Irresistible Temptation(4)

By: Sara Craven

'Not here?' Olivia repeated, stunned. 'Oh, I don't believe it.'

The silvery eyes became chips of ice. 'Well, I don't propose to allow you to search the house, Miss—er?'

'I'm Olivia Butler. Has Jeremy not mentioned me?'

Slowly and silently he shook his head, his eyes narrowing.

It was a setback, but not irretrievable, she told herself.

She took another deep breath, forcing a smile. 'Well, it doesn't really matter. I—I'm sorry that I've arrived at a bad time, and clearly I should have checked with Jeremy first, but no real harm done.'

'I think,' he said softly, 'that I'll be the judge of that. What exactly do you want, Miss Butler?'

'Firstly, I'd like to come in,' she said. 'I've been on a hot, stuffy train and I'd like to freshen up.'

'Naturally,' he said. 'But what makes you think this is an appropriate place to do it? Was there no restroom at the station—Euston—Waterloo or whatever?'

'Paddington,' she said. 'Of course there was. But that's not the point.'

'Then what is the point?' He was still blocking the doorway. 'I would really like to know.'

No more beating round the bush, Olivia decided.

She said, 'I've come here to live—to be with Jeremy.'

He didn't appear to move, and there was no visible change in his expression, yet Olivia sensed a new and dangerous tension in the atmosphere. She felt as if he'd taken one menacing stride towards her, and she had to overcome the impulse to take a step backwards.

That's very enterprising of you,' he drawled, after a long pause. 'Did you know that Jeremy is married?'

'I certainly know that he's separated,' she corrected coolly. 'And, anyway, I think that's our business, not yours.'

'On the contrary, I concern myself with all kinds of things.' He paused again. 'I suggest you give me the address where you'll be staying, and I'll pass it on to Jeremy when he returns. Then, if he wishes to make contact, he can.'

'Address?' Olivia repeated in bewilderment. 'But I'm staying here—to wait for him.'

'No,' he said. 'You're not.'

'I don't understand…'

'It's perfectly simple. You want to move in. I'm telling you it's not going to happen.'

Her lips parted helplessly. 'You mean you're turning me away?'

'Now you're getting there,' he approved sardonically. 'Foolish it may be, but I don't give house room to indigent girls who turn up out of the blue claiming acquaintance with a member of the household.

'I'm far from indigent, and it's rather more than acquaintance,' she said hotly.

'So you say.' He shrugged, and the dressing gown slipped a fraction. 'Sorry, darling. Better luck elsewhere.'

'But I've nowhere else to go.' Olivia heard and despised the faint squeak of panic in her voice. 'I—I don't know anyone in London.'

'Then here's some excellent advice.' His voice was suddenly harsh. 'Go back to wherever you came from, and we'll pretend this never happened.'

The momentary fear gave way to anger. 'I don't need your advice,' she said curtly. 'Nor am I leaving. And when I see Jeremy I'll tell him exactly the kind of welcome I received at his home. You can count on that.'

'Whereas you, sweetheart, can't count on a thing.' She felt her anger matched by his. 'It's a pity you didn't check he'd be around before you set out Not that it would have made any real difference,' he added, with another perilous shrug. 'I still wouldn't let you stay. Now run along.'

'Damn you,' she said furiously. 'Who the hell do you think you are? And just what right have you to tell me what to do?'

'I happen to own this house.' His voice was like ice. 'Which gives me any rights I choose to assume, lady.'

'But Jeremy…'

'Jeremy is my guest—my temporary lodger, nothing more. Whatever he may have told you, or you chose to believe,' he added with crushing emphasis.

She wanted to scream at him—call him a liar. But there was something about his words which held the ring of truth.

She also wanted to die. But not, she decided, before she had murdered this sneering man in front of her. Until she had hurt and humiliated him, and ground him into the dust before dancing on his unmarked grave.

But that, unfortunately, had to be in the long term. Right now she needed somewhere affordable to stay.

She wasn't poor by any means, she reminded herself. She had a respectable balance in her current account, and a credit card. She could get by until she found a job.

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