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Authors: Jane Corrie

Catier's strike

BOOK: Catier's strike
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Catier's strike by Jane Corrie

If only they
hadn't met!

Sean Cartier disliked the press generally and he
had special reason, he thought, to dislike reporter Sarah Helm. His cousin Don had died
after Sarah had broken their engagement.
And if Sarah had known that Sean was Don's cousin she would never have taken the assignment to cover the oil strike at the Australian field where Sean Cartier was in charge.
Sean's acts of revenge—keeping her off the story, holding her captive—infuriated Sarah. Yet underneath there was a strange attraction between them....

Printed in U.S.A.

Books by Jane Corrie

2020—RAINBOW FOR MEGAN 2038—SINCLAIR TERRITORY 2053—GREEN PADDOCKS 2072—THE BAHAMIAN PIRATE 2087—DANGEROUS ALLIANCE 2098—RIMMER'S WAY

2159—RAFFERTY'S LEGACY 2167—PATTERSON'S ISLAND 2194—THE TEXAN RANCHER 2209—PEACOCK'S WALK

2257—THE ISLAND BRIDE 2285—CARIBBEAN COCKTAIL 2313—THE SPANISH UNCLE 2335—TASMANIAN TANGLE 2365—THE STATION BOSS 2384—ISLAND FIESTA

2413—PIRATES' LAIR

2431—BRIDE FOR SALE

2521—ROSS'S GIRL

2551—MAN WITH TWO FACES 2743—

Harlequin Reader Service P.O. Box 52040, Phoenix, AZ 85072-2040 Canadian address: P.O. Box 2800, Postal Station A, 5170 Yonge St., Willowdale, Ont. M2N 6J3

Original hardcover edition published in 1985 by Mills & Boon Limited

ISBN 0-373-02743-5

Harlequin Romance first edition February 1986

Copyright ©1985 by Jane Corrie.

Philippine copyright 1985. Australian copyright 1985.

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.

All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all the incidents are pure invention.

The Harlequin trademarks, consisting of the words HARLEQUIN ROMANCE and the portrayal of a Harlequin, are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited; the portrayal of a Harlequin is registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office and in the Canada Trade Marks Office.

CHAPTER ONE

`WHY didn't you tell me who you were?' Sean Cartier demanded harshly to Sarah Helm, who stood regarding him, her sapphire blue eyes holding a hint of anxiousness in them.

`I didn't know about your connection with Don,' she replied in a low voice. 'He didn't tell me much about his relations. In any case, it was a long time ago,' she added defensively.

Sean's dark brooding glance swept over her diminutive five foot two, and rested briefly on her honey-gold hair, cut close to her head, framing her heart-shaped face. 'Don't give me that,' he growled. 'You're not trying to tell me that a bright reporter like you didn't know of the connection. Oh, no, you knew all right, you just miscalculated on the strength of your charms. I suppose the rest of your pals out there have been having a good laugh at my expense.'

`That's not true,' Sarah replied quietly. 'No one else knows, I can assure you. As I said, it's a long time ago, and it's something I wanted to forget. I'm not likely to have mentioned it to anyone,' her smooth forehead creased in a frown. `I don't know how—'

`How I found out?' sneered Sean. 'That seems to be another of your miscalculations. Let's say a little bird told me. I can understand your reasons for not wanting to broadcast the past. You

wouldn't be half so damn popular with that lot out there if they knew what you'd done to Don, that's for sure!'

Sarah's fine eyes blazed back at him. Now she was angry. What right had he to condemn her? What did he know of the matter? 'You've no right to set yourself up as judge and jury,' she said coldly. 'I don't know what you've heard, but there's another side to it.' She drew in a long breath. 'I'm perfectly willing to tell you my side of the story, if you'll listen,' she told him, her anger now abated. She'd suffered a lot in the past, blaming herself for the tragedy, until some good friends had talked some sense into her.

`I'll bet you are!' Sean bit back caustically at her. 'Only I prefer to use my own judgment. I knew my cousin pretty well, you see. Okay, so he liked a good time, and was a little too fond of the bottle, but that doesn't excuse your treatment of him. Any woman worth her salt would have pulled him round, and from what I heard he was crazy enough about you to have mended his ways, but you sent him over that cliff as sure as if you'd pushed him.' He nodded at Sarah's wince at this bald pronouncement. 'No, it's not a pretty story, is it? It's no wonder you prefer to forget it, but I've got a long memory, Miss Helm, and I'm not likely to forget or forgive.'

His eyes narrowed as he surveyed her. 'You've been on this site for three days,' he said harshly. `You had ample opportunity to explain things then, but you kept quiet, didn't you? My invitations to dinner must have amused you immensely, but I'm afraid your luck didn't hold.

Now you dance to my tune, got that?' he added savagely.

Sarah's white face said that she had got it, and she knew that it was hopeless to try to convince him that she truly had not known that he was Don's cousin. If she had known, she thought bleakly, wild horses wouldn't have dragged her to this barren area of the Northern Territory, possible huge oil strike or no. They could have struck diamonds as large as ostrich eggs for that matter, she still wouldn't have come. She drew herself up to her full height, and met his scathing eyes with complete frankness in hers. 'I'll get my editor to replace me,' she said quietly.

`You'll do no such thing!' Sean thundered at her. 'No one else is coming on this site, and that's flat!'

For a moment Sarah thought that he was willing to let her go on with her assignment, and a small ray of hope gleamed in her eyes, but his next words dashed her expectations.

`You're staying until the project is over, but I'm not having you at the press conferences. You can pick up what gleanings your pals out there will let drop your way, and I don't think it's going to be much. Not with my experience of the newspaper hounds. It's their reputations and scoops that come first, isn't it?' he sneered. 'And you'll not know whether what they do tell you is true, will you?' he added meaningly.

Sarah's lovely eyes showed her indignation. `That's unfair!' she snapped angrily. 'So you don't want me around, but to take it out on my paper is despicable. Let me at least get in touch

with my editor,' the last words were spoken in a soft almost pleading voice, Sarah was not one to beg, but this was her job, and a good one, and she had been chosen to cover this assignment because of her flair for following up the small print and coming up with the goods, that had earned her the nickname of 'Sarah Scoop' by her office compatriots in tolerant amusement.

`By all means,' Sean said loftily, and jerked an arm towards the phone on his desk. 'It might be as well to let him know that his ace reporter has fallen down on the job.'

Sarah took a deep breath, and moved quickly over to the desk. Somehow, Eddie Lyall had to get someone else out there, and fast, or they'd lose out on what could be the story of the year. Sean Cartier had been right in presuming that precious little would be passed on to her. There was a limit to friendship where careers were involved. She heard Eddie's growled, 'News Editor,' and plunged in with, 'Eddie, Sarah here. Look, I'm being taken off the story. I can't explain over the phone, and Mr Cartier doesn't seem willing to replace me—could you—?'

That was as far as she was allowed to get before the receiver was yanked out of her hand. 'Cartier here,' Sean said in a harsh voice. 'Just confirming Miss Helm's call. Don't try and replace your journalist. They won't get past the main gates. As you well know, the ones that are here got on to the site without authority, but I'm willing to stretch a point and let them stay, but that's as far as I'm going.'

Sarah could almost hear Eddie bursting a blood

vessel on the other end of the line, but could do nothing about it. As much as he thought of Sarah's work, he was not likely to forgive her for letting him down on an assignment as big as this one. In her mind's eye she saw herself tramping the circuits of their rivals' offices, looking for work.

Sean Cartier carefully replaced the telephone in the middle of the rapid exchange being fired from her boss's end, and gave Sarah a wolf-like grin of pure satisfaction. 'Goes on a bit, doesn't he?' he commented. 'He ought to be more choosy in picking his staff.'

Sarah wanted to throw the desk memorandum at him, but didn't think it would be worth the effort, and walked to the door of the office.

`Just one small matter, Miss Helm,' he said, almost purring in his pleasure at a thought he had just had. 'We're not likely to get any results through for several days yet, and while I don't mind providing food and lodgings for the rest of the press, they have their job to do, don't they? I don't feel at all charitable where you're concerned. I've heard they're hard up for help in the kitchen—all these extra men, you know,' he added conversationally. 'If it's not beneath your dignity, perhaps you could help out? At least you'll be paying for your keep, won't you?'

Sarah's eyes acknowledged that last order, for it was an order, with more aplomb than she felt, but she had her pride and it saw her through. She gave a small nod, and said, 'Very well, Mr Cartier. I'll try to give satisfaction,' in a voice that suggested that she had just landed a plum job and wanted to show her appreciation.

It worked, and she had the satisfaction of seeing Sean Cartier's eyes blaze back at her. `You'd damn well better,' he snarled at her. 'I'll have no loafers on this site!'

On this cheerful if slightly menacing conclusion of the interview, Sarah left his office and made her way back to the room she was sharing with Martha Smart, who worked for her father's press agency, aptly named 'Get Smart', and who was the last person Sarah would have wanted to pass on the news of her demotion from journalist to scullery maid, for Martha was jealous of Sarah for two good reasons—one, that Sarah had looks, and two, that she was intelligent, and better at her job than Martha could ever be, who had neither looks nor compensating genius, and held her position purely through her doting father's indulgence.

`What did he want to see you about?' asked Martha, pouncing on Sarah as soon as she entered the room that smelt like a beauty parlour and looked it, with Martha's beauty aids spilled over the makeshift dressing table.

Sarah threw her shoulder bag that contained her notebook ready at all times to take a statement down on to her bed and made a wry face, which was immediately misinterpreted by Martha.

`Come on! We all know you're teacher's pet,' she said spitefully. 'You might as well tell me. You can't release anything yet, not until he gives the go-ahead, and we shall know at the lunchtime confab he's holding anyway. Have they found the stuff or not?' she demanded.

Sarah took a deep breath. 'I don't know—' she began hesitantly.

`Don't give me that!' Martha bit out. 'I don't believe you. No wonder you're the star of the Daily! All you've got to do is blink those blue eyes of yours in a certain direction, and you get the scoop, don't you?' she added waspishly.

`Shut up, Martha!' Sarah replied wearily, wiping the sceptical expression off Martha's face. Sarah was not one to snap back like that. All in all, she was usually maddeningly calm when Martha tried to get a rise out of her. 'If you want the truth, there'll be no scoops coming my way on this assignment. In fact, I've been taken off the press list.'

Martha stared at her, her too brightly painted mouth agape and her pale blue eyes blinking in disbelief, then she nodded as an explanation occurred to her, reminding Sarah of a Chinese Mandarin doll that she had been fond of when a child. `Ahah! Things got too hot for you, did they?' Martha exclaimed, unable to keep the note of pure satisfaction out of her voice. 'I could have told you not to play around with the big boss. He's not in the little boys' league, you know. I've got a friend who tangled with him some years ago, got to dreaming about weddings and all that nonsense. Did she get a shock!' Martha savoured that last bit with a smug grimness. `So, as I said, that type doesn't give anything away, not without collecting—and I mean collecting.'

BOOK: Catier's strike
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