Page 40 of The Secret Father

Her chin jerked up and her eyes flashed angrily. ‘I don’t!’ she protested.

‘No?’ he drawled.

‘No!’ she repeated from between clenched teeth.

‘Calm down; I’m not about to throw a spanner in the works. The fact you’re as susceptible as the rest of us to good old-fashioned lust can be our little secret. I forgot,’ he continued relentlessly. ‘You like to call it love.’ The derisive curve of his lips straightened to an unforgiving thin line. ‘A pure, elevated emotion far removed from animal lust.’

Lindy snatched her shirt together as his cold gaze dwelt deliberately on the creamy swell of her breasts. He wants to hurt me! The realisation cut deeply. He was reminding her quite clearly that their primal coupling had been neither pure nor elevated! As if she needed reminding!

Sam tucked his shirt back into the waistband of his trousers. He slowly straightened his shirt, which was minus several buttons, and noticed the torn seam around one arm with elevated eyebrows. ‘I forgot my needle and thread, and me a Boy Scout.’

‘I doubt you ever were. Mind you, you always were prepared the way I recall it, but then I suppose your sort always takes advantage of opportunities,’ she hissed.

‘My sort? Are you trying to tell me I’d have been a better man in your eyes if I hadn’t been prepared? If I’d got you pregnant?’ The scathing observation made her grow pale. He couldn’t possibly know that in hitting out blindly she’d managed to score an own goal with her jibe.

‘I’ve made that mistake once,’ he continued, ‘and I no longer have the excuse of youth, although that’s no defence in your eyes, is it, Rosalind? Actually, I don’t much care for the implication that you were some sort of unwilling victim. You might have convinced yourself of that, but my memory paints a different picture.’

He seems to take a sadistic pleasure in making me squirm, she thought, forcing herself to hold his gaze—it was hard, nearly as hard as his eyes.

‘Scouting is too wholesome a pursuit for anyone as depraved as me,’ he went on. ‘As a matter of fact, I wasn’t a Boy Scout. Not because I preferred satanic rituals, though—my dad needed my help after school on the farm.’

God, but she hated the vicious sarcasm in his voice. ‘How virtuous. This filial duty didn’t stop you leaving home…’

‘To desert my flesh and blood and selfishly sample the pleasures of the big, bad world? My, my, I can’t put a thing past you, can I, darling?’ The disdain in his regard made her feel petty and mean. ‘Actually Dad had died by then. He sort of lost the will to go on after he lost the farm. Perhaps if Mom had still been alive…’

‘I didn’t know.’ What could she say? She’d seen the flash of bitter loss in his eyes, though she hadn’t wanted to see it. She couldn’t afford empathy with this man; it was too dangerous. Yet part of her wanted to offer him comforting words. Point me to the nearest strait-jacket, she thought weakly.

‘You do surprise me. Not so long ago you were very vocal about my past. I had the impression you thought you were the expert.’

‘I know enough,’ she said frigidly. Do I? she asked herself. For the first time she wondered if she did have enough facts. He seemed so bitter. Don’t be a gullible fool, she told herself brutally. No excuse in the world could justify what he did. That was the real Sam Rourke, hard and uncompromising. He’d just been letting her see what she’d wanted to see before. Hadn’t she watched him manipulate the cast and crew of the film with an expert hand? I must have been child’s play! she thought.

‘How do you reconcile your distaste for me with your latest performance?’

He contemplated the exact spot on the floor where…! Lindy had a vivid image of two panting bodies entwined. She placed her fingers on her temple where the blood pounded loudly. Unconsciously she shook her head in a negative gesture of denial.

‘Have you decided I’ll do to satisfy your more…basic needs until your perfect lover comes along?’ God, why wouldn’t he leave it alone? she agonised. ‘The one with no skeletons in his closet? The one with no mistakes to pay for?’

‘I was asleep, confused, you took advantage,’ she accused hoarsely. ‘I’m not looking for perfection,’ she denied. The image he’d conjured up wasn’t pleasant. ‘I don’t need a man to make my life complete—not any man!’ He made it sound as if she wouldn’t tolerate imperfections. That wasn’t it at all, she told herself. He was twisting everything to his own purposes!