He laughed a cruel laugh. ‘I see that it’s finally sinking in what your little affair with your boss is going to cost you. Because no way am I going to marry you now.’
Kathryn’s shock gradually gave way to outrage and anger.
‘You think I’d want you to?’ she threw back at him. ‘I wouldn’t marry you now if you were the last man on earth. You’re lucky I don’t ring the police and have you arrested for assault. But I will, if you hit me again. Trust me on that. Now I want you out of here. Tonight. Pack your things right now and go.’
‘You can’t make me do that!’ he sneered.
‘Yes, I can,’ she countered furiously. ‘I signed the lease on this flat. I bought the furniture. Everything in this place is mine, except for your clothes. If you don’t go willingly, I’ll ring Hugh and have him send one of his bodyguards round to throw you out. He has several on his payroll.’ This was a lie. Unlike his father, Hugh never used security. He said he’d rather risk being killed, or kidnapped, than live in fear.
‘So you admit you’re sleeping with that cocky bastard.’
‘I’m admitting nothing.’
He glared at her, his eyes filled with hate and, yes, the threat of more violence.
‘If you don’t start packing,’ she practically screamed at him, ‘I’m calling the police.’
He scowled then spun away and stomped across the room to the wardrobe which held all his things.
Kathryn quickly moved round to the far side of the bed, where she stood with her arms crossed, her face a stony mask. Inside she was trembling, shock once again rising to the fore. For all the problems that she’d had growing up, violence in her family had not been one of them. Daryl, though, had once confessed to her that his father had been physically abusive. Like father, like son. Kathryn was beginning to realise that she’d made a narrow escape tonight.
Not that the night was over yet. Hopefully, he wouldn’t make any more trouble for her, or hit her again.
She watched in extremely tense silence whilst he stuffed his clothes into two bags, which she technically owned as well. But she didn’t say anything. She didn’t want to delay his departure.
Finally he’d emptied his wardrobe, glaring at her defiantly after he stalked into the living room and returned with several CDs.
‘These are mine,’ he growled as he shoved them into a side pocket of one of the bags. ‘You gave them to me as presents. You can keep the engagement ring, of course. You bought it. No doubt you’ll put it in a drawer till the next sucker comes along. Wouldn’t want you to waste any of your precious money. God, I don’t know what I ever saw in you! You’re a cheapskate and a control freak. I guess your being a right little raver in bed blinded me to your true nature. But my eyes are well and truly open now.’ With that, he swept up the two bags and headed for the door. ‘I’ll leave it up to you to cancel all the wedding arrangements, sweetheart,’ he threw over his shoulder. ‘Not that there’s too many of them.’
Kathryn closed her eyes and remained where she was till she heard the front door slam. Then she ran to it, her hands trembling as she slid the internal security chain in place. That done, she hurried over to the coffee table, where she kept the telephone directory. Five minutes later she was talking to the receptionist of a twenty-four-hour locksmith company who promised to send someone round straight away.
By nine-thirty that evening, Kathryn was over two hundred dollars poorer, but at least Daryl would not be able to let himself in any time he wanted with the keys which she hadn’t thought to demand from him. Aside from a very real fear that her now ex-fiancé might try to hurt her, she wouldn’t put it past Daryl to return whilst she was at work tomorrow and clean the place out. The new deadlock would prevent that, along with the security bolts now fitted to all the windows.
It wasn’t till Kathryn finished taking the necessary steps to make herself physically secure that her fragile emotional state finally caught up with her.
She didn’t cry at first, but just sank down onto the floor where she happened to be standing, by the side of the bed. And there she sat for ages, her knees up, her arms wrapped tightly around her legs.
Alone again, came the blackly despairing thought. Alone in the world with no one to love her, no one to comfort her.
If this had happened a year ago, she would have left here and driven straight up to Val’s place at Pearl Beach, to the one person who definitely had loved her, and the one place where she’d always found peace. And there, she would have healed. And found the courage to go on, as she had in times past.
But there was no Val to run to any more.
Any depression Kathryn had initially felt over the passing of her old friend last year had been partially lifted by the knowledge that, come her thirtieth birthday next month, she would take possession of Val’s home. The thought that she could stay at this much-loved sanctuary whenever she wanted had soothed her worries over the future; had even given her the courage to accept Daryl’s proposal and start making concrete plans to create a family of her own, something she’d always craved but which she’d feared as well. For what did she know of making a good marriage, or of being a good mother?
It seemed inevitable that any marriage she entered would eventually fail.
Kathryn did not like to fail at anything she did.
‘Well, I’ve failed this time, haven’t I?’ she wailed aloud.
The thought of losing Daryl was not why her chin began to wobble. She’d already come to the conclusion he wasn’t worth tears. It was losing Val’s place which devastated Kathryn.
Never again would she walk up onto that sweet little verandah, or sit there watching the waves ripple gently onto the golden sand. Never again would she make tea in Val’s large, comfy kitchen, or enjoy the wonderfully dreamless sleeps she had when staying there.
‘Never again,’ she choked out, the irrevocable words reinforcing the enormity of her loss.
It was then that she started to weep, huge, noisy sobs which racked her body and shattered her mind. Eventually, when she could weep no more, she clawed her way up onto the bed and collapsed on the quilt. Sleep came through sheer exhaustion, Kathryn not waking till the dawn light crept through her bedroom window.
HUGH stared at Kathryn.
He’d spotted the nasty bruise on her cheek the moment he’d strode into the office—half an hour late. He’d listened to her struggle to explain how she’d acquired her injury, and he’d watched, shocked, when she’d finally burst into tears.
‘Oh, just go away,’ she sobbed as she snatched a handful of tissues from the box she kept on her desk.
Hugh wasn’t going anywhere. He would have liked to take her into his arms, but he knew that would be a fatal move. Instead, he stood patiently in front her desk and waited till her sobs subsided.
‘You can’t possibly marry that man now, Kathryn,’ he said at last.
‘I’ve got no intention of marrying him,’ she snapped with some of her usual spirit. ‘I threw him out.’
‘And he just went?’ It seemed unlikely to Hugh that a physically abusive fiancé would go meekly into the night.
‘He wasn’t going to. But I threatened him with the police. Then with one of your bodyguards.’
‘But I don’t have any bodyguards!’
‘He didn’t know that.’
‘Mmm. He might come back, you know.’
‘I did think of that, so I had the lock changed, straight away.’
‘Very sensible,’ Hugh said. ‘But I think it would be wise if you stayed somewhere else for a few nights.’