First Love, Last Love(2)

By: Carole Mortimer

'All right, all right,' he cut in. 'Gertie may not be the prettiest or most expensive car about, but she is reliable. The other chaps are always breaking down in their firms' cars.'

'I suppose you were giving Gertie a holiday last week when you borrowed a car from the garage?' she taunted cheekily.

Steve flushed. 'I was having the brakes looked at and you know it.'

'Are you going to let me drive you in to work?' She stood up to remove the debris from breakfast. 'Or are you too scared to entrust your precious car to me?' she goaded.

'Oh, you can drive.' He threw her the car keys, pulling on his jacket. 'I could do with a good laugh.'

Lauri glared at him. 'I'll show you! I'll make you eat your words.'

'Well, come on, then,' he grinned. 'We'd better leave now, the speed you learner drivers go it's likely to take twice as long to get there.'

They clattered out of the house together. 'We "learner drivers" take twice as long to get anywhere,' she said explosively, 'because we keep to the speed limit.'

'You're a damned nuisance on the roads.' Steve slid across the driving seat and into the passenger seat, the door next to him not having opened for months.

Lauri got in beside him, suddenly nervous for all of her bravado. She looked appealingly at her uncle. 'You won't really laugh at me, will you?'

'No,' he smiled. 'But be careful. I know she looks a wreck, but she can travel.'

'Gertie' was a low sports car, bright red in color where it hadn't rusted away, with humorous stickers on the doors and windows. At twelve years old Gertie did indeed travel, and it took all Lauri's concentration to keep from going too fast.

'Mm, not bad,' Steve murmured as she turned into the firm's car park. 'You only made one old lady drop her shopping and knocked some kid off his bike. Not bad at all.'

'Ooh, I didn't!' She gave him a furious look.

That break in her concentration was her undoing. She had slowed right down to enter the car park, but when she returned her attention to the front of her it was to find a two-tone brown and gold Rolls-Royce reversing into a space in front of her. Her foot slammed down on the brake—and nothing happened! Gertie kept right on moving, hitting the side of the Rolls with a thud.

'Why the hell didn't you brake?' Steve turned on her angrily.

'I did,' she said indignantly. 'I did!' she repeated at his skeptical look. 'Nothing happened.'

'That's damned obvious,' he snapped. 'Well, you've done it now,' he nodded towards the other car as the furious driver climbed out from behind the wheel. 'He isn't going to very pleased about you denting his Rolls,' he groaned.

'He isn't going to be very pleased?' Lauri exploded. 'He had no right reversing up until I'd passed, he could see me driving down this way. Anyway, I should think we've done more damage to Gertie than to his car.'

'I doubt it will cost as much to repair,' Steve muttered with a groan.

'Well, we're certainly not paying for it,' her green eyes sparkled as she thrust open the car door. 'It's all his fault,' she glared at the back of the other driver as he inspected where the two cars had made contact.

'Lauri!' Steve made a grab for her arm as she climbed out of the car. 'Lauri, for God's sake!' he cried after her.

She took no notice of him, marching purposefully over to where the other driver was still bent over inspecting the damage caused by the crash. Lauri brimmed over with resentment. She supposed this man thought he owned the place just because he had that flashy monster of a car. Well, his obvious wealth didn't impress her!

'It was all your fault,' she verbally attacked the broad back and wide shoulders turned towards her. 'You had no right to be backing up like that when I could clearly be seen driving in this direction.'

Those forceful shoulders had stiffened at her first words of rebuke, and now the dark head rose as the man slowly turned to face her. Lauri was shocked into silence by startling blue eyes, sumptuously fringed with thick dark lashes, a straight nose, a firm uncompromising mouth set in a disapproving line as the man made no effort to hide his haughty disdain for her. His hair was jet black in color, and styled away from his face to fall just below his collar, inclined to curl but obviously kept firmly in check.

The expensive cut of his suit spoke of extreme wealth, and his arrogant manner indicated that he was a man accustomed to authority. In his early thirties, Lauri would guess, with a wealth of experience to go with those years.

'So it was my fault, was it?' the icy contempt in his voice made Lauri cringe. 'Then how do you account for the fact that your car is smashed into the side of mine?'

Her face was bright red with temper, her freckles more noticeable. 'I've already told you. You—'

'Lauri, will you be quiet!' Steve swung her round, his dark eyes flashing a warning. 'Behave yourself,' he hissed.