Authors: Jackie Williams
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Teen & Young Adult, #Contemporary Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
jumped back a pace or two as the water suddenly rushed up the sand towards her. She knew it was her own fault that she had lost him. She knew that she should have called him weeks ago, given him some hint of her interest, but at the time, it hadn’t seemed to matter. He was going to see her anyway. He’d said he was going to call and she had believed him. She thought he liked her too. He had been so angry, so violent with the two men attacking her and then so gentle, so loving in the way he’d held her in his arms the day she had been ill.
Had he been faking his concern? Could she have completely misread the signs?
If only she had swallowed her pride and phoned the man. There had been no girlfriend three weeks before and he had said that he didn’t want one. However he had inferred that he wanted her in his bed, not that she would have jumped straight into it with him as she wasn’t that type of woman, but right now, right at this very moment as she stood so horribly alone on the beach, she wished desperately that she was.
The tide was only about half way in and she threw a couple of the smooth stones towards the water. They fell pathetically
, far short of the water, onto the wet sand, and her shoulders drooped as she felt as pathetic as her throw.
screaming seagulls came in low over her head, gliding on the wind and making noises as though they were laughing at her.
Angrily she aimed the next stone at one of them, but that fell short too and she had to duck her head as the stone fell back to
earth, missing her by inches and rolling away down the sand. The big bird flapped away lazily, still mocking her as it went.
The wind caught her hair and blew the long strands about her face as she stood and watched the birds diving and then rising in the air again. She rather wished that she could
fly away with them just as Adam had said he wanted to.
taken her twenty minutes to walk to the jetty and she turned wondering if she should get back to help Cathy. The wind gusted along the sea front and her hair became a swirling mass of dark brown as she faced away from the sea. She turned back again to let it blow away from her face before she caught hold of the thick tresses and twisted them into a tight plait to stop it blowing about.
There was a commotion at the lifeboat station and she stopped to watch.
Several men were standing about, their expressions tense. She stopped by the sea wall, not wanting anyone to see her tear-stained face, but it seemed they weren’t interested in her anyway. They appeared slightly agitated, and then relief seemed to sweep over them as a couple of them waved to an oncoming car. They stood back to let the Mercedes pull into a space next door to the big orange boat. They all started running to their positions as Adam launched himself out of the car, his huge figure unmistakeable even from a distance, his untucked shirt flapping in the breeze as he sprinted for the boat. He threw himself into the lifeboat with the other men as it started moving down the slipway.
It was only then that Caroline noticed that someone else had climbed out of the
passenger side of the car at the same time.
The woman walked a
round the front of the car, her hips swinging gently as she took long graceful steps. She stopped for a moment to watch the launching lifeboat.
long, slim legs were sheathed in some kind of tight, figure hugging materialand her blouse fluttered against her flat stomach in the breeze. The wind took her blond hair and blew it about her face as she stood and waved at the boat for a second before she turned, slid elegantly behind the steering wheel of the car and slowly pulled away.
Caroline bit back bitter tears.
His lover! Beautiful, slim, blond and elegant, and allowed to drive his car! She had never stood a chance!
She stared at the vision of beauty as the car slid past her and the
he swivelled round and started to walk as fast as she could back in the direction of the shop.
She didn’t know why she was running away. There was no way that they had seen her. He was far too focused on getting into the boat
and the woman wouldn’t know who she was anyway, but she didn’t want to see him, she couldn’t bear to look at Adam ever again; her heart would surely break.
And then she realized that it was already far t
oo late and her body broke into violent shudders of despair.
The floodgates holding back her
tears crashed open as her chest gave an almighty, lurching heave and her heart split right down the middle.
The letter giving them one week’s notice to quit their premises arrived only six days later. Caroline stared in horrified amazement at the thickly embossed paper.
Cavendish Developments w
as kicking them out nearly two months early! And the extra compensation was pitiful.
She couldn’t believe what she was reading.
How could he?!
She was so shocked that she forgot to be miserable for a moment.
blood heated in her veins as fury swept through her. It was an impossible task. It would mean more than just having to rush everything. She couldn’t afford to be without an income for long and the mobile van idea was far from ready.
Fuming, she shoved the letter under Cathy’s nose.
“Just take a look at that and tell me again that I should have slept with the arrogant bastard!” She couldn’t conceal her rage.
Cathy scanned the letter quickly as she placed several thick chocolate slices on a tray. Her eyes narrowed
and she frowned deeply.
“Who the hell does he think he is? We have to fight this
Caroline; you can’t let him get away with it, especially as our trade is actually picking up. Our net profit has doubled in the last week and I can’t see it dropping off anytime soon, not with all those blokes from the site who keep turning up every day. They all have a terrible sweet tooth.”
That was the worst irony of it all. Sales had gone through the roof as
soon the building work had commenced. Every morning and lunchtime there was an eager queue of builders, slathering at the mouth for the warm, generously sugared bread pudding or thickly iced bakewell tart.
“I know. My dad always says that the way to a bloke’s heart is through his stomach and going by the trade we’ve had recently all these guys have huge hearts.” She looked outside as the usual morning queue began to form.
“Huh! All except one! You’re going to have to go and talk to him. He’s probably in that cabin office type thing they have on the site up the road.” She suggested. “And I’ll bet you just about anything that he’s sitting there eating some kind of low fat, no sugar yoghurt and muesli for breakfast. Maybe you can bribe him with a slice of Victoria Sandwich and persuade him to give us a few more days. This place is going to take ages to clear out.” Cathy glanced round at the packed shop.
Caroline didn’t know whether she even wanted to see him let alone speak to him
but, trying to take a professional attitude, she pulled on her jacket, squeezed past the first of the construction workers as they piled into the shop, and marched purposefully up the road.
up at the huge sign that had been erected on the wire fencing around the construction site.
Cavendish Developments’ was plastered up where it was impossible to miss.
Her temper grew as she shoved her way through some
heavy metal barriers. She stopped and briefly looked around. Being the owner of the company she hardly expected him to be right there, but she had to see someone. She had to do something.
e spotted his sleek Mercedes parked a short distance from an enormous yellow digger and tried not to feel bad about wishing that the huge vehicle had rolled over his car.
She squared her shoulders and hurried pa
st the spotless car and the mud-covered truck, wondering as she passed the gleaming machine, if he didn’t have someone there especially to wash it for him every day. The car was way too shiny to be on a building site.
She stormed up to the nearest port-a-cabin office just as she heard angry shouts directed at her fro
m across the rubble strewn land. She glanced over her shoulder to see an angry worker waving his arms and bellowing at her to get off the site. Ignoring him completely she pounded up the steps of the cabin and threw open the office door.
Adam’s head shot up as the door
crashed open and then banged shut behind her. He was sitting at a huge paper strewn desk, holding a large mug. He had been pouring over a list of figures and technical drawings.
He lowered the mug and placed it on the desk.
Another man sitting opposite him stared at Caroline in open-mouthed amazement, a large slice of sugared bread pudding halfway to his mouth as She flew up to the desk and slammed the letter down in front of Adam.
Tea sloshed over the edge of a full mug that had been positioned on the edge of the drawings, holding them flat. The man dropped the pudding, grabbed a tissue out of his pocket and began blotting the drawin
gs quickly. He picked up the pudding, wiped the spilled granules of sugar into his hand and put it back on a plate with three mor
Adam stared at her in
undisguised surprise. He opened his mouth as though he was about to speak but Caroline forestalled him in splintered, angry tones.
“Who the hell do you think you are? Mr. Big Shot? You can’t do this to me! I can’t pack up my whole shop in just a week.” She raged at him, fire in her eyes, her heart heaving as she tried to remain detached from thinking how wonderful he looked in his open
-necked checked shirt and pale jeans.
She caught sight of a few granules
of sugar attached to his top lip and she had to fight the urge to lean forwards just a little more, tilt her head upwards and lick them off.
Adam sat back down in his chair, stunned by her
furious outburst and gaped back at her. He glanced down at the printed paper and then without speaking, he calmly picked up the letter and looked down to read it. He frowned and then raised his eyebrows before he quickly glanced back up and spoke quietly to his associate.
“Can you give me a couple of minutes
Jim?This won’t take long to sort out.”
The man stared
at Caroline for a long moment and then, grabbing up the piece of half-eaten bread pudding and a hard hat from the shelf just behind the door, he quickly left the cabin.
Adam looked at the letter again in silence. Caroline scowled at him as he read. He put the letter down again, but before he could speak, she hissed at him.
“Don’t you dare pretend you don’t know anything about this! It has your name all over it!”
He thought for a second before answering.
“Maybe, but that still doesn’t mean I know anything about it. I have a huge staff that I delegate to. We’re tight on the schedule here and I’ve been pressing for things to speed up, but that doesn’t mean I’m chucking you out. Yet.” He qualified. “I think someone’s being a little overzealous.” He sounded annoyed but genuine and Caroline let out a pent up breath.
“It’s impossible for me to get
the shop clear in a week Adam. Can’t you do anything?” She pleaded. All the fight had suddenly gone out of her.
He ran a huge hand through his long hair as he glanced over the letter once again, then back up to meet her gaze.
“I don’t know. I’m not even sure who authorized this. Give me a few minutes, will you?” His dark eyes and gentle tone shot bullets of pain through her heart. “I’ll go and find the site manager and see what he’s thinking. There might be something we can do. Stay here, I won’t be long.” He told her, his voice suddenly sharp again.
He levered himself out of the chair, hi
s tensed limbs unwinding slowly. Then he picked up the letter and walked to the door, grabbing a high visibility jacket and shoving a yellow hard hat on his head as he disappeared out of the doorway.
Caroline slumped down in the chair opposite his desk and stared out thr
ough the window behind his seat. She could see him striding across the site, his long denim-clad legs eating up the ground. His high-visibility vest flapped about over his heavy checked shirt as he walked. He was so impossibly gorgeous that she had to find something else to concentrate on.
His papers were spread about everywhere. The multitude of
pencilled drawings and figures were too complicated for her to understand but she could see all the correspondence at the other side of his desk.
The plate with the bread pudding was balanced on top, a big bite out
the corner of one piece. Caroline smiled as she recognised her own generous portions of the spicy cake. Someone must have bought them and brought them down here for him as he had never set foot inside her shop himself. Her smile wavered. The pile of letters the cakes were holding down was huge and she suddenly realized the massive amount of pressure he was under. She almost felt bad about barging in. She stared out of the window at the enormous building site, suddenly comprehending the scale of his enterprise. He really was huge.
flew open again a few minutes later and Adam strode back in. His face was slightly flushed and he stared at her, his dark eyes hard now.
“How about a trade?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I’ve made a
huge compromise on your behalf, but it’s going to cost you. If we change the whole site schedule around we can give you eighteen days maximum. Most of the other shops have already packed up. Apparently we are going to be delayed on the ground works at the other end of the site and so we were trying to get ahead as much as possible up here. So it’s eighteen days or nothing. That’s the best I can do Caroline. Is that good enough for you?” He was looking positively fearsome as he placed his huge hands on the desk and towered over her.
Her anger flared again at his arrogance and she stood up, bristling
all over once again.
“I suppose if it’s the best offer you can make, then I have to accept it. But I’m still not happy about it
Adam.” She moved towards the door, but Adam stepped away from the desk and barred her way, his size filling the doorway entirely.
“I’m not happy about it either, but it’s not just an offer, I said it’s a trade.” He growled down at her. “It’ll mean a lot of fiddling about and it will cost us a fortune in lost time, but if it keeps you quiet…
Now it’s your turn to give me something.” He paused and the silence between them grew louder as Caroline didn’t respond, wondering what she could possibly give him in return for eighteen days’ grace.
She wanted to hate him, to thump his huge chest with her fists, to shout at him, but she balled her hands at her sides and nothing came out of her mouth as her throat tightened. She looked away from his penetrating gaze. She could hear him breathing heavily above her but she couldn’t look up at him again.
The rush of heat caught her by surprise as she felt his hand under her chin and goose pimples prickled along her arms. He lifted her face gently until she was looking directly at him.
His expression was unreadable for a moment but then he stepped forwards, his shirt brushing her jacket as his intentions became obvious. She opened her
sparkling eyes wide as his charcoal ones searched for something in hers. She was trapped in his gaze; her lips trembled as she held her breath in anticipation, waiting for him to kiss her.
Seconds passed as he prayed
for her to say something, do something, anything to stop him. But she didn’t. She just stood there, her breath coming in tiny, ragged gasps.
At last, he bent his head slowly and closed his eyes as he brushed his lips gently over hers. Heat flooded over her for the briefest moment as his beautiful mouth softly caressed hers for several deliciously long seconds. She tasted tea
and spice and sugar and then, far too soon, the sensations were gone. He stood straight again, taking his hand from her face.
“God! You’re fabulous when you’re angry!” He breathed
down at her, sighing deeply as he added, “Okay… the trade was satisfactory, you’ve got your eighteen days.”
in mortified shock.
“Satisfactory! Why you…”
She stepped back from him, furious once again and moved to slap his arrogant jaw, but as quick as a striking snake, his hand moved and he caught her wrist mid-swipe.
“Wait.” He ordered as he held her still, then
, as she took another deep breath, he reached behind her, opened the door of the cabin and called to a workman. The man came up at a jog and stood at the bottom of the steps looking up.
“Yes boss? Need any help?”
Adam nodded and loosened his hold on Caroline’s arm as he walked down the steps with her. He passed her arm to the workman who took hold of her tightly.
“Would you kindly
escort Miss Masters from the site?” He put his hard hat on her head and squashed it down firmly over her thick hair. “And make sure she keeps that on until she’s well off the premises.” He pressed the palm of his huge hand into the small of her back, shoving her none too gently towards the man, then he turned and without another word, walked back up the steps into the cabin and shut the door firmly behind him.