter. Her name is Amy.’


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