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Man-Hater Page 9

by Penny Jordan

  ‘Hope I’m not interrupting?’ Sue eyed her curiously and Kelly quickly tried to compose herself. ‘I’ve just been having a swim,’ she chattered over-brightly. ‘The water was lovely, Jake…’

  ‘I came down to see what she was doing,’ Jake drawled laconically, propping his lean length up against one of the patio tables, ‘but the pool’s a little too public for the kind of swimming I prefer.’

  Sue laughed. ‘I came down to tell you that we’ve been invited out to a party tonight. Some neighbours who know Dad, and hadn’t realised that he had lent the villa to us. They called round last night, and when I explained that we were borrowing they invited us all along instead. Should be fun. The villa belongs to Carne Wrayman, the television producer. He has a yacht which he keeps here as well. His villa has its own private mooring.’

  ‘Sounds fun, doesn’t it, darling?’ Jake murmured before Kelly could speak.

  ‘Oh, good. I’d better go and give Jeremy the news. He’ll be quite pleased.’ Sue pulled a face. ‘He’ll look upon it as a good opportunity to get new business. Don’t worry about hurrying for breakfast. It’s very much an alfresco meal—a help-yourself affair really,’ she added as she hurried back to the house.

  ‘She obviously thinks we want to continue what she interrupted,’ Jake mocked, when Sue had gone. ‘You’ll notice that I don’t charge extra for these convincing little touches.’

  ‘No, but you were quick enough to accept the invitation to that party,’ Kelly flashed back. ‘You don’t deceive me. You may have given up where I’m concerned, because you know I’m wise to your game, but no doubt you’re hoping to find someone else to batten on to at the party—someone who doesn’t know the truth and won’t know it until it’s too late.’

  ‘You’re right about one thing, Kelly,’ he said contemptuously at last when the silence between them stretched as fine as wire, and Kelly’s heart was pounding with her nervous exhilaration. ‘Where you’re concerned I have given up. You know, I felt sorry for you at first, but not any longer. You deserve everything you get. I’ll let you use the bedroom first,’ he added with deliberate cruelty, ‘and you needn’t look at me like that—I have no intentions of touching you. In fact, judging by your reactions to me just then the boot is more definitely on the other foot.

  ‘What’s wrong?’ he goaded, when he saw her stricken expression. ‘Do you find it hard to admit you actually want a man like me? I sympathise; but sexual desire has nothing to do with logic, Kelly. You can’t feed it into a computer and come up with exactly the right reaction to the right man.’

  ‘I don’t want you,’ Kelly flung at him. ‘I don’t want you or any other man. Not now…not ever!’


  Kelly looked at Sue. ‘I thought you said we wouldn’t need to buy anything for the first few days.’

  ‘Oh, not for food,’ Sue assured her. ‘I mean proper shopping—clothes, silly—or at least a dress for this do tonight. I haven’t bought anything suitable for me.’ She sighed, her expression suddenly sombre. ‘In fact it seems ages since I bought myself anything pretty at all. I was so wrapped up in having the baby…’

  They were alone on the patio, Jeremy had announced after breakfast that he fancied a game of golf and coerced Jake into going with him.

  ‘I’ve been giving myself a firm talking-to lately,’ Sue continued briskly, ‘and I’ve come to the conclusion that if Jeremy is finding me boring, I’ve no one to blame but myself. Daddy gave me a birthday cheque before we came away, and there are some excellent dress shops on Corfu. A great many wealthy Greek women live here, so most of the fashions are Paris inspired. You just wait and see!’

  ‘In that case I’d better buy something new myself. I’ve only brought a couple of casual things with me,’ said Kelly.

  ‘And who knows—make a good impression and you could pick up some more business. Is it serious between you and Jake—settling down and getting married serious, I mean, Kelly?’

  ‘I… It’s too early to tell,’ Kelly told her, hating having to deceive her.

  ‘Well, he’s certainly keen on you. You should see the way he looks at you when you’re not aware of it!’ Sue sighed. ‘I envy you, Kelly. You have so much—oh, not your money, I’d never envy anyone that. No, it’s the way you’ve proved to yourself that you can live alone; that you’re your own person. I sometimes feel that without Jeremy I’d only be half a person; a shadow.’

  ‘Nonsense,’ Kelly told her firmly, ‘but if it makes you feel any better I’ll let you into a secret. There are times when I feel very much alone, when I wonder if I’ve paid too high a price for success, especially recently.’

  ‘It doesn’t show! Do you want to come shopping?’

  ‘I think I’d better,’ Kelly laughed. ‘Are we going to drive?’

  ‘Yes. It isn’t very far, but the bus service is pretty haphazard. We’ll take Jeremy’s hire car.’

  Half an hour later Sue deftly parked the hire car outside a row of shops, and Kelly climbed out. The sun burned into her skin through the thin blouse she was wearing, and she was glad that she had had the foresight to bring a hat and her glasses.

  ‘Hot, isn’t it?’ Sue commented as she joined her. ‘Let’s try in here, shall we?’

  The shop she indicated was quite small, a simple silk suit the only garment in the window. Inside, it was decorated in couture shades of dove grey and silver, and the woman who came forward to serve them had the timeless chic of the French.

  Sue explained that she was looking for a dress to wear to a party. ‘Something simple but stunning,’ she smiled. ‘Can you help?’

  Several outfits were produced for Sue’s inspection and finally she settled on a simple silk dress in a soft shade of lilac blue which suited her colouring. While she was trying it on, Kelly’s eye was caught by one of the other dresses the woman had produced. Also made of silk, it had tiny shoestring straps and a low-cut back, the skirt cut on the bias so that it floated gently in the draught from the air-conditioning. In shades of pink from palest blush to deep cyclamen, Kelly knew instantly that it would suit her. She touched the fabric almost wistfully. Once she might have bought a dress like this, but not now.

  ‘Ah yes, this is one of our exclusive models,’ the saleswoman told her, walking over to her. ‘Would you like to try it on?’

  She was just about to say ‘no’ when Sue pleaded eagerly, ‘Oh do, Kelly! You’ll look stunning in it, I know.’

  The trouble was that she did, and she knew it too, Kelly reflected rather wryly ten minutes later surveying her reflection in the mirror. The dress might have been made for her, it clung so lovingly to her body, making her skin glow like the inside of an oyster.

  ‘It is very nice,’ she began reluctantly, ‘but…’

  ‘No “buts”,’ Sue interrupted firmly. ‘You’re having it, and then you and I are going to treat ourselves to a couple of hours in the nearest beauty salon. We don’t want Jeremy or Jake looking anywhere but at us tonight!’

  The saleswoman, no doubt pleased to have made two good sales, gave them the address of a beauty salon which she recommended, and the girls there certainly seemed to know their business, Kelly thought approvingly as Helena, the girl who was looking after her, deftly produced a nail polish which picked out exactly the soft pink of her dress.

  ‘If you don’t mind me making a suggestion,’ Helena murmured half apologetically as she worked expertly on Kelly’s nails, ‘I think your hair would look very pretty left loose for your party, perhaps swept to one side with a comb?’

  ‘Oh yes, Kelly, it would be lovely,’ Sue enthused.

  Somehow, Kelly found herself being persuaded into the new hairstyle, which wasn’t what she would have chosen herself at all. For one thing, the long dark sweep of hair, secured with a comb of mother-of-pearl, gave her features a sultry sensuality she had never expected. All at once her lips seemed fuller and softer, her eyes slumbrous and softly veiled. She looked… She looked as thoug
h she had just been passionately kissed, Kelly thought, startled by the knowledge.

  ’Kelly, you look fantastic!’

  She gave Sue a vague smile. This wasn’t how she wanted to look at all. Looking like this made her feel vulnerable.

  DUSK WAS FALLING as they drove back to the villa. They had spent most of the afternoon shopping and then had a light meal, as Sue explained that she thought the men would eat at the golf club.

  There was no sign of the other hire car when they returned. The party wasn’t due to start until nine, which gave them plenty of time to get ready, Sue assured her, but Kelly decided that she would go to her room and get changed now—with luck she would be finished before Jake returned. What was the matter with her, she wondered ironically. They had shared a room; a bed; he had touched her and she had responded to him—and yet suddenly she felt afraid. But it was not the same sort of fear she had felt with Colin. Frowning and uneasy, she stripped off the clothes she had worn for shopping, securing her hair on top of her head as she went to turn on the shower.

  Maisie had given her her favourite perfumed showering gel as a goodbye present, and Kelly used it lavishly. Even at her most austere she had not been able to deny herself the pleasure of perfuming her skin. Colin had never bought her perfume and so there were no unpleasant associations, but tonight as she smothered the gel over her skin and stepped under the shower’s fine spray, the fine needles of water against her body seemed almost erotic, the perfume released by the warmth of the water clinging to her flesh. If she closed her eyes she could almost imagine that Jake was touching her, arousing her already inflamed body with his skilled hands, kissing the firm peaks of her breasts, letting his mouth wander at will over her perfumed skin until at last he possessed her lips. The dull thud of the bedroom door as someone closed it jerked Kelly back to reality, and a deep wave of colour seared over her as she tried to deny the truth of Jake’s earlier claim that she wanted him.


  She stiffened as he called her name, hurriedly stepped out of the shower and reaching for a towel.

  ‘I’m in here,’ she called back, her mouth dry with tension. He could so easily have simply walked in and found her. And if he had done so would his experienced eyes have noted the aroused state of her body—and worse, known the reason for it? It must be some sort of jet-lag she was suffering from, she decided muzzily. She had never felt like this before, not even with Colin. It was completely out of character for her. Was it? She stiffened, trying to blot out the tiny voice that mocked acidly that she had never allowed her own sexual character to develop. She had killed it at birth, refused to admit it into her life, and now she was being paid back with a vengeance.

  Outside, she heard sounds of movement and hurriedly pulled on a robe. ‘Don’t come in, I won’t be a moment!’

  She had barely finished speaking when Jake pushed open the door and leaned indolently against the frame.

  ‘I asked you not to come in,’ Kelly snapped angrily, trying to tie the sash of her robe. ‘Or didn’t you hear me?’

  ‘Oh, I heard all right, but you’ve been around long enough to know that a remark like that is tantamount to asking for the opposite, and so as a mere employee what else could I do but oblige?’

  It was the way he said ‘mere employee’, rather than the words themselves, that underlined the deep cynicism she could see etched alongside his mouth, but surely that couldn’t account for the burningly intense anger that turned his eyes from flint to smoke and seemed to rob her of the ability to think or move with her normal efficiency?

  ‘What’s the matter?’ Jake demanded smokily. ‘You don’t know what to do when you’re confronted by a man who doesn’t toe the line—your line—do you, Kelly? You just love calling the shots, don’t you? Making men squirm, turning them on and then paying them off, but it won’t work with me. So,’ he drawled, folding his arms and studying her mockingly, ‘if you want me to make love to you, lady, you’re damn well going to have to ask this time.’

  ‘Ask?’ Kelly was too furious to be careful. ‘You’re the last man I’d ask for anything and…and besides,’ she added on a flood of triumph, ‘if I wanted a man to make love to me there’s always Jeremy!’

  ‘So there is.’ His mouth went hard. ‘You know, Kelly, I can’t quite figure you out. One moment I think you genuinely care about Sue, and really want to protect her from finding out what a creep her husband is, the next I begin to think you’re playing some deep game where the prize is Sue’s husband with a ring through his nose and that you mean to win him.’

  ‘Think what you like… You’re here for one reason and one reason only, and that’s because I’m paying you, and if you…’

  ‘If I forget my place you’ll dismiss me? No way. You try it and find out what happens.’

  ‘Meaning you’ll tell Sue about Jeremy? If I really did want to break up their marriage I’d let you, wouldn’t I?’

  ‘Not necessarily. You see, Kelly, you strike me as the type who likes her life all cut and dried. It wouldn’t suit you one little bit to be known as the woman who broke up her friend’s marriage and then stole her husband. No, you wouldn’t want me telling Sue.’

  ‘You’re so sure of yourself…so damnably arrogant! Hasn’t it occurred to you that you might be wrong?’

  ‘Why should I?’ he responded coolly. ‘It never occurred to you, did it?’

  With that enigmatic remark he started to step past her, his eyes flicking contemptuously over her still damp body as he did so.

  ‘That’s something else,’ he murmured, smiling with hateful mockery. ‘That “still wet from the shower” approach is old hat now—you’re going to have to find a new routine—or start paying more.’

  Kelly raised her hand automatically, shrinking herself as the sharp sound of it against his lean jaw fractured the silence, leaving a strained dangerous calm during which she watched the white imprint of her hand fade and slowly fill with angry blood until the marks throbbed hotly against the brown skin.

  ‘Oh no, you don’t,’ Jake muttered thickly as she started to move away. His eyes were the colour of slate, hard and bitter, implacable determination underlining every movement as he placed his palms flat to the wall behind her, imprisoning her against it.

  She could feel the heat coming off his body and knew she was trembling.

  ‘Jake, please!’ Was that hoarse, panicky voice really hers? She moaned huskily as he lifted one hand and slowly and quite deliberately pulled the pins from her hair until it cascaded on her shoulders. His thumb stroked along her jawline, his fingers forcing her downbent head up until she was forced to meet his eyes, and the murderous rage she saw in their depths told her without the need for any words that this parody of tenderness was a subtle form of punishment, and that he intended that she should never forget how he had repaid her for striking him.

  ‘That’s better.’ His voice was slurred and Kelly trembled, longing for the strength to be able to push him away and run.

  ‘All it needs is this,’ he added, wrenching open her towelling wrap so that the curves of her breasts were exposed, ‘and now you look the part completely. There was no need to slap me, though Kelly. Like I said before, all you had to do was ask.’

  He bent his head and there was no way she could avoid the insistent stroke of his lips against her own, taunting and tormenting until her lips were parting on a groan, her arms going round his neck, her fingers curling into the thick silky hair at his nape as the torment continued until she couldn’t endure it any longer, and she was arching against his body, her mouth clinging pleadingly to his, her small broken murmurs of pleasure filling the thick silence.

  ‘Oh no… I’m not going to make it easy for you.’

  Her hands were wrenched away, and suddenly she was free, her body aching with unfulfilled need, her mind totally disorientated by the power of the sexual feelings he had aroused.

  Appalled, both by the intensity of her desire and the rage she could sense within Ja
ke, she pulled away and darted into the bedroom, dimly registering the closing of the bathroom door behind her.

  In the lamplit room her tousled, disordered hair and pale face stared back at her from the mirror. Her lips looked full and swollen, and as she hurriedly dressed in the clean underwear she had laid out Kelly was aware of the swollen fullness of her breasts, her nipples taut beneath the fine silk of her dress. She shivered, unable to believe that the woman staring back at her was her, the reflection was so unfamiliar; not merely because of the different hairstyle and silk dress. It was the more subtle difference that frightened her the most: the darkening of her eyes, almost all pupil, the sleekness of her skin, and the unmistakable softening of every feature. No man looking at her now would ever believe that she was the head of her own company, or that she had kept her emotions in check for years. It was like looking at a stranger, only the stranger was elusively familiar, and Kelly shivered, her tongue nervously touching dry lips. The woman staring back at her—hadn’t she seen her before, many years before when she had still been a teenager and Colin and her love for him had filled her life?


  Kelly wasn’t even aware that she spoke the denial aloud, the sound torn from her throat against muscles tight with despair. ‘Kelly, we’re leaving in half an hour, are you two nearly ready?’

  Sue’s voice outside the bedroom door steadied her, turning her to something resembling normality, but her voice shook as she called out a response and ten minutes later her hand still trembled as she carefully tried to apply her eye make-up. Perhaps it was because of that that her eyes seemed darker, more exotic than usual, or perhaps it was simply a trick of the lighting. The slither of silk against her skin was a constant reminder of Jake’s hands on her body, and she fought against the memory, brushing her hair with angry strokes and securing it with the pearlised comb. Sounds of movement from the bathroom had her heading for the door, grabbing her bag as she did so. There was no way she wanted to be in the bedroom when Jake walked into it, neither was there any way she could continue to share the room with him. She didn’t care what Sue thought, she decided feverishly, she would have to tell her. Perhaps she could make up some story about not being able to sleep well—she could plead that she didn’t want to disturb Jake.


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