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To Love Again

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«To Love Again» - 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…More than the girl next door…Christi has lived in the flat adjacent to gorgeous Lucas Kingsley for four years now. And she’s been in love with her handsome divorced neighbour ever since they met! Yet Lucas has only ever treated her with a brotherly affection. And unlike the sophisticated London beauties he dates, she can’t seem to get him to see her as a desirable woman…Until one evening she convinces him to demonstrate to her how a man should kiss. And when he complies, suddenly everything changes…!
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To Love Again Carole Mortimer

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Title Page













CHRISTI stared in horror at the man who took up most of the open doorway to her flat, holding her hands up defensively. ‘Whatever you do, don’t come in here!’ she warned fiercely.

To her chagrin he smiled, although he made no effort to come further into the room. ‘What are you doing on the floor?’ he drawled unconcernedly.

Christi came up off her hands and leant back on her knees. ‘I—oh, no!’ she groaned as a brown and grey bullet entered the room, finding herself almost knocked over as the tiny creature leapt up and down in front of her face, trying to lick her nose. ‘No, Henry.’ She desperately tried to still the movements of her excited Yorkshire terrier. ‘Henry—— Oh, damn!’ She gave in with a resigned groan, taking the dog into her arms to receive the ecstatic greeting.

‘He’s missed you.’ Lucas made the under-statement mockingly, grinning his amusement as Christi gave him a censorious frown.

‘I’ve only been gone a couple of days,’ she dismissed distractedly, her attention once again on the carpet in front of her now that Henry had calmed down enough to sit relatively still in her arms. ‘Take him, will you?’ She reached out to hold the dog up to Lucas. ‘But don’t come any closer,’ she warned as Lucas strode forcefully into the room, having let himself into the apartment with the key she had given him.

He gave a weary sigh, coming to an abrupt halt. ‘Make up your mind, Christi,’ he said drily. ‘Either I can come in, or I can’t. Is there a man in your bedroom? Is that it?’ He quirked dark brows interestedly.

Christi shot him a look that clearly told him the question was beneath contempt. ‘I happen to have lost a contact lens——’

‘Not again,’ Lucas groaned impatiently. ‘Last time you lost one of them it was down your——’

‘I know where it was,’ she put in hastily, blushing.

‘Well, have you looked down there this time?’ He looked speculatively at the creamy perfection of her cleavage, which was visible above the open neckline of her blouse. ‘I could always help you if you haven’t,’ he flirted easily.

That was the trouble with Lucas; he flirted with lazy ease, having a constant stream of women in his life, who seemed to remain his friend even after the relationship had ended. He and Christi seemed to have skipped the first part and gone straight on to the friendship, Lucas’s teasing of her just that. It was rather depressing to be thought of as just a ‘pal’ by a man like Lucas!

Everyone she had ever introduced him to had envied the fact that she actually had him living in the flat next door to her own. And that wasn’t so surprising, for Lucas was devastating to look at; tall and dark, with piercing grey eyes that could be dark with laughter or glittering silver with anger, his body of the type that looked beautifully elegant in the superbly tailored suits he wore, or obviously masculine in the shorts he wore when he played tennis. He possessed a sense of humour that enchanted, a honeyed charm that enthralled, and a raw sexuality that acted like a magnet to any woman in the vicinity.

But he was also thirty-seven to her almost twenty-two, and had taken her under his protective wing since she had moved into this flat almost four years ago, acting more like her uncle than her real uncle did! He had also helped her find her missing contact lenses more times than she cared to think about, had taken care of her pets when she’d been away, and had fed her lemon juice when she had been flat out in bed with a cold, doing a good impersonation of Rudolf! No wonder he had never looked on her as anything more than ‘the kid next door’—she was the kid next door!

‘Just take Henry, will you?’ She sighed her irritation. ‘I haven’t had the best of weekends, and if I can’t find my lens I won’t be able to go for that audition this afternoon.’

Lucas held the dog lightly in his arms as Christi resumed her search, her two Siamese cats entwining themselves about his long legs. He reached down to absently stroke Josephine and Gladys, straightening as Christi gave a triumphant cry, holding the truant lens as she scrambled to her feet to put it in before it did another disappearing act.

He frowned as she turned to face him. ‘I thought you were looking forward to spending the weekend with Dizzy and your uncle.’ He spoke slowly. ‘There’s nothing wrong with the baby, is there?’ he added, concern in his voice.

Christi’s expression instantly softened. ‘Laura is the most beautiful, contented——’

‘The baby is fine,’ Lucas drawled drily.

‘—little love I have ever seen,’ Christi finished proudly. ‘She has lovely golden curls—which is only to be expected when Dizzy and Uncle Zach—just Zach,’ she amended with a grimace. ‘He finally got around to telling me I can call him that, now that he’s been married to my best friend for almost a year,’ she derided. ‘But, with both of them being so fair, Laura was sure to be blonde herself,’ she completed her earlier statement.

Lucas looked pointedly at her ebony hair. ‘They can’t all be blondes in your family.’

‘The Bennetts are,’ she nodded. ‘You know I got my colouring from my mother.’ She experienced the usual sadness she felt whenever she thought of the wonderful parents she had lost four years ago, the two of them on an archaeological dig when it had capsized and buried them beneath tons of earth.

She hadn’t been quite eighteen at the time, and remembered that the birthday she had spent with her Uncle Zach had been a miserable time, both of them numbed by the accident that had left them the only two remaining members of their family. Her uncle had been distant from her then, a remote professor of history who seemed to live among his books. Falling in love with impetuous madcap Dizzy had changed all that, and when he wasn’t amused by his young wife’s antics he was bemused!

But, four years ago, Dizzy had been a long way from entering his life, and the two of them had found little to say to each other to ease the pain of their loss. Lucas had helped to ease her pain more than her uncle had, had held her as she’d cried bitter tears, had sat with her as she’d brooded in silence, had taken her out on picnics and walks when it seemed she would finally come out of the dark tunnel of depression her parents’ deaths had caused.

Their friendship had grown from those months of anger and pain shortly after she had moved in here; it was a friendship Christi knew she would find it hard to live without now, and she dreaded the day one of those women in his life became more than lover and then friend, sure that another woman wouldn’t welcome Lucas’s friendship with her into their married life.

She wasn’t conceited; as an actress she had been taught to evaluate her looks, to know her advantages and her limitations, and shoulder-length ebony hair, enormous sparkling blue eyes, straight nose, and widely curving mouth, tall and curving body, added up to quite a few advantages. No other woman was ever going to believe there was just friendship between herself and Lucas! She wasn’t sure she believed it herself, considering how sexually attractive he was, having had more than her own share of men in her life. But friends they were, and it was a relationship they were both comfortable with. Certainly neither of them was willing to risk what they had for what would probably amount to a few days or weeks of being lovers.

‘So what was wrong with your weekend?’

She frowned, concentrating with effort, her frown turning to a scowl as she thought over Lucas’s question. ‘Dizzy,’ she began in a barely controlled voice, ‘in her role as aunt and new mother, has decided that it’s time I settled down myself——’

‘What?’ Lucas said incredulously.

‘Oh, yes,’ Christi confirmed disgustedly. ‘Last year, Dizzy and Zach were worried because I didn’t go out with anyone for more than a month, and now they’re worried because I haven’t seen anyone for six months!’ She shook her head.

‘Hm, I wondered about that myself——’

‘Don’t you start,’ she warned, moving automatically to the kitchen to get her pets some breakfast as they all milled about her legs, Lucas having put Henry down long ago. ‘I’ve been concentrating on my career the last six months,’ she firmly informed Lucas as he came to lounge in the kitchen doorway.

He nodded. ‘Nevertheless, it’s been pretty quiet around here lately,’ he mocked.

Christi gave him a look that clearly told him she didn’t appreciate his humour. ‘It’s a pity the same can’t be said for next door,’ she returned waspishly, referring to the party he had held on the eve of her departure to the Lake District to visit her uncle and Dizzy.

‘Ouch!’ His eyes laughed at her. ‘I did ask you to join us,’ he reminded, not in the least perturbed by her complaint, knowing it wasn’t justified, for his parties were never of the ‘loud’ variety.

Her bad humour faded as quickly as it had come; she hadn’t really been angry. People who really knew her, and Lucas was one of them, knew that she was slow to anger. But when she did lose her temper it was best to take cover as soon as possible!

‘It sounded like fun,’ she conceded ruefully. ‘But I had an early start Friday morning and I didn’t want to be overtired.’ She gave a heavy sigh. ‘I wish now that I’d never gone! Oh, it was lovely seeing Laura for the first time, and I’m always pleased to spend time with Dizzy and Zach——’

‘But?’ Lucas prompted softly, taking out the cups to pour them both a cup of coffee from the pot, with the ease of familiarity.

‘Thanks,’ Christi accepted absently. She drew in a deep breath. ‘But,’ she sighed again, ‘Dizzy had invited three of what she called “eligible” men for the weekend, too, for me to look over!’ she concluded disgustedly.

Lucas just stared at her, his coffee-cup held unwaveringly in one slenderly masculine hand; for once, the articulate businessman, who could make a success of any company he chose to take over, was completely struck dumb.

Christi couldn’t blame him; she had been more than a little speechless herself when Dizzy had calmly introduced the three men as their other weekend guests!

If she had met those men under any other circumstances, she probably would have found each of them as interesting as Dizzy assured her they were, but as the only female guest among three attractive men it had been instantly obvious what Dizzy was up to. Much as she loved her best friend from childhood, she could cheerfully have strangled her when they had all sat down to lunch and she’d found her attention demanded by each man in turn. Dizzy’s intent was about as subtle as a sledge-hammer, and Christi had spent a very embarrassing three days trying to fend off three fascinatingly attractive men. Some would have said she was mad to even try. Most would have known she had failed miserably when she had returned from the traumatic weekend with separate dates to see each man again!

Dizzy had been completely unconcerned by Christi’s embarrassed protests about what she was up to, reminding Christi of a conversation they had once had about Christi advertising in a magazine for her ideal partner, sure she had as much chance of finding him that way as she did with any of the men she had dated so far. It had been a light-hearted conversation, made completely in fun on Christi’s side, but Dizzy had obviously taken it seriously. While her marriage to Zach, and his obvious disapproval of such a ridiculous idea as advertising in a magazine, had been a foregone conclusion, Dizzy had done the next best thing as far as she was concerned, picking three men out of her close acquaintance that she was sure Christi would like, inviting them all together for the weekend, and sitting back to watch the results. The result had been that, after months of not dating anyone, Christi now had three different men to see in the next week!

She grimaced as she saw Lucas was still staring at her. ‘You can close your mouth now,’ she taunted, feeling the first stirrings of amusement over a weekend which at best had been awkward, at worst downright uncomfortable!

He did so slowly, sitting on the side of one of the bar stools that sided her breakfast bar. ‘Dizzy seemed like a sane woman the one and only time I met her, when she married your uncle.’ He spoke dazedly.

Christi grinned. ‘You saw her on a good day, on her best behaviour.’

He shook his head.

‘Has no one ever told her that the custom of choosing a husband for a female relative went out of style years ago?’

Her smile widened. ‘Something as trivial as that isn’t likely to stop Dizzy once she makes her mind up to an idea,’ she dismissed ruefully, having years of experience to base her claim upon.

Lucas whistled softly through his teeth. ‘So, what are you going to do?’

Embarrassed colour darkened her magnolia cheeks. ‘I’m seeing Dick on Tuesday, Barry on Thursday, and David on Saturday,’ she revealed reluctantly.

His mouth twisted. ‘That’s certainly showing Dizzy that she can’t push you around!’

‘I was in an awkward position,’ Christi defended. ‘I’d like to have seen you come out of it any differently.’

‘My dear Christi,’ he drawled derisively, ‘no one pressures me into going out with someone I’d rather not.’

Her irritation increased, for she knew full well that a man like Lucas, who had remained single since his divorce several years ago, wouldn’t be forced into doing anything he didn’t want to do. But he was different from her, had a way of getting what he wanted, and away from what he didn’t want, without anyone challenging his right to do so. That arrogance seemed to be a part of his nature he, and other people, took for granted; she just didn’t have the same determination.

‘I actually liked Dick, Barry and David,’ she told him defensively.

He pulled a face, perfectly relaxed now that he was over his first surprise. ‘Dick, Barry, and David who?’ he drawled.

‘Dick Crosby—Dizzy’s agent,’ she supplied a little resentfully. ‘I’ve met him before, of course, since Dizzy began working as a freelance illustrator. Barry is Barry Robbins, a friend of my uncle’s from his university days, who apparently put his studies to use in directing films in Hollywood,’ she added challengingly as Lucas looked unimpressed.

‘I’ve heard of him,’ Lucas nodded dismissively.

‘Hm,’ she acknowledged irritably; the tall, blond-haired director was handsome enough to have appeared in his films rather than remaining behind the camera.

‘I think I met Dick Crosby, at least, at the wedding,’ Lucas remarked thoughtfully.

‘Possibly,’ she dismissed. ‘I believe Barry was unable to get here in time.’

Because it hadn’t seemed suitable to take a man to her uncle and Dizzy’s wedding that she probably wouldn’t see again a couple of weeks later, she had asked Lucas if he would accompany her instead. She had been thrilled when he’d accepted, proud to have had such an attractive man as her partner for the day.

‘Just think yourself lucky you weren’t one of the men chosen by Dizzy as suitable for me,’ she told him disgustedly.

Lucas’s mouth quirked. ‘I wasn’t “chosen” by her because I’m not suitable as far as you’re concerned.’ He tapped her playfully on the nose. ‘I’m far too old for you, even if I’m not quite old enough to be your father. I think I certainly qualify for the role of a much older brother,’ he added drily.

‘My uncle is fourteen years older than Dizzy,’ she defended.

‘And they’re obviously deliriously happy together,’ he nodded. ‘It’s always the ones who are happy who are trying to pair everyone else off,’ he explained at Christi’s questioning look. ‘But it isn’t very often these spring and autumn relationships work out.’

‘I think of Zach and Dizzy more as early summer and late spring,’ she protested. ‘I do know they’re the best thing that ever happened to each other,’ she added indulgently, never having seen Dizzy quite so confident of herself, nor her uncle quite so light-hearted, as they had been since they had fallen in love with each other.

‘You haven’t told me who the third man is yet,’ Lucas reminded softly.

Because she had been saving the best until last! ‘David Kendrick,’ she revealed a little triumphantly, knowing he had to be impressed by the last man. ‘Zach’s publisher.’

Dark brows rose appreciatively. ‘I know him quite well,’ he nodded slowly.

It didn’t surprise her in the least that David and Lucas should know each other; in fact, she remembered them talking briefly at the wedding last year, David acting as Zach’s best man. As businessmen, Lucas and David had a lot in common, both seeming to have the Midas touch, their interests diversified but, without exception, successful.

‘I have to agree with Dizzy about him,’ she said softly.

‘Why not Barry Robbins?’ Lucas shrugged. ‘You said he’s a film director, and you’re an actress, so maybe he’ll be able to help your career.’

Her mouth tightened. ‘I don’t believe it’s done that way any more!’

Lucas looked at her frowningly, then his mouth twitched with amusement as her meaning became clear, and finally he grinned openly. ‘I meant if you were his wife, of course,’ he said innocently.

‘Of course,’ she said sharply. ‘But isn’t that leaping into the future just a little?’ she derided. ‘I only have one date with the man. I certainly don’t need you matchmaking, too!’

‘Sorry,’ he grimaced. ‘I must try and remember that big brothers are for protecting you from big bad wolves like those three.’

Christi sighed, not appreciating his humour at her expense at all. She didn’t find anything about the situation funny. ‘Enough about my weekend,’ she dismissed briskly. ‘How did yours go?’ she asked interestedly.

His humour instantly faded, a brooding look in his silver-grey eyes. ‘Marsha didn’t bring the children over until Saturday morning,’ he revealed bitterly. ‘Claimed Daisy had a temperature the day before.’

Christi gave him a sympathetic grimace. Lucas and his ex-wife didn’t get on, and after she had met the brittly shallow woman a couple of times it wasn’t too difficult to understand why a man as warm and charming as Lucas should find his ex-wife’s grasping and manipulative nature highly distasteful.

Oh, Marsha hadn’t always been that way, he had assured Christi. In fact, the two of them had been quite happy together when they had first married and produced first Robin and then Daisy. But, with the progression of their marriage, so had Lucas’s success increased, and also Marsha’s wants and ambitions. For the sake of their children, Lucas had given Marsha everything she asked for; he could afford it, so why not? Their marriage seemed to have survived only by Lucas giving and Marsha taking during the years. Until the day Marsha realised she could go on taking without having to remain married to Lucas.

Lucas had skimmed over the rocky years of his marriage to Marsha, playing down the difficult parts, enthusing over what a joy the children had been to him and Marsha both. It had been Marsha who had told Christi, in her brittle way, just how ‘hellish’ she had considered her marriage to Lucas to be, initially completely misunderstanding the friendship that existed between Christi and Lucas, warning her sharply of the dull life she could expect to lead if she became seriously involved with Lucas. Marsha’s life as Lucas’s wife had sounded far from dull to Christi, and her words more the fretful complaints of a spoilt woman.

As far as Christi could tell, Lucas’s real regret at the breakdown five years ago of his four-year marriage was that his children had been left in Marsha’s care, that he was only able to have seven-year-old Robin and six-year-old Daisy on the weekends and holidays Marsha agreed to let him have them.

It didn’t seem right to Christi that such a woman should have the care of Lucas’s children but, as he himself admitted, he had never been able to criticise Marsha’s ability to be a mother to their two children.

But that caring didn’t extend to the inclusions of bothering herself unduly about the feelings of the man she had dismissed so easily from her life once his wealth made it possible for her to still live lavishly without the restrictions of a husband, and so she didn’t hesitate to callously let him down when he was expecting to see the children, always having a perfectly valid excuse for doing so, of course, so that there should be no legal repercussions.

Christie’s heart ached for how much Lucas missed having his children with him all the time, how each time he saw them they seemed to have grown up a little more, achieved new things he had no sharing in. It was only the fact that Robin and Daisy seemed so well adjusted to the situation that prevented him being more bitter about things than he was.

But by the sound of it Marsha had been up to her usual tricks this weekend, seeming to take a fiendish delight in upsetting Lucas’s plans for spending time with his children. Christi felt like shaking the other woman but, knowing the beautiful redhead, she would only laugh at accusations that she was being cruel to Lucas. She had claimed he didn’t have a heart to be hurt on the one occasion Christi had tentatively mentioned how upsetting it must be for him to be parted from his children in this way.

Needless to say, there was no love lost between her and the other woman, although none of that showed as she smiled at Lucas. ‘How did Daisy seem over the weekend?’ she prompted lightly.

His expression softened. ‘They were both fine. Having the cats and dog about the place helped,’ he added soberly, unconsciously revealing the strain of only being allowed to be a part-time parent.

‘I’m glad.’ Christi gave a bright smile. ‘Did Daisy lose her other front tooth? You said it was a bit wobbly the last time she stayed.’

The harshness of his face was completely softened with love for the two mischievous imps that looked so much like him, with their thick dark hair and silver-grey eyes. ‘Lost it and started to grow the replacement,’ he answered ruefully.

‘And did Robin like the Transformer you sent for his birthday?’ she smiled.

Lucas’s mouth tightened, his eyes a fierce silver. ‘His mother decided it wasn’t suitable for him and exchanged it for something else,’ he rasped.

Christi gave a pained frown, sure that the toy had been perfectly suitable for Robin. She had gone with Lucas to shop for the sturdy toy, Lucas having taken care not to buy anything with guns, respecting, and agreeing with, Marsha’s decision that Robin had plenty of time before he needed to be introduced to the violence in life. The Transformer they had finally chosen did no more than change from a robust truck into a robot. What possible harm could Marsha have found in that? The obvious thing seemed to be that his father had bought it for him. The other woman wasn’t averse to taking what she could from Lucas—the monthly allowance she received from him was enough to keep most families for a year!—but she wasn’t about to let Lucas take the praise for anything. Christi didn’t know how Lucas managed to control the anger he must feel towards his ex-wife!

‘I’m sure he liked what he had instead,’ she bit out tautly.

‘He didn’t say,’ Lucas said grimly, glancing at his wristwatch as he stood up. ‘I have an appointment at ten, so I have to go now,’ he told her lightly, bringing back the smiling Lucas with effort. ‘Good luck with the audition this afternoon.’ He nudged her gently under the chin with his fist. ‘Break a leg,’ he teased.

She returned his smile. ‘Thanks for looking after the pets for me.’ She walked him to the door.

‘My pleasure.’ He moved with leashed vitality, grinning at her as they reached the door. ‘And I shall expect a full report on your dates this week,’ he derided. ‘And remember, as an honorary brother, I expect an invitation to the wedding,’ came his parting shot.

Christi watched him stride off down the corridor to the lift, returning his brief salute before the doors closed behind him.

Oh, she would honour the dates she had made with the three men while they were in the Lake District, but she knew with certainty that a wedding wouldn’t result from seeing any of them again.

How could she marry anyone when it was Lucas she loved, that she had always loved?


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