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Мортимер Кэрол

Ice In His Veins

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CHAPTER TWO

EDEN stared at him with open-mouthed amazement. Not because he had lied when he said he had a business dinner, she couldn’t give a damn about that; she was amazed because of what Tim had said about his sister and this man. If what Tim said was true, and she had no reason to doubt it, then the fact that this man was also involved with Isobel Morton put no restrictions on him at all.

The two men were shaking hands. ‘Good to see you again, Jason.’ Tim’s pleasure in meeting the other man again was obvious.

‘Tim,’ Jason Earle nodded his greeting.

‘Let me introduce you to Eden,’ Tim said with pride. ‘Eden, this is Jason Earle. Jason, my girl-friend, Eden Shaw.’

‘Miss Shaw,’ Jason Earle’s handshake was very formal, although the mocking enquiry in those steely grey eyes was not.

‘Mr Earle,’ she returned equally formally.

Claire sat down in the chair Jason pulled out for her, smiling goodhumouredly. ‘I hope you two are going to drop this Mr and Miss bit,’ she laughed. ‘Eden and Jason would be so much more friendly.’

Eden was well aware of that, which was why she intended to continue calling him Mr Earle. She had no wish to be friendly with him now or at any other time. How could he turn up here with Claire when according to her mother he was supposed to be escorting Isobel Morton? Didn’t he care if the other woman found out about Claire? Obviously not, by his behaviour in meeting Claire openly. He was probably as sure of Isobel Morton’s feelings towards him as he was of Claire’s.

He sat between Claire and herself, very much the man in control as he ordered drinks for them all. He turned to Claire. ‘Miss Shaw and I are not friends, and so unless she asks me to I couldn’t possibly call her by her first name.’

‘Oh, don’t be so chilling, Jason,’ Claire glowed up at him, looking much younger than her thirty years. ‘Forget your stiff English manners for once.’

He smiled at her. ‘It isn’t a question of my stiff English manners,’ he told her smoothly. ‘Miss Shaw may prefer me to be formal.’ He turned to look at her, those cold grey eyes seeming to read her thoughts.

‘Eden doesn’t mind, do you, honey?’ Tim put in.

Her eyes flashed her dislike as those steely grey eyes continued to look at her. Jason Earle had deliberately put her in this position, his quiet mockery telling her he knew exactly what she had intended doing. She looked away from him with a tightening of her mouth, sipping her drink before answering. ‘No, I don’t mind,’ she said finally. ‘Why should I?’

Jason Earle bowed his head in mock acknowledgement. ‘Thank you—Eden.’

She gave him a brittle smile. ‘That’s perfectly all right—Jason.’

‘Good, that’s settled then,’ Claire settled more comfortably in her seat, her hand reaching out to entwine with Jason’s. ‘We’ve just had a lovely meal, haven’t we, darling?’

‘It was—enjoyable,’ he agreed.

Claire laughed. ‘How you English love to understate things! But perhaps it wasn’t the meal that was so enjoyable, perhaps it was the company.’

‘You flatter me, my dear.’

Eden looked away, sickened by the adoration Claire made no effort to hide. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if Claire wasn’t normally such a levelheaded person, but to see her so captivated by this man was completely out of character. And Jason Earle accepted her adoration as his due, played with her emotions like a master fiddler.

Eden’s contempt for the man grew as the evening progressed, and a couple of times she had to actually bite her tongue to stop herself being openly rude to him. She stood up with a certain amount of relief when Tim once again asked her to dance.

Jason Earle stood up too. ‘Would you mind if I had this dance with Eden?’ His request was directed at Tim.

Tim raised surprised eyebrows, giving his sister a quick look. He shrugged.

‘I suppose not. Eden?’

She drew a ragged breath, her annoyance deepening at the challenge she could read in Jason Earle’s expression. ‘I have no objection,’ she accepted coolly.

He guided her to a space on the dance floor, pulling her into his arms to move slowly to the rhythm of the music. The top of her head on a level with his chin, Eden was very aware of the tangy smell of his aftershave and the less tangible smell of his body, a completely male smell that wasn’t unpleasant, in fact, the opposite.

The group on the stage was one she particularly liked, their music soft and romantic, and she had to stop herself from relaxing against the taut hardness of this man’s body, to resist the temptation to yield against the arms clasped about her waist. She had been surprised by the way he had made no effort to dance more formally, holding her lightly to him, his warm breath softly fanning the hair at her temple.

The tension between them was unmistakable and finally Eden could stand it no longer, throwing back her head to look at him. ‘Your business dinner turned out to be more enjoyable than you anticipated,’ she said sarcastically.

‘Not at all,’ he returned smoothly, meeting her gaze unflinchingly. ‘I always enjoy my dinners with Claire.’

Her mouth turned back sneeringly. ‘So Tim has been telling me.’

He smiled, a completely natural smile that made her breath catch in her throat. He really was a most attractive individual, and perhaps Claire’s infatuation with him wasn’t so difficult to accept after all. ‘I’m sure he has,’ he acknowledged softly.

Eden looked away from that smiling mouth, determined not to be affected by the charm he could display when he chose to. ‘You really had no need to lie about your dinner date being a business one,’ she told him. ‘We didn’t particularly want you to stay anyway.’

Jason laughed softly. ‘Leash your claws, little girl,’ he advised softly. ‘My dinner with Claire was exactly what I said it was—business.’

‘Oh yes?’ she scorned, her golden eyes disbelieving.

‘Yes,’ he nodded. ‘Claire works for me.’

Her eyes widened. ‘For you?’

‘I own the magazine she runs.’

‘Oh!’ She couldn’t deny that this information had taken her by surprise, but really she ought to have made the connection herself. ‘I see. But would Isobel Morton see your—dinner in the same light?’ she enquired sweetly.

His mouth tightened into a thin line. ‘Meaning?’

‘Oh, I’m sure you know what I mean, Mr Earle.’

‘No, you tell me.’

Eden shrugged. ‘It’s public knowledge that you’re going to marry my father’s widow.’

‘Is it now?’ he queried softly.

‘Oh yes. Do you think she would approve of you seeing Claire?’

‘Do you intend telling her?’

‘Me?’ She couldn’t hide her surprise. ‘Why should I tell her, I’ve never met her and already I dislike her. She broke up my parents’ marriage, she and my grandfather. Besides, it’s nothing to do with me.’

‘I couldn’t agree more,’ he said grimly, his arms tightening painfully about her waist and so pulling her closer to the hard strength of his body. ‘I consider my private life none of your business.’

‘But you do intend marrying Isobel Morton?’ She wished he would let her go. The music had changed twice since they had come on to the dance floor and she could see Tim giving them anxious looks. And as for Claire…!

‘I may be,’ he agreed tightly.

‘Does Claire know about that?’

He raised dark eyebrows. ‘Are you by any chance threatening me?’

Eden opened wide innocent eyes. ‘Threatening you? I have no idea what you mean, Mr Earle.’

‘Oh, I think you do, Eden,’ his voice was icy.

‘I don’t react well to threats.’

Her laugh wasn’t quite as confident as she would have liked it to be. ‘I think you’ve misunderstood me, Mr Earle. I merely wondered if Claire knew you were shortly to be married.’

‘I’m well aware of what you wondered,’ he snapped. ‘And although I may have been a friend of Isobel’s for some time now there’ve been no definite wedding plans made, no matter what may or may not be public knowledge,’ he added mockingly. ‘Tell me, why didn’t you just come right out and tell Tim and Claire that you know me?’

‘Why didn’t you?’

He shrugged. ‘I took my cue from you. You didn’t seem to want them to know.’

‘I didn’t see the point, as I have no intention of going to see my grandfather. But don’t worry, Mr Earle, I won’t tell Claire about your other—friend.’

‘Claire knows about Isobel,’ he told her coldly. ‘I’ve never made her any promises concerning our own relationship.’

‘I don’t suppose you need to—the poor woman worships you,’ she said disgustedly. ‘I find it quite nauseating to watch.’

‘Then don’t,’ he advised abruptly.

‘It’s a little hard not to.’ She moved out of his arms. ‘Shall we go back to the table, Mr Earle, now that you’ve assured yourself that I don’t intend making things awkward for you?’

‘You can make things as awkward as you want, Eden, or attempt to. I don’t think Claire would be particularly bothered by anything you have to say. But I do think we should return to the table, we’ve said all we want to say to each other—for the moment.’

‘Does that mean I can be excused having dinner with you tomorrow?’

Jason’s mouth thinned angrily. ‘You make it sound as if I forced you into the arrangement.’

‘And didn’t you?’ she challenged.

‘I don’t think so,’ he met that challenge unflinchingly. ‘I think you’re under a misapprehension concerning this proposed visit to your grandfather. Quite frankly I couldn’t give a damn whether you go to England or not. I promised your grandfather that I would see you and suggest it to you, as far as I’m concerned I’ve done that.’

‘So you feel your obligation to my grandfather is fulfilled?’

‘I’m not under obligation to your grandfather! I was coming to New York on business and so I——’

‘Decided to do an old man a favour,’ she finished.

Yes.’ He took her arm and almost dragged her back to the table.

‘I thought you were never coming back.’ Tim leant forward to kiss her lightly on the nose as Eden sat down next to him.

She raised her face for his kiss, ignoring the mockery clearly visible in watching grey eyes. ‘Mr Earle thought it best to get all our duty dances over in one go,’ she said rudely, hitting out at the man who unnerved her with just a look.

Tim looked surprised by her outburst. ‘I——’

Eden laughed lightly at his expression. ‘Only teasing, Tim. Mr Earle and I were talking and forgot the passing of the time.’

‘Yes.’ Jason relaxed back in his chair, his arm thrown casually across Claire’s shoulders. ‘We were discussing the fact that Eden is David’s granddaughter.’

Claire frowned. ‘David Morton?’

‘Mm,’ he nodded.

‘Then she’s——’

‘Graham Morton’s child by his first marriage.’

‘I see,’ Claire said tightly.

Eden wished she did. She hadn’t for one moment thought Jason Earle would blatantly admit to them knowing each other, although perhaps she should have realised what he would do—hadn’t his eyes promised punishment earlier tonight when she had been disparaging about his age? That Claire knew who David Morton, and consequently Isobel Morton, were, was obvious, although Tim looked a little puzzled by the conversation.

‘I don’t understand.’ He looked at the two of them. ‘Did you know each other before today?’

‘Not before today, no,’ Jason answered.

‘How strange that you should meet through Tim and me,’ Claire said softly.

‘But we didn’t,’ once again Jason answered for them both. ‘I called on Eden and her parents earlier this evening.’

Claire’s blue eyes passed calculatingly over the two of them, the dreamy glow she had had all evening slowly evaporating. ‘Why didn’t you tell us that when Tim introduced you?’

Jason shrugged. ‘There was nothing to tell.’

Tim still looked puzzled. ‘I still don’t understand the relationship. I thought Drew was your father.’

‘Stepfather,’ Eden corrected him. ‘Don’t look so surprised, Tim,’ she gave a light laugh. ‘Divorce and remarriage are quite common nowadays.’

‘But I—I didn’t know. I always thought Drew…’

‘He’s the only father I’ve ever known or wanted,’ she said harshly. ‘I don’t go about broadcasting the fact that my real father was a weak man who was ruled by his own father, that he——’

‘That’s enough, Eden,’ Jason cut in. ‘It isn’t necessary to go into all the details of your parents’ breakdown of marriage.’

‘No! Because if I did that your precious Isobel might come under fire.’

‘I believe we’ve already dealt with my relationship to Isobel,’ he warned harshly.

‘Well,’ Tim broke the awkward silence, ‘this is a—a——’

‘Surprise?’ Eden finished sweetly. ‘Yes, isn’t it? Mr Earle and I were quite bowled over by the surprise of it all. He was the last person I expected to see here this evening.’ Especially with Claire Channing.

‘Let’s dance, Jason,’ Claire suggested, almost sighing her relief when he complied.

Eden studied the bottom of her glass until they were safely away from the table. The last thing she had wanted was to have an argument with Jason Earle in front of the Channings, but he had put her in an awkward position by mentioning her grandfather, forcing her into explanations she would rather not have given, to Tim or anyone else.

‘Why didn’t you tell me you knew Jason?’ Tim hissed angrily. ‘I felt a damned fool just now when he told us.’

‘How could I tell you? I didn’t know he was Claire’s mysterious lover.’

‘But later, when I introduced you,’ he insisted.

She slammed her glass down. ‘I was embarrassed, especially after what you’d told me about Claire and him.’

‘Hell, yes! I’m sorry,’ he reached for her hand, smoothing his thumb over her skin. ‘I had no idea he was almost related to you.’

Her head flicked back defiantly. ‘He isn’t,’ she snapped. ‘Isobel Morton is no relation of mine! And I hardly know Jason Earle. He just called briefly on my parents earlier.’

‘But everyone knows Jason Earle.’

Of him,’ she corrected. ‘Can we leave, Tim?’ She put a hand up to her temple. ‘I have a headache,’ she lied. ‘Besides, I’m not enjoying myself, not with him here.’

‘You should have explained to me earlier,’ he chided gently. ‘I know Jason is seeing Isobel Morton in England, and if you’d just told me the connection,’ he shrugged, ‘I would have understood and got you out of here.’

‘Can we leave now?’ she persisted.

‘We’ll make our excuses once they get back.’

‘They’ll probably be relieved to see me go.’ Eden attempted a smile.

The smile faded from her lips as she looked up to meet taunting grey eyes. Her mouth tightened resentfully as she met that gaze defiantly, although it was finally her gaze that dropped and turned away. There was something about Jason Earle that tied her up in knots and brought out the worst in her. But she didn’t know what it was.

Tim stood up. ‘I hope you don’t mind if we leave now,’ he said with a smile. ‘Eden has a headache.’

‘Really?’ Jason Earle obviously didn’t believe this for one minute. ‘Then perhaps we should all leave.’

‘Oh no—please,’ Eden protested sharply. ‘I don’t want to break up your evening. Tim is just going to drive me home.’

‘Oh, do let’s stay, Jason,’ Claire’s hand rested lightly on his thigh as he sat next to her. ‘We only have this evening together. I think it’s very mean of you to make a business appointment for tomorrow evening. No one works on a Sunday,’ she pouted.

Eden had looked at him sharply on hearing Claire’s words. So Jason had told her he had a business meeting tomorrow evening, had he? Now was her chance to hit back at him for his earlier disclosure. And yet one look at his face told her that was exactly what he expected her to do. Well, she wouldn’t give him that satisfaction!

‘I understand you’re only here for a couple of days, Mr Earle,’ she enquired politely.

He nodded distantly. ‘I leave Monday morning.’

She raised her eyebrows. ‘So soon?’

‘My business should be completed by then.’

‘But surely America has other—attractions?’

‘Possibly.’

Claire smiled up at him. ‘It holds me, doesn’t it, darling?’ she purred. Her hard blue eyes flashed to Eden. ‘I’m sure Mrs Morton would understand that I only borrow Jason occasionally.’

‘Would she?’ Eden returned softly.

‘Oh, I’m sure she would. I wouldn’t mind in her position.’

‘No, I don’t suppose you would.’ Eden didn’t like bitching with Claire. They had nothing in common, but they were usually polite to each other. It was Jason Earle again, causing unnecessary friction. ‘And I really couldn’t care whether Mrs Morton would mind or not. I don’t owe her any favours.’

‘Shall we go, honey?’ Tim lightly touched her arm.

She gave him a bright smile. Poor Tim, he thought she was going to get into another argument. ‘Yes, let’s. Goodnight, Claire, Mr Earle.’

‘Until tomorrow, Eden,’ came Jason Earle’s parting shot.

‘Goodnight,’ she repeated hurriedly, taking hold of Tim’s arm and pulling him away. She would meet Jason Earle for dinner tomorrow if only to tell him what she thought of him! He had taken malicious satisfaction in that last comment.

Tim hung back. ‘What did he mean by that?’ he demanded to know. ‘Are you seeing him tomorrow?’

She sighed. ‘Wait until we get outside, Tim.’

‘But——’

‘Outside, Tim,’ she pleaded.

He gave in reluctantly and she could see he was very annoyed. And she couldn’t blame him for feeling that way, she was angry herself.

‘Now,’ he turned to her in the warm confines of the car, ‘what did he mean?’

‘I’m having dinner with him tomorrow.’

‘With Jason?’

She couldn’t meet the accusation in his eyes. ‘Yes.’

‘But why?’ he frowned. ‘You aren’t dating him too, are you?’

‘Certainly not,’ she denied indignantly. ‘I would have thought it was obvious that I can’t stand the man. He wants to talk to me about my grandfather, try to persuade me to go and see him.’

‘I see. I just didn’t realise Drew was your stepfather.’

Eden’s mouth tightened, anger in her golden eyes. ‘As far as I’m concerned he’s my father. My real father gave up any right he had to expect anything from me when he divorced my mother and married Isobel Dean, and made no effort to see me after his remarriage.’

‘Perhaps he thought you would be better off with your mother,’ he pointed out reasonably.

‘Perhaps he did, and he was right. But that didn’t mean he had to give me up completely. The agreement was that he had access to me any time he wanted. I don’t ever remember seeing him, or my grandfather.’

‘But surely——’

‘There can be no excuse for what he did, Tim,’ she interrupted tightly. ‘And I despise my grandfather even more for the way he manipulated my father.’

‘I take it Jason is going to try and make you change your mind about seeing him.’

She shrugged. ‘He can try, although I don’t think he’ll bother. He’s already told me he’s only doing this as a favour to my grandfather.’

Tim started up the car, manoeuvring out into the traffic. ‘You have to admit this evening was quite funny in a way,’ he gave a wry chuckle.

‘I’m glad you think so!’ She tried to sound angry, but somehow the humour of the situation reached her too. ‘You should have seen his face when he saw I was your date! Although I must say he recovered from it well.’

‘He must have done, I didn’t notice anything was wrong.’

‘You wouldn’t with a man like him.’ She sobered, her dislike back in full force.

Tim gave her a searching glance. ‘Why don’t you like him? Is it because he’s going to marry Isobel Morton?’

‘If Isobel is anything like I think she is then he deserves her,’ Eden snapped. ‘But I dislike him because he’s arrogant, egotistical, superior in every way. He’s just everything I despise in a man. His relationship with your sister while he intends marrying another woman is enough to prove what sort of man he is. I’m sorry, Tim, but I just don’t like him. He’s too sure of himself and other people’s reaction to him.’

‘Including your own?’

‘My dislike doesn’t bother him, in fact, he probably enjoys it. He enjoys tormenting me, anyway,’ she grimaced.

‘Tormenting you?’ Tim repeated sharply.

‘Well, teasing me, then. Oh, let’s not talk about him any more, Tim. He depresses me.’

‘How’s your headache?’ asked Tim.

‘Gone,’ she blushed.

‘You didn’t really have one, did you?’

‘No,’ she admitted.

‘I didn’t think so.’

‘I don’t suppose they thought I had either. But if I’d stayed there with him much longer I might have resorted to actually hitting the man.’ She shrugged. ‘What does it matter, they wanted to be alone and so did we.’

Tim smiled. ‘It doesn’t matter to me. If I’m not going to see you tomorrow I’ll have to make the most of tonight.’

‘I don’t want to have dinner with him. I can’t see the point of it when I’ve already made up my mind.’

‘I don’t suppose it will hurt to listen to him.’

‘Probably not.’ She grinned. ‘I’ll get a nice dinner out of him anyway.’

Tim halted the car outside her parents’ house. ‘Can I come in for coffee?’

Eden got out on to the sidewalk. ‘You don’t normally need to be asked.’

‘Great,’ he smiled, locking the car.

Eden moved about the kitchen preparing their coffee, the staff having finished for the day. Her mother and Drew weren’t back yet, so she and Tim had the house to themselves. Tim came into the kitchen just as she was placing the pot of coffee on the tray.

‘What are you smiling at?’ she frowned her puzzlement as he stood watching her with a silly grin on his face.

He leant back against the refrigerator, his arms folded across his chest. ‘I love to see women working in the kitchen.’

‘Chauvinist!’ She carried the tray into the lounge, sitting down to pour their coffee.

‘Not at all.’ Tim accepted a cup of the steaming liquid. ‘I’ve never seen my mother or Claire in a kitchen. I find it very comforting.’

Eden sat back, tucking her legs up beneath her. ‘I don’t suppose your mother or sister have ever found it necessary to go into the kitchen, you have more servants than family in your house.’ Despite her family not being exactly in the poverty bracket themselves, Eden had been a little overwhelmed by the unpretentious show of wealth in Tim’s parents’ home.

Mrs Channing had welcomed her with all the gracious politeness that had been bred into her, but Eden had still felt out of her depth among such opulence. The Channing house was set among the rolling acres that made up their estate. Eden had felt her first sense of apprehension as Tim drove the car down the long driveway, the security of getting into the ranch-style house quite frightening.

Tim’s mother had fitted into the luxury of her background perfectly, coming as she did from an old Southern family. The silk dress was tailored to her slim figure, her grey hair perfectly coiffured, making Eden feel quite underdressed in her fitted lemon trousers and matching shirt. Although not by the flicker of an eyelid did Mrs Channing show that she approved or disapproved of her guest’s appearance.

All in all it hadn’t been a successful visit, at least as far as Eden was concerned, and it hadn’t been something she had ever wanted to repeat, despite Tim’s constant pleading. She always had an excuse ready when he suggested they visit his parents.

It had been obvious from the first who was the driving force behind the Channing money; the mild unassuming Paul Channing certainly would not have made a success of his business without the help of his forceful but charming wife.

Tim’s mother certainly had no need to enter her kitchen unless she wanted to, the nearest she came to anything domestic being to approve the menus for the day.

Tim came to sit on the sofa beside Eden, his arm about her shoulders as he snuggled her into his side. ‘I didn’t come here to talk about my mother,’ his mouth caressed her throat. ‘How would you like to make this a permanent thing?’

Her heart began to beat erratically, then she cursed herself for jumping to conclusions. He could mean any number of things by that remark—she hoped! ‘Working in the kitchen?’ she teased.

‘No, silly,’ he chuckled. ‘Will you marry me, Eden?’ he asked seriously.

Eden moved back, her worst fears realised. ‘M-marry you?’ she gasped.

‘Will you?’ He looked anxious.

‘I—well, I—I don’t know,’ A nervous laugh caught in her throat. ‘It’s a bit sudden.’ She stood up to look down at him, wishing he hadn’t just asked her to marry him.

‘I love you,’ he said simply. ‘And I want to marry you. How do you feel about me?’

She wished she knew! Her uncertainty about her feelings was the reason she wished he hadn’t proposed. It had never occurred to her that he would ask her to marry him. She enjoyed his company, liked being with him, but marriage! She wasn’t sure she was ready for that.

‘I like you,’ she began slowly. ‘I like you very much.’

‘Enough to marry me?’ he cut in eagerly.

‘I—I’m not sure.’

He stood up. ‘Then how much do you like me?’

‘A lot. But marriage—well, that’s something different. I have things I want to do before I settle down. I want to travel.’

‘We could travel together.’

Eden shook her head. ‘Not that sort of travel. I want to just take off for a couple of years, work my way round from place to place. Secretaries are always in demand.’

Tim frowned. ‘You’ve never talked about this before.’

She shrugged. ‘It wasn’t something that came up for discussion.’

‘And your parents, how do they feel about it?’

She smiled. ‘They’re of the opinion that travel broadens the mind.’

‘I see.’ He bit his lip, for once not the confident young man she was used to. ‘And just when do you propose to “take off”?’

He was angry, she knew he was angry. ‘I haven’t decided yet,’ she told him awkwardly.

‘But marriage is definitely not part of your plans?’

‘Well, not yet. I didn’t know you had marriage in mind, Tim,’ she added almost pleadingly.

His cheeks had an angry flush to them. ‘What the hell do you think the last six weeks have been about?’

‘Well, certainly not marriage.’

He gave a harsh laugh. ‘Believe me, if I didn’t have marriage in mind we would have finished long ago.’

‘Meaning?’ she challenged, aware that they were having their first argument—and probably their last, by the sound of it. And it had all started from a proposal of marriage!

‘Meaning I don’t go in for these “no touching” relationships,’ he snapped.

‘Oh, I see.’ She was angry too now. ‘Well, don’t let me keep you. I wouldn’t want to stop you being with someone who feels the way you do about sex.’ She turned away.

Tim grasped her shoulders, spinning her round to face him, ‘Hey, come on, Eden! That wasn’t what I meant and you know it. I was just trying to show you that you’re special to me.’

The tension left her body. ‘I know—and I’m sorry. But I’m tired, and your proposal was rather a surprise.’ That was an understatement if ever she heard one. ‘I need time to think about it.’

‘How much time?’ Tim demanded, the harshness back in his voice.

‘I don’t know. It’s not something you can decide on overnight.’

‘Most people can decide on it straight away,’ he snapped, her good-humoured companion of the last few weeks not in evidence at all.

‘Well, I can’t. Or perhaps I can. If my needing time to be sure can make you this bad-tempered I hate to think what you would have done if I’d said a straight no!’

He moved to pull on the jacket to his suit. ‘If I were you I would start your travelling right away. Go to London with Jason to visit your grandfather, see how you like being alone in a country where you know no one—but don’t expect me to be waiting for you when you get back!’

‘I won’t!’ Her eyes flashed her anger.

‘Good, because I won’t be!’ Tim slammed the door on his way out.

She couldn’t believe the scene she had just been through. Tim had always seemed so sweet, so mild-tempered. He hadn’t been mild-tempered just now, he had been absolutely furious. He had obviously been upset by her indecision, but she didn’t think her reluctance to give him a definite answer should have resulted in that display of outraged anger.

Eden looked up as the door opened again, forcing a smile to her lips as she saw her parents had returned home. For a moment she had thought Tim had come back.

‘Have a nice evening?’ she asked them.

‘Very pleasant,’ her mother replied, throwing her evening bag down into a chair. ‘We saw Tim outside. He wasn’t his usual composed self.’

‘Oh,’ she said lamely. She had hoped she needn’t tell her parents of Tim’s proposal.

‘Have you upset him in some way?’ her mother probed.

‘I may have done,’ she evaded. Her mother wholly approved of Tim and wouldn’t be pleased at her refusing to marry him.

‘Either you have or you haven’t!’ Her mother’s voice was brittle.

‘Surely that’s their business, Angela,’ Drew cut in smoothly.

‘Don’t interfere,’ his wife ordered. She looked back at Eden. ‘Have you upset him?’

Drew sighed. ‘I think I’ll go to bed if this is going to turn into one of those long girlish discussions. Don’t be too long, darling,’ he advised his wife.

‘Goodnight, Daddy.’ Eden kissed him warmly on the cheek.

‘Angela?’ he queried.

‘I’ll be up in a moment,’ she told him vaguely. ‘Now,’ she pressed her daughter once they were alone, ‘what happened?’

‘I agree with Daddy,’ she frowned. ‘What happens between Tim and me is nobody’s affair but our own.’ She sighed as she saw her mother’s agitation rise. ‘Okay, I’ll tell you. I turned down his proposal of marriage and he didn’t like it.’

Her mother gasped. ‘You turned him down?’

‘Yes.’

‘Are you mad?’ her mother demanded.

Eden shook her head. ‘I don’t love him.’

Her mother gave a harsh laugh. ‘What does that have to do with it?’

‘Quite a lot, I would have thought.’

‘Then you’re a fool. He’s heir to so much money you would never have to worry about it again.’

‘I don’t worry about it now,’ Eden pointed out.

‘Only because Drew and I have never let you go without anything. Believe me, I know what it’s like,’ Angela shuddered in remembrance. ‘I don’t want the hardship for you that I had during my marriage to your father.’

‘My father wasn’t poor.’

‘He was by the time David Morton had finished with him. He threw him out of the family house, took away his job, everything. We were so poor that—well, we were poor. Your father hated that, he’d always had money. And his father knew it, he knew exactly what to do to get him back into the fold. So you think seriously before you refuse to marry someone like Tim. It isn’t easy being poor.’

‘I’ve already refused him.’

‘Then you’re a fool. Call him tomorrow and tell him you’ve changed your mind.’

‘But I haven’t.’ Nothing her mother had just told her made any difference to how she felt about Tim.

Her mother’s eyes narrowed. ‘Does your refusal have anything to do with Jason Earle and this mad suggestion that you visit your grandfather?’

‘Of course not,’ Eden instantly denied.

‘I think it does. But you aren’t going to England to visit that old——’

‘Mummy,’ her voice was mild, effectively hiding her rising anger. ‘If I want to go to England then I shall go.’

‘We’ll see about that!’ Her mother slammed out of the room.

Eden shook her head dazedly. Now why had she said that? She had no intention of going to England to see David Morton.

.

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