Mistress of Decepption

By: Miranda Lee

(The second book in the Carstairs series)

A novel by Miranda Lee



Escape from obsession! Ebony is an Australian supermodel. She is

also Alan Carstair's ward. Once they were close, but now it is no

secret in Sydney's glamorous fashion world that Ebony and Alan are

openly hostile toward each other. Why? What nobody knows is that

Ebony and Alan are caught up in an obsession for each other.

However, both can no longer bear the pain of their all-consuming

passion, and each has a plan to break free. Ebony intends to leave

Alan, while he is determined to make her pay for those years of

tortured desire. But sometimes a bitter end leads to a new

beginning...and where there was hatred, there can be love...

CHAPTER ONE



'I PRESUME you'll be going to the wool fashion awards tonight?'

Deirdre Carstairs asked her son over lunch.



'Unfortunately, yes,' was his cool reply. I 'Why ''unfortunately''? Fashion is your business, after all.' And your life, she added silently, and with -some irritation. Alan had always been a workaholic, but lately he was worse than ever, sometimes working all night. One would have thought that establishing a chain of very popular off-the-peg menswear stores all over Australia, as well as personally running the manufacturing establishments to fill them, would have been enough. Now he was planning on branching out into designer clothes as well.



Deirdre suppressed a sigh. It was so difficult to tell Alan anything.

He'd taken over as head of the family when he was only twenty, his

father's unexpected death from a heart attack having left the family's

clothes factory on the brink of receivership. Their home too had been

found to be holding a second mortgage. Alan had had to work his

fingers to the bone to pull them out of bankruptcy. But he'd succeeded,

and succeeded very well. She was extremely proud of him.



The one unfortunate result of his success, however, was that he'd

become rather bossy. He expected people just to go along with whatever he

wanted. It must have come as a considerable shock, Deirdre realised, when

the one woman who'd managed to capture his heart had upped and

married another man a few years back.



Her head lifted, eyes narrowing with suspicion as she watched her son

forking his fettuccine marinara into his mouth. 'Is Adrianna going to be





there?' she asked casually.



His shrug seemed non-committal, but he was a master at hiding his

feelings. 'I doubt it. Her label hasn't been entered into the competitions. She

rarely comes to Sydney any more.' He lifted his dark, glossy head, his very

male but rather cruel mouth curving back into a wry smile. 'Stop fishing,

Mother, The reason I don't want to attend tonight is because I'm tired.'



'Then don't go. Stay home here and watch it on television with your poor old mum.'



He laughed, and Deirdre wished he would laugh more often. Laughter lent some warmth to his coldly handsome face, and those hard blue eyes of his.



'Poor old Mum, my foot. You're not poor. I've made sure of that! And secondly, at fifty-five, you're not old either. Why don't you do me and yourself a favour and find some nice man to occupy your time? Then I won't have to put up with your trying to organise my leisure time for me.'



'Do you have any leisure time?' she remarked archly.



'Occasionally.'



'Heaven knows when. Or what you do with it.'



Alan's laugh was dry. 'Don't you worry about what I do with my time, Mother. I'm a big boy now.'



But Deirdre did worry about him. Since Adrianna's rejection, Alan had not brought one woman home. She didn't for one moment imagine her handsome son was celibate, but she shuddered to think he might be indulging in one-night stands rather than risk being hurt again. She did so want him to get married and have children, but she dared not broach the subject. He was very prickly about his private life.



'Will Ebony be one of the models tonight, do you know?' she asked instead.



'I dare say,' Alan returned in that same flat tone he always used when the subject of Ebony came up these days. Deirdre knew her son well enough to know that when he sounded his most calm he was, in fact, at his most annoyed.





It was a wicked shame, she thought, that their once close relationship had been ruined by money. Ebony was a sweet girl, but too proud in Deirdre's opinion. Fancy taking offence when she found out that her parents' estate had been negligible, and that Alan—as her appointed guardian—had generously, but quite rightly, paid for all her education and expenses. What had she expected him to do? She'd only been fifteen, after all.

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