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Sweet Surrender With the Millionaire(10)

By:Helen Brooks

Aware he was itching to know more about her-a lot more-Morgan warned  himself to go steady. 'Tell me about your job,' he drawled as though he  were merely making polite conversation. 'What do you do and where do you  work?'

He ate slowly as she spoke, pretending he wasn't hanging on every word.  When she came to a natural pause he asked the question he'd been working  round to all evening. 'So what made you buy Keeper's Cottage? It's a  bit remote, isn't it?'

The barrier that went up was almost visible. 'I liked it.'

'There must have been other places you liked closer to your work, surely? Places you could have shared with friends, perhaps?'

For a moment he thought she was going to tell him to mind his own  business. He couldn't have blamed her. Instead, after a long pause, she  said coolly, 'I've done the sharing-with-friends thing for a while and I  decided I wanted my own house now. I … I like my own company. Being  independent is important to me.'

Neat hint for the future. Morgan smiled. 'There's a hell of a lot wants doing to the cottage as far as I understand.'

Willow shrugged. 'I'm in no rush. Things will happen in time.'

'And it's tiny. Charming,' he added hastily. 'But tiny.'

'It's more than big enough for one.'

He'd finished his salmon and took a long swallow of wine, blue eyes holding green when he murmured, 'What if you meet someone?'

'I meet people all the time, Morgan, and it doesn't affect my living accommodation.'

Her voice had been light, even suggesting amusement, but her fingers  were gripping the stem of the wineglass so tightly her knuckles showed  white. Vitally aware of her body language, he gave the required response  of a lazy smile but found he wasn't ready to do the socially acceptable  thing and leave well alone. 'I mean someone special,' he said softly.  'You're a very attractive young woman and most women in your position  want a partner eventually, maybe even children one day. It would be a  shame to work at getting the cottage exactly how you want it only to  have to move to a bigger place.'

Her pupils had dilated, black showing stark against the clear green.  Slowly she took a sip of wine, then said, 'For the record I've done the  partner thing, OK? Husband, everything. I didn't like it and I have no  intention of repeating what was a mistake now I have my freedom again.'  Rising to her feet, she added, 'I just need to pay a visit to the  cloakroom. I won't be long.'                       


He rose with her but didn't say a word because he couldn't. He felt as  though someone had just punched him hard in the stomach. And the ironic  thing, he acknowledged soberly, was that he had probably asked for it.


WILLOW fled to the downstairs cloakroom, berating herself with each  step. Stupid. She'd been absolutely stupid to reveal what she had. And  to add that bit about her freedom …

She closed the door of the cloakroom behind her and stood with her hands  pressed to her hot cheeks in the cool white and grey room. Staring at  her face in the large oval mirror above the washbasin, she saw her  cheeks were fiery.

He'd think she'd been insinuating she was on the market again but this  time for a no-strings-attached affair or something similar. Any man  would. She should just have stated she had no intention of concentrating  on anything other than her career for a long, long time. That would  have been enough. Impersonal and to the point. Instead she'd launched  into an explanation that had embarrassed them both. And Morgan had been  embarrassed, she could tell from the look on his face. He hadn't known  what to say. In fact he'd done a goldfish impression as she'd left.

Which was probably a first.

The thought came from nowhere but in spite of her agitation it made her  smile for a moment. She dared bet Morgan Wright was never taken by  surprise and usually had an answer to everything.

Shutting her eyes tightly, she groaned under her breath. He really must  think she was a nutcase now. First she nearly set his summerhouse on  fire and covered his garden in ash, then she nearly set her own house on  fire and now she was bending his ear about her disastrous marriage.  What on earth was the matter with her? But he had asked.

Her eyes snapping open, she shook her head at herself. No excuses. He'd  been making friendly dinner conversation, that was all. He hadn't asked  for a precise of her lovelife to date, for goodness' sake. She hadn't  been thinking clearly enough, that was the trouble. When he'd mentioned  children he'd touched a nerve. She had always thought she'd be a mother  one day; she'd never really imagined anything else. Perhaps she'd hung  in there with Piers long after she'd known she should have left because  of the dream of babies and a family? By the time she'd petitioned for  divorce she'd known she'd rather be barren for the rest of her days than  have Pier's child though.

Of course you didn't have to be married or with someone to have a baby  these days-the world was full of single mothers who'd got pregnant  knowing they had no intention of staying with the father of their child  for ever. One of her city friends had been quite open about the fact  she'd purposely conceived knowing she didn't even want to see the man  again once she was pregnant. A high-powered businesswoman who was as  ruthless in her lovelife as her worklife, Jill had already hired a  full-time nanny before her baby was born and, now little Lynsey was six  months old, appeared as happy as a bug in a rug with life.

But she wasn't like Jill. Sighing, she brushed her hair back from her  face. And what was right for one person wasn't necessarily right for  another. She wouldn't want Jill's life, which consisted of seeing Lynsey  for an hour or two in the morning and even shorter time in the evening,  and weekends. She knew herself well enough to realise she was an  all-or-nothing kind of girl, and if she couldn't have it all-a permanent  relationship, babies, roses round the door-she'd rather have nothing.  Not that her life was empty; it wasn't. She had loads of good friends, a  job she enjoyed and a home she'd fallen in love with the minute she'd  seen it. Beth being pregnant had unsettled her, that was all. But it  would be fun being an aunty and she could slake some of her maternal  longing on the poor little thing in due time.

Willow continued to give herself a stern talking-to until she left the  cloakroom a few minutes later, by which time she was in control of  herself once more. Feeling slightly silly at the way she'd panicked and  left the table, admittedly-but reason had reasserted itself and she was  confident Morgan hadn't assumed she was inviting herself into his bed.  She was out of practice at conversing over dinner with a member of the  opposite sex, that was the trouble, she told herself ruefully as she  retraced her steps. Despite offers, since Piers she hadn't dated.                       


When she entered the dining room Morgan was sitting where she'd left  him, staring broodingly into his wineglass. For a second she studied his  face, noticing the strength in the square-boned jaw, the cleanly  sculpted mouth and straight nose.

His attractiveness went far beyond looks, she thought with a sudden jolt  to her equilibrium. In spite of being a very masculine male, there was  nothing bullish or brutal about him. It would be easier to dismiss him  from her mind if there were.

Morgan looked up, the brilliant blue eyes unreadable. 'Did I offend you just now? And please be honest, Willow.'

'What?' Completely taken aback, she stopped in her tracks before  recovering and taking her seat at the table as she said, 'No, of course  not. You didn't, really.'

'Upset you, then? And again, be honest.'

She stared at him. He clearly didn't believe in pushing awkward issues  under the carpet. She was about to make a dismissive reply and change  the subject when she saw there was real concern in the hard face. She  hesitated, colour creeping up her cheeks, and then said in a rush, 'You  didn't offend or upset me, Morgan, I promise you. It's just that-' she  took a deep breath '-I don't normally wear my heart on my sleeve.'

He nodded slowly, his voice soft when he said, 'Is it still painful to talk about?'

He had refilled her wineglass while she'd been in the cloakroom and she  took a long sip to gain some time. She wanted to say she didn't wish to  discuss this any further so it was with something akin to surprise she  heard herself say, 'I don't love him any more if that's what you mean.'

He took the wind out of her sails for the second time in as many minutes  when he said quietly, 'I don't know what I mean, to be truthful. I  hadn't imagined … ' He shook his head at himself. 'I guess because you  look so young I hadn't considered something like marriage. Nothing so  serious or … permanent.'

Tonelessly, she said, 'I met Piers six years ago and we married eight  months later. I-I was very unhappy.' She stared into the wineglass,  swirling the ruby-red liquid as she spoke. 'He wasn't who I thought he  was before we married. I knew I'd made a terrible mistake within the  first few months but-' she shrugged '-I thought I could make it work if I  tried. I was wrong. Something happened-' a few drops of wine escaped  the glass, staining the linen tablecloth like blood '-and I left. We're  now legally divorced. End of story.' She raised her eyes, her smile  brittle. 'Just one of many said little tales happening up and down the  country.'