Honeymoon For Three
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ďI want you to marry me, Cory. I want our son to have a proper father.Ē 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
ďI want you to marry me, Cory. I want our son to have a proper father.Ē
Cory winced. ďIíve already told you I wonít marry you.Ē
Struggling for calmness, Slade said, ďDonít you think itís time you started to figure out all the implications of what youíre saying? There are three people involved here, not just you. And one of them is our son.Ē
ďI should have drawn up a contract for our agreement. Instead, I trusted your word. Big mistake,Ē Cory retorted.
Only the sure knowledge that he was fighting for his life enabled Slade to keep his temper. ďI want to live with you, Cory. For the rest of my days.Ē
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, ďI 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.Ē
Honeymoon for Three
SLADE REDDEN ran his eye down the dayís list of appointments. ďCory Haines? Whoís he? Another politician looking for a handout? If so, heís clean out of luck.Ē
Mrs. Minglewood coughed discreetly. ďCory Haines is a woman, Mr. Redden. She owns a landscape design company here in the city.Ē
ďAnd what does she want?Ē
ďShe did not disclose the nature of her business, sir.But she was quite insistent that she have an appointment as soon as possible.Ē
Sheíd want something. Everyone did these days; it was one of the penalties of successóor so Slade was learning. Ever since heíd 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 hadnít 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 Canadaís 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 attractiveónot even in her secret thoughts would Mrs. Minglewood use the word sexyóman she had ever laid eyes on. None of the heroes of the old movies she doted on could compare with him. They didnít even come close.
Flustered, she said, ďI beg your pardon, sir?Ē 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 oíclock that she didnít 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. Minglewoodís desk and said in a pleasantly low-pitched voice, ďI have an appointment with Mr. Redden at twoómy name is Haines.Ē
Mrs. Minglewoodís bosom indulged in a pleasurable flutter of romanticism. Without a speck of envyófor she loved her stout, garrulous husband Wilfred and considered herself a truly happy womanóshe decided that Cory Haines was exactly what Mr. Redden needed on such a miserable day. A real pick-me-up. ďCome this way, please,Ē she said, and tapped on Mr. Reddenís door.
Slade had been absorbed in the computer printouts of one of his latest projectsóa renewal of the harbor frontage. He wasnít happy with the placement of the boardwalk, but he couldnít quite put his finger on what was wrong. ďCome in,Ē he called brusquely. Heíd give this appointment ten minutes. Maximum.
Cory heard the brusqueness and squared her shoulders. He wouldnít be the first business executive to give her grief, nor would he be the last. Although his CV hadnít led her to expect real problems.
ďMs. Cory Haines, Mr. Redden,Ē 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 sheíd searched out had prepared her for Slade Reddenís 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. Itís a good thing Iím 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, ďItís very good of you to spare me some of your time, Mr. Redden. I know how busy you are.Ē
He stood up automatically, wishing heíd taken the trouble to comb his hair. His tie was askew, his jacket draped over the chair and his shirtsleeves rolled up. Oh, well, sheíd have to take him as he was.
At six feet he topped her by three or four inches. ďMay I take your coat?Ē 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. ďPlease sit down,Ē 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. ďWhat can I do for you?Ē
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 sheíd ever met, she saw no reason to change her game plan. ďI want something from you, Mr. Reddenóand Iím willing to give you something in return.Ē
ďThen youíve just differentiated yourself from a great many people who come through that door,Ē he said drily.
ďHave I?Ē Her lashes flickered. ďYouíre a very successful businessmanóbut I think you really care about the quality of your work and how it affects those who live with it. And that, Iíd say, differentiates you from a great many people.Ē
Sheíd neatly turned the tables on him. ďAnd why do you believe that about me, Ms. Haines?Ē he said, then wondered if sheíd think he was fishing for compliments.
ďIíve done my researchóIíve read everything I could find about you and your company.Ē Again her inner excitement welled up, causing her words to tumble out. ďYou and I have something in common, Iím convinced of itóand itís on the basis of that certainty that Iím here. Because if your time is valuable, so also is mine.Ē
She wasnít being arrogant; she was simply stating a fact. Intrigued in spite of himself, Slade said, ďYou have an advantage over me. Because I know nothing whatsoever about you.Ē
ďI own my own company too: Haines Landscaping.Ē Her lips quirked. ďA much smaller company than yours. Iíve 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.Ē
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. ďI 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 thatís where you can help. Because I think you share those values.Ē
ďIím not averse to making money,Ē he said sharply.
ďNeither am I. Nor do I apologize for that.Ē
He leaned back in his chair, linking his hands behind his neck, feeling the pull on his chest muscles. ďSo what kind of a touch are you going to put on my checkbook?Ē
A flush rose in her cheeks. She jammed her hands in the pockets of her skirt and said with noticeable coolness, ďI donít want your money. I want your land.Ē
She was nothing if not straightforward, thought Slade. For some reason wanting to jolt her out of her composure, he said, ďLand is moneyósurely I donít have to spell that out for you?Ē
ďLand is a lot more than money. I donít have to spell that out for you.Ē She bit her lip, leaving a trace of peach-toned lipstick on one tooth. ďSpecifically, Iím interested in two propertiesóthe old parking lot on Dow Street, and the comer lot on Cornell and Cruikshank. Neither one is what youíd call a desirable property in monetary terms.Ē
He got up too, and walked over to the window, his gaze trained on her face. ďSo why do you want them?Ē
She said with an intensity he was almost sure she was unaware of, ďThe parking lot on Dow Street could be made into a wonderful community gardenóplots 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, itís a wastelandógarbage all over the place, potholes, nothing to please the eye. Or the soul.Ē
Deliberately needling her, Slade said, ďHow very eloquent of you.Ē
Cory looked straight at him, her eyes narrowing. She might want something from Slade Redden but that didnít mean she had to let him walk all over her. ďAm I standing here making a fool of myself?Ē she said. ďAll those magazine articles that spoke in such glowing terms of your integrity and your old-fashioned valuesówere they just exercises in fiction and flattery?Ē
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, ďWhat about the other property? On Cornell?Ē
ďThere are a couple of old peopleís homes near that corner, as well as some low-rental housing. It could be made into a small park with benches, flowerbeds and shrubsóthere are already three fine maples there for shade.Ē
ďYou design it and I payóis that the deal?Ē
Her nostrils flared. ďThereís no need to be gratuitously offensive, Mr. Redden.Ē
ďYou can always leave,Ē he said evenly.
ďAnd then kick myself for the next month because I gave up too easily? No, thanks!Ē
He was only confirming what he already knew. ďYou really do want these projects to go ahead, donít you?Ē
ďOf course I do,Ē she snapped. ďI wouldnít be here otherwiseóI already told you my time is valuable.Ē
ďSo what would your contribution be?Ē
ďIf you donated the properties to the city on the condition that they be kept as a garden and as a park respectively, Iíd provide the design, the plants and the labor.Ē
He raised his brow. ďThatís exceedingly generous of you... Whatís your motive, Ms. Haines?Ē
She said pleasantly, ďItís been a long time since Iíve met a man who riled me as much as you do. Could my motive possibly be altruism? Or wonít that wash?Ē
She hadnít left his office and she hadnít backed down. ďNope,Ē he said. ďAltruism, in my opinion, doesnít exist.Ē
ďI would consider that statement arguable.Ē Her smile was consciously provocative. ďHow about enlightened self-interest? Are you more susceptible to that?Ē
ďYouíre getting closer.Ē
ďIím a quick learner. As for my motive, I get the pleasure of seeing worthless land made both beautiful and useful. How will that do?Ē
ďItís going to cost you.Ē
ďI can afford it.Ē
ďI hadnít realized landscape design was so profitable.Ē
For the first time he saw that heíd got beneath her skin. ďThe source of my money is none of your business,Ē she said shortly. ďI can afford it. Thatís all you need to know.Ē
ďIíd need documentation to that effect before making any commitments.Ē
ďYouíll have it.Ē She swallowed, feeling tension tighten her jaw. ďAre you saying youíll consider my proposal?Ē
ďIím free tomorrow morning between ten and eleven-thirtyóthat should be enough time to check the sites out.Ē
ďI have an appointment at nine. I could pick you up outside your office at ten-thirty.Ē
I have a life too; that was what she was saying. He grinned at her. ďIíll be there. Bring your plans.Ē
ďThank you,Ē she said blandly. ďLet me give you my business card in case thereís any change in the time.Ē 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, ďItís been a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Redden.Ē
ďLikewise, Ms. Haines,Ē 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 heíd 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. ďIíll see you tomorrow,Ē she said.
Suddenly resenting her level gaze, Slade said, ďIím sure youíll understand that Iíll be running a routine check on your business between now and then.Ē
ďI wouldnít expect otherwise.Ē
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 Sladeís mood. Without watching Cory Haines cross to the elevator, he shut his door smartly. Heíd 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 heíd go and see his mother after work. She always cheered him up.
Delicate and elusive, a womanís scent hung in the air, mocking him with all that was missing in his life.
Lavinia Hargreave had remarried after Sladeís 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 Wendellís death, ironically also from a heart attack. Wendell and Lavinia had owned fifty acres on St. Margaretís 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, heíd decided to stay in a hotel this trip.
She opened the door to her son and ushered him in. ďYou look tired,Ē 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 chinóheíd seen it all a thousand times and had never understood why womenósecretaries, sophisticates, and sweet young thingsóall seemed to find him irresistible. ďI need a shave,Ē he said.
ďYou need a holiday,Ē she said tartly. ďYou work too hard.Ē
They had had this discussion before. ďYes, Mum,Ē he said, kissing her cheek. ďYou should sell that mirror; it doesnít suit the house.Ē
ďThe house suits me and the mirror stays. Wendell was very fond of that mirror.Ē
Without asking, she poured him a Scotch and water. Taking a hefty gulp, Slade broached something that had bothered him ever since heíd arrived in Halifax last week. ďYou could have bought a much bigger house than this, Mumóyou didnít even touch that account I set up for you.Ē
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, ďYou know meóIím much too strong-minded to be dependent. And far too old to change.Ē
ďI hope you didnít rush your decision to move.Ē
ďI wanted to do it before I was forced to, Slade. Retain an element of choice. There are no stairs in this house, and Iím near a library, a bookstore and a delicatessen. Plus I can take a cab to the theatre and the symphony.Ē She raised her glass in a toast. ďIím really very happy here. Have some chips.Ē
Lavinia didnít 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. ďYouíll have to do something with the garden.Ē
ďI beg your pardon?Ē
ďGrass, Slade. Grass. No fuss, no muss.Ē
ďBut you had such a lovely garden in Seaview.Ē
ďChange is the essence of life,Ē she said grandly. ďGrowing old, so someone told me recently, is not for sissies.Ē
ďNo one would call you a sissy,Ē he said, and suddenly remembered Cory Hainesís defiant brown eyes. She wasnít one either. Lavinia, he was almost sure, would like Cory Haines.
Not that theyíd ever meet.
ďAll this nonsense about golden yearsóI donít see whatís so golden about arthritis and all your friends starting to die off. Poppycock.Ē Then she eyed him over the rim of her glass, hesitating uncharacteristically. When she spoke, her voice, for the first time, showed her age. ďI probably shouldnít say this ... but before too long Iíd love to be a grandmother again.Ē
ďItís been two years now.Ē
ďYeah...Ē Slade shook his head from side to side, like an animal that had been hit hard and unexpectedly by someone it trusted. ďIt still seems like yesterday.Ē
ďYou canít hide in your job for ever.Ē
ďI suppose not.Ē He managed a smile. ďIf I meet someone, youíll be the first person to know.Ē
ďYou wonít meet anyone until you let your guard down; thatís as obvious asóas that mirror in the hallway. And now I really will be quiet; I canít stand interfering mothers. Please will you help me move the mahogany bureau in my room?Ē
The mahogany bureau weighed at least two hundred pounds. ďSure, Iíll help you,Ē 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 sheíd kept quiet about it. Pressure in that department he didnít need.
Feeling unsettled and out of sorts, he decided to drop into the squash club, where heíd purchased a guest pass the day after heíd arrived. It was round robin night; heíd be bound to find a partner.
Before he changed, he checked the schedule by the desk. Tom MacLeod and Bruce Waring were here tonight; heíd played with both of them before. Then another name leaped out at him from the pencilled list. Cory Haines. Sheíd 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 wasnít 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; heíd discovered that when heíd checked out her company before heíd 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. Heíd slept badly again. His dreams had been blatantly sexual and when heíd woken at about six heíd 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 couldnít control his dreams.
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