Hidden Love

By: Carole Mortimer

Chapter One

'Relax, Rachel,' Danny encouraged softly, his lips nuzzling against her ear.

She was trying to, but it public park wasn't the best place for this sort of thing, even if they weren't the only couple lying on the lush green grass engaging in the same activity.

The two of them had decided to forgo the inevitable stodgy college luncheon in favor of sandwiches and a Coke sitting in the park. Their food eaten and their refuse disposed of in the nearest litterbin; Danny had decided that kissing her would take up the fifteen minutes they had left of their lunch-hour. A few kisses were one thing, but he was getting a little too intimate for her liking.

'Danny!' 'She struggled to sit up.

Danny sat up too, a frown marring his youthfully handsome face. 'Rachel, don't be such a prude. I was only kissing you.'

'Yes, but Danny ... ' she frowned, her gaze fixed on something over his shoulder. 'That woman over there,' she nodded behind him. 'She doesn't look well.'

He turned to look at the young woman too, shrugging as he turned back to Rachel. 'She's pregnant; maybe she's got cramp or something. My sister was always moaning when she had Damien.'

Having met his sister, she wasn't surprised. 'Yes, but…'

'Hey Rachel!' he chided moodily. 'You're supposed to be concentrating on me, not some very pregnant woman sitting on a park bench.' His mouth once more claimed hers.

She let him lower her back on to the grass, kissing him back, her hands entangled in the long dark hair at his nape. Any of her friends at college-with the exception of Hilary, who couldn't stand him-would gladly have taken her place, Danny being the college pin-up of the moment, very good-looking, his hair thick and dark, his eyes like brown velvet, the denims and matching denim shirt he wore skin-tight faded with wear, giving him a rugged look that he cultivated. Yes, any number of the girls she knew at college would have taken her place, although she and Danny had been dating for two months now, meeting two or three evenings a week.

But right now she couldn't give him all of her attention, her thoughts drifting time and time again to the pale woman sitting on the bench a few feet away from them. She hadn't been there a few minutes ago, and the strained look about her mouth wouldn't be banished from Rachel's mind, She was a pretty woman, probably in her early or mid-twenties, and as Danny had already pointed out, very pregnant. It was this last fact that worried Rachel the most. What if the poor woman were about to give birth here and now?

Danny raised his head, his eyes snapping with 'impatience. 'Rachel, are you with me?'

'Of course,'

She pushed her long dark brown hair away from her face, her long lashes, the same dark color, thickly surrounding her smoky grey eyes, her nose, small and snub, covered with a light sprinkling of freckles, her mouth wide and smiling, usually . Now it was rather pensive. 'I'm just worried about that woman.' She stood up, brushing the recently cut grass from her fitted black denims and red tee-shirt, her figure boyish rather than curvaceous, her height only a little over five feet. It was because of her lack of inches, both in her figure and height that she was often taken to be younger than her eighteen years. 'She does look ill, Danny, and?'

He stood up too, his mouth set angrily. 'She's probably just walked too far,' he dismissed callously. 'She'll be all right when she's rested for a while.'

Still Rachel hesitated. 'I think I should just see if she's okay.'

'We have to get back to college.' Danny took her hand firmly in his.

'But that woman--'

'Is probably waiting for her husband--'

'But we don't know that,' she insisted determinedly. 'It isn't going to hurt anyone if I just ask her, now is it?' the last came out almost pleadingly.

Danny angrily dropped her hand. 'Well, I'm not going to hang around while you do. I have a class in ten minutes.'

She eyed him challengingly. 'Since when did getting to a class on time bother you?'

He flushed at the taunt, suddenly only his nineteen years, his air of bravado wavering. 'It doesn't,' he said almost sulkily. 'You know that.'

'Then it isn't going to hurt you to wait two minutes while I ask her how she is, is it?' she said brightly.

'Okay,' he agreed grudgingly. 'But don't be long,' he added warningly as she turned to walk towards the other woman.

Dear Danny, he did like to think he was the Don Juan of Maddox College and acted accordingly. When he forgot to act the macho man he could be good company, fun to be with, but in this mood he wasn't quite so pleasant.

Close to, the young woman looked even worse, a sheen of perspiration on her brow, her pale skin having a grey tinge to it, her breathing shallow and ragged. 'Excuse me…'Rachel began hesitantly.

The woman looked up, tears instantly flooding her eyes, 'Oh, thank God someone has actually spoken to me!' she groaned, her accent distinctly American, her hand coming out to clutch on to Rachel's 'Can you please help me?'