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'YOU'RE going to be late.' said Caroline, glancing at the white face of the kitc hen clock.

James lifted his black head and glanced at her round the edge of his copy of The Times. 'I shall be leaving in five minutes,' he said, and the precise, crisp to nes of his voice jarred, as they had done for months. She knew better than to argue. She went back into the kitchen and fidgeted about with the few items marring the spotless nature of the room. She heard his foots teps on the marble floor and turned her cheek for his brief kiss. The cold grey eyes in-spected her as he touched his mouth against her cheek and a line etched itself between his arched dark brows. '1 can't stand that dress it makes you look drab. Why don't you go into London tod ay and buy yourself some new clothes?' "Very well,' she said expressionlessly, raising her green eyes to his face. His mouth compressed. 'It wasn't an order,' he snapped, 'merely a suggestion. It might cheer you up to do some shopping. God knows, you could do with it. I'm si ck of seeing you wandering around this house like a ghost. You even dress the pa rt.' His lips held a slight sneer. 'The actress in you, I suppose.' That touched a thorn in her breast and her skin whitened. She looked away from h im, her cheek a vulnerable curve. 'Hell,' he muttered, and walked out. Caroline heard the front door slam and then the sound of the car purring away down the drive. It ought to have got better after six months, but daily it got worse. They lived together like two hostile strangers, barely speaking to each other when they wer e alone, their faces shuttered and icy. Sometimes she woke up in the night and r eached out for him, fears coming to her eyes as she realised she was alone. It w as at night that she was most vulnerable. She had never realised until six month s ago how many terrors the night could hold. At first, the doctor had prescribed sleeping pills for her, and they had helped a good deal, but James had insisted that she stop taking them after a month. He said he did not want her to become d ependent on them. The doctor had agreed with him, and to neither of them had she ever confessed that she had never had a full night's sleep since. The pattern v aried. Sometimes-she would sleep at once, only to wake up in the small hours, sw eating and crying. Sometimes she would lie awake hour after hour, only to fall a sleep towards dawn, exhausted and almost hallucinatory. She broke off her thoughts to start the day's work, although there was little fo r her to do, since James insisted on having a daily woman to do the cleaning and the small, elegant Georgian house needed little extra work. While she was glanc ing around the sitting-room her eye fell on the wedding photograph displayed on the sideboard. She barely glanced at herself. Her gaze was fixed on James, lean and faintly smiling, his strong, austerely modelled features sharply outlined by the effect, of the morning suit he wore. He had a Celtic face, long and lean, th e jawline uncompromising, the mouth hard and straight. His eyes looked almost co lourless in the sunlight. Their first meeting had been typical of herself. She had literally run into him, flung to the pavement by the impact. That James should pursue it had been distin ctly untypical. He had asked her out and she had accepted. Meeting the long star e of the icy grey eyes she had felt a curious spark leap between them and asked herself ruefully if she were not imagining it. Even then she had known that they came from different worlds. He was a dozen years older than herself, a barrister, his world centred around th e law courts, a man who had led a totally intellectual life, rational, clear-thi nking, clever. On their first dinner date he charmed her with his wit and surpri sed her by his probing questions about herself. The evening had passed for her i n a haze, where she poured out her life history and James listened, watching her flushed smiling face, his eyes moving from her green eyes to the wild haze of h er red-gold hair and occasionally resting briefly on her mouth. He had kissed her that first night, and it had shaken her to her roots. It was b y no means her first kiss, but from the effect of it, it might have been. She ha d trembled like a leaf, her heart racing, and James, drawing back, had studied h er almost clinically, as if to assess the result. Caroline could remember staring

at the long, finely shaped hands as they curved around her hot face, her eyes on the wrists, focussing dimly on the dark hairs on his skin. Slowly her eyes had lifted to his face, touching the hard line of his mouth with incredulity. When s he met his eyes her own mouth shook and as he bent to kiss her again she met his lips wildly, her arms going round his neck. Even now the immediacy of his effect on her surprised her. She knew that logicall y they should have disliked each other. They were such different types of people , herself lire and air, James suggesting cold stone and water. They had nothing in common. Except that from their first meeting desire had flamed between them almost visua lly.