Reluctant Wife(10)

By: Lindsay Armstrong

‘I also told you I wanted you, Roz,’ he said quietly.

‘It’s not the same thing,’ she whispered. ‘You thought you could mould me into the perfect wife, didn’t you? But what I’ve really become is the perfect hostess. And to make it all worse, it seems as if I’m not going to be able to provide you with a family either. I … I don’t know why,’ she said jerkily, ‘but I really regret that. Perhaps it would have solved a lot of our problems, but anyway, I think you’d have made a good father. But it’s not too late for you. You have only to let me go.’

‘Go?’ He looked at her and laughed. ‘Go where? Perhaps I should have mentioned this before, but Michael Howard is married now.’

Her mouth dropped open. ‘How do you know that?’

He regarded her stunned blue eyes and shrugged. ‘It’s not important, and he’s two years older now. What is important is that that avenue is no longer open to you, in case you’ve been dreaming romantically of it, my dear Roz.’

She gasped. ‘I …’

‘Hate me? So you keep telling me,’ Adam said leisurely. ‘But I’m afraid it’s something we’re going to have to live with.’

‘D-do you know what I think?’ she stammered in her anger. ‘I think you might have grown cynical and distrustful of women, but you still can’t bear to think of even one of them being unaffected by you …’

‘Unaffected?’ he drawled with a lift of his eyebrows.

‘You know what I mean. You’re determined to make me fall in love with you——that’s the problem!’

But if she thought she could shock him or even anger him, she was mistaken. Because he stared down at her for a moment, then his lips twisted into a cool smile and a genuine spark of amusement lit his eyes as he said, ‘Possibly. I never could resist a challenge. Well, now we’ve sorted all that out, should we go to bed? Together or separately-——you choose, Roz.’

Then he laughed at her expression, dropped a brief kiss on her forehead, murmured, ‘So be it,’ and walked through to his bedroom, closing the door behind him.

It was a long time before Roz fell asleep, and then only to wake up sweating but shivering and only by the greatest effort of will forced herself to calm down.

And as the dawn broke she was thinking of Michael Howard and wondering who he had married with a haunting sense of sadness, but not, as Adam imagined, because she had been indulging in romantic daydreams about a reunion   with Mike. That was impossible anyway, she knew, but she had more than once wished she could have explained things to him.

She twisted restlessly and knew she would start to feel suffocated if she stayed in bed one moment longer.

The air was clear and dewy and fresh as she arrived at the stables, and not a soul had stirred when she had let herself out of the house and stolen across the lawn. But the stables were a hive of activity, and the first person she bumped into was Adam’s trainer.

‘Well, I thought you’d be sleeping in this morning, Roz,’ he said with a grin. ‘Good party?’

‘Great, thanks, Les. Have you worked Nimmitabel yet?’

‘She’s just about to go out. Want to ride her?’

‘If you wouldn’t mind.’

‘Now why would I mind? You’re one of the best track riders I’ve seen. Just wish you were on the permanent staff. Anyway, she’s yours.’ Then he turned businesslike. ‘Three furlongs, three-quarter pace this morning, Roz, and give her a good warm up-—-but watch her, she’s fresh.’

‘Thanks, Les,’ Roz said warmly. ‘Will I work with another horse?’

‘No, take her out on her own. I want to watch her action. Hey, Jake,’ he called, and the stable jockey just about to mount an excited-looking brown filly, turned and touched his cap. ‘Mrs Milroy’ll take her,’ said Les.

‘Morning, ma’am,’ said Jake. ‘She’s a bit of a handful this morning.’

‘Good,’ said Roz, ‘that’s just what I need.’ And she sprang lightly up into the saddle, adjusted her cap while Jake held the filly and Les altered the irons. Then she was off.

Twenty minutes later she was back in the stable yard with her cheeks glowing and her eyes bright, and even Les, who didn’t display much emotion about a horse unless it was really called for, was shaking his head—a sign of enthusiasm. ‘Goes like a bird, Roz. I reckon she’ll be everything your grandfather expected of her and more. She does it so easily. Long time since I’ve seen a galloper like her.’

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