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The Secret Sinclair

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«The Secret Sinclair» - Кэтти Уильямс

The most shocking consequence of all… She didn’t mean to fall for a notorious playboy, but Sarah Scott’s head was overruled by Raoul’s skilful seduction. Yet after he jets out of her life Raoul’s legacy continues… Sarah is pregnant with the Sinclair heir!Five years later, single mum Sarah is struggling to make ends meet, working as an office cleaner. Having taken on yet another job, Sarah is on her knees scrubbing floors when her eyes meet those of her designer-clad new boss – the man she’s never been able to forget…Raoul!
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About the Author

In her blue checked overalls, and with her hair scraped back under a matching scarf, Sarah figured she could easily have passed for a heap of old clothes dumped on the ground were it not for the elaborate trolley of cleaning materials by her side.

She had had dreams once, but that had been five years ago. In a heartbeat all that had changed.

As the hushed voices got closer Sarah put her all into the wretched stain on the carpet, but with a sinking heart she was aware that the voices had fallen silent and the footsteps seemed to have stopped just in front of her.

In fact, sliding her eyes across, she could make out some hand-tailored Italian shoes just below charcoal-grey trousers, sharply creased.

Reluctantly, Sarah raised her eyes, and in that instant she was skewered to the spot by the same bitter chocolate eyes that had taken up residence in her head five years ago and stubbornly refused to budge. Raoul Sinclair.

The Secret Sinclair

Cathy Williams



www.millsandboon.co.uk

About the Author

Cathy Williams is originally from Trinidad, but has lived in England for a number of years. She currently has a house in Warwickshire, which she shares with her husband Richard, her three daughters, Charlotte, Olivia and Emma, and their pet cat, Salem. She adores writing romantic fiction, and would love one of her girls to become a writer—although at the moment she is happy enough if they do their homework and agree not to bicker with one another!

Recent titles by the same author:

HIS CHRISTMAS ACQUISITION

HER IMPOSSIBLE BOSS

IN WANT OF A WIFE?

THE SECRETARY’S SCANDALOUS SECRET

Did you know these are also available as eBooks? Visit www.millsandboon.co.uk

PROLOGUE

RAOUL shifted as quietly as he could on the bed, propped himself up on one elbow and stared down at the woman sleeping contentedly next to him. Through the open window the sultry African night air could barely work itself up into a breeze, and even with the fan lethargically whirring on the chest of drawers it was still and humid. The net draped haphazardly over them was very optimistic protection against the mosquitoes, and as one landed on his arm he slapped it away and sat up.

Sarah stirred, opened her eyes sleepily and smiled at him.

God, he was beautiful. She had never, ever imagined that any man could be as beautiful as Raoul Sinclair. From the very first moment she had laid eyes on him three months ago she had been rendered speechless—and the effect still hadn’t worn off.

Amongst all the other people taking their gap years, he stood head and shoulders above the rest. He was literally taller than all of them, but it was much more than that. It was his exotic beauty that held her spellbound: the burnished gold of his skin, the vibrancy of his black, glossy hair—long now; almost to his shoulders—the latent power of his lean, muscular body. Although he was only a matter of a few years older than the rest of them, he was a man amongst boys.

She reached up and skimmed her hand along his back.

‘Mosquitoes.’ Raoul grinned, dark eyes sweeping over her smooth honey-gold shoulders down to her breasts. He felt himself stirring and hardening, even though they had made love less than a few hours ago. ‘This net is useless. But, seeing that we’re now both up and wide awake …’

With a little sigh of pleasure Sarah reached out and linked her hands around his neck, drawing him to her and wriggling restlessly as his mouth found hers.

A virgin when she had met him, she knew he had liberated her. Every touch had released new and wonderful sensations.

Her body was slick with heat and perspiration as he gently pulled down the thin sheet which was all they could endure out here.

She had the most wonderful breasts he had ever seen, and with a sudden pang of regret for things to come Raoul realised that he was going to miss her body. No—much more than that. He was going to miss her.

It was a situation he had not foreseen when he had decided to take three months off to work in Mozambique. At the time, it had seemed a fitting interlude between the conclusion of university—two hard-won degrees in Economics and Maths—and the start of what he intended to be the rest of his life. Before he threw himself into conquering the world and putting his own personal demons to rest he would immerse himself in the selflessness of helping other people—people as unfortunate as he himself had been, although in a completely different way.

Meeting a woman and falling into bed with her hadn’t been on his radar. His libido, like everything else in his life, was just something else he had learnt to control ruthlessly. He had intended to spend three months controlling it.

Sarah Scott, with her tangled blonde hair and her fresh-faced innocence, was certainly not the sort of woman he fancied himself drawn to. He generally went for tougher, more experienced types—women with obvious attractions, who were as willing as he was to have a brief, passionate fling. Women who were ships passing in the night, never dropping anchor and more importantly, never expecting him to.

One look at Sarah and he had recognised a girl who would be into anchors being dropped, but it hadn’t been enough to keep him away. For two weeks, as they’d been thrown together in circumstances so far removed from reality that it was almost like living in a bubble, he had watched her broodingly out of the corner of his eye, had been aware of her watching him. By the end of week three the inevitable had become reality.

They made love now—quietly and slowly. The house they shared with six other occupants had walls as thin as tracing paper, and wooden floors that seemed to transmit sound with ruthless efficiency.

‘Okay,’ Raoul whispered, ‘how close do you think I can get before you have to stifle a groan?’

‘Don’t,’ Sarah whispered back with a giggle. ‘You know how hard it is …’

‘Yes, and it’s what I like about you. One touch and I can feel your body melt.’ He touched her accordingly, a feathery touch between her generous breasts, trailing a continuous line to circle her prominent nipples until she was squirming and breathing quickly, face flushed, her hand curling into his over long hair.

As he delicately licked the stiffened, swollen tip of her nipple he automatically placed a gentle hand over her mouth, and half smiled as she tried very hard not to groan into the palm of his hand.

Only a handful of times had they taken the beaten up Land Rover and escaped to one of the beaches, where they had found privacy and made love without restraint. Between work and down-time on the compound, however, they were confined to a type of lovemaking that was as refined and guarded as a specialised dance.

Sarah half opened her eyes, simply because she could never resist watching Raoul—the dark bronze of his body against the paler gold of hers, the play of sinew and muscle as he reared up over her, powerful and strong and untamed.

Although it was after midnight, the moon was bright and full. Its silvery light streamed through the window, casting shadows on the walls and picking up the hard angles of his face as he licked a path along her stomach, down to where her legs were parted for his eventual caress.

Quite honestly, at times like this Sarah thought that she had died and gone to heaven, and it never failed to amaze her that her feelings for this man could be so overwhelming after only a matter of three months … less! She felt as though, without even realising it, she had been saving herself for him to come along and take possession of her heart.

As their lovemaking gathered urgency the uneasy tangle of thoughts that had been playing in her head for the past few days were lost as he thrust into her and then picked up a long, steady rhythm that became faster and harder, until she felt herself spiralling towards orgasm, holding on so that their bodies became one and they climaxed. The only sounds were their fast-drawn breaths, even though she wanted to cry out loud from the pleasure of fulfilment.

As she tumbled back down to earth the moonlight illuminated his suitcases, packed and standing to attention by the single old-fashioned wardrobe.

And then back came the disquieting thoughts.

Raoul sank against her, spent, and for a few seconds neither of them spoke. He draped his arm over her body. The sheet had managed to work itself into a heap at the foot of the bed, and he idly wondered just how long it would take for the mosquitoes to figure out that there was a new and much bigger entrance available to get inside.

‘Can … can we talk?’

Raoul stiffened. Past experience had taught him that anyone who wanted to talk invariably wanted to say things he didn’t want to hear.

‘Okay, I can tell from the way you’re not jumping with joy that you don’t want to talk, but I think we should. I mean … your cases are all packed, Raoul. You’re leaving in two days’ time. And I … I don’t know what’s going to happen to us.’

Raoul swung off her to lie back. He stared at the ceiling in silence for a few seconds. Of course he had known that this was where they would end up, but he had conveniently chosen to ignore that because she had bewitched him. Every time he had considered giving her one of his little speeches about expecting nothing from him he had looked into her bright green eyes and the speech had melted away.

He reluctantly turned to face her and stroked the vanilla blonde hair off her face, neatly tucking loose strands behind her ears.

‘I know we need to talk,’ he admitted heavily.

‘But you still don’t want to …’

‘I’m not sure where it’s going to get us.’

Hearing that was like having ice cold water thrown in her face, but Sarah ploughed on bravely—because she just couldn’t see that what they had could possibly come to nothing the minute he departed. They had done a thousand things together. More than some people packed into a lifetime. She refused to concede that it could all melt away into nothingness.

‘I never intended to come out here and start any kind of relationship,’ he confessed, his eloquence for once gone, because he was just not accustomed to having emotional conversations with anyone. He never had. He just didn’t think that he had it in him. But there she was, staring at him in the darkness with those big, questioning eyes … waiting.

‘Nor did I. I mean, I just wanted to get some experience and live a little—do something a bit different before starting university. You know that. How many times did I tell you that—?’ She’d very nearly said falling in love, but an innate sense of self-preservation held her back. Not once had he ever told her what he felt for her. She had only deduced from the way he looked at her and touched her, and laughed at the things she said, and when she teased him.

‘That meeting someone wasn’t part of my agenda either. The unexpected happens.’

Did it? Not to him. Never to him. He had endured a childhood that had been riddled with the unexpected—all of it bad. Top of his list of things to avoid was The Unexpected, but she was right. What had blossomed between them had taken him by surprise. He drew her against him and searched for the right words to explain just why the future staring them in the face would be one they each faced on their own.

‘I shouldn’t have given in, Sarah.’

‘Shouldn’t have given in to what?’

‘You know what. To you.’

‘Please don’t say that,’ she whispered with heartfelt dismay. ‘Are you saying that what we did was all a big mistake? We’ve had so much fun! You don’t have to be serious all the time.’

Raoul took her hand and kissed the tips of her fingers, one by one, until the radiant smile reappeared on her face. She smiled easily.

‘It’s been fun,’ he agreed, with the heavy feeling of someone about to deliver a fatal blow to an unsuspecting victim. ‘But this isn’t reality, Sarah. This is time out. You pretty much said it yourself. Reality is what’s in front of us. In your case three years at university. In my case …’ The world and nothing less. ‘A job. I really hoped that we wouldn’t have to have this conversation. I hoped that you would see what’s pretty clear to me. This has been great, but it’s … a holiday affair.’

‘A holiday affair?’ Sarah repeated in a small voice.

Raoul sighed and ran his fingers through his too-long hair. He would get rid of it the second he made it back to civilisation.

‘Don’t make me out to be an ogre, Sarah. I’m not saying that it hasn’t been … incredible. It has. In fact, it’s been the most incredible three months of my life.’ He hesitated. His past had never been something he chose to discuss with anyone, least of all a woman, but the urge to go further with her was overpowering. ‘You’ve made me feel like no one else ever has … but then I suppose you know that …’

‘How can I when you’ve never told me?’ But it was something for her to hang onto.

‘I … I’m not good with this kind of emotional drama. I’ve had a lot of emotional drama in my life …’

‘What do you mean?’ She knew only the barest of facts about his past, even though he pretty much knew everything about hers. She had waxed lyrical about her childhood—her very happy and very ordinary childhood—as an only child of two parents who had always thought that they would never have kids until her mother became pregnant at the merry age of forty-one.

He had skirted round the subject aside from telling her that he’d had no parents, preferring to concentrate on the future which, as time went on, suited her very well—even though any mention of her in that future hadn’t actually been voiced. She liked the thought of him forging his way with her at his side. Somewhere.

‘I grew up in a foster home, Sarah. I was one of those kids you read about in the newspapers who get taken in by Social Services because their parents can’t take care of them.’

Sarah sat up, lost for words. Then her natural warmth took over and she felt the prickle of tears, which brought a reluctant smile to his lips.

‘Neither of your parents could look after you?’

‘Just the one parent on the scene. My mother.’ It was not in his nature to confide, and he picked carefully at his words, choosing to denude them of all potency. It was a trick he had learnt a long time ago, so his voice, when he spoke, was flat and detached. ‘Unfortunately she had a problem with substances, which ended up killing her when I was five. My father … Who knows? Could have been anyone.’

‘You poor soul!’

‘I prefer to think of my background as character-building, and as foster homes went mine wasn’t too bad. Where I’m going with this …’ For a second he had to remind himself where he was going with it. ‘I’m not looking for a relationship. Not now—probably not ever. I never meant to string you along, Sarah, but … you got under my skin … And all this didn’t exactly go the distance in bringing me back to my senses.’

‘All what?’

‘Here. The middle of nowhere. Thrown together in the heat …’

‘So nothing would have happened between us if we hadn’t been out here?’ She could hear her voice rising and had to control it, because she didn’t want to wake anyone—although there was only one other English speaking person on the compound.

‘That’s a purely hypothetical question.’

‘You could try answering it!’

‘I don’t know.’ He could feel the hurt seeping out of her, but what could he do about it? How could he make it better without issuing promises he knew he wouldn’t keep?

Frustration and anger at himself rushed through him in a tidal wave. Hell, he should have known just by looking at her that Sarah wasn’t one of those women who were out to have a good time, no strings attached! Where had his prized self-control been when he had needed it most? Absent without leave! He had seen her and all trace of common sense had deserted him.

And when he had discovered that she was a virgin? Had that stopped him in his tracks? The opposite. He had felt unaccountably thrilled to be her first, had wanted to shout it from the rooftops. Instead of backing away he had rushed headlong into the sort of crazy quasi-romantic situation that he had always scorned. There hadn’t been chocolates and jewellery—not that he could have afforded either—but there had been long, lazy conversations, a great deal of laughter … Hell, he had even cooked her a meal on one occasion, when the rest of the crew had disappeared for the weekend to camp on the beach, leaving the two of them in charge.

‘You don’t know? Is that because I’m not really your type?’

He hesitated just long enough for her to bitterly assume the obvious.

‘I’m not, am I?’ She slung her legs over the bed, kicking away at the mosquito net and finally shoving it aside so that she could crawl under it.

‘Where are you going!’

‘I don’t want to be having this conversation.’ In the darkness she hunted around for her clothes, located them, and began putting them on. An old tee shirt, a pair of denim shorts, her flipflops. ‘I’m going outside. I need to get some air.’

Raoul debated the wisdom of following her for a few seconds, then leapt out of the bed, struggling with his jeans, not bothering with a shirt at all, as he watched her flying out of the room like a bat out of hell.

The bedroom was small, equipped with the most basic of furniture, and cluttered with all the bits and pieces of two occupants. He came close to tripping over one of his shoes and cursed softly under his breath. He shouldn’t be following her. He had said all there was to say on the subject of any continuing romance. To prolong the conversation would be to invite a debate that would be stillborn, so what was the point? But watching her disappear through the bedroom door had galvanised him into instant, inexplicable action.

The house was a square concrete block, its front door accessed by sufficient steps to ensure that it was protected against flooding during the cyclone season.

He caught up with her just as she had reached the bottom of the steps.

‘So, what are your types!’ Sarah swung round to glare at him, hands on her hips.

‘Types? What are you talking about?’

‘These women you go for?’

‘That’s irrelevant.’

‘Not to me it isn’t!’ Sarah stared up at him. She was shaking like a leaf, and she didn’t know why she was getting hung up on that one detail. He was right. It was irrelevant. What did it matter if he went for tall brunettes and she was a short blonde? What mattered was that he was dumping her. Throwing her out like used goods. Tossing her aside as though she was just something insignificant that no longer mattered. When he was everything to her.

She literally shied away from the thought of waking up in three days’ time in an empty bed, knowing that she would never lay eyes on him again. How on earth was she going to survive?

‘You need to calm down.’ He shook his head and raked his fingers through his hair, sweeping it back from his face. God, it was like an oven out here. He could feel the sweat beginning to gather on his body.

‘I’m perfectly calm!’ Sarah informed him in a shrill voice. ‘I just want to know if you’ve had fun using me for the past three months!’

She swung round, began heading towards the central clearing, where the circular reed huts with their distinctive pointed roofs were used as classrooms for the twenty local children who attended every day. Raoul didn’t teach. He and two of the other guys did brutally manual labour—building work in one of the communities further along, planting and harvesting of crops. He gave loads of advice on crop rotation and weather patterns. He seemed to know absolutely everything.

‘Were you just making the best of a bad job out here? Sleeping with me because there was no one else around to your taste?’

‘Don’t be stupid!’ He reached out and stopped her in her tracks, pulling her back to him and forcing her to look up.

‘I know I’m not the most glamorous person in the world. I know you’re probably accustomed to landing really gorgeous girls.’ She bit her lip and looked away, feeling miserable and thoroughly sorry for herself. ‘I knew it was odd that you even looked at me in the first place, but I suppose I was the only other English person here so you made do.’

‘Don’t do this, Sarah,’ Raoul said harshly. He could feel her trembling against him, and he had to fight the impulse to terminate the conversation by kissing that lush, full mouth. ‘If you want to know what kind of women I’ve always gone for, I’ll tell you. I’ve always gone for women who wanted nothing from me. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but it’s the truth. Yes, they’ve been good looking, but not in the way that you are …’

‘What way is that?’ Sarah asked scornfully, but she was keen to grasp any positive comment in these suddenly turbulent waters. She realised with a sinking heart that she would be willing to beg for him. It went against every grain of pride in her, but, yes, she would plead for him at least to keep in touch.

‘Young, innocent, full of laughter …’ He loosened his fingers on her arm and gently stroked her. ‘That’s why I should have run a mile the minute you looked at me with those big green eyes,’ he murmured with genuine regret. ‘But I couldn’t. You summed up everything I wasn’t looking for, and I still couldn’t resist you.’

‘You don’t have to!’ Before he could knock her last-ditch plea down in flames she turned away brusquely and walked towards the clearing, adopting a position on one of the fallen tree trunks which had been left as a bench of sorts.

Her heart was beating like a jackhammer and she could barely catch her breath. She didn’t look at him as he sat down on the upturned trunk next to her.

The night was alive with the sounds of insects and frogs, but it was cooler out here than it had been in the stifling heat of the bedroom.

Eventually she turned to him. ‘I’m not asking you to settle down and marry me,’ she said quietly—although, really, who was she kidding? That was exactly what she wanted. ‘But you don’t have to walk away and never look back. I mean, we can keep in touch.’ She threw him a watery, desperate smile. ‘That’s what mobile phones and e-mails and all these social networking sites are all about, you know.’

‘How many times have we argued about the merits of throwing your personal life into a public arena for the world to feed on?’

‘You’re such a dinosaur, Raoul.’ But she smiled. They’d argued about so many things! Light-hearted arguments, with lots of laughter. When Raoul took a stand it was impossible to deflect him, and she had enjoyed teasing him about his implacability. She had never known anything like it.

‘And you’d be happy to do that?’ Raoul thought that if she were the kind of girl who could be happy with that kind of distant, intermittent contact then they wouldn’t be sitting here right now, having this conversation, because then she would also be the kind of girl who would have indulged in a three-month fling and been happy to walk away, without agonising about a future that wasn’t destined to be.

For a fleeting moment he wondered what it would be like to take her with him, but the thought was one he discarded even before it had had time to take root. He was a product of his background, and that was something he was honest enough to acknowledge.

Deprived of stability, he had learnt from a very young age that he had to look out for himself. He couldn’t even really remember when he had made his mind up that the world would never decide his fate. He would control it, and the way he would do that would be through his brains. Foster care had honed his single-minded ambition and provided him with one very important lesson in life: rely on no one.

Whilst the other kids had been larking around, or pining for parents that failed to show up at appointed times, he had buried his head in books and mastered all the tricks of studying in the midst of chaos. Blessed with phenomenal intelligence, he had sailed through every exam, and as soon as he’d been released from the restrictions of a foster home had worked furiously to put himself through college and then later university.

Starting with nothing, he had to do more than just be clever. A degree counted for nothing when you were competing with someone who had family connections. So he had got two degrees—two high-powered degrees—which he intended to use ruthlessly to get where he wanted to go.

Where, in his great scheme of things, would Sarah fit in? He was no carer and never would be. He just didn’t have it in him. And Sarah was the sort of soft, gentle person who would always need someone to take care of her.

Heck, she couldn’t even bring herself to answer his question! When she spoke of keeping in touch, what she really meant was having an ongoing relationship. How responsible would he be if he told her what she wanted to hear?

Abruptly Raoul stood up, putting some vital immediate distance between them—because sitting next to her was doing crazy things to his thoughts and to his body.

‘Well?’ he asked, more harshly than he had intended, and he sensed her flinch as she bowed her head. He had to use every scrap of will-power at his disposal not to go across and put his arms around her. He clenched his hands into fists, wanting to hit something very hard. ‘You haven’t answered my question. Could you keep in touch with me with the occasional e-mail? When you should be moving on? Putting me behind you and chalking the whole thing up to experience?’

‘How can you be so callous?’ Sarah whispered. She had practically begged and it hadn’t been enough. He didn’t love her and he never would. Why should she waste her time lamenting the situation? He was right. E-mails and text messages would just prolong the hurt. She needed to cut him out of her life and leave no remaining bits to fester and multiply.

‘I’m not being callous, Sarah. I’m sparing you the pain of building false hopes. You’re young, with stars in your eyes …’

‘You’re not exactly over the hill, Raoul!’

‘In terms of experience I’m a thousand years older than you, and I’m not the man you’re looking for. I would be no good for you …’

‘That’s usually the coward’s way out of a sticky situation,’ she muttered, having read it somewhere and thought that it made sense.

‘In this case it’s the truth. You need someone who’s going to take care of you, and that person is never going to be me.’ He watched her carefully and wondered if he would ever again be in the business of justifying himself to another human being. Walk alone, that was what he had taught himself, and you don’t end up entangled in situations such as this. ‘I don’t want the things that you do,’ he continued softly.

Sarah would have liked to deny that she wanted any of those things he accused her of wanting, but she did. She wanted the whole fairytale romance and he knew it. It felt as if he knew her better than anyone ever had.

Her shoulders slumped as she struggled to look for the silver lining in the cloud. There always was one.

‘I’m not equipped for playing happy families, Sarah …’

She eventually raised her eyes to his and looked at him coldly. ‘You’re right. I want all that stuff, and it is better for you to let me down so that I can have a fighting chance of meeting someone who isn’t scared of commitment.’ Her legs felt like jelly when she stood up. ‘It would be awful to think that I might waste my time loving you when you haven’t got it in you for the fairytale stuff!’

Raoul gritted his teeth, but there was nothing to say in response to that.

‘And by the way,’ she flung over her shoulder, ‘I’ll leave your clothes outside the bedroom door, because I’ll be sleeping on my own tonight! You want your precious freedom so badly? Well, congratulations—you’ve got it!’

She kept her head held high as she covered the ten thousand miles back to the house. At least it felt like ten thousand miles.

Memories of their intense relationship flashed through her head like a slow, painful slideshow. Thinking about him could still give her goosebumps, and she hugged herself as she jogged up the flight of stone steps to the front door.

In the bedroom, she gathered up some of his clothes and buried her face in them, breathing in his musky, aggressively male scent, then duly stuck them outside—along with his cases.

Then she locked the bedroom door, and in the empty quiet of the bedroom contemplated a life without Raoul in it and tried to stop the bottom of her world from dropping out.

.

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