Passion and the Past(8)

By: Miranda Lee


No man is ever going to look at me, she thought wearily. Why I bothered to go and buy that new outfit I have no idea. Still, I might as well go and try to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. I've got nothing else to do.





CHAPTER TWO

BY SIX -THIRTY that evening Melanie was grateful she'd chosen a m enu which was deceptively easy to prepare, because, where Ava had had dropsy earlier, she had now developed a severe case of distraction.

The reason did not elude her. It was crystal-clear. Irritatingly so. She could not get the incident with that man out of her mind.

'Damn him,' she muttered, banging the cutlery drawer shut.

'I hope you're not talking about me.'

Melanie swung round as her employer strode into the kitchen from the direction of the garages.

'You're early home for a Friday,' she said, sidestepping Byron's comment.

'I wanted to be showered and changed by the time Royce arrived. I told him seven, which means if he's on time I'll have him to myself for a while. The others aren't due till seven-thirty.' He was taking off his tie as he hurried through the room. 'Make sure both ice- buckets in the drawing-room are full, will you, Melanie?'

Byron was gone before she could do more than draw breath. Ever since his shattered leg had finally mended, he'd been a whirlwind of energy, his mind going as fast as his body. Though fifty next birthday, he was by no means middle-aged, either in looks or manner. An exceptionally handsome man, with thick wavy black hair, elegantly grey at the temples, he propelled his impressively proportioned body around with a dynamism that a man twenty years his junior would envy.

A thought suddenly crossed Melanie's mind.

I wonder what Byron does for sex these days?

Instant irritation sent her winged black brows drawing together. There she was again, thinking thoughts that wouldn't normally occur to her these days!





It was all that damned man's fault. Him and his sleazy looks and filthy desires.

Filthy?

Now Melanie brought herself up short. She'd never been one of those women who'd thought sex dirty or filthy. She'd always enjoyed making love, even those first nervous attempts with her high-school sweetheart.

A smile of wry remembrance pulled at her generous mouth. What a hopeless pair they had been! His name had been Grant, and he'd been rather sweet and shy, even at eighteen. They'd been going together for a couple of years before he'd drummed up the courage to ask her to go all the way. His lovemaking had been very basic and fumbling, and, while Melanie could not say she'd ever seen stars, she had loved the feel of his hands on her body, loved the warmth and intimacy of it all.

Grant had lasted all during her year at secretarial college, right up till she secured a job as a secretary- receptionist for Eagles Advertising Agency, an American company with a highly successful branch in Sydney. There, she'd caught the eye of an up-and- coming advertising executive named Joel Lloyd. From the moment Joel Lloyd decided Melanie Foster was the woman for him, poor Grant didn't stand a chance.

A bitter taste invaded Melanie's mouth as she thought of the difference between her two lovers. Two years it had taken Grant to work up the courage to consummate their relationship. Joel had seduced her in the company store-room two weeks after they'd been introduced. And she'd very definitely seen stars!

But that had been typical of Joel. He was one of those men who took risks, who dared while other men dithered. He'd been a ruthless man, there was no doubt about that. What a shame she hadn't realised right from the start just how ruthless he was, then maybe her baby would still be alive. . .

Melanie shuddered before giving herself a mental shake. I'm not going to think about the past any more. If I do, I'll go mad. I'm going to concentrate on the here and now of my life, which is that all of a sudden a man has





sparked an unexpected and unwanted sexual response in me. With a bit of luck, that spark will snuff out again, quite quickly. I'm certainly going to work on it, because sex can make a woman vulnerable to a man, and I am never going to be vulnerable to a man again. Never ever!

Melanie set about the final preparations for the evening meal, annoyed to find that her train of thought had made her uncomfortably aware of her woman's body beneath her simple black skirt and white blouse. Her breasts felt tight against her bra, and when she walked she was conscious of her stockings brushing together at the tops of her thighs. God, but it was proving hard to concentrate on doing even the simplest task.

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