All for love 3 series.., p.37
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       All for Love - 3 Series Starters, p.37

           Kris Pearson
 

  The instant they opened the plane’s doors in Auckland, he thumbed through his phone for Sy Karlsen’s listing.

  Chapter Eighteen — Angel Over the Bed

  Kate chose a conservative ivory blouse and her best black business suit. She’d decided not to take her car into the central city so it would be easier to hand-deliver her CV to three of the city’s top employment agencies. She hoped for an interview with one of their consultants. (Or should she phone ahead? Her heart wasn’t really in this!)

  Then she’d have lunch with her old friend and workmate, Shelley, and ask how her successor was coping... just in case there was an opening there again.

  And after that she’d get the bus back to the gallery in Newmarket and hope they still had the painting which had most appealed the previous day. It wasn’t by a big-name artist, but the talent was obvious, and who knew what the future held for them?

  It was a naked angel—a hard-muscled man lazing on something that might be heavenly clouds. A huge feathered wing cast enough shadow to make him almost decent. The rest of the body was definitively beautifully male. She’d need a taxi to bring him home.

  Later that afternoon Kate paid the driver and eased out of the cab with the long painting. Steering the angel safely around the corner in the front entrance would be difficult. She dug the garage remote from her bag and zapped the door. It shuddered upward, and she sidled past the car and through to her bedroom. She stood the angel on end against the big chest of drawers. Her mother’s basic tool-kit was stored in the wardrobe, and she lifted it out in readiness. Then she kicked off her shoes and headed toward the kitchen.

  And froze.

  How long had he been sitting there?

  From the kitchen counter she had an unobstructed view through the dining room and out to the sheltered timber deck. A graceful wisteria vine twined around the supports and framed the view in spring and summer. Now it was winter-bare, and the tall dark haired man was clearly visible in profile. He sat on one of the chairs at the outdoor table, unmoving. Kate crept a few steps closer to see him better.

  Definitely Matthew.

  Drawing breath was almost impossible.

  Why was he still there? He’d have heard the garage door opening and closing, and known she’d returned.

  Kate shuffled backward, groping for the end of the counter, and sagging against it. Her hands trembled and her heart beat frantically. Presumably he’d knocked, and not finding her at home, had opened the side gate and decided to wait her out. She’d been gone since mid morning. How long had he been there? It was four-thirty now—hours might have crept by.

  She made coffee. One coffee.

  Stood there sipping as he sat unmoving. Was he waiting for her to go out and beg his forgiveness? When she’d done nothing except try to find the sketches of her own body? She finished the drink, slowly regaining her courage, and turning dark thoughts over in her mind.

  Matthew pushed back the chair and rose. Kate trembled all over again and grabbed the counter for support.

  She waited for him to knock.

  He never did.

  She had no idea how long she stood there, tense and trembling, wondering what he’d say and what she’d reply.

  Finally she realised he’d gone. He’d come to see her, and she’d ignored him as though he didn’t exist.

  She yelled his name and raced along the hallway, wrenching the front door open, leaving it swinging wide. Down the steps, shoeless. Over the rough paving of the long cobbled driveway, heedless of her pantyhose being snagged and shredded, and the ladders whizzing up her legs. She dragged her skirt up so she could run faster, sprinting along toward the now distant man walking away from her, cell phone to ear.

  She finally swerved to a halt in front of him, eyes wide, hair wild, breasts heaving.

  “Forget the cab for now,” he said, slipping the phone into his pocket and meeting her accusing gaze.

  “You didn’t knock,” she panted. “You were right there and you didn’t knock.”

  “You didn’t ask me in,” he replied quietly. “It was your call, Katie. I messed it up. You knew I was there. You knew I’d come all this way to you. I waited as long as I could bear to.”

  As he could bear to? He couldn’t possibly feel as wretched as she did, could he? Tiny sparks of hope ignited in her brain like fireflies. She tugged her skirt down, grimaced at the ladders, then returned her eyes to his. “You should have knocked.”

  “Should I? I assumed you wanted nothing more to do with me when you didn’t come out. I wouldn’t blame you.”

  She tried to speak again. Her throat had the biggest lump, and she almost couldn’t force her voice past it. “Come back and have coffee at least,” she begged.

  His lips twitched. “Will you make two this time?”

  Oh God, how cruel that must have looked.

  She swallowed. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Just needed something to calm my nerves... give me time... I didn’t know you could see me.”

  He sighed, reached a hand toward her, then pulled it back again as though he had no right to touch her. “I can’t see anything else. I haven’t seen anything except you since the day you left.”

  Kate gazed into his glistening eyes, heart thumping madly.

  “Good,” she said. “Me either.”

  ~♥~

  Matthew reached across again, this time to touch her hair.

  “Must be a mess,” Kate said, shrugging.

  “Beautiful mess.” He smoothed his knuckles down the side of her face, stroking softly, barely believing she hadn’t slapped him away. “Need to talk about things,” he muttered. “Need to tell you why I was such a bloody fool.”

  Kate tipped her head on one side and regarded him as though he was a laboratory specimen. Then she glanced down at her feet. “It better be good,” she said. “Not such a beautiful mess down there.”

  Matthew looked too, squatted, and cursed softly. Her pantyhose were in rags. A couple of her pretty little toes oozed blood. He held out a hand. “Show me.”

  Kate leaned on his shoulder for balance and gingerly placed her foot on his upturned palm.

  He cursed again. “You shouldn’t have run after me without shoes.”

  “Wasn’t thinking. I wanted to see why you were here.”

  He bent his head with relief, and then kissed the side of her knee. “I’ll give you a piggy-back home.”

  “Don’t be ridiculous. I can walk.”

  “Not being ridiculous. You’re bleeding, and you know perfectly well I can carry you.” He glanced up, pleased to see she’d bitten her lip, and was maybe remembering how he’d carried her across the spa room impaled on his cock before he set her down on the cabinet and fucked her so urgently. Her quick sprint along the street had brought colour to her face, but he also detected a hint of bashful recollection, thank God. “We need to sort things out, Katie. Let me carry you. I’ll probably find it easier to talk if I don’t have to look you in the eye.”

  She snorted at that. “I won’t know if you’re telling me the truth.”

  “Yes you will. I’ve never lied to you and I’m not starting now.”

  “You’ve got some pretty warped ideas about the truth, then.”

  He ignored her jibe because the chance to make things right between them was too important to jeopardise. He stood and turned, squatting enough to encourage her to climb on his back, and knowing he deserved her scorn after the way he’d treated her.

  “How are you going to carry your briefcase now?” she asked after he’d straightened up.

  He heard the trace of humour in her voice and put her down again. “Can you carry it if I carry you?”

  She sent him half a grin. “Probably. But I’ll hardly be decent,” she added, hitching her skirt way up her thighs again.

  Matthew’s eyes followed, and he groaned out loud before handing her the briefcase and turning his back on her. He wanted those legs wrapped around his waist right now. And later in bed. W
anted to push his face up between them and drive her insane with his tongue. Wanted her so badly he didn’t know how to start telling her. “Hop on,” he said in a strangled voice.

  “Thank you. You don’t have to do this.”

  “I’m offering. Make the most of me.” He braced himself to take her weight, settled his arms under her legs, and smiled unseen as she wrapped a hand around his chest and grumbled about having to carry the briefcase.

  “You wouldn’t say that if you knew what was inside.”

  “What?”

  He didn’t reply as he set off walking.

  “What?”

  “Files you father would give his right arm for.”

  “Dad?”

  Matthew detected genuine confusion in her tone, and knew this time he could believe her. “We’re in total competition as far as business goes.” He hitched her a little higher on his back and walked on, waiting to see if she’d make the connection. She left him in no doubt when she whacked him on the thigh with the briefcase.

  “Put me down!”

  “Not a hope. I’ve got you now, and I’m keeping you.”

  He heard her annoyed exhalation right next to his ear. Felt her soft hair caressing his neck and the side of his face.

  “You thought I was a spy?” she accused.

  “Wondered. A bit.”

  “Ridiculous man.” But she said it with a hitch in her voice that gave him hope.

  “Forgive me, Katie. I’d just had a real shock with Lottie falling. Her ankle was giving her hell and she was screaming blue murder. Her head was bleeding torrents.”

  “How is she now?” Kate demanded.

  “Too darn stroppy. Doing well.” He turned slightly and smoothed the side his face against hers as he continued walking. “I got her to hospital and she dug out your CV. That’s when I found the girl I had to entertain for the day was named Pleasance. And you were tall, like Rob...”

  “You weren’t very welcoming. I wondered why you were so cold.”

  “Not cold. Worried for sure. About both you and Lottie.”

  “Cold,” she repeated.

  “I bought you a nice lunch.”

  “And quizzed me like a criminal! I knew there was something you were trying to dig out of me. Well bad luck, Matthew, there was nothing to dig.” She nuzzled his ear and nipped the rim of it before locating his lobe and sucking it briefly. “Go on. You’re not nearly forgiven yet.”

  Matthew closed his eyes for a few seconds and strode on. The sudden heat of her mouth had been a wonderful shock. “I was married to someone who tried to take me for a lot of money. My fault. Obviously I didn’t treat her well enough or something...”

  Kate snatched a deep breath and huffed it out again. “Or you chose wrong.”

  “Yeah, lost all the ladies I loved and trusted when I was too young. Had no nice examples left.”

  “Lottie?”

  “My mother first of all. It was only appendicitis, but up in the Pacific the medical help can be far away, and Dad got her there too late.”

  “How old were you?” Kate asked softly, shifting her weight.

  “Five. It’s too young to lose your mum. Dad married again pretty fast. I guess he was lonely, and felt Hamish and I needed a mother.”

  “And that didn’t work?”

  “Worked fine for two young boys. Cornelia was warm and outgoing. Won us over in no time.” He shook his head, enjoying the way Kate’s hair brushed the side of his face. “But she couldn’t stand the island life. Held on for several years, but finally gave in and took Lottie back to her family in The Netherlands.”

  “So you lost your mother, your stepmother and your sister?”

  “Yeah.” He fell silent.

  “How long were you married?”

  “Three years. I had to travel a lot. Left her on her own too much. She found someone else.”

  “Don’t blame yourself,” Kate protested, voice soft in his ear. “It takes two.”

  “It took two on that occasion. He was a scheming bastard—almost as bad as she was. The telco business is cut-throat. Martine was a clever bitch with the same background. Made the most of her knowledge to try for a very big divorce settlement. Stuck with me just long enough for the half-and-half law to kick in.”

  “And she got half?”

  Matthew turned into the driveway of Kate’s townhouse, adjusting the length of his stride because of the slope. “No. Tried very hard for half. Thought she was entitled, and tried to swing things that way. But there’s a difference between what they class as ‘relationship property’ and ‘separate property’ under New Zealand law. Thank God I hadn’t built the house by then.”

  “Or they’d have awarded her half?”

  “Yep. So, when I found you searching my office...”

  “But I wasn’t looking for anything secret. Put me down.” She tried to wriggle off again, and Matthew used his superior strength to hold her firmly in place.

  “There’s more to it than that. Stay there—thirty seconds and you’re home.” He walked as far as the open front door and set her down. “Not room for two of us to get round that bend.”

  Kate glared at him. “That’s why I brought the painting in through the garage.” She motioned him to the outdoor table. “Unless you want to make coffee while I get cleaned up and find the first aid kit?”

  Matthew watched her limp up the hallway toward what he presumed was the bathroom. “Can I help? I’m looking for an excuse to grovel at your feet, after all?”

  “Make the coffee,” she said, trying for stern but letting a giggle break through.

  He caught the flash of her smile, and his hopes rose a notch. By the time she returned, he had the coffee-maker going and had found two mugs.

  “Just a bit of skin,” she said. “Nothing that won’t heal in a few days.”

  He stepped closer and drew him against him, burying his nose in her hair. “But it’s your skin, and I’m very fond of your skin.”

  “My thieving skin,” she mocked, trying to pull away.

  He knew better than to hold her against her will. “At least let me tell you the rest. You can’t think me much more of a fool than you already do.” He poured the coffee into the mugs.

  Kate reached into the fridge for milk, and snagged a sugar bowl from the pantry. She carried both to the outdoor table and sat. “I’m listening.”

  He looked across at her and sighed. “You’ll hate me for this.”

  Kate raised her brows and sipped. “Does it get worse?”

  “Hell, yeah. I turned the tables and started spying on you.”

  “I wasn’t spying.”

  “I know that now. I didn’t know it then.” He took a spoonful of sugar and stirred it into his coffee, eyes down to avoid hers. “We’d had that fantastic trip over to Milford, and you were starting to relax, and I thought I had a chance after all.” He ran a hand over his hair and closed his eyes briefly. “And then we got the not-married-to-Lottie thing straightened out, and you kissed me, and things got better and better.”

  “Apart from having to fly home.”

  “Still getting better and better though. Home safe. No Lottie. Fantastic sex.”

  He watched as Kate tried to suppress a grin. And failed. “So all good, and then you wanted to send an email. You sent me off to get drinks so you could write it in private.”

  “No I didn’t.” She sipped her coffee again.

  “Felt like it to me. By then I was half crazy about you. Didn’t want you in touch with the boyfriend.”

  Kate shook her head. “Not likely!”

  “You sent the message the instant I came back so I couldn’t be sure.” He reached a hand across the table and enclosed hers. “You said your Dad, but maybe not. I had no way of knowing.”

  Kate turned her hand over and threaded her fingers through his. “Jealous?”

  A warm flush had crossed his cheekbones. “Jealous as hell. The more fantastic the night got, the deeper I fell.” He loo
ked across at her, eyes intense. “And in the morning you’d gone. I found you in my office, pulling the end off a document tube. What the fuck was I supposed to think?”

  She tried to pull her hand away but he held on tightly.

  “You should have believed me,” she said.

  “Nah—in too deep to be rational. I retrieved the message you’d sent, and it confirmed all my worst fears.”

  “It was to my Dad!”

  “Precisely. The last person in the world I wanted knowing my business. And you described me as ‘a compensation’ as though I was a booby prize, and congratulated him on the merger and said people were going to be surprised....” He trailed off, gazing at her across the table.

  “And that was all it took?” The corners of her mouth twitched. “Matthew, you twit! He was getting engaged. Family building, not empire building.”

  “I know that now!” Matthew roared. “I didn’t know it then. At that instant, I felt everything good was being stolen away. Just when it was perfect.” He glared across the table at her.

  “Perfect?” she whispered.

  His glare faded to an expression that laid his emotions bare and told her he was bracing for, and expecting, the worst. “Perfect for me, anyway.”

  She pushed her chair back and limped around to stand beside him, slid her arms around him and cradled his head against her breasts. “Pretty damn good for me too,” she said. He relaxed against her, pulling her close, sighing deeply.

  Coffees forgotten, they were soon naked in each other’s arms.

  Finally they lay exhausted together, sated, slippery, sleepy. Matthew twisted his head to look at the painting standing on end a few feet away.

  “You brought him to remind you of me,” he said, stroking her hair.

  “He’s nothing like you,” Kate murmured. “No tattoo. None of these bits.” She reached down and fondled them. “And if you had wings like him, I couldn’t lie on you like this, could I?” He lay flat on his back and she’d draped herself, boneless and possessive, across his chest. They’d crushed hell out of the new bed linen.

  “We should phone Lottie,” he said.

  “To see if she needs a lady’s companion?” Kate asked, still playing with him.

  “I thought I might keep you fully occupied myself.”

  “In your dreams.”

  “Filthy dreams. Are you sure you’re up for them?” He buried his face in her hair, trying to find an ear to nip, or a neck to lick. She turned her face to him and offered a swollen sensuous mouth. “I can feel you are,” she said, squeezing gently.

 
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