First Love, Last Love(6)

By: Carole Mortimer

'We weren't talking about respect. I was just—'

'Let's forget it, Daryl! Please. I'm not going to Ireland or anywhere else with you, and it's my decision. Now, where are you taking me tonight?'

'Are you sure you still want to go anywhere with me?' he said moodily.

'Don't be a bad loser,' she chided, aware that his usual good humor and bland good looks had made him some easy conquests on his travels. She just didn't intend being one of them. 'Now eat your food, we have to be back in a few minutes.'

'I don't want it.' He obviously still hadn't got over his sulk.

'Moody,' she teased. 'Hey, I know, we could go to the cinema this evening. There's a good film on at the Odeon.'

'If you want to.' They moved to pay their bill before going outside.

Lauri looked up at him. 'Don't you want to know what the film is?'

'Not particularly.'

'Now look,' she snapped, 'we can finish this right now if you're going to continue behaving childishly. And it is childish to sulk just because you can't have your own way.'

'You would like Ireland, I know you would.'

'I'm sure I would,' she agreed. 'But I'm still not going. I have no desire to travel. Maybe one day I will have, but not right now.'

'I'm going to miss you.'

She grinned. 'I'll bet—for the first five minutes. Just think of all those Irish colleens and I'm sure you'll soon cheer up.'

A reluctant smile lightened his features. 'Aren't you ever serious?'

'Not if I can help it,' she admitted. 'Steve is the same. We have some lovely arguments.'

'But not with Jane.'

'No one argues with Jane. She's always cool and calm. Perhaps that's why she gets on with our bossy Mr. Blair,' she mused. 'She'd just soothe his temper away.'

'Bossy? Temper?' Daryl frowned. 'You speak like one who knows, and yet I thought your aunt never discussed him with you.'

'He's back, you know.'

'Oh, I know. The whole building has been buzzing with it all morning. But as far as I know he hasn't set foot outside his office. I wouldn't recognize him if I saw him.'

Neither had she! 'He was away when we both started with the firm,' she evaded.

'Then how do you know he's bossy and has a temper?'

Lauri shrugged. 'It stands to reason.'

'I don't see why.'

'Of course it does. The man's used to his own way— look at all the women he has, and he's bound to be bossy being in such a position of authority.'

Daryl shook his head. 'It doesn't follow.'

'All right, so it doesn't follow,' she snapped impatiently, feeling as if she had done nothing but talk about Alexander Blair all day. 'Are we going to the cinema this evening or not?' she changed the subject.

'We are.' He opened the lift doors for her, waiting until it began moving before turning to her.

Lauri knew of his intention to kiss her as soon as his arm went about her shoulders, and she lifted her head invitingly. She had always found his kisses pleasant, never allowing him to do any more than kiss her, and she found this lengthy caress as pleasurable as usual.

'If you'll excuse me?' a glacial voice remarked.

Without them being aware of it the lift had come to a halt at Daryl's floor and a man stood outside waiting to get in. Lauri's heart sank as she recognized Alexander Blair. And it was obvious he recognized her too, his gaze passing scathingly over her as she still stood in the circle of Daryl's arms.

'Sorry,' Daryl grinned at the older man. 'Just kissing my girl goodbye until tonight.'

Dark eyebrows rose. 'Your girl?' Alexander Blair enquired coolly.

Lauri struggled out of Daryl's arms, straightening her slim-fitting sweater where it had ridden up to reveal her midriff, and pushing a hurried hand through her rumpled red-gold curls. This was terrible! And poor Daryl could have no idea of who their audience had been.

Daryl grinned. 'Just for the rest of this week,' he confided.

'I see. And then you—er—part company?' Alexander Blair was obviously weighing up this information, drawing his own conclusions about the closeness of the relationship.

'Yeah,' Daryl laughed, 'I guess we do. The lady refuses to travel around the world with me.'

'I would think the—lady,' he drawled the word as if he hardly thought the description fitted Lauri, 'I would think she's having too much fun where she is.'

'You're probably right,' Daryl acknowledged. He bent to kiss her briefly on the lips. 'I'd better get back to work, old Crowther's prowling about timing everything we do with the boss back in town. See you later, sweetheart,' he grinned, his good humor back in evidence. 'See you,' he nodded to Alexander Blair.

'No doubt,' the other man agreed softly.

Lauri hardly dared breathe once the lift doors had closed behind Daryl's departing figure. This just wasn't her day! First of all she hit Alexander Blair's Rolls-Royce, and now he had caught her kissing one of her fellow workers in the lift.