Liam's Secret Son

By: Carole Mortimer

CHAPTER ONE




‘DID you know there’s a contact lens in your cup of tea?’

Laura’s only outward show that she was in the least affected by the lilting Irish drawl she now heard behind her was a slight—barely perceptible, she hoped!—tremble of her hand as she continued to raise the cup to her lips.

Déjà vu…

Except she didn’t just have a feeling that this had happened before—it had happened before!

Where had he come from? She was sitting in the lounge of a luxurious hotel, was seated so that she could see both the main entrance and smaller back entrance, and yet somehow Liam had managed to enter without her being aware of it. He now stood behind her.

She carefully placed the cup and saucer back down on the tray on the table in front of her, her movements deliberate and slow. ‘In the first place, this is coffee; I don’t drink tea,’ she returned huskily, delaying the moment when she would have to turn around and face him. ‘And in the second—I don’t wear contact lenses!’

‘In that case…’ he was very close now, his warm breath stirring the dark tendrils of hair that curled at her nape ‘…you have the most incredibly beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen.’

‘How can you possibly tell that from where you’re standing?’ she replied dryly, her face still averted.

‘Ah, Laura, now you’ve gone and broken the spell,’ Liam teased lightly, the Irish lilt in his voice stronger than ever. ‘Your next line in the script should have been something else entirely!’

Eight years ago, perhaps it had been. But this was another lifetime. A different Laura. She was no longer an impressionable English Literature student, in the third and final year of her degree.

And Liam was no longer a world-famous author come to give the students a lecture of whom she had been slightly in awe.

She drew in a deeply controlling breath before sitting forward and turning to face him, glad of that control as she found herself looking up into his handsome, laughing face.

He hadn’t changed a bit!

The thing that struck one most when first faced with Liam O’Reilly was his sheer size: six foot four inches tall, with a lithely muscular body that exuded vitality. He was dressed today, as always, with a complete disregard for his surroundings, in faded blue denims, blue tee shirt and black jacket. Second came recognition of the blue-black sheen to the overlong hair that brushed his shoulders, the intelligence in those intense blue eyes, the handsome face that looked as if it were carved out of hard, rugged stone.

But none of her inner dismay at the apparent lack of any change in his appearance showed as Laura continued to look at him with her ‘incredibly beautiful eyes’, one a clear shining blue, the other emerald-green. Which was the reason for his assumption, eight years ago, that she must have lost one of her tinted contact lenses.

She had been teased unmercifully about her different coloured eyes when she was at her all-girls, boarding-school, but as she’d grown older it had ceased to bother her as she’d come to realise that men actually found the strangeness of her eyes intriguing. As Liam once had…

She gave a cool smile. ‘I suppose I should feel flattered that you still remember that particular conversation,’ she dismissed with a shrug of her slender shoulders, aware even as she did so that the noise and bustle of the busy hotel had faded into the background.

Those deep blue eyes, surrounded by long dark lashes that should have looked ridiculous on such an otherwise muscularly attractive man—but somehow didn’t—narrowed speculatively. ‘But you aren’t, are you?’ he finally said slowly.

Flattered that he should still remember, after all these years, the first real conversation they had ever had? No, she wasn’t flattered. After what had followed, why on earth should she be?

No! She quickly brought her resentful thoughts under control. Anger was not an option. Better to make no reply at all than one that sounded in the least emotional.

Liam tilted his head thoughtfully to one side at her continued silence. ‘You’ve had all that beautiful long dark hair cut off,’ he murmured frowningly.

‘It’s easier to manage,’ she bit out abruptly, knowing that the short, dark cap of almost black hair made a perfect oval for her gamine features—those different-coloured eyes, the small pointed nose, the wide mouth and determined chin. The softening tendrils of hair at her temples and nape took away the severity of the short style.