Sweet Lies

Sweet Lies

by Catherine O'Connor

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As a vulnerable girl, Megan turned to strong, handsome Darrow for support. He'd given her sweet words of protection, and trust, and love-and then he'd left her. She was going to tell him about the baby when he came back...but he never did.

Now Megan's son is a teenager and Darrow is back in her life! He believes the lie she's told about the husband she never

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As a vulnerable girl, Megan turned to strong, handsome Darrow for support. He'd given her sweet words of protection, and trust, and love-and then he'd left her. She was going to tell him about the baby when he came back...but he never did.

Now Megan's son is a teenager and Darrow is back in her life! He believes the lie she's told about the husband she never had-she made it up to protect her son and save her pride. But why does the story anger him so much? And what was the truth behind their breakup all those years ago?

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Sweet Lies

By Catherine O'Connor

Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.

Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. All right reserved. ISBN: 0-373-80542-X

Chapter One

The Yorkshire hills rose majestically over the shimmering vast waters of Lake Rannaleigh, their
towering peaks already lost in the cold grey mists that were rolling slowly down over the rugged
russet-brown hills. Megan Parkinson released the pressure on the accelerator without even
being aware of her action, her heart twisting with a sudden sharp pain at the sight of the well- remembered scene. The car slowed down to a virtual stop and Megan allowed herself a
moment of uncharacteristic self-indulgence. A ghost of a smile flickered over her face as her
expressive green eyes softened with sentimental tears.

Everything was just as she remembered it: the tiny square, the two small hotels, happily co- existing, sharing the steady flow of tourists, and Mrs Bain's name was still painted in bold black
capital letters across the top of the corner shop. It sold absolutely anything anyone could ever
need, as well as being the only post office for miles around. Megan remembered it all
affectionately, a gentle sigh escaping from her softly parted lips.

Her eyes clouded momentarily with sudden doubts as too many memories flooded into her
mind, disturbing her snatched moment of tranquillity. She bit nervously, her teeth sinking tenderly
into her full bottom lipas all her nerves tensed uneasily. She cast a quick, protective glance over
her shoulder at the innocently sleeping form curled up on the rear seat. He looked surprisingly
fragile in repose. His delicate features took on a fragile quality that denied his physical strength
and determined character, which were only recently was becoming a problem for her.

An instinctive smile tugged at the corners of her mouth, curling her full lips as she looked at him.
The metamorphosis had already started; he was beginning to look more and more like his father
with each passing day. Megan wondered whether she was just over-sensitive to his looks,
searching for resemblances, a part of her hoping that he would look like his father. Though the
thought caused equal amounts of pain and pleasure to her, Megan knew she had no control
over the situation. Her expression softened as she reached out and tucked the car-rug around
her son's unprotected shoulders.

At that moment the bright glare of headlights flashed at her, causing her to blink rapidly. She
jumped as a car overtook her, its horn blaring at her obstruction. She caught a glimpse of the
hard profile of the driver's handsome face as he sped past. Her head spun round, drawn by the
familiar visage, her heart contracting violently within her. Megan stared after the car, all the old
pain resurfacing with a cruel vengeance. Her eyes remained fixed on the rear lights, as if trapped
by their brightness, till they were tiny pin-pricks of red fading into the distance.

"It couldn't have been him," she said aloud to herself.

"Not here, not now." She felt her teeth clamp against each other as she ground the words
through her clenched mouth and struggled to contain the rise of panic that was surging through
her trembling body. It was her mind playing tricks, she told herself, trying to remain calm as her
heart began to thud painfully against her tight chest.

Just coming back here was enough to stir up so many hidden ghosts and bitter memories.

The frown deepened across Megan's brow as she questioned the wisdom of returning, but
circumstances beyond her control had forced her return, she remembered with a painful twist of
her heart.

Much to her regret, Megan hadn't been able to come back for her mother's funeral. Her death
had been so sudden - a traffic accident - and Luke had still been in hospital, undergoing a
series of tests while doctors sought the cause of his illness, and she couldn't leave him. He had
been much too ill and frightened. She hoped her mother would have understood, but she
doubted whether the rest of the community had. She could imagine the scandal her absence had
caused and shook her head. She had been forced to leave Rannaleigh all those years ago to
avoid scandal. She knew that the past would never stop haunting her but surely, she kept
reassuring herself, that driver could not possibly have been him? Not Darrow Maine.

She resumed her journey, but that fleeting glimpse only served to remind her of the gamble she
had taken in coming back. A bitter smile twisted her mouth. Maybe nothing here had changed
but she had. She had left here a broken-hearted young girl, but she was returning a fully mature
woman, with a rapidly growing son. But had her heart ever really mended? a taunting whisper
mocked her. Wasn't part of her still a young girl, longing for her past, so that she imagined that
Darrow Maine had just driven past her? Megan shook her head in an attempt to shake the
doubts that niggled in the back of her mind.

Dusk was falling as she parked the car outside the reception area. The sky was a water-colour
grey and a cold moon was already hanging in the sky like a huge silver coin. Megan closed the
car door quietly, so as not to wake her precious child. She shivered. There was an icy nip in the
evening air and her warm breath made clouds in the dusky light. She pulled her cashmere coat
closer around her, its thick collar reaching up to her ears as she strode over the car park, her
feet crunching on the gravel path. A smile of satisfaction touched her lips at the unstated
elegance of the interior. At least she had returned home in style, she mused, wondering how
long it would take for word to get round that she was back.

Megan smiled warmly as she reached out for the keys to her lakeside lodge, eager to settle in,
but her smile froze, her breath stolen painfully from her as the searing shock of recognition
swept over her. It was Darrow.

She was barely aware of the weight of the keys as the receptionist dropped them heavily into
her outstretched palm, though instinctively her fingers closed tightly around the cold metal, glad
of the feel of something solid as her whole world seemed to come crashing down around her.
She was no longer listening to the hotel receptionist; all her senses were trained on the silent,
menacing figure that had suddenly appeared behind her.

She stiffened in absolute dread as his cold, dark eyes fixed on her with an electrifying intensity.
She felt her breath catch in her tightening chest as she faced him. His hard, icy gaze sent a shiver
of apprehension through her body. It was so unlike him. He was a completely changed man,
cold and aloof.

Had she fooled herself for all these years? she questioned herself silently. Had she held on to an
image that had been self-created, a dream of a man who had only ever existed in her foolish
young mind? She had clearly remembered those eyes as soft and gentle, holding a shining light
of loving warmth touched with a wicked gleam that mirrored his zest for life. Now they were
like freezing shards of ice, cruel and ruthless. Megan shut her eyes momentarily, to block out the
image she now saw, a mockery of the man she had known.

She dragged her eyes from his hard, hypnotic gaze and concentrated on the receptionist, forcing
herself to appear calm though her mind was a riot of emotions and thoughts. She never would
have come back if she had known he was here. It was painful enough having to return, to rake
up all the old memories, without the added problem of him being here. She smiled politely as
she took the sheaf of papers being handed to her, nodding in agreement as she moved back,
eager to be away from him. She could still feel his icy blue eyes searing into the very depths of
her soul, as if searching for some trace of the girl he had known. Megan's eyes darted quickly
back to his but she could detect no glimmer of recognition, and, despite everything, that hurt.


Excerpted from Sweet Lies by Catherine O'Connor
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.

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