Page 3 of The Secret Father

The lobster was, in fact, just as delicious as he had suggested and the portion so generous she couldn’t finish it. She pushed her plate away with a sigh. ‘I’m stuffed,’ she said with rueful honesty.

Sam gave a sudden laugh and the sound made heads turn, a fact he seemed oblivious of. ‘You sounded so like Hope,’ he explained as she looked questioningly at him.

‘We are sisters.’

‘It’d be easy to miss that.’

‘She is beautiful,’ Lindy agreed, without any trace of jealousy that her companion could detect. Lindy knew that she was hardly ugly, but competing with her sister was not something she’d ever considered. The Lacey triplets were as dissimilar in looks as they were in personality.

‘I wasn’t talking about physical similarity, or lack of it. I mean Hope is so warm and spontaneous…open.’

‘I don’t make a habit of gushing with total strangers, Mr Rourke,’ she said, her smile fading. Why not just call me a cold fish and be done with it? she thought indignantly.

‘You don’t even trickle, Dr Lacey,’ Sam Rourke commented drily. ‘But then, as I’m sure you’re going to point out, that is none of my business. I’m here to act as guide.’ He couldn’t have made it plainer that the whole thing had become something of a chore to him.

‘I’m sorry I’m not a scintillating dining companion,’ she observed waspishly. His criticism shouldn’t have mattered to her, but inexplicably it hurt.

‘I don’t often get this sort of antagonism from women,’ he remarked, leaning back in his chair and regarding her thoughtfully.

I just bet you don’t, she thought, her scorn reflected in the light blue depths of her almond-shaped eyes.

‘Guys, sure. ‘‘I never watch your sort of movie’’, is quite a common line. Then there’s the other sort who want to show I’m not such a tough guy off the screen…’

‘And are you?’

‘A flicker of interest?’ he mocked. ‘What happened to the ‘‘I’m totally unimpressed by the fact you’re a big star’’?’ He watched the faintest of flushes mount the smooth contours of her cheeks as his words found their mark. ‘To answer your question, I’m not into bar brawls, not even to impress a lady. Besides,’ he said, running a hand down the side of his jaw, ‘I couldn’t risk the face.’ The languid self-mockery in his tone made her look sharply into his densely blue eyes. She averted her gaze as swiftly as she could; he had the most extraordinarily penetrating stare.

‘I suppose it’s an occupational hazard, people confusing you with the characters you play. Even when they’re…’

‘Go on,’ he encouraged as she stopped abruptly, looking uncomfortable.

‘Even when they’re as two-dimensional and stereotyped as the ones you play.’ She lifted her chin and tried not to feel guilty for being so brutal. He had asked!

Sam sucked in his breath behind a display of even white teeth and looked a long way from being mortally wounded. ‘Ouch!’ he said, the last remnants of boredom vanishing from his expression. ‘Aren’t you guilty of judging me by the type of character I portray on the screen? You know, the one who snaps his fingers and has a tall, leggy blonde on his arm…’ He ought to feel guilty for winding her up, but it was irresistible.

‘In his bed, usually,’ she responded with a reluctant smile, recalling the last film she’d seen him in; seen quite a lot of him as she recalled. It was hard to look at his chest and not remember how well muscled those broad shoulders were. Then don’t look at his chest, she told herself crossly.

‘You admit it, then?’

Lindy lifted her slender shoulders fractionally and pursed her lips ruefully. Now that he’d said it, she couldn’t deny that her own instinctively aggressive reaction to him had been partially directed at the type of macho wonder man he generally played. Big-box-office roles, but not exactly stretching; that summed up Sam Rourke’s career.

‘It could be I’m a great actor,’ he suggested. ‘I can see you find that hard to believe.’ He gave a long-suffering sigh.

The lopsided smile was impossible not to respond to. ‘Do you mean you won’t act like an egocentric, narcissistic, shallow—?’

‘Now don’t go expecting miracles. I never make promises I can’t keep,’ he interrupted, holding up his hands to stem the flow. ‘I have unplumbed shallows. Shall we just say I won’t call you babe? It’ll be hard, but I’m a very amenable guy deep down.’