Lovers In The Afternoon

By: Carole Mortimer

CHAPTER ONE


WHAT was this man doing in her bed!

Dear God, it wasn't even her bed but his, she remembered now. She had been introduced to him at his office only that afternoon, and five hours later here she was in his bed!

She looked down at the man sleeping so peacefully at her side, one strong arm flung back across the pillow as he lay on his back, dark hair silvered with grey, all of his body deeply tanned, from a holiday he had taken in Acapulco he had told her over dinner. And she was well aware of the beauty of all that body, had touched every inch of it, from the broad shoulders, muscled chest with its covering of brown-grey hair, taut flat waist, powerfully built thighs, down long supple legs. The black silk sheet was pushed back to his waist now to reveal the strength of his chest and arms, the thick dark hair disappearing in a vee past his navel and down. Her gaze returned quickly to his face. It was a strong, powerful face even in sleep, a wide intelligent forehead, widely defined eyebrows, beneath the long-lashed lids were eyes of a piercing grey, a long straight nose, firm uncompromising mouth, and a jaw that was firm as he slept. He was one of the most attractive men she had ever seen, or was ever likely to see, and she had spent most of the evening here in this bed with him, the first man to make love to her since her separation from her husband eight months ago.

But why did it have to be Adam Faulkner, rich industrialist, sixteen years her senior at thirty-nine, and her most recent client with the interior designing company she worked for!

She had gone to work so innocently this morning, had got out of bed at her usual seven-thirty, fed the fish and cat, warned the cat not to eat the fish while she was out all day, got her usual breakfast of dry toast and black coffee, both of which she consumed on her way to the shower as she usually did, applied the light make-up to her heartshaped face and ever-sparkling green eyes, styled her feathered red-brown hair into its usual mass of uncontrolled lengths to her shoulders before donning the tailored blue suit and lighter blue blouse that made her hair look more red than brown, the white camisole beneath the blouse clearly the only covering to her unconfined breasts. She had gone down to the underground carpark to her delapidated VW, sworn at it for the usual ten minutes before it deigned to start. She had then emerged out into the usual helter-skelter of traffic that was London in the rushhour, dodging the other seasoned drivers as she drove to her office at Stevenson Interiors, cursing the fact that she needed to take the car at all, but the reliable London underground system went nowhere near her flat or the office. Yes, it had been a pretty usual day up to that point in time.

Her breathless entrance on to the sixth floor that housed the employees of Stevenson Interiors, after being stuck in the lift for fifteen minutes was also usual; the lift broke down at least once a week, and Leonie was usually in it when it did. It would have been unusual if she weren't!

'The lift again?' Betty, the young, attractive receptionist, asked ruefully.

'Yes,' her sigh was resigned. 'One of these days I'm going to fool it and take the stairs.'

'All twelve flights?' Betty's eyes widened.

Leonie grimaced, running controlling fingers through her flyaway hair. 'That would be a little drastic, wouldn't it?'

she conceded wryly.

Betty handed her her messages. 'In your state of physical unfitness it could be suicide!'

'Thanks!' She skimmed through the pieces of paper she had been given, dismissing all of them as unimportant before pushing them into her navy blue clutch-bag. 'What's on the agenda for today?' she looked at Betty with her usual open expression.

'The staff meeting at nine o'clock?'

'Nine—-—! Oh Lord,' Leonie groaned, already fifteen minutes late for the meeting David had warned all employees not to be late for. 'Maybe if I just crept into the back of the room ...?' she said hopefully.

'David would notice you if you crept in on your hands and knees and stood hidden for the whole meeting,' Betty told her derisively.

The other woman was right, of course. David had picked her out for his individual attention from the moment he had employed her six months ago, and although she occasionally agreed to have dinner with him she made sure it was only occasionally, not wanting any serious involvement, even if David was one of the nicest men she had ever known. An unsuccessful marriage had a way of souring you to the idea of another permanent relationship. Besides, David had little patience with the way things just seemed to happen to her, believing she should be able to have some control over the accidents that just seemed to occur whenever she was around. She remembered another man, her husband, who had also found these accidents irritating, and she didn't need that criticism in her life a second time. She could handle these 'incidents' left to her own devices, she didn't need some man, no matter how nice he was, constantly criticising her.

'I'll creep in anyway.' She narrowly missed walking into the pot-plant that seemed to be following her about the room. 'What do you feed this on?' She looked up at the huge tree-like plant in horror. 'It's taking over reception, if not the world!’

'A little love and conversation do seem to have done the trick,' Betty acknowledged proudly. 'Now shouldn't you be getting to the staff meeting?'

David's office was crowded to capacity as she squeezed into the back of the room, but nevertheless his reproachful gaze spotted her instantly, although he didn't falter in his flow of how well the company was doing, of how good new contracts were coming their way every day.

Leonie yawned boredly, wishing she had been stuck in the lift even longer than she had been, receiving another censorious glare from David as she did, plastering a look of interest on to her face that she had perfected during her marriage, while her thoughts wandered to the Harrison lounge she had just completed, as pleased with the result as the elderly couple had been. She always felt a sense of immense satisfaction whenever she completed a job, knew she was good at what she did, that she was at last a success at something. Although some people would have her believe differently.

'Leonie, did you hear me?’

She looked up with a start at David's impatiently spoken question, blushing guiltily as she realised she was the cynosure of all eyes. 'Er----'

'Steady,' Gary warned as he stood at her side, deftly catching the papers she had knocked off the top of the filing cabinet as she jumped guiltily, grateful to the man who had taken her under his experienced wing from the day she came to work here.

Her blush deepened at the sympathetic ripple of laughter that filled the room; everyone knew of her habit of knocking and walking into things. 'Of course I heard you, David,' she answered awkwardly, her gaze guilelessly innocent as she looked at him steadily.

'Then you don't mind staying for a few minutes after the others have gone back to their offices?' he took pity on her, knowing very well that she hadn't been listening to a word he said.

'Er—no, of course not,' she replaced the papers on the filing cabinet that Gary had caught for her, wondering what she was guilty of now, feeling like the disobedient child that had been asked to stay in after school. It couldn't be her lack of attention to what was being said that was at fault, she never did that anyway, and David knew it. She moved to sit on the edge of his desk as the others filed out to go back to work. 'Good meeting, David,' she complimented brightly.

'And how would you know one way or the other?' he sighed, looking up at her, a tall looselimbed man with wild blond hair that refused to be tamed despite being kept cut close to his head, the rest of his appearance neat to precision point. He was only twenty-eight, had built his interior designing business up from a two-room, three-man operation to the point where he had a dozen people working for him. And Leonie knew she was lucky to be one of them, that Stevenson Interiors was one of the most successful businesses in its field, and that it was all due to David's drive and initiative.

She grimaced. 'Would it help if I were to say I'm sorry?' she cajoled.

'You always are,' David said without rancour. 'I wanted to talk to you about Thompson Electronics.'

A frown marred her creamy brow. 'Has something gone wrong? I thought they were pleased with the work I did for them. I don't understand-----'

'Calm down, Leonie,' he ordered impatiently at her impassioned outburst. 'They were pleased, they are pleased, which is why the new President of the company wants you to personally design the decor for his own office suite.'

'He does?' she gasped.

'Don't look so surprised,' David mocked. 'It was a good piece of work. Even I would never have thought of using that particular shade of pink—indeed any shade of pink, in a group of offices.'

'It was the brown that off-set the femininity of it. You see I had-----'

'You don't have to convince me of anything, Leonie,' he drawled. 'Or them either. You just have to get yourself over there at four o'clock this afternoon to discuss the details.'

She was still relatively new at her job, and tried to make every design she did a work of art, something personal; she was more than pleased to know that someone else had seen and appreciated some of her completed work enough to ask for her personally. It was the first time it had happened.

'Mrs Carlson will be expecting you,' David continued. 'She phoned and made the appointment first thing this morning. And she'll introduce you to the President then.'

'Ronald Reagan?'

He gave a patiently humouring sigh. 'Where do you get your sense of humour from?'

She grinned at him. 'It's what keeps my world going.'

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