Sweet Surrender with the Millionaire (9 page)

BOOK: Sweet Surrender with the Millionaire
10.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

‘I didn’t.’ His voice was firm but not annoyed. ‘It’s fine.’

Willow swallowed hard. ‘What I mean is—’

‘Stop it, OK? Like I said, it was one of those crazy
moments that happen sometimes between members of the opposite sex. Now, I don’t know about you but I could eat a horse so how about we see what Kitty’s rustled up this evening?’

She met his eyes then. His features were expressionless and she couldn’t tell what he was thinking. It was easier to take his words at face value, besides which she didn’t know how to explain to him what she couldn’t explain to herself. If someone had told her that morning she would want Morgan Wright to take her with every fibre of her being she would have laughed in their face, but she had. And in this moment of absolute honesty with herself she knew this had been brewing from the first time she’d laid eyes on him, but she hadn’t wanted to acknowledge the fierce attraction this man held for her.

Feeling the ground beneath her feet had changed to shifting sand, she knew she couldn’t dodge the truth. Gathering all her courage, she said woodenly, ‘I don’t make a practice of giving the wrong signals, I just want you to know that. I’ve never slept with anyone except my ex.’

‘If you’re trying to tell me you aren’t the sort of woman to hop in and out of bed with any man who catches your fancy, I’d already worked that out for myself.’ He raked back his hair and went on in a tone laced with unmistakable sincerity, ‘You’re still working things through after the break-up, I can see that, so don’t beat yourself up about one kiss. That’s all it was, a kiss. Forget it, Willow. I already have.’

But it hadn’t been, at least not for her. It had been an introduction into a realm she’d never imagined even existed. She’d loved Piers—at first, that was—but his lovemaking had never done what one kiss from Morgan had accomplished.

Her green eyes darkened but, telling herself she had to follow his lead and lighten the mood, she nodded and smiled. ‘You’re right,’ she said as casually as she could manage.

He returned the smile. ‘Of course I’m right,’ he said lazily. ‘It goes with the name.’ Shutting the French doors, he locked them and then turned to where she was standing, leaning forward and touching her lips lightly with his before she’d realised what he was going to do. ‘We’re friends,’ he said easily, taking her arm and leading her out of the cottage into the warm October shadows, ‘so relax. You’ve got nothing to fear from me.’

Willow took a breath and tried to ignore what the feel of his warm flesh on hers was doing to her equilibrium. She might not have anything to fear from Morgan—although that was a mute point—but she had plenty to fear from herself where this man was concerned. She had to remember that and be on her guard. Morgan had been kind to her and she was grateful, but there was much more to him than met the eye. Much more.


awoke in her own bed the next morning and listened to the faint echo of the bells in the village church calling the faithful to the Sunday morning service. Sunlight spilled through the window but the air was cool as she slipped out of bed and made her way downstairs to the kitchen wrapped in her thick robe. It was sparkling clean after Morgan’s spring clean.

After making herself a pot of coffee she poured a cup and wandered through to the sitting room. The sofa and chair were still a little damp from Morgan’s ministrations the day before and so she opened the French doors and sat on the steps, much as he’d done. The air was actually warmer in the garden than it was in the house, she thought with a stab of surprise. The solid walls of the cottage had the effect of cooling the rooms somewhat. Morgan had given her the name and telephone number of a local plumber the night before so she could see about having central heating fitted before the worst of the winter.

Morgan…She bit down on her bottom lip pensively. He’d behaved like a perfect gentleman after that one scorching kiss. They’d eaten Kitty’s wonderful dinner,
talked, laughed a little and enjoyed coffee with a fine liqueur before he’d seen her home to her front door. He’d tucked her hand through his arm as they had walked the short distance down his drive and into the lane before reaching the cottage, and although she’d known it was merely a casual gesture it had seemed strangely intimate to feel the pressure of his body close to hers. Once at her door she had prepared herself for the goodnight kiss. Only it hadn’t come. Not even a fleeting peck like the one he’d given her after the scorcher. She could have been his maiden aunt, she thought crossly.

Willow frowned to herself, inhaling the fragrant scent of coffee as she idly watched two blue tits hanging from a nut feeder she’d hung from one of the trees bordering the garden, their distinct blue crests on tiny black and white heads vivid in the sunshine.

Not that she had
him to kiss her, she assured herself firmly. The close embrace hours before had been enough to convince her that where Morgan was concerned she’d be playing with fire. No, far better to keep it light and easy. And that was exactly what he’d done. Her frown deepened. Which was fine.

She finished the coffee and fetched another cup, settling herself down again in the same spot and feeling intensely irritable.

She was being ridiculous. She nodded to the thought.
hypocritical, which was the one human failing she loathed above all others. A hot arrow of guilt pierced her. She couldn’t insist Morgan kept his hands—and his mouth—to himself and then feel miffed when he did exactly that. She was being monumentally unfair and capricious
and unreasonable, but
hadn’t he mentioned seeing her again? Why had he just walked off without a word?

Because you’re just the neighbour he helped out.

She lifted one shoulder in answer to the thought, the motion defensive, almost aggressive. In that case he’d had no right to kiss her as he had, had he? She took a long pull at the coffee, scalding hot though it was. He hadn’t; it had been grossly unfair.

being ridiculous. He’d explained that kiss as one of those things that happened now and again between members of the opposite sex, and that was what it had been. It wasn’t his fault that it had been the most devastatingly, incredible,
experience of her life and had left her wanting much, much more.

Her heart jolted violently and then jump-started itself into a machine-gun gallop. She put her hands to her chest as though to calm it down, her mind racing.

No, no, no.
She shut her eyes tightly as she struggled for calm. He had said friends and that was exactly what their relationship—
—was. Friends. Neighbours. Nothing more. Nothing less. Anything more would be disastrous.

She opened her eyes. The blue tits were back, having been disturbed temporarily when she’d gone to fetch her second cup of coffee. They twittered happily, positively frolicking on the nuts.

She had no right to feel let down. No right at all, and yet she did. More than she could have imagined. Which only proved she had been absolutely right when she had told herself that Morgan Wright was dangerous and to be avoided.

‘So she didn’t stay another night?’ Kitty said disapprovingly.

Morgan clenched his teeth but when he spoke his voice was cool and controlled. ‘No, Kitty, she didn’t.’

‘Pity.’ Kitty sucked her breath through her teeth. ‘Pity.’

‘Pity?’ Even as he told himself not to bite, he responded.

‘I think so. She seems a nice young lady.’

‘Ah, but I go for the bad ones, Kitty. You should know that by now.’ He grinned at her with a lecherous wink.

Kitty treated his mockery with the contempt it deserved and ignored it as she plonked Morgan’s breakfast in front of him. ‘So when are you seeing her again?’ she said stolidly.

Morgan deliberately finished the last of his coffee before he said, ‘I’ve no idea. When she needs rescuing from a burning building or something similar? That seems to be the pattern.’

Kitty surveyed him, hands on hips. Even her apron seemed to rustle with indignation. ‘You didn’t arrange to see her again? A lovely young woman like that? Why ever not?’

He had asked himself the same question countless times and the answer didn’t sit well with him. Willow had the potential to complicate his autonomous controlled life and he needed that sort of aggravation like a hole in the head. In fact it scared the hell out of him. Pouring himself more coffee, he said casually, ‘Why would I arrange to see her, Kitty? She’s a neighbour who needed a helping hand, that’s the only reason she came here in the first place.’ He took a sip and burnt his mouth.

‘Maybe, but she did come and you seemed to get on well.’

Get on well? He was drawn to Willow with a strength that he hadn’t felt before and that was the very reason he had to avoid contact. Shrugging, he murmured, ‘She was polite and grateful, but I think getting on well might be pushing it a bit. Besides which—’ He stopped abruptly. Was it wise to go on?

‘What?’ Kitty’s ears pricked up immediately.

‘Nothing.’ And then he decided to tell her. If nothing else it might stop her infernal matchmaking. ‘She’s not in the market for any sort of relationship, as it happens. She was married and I gather the divorce wasn’t an amicable one. Once burnt, twice shy. She doesn’t date and she intends to keep it that way.’

Kitty snorted. ‘Poppycock. The lass might be a bit wary, but that’s better than some of these brazen types that are around these days. That’s the one thing I can’t abide in a woman, brazenness.’

What she meant was the brazen types
dated, Morgan thought wryly, being fully aware of Kitty’s opinion of his lifestyle and in particular his women. He unfolded his Sunday paper, signifying the conversation was at an end, his voice dismissive when he said coolly, ‘She’s a neighbour, that’s all, Kitty. And I’ll have a round of toast to go with the bacon and eggs, please.’

For once Kitty wasn’t playing ball. Folding her arms across her plump little stomach, she said grimly, ‘You let this one go and you’ll regret it, m’lad. That’s all I’m saying.’

For crying out loud! His tone deliberately weary, he said, ‘I can’t let go of what I don’t have. End of story.’ And he raised the newspaper in front of his face.

He didn’t enjoy his breakfast and the paper was full of
rubbish. Irritable and out of sorts, he decided to take the dogs for a long walk to blow away the cobwebs and get himself back on course so he could work that afternoon.

Pulling on a leather jacket, he whistled the dogs and left the house a few minutes later. There was a pleasing nip in the air, foretelling the frosts that were sure to come later in the month. The October day was fresh and bright, shallow sparkles of sunshine warming the fields that stretched either side of the lane beyond his house. He walked in the opposite direction to Willow’s cottage and the village, a host of magpies in the trees bordering the lane chattering across the autumn sky.

Shortly after leaving his property, he turned off the lane onto a footpath that led between fields recently ploughed under the stubble of the old wheat crop, the dogs gambolling ahead but taking care to stay on the footpath like the well-trained animals they were. The landscape was already turning into a glorious world of golden tints from copper to orange and Morgan stood for a moment, breathing in the sharp air and looking up into a blue sky, which until recently had been full of swallows gathering together ready to migrate and screaming their goodbyes.

Everything was fine.
He nodded to the thought. Nothing had changed. His world was ticking along nicely and under his control.

He continued to tell himself this throughout the rest of the walk and by the time he returned home he was ready for his Sunday lunch. He ate a hearty portion of Kitty’s Yorkshire pudding and roast beef with roast potatoes that were crisp on the outside and feathery soft on the inside,
and disappeared into his study for the rest of the afternoon. By the time he re-emerged as a golden autumn twilight was falling he had the facts and figures of the papers he’d been studying clear in his head.

He met Kitty in the hall and she was carrying a tray holding steaming coffee and a plate of her delicious home-made shortbread. ‘Though you might want a break,’ she said fussily. ‘You work too hard.’

Morgan hid a smile. This was her way of saying he was now forgiven. ‘Thanks, but I’m just on my way out,’ he said, and it was only in that moment he realized he’d been intending to call round and see Willow from the moment he opened his eyes that morning. ‘I’ll be back as and when,’ he added, ‘so don’t worry about dinner. I’ll grab a sandwich or something when I come in. Your roast was enough to keep a man going for twenty-four hours.’

He left before she could ask any awkward questions and for the same reason took the Harley. It would have been a giveaway if he’d walked. Kitty had a nose like an elephant as it was.

When he knocked on the door of Willow’s cottage his heart was slamming against his ribcage with the force of a sledgehammer and his mouth felt dry. In any other situation he could have laughed at himself. This evening, though, he didn’t feel like laughing.

The door opened and he hoped his nervousness, his rush of wanting, wasn’t obvious to her. She stared at him wide-eyed, her delectable mouth slightly open, and he had to swallow hard before he could say, ‘Just wondering how the sofa and things are drying out.’ Weak, but it was the best he could do.

‘They—they’re still a bit damp.’ She smiled warily.

He nodded. ‘Are you cold?’ he asked, noticing she was wearing a big baggy furry kind of top over her jeans.

‘I haven’t been able to light a fire.’

No, of course she hadn’t. He wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. He nodded again, in a I-thought-asmuch kind of way. ‘I know a nice warm little pub not far from here that does wonderful meals and the Harley’s waiting.’

She blinked a couple of times and then, as though regaining control over her composure, she smoothed her hair in a little-girl gesture that spoke of confusion. ‘Is—is this you being friends?’ she said with a monosyllabic breath of laughter.

‘Absolutely.’ If ever there was a situation where a lie was called for, this was it. ‘Scout’s honour and all that.’

Their gazes met and held for a moment before hers skittered away. He didn’t know whether she liked him or not, Morgan thought triumphantly, but she damn well wasn’t unaffected by him and he’d take any encouragement he could get right at this moment. ‘And it’s also being a good neighbour,’ he added, deadpan. ‘Such a quality is highly thought of in this part of the country, believe me. Part of the countryman’s code and unbreakable.’

She smiled and lust, pure and hot, knifed through him. Well, hot at least. White-hot, in fact.

‘OK.’ She lowered her head, her hair falling in a sleek curtain either side of her face. ‘Come in a minute while I change. I can’t go anywhere in these old things.’

Once in the cottage the chill was obvious, even through his leather jacket. He stood, hands thrust in his jeans pockets and his gaze directed at the ceiling above which
she was changing. The place was an ice-box. Concern for her brought his mouth into a straight line, moments before he told himself it was none of his business. She had made it clear the day before she was in charge of her life. Furthermore, that she wouldn’t appreciate any efforts to alter the status quo. He had to respect that.

She reappeared, and his voice sounded husky even to his own ears when he said, ‘Ready?’ She looked like all his Christmases rolled into one: gorgeous, self-possessed and as sexy as hell. And yet the demure little top she was wearing covered her to the neck and halfway down her arms, even though it clung in all the right places. A hundred women could wear it and it wouldn’t stir his pulse above normal, but on Willow…

‘This is very kind of you, Morgan.’

She meant well, but he found he’d had enough of the label. ‘I never do anything I don’t want to do, Willow.’ He smiled to soften the statement as he helped her on with her jacket. ‘I’m your typical selfish male. We’re born that way.’

‘But honest.’ She was smiling back at him as she reached for her handbag. ‘Well, you are at least. Aren’t you?’

‘I try to be.’ He nodded. ‘Yes, I think I am.’ Then he grinned. ‘Most of the time anyway.’

‘Well, I guess that’s not bad for the male of the species.’ Her voice was light but there was something in her tone that jarred on him. Whether she was aware of it or not, he didn’t know, but immediately she followed with, ‘Some females too, come to think of it. Women are more inclined to tell little white lies so as not to hurt someone’s feelings, I’ve found.’

‘You mean with answers to questions like, “Does my
bum look big in this?”’ he replied lazily, to put her at ease, even as he thought, What the hell did her husband do to her to make her so sceptical? She wasn’t like this before him, he’d bet money on it.

BOOK: Sweet Surrender with the Millionaire
10.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Planet of Dread by Murray Leinster
Celebration by Ella Ardent
The Seventh Secret by Irving Wallace
Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen
McFarlane's Perfect Bride by Christine Rimmer
Peeler by Rollo, Gord
Seduced by the Wolf by Bonnie Vanak