By: Jennifer Taylor


THERE were lights on all over the house. They spilled from the windows and chased away the shadows from the driveway, offering a welcome to all who were invited that night.

Jacob Hunt was entertaining, giving one of his renowned dinner parties. She could picture it now, the huge dining-room with its heavy oak furniture, the crystal and glass sparkling on the long table. The guests would be a mix of the rich and famous, the intellectual and witty, the very best that society could offer. That was why she had chosen tonight to come.

There was no hesitation as she rang the bell. She had made her plans carefully and knew what had to be done. Now it was a relief to get here and set them in motion.

‘Good evening—Miss Helen!’

She felt an echo of the man’s surprise but managed to hide it, forcing a smile as she walked through the open door. She hadn’t known that Baxter was still here, but should have guessed. Jacob had wanted it all and now he had it, right down to the smallest detail.

‘Good evening, Baxter. How are you?’

‘Er—very well, thank you, Miss Helen.’ The man glanced uncertainly over his shoulder then quickly recovered his composure. ‘Mr Hunt is with guests at present. May I show you into the sitting-room while I inform him that you are here?’

‘No, thank you, Baxter. That won’t be necessary.’ She brushed past him, her footsteps echoing as she crossed the hall and pushed the dining-room door open. They were all there, just as she’d imagined it. If she had set her mind to it she could have recognised most of the faces which turned towards her but she was interested only in one face, one man.

He was sitting at the head of the table, a glass of wine held in one lean hand. Under the glowing light from the chandeliers his hair shone a rich blue-black, his tanned skin gleamed. He was twenty-eight now but looked older. There was experience etched on that harshly carved face and lying in the depths of those deep blue eyes. Jacob Hunt had used every means in his power to get what he wanted and each had left its mark.

For a moment Helen almost hesitated as fear rose sharp and cold in her breast. She knew what he was capable of, knew what a bitter adversary he was, so had she been a fool to come? How could she hope to strike a blow against a man like him?

‘Helen—what a charming surprise. Do join us.’

If he felt surprised at seeing her he didn’t show it, that deep, smooth voice betraying just a hint of amusement. And that more than anything gave her the strength to carry on.

She closed the door and walked slowly along the length of the table until she stopped just a foot away from his chair. She could hear the murmurs from the guests, sense their curiosity, and had to hold back a bitter smile. No one seated around this table would ever forget this night!

‘A surprise? Come now, Jacob, it can hardly be that. You knew that I would come, surely?’

Her voice was clear; it rang around the room and cut the conversation dead. She had everyone’s attention now just as she had planned. These friends of Jacob’s whom he had courted with money and deadly charm would soon find out what he was really like.

He lifted the glass to his lips and drank, watching her steadily over the rim in a way which made a tight little spiral of unease curl inside her. She looked away from those brilliant eyes then cursed herself for the slip when she heard the note in his voice. Jacob was too sharp to miss any sign of weakness. He was a hunter who stalked his prey, knew its weaknesses and vulnerabilities and used them to make the kill. She couldn’t afford that sort of lapse again.

‘Perhaps not, but I didn’t expect to see you quite so soon.’ He glanced at his watch then back at her with a faint lift of his brows. ‘You must have come straight from the airport, I imagine.’

Helen didn’t waste time in answering a question he knew the answer to, her face filled with contempt. ‘You think you are so clever, don’t you? You have it all now: the business, this house, even—’

‘Even Richard?’ He laughed out loud, the sound rumbling around the room. ‘Come now, Helen, surely you aren’t going to tell me that you are madly in love with him?’ He shrugged lightly, the cloth of his elegant dinner-jacket straining across his shoulders. He had a superb body, lean and muscular, honed to perfection by years of hard work when he was younger. He still kept himself fit even though he didn’t need to do anything more strenuous than issuing orders. It was just another thing which Helen hated about him.

‘I don’t intend to tell you anything, Jacob. How could I? You know all the answers, don’t you? You decided what you wanted and made your plans and now you have it all—everything apart from the clothes on my back, and I believe that you are entitled to them as well.’ She laughed softly, her face very pale against the gleaming red waves of hair which fell past her shoulders, her green eyes glittering almost feverishly. ‘One thing no one can ever accuse me of, Jacob, is not paying my debts!’

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