Page 30 of The Secret Father

‘You get used to it,’ said Sam.

Lindy wasn’t sure whether this remark was addressed to her or Hope, or perhaps both of them. ‘I’m not sure I want to.’

‘It’s fatal to let them needle you and lose your temper.’

He’s telling me that? Lindy widened her eyes and stared at him.

Sam had the grace to look self-conscious, but a stubborn light gleamed in his eyes. ‘The slob deserved it.’ His nostrils flared and his jaw tightened. ‘When he started pawing you…’ he recalled, from between gritted teeth.

Actually he’d only touched her arm, but Lindy wisely didn’t correct him. Had it just been a matter of the final straw that had evoked his response? Or did Sam’s feelings really run as deep as it seemed where she was concerned? she wondered wistfully.

Get real, Lindy, she told herself firmly. Get a firm hold on your imagination. Sam had never said anything to give her the impression he wanted anything more than a brief affair. She could still distinctly recall every word he’d said about casual affairs and film sets. She reminded herself of them frequently, just to keep her feet on the ground. They were both free to walk; he’d made that clear. The problem, she thought, is I don’t want to walk!

Why did you do it, Sam? Do you love me? I love you. For an awful moment she thought she’d actually said the words that kept going round and round in her head. When he looked directly at her she flushed darkly and turned to her sister.

‘Are you going to tell us what this is all about?’ she said, a lot more sharply than she’d intended. ‘What is going on between you and Lloyd? I notice he wasn’t here when you needed him!’

Hope looked miserably from her sister to Sam. ‘I promised not to tell anyone, but I suppose…’

‘You better had suppose,’ Lindy said indignantly. ‘One thing’s certain,’ she added darkly, ‘you’re not leaving this table until you’ve spilled the beans.’

Hope gave a rueful grin. ‘I think Sam’s already guessed…’

‘Some,’ he confirmed.

‘Lucky him,’ Lindy said, casting a resentful glare in his direction.

Hope rested her elbows on the table and positioned her chin on her steepled fingers. ‘Lloyd is leaving Dallas—but not for me. Lloyd is in love—but not with me,’ she explained wearily. ‘He and Shirley—Shirley in Continuity; you know her?’

Lindy nodded. Nothing could astound her after today. Shirley, she could vaguely recall, was a woman in her late thirties with brown hair and a nice smile. When she screwed up her face to draw a mental image, Lindy had a general impression of serenity. Nobody could be more different from the dazzling Dallas!

‘They’ve been seeing one another for nearly a year now,’ Hope continued. ‘Lloyd and Dallas had been living their separate lives for ages before that. Lloyd predicted pretty much how Dallas would react, and he doesn’t much care—you know Lloyd, hide like a rhino—but there’s a problem. Shirley has a stepson.’

‘That’s a problem?’ Lindy began sarcastically. Why didn’t Hope just get to the point?

‘Shirley’s stepson is in politics, Rosalind.’ Sam took up the story as Hope glared at her impatient sibling. ‘He’s up for appointment to a very prestigious post. There’s some opposition to him and any breath of scandal could scupper his chances.’

‘So you’ve been a diversion, and you’ve known all along,’ she accused Sam, rounding on him furiously. It’s great to know how much everyone trusts me! she thought bitterly.

‘Not really, but as you were such an excellent advocate of Hope’s moral fibre I looked around for an alternative explanation. The only way anything made sense was if Hope was acting as a smokescreen. I mean, Lloyd may not be the most subtle guy in the world, but he was rubbing everyone’s nose in the fact he was supposedly having a hot affair with Hope, and it just didn’t ring true. What he was laying a smokescreen for, and why, I didn’t know until just now.’

‘You’re both sworn to secrecy,’ Hope said anxiously.

‘As if I’d go blabbing!’ Lindy cried indignantly. ‘You might have trusted me—I’ve been worried sick. I think Lloyd has used you shamefully!’

‘A bit of gossip never hurt anyone,’ Hope said with a grin. Despite her brisk denial, Lindy could see the lines of strain around her mouth. ‘Besides, the truth will come out in a few weeks and it won’t matter. I’ll ring Mum and Dad in the morning to warn them before the dirt hits the papers back home. I know how much they’ll hate it.’ She gave an anguished frown.