Authors: Janet Lane-Walters
A picture leaped into his thoughts. They hadn’t used a condom during their encounter in the shower. That wasn’t like him. What if she became pregnant? He drew a deep breath. He would marry her. He would accept responsibility. He reached for the coffee mug. Why didn’t the possibility of marriage to Meg trouble him?
She slid a plate in front of him. “Cheese omelet. Nothing fancy but we won’t starve.”
“I gather you didn’t train as a chef.”
She chuckled. “Allie liked the kitchen. I avoided the place. Fashion design was my choice.”
He tasted a forkful of the omelet. “Not bad.” He took a pain pill with a sip of coffee. The morning’s excesses had produced a new crop of aches.
Meg brought her plate and the heated cinnamon rills to the table. “I’ll leave this afternoon.”
“Do you have to go?”
She swallowed the food she’d eaten. “I’d better. I don’t want to arrive at the office wearing shorts. I hadn’t planned to stay this long. Besides, who wants to fight the morning traffic into the city?”
“There’s a bus that takes you across the river to the train. That’s the way I travel.”
“And leave my car here?”
“You could come back.”
She leaned her elbows on the table. “We’ve had a great weekend but I think we need time to think about where matters between us are headed.”
He covered her hand with his. “The weekend isn’t over. Go back this evening.” He drained his mug. “Join me in the bedroom.”
She started to stand. “Do you need help?”
“None needed. Finish your breakfast. I’ll manage on my own. Since you’re leaving I’ll have to.” He wheeled away. What was wrong with him? He’d known she would leave. If he invited her to return on Friday, would she? When she reached the bedroom he would ask. He couldn’t think of any reason for her to refuse.
* * *
To prolong the time before she joined Steve, Meg cleaned the kitchen. Though she had made a commitment he hadn’t. Oh, he’d whispered words of possession but that hadn’t been what she wanted to hear. She stood at the door to the balcony and finished a mug of coffee. If she was wise she would leave and put this weekend in her memory book.
Finally she left the kitchen and paused at the door of his bedroom. “Steve.” He didn’t stir. She entered and gathered the clothes they had tossed. She dropped his in the hamper and carried hers to the guestroom. Then she cleaned the bathroom.
She had to leave. Delaying wouldn’t change the fact this one-sided affair wouldn’t last. She had broken all her rules. She had leaped into his bed. She had told him of her love. All he’d said was he wanted her and the evidence of his desire had been clear. Lust, not love.
Meg scurried to the guest room, jammed her clothes into the overnight case and the bags of lingerie. Would she ever wear the white sleep shirt without thinking of Steve and sex?
The doorbell chimed. Meg frowned. Had Steve’s sister come early or had she sent her son?
Meg knew her time here had ended. Though she could stay and make nice conversation she wouldn’t. She needed time to come to grips with the greatest mistake she had ever made.
When she opened the door she discovered a woman she had no desire to see. “Simone, what are you doing here?”
“Steve’s sister called and told me about his accident. How is he?” the voluptuous woman asked. “He should have called me. He knows I would do anything for him.”
“He’s asleep,” Meg said.
Simone’s dark eyes narrowed. “Have you been here long?”
Meg shrugged. “Long enough to buy some groceries and do a few other things.”
“I know your sister has moved downstairs. Why would she call you?”
“She didn’t. She’s away. Steve’s an employee of the group. We take care of our own.”
Simone smiled. “I imagine you’ve taken care of most of his needs. Steve’s experienced in knowing what women want.”
Anger bubbled toward the surface of Meg’s thoughts. “What does that mean?”
Simone laughed. “Guess you fell for his line. Did he tell you how much he needed you?”
Meg searched her memories of the past two days. He’d never said those words exactly. That would be begging. Steve had never pleaded. “No.”
“Your blush gives you away. Looks like you’re leaving. Don’t let me stop you. When I spoke to him yesterday we talked about my arrival this morning. I’m early but I couldn’t wait to see him. I will admit I’m surprised to find you here.”
“Funny. He never mentioned you. The only woman he spoke about was his sister.” Meg reached for her bags.
“Knowing what he’s like you never thought there were other women?” Simone brushed past Meg. “You’re a fool. First Ramon betrayed you and now Steve has played you. Though I must admit Steve’s the better lover. I hope you haven’t exhausted him. “I’ve plans for a very physical day.” She paused. “Maybe he has a threesome in mind.”
“Not with you.” Meg’s hands curled into fists. “He knew I was leaving this morning.” Though she had agreed to stay until evening she had changed her mind. Simone’s smug smile added another layer to Meg’s anger.
Simone turned. “Doesn’t matter what he told you. Steve’s mine. He always comes back to me.”
Simone flashed a huge diamond. “I don’t mind sharing but what’s mine stays mine.”
Meg waited until Simone entered Steve’s bedroom. She lifted her belongings. Though she didn’t believe Steve had rejected her declaration of life because of Simone a niggling doubt remained. Meg heard loud voices from the bedroom but the words were muffled by the door.
She slipped from the apartment, hurried down and stairs and outside to her car. Just as she shoved the case in the trunk her sister called her name. Meg groaned. She’d hoped to avoid questions. She closed the trunk.
“What are you doing here?” Allie asked.
“Picked up Steve at the airport. He has a broken leg and some sewn gashes on his right arm. I did the family thing and offered to help. Since his significant other arrived I can go home.”
Allie grasped Meg’s arm. “How what? First I’ve heard he has one. Who?”
“From Beauty Spot. You’re kidding.”
“She flashed a ring.”
“Not from Steve,” Allie said. “She probably bought it for herself. She’s a piranha. That’s what he says.”
Megan opened the sedan door. ‘Doesn’t really matter.”
“Liar. What did he do?”
“You’ve been hurt.”
“I’ll get over it. Had an interesting time at Peek-A-Boo.”
“What did you buy?”
“Too much. Tell you on Monday.” When packing she’dcrammed everything together. She wasn’t going to let Allie see the things she’d worn. Meg closed the door and started the car. “See you.”
Until she reached her apartment she would contain the tears burning her eyes. When she cut loose she wasn’t sure if they would be caused by disappointment or anger.
* * *
Steve stared at the woman he’d had a brief sexual affair with. “What are you doing here? I told you there’s no reason for your presence.”
“You didn’t mean that.” She moved closer to the bed. “You’re mine and it’s time you settled down.”
“Not with you.” His hands clenched. Oh for the ability to get out of bed and drag her to the door.
“Your sister sees things differently. She feels we’re a perfect match.”
He growled. “She doesn’t make my choices.” He cursed himself for ever being involved with Simone.
She sat on the bed beside him. “Oh don’t deny you were interested in what we had. I let you leave the magazine so we could continue our affair.”
“Let? I quit because I wanted to be as far from you as possible.”
“You’re wrong. You knew the owners didn’t approve of inter-office romances unless the people were married. We were becoming very close.”
“Like hell we were.”
She inched her hand along his thigh and touched his groin. “I won’t accept the weak excuse you gave for not calling me.”
Steve pushed her hand away. “You don’t get it. You don’t have what I want. You never will.”
She rose. “Do you think banging Meg Blakefield will get you anywhere?”
“Leave her out of this. Get out.” Steve swung his legs over the mattress and hit her with the cast. “I never promised you anything. Never will.”
“Have your eyes on the Blakefield fortune? Think again. Meg’s gone. I told her about us. She stormed off.”
Steve sucked in a breath. He’d never hit a woman but he was coming close. He coughed. Her strong perfume made him ill. “Just because I’m wearing a cast doesn’t mean I’m helpless. Get out.”
She walked to the door. “Don’t expect to see your sister. I cancelled our plans and told her I would see to your comfort. If you want to be alone, be my guest.” She left the room.
Steve counted to ten and then ten again. When he reached a hundred his hands unclenched. The apartment door slammed. He reached for his cell and connected to his sister’s number. “Call me immediately. It’s about Simone.”
Moments later he heard her ring. “What did Simone tell you?”
“That you wanted her to come and spend a few days.”
“She lied. I don’t care if she’s your friend. We are not and never will be a couple. Do you understand?”
“But you’re so perfect for each other.”
“Your opinion or hers?”
The pause lasted at least a minute. “She was always telling me how perfect you two were. You even quit as staff photographer of her magazine so you could date.”
“Another lie. We were together for a month. Then she wanted control. Wasn’t going to happen.”
“Sorry. I’ll stop by this evening. Do you need anything?”
“How long will you be in the cast?”
“The doctor in Nome said three more weeks at least. I should see a doctor here. Any ideas?”
“I know several. I’ll see who has an opening for a day when I can drive you.”
“Good enough.” The doorbell rang. “Someone’s at the door. Talk to you later.” He wheeled the chair to the foyer. If Simone had returned he just might run her down.
He clicked the lock to open. Allie pushed into the room. “You’ve really done it this time.”
“What did you do to my sister?”
“Nothing she didn’t want.”
A frown furrowed Allie’s brow. “Why did I meet her in the parking lot looking as if she would burst into tears?”
Steve groaned. “Simone dropped by. I bet she dripped poison in your sister’s ears. Getting involved with that bitch wasn’t one of my brighter moments.”
“Serves you right but not whatever she did to Meg wasn’t nice.”
He reached for her hand and missed. “Give me Meg’s address. I’m going after her.”
“How?” Allie tapped his cast. “Driving will be hard not to mention dangerous.”
“I’ll take a cab.”
Allie laughed. “If she even lets you in she might knock you down. You’re not her favorite person.”
“Then give me her phone number and I’ll call.”
“Can’t do that.” She crossed her arms. “Would mean my life if I did. You’ve a better chance of reaching her at the office. She wouldn’t explode when there’s an audience.”
Steve didn’t believe her. “She’ll go after me there. Remember when Simone stole her exclusive. She certainly spewed a lot of words that day. Thought you were my friend.”
“You’re not helping me one bit.”
Allie laughed. “I see.”
He shook his head. “No you don’t. I need to see her. I need to explain…explain…” He closed his mouth with a snap.
He didn’t. He’d never. He couldn’t.
He released a breath. He did and he wasn’t sure when love happened. His first day at the office? When she’d lost her temper? Her blushes had intrigued him and challenged him to provoke more reactions.
Allie laughed and leaned against the door. “You’re caught. Always thought there was an interesting tension between you and my little sister.”
Steve sucked in a deep breath. “You could say that.” Tension was another word for heat. No denying what he felt. “What do I do? Help me. You know how.”
“Seriously. Some advice is in order. You and Greg had a rough start. How did you manage to reunite?”
“Our split was different. We were both guilty of listening to others instead of to ourselves. There was parental misinformation. You did this on your own.”
Steve grasped her hand. “What did Greg do to win you back?”
“Seduced me with food. You know that’s my thing.”
Steve laughed softly. “I know the way to your sister’s heart. Three weeks from now I’ll act and I’ll know if I’m right.”