Love's Duel. Carole Mortimer

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Название Love's Duel
Автор произведения Carole Mortimer
Жанр Современные любовные романы
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Издательство Современные любовные романы
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brother is coming home.’ She bit her lip. ‘I said I’d go and see him on Saturday.’

      ‘So you did. Oh, bother!’ Emily looked annoyed. ‘And I did so want you to meet Giles. I’m sure the two of you will get along famously.’

      ‘Another time,’ Leonie excused, sure that she and Giles wouldn’t get along ‘famously’ at all. Giles probably put everyone he met through his own private trial, and Leonie had had enough of courtrooms to last her a lifetime. ‘I’m sure there will be other opportunities for us to meet,’ she added politely.

      Emily obviously wasn’t pleased, although she remained very excited about her nephew’s visit, throwing the whole house into an uproar as she made ready for his arrival.

      By Saturday morning Leonie was pleased to get away, and get her battered Mini out of the garage. As she drove down the long driveway she had to veer sharply to the left; the huge monster of a car coming in the opposite direction was not willing to give an inch as it whooshed past her. She turned to glare at the driver of the Rolls-Royce, receiving only a glimpse of the back of a dark head, as the driver had not given her a second glance.

      That had to be nephew Giles, she knew Emily wasn’t expecting anyone else this morning. At least Emily would be pleased, he had arrived earlier than she had expected. But as far as Leonie was concerned his manners could use a little working on.

      She forgot all about nephew Giles, her thoughts going forward to Phil. She hadn’t seen him for four years. He had refused all her offers to visit him, so she had no idea of his reaction to her going to see him this weekend.

      He didn’t seem to understand why she wanted to see him, telling her in the two letters she had received from him in the last four years that it would be better if they didn’t meet again. Phil felt guilty about his treatment of her, she realised that, but he was the only relative she had left in the world.

      Four years… God, it was a lifetime! Four years when she had had to live with the knowledge that Phil, her stepbrother, had used the love she felt for Jeremy Lindsay for his own ends. She had gone out with Jeremy in all innocence, a naïve eighteen-year-old to his sophisticated forty, never guessing that he was married, that he had a daughter a year younger than she was.

      But Phil had known, and he had tried to capitalise on it. The first Leonie had known of his interference in her life had been when Jeremy had suddenly stopped seeing her, his haughty secretary always putting her off when she called him, telling her he was busy or that he wasn’t in the office. The next thing to happen had been her own and Phil’s arrest—for blackmail! The fact that she had denied all knowledge of Phil’s intention, and that he had backed her claim, had made no difference to the police. She had been charged along with Phil.

      And J. G. Noble had crucified her in court. Oh, he had been so charming to start with, smiling at her, pretending her believed her—and then he had pounced. All the charm had gone, the warm grey eyes turned flinty, his magnetic good looks became harsh as he verbally ripped her to shreds—and she hadn’t been able to do a thing about it.

      She hated John Noble with a fierceness that hadn’t abated with time, hated the way he had sneered at her morals, the way he had derided her. She had watched the blaze of fury in his eyes as she was set free, the court believing her plea of innocence.

      But she would never forget her shame, never forget the humiliation she had suffered in that courtroom as the intimate details of her friendship with Jeremy were revealed to everyone in the room. J. G. Noble had taken great pleasure in telling of every single kiss, every caress she had ever shared with Jeremy, had watched with contempt as she squirmed in her seat, her face bright red.

      Jeremy had been in court too, sitting beside a pretty redhaired woman, his wife for the last twenty years. Leonie had believed him when he told her he loved her, had willingly succumbed to his practised seduction. Just how practised she had soon found out. Apparently the Lindsays were one of those couples who had an ‘open’ marriage, each partner indulging in the odd affair while still remaining married to each other. Leonie had just been another affair to Jeremy, whereas she had believed him to be the love of her life.

      Her love had died as surely as all trust in the male gender had died, and over the years she had built a wall around her emotions that was as hard as steel. Only Tom had ever been able to penetrate that shell, dear sweet Tom who had asked for nothing except that she be his wife.

      Almost in London now, she looked up the address Phil had given her, although it still took some finding. Phil had a room in one of the old houses that were still very much a part of London, the rent seeming exorbitant to Leonie. But as Phil had pointed out in his letter, beggars couldn’t be choosers.

      The house was definitely not what she would have called luxurious, although the decor seemed quite good for a house of this age. By the time she reached the third floor she had passed one room with a child screaming at the top of its lungs, and the room just below Phil’s had pop music blaring out so loudly it was impossible to identify song or singer. The place was a madhouse!

      There was no answer to her first knock, although she could hear some signs of movement as she knocked again. The door opened slowly and a bleary-eyed Phil stood in the doorway.

      He was a vastly changed Phil, his boyish features seeming to have hardened, his face gaunt. There was an air of aggression about him that made it difficult for Leonie to relate him to the boy she had grown up hero-worshipping.

      She had adored him all her life, had trailed after him as a child with big worshipping eyes. When he had gone away to university she had been heartbroken, her joy immense when he had suddenly arrived home again a year later. Her mother and father had been furious, and at the time Leonie hadn’t realised the seriousness of his being thrown out. She realised now that he had always had a wild restless streak in him, a craving for danger and excitement. Her parents hadn’t understood his behaviour at all, and when he moved to London they had been secretly relieved.

      But Leonie and Phil had remained close through the years, had become even more important to each other when their parents were killed in a plane crash. She had even travelled up some weekends from the little Berkshire village she had lived in all her life to stay in London with Phil. It had been during one of these visits that she had met Jeremy at a party. He had been so much older than her, so sophisticated and self-assured that she hadn’t stood a chance when he had singled her out for his attention.

      ‘Leonie…’ Phil greeted her now, leaning heavily on the door, wearing only a towelling robe.

      She gave a shaky smile. ‘I—er—I said I’d call on you today. Did you get my letter?’

      ‘Yes, I got it,’ he acknowledged gruffly, his blond good looks harsh. He was in need of a shave and a shower, although he seemed unconcerned by his appearance.

      Leonie bit her lip, her blue eyes deeply shadowed, her bottom lip trembling. She felt strangely vulnerable standing here—and very unwelcome. Phil’s mood was resentful, as it had been the first time they had met. She had been four and he twelve, their parents having just married each other and so made them brother and sister. It had taken years for Phil to accept her as such, and now it looked as if he no longer wanted to continue such an unreal relationship as stepbrother and stepsister.

      ‘Aren’t you pleased to see me, Phil?’ she asked tremulously.

      ‘I told you not to come, Leonie,’ he scowled.

      ‘But——’

      ‘Phil, are you coming back to bed?’ called a husky female voice.

      Colour flooded Leonie’s cheeks. She hadn’t thought of him not being alone or still in bed—after all, it was nearly lunchtime. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said jerkily. ‘I didn’t realise…’ She turned away, tears in her eyes.

      A hand came out to grasp her wrist as Phil pulled her round to face him. ‘What did you expect, Leonie?’ he taunted. ‘I’ve been away from women for the last four years.’

      ‘Yes.’ Her eyes were haunted.

      He moved impatiently, his features twisted into bitterness. ‘Stop trying to make me feel guilty. You always could, you know, just with one glance