Irresistible Temptation

By: Sara Craven

CHAPTER ONE





'This train is now approaching Paddington. Will passengers make sure they take their luggage and all personal possessions with them?'

Olivia swallowed as the announcement came over the system, her fingers tightening round the strap of her bag. She rose, made her way along the swaying carriage to the luggage rack at the far end, and retrieved her suitcase. She'd been on edge throughout the journey, and now that it was almost over her stomach was churning with nervous excitement.

It's all right, she told herself. Very soon now you'll be with Jeremy, and everything will be fine. This is what you want. What you've dreamed of. And all you have to do is—go for it.

She took the slip of paper from her pocket, and glanced at it again. 16 Lancey Gardens, W11, she repeated soundlessly to herself for the umpteenth time.

'That's the Ladbroke Grove area in Notting Hill,' Beth, her more knowledgeable flatmate had told her, brows lifted. 'Very swish.'

'He's got a marvellous job,' Olivia said proudly. 'He can afford it.'

'There's nothing the matter with your job.' Beth gave her a measuring look. 'So why pack it all in and go chasing rainbows—in the Smoke?'

'You know why.' Olivia began transferring neat piles of undies and nightwear from the chest of drawers to the open case on the bed.

'Livvy—he's a married man, for God's sake.'

'Some marriage—with her in Bristol and him in London,' Olivia retorted. 'Beth—it's over; believe me. It's been dead for more than a year now. They want different things. She's totally wrapped up in her career. Didn't I show you that piece in the paper announcing she'd just been made a partner in her law firm?'

'Which only proves she's doing well. Wives are allowed to, you know. It's not a male prerogative any more.' Beth's tone was dry. 'Anyway, it doesn't give you carte blanche to pursue her husband to London.'

'Jeremy and I want to be together,' Olivia insisted. 'And it's time we took positive steps to achieve this.'

'Is that how Jeremy sees it?' Beth's look of mild enquiry metamorphosed into a frown. 'My God, Livvy. You have told him you're joining him? Haven't you?'

'Not exactly,' Olivia said defensively. 'But it was always understood that we'd be together in London. It was just a question of timing. And, with Maria getting her partnership, this is clearly the time.'

'He's been in London for three months. Shouldn't you have got together at some point? Discussed things?'

Olivia shrugged. 'He's been busy—settling into a new job—new flat. We talk on the phone—and write.'

'You write,' said Beth. 'He phones—sometimes.'

Olivia's mouth tightened. 'You don't really like Jeremy, do you?'

'I haven't any feelings about him either way.' Beth was dismissive. 'But I don't like what he's doing to you. The games he's playing.'

'I don't know what you mean.' Olivia tucked tissue into the folds of a black skirt.

'Yes, you do, but clearly you don't want to talk about it. So I'll just say this—if I was going with a guy, I'd want a bit more out of the relationship than a few vague promises of eternal bliss—some time.' Beth's tone was edged.

Olivia flushed. 'If you're talking about sex…'

'Which I am.'

'Then we want that too, of course, but it didn't seem right. Not while he was still living here in Bristol with Maria. Now the separation is official, we can—make our own commitment to each other.'

'Such passion,' Beth commented wryly.

'It's not just an affair,' Olivia insisted. 'We want to build a life together—a home—ultimately a family. My joining him in London is the first step on the way.'

'Then I hope it all works out for you, I really do.' Beth gave her a swift hug. 'But I won't advertise your room immediately—just in case…'

Remembering, Olivia frowned as she hefted her case along the platform, and out on to the main concourse. The train had been crowded, mostly, she suspected, with Saturday shoppers, and she had to thread her way through a mass of people to find the taxi rank.

Beth means well, she thought, taking her place in the queue, and setting her case down thankfully. But she doesn't really know Jeremy. Not like I do.

There hardly seemed a time when he hadn't been part of her life. They'd grown up in the same Somerset village, and Olivia had always been slightly in awe of his blond good looks, and the assurance bestowed by his six years' seniority over her. She'd been shyly happy when he'd come home for the school holidays, however little attention he'd paid her, and she'd grieved silently when he'd left for university.

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