Scandalous Seduction(2)

By: Miranda Lee

When the woman interviewer had dared to ask him why a man of his obvious literary talent continued to write the sex and spice type of novel, instead of something worthwhile, Brad Barrington had lifted a supercilious eyebrow, then smiled drily.

'My dear lady,' he'd returned, 'I wrote serious novels for ten years. The manuscripts are still lying in a drawer because no publisher would touch them. One can starve writing unpublished masterpieces. So now I write what the people want. And do you know what? It's damned hard writing what the people want. Damned hard… It pays well, though,' he had finished with a winning grin.

Did it ever! He had reportedly received two million dollars for the television rights to Seduction and was supposedly negotiating for more for Corruption. Though Harriet's mind boggled at how they would make films out of his stories. Heavens, the film would melt!

But, to be truthful, she had privately agreed with the interviewer. It did seem a shame that a man of his writing ability didn't attempt a novel of more depth and magnitude. She didn't doubt that his bestsellers were hard to write, and she had enjoyed them herself in an escapist fashion, but she couldn't imagine anyone reading any of his novels more than once, or ever studying them. Yes, in a way Brad Barrington had prostituted his talent for money. Not an altogether admirable trait.

Yet she had been intrigued by the man. He had stayed in her mind for days afterwards. And he was coming here…to her home…for dinner…tonight.

'I was thinking,' her mother added carefully, 'that you and Mr Barrington might hit it off. I mean… well…'

A warning bell went off in Harriet's head and she slanted an apprehensive look her mother's way. Finding a husband for her elder daughter was Julia Weatherspoon's favourite occupation.

Harriet's stomach twisted. She wished her mother would let well enough alone. It wasn't that Harriet wasn't interested in marrying. She was. She liked men. And she had recovered—in a fashion—from the crippling blow Amanda and Graham had dealt her. After all, four years had gone by and it was impossible to remain devastated forever, even if your younger sister had run off with your fiancé.

But couldn't her mother see that the problem lay in something Harriet had no control over? She just wasn't the sort of woman most men found sexually appealing. That was the simple truth of the matter.

'I hope you don't seriously think a man like Brad Barrington would be interested in me?' she said firmly.

Julia fairly bristled. 'And why not, pray tell? You're an attractive and charming woman.'

Harriet sighed. Attractive and charming? Did all mothers exaggerate their daughters' attributes?

'Mr Barrington already has a lady-friend,' she explained calmly, knowing that this was one tack her mother couldn't refute. 'A certain Miss Lydia Richmond, television newsreader extraordinaire.' Their affair had been a hot gossip item in the papers and magazines for ages.

'Oh, her,' Julia tossed off. 'She's no problem. Mr Barrington told Raymond they'd split up. Permanently.'

Harriet shook her head in wonderment. But she didn't doubt it. People seemed to tell her father everything. He had a salesman's way with him, making prospective clients talk and tell him things they wouldn't normally. The folk around town used to say that Harriet had inherited her father's intelligence and gift of the gab; Amanda, her mother's grace and beauty. Sometimes Harriet felt she had got the better deal. But not tonight. No…definitely not tonight.

'Now, Harriet,' her mother was saying. 'I know what you're thinking. That interfering mother of mine is at it again, and you're right! But Mr Barrington seems eminently suitable husband material for you. He's obviously grown tired of the fast city life. And fast city women, I don't doubt. He probably wants peace and quiet, and a woman by his side who will appreciate and understand his work. Someone like you…'

When Harriet went to protest that a thirty-six-year-old bachelor was likely to remain one, her mother hushed her with a look. 'At twenty-six you're not getting any younger, my dear, and I know that underneath you still want to get married. I also know you wouldn't want to marry any old man. Now let's face it, how many times does an attractive, well-educated, wealthy, unattached gentleman come to live near our town? I mean, Valley's End isn't exactly the ends of the earth, but… well…' Her voice trailed away tellingly.