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Уильямс Кэтти

Bittersweet Love

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NATALIE stared at the other woman, appalled.

‘Up to?’ she repeated faintly.

Anna walked towards her and Natalie took a step backwards, shamefacedly admitting to herself that an out-and-out fight was hardly on the cards, but not liking the expression on the other woman’s face at all.

‘Don’t pretend that you don’t know what I mean,’ Anna spat, glancing backwards at the door to make sure that Kane had not put in a stealthy and unexpected appearance. This, Natalie knew instinctively, was precisely the sort of scene that would infuriate him. Two women, fighting like fisherwomen in the middle of his cool, elegant lounge. Or rather one woman fighting, the other gaping like a bemused goldfish.

‘You’re way off target.’ Natalie gathered her wits together and made an effort to take control of the situation. ‘I have no intention of taking your man, as you put it. Frankly, you’re quite welcome to your man.’ She grinned to herself. Kane would hate being referred to as Anna’s man. As anyone’s man, for that matter. Expressions like that had a proprietorial ring that he would not have approved of one little bit.

Ownership wasn’t his style at all. He preferred to be totally free to come and go as he pleased, with whomever he pleased.

‘I don’t believe you.’

Natalie shrugged nonchalantly.

‘Funny sort of coincidence,’ Anna continued maliciously, ‘this new you, who suddenly happens to find herself in Kane’s apartment, for “work”, isn’t it? Ha. Do you think I was born yesterday?’

‘Look,’ Natalie said patiently, ‘I am here to work.’ She made a sweeping gesture towards the stack of files on the coffee-table. ‘What do you think they are?’ A new line in ornaments? she wanted to ask.

‘Good grief. A bunch of stupid files. Well, you would need some kind of excuse for coming on to Kane, I suppose. And a few files are as good as any.’

Natalie’s patience was beginning to evaporate. ‘I am not interested in Kane Marshall,’ she said angrily, ‘and this conversation is ridiculous.’

‘Not interested in Kane? Ha!’ Anna’s eyes narrowed on her. ‘You’ve always been interested in him. Even when you were a podgy little thing hiding behind those great big spectacles of yours. So who are you trying to kid?’

There was a sharp silence, then Natalie turned away, concealing her trembling hands by picking up one of the files and studying it closely, then returning it to the coffee-table.

Had Anna meant that or had it been just a stab in the dark? If it had been just a stab in the dark, then it’ s accuracy was amazing. If, on the other hand, she had spoken from observation, then the consequences were not worth thinking about, because, Natalie thought, if Anna, flitting in and out of the office occasionally, had noticed her foolish love, then was Kane aware of it as well?

She wanted the ground to open up and swallow her up, or a sudden freak cyclone to whip her away to another planet. She said coolly enough, ‘You have no idea what you’re talking about. Your imagination’s running riot because you’re jealous, for no reason whatsoever, and I don’t have to stay here and listen to you.’ Where precisely she could retreat to was anyone’s guess. She certainly had no intention of giving Anna the satisfaction of watching her run away, wounded. That would have been tantamount to admitting that there was something in what the other woman had said, for a start.

They heard the doorbell ring, then Kane’s voice ad-dressing the taxi driver, and Anna turned to face her quickly.

‘I’m just warning you,’ she bit out, ‘keep your hands off him. I can’t stop you watching, but he’s mine.’

‘Does he see it that way as well?’

Anna’s face went bright red, then white. For a second, Natalie thought that that fight which she had nervously dismissed earlier on as being a ludicrous over-reaction to the situation might materialise after all, but it didn’t.

‘You think you’re so clever,’ she muttered, ‘but if you make the mistake of trying to get your hands on Kane, then we’ll see just who the clever one is.’

Kane appeared at the door, his eyes flicking expressionlessly between the two women, but already Anna was smiling at him and Natalie herself had something plastered across her face which she sincerely hoped resembled a relaxed grin as well.

‘So nice to have had that little chat with you.’ Anna oozed from her stronghold next to Kane.

‘Wasn’t it?’ Natalie agreed, with as much control as she could muster, then she watched as Anna pulled Kane’s head towards her and kissed him, long and hard and without any inhibitions whatsoever.

Natalie felt the sting of tears behind her eyes, foolish, foolish tears, but not a flicker of emotion crossed her face.

What does she hope to achieve by that? she asked herself angrily. Does she think that I’m going to collapse in a jealous, writhing heap on the floor? Or maybe, and much more likely, she’s just trying to let me know who owns who.

O’Leary appeared from behind them and shouted in exasperation, ‘Taxi’s here! Time to break all this up!’

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