Senin, 12 Desember 2011

man's world

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Everyone thought the reason Kate avoided men was that she was aone-man woman, grieving for the husband she had lost. The truth wasthat her marriage had been a nightmare, that left her bitter anddisillusioned and never wishing to get involved again. And her lowopinion of men, if it needed confirming, was confirmed when EliotHolman got the job that should have been hers ² solely, Kate toldherself, because he was a man and she was only a woman. But wasthat the real reason for the conflict between them?

 All the characters in this hook have no existence outside the imagination of the Author, anil have no relation

whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the Author, and all the incidents are pure invention. All rights reserved. The text of this publication or any part thereof may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, storage in an informationretrieval system, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher.This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the prior consent of the publisher in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent  purchaser. First published in Great Britain 1980 by Mills & Boon Limited

©Charlotte Lamb 1980

 Australian copyright 1980 Philippine copyright 1980 Reprinted 1980This edition 1991

ISBN 0 263 77442 2

Set in Linotype Plantin 11 on 12pt. 02-9107  Printed and bound in Great Britain

Fleet street was thickly clotted with traffic; throbbing bumper to bumper, the midday sun sweltering on metallic car roofs, bouncing back from windows, making the London pavements sweat beneath the feet of hurrying office workersdashing out to lunch. A small man with a gloomy face was meandering along wearing a sandwich board which bore a scarlet-lettered message. Kate did not have time to read it as she darted past him. Her blue eyes were fixed on a taxi she had seen headingthat way. Its sign was lit, miraculously. She waved an arm, standing on tiptoe to catch the attention of the driver, and the large black taxi swerved in her direction with the insolent disregard of other traffic which London taxis can demonstrate when they see a potential fare. Another car blared its horn. A man put his head outof the window of a second and bellowed a muffled insult.Kate stepped off the kerb without looking and gave a cry of horror as she felt her heel sink. Looking down, she tugged unavailingly. Her fine heel had been trapped in a grating.'Oh, hell and damnation!' The furious words were at odds withher carefully elegant appearance. Several passers-by stared inamusement.'Stand still.' The voice at her elbow had a cool authority. Shelooked round, but the owner of the voice had knelt beside her toexamine her shoe so that all she could see of him was the top of his head, the dusty gold of his hair gleaming in the sunlight.She felt his fingers slide over her slender ankle. 'Can you standon one foot? I can't extricate the shoe with you inside it.'

It was a ridiculous position to be in, and as she withdrew her foot Kate felt her flushed cheeks burning. 'Thank you,' shemuttered, hoping she did not sound as ungracious as she felt. Shewished she was a million miles away.She had been held up leaving the office by an unexpected phone call and time was running short. Why did these stupidthings happen when one was absolutely desperate to getsomewhere on time? The shoes were new and had cost a fortune.She had seen them in a window in Oxford Street earlier that week and been captivated by them. Shoes were one of her fewextravagances; she had very small feet and getting shoes in her size was not easy. These were Italian, made of soft supple leather and of a pale coffee shade which perfectly complemented the coraldress she was wearing. Kate had skimped on food to pay for them.She stood on one leg like a cross stork and stared as her rescuer fiddled delicately with the heel. Please, she thought, don't break it.As it was, the heel was bound to be scarred, that fine leather covered in weals. Oh, damn, she thought. That was what came of hurrying.The taxi had drawn up beside them and she looked at it withfury. Now it would just drive away and with it would go her lastchance of arriving on time.She was wrong, however. Perhaps the hot weather had put thedriver into a lazy temper or maybe he was just a friendly man, buthe leaned over to stare down at them, his arms bare to die elbow,his shirt-sleeves rolled up and his collar open.'Having trouble, lady? Need any help, guv?' He was a largedark man in his middle years and he grinned as he took in Kate'sslender elegance.
The fair head lifted. 'I can manage, thank you, but you might put the lady into your taxi. She hailed you, I think.''Yes,' said Kate, throwing the man a hopeful smile.'Right you are.' The man got out, came round and opened the back door of his taxi. 'Hop in, miss.'Kate hopped with his help, feeling a fool, conscious of her flushed face and the stares of people walking past. The driver grinned at her. 'Never does to be too hasty. Next time you'll look before you leap.' It was good-humoured mockery and she gavehim a little smile.It wouldn't have mattered on any other day, but today she had avital appointment and the last thing she had planned was to be late.She thought of all her careful preparations and could havescreamed. She had been nervous all morning, her stomach full of   butterflies, and now it looked as if the whole thing had beenruined. She glanced at her watch, and her heart sank. She had fiveminutes. She would never do it. 'Good work, guv,' the driver said outside. Kate eagerly peered out of the window. The fair head rose and she caught the grin her rescuer gave the driver. He climbed into the taxi and looked at her.'I managed to get it out without ruining it,' he told her, giving her a smile which she could imagine had caused havoc before now. 'Your slipper, Cinderella.'Going down on one knee, he extended the shoe and she slid her foot into it.'Thank you very much,' she muttered, prickling as she felt himeyeing her long slim calf.He lifted his head again and ironic grey eyes took in the faint but unmistakable hostility in her eyes. He was a long, lean manwith eyes of a grey so light as to be colourless at times, although

as he moved his head and the sunlight glinted on them she sawthem take on a sudden blue gleam. His hair was thick and smooth.His nose had a classical line, straight, faintly arrogant. Kate's eyesdid not linger on his mouth. She did not like the faint, amusedsmile it wore as he watched her.'I'm sorry to sound churlish, but I have to rush,' she told him. 'Ihave a lunch date and I can't be late.'He rose, leaned over to pull the door shut and sat down besideher. 'Where do you want to go? ''The Apollo Club,' Kate told him.He leaned forward. 'The lady is in a hurry, driver. Do the bestyou can, will you?'The driver turned to grin at them. 'Watch my dust!'They drew out from the kerb, the engine throbbing. 'Optimist,'drawled the man beside Kate. 'In this traffic it could take twentyminutes.' He smiled sideways at her, the grey eyes teasing. 'If I'mlucky.'Kate didn't smile back. She regarded him coolly. A flirt, she thought. That I do not need. 'I don't want to take you out of your way.'He lifted thin dark brows which gave definition to his blue-greyeyes. 'Is that a hint that my company isn't wanted?''You've been very kind.' He had taken trouble over her shoe andshe did not want to be rude.'So you said.' He pushed his hands into his pockets and lay back in the corner lazily studying her. 'Do I hear the word "but "hovering on those delectable lips?'Kate's eyes flared. 'Don't waste your ammunition on me. I'mnot interested.'

He sat up, whistling. 'Ouch! What have we here, I wonder?'Taking his time in an infuriating way he ran his narrowed eyesover her from the sleek black head, styled so that the hair framedher face, down her slender figure in the coral dress. Kate stiffenedas his eyes roamed. When they came back to her angry face, therewas amusement in them, and that made her so mad she could havehit him.Instead she did what she had done in similar circumstances.Taking a deep breath, she controlled her temper and eyed himexactly as he had eyed her. She had found in the past that itembarrassed even the most blatant of men. Today, however, it missed its mark. When she had coolly inspected him from the fair head to the polished black shoes she looked back at his face andfound him grinning ear to ear. 'Devastating,  aren't I?' The grey eyes mocked her.She stared back at him without a hint of amusement, her facechilly. 'Sorry, no sale.'He was in his early thirties, she suspected, which probablymeant that he was married. A man with his undoubted good lookswas unlikely to have escaped until that age.'What have you got against men?' he enquired, his head back against the seat, dropping his lashes over his eyes, no doubt tohide that smile, but watching her through them in a way whichmade her spine prickle.'Nothing,' she said clearly. 'I just don't happen to need one rightnow.''Where are you going in such a hurry? ''Lunch.''Ah,' he murmured. She could see the glint of the light eyes. 'Isyour lunch date male?'

'Is that any business of yours?''You're too worked up over it to be having lunch with an oldschool friend.' He was thinking aloud, his voice smooth, but hewas watching her all the time as though trying to read her expression, gauge some reaction to what he was saying. 'Women never mind being late meeting other women. So it's male.' Hiseyes flicked down to her hands and she fought the impulse to pushthem out of sight. 'No rings, so you aren't married or engaged. Ishe attractive? ''I'm still waiting to hear what makes it your business.''You don't deny that I guessed right.''You can guess until you're blue in the face.' Her temper gotaway from her as she spoke and her voice was acid.'You're a very nasty lady.' He gave her a wicked, teasing smile. 'And after all the trouble I went to for you!''I said thank you.''Is that all the return I get?''What do you want for performing a simple act of kindness? The Victoria Cross?'He laughed, his eyes dancing. 'Do you work in Fleet Street?'She surveyed him coolly. 'Do you?''This is a conversation, not ping-pong,' he pointed out, the sun playing over the smooth hair, gilding it as he moved his head tostare at her.They had arrived at the Apollo at last, and Kate sighed withrelief. She dived towards the door and scrambled out on to the pavement, turning towards the fascinated driver. Something in hisgrin told her that he had been an attentive eavesdropper to thatinfuriating conversation in the back of his cab. 'How much do Iowe you?' she asked him with a brief smile.

'I'll see to that.' The cool voice held a note which she angrilyrecognised. 'Wait for me, driver.'Kate would have argued, but she was already late and she wasnot going to stand out here begging him for the favour of payingfor her own taxi. If he wanted to squander his money that was his business.'Thank you, how terribly kind of you,' she said in a saccharinevoice, changing tactics and giving him a false and blistering smile.'I'll never forget it.' Her eyes underlined that with a flick, butinstead of withering him on the spot it just made him laugh again.Kate turned and fled into the elegant portals of the club, only to bestopped mid-flight by a uniformed porter with a stern face.'Are you a guest in the club, madam?'Kate was now ready to do battle with the next autocratic maleshe met. She looked at this one with fulminating wrath. 'Yes,' shesnapped, 'I am.''The member's name, madam? 'Behind her she heard a footstep on the marble floor and her sidelong glance caught the gleam of gold hair. Stiffly she said: 'Mr Conroy.'The man's haughty face altered slightly. 'Ah, yes, madam. Mr Conroy is waiting for you in the Guests'Bar. Through the swing doors on your left,  Miss Marchant.' He gave her a patronising little smile. 'Mr Conroy has signed you in.'Oh, has he? Kate thought. Aren't I lucky? She turned and ranfull tilt into the hovering shadow. Looking up into the grey eyes, she said crisply, 'Excuse me.'He was looking at her in a very odd way. 'Dee Conroy is your lunch date?'

'You know him?' That threw Kate for a moment. Her mouthopened and she stared at him, then she shrugged. What was so oddabout that? Half London knew Dee Conroy, at least by name, if not personally. Anyone could recognise his name. Dee frequentlyappeared on television and his face was sufficiently individual tostay in people's memories even if they could not put a name to it.'I know him.' There was a frown pulling the thin dark browstogether and the grey eyes held no smile now.'Look, I'm in a hurry. Excuse me.' She turned and walkedquickly through the swing doors, and this time she had no escort.What had brought that cold look to his face? she wondered. Thecharm and mockery had vanished and his face had been suddenlyicy. Did he dislike Dee? That was not unheard of, of course. Sheknew several people who detested him. Dee could be scathingwhen someone fell down on a job and his method of expressinghimself was not always charming.She stood in the plushly furnished bar glancing around and Deehalf-rose from a deep leather chair. Kate made her way over tohim, an apology on her lips. 'I couldn't get a taxi. I am sorry.''It doesn't matter. I've only just arrived myself. Traffic was areal snarl-up on the way from Westminster. What will you have?''A Martini, please.' She sat down in the chair beside him andDee snapped his thin fingers. A young waiter materialised with arespectful bend of the head. 'Dry Martini?' Dee enquired, and shenodded. He gave the order and the waiter de-materialised.Leaning back Dee smiled at her. He was an energetic, livelyman of around forty with restless, clever eyes and a sallow skinwhich was at the moment beautifully bronzed after a holiday in theCaribbean. His dark hair might earlier have been carefully brusheddown, but now it was ruffled and standing in peaks. Kate had often watched Dee combing irritated fingers through his hair atconferences²it was one of the signs of impending explosion. 'We should do this more often,' he told her. 'I've been meaningto take you out to lunch for months, but I never seem to have afree day.''It's been a hectic year,' she agreed.'One damn thing after another.' He grimaced. 'And this is supposed to be the silly season. God knows what it will be likewhen Parliament sits again.'The waiter brought their drinks and fussed around her,arranging a scalloped mat before placing her drink on it.'Mind if I smoke?' Dee was getting out a thin cigar, his thick dark brows arched enquiringly at her.'I don't mind if you don't,' she retorted.He grinned. 'Ah, another of your strongly held views. You have too many, Kate. It's time you cultivated a little tolerance.''There's enough of that around as it is,' Kate told him. 'If peopledidn't "tolerate" so much, the world might be a better place.''Your reading of the word tolerate doesn't quite match mine.'Dee was surveying her thoughtfully. The interview had begun, sherealised. Dee had her under a microscope, his hazel eyes keen. He took his time lighting his cigar. 'How long is it since your husbanddied?'He knew perfectly well how long it was²he had read her file. No doubt he knew it by heart. One of Dee's great gifts was a photographic memory which combined with instant recall madehim a great editor.She had slowed up now, the irritation of her chase to get herecarefully controlled. She would play the match exactly as Deeintended. Quietly she said: 'Four years.'

He considered the glowing tip of his cigar. 'And you have no plans to marry again? ''None.' None whatever, thank you, Kate thought. Not on your life.The lazy hazel eyes flicked to her face, inspected the cool ovalframed by elegantly shaped black hair. 'How old are you now? 'Another question to which he knew the answer and again she told him in a neutral tone. 'Twenty-six.''Are there any men in your life?'Her hair bristled on the back of her neck. 'No. 'What had that todo with giving her the job she wanted? Would he ask a malecandidate if there were any women in his life? Would he, hell!Dee gave her a tolerant smile. 'I know what you're thinking, you know.''Do you?' Of course he did. He was omniscient, like most men.Always right, always able to see right through the little femalehead. She smiled sweetly at him. 'Really?'He laughed. 'Oh, those big blue eyes. Yes, really. You're askingyourself what right I have to ask about your private life when all Ishould be interested in is your capacity to do the job.' He observed her pointedly. 'Yes?' 'It does seem slightly irrelevant.''Not so. When a man marries he doesn't give up his career. Awoman usually does.''I shall not be marrying.'He shrugged. 'I've heard that a thousand times before.''Perhaps you have, but I mean it.' Kate took a deep breath. 'Myfirst marriage was hardly an advertisement for the institution. Iwouldn't be fool enough to repeat my mistake.'Dee's face sobered. 'I know the feeling.'

Dee's marriage had lasted for ten years, but a year ago there had been a divorce which had made his temper brittle andunpredictable for months. Kate looked at him with sympathy. Yes, no doubt he did know the feeling. She knew his wife, Judy, whohad worked and still did in the women's page office. Kate likedher, but she knew, none better, that it was impossible to see into amarriage from outside. People who were perfectly charming onthe surface could in private be positive fiends. She had learnt notto judge by appearances, especially where men were concerned.She had finished her drink, and Dee glanced at her empty glass. 'Like another? Or shall we go in?''Let's go in,' she agreed, rising. 'The lunch here is a set meal,' Dee explained. 'They just do aroast²you can choose from lamb, beef or pork. They do have asalad with cold meat or cheese, as well.''The lamb will be fine,' she said, glancing across the spaciousdining-room and realising that she was in very much a minority.There was only one other woman in the room; the rest were menin elegant lounge suits and self-satisfied expressions.Dee caught her eyes and grinned. 'Yes, we're a chauvinistic lot.Women can be allowed across the threshold only as guests andonly in small numbers. This is a hallowed place. 'They started their meal with a delicious home-made soup thick with chunky vegetables, served with crusty French bread. Deeordered the wine without asking her opinion, she noticed, andmaybe Judy Conroy had had good reason for that divorce.'So you're embittered towards men,' Dee started out coolly,glancing across the table at her.'I didn't say that.''You didn't need to²it shows in every word you say.'

She flushed. 'Embittered is the wrong word.''What word would you use?''Wary.' Very, very wary, she thought. A mouse which has beenaccidentally let out of a steel trap is very wary of walking back into one.'Ah.' Dee broke off some bread. 'Good soup, this. Do youcook?''Brilliantly.'He grinned at the snap of her tone. 'You must prove that to mesome time. I love food.''You show no signs of it.' He was as thin as a rake, his energyconsuming every scrap he ate no doubt. As deadlines approachedDee went around the building like a lion seeking whom he mightdevour, his tongue lashing anyone dragging their feet, his fingerscrackling as though electricity leaked from their tips.'That's why I eat here regularly.' He finished his soup andleaned back. 'I get sick of eating out of cans.'The waiter arrived and removed their soup bowls before he began to serve their main course, carving deftly from the largehaunch of meat, the pinkish slices falling thickly from his knife.Kate sipped her wine and listened as Dee talked about the previousedition. 'Too many literals are slipping by, but I feel like KingCanute when I try to stop them. I wish we could put the deadlineforward half an hour²the vans get out far too late.' He wasmaking small talk until the waiter had left them, she realised, butshe listened attentively, smiling.For a few moments they concentrated on their food, then Deeasked calmly: 'If you did get the job, what plans do you have?''New brooms?' she asked, smiling at him.

'People always want to change things.' He considered her. 'Andquite right, too. George has been a great features editor, but he's been there for fifteen years and it's time the kaleidoscope wasgiven a shake.'George had a fixed pattern, of course. There were certain waysof doing things, in his view, and he had gradually let the pagestiffen into a sort of rigor mortis, quite without realising what washappening. He fought any changes which were proposed. Duringthe last year he had smiled paternally at her whenever shesuggested doing something new and said kindly: 'I'll be retiring ina year. Let's leave it, shall we?'Kate had come prepared to be asked about her plans. She knewvery well that it was the key question. She did not hurry to answer him, though, deliberately giving the impression that she wasthinking it over.'I think it would do no harm to rearrange the balance on the page,' she began quietly.'In what way?''We don't carry enough features angled to fit the news. George prefers to steer clear of daily decisions. We carry too much stock.'George liked to work far ahead, laying in stores of features whichhad no current news angle but could be used at any time. The'stock' drawer was crammed with stuff which he relentlessly pushed into the page.Dee was not looking at her, but she knew he agreed with her  because he had said much the same to George in the past. 'Whatelse?' he enquired, making no comment. 'We lean too heavily to the political side. A weekly summary of  political news is fine, but we don't need any more than that. I'd

like to have more current affairs, social investigations rather than political.'He nodded, still surveying his meal rather than her.'And I'd like some wider based interviews,' she said with hiseyes on his bent head.Dee lifted his head. 'Such as?''As I said, following the day's news up²for instance that ladywho got an award for industry the other day.'Dee's eyes were hard. 'That belongs on the women's page.''Why?' Kate challenged. 'Because she's a woman.' He showed no hesitation in the bluntstatement. 'And therefore of interest only to other  women?''Yes.' Their eyes warred and she felt her colour rising. Shefought to keep it down, to hold her  temper down. It was not thefirst time she had clashed with him over this subject and no doubtit would not be the last.'What she did should interest everybody,' she insisted.'Marcia wouldn't agree with you. She always fights to keep thewomen's stories for herself.''Marcia is a great women's page editor, but I dispute thevalidity of a women's page in a newspaper these days. This isn't the nineteenth century. Women aren't housebound morons. Theyread the rest of the paper² why give them a separate page? Youdon't have a man's page. Or a dog's page. ''I would if dogs could read,' Dee grinned, his eyes brightening.He eyed her with amusement. 'What you're suggesting would getme into dead trouble with Marcia.'Kate knew that. She had had endless rows with Marcia in the past on the same subject. 'I'm not asking you to do battle with

Marcia for me, but the features page would improve if I had a freehand.''Ah, a free hand,' Dee observed softly. 'I've heard those words before and they always mean civil war. If I removed the women's page where would I put the cookery articles and fashion?''In the dustbin,' Kate said furiously, catching fire and at oncefurious with herself. She had meant to play it cool and she darednot lose her temper.'A lot of women like them,' Dee pointed out, watching her.'They get them from magazines. A newspaper should be aboutnews.''Marcia specialises in current stories of interest only towomen²stuff about kids, adoption, sexual problems.''Men aren't interested in children?'Dee looked amused again. 'Not riveted by the subject, no. Oh,come on, Kate, you know you're on a sticky wicket. Leave this² what other desperate acts do you want me to perform?''Listen, if Marcia gets all the female-angled stuff, that leavesour page unbalanced. Women do read it, you know!''You've already said they read the rest of the paper, soobviously they read your page. The point is²men aren't interestedin cookery or fashion or the problems of the female anatomy, sowhy land them with stories they won't read? Put them on one pageand men know which page to skip.''That's a sexist attitude.' Kate knew she was struggling with her temper. She had a quick, impulsive mind which took fire easilyand she suspected Dee was deliberately provoking her. It was oneof his ways of finding out the truth. At conferences he often trailedhis coat merely to see what happened and who rose to the bait

Ah, the current jargon,' Dee drawled. 'So handy. Saves timewhich might otherwise be spent in thinking.''It's also shorthand for a whole range of attitudes which typifythe situation women today find themselves in,' she flung back.'The trouble with women is they think emotionally.''What's that supposed to mean?' Her face ran with hot colour,her blue eyes blindingly bright.Dee stared into them. 'Your views are coloured by your attitudeto men.''My experience of men ...' she began, and Dee cut in coolly.'Has been traumatic²I know. That's why I find your thinkingon the subject of the women's page somewhat suspect. You can'tdo it, Kate.''What can't I do?''Merge the sexes into one. Women aren't men and vice versa.''I never claimed they were²I only claim equality for my ownsex. I don't want women turning into a pathetic pastiche of men.The world has been organised for the benefit of men for too long.When I got here today your porter tried to stop me coming in²Ihad to produce you for a credential before he'd let me cross hishallowed threshold. Earlier a man shared my taxi and insisted on paying²would he have done that for you? Would he, hell! Hewould have worked out a fair division with you, and he certainlywouldn't have tried to chat you up.'Dee grinned. 'Oh, is that what's put you into a fighting mood? Iwondered why you had an aggressive glint in your eye when yougot here.'Her eyes flashed. 'Nothing of the sort!''Fancied him, did you?' Dee asked, tongue in cheek.

'No, I didn't.' She glared at him. 'You see, it always comesdown to the same thing in the end.''Why not? It's what makes the world go round.' Dee waslaughing but Kate was not amused.'And it's why I never get taken seriously as a journalist, only asa woman,' she bit out acidly.Dee sobered. 'I take you seriously as a journalist. You're adamned good one. Why do you think I took you off news and putyou into features as George's deputy? You've got a good nose for news and a first- class ability to organise it. Too many reporters letnews walk right past them without recognising it. They have to betold what to go out and look for²they wouldn't know otherwise.'Her temper cooled and she smiled at him. 'Thank you.'Dee smiled back. 'I'm not making any promises. Of course,you're a strong candidate. You've shown you can do the job andyou're on the spot. However, I have one or two other people tosee.''I realise that.' She had not expected a firm decision yet. Georgehad a month or two to go before he retired and Dee wouldn't be ina hurry to make up his mind. Several other people on the staff were interested, Kate was aware, but she was also aware that inthe last year she had often run the department single-handed sinceGeorge's health had not been too good lately. Her work had notgone unnoticed; Dee had several times said as much.They dropped the subject, at Dee's instigation, and for the restof the meal they talked about a whole range of other subjects, from the latest plays to a new biography of Churchill which had comeout recently. Dee was a stimulating, amusing companion with aquick mind and a ready wit. Kate enjoyed his company, particularly as he did not make any attempt to flirt with her.

Toby had been a flirt. Her experience with him had colouredher whole attitude to men who used their looks as battering rams.When she met Toby, Kate had been eighteen, wide-eyed, innocent, bowled over on sight by the charm and teasing smile which Tobycould use to such devastating effect. He had been twice her age, ahandsome man whose looks had been a passport to success withwomen. She had fallen madly in love and been amazed whenToby seemed to love her. The first months of their marriage had been months of great happiness for her. She had been incredulousat her luck in meeting and marrying someone like Toby.The awakening had come gradually. First she had discoveredherself to have married a man without conscience or heart who pursued other women all the time. Toby needed the excitement of the chase. He despised women, she realised; they were merely thequarry he pursued and once he had caught them he had no further interest in them. Only Kate's innocence and resistance had gotToby to marry her and, having done so, he resented his hour of weakness. Kate slowly realised that he was punishing her for having got him to marry her. Toby had a cold, sadistic mind under that golden charm. He made fun of her in public, sneering at her,humiliating her. Her jealousy over his other relationships merelyamused him. He enjoyed watching her flinch when he flirted withother women. The final revelation had come when Kate tried to re-fuse to sleep with him during one of his extra-marital affairs, andToby had forced her brutally. It had ended her feelings for him, but it had not ended her marriage. Kate had left him, but he hadfollowed her and her parents had begged her to go back to him.They did not know him and Kate could not bear to tell them thetruth.

It would have made her humiliation and pain harder to bear if anyone else had known what was happening inside their marriage.Toby's smile had convinced her parents that Kate was just beingchildish. She had gone back to him and Toby had revengedhimself by further sexual humiliation.Kate learnt to pray that he would be too interested in someoneelse to turn to her. She found it hard to be in the same room withhim. When they were in company she found herself watching theother people with disbelief²how could they be so taken in by thatfalse smile, those bright teasing, cruel eyes?When he was drowned in a yachting accident she was torn between sick relief and a feeling of guilt. She had hated him, bythen, and she would long before have left him if she had notknown that Toby would follow her and humiliate her in some way.He used other people's blinded reactions to him shamelessly.Everyone would have imagined that it was all Kate's fault. Toby's beautiful mask was too impenetrable unless one lived with him.The only reason Dee knew about her fiasco of a marriage was because during the early days of his divorce he had stumbleddrunk into her office late at night when she was working overtimeon a special issue. He had blurted out his own misery about hiswife and somehow Kate had found herself confiding her story tohim. Dee had been very drunk, but he had remembered afterwards.His mind was as sharp as a knife even when he was under theinfluence of a bottle of whisky. Dee never forgot a thing, and hewas one man whose attitude to her did not infuriate her.Sexual advances from men made the hair stand up on the back of her neck; Toby had killed all sexual interest in her. After hisdeath she had turned to a career with determination. She never meant to get involved with another man for the rest of her life.

When she got back to her flat that evening she found Oliver sitting on the doorstep with a Snoopy book in one hand and asandwich in the other. He lifted his curly black head and gave her an innocent grin. 'Hi.''What are you doing here?' She inserted her key and pushedopen the door. Oliver condescended then to get up and wander along the short corridor to the kitchen. Closing the door, a bottleof half-drunk milk under one arm, Kate followed him. 'How manytimes have I told you not to drink my milk? The shops are shutnow and I can't get any more.'He was rummaging through her cupboards, selecting things hefancied. 'No cheese? I'm starving!''You always are. Don't they feed you at home any more?''I'm broke.' Oliver had the intense self-absorption of theadolescent, his thin body always identically dressed in jeans andshirt, his manner vague. 'And I'm a growing boy, I need food.'She surveyed him. 'Grow any more and Mum will have to keepyou in the garden. What do you want money for?'His blue eyes, so like her own, flashed to her. 'You're kidding.'Kate laughed. 'Who is she? Or don't I know her?' It was alwaysgirls who drained Oliver's pockets. He had a never-ending streamof them passing through his life. Oliver fell in and out of love likea yo-yo, whizzing from girl to girl. A typical male, Kate thought,eyeing him.'Her name's Primrose.''Yuk!' Kate grimaced, removing her last piece of cheese fromhis grubby paws. 'Oliver, leave my food alone. How much do you need?'

How much can you spare?' A look of cunning crept into the blue eyes.She considered the question and him. 'Two pounds,' shedecided. 'Why should I pay for you to take girls out?' Oliver was astudent, although as this was the summer vacation he had atemporary job doing summer relief work in offices. Kate was perfectly well aware that he was saving to buy a motor bike aswell as paying their parents for his keep.He graciously accepted the money with a winning smile.'You're miraculous!'She lifted an eyebrow. 'New word?''Word of the week,' he agreed solemnly.'What was it last week?''Tedi,' he explained.Kate waited, grinning.'Meaning tedious,' he expounded.'What a vocabulary!' Kate plugged in the kettle. 'Coffee?''Okay.' He hitched himself on to a high stool, his long legsdraped over it like spaghetti. 'You look dressed-up-to-kill.'Laughing, she explained, 'Interview.''Not a man?' Oliver had been fifteen when Toby died and hadscarcely known him. Occasionally in the years since Oliver grewcloser to her he had casually made some comment on the lack of men in her life. Kate ignored the way he was looking at her.'Not a man, or only incidentally. It was with Dee Conroy.''Ah, the great Editor Man.' Oliver had seen him on televisionand secretly been impressed with him but he affected a cynicalattitude to him in front of Kate in case she suspected as much.Kate was, actually, aware that Oliver admired Dee. Her brother 

was far more transparent than he realised. 'Is this the promotionyou've been waiting for?''It would be promotion,' she agreed. 'George retires soon andhis job will be vacant.''The King is dead, long live the Queen?''Funny.' Kate made the coffee and pushed him a cup. Oliver was far more spoilt than she had ever been. Her father was a busydoctor with little time for any family life, although he was a kindand patient man when he was at home. Her mother had adoredOliver from the day of his birth and although she had genuinelyleaned over backwards to avoid favouritism somehow her feelingscould not help showing. Kate did not resent the way her mother felt about Oliver. Casual, lazy, self-absorbed though he was, shewas attached to her brother, but the long gap between them hadmade her more maternal than sisterly towards him, and her marriage had speeded up the natural adult processes shaping her mind. By the time Toby died, she had felt she was twice Oliver'sage.'You're not bad looking,' Oliver commented with lordlycondescension, running a glance over her. 'Do you miss Tobymuch?'She laughed before she could stop herself and caught his blueeyes staring. 'No,' she said quietly. 'Drink your coffee before itgets cold.''Change of subject. Yes, ma'am.' He saluted. 'Did you get the job, anyway?''I don't know. He has other people to see.''Did you feel hopeful?''I think I have a chance.'

'Not a bastion of male privilege, then?' Oliver grinned at her and she laughed.'There are token women in most departments, but men still getthe plum jobs. For every woman on the paper there are twentymen.''Sad,' Oliver mocked, knowing her views. 'You'll have to lead acrusade. Bring back the fiery crosses.''Give me my money back!'He finished his coffee and leapt down with the grace of agazelle. 'I'm off. Thanks for the sub.''I must be crazy lending you a penny. I'll never get it back.''But I love you,' he teased, grinning as he headed for the frontdoor. 'I'll give your love to Primrose.'When he had gone the flat seemed empty and very quiet. Katehad a light meal and settled down with a briefcase full of work shehad brought home. They were swamped with unsolicited materialwhich had to be skimmed through in case any of it turned out to beusable. George had handed that job over to her soon after shearrived and she had done it ever since. George had ceased, indeed,to do any of the routine work. These days he concentrated onenjoying the leisurely lunches which his job entailed, arriving latein the morning, taking hours off in the middle of the day anddeparting early, leaving Kate to see the page set. George had, to allintents and purposes, abdicated from his role. He was just waitingfor his retirement now, although he refused to allow her to actwithout his agreement.George had not appeared by eleven next morning. When Mirry,their secretary, rose to go down to coffee she asked if she could bring a cup back for Kate. 'What about Mr Randell ? Should I bring one back for him ?'

As he isn't here, there seems little point,' Kate said with a coolglance.'Isn't he coming in today?''I've no idea. He hasn't informed me.' George sometimes juststayed away. Kate would not be surprised if he did so today.Mirry was a very tall thin girl with soft fine hair and awhispering voice which made her sound as though she werealways in a state of nervous alarm. In fact she was inclined to sulk,a girl with a difficult temperament, her mind rather slower thanKate's and her reactions always delayed. Kate never quite knewhow Mirry would take anything. Weeks after making some incau-tious remark she would discover that Mirry was still brooding over it.Mirry's eyes took on a typical wounded look. 'I'll just get acoffee for you, then.'Smiling at her, Kate nodded. 'Thank you, Mirry.'When she had gone Kate settled back to work, only to bedisturbed again by the opening of the door. Expecting George, sheglanced over her shoulder and froze, recognising the tall, leanfigure framed in the doorway. 'What are you doing in here?''I've come for the money you owe me.'She stared in bewilderment. 'Money? What money?'He moved into the room and closed the door, leaned on it andsmiled at her. 'The taxi fare you didn't pay.'She flushed. 'You offered to deal with it.' She snatched her bagup and opened it. 'How much do I owe you?''We shared the cab, so we'll split the difference. Eighty pencewill cover it.'She got out some coins and offered them to him. 'How did youfind out where I worked?'
He wandered over and took the money, pocketed it. 'I have mysources. Now I'm restored to financial stability will you havelunch with me?''No,' she snapped.'I was always taught to add thank you even after refusing aninvitation,' he criticised, the grey eyes skimming over her withappraisal. 'You look very workmanlike today. I preferred you inthe pink thing.''I don't dress to please you.'His eyes teased her. 'You will.'Her colour rose and her temper rose with it. 'Get out of here!I'm working. Who gave you permission to roam around the building?''Will you have lunch with me if I let you pay your share?'Kate seethed. 'No.''Why not?''I don't want to.'He grimaced, taking up a perch on the corner of her desk, hisfair hair gleaming smoothly. 'What a tiresome female you are! Idon't know why I'm bothering.''Neither do I.' Kate's manner was designed expressely for the purpose of keeping men at a distance and it usually achieved itsobject. 'And how did you get in here?''I work here.'She was taken aback. 'I haven't seen you before.''There's a good reason for that.''Been hiding, have you?'He laughed, and Kate found herself almost laughing back  before she hurriedly tightened her mouth.

The amused way he watched her told her that he had noticedher weakening.'I've been abroad,' he explained.She studied him, and then suddenly she knew who he was; sheshould have recognised him before. His face appeared regularly intheir columns. Yesterday she had been too intent on getting to thatlunch with Dee to realise that she had seen that face before, butthen of course their grey, grainy reproduction did not always do justice to faces. He did not look anywhere as good-looking in his photographs. Maybe he wasn't photogenic.Her face had told him that she had finally recognised him. Hearched those dark brows which did not match his hair, smiling.'Eliot Holman,' she said slowly. 'Are you on a flying visit fromthe States?''Not so flying. I'm back for good.'She hadn't known that and her face showed surprise. He had been their correspondent in America for the last five years and hiscolumn was widely read. Kate admired his crisp, elegant style. Hewasted neither time nor words, but he always got his effect and hehad been one of the most influential of their writers for a longtime.'No cheers?' he enquired in mock-sadness. 'Doesn't the thoughtdelight you?'She ignored that. 'Who's taking over in the States?''Bobby Riley.'She showed no surprise. Bobby had just come back from a longstint in Australia and she had heard that he wanted to have a look at America.'Will you miss America?' she asked.

'I thought I might,' Eliot Holman told her, his eyes on her. 'NowI'm not so sure.'The implied flattery brought a spark to her blue eyes, but she bit back a caustic retort. 'What are you going to do now?''Moot point,' he shrugged. 'I'm writing a book, but I shall needto eat in the meantime.''It helps,' she agreed.'And lunch with you would be very pleasant,' he continuedsmoothly. 'I like looking at something pretty while I eat.''Have a mirror handy,' Kate snapped.If she had imagined she would dent his ego with a trite jokelike that she was wrong. He grinned. 'What sharp little claws youhave, Grandmother!'She did not come back with the obvious retort to that. Lookingat her desk, she said instead: 'I'm working.''All through the lunch hour?''Probably.' It wouldn't be the first time. Her hours weresupposed to be ten to six, but since George frequently left thewhole of the routine to her she often found herself at the officeuntil the page had gone down and come back again. Someone hadto make sure that it had been correctly set. She glanced at her watch. 'I've got the morning conference in ten minutes. Do youmind?''I don't mind,' he told her calmly. 'I'll just come back. Whattime do you break for lunch?''Today I don't.'The door opened and Mirry came in balancing a cup of coffee.She looked at their visitor with interest and he looked back,smiling in a way which made Kate want to hit him.

Mirry spilled some of the coffee as she put it down and Kateirritably mopped it up with a tissue while the two of them had a bright conversation behind her.Mirry knew him at once. She had worked in the newsroom before she got this job in features and for a few moments EliotHolman and Mirry swapped jokes about old friends and enemies.Then the fair head turned towards Kate. 'I'll pick you up at twelve-thirty,' he said, and did not wait for a reply before walking out of the room.Kate said something under her breath and Mirry asked. 'What?''Nothing,' said Kate with a tight little smile.'Are you having lunch with Eliot?' Mirry sounded incredulous,which was not surprising since Kate's aversion to male companyin her private life was well known. The office rumour that she wasan inconsolable widow had helped in persuading men to leave her alone. Mirry had a romantic streak which enjoyed the notion thatKate was nursing a broken heart.'No,' Kate informed her tardy, 'I'm not.' She looked at her watchagain and leapt up, grabbing papers from the desk. 'Theconference!' she wailed, making for the door.When she got to Dee's office it was already crammed and Deelooked severely at her over the top of his heavy dark glasses. Hedisapproved of unpunctuality as it dragged out the time spent onthe twice-daily conference.Kate only attended the conferences when George was absent.They were one of the routine tasks he liked to keep for himself.She sat down in a free chair between the Sports Editor and theChief Sub-Editor and listened as the News Editor ran through his projected list of stories for tomorrow's edition. Some of them would have been discarded by the six o'clock conference, but thegeneral outline would remain.When Kate read out her own list of proposed features Deemade a face over one of them. 'Don't like that,' he said withoutmuch expansion. He had the final say where such matters wereconcerned, but he did not expect her to give in without a struggle.Dee enjoyed argument. It often made his mind work faster andsharper than ever.Kate looked up. 'It's quite nicely written.''We had something similar a few weeks back and I thought itcovered the ground quite adequately.'That was true, but there was a reason why she had slipped thefeature into the page. Lowering her eyes to her list, she saidcasually: 'Judy has taken a new view of it.'There was a little silence. Everyone in the room becameengrossed in their hands. Kate glanced up. Dee looked at her coldly.'Change it,' he said.Kate shrugged. Judy's writing was always readable and oftenfunny, but if Dee spoke in that tone of voice there was no point infurther argument. Kate wondered how she was going to tell Judy.When the article came in she had liked it at once and told Judyhow pleased she was, so she would not find it easy to explain whyshe was dropping it. They liked to take features from their ownstaff if they came up with them because it made staff happier andwas also easier since they knew the style required and would notneed so much subbing.When the conference ended Dee called her back as she waswalking to the door. She stood beside his desk feeling like aschoolgirl in front of a headmaster. The others trooped out, giving them curious looks. Dee waited until they had all gone beforespeaking.'Don't ever do that again,' he said icily.Kate flushed. 'What?'His hazel eyes were furious. 'You know what I'm talking about.I dropped that feature because of a legitimate reason and the factthat my ex-wife wrote it made no atom of difference. I don't bowto emotional blackmail, especially in public.''I didn't mean...''Didn't you?' He used a biting tone. 'Just don't do it again.' Hegave her a brief nod of dismissal and turned back to his papers.Kate walked out feeling two inches high.She did not return to her own office. Instead she went down tosee Judy. Sooner or later someone who had been at the conferencewas going to talk about the little scene which had taken place andKate wanted to see Judy before someone told her what hadhappened.Judy had a corner of the subs' room to herself since she workedon the women's page and nothing else. She looked up smilingly asKate appeared.'You look hot and bothered. George skiving again?'Kate stood in front of her, blocking Judy from the rest of theoffice. The subs' room was a long, artificially lit room with twolong desks in it. The men worked in a subdued silence, onlytalking now and then in low voices. Judy's desk faced the rest of the room. She was isolated from them as though she had somecontagious illness, Kate thought crossly. She was also the onlywoman in the office.Huskily she said, 'I'm sorry, Judy, I'm afraid the feature can't goin.'
Judy sat upright, her brown eyes fixed on Kate's face,narrowing. She was a very slender woman of thirty-six, her hair arich chestnut which glinted gold under the electric lights. Kate hadwatched with sympathy as Judy's warm brown eyes chilled andher vivacious manner dulled under the months of estrangementfrom Dee. They still worked in the same building, but if theyhappened to pass in the office they ignored each other, sonoticeably that it was painful to see.'Why?' Judy asked, watching her.Kate hesitated.'Dee.' Judy said the name with cutting anger.'We did have a similar feature recently, you see,' Kate saidhurriedly. 'I'd forgotten. I'm sorry, Judy.''It's not your fault.' Judy brushed her apology aside. 'I knowwhose fault it is.''I really do think that he...'Judy cut her off with a bitter gesture. 'Leave it.''He didn't know you'd done the feature,' Kate insisted.Judy smiled icily. 'Dee knows everything, and he never missesa trick.''I love your writing,' Kate said hurriedly. 'Why not do a featureon...''No, thanks,' Judy snapped. 'I don't stick my neck out twice.That swine is only waiting to chop it off.''I'm sure he honestly didn't know until I told him,' Kate protested.'So he did know?''Only after I'd told him, and he'd already said he didn't want astory on that subject again.'

Judy surveyed her. 'You usually hand in a typed running listwhen you go to conference.'Kate paused, biting her lip.'Yes,' Judy nodded, her smile twisted. 'You did this time, andDee knew damned well who had written that article.''I'm sorry,' Kate mumbled again, wishing she had left wellalone. But then if she hadn't told Judy someone would have doneand it would have been an angled story Judy heard, making itsound much worse.She walked back to her own office. Of course Dee must haveknown. Was that why he had rejected it? She had never knownhim to be spiteful. Surely Judy must be wrong. Dee was tough, buthe was fair²in Kate's experience of him, that was, but marriagedid funny things to people. No doubt Cinderella had discoveredafter the wedding ceremony that Prince Charming had a fetishabout slippers. People could be very odd and very deceptive on thesurface.She had barely sat down at her desk when someone loomed up beside her and she regarded him with disfavour, her moodconsiderably darkened by what had happened in the conference.'Hungry?' he asked amiably.'No. I told you, I'm not coming to lunch.' Mirry had luckilygone off before Kate got back. There was no audience to beamused by Kate's argument with Eliot Holm an.'Kate, you're beginning to irritate me,' he said softly as he leantover her and stared into her face.'What do I have to do to make you get my message?''What do I have to do to make you get mine?''I've got it,' Kate bit back. 'And it leaves me cold.'

Has anyone ever told you that you've got eyes like little blue bits of glass?''Has anyone ever told you that you're boring them to death?'He considered that, his head to one side. 'No,' he said at last. 'Ican't say they have. They usually flutter their eyelashes andswoon.''That's not my scene,' Kate told him, wishing she did not findherself half-smiling because he had a voice which could charm birds off trees.'Maybe you haven't tried it,' he suggested, a smile deep in thegrey eyes. 'Do you ever smile? I mean, really smile? I've seen yougive a phoney little grimace you intend to be taken for a smile, butit never gets as far as those beautiful blue eyes.''When you've gone I'll smile from ear to ear,' Kate promised.He laughed at that. 'Bitch,' he said softly, staring at her. Hiseyes dropped to her mouth and the intent way he stared at it madeher colour rise hotly.His eyes flicked up to meet hers and his face was serious for afew seconds as he observed her, then he turned and withoutanother word walked out of the room again. Kate sat there for several minutes wondering why she had a peculiar rapid pulserate. She had not been affected by a man like that since she wasfirst married to Toby.It disturbed and alarmed her. She did not want to feel physicalattraction to anyone. She did not want to get involved with anyman; she just wanted to be left alone to do her job. She had hadenough of the emotional torture a bad marriage could bring andher life since Toby died had been so calm and uneventful that ithad seemed a halcyon period compared with what had gone before.
She forced herself to turn her concentration to her work again, but half an hour later she was disturbed again when Judy arrived,demanding that Kate lunch with her. 'Come on, put that stuff away,' she insisted. 'I'll buy a bottle of wine with the food.''Celebrating?' Kate asked brightly, although Judy did not have a joyful face.'Let's call it an act of defiance,' Judy grimaced. 'I've just had anasty little scene with Dee.''Oh.'Judy caught Kate's eye and said flatly, 'Yes²oh. I shouldn'thave gone along to see him. I knew what would happen. Everytime we meet these days we savage each other and I ought toknow better. Dee has a tongue like a razor blade. I expect you cansee the scars.'Kate did not want to be made a confidante in this business. Shehad enough bad memories of her own. But she liked Judy and her sympathies instinctively went to the female in this battle.'Well, let's drink and be merry,' she said brightly. 'Shall we goto the Brasserie?''The very place,' Judy said with emphasis.Over lunch and the suggested bottle of wine, Judy asked: 'Howabout you, Kate? Is it any easier yet?'Judy believed, with the rest of the office, that Kate was a brokenhearted widow refusing to forget. Kate smiled tightly. 'Imanage.''What else can we do?' Judy drank half her glass of wine andher skin flushed darkly. 'If it wasn't for Kevin I think I'd go crazy.''How is he?' Kevin was Judy's son, now aged eight, a boy withhis father's thin build and restless energy but his mother's browneyes and warm smile. Kate wondered how badly the divorce had

affected him. It was always painful when children were involvedin the break-up of a marriage.'I'm never sure,' Judy admitted grimly. 'He hides his feelingswell. On the surface nothing has changed, but of course there hasto be some sort of problem underneath. It hasn't shown yet, thank God.''Does Dee see him?''Of course.' Judy kept her eyes on her glass. 'Every weekend. Ithink he sees more of Kevin now than he did when he lived withus. He spent more time at work than he ever did at home.'Had that been the problem? Kate watched Judy's thin face andcould not read anything from it but a haunting sadness.Someone paused beside their table and looking up Kate feltherself unaccountably flush as she met those pale grey eyes.'So you do eat occasionally,' he observed drily.Judy said in a lively way, 'Eliot! I heard you were back.'Eliot bent to kiss her lightly. 'Hallo, Judy pet.' His voice wassoft and gentle and Kate felt a peculiar coldness run down her spine as she saw the smile they exchanged. It made her feelexcluded, an onlooker. She did not need to be told that they kneweach other very well.'Sit down and join us,' Judy invited. 'Have some wine.' Shelooked at the bottle. 'I think there's a glass left in that.''I'll skip wine,' Eliot Holman said, pulling up a chair. 'Waiter, bring us three brandies and coffee.''Not for me,' Kate announced coolly, rising. 'I really do have toget back. Judy, I'll settle up with you later. Thanks for the company. I enjoyed the lunch very much.'She smiled at her briefly before walking off and she felt Judy staring after her in surprise. But when she passed the window opposite their table she saw Eliot and Judy deep in conversation, their heads close together, their faces intimately absorbed. How well did they know each other? she wondered, and got another shock as she again saw Eliot kiss Judy, especially when she saw the tears in Judy's brown eyes as he drew away from her.

mystery of George's unexplained absence was explainedhalfway through the next morning when Dee put his head roundthe door and said brusquely, 'Bad news, I'm afraid. George had aheart attack yesterday.'Kate was shocked, swinging a pale face to stare at him. 'No!How is he? Was it serious?'Dee shook his head. 'His wife says it was a mild one, but it wasa warning. George won't be coming back.' He flipped a dark browat her. 'Can you cope?''Of course.' She had been coping for months. 'Poor George! Hiswife must be very upset.' Kate had met her on several occasions² she was a thin quiet woman with an abstracted expression who letGeorge do most of the talking. 'Where is he? I'd like to sendflowers.'Dee told her and she scribbled the name of the hospital on theedge of her blotter. 'I've sent some,' Dee informed her. 'From the paper. I'd send a bottle of whisky, but they'd never let him have it.'She laughed. George was very partial to whisky. 'I expectthey'll try to stop him drinking now.''Seven maids with seven mops couldn't do it,' Dee said drily a she vanished again.

Kate had George on her mind all day. She was feeling guiltyabout her irritation with him. She had been thinking dark thoughtsabout him and all the time he had been seriously ill. George had been kind to her when she first arrived. Now Kate felt sadwhenever she paused to think about him. She should have beenmore patient. George had grown bored after fifteen years of doingthe same job. It was understandable. She had been intolerant, self-absorbed, or she would have been more sympathetic with hisrestless dislike of doing anything. Years of daily use takes theedge off the sharpest razor. George had been a great featureseditor. As his excitement with the job faded so had his grasp of thework. It had all become dull routine, routine which George tried toavoid whenever he could.For the rest of the day she had a series of encounters with people who had heard of George's heart attack and wanted morenews and a chance to exclaim in surprise and sadness. Kate hadrung his wife and spoken to her, found her tired and yet quietlyoptimistic. 'He'll have to stop work, of course, but it will be goodto have him home every day. He sends his love.' Kate was able to pass on this message to everyone who asked for more details.George was well known and well liked around the paper. He spentfar more time in the bar at their local pub than he did in the officeand his fellow- drinkers were grieved at the prospect of his permanent absence.In the lift going down to the ground floor she found herself squashed in beside Eliot Holman. He did not speak to her, butfrom time to time the fight grey eyes flicked sideways in her direction. The teasing smile seemed absent from them today. Katedid not pine over that. She had made it clear to him that he was wasting that charming smile on her and he had finally got themessage.She got the tube home, but just before she went down into thestation she caught sight of Eliot Holman's fair head in the back of a taxi passing at that moment. Beside him sat Judy. Kate stood andwatched the way their heads turned in lively conversation. As shelet herself be drawn into the lemming-like stream of passengersshe thought: well, why not? Judy's free and she's still veryattractive. Eliot Holman had come back from the States andlooked around for entertainment. Kate supposed she should beflattered that he had made a preliminary pass at her. She wasn't;she was merely contemptuous. She hoped he would amuse Judy,though. Judy needed to be cheered up. Dee had left her crushed,deflated. So long as she didn't take Eliot Holman and hisintentions too seriously he might be good for her.Towards the end of the following day Kate got a phone callfrom Dee. 'Will you have dinner with me tonight? I want to talk toyou.'About the job, she deduced, and accepted, agreeing to comealong to his office later to meet him. 'We'll have a drink before weeat. I'm not sure when I can get away,' Dee added.'I understand.' Dee's time was not his own. Problems had ahabit of coming up just as he was about to leave the building.After seeing the page she walked to the lift and went up toDee's floor. The corridor was silent as she approached his office.Most of the secretarial staff had gone and the building had takenon that special sound it had at night, the subdued hum which wasfar more exciting than the sound it made in the daytime whenthere were far more people about.

Dee's door stood slightly ajar. Kate was about to tap on it whenshe caught her own name and involuntarily paused. 'Kate isn'tgoing to be happy about it, of course.''I realise that.' She knew that voice. Eliot Holman, she thought.What was he doing here? 'Would you have given her the job if Ihadn't come back?'Kate froze.'Probably.' Dee sounded brusque which, in her experience of him, meant tension. 'She's done the job superbly over the last half year. George has been dropping out whenever he could and Icouldn't blame him too much. I had a word now and then, but al-though he tried to put back his old interest it just didn't exist anymore. Kate carried the office.' A drawer slammed as though Deewas charged with electric irritation. 'But as I said, faced with thechoice between the two of you, I have to go for you.''When will you tell her?''I'm having dinner with her tonight. I thought it would come better in a relaxed atmosphere.'Kate pushed open the door and both men swung to look at her in undisguised consternation. Eliot Holman was frowning, his faceslightly pale. Dee flushed and met her eyes, grimacing.'There's no need for the dinner,' Kate said coolly. 'I heard.' Sheturned her head and looked at Eliot. 'Congratulations.' She was soangry that she knew she had to get out of here before she blew up, but she just managed to speak in a level voice. 'Goodnight.''Kate!' Dee could move like greased lightning when he chose.He was across the office and beside her, grabbing her arm as shewalked out of the door. 'I'm sorry you heard like that.''I know,' Kate said tightly. 'You meant to break it lightly. Well,the best-laid plans, etc.'

Dee held on to her and glanced over his shoulder at Eliot.'Would you give me a few minutes alone with Kate, please?'Eliot silently walked past them and Dee shoved the door shut.He still held her and looked down at her, his hazel eyes grim.'I realise you're disappointed. You could have done the job verywell and if a better candidate hadn't come along I'd have given itto you like a shot, but Eliot put in for the job the day he came back and I had to consider him. He's way ahead of you on all counts,Kate. He has more experience, he's known outside the paper, hehas great contacts. A features editor needs contacts across a widerange of subjects, and Eliot has them.''I understand.' Kate understood all right. She kept her face very blank as she listened, but her blue eyes were icy.'Do you?' Dee ran a hand through his dark hair. 'Kate, you're avery good journalist, but Eliot is out of your class. He wants a basein London so that he can start writing a book. We don't want tolose him, but the number of jobs open to him are limited. If wedon't give him what he wants somebody else will²and we would be very sorry indeed to see him go.'She nodded. 'I said I understood. There's no need to explain.'Pulling her arm free, she turned to the door and Dee slammed hishand against it with a crack that made the wood shake.'Listen to me. I know you're angry, Kate, but try to see it frommy point of view. I have to think of it from the editor's chair, andthe good of the paper comes first and foremost.'If she said a word she would say too much, so she said nothing,her black head bent so that he could not see her face. She was soangry that her fingers had gone white with the tension coifingthem. Kate's temper could flash beyond a white-hot barrier if she let it go. She was trying to stop herself from losing it, but she hadto get out of here or she knew she would explode.'There'll be other chances for you,' Dee said patiently. 'You'revery young. Be patient and one day ...''Don't patronise me!' She flung up her head and stared at himscathingly. 'At least spare me that. The best man won.' Sheemphasised the word 'man' with bitter contempt. 'Can I go now, please?''For God's sake,' Dee bit out, 'don't drag your obsession withsex into this! Eliot got the job because he scores higher than you professionally, not because he's a man.''Your opinion of women was made painfully clear when yousaid that a news story about a woman winning an award belongedon the women's page because only women want to read aboutother women.''It was not a news story. It was an article.''It comes to the same thing in this case. Women are second-class citizens to you and always will be. Stupid of me to put in for the job, wasn't it? I'm acceptable to run the office, keep the routinemoving, stand in for an absent boss while he takes three-hour lunches and clears off dead on six, but when it comes to actuallyappointing me officially I can forget it. If a three-legged donkeyhad come along you'd have given the job to him so long as hecould prove he was male.''Don't be so damned ridiculous!' Dee was as angry as herself now, his thin face dark red, his hazel eyes violent.'I'm a woman. What do you expect?''Nothing,' Dee snapped. 'You're right there, anyway. A womanthinks in zig-zags. You can't keep up with her. Logic has nomeaning to them. I should have known better than to try to reason

with you, Kate. There's only one approach you understand, isn'tthere?'It was too sudden and too unexpected for her to have warning.He slammed her against the door and brought his mouth down in a punishing kiss which held no trace of emotion, only an angrydesire to hurt and humiliate. Dee's thin hands held her against thedoor, biting into her shoulders, and his mouth oppressed her untilher furious struggles lapsed from sheer exhaustion.He let her go and straightened, his skin an angry red. Katelooked at him, her blue eyes leaping with rage.
ou bastard!

She walked out, slamming the door. Eliot Holman was outside.He stared at her intently and she knew he had heard every word of the row, had known what followed. Kate walked past him withoutlooking at him after one brief, contemptuous glance.She went back to her office and typed out her resignation. Itwas a curt, bald letter which only revealed her anger in theabsence of any expression of regret. Signing it with her full name,she dropped it into her out-tray and got up from Mirry's desk.Eliot Holman appeared in her doorway, the lines of his face blankly taut. Kate walked round the desk and moved towards thedoor, ignoring him. Inspecting the scene of his triumph, was he?He did not move out of her way. She halted and withoutlooking at him clipped out coldly: 'Would you excuse me, please?''I want to talk to you.''I
don't  want to talk to you.' That was the last thing she wanted to do. 'That's too bad, because you're going to have to,' he told her with a sting in his voice.
'Nobody Has to do anything.' Kate moved to wriggle past himand he sidestepped so that she found herself faced with his long,lean body, her nose almost touching the well-cut dark waistcoat.He was wearing a very elegant lounge suit and, knowing the usualform, she guessed he had come to the office today to have aninterview with Dee. Dressed to kill, she thought ironically. Oh,yes. And now the matador had come to admire the corpse, had he?He could think again! She looked up angrily and the grey eyeswere blue, a deep violent blue.He clamped her arm with one, long powerful hand and forcedher, struggling furiously, back across the room .'Get your hands off me! Who the hell do you think you are?'He caught her chin with his other hand and thrust her head back so that her face was tilted towards him. The angry blue eyesfocused on her mouth, inspecting it clinically.'You'll have bruises there tomorrow,' he told her coolly.'So will you have bruises if you don't let me go!' Kate was hotlyflushed, partly with rage, partly with embarrassment. He had no business referring to that kiss. He shouldn't have beeneavesdropping. How dared he manhandle her in that calmlyarrogant fashion?Still holding her arm, he leant over and picked up the letter toDee lying on the top of the papers in the out-tray.'Put that down!' She grabbed for it and he held it out of her reach.'No prizes for guessing what that says,' he observed with a twistof the mouth.'It isn't addressed to you.''Your resignation?''Mind your own business!'
He smiled tightly. 'I thought so. I'm beginning to guess the wayyour mind works.''Oh, yes, typically female,' Kate flung back angrily. 'I'mtransparent to your keen male brain.''You react emotionally.' He tore the letter in half and dropped itinto the wastepaper basket.'How dare you? How dare you?' Kate was so furious she wasalmost incoherent, her words blurring together.'Why resign before you have another job to go to?''I'll find one.''I don't doubt you could,' he drawled, staring down at her.'How flattering. Am I supposed to curtsey?' She wasn't lettinghim soft-soap her and her eyes told him so with a flash of rage.'You're on a three-month contract. You would still have to work that out.''Like hell! I'll just forfeit my pay.''Got a private income, have you?'His sarcasm made her stir in helpless wrath. She had a littlemoney in the bank, but it wouldn't last for ever and of course shecouldn't afford a gesture like walking out now tonight, but her  pride wasn't going to let her admit that.'Would you mind letting me go?' She looked up at him andfound him watching her closely.'Make me,' he said in a soft voice deliberately calculated toinfuriate her.'All right,' Kate retorted through her teeth. 'You're bigger andstronger than me²big deal! If you expect me to feed your ego byuselessly struggling to get away, forget it. If that's what turns youon go ahead, prove that I'm the weaker sex. I hope you enjoy it.'
'I do,' he told her with a flick of his lashes which sent his eyesskimming over her tense, slender body and brought them back toher hot face with taunting amusement. 'You make it veryenjoyable. I'm sure Dee got quite a kick out of it, too.'Her hand flailed towards his grinning face and he fielded it,mid-air, casually, confidently, still smiling. Slowly he forced her arm down and moved closer so that his body touched hers, bending her back until she was off balance and had to supportherself by leaning on the desk.Kate stared into his face with bitter distaste. 'Go ahead, enjoyyourself.' Twice in one evening, she thought, her teeth gritting. Or had Dee put the idea into his head? And Dee claimed he wasabove sex prejudice? The minute you challenged them they re-acted instinctively by imposing their physical superiority to provethat you were not their equal. That was how their minds worked.There was only room at the top for one sex and any woman whothought otherwise had to be shown that she was wrong. Toby hadfound it easy to humiliate her. He had had a shallow, narrow mind, but he had always been able to force her to submit to him merely by exerting the bodily strength which made him, to his mind, her master.The grey eyes stared down into hers, narrowed and hard, asthough he were able to read the bitter rebellion inside her head.'What makes you imagine I'd enjoy kissing an acid- tonguedlittle bitch like you?' His voice took on a drawl tinged withdistaste. 'I'd have to be hard up for female company to want you.''I'm desolated,' Kate snapped.'So I notice.' He was smiling again and the grey eyes mockedher. 'You are very obvious, lady. ''So are you.'
'Am I?' He observed her with his head to one side in a waywhich she was beginning to recognise as typical of him. 'Youknow what I'm thinking?'She met his stare aggressively. 'Yes.''I doubt it.' He sounded very amused and Kate didn't like theway he said that. The note of patronising superiority made her spine prickle as it had the day they met. If there was one thing shecould not stand it was being spoken to in that authoritative,confident way by a man.'Don't you talk to me like Moses coming down from themountain,' she flared. 'You have no divine right. Will you let mego?' It was undignified and humiliating to struggle against his easystrength, but the edge of the desk was digging into her back andshe was sick of being manhandled.He shook her, without extreme force. 'Listen to me, youmaddening little vixen! I put in for this job before I set eyes onyou. I'm sorry if you feel I've stolen a march on you, but that's theway things happen sometimes. You can't win every fight.''Some of us can't win any of them. Women start out with toomany handicaps.''Dee wasn't swayed by my sex.'She laughed.His hands tightened. The grey eyes were sharp. 'He might have been swayed by yours, on the other hand.'She stiffened, staring at him. 'What's that supposed to mean?'He smiled sardonically. 'We both know what it means. Deewouldn't bother to take a man out to dinner to explain gently whyhe hadn't got a job. A polite letter would have been enough for anyone else.'
'Of course, women are so delicate and easily hurt, aren't they?They just aren't built for the hurly-burly of the newspaper  business.''Cat,' he said with a dry smile.'Dee still didn't give me the job although he admitted I could doit perfectly well.''I pulled rank on you, sweetheart.' He admitted it bluntly,staring at her. 'I'm sorry for you, but I wasn't backing out of theway to please you. This is a competitive business. If you can'tstand losing, don't gamble.''I can stand losing on merit, but not on grounds of my sex.''You lost on merit.' Eliot Holman's voice cracked like a whip.'Don't bolster your self-confidence by telling yourself fairy stories.I've earned this job. I've had ten years' more experience than youand I can do it better.'Kate's face ran with colour. She bit her inner lip and felt bloodseep into her mouth. Looking down, she asked politely, 'Now mayI go?''Not yet. I want your promise to hold back on that resignationfor three months.'She smiled icily at him. 'Want someone to do all the boringwork while you swan off to the heavy lunches, do you?'His eyes glinted. 'You ask for trouble, don't you?''I wouldn't ask you for anything.''I'm looking at this from your point of view,' he told her,ignoring that crack.'Oh, of course. How high-minded of you!''If you walk out now you're going to get the reputation for  being a temperamental prima donna and you won't find it as easyto get another job as you think.'

'You mean Dee would give me a rotten reference?''I mean nothing of the kind. I'm sure he would be fair.' His eyesemphasised that. 'Dee is fair; I'd have thought you knew him better than to believe otherwise. You'd get a reference which woulddescribe you in glowing terms, but you would still have to explainwhy you walked out at a moment's notice just because you didn'tget a job you wanted. Your prospective employer would quiterightly ask himself if he could trust you not to do the same thing tohim, and nobody likes to have staff who just walk out at the dropof a hat.'Kate stared at the floor. He was right, of course. She didn't likeadmitting it, but he was right.'Give yourself time to look around,' he went on. 'Never walk out on one job before you have another lined up.''Thanks for the advice.' Kate used a sting when she said that, but inwardly she knew it was good advice.He released her and she stood up, her back aching. They lookedat each other in silence, their faces guarded.'I realise you're going to hate working for me, but you're goingto have to put up with it until you get something else,' said Eliot.Kate turned without answering. She didn't look back as shewalked to the door, but she knew he stood there watching her. Asshe went down in the lift her mind's eye was filled with thememory of those grey eyes, hard and speculative, watching her ina way which she found disturbing. She had merely shrugged himaway when he flirted lightly with her, but something had happened between them while he was forcing her to listen to him. She hadfelt a shift in her own feelings, a tentative peculiar flick of thekaleidoscope which left her seeing him in a very different way. Inthe past four years a number of men had made passes at her and

she had ignored them with ease. During the minutes while EliotHolman imposed his will on her she had discovered new reactions beginning inside herself, and she found their novelty alarming.Kate had existed in a neutral zone for so long that anyemergence of a sexual awareness inside herself made her feelfaintly sick. While she could look at all men with either indifference or downright dislike she felt safe. Eliot Holman hadmade her feel something else just now and her stomach crawledwith a tense apprehension as she admitted it.It was nothing so definite as physical attraction. It was merely physical awareness, a form of tension she had not felt for a longtime. She did not like it. It threatened the safety of her guardedcitadel.She sat in her flat that evening listening to the blue wail of aGershwin record, her head propped on her hands, a broodingintensity in her eyes.The ring at the doorbell made her jump, then she made a face.Oliver, probably, in quest of a further loan. Wandering to the frontdoor, she opened it and looked at Dee with a changing face.He put up a defensive hand. 'Don't hit me!'Kate wouldn't smile. 'What do you want?'He dropped his hand and shrugged. 'To apologise. I behavedlike a swine. I lost my temper. I'll go on my knees if you let me doit in private.''I don't find it funny.''No,' he accepted. 'I know what you're feeling. I fulfilled allyour lowest opinions of men, didn't I? Chauvinist to my back teeth.'She studied him, then let the door swing open. 'Oh, come in.'

He followed her into the small sitting-room and glanced at therecord player. 'Gershwin? You a fan?''I enjoy him.' She bent to switch it off and Dee said, 'Don't. Ilike it, too.'Kate straightened and turned. 'Would you like some coffee?''Please.'The music followed them, becoming now a playful pastiche,half classical, half jazz, the horns blaring above the romantic toneof the piano. Dee leaned on the wall, his thin body relaxed, hisarms folded.'Forgive me?'Kate kept her back to him. 'Have I a choice? You're my boss.''You aren't going to resign?'She looked at him over her shoulder, her blue eyes alert. 'Doyou think I should?''I thought you might,' he admitted. 'But don't, Kate. We don'twant to lose you. I promise there will be promotion for you later on²you'll get your chance, don't worry.'She did not comment on that. There was a pause while shemade the coffee. Dee took the tray. 'I'll carry it in for you.'The Gershwin had ended. Dee flipped it and the music swelledout into the silence between them as Kate poured the coffee. Deelay back on the sofa, lounging casually, his long legs stretched out.She gave him his cup and sat down beside him.'I really regret what I did,' he muttered, staring into the coffee.'I'm under a strain at the moment. I suppose I just broke out whenyou argued with me. At that moment you were a woman and I justtook the easy way out by showing you I was a man. It wasn't plan-ned. I could have kicked myself the minute you'd gone. Knowingyou I guessed I'd put the lid on it.'

'I should have smashed a chair over your head,' she confessed.He gave her a brief sideways smile which held faint mischief.'You couldn't pick one up. You're too frail.'She smiled wryly at the deliberate, teasing joke.'You do understand why I had to take Eliot?' Dee askedseriously. 'I was offered a first-rate editor whom we mightotherwise lose. I respect you, Kate, but I won't insult your intelligence by telling you that in a straight fight you have anychance against him. He's brilliant and highly respected and heknows everybody.' He paused. 'Working with him could teach youa lot. Eliot is way ahead of the field.'Kate had calmed down sufficiently to nod. 'I know.''You won't go then?'She shook her head. Dee broke into a vivid smile, his thin facealight with it. 'I'm damned relieved. I was afraid you were going towalk out with your nose in the air.''You'd have deserved it.'He gave her a teasing look. 'For picking Eliot?''For trying to put me down by showing me I was just a woman.'The sting in her voice made him grimace. 'That tells me what aswine I am. I'm sorry, Kate. Hit me if it makes you feel better.''I might enjoy it too much,' she retorted.Dee's eyes sparkled. 'So might I.'There was a peculiar silence between them as they bothdigested that. Kate felt her face flushing.'Sorry,' Dee muttered. 'Habit.''That's all right, you can't help thinking in sexist terms.''Don't patronise!' But he was laughing.They drank their coffee in an almost amicable silence. Deeglanced at the record. 'What other jazz do you like?'

'Would you call Gershwin jazz?''He straddles both continents, doesn't he?' he agreed.'I'm not keen on hot jazz²too strident. I like my music to bemusical.' Kate got up and flipped over a pile of discs. 'I supposeI'm catholic in taste, but it has to be easy on the ear.'Dee was studying her slender outline by the lamp which haloedher in soft illusion. 'I like you in jeans. Makes you look younger,less buttoned up.' He caught the glance she threw him and addedtardy: 'And don't tell me I'm indulging in sexist chat again²Iknow you want to pretend otherwise, but the fact remains, you're afemale, and I can't avoid noticing that.''It hadn't escaped me.'He grinned. 'No. Not much does, does it? Little bright-eyes.'Kate came back to the sofa and sat down to turn and stare athim. 'Why are you under a strain, Dee?' she asked curiously.He sobered. 'Judy.' He ran both hands through his untidy hair.'Every time we meet up it ends in a shooting match. Judy knowsme well enough to find a mark with every bullet. We had a real beauty this morning. The other day Kevin told me he wanted to goto France again²we went there last year and he enjoyed it. Isuggested to Judy that I pay for them both to have a fortnight thereand she blew up like an overheated geyser. I kept my hands off her with great difficulty.'And then when Kate argued with him Dee had lost the controlhe had somehow kept while he was fighting with Judy. Sheconsidered him, seeing the lines of strain around his restless eyesand mouth.'Are you ...' She broke off. You didn't ask that kind of question..

Dee gave her a harsh smile. 'Oh, yes,' he said, answering as if she had finished the question. 'You don't just shut off that sort of feeling.'Frowning, Kate asked tentatively, 'Why the divorce, then?''Ask Judy.' Dee stood up with a violent jerk. 'I've asked her andI still don't know why. She just suddenly turned into a stranger.'The hazel eyes were darkened with feeling. 'Obviously there hasto be someone else. What other reason could there be? God knowswho it is²she won't even admit there is anyone, but there's got to be. We had a good marriage until she went to the States for amonth. When she came back she'd changed and I watched our marriage fall apart at the seams.'Kate thought of Judy's brown eyes with tears in them as shelooked at Eliot Holman. She remembered his gentle voice andintimate smile.'When did she go to the States?' she asked.He shrugged. 'About eighteen months ago. She did a swop withsomeone on the
desk over there² just for the experienceof working on an American newspaper. Six months after coming back we were divorced²and don't tell me it was a coincidence. If I ever find out who the man is I'll kill him!'Kate looked away from him. Had she imagined that look  between Eliot Holman and Judy? And if she hadn't, what wouldDee do when he realised that the man who had wrecked hismarriage was working in the same building?

took up his new post a fortnight later. He had beengiven two weeks' leave, Dee told Kate. 'He needs it²the last months in the States were pretty hectic. I'm sorry to leave youcarrying the department single-handed.' He grinned at her. 'Butyou're used to that. George has been a dead weight for months,hasn't he?'Kate didn't answer. She was running her eye down a columnand marvelling at the number of literals which had managed tocreep into it. 'Listen to this,' she told Dee. 'The mumbo jet landed... and here's another one ... do they do it for laughs or are they just being awkward?''Both.' Dee peered over her shoulder. 'I like that one.' His longfinger prodded the proof. 'Stick that up on the board.''It's obscene!''The best ones are.' Dee straightened and moved away and shewondered if she had imagined that he had brushed his cheek against her own. 'See you,' he said as he strolled out.Kate stared at his vanishing back. She liked Dee, but she didnot want to get involved, particularly as she knew he was stillhankering over Judy.The office was busy during the fortnight before Eliot took over.Kate had neither time nor desire to accept the lunch invitationswhich would normally have gone to George. She passed them onto Dee who found someone to go to them or politely declinedthem, as he decided was most suitable.On the Friday before Eliot arrived, Dee invited Kate to havelunch with him again. They lunched this time at a local restaurantmuch patronised by the staff. The Greek food was exceptionallywell cooked and the prices reasonable. Eating a plate of octopus,Kate observed to Dee that it tasted like rubbery chicken.'Do you like it?' he queried.
She laughed. 'I do, rather. It's certainly different.' Across theroom she saw three of the reporters loudly arguing about football.They had been giving Dee and Kate curious, speculative looks andshe wondered how long it would take the grapevine to spread thestory. When Dee had her to lunch last time at his club it had beendiscreet and official. This time he had made no real pretence of it being either, although he had said he wanted to talk to her aboutEliot's plans.He caught her eyes on the other table and winked at her.'They're wishing this table was bugged.''I don't want Judy scratching my eyes out.' Kate kept her gazeon him, watching him.'Don't you? You think that likely?' He smiled twistedly. 'Shehas other fish to fry.''Maybe it's Judy you should be taking out to lunch,' shesuggested. 'It would do no harm to talk to her.''When I can afford a bullet-proof vest I will.''It can't be that bad!' she protested.'Can't it? Thanks for telling me!'Dee's sarcasm made her smile. 'Have you tried?''I've got the scars to prove it.'Marriage was a funny business, she thought. Neither Judy nor Dee were happy, but they didn't seem able to find their way out of the troubled minefield they had got into. Dee had admitted that hestill wanted Judy, yet he was letting her go.Kate watched him as he helped himself to more salad, the crispgreen Greek salad which had an individual flavour often lacking insalads eaten in restaurants; chopped cabbage, onion, cucumber and pepper combining in a delicately mingled dressing of oil, lemonand vinegar. Dee was wearing a smart dark suit which emphasised
his thin body and energetic build. He looked dynamic, a mantemporarily at rest but happiest at full stretch, whizzing aroundmaking sure that everything on the paper was working at its fullcapacity, from machines to people.He glanced up and caught her watching him. His smile madeher jump. 'Don't brood over my problems. Forget them.' Heoffered her the salad bowl. 'Come on, stop looking gloomy.''You mentioned plans which Eliot Holman has,' Kate suggestedas she helped herself to salad.'Ah, yes.' Dee paused to sigh. 'You may not like them.''That won't surprise me.''No.' Dee laughed and gave her a teasing look.'Don't tell me he's going to make it an all-male page.''Wouldn't you just love that?' Dee roared, his black head flung back. The reporters turned to stare.'Actually I think I ought to leave it to him to tell you himself,'he went on, and Kate's brows drew together.'I wonder why. Is it so revolutionary?'Dee shrugged. 'He would probably prefer to do it himself. Idon't want him to think I'm interfering in the way he runs the page.''You wouldn't do that, Dee, would you?' Her tone mocked andhe gave her a wry smile.'Don't be clever. I'm feeling too fragile today.''Why are you feeling fragile?''I had two hours with a union deputation this morning. Can'tyou see the boot marks all over my back?'Kate laughed. 'Oh, that's where they came from! I thoughtyou'd made a pass at Miss Wharton and got knocked flat.'

Miss Wharton was his secretary, a lady who had worked for him for years and ran the office like clockwork. Tall, piercing-eyed and formidable, she had, as far as was known, noweaknesses.Dee laughed again. 'I wouldn't have the nerve. She eats men for  breakfast.''Brave lady.'Dee eyed her teasingly. 'Careful, Kate. In twenty yearssomeone will say that about you.'Kate did not like that. She glared at him and felt a cold shiver run down her spine. At the same moment there was a little stir asthe door of the restaurant opened and two newcomers walkedinside. Kate caught the peculiar vibration running through theother customers and looked round.Judy walked down the restaurant towards an empty tablewithout looking round, her vivid chestnut head high, but her companion halted to nod to Dee curtly before flicking a coldglance at Kate.Dee's face was expressionless. He poured himself another glassof retsina and drank some of it. Kate wondered what he wasthinking. If Eliot and Judy went on meeting like this it wouldn't belong before Dee did some simple arithmetic and realised just whohad come between him and his wife.In a small mirror on the wall above her head Kate could seeJudy leaning forward to speak to Eliot. The warm green dress shewore gave an elegant line to her reflection. She had lost a lot of weight, though, Kate realised. So had Dee. They were both behaving like difficult children. Kate was somehow convinced thatJudy wasn't indifferent to Dee. In the mirror she caught the quick look Judy gave to their table, saw a harsh frown cross her face and
then the blank look reappear. Looking back at Dee, she guessedthat he had looked at Judy a moment earlier.He was staring at his glass now, twirling it in his hand. Lookingup, he gave Kate a charming little smile. 'Did I tell you that youlook enchanting?' Normally Kate would have slapped him down for that, butthere was a residue of pain in his hazel eyes and she didn't havethe heart. She just gave him a faint, wry shake of the head and Deeshrugged.'Do you want a paklava?''Just coffee, thank you,' she returned.They drank their coffee slowly talking about yesterday's paper in a vague, abstracted way. Dee called for the bill and they left. Asthey walked away Dee said drily: 'Eliot's an attractive bastard.'Kate didn't reply, and he glanced at her. 'Don't you agree?'Kate met his eyes. 'Don't ask me.''Are you immune, Kate?''Immunised,' she corrected.Dee frowned. 'What was your husband like?''I'd need notice of that question. It would take a long time to listall the reasons why I never want to get involved with another man.'Dee whistled under his breath. 'That bad?''He was a cold-hearted, shallow-minded sadist. And that was onhis good days.'Dee walked beside her for a moment. 'Why did you marryhim?''I was eighteen and I was in love with him. It took me about sixmonths to wake up. By then I was around forty-three, I'd say.'

 'm sorry.' Dee touched her elbow lightly and she appreciatedthe delicacy which did not thrust a more intimate physical contacton her at that moment.'I was lucky,' she told him. 'I could still be married to him.''I wonder if that's what Judy is saying to Holman,' Dee saidwith a savagery which made her look at him sharply.He had used Eliot's last name. That struck her at once. Dee was beginning to think and from his expression his thoughts were notvery pretty ones.They parted at the lift and Kate carried the picture of Dee'sharsh frown with her for the rest of the day.She spent the weekend at her parents' home, largely listening toOliver and his girl-friend as they played heavy rock as loudly asthe human ear could stand it. 'Why didn't I stay in my nice quietflat?' she lamented, and her father peered at her over hisspectacles.'Maybe because you miss us.'She dropped a kiss on his bald head. 'Maybe that was thereason, but right now I can't believe it. If I gave Oliver somemoney do you think they'd go out?''Oliver's a parasite.' Her father folded his news- paper. 'You andyour mother spoil him.''Me?' Kate laughed. 'What have I done?''The boy uses this house like a hotel.''He thinks it is one.''Your mother should have more sense.' The telephone rang andhe groaned as he got up. 'No peace for the wicked!''Or even for the saintly,' Kate told his departing back. Hegrinned at her over his shoulder, but a moment later he was back.'For you.'

'Me?' Kate got up in surprise. 'Who is it?''Male. Didn't give a name.'Kate's mind leapt to Dee at once. She frowned and her father saw it with a faint frown of his own. Going out, she picked up thetelephone. 'Dee?''No.' The voice had a bite in it. 'Eliot Holman.'She held the receiver tightly as though it might fall if shedidn't.'Oh, hello.''I want to see you.' He sounded curt and her temper rose.'How did you get this number?''I looked in your file.'Her temper shot out of sight. 'How dare you pry into my file?What right do you think you have?''I'm your boss, remember?' She heard the satisfaction withwhich he said that and it didn't make her any more cheerful.'I'd like to forget,' she said bitterly.'I bet you would. We have to talk and the office is no place for this discussion. When can we meet?''I prefer the idea of the office.'She heard his intake of breath and he spoke with a snarl. 'Idon't. Can I pick you up now?''No,' she said. 'I'm busy.''What the hell is that racket?' he demanded.'That is music,' said Kate, hoping she would be forgiven for theabuse of the truth.'Your taste is depraved.'Oliver wandered past in orange jeans and a purple T-shirtscrawled with a lurid message. He eyed Kate and mouthed, 'Editor Man?'

Kate shook her head, frowning. Oliver snatched the receiver away and growled in a deep voice, 'Stay away from her. She belongs to me.' Giving her back the phone, he bestowed acomplacent smile on her and vanished.'Hallo?' Kate said into the receiver, half furious, half on theverge of hysterical laughter.'Who the hell was that?' demanded Eliot.'My lover,' Kate told him sweetly. 'And he objects to me getting phone calls from other men, so I must go.' She put the phone downon Eliot's barked anger. Oliver came back with a large plate of cheese and pickles.'Don't ever do that again,' Kate told him, pinching his ear.He rubbed it, grinning. 'I bet that put some ginger into theconversation!''You're a silly little boy,' Kate said severely, going back to her father. Oliver made loud quacking noises and vanished back toPrimrose and the heavy rock.Dr Marchant looked up, his spectacles sliding down his noseagain. He had a smile in his eyes which made her suspect he hadheard Oliver's idea of a joke.'Was that private or business?''Business,' said Kate, although she wasn't so sure about that.'And you're right about Oliver²he needs spanking.''Don't tell me, tell your mother.' He raised his newspaper again.'I just pay the bills.'Kate found her mother in the kitchen whisking white of eggand experimentally turning it upside down to check whether itwould stay put. 'What are you making?' she asked.'Meringues. Oliver fancies some.'

Kate looked at her with affectionate wryness. 'If he fanciedsome human heads you'd chop ours off, wouldn't you?'Mrs Marchant looked offended. 'Are you jealous of Oliver?'Kate perched on the edge of the kitchen table. 'Don't be absurd!Jealous of a thing in a purple T-shirt with words like that writtenon it?'Her mother laughed. 'It's revolting, isn't it? He actually wentout and bought that and then complains because he's short of money.''He was just rude to my boss on the phone.''Oh, dear.' Mrs Marchant added sugar and cut it in delicately.'Did you hear what I said, Mum?''Of course I did. He's a naughty boy.'Kate said firmly: 'You must speak to him. Get him to turn thatnoise down.''Yes, dear.''The neighbours will complain.''They already have. I told Oliver.''What did he say?''He promised to turn it down, of course.'Kate cocked an ear. The thud of the rock music continuedundiminished. 'Mother, do you need a hearing aid?''Pass me the cochineal, will you, dear?'Kate passed the small bottle and left. There was no point. Shemarched into the room where Oliver was sprawled on the floor with his small giggling girl-friend and turned down the volume. Oliver gave a squawk. 'Hey! What did you do that for?''I'm too young to go deaf.' Kate walked out and Oliver shoutedafter her, 'You're too young to wall yourself up either, but you do!'

Kate ignored that. She wandered out into the garden and sat onthe freshly mowed grass cuddling their enormous marmalade cat.He dug his claws affectionately into her knee and she protested.The sun was hot and she was feeling sleepy. She lay back andinhaled the warm scent of the grass. The cat sat on her stomachand purred. The air was filled with the fragrance of mint and roses.A fly buzzed round her head and she sleepily waved it away before she slid down into a dreamless sleep.Something tickled her nose and she flapped at it. It did not goaway, however, and she came up through a lazy level of drowsiness to open her eyes reluctantly, expecting to find Oliver  beside her.Eliot Holman's grey eyes were blue today. For a few secondsshe was still dazed, staring into them. His fair head bent slowlyand before she had dragged herself out of sleep she felt his mouthtouch her own. It moved delicately, sensuously, exploring therelaxed line of her lips, and Kate felt a flare of wild panic insideher chest. She jack-knifed upwards, pushing him away.'Don't!'Her voice was harsh, her sun-flushed face stricken. Eliot wasstaring at her intently, his eyes narrowed.She took a deep, shaken breath which hurt in her throat. 'Whatdo you want?''What would you do if I told you?'She turned a biting glance on him. 'You can keep that sort of line for people who appreciate it.''You prefer the caveman technique, do you?'For a moment she was blank, not following him. His eyes helda cold sarcasm. 'Dee seems to do all right. Maybe if I slapped your face and left bruises on you I'd get somewhere too.'

Try it,' she said through her teeth.He sat up and pulled off the denim jacket he was wearing,dropping it on the grass. 'No, thanks. I don't get my kicks beatingwomen up.'Her eyes flashed. 'Neither does Dee.'He gave her a sardonic look. 'You rise to his defence withlaudable speed.'Kate drew in her lower lip, fighting down a desire to slap him.'What do you want to see me about?' she asked.'I've got plans for the page. If I told you about them in theoffice we would no doubt have a royal row, and I don't wantsecretaries flapping around listening to it. Mirry is a nice girl, butshe gossips.''Dee told me your plans might surprise me,' she said.'He didn't tell you what they were?'She shook her head.He stared at her fixedly. 'Are you sleeping with him?'Her face tautened and the blue eyes became glacial.'If I was it would be no business of yours, and I certainly wouldnot be likely to admit it.''I've known Dee for years. He doesn't go around kissing womenthe way he kissed you unless there's a lot more between them thana working relationship.'Kate stared at his lean, lounging figure. His fair hair glittered inthe sunshine and the grey eyes had a piercing sharpness as hestared back at her. He was not a comfortable man, she thought. Attheir first meeting she had taken him for a casual, charming flirt of a type she recognised and disliked, but closer acquaintance hadrevealed other sides to his character. She did not like him any

 better, but she could not hide from herself the fact that she wasconscious of him in a way she never was of men normally.'No comeback?' he asked icily.'I'm not discussing Dee with you.'He took a sharp breath, his face tightening. 'You aren't the first,you know.'That threw her. She stared, her eyes widening. 'What?'He smiled in a jibing way. 'You mean you didn't know? Didyou think it was love, true love?''What are you talking about?' she demanded.'Dee Conroy and his women,' Eliot snapped. 'If you don't objectto being one of a parade that's your business, of course.'Kate brushed some grass clippings off her shorts and thenwished she hadn't because it drew his attention to the long, slimlegs exposed by the brevity of the shorts.'Are you telling me Dee has had affairs?''At least one to my knowledge, and I doubt if that was the first.'Frowning, Kate asked: 'Are you sure?''Certain. I know the lady in question.' He surveyed Kate withnarrowed eyes, his face dry. 'You look as if I've shattered a dream.Sorry.'She caught the jeering note in his voice and looked at him withdislike. 'I don't believe it.' Dee had never hinted that there had been anyone for him but Judy. But then would he have? Would hehave confided a secret like that to her? Dee had told his side of thestory in a way that made her sympathetic to him. Judy had never told her very much, but maybe there was a lot more to the divorcethan Dee had hinted at.'I don't have photographic evidence,' Eliot Holman said coldly.'But you can take my word for it that Dee has strayed before.'
He was staring at his own feet and he was as white as she wasnow. 'Please go,' Kate said thinly. Her throat hurt and she felt verycold.He lifted his head as if he was going to speak, then he walked past her without a word. When he had gone Kate went into thehouse and found her father whistling as he made himself some ice-cold lemonade. He looked round and his face changed. 'Kate!What is it?''I've been sick in the garden,' Kate said with a zombie-likeflatness. 'I'm sorry, I couldn't make it into the house in time.''Never mind that,' her father said, pushing her into a chair.'What made you sick? Have you a headache?''It was the sun, I think,' she lied. She had always lied to him.She had lied to him about Toby and she had lied to him about her own feelings when Toby died. It was easy to lie now. It had beenhard at first. She had been very young, very naive, and she had be-lieved that her father could do anything. All through her childhoodshe had seen him in a godlike light, the pattern on which her expectations of men had been founded. When she began todiscover that Toby was not the charming, pleasant man she had believed him to be, she had expected help and protection from her father, but instead she had found him disposed to see the situationthrough Toby's eyes instead of hers, and she had been deeplydisillusioned.Watching as he reacted with charmed warmth to the man whowas making her life a hell on earth, she had been thrown back onherself. She had learnt that her father was as easy to deceive asanybody else. He was not an omniscient god; he was a nice, kind patient man who expected other people to be as decent as himself.When he came up against someone like Toby he was helpless,

 because the mask Toby wore was a brilliant illusion. It wasdesigned to deceive and it got its effect.Looking back, Kate saw that she had childishly resented her father's inability to pierce Toby's mask. She had been angry withhim for years. Dr Marchant had failed her, in her view, and shehad had to lie to him in consequence, her pride refusing to allowher to tell him what he could not see for himself. The time whenshe fled back to her home after Toby's sadistic rape, her father had been tender and comforting, yet every word he said made it plainto her that he laid the blame for the trouble at her door. 'I knewyou were too young to get married,' he had said. 'But you chosehim, Kate. He's still the man you claimed you loved so much and by running away from him you're ducking your responsibilities.Toby doesn't deserve this, you know. Go back to him and tryagain.'Along with her mother, Dr Marchant had seen it all as a lovers'quarrel, one of the teething troubles of a new marriage. Toby hadsmiled and spoken gently to her in front of them. 'Maybe I was toohard on you, darling. It's my fault. I keep forgetting how youngyou are.' Oh, he had been convincing, and he had relied on theunspoken conspiracy between all men to make her father see itfrom his side.She had come to see after that that one could not ask people to be other than they were²her father was a good man, but hisknowledge of the world did not extend to men like Toby. Inaccepting the inescapability of her situation Kate had finallygrown up, but she had found reality a very lonely planet.She had learnt to rely on herself, prickly with pride, fierce withindependence. Her nature predisposed her to hide from everyone what she felt. That was why she had allowed people to believe thatshe was still grieving for a man she had detested.'I've told you before that you shouldn't ever go to sleep lying inthe sun,' her father said as he helped her up to her bedroom. 'Youmay have slight sunstroke. The sun can be dangerous, Kate.'Kate laughed unsteadily. 'Oh, life's full of risks.' There was awild note to her laughter which made her father frown and look ather closely.'You saw your new boss? He didn't stay long.''No,' said Kate. Long enough. Her stomach heaved again. Longenough.Dr Marchant took her pulse and frowned. 'You'd better sleepthis off, Kate. I thought you had more sense.' He gently draped aquilt over her and bent to kiss her forehead. 'You look dreadful.Poor Kate! That will teach you a lesson, won't it?'Her white mouth smiled in a twisted amusement. 'So it will.'She lay shivering when he had gone. Whenever she tried tothink about those moments when Eliot Holman held her down onthe grass and imposed his mouth and hands on her, she felt a stabof fierce pain shoot through her temples. It had been a terrifyingrevisit to the past. The helpless, humiliating weakness of her bodymade her so angry she wanted to break things.She no longer doubted what sort of man he was² he had madethat very clear. Even though he had been so angry she had sensedthe odd triumph in him, the growing excitement as he handled her.Swine! she thought.Was Judy in love with him? Kate opened her eyes and stared atthe blank white ceiling. Poor Judy if she was²and poor EliotHolman if Dee found out and got his hands on him. Oh, Katewould like to be a fly on the wall that day. She would love to  watch Dee smash Eliot Holman into powdered fragments. Dee'ssavage face as he talked about the unknown man who had wreckedhis marriage had told her precisely what would happen if Dee ever found out.Suddenly she remembered the thickness in Eliot Holman'svoice as he asked her: 'Am I getting to you?'She put her hands over her eyes to shut the memory out, but it persisted like a sick refrain.He had got to her all right. He had put her through a wringer.She was chill and feverish, shivering and yet overheated. Her stomach cramped and her head ached. And on Monday she wasgoing to have to go into the office and start working for him. Howon earth could she face him after this? Just the sight of that lean,clever face was going to make her want to throw up.

was typing like a machine-gun when Kate walked into theoffice on the Monday morning. She looked up and threw a bright,'Good morning. Lovely day.'Eliot Holman was not in sight, for which Kate was grateful. Itwould give her time to pull herself together. She sat down at her desk and skimmed through the post. The phone rang and she picked it up absently. One of their writers moaned at her for tenminutes because a sub had taken a hatchet to his last article andKate soothed and listened, agreed that it was incredible nerve, promised it wouldn't happen again. In the middle of the delugeEliot arrived and she found it possible to give him a polite nod -------------

'Yes?' Kate picked up her pencil and made a few meaninglessmarks on an article she was working on, and his voice cutfuriously.'Listen to me!''I am.''You can't listen and read at the same time.''You may not be able to. I can.'He took a long, harsh breath. 'If you're going to be obstructivewe're going to come to blows.''We already have,' she shrugged.She regretted saying that as soon as she had said it. She didn'twant to bring it up again any more than he did. Her tongue wasalways too quick, that was the trouble.He was saying something under his breath that she preferrednot to hear. She was accustomed to hearing men use language likethat around here. As deadlines approached and tempers rose thelanguage became violently explicit. It relieved pressure and let off steam.She put her hands into her lap like a little girl. 'O.K., I'mlistening.'There was a pause while she felt him staring at her bent head. 'Ihave several changes in mind. Firstly, I want to run a monthlyinternational page²we're too narrow in our view, we should takea look at the rest of the world.''Foreign won't like that,' she pointed out. If Dee could refuse tolet her snatch stuff from Women's Page, why should he let EliotHolman poach on Foreign's territory?'They can lump it.' The dismissal was clear and unhesitatingand already she knew he would get his way. Dee had fought her, but he wouldn't fight Eliot Holman.

'Our readers have no interest in what's happening in other partsof the world.''Don't be absurd! You're living in the past. We'll take it country by country, turn a magnifying glass on each one in turn, havearticles on their economy, politics, recent social changes. It will bring in new advertising from abroad and make the readers moreinformed.'The advertising would clinch it, of course. Dee would have notrouble selling that aspect to the accountants. Advertising was themain prop which kept the paper afloat²anything that broughtadvertising in was fine with the powers that be behind the scenes.She shrugged. 'What else?''More current affairs.'He had paused and she looked at him. That had been one of her own aims and she suspected he knew as much. Their eyes met,guarded, wary, and he gave nothing away. If Dee had told himwhat she had wanted to do she would never guess from thatshuttered face.'No argument?' He had a dry note in his voice and the grey eyesflicked over her.'You're the boss.' She enjoyed making that an insult, but hegave no sign that it had gone home.The telephone rang and she swung to answer it. 'Kate?'She recognised Dee's voice and said slowly, 'Oh, hello.''Dee,' he said, unnecessarily.Across the room she felt Eliot Holman's attention riveted on her and wondered if he could hear Dee's voice. She put a hand over the earphone to muffle the sound a little.'Yes?' she asked.'You sound like melting ice cream. Eliot in?'

'Yes.'Dee laughed. 'Oh, oh, is it war, Kate? Do I hear arrowswhistling overhead?''A preliminary skirmish, perhaps.''Try to play it cool.' Dee was being incredibly understandingand she smiled.'I am.''Kate, I've got tickets for 
 ²would you like tocome with me?'Kate stared at her desk, frowning. She recognised that this wasa turning point. Both her lunches with Dee had been either officialor at least a pretence of being so²this was different. It was astraight social invitation and she did not know if she wanted toaccept it.'Well...''Please,' Dee said flatly. 'I took your advice and invited Judy. Infact, that's why I got the tickets²she loves the music. But when Irang her she refused, said she had a date tomorrow.'Somehow the fact that Dee had told her frankly that he hadwanted to take Judy and was only asking her as a substitute alteredeverything. A date tomorrow? Kate watched Eliot Holmanwalking across the office to pick up a large black leather diaryfrom his desk. Was he Judy's date?'Tomorrow?' she asked.'We could have dinner first if we're quick.'Eliot turned and the grey pierce of his stare shot through her.'Thank you,' said Kate. 'I'd love to.''Thanks,' Dee muttered. 'I'll see you up here at around six. Eliotcan put the page in for you.''I'll tell him,' Kate said softly before she put the phone down..
liked to the windowagain.'Our normal working arrangement has to be worked out. Isuggest we stay late alternately. My weekends will be pretty busy,so I'd like you to do the Friday night. Sundays we can split between us so that you get a fair rota for weekends.'Kate had always done the weekend work. George expected her to do it. Eliot was being ultra-fair in his suggestion. The editor always got a lighter share of the routine jobs. Reluctantly shenodded at him.'Thank you.''You agree?''You're very generous,' she commented.'Don't be sarcastic.'She had meant that, but she looked at him irritably at his quick comeback.'I wasn't being sarcastic. You're more than fair. I'm used todoing most of the late work and weekend work and I shall be gladto get off early now and then.''I'm sure you will.' His mouth hardened. 'So will Dee.'

Kate opened her mouth to snap back at him, but Mirry cameinto the room balancing cups in each hand and gave them both a beaming smile. 'Made it and not a drop spilt!' She put Kate's cupdown on her desk and spilt some, grimacing. 'Sorry.' Eliot, Katenoticed, had got a saucer and none of his had been split. Mirryfluttered her lashes at him as he thanked her charmingly.'My pleasure,' she cooed, and Kate could see that Mirry'ssulkiness was not going to be so much in evidence now thatGeorge had been replaced by someone very male and attractive.As the morning wore on Kate took on a wry expression asMirry's breathless devotion became maddening. She hoveredaround Eliot like a bluebottle, buzzing excitedly if he smiled ather. When he went off to lunch Mirry turned to Kate and said witha deep sigh: 'Isn't he gorgeous?''Gorgeous,' Kate echoed derisively.'Oh, you!' Mirry flounced, her long fine hair flying over her thin shoulders. 'It's time you came out of your shell.''It's time you went to lunch,' Kate told her, and Mirry looked ather watch and fled.The telephone rang as she vanished and Kate got dragged intoan argument over a picture they had used several days earlier. Sheworked as she listened, half her mind given to what was beingsaid, making sufficiently soothing noises to keep the caller happy.When she had hung up she turned her whole mind to what she wasdoing and forgot everything else.She was surprised when Eliot came back early from lunch. Shewondered how long such exemplary behaviour would continue.He glanced at her and asked why she hadn't gone to lunch herself.'I've had some.' She had had a yoghurt and an apple at her desk, but that was none of his business.

His thin brows writhed upwards. 'That was quick.''I am quick.''Yes,' he said drily, and his grey eyes underlined the pointedsarcasm of the comment.The Literary Editor sauntered into the room with his lanky body swathed in a pea-green sweater reaching to his knees. 'Aren'tyou hot in that?' Kate glanced out of the window at the brilliant blue sky, the glittering windows opposite. It was a baking summer, but then Roger always looked as if he had just arrived from thefrozen north. He grinned at her, taking a pencil from behind hisear.'Came to ask for more space.'It was a common request and Kate girded herself for battle withhim, but she needn't have bothered because Eliot drew himself outof his chair and Roger swivelled with an exclamation. 'Sorry,Eliot, didn't see you there. Congratulations. Heard you'd got the job.' Then he gave Kate a quick, embarrassed look, knowing thatuntil Eliot's return she had been front-runner for the editorship.Eliot returned the polite remark equally politely before gettingdown to brass tacks. Kate, excluded, listened and learnt a lot²shediscovered what she had already suspected, that there was an ironhand inside Eliot's soft and silken glove. He charmed Roger byflattery and was very admiring of the way he ran his columns butwouldn't budge on the subject of more space. 'I'm sure you can cutit to fit,' he said, smiling, and Roger was smiling as he left,outranked, empty- handed.Eliot met her stare and tilted an enquiring head.'Clever stuff.' Kate did not bother to disguise the faint irritation.'We haven't got the space to give him. It would mean taking itfrom someone else and then we'd have two quarrels on our hands.

He paused. 'I want a layout conference at the end of the week. Calleveryone in, will you? I suggest Friday morning around eleven.'She nodded, making a quick note. 'I'll get Mirry to bring us allcoffee, shall I?''I detest that muck they call coffee in the canteen. Can't wehave an electric kettle and make our own?'Kate opened her eyes wide. 'We could, I suppose. Would weget it on expenses?'He eyed her scathingly. 'Funny. No, I'll buy one. I'd havethought you would have thought of it before. Don't tell me youlike that dishwater they send up from downstairs?'Kate had never thought of it. George was rarely around for coffee and Kate just accepted whatever Mirry brought her. Shehad known that if she wanted to make other arrangements theywould all be left to her, and she had no time for coffee-making ontop of everything else.'We'll set up a float to buy coffee and milk powder,' Eliot wenton.'You've got it all worked out.' Kate smiled briefly to soften thesarcasm. 'Is that how you did it in the States?''American coffee is superb,' he said. 'Even in newspaper offices.''I wouldn't know.' Kate had never been to America. She had been to France and Italy and once to Aden on a lightning trip for the paper, but she was not a well- travelled girl.'Never been there?' Eliot sat on the edge of her desk and lookedat her. 'You must go. When I start the international editions we'llget a lot of free trips offered to us²maybe one will come up in theStates. You could do that.'

Free trips, Kate thought, her eyes brightening. 'That would beexciting,' she told him. 'Wouldn't you like to go, though?''After five years there I think I know it well enough.' He paused. 'We shall have to do the first international editiontogether, you realise? I want to make sure you know what it is I'mafter.'Kate studied him warily. 'Together?' What did that mean? sheasked herself in prickling suspicion.His face was cool. 'I haven't made up my mind which countryto do first, but whichever it is we'll go over there together. Thatway you can see what sort of angles I'm looking for and in futureeditions you can deal with it alone. One of us will always go.'She had somehow imagined that it would all be done from theoffice. 'Will Dee wear all these trips abroad?' she asked.His eyes took on that blue which she had come to recognise asa sign of anger or excitement in him. 'He knows my plans.'And he'd better not try to stop me, she. read, watching the hard bones of his face tauten. Dee had always been able to jolly Georgealong, impressing his will on him easily, despite George's evasionsand laziness. But Eliot Holman was a very different kettle of fish.Dee was going to find he had bitten off more than he could chewif he tried to take Eliot on in battle. She wouldn't mind watchingthat. It would be quite an experience.'What sort of book are you writing?' she asked suddenly,wondering if it was fiction or documentary.'A survey of American politics since the end of the Vietnamesewar,' he told her.'Light reading,' she commented.His eyes had that blue again. She would have to watch for that;it was a dead give-away. Did he know that when he was angry

He paused. 'I want a layout conference at the end of the week. Calleveryone in, will you? I suggest Friday morning around eleven.'She nodded, making a quick note. 'I'll get Mirry to bring us allcoffee, shall I?''I detest that muck they call coffee in the canteen. Can't wehave an electric kettle and make our own?'Kate opened her eyes wide. 'We could, I suppose. Would weget it on expenses?'He eyed her scathingly. 'Funny. No, I'll buy one. I'd havethought you would have thought of it before. Don't tell me youlike that dishwater they send up from downstairs?'Kate had never thought of it. George was rarely around for coffee and Kate just accepted whatever Mirry brought her. Shehad known that if she wanted to make other arrangements theywould all be left to her, and she had no time for coffee-making ontop of everything else.'We'll set up a float to buy coffee and milk powder,' Eliot wenton.'You've got it all worked out.' Kate smiled briefly to soften thesarcasm. 'Is that how you did it in the States?''American coffee is superb,' he said. 'Even in newspaper offices.''I wouldn't know.' Kate had never been to America. She had been to France and Italy and once to Aden on a lightning trip for the paper, but she was not a well- travelled girl.'Never been there?' Eliot sat on the edge of her desk and lookedat her. 'You must go. When I start the international editions we'llget a lot of free trips offered to us²maybe one will come up in theStates. You could do that.'

Free trips, Kate thought, her eyes brightening. 'That would beexciting,' she told him. 'Wouldn't you like to go, though?''After five years there I think I know it well enough.' He paused. 'We shall have to do the first international editiontogether, you realise? I want to make sure you know what it is I'mafter.'Kate studied him warily. 'Together?' What did that mean? she as ked herself in prickling suspicion.His face was cool. 'I haven't made up my mind which countryto do first, but whichever it is we'll go over there together. Thatway you can see what sort of angles I'm looking for and in futureeditions you can deal with it alone. One of us will always go.'She had somehow imagined that it would all be done from theoffice. 'Will Dee wear all these trips abroad?' she asked.His eyes took on that blue which she had come to recognise asa sign of anger or excitement in him. 'He knows my plans.'And he'd better not try to stop me, she. read, watching the hard bones of his face tauten. Dee had always been able to jolly Georgealong, impressing his will on him easily, despite George's evasionsand laziness. But Eliot Holman was a very different kettle of fish.Dee was going to find he had bitten off more than he could chewif he tried to take Eliot on in battle. She wouldn't mind watchingthat. It would be quite an experience.'What sort of book are you writing?' she asked suddenly,wondering if it was fiction or documentary.'A survey of American politics since the end of the Vietnamesewar,' he told her.'Light reading,' she commented.His eyes had that blue again. She would have to watch for that;it was a dead give-away. Did he know that when he was angry however cool he looked on the surface his eyes flashed likesummer lightning?'You've got a nasty little tongue, haven't you?' Eliot put both hishands behind his neck and the lean outline of his body had a tensecontrol as he surveyed her. 'Careful it doesn't get cut out.'She made her fingers into scissors and clicked them at him,starting to laugh, and after an odd pause he laughed back, relaxing.'What angle?' she asked, and he lifted one brow.'Come again?''What angle are you writing the book from? An English eye of American policies?''The Anglo-American situation in general,' he agreed. 'But putting it into the general context of the shift in American attitudesin the past five years.'He was clever, she thought, watching his face as he spoke. Thelight-minded flirt she had imagined him the first time they met had been a gross distortion of the truth, or rather just one angle of his personality. He had to be a flirt, of course; she had been rightthere. Whatever the truth about his relationship with Judy he hadknown from the start that she was Dee's wife and that he was breaking up a marriage. That typed him, and Kate did not like menwho shrugged when they destroyed things. The fact that he wasalso obviously very intelligent did not erase that side of his mind;it made it more damning. He should know better. It was easy todestroy things; it wasn't so easy to build them up again. And thatapplied to people too.As the week wore on, she watched him closely and observedmany other facets of his personality. He was hard-working,shrewd, clear-headed and quick to make decisions. He never shirked an argument and did not need to use brutal force to win,

although she knew he was capable of it in certain circumstances² the day he used force on her in the garden at her parents' home shehad learnt that. She had learnt other things about him during thosemoments, and she remembered them as she watched him dealingwith the rest of the staff. Eliot Holman had a civilised exterior, butunder that was another man²she had felt the build-up of excite-ment in him as he lay on top of her. He had found it enjoyable todo that to her. Were all men capable of enjoying force? Now he had taken over, she was no longer eligible to attend theeditorial conferences so she did not see Eliot in Dee's company, but she caught a glimpse of what was going on inside Dee's headon the evening when he took her to see
 They had a rapid, early meal before the performance. Dee took her to an Italian restaurant in Covent Garden which specialised ina delicious pizza served with salad. Straw-covered bottles hung inserried ranks over their heads and honeyed Italian pop musicstreamed from the tannoy system just behind them. 'It's quick andedible,' said Dee, and then caught the look she gave theloudspeaker. 'Ignore the music²if you can call it that.''I like it.' She grinned at him as she said that. Dee was lookingeven more highly charged than usual and she wondered if he had been having another of his rows with Judy. The lines of strainseemed permanent these days.'How are you getting on with Holman?' he asked.Kate put down her knife and fork and met his eyes. 'We'rekeeping a polite truce.'Dee went on with his meal before asking casually, 'Seen Judylately?'Kate did not need to make the connection. It was obvious. 'Shehasn't been around for a few days.' Did he think that Judy was  always in the office since Eliot took over? What did he think? Shelooked at him and wondered.His mouth was taut. He poured her some more Chianti and then poured another glass for himself. She thought he was going to saysomething about Eliot and Judy, but when he spoke it was onanother tack altogether.'What do you think of Holman?' he asked later, after the performance when they were having a last drink before he put her in a taxi home.'He's as good as you said he was,' Kate admitted.Dee smiled at her warmly. 'Good girl!''Because I'm honest?' she asked wryly.'It isn't a commodity much in circulation,' Dee told her with atwist of the mouth. 'I'd like some right now from Judy, but all I getis backchat.'Kate looked at her drink. 'What sort of truth do you want fromher?''Who is it?' Dee broke out thickly and for a second the look inhis face made her stare. She had seen him angry, she had seen himcold, but she had never seen him homicidal before.'If you looked like that when you asked her, I'm not surprisedshe didn't tell you.'Dee glared at her. 'You know, don't you?''How should I know?'He held her eyes, searching them. 'Am I warm, Kate?'She looked away. 'I don't know what you're talking about.'He breathed heavily, his hands clenched on the table. 'If I findout I am, I'll kill him. They worked together years ago, did youknow? She knew him before I did.'Carefully Kate asked: 'Who are we talking about?’

Dee smiled savagely. 'Come on, Kate, you know perfectly well.I mean Holman.''Where did he and Judy work together?' she asked.'Judy was subbing on the
when Holman arrived as a cubreporter. When we were married she left the
I remember shetold me then that Holman was a dazzling hit with the female staff.''I can believe it.' Kate was dry, her eyes sardonic. 'Mirry has palpitations every time he smiles at her.''But not you?' Dee looked almost grateful as he stared at her.'Me?' Kate grinned. 'Now would I? I've got my reputation tothink of, remember.''Reputation?' He looked baffled.'As a man-hater,' Kate added drily.Dee laughed. 'I've been confidentially told by at least six peoplethat your heart is broken and you're a one- man girl.''So I am,' Kate said ironically. 'How right they are!'Dee sobered. 'Poor Kate.''For God's sake, don't make me sound like a music- hall joke,'she flared. 'I'm happy as I am. It may surprise you to learn this, butlife holds a lot more than the man-woman relationship.'Dee changed the subject and they talked about the music theyhad just heard, the dazzling professionalism of the musicians, theflat taste of the lager which Dee had drunk in the interval. 'Warmand stale²next time I'll drink Coke. At least that would be keptcold.'She picked up some other views of what was going on betweenDee and Eliot Holman from the Sports Editor. She had lunch withhim in the canteen a few days later and listened intently as hetalked about Eliot. 'He and Dee get on like a couple of strangedogs. Conferences get very heated these days. Dee snaps at him as  if he'd like to pick up the spike and stick it in his head. I thoughtthey were old pals. 'Although he was talking casually she felt him watching her andguessed that the grapevine had picked up a rumour about Eliot andJudy. No doubt people were dying to know if it was true and if itexplained Dee's aggressive attitude to Eliot.Coolly she said: 'You know Dee. He always has a trial of strength with a new comer. 'The man's fair-skinned face looked discontented. 'Yes,' he saidwithout sounding convinced. 'I suppose that's it.'As she left the canteen Judy walked into it and Kate caught theflicker of her brown eyes as she noticed her. It hurt when Judyturned her eyes away, pretending not to have seen her. Kate feltherself flush and hoped nobody else had noticed. What had Eliottold Judy about Dee's visits to the office? He had been down twicein the last three days, always with some valid reason and yetalways somehow ignoring Eliot and talking to Kate in an intimate,deliberate way which embarrassed her.Dee was being difficult. Kate had politely made an excuse torefuse his invitation to see a film with him. She wasn't gettingdragged into the middle of that war. Dee was crazy about Judy andmade no pretence of being otherwise. He was trying to use Katefor his own reasons and she wasn't having it.Judy had been a friend of hers. Kate did not like being ignoredlike that. She wasn't going to make a public display of it by goingup to Judy, though; that would be too risky. Judy might slap her down in front of everyone and Kate could hardly say to her frankly: 'Look, I'm not after your ex-husband. If you want him for God's sake climb down off that mountain and stop dating EliotHolman.'

Every instinct in Kate's body told her that Judy still cared for Dee. She couldn't believe otherwise. If Eliot had told the truth andDee had had an affair with someone, Judy's attitude was perfectlyexplicable, but it was counter-productive because it was driving awedge between her and Dee when neither of them really wanted tolose the other. Judy could be playing tit for tat by seeing Eliot, butit was a very risky game.It annoyed her when she got back to the office to find Eliotsmiling down at Mirry as he dictated a letter to her. Mirry waslooking like a stupefied kitten, her eyes enormous and glazed.Kate half expected to see her faint from sheer delight at the waythat cool, smooth voice murmured the perfectly ordinary sentenceshe was dictating.He glanced up and caught Kate's derisive, icy glance and shesaw the blue flash which told her he was reacting with anger. It pleased her. She liked sticking pins into his ego.It was her evening turn, but when Mirry had gone, Eliotlingered with a blank expression. Kate looked round at himenquiringly.'I've had a lot of response to my float of ideas for theinternational editions,' he told her briskly. 'I've decided to go toFrance first²as it's our closest neighbour it makes sense. We'llvisit four cities, split the country in quarters, get a rounded picture.Paris, Marseilles, Bordeaux, Lyons. I'll make up a list of experts todo us some short summaries and we'll cover as much ground as wecan.''When do you plan to go?' Kate was running through theschedules in her mind. 'Who will run the office if we both go?''I've talked to Dee about that. Roger can take over. We'll only be away for three or four days. If we make that a long weekend it  will be easiest and Roger only has to work two days a week on his book page.''Dee agreed?'Eliot's eyes were cold. 'Yes.' He gave her a long, unfriendlystare. 'He wasn't too keen on you going with me, but he agreedwhen I pointed out that unless you came with me the first time youwouldn't know how I wanted it done.''I expect Dee thought the office should be manned by one of us.''Oh, was that the reason?' He smiled nastily. 'I thought he might just be dead jealous.'Kate felt two spots of red begin to burn in her face. 'Whyshould he be?' she bit back furiously.'He hates me working with you, doesn't he?' Eliot's eyes pinnedher to her chair, their stare hostile. 'I always had a good workingrelationship with Dee until I started working in this office and Idon't need to guess why. Every time I speak to him these days he jumps down my throat.''Maybe you misunderstand the reason,' she said angrily.'Nuts. I know when a man's showing signs of jealousy. Hewatches me like a lynx. You should reassure him, or do you likedriving him out of his mind?''If Dee hates your guts that's nothing to do with me!''No?' He shoved his hands into his pockets and took a deep breath. 'Did you tell him what happened when I came to your family home?''No,' she said, shuddering.Her voice left no room for doubt. He swore under his breath.'I've been told I made people sick before, but I never thought itwould actually happen under my very eyes.'

'I had sunstroke,' she said shakily. 'My father says sleeping outin the sun is dangerous.'He laughed caustically. 'Do you think I'm stupid? You hated it,didn't you? Is that why you didn't tell Dee? But he knowssomething, otherwise why would he go for me like a rabid dogevery time he sees me?'Kate lifted her blazing eyes to his face. 'Of course, you couldn'tguess, could you?'Eliot stared with narrowed eyes. 'I just did guess.'µYou guessed wrong. Try again, and try a bit nearer home thistime.'He frowned. 'What the hell are you talking about?''Judy,' Kate flung. 'Remember her? Dee's ex-wife?'There was a silence. Slowly Eliot said, 'Judy?'Kate laughed. 'Oh, you're good! I loved the puzzled way yousaid that. You're in the wrong business²you should be on thestage.'Eliot walked to the window and stared out, his back tense. 'SoDee has decided I'm chasing Judy, has he?''I think he imagines you've caught her by now.' Kate was soangry her voice was husky and she surprised herself by the furyshe felt as she stared at his fair head.'Well, well, well,' he murmured, spinning the words out in asoft drawl. 'And is that what you think?''I'm not paid to think about the private lives of fellowemployees. It isn't my business. Judy's a big girl and I'm not her keeper.''But?' he asked when she had bitten off her words.

She was silent, her head turned away, and he added drily:'Come on, I heard the "but" in your voice. You've got an opinion,all right. Let's have it.''But I thought she had better taste,' Kate snapped. 'Dee's worthfifty of you, and Judy must have a hole in her head.''You're so kind.' He was sarcastic, a cold smile on his face.'You ought to be relieved. After all, with Judy otherwise occupied,Dee is all yours.' He laughed harshly. 'Until his roving eye roveselsewhere, at least.''If I were you I'd walk very wary of Dee. He's boiling up for areal row.' She gave him a smile as icy as his own. 'I wouldn't wantto see that handsome face rearranged into a less than charming pattern.''How charitable to warn me. When am I to expect Dee to turnvicious?''Any day,' she said through her teeth. 'Laugh if you like, but Iwouldn't like to be in your shoes when he does go over the top.Dee can be violent.'He gave her a twisted smile. 'As you know, I remember.'Her flush returned and her eyes threw dislike at him. 'Leave meout of it.''Oh, you're very much part of it, lady, and you know it, despitethe cool don't-touch-me air. That only goes for other men, notDee, doesn't it? His technique must be better than mine.''Mind your own business!' Kate flung back angrily, reddeningand hating the cynical way he was eyeing her.'Coming from you, that's rich! I suppose it's your business if Idate Judy?''Oh, go to hell! Date her if you don't mind risking getting your face kicked in when Dee loses his temper.'

Eliot leaned over her desk and gave her a cool, sarcastic smile.'You love me, don't you, darling? You really love me. You'rehoping for a ringside seat when Dee comes for me.''That's right,' she said, glaring at him.'Are you still nursing a bruised ego because I got the job? Isn'tthat tough. Especially after all the trouble you'd gone to²Deewelshed on the bargain, did he?'Kate picked up the nearest object and flung it at him. Ithappened to be her can of pencils and they bounced and clatteredall over the floor as he ducked to avoid them.She saw the cold flash of the grey eyes as he lifted her wastepaper basket and placed it on her desk in front of her. 'For when you're sick,' he said with a snap, then held her back againsther chair and kissed her force-fully, bruising her lips open andinvading her mouth. Kate was too taken aback for a moment, thenshe began to struggle violently. Eliot straightened, his face darklyflushed, and without a word walked out.

little incident seemed to be the last straw. Their relationship had been difficult, but now it became impossible.From then on the atmosphere between them was like the moment between a crash of clouds in the upper stratosphere, a humid sizzlewhich was followed by thunder and lightning. They worked side by side, either in a frozen silence or with a barbed exchange of tartremarks. Mirry was bewildered and fascinated, looking from oneto the other like someone at Wimbledon, trying to keep up withthe rapid volley of curt retorts.

Kate had always been famous for snappy remarks. Her hottemper and the chip she carried on her shoulder combined with her ready tongue to make her someone people avoided arguing withwhen her eyes flashed, but Eliot Holman showed no such restraint.He came back at her as fast and bitingly as Kate herself, and theway they snarled at each other made the office a less than restful place.Kate was aware that Mirry, in common with most other peoplein the building, put her temper down to rage because Eliot hadwalked into the job she wanted. Having watched him at such closequarters for some weeks Kate was reluctantly forced to admit thatDee was right about him²he was brilliant, and far outside her class. If she had been in Dee's chair she would have done exactlyas he did²given the job to Eliot. The admission was not grudging.Kate admired professional efficiency. If other things had notentered into their relationship she would have told Eliot as much, but she wasn't going to climb down in front of him when thosegrey eyes tore her apart every time he looked at her.He had introduced his changes into the features departmentwith gradual, competent ease and, despite a little grumbling, theyhad begun to accept them. From what Kate picked up in thecanteen, though, Dee still sniped at Eliot at conferences, pickingup every tiny slip and using it against him.Whenever Kate saw Dee she realised what a strain he wasworking under, his features drawn, his eyes burning with theenergy of a man under too much pressure who will not give wayand is building up to some crisis.One afternoon as she was hurrying back to her office after along tussle with the music critic she saw Judy come out of another  door. Kate paused, a smile ready, and Judy looked right throughher with a stiff, cold face.Kate felt as if she had been slapped across the face. Her smilewithered. She walked on, biting her lip. Judy had undoubtedlyheard that she was seeing Dee. The gossip, as often happened, wasway behind the times. Kate had carefully not seen Dee lately,refusing all his invitations, avoiding his company. How could shetell Judy that, though?Tense and disturbed, she walked into her own office and foundMirry and Eliot roaring with laughter at today's cartoon. Theylooked round and Kate went to her desk, ignoring them. Their laughter broke off abruptly. Mirry began to type noisily. Eliotreturned to his own desk, but his eyes were cold when, a fewmoments later, Kate accidentally met them. She didn't care. Lethim think what he liked.Mirry left, as she always did, spot on six. It was Kate's late turnand she worked on in the mellow summer evening, feeling faintly peculiar, her head aching, her body tense. She had been feelingstrange all day, although she could not put her finger on what waswrong.'Kate, will you have dinner with me?'The voice made her jump. She had been concentrating on whatshe was doing and when she looked round and saw Dee she staredat him blankly for a moment, trying to think.'Dee - ' she began, and as she spoke Eliot walked into the room,stopping dead as he saw Dee. The two men eyed each other asthough a fight might break out at any moment. Kate had heard thatDee openly disliked Eliot, but now she saw an answering hostilityin Eliot's harsh face.

Dee looked away from him and down at Kate. 'I'll wait for youin my office,' he said, and walked out.She bent over the proofs. Eliot stood behind her and she felthim staring at her. Heat stirred in her veins. What on earth was thematter with her? She wasn't having an affair with Dee, whatever he thought, so why was she blushing like a schoolgirl?'I'll finish for you,' he said suddenly. 'I wouldn't want to hold upyour evening with Dee.''It's my night.' She went on skimming down the column, her  pencil in her hand, but it was suddenly taken out of her grasp. Shelooked up with furious eyes.'Give that back!' she snapped.'Get your jacket on and go.''Look, if I want to swap turns with you, I'll ask.''For God's sake, don't argue over every little thing,' Eliot bitout, staring at her.'I didn't start the argument.''Oh, you never do, do you?' he said sarcastically. 'Butter wouldn't melt in your mouth. And don't turn those big blue eyeson me²I know what they can do, lady. I've got the burn marks to prove it.'She snatched at her pencil and his hand closed round her fingers. Kate looked up and felt her throat close at what she sawon his face. They stared at each other and a pulse began to throbhotly in her neck. If he touched her with that look in his face sheknew she would be sick again. The colour all left her face.He flung her hand down. 'Don't worry,' he grated, 'I'm not goingto touch you. I might beat the hell out of you.’

That made it worse. It rang too many bells. She saw the force,the heat, in his face and tried to stand up, but swayed on her feet.Oh, God, I'm going to faint, she thought.'All right?' His voice was terse, still angry.She couldn't answer, struggling to retain consciousness. He pushed her back into her chair. She put her head down on the desk and lay there until the drumming in her ears had subsided a little.What a fool he must think her! The sleek black hair fell over her face, hiding it from him, but she felt him standing beside her,watching her, and she wished he would go because the tremblingwould not stop.'You're in no condition to go out to dinner,' he muttered. 'Youshould go home.' There was a pause. 'Shall I ring Dee and ask himto come and take you home?'She shook her head, slowly lifting it. 'I'm all right.' She wasn'tand she knew it. So did he, staring at her white face and shadowedeyes intently.'You look it.' That held savagery. 'My God, my effect on you ismiraculous, isn't it? Is it some sort of allergy? I hope it doesn'tspread. I don't want to be known as the man who makes womenkeel over whenever he goes near them.''I thought you were,' she said bitingly.His eyes flashed blue. 'Ah, back on form, are we?'A step made them both turn round. Judy stood in the doorway,her vivid hair glinting in the light. She gave them an odd look andEliot said drily, 'Come in, darling. Take a look at one of mycasualties. Would you say she was fit to have dinner with anyone?'Kate's face burned with sudden, painful colour. Bastard, shethought. How can he? She couldn't look at Judy.

'That depends who it is,' Judy said curtly. 'Eliot, I wanted aword with you.''I'm just going,' said Kate, standing with a horrified realisationthat she was very unsteady on her feet. The room was goinground. Maybe she was really ill. It could be 'flu.'Sit down.' Eliot shoved her backwards in an un- chivalrousgesture which sent her down into her chair with a thud. She lookedat him with rage.'I'll be with you in a minute, Judy,' he said, and Judy withoutlooking at Kate went out. Eliot dialled and said curtly, 'Kate can'tmake it for dinner tonight, I'm afraid.' There was a muffledoutburst from the other end and Eliot cut into it,' 'Bye.' He put the phone down and looked at Kate. 'Stay there. I'll drive you homewhen I've done the galleys.''Listen --- ' she began hoarsely.'No, you listen,' he told her. 'You're ill²take a look in themirror. I'll be back. Just stay in that chair and don't do a thing.'He strode out, slamming the door, and she heard the distantsound of his voice talking to Judy in the corridor. Kate tried tolook at the galley, but her eyes would not focus properly. She puther hands over her eyes, rubbing them. It had to be 'flu, she toldherself. It was going round the building, a summer variety whichcame and went within a day or so but was nasty while you had it.Eliot came back and she took her hands away. He lifted thegalleys and took them to his own desk, and she dimly watched therapid flick of his eyes as they moved down the columns. My God,he's fast, she thought. Accurate, too. He paused several times tocorrect something and went whizzing on in the same smooth way.He flung the sheets into the out-tray and came over to her.Without saying a word he lifted her from the chair like a child, his arms round her waist. The room was going round in the samedizzying fashion.She clutched at him to support herself, her head dropping on tohis chest, hearing the strange muffled thunder close beside her ear without realising at first that it was the sound of his heart under thestriped blue and white shirt.'What the hell's going on?'Kate dazedly lifted her head to look round and saw Dee's thinface through a muzzy cloud. He was staring from the doorway, hisface coming and going in the oddest way, like an old-fashionedmovie where the heroine has been drugged. I'm ill, Kate thought.How strange!It seemed so funny that she giggled and Eliot looked downoddly at her.Dee moved across the office like a blue streak. 'Get your handsoff her!' he roared in a voice that made the room bounce withsound.Eliot let Kate slide back into the chair which she did obligingly,her legs now quite beyond her control.'She's sick ...' Eliot began, and Dee broke into the sentence witha hoarse rage which had been contained for too long and had broken out of all bounds.'I'm sick, too, sick of watching you flirt with my wife!''Leave Judy out of this,' Eliot told him. 'All I'm interested in atthe moment is Kate.''You can keep your hands off her, too, you swine!''Make me,' Eliot snapped, and suddenly the hostility betweenthe two men was a raging fire, the flames visible in both of them,their eyes sparring in violent, uncontrolled hatred.
'Gladly,' Dee grunted as if it was an appalling relief to let all hisfeelings out, his face deeply flushed.Kate stirred, lifted her head on a neck which seemed too frail tolift it. 'Don't, Dee!' She put up a hand which wavered and fell back.It distracted them for a second. They both looked at her and shetried to look at them, but they shifted peculiarly like people seenthrough water.Dee went down on his knees beside her chair, touching her forehead lightly. His long thin fingers were very cool and shesighed with pleasure.'Leave her alone,' Eliot said harshly. 'Judy is coming downagain in a minute. I asked her to help me take Kate home and puther to bed. I don't want her seeing you here.''Isn't that too bad?' Dee bared his teeth in a snarl, turning hisdark head to glare at him. 'I'm sorry Judy finds it a hardship to seeme, but she'll have to grin and bear it.''You selfish swine, your affair with Kate has given Judyenough heartburn already. You might have the decency to clear out so that Judy doesn't have to see you on your knees to her.'Dee's head stayed turned, his neck muscles tightening. 'Affair with Kate? I'm not the one having affairs, Holman, and if I was,Kate would be the last one I'd pick!'Dimly Kate thought: charming. She heard their voices andunderstood every word, but their faces were out of focus anddistorted.'Don't give me that! Everyone in the building knows. Did youthink you could date her without anyone finding out? I doubt if there's a member of the staff who isn't in the secret.
Then they don't know Kate,' Dee told him icily. 'If there wasone female in this place who wouldn't even consider an affair, it'sher. She can't stand being touched.'There was a thick silence. Slowly Eliot said: 'What do youmean?''Her husband was a sadist and he got his kicks hurting her. Katewould throw up if a man came too close to her again.'She was shivering, her eyes closed now, hearing it all and half hysterical. 'No, no,' she tried to mumble, but her lips felt huge andswollen as if they were made of rubber, they couldn't even part tolet the words out. She couldn't stand hearing Dee saying thosethings. She did not want Eliot Holman to know all that. Dee hadno right to repeat things she had said to him in confidence. He hadno right.'No right,' she muttered hoarsely.It was true- but put so bluntly, with such terse flatunderstanding, it hurt more than ever. Toby had enjoyed hurtingher. Had she told Dee that? Or had he guessed? She had skatedover the surface when they talked about it, but had some glimpsesof the hell she had been through during her marriage come hometo him? You might read of such things happening to other women, but you did not expect it to happen to you, and in the polite,smiling social world there was pressure to make you keep suchthings to yourself. People did not want to see the barbaric faceswhich a mask can hide. Her father had made light of her first,weeping outcry. A lovers' quarrel, he had smiled. That's all it is,Kate.'Don't tell me you've never kissed her,' Eliot said with a rasp.'The day she overheard us talking in your office, I was outside, remember? I heard you kiss her then. Don't tell me I imagined it. Ididn't see you, but then I didn't need to. It was obvious.''Oh, hell,' Dee muttered.'Don't he to me,' Eliot threw back.'I'm not. Yes, I kissed her then²I was in a mood to hitsomeone and Kate annoyed me. It was a rotten thing to do. Shehated it. You didn't see her face.''I did,' Eliot said slowly. 'She looked livid, but I thought thatwas over the job.'Dee shifted his feet restlessly and Kate stared at them with bright feverish eyes, trying to gather the energy to stand up andstop this before she passed out. They shouldn't be talking abouther like this² she wouldn't have it. How dared they put her under a microscope as if she were a performing flea? They were ignoringher, discussing her freely as if she were invisible. Did they think she couldn't hear them?'What's wrong with her?' Dee asked, his voice closer. 'She looksas if she needs a doctor.''Judy is bringing the night nurse down. Where the hell are they?I sent Judy up a quarter of an hour ago. Surely it can't be takingthis long to locate the damned woman?'' 'Flu,' Kate said very loudly, pleased to find herself able tospeak again.'What?' Dee bent and she opened her eyes to look at him. Hehad a concerned frown. 'What did you say, Kate?''Don't,' she said but the rest of the sentence had slipped away.Don't talk about me, she thought, but the words didn't emerge.Dee straightened. 'You see?' he said to Eliot. 'Get too close andshe prickles like a hedgehog.
'I thought it was me,' Eliot said oddly. 'I thought she justcouldn't stand me.''She can't stand men of any shape or description,' Dee said witha long sigh. 'Bitter as hell about them.''When I first came everyone told me she was still pining for her husband.''She lets them think that because it keeps the other men at adistance. She admitted as much to me.'There was another silence and Kate found herself sliding awayinto a remote trance which held a fevered comfort'He must have been a swine,' Eliot said.'Yes.' Dee came closer again and brushed the dark hair back from Kate's hot forehead. 'And she's a tiny little thing. Men likethat make me sick.''Tiny she may be, but she packs quite a punch,' Eliot mutteredwith a trace of amusement. 'Some days I'm reeling by the time Iget out of here. This office turns into a boxing ring when she's inone of her tempers. My God, that girl has a temper! Tongue like arazor and eyes that can slice you into bits.''Self-protection,' Dee commented.Kate did not care any more. They could say what they liked.She let their low voices fall away into the darkness and lapsed intoa peaceful sleep.Someone was touching her, lifting her wrist, cold fingersholding it for a moment. ' 'Flu,' someone said. 'Everyone's goingdown with it. She's got it badly. Bed and some aspirin.'Other things were said. Kate heard Judy talking in a brisk, coldvoice and wanted to look at her but couldn't lift her eyelids. Judywas cross with her.Tears trickled from under her lids. That made her feel very sad.
'Are you all right, Kate?''Judy,' she whispered threadily.'Yes?' Judy did not sound quite so sharp now.'Not true,' Kate muttered.'Just relax,' Judy said quite kindly.Something was happening. Kate forced her heavy lids open andsaw lights swaying overhead, walls passing. With a frown shemade herself focus on a face close above her own and found Eliotwatching her.'Where?' she mumbled.'I'm taking you home. Don't worry, Judy is with us.' Hesounded calm and remote, a stranger.'Judy.' Her frown deepened and it hurt. It hurt to think. Sheknew she had to force herself to concentrate, but when she did her head hurt so badly that she had to close her eyes again and slip back into the comfortable darkness.During the night she woke up with a raging thirst, her whole body burning with heat. The room was dark. She groped across the bedside table to the lamp and something crashed to the floor. Thedoor flew open and light fell across her flushed face.'Judy?' Kate frowned. 'What are you doing here?' Sheremembered now and was pleased to find her voice quite normal.'I stayed to make sure you were all right,' Judy said, comingacross to switch on the lamp. She picked up the clock and replacedit. 'Are you O.K.? Anything I can get you?''A drink, please. I'm dying of thirst.''You would be,' Judy agreed, and poured some water from a jug by the bed. 'I put this here for you in case. You've slept well. It'sfour o'clock²you've been asleep since nine last night.'

'It's 'flu, isn't it? I suppose I should have expected it. Half thestaff have gone down with it.' Kate held the glass in both handsand drained it greedily. The water put new life into her. Judy filledthe glass again.'Want some more?'Kate shook her head, lying back.'Think you can sleep again?''Judy.' She struggled to find the words. 'Thanks for staying.'That was easy, but she had something else she had to say.'Forget it.' Judy switched off the light.'Who's looking after Kevin?'Judy paused at the door, looking back at her. 'Dee.'That sounded hopeful. Kate closed her eyes, smiling. 'Good.'When she woke up again it was a golden sunlight filling theroom. She drank a second glass of water and lay with closed eyes,still so hot the sheets burnt with the emanation of her body. Shefelt like something sizzling on a griddle. After a while she hadsome more water and then she fell into a restless doze again.She woke again because her temperature had broken and sweatwas pouring from her body, soaking the sheets and making her shiver.Judy changed the sheets and changed her nightdress. 'You're being very kind,' Kate whispered. 'Sorry to be such a nuisance.''You're not a nuisance. You can do the same for me some day.How do you feel?''Fine,' she said.Judy laughed. 'What a liar you are!''No, really. Much better.' She felt cool and alive again, her body back to normal, slightly cold if anything. Judy had gently passed acool, damp flannel over her face and hands. The nightdress felt
deliriously fresh on her limbs and her head was working clearly.She looked at Judy, hesitating.'Judy, nothing's going on between me and Dee.''I know.' Judy gave her a brief, dry smile. 'Eliot told me.'How much else had he told her? Kate remembered the weird,dislocated conversation the two men had had the night before. Shefelt her face flaming. How could they? Her teeth clampedtogether. The nerve of it, talking about her right there in front of her!She pushed her own problems aside. She would think aboutthat later. Looking at Judy's cool smile she said gently: 'Dee lovesyou very much, you know.''He's got a funny way of showing it.' Judy was a practical,clear-minded woman, but her voice was stiff with pain and anger as she spoke. Kate looked at her closely and realised more thanever that Judy was going through a bad time. Her usual warmthand liveliness had been wiped out and her face was set in coldlines.Kate had known her for some time, but they had not been reallyclose friends. All she knew of Judy was the friendly smile she hadalways got until Judy began to believe that Kate was seeing Dee.'He does, Judy,' she insisted quietly.'Do you want to know why I found it so easy to believe that youand he were making it?' Judy's colour had rushed up, her eyeswide with pain. 'It's happened before. So don't tell me, Kate, thathe loves me. If he did, he wouldn't have other women.''But are you sure he has?' Kate still didn't believe it. Dee'sfeelings about his wife did not fit this story. Or were all men liarsand opportunists?
'I'm sure.' Judy said that bitterly. 'While I was in the States Eliotthrew a party for me and this girl came. She was Dee's secretary afew years back. She got a bit drunk and blurted it all out. She criedall over me, said she hated herself but Dee had talked her into bed,and she had left to get away from him.' Judy gave Kate a tightlittle smile. 'Patty Hare wasn't the first or the last, but she's the oneI actually know about.'Kate frowned. 'What did Dee say?''You don't think I asked him?' Judy moved restlessly. 'Fromwhat that girl told me, it had been going on for years. She said hewas notorious. He tested all his secretaries.''I don't believe it!' Kate half sat up. 'Judy, you work on the paper. How could he hide it from you?''The wife's always the last to know,' Judy said icily. She lookeddown at her hands, spread them as though they fascinated her.'Kate, Patty Hare was a ravishing little blonde of twenty-three. I'mthirty-six and I'm no knockout.'Kate watched her, following her train of thought. 'You half expected it, didn't you?'Judy smiled bitterly. 'Dee has always got a second look fromwomen. When I first met him he had a positive trainload of themhanging around.'Had Judy always been jealous? Kate wondered, frowning.What did she know about her, anyway?What does one know of anyone? What people say isn't always agood clue to what they think.'You're hardly without your own attraction,' she suggested,watching Judy. 'Eliot seems to find you irresistible.'
Judy grimaced with a wry amusement. 'He told me that Deethought we were having an affair. No, Kate, Eliot's an old friend, agood friend, but we aren't sleeping together.''Maybe he'd like it to be otherwise,' said Kate.Judy glanced at her. 'You sound just the tiniest bit jealous.'Kate felt her colour rush from every corner of her body. Shestiffened furiously, her eyes widening. 'You've got to be joking! Ican't stand the sight of him.'Judy shrugged. 'All right, I imagined it.' She stood up. 'Wouldyou be able to eat anything?'Kate closed her eyes. 'No, thank you, I'm fine. I don't want tokeep you from work, Judy. It's very kind of you, but please, don't bother to stay. I'm fine now.''Just go back to sleep,' said Judy, going out.Sleep was much easier now and Kate felt cool and free as shelet it wash back over her. She opened her eyes later to find thelight had shifted round the room. When she looked at the clock shewas amazed to see that she had slept for another six hours. Her stomach gave a pang at the realisation. She was hungry now. Shecarefully pushed back the covers and stood up, swaying slightly.Funny, she felt as though she had been in bed for a hundred years.Her legs were rubbery and her body shivered as she stood up.Slowly she made her way to the bathroom and came out again, her face refreshed after a dash of lukewarm water.'What are you doing out of bed?' demanded Judy.She smiled at her. 'Testing my legs.''And how are they?''Working again.''How's your appetite?''Ravenous,' Kate laughed. 'I really do feel normal again.'
It passes off quickly,' Judy agreed. 'Tomorrow you'll be as fitas a fiddle.'She guided Kate back to the bedroom and drew the covers over her. 'What would you like? How about an omelette?''Sounds heavenly,' Kate sighed, getting hungrier.It was light and golden, a perfect semi-circle, and as she ate itKate said lightly, 'Dee is sick of eating out of tins. He misses your cooking.''I'm weeping,' Judy said with savagery.'Talk to him,' Kate pleaded. 'Ask him, Judy. Let him have achance to clear himself.''Why should I?' Judy got up and walked to the door. 'I'll never forgive him. I could have stood it if he hadn't hidden it from me, but it makes a mockery of our whole marriage. If he lied once, hemight have lied a dozen times. How many others have there been?Dee's an attractive man. I know other women find him interesting.Do you think I haven't seen them looking at him? I thought heloved me, I thought I could trust him. Well, I'll never trust himagain!'The door slammed and Kate stared at it with a disturbed,distressed face. She could understand Judy's violence, her pain,her anger, but she remembered Dee's bitter jealousy of Eliot andshe just did not believe that he had been unfaithful to Judy. Deehad always impressed her as a man who could keep his hands tohimself. He had kissed her once, but it had been a punishment, agesture of rage; there had been no sensual interest in it at all. Ithadn't made her sick the way Eliot had because under Eliot'sforceful kisses she had felt something quite different. She put her hands to her hot face. As Eliot held her down she had known hewanted her. She had felt it. She had not felt anything of the kind in Dee's arms. Her anger with him had been because she hadrecognised clearly the sexual humiliation he was inflicting²Deehad had no desire for her at all, merely a furious wish to inflict adefeat on her. He could have hit her, he could have bawled her out. Instead he had done what he had known instinctively wouldsting worse²he had treated her as a woman, but with cold, barbaric rage, not desire.Judy came back later to remove her plate. 'Want anything else?'she asked. 'Another drink?'Kate shook her head. 'I'm really very grateful to you for beingso kind,' she started, and Judy made a brusque gesture.'Forget it.' She turned her head as the doorbell chimed. 'I expectthat's Eliot.''Eliot?' Kate sat up, trembling. 'I don't want him here.''Grateful little darling, aren't you?' Judy asked with amusement.'He carried you down to die car and then carried you in here²a perfect gentleman, too. Cleared off as soon as he'd dumped you onthe bed. Some men would have stayed to enjoy the sight of you being stripped.'Kate glared at her. 'Very funny!'Judy grimaced. 'No, it wasn't, was it? Sorry.' She went out andKate tensely listened to the sound of voices. It was not Eliot'svoice, she realised suddenly. It was Dee's.The door opened. 'It's Dee,' Judy announced in a cold sharpvoice. 'Do you want to see him?''Yes, please,' said Kate, and watched Judy's eyes.Dee walked in with a face wreathed in smiles, but Kate couldsee that it was all a surface enjoyment. Dee's hazel eyes were likeknives.'How are you, Kate my love?' he asked, and bent to kiss her.
Judy slammed the door.Kate eyed him drily. 'You like to dig your own grave, don'tyou?'He sat on the edge of the bed with a sullen expression. 'I'm notwaiting for her to do it.''Dee, have you ever had an affair with anyone?' she askedsuddenly.He looked at her quickly, oddly. There was a long pause. 'Areyou propositioning me?' he asked with a strange intonation.'No. Leave me out of it. In the past, Dee, have you ever had anaffair?''No, but I can't say the same for the future,' he muttered.'Be serious, Dee!''I am,' he said grimly. 'The next little blonde I see, I promiseyou.''What about a girl called Patty?'Dee's head swung. 'What?'Kate looked into his eyes. 'She was a blonde, wasn't she?'Dee frowned and said slowly, 'Patty was, yes. She was with mefor about six months and it took us a year to sort out the messshe'd made of everything. The worst secretary I ever had.''What else?' Kate asked drily.'What are you talking about?' He stared at her with his browsknitted. 'What is all this?''While Judy was in the States she met Patty at a party and Pattytold her that she'd been your mistress.''What?' Dee was off the bed, tense as an animal, his faceshaken and angry. 'You're kidding!''No.’
He stared at her, looked at the door. 'Judy never breathed aword to me, not a bloody syllable. She believed it?''She said Patty was a ravishing little blonde of twenty-three.'Kate eyed him. 'Of course she believed it.''Why didn't she say something, ask me? Why just turn off mewithout a damned word? My God ...' He was wordless, his facedangerous. 'I'll kill her,' he said. 'I'll choke her until she can'tspeak.' Dark red flooded up to his hairline. 'Eliot,' he said thickly.'Tit for tat, was that it?' She heard him swallow. 'I'll kill her! MyGod, how could she be so stupid?'Kate did not need to ask if it was true. She could see it in hisface. Dee was red and then white. He was moving restlessly, hishands clenched at his sides. The hazel eyes were glittering withtemper.'That spiteful little bitch,' he muttered. 'She had it in for me because I sacked her, I suppose.' He snarled. 'If I ever set eyes onher again I'll slap her head off!'Watching him Kate wondered if Patty's spite had been purelyinspired by having been sacked. Judy was right; Dee was anattractive man. Maybe Patty had fancied him and been livid because he had never even looked at her. A woman scorned, shethought, half smiling.'Don't tell me,' she advised with amusement. 'Tell Judy.''Tell her?' Dee moved to the door with a rapid, tense stride. 'I'mgoing to take the truth and stuff it down her stupid throat!'As he flung open the door Judy appeared, a tray of coffee in her hand. Kate could not see Dee's face²his back was towards her.But she could see Judy's and she watched alarm and surprise comeinto it as she stared at Dee.
The back of his neck was brick red. 'I want a word with you,' hesaid very softly, and the whole set of his body shouted danger.'Well, I don't want to talk to you,' Judy began aggressively, andDee snatched the tray from her, the cups rattling, and flung itdown on to a table near the door. He grabbed Judy's arm in awhirling movement and shoved her out of the room. The door slammed behind them.'Get your hands ...' Judy began outside, and the words stoppeddead. After a long moment Kate heard her say huskily, 'Youswine,' and then there were struggling movements and footsteps.A door slammed elsewhere in the flat and Kate heard no more.Sliding out of bed, she got herself a cup of coffee and waited.

Dee put his head round the door half an hour later and gave Kate ahard, exalted grin. 'I'm going now.Get well soon²we miss you!' He did not wait to say more,waved and vanished. She heard him leaving, and then Judy came back, very flushed, her eyes over- bright with what Kate suspectedwere shed tears, but smiling. She looked across the room and Katesmiled at her.'You were right,' Judy said, laughing unsteadily. 'And I'm astupid, credulous idiot. I have that on the best authority.''Beat you, did he?''I'm lucky to be alive,' said Judy, mouth curving. Her facesobered. 'Kate, what stupidity! Eighteen months of hell and all for a lying, vicious little bitch like that! Dee's right²I am a fool.' She paused, drawing a hard breath. 'If I ever meet her again! My God,how she must have laughed when she heard about the divorce!''Hell hath no fury,' Kate murmured.'Oh, obviously,' Judy seethed. 'She had an eye on him and Deenever even noticed.''I told you he'd never struck me as that sort of man,' Kate said.'I've never heard a whisper about him. And if there had been one itwould have got to me sooner or later.'Judy sat down on the bed and made a wry face. 'I was ripe for it, though, Kate. I realise that now.''How do you mean?''Going over to the States made me feel my age. I was on myown and God! I felt lonely. I missed Dee.' She paused. 'I supposeI've always felt faintly afraid I'd lose him one day. I never was araving beauty. And when that girl told me her lies I believed them because I was half inclined to be afraid of something like that.'Kate made a fist and poked her with it lightly. 'If you'd seenDee grinding his teeth because he thought Eliot was your lover,you wouldn't lose any sleep over losing Dee. He's nuts about you.'Judy flushed and laughed, looking away. 'Let's celebrate,' shesaid lightly. 'How about a cup of tea?''Doesn't this rate champagne?''Have you got any?' Judy asked with surprise.'No,' said Kate, laughing. 'So it will have to be tea.' She haddrunk two cups of coffee, but she could see Judy needed to dosomething. When women were either miserable or joyful theyalways needed to be busy, to work out the emotions which menexpressed in other ways.Judy went back to look after her home and son next day andKate went home to her parents. Dee drove her, whistling happily all the way. 'Take as long as you like,' he told her as he left her.'Eliot can manage.''Are you sure?' she had frowned.'You did,' Dee pointed out drily. 'But then you're superhuman,we all know that. All five foot three of you.''Sarcasm,' she retorted. 'That's not nice to an invalid.''Some invalid,' Dee grinned. 'A tank would back away, Kate mylove. You are a very impressive lady.'Kate was not sure she liked being compared to a tank. 'I'm afrail little female,' she told him firmly.Dee shouted with laughter. 'Frail? Is that how you see yourself?Eliot Holman wouldn't agree with you. He's still limping from thelast time you kicked him to his knees.'Kate glared after him as he went, still laughing. She didn't think that was funny. Her father saw Dee out and came in to eye her with concern. 'You're washed out, Katie. You must have had the'flu badly.''It wasn't a picnic,' she agreed.'You're not as strong as you think you are,' he said, and shelooked at him wrathfully. Not another one! What was this? Aconspiracy to convince her she was a delicate little flower unfit for the tough, strong world of men? Her father was looking at her withwry affection. 'I know you sometimes give the impression of beingmade of steel wire, but you're flesh and blood like the rest of us,Katie.''Who said I wasn't?' She stirred belligerently, looking at himwith sparkling eyes. 'I'm human,' she said, in the voice of one whowould dearly love to dispute it.He patted her cheek. 'And lovely with it,' he said, smiling.
The next day she lay in a lounger in the garden while Oliver tiptoed around like someone in the presence of mortality, fetchingcushions, making coffee. 'Don't be saintly,' she begged. 'My nervesare too weak.''Sweet little sister,' he said in a honeyed voice. 'Always sogentle and loving.'Kate grinned. 'O.K., how much is it going to cost me?'He gave her a wounded look, sniffing. 'There's no need to bevicious. Can't I bring you coffee without being accused of  bribery?' He sat down on the grass beside her chair and proppedhimself up with both hands, his untidy dark head thrown back. 'It'snice to have you home again for a few days, that's all. I miss younow and then.''Touching,' Kate said drily.Oliver's blue eyes stayed on her face. 'You were more fun whenI was a kid. Marriage didn't suit you, Kate.'She looked at the bright blue sky. 'No.' That was theunderstatement of the year, God knew.'I never cared much for him,' Oliver murmured, watching her.'He smiled too much and stopped when nobody was looking.'Kate's head moved sharply. She stared at his serious youngface. 'Perceptive of you.'He nodded, half smiling. 'Mum thinks your heart's broken.'Kate sighed. 'Yes, I know.'Oliver got up, smiling at her. 'Drink your coffee before it getscold.'She sipped. It was vile. 'What did you put in it?Arsenic?''Brandy,' Oliver said complacently. 'Buck you up.'
When he had gone she poured it all into the grass, hoping itwouldn't shrivel it at the roots. Dad was devoted to his carefullymanicured lawns. But she wasn't drinking that stuff.She lay back, her head delightfully cushioned, the lounge chair taking all her weight, letting the sun sink into her flesh and carefulto keep her head as instructed by Dr Marchant under the fringedyellow umbrella he had fixed to her chair. 'No more sunstroke,' hehad warned her.An hour later she still lay there, the book she had been pretending to read face down on the grass, her hand dangling fromthe arm of the chair. A movement brought her out of the light dozeand she opened her eyes.'Oh,' she said, taken aback. 'Hello.'She felt ludicrously at a disadvantage. Eliot towered over her,his fair head gleaming smoothly in the sunshine. He was dressed.Kate was in her briefest bikini and felt naked.'How are you?' he asked.There was a peculiar uneasiness between them. The last timethey met had been a highly charged experience. She shiveredslightly, recalling the talk she had overheard between him andDee. The realisation that Eliot now knew so much about her madeher feel silly and prickly.'I'm fine,' she answered him politely, distantly.'Good.' He sounded as off balance as she felt, an uncertainty inhis face.He glanced round the garden. 'Pretty,' he commented.'Yes. My father's pride and joy.''Not you?' He wasn't looking at her. 'Aren't you his pride and joy?’
She wasn't sure how to take that. As sarcasm? Or was he beinglightly funny? 'Oh, me too,' she said in a brittle tone. 'He dotes onme.''I'm sure he does.'A peculiar conversation, Kate thought, staring at his avertedhead. In profile his face looked tougher, sharper, less charming. Itgave a better reflection of the man behind that smooth mask.She bent to pick up her book and he turned and stooped to get itfor her, putting it into her hand. Kate thanked him briefly, lookingat it rather than him, then looked up to find his eyes wanderingover her in a way which brought colour rushing into her face.She was a slender girl, fine-boned and slightly built, the brevityof her bikini giving him an unobstructed view of the small, high breasts, the tiny waist, the pale gold of her flat stomach.His eyes lifted to her face, skimmed it. 'I can look, can't I?' heasked aggressively.'I wasn't expecting company.''I called in to see how you were and bring messages fromeveryone. Mirry is very worried about you.'Kate laughed and after a quick look Eliot laughed too. 'Well,that's what she said,' he expanded, his eyes bright.Mirry and Kate were hardly bosom friends, but Mirry did havea sentimental streak under her sulky manner. 'Give her my love back,' Kate told him. 'Thank you for calling.'His face took on sarcasm. 'Thanks, but goodbye?'She looked away. 'I didn't mean to sound rude.''You do it without trying. I've never been slapped down sooften in my life.'She made a wry gesture at herself. 'I'm in no condition to slapanybody down right now.’
He looked at her oddly. 'Not even if I provoke you?''Are you going to?'His eyes glinted and his face changed. 'I think I am,' he said,and swooped quickly.The kiss brushed her mouth so softly it was like the touch of afeather and gone before she could react. He straightened butstayed with both hands gripping the arms of her lounger, lookingat her mockingly. 'Well,' he whispered, 'hit me.'Something weird was happening to her heartbeat and shecouldn't hold his stare. She looked away. 'Not today,' she said aslightly as she could. 'Try some other time.''Oh, I will,' he promised.She looked back at him, stirring half angrily, but he waslooking down her slender relaxed body again and the half-sheathed eyes were a vivid blue. They took their time and Katemoved uneasily, feeling almost as if he was touching her. Theintent, fascinated way he was staring made her hot from head tofoot.He looked back at her face. 'Beautiful,' he said very softly.'There's not much of you, but what there is is enchanting.''I've told you before, I don't like men who flirt.'He sat down beside her chair and put his hands round his knees,his chin on his hands. 'Who's flirting?''You're not?' Her dry tone made him smile, a sideways twist of the mouth which was self-derisive.'Oh, no,' he said. 'Don't you know the difference? I fancied youthe minute I saw you and it seems like months ago, not just weeks.Why do you think I was so mad over what I thought was going on between you and Dee? I was as jealous as hell.'
Kate's mouth went dry. She stared at her own hands holding the book. 'Please ...' she began, and he cut her off.'I know²Dee told me. You hate men because your husbandwas a brute.''He had no right to tell you. I told him in strict confidence.''Well, he did tell me. Was that why you were sick when Ikissed you?'She didn't answer. There was a little silence. The sun poureddown and there was a joyful thrush somewhere in the garden,singing at the top of his voice.'I thought you hated me so much you couldn't stand having metouch you,' Eliot said lightly.'It wasn't personal.' Kate made herself speak, but the wordswere thin and dry. 'It would have been the same with anyone.''You weren't sick just now,' he said in a soft warm voice.Kate looked at him guardedly. 'That wasn't the same.''No,' he agreed, smiling at her. 'But then last time I was half crazy with jealousy.'She looked away hurriedly, trembling.'I won't hurry you,' Eliot said huskily. 'But when you're better will you have dinner with me?'Kate felt a restless uneasiness inside her, a curious fluttering, asthough her heart had begun to beat twice as fast. Eliot knelt up andmoved his head so that his face was close to her own, his eyeswatching her. He touched her cheek with one long finger. It feltcool against her sunheated skin. 'I fancy you,' he whispered. 'Butyou know that, don't you? You're a very pretty girl and we couldhave a lot going for us, Kate.'The sun outlined his head and turned his face into a goldenmask; deceptive, far too attractive. Under the smooth skin she saw
the hard bones which gave away the iron nature under the charm.His mouth was warm, sensual, curving in a faint smile.'I realise you're afraid of getting hurt again,' he told her gently.'Trust me, Kate. I won't hurt you, I won't ask you for more thanyou feel you can give for the moment.'His mouth was moving closer and she knew he was going tokiss her again. She turned her head aside, shaking it. 'Don't, please.'He knelt there, watching her. After a moment he said, 'Allright.' He touched her cheek again with that finger. 'All right,Kate, I'll wait.' He stood up. 'I'll see you back at the office, then.But think about it, Kate. Give me a chance to show you it could bedifferent this time.'She had plenty of time to think during the time she spent athome. She had resisted Eliot's advances, but she had to face thefact that she had not been unaware of him even while she did so² she had wanted to give in when he tried to kiss her. She had beenfrightened, but she had felt responsive, all right. That frightenedher even more. She did not want to feel like that. It underminedher determination.When she went back to the office Mirry was very nice to her and Kate responded by being very sweet- tempered all that firstday, aware that Mirry was leaning over backwards not to provokeher into one of her sharp moods. I've turned into a bitch, Katethought, wry and self-mocking. Mirry's careful behaviour showedher just how alarming she had become without realising it.Sometimes Mirry drove her to it²would drive a saint into atemper. But sometimes Kate knew she had just been difficult and barbed from sheer habit.
Eliot took the day off as she was back. Kate was able to slide back into the routine without having him around to distract her.When he did come back they fell into a calm working patternwhich had none of the scratchy irritations of the period before her illness.'You were worn out,' Judy told her. 'Too much work and toomuch tension. Something had to give.'Kate had been regaled with the office gossip about Dee andJudy, but she had had a pared-down version because people stillweren't sure how close she had been to Dee and they walkedwarily in case they were treading on her dreams. They wouldforget it all in time and Kate's back was broad enough to take thesideways glances and discreet curiosity.She had forgotten all about the French trip and when Eliot brought it up she looked at him with hurriedly disguised shock.She did not want to go away with him for several days. She wasnervous of the possible intimacy of that situation. 'Maybe youshould go alone this time,' she suggested.He gave her a sharp look. 'It's all set up,' he insisted. The greyeyes coldly observed her nervous expression and one of his browslifted in sardonic comment. 'Too bad if you don't think you canstand my company that long. It's only work, remember.'She flushed. 'I didn't...''Oh, yes,' he drawled, 'you did. Those big blue eyes looked likea frightened rabbit's. And don't jump every time I come anywherenear you. It gets on my nerves.''I don't jump.''You do,' he said flatly. 'Six foot in the air. I'm not suddenlygoing to pounce on you and devour you.''I didn't think you were!'
'No?' He smiled unpleasantly. 'Sure?'Kate stared at him with a flushed face and sparking eyes. 'Dowe have to have this sort of thing? Can't you work with someonewithout dragging sex into it all the time?''What would you know about sex, you frigid little icicle?' heasked her with a cool stare. 'If I ever drag it in you can be sureyou'll know all about it.''Just try!' Kate burst out, seeing the derision in his eyes withrage.'Oh, I will,' he murmured drily. 'But you can wait for it.' Hegave her a sidelong smile, his lashes covering his eyes. 'It will doyou good.'She was so annoyed that she would have hit him if he hadn'tcaught her hand as it swung upwards, forcing her arm down by her side and holding it there in a light but unbreakable grip whichannoyed her even more by the effortless ease with which hecontrolled her.'I am not going to France with you,' she promised him, turningthe angry glare of her blue eyes on to his smiling face, hating theunhidden amusement he showed her.'Oh, yes, you are,' he assured her.'You can't force me to go.''You work for me, remember? And who's dragging sex into it,you or me? We're going there to do a story, not so that I cangratify my lust for your delectable little body.''You ...' She was speechless, raging at the insolent way he hadsaid that, looked at her as he said it.He began to laugh at her incoherent fury. 'What's the matter?Don't you like the truth?' He lowered his voice, whisperingteasingly. 'It is delectable, Kate. Especially in a bikini.' He released her and moved away, his face returning to a cool mask.'But we're going to France on business. We'll have a photographer with us. I think Steve Martin's been assigned.'The day they flew to Paris it was so hot that the tarmac at theairport was melting and cracking open in the sun. Steve Martinwas a thickset young man with a gloomy face. He stared out of thewindow. 'I hope we're going to get safely off the ground.''Optimist,' Eliot drawled. He glanced at Kate's cold, avertedface. 'A sunny pair I'm landed with,' he sighed. Kate ignored himand Steve opened a glossy trade magazine to become absorbed indetailed discussions on lenses and technical tricks.Their flight was perfectly uneventful, as it happened, and whenthey got to their hotel the foyer was packed with people trying toreach the reception desk. 'Hell's bells,' Steve grumbled. 'Charming!We're going to have to wait all day to sign in, I see that.''I'll see to it,' Kate offered. 'No need for all of us to wait.''Sure?' Steve needed little persuasion. 'I could do with a drink.Coming, Eliot?'Eliot shrugged. 'Too tired,' he said. 'You go, Steve.'Steve glanced from him to Kate and grinned. 'I get you.'When he had gone Kate turned her shoulder towards Eliot andignored him. She hadn't liked the way Steve grinned. Eliotwandered away and inspected the foyer. She saw him eyeing a tall,willowy blonde in a dark dress who gave him a quick, interestedlook in return. Kate looked in the other direction. The shuffle tothe reception desk took half an hour and by the time she had gotthere she was doubly tired and very cross. The girl behind thecounter was cross too. They snapped at each other politely whilethe usual forms were filled out and the keys were bestowed.
Eliot took the keys and glanced at the numbers. He handed one back to her and kept the other two. They had agreed to meet Stevein the foyer some hours later. Kate said nothing in the lift and parted from Eliot wordlessly in the corridor outside her room. Hewent into the next room. She had expected that. She looked out of the window and saw that she was looking out on to an airless little brick well from which she could see only the windows on theother side of the hotel. Below came the revving of a van andshouted imprecations in French that told her the kitchen wasunderneath her room some floors down.She opened the windows wide but the hot, stale room remainedintolerable. It was like an oven. The narrow bed, pale goldwardrobe and matching chest of drawers and dressing-table, thetelevision and telephone might be called furnishing, but it couldnot turn the dull little box into a pleasant room. She took a coolshower and slid into a thin cotton dress, feeling slightly morehuman.Eliot tapped on the door, surprising her by having brought upsome French papers. 'We can do some homework while we eat,' hetold her.'I'm not hungry,' she said. 'Thirsty, but not hungry.''It's too hot,' he agreed. He glanced over her, awaking pulsesshe had thought would sleep for ever. 'You look cool, anyway.'He closed the door and she backed, alarm in her face. 'Wecould have a drink in the bar,' she said huskily.He moved towards her.'Don't,' she said lamely, astonished to find herself looking at hismouth and not backing away.'I want a few words with you,' Eliot bit out, astonishing her even further because the cold tone of his voice showed her that what she had imagined was on his mind could not be further fromthe truth. All the excitement which had come flooding into her veins had been fuelled by her own feelings, not his, and that shook her.'I didn't like the way you acted on the way over here,' he toldher crisply. 'You and I have to work together for the next few dayswith Steve Martin watching us, and I don't want you treating mewith icy disdain in front of him. Do you understand?''Don't shout at me!' Kate said furiously, feeling a fool becauseshe had misunderstood his intentions.'Listen,' said Eliot between his teeth, 'one day you and I aregoing to have a nasty row, lady, if you don't moderate your tonewhen you talk to me.'The grey eyes were little bits of sparkling ice as he stared ather. Kate stared back, her jaw aggressive.'You think you frighten me, don't you?' she spat back like aninfuriated kitten, her whole slender body quivering with temper.'Well, you don't. I'll talk to you how I like.''Will you?' he asked softly, dangerously. 'I'm trying to keep mytemper, but you would try the patience of a saint.''Well, you're certainly no saint!''No,' he said hoarsely. 'So I don't see why I should behave likeone.'His hands shot out and dragged her towards him. Kate wasastonished to feel a peculiar sensation of satisfaction deep insideherself. She had been snapping back at him, but all the time her mind had been set on other things and now she admitted it toherself, staring at his mouth, waiting with a fast-beating heart tofeel the hard, sensual lips moving against her own. She wanted itto happen. Her heart was going so fast her ears were filled with drumming. She heard Eliot's breath catch, the icy look fading fromhis frowning face. His hands slid from her arms, moved down toencircle her waist. She felt his grey eyes probing her own for reaction and couldn't meet their stare. Her fids closed, she beganto tremble.His mouth slowly opened her lips, their exploration sensuous,unhurried, moving warmly and without pressure, teasing her lipsto respond, brushing lightly and going away only to come back.Kate arched against him, aware of an odd boneless weakness inher body, a melting sweetness which grew as his hands moved passionately over her back, gripping her closer, pulling her nearer.Her hands were crushed between them and Kate involuntarilyfound herself slowly sliding them upwards, their fingertipsdiscovering the contours of his body, the strong curves of hisribcage with that rapid-beating heart hidden within it. She ran her hands sensitively over his neck until they were buried in his hair, pressing through the warm strands to find the bone structure of hisskull.She was so absorbed in her own sensations that she did notrealise that he was gently manoeuvring her on to the bed and thenshe gave a muffled cry of panic.µNo!''Don't be frightened,' he muttered thickly, kissing her neck just below her ear. 'I won't hurt you.''I can't,' she gasped, struggling against the sudden awareness of what would happen if she did not stop this now.'Kate,' he whispered in an unsteady voice, 'don't fight me, Iwon't go too fast for you, I promise.' His mouth was brushing her skin lightly and she could feel the tension in him. She recognisedit because she felt it herself and she didn't want to feel like that.
'I hate it,' she moaned wildly. 'I hate you²let me go!'She had her eyes open now and so she saw the dark red colour come up into his face, the flare in the grey eyes. 'What changedyour mind?' he asked savagely. 'You wanted it just now.''No,' she lied, and knew she was lying. She had wanted it, andfrom the fury in his eyes she knew that he was perfectly aware shewas lying. She had to make him let her go. 'You make me sick!'she broke out, using the nearest weapon.It was a mistake. She knew that as she said it because Eliot'sface hardened, tautened, into a cruel white mask. 'That's too bad,'he said hoarsely. 'That's really tough, you little bitch, becauseyou're just going to have to be sick.'The whole weight of his body held her down on to the bed, hecaught her head between his hands and his mouth came down in a burning, savage cruelty, forcing hers open, forcing a hot intimacyon her which refused to be denied, invading her mouth again andagain until she was mindless, yielding, as weak under theforcefully inflicted rape as an addict in the grip of a narcotic.When he lifted his head at last Kate lay there, shivering,drained, breathing in shallow gasps.'Oh, hell,' Eliot muttered, staring at her. 'I'm sorry. God, I'msorry. I didn't mean to do that.''Get out,' she mumbled through swollen painful lips. 'Get out of here!'His temper flared again. 'What do you think I'm made of? Ican't just turn on and off like a tap. You were driving me crazy, Ithought you wanted me. When you said stop, something gave inmy head.''What you mean is, I wasn't allowed to say stop² you can'tallow me the common decency of a right to decide whether to go on or not. You have the physical edge over me, don't you? If youwant it, I get it, like it or not.' The words poured thickly, bitterlyout of her, her eyes on him in a glittering stare. 'Well, I don't likeit, and I don't want it. So get out of here and never touch meagain!'He stared at her fixedly. 'He really was a first-class bastard,wasn't he?'Kate drew a shaky breath. 'I don't want to talk about it.''No, I can see why.' He was frowning, his face hard. 'Have youever talked about it? Why did you tell Dee?' He was staring at her.'Why Dee?' His voice darkened. 'Are you in love with Dee?'She moved irritably. 'No, I'm not. We just swapped horror stories.'He grimaced. 'I see.' There was a little silence, then he saidgently, 'Tell me, Kate.''You like horror stories, do you?' The barbed anger of her tonedid not alter his sober face.'I want to know what happened to you to make you like this,'Eliot quietly admitted.Her contemptuous eyes observed him slowly. 'Oh, I think youhave a pretty good idea, don't you? You and my late husbandwould have had a lot in common. He didn't take no for an answer,either, and his ways of deciding the issue weren't pleasant or easilyforgettable. When he'd reduced me to doing whatever he de-manded he would be quite charming. Put him in a good temper for days.'Eliot swore under his breath. 'You think I'm like that? Thanks.Thanks a lot. My God, all men aren't cut on those lines.''I'm in no hurry to find out,' Kate said icily.
He got off the bed and pushed his hands down into his pockets.'I need a drink,' he said tightly. 'Coming?''You go,' said Kate in a small thin voice. 'I'll be down later.'He glanced at her in a brief frown, nodded and went out. Kateturned on to her face and burst into scalding tears.

Before they left england eliot had set up a series of interviewswith people whose views of the current French situation hethought would be useful to them. They split the list in half, eachtaking an equal number of people. Eliot spent some time givingKate a breakdown of what sort of thing he wanted and then thenext day they went off around Paris to get their stories. Steve wentwith Eliot, since only two of the people rated pictures and bothwere on Eliot's list. They were both politicians, too, and to Kate'srelief her list did not have any politicians on it. She had been givenall the literary and artistic interviews. 'No sexual discrimination,'Eliot taunted with a brief grin, 'just common sense. You're tooemotional for politics.''You're welcome to them,' she shrugged. 'I'll enjoy my work. Ican't say the same for yours.''As I suspected,' he nodded.Kate did enjoy her day. Although her French wascomparatively easy many of her interviewees turned out to bequite happy in English and she was able to fill her pad withreadable, interesting quotes. 'Just get my name right,' said one of them, giving her a typical Frenchman's sideways smile,knowledgeable, faintly flirtatious, admiring of her slender looks in the straight yellow sheath dress. 'Very chic,' he had already toldher as he welcomed her to his office.Steve bubbled with amusement about some pictures he hadtaken of Paris in the rush hour. 'Even worse than London,' he said.'We may use one,' Eliot agreed.Steve wandered away and Kate and Eliot glanced at each other.'Good day?' he asked, and she shrugged.'Not bad. And you?'They were treating each other carefully, warily. What hadhappened last night hung between them like a spectre. Kate wasincredibly nervous. When he glanced away from her she looked athim with new eyes, seeing as if for the first time the hard gleaminglooks, the cool assurance he wore, the fair hair a smooth cap abovehis strong features. He was wearing a casual, open-necked shirtwhich left his throat bare and he looked longer, leaner than sheremembered, as though he had grown. She had never stared at himas she was staring now or been so deeply, hotly aware of him.'Dinner?' he asked, glancing back, and she was furious withherself because she felt the red colour rushing into her face andknew he could see how stupidly she was behaving.'I want a shower first.' She was pleased to find her voice steady,anyway.'I'll see you down here in half an hour, then,' Eliot suggested.When they did meet they surveyed each other like two duellists before a bout, their eyes guarded.There was no sign of Steve and Eliot said with amusement:'He's gone off to look for more lively entertainment. Paris has a lotof it to offer.’
She reacted like a scalded cat, her eyes flashing. 'Don't let mestop you finding it.' Oh, my God, she thought, even as she said it,I'm jealous. Am I crazy?Eliot turned a cool smile on her, his lips curling back from histeeth in a barbed displeasure. 'Are you politely giving me the brush-off?''We don't have to spend the whole evening together.' She didn'tknow why she was talking to him like this ²it just kept comingout and in a minute he would see through her set smile and catchsight of the jealous anger underneath it.'That's right,' he drawled icily. 'We don't. Why didn't I think of that?' He closed a hand round her arm, his fingers a vice, andthrust her like a naughty child towards the dining-room. 'Shall weeat?'Her idiotic display had ruined the evening. They ate in a coldsilence and afterwards she could not even remember what she hadeaten. Towards the end of the meal a cabaret started. The first actwas a girl singer in a tight red dress. Her mournful song wascrooned huskily into a mike, the dark hair and white clown's facemaking her comitragic.Eliot drank brandy, his long legs crossed, a thin cigar smouldering and smoking in the shadows behind Kate's chair. Sheglanced round once, but he was watching the singer with apparentenjoyment. Kate felt restless. 'I think I'll go to bed,' she whisperedas the applause lightly broke out. She got up and Eliot rose too.'Stay and watch,' she said coolly, avoiding his eyes. 'Goodnight.'Six stately scantily girls ran on to the small stage and Eliotflicked his eyes towards them. He sat down. 'Goodnight,' he saidcalmly.
In her room Kate paced up and down, fuming. She was angrywith herself for that involuntary, unexpected reaction, and angrywith Eliot for the amused appreciation in the grey eyes as thosegirls came into sight.Flirt, she thought, gritting her teeth. And he was doing itdeliberately. She had begun to recognise expressions on his face.He was clever, conscious of what he was doing. He was far tooself-aware.Lying in the darkness later she listened to the crashing soundsfrom the bottom of the brick well. The kitchen staff werequarrelling nastily in operatic French, shrieking insults at eachother, and banging what sounded like metal trays together. Shehoped that wasn't going on all night. They had to leave for Marseilles at a ridiculous hour of the morning. She could not closethe windows; the night was too hot. She began to slide into sleep,only to be woken by a voice in what sounded like dementedArabic wailing at someone and, from the one-sided sound of it,talking on the phone. A radio started somewhere and there weretelevisions mumbling in other rooms. Kate turned over andthumped her pillows. Her head was aching and she could notsleep. She got out of bed and padded into the bathroom to getsome water. Getting back into bed, she put the pillow over her head and gradually managed to fall into an uneasy doze which became real sleep as the night deepened and the temperaturedropped slightly.Her early call woke her from a heavy sleep. Half an hour later,dark rings under her eyes, her temper brittle, she made her waydown to the foyer.Eliot had set up a tight schedule, cramming into it as much ashe could in the time available. Steve was bursting with energy this morning. Kate listened to him telling Eliot what a great night hehad had. 'Have you had any sleep at all?' Eliot asked, and Stevegrinned as he shook his head. 'What do you run on? Electricity?'Eliot demanded.'Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think,' Steve retorted with animpish look.'I hope she was worth it,' Eliot drawled. He hadn't even lookedat Kate this morning except to give a curt nod.'What about you?' asked Steve, sliding a sly look at Kate.She ignored him, turning over a French magazine and readingthe glossy advertisements without really seeing them.'I worked in bed,' Eliot said, and Steve hooted with amusement.'I bet!'Kate walked away, stiff with fury. As they all got into the taxiwhich took them to the airport Eliot's hand brushed her knee andhe took it away very obviously, a sidelong look pointing the fact.Marseilles excited Steve almost as much as Paris. Eliot gave afew directions to him and then let him loose. 'So long as you bring back some good pictures you're on your own,' he assured him.Eliot and Kate did the interviews this time²Kate watchingwith impressed interest as Eliot's fast gunfire French rattled awayin response to the answers he got. He had a clear idea of what hewanted to elicit, but he did not always go for it directly, she noted.He had an oblique method of drawing it out. His questions oftensounded irrelevant and they came up with some very interestinganswers. She watched him sum people up, change direction, letthem talk freely or keep them within strict bounds according to themethod he decided would prove most productive.
When they had done their last interview, he glanced at her andsaid: 'I know a beach not too many miles from here which won't be quite as crowded as the others. Want to try it?'It was as hot as it had been in Paris, but the sea wind kept thetemperature moving. She was tempted. 'That would be nice.''Don't sound so enthusiastic!''What do you want me to do?' she asked. 'Thank you on myknees?''A little warmth wouldn't come amiss,' Eliot told her curtly.'If we're going to argue all the time, maybe you'd better goalone,' Kate snapped.He stopped and looked down at her. 'A simple yes or no. Doyou want to come or don't you?'Pride warred with a desire for his company. She looked awayand said crossly, 'Yes.'He put a hand under her chin and made her look at him. 'Didthat hurt?' he asked with dry amusement.Flushed, she shook her head.'Smile,' he whispered.Her lips quivered. 'My God,' Eliot said mockingly, 'she's dyingto smile.'Kate laughed and pulled her head away. 'Swine!''Compliments embarrass me,' Eliot said complacently as hefollowed her.He had hired a car for the day. The small red French car had anoisy engine but could get up quite a speed on the autoroutes.They made it to the beach faster than Eliot had anticipated. Kate bought a modest little swimsuit from a tourist shop near the sandsand when she had changed into it in the public changing room she wandered out to find Eliot in brief black trunks staring out over the crowded beach.He turned and inspected her, brow rising. 'Why so demure? Iliked the bikini better.''That's why,' she retorted, trying not to stare at the long muscledhardness of his body. He was so much taller than her that her headonly reached his shoulder as they walked down on to the sand. Her  bare feet tingled from the heat coming up from the beach. She randown to the blue water and waded into it, sucking in her breath asthe coolness rose to her shoulders. Striking out, she swam steadily,hearing Eliot moving just out of eye range, keeping up with her without actually coming abreast. She turned over on to her back and floated, arms outstretched, staring back at the shoreline. White buildings danced in a sun haze. The small black figures on the beach had an antlike absorption.'You swim well,' Eliot complimented her.She turned her head and the sun struck into her eyes, framinghis wet-darkened head in a glittering dazzle of fight. 'So do you.''It's been a great summer.''Fantastic.'It was safe when they kept to fight small talk, impersonal topicson which they would not argue. Arguments flared into other thingsand Kate was too well aware that he wouldn't find it hard to makeher think about those other things. Her mind might reject thedanger of getting involved with him, but her body had other ideas.As they swam back to the shore they ran into a group of youngFrenchmen playing with a huge multicoloured ball. It splasheddown near Kate and she flung it back to them, getting an interestedcheer from several who wouldn't mind pursuing other interests than ball- games. Eliot moved closer to her, his shoulder almosttouching hers, and the young men shrugged.Padding back up the hot beach, Kate stretched out on the towelthey had managed to get from the shop where they had boughttheir costumes. Eliot stood beside her, his gaze wandering over her, and although she kept her eyes shut she knew what he wasdoing and her nerves prickled in reaction. She ran her fingersthrough her wet hair, winnowing it to help the drying process. Thesun streamed down and her salted skin began to tingle with heat.'Remember, you find the sun dangerous,' Eliot teased lightly,kneeling beside her. 'I'll get you some lotion.''No,' she said, but he had already risen and was striding away.Kate lay back with a sigh. She hated the thought of going back tothe stuffy airless hotel room. The faint sea breeze moved over her skin in a fight caress and the shouts and laughter of children cameto her from all directions. Eyes closed, she dozed lightly, perfectlycontent.When she felt the sand being kicked up by someone's feet sheopened her eyes and Eliot grinned at her. 'Lotus-eater!'He had a huge cartwheel hat in one hand which he jammed onto her head, blanking out the sky. Kate laughed, pushing it back.'Suits you,' he decided, considering her.It was a brilliant scarlet straw, fringed at the brim, and it shadedher face deliciously. 'Thank you, that was very kind,' she said.He knelt beside her, a large bottle in his hand. 'Now for arescue operation,' he said lightly.Kate stiffened, realising what he meant to do. 'No,' she saidhastily. 'There's no need. The sun's going down.'He gave an ironic glance up at the blue, blue sky.
'Oh? Given it its marching orders, have you? It doesn't seem to be taking much notice.'The sun burnt steadily in that spotless, cloudless sky and Kateknew her excuse had been ridiculous. It was several hours tosunset and they both knew it.'I wouldn't want your father to think I let you get sunstrokeagain,' Eliot told her silkily, unscrewing the lid and pouring lotioninto his palm.'I can do it myself.''You won't enjoy it as much as I will.' Eliot flicked her a teasinglittle smile. He lowered his voice. 'But you know that, don't you?I'm transparent to you, aren't I? Any excuse to get my hands onyou.'Her face was wearing two red spots now, little hot coins of temper and embarrassment. 'You think you're so funny!''In my situation I have little choice,' Eliot said drily. 'It's either laugh or cry, and I prefer the former.'She was puzzled by the words, staring at him. What on earthwas he talking about? Her bewilderment ended abruptly as he began to smooth the lotion into her bare shoulders, his handmoving in a slow caress along her sun-heated skin. Her heart gavea great leap. She lay watching him, her mouth going dry, trying toread his features and failing because they were coolly guarded,expressionless.He ran his fingertips over her collarbone, down her arms andthen taking more lotion began to rub it into her legs. Neither of them spoke and Kate slowly shut her eyes, perfectly aware that hewas exploring her body deliberately, and not protesting. Therewere people all round them. She felt no panic or anger. She the beach, the cry of gulls overhead, the laughter of the children and the soft whisper of the waves. Now her mood was shattered by theintrusion of the feeling in his eyes, that feeling which could somaddeningly arouse an answering echo inside herself.'All right,' Eliot said slowly, 'I won't.'He was angry now. He got up in a fast movement, his lean body hard and active, the long legs bloomed with salt and sand,their golden hair dusted with it. 'Coming?' he asked tightly.Kate followed him, her throat hot with regret and dismay. Theyhad achieved a sort of truce and now it had been wrecked by that brief clash. The sexual awareness between them ruined any chancethey had of being in each other's company without friction. For awhile today Kate had been able to forget the uneasy consciousnesswhich had become a recurring factor between them, but now itwas back, and she looked at his tall, striding figure with dark blueeyes.They changed, met and drove back to Marseilles without morethan a brief word or two. Eliot's sardonic eyes underlined thesilence between them whenever he looked at her. They ate dinner at their hotel. Steve did not show up. 'Found himself a new niche,'Eliot commented drily. 'He'll be old before he's forty.''He seems to have bags of energy.'Eliot's eyes held wicked amusement. 'He does.'They were early going up to their rooms and had the lift tothemselves. It lurched as it stopped at their floor and Kate wasflung forward. Eliot stopped her deftly and supported her. Shelooked up, finding his face too close for comfort, and suddenly her heart was thudding. Their mouths met in an explosive movement.It was not one-sided²Kate had to recognise that. Her mouth clungto his and the hands holding her slid round her body and tightened.
An overpowering heat filled her veins. Her body was plastic,yielding, her hands holding his broad shoulders as if for support.It was Eliot who ended it. He pushed her away, breathingthickly. The lift doors had opened and a woman in a trim lavender dress and silvery hair was looking at them with distaste. Theystumbled out of the lift and she walked into it, turning her eleganthead away.As she vanished behind the closing doors Eliot burst into a roar of laughter. 'What a face!'Kate could not help laughing back. 'We shocked her.''I expect she'll complain to the management,' Eliot suggested,grinning at her.'Lucky we're leaving tomorrow. I don't fancy getting evictedfrom the hotel,' said Kate, still smiling.'No,' he agreed. 'It would look bad in the papers.'They had reached her door and she got out her key, stillflushed, suddenly aware that he was not moving, standing besideher watching her with those cool, aware grey eyes.'Goodnight,' she mumbled.He laughed shortly. 'Goodnight, Kate.'He turned on his heel and she opened her door and slid quicklyinto the room, glad to close the door safely on the temptation sheknew he had been offering her.She lay in bed and faced the fact that she had been tempted.She hadn't even had time to consider it while she was in Eliot'sarms in the lift. One minute she had been feeling irritated and fedup, the next she had been overtaken by a rising flood of feelingwhich carried her away with it. Ever since Toby's death she had been sealed off, entombed like a fly in amber, safe from the sexualdrive which she had learnt to dread. A burnt child fears the fire.
Kate had not had to teach herself to shun men²her experiencewith Toby had done that for her and she had imagined she was im-mune for life. She had learnt that sexual pleasure brought with itdanger, pain, humiliation. Her subconscious dread of it had madeher aggressive whenever she was placed in a sexual situation. Sheattacked before she could be attacked.What was happening to her now was something she had notexpected. Urges she was terrified by had begun to dominate her.Her body had apparently developed a life of its own, rejecting thecommands of her mind. Her subconscious shrieked: Danger!whenever Eliot took a step too close, but her treacherous sensesclamoured for the pleasure he was capable of giving her. Theautomatic reflex which made the child's hand leap back from thefire was not working in her case now; something had jammed thesystem.She fell asleep with difficulty and stirred crossly when the phone went. It was her early morning call. Struggling out of bed,her head throbbing, she made her way into the bathroom. She wasdressed when her tray arrived. The young floor waiter gave her alittle wink and a grin. She drank the coffee, leaving her croissantsuntouched. She had no appetite this morning.Bordeaux was under the same vivid blue sky which wascovering most of France and England. The weather had beenunbroken for weeks, a halcyon summer which seemed to go onand on without change. Steve Martin's cheerful energy irritated her today. He ought to be flagging after his nights of amusement, buthe wasn't. If anything he was very cheerful.Eliot and Kate drove around looking at factories and talking to businessmen. Steve got a few pictures of a modern farm and thensome of a small, archaic place run by three taciturn brothers who only said as little as possible. The question of the 'green pound'was more than a political issue in France. The feelings of theFrench farmer ran high when it came to the agricultural policy of the common market. France was still a far more rural economythan was the case in England and it made a strong talking-point inthe interviews Eliot was having.They had dinner with an affluent gentleman who had met Eliotin America. Kate was treated with enormous courtesy, but it wasEliot and the other man who did all the talking, exchanging viewson the current American political situation, gossip about mutualfriends over there, wry comment on the present French-Americanrelationship. The Frenchman had a beautifully unreal accent,Americanised French, theatrical and charming. He seemedunaware of it, talking briskly, using his well-kept dark-hairedhands all the time in the quick continental gestures which betrayedhis origin.'Off the record, Eliot,' he kept saying with a dart of his cynical black eyes before he made some outrageous comment, and Eliotgrinned.'If I quoted you there could be an international incident,Michel.'From time to time they would one of them remember Kate's presence and turn to her to ask if her veal was tender, her winedrinkable, her coffee as she liked it. Kate smiled and nodded andwould have liked to kick them. They didn't even know they weredoing it, treating her as if she were a child or an animal, withcourteous contempt; charming, indulgent and infuriating.When they parted from the Frenchman he kissed Kate's handwith a bow, giving her an admiring little glance, murmuring a fewwords of automatic gallantry.
Eliot eyed her shrewdly as they returned to their hotel in a taxi.'Do I detect some smouldering going on under that cool littleface?''No,' Kate said ironically. 'I just love being ignored for a wholeevening.''Ignored?' He arched a brow derisively. 'Michel couldn't have been more impressed. Compliments flowed faster than the wine.'She shrugged an irritated shoulder. 'Oh, he made a few magic passes in my direction, but that wasn't what I meant. You talked tohim all evening. I might as well not have been there.''That was the point of the evening, honey,' Eliot pointed out. 'Iwas getting an interview.''Off the record,' she retorted.He grinned. 'Oh, those were just personal views. He said a lot Icould use. I know the dividing line and Michel trusts me.' Hisfinger touched her bare arm, slid along the smooth curve of itsensuously. 'Stop scowling.' There was huskiness in his voice.They arrived at the hotel and went up to their rooms. Kateinserted her key into the door of her own roomand turned, her face flushed and wary. 'Goodnight.'Eliot's eyes held a brilliant amusement. He moved closer andKate could not stop what happened to her. She lifted her face andmet the searching probe of his kiss without reserve, giving way tothe need which had been nagging away at her all evening. She hadsat at that table and listened to the two men with a cool face, butunder her calm she had been obsessed with the hunger throbbingaway deep inside her body. She had watched every turn of Eliot'ssmooth head, every movement of his hands, the lithe grace withwhich he reached across the table or leaned back, laughing. Her mind had shut off at the conscious level. She had been a camera carefully recording the small details of Eliot's voice, smile, long-limbed body.She had resented his concentration on his friend. She had been jealous, angry, so deeply absorbed in him that she was furious because he showed no sign of returning that absorption. Now she began to tremble violently, her arms round his neck,the demanding potency of his kiss deepening as he felt her responding to it. Her head fell back with a faint moan as he slid hislips hotly down her neck. She felt urgency flaring in him. Hishands stroked down her body and slid up again to find the small,high breasts, and her heart ran out of control, racing wildly.Eliot muttered into her throat, 'I want you, Kate.' She did nothave to tell him that he had aroused her; the fingers softlycaressing her had discovered that. Under her thin silk dress hiscaress had hardened the thrust of her breasts, made her sexualexcitement very obvious.Through the hazy heat of her own desire she heard a cold stillvoice. She would have liked to shut it out, ignore it, but it had theforce of too much pain behind it. She dragged herself back,holding Eliot at a distance, her hands on his shoulders. T can't,' shewhispered hoarsely. 'Please don't!'She could sense the surge of passion in him even withoutlooking at him, but when she did look up his eyes were hectic,flashing with desire, burning on her in fixed demand.'I won't hurt you,' he said unsteadily. 'Believe me, Kate. Trustme. The last thing I want to do is frighten or hurt you. Let me near you, darling. Love me.' His hand reached up and stroked her hotcheek tenderly. 'Love me, darling. Don't turn me off again.'The sexual urgency in his eyes made her shudder, fear engulfing all the yielding sweetness of her own passion. He might promise he wouldn't hurt her, but he had not kept his word lasttime²he had used force, his body cruel, his face hostile.'No,' Kate said bitterly, and leapt back before he guessed whatshe meant to do. The door slammed between them and she stoodthere, shaking, panic- stricken, because as she slammed the door she had seen biting fury in his grey eyes.

final day in France was a frenzied dash from place to place with the prospect of getting a plane back to England at eighto'clock that evening always hanging in front of them like aguillotine. Steve Martin had relapsed into his previous gloom² Kate gathered from the few laconic comments he dropped that hehad not enjoyed his evening in Bordeaux and, in consequence, wasirritable. Physical exhaustion had caught up with him. He yawneda good deal and was snappy. His ill temper covered Eliot's,making it easier for Kate to ignore the clipped tone of Eliot'svoice, the barbed little remarks, the icy stare of his eyes.He was furious with her²he made that obvious. As they wentfrom appointment to appointment he barely spoke and when hedid she winced at the sting of his voice.She realised that she had given his ego something of a blow.Last night he had known very well that he was getting responsefrom her and when she shut the door on him his face had beenviolent.She was sufficiently regretful to try placating him, keeping her own temper down, speaking to him evenly, patiently.
It didn't seem to work. The more she tried to soothe him downthe more his face tightened, his eyes bit into her. She wasn't toosurprised. She might have rejected him, but it had been a struggleand she knew how it must have felt²she had been torn bycontrary impulses, lying awake for hours afterwards aching with afevered desire she could not fight.They flew back to England on time, parted from Steve anddrove back into London together. Eliot dropped her at her flat, hiscurt nod of farewell accompanied with the words, 'See you.'She did not see him for two days and when he came into theoffice on the Friday morning she was on the telephone, laughing atsomething Dee was telling her about Kevin. She glanced acrossthe room and met the inimical grey eyes, hiding her flinch as wellas she could.'Right, Dee,' she said, her voice warmer than it would have been because Eliot was listening. 'Dinner tomorrow, then.' She putthe phone down and Mirry gave her a funny sideways look beforewinding the new sheet of paper into her typewriter.'I've done my stuff,' Kate said to Eliot politely, picking up thefolder of work and offering it to him.He looked at it as though it might bite. 'So I should hope. Didthe other pages come in?''Yes.' She had those too, lying on her desk, and picked them up.He took them and stalked back to his desk without a word. What adelightful man you are, Kate thought, staring at him. Was he goingto go around in this nasty mood for ever? He had made a fewdetermined passes and because she had turned him down itapparently made her public enemy number one. The nerve of itmade her hair prickle on the back of her head. All he imagined he  
had to do was whistle to have her fall swooning into his manlyarms.During her two days away from him she had had time to think.The mounting tension of her attraction towards him had diedaway, but it had left her doublyon her guard, aware now of his potential as a risk.He was a very self-aware operator. Had his campaign againsther all been planned? Had he hoped to sweep her off her feet whilethey were in France and away from the confines of the office? Ithad almost worked. A few kisses, a few whispered phrases and shehad been half committed. Only the last remnant of common sensehad stopped her from making an almighty fool of herself.She bent over her work, her black head hiding her expression.Well, she wouldn't make that mistake again. She wouldn't let Mr Eliot Holman get within fifty feet of her without screaming.The weather broke that evening in a sudden thunderstormwhich had been threatening all day in sultry, humid heat and greyskies. Rain poured from the sky and the London streets which hadso recently been baking with heat were dancing and thudding withgreat cloudbursts.Kate got soaked going home. She had come out, in commonwith most Londoners, expecting the unvarying blue skies of recentweeks and she was wet from head to foot when she let herself intoher flat, the hair clinging to her head in damp strands.She got into a loose kaftan and made herself a meal, listening tothe Prom on the radio while she ate. Standing at the window, shelooked at the lowering skies. Summer would be over soon. Next day she did her shopping and tidied the flat, had lunch at alocal restaurant because she did not feel like cooking and then went back to her flat to get ready for the evening she was spendingwith Judy and Dee.In honour of the occasion she took some trouble with her looks; picking out her coral dress to wear, brushing her black hair until itshone and lingering over her make-up.Dee had told her that this was to be the first dinner party he andJudy had given since they remarried. It was a celebration. 'Just afew close friends,' he had told her. 'And we want you particularly.We both feel we owe you a debt of gratitude. If you hadn't told mewhat crazy ideas Judy was harbouring I'd never have found outand I might well have done Eliot an injury.'Kate had laughed. 'All it took was a little common sense.''Judy might have had some in the first place,' Dee had grunted.'Judy was too emotionally involved.' Kate had paused. 'She wasafraid you might have been tempted by a ravishing little dolly, andsome men are, Dee. You know that.''I'm not some men,' he had come back. 'Judy ought to haveknown that.''Love isn't always logical,' Kate had suggested.He laughed wryly. 'No, so I found out. My God, the fantasies Icherished about what I'd do to Eliot! And when I told Judy she justroared with laughter.''There you are, then,' Kate had smiled.'As you say, there we are, and thank you very much,' Dee hadtold her warmly. 'We'll never forget it, either of us.'Kate was very happy for them. It was wonderful to see thechange in them both. Judy's sad face had disturbed her for a longtime. Kate's instincts had been to see it all from Judy's point of view and she could imagine the pain Judy had suffered. Itdisturbed Kate that part of that pain had been through her. She should never have gone to see
with Dee, although ithad all been perfectly innocent. Looking back, she could havekicked herself. But at the time she had been so sure that Judy wasinvolved with Eliot, and now she recognised her own secret jealousy over that. She hadn't even admitted the possibility at thetime, but she had to admit it now.Dee had said on the phone that he would send a taxi for her.Kate had protested lightly and he had told her to do as she wastold. 'I'll arrange it,' he had said in a firm tone which left no roomfor argument.When the ring came at the door bell Kate took a final glance atherself, was satisfied with what she saw and went to answer it.She stared in shock at Eliot. 'Ready?' he asked curtly.She understood in a second. 'You're my taxi?''For tonight,' he said with a faint cold smile.Dee might have told her. Had that been deliberate? She eyedEliot and got nothing but cool regard in return. He was wearing adark lounge suit, striped shirt and dark silk tie and he looked bothelegant and withdrawn, the fair gleam of his head smoothly brushed down, the hard features wary.She followed him down to his car and watched him handling itas they drove. 'Still raining, I see,' she observed conversationally.'Keen eyesight, obviously,' Eliot said nastily.So that was to be his attitude, she thought, her lipsstraightening. Right. She lapsed back into silence, staring out of the window.There were four other guests²all of them from the paper, all of them well known to both Kate and Eliot. It was a simple matter for her to talk to one or the other of them without so much as lookingat Eliot, and a simple matter for him to do the same. As they sipped their drinks before dinner they stood around talking in alittle group, occasionally moving away to look at a picture on thewall or throw an eye over the bookcases.Judy drew Kate out to the kitchen, talking to her. 'Have a goodtime in France?'Kate felt the interested gleam in her eye, but her face wasguarded. 'Busy. We had a tight schedule.''Dee says the ads. people are pleased with the way it's going.''Lots of foreign banks advertising with us,' Kate agreed.'Why is it always banks?''They're the ones with the money,' Kate said.Judy laughed. 'How horribly true!'Kate was helping her with the final preparations. They wereeating a carefully worked-out meal which was prepared in advanceand served with the minimum of fuss by Judy at the last minute² melon, a dish of scampi and rice which was simmering in the ovennow, followed by a huge chocolate cream or green figs.'Kevin in bed?' Kate asked her.'Supposed to be,' Judy agreed. 'But actually he has the portabletelevision in there and he'll stay awake as long as he can manage,watching a Western that's on tonight.''Everything O.K. between you and Dee?' Kate asked her, andJudy grinned at her.'Except that I feel a fool, yes. My God, he slated mewhen he realised! I've rarely seen Dee so angry.''I hate to say I told you so,' Kate laughed.'Then don't,' Judy laughed back. 'But you were so right. I behaved like an idiot.' She looked down at the bowl of powderedginger she was holding. 'Talking about idiots, why are you andEliot studiously ignoring each other?’
Kate felt herself going hot. 'Oh, it's a long story.'Judy looked up. 'And mind my own business?'Kate smiled at her dry tone. 'Would you mind if I said yes?''Consider the subject closed,' Judy said as she walked away. 'It's just that I like both of you and I wouldn't have eyes in my head if Ihadn't noticed long ago that Eliot fancies you.'Kate didn't wait for a reply, which was just as well, since Katedidn't have one to give. It was no news to her that Eliot Holmanfancied her. He had made that very clear. Kate would be less thanhuman if she didn't enjoy the knowledge, but it made nodifference. She had admitted to herself now that she more thanfancied him, that her body had known before her heart that shewas falling badly for him, but despite all that Kate refused toabandon herself again to the rough seas of passion. On that sea shewas no sailor. She had come to grief on her only other voyage andshe had no mind to be shipwrecked and marooned again.She carried the melon into the dining-room and Judy looked upfrom the mats she was placing. 'You don't know how lucky youare,' Kate told her. 'Even having had that bad time over Dee,you've still got yourself a fantastic man and he loves you. What if it had all been true, Judy? What if Dee had been cheating you allthrough your marriage? You wouldn't be so ready to risk it again, believe me.'Judy shifted a glass and stared at it. 'Dee told me about your husband.''Excusing himself?' Kate asked drily.Judy laughed briefly. 'Something of the sort. It was tough luck, but all men aren't cut on the same lines.''Maybe.' Kate turned to go.
‘Eliot certainly isn't,' Judy said in restless defence. 'I've knownhim for years. He's as straight as a die and a good friend. I'd trusthim with my life.''Lucky you don't have to,' Kate said with a bite. 'Have you ever seen him when he's really in a temper?' She thought of the savageicy eyes she had seen as she closed the door on him that night inFrance. 'You only see him in contexts he chooses. People aredeceptive, Judy.'Judy was flushed and aggressive now, springing to his defencewith loyal warmth. 'People can't hide their natures for as long asI've known Eliot. He's kind, helpful and sympathetic.'But then, Kate thought drily, he doesn't want to sleep with youand you haven't turned him down when he thought he was gettingsomewhere. But she did not say that aloud. Instead she saidquietly, 'Let's agree to differ, shall we?'The complications which sexual relations could cause wereendless and unpredictable. Eliot might be a kind, even-temperedfriend, but Kate had already discovered that he had another side tohis nature. Frustrated, he became violent, and it was that violencewhich Kate feared above everything else. There was no reason inlove. It was a drug which had unknown side effects and whichacted differently on each individual. One couldn't guess what itwould do. One experimented at one's own risk, and Kate wastaking no more risks.The dinner table was lively and amusing. Somehow the silence between Kate and Eliot managed to pass unnoticed more or less. Now and then her eyes met his across the table and each time they both looked away.As the evening wore on Kate found herself becoming tense atthe realisation that she would have to drive home with him afterwards. The rain had slackened now and the night was fine andmild, slightly cool, the gardens freshly scented from the long-deferred downpour which had put new life back into baked earthand dried-up lawns.Dee saw them off at the door, expansive, a cigar in his hand,calling out warnings about driving on wet roads.Kate sat beside Eliot as they moved off in the car and searchedher mind vainly for some polite remark which wouldn't expose her to one of his biting retorts.He didn't say a word, his head averted from her. The streetlamps flashed past, giving a brief illumination to the interior of thecar. 'Music?' Eliot asked drily at last, giving her a brief look.She leaned forward and fiddled with the dials on his radio,finding some mournful cello music which had a dying fall.'Oh, perfect,' Eliot said ironically. 'Just what I'm in the moodfor.''Shall I find something else?' She flashed across the wavebandsand a gabble of foreign voices and hectic pop music poured out atthem.'Let's have the cello,' Eliot muttered.They heard the rest of the concerto. By the time it had endedand the smooth BBC voice had given the artist's name and burbledon about the composer, they had got to Kate's flat Eliot switchedoff the engine and the radio died.He turned and gave her a cool nod. 'I won't be so optimistic asto expect a cup of coffee.'She prickled with annoyance at his tone. 'Why not? Come up if you want some coffee.'Even as she said it she wanted to take it back because she wasasking for trouble. She had the feeling it had been a deliberate barb delivered in the precise hope of making her mad enough toinvite him in, but it was too late to realise that now. He wasalready out of the car and she unhappily followed him into the flat.He wandered around while she made the coffee, inspecting the place like an estate agent doubtful of making a sale, insolentlysurveying her books and records, lifting his brows at the furnitureand skimming his eyes over the photographs of her family.When she sat down and poured out the coffee he wandered back to her and took a seat beside her. 'Your brother?' he asked,nodding at the enormous studio portrait of Oliver which her mother had bestowed on her the previous Christmas.'I'm not too flattered that you should recognise anyresemblance,' she said lightly.Eliot stirred his coffee. 'All the same, there is one. Are thereonly two of you?''Just two,' she agreed. 'Oliver would be enough for my mother on his own.'He shot her a quick look. 'Oh?''She dotes on him.'Eliot's brows lifted again. 'Do I detect a note of jealousy?''It was just a statement of fact.'He smiled coldly. 'Was he the voice on the phone?'She stared in blank bewilderment.'When I rang you,' he reminded.She began to laugh. 'Oh, yes, that was Oliver. Sorry ²his ideaof a joke.''Odd sense of humour. A remark like that could cause trouble.''That wouldn't bother him. Trouble is what he lives for.''A family trait,' he said sardonically.
Kate flushed. Glancing at his cup she asked quickly, 'Morecoffee, or have you had enough?'He didn't say anything, just held out his cup. She poured himsome more coffee and glanced at the clock, and Eliot caught themovement of her eyes. 'Getting late, is it?' he asked in the samesardonic tone. 'Does it matter? It's Sunday tomorrow.''I'm spending it with my family, though,' Kate said quickly.'And I do want to get to bed.''So do I,' Eliot said softly, staring at her, and her face filled withheat. On an involuntary reflex she began to get up and he lifted alazy arm to grab her wrist. 'Don't,' Kate muttered, tugging at her trapped hand.He jerked on it and she lost her balance. Eliot pulled her sideways so that she fell across his lap, her eyes flashing in alarmto his face.His half-smile died as he saw the expression she wore. 'Don'tshiver when I touch you,' he broke out. 'What have I done to makeyou look at me like that?''You didn't see your face when I shut you out of my room,'Kate flung back huskily.'Are you surprised?' His skin took on a dark red heat, his eyesfixed in dangerous anger. 'If my self- control hadn't been good, I'dhave smashed that door down. As it was, it took half a bottle of whisky to get me to sleep.''You're lucky. I didn't have any whisky.'As she said it her heart missed a beat from sheer horror. Shecould have bitten her tongue out. Eliot stared down at her, the greyeyes narrowing, the handsome face intent. Kate looked away fromthe sharp probe of those eyes, knowing what she had given awayand furious with herself.
'So,' he said slowly, his voice husky. 'You weren't just teasingme?'Kate couldn't answer and after a moment he lifted her chin andmade her look at him. 'Did you want me, Kate?' he asked softly.Her eyes restlessly slid away from him and she folded her mouth into a straight, defensive line.His head moved down her back, making her spine tingle. 'Ithought you were having a game with me, teasing, leading me on,'he said very quietly. 'I could see how you would get some fun outof that. Your husband had you on a rack, so you enjoy doing thesame to others.''No,' she protested in a low, husky voice.'No?' His finger touched her lips and she quivered. 'Do youhave any idea how I felt? You might have let me down lightly.One minute I was getting somewhere, the next I was facing adoor.''It's no good,' Kate mumbled. 'I can't do it, Eliot.''You still haven't answered my question,' he returned in thatsoft voice. 'Did you want me? Do you?'She couldn't look at him, her eyes on the dark line of his silk tie. 'It makes no difference.''It does to me.' He sounded half angry, half amused.She shrugged, staring at his tie.'Very well,' Eliot said silkily. 'If we can't get the answer oneway, we'll get it another.''No!' she burst out in panic as she realised what he meant, buthe was tilting her like a child, her slender body cradled in hisarms, and while she was still protesting he took her lips in aruthless, demanding kiss that silenced her and awoke her body intoclamouring life.
The yielding weakness that swept over her horrified her. Shefelt her control over herself snapping. The hunger she had tried tosuppress broke free of the bonds she had placed on it, and shestruggled like someone drowning under the impact of what wasgoing on inside her own body.Eliot's hard mouth softened as he felt the response she wasunwillingly betraying. The kiss coaxed, persuaded, seduced; andhis hands slid silkily down her body and sent excited signalsflashing to her brain.He manipulated her zip, his hands slipping inside her dress tostroke the warm, smooth skin, and Kate mumbled, 'No,' the wordmuffled by the drugging seduction of his mouth against her own.She put up her hands to push his head away, but Eliot tilted her further, making her helpless, his lips deepening their kiss. Kate'shands took their own path, stroking the smooth thick hair, fondlinghis neck and following the strong line of his shoulders.Eliot lifted his head and the grey eyes pierced hers, reading thedesire she couldn't hide.'Say it,' he muttered. 'Tell me, Kate.'She stared at him, her eyes frightened, bright blue. 'I can't.''I'm not asking for possession of you body and soul,' he said intense deliberation. 'I don't want a human sacrifice. What are youafraid of? I won't force anything out of you. I just want to makelove to you, and I think you want it, too.''No commitment?' she stammered.'No commitment,' Eliot whispered, watching her. 'Just love,Kate. Love me and don't count costs.'As his mouth lowered she met it urgently, her hands runningover his back and shoulders in an increasing restlessness, diesensual need she had been fighting now in complete command of  her. Eliot dropped his jacket to the floor, tugged off his tie. Katewatched him as he undid his shirt, her mouth dry, staring at thesmooth gleam of his skin, the wide muscled shoulders and leanchest. He glanced down at her and their eyes held silently.Slowly he bent and she surrendered, coming to fierce life as thelong fingers caressed her body, beginning to give muffled littlemoans of pleasure at what he was doing. The power of the sexualdrive she had for years suppressed and stifled rose like a tidalwave, drowning all thought. She existed in a mindless excitement,trembling, running her hands over him and hearing the way hisheart thudded as she did so.Breathless, she felt his mouth halt, his head lift again. He was pale, his face taut. 'Tell me, Kate,' he asked in a slurred voice. 'Tellme you love me.'The stab of fear which shot through her was so savage and sosudden that she gasped and whitened.He stared, a frown coming into his face. 'What's wrong?'She couldn't speak, only stare, shuddering.'Don't you?' he demanded, and his voice had become harshnow. He watched her intently, his eyes hardening.Kate struggled to get up and he held her down. 'Is that it?' heasked sharply. 'Tell me!'Kate saw the great black hole opening in front of her. Shestared into it and knew she did not have the courage to dare thatdarkness, that terrifying plunge into the unknown.Slowly she shook her head, her eyes falling away from him.Eliot held her chin in one hand, watching her face. 'Did you lovehim?'The question baffled her. She looked up guardedly to find hisface expressionless, impossible to decipher. Realising what he had meant, she said wryly, 'My husband? Oh, yes. I was eighteen andToby was a fabulous man. I thought the sun shone out of him. Ateighteen you have an almost boundless capacity for love, andyou're easily taken in by looks.''What did he look like?' Eliot was talking in a calm, slow voicewhich held no particular emotion, but his lids were shielding hiseyes and her senses picked up something else beneath thatdeceptive surface.She shrugged. 'Tall, fair ...''Ah,' Eliot muttered, and she stopped. His lids rose and the greyeyes were steely. 'Do I remind you of him?''Not in looks.' She said that quickly and he picked up the faintunspoken thought.'In some ways, though?'She hesitated, biting her hp. 'You can get violent.' She saw hismouth tighten and said quickly, 'Well, it's true! You can bealarming when you're angry. You're angry now. Do you think Ican't feel it? I can feel the vibrations even when you aren't sayingor doing anything.''And you feel threatened?'She nodded, a faint shiver running down her spine. That wasexactly what she felt²threatened, in danger, faced with the fear of the unknown and unpredictable.He laughed curtly. 'So you should. My God, Kate, I've no wishto frighten you, but I'm a man, not a boy, and for a long time I've been aching to make love to you. If I'm angry, it's because I'mfrustrated, and frustration has its own sort of anger. Maybe youknow that. Maybe you're doing just what I thought you were doingwhen we were in France²you're having fun, teasing me.’
She gave him a bitter little smile. 'Do you really think I'd havethe nerve? I'd be too scared of what might happen.''Who'd have thought it?' Eliot's grey eyes mocked her contemptuously. 'And I imagined you had enough nerve for anything! So under all the tough talking, you're just a tremblinglittle coward. The way you run the department anyone would think you were lion- hearted! And it's all a front, is it, Kate?'Furiously she stared back at him. 'Shut up!''I remember you telling me I couldn't frighten you,' he mocked.'All lies, was it? Covering up? You little fraud!'Her temper shot through the top of her head. 'No man is ever going to slap me around again and then make me go to bed withhim. I'd rather jump off the top of St Paul's!''It isn't me you're scared of, Kate,' Eliot said very softly, hiseyes bright. 'It's yourself. You don't think you can take me, doyou? In your eyes it's a war and you don't think you've got theweapons to match mine. And you're right, of course, if you'retrying to fight as if you were a man, too. But you're not a man,Kate. You're a woman and you've got weapons that outgun meevery time. You just don't use them.'He put her down on to the sofa and rose, doing up his shirt.Kate stared at him, frowning. He bent and picked up his tie, slungit round his neck and hooked his jacket over his shoulder beforelooking down at her with a sardonic smile.'Think about it, Kate. Sure, you may lose the occasional battle, but my God! you can win the war.'He went, and she listened to the quiet closing of the front door,not moving, her face blank.

She was working at her desk when Eliot sauntered into the officethe following Monday. Kate felt the quick look he gave her andglanced up, but he was already smiling at Mirry, his head turnedaway from her. 'Good weekend?' he asked, and Mirry answered,smiling back. Kate looked back at her desk, her teeth gritting.Every time she saw Mirry gazing at him with enormous adoringeyes it made her want to scream.Roger popped his head round the door halfway through themorning and said, 'Eliot, can I have a word?'The smooth fair head lifted. 'Mmm?' Eliot had an abstractednote in his voice as he focused on Roger.'In my office,' Roger said. 'I've got someone special to see you.'Eliot surveyed him cynically. 'After more space, Roger?'Roger grinned. 'You don't want to meet Marise Filon?'Mirry exclaimed, open-mouthed, and Eliot got up. 'Really?What's she doing in your office? What are you up to, Roger?'They went out and Kate stared after them, the back of her neck  prickling. Mirry looked across the room at her excitedly. 'Haveyou read her book? I couldn't put it down.''I haven't read it,' Kate told her briskly. 'Are those lettersfinished?''They're making a film of it,' Mirry went on, disregarding thequestion. 'They say it's autobiographical ²the book, I mean.There's a picture of her on the back cover. She looks just like theheroine.'Kate sighed wearily. 'The letters, Mirry.'Mirry gave her one of her sulky looks and went back to her work. Kate looked down at the copy she was working on anddidn't see a word of it. She hadn't read the book, but she had seen a  picture of Marise Filon. She knew what had put that hectic look into Roger's eyes and what had sent Eliot hurrying off to meet her.Eliot did not come back before lunch. Mirry dumped the letterson Kate's desk and vanished. Kate signed them, put them back onMirry's desk and went down to the canteen. Judy waved to her from a table and she joined her.Judy grinned at her as she sat down. 'I hear you've had MariseFilon in the Features Department today.''My God, the grapevine works well.' Kate looked at her cheesesalad with distaste. 'I'm sure this cheese is several days old. Itlooks like grated cement.''Is she as ravishing as her pictures?' Judy pursued.'I couldn't say. I didn't see her.' Kate sipped some of her black coffee. 'Eliot went off to meet her, though.''I believe it, I believe it,' Judy carolled, grinning. 'Have youread it?''No. Have you?''From cover to cover. If it's true that it's autobiographical, she's packed a lot into her life.''She certainly raised some dust in the department,' said Kate, poking her cheese with a reluctant fork. 'Roger was as excited asI've ever seen him, and Mirry was dying to ask for her autograph.''And Eliot?' Judy asked drily.Kate kept her eyes on her plate. 'I didn't notice him dragging hisfeet when Roger fetched him to meet her.''I see,' Judy drawled.Kate lifted her head, eyes flashing. 'What's that supposed tomean?''I've noticed it before,' Judy said in a considering voice.'What?' Kate pushed her uneaten meal away.
Judy met her aggressive stare directly. 'You're interested inhim, aren't you?'Kate got up. 'I'm interested in crocodiles, but I don't get into atank with them.'As she walked away, Judy was still laughing, but Kate wasn'teven smiling. She took a longer lunch hour than usual, browsingthrough a bookshop in an alley off Fleet Street, but when she got back to the office Mirry was there alone. There was no sign of Eliot. The day moved on and he still did not come back. Kateirritably coped with the work alone and when Mirry went sheglanced at the clock and told herself that she was going dead onsix-thirty. It was not her night turn. If he chose to walk off withoutmaking arrangements to swap, that was his affair, not hers.Of course, she didn't. Someone had to see the galleys whenthey came up and although it would serve Eliot right if she justwalked off and let him explain to Dee why the department had been empty, she didn't actually do it in the end. She worked at her desk listening to the low hum of the traffic as London emptied for the night, hearing the rumbling of the machines down in the bowels of the building, the strange empty echoof the corridors now that the day staff had gone.At eight o'clock the door opened and Eliot strolled in, glancingat her with lifted eyebrows. 'Not gone yet?'Kate's temper was close to boiling point. 'Does it look like it?''Don't snap at me,' he said with a cold flick of the eyes.'Next time you want to drop everything and rush off with a possible conquest you might take five minutes to makearrangements to have your work done,' Kate said furiously. 'I'vehad to work non-stop all afternoon and, in case you'd forgotten, itwas my night off.'
'I hadn't forgotten,' he told her crisply. 'I'm back, aren't I?''A bit late.' She got up and went to pick up her coat. Eliotstepped into her path and gave her a long, hard look.'Why are you shrieking at me? Or can I guess?''I don't like being left to carry the department without warning,'Kate said.'You wouldn't be jealous?' he asked drily.'No,' Kate burst out violently, 'I wouldn't.''No, nothing so human,' Eliot jeered. 'You wouldn't know how,would you?'Kate felt a stab of rage so painful that her face went white withit. She looked at him briefly and stepped past him. Without a wordshe grabbed her coat and went.In the lift going down she thought of the hours he had beenabsent and savagely guessed at what he had been doing. Nothuman, she thought, clamping her teeth together. Oh, aren't I? I'llshow him!When she got down to the main door it was pelting with rain,the drops bouncing off the pavements and splashing the marblesteps. She paused, looking at the dark street with reluctance, andthe night porter said helpfully: 'Raining, I'm afraid, MissMarchant'Kate gave him a wide, insincere smile. 'Cats and dogs. This iswhere I wish I had a magic carpet.''What you want's a taxi,' said someone behind her, and shelooked round at Steve Martin. He was festooned with cameras andlooking as gloomy as ever, eyeing the rainy night with somethingof her own annoyance.'Shall I ring for one, miss?' the porter asked, hovering.Kate hesitated. 'Yes, please,' she said at last.
He moved away and Steve asked: 'Where are you going? Not passing Swiss Cottage, I suppose?'She glanced at him. 'Close enough. I live at St John's Wood.''We could share the taxi,' he suggested. 'I don't want to get mycameras wet.'Kate laughed. 'You and your cameras! Why not?''Taxi on its way, miss,' the porter told them, beaming.As she had discovered in France, Steve Martin had a laconicstyle of conversation, limiting himself to the very tersestcomments. As they drove through the rainy streets he muttered afew words about the weather and asked: 'French stuff come out allright?''As far as I know.''I got a honey of a picture from the Eiffel Tower, but Eliotwouldn't use it.' He glared out of the window at the fuzzy yellowcircles on the rain-wet pavements where the light spilled fromstreet lamps. 'Good shot, that was.''What a pity,' Kate said absently, thinking of other things.'Yeah. He's using the pics of those two old birds instead.''The politicians?'Steve nodded. 'Dead boring. No imagination, that's Eliot'strouble.'Kate looked at him, her eyes flashing. 'That's true.''Got some of you,' Steve said with a sudden grin, his eyes very bright. 'Want to see them?'They were turning into the main road from which Kate's roadwas reached and her eyes were on the driver. 'I'd love to,' she saidvaguely.'Right.' Steve leaned forward and tapped the window. 'Skip theSt John's Wood address and go on to Swiss Cottage,' he said.
Kate sat up, startled. 'I...''You'll like them,' Steve said in self-congratulation. 'I got abouta dozen of you and Eliot²one or two are really honeys. You takewell. Some people look really horrible, d'you know that? You cannever tell, either. It's always a surprise the way a shot comes out.'The taxi had already sped past Kate's road. She sat back,fuming. She hadn't been listening to a word Steve had said andnow she was stuck with an hour longer in his company. He wastalking again and she nodded politely, only half listening. On anight like this the last thing she wanted to do was look at pictures.Steve lived in a very large double-fronted house split into anumber of tiny flats. He had one on the ground floor and as he letthem into it Kate heard the clash of jazz from a room opposite.'Clarinettist,' Steve mumbled, seeing her head turn.'Has he got a whole jazz group in there?' The decibels weremaking the walls rock.'Just a record,' said Steve, laughing in his abrupt way. Heswitched on the light and gestured. 'Make yourself at home. Sorryabout the mess.'So am I, Kate thought, staring round the crowdeduncomfortable little room. The walls were hung with prints of  photographs pinned there with drawing-pins and magazines andnewspapers were scattered around like confetti.Steve vanished behind a curtain and came back to ask: 'Coffee?''Thank you, but I can't stop long,' Kate said, beginningsuddenly to feel a little nervous.Steve winked. 'Don't worry. You can ring for a taxi home fromhere.' He glanced round the room. 'Knock something off a chair and sit down. You look as if you're going to go the minute I take my eye off you. I'll make some sandwiches. How about toasted bacon?'Kate was hungry suddenly, realising that she had not eaten thecheese salad she had stupidly bought at lunch. 'That sounds great,'she agreed. 'Thanks.''My pleasure.' He vanished behind the curtain and Kate wentover to peer round it at him. The tiny kitchenette was amazinglyclean and neat and as he heard her movements he turned to grin.'Well, come in, then. It won't bite you.''Can I help?''Many hands, etc,' he said, opening a small fridge. 'You cut the bread, I'll get the bacon.'They worked in almost silence. Steve whistled as he movedaround. Looking at her, he asked: 'You're Eliot's bird, aren't you?'Kate almost retorted a firm no and then paused. She wasn't sureabout Steve Martin. 'We're good friends,' she said drily.Steve laughed. 'I spotted that. Fancies you, doesn't he? Didn'ttake his eyes off you while we were in Paris. You can see that inmy shots²every one of them.'They ate their snack and drank their coffee in the kitchenette. Itwas only just big enough to sit down in, but Kate felt it was preferable to the slum conditions in the other room.'I'll get the prints,' said Steve, rising. 'Leave the washing up.'She cleared some space on a chair and sat down. Steve came inwith a big sheaf of glossy prints and handed them to her one byone with comments. Kate looked at herself and Eliot and knewthat anyone who saw those pictures would find it hard to miss theattraction prickling between them. Steve had taken them withouttheir knowledge and he had caught turns of the head, expressionsof the eye, that were all too revealing.
How about these, then?' Steve demanded, handing her somemore pictures with a broad grin.She glanced at them and raised her eyebrows. 'Eliot won't beusing any of these,' she told him sardonically.'You can say that again. They're for my private collection,'Steve laughed.They were all of pretty girls, some taken in the street, some inwhat seemed to be a nightclub. Kate had seen far more revealing pictures in magazines, but Steve's obsession with camera anglesgave these pictures an unusual twist. Sometimes he had concen-trated on legs, sometimes on faces, and they were extremely wellframed shots, clever angles, often funny ones.Kate glanced at her watch. 'Oh, heavens, it's half past ten!' Shehad never expected to stay in the flat so late, but Steve's petobsession was hard to avoid. He only ever talked with anyexcitement about either photography or women and his face,which was normally gloomy, could light up with interest on either subject.'I'll get you a taxi,' he promised, moving to the phone. 'Andkeep any of those pictures. I only took them for fun.''That's kind of you,' said Kate, sorting through the snaps andchoosing those which she liked best. She paused. 'Have you shownthem to Eliot?''Not yet,' said Steve, dialling.Kate would have liked to say: don't. She knew that the picturesof herself were horribly revealing. She was looking at Eliot withthe eyes of a woman in love and he could scarcely miss it in these pictures.
Hurriedly she took the ones which seemed to her mostdamning. At least Eliot wouldn't have the satisfaction of seeingher mooning over him in those.Steve put her into the taxi, waved a casual hand. 'Glad youliked the pictures. 'Bye.'The rain had stopped. The black streets, though, were empty.People were staying indoors on a night like this, and Kate couldn't blame them. She leaned back in the corner of the cab and stared atthe passing lighted shop windows. Not human, she thought again, raging. How dared he? Shelooked down at the sheaf of pictures she was carrying. Oh, I'mhuman, she thought. I wish I wasn't.It was eleven when she paid off the driver and walked up thesilent path to the house. She got out her key and then gave a stifledlittle cry as something moved in the shadows beside her.'Where the hell have you been?' Eliot asked raggedly.She was still startled by his sudden appearance and furious because her heart was thudding. 'What's that got to do with you?'She inserted her key and opened the door, blocked him as he triedto walk inside. 'Go away!''Not on your life,' he muttered, pushing her inside.She was almost speechless with fury. 'What are you doinghere?' she asked, the words indistinct with temper.'I saw the galleys and then came straight here,' Eliot bit out.'Which brings us back to my first question: where have you been?'She walked into the sitting-room and switched on the light. 'Ihad supper with Steve.''Steve who?' The question was terse and Eliot was staring at her fixedly.'Martin,' she added. 'Not that it's any business of yours.’
Steve Martin? You've been with Steve Martin?'Kate turned on him, her teeth tight. 'Do you have to repeateverything like a parrot?''Don't needle me, Kate,' he said hoarsely. 'Why were you withhim?''We had supper²I told you.''Supper?' Eliot was staring at her, his eyes narrow and hard.'Yes, supper. Food. A toasted bacon sandwich, to be precise.'She looked at her watch. 'Now, if you don't mind, I'm tired.''Why?''What do you mean, why? I'm tired because it's gone eleven andI want some sleep.''Why did you have supper with Steve Martin?' Eliot's voice hadtaken on the nagging insistence of a dentist's drill.Giving him a challenging stare, Kate asked: 'What makes ityour business?''This,' he said savagely, catching her head in his hands.The grinding compulsion of the kiss caught her off guard. Shemoaned, shaken by the force and savagery of his mouth, thenclosed her eyes and angrily met his rage with her own, her mouthmoving fiercely against his. Eliot groaned and his arms wentround her, his body clamped against hers, the kiss deepening,going from anger to sudden burning passion. Kate wound her armsround his neck and just gave up, letting the sweet, pulsatingfeeling take her over.When Eliot finally stopped kissing her, he looked down at her with half-closed brilliant eyes. 'Well,' he said huskily, 'that's progress.'Kate was too shaken to answer, leaning on him weakly, her  body trembling with the emotions he had awoken. The aggression between them had burnt out within the first moment and she felttoo shattered to move. The discovery she had made as she angrilykissed him back was too novel and amazing for her to be able towork out precisely what had happened to her. She only knew thatthe fear which had been a dominant part of her for so long hadgone. It had evaporated as she let her anger flare up to meetEliot's. By the time his violence passed into hungry passion shehad been totally given over to feeling, all fear behind her.Eliot stroked her cheek gently. 'Stopped running, darling?' heasked in an unsteady voice.She put her face against his neck, shuddering. Desire wasleaping uncontrollably inside her. She moved her lips over hisskin, moaning. Eliot gave a stifled gasp and his arms tightened.'Now tell me why you were out with Steve Martin tonight,' hesaid with a faint smile in his voice.'He wanted to show me some photographs,' Kate whisperedinto his neck.'And you fell for that one?' Eliot sounded furious again.She half laughed and lifted her flushed face. 'He did!''Oh, of course.' Eliot's eyes flashed. 'I know him, remember.His interest in you wouldn't be photographic and you know it.You're always so quick to pick up that sort of line, so you knewtoo, and you went deliberately.' He caught her chin in one hand,staring at her. 'You were tormenting me again, were you?''What do you mean, again?' She was smiling, her blue eyeswide and bright.'You know what I mean. You say I'm violent, Kate, but myGod, I've had provocation from you. Love is a sort of rage whenit's frustrated, Kate. Try putting a lid on it and it blows sky high.I'm not a violent man by nature.'
'Of course not,' she mocked, still smiling.He smiled back drily. 'But I'll forgive you this time because youwere beginning to use those rusty weapons of yours, weren't you?'Kate was bewildered by that, her eyes opening wide and betraying it. Eliot read her puzzled face and lifted his brows. 'No?I thought you were.''What are you talking about?'Amusement crept into his face. 'When you turned on me like atigress because I'd been with Marise Filon all day it seemed so promising that I came hurrying round here to see you as soon as Igot out of the office, and when you weren't here I had ah sorts of mad ideas in my head.'Her colour crept up. 'What
you doing all day?' she askedwith a bite.'Ah,' he said softly. 'So you admit it.''I admit nothing.''Then why have your eyes gone green?'Kate laughed, raking her fingers deliberately through hissmooth hair, and he grinned down at her. 'That's better. Admit itand IH tell you what I've been doing.''Want to boast, do you?' She knew now very well that all her angry jealousy had been misplaced. Eliot's bright, satisfied eyestold her that.'Alas,' he said mournfully, 'I had to share the lady's favourswith three other men.''I'm sure she was equal to it!' Kate could not suppress the stingin her voice and he registered it with a broader smile.'Puss!' He murmured it silkily, eyes glinting. 'I hope Dee isn'tgetting the same going-over from Judy.''Dee was there?’
'He insisted on it.' Eliot grinned at her. 'In fact, we had troublekeeping the numbers down. Most of the male staff volunteered.I've never known people so keen to work.''What did you all do?' she asked.'Took her to lunch and then showed her London. She's aninveterate tourist. I saw sights of London I didn't know existed.''I bet,' Kate muttered.He laughed and then his face changed. 'If you didn't go withSteve to drive me crazy, why did you?''I didn't so much go as get kidnapped,' Kate admitted, smiling.'It was raining, so we shared a taxi and I wasn't listening to him.He talked about this and that and suddenly I was at his flat.Without being rude I could hardly just walk off and ...' She brokeoff and their eyes met. Eliot gave her a dry, comprehending smile.'And you felt like living dangerously because you were furiouswith me?'Kate eyed him, her head on one side. 'You're too quick, Mr Holman, and I don't trust you.''You'll learn,' he said in a light tone which did not disguise theserious emphasis behind it.There was a pause while they looked at each other, then heasked with a faint bite, 'And what did happen? If he laid a hand onyou I'll smash all his cameras.'She laughed, shaking her head. 'Steve was a perfect gentleman.''It must be the first time in living memory, then,' Eliotmuttered. He gave her a dry look. 'But then, as I know to my cost,you're a lady one handles with great caution.''I've never noticed you using much caution,' she retorted.He grinned. 'No, and I bear the scars.''What a brave little soldier,' she mocked, smiling.
'But you have to admit I kept on coming,' Eliot said smoothly.'The bullets may have whined round my ears, but they didn't stopme.''Great gallantry under fire,' she agreed, the blue eyes teasinghim.Eliot ruffled her black hair, smiling. 'Love me?'The casual question made her heart stop. She heard the seriousnote behind it and looked at him, eyes restless. Eliot smiled at her,his face filling with passion again.'I fell for you like a ton of bricks when I saw you standing withyour shoe trapped that day,' he said quietly. 'You were so tiny andfeminine, and then you suddenly swore with a fury that made mestop in my tracks. I'd been looking at you and vaguely admiringyou, but the pure anger in your voice made me laugh. You domake me laugh, Kate. You've slapped me down time and timeagain, but you're funny with it and you keep me on my toes.''Thanks,' she said drily.He laughed. 'Do you know why I never married before?''No one would have you,' Kate told him.He laughed again. 'Apart from that. I never met a woman Icould consider living with²I was scared of getting bored withthem after a while. Living with someone is always a risk.' Hestroked her cheek with a finger, smiling tenderly at her. 'One thingI am certain of²I'd never get bored with you around.''Well, thank you,' she said with a glinting look. 'That's a greatcompliment. You wouldn't be so much marrying a woman as acomedy act, I gather.'He roared with laughter and whispered, 'Did I ask you to marryme?'
Her face filled with colour and she bit her hp. Eliot watchedher, grinning.She lifted her dark head, bristling. 'Oh, it's that sort of  proposition, is it?''Come live with me and be my love,' he agreed, his eyesamused and tender. 'I lied to you, Kate.'She stiffened. 'Lied?''I said: no commitment. And I lied. I want a commitment, allright. If I could, I'd tie you down with a legal contract with sub-clauses about not looking at anyone else or moving a step from myside. But I realise you're still wary. Marriage may be out of thequestion for the moment, but I want you to keep it in mind. I won'trush you, I promise. I'll give you every chance to find out whatsort of man you'd be getting.' His eyes mocked and invited, hishands sliding down her back. 'You can start research whenever you like.'Her heart was moving so fast she was breathless. Desire ht afast-burning fuse in her veins and her ears drummed. The warmthand tenderness in his face filled her eyes and she looked at himwith answering passion. 'Give me time, Eliot. I want to believeyou, but...''That's half the battle,' he said huskily. 'Lay down your arms,Kate. I don't ask for surrender. Can't you see me waving a whiteflag?'The fuse reached gunpowder and Eliot saw the flare of it lighther eyes. With a muffled groan he reached for her and Katesilently gave him the surrender he had claimed he did not want.His arms wrapped urgently round her, Eliot accepted it.