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Man-Hater Page 2

by Penny Jordan

  That had been the beginning; a fairly innocuous start to the events which had had such a cataclysmic effect upon her whole life.

  It had been several days later when she received a telephone call from Colin at her office, asking her to go out with him. She had been drawn to him at first sight and had willingly accepted.

  They went out for a meal and then on to a film. Colin had driven her back to her grandparents’ house, where she still lived, in the old banger he had recently bought. He had kissed her goodnight, gently but determinedly, and her heart had sung with joy.

  Six weeks later they were engaged. On Colin’s advice she sold the house. He wanted them to have a completely fresh start, he had told her, but she had been startled when he took her to see the large house in Hampstead he thought they should buy. When Kelly protested that it was very expensive, he had reminded her that she was a very wealthy young woman and that anyway the house was an investment for the future, adding that when he had his own practice it would be useful for entertaining clients. Kelly had agreed, although Ian demurred a little when she told him of her plans, warning her that she would have to sell some of her investments to raise the capital.

  Several hectic weeks followed. The house was huge and needed certain structural alterations; Colin was away on a course, and their meetings were only infrequent, restricted to discussions on progress with the house, and briefly snatched kisses.

  Kelly had an aunt who lived in the north of England, in the Borders. She was Kelly’s father’s aunt really, and quite elderly, and Kelly had promised to visit her. She talked it over with Colin and it was arranged that she would go up for a few days before the wedding so that she could relax. ‘You’ve been working so hard on the house, sweet,’ Colin had told her, ‘that you deserve a rest. I’ll be away in Birmingham at our other office, anyway… Oh, before you leave,’ he had added, ‘I’ve got one or two papers for you to sign—nothing very important.’

  She had signed them between kisses, wondering what it would be like to be really Colin’s wife. Her grandmother had brought her up strictly and, a little to her surprise, Colin had made no attempt to press upon her any of the intimacies she had expected. Was he aware of how nervous she felt? she wondered as she travelled north.

  Four days later she was back. She had enjoyed her stay with her aunt who, although well into her eighties, was hale and hearty. They had talked about Kelly’s grandparents, and Kelly’s father, who had been in the army and had been killed in Northern Ireland by a car bomb. Kelly’s mother had been with him, and their orphaned daughter had been brought up by her grandparents. She had been four when her parents were killed and barely remembered them.

  The wedding was to be a quiet one—a register office affair, although Kelly would have preferred to be married in church.

  They weren’t having a honeymoon—Colin had promised to take her away later when he had passed his final exams.

  They returned to the house in Hampstead after a brief reception at a large London hotel.

  Ian had been there and had kissed her cheek gravely as he told her how lovely she looked.

  They returned to the Hampstead house early in the evening. Dusk was just falling, and the drawing room looked pleasant and warm as Kelly snapped on the lamps. All at once she felt awkward and uncertain. Colin had gone upstairs, and she wondered whether she ought to go up too, or whether to wait to change out of her wedding suit until he came down. If only she had more experience! She dismissed the disloyal thought that Colin’s manner was not very lover-like. Perhaps he felt as uncertain as she did herself, and she wished that their courtship had not been so brief and hurried.

  ‘Bathroom’s free if you want to get changed.’

  She wheeled around, blushing a little as Colin walked in. He had changed into jeans and a sweater, and a tingle of excitement fired her blood as she looked at him.


  She paused uncertainly, willing him to take her in his arms and kiss her, to melt her doubts and fears with the warmth of his love, but instead he merely indicated the drinks tray on the table and asked if she wanted him to pour her one.

  Shaking her head, Kelly went upstairs, telling herself that her let-down feeling was only nerves. Of course it was foolish to expect Colin to sweep her into his arms and make mad passionate love to her; modern people simply didn’t behave like that.

  She had just walked out of the bathroom when she heard the low hum of voices from downstairs. With no intention of eavesdropping she hesitated, wondering who on earth could have called on them tonight of all nights, when the drawing-room door was suddenly thrown open and she heard Colin saying angrily, ‘Pat, I told you never to come here!’

  ‘You also told me you loved me,’ Kelly heard a feminine voice reply. ‘You told me you loved me, and that this house was going to be ours—that you would have your own practice and…’

  Frozen with horror and disbelief, Kelly crept to the edge of the stairs. Colin and his companion were completely oblivious to her presence.

  ‘And so we will, darling,’ she heard Colin murmur softly. ‘Everything will work out all right.’

  ‘But you didn’t have to marry her, did you?’ Kelly heard ‘Pat’ demanding angrily, ‘God, Colin, how could you?’

  ‘Simple,’ she heard Colin saying with new cynicism, ‘I just closed my eyes and thought of all that lovely money. Oh, come on, Pat,’ he added, ‘you don’t think I actually want her? God, she’s the most boring female I’ve ever known, a little brown mouse and frigid with it. She can’t hold a handle to you, my sweet. The only way I can endure this marriage is by telling myself that it’s for us, that…’

  ‘But she’s your wife!’

  ‘Only for six months at the most. I’ve already got her to sign the documents deeding the house to me. Once I’ve persuaded her to give me the money to set up my practice I’ll tell her the marriage is over.’

  Kelly felt sick with shock and disbelief. It couldn’t be true. But it was true! She only had to look over the banister to see her Colin, her husband, with another woman in his arms, kissing her with a hunger he had never shown her, to know how true it was. Nausea welled up inside her and she rushed back into the bathroom. The pair downstairs were oblivious to everything but one another and never even heard her.

  Did Colin actually intend to make love to her? Kelly wondered sickly when the bitter spasms were over. And Pat, how did she feel about sharing her lover with another woman? How could she herself permit Colin to touch her knowing what she now did?

  ‘KELLY? Darling, what are you doing up here?’

  Kelly stared at Colin, wondering why she expected him to have changed.

  He was still exactly as he had been before she discovered the truth; she was the one who had changed. She was no longer the foolish naïve child she had been then. Bitter fury welled up inside her.

  ‘What do you want, Colin?’ she challenged. ‘My signature to some more papers, is that it?’

  She saw the colour drain out of his face.

  ‘Darling…’ he blustered, ‘I don’t know…’

  ‘I heard everything,’ Kelly cut in coolly, marvelling at her own control. ‘Everything, and if you think I’d allow you so much as touch me now I…’

  ‘Why, you sanctimonious little prude!’ Colin snarled, slamming the door and walked towards her. ‘Do you honestly believe I wanted to touch you? No way,’ he told her cruelly. ‘You’ve got nothing that appeals to me, Kelly. You can’t hold a candle to Pat, you’re frigid, or damn near, and…’

  ‘I do have one thing you want—apparently…’ Kelly interrupted acidly, hoping he wouldn’t guess at the pain that tore at her insides. ‘My money—well, you won’t get a penny of it, Colin. First thing tomorrow I’m having the marriage annulled!’

  ‘Annulled?’ He advanced to the bed, the cruelty in his eyes frightening her into rigid tension. ‘No way,’ he told her softly. ‘I might not want you, Kelly, but I sure as hell want that money, and there’s n
o way you’re going to cheat me of it now. So you think you’ll get an annulment, do you?’ He laughed softly in his throat and terror stalked her as he stared down at her, slowly removing his sweater and then his jeans.

  She wanted to run, but fear held her rooted to the spot, cowering on the bed, wishing she had the courage to get up and flee. The silk wrap she had put on after her bath was ripped from neck to hem in the degrading scene that followed, pain and fear locking Kelly’s throat against the screams of terror building up there. Colin’s hands bruised her body, just as his callous words had bruised her heart.

  ‘Frigid bitch!’ he swore at her, when her body clenched protestingly against him, hurt and frightened beyond any possible arousal, and he flung himself off the bed to stare furiously down at her.

  ‘You’re not a woman, you’re an iceberg,’ he taunted her as he pulled on his jeans. ‘No one could make love to you—they’d freeze first!’

  He was gone before she could speak, leaving her dry-eyed, her heart pounding with fear, her body aching with tension and the bruises and scratches Colin had inflicted upon it.

  Frigid, frigid, frigid—the word danced jerkily through her mind as she lay there, unable to move, unable to cry, unable to properly comprehend. She heard the door slam as Colin left the house—going where—to Pat, who wasn’t an iceberg, who wouldn’t make him freeze? And then what? Would he come back and carry out his threat? Could she endure it if he did? Rape was an ugly word for an ugly deed, but that was what it would be if Colin consummated their marriage.

  She was still lying there in the darkness when she heard the doorbell. She let it peal, until she realised that it wasn’t going to stop. It had to be Colin, and she dressed slowly, hoping he would go away, but he didn’t.

  She unlocked the door, noticing that a false dawn was pearling the sky. She must have been lying there half-conscious for several hours, but it had seemed like only minutes since he left.

  ‘Mrs Langdon?’ She peered up at the policeman standing on the doorstep. ‘May I come in for a second?’

  Somehow he had done and he was inside and asking where the kitchen was, saying something about a nice cup of tea. Kelly’s numbed mind couldn’t follow what he was saying, only that he was using a soothing tone, the sort one used on frightened animals—or children. Slowly, what he was saying sank in.

  ‘Now, come and sit down,’ he said gently, his own manner awkward and compassionate.

  ‘He wouldn’t have felt a thing,’ he told her. ‘Killed straight off…’ He didn’t add that his sergeant had said—and so he deserved to be, driving like a maniac on the wrong side of the road, with too much drink inside him.

  Colin was dead! Why didn’t she feel something? Anything? She couldn’t. All she felt was numb. She watched the young policeman with a curious sense of detachment. He seemed more concerned than her. He drank the tea he had made quickly and asked her if she had any family.

  She shook her head and heard herself saying clearly, ‘It’s all right, I shall be perfectly all right. Please don’t worry…’

  ‘Rum do,’ the constable told the sergeant at the station later. ‘Didn’t so much as turn a hair.’

  ‘Takes all sorts,’ the sergeant commented, ‘and news like that takes ’em all in different ways. Don’t worry about it too much, lad,’ he comforted the younger man—it was only his second ‘fatal’ and it was always hard to have to be the one to break the news.

  ALONE IN THE HUGE Victorian house, Kelly’s own emotion was one of thankfulness. Of relief. Her love for Colin had gone, destroyed by the discovery that he had simply been using her. Her body ached from his cruelty, and her mind felt blunted and bruised. All she wanted to do was sleep. But there was one thing she must never do, and that was that she must never again be foolish enough to allow any man to deceive her as Colin had done. She must remember always that she was rich, that she was undesirable apart from her money and that she must always, always be on her guard. Always…

  ‘ALWAYS…’ With a start, Kelly realised that she had said the word aloud. Grimacing, she shrugged. She had come a long way from the girl she had been at eighteen. She was, after all, eight years older, eight years wiser. She glanced down at her hand where Colin’s rings still glittered.

  She wore them as a reminder; just as she used her married name. Since Colin’s death she had learned that she was attractive to men, but she had never stopped wondering cynically why, and she thought she knew the answer. Those who were married simply wanted a few brief hours of escapism and thought they could use her body to achieve it, and those who weren’t wanted to secure their future through her wealth and weren’t averse to making love to her if by doing so they could achieve that object. She despised them all with equal fervour.

  ‘A man-hater,’ one of them had once called her, but didn’t she have good reason to be? And hadn’t Jeremy just confirmed that she was right?


  SHE worried about the weekend when she should have been thinking about her work. There had been something in Jeremy’s manner which suggested that he might be contemplating forcing the issue. A visit to her bedroom uninvited, perhaps? It had happened before—albeit not with Jeremy. And if she refused the invitation, how would Sue feel? Sue who had lost her longed-for baby before it was even born.

  Kelly fretted over the problem for most of the day and left the office feeling jaded and tense.

  She was half-way down a tube escalator when the advertisement caught her eye: ‘Need a companion? An escort?’ it asked. ‘Phone us—we can provide either, male or female—to accompany you to that special function which you simply can’t attend alone.’

  Was it genuine, or was she being naïve? What was the matter with her? she asked herself as she hurried on to the tube. Surely she wasn’t considering hiring an escort? But why not? It would be one way of keeping Jeremy at bay; and without the complications taking any other escort with her might involve. She had many male acquaintances, but there wasn’t one of them who wouldn’t leap immediately to the wrong conclusion if she suggested they spend the weekend with her.

  She toyed with the idea all evening, alternately dismissing and re-assessing it. It was ridiculous, farcical, but wasn’t it also the ideal solution? There was nothing to be lost in simply making enquiries.

  She dug out a telephone directory and searched through it. The agency had a surprisingly good address, a fairly new office block that Kelly knew quite well. She had contemplated taking a suite in it herself until she had received the offer from the insurance company for her present offices. Chewing her lip, she contemplated her alternatives. She could either go alone to Sue’s and risk being proved right about Jeremy’s attentions, or she could try and avert any unpleasantness by making enquiries at the agency and, if everything went well, employing one of their staff to accompany her.

  Simple! So why should she be so wary and full of doubt? Was it because the idea of actually paying someone to accompany her smacked of a lack of femininity and—even worse—an admission that she could only attract male attention by paying for it? What did it matter? No one other than herself and the agency need know. Her motives were quite legitimate, and surely it was worth sinking her pride if it meant saving Sue pain and herself possible embarrassment. She had nothing to lose by simply calling at the agency and enquiring, had she?

  As luck would have it, she had an appointment that took her in the vicinity of the agency’s offices. She emerged on to the pavement from the impressively externally-mirrored building that housed the latest addition to their client list, sufficiently buoyed up with the success of obtaining a new and prestigious client to pluck up the courage to cross the busy street and walk purposefully into the marble foyer of the building opposite. There was no commissionaire in evidence, but a quick glance at the nameplates by the lift confirmed that the agency was on the third floor. Feeling considerably more nervous than she had done at her previous interview, Kelly waited for the lift, smoothing the skirt of her new Jaeger
suit anxiously. The suit wasn’t something she would normally have chosen. Maisie, her assistant, had persuaded her into it for the meeting this morning. In a rich amethyst velvet, the skirt fell in soft gathers from a neat waistband. The jacket was faintly mediaeval, with a cropped close-fitting collarless bodice and slim slightly puffed sleeves, quilted with gold thread.

  She was wearing a new blouse with it, cream silk with a large collar worn outside the jacket, and an amethyst velvet ribbon tied in a bow at her throat.

  Somehow the outfit made her look faintly vulnerable rather than efficient; it even seemed to rob her chignon of something of its normal formality. Wisps of hair had escaped to curl round her temples, and Kelly toyed nervously with her pearl earrings as she sent the lift to the third floor.

  She saw the entrance to the agency the moment she stepped out of the lift. The door to the foyer was open and there was a man with his back to her bending over a desk.

  He straightened up as she knocked and walked in, turning to study her with lazy appreciation. Much to her chagrin, Kelly felt herself flushing with anger as his glance slid potently over the length of her legs in the sheer amethyst stockings that matched her outfit, pausing almost thoughtfully before moving upwards, assessing the slenderness of her waist encased in a broad suede belt, the full curves of her breasts beneath the velvet jacket, coming to rest with amused comprehension on her taut and angrily flushed face.

  ‘My apologies,’ he drawled in a voice that, Kelly told herself unpleasantly, sounded like all the very worst television commercials, and was very obviously less than sincere.

  ‘Don’t apologise if you don’t mean it,’ she snapped. ‘Insulting me once was enough!’

  ‘Oh? And how did I do that?’ The husky voice hadn’t changed, but Kelly had the disconcerting feeling that somehow she had angered him.

  ‘By looking at me as though I were a piece of merchandise you were considering buying. That was your first insult,’ Kelly told him scathingly. ‘Your second was expecting me to be deceived by your less-than-sincere apology.’


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