City Woman One
Devlin sat in the Arrivals Hall of Dublin Airport, visibly impatient. She had left home extra early so that she could greet Luke off the plane instead of waiting for him in the foyer of the Airport Hotel – and now the damned plane was delayed.
Once more she checked the monitors and saw that Luke’s flight would not be in for another twenty minutes. It would be at least a half an hour before he cleared customs. She might as well go and have a coffee. She could take another look at the figures for her meeting with Arthur Kelly, the Belfast businessman whom she was seeing later in the day. As she took the escalator up to Departures, she remembered that Woman’s Way magazine had an article about City Girl that she hadn’t yet seen. She’d buy a couple of copies and give them to Arthur, to keep for when they were arranging publicity.
In Hughes & Hughes, Devlin hastily thumbed through the magazine. Her eyes widened with pleasure as she saw the pictures the photographer had taken of the complex. He’d done a great job and the place looked a million dollars. The accompanying interview was very nicely done and Devlin was more than pleased. She took five copies of the magazine and paid for them at the cash desk. Five minutes later, she sat drinking a cup of coffee in the lounge bar overlooking the apron and runways. Dublin was a lovely airport to land at, she thought proudly, as she gazed out at the tapestry of green and gold fields and the purple-blue haze of the Dublin mountains in the distance. Devlin liked airports. She loved the air of hustle and bustle, the buzz of arrivals and departures and the roar of the jets. Her impatience dissipated as she sat watching planes taking off and landing. She saw a Ryanair jet land and guessed it was Luke’s. In spite of his coolness on the phone the other day she was looking forward to seeing him. She just couldn’t wait to talk to him about her great new idea. Surely he’d be enthusiastic once he’d seen the projections!
Finishing her coffee, she took the escalators back down to Arrivals and sat in a front-row seat waiting for Luke to emerge from customs. She saw him before he saw her and smiled to herself as she saw him stride through the doors. He frowned as he glanced at his watch and saw how late he was. He looked good – very good, she thought – in his casual grey trousers and soft grey leather jacket. Luke had a permanent tan, not the lounge-lizard look of the sunbed user but the rugged, weather-beaten look of a man who was used to being outdoors in all kinds of weather. Luke, who had once been a seaman, loved water and he had a sailing boat on the Thames, where he spent his precious and rare free time.
‘Hi, Luke!’ Devlin stood up and called his name. He did a double-take at the sight of her and then his frown was replaced by a broad grin as he dropped his briefcase and overnight bag and held out his arms to give her a hug.
‘I certainly wasn’t expecting to see you here. I thought you’d be dancing a jig of impatience over at the hotel. I was preparing myself to do battle,’ he teased, enveloping her in a hug. ‘Sorry I was cranky on the phone.’
‘It’s all right.’ Devlin hugged him back. She had meant to be ever so cool, but in spite of herself she was really glad to see him. His gaze caught hers and then, taking her by surprise, he lowered his head and kissed her, a long lingering kiss that made her heartbeat quicken as to her own surprise she found herself kissing him back.
‘Luke, stop,’ she said, half-laughing, half-dismayed.
‘I don’t want to stop,’ he said with a grin. ‘Look, let’s do a bunk. You cancel your meeting and I’ll cancel mine and we’ll spend the day together and forget all about business and just concentrate on us.’
Devlin, for reasons she could not explain, always felt panicky when Luke started talking about ‘us’. She knew he wanted much more than she was prepared to give. Ever since the disaster of her relationship with Colin Cantrell-King, the suave gynaecologist who had fathered her baby and wanted her to have it aborted, Devlin did not want to get involved again with a man. And yet she trusted Luke implicitly. He had treated her with such kindness after the death of her baby. He had been so good to her when she was starting up City Girl. He was a terrific business partner and if ever she needed anything, he was always reliable. It wasn’t that she wasn’t attracted to him, either. Just kissing him now had brought back long-suppressed memories of desire. Since Colin’s time, Devlin rarely thought about sex. Her experience with him had been disastrous and she had felt utterly used. She had gone right off men and indeed felt a deep distrust of them. Although she wouldn’t admit it, Devlin was scared: scared of being hurt, scared of losing control, and very scared of getting into a relationship with Luke Reilly because she knew if she did, she would end up falling in love with him and falling in love was the last thing she wanted.
Devlin was quite happy with her life as it was. She had her independence and was in no danger of being hurt by anyone. Her present detachment suited her just fine.
‘Come on,’ he urged, his heavy-lidded brown eyes smiling down at her with an expression that made her breath catch in her throat.
‘Luke, you know we can’t do that,’ Devlin said, as lightly as she could.
‘I can, and you could too if you really wanted to,’ Luke argued. ‘We never have time to ourselves: it’s always business, business, business. And I’m getting damn well fed up with it, if you want to know.’ There was more than a trace of anger in his voice and her heart sank.
‘Luke, don’t be like that,’ Devlin pleaded.
‘Don’t you think we should talk about us? You know I want us to . . .’
‘Luke,’ Devlin said firmly, ‘we’re very late; here isn’t the time or the place . . .’
‘It’s as good a place as any, Devlin. I’m sick of this carry-on!’
‘Luke, please . . .’ Devlin said agitatedly, ‘I’ve only got an hour. I must be on that road to Drogheda. I thought we were going to talk about the Belfast proposal.’
‘I couldn’t give two hoots about the Belfast proposal,’ Luke retorted angrily.
‘Well, right this minute I couldn’t care less if you wanted to take City Girl to the moon. I want to know where I stand with you. I deserve that much at least.’ Luke’s eyes were flashing and the thin line of his mouth left her in no doubt of his annoyance.
‘Luke, you’re not being fair,’ she snapped, beginning to feel angry and trapped.
‘No, Devlin. You’re not being fair. And you’re not being honest with me or with yourself. Stop running away and face up to things. You could be as attracted to me as I am to you if you’d let yourself. Why are you holding back?’
‘For God’s sake, Luke! People are looking.’ A blush rose to her cheeks as she saw people giving them curious stares.
‘Let them!’ Luke was not concerned, but he drew her aside to a more private place so that the stream of people coming out of the customs couldn’t see or hear them.
‘Look, can’t we talk about this later tonight when I get home from Drogheda?’ Devlin said wearily. Why did he have to keep pushing her! Why couldn’t he just be happy with the way things were!
‘Is that a promise?’ said Luke, his face stern and unsmiling.
‘If that’s what you want . . .’ Devlin said, thoroughly exasperated.
‘Don’t sound too enthusiastic, for Christ’s sake.’
‘Ah, don’t annoy me, Luke! Just knock it off. I’ve enough hassle without this. I don’t know what’s wrong with you lately. You’re always in such an argumentative mood; you never want to discuss business. I was dying to tell you all about Belfast and now you’ve ruined it.’
Luke stared at her in silence and then he said coldly, ‘Maybe we should discuss business – as to whether we should continue as business partners. Maybe this whole thing was a mistake. Not from a financial point of view but personally. I don’t know if I want to get involved in any new ventures. Maybe you’re right: it is too much hassle.’
Devlin couldn’t believe her ears. Of all people, she never imagined that Luke would resort to emotional blackmail; she had always thought of him as one of the straightest men she had ever known.
Disgust tinged her voice and disdain flared in her eyes. ‘Don’t try emotional blackmail with me, Luke; it’s beneath contempt. I thought you were more of a man than that.’ If she had slapped him in the face, Luke could not have been more shocked. She saw it in his eyes and then anger replaced the shock, an anger so fierce that she quailed beneath his gaze.
‘Is that what you think?’ he said through gritted teeth, taking her by the shoulders, his thumbs digging into her flesh.
‘Luke, you’re hurting me,’ she said heatedly. He dropped his hands immediately and drew several deep breaths as if to try and calm himself.
Picking up his bag and briefcase, he said in the coldest tone she had ever heard him use, ‘Let’s end this now. My solicitors will be on to yours about dissolving the partnership. City Girl is yours. I want nothing to do with it or you. I’m sure that will make you very happy.’
She saw red. ‘It will. Believe me, that suits me just fine, mister,’ she retorted.
‘I’ll get working on it immediately.’
Turning, he strode over to the exit and disappeared through the Arrivals doors. Devlin was left angry and deeply shaken.