Read Accidental Engagement Online

Authors: Cally Green

Accidental Engagement (15 page)

There was almost a moment of rapport. He wanted to help her and she needed someone to confide in. But he had deceived her, betrayed her, and right now she had no place in her life for anyone she didn’t trust. Her face closed and the moment was lost.

‘I don’t think that’s any of your business,’ she said abruptly. She turned away from him and opened her case.

‘Don’t go.’ The sincerity in his voice gave her pause, but then she thought cynically that he only wanted her to stay so that Emmy and Claire wouldn’t discover that he’d deceived them.

‘Don’t worry,’ she said as she threw her clothes -
but only the ones she had arrived with - into the case. ‘I won’t say anything to rock the boat. I won’t let Emmy and Claire know the whole thing was a lie. It shouldn’t be too difficult for you to think up some excuse to explain why I’ve gone away.’

‘That isn’t what I meant. I care about you, Anna. Is that so difficult to understand? I want you to stay.’

‘As what?’ She rounded on him, her anger a cover for her pain. ‘Your lover, perhaps? Or your mistress?’

‘Don't be a
fool.’ Seeing that words were useless he closed the distance between them in two strides,
then pulling her roughly towards him he kissed her. He put everything that he felt for her into the kiss
,
all his loving and longing and desire to be with her.

And it almost worked. The suddenness of the action gave her no time to think and for one insane moment she believed in him, responding to his kiss. But then her doubts rose to the surface again.

She had been badly hurt, and she would not allow him to hurt her again.

With an effort she pushed him away. ‘No,’ she said fiercely. ‘I won’t be used.’

He stood facing her across a chasm of hostility and pain.

Used
.
The word cut into him like a knife. 'Since when have I used you?’ he demanded.

‘Since the moment you met me,’ she returned.

A dangerous glint appeared in his eye. ‘So you think I was using you. Is that what you
really
think, Anna?’ He moved towards her and took her chin between his thumb and forefinger. His eyes locked onto her own. And then with unbearable tenderness he kissed her. His mouth moved so gently over her own that she could barely feel it.

It was intoxicating. The touch of his lips sent a tingling awareness through her entire body, from her head to the soles of her feet. He tangled one hand in her luxuriant hair, his fingers tenderly twining it into twists, and his free hand dropped to her shoulder.

‘No!’ It took an act of will to push him away. ‘You’re trying to seduce me.’


Too right
I am. Your mind might be rejecting everything we had together, but your body isn’t. We were made for each other. I need you, Anna. Listen to your inner voice. You know that you need me.’

She wanted so deeply to go to him, but she couldn’t. Because he didn’t
love
her.
H
e
needed
her. And love and need were two very different things.

It was inflaming her senses just to have him near her, making her long for his touch, but she couldn’t give in to her feelings. Because what he was offering her wasn’t enough. She had given herself to him because she had loved him and becau
se she had thought he loved her.
A
nd because she had thought they were engaged to be married. But she would never have let him take her in his arms, let alone into his bed, if she had known that the satisfying of a need was all she had meant to him.

She turned to her suitcase, her emotions a mass of searing pain. She closed the lid and fastened the buckles across. ‘I have to go.’

He threw his hands up in a gesture of anger and frustration. He ought to let her go, but he couldn’t. He had to try again. ‘You can’t walk out on me now, Anna. You can’t throw all this away.’

‘All what?’ She turned on him, her anger covering her pain. ‘All this deception? All this pretence?’

‘So that
is
how you see it. That’s all the past ten days have meant to you.’ He didn’t want to believe it but she had spelled it out for him.

There was a moment of total silence.

And then his eyes changed. They lost their burning intensity and became
distant.
R
emote. His voice changed, too. It was no longer rich with undertones of emotion, but was cold and clipped. With what seemed to Anna like terrible detachment he said, ‘If you want to go, then go. But not tonight. It’s late. You’re in no fit state to go anywhere.’

She felt an icy wave wash over her. He was no longer the man she had shared so much with. Instead, he was cool
and polite. He wasn’t her lover,
he was the perfect host, showing an obligatory concern for the welfare of his guest.

She felt her last remaining energy rush out of her like the air out of a deflated balloon, and felt suddenly bereft.

She was tired. Bone tired. The emotional upheaval of the last few hours had left her drained. She didn’t want to admit it, even to herself, but Mark was right. She was in no fit state to do anything.

‘Go to bed,’ he said.

He walked over to the door and then he went out. Shutting it behind him.

 

Sleep was slow in coming. Despite her tiredness, Anna’s mind was in a wh
irl. She felt lost. Disoriented.
T
oo much had happened in too short a space of time. She turned onto her back and lay staring at the ceiling, which she could dimly make out in the light from the moon. So much that had seemed difficult to understand had at last been made clear. Mark’s initial hostility, his moodiness. That air he had had of watching her, as if waiting for her to make a mistake. She had put it down to his character
.
E
ither that or a fight they had had, some bad blood between them from
an argument she could not remember. But that had not been the cause.

She turned onto her side.

He had been so moody because he h
ad thought she was an impostor.
A
fake.

How could he?
she thought. She wanted to be angry but all she could think of was the wonderful times they had had together: their trip to
Nottingham
; their morning swim; their day in the forest; their countless shared pleasures. Pleasures that had gone.

She felt empty. She had lost something precious. Worst of all, she could never get it back. Because it had never really been.

C
hapter Nine

 

‘What exactly did Serena say to you?’

Morning had come. When she had padded down to the kitchen at
seven o’clock
she had found Mark already there. He had barely glanced at her, but he had added another two rashers of bacon and a couple of eggs to the frying pan.

Anna sat down and folded her arms, leaning them on the pine table. She was unsure how to proceed. She was still angry with him; still confused and hurt; but she realised uneasily
that, despite everything that had happened between them, her feelings for him had not gone away. ‘Very little. But enough.’

She had done a lot of thinking before she had finally drifted off to sleep and had come to realise that he had had at least some excuse for acting the way he had. She realised that her sudden appearance must have seemed contrived, especially as it had occurred so soon after he had told his aunts that he had a fiancée. But that didn’t alter the fact that he had deceived her, and it didn’t alter the fact that she felt betrayed.

He lifted the bacon out of the pan, putting it next to the two fried eggs on her plate. The smell was delicious. She had not thought she would be able to eat any breakfast, but she found she was ravenous.

He handed her the plate, setting his own down at the other end of the table. ‘Eat,’ he said.

She didn’t need any urging. The food restored much of her energy, and as

she rounded off her breakfast with two slices of toast and a cup of tea she felt human once again.

‘She told you we’d only just met, I take it?’ he asked, pushing his empty plate away from him.

His tone was still formal: polite. To her surprise she was relieved. It made it easier for her to talk to him. She could respond to him in the same kind of way, giving her overstrained emotions a chance to recover. ‘No. She told me who I am.’

His eyebrows shot up in surprise. ‘She knows you?’

‘Hardly. But she’d seen me before - or rather, someone at her afternoon party had. He told her that I wasn’t a concert pianist, but that I worked in a music shop. It’s strange, isn’t it? That’s all he was worried about.

‘And when she told you what you did for a living, it triggered your memory?’ he asked.

‘Some of it. My name triggered the rest. You see, she told me that my name is Lisa.’

‘But the A. on the suitcase . . . ?’

‘Annalise. That’s why it sounded familiar when Emmy told me my name was Anna.’

‘So what else do you remember, Lisa?’

She shivered slightly. ‘Don’t. Don't call me that.’

‘Why not?’ he asked in surprise.

She shook her head. ‘I don’t know. There’s something bad attached to that name.’

‘Do you remember what?’ he asked, his voice giving no indication of how touched he was by her vulnerability, or how much he wanted to hold her; restricted only by the thought that, if he did so, she would accuse him of using her again.

‘No. But I’ll find out when I go back.’

‘Do you know where “back” is?’

She nodded. ‘Yes. Serena told me where the shop is.’ She gave him the name of the place, which was some forty miles away.

‘Then that’s where we’ll begin.’ He picked up the plates and took them over to the sink.

She turned her face to follow him. Her shoulders relaxed. Ridiculously, his words had filled her with hope. ’We?’

‘Of course.’ He began to load the dishwasher. When it was done he switched it on and leant back against the worktop, arms folded over his chest. ‘You didn’t think I’d let you go back alone, do you?’

‘It’s my life,’ she said challengingly.

‘I’m not denying it. But it isn’t a good life. From everything you’ve told me, your memories are frightening, which is most probably why you’re blotting them out. That being so, you can’t go alone. You have no idea of what you may
find.’

She felt a ridiculous sense of relief. Although a part of her told her she should refuse his help another part of her rejoiced at the thought she wouldn’t have to part with him so soon. Because the idea of parting with Mark illogically caused her a great deal of pain.

And on a practical level she was relieved, too, because she knew that what he was saying made sense. Whether or not he had betrayed her, she still found that, underneath, she trusted him, in every way that really mattered.

‘So when do we start?’ he asked.

She stood up with the air of one who is determined to get some unpleasant business over with as quickly as possible. ‘I think we should go right away.’

 

The journey was not as bad as she had expected. Mark continued to treat her with polite courtesy and she responded in the same manner, glad they could both be mature enough to put their problems aside - at least for the time being.

She had dressed herself with unusual care. The Anna who had crashed outside Little Brook had been shabby and afraid, but the Anna who was returning to her old home was calm and poised. There was still fear inside her, but she had an inner strength now to counterbalance it. That inner strength had been missing a few short weeks ago, and reluctantly she had to admit, if only to herself, that most of her new-found confidence had come from Mark.

They talked of neutral topics as they drove along, avoiding any subject
which might make their tempers or passions flare. The weather, the road, the towns they passed through, the countryside - anything, as long as it wasn’t intimate or personal.

And so, in a little over an hour, they arrived in her home town.

The grey streets were just as she remembered them. Some sun would have rendered them more hospitable, but the day was overcast. Conversation failed as Mark threaded the Porsche through the busy streets before pulling into the car park of the town’s best hotel.

Anna had objected to the idea of a hotel at first, but Mark had insisted, saying she needed a base. ‘If your home turns out to be safe then there’s nothing to stop you staying there,’ he said in carefully neutral tones as he switched off the engine. ‘If not, I want to make sure you have somewhere to go.’

‘But you’re not leaving me?’ she asked.

‘No,
o
f course not.’
He got out of the car and went round to her door, helping her out. ‘Will you come in?’ he asked.

‘No. I’d rather get this over with.’ Then, on a different note, she asked
,
‘Are you sure they’ll let you take a room without any luggage?’

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