Jessica Hart

Married for a Month

Release Date: 1999

A Little Bit Extra

I had flu when I was writing this book, and the truth is that I felt so ill and miserable that I’ve never been able to face rereading it since!  I hated it so much by the time I’d struggled to the end of the revisions that my editor even let me off checking the proofs.  So I can’t really remember much about it, other than the fact that it’s the only book where I’ve included a scene in York, where I now live.   I’ve always thought that places have to be inaccessible to be really romantic, so somewhere you walk around every day just doesn’t work as a romantic setting, no matter how attractive it is.  But I think it was the flu rather than the setting that was my real problem!


'YOU remember Rosalind, don't you?'

Michael froze. Tired of sitting still after long hours in the plane, he had got to his feet when Emma went to answer the door, and was standing by the window, rubbing his neck wearily and wondering if he could face business of hiring a car that morning. There had been nothing to warn him, no premonition when the doorbell had rung, that the life he had built so carefully for the last five years was about to come crashing down around him.

Very slowly, his hand fell from his neck and he turned, hoping against hope that he had misheard the name, but there she was, walking past Emma into the room as if she owned it. Rosalind.

Rosalind, with long hair the colour of beech leaves. Rosalind, with the witchy green eyes and the smile that still haunted his dreams. Rosalind, who he had tried so hard to forget.

'Hello, Michael,' she said.

Only Rosalind had ever been able to stand like that, so sure of her own beauty, so certain of getting whatever she wanted. She looked as if she were waiting for him to throw himself at her feet.

If so, she was in for a long wait, Michael told himself grimly. He had been at Rosalind's feet before, and it had been a bitter and humiliating experience, one he had no intention of repeating.

'Rosalind,' he replied, his voice empty of all expression.

He felt jarred, faintly sick, as if he had run smack against a wall in the dark, but when he glanced accusingly at his sister, she was smiling, looking from one to the other with nothing but pleasure, anticipation and a dawning puzzlement at his less than enthusiastic response to her surprise in her shining, open face.

'It must be years since you two have met,' Emma was saying. 'Why don't you catch up with each other while I go and make some coffee?'

Rosalind eyed Michael with dismay. She had been so nervous about seeing him again that she had been absurdly relieved when she walked into the room to find that he looked just the same. The same quiet, intelligent face with the alert, pale grey eyes. The same compact body. The same air of stillness and self-containment that was at once intriguing and intimidating.

But now she could see that he had changed after all. The grey eyes were shuttered, his expression guarded, his mouth hard. 'Emma, I don't think this is such a good idea,' she began, but Emma was already at the door.

'Michael's never let me down yet,' she said with a reassuring smile. 'All you have to do is explain. And don't worry about Jamie, I'll keep an eye on him.'

Then she was gone, closing the door behind her, and Rosalind and Michael were left facing each other in wary silence.

It was hard to believe that they had ever laughed together, loved together. Rosalind could feel the hostility erected around Michael like an invisible barrier, and she wished Emma hadn't gone. Once she would have been sure of her ability to charm him against his will. In the past, all it had taken was a smile or a look or a single touch and Michael had allowed himself to be captivated. He wouldn't be captivated now, Rosalind knew, looking at that still, watchful figure by the window. She could tell by the way he stood there that he was on guard against her.

But she had to try.

'How have you been, Michael?' she asked at last.

'I've been fine.'

Rosalind suppressed a flicker of irritation at the sardonic edge to Michael's voice. Maybe it had been an inane question, but she had to start somewhere.

'Good.' she hesitated, chewing her lip uncertainly. He was supposed to ask how she was now and give her the opening she needed, but Michael clearly had no intention of following the conventions of pleasant conversation. He just stood there, his mouth set in that forbidding line and his eyes implacable. Rosalind suppressed a sigh. 'And your research?' she persevered. 'Are you working on an interesting site?'

Michael put his hands in his pockets and regarded her with deepening suspicion. 'I think it's interesting,' he said in the same cool voice. 'I doubt if you would.'

She hadn't been interested before, Rosalind admitted to herself with an inward grimace. She had never been able to understand what Michael saw in archaeology, just as he hadn't understood how she could be happy without a career. It was yet another example of how different their lives had been, how different they still were. Sometimes it seemed to Rosalind that all they had shared had been an intense physical attraction, and they didn't even have that any more, she realised with a touch of wistfulness. Michael was pointedly keeping his distance.

He wasn't saying anything or doing anything, but the atmosphere was jangling with tension. Hoping that it would help if she looked more relaxed, Rosalind walked over to the sofa and sat down. Then she wished she hadn't. Michael ignored her gesture inviting him to join her and she could hardly loll around on the cushions while he stood there by the window, a remote, unyielding figure who clearly had no intention of making things easy for her.

Covertly, she studied him under her lashes. He was a quiet-looking man, not much taller than she was, but with a quality of toughness and restraint that was oddly unsettling. Once, they had been lovers, Rosalind thought sadly. Now she couldn't think of anything to say to him. 'Did you have a good flight?' It was the best she could do.

'Actually, no,' said Michael, abruptly losing patience. 'It was long and late and extremely uncomfortable, and I've had to leave the site at the worst possible time, so I'm in no mood for small talk. Why don't you stop pretending that we're polite strangers and say what you've got to say?'

'We are strangers now.' Rosalind glanced at him and then away. She should never have let Emma talk her into this, she realised, turning her engagement ring in an unconsciously nervous gesture. It was hopeless trying to talk to him. Too much lay between them. 'You've changed,' she said sadly.

'You haven't,' Michael told her in a hard voice. 'Come on, Rosalind, you may as well tell me what it is you want. And I presume you do want something? You always did.'

Rosalind winced inwardly at his tone, but she put her chin up and turned back to look him straight in the eye. She didn't feel much like small talk either. 'All right,' she admitted. 'I do want something.'

'And what is it you want this time? Someone to come running whenever you crook your little finger? Or just someone who'll lie down and turn himself into a doormat so that you can walk all over him?'

He hadn't forgiven her, Rosalind realised bleakly. He could have no idea how bitterly she had regretted treating him the way she had, but surely he must have realised by now that they would have been a disaster together? There was no point in arguing, though. She couldn't afford to get involved in the past. It was the present that mattered now ... and Jamie.

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