Sweet Liar (Montgomery/Taggert 18) - Page 57

Slowly, she stood. He talked to her about marriage vows and children in one breath, then told her he had a date in the next.


In the silence in the taxi on the way back to the town house, Samantha had time to think, but at first all she could do was feel, and what she felt was old-fashioned, gut-wrenching jealousy. This was a new emotion for Sam, and it didn’t take much analyzing to know that she didn’t much like the sensation. Of course, to be jealous, she told herself, you had to feel as though you owned another person, that you had a right to that person’s time and attention…and love. But she certainly didn’t own Mike and he didn’t own her. Wasn’t this lack of ownership, this freedom from possession, what she had worked so hard to achieve? Hadn’t she fought him at every turn just so she wouldn’t be tempted to have any feelings for him?

Samantha was well aware that right now she was as vulnerable as a person could get. After all, she’d recently lost the last person on earth who had any connection with her; her husband, her relatives, all of them were gone. Being alone in the world and grieving could make a person do odd things, such as think you were in love with a person when actually you were merely very grateful. That’s what she was to Mike: grateful. She’d told him that when he’d kept her from sleeping for whole days at a time, she was merely tired, not depressed, but even then, even when she’d said it, she’d known she was lying. She had been so depressed that she hadn’t wanted to continue living; although she had never actually contemplated suicide, she had wanted to sleep without waking up.

Mike had taken her out of herself and forced her to wake up by using a combination of enraging her and just plain, ordinary paying attention to her. He had also given her hope, which was something that had been missing from her life after her father died. Mike had given her hope that she would be able to find her grandmother, that she could find the last person on earth who had a link to her.

Of course, to Mike’s way of looking at it, everything he had done, all the kindnesses, all the attention, had backfired because he’d involved Samantha in something that had turned out to be dangerous. But Sam didn’t regret any of it. If her life was going to be threatened, she’d rather have it threatened by an outside force than by her own hopelessness.

Now, looking at Mike in the taxi, she did her best to squelch her feelings of jealousy. He had said that he was heart-whole, that he wasn’t in love with another woman, but then you didn’t have to be in love to go out on a date, did you? Of course it was none of her business whether he dated or not since she was just his tenant, but it seemed odd that he seemed to enjoy her company but now wanted to spend time with someone else.

“Have you had this date a long time?” she asked, trying to sound as though she were just making conversation. Maybe his mother had arranged a date with a friend’s daughter.

“Three weeks,” he said tersely.

“Ah. Then you must go?” Is it an obligation? is what she really wanted to ask.

“Yes.” He turned to her. “Jealous?”

She saw that he was trying to be lighthearted, to be his usual teasing self, but Samantha sensed tension under his words. He’s hiding something from me, she thought, trying not to frown. There’s something he doesn’t want me to know. Immediately, her first thought was, he’s going out with Vanessa and he doesn’t want me to know about it. How silly that he should try to hide it, she told herself. What he does with his time is absolutely and utterly none of my business. He could date actresses, models, whomever, and it would mean nothing to her.

As she thought about Vanessa or any o

ther woman who might be in Mike’s life, she realized that every muscle in her body was rigid. This is absurd, she told herself, utterly ridiculous. Mike and I are…friends, that’s all. We’ve been forced to spend a great deal of time together and we’ve made the best of it, and that’s all there is between us. Of course he was probably lonely living in that big house by himself and he was grateful to have some company, which is why we’ve spent so much time together going places, doing things, laughing together, touching each other, kissing—

She broke off as she looked at his profile. Mike would never in his life be lonely. He was too likable, too gregarious, too caring, too—

“Don’t look at me like that,” he whispered, not even turning to look at her.

Self-consciously, Samantha turned away to look out the window of the cab. Something was bothering him, but she didn’t know what it was. In that moment she knew what was wrong. He’s lying, she thought. He doesn’t have a date. But why is he lying?

She knew the answer the moment she thought about it. He’s lying to protect me. Warmth spread through her. Not just warmth, but joy, pure undiluted joy ran through every vein in her body. Just as she’d known that if she could signal Mike when the man was choking her he would come for her, she knew that now Mike was trying to keep her safe. What was it Mike had said to her? “Your father gave me the care of you and I mean to be worthy of his trust.” She knew he felt that the attempted murder was his fault because he’d not considered the old gangster legend about the missing money. Since the attempt on her life, Mike had done everything he could to get her to safety. He’d so much wanted to protect her that he’d been willing to send her away with his cousin Raine, who he disliked—at least Mike disliked Raine when it came to Samantha, she thought.

Leaning her head back, trying not to smile, she remembered the last time Mike had gone out on a date. That night he’d wanted her to be jealous and had been disappointed when she hadn’t been. Later he’d told her that his “date” was an eighty-six-year-old woman who he thought had worked in the nightclub where Maxie had worked.

“I’m going with you,” she said just as they reached the town house.

“Like hell you are,” Mike answered, and the way he said it made Sam sure she was right: Wherever he was going tonight had something to do with Maxie. She would have been hard-pressed to be able to think of a time in her life when the knowledge that she was right made her so thoroughly happy. She could have danced a jig in the street and run along the top of the fence railing crooning, “Singin’ in the Rain.”

But she behaved herself. As Mike paid the fare, she sedately walked up the stairs and got out her door key, but Mike elbowed her aside and used his own key. Smiling, she watched him, guessing that his old-fashioned ethics extended to door locks. She could see that he was angry, and the more angry he was, the happier she became. If he were going out on a “real” date, he wouldn’t be angry, he’d be laughing at her.

“What do you think I should wear?” she asked brightly. “A suit or a nice pair of trousers?”

“A nightgown and a bathrobe,” he said through clenched teeth as he closed the door behind them. “That’s all you need for staying in tonight and watching TV.”

“There is absolutely nothing on on Saturday night, so I guess I’ll just have to go with you.”

“Samantha,” he said, giving her a threatening look. “You are not going with me.”

“Vanessa might be annoyed?”

For a split second, a look of puzzlement crossed his face, then he grinned, but Samantha knew him well enough by now to know how false that grin was. No Vanessa. Hallelujah. “For your information, I’m meeting Abby for dinner.”


“You wouldn’t know the place. Upper West Side. Very posh. I probably won’t be home until late, or maybe I’ll spend the night.”

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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