In Separate Bedrooms

By: Carole Mortimer

CHAPTER ONE


‘THE man is nothing but a womaniser!’ Mattie told her mother, every inch of her slender five-feet-two-inch-frame bristling with emotion, blue eyes sparkling brightly in the delicate beauty of her heart-shaped face. Even her wild mane of tawny-coloured, below shoulder-length hair seemed to spark with the intensity of her indignation.

‘Mattie, it sounds to me as if you’ve made another one of your snap judgements,’ her mother admonished lightly as she sat behind her desk. ‘And we both know how often they’ve been wrong in the past,’ she added. ‘Besides, Mattie,’ she continued gently, ‘are you sure you aren’t just overreacting because after dating Richard for three months last year you found out he was actually engaged to marry someone else?’

In truth, Mattie preferred not to think of the humiliation she had felt when Richard had informed her they couldn’t see each other any more because he was getting married the following week!

‘Although, from what you’ve told me about him, this man does sound a little—free with his company,’ her mother conceded as Mattie went on looking fretful.

‘A little?’ Mattie repeated disgustedly. ‘I told you, the man has four women on the go, Mum. Four!’ she echoed incredulously. ‘And three of them appear to be married.’

‘Then they ought to know better,’ her mother dismissed, an older, slightly plumper version of her pretty daughter. ‘I’m afraid it’s a fact of life that some men seem to think there’s safety in numbers!’

Mattie frowned. ‘Safety from what?’

‘Marriage-minded women, usually.’ Her mother smiled wryly.

‘What woman in her right mind could possibly want to marry a man like that?’ Mattie scorned. ‘He’s nothing but a greedy pig!’

‘Personally, I think he ought to be taken out into the streets and publicly whipped,’ drawled a huskily amused—distinctly male!—voice.

Mattie froze where she stood in front of the desk behind which her mother sat working, very reluctant to turn round, her face bright red with embarrassment. She had been totally unaware that their conversation was being listened to—and by a man, of all people!

Her mother felt no such awkwardness, smiling across the room at the man as she stood up to move around her desk. ‘Can I help you?’

‘Jack Beauchamp,’ the man introduced. ‘I telephoned you yesterday about the possibility of booking my dog in here next weekend. You suggested I come and have a look round first,’ he reminded her.

Mattie’s face went pale. This man was a potential customer—at least, his dog was!—at her mother’s boarding-kennels …?

‘I hope I’m not interrupting anything …?’ he added with light query. ‘You did say I could call in some time on Sunday afternoon.’

Mattie swallowed hard, desperately willing the colour back into her cheeks, knowing she had never felt so mortified—and uncomfortable—in her life.

‘Of course, Mr Beauchamp,’ her mother replied smoothly. ‘I’ll be quite happy to show you round. You have a Bearded Collie, I believe?’

Good old Mum. Mattie smiled affectionately; she never forgot a dog or its breed—although very often the owners were another matter entirely.

‘Harry,’ Jack Beauchamp confirmed. ‘But if you’re busy, I’m quite happy for your assistant to show me round …?’

Assistant? Yes, that was probably exactly what she seemed to this man, Mattie conceded. After all, she was dressed in jeans and skimpy blue tee shirt, ideal wear for working in the kennels. In fact, she usually gave her mother a hand on Sundays. It just wasn’t what she did the rest of the week …

She drew in a deep breath before turning, her breath catching in her throat as she found herself looking at the most attractive man she had ever set her deep blue eyes on!

Probably aged in his early thirties, tall, and leanly built, his dark hair kept fashionably short, he had the deepest brown eyes Mattie had ever seen. Like liquid chocolate, she decided. Warm.

Caressing. Fathomless. And the rest of his face wasn’t bad, either, she conceded grudgingly; lean and tanned, his nose looking as if it might have been broken some years back, his mouth full and smiling, only the stubborn set of the chin belying his relaxed pose in a black tee shirt and dark blue denims.

‘I would be happy to show you around, Mr Beauchamp.’ She nodded coolly. ‘As you say, my mother is rather busy at the moment,’ she finished pointedly.

‘Ah.’ He nodded, those deep brown eyes openly laughing at her now, at her subtle correction of who she was.