The Sheikh's Secret Babies(4)By: Lynne Graham
‘Here, let me give you a hand...’ A tall, well-built young man with brown hair and a ready smile moved to intercept her, lifting some of the presents from her arms to enable her to unlock her car. ‘My word, you’re popular with your class!’
‘Didn’t you get a load of stuff too?’ Chrissie asked Danny, who taught Year Six and was in charge of games.
‘Yes. Bottles of wine, designer cologne,’ he proffered with amusement, flipping open her car boot so that she could pile the gifts in. ‘Here in this privileged corner of middle-class London, the last day of term is like winning in a game show.’
Involuntarily, Chrissie smiled, her lovely face full of animation, turquoise-blue eyes alight with answering laughter. ‘The gift-giving has got out of hand,’ she agreed ruefully. ‘The parents spend far too much money.’
Danny slammed shut the boot lid and leant back against it. ‘So, what are your plans for the rest of the summer?’
‘I’ll be staying with my sister...doing a bit of travelling,’ she confided a shade awkwardly.
‘That’s the sister who’s married to the rich Italian?’ Danny checked.
‘I only have the one sibling,’ Chrissie admitted, shaking her car keys in the hope he would take the hint and move out of her way.
Danny frowned. ‘You know, you’re only young once. Don’t you ever want to take a break from your family and do something more daring on your own?’
With difficulty, Chrissie kept her smile in place. Two years earlier, she had gone down the daring route and what a disaster that had turned out to be! Now she played safe, stayed sensible and worked to eradicate the damage she had done to her relationship with her sister. She adored Lizzie, the sister five years her senior, and when Chrissie’s life had gone wrong, Lizzie’s disappointment, Lizzie’s conviction that somehow she was responsible for the poor decisions Chrissie had made, had filled Chrissie with a guilt she had never quite managed to shake off.
‘Lizzie loves you...she only wants to see you happy,’ her brother-in-law, Cesare, had said to her once. ‘If you would just trust her enough to tell her the whole story it would make her feel better.’
But Chrissie had never told anyone the whole story of her downfall. It had been a stupid short-sighted decision she had made and which she was still paying for. It was bad enough living with her mistakes but it would be even worse if she had to share the truth of them with others and see their opinion of her intelligence dive-bomb.
‘Obviously, I’ll be in Cornwall,’ Danny reminded her as if she didn’t already know. Everyone in the staffroom had been listening to Danny talk about his summer surfing plans for months.
‘I hope you have a great time.’ Chrissie eased past him to open her car door.
Danny closed his hand round her slender wrist to hold her back and looked down at her ruefully. ‘I would have a better time if you agreed to come with me,’ he admitted. ‘Just mates, no need to lay anything else on the line. Last chance, Chrissie. Why not live a little and give it a go?’
Blue eyes flaring with pained annoyance, Chrissie jerked her wrist free. ‘As I said, I’ve other plans—’
‘Some guy did a right number on you, didn’t he?’ Danny remarked, his face red with discomfiture as he moved away a step and thrust his hands into his pockets. ‘But all cats are not grey in the dark, Chrissie. If you still want a life, you have to reach out and take it.’
Breathing fast, Chrissie slid into the driver’s seat of her car and closed the door. She had wanted a life, an entirely different life from the one she now had. She had dreamt of climbing the academic ranks by pursuing a doctorate and of the freedom that would be hers once she was fully qualified. But life, Chrissie had discovered, had a habit of stabbing you in the back when you least expected it, of forcing a sudden rethink just when you were on the apparent brink of success. Now she was in no position to reach out and take anything because she had responsibilities that restricted her independence and her liberty. To her way of thinking the most shameful aspect was that she couldn’t get by without taking advantage of her sister’s generosity. Yet it could all have been so very different, had she only made the right decisions...