Scandals and Secrets

By: Miranda Lee

Book 5 - Hearts of Fire


THE STORY SO FAR ...

After her father's death, Gemma leaves the outback for Sydney, to reveal the truth about her mother, and to sell her priceless discovery - a flawless black opal. Fate introduces her to Nathan Whitmore, who offers her a reward for the gem, which was stolen from his adoptive father, Byron Whitmore, twenty years ago. Highly attracted to Gemma's vulnerability, Nathan sets about seducing Gemma, then marries her. Gemma's life is turned upside-down.

As a new bride, Gemma witnesses startling changes in the Whitmore household: Nathan's adoptive sister, Jade, has discovered happiness with billionaire Kyle Gainsford, whilst Melanie, the family housekeeper, has let go of her traumatic memories to marry Royce Grantham. Ava, Byron's previously overweight and lonely younger sister, has found the love of her life in handsome, caring Australian-Italian businessman, Vince Morelli. But where does that leave Gemma and Nathan? There are so many rumors and doubts which Gemma cannot ignore, including the disturbing things Damian Campbell has let slip to her about Nathan's troubled past ...





CHAPTER ONE

CELESTE was turning for her twentieth lap when a glimpse of male legs standing at the end of the pool brought her to a gasping halt, water-filled eyes snapping upwards.

'Good God, Damian,' she said irritably once she'd caught her breath and found her feet. 'You frightened the life out of me.'

Her brother laughed. 'Nothing and no one can frighten the life out of you, Celeste. What on earth did you think I was? A rapist?' He laughed again. 'I would pity any poor rapist who set his sights on you, sister, dear. I know who it'd be ending up on his back.'

Celeste flashed her brother a coolly reproachful glance as she stroked over to the wall, intuition telling her he was referring to her reputation as a man- eater, not complimenting her on her martial arts skills. Damian delighted in delivering sarcastic little barbs her way. In that respect he was very much like Irene.

Dismay and irritation mingled to rattle Celeste momentarily. If there was one person she didn't like thinking about it was her half-sister. Irene's death last year might have lessened the feelings of hostility and hatred Celeste had harbored against Irene all these years, but thinking about her inevitably led to thinking about another person, who was unfortunately very much alive.

'What do you want, Damian?' she snapped, her nerves suddenly on edge. 'It's not like you to surface on a Saturday till at least mid-afternoon. When you come home on a Friday night at all, that is.'

Her brother did not have a monopoly on sarcasm, Celeste realized with a twinge of conscience. Not that Damian was capable of being hurt by such remarks. If anything, he seemed to enjoy any allusion to his decadent lifestyle.

Damian was a lost cause in Celeste's opinion. Spoilt, selfish and lazy, he was also far too good-looking for his own good. When he'd been younger, she'd made excuses for his wild behavior, hoping he might grow out of





being reckless and irresponsible, especially when it came to the opposite sex.

But twenty-nine saw him as a playboy of the worst kind. Celeste was appalled at how many happy marriages he had destroyed. What a pity the wives never saw the wickedness behind that boyish smile and those magnetic black eyes!



If Celeste had had her way, she would have tossed Damian to the four winds ages ago and forced him at least to fend for himself. That might have given him a bit of character. But he was the apple of their mother's eye, and Adele had ignored all her daughter's advice when it came to her 'baby'.

She'd insisted Damian be given a position in the family company, for which he was paid a salary far and above his contribution to Campbell Jewels, a salary which never seemed to meet his ever-increasing needs. Only last week, he'd approached Celeste for a loan, which she'd given him on the condition it was the first and last time.

'I hope you haven't come here looking for more money,' she added tartly as she levered herself out of the pool and stripped her cap off. Long tawny blonde waves tumbled over her forehead and eyes. Celeste combed her hair back off her face with her fingers before walking over to pick up a towel and start drying herself. 'If you have, you're wasting your time.'

Damian lowered himself on to one to the cane loungers and surveyed his sister with a curious mixture of dislike and admiration. For a female rising forty, she was still a hot-looking bird. Of course she spent a fortune on her face and hair, and she worked the hell out of her body to keep it looking like that, without an ounce of extra flesh, every muscle toned and honed to perfection.

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