His Temporary Mistress(9)

By: Cathy Williams


‘This is crazy,’ Violet whispered. But she had a mental snapshot of beautiful Phillipa behind bars. She didn’t possess the inner strength to ever survive something like that. She was a woman who was reliant on her beauty to get through life and that had left her vulnerable. Maybe she did indeed need to have a forceful learning curve, but prison? Not only would it destroy her, but if she ever found out that she, Violet, had rejected an opportunity to save her, then would their relationship survive? There was no large extended family on whom to rely, no one to whom either of them could turn for advice. A few second and third cousins up north...and then just old friends of their parents, most of whom they no longer saw.

‘No one does stuff like this.’ She made a final plea. ‘Surely your mother would rather you go out with the sort of women you like rather than pretend to be with someone you don’t.’

‘It’s not quite as simple as that.’ Damien raked his fingers through his hair, suddenly restless as the need for yet more confidences was reluctantly dragged from him. ‘Of course, if it were a simple case of my mother not approving of my choice of woman, then it would be regrettable, but something we could both live with.’

‘But...?’

‘But I have a brother. Dominic is six years older than me and he lives at home with my mother in Devon.’ Damien hesitated. Nine years ago, before time and experience had done its work, he had been stupid enough to fall for a woman—so stupid that he had proposed to her. It had been an eight-week whirlwind romance that had largely taken place in bed. But she had been intelligent, a career woman, someone with whom he could envisage himself enjoying intellectual conversations. And then she had met Dominic and he had known within seconds that he had made a fatal error of judgement. Annalise had tried to cover her discomfort, and he had briefly and optimistically given her the benefit of the doubt until she had haltingly told him that she wasn’t sure that she was ready to commit. He had got the message loud and clear. She could commit to him, but she would not commit to him if he came with the baggage of a disabled sibling, someone he would have to look after when his mother was no longer around. Since then, he had made sure that he kept his relationships with women short and sweet. He had never taken any of them to Devon and only a few had ever met his mother, mostly when he had had no choice.

He had to fight back his natural instinct to keep this slice of his life extremely private. It was a place to which no one was invited. However, these were circumstances he could never have foreseen and, like it or not, he would have to give the woman in front of him some background detail. It wasn’t a great position in which to find himself. He restively began to prowl the room while Violet distractedly watched him. There were so many things to process that her brain seemed to have temporarily shut down and, instead, her senses were making up for the shortcoming, had heightened so that she was uncomfortably and keenly aware of the flex of every muscle in his body as he moved with economic grace around her, forcing her to twist in the chair to keep her eyes on him.

‘My brother was born with brain damage,’ he told her bluntly. ‘He’s not completely helpless, but he’s certainly incapable of leading a normal life in the outside world. He is wheelchair-bound and, whilst he has flashes of true brilliance, he is mentally damaged. My mother says that he was briefly starved of oxygen when he was born. The bottom line is that he is dependent on my mother, despite the fact that he has all the carers money can buy. She believes that he needs the familiarity of a strong family link.’

‘I understand. If you’re not settled or at least involved with someone your mother approves of...she feels that you won’t be able to handle your brother if something happens to her...’

‘In a nutshell.’

Looking at him, Violet had no idea how he felt about his brother. Certainly he cared enough to subject himself to a role play he would not enjoy. It pointed to a complexity that was not betrayed by anything on his face, which remained cool, hard, considering.

‘It’s never right to lie to people,’ Violet said and the forbidding lines of his face relaxed into a cynical smile.

‘You don’t really expect me to believe you, do you? When you spring from the same gene pool as your sister?’

‘There must be some other way I can...make amends for what Phillipa’s done...’

‘We both know that you’re going to cave in to what I want because you have no choice. Ironically, your position is very much like my own. We’re both going to engage in a pretence neither of us wants for the sake of other people.’