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A Baby Enemy

A Baby Enemy

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Published by Katie Rittenhouse
Sara Craven
Sara Craven

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Published by: Katie Rittenhouse on Jan 18, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/10/2014

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 A BAD ENEMYSARA CRAVEN
CHAPTER ONE'Wonderful party, darling,' the man said. He was smiling owlishly and slurring his words,and Lisle wondered without interest who he was. A friend of Janie's, perhaps. Certainlyno one she knew.'Thank you.' She gave him an absent smile and tried to move past him down thepassage to the kitchen. 'It's not a wonderful party,' she thought. 'It's a lousy party, andI'm bored out of my skull. I wish they'd all go.'She was amazed to hear herself. She was the girl who enjoyed life to the full, who onlyneeded a few hours' sleep, whose pace never slackened.'I'm starting to believe my own publicity,' she thought ruefully.'Where are you going'?' The man seized her arm, his face plaintive. His fingers feltwarm and clammy on her skin, and she had to repress a shiver of distaste.
 
She tried to detach herself, but he hung on. 'To get some more ice.' She kept her voicecool and equable, because she didn't know who he was. Someone had once made asemi-drunken pass at her at a party, and she'd administered a crushing snub and aslapped face, only to discover when taxed on the matter by a furious Gerard that he hadbeen an important client, and she had just lost Harlow Bannerman a contract that theyhad wanted. Since then, she had learned to handle the casual fondling, the innuendoesand sometimes blatant propositioning with imperturbable charm. As Gerard had pointedout, it was part of her job.'Don' leave me,' the man said, and winked at her. 'I've been trying to get you alone allevening.'She doubted that. The truth was probably that he had seen her slip out of the room andfollowed, fancying his chances, and now he was blocking the way to the kitchen andleering.She groaned inwardly, and at the same moment the doorbell pealed loudly. Saved bythe bell, she told herself drily; inwardly blessing the late arrival.She threw the front door open, smiling with determined gaiety, but the man on thethreshold didn't smile back. In fact the expression on his face was almost one of contempt, which was ridiculous considering he was a complete stranger to her.Lisle wondered for a moment if he was, a new neighbour coming to complain aboutpossible noise, because he wasn't a party guest, or even a hopeful gatecrasher. Instincttold her that.He said, 'Miss Bannerman?'She went on smiling. 'Yes?' A dark forbidding face, she thought, the features harshly marked, with a firm-lippedmouth and a nose which had quite evidently been broken at some time in its career, butattractive nonetheless.He said, 'Perhaps we could have a private word
preferably out of earshot of that
bear-garden.' He waved towards the muted roar of the party.'Oh dear.' Lisle raised her eyebrows. 'So who are you? The police
the bailiffs
theInland Revenue?
Because whoever you are, I think you've got the wrong person.'He shook his head, the wintry grey eyes going impassively over her, taking in everydetail of the expensive black dress from the low neckline to the skirt slit as far as her thigh.
 
'I don't think so.' There was a sudden burst of noisy laughter from the living room, andhe glanced towards the half-closed door, his mouth twisting. 'And how will this ultimatelyfeature in the Harlow Bannerman accounts?' he asked. 'As entertaining clients?''My God!' Lisle struck a pose of exaggerated horror. 'It is the Inland Revenue!' Theowlish man released his grip on her arm and slid back to the party, leaving them alonein the narrow hall, watching each other warily.She said, 'All joking apart, would you mind telling me who you are, and what you want?''In privacy
yes.' He walked past her unhurriedly, down the passage, away from the dinof the party. 'In here, perhaps.' He opened a door.'And perhaps not,' Lisle said indignantly. 'That happens to be my bedroom.'He said grimly, 'Spare me the coy protests, Miss Bannerman, they don't go with your clothes. I assure you I'm not in the mood, and even if I were, you overestimate your charms where I'm concerned.'The breath caught in her throat. She said slowly, 'I
think I've just been
insulted. Willyou leave now, or must I have you thrown out?''You have to have me thrown,' he said at once. 'And before you do perhaps I should tellyou that your grandfather was taken ill this afternoon, and is asking for you. He isn'texpected to live.'She made a muffled sound and sank down on the bed, pressing her hand against her mouth, her green eyes widening in shocked incredulity.She exclaimed, 'This afternoon? But why has no one been in touch
why wasn't I toldbefore?''You could have been,' he said, 'if you entertained less, or left your phone on the hookmore. I've been trying to make contact for several hours. In the end I decided it wouldbe easier to come in person and fetch you myself.''Breaking the news to me gently en route?' she said in a shaky breath.'You're tough, Miss Bannerman. You can take it.' But the grim note in his voice told her it would make little difference to him whether she could or not.'Who are you?' she demanded.'Jake Allard,' he said. 'You may or may not have heard of me.'

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