Page 64 of The Secret Father

‘It’s perfectly understandable that you don’t want the same situation to arise as it did with Ben,’ she said reasonably. ‘You don’t have to worry—I’d never try to stop you having access to your child. Though all this is a case of putting the cart before the horse…’ Her voice trailed off. He didn’t look reassured—he looked explosive! ‘If you stop to consider this quietly and calmly you’ll see that marriage is a wild overreaction to the situation.’

‘Quietly and calmly?’ he thundered, in a voice that made the birds in the topmost branches of the tree flutter away with an alarmed series of squawks. ‘I could strangle you.’ Lindy closed her eyes as his dark face came closer. His hands came to rest at either side of her face against the tree trunk.

‘Are you all right, lady?’

‘Is this guy bothering you?’

Recalling the lectures about crime and violence she’d received from all her friends and relations when they’d first heard she was going to America, on another occasion Lindy would have given these two a wide berth. ‘You could be murdered in broad daylight while people walk past’ had been a favourite homily.

Her two knights wore not shining armour but trainers and baseball caps. A person shouldn’t be cynical, she decided.

‘She’s fine,’ Sam snapped.

‘Who asked you?’ Despite the aggression, her saviours took an involuntary step back as Sam straightened up to his full height. Lindy didn’t blame them; he looked quite capable of—well, anything!

‘I’m fine, boys…’ She stopped worriedly. Did you call young men like this boys without giving insult?

They looked frankly relieved, though sceptical at her reassurance. ‘We could call a cop.’ They regarded Sam with open suspicion.

Lindy shook her head. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,’ she said heartily.

They continued to look suspiciously back over their shoulders as they strolled away.

‘Didn’t that guy look like Sam Rourke?’

‘Sam Rourke’s short in real life; I read it somewhere,’ came the scoffing retort. ‘Besides, can you see Sam Rourke going anywhere without a bodyguard?’

‘Probably his hairdresser, too…’ Their laughter faded into the distance.

‘That was so sweet. It restores my faith in human nature.’

‘Sure,’ Sam drawled. ‘It makes me go warm and mushy.’

‘There’s no need to be sarcastic.’

‘There’s no point in trying to change the subject, Rosalind.’

‘The subject was closed.’

‘You think,’ he responded silkily.

‘This has been a very stressful few days for you,’ she said kindly. ‘You’re not in the best state, emotionally, to be making big decisions.’

‘You’d like me to propose to you unemotionally?’

‘I thought that was what you did.’ She compressed her lips to hide the tremor.

‘For God’s sake, woman, you know I’m in love with you!’ For once, his beautifully mellow voice sounded hoarse.

‘I know what?’ she yelped. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

Sam stared at her incredulously. ‘Of course I love you! I told you I loved you,’ he reminded her from between gritted teeth.

‘That was before…before I said all those vicious things. You acted like you hated me,’ she protested faintly. This could just be a very realistic dream. She pinched herself just to be on the safe side—it hurt!

‘Sure, I thought I hated you, or at least I wanted to—that was the hell of it—I couldn’t! I’ve been through weeks of undiluted purgatory because I love you. Do you think I’m going to stand here and let you tell me not to be emotional about it?’ he yelled. ‘Why the hell do you think I want to marry you?’ He took a long, slow look at the stricken expression on her face. ‘You thought it was just because of the baby, didn’t you?’ he accused her hoarsely.

‘I was only putting two and two together,’ she faltered. Sam loves me—he does! She felt peculiarly light-headed. I’ll never, ever be cynical about happy endings in my life, she vowed. Joy was beginning to get the better of the strange, numb feeling.

‘I’ll buy you a calculator and you have to promise me never, ever to attempt mathematical calculations in your head again. I thought you hated me until you turned up here. I can’t tell you what it meant to me that you did that.’ Emotion throbbed in his rich voice. ‘If I had any nagging doubts that you’d do something like that out of friendship, they were dispelled after last night.’ He laughed at the shyness in her flushed face. ‘It was pretty wild, wasn’t it?’