Irresistible Temptation(6)

By: Sara Craven

'Everyone whose house backs on to it,' he returned laconically. 'It's a communal venture.'

Then, into the phone, 'Sasha—sorry to annoy you at the weekend, but do you have any place available in that doss-house of yours?' The lines beside his mouth deepened in amusement as he studied Olivia's sudden rigidity. 'Yes, just one waif and stray—female—wandering in off the street'

He laughed. 'No, not feline, although I'd say she had claws.' He listened for a moment, grinning. 'Not a chance, my love. She's definitely not my type, and claims to be spoken for anyway. You can? You're a saint I'll send her round.'

He switched off the phone. 'Well, that's you fixed up.'

She glared at him. 'It never occurred to you that I'd like to make my own arrangements, I suppose?'

'Frankly, no.' His grin deepened. 'So, what was your major plan? Camping on my doorstep, looking hopeless and helpless, until Jeremy comes back?' He shook his head. 'You'd lower the tone of the neighbourhood.'

'No, you'll be all right with Sasha,' he went on, ignoring her furious gasp. 'Her lodgers seem to be a transient population, so she's usually got a room free.'

'Sasha.' Olivia paused 'Is she Russian?'

'No.' His face softened momentarily, making him seem almost human. Even attractive. And increasing that vague sense of familiarity. 'Just eccentric.'

He gave her a level look with no amusement at all. 'And she's got a kind heart, so I would take it personally if she was made a fool of in any way. By someone doing a runner, for instance, without paying the rent.'

'She'll be paid.' Olivia stopped trying to work out where she could possibly have seen him before, and reverted effortlessly to simply loathing him again. 'Although I don't expect to be staying there long.'

'Of course not. You'll be waiting for Jeremy to provide a suitable love-nest, no doubt. And maybe he will. Only it won't be under my roof.'

'And what the hell has it to do with you?'

He shrugged, unruffled. 'As I mentioned, he's married. Maybe I have more scruples.'

And, as if on cue, a girl's voice called, 'Declan—Declan, darling, where are you?'

Olivia, glancing toward the hall, could see long bare legs descending the stairs. Up to that moment she'd thought no one could be wearing less than her reluctant host, but she was wrong.

The redhead who now appeared and stood, posing co, in the doorway was using a peach-coloured towel as an inadequate sarong.

'Darling,' she said, pouting reproachfully. 'I woke up and couldn't find you. It was horrid.' She glanced towards Olivia, her glance hardening fractionally. 'But I didn't realise you were—entertaining.'

Her laugh was slightly metallic. 'If this is your latest, then your taste must be slipping.'

Indignant colour flared in Olivia's face at this piece of gratuitous rudeness, but before she could speak Declan stepped forward.

'Wrong on all counts, Melinda, my sweet Ms Butler is just a passing acquaintance.' He sent Olivia an edged look. 'And, hopefully, passing out of my life for good very soon. Now go back to bed, and I'll see you presently.'

The girl sent him a radiant smile, the tip of her pink tongue caressing her lower lip. 'Is that a promise?' she asked huskily.

'Trust me.' His voice was low-pitched, intimate. The air in the room seemed suddenly alive—electric.

For a shocked moment, Olivia was aware of a slight frisson—a tingle down her own spine.

The Owner might be loathsome, but he was also undeniably sexy—if you liked that sort of thing. As the redhead falling out of the peach towel obviously did, for she was turning and trailing obediently back upstairs.

Olivia felt oddly desolate, suddenly. But small wonder, she thought. After all, she'd arrived expecting a blissful reunion     with Jeremy, leading to a passionate consummation, and instead here she was, an intruder, forced into the role of voyeur in someone else's love-life.

There was a strange silence in the room that she needed to break.

She cleared her throat. 'I gather you don't have any moral scruples about your own conduct?'

'Correct.' His grin was unabashed. 'But I'm not married, and never have been. That makes a difference.' He paused. 'Nor am I a home-wrecker.'

The atmosphere tingled again.

Olivia said coldly and clearly, 'If you'll give me this woman's address, I'll go.'

He picked up a message pad and wrote on it. 'It's on the other side of the garden. You'll be able to pick up a black cab at the end of the road if you can't walk that far with your luggage.'

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