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Living Together

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«Living Together» - 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…Successful actor Leon Masters is completely entranced when he meets beautiful, shy Helen West and is shocked when she rebuffs his advances. He can see the desire in her eyes yet she’s so emotionally shut off…Living together soon opens Leon’s eyes to Helen’s fear about men. What could have possibly happened to make this lovely creature so terrified of intimacy? Leon doesn’t know, but he’s determined to show Helen that if there’s only one man she can trust, it’s him…
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Living Together 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

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE

‘OH, do come, Helen,’ Jenny encouraged, her long blonde hair framing a beautiful face that owed nothing to artifice, her green eyes glowing with an inner beauty. ‘I can’t turn up there on my own, it would look too obvious.’

Helen sighed. ‘I don’t want to go, Jen. I’ve been telling you all week that I’m not going.’

Her cousin pouted, a beguiling gesture that usually got her what she wanted. ‘But I’ve been counting on you. No one turns up at one of these parties alone, everyone would know I was on the look-out for a man.’

Helen’s mouth quirked with humour. ‘Well, you are, aren’t you?’

‘Of course I am, but he doesn’t have to know that. Men like to think they’ve done the running, not the other way around.’

‘I’m just not in the mood for a party,’ sighed Helen. ‘Besides, my hair is a mess and I have nothing to wear.’

Jenny gave her a considering look, noting that her young cousin’s face was far too thin, the cheekbones too prominent, the violet eyes shadowed, and her full sweet mouth hardly ever smiled nowadays. Helen was beautiful, fragilely beautiful, with her shoulder-length wavy black hair, her huge violet eyes that tempted men to guess her inner secrets, her small body perfectly curved if a little on the slender side, and yet no man was allowed to break through her cool façade, her manner always polite but stilted. It had been this way since the accident two years ago, since Michael. But it couldn’t be allowed to continue!

She pulled the reluctant Helen to her feet, marching her into the bedroom they shared. ‘You have plenty to wear if you look—or you could borrow something of mine.’

‘No, thanks,’ Helen derided. ‘Most of your clothes are positively indecent.’

Jenny grinned. ‘Aren’t they? I feel really wicked in most of my evening dresses.’ She stood in front of Helen’s wardrobe and began sorting through the dresses there. She wrinkled her nose at them all. ‘You can’t wear any of them,’ she said disgustedly. ‘Not to one of these parties.’

Helen sat on the bed watching her uninterestedly. They had shared this flat for the last two years, the cheerful Jenny usually managing to jolly her out of any bouts of depression that could suddenly wash over her.

Jenny, the elder by five years at twenty-seven, managed her shamefully, organising her life for her, even down to getting her the job with the travel agency. If it had been left to Helen she would have stayed at home, she could afford to with the money she had from Michael, but Jenny had told her that it just wasn’t ‘done’ nowadays; even the rich worked. And so she worked nine until five, five days a week, deriving a certain satisfaction from the job, but knowing she wouldn’t miss it if she had to leave tomorrow.

‘You make it sound like an orgy,’ she remarked dryly.

Jenny’s grin deepened. ‘It probably will be some time towards morning, but I intend to have left long before then—preferably with Matt.’

‘Matthew Jarvis!’ Helen scorned. ‘I don’t know what you see in him.’

‘He’s incredibly sexy,’ Jenny replied instantly.

‘Ah, sex,’ Helen nodded.

‘I didn’t say sex, I said sexy,’ Jenny corrected. ‘And what’s wrong with sex, anyway? It’s very good for you.’

‘I wouldn’t know,’ Helen remarked stiffly.

Jenny blushed. ‘Well, it is. Ah, now this is the one for you,’ she pulled out a dress from her own wardrobe, holding it up against Helen. ‘Mm, it’s just perfect against the darkness of your hair.’

Helen looked down at the shimmering gown, mentally agreeing that the gold silk was a perfect foil for her hair. But she shook her head in refusal. ‘You know I can never wear anything of yours, it’s always too tight across the bust.’

Her cousin looked ruefully from her own lesser curves to Helen’s full bust. Helen was more slender on the waist and hips than she was, but however thin she was elsewhere her bust always stayed the same, made to look even fuller by her slenderness elsewhere. ‘This material has a lot of give to it,’ she encouraged.

‘What’s wrong with my own dresses?’

Again Jenny wrinkled her nose. ‘Much too stuffy. So, will you come?’ she asked eagerly.

Helen put up a hand to her hair, feeling herself weakening. ‘I look a mess,’ she repeated.

‘You can soon wash and dry your hair, we have a couple of hours before we have to leave.’

‘I’d really rather not go, Jenny.’

‘Well, you’re going,’ she was told firmly. ‘Now go and wash your hair. No arguments,’ Jenny said as she went to protest. ‘You’re going and that’s that.’

‘And what happens to me when you go off with Matthew Jarvis?’

‘I haven’t “gone off” with him yet.’

‘You will,’ Helen said with certainty. ‘What happens to me then? I’m certainly not staying for the orgy.’

Jenny giggled, standing just inside the bathroom as she watched Helen wash her hair. ‘I didn’t think you would be. Don’t worry, I won’t leave you to the wolves.’

Helen grimaced, wrapping a towel about her wet hair. ‘They wouldn’t get very far even if you did. Most of those men know to leave me alone now.’

‘There’ll be a lot of new faces tonight. I’ve never been to a Leon Masters party before.’

‘Leon Masters! The Leon Masters?’

‘Is there another one? I thought I’d mentioned who was giving the party,’ Jenny said innocently.

‘No, you hadn’t! And I know why you didn’t. The man’s a rake, an out-and-out rake!’

‘Mm, I know,’ her cousin agreed dreamily. ‘Isn’t it marvellous? I can’t wait to meet him.’

‘Are you sure this party isn’t going to be an orgy from start to finish? I’ve heard his parties can be pretty wild.’

‘So have I,’ Jenny grinned. ‘I’ve been looking forward to it all week.’

‘You’re incorrigible!’ Helen scolded. ‘I don’t know why you ever got involved with this mad crowd.

Her cousin shrugged. ‘Brent introduced me to them.’ Brent Shaw was her television producer boss. It was also through him that she had met Matthew Jarvis, another television producer.

‘He would,’ Helen frowned. ‘He’s as immoral as the rest of them.’

‘Brent’s all right, now that he knows I have no intention of sleeping with him.’

‘You see what I mean? I don’t think—–’

‘Go and dry your hair,’ Jenny cut in. ‘We don’t have time for one of your lectures right now. I’m going to have a bath, you paint your nails.’

‘I thought you wanted me to dry my hair.’

‘All right, dry your hair, then paint your nails,’ and she disappeared into the bathroom.

Helen moved mechanically to do as Jenny had told her. She always ended up doing as Jenny suggested, and she couldn’t possibly take offence because it was always done so goodnaturedly. Besides, in the long run it was easier to agree than argue about it.

She dried her hair in soft black waves, adding a light make-up but leaving her deeply violet eyes as the only colour in her face, huge violet eyes like beautiful pansies. She had been right about the gold dress, it did cling revealingly to her breasts—too revealingly, the plunge neckline showing a creamy expanse of her firm flesh.

‘You look great,’ Jenny enthused. ‘Turn round, let me see the back.’

Helen did so. ‘It’s too tight up here,’ she grimaced down at her bust.

‘It’s perfect,’ Jenny admired the just-below-knee-length dress on her cousin.

Helen’s eyes widened as she took in the skimpy creation Jenny was wearing, its black Grecian style only just decent. ‘You aren’t actually going out in that?’ she gasped.

Jenny grinned impudently. ‘Lovely, isn’t it?’

Helen raised her eyebrows. ‘I can think of another word for it. People are going to get the wrong impression of us in these clothes.’

‘Nonsense,’ Jenny dismissed. ‘You’ll see, we’ll be overdressed compared to some people.’

She was proved correct when they arrived at the party. Several of the women there were so skimpily dressed they might just as well not have bothered. Nevertheless, Helen felt very selfconscious in her borrowed gown, trying hard to fade into the background of this flamboyant party.

She had no doubt that when it didn’t have dozens of people crushed into it this penthouse apartment was very luxurious and spacious, much too big for one man. She hadn’t met their host yet, and doubted if she would in this crowd. She gratefully accepted the drink someone handed to her and then retreated to a safe corner. Half a dozen couples were attempting to dance, if what they were doing could be classed as such, and she wished them luck.

‘Great party, isn’t it?’ Jenny beamed, her green eyes avidly searching the sea of faces.

‘Is it?’ Helen returned dryly.

‘Fantastic!’ her cousin enthused. ‘Can you see Leon Masters anywhere?’

‘I haven’t looked.’

‘Well, start,’ Jenny encouraged.

‘Why?’ Helen asked uninterestedly.

‘Because he’s gorgeous.’

‘That’s a matter of opinion.’

Jenny’s eyes widened in disbelief. ‘Don’t you think so?’

Helen shrugged. ‘I suppose so. Although he’s a bit over the top, isn’t he?’

‘Over the top?’ Jenny frowned.

‘Well, he’s too much. Too tall, too rugged, too good-looking—–’

‘Too sexy,’ Jenny put in mischievously.

‘That too,’ Helen agreed.

‘But he’s a brilliant actor.’

‘So he ought to be for the money he earns. I read in a magazine article only last week that he was being paid millions of pounds for his last film. No one is worth that much money.’

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ Jenny’s eyes twinkled. ‘If I had a couple of million I’d buy him.’

‘I don’t think you buy the man, just his talent.’

‘Oh, I’d buy that too,’ Jenny said meaningly.

Helen burst out laughing. ‘You’re impossible!’ she chuckled.

‘As long as it makes you laugh I don’t care what I am. You don’t laugh enough.’

She sobered. ‘There doesn’t seem to be a lot to laugh at.’

‘Not since Michael.’

‘No,’ Helen agreed abruptly. ‘I think I see your sexy actor,’ she changed the subject, indicating Leon Masters as he stood across the room.

Jenny followed her line of vision. ‘Oh boy, I just have to get an introduction. I’ll ask Brent. Coming?’

‘No, thanks,’ Helen grimaced. ‘I don’t want to listen to how wonderful he thinks he is.’

‘He may not be conceited.’

‘Want to bet?’

‘No,’ Jenny laughed. ‘Although Matt and Brent think he’s great.’

‘I’m sorry to disappoint you, love, but as far as I’m concerned that’s no recommendation.’

‘Okay,’ her cousin shrugged. ‘You’ll be all right?’

‘I think I’ll be safe,’ she teased.

‘See you later!’

Helen watched with amusement as Jenny persuaded her boss to introduce her to their host, smiling as Jenny proceeded to try and dazzle him with her beauty. From the way Leon Masters listened to her with lazy amusement she didn’t appear to be succeeding.

Suddenly he looked up and those tawny coloured eyes met hers across the smoke-filled room. She shifted uncomfortably under that steady gaze, her violet eyes shadowed. She turned away, her cheeks fiery red. The look in his eyes had been insolent and assessing, and she had felt almost naked as his gaze ran slowly over her.

She looked back at him, her nervousness lessening slightly as she saw he was now concentrating on Jenny’s bubbly conversation. At least Jenny would be pleased.

Leon Masters looking at her like that had unnerved her. He had looked at her as if he saw her as an attractive woman, something she hadn’t felt for a very long time. Oh, she was passable to look at, quite pretty if you liked small, dark-haired women. But Leon Masters looking at her like that had made her feel totally feminine.

He was hot property in the acting world, and had been for the last fifteen years. He was constantly working, his acting superb. She had just seen him in a play on television where he had been almost unrecognisable in the role of the bumbling idiot, a character far removed from the suave man of experience he was in reality. He looked totally the dominant male tonight, dressed completely in black from head to foot, the black silk shirt clinging to his powerful shoulders and chest, the trousers fitted snugly to his hips and thighs.

It was obvious that most of the women here were attracted to his rugged magnetism, and Helen supposed he could be called very attractive with his over-long sun-bleached blond hair, piercing tawny-coloured eyes set over a hawk-like nose, firm mouth with a full sensuous lower lip, the lines of experience beside nose and mouth that added, not detracted, to his looks, and the lithe masculinity of his tall powerful body. With the exception of Helen, there wasn’t a woman in the room who wouldn’t give anything to be his partner for the evening, and yet he appeared to be alone.

At thirty-four he had never been married, to Helen’s knowledge, and looking at him now as he flirted easily with Jenny and another girl who had joined them she thought it wasn’t hard to work out why he had remained single. Why marry one woman when there were hundreds, thousands, for the taking? A wife might be a tie he didn’t need; there had certainly never been a shortage of women in his life.

‘Enjoying yourself?’

Helen turned to smile at Matthew Jarvis. ‘Are you?’

He gave a husky laugh. ‘I asked you first.’

She shrugged. ‘It’s okay.’

‘You look fantastic’

‘Meaning I don’t usually?’ she teased. Matthew Jarvis was a man in his mid-thirties, very good-looking in an obvious sort of way, dark-haired, blue-eyed, and yet he left her cold, like every other man she had met the last two years. No man could touch her now. Except … Leon Masters had briefly got through the shell she had erected about her emotions—and she didn’t like him any the more for doing so.

‘Hey, you know I didn’t mean that. You just look different tonight.’

Helen grimaced. ‘I borrowed one of Jenny’s dresses.’

‘And it looks great on you. Where is your lovely cousin tonight—My God!’ he had obviously seen Jenny. ‘What’s she nearly got on?’

She couldn’t help laughing at his expression, a light tinkling sound that caused many heads to turn in their direction, including Jenny’s and the man who stood at her side. Jenny grinned, waving to them both, and Helen smiled back, the smile fading as she saw Leon Masters was looking at her too. She met that look for several long seconds before turning away.

‘It suits her,’ she answered Matt.

‘I know it suits her, I just don’t like it.’

Helen frowned. ‘Does it matter what you like?’

‘You’ve never approved of me, have you, Helen?’ he said slowly. ‘Why?’

‘It isn’t anything personal, Matt. I don’t like or trust any of your sex.’

‘That’s a challenge few men could resist,’ drawled a deep voice from behind her.

Helen spun round to confront Leon Masters, her cousin standing at his side. They had come upon them unnoticed and Helen resented his intrusion into her conversation. She looked the actor steadily in the eye, willing herself not to be unnerved by the warmth of his gaze. ‘Do you enjoy a challenge, Mr Masters?’ she asked coolly.

He shrugged, his gaze unblinking. ‘What man doesn’t?’

’This is my cousin Helen, Leon,’ Jenny introduced.

‘Cool Helen,’ Leon murmured softly, still looking at her.

His tawny eyes on her were starting to make her feel uncomfortable. ‘How did you guess?’ she asked.

‘It wasn’t difficult,’ he taunted.

She was starting to feel hot now. Why did he keep staring at her like that? Jenny and Matt might just as well not have been there for all the notice he took of them.

‘Let’s dance, Jenny,’ Matt suggested, obviously taking the hint. ‘We aren’t needed here.’

‘Good idea,’ she accepted, smiling into Helen’s shocked face.

‘Oh, but—–’

A hand clamped about her wrist. ‘I’ll take care of Helen for you,’ Leon Masters said smoothly. ‘But don’t come looking for us when you’ve finished, we won’t be here.’

‘Watch Helen,’ Matt advised lightly. ‘The coolness goes right through.’

‘Is that true, Helen?’ Leon Masters asked once they had gone, moving to stand in front of her, his closeness blocking out the rest of the room.

‘The name is West,’ she said tightly, aware of the tangy smell of his aftershave and a much more potent smell, a totally male aroma that attacked the senses. Or at least it would have done if she weren’t totally immune to all men. ‘Mrs West.’

He raised his eyebrows. ‘Your cousin didn’t tell me you were married.’

‘Just what did she tell you about me?’ she flashed, her mouth tightening.

‘Not a lot, I must admit. I didn’t see any husband with you when you arrived.’

‘I wasn’t aware you’d seen us arrive.’

‘I never miss out on a beautiful woman.’

’I hope you aren’t referring to me,’ she said stiffly.

‘Your cousin is lovely, but she doesn’t have your fragility, your wraithlike beauty. I noticed you as soon as you came in.’

She wondered how many other women he had told the same thing this evening. ‘Am I supposed to be flattered?’

‘Not particularly. You really meant it when you said you don’t like men.’ He sounded surprised.

‘Did you think I didn’t?’

‘Some women like to pretend they feel that way. For some reason they imagine it makes them more interesting to men.’

Her top lip curled back. ‘I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m the real thing.’

‘Except for your husband, of course.’

‘Sorry?’ she frowned.

‘You must like your husband.’

‘If you say so,’ she agreed tautly.

Is he here with you?’

‘No.’

‘In that case, would you like to leave?’

Helen was taken aback. ‘Are only single people and married couples allowed at your parties, Mr Masters?’

‘Hardly,’ he gave a husky laugh, his teeth firm and white against his tanned skin. ‘I wasn’t suggesting you leave alone, I was asking you to leave with me.’

Helen looked puzzled. ‘But this is your party.’

Leon shrugged nonchalantly. ‘I want to leave. I thought you wanted to come with me.’

‘You thought I—–! Why on earth should you think that?’ she demanded angrily, curious in spite of herself.

‘Didn’t you?’ he quirked one blond eyebrow, his superior height making her feel small and strangely fragile.

‘Certainly not!’ she told him crossly. ‘Whatever gave you that impression?’

‘You did.’

I did?’ she exclaimed. ‘I’m sure you’re mistaken, Mr Masters. I have no wish to leave here or anywhere else with you.’

‘That isn’t what your eyes were saying a few minutes ago.’

Helen had to tilt her head right back to look at him. ‘Does every woman who so much as looks at you have to be attracted to you?’

He grinned down at her. ‘No. But I’m attracted to you, cool Helen.’

‘Don’t you mean “cold” Helen?’

‘Oh no,’ he said huskily, intimately. ‘Cool is a temperature only just off normal, I’d like to think you could become the latter.’

‘I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mr Masters, but I think cold is a more suitable description.’

Leon frowned. ‘Has some man hurt you, is that it?’

Helen stiffened. ‘Men don’t get close enough to me to be allowed to cause pain. Now, if you’ll excuse me …’ she brushed past him.

His hand snaked out and caught her upper arm, his lazy indolence belied by the unexpected strength of his grip. He was in the peak of physical condition, another thing that surprised her about him. His tawny eyes were narrowed and assessing now. ‘How old are you?’ he queried softly.

Her violet eyes flashed her dislike. ‘My age is irrelevant to the way I feel.’

‘Twenty? Twenty-one?’ He ignored her outburst.

‘Twenty-two, actually,’ she snapped.

‘Such a great age,’ he mocked. ‘What happened, did he walk out on you?’

‘He?’ she said sharply, a nervous pulse in her throat.

His hand slid caressingly down her arm to catch her hand, turning it over to look at the narrow gold band on the third finger. ‘Your husband.’ He lifted her head, the startling tawny eyes all-seeing. ‘Did he leave you?’

Her breath caught in her throat at the directness of the question. ‘You could say that, Mr Masters,’ her mouth turned back. ‘He died.’

Leon frowned. ‘Your husband is dead?’ He didn’t sound as if he believed her.

‘I would hardly lie about something like that,’ she answered waspishly, shaking off his hold on her. She brushed past him and this time he made no effort to stop her.

She had to get out of here, had to leave. Talking about Michael had brought back memories she would rather forget, memories that could prove too painful for her peace of mind. She left the apartment and the building in a daze, just wanting to get away from taunting tawny eyes and a cruel mocking mouth.

Leon Masters had no right to intrude on her private hurt, no right to pierce the armour she had wrapped about herself. It was months since anyone had questioned her about Michael, mainly because of Jenny interceding on her behalf. She obviously hadn’t thought it necessary where Leon Masters was concerned, which wasn’t surprising. Who would have thought he would even speak to her, let alone get so personal?

Unless of course Jenny had just decided it was time she stopped protecting her as far as Michael was concerned. After all, it was two years since it had happened, two years in which the pain should have lessened. And yet it hadn’t! If only she had been able to cry about it she might have been able to snap out of this numbness, but tears had eluded her, leaving her with her bitterness.

She shivered as she felt a velvet jacket slipped about her shoulders, a familiar smell of tangy aftershave drifting up from the soft grey material. Gentle hands moved her hair from its confinement in the jacket collar, and she looked up to meet searching tawny eyes.

‘I didn’t think you were lying, Helen,’ Leon told her softly, pulling the lapels of the jacket more firmly about her. ‘You’re just very young to have been married and widowed.’

‘I was twenty when he died,’ she said in a stilted voice.

Leon walked along beside her, pacing himself to her smaller steps. ‘Had you been married long?’

She came to an abrupt halt. ‘I wish you hadn’t followed me,’ she said curtly, handing him back his jacket. ‘I left my coat behind, perhaps you could ask Jenny to bring it home with her.’ She turned on her heel and walked off.

She sensed rather than saw him still at her side, and a burning anger began to well up inside her. Why didn’t he just go away and leave her alone!

Leon put the jacket back around her shoulders. ‘You’ll catch cold in what little you’re wearing.’

‘Oh, so that’s it,’ she sighed. ‘Borrowed plumage, I’m afraid, Mr Masters. This dress isn’t me at all, not my style. I’m sorry if you got the wrong impression from it, but I’m really not out for a cheap affair, not with you or anyone else.’

Steely fingers clamped on her arm and spun her round, the other hand moving to wrench up her chin, forcing her to meet the anger in his narrowed eyes. ‘Don’t flatter yourself that I want an affair with you either!’ he snapped. ‘Frigid women aren’t my type.’

The colour drained from Helen’s face, leaving her chalk-white. ‘I’ll never forgive you for saying that!’ she told him vehemently. ‘Never, as long as I live. Get your hands off me!’ she ordered in a controlled voice.

‘Like hell I will!’ He pulled her so hard against him she lost her balance and would have fallen if he hadn’t been holding her. ‘At least, not before I’ve thawed some of that ice!’ His lips ground down savagely on hers.

Helen felt the taste of blood as he split her bottom lip against her teeth. And all she could feel was nausea—nausea for his mouth on hers, nausea for his hands pressing her body against his. She twisted her head from side to side in an effort to escape that punishing mouth, but he kept right on kissing her.

She could feel hysteria rising within her when he at last released her, her eyes deep purple smudges of pain in her pale, tense face. She rubbed her hand across her mouth to erase his touch, uncaring of the blood she was smearing across her cheeks.

‘My God!’ Leon was almost as pale as she was. ‘You’re not frigid at all, you’re just plain scared.’

‘I hate you!’ she spat the words at him. ‘I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!’ Tears were streaming down her face by this time. ‘How dare you touch me! How dare you!’

Then she was running, running, desperate to get away from him. His jacket fell unheeded to the ground and still she kept on running. She didn’t stop until she was sure he hadn’t followed her. That was when she flagged down a taxi, uncaring of the sight she must look with her dishevelled appearance and the blood on her face.

She was a hunched-up ball of misery when Jenny burst into the flat an hour later. She had felt numb by the time she got home, completely unable to do anything other than collapse on the sofa.

Jenny put the light on with a flick of the switch. ‘My God!’ she breathed softly. ‘Oh, my God!’ She ran over to cradle Helen in her arms. ‘Oh, Helen,’ she choked. ‘What did he do to you?’

‘Who?’ Helen asked dazedly.

Jenny smoothed her hair back from her face. ‘Leon Masters!’ she said angrily.

Reaction was setting in in earnest now, a terrible shaking invading her limbs, her teeth chattering. ‘H-how do you know about that?’

‘Because he told me. That’s why I’m here. After disappearing for nearly an hour from his own party he came back and told me you needed me. He didn’t exactly say why, but I could guess. What did he do, Helen?’ she probed gently.

‘He—–’ Helen swallowed hard. ‘He kissed me!’ She shuddered at the memory of it, once again feeling those firm passionate lips on hers. No one had kissed her since—since Michael, and she could only feel angered and sick at Leon Masters daring to do so.

Jenny searched her features. ‘Is that all?’

Helen jerked away from her. ‘Isn’t it enough!’

‘But I—well, it was only a kiss, Helen,’ Jenny chided lightly. ‘You’ve been kissed before.’

‘No! No, I haven’t. Not since—not since—Michael,’ Helen had difficulty in even saying his name. She held herself stiffly. ‘I hate him!’

‘Michael?’

‘Leon Masters!’ Helen said sharply. ‘He kissed me and it—it was horrible. Horrible!’

‘He’s certainly made a mess of your mouth.’ Jenny touched her torn lip. ‘That’s going to be swollen and sore tomorrow.’

‘It’s sore now.’

‘I don’t suppose he appreciated you fighting him.’

‘That isn’t why he did it.’ Helen took a deep ragged breath. ‘He kissed me because he said—he said I was—frigid.’

Jenny frowned. ‘Does he know you’ve been married?’

‘Oh yes,’ Helen acknowledged bitterly, ‘he knew. He seemed to think it was his duty to snap me out of my frigidity.’

‘The insensitivity of the man!’ Jenny muttered. ‘Did you tell him about the accident, about—–’

‘No!’ Helen cut in shrilly. ‘No, I didn’t tell him anything. Why should I? He means nothing to me.’

‘But he’d like to. He more or less demanded that I introduce the two of you.’

’Well, I wish you’d said no.’

‘Stay there,’ Jenny ordered as she began to move. ‘I’ll get a cloth and clean your face up.’

Helen grimaced. ‘I wasn’t going anywhere, just getting comfortable.’

Jenny was back within seconds, gently sponging the blood off Helen’s face. ‘He was a bit rough with you,’ she murmured thoughtfully.

Helen winced as she touched a tender spot. ‘Rough!’ she repeated disgustedly. ‘He was like an animal!’

‘Oh, surely not. He—–’

‘He was like an animal,’ she insisted. ‘I suppose he thinks that because he’s who he is I should have felt honoured by his attention to me. He had the nerve to think I was attracted to him.’

‘And you weren’t?’

Helen touched the soreness of her mouth. ‘Doesn’t this tell you the answer to that?’ she grimaced.

Jenny shrugged. ‘I suppose so.’ She walked over to pick up the telephone and began dialling.

‘Who are you ringing?’ Helen asked curiously.

The man.’ She was obviously listening to the dialling sound.

‘The man?’

Jenny grinned. ‘Leon Masters.’

‘Whatever for?’ Helen demanded.

‘He wanted me to let him know you’d got home safely and that you were okay.’

Helen stood up to leave the room. ‘If he felt that strongly about it he should have come and found out for himself. But of course that would have been too much trouble, and—–’

‘He wanted to come,’ Jenny cut in softly. ‘He drove me home and asked to come in, but in the circumstances I thought it might be better if he didn’t.’

‘Thank goodness for that! I never want to see him again. And I should stop ringing if I were you, he’ll never hear the telephone above the din that was going on there.’

‘But he—Ah, Leon,’ Jenny pursed her mouth pointedly at Helen. ‘Yes, yes, I know you’ve been waiting for my call. Yes. No. Yes. I—–’

‘I’m going to bed,’ Helen told her crossly. ‘Don’t wake me up when you come in.’

Jenny held the receiver away from her ear, her hand over the mouthpiece. ‘He wants to talk to you,’ she whispered.

‘Tell him we have nothing to talk about,’ and Helen walked out of the room.

Seconds later Jenny followed her into the bedroom. ‘He says it’s important.’

‘We have nothing to say to each other,’ Helen said firmly. ‘Tell him I’m not interested.’

‘I can’t tell him that!’ Jenny exclaimed, scandalised.

Helen shrugged. ‘Okay, tell him what you please, but I want nothing more to do with him. And, Jenny,’ she stopped her cousin in the process of leaving, ‘please don’t tell him anything about my private life.’

Jenny sighed. ‘I can hardly do that—even I don’t know all of it.’

‘Well, don’t tell him what you do know.’

‘As if I would!’

‘You may not mean to. I was with him long enough to know he could charm anything out of you if he really set his mind to it.’

‘Anything?’ Jenny teased.

‘Anything,’ Helen returned lightly. As usual Jenny’s bubbly good humour was having a calming effect on her.

But she lay awake a long time that night after she knew Jenny to be asleep. She might resent and despise Leon Masters’ unwelcome intrusion into her life, might hate him for kissing her, but there was one thing she had to acknowledge. In the two years since the accident, since Michael’s death, she hadn’t cried once, not over anything, and yet half an hour after meeting Leon Masters she had been crying almost hysterically. And she didn’t like the fact that he had been the one to take the first brick off the wall she had built around her emotions; she didn’t like it one bit.

.

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