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Authors: Abigail Anderson

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BOOK: Battle Lines.
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However, if she had stayed could she have put up with the continuous fights with Jake for ten years? She knew that the answer to that was a resounding no.

Continually fighting with Jake was exhausting and soul destroying. She probably would have been a nervous wreck by now.

It wasn’t long before they came back into the room. Her mother was looking anxious and worried, whereas Jake.

Oh boy, Amanda was in big trouble. His face said it all. It was dark like thunder, and even that description was way too mild a word for the ominous black bleak expression running across his face.

Oh he knew, her mother had told him about her being married. Great, there was no way out of it now. It was a pretence that she would have to keep going. Why did she keep saying such stupid things? It was all Jake’s fault, he made her do it.

“So…” her mother started as she began pouring tea into the cups. Amanda could feel the hostile heat emanating from Jake who was now sitting in a high backed chair to her right.

She could also feel his anger. It hit her in giant waves that threatened to drown her. “What is your husband like? How did you meet? What is his name?”

“Name.” Amanda squeaked.

“Yes, he is my son-in-law after all. I should know something about him.”

Amanda knew that now was the time to come clean and explain that it was a mistake, a misunderstanding. They would be angry but they would get over it and she wouldn’t have to continue. She opened her mouth to say just that but then her eye caught Jake.

He sat seething in his chair. His arms resting on the armrests. If anyone was a candidate for spontaneous combustion, he was it.

This was her chance to get back at him for a change. He baited her often enough. Why couldn’t she repay the comp-liment? It would do him good to be on the receiving end for once. To feel at a disadvantage for once. Why did it always have to be her?

“Alan.” She said, though where she had pulled that name from she had no idea. It wasn’t as though she had made a conscious decision.

“And will he be joining you whilst you are here? He will have to come to dinner of course.” Her mother said unenthusiastically.

“Of course.” Jake replied dryly, or was that sarcastically. Finally, Amanda thought, chalk one up to me. I finally got under his skin. She should have felt bad but for the moment she refused to.

“I am afraid he is rather busy. He may not be able to make it this trip. I will ask anyway.” She smiled sweetly.

“What does he do? This husband of yours.” Jake asked curtly. Oh yes, Jake did not like this at all. She could tell

Amanda felt like grinning stupidly like a Cheshire cat but she bit it back. Jake would grow suspicious if she gave herself way.

If Amanda had been really smart. She would have stopped the charade right there and then. If she had had the gift of seeing into the future she would have ended it. But she had no idea how quickly this lie was going to snowball to epic proportions and she had no idea what was about to come.

Had she known she would have ended it? But as it was she could not see into the future and her rotten luck was back on her side again.

“He is in the antiques business.” One more little white lie. In the grand scheme of things, she had told bigger over the last forty-eight hours. “He works with me.”

“How nice for you.” Jake drawled. He really wasn’t liking this at all.

“Yes it is. It’s great when you can share everything together it’s so… intimate… don’t you agree Jake.” She taunted him, feeling giddy on the power it gave her.

“Excuse me.” The housekeeper intervened at that moment. “There is a gentleman here to see Miss Amanda. He said it is most urgent.” A man, to see her. That was impossible.

Who could possibly…? Then she remembered that she had told Harry where she had been going because she had wanted him to keep in contact about the potential buyer he had set up a meeting with. She had told him to phone her.

A quick feel of her pocket told her she had her mobile on her, so why hadn’t he called, why had he come here.

What has he done now? What mess has he got himself into? It was all Amanda could think of. Something else should have crossed her mind, but that did not come until later.

“Show him in.” Jake told the housekeeper disdainfully, with a sour look on his face.

It was that look, and the tone in his voice, that had been the final straw she realised much later when she would sit and analyse this afternoon.

She had had just about as much as she could take from Jake and his attitude towards her. Acting as though he owned her. That he had some kind of right to her. He had pushed her too far. She was not his property so how dare he treat her as if she was.

Harry came bustling into the room and Jake turned to see who had dared disturb his well laid plans whilst her mother watched on in amusement.

Before Amanda could even think properly, she had jumped up from her seat and ran over to where Harry stood. She flung herself at him and threw her arms around him.

She heard the wind being knocked from Harry’s lungs as his arms automatically came round her waist to stop himself from falling back from the impact he had not been expecting.

“Alan, darling. You made it.” She exclaimed loudly and enthusiastically.


Chapter 10.

Amanda stepped back from him to look at his face, which was a picture. And, not a great one right now. Poor Harry, she thought.

He looked as though he had suddenly found himself standing on the railway tracks with a train hurtling towards him at five hundred miles an hour. He had gone white, no Amanda corrected. He was much paler than that.

She did not need to turn around to know what Jake’s face looked like at that moment. She could feel his eyes drilling rather large holes in her back.

Harry was a dead man if Jake got hold of him. What had she gotten him into?

She should say something. She regretted the act the moment she had done it. However, the situation was still salvageable. Even up to this point.

If she owned up to it right now. She could argue that it was all Jake’s fault. Jake had goaded her into saying it, she could defend. So technically all of this was his fault.

She took a deep breath and turned round and opened her mouth to speak. Unfortunately, Harry took that particular moment, after a quick mental assessment, to get what was going on.

And, after a careful reflection he decided that it would be best to play along with his boss, after all he wasn’t exactly in his boss’s good books after screwing up with that statue thing. If this helped to make amends, then so be it.

“Emee darling.” Harry exclaimed delightedly as he grabbed her. He whirled her round to face him once more and kissed her soundly on the lips before she could stop him. “Finally I made it. You wouldn’t believe the journey I have had. No, you don’t want to hear it. How is my little pudding face?” he pinched her cheeks, hard. Too hard. “Did you miss me?” He asked in a tone that one would take with a beloved pet.

Amanda raised an eyebrow at him, pudding face! Harry took no notice of the look she threw him. Instead he threw back a mischievous look with a devilish smile.

Was that growling she could hear? Oh she knew who that would be without having to turn around. Harry was so gonna get it. And so was she at some point, she had no doubt.

“Alan. I would like you to come meet my family.” She told him as she grabbed his hand forcefully trying to silently warn him not to push his luck. Jake was already angry enough.

“Oh I am so excited.” Harry said in what could only be described as a camp voice as he bounded along behind her. A bounce in his step and a little wiggle in his hips.

Then he walked passed her and with big exaggerated arm movements. Harry walked forward exclaiming in animated fashion

“You must be Emee’s sister. You look so much alike. It’s uncanny.” Amanda bit down on a smile that was dangerously close to forming. In fact, she did not know whether to laugh out loud or burst out crying.

Still, she guessed the more obnoxious Harry was the more Jake’s nose would be put out of joint. And that’s what she wanted. She smiled secretly to herself,

Of course the more obnoxious Harry was the more likely it would be that she would end up buying a plot for him in the local churchyard.

“No. I am Amanda’s mother.” Her mother smiled as she corrected him.

“No.” Harry exclaimed in shock. “Really? But you look so young.” He told her and she watched her mother blush slightly.

“Why thank you.”

“Perhaps I married the wrong one?” Harry cast a look in Amanda’s direction and then back to her mother. “Emee is starting to look a little worse for wear these days.” He told them all in a loud voice. “Your skin is so translucent. It’s a shame Emee didn’t inherit that from you. She is looking quite dowdy.” Harry tutted.

“Alan.” Amanda said in a warning tone but Harry completely ignored her.

“You must tell me what your secret is. And this.” He put his hands to his mouth and looked over at Amanda before turning back in the direction of Jake. “And this must be your brother Jakey wakey.” Oh god, he was so dead. Amanda’s heart raced in alarm.

She really had to stop him, right now. “I have heard so much about you Jakey. All good things I promise. I feel like we are brothers, brother.” And then she almost fell on the floor with hysterics as he threw his arms around Jake and hugged him.

Not just a small quick hug. But a full on squeezy tight hug that went on for at least thirty seconds or more, and finishing with Harry slapping Jake on the back.

Jake stood stock still, unmoving. His fists at his sides clenching and unclenching. But it was his face. That menacing look, that face said it all.  Harry was in trouble. She was in trouble. And there was going to be no escaping it.

“Alan… darling.” Amanda crossed the room quickly coming to stand next to Harry.

She moved sideways, bringing her hands to Harry’s arms and pushing him back away from Jake as she positioned herself between them.

She could feel Jake at her back. The hair on her neck stood up to attention. She was sure she could hear Jake grinding his teeth. She must not laugh. “Alan why don’t you sit down and I will pour you some tea.” Harry did as he was told, thankfully and she retook her seat as she felt Jake slide back down into his own.

When she had poured Harry his tea and passed it to him with shaky fingers Jake silently held out his cup to her and without looking up at his face she poured some more tea into it. Being very careful not to spill any. She knew Jake’s eyes were watching her face intently she did not need to look up to know it. She could feel it.

“Ah, Alan.” Her mother began, cutting into the thick tense silence of the room. “Amanda was telling us that you have been married for four years now.”

“Oh the wedding was a wonderful affair. It was a shame that you could not attend.”

“Yes, that was a shame.” Jake agreed sardonically.

“If I had known Jakey I would have spoken to you directly. But Emee said that you were too busy to come. And that you wouldn’t have wanted to be there.” Amanda looked down at her lap. If Jake did not kill him she would.

“I wasn’t too busy.” Jake said roughly. “Trust me, I would have made the time.” Yes, Amanda was sure that he would have. He would have made sure that he got there long before the wedding to make sure that it never went ahead in the first place. He was horrible like that.

“Anyway.” Harry continued. “Some people said I went a little over the top, especially with the hot air balloon. The basket had layers of pink taffeta and little shiny red hearts. It was so beautiful.” He turned to her. “Am I right…? I am so right.” And then he tuned back to her mother. “Then there were the six and twenty blackbirds and the white doves. There was a full orchestra.” Harry sighed and put a hand on his chest. “Of course nothing was too good for my big day, isn’t that right Emee? I mean I had been waiting a long time for the wedding of my dreams.”

“Um…” Her mother fidgeted in her seat. “Perhaps there are photos of the wedding.” Her mother said. Oh great, why hadn’t she thought about that.

“That is a good idea. I would love to see Amanda in her wedding dress.” Jake said curtly.

“Oh yes, I am sure you looked lovely in white.” Her mother gushed and Harry burst out laughing and slapped his thigh with his hand.

“Well that would have been hypocritical of her don’t you think? No, she was in a rather fetching… scarlet. Wasn’t you dear.”

“Ah… yes.” She agreed. Note to self, really kill Harry later.

“So… um… what are your plans for the future?” Her mother asked him changing the subject.

“Oh I am so glad you asked.” Harry bounced on his seat as he clapped his hands together avidly. “You see Jackie. May I call you Jackie? Of course I can. What was I thinking darling?” Harry proceeded to pat her mother’s knee.

Amanda did not know what he was thinking. Heck, the question should have been what in the world was she thinking. “For the last couple of years we have both been busy with our careers. Of course I am a fair husband and very tolerant. After all I allow Emee to work.”

Amanda and Jake both winced at the same time. She chanced a glance up at him but only managed to be brave enough to get as far as the cup he was holding in his hands.

If he grabbed that cup any tighter it was going to shatter, Amanda thought. “But I really think the time has come for me to start thinking of having a family. The time is right, and after all that is why you get married is it not Jackie. Am I right? I’m right. Emee is not getting any younger poor thing. That little biological clock is ticking away. Tick, tick.” Harry said and Amanda bit back on another wince as she felt the colour infuse her cheeks.

“Of course…” her mother gave a delicate little cough and exchanged a look with Jake. Who shook his head warningly at her?

“Although maybe we will adopt. Knowing my luck, they will all pop out and end up being very… red headed. If you know what I mean. She can get so…” Harry stopped.

“Pig headed.” Jake suggested.

“Oh that’s not the half of it. That temper of hers.” Harry shook his head and tutted.

“So were you thinking of a small family.” Her mother again.

“Well I thought maybe six or seven.” Amanda choked on her tea. Harry turned and patted her back several times. “I don’t know I can’t take her anywhere. Has she always been this much trouble?” Harry turned back to her mother.

“Um.” Her mother began but Harry was already swapping his attention to Jake.

“Come on Jakey, you can tell me. Brother to brother. How much trouble was she when she was growing up?” He lowered his tone a little.

“Not nearly as much trouble as she is now.” Jake told him.

“They do say that they get worse with age.” Harry agreed. “I was kind of hoping that she would mellow, you know like a fine wine.”

“Amanda’s always been more of a champagne.” Jake commented. Really? She wasn’t sure if that had been a compliment.

“It looks like I still have some work to do.” 

“I doubt you will change her Alan.” Jake told him. “You’re not man enough to handle her.” Amanda felt herself blush. Harry ignored the comment.

“If she were an animal she’d be a tiger.” Harry said now.

“More like an anaconda or rattle snake.” Jake threw back. It had obviously become a competition to see who could insult her the most. Jake was probably winning. Rattle snake? Charming.

Harry suddenly snapped his fingers and thumb right under her nose and she blinked to refocus.

“Serviette.” He told her and too bemused to do anything else she did as she was ordered and handed him a serviette from the tray that was set right in front of him. “Of course Emee would have to give up work. I tolerate it of course. However, there is only so much patience a man possesses. Am I right? I am so right.” Harry clicked his fingers again. “Another serviette.”

“Here you go dear.” She said as she handed another serviette to him.

“But it hasn’t been easy.” Harry continued. “You see Emee had many problems when we first met.” He rolled his eyes heavenward and tutted loudly. “I do not know how you managed with her I really don’t. Do you know she had many of her own views and ideas? If you can imagine that.” He scoffed. “And again there is that temper of hers. Never-theless I managed to knock that out of her. Well for the most part.”

She felt Jake move in his chair and for a moment she actually thought that he was going to attack him. Amanda’s heart lurched in her chest and running on automatic she reached out a hand and placed it on Jake’s arm to stop him jumping up.

She looked up straight into his eyes. That pulse was ticking away in his neck again.

“Sorry.” She mumbled and removed her hand from his arm.

“But there have been times when she has tried my patience to breaking point. Well you know how she was.” Harry lowered his voice conspiratorially.

“Well…” Her mother tried again but then stopped.

“Jake. You’ll back me up.”

“She can be… infuriating.” Jake agreed.

“Well that’s putting it mildly.” He scoffed. “And when she gets angry she looks so ugly. She gets this grimace on her face. You know the one Jake. The one that looks like she’s sucking on a lemon.”

“Oh dear.” Her mother said now. She looked as shocked as Amanda was herself.

Didn’t Harry realise how it all sounded. Maybe he did and that was the point. How bad did it make her look, and she probably deserved it, she was the one that had started this lie.

“An angry woman is never flattering. I keep telling her that. I told her that it made her look ugly. Not that she was a raving beauty to start with. Emee my cup.” Amanda took his cup from his hand and put it down on the tray. Even though he was closer to the tray than she was. “The key to a long happy, successful marriage is a well-trained wife. There is nothing worse than a woman that doesn’t know her place. Am I right? I am right. Don’t you agree Jakey?” Harry asked giving Jake his best innocent look.

“No I do not. I think both men and women are equal. A relationship is a partnership. You should cherish the woman you profess to love not bark orders at her as if she were nothing more than a dog.” Jakes voice remained low, clear and concise. His point easily made. “Besides having her own views is one of Amanda’s better qualities.” Really, she never thought she would ever hear something like that out of Jake’s mouth.

Coming from Jake that was a big compliment. The biggest one she had ever received anyway. “And there is something to be said for a fiery temper. It usually indicates the under-lying passion that’s bubbling just underneath the surface.” Amanda blushed profusely and she dared to glance up at Jake.

BOOK: Battle Lines.
10.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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