War of Love

By: Carole Mortimer

CHAPTER ONE





If one more opportunistic male used the excuse of patting the fluffy white tail on her bottom as a means of touching her, Silke knew she was going to scream!

The adolescent schoolboys had been bad enough, a small group of them taking much delight in tormenting her as they wandered around the store as a way of filling in time during their school holidays; Silke was positive that none of them could actually afford to buy anything in the prestigious store Buchanan's, and she had seen the store detective, under the guise of a customer, eyeing them cautiously too. Although he hadn't made any move to stop them when they had taunted Silke!

Just as he hadn't blown his cover when an old man had approached her a few minutes ago. Perhaps he had considered that Silke, after dealing with the schoolboys herself, was more than capable of dealing with him too. And she certainly had. She didn't care that the elderly man had twinkling grey eyes and a friendly smile; the way he had patted her bottom had been altogether too friendly, and had earned him a verbal rebuke of the most cutting kind!

Of course, she knew the way she was dressed was sure to provoke attention, had expected a few ribald jokes, but the familiarity was something else entirely. God, no wonder Nadine had decided she had something more important to do today; she had probably known exactly what this job was going to be like!

As it was, Silke intended having a word with her mother about the sort of-----

'What the hell do you think you're doing?'

Silke spun round at the sound of that harshly accusing male voice—as quickly as she could in these stupid high-heeled shoes that went with the rest of this ridiculous costume. Whoever had chosen this bunny outfit had obviously opted for the overtly sexual rather than the cuddly, fluffy kind, and Silke was feeling very conspicuous with her long legs encased in silky black tights, and wearing a brief black bathing costume whose only similarity to a rabbit was the fluffy white pom-pom on her bottom. At least the fluffy white head with its long ears and face-mask had the advantage of covering up all of her hair and most of her face; she would hate anyone actually to recognise her wearing this costume!

And as she turned to face the owner of that grating voice she was glad of at least that amount of anonymity—because the thunderous-looking man who owned that more than cutting voice was looking— glaring!—straight at her! And, as far as she was aware, she had never seen him before. She would have remembered someone like him; he wasn't a man anyone was likely to forget in a hurry. Or slowly, either, for that matter...

He was taller than average, well over six feet, Silke would guess judging from the way he towered over her, his black hair styled severely short, thick black brows over the coldest grey eyes Silke had ever seen, and the handsomeness of the rest of his face—a long, straight nose and sculpted lips over a squarely aggressive jaw—was marred by the fierce anger of his expression. And it was directed straight at her!

Nevertheless, Silke found herself glancing over her shoulder to see if she could be mistaken in thinking she was the object of his anger, instantly knowing that she wasn't; for the moment there was a lull in the amount of people entering this section of this prestigious department store—and she was the only person in sight!

But, before she could reluctantly turn back to face the irate man, she felt the top of one of her arms clasped in a tight grip, the tray she held unbalancing precariously. 'Careful, I'm-----'

'Move!' that harshly irritated voice said economically, and Silke almost fell over in those ridiculously high heels as she was dragged across the department store in the direction of the lift, in full view of everyone.

Which was remarkable in itself; none of the people shopping, or indeed the staff, seemed to be taking the slightest bit of notice of the woman in the bunny costume being physically manhandled in front of their eyes by a fiercely angry man—in fact, on closer inspection, the staff seemed to be looking the other way! Of course, they were a superior lot, Silke had quickly discovered, looking down at the interloper in their midst dressed in the revealing bunny costume. But, even so, she would have thought at least one of them might have shown a little concern for her being abducted by a complete stranger in front of them!

'Inside,' the man at Silke's side ordered grimly when she looked around desperately as the lift doors opened silently in front of them. Not that the instruction was really necessary; with that vice-like grip on her arm there wasn't much chance of her going anywhere but where this man decided that she should!

Unless she decided to scream. Her mother had assured her that she had a singing voice that would stop traffic in its tracks, so a scream should surely achieve a similar effect. Not that she had ever put the singing to the test before either, but-----