To Love Again
Table of Contents
CHRISTI stared in horror at the man who took up most of the open doorway to her flat, holding her hands up defensively. ‘Whatever you do, don’t come in here!’ she warned fiercely.
To her chagrin he smiled, although he made no effort to come further into the room. ‘What are you doing on the floor?’ he drawled unconcernedly.
Christi came up off her hands and leant back on her knees. ‘I—oh, no!’ she groaned as a brown and grey bullet entered the room, finding herself almost knocked over as the tiny creature leapt up and down in front of her face, trying to lick her nose. ‘No, Henry.’ She desperately tried to still the movements of her excited Yorkshire terrier. ‘Henry—— Oh, damn!’ She gave in with a resigned groan, taking the dog into her arms to receive the ecstatic greeting.
‘He’s missed you.’ Lucas made the under-statement mockingly, grinning his amusement as Christi gave him a censorious frown.
‘I’ve only been gone a couple of days,’ she dismissed distractedly, her attention once again on the carpet in front of her now that Henry had calmed down enough to sit relatively still in her arms. ‘Take him, will you?’ She reached out to hold the dog up to Lucas. ‘But don’t come any closer,’ she warned as Lucas strode forcefully into the room, having let himself into the apartment with the key she had given him.
He gave a weary sigh, coming to an abrupt halt. ‘Make up your mind, Christi,’ he said drily. ‘Either I can come in, or I can’t. Is there a man in your bedroom? Is that it?’ He quirked dark brows interestedly.
Christi shot him a look that clearly told him the question was beneath contempt. ‘I happen to have lost a contact lens——’
‘Not again,’ Lucas groaned impatiently. ‘Last time you lost one of them it was down your——’
‘I know where it was,’ she put in hastily, blushing.
‘Well, have you looked down there this time?’ He looked speculatively at the creamy perfection of her cleavage, which was visible above the open neckline of her blouse. ‘I could always help you if you haven’t,’ he flirted easily.
That was the trouble with Lucas; he flirted with lazy ease, having a constant stream of women in his life, who seemed to remain his friend even after the relationship had ended. He and Christi seemed to have skipped the first part and gone straight on to the friendship, Lucas’s teasing of her just that. It was rather depressing to be thought of as just a ‘pal’ by a man like Lucas!
Everyone she had ever introduced him to had envied the fact that she actually had him living in the flat next door to her own. And that wasn’t so surprising, for Lucas was devastating to look at; tall and dark, with piercing grey eyes that could be dark with laughter or glittering silver with anger, his body of the type that looked beautifully elegant in the superbly tailored suits he wore, or obviously masculine in the shorts he wore when he played tennis. He possessed a sense of humour that enchanted, a honeyed charm that enthralled, and a raw sexuality that acted like a magnet to any woman in the vicinity.
But he was also thirty-seven to her almost twenty-two, and had taken her under his protective wing since she had moved into this flat almost four years ago, acting more like her uncle than her real uncle did! He had also helped her find her missing contact lenses more times than she cared to think about, had taken care of her pets when she’d been away, and had fed her lemon juice when she had been flat out in bed with a cold, doing a good impersonation of Rudolf! No wonder he had never looked on her as anything more than ‘the kid next door’—she was the kid next door!
‘Just take Henry, will you?’ She sighed her irritation. ‘I haven’t had the best of weekends, and if I can’t find my lens I won’t be able to go for that audition this afternoon.’
Lucas held the dog lightly in his arms as Christi resumed her search, her two Siamese cats entwining themselves about his long legs. He reached down to absently stroke Josephine and Gladys, straightening as Christi gave a triumphant cry, holding the truant lens as she scrambled to her feet to put it in before it did another disappearing act.
He frowned as she turned to face him. ‘I thought you were looking forward to spending the weekend with Dizzy and your uncle.’ He spoke slowly. ‘There’s nothing wrong with the baby, is there?’ he added, concern in his voice.
Christi’s expression instantly softened. ‘Laura is the most beautiful, contented——’
‘The baby is fine,’ Lucas drawled drily.
‘—little love I have ever seen,’ Christi finished proudly. ‘She has lovely golden curls—which is only to be expected when Dizzy and Uncle Zach—just Zach,’ she amended with a grimace. ‘He finally got around to telling me I can call him that, now that he’s been married to my best friend for almost a year,’ she derided. ‘But, with both of them being so fair, Laura was sure to be blonde herself,’ she completed her earlier statement.
Lucas looked pointedly at her ebony hair. ‘They can’t all be blondes in your family.’
‘The Bennetts are,’ she nodded. ‘You know I got my colouring from my mother.’ She experienced the usual sadness she felt whenever she thought of the wonderful parents she had lost four years ago, the two of them on an archaeological dig when it had capsized and buried them beneath tons of earth.
She hadn’t been quite eighteen at the time, and remembered that the birthday she had spent with her Uncle Zach had been a miserable time, both of them numbed by the accident that had left them the only two remaining members of their family. Her uncle had been distant from her then, a remote professor of history who seemed to live among his books. Falling in love with impetuous madcap Dizzy had changed all that, and when he wasn’t amused by his young wife’s antics he was bemused!
But, four years ago, Dizzy had been a long way from entering his life, and the two of them had found little to say to each other to ease the pain of their loss. Lucas had helped to ease her pain more than her uncle had, had held her as she’d cried bitter tears, had sat with her as she’d brooded in silence, had taken her out on picnics and walks when it seemed she would finally come out of the dark tunnel of depression her parents’ deaths had caused.
Their friendship had grown from those months of anger and pain shortly after she had moved in here; it was a friendship Christi knew she would find it hard to live without now, and she dreaded the day one of those women