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It was much as she'd imagined it would be, even to the old oil-paintings of
his ancestors on the walls. The furniture was antique, everything from
heavy Jacobean to elegant Regency and ornate Victorian. The smell was a
pungent mixture of old leather, old whisky and smouldering pine. Apart
from the standard lamps and the wall lights the room yielded nothing to the
dictates of modern fashion. It was too smugly solid and respectable for
comfort, she decided.
As soon as he'd closed the library door Dirk walked over to a cabinet and
called, 'What would you like to drink?'
It was hard to keep the virulent animosity from her voice. Her mission here
had nothing to do with what had happened in the past and she wasn't going
to fall into the trap of behaving like some hotheaded fool seeking
vengeance. That could wait for another time and place.
'Nothing,' she said coldly. 'I told you that this wasn't a social call.'
'Aye, so you did.' He poured a drink for himself then raised the glass
mockingly. 'You weren't sociable to Pamela. In fact you were damnably
rude and hostile.'
By sheer force of will she prevented herself from showing him just how
rude and hostile she could be if she really tried. 'And you were a liar when
you described me as an old friend,' she retaliated. 'You should have got rid
of her before you asked me in. If you must flaunt your bimbo girlfriends in
front of me don't expect me to shake their hands.'
'Still jumping to conclusions, I see.' He sounded like someone scolding a
child for spilling their milk. 'Pamela isn't my girlfriend. She's a historical
researcher from Edinburgh. We've got some documents and letters here
about the Jacobite Rebellion, and she wanted to study them. And she isn't
staying here. She has a room at the hotel.'
He took a sip of his drink, enjoying the flush of discomfort on her face, then
he gave her another mocking smile. 'Don't feel too bad about it. I'll give her
your apologies the next time I see her.'
She bit her lip in frustration and anger. No sooner had she stepped into the
room than she'd made a fool of herself, and trust him to make the most of it.
She was still desperately thinking of some way to retrieve the initiative
when he attacked her from another direction. 'It's quite remarkable how
luscious you manage to look in an old sweater and jeans.' His insolent eyes
savoured her in appreciation. 'Then again, it may just be that I remember the
way you looked without any clothes.' He caught her wrist just in time and
scolded her. 'Don't be naughty. You shouldn't try to slap someone who's just
paid you a compliment.'
She wrenched her arm free and glared at him. 'Keep your damned
compliments. I want nothing from you, MacAllister.'
One eyebrow rose in mocking scepticism. 'That's hard to believe. You must
want something. You said this wasn't a social call.' His eyebrow came down
sharply. 'Perhaps at long last you want to apologise for the way you behaved
at your father's funeral.'
'You're lucky I didn't pull the trigger,' she fumed.
'And you're lucky I didn't put you over my knee and give you a damned
good hiding.' His eyes became hard and bitter. 'But that would have
embarrassed you in front of the crowd, and I couldn't do that, could I? Not at
your own father's funeral. So I allowed you to go ahead and humiliate me
instead.'
'You deserved it,' she flung at him. 'You deserved worse for the way you
treated and humiliated me.'
The bitterness faded from his grey eyes, leaving them curiously flat and
empty, and he shrugged. 'Then we're even.'
Even... ? She almost laughed outright in his face.
'It was five years ago,' he went on quietly. 'Are you going to call a truce or
are you going to carry on denying yourself the one thing you want?'
She frowned at him. 'And what would that be?'
'A man to take you in his arms. A man who'll love and protect you.'
The man was incredible, she thought. Totally and utterly incredible! Did he
really think she was going to fall for that? Did he think she had a sponge for
a brain? Well, there was one way to find out.
Summoning up the last ounce of her self-control, she adopted a thoughtful,
contrite expression and murmured, 'Five years is a terribly long time, I
suppose. And I dare say you must have had good reason for... for leaving
suddenly, the way you did.' She paused and gave a reluctant yet
understanding smile. 'Thank God I wasn't pregnant after all, and that's
something to be grateful for. But if I had been I'm sure you'd have made
adequate provision for your child.'
'Of course. That goes without saying.'
It was almost more than she could stomach to go on with this charade, but
she nodded. 'It's all water under the bridge now, isn't it? We really should
make an attempt to forget and forgive. There's no reason we can't at least be
friends, bury the hatchet at last. Right?'
He studied her in narrow-eyed silence for a moment, then he permitted
himself the faintest of smiles. 'I'm glad to see you're taking a reasonable
attitude at last. What happened was unfortunate, but I had no--'
This time she was too quick for him and there was a loud, painful-sounding
crack as her hand lashed across his cheek. 'You lying, two-faced,
contemptible piece of garbage,' she spat. 'The only place I want to bury a
hatchet is in your black, cowardly heart.' Hot tears came to her eyes and she
launched another attack, this time pummelling her fists against his chest.
'You're a despicable excuse for a man. You're nothing but a--' She gasped as
he grabbed her and pulled her violently close to him.
'Stop it' he barked harshly. 'You're getting hysterical, you little fool.'
She clenched her teeth. 'Let me go, you pig.'
'Not until you've calmed down.'
It was getting hard to breathe now, the way he was crushing her. 'All right...'
she gasped. 'You're bigger and stronger than I am. You don't have to prove
it.'
He let her go and she stood glaring at him as he walked back to the drinks
cabinet. He returned with a glass of neat whisky and thrust it at her. 'Drink
this.'
'Keep your bloody drink,' she grated. 'I don't want it.'
'Take the damned thing and try to calm down,' he growled. [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]