Page 45 of The Secret Father

Anna linked her arm with his. ‘I don’t recycle old material,’ she chuckled warmly as they left the room.

‘Has Sam asked…asked about me?’ Lindy bit her lip and wished the words unsaid. She darted an embarrassed look at Hope’s face.

‘Oh, Sam’s hardly had time to say more than two words to me. He’s hitting every nightspot, and I’m not just talking local here; the man’s been crossing time zones to party. Even Lloyd is worried about overexpo-sure,’ she reflected drily. ‘When he’s not partying he takes off on that boat of his. I’m an eight-hours-a-night girl myself, but I suppose you can fit more in if you cut out sleep altogether.’

‘Are you trying to imply this has something to do with me?’ She knew Sam would have got her out of his system long ago. She’d replayed his parting shots often enough in her head—‘uptight, cold bitch’, he’d called her. No, he was probably just reverting to type. It was a source of constant irritation that Hope considered him one of the good guys. Part of her longed to disillusion her sister, but that would mean raking up old memories of her own.

‘I’d say he’s a man who doesn’t want to sit still long enough to think. Tell me, Lindy, how are you sleeping?’ Hope asked slyly.

‘Such subtlety, Hope.’

‘You were so good together.’

Lindy gritted her teeth. She could do without having her sister’s romantic instincts to contend with. ‘If you want romance, Hope, go and find your own. I promise you it’s not so rosy when you’re experiencing it first-hand.’

‘In my experience,’ Anna commented from the door, ‘it’s worth hanging in there.’

‘Give me strength,’ Lindy breathed. ‘I’m surrounded.’

‘We only want you to be happy,’ Hope said softly.

‘You’re mad if you think Sam Rourke is part of that equation!’

‘What did he do to you?’ Anna found it disorientating to see this depth of emotion on her sister’s normally composed features.

Lindy felt cornered by their persistence and good intentions. ‘Nothing to me.’

‘Then what…who…?’ Hope persisted.

‘He has a son.’ The words burst out. ‘That doesn’t get mentioned in the press releases, does it?’ she went on bitterly. ‘Or the fact he doesn’t acknowledge the child, or that he deserted the teenage mother. The irony is delicious, isn’t it?’ she went on in an unsteady voice. ‘I do seem to fall for a very particular type, don’t I?’ She didn’t seem to be aware of the admission she’d just made, but her sisters exchanged knowing glances.

‘Who told you this?’ Hope asked.

The scepticism in her sister’s voice made Lindy round on her furiously. ‘Does that matter?’ she accused. ‘He didn’t deny it!’

‘But he must have given you some explanation,’ Anna reasoned, lowering her enlarged frame into an armchair.

‘Explanation!’ Lindy yelled, looking at her as if she were mad. ‘What reason could justify what he did?’

‘I think you’re too obsessed by your own personal tragedy to be objective or even reasonable about this, Lindy,’ Anna replied. ‘You can’t let the past haunt you, and you shouldn’t confuse every man with Paul.’

Lindy flinched. She felt betrayed by her sisters’ attitude. Why didn’t they just condemn him out of hand? Like you did, a voice in the back of her mind added. Why did they reserve judgement? How could they question her opinion? Didn’t she have enough justification to compare Sam with Paul? The angry questions followed in quick succession through her brain.

They didn’t stop her when she walked angrily from the room. The rain had become a drizzle as Lindy wandered amongst the sweet-smelling herbs of the old-fashioned kitchen garden. She crushed a stem of thyme between her fingers and breathed in the distinctive pungent fragrance.

She wasn’t capable of holding onto anger for long. Eventually she cooled down enough to think rationally about her sisters’ reactions. She was objective enough to accept that her reaction to Sam’s past sins had been exaggerated by her personal experience. That didn’t make her response any less valid, though, did it? In fact, she could appreciate better than most just how badly he’d behaved.

Did a man like that ever change, deep down? She doubted it. Should she have listened to his version of events? The thought nagged away at her until she was forced to admit she had been afraid to hear him out. Afraid that in her desperation to be with him she would accept and cling to his excuses, no matter how feeble they were. Women did it all the time—made compromises just to keep the man they loved. She was desperately afraid that she was that sort of woman. But some prices were too high to pay—even for love! She touched the breast pocket of her shirt and felt the outline of a gold stud. She kept it to remind herself how cruel he could be—at least that was what she told herself!