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Мортимер Кэрол

Living Together

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CHAPTER THREE

‘BUT you can’t be!’ Leon denied, glancing at her again.

She gave a bitter smile. ‘But I am.’

‘You’re the girl who stayed with him just long enough to consummate the marriage? The girl everyone said had only married him for what she could get out of the divorce settlement?’

Helen bit her bottom lip to stop it shaking. ‘That’s right.’

Leon gave her a scathing look. ‘I don’t believe you. You’re making this up. What are you, some sort of sensation-seeker?’ he rasped.

‘I’m telling you the truth, Leon,’ she said quietly.

‘No!’ he snapped. ‘You can’t be. That girl isn’t you. You aren’t like that at all.’

She gave a wan smile. ‘You’re only the second person to see that I’m just not capable of such subterfuge, and for that I thank you.’

‘The second person?’

‘Jenny has always believed in me too.’

He frowned. ‘You mean you really were married to Mike West?’

‘I really was.’ She met his gaze unflinchingly.

‘My God!’ he breathed softly.

‘So now you can see why I don’t want to be seen with you. Whatever you do, whoever you see, it’s news. If the press saw me with you they wouldn’t stop probing until they’d unearthed the fact that I was married to Michael, and the whole thing would be dragged up again. I would be hounded, and I couldn’t take that. And it wouldn’t do you much good either.’

‘But if you’re Mike’s widow why do you work?’

’Have you forgotten the fact that Michael was killed in a road accident only four months after we were married? I didn’t have time to divorce him and claim all that money the press said I wanted. His money was left to his parents in his will. I received only a token amount, enough not to work if I didn’t want to, but certainly not a fortune.’

‘I still don’t believe it,’ he said firmly.

‘That I was married to Michael, or that I could do the things they said I did?

‘Either of them. I met Mike West a couple of times—he was like a spoilt child, into every vice going,’ he added disgustedly. ‘You couldn’t have married someone like him.’

‘But I did.’ And paid for it in a thousand different ways! she thought. She noticed for the first time that they were heading back to town. ‘Where are we going now?’

‘Back to my apartment,’ he told her tersely. ‘We have to talk this thing out, and I would rather do it in privacy.’

‘I can’t.’ Helen looked at her wrist-watch. ‘I have to get back to work, my lunch-hour is nearly up.’

‘Say you’ve been taken ill.’

She shook her head. ‘Mr Walters would guess I wasn’t.’

‘Okay, so you lose your job,’ he snapped. ‘You just said that you’re rich enough not to have to work.’

‘I am,’ she said stiffly. ‘But I enjoy the work, I enjoy seeing other people. I realise what I’ve told you must have come as something of a shock to you—but believe me when I say I wouldn’t want to involve you in my scandalous past. I did try to put you off, but you just wouldn’t take the hint. Now, if you’ll just drop me off at work we’ll forget we ever met, or that we had this conversation.

‘Like hell we will!’ His knuckles showed white as he gripped the steering-wheel tightly. ‘We’re going to talk this thing out, as I said we would.’

‘No!’ she refused sharply. ‘I—I can’t talk about it, not to anyone. And you shouldn’t get involved with me, not even temporarily.’

‘I’ll make my own decision about that—when we’ve talked.’

Helen swallowed hard. ‘You’re a very determined man, Leon, but even determination can’t change my past.’

‘I’ll decide about your past when I know more about the facts,’ he said grimly. ‘And if you won’t talk about it now we’ll talk about it tonight, over dinner.’

‘I told you, you shouldn’t be seen with me.’

‘If it makes you any happier we’ll eat at my apartment.’ It didn’t make her any happier, and her trepidation must have shown. ‘Don’t worry, my cool Helen,’ he taunted, ‘my manservant will act as chaperone.’

‘Talking won’t change a thing,’ she mumbled.

‘Maybe not, but it might help me understand.’

‘How I came to be a money-grasping little bitch?’ she scorned. ‘That’s what Michael’s mother called me in the newspapers,’ she told him bitterly.

‘Mothers tend not to see any wrong in their children,’ Leon said dryly.

‘Do they?’ Her voice sounded hollow.

‘So I believe. Will you come tonight?’ he asked gently, the Porsche once more parked on the double yellow lines near the travel agency.

She sighed. ‘As long as once we’ve talked you just forget you ever knew me, or that I was married to Michael.’

His hand moved out to caress her cheek, dropping away as she flinched. His eyes narrowed. ‘I won’t promise you anything. I want to know the truth and you’re going to tell it to me, with no promises on either side.’

Helen licked her suddenly dry lips. ‘You’re asking a lot,’ she quivered, not knowing whether she was up to discussing the past, whether she could take the pain involved in remembering.

‘All I’m asking from you is honesty.’ Leon gave a derisory smile. ‘I thought we had agreed that honesty was something we could give each other.’

She vividly remembered the last time she had given him complete honesty and knew that he remembered it too. ‘Very well, Mr Masters, I’ll have dinner with you,’ she gave in wearily.

‘Leon,’ he prompted softly. ‘It’s been Leon for the last hour.’

‘Yes,’ she acknowledged breathlessly, pushing open the door. ‘I—I’ll see you later.’ She got out of the car, anxious to get away from him.

He leant over the seat. ‘Seven-thirty, okay?’

‘Make it eight,’ she said jerkily, already regretting agreeing to have dinner with him. ‘I have to get home and change.’

‘Eight o’clock,’ he nodded mockingly, aware of her ploy to spend less time with him. ‘Be ready.’

As she had surmised, the girls were all curious to know if it really had been Leon Masters. Helen denied this, not wanting anyone to know they had met. These things had a way of leaking out.

‘It certainly looked like him,’ Katy said moodily, obviously not convinced. And who could blame her; Leon’s attraction was unique!

‘There may have been some similarity,’ Helen agreed with a pretended degree of thought.

‘But that’s all it was.’

‘He wasn’t similar,’ Katy dismissed the description disgustedly. ‘He was exactly like him.’

‘I didn’t think so,’ Sue maintained her first opinion. ‘This man was much younger.’

‘Don’t be silly,’ Katy scowled. ‘He was exactly Leon Masters’ age.’

‘How old he looked or who he looked like isn’t really important,’ Sally cut in. ‘Whoever he was he sounds like a very dishy man. You didn’t tell us you have a handsome boy-friend tucked away in your life,’ she teased Helen.

There was a lot she hadn’t told them, if they did but know it! They would be as scandalised as everyone else if they knew they were actually working with Mike West’s widow. ‘He isn’t tucked away,’ she denied calmly. ‘I’ve only met him a couple of times.’

‘What’s his name?’ Sally asked interestedly.

‘L-Larry. His name’s Larry,’ Helen lied.

Sally pulled a face. ‘Not as nice as Leon. When are you seeing him again?’

‘Tonight.’

‘Lucky you!’

Helen didn’t think so. She bitterly regretted agreeing to meet him, and regretted even more that she had told him anything about herself. But perhaps after he had had time to think about what she had told him he wouldn’t turn up tonight. She hoped that would be the case.

‘But why did you tell him about Michael?’ Jenny demanded to know that evening. ‘You could surely have put him off some other way.’

‘He wouldn’t be put off.’ Helen pushed the food about her plate. ‘I thought telling him I was Michael’s wife might do it.’

‘But it didn’t?’

‘No,’ she sighed. ‘He didn’t believe me at first, and when I finally managed to convince him he said he didn’t believe me capable of doing something like that.’

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