Page 2 of The Secret Father

The famous blue eyes narrowed and he looked at her as if noticing her for the first time. English rose, Hope Lacey had said. No hothouse bloom certainly, but one of those pale pink, delicate things that grew in hedge-rows. Good-looking in a style he’d always found some-what colourless and bland. Nothing about her clothes or demeanour was intended to catch the eye, but she had a good figure from what he could see, and her bone structure was excellent. Her neck was singularly beautiful—long and graceful. He appreciatively let his eyes dwell on the slender curve for a moment.

‘I’m not big on formalities.’

‘I am,’ she said in a calm, unflustered way. ‘It saves confusion.’ I should have kept my mouth shut, she thought regretfully. She hadn’t much wanted to earn herself that rather cool appraisal from those famous blue eyes, but it really did irritate her the way he’d breezed in and taken over, all cool confidence and superficial charm. He was no doubt confident that his blatant sexiness would reduce any female with a pulse to a compliant idiot.

‘Shall we start again? I’m Sam Rourke and Hope asked me to meet you.’ For Hope’s sake he tried to keep his growing irritation from his voice. He didn’t think he’d done anything yet to justify this sort of antagonism.

‘I know who you are, Mr Rourke,’ Lindy said crisply. ‘As does everyone in the room. To be quite frank, this much curiosity would be disastrous for my digestion.’

It wouldn’t do his own much good either, he reflected wryly, but that obviously hadn’t occurred to this woman. If he’d planned to dine here, he’d have been seated in the small secluded alcove that gave him some degree of privacy. It was pretty obvious that his companion held the firm belief that he thrived in being the centre of attention. What the hell? Why disappoint the lady?

Sam turned his head with slow deliberation and gave a dazzling smile to a group of elderly ladies at the next table; they giggled like teenagers. Rick, a member of the crew who had worked with Sam on several occasions, witnessed the action from the opposite side of the room and spilled his soup down his trousers. Sam intercepted the amazed expression on the young man’s face and deliberately winked.

Rick blotted the damp patch on his denims and wondered what on earth Sam was up to. Despite the public perception of the man, Sam Rourke was a disarmingly modest and amazingly self-effacing guy in private. On numerous occasions he’d seen him go to some lengths to avoid the attentions of his legions of drooling fans.

The expression in Sam’s eyes as he returned his attention to Lindy was cynical. ‘You worry when they don’t notice you.’ He could see from the look of disgust in her eyes that the doctor felt a lot better having her suspicions confirmed. Why not give an audience what it wanted?

Lindy gave a fractional shrug; she had no idea that she’d witnessed anything out of the ordinary. ‘Just give me directions to the house and I’ll leave you to eat your lunch in peace. Hold on a moment, I’ve got a notebook in my bag,’ she said briskly, reaching for her leather shoulder-bag.

Sam leant back in his chair, his lips curving in a sardonic smile. ‘Do you have a problem?’ he drawled slowly.

‘Pardon…?’ she said, giving a reasonable impression of incomprehension. Was this the actor’s ego, she wondered scornfully, that needed to be universally worshipped? Was she supposed to stare at him with slavish devotion?

‘I’m just wondering whether to take this personally. Or do you freeze everyone at ten paces?’

Personally, she thought, maintaining a neutral expression. ‘I’ll ask for your autograph if that will help your anxiety attack,’ she offered helpfully. Heavens, she thought in alarm, why on earth did I say that? Isn’t it my role in life to apply soothing oil to troubled waters? Since when did I instigate hostility?

‘Now English reserve I can tolerate, Doctor, but that was plain nasty. Listen, I get the message, you don’t like me, but I gave my word to your sister that I’d see you safely to her place. I’m not about to give you directions, so the only way of finding the house is to stick with me. I suggest you put a brave face on it, honey.’

The easy endearment and the edge of mockery in his voice made her angry. ‘I’m not hungry,’ she insisted, ignoring the growling of her stomach.

‘You’ve just driven all the way from Boston; did I get that much right?’ He inclined his head as she nodded. ‘Then you need to eat; I need to eat. Logic sort of makes a pretty compelling case for us eating together.’

Put that way it was easy to see why he thought she was making a fuss about nothing. No doubt the average female would think finding herself dining with Sam Rourke was as good as winning the lottery. I am making a fuss about nothing, she thought, giving him a concessionary but tepid smile.

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