The Secret His Mistress Carried

By: Lynne Graham

Billie would never forget the agonies of her own worst low, a slough of despair that had lasted for endless weeks. That phase of her life had almost destroyed her and she could still barely repress a shudder when she recalled the depression that had engulfed her. She had been hurting so badly and there had seemed to be no way of either stopping or avoiding that pain. In fact, in the end it had taken an extraordinary and rather frightening development to show Billie a light at the end of the tunnel and a future she could actually face. She contemplated Theo with glowing satisfaction.

‘It’s not healthy to love a baby so much,’ Dee warned her with a frown. ‘Babies grow up and eventually leave you. Theo’s a lovely baby but he’s still just a child, Billie, and you can’t continue building your whole life round him. You need a man—’

‘I need a man like a fish needs a bicycle,’ Billie interposed without hesitation, reckoning that the disaster zone of her one and only real relationship was quite sufficient to have put her off men for life. ‘And who are you to talk?’

A tall, whip-thin blonde with grey eyes, Dee grimaced to concede the point. ‘Been there, done that.’

‘Exactly,’ Billie agreed.

‘But I don’t have the options you have,’ Dee argued. ‘If I were you, I’d be out there dating up a storm!’

Theo clutched Billie’s ankles and slowly levered himself upright, beaming with triumph at his achievement. Considering her son had had both legs in a special cast for months to cure his hip dysplasia, he was catching up on his mobility fast. For a split second he also reminded her powerfully of his father and she didn’t like that, didn’t go there in her mind because she didn’t allow herself to dwell on the past. Looking back on the mistakes she had made was counterproductive. Those experiences had taught her hard lessons and she had forced herself to move on past them.

Dee studied her cousin in frank frustration. Billie Smith was the equivalent of a man magnet. With the figure of a pocket Venus, a foaming mane of dense toffee-coloured curls and an exceptionally pretty face, Billie exuded the kind of natural warm and approachable sex appeal that attracted the opposite sex in droves. Men tried to chat Billie up in the supermarket, in car parks or in the street and if they were behind a car wheel they honked their horns, whistled out of the window and stopped to offer her lifts. Had it not been for Billie’s modest take on her own assets and her innate kindness, Dee was convinced she would have been consumed with envy. Of course she would have been the last to envy Billie’s unfortunate long-term affair with the ruthless, selfish swine who had broken her tender heart, she thought guiltily. Like Dee, Billie had paid a high price for falling in love with the wrong man.

The knocker on the front door sounded loudly. ‘I’ll get it,’ Billie declared because Dee was doing the ironing and Billie hated ironing with a passion.

Davis hurtled out of the sitting room, almost tripping over Theo, who was crawling earnestly in his mother’s wake. ‘There’s a big car...a really big car on the street!’ the little boy exclaimed.

It was probably a lorry with a delivery, Billie assumed, aware that any vehicle with wheels fascinated Dee’s son. She unlocked the door and then took an immediate and very abrupt step back, astonishment and panic shooting up inside her like a sudden jarring surge of adrenalin.

‘You’re a hard woman to track down,’ Gio murmured with supreme assurance.

Billie’s facial muscles were locked tight by shock. She couldn’t have shown him an expression to save her life but her wide green eyes were huge and anxious. ‘What are you doing here? Why would you have wanted to track me down, for goodness’ sake?’

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