Lovers Not Friends

By: Helen Brooks

CHAPTER ONE




‘YOU know I’ll never let you go, don’t you? I’d rather kill you than let anyone else have you.’

‘Blade—’

‘Don’t Blade me! You’re mine, Amy, you’ll always be mine—one way or another.’

‘You’re crazy—’

‘About you? Maybe—’ the glittering black eyes were merciless ‘—but you know me well enough by now to know that I’m not in the habit of making idle threats. You’ll pay for what you’ve done. Believe me, I can make you wish you’d never been born. And when the payment is over—’ the hard handsome face could have been carved in stone ‘—you’ll still be my wife, my wife, Amy.’

‘No!’ The tortured scream that was wrenched from her throat brought her awake in one violent movement as she jerked upright in the small narrow bed. It was a dream, just a dream … She brought her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms round her legs as she let her pounding heart slow into a more normal rhythm. He wasn’t here, he hadn’t found her … yet. The dream was still too vivid to let her keep back the fears she held at bay in the clear light of day. He would find her. She shook her head with a little moan as the silky sweep of soft golden hair covered her damp face. She had been mad to run away like that; she should have thought it out properly, made plans. No one crossed Blade Forbes and got away with it, no one, let alone his young wife of six months. His power and influence stretched long tentacles everywhere; what could she do?

Nothing. She climbed out of the bed wearily, padding across the small square room and flicking the switch on the coffee-maker with a long sigh as she glanced out of the high, narrow window, her gaze moving past the old stone wall holding the overgrown garden in check, and out over the green fields rising steeply into the distance. The cold grey light of early morning was filling the small room with a dull glow, but outside the harsh sweep of sky was swept clean in readiness for a new day.

Blade. She wrapped her arms tightly round her waist as she let herself think, really think for the first time in weeks. Blade Forbes, American business tycoon extraordinaire, hard, dynamic, with a reputation for ruthlessness that bordered on the extreme, and yet … She shut her eyes tightly as her thoughts sped on. With her he had been gentle, tender, loving, displaying an understanding that she had never dreamed possible in such an arrogant, masculine man. She swayed slightly as the agony that filled every waking moment with a dull ache swamped her afresh, racking her slender body with physical pain. They had been so happy, so in love.

‘Stop it, Amy.’ She spoke out loud into the empty room, her beautiful delicate face white with strain. These endless post-mortems would do no good; it was over, irrevocably over. Loving him as she did, she had had no choice but to leave, and nothing had changed.

As she got ready for work later that morning, the dull, damp start to the day had changed with the mercurial capriciousness of English weather into bright sunshine, a fragrant wave of fresh Yorkshire air filling the small room with the scents of thick moorland turf and wild flowers from the hills beyond, reminding her that summer was just around the corner. This would have been her first summer as a married woman …

The thought was still with her as she arrived at the small restaurant just after one but, within minutes, the hectic bustle in the tiny kitchen had reduced the gnawing pain to the familiar background ache.

She had been lucky to find this job, she thought quietly, glancing round the shining room that was filled to capacity if more than a few people had the misfortune to be in it at the same time. When she had arrived in the Yorkshire Dales three months ago, stunned and shattered at the enormous step she had taken, she hadn’t had any definite thought for the future beyond hiding for a few weeks out of Blade’s reach before maybe trying to make her way abroad.

But then the calm, slow peace of the place had worked its spell on her sore heart, and when her money had run out she had heard about this job from the motherly landlady of the tiny guest-house where she was staying. She didn’t want to use a penny of the vast bank account Blade had set up for her; that part of her life was over with for good, and so it was essential she provide for herself.

The previous assistant cook, waitress and jack-of-all-trades had up and left with a visiting salesman, leaving her husband and children in the process. ‘A flighty piece if ever I did see one,’ Mrs Cox had grimaced disapprovingly, nodding her grey head like a plump, well-fed little pigeon, and the owner of the restaurant had welcomed Amy with open arms even before he had heard about the three-year course she had completed at college in catering economics.

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