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Man-Hater Page 12

by Penny Jordan

  ‘Oh God, Kelly, I thought you were never going to be able to say it!’

  She didn’t know who moved first, but suddenly she was in his arms, his lips touching her hair, kissing the dampness from her cheeks, his thumb stroking the quivering fullness of her lips, and she knew joyously, overwhelmingly, that everything was going to be all right.


  TOWARDS dawn, Kelly surfaced briefly. The comforting weight of Jake’s arm lay across her ribs, securing her against him. Her body felt lethargic, totally relaxed, as bonelessly sensual as a small cat’s, and she smiled secretly, remembering Jake’s lovemaking and her own abandoned response to it. Jake moved, eyes still closed, nuzzling her throat, drawing her down against him, her body instantly pliant and responsive, as though it remembered the pleasure they had shared earlier.

  The next time she woke up Kelly was alone. She padded across to the bathroom, recognising the faint tang of Jake’s soap and cologne, and wondering why he had not woken her. Today they would have to talk. She loved him, and she wasn’t going to let her chance of happiness slip away from her through pride. What good was her wealth if it separated her from the only thing that she really wanted—Jake’s love? Did he love her? Kelly didn’t know, but she wanted him to know that she was willing to share equally with him all her worldly goods. The sexes were equal nowadays, she reminded herself bracingly, she had always fought to be considered the equal of her male colleagues, and surely she wasn’t hypocritical enough to want to revert to the typical male/female superior/inferior status now? What did it matter if they lived on her money? What did it matter if Jake had no career or profession to follow? Banishing all her niggling doubts, she showered quickly, marvelling at the difference a handful of hours could make. Even her flesh felt different—softer, more responsive, glowing with a soft radiance that was reflected in her face. But where was Jake?

  She found Sue and Jeremy breakfasting on the patio, tension hanging almost visibly on the air.

  ‘Morning, Kelly, did you enjoy the party?’ Sue enquired in an over-bright, forced voice.

  ‘How could she enjoy it? She didn’t spend a good deal of time at the party, did she? Two millionaires in one night—that’s pretty good going by anyone’s standards, never mind a woman who’s been fooling the world for years that she’s as frigid as an iceberg!’


  ‘Two millionaires!’

  Sue and Kelly spoke together, Jeremy ignoring his wife to turn and smirk at Kelly. ‘You mean you didn’t know?’

  ‘Know what?’ Kelly demanded. The phone started to ring and Sue got up hurriedly. ‘It might be Dad,’ she explained, ‘he said he might ring. By the way, Kelly, Jake said to tell you he’s just gone into town and that he won’t be long.’

  She got up and left, ignoring her husband, and Kelly wondered if the two of them had quarrelled during the party.

  ‘So you didn’t know, then?’ Jeremy continued when Sue had gone. ‘I thought not. Fooled you nicely, didn’t he? That blonde girl he was with at the party knew all right…’

  A cold tight feeling was gripping her.

  ‘Know what, Jeremy?’ she asked tautly.

  ‘That Jake is a millionaire. She obviously recognised him straight away, and I made a few discreet enquiries at the party. It seems your Jake has extensive interests ranging almost worldwide, although he normally keeps a low profile. I bet he thought it was hilarious when you walked into that agency and mistook him for one of the staff!’

  She must not faint, Kelly told herself grimly. She must not give way in front of Jeremy, watching her, waiting to gloat over her.

  ‘He told you about that?’ she managed in a carefully controlled voice, while the icy cold invading her body almost burned in its intensity. She was shaking inwardly, but she daren’t let Jeremy see it.

  ‘How else would I know about it? He must have laughed his socks off afterwards! You hired him to keep me at bay, didn’t you?’

  ‘Well, the joke’s on you, Kelly,’ Jeremy told her savagely, ‘and how! You’ve fallen for him, haven’t you? Let him inside your precious defences; let him make love to you, and all the time he was laughing at you—making a fool of you!’

  It couldn’t be true! Sickness boiled up inside her. It couldn’t be true. Jake a millionaire. Jake deliberately deceiving her, encouraging her to fall in love with him. And yet Jeremy couldn’t have made up something like that! But why had Jake confided in Jeremy?

  ‘How does it feel to be a loser, clever lady?’ Jeremy taunted. ‘You should have stayed within your own league, Kelly. He’ll be dining out on the story of how he fooled you for months. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t deliberately encourage you to fall in love with him. Quite an amusing diversion for a man like him, especially with a woman like you, who wouldn’t normally let a man of his type within a hundred miles of her.’

  Kelly wanted to blot out the taunting words, words she knew were all too painfully true. Like a film played jerkily backwards she relived those moments when she had first walked into the agency; Jake’s surprise at seeing her; the feeling she had had on several occasions that his manner was not in accord with his subservient role. Dear God, why had he done it?

  She cringed to remember how she had revealed her innermost thoughts and feelings to him; how she had told him about Colin, and then trembled trustingly in his arms as he brought her to full womanhood, glorying in her joyous response to his lovemaking when it reached its peak of fierce intensity.

  The vulnerable core of her ached for her foolishness. Hadn’t she learned her lesson the first time with Colin? Why couldn’t she be like other women she knew, content to take sexual pleasure where she found it, without experiencing the need to involve her heart and mind as well? She had loved Jake; had been prepared to share with him everything she owned, while he…

  ‘You’d have been better off with me,’ Jeremy repeated.

  ‘Except that you happen to be married to Sue,’ Kelly reminded him coldly, turning swiftly on her heel.

  As she walked into the villa Sue was just emerging, looking tired and pale.


  ‘I’m leaving, Sue,’ Kelly told her shortly. ‘I’m flying back to London on the first available flight.’ Her mouth twisted bitterly.

  ‘But what about Jake?’

  Kelly laughed harshly. ‘What about him?’

  ‘Oh, Kelly, if you’ve quarrelled, I’m sure you will make it up again. Why don’t you wait until he comes back from town?’

  ‘No.’ Kelly was icily firm outwardly, but inwardly she was an aching mass of pain and confusion, still half unable to believe what was happening to her.

  Less than an hour later she was on her way to the airport, her final goodbyes to Sue and Jeremy, brief and hurried.

  She was lucky enough to get a cancellation on a flight leaving for London within the hour, and as she waited in the departure lounge Kelly tried not to think about what had happened. Was it really only last night she had lain in Jake’s arms, feeling that at last she had come home?

  Fool, fool, she chided herself bitterly. She ought to have known better. She of all people ought to have known. How Jeremy must have enjoyed learning the truth! When and why had Jake deliberately decided to deceive her, or had it simply been an impulse decision which had snowballed to the point where he had conceived the idea of making her fall in love with him?

  Her flight was called, and she walked towards the terminal automatically, freezing as she recognised the blonde girl from the party. Today she was dressed casually in jeans and a tee-shirt, but there was no mistaking that blonde hair or those perfectly classical features.

  And she wasn’t alone. Kelly’s heart jerked, ungainly as a puppet as she recognised the back of Jake’s dark head, inclined now towards his companion. Even as Kelly watched, the blonde girl raised herself on tiptoe, flinging her arm round Jake’s neck and kissing him enthusiastically.

  Hot tears of jealousy scorched her eyes and, pain a l
iving, tormenting thing inside her.

  After a lifetime of agony in case Jake saw her, and witnessed her jealousy, she was safely on the plane and they were taking off. Fortunately, the blonde girl was nowhere to be seen. What had Jake told Sue to tell her? That he had gone to town? But he hadn’t said anything about the reason for his visit, such as the fact that he was seeing his girl-friend off at the airport—but then there was so much he hadn’t told her, and last night when those husky, passionate words of need had seared and melted her skin wherever his mouth touched, he had said nothing of love, nothing of the truth, while she, poor crazy fool that she was, had told him with every gesture and embrace that she was wholly and irrevocably besotted with him. She had thought the exquisite pleasure they had shared had been something unique to them. A dull flush of colour suffused her skin, and she writhed mentally, wondering if Jake would tell his girl-friend about what had happened; possibly laugh and joke about it; about her and the insecurities she had revealed all too plainly to him in the moments before the final throes of passion had swept aside restraint and selfconsciousness.

  She cringed inwardly, huddling down into her seat, taking refuge behind a magazine, trying to convince herself that she was merely the victim of a bad dream; that when she returned to London she would wake up to find that Jake had never really existed.


  Kelly frowned as her assistant thrust a letter under her nose, her manner one of contained excitement.

  ‘What is it?’ Kelly asked her, glancing at the letter, and stiffening a little as she did so.

  ‘Isn’t it fantastic?’ Maisie demanded. ‘I never dreamed we’d be invited to tender for a contract like this! Carew’s is a huge multi-national organisation. I’ve always thought they were based in the States.’

  ‘Mmm.’ Kelly was nearly as impressed as her assistant, but since her return from Corfu she had found it difficult to throw herself as completely into her work. ‘It seems that the chairman wants to meet me for preliminary discussion.’ She frowned. ‘I wonder why they chose us?’

  ‘It could be something to do with that article they ran on us in that Sunday supplement,’ Maisie suggested.

  The article in question had appeared in one of the upmarket Sundays several weeks ago, and Kelly eyed her thoughtfully.

  ‘Could be,’ she conceded at last, ‘although I shouldn’t have thought the chairman of a multi-national like Carew’s would be impressed by something he read in a colour supplement. I think I’ll have a word with Ian. I’m a bit wary of this one. We could too easily find ourselves involved in heavy preliminary expenses without anything to show for it in the end. Including us in the tender might just be a sop to some eccentric on the Board. Multi-nationals normally run with their own kind, and that being the case, why aren’t they using one of the large American companies?’

  Two hours later she was putting the same question to Ian over lunch at the Ritz.

  ‘Kelly, you’re getting far too suspicious,’ Ian laughed when she had finished. ‘Hasn’t anyone ever warned you about refusing gifts from the gods? And that’s what this contract could be. I don’t have to remind you about what the recession is doing to your particular industry. Oh, I know you’ve plenty of work in hand for the next few months—but after that?’

  Kelly knew he was speaking the truth, but why would Carew’s approach her? She was very small fry indeed by their standards.

  ‘It says in the letter they want me to fly to Edinburgh. The company has offices up there.’

  ‘They’ve got considerable interests in oil, Edinburgh is closer to the Scottish oilfields than London. Why are you such a doubting Thomas?’ Ian teased her. ‘This could be a tremendous opportunity for the company. I don’t know what’s happened to you recently. You’ve changed.’

  ‘I’m getting older,’ Kelly pointed out wryly. She knew she had changed, and why she wasn’t as singleminded about the company as she had previously been, but despite the speculation in Ian’s eyes, she wasn’t going to enlighten him. That was a private pain; a deep and bitter ache that couldn’t be assuaged by discussion with someone else.

  ‘Oh yeah?’ Ian’s voice was openly derisive. ‘You’re a very beautiful woman, Kelly. I’ve always thought so, but recently there’s been—oh, I don’t know, a softening; a more womanly look about you.’

  ‘We’re here to talk about Carew’s.’ Kelly reminded him crisply, ‘and there’s no need to flirt with me, Ian. You’re in no danger of losing the company’s business.’

  His hurt expression made her feel ashamed of her outburst, but because she couldn’t explain to him that it had been to protect herself that she had snapped at him, Kelly said nothing, simply directing several questions to him about the Carew Organisation.

  In response, she didn’t learn much more than she knew already; namely that Carew’s were very big in the petro-chemical world; that they had subsidiaries all over the world and that the chairman was an elusive, almost secretive man about whom very little was known.

  ‘He’s English, oddly enough,’ Ian told her. “‘R.J.”, I believe his American colleagues call him, although in actual fact he’s…’

  ‘Sir Richard Carew,’ Kelly supplemented for him. ‘Yes, I’ve been reading up on him too, but I couldn’t find out very much, apart from the fact that he built the company up practically from nothing.’

  ‘Well, from very modest beginnings,’ Ian agreed. ‘When he came down from Cambridge he inherited a small company on the Clyde involved in re-fitting ships.’

  ‘Mmm… There’s something of a myth about the company’s success, isn’t there?’ Kelly mused.

  ‘More a case of being in the right place at the right time and plenty of luck, coupled with a good deal of hard work, but I agree, it does make good reading. And you’re to meet Carew himself, are you? You’re very honoured, I hope you realise. He still insists on running them himself, although they say his son will soon be taking over. He’s the one who engineered the company’s success in the petro-chemical field.’

  A WEEK LATER, Kelly flew from Heathrow to Edinburgh, stomach clenching nervously as the shuttle flight came in to land.

  A chauffeur-driven car collected her from the airport, the driver polite but withdrawn as he negotiated the Edinburgh traffic.

  The Carew building was a large imposing one, and Kelly suppressed a flutter of nervousness as the car came to a halt. A receptionist smiled warmly at her as she entered the foyer, indicating that she take a seat, while she pressed some buttons on her telephone and spoke quietly into the receiver.

  ‘If you’d just like to take the lift to the tenth floor Sir Richard’s secretary will be waiting for you,’ the girl told Kelly with another smile.

  There was a mirror in the lift and Kelly couldn’t resist checking her appearance swiftly in it. She had changed since her return from Corfu. For one thing, she had had her hair cut—not short, but in a softly curving bell that suited her classical features, and the suit she was wearing was in soft muted pinks, far more shapely and feminine than the clothes she had previously worn. She had told herself that she wouldn’t allow what had happened between Jake and herself to affect her at all, but somehow she had found herself spurning the clothes she had once favoured, her eyes drawn almost hypnotically to softer shades, more feminine styles. Deep down inside her she knew that Jake was responsible for this resurgence of femininity, but she hated having to admit it even to herself.

  The lift stopped and the door opened. Kelly stepped into a starkly elegant foyer decorated in shades of blue and grey.

  A door opened and an immaculately dressed girl came towards her.

  ‘Sir Richard will be with you in a second,’ she told Kelly. ‘Would you care for a cup of coffee while you’re waiting?’

  Too nervous to really want a drink, Kelly nevertheless accepted. What on earth was the matter with her? She had never felt like this before; but then they had never been invited to tender for such an important contract,
and she was conscious of the tension building up inside her as the girl disappeared and a heavy, almost oppressive silence closed over the foyer.

  A door opened, making Kelly jump, despite the fact that she had been waiting for it. The man who came towards her was dressed in a formal business suit, dark grey with a thin chalk stripe, a silk shirt and a toning striped tie, his dark hair curling against his collar, the expensive styling of his jacket doing nothing to minimise the power of the body if concealed.

  Her heart in her mouth, Kelly watched almost mesmerised, her strangled ‘Jake!!!’ seeming to echo drily around the room as she struggled to her feet and stared at Jake in appalled disbelief.

  ‘You seem surprised.’

  He drawled the words casually, bending his dark head to remove a minute scrap of fluff from his sleeve, while Kelly’s mind whirled, stupidly. What was Jake doing here?’

  ‘I don’t know what you’re doing here Jake, but I can’t talk to you now,’ she managed at last, fighting for composure. ‘I have an appointment with Sir Richard to…’

  ‘To discuss some PR work for the company?’ Jake interposed smoothly. ‘Yes, I know, and my father has asked me to handle it for him. He has been called away unavoidably—the Energy Minister.’

  ‘Your father?’ Kelly almost whispered the words. ‘Your father is…’

  ‘Sir Richard Carew? Yes, that’s right. I’m Jake Fielding Carew. Ah, here’s Helen with your coffee. Mrs Langdon will have her coffee in my room, Helen, and you can bring a cup for me as well if you will.’

  Listening to the crisply authoritative tones, Kelly knew that she wasn’t, as she had first thought, simply hallucinating.

  Jake took her arm, steering her firmly towards the door he had just opened. His office was less austere than the foyer, but still very functional. Kelly, attuned to such nuances, could tell by the way Helen brought his coffee that the secretary not only admired him as a man, she also very evidently respected him. Kelly felt stunned, unable to take in what was happening.


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