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Knight's Possession

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«Knight's Possession» - 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…He’ll settle for nothing less…After years of watching her mother's gullible heart drive her from one man to the next, Laurel has decided to marry for sensible reasons. She doesn't believe in fairy tales, knights in shining armour or happy endings.So when her ‘safe’ fiancé breaks up with her on the night of their engagement party, she’s surprised to be rescued by her own knight, Reece Harrington. Laurel has always avoided the attraction between her and Reece. He wants way more than Laurel can give—total possession…!
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Knight’s Possession Carole Mortimer

www.millsandboon.co.uk

Table of Contents

Title Page

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE

LAUREL placed the last paperback book on the display before ruefully draping the glittering length of silver and green tinsel so that it didn’t obscure the front cover of the new blockbuster of the reigning king of adventure stories. How could you make a bookstore window look Christmassy anyway? She had tried several weeks ago to give the window some of the festive appearance of the other shops along the street, but she had to admit it hadn’t been very successful, a few strategically sprayed bursts of artificial snow—that was going to be hell to get off when the time came!—a few decorations and sprigs of holly, did not make a Christmas display. Luckily books sold this time of year without that added incentive, and this delayed paperback would quickly be sold out before Christmas.

She sat back to admire the display, the person standing on the other side of the glass catching her gaze. Catching her gaze? Polly, her assistant, was leaping up and down in an effort to try and attract her attention!

Laurel frowned at her as Polly kept talking and frantically pointing, colour entering her cheeks as she saw they were attracting quite a crowd by their antics. She gave an embarrassed shrug, motioning to Polly to come inside and explain to her. She wanted people to look in the window, but not at her!

She crawled backwards on her hands and knees to the small door at the back of the window, ignoring the people who still gawked at her as she tried to manoeuvre out of the small space she had left for herself when she arranged the displays.

‘Laurel, your brother is here to see you,’ Polly told her breathlessly.

She narrowly avoided the display of hardbacks at the back of the window, cursing the publishing company for this late distribution of the paperback that had necessitated her disturbing the window. ‘It can’t be my brother,’ she dismissed curtly as she felt the floor beneath her foot, easing down on to its firmness with a sense of relief, closing the door behind her, feeling hot and bothered as she straightened the black skirt she wore, brushing off the thick material the fluff from the lemon window bedding she had been kneeling on.

‘Laurel, he says he’s your brother,’ her assistant insisted a little desperately.

‘And I told you—Oh!’ She broke off abruptly as she saw her ‘brother’ standing beside the flushed-faced Polly. She should have known it was him!

‘Steady,’ Reece put out strong hands to grasp her shoulders as she swayed precariously, slightly dizzy from her exertions in the window. ‘Here,’ he neatly plucked a piece of green tinsel from her blonde hair and held it out to her.

Laurel snatched it from his hand, at last knowing the reason for Polly’s antics outside the window; obviously the young girl had been trying to tell her about the tinsel in her hair. ‘Reece,’ she greeted tightly, blue eyes flashing as she turned to her assistant. ‘Shouldn’t one of us be seeing to the customers?’ she said pointedly.

Polly looked more flushed than ever, hastily making her excuses.

Laurel turned angrily back to Reece. ‘Why are you here?’ she demanded icily. ‘As you can see, I’m very busy,’ she added impatiently.

He nodded, looking around the crowded shop. ‘Business looks brisk.’

‘It is,’ she acknowledged tersely. ‘So I really don’t have any time to waste…?’

‘We can’t talk here——’

Her gaze sharpened. ‘Is it Amanda?’

‘Would you really care?’ Reece drawled derisively. ‘When was the last time you saw your mother? Two months ago, wasn’t it?’ He arched a dark brow.

Her mouth tightened. ‘I don’t believe my relationship with Amanda is any of your business,’ she told him coldly.

‘Or lack of it,’ he mocked, his firmly chiselled mouth twisting scornfully. ‘But, Laurel, I am your brother.’

‘You——’

‘Could we get out of here?’ His terse request showed he had tired of the game, scowling as a customer pushed past him on her way to the till. ‘I don’t want to discuss personal family business in this crowd. It’s almost one-thirty, don’t you have a lunch-break coming up?’

She gave him a contemptuous look. ‘It’s only a week to Christmas, our busiest time of the year, no one in a shop takes lunch-breaks,’ she derided. ‘Not if they want to take the money.’

‘And is that so important to you?’ His golden-brown eyes narrowed.

She gave a harsh laugh. ‘A banker asks me that? Without money you wouldn’t be in business.’

‘But the making of it isn’t more important to me than my family,’ he told her hardly. ‘And whether you like it or not you are part of that family.’

Laurel stiffened.

‘I don’t have a family,’ she dismissed harshly. ‘Now if you’ll excuse me,’ she frowned worriedly as Polly began to look very harassed as she continued to take money at the till, ‘I really do have to get back to work.’

Reece grasped her arm as she would have walked away from him without a second glance. ‘And I really have to talk to you,’ he bit out. ‘I’ll come back once you’re closed this evening.’

It was a statement, not a request, and with a disinterested shrug Laurel walked away to take over from Polly. By the time she had the chance to glance up again Reece had gone.

Why had he come? She could easily have found that out if she had given him a few minutes of her time. But she hadn’t felt inclined to do that. Reece was a man who told people to ‘jump’ and didn’t even take the time to see if they did so; he knew that they would! But this was her shop, her living, and she didn’t ‘jump’ for anyone.

‘See you later tonight,’ Polly came into the office to say good night once the shop had closed for the day, Laurel sitting at her desk doing the books, the other woman lingering in the doorway.

And Laurel knew why she was lingering. The younger woman had been giving her curious looks all afternoon, obviously waiting for an explanation about Reece’s claim of being her brother. Laurel hadn’t given her one, and she didn’t give her one now either.

‘Fine,’ she gave a bright smile. ‘About eight.’

‘Yes,’ Polly confirmed absently. ‘Er——’

‘I’d better get finished here if I want to be ready on time,’ Laurel cut in firmly. ‘I have to go home and take a shower before I get ready for the party.’

Polly nodded, her disappointment showing in her deep brown eyes. ‘See you later, then.’

Laurel was vaguely aware of the bell on the door ringing as the other woman let herself out, a smile curving her lips as she thought of the dress she was going to wear that evening. It’s royal-blue colour deepened her eyes, made her short blonde hair look like gold, the straightness of the gown’s style emphasising her small uptilted breasts, narrow waist and hips. At only five feet in height she had always considered her figure too slender to be really alluring, but the silky dress showed what curves she did have to advantage. There wasn’t a lot she could do to enhance her gamin features, her face dominated by big blue eyes, her nose short and slightly snub, her mouth curving, her chin small and pointed. But the dress definitely made her look sexy. Giles was going to love it!

‘Very seasonal.’

She turned sharply to the door at the sound of that mocking drawl, frowning at Reece as he leant against the door-frame. ‘How did you get in?’ she snapped.

He shrugged, strolling into the room. ‘Your assistant let me in on her way out.’

Laurel bristled resentfully, as she always did around this man. ‘I’m glad you approve of the decorations we have up in the shop,’ she answered his opening comment.

He picked up a book on French artists from her desk and began to flick through it. ‘I wasn’t referring to the decorations, I was talking about the way you were smiling gleefully as you counted the money you had made today.’ He paused at one of the pages in the book. ‘I prefer my women a little slimmer than this, but she certainly is a sexy lady.’

Laurel snatched the book out of his hands, looking down at the page he had lingered over; the black-eyed gypsy-looking woman stood naked in front of a mirror, her well-endowed body fully upstanding. ‘This has been put by for a customer,’ she explained its presence on her desk, closing the book with a firm snap.

‘Your Scrooge act is getting even more realistic,’ Reece mocked as he sat on the side of her desk, still wearing the dark business suit of this afternoon.

‘You have nothing to worry about,’ Laurel scorned. ‘You aren’t in the least like kind, affable Bob Cratchit. And I was smiling just now because I was thinking about my party tonight, not the money I’ve taken today.’

‘Ah yes, the party,’ Reece sobered. ‘That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.’

Laurel stiffened warily. ‘You weren’t invited.’

‘No,’ he acknowledged raspingly. ‘But Amanda and my father were. Eventually.

Her head went back challengingly at the rebuke she sensed in his words. ‘Yes?’

‘To your engagement party.’ His eyes were narrowed. ‘To a man they haven’t even met.’

‘I’m over the age of consent,’ she snapped.

‘Well over,’ he agreed harshly. ‘But all the same, I would have thought courtesy would have meant you gave your own mother a little more notice of your engagement than this morning!’

She became flushed at the condemnation, still smarting because he had implied that she was old at only twenty-six! ‘I sent the invitation four days ago,’ she bit out. ‘I can’t be held responsible for the Christmas post delaying its arrival.’

‘Four days,’ Reece repeated icily. ‘And how long have you been planning the party?’

‘A couple of months. But——’

‘And when did the other invitations go out?’ he persisted harshly.

‘Six weeks ago. But, Reece, I don’t think any of this is——’

‘And when did Gilbraith’s family receive their invitations?’

‘They didn’t,’ she was able to tell him with satisfaction. ‘All of Giles’s family live in Scotland, and will be coming down for the wedding next summer. Which was the reason Giles and I decided to invite only friends to our engagement party. But then——’

‘Then you were belatedly attacked by feelings of guilt,’ Reece said with disgust. ‘And at the last minute decided to invite your mother after all.’

‘I didn’t feel in the least guilty,’ Laurel denied heatedly. ‘It must be obvious by now that my mother and I lead our own, completely different, lives. Giles and I just decided it might look a little odd if my mother weren’t there when everyone knows she lives in London, too.’

‘God, I’m glad Amanda doesn’t realise she was only invited so that you and your fiancé shouldn’t be asked any embarrassing questions!’ Anger made his eyes gleam more golden than brown. ‘She’s really excited about the invitation, thinks that the rift that has grown between the two of you is finally to be mended.’

He was even more handsome than usual when blazingly angry, his eyes like molten gold, his harsh features taking on the sharpness of a hawk; a long straight nose, high cheekbones, a firm mouth, and a square determined chin. But his anger didn’t only show in his face, his six foot plus frame was tense with anger too, the muscles in his chest and arms rigid. And with his dark, almost black, short-styled hair he looked as fierce as the devil himself.

But he didn’t frighten Laurel; very little did any more. ‘The relationship between Amanda and me is the same as it’s been for the last fifteen years; tense.’

‘Since she divorced your father. Divorce is always rough on the children involved, Laurel,’ he accepted gently. ‘But I doubt they would be any happier holding together two people who would rather be apart.’

‘And what would you know about it?’ she scorned. ‘Your parents were happy together, your father was devastated when your mother died.’

‘Yes, he was,’ he watched her with narrowed eyes. ‘And now he’s found happiness again with Amanda.’

‘It won’t last,’ she scorned. ‘It never does.’ Since her mother’s divorce from her father there had been another marriage and numerous relationships; Amanda had found happiness in none of them. There was no reason to suppose this latest marriage to Reece’s father, not quite a year in duration, would be any different to them.

‘It doesn’t seem to have soured you to the idea of marriage,’ Reece bit out.

Not marriage, perhaps, but to the idea of children, yes. She never intended to have any.

Her mother had married John Matthews twenty-seven years ago, Laurel born only a year later. And for eleven years she had been at the centre of that family, had adored her father. And then had come her parents’ divorce, her mother the one to tell her that the two of them had talked and decided Laurel should be left in her mother’s care. From being a happy, well-adjusted child she had suddenly been alone with Amanda, occasionally going to stay at her father’s flat. But it was never the same, a strain between them now that had never been there before. Then her father had been transferred to America by his firm, and even her occasional visits to him had stopped. Laurel had hated her father as much for that as she blamed her mother for the divorce.

Maybe if Dan hadn’t been taken from her, too, she may have been able to cope with the trauma, but he had gone, had become a stranger to her, no longer her adored Dan. He had visited her several years ago on his holiday from the oil rig he was working on at the time, but Laurel was sure the relief when the visit ended had been mutual. They still sent each other birthday and Christmas cards, but the spontaneous affection they had known was gone.

Giles respected her decision not to have children, didn’t want any himself, the two of them agreeing they didn’t need them in their marriage. She doubted she would have agreed to marry him if he hadn’t felt that way.

‘You know nothing of my engagement or what really happened in the past,’ she told Reece coldly. ‘So please don’t have the arrogance to assume you know anything about me.’

‘But I know quite a lot about you,’ he said softly. ‘Amanda is very proud of you.’

‘Amanda doesn’t really know me, either,’ she snapped.

‘She would like to.’

Laurel sighed. ‘This isn’t some old black-and-white film, and I’m too old for the happy ending. Amanda and I grew apart years ago, and I prefer it that way,’ she added hardly.

‘Scrooge is coming back,’ he gently mocked. ‘Don’t you know that Christmas is the time for forgiving and making up?’

‘Reece, what’s your purpose for coming here?’ she asked wearily. ‘I can’t believe you just wanted to reprimand me for not sending Amanda her invitation earlier.’

‘No,’ he straightened. ‘My father is in New York, there’s no way he can get back in time for your party tonight. I’ve offered to accompany Amanda in his place, but I wanted to make sure you were agreeable to the idea first.’ He watched her with narrowed dark eyes. Devil’s eyes, one minute dark and brooding, the next shining like gold.

‘I wouldn’t have caused a scene, Reece, if that’s what you thought.’ Her mouth twisted derisively. ‘When I was a child I never knew which “uncle” would be at my birthday party!’

His mouth thinned disapprovingly. ‘If you’re hoping to shock me, Laurel,’ he rasped, ‘I wouldn’t even bother to try. Amanda has been perfectly frank with us about her past relationships.’

‘And you and your father have forgiven her,’ she scorned bitterly. ‘Having lived through it all I don’t feel the same generosity!’

‘You’re a woman yourself now, Laurel,’ he spoke softly. ‘Can’t you see how anyone could have made the mistakes your mother did?’

‘Anyone as selfish as Amanda, yes,’ she acknowledged coldly. ‘Anyone who didn’t mind taking their happiness at the expense of innocent children!’ There were two bright red spots of colour in her cheeks.

Reece looked at her silently for several minutes, and then he gave a slight shake of his head. ‘Does Gilbraith know he’s marrying a block of ice?’ he finally asked contemptuously.

She met his gaze defiantly. ‘Giles knows exactly what he’s getting when he marries me!’

‘Your mother said you always used to feel so passionately about things, that you were a very intense little girl.’ He sounded as if he couldn’t believe that description had ever fitted her.

‘Everything I felt intensely about she took away from me.’ Fire made her eyes glitter angrily. ‘After she divorced my father we moved so many times that even my toys got left behind most of the time. Amanda said there wasn’t room for them.’ She remembered the hurt of often finding, after the latest move, that several more of her treasured toys had disappeared. In the end it had become so that she stopped becoming attached to anything.

‘Do you have any idea how hard things were for her after the divorce from your father?’ Reece asked impatiently. ‘It wasn’t easy for her——’

‘I’m sure that whatever Amanda has told you about that time sounded convincing,’ Laurel cut in dismissively. ‘But I was there, and I know what happened.’ She glanced down at the plain gold watch on her slender wrist. ‘By all means bring Amanda to the party tonight,’ she told him impatiently. ‘She looks young enough to be your wife anyway!’

‘She should, she’s only twelve years older than me,’ he rasped reprovingly.

‘And instead of looking the forty-nine that she is she looks at least ten years younger!’

‘Don’t tell me you resent her because of that, too?’ Reece scorned. ‘Is that why you haven’t introduced Gilbraith to your mother, because he might have found her the more attractive of the two of you?’

‘Why, you——’

‘Swine? Bastard?’ Reece easily caught her arm as her hand arced up to make contact with one lean cheek, using that hold to pull her up against the rigid hardness of his body. ‘You can show fire when you want to, can’t you?’ he grated as he looked into her furious face. ‘Is that the only fire you have, I wonder?’ he mused as his head lowered to hers.

Laurel was too stunned by the action to stop his mouth claiming hers. She was going to be an engaged woman in a few hours, they both knew it, and yet Reece held nothing back from the kiss, his lips moving gently over hers, temptingly, erotically, against her soft flesh, enticing her to respond as he sucked her bottom lip fully into his mouth.

She was shaking in reaction, leaning heavily into him, aware of the hard thud of his heart beneath her hand, the hardening of his thighs as he stirred in arousal. She moved up into him, her lips clinging to his now, his tongue moving gently along them but not venturing into the moist cavern beneath.

‘Show me you want me, Laurel,’ he urged raggedly, his lips on her throat now.

The mad trembling stopped as she looked up into Reece Harrington’s face. This wasn’t Giles, the man she was going to marry. ‘You’re wrong,’ she pushed away from him. ‘I don’t want you.’

He released her slowly, the gold in his eyes just as slowly changing back to a dark brooding brown. ‘Are you sure about that?’ he asked huskily. ‘Maybe you should think again before committing yourself to an engagement.’

Her mouth twisted, fully in control of her emotions now. ‘I don’t need to think about anything, Giles is the man I intend to marry.’

‘Do you love him?’

‘I don’t have to——’

‘How can you love him and yet still kiss another man the way you did me?’ he derided hardly.

You kissed me,’ she corrected abruptly. ‘And one kiss from another man, expert as it may have been, doesn’t change the fact that Giles is the right man for me.’ In every way. Giles was handsome, charming, in love with her, and best of all, not interested in becoming a father.

Reece gave a terse inclination of his head. ‘I’ll see you tonight at your engagement party, then. And I won’t bother to tell Amanda she only got an invitation to stop there being any gossip about family rifts,’ he added contemptuously.

‘Tell her whatever you please,’ Laurel invited dismissively. ‘I’ve never held back from telling her the truth in the past.’

‘Then I think maybe a few of those times you should have done!’

She looked at him scornfully. ‘The way that you protect my mother is touching. Perhaps if you had been the first to meet her it might have been you that she married!’ she added challengingly.

He gave her a quelling look of disgust before turning and leaving, the tinkle of the bell over the door preceding its slam. Laurel sat down shakily, the scene much more traumatic than she would ever have let Reece Harrington guess, not the least of it being the unexpectedness of the kiss he had given her.

It had been because of her and Reece that their parents had met at all. Driving home from a friend’s one evening last winter her car had skidded on the wet road and she had smashed into the back of the car in front of her. Reece Harrington had been the driver of that car.

Reece had been uninjured but her legs and arms had been cut by the glass from the broken windscreen, and Reece had insisted on accompanying her to the hospital in the ambulance. None of her cuts were too serious, but the doctors decided to keep her in hospital for a couple of days in case of concussion or delayed shock. Reece had been marvellous, going to her flat to pick up some of her nightclothes and toiletries, telephoning her mother to let her know what had happened once he had established she was her nearest relative.

When he came to see her the next day he had missed meeting her mother by only a few minutes, and knowing Amanda as well as she did she had been glad of that. Once her mother got her claws into a man he didn’t usually escape until she wanted him to.

Reece had telephoned the next morning, explaining he wouldn’t be able to get in to see her that afternoon because of a business meeting, but he had asked his father to come instead and would come himself that evening. She had protested against the need for his father to visit her when he was probably as busy a man as Reece himself was. But Reece had been adamant. The gentleness and warm charm she had associated with Reece had revealed a will of iron at that moment.

Robert Harrington was an older, just as charming, and just as steely, version of his son. She had known by the expression on her mother’s face when he entered the hospital room that his days as a single man were numbered. They were married within the month, and Reece Harrington had become her stepbrother. Laurel had avoided all of them during the following year whenever she could.

The small band played in one corner of the room, the delicious buffet was arranged in another; the private reception room at this leading hotel filled with friends of Laurel and Giles. To be truthful most of them were Laurel’s friends, the people Giles had invited only acquaintances from the firm he worked for. He had only been in London for about eighteen months and so had not made a lot of friends of his own. But he got on with most of Laurel’s friends, and had made them his own.

He was late. One of the people he worked with had told her they thought he might still be working, that he had been when she left. Laurel had tried calling, but as most of the building had already closed down for the night the switchboard was also closed down. Still, she wasn’t too concerned just yet; the party wasn’t really due to start until eight o’clock, although almost everyone seemed to have arrived already.

The management of the hotel had made a nice job of decorating the room, and a lovely iced cake stood in the middle of the buffet table, ‘Happy Engagement’ written on it stop. She even had the ring in her handbag, having picked it up from the jewellers on her way to work this morning, it having needed to be made smaller. It was Giles’ grandmother’s ring, a ruby surrounded by large diamonds, and although Laurel found the setting a little old-fashioned she had been honoured when Giles told her it had belonged to his grandmother.

But where was he? It was getting dangerously close to eight o’clock, and he still hadn’t arrived.

‘You look lovely, darling.’

She turned in time to be enveloped in the heady perfume her mother wore, receiving a brief hug. If she looked lovely, then her mother looked radiantly beautiful! Amanda was as petite as she, her golden hair slightly longer and softer in style, the make-up perfect on her beautiful face, the black dress she wore clinging to her slightly fuller curves. They could have been mistaken for sisters, with Amanda only the slightly older, much more glamorously beautiful one.

‘You do look lovely, Laurel.’ A hint of spicy cologne pervaded her nostrils as Reece, his black evening suit tailored to him perfectly, bent to lightly brush her lips with his. ‘Where is your elusive fiancé?’ he drawled, brows arched.

Her mouth still tingled from the contact with his, her cheeks flushed, a feverish glitter to her eyes. ‘I hope you enjoy the party,’ she murmured politely. ‘Please go and get yourself a drink.’ She vaguely pointed in the direction of the bar behind them.

Broodingly dark eyes studied her for long timeless minutes before Reece calmly interrupted Amanda’s light chatter. ‘Martini?’ He took her arm and led her over to the bar, both quickly swallowed up in the crowd, although Reece stood slightly taller than most of the men in the room.

Laurel was getting irritated now. Where was Giles? Surely he didn’t have to work this late, tonight, of all nights? The announcement of their engagement was due to be made at eight-fifteen; if Giles didn’t arrive soon she was going to have to delay it.

‘Miss Matthews?’

She turned sharply to the waiter that hovered at her elbow. ‘Yes?’ she invited worriedly.

‘This note has just been delivered for you.’ He thrust the small envelope into her hand before hastily making his exit.

Laurel frowned as she slit open the envelope. She and Giles had received many cards of congratulations since she had told people of their forthcoming engagement; but this didn’t look like one of them.

All colour drained from her cheeks as she read the short message written inside, her hands shaking so badly that she didn’t have the strength to protest when the note was taken out of her hands, Reece reading it quickly.

‘The bastard!’ He looked up at her anxiously, his arm going about her waist as she would have swayed.

‘He gave no indication,’ she mumbled into Reece’s chest. ‘Said nothing when I saw him two days ago. Oh God!’ She looked up at him with pained eyes. ‘What am I going to do with all these people? And then there’s the presents and cards that will have to be returned,’ she groaned. ‘I——’

‘Laurel, do you trust me?’ he prompted intently.

She looked up into the golden-brown eyes, unable to look away. ‘Yes,’ she answered dazedly, knowing she did trust him.

‘Then let me handle this,’ he told her.

‘But——’

‘Laurel, let me,’ he insisted tersely.

She searched the harshness of his face, the determination of his mouth and chin. ‘Yes,’ she accepted dully. ‘You do what you think best.’

He squeezed her arm reassuringly before turning and making his way to the microphone, silencing the music as he stepped forward to speak. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he greeted warmly. ‘I’m glad you could all make it tonight. I hope none of you will be too disappointed when I tell you there has been one little change in the proceedings.’ The silence in the room was deathly now as everyone waited expectantly.

Laurel groaned with humiliation, dropping down into a chair as her guests remained mesmerised by what Reece was saying. A ‘little change’, he called it; she would have described Giles defection completely differently! He had changed his mind, he had written. Couldn’t go through with it, he had added. And just as an afterthought, Could he have his grandmother’s ring back!

As soon as Reece had told everyone the engagement was off she was going to hide herself in her flat for the next twelve hours until necessity meant she had to come out to open the shop in the morning!

‘With the fascinating enchantment of all women, Laurel has changed her mind,’ Reece continued amiably.

She appreciated his help, but as she was the one at the party it was obvious she wasn’t the one to have changed her mind!

‘Much as she likes and respects Giles she has decided, for the sake of their happiness, that she can’t marry him,’ Reece went on.

She could sense the pitying looks directed at her even as she bent her head so that she shouldn’t actually see them, knew everyone must have guessed at the truth by now.

‘I hope you’ll all understand when I tell you that Laurel has realised she can’t marry Giles because it’s me she loves, and that she has accepted my request that she become my wife,’ Reece announced proudly.

Laurel’s head shot back disbelievingly. He couldn’t really have said that!

.

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