Read Mistress at a Price Online

Authors: Sara Craven

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Contemporary

Mistress at a Price

MISTRESS AT A PRICE

    by

Sara Craven

www.millsandboon.co.uk

Table of Contents

Title Page

About the Author

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Epilogue

Sara Craven
was born in South Devon and grew up surrounded by books in a house by the sea. After leaving grammar school she worked as a local journalist, covering everything from flower shows to murders. She started writing for Mills & Boon in 1975. Apart from writing, her passions include films, music, cooking and eating in good restaurants. She now lives in Somerset.

Sara has appeared as a contestant on the Channel Four game show
Fifteen to One
and is also the latest (and last ever) winner of the 1997
Mastermind of Great Britain
championship.

Don

t miss Sara Craven

s exciting new novel,

The Santangeli Marriage, available in January

2009 from Mills & Boon® Modern™.

PROLOGUE

September

THE bathroom was lit by candles, their flames burning steadily in the warm still air.

She tilted the flask of fragrant oil and added a few drops to the steaming water in the deep tub, drawing a deep, appreciative breath as the smoky scent of lilies reached her.

A glass of chilled white wine was waiting on the small table beside the bath, with a tall, slender vase of freesias. Music was drifting in from the bedroom next door

a sultry Latin beat, quietly and insistently sexy.

Perfect, she thought, pinning her hair into a loose coil on top of her head, then untying the sash of her silk robe and letting it fall to the ground. She stepped into the water, leaning back against the little neck pillow with a brief sigh of satisfaction, letting her whole body relax by inches. Feeling the tensions of the day slowly disappear. To be replaced by a different sort of excitement.

She picked up her wine glass and sipped. Not long to wait now. Only half an hour

forty minutes at the most

to complete this precious ritual, and be waiting

and oh, so ready. She laughed softly in anticipation.

The soap was scented with lilies too. She worked it into a gentle lather and began to apply it to her skin, taking her time, her senses tingling in anticipation of the moment when other hands would touch her body

other fingers caress her sensitised flesh.

She soaped one smooth, slender leg and then the other, lifting each of them clear out of the water and surveying them critically, admiring the pearly sheen of the polish on her toenails.

Her belly was as flat as she could wish, and her hips were slim but gently rounded. All in all, she was in good shape.

She was taking better care of her body these days, she reminded herself. She ate sensibly and went regularly to the gym.

All I ever needed, she thought, slanting a secret smile, was the right motivation.


You look terrific,

a male colleague had remarked over lunch, his eyes appraising.

Don

t tell me you

re in love.


I won

t,

she

d retorted crisply.

Because I

m not.

She wondered now what he

d have said if she

d told him the truth. Let him in on her secret night-times

this hedonistic, sensual bargain that gave her all the pleasure of love but none of the pain.

Yet there might eventually be pain, she supposed. If one of them decided it was time to part before the other was ready.

But that wasn

t a thought that need trouble her tonight. Not on the very brink of his arrival.

She cupped water in her hands and poured it over her shoulders, letting it cascade down her taut breasts. Watching the droplets clustering on her rosy nipples. Feeling the breath catch in her throat as she imagined his mouth capturing them.

Not long now, she told herself, and, as if on cue, her mobile phone rang.

Her mouth curved in delight as she checked the caller.


Welcome back,

she said softly, her tone faintly teasing.

You seem to have been away for ever.

She leaned back, her smile widening as she listened.

You

ll be here in twenty minutes? That

s terrific.

She paused, then added huskily,

But hurry

please. Because I

m waiting for you…

CHAPTER ONE

IT WAS a beautiful day for a wedding, Cat Adamson thought as she descended the steps of the hotel terrace and began to walk slowly across the lawns towards the lake.

That was, of course, if you liked weddings, which Cat most assuredly did not. And her cousin Belinda

s nuptials were priming themselves to head the list as the worst ever.

What a relief, she told herself wryly, to breathe fresh air for a while instead of the violent clash of expensive designer scents. And how wonderful to hear actual birdsong instead of the magpie clamour of high-pitched voices, interspersed with the boom of male conversation and the intrusion of over-loud laughter.

No one, she thought, had noticed her leave the reception.

Not the bride, her eyes narrowing to suspicious slits as she watched Freddie, her new husband, chat up the chief bridesmaid with far too much enjoyment.

Not the bride

s father, Cat

s Uncle Robert, who had earlier made an emotional speech on the sanctity of marriage, regardless of the fact that he

d been having an affair with his secretary for the past year. Nor her much loved Aunt Susan, who

d stood beside him like a statue throughout his remarks, staring down at the floor, her expression unreadable.

And certainly not Cat

s own parents, who had both arrived, to the excitement of the other guests, with their latest in a long line of alternative partners, and who were stonily pretending to ignore each other from opposite ends of the room.

A happy state of affairs which could, however, change at any moment.

When last seen, her father had been tight-lipped and her mother had had bright spots of colour in her face and been tapping her foot. Not good signs.

But then, as Cat knew to her cost, they were both professional actors with volatile personalities, and there were times when any stage would do. And any audience.

She could remember school prize-givings and sports days which had left her shaking with tension, as well as a really hideous scene at her eighteenth birthday party.

So why should their only niece

s wedding be spared?

Since their split-up ten years ago, when Cat was still in her early teens, her father and mother had both remarried and divorced twice. And it looked as if they were each planning another danger trip into the rocky shoals of matrimony, although it was anyone

s guess how long this latest foray would last, she thought, grimacing.

As David Adamson had sauntered in, his trophy blonde on his arm, Cat had found herself detained by her mother, her manicured and polished nails digging painfully into her arm.


What the hell is your father doing here?

she demanded.

I accepted this invitation on the sole understanding that he would be in California.

Cat shrugged, detaching the sleeve of her crêpe de chine jacket from her mother

s grasp.

Filming ended early,

she returned.

And he is Uncle Robert

s only brother. Naturally he was going to be here if he could.


And with his latest tart, I see.

Vanessa Carlton gave a small brittle laugh.

My God, she

s about your age.


I suppose he could say the same of your choice of escort,

Cat said evenly, trying to ignore the fact that the gentleman in question

tall, bronzed, with perfect teeth that he liked people to know about

was blowing an extravagant kiss at her mother.


There

s no comparison,

Vanessa denied indignantly.

Gil and I are in love

deeply and sincerely. He says he has always been drawn to older, more sophisticated women. He likes

maturity.

Cat

s lips tightened.

Really? Then I hope he

s not around when you start throwing things.

Vanessa gave her a fulminating look.

I admit I

ve made my mistakes,

she said.

But I see now that any other relationships in the past were simply

tragic mistakes. But then,

she added angrily,

you

ve always taken your father

s side.

Before Cat could reply her mother had beckoned to Gil and set off determinedly round the room, towing him in her wake.

Leaving Cat to make her escape through the open French windows. Once outside, she drew a deep, shaking breath. That was one of the hardest things to bear

the constant accusations that she supported one parent more than the other.

Because it was simply not true. She

d done her best always

always
to be even-handed. Often under very difficult circumstances.

She wished now that she

d turned down the entire invitation to the wedding, and not just Belinda

s reluctant invitation for her to be one of the bridesmaids. At least she

d had the sense to avoid that.

She couldn

t altogether blame her cousin for the undercurrent of hostility which had always soured their relationship. Belinda, too, was an only child, and had clearly resented Cat

s regular invasion of her family circle, even though she must have been aware there was nowhere else for her to go.

Even before the divorce David and Vanessa had been missing a lot of the time, either on location or touring in various plays. Although Cat could remember an idyllic year at Stratford, where she

d joined them during her holidays from boarding school. And she had been with them during long runs in West End plays too.

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