A Forbidden TemptationBy: Anne Mather
THE PHONE WAS ringing as Jack walked into the house.
He was tempted not to answer it. He knew who it would be. It was at least three days since his sister-in-law had contacted him. Debra seldom ignored him for very long.
But she was—had been—Lisa’s sister, and he supposed she was only looking out for him. The truth was, he didn’t need looking out for, he thought resignedly. He was doing just fine on his own.
Dropping the bag containing the still-warm baguette he’d bought at the village bakery onto the granite counter, Jack hooked the kitchen phone from the wall.
‘Connolly,’ he said, hoping against hope that it might be a cold call. But those hopes were dashed when Debra Carrick came on the line.
‘Why do you insist on turning off your mobile phone?’ she greeted him irritably. ‘I called you once yesterday and twice today, but you’re never available.’
‘And good morning to you, too,’ Jack commented drily. ‘And why do I need to carry a mobile phone every place I go? I doubt there’s anything you need to tell me that can’t wait.’
‘How do you know that?’ Debra sounded offended now and he stifled a groan. ‘In any case, what if you had an accident? Or if you fell off that stupid boat of yours? You’d wish you had some means of communication then.’
‘If I fell off the boat, the phone wouldn’t work in the water,’ replied Jack mildly, and he heard Debra give an impatient snort.
‘You’ve always got an answer, haven’t you, Jack?’ she demanded, her frustration evident. ‘Anyway, when are you coming home? Your mother’s worried about you.’
Jack acknowledged that the worrying part might be true. But both his mother and his father—and his siblings, come to that—knew not to ask those kinds of questions.
They’d accepted that he needed to move away from the family. And this house he’d found on the wild Northumbrian coast was exactly where he wanted to be.
‘This is my home,’ he said now, glancing round the large farmhouse kitchen with a certain amount of pride.
When he’d bought the house, it had been in a sorry state of repair. But after months of his living out of suitcases and cardboard boxes, the renovation—a lot of which he’d done himself—was now complete.
Lindisfarne House had emerged as a comfortable, but elegant, home. The ideal place to find refuge and decide what he was going to do with the rest of his life.
‘You’re not serious!’ He’d almost forgotten what his answer had been until Debra spoke again. ‘Jack, you’re an architect! A successful architect at that. Just because you’ve inherited that money doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time bumming around some godforsaken corner of England!’
‘Rothburn is not a godforsaken corner of England,’ protested Jack civilly. ‘And certainly no more remote than Kilpheny itself.’ He sighed. ‘I needed to get away from Ireland, Debs. I thought you understood that.’
Debra sniffed. ‘Well, I do, I suppose,’ she conceded. ‘I’m sure your grandmother’s death was the last straw. But all your family’s here. Your friends are here. We miss you, you know.’
‘Yeah, I know.’ Jack could feel his patience thinning nonetheless. ‘Look, I gotta go, Debs.’ He grimaced at the lie. ‘There’s someone at the door.’
With the phone hooked back onto the wall, Jack spread his hands on the cool granite for a moment, breathing deeply. It wasn’t her fault, he told himself. Just because every time he heard her voice he found himself thinking about Lisa didn’t make her a bad person.
For God’s sake, he just wished she would get off his case.
‘She’s in love with you, you know.’
The light, half-amused tone broke into his bleak mood of introspection. He lifted his head to find Lisa seated on the end of the counter, examining her nails. She was dressed in the same cropped pants and silk blouse she’d been wearing the last time he’d seen her. One high-heeled sandal dangled from her right foot.
Jack closed his eyes for a moment and straightened from his stooped position.
‘You don’t know that,’ he said flatly, and Lisa lifted her head and met his brooding gaze.