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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left now. He has a job in London.’ Why didn’t he just say that he knew it was all a pack of lies, that her stepbrother was a jail-bird?

      He nodded, his expression mocking. ‘You’ll be able to see more of him, one presumes.’

      ‘Yes.’

      ‘That will be nice, for both of you. I’m sure it can’t have been all that comfortable where he’s been.’

      ‘Don’t be silly, dear,’ his aunt chided. ‘They have all the conveniences on those places nowadays.’

      ‘So they do,’ he gave a slight smile, even white teeth visible between those firm lips. ‘Except women. I suppose your brother was living it up this weekend?’

      Leonie gave him a cold look, the memory of Wanda in Phil’s room still an embarrassing one. ‘We spent a quiet weekend together,’ she informed him resentfully.

      Those firm lips tightened, the eyes glacial. ‘I’m sure you did.’

      ‘I don’t like to hurry you, Giles,’ his aunt cut in, ‘but it’s after eleven, and you have a long drive in front of you. I do wish you would leave it until morning, I don’t like to think of you driving all that way in the dark.’

      Giles stretched his long legs. ‘I do it all the time when you don’t know about it, Aunt Emily.’

      ‘Well, I know, but the point of that is that I don’t know about it. I shall only worry,’ she added persuasively.

      ‘Actually, Aunt, I’ve been thinking of taking you up on your offer to stay an extra night. I don’t have to be in court until tomorrow afternoon, I could drive up after breakfast.’

      ‘Oh, that’s a splendid idea!’ his aunt clapped her hands together with pleasure. I’ll just go up and check that Dorothy hasn’t stripped your bed. She has a habit of getting things done before you want her to.’ She bustled out of the room, a worried frown on her brow.

      Leonie gulped, glancing over at Giles Noble, hurriedly looking away again as she saw he was looking right back at her, his expression unreadable.

      Suddenly he stood up, his movements restless. ‘Of course you know why I’m staying on,’ he said coldly.

      ‘Yes,’ Leonie didn’t attempt to prevaricate.

      ‘So your brother is out of prison now,’ he remarked quietly.

      ‘I’m surprised you remember us,’ she said tautly. ‘After all, you’ve prosecuted in much more important cases than ours.’

      ‘But I’ve never lost one that was quite so cut and dried,’ he told her contemptuously.

      ‘You didn’t lose,’ she gasped. ‘Phil went to prison because of you.’

      ‘And you walked away free.’ His eyes were narrowed.

      ‘But not because of you,’ she scorned.

      ‘No, you would have got life if I’d had my way!’

      ‘Life?’ she repeated dazedly. ‘Even if I had been guilty, which I wasn’t, I certainly didn’t deserve life!’

      ‘I happen to think you did.’

      ‘That was obvious,’ Leonie snapped.

      ‘You were guilty, Leonie.’

      Her eyes flashed. ‘The court didn’t seem to agree with you.’

      He shrugged. ‘Unfortunately they can’t always be right. Most of the time, yes, but not always.’

      ‘This time they were!’ she told him vehemently.

      His look was dismissive of such a claim. ‘The wedding ring on your finger, is it real?’

      ‘Of course it’s real! You——’

      ‘You mean there was a Mr Carter?’ He sounded sceptical.

      ‘Yes, there was a Mr Carter!’

      ‘And he walked out on you.’

      ‘No, he died. You already know I’m a widow.’

      ‘You’ve lied before, you could be lying now. I had no idea my aunt’s friend Leonora was really Leonora Gordon, the girl who——’

      ‘Mr Noble,’ Leonie cut in stiffly, ‘my past is my affair. The fact that you happen to know about it shouldn’t make any difference.’

      ‘But it does,’ he said silkily soft. ‘Don’t you think my aunt is entitled to know that her trusted friend was once prosecuted by me on behalf of her lover?’

      ‘He was not my lover!’ she denied heatedly, her initial fear now fading to anger. She didn’t have to take this abuse from him, she was no longer on trial.

      ‘Wasn’t he?’ Giles Noble’s mouth twisted scornfully. ‘Jeremy tells a different story.’

      ‘I’m sure he does,’ she said disgustedly. ‘He has a reputation to maintain.’

      ‘You aren’t trying to tell me that he made all that up? Because if you are I should save your breath; he went into the affair in great detail. I probably know as much about you as he does.’

      Leonie’s face blazed with colour and she felt sick. She had allowed Jeremy to touch her more intimately than any other man had done, might even eventually have slept with him, but she hadn’t. She hadn’t! That he had invented the details of their affair she knew, and it was obvious that Giles Noble believed every word.

      ‘Why should his story be any more believable than mine?’ she challenged. ‘It takes two, you know.’

      ‘So I heard.’ Once again his mouth twisted with contempt.

      ‘Mr Noble——’

      Emily came back into the room, beaming at them both. ‘For once Dorothy hasn’t been quite so efficient. Your bed is still made up, Giles.’

      ‘Then I suggest we all retire for the night,’ he said smoothly, showing none of his animosity towards Leonie in front of his aunt.

      Leonie was only too glad to go to bed, although she couldn’t sleep once she was prepared for bed, pacing the room as she wondered what Giles Noble’s next move would be. She was surprised he hadn’t given her away to his aunt at once, although his remark about his aunt being entitled to know seemed to point to him not being silent for much longer.

      What would happen when he told Emily, dear kind Emily who tried never to believe a bad word about anyone? Well, she couldn’t be sacked, not directly, she was contracted by the publishing company and not by Emily herself, and yet things could be made so unpleasant for her here that she would have to leave. And if she left she would be in breach of contract. Because Emily couldn’t work without her illustrator in residence it had been written into Leonie’s contract that she had to live at Rose Cottage. At the time of signing the contract she hadn’t minded moving in here, but now it wouldn’t be possible for her to stay.

      She still hadn’t got over the shock of seeing John Giles Noble again. She must have had a premonition of this meeting, why else had he been so much in her thoughts the last few days? He had it within his power to hurt her unbearably, to strip her of all the quiet happiness she had managed to attain for herself the last few years. All her security had been taken from her in a single moment. At the first glimpse of those steely grey eyes after four years she had known that Giles Noble wouldn’t let her escape without making her suffer all that humiliation once again.

      She spun around as her bedroom door slowly opened, her eyes opening wide as Giles Noble quietly entered. He closed the door behind him, leaning back against it, his arms folded across his chest. Leonie pulled her silky bathrobe more securely about her, making sure the belt was firmly tied. Not that she feared any moves from him in that direction, he had made his contempt of her very clear. No, it had been an involuntary action on her part, and one that seemed to give him amusement.

      ‘What do you want?’ she demanded.

      ‘What sort of question is that to ask the man who’s just entered your bedroom?’ he drawled, moving to slowly look around the bedroom she had made her own.

      ‘This