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Authors: Margaret Pargeter

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Deception

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Harlequin Romance

 

1.25

 

 

 
This

Harlequin
Romance

 

belongs
in the
personal library of

 
"Logan/ she
breathed. "Would you kiss me?"

When his mouth took her own, Thea was
floating mindlessly in empty space, torn
strangely by fierce flashes of blinding
light. Helplessly, she shuddered against
him.
                                                      

But
it was Logan who called a halt. Her
mind was dazed, but that
didn't prevent
his indignation from coming through.
For
a moment his hand tightened and his
eyes glittereed.

"Were
you trying so very hard to please
me?" ne asked
curtly. "Believe me, it's a
housekeeper I want, not a
mistress."

Between
clenched teeth Thea cried
tersely, "That's the last thing
I'd ever be!"

"Very
commendable," he sneered,
"unless your ambitions go beyond
that?

You
wouldn't be the first woman who's

tried and failed
"

 

 
MARGARET PARGETER
is also the
author of these

Harlequin
'Romances

1899—WINDS FROM
THE SEA 1951—RIDE A BLACK HORSE
v
1973—THE KILTED
STRANGER 2022—HOLD ME CAPTIVE
2058—BLUE
SKIES, DARK WATERS
2112—NEVER GO BACK 2140—FLAMINGO MOON
2168—WILD INHERITANCE 2183—BETTER TO FORGET 2193—MIDNIGHT
MAGIC
2211 —THE JEWELLED CAFTAN
2227—THE
WILD ROWAN 2241—A MAN CALLED CAMERON 2260—MARRIAGE IMPOSSIBLE
2284—ONLY YOU 2296—THE DEVIL'S BRIDE 2350—AUTUMN SONG
2375—KISS OFATYRANT 2409—DARK SURRENDER

and these

Harlequin
presents

145—STORMY
RAPTURE
366—SAVAGE POSSESSION
431—THE
DARK OASIS

Many of these titles
are available at your local bookseller.

For
a free catalogue listing all available Harlequin Romances
and Harlequin Presents,
send your name and address to:

HARLEQUIN READER
SERVICE, M.RO. Box 707, Niagara Falls, NY 14302
Canadian address: Stratford, Ontario N5A 6W2

 
DECEPTION

by
MARGARET PARGETER

G
Harlequin
G
Books

TORONTO • LONDON •
LOS ANGELES • AMSTERDAM
SYDNEY • HAMBURG •
PARIS • STOCKHOLM • ATHENS • TOKYO

 
Original hardcover
edition published in 1980
by Mills & Boon Limited

ISBN
0-373-02416-9
Harlequin edition published July 1981

Copyright
© 1980 by Margaret Pargeter. Philippine copyright 1980. Australian copyright
1980.
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the
reproduction or utilization
of this work in whole or in part in any form by any
electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented,
including xerography,
photocopying and
recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system,
is
forbidden without the permission of the publisher, Harlequin Enterpnses
Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills,
Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9. All the
characters in this book have no
existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever
to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired
by any individual known or

unknown to the author,
and all the incidents are pure invention.

The Harlequin
trademark, consisting of the word HARLEQUIN and the

portrayal
of a Harlequin, is registered in the United States Patent Office and in

the Canada Trade Marks
Office.

Printed
in U.S.A.

 

 
CHAPTER ONE

Thea Andrews
paused by the
weatherbeaten bed and
breakfast sign and stared up at it, trying to
read it properly
in the fading light of the December
afternoon. It wasn't
so much this information, which looked as
though it had
been there for countless ages, which held her
attention, but
what was printed below it on another rough
piece of
boarding.

Housekeeper
required, it read. No wages but good home
to right person.

Wryly,
Thea shrugged. It could be of more interest to
dogs or cats!
Surely someone was being over-optimistic? Not that it was any of her business.
A bed for a few nights,
until she decided what to do, was all she
required. She
tried to take no notice of the strange notion
which gripped
her as she continued to study it, that it
might be of more
use to her in her present predicament than
the advertise
ment above it.

Housekeeper
wanted? Getting wetter by the minute,
Thea stood there
frowning, lost in thought. Could a girl of
her age, not twenty-one
until her next birthday, qualify
for a post like that?
They were bound to want someone
older and experienced,
and she was neither. She did know
something about r
unnin
g
a house and she was sure she
wouldn't be frightened of hard work,
but she knew nothing
of life up here in the Western Highlands.-

Sighing
uncertainly, she eased the rucksack on her back
so the straps cut
less deeply into her slender shoulders.
The night was wild, the
wind blew strongly and the rain
came down as though the
clouds had been saving up for
months. The old, shapeless anorak she
wore didn't keep
out the wet, and the tight jeans, which she
had reached
for yesterday in such a hurry, might have
been glued to her
long, slim legs.

Impatiently
she pushed back the strands of wet hair
which a gust of wind kept
blowing over her eyes. As pay
ing guest or domestic
help, what did it matter? It was far
more important that she found
shelter for the night. She
hoped she wasn't foolish enough to
imagine she could get
soaked and lost in this part of Scotland and
get away with it. Near the bed and breakfast sign was another, with the
name
Drumlarig painted on it and an arrow pointing down
a
narrow road. This must be the place she had set out to
find,
the Highland estate where she had been born and
Jived until she was five. Hadn't her
mother said that if
she was ever in need of
help, the Murrays of Drumlarig
would never turn her away?

But
as Thea began walking in the direction the arrow
pointed, she had
to tighten her cold lips to stop them from
trembling. Ashamed of
such weakness, she tried to pull herself together. Self-pity, she realised
wearily, wouldn't
help her now. Unlike her mother, she should
never have
found it necessary to be seeking help from anyone. If
she
had kept her head and been sensible enough to take heed
of
the several incidents which ought to have given adequate
warning,
she might still have been in her comfortable
London flat
instead of trudging along a desolate country
road in the dark.

It
seemed incredible that she hadn't believed the world
was
full of those ready to take advantage of a lone girl who
had
been left money. If she had anything left to be thank
ful
for it was that she had had her eyes opened before any real damage had been
done. After a little of the bitterness
had subsided, she might
have reason to be grateful to Jerry
Banks, and his so-called sister.

If
Jerry was the last in a succession of friends with hard-
up
stories, he must surely have been the worst. Hadn't he
persuaded her cleverly
that she must have a holiday in
Switzerland,
making it seem like a favour that Pam and he
should be willing to accompany her? St Moritz for Christmas—Jerry
had suggested it would be great fun. He hadn't
added, with Thea paying, of-course. What an idiot she
had been! How easily he must have gained the
impression
that she was as eager to
part with her last penny as he was
to
spend it. All the money she had inherited but had not
been able to lay hands on until her grandmother
had died.

The
greater part of this money was still tied up until she
was
twenty-five, but she wanted none of it now; it had
brought
her no happiness. On returning from Switzerland
she had consulted
the family solicitor about giving the
whole lot of it to
charity. In coming here, Thea had brought
very little with her.
Only a few pounds to keep her going
and pay for her keep.

Her
feet stumbled as her thoughts went back to St
Moritz. They had
booked in at one of the smartest hotels,
full of minor titles and
top international pop stars. Mink
and ocelot coats had
mixed freely with feather-lined ones and hand-knitted ones. Thea had found it
all rather fright
ening at first, but Jerry had a caustic wit,
and in a very
short time he had had both girls giggling.

Again,
Thea stumbled, not feeling over proud of herself
as she remembered
her amusement at Jerry's low-toned but
unkind remarks. But this
wasn't as painful to recall as her
rude awakening outside
Pam's bedroom door.

She
had discovered a piece of Pam's luggage, mistakenly
mixed
up with her own, and decided to take it to Pam
herself. Because
of some mysterious change in the booking
arrangements, Jerry and
Pam were on the floor above.

Thea wasn't sure what had made her pause outside
Pam's
door. Perhaps she hadn't been certain she had got
the
right number. The door had been slightly open and
she
had heard Pam speaking. Smiling with relief, she had
been
about to knock and walk in when she had heard
Jerry's voice.
 
 

'Pam,
my sweet! I promise it won't go on much longer. Anyway, sooner or later the
little fool's going to start get
ting suspicious. I know
you don't like it, but just keep
thinking of all the
wonderful lolly she's spending.'

'I'll
try,' from Pam.

'That's
more like it!'

There
had followed a peculiar silence, then to Thea, transfixed to the spot, Jerry's
voice seemed to purr.

'I
almost have her promise of a lump sum, my darling. Not a fortune, but enough to
keep us in la creme supreme for a good few weeks. Who knows, if I'm lucky with
the
dice
we could turn it into twice as many.'

'But
she thinks I'm your sister, and that you want this
money
to bolster up the family business.' Thea, though
completely stunned
by shock, sensed that Pam wasn't
wholly convinced. 'Why
not marry her, Jerry, instead of
me? I think she's beginning to expect it.'

Jerry
had laughed then, unforgivably. 'If it wasn't that
she
doesn't come into real money until she's twenty-five, I
just
might have. But,' his voice dropped so softly Thea had
to
strain her ears to hear, 'if I ever marry anyone, Pam, it
will
be you. We definitely have something going.'

'Maybe
you have with Thea too? She wouldn't be the
first!'

His
hoot of sarcasm had been an insult. 'Don't be daft,
my
sweet—she's still wet behind the ears. The odd kiss is
all
I'm allowed, although I confess, out of sheer curiosity,
I
have tried to go a bit further. She's certainly got a pretty
enough face and you
couldn't fault her figure, if she doesn't know yet what it's made for.'

'So—in the
meantime,' Pam had sounded cool but
harshly
resigned, 'you continue leading a double life? Her
by day and me by
night.'

'You're
quite poetic, darling! Yes, to both. And if you want your bills paid you'd
better settle for it, too. Just be thankful I found another little sucker to
dupe.'
 
      

'Surely
you think I'm worth it?'

'Come
here, my sweet, and let me show you!' Jerry's
laughter, low and
silky, had faded into another of the
silences which no longer
needed explaining.

Everything
for Thea had been hazy after that. Even now she couldn't remember each detail
of her immediate move
ments, stunned shock not being the
best material on which to record them. Instinct, she believed, must have
governed
her reactions more than anything else. She had simply
turned
around and come home, never quite sure how she
had managed it.
Before leaving the hotel she had left Jerry
and his so-called sister
enough cash to see them through
the next two weeks,
realising it might be cheap at twice the price to avoid the risk of them
following her. Not for
a moment did she doubt that they would stay
at the hotel, greedily extracting the last bit of anything they could get.

After
the first shock had worn off, such self-contempt
had begun eating
at her soul that it had scarcely been bearable. Amazement at her own
gullibility and blindness had
seared her with endless despair. Her
delicate young face,
too sensitive and vulnerable for her own
good, was often streaked with tears. Like a curtain the scales had fallen from
her
eyes, but, unlike a curtain, the pain couldn't be picked up and neatly folded
away. It had hurt, and gone on hurt
ing. It was then she had
realised it might take something
drastic to remove it.

She
had known she must leave London. Not just because
Jerry
and Pam might try to seek her out again, but for her own good, to give her time
to sort herself out. Most of all
she wanted to escape from
the money which seemed to
have brought her litde happiness,
which might easily have
brought about her complete downfall if she
hadn't dis
covered Jerry's duplicity in time. With this
in mind she had gone to her solicitor, but he had begged her not to do any
thing
too hastily. If she still felt the same in six months,
however,
he had promised to see what he could do.
 

It
was while she was thinking despondently of this that she decided impulsively to
go to Drumlarig. Her mother's
advice had kept coming back:
"When you grow up, Thea,
if you ever need a refuge go there.
They took me in before
you were born, when I had nowhere to go. They
would
never
turn you away.'

What
had really driven her here? Thea wondered. Her present unhappiness, or an
unconscious desire to find the
missing pieces of a jigsaw which for
her had never been
complete? Something or someone, outside
common sense,
must have guided her footsteps to this
godforsaken part of
the country. Yet, as she trudged along the
lonely, potholed
road, she discovered an odd sense of
homecoming.

Although
she tried to concentrate on the potholes, her
mind wandered.
The Murrays, if they were still here,
would never connect her
with the thin, ragged litde waif, whose thick head of fair hair had made her
seem incon-
grously top-heavy. It had been different after they had
returned
to England, where it had been cut and properly
shaped until it
was much as it was now, silky fair and
beautiful.

She
couldn't have known how she had looked then if it hadn't been for the snapshot.
A quick snap someone had taken of Thea with Logan Murray, the middle one of the
three Murray brothers. Thea could barely recall any of
them, but she seemed
to remember her mother saying
that the
eldest one, James, hadn't been well liked. They had
left Drumlarig when her mother discovered she had
an
extremely weak heart and might
easily die. And if she
didn't take
Thea to her grandparents she could rob her of
her rightful inheritance.

BOOK: Deception
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