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A No Risk Affair

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«A No Risk Affair» - Кэрол Мортимер

Carole Mortimer is one of Mills & Boon’s best loved Modern Romance authors. With nearly 200 books published and a career spanning 35 years, Mills & Boon are thrilled to present her complete works available to download for the very first time! Rediscover old favourites – and find new ones! – in this fabulous collection…Flirting with Sin…Robyn had faced a lot in her marriage to a no-good, selfish charmer. So from the moment she met hot-shot author Sinclair Thornton, she’s tried to discourage this sexy, easy-going millionaire from invading her life. Her twins have enough to deal with adjusting to one part-time father, they don’t need a second.Yet Robyn can’t deny that she wants Sin’s caresses—she just can’t deal with the intense emotional intimacy between them. But Sin won’t be satisfied until he has claimed all of Robyn…
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A No Risk Affair

Carole Mortimer


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Title Page











‘HEY, little—er, young lady,’ the deeply masculine voice corrected humorously as the man realised his mistake. ‘Is your mother at home?’

Robyn had turned slowly to look at the man who had called to her across the garden fence that separated the two cottages, knowing it was this movement that had changed his mind about her being a little girl. From the back her height and slender figure might give that impression, but as soon as she turned that impression was as quickly dispelled. Slender and slightly boyish before the twins were born five years ago her breasts had never returned to their flat-chested state, the clinging blue T-shirt she wore at the moment emphasising that fact.

The man with the wickedly twinkling blue eyes grinned at her devilishly. ‘The Colonel told me my new neighbour was a Mrs Warner and her two children, but I had no idea the children would be quite so—grown-up,’ his husky voice had lowered appreciatively.

Robyn turned completely now, giving up any idea of hanging up the rest of her washing for the moment, giving him her full attention. ‘You're Sinclair Thornton?’ her own voice was slightly throaty, almost sensual, not quite in keeping with the fresh-scrubbed look of her face and her long bright red hair secured at her nape.

He leant over the top of the fence, the light summer breeze ruffling his overlong blond hair, his arms deeply tanned below the turned back sleeves of his shirt. ‘The Colonel told you about me?’ he prompted lightly, giving away nothing of his thoughts on the subject by his bland expression.

She shrugged narrow shoulders. ‘There isn't much that's secret in a small community like this one, Mr Thornton,’ she answered noncommitally, not willing to admit that she knew his reason for being here, or the fact that she despised that reason utterly.

‘My friends call me Sin,’ he encouraged softly, his gaze still appreciative.

‘So I've heard,’ she acknowledged dryly.

Interest flickered in the bright blue eyes. ‘What else have you heard?’

‘Everyone knows of your books.’ Again her manner was slightly reserved. ‘They're always on the bestseller list.”

He frowned as he picked up the edge of disapproval in her voice. ‘You don't like them?’

‘I've never read one,’ she told him truthfully. ‘I don't have a lot of spare time,’ she added by way of softening what could be taken as an insult.

‘Of course you don't,’ he straightened. ‘I'm probably delaying your getting to school right now. I just thought I would introduce myself to your mother.’

Once again he had made the mistake of thinking she was the child instead of the Mrs Warner she actually was, and an imp of devilment stopped her refuting his error. ‘I'm the only one at home at the moment,’ she said with complete honesty. ‘Why don't you come over for dinner this evening?’ she invited mischievously. ‘I'm sure the rest of the family would love to meet you.’ She could well imagine the twins’ wide-eyed interest in their new neighbour, and she felt sure this man was going to be more than surprised by who the ‘rest of the family’ consisted of. It would serve him right for flirting with the impressionable teenager he thought her to be when he was obviously an experienced man in his thirties.

‘Are you sure your mother won't mind your making the invitation on her behalf?’ he hesitated, obviously not willing to upset his new neighbour on his first day here.

‘None of the family will mind,’ she told him with certainty, knowing the twins met all too few new people, living on the Masters estate as they did. ‘But we eat quite early, about six?’ she raised auburn brows enquiringly.

‘Anytime suits me,’ he accepted. ‘I'll look forward to it.’

So would she. It was a long time since she had felt such a mischievous state of anticipation. She hadn't been looking forward to the arrival of her temporary neighbour in the adjoining cottage, knew from his reputation and the life he had led that he would be too much like Brad for comfort. In looks the two men were opposite, Brad as dark as Sinclair Thornton was blond, Brad's eyes a cold calculating grey whereas the other man's were a bright twinkling blue. But Sinclair Thornton had once been a reporter, as Brad still was, and although the other man appeared to have had the sense to get out while he was still in one piece, both emotionally and physically, Brad still went to all the trouble spots of the world, throwing himself into the task with a relish that sickened her. Although she and her ex-husband had been divorced for almost two years he still popped up from time to time, showered gifts on Kim and Andy when they would much rather have had more of his time and love, before disappearing off to God knows where again.

It had been the constant uncertainty as to Brad's welfare, the days, weeks sometimes, of waiting to see if he would get out of his latest assignment alive, that had completed the erosion of their marriage. And she knew, as did most other people, that the bestselling books that Sinclair Thornton specialised in were for the main part based on his own experiences during his time as a reporter, that ‘only the names and places had been changed to protect the innocent'! And from the reviews she had read of those books there didn't appear to be many of the latter between the covers!

When the Colonel had told her of the author's proposed visit here she had been less than enthusiastic, despised the glorifying of war when it was the innocent who suffered. And as Sinclair Thornton had made it known that he intended basing his next book, in part, on the Colonel's war-time experiences she couldn't say she had relished the thought of meeting him.

But he had turned out to be slightly different from what she had imagined, although she didn't doubt that the same hardness that had ruled all Brad's decisions in life lurked somewhere beneath the easygoing charm of the other man; no man could see and experience some of the things those two had without becoming hardened to the softer things in life such as love and children.

But this thinking of Sinclair Thornton wouldn't do, she had to be up at the Hall for nine-fifteen, and she still had a few things to do before then. ‘We'll see you at six, then, Mr Thornton,’ she told him dismissively.

‘Yes,’ but he made no effort to move. ‘Er—Do you think I might borrow a cup of milk? I only arrived an hour ago and I'm afraid milk isn't something I thought to buy.’

She almost laughed out loud at the little-boy-lost-look he had suddenly affected. ‘So much for wanting to introduce yourself,’ she mocked as she turned to go into her own little cottage.

‘But I did,’ Sinclair Thornton had moved with lightning speed through the gate that connected the two gardens and was now walking at her side with long, easy strides, his denims old and faded as they rested low down on his hips, his black shirt fitted over his wide shoulders and tapered waist.

She looked up at him with mocking eyes, barely reaching his shoulder, made to feel like the little girl he had first presumed her to be. ‘You just thought that as I was here …’ she drawled teasingly.

‘Exactly,’ he grinned, his eyes crinkling as laughter lines fanned out from the corners, a dimple appearing in one of his lean cheeks. ‘See, I didn't even bring a cup with me,’ he held up his empty hands.

They were nice hands, strong and capable looking, the fingers long and fleshless, in fact the whole of his body didn't possess an ounce of superfluous weight. He certainly hadn't let his fame and fortune soften him! It was another reminder for her—if she needed one!—that his charm and easygoing manner were only skin-deep too.

'I'm sure I can manage to let you keep the cup until this evening,’ her voice had hardened.

‘I promise I'll bring it back,’ he nodded, looking about the kitchen appreciatively, obviously liking the yellow and white decor in the tiny room, his gaze coming to rest on the obviously childish paintings she had pinned to the walls. ‘Your brother or sister must be a lot younger than you?’ he raised blond brows questioningly.

‘Andy is only five,’ she acknowledged noncommittally, handing him the cup of milk, her expectant stare clearly saying she wanted him to leave now.

‘I'm looking forward to a home-cooked meal,’ he told her by way of parting.

‘Don't look forward to it too much,’ Robyn warned with a grin. ‘I—My mother isn't the best cook in the world.’

‘After some of my own efforts in that direction anything will taste good,’ he assured her, not seeming to have noticed her slip.

He had disappeared into the adjoining cottage by the time she returned to the garden to finish hanging out the washing. Which was perhaps as well, because she had got to the twins clothes now, the numerous trousers, T-shirts and skirts obviously for more than one child. Sinclair Thornton would only have to glance over this way once some time during the day and he would realise the mistake he had made. Would he be amused or annoyed that she hadn't corrected him?

Oh well, it had only been a harmless joke. And if he was going to be their neighbour for the next few months he would have to learn to cope with that sort of thing, both Kim and Andy having inherited their mother's sense of fun.

Now that the early morning rush was over, the twins washed and dressed, their breakfasts cooked and eaten, and the two of them safely on board the bus that would take them to the school three miles away, she had time to get herself ready for work.

The denims and T-shirt were the first to go, replaced with one of the tailored skirts and a tan blouse she had bought herself for work. Then came her make-up, the shadings subdued, her lipgloss a deep plum colour, her cheeks lightly highlighted with blusher. And lastly came her hair. Released from the ribbon at her nape it flowed in a glorious red cascade down her back. But she didn't leave it in that style, knew that the loose coil on top of her head added to her maturity if it didn't help her look her twenty-four years.

Twenty-four, was that really all she was? Sometimes she felt twice that age, and at other times she wondered where all the years had gone to, the time seeming to have flown by since the twins were born. Married at eighteen, a mother—and more or less a grass-widow—at nineteen, divorced at only twenty-two, a lot had happened to her in the last six years. If she hadn't had the twins she didn't know how she would have coped with half of it. It was ironic, in the circumstances, that the two babies she loved more than anything else in the world had also been partly responsible, innocently, for most of what had happened after they were born.

Although perhaps that wasn't quite true, it had been Brad's reaction to them that had been the cause of that.

She walked the mile and a half up to Bromptwood Hall, leaving her little car and the petrol she guarded so frugally, in the garage next to the cottage. She enjoyed the walk anyway, and she preferred to use what petrol she could afford to buy to take Kim and Andy out at the weekends. All three of them looked forward to and enjoyed these trips, and on warm days like this one her walk to work became a pleasure. She would think about the cold days when they arrived!

The office she occupied during the morning was next to the Colonel's study, the post already on her desk to be sorted and dealt with before lunch. In the afternoon she would become one of the guides for the tours around the historic house and gardens, enjoying that part of her work most of all, liking to talk to the people who visited, finding pleasure in showing them the grand old house.

Colonel Masters had married the daughter of the house, an only child, twenty-five years ago, and when his wife died eight years ago and the estate became expensive to run he had decided to open his doors to the public during the summer months, as a lot of other stately homes had been pressured into doing in recent years. It certainly didn't make him a fortune, but it kept him and his daughter Caroline in relative comfort, had also helped to send the latter to the exclusive school in Switzerland she had returned from only this summer.

If there were a black spot on Robyn's horizon it was the other girl. Spoilt and pampered all her life Caroline looked down on anyone who had to work for a living, treating most of the estate staff as inferior to herself, Robyn more so than most. She considered Robyn had been highly stupid to have got herself married and divorced to a man who hadn't even been able to give her a decent allowance after the divorce.

The younger girl sauntered into Robyn's office halfway through the morning, her dress made exclusively for her in London, her dark beauty emphasised by the delicate shade of blue. A deep admirer of the Princess of Wales—as were most women!—Caroline made it her business to have her clothes designed by the same people the Princess did. The fact that she was shorter and plumper than the Princess escaped her, as did the fact that she could never look quite as elegant as that famous lady, no matter what clothes she wore.

‘Daddy wants you to work late today,’ she told Robyn in a bored voice.

She heaved an inward sigh, knowing she was in for an argument. ‘The Colonel knows very well that I can't do that.’ She always finished promptly at three-fifteen so that she could be home in time to meet the twins off the school bus.

‘Because of those two brats of yours, I suppose,’ Caroline derided. ‘Can't they let themselves into the cottage for once?’

Dark brown eyes clashed with a callous blue. ‘No,’ Robyn replied emphatically.

‘Well, can't you get someone to sit with them until you get home?’ the younger girl was showing her impatience now.

Robyn eyed her with suspicion. ‘Why does your father want me to work late?’

Caroline shrugged. ‘There's a late party coming at three-thirty, and as you know it's Maggie's day off …’

She also knew that on the rare occasions that this happened the Colonel made alternative arrangements, ones that didn't include her working late; he had even taken the odd party around himself when necessary. The Colonel may not be the easiest man in the world to get on with but he did understand her home situation. ‘Your father told me he was going to ask you to take that party,’ she challenged.

Caroline's pretty face flushed her displeasure. ‘I have a hair appointment this afternoon.’

Robyn looked at the already perfectly styled dark hair. ‘You look just fine to me,’ she dismissed.

The younger girl gave her a scathing look. ‘And we all know how qualified you are to judge!’

She knew the other girl considered her casual clothes, light make-up, and unfashionably long hair excluded her from being able to talk with any authority on all three of them. And maybe they did, but she always knew what was in fashion nowadays—she only had to look at Caroline for that. It was strange really, there were only four years difference in their ages, and yet she felt so much older than the other girl, had found much more important things than fashion to fill and enrich her life.

‘Take your choice, Caroline,’ she shrugged. ‘Go down to the cottage and sit with the twins or take the party round.’ Her expression was widely innocent as she saw the other girl's look of horror at the mention of the twins.

‘Those little devils!’ Caroline gasped.

‘They love you too, Caroline,’ she drawled, knowing the dislike was mutual. Her exuberant offspring couldn't understand why Caroline refused to get down on the floor with them or go out in the garden and play in the dirt, pursuits their mother didn't seem to mind in the least. In fact, Robyn rather enjoyed playing with her children.

Irritation darkened the hard blue eyes. ‘The last time I called Kim laddered my tights by crawling all over me and Andy spilt orange juice all over my new dress.’

‘Both incidents were accidents,’ she defended, knowing that her children didn't have a vindictive bone in their bodies. ‘And it was only one little spot of orange juice, it sponged off quite easily.’

‘Luckily for you,’ Caroline snapped waspishly. ‘You don't exactly earn enough here to have replaced the dress, and I doubt Brad remembers to send your maintenance any more often than he used to.’

She flushed her resentment at the personal remark, knowing it was inevitable that people should be aware of her private business in the rural community that she had chosen to live in, also knowing that Caroline wasn't averse to using her knowledge when she felt like being particularly bitchy. ‘We manage,’ she bit out tautly.

Caroline smiled her pleasure at being able to pierce the shield of calmness that so irritated her. ‘My dear cousin never was a reliable husband,’ she mocked. ‘Was he?’ she taunted.

It wasn't difficult to imagine Brad and Caroline as being closely related. Brad may hide his selfish preoccupation with his own needs better than Caroline did, but the trait was there nonetheless. Brad was the son of the Colonel's sister, and it was the Colonel who had offered her and the twins the use of one of the estate cottages when she and Brad had first separated, claiming that family should stick together no matter what, that there had never been a divorce in the family. And for a while Brad had visited the three of them at the cottage, before even that trailed off. But the Colonel had insisted she and the twins stay on at the estate, had even given her the job as his own secretary. Not that she had ever felt part of the Masters family, but the job and cottage, were very welcome, especially when, as Caroline pointed out so maliciously, Brad was so remiss with monetary support for his children. For herself she didn't care, but for the twins she minded a great deal.

Not that any of that showed in her face as she looked up at Caroline. ‘He sends what he can when he can,’ she murmured stiffly.

‘Are you kidding?’ the younger girl scoffed. ‘He must earn a small fortune doing the job he does, and you don't see a penny of it!’


I wouldn't let him get away with it,’ she declared haughtily. ‘Although how the two of you ever got married in the first place I'll never know!’ she added scornfully.

Robyn had often wondered about that herself since the separation and divorce, had come to the conclusion that it was her near hero-worship of Brad that had persuaded him to marry her. At the time she had been too much in love with him to realise how ill-suited they were. She had been eighteen to his twenty-eight, had found Brad exciting just to be with, had been wide-eyed and innocent about physical relationships, not having had a lover before Brad. The proof of that innocence had been her pregnancy only two months after their wedding! Brad had been furious at her stupidity, had taken it for granted that she would be responsible for any use of contraception between them. The rage he had flown into when he learnt he was to be a father had been only the first of many.

‘I don't believe this is any of your business, Caroline,’ she said distantly.

‘Maybe not,’ the younger girl shrugged. ‘But cousin-by-marriage or not, I am not looking after your two brats this afternoon.’

‘Kim and Andy are not brats——’

‘They're always into one scrape or another——’

‘That's just high spirits!’

‘Was it “high spirits” when they knocked over the Christmas tree last year?’

Robyn sighed. ‘It was an accident. Kim slipped on one of the rugs in the hall.’ And she could still remember her horror as the huge decorated tree had crashed down on her tiny daughter.

‘It was a mess,’ Caroline remembered disgustedly.

‘Maybe when you've given your father grandchildren of his own he'll stop feeling compelled to invite us to join your festivities,’ she derided.

‘I don't intend ruining my figure giving some man children he'll probably ignore.’

Robyn ignored this latest jibe at Brad and herself. ‘It improved mine,’ she smiled.

‘Maybe on the surface,’ Caroline acknowledged. ‘But stretch marks can be so unsightly!’

Robyn didn't even attempt to defend this insult. She had a few finely silver stretch marks on the flatness of her abdomen, yes, but unless someone was looking really closely they weren't noticeable. And she knew that she would risk having much worse marks than that if she could have Kim and Andy at the end of it. ‘So you'll be taking the party around this afternoon?’ she said dryly.

Caroline flashed her an angry look. ‘If you weren't family you wouldn't be so sure of yourself,’ she snapped.

If she didn't at least have that claim she didn't know if she would be able to stand Caroline's constant bitchiness. At least this way she was partly able to defend herself, although at the back of her mind she always had the danger of losing her home and job. Caroline did have a lot of influence with her over-indulgent father, and if she made enough of a fuss about Robyn and her children he could just be talked into asking them to leave. Nevertheless, she never let herself or the twins be treated as inferiors; there were some limits to her pride.

‘If I weren't family then I wouldn't be here,’ she pointed out in a reasoning tone. ‘And couldn't you have your hair done tomorrow?’

‘I wanted to look good for when Sinclair Thornton arrives,’ her cousin-by-marriage said moodily.

‘He's arrived.’

Blue eyes sharpened questioningly. ‘What do you mean?’

She shrugged narrow shoulders. ‘Exactly what I said, he's already arrived.’


‘This morning.’

‘You've seen him?’

Robyn nodded. ‘Before I came to work. Your father didn't mention his arrival to you?’

‘No,’ she answered in a preoccupied voice. ‘But then he's been rather busy this morning.’ Caroline's expression was sharp as she focused on Robyn. ‘What's he like?’

‘Mr Thornton?’

‘Well I hardly mean Daddy!’

She had known exactly who Caroline meant, but the occasional need to bait the younger girl persisted. The two of them had never got on, Caroline seeming to have more poise and sophistication even at fourteen than the young girl being introduced as the newest member of the family. It soon became obvious that even this youngest member of the family found her unsophisticated naïveté totally unsuitable in a relation of hers. And just occasionally Robyn couldn't help the defence mechanism that sprang into action whenever she remembered those past slights, motherhood having given her a confidence she previously lacked. Finding herself solely responsible at nineteen for two other vulnerable lives besides her own was sure to have had some effect!

‘Mr Thornton seemed—quite pleasant,’ she answered dismissively.

‘As good looking at his photographs?’ Caroline couldn't keep the eagerness out of her voice as she forgot for a moment her usual affected air of boredom.

Sinclair Thornton's good looks couldn't be denied, neither could his charm, and yet somehow she doubted he was exactly Caroline's type. The men the younger girl usually dated all seemed to be highly sophisticated, always perfectly dressed for the occasion, and Robyn felt sure that any denims those men owned would carry designer labels on the back and not be as disreputably faded and old as the denims Sinclair Thornton had worn this morning had been. But maybe she was misjudging Caroline, maybe the author's raw masculinity would be a welcome change after all that polished charm.

‘I've never seen a photograph of him,’ she shrugged. ‘But he is very good looking.’

Caroline chewed thoughtfully on her bottom lip, seemingly unaware that she was smudging her lipgloss by doing so, something she wouldn't be pleased about when she realised it later. ‘I wonder if it would be too forward of me to go over and introduce myself?’ she murmured to herself.

Remembering the author's casually friendly manner Robyn doubted he would find it at all forward to have a beautiful young girl introduce herself to him. ‘I'm sure he would welcome it,’ she drawled.

Caroline looked at her with narrowed blue eyes. ‘I don't want to go down there if you've already made a nuisance of yourself,’ she questioned haughtily.

Robyn held on to her temper with effort. One of these days——! She didn't have red hair for nothing, as Caroline would one day find out if she didn't stop playing ‘Lady of the Manor’ in this way! ‘I didn't make a nuisance of myself at all, he came over to borrow a cup of milk—–’

‘How original!’

‘You said it,’ she sighed wearily.

Caroline flushed at her misdirected sarcasm. ‘I'm sure he really did need the milk.’

'So am I,’ she said dryly. ‘An author would be able to think of a much better approach.’

‘Of course,’ the younger girl scorned. ‘I think I'll go and invite him over to dinner tonight, I'm sure he can't be organised enough for that yet.’

‘Er …’

‘Yes?’ Caroline prompted impatiently.

She gave a resigned sigh. ‘He's coming to the cottage for dinner this evening,’ she revealed reluctantly.

‘The cottage?’ the other girl repeated dumbfoundedly. ‘You mean with you and the twins?’

‘Well as we're the ones that live there, yes,’ she nodded.

Caroline flushed at the sarcasm. ‘What on earth possessed you to invite a man like Sinclair Thornton to dinner?’ she snapped disgustedly.

‘What on earth possessed him to accept?’ she flashed back, her eyes dark.

‘Politeness, I expect,’ Caroline returned waspishly, her eyes suddenly narrowing again. ‘You aren't seriously interested in him, are you?’ she said disbelievingly.

Robyn flushed at the younger girl's incredulity at such an idea being possible. The fact that she never dated, that a man like Sinclair Thornton would be the last man she would be attracted to if she did, didn't alter the fact that Caroline seemed to think she had no right to find any member of the opposite sex attractive, that her divorce and motherhood meant she had to be unattractive herself to any man.

‘I was merely being a polite neighbour,’ she bit out tightly. ‘If he would rather accept your invitation then I won't be in the least insulted.’ Any imp of pleasure she may have got out of this morning's teasing of Sinclair Thornton had evaporated during this unpleasant exchange with Caroline. It probably wouldn't have been funny anyway, not if Sinclair Thornton felt about children the same way Caroline did.

‘I should hope not,’ Caroline said haughtily. ‘The man is here to see Daddy, after all.’


‘I'll just go and change before going down there,’ Caroline spoke softly to herself, her smile one of anticipation.

‘Er—Caroline?’ she halted the other girl at the door. ‘The coach-party this afternoon?’ she prompted, having received no definite reply on the matter.

The pouting red mouth tightened. ‘I'll have to take them round, I expect,’ she snapped. ‘Daddy's silly to be so soft with you, you are an employee, after all.’

Robyn made no reply to this last bitchiness, although her breath left her in a barely controlled sigh once she was alone. It was true, she was an employee, but the Colonel always made allowances for the fact that she was a single parent first. She had no doubt that if, or when, anything happened to the Colonel there would be a lot of changes made.

She had never thought of herself as totally ineligible before, either. Oh the twins would be a big responsibility for any man to take on if he should happen to fall in love with her, but she had never even thought of being on her own for the rest of her life, knew that although she had had one disastrous marriage that with another man it could all be perfect. For the moment she preferred things the way they were, knew that although Kim and Andy were well-adjusted children that the fact that their father had chosen not to live with them troubled them at times. But one day they would be old enough to understand, and when that day came she would be ready herself to perhaps find a new love of her own. For the moment she was satisfied with her lot.

And for Caroline to imply she might be interested in Sinclair Thornton was ridiculous! He wasn't her type at all, and she doubted she was his either.

The twins were particularly boisterous when they got home that evening, and it took a good play and their baths to calm them down enough for their evening meal. Not that Robyn had gone to any trouble over the latter, fully expecting that Caroline would be able to convince Sinclair Thornton that dinner at the Hall would be much more comfortable. Not that Caroline had come to tell her of the change of plans, she hadn't seen the other girl all afternoon, but she took it for granted that she and the twins would be eating alone as usual. And if their neighbour did happen, by some remote chance, to come to them for dinner there was enough casserole for all of them. It may not be what he was used to, or what he would have got at the Hall, but it was good food, and well cooked.

‘Is Daddy coming to see us this weekend?’ Andy asked as she helped the two of them to dress upstairs after their bath, as alike as two peas to look at, both having Robyn's bright red hair and warm brown eyes.

‘Not this weekend,’ she dismissed lightly, brushing her daughter's unruly curls into some order before they dried.

'It's ages since he came,’ Andy said moodily.

‘He's busy,’ his sister put in quietly, the younger by five minutes, also the more introvert of the two; Kim tended to follow where Andy led, her brother outspoken as well as outgoing.

‘Yes. But——’

‘Kim's right, Andy,’ Robyn told him brightly. ‘Daddy has to work very hard. And it's only a few weeks since he telephoned you both.’ For a total of five minutes, she thought bitterly. Not once had she tried to deter Brad from seeing the children, or to influence them in any way concerning his long absences, it had all been Brad's decision, although she couldn't help the inner resentment she felt on the twins’ behalf at his lack of interest in them, knew that Kim was as hurt by it as Andy, no matter how much she defended him. Sometimes, when she felt her children's pain the most, she wished Brad would just stay out of their lives completely, let the twins forget him. But life just wasn't that tidy or straightforward. And maybe it was a selfish wish, the twins loved their father however little they saw of him, and perhaps in his own way he loved them too.

She was stopped from making further comment by the ringing of the doorbell, a glance at her watch as Andy leapt to look out of the window showing her it was exactly six o'clock!

‘There's a man outside, Mummy,’ Andy told her excitedly.

She stood up slowly, feeling a moment's panic before she instantly calmed again. Probably Sinclair Thornton had come to apologetically explain that he was going up to the Hall for dinner. Yes, that would be it. ‘Finish dressed, children,’ she told them in a preoccupied voice. ‘I—I'll go and see who it is.’ She hadn't mentioned the possibility of a guest for dinner to them, they were too often let down by their father without a complete stranger doing it too!

She checked her appearance in the mirror in the hallway before going to the door. If anything she looked even younger than she had this morning! She released her hair about her shoulders, wishing she had time to change from the cut-off denims and cream sun-top. But the doorbell ringing for a second time made that impossible.

As she had guessed, her caller was Sinclair Thornton, a bunch of tulips in one hand as his eyes gleamed at her mischievously over the petals. He wore fitted brown trousers and a lemon shirt tonight, but he looked no less ruggedly attractive in this slightly more formal clothing.

‘Hi,’ he greeted softly. ‘I'm not too early, am I?’ he added as she made no move to let him in.

‘Er—no,’ she blinked her surprise. ‘It's just—Caroline—Miss Masters, said something about inviting you up to the Hall tonight.’

‘She did,’ he nodded. ‘But I had to refuse her, after all I had already accepted your invitation.’

‘Oh but——’ She was stopped from further speech by the clatter of small feet down the stairs behind her, turning to see the twins arrive at the bottom together, looking adorably innocent with their newly washed faces and hair, wearing identical blue T-shirts and denims.

Robyn turned back to apologise to their guest for keeping him on the doorstep, her eyes widening as she saw his stunned expression, his incredulity obvious as he stared at the twins. Whatever he and Caroline had discussed after he had refused the other girl's invitation this afternoon he certainly hadn't been told of the twins’ existence!


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