Honeymoon For Three
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“I want you to marry me, Cory. I want our son to have a proper father.” About the Author Title Page CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE CHAPTER FOUR CHAPTER FIVE CHAPTER SIX CHAPTER SEVEN CHAPTER EIGHT CHAPTER NINE CHAPTER TEN CHAPTER ELEVEN CHAPTER TWELVE CHAPTER THIRTEEN CHAPTER FOURTEEN Copyright
“I want you to marry me, Cory. I want our son to have a proper father.”
Cory winced. “I’ve already told you I won’t marry you.”
Struggling for calmness, Slade said, “Don’t you think it’s time you started to figure out all the implications of what you’re saying? There are three people involved here, not just you. And one of them is our son.”
“I should have drawn up a contract for our agreement. Instead, I trusted your word. Big mistake,” Cory retorted.
Only the sure knowledge that he was fighting for his life enabled Slade to keep his temper. “I want to live with you, Cory. For the rest of my days.”
Although born in England, SANDRA FIELD has lived most of her life in Canada; she says the silence and emptiness of the north speaks to her particularly. While she enjoys traveling, and passing on her sense of a new place, she often chooses to write about the city which is now her home. Sandra says, “I write out of my experience. I have learned that love with its joys and its pains is all-important. I hope this knowledge enriches my writing, and touches a chord in you, the reader.”
Honeymoon for Three
SLADE REDDEN ran his eye down the day’s list of appointments. “Cory Haines? Who’s he? Another politician looking for a handout? If so, he’s clean out of luck.”
Mrs. Minglewood coughed discreetly. “Cory Haines is a woman, Mr. Redden. She owns a landscape design company here in the city.”
“And what does she want?”
“She did not disclose the nature of her business, sir.But she was quite insistent that she have an appointment as soon as possible.”
She’d want something. Everyone did these days; it was one of the penalties of success—or so Slade was learning. Ever since he’d won that international award for his inner city design in Chicago, realtors and bureaucrats and architects had been after him in droves. He rubbed his eyes. He hadn’t slept well last night, and the mixture of rain and snow that was choking the air was no incentive to get to work. Halifax, capital city of Nova Scotia, one of Canada’s eastern seaboard provinces, had obviously not heard of the concept that March was supposed to usher in the season called spring.
Mrs. Minglewood regarded him sympathetically. She liked working for Mr. Redden on his rare visits to the company offices in Halifax; he was, in general, even-tempered, and treated her as though she was a real person and not a piece of modular furniture. Hidden somewhere in her capacious bosom was the added factor that he was easily the most attractive—not even in her secret thoughts would Mrs. Minglewood use the word sexy—man she had ever laid eyes on. None of the heroes of the old movies she doted on could compare with him. They didn’t even come close.
Flustered, she said, “I beg your pardon, sir?” Patiently Slade repeated his question, and within half an hour Mrs. Minglewood had enough work to keep her busy the whole day. But she was not so busy around two o’clock that she didn’t watch for the arrival of Cory Haines.
At three minutes to two the elevator doors opened and a young woman stepped out. She approached Mrs. Minglewood’s desk and said in a pleasantly low-pitched voice, “I have an appointment with Mr. Redden at two—my name is Haines.”
Mrs. Minglewood’s bosom indulged in a pleasurable flutter of romanticism. Without a speck of envy—for she loved her stout, garrulous husband Wilfred and considered herself a truly happy woman—she decided that Cory Haines was exactly what Mr. Redden needed on such a miserable day. A real pick-me-up. “Come this way, please,” she said, and tapped on Mr. Redden’s door.
Slade had been absorbed in the computer printouts of one of his latest projects—a renewal of the harbor frontage. He wasn’t happy with the placement of the boardwalk, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what was wrong. “Come in,” he called brusquely. He’d give this appointment ten minutes. Maximum.
Cory heard the brusqueness and squared her shoulders. He wouldn’t be the first business executive to give her grief, nor would he be the last. Although his CV hadn’t led her to expect real problems.
“Ms. Cory Haines, Mr. Redden,” Mrs. Minglewood said, and hesitated just a fraction too long before regretfully closing the office door.
Cory walked into the office as though totally confident of her welcome. The magazine articles she’d searched out had prepared her for Slade Redden’s rugged good looks. But in person the man was far more impressive than any two-dimensional photograph could possibly portray. Oh, my goodness, she thought. It’s a good thing I’m immune... talk about an unfair advantage.
Slade, quite unjustly, had pictured a gray-haired martinet with a jutting chin. He saw a woman considerably younger than his thirty-four years who nevertheless possessed that indefinable something called presence. In an attractive contralto voice she said, “It’s very good of you to spare me some of your time, Mr. Redden. I know how busy you are.”
He stood up automatically, wishing he’d taken the trouble to comb his hair. His tie was askew, his jacket draped over the chair and his shirtsleeves rolled up. Oh, well, she’d have to take him as he was.
At six feet he topped her by three or four inches. “May I take your coat?” he asked.
It was a smart navy blue trenchcoat. As she slid it from her shoulders, he caught the scent of her perfume, a subtle blend that hinted of warmer climates; the overhead lighting caught in her smoothly groomed hair so that it gleamed like strands of copper. “Please sit down,” he said, hanging up her coat, pushing the papers on his wide mahogany desk to one side and getting right to the point; he rarely wasted time on social niceties. “What can I do for you?”
He watched her take a moment to gather her thoughts. Her flared wool skirt, kingfisher-blue, worn with a richly embroidered vest and a white silk shirt, spoke of a woman confident of her own taste, who took pleasure in texture and colour. Her face, he thought, rather surprised both at his interest and his acumen, was like a good painting; something to which you could return again and again, always with reward. She was excited about something, he thought slowly. Very excited.
Cory leaned forward in her chair and smiled at him, a smile that warmed her dark brown eyes. Just because he was easily the most attractive man she’d ever met, she saw no reason to change her game plan. “I want something from you, Mr. Redden—and I’m willing to give you something in return.”
“Then you’ve just differentiated yourself from a great many people who come through that door,” he said drily.
“Have I?” Her lashes flickered. “You’re a very successful businessman—but I think you really care about the quality of your work and how it affects those who live with it. And that, I’d say, differentiates you from a great many people.”
She’d neatly turned the tables on him. “And why do you believe that about me, Ms. Haines?” he said, then wondered if she’d think he was fishing for compliments.
“I’ve done my research—I’ve read everything I could find about you and your company.” Again her inner excitement welled up, causing her words to tumble out. “You and I have something in common, I’m convinced of it—and it’s on the basis of that certainty that I’m here. Because if your time is valuable, so also is mine.”
She wasn’t being arrogant; she was simply stating a fact. Intrigued in spite of himself, Slade said, “You have an advantage over me. Because I know nothing whatsoever about you.”
“I own my own company too: Haines Landscaping.” Her lips quirked. “A much smaller company than yours. I’ve been doing landscape design in this area for five years, and last year I won both a municipal and a provincial award for a community park I designed in the north end of the city.”
Unable to contain her energy, she got up, walking over to the tall windows, which were streaked with rain, and gazing down into the street. “I love this city, Mr. Redden. I want it to be a good place for people to live. I want it to stay human-oriented ... user-friendly, if you like. And that’s where you can help. Because I think you share those values.”
“I’m not averse to making money,” he said sharply.
“Neither am I. Nor do I apologize for that.”
He leaned back in his chair, linking his hands behind his neck, feeling the pull on his chest muscles. “So what kind of a touch are you going to put on my checkbook?”
A flush rose in her cheeks. She jammed her hands in the pockets of her skirt and said with noticeable coolness, “I don’t want your money. I want your land.”
She was nothing if not straightforward, thought Slade. For some reason wanting to jolt her out of her composure, he said, “Land is money—surely I don’t have to spell that out for you?”
“Land is a lot more than money. I don’t have to spell that out for you.” She bit her lip, leaving a trace of peach-toned lipstick on one tooth. “Specifically, I’m interested in two properties—the old parking lot on Dow Street, and the comer lot on Cornell and Cruikshank. Neither one is what you’d call a desirable property in monetary terms.”
He got up too, and walked over to the window, his gaze trained on her face. “So why do you want them?”
She said with an intensity he was almost sure she was unaware of, “The parking lot on Dow Street could be made into a wonderful community garden—plots for individual families, small sheds for equipment, a shaded playground at the far end for the children whose parents are working in the garden. As it is now, it’s a wasteland—garbage all over the place, potholes, nothing to please the eye. Or the soul.”
Deliberately needling her, Slade said, “How very eloquent of you.”
Cory looked straight at him, her eyes narrowing. She might want something from Slade Redden but that didn’t mean she had to let him walk all over her. “Am I standing here making a fool of myself?” she said. “All those magazine articles that spoke in such glowing terms of your integrity and your old-fashioned values—were they just exercises in fiction and flattery?”
In a leisurely fashion that stopped just short of insult, Slade let his eyes wander over her face. Her lashes were thick and dark, and many a model would have paid a fortune to have her cheekbones. Quelling a crazy impulse to wipe the tiny fleck of lipstick from her tooth, and thereby feel the soft curves of her lips beneath his fingertip, he said abruptly, “What about the other property? On Cornell?”
“There are a couple of old people’s homes near that corner, as well as some low-rental housing. It could be made into a small park with benches, flowerbeds and shrubs—there are already three fine maples there for shade.”
“You design it and I pay—is that the deal?”
Her nostrils flared. “There’s no need to be gratuitously offensive, Mr. Redden.”
“You can always leave,” he said evenly.
“And then kick myself for the next month because I gave up too easily? No, thanks!”
He was only confirming what he already knew. “You really do want these projects to go ahead, don’t you?”
“Of course I do,” she snapped. “I wouldn’t be here otherwise—I already told you my time is valuable.”
“So what would your contribution be?”
“If you donated the properties to the city on the condition that they be kept as a garden and as a park respectively, I’d provide the design, the plants and the labor.”
He raised his brow. “That’s exceedingly generous of you... What’s your motive, Ms. Haines?”
She said pleasantly, “It’s been a long time since I’ve met a man who riled me as much as you do. Could my motive possibly be altruism? Or won’t that wash?”
She hadn’t left his office and she hadn’t backed down. “Nope,” he said. “Altruism, in my opinion, doesn’t exist.”
“I would consider that statement arguable.” Her smile was consciously provocative. “How about enlightened self-interest? Are you more susceptible to that?”
“You’re getting closer.”
“I’m a quick learner. As for my motive, I get the pleasure of seeing worthless land made both beautiful and useful. How will that do?”
“It’s going to cost you.”
“I can afford it.”
“I hadn’t realized landscape design was so profitable.”
For the first time he saw that he’d got beneath her skin. “The source of my money is none of your business,” she said shortly. “I can afford it. That’s all you need to know.”
“I’d need documentation to that effect before making any commitments.”
“You’ll have it.” She swallowed, feeling tension tighten her jaw. “Are you saying you’ll consider my proposal?”
“I’m free tomorrow morning between ten and eleven-thirty—that should be enough time to check the sites out.”
“I have an appointment at nine. I could pick you up outside your office at ten-thirty.”
I have a life too; that was what she was saying. He grinned at her. “I’ll be there. Bring your plans.”
“Thank you,” she said blandly. “Let me give you my business card in case there’s any change in the time.” Stooping by her chair, she extracted a neat green and beige card and passed it to him. Making no attempt to hide the sardonic note in her voice, she added, “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Redden.”
“Likewise, Ms. Haines,” Slade said, and took her coat from the hook, holding it for her. Her hair was pulled into a knot at her nape, long hair the colour of polished chestnuts; again her scent drifted to his nostrils. It was a long time since he’d been so aware of a woman, so awake to every tiny detail ... a very long time.
Quickly Cory shrugged into her coat, not wanting to prolong the contact of his hands on her shoulders. She turned to face him. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said.
Suddenly resenting her level gaze, Slade said, “I’m sure you’ll understand that I’ll be running a routine check on your business between now and then.”
“I wouldn’t expect otherwise.”
Irritated out of all proportion, he swung the door open. Mrs. Minglewood looked up, her bright blue eyes openly curious in a way that did nothing to improve Slade’s mood. Without watching Cory Haines cross to the elevator, he shut his door smartly. He’d get Mrs. Minglewood to pull the files on the two properties and to check out Haines Landscaping later on. Right now he needed to put an interview that had been as frustrating as it had been interesting right out of his mind and concentrate on the plans for the waterfront.
But the printouts failed to hold his interest. Restlessly he strode over to the window. The rain had changed back to snow, big wet flakes falling from a sodden sky. It was time he went back to Toronto, he thought moodily. Back to his head office and his apartment and his friends.
Maybe he’d go and see his mother after work. She always cheered him up.
Delicate and elusive, a woman’s scent hung in the air, mocking him with all that was missing in his life.
Lavinia Hargreave had remarried after Slade’s father had died of a heart attack: an odd death, Slade had often thought, for a man who had given little evidence of having a heart. His memories of his father were of lacks and absences, of coldness and distance, of a quintessentially military man, phobic about emotion and intimacy.
In consequence, Slade had been happy when his mother had married Wendell Hargreave, a retired and rather famous antiquarian bookseller who loved poetry and gardening. Lavinia had blossomed in the eleven years they had been together, and Slade had genuinely mourned Wendell’s death, ironically also from a heart attack. Wendell and Lavinia had owned fifty acres on St. Margaret’s Bay; only two weeks ago Lavinia had rented it to a university professor and his family and had bought herself a small bungalow in the city. Because she was only gradually getting settled, he’d decided to stay in a hotel this trip.
She opened the door to her son and ushered him in. “You look tired,” she said.
He flicked a glance at himself in the ornate antique mirror that overpowered the narrow hallway. Dark brown hair with a tendency to curl, gray eyes, cleft chin—he’d seen it all a thousand times and had never understood why women—secretaries, sophisticates, and sweet young things—all seemed to find him irresistible. “I need a shave,” he said.
“You need a holiday,” she said tartly. “You work too hard.”
They had had this discussion before. “Yes, Mum,” he said, kissing her cheek. “You should sell that mirror; it doesn’t suit the house.”
“The house suits me and the mirror stays. Wendell was very fond of that mirror.”
Without asking, she poured him a Scotch and water. Taking a hefty gulp, Slade broached something that had bothered him ever since he’d arrived in Halifax last week. “You could have bought a much bigger house than this, Mum—you didn’t even touch that account I set up for you.”
Lavinia added a generous dose of Coke to some dark rum; the rum, she always said, was the excuse to drink the Coke. Smoothing down her flyaway white hair, she said, “You know me—I’m much too strong-minded to be dependent. And far too old to change.”
“I hope you didn’t rush your decision to move.”
“I wanted to do it before I was forced to, Slade. Retain an element of choice. There are no stairs in this house, and I’m near a library, a bookstore and a delicatessen. Plus I can take a cab to the theatre and the symphony.” She raised her glass in a toast. “I’m really very happy here. Have some chips.”
Lavinia didn’t believe in cholesterol. He took a handful, smiling at her affectionately, recognizing as always how grateful he was to her for giving him unstintingly the love his father had withheld. “You’ll have to do something with the garden.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Grass, Slade. Grass. No fuss, no muss.”
“But you had such a lovely garden in Seaview.”
“Change is the essence of life,” she said grandly. “Growing old, so someone told me recently, is not for sissies.”
“No one would call you a sissy,” he said, and suddenly remembered Cory Haines’s defiant brown eyes. She wasn’t one either. Lavinia, he was almost sure, would like Cory Haines.
Not that they’d ever meet.
“All this nonsense about golden years—I don’t see what’s so golden about arthritis and all your friends starting to die off. Poppycock.” Then she eyed him over the rim of her glass, hesitating uncharacteristically. When she spoke, her voice, for the first time, showed her age. “I probably shouldn’t say this ... but before too long I’d love to be a grandmother again.”
“It’s been two years now.”
“Yeah...” Slade shook his head from side to side, like an animal that had been hit hard and unexpectedly by someone it trusted. “It still seems like yesterday.”
“You can’t hide in your job for ever.”
“I suppose not.” He managed a smile. “If I meet someone, you’ll be the first person to know.”
“You won’t meet anyone until you let your guard down; that’s as obvious as—as that mirror in the hallway. And now I really will be quiet; I can’t stand interfering mothers. Please will you help me move the mahogany bureau in my room?”
The mahogany bureau weighed at least two hundred pounds. “Sure, I’ll help you,” said Slade, and drained his drink.
An hour later, having moved the bureau, put up curtain rails and unpacked some books, he was on his way, driving carefully down the slick, wet streets. His mother had never mentioned the lack of a grandchild before today. He wished she’d kept quiet about it. Pressure in that department he didn’t need.
Feeling unsettled and out of sorts, he decided to drop into the squash club, where he’d purchased a guest pass the day after he’d arrived. It was round robin night; he’d be bound to find a partner.
Before he changed, he checked the schedule by the desk. Tom MacLeod and Bruce Waring were here tonight; he’d played with both of them before. Then another name leaped out at him from the pencilled list. Cory Haines. She’d signed up for a court at seven tomorrow morning with someone called Joe Purchell.
He stood still, his memory calling up her face, so changeable and so vividly alive. Somehow he wasn’t surprised that she played squash, a game that demanded lightning-swift reactions, total concentration and a high level of fitness. Besides, she lived not far from here; he’d discovered that when he’d checked out her company before he’d left the office. Not to his surprise, her business was healthily in the black.
Frowning, he headed for the locker rooms.
At seven-thirty the next morning, on his way to the office, Slade pulled into the parking lot at the squash club. He’d slept badly again. His dreams had been blatantly sexual and when he’d woken at about six he’d remembered all too clearly the woman who had cavorted with him on peach-colored satin sheets with such enthusiasm and expertise. Cory Haines. Naked, beautiful and incredibly inventive.
He could control most aspects of his life. But he couldn’t control his dreams.
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