His Diamond Bride

His Diamond Bride by Lucy Gordon Read Free Book Online

Book: His Diamond Bride by Lucy Gordon Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lucy Gordon
your engine?’ she teased.
    He assumed a lofty tone. ‘On second thoughts, I think you should stay quietly in the kitchen, which is where a woman belongs. I don’t know why we ever gave you the vote. All right, all right, don’t eat me!’
    He edged away, holding up his arms in a theatrical parody of self-defence.
    â€˜I’ve a good mind to set Billy on you,’ she laughed.
    â€˜He wouldn’t do it,’ Mark observed. ‘We’re the best of friends.’
    As if to confirm it, Billy put his nose on Mark’s knee, gazing up at him worshipfully. Mark scratched his ears, returning a look that was almost as loving.
    Dee was fascinated by this new side of him. His normal persona—cool, collected and humorous—had relaxed into the kind of daft adoration that dogs seemed able to inspire. She watched them for a while, smiling, until he looked up and coloured self-consciously.
    â€˜I always wanted a dog,’ he said, ‘but my mother wouldn’t allow it. I tend to get rather stupid about other people’s.’
    â€˜I don’t think you’re stupid because you like Billy,’ she said. ‘I’d think you were stupid if you didn’t. When I set my heart on a dog my parents weren’t keen either, but I pestered and pestered until they gave me Billy for my seventh birthday.’
    â€˜Pestering my mother would only have brought me a clip round the ear,’ he said wryly. ‘She didn’t like what she called “insolence”.’
    â€˜She sounds terrible.’
    â€˜No, she just had a very hard life. She was devastated after my father left.’
    â€˜I thought you said he died.’
    â€˜He did, eventually, but he deserted her first. Keep that to yourself, I don’t tell everyone.’
    She nodded, understanding the message that he hadn’t told Sylvia.
    â€˜Unfortunately for us both,’ he went on, ‘I look very much like my father, and it didn’t help.’
    â€˜She blamed you for that?’ Dee demanded, aghast.
    â€˜It wasn’t her fault,’ Mark said quickly. ‘She couldn’t cope with her feelings, she didn’t know what to do with me.’
    â€˜How old were you when your father left?’
    â€˜Six, and ten when he died.’
    â€˜No brothers or sisters?’
    â€˜No, I wish I had. It would have helped if there had been more of us. Or one of you,’ he added, looking down at Billy. ‘You’d have been a good friend.’
    â€˜She should have let you have a dog,’ Dee said. ‘You’d have been easier for her to cope with.’
    â€˜I got one once,’ he said with a wry smile of recollection. ‘It was a stray and quite small, so I took him home and hid him. I managed to keep him a secret for two days before my mother found out.’
    â€˜What did she do?’ Dee asked, although she was afraid to hear.
    â€˜I came home from school one day and he’d vanished. I went through every room looking for him, but he wasn’t there. She said he must have run away, but I found out afterwards that she’d thrown him out in the rain.’
    â€˜Did she give you a clip round the ear?’
    â€˜Mmm! But I was defiant. I went looking for him.’
    â€˜Did you ever find him?’
    â€˜Yes, I found his body in a pile of rubbish on the street. From the look of him, he’d starved to death.’
    â€˜Did you tell your mother?’
    Mark shook his head.
    She hesitated a moment before asking, ‘Did she hit you often?’
    â€˜Now and then. When things got on top of her, she’d lash out. I learned to keep out of her way and stay quiet.’
    Suddenly he raised his head. ‘Hey, what is this? Why are we being so gloomy? It’s way in the past, all over.’
    She’d liked him before, but now she liked him even more for this brief glimpse into the unhappy childhood that must have made him as he was today.

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