Page 31 of The Secret Father

‘They’ll understand,’ Lindy responded with sympathy.

‘That’s the problem—they always understand. It makes me feel an absolute rat. Why couldn’t we have harsh and unpleasant parents?’ she asked with an ironical smile. ‘It’d be so much easier to let them down. Unconditional love is the very devil to live up to. I’m dead beat. Does anyone mind if I turn in?’

‘She’s feeling the pressure,’ Lindy said anxiously as the door closed behind her sister.

‘She’ll cope. She’s tough.’

‘You’re heartless.’ She rounded on him.

‘And you’re her sister, not her mother!’ Sam responded with brutal frankness.

This comment wiped what little colour she had from her cheeks. The bruised expression in her eyes made him reach across and catch her small, cold hands between his. ‘What did I say?’ he asked in bewilderment.

‘Nothing…nothing,’ she denied, shaking her head. For a moment she almost told him. The sordid past nearly came tumbling out. She just couldn’t bear to see the distaste on his face. Besides, it wasn’t the sort of thing you went telling someone you probably wouldn’t see again in a few weeks. It wasn’t as if their professional lives were likely to cross again. Working on the film set had been an experience, but Lindy was anxious to get back to what she did best.

‘I think you and Hope should move out of here.’

‘Why?’ His words brought her back to the present with a jolt.

‘Now the media know you’re here you’ll never have any peace. I’ll talk to Lloyd. Under the circumstances, I think he should offer you sanctuary behind his security-guard-patrolled, ten-foot-high perimeter fence. The place he’s rented for the duration is like Fort Knox.’ He gave a decisive nod, narrowing his eyes as he considered the situation. ‘Yeah, that’s the best thing all round. He’s back from LA later tonight—I’d better bring him up to speed. I’ll get to him before the press do.’

‘It sounds awful,’ Lindy objected. ‘A prison! Will all this affect the film?’

‘A very luxurious prison,’ Sam assured her drily. ‘And you can be sure of no nasty surprises like today’s. As for the movie, there’s some truth to the old maxim that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.’

Lindy wasn’t fooled by the words; she could see his sharp mind was still weighing the repercussions of today. If she’d held her tongue he would never have got directly involved. He certainly wouldn’t have punched anyone! It was bound to affect their relationship if this had a detrimental effect on the film, she thought miserably.

‘You’re not staying here tonight, then?’ She swallowed the awful sense of loss which abruptly threatened to overwhelm her.

‘I don’t think that would be a good idea.’ His azure gaze moved over her averted profile, but his attention seemed elsewhere.

‘Fine,’ she replied lightly. She wasn’t about to beg. She had some pride left! He could have asked her to move in with him on the yacht. The fact he hadn’t said a lot about the situation!

‘I can see why Hope needs protecting,’ she persisted stubbornly. ‘But why do I have to go? I could stay here.’

‘After my performance out there?’ he scoffed. ‘You’re not that naive, Rosalind! You know what people are going to be saying.’

Stung by the fact he was leaving, and that she had a humiliating impulse to beg him to take her along, Lindy snarled sarcastically at him. ‘And what will they be saying? I’m not psychic!’ She had a sudden image of herself clinging to one of his long legs as he strode along, oblivious. A tiny hiccup of hysterical laughter welled in her throat.

He flinched and his beautifully sculpted lips quivered slightly before he replied, in a totally expressionless tone, ‘They’ll be saying Sam Rourke is in love with you, of course.’

Shock froze her as she searched his sardonic face. ‘And will they be right?’ she whispered hoarsely.

‘Yes.’ The mocking irony was absent from his face as he replied.

Lindy was paralysed. By the time she could speak—a small, strangled croak as it happened—the only thing left to recall Sam’s presence was the draught from the slammed door.

Elated, confused, she felt like crying and laughing at the same time. How could he? she silently raged. She paced around the room, unable to sit still. How could he say that and then walk away? It was inhuman! It was cruel! It was so like a man! She was oblivious to the pain as she wrung her slim hands.

If the damned man loves me, why doesn’t he stay around to do something about it? she thought despairingly.