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The Deserving Mistress

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«The Deserving Mistress» - 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…What the tycoon wants…May Calendar has spent most of her life looking after her sisters and running the family business—and she's determined not to let anyone take her home and livelihood! Especially not arrogant property tycoon Jude Marshall!However, sexy, charming Jude always gets what he wants and now is out to wine and dine May! With a devastating secret to keep, May has never let anyone get too close. Besides, Jude is more the mistress type and May one day hopes to be a wife!
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The Deserving Mistress Carole Mortimer



They’ve got a date—at the altar!

International bestselling author Carole Mortimer has written more than 115 books, and now Mills & Boon® is proud to conclude her popular CALENDAR BRIDES trilogy.

Meet the Calendar sisters:

January—is she too proud to become a wife?

March—can any man tame this free spirit?

May—will she meet her match?

These women are beautiful, proud and spirited—and now they have three rich, powerful and incredibly sexy tycoons ready to claim them as their brides!

The Deserving Mistress

Carole Mortimer



www.millsandboon.co.uk

For Matthew—I’m so proud of you.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Dedication

Table of Contents

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Copyright

CHAPTER ONE

‘ARE you having a heart attack or just resting?’

May had heard the approach of the car into the farmyard, had even managed to slightly raise one eyelid in order to register the fact that it wasn’t a vehicle she recognised. Which meant her visitor was either lost, or a seed or fertilizer salesman, neither of which raised enough enthusiasm to rouse her from her sitting position on the convenient bale of hay outside the milking shed.

She managed a grunt of acknowledgement. ‘Which do you think?’

‘In all honesty—I’m not sure!’ The man sounded slightly surprised by his own uncertainty, as if it weren’t an emotion that came naturally to him.

May managed to pry that single eyelid slightly open a second time, just enough to be able to have a look at her unexpected visitor.

Probably aged in his mid to late thirties, the man was tall, very much so, with thick dark hair that looked inclined to curl, dark brows frowning over piercing grey eyes, an arrogant slash of a nose, his mouth grimly set over a squarely determined chin.

Uncertainty about anything certainly wouldn’t sit easily on those broad shoulders, either!

‘Well, let me know when you’ve made up your mind.’ May sighed wearily, closing her eyelid again.

‘Hmm,’ he murmured thoughtfully. ‘I’ve never actually seen anyone have a heart attack, but I’m sure they should be in more pain than you appear to be in. On the other hand, falling asleep sitting outside on a bale of hay, in a temperature that can’t be much above freezing, doesn’t seem too comfortable, either!’ he concluded dryly.

May gave a dismissive movement of her shoulders. ‘Anywhere is comfortable to fall asleep when you’ve been up all night.’

‘Ah,’ the man murmured knowingly.

She opened her eyes just wide enough to glare at him. ‘With the vet,’ she defended impatiently before closing her eyes again.

‘I see,’ the man drawled wryly.

May gave a groan as she roused herself to sit up on the bale of hay, every muscle in her body seeming to ache as she rubbed sleep-drowsed eyes before frowning up at her visitor.

When she viewed him more closely, it was possible to see the arrogant lift of his square-cut chin, the complete self-confidence in the way that he stood and the hardness of his handsome features.

Just the type of man she felt like dealing with after a sleepless night!

‘Can I help you?’ she prompted irritably.

‘That depends,’ the man murmured ruefully.

‘On what?’ She sighed at this procrastination, really in no mood to deal with a lost out-of-season tourist or indeed a pushy salesman.

He shrugged those broad shoulders. ‘On whether or not your name happens to be Calendar.’

Not a lost out-of-season tourist. A seed or fertilizer salesman, then.

‘It could be.’ She pushed herself up onto her feet with effort, looking up to find the man was still seven or eight inches taller than her own five feet eight in height.

The man gave her a considering look, laughter glinting in those piercing grey eyes now.

Which wasn’t so surprising, May acknowledged, easily able to visualise the scarecrow figure she must represent. Her wellington boots were muddy, her jeans likewise; worse, she was still wearing the same clothes she had put on yesterday morning, not having been to bed yet or indeed managed to get inside for a refreshing shower. Her face was probably smeared with dirt from lying on the barn floor most of the night, a woollen hat pulled down low over her ears, mainly to keep out the bitingly cold wind but also to keep her long dark hair from the same muddy fate as the rest of her.

Yes, she had no doubts she did look rather funny. But at the moment, exhausted as she was, she wasn’t in the mood to laugh, at herself or anyone else.

‘You don’t sound too sure,’ the man drawled derisively.

‘I’m not.’ She shrugged, sighing heavily. ‘Look, I have no idea what you’re selling, and I probably don’t want any anyway, but if you could come back tomorrow I might at least be willing to talk about it—’

‘Selling?’ he repeated frowningly. ‘But I’m not the one—I have a better idea,’ he stated briskly as May gave a weary yawn, at the same time swaying slightly on her feet. ‘Let’s go into the farmhouse.’ He took a firm hold of her arm. ‘I’ll make you some coffee. Strong and black,’ he decided after another glance at her face, her eyes appearing a deeper green against her paleness. ‘And maybe then we can introduce ourselves properly.’

May wasn’t sure she wanted to be introduced to this man, properly or otherwise, but the promise of making her coffee was certainly a strong inducement to at least letting him in as far as the kitchen. He probably made good coffee—he looked the sort of man who excelled at most things he did! And he didn’t exactly look the type of man who felt the need to pounce on some unsuspecting female—in fact, with those looks, she suspected it was probably usually the other way round!

‘Done!’ she accepted huskily, allowing herself to be guided across the yard and into the kitchen, sitting down on one of the kitchen chairs as the man moved dexterously about the kitchen preparing a pot of strong coffee.

Lord, that smelt good, she acknowledged a few minutes later as the strong aroma of brewing coffee filled the warmth of the room. A cup or two might even help her to stay awake long enough to complete her chores for the morning.

It had been a long night, if ultimately a successful one, and the thought of all the jobs she still had to do had been the reason she’d sat down wearily on the bale of hay earlier. Only to fall asleep. Which, as this man had already pointed out, was not the most comfortable thing in the world to have done in late January.

‘Here you are.’ He placed a mug of strong black coffee in front of her before sitting down opposite her with another mug of his own, looking perfectly at ease in the confines of her untidy kitchen. ‘I’ve added two sugars,’ he told her frowningly. ‘You look as if you need the energy.’

May didn’t normally take sugar in her coffee, but she accepted that her visitor was right as she sipped the strong, sweet brew, instantly feeling the surge as the caffeine and sugar hit her bloodstream.

‘I’ve made up my mind,’ he murmured softly.

‘Sorry?’ May glanced across at him, frowning slightly. Obviously the caffeine and sugar hadn’t done quite such a good job as she had thought—because she had no idea what he was talking about.

‘You were sleeping earlier,’ he stated firmly.

She grimaced. ‘I already told you that I was.’

He nodded. ‘Because you and the vet were up all night.’

When he put it like that…! ‘With a ewe that was having a difficult time lambing,’ she explained dryly. Not that it was any of this man’s business, but still…

Their vet, John Potter, was a man of fifty or so, had been married for twenty years, and had three teenage children; it wouldn’t do to have that sort of speculations spread around the neighbourhood. It wouldn’t do her own reputation too much good, either!

‘Mother and twins are all doing well,’ she added dryly as this man continued to look at her with raised brows. ‘Look, I’m grateful for the coffee and everything, but I really don’t think I’m in any fit condition to—’

‘Good Lord!’ the man gasped suddenly.

‘What…?’ May was arrested in the action of removing her woollen hat, long dark hair cascading down over her shoulders and back.

He blinked, frowning darkly. ‘You—I—for a moment— You reminded me of someone else.’ He gave a dismissive shake of his head, but the dark frown remained on his scowling features. ‘Who are you?’ he breathed softly.

May gave him a scathing glance. ‘Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that? After all, I live here!’ she reminded him impatiently.

‘Yes. Yes, of course.’ The man seemed to shake himself slightly, although his frowning gaze remained fixed on her face.

What on earth could he see there to have caused this reaction? May wondered frowningly. With her long dark hair, deep green eyes, classical features, her looks were nothing exceptional. In fact, she had two younger sisters who looked very much the same as she did! Besides, dressed in her filthy clothing, her face probably covered in mud and goodness knew what else, she was hardly a glamorous figure. And this man, with his arrogant good looks and tailored clothes, did not look as if he usually bothered to look at mud-covered women farmers!

‘Well?’ she prompted irritatedly as he simply continued to stare.

‘Well what…? Ah.’ He shifted slightly in his chair as he obviously recalled her previous question, making no effort to answer her as his gaze roamed curiously around the kitchen, but mainly concentrating on the flagstone floor.

‘What are you doing?’ May finally demanded impatiently.

That piercing grey gaze returned to her face, this man seeming to have recovered from whatever had been bothering him about the way she looked. ‘Looking for where you might have hidden the bodies, of course,’ he drawled dryly.

Was she still asleep? Had her wonderful dream, where a handsome stranger appeared from nowhere and made her delicious coffee, turned into some sort of nightmare? Was she merely dreaming that she was sitting in her own kitchen, drinking coffee with a perfect stranger?

Because she certainly seemed to have lost the plot somewhere, this man’s question making absolutely no sense to her!

Perhaps she wasn’t dreaming. Perhaps this was all real. Perhaps this man was an escapee from a lunatic asylum!

‘What bodies?’ she prompted warily.

He was smiling when her gaze returned to his face, as if perfectly able to read her last, disturbing thought. ‘Which one are you? May? March? Or January?’ he prompted curiously.

Her wariness increased at his knowledge of her own name and those of her two sisters, too. An escapee from a lunatic asylum probably wouldn’t know such things, but that didn’t mean this man wasn’t still dangerous.

‘I’m May,’ she answered brightly, forcing herself to an alertness she really didn’t feel. ‘But I’m expecting March and January back at any moment,’ she lied.

One of her sisters was still in the Caribbean with her fiancé, and the other one had just gone to London with her fiancé to meet his family. But until she knew who this man was, and what he was doing here, she certainly didn’t want him to know how completely alone she was here.

His mouth twisted into a humourless smile. ‘Somehow I don’t think so,’ he murmured softly, that silver-grey gaze intent on the paleness of her face. ‘So you’re May,’ he murmured consideringly.

‘I just said so,’ she confirmed defensively, shoulders tensed as she faced him across the table. ‘And you are…?’

‘I am.’ He nodded unhelpfully, obviously enjoying her discomfort now.

May stood up forcefully, somehow feeling a little more in control of this situation once she was higher than he was—but at the same time knowing how quickly that would change if he were to stand up, too. ‘Look, I didn’t ask you here—’

‘Ah, but you did,’ he cut in softly, his voice almost a purr now, at the same time that his eyes glowed with challenge. ‘In fact, I have it from two very reliable sources that you expressly wished to meet me face to face,’ he assured her dismissively.

‘I did?’ May repeated slowly, suddenly becoming very still, looking at him with new eyes now, that mention of ‘two very reliable sources’ setting off alarm bells inside her head.

Mid to late thirties, very self-assured, obviously wealthy now that she took a good look at his leather jacket and designer-labelled jeans. More to the point, he had obviously already known she was one of the Calendar sisters when he arrived here.

Those alarm bells began to jingle so loudly they threatened to deafen her!

She knew who this man was—

‘Jude Marshall,’ he introduced confidently even as he stood up and held out his hand, knowing by the shocked look on her face seconds ago that the introduction was unnecessary.

Under other circumstances, that look of horror on her face at exactly who he was might possibly have been amusing. Possibly… Although he doubted it. It wasn’t the usual reaction to his identity that he experienced from beautiful women. And May Calendar, despite her tired state, was an exceptionally beautiful woman.

She still stared at him, making no effort to shake the hand he held out to her. ‘But—but—you’re English!’ she burst out accusingly.

Jude’s hand dropped back to his side as he once again sat down on one of the chairs. ‘Ah, now that is a debatable point,’ he drawled, amused now by her stunned expression.

‘Either you are or you aren’t,’ May Calendar snapped dismissively, at the same time obviously making great efforts to regain her equilibrium after the shock of realising he was the man who had been trying to buy this farm for the last two months.

He shrugged. ‘My mother is American, but my father is English,’ he explained dryly. ‘I was born in America, but educated in England. I visit America a lot, socially as well as on business, but my base is in London. So what do you think?’ He quirked dark brows.

She gave him a resentful glare. ‘I doubt you would want to hear what I think!’

‘Probably not,’ he drawled ruefully.

She was taking her coat off now, revealing that the bulky garment had hidden a curvaceous slenderness, her green jumper the exact colour of her eyes, denims fitting snugly over narrow thighs and long legs.

‘Tell me,’ Jude murmured softly. ‘Do your sisters look anything like you?’

‘Exac— Why do you want to know?’ she amended her initial confirmation to a guarded wariness.

He shrugged. ‘Just curious.’

‘No, you weren’t,’ May Calendar said confidently. ‘Those bodies you mentioned a few minutes ago, you wouldn’t happen to be referring to Max Golding, your lawyer, and Will Davenport, your architect, would you?’

Bright as well as beautiful, Jude mentally conceded. The Calendar sisters—the one he had met so far, at least—were absolutely nothing like the three little old ladies he had assumed them to be several weeks ago when he’d first initiated the buying of their—this!—farm.

‘What do you think?’ he prompted unhelpfully.

‘You’re fond of answering a question with a question, aren’t you?’ May murmured consideringly as she moved to refill her coffee mug.

It was a defence mechanism he had perfected over the years, meant that he usually obtained more information than he gave—and it wasn’t something that most people easily recognised!

He frowned darkly. ‘Obviously you share the same trait,’ he bit out tersely.

She shrugged narrow shoulders. ‘We could carry on like this all morning—except I don’t have all morning to waste exchanging verbal arrows with you,’ she added hardly.

‘Because you and the vet spent a sleepless night together,’ he came back with deliberate provocation.

Angry colour darkened her normally magnolia cheeks. ‘I have already explained about that once, I don’t intend doing so again!’ she snapped dismissively. ‘What is it you want, Mr Marshall?’ she prompted challengingly.

Having now met the elder of the three Calendar sisters, found her to be absolutely nothing like he had presumed her to be, he wasn’t absolutely sure. And that wasn’t a feeling he was particularly comfortable with.

‘Well, you might start off by telling me where Will and Max are?’ he prompted cautiously.

‘Assuming their bodies aren’t hidden under the kitchen flagstones, after all?’ she came back scathingly.

‘Assuming that, yes,’ he conceded with a humourless smile.

May Calendar gave a derisive shake of her head. ‘They aren’t.’

‘Well?’ he pushed impatiently a few seconds later when she added nothing to that remark.

She gave him a considering look, green eyes narrowed, her thoughts unreadable even to his experienced eye. ‘Will is in London. Max is in the Caribbean,’ she finally told him economically.

Jude drew in an impatient breath. ‘And your two sisters are where?’

‘March is in London. January is in the Caribbean,’ she informed him with a challenging lift of her chin.

‘How coincidental,’ he drawled dryly.

In fact, he had already known exactly where Max and Will were, and who they were with; he had just wanted to see if May Calendar was willing to tell him as much. She obviously was!

‘Not really—March and January naturally wanted to be with their fiancés,’ she told him with satisfaction.

So Jude had gathered when he had received first a telephone call from Max over a week ago telling him of his engagement to January Calendar, and then a second telephone call from Will a couple of days ago telling him of his engagement to March Calendar!

To say he was surprised by the fact that his two friends were engaged to marry anyone, let alone two of the Calendar sisters, was an understatement.

The three men had been to school together, had worked together for years; despite relationships with numerous women over those years, Jude had always assumed that none of them would ever make the commitment to falling in love, let alone getting married. Obviously he had been wrong.

And that was something else he didn’t admit to too freely!

He stood up abruptly. ‘You asked me what I wanted a few minutes ago,’ he rasped. ‘I want exactly what Max was sent here to do before he fell in love with your sister, and that was to buy this farm!’

Her head tilted defensively. ‘And I’m sure he’s told you that it isn’t for sale!’

Jude’s eyes narrowed icily. ‘Yes, he’s told me.’

‘And?’

The challenge was evident in her voice, as was the underlying tone of resentment. Both of which were going to get him precisely nowhere, Jude realised.

He forced himself to relax slightly, his smile lightly cajoling. ‘May, surely you’ve realised, after the last few days of managing on your own here, that you just can’t do it?’

She stiffened angrily, green eyes flashing with the emotion. ‘What I can or cannot do is none of your business, Mr Marshall. And I don’t remember giving you permission to call me by my first name, either,’ she added churlishly.

He bit back the angry retort that sprang so readily to his lips, at the same time marvelling at the fact that this woman had managed to incite him to such an emotion. Usually he kept his emotions tightly under control, having found that this gave him an advantage over— Over what? His opponent, he had been going to say…

Was May Calendar really that?

Looking at her, tired from hard work and a sleepless night, her face ethereally lovely, much too slender than was healthy for her, it was difficult to think of her in that light. In fact, he was starting to feel guilty for having added to her obvious problems of the day.

Which was a highly dangerous direction for him to have taken!

‘Look, maybe this isn’t the best time for the two of us to talk,’ he dismissed lightly. ‘You’re obviously busy, and tired, and—’

‘And coming back tomorrow, when I might be neither of those things, isn’t going to change my answer one little bit,’ she assured him scathingly. ‘I’ll tell you what I first told Max, your lawyer, and then Will, your architect—this farm is not for sale!’

Jude frowned at her frustratedly. She really was the most stubborn, intransigent—

‘Certainly not to someone like you,’ she continued insultingly. ‘We don’t need a health and country club where the Hanworth Estate used to be, Mr Marshall,’ she scorned. ‘Or the eighteen-hole golf course you intend to make of this farmland!’

She had done her homework, at least, Jude acknowledged admiringly—because that was exactly what he intended doing with this land once it was his. Unless, of course, Max or Will—

No! He didn’t believe either man, no matter what his romantic connection with this family, would have betrayed the confidence he had in them. In fact, he knew that they hadn’t, had already turned down Max’s offer of resignation because of a ‘conflict of interest’, and viewed the two sets of plans Will had drawn up for this latest business venture, one including the Calendar farm, the other one not doing so.

He shrugged. ‘That’s only your personal opinion—Miss Calendar,’ he added pointedly.

She shook her head. ‘I believe, if you cared to ask around in the area, that you would find it’s the general consensus of opinion, and not just mine.’

He didn’t have time for this, Jude decided as he zipped up his jacket impatiently, better able to appreciate exactly what sort of brick wall Max and Will had come up against in their efforts to secure this farm for development. But May Calendar was going to find that he was made of much sterner stuff than either of his two friends and work colleagues, that he wasn’t so easily distracted by a helpless female—or, indeed, three of them!

‘We’ll talk about this some other time, Miss Calendar,’ he dismissed uninterestedly, pausing at the door to add, ‘It’s enough for now that we have introduced ourselves to each other.’ And that she now knew what sort of opposition she was up against.

Because Jude had no intention of giving up on his plans for the property he had already bought in this area, plans that included the Calendar sisters’ farm.

No intention whatsoever!

.

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