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Irresistible Temptation

By:Sara Craven

Irresistible Temptation
Sara Craven

       CHAPTER ONE





'This train is now approaching Paddington. Will passengers make sure  they take their luggage and all personal possessions with them?'

Olivia swallowed as the announcement came over the system, her fingers  tightening round the strap of her bag. She rose, made her way along the  swaying carriage to the luggage rack at the far end, and retrieved her  suitcase. She'd been on edge throughout the journey, and now that it was  almost over her stomach was churning with nervous excitement.

It's all right, she told herself. Very soon now you'll be with Jeremy,  and everything will be fine. This is what you want. What you've dreamed  of. And all you have to do is-go for it.

She took the slip of paper from her pocket, and glanced at it again. 16  Lancey Gardens, W11, she repeated soundlessly to herself for the  umpteenth time.

'That's the Ladbroke Grove area in Notting Hill,' Beth, her more  knowledgeable flatmate had told her, brows lifted. 'Very swish.'

'He's got a marvellous job,' Olivia said proudly. 'He can afford it.'

'There's nothing the matter with your job.' Beth gave her a measuring  look. 'So why pack it all in and go chasing rainbows-in the Smoke?'

'You know why.' Olivia began transferring neat piles of undies and  nightwear from the chest of drawers to the open case on the bed.

'Livvy-he's a married man, for God's sake.'

'Some marriage-with her in Bristol and him in London,' Olivia retorted.  'Beth-it's over; believe me. It's been dead for more than a year now.  They want different things. She's totally wrapped up in her career.  Didn't I show you that piece in the paper announcing she'd just been  made a partner in her law firm?'

'Which only proves she's doing well. Wives are allowed to, you know.  It's not a male prerogative any more.' Beth's tone was dry. 'Anyway, it  doesn't give you carte blanche to pursue her husband to London.'

'Jeremy and I want to be together,' Olivia insisted. 'And it's time we took positive steps to achieve this.'

'Is that how Jeremy sees it?' Beth's look of mild enquiry metamorphosed  into a frown. 'My God, Livvy. You have told him you're joining him?  Haven't you?'

'Not exactly,' Olivia said defensively. 'But it was always understood  that we'd be together in London. It was just a question of timing. And,  with Maria getting her partnership, this is clearly the time.'

'He's been in London for three months. Shouldn't you have got together at some point? Discussed things?'

Olivia shrugged. 'He's been busy-settling into a new job-new flat. We talk on the phone-and write.'

'You write,' said Beth. 'He phones-sometimes.'

Olivia's mouth tightened. 'You don't really like Jeremy, do you?'

'I haven't any feelings about him either way.' Beth was dismissive. 'But  I don't like what he's doing to you. The games he's playing.'

'I don't know what you mean.' Olivia tucked tissue into the folds of a black skirt.

'Yes, you do, but clearly you don't want to talk about it. So I'll just  say this-if I was going with a guy, I'd want a bit more out of the  relationship than a few vague promises of eternal bliss-some time.'  Beth's tone was edged.

Olivia flushed. 'If you're talking about sex … '

'Which I am.'

'Then we want that too, of course, but it didn't seem right. Not while  he was still living here in Bristol with Maria. Now the separation is  official, we can-make our own commitment to each other.'

'Such passion,' Beth commented wryly.

'It's not just an affair,' Olivia insisted. 'We want to build a life  together-a home-ultimately a family. My joining him in London is the  first step on the way.'

'Then I hope it all works out for you, I really do.' Beth gave her a  swift hug. 'But I won't advertise your room immediately-just in case … '

Remembering, Olivia frowned as she hefted her case along the platform,  and out on to the main concourse. The train had been crowded, mostly,  she suspected, with Saturday shoppers, and she had to thread her way  through a mass of people to find the taxi rank.

Beth means well, she thought, taking her place in the queue, and setting  her case down thankfully. But she doesn't really know Jeremy. Not like I  do.

There hardly seemed a time when he hadn't been part of her life. They'd  grown up in the same Somerset village, and Olivia had always been  slightly in awe of his blond good looks, and the assurance bestowed by  his six years' seniority over her. She'd been shyly happy when he'd come  home for the school holidays, however little attention he'd paid her,  and she'd grieved silently when he'd left for university.

During his second year away, his parents had sold their house and moved  to a smaller property on the coast, and she'd decided sadly that she'd  never see him again.

Their meeting last year in a Bristol wine bar had been the purest  coincidence. She'd been there with a colleague from work, unwinding  after a long, hard day teaching computerised office systems to a  particularly unreceptive bunch of secretaries.                       
       
           



       

Jeremy had been with a crowd of people at a leaving do on the other side  of the room. The wine bar had been full, and not particularly well-lit,  but she'd recognised him at once. Heard him laugh. Had seen his  brilliant smile flash as he'd turned to trade cheerful insults with  another member of his party.

When he'd gone up to the bar, she'd followed. Touched his sleeve …

'Hello, Jeremy. I don't expect you remember me … '

He turned, brows lifting in sudden hauteur, which disappeared like the  sun breaking through clouds as he registered her presence.

'Livvy Butler-by all that's wonderful. I don't believe it. How long has it been?'

Too long, she thought, bathed in the warmth of that smile. Basking, for once, in his undivided attention.

'You look terrific' His blue eyes took in everything, from the streaked  brown hair enhanced by a fortnight in the Greek sun, to the pink enamel  on the toenails peeping from her chic, high-heeled sandals. He glanced  round. 'Are you with someone, or can we talk?'

'I was just leaving … '

'No, don't do that. Look, those people in the corner are going. Grab their table while I get us a drink. Is Chardon all right?'

She'd have drunk wolfsbane if he'd offered it to her.

Moments later, they were sitting at the corner table, and he was pouring wine into her glass.

'Are you sure your friends won't mind?' she asked doubtfully.

Jeremy shrugged 'I've done my duty. The way things are going, my absence  won't even be noticed.' He handed over her glass. Raised his own in a  toast 'Happy meetings, Livvy. Tell me, what are you doing in Bristol?'

Waiting for you, she thought, as she raised her glass in turn. But I never knew it until this moment …

The taxi queue shuffled up, and Olivia shuffled with it, impatience  building inside her. Why couldn't all these people wanting Harrods or  Selfridges share each other's cabs, and save their money and her  precious time?

Now that she was here, she wanted to be with Jeremy. Needed to see his  face light up with incredulity and delight, and his arms opening wide to  enfold her.

When it had started, it had been purely platonic. Just two old friends  meeting for the odd drink-the occasional meal. Jeremy had made no secret  of the fact that he was married, and she'd respected him for that.

She couldn't remember the moment when she first registered that all  might not be well in his marriage. Jeremy always spoke with pride of his  wife's career achievements, but was reticent-even tight-lipped-about  their personal relationship, and gradually she'd found herself  wondering.

Then, one day, he'd rung her at work and asked almost abruptly if she'd  have dinner with him that evening. When she'd arrived at the restaurant,  she'd found a candlelit table for two, and champagne waiting on ice.

It's my birthday,' he'd told her quietly. 'Unfortunately, my wife is too  busy preparing a major case for the Crown Court to come out with me.  Thanks for making time for me, Livvy.'

Over the evening, Jeremy had spoken openly about his marriage for the first time.

'With Maria, the job comes first, second and third,' he'd said bitterly. 'I'm not even sure I end up a poor fourth.'

'That can't be true.' She'd put her hand over his. 'You've been married  such a short time. You have to talk it out-reach some kind of  compromise … '

'How can you talk to someone who won't admit there's a problem?' He'd  shaken his head. 'I'm not certain we've ever had a marriage at all.' His  fingers had closed round hers. 'I should have waited, Livvy,' he'd said  huskily. Waited for you. I know that now. Tell me it's not too late.'

'Wake up, love.' The taxi driver's strident voice broke impatiently into her reverie. 'Do you want a cab or not?'

'Oh, yes.' Red-faced, Olivia gave him her destination and heaved her  case on board, collapsing back on to the seat as the cab moved off.

She hardly knew London at all, she reflected. Her only previous visits  had been brief sightseeing trips when she was much younger. Living here  would be a totally different matter.

She was used to heavy traffic in Bristol, but it didn't compare with the  sheer volume confronting her now. The cab was crawling along, hemmed in  by other vehicles, only occasionally diving through some tiny gap, as  if making a bid for freedom.

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