“Bad, bad, bad. This isn’t happening—we’ve lost our case against Jude.” Muttering “fuck him” under her breath, Charlotte Pembroke grimaced at the black-robed and bewigged judge as he swept out of the courtroom. “It can’t be the end of the road?” A spasm of anger sparked in her moss-green eyes.
Denzil Faraday, the family lawyer, shook his bald head, his gaze resting on the riot of flame-red curls and the freckle-dusted, milky skin drained of its soft luster in the autumn sunlight slanting through the windows of the austere, high ceilinged room.
He was characteristically direct. “With Jude, it is. As for Bill Jones, if you tracked him down you could sue him direct. But it’s throwing good money after bad if he’s broke.”
Char’s fury went up a notch and she could contain it no longer, even if she’d been used to masking her emotions, something she’d never learned to do. “We’re skint—we can’t buy a place of our own and now we’re ordered to pay his—” the word spurted out in a long hiss invested with the cold despairing rage she felt for Jude Ormond—“legal bills. You can call it the law, but it’s a miscarriage of justice to me.” She shook her fingers through her hair
“As I’ve said all along...” Denzil started evenly.
“Yes, yes, I know,” Char said caustically. “You warned me this would happen. Don’t let’s go over that again. But—” Her voice flattened in anguish as she registered the effect the verdict would have on Adrian, her ailing father. “How do I tell Dad that Jude gets to keep the Chelsea house?” she murmured more to herself than to Denzil. “We’re wiped out.” Something inside her shattered into a million pieces and she clenched her nails deep into her palms as her thoughts tumbled with the catastrophe facing them.
Her skirmishes with Jude over local issues during the past eleven years since she was sixteen had always been stormy. But it was of scant trouble to him like a gnat flicking a bull He went his own way, unfailingly courteous but single minded, routing opposition whilst she remained protesting but outplayed. This time it wasn’t his arbitrary closure to ramblers of the footpaths across Netherdown—his large country estate with its magnificent avenue of lime trees, golden cornfield, preening peacocks and shining lake—but the Pembrokes themselves. And it was all her fault it had ended like this, in disaster. Cool logic demanded that she heed Denzil’s advice. Why then, hadn’t she? Instead she’d egged Dad on, her motives suppressed by her confidence that the Pembrokes would be crowned with success.
“Denzil’s über-cautious,” she’d maintained rashly when Adrian had more than once questioned the wisdom of their actions, but he’d been relieved to leave it all to her, his only child, who seemed to relish all that business with their lawyer.
“Not to worry, I’ll call him now.” Denzil knew Char had wanted Adrian in court by her side, but ominous signs of angina just before the hearing date had ruled that out.
Mentally and physically pole-axed, Char fiddled with her gold neck chain. It was tempting to leave Denzil to pass on the bad news in his own practiced way. An inner voice told her that that was what he was paid for, if he got paid at all, she thought mournfully. She met his enquiring glance with a half-smile.
“I’m heading home. I’ll save the bad tidings until then.” Enveloped by a sudden numbing weariness, she stood up stiffly, the flare in the skirt of her blue woolen dress swishing about her firm, rounded contours. At five feet six inches, she was only slightly shorter than Denzil with the look of the outdoors, her wide, soft mouth her best feature. Not for the first time she’d decided there was nothing more she could do about her obstinately adhering puppy fat that survived ineffectual random raids on it.
“I’ll catch up with you later.” She picked up her tapestry Gladstone bag, desperately trying to keep a fragile hold on herself, the hope she’d secretly nourished over the past grim months slashed to ribbons by just two days of legal cut and thrust.
“Come back to my office and have a good, strong cuppa.”
She hesitated, desperately wanting a shoulder to cry on. “I—” Her voice faltered and she cleared her throat. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
He looked at her intently but she turned her head away, unable to bear the sympathy in his eyes, freezing as she saw Jude Ormond on the far side of the room. He was tall, at over six foot much taller than his lawyer, and leaner too with an arrogance about him that knotted her stomach and brought a slow prickle to her spine. His navy gabardine suit was expensively crafted, following the hard, muscular strength of his body and although she couldn’t hear him, Char could tell he was satisfied with the outcome, pleasure flaring up in his face.
Congratulations, she thought bitterly. She’d not expected to feel like this about losing. Never dreamt they’d lose. But, as the day of the trial approached, she’d forced herself to consider how she’d react if things went against them. She would be, she decided, balanced and unemotional. It wasn’t how she felt now she admitted as a slow ache of wretchedness seeped through her.
Jude’s eyes zinged into her, a disconcerting steely-blue in the sun-tanned face. For a long moment she felt her heart flutter as it had years earlier when he’d silenced her with a kiss that tingled on her lips and made her shiver.
With the supreme confidence of youth, she’d tackled Jude at Netherdown. At her summons, he’d loped into the linenfold-paneled library, from the middle of a game of tennis, panting a little from the exertion and resentful of her intrusion. The hardness of his jaw displayed impatience, his crisp, white shorts emphasizing the length of leg and thigh, his body moving with a predatory grace. It was a hot summer’s day, Char’s arms were bare and rounded in the backless, strappy cotton dress and as she registered his warm, animal virility she could feel the onslaught of those blue eyes. He listened to her berating him for his city-slicker ways and his indifference to the country’s dwindling stock of art treasures and gradually his irritation gave way to amused tolerance. He’d laughed at her solemnity and she’d felt stung by what she regarded as his condescension.
“This is all so trivial.” He dismissed her protest, stepping forward so close that his breath was warm on her cheek, the silken caress of his fingers along the bare skin of her back. Her resistance flared out of control as desire arced through her and she was swept up in the unexpected bliss of the moment as he drew her against the length of him and his lips—intimate, demanding—sought hers, deepening the kiss.
She fought the clamor of her response, yielding to a treacherous melting, her breath coming in short gasps as she ran her fingers down his rock-hard back. Everything seemed to be in slow motion, the light lawn frock no barrier against his lean, marauding body as he swiftly winched the fabric over her head, one big hand cupping her butt to raise her against him letting her feel his growing arousal as the other roamed sensuously over her lace covered breasts.
Even as she tore off his T-shirt, yanked down his shorts and boxers, watching his engorged cock spring free, she extemporized to herself that she was fucking as she set her sights on a higher goal, to change his mind about the picture. He caught her mouth and kissed her as a finger feathered her clit, caressing the sensitive flesh making her clench and surrender and then dewed with her essence, he withdrew it and sucked.
“Still some way to go.” He growled as he ripped off her bra and panties and lobbed them to the far corner of the room, tumbling her down onto a wide Chesterfield. Leather creaked as she yelled out his name as she bucked beneath him, moaned as he slid into her, whimpered as he blocked out the here and now with his rigid, dripping cock and then, with a whispered, “Almost there,” he took her the pinnacle, bringing her to orgasm as they fused to become one.
“Game, set and match to Mr. Ormond,” she purred, stroking his hair in an oddly tender gesture.
“I’m challenging the call.” His body gained a new urgency. “I want to replay the point.” He wanted to taste every exquisite inch of her young, sexy body until he was drunk with its juices.
“Mr. Ormond has one challenge remaining.” She giggled and kissed his warm balls, lifting her hips, inviting her to plunder her again and then they were a tangle of limbs and he rolled his seed into her, slowly at first then as new desires took hold, jetting and thrusting, looking into the soft green of those wide eyes as she surrendered this precious piece of herself. He was taking her to a place she’d never been before, arching, burning damp as his thick cock volleyed into her.
“A championship performance.” Her voice was husky and feeling him unleashed inside she was flying with him to a place somewhere over the rainbow.
The secret nooks and crannies of Netherdown could never have witnessed so passionate a liaison