She had been warned of Caleb Steele's aversion to meeting the press whenever possible but she hadn't realised he could be so elusive, almost as bad as his father. Polite letters to his office had been ignored; telephone requests to have a meeting with Caleb Steele had been politely evaded by his secretary; a visit to his London home two days ago had introduced her to Luke Steele, his notorious son. Where the grandfather and father seemed to avoid publicity the grandson seemed to court it! He was always in trouble of one kind or another, always being asked to leave hotels and restaurants because of his outrageous behaviour, and had been thrown out of two universities at the last count.
But he had been very friendly towards her yesterday afternoon, and if she had been a little wary of his over-bright eyes and unkempt appearance she forgave him the minute he invited her to his party, assuring her that his father was going to be there.
She had even ignored the over-familiarity and the provocative remarks he kept making when she got to the party, and the way it seemed impossible to escape his company—or not to notice the amount of alcohol he was consuming.
She could remember all that, the noise, the loud laughter of too many people having drunk too much, could remember deciding shortly before eleven that Caleb Steele wasn't going to come to his son's party after all, remembered telling Luke Steele she was leaving, and then—nothing. The next thing she had been aware of was that slap to her bottom!
Promiscuity hadn't been something she consciously avoided, but something she ignored. That sort of relationship was for other people, not her. She had her friends, a lot of them, male and female alike, admittedly more of the latter than the former, but that was probably because a lot of men didn't believe there could be just friendship between a man and a woman. She believed the opposite, that friendship should come before the love. She and Harry had been friends from the moment they walked through the gate on their first day at school, when Harry had given a painful tug on the single braid that lay down her spine, and she had turned around and punched him straight on the nose! They had both been too proud to cry and so they had laughed instead. After that they had be come inseparable, their friendship surprising them both—if not other people—by turning to love when they were both fifteen.
And she had betrayed that love last night with a man like Caleb Steele!
She didn't even need to guess what Harry would think of the other man; she knew the two men would have disliked each other intensely, Harry so open and boyishly handsome, Caleb Steele hiding any emotions he might have behind that harsh face and cold black eyes. They were as different as night and day, one devil, one angel, and she—she had lain with the devil!
A brisk knock on the bathroom door made her jump nervously. ‘Breakfast is here, Cat,’ Caleb Steele informed her abruptly. ‘Either run the water and have a shower or come out and eat,’ he advised irritably. ‘You can't stay in there all day.'
She wished she could! Maybe other women could handle this situation confidently, but she couldn't. And she certainly couldn't sit down to breakfast in an evening dress!
‘Cat?’ his voice had sharpened. ‘Have you fallen asleep in there?'
Asleep? She didn't think she was ever going to fall asleep again—too afraid of what she would find when she woke up!
‘Answer me, Cat,’ he advised in a steely voice. ‘Or would you rather suffer the embarrassment of my having someone break the door down?'
She swallowed hard, barely breathing, trembling like a leaf about to fall from a tree. ‘I don't want any breakfast,’ she told him a quivery voice, on the verge of tears.
That velvet rasp sounded directly through the wood behind her head, and she moved hastily away, turning to stare at the door with wide eyes.
‘Cat, are you crying?’ He sounded incredulous at the idea.
Was she crying? Yes, she could taste the tears on her top lip, although she hadn't been aware of them falling. Why shouldn't she cry when her heart was breaking into little pieces!
‘Cat, open the door,’ he encouraged now, persuasively. ‘There's no need for this, Cat,’ he cajoled softly. ‘Would it help if I told you nothing happened between us last night? That I didn't even touch you until this morning?'
Hope flared in her over-bright green eyes, and then it faded, leaving her looking more miserable than ever. ‘Not when it isn't the truth,’ she said dully.
‘But it is,’ he insisted firmly. ‘I was damned angry this morning when I let you think we had made love. Open the door, Cat, and we'll talk.'
Why on earth was he so obsessed with her unlocking the door? What did he—no, he couldn't think that! God, if she were the type to commit suicide she would have done it years ago, and over a much more worthwhile man than Caleb Steele.
She straightened, her head back proudly. ‘I'll be out as soon as I've showered. Would you please order me a taxi so that I can leave immediately?'
For a moment that was silence on the other side of the door. ‘Very well,’ he bit out coldly, no longer so close to the door. ‘The hysterics are over, I take it? he derided.
She stiffened. ‘You can rest assured that I don't intend using your razor to cut my wrists!'
‘That might be a little difficult,’ he drawled. ‘I use an electric shaver!'
Cat bristled indignantly at his mockery. ‘I could always used it as a saw!'
A soft throaty chuckle answered her anger. ‘Your name does fit, Cat,’ he murmured admiringly. ‘You spit and claw right back, don't you?'
‘I thought you already knew that,’ she reminded bitterly.
‘I told you,’ he said softly. ‘I didn't make love to you last night.'
Was he telling the truth? She didn't know. But she desperately needed to believe that he was, slowly unlocking and opening the door, looking up at him anxiously, coal-black eyes staring straight back at her. And she could read nothing from them, years of deliberately shielding his emotions making that impossible. Cat continued to stare back at him.
‘You were already in my bed when I got home,’ Caleb Steele told her briskly. ‘And by that time I was too damned tired to care who I shared my bed with!'
Cat's face drained of colour, leaving two deep green pools of bewildered hurt.
‘How the hell old are you that it shocks you out of your mind to even think of sharing a bed with a man?’ He scowled at the accusation in her expression.
‘Old enough,’ she muttered.
‘For what?’ He turned away disgustedly, his hands thrust into the pockets of his trousers, pulling the material taut across his thighs.
‘For whatever,’ she returned sharply.
‘Eighteen isn't old enough for whatever!’ he rasped, scowling heavily. ‘Is there anyone that's going to be worried by your non-appearance last night?’ he suddenly frowned.
She thought of Vikki, and then as quickly dismissed her friend and flatmate. Vikki would probably be gleefully lying in wait for her when she got home, demanding to know all the details, had been urging her for years to take a lover.
‘You mean like a father or brother?’ She arched honey-blonde brows at him.
His mouth was tight. ‘Or a husband?'
Her laugh was brittle. ‘God, yes, I could be married, couldn't I?’ she said hardly.
‘Are you?’ Black eyes were narrowed, as if he didn't like the idea of sharing a bed with a married woman, under any circumstances.
‘No,’ she assured him flatly. ‘Nor engaged, nor seeing anyone seriously. I don't have a brother and my parents live in Cornwall, so you needn't worry about Daddy coming after you with a shotgun!'