‘Don’t you ever wear anything else?’ she asked without thinking, at once biting her lip. ‘I’m sorry,’ her voice was stilted, ‘I didn’t mean to be rude.’
‘I take it you mean the suit. I have half a dozen made a year for wearing in court.’
‘But surely it doesn’t really show under that black flowing thing?’
He gave a wry smile. ‘That “black flowing thing” happens to be a dignified part of my profession.’
‘Yes.’ She repressed a shiver. The black gown he wore in court had often turned him into a bird of prey in her dreams, the gown appearing as wings, wings he wrapped about her before he devoured her. ‘Whose life are you hoping to ruin today?’ she asked bitterly.
His mouth tightened. ‘The man in question is as guilty as hell,’ he told her grimly.
‘It must be nice to always believe that,’ her mouth twisted. ‘I wonder how many of them were really innocent.’
‘As you were?’ he scorned.
‘As I was. There’s no point in this conversation, Mr Noble. I can’t prove my innocence, if I could I would have done so four years ago. Your friend Jeremy is much more believable. It’s easier to believe a Harley Street doctor than the young girl who imagined herself in love with him.’
‘You didn’t love him at all,’ Giles said tautly. ‘You and your brother used his infatuation with you to try and obtain money from him. How did you feel about seeing Philip Trent this weekend? Did you find you still love him?’
‘I’ve always loved Phil, but not in the way you mean,’ she told him resentfully. ‘Take me back, Mr Noble. I shall pack my belongings and leave immediately.’ Damn the contract, she wouldn’t live through this agony again, not again. ‘You can explain the reasons for my departure to your aunt.’
‘I don’t intend telling my aunt anything,’ he surprised her by saying.
Leonie gave him a sharp, suspicious glance. ‘Why?’
‘I never discuss my cases with her. I never discuss them with anyone.’
‘But surely this is different? Surely—You don’t want to tell her because you still plan to have an affair with me!’ she accused heatedly. ‘You’re hoping to use my past to force me into an affair with you. My God, you’re worse than any criminal you’ll ever meet in the courtroom!’
His mouth twisted. ‘You know damn well that isn’t how it’s supposed to happen, Leonie.’
‘Yes!’ she insisted. ‘But I won’t be forced. No man will ever use me again, not in any way.’
‘Not even Trent?’ he taunted harshly. ‘Didn’t you and he discuss using the same method on me that you used on Jeremy?’
‘You?’ Leonie’s eyes were wide, deep blue eyes the colour of pansies.
‘Yes, me,’ he confirmed tautly. ‘Last night I was just trying to make things easy for you, see how far you were prepared to go at our first meeting. You’re an even better actress now than you were four years ago, your outrage seems quite genuine.’
‘Maybe that’s because it is genuine! You mean you came to my room last night hoping to trap me, trying to make me attempt to blackmail you?’ She was incredulous at the deviousness of this man’s mind.
Giles gave her a sideways glance. ‘Don’t tell me it never crossed your mind.’
‘But it didn’t!’
‘If you had agreed to my suggestion last night I would have been disappointed,’ he drawled insultingly. ‘I have you marked down as much cleverer than that. I was supposed to be really desperate for you before you agreed to come to me.’
‘Come to you…?’
He shrugged. ‘I’m a prominent barrister, third generation. I would want to protect my reputation and family name at all costs. And it would be a fitting revenge, wouldn’t it, Leonie?’
She swallowed hard. ‘Revenge…?’
‘Don’t tell me you never thought of revenge.’ His mouth twisted.
‘Yes, I thought of it!’ Her eyes sparkled with hatred. She had thought of revenge many times, until Tom had reasoned that John Noble was just doing his job, that if it hadn’t been him it would have been someone else. But he hadn’t had to enjoy it, hadn’t had to be quite so cruelly sadistic!
Giles gave a mocking smile. ‘I knew you would. Those huge blue eyes of yours can be so candid on occasion. I saw the hate in them every time I looked at you, saw the anger burning there. You may have changed outwardly, Leonie, assumed a sophisticated veneer, but those eyes are unmistakable. I would have recognised them anywhere.’
‘There’s no reason why you shouldn’t,’ she said tightly, trying to take in all that he was saying.
‘But you didn’t think I would.’
‘I didn’t?’ She wasn’t even listening to him any more, her head was aching, her temples throbbing. She would leave here today, would get as far away from him as possible, and would try to build a life for herself—once again.
‘You said so yourself last night,’ he reminded her. ‘Different name, different look—oh no, my recognising you wasn’t part of the plan at all. I could see the shock in your face when I showed straight away that I knew you were Leonora Gordon.’
‘I was shocked at seeing you, not at being recognised!’
‘Oh yes?’ he scorned.
‘Yes,’ she insisted heatedly. ‘I had no idea you were Emily’s nephew.’
‘You’re saying she never spoke to you about me?’ he derided. ‘Even though I know she takes great pride in telling every new acquaintance of how proud she is of me.’
‘She wouldn’t if she knew what a bastard you are!’
He shrugged. ‘She knows, she just chooses to ignore it. You may have noticed, she sees no wrong in anyone.’
‘I’ve noticed,’ Leonie muttered. ‘But I had no way of knowing that Emily’s nephew Giles, and John Noble, were one and the same man. They certainly didn’t sound like the same man.’ Emily’s glowing accounts of her nephew had no bearing on the man Leonie had met in that court four years ago.
‘It won’t work, Leonie,’ Giles drawled mockingly. ‘I would never get caught in a trap like that.’
‘Too intelligent, I suppose,’ she said sarcastically.
‘You could say that. Of course, I could have let this charming little charade take its course, and then told you the truth, but that would just be a waste of your time and mine. I’ll take you back to the cottage now, I’ll even drive you back to London if you still want to go.’
‘I don’t.’ She suddenly came to a decision. She liked it at Rose Cottage, enjoyed her work, and she loved Emily’s company, so she wasn’t going to be driven away. Tom had taught her to stand firm when she believed in something, and she believed in her right to live her life without interference from Giles Noble.
He raised dark eyebrows. ‘Do I take that to mean you’ve changed your mind about leaving?’
‘You can take it how you like, Mr Noble,’ she said with saccharine sweetness. ‘But I am contracted to work with Emily, and that’s exactly what I intend doing.’ She looked at him challengingly.
‘And if I tell her about you?’
Leonie faced him unflinchingly, suddenly very calm and in control. This man couldn’t hurt her any more, and she intended showing him that. ‘I’m sure that in her usual fashion she’ll skip over the more unpleasant parts and see me only as a girl caught in the force of circumstances. Yes, you go ahead and tell her, Mr Noble. I really couldn’t give a damn any more what you do.’
‘No! If I have to leave this