Authors: Cally Green
‘ . . . only marrying you for your money. You know that, don’t you?’ came a woman’s voi
ce. It was
a hard voice, like polished steel. ‘I knew it as soon as I saw her with you. And who can blame her? She obviously doesn’t have two pennies to rub together. I’m surprised at you, Mark, falling into that kind of trap - again.’
Only marrying you for your money
The words were hard and poisonous. But could they be true? She looked at the shabby skirt she held in her hands and threw it down, as if wanting to throw the accusation away with it.
she marrying Mark for his money? Because if she knew very little about him, she knew even less about herself. At
least she knew where Mark lived and
who his family were
hereas, apart from the fact that she was engaged to Mark, she knew next to nothing about herse
lf. It made her feel vulnerable,
uncertain and confused.
She gave a start as a door banged shut. Mark’s guest had obviously gone. But the poisonous words lingered.
She lifted her chin. It was too late to try and preserve the mood of the day, it had already been spoilt. And now she needed to know. She needed to know just who she was, and whether it could be possible that she was marrying Mark because of his wealth.
Forgetting that she was wearing nothing but her underwear she opened the door of the bedroom. She could see Mark clearly. His back was towards her, and he was looking out of the window as though deep in thought.
She felt a sudden urge to go over to him and run her fingers lightly down his back, but knew that she must not do so. Not until things had been sorted out. Leaning slightly against the door frame with one arm raised for support, she spoke. ‘Am I?’ she asked.
He turned round at the sound of her voice, and the passion that flared in his eyes made her suddenly aware that she was only half dressed; that her hair was tousled and her skin was still damp; and that, despite the bruises that remained as a testament to her accident, the sight of her was visibly rousing him.
She saw his eyes drop, and felt them tracing her bare shoulders. Then they dropped again. With a shiver she realised that her raised arm was pulling the lacy material of her bra taut across her breasts. She lowered it immediately, but it was too late. Her body was already responding to his intensely masculine presence and she was aware that her nipples, half-visible beneath the lace, were growing hard. She wanted to move, to speak, to do something to break the breathless tension that had flooded
the room, but she was helpless.
eld there by the intensity of his gaze.
He took a step towards her and she felt her mouth go dry. But she could not let him touch her. No matter how much her body cried out for his caress she must not let it happen. Not until she knew for sure. She tried to speak, but the words caught in her throat. She tried again. ‘Am I
. . . am I doing it because of your money?’ she asked.
‘I don’t know.’ His voice was low and throaty. ‘Are you?’
She swallowed. ‘I don’t think so.’ The words were no more than a whisper.
‘Then why?’ He took a step towards her and looked into her eyes, as though trying to find the answer to some deep and complex question. ‘Is it for this?’ he murmured, raising his hand and running his fingers through her rich dark hair.
She arched her neck, luxuriating in his touch.
‘Or this?’ he asked, stroking one finger down her bare back and sending a tingling awareness through her, making her whole body ache.
He was so close to her now that his mouth was less than an inch from hers and she longed for him to touch her lips with his own. But he did not do so. He was playing with her, she thought, and, drowning in the new and unbearably seductive feelings that he was awakening she raised her arms, slipping them round his neck.
She sensed the moment when he could no longer control himself. His hands slid down her back and pulling her roughly against him, he covered her lips with his own.
She gave a stifled moan and then responded, her lips parting as he explored her mouth. It was incredibly sensuous, and awakened her to a whole new world of pleasure. But as she gave herself up to him a sudden change came over him. His body grew tense, and she felt a brief moment of confusion before his arms released their pressure. She reeled slightly, still drunk with his kisses, as he pulled away.
‘No,’ he said harshly. ‘This isn’t right.’
He turned away to steady himself, and she could tell that it had been no easy thing for him to break away from her. She could sense his frustration. And also sense that he was wrestling with some problem she could not even begin to guess at.
Watching him, she felt a sense of loss, complicated by a sense of confusion. The kiss they had shared had felt so wonderful but then, suddenly, everything had changed. Was it her fault? she wondered. Had she done something wrong? Or was it that her fiancé was a man of moods? Thinking over the time she had spent with him since the accident she thought that must be the case. One minute he was warm and friendly, the next hostile and remote; sometimes passionate and exciting, at other times hard and cold.
Her eyes followed him as he walked to the other side of the room: Mark Raynor was a difficult man to fathom. But, despite his perplexing character, she could understand why she had fallen in love with him. Because she felt more comfortable with Mark than she had ever felt with anyone before
more in tune and more secure. But those feelings paled into insignificance beside the feelings
he aroused in her when he so much as walked into a room . . .
He mastered his frustration and turned round. ‘You’ll catch cold like that,’ he said. His v
oice was smooth and passionless;
eliberately so, she suspected. ‘You should get dressed.’
She nodded. The present situation was too tense to be good for them. But as she was about to go back into the bedroom she hesitated. There was something she had to know for sure. ‘Was it me? Did I do something wrong?’
‘No. Of course not.’ His voice sounded unnaturally controlled. ‘But it’s only a few days since your accident. You need to take things slowly. It won’t do you any good to get too
She wasn’t sure he was telling her the truth, but she accepted his answer for the moment.
‘And once you’re dressed,’ he said, as she walked into the bedroom, ‘we’d better get back to Little Brook.’
‘We haven’t picked up Emmy’s glasses, or the things for Claire yet,’ she reminded him.
He looked surprised, as though he had not expected her to show any consideration for other people. Then he nodded. ‘I’ll go out and get their things now, and then I’ll fetch the car. You get dressed and have a cup of tea. We can go as soon as I get back.’
They turned into the drive just after
half past three
. The smooth run had restored their sense of camaraderie, and Anna felt more light-hearted than she could ever remember. Funny, every vague memory of the past seemed to be connected with pain. She glanced sideways at Mark, wondering whether he was in some way responsible for the bad memories. But she didn’t think so. He was moody and unpredictable, but she wasn’t afraid of him, and she didn’t believe she ever had been. On the contrary, being with him was fun.
The Porsche swept round the final bend in the drive, and Anna saw a strange c
ar parked in front of the house. It was
a flashy red Ferrari.
‘Visitors?’ she asked.
Mark looked unusually dour. He pulled up behind the Ferrari and switched off the engine. ‘Trouble,’ he said.
Anna looked at him enquiringly but he didn’t elaborate. Instead, he got out
of the car and strode round to her side, opening the door and handing her out. It was something she had noticed about him before: he was a perfect gentleman.
Gathering up the parcels, Mark guided her into the house.
The murmur of conversation drifted lazily out of the drawing-room and into the hall. It was closely followed by Emmy, who bustled out.
‘There you are!’ she said. ‘Did you have a good time - don’t tell me, I can see that you did!’ she said, laughing at the sight of all the parcels. ‘But I’m so pleased you’re back. You’ll never guess who’s here,’ Emmy went on, talking now to Mark.
He gave a grimace. ‘Serena Davenport.’
‘But how did you -? Oh, the car. Of
course. How silly of me. But we mustn’t stand here talking in the hall. She’s come to congratulate you.' She turned now to Anna. ‘She so wants to meet you. She’s heard all about your engagement from Elizabeth Parks. Fancy you running across
, thought Anna with a constricting feeling in her chest. So that’s who Mark’s visitor was.
‘But then, it was bound to happen, sooner or later, you know,’ Emmy went on. ‘You can never keep these things quiet. Everyone loves a wedding, and they’ll all want to have a look at Mark’s future bride.’
Anna felt some of her confidence leave her. She had known that at some time she would have to meet Mark’s friends, and had in fact been looking forward to it, but she had not wanted to meet any of them like this. She glanced down at her shabby skirt and T shirt. But before she had time to say that she would just run up and change, a new voice broke into the conversation.
‘Well, well.’ It was a husky drawl.
Anna looked beyond Emmy to the door of the drawing-room. If she had felt shabby before, she felt ten times shabbier now. Every inch of Serena spoke
money, from the top of her immaculately coiffured blonde head to the tips of her Italian shoes.
‘Hello, Mark.’ Serena’s voice was low and cultured.
‘Serena.’ Mark’s brief acknowledgement was unwelcoming.
‘And you must be Annabelle,’ said Serena, coming forwards.
Anna felt her spirits sink. Serena Davenport was everything she would never be: beauti
ful, glamorous, confident and
entirely at ease. She seemed to fit effortlessly into the world Mark inhabited, a world of wealth and power. Just looking at her made Anna feel clumsy and gauche. Serena’s clothes were perfection. Her suit was a miracle of tailoring, the dove grey linen being cut to emphasise every curve of her perfect body - a body that could surely only be produced by hours of work in the gym. And the jewellery that went with the suit, whilst being classily understated, was obviously worth a fortune.
Anna’s spirits sank still further. The things Serena threw away would be be
tter than anything she ever wore
But not better than the green crêpe-de-chine
, she thought unex
ot the dress Mark had bought her.
‘I’ve heard so much about you.
was most - surprised.’
It was a deliberate set-down, but before Anna could respond Mark stepped
is always surprised at other people’s engagements. The only engagement that won’t take her by surprise is her own.’ It was a barbed comment, and one which showed he was clearly annoyed to find Serena there. The beautiful blonde had obviously come to get her claws into Anna, but with a sudden rush of warmth Anna realised that Mark wasn’t going to let it happen.
‘Why don’t we go into the drawing-room?’ asked Emmy happily.
‘We mustn’t keep Serena,’ said Mark pointedly.
Serena looked at him appraisingly. She seemed to argue with herself about the wisdom of making a cutting reply, but then said, with a false smile, ‘I was just leaving. But I mustn’t forget what I came here for.’ She turned to Anna. ‘I came to tell you that you must feel free to use my piano as your own. My father and I live two houses along, at High Elms. It’s only a short walk, and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on your music whilst you’re here. Why not come along tomorrow? We’re having a tea party - nothing elaborate - and you can get to meet some of Mark’s friends. And then you can retreat into the music room and play to your heart’s content.’
‘Thank you. I’d love to,’ Anna replied. She was under no illusions as to Serena’s motives and knew very well that Serena was hoping for a chance to make her look ridiculous, but she did not intend to hide herself away on that account. She owed it to herself, as well as to Mark, to hold her own. Besides, she was tempted by the offer of a piano. If she could sit down and play, even for a few minutes, she hoped it might jog her memory, and allow her to remember a little more of her past.
‘Good. Then I’ll see you both at about four. And now I must be going.’ She walked over to Mark and stroked
familiarly on the cheek. ‘Ciao.’
Her tone was intimate, but Mark responded distantly. ‘Goodbye, Serena,’ he said.
‘Yes, goodbye, dear, and thank you so much for coming,’ fussed Emmy, seeing Serena to the door.
‘You handled that very well,’ said Mark under his breath as he guided Anna towards the drawing-room. ‘You didn’t let Serena get to you.’