Promise Me Love

By: Jennifer Taylor

CHAPTER ONE


HE WAS late.

Beth picked up the glass of mineral water, her hand shaking so that it clinked against her teeth as she sipped. She set it down again then clasped her hands tightly together as she fought down the growing sense of panic. She’d known all along that he’d been reluctant when she’d arranged this meeting, but he would come…he must!

The restaurant door opened and she swung round, hope flaring in her soft hazel eyes, but it wasn’t him. Where was he? Why was he so late? Surely he wouldn’t stand her up after promising to meet her? The fear grew until she felt sick and she swallowed hard.

‘If you’re waiting for Andrew then I’m afraid you’re in for a disappointment, because he isn’t coming, not now, not ever!’

The woman’s voice was shrill and Beth jumped, her head turning in shock. She’d been so engrossed in her own thoughts that she’d not noticed the woman stopping by her table and now she stared at her in surprise.

‘I’m sorry. Were you speaking to me?’

‘Who else?’ The woman glared at her, her face filled with contempt. ‘Women like you make me sick! You don’t give a damn who you hurt, do you, as long as you get what you want?’ She slammed her hand on the table, making the glass tilt so that water spilled on to the pale pink cloth. ‘Well, now it’s over, do you hear me? Over! You stay away from Andrew from now on or you’ll regret it!’

‘I…’ Beth stared at her in confusion as the fear blossomed until it filled every scrap of her being. What was going on? Who was this woman? And why did she think that she had the right to warn her to stay away from Andrew?

She drew in a shaky breath, only barely aware that people were watching them. It didn’t seem to matter about other people right then; nothing mattered apart from finding out what was going on. ‘Who are you? What do you want?’

Her voice shook and the other woman smiled tightly, a faint triumph on her face. ‘Who do you think I am? I’m Andrew’s wife, of course. Don’t try pretending that you didn’t know he was married because it won’t work. That was probably part of his attraction for you!’

‘Married?’ Beth repeated the words, her lips barely moving, her face waxen as all the colour drained away.

‘Yes, married. Oh, don’t come the innocent with me now. You knew all along, the same as you knew about the children, but you didn’t let either fact stop you from chasing him. He’s told me all about it, the way you pursued him relentlessly even though he kept on telling you that he wasn’t interested. But you wouldn’t take no for an answer, would you? You kept on until you wore down his resistance. I don’t blame him as much as I blame you. You’re nothing but a little who—!’

‘Is everything all right, darling? I don’t know exactly what is going on here, but you two ladies seem to be attracting a great deal of attention.’

The voice was gently amused and Beth swung round to stare at the tall man standing behind her chair. Just for a moment her eyes met the cool grey ones which were watching her intently before she looked away as the shock hit her afresh. Andrew was married, had children, had lied about everything!

She swayed in the seat and would have fallen if hands hadn’t fastened around her shoulders to hold her steady. This time when the man spoke there was no amusement in his voice, just a cold hauteur which made Andrew’s wife step uncertainly away from the table.

‘I still don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but I don’t think this is either the time or the place for this sort of discussion.’ He stared at the woman, his face set into grim lines. ‘We had been intending to lunch here, but in the circumstances that is out of the question now.’

‘Lunch…you…her? But I thought…I thought…’ She looked from the man to Beth, her eyes stopping on his hands, which were still resting on Beth’s shoulders, and her face crumpled. ‘You mean that you didn’t come here to meet Andrew?’

Beth tried to speak, tried her hardest to force an answer out from lips which felt cold and stiff, but it was impossible. Was this what dying felt like, this numbness, this coldness in the soul? It had taken all her courage to arrange this meeting, to ring Andrew and force him to agree to see her, and now she had none left.

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