Page 50 of The Secret Father

‘Because you are willing to forget all your high-minded principles for him,’ he said, continuing their conversation as if there had been no interruption.

‘I didn’t say it was serious.’ It occurred to her that it was faintly bizarre to conduct a conversation about a situation that didn’t exist beyond Sam’s fertile imagination.

‘Not serious! You were ready to pillory me over a youthful indiscretion. You gave a very forcible imitation of the moral majority back then. I didn’t even rate a fair hearing, and here you are sounding casual about sleeping with a married man! I’ve met some screwed-up females in my life, but you’re in a class of your own!’

His fingertips brushed against the inside of her wrist and suddenly pain at his scathing comments took second place to the flood of sensation that spread from that tiny point of contact to bathe her body in a tingling glow. The desire that writhed in her belly was a dark, hungry thing that robbed her mind of rational thought in the space of a heartbeat.

‘Please, Sam!’ she pleaded huskily. Eyes half closed, she swayed. His hands moved up her arms, gripping the flesh of her upper arms.

He was going to kiss her—she could almost taste him. She could smell his warm body, the distinctive musky male odour that her senses had been starved of.

‘What the hell are you doing?’

She was pushed away and the normal world rushed in. The world that held the noisy sounds of children in the adjoining room, the damp material twisted in her fingers and the look of disgust in the eyes of the man in front of her.

The sense of vulnerability was overwhelming. She couldn’t trust herself to be in his company. ‘Just do one thing for me.’ She couldn’t shrug off this incident with a few flippant comments or seek refuge in any more stupid deceptions. ‘Please don’t stay for supper.’ I can’t bear it, she wanted to sob. If he didn’t leave soon, she probably would! I begged him! she thought, silently squirming with mortification.

His gaze ran slowly over her face. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a silent mobile phone. ‘I just received a very urgent message.’

She sagged with relief. ‘Thank you.’

‘I’m not doing this for your benefit,’ he said sardonically. ‘I value my sanity.’

CHAPTER EIGHT

‘HAVE you seen what it says in the paper today?’ Beth Lacey folded the newspaper and refilled her husband’s teacup.

Like most farmers, Charlie Lacey had already been up for several hours. He sat in his work clothes whilst his wife and daughter were still in their dressing gowns.

‘After what they wrote about Hope I’d have thought you’d take everything you read there with a pinch of salt,’ he observed, spreading jam thickly on his toast.

‘Poor Hope,’ Beth said.

‘Poor Hope nothing; it’s us that has to put up with the spiteful tongues.’ Charlie Lacey still resented the slights his wife had had to contend with in the small community since the story about their daughter’s fictitious affair had been splashed over the national papers.

‘We know the truth, dear.’ Beth received an unimpressed grunt by way of reply. ‘You know him, don’t you, Lindy?’

‘Who?’ Lindy asked lethargically.

‘What time did you finish work last night?’ her father demanded, shifting his attention from his food to his pale-faced daughter.

‘Eleven-thirty.’

‘You were out before me yesterday morning.’

‘It was a split shift, Dad. I had a couple of hours free in the afternoon.’

‘Couple of hours,’ he snorted disparagingly. ‘You should still be in bed. You look awful.’

‘Thanks for sharing that,’ Lindy replied drily. As much as she appreciated her parents’ concern, living at home after so many years’ independence did have its disadvantages. ‘Who is it I know, Mum?’ she asked, changing the subject.

‘That Sam Rourke—he’s splashed all over the front cover.’ There was a rustle of paper as she passed the daily to her daughter.

Lindy stared at the grainy photo with unfocused horror. So it had finally happened. Being prepared didn’t lessen the sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. Even though none of Sam’s accusations was true, in some strange way she did feel responsible. She couldn’t bring herself to read the lurid headlines.

‘So tragic,’ her mother continued, oblivious to her daughter’s feelings on the subject. ‘That poor little boy.’ She gave a sigh. ‘They don’t know if he’ll live. What a waste.’

‘What? What did you say?’ Lindy said in the strangest voice her mother had ever heard.

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