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Red Rose For Love

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«Red Rose For Love» - 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…Can she trust the millionaire?Eve had survived a horrendous ordeal with her ex, but the experience has left her a changed woman. Now her trusting young heart is safely buried. Never again will she love—least of all a rich man who thought his money could buy him everything, including her.So, despite his persistence, charming businessman Bart Jordan doesn't stand a chance with Eve. She may be allowing stubborn bitterness and fear to ruin her life, but can she ever trust a wealthy man again…?
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Red Rose for Love 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

SHE had been good, her performance perfect. She knew it and so did the audience; their wild applause brought an excited flush to Eve’s animated features. The applause was deafening, and they wouldn’t allow her to leave the stage.

Finally Eve had to give them one more song, silence falling over the standing people as she once again took up the microphone, waiting for everyone to be seated again before she indicated to her backing musicians to start playing.

It was her latest song, the song she had begun the concert with, and the audience loved it now as they had then. This time she didn’t wait for the cries for more, but took a hasty bow and left the stage, exhausted by the last two hours of her one-woman concert.

Her long dark hair was clinging damply to her forehead, falling smoothly over her shoulder, its straightness gleaming jet-black. She brushed the damp tendrils from her face, her hands long and slender, her nails long and lacquered the same purple of the clinging cat-suit she wore.

She looked to neither left nor right as she made her way to her dressing-room, a bright meaningless smile on her lips as the congratulations came her way from the staff who worked just as hard behind the scenes as she did before the audience.

Derek James, her manager, was waiting for her when she entered her dressing-room. ‘Great concert, Eve,’ he said excitedly. ‘You’re really made now. Everyone will be queueing up to book you.’

Eve sat down before the mirror, anxious to remove the heavy make-up she had worn on stage, wanting to cream her naturally peachy skin before wiping her face clean. She took out her bottle of lotion.

‘Don’t do that yet,’ Derek stopped her. ‘You look about sixteen without your make-up. Wait until we get away from here. There’ll probably be some fans waiting outside.’

‘You know I hate this look.’ She grimaced at her reflection, the face make-up giving her skin a dark glow, the eye make-up several shades of purple, her naturally dark lashes thickened by the dark mascara she had applied, her lips darkened by the plum-coloured lipstick. She looked totally unlike herself, and she hated it.

‘You may not like it,’ Derek put the lotion back in the drawer unused, ‘but the public loves it—and they’re the ones that count.’

‘Yes,’ she sighed, brushing her long hair free of tangles.

‘Don’t knock it.’ He pulled up a chair and sat down, straddling it, his arms resting on the back. ‘You were tremendous tonight, Eve. I’ve never seen you so—so damned sexy!’ he said with enthusiasm. ‘What happened to you out there?’

She shrugged. ‘I gave them what they wanted.’

‘And it worked! God, how it worked. You’ll be booked up for work for years to come.’

Her mouth twisted. ‘I can see the pound notes registering in your eyes. If I make money then so do you,’ she derided.

‘Talking of money,’ he took no offence at her rebuke, ‘you had a rich fan out there tonight.’

Eve instantly stiffened, her hand trembling slightly as she reapplied her lipstick. ‘Oh?’ She forced indifference into her voice.

‘Yes. Bartholomew Jordan. You’ve heard of him, haven’t you?’ Derek asked anxiously.

‘Who hasn’t?’ she said lightly, her tension leaving her.

It wasn’t Carl! After all, not every rich man could be him. Besides, there was absolutely no reason to suppose he would ever come to hear her sing again.

Derek looked disappointed by her lack of enthusiasm. A man of thirty, with an untidy attractiveness, he always looked as if he had just crawled out of bed, his clothes always badly creased, his hair untidy. He and Eve had met almost five years ago, when she was twenty and being badly managed by a man who had no interest in the style of music she projected. Derek had taken over her career from that moment, until she had now reached the peak of giving her own concert to a full audience, an audience fully attuned to her style of music, to the hard-rock songs and contrasting love songs that she enjoyed singing.

‘I said Bartholomew Jordan, Eve,’ Derek repeated crossly. ‘The Bartholomew Jordan.’

She nodded. ‘The banker.’

‘And the rest. The man’s a billionaire.’

‘Then what’s he doing at my concert?’ she dismissed scathingly, and stood up, a tall girl made even taller by the high-heeled sandals she wore. ‘I’m exhausted, Derek,’ she told him wearily. ‘I want to go home. And sleep, and sleep, and sleep,’ she yawned tiredly.

Derek shook his head. ‘You can’t do that. Mr Jordan wants to meet you.’

She pulled a face. ‘Then he’ll have to want. I’m too tired, Derek,’ she insisted as he went to protest. ‘I’m not in the mood to pamper an old man, even if he is rich as Croesus.’

‘Jordan isn’t old——’

‘Not unless you call thirty-nine old,’ drawled a third person.

Eve turned slowly, her expression giving nothing away as she looked at the man now standing in the open doorway. Yes, this would be Bartholomew Jordan; he just oozed confidence in himself and his power over other people. He was impressive to look at in the dark pin-striped suit, white silk shirt, and meticulously tied tie, his blond good looks a startling contrast to his deep tan. His hair was several shades of blond, from white to pure gold, in an overlong windswept style, his deep green eyes watching her mockingly, his lashes long and dark, his nose straight, his firm mouth curved into a questioning smile, his jaw strong and purposeful.

Yes, he was impressive—and Eve wasn’t impressed at all. She raised her eyebrows, controlled under that insolent stare. ‘They say eavesdroppers never hear anything good about themselves,’ she told him in her naturally husky tone.

Derek gave her a frowning look. ‘Eve——’

‘Would you leave Miss Meredith and me to talk?’ Bartholomew Jordan walked farther into the room, holding the door open for Derek to leave.

Eve faced him unflinchingly. ‘I believe you heard me say I was tired, Mr Jordan.’ She picked up her handbag and swished out of the room, down the corridor and out of the stage-door without a second glance.

She was instantly surrounded by enthusiastic fans, signing one or two autographs before she realised she was going to have difficulty getting away from here. She was being pushed and jostled, hands coming out just to touch her. She cringed from those hands.

Suddenly her elbow was taken in a firm grasp, and she was propelled firmly out of the crowd towards a waiting car. ‘Thanks, Der—You!’ she gasped as she looked straight into the deep green eyes of Bartholomew Jordan. She tried to pull out of his grasp. ‘Would you please let me go,’ she ordered coldly.

‘Gladly,’ he drawled. ‘If you want me to leave you to the mercy of that mob,’ he nodded behind her.

Eve followed his line of vision. If anything the crowd had increased in number. ‘No,’ she sighed, ‘I don’t want you to do that.’

‘Then get inside,’ he commanded curtly.

The chauffeur had appeared at the back of the car and was even now opening the door for them.

Eve got in, moving over as far as she could as Bartholomew Jordan climbed in beside her, the door firmly closed before the chauffeur got in behind the wheel. The window between the driver and the back of the car was firmly closed, leaving the two of them in complete privacy.

Eve was aware of the smell of expensive cologne, a tangy elusive smell that in no way detracted from this man’s own animal smell. She could also detect the aroma of cigars or cheroots, this smell as pleasant as the cologne.

‘Just how did you intend getting home this evening?’ he asked in that pleasant well-modulated voice that spoke of an expensive education.

She shrugged dismissively. ‘I was going to ask Derek to call me a taxi.’

His mouth twisted derisively. ‘After the performance you gave this evening you’re lucky to get away in one piece.’

‘I’m sorry I displeased you——’

‘You didn’t,’ he cut in on her sarcasm. ‘The opposite.’

Her head went back, her long dark hair gleaming down her back. ‘I hardly expected to make such an impression.’

His green-eyed gaze ran appraisingly over her clearly defined curves in the shimmering body-hugging material of her cat-suit. ‘In that outfit you don’t even need to sing to make an impression.’

Eve flushed at the familiarity in his voice. ‘Mr Jordan——’

‘Bart,’ he put in softly.

She blinked up at him, her eyes very blue. ‘Bart?’

He nodded, his hair very blond. ‘All my friends call me Bart.’ He took a cheroot out of the case in his breast-pocket. ‘Do you mind?’ he asked politely.

‘Not at all. And I’m not a friend, Mr Jordan,’ she told him coldly. ‘And I have no intention of ever becoming one.’ The smell of his cheroot filled the car as he returned his gold lighter to his pocket, using the expensive item as if it meant nothing to him.

‘Never?’ he quirked an eyebrow.

‘Most of my friends are of years’ standing,’ she said coolly. ‘Now could you please drop me off here? I can easily get a taxi now.’

‘Let me drive you to your home.’

‘I don’t live in London.’

‘Then I’ll drive you to wherever it is you want to go,’ he offered smoothly.

Eve controlled her anger with effort. This man liked his own way, that much was obvious, but men like him left her cold. Over-confident, arrogant, and high-handed—Bartholomew Jordan fitted that description as if it had been made for him.

‘I want to go here, Mr Jordan,’ she sat forward, ‘if you could ask your driver to stop.’

‘Why?’ came his stark query.

Her eyes flashed deeply blue. ‘Maybe because I like to choose my own company.’

His eyes narrowed, his expression thoughtful. ‘You don’t like me. Why?’

‘Like I said, I like to choose my own company.’

‘And given that choice?’

‘I certainly wouldn’t choose you!’ she said rudely.

‘Derek James?’

She looked startled. ‘I beg your pardon?’

His expression was haughty. ‘He informed me you were spending the night at his apartment.’

And so she was, but in a separate bedroom! Not that this man would believe that, he wouldn’t understand such a sterile relationship. He was everything she most despised, over-confident, and over-wealthy, believing that wealth could buy him anything he wanted. And right now he probably thought it could buy him a place in her bed!

She gave him a derisive look. ‘I am. I always stay with Derek when I’m in town.’ She didn’t explain to him that she also stayed with Derek’s wife, Judy.

Bartholomew Jordan’s mouth twisted. ‘What a nice arrangement!’

She shrugged. ‘We like it.’

He studied the glowing tip of his cheroot. ‘No chance of your dropping him?’

Her eyes widened. ‘Are you propositioning me?’ she asked slowly, disbelievingly.

He smiled a humourless smile. ‘I’m sure it isn’t the first time.’

Eve licked her dry lips, anger boiling up within her. ‘What are you offering?’ Her voice was controlled, too controlled if he did but know it.

He frowned. ‘What do you want?’

‘What does the woman in your life now get?’

He stiffened, searching her emotionless features with narrowed eyes. ‘What makes you think there is a woman?’

‘Nothing about you makes me think there isn’t,’ she scorned. ‘So, what’s the asking price?’

‘An apartment, financial security, jewels?’ he said tautly.

‘All of them?’

‘If you like,’ he nodded abruptly.

She seemed to consider. ‘And your time?’

He frowned his puzzlement. ‘My time?’

Eve nodded. ‘How often could I expect you to visit me?’

His frown deepened, his eyes glacial. ‘As often as I could,’ he said slowly.

‘Which would be?’ she persisted.

‘Once or twice a week.’

‘Oh, that wouldn’t suit me at all,’ Eve dismissed, bending forward to press the button that lowered the dividing window. ‘Could you stop here?’ she requested the driver.

‘Mr Jordan?’ he said uncertainly.

‘Drive on, Adam,’ Bartholomew Jordan instructed, closing the window again. ‘That wasn’t very clever, Eve.’ His voice had hardened to anger.

She turned. ‘I wasn’t trying to be clever,’ she told him coldly. ‘I’ve been working for weeks to get this concert together, this last week has been hell, tonight was exhausting, and now I have to sit here and take insults from you! You can take your proposition, Mr Jordan, and——’

‘I think what you’re going to say next isn’t ladylike,’ he cut in firmly.

‘Maybe it wasn’t,’ she rasped, ‘but it was a damn sight more honest than what you’ve been saying to me. Why don’t you just tell me you want to go to bed with me and be done with it!’

He drew in an angry breath. ‘All right,’ he nodded, ‘I do want to go to bed with you. Now. Tonight.’ He stubbed out the half-smoked cheroot.

‘Go to hell!’ she spat the words at him.

‘What is it about the arrangement you don’t like? Ah yes,’ he drawled, ‘the amount of time I would spend with you. Was it too much or too little?’

‘Too much!’ she snapped. ‘Even sitting in this car with you now is too much. Men like you sicken me, Mr Jordan. You——’ She didn’t get any further; his mouth was savage on hers.

She didn’t give him the satisfaction of fighting him, but lay placid in his arms as he kissed her with complete thoroughness. He left her cold, as she had known he would; his seduction was practised, his kisses designed to extract a response even from the most reluctant of females. Although she doubted he ever met ones that were reluctant.

But she was, her eyes spitting venom at him when he at last raised his head. A dark flush coloured his cheeks, his eyes narrowed angrily, his fingers biting into the soft flesh of her arms.

‘What did that prove, Mr Jordan?’ she scorned, shaking off his hands and straightening her tousled hair.

He sat back, that deep flush the only sign that he was at all put out by her lack of response. ‘It proved,’ he said slowly, ‘that your stage act is just that—an act.’

Eve gave him a startled look. ‘What do you mean?’

‘On stage you look incredibly sexy——’

‘And I don’t now?’ she taunted, knowing very well that she did.

He obviously knew it too. ‘I didn’t say that. There’s just no back-up to that act you put on for the audience.’

Her mouth twisted. ‘Because I’m not falling over myself with gratitude that you want me?’ she scorned. ‘Because I find your offer insulting in the extreme? Because I didn’t collapse in ecstasy when you kissed me? Well, I’m sorry, Mr Jordan, but as you said, it’s far from the first time I’ve been propositioned. And far from the first time I’ve said no!’

His eyes were cold now, like chips of green glass. ‘I should think the matter over seriously before you do that.’

Eve became still. ‘Are you threatening me?’

He raised his eyebrows. ‘Did it sound as if I were?’

‘Yes!’ she hissed.

He shrugged. ‘Then I suppose I must have been.’

Eve drew in an angry breath, sitting forward to once again press the button to lower the dividing window. ‘Stop this car immediately,’ she ordered the driver. ‘Don’t ask your employer’s permission,’ she said tautly. ‘Just do it!’

‘Sir?’ he requested hesitantly.

‘Do it, Adam,’ Bartholomew Jordan drawled. ‘When it’s convenient to do so.’

Eve didn’t look at Bartholomew Jordan again. As soon as the limousine came to a halt beside the pavement she rushed to get out, only to find Adam there before her, his expression blank as he held the door open for her. Maybe it wasn’t the first time his employer had been turned down, after all.

‘Thank you,’ she told the chauffeur huskily, stepping back as he closed the door, hailing a taxi as she saw one driving slowly down the street towards her, its ‘For Hire’ sign alight.

Amazingly it stopped behind the still parked limousine, and Eve climbed gratefully inside, relaxing back in the seat once she had given the driver Derek’s address, not looking at the limousine as they pulled out in front of it.

She wasn’t lying when she told Bartholomew Jordan that she had been propositioned many times before. In her profession she was bound to be, but never ever as arrogantly as he had done. And no one had ever gone to the extreme of making threats before either!

She became aware of the taxi-driver shooting her questioning looks in the driving-mirror. ‘Is there anything wrong?’ she frowned.

‘Er—no, love. I—I was just wondering,’ he spoke in a broad Cockney accent, ‘are you Eve Meredith, the singer?’

She flushed, her embarrassment acute at being recognised in this way. ‘I am,’ she admitted softly.

‘I thought so,’ he grinned at her in the mirror. ‘My daughter’s a fan of yours. She went to your concert tonight.’ He chuckled. ‘Just wait until I tell her I actually drove you home!’

‘Not home,’ Eve hastily corrected that impression, not wanting people she didn’t know suddenly appearing on the doorstep. ‘Just to a friend’s.’

‘I picked up Cliff Richard last week,’ he told her. ‘A real gentleman, he is.’

She could imagine he was, the ever-youthful superstar seemed to be liked by most people.

They were fast approaching Derek’s apartment now, and she once again felt the exhaustion wash over her. Tomorrow she would have to go back to the theatre and do the whole show over again, and right now she badly wanted to sleep and regenerate her weary body.

‘No charge,’ the driver told her once they were parked. ‘It’s been a real pleasure to drive you. Not very often I get to meet a celebrity.’

She wouldn’t exactly put herself in that class, but she accepted his generosity in the mood it was given. It was only as she stepped out on to the pavement that she noticed the dark limousine behind them, a limousine that swooshed smoothly past them, turning right at the end of the road, Bartholomew Jordan’s limousine!

The damned man had followed her to Derek’s home! Oh, that man was past enduring! She wouldn’t be harassed in this way, especially by a man like him. Any more trouble from him and she would call in the police. She doubted he would like that.

Derek wasn’t yet home when she let herself into the apartment, but his wife Judy was. She rose out of an armchair at Eve’s entrance, a small girl with frizzed blonde hair and a gaminely attractive face.

‘Wonderful concert, Eve,’ she hugged her.

‘Thanks.’ Eve gave a wan smile. ‘No Derek?’ There was always the possibility he could be in the bedroom.

‘He stayed behind to finish things up there.’

Eve at once felt guilty. ‘I should have done that,’ she sighed, collapsing into a chair and closing her eyes. ‘God, I’m tired?’

‘Go to bed,’ Judy encouraged. ‘There’s no reason for you to wait up for Derek.’

Eve opened her eyes, new life flooding into her weary body. ‘Oh yes, there is,’ she said firmly.

Judy raised her eyebrows. ‘That sounds ominous.’

‘It is.’ After all, it was Derek’s fault that she had met Bartholomew Jordan.

‘Oh dear!’

Eve forced a smile to her stiff lips. ‘Don’t worry, I just have a few questions to ask him.’ Like how forcefully Bartholomew Jordan had said he wanted to meet her!

‘I’ll make some coffee,’ Judy offered. ‘It will help to keep us awake.’

It did, just. And when Derek arrived home forty minutes later Eve woke up completely.

‘How did you get on with Jordan?’ was his first query.

She frowned. ‘You saw how I got on with him,’ she said guardedly.

He sat down beside her. ‘I meant later.’ He didn’t seem to notice her darkening expression. ‘Boy, he followed you like the devil himself!’

‘I think he is the devil himself,’ Eve said with disgust.

Derek looked disappointed. ‘You didn’t like him.’

‘Did you expect me to?’ she challenged.

He pulled a face. ‘I hoped you would.’

‘Well, I didn’t!’ she told him vehemently, her usually calm features animated with her dislike of the man.

‘Pity.’ Derek looked away, standing up to pace the room, a worried frown to his face.

Eve tensed. ‘How much of a pity?’ she asked slowly.

His expression became evasive. ‘He’s a powerful man,’ he shrugged. ‘It never pays to antagonise men like that.’

Judy looked puzzled. ‘Are we talking about Bart Jordan?’

‘Judy——’

‘Yes,’ Eve cut across Derek’s warning. ‘Yes, we’re talking about Bart Jordan, Judy. What do you know about him?’

The other girl frowned. ‘Well, I—I—Derek?’ she looked at him appealingly.

‘Okay,’ Eve sighed, ‘Derek can tell me. What about Bart Jordan, Derek?’

He shrugged. ‘I already told you, he isn’t a good man to make an enemy of. Make us some coffee, sweetheart?’ he requested of his wife.

Eve knew it was a way of getting the other girl out of the room, which only heightened her suspicions. ‘Derek!’ she said firmly once they were alone. ‘I want to know what’s going on.’

He threw himself back down into the armchair, one leg hanging over the arm. ‘Nothing is going on,’ he dismissed tersely, a sure sign that he was agitated. He was usually so even-tempered that Eve knew there was something wrong.

She frowned, biting her bottom lip. ‘Why do I get the feeling there’s something you aren’t telling me?’

‘I have no idea,’ he dismissed. ‘Shouldn’t you be getting to bed? You have a long day ahead of you tomorrow.’

‘And the day after that, and the day after that,’ she grimaced. ‘A week of this and I’ll be dead.’

‘A week of this and you’ll be made,’ Derek corrected.

She quirked an eyebrow. ‘I thought I already was,’ she reminded him, tongue-in-cheek.

‘Yeah, well—wait until you see the reviews in the morning!’ His enthusiasm was never dampened for long, in fact it was this enthusiasm that had got Eve this far.

She stood up. ‘Don’t wake me,’ she instructed tiredly.

‘Not even for the reviews?’

‘Not even for them,’ she groaned, aching in every bone of her body. Her stage show involved dancing as well as singing.

‘Rehearsals at eleven sharp,’ he reminded her, his mind firmly on business as usual.

‘Don’t remind me!’ She staggered into her bedroom.

Without Derek’s prodding and hard work Eve doubted she would ever have risen above touring the seedy clubs she had been working in when they had first met. At the time she had been happy with her lot, had accepted what she felt to be her limitations, had lacked the drive and ambition to get even as far as she was today, let alone the superstar bracket Derek had mapped out for her. But Derek had pushed her on until now she had one hit record behind her, another new release, and now this concert.

Derek had worked so hard on her behalf, had begged and stolen work for her, until the last six months her career had really taken off. She couldn’t exactly be called an overnight success, although the public recognition, such as the taxi-driver’s, still came as something of a surprise to her.

Had Carl seen her success? Did he ever regret the way he had forced her out of his life?

Damn Carl! She hadn’t thought of him for months—well, weeks—well, actually it was days, but who was counting? Bartholomew Jordan had brought back the memories of Carl, one more reason why she hated him. Just another rich man who thought his money could buy him everything, including love!

She could finally remove the detested make-up, and felt cleaner and fresher once that was done. She studied her reflection in the mirror. Derek was right, she did look about sixteen without the make-up; she also, to her mind, looked more attractive.

At the end of the week she could go back to Norfolk and be just the nonentity Eve Meredith, could go back to her houseboat and live a normal life again. Derek had promised her a holiday after this week of concerts, and she could hardly wait to get back to Norfolk. Maybe she wasn’t really cut out for stardom, although this was a hell of a time to discover it, and Derek felt sure that she could make it right to the top. Still, much as she valued him as a friend, she still knew that fifteen per cent of nothing was nothing.

She turned over in the bed. Heavens, she was an ungrateful bitch tonight! Everything was sure to look brighter in the morning.

It did. She felt revitalised by her long sleep, her usual energy back in evidence. The reviews were good but guarded, speculating as to whether her dazzling performance could be maintained throughout the week.

‘I’ll show them!’ she told Derek, throwing the newspapers down in disgust.

He smiled. ‘That’s my girl!’

Rehearsals went perfectly, any minor adjustments that needed to be made being quickly ironed out. After a couple of hours of this she was ready to go back to the apartment and rest. She was delicately made, very slender, and she would need all the energy she could muster for the gruelling evening ahead of her. Maybe the critics were right after all, maybe she didn’t have the stamina for this sort of life.

When she arrived back at the flat it was to find the biggest bouquet of red roses she had ever seen in her life lying on the doorstep; both Judy and Derek were out. She recoiled just at the sight of them, her expression darkening as she read the card that went with them. It was signed simply ‘Bart’.

The roses went straight into the dustbin, the card along with them. God, that man was really pushing his luck! Bart, indeed! Only his so-called ‘friends’ called him that!

She was so steamed up she must have paced the apartment for half an hour or more, sleep completely forgotten. She was so angry that she sent him a telegram in the end; it read, ‘Received and discarded, Eve Meredith’. She sent it to his bank, knowing that something as important as a telegram would reach him wherever he was.

That would show him what she thought of him and his roses!

It was when she woke up that the uncertainty set in. Much as she disliked Bartholomew Jordan and everything he represented, he really wasn’t a man she should antagonise. And the telegram had been a childish gesture. It should have been enough that she knew she had destroyed the roses. This way she was inviting retribution.

But it seemed not. A second bouquet of roses appeared at the theatre that evening, this time signed ‘Bartholomew Jordan’. He had to have received her telegram by now. Unless he had placed the order for these roses before he had received it? But that didn’t make sense, not when he had signed the second card so formally.

He certainly was a persistent man, surprisingly so, although it was doubtful that he needed to be this persistent normally; most women would be falling over themselves just to be associated with him.

Derek’s eyebrows rose as he saw the roses still lying in their cellophane on the table where Eve had thrown them. ‘An admirer?’ he asked curiously, obviously looking for the card she had put away in her handbag.

‘One with more money than sense,’ she nodded. Her cat-suit was a deep red this evening, her hair long and crinkled from the tight plaits she had bound it in after washing it this afternoon. Her make-up was just as dramatic, her mouth a deep slash of red to match the suit.

‘Here,’ Derek broke off one of the roses and pushed it into her hair over her ear. It gave her the look of a wild gypsy. ‘Perfect,’ he nodded his approval.

Eve pulled the rose out of her hair, throwing it in the bin. ‘It would wilt before the end of the performance,’ she said stiffly as she saw Derek’s shocked face.

‘You could have replaced it during the break,’ he said practically.

Her head went back. ‘I’d rather not.’

He frowned. ‘Who are they from?’

‘Guess,’ she invited dryly, hoping he would put her dislike of the deep red blooms down to their sender.

His face brightened. ‘Not Bart Jordan?’

‘All right,’ she agreed. ‘Not Bart Jordan.’

‘Don’t tease, Eve,’ he said seriously.

She turned angrily to face him. ‘What is it about this man? Why is he so special? I’ve had men like him interested in me before, but you never tried to tell me how to behave with them.’

He flushed. ‘I’m not telling you how to behave with Jordan either. I just don’t think it would do us any good for you to upset him. He has a lot of influence, he could make things very uncomfortable for us if he chose to.’

‘And do you think he might?’ She remembered the threat in Bartholomew Jordan’s voice.

‘I think he could do,’ Derek nodded.

‘And what do you suggest I do about it?’ she asked tartly. ‘Sleep with him just to make sure he stays sweet?’

Derek flushed. ‘I didn’t say that——’

‘I’m so sorry,’ her voice dripped sarcasm. ‘Maybe it just sounded that way to me.’

He gave an impatient sigh. ‘You’re impossible in this mood, Eve. It wouldn’t do you any harm to be nice to him.’

She stood up. ‘He doesn’t want me to be nice to him, he wants to go to bed with me!’

‘I’ll admit he’s attracted to you, but——’

‘He told me what he wants, Derek,’ she interrupted firmly. ‘He wants me, in his bed. And he isn’t getting me!’

‘Eve——’

‘The answer is no, Derek.’

He sighed. ‘I don’t have the time to argue with you right now, you have to be on stage in a few minutes. And for what it’s worth, Eve,’ he added almost gently, ‘whoever he was, he isn’t worth it.’

She froze. ‘What do you mean?’ she demanded tautly.

‘You know what I mean. I’ve known you almost five years now, and you’ve never let a man near you——’

‘I’ve been out on dates!’

‘Date, in the singular. You never go out with the same man twice.’

She gave a tight smile. ‘Maybe I just like variety.’

Derek shook his head. ‘That isn’t true and you know it. No man lasts with you because he isn’t allowed to get near you, either physically or emotionally.’

Eve flushed. ‘You’re near me.’

‘Only as a friend, and only as near as you’ll let me. Eve, you——’

‘I have to go, Derek,’ she interrupted abruptly. ‘But I’ve never interfered in your private life, and I don’t expect you to interfere in mine.’

‘Eve——’

‘I have to go.’ She hurried out of the room as the music began to play.

It was perhaps unfortunate that the first person she saw was Bart Jordan. He was sitting in the front row of the audience, in an end seat, his blond hair very distinctive.

Eve glared at him, her resentment a tangible thing. This man had caused her to argue with Derek, something she never did, and worst of all he had brought back the painful memories of Carl.

If anything her performance was even better than last night, her anticipation of telling Bartholomew Jordan just what she thought of him incentive enough for her to give the performance of a lifetime. She had never been so sensually abandoned during the rock numbers, so heartbreaking during the sad love songs.

By the end of the evening she knew the appreciative clapping and shouting to be wholly deserved, and a lot of the fans were rising to their feet. Only one man didn’t applaud; Bartholomew Jordan got up and left by a side door as her last number came to an end.

Eve watched him go with disbelief. She had been conscious of his still figure all through the concert, had tried a little harder with each new song in the hope that he would applaud that one. He never did, just sat watching her steadily with those luminous green eyes.

Eve became more and more frustrated as the evening went on, and those heavy-lidded eyes never left her, a mocking twist to the firm lips that had plundered hers so thoroughly the evening before.

Well, she would show him when he turned up in her dressing-room. If he thought he had had the brush-off last night he would find out what that really meant tonight!

She waited fifteen minutes for him to show up, and when he didn’t she knew he must be waiting for her outside. He had probably left early to get his limousine.

But once she got outside there was no limousine, no Bartholomew Jordan. The damned man had genuinely walked out on her concert!

.

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