A Pawn in the Playboy's Game(5)

By: Cathy Williams

She had worked for a busy, aggressive company, which, coming from this small town, had been a first. She had seen the bright lights and felt the buzz of big-city excitement. She had hopped on the Underground and jostled with the crowds at rush hour. She had eaten on the run and gone to wine bars with new friends.

And two years into her bright, shiny life she had met a guy, someone so wildly different from every guy she had ever met that was it any wonder she had fallen hopelessly in love with him?

The only downside was that he had been her boss. Not directly her boss, but far, far higher than her in the company food chain, recently transferred back to London from New York.

And naive as she had been, all the warning signs that would have been flagged up to any woman with just a bit more experience had passed her by.

Rich guy...top job...cute, with little dimples and floppy blond hair...thirty-four and single...

Laura had been over the moon. She hadn’t minded the weekends he’d been unable to spend with her because he’d visited his ailing father in the New Forest area...hadn’t cared that meals out had always been in small, dark places miles away from the city centre...hadn’t really twigged when he’d told her that once an arrangement was made, it was set in cement...no need for her to call him and, besides, he was just one of those guys who hated long, rambling telephone conversations on mobiles.

‘There’s never a time when it’s convenient!’ he had joked teasingly. ‘You’re either in the supermarket, about to hand over your credit card...or on the Underground, hanging on to a strap for dear life...or about to step into the shower... Leave the calling to me!’

She had for nearly a year until she had seen him out, quite by chance, with a sandy-haired woman hanging on to his arm and a little toddler sucking a lollipop, twisting round from her pushchair to look at him.

So much for love. She’d fallen for a married guy, had fallen for surface charm and a clever way with words.

She had worked out her notice and left and now she was ninety-nine per cent convinced that it had all been for the best. Secretarial work hadn’t been for her. The job had been buzzy and well paid but the teaching job she did now was much more emotionally rewarding.

Plus everyone had to have a learning curve. She would never make the mistake of even looking twice at any man who was out of her league. If it looked too good to be true, it probably was.

It was a dull, cloudy morning and she could feel icy fingers trying to wriggle through the layers of her clothes...the vest, jumper, padded sleeveless waterproof that bulked her up so that she looked like a beach ball in search of a stretch of sand.

When she glanced over her shoulder, the little town had been left behind and there was roaming, rambling countryside all around her, stretching as far as the eye could see.

She slowed down. There was no place on earth as beautiful as Scotland. No place where you could practically hear the silence and the small sounds of nature, living, breathing nature. This was where she had grown up. Not this precise spot in this exact town, but in a very similar small town not a million miles away. She had moved to live with her grandmother when her parents had died. She had been just seven at the time. She had adjusted over time to the loss of her parents and it had taken her a lot less time to adjust to life in this part of Scotland because the scenery was so familiar to her.

She crested a hill, on either side of which russets, browns and stark, naked fields, stripped bare of colour, filled her with a sense of freedom, and there, just ahead of her, she could see the entrance to the long drive that led up to Roberto’s house.

She slowed down, took her time pedalling her way up the drive. She never tired of this familiar route. In summer it was stunning, vibrant with green, the trees bending over the drive. In winter the bare trees were equally impressive, stretching up like talons reaching for the clouds.

The unexpected sight of a black SUV brought her to a halt and she slowly began walking the bike towards the front door.

Surprises were rarely of the good kind and this was a surprise because Roberto seldom had visitors. At least, not ones that weren’t of the local variety. He had friends in the village...her grandmother was very pally with him, somewhat more than pally, she suspected, and of course he went to the usual things arranged for older people because there was quite a thriving community in the village for the over-sixties, but strangers appearing out of nowhere...?

Which only left one possibility and that made her heart sink. She’d never met the son and, in fairness, Roberto didn’t dwell on him very much but the little he had said had not left a good impression either with her or with her grandmother.

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