First Love, Last Love

By: Carole Mortimer

CHAPTER ONE




'Don't wait for me tonight,' Jane advised. 'Mr. Blair gets back today, and I'm not sure what time I'll be able to get away. He has a habit of forgetting the time, especially when I have a date,' she added ruefully.

Lauri looked up at the perfection of her young aunt, marveling at her cool beauty, her perfectly made up face and smoothly styled black hair, while she was stuck with a cap of baby red-gold curls and freckles on her uptilted nose. She had tried all the suggested remedies she could find in magazines to get rid of the hated freckles, but still they remained, a fine sprinkling of them over her nose and just under her sparkling green eyes.

She was the odd one out in this family, her coloring at odds with both her young aunt and uncle. Jane and Steve, brother and sister, were both dark-haired and dark-eyed, and Steve teased Lauri unmercifully about her 'carrot-top', but then he was always teasing her about something.

Lauri's parents had died ten years ago when she was seven, leaving it up to Jane, then twenty-four, to care for her. Jane and Steve had lived with Lauri's parents, their brother Robert and his wife Adele, ever since the death of their own parents just after Lauri was born, and so it had seemed perfectly natural for the three of them to continue living together in this house.

Lauri had often wondered if caring for Steve and herself was the reason Jane had never married, although Jane assured her it wasn't. And she never seemed to be short of male escorts, claiming it was her own choice to remain single.

'Do you have a date tonight?' she asked Jane now.

Her aunt shrugged. 'Robin said he might call round. If it looks as if I'm going to be late I'll call him and tell him not to bother.'

Lauri heaved an inward sigh of relief. She hadn't welcomed the idea of possibly having to keep Robin Harley entertained while they waited for Jane to come home. He was good-looking enough, extremely so, but he had a rather serious turn of conversation, often causing Steve to disappear behind a newspaper before his hysterical humor became obvious. Never taking anything seriously himself, Steve didn't appreciate anyone else who did.

'So Mr. Blair is coming back,' Lauri mused. 'Perhaps now I'll get to meet the man all the girls in the typing pool call the most exciting thing on two legs.'

'And I thought that was me,' Steve bemoaned across the breakfast table.

Lauri grinned at him. 'I think you come way down the list.'

'And I don't think you stand a chance of actually meeting Alexander Blair,' he returned smugly.

'Why not?' she pouted. 'I thought that with my aunt as his personal secretary I stood a good chance.'

'A good chance of what?' he teased.

She punched him on the arm, unrepentant at his exaggerated display of pain. 'Meeting him,' she said crossly. 'And then you work in the Sales Department.'

'As his top salesman. Well… almost,' he amended at their teasing looks. 'I was third in last year's figures,' he defended.

'So you were,' his sister smiled. 'But then that hardly makes you the top salesman, does it?' She stood up, collecting her handbag. 'If you want a lift, Lauri, you had better hurry, I daren't be late on Mr. Blair's first day back.'

All three of them worked for Blair Computers, and although Jane started work half an hour before her Lauri usually travelled in with her because Steven often went straight to see a client.

'I'm going into the office today,' Steve informed them. 'I have to catch up on my paperwork,' he grimaced. With his natural good humor and easygoing ways he found his job as a salesman all too easy, it was the extensive paperwork that went with it that got him down. 'So I'll give you a lift if you like, Lauri.'

'When I can drive myself—'

'God help us!' Steve muttered with a groan. Lauri glared at him. 'I'm not that bad. My instructor told me last week that he thinks I'm ready to take my test.'

'What did you offer as a bribe?' he grinned.

'Nothing! You're always—'

'Children, children!' Jane laughed at Lauri's furious expression. 'Can you two never stop arguing?' she chided. 'Well, I'm going to leave you to it. Don't forget the time.'

It was a necessary warning. Steve and Lauri tended to forget everything else when they launched into one of their verbal onslaughts.

'See you later,' they chorused together as Jane left. 'Now about your disparaging comments about my driving,' Lauri turned on her young uncle as soon as they were alone. 'How would you like to judge for yourself?' she challenged.

'Let you drive my car, you mean?'

'Why not? It's an old wreck anyway, so it wouldn't matter even if I did hit a lamp-post or something.'

Steve looked outraged. 'Gertie is not an old wreck!'

'Of course she is. I don't know why you can't drive a firm's car like all the other salesmen.'

'Because I prefer Gertie to a Cortina.'

'Fancy calling a car Gertie,' Lauri scorned. 'And as for it being a wreck—only your door opens for a start, and then there's the rust, and then there's—'