Keep It In The Family – Episode 20

Alice hung up the phone and smiled to herself. It was always good to catch up with Rosie, and she was loving having her new romance to talk about.“What are you fifteen?” she scolded herself as she caught sight of her smiling reflection in the bedroom mirror.She threw open the wardrobe doors and considered the array of clothes hanging there.“What to wear, what to wear?” she muttered to herself, flipping through the hangers.Tonight Rob was taking her to a bookstore in town where one of his favourite thriller writers was going to be reading extracts from his latest novel. Well, one of her favourite writers, too, now that she’d borrowed some of the books from Rob.Alice knew she’d spent too long chatting with Rosie; Rob would be here before she knew it. Luckily she’d showered before she phoned. Quickly selecting a favourite wrap dress that always made her feel good, she dressed in record time and even had time to apply some light make-up before the doorbell rang.“Wow, love the dress,” Rob greeted her when she pulled the door open.“I wasn’t sure. I’ve never been to anything like this before.”He had a knack for dreaming up unusual dates, which all added to the excitement of seeing him.“That’s perfect,” he assured her, helping her on with her coat. “These things are usually pretty informal.”There was already a reasonable crowd at the bookstore. Rob flashed the invitations he’d been sent by the publisher, and as they entered a passing waiter offered them glasses of wine.“Just one for the lady,” he said, handing one to Alice. “I’ll have fruit juice, thanks.”“So how did you get these invitations, Rob? It’s a pretty swish do.”“I’ve a friend in the publisher’s offices. She knows my favourite writers and keeps my name on the mailing lists for talks and so on.”Alice noted the “she”.“Old girlfriend, is she?” she teased.“As a matter of fact, she is. But it’s long past. She finally lost patience with all the travelling I was doing and never seeing me. That’s why I’m glad to have a more settled job now, and to have met you at just the right time.“Have I told you how much I love being with you, Alice? You’re beautiful and you’re fun. I never thought I’d meet a woman like you.”“I feel the same way, Rob.” She rested her hand on his chest, feeling the soft leather of his jacket cool to her touch. “These past weeks have been wonderful.”He glanced down at her hand and looked as though he was going to say more, but just then the speaker rose to welcome them to the reading, and the rest of the evening passed without any romantic declarations.Alice was disappointed. She had fallen heavily for Rob Collier, but she would keep it to herself until the time was right to tell him.Rob drove her home, but when he drew up outside her house he kept the engine running.“Aren’t you coming in for coffee?” she asked, surprised.“Not tonight, thanks, Alice. I have to go overseas on business again tomorrow, didn’t I say? It’s kind of last-minute. Tonight was wonderful.” He leaned over and kissed her swiftly. “But I’d better head home for an early night.”She felt dismissed. Frowning, she opened the car door and got out, and was left standing on the pavement staring after him as he sped off. She watched till his tail lights disappeared, then turned forlornly into her front gate.How had the evening changed so much in the space of a couple of hours? When it had begun, he had been so affectionate. Now she had the sinking feeling that he was disappearing again, like he had once before when he’d gone to Mexico on business.If that was the case, he would find she wasn’t a woman to be messed with. She had never hung around waiting for a man, and she wasn’t about to start now, no matter how she felt about him.


“Maybe he’s an international spy and this is all his cover,” Rosie joked when Alice poured out her heart over a quickly arranged lunch next day in their usual caf.“Oh, don’t! That’d be just my luck. ‘The name’s Collier, Rob Collier . . .’” she said in a pretend Scottish accent that was meant to sound like Sean Connery.“And there really wasn’t anything that could have scared him off?” Rosie pressed.“Like what? You know me, Rosie I’m not the clingy type. I wasn’t talking about weddings or babies or any of that nonsense. For goodness’ sake, we’ve only known each other a matter of weeks!“All that happened was, he mentioned an ex-girlfriend, then he told me how much he loved being with me, and I agreed that things were great. Honestly!”She blew on her coffee, watching Rosie’s face as she tried to make sense of it.“Well, maybe he really did simply have to go away on business, and this time it’ll be different. Maybe this time he’ll phone or text.” Rosie did her best to be upbeat. “He did say it was only because of the time difference last time, didn’t he? Where’s he gone this time anyway?”“He didn’t say, or when he’ll be back,” Alice mumbled, and caught Rosie’s eye, and before they knew it they were giggling like girls.“So he really has done a disappearing act? Oh, Alice, you sure can pick ’em!”


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