Her Nine Month Confession

By: Kim Lawrence
PROLOGUE

London. Three years earlier.

IT WAS SIX A.M. when Lily woke, thanks to her internal alarm clock—an inconvenient genetic quirk that always woke her at this hour. She knew she wouldn’t be able to snuggle down and have another half-hour under the duvet, but for a few moments she resisted pushing her way through the thin layer that separated sleep from full wakefulness.

On the plus side she was never late and it was amazing what you could achieve in that quiet hour or so before the rest of the world, or at least her loud neighbour in the adjoining flat, woke.

She silenced the tedious inner voice that insisted on seeing the bright side of everything with a scowl and pushed the heavy swathe of tangled curls from her face. Lying there with one arm curved above her head, she focused on her justified resentment of people who could roll over and fall back to sleep. Normal people who overslept, even her own twin, Lara, who, it was no exaggeration to say, could sleep through an earthquake. But no, not her, every morning it was the same old...same old...

Only it wasn’t.

A fresh furrow appeared between her delicately delineated brows as a remaining sleepy corner of her mind told her actually something was different, but what?

Had she actually overslept?

Eyes closed, she reached out for her phone on the bedside table. Patting her hand flat, she hit a couple of unfamiliar objects before she found it. Opening one eye, she glanced at the screen and read the predictable and unsociable hour. She clutched the phone to her chest—naked chest! Was that relevant? she wondered as she hitched the sheet up over her shoulders. No, the something different was not the time or her naked state.

So what was it?

She looked around. This was not her room.

The belated recognition hit her as she struggled to focus. Her entire body felt as though she’d just run a marathon—not that she ever had or in all probability ever would. But last night...last night!

Her green eyes snapped wide open as the memory of the night before hit her like a bolt of lightning. At least that explained the aches in places she hadn’t known she had.

She pressed a hand to her left breast where her heart was trying to batter its way through her ribcage. The rush of blood in her ears was a deafening roar as she turned her head slowly...very, very slowly. What if she’d been dreaming? She gritted her teeth, prepared for an anticlimax that never came.

A fractured sigh left her parted lips... It was real, not a dream; he wasn’t a dream.

She blinked, bringing the face on the pillow next to hers into focus. A stab of sizzling longing lanced through Lily’s body as she greedily absorbed the details of his symmetrical features, committing each plane and angle to memory. Not that she would ever forget him or last night!

He had a face that inspired a second glance and inevitably a third. The sleeping man’s chiselled bone structure was dramatic, a broad intelligent forehead, high carved cheekbones, square chin with a sexy cleft, thick darkly defined brows, an aquiline nose and wide, expressive mouth. If pushed to select an individual feature that set him apart, Lily decided it would have been his eyes.

Beneath heavy lids and framed by lashes that were as dark as his hair and crazily long, his eyes were the deepest, most electrifying blue she had ever seen.

Looking at his sleeping face now, there was something different about him. It took her a few seconds to work out that the subtle difference was something that wasn’t there. It was an absence of the restless energy that hung about him like an invisible force field when he was awake.

It would have been an overstatement to say it made him look vulnerable, but it did make him look younger. Even with the dusting of stubble in the hollows of his cheeks and across his jaw there were enough reminders of his younger self to make Lily’s thoughts slip back. Memories that were now tinged with a rose-tinted nostalgia that had been absent that first time she’d seen him.

She’d known about him, of course. The estate, where her father was the head gardener, and the village had been buzzing with gossip about Benedict, the boy born with the silver spoon, the boy doted on by his proud grandfather. While everyone else had got excited about the fact that he had just moved into the big house, Lily had nursed a quiet and growing resentment.

Warren Court, one of the most important houses still in private hands in the country, was just five hundred yards from the estate cottage where Lily lived. She had known, even then, that in all other ways it was a planet, a whole universe, away. She had been totally prepared—actually determined—to dislike the rich boy.

And then her dad had died and she’d forgotten about Benedict, not even seeing him standing beside his grandfather at the funeral. She had thought no one had seen her slip away when she’d escaped from the churchyard and headed for the pond where her dad had skipped stones from one side to the other.

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