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Мортимер Кэрол

Shadowed Stranger

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AFTER the way they had parted the evening before Robyn was unsure of Rick’s reaction to seeing her again—after all, he had more or less thrown her out of his house. But she had a curious Selma looking on, obviously waiting for the big reunion.

‘Well, go on!’ Selma urged her forward.

There was nothing else for it, she would have to continue this charade—even though Rick wouldn’t have the faintest idea what was going on and would probably expose her for the liar she was.

She swallowed hard and moved determinedly forward, seeing Rick’s eyes narrow in recognition, his expression instantly one of wariness. ‘Hello, darling,’ she greeted huskily, colour flooding her cheeks at her use of the false endearment. ‘If you’ve come to take me out to lunch you’re a little early.’ She looked at him appealingly, hoping he would understand her silent plea.

He hid his surprise very well, his. gaze shifting momentarily to Selma as she stood several feet away from them, obviously listening avidly to their conversation, although trying to give the impression that she was interested solely in the row of books in front of her.

Rick’s eyes flickered with something that looked like anger, and for a moment Robyn thought he was going to denounce her as a liar. Then he smiled, a smile that didn’t reach the hardness of his eyes, although that wasn’t visible to anyone but her. ‘I don’t mind waiting,’ he drawled deeply. ‘After all, you’re worth waiting for.’ His eyes clearly mocked her now.

Her flush deepened, and she looked selfconsciously at Selma. ‘You can’t wait for me here,’ she told him abruptly. ‘I—I’ll meet you down at the café in the square in half an hour.’ She held her breath as she waited for his reply.

‘Okay,’ he shrugged. ‘Half an hour it is.’ He nodded abruptly and was gone.

She began to breathe easily again. Rick had no reason to do so, and yet he had helped her out. But she doubted he would actually go to the café, he had only agreed to help her save face in front of Selma. She was very grateful to him, though, and would have to go round to his house tonight and thank him—and explain! Explaining her deceit wasn’t going to be easy.

‘He’s gorgeous!’ Selma said ecstatically, her eyes dreamy.

Rick had looked rather handsome today. He always did to her, but today his clothes, fitted brown trousers and shirt, a cream jerkin zipped partway up his chest, had been quite smart. His hair was still too long, of course, but didn’t detract from his looks at all. Selma was right, he was gorgeous.

‘I wish I could meet someone like him,’ Selma added eagerly. ‘Do you think he has a brother?’

‘No. I—Well—He could have. I don’t know,’ Robyn finished lamely.

The other girls’s eyes were wide. ‘You don’t?’

‘No,’ Robyn answered abruptly. ‘We—we haven’t really discussed his family.’

Selma grinned. ‘I think I’d have better things to do when with a man like him too!’

Robyn blushed as the other girl’s meaning became clear to her. ‘Oh, I don’t—We don’t—I haven’t known him very long,’ she said awkwardly.

‘With a man like that I shouldn’t think you would need to.’

Her gaze sharpened. She didn’t like the way Selma kept referring to Rick. ‘A man like that?’ she queried tautly.

Selma smiled. ‘Well, he isn’t likely to want to just sit and hold your hand, now is he?’

No, he wasn’t, she had known that from the hard demand of his kiss. There could be no gentle prolonged wooing with this man, he was far too experienced to accept such an insipid relationship.

Robyn turned to leave; she still had the Art section to tidy. ‘I have to get back to work,’ she said stiffly. ‘And I think you’d better do the same,’ she added with a warning look in Mr Leaven’s direction.

Selma grimaced. ‘I don’t think he was ever young,’ she muttered, but went back to work anyway.

Only half Robyn’s mind was on what she was doing now, her thoughts all of Rick. What had he been doing here? The obvious answer was that he had come to take out a book!—but he hadn’t left with one. But he hadn’t come to see her either, because although the emotion had been quickly masked he had been surprised to see her here. She would ask him tonight, fully intending to go to Orchard House and thank him for his help.

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