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“At least say something!”
Closing out the doubts, Claire brought up both hands and cupped them about the lean jaw, bringing Ross’s head down to put her lips on his. Life was for living, she had told herself not so very long ago, so why not start living it?
“You’re a regular bundle of surprises,” he growled softly.
“I’m fed up with being Miss Goody Two-Shoes!”
“Goody Two-Shoes never had a temper like yours. Small and fiery, yet totally unpredictable, too. I’ve a feeling you might turn out to be more than I can handle.”
KAY THORPE was born in Sheffield, England, in 1935. She tried out a variety of jobs after leaving school. Writing began as a hobby, becoming a way of life only after she had her first completed novel accepted for publication in 1968. Since then, she’s written over fifty and lives now with her husband, son, German shepherd and lucky black cat on the outskirts of Chesterfield in Derbyshire. Her interests include reading, hiking and travel.
The Wedding Deception
WITH only half an hour to go before closing time, there was little chance of any more customers happening by, Claire reckoned. Not quite the worst day’s trade she had known, but a very long way from being the best either.
The weather was the main culprit. There was little pleasure to be found in traipsing round the shops in the rain. June had been a total wash-out this year. Hopefully, July and August would be better. If not she was going to be left with a lot of summer stock on her hands—something she could ill afford.
Her neck still ached from bending over her account books for so long earlier. She ran a hand under the heavy curve of hair the colour of a new penny to ease her nape, grimacing a little. No matter how she totted up the figures, they told the same story—Candice was going steadily downhill.
It could do no harm to shut shop early for once, she decided, shelving her problems for the moment. Jill would be back from visiting her friend in Buxton by now, and would no doubt be hungry. It was too much to hope that she would have taken it on herself to prepare a meal, of course. Cooking simply wasn’t her forte, as she was fond of pointing out.
When it came to housework of any kind, little was, Claire reflected with fond humour. It wasn’t exactly her own favourite pastime either, but she couldn’t find it in herself to resent her sister’s easy assurance that all would be provided. With A levels behind her, Jill had a right to a few weeks of self-indulgence before going on to university.
Ideally, her grades would be good enough to secure her the place at Warwick already on offer, although she had spent far too many evenings out with friends when she should have been studying for the exams, in Claire’s estimation. With only six years between the two of them, laying down the law didn’t come easy.
About to turn over the ‘Closed’ sign in the glass door, she felt her heart give a sickening jerk as a man loomed in the doorway. Only a couple of weeks ago the lady in children’s wear next door had been subjected to an attack by some man not yet apprehended by the police. Her personal injuries had been more emotional than physical, but he had got away with the day’s takings and had left the woman afraid to be on her own in the shop.
This one hardly looked the type to be contemplating robbery, she thought in swift self-reassurance, assessing the expensive cut of his light wool jacket and immaculately pressed beige trousers. Hardly the type to patronise an establishment such as this either, but he could be in search of something for his wife, she supposed.
‘I was just about to close,’ she said, opening the door, ‘but you’re welcome to come in and take a look around if you like.’
‘You’re Claire Marcroft?’ he asked shortly.
‘Well, yes.’ She was disconcerted both by his use of her name and by his tone. ‘How can I help you?’
Already inside the shop, he cast an appraising glance over the place before turning back to meet her questioning green eyes. He topped her by a good six inches or more despite her high heels. His eyes were grey, she noted fleetingly, their regard somehow discomfiting. A stray shaft of sunlight, angling in through the window, picked up a healthy glint in his thick dark hair. The hard-boned, essentially masculine features were vaguely familiar.
‘Is there somewhere we can talk?’ he said.
‘There’s the office,’ she acknowledged. ‘But I don’t see what—’
‘Supposing we go there?’ he interrupted.
‘Supposing you tell me what it is you’re here for first,’ Claire rejoined crisply, recovering some degree of composure. ‘Mr…?’
‘Laxton,’ he supplied. ‘Ross Laxton.’ He watched her expression change, an ironic line to his mouth. ‘I see the name means something to you.’
‘There was an article about you in the local paper a few weeks ago,’ she confirmed. ‘And a photograph. You’re head of HR Incorporated.’