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Captive Loving

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«Captive Loving» - 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…A marriage to pay a debt…?The moment millionaire Matthew Sinclair saw Jessica Baxter, he wanted her. The temptation of her sweet lips is more than he can resist…Newly widowed Jessica has her little daughter to think of. But when she discovers that her cheating, abusive husband was also an embezzler, there’s no way she can repay Matthew the money… Until she learns that Matthew doesn’t want money, he wants Jessica…as his wife!
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Captive Loving Carole Mortimer

www.millsandboon.co.uk

Table of Contents

Title Page

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE

THE arms of her young daughter strained about Jessica's neck, and she looked down at her affectionately. Corn-coloured hair, thick and straight like her own, pansy-blue eyes staring into other pansy-blue eyes, the small snub nose and wide smiling mouth all adding up to an almost mirror image. Except that there were twenty years’ difference in their ages, Penny was only five years old.

‘Do you have to go out, Mummy?’ Penny pouted beguilingly. ‘I don't want old Aunty Peg taking care of me.’

‘She isn't old, darling,’ Jessica chuckled, tweaking her daughter's nose. Peg Seabrook was in her early forties, and certainly wouldn't appreciate being described as ‘old'. And she knew her daughter's bad humour to be due to anger with her rather than dislike of Peg. Usually Penny and Peg got on well together, and she knew that once she and Andrew had left they would do so again. ‘And yes, I have to go out.’ She smoothed Penny's hair back from her scrupulously clean face; the bathtime of an hour ago had been as hiliarious as usual.

Penny frowned petulantly. ‘But you don't usually go out with Daddy.’

Jessica's face became shadowed. What was the saying ‘out of the mouths of babes …'? Penny was right, she didn't usually go out with Andrew, but then the way he spent his evenings didn't usually include a wife. She hadn't realised that Penny had been aware of her parents’ differing social activities – no, not parents', because she personally didn't have a social life. Andrew had enough for both of them.

‘Tonight's special, poppet.’ She stood up to tuck the sheets more firmly about her daughter. ‘It has to do with Daddy's work.’

Penny looked up at her consideringly. ‘Will Aunt Lisa be there too?’

Jessica stiffened, forcing herself to continue tidying the gold-coloured coverlet. ‘Aunt Lisa?’ she asked with as much casualness as she could summon up.

Her young daughter wrinkled her nose up with dislike. ‘She came out with Daddy and me last week when we went shopping for your birthday present,’ she revealed innocently, seeing nothing unusual in her father going shopping with another woman.

Damn Andrew! Jessica didn't need two guesses who ‘Aunt Lisa’ was, she would be the latest in the long line of women Andrew had had since their marriage seven years ago. But he had no right introducing his women to their daughter. Penny was the only good thing to come out of this disaster of a marriage, and she wouldn't have her own relationship with her spoilt by Andrew's carelessness.

The fact that the other woman had probably helped Andrew choose the expensive bottle of perfume he gave her for her birthday didn't even touch her. Nothing Andrew did bothered her any more; it had ceased to very soon after Penny was born. But she would have to talk to him about involving Penny in his sordidness.

The thought didn't please her. Andrew had been more unpleasant than usual the last few weeks, and she dreaded him flying into one of his uncontrollable tempers.

‘She could be,’ she answered Penny evasively, not sure how Andrew had met this woman Lisa. She never knew where he met any of them, she just knew when he had met them. After seven years she was an expert at telling the signs, the way he suddenly started spoiling Penny and ignoring her. Not that she minded the latter part of it, but the sporadic gift-buying and time spent with Penny only confused her when it came to an abrupt end. Jessica would say that this latest affair had been going on a little over two months.

Penny pulled a face. ‘I didn't like her.’

‘Never mind, darling,’ she soothed. ‘Perhaps you won't see her again.’

‘I hope not.’

‘Sleep now, Penny,’ Jessica told her firmly. ‘And don't play up Aunty Peg, you know she can't resist you.’

The little girl grinned, looking completely angelic with her golden hair spread out on the pillow beneath her, her blue eyes clear and untroubled.

‘ ’Night,’ Jessica laughed, estimating Penny joining Peg downstairs ten minutes after she and Andrew had departed.

‘ ’Night,’ Penny echoed. ‘You look lovely, Mummy.’

‘Thank you, darling.’ There was a catch in her voice. It was so long since she had received a compliment, a compliment of any sort, that tears came unbidden to her eyes.

Damn! She had been all ready to go, and now she would have to recheck her make-up. If she were late Andrew wouldn't be pleased. This company dinner meant a lot to him. He would be downstairs charming Peg at the moment, despite the other woman's seventeen years’ seniority. Andrew couldn't be in the same room as a woman and not try and win her over. It had been this same easy charm that had attracted Jessica to him in the first place, the same charm that all his other women found so fascinating, the same charm that had destroyed them.

She went back to her bedroom, the room she had slept in alone since Penny had been three months old. Andrew's room was next door, but more often than not it was unoccupied during the night hours; his stumblings into the house during the early hours of the morning were a regular thing, although with this latest affair he usually only just managed to get in before Penny got up to go to school.

Jessica studied her reflection in the mirror. Mm, not bad. Andrew had insisted on giving her money for a new dress, and the royal blue crushed velvet of the gown made her eyes appear an even deeper blue, her hair almost silver. She looked cool and confident, and she only hoped she could act that way. Andrew had worked for Sinclairs for two years now, in the Sales Department, but this year was the first time he had invited her to attend one of their annual summer dances. The previous year she had stayed at home to look after an ailing Penny, and Andrew had gone on his own. She doubted he had left the same way. Andrew attracted women like bees around honey, his dark good looks and teasing blue eyes being attractive to most women, his air of recklessness adding to his challenge.

He stood up as soon as she entered the lounge, and she could view dispassionately the way the navy blue suit emphasised the breadth of his shoulders, his tapered waist and muscled thighs. His dark hair was worn over-long, deliberately so, and his features were so perfect he was almost beautiful.

‘We'd better be going,’ he said tersely, moving his car keys impatiently from one hand to the other, looking older than his twenty-seven years.

‘You look wonderful, Jessica.’ Peg filled Andrew's omission, ‘Really lovely, doesn't she, Andrew?’ Her voice hardened over the last.

Jessica bit her lip. Peg wasn't fooled by Andrew's winning ways in the least. She had been their next-door neighbour for two years now, and she knew exactly what Andrew was like. In fact, Peg was always advising her to leave him, if only to teach him a lesson. Peg seemed convinced that this was the jolt Andrew needed to stop his affairs. There was no possibility of her ever leaving Andrew, not with what he knew about her.

Andrew gave her a cursory glance, more of a glower really. ‘Yes,’ he snapped.

‘Now are you ready?’

‘I just have to get my jacket——’

‘I'll get it.’ He strode off impatiently, scowling heavily.

Peg raised her eyebrows; she was an attractive brunette with twelve years of happy marriage behind her, and was obviously slightly bewildered by Jessica's own marriage. ‘Big night?’ she teased.

‘Andrew's just tense,’ Jessica excused his rudeness. ‘Getting on at Sinclairs means a lot to him. The Sales Manager is retiring at the end of the year, and Andrew would like his job.’

‘Isn't he a little young for that?’

She shrugged. ‘I suppose he could be, I don't really know.’ Andrew rarely discussed his work with her, in fact she felt sure he had only mentioned the Sales Manager's job to her because he wanted to be sure she made a good impression tonight. ‘He seems to think he can do it.’

‘Then he probably can,’ her friend laughed. ‘That young man can do anything he sets his mind to.’

Not quite anything, but she wasn't going to tell Peg that. The explanation would be too embarrassing to herself. ‘If Penny should come down——’

‘She will, you know she will,’ Peg chuckled.

‘Yes,’ Jessica smiled. ‘Well, I shouldn't worry about it too much. It's Friday, so she doesn't have school tomorrow.’

‘Whatever you say,’ the other woman accepted. ‘I'll be glad to have her company.’

‘Here,’ Andrew came back, handing Jessica's jacket to her. ‘Let's go,’ and he walked out to the car.

‘See you later,’ she told Peg breathlessly as she struggled into her jacket, hastily following Andrew.

He was already seated behind the wheel, having no intention of opening the car door for her. Jessica saw something glittering on the floor as she got in, and bent to pick it up. It was a woman's compact, and it looked expensive.

‘Lisa's?’ She held it up.

Andrew turned to her with a start, his attention momentarily diverted from his driving. ‘What did you say?’

She drew in a steadying breath, knowing it would do no good for her to lose her temper. ‘I wondered if this were Lisa's.’

His face darkened. ‘How the hell did you find out about her?’

‘Guess,’ she said bitterly.

‘Penny!’

‘Yes. Andrew, I won't have her involved in your affairs. If you want to——’

You won't have her involved?’ he repeated scornfully. ‘Who asked for your opinion?’

‘Can't you see that she'll very soon start to make the connection——’

‘So what if she does?’

She paled. ‘Andrew, you can't——’

‘Who says I can't?’ he scowled. ‘Who's going to stop me? You?’

Jessica flinched at the contempt in his voice. ‘I won't have her involved,’ she repeated firmly. ‘You won't take her out with one of your women again.’

An angry flush coloured his cheeks, a pulse beating erratically in his cheek. ‘And what are you going to do if I do? Deny me the pleasure of your bed?’ he mocked bitterly.

Jessica paled even more. She should be used to his insults by now, and yet she could still be hurt by them. And he knew it, deriving great pleasure from denting the shell she had bult up about her emotions.

‘But then it never was a pleasure, for either of us, was it?’ he added scathingly.

‘Andrew——’

‘Beautiful—and frigid,’ he continued sneeringly.

‘I'm not——’

‘When a woman hasn't slept with her husband, or had the inclination to, for over five years then there has to be something wrong with her. And don't try and put the blame on me again,’ he snapped. ‘None of the other women I've slept with have had the trouble you did.’

By ‘trouble’ she knew he meant inhibitions. When they had met eight years ago she had been so shy it had taken all her time to talk to him, overwhelmed as she was by the fact that such a handsome, popular boy should have been interested in her.

Brought up by a maiden aunt since she was five years old, she wasn't used to being the centre of attention, especially male attention. She had been happy with her parents until the car crash had taken them from her, and her aunt had been very strict, hadn't liked her talking to boys, not even at school, drumming into Jessica at an early age the infidelities of men.

Thinking about it now, in her own maturity, she thought her aunt had probably been very hurt by a man when she was younger, but that didn't excuse the way she had regimentally brought up Jessica, never showing her any love or affection, something that had come hard to her after the first happy five years of her life.

Consequently she had grown up a lonely child, with a craving to be loved that at the time she hadn't even recognised. In her last year of school she had taken a Saturday job working in a local café, much to her aunt's disgust. Andrew came in there a lot with his friends, or with a girl. He had been popular even then, and had seemed like a god to the awe-struck, lovesick Jessica.

When he had asked her out for the first time she had thought he hadn't really meant it, that he had done it as a joke, that he and his friends would have a laugh about it later. Her basic insecurity was such that she hadn't been able to acknowledge or recognise her own beauty—she still couldn't, but Andrew had been intrigued by that haunting beauty from the first.

He had started to come to the café alone after that, asking her out again and again, until she finally agreed to let him take her to the cinema, little guessing that he had taken her first refusals as simply playing hard to get. When he had kissed her in the back row of the cinema she had let him, feeling safe in amongst all those people. But when he tried to do the same thing outside her aunt's house she had shrugged off his advances.

That had been the start of a long, slow courtship, with Jessica believing she had at last found the love and tenderness she craved. She had learnt later that Andrew's thoughts were less emotional, more basic. She parried his more intimate caresses with a shyness she later learnt he thought to be an act.

By this time it had become a challenge to him to possess her, almost an obsession, and when her aunt had died suddenly just after Jessica's eighteenth birthday he had even married her to realise his obsession. Their wedding night had been a triumph for him, and a deep shock for her. She had thought that because she loved him he would be tender and understanding about her inexperience, would respect her virginity. But he had been brutal, and his lovemaking contained only self-gratification, leaving her bruised and hurting, and worst of all, humiliated.

But she had been too inexperienced, too ignorant, to realise that there was more to going to bed with a man than what Andrew gave her, and lay docilely beneath him while he satisfied himself with her.

For months she had continued to suffer his invasion of her body, knowing that he enjoyed subjugating her. But by this time she had a job of her own, a job where the intimacies of married life were discussed between the women quite openly, and being one of the married ones herself she was expected to know what they were talking about. She didn't. But it was from these women that she had began to wonder if she wasn't missing something, if perhaps there wasn't more to making love.

When she had dared to broach the subject to Andrew he had exploded in a storm of anger so fierce he had frightened her. He had taken her words as a personal attack on his manhood, had told her that her lack of pleasure was due to her own frigidness, that it had nothing to do with him, that all the other women he slept with enjoyed it as much as he did, that none of them had her prudish inhibitions.

It was the first she had known of his other women, and her humiliation had been extreme as she found there had been other women in his life almost from the day they had been married. She had been numbed by the revelation, although she had stayed with him, still loving him, and having nowhere else to go even if she did leave.

A few months later she had found out she was pregnant, and so there had been no question of leaving Andrew then. But shortly after that pregnancy the physical side of their marriage had been permanently terminated, at her instigation, and Andrew had never let her forget it. Every time they had an argument he brought the subject up, always accusing, always threatening. And she feared those threats.

‘I'm sorry, Andrew,’ she said quietly now. ‘But after Penny was born——’

‘It had nothing to do with that, and you know it,’ he scorned. ‘You were always frigid, right from the start. I should have divorced you long ago.’

‘Oh no!’ she cried her dismay, her face very white. ‘You wouldn't, would you, Andrew?’ She clutched on to his arm.

‘Don't do that when I'm driving,’ he shook off her hand angrily. ‘In fact, don't do it at all, you know I can't bear you to touch me.’

Jessica recoiled back to her own side of the car, looking down at her hands as they moved nervously in her lap. She stopped their convulsive movement, clenching them tightly together. ‘I'm sorry, Andrew,’ she said huskily.

‘So I should damn well think,’ he snapped. ‘Just who do you think you are to tell me how to behave with my own daughter?’

She could have said his wife, but she knew what his answer to that would be. Besides, she daren't antagonise him too much, not when he could ultimately use the threat of divorce, a threat which he knew would cow her once and for all.

She forced her voice to be controlled, reasoning. ‘I just don't think it's a good idea for Penny to meet—your friend Lisa,’ she chose her words carefully.

‘Her name is Alicia, actually,’ he drawled. ‘Only her—intimates, call her Lisa.’

‘Oh.’

‘And I think it's a very good idea for Penny to meet her, she could be her stepmother one day,’ he added tauntingly.

Jessica's breath caught in her throat. ‘Is——is that probable?’

He shrugged. ‘Anything is possible.’ He made no effort to reassure her.

‘Andrew——’

‘Jessica!’ he mocked, turning the low sports car into the car park of the Sinclair office building.

‘Are you——’ she swallowed hard, licking her lips nervously, ‘are you thinking of divorcing me?’

He swung out of the car, bending down to speak to her. ‘It's never far from my mind,’ he told her cruelly. ‘It's no picnic being married to a silent iceberg.’

‘I——’

‘Don't make the same grand offer to share my bed again,’ he said sneeringly. ‘I wouldn't have you as a gift. I like co-operation in my bed, not complacency.’

Sharing a bed with Andrew had been the last thing on her mind, although she knew she would do even that if it would stop him talking of divorce. Thank God she no longer held any attraction for him!

‘I just wanted to say——’

‘It can wait until later, Jessica,’ he dismissed impatiently. ‘Right now I want to go in there and make an impression on Sinclair. And you're going to help me. A beautiful wife is always an asset.’ He took hold of her elbow as she joined him on the tarmacked car park, his mouth twisting mockingly. ‘Only I will know that the provocation in those pansy-blue eyes of yours is just a façade, a lie.’

Jessica ignored his jibe, having already taken too much of a battering for one evening. ‘Will Lis——Alicia be there?’ she persisted as they entered the ultra-modern building with several other couples, who Andrew greeted as they all stepped into the lift together, making no effort to introduce her.

‘Of course,’ Andrew muttered tersely, not even looking down at her. ‘She's Sinclair's secretary. Always go to the top, I say,’ he added crudely.

Jessica felt ill, recoiling as they stepped out on to the eighth floor, the noise from the party already under way filling her with dread. She never appeared well at these sort of functions, her basic shyness holding her back from joining in the merriment, although sometimes she wished this weren't so, wished she could be the sort of woman that men were attracted to.

‘I have to go to the powder-room,’ she told Andrew in a whisper.

He sighed heavily. ‘Down the corridor,’ he instructed curtly. ‘Second door on the left.’ He turned in the direction of the party.

‘Andrew!’ she called in a panicked voice, already selfconscious as several of Andrew's work colleagues stared at her curiously. No doubt every single one of them knew of his affairs, especially this latest one with the boss's secretary. Andrew liked to boast of his conquests.

‘Yes?’ His patience, what there was of it, was wearing very thin.

‘I——My jacket,’ she said lamely.

He wasn't exactly gentle as he helped her off with it. ‘And don't be long,’ he ordered.

‘You'll wait for me?’ she asked anxiously.

‘I'll meet you inside.’

Jessica looked into the darkened room, the noise from the live music and chattering people suddenly seeming louder to her. ‘But I won't be able to find you in there,’ she said in dismay.

‘Then I'll find you,’ he dismissed. ‘And for God's sake hurry up, Jessica. I want to introduce you to Sinclair.’

There was no point in arguing further, Andrew would only do what he wanted to do in the end, so she made her way down the badly lit corridor, blinking back her tears. God, she was tearful tonight! Andrew had said much worse things to her in the past and she hadn't even flinched. But tonight she was feeling particularly vulnerable, especially with Andrew's mention of divorce. Could he really be serious about Alicia?

She knew almost immediately that she had entered the wrong room, the overhead fluorescent lighting showing this to be an office, the teak desk cleared of all work, the swivel-chair behind the desk turned towards the window. The view of the surrounding countryside had a beauty of its own from this height, and she spent a minute or so drinking in the peace and tranquillity, finally turning to go in search of the powder-room.

‘Don't go.’

Jessica froze, slowly turning in the direction of that silky voice. The swivel-chair had been spun round to reveal a man, a ruggedly handsome man who was looking at her with open admiration, a man of perhaps thirty-five or thirty-six.

Tawny eyes were narrowed appreciatively, the hair a deep burnished gold, worn rather long, his skin deeply tanned, as if he had recently been on holiday. Beneath the tawny eyes the nose jutted out slightly aquiline, his mouth curved into a smile, sensually so. As he stood up, easily over six feet, a good foot taller than her own meagre height, Jessica could see how well the white dinner jacket fitted across his powerful shoulders, tapering to a narrow waist, and muscular thighs clearly outlined in the black tailored trousers he wore. He was tall, and powerful, and he made her feel uneasy.

The way he was looking at her now made her blush, every inch of her having known the fire of his gaze. ‘I——I'm sorry,’ she stuttered. ‘I was looking for—I came in the wrong door.’ Hot colour flooded her cheeks.

His smile deepened to humour, his teeth very white against his tan. ‘The ladies’ room is next door,’ he drawled.

‘Er——yes.’ She turned to go.

‘Stay,’ he repeated his earlier request.

Her lids flickered up in surprise, her lashes long and dark, tipped with gold. ‘The dance …’

‘Can get along without us very well for a few minutes.’ He took her arm, steering her over to the swivel-chair he had just vacated. ‘I wonder who you belong to,’ he muttered almost to himself.

‘I don't belong to anyone,’ Jessica surprised herself by snapping at him.

‘Good,’ he smiled. ‘Because I think I'd like you to belong to me.’

She struggled to get out of the chair, but found her way blocked by his powerful frame as he sat on the desk in front of her, his legs either side of her stopping her turning the chair.

‘Will you let me go, Mr——’

‘Matthew,’ he murmured softly, gently touching the silver of her hair. ‘Just Matthew.’

She squirmed away from him. ‘Don't do that!’ Two spots of angry colour darkened her cheeks.

‘Why not?’ His hand didn't move away from her, caressing her cheek now. ‘Your name—what's your name?’ he demanded impatiently.

‘Jessica. But——’

‘Not Jess? I hope not, because I don't like names to be abbreviated.’ He made this comment as if he expected his likes and dislikes to matter to her.

Well, they didn't And neither did he. ‘If you'll excuse me …’ She tried to brush past him, but he wouldn't let her go.

‘I can't do that, Jessica,’ he said the name with enjoyment, savouring every syllable. ‘Mm, it suits you. My lovely Jessica.’ His tawny eyes held her captive. ‘I was sitting in that chair wondering how I was going to get through the evening when I looked up and saw your reflection in the window. Do you have any idea how lovely you are?’

‘If you're the office Romeo——’

‘Oh, not me, Jessica,’ he smiled, his hands on the arm of the chair pinning her back against the leather. ‘That's Baxter's prerogative.’

Andrew! Oh God, everyone did know about his affairs, including this man! The two of them could even work together, and this man Matthew would probably enjoy telling Andrew how he had frightened his wife half to death. Andrew would never forgive her if this man should even guess at their sterile relationship.

‘I've heard he's a flirt,’ she said lightly, doing her best not to panic. She would just sit this out, he was bound to tire of teasing her soon.

‘He is. But I don't want to talk about him,’ Matthew dismissed. ‘Will you promise the rest of the evening to me?’

Jessica gasped. ‘Of course not!’

‘You have to!’ His hands gripped hers, his expression intent. ‘Jessica, I'd just about given up on you.’

‘But I've never met you before!’

‘If you had I wouldn't have been feeling so despondent about this dance. I hate Company dances,’ he grimaced.

‘So do I.’

‘You see?’ he said eagerly. ‘We have a lot in common.’

‘Mr—Matthew, disliking Company dances means we have one thing in common,’ Jessica pointed out mockingly, pleased with herself for her calm. This man could just be flirting with her, or he could be slightly unbalanced, whatever he was he was dangerous; there was a predatory light in the tawny eyes.

‘We're attracted to each other,’ he claimed arrogantly.

‘We most certainly are not!’ she gasped, wondering at his raw audacity. Andrew might be a womaniser, but this man easily beat him!

‘But we are, Jessica. I've been waiting all my life for you——’

‘Isn't that approach a little hackneyed?’ She scorned to hide her rising panic. He didn't seem to be tiring of this game at all, in fact he seemed to be getting bolder, his thumbs sensually caressing the back of her hands, desire in his eyes.

Heavens, she was so alone with him here, and Andrew or no Andrew, she was going to scream in a minute!

The man frowned darkly. ‘It isn't hackneyed if it's the truth,’ he rasped.

She looked at him steadily, forcing herself to do so. ‘It may be true for you, but it certainly isn't true for me.’

‘Of course it is,’ he dismissed impatiently. ‘I refuse to believe——’

‘And I refuse to listen to this—rubbish any more,’ she cut in coldly. ‘I'm sure this approach has worked for you in the past, but I'm afraid that this time you've struck out. Perhaps you ought to take lessons from Andrew Baxter,’ she added bitterly.

‘Jessica——’

‘Would you please get out of my way.’ She looked up at him with cold eyes. ‘I'd like to get back to the party,’ she lied.

‘I'm not losing you now I've found you,’ Matthew told her firmly. ‘Will you come and dance with me?’

She knew it was just an excuse for him to get her into his arms, could see that in the naked desire in his eyes, but it could also be a way for her to get out of here. ‘I have to go to the ladies’ room first,’ she reminded him huskily.

‘Do you have any idea how sexy your voice is?’ he asked deeply.

Did nothing stop this man? He probably had a wife waiting for him in the other room! She pitied her even as she pitied herself. Maybe the two of them should get together and trade unfaithful husband stories!

‘Jessica,’ Matthew prompted her attention back to him. ‘Why do I get the impression you keep fading off from me?’ he frowned.

Maybe because she did! She had become so used to shutting herself off from Andrew that she often did it without even realising it. And this man's flirting turned her off more than anything, despite his undoubted attraction. She was married to a man who was too good-looking for his own good, and this man was just an older version of Andrew.

She gave him a bright meaningless smile. ‘You were just telling me how sexy my voice is,’ she recited to show she had been listening, another habit she had picked up from being married to Andrew.

Matthew smiled. ‘Very sexy,’ he confirmed throatily. ‘It's deep and husky, with a slight catch in it that sends shivers down my spine.’

He had certainly noticed a lot about her in these few brief minutes of conversation! ‘I'm glad you like it,’ she said lightly, wondering when he was going to let her go. Andrew would be getting impatient, and if he became angry with her there was no telling what would happen.

‘I more than like it,’ he said huskily, his face dangerously close to hers. ‘Jessica——’

‘I really do have to go to the ladies’ room,’ she interrupted jerkily, knowing that if he got any closer to her she was going to make a fool of herself.

‘All right,’ Matthew moved back with a sigh. ‘But you'll give me that dance?’

She would promise him anything to get out of here. ‘If that's what you want,’ she nodded.

‘It isn't but I'll settle for that. For now.’

He at last allowed her to stand up, and she moved quickly to the door. ‘I'll meet you inside,’ she told him, knowing she intended doing no such thing.

Matthew obviously knew it too. ‘I'll wait in the corridor for you,’ he made the answer Andrew should have made a few minutes ago.

‘All right.’ Jessica's tone was agitated. ‘I'll meet you outside the dance-room.’ Maybe she could avoid him in the crowd.

‘I'll wait for you outside here.’ He foiled that plan too.

She gave an impatient sigh, leaving by the door he opened for her, entering the room next door with a sense of relief.

Maybe if she stayed here long enough he would tire of waiting and go back to the party, although the determination in those tawny eyes hadn't given any indication of that. Matthew appeared to be a man who liked his own way, his arrogance was a fundamental part of his personality.

She hadn't realised she had noticed so much about him! She rarely noticed men at all, being shyly polite to the few male acquaintances Andrew had introduced her to in the past, and yet Matthew hadn't made it possible for her to behave either shyly or politely. He really was the most arrogant man!

But she couldn't sit here all night. She had left Andrew over fifteen minutes ago, and if she didn't soon return he was likely to come looking for her. Maybe Matthew would have returned to his wife by now.

No such luck. He was leaning back lazily against the wall when she stepped out into the corridor, his hands thrust casually into his trousers pockets, although he seemed to sense her presence immediately, straightening away from the wall, his eyes darkening appreciatively as he slowly studied her from the top of her gleaming head to the tips of her tiny feet.

He came forward to grasp her elbow, his hold possessive. ‘I wasn't sure I hadn't dreamt you,’ he murmured throatily, his gaze warm on her flushed face.

‘It's rather early in the evening to be drunk,’ Jessica said coldly.

‘I'm not drunk,’ he smiled. ‘At least, not from alcohol. I had an awful feeling you might try and slip away from me.’

She allowed herself to be steered in the direction of the room where the loud music and noisy chatter seemed to have risen to a crescendo, feeling relief that at least she wasn't to be alone when she went in there, although she would rather it hadn't been this man at her side.

Consequently her voice was sharp when next she spoke. ‘There was no way I could do that,’ she snapped.

‘I'm glad,’ he squeezed her elbow. ‘I don't want to lose you now I've found you.’

As soon as she found Andrew she would make sure she never spoke to this maniac again!

But Andrew was nowhere to be seen, not at the bar, and not on the dance floor. Her imagination told her only too accurately what he was probably doing—and it wouldn't be anything innocent, not if his latest mistress were here.

He could have behaved himself one evening, especially in front of his boss. She was sure it wasn't going to impress John Sinclair to see Andrew flirting with his own secretary!

‘You seem to be looking for someone,’ Matthew remarked deeply at her side.

‘I am,’ she snapped her resentment that he was still there. So far the evening was turning out to be a complete disaster.

‘The man you came with?’ he said shrewdly.

‘My husband, yes,’ she nodded, watching as he seemed to pale at her disclosure.

‘Your husband …?’ he repeated softly. ‘He's here?’ His hand dropped away from her elbow.

‘Oh yes,’ she gave a bitter smile.

‘Where?’ Matthew rasped.

Her eyes flashed deeply blue. ‘If I knew that I wouldn't be looking for him.’

He seemed rather dazed. ‘It never occurred to me that you were married … Have you been married long?’ he asked harshly.

‘Seven years,’ she supplied tightly. Andrew was still nowhere in sight.

‘God!’ he groaned, very pale, his eyes the yellow of a cat's. ‘Children?’

‘One,’ Jessica nodded. ‘A little girl.’

He put a hand up to his brow, all teasing gone now. ‘I—You didn't tell me you were married!’

‘You didn't ask.’ She had at last spotted Andrew. He was coming towards them, and fortunately he didn't look angry at all, smiling his most charming smile as his arm slipped about her waist.

‘Here you are, darling,’ he said in a softly chiding voice. ‘I've been looking everywhere for you.’

By the smell of his breath he had done most of his looking at the bar! ‘I've been looking for you too, darling.’ The last was added for the benefit of the man called Matthew, letting him know once and for all to leave her alone.

‘Your wife has been in safe hands, Baxter,’ he remarked tautly, his mouth twisting as he looked at Andrew.

‘Jessica hasn't been bothering you, sir?’ Andrew asked anxiously, all his earlier contempt gone from his voice.

Sir? Jessica stiffened. This man must be one of Andrew's bosses! Oh God, she hadn't said anything that could have upset him, had she?

‘Not at all,’ Matthew replied easily, his eyes narrowed. ‘Although we haven't really had the opportunity to introduce ourselves properly.’ He looked expectantly at Andrew.

‘My wife Jessica,’ he instantly introduced. ‘Jessica, this is Matthew Sinclair, the owner of Sinclairs.’

Not just one of Andrew's bosses—the boss!

.

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