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Chapter 7: Andrew Plays the Field

Andrew Donovan turned over in his bed and studied the exquisite woman beside him.  Pale, soft skin.  Long, dark tresses.  Curves that were visible even under the mess of sheets and blankets that covered them.  For the life of him, he couldn't remember this creature's name.  Something Longridge or Longacre, it hardly mattered.  In a few hours, he would be headed to Los Angeles.  He leaned back into his pillows and stared at the ceiling.  He knew whatever his Mum wanted was important, but he hated being in the dark about it.

Two weeks with his Mum.  Why did that sound like a blasted prison sentence?  He loved his Mum, and knew she loved him, but there was always tension, like she was judging him for past transgressions that he doubted were even of his own making.  He and his Mum used to be close, even after he left Los Angeles to live in England.  Holiday visits had been great -- for a time.  But that had changed as he grew older, and no longer fit her image of her baby boy.  Their relationship grew even more strained when he decided to attend university in England instead of returning to the states, and nearly imploded when he joined the army.

Maybe mothers were just different than fathers.  Father had been chuffed when Andrew went to Sandhurst and probably never been more proud than at his Sandhurst graduation, when he had been named the top cadet and awarded the Sword of Honour by the Queen.  Father had hung the sword over the mantle downstairs, the mantle that Father and his father had built, a part of Donovan Manor that Andrew knew to be particularly special.  Yet Father also had never questioned Andrew's decision to take it down when he returned from Afghanistan.  He had never pushed for an explanation, never pried, had just accepted what Andrew wanted.

Mum was a different story.  Their calls tended to be brief, with him generally cutting them off before she could renew her efforts to get him "to talk about the war."  She obviously was not happy about him living at Donovan Manner, "doing nothing" in her words.  And there was always the tension in her voice when he said anything about Father.  That he didn't fully understand.  He knew their divorce had been bitter and a lot of bad things had happened when they were kids.  As he had grown, he realized that Aunt Kayla had not just been staying at Father's house, that there was more to it, and that had cut Mum deeply.  Yet he also remembered how, even after that, his parents had seemed to at least be friends.  Father had supported Mum marrying Philip, had even let them live at his house in Salem.  It was all confusing to him, but she seemed angry at Father again, probably a combination of Philip's affair, Andrew choices -- "following his father's footsteps," as Mum often said -- and now Father's disappearance.  And, unfortunately, only one of those three people would soon be in Mum's crosshairs.

A cheery thought, wasn't it?  Two  weeks with Mum that he would spend walking on eggshells and avoiding the sore subject that was Shane Donovan. 

He closed his eyes and tried to push the thought from his mind.  He would have to deal with that reality soon enough.  Now was the time to take advantage of the available distraction in his bed.  Andrew let out a deep breath, opened his eyes and looked at the girl again.  She really was exquisite.  He curled closer to her and began tracing the line of her shoulder to her fine neck.

"Mmmmmm," she murmured, beginning to awaken, as he pulled back his hand and began planting slow kisses on her neck.

"You're gorgeous," he whispered, as she turned and gave him a lazy smile.

"You're not so bad yourself," she said with a giggle.  Her hands slipped around him and her fingernails left a slow trail along his back.

"Ah, but you my dear, are a veritable nymph.  Bacchus himself could find no more beautiful a creature."  He knew he was laying it on a bit thick, but he had never yet found a woman immune from his charms.  And it was his last night in England for awhile.  No reason not to enjoy the ministrations of a beautiful woman.  When she woke, he would already be gone for the airport, though he made a mental note to have Hopkins the Butler prepare her breakfast and deliver flowers to her home in a day or two.  Hopkins would know if she was a Longridge or a Longacre; he would even know her first name.  "So, now, my sweet.  The night is still young.  Shall we lie here discussing the politics of the day, reciting Shakespeare's sonnets, or . . . ."  He paused as he lifted her arm, and began raining feather light kisses, starting at the wrist and moving delicately upward.

As his bedmate let out a soft moan and arched back into the pillows, she gave him the only answer he expected.