"You were heartless even then!" Meredith said as she shrugged off his hands and picked up her purse. "You hardly bothered to write when you were in South America."

"I wrote you dozens of letters," he said, and opened the door for her. Wryly he added, "I even mailed half of them. And you're in no position to criticize on that score," he added as they started down the carpeted hallway. "You only wrote six to me in all those months!"

Meredith watched his hand rise and press the down button for the elevator, telling herself that to exonerate himself, he was lying about the letters, but something was niggling at the back of her mind, something he'd told her during his phone call from Venezuela that she'd interpreted at the time as a criticism of her letter writing style. You aren 't much of a correspondent, are you . . . ?

Until the doctor had restricted her activity, she'd been in the habit of taking her letters to Matt out to the mailbox at the end of the driveway herself but anyone could have removed those letters afterward—her father, a servant. The only five letters she'd gotten from Matt were ones that had come when she was hovering at the mailbox and got the mail herself from the postman's hand. Perhaps the only letters Matt received were the ones she'd given to the postman personally.

The awful suspicion grew inside her, and she glanced unwillingly at Matt, fighting down an impulse to question him further about the letters. The elevator doors slid open and he ushered her through the lobby and outside to the street, where a maroon Rolls-Royce was waiting at the curb, gleaming like a polished jewel in the light of a streetlamp.

Meredith slid into the luxurious barley leather interior, and gazed fixedly out the windshield as Matt put the car into gear and they glided into traffic. The Rolls was beautiful, but she'd have died rather than say anything that sounded admiring about his car, and besides, her mind was still on the letters.

Evidently, so was Matt's, because as they stopped at a light, he said, "How many letters did you actually get from me?"

She tried not to answer, honestly tried to ignore him, but while she could hold her own in an open confrontation, she was incapable of silent sulking. "Five," she said flatly, staring at her gloved hands.

"How many did you write?" he persisted.

She hesitated, then she shrugged. "I wrote you at least twice a week at first. Later, when you didn't answer, I cut back to once a week."

"I wrote dozens of letters to you," he said again, more emphatically. "I presume your father was intercepting our mail, and evidently failed to catch the five that got through?"

"It doesn't matter now."

"Doesn't it?" he said with biting irony. "God, when I think of the way I used to wait for mail from you, and the way I felt when it never came!"

The intensity of his voice stunned her almost as much as the words he'd uttered. She glanced at him in shock because he'd never given the slightest indication back then that she meant anything to him as a person. In bed, yes, but not out of it. The muted light of the dashboard played over the harsh, rugged contours of his face and jaw, highlighting the sculpted mouth and arrogant chin. Suddenly she was hurtled back in time, and she was sitting beside him in the Porsche, watching the wind ruffle his thick, dark hair, attracted and repelled by those sternly handsome features and his blatant sensuality. He was more handsome than ever, and the relentless ambition she'd sensed in him in the past had been channeled and realized; it was power now—irrefutable, harsh, and terribly potent. And it was being used on her. After several minutes she finally said, "Is it too much to expect to be told where you're taking me?"

She saw him smile because she'd at last broken the silence. "Right here," he said, and he flipped on the turn indicator and swung the Rolls into the underground parking garage beneath his apartment building.

"I should have known you'd try this," she burst out, fully prepared to get out of the car the instant he stopped and walk home if necessary.

"My father wants to see you," Matt said calmly, pulling into a parking space directly in front of the elevator, between a limousine with California license plates and a midnight-blue Jaguar convertible that was so new it had only temporary license plates. Reluctantly willing to go upstairs if his father was there, Meredith got out of the car.

Matt's burly chauffeur opened the door, and behind him, Patrick Farrell was already walking up the foyer steps, his face wreathed in a smile.

"Here she is," Matt told his father with grim humor, "delivered to you just as I promised she'd be—safe, sound, and mad as hell at me."

Patrick held his arms out to Meredith, beaming at her, and she walked into his embrace, turning her face away from Matt.

Looping his arm over her shoulders, he turned her to the chauffeur. "Meredith," he said, "this is Joe O'Hara. I don't think you two have ever been formally introduced."

Meredith managed a weak, embarrassed smile as she recollected the two highly emotional scenes that the chauffeur had witnessed. "How do you do, Mr. O'Hara."

"It's a pleasure t'meet you, Mrs. Farrell."

"My name is Bancroft," Meredith said firmly.

"Right," he said, shooting a challenging grin at Matt. "Pat," he said, starting for the door, "I'll pick you up out front later on."

The last time she'd been there, Meredith had been too distracted to notice the extravagant luxury of the apartment. Now she was too tense to look at anyone, so she glanced around her and was reluctantly impressed. Since Matt's penthouse occupied the entire top floor, all the exterior walls were made entirely of glass, offering a spectacular view of the city lights. Three shallow steps led down from the marble foyer to the various living areas, but instead of being divided by walls, they were left wide open, indicated only by pairs of marble columns. Directly ahead of her was a living room large enough to accommodate several sofas and numerous chairs and tables. To the right of the living room was a dining room, which was elevated like the foyer, and just above and behind that was a cozy sitting room with its own intricately carved English bar to serve it. It was an apartment that had been designed and furnished to entertain in; it was showy and impressive and opulent with its various levels and marble floors; it was also the exact opposite of Meredith's own apartment. And even so, she liked it immensely.

"So," Patrick Farrell said, beaming, "how do you like Matt's place?"

"It's very nice," she admitted. It hit her then that Patrick's being there could be the answer to her prayer. Not for a moment did she believe he knew the full extent of Matt's heavy-handed tactics, and she vowed to speak to him, privately if possible, and beg him to intervene.


Tags: Judith McNaught Second Opportunities Billionaire Romance
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