Lost in Love

By: Michelle Reid


'No.' MARNIE threw down her paintbrush and turned to find a rag to wipe the paint from her fingers. 'I won't do it,' she refused. 'And I don't know how you have the gall to ask me!'

Her brother's face was surly to say the least. 'I've got to have it by tomorrow or I've had it!' he cried. 'There isn't anyone else I know I can turn to. And if you asked him, he'd .. .'

'I said no.'

They glared at each other across the width of her studio, Marnie with her arms folded across her chest in that stubborn, immovable way her brother knew only too well, her cool gaze refusing to so much as glance at the arm he had wrapped in a white linen sling or the vivid bruise he was wearing down one side of his face.

She made an impatient flick with her hand. 'The last time you talked me into going begging to Guy, I had to stand there and endure a thirty-minute lecture on your weak character-and my own stupidity for pandering to it!' she reminded Jamie. 'I will not give him another chance to repeat that little scene even if it does mean you having to face the music for a change!'

'I can't believe you're going to let me down like this!' Jamie cried. 'We both know Guy is still crazy about you! He can't refuse you a damned--'

'Jamie!' she warned. Her relationship, hostile or otherwise, with Guy Frabosa was always a risky subject to get on to at the best of times, and her warning had her brother shifting uncomfortably where he stood.

'Well, it's true,' he mumbled, unable to hold her gaze. 'The last time it happened,' he persisted none the less, 'I admit it was my own stupid fault, and Guy was probably right to send me packing but .. .'

'It wasn't you he sent packing,' his sister angrily pointed out. 'It was me! It wasn't you who had to listen to him verbally annihilate your family, it was me! And it certainly was not you who had to stand there taking it all firmly in the face without a word to say in your defence,' she concluded tightly. 'It was most definitely me!'

'Then let me try asking him--'

'You?' she scoffed, sending him a look fit to wither.

Jamie was not one of Guy's most favourite people. In fact, it could be said that Jamie was Guy's least favourite person in the whole wide world! 'You must be feeling desperate if you're thinking of tackling the great man yourself,' she derided. 'He's liable to make mincemeat out of you in thirty seconds flat and you know it.'

'But if you…' 'No!'

'God, Marnie.' Jamie sank heavily into a chair, defeat sending his thin frame hunching over in distress.

Marnie hardened her heart against the pathetic picture he presented, determined not to weaken this time. It was no use, she told herself firmly. Guy was right. It was time Jamie learned to sort out his own messes. In the four years since she and Guy had parted, Jamie had sent her to him on no less than three occasions to beg on his behalf. That last time had brought Guy's well deserved wrath down on her head, and he had warned her then that the next time she came to him with her brother's problems he would expect something back in return. She had understood instantly what he meant. And there was just no way - no way she was going to put herself in that position. Not even for her brother.

'I'll lose everything,' Jamie murmured thickly.

'Good,' she said, not believing him for a moment. 'Perhaps once you have lost it you'll learn the importance of protecting what you had!'

'How can you be so mean?' he choked, lifting his wounded face from his uninjured hand to stare wretchedly at her. He just could not believe she was letting him down this time. 'You've become hard, Marnie,' he accused her, sending her the first look of dislike she had ever received from this only blood relative she had in the world. 'This business with Guy has made you hard.'

'Look .. .' She sighed, softening slightly because Jamie was right, she had become hard, a necessary shell grown around herself for self-protection. But she didn't want to hurt Jamie. She hated seeing anyone hurt. 'I can probably lay my hands on ten thousand pounds by tomorrow if that's any good to you.'

'A drop in the ocean,' he mumbled ungratefully, and his sister flared all over again.

'Then what do you expect me to do?' she yelled. 'Sell my damned soul for you?' And that was what it would amount to if she went to Guy for money again. He would demand her soul as payment.

Her brother shook his head. 'God, you make me feel like a heel.'

'Well, that's something, I suppose.' She sighed. 'Why can't you think before you jump, Jamie?' On a gesture of exasperation, she dropped down on the sofa beside him. 'I mean,' she went on, her violet gaze impatient as she studied him, 'to drive a valuable car like that out on the road without insurance!'

The disgust in her voice made him flinch. 'I was delivering it,' he muttered defensively. 'I didn't expect a dirty great lorry to drive smack into the side of me!'