Page 63 of The Secret Father

Her mouth twisted in a self-derisive smile. ‘I really believed he would. I’m truly sorry I used you to purge myself of old demons, Sam. You deserve better.’

‘I’ve got broad shoulders.’

He did—he had broad shoulders and eyes filled with suppressed anger. ‘Were there many other men…before me?’ Her expression answered him and he turned his face away, but not before she’d glimpsed the agonised expression there.

‘It’s not that hard to substitute work for…’ She broke off. She couldn’t really say any more without revealing the true extent of her feelings for him. Sam had stirred her sexuality, a part of her that had lain dormant over the years.

‘You were seduced by a bastard who abused his position of trust,’ he said in a savage voice. ‘What the hell have you got to be ashamed about, woman? Why are you so eaten up with guilt?’

Her face crumpled and she turned away, pressing her cheek into the bark of the tree. Sam caught her by the shoulders and inexorably turned her around. A firm hand on her jaw tilted her face up towards him.

‘It’s my fault I lost the baby. I didn’t want it. I was afraid it would remind me of Paul and I hated him. I wanted to lose it. It was my fault.’ The words spilled out of her and her voice rose with each successive syllable.

She fatalistically waited for the disgust, the distaste. She’d never longed for any man’s approval the way she did Sam’s, and now he would despise her.

She was jerked roughly into his arms, until her head collided with the solid surface of his chest. Strong arms anchored her next to his heart. She continued to gulp in air, trying desperately to silence the sobs that racked her body.

‘Hush, baby, don’t cry. It’s all right,’ he crooned softly in her ear. ‘A person is judged by their actions, Rosalind, not by their fears and thoughts. Hell, we’d all be clapped up in jail if that were the case. Your reaction was a natural one—one you’d have worked your way through eventually if you’d had the opportunity—if the child had lived.’

‘I know that,’ Lindy sniffed. She rubbed her cheek against the soft fabric of his shirt. Knowing it was irrational didn’t stop her feeling. ‘Do you think I haven’t told myself that? Afterwards I knew that deep down I had wanted the baby, but it was too late. On the surface I could be logical about it, but underneath… God, I’ve got your shirt all wet.’

She lifted her head and dabbed ineffectually at the fabric. Her wet eyelashes fluttered upwards and she looked uncertainly into his face. ‘I really did want that baby, Sam.’ Her face puckered into a vehement frown.

‘There’ll be other babies.’ With infinite tenderness he brushed the strands of soft hair from her face.

Her fraught nerves were tranquillised by the warm, mellow sound of his voice. His reassurance made her glow with relief. He understood, he hadn’t condemned her. Why did she always sell him short?

‘No!’ Suddenly, with all her strength, she pushed him away. What a fool I am! Just because the man’s kind and sensitive it doesn’t mean he loves you. He only wants you because you might be the mother of his child, a voice inside her cried. Her whole being rebelled against settling for that—she couldn’t settle for that!

Sam staggered backwards several steps before he regained his balance. ‘What the hell…?’

‘I’m not going to marry you,’ she said, with an obstinate expression on her tear-stained face.

‘You said you loved me.’

‘You have to rub it in, don’t you?’ She scrubbed the back of her hand over her face to blot the last of the dampness.

‘I’m trying to be patient here, Rosalind.’ He pressed his steepled fingers together until the knuckles turned white. ‘You can’t tell me you don’t care for me enough to marry me. You dropped everything and leapt on a plane for me when you didn’t even know what sort of reception you’d get. Is it marriage that you object to? Do you prefer us to live together? Talk to me!’

Was he deliberately being obtuse? she wondered. It wasn’t what she said that was the issue; it was what he had very noticeably not said!

‘What are you going to do, Sam?’ she asked bitterly. ‘Cancel the ceremony if I’m not pregnant?’

‘What has you being pregnant got to do with it?’

His incomprehension seemed genuine. ‘Just about everything,’ she replied indignantly.

‘Explain yourself!’ His temper wasn’t just frayed at the edges, it was unravelling completely, if the expression on his face was anything to go by.