He could feel it, too, I knew, as I listened to his own heartbeat quicken under my ear. His fingers moved up under the short sleeve of my cotton shirt, on to my bare shoulder, I leaned closer to him, pressing myself against him.

I raised my head slightly so I could look up at him through eyelashes still wet with tears. His face was grave, his mouth set in a hard line, but the grey eyes gleamed with something I recognized instantly, unmistakably as desire.

As our eyes met, the hand on my shoulder stilled. I watched transfixed, as the dark head bent fractionally, haltingly, down towards me, I closed my eyes, waiting for his kiss, longing for the touch of his mouth on me. Suddenly, I felt his hand tighten painfully. His whole body stiffened away from me, and I thought I heard him swear softly under his breath.

My eyes flew open, He was looking at me now with something like hatred, his eyes narrowed and cold. Then he dropped his hand from my shoulder I shrank back, confused and embarrassed.

His jacket had dropped to the floor while He had held me for those few moments. He leaned over now to retrieve it, and when he straightened up again, the pleasant remote mask had reappeared on his face and he smiled distantly.

'Feeling better?' I nodded and turned my head away to hide my dismay at this sudden change in him. 'That's good,' he said calmly. 'It'll be alright you'll see I'll go shower and dress now.'

'Yes,' I said dully, still unable to face him. 'They'll be here at seven-thirty. I still have to get ready myself.'

I heard his footsteps as he walked out of the kitchen. When he was gone, I stood at the stove for several moments mindlessly stirring the consommé, trying to collect my thoughts, trying to understand the reason for Matthew's abrupt withdrawal just when he had been about to kiss me.

I sighed deeply, frowned at the consommé, and went down the hall to my bedroom. In one way, I thought as I showered, the episode gave me hope. his response to me in the kitchen had been spontaneous, not a planned event. He had wanted me, Jennifer, not merely the use of my body for the purpose of creating a child.

I knew he had wanted to kiss me, had fully intended to kiss me. Why had he stopped? After drying myself, I sat down at the dressing table brushing my short hair vigorously, staring into the mirror, pondering. Of course, I had looked a mess, teary-eyed, hot, and disheveled. Was that it?

No, I thought, as I slipped on a short white sundress and zipped it up to the back. My appearance hadn't stopped him when he initiated the embrace. What then? Was he afraid of rejection? Of course not! Not only could a man like Matthew Smith handle rejection quite easily, but my response to him had been unmistakable.

Of course, I knew the real reason. It was Beth. I had to face it. As my own grief over Richard's death had faded, I had automatically assumed, had hoped, that Matthew was also recovering from Beth. Now I knew better. Even though Matthew wanted me physically, he was still hopelessly in love with his dead wife, would always be caught in her spell. How could I fight a dead woman? Beth lived on in his heart as a beautiful, unattainable dream. He sleeps with me, I thought bitterly as I slashed a touch of pale coral lipstick on my mouth, but he'll never love me. He'll never allow himself to. How can he when he's enchanted by a ghost?

It had been a terrible mistake to sleep with him, to allow myself to respond to him physically. Somehow I would have to see to it that it never happened again. I simply must harden my heart against him, refuse him Otherwise I would be lost.

Miraculously, the dinner was not the disaster I had feared. At the last minute, I had strained the consommé through a cheesecloth, piled whipped cream into the fallen center of the torte, and re-seasoned the ragout before William and Margaret arrived.

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