First Love, Last Love(8)

By: Carole Mortimer


'Lauri?'

'Mm? Sorry,' she snapped out of her daze at Steve's puzzled look. 'It's just been one of those days.'

'Don't I know it,' he groaned. 'Poor old Gertie will never be the same. The front of her looks—'

'Shush!' she hurriedly interrupted him. 'I hear Jane's key in the door,' she explained at his indignant look. 'And I don't want her to know about the accident.'

He grimaced. 'If she's seen my car she'll already know about it, there's brown paint mixed up with the red.'

Lauri groaned. 'You didn't leave it parked outside?'

'Of course I did. I'm going out later.'

'Oh God! I'll just have to hope Jane isn't feeling very observant. Can you imagine what she would say if she knew I'd smashed into her boss's car?'

'I can,' he grinned. 'And he's our boss too,' he reminded her.

How could she forget it! 'At least we don't work for him directly. If he knew I was Jane's niece…!'

'Mm, I see your point. Okay, I'll keep quiet unless directly asked.'

'Now is that likely? There's no reason why Jane should make the connection— Hello, Jane,' Lauri turned to greet her young aunt. 'Sit down, love,' she encouraged, seeing her tired face. 'You look worn out.'

Jane did as she suggested, literally collapsing into the chair. 'I look worn out because I am worn out; Thanks, Lauri,' she took the proffered cup of tea, and sipped gratefully. 'Mr. Blair was an absolute swine this morning.'

'Perhaps his business trip to the States didn't work out as he wanted it to.' Lauri's look was almost hopeful that that had been the reason.

'Oh, it wasn't that, that went fine,' Jane instantly dismissed, slipping off her shoes to flex her tired feet 'No, it was something else that upset him.'

'Oh?' Lauri asked innocently.

'Mm.' Jane put her head back, closing her eyes 'Some idiot smashed into his car this morning.'

'Some idiot—!' Lauri echoed indignantly.

'Is that what he said?' chuckled Steve.

'Mm,' Jane murmured wearily. 'God, he's been impossible to work for all day. He'd just started to get over it lunchtime, but when he came back he was in an even worse mood.'

And didn't Lauri know it! She might have been the cause of his first anger, but she had been made to bear the brunt of his lunchtime upset. Her mouth still tingled from that onslaught. What on earth would Jane and Steve say if they knew about it? She shuddered to think, especially cool, calm Jane, who always kept men at a distance, including Robin Harley.

'Maybe his lady-love doesn't like lunchtime sessions,' Steve joked.

His sister gave him a reproving look. 'I don't appreciate those sort of comments about Mr. Blair. He had a business appointment. Anyway, Connie Mears is out of town.'

'Connie Mears?' Lauri gasped. 'The model?' A vision of a tall leggy blonde instantly sprang to mind.

'Is there another one?' Steve quipped.

Lauri glared at him. 'There could be.'

He shook his head. 'Not if Alexander Blair is dating her.'

'I'm sure he isn't the type to be faithful to one woman,' Lauri said bitchily. 'Perhaps some other female turned him down at lunchtime.' Which would account for his attack on her!

'Lauri!' Jane reprimanded. 'I won't have you talking like that, even if Steve chooses to.'

'Don't be such a nag, Jane. Personally I don't think Mr. High and Mighty Blair merits your unwavering loyalty to him. So far I've found him to be simply awful. He's overbearing, impossible—'

'So far?' Jane frowned. 'You've met Mr. Blair?'

Too late Lauri realized her mistake. 'Well—er—no, not exactly. He—Oh goodness, look at the gravy!' She rushed to the cooker, pulling the saucepan off the heat to stop it boiling all over the sparkling white top. 'Dinner is ready, let's eat before it spoils,' she clutched thankfully on to this excuse to change the subject. 'Go and have a quick wash, Jane, while I serve the food.'

'That was a narrow escape,' said Steve once they were alone. 'If you aren't careful, Lauri, that temper of yours is going to be what lands you in trouble. I won't mention who Blair thinks is an idiot, but I think you just might let that out yourself if you aren't a little more careful what you say.'

Lauri took his advice and remained silent when her aunt came back, listening to their conversation but adding little herself. Jane would be furious if she found out her niece had been driving the car that had so upset their employer, and Jane had quite a biting tongue if she became angry.

They had finished their main course and were just starting on the apple crumble and custard they had for dessert when Steve flashed Lauri a sly look. He feigned a look of innocence. 'Our little niece was propositioned today,' he told his sister casually.

Lauri gasped, biting back her fiery retort. What could he possibly know of that kiss in the lift?'

'Yes,' he continued softly. 'Some Lothario wanted to whisk her off round the world with him.'