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As he still had a few minutes in hand before his meeting, he took the opportunity to study in turn
each of the buildings on either side of the gallery, his eyes sharply critical. Then he turned his
attention to the other side of the busy main street.
All of a sudden it was not the buildings that interested him but a woman in a pink short-skirted
suit, her long red hair tied back at her nape. She was stunningly attractive, her head was held
high and there was confidence in every stride that she took. She looked like a woman with a
mission, glancing to neither left nor right.
Byron's heart gave a thud against his ribcage. Was he imagining things? Was she who he thought
she was? It definitely looked like Ellie, a grown-up, sophisticated Ellie. But then, so had oneor
two other women, women with the same flame-red hair and the same pert little bottom. More
than once he had made a fool of himself by running after them.
But this time he was sure. And he knew that he had to speak to her before she disappeared.
Without a thought for the traffic, he stepped off the pavement and began what was to be a hair-raising
journey across the road.
Two lanes of traffic streamed in both directions and none of the cars was prepared to give way.
He dodged one only to find another directly in his path. Brakes screeched, horns blared, curses
were thrown at him. He ignored them all.
Like a maniac he swerved this way and that, vaulting bonnets where necessary, stepping back a
pace when it became clear that a vehicle was not going to stop, until finally, with more luck than
judgement, he made it safely to the other side.
The woman in pink had almost turned the corner, and in desperation he called her name. He
saw the look of shock on Danielle's face as she spun round. He saw the widening of her
beautiful eyes, and her infinitely kissable mouth falling open.
"Byron," she said huskily as he reached her side.
"You're the last person I expected to see. What brings you to Birmingham?"
"Business," he announced briefly, dismissively. "Lord, Ellie, you look good." Which was the
understatement of the year; she looked breathtaking. In a little under ten years she had matured
from a pretty teenager into a ravishingly attractive woman. He couldn't imagine why he had ever
let her go.
She didn't say, "You too"; she simply stood and looked at him in silence. She looked stunned to
see him - and not altogether pleased, which hurt like hell, though it was perhaps to be
He wanted to tell her that she looked beautiful, but he didn't. Instead he said urgently, "We must
talk. Unfortunately I'm due in a meeting. Do you think we could get together later - for old
times' sake?" She looked incredible, her porcelain skin glowing with good health. Even the
freckles he had mercilessly teased her about looked entrancing.
Danielle shook her head. "I don't think so. Old times weren't all that happy, were they?" Her
clear, wide-spaced blue eyes looked into his slate-grey ones and dared him to refute it.
He had known she would refuse; all the time he had been leap-frogging cars he had known. It
had been too much to hope that she would eagerly agree. Nevertheless disappointment knifed
through him. "Some of them were," he remarked, and there was a similar challenge in the look
he gave her.
"In the beginning maybe," she acknowledged with a shrug. "But we soon learned that we
weren't compatible. Therefore I see no point."
Byron made no attempt to hide his chagrin. "I'm not expecting to make a habit of it, Ellie; I
know that you've married again." He saw the shock on her face and added quickly, "I thought
that it might be nice to talk, that's all, to find out what's been happening to you."
"It's not something I wish to discuss," she announced firmly. "As far as I'm concerned the day
we divorced was the day you no longer existed." She looked as though there was something
more she would like to add, but whatever it was she kept it to herself. "I'm sorry," she said
instead. "I also have an appointment to keep and I'm already late." And with that she turned and
Byron found it hard to believe that she could do this to him. He wanted to go after her and talk
some more. There were so many things he wanted to say; he simply couldn't let her go like this.
He even took a couple of steps forward, his hand outstretched, her name on his lips - but his
meeting with Summers was important, too important to ignore.
He stood and looked after her until she disappeared around the corner, and he kicked out at a
nearby lamp-post in frustration. Dammit, he shouldn't have let her go; he should at least have
suggested seeing her another time, when it was convenient to them both. Why the hell hadn't he?
It was not until later in the day when Byron got back to his hotel room that he had the chance to
think again about Danielle. He took off his jacket and tie, loosened his collar, and flung himself
down on the bed. With his hands behind his head he stared up at the ceiling.
He had met Danielle when she was eighteen and still at school studying for her A levels. He had
been just twenty-one and at university. It was the university's annual rag day in aid of local
charities, and he had held an improvised collecting box in the shape of a red plastic bucket
under her nose and had refused to move until she put something into it.
"And if I don't?" she had taunted, flashing her incredible blue eyes at him.
"If you don't I shall tuck you under my arm and carry you back to my lair," he had warned. And
he'd been only half-joking.
Her red hair had caught his eye from several yards down the street and close up she had looked
like a fragile china doll. He had instantly wanted to take her home - home being student
lodgings at that particular time - and keep her for ever.
He had a thing about girls with red hair, probably because his grandmother had had red hair and
he had happy memories of her cuddling him on her lap with her sweet-smelling hair tickling his
For over ten minutes he had stood talking to Danielle and at the end of it had fixed a date. That
had been the beginning of what he had hoped would be a forever affair. But something had gone
drastically wrong ...
Excerpted from A Forbidden Marriage by Margaret Mayo
Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.