Page 10 of The Secret Father

‘I could enumerate them,’ her sister offered generously.

‘I think Sam didn’t want me to be taken by surprise by the gossip,’ Lindy said swiftly—too swiftly. It was faintly shocking to realise that her own brain was fertile enough to make any lesson from Hope on the subject redundant.

‘Sam’s no gossip,’ Hope acceded. ‘Unfortunately, he’s a minority of one. I’m not having an affair with Lloyd.’

Lindy met her sister’s eyes and gave a sigh of relief. ‘I’m glad; I’d hate for you to be hurt. I know how…’ Her voice thickened.

Hope came over and gave her a quick hug. ‘It was an awfully long time ago,’ she said softly, compassion in her eyes. ‘No matter how it looks, I’m not involved with Lloyd, at least not in that way.’

‘Do you think it’s wise to spend the day with him and fuel people’s speculation?’

Hope got to her feet. ‘People’s nasty minds are not my problem,’ she observed sharply.

Lindy didn’t think this was a very practical position to take, but she didn’t voice her doubts. ‘Perhaps they’ll think you’re having an affair with Sam—he is living here.’

‘He’s only stopping for a couple more days. He has a boat that he usually lives on. It’s down here, but it’s in dry dock having its keel hauled or whatever they do to boats. The hotels are overflowing with our lot and, besides, the poor lamb likes his privacy. Anyway, he’s a much better cook than I am.’

‘That’s no great recommendation,’ Lindy said, recalling some of her sister’s more spectacular culinary exploits. ‘Ducks have been known to sink when fed your soufflé.’

‘I’ll probably marry a chef,’ Hope said thoughtfully. ‘A tall one,’ she added with a chuckle as she ducked her head to avoid a low beam. ‘Do you like the room? Isn’t the place a find?’

‘It’s lovely, Hope. Or am I supposed to call you Lacey here?’

‘Don’t you dare! Is it going to be a problem for you with Sam here?’ she said, her expression growing serious. ‘I could ask him to find somewhere else.’

‘Don’t be silly.’ The last thing she wanted to do was play up the whole trivial incident. He was attractive and he’d kissed her—and she’d kissed him, a pedantic voice annoyingly added. She could share a roof with the man and show him how little she was affected by the experience. ‘It was a momentary aberration, that’s all.’

‘If you say so.’

‘I do,’ Lindy responded firmly, not much caring for the tone of her sister’s voice.

It turned out that Hope hadn’t exaggerated the dratted man’s culinary talents. She and Hope returned from a stroll along the beach later that evening to find the table set and delicious smells emanating from the galley kitchen.

‘That smell’s terrific, you lovely man, you.’ Hope peeled off the jacket she had worn against the evening chill, shook out her golden mane and threw her arms around Sam’s neck. She ritually kissed him on both cheeks and Lindy, watching, couldn’t believe that any man wouldn’t be bowled over by her warmth and vitality. ‘I might just keep you on.’

‘Sorry, honey, but my heart belongs to Jennifer.’

‘What a waste,’ she replied with a grin.

Lindy quietly took her place at the table and hoped her strong desire to ask about the identity of Jennifer was not as easy to detect as she suspected it was. Did Jennifer know he went around kissing perfect strangers?

‘Do you feel better after your rest, Rosalind?’ Sam asked as Hope helped herself to a generous portion of home-made pasta.

‘Much, thank you.’ Like a coward, she’d avoided contact with him earlier in the evening by pleading exhaustion—a cop-out, and he probably knew it. It had worked, though. She could now be perfectly objective about his smouldering sexuality.

She heaved a sigh. Who am I kidding? she thought. Seeing him now made her realise that pretending the incident earlier hadn’t happened just wasn’t feasible. It went against the grain, but she’d have to accept that for some inexplicable reason, and even though he symbolised the things she despised in men—the excessive good looks, the calculating charm—she was attracted to him in a basic sort of way. I’m damned if I’m going to act like some star-struck teenager, she decided, lifting her head and looking him firmly in the eye. Both eyes, actually—deep, mesmerising eyes.

She broke a bread roll and found her hands were trembling. ‘Hope tells me you have a boat.’