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The Failed Marriage

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«The Failed Marriage» - 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…Back in her husband’s bed…?A year ago, Joanna Radcliffe denied her husband access to her bed and her body—the pain of losing their little baby too much for their fragile, fledgling relationship to survive. Now Joshua is offering her an out: a year away with someone else!Yet the fire between them has never truly been extinguished and Joanna can’t resist spending one last night with her husband. Could rekindling their desire—on the eve of her departure—reignite the passion that existed before their marriage failed?
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The Failed Marriage Carole Mortimer

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‘WE’RE really interested in running a series of these books,’ the man sitting across the desk from Joanna told her. ‘If you can write others as good as this first one.’

Joanna shrugged. ‘I’m not sure that I can.’

The man’s smile of confidence seemed to say he was used to dealing with temperamental authors—and that he was usually the victor. He was a man of middle age, his kindly exterior belied by the sharpness of his icy blue eyes, a sense of purpose about him that told the young woman seated across the desk from him that he could be a very shrewd businessman.

Joanna had never been to a publishers before, and the image of a sterilely white and chrome-painted office, modern in the extreme, had given way to a cluttered room that looked more like a lawyer’s office, with manuscripts and books littering the desk-top.

She had guessed when she received the written summons to see James Colnbrook that there had been a favourable reaction to the children’s book she had submitted to him several months ago about a playful boxer dog called Billy. But a series of books could be quite cut of the question.

‘I’m not sure I have the time to write any more,’ she told him smoothly. ‘It’s taken me months just to sit down and write this one.’

‘And sometimes it takes years, even when you have all the time in the world,’ he dismissed easily, obviously not taking her objections seriously. ‘But I’m sure you can do it, Miss Radcliffe,’ he encouraged softly.

She met his gaze with steady blue eyes, a coldness coming over her. ‘Mrs,’ she corrected abruptly. ‘Mrs Radcliffe.’

She could see James Colnbrook mentally reassessing the situation, knew that with her cap of blonde curls, gaminly attractive face, and small slender body, she didn’t look old enough to be married, not even the obviously expensive clothes she wore, the black silk blouse and fitted black skirt adding the maturity expected of a married woman. But she was married, very much so. At twenty-three years of age she was locked in a marriage that meant nothing to her, as she felt sure it meant nothing to her husband.

‘I’m sorry, I didn’t realise.’ James Colnbrook was smiling once again, having correctly assessed the expensive engagement ring and diamond-studded wedding band he had just noticed for the first time on the slender finger as having cost a small fortune.

Joanna shrugged. ‘It isn’t important, is it?’

‘No. No, of course not,’ he dismissed lightly, noticing more and more about her as the meeting progressed. When Joanna Radcliffe had walked into his office half an hour ago he had placed her as a career woman, someone with the style and elegance of an executive secretary, possibly an executive herself. Now he noticed the vulnerability that hadn’t been there until her marriage was mentioned, the cool detachment in steady blue eyes, the almost wistful twist to her mouth, her body so thin she looked almost boyish. And lastly he noticed the pain etched into a face too young and beautiful to have known the agony that had put the fine lines beside her nose and mouth. Joanna Radcliffe was a woman who had known deep misery in her young life, and while she seemed to have survived it, it had not been unscathed. ‘Does your husband mind the idea of your working?’ James Colnbrook gave a forced laugh, feeling compassion for a woman he barely knew, and as his reputation as one of the toughest bastards in publishing hadn’t been undeserved it was a strange and alien emotion for him. It made him feel uncomfortable. ‘Some men have their macho image to protect,’ he mocked.

She seemed to stiffen. ‘Joshua has no reason to worry about his macho image,’ came the cool reply. ‘It’s perfectly intact.’

Joshua Radcliffe—the name meant something to him. And yet he was sure he didn’t know the man personally. ‘So he won’t mind if you spend several hours a day working?’ he spoke absently, still puzzling over where he had heard the name Joshua Radcliffe before. And it had been lately too.

‘When I said I may not have the time to write further books I didn’t mean my husband would object,’ this time her voice was even icier, ‘I simply meant I wouldn’t have the time. I don’t really see what my husband has to do with any of this, Mr Colnbrook. Either you want to publish the book or you don’t, regardless of whether or not there’ll be others.’

‘Oh, we do,’ he said swiftly, then cursed himself for revealing too much.

The mad escapades of a lunatic dog made a good book, and it would probably sell well, but he had to admit that Joanna Radcliffe intrigued him more—more than any other woman he had ever met.

She was obviously a young woman of breeding, her coolly detached tones acquired through private schooling, the casual clothes she wore most probably having the same designer label his wife’s did. Only they would never look this good on Moira! Joanna Radcliffe wasn’t the usual type of female author he had in his office, he realised that now. She looked as if she should be spending her time at tea-parties and socially select events, arranging charities, idling the hours away while her husband went out and earned the money, even the mention of the word a vulgarity to her. But Joanna Radcliffe gave the impression of being a very self-possessed young lady, of having only contempt for such useless activities. James’s curiosity about her grew by the minute.

‘Yes, we would like to publish the book, Mrs Radcliffe,’ he was cool himself now. ‘But we do like to know a little about our authors.’


‘Why?’ He was beginning to wonder which one was the publisher and which the budding author! ‘We usually like to put a little section about the author on the back of our books,’ he explained.

She had begun shaking her head before he had even finished. ‘I don’t want that,’ she informd him haughtily. ‘And the book will not be published under my real name.’

‘Not under—Why?’ he frowned his surprise. Most people longed to have their name on the front of a book, although not everyone was blessed with a name as acceptable as this woman’s, as he had once had to explain to one Agnes Snotty!

Cool blue eyes looked at him steadily. ‘I would just prefer it that way.’

‘But—–’ he stopped as he saw the light of determination in her eyes. ‘Okay,’ he sighed, ‘I’m sure we can come up with something else you like, but I—–’ Joshua Radcliffe! Of course, it had come to him now.

He looked at the woman sitting opposite him with new eyes. Surely this young woman couldn’t be married to that Joshua Radcliffe? The man was a Harley Street specialist, an expensive one at that—and he should know, he had paid the bill for Moira’s operation not too long ago! But the man must be years older than Joanna Radcliffe. Not that James had ever met the man, Moira having dealt with all the details herself, he being one of those people who couldn’t stand doctors or anything to do with them. He had been given hell by his wife because he had only been able to force himself to visit her at the clinic twice in all the time she was there.

But the mere fact that the man was in Harley Street meant he had to be in his thirties or forties at least. Maybe the man had a son with the same name that this woman was married to?

Joanna was aware of none of James Colbrook’s curiosity about her, glancing at the gold watch on her slender wrist, picking up her clutch bag, her nails painted the same deep red as her lip-gloss. ‘I’m afraid I have a luncheon appointment,’ she told him smoothly. ‘I have to go.’

‘Oh, but I usually take new authors out for lunch—–’

‘I’m sorry,’ she stood up, the high heels on her black sandals adding to her diminutive height, ‘but I do have to go. I wouldn’t want to be late for my appointment.’

James Colnbrook stood up too, a look of exasperation on his still handsome face. Tall and dark, with an air of distinction he obviously cultivated, he wasn’t a man accustomed to being dismissed by women, especially women as beautiful as Joanna Radcliffe.

But Joanna knew enough of tall distinguished men not to be impressed. After all, she was married to one.

‘When am I going to see you again?’ James demanded.

‘Perhaps your secretary could call me,’ she dismissed, already at the door.


‘I’ve enjoyed meeting you, Mr Colnbrook. And I’ll give the idea of writing more books some thought. Goodbye.’ She left with her head held high, not seeing James Colnbrook sink dazedly back into his chair, shaking his head in bewilderment.

Joanna nodded coolly to the secretary on the way out, easily stopping a passing taxi once she was outside to take her to the restaurant where she was lunching with her mother. No one looking at her could have guessed at the thoughts going through her beautiful head.

She was going to have a book published! She, Joanna Proctor Radcliffe, had written a children’s book good enough to be published! After years of feeling as if she were no more than Joshua’s wife, she was at last able to claim she had done something without his help or influence. Not that there would be much money in her writing, James Colnbrook had already warned her, but just to have some sort of independence, if only an intellectual one, was something to her. And she didn’t need the money; she was married to a rich man, was rich in her own right from a legacy left to her by her grandmother several years ago. No, this feeling of accomplishment was what she needed, what she craved.

Her mother was already seated at their table when Joanna hurried into the restaurant, several minutes late despite her hasty departure from the publisher’s office. And her mother made no secret of her dislike of unpunctuality; just her look of disapproval was enough to dispel some of Joanna’s inner elation.

‘Sorry I’m late, Mother.’ She glided into the seat opposite the other woman, accepting with a smile the sherry the waiter placed in front of her, her preferences being well known in this particular restaurant.

‘That’s all right, Joanna.’ Her mother’s voice was sharp; she was an older version of Joanna, her hair kept the same glowing blonde as her daughter’s by a gifted hairdresser she frequented, her face and body still beautiful in her forty-fifth year.

Joanna flushed at the lack of sincerity in her mother’s voice, feeling, as she always did in her presence, like the gauche schoolgirl she had once been and not a woman who had been married for five years.

‘I was delayed at the publishers’.’ She sipped the sherry, dry, just as she liked it.

The two women made a startling pair as they sat together, looking more like sisters than mother and daughter. Cora did everything cosmetically possible to maintain her youth, while Joanna had a maturity beyond her years.

‘What did he say?’ Her mother’s query was made out of politeness. Joanna refused to show any hurt caused by her mother’s obvious lack of interest, not expecting any gold medals from anyone in her family for anything she did. Her father was a prominent banker, her mother his accomplished hostess, and Joshua—well, Joshua was a success at whatever he did. Her minor achievement would be unimportant to them all. Only she would know of the new inner pride in herself.

She shrugged coolly, accepting the menu placed in front of her. ‘They’re going to publish it.’

‘Really?’ her mother’s eyes widened. ‘It’s about a collie or something, isn’t it?’ she said vaguely.

‘A boxer,’ Joanna corrected flatly, wondering why she tortured herself with these weekly luncheons with her mother. She always ended up being hurt by her mother’s indifference to anything that happened in her life; it would have been more sensible just to have gone to the monthly Sunday visits with Joshua the only time she ever saw her father. Both her parents lived such hectic lives that they didn’t really have the time for her. They never had done; she had accepted that very early in her life. Her marriage to Joshua had been her one redeeming feature as far as they were concerned, although in the beginning even that had been heralded as a disaster. ‘Like Billy,’ she added softly.

‘Really, Joanna,’ her mother snapped. ‘The dog has been dead for years!’

‘Maybe. But I loved him.’ When she was a child her father had impulsively bought her a boxer. He had forgotten her birthday one year, and had seen the puppy in a pet-shop window on his way home, going in to buy it without considering the fact that his wife might not approve. Joanna had loved the puppy from the first, and despite shrill protests from her mother had somehow persuaded her father to let her keep him. Billy had chewed any and everything in sight, from the furniture to her mother’s shoes, and it was after finding half a dozen expensive pairs of the latter chewed beyond repair that Billy had been banished to the garden and kitchen only. Not that he seemed to mind, enjoying chasing butterflies in the summer, and falling asleep in the warmth of the kitchen in the winter. And Joanna had made no complaints either, just being relieved to be able to keep the dog.

Billy had been her constant companion for nine years, until a mad excited dash into the road after a car had caused his sudden death. She had never forgotten him, or the unselfish love he gave her, and the character of Billy Boxer was based on him and the endearing—and often mischievous—things he did.

Her mother gave her order for lunch, waiting while Joanna did the same before speaking again. ‘You mean a publisher is actually willing to pay you money to write about a pest of a dog?’ she derided in her haughty voice.

‘Yes,’ Joanna bit out resentfully.

‘I don’t know what the world is coming to,’ Cora shook her head. ‘What does Joshua think of all this?’

Joanna’s mouth firmed angrily, and she looked nothing like the composed young woman who had left James Colnbrook’s office half an hour earlier. ‘He hasn’t said a lot about it,’ she mumbled.

‘I should think not! A man of his reputation and standing having a wife who writes children’s stories!’

Joanna stiffened. ‘I didn’t say he disapproved of it, Mother, we just haven’t discussed it very much.’ They didn’t discuss anything any more, they were barely civil to each other!

Her mother opened her mouth to say something, then stopped as the waiter began to serve their meal, the avocado pear deliciously ripe, the prawns nestling in its well pink and juicy.

‘You were saying, Mother?’ she prompted after the first mouthwatering spoonful.

She received an irritated look. ‘Not while we’re eating, Joanna. We’ll talk later.’

Joanna ate her meal with unhurried grace, her wrists small and delicate, her hands long and slender, seeming weighed down by the rings on her wedding finger.

The coffee stage of their meal came round soon enough, and she prepared herself for more lectures on the inadvisability of having a career when her husband was such an important man, when he needed a wife to perform all the social graces for him. She had heard it all before, in fact she had become sick of hearing it over the years. Billy Boxer might not be everyone’s idea of a great achievement, but it was the one thing she could truly call her own, the one thing that didn’t belong to Joshua or that he hadn’t given her.

‘… and so I was just wondering how he is.’

She blinked, her mother’s beautiful face and the sound of the other people talking in the restaurant fading back into her consciousness again. ‘How who is?’ she frowned.

‘Joshua, of course. I realise you’re excited about your book, Joanna, but do listen! Your father and I missed Joshua at lunch last Sunday, I wondered how he is.’

Joanna shrugged. ‘I told you, he had to go back to the clinic last Sunday. He sent his apologies.’

Her mother frowned. ‘He seems to be—working rather a lot lately.’

‘Joshua has always worked hard, you know that.’

‘But he seems to be working extra hard the last few months.’

Joanna looked at her mother’s expectant expression, sighing deeply. ‘If you have something to say, Mother, then say it. I don’t feel like playing games.’

Her mother looked irritated. ‘Are you happy with Joshua, Joanna?’

She looked away. ‘Of course.’

‘I know that at first your father and I didn’t approve of your marriage—–’

‘Approve?’ Joanna echoed scathingly. ‘As I remember, you objected very strongly—until you knew exactly who he was.’

‘That isn’t true!’ her mother protested indignantly. ‘I never doubted that Joshua was somebody. He’s just so much older than you. None of us were sure you were mature enough for marriage, but in the circumstances…’

‘Just tell me what you have to say, Mother,’ Joanna interrupted tautly, knowing her mother too well to be deceived by this show of concern for her welfare.

‘Well, I’ve heard—–’

‘Yes?’ she prompted tensely as her mother hesitated.

‘It may only be gossip—–’


‘There’s talk that Joshua may not be spending all his time away from home working! There, I’ve said it now.’ Cora sounded quite shaken. ‘I feel so much better now that I’ve just said it. And it could only be talk—you know how Jackie Simms loves to gossip. I don’t—–’

Joanna had stopped listening, lost in her own thoughts once again. Her mother might feel better for having dropped this bombshell, but it certainly didn’t have the same effect on her. She and Joshua had had their problems over the years, but she had never in all the time of their marriage suspected there could be another woman in his life. Of course Joshua was a sensual man, and she—–

‘—and I’ve always told you that Angela Hailey is too pretty to be a mere secretary and receptionist to any man, let alone one as attractive as Joshua,’ her mother continued.

‘Angela Hailey?’ That part of her mother’s conversation pierced her tortuous thoughts. ‘Are you saying she’s the woman involved?’ she frowned.

‘According to Jackie,’ her mother nodded. ‘Of course she can’t always be right, but she usually is,’ she added petulantly. ‘And Angela is a lovely woman.’

A mental picture of the beautiful redhead came to mind, her eyes a deep flashing green, her figure shown to advantage in the styled clothes she always wore, her hair long and straight to her shoulders. She had been Joshua’s receptionist and secretary for the last seven years now, and Joanna had met her lots of times—and their dislike was mutual. Angela made no attempt to hide her contempt of Joanna whenever they were alone, although she was always coolly polite in front of Joshua. Joanna had always felt it wiser to ignore the other woman’s antagonism, but this had only seemed to anger her more. Yes, she could see Angela Hailey as Joshua’s mistress, knowing the other woman would revel in such a role. And Joshua had a weakness for redheads—hadn’t he been with one when she had first seen him?

She shrugged now. ‘There’s always talk about a man like Joshua. Half of his women patients would like to claim an affair with him, and the other half want to mother him. If I listened to, or believed, half the gossip of affairs between Joshua and other women I’d be a nervous wreck!’

Once again her mother looked irritated. ‘And no one could ever accuse you of having bad nerves, could they, Joanna?’ she snapped. ‘You’re so cool it’s unbelievable. Joshua could be having a roaring affair with Angela Hailey and you would simply sit back and deny it!’

Joanna met her mother’s exasperated gaze with steady blue eyes. ‘Would you rather I said it was true?’

‘If it is, yes!’

She sighed. ‘I think Joshua is the one you should be asking, not me. Don’t they say the wife is always the last to know?’ she added dryly.

‘Don’t you care?’ her mother snapped.

‘Of course I care,’ she bit out, her eyes flashing. ‘Joshua is my husband. But he isn’t likely to tell me whether or not he’s having an affair with Angela, even if I were to ask him—which I’m not going to do,’ she added firmly.

‘You trust him that much?’

No, she cared that little! If there was another woman in Joshua’s life, even if it was Angela Hailey, then she didn’t care! ‘We’re married,’ she said flatly. ‘I have no reason to think that will ever change. If it does,’ her voice was brittle now, ‘you can be sure I’ll let you be the first to know, so that you can tell Jackie Simms some first-hand gossip for a change!’

‘Joanna, don’t be flippant—–’

‘How am I supposed to act?’ she rasped. ‘You’ve just told me the biggest gossip in town believes that my husband is being unfaithful to me. Should I shout and scream? Would that make you happy?’

Her mother looked about them selfconsciously as Joanna’s voice rose over the last. ‘I’m thinking of your happiness,’ her tone was low. ‘That’s why I’ve told you about Joshua. Lots of men—stray. Why, even your father—But that’s another story,’ she hastily dismissed at Joanna’s sudden look of interest. ‘But if you know what’s going on then you have a chance to stop it.’

Did she want to? Did it really bother her that much any more what Joshua did? She knew the answer to that only too well. And her mother would be deeply dismayed if she knew of her real feelings for Joshua.

‘I have to go, Mother.’ She picked up the bill. ‘I believe it’s my turn,’ she said lightly. ‘I’ll see you next week as usual,’ and she stood up.


‘Yes?’ She looked down at her mother, seeming much older than her twenty-three years.

‘Just—Remember what I’ve told you!’ Cora looked worried by Joanna’s attitude. ‘Joshua is a man of—experience, sophistication.’ She frowned. ‘Don’t blame him too much if this does turn out to be true. I’m sure it’s nothing more than a fleeting affair. Oh, and congratulations on the book,’ she added absently.

‘Thank you, Mother,’ Joanna said dryly, knowing how much of an afterthought the good wishes had been.

She took another taxi home, to the house she shared with Joshua in Belgravia, although perhaps shared was too intimate a description; they both just happened to eat and sleep there, they hadn’t shared anything worthwhile in a long time.

The elegant house had been run very efficiently by Joshua’s housekeeper before they were married, and Mrs Barnaby continued to do so now, her presence unobtrusive and very ordered, never a jar or hiccup in the routine of the household. Breakfast was always at eight o’clock, lunch always at one, and dinner always at seven-thirty sharp. The house was always spotlessly clean, everything at Joanna’s fingertips day and night—and she hated it, from the brass handles on the doors to the crystal chandelier in the lounge. It wasn’t a home, it was a hotel, a very beautiful hotel, but no less impersonal.

She nodded coolly to the maid as she opened the door for her, glancing idly at the mail that had been left on the hall table, the heady scent of the carnations in the vase there pleasant to the senses. Most of the letters were for Joshua, as usual, but there was just one letter for her, an invitation to dinner from one of Joshua’s medical colleagues. She left this with the other mail, knowing it would be Joshua’s decision whether or not they went. They probably would.

‘Any messages, Mrs Barnaby?’ she asked the housekeeper as she came through from the kitchen with a pot of tea.

‘Just from Mr Radcliffe,’ the woman informed her without emotion, her rigid nature reflected in her appearance, from the tight bun of hair at her nape to her no-nonsense shoes. ‘He said to tell you he’d be home for dinner at seven as usual.’

‘Thank you,’ Joanna nodded, pouring herself a cup of the tea. ‘I’ll take this upstairs with me,’ she nodded dismissal, ignoring the other woman’s look of disapproval. She had become impervious to those looks over the years, knowing the housekeeper didn’t approve of drinks being taken upstairs.

Her bedroom was evidence of Joanna’s own self-indulgence, a beautiful boudoir in white and pink lace, even the four-poster bed having white lace curtains that could be drawn at night. As a child she had always dreamt of a room like this, and while her parents had always given her everything money could buy, they had considered such a room ridiculous. When they were first married Joshua had been inclined to satisfy this whim of hers, but had insisted that the adjoining bathroom and his own bedroom on the other side of this remain free of feminine frills.

Separate bedrooms. Joanna had hardly been able to believe it when they were first married, but Joshua’s claim about not disturbing her if by some unlikely occurrence he should happen to be called out to the clinic during the night had seemed a valid one. Now she was glad they didn’t share a room; she couldn’t have borne to share a bed with him all night, every night.

Her mother’s suggestion of an affair between Joshua and his receptionist/secretary at the fashionable consultancy he ran in Harley Street didn’t seem so unlikely when she considered the amount of time he spent there, an image of the ultra-elegant consulting-room and lounge coming to mind as a scene for the affair. No, it didn’t seem so impossible, but Joanna deplored Joshua’s choice of mistress, knew that any number of women would have been willing to have an affair with him.

She heard the quiet throb of the white Rolls-Royce at the front of the house at exactly seven o’clock, checking her appearance in the full-length mirror as she heard the deep sound of Joshua’s voice as he greeted the housekeeper downstairs. There would have been a time when she herself would have run down the stairs to greet him, but those days were long gone.

They always dressed for dinner, and she had chosen to wear a black gown caught across one shoulder, leaving the other shoulder and arm bare, a gold slave bracelet pushed up on to the completely bare arm. The gown moulded to the slender curves of her body, once again high-heeled sandals adding to her diminutive height. Her make-up was perfect, her hair loose blonde curls that clung to her head, her expression coolly composed as she went down to the lounge to wait for Joshua to join her.

She was sipping her sherry when he came into the lounge fifteen minutes later, his hair still damp from the shower he had just taken. Joanna was able to look at him objectively, to see how the black evening suit fitted the broadness of his shoulders, the trousers tailored to the lean length of his legs.

At thirty-seven Joshua was still probably the most handsome man she had ever seen, his hair dark and thick, tinged with grey at the temples, his eyes a deep piercing grey, his nose long and straight, his mouth a thin uncompromising line, the firmness of the jaw telling of the authority that came as a second nature to him.

The grey eyes were hooded now, almost expressionless as he looked down at her. ‘Congratulations.’ His voice was low and controlled, almost as expressionless as his eyes.

Looking at him now Joanna could see that he too had changed since their marriage five years ago, that there was hardly a trace left of the man she had first met and been instantly attracted to. Deep lines of cynicism were now grooved beside his mouth, and she could see the years hadn’t dealt kindly with him. Could it be that Joshua was as dissatisfied with their marriage as she was? His affair with Angela seemed to say he was.

‘Your mother telephoned me,’ he explained at her silence, moving to sit in the chair across from her. ‘She told me about the book. You must be very proud.’ He sipped his whisky.

‘Yes,’ she nodded.

The grey eyes narrowed, fine lines fanning out from their corners. ‘She also seemed concerned about you.’

Her shoulders stiffened at her mother’s underhand method of interfering. ‘I can’t imagine why,’ she dismissed coldly.

‘You are looking pale—–’

‘That’s because I’m hungry!’ She stood up, determinedly putting an end to the conversation. ‘Shall we go through to dinner?’

‘Of course,’ he nodded abruptly, and stood up too, at least a foot taller than she was.

In that moment Joanna wondered where all the charm and laughter had gone from his handsome face, noticing that his muscled body was leaner too, that his cheeks were almost hollow beneath the healthy tan, his long hands still strong and dependable, although they too looked leaner. Yes, Joshua was far from happy in this marriage too.

Their conversation was slow and impersonal through dinner, as it usually was, Joshua asking her a little about the book; but her abrupt replies were not encouraging. Joshua refused wine with his meal and also a brandy afterwards, and Joanna knew what that meant.

‘I have to go back to the clinic for a few hours,’ he told her as he replaced his empty coffee cup on the tray.

‘Yes.’ She had known what was coming.

He seemed to hesitate. ‘What will you do?’

‘Have an early night. Read a book.’ She shrugged. ‘Don’t worry about me, I have plenty to do.’

He was frowning darkly. ‘But I do worry about you, Joanna. You must get very lonely here on your own in the evenings when I go back to work…?’

No,’ she told him coolly. ‘I find ways of occupying my time.’

‘I’ll go and change, then.’ He turned abruptly, going up to his bedroom.

Joanna dismissed the housekeeper for the night once she had come in to remove the coffee tray, and went slowly up to her own room. She could hear Joshua in the adjoining bathroom, and suddenly the idea of a long soak beneath scented bubbles seemed very appealing. She undressed to don her silk robe, sitting down in front of the dressing-table to cleanse off her make-up.

She heard Joshua leave the bathroom a few minutes later and so she went through herself. Everything had been left as neat and tidy as usual, not even the toothpaste tube out of place, squeezed meticulously from the bottom.

She ran the water into the deep sunken bath before searching through the bathroom cabinet. The wide cuff of her robe caught the top of a medicine bottle, unbalancing it, and Joanna watched as it fell, almost in slow motion it seemed, to shatter on the floor.

The adjoining bathroom door was instantly flung open, and Joshua took in the situation at a glance. He was dressed for work now in one of his superbly tailored three-piece suits, grey tonight, with a white silk shirt. ‘Don’t move,’ he instructed tautly.

But his warning came too late. His unwarranted presence here when she was dressed in only a robe caused an involuntary reaction in her, and she stepped backwards, straight on to the glass, gasping her pain as a piece pierced the sole of her foot.

‘Stand still!’ Joshua rasped as she would have moved once again, crunching across the glass in his shoes to swing her up into his arms and carry her through to her bedroom.

Joanna froze at his physical contact with him, lying stiffly in his arms, beginning to breathe again only when he had placed her on the bed and moved down to examine her foot. If he were aware of her aversion to his touch he gave no sign of it, treating her as impersonally as he would any other patient.

‘It doesn’t look too bad,’ he straightened. ‘I’ll just get something to clean it.’ He went back into the bathroom, turning off the bath-taps as he did so.

Joanna took this few moments to collect her thoughts together, to try and gauge her reaction to being touched by Joshua after all this time. She didn’t have one, not revulsion, and certainly not excitement. It had been as if she were being touched by a stranger, and not the man she had shared her most intimate moments with, not the man she had once loved so much. Where had all that love gone?—because it certainly had gone!

She could look at Joshua now and see all the things she hadn’t seen in the beginning, the coldness in his eyes, the lack of emotion in his handsome face, the flashes of hardness she often felt in his actions. Yes, she could see it all now, now that it was five years too late.

He was back in her bedroom now, bending over her foot. ‘Sorry,’ he murmured at her gasp, the jagged- looking piece of glass now in his hand, a wad of gauze stopping the flow of blood. ‘Does it hurt?’ he asked softly as he bandaged the foot after cleaning it.

‘Not too badly,’ she shrugged off the digging pain she could still feel. ‘Aren’t I lucky my husband is a doctor? she added lightly.

Joshua looked up with a heavy frown, searching her face for signs of the sarcasm evident in her voice. ‘Yes,’ he answered abruptly, his mouth tight, finishing off the bandage before straightening. ‘That should be all right now, but the bath is out, I’m afraid.’

‘It’s only a question of keeping my foot out of the water—isn’t it?’ she said sharply.

He shrugged. ‘Yes.’

‘Then I’ll still have my bath—thank you.’

His mouth twisted. ‘Go ahead. I’ll just go and clean up the mess in the—–’

‘I’ll do it.’ Joanna flushed, and swung her legs to the floor, pulling her robe hurriedly together as it parted slightly to reveal her nakedness.

Joshua turned away uninterestedly. ‘Please let me do it,’ he said hardly. ‘I wouldn’t like there to be any more accidents.’

Her eyes flashed her resentment of his patronishing tone. ‘Do it, then,’ she dismissed curtly.

With a coldly assessing glance in her direction he went into the bathroom, leaving Joanna seething. Anyone would think she had knocked the damned bottle over on purpose!

‘All done.’ He was back within minutes. ‘What were you doing in that side of the cabinet anyway?’ he asked mildly.

‘Looking for something,’ she mumbled, unable to meet his gaze. They each had their own side of the spacious bathroom cabinet, and she was as aware as he that she had knocked the bottle from his side.

Joshua didn’t move, dominating the room with his height and breadth. ‘What?’

‘Just something,’ she snapped. ‘Look, I couldn’t find what I was looking for in my side, so I wondered if Mrs Barnaby had put it back in your side this morning when she tidied up,’ she defended as he still seemed to be waiting for his answer. ‘It was as simple as that. Anyway, I’ve remembered now that I threw the empty packet away yesterday.’ The colour in her cheeks seemed to be a permanent fixture, heightening Joshua’s curiosity, she felt sure.

Heavens, it was months since they had talked as much as this—and she wished they weren’t talking now!

‘What was it?’ he asked softly. ‘Perhaps I have some I can let you have.’

She shook her head. ‘I don’t think so.’

‘Tell me and maybe—–’


His eyes narrowed at her uncontrollable outburst. ‘What was it, Joanna?’ His tone was inflexible, demanding an answer this time.

Her head went back in anger, her expression resentful. ‘What do you think it was?’

‘I have no idea.’ He spoke deceptively low, the hard determination of his jaw belying that tone. ‘Tell me.’

It was a command, not a request, and Joanna knew it. If only she hadn’t upset that medicine bottle!

‘It wasn’t drugs, was it, Joanna?’ he rasped at her continued silence.

‘Drugs?’ she repeated astoundedly, her eyes wide with indignation at the suggestion.

‘You’ve been very withdrawn lately—–’

‘Not because I’m some sort of pill-popper!’ She was outraged even at the thought of it.

Joshua sighed. ‘I didn’t mean those sort of drugs. I know you weren’t sleeping well several months ago, I wondered if you were still taking something to help you sleep.’

‘And then something to help me wake up again, and something else to give me a little energy, and then—–’

‘That will do, Joanna!’ he told her coldly, only the erratic pulse in his jaw telling of his own rising anger. ‘I wasn’t implying that at all. I simply wondered if you were taking the sleeping tablets the doctor gave you.’

‘No, I’m not. But I was looking for some pills,’ she met his gaze with defiant challenge. ‘My birth-control pills!’

For a moment he looked stunned, then his expression became as deadpan as usual. ‘You’re still taking those?’ he bit out.



She gasped. ‘Because—Well, because we’re married. And—–’

‘And we haven’t slept together in months,’ he derided with bitterness, walking to the bedroom door in long strides. ‘Or is it years?’ he muttered as he left the room.

Joanna fell back against the pillows with an anguished groan, relieved that Joshua hadn’t pursued the subject any further.

It wasn’t years since they had made love, but it was almost a year since Joshua had even wanted to try to make love to her!


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