His Temporary Mistress(10)

By: Cathy Williams

‘But when your mother discovers the truth...’

‘I will explain to her that we didn’t work out. It happens. Before then, however, she will have ample opportunity to reassure herself that I am more than capable of taking on the responsibilities that lie with me.’

Violet’s head was swimming. She shakily got to her feet, but then sank back down into the chair. He was right, wasn’t he. She was going to cave in because she had no choice. They both knew it and she hated the way he had deprived her of at least having the opportunity to come to terms with it for herself.

‘But it would never work,’ she protested. ‘We don’t even like each other...’

‘Liking me isn’t part of the arrangement.’ Damien circled her then leant forward to rest both hands on either side of the chair and Violet squirmed back, suffocating in a wave of intense physical awareness of him. Everything about him was so overpowering. There was just so much of him. She found it impossible to relax. It was as if she had been plugged into an electrical socket and her normally placid temperament had been galvanised into a state of unbearable, strangulating tension.

‘But your mother will see that straight away...she’ll know that this is just a farce...’

‘She’ll see what she wants to see because people always do.’ He needed her to. He knew he had not been a perfect son. His mother had never complained about the amount of time he spent away. She had always been fully understanding about the way work consumed his life, leaving very little room for much else, certainly very little room for cultivating any relationship of any substance, not that he had ever been inclined to have one. Her unprotesting acceptance had made him lazy. He could see that now but then hindsight was a wonderful thing.

He pushed himself away and glanced at his watch. ‘I intend to visit my mother later this evening.’ This time when he looked at Violet, it was assessingly. ‘I’m taking it that you will agree to what I’ve suggested...’

‘Do I have a choice?’ she said bitterly.

‘We all have choices. In this instance, neither of us are perhaps making the ones we would want to, but...’ he gave an eloquent shrug ‘...life doesn’t always play out the way we’d like it to.’

‘Why don’t you just hire an actress to play the part?’ Violet glared resentfully at him from under her lashes.

‘No time. Furthermore, hiring someone would open me up to the complication of them thinking that there might be more on offer than a simple business proposition. They might be tempted to linger after their job’s been done. With you, the boundaries are crystal-clear. I’m saving your sister’s skin and you owe me. The fact that you don’t like me is an added bonus. At least it ensures that you won’t become a nuisance.’

‘A nuisance, Mr Carver?’

‘Damien. However gullible my mother might be, calling me Mr Carver would give the game away.’

‘How can you be so...so...cold-hearted?’

Damien flushed darkly. As far as he was concerned, he was dealing with a situation as efficiently as he could. Drain it of all emotion and nothing was clouded, there were no blurry lines or grey areas. His mother was ill...she was anxious about him...desperate for him to produce someone by his side whom she could see as an anchor... His task was to come up with a way of putting her mind at rest. It was the way he tackled all problems that presented themselves to him. Calmly, coolly and decisively. It was an approach that had always served him well and he wasn’t going to change now.

He pushed the ugly tangle of confusion and vulnerability away. He had always felt that he was the one on whom his mother and Dominic needed to rely. After his father’s death, he had risen to the challenge of responsibilities far beyond any a boy in his twenties might have faced. He had jettisoned all plans to take a little time out and had instead sacrificed the dream of kicking back so that he could immerse himself in taking over the reins of his father’s company. His only mistake had been to fall for a woman who hadn’t been able to cope with the complete picture and, in the aftermath, he had wasted time and energy in the fruitless pastime of self-recrimination and self-doubt. He had moved on from that place a long time ago but negative feelings had never again been allowed to cloud his thinking. Indecision was not something that was ever given space and it wasn’t about to get any now.

‘How I choose to deal with this situation is my concern and my concern only. Your role isn’t to offer your opinion; it’s to be by my side in two days’ time when I go and visit my mother. And you asked me what I meant by a nuisance...’ There was no chance that she would become a liability. They were two people who could not have been on more opposing ends of the scale. If she hadn’t told him that she didn’t like him, then he would have surmised that for himself. It was there in the simmering resentment lurking behind her purple-blue eyes and in her body language as she huddled in the chair in front of him as if one false move might propel her further into his radius. Of course it didn’t help that she considered herself there under duress, but even when she had first walked into his office she had failed to demonstrate any of those little signals that heralded interest. No coy looks...no encouraging half smiles...no fluttering eyelashes...