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Authors: Madelynn Ellis

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Enticement (10 page)

BOOK: Enticement
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Kit’s malevolent smile broadened. “Then I’ll be sure to spill all my dirtiest deeds and yours too. All except the one about us, of course. Whereabouts up at the big house is she?”

“Um, Fridays she’s normally in the tearoom.”

“Wonderful. I could do with a cupper.”

“Don’t do anything stupid, Kit.”

“You mean stupider than I have already.”

“Don’t—”

“Like falling in love with you?” Kit said, cutting Ross off.

Ross’s mouth dropped open. He closed it, only for it to fall open again. “You’re not.”

Kit looked him right in the eyes and let his expression convey his emotions. Not simple desire, but whole-sale longing, of the type that bordered on full scale obsession. Ross found it hard to look at him and keep a neutral visage. Fuck! Kit had been pushing for picking things up from where they’d left off, but he’d never realized his feelings ran that deep.

Sweat began to pepper his brow, his temperature spiralling out of control more fiercely now than it had while Kit had been sucking him.

Maybe, he had known it all along, but confronting that sort of thing head on—Fuck, he didn’t know what to say. He gulped. “Fuck, Kit! Are you serious?”

“Of course… I’m not.” Kit gave a little burst of laughter, just enough to clear the worst of the tension between them, but not enough to entirely dispel the notion that what he’d said might actually be true. Of course it was true. It was bloody obvious. The bond between them ran far deeper than simple friendship, always had, and physically, it was hard sometimes not to just give in and stuff the consequences. Just because they’d never mentioned love before didn’t mean it wasn’t there.

It was there. Shit, if he didn’t feel it writhing about like a maggot in his guts, making every interaction between them a challenge in self restraint. He wasn’t about to make a confession though. “You know I’m with Evie,” he said instead.

Kit saluted him. “I know it, and I won’t screw it up for you.”

Nevertheless, something about that promise niggled.

Ross sat down and pressed his thumbs into his eye sockets once Kit had left the consultation room. Shit! Today really wasn’t shaping up so well. Nervous jitters were playing havoc with his insides, and he had to trust that whoever had taken that pot shot at Kit didn’t try anything else, particularly while he was with Evie. To top that, he’d swear Kit had something major up his sleeve, as if that confession hadn’t been movement enough on the Richter scale.

Iris came in, her face crumpled into a sour expression. “I can’t believe you’re sending him over to Evie. Is that safe?” she asked in a fashion that plainly said she didn’t think it was. “You know what happened before.”

“Nothing—nothing happened before. Kit never did a thing.”

The fact that he’d been with Kit at the time in question made that obvious, but even without that, he trusted his guts on this one, and they said Kit was clean. He was no killer.

 

 

“Evie Latham! What’s this about you and a houseguest?”

“Huh?” Evie looked up from the chart she’d been doodling on for the last two hours as she tried to predict what would sell over the coming month, to find Lillianna Stainbrook stretching over the counter towards her with one pencil-thin eyebrow raised. Once a dedicated goth chic, Lillianna had recently thrown out the porcelain-white and boxes of black hair dye in favour of a flame-haired temptress look. The result was a clash between Bette Midler and an orangutan as frizzy red curls stuck out from her head at alarming angles.

“Spill!” she demanded, slapping her palm down on top of Evie’s order form, which successfully prevented Evie from resuming her naughty stick figure drawing of a girl going at it with two guys. Evie dropped a napkin over the sketch and smiled sweetly at Lillianna.

“They’re nice.” She grabbed her friend’s outstretched hand in order to examine her new acrylic fingernails. Truthfully, the gold and red looked rather grotesque against the black base, rather like someone had had a nosebleed over her nails, but humouring Lillianna was the easiest way to distract her from latching onto the subject of Kit. Evie didn’t want to discuss Kit. She’d hardly mentioned him to Ross all week, and it had been a relief to find he wasn’t constantly around cramping their style. Mostly he came home to eat and sleep, and sometimes he skipped the food part.

“Ooh! Do you think so?” Lillianna cooed, now waggling her fingers as if she was showing off a fifty carat diamond, not a few bits of airbrushed plastic. “Molly did them. She’s set herself up in her conservatory, and in exchange for being her practice dummy, she’s going to do them for me once a week for the bargain price of a tenner. These babies would normally cost me fifty.”

“Wow.”

Lillianna’s brows both shot into her hairline. “Not just wow, Evie. It’s an absolute steal, especially as she lives right next door to Kirkley’s most eligible bachelors, Jason and Saul.” She swooned a little and rested her head in her palm.

“Aren’t they gay?”

“No.” She perked up again immediately, staring Evie straight in the eyes, before adding in a breathless, rather childish voice. “You can see right into their place from the manicure chair. Wednesday nights, six o’clock prompt. It’s wild, I tell ya.” She clapped her hands. “But see, we’re getting sidetracked. You were going to tell me all about your new lodger, before I tell you what the boys get up to.”

Evie nonchalantly tapped the end of her biro to her lip. “How many scones do you think we need for next week?”

“Hot is he?” Lillianna shrewdly remarked. “You wouldn’t clam up if he wasn’t. So give me a rating. Ross being a six and Jason and Saul, nines.”

“Um, twelve,” muttered Evie. Six wasn’t a very fair score for Ross, but they’d been over her boyfriend’s merits in the past, and actually it was a relief to know Lilli’s interests didn’t stray too far in that direction. Kit was a different matter, being neither Evie’s to defend, or anything less than pure raw sexiness. The fact was, rather than dim her interest, Kit’s long absences during the week had made her increasingly aware of him, so that she’d actually started looking forward to and anticipating his appearances. Annoyingly, the kitten had taken to him in much the same way, only the cat got to curl up on Kit’s lap and purr in a smugly contented fashion. More irritating still, she’d started to respond to Kit’s name for her—Mimmy.

“Evie.” Lillianna poked a fingernail into the back of Evie’s hand, making her squawk. “Seriously, you need to qualify a twelve. Nobody rates a twelve. Not even Bauhaus’s Pete Murphy.”

“Kit does,” she said absently and immediately regretted imparting his name when Lilli’s face filled with wonderment.

“Kit!” she bellowed. “Oh. My. God! Are we talking about Christopher Skye, Ross’s mate from way back? You’ve got Christopher Skye staying with you. You bitch!”

Shocked by the outburst, which had even raised the heads of some of the tearoom’s perpetual grazers, Evie pushed Lillianna off the counter, and ushered her towards the store closet. She pushed her inside and closed the door on them.

“Keep it down, will you, or I’ll be dealing with complaints for the next fortnight. You know the tearoom regulars bring in most of the revenue for the house.”

“Yeah, suppose.”

Melton Manor, the Big House, as the locals liked to call it, was a crumbling Jacobean pile, set in ninety acres of gardens and grazing land. Too small to market itself as a conference venue, it survived primarily on guided tours, goodwill and the occasional private party. The Tearoom, more formally know as The Satyr’s Horn, due to a curious bronze statue set outside, was housed in the Victorian extensions that had once been an icehouse and launderette.

“But holy shit, Evie! Prince Lucifer himself comes strutting home and you don’t even mention it to me. Bugger this mess.” She pulled at the coils of frizzy auburn hair in dismay. “I’m going black again and digging out the hair straighteners. Don’t you think couples always look best when they’re nicely matched?”

Far from it. Evie found the whole concept of his and hers clothing, hair-dos and even bath towels completely revolting. However, she let the remark go, in the wake of her friend’s hyperbolic reaction to Kit’s name. “You know him?” she ventured, backing into the corner that housed the locally made jars of pickles, in order to avoid the worst of any further spitting explosions.

“Know him! I spent every summer between the ages of eight and eighteen chasing him. ’Course, I bloody know him. And he’s not a twelve, he’s a fifteen, unless he’s gone bald or something.”

Evie shook her head.

“Only stopped chasing him ’cause he absconded after all that trouble with Sammie Dean.”

“Trouble?” Her second attempt at nonchalance drew a quizzical look from Lillianna, who twirled an auburn ringlet around her finger and popped it into her mouth to suck.

“Hasn’t Ross told you about it?” she eventually replied, releasing the now wet strand of hair. “I’d have thought he would. I guess you’re cool with it, which in itself is cool. I don’t know if I would be. I mean there’s sexy bad, and there’s bad bad, and none of us ever quite worked out what side of the fence Mr. Skye is truly on.”

Caught between the desire to press Lillianna for every minute detail of what she knew and yet somehow not reveal her apparent ignorance on a seemingly important topic, Evie wallowed for a moment in confused silence.

Bad boy? Yes, she agreed that Kit certainly deserved that description, but to suggest his badness actually went as far as making him downright evil, seemed unjustified to say the least. What the hell had he done? Dealt drugs on the corner, nicked a car, maybe spray painted a few walls? Hardly clever stuff, but not exactly things to make him legendary, even in a pokey village like Kirkley. In her home town of Leeds, Kit’s antics wouldn’t have raised more than an eyebrow. She was just about to carefully prod Lillianna into spilling a few more details, when the service bell on the tearoom counter rang.

“I have to get that.”

“I bet it’s just one of the old biddies demanding another free cupper. They don’t like to think you’re idling.”

“Well, it is as many refills as you like for two quid,” Evie muttered. Her eyebrows pulled low into a frown as she emerged from the cupboard. The waiting customer, rather surprisingly, didn’t have grey hair. Rather, he had on a leather jacket, with a Maltese cross and pattern of roses painted across the back. “Kit.” Her half-strangled gasp caused him to turn and Lillianna to whip out of the cupboard, still holding the cigarette she’d obviously just been about to take a stealthy puff upon. Evie scowled and she immediately stubbed it out, grinning sheepishly at the numerous no smoking signs. Two seconds later she was the other side of the counter, right in Kit’s face.

“You’re back.” She jabbed him in the chest with her cigarette butt. “You’ve a nerve. Has Tony seen you yet?”

“Tony who?”

It was only as Kit back stepped that Evie noticed he had a dressing on the right side of his forehead. Concerned, she leapt forward, shoving Lillianna out of the way. “What happened? I’ve been saying to Ross all week that you shouldn’t be working alone in that house. It’s dangerous, and lo’ and behold you’ve had an accident.”

Kit despite the odd wary glance at Lillianna, smiled. “I’ll live, Evie. It’s just a scratch. Though, it’s nice to know you care.” He pouted slightly, an expression that prompted a mew of appreciation from Lillianna.

“Of course I care.” She raised her hand to his brow, in order to sweep back his hair to better see the wound. “What happened? Have you been up to the hospital?”

He gave a quick shake of his head. “It’s nothing, really.”

About to say more, Evie noticed that his gaze kept flicking back and forth between herself and Lillianna. Curious, she turned to her friend, thinking introductions were probably out of place since they clearly knew one another. Lilli was gaping at them as if she’d just discovered the crown jewels in her coalhouse.

“What? What!”

“Are you two shagging?” Lilli’s words burst from her in a near incomprehensible gush.

“No.”

“Does Ross know?”

“We’re not,” said Kit, although there was a distinctly implied “yet” in his tone.

“Oh my god!” Lillianna continued unabashed, clearly not persuaded by their denials. “I bet he joins in. God, that’s it, isn’t it? You’re all screwing each other. Aw!” She clapped her hands, unfortunately snapping the forgotten cigarette in two, so it added to the small pile of litter already accumulated on the floor. “Just wait ’til I tell Molly about this. She’s gonna freak.” Without another remark, not even a goodbye, she snatched her handbag from the counter and zoomed out of the door, flicking the remainder of her cigarette butt at George the Satyr.

“Nice seeing you too,” muttered Kit.

“Bother!” Evie cursed at Lillianna’s retreating back, although a much stronger expletive rang in her head. “Now the whole village is going to think we’re having an affair, threesome or both.”

“Let ’em,” said Kit. “Who cares what they think?”

“What about Ross? What’s he going to think when people start spreading rumours about us?”

“That his neighbours are inveterate gossips and that they should mind their own goddamn business. He sent me over here, by the way. Thought you might like taking out for lunch. Obviously he can’t do it himself, so I’m the substitute.”

BOOK: Enticement
12.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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