Authors: Patricia Wilson
PatriciaWilson - Borrowed Wife
Copyright © I996 by Patricia Wilson. I996Silhouette Books, a division of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
Harlequin Enterprises Limited, Toronto, Canada. Silhouette, Silhouette Desire a registered Trademark of Harlequin Romance.
Abigail watched with afrown as her father paced around his study from side to side. She noticed thetension in his shoulders, the contorted red colour of the strain on his face.He was working up to a heart attack and she knew it but there was nothing shecould do about this endless fear. She had seen it eating into him the last fouryears.
At first, she thought itwas an exaggeration. Now she knew that his insecurity had strong reasons forbeing. The almost superstitious belief that was within his grip, his certainty ofretribution. And now she believed it herself, because nothing would stop Logan. Nothing would halt the juggernaut of destruction that he had turned loose on theirlives. The promise he made to crush, the Madden Corporation was about to befulfilled. The vow had been made and it was happening; with the power of hisstrength, Logan Steele’s was slowly destroying her father, without mercy,overwhelming them. It wasn’t ever a clean, sharp kill. The method ofannihilation had been slowly grinding them into oblivion. The suffering hadbeen insidious and carried out with meticulous precision, planned to detail,the icily grey eyes of Logan Steele –like some cruel deity controlling a gameof deadly chess. Except that it wasn’t a game. It was her father’s life, thebusiness he had spent over thirty years building, his very reason for existing.
‘Five years! Five years tothe exact day he threatened me. Kent Madden muttered, stopping to look at heras she stood by his desk and watched helplessly.
‘The business wassuspended last night. By the end of today we will be liquidated. Looseeverything we have, everything!’
He wentto stand by the window, staring unseeing into the garden of the huge house thathe had built almost twenty years ago. It had been an outward sign of prosperity,a signal to all the world that he had arrived. The Madden Corporation had beenclimbing like a star, shining and new, secure at last after ten yean of bardwork and scheming. Now the house would go with everything else. How long couldthey hang onto it? Months? Weeks?
Abigailsighed and shook her head, the feeling of helpless despair flooding over heragain There had been nothing she could do to shield them against Logan’s cold, ruthless determination. She had merely been a pawn in the game, anotherweapon in Logan’s hands as he’d planned her father’s destruction.
KentMadden waned to be so bitterly alone. He stood with his back to her but even soshe could see the destruction that the last few years had wrought. Thestraight back was bent, the wide shoulders drooping; his hair was almostcompletely white. He had tried to fight, tried to win and he had beenaccustomed to winning. But there was no way of fighting the ice-cold energythat was Logan Steele, no way of defeating the wealth and power he commanded.
It wouldhave been better if her father had simply bowed out long ago but Logan had known be would not. He had known that Kent Madden would fight to the end and hehad slowly forced the breath from the firm, watching the struggle with aglacial detachment. Now was the time for the kill and he would not even appearfor that; she knew him too well to expect it. He would observe it from hisluxurious office in the towering city block that bore his name. He would watchit come over the fax. He would tear off the report, crumble it in his long,strong fingers and it would all be over.
Abigaillooked at her father with dread. What would he do then? How would he recoverfrom this silent battle to the death? The last few years had almost turned himinto an old man and she knew that when the end came, when the news of the crashwas blazoned across the papers, Kent Maddens life would be finished.
Alreadyhe had handed the office over to her—not in any formal way but simply by notbeing there. It was months since he had even set foot in the door. The boardmeetings, the daily dealings with each crisis had become Abigail’s problem. Hewas too ill to face work. One day at the office would probably kill him.
‘I’llhave to go.’ she said quietly ‘Today of all days, I’ve got to be in theoffice.’
‘There’llbe no miracle, Abigail.’ he muttered without turning. ‘Miracles only happen forLogan Steele. There’s nothing you can do.’
‘I know.All the same, I should be there.’
She leftand went out to her car. Her father was still standing by the window but he wasstaring into space, never even looking down at her. It would take a miracle tosave them and she knew it. And miracles didn’t happen for Logan. He made themhappen. Logan made everything happen and anyone who stood in his way was hurt.Who should know that better than she did? She still felt the pain.
‘You’ve got two meetingsthis morning, Abigail.’ Martha Bates said as Abigail walked in. ‘This afternoonyou’ve got to see Jenkinson’s manager and the man from the bank. There’s a listof calls on your desk. The phone never stops ringing.’
‘Are yousurprised?’ Abigail sighed, leaning against Martha’s desk and looking down atthe growing list of appointments.
‘I’msorry. Really I am,’ Martha said sympathetically. She had been Kent’s private secretary for twenty years and she knew that this was the end-everyone knew.It was not something that could be hidden or glossed over. Abigail smiledruefully into the kindly, middle-aged face and nodded.
‘I know.Thanks. It’s all going to be so much old news soon.’
‘There’snothing you can do?’ Martha asked hopefully, and Abigail looked at her wryly.
‘I couldstand and scream, break a few windows. Care to help?’
It wasfunny how even at the worst of times people could laugh, Martha thought as shewatched Abigail walk down the long passage to her office. She never ceased tobe delighted by the look of Kent Madden’s daughter. The long, glossy black hairhadn’t changed since she had come here nearly seven years ago. Nobody deservedto take the beating she was taking now. She was too young, too beautiful, toosweet to face this daily battleground. Kent should have been here, fighting itto the end. Abigail had suffered enough.
The phonerang and Martha picked it up, her softened expression hardening.
Therewill be no statement issued to the Press today,’ she stated starchily, ‘No, thechairman is not in the offices at the moment.’ She put the phone down angrily.While she was here she would protect Abigail from vultures. It was the onlyhelp she could give.
With thedoor dosed behind her, Abigail sank to the chair by the desk - her desk now,because if she had not been here there would have been nobody at all in thisoffice with his name engraved on the outer door. ‘Kent Madden, Chairman.’ Thegold signs were up on other doors too. ‘Vice-Chairman’, ‘General Manager’,‘Boardroom’
lt wasthe last sign that always stuck in her mind because that was where she hadfirst seen Logan. She had him at that door as he’d been on his way out, fiveyears ago, when she had been nineteen. Now she felt old, worn out, defeated.Abigail leaned back and closed her eyes, too dejected even to begin planningthe afternoon’s meetings.
What wasthere to plan? Each meeting would have a predictable conclusion. The supplierswere edgy and anxious. The bank was preparing to pull the rug out from underthe firm’s feet. Their shares had been suspended since last night. End ofstory. There was nothing to say, nothing to do. It was over and it was almost arelief. Logan was just waiting to administer the coup de grace, the final,glittering strike. It would be a blessing
She lookeddown at her hands, at the delicate length of her fingers, and the glitter therecaught her eye. A wedding band-another of his plans, well thought-out andmeticulously executed. She frowned at it, her green eyes narrowed and angry.She had never taken it off. It had served to remind her of her own stupidity,to warn her when any other man had tried to charm her.
Why wasthere nothing she could do? She was Logan’s wife! It gave her no rights but shehad never expected any. It gave her a voice, though. Abigail picked up thephone and spoke to Martha firmly.
‘Cancelall my appointments for the day. I have something to do and it won’t wait.’
‘Are you going to see ..?Shall I help...? What can I do?’ Martha asked uneasily,
‘You can’t do anything,’Abigail snapped, ‘and neither can I, but I’m going to settle this today. I’mnot going to win but I’m damned if I’ll go down whimpering!’
‘‘Atta girl!’ Marthachortled. Leave the office to me. Let me know if…
‘It willbe bad news,’ Abigail warned, ‘but at least it will be news. We’ve died slowlyfor long enough.’
She leftby the back way, making her way to the taxi rank on the corner. If anyone waswaiting at the front to waylay her they had a long wait ahead of them. What hadshe to lose? Pretty soon there would be nothing anyway and she was tired ofstruggling in silence. It was like cowering in a corner. This morning shehadn’t been able to eat. She had left her dinner last night too. She was nothungry, though. She was slowly shriveling up inside and she was not going to dothat.
The taxidropped her opposite an office block that dominated the whole road. In spite ofits height it was tasteful, the stone of the facing blending in with the olderbuildings around it. But there was no mistaking it. One word—one name—served asa reminder of the man who held them in the palm of his hand and that name sweptacross the front of the building in letters six feet high. She had to look upto see it but she already knew it was there. The letters were burnished by thesunlight and shone back at her, hurting her eyes.
‘Steele’.Nothing more, just the one name—Logan’s name, her name. She clenched her teethand crossed the road, marching up the three shallow steps and walk in throughthe gleaming glass doors. She had not come to throw down the gauntlet, she hadcome to capitulate but afterwards Logan would know she had been there. She wasno longer a shy, bewildered girl of nineteen and whatever happened, she wasdetermined that he would not forget this visit.
I wish to see Mr. Steele!’ At the reception desk she told the young woman with a look of determination,knowing that she would be unlikely to get further with strides. The girl wasnew and Abigail wondered how many changes Logan had made
‘Unlessyou have an appointment—’
‘I do not have anappointment. However, I intend to see him. Please ring his office.’
I’msorry, that’s out of the question.’
Abigailwasted no more words. She marched across the foyer and into the lift. She knewexactly where Logan’s office was and nobody was going to stop her furtherentrance. The girl raced across but the doors of lift closed and Abigail was onher way. As the lift stopped on the third floor she stepped out and faced thegasping receptionist, who had obviously run up the stairs to cut her off.
‘Youcannot see Mr. Steele!’ The girl was red-faced for more than one reason. Therewas her breathless stale, her utter annoyance but, more than that, there was adoor just opening as a tall, dark-haired man showed out his visitor.
‘You see, I can see Mr.Steele,’ Abigail announced sharply. I don’t thinkIneed an appointment. I’m his wife.’
The two man at the doorturned at the sound of her voice and the tall dark haired man looked at herwith suspiciously clear grey eyes, his mouth hardening as he saw her. For amoment he simply stated at her coldly and then the hard, well-shaped lipstwisted in a, mocking smile.
‘Hello,Abigail,’ he said softly. ‘Come right in.’
He noddedcasually to his visitor, aimed a stare of dismissal at the receptionist andmotioned Abigail into his office with one smooth sweep of his hand. She didn’tlook at him as she passed, and he closed the door, walking to his deskimmediately.
‘So whatcan I do for you, Abigail?’
‘Nothing!’she bit out, I’m not in the habit of begging.’
‘No. Irealise that you’re now an efficient, brisk female. I’ve kept my eyes on youover the years.’
He turnedto face her and Abigail felt a shock that almost wiped the defiance from herface. The tall, lithe body was the same. The dark brown hair was the same,still shining with health, still showing immaculate grooming. But there thelikeness to the Logan she remembered faded. If she had changed why had sheexpected that Logan would still look the same? He was hardened beyond belief.
His greyeyes were now cold as frosted crystal. The well-shaped mouth was hard and hisface showed no sign of humanity at all. The memory of his expressions flashedacross her mind-his mocking humour, his amused astonishment, his coaxingsensuality. Everything was gone and his coldly handsome face might just aswell have been carved from rock.
‘All youknow about me is the end result of the havoc you’ve caused!’ Abigail snapped,forcing herself back into the defiant frame of mind, making herself rememberjust what Logan was.
‘I knowmore than you imagine.’ he stated icily. ‘And there is no havoc. Havoc suggestsa random and haphazard method of destruction. It suggests confusion and disorder,a shambles. I do not act in any random manner. I plan.’
‘You planvery well.’ Abigail congratulated him sarcastically. ‘You’ve crushed the MaddenCorporation; we’re finished.’
‘Notquite,’ he murmured, his brilliantly clear eyes taking over her. ‘The firm isstill viable entity.’ He turned to his desk, sitting down and indicating achair for her ‘However,’ he continued, ‘You have assured me that you are nothere to beg. So, once again, what can I do for you, Abigail?’
‘Nothing!’she snapped out furiously. ‘Nothing at all. We surrender. I’m here to tell youthat. You can bring the sword down now, make the final cut. You’ve hurt us allyou can.’
He leanedback in his chair and stared at her disconcertingly, his eyes roaming over herwith cold appraisal, lingering on the glossy black hair that curled around hershoulders, moving over her slender figure in the chocolate-coloured suit. Hisgaze returned to her face, moving slowly over every beautiful feature andstopping at the blaring green of her eyes as he noted the resentment at thisminute inspection.
‘You werenever included in this,’ he reminded her quietly, ‘No?’ she queried scornfully‘I was a pawn, another thing to take from the Madden Corporation That soundsvery much like inclusion to me. I was stupid, gullible and useful. Well, you’vedone your worst, this will kill my father. I expect that’s what you want.’
‘I donot!’ Logan rasped, his eyes burning like fire on ice. ‘But even if I did Iwould be justified. Kent Madden killed my father and my mother!’
‘You’relying!’ Abigail felt shakily for the chair and sat down, staring at him inhonor, but he looked hard at her unfeelingly, the blazing fire dying out of hiseyes.
‘I’venever found it necessary to lie. Did he never tell you, Abigail’ Ask him! Askyour father what this is about. Did you think it was because of you, becauseyou left me and ran home to Daddy? You imagine you’re important enough to causethis devastation? Ask him why I’m crushing him slowly. Ask him why I’m steadilysqueezing the life out of the firm. And remind that him about John Steele andhis wife. Kathleen—my father and mother!’
‘It’s nottrue!’ Abigail whispered, looking at him in horror. ‘You’re saying it tojustify everything you’ve done. You would have told me before; when we weremarried you would have—!’
‘You werenever involved,’ he assured her calmly. His eyes never leaving her desperateface, It was a battle that did not concern you. It is -and always was—a battlewith your father. I wanted you. I took you away from a villain. And as to ‘whenwe were married’ we’re still married. You announced that as you arrived here’’
‘Myfather is not a villain,’ Abigail managed in an almost pleading voice, but hisface did not soften.
‘Oh, thelaw will never catch him.’ Logan said harshly. ‘He was too clever for that.’ Helowered his voice to a softly menacing murmur. ‘But I didn’t need the law tocaught him. He was never meant to escape. It’s taken me five years. Promises tokeep, Abigail. I’m glad you didn’t come to plead, because it would have beenuseless. I have him right where I want him—my hands around his throat.’
Abigailgot slowly to her feet, her eyes not leaving him. She didn’t know him. She hadnever known him.
And this was the man shehad loved deeply, helplessly. His voice was alarming, so quietly threateningthat she had a rush of fear for her father. It was not the end. Logan had planned something else. She stated at him with frightened eyes and then she fellto the carpet in a dead faint.
When she came round she wasin Logan’s arms and the receptionist was just hurrying in through the door.
‘She fainted,’ Logan said sharply. ‘I’ll bring her to the first aid room.’
‘I am all right’ Abigailmanaged to whisper, ‘You can just put me down now, thank you.’
‘Such gentle manners,’ Logan muttered disparagingly. But then, you always did have that sweet nature. You’re notall right, Abigail Contrary to popular fiction, people do not faint with eitherhorror or disgust. You will lie down in the first-aid room.’
It was useless to argue.She knew him too well for that but she shivered at the realisation that she wasin his arms after so long. Once it had been where she’d always wanted to be.Now the feel of his arms frightened her. I can walk,’ she insisted, but hesimply ignored her, and after a few seconds he was walking through a door and
Placingher on a small, white sheeted bed as the woman bended over her and took off hershoes.
Ensurethat she stays there,’ Logan ordered, and the receptionist nodded her agreementas he turned and walked out of the room.
A littlesleep,’ she murmured in a pacifying voice. Trying to remove Abigail’s jacket‘He won’t contemplate killing you yet,’ she added as Abigail protested andtried to get up. ‘Just rest, please, Mrs. Steele. It will solve a lot oftrouble and you do look very pale.’
Abigail subsided,wondering how much the people in these offices knew about her, about Logan’s private life, about his deadly attack on her father. Did they know that she wasKent Madden’s daughter? Did they know that he was being slowly crushed by Logan? Already her name had filtered round the building, it seemed. What else were theytalking about?
She wassoon just in her white slip, the sheets drawn over her, and the woman sighedthankfully.
‘Justrest,’ she said in a pleading voice. ‘If you’re asleep when he comes back inhe’ll be satisfied.’
Abigailclosed her eyes to escape from further conversation—and Logan would not comeback in, she thought. He would now be entirely occupied with something else,his memory of her small fainting spell merely an irritated edge to his hardmouth. She felt light-headed almost afraid to keep her eyes closed, and sheknew that Logan was right. It had not been horror or anything that had made herfaint. She hadn’t eaten properly far days. She was light-headed from hunger andtension.
Sheslept, in spite of her determination to remain awake, and as she opened hereyes a little later she was startled to find Logan in the room, looking down ather with cool detachment.
‘When didyou last eat?’ he asked coldly. ‘Don’t’ bother to lie. Your skin lookstransparent. You’ve lost weight. You’re practically withering away.’
‘Are yousurprised?’ she began, trying to sit up. He pushed her down to the pillows, hishand against her shoulder.
‘Answermy question,’ he grated. ‘When did you eat?’
‘I don’tknow. I can’t remember. Yesterday—perhaps, Yesterday lunchtime, I think. I’mnot sure.’
‘You’lleat now,’ he ordered, his hand coming to her back as he helped her to sit up.‘Get dressed. There’s some soup ready for you. It’s about all you can takeafter a spell of starvation.’
‘I don’tneed your help,’ Abigail managed to snap sitting, but pulling the sheets to herneck. ‘I’m capable of feeding myself in my own good time. If you’ll leave, I’IIget dressed.’
Logan’s face twisted in anger, his hand coming out totear the sheets from her grasp.
‘Getdressed!’ he ordered harshly. ‘I’ve seen you in far Iess than you’re wearingnow. I’ve touched every inch of you. Don’t get coy with me, Abigail. Whenyou’re dressed I’ll take you through to the dining room. You will eat beforeyou leave this building, otherwise you’ll not leave at all.’
She felt too shaken toargue and she slid from the bed, reaching for her skirt and blouse, trying topretend that Logan wasn’t there. In any case, he had moved to stand by thewindow and glare down into the street, his hands in his pockets, his wholedemeanour one of rage.
‘I’m ready.’ Her quietannouncement had him turning around, his eyes running coldly over her, and thenhe came forward and opened the door, leading the way to another room, where atable was set for her and a bowl of hot soup had just been brought. It was nota big room but it was luxurious and Abigail glanced round surreptitiously.
The executive dining room,’Logan growled. ‘This was done two years ago, long after you fled. It’s smallbut cozy. You can eat. Nobody is about to burst in here.’
Who would dare? Shethought. Logan was here. He looked as if he was going to stay, too. He satopposite and just stated at her unwaveringly and Abigail found it impossible toeat.
‘I—Ican’t eat.’ she began, and, if anything, Logan’s lips tightened even more.
‘You’lleat,’ he ordered. ‘If you do not, then you’ll still be here in the morning andsoup will be brought for you every half-hour during that time.’
‘Youcan’t do this!’ Abigail protested. ‘You have no right whatever to—’
‘Might isright,’ Logan reminded het shortly ‘Eat your soup. If my presence spoils yourappetite then I’ll go out for a while, but escape is impossible. You came heredemanding entrance to my office. You announced your marital status and thewhole building is quivering with anticipation. I would know before you even gotto lift,’
He stoodand walked out and Abigail stared after him anxiously. Coming here had been amistake. She knew instinctively that she had made a false move in this deadlygame. She had reminded Logan of her existence and if he could make further useof her possibilities he would do so without hesitation. That was why he wasmaking her stay.
Sheturned her attention to the soup. Now that he was not sitting there looking ather she felt the pangs of hunger. It was delicious soup anyway and she butteredthe hot rolls and ate—it was the first time she had eaten in ages. She had notbeen lying when she had told Logan that she could not remember when she hadlast eaten. The days seemed to have rolled into one and all she could rememberwas hot coffee, morning, noon and night.
With theusual immaculate timing he came back in as she finished and Abigail stood andfaced him defiantly.
‘I’ve eaten as ordered andnow I’ll leave,’ she said tightly.
‘And why not?’ Logan drawled sardonically. ‘After all, you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.’
‘What doyou mean?’ She stared at him angrily. Was he suggesting that she had come hereto faint and get his sympathy? She knew him belter than that. He had nosympathy at all, especially not with her.
‘You cameto announce your surrender.’ He gave her an ironical look as her face flushedslightly. ‘I’ll rephrase that. You came to announce your father’s surrender.
‘Myfather and I are in this together,’ Abigail reminded him sharply, and his eyesnarrowed dangerously, the cold grey glittering like ice.
‘Oh, no, you’re not,’ herasped. ‘You were never in it. You may have become a trainee high-flyer overthe past four years but, believe me, you don’t even know the first thing aboutbeing ‘in this’. You’ve never had your beautiful toes in the mud.’
‘Not even when I wasmarried to you?’ Abigail asked him tightly, and he looked at her for a secondwith devastating hostility before his lips twisted in cold amusement.
‘Your feet hardly touchedthe floor. You were in my arms for most of the time. Memory is such an elusivething,’ he opened the door as she was struggling to regain her anger andcomposure. ‘Time to go, Abigail. This way.’
It became apparent that hewas taking her outside that would give him time for more comments. Abigail sether lips firmly and walked stiffly beside him. Neither of them spoke in thelift and it was only as he was actually opening the door to the street that shethought about a taxi.
‘I didn’tbring my car. I’ll phone for a taxi.’
You don’tneed one,’ Logan informed her implacably. ‘I intended to take you back in anycase. This saves me the trouble of having to send your car round later.’
A darkJaguar slid to a hale in front of them and a smiling youth stepped out andopened the passenger door for Abigail as Logan took the wheel. It was done sosmoothly that she barely had time to think.
‘This isnot necessary.’
‘Idecided that it is,’ Logan murmured, not even glancing at her as the long carslipped smoothly into the traffic. ‘It’s a long time since I drove past theMadden’s offices. Five years almost. It will be—interesting.’
‘Theplace will be yours soon,’ Abigail reminded himin a choked voice.Suddenly she couldn’t speak. It was too overwhelming. Sitting in this car withLogan brought back so many memories that she wanted to shut her eyes and notremember where she was or who was with her, it was impossible to ignore himthough. It was the make of car, the same sensually masculine being besides her.It was even the same aftershave. It invaded her senses, bringing back feelingsas if it were the well-loved perfume of a rose pressed in an album.
‘I don’twant the place,’ Logan rasped. ‘I want the man and I’ve almost got him.’
‘You’vegot him already.’ Abigail whispered. ‘If you could see him...’
‘I haveno desire to see him!’ Logan ground out. She saw his hands tighten on the wheeland cast a furtive, frightened look at the hard, handsome face. He slanted, itshook her like icy lightning and she looked away rapidly, staring down at hertightly clenched fingers. Logan didn’t speak again and Abigail was too shakenand lost even to contemplate conversation. What was ‘there to say to him? Hishatred encompassed everything to do with the name Madden. It always had donebut she had been too young, too bewitched to know. Here we are.’ Logan spoke again as the car was gliding to a halt in front of her own offices. This placedid not bare the splendour of the Steele building and Logan’s eyes moved overit with stony indifference as the car stopped.
‘Thankyou,’ Abigail said in little more than a whisper, sighing when his hand came toher arm, his fingers biting into her through the wool of her jacket.
‘You’dbetter harden up. Abigail.’ he warned harshly. Any other female would haveslapped my face and stormed off at this point. But you—you whisper, ‘Thankyou’re yoursweetness doesn’t getto me anymore.’
‘It neverdid,’ she said more calmly than she had thought possible. ‘You just pretended.’Her wide green eyes looked at him steadily. ‘You can take everything from us,but you’ll not take my character or my belief in people. It was just mymisfortune to have met you when I was too young to know better. I’ll not judgeeveryone else by you, though. Somehow, somewhere, I’ll start again.’
His handstightened on her arm but she pulled away and got out of the car slamming thedoor and walking towards the building that very soon would be part of Logan’s empire. She didn’t look round, and long before she got to the steps she heard theJaguar purr away and moved back into the traffic. If she had annoyed him at theend, his driving gave no sign of it. He was, as usual, untouchable, imperiousand cold.
‘Did you see him?’ Marthawas waiting as Abigail] reached her own floor and went towards her office.
‘Yes. Itold you not to hope. There was nothing to hope for.’
‘I justthought that as you were there for so long—’
‘Ifainted,’ Abigail muttered. ‘He brought me back.’
‘And?’Martha’s face had shown signs of anxiety at the mention of her fainting andAbigail just wanted to get out of here fast.
‘Andnothing. It was merely a courtesy.’
Shewalked past and Martha stated after her. She knew all about Logan Steele. Shehad been at the wedding. Even now, after all that had happened, she couldn’tbelieve that it had all been a sham. They had seemed to be alone even in acrowded church, Abigail so young and beautiful and Logan so powerful andprotective! Love had seemed to glow around them like an incredible light. Butshe had seen Abigail’s dreams shattered and now she clenched her hands in rageand went back to her work. What was there to believe in? How did Abigail copeeach day?
With her appointmentscancelled for the rest of the day, Abigail now had nothing to do. It wasuseless to work at anything because soon there would be no future at all. Evenif she went out of her office and into another part of the building, therewould be worried eyes on her, people wondering if she knew anything that theydid not. Some of the staff had already taken up other offers and she knew thatthose who stayed were here through loyalty to her.
Theresponsibility was like a weight on her heart and yet there was nothing shecould do to shield either the staff or her own father. She couldn’t even gohome yet. If she arrived early he would be in a state of anxiety the moment hesaw her car.
She pacedabout and then went along to make herself a coffee. The long, thickly carpetedcorridor was deserted. This was the executive part of the building Just throughthe door at the end was the open-plan office–where Martha had her desk. At onetime this place had almost matched the opulence of the Steele building. It wasnot as big but it had been a busy, functioning place, the smell of wealth analmost tangible thing in the air.
Now itseemed to be deserted. The office of the vice-chairman was empty He had left atthe first opportunity, left before he could be declared redundant. One day thatoffice was to have been Abigail’s but she had kept temporarily to the office ofchairman long before her time, long before her father’s retirement and yearsbefore she had been ready to make the step.
Theboardroom was facing her as she came back and, she burned into her own officeafter one glance at the name on the door, That room, this corridor was whereshe had first Keen Logan and she didn’t want to be reminded. In the quiet shestill seemed to hear his voice as she had first heard it. It had been harshenough, violent enough to stop her in her tracks but she hadn’t had time toretreat to the safety of Martha and the busy offices beyond. If she had, hewould never have seen her and now she would not be feeling the guilt that refusedto go.
Abigailhad been nineteen, slender, willowy, with eyes like emeralds and long blackhair that curled round her shoulders. She had been working in her father’s firmsince she had left school the year before—He had always made, it plain to herthat she would work for him, with him and finally take the firm into her ownhands when he retired and Abigail had never thought to defy him. She wassweet-natured, gentle and always willing.
Not thatit would have been any easy option in defy Kent Madden He had fought his wayupwards in the business world, a property developer with a keen eye for a goodsite and a drive to succeed that had brought the Madden Corporation to the topand held it there. Abigail had been supposed to learn everything. Her fatherhad had visions of her bang a powerful businesswoman one day with a grasp onthe firm and the knowledge that came from starting at the bottom and workingup.
That waswhere she had been at nineteen, at the bottom and she’d loved the bustle andgossip of the offices, the motherly severity of her father’s secretary. MarthaBates Doing the donkey work had been fun to Abigail and she’d tried not tothink of her rather grand and frightening future. It had been many years away.She had been content to type out invoices, make the coffee and cart aroundheavy business files on demand.
She hadbeen doing that when she had encountered Logan for the first time. He had beenthirty-one and alarming, handsome, hard and furious, with more anger in himthan she had ever encountered in her life before, it had been in many ways adramatic meeting, and sheer chance. Minutes later and she would never have seenhim; her life would have been completely different. More than that, though, Logan would never have seen her. He would never have known who she was. She would havebeen safe.
It hadbeen Monday morning, the start of a busy week. The board meeting in theafternoon had been all set up and Abigail had been pushed for time. She hadprepares the room under Martha’s supervision and now she was taking in thefiles they would need. There were too many to carry at one go, but she was in ahurry. There was still a day’s typing on her own desk and she struggled throughthe heavy swing-door at the end of the corridor with her arms full, the filespiled so high that she could barely see over the top of them.
She heardthe voice as soon as she opened the door but it was too late to back out: thedoor had closed behind her and the files were in danger of dropping to thefloor.
‘Keeplooking over your shoulder,’ the dark and furious voice threatened, ‘becauseI’ll always be there! And I’ll get you. Five years! That’s how long it willtake. Start counting now, and remember they’re inevitable, your fate and mypromise!’
The doorof her father’s office slammed shut, the sound reverberating along thecorridor, and Abigail moved instinctively to the wall, well aware that a blind,raging force was bearing down on her. He didn’t even see her, he was soinflamed with fury that he simply bumped into her, knocking her shoulder andalmost making her lose her balance. There was no chance at all for the files;they cascaded to the floor, scattered like a pack of cards and he didn’t evenstop.
It wasonly as he reached the heavy door at the end that it seemed to sink in that hehad created a certain amount of chaos. By that time Abigail was on her knees,trying to gather the files into some sort of order and he stopped, looking backand seeing her frantic actions, her slender arms reaching out to set thingsright. She didn’t look round and a curious expression crossed his face for asecond. She didn’t even look annoyed—no sharp words, not even an irritatedglance. She was just picking things up as if he had every right to knock themdown.
He walkedback and stood looking at her and she looked up then with the most enormousgreen eyes that he had ever seen.
‘I’msorry,’ he offered ruefully. ‘I was too damned annoyed to see you.’ He croucheddown beside her and began to help but she smiled a little warily and shook herhead.
‘It’s allright and you can’t help really. They’ve got to be in order.’
‘No.Priority. I’m afraid they’re private,’ she added, her face flushing softly, herembarrassment at having to tell him to back off very obvious. He stood andlooked down at her, his mouth tilling in an amused way, ‘Sorry again in thatcase.’ He nodded at her and began to waIk-off and Abigail quickly got on withher task, making sure not to look up. He was the most handsome man she had everseen and she couldn’t work out how he could be so furious one minute and thenso nice to her. He had smiling grey eyes, like sparkling crystal, anastonishing contrast to his dark hair and tanned face. He looked powerful, fullof easy authority and he hadn’t gone through the door yet.
She tooka stealthy little glance in that direction and he was standing at the door: hishand was on it but he was still watching her.
‘What’syour name?’ His voice had softened and she didn’t even consider telling him tomind his own business.
For asecond the grey eyes narrowed, flaring over her from the shining fall ofjet-black hair to the slender shape of her beneath the red jumper, her skirtwas dark with in matching red flowers and it was spread around her as sheknelt. She felt a strange shock as her eyes met the intense gaze. It was amixture of alarm and an odd pleasure. She looked away hastily, getting back tothe files and he gave a low laugh that shivered its way down her spine
‘Goodbye,Abigail Madden.’ She didn’t have time to answer because when she looked up hehad gone; the door was just swinging shut behind him, and it was adisappointment big enough to bring out a great sigh as righted the files andgot to her feet.
She wondered who he was butshe knew that there was not much chance that she would find out. And, oddlyenough, she didn’t even think about his words as she had come through the door,didn’t even wonder why he had been raging at her father. She was too dreamilyimpressed by the man himself to think further.
It was two days later whenshe saw him again. She always drove herself to work. Her father said it was thebest thing to do to show everyone that being his daughter brought no specialprivileges- and in any case she enjoyed the drive and the small feeling ofpower it gave her that she was working and driving to the office. She hadchided herself about her fantasy but it was still there as she left work onWednesday.
OnWednesdays she stayed in town and went out for a meal with an old friend.Sometimes they went to the cinema later. Her father never worried, however lateshe was, even when it was winter and dark. He expected her to take care ofherself, to be responsible for her own actions.
As shewalked out of the building and went to her car her heart almost leapt into herthroat when a voice said quietly. ‘Hello. Abigail Madden.’ When she turnedround it was Logan. She couldn’t have mistaken that voice in any case but thesituation seemed uncanny, as if she was walking in a dream. She hadn’tforgotten him for even one minute and he was right there, leaning against adark coloured Jaguar, those crystal-grey eyes on her face as she turned.
‘Goinghome?’ he asked, his eyes lancing over her, and she was glad that this was theday she went out, because she was dressed in a silky summer suit that was asgreen as her eyes. She was wearing high heels too. It made her feelsophisticated and he was very sophisticated. The suit he was wearing wassuperbly tailored and he looked like a prince to Abigail’s dazzled eyes. He wasvery tall, fit and strong-all lithe, muscular power that overwhelmed her.
Don’t you answer when astranger speaks lo you?’ he inquired softly. ‘If you’ve been told not to speakto strange men, let me remind you that we’ve spoken before. I almost knockedyou down.’
I remember.’ Abigail’scheeks flushed softly. He had made her feel very young with his remarks aboutstrange men and now she didn’t know where to look.
‘Can I begin again?’ Hesmiled at her warmly. ‘Are you going home?’
‘No, I’m going out.This-this is my night when I stay in town.’
‘Ah! You’ve got a date.’For a moment she had the strange feeling that he was disappointed and shequickly corrected him.
Not a date exactly. I goout with an old school friend on Wednesdays. We go for a meal and then-thensometimes we go to see a film. She’s a girl,’ Abigail finished in a rush, justto make sure he understood. What would she do if you didn’t turn up?’ I alwaysdo turn up.’ Her heart seemed to take off frighteningly fast and she lookedaway, biting her lip. If for any reason I can’t go out then I ring her.’
‘Ring her,’ Logan ordered quietly.
You’re going out with me.’He looked at her steadily and Abigail bit her trembling lips harder, unable toreally believe it. He walked closer and stood looking down at her and shemanaged to find her voice.
‘I don’t know you,’ shewhispered, and he nodded in understanding.
‘That’s why you’re goingout with me—unless you don’t want to know me’
‘I do!’She looked up anxiously, scared that he would change his mind, no thought ofdanger in her head it all, and Logan smiled into her eyes, his grey eyes slowlyinspecting her face with a sort of gentle probing that made her feel weak andstrange.
‘Then whydon’t you leave your car here and come with me now? We’ll find a telephone andyou can ring your friend. Then we’ll have dinner. I’ll bring you back to yourcar later.’
Abigaillooked up at him like someone in a trance and he touched her flushed cheeklightly.
‘There’snothing to be afraid of. All right?’ He was so wonderfully reassuring andAbigail nodded. There was something to be afraid of. She should have been verymuch afraid of this man with the soft, dark voice and the startling grey eyesbut she was too bewitched to know it. He had soothed his way into her soul.
The phone rang and Abigailcame back to reality with a start.
‘BrianWingate on the line for you,’ Martha said and put her straight through beforeshe had time to come out of the world of dreams and back into the bleak andfrightening present.
‘How arethings?’ He sounded safe and comfortable and Abigail smiled as she answered.
‘Hangingby a thread. I expect the thread to snap at any moment.’
‘Well,there’s no new word about,’ he assured her steadily. ‘What do you do, Abigail?Do you wait for the axe to fall or do you slide out from under now?’
‘I can’tslide out from under. Brian,’ she pointed out wearily. ‘I’m the one they haveto throw the book at. I have to see this out-Madden’s last stand.’
‘You’renot the one,’ he said forcefully. ‘The only reason you’re there in thatposition is because your father is ill. Are you telling me that if Martha Bateshad been forced to hold the fort she would have had to make a last stand?’
‘KnowingMartha,’ Abigail mused, ‘she probably would have done. In any case,’ she addedmore firmly, ‘I have the name. I’m a Madden. I can’t just hide.’
‘You’remerely a girl!’
‘I’mtwenty-four and I feel eighty. The girl disappeared—somewhere.’
He sworeunder his breath and for a moment she thought that he had simply decided to saynothing more; then he said, ‘Look, love, I’m flying to Germany in the morning. I may be a week or even longer. Let me fix you up with us before Igo.’
‘No,thanks, Brian I have to stick this out to the end. I appreciate—’
‘You’renot expected to appreciate anything. I can use you in the firm. You’re good.The trouble with you, Abigail, is that you’re too good, too gentle.’ She bitdown on her lip. That’s more or less what Logan had said this morning but hehad said it much more coldly. ‘When I’m back,’ Brian went on, I’ll phoneimmediately. In the meantime...’
‘I’llkeep my back to the wall and my finger on the trigger,’ she assured him,forcing a bright laugh.
‘Dear,unworldly Abigail.’he mourned quietly. ‘Nothing stops a wolf-notthis wolf. Logan Steele is power beyond imagining, you know that.’ He sighedlightly. ‘I won’t even be here to offer a shoulder to cry on. Take care.’
I will.’She put the phone down and smiled ruefully. She might need a shoulder to cry onbut it would not be Brian’s. It would never be anyone’s. Since Logan she hadn’t wanted any man to care for her. It was too dangerous, too cruel and notfair. She still dreamed of Logan and woke up bewildered. It had been toowonderful to be true in the first place, too cruel to be real when it hadended.
When she finally got home,the usual words were spoken, ‘Anything new?’
‘Nothing.’She was not about to tell him about visit to Logan’s office. It would havedriven him over the edge. He had always hated Logan. As she had cancelled anyappointments, there was nothing at all discuss, and once again Abigail wasalone.
KentMadden was almost completely silent throughout dinner, merely grunting histhanks when their long-time housekeeper, Rose, served the meal. She knew, ofcourse—everyone knew—and she cast a worried eye a Abigail’s pale face everytime she came into the Even Rose was relying on her, expecting miracles, and itall weighed heavily on Abigail, even at home.
There wasnowhere to run, nowhere to go. It was utterly frustrating to be so vulnerableand helpless.
‘Somethinghas got to be done!’ her father suddenly grated as they were having coffee.‘There must be some—action we can take, something that I’m missing.’ He got upand paced about, once again working himself up. ‘It’s never been a problem toget hold of money.’
‘Noamount of money would match the Steele Group Abigail pointed out quietly. ‘Evenwithout the backing of two powerful banks Logan has millions of his own.’
Andyou’re entitled to some of that!’ Kent Mad spun round and looked at herfiercely. ‘You never divorce him.
‘If you had he would havehad to part with plenty’
‘I doubtit. In any case. I want nothing from Logan. I wouldn’t accept a crust.’
‘You’retoo soft,’ he said scathingly. ‘One day, my girl you’ll learn that you have tograb the things you want!’ You’ve let him off scot-free!’
‘I wasjust glad to survive,’ Abigail murmured. They had been through this before andthe subject was painful and distasteful. When she had walked out on Logan she had left that life completely behind and she did not need to be reminded of it.
Herfather sank into his usual silence and she made her way to bed before he couldstart up again. He always made her feel that somehow this was all her fault,that It if she had never married Logan all this would never have happened.. Itwould have, though. She was not nineteen now and the memory of Logan’s threat of that day five years ago was all too real. Even when he had been marriedto her, even when she had been in his arms, he had been planning her father’sdestruction.
She layin bed, too bet up to sleep, and her mind went back to Logan. How cold andheartless he had seemed today—just power with no drop of humanity in him. Hemight continue to tear them apart until they were finish. He might feel thatthe Madden Corporation was still viable but it was not viable for them. With Logan’s wealth and backing it was perhaps possible to save it. What did he intend to do?Would he swoop down on them and take over or would he let them sink away intooblivion?
His faceswam into her mind, first hard and cold and then warm and gentle as he had onceseemed to be. How could she have been so trusting, so naive? From the first shehad been under his spell and looking back, she could see that she had beeneager to believe anything, just be with him.
Afterthat first evening Logan had called her day, but never at home; in fact she’dthought he had idea where she lived. He’d wanted her to go out with himconstantly and Abigail bad taken to staying in town in the evenings to be withhim. Her father had made comment. He hadn’t known about Logan and she hadn’ttold him. He had, as usual, been wrapped up in his own schemes, his own plansand, provided that she was at work each day, he’d paid no attention to her atall.
He hadalways been like that. Without friends she would have been lonely. She had hadno mother by then and her father had discussed nothing but business. The factthat more often than not she was late in at night had been no concern of his.He’d simply assumed that she was with friends and Abigail had not enlightenedhim because, deep down, she’d known that he would explode with rage.
She’dnever thought of the way she had first met Logan, of the dark certainly of thethreat, but there was enough memory of it at the back of her mind to make herkeep her own counsel. Meanwhile she was ensnared, drowning in the silver-greyof Logan’s eyes, bewitched by his smile.
At theweekends she was out all day with Logan, walking, driving, going to the theatreand eating out. Sometimes they ate at little country places, sometimes inrather exclusive restaurants where Abigail would have been intimidated had itnot been for the sight of him across the table from her, the way he took herhand to lead her to her chair.
He wastreating her carefully and she knew it. She was utterly enthralled by him buthe never let her get too close. Sometimes when she left him she feltfrustrated, longing for something she barely understood, longing for just onemoment of commitment, one kiss, but Logan him never did more than hold her handand smile into her eyes. She was completely safe with him and completedbewildered by his actions.
He didn’t seem to be ableto keep away from her for more than a day and yet he never pressed anyadvantage and Abigail wished he would. She longed to be swept off her feet, todive headlong into the swirling attraction she felt for him.
Oneweekend they met at a restaurant and for the first few there was dancing. Itscared her a little to see the other people moving round the floor, and thethought of being in Logan’s arms if he should ask her to dance made hertremble. She had wanted to be in his arms since she had first seen him butcontrarily, now that the opportunity was near, she felt too shaken to condemnit.
‘Come anddance with me.’ Logan stood as they finished their meal and looked across ather, his smiling eyes holding her fast.
Tinglesran down her spine and her legs would scarcely hold her up as she rose. He cameto her, his arm coming round her waist as he led her to the floor, and as hetouched her awareness shot through her like a flame. She wasn’t even thinkingat all as he turned her in his arms and began to move with her to the slow,sensuous rhythm of the dance.
Theirbodies touched for the first time and everything inside her flared more as shefelt the tightly leashed-in strength of him against ha softness. Beneath herhand his shoulder tensed, his powerful muscles moving beneath the smooth clothof his jacket She looked up into his face but he was looking beyond her,unsmiling, his face taut with something almost like anger, and saw again thecommand he had, the control he had of his own mind and body. There was adominance and mastery about him that left her feeling awestricken.
He lookeddown at her, his gaze moving slowly over her upturned face, searching everyfeature, his strange silvery eyes glowing like the eyes of some beautifulhunting creature, and then he smiled, his hand lifting caress her cheek in atender gesture that seemed to torn from him
‘Abigail,’he said softly. ‘Beautiful Abigail with hair like a black-bird’s wing and eyeslike emeralds.’
Shedidn’t blush at such softly spoken words although normally she would have beenutterly confused. Instead something sweet and exciting burst inside her, curlingaround, flooding her whole body with delight. Her breath seemed to have lefther and she tried to regain it with a shaken sigh. His eyes narrowed on her andhe took one trembling hand in his, bringing it to his chest and holding itthere against the steady beat of his heart
Neitherof them was smiling now. They seemed to be incapable of looking away from eachother, until Logan brought her closer, his face against her hair.
‘Shall wego?’ he asked quietly, and all Abigail could do was nod. Words were beyond her.Something had happened to her that had never happened before. Every-ending wastingling, her heartbeats threatened to choke her and as she walked from thefloor and left the restaurant with Logan’s arm around her waist she shiveredwith reaction.
He took her hand, walkingbeside her to his car with the same smooth animal grace she had been noticingsince she had first seen him. He was miles beyond her reach, light years aboveher and tears came into her eyes, hot and burning. It wasn’t fair. There wouldnever be anyone like Logan again, ever. He would tire of seeing her. Whatcould he possibly want with an immature nineteen-year-old? There must be womenlining up to go out with him-hundreds of women.
In thecar, Logan turned to look at her and she quickly looked away, hiding her face,afraid that he would see the stupid tears that hadn’t left her shining eyes. Hetilted her small chin and turned her to face him and when she refused to lookat him his lips brushed hers softly as he lean across to her
It wasgentle, experimental, hardly a kiss at all, but she grasped with the shock ofit, trembling violently, and he brought her towards him, his lips teasing theside of her mouth before he pulled her fully into his arms and kissed herdeeply. His lips were hard, warm, instantly insistent and his whole body tensedwith shock as he felt her response It was inevitable, unavoidable Pure sexualpleasure raced through Abigail for the first time in her life and Logangathered her closer, his arms imprisoning her as she tilted her face willinglyand innocently.
The kissseemed to go on for ages but actually it was no more than a few seconds andthen Logan drew away, releasing her and sitting back, his eyes closed as hefought to control the breathing that was ragged in his throat.Abigailwas shaking uncontrollably and he looked across at her, taking herhand and squeezing it in his almost cruelly.
‘I’ll take you home,’ heoffered thickly, but she shook her head.
‘I—I havemy car.’
‘You’renot fit to drive, Abigail. I’ll take you.’
‘It’s along way and—and, in any case, if my car is here then I’ll not be able...Tomorrow is Sunday... if you want to see me—’
‘You knowI want to see you,’ he told her huskily.‘You’ll come on the train.I’ll be waiting for you at station. Ten o’clock. We’ll have the whole day.’
‘I’lltell you where I live,’ she began, delirious with joy that he still wanted tosee her even after he had kiss her, but Logan simply started the car and didn’tlook her.
‘I knowwhere you live.’ She didn’t question that Logan knew everything, he wasperfection. She worshipped him.
At herdoor he didn’t kiss her again and Abigail was glad. If he had done she wouldnot have been able to make her legs walk inside.
‘Tomorrow,early,’ he ordered as he lifted her hand to his lips. ‘I’ll be waiting,Abigail.’
Shecouldn’t sleep. It was all like a dream. Her father had still been in his studyand she had simply poppet her head round the door and said goodnight, thankfulthat it had not dawned on him that a car had pulled away from the house, thatit had obviously not been hers. He hardly glanced at her but she didn’t care.Her heart and mind were singing — Logan. Logan. Tomorrow she would see himagain and this time it would be different.
He was waiting as she gotoff the train the next day and his face lit up at the sight of her. His glanceflared over her and she knew that she looked nice. Her summer skirt- was darkgreen, the same colour as the sleeveless blouse. She wore, and her tiny waistwas encircled by a golden belt to make it more dressed up. She wore high-heeledgold sandals and Logan laughed as his eyes moved over her slender legs and sawher foot gear.
‘I see we’re not walking,’he murmured in amusement, and Abigail found it possible to laugh too, for thefirst feeling almost an equal.
She dived into her shoulderbag and brought out flat sandals, dangling them in front of him.
‘I’m prepared foranything,’ she pronounced gaily.
‘Are you?’ He looked at hersteadily for a second and her face flushed softly before he took pity on herand held out his hand. ‘Let’s go,’ he ordered quietly. ‘I suppose I’ll have toget you in early tonight. Tomorrow is a work day. We’ll start now so as not tomiss a minute.’
It was exhilarating and shesnuggled into his car, turning to him eagerly.
‘Where are we going?’ Shelooked so bright-eyed, so beguiling that Logan stared at her for a secondbefore answering.
‘On the river, I’ve got aboat moored by a small inn not too many miles away. We’ll go there and eat andthen we’ll sail away into the distance.’
Abigail could have huggedherself with excitement and he glanced at her, his mouth twisting in amusement.
‘I don’t expert you’ve beenon a boat before.’
‘Not on the Thames,’ she agreed. She tossed her head proudly. ‘I’ve been on a cruise, though. I’ve beento Jamaica and cruised round the Caribbean.’
‘Oh! Big stuff,’ he mockedsoftly ‘There’s nothing so exciting to offer here. There may be the odd duckbut nothing to contend with such sophistication.’
‘You—’ Abigail pouted ‘—arelaughing at me.’
‘It seemsto be a good idea,’ he confessed quietly. You look like an enchanted princess.Laughter is a very safe emotion. I think we’ll laugh all day.’
Thatsucceeded in wiping any amusement from Abigail’s face because she knew what hemeant. He devoured her with his eyes as she had stepped off the train and nowthere was an atmosphere crackling between them, frightening and thrilling. Shewanted him to touch her again; she wanted it so badly that her heart began tobeat with a new cadence, and he knew. It was there in the stillness of hisface, in the tight grip head on the wheel.
‘I’msorry,’ she whispered.
‘Can youhelp it?’ he asked darkly, not even pretending that he didn’t know what shemeant.
‘No.’ shecouldn’t help it. She wanted Logan to love her, to make love to her. She hadfelt like that for days and it was hurting.
‘Neithercan I.’ he confessed quietly. ‘Maybe this should be our last outing.
His wordswere so unexpected that Abigail caught her breath, her flushed cheeks goingwhite.
‘Don’tleave me, Logan,’ she whispered despairingly. His head shot round and as he sawthe pallor of her face he pulled into the side of the busy road, reaching forher and crushing her against him.
‘God! Ican’t!’ he muttered hoarsely. His head bent and his lips caught hers almostviolently, the intensity of the kiss sending liquid fire through her veins, andinstantly her lips parted beneath his, her innocent surrender making himtighten his grip for a second.
‘Nothere,’ he said huskily, putting her away from him with thrilling reluctance.
It was only as she lookedup with bewildered eyes that she saw several astonished bystanders, and by thattime Logan’s Jaguar was smoothly moving, saving her embarrassment.
‘Ohdear,’ she murmured, and Logan threw his head back, laughing delightedly, thetension easing from his shoulders.
‘Well,they didn’t bend down to look more closely,’ he pointed out with a grin. Hissilver glance lanced though her. ‘Do you still want to go on that boat trip?’he asked softly.
‘Yes.’ Hewas asking her if he had frightened her and she knew she should be wary but sheloved him too much for that. She had never felt like this before and Logan felt like it too. Nothing else mattered.
Itwasa wonderful day. They went to lookat the boat that was moored by the old inn and Abigail look off her sandals andclimbed on board, eagerly inspecting everything. It was not a grand boat but itwas much bigger than she had expected. It was rocking slightly on the sunlit waterand she stood on the dock and breathed in the warm, honey-scented air.
‘It’smarvellous!’ she proclaimed, and Logan look at her ruefully, his eyes making alightning foray over her entranced face.
‘You’rethe easiest girl in the world to please, Abigail,’ he assured her in amusementas he leapt down to the river bank.
She lostsome of her animation then, thinking that she detected a note of cynicism. Shefelt embarrassed, as if she was behaving like a child, and the smile died onher face.
‘Isuppose you’re used to more sophisticated women,’ she managed sharply, stiflingthe hurt that rose at once. It felt as if he had rejected her, been bored withher enthusiasm, and for a minute she was close to tears.
‘Verysophisticated women,’ he mocked, his grey eyes inspecting her flushed face ashe looked up at her ‘They never show enthusiasm. This little boat would borethem senseless.’
Abigail’ssoft mouth drooped and she looked away from the taunting crystal eyes, the daysuddenly losing its glow.
‘I can’tpretend,’ she confessed in a choked voice. ‘If I like something, I have to showit. Perhaps, one day, I’ll be able to curb my childish excitement.’
‘Comehere, Abigail.’ The low, dark voice sent a shiver down her spine. It seemed toteach right into the centre of her being and her wide green eyes met hisunhappily. ‘Collect your sandals and come here,’ he ordered softly, and shepicked up her sandals and stepped to the edge of the boat.
Hereached for her, his hands spanning her tiny waist as he lifted her down, andit was done so gently that Abigail felt pleasure run all through her. When shebent in fasten her sandals, Logan held her arm, and as she straightened up hishands cupped her flushed face and held it up to his.
‘You’rebeautiful,’ he said softly. His hands swept back her hair, his glance runningover the blade, shining strands. ‘You’re the sweetest girl in all the world andif you were sophisticated, I would be bored senseless.’
Hewatched her for a minute, seeing the hurt die away, and Abigail was unable tospeak. Her heart was pounding at the look in his eyes and he bent his head tohers, his cool lips brushing lightly over her mouth.
‘Let’seat,’ he said quietly as he lifted his head. He was unsmiling, unnaturallystill and the same feeling was surging between them that had been there beforein the car. He just turned her towards the inn, his arm coming possessivelyround her waist, and Abigail held herself stiffly, scared that she would turnto him and wind her arms around him. Her feelings were too strong to becontrolled and all she could do was pretend not to be there at all.
‘Don’t beafraid of me, Abigail,’ he murmured gently, turning her towards him.
‘I’mnot,’ she managed, even though it was not really the truth.
‘I’llnever let anything hurt you,’ he said, his breath warm against her cheek as hepulled her closer. ‘You’re precious. I need to care for you. You can come to mewith no fear.’
His handmoved from her waist to touch her neck, his fingers gently caressing, andAbigail gave in, against him as they walked, her arm sliding around his waist,joy bursting inside her when he held her tightly against him.
Duringthe meal Logan managed to put her at case and by the time they took the boatout she felt safe enough to show her enchantment with everything, moved slowlydown the Thames, always in quiet, sunlit waters, and she looked at the housesby the river, some of them huge and impressive, their gardens running down tothe water’s edge. It seemed like paradise and by the time they were cruisingback to the mooring Abigail was tired and deliriously happy.
Loganhad been gentle all day. They had sat on deck;drinking lemonade and talking all the time. Her skin was softly touched by thesun and the dying rays caught the brilliant green glow of her eyes.
‘We’lltie up and then clear our things away.’ Logan announced as they touched thebank. ‘After that, it’s home fast for you.’
Abigailwent into the little cabin to clear away but the glow had died. She didn’t wantto leave Logan. Every time she left him and went back home it got harder andharder to say goodnight. When he jumped back on board she was standing in thecabin just staring at nothing.
‘What isit?’ He came up behind her quietly and Abigail hung her head, biting miserablyat her lip.
‘I—I don’t want to go,’she whispered. ‘I don’t want to leave you.’
You’renineteen,’ Logan reminded her, ‘not one of my many sophisticated women.’
‘Don’t!’She turned to him, her eyes filling with pain, and he swore softly under hisbreath as he caught her in his arms.
‘Thereare no sophisticated women,’ he muttered unevenly. ‘If there were, do you thinkI would look at any of them when you were there? I’m trying to keep this light,trying to protect you.’ When she just went on looking at him with swimminggreen eyes he pulled her closer almost roughly, his fingers tangling in hershining hair. ‘Dear God, Abbie!’ he said hoarsely. ‘I want you and you knowit!’
He beganto kiss her—hard, fast, hungry kisses that parted her lips and sent burningfeelings through her body. She swayed towards him, winding her arms around hiswaist, and he pulled her head to his shoulder as she lifted her face, desperatefor his lips.
Logan’shand swept over her, caressing every curve, melting her inside, and she foundher legs giving way, making her sink down, trying to take him with her.
‘No!’ hegasped unevenly. ‘Let’s get out of here.’ His voice was shaken but he kept hisarm around her as if he could no more endure being parted than she could, andas they left the boat and walked along the bank Abigail was still shaking withthe intensity of feeling that had swept over them. It was dark by now, thelight almost gone, and she was glad that the darkness hid her hot face.
‘Inhere,’ Logan said almost harshly. ‘You need a drink and so do I.’
He pushedthe door of the inn open and they were instantly surrounded by noise. There wasmusic from some bidden speakers, laughter, loud conversation, and the smallroom was dimly lit and crowded.
‘Justwhat we need,’ he muttered. Most people were at the bar and he found a small,darkened corner where the red-covered benches almost hid them from sight, ‘sithere,’ he ordered. ‘I’ll get our drinks.’
She wasglad to sink to the seat. Her trembling had by no means stopped and she wasglad, too, for the brief time by herself as Logan went to the bar. She hadalways faced things. She had never been allowed to do otherwise and she facedthis squarely now. She was in love with Logan. She wanted him as much as hewanted her. It was frightening and thrilling, something she had never known,but she knew that she wanted to be with him for the rest of her life. If hedidn’t feel the same she didn’t know what she would do.
He cameback and slid in beside her, handing her a brandy.
‘Drinkit. Dutch courage,’ he murmured ironically, and Abigail tried to sip the fieryliquid. It made her choke and she felt once again unspeakably young, fardistant from Logan. Ha hands trembled on the table-top and she looked down atthem in despair, almost jumping when one of Logan’s strong hands covered bothhers.
‘Sweet,sweet Abbie.’ he whispered. He leaned forward, his lips tracing her tenderjawline and then with a groan he put his drink down and moved closer, his armcoming round her shoulders. ‘I give in,’ he breathed. His wrist tilted her chinand as she looked into his burning eyes his mouth closed ova ha own in urgentpossession.
Nothingcould have stopped her kissing him back. Her head was against his shoulder, herlips parted in surrender, and Logan’s mouth covered has with masterfultenderness. She forgot the dimly lit room, the many people, and once again itwas Logan who stopped. ‘We have to go,’ he breathed, his lips tracing her hocheeks.
‘We seemto choose the damnedest places,’
He tookher hand, helping her out from the bench, and then they were walking from theplace, Logan lifting hand to his lips as they went back to the car. In the darkprivacy of the Jaguar he pulled her to him, his hand smoothing her hair andthen cupping her cheek ‘What would you say if I asked you to come back to myflat with me?’ he asked huskily, looking deeply into her eyes. In the lightfront the inn she could see the harshness of his face, the almost rueful twistto his mouth.
And she had no doubt at allabout what he meant. ‘I would say yes,’ she whispered. ‘I love you, Logan. Idon’t want to be anywhere except with you.’
‘Why areyou so sweet, so beautiful?’ he groaned against her hair. He looked down at herand kissed her very gently. ‘I never want to let you out of my sight,’ hemurmured against her lips. ‘Every time we’re together I try to be sensible butparting from you is agonising. Don’t leave me ever again, Abigail.’
‘Iwon’t,’ she whispered. He put her gently away and started the car and Abigailrested her head against his shoulder. She had wanted to go with Logan the first time she had seen him. She had wanted to ran to him and be swept up intohis arms. It was no shock. It was fate—her fate—and she would stay with him ashe wanted her. No thought of home, or her father entered her mind. She waswhere she was meant to be-with Logan.
In his flat she wasimpressed by the taste and luxury a she looked around with wide-eyed interest.
‘Can Iexplore?’ She didn’t look at him because that they were here she just could notbelieve it. She was slightly afraid too—afraid of the unknown.
‘No,’ hesaid quietly. ‘You can explore later.’ He took her into his arms, turning hertowards him. ‘Don’t afraid of me. I want you, my sweet darling, and I wouldnever hurt you.’
The wayhe was looking at her was heavenly Abigail melted in his arms. She believedhim. Logan would never hurt her.
‘Don’tever send me away,’ she whispered, looking into his eyes, and he swept her upagainst the hard of his chest, holding her tightly as he walked to bedroom.
‘Never inmy whole life,’ he promised thickly. ‘I couldn’t exist if you were not besideme.’
Heundressed her gently and slowly and Abigail watched with dazed eyes as Logan undressed. She had never seen a man naked before and his burning eyes never left heras he drank in the sight of her loveliness. Her black hair was spread acrossthe pillow, her silken limbs a temptation that brought fluting desire to herface. When he came to her and drew ha close, Abigail gave a sigh of contentmentand Logan looked down at her.
‘What?’he murmured, and she smiled, a siren look of enchantment about her face.
‘I justbelong here,’ she whispered. ‘It’s as if I’ve always been waiting, and now Iknow what for.’
‘Abbie!’His lips closed over hers with fierce demand — an explosive kiss that made hercling to him, trembling. He caressed every part of her, his lips following thepath of his urgent hands as Abigail twisted beneath him, whispering his name ina voice she hardly recognised.
Her handstraced his skin, twisted in his dark hair, and when he finally moved to possessher she gave a small sobbing cry, her limbs parting to accept him. His eyesburned down at her, locking with her green gaze.
‘You’remine!’ His face tightened with urgent passion. ‘You belong to me—Forever, fromthis moment on.’
‘Forever.’Abigail closed her eyes, arching against him, and she believed it. Being with Logan was her life. She knew that. She had known it for days and days. She couldn’t thinkbeyond it.
It was only the next daythat the world had to be faced, and reality—the reality of her father. Logan insisted on taking her home early, before anyone had time to leave for work.
‘He’s notgoing to like this,’ Abigail pointed out worriedly, and Logan caught her tohim, looking down at her seriously.
‘He hasno choice at all. You and I are going to be married. Nothing and nobody canstop that. Like it or not, your father has to face it.’
Though itwas a little worrying, Abigail was too dreamy with happiness to resist when Logan put her into his car and drove her home in the early morning. She expected sharpwords from her father and even a slight amount of unpleasantness but she didn’tanticipate the scene that would occur when Logan and her father faced eachother.
Since shehad first seen him, she had been so wrapped up in her feelings for Logan that any sort of common sense seemed to have fled. Now everything she had to facewas like a cold dash of water. Now she had to stand between two battling giantswith hatred sparkling in the air like while heat.
Herfather was just leaving his study as she came into the hall with Logan following and he seemed to freeze at the sight of them. Kent Madden didn’t even lookat Abigail. It didn’t seem to dawn on him that his daughter had been out allnight. She was unimportant. All that mattered was the hatred.
‘Get out of my house!’Abigail hardly recognised her father’s voice as he ground out the words at Logan. ‘Daddy!’ Abigail tried to intervene but he ignored.
‘Get out!’ he repealedsavagely. His eyes seemed to focus slowly on Abigail and he frowned.’ Where thehell have you been?’ he snarled.
‘She’swith me,’ Logan said curtly. ‘We can work this out in a civilised manner or anyway you want, Abigail is with me.’
The announcement broughteven more rage to father’s face and he reached out to take her arm.
‘Go toyour room! I’ll deal with this,’ he snap but Logan’s arm swept round her,pulling her to the shelter of his shoulder, tucking her close and holding Itightly. ‘Abigail goes with me!’ Logan’s final words seemed at last topenetrate through her father’s rage He looked at them both and it dawned on himjust what was happening.
‘So thisis how you intend to do it. You think you can get at me through Abigail. It’snot a good move, Steele. My daughter doesn’t control anything at all yet.You’ll get nothing there.’
‘All Iwant is Abigail.’ Logan stated coldly. She doesn’t even need her clothes fromthis house. Anything she wants I’ll get for her.’
‘She’snineteen!’ Her father’s face became bright with rage and Abigail made a move togo to him, to stop the terrifying battle but Logan’s arm held her fast.
‘Oldenough to know her own mind,’ he pointed out with equal coldness. ‘Old enoughto marry me. You can come to the wedding. You can give her your blessing. It’sup to you.’
‘You’ll get no blessingfrom me!’ Kent Madden shouted hoarsely, and Logan turned away, taking Abigailwith him.
‘I wantnothing from you,’ he reminded her father icily. Nothing you can give. What Iwill finally have from you I’ll take! Abigail is nobody’s property. She’soutside all this. We simply came to tell you that we’re getting married.’
They wereat the door and her father hadn’t even moved a step. Abigail looked at himmiserably, regret in her eyes. She had never had any say in anything at all.Mostly her father ignored her unless it was about work and now she was just anobject to be fought over.
Obviously her father mistook her glance because a spasm of triumph crossed hisface.
‘Stayhere, Abigail,’ he said more calmly. ‘You don’t know Steele. He’s ruthless,cruel!’ He didn’t say he loved her. He didn’t even bother to remind her that hewas her lather.
‘I haveto go with Logan,’ she murmured sadly. ‘I want to go with him. I love him. Whydoes it have to be like this?’
‘She’llnot marry you!’ Kent Madden raised his voice again, ignoring her, and Logan glanced at him with contempt.
‘She’smine already and she’ll stay mine. This is permanent. My secretary will sendyou the wedding arrangements. Come or stay away as you please, but if you lether down,’ he added, his voice lowered in menace. ‘If you’re not there to giveher away like any other father with his daughter it will be just one more countagainst you. I’ll not forget it.’
There wassomething in his voice that Abigail never heard before. For a moment, Logan was another person but she didn’t have the chance to think about. She was outsidethe house and in Logan’s car, her past left behind. Her father didn’t attemptto follow, didn’t even come to the door. And in Logan’s arms there was acomfort she had never had in her life.
Ha father had come to thewedding after all. He had given her away and he’d made a great effort to benormal, though he hadn’t spoken to Logan or any of the guest on Logan’s side of the church. She had told herself that it was because he loved her too muchto let her down but now she knew differently. Even then, even before Logan had really started his deadly vendetta, Kent Madden had feared him.
Abigailsighed and turned on her side, desperately seeking sleep. It was the only wayshe had of escaping, and even then she often woke up in the middle of thenight, reaching out for Logan and then remembering that he was not there andnever would he there again
It hadnot been a good idea to see him today. No good would come of it, no help forthem. All that had happened had been a stirring-up of the bitterness and shehad shown herself to be as vulnerable as ever. Her fainting spell must haveangered Logan and it had left her feeling very foolish. It would have been a goodidea to lie low and not remind him of her existence while he went on his deadlyway as he had done all this time.
Nextmorning, the expected summons to the bank did not come and the day was spent inwaiting. For once, nobody was pestering her. Her phone hardly rang at all andby the time she was ready to leave for home Abigail was more worried than ever.No news might be good news but this was unnerving. Martha met her gaze withpuzzled eyes as she left the office.
‘What’shappening?’ She looked at Abigail a little anxiously.
‘Something dreadful, Iexpect.’ Abigail stood by Martha’s desk and sighed loudly. ‘They’re allprobably somewhere making a great plan to sink us swiftly.’
‘Neversay die,’ Martha urged, but Abigail shrugged wearily.
‘Whatelse is there to say? Today nothing happened, but we all know that it willhappen. Maybe tomorrow ‘
Certainlytomorrow, she thought as she left the building. Perhaps by next week therewould be no need to come here every day. By next week this whole place might verywell belong to Logan.
Itcouldn’t come soon enough. She was tired, worn out. When it was over she wouldnot have to think about Logan again. All this time, throughout all the fight,she had held him at the back of her mind. When it was finally over she would befree and she would just go away. She would probably take a job with Brian.
Marthacaught up with her just before she got to her car
‘Let’s gofor a coffee.’ She planted herself beside Abigail and ignored any surprisedlooks.
‘Allright.’ Abigail turned back. Why not? When she got home there would be theusual questions and the usual recriminations. At the moment she preferred Martha’scompany. Being late back was no problem and although Martha’s attitude wasunexpected Abigail was grateful for the break in routine.
‘I neverexpected all this, you know,’ Martha confided when they were settled at acorner table of a little café nearby. Well, not after you married anyway.’
‘I can’tthink why,’ Abigail stated glumly. ‘I was nothing, after all. I still don’tknow what it’s all about really. Battles in business I can understand, but thisenmity, this bitterness! Daddy was furious about the wedding but this is all Logan’s doing. There was something going on before I even met Logan but he never wouldtell me, neither would my father. In fact, after I married Logan I didn’t seemy father much. It was too traumatic. He just used to fire questions at motionsI couldn’t answer.’
‘Yourfather ruined the firm that Logan’s father started up,’ Martha informed her quietly.‘As far as I know, it was all straightforward business.’ She shrugged ruefully‘Some survive, some go under. Logan’s father went under; in fact, he died.’
‘But thatwasn’t my father’s fault!’ Abigail protested ‘I’ve told you all I know.’ Marthalooked at her steadily. ‘If I knew any more, I would tell you. You’ the one whois suffering and it was all before your time.’
‘I playedright into Logan’s hands,’ Abigail mused with a far-away look on her face.
Marthafrowned grimly before saying, ‘He loved you.’
‘Oh,please!’ Abigail gave a shaken laugh. ‘What Is this, Martha? I’m not a childand I’m not an idiot Logan used me to get at my father. He wouldn’t even let mehave a baby because he knew it wasn’t going to last as a marriage. I was just ameans to an end.’
‘Supposeyou’re wrong?’ Martha asked softly.
He neededme as a weapon. You must have heard all the talk about Fenella Mitchell. Shewas before my time, during my time and I expect she’s with Logan still.’
Abigail’sface tightened at the thought of the beautiful woman who had never really beenout of Logan’s life, was supposed to be his solicitor but she was much thanthat. Everybody had known, and finally Abigail had known too. Logan had noteven bothered to deny it in the end. She had left him for a lot of reasons butFenella Mitchell had been the main reason. It was long now to look back coldlyand admit it. Logan had always been wealthy. His father’s firm might have beenruined but Logan had money of his own, money that had come from his grandfatherand uncle in America. He had used that to rebuild the firm. He had also used itto crush her father.
I’ll haveto go.’ Abigail stood to leave and Martha sighed. Her attempt to mediate hadbeen useless. The whole thing was a tangle that would never unwind.
‘Not donea lot of good, have I?’ she asked woefully, and Abigail managed to summon up asmile.
‘It wouldtake a miracle.’ And there were no miracles. According to her father. Logan had the monopoly of those and he kept them for himself.
When she got home, thecoldness of the house hit her afresh. It had always been like this, for as longas she could remember. Her mother was just a hazy dream at the back of her mindbut she knew that even before her mother’s death her father had been totallyabsorbed in his business interests and nothing else.
I’m back.Rose.’ She popped her head round the kitchen door and found Rose busilypreparing dinner.
‘I’ll notbe long,’ Rose said comfortably. ‘You’re a bit late tonight but it’s only whatI expected, you’re safely in. Your father’s in his study, I think.’
He wouldbe, Abigail mused. Going in there not avoidable, too. He expected a run-down onthe day’s events even when there was nothing to report. She stiffened her spineand walked across the hall, opening the door of the study quietly.
At first,she thought he was not in the room and she called out to him but got no answerat all. Abigail just about to leave when she saw him. He was lying on the floorbehind his desk. She could see his feet and when she ran round she could tellat once that he had collapsed with no warning, had fallen before he could alertRose.
Shedropped to her knees beside him, her hand coming to touch his face, and it wascold, moist with sweat breathing was erratic, laboured and Abigail knew thatwhat she had dreaded for weeks had at last happened. It was his heart and sheraced from the room, calling to Rose and then getting to the telephone to callan as ambulance. It might be too late. She just didn’t know, but he was socold—icily cold—his lips blue.
Later itseemed to Abigail that she had lived a whole week during the following hour.Rose had been no help at all. Panic had been her reaction as usual but the menhad arrived with the ambulance more quickly than Abigail had expected. Even so,things looked bad. Her father had come round on the way to the hospital but hehad not really been aware of his surroundings, not really aware of her.
‘Youshould have someone with you,’ the sister at the hospital said now, and Abigailphoned Martha, was no one else. She might have phoned Brian but she knew he wasin Germany, and even Martha was out.
Abigailleft a message on her answering machine and then settled down to wait byherself, to pace about and worry.
Once again she had noteaten. She was shaking, cold in spite of the warmth of the hospital. It seemedlike the final blow, the last fierce lash of destiny, aimed at her. She hadlittle hope because hope had gone a long time ago. Now everything bad gonewrong and once again Abigail blamed herself, going over and over in her mindthe things she had done or not done these past few weeks, searching for someway she could have avoided this.
‘Sitdown!’ A strong hand took her arm, propelling her to a seat, the sound of thevoice sending colder shivers down her spine.
‘What areyou doing here? How did you...?’
MarthaBates phoned me,’ Logan said shortly, his hand still forcing her to sit. ‘Youleft a message on her answering machine and she rang me.’ He watched Abigailgrimly. ‘Apparently I should have anticipated this. She more or less ordered meto rescue you. I’ve been roundly condemned and sentenced without a trial bythat staunch ally of yours.’
‘I neverasked her to phone you,’ Abigail protested unevenly. ‘I phoned her because Ihad—had no one else and—’
‘Damnyou, Abigail! You’re my wife!’ Logan sat beside her and stared at herferociously. ‘Who else would you call but me?’
‘Please!’Abigail began to laugh—a high, shaken laugh that showed how close to collapseshe was herself.
‘You’re the last person Iwould want, the last person to come to my rescue at any time, and this is myfather! Did you come to see the final act?’
Logansnarled something beneath his breath, stood andwalked away from her and she watched him panic-stricken eyes, he was just goingto leave and did need him here. She hadn’t meant to say those things because itwas not Logan who had brought this head attack on. It was her father’s ownattitude to everything, the way he drank, the way he drove himself andeverybody else. Whatever Logan had done it was not this.
Her eyesclosed with sheer weariness and she sat with her head bowed, jumping nervouslywhen Logan grasps her arm and pulled her to her feel, unable to believe that hehad come back.
‘Comewith me.’ he ordered grimly. ‘You need something inside you and you need to bewarm.’
‘You can.Just round the corner is a small place where we can eat and get a drink. I’veasked the staff and they say it will be some time before there’s any change inthe situation. I’m taking my mobile phone with me and they’ll ring if anythinghappens. No good can come of sitting here worrying. In any case. I’ll not allowit. You’re coming with me.’
It wasuseless to protest with Logan. His determination had always taken her alongwith anything he wanted and nothing was different now. In any case, it was onlysound common sense and Abigail knew it.
‘I’llcome,’ she signed, and he shot one of his lightning, crystal glances in herdirection.
‘Therewas never any doubt about that,’ he grunted irritably.
Hunger,shock and the sheer misery of the past few months had left Abigail almost numband now that she was with Logan she realised it. She was not fit to cope withanything, neither a dying business nor the fact that her father was probably dyingtoo. She just sat and stated across at Logan as he ordered their drinks andfood from the bar of the small dark place he had found close to the hospital.
It wasalmost empty at this hour. Most of the chairs had been stacked ready forclosing time and she looked at her watch with surprise Almost ten. She had beenat the hospital for a long time without even knowing it. There would be hoursbefore any news came from the unit where her father was fighting for his life.
Would hefight? Once, she would have been certain of his battle but now she was not toosure. He seemed to have been crumbling before her eyes for a long time and shehad done nothing about it.
‘I knewthis was coming. I should have acted,’ she muttered to herself.
‘What?’ Logan had come back without her even knowing it and she glanced up at him with dazed eyes.
‘I wasthinking aloud,’ she confessed, and when he went on staring at her in hisdevastating manner she dropped her head and continued, ‘I should have seen thiscoming. I did see it coming but I didn’t act. I just Iet it happen.’
‘So nowyou’re to blame for his heart attack?’ Logan queried harshly. ‘What would youhave done to prevent it?’
‘KentMadden was never a man to listen to reason. He only ever considered his ownreasons, his own greedy schemes.’
‘Youdon’t know him! You never did!’ Abigail managed hotly, stung into life by theharsh, condemning tone.
‘I knowevery last thing about him,’ Logan growled. ‘I know every detail of his life upto the present moment. When I turn my gaze on somebody they don’t have muchthat remains hidden,’
Abigail met the cold gazenow, the icy glitter of eyes she hadonce smiled at her. Had she ever really known thisman? Had she really been his wife in every sense of the word?
I wonder how much you foundout from me?’ she murmured shakily. ‘I suppose I told you plenty without evenknowing it. Now he’s dying—’
‘And once again you’retaking the blame,’ Logan cut in impatiently. His mouth suddenly twisted coldly.‘Or is the balance tilting? Is it getting round to my turn? He would never havereached this stage if I hadn’t been intent on crushing him. Is that where we’resettling now?’
‘Who knows what would havehappened?’ Abigail whispered her eyes intent on her own, trembling hands.
‘If any of us could see thefuture how differently we would act.’ She looked up at him. ‘But not you,Logan. You would never have acted differently, would you?’ His face seemed toswim before her eyes and she blinked rapidly. This drink has gone straight tomy head.’ ‘You need food,’ Logan said curtly. It was served at that moment andwhen she just looked at it blankly he handed her her knife and fork. ‘Eat,’ hebit out. ‘You don’t move until I’ve seen you eat. You need sleep too but thefood comes first.’
I can’tsleep,’ Abigail pointed out shakily, eating as ordered even though she didn’tfeel at all like it. ‘I’ll sit on the bench at the hospital and try to rest abit.’
‘You’ll get into bedand sleep. When you’ve finished this you’re going to the flat.’
‘Whatflat?’ Abigail looked up with startled eyes at him, and he stared back at hergrimly.
‘Ourflat. We’ve only ever had the one and it’s still there.’
‘It’syours. It has nothing to do with me.’ There was a faint trace of panic at theback of her voice but if he heard it Logan gave no sign. Instead he regardedher steadily, almost patiently.
‘When youmarried me,’ he reminded her quietly, ‘half of everything I had, became yours.That included the flat, the house and everything else. If you don’t want to sleepin my half of the flat you can sleep in your half’
‘Thisisn’t the time to be amusing,’ Abigail remonstrated chokily, and he eyed herwith a certain amount of disparagement.
‘I’mtelling you the facts, not trying to entertain you. If you had divorced me youwould by now be quite wealthy. If I die first you’ll be rolling in money.’
‘Stopit!’ Abigail said sharply. ‘I want nothing of yours at all and you know that.’
‘Butyou’ll get it, Abbie,’ he promised softly. ‘You’re probably old enough tohandle wealth by now.’
‘Getmarried again!’ Abigail suggested rather desperately. She wanted this tauntingconversation to stop because she knew it was just that. Logan was taunting hereven though her father was lying in a stiff white bed and clinging onto life.
‘I have awife,’ he pointed out coldly, the derision leaving his eyes. ‘One catastrophicmarriage is enough for me. I don’t need any more loose ends to tie off.’ if myfather dies it will be one thing finished,’ Abigail muttered bitterly, and shefinished her food, and he stood with an impatient movement, drawing her sharplyto her feet.
‘This conversation is over,Abigail. Now you sleep!’
‘l will not!’ For a secondshe stood her ground but she could never have had any doubt about winning. Shewas dazed, swaying, out on her feet. Stress, tiredness and then the unexpectedwine had all done their bit. She could have slept on the table with nodifficulty.
‘Walk to the car or I’llcarry you,’ he warned, and she managed to get to the door, the sight of theJaguar like the light at the end of a tunnel. Wherever Logan was taking her shewas going to go because she could not stay upright for very much longer.
‘Myfather...’ she began, and his hand came under her elbow, supporting her as shemoved uncertainly forward.
‘Leavethat to me. I’ll not let you down,’ he assured her. He never had actually. Sheran that thought hazily though her mind. Logan had never let her down. Except,of course, with Fenella Mitchell. The thought of that kept her awake until theywere in the flat that had once been so thrillingly familiar.
How manytimes since she had left him had Logan brought Fenella here? If Fenella wanteda baby would he refuse her too? Of course, Fenella would not want children, butshe had wanted Logan’s child—wanted it so badly.
‘Why?’she whispered. She stood swaying as Logan shut the door behind them. ‘Whycouldn’t I have a baby?’
He turnedswiftly at the pained sound of her voice, his gaze sharpening as he saw the fewtears on her cheeks. They were tears of regret. If there had been a baby shewould have had something, someone, some part of Logan.
‘You’retired, Abigail.’ His voice was curiously husky and she looked across at himmournfully.
‘Why?’she repeated in the same whisper, ‘I never did understand. I wanted a baby.What harm could it have done, even though you never intended to stay married tome, even though you were merely after my father?’ Logan’s face tightened and hewalked slowly towards her, taking her jacket and tossing it down on a chattel‘You need some sleep. This is not the moment to discuss the past. Ask me againat some other time,’ he suggested grimly. ‘For now, go to bed. You know theway.’
‘I’venothing to sleep in…’ she began, but he turned away and spoke over hisshoulder.
‘You lefteverything when you fled, including your clothes. They’re all still there,right where you abandoned them. As I recall, you had plenty of nighties.’
It wastoo much trouble to move and when she stood there staring at him Logan came back and lifted her up taking her into the bedroom. He tossed her a nightie asshe sat on the bed in a lifeless manner and his looks were a stern warning ashe said. ‘You undress all by yourself, otherwise I might just change my mindabout that baby.’ As he walked out and closed the door firmly she still satthere staring after him, too bemused and worn out to make any sense of him atall. Sometimes it seemed that she had merely dreamed Logan, conjured him up inher head, because this man was not the Logan she remembered. She managed to getinto the nightie and was asleep the moment her head touched the pillow. She wastoo worn out to worry any more tonight.
Next day, Abigail awoke tofind herself in the flat. It was instantly familiar and frightening and shewashed and dressed as quickly as she could, only to find that she was alone inthe place.
There wasno sign of Logan and she dared to make herself some breakfast, gulping down afew spoonfuls of cereal and then making for the phone. She had slept all nightand she dreaded hearing the report from the hospital about her father.
Logancame in before she had even reached the telephoneand after one swift glance at her strained face he closed the door and turnedback to her. Your father is holding his own.’
‘How doyou know? Did you ring? Why didn’t you wake me?’
‘To whatpurpose? In any case, they won’t let you see him.’
‘Of course they will! I’mgoing there now, at once!’ Abigail turned on him with blazing eyes, sure thathe was once again trying to manoeuvre her for some dark end of his own.
‘Do so,’ he agreedindifferently. ‘However, they’ll not let you see him.’
‘Oh? How do you know?’ Shesnapped out the question, almost ready to fly into a rage, and he glanced ather sceptically.
‘I’ve been there already.’
The brief statement left herunable to rage at all. Logan had been there? He had tried to see her father? Itwas inconceivable—unless he had gone to make more mischief.
‘You went to pester a manwho may well by dying?’ she choked. ‘You went to gloat?’
‘Howhighly you regard me, Abigail.’ Logan spun round with sheer fury glittering inhis eyes. ‘How well trained you are. Every word your father speaks is true andjust but I’m every sort of villain. Why the hell did you marry me in the firstplace?’
‘I lovedyou.’ It was out before she could stop it, so simply said, and it did little tocalm him down.
‘Childishfantasy, no doubt,’ he grunted, frowning at her darkly. The rage seemed to begoing and she was glad of it. She had never really seen Logan in a rage beforealthough she had heard him with other people.
‘I wentto have a word with him,’ Logan continued after staring at her bleakly. ‘Ithought it might help. You may not have registered the fact but nobody is afterMadden’s precious firm at the moment.’
She hadnoticed yesterday—noticed and been scared more than ever. ‘The bank.’ she begannervously. ‘They didn’t—’
‘I calledthe dogs off,’ Logan informed her curtly, ‘After you came to see me I had arethink. I went to the hospital today to tell your father the latest news andto make my offer. I thought it might just perk him up but unfortunately theywouldn’t let me near him.’
‘Whatoffer?’ It was difficult to breathe, the whole situation terrifying because sheknew that Logan had not just stopped his vendetta. There was something else andit could only be something worse.
‘Perhapsyou had better sit down,’ Logan suggested, sitting himself and indicating achair opposite, and she obeyed because by the look on his face she knew she wasgoing to need some support.
‘Whatoffer?’ she repeated, staring at him with wide green eyes that showed every oneof her tumbling emotions.
I’mprepared to stop this whole thing.’ Logan stated coolly. ‘I’m prepared to makean offer for the Madden Corporation and ease it into my own firm or, if he prefersit. I’m willing to help put the Madden Corporation back on its feet.’
It wasimpossible! He didn’t mean it. Abigail watched him intently, her mind searchingfor snags, traps, but his face was impassive and she finally drew in a long,shuddering breath.
‘Why?’she asked. It was certainly not because she had been to see him, certainly notpity for her father, but unless he was willing to tell her his reasons she hadno chance of finding out. Logan was cold and ruthless now. He probably hadalways been like that but she had been too young and too entranced to notice itbefore.
‘Notgenerosity and not from the kindness of my heart.’ He leaned back, crossing oneelegantly clad leg over the other, his lips turned down in a smile of scepticalamusement. ‘There is one proviso.’
Therewould be and it would be horrifying. Abigail stared at him without speaking,afraid to ask.
‘I wouldbe very grateful if you would stop looking at me like a scared rabbit,’ heremarked, the sceptical amusement touching his eyes too. ‘The proviso is nottoo worrying, all things being considered.’
‘Whatthings?’ Abigail asked breathlessly.
‘I’mprepared to admit that my relentless pursuit of the firm has at least somethingto do with your father’s present condition,’ Logan conceded. ‘I never wanted tosee him dead. I told you that before. However, even without my malevolentinterest, the Madden Corporation is finished, unless I help openly, unless I amseen to be in some sort of charge for a while. Therefore, you need me and I’mwilling to help.’
‘But?’ Abigailwhispered, voicing the unspoken implication.
‘I wishto barrow my wile for a few weeks. Nothing too arduous, no marital duties,merely a front for a necessary trip I’m obliged to make.’
‘What?’Abigail stood slowly, holding onto the of arm of the chair, and Logan looked upat her, his dark brows raised in query, the light of real mischief nowsparkling in those astonishing eyes
‘You’renot stupid, Abigail,’ he commented quietly. ‘You heard and you understood. I’mmaking a trip. For a few weeks I need a wife, in name only. I already have one,so what could be more simple?’
‘What areyou up to?’ she stormed, her breath back now and her temper rising. ‘Evenseeing you would probably finish my father off. Any suggestion like this woulddo it for sure. If you need somebody with you, take Fenella Mitchell!’
‘She’snot my wife,’ Logan pointed out smoothly, his amused eyes still on her furiousface. ‘I have a big business deal—a very big deal—and it’s with an Americancompany of considerable size. It’s still family owned and the man who owns ithas family values. He does not like the idea of divorce, mistresses or anythingleas wholesome than home-baked apple pie. My wife has been invited along. Heknows I’m married and he expects to meet you. I’m buying him out and then I’llhave another foothold in the States.’
‘Then goand buy him out!’ Abigail snapped. ‘Just leave the Madden Corporation to sinkwithout trace. We’ve been doing that very well for months.’
‘He doesnot need the money and other people are interested,’ Logan said steadily. ‘Iwant that firm. Given my offer, however large, and an offer from a solid familyman, he’ll take the latter. He’s funny that way.’
‘This isnot amusing!’ she spat out. ‘There’s no way I’ll allow you to see my father.It’s very typical of you that while he’s hanging onto life by a thread you’rethinking of your own schemes.’
‘Youimagine I owe him any favours?’ Logan grated, his amusement gone. ‘I made apromise five years ago and so far I’ve kept it. I can take somebody else andchance anyone finding out. I’m making the offer to you because I never promisedto see Kent Madden dead, in spite of what he did to my father and mother.’
‘He didnothing!’ Abigail almost screamed. ‘Whatever it was, it was business.’
‘He’s aliar and a cheat,’ Logan snapped. He stood and towered over her. ‘Go to thehospital and try to take a look at him and then ring me with your decision. Theoffer holds only until tonight. You can make this deal yourself without tellinghim at all, if that’s what you want. If you don’t make the deal. I’ll let loosethe dogs again.’
‘Why didyou marry me?’ Abigail whispered, while to the lips after her burst of rage,and he tilled her chin with one imperious finger.
‘For thesame reason that you married me, Abigail. I loved you, or, if you can’t swallowthat, I wanted you. I think I proved that at least.’
He walkedout of the flat and after a few seconds she heard the low purr of the Jaguar asit pulled away. He was leaving her here, giving her time to think, and he knewshe had no sort of transport.
There wasno way that she would agree to this plan. She had a job lined up already withBrian Wingate. The Madden Corporation could sink in deep, murky water.
She would never go back to Logan in any way at all. She was still hurting from the last time. In this flat, the imageof him here with her, her old longing to be closer to him could surface withoutwarning. Logan was what he had always been—danger.
She gotready quickly and called a taxi. Maybe they would not let her see her fatherbut it was something she was going to find out for herself. She could not take Logan’s word for anything.
She couldn’t get past thenurse on duty at the desk.
‘I’m sorry, Mrs. Steele.No visitors allowed. Your father is holding his own at the moment. ‘The signsare good, but he cannot have visitors. I told your husband that when he cameearlier. If he had passed that message on it would have saved you a journey.’
‘He didpass it on,’ Abigail said frustratedly. Surely the restriction doesn’t apply tome. though? I’m Kent Madden’s daughter—family. Even if my husband couldn’t seehim, I surely have the right?’
She wasstill arguing when the ward sister appeared and the nurse on duty turned tothis more commanding figure for support.
‘Yourhusband was told—’ the sister began, but Abigail interrupted her determinedly
‘I haveevery right to see my father! You may be able to refuse to let his son-in-lawsee him but you can’t refuse me. I’m the next of kin.’
It madeher cringe to say ‘son-in-law’ and she was just glad that her father could nothear the words spoken. To Kent Madden, Logan was the son-in-law from hell. Hehadn’t even acknowledged that she was married when things had been normal, whenshe had been happy with Logan.
Thesister was studying her face and what she saw there seemed to soften her ratherstarchy resolution.
You canlook at him through the glass,’ she conceded reluctantly. ‘You can’t enter theroom and you must not try to speak to him even if he recognises you.’
‘Is hestill unconscious?’ Abigail whispered, and the sister turned stiffly to leadher along the corridor.
‘Sometimeshe’s awake, even fairly lucid, although it’s difficult to hear the things hesays.’
They cameto the intensive-care unit and Abigail held herself tightly under control asthe sister motioned her to walk forward to the wide glass window thatrestricted further passage. It was a small room with only three beds and at themoment there was only one patient there. Abigail went close to the glass andbit down on her lip in shock.
If therehad been others there she would not have known which one to look at because theman in the high white bed was nothing like her father. He seemed to have grownsmaller overnight. His face was as white as his hair but even that was not thecause of the unspeakable stock she felt.
He seemedalmost less than human because there were tubes running from the bed and heseemed to be attached to so much machinery that to imagine him opening his eyesand being at all normal was impossible. At that moment she felt all hopedisappear.
She dosedher eyes, swaying dizzily, and the sister took her arm to steady her.
‘It’s notsome crud fancy of ours to restrict visitors, Mrs. Steele,’ she pointed out ina suddenly kind voice. Sometimes visitors can’t cope with it. It’s frighteningfor members of the family to see this sort of thing, and so unnecessary. Bytomorrow or the next day your father may very well be more normal and you couldhave been spared the shock of this. Your husband should have prevented you fromcoming.’
‘He—hetried to.’ Abigail muttered. ‘He told me I wouldn’t be able to see my father.’
But shehad distrusted him as usual, she reminded herself, and Logan could not haveforeseen that her father would be in this slate. Would he have tried to stopher coming if he had realised? It was something that was impossible to know.
‘Has—hasmy father asked for me?’ she enquired shakily as the sister led her away
‘Not tomy knowledge. He’s come round on several occasions but it was difficult to knowhow much he understood when he was awake. He was agitated each time. He talkedabout ‘the company’ but it was so mixed up that I couldn’t actually tell youwhat he said.’
‘I canguess,’ Abigail assured her dully. It would be all about the MaddenCorporation, not about her. His life was the company and even when he hungbetween life and death it was the Madden Corporation that filled his mind.
Thingshad never been any different so why should she expect a change now? Even hermother had taken second place to the Madden Corporation. Her own place was andalways had been very low on the list of priorities. If he fought to live itwould not be so that he could see her again. It would be to watch his companysink into the dust.
Abigailwent back to the flat and it was not until she arrived that she realised she nolonger had keys to it. All those sorts of things she had thrown out when shehad left Logan four years earlier and for a second she stood on the step at thefront door, wondering almost in a daze what exactly she should do.
Loganopened the door as she was turning away andwithout a word she went in and walked past him.
I take itthat you’ve been to the hospital?’ He came into the sitting room and stood bythe door, a frown on his face as he saw her expression. ‘Yes. I saw him.They—they wouldn’t let me at first but I insisted. They let me go to the windowand I could see ... I could see...’
‘You little fool!’ Logan strode forward and firmly put her into a chair. Before she knew it there was a glassof brandy in her hand and Logan was standing over her as she sipped the drink.It was very obvious that she was in no condition to argue with him and after asecond he went to stand by the window, staring out into the street.
‘Whathave you gained by this visit, Abigail?’ he finally asked wearily.
At thedull sound of her voice he spun round, his grey eyes blazing.
‘Damn itall, Abigail!’ he rasped. ‘Why didn’t you listen to me? Why didn’t you let metake care of you? You’re no more capable of stepping firmly on this earth thanyou ever were. God knows how you get through a day at that office. I’m not evensure how you manage to survive from minute to minute.’
‘I’m notthe incompetent fool you seem to imagine,’ Abigail retaliated. The brandy hadallowed some warmth to seep into her and she looked up at Logan with green-eyedbitterness. ‘Thanks to you, I haven’t a lot of choice about going in to theoffice. It’s managing without me at this moment but that state of affairs won’tlast long. There’s nobody there to take charge—to face things.’
‘There’snothing to face right now.’ Logan reminded her angrily. ‘I told you I’d calledoff the pack. Nothing will be happening.’
‘Precisely!’Abigail snapped back. ‘There’s no business either. Nothing happening with thebank because you stepped in. Nothing happening in the way of business becauseyou’ve undermined everything. Nothing and nothing make a big fat zero!’
‘MarthaBates can supervise zero adequately,’ Logan growled sarcastically. ‘She’s notin the building alone. The staff are still working.’
‘For thetime being! Before long they’ll all be sacked.’
‘Not ifI take the firm under my wing.’ Logan’s voice had gone quiet and Abigailhastily looked away, scared about the decision she had been reaching ever sinceshe had bad her horrifying glimpse of her father. She had been turning thingsover and over in her mind and she had come to the conclusion that she had nochoice at all.
Deepinside, she knew that the only way to make her father fight his way back tohealth was to give him something to fight for, and he would certainly not fightfor her, any more than he would have done for her mother’s sake. Only the firmmeant anything to him. There was the Madden Corporation or there was nothing.Without Logan’s power there would be no Madden Corporation.
Logancame and threw himself into the chair opposite,his startling grey eyes on her downcast face.
‘What arehis chances?’ be asked with that astonishing way he bad always had of collectingher wandering thoughts.
‘Not good.’ She looked upat him, her eyes almost glazed with unhappiness. ‘He came round earlier. Thesister told me. He—he never asked for me. He was talking about the firm.’
Logan’s eyes narrowed, his glance racing across herface. His lips tightened angrily at her tragic look but his voice was perfectlyeven.
‘He would be onlysemi-conscious. I imagine it’s a dream-like state. Don’t expect miracles,Abigail.’
‘I don’tthink I’ve ever expected miracles,’ she said with quiet simplicity. ‘I’m tooordinary for miracles. Things like that belong to you, Logan. You drivemiracles out into the open and pounce on them.’
Brief amusement flickeredin his eyes at her words but he didn’t smile.
‘He’s hanging on at anyrate,’ he reminded her. ‘At some point he’ll fight to survive. It’s part of hisnature.’
‘Italways has been,’ she agreed somberly. ‘He’s always had something to fight for.Now he has nothing to fight for and he certainly won’t fight for me.’
Rage flared on Logan’s face, his eyes flashing icy sparks, and for a second her green gaze wandered overhim, searching his changing expressions. It was a question of courage afterall. Did she have the courage to step back into Logan’s world for a time?
For along and wonderful year he had been everything in her life and when it hadended she had thought she would never be able to recover. In a way she neverhad recovered because, as she looked at him now, memory came unbidden—secretiveand painful. He was still the most magnificent person she had ever seen, stillthe most powerful. The dark voice was now often hidden in anger but always atthe back of her mind she could bear his laughter and his gentleness like someghost from the past.
‘I agree,’ she said quicklybefore she could change her mind.
‘To what?’ He sat verystill, watching her intensely and her face began to flush with a mixture offright and embarrassment. For all she knew, it had been some cruel joke. Forall she knew, he might very well have changed his mind.
‘You—youwanted to—to borrow me,’ she managed to stammer. ‘You wanted to make a bargainwith my father.’
‘So Idid,’ Logan agreed, his voice a dark mummer. ‘I never got to see him, though,and even if I had it’s clear that he would not have been in any condition tobarter.’
‘Why areyou like this?’ Abigail flared, and he looked at her coolly.
‘Maybe Iwas born like this. Or maybe I grew into it, propelled by the force ofcircumstance. Whatever the reason. I’m now set in my ways, as they say’ He satback and crossed one ankle over his knee, his head thrown back as he watchedher through half-dosed eyes. ‘I take it that you’re prepared to make thebargain yourself. A unilateral decision?’
‘I haveno choice.’ She avoided his gaze, her own eyes on the slender length of herfingers. She dared not look up and see his answer on his face. ‘I have to givemy father some reason to live.’
He was silent for a longtime and still she didn’t look up. She was just beginning to think that hewouldn’t answer when he suddenly stood and looked down at her.
‘Very well. I accept thearrangement. You pretend to be my wife again—’
‘I was never pretending!’Abigail almost shouted, her head snapping up as she stared at him angrily. ‘Thepretence was all yours! I never tried to damage anyone you cared about and Inever had a secret lover!’
‘Ibelieve you.’ Logan murmured sardonically. ‘As I understood it, you’ve movedinto that sphere since you left me. Brian Wingate, isn’t it?’
‘Yes!’Abigail lied vehemently. Let him think what he liked. If he imagined she hadsomebody else he would, perhaps, stand clear of her until this charade wasover.
‘Let meremind you, though, that Brian and I didn’t even know each other when I wasmarried to you.’
‘You’restill married to me, sweetheart.’ Logan said with quiet acidity. ‘Tell him tokeep that in mind. ‘Tell him to keep his distance, too. As far as everyone isconcerned, we’re reconciled until this is all over. If one word of this being asham reaches my American contacts, the whole deal will be off, and if my dealis off, Abigail. Then so is yours.’
She stoodand began to collect her things. There was nothing she could do at the momentabout seeing her father and she had no intention of staying here.
‘Whereare you going?’ Logan snapped, his hand coming like a vice round her wrist.
‘Home.Where else?’ she asked coldly. ‘No doubt you’ll give me the date when thisthing is to begin. I assure you that I’ll be on the starting line, ready andwaiting’
‘Going back to the house isnot a good idea,’ Logan stated more quietly, and she looked at him scornfully.‘You need someone with you.’
‘Oh, no, you don’t Logan. I’m not nineteen now. There’s no way you’re getting me under your thumb again.We’ve got a bargain and I want some concrete proof before this bargain begins.’
‘It’s already begun,’ hesaid softly, his hand falling away from her wrist, it had begun before I evenmentioned any sort of deal. I called off the bank. As to my keeping my end ofthe bargain, you have my word, Abigail.’
Itstopped her angry attack and knocked the force out of her argument. Logan’s word was and always had been good enough for anyone.
‘Verywell,’ she agreed, ‘but at the moment there’s no need for me to be here.’
‘We’reclose to the hospital,’ he reminded her. ‘If your father wakes up and asks foryou then you’ll be able to be then in minutes. If anything happens to him,you’ll also be on call,’ he added quietly
Abigailknew it was true. She also knew that her own thoughts about her father’schances of survival were running on those lines. Hearing Logan put them intowords was too much, though, and she flew at him, tears streaming down hercheeks.
‘Youpig!’ she shouted, her hands flying to his face, her eyes overflowing. ‘That’swhat you want, isn’t it? You’re watching like some ferocious hunting animalwaiting for him to die!’
Logancaught her as she attacked him, his strong handseasily subduing her, pinning her arms to her sides, his grip on her long, blackhair forcing her head up.
‘I am notwaiting for him to die!’ he grated furiously ‘It’s a matter of common senseand, my Lord, you’ve little of that. When he collapsed you had nobody. Abigail,and let me remind you that you still have nobody. You have me, and without meyou’re alone.’
The wordssank in like acid, taking away her anger and her much needed self-possession.When had she ever had anyone but Logan? And she had never even really had him.The angry tension left her body and she slowly sagged, her shoulders droopingunder his biting grip, tears still glistening on her lashes.
‘All right,’ shewhispered. ‘I’ll stay but I—I can’t stay here if you’re here.’
‘I neverthought you would. I’ll move out, providing that we have an understanding—ifanything happens, you ring me and let me know. I want to look after you. Whateveryou feel about me, you need me.’
Abigail nodded, herhead down now to hide her tear-stained face.
‘I’llring,’ she promised. ‘Where will you...?’
‘I’ll beat the house,’ he informed her tightly. ‘Our house. Remember, Abbie?’
‘I’ve gotthe number somewhere,’ she murmured, deliberately misunderstanding him ‘Ifanything happens... And—and I’ll be ready when you want me.’
Hesuddenly caught her to him, his arms wrapping round her like iron, crushing herclose with little thought to her comfort.
‘When I want you?’ he saidvehemently. ‘Abbie! I’ve always wanted you. Some things stay constant no matterwhat happens in this world, and that’s one of them.’
His gripwas punishing and when she dared to meet his eyes their clear grey was blazingwith anger. She tried to escape but he merely tightened his grip until shegasped. There was fright on her face and he let her go, turning away inself-disgust.
‘Fearnot,Abigail,’hemutteredwithsudden cold detachment. ‘You hadme racing round after you like an idiot teenager once upon a time. I’m notabout to repeat my mistake. This is a deal - a business deal—and when it’s overyou can have that divorce you’ve so fastidiously avoided.’
Loganwalked out of the door, slamming it behind hint,and Abigail remained exactly where he had left her. She was too shaken to thinkstraight. He was going to the house—the house she had once helped to set up ina dreamy state of happiness.
How longago it seemed now. She sank to the chair shaking and anxious. It would not beeasy to pretend to be a happy wife to Logan. Mostly she would have to rely onhis own acting ability. She would have to look at her clothes, think things outa little better. Where Logan went there was wealth and although she had livedwith wealth for most of her life it had never been on a level with Logan’s.
There wasthis trip to America. There would be glamorous people—the sort of people he wasused to. Without warning she was back to long-ago, to almost five years ago,and she closed her eyes in anguish when she realised I that she was once againskirting on the edge of jealousy.’ her self-confidence shattering at thethought of Logan.’ with some sophisticated woman she had never even seen.
Why didhe insist on taking care of her when it had all been over for four weary years?Perhaps it was masculine pride. She was still his wife and if they hadseparated and still been friends it would have been natural to turn to him. Itwas natural now but she dared not admit it. She had carried every burden alonefor so long that to lean on Logan and accept his strength would wipe away allher fight.
Kent Madden began torecover during the next few days. The hospital rang to tell Abigail that he wasconscious and asking for her and she went along to see him without contacting Logan at all.
Herfather was weak and still frighteningly vulnerable but he was awake and lookedas if he would start to fight his way out of this.
Abigailhid a weary smile. It was exactly what she had expected and she made no attemptto misunderstand him. He did not mean what was happening in her own life. Hewas not aware of the momentous changes she was planning to face. He merelywanted to know about the firm, and she settled down to tell him although therewas nothing concrete to relate.
‘Nothingmuch. Everything seems to be quiet. The bank has backed off, if that’s what youmean.’
‘Why?’ Hewas instantly suspicious, agitated and she tried to skirt around the necessityto tell him. In fact she was in a dilemma. If she simply shrugged and said shedidn’t know then he would go on worrying. If she told him that Logan had softened he just wouldn’t believe it
She darednot take the risk of telling him about her agreement with Logan either becausethere was so much hatred between them that any surge of such an emotion couldput her father right back to where he had been.
Well,business is still coming in,’ she answered vaguely. ‘Perhaps they’re havingsecond thoughts.’
Abigail,you’re hopeless,’ he snapped. ‘Banks don’t have second thoughts. It’s allprofit and loss to them and they saw a good while ago that we come on the lossside.’‘ He was silent, thinking it over. ‘There’s something peculiar going on,’he finally concluded.
Abigailcould see thin he was getting upset and she looked at him carefully, trying tomake up her mind. Luckily she didn’t have to come to any decision because thesister appeared and ushered her out. The brief visit was over and Sister wantedto talk to her.
‘He needssurgery.’ she began when they were in her office. ‘The surgeon has spoken toyour father and explained things to him. He needs a triple bypass operation.That’s his only way back to any sort of normal health. After that he needs restand careful nursing for a while and then, with any luck, you should be able tohave him back at home with you.’
‘Does heagree to all this?’ Abigail asked, her heart lurching at the thought of such abig operation. Her father had not mentioned one word about it to her. All hehad been concerned with was business.
‘Yes, hedoes. He doesn’t even seem to be unduly anxious either.’ The sister suddenlysmiled. ‘I really think he just wants to get back to work.’
Abigailnodded. She knew that. She also knew that he would take no precautions andwould live the same life he had always lived—too much worry, too much drink andtoo much food. However, he had agreed all by himself—’unilaterally’, as Logan had said to her. It was out of her hands and all she had to do was wait for the dayto arrive.
Itarrived two weeks later. Until that time she didn’t see Logan. She had promisedto get in touch with him if anything happened but she did not. Seeing him wastoo risky a proposition and she wanted to keep him out of her life until thevery last moment, until she actually had to keep her end of the bargain.
She sawher father each day but talking to him was a strain. Abigail was always awarethat at any time he might say something that would force her into a confessionabout her agreement with Logan.
The nightbefore the operation he seemed to be much stronger. Once again he wasquestioning her, wanting to know what was going on, and this time she decidedto take the risk and tell him. The thought of going back to his office wasmaking him more vigorous and she had to let him know that there was more hopethan just the vague thought of the bank being in a kindly frame of mind.
Logancalled off the bank.’ she said quietly, watchinghim for any adverse reaction. ‘He tried to see you to tell you but you were tooill.’
At the mention of Logan’s name her father’s face was suffused with colour and she clasped his hand anxiously
It’s allright,’ she assured him quickly. ‘He didn’t want to see anything happen toyou.’ ‘You believe that?’ Her father gave an angry bark of laughter. ‘Healways bamboozled you, girl. He had you wound round his finger and you’refalling for the same old tricks. If the bank stepped back it’s nothing to dowith Steele.’
Abigailwas suddenly angry. She was angry at the content battering of her self-esteemby both Logan and her father, angry at the way she had to take the blows andstill get none of the praise.
‘Logan called them off,’ she said steadily. ‘It’s not only the bank. He’s called off allthe creditors. Things are in limbo but at least nothing is getting worse. Hecalled them off because—because he has a bargain with me.’
‘Whatbargain?’ Kent Madden leaned forward in his bed and glared at her. ‘What sortof bargain would a man like that make? And even if he did he’d never honourit.’
The word ‘honour’ seemed tosit uneasily on his tongue and Abigail looked at him sharply. In spite ofeverything she trusted Logan and she knew without any doubt at all that hewould hold to his word whatever happened.
‘I’m going to America with him when you’re better, she told her father firmly. ‘I’m going as—as hishostess. At the last moment she shied off from saying his wife. That would havebeen too much for her father to take. ‘He has a deal there and he needs me. Inreturn he’s offered to take the Madden Corporation under his wing, either tobuy us out or to get it on its feet to hand it back to us. He’ll agree towhatever you decide and he’ll also make it known that he’s involves. That wouldmake us reasonably viable again and take all the heat off.’
Abigail finished in abreathless rush, anxiously watching her father’s face, and he lay back againstthe pillows, his high colour fading, his eyes narrowed and calculating.
‘He wants you back?’ hefinally asked, and Abigail shook her head decidedly.
‘Definitely not! I wouldn’tgo in any case but that’s not what he wants at all. It’s just a cover for abusiness deal and when it’s over he suggests that I get a divorce.’ KentMadden’s head shot up at that and he looked at her closely again.
‘It mustbe a big deal,’ be probed quietly.
‘It is.It’s another foothold in America and he doesn’t want it to fall through.Apparently the man involved doesn’t like anyone of Logan’s age to beunattached. He’s old-fashioned.’ 85
‘Soyou’re going as his wife.’ Her father said that flatly, still watching her, nosign of anger or outrage on his face.
‘In nameonly,’ she assured him quickly, and he nodded thoughtfully.
We’venothing to lose and everything to gain,’ he pronounced after a second’sthought. He smiled for the last time, a light in his eyes that she didn’texactly like. ‘Go ahead, Abigail. It will get the firm right off the hook. Goodgirl.’
It madeher feel even worse, even more valueless, and as she left he made one morecomment that put the whole thing into a new light
‘You’re stillhis wife, after all.’
Yes. Itwas all right to be Logan’s wife if it was useful to the Madden Corporation. Ifthere had not been this bitterness between Logan and her father, Kent Maddenwould have welcomed his new son-in-law with open arms five years ago. He wouldhave seen it as a decided advantage to the firm. That was what it all boileddown to, and she left feeling like a mere commodity to be moved at will by twopowerful men who looked over her head and disregarded her as a person.
Loganphoned that night to ask about her father and shehad to tell him about the operation. He was silent for a minute.
‘It seemsto me that we had agreed that if anything happened you would contact me.’ he said idly.
‘Nothing happened. Ididn’t think you wanted bothering with every detail.’
‘What you mean is that youwanted to make damned sure that I had no excuse for being anywhere near you,’he grated. When it this operation taking place?’ he finished angrily.
‘Tomorrow.’Before he could say that he would go to the hospital with her she told himabout her conversation with her father. I told him about-about our bargain.’she said quickly.
‘And?’Logon seemed to be very still and quiet; even over the telephone she coulddetect that.
‘He seemsto think it’s a good idea.’
She heardLogan laugh—a cold, harsh sound that had her hand tightening on the receiver.‘I can well believe it,’ he assured her acidly. He does realise, I hope, thatit will necessitate you being out of the country?’
‘I toldhim all that but—but I can’t go before he has his operation.’
‘Do youthink I would expect you to, Abigail?’ he murmured softly I want a happy,smiling wife with me, not some wistful creature who’s looking over her shoulderall the time, expecting bad news. We can wait until this is over. We’ll go assoon as we know he’s safe,’
‘Thankyou.’ She said it quietly and this time when he laughed the anger had gone. Shecould imagine his grey eyes sparkling and the thought of them brought a slowflush to her cheeks.
You’rewelcome. Mrs. Steele,’ he told her mockingly. She just kept quiet and his voicedropped into the familiar dark sound, ‘I give up on you, Abbie. You’llobviously never toughen up. In all probability I’ll spent most of my trip to America watching to see that nobody upsets you.’
‘I cantake care of myself!’ she managed sharply, and his laughter was even moreamused
‘Well, wecan pretend. Providing that I’m right beside you, we can pretend anything.’
Abigailsimply rang off, glad to cut off the sound of his voice. The old familiarshivers were running over her skin and she walked about the flat for ages,berating herself.
‘I will not fall foranything again!’ she told herself fiercely. ‘I will not let Logan get to me.’
It was a panicky reactionto his voice, just as she had felt a panicky reaction to his presence before.And who was she fooling anyway? The reason she had not contacted him and askedhim to go with her to the hospital was not that she had not needed his support,it was because she had felt too vulnerable to have him around.
Even the way he had grabbedher and held her roughly the last time she had seen him had lingered in hermind. He was always there, right at the back of her thoughts, and the soonershe was able to be entirely free of him, the safer they would be.
The operation went smoothlywith no trouble at all. Apparently, apart from his heart condition, her fatherwas still a tough and strong man. The surgeon told her that later. At the lastminute she had telephoned Logan and told him the time of the operation, andwhen she’d arrived Logan had already been there. He waited with her throughoutthe long operation and although he said very little it gave her courage to lookup and see him reading a paper or wandering around watching the hospital inprogress. He was like a rock, immovable, strong, and she had never doubledthat.
Afterwardshe took her out for a meal and that night Abigail slept mote peacefully thanshe had slept for a long time. Logan’s quiet presence had soothed her like adrug. For just one short time there had been safety. 88
It wasonly the next day that she was sufficiently back in the world to realise thatthis was it. Now there was nothing to stop Logan making his arrangement for thetrip to America. She had leaned on his strength, accepted his help both withthe firm and with her problems. Now she had to pay the price and keep her sideof the bargain.
Going in to work could notbe put off any longer and although there was still an uneasy atmosphere in thebuilding it was possible to sense, with no words spoken, that everyone knewthings had changed.
‘Logan is helping,’ she told Martha. In all fairness she had to tell Martha something andthe truth had always seemed best to Abigail.
‘Abouttime too,’ Martha sniffed, but it didn’t take any crystal ball to see that shewas delighted. She asked no questions and Abigail offered no further comment.If Martha wanted to believe that they were back together again she would findout sooner or Iater that it was all a business deal.
‘I haveto go to America,’ she offered a little distantly, and to her surprise Marthatook that well too, with no questions.
‘Thingswill still be here when you get back,’ she said comfortably, and Abigailpretended not to see the pleased gleam in her eyes. It seemed that she was notthe only one who could relapse into dreams. Martha suffered from the samedisease as far as Logan was concerned.
‘By theway,’ she added as Abigail was about to go to her office, ‘Brian Wingatephoned. He’s back from Germany sooner than he expected.’
‘Fine.’Abigail smiled slightly and walked off. Another problem. She hid her suddenfrown. There was the little matter of his offer of a job and there was thesomewhat bigger matter of her lie about him to Logan.
Still, itwas not important. The two would never meet, and she would contact Brian assoon as this deal with Logon was over because quite clearly she would need thatjob. She had no intention of working here with Logan constantly in and out ashe set the firm to rights. She also had no intention of being tossed this wayand that by every whim of her father. If he wanted to come back here and workwith Logan he was welcome to try it.
For thefirst time in a long time, Abigail enjoyed the day at work. For some reason aweight seemed to have lifted from her and she did not know whether itwasthe promise of Logan taking overor if her new determination to stand alone had something to do with it.
She leftthe office with a smile on her face. Now that her father was off the dangerlist there was no need at all to stay at the flat and she had her own car withher. Tonight she intended to go home, make arrangements with Rose and acquainther with all the facts.
She wasjust approaching her car when Brian drew up and sounded his horn, stopping herin her tracks. He wound the window down and shouted before he had even got outof his car.
‘Abigail,love! I’m back! You can stop worrying. Rescue is here...’
Sheturned at the sound of his voice, laughing towards him, glad to see hiswarm-looking eyes peering at her from the open window of the car, his fair hairuntidy as if he had been in a strong breeze. Her laughter faded, however, whenthe familiar dark Jaguar pulled in silently behind Brian’s more modest vehicleand Logan sat watching events with icy eyes and a mouth tightened in anger.
Beforeshe could take any action, an unsuspecting Brian had leapt from his car andhurried over to give her a great hug and to kiss her soundly—a thing he hadnever done before in the whole time she had known him.
‘I cametearing back from Germany as soon as I could,’ he told her eagerly. ‘I’ve beenworrying about you all the time. Now we can plan your future.’
Abigailstood like someone stunned. Dimly she heard the dull thud of the Jaguar doorclosing and she knew that somewhere very close Logan was on his feel and movingtowards them. For herself, she was powerless to move. All her calm thoughts inthe safety of the office had now vanished. Logan was about to meet Brian faceto face and he would readily believe her lie now after Brian’s unrestrainedshow of affection.
Embarrassmentheld her to the spot and it was only as she stared over Brian’s shoulder,watching Logan’s approach with wide and anxious eyes, that Brian sensed somestrain in the atmosphere.
‘What isit, love?’ he asked in a puzzled voice. Brian had a boisterous voice thatcarried and she wondered desperately how much Logan had heard of his greeting‘There’s no need to worry now. You’ll come to me and everything will be allright. The firm can go hang.’
He meant,of course, that she would be working for him but she could tell by the thunderon Logan’s face that he had misunderstood.
‘Abigailis overwhelmed,’ Logan assured him as he came up to them. His voice was as icyas his eyes and Brian spun round almost open-mouthed. ‘However,’ Logan continued, ‘the firm will not go hang and my wife will not come to you. She has afuture that does not even contain a glimpse of you.’
You’re back together?’Brian stared at him, too stunned to be afraid of the anger in those cold eyes.
‘Oh, yes,’ Logan assured him sarcastically. ‘I’m sure if you had given her half a chance she wouldhave told you. Next week we’re going to America—a second honeymoon.’ He pausedand looked from his greater height into Brian’s astonished face. ‘Don’t makethe mistake of trying to see her again.’
He tookAbigail’s arm in a tight grip and before she could react she was being movedforcibly towards the jaguar.
‘Let megot’ Even now, embarrassment kept her voice low, and Logan stopped, lookingdown at her with wild anger on his face.
‘If I letyou go, my dear Abigail, I also let the firm go. It will drop from a greatheight and be smashed. The bank will catch the worthwhile pieces and by thetime your father leaves hospital there will not even be the dust to sweep up.’
‘Youpromised!’ Abigail stared up at him, her expression a mixture of anger andfear. She’d had one day of relief from strain and now she was being propelledback into it.
‘And Ikeep my promises, as you know,’ Logan reminded her harshly. ‘We have a deal.All by yourself you struck a bargain with me and I made it clear that shouldanyone even begin to imagine that it was a sham then the deal would be off.Moving in with Wingate would be a fairly strong way of proving that we are notat all reconciled. From that moment on, you would be no use to me at all. Iwould not feel obliged to keep my end of the bargain.’