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Jane Donnelly

The Trespasser

It couldn't be happening all over again!
The nightmare of rejection that had haunted Kate over the years had been finally
laid to rest and the future looked bright. ntil !lan chose to smash her dreams
and Kate "as back to s#uare one. $ut this time no one "as going to kno" ho"
much she "as hurting inside% because &ark "ould be there to prove that Kate
didn't lack a good'looking% intelligent man in her life. $ut "hat "ould happen
"hen &ark found out that she "as using him( That "as something "hich Kate
preferred not to think about...

)*!+T,- ./,
0heremembered the shape of it. The irregular line of the s#uat to"er in the
mouth of the bay. Today the sea and the sky "ere a leaden grey and there "ere
no boats out there% nobody else on this "inds"ept sea'front.
It "as the end of .ctober no". It had been summer then% although she
remembered shivering% gripping the iron rail that topped the harbour "all% looking
across at the to"er and "ishing she could hide inside because it seemed such a
"onderfully safe hiding place.
0he had "ondered "hat it "as like in there% and she "as still "ondering. The
cause"ay "as clear% the "ide flat stones led across the shore straight for the
to"er% and she "as stiff "ith a slight headache after all those hours on the road.
This "as good fresh air she "as breathing% but going by the massing clouds it
could be raining before long% so she might as "ell take some e1ercise before she
booked into a guesthouse.
0he buttoned up her black trenchcoat% pulled up her collar and tucked her hair
under a black felt hat. 0he picked up a shoulder bag% locked the door of the red
&ini% then "ent round to get her briefcase from the boot.
There "as no real need to take the briefcase "ith her. There "as not a soul in
sight% and the very fe" cars seemed parked and empty. $ut !lan had said%
'+romise you'll never be parted from it%' and she had joked%
'I solemnly s"ear that "herever it goes% I "ill go.'
In a "ay it "as the to"er that had brought her here. -eading the '2or 0ale%
3enuine &artello To"er' notice in a 0unday paper. 0he had thought !lan "anted
her "ith him on the !merican trip% until he had e1plained that the schedule "as a
hundred per cent business and he "as e1pected alone. Turning up "ith a blonde
knockout of a girl% guaranteed to distract him and everyone else% "ould be a
black mark against him.
0he had fi1ed her time off% jumping the gun% announcing gleefully% 'I'm coming
too!' and he had been so concerned and so apologetic that she had fallen over
herself to assure him it didn't matter% she didn't mind. It "as just that she'd had
this time o"ing. 0he "ould still take it% she could do "ith a break% and off'season
and "hat "ith the "eather being so miserable she should have no problem
getting in any"here.
0he had picked up a paper and seen the advert% and said% '4e "ent there on
holiday "hen I "as a child. I might go back and take another look. It "as a pretty
place.'
0he had made herself sound enthusiastic. 2or him% and for anybody "ho had
presumed she "ould be going "ith !lan 2oster although she had never actually
said that.
'!ren't you going "ith !lan% then(' Jenny had asked. '4hyever not(' Jenny $lair
had big bro"n eyes that al"ays seemed on the lookout for something mournful%
and Kate said briskly%
'/o% he's a"ay on high'pressure business% so I'll just be loafing around for a fe"
days.'
Jenny had a kind heart and the last thing Kate "anted "as anybody suspecting
she "as disappointed. 0ympathy "as something she could al"ays do "ithout%
and no one need feel sorry for Kate Kersha" "ho "as smart and sassy and #uite
successful. 4ith the long'legged elegance and cool beauty of a fashion model.
0he had been told that often enough% but it "as not until !lan said she "as
beautiful that she had finally believed that she "as.
*o" big the to"er seemed as you came closer. *alf"ay across the cause"ay it
began to loom against the skyline% and "hen she stepped on to the little rocky
island and looked up at the "alls it seemed impregnable% as it must have been
"hen cannon covered the open sea and armed men peered out of the narro"
"indo"s and do"n from the battlements.
Time had battered it% but it "as still massively impressive% and no" there "as a
"ay in. ! flight of stone steps led to the entrance that once had been bricked up%
"ith only the remains of a rusted ladder adhering to the "alls% and no "ay a child
could climb up there.
Kate had "alked carefully over the "et stones and looked out for sea'moss on
the rocks% but she "as so thrilled to see the steps that she slithered hurrying
to"ards them and getting up to the door.
The door seemed old% but it could be a reproduction. The to"er had been
advertised as an attractive and unusual home after e1tensive renovation. The
door "as heavy and dark% studded and hinged in black iron% and there "as no
knocker or bell.
0he hammered "ith her fist and called% '*ello!' but the sounds she made "ere
lost on the "ind. 4hen nobody ans"ered she banged again% and then% as she
pushed it% the door s"ung gently ajar.
0he "as still shouting% '*ello% anyone home(' and no" her raised voice echoed
back from the rounded "alls of the enormous room. The "alls "ere painted
"hite% the granite floor slabs had been sandblasted and polished% and a large
black dog came loping purposefully to"ards her.
'Do"n% boy!' she croaked% and at the same time a man called%
'If you're here to vie"% come on up.'
0he skirted the dog and there "ere stone steps behind an arch"ay% narro" and
curving and blocked almost entirely by the man% "ho turned and "ent ahead of
her% "aiting for her to join him on the first landing.
0he didn't take to him on sight. 2or no good reason% as she climbed the last t"o
steps and came face to face "ith him% a fro"n puckered her bro" and she almost
said% 'I'm not a buyer% you'd be "asting your time sho"ing me round.' !lthough
she really "anted to see "hat somebody had made of the to"er.
*e "as tall% broad'shouldered but thinnish% "ith very dark hair and thick
eyebro"s% and piercingly direct eyes that looked as if they never blinked.
*er first impression "as% you're an a"k"ard customer. Then he smiled and said%
'This "ay% madam%' and she smiled back because it "as an attractive grin% "hich
did nothing to change her mind about him.
The advert "as right. The to"er "as something different in the "ay of homes%
but you could have lived in it very comfortably. )onversion had produced five
bedrooms% t"o bathrooms% and a big living'room on the upper storeys5 and
although Kate couldn't have met the purchase price even "ith a couple of
noughts knocked off she let her imagination roam.
It "as furnished but stark% and it "ould be fun to o"n some"here like this and
have money to spend on it. 6ou might not need a fortune% there "ere auctions
and junk shops. !ll you "ould really need "ould be a mortgage that no one "as
going to advance on her salary.
*er guide didn't say much. *e opened doors and let her look in or step in
"ithout pointing out the obvious% like% 'This is another bathroom%' or 'The vie"s
are spectacular.'
0he could almost have been alone% but she "as very conscious of him standing
there% "atching her "ith a faintly "eary air% as if she "ere the latest in a long line
of sightseers.
4ell% she "as sightseeing% but she "asn't causing all that much trouble% and she
flashed him the occasional smile. *e "as barefoot% in jeans and a grey rollneck
s"eater% and he could have done "ith a shave. 0he "ondered if he "as the
caretaker and if she ought to tip him before she left.
/o" they "ere back "here they had started% in the pleasant living'room "ith its
ethnic rugs and deep comfortable chairs. This "as the cosiest spot too% some
rooms "ere arctic% but in here the dog spra"led in front of an ornate black cast'
iron stove that gave out a "elcoming heat. !nd Kate crossed to it% holding out her
hands for a final "arm'up.
'/ice stove%' she said.
'Temperamental. It needs replacing.'
This "as the first snag he had mentioned% but he hadn't given a sales pitch
either% and she asked% '!re you the o"ner('
'6es.'
*er lips t"itched. 'I "as "ondering if I ought to tip you for sho"ing me around.'
'There's an idea.'
0he laughed. '2orget it. ."ning a place like this% you could afford to be tipping
me.'
'4ell% ho" about a cup of coffee on the house('
'4ell% thank you%' she said% 'I'd like that very much%' and she "as surprised at
ho" eager she "as to stay a little longer.
.f course% that "as because she "as fascinated by the to"er. !t times she got
the sort of tingle she "as getting no"% as if she "as tuning in to something
e1citing. It "as a kind of si1th sense% and very useful in her line of business.
The kitchen "as do"nstairs% through another arch"ay. The dog follo"ed the
man and Kate "andered around rubbernecking. 0he hadn't noticed much "hile
she "as dodging the dog% but no" she sa" the big scrubbed'top old table "ith
the oil lamp in the centre% the dresser% the hatstand% "aterproofs and anoraks
hanging and "ellie boots piled beneath.
0he stood at a "indo" looking out to sea. .n the rock shelf belo" the big gun
"ould have stood% primed and ready for /apoleon's invasion that never came.
)annon balls "ould be piled high% and she could imagine the scurrying figures%
hear the boom and smell the cordite.
0hecould smell smoke% sharp and acrid% and she turned% sniffing the air and
free7ing in horror as she sa" the grey cloud billo"ing from the staircase. Then
she screamed% '2ire!' and leapt into action% and the man grabbed her arm just
before she reached the arch"ay.
'8et go of me! I left my briefcase up there!' 0he tore herself loose so violently
that she cracked her head back against the "all and stars danced in front of her
eyes.
*e stood% barring her "ay% smoke drifting la7ily past him% telling her% 'It isn't fire%
it's smoke.'
'/o smoke "ithout fire%' she #uoted hoarsely.
'This is the e1ception. That smoke blo"s black in "indy "eather. sually it's only
the one great belch.' It "as thinning and no more seemed to be coming. 'I'll get it
for you%' he said.
'!re you sure('
In that split second she had visualised a spark on the cushion "here she had
placed the briefcase and everything s"ooshing up like tinder. *er heart "as still
hammering% and so "as the back of her head "here she had hit the "all.
4hen he brought her the briefcase she almost grabbed it from him% babbling her
thanks% and then he opened the door "ide to let out the smoke. There "as hardly
any sign of it no"% just the smell lingered. '4hat kind of merchandise are you
carrying(' he asked.
0he had panicked% and that "asn't like her. 'It's notes for a book.'
'/ot the latest &inistry of Defence leak(' *e had a deep voice% slo" and
amused% and she had made rather an idiot of herself.
0he #uipped back% '/othing even remotely illegal.'
'6ou look the part for a spy. The "oman in black. !nd that's a very suspicious
hat.'
0he had knocked her hat for"ard so that the brim shado"ed her eyes% and she
straightened it no". 'The one and only manuscript%' she e1plained.
'6ou're a "riter('
'6es.'
0he "as a journalist on local radio% but !lan's book "as out of her league. It "as
special and she "as thrilled to be typing it for him% helping him% but she "as not
discussing that "ith a stranger.
'Take a seat.' *e pulled out one of the rush'seated ladder'backed chairs pushed
up to the table% and she slumped a little. 0he had nearly knocked herself out.
There "as probably a lump rising on the back of her head right no"% but she
"asn't making a fuss here. 0he "ould ask for some aspirins "here she booked in
for the night.
'&ilk and sugar(' he called.
'/early black. /o sugar. Thank you.'
0he got a red mug. *e sat opposite "ith a blue'ringed one and she thought
"oo7ily that she "ould have e1pected at least a matching pair.
'!re you all right(' 0he might be pale and she had been right% he didn't blink. The
piercing eyes looked straight at her and she looked do"n into her coffee as if
meeting his ga7e "ould be taking on a challenge.
'I "ill be "hen I've drunk this.' It "as too hot to s"allo" more than a sip at a
time. 0he managed a couple of gulps. 'That's better.' $ut she still didn't look at
him. 'I must be on my "ay. 4hat time does the tide start coming in('
'!bout no".'
'Then I must go.' 0he managed a very little more before she stood up and he
asked%
'!re you staying locally('
'6es% I've just arrived. )ould you recommend any"here( I'll probably be here for
t"o "eeks% "orking on this.' 0he picked up the briefcase. 'I "as going to say
some"here #uiet% but every"here seems that. I didn't see much sign of life.'
0he reached the door and "as talking to him over her shoulder. 4hen he said% 'I
could recommend here%' she spun round.
'$ut that "ould be splendid!' The advert hadn't mentioned it% but the to"er "as
ideally situated and designed for holiday lets. 'I didn't realise you took in tourists.
Do you have anyone else staying('
'/ot at the moment9the season's over. It's self'catering% but the rooms are
there% you're "elcome to one.'
0he had come here because she couldn't think of any"here else she much
"anted to go. The choice had been as hapha7ard as picking a name out of a hat%
but she had done "ell. It must be her consolation pri7e for not going "ith !lan.
'.h% I'll take it%' she said gaily% and for the first time she kne" that she "as going
to enjoy herself. 'I'll get my bag.'
'4here is it('
'In the red car.' 0he pointed to the small splash of colour on the drab sea'front.
$y no" everything else seemed to be in varying shades of grey. The clouds "ere
lo"er and darker and the black'prey sea "as already lapping over the stones of
the cause"ay.
'3ive me the keys%' he said.
'&y suitcase is in the boot. *o" fast does the tide come in( 6ou're not going to
get cut off% are you('
'/o%' and she supposed that "as as stupid as being asked if she kne" her "ay
around the to"n "here she lived and "orked. $ut she stood in the door"ay
"atching him "alk "ith the dog to"ards the deserted beach.
0oon it "ould be dark as late afternoon turned into night% and the "ind had
dropped suddenly% leaving a heavy stillness in the air. In the fe" minutes it took
for them to start "alking back the sea "as s"irling over the cause"ay until% on
the last stretch% the man "as "ading and the dog "as doing a paddling stroke.
!s they reached the rock and began to come up the steps she asked% 'Do you
lose many lodgers this "ay('
'Tide times are printed loud and clear and they're all briefed until they can recite
them in their sleep%' he told her.
'6ou'd better brief me.'
')ount on it. I'll sho" you your room.'
It "as high in the to"er "ith t"o narro" "indo"s overlooking the open sea. *e
put her suitcase do"n and brought her sheets and pillo"cases. '*ave you
eaten(' he asked.
'4ell% no.' 0he had e1pected a meal "here she stayed% but if it "as self'catering
here...
'Join me% in half an hour('
'Thank you.'
*e left her to make her o"n bed% and she took off her hat and coat and "ent
along to a bathroom and "ashed the travel grime a"ay. Then she opened her
case and took out !lan's photograph% kissed it and placed it on the table by the
bed% so that he "as "ith her as she shook out and tucked in sheets% topping
them "ith the duvet% and then flopping do"n% lo"ering her head gingerly on to
the pillo"s.
0he smiled at !lan "ith sleepy eyes% and she al"ays felt that this photograph
smiled back. It "as a studio study% and "hen it appearedor his election leaflets it
"as going to be a vote'"inner% because as "ell as his natural good looks this
brought out the caring #ualities. Those "ere the eyes of a man you could trust.
The mouth "as firm and the ja"line "as strong.
The selection committee "ould be cra7y if they didn't choose him as their
candidate% and the voters "ould be blind if they didn't elect him. !lan 2oster "as
a man "ho kne" "here he "as going% and Kate Kersha" "as going "ith him. *e
told her that often% and she looked into his eyes and sa" her future and kne"
that she "as the luckiest girl in the "orld.
0he "as missing him no"% "ishing he "as "ith her% or she "ith him% but as "ell
as his political ambitions there "as a family business he helped to run5 and the
!merican market "as one of the reasons the 2osters "ere rich and !lan "as an
eligible bachelor on every count. $ut Kate loved him just for himself% the "ay he
loved her.
!nd although she hadn't eaten for hours she "ould have preferred to stay "here
she "as% do7ing and dreaming of !lan% instead of going do"n and eating a meal
"ith a stranger "ith "hom she probably had not a thing in common.
'I don't even kno" his name%' she told !lan's photograph. '$ut I kno" you
"ouldn't like him% and you're a very good judge of character.'
0he got off the bed reluctantly% combed her hair and applied token lipstick. $lo"
the rest. 0he "as on holiday and out to impress no one. 4hen she had looked
into the bedrooms earlier it had been cold% but no" the temperature "as "arming
up and she thought she heard a distant rumble of thunder. There could be a
storm before the night "as out% but if there "as this "as the place to be% a
fortress built to "ithstand a bombardment "here lightning "ould never strike you.
*e called her from the open door of the living'room. *e had shaved and he "as
no" "earing trainers% but he still looked tough and fairly rough. In there a table
"as laid. The fire glo"ed behind the bars% but no" Kate kne" "hat that stove
could do in the "ay of blo"'back she "as keeping her distance. 0moke that
could reach do"nstairs "ould nearly asphy1iate you if you got the full blast.
0he asked% '*o" do your guests react to little :esuvius here(' and he shrugged%
'They're summer trade. sually I use )alor gas heating. I only light the stove for
myself% and it doesn't happen often. Does it make you nervous('
'/ot no" I kno" "hat it is.' The stove sat s#uarely on bulbous feet% a "ide pipe
funnelled into an air duct. 'It's grinning%' she said. 'The damn thing's laughing at
me!' and he laughed "ith her% although it "as a silly joke.
The meal "as simple% the main course a tureen of thick vegetable soup. It "as
hot and she "as hungry% and "hen she took her first mouthful she said%
')ongratulations to the chef.'
'4e'll drop them a line. The address is on the tins.'
'6ou don't cook for the customers('
'/o.'
'6ou live here% in the to"er(' 0he asked personal #uestions for a living% so they
tripped naturally off her tongue.
'0ometimes%' he said.
'Do you do anything else% besides run this place('
0he liked to kno" about folk she met% and because she "as young and
attractive even those she chatted up casually "ere usually flattered and "illing to
tell her a great deal.
0he "as leaning to"ards him% eyes bright% lips curved% but for a moment she
thought he "as going to tell her to mind her o"n business. Then he said% 'I'm a
photographer%' and that led to her ne1t #uestion.
'Is that your shop in the *igh 0treet('
'6es.'
'I noticed it "hile I "as driving through.' 0he recalled the name overhead% 'T.
$randon.'
'6ou don't miss much.' In case he meant she should have been "atching the
road she defended herself%
'There "as hardly anything about and I "as looking for some"here to stay% only
most of them had ;/o :acancies; up. 4hat does the T stand for('
'Thaddeus.'
0he yelped before she could stop herself% then clapped a hand across her
mouth. '0orry% but ho"ever do you cope "ith that('
'6ou can get used to anything.' *e didn't seem bothered. '!nd you are('
'Kate Kersha".'
'Kate5' *e sounded as if he "as measuring it against her% but there "asn't much
you could say about a name like Kate. '! good 0hakespearean name%' he said.
'The Taming of the 0hre"is not my favourite play.' The bread rolls seemed
freshly baked. 0he had passed a pastry shop too. 0he spread butter and sighed%
'The things that girl "ent through!'
'+etruchio must have had something going or she "ouldn't have stood for it%' he
said.
'8ike "hat('
'-ampant se1 appeal(' he suggested% and she thought% 6ou're not short of that%
or "hy should I feel that reaching over the soup bo"ls and brushing your hand
might be like touching a live "ire( 0he pretended to sigh again.
'!nd she "as such a "ell'brought'up girl. Do you have a family% by the "ay('
'/o. Do you('
'/o.' *e glanced at her left hand and she held it up% spreading her long slim
fingers "ith their pearl pink nails. '/o family and no ring.'
'That means nothing%' he said% and she must have been looking smug% because
all her ringless finger did mean "as that the commitment bet"een herself and
!lan "as something of a secret for no". They had this superstition that they
"ould hold back the announcement until hewas a prospective &+. Then at the
party to celebrate his selection as candidate% they "ould announce their
engagement% and Kate "ould be "earing the anti#ue pearl and emerald ring that
had belonged to his grandmother.
*e had already put it on her finger and it "as a perfect fit% and he said% 'If they
don't "ant me "e "on't be "aiting until I get shortlisted again.'
'.f course they'll choose you%' she'd promised him. 'They'll be lucky to get you.
!nd no" I kno" ho" it looks and feels I can feel your ring on my finger even if
nobody else can see it. +ut it a"ay no".' 0he had handed it back "ith a little
pang% but very soon she "ould be "earing it forever.
'0o "hy isn't he "ith you(' Thaddeus asked.
'$usiness.'
'*e lets you "ander off on your o"n('
'I'm a big girl% I do a lot of "andering. I'm a radio reporter.'
'-eporting "hat('
0he liked talking about her "ork% doing intervie"s of local interest. There "ere
often celebrities% but most of them "ere ordinary people "ith a story to tell. *er
enthusiasm bubbled as she recounted some of her brighter% lighter moments.
*e listened and asked #uestions and laughed at the jokes and seemed really
interested% and it "as all very pleasant indeed.
There "as cheese and fruit follo"ing the soup% an untidy table as though she
had dropped in une1pectedly on a friend. Kate couldn't have said "hen she
started feeling that "ay% but after a "hile she "as almost believing that she had
kno"n him long enough to have done this before% because it seemed so familiar.
Including the gently snoring dog and the old stove.
! bottle of red "ine "as helping her rela1% and by the time she had kicked off her
shoes under the table she kne" "hat he had paid for the to"er five years ago%
"hen it "as a ruin going cheap.
-estoring it "ith the help of friends must have been an almighty slog% but
e1citing% and she said fervently% '.h% I "ish I'd been around to lend a hand!' *er
hands% peeling a peach% looked too pampered for a building site% and she said% 'In
a good tough pair of industrial gloves.'
'I "ish you had been here%' he told her.
*is job didn't seem to matter to him the "ay her "ork could obsess her. *is
father had been the local photographer and the son "as left "ith the shop% and
she asked% '6ou enjoy it('
'0ometimes.'
'.nly sometimes(' That "as half'hearted% and she "ondered% 'Then "hy don't
you do something else('
'I often ask myself that.' *e poured more "ine for them both% and ne1t thing they
"ere discussing television programmes% "hat she "atched% "hat she turned off.
0he "asn't sure ho" they got on to that% but like all the talking it "as easy and
she seemed to be doing most of it.
4hen she looked at her "atch she "as surprised ho" late it "as. 0he thought at
first that the "atch "as playing up% but the second hand ticked steadily and their
plates held the remains of their meal. The "ine bottle "as empty and the fire "as
do"n to embers.
Kate offered to help clear the table% but he said% '0tart "ashing up tomorro"%
you're a guest tonight%' and that "as sensible. ntil she kne" her "ay around the
kitchen and the cupboards she "ouldn't kno" "here to put anything% so she said%
'Thank you% it "as a lovely meal.'
0he stroked the dog and "ent up the narro" stairs to her room% musing on the
fact that it might have been a very ordinary meal so far as the food "ent% but she
had often eaten better and enjoyed herself less.
It had to be because she "as so thrilled at getting herself booked in here. There
"as a table under the "indo" "here she could put her type"riter tomorro". 0he
"ould ask if she could bring up a chair from do"nstairs because the only seat
"as a sagging armchair. Tomorro" she "ould start "ork% and !lan "ould be
pleased if he kne" "hat a perfect "orkplace she had found.
0uddenly she "as so tired that she almost fell into bed% "incing as her head hit
the pillo". 0he had forgotten the bump% "hich "as a small tender spot% and she
lay listening to the sea. The thickness of the "alls muted it to murmuring sighs%
and "hat light there "as filtering through the "indo"s filled the room "ith
shado"s.
!fter a fe" minutes she could make out !lan's face% and that "as all she needed
to see. *e had grey eyes% steady and steadfast% and she loved him very much.
Thaddeus's eyes "ere black as tar% and nobody in their right mind "ould vote for
him.
0he smiled at !lan's photograph% and heard the thunder again. It had been
rumbling around for hours% but she had hardly noticed it "hile they "ere talking
and it "asn't troubling her no". It "as still far a"ay% and she "riggled bet"een
the sheets and "as soon sleeping soundly.
0he "oke to the clash of cymbals. 4ell% that "as ho" it sounded9a deafening
crash right on her eardrums that jerked her upright. 0he must have been dead to
the "orld% burro"ed under the duvet and the pillo"s% but she "as a"ake no"%
"ith the start of a raging headache.
The lightning that had arrived "ith the thunder "as still leaping around the room
in blue flashes% like laser beams at a demented rock concert.
Kate felt a"ful. The storm or the "ine or the bang on her head% or a combination
of all three% "as pounding a pulse in the base of her skull% and no "ay "as she
getting to sleep again in this state.
0he lurched to a "indo"% opening it% but no air came in% and the sky "as a
"eirdly livid green and indigo. 0he could have gone back to bed and pulled the
duvet over her head% but that "ould have blo"n her headache into a full'scale
migraine.
0he pressed her throbbing forehead against an iron bar across the "indo"% and
in the pause bet"een lightning flashes she sa" a glo" from belo". 2rom the
living'room. Thaddeus might still be up% and failing painkillers he might supply a
cup of tea.
0he grabbed her navy blue robe and shut her eyes and ears to the ne1t flash
and crash. 0he "as not phobic about storms% although this "as a humdinger% but
she hoped he "as up and the light hadn't been left on because she "as feeling
fragile and vulnerable and in need of company.
!t least the lights hadn't failed. 0he "ould have e1pected the storm to play
havoc "ith the po"er lines. There "as probably a generator% but she didn't risk
pressing s"itches% and she got do"n the stairs by the light from "indo"s and the
open door of the living'room.
.nly a lamp burned in there. Thaddeus "as pacing the room% striding up and
do"n like a man in a cage% and it "as the dog "ho sa" her standing in the
door"ay. 4hen the dog got up the man looked round% and it "as as though the
door had been slammed in her face.
0he hardly recognised him. *e looked grim and gaunt and ten years older% and
she "as intruding at the "orst possible time. 0he stammered% 'I'm sorry%' and
turned to get a"ay% but before she reached the stairs he asked% '4hat can I do
for you(' *is voice "as steady and he "as almost smiling% the right tone and
e1pression for reassuring a nervous guest "ho had "oken in a spectacular
thunderstorm% and she babbled% 'The storm "oke me% and I don't kno" "hether
it's the air pressure or the "ine% but I'm getting a thumping headache5 and I sa" a
light on in here% and if you could possibly provide a couple of aspirins it might just
save my life.'
'Did you look in a bathroom cabinet('
'0orry% no. I just staggered do"n.' ')ome and sit do"n and I'll see "hat I can
find.' 0he "ent into the room. The table "as cleared% but he "as still fully
dressed% so she couldn't have been asleep for long% and as soon as he came
back she "ould go back to her room.
*e had not e1pected her to come barging in on him again. They had had a
cheerful meal together% but they "ere only ac#uaintances% and that first glance%
"hen he sa" her in the door"ay% had been almost savagely aggressive% although
it "as immediately controlled. 4hatever "as haunting him9 money problems% as
he "as selling the to"er( 4oman trouble(9Kate kne" instinctively that she
"ould be "ise to leave "ell alone.
*e brought her a glass of "ater and a bottle "ith half a do7en paracetamols%
and she tipped out t"o of the tablets and got them do"n. 'Thank you%' she said.
'!ll part of the service.'
There "as a fe" seconds' space no" bet"een the lightning and the thunder
peal% and she asked% '*o" long has it been going on('
'8ike this( *alf an hour or so.'
'It's only just "oken me% I must have been deep asleep. 4hat time is it('
'Three o'clock.'
0he had e1pected around midnight at the latest. 0he #uoted the old "ives'
saying% 'Three o'clock% the dying hour.'
'The time of nightmares.'
0he "as facing him% holding the glass in both hands. ',verything looks brighter
in the morning%' she said.
'Is that your e1perience('
'I think so.' 0he couldn't help. 0he didn't kno" "hat "as "rong% and it "as no
concern of hers. '$ut I do kno" that it's a lucky one "ho hasn't been hammered
by life%' she said.
'!nd "hat "as the "orst thing that's happened to you('
*e spoke #uietly% and she blurted "ithout giving herself time to consider "hat
she "as saying% '$eing jilted at the altar. There have been other black spots% of
course% and that "as a long time ago% but I guess it "as one of the "orst.'
/obody ever talked about it no". It "as almost forgotten% and Kate "as so very
thankful that she had never married +hilip. '4hatis the matter(' she asked% and
he said%
'/othing that you or I can do a blind thing about. $ut thank you.'
*e took the glass from her and put it do"n. Then he tilted her chin so that she
"as looking up at him% smoothed the damp tendrils of hair back from her
forehead and told her% '4hoever he "as% you had a lucky escape. The man "as
certifiable!'
That made her smile% as another flash of lightning burst around them so brilliant
that it almost blinded her.
0he "as not thinking clearly% she "as hardly thinking at all. It "as a moment of
pure sensation% because she "as totally in love "ith !lan. !lan "as her mate and
her lover for life. $ut "hile the thunder rolled and she stayed still and #uiet and
pressed against this man she found herself "ondering% just fantasising% of
course% ho" lovemaking "ould be "ith him.
0he lingered no longer. *er head "as still thumping% but the pain "as bearable%
and she moved a"ay% trying to smile. 'I "oke for the grand finale% didn't I( 4ell%
no" I'll go back to bed and "ait for the pills to "ork.'
'0ee you in the morning%' he said.
'Try to get some rest yourself.' *e couldn't have been to bed at all% and she
"ondered if the storm had triggered his 'time of nightmares'.
This "as a "ild coastline% there must have been ship"recks here% tragedies% but
"hatever "as torturing him she must not pry again% and she shivered in her bed
as if she had brushed against something dark and dangerous.
0he reached out for !lan's photograph and put it on her pillo" beside her% but for
once her imagination failed to conjure up the feel of his arms around her and his
"arm body encircling hers.
8istening to the storm she felt cold and lonely. 4ith encouragement Thaddeus
"ould probably have come back to her room "ith her% but you didn't take
chances "ith strangers these days. /ot that she ever had% and she really kne"
nothing about him.
2or all she kne"% he might not care for the risks of casual se1 either. *e might
have said no% thanks% she might still be lying here alone and feeling much "orse
than she did no".
$ut the idea of her propositioning him% or any man but !lan% "as so absurd that
she had to laugh.
0he put the photograph back on the table and% as the storm played itself out% the
painkillers soothed and dulled her nervous system until she "ent slo"ly drifting
do"n into a painless% dreamless sleep.
)*!+T,- T4.
Katelay still for a fe" minutes after she "oke% listening to the shrill cries of
seagulls and then to the barking of the dog.
It "as still raining. There "ere none of the clear bright skies that often follo"ed a
bad storm. This sky looked sullen% and although the rain "as hardly a do"npour
it "as enough to spoil the day.
It "as a shame. 0he had planned to start "ork on !lan's book% but it "ould have
been good to "ake to sunshine and stroll along the beach first% getting the benefit
of some sea air.
The living'room "as empty this morning% and she found the man and the dog
do"n in the kitchen. '&orning% both%' she said.
'3ood morning% Kate. Tea or coffee('
')offee% please.' The scrubbed'top table "as laid for t"o% so they seemed to be
breakfasting together% but she really could not go on calling him Thaddeus. /ot
"ithout smiling. 'Do you have another name(' she asked.
'&ark.'
'6ou don't use Thaddeus('
'/o.' 4ell% "ho "ould(
'Thank goodness for that!' she said. 'Is this chair for me('
'.f course% but if you're e1pecting a cooked breakfast you can get it yourself.
2ruit% cereal% toast is "hat I run to.'
'&e too. 4e didn't get round to discussing terms last night9"hat do you
charge('
It "as reasonable% and she "as sorry he "as selling. 0he might have come here
again "hen she "as not alone% although perhaps the set'up "as rather rugged
for !lan. 0he had never seen him prepare a meal.
&ark produced toast and there "as butter and honey% and they ate "ithout
talking much% as though they had kno"n each other long enough to be past the
need for polite conversation.
!fter last night% "hen she had been trembling and nearly naked in his arms% they
"ere hardly strangers. It had been only a gesture of comfort on his part% but%
licking a crumb of toast from the corner of her mouth% she remembered the rough
"ool of his s"eater against her lips and a strange little thrill ran do"n her spine.
0he "as on her second cup of coffee "hen she asked% '*ave "e met before('
'/o.'
0he met so many people in her "ork and socially% and she smiled% 'It must have
been another man.'
'There are a lot of us about%' he said% but that made her shake her head.
$reakfast over% she put on her coat to fetch her type"riter from the car and stood
sighing in the door"ay. 'I might as "ell be "orking% it's a dreary day.'
'! drop of "ater "on't melt you.'
*e had the dog at his heels% and she said% 'I kno" that%' and found herself off the
cause"ay% "alking "ith them across the hard shining sands. -ain came do"n in
a cool mist% and the "ind buffeted her% making her face tingle% lifting and tangling
her hair. It "as #uite e1hilarating% blo"ing all the cob"ebs from her mind.
The dog raced after a stick of drift"ood it had found% bringing it back and circling
&ark in an ecstatic e1pectant dance% then tearing a"ay again. There "as no one
else on the shore. The great bounding animal had a playground all to himself.
'4hat's his name(' she asked.
'$aldy.'
'$ut he isn't.' *is coat "as thick% black and shiny as a seal's.
'*e "as "hen I got him.' ! rescued animal. That "as kind% but &ark's "as not a
gentle face. In the clarity of open air the lines sho"ed from nose to mouth and
scored across the forehead.
Kate had put him at around !lan's age. !lan "as mid'thirties "ith hardly any
lines on his face. 0he could smooth a"ay !lan's fro"ns #uickly and simply% but it
"ould take more than light fingertip massage to rub out the furro" bet"een
&ark's dark straight bro"s. 0he "ondered if anyone tried% and she smiled% partly
at the dog jumping high and catching the stick in mid'air% but mostly at the idea of
somebody saying% 'There% there%' to &ark% and gently stroking his bro".
4hen they finally arrived at her car% "here her type"riter lay on the back seat
under a travelling rug% she remembered food and that she must buy some.
'4here can I shop(' she asked% and he took her do"n an almost deserted street
to a little self'service store.
The people they did pass looked more like locals than late holidaymakers. They
got good mornings from most of them% and Kate "as conscious of their in#uisitive
eyes on her.
They "ere the only customers in the shop. ! cheerful'faced "oman greeted
them and "atched them at the shelves% and "hen Kate put do"n her "ire basket
at the checkout the "oman smiled broadly at her and at &ark standing beside
her. *e said% 'This is &iss Kersha"% she's staying at the to"er.'
':erynice%' said the "oman% fairly t"inkling as if Kate might have been a girlfriend
rather than an out'of'season tourist% and Kate could hardly insist that she "as a
paying guest. '0taying long% are you(' the "oman probed.
'T"o "eeks%' said Kate. !s the to"er "as for sale she might "onder if Kate "as
buying it5 and &ark might also believe that Kate "as a possible purchaser.
.utside the shop she confessed% 'I'm glad I "alked in on you yesterday% but really
I "as a trespasser. I couldn't buy the to"er no matter ho" much I "anted to.
0orry I "asted your time.' 'I "ouldn't say that%' he said. /either "ould Kate. /one
of their time together had been "asted time. It had been fun% "ith a little
e1citement% a littlefrisson of fear. $ut never dull. /o" she asked% '!re you going
back(' 'I'm going to the shop.'
'&ay I come( I'd like to see your photographs.' That seemed to amuse him% for
the "ide mouth #uirked. '4ould you% no"(' he said.
The shop "ith 'T. $randon% +hotographer%' on the "eathered signboard "as in a
ro" of three'storey buildings. The upper "indo"s "ere curtained% the t"o shop
"indo"s displaying mainly "edding photographs and some attractive child
studies.
Kate stayed outside long enough to glance over them% and it "as good
professional "ork% although it "as hard to imagine &ark getting the "edding
groups together% holding up the toy to catch the baby's eye. 0he sensed an
impatience in him% a #uicksilver restlessness.
*e "as opening envelopes at a desk at the back of the shop% and she "alked
around% looking at some shots of gardens% students in graduation go"ns%
portraits. 0he stopped in front of the head'and'shoulders study of a girl% blonde
hair tumbling loose% "ith such a glo" of se1ual eagerness about her that the
luscious parted lips seemed to be "hispering% 'Take me...'
&ark sa" "here she "as looking and she said drily% '!s the lady said%very nice.
Is she local('
'6es. 0he "anted it for a beauty competition a maga7ine "as running.'
'Did she "in('
'0he did.'
'I'm not surprised. Is she a model no"('
*e said solemnly% 'nfortunately she turned out to be only occasionally
photogenic%' and she laughed%
'0o this "as a one'off( 4hat did you do to get that se1y look('
'Trick of the trade.' *e leered at her. 'Take your picture('
'I'd have to think about it.' /othing he said "ould send her hot'eyed and panting%
but a photograph might be a souvenir to take back to !lan. 0he changed the
subject and asked% 'Is it mostly summer trade('
'There's not much doing no".' *e left mail and envelopes on the desk and came
to"ards her. '!s it happens% I'm taking a break from "ork myself. I've got this
hobby% photographing old buildings% churches% bits of statuary. 0o long as they've
been around over t"o hundred years.' '6ou're interested in the old days(' '6ou
could say that.'
'&ore than in "hat's happening no"(' she asked. 0he had bought a ne"spaper
in the shop. It stuck out of her carrier bag of groceries. *e opened it and glanced
at page one% "hich as usual made gloomy reading. 'I take the present as it
comes%' he said% '"hen I have to.'
.f course he had to. ,verybody had to. The present "as "here you lived%
although you might escape for a little "hile. 'I suppose I should be carting this lot
back%' Kate said.
'8eave it here for no". )ome "ith me.'
'4here('
*e shrugged% and she kne" it "as not the to"er that had given her that bu77 of
e1citement% it "as the man. $eing near him "as bringing that si1th sense into
play% "arning her that if she did not tag along she could be missing something
sensational. 0he might be safer missing it. *e might take her "here she did not
"ant to go. $ut she said% '6es% all right%' and he put the fro7en food packs into a
small fridge in a little side room% and left the carrier bag "ith the rest on a table.
0he took her ne"spaper "ith her and they "ent through a back door to a ro" of
garages behind the buildings. *is car "as a large three'year'old $&4% but
before Kate could climb in $aldy had shouldered her aside and settled do"n
himself% completely filling the passenger seat.
'*e kno"s I'm a trespasser%' she said% and "hen &ark ordered%
'In the back!' the dog dragged himself over like a geriatric convalescent and lay
there glo"ering at her.
'Does he bear grudges(' she asked. 'If there's a risk that he might corner me
some time and settle accounts he can keep his seat.'
'6ou're hurting his feelings9he "ouldn't hurt a fly.'
'*mm%' she said doubtfully% but "ith a rumble of resignation $aldy curled up and
"ent to sleep.
The roads "ere almost empty% the car "ent smoothly and the man "as a skilful
driver. It "as a ne" e1perience for Kate to be on the move and not kno" "here
she "as going. 0o "as taking a holiday alone "here no one could find her. 0he
felt so free and light'hearted that she found herself laughing softly.
&ark didn't ask "hy% but he smiled at her% a flash of "hite teeth against the tan of
his skin% and she said% 'It "as raining the last time I "as here too% but you must
have had your share of good "eather.'
'4e get our share of most things.' This morning he "as "earing a check shirt
under a bro"n leather jacket% and no pallor sho"ed under his collar. !fter a hot
summer the autumn rainfall had filled rivers and reservoirs again% and most
summer tans "ere fading. Kate's had long gone. 0he "as #uite pale.
0he pulled do"n the mirrored flap and grimaced at her "ashed'out reflection.
0he "as combing her hair "hen they passed the caravans and cars parked on a
"ide grass verge. In spite of the rain doors "ere open. Dogs and children "ere
running around% men and "omen "ere about.
&ark hooted and slo"ed do"n. *e "as recognised% because they all seemed to
"ave% and Kate "ondered if this "as "here he "as heading. $ut he "ound do"n
the "indo" and called% ',verything all right(' and getting an affirmative chorus
"ound the "indo" up again and drove on.
'2riends of yours(' she asked. They had looked and sounded like friends. '6es.'
'-elations('
/o family% he had told her% but he could pass for a gypsy. 'I shouldn't think so%' he
said. 'Thaddeus senior "as not much of a traveller.' '*o" about your mother('
'!nother homebody9so they tell me. I don't remember her% she died young.' 'I'm
sorry%' said Kate.
*e shrugged% dismissively% as though it hardly concerned him% and she
supposed you couldn't grieve for someone you couldn't remember. 0he said
"ryly% and impulsively% '&y mother "as a saint.'
'That must have been a trial for you%' and she heard herself telling him%
'It "as% she really enjoyed being a martyr. 4hen my father "alked out everybody
rallied around her and her poor fatherless child.' '*o" old "ere you(' he asked.
'Thirteen.'
*e still "atched the road% "hich "as empty but "inding. ',ven then%' he said%
'you must have had the ja" that sho"ed you "ere going to be nobody's victim.'
0he didn't kno" she had a determined ja". 0he kne" she had high cheekbones%
a straight nose and good teeth% and her chin seemed the right shape for the rest
of her face. 4hen she "as a child they had said she looked sulky% but pity% like
charity% could be depressing.
*er mother had "allo"ed in it. 0he had played the injured party for years. ntil a
lorry "ent out of control in the high street and she "as standing in its path.
4hen Kate "as here before% her parents "ere keeping up the appearance of
being together% although it "as no longer any kind of marriage. $itter memories
came flooding back% and she murmured% '*o" time flies!'
Then "hen &ark looked #uestioningly at her she forced a smile% because the
last thing anyone else "anted to hear about "ould be her childhood troubles.
0he "atched the splattering rain on the "indscreen% and said brightly% '4herehas
the summer gone(' 0he held up the folded ne"spaper. 'It's the very last day of
.ctober% /ovember starts tomorro"% and it seems hardly any time at all since the
first crocuses "ere coming up.'
*e leaned slightly across her ne"spaper. 'That settles "here "e're going%' he
said.
'4hat does('
'/ot more than a ten'minute run. $e patient.'
! mystery tour could be fun. 'I hope it's undercover%' she said% and he grinned.
'6ou can have my coat.'
'Thank you. 6ou seem to be "aterproof% so maybe I "ill.'
'4aterproof(' he #ueried.
'8ook at my hair.' *er fine silky bob "as "et and lank5 all the combing had done
"as flatten it further. '!nd look at yours.' *is thick springy hair seemed to have
shaken off the rain like a dog's coat. '-ain obviously bounces off you%' she said.
'6ou've got to be "aterproofed%' and she reached to touch. .f course his hair "as
"et. *er fingers slid in and out and her breath caught. Then she said gaily% '4ell%
part'proofed. 4here are "e going(' '4ait and see.'
0he did that. 0he leaned back in her seat% her arms folded% her hands tucked
tightly a"ay because her fingers "ere tingling.
4hen they stopped there "as nothing much to be seen% e1cept the signpost at
the crossroads. *edgero"s edged the roads% and beyond the hedgero"s "ere
fields. ! farmhouse and a cluster of buildings "ere far enough a"ay to be on the
skyline% and Kate asked% 'Is this it('
!s he "as opening her door it obviously "as. It seemed to suit $aldy% "ho "as
already out of the car% tail s"ishing and ready to go any"here.
0he looked up at the signpost. '.r are "e lost('
'Through here.' The iron gate "as narro"% ha"thorns and brambles almost
snagged them as they edged through. There "as no track across the field% but
the turf under the hedge seemed trampled% and Kate's ja" sagged.
'It isn't% is it(' she gasped.
The grass'covered mound had to be a grave. There "as a glass jar containing
plastic pink roses on it% shells and coloured stones% and a vase of fresh
chrysanthemums on "hich raindrops glistened like de".
'*ere lies *etty%' said &ark. '&ore or less.'
'4hat does that mean('
'That's she's a survivor.'
'Is('she #ueried.
'*etty the $astard% proof of the saying ;6ou can't keep a good girl do"n.; 2ound
as a ne"born baby in a ditch around <=>?% and no trouble to anybody until she
"as fourteen% "hen the girl a young farmer "as planning to marry "as poisoned.
*etty had had her o"n plans for him% and it did look as if she had tipped his
bride'to'be the hemlock.
'!nyho"% the verdict "as guilty% and *etty "as given a lethal dose of the same
and buried in unconsecrated ground outside the churchyard. ! fe" "eeks later
she "as up and about% still "earing her burial shift.'
Kate's eyes "idened and he "ent cheerfully on% 'The locals thought she'd been
living "ith the Devil "hile she "as underground and kept clear of her% but "hen
she died again% apparently from natural causes% they buried her again. This time
under a huge rock that needed a team of horses to drag it into place.
'$eing underground got her back on her feet. $efore long she "as back in
circulation% and this time they got her for sheep'stealing and hanged her. '0he
joined the congregation for ,vensong that night% "hich must have cleared the
church in record time. I al"ays "ondered "hat they "ere singing "hen *etty
sauntered in. !fter that there "ere five years "hile she lived in the "oods% then in
the best "itch traditions the hunt follo"ed a "ounded hare that turned into *etty.
'/o" the charge "as "itchcraft% and she "as sentenced to be burnt at the stake%
then buried at the crossroads.' Kate pointed to the ground and croaked% '0he's
still there('
'0he made a bargain before they lit up. 0o long as the grave "as "ell
maintained she might stay buried% and as you can see% it is. /o one admits to
bringing them% but there are al"ays flo"ers and ornamental touches. ,specially
today.' 0he "as catching on. '*allo"e'en(' 'That's right. It "as on *allo"e'en that
she came back% and they do say she's been seen around since.' '0o she doesn't
keep her promise(' '&aybe sometimes she gets bored "ith the Devil.' *e
probably has your colouring% she thought. Tall and thin and hungry'looking. 0he
said% 'That's just the story for today. I'd hate to have missed that. /o" can "e get
a"ay from here('
'4e should be leaving something%' &ark told her. '8ike "hat( I'm not leaving
anything "ith my fingerprints on. I don't "ant her tracking me do"n.' *e laughed
and broke off a hedge sprig that still had a fe" "rinkled scarlet berries and
offered it to her. 0he took it gingerly% avoiding the prickles% placed it bet"een the
shells and asked% '4hat happened to the farmer "ho started it all% the one she
"anted to marry "hen she "as fourteen('
'! good #uestion%' he said approvingly. '6ou're probably a good reporter.' *e held
the iron gate open% and although all this "as banter she "as as pleased "ith the
compliment as if his opinion really mattered to her.
'There's no record of him%' he said. '$ut if he had any sense he emigrated as
soon as he heard *etty "as up for the first time.'
This time $aldy took the back seat "ith less fuss% and they drove along the
coastline. :illages "ere so #uiet they seemed empty. In the small to"ns there
"as plenty of parking space as pedestrians hurried along "ith hunched
shoulders and bo"ed heads.
It rained "ithout a break in the clouds% but the scenery made the ride "orth"hile@
the sea "as almost al"ays in sight. Kate "ould have settled for a round trip
taking her back to the to"er% but as they reached a black and "hite inn offering
'3ood 2ood' &ark said% '0hall "e try here(' and it "as lunchtime.
*e "ent a fe" paces ahead of her across the foyer% and "hen the girl at the
reception desk sa" him coming% her face lit up in a "ide bright smile% "ith "hat
Kate took for delighted recognition. !lthough "hen &ark reached her he only
said% '&ay "e have a table for t"o('
0he said of course% and led them into a small panelled dining'room and seated
them by a "indo". 0he had hardly taken her eyes off &ark% Kate could have
been invisible% and Kate could have s"orn she "as breathing fast. !s she
backed a"ay Kate asked% 'Do you kno" each other('
'/o.' *e "as reading the menu. '4hy('
$ecause she looked so pleased to see you. $ecause there are empty tables but
trade doesn't seem that bad... $ut it "as no concern of Kate's. 'Just "ondering%'
she said.
The food "as traditional% "hich meant you kne" more or less "hat you "ere
getting and there "as no need to discuss it. Kate had fish and &ark had steak
and kidney pie. !nother girl took their order% from &ark% even "hen Kate "as
reading out her o"n choice% and Kate studied her thoughtfully.
0he had the same glo" as her colleague in the foyer.% !nd the beauty #ueen in
the photograph. These t"o "ere not so blatant% but both of them obviously
fancied him rotten% and Kate held do"n a fit of giggles.
0he "as used to "omen being smitten "ith !lan% but she had never seen any
female carrying on like this at first sight of him. 0he had no doubt it "as first
sight. They didn't kno" &ark $randon% but his male aura or charisma% or
"hatever you called it% seemed to send them "eak at the knees% and that "as
#uite funny "hen you "ere immune yourself.
4ell% almost immune. Kate could have found him physically attractive% but she
"ore !lan's invisible ring% so no flirtation "ith another man "as ever going
beyond "ords.

4hile &ark collected her groceries from the shop Kate "alked through the
arch"ay that led into the street% looked at the photographs in the "indo" again
and "aited for him.
There "ere lights in the upper storeys. 'Do you live here(' she asked as he came
out of the shop.
'I've got a room. )ome on.' *e took her arm% hurrying her a"ay. *e "asn't
inviting her up there% but he kne" the tide times% and she strode along beside
him.
0he collected her little type"riter from the car and they ran "ith the dog through
the rain% over the "et stones of the cause"ay. 0he "as in smooth'soled shoes
and% alone% she "ould have been scared of slipping. $ut &ark "as sure'footed
from long practice. 0he took his free hand and they "ent so fast% reaching the
rocks and climbing the steps% that she "as gasping for breath as he unlocked the
door.
The shado"y room seemed as echoing and empty as an underground cavern%
and she hesitated% just outside% until a light came on. Then she stepped in and
put her type"riter on the table. 'Is there enough hot "ater for a bath(' she asked.
There "as% and it "as bliss% getting out of her "et clothes and slipping into the
"arm scented "ater. 0he "as tempted to stay submerged% because the
bathroom "as chilly and spartan9"hite'tiled "alls and "hite suite% not even a
rug on the linoed floor.
0he put do"n a to"el underfoot% and she had brought a bath gel "ith her that
gave an illusion of lu1ury% filling the air "ith the fragrance of herbs and flo"ers.
0he "ashed her hair under the sho"er% and the "armth on her skin lasted long
enough for her to dress and put on a little make'up. $ut she "ent do"n "ith her
hair still damp% and she "as kneeling in front of the stove and running her fingers
through her hair "hen &ark "alked in.
'+raying(' he said.
'+raying it "on't blo" back on me "hile I'm drying my hair. 4hat do you fancy for
dinner('
They started "ith soup again% and Kate knocked up a spaghetti bolognese. They
"ere forking that do"n "hen she said% '*o" #uiet it is.'
'Does that bother you( 4ould you like some music('
'/o% but last night there "as thunder rumbling all the time. !nd then the storm.
That should have been tonight. *allo"e'en should have had the storm.'
It "as peaceful in here% and again the man and the dog "ere good company.
The lamp on the table thre" a glo" around them% softening &ark's face and%
rela1ed% his long body had an easy animal grace.
! second lamp burned in the "indo"% and Kate joked% '0hould "e have put a
lamp in the "indo" tonight('
'6ou think *etty might home in on it('
0he pulled a face. '8et's move it.'
*e got up and replaced the lamp on the table by a "all% and Kate "ent close to
the "indo"pane% shielding her eyes% peering into the darkness. )louds hid the
stars% but in the pale moonlight she could see the lights of the to"n and make out
the end of the cause"ay.
'4hat's that(' she s#uealed% because something "hite fluttered and danced
"here the cause"ay left the beach. ! sheet of ne"spaper "as being blo"n
along. They both kne" "hat it "as although% cra7ily% it had startled her. 'If *etty
should come knocking%' she said% 'don't let her in.'
They "ere fooling% of course% and he said% '!n intervie" "ith *etty "ould be
#uite a scoop for you.'
'I'm local radio. 0he "asn't one ofour "itches. 6ou're the one "ith the hobby for
photographing anything over t"o hundred years old. )an you take pictures of
ghosts('
'.h% yes%' he said flatly% and that made her move a"ay from the "indo" to look
at him. *is face "as masklike% but before she could speak he smiled. '4e're out
of *etty's range% I don't think "e shall be seeing her tonight. They used to say it
"as the tinkers "ho tended her grave% but even "hen there are no travellers
around the flo"ers still come.'
$ack at the table he launched into travellers' tales% and Kate "as fascinated.
2rom boyhood he had been friendly "ith the families "ho camped%
spasmodically% around here. *e described them for her% ageing% changing5 their
traditions% their brushes "ith the la". 0he kne" that modern times had to be
tough for them% but listening to &ark "as like reading a racy and hilarious book.
0he did say% '6ou should "rite a book%' and he said%
'Talking of books% "hat's yours about('
Then she had to admit% 'It isn't my book. I'm just typing some of it and putting
notes into order% for a friend.'
'The friend "ho lets you stroll off on your o"n('
'The very one.' 0he "as not confiding in &ark about !lan and she should be
getting back to her o"n room. 0he ya"ned% covering her mouth "ith the back of
her hand. '$edtime%' she said% and he reached across the table for her other
hand.
'6ou "on't be lying a"ake "orrying about *etty tonight( 6ou "ouldn't feel safer
"ith company('
0he got her hand a"ay #uickly% he "as holding it lightly. 'I'd feel a darn sight
safer "ithout company%' she said. 'I'll take my chances "ith *etty.'
*e "as cheerfully unabashed. 'I thought you might%' and she said goodnight%
laughing. pstairs she smiled at !lan's photograph.
'/o danger%' she said. '/o danger at all.'
$efore she fell asleep she "ondered "hat &ark had meant about photographing
ghosts.

0he "oke early. It "as hardly light and still raining% and she crept do"nstairs to
bring up a chair she could sit on "hile she "orked at the table by the "indo".
The stairs "ere stone% so there "as no creaking there% but $aldy began to bark
just before she got back to her room. *e "as up here some"here% but he shut up
#uite soon% and she took the stack of manuscript from her briefcase.
0he had done some of the typing before and no" she copied afresh% dealing
"ith corrections and insertions% keys clattering% and her mind concentrating so
that she literally jumped "hen &ark spoke.
*e must have passed this "ay earlier. /o" he "as coming back from the
bathroom% bare'legged and bare'chested% a knotted to"el slung round his hips%
asking her% 'This is his best side% is it('
*e had spotted !lan's photograph and "as giving it a professional scan from the
door"ay% and Kate s"ung round in her chair.
!s it happened% !lan did prefer his right profile to be photographed% but she said
coolly% '/ot particularly. nlike your beauty #ueen% he's photogenic from any
angle.'
'If you say so.' *e came into the room% and stood "ith his back to her% surveying
the photograph over her unmade bed. *is back "as smooth and bro"n and
tautly muscular. *e said% '! fe" years ago he'd have been holding a pipe.'
'*e doesn't smoke.'
'I bet he doesn't.' 4hat "as funny about that( $ut she "as sure he "as smiling.
'Definitely a half'a'&ars'bar man%' he said.
'4hat('she #ueried.
'/ever trust a man "ho leaves half a &ars bar. *e'll never go all the "ay on
anything.'
'4hat a load of9'
'!nother thing9"hile "e "ere holding hands last night.'
'4e "ere not9' Kate began.
'I noticed that your heart line snarls up your head line. 6ou "ant to "atch that.'
'That's the -omany in you% is it( I don't suppose you'd kno" a head line from a
heart line if they rose up and hit you.' 0he leaned over the back of her chair and
stretched an arm to"ards him% the palm of her hand up"ards '3o on% tell me
"hich is "hich.'
&ark "as holding the to"el at his "aist as if it might slip if he moved hastily% and
"hen he said% 'I'm not dressed for palm reading%' she changed her mind% turned
a"ay% and put both her hands back on the keyboard.
If the to"el dropped she didn't think it "ould embarrass him unduly% but she
could blush to the roots of her hair. '0ee you over breakfast%' he said. '!s you're
up and about you might get the coffee on.'
0he "as not about. 0he "as sitting here typing. $ut there "as plenty of time to
do all she had promised to do "ith the book. 0he "as supposed to be self'
catering and she "anted a cup of coffee% so she tidied her papers% made her bed%
and "ent do"nstairs to the kitchen.
!fter last night she "as at home here. ! fe" minutes had been long enough to
familiarise her "ith the layout and the e#uipment. It "as basic@ a stove% a sink%
and a fridge% a "orking surface% pots and pans in cupboards% crockery in a variety
of patterns on the shelves.
! small pantry "as stocked mostly "ith tins% but there "as a coffee percolator%
so this morning they "ould have real coffee rather than instant% and she "ent
around breathing in the aroma of roasted beans "hile she laid the table and
"atched that the toast didn't flare up under the grill.
0omeone "ould probably make a lu1ury kitchen of this "hen the to"er "as sold%
and she envied them. 0he had had a lot of pleasure fi1ing and furnishing her o"n
little end'of'terrace house. 4hen she put that up for sale she "ould be sad to
see it go% but "here they lived "ould depend on !lan's career.
4hen &ark came do"n "ith the dog Kate had just poured herself a cup of
coffee and "as looking through the "indo". It "as a bleak morning out there%
and she asked% '4hat are you doing today('
'/othing in particular. )are to join us('
'6es%' she said.
They had breakfast% cleared up and set off% and that became their regular
morning routine. 4hoever came do"n first got breakfast and after breakfast they
"alked $aldy along the shore% then sometimes took &ark's car% sometimes
Kate's% and hit the road.
!s "ith all good holidays% the days passed #uickly% and in spite of the appalling
"eather Kate "as having a riotous time. It "as like finding a boon companion on
a foreign shore% "ho you "ould probably never meet again once you "ere home.
2or no" they "ere inseparable all day long% day after day. $ut she slept alone.
*er situation had been clear from the start. The photograph by her bed "as the
man in her life. That "as understood and accepted.
4omen fancied &ark all right. 0he looked out for their reactions no"% it "as her
o"n little joke% so maybe a "oman "ho didn't made a change for him and
something of a relief. *e kne" that he could flirt outrageously "ith Kate% because
she "ould never take him seriously.
.n the second 4ednesday it "as still raining. It must have stopped from time to
time% but never long enough to do any good. ,ach night she "ashed her hair and
every morning she got it "et again. &ostly they ignored the rain% the only
sightseers doing the beauty spots% vie"ing ruins% "alking beaches and under
dripping trees along streams that "ere turning into torrents.
Kate "ore a plastic mac over her coat% and indoors their shoes s#uelched. .n
4ednesday they s#uelched around the $arn% a ro" of farm outbuildings that had
been turned into a mighty secondhand furniture and bric'a'brac mart.
There "ere several cars in the car park. It "as a place for bargains at any time
of the year% and inside masses of furniture% from three'piece suites to
deepfree7es% "ere stacked high. )ustomers pro"led along the narro" aisles.
0ometimes e1cited cries rang out% '8ook at that dresser% it's pine under the paint!
)an you get it out( *o" much is it('
! young couple "ere unrolling a large rug% and as Kate and &ark passed them
the girl smiled up at Kate% '3ood% isn't it(' They "ere shopping for their home% she
presumed Kate and &ark "ere% and Kate thought "ryly that !lan "ouldn't be
seen dead in a place like this. Dust in the air prickled her nose% and although the
"arehouses "ere heated she shivered.
pstairs "ere smaller objects% on long trestle tables and shelves% the "alls hung
"ith pictures% amateur "atercolours% faded prints. Kate "as going to buy
something for the fun of it% and if she took her time she might find something
special% although this "as biggish business% and hidden treasure "as unlikely to
have slipped by the dealer'o"ners
It "as dusty up here too% she could hardly stop snee7ing. 0he dabbed her nose
"ith a tissue and picked up a lustre dish. That "as good value% but a small
elephant that looked like ebony but "as plastic had an endearing air about him.
!nd there "ere some battered old toys. ! doll's house "as cumbersome and
beyond her price range% but the puppets "ere comical. 0he slid the strings of one
off its rod and it lurched drunkenly on the edge of the table.
'&uffin the &ule%' she said.
'That's no mule%' said &ark. 'It's got the "rong ears.'
'0o he's *arry the *orse. I'll have him.'
*e took the puppet from her and "ent to a patrolling assistant% and Kate started
to snee7e again. 0he "as not shivering no"% she "as "arming up. &ostly in her
head% "hich felt as if it "as filling "ith "arm cotton "ool.
0he had been slightly off'colour from breakfast9 nothing "orth mentioning% but
in this stuffy atmosphere she "as suddenly e1hausted.
0he sat do"n on a horsehair sofa% and "hen &ark came back% s"inging *arry
the *orse from a forefinger% she said% 'I think I got "et through once too often% I
think I've caught a chill.'
*e put a cool hand on her "arm forehead and she snee7ed on cue% and he said%
'8et's go.'
*er eyes "ere "atering no"% and she really should have e1pected this. 0ince
she "as here she had spent most of her days in the rain% and if that "as not
chilling the system% "hat "as(
.nce she "as back in the to"er a hot drink and some aspirins "ould soon
s"eat it out of her. In the meantime it helped to have &ark to lean on going do"n
the stairs% because her knees "ere almost as "obbly as the puppet's.
The couple "ith the rug "ere putting it into the boot of their car. !s Kate tottered
out on &ark's arm they looked across the car park and the man called% 'Is your
"ife all right('
'0he "ill be as soon as I get her home%' said &ark% and the girl smiled kno"ingly%
"hile Kate thought% it's this mac% she thinks I'm pregnant.
0he had to smile at that herself% but she kne" that if she had been alone% she
"ould have "alked out of the $arn and across the car park "ithout staggering.
0he "as not ill. 0he had the start of a cold in the head% "hich "as no big deal.
$ut it had been into1icating to let somebody take care of her% to kno" that if she
slumped she "ould be caught.
0he could not remember anyone ever catching and carrying her. There had
been no loving arms around her as a child. 4hen she gre" to be a "oman
embraces had been either casual or se1ual. .f course% if she had been "ith !lan%
feeling groggy% he "ould have been as solicitous as &ark% and in the car the
di77iness had passed.
0he dug into her handbag for another tissue and began to laugh. 'They've not
only given you a "ife% did you notice that she "as giving you a family as "ell( It's
all this padding I'm "earing.'
*e grinned. '!nd they think all "e've bought for the poor little beggar is a
knackered nag.'
The puppet's strings had tangled. 4hen &ark held it up no" the joints "ere
cra7ily a"ry% and Kate gave a cry of mock anguish. 'That's got to be hurting!
)ome here% *arry% let's see "hat "e can do about getting you back into shape.'
0he unt"ined the knots as they drove along% and "hen the strings s"ung loose
she hung the puppet on the mirror hinge and said% '0ee( !ll that's needed are the
healing hands.'
'6ou'll have to "ait till "e get back%' he said% and she gave a snort of laughter
through her blocked'up nose.
'6ou keep your hands off me!'
'!nd there's this old gypsy recipe for ague.'
'.f course there is% but I'll stay "ith the aspirins.'
They "ere in &ark's car% and this afternoon he parked it beside hers on the
"aterfront. The tide "as going out% the final stepping'stones of the cause"ay
"ere hardly above "ater% and once inside the to"er the chill from the "alls
seemed to be creeping into her bones.
&ark found a thermometer after a search% and her teeth chattered on it% although
the mercury "as higher than normal. Then he got the stove glo"ing and brought
in a )alor gas radiator% and Kate kicked off shoes and peeled off tights and outer
clothing% and lay "rapped in a duvet in a deep armchair% her feet up on a stool.
0he had never pampered a head cold like this before. 4hen &ark produced t"o
steaming tumblers of amber li#uid and told her% 'The gypsy cure%' she sipped and
said%
'!nd it tastes just like "hisky and lemon.'
'They're a cunning race. $ut to sho" there's no risk involved I'm sharing it "ith
you.' *e raised the other glass. '6our very good health.'
'To health and happiness%' she said. 0he had had a happy holiday. &ark had
been a marvellous companion% "ith never a sign of that black mood she had
glimpsed that first night. 4hatever his troubles "ere they "ere not for sharing.
!nd "hy should they be( /one of their talk had been soul'searching. They "ere
just a couple "ho liked each other and amused each other% and although she
might leave him her address it "ould be no surprise if he disliked letter "riting
and never bothered to contact her.
0he do7ed on and off% feeling a fraud. This "as pure la7iness% but lying here "as
therapeutic. &ark and $aldy lounged around too% the dog sleeping% the man
reading% and the "hisky and lemon "as as good a treatment as any secret
recipe. The ache in her bones had gone and she thought her head "as clearing.
4hen she opened her eyes and &ark "as not in the room she listened for him%
and "hen he came back she smiled. The picture "as incomplete "ithout him%
like a piece missing from a jigsa".
'I've put a hot "ater bottle in your bed%' he said. 'I don't think it leaks% I shook it
around.'
'Thank you.' It "as time for bed. 0he "ent to the bathroom% sponged do"n and
got into a nightshirt. 0he "as sure she had caught her chill in time. It might drag
on for a fe" days% but it "ould develop into nothing "orse than a fe" sniffles and
snee7es.
*e had said he "ould bring her another hot drink% and the bed "as "arm. 0he
sat up% the duvet pulled up to her chin% until &ark stood by her bed% and then she
took the mug from him. '0ame again%' she said. '&y cold may have gone by
morning% but I could have a hangover.'
'Take the tablets.'
0he s"allo"ed them and kne" that if he had sat do"n beside her and put his
arms around her she "ould have dra"n him hungrily against her. It might have
been the "hisky or the slight fever% but suddenly she "as "anting him% "ith a
craving as though she "as starving.
*e smiled and said goodnight and "ent% and Kate held the steaming mug very
carefully because the rocky foundations of the to"er seemed to be shaking.
0he fi1ed her eyes on !lan's photograph and tried to feel thankful that she "as
safe. That could have been madness% making a mockery of love% and it had to be
a "arning that she "as losing touch "ith reality.
!ll this% &ark most of all% "as here today and gone tomorro"% like a dream or a
film. -eality "as !lan% and the people and places she "ould be returning to at
the end of the "eek. 0he had sent a fe" cards home% saying ho" a"ful the
"eather "as but that she "as enjoying the break. $ut nobody kne" her address
and% apart from that% she had hardly given them a thought.
.f course she had thought about !lan. *e "as at the back of her mind al"ays
because she loved him. $ut she had not touched the type"riter again. 0he had
done no "ork at all after a couple of hours that morning.
Tomorro" "as Thursday% she "as leaving on 0aturday. 2or the last t"o days she
"ould definitely get do"n to it because% "hat "ith one thing and another% her
conscience "as going into overdrive.
A A A
/e1t morning% apart from a rather pink nose and a tendency to sniff% her cold
"as no problem. $ut it "as still raining% and even if the sun had been shining she
had finished gadding about.
'3ood idea%' said &ark% "hen she e1plained that today she "ould be "orking in
her room.
*e "as first do"n% and she sat at the table drinking coffee. 0he didn't stay for
breakfast. 0he "as not hungry yet. 4hen she "as she could come do"n to the
kitchen and take up something on a tray% disturbing her train of thought as little as
possible. 0he "anted no interruptions today% and she did ask% 'Is there likely to be
anyone "anting to vie"('
'If there is the agent "ill sho" them round. Just ignore them.'
'I "ill.'
2or a "hile she heard $aldy barking and kne" they "ere "alking along the
beach. 4hen that faded there "ere only the seabirds% and a ha7e of rain on the
"indo"pane and all the isolation she needed.
!lan's book might not be ready for publication for a fe" years yet% not until his
political career took off. It "as a diary% a journal% jotting do"n his thoughts%
describing places he visited% people he met. !s a journalist Kate "as helping him
get it into shape% and some of it she felt "as really inspiring.
Typing it "as like listening to his voice% and "hen she looked at his photograph
he seemed to be smiling at her% keeping her doggedly at her labour of love.
*er back stiffened just before her eyes started to smart. 0he had been poring
over papers for hours% and "hen she sat back this time she kne" that she "as
due for a break. &ore coffee maybe% or tea% and she should be getting herself
something to eat.
0he had had all her meals "ith &ark% and dinner tonight "ould be no different.
There "as food in the fridge and the cupboard. ntil then she sliced cheese and
spread crackers and ate them in the kitchen. The cheese "as bland% although it
"as labelled% 'mature'. *er cold must be dulling her tastebuds. 0he made herself
finish the first cracker and dropped the second in the "astebin.
8ovely peace and #uiet. /othing stopping her "orking. 0he "ondered "hat &ark
"as doing and ho" long it "ould be before he came back. The tide "as in. It
"ould need a dinghy to reach the to"er no"% and this "as a hell of a place to be
marooned.
0he had never felt this "ay before. 4ell% she had never been alone before. 0he
remembered "hat he had said about photographing ghosts% but the to"er
shouldn't be haunted. /o battles had been fought here% never a shot fired in
anger. It "as just that it seemed so vast and so empty "ithout &ark. !s though
the to"er missed him% as though she missed him.
The sooner she got back to her o"n little "orld the better. There "as no reason
"hy she couldn't go tomorro"% and in her room she lay on her bed planning to do
that. 0he "ould rest a"hile and then she "ould pack. -ight no" mild depression
"as draining her.
0he "oke hearing the dog bark% and reacted automatically% almost leaping into
her chair by the table. 0he didn't "ant &ark to kno" that she had not spent an
enthralling day "ith !lan's book. 0he didn't stop to "onder "hy it mattered% but
she banged the keys briskly% and "hen he said% '*i!' she did a double'take% and
lied%
'6ou startled me9I never heard you.'
'!ll right(' he asked.
'Just fine.'
'*o"'s it going('
':ery "ell. It's very good.'
*e "as standing by the table she "as using as a desk% and she couldn't cover
every page and fling herself over the type"riter. 0houting '/o!' "ould have been
just as melodramatic.
4hen he said% '&ay I(' he "as already reading% and she snapped%
'6ou are% aren't you('
'Is it a novel('
'/o.' It "as rather like betraying !lan's confidence% although the book "as hardly
a secret. '*e's into politics%' she said coolly. '!nd that page you've just picked up
helps to e1plain some of the reasons "hy.'
To help others% because he cared.
It "as one of Kate's favourite pieces. 4hen !lan read it to her she had said it
"as almost a poem.
':ery touching%' said &ark% and she looked at him sharply as he picked up
another page and asked% '*e goes on like this% does he('
'Do you mind(' she said tartly% and he murmured%
'/ot at all%' reading fast and looking more amused than impressed. '4ell% he's got
the makings of a politician%' he said% 'high'falutin' and long'"inded.' Kate "hipped
back the page and she could have hit him.
Instead she dra"led% '6ou're a small'to"n man "ith a small'to"n mind% but some
men have "ider visions%' and he laughed then.
'6ou should take this in smaller doses% you're talking like it%' and she had to bite
her lip to keep #uiet until he "as out of the room.
*e "as insufferably rude% and she "as seething. If she "ent do"nstairs she "as
going to start arguing "ith him. 4hat had he done "ith his life% e1cept inherit his
father's shop and follo" his father's trade( $ecause he had no ambition himself
that gave him no right to sneer at !lan.
!nd she "as stupid to give a damn "hat &ark thought about anything. 0he "as
leaving here tomorro" and she "as in half a mind to go no".
$ut that "ould mean travelling in darkness before the end of her journey. 0he
didn't mind night driving% but she "as jaded% and it "ould make more sense to
"ait till morning. Then she could call up friends from home and spend tomorro"
evening in congenial company. !nd on 0aturday she could drive to the airport to
meet !lan's flight.
0uddenly she "as missing them all. /ot only !lan% but her "orkmates and her
girlfriends. 0he needed to get in touch "ith them again% to tell them she had
stayed in a &artello to"er and it had never stopped raining. To make a joke of
being taken to *etty's grave on *allo"e'en as the high spot of her holiday% and
buying a tatty puppet as her spending spree.
'I "on't be sorry to get back%' she "ould say% 'and "hat's your ne"s(' There "ere
plenty of numbers she could ring to put her in a mood cheerful enough to get
through a final meal "ith &ark "ithout losing her temper.
0he "ould tell him she "as leaving in the morning% and settle up% and if he
should ask for her address she "ould say her o"n house "as on the market so
she didn't have a permanent address herself% because she did not "ant him
contacting her again.
0he didn't see him on her "ay out% so there "as no need to e1plain "here she
"as going% there "as no phone in the to"er. 0he didn't look back% and "hen she
reached the sea'front she "ent to the bo1 outside the little post office just up the
road. The sea bree7e "as chilly and she "as glad to find the bo1 empty and the
phone "orking.
0he rang a friend "ho lived in the same street% "ho had been keeping an eye on
her house "hile she "as a"ay% and got no reply.
/e1t she tried Jenny% "ho "orked "ith her and "ould surely have some office
gossip after nearly t"o "eeks. '*ello%' said Kate after Jenny ans"ered. 'It's me%
Kate. *o" are things('
0he heard Jenny's shuddering sigh before she "ailed% '.h% Kate9oh% it'sawfull
.h% I am sosorry for you!'
)*!+T,- T*-,,
It hadto be !lan. There had to have been an accident. Kate's blood ran cold and
she gripped the phone as if it "as her support. 'Kate(' Jenny #uavered after a
fe" moments. '!re you there('
'4hat's happened('
'6ou don't kno"( 4here are you('
4hat did it matter if she "as on the moon( Kate said through stiffening lips%
'6ou're the first person from home I've spoken to since I came a"ay. 4hat has
happened('
'.h% no...' Jenny didn't "ant to be the one to break the ne"s. '4e've been trying
to find you. 6our friends.' 0he gulped and Kate thought% I shall go mad% for
heaven's sake tell me! 0he couldn't speak herself.
'It's !lan%' said Jenny. '*e came back. )elia )hambers "as "ith him.'
/o accident. /obody "as hurt. Kate "aited% and Jenny "ent stumbling on% '0he
"as "ith him "hile he "as a"ay. 0ince they got back they've been together all
the time. 6ou kno" "ho her father is.'
!n e1'member of the )abinet "ho still had po"erful political clout. 0ure Kate
kne"% and that !lan "ould be delighted to get )lifford )hambers on his side.
Daughter )elia "as a pretty girl "ho "as in the local ne"s from time to time% and
!lan could have been making up to her. They could have met "hile he "as on
his business trip and something brought him back early% and since then a meal
together "ould be enough to start the gossip.
Jenny should have been an agony aunt instead of a secretary% she could be
relied on to make a crisis out of ne1t to nothing. 'Just as "ell I'm coming back
tomorro"%' Kate said lightly% and Jenny said%
'It's been going on for months9)elia's been talking. They "anted her father's
.K% so it's all been hush'hush% it's been an affair for ages.'
Kate felt as though she had stepped on a step that "asn't there% a lurching of the
stomach and a rising nausea. 'I think it's "icked!' Jenny sounded close to tears.
'The "ay he used you. 4e're all so angry for you% it's been a rotten trick% because
you had no idea% had you('
Kate could almost see a tear rolling do"n Jenny's pink cheek% her big bro"n
eyes more like a mournful spaniel than ever% and she said% '!s the man said%
;Things are rarely "hat they seem;.'
Then she hung up and somebody "as "aiting outside. !s Kate "alked out of the
phone bo1 the "oman "ho "as shivering in the "ind said% 'Isn't it bitter('
Kate nodded. 0he could taste the bitterness% but she hardly felt the ice'edged
"ind. 0he must speak to !lan. It "as al"ays possible that Jenny "as recounting
hearsay rather than fact. If !lan "as home she could ring his home and get
through to him some "ay.
They might laugh together about this% although he should be angry% because it
"as9"ell% it "as bitter. It "as horrible. 0he must talk to him% but she couldn't do
that right a"ay.
0he "ent back to the sea'front and got into her car and "ondered if she should
just drive home. 4ithout her luggage% "ithout paying for her lodgings. That "ould
give her long lonely hours on the road% but in the end she "ould have to pick up a
phone and dial the number she kne" so "ell and ask for !lan.
0he "as scared sick. 0he believed in him and she trusted him% but she
remembered ho" it "as "hen she "as nineteen and t"o days before "hat
should have been their "edding day +hilip phoned to say that he "as sorry% so
sorry% but his mother "as right% they "ere too young.
&other had been right. They "ould have gro"n irrevocably apart% and Kate had
had such sympathy from her friends "ho had all pitied her and told her she "as
not to blame% it "as not her fault. +oor Kate!
$ut if it "as happening again that "ould mean there had to be a fla" in her%
something radically "rong. If !lan ans"ered the phone and said% 'I'm so sorry9'
she thought she "ould die.
0he drove into the nearest to"n and stopped at the first hotel that "as open to
non'residents. 0he could phone from here in "armth and comfort% but not just
yet. 0he couldn't sit around in the lounge bar because she must not drink and
drive% but she had to pass the time someho"% so she had dinner.
0he must be hungry% she had only eaten a cracker and cheese today and not all
that much yesterday. *ollo"ness "as a kind of hunger% and she selected "ith
care@ soup% fish% sorbet ice to finish. 2ood that should slide past the constriction in
her throat.
0he ate slo"ly% and after"ards she could not have described one fello" diner%
nor even "hat the room looked like. 4hat loomed ahead of her filled her mind so
that nothing else "as getting through.
The condemned "oman ate a hearty meal% she thought5 and "hen she could put
it off no longer% she paid her bill and "ent into a phone booth off the foyer and
dialled.
0he got !lan's mother% a s"eet vague "oman "ho yelped% 'Kate!' sounding as if
she had jumped like a frightened rabbit. 'I'll get !lan%' she said% and Kate heard
the phone clatter from her fingers.
Then !lan's voice saying% 'Kate('
*e kne" she "as there. !ll she had to do "as stand "ith the phone to her ear%
she didn't have to say a "ord. '3od% Kate% I'm so sorry%' he said. 0he put do"n
the phone and she didn't die% because she had kno"n "hat he "as going to say.
The blo" to her heart had come "hen she talked to Jenny. /o" there "as only
numbness inside her. 4here her heart used to be "as emptiness. 4hich sho"ed
that the heart "as not essential to a living body% you could manage "ithout one.
0he "as not going to die% but she could be going cra7y. !nd it "ould get "orse%
"hen she had to go back and face them all.
0he drove along the coastline "ith the deliberation of a learner driver9heaven
kne" "hy. 0he "ouldn't much care if she "ent over a cliff% but all her movements
"ere slo"ed do"n as if a mainspring had broken.
0he parked in the same spot% overlooking the bay and the "ater. 2or almost the
first time both the moon and the stars "ere out. 4hen she turned out the car
headlights the cause"ay "as a bright silver path in the dark silver sea.
It "as a night for memories. *er second jilting bringing back the first% as another
man chose not to spend his life "ith her. 0he should have remembered that
marriage brought no happiness. *er parents' marriage should have "arned her
not to get that involved "ith anyone.
4hen she "as last here as a child she had crept a"ay from a scene bet"een
them% and looked at the to"er and "ished she could hide in it. 0he remembered
loneliness "ell. The to"er had seemed like a haven then% and no" she had
no"here else to go.
There "ere lights on in the "indo"s% and "hen she stepped on to the third great
flat stepping'stone she sa" the door open and light streamed out on to the rock.
&ark "as silhouetted at the top of the steps5 he must have seen her car% and she
hurried and felt cold "ater lapping over her feet.
The tide "as coming or going. 0he "as t"o'thirds of the "ay% and it had to be
getting deeper because the path "as disappearing under the "aves. 0he "as
not turning back. 0he "ould "ade. 0he kne" there "ere currents% but she also
kne" the pattern of the cause"ay% and in her present near'7ombie state pressing
on "as almost automatic5 even "hen the "aves reached her "aist and she could
feel them dragging the heavy skirt of her coat.
If they reached her chin she could s"im% she "as a strong s"immer and it "as
no distance. Then suddenly the current s"irled around her% plucking her off the
stones and sucking her do"n "ith the "aters closing over her head.
0he came up choking and spluttering% shoes and clothes "eighing like lead%
struggling to keep afloat. 0he "as not panicking yet% but it "as taking all her
strength% and &ark surfacing beside her "as "elcome as a lifeline.
0he probably "ould have reached the rocks herself% but she let him take the
strain% hanging on to him "hile he supported her over the strip of "ater and
hauled her up on to the rocks.
.ut of the "ater her sodden clothing bogged her do"n% spra"ling and choking%
and he grabbed her again% raising her so that she managed to stumble along.
*e said nothing until they "ere up the stone steps and into the to"er% then he
released her "ith a shove that nearly had her off her feet again. '6ou stupid
"oman%' he roared. 'Didn't you hear me( They must have heard me in the bloody
to"n!'
0houting% '3o back!' she supposed% and no% she had not heard% and if she had
she "ould have taken no notice. 4ater "as streaming from her% she "as
standing in a pool of sea'"ater% and his jeans and shirt "ere sticking to him.
'3et into some dry clothes%' he said "earily% as if she "as an idiot "ho hadn't
realised she "as "et.
0he unbuttoned her coat and left it on the flagstones% she doubted if she could
have dragged herself upstairs in that. 0he left her shoes too and "ent straight to
the bathroom. Thank goodness for hot "ater. 0he mustn't use it all% but her skin
"as blue "ith cold and she crouched over the "arm rising steam.
0he could have dro"ned just no" and all her problems "ould have been over%
but instead she'd been fighting like mad to get ashore. 0he "ould have made it%
she thought% but she "as grateful to &ark. 8ife might be hell% but she must have
"anted to go on living.
The "ater rose in the bath and she slid in% lying lo" so that it covered as much
of her free7ing flesh as possible. 0he "as so cold that the "arm "ater almost
scalded her% and then the returning blood circulation brought an agonising rush of
pins and needles.
+hysically the shock treatment "as helping to clear her mind% although "hat
!lan had done still seemed unbelievable.
It "ould be "onderful not to believe it. 0he had given him no time to e1plain.
0he had hung up as soon as he said% 'I'm so sorry.' *e could have been going on
to say% '!bout these rumours that are going round.'
$ut not in that voice% "ith that groan of guilt. /or "ould his mother have
s#uealed and dropped the phone. !s Jenny said% Kate had not had a clue. .r
had she( &aybe later she "ould look back% spotting the clues that she had
missed.
0he hadn't had a clue "ith +hilip either. ,1cept for the big one% the "ay his
mother kept harping about them being so young. !nd after"ards it had taken
years before Kate had any real confidence in herself again.
This "as "orse. This left her "ith no pride at all. 0he had been conned and
discarded and she remembered the promise she had made to herself% "hen she
had believed she had a good life and that !lan loved her@ /obody is ever going to
feel sorry for me again.
The rap on the door made her reach for a to"el5 she had been sitting naked on
the side of the bath. '!re you all right in there(' &ark called.
'6es% I'll be right out.'
0he let out the "ater and took a bigger to"el and ran along to her room. 0he
dressed #uickly% in a skirt and her thickest jumper. *er only coat "ouldn't be dry
for ages and then it "ould probably be ruined% and it "as a little miracle that
"hen it dragged her under the "ater it hadn't kept her do"n.
0he must thank &ark. *e had just taken an icy s"im because of her% and if she
couldn't give him much of an e1planation he "as surely o"ed an apology.
*e didn't seem any the "orse. *e "as dry and changed% barefooted% and his
hair "as tousled. *e "as glaring at her as he demanded% '4ere you drunk('
'No!' 0he had s"allo"ed rather too much sea'"ater% but she didn't feel like
joking% and he hardly looked in a humorous mood.
'Then "hy did9'
'I didn't hear you.'
'6ou must have gone stone deaf! !nd didn't it occur to you "hen you got up to
your "aist in it that you should have turned back('
*er eyes held no light% they "ere "ide and dark. 'I had to get here%' she said. *e
didn't ask "hy% but he looked steadily at her until she spoke again. 'I've just
phoned !lan.'
'!nd('
'This break "as to give us both space to stand back and think%' although it had
been nothing of the sort for her.
'!nd(' &ark repeated% and she managed a small shrug and a "ry smile.
'4e seemed to have moved further apart.' 0he added #uickly% '$ut don't say
you're sorry.'
'0hould I('
'I don't think so. I don't think it's such a bad thing.' 0he "as surprising herself%
sounding so calm and reasonable "hen she "as in such a turmoil% and she
"ondered if she could fool Jenny and the rest so that nobody "ould kno" ho"
hurt she "as.
'*o" about another slug of the gypsies' cure'all( That dip can't have done you
much good.'
'6ou are kind%' she muttered.
'/o%' he contradicted her flatly. '$ut you're a cra7y lady and I don't "ant you
leaving here "ith pneumonia.'
'I "ish9' she started. Then she bit her lip "hile he poured the drinks. 0he "as
"ishing she need never leave to go back to "hat "as "aiting for her. )elia
)hambers "as rich and gorgeous% apart from her father's political pull. Kate's
friends might think that !lan had behaved badly% but not many people "ould
blame him for choosing )elia.
4hat competition "as Kate( +oor Kate% coming back from her holiday alone to
hear that !lan had been spending his days and nights "ith )elia.
0he reached for the glass &ark "as offering and gulped a little and coughed.
0he "as still deeply shocked% or the pain "ould have been sharper instead of
this dull ache.
4hen she got back she "as going to be so alone% but this had not been a lonely
holiday. 0he had spent it "ith a man se1y enough to have "omen drooling
"herever he "ent. *e "as stunningly attractive. /obody "ould feel sorry for Kate
if they sa" "ho she had spent her days "ith% and most of them "ould soon start
"ondering about the nights.
0he "ished they could meet him% they "ouldn't pity her then% and inspiration
burst on her so that she almost sat up beaming. 0he stopped herself in time. 0he
must make it just a suggestion% because they got on so "ell together and her
home "as open house to her friends.
'6ou should be photographing some of the old places around "here I live%' she
said casually.
'0hould I('
'*ere's an idea% ho" about a deal( I o"e you for my lodgings5 "hy don't you
come back "ith me and have a holiday inmy to"er( !ctually it's a terraced house
overlooking the canal% but there's a spare room and all mod cons. Dogs
"elcome.'
0he sipped her drink until he said% '0ounds promising%' and triumph rose in her.
0he "as promising nothing. /o man "as getting that kind of po"er over her
again% but &ark could be her shield and her revenge.
0he smiled and asked% '4ill you come(' and he said%
'6es.'
*er chattering voice sounded jerky in her ears as she listed some of her local
places of interest% promising to take him along% and asked% '!re you just snapping
a"ay for fun( !ny plans for "hat you might do "ith them('
'2reelance sales. +erhaps a book eventually.' Then "ith a sardonic lift of an
eyebro"% '$ut don't "orry% I "on't ask you to do the typing.'
If that "as a dig she had to ignore it% and she stretched across to stroke the dog.
$aldy's thick shiny pelt "as so damp that her fingers came a"ay "et. '*e never
"ent in too!' she gasped.
0he hadn't noticed% but she had had no time or strength for looking around her.
3rabbing &ark and getting ashore had been all that she could manage.
&ark smiled% '*e's not a dog "ho thinks before he jumps.'
0o the dog had follo"ed his master blindly into the dark sea. Kate said% 'I didn't
do much thinking myself. I "as a dope getting s"ept off the cause"ay% but I am a
strong s"immer.'
'2or all I kne" you might not have been able to s"im a stroke.' *e didn't kno"
much about her% nor she about him% but he could have saved her from dro"ning%
and she said%
'4ell% thank you% both of you. I can s"im% but I "asn't dressed for it% and your
help "as much appreciated. 0orry you both had to get "et.'
'/ot many times "hen "e've been dry these past t"o "eeks%' he joked. 'Total
immersion seems a fitting finale%' and she giggled.
'4here do "e go from here( 4hatever ne1t('
'4armer "ater(' 0omeho" &ark made that sound highly suggestive% and she
thought% "hatever you have in mind% from s"imming in a foreign sea to sharing a
bath% could turn into very hot "ater indeed. 0he laughed and said%
'0peaking for myself% I'm keeping dry for a "hile%' and it "as odd that she could
laugh "hen she "as crying inside. 0he put do"n her glass and stood up. 'I left
my coat and shoes do"nstairs% I "ouldn't give much for their chances.'
They "ere "here she had left them% the coat a sodden black heap% the shoe
leather dulled and saturated. 0he poked the coat "ith the toe of the shoe she
"as "earing no". It "as a dead "aterlogged "eight% and only last month it had
been her pride and joy9a classic trenchcoat in cashmere and pure ne" "ool%
costing more than she had ever paid for a coat before.
/o" it "as sea'"rack% rubbish% but nothing compared "ith everything else she
had lost today. 0he managed to drag it over the back of one of the "ooden
chairs% and it felt as slimy as a sea creature. 0he could have been as clammy
cold herself if &ark had not been looking out for her. 0he "as not glad to be
alive% she didn't think she ever "ould be again% but she turned a"ay #uickly from
the grotes#ue shapelessness of the black coat and almost ran up the stairs.
2rom the door"ay she told him% 'I'm having an early night% it's been a busy day
and I still have my packing to do. )ould "e leave early in the morning('
'0ure.'
'Do you have to tell anyone( &ake any arrangements('
'I'll be ready "hen you are%' he said.
Kate packed methodically% not thinking about anything that "as outside this
room. 0he could block out. It "as a knack she had learned "hen she "as very
young. 0he could not have made it a "ay of life% she could only manage it for
brief periods% but "hile she filled her case and got her bits and pieces together
she held back the pain that could have over"helmed her.
*er hands shook slightly as she put the manuscript into her briefcase% but she
snapped do"n the fasteners and toyed "ith the idea of going out on to the rocks
and chucking the lot into the sea. It "as an appealing thought% e1cept that &ark
and $aldy might catch her at it and &ark might say% 'If you're that over"rought
over !lan ho" "ill you be "hen you get back home( 4hat kind of a setup am I
"alking into('
0he didn't look at the photograph. 0he picked it up from the bedside table%
carried it to the case and dropped it in face do"n. Then she covered it "ith a
plastic bag in "hich her "et clothes "ere "rapped in her bathrobe% and soon
after"ards she closed the case. 0he "ouldn't think about unpacking tomorro"%
but as she undressed she "ondered fleetingly if tomorro" might make everything
right again.
&aybe !lan "ould be "aiting "ith an e1planation that she could believe% and
then she "ould have to e1plain "hy &ark "as "ith her. *e "as a friend% and
friends often stayed in her home% and of course it "as platonic.
In bed the sheets "ere cold and in the darkness she kne" that !lan "ould never
again dra" her into his arms and tell her he loved her. It "as over% and% although
&ark must never guess% she "as clinging to him as desperately as she had "hen
the "aters "ere closing over her.

0he didn't e1pect to sleep% but she did% although her rest "as broken by dreams
that just missed the jagged edge of nightmares. 0he couldn't remember her
dreams "hen she "oke% but sleeping and "aking "ere much the same% grey and
cold.
0he "ashed and dressed and put colour on her face% then stood in the middle of
her room like an actress in the "ings psyching herself up for a performance.
&ark "as in the kitchen% and she had to pretend that this morning "as like all
the others% e1cept that it "as the end of her holiday here. 0he must be bright and
cheerful or he could turn those piercing eyes on her and see inside her head
"here her mind "as running "ild.
0he might not be able to look straight at him for a "hile% but her voice came out
all right. '4ouldn't you kno" the rain had stopped(' 0he must have noticed that%
although she didn't kno" "hen.
'!in't it the "ay(' he said% and she stood back surveying her coat over the chair.
It "as drying stiff as a board and her shoes "ere rimed "ith salt. /one of this
"ould ever be "earable again.
'6ou'd have thought the shoes "ould have slipped off% "ouldn't you(' she
babbled. 'Do you mind if I leave them( *o" do you deal "ith your junk('
'8eave it%' he said.
'If the estate agent brings anybody round the coat could give them a nasty
shock.' 0he "alked round it. 'In a dim light it could look like something very
sinister sitting at your table. !nd "hat "ith that and the incredibly belching
stove...'
*e laughed% and she had to steady do"n or she could tip over into hysteria. 0he
drank coffee and made herself eat some toast% and discuss rationally "here they
could stop for a break on the "ay. If the t"o cars got parted they decided to
make for the car park of the -oyal .ak% a hotel in a market to"n on the route.
They carried cases over the cause"ay. &ark had a holdall% and Kate said% '6ou
travel light%' but of course he "ould only be staying a fe" days% and "hen they
reached their cars she looked back at the to"er% bidding it a silent fare"ell% and
asked% '*ave you had any offers yet('
'/othing final.'
'4ell% if I come into money in the ne1t fe" "eeks I'll make you an offer myself.'
*e kne" she "as joking. '3ot e1pectations% have you('
'.h% great e1pectations%' she said gaily. !ll she "as e1pecting "as anguish and
heartache% but she "as practising flippancy.
*is car follo"ed hers at first. Travelling alone she could have been "eeping. *er
head cold still caused the occasional sniffle% but real grief could have engulfed
her% although she "as not given to tears. 0ometimes stories she "as covering%
tragedy% heroism% misted her eyes% but it "as years since she had "ept for
herself.
0he could have been "eeping no"% but "hen she sa" &ark's car in the driving
mirror she managed a ghost of a smile% although of course he couldn't see her
e1pression. 0he "as trying to block !lan out of her mind% so she turned on the
radio and began to catch up on "hat "as happening to the rest of the "orld.
It really had been a cra7y fortnight. !fter the first day or t"o she had stopped
buying ne"spapers. There "as no T: in the to"er and they hadn't listened to the
radio ne"s. 2rom the sound of things they hadn't missed much% nothing had
changed for the better.
Kate's personal life had changed terribly for the "orse% but she "ouldn't think
about that no". 4hen they got out of their cars and "ere together again she
"ould say% 'I see "hat you meant about only taking the present "hen you have
to. I've been listening to the ne"s% and if somebody "ould stop the "orld I'd like
to get off.'
0he lost him driving through a busy to"n and s"ore fervidly as though it "as a
real loss% although he kne" "here they "ere meeting% he "ould be making his
"ay there% and "hen she turned into the hotel car park she sa" that he had
arrived ahead of her.
0he "aved% passing his car% and parked near and sat at the "heel% undoing her
seat'belt% collecting her handbag% and it "as oddly comforting to "atch the tall
man "ith his long loose stride and the great black dog coming to"ards her.
!s she climbed out $aldy s"ished a tail and &ark held out a hand that she took.
.f course% she could have got out of the car "ithout stumbling% but it "as good to
touch him% reassuring herself that he "as around and supporting her. 0he asked%
'*o" did you get here first "hen you "ere behind me('
*e shrugged. 'I've al"ays been a man for the back streets.'
'I believe you%' said Kate.
*e could have been a street fighter% "ith that #uick'moving #uick'thinking
toughness% but sometimes there "as a stillness in him more po"erful than action
and more frightening.
0ome time she might come up against the stillness% but no" she said% '8et's "alk
$aldy. I think there's a common along there.'
They "alked up a grass'covered hill that looked do"n on the to"n% then they
"alked through the to"n. Then they ate% and it "as another day of her holiday%
but not carefree like the others had been. &ark "as still fantastic company% he
made her laugh and he made her talk% and she got the usual envious glances
from "omen "ho "ould have changed places "ith her.
$ut today she "as playing for time all the time. 0he did not "ant to get home
early enough for company or phone calls. 0he had told Jenny she "ould be back
today% and Jenny might have put the ne"s around% but Kate felt that she "ould
rather "ait till tomorro" before facing the sympathetic concern of her friends.
2or the rest of the journey she led the "ay% and the lights of &ark's car "ere
never out of her driving mirror. They stopped her falling apart. 0he might "ell
have done that% but she dre" up dry'eyed in her home to"n "ith &ark coasting
in behind.
This "as a prosperous'looking road of tall ,d"ardian houses% their paint"ork
pristine% the "indo"sills edged "ith lo" "rought'iron balustrades% the pointed
tops of front door porches elaborately carved.
&ark's eyebro"s rose. ':ery impressive%' he remarked% and she grinned%
'I couldn't agree more% but it isn't mine. I live just off the to"n s#uare% I don't have
a garage% and I do have double yello" lines. I usually park in the s#uare% but on
2ridays I park in this road because there's a 0aturday market and they start
setting up stalls very early.'
0he opened the boot to take out her luggage. '0orry about this% but it isn't far.'
! fe" minutes brought them to the bridge over the canal. *ers "as the first of
the ro" of terraced houses "hose small back gardens had access gates to the
to"path. There "as no one on the to"path no"% and a barge moored belo" "as
still and silent. $aldy sho"ed an interest in the "ay do"n% &ark called him back%
and Kate said% 'The canal's going to be a comedo"n for him after a seashore all
to himself.'
'*e's adaptable%' said &ark.
'4e're here.' 0he put do"n cases and dug into her bag for her key. 0he liked her
home very much. 0he had not been an1ious to sell and move% and no" she
"ouldn't have to. *er little home "as a little security% but not all that much help
"hen her "hole "orld "as cracking up.
0he fumbled getting the key into the lock and said brightly% '/ot as impressive as
the houses up the road.'
'I like it%' said &ark% 'and that's a handsome knocker.'
The door "as dark blue that looked black in the lamplight% the brass knocker
"as a dolphin% and as Kate turned the key and pushed the door open she said%
'*e "as here "hen I came9he is nice% although I don't kno" "hat a dolphin is
doing in the &idlands.'
!fter the vastness of the to"er the tiny entrance hall seemed to close in on her%
and she leaned against the "all "hile &ark brought in the baggage.
There "as mail on the hall table. 0he pushed the envelopes around until !lan's
"riting leapt out at her. This had come through the post5 he had not risked
meeting her face to face% although the postmark "as local. 0he left them all
unopened and began s"itching on lights.
That didn't take long. Do"nstairs "as a living'room the length of the house% a
tiny cloakroom and a kitchen. It "as cold% and she s"itched on the main room
fire% both of her side lamps and a central light.
!lmost at once the phone rang in the hall. Taking it off the cradle "ould have
been her ne1t move% but as it "as she had to ans"er5 and although &ark had
follo"ed her into the living'room he "ould not have been able to avoid
overhearing through the open door.
'*ello%' said Kate.
'Is that you(' said Trish from over the "ay.
'I've just got back.'
'I "asn't e1pecting you till tomorro"% but I sa" lights go on.' Trish had been
keeping "atch on the house "hile Kate "as a"ay% very conscientiously% it
seemed. Then she asked% '!re you all right(' and from her tone Trish kne" "hat
had been happening and "hat "as "aiting for Kate.
'2ine%' said Kate heartily. '-eally. $ut I am all in9it "as a long drive. I'll see you
in the morning.' 0he rang off and said% 'If it rings again let it% it's too late for small
talk.'
0he "as beginning to feel bone'"eary. 0he dre" the curtains in the living'room%
shutting out the street. &ark "as standing at the "indo" overlooking her patio
garden and under this lo" ceiling he seemed taller than ever.
! stranger in her home. !n unkno"n. It could have been a mistake bringing him
here. *e dominated this room just by standing there% and it "as too late no" to
start "ondering if he might be less likely to damp do"n a crisis than to spark off
one hell of a conflagration.
Kate heard her front door open% and &ark put a hand on $aldy as Trish carolled%
'It's only me9 I've brought your key back.'
Kate reached the door"ay into the hall. Trish "as "earing a yello" candle"ick
dressing'go"n and yello" slippers. *er face glistened "ith night cream and there
"ere three bendy curlers on the top of her head. 0he "as obviously ready for
bed% but she said% 'I had to come over and see you "ere really all right. .h% poor
Kate% I've been ever so "orried about you!'
Kate backed a"ay% because Trish "as advancing "ith open arms% ready for a
comforting hug% and Kate "anted no hugging "hich "ould probably start her
crying.
Trish follo"ed% and got her first side"ards glimpse of &ark. It literally spun her
round so that she "as staring at him slack'ja"ed. Then she s#uealed% 'I didn't
realise you had company!' and clapped her hand to her head. 0hooting
back"ards into the hall% she mouthed at Kate% '4hy didn't you tell me( 4hy didn't
you stop me('
Kate's lips t"itched. This "as much better than being hugged and immeasurably
preferable to being poor Kate. '0orry%' she mouthed herself% and Trish started to
shake "ith silent giggles.
'0ee you tomorro"%' said Kate. 'Thanks for everything.'
'4ho is he(' "hispered Trish.
'Tomorro"%' said Kate.
'4hat( .h yes% yes.' Trish "as smiling no". In the open door to the street she
"hispered again% 'Don't tell him "ho I am9I'm going to look better ne1t time!'
Kate "ent back into the living'room smiling% 'That's my very good neighbour.'
'0o I gathered.'
'*ere's a key for you.' Trish had dropped it on the hall table. 'I'm back at "ork on
&onday% although "e can still get around together.'
'I'm counting on it%' said &ark% and so "as Kate. The object of this e1ercise "as
to give an impression of togetherness.
'I'll sho" you your room.' 0he "ent ahead up the little staircase. '$athroom%' she
touched the door% 'and here you are.' The furniture "as small and compact
because this just missed being a bo1room% but there "as a double bed.
'3uests get the bigger bed%' she said% 'but don't get any ideas%' and he shrugged
his shoulders in mock innocence.
'4hat ideas( Did I make a pass('
/ever seriously. $ut until yesterday there had been !lan5 she could no longer
use that e1cuse.
$aldy "as close to &ark% "atching Kate. '4here do you "ant him sleeping('
&ark asked.
'$y the bed% on the bed9I don't mind.' The dog follo"ed the man like his
shado"% and she "ondered% '4hat happens "hen you're parted( Do you ever
leave him behind('
'4hen I do he kno"s I'll come back.'
'! touch of the *ettys%' she joked% but she thought% that must be nice for him.
Do"nstairs again she began to open her mail. $ills% circulars% letters. T"o letters
"ere from friends "ho "anted her to ring them as soon as she got back. That
"as in case she returned "ithout kno"ing the score% and it "as considerate of
them.
$ut she did kno"% and "hen she "as alone she "ould open !lan's letter and
read "hat the man "ho had said he loved her had to say. 0he couldn't do that
"hile &ark "as "atching her.
In the kitchen the fridge "as almost empty. Trish "ould have been stocking up
for her tomorro"% but in the morning Kate could shop for herself. There "as
coffee and tea% and she said% 'I came back early. 4ill you settle for a drink('
'.f course.'
'I'll go up. I'll only be a fe" minutes in the bathroom.'
'3oodnight% Kate%' he said.
'6ou'll lock up% "ill you( 6ou'll turn out the lights('
'.f course.'
In her pretty little shell'pink bathroom Kate had a moment's time "arp.
,verything "as the same in here% it seemed impossible that beyond that door
nothing "ould ever be the same again. That !lan "ho al"ays seemed so straight
and so sincere had been cheating her.
0he called do"n the stairs% '$athroom's all yours!' and closed her bedroom door
and sat on the bed holding the s#uare "hite envelope% in good #uality stationery%
a brand he al"ays used for personal correspondence. Kate had had many a one%
and they had all contained "arm and loving "ords. The address "as
hand"ritten% he never used a type"riter% and seeing her name on an envelope in
!lan's "riting al"ays gave her a tiny thrill.
/o" she lifted the envelope to her lips. 0he had done that before% kissing before
she opened and then settling do"n to read and starting to smile.
.nly one page this time% paper that matched the envelope% his home address
embossed top centre. !nd not '&y o"n darling%' but 'Dear Kate.'
This "as one of the hardest letters he had ever had to "rite. They had been
such good friends% he and Kate% and she "as such a "onderful girl. $ut it "as
better% "as it not% Kate% to face the truth that their relationship had reached a
"atershed. 2riends they "ould al"ays be% but9
0he said softly% '6ou stinking hypocrite%' and dropped the letter into a dra"er in
her dressing'table "ith the other matching envelopes.
*e had been playing games "ith her@ letting her try on his grandmother's ring%
"riting her love letters% making love to her. It had all been pretence% because it
had never been !lan and Kate% secretly it had al"ays been !lan and )elia.
4ell% it could be Kate and &ark for a "hile. That "ould be something to soothe
her pride. &ark "as here5 if she called him they could share the bigger bed. !nd
anyone could see that he "as e1perienced and skilful% and "hy not% for pity's
sake(
It "ouldn't be pity. *e "as attracted to her and she had invited him into her
home and they "ere consenting adults. /atural and pleasurable% "hat more did
she "ant(
$ut she felt so cold. 2rigid "as the "ord! The "ay she had for a long time after
+hilip had jilted her. If she lay naked beside &ark she "ould shrink from him% and
he "ould kno" she "as using him and "alk a"ay. *e must not "alk a"ay% so
that "as no ans"er to the bitterness that "as corroding her.
0he opened her case and pulled out !lan's photograph. 0he covered it "ith the
damp to"elling bathrobe she had "rapped around her "et clothing% and placed it
on a mock fur rug. That should deaden the sound. 0he didn't "ant &ark hearing
breaking glass and coming in to investigate.
Then she found a shoe "ith a stiletto heel% metal'tipped% and brought it do"n
again and again on the glass of the photograph until she must have pulverised it
into a mass of ra7or'sharp splinters.
)*!+T,- 2.-
/e1tmorning% heavy'eyed from lack of sleep% Kate stepped over the bundle on
the rug. 0mashing the glass had released some of her frustration last night5 his
photograph had been a substitute for !lan's smug face. $ut she had not slept
much easier for hitting out.
$y morning light the gesture seemed stupid. It "as not going to "orry !lan% "ho
"ould never kno"% but it "ould be impossible to get all the glass slivers out of her
robe% and she "ould have to be careful they didn't spill on to the rug to dra"
blood if she "alked barefoot.
0he had done no other unpacking% and no" she "ent about that task% putting
clothes in "ardrobe and dra"ers% piling the sea'damp items together. *arry the
*orse came out of the case tangled again5 he had a talent for getting into a t"ist.
$ut as she held him up he did a slo" t"irl% round and round% ending on
unravelled strings.
'Thank you%' she said idiotically% and slipped the rings on the end of the curtain
rail. *e hung there% looking the picture of dejection.
4hen she chose him she had thought he "as cute% but she had been happy
herself then and his mournful e1pression had been funny. 'I suppose you couldn't
manage a smile%' she said% and "as thankful that no one could hear her.
The house "as still "hen she put her head out of her bedroom door% and she
"ent #uietly do"n the stairs. The curtains had not been dra"n in the living'room%
so &ark and $aldy must still be asleep% and she ran upstairs again to collect the
bathrobe and the smashed photograph and take them out to the bin.
*er little "alled patio "as flagstoned and brightened "ith terracotta pots and
troughs% although the only colours no" "ere a fe" "inter pansies and the last of
the pink geraniums. During the hot summer she had brought out the sun'
loungers and served al fresco meals. 2riends had sometimes joined her% but the
best times had been alone "ith !lan.
-ight no" if she closed her eyes she could imagine it "as summer again and he
"as here% rela1ing as if this backyard "ere a "onderful garden and sharing it
"ith Kate made everything perfect. $ut all through those dro"sy sunny hours he
must have been thinking of )elia% resenting having to keep a"ay from her "hile
they angled for her father's approval.
*o" long "ould it be before Kate could be out here% or in her home% "ithout
seeing !lan every"here% remembering "hat he said% "hat they did% kno"ing no"
that all of it had been a lie(
0he could not imagine summer. It "ould al"ays be "inter. 0he "as clutching the
bathrobe% feeling the shape of the frame inside it. 0he lifted the lid of the bin and
dropped the bundle into the bag% as the gate opened and &ark and $aldy "alked
in.
Kate jumped as guiltily as if she had been caught getting rid of a body and
gasped% '*o" long have you been up('
'!n hour or so. 4e've been "alking the to"path5 "e got as far as the second
lock.'
'The back door "as still bolted.'
'4e "ent out through the front door.' *e had a key% and for a fe" seconds she
looked at him. /o eye contact% she "as still "ary of that% but his presence and
personality "ere vigorous enough to clear a"ay the shado"s. 4hile &ark "as
around she could look at him and she "ouldn't see !lan.
0he said% 'I'll get us some breakfast. If you'll make the coffee I'll be back in a fe"
minutes.'
0he slipped into a coat that "as hanging in the hall closet% and "ished she had
"orn this on Thursday "hen she "alked into the sea% and that she still had her
lovely cashmere. 0he tied her hair back "ith a scarf% she must "ash it as soon as
she got back% then she grabbed a shopping bag and headed for a small grocers
a fe" minutes' "alk a"ay.
!t the end of her road early shoppers "ere thronging the market% and that "as
"here Kate "ould be meeting people she kne". There "ouldn't be many "ho
had not heard the gossip about !lan 2oster and )elia )hambers% but "hen Kate
ran that gauntlet &ark "ould be "ith her.
/o" she reached the shop and made some #uick purchases and got out again
"ithout any hassle. !s she turned into her road a girl pushing a pram called
across% '*i% Kate%' and Kate "aved and called a cheery% '*ello%' back. Then she
strode off and let herself in through her front door.
&ark "as in the little galley of a kitchen. !lan "as clumsy in this confined space
so that Kate had al"ays found it less trouble to prepare meals and clear a"ay
herself. $ut &ark moved easily% "asting no effort% taking the loaf from her% putting
slices in the toaster% and she said% '&ind your elbo"s% my kitchen's rather
cramped after the to"er.'
'I've been in tighter fits%' he said.
'0maller than this( I didn't think they came any smaller% e1cept maybe a caravan
or a boat.' 0he laughed. '.r a cell.'
*is ans"ering smile "as #uick and she had the impression of something she
"as not sharing. Then he told her% 'Jenny phoned. 4ill you ring her back( 0he
said it "as urgent.'
'It "ould be% "ith Jenny.' /o" &ark had ans"ered it certainly "ould be% and she
"ent back into the hall% closing the kitchen door. 8ater in the morning she "ould
be seeing Jenny in the office5 she might be on her "ay there no"% but as she had
phoned Kate "ould try to get her at home.
0he did not really "ant to play this game. 0he doubted if she had the stamina for
going around "ith a smile on her face "hen she felt like death. $ut she dialled
Jenny's home number and Jenny ans"ered on the second ring. 'I "as just going
to try you again%' said Jenny as soon as Kate spoke. '4ho "as that('
'! very good friend%' said Kate.
'0e1y voice%' said Jenny.
'6ou should see the rest of him.' The door "as shut% but she still spoke softly.
'Do I kno" him('
'/ot yet%' said Kate% and hung up. That had to do Jenny for no"5 she could be
relied on to relay that to Kate's colleagues% and "hen Kate turned up "ith &ark
she had to look good and "ithout a care in the "orld.
0he opened the kitchen door% pulling the scarf off her head. I've got to "ash my
hair again% it's still like sea"eed.'
'That's "hat comes of diving off cause"ays%' said &ark.
':ery true.'
0he "ashed and conditioned it% and "ent do"n "ith a to"el "rapped around her
head because she "as gasping for coffee. The kitchen had only "orking space
and &ark had carried a tray to the table by the patio "indo". *e sat there no"
"ith a local guidebook he had taken from her shelves. 'If you haven't anything
planned for this morning%' Kate said% '"ould you like to "alk round our market('
*e said he "ould and she left it at that% "hile he read the guidebook and she ate
her toast. ntil the phone rang again and she got up reluctantly to ans"er it. It
"ould have been ringing "hether she had brought &ark back or not. If she had
been there alone the callers "ould have stammered "hat they had to say%
because a public jilting "as such a savage thing. *er friends "ould have been
indignant for her and sorry for her and thankful in their hearts that it "as not
happening to them.
$ut no" Trish came over sounding #uite gleeful% no pity there. '0o "hois he('
she demanded.
'The man I've been on holiday "ith%' said Kate softly% and Trish "hooped.
'-eally( 3o on% then%' follo"ed by a crash and a ho"l and a scream. 'I'll call you
back%' said Trish. 'They're fighting again%' and Kate just had time to gabble%
'Don't ring% it's not easy to talk. I'll get over some time%' before Trish hurried off to
separate her continually scrapping sons.
!fter that Kate replaced the receiver slightly aske"5 she didn't "ant any more
calls. pstairs she ble" her hair dry until it shone in a smooth bouncing bob. 0he
"as looking #uite bouncing herself% "ith colour on her cheekbones and lips
curved ready to smile.
/o" she must face them. 0he called% '-eady to go(' as she came do"n the
stairs% and "ent into the kitchen to collect her shopping bag.
2unny ho" little things affected you "hen you "ere punch'drunk. *arry the
*orse's gloomy depressing face% and on the shopping bag the marmalade kitten
"ith its )heshire )at grin. 0he had never noticed before ho" blank its eyes "ere%
and she thought% that's me% "ith a false grin on my face.
&ark came into the hall. In leather jacket% dark trousers and dark rollneck
s"eater% his tall lean body and ha"kish face spelled style. The la7y% usually
amused voice "as a turn'on too% and if Kate needed an attractive man to flaunt
around to"n Thaddeus &ark $randon "as ideal for her purpose.
4hen he put a light arm round her shoulders there "as a smothering% pounding
sensation in her chest% and instinctively she ducked her head. $ut he "as not
kissing her. 0he heard him breathe in above her head% then he said cheerfully%
'/ot a trace of sea"eed left.'
'I should hope not% I use a good conditioner.' 0he smiled brightly. '0hall "e go('
*e put the phone straight on its cradle "hile she registered surprise. 'I suppose I
must have done that after that last call%' she said.
'Is there anything you "ant to miss('
*e "as suggesting she had done it on purpose% and she had. '+lenty%' she said.
'That's the trouble "ith phones% you can't ignore them.' There had not been a
phone in the to"er% but his phone% of course% "ould be in the shop.
'I could do an ans"ering service for you.' *e said in fruity theatrical tones% 'This
is the Kersha" residence% madam is unavailable at the moment% may I ask "ho
is calling('
0he laughed% 'There's class! 6ou don't come across a lot of butlers these days.'
The s#uare "as filled "ith ro"s of stalls and s"arming "ith shoppers. !
bandstand% dating from times "hen brass bands played on high days and
holidays% stood in the centre of the s#uare. 0ometimes a restaurant put tables
and chairs out% but no" stalls "ere set up there too and every"here "as busy
and bustling.
$uildings around the s#uare still had a :ictorian facade although inside most of
them had changed out of recognition. There "ere shops% offices% including that of
the county ne"spaper% a fe" private houses% and strolling bet"een the stalls
Kate sa" familiar faces and smiled "hen they sa" her.
0o far she "as managing to dodge those "ho "ould have stopped to talk% and
"hen a "oman came out of a bouti#ue calling 'Kate!' she hurried a"ay. &ark "as
rooting through the bo1es on a secondhand bookstall% and Kate came back to
him as soon as Ilse "as back in her o"n shop. Then she bought fruit and
vegetables% filling her bag and handing it over to him "hen he reached for it.
2or a dog used to "ide open spaces $aldy behaved "ell in cro"ds% keeping at
&ark's heels% ears back. *e looked under control but not be trifled "ith% and Kate
noticed that nobody tried to pet him.
4hen they came to the old chapel she said% '*ere's "here I "ork.' The sign
above the big open doors read '-adio Danilo' and the e1tensions behind more
than trebled its si7e. '4ould you like to see round('
0he "illed him to say yes% but he said% '8ater% maybe.'
3oing in this morning and saying her piece might take the heat off her for a
"hile. 'I have to go in%' she said% and "hen she got no response to that she
asked% '4ill you "ait for me( I'll only be a fe" minutes.'
'.f course.'
0he took a deep breath as she "alked into the foyer. .nce past the open doors
there "ere no signs left of the old chapel. This "as in every sense a hive of
modern technology.
2rom behind the long reception desk a "oman blinked through big round
spectacles "hen she sa" Kate and called% '*ave a nice holiday(' realising as
soon as she had spoken that she might have been tactless.
Kate beamed and said% 'The best ever. 4ait till you see "hat I brought back!'
The top of the stairs led directly into the huge ne"sroom that Kate shared "ith
other journalists. $eyond glass panels "as one of the broadcasting studios. ! red
light sho"ed and a man "as speaking into microphones. !nother glass'panelled
section "as the ne"s editor's office% and Kate's desk% "ith its :D% "as one of
t"o ro"s of identical "orkplaces.
!s Kate "alked in some of the talking stopped. &ost of her colleagues looked
to"ards her% and the girl "ho "as nearest came to meet her. Jenny "as the
ne"s editor's secretary% so all the "omen "ould kno" by no" that a very good
friend of Kate's had ans"ered her phone this morning.
!ll the same /icola% "ith "hom Kate had shared confidences% asked an1iously%
'!ll right('
'/ever better%' said Kate. 'I'm still on leave till &onday% but I looked in to see if
there "as any mail for me.'
/icola "as trying to "ork out if Kate "as putting on a brave face% because she
kne" ho" Kate felt about !lan 2oster and that he had treated her abominably.
Kate opened the top dra"er and "ent through her mail. .ffice matters "ould
have to be dealt "ith% personal letters usually "ent home. There "as not much
here% and there "as no big s#uare envelope "ith !lan's "riting on it. 0he had
checked that in seconds% although he "ould not be "riting to the studios5 he
"ould not be "riting to her at all.
Then Jenny% having spotted her through the glass panels and come haring out%
grabbed her elbo"% hissing% '4hois he('
Kate lifted her head and faced her friends. '*is name's &ark $randon% and I met
him "hen I "as looking for some"here to stay.' 0he smiled as if she "as
recalling something incredible. '4e sort of clicked right a"ay and9"ell% I stayed
"ith him and things got better and better% and no" he's spending a fe" days "ith
me.'
0he could not have carried on like this if &ark had come into the office "ith her.
0he "as telling no lies5 they had clicked% there had been a rapport. $ut if he had
been standing beside her she could hardly have smouldered like the panting
beauty #ueen in the studio photograph% giving the impression that all had been
steamingly se1ual from the start.
/icola gulped% '6ou mean9(' Then she asked%
'Did you kno" about !lan and )elia before('
Kate pulled a kno"ing face that could have meant anything% e1cept her real
feelings of bitter betrayal% and /icola gasped% '0o you "ere cooling off as "ell('
0he had been really bothered for Kate. They had all been shocked% and no" it
seemed they had been "orrying over nothing. Kate had not been cra7y about
!lan 2oster after all% she had never come in here smiling like the cat "ith the
cream over him. /icola felt she might have dropped a hint% and said #uite
sharply% 'That's a lucky coincidence.'
'It's a funny old "orld%' said Kate% and /icola "ondered if there "as a "istfulness
in that and decided that of course she "as glad Kate had found someone else.
'0o "here is he(' she asked.
'4aiting for me.' Kate looked do"n from the "indo" "ith her female co'"orkers
grouped behind her. 'The man "ith the dog.'
There "ere appreciative murmurs as &ark looked up and Kate "aved and he
"aved back. ':ery tasty%' /icola decided.
':ery much to my taste%' Kate grinned. '!nd I'm thinking of accepting joint
custody of the dog. 0ee you.' 0he "ent as if she had "ings on her feet and she
kne" that they "atched for her to run out through the doors belo" and across to
&ark. 0he had intended to "alk a"ay% arm in arm "ith him% making him smile by
telling him that she had told Jenny he "as a tall dark no'name stranger she had
picked up on holiday.
$ut "hen she reached him he held up another puppet that he had just bought
from the charity stall9a co" "ith long painted eyelashes and a smirk. '! friend
for *arry%' he said. 'I thought she might cheer him up%' and that "ould have made
her laugh even if there had been no audience.
'4hen I hung him up this morning he looked so mournful%' she said. 'I could kiss
you for *arry.' *er lips brushed his cheek and they both kne" it meant nothing%
but that "as not the impression the onlookers got% "atching Kate and her 'lover'
strolling a"ay together.
They left the market% "alking back up Kate's road to"ards "here they had
parked their cars last night. !s they reached Trish's house Kate said% 'I've got to
look in here. I'll follo" you% it's another brief call.'
0he caught Trish alone. .n 0aturday morning her husband had taken the t"ins
to the park and Trish "as hurrying around tidying up after them. 4hen she sa"
Kate her eyes brightened. Kate "as never boring% and "hat "as happening to
her no" "as riveting.
Trish "as very "illing to leave the bedmaking and sit over coffee% but Kate said%
'I have to dash% "e're going off some"here% but I kno" you "ant to kno" the
score. 6ou've heard about !lan and )elia(' Trish nodded% sober'faced. '4ell%
that's fine by me%' said Kate. '0he's "elcome to him. I met &ark "hile I "as on
holiday. *e's a photographer% he's got a little shop and he's very good. 6ou'll like
him9 you'll be meeting him.'
There "as no "ay of avoiding that% Trish "as nodding again5 and Kate stayed
for a fe" more minutes% thanking Trish for looking after the house% checking that
all "as "ell "ith Trish's family% sounding natural and smiling a lot.
!t the door Trish asked% 'It is all right% isn't it( I mean% this isn't just a rebound('
and Kate looked at her steadily and said #uietly and clearly%
'$elieve me% I've never been happier.'
0he "as lying% but it reassured Trish% "iping the doubt from her face and her
voice. 'That'ssmashing!' 0he giggled% '4asn't it a"ful% me barging in in my
curlers( 6ou say he's a photographer5 I "onder if he'd do the t"ins( I'd pay him%
of course% but I "as thinking of a photograph for them to give 0imon for his
birthday and it might be nice to have it taken at home.'
'I'll ask%' Kate promised. 0he sa" no reason "hy &ark should turn do"n a
commission% nor "hy she should mention that the t"ins could be holy horrors.
!"k"ard subjects must be one of the risks of the job% and it "ould be interesting
to see if &ark could handle them.
*e "as sitting in his car reading a morning paper. !s he leaned across to open
the passenger door for her the dog lumbered over into the back seat% accepting
the inevitable% and Kate said% '$aldy% you're a gentleman%' and scratched the top
of his sleek dark head.
'6ou've bought a paper%' she said to &ark. 'I thought you "eren't interested in
"orld affairs.'
*e folded it and slipped it under the seat. ',ven my head comes out of the sand
eventually%' he said. *e sounded as if he "as joking% but she "ished that holiday
could have lasted longer% "here no phones rang and they "ere alone even in the
middle of cro"ds.
Today they drove around the neighbourhood buying food% but mainly sightseeing
"here he might return and photograph at his leisure "hile Kate "as "orking.
They had lunch and tea in attractive hostelries% and arrived back in the early
evening. $y then the market had cleared from the s#uare% Kate collected her car
and drove do"n behind &ark to park it in its usual spot nearer the house and
handy for the office.
The phone "as ringing "hen she opened the front door% and she grimaced as
she ans"ered it and recognised Ilse cooing% '*ello% Kate.' Ilse +eters "as not
among her favourite people. 0he al"ays looked like a glossy maga7ine model9
running one of the best dress shops in to"n% so she should9and she had a
gushing line in sympathy that hid her delight in other people's troubles.
If you had any sense at all you "ere careful "hat you told Ilse. 0he "as a fair'
"eather friend% and Kate "as sure that "hen she heard about !lan and )elia she
had reminded everybody about +hilip. '.h%poor Kate%' Kate could imagine her
saying. 'This is the second time she's been jilted. Is she just unlucky% or "hat('
/o" she "as saying% 'I'm having a little party this evening% I do hope you can get
along%' "ith a little trill of laughter. '$ring along the mystery man% of course.'
Taking &ark to one of Ilse's 'do's "ould give him ma1imum local coverage% but
Kate "as not sure she "as ready for that. 0he asked% ')ould I leave it at maybe('
and Ilse said coyly%
'They all think he's very handsome.'
'Do they(' said Kate as she hung up.
/ot really% she thought. !lan is handsome "ith regular features% but &ark has
the devil's hungry look% and if he goes to your party tonight he'll surely stir up
something.
0he said% 'That "as an invitation for both of us9 a party. The food "ill be cordon
bleu because it al"ays is. *o" do you feel about it('
'/ot me%' he said promptly. 'I'm not a social animal. 6ou go and enjoy your
supper.'
0he "ould have thought he "ould be terrific in company% a natural charmer "ho
could talk and listen% but his refusal "as pretty emphatic. !nd it might have been
to avoid an argument that he took $aldy out for a "alk along the to"path% leaving
Kate to make her o"n decision.
0he could hardly arrive at Ilse's alone. If she couldn't persuade &ark to
accompany her she "ouldn't go. If she did go it "ould be an ordeal% but it "ould
sho" Ilse and her guests that nobody need feel sorry for Kate% and on the "hole
she supposed she ought to turn up. If she could just get &ark to change his
mind.
0o she "ould start to get ready% then she "ould come do"nstairs and &ark
"ould be back from "alking the dog% and she "ould say% 'Do come "ith me. It'll
be more fun than sitting here all evening% and "e can cadge some leftovers for
$aldy.' 4hen he sa" the trouble she had gone to9he had never seen her in full
glamour9he "ould surely give in.
0he took out one of her favourites% a black se#uinned sheath dress "ith a
diagonal neckline baring one shoulder. &ark "as taking his time% unless they had
come back and she hadn't heard them. 0he had put on her gleaming party face%
fi1ed her hair% and "as slipping in the second long jet and gold earring "hen the
phone rang.
It "as /icola. 'Kate( Ilse says you're coming tonight. !nd I'll bet she didn't
mention it% but !lan and )elia are% and if you "eren't e1pecting to see them it
could be a"k"ard% so I thought you ought to kno".'
Ilse "ould be e1pecting some e1citement there% and Kate thanked heaven for
her friends. 0he said% '$less you%' and then% 'I didn't say "e "ould% and as it
happens "e've just decided "e'd prefer a cosy evening in.'
/icola "as not sure if this "as a change of plan% but she said gaily% '2rom "hat I
sa" of him I don't blame you! '$ye for no"% then.'
'*ave fun at Ilse's%' said Kate% and /icola laughed%
'/ot as much fun as she "as hoping. 0he'll be disappointed. )an I mention &ark
to !lan('
'4hy not(' said Kate. 'Ilse "ill' 0he laughed too until the connection "as broken
off% but then she "ent into the living'room and sat do"n% shaking like a leaf%
feeling the blood draining out of her face.
0he should have guessed that !lan might be invited% and no" she kne" "hat a
confrontation "ith him could do to her. It "as one thing being bright for friends%
but seeing !lan and )elia together% "hile the pain "as still ra"% "ould blo" her
fragile defences. ,ven if she steeled herself to carry it off% and fooled them all%
she "ould not fool &ark. *e "ould realise ho" vulnerable she "as if she "alked
into Ilse's dra"ing'room and found !lan and )elia there.
Ilse "as a mischief'maker. 0he "ould not have "arned !lan either. It "ould
have been embarrassing for him and )elia% but they "ere the "inners. Kate "as
the loser% and if she had turned "hite and started shaking% the "ay she "as no"
just thinking about it% she "ould have been 'poor Kate' for ever.
0he "alked up and do"n the living'room until she stopped shaking and the
colour came back into her cheeks. /o" she had to get out of her finery% and she
"ould take a drink upstairs "ith her so that by the time she came do"n again her
nerves "ould have steadied.
0he "as at the corner cabinet "here she kept her fe" bottles "hen $aldy
bounded into the room% and she moved a"ay #uickly before &ark could follo"
him. 0he al"ays seemed to be hopping "ith guilt "hen he caught her una"ares%
and although she had every right to be pouring her o"n drink in her o"n house
secret drinking might call for an e1planation.
*e stood in the door"ay% "atching her% then he said% '6ou look sensational.
There "on't be another "oman there tonight "ho can hold a candle to you.'
Kate blushed "ith pleasure% although it "as not true. 0he had not been
sensational enough to keep !lan loving her. $ut &ark's admiration boosted her
confidence so that she "ondered for a moment if she could face !lan so long as
&ark "as "ith her.
0he said slo"ly% '6ou haven't had second thoughts about going to the party('
and "as relieved "hen he said no% as decisively as he had the first time.
'4ell% I have%' she said% 'I've been thinking. It "ould be a long night and I don't
really "ant to go. I "as just going to get this off and get back into something
sloppier.'
'That "ould be a "aste%' he said. '0hall "e dine out% in style('
There "ere places locally "here diners dressed for dinner% "here the prices
"ere ridiculous and sometimes the food "as good. 0he had eaten in most of
them% usually "ith !lan% but no" she said% '.r shall "e stay in% in style( I can set
out a pretty table "ith "ine and candlelight% and "e can eat from today's
shopping.'
'/o% I'll see to the food. 6ou lay the table.'
*e "as closing the front door behind him before she could ask% '4hat are you
getting(' and she opened the gateleg table% moving it to the centre of the room.
Then she put long "hite candles in crystal holders% and laid t"o placemats "ith
her rose"ood'handled cutlery and the "hite gold'rimmed plates.
-eady for a bottle of "ine she "as chilling% she brought out t"o anti#ue glasses
that !lan had given her on her last birthday. ntil no" she had only used them
"ith him% but tonight she "ould share them "ith &ark. !lan could keep her gifts%
she "anted nothing back% and she told herself that these "ere just glasses no"%
pretty possessions but meaning no more to her than anything else on the table.
4hen they turned off the lights and lit the candles it "ould look festive and
intimate% and she smiled at her reflection in the hall mirror% remembering &ark's
"ords and his e1pression of "holehearted approval.
It "ould have been hellish at Ilse's "ith everyone "eighing her up against )elia
and some of them deciding that !lan had chosen the right girl. )ompared "ith
that% an evening alone "ith an attractive man "ho had just told her she "as
gorgeous "ould be bliss. !nd "hatever they ate "ould taste better than Ilse's
haute cuisine% because that "ould have choked her.
0he picked up the ne" puppet from the hall table and took it up to her room.
')ompany for you% *arry%' she said% and shoved him along the curtain rail to make
room for another set of rings.
4hen &ark "ent a"ay the puppets "ould be left hanging here% and if she didn't
break the habit she might still be talking to them. )old comfort% she thought5 but
"here "ould she look for comfort "hen &ark "ent a"ay( !nd she heard the
front door open and called% '&ark% is that you('
'*o" many keys have you handed out('
'.h% do7ens%' she said airily. .nly the one he had. 'I'm introducing *arry to
"hat's'her'name.' *e came up the stairs and into her room% and she pointed
them out. 'There they are. Don't they make a good pair('
$ut he "as looking a"ay from the puppets "hen he said% 'I'm beginning to think
they do%' and the long cheval mirror framed him and Kate like a picture. 0he "as
stunning in her shining dress and earrings and her glam make'up. *e "as
casually dressed% understated% but "hen she met his eyes in the mirror her
breath caught% and as her bare shoulder brushed his jacket sleeve she felt a tiny
electric shock. &aybe she "as not frigid after all% but going overboard because
she "as lonely "ould be just as destructive.
0he said lightly% '/o doubt about it% "e'd be a knockout at any party. 4hat shall
"e call *arry's friend('
')larabelle('
'*o" about Ilse(' That "as a joke to keep to herself. 0he said blandly% 'I kno" a
co" called Ilse%' and "ithout giving him time to ask about that she asked him% '0o
"hat are "e having for dinner('
)hoice had been limited@ fish and chips% the pi77a parlour and the )hinese
takea"ay. ,ven the delicatessen had been closed% and in the hall "as a large
"hite carrier bag from the )hinese takea"ay. '8ovely%' said Kate. '!bsolutely my
first choice.'
'!nd this%' said &ark% picking up a bottle of champagne. 'It's chilled% I got it from a
hotel. 4ill you dish up "hile I "ash( I can't match you for elegance% but I can
change my shirt.'
'I'm sure you'll look devastating%' she joked% 'by candlelight.'
0he emptied the half'do7en tinfoil containers into dishes% the pra"ns and the
bamboo shoots% the chicken in lemon sauce% beansprouts and cashe" nuts and
mushrooms% crabmeat and s"eetcorn. It "as colourful and it smelt appetising%
and she lit the candles and turned out the main lights "ith $aldy spra"led full
length in the glo" from the electric fire.
&ark turned out the hall light as he reached the bottom of the stairs% and came
from the shado"s into the room "here Kate had just seated herself at the table.
*e "as "earing a "hite shirt% open at the neck% and she thought% no "onder you
get on so "ell "ith the gypsies% you could be a blood brother.
*e sat opposite her% and the candlelight flickered in his dark eyes. 8ight from the
campfire% she thought% and he asked% '4hy are you smiling('
0he told him the truth "hen she could. 'I "as thinking you look like a gypsy and
"e could be round a campfire.'
'/ot the "ay you're dressed.'
'/ot even my golden earrings(' 0he turned her head so that her hair s"ung bell'
like and the long earrings s"ayed against her cheeks.
'+retty%' he said% and if he had touched an earring they might have kissed across
the table% and that "ould have been pleasant but dangerous% so she "as glad he
did not.
0he began to help herself to the food and they consulted each other over
dishes. They had been eating meals together for a fortnight. $y no" she kne" as
much about his culinary tastes as she kne" about anyone's. !lan "as a fussy
eater% but &ark tackled most things cheerfully.
4hen her plate "as piled she said% 'It ought to be chopsticks.'
')an you use chopsticks(' he asked.
'I've tried% from time to time. I'm better "ith a fork.'
'I'll teach you%' he said.
'3ood at it% are you('
':ery good.' *e grinned "ickedly. '0ome time% dear Kate% I hope to sho" you just
ho" good I can be.' )hopsticks had nothing to do "ith this% but they "ere only
fooling% although "hen he stood up she held her breath. '!nd it's about time I
started taking some pictures of you%' he said.
*e "ent to fetch his camera and she let the held breath out again. .f course she
"as not disappointed that he "as not trying to make love to her% but it "as no
compliment him taking pictures to take a"ay "ith him. 0omething to remind him
of a girl "ho had not made enough impression to live on in his mind% let alone in
his heart.
*er o"n heart "as a closed shop% but he "as vivid enough in her mind to leave
an indelible image. 0he "ould need no photograph to remember ho" he looked%
and that "as depressing% because she already had enough lonely memories to
last a lifetime.
0he reached for the champagne bottle and something sharp and sparkling to
recapture her party mood% tearing off the foil top and un"inding the "ire over the
cork. Then slo"ly and steadily she eased up the cork% releasing it "ith a loud and
e1plosive force.
The "ine foamed like a fountain% and $aldy screamed and streaked from the
room like a bat out of hell. In the hall he cannoned into &ark% and Kate ran out
after him. The cork must have hit him in the eye% done some sort of agonising
damage. /o" he "as ho"ling% head thro"n back% and &ark "as holding him%
talking gently. ',asy% boy% easy% it's all right.'
'.h% 3od% "hat's happened( 4here's he hurt(' Kate demanded.
'It "as the noise%' said &ark. 'It sounded like gunshot.'
The animal's eyes "ere "ild% but the ho"ling had become a panting and no" he
"as shivering. Kate stood still and #uiet% until $aldy staggered back to the fire
and lay there% tongue lolling% giving the sheepish impression of someone "ho has
made a fool of himself. Then she said%'Gunshot?'
&ark took her hand and ran it under the animal's ribcage% and she felt the "eal
of e1tensive scar tissue. It "as long healed so that it "as no longer even tender%
but he must have suffered terribly% and she "hispered% '.h% you poor love% ho"
did it happen9"as it an accident(' 2rom the man's face she kne" it "as not%
and she said% 'Don't tell me ho"% but ho" cruel% ho" a"ful! Do bangs al"ays
terrify him('
0he had knocked her chair side"ards "hen she rushed out after the dog. &ark
picked it up and she sat do"n. It "as a "onder she hadn't knocked over the
bottle too% but that "as upright% and he poured into the t"o glasses. '*ardly ever%'
he said. 'Time "as "hen a car backfiring could have sent him running for miles%
but no" he'll give an ear t"itch and that's it. +opping corks he can take too. This
one must have taken him by surprise. *e "as probably asleep.'
'*aving a nightmare(' she "ondered% and promised% 'I "on't do it again. I'll "ake
him before I e1plode anything else.'
&ark grinned. '*e's a liability% isn't he('
'/o% he isn't. *e's brave and beautiful% and I'm glad I've met him.'
'I'm glad you've met him too%' said &ark.
During the evening he took some photographs of her% and she entered into the
spirit of it. 0he "as #uite photogenic and of course it didn't mean he "ould have
forgotten her "ithout a picture to remind him. *e "as glad he had met her% and
dining in style "as definitely a success.
!s the candles burned lo"er he took another picture. The others had been party
shots% tossing back her hair% smiling over a forkful of food% laughing at something
he "as saying. /o" he said% '8ook at me% Kate%' and she joked%
'I've been looking at you all evening.'
$ut this time he did not smile% and her eyelids half closed and she smiled "ith
closed lips. 'Thank you%' he said% and she said%
'That's not going to be up to much.'
'4e'll see.'
0he might ask him no" about photographing the t"ins. 0he had been thinking
about that and "ondering if it "as a good idea. 8ast year "hen Trish took them to
a local studio they had both sei7ed on the same toy and the photographs had
been disastrous. 0he said% '6ou do child studies% don't you( There "ere some
good ones in the shop. &y neighbour over the "ay asked me if you'd take a
photograph of hers for her husband's birthday.' 0he admitted% starting to grin%
'The trouble is they're very active. It "ould be like photographing a "agonload of
monkeys.'
'0tre"th%' he said. '*o" many are there('
'T"o. T"ins.'
'T"o monkeys I should be able to handle.'
'I'll come back in my lunch hour and take you over%' she said.
'I'm going to need back'up('
0he laughed% but she "ould go over "ith him% because she didn't "ant Trish
telling him ho" lovely it "as to see Kate in love again.
It "as after midnight "hen they cleared the table. 0he tied an apron over her
dress and slipped on yello" rubber gloves% and he "hisked through the stacked
dishes "ith a tea'to"el. It "ould only take a fe" minutes% and the remains "ould
have been revolting to come do"n to in the morning.
This "as her best china. 0he "ould have been sorry to break any of it% although
any piece could have been replaced% but the item that shot through her soapy
fingers "as a "ine'glass. It hit the sink and shattered% and instinctively she gave
an anguished cry% '.h%no oh% notthat!'
It "as beautiful and it "as irreplaceable% and this seemed part of the chaos that
her life "as in. $reaking things@ her heart% the photograph% the slender'stemmed
goblet. *er control "as only skin'deep yet and she could not pretend that it didn't
matter. The muscles in her face clenched% and she stood "ith tight shut eyes
holding back tears.
4hen she looked at him &ark "as looking at her. 0he couldn't tell him that this
had been !lan's gift. It had to be enough that it "as a lovely old glass that she
had treasured% and she said% 'It "as old.' *e could see that. '8ike a family
heirloom. &y grandmother's%' she invented "ildly% and that "as pure invention%
because her parents' parents had died before she "as old enough to remember
them and her family had had no heirlooms.
0he turned back to the bo"l% and he put a hand on her bare shoulder so that she
"hirled round again% and shut her eyes as though he "ould read her mind and
kno" that it had come from a man "ho had been her lover.
*e ran a thumb along her cheekbone% so that she felt it against the lashes and
kne" it came a"ay "et% and he said impatiently% '2or heaven's sake% Katy% don't
"eep for a broken glass!'
0he should have said she "as not "eeping. Instead she snapped% '.h% shut up%
I'll cry if I "ant to%' and then the smile that his slo" grin al"ays evoked tugged at
her lips. '!h "ell%' she said% 'I've still got one glass left.'
'!nd if you feel that you must cry I've got t"o shoulders% you're "elcome to either
of them.'
'I'll take a rain'check.' 0he "as smiling "ithout effort no"% and they finished the
clearing a"ay and said goodnight to each other. !nd as she got out of her
glamour and ready for bed she "ondered% not for the first and not for the last
time% if an affair "ith &ark "ould make or break her.
)*!+T,- 2I:,
0unday%the last day of Kate's holiday% they "ent to )astle 2ort. *igh in the hills%
it had been an Iron !ge fort. The pattern of huge early rings "as still visible% and
all year round it "as popular "ith visitors. The nearby pub "as "ell kno"n for its
food and its comfortable atmosphere% and Kate had eaten here several times
"ith !lan.
It had not rained since she came home. Today the "eather "as cold and dry%
and they "alked "ith the dog% round the rings and over the heath% then returned
to the pub for lunch.
The "oman behind the bar smiled at Kate and asked% 'Is &r 2oster "ith you('
'/ot today%' said Kate. /ot any more. )ome to that% he never "as "ith her% not
even "hen they had strolled in here together and sat do"n side by side. $ut
&ark gave the ones "ho recognised her something to think about% and Kate left
"ith her fingers slipped through his arm.
!gain it "as late "hen they got home. 0he "as tired and due at "ork in the
morning. 0he "as going to miss being "ith &ark all day long% but it "as a good
start to the day% breakfasting "ith him and $aldy% and they "alked "ith her to the
s#uare% to"ards her office and his car.
!fter "ork the staff often dropped into a "ine bar% to gossip% to discuss the day's
stories% some to eat. Kate told &ark this% pointing out 3eorge and 3ina's% and
suggested% '0hall "e meet in there% around si1 o'clock('
'I don't kno" "here I'll be. I'll see you back at the house.'
'2ine.' 0he "ould go straight home.
They reached his car. *e opened the door and $aldy jumped into the front seat%
and several of Kate's co'"orkers "ere "alking along the pavement. 'Take care%'
she said% looking up at &ark% and he put a hand under her chin% and kissed her
cheek.
'6ou too%' he said. 'Keep out of the "ater.'
0he hoped the kiss had been noted% as she hurried across to the old chapel still
feeling the cool light touch of his lips and fingers.
They "ere "aiting for her "ith more #uestions% like "hat did he do for a living(
and she told them about the photography studio at the seaside% and that this "as
his slack time during "hich he freelanced. 6es% he "as staying "ith her.
.fcourse in the spare room5 but she said that "ith dancing eyes so that nobody
believed her.
'*o" did the party go(' she asked /icola% "ho grinned%
'.h% so'so. Ilse told !lan you'd come back "ith someone you met on holiday.
:ery macho% she said. !lan seemed taken aback.' That "as balm to Kate's pride%
and "hen /icola en#uired% '!nd ho" "as the cosy evening for t"o(' she
breathed ecstatically%
':erycosy!'
'0o "hen are "e going to meet him('
'3ive me a break%' said Kate. 'It's early days and I don't "ant to share him.'
&ark "as not an1ious to meet any of them. .n the contrary. !nd if he stayed a
mystery man they "ould accept Kate's version of the relationship. 0he looked
and sounded like a girl "ho "as happy and fulfilled% and as long as they "ent on
believing that they "ould never suspect ho" cruelly she had been hurt.
'&orning% Kate%' boomed the ne"s editor. ')ome back to "ork% have "e% or are
"e holding a meeting('
2rom then on Kate had no time for anything but "ork. !s a roving reporter she
"ent out to intervie" villagers in a local beauty spot% "ho "ere threatened "ith a
mini'to"n development in the fields around them. In the studio she edited that
do"n to the allotted length of programme time% "rote and recorded her
introduction and tailpiece% and ans"ered a couple of letters that "ere "aiting for
her.
It "as a typical busy day% and at the end of it she enjoyed saying% 'I have to get
home%' and hurrying off. 4hen she passed &ark's car that #uickened her step%
because it meant he "as back already% and she let herself into the hall calling%
'I'm home!'
$aldy "elcomed her% not effusively% but he came "agging his tail% and &ark said%
'That's "hat I like to hear. The bread"inner returns.'
'*ave you had a fun day(' Kate hung her coat in the closet. 'Taken any good
photographs('
'/o% but I've met some funny people.'
'4here have you been('
0he nearly al"ays came back to an empty house. 0he never minded5 you thre"
a fe" s"itches and there "as light and the red glo" of the fire. 0ometimes she
had friends staying% but none of them had seemed so at home in her little house.
It felt so right to find &ark "aiting here that she could have been sharing a home
"ith him for years. 0he "ent to him smiling and asked again% '4herehave you
been('
'!nti#ue centres% shops.'
'I didn't kno" you "ere into anti#ues.' There "ere none in the to"er% and during
their t"o "eeks' roaming the nearest they had come to the old and rare on sale
had been the $arn% and that "as mostly cheerful junk. &ark photographed
'anything over t"o hundred years old'% but that "as a different matter.
'I "as% today%' he said. 'They're not an e1act match% but they're the same period%
early :ictorian and almost the same style.'
T"o "ineglasses stood on her sideboard% "ith slender t"isted stems in faintly
smoky glass. '/o" there are three%' he said. '6ou can entertain. &aybe they're
not your family heirlooms% but they probably belonged to somebody's
grandmother.'
Kate "as over"helmed% it "as such a thoughtful thing to do for her. 0he picked
one up% shaking her head in "onderment. 'They're beautiful%' she said huskily. 'I'll
take such care of them% I'll never "ash these in rubber gloves.' 0he put it do"n
very carefully% and clasped her hands behind his head so that she "as leaning
against him. 'Thank you very much.'
*e said #uietly% 'I don't think you'd better do that% Katy.'
If it "as not the beat of his heart she "as hearing it must be the throbbing in her
o"n blood% and she "as suddenly acutely conscious of his hard body and the
shape and te1ture of his face. The skin% smooth and bro"n% the dark straight
bro"s% the long mouth only a breath a"ay from her mouth. !nd the eyes that she
still could not read and still could not meet.
If he kissed her no" he "ould make full sensual love to her. They "ould no
longer be platonic friends and she "ould be a hostage to fate again. 0he "anted
no more of that. 0he unclasped her hands and managed a da77ling smile and
said% 'That "as a thank'you% not a turn'on. /o"% tell me about the funny folk you
met today and I'll tell you about the farmer I met "ho's going to let a very fierce
bull loose if the developers move into his ten'acre field.'
They stayed home that evening% and &ark did a hilarious mimicry of dealers he
had dealt "ith in his search for lookalike glasses% from deadly serious types to
rampant eccentrics. It "as as good as a cabaret turn% and Kate "ent over her
intervie"s for him. *e could hear them again over the air tomorro" afternoon
inWhat are the Planners Up to Now?
'!nd I should be able to get a"ay for an hour at midday%' she said. '4ould you
see "hat you can do about Trish's t"ins('
0o ne1t day they "ent over to Trish's% and again Kate "atched the reaction she
had come to e1pect. Trish% "ho "as faithful and loving and thought 0imon her
husband looked like -ichard 3ere although nobody else did% giggled like a
starstruck schoolgirl "hen she "as introduced to &ark.
The t"ins "ere let loose "hile Trish and Kate ate cheese and chutney
sand"iches in the kitchen. Trish "anted to kno" more than Kate intended to tell%
but Kate managed to make it sound like a love story "ithout actually inventing
anything. $ecause they had met by chance and been inseparable ever since%
and he "as se1y and smashing and Kate did think a lot of him.
!fter about half an hour &ark announced that he had his pictures. The t"ins
"ere grinning% "hich "as not a good sign% but so "as &ark% and "hen Trish
asked apprehensively% 'Did they behave( *o" did you manage(' he said%
'I let them rip and caught them in flight.'
'I hope they come out.' Trish "as apologising in advance because she had been
very embarrassed "hen she'd collected the last studio photographs.
'I'm sure they "ill%' &ark said.
'4ould you both like to come over for supper(' Trish thought 0imon "ould like to
meet &ark% and Kate "as al"ays "elcome. $ut Kate looked at &ark and kne"
he "as about to refuse% and said% 'Thanks% but "e can't manage tonight. 0ome
other time('
'6es% of course%' said Trish% and managed to "hisper to Kate as they left% 'I can
see "hy you're keeping him to yourself!' 4hich "as "hat Kate did for most of
that "eek.
They spent their evenings together% they breakfasted together. Then Kate "ent
to "ork and &ark "ent "herever the mood took him% and over an evening meal
she told him all about her day. *e listened to her broadcasts% usually on his car
radio% and al"ays said that he had enjoyed them% that she "as a bright journalist.
*e told her "here he had been. 0ometimes they ate in% often out% but Kate
accepted no invitations and the only intrusion% from time to time% "as the
telephone.
/o calls came for &ark "hile Kate "as around% but on Thursday evening% just as
they "ere leaving for a small out'of'to"n eating house% !lan phoned Kate.
0he "as in the hall% buttoning up her overcoat% and "hen he said% 'It's !lan% I'd
like to talk to you%' she tasted bile and her voice "as soft and savage. 0he said%
'Take my "ord for it% you "ould not enjoy talking to me at all.' !s she cut him off
she called loudly% '4rong number!' because in his room upstairs &ark "ould have
heard the phone ring although he could not have heard "hat she "as saying.
*e came do"n almost at once% and for the rest of the evening she managed to
block !lan almost entirely from her mind. 0he did not "ant to talk to him% she did
not "ish to see him% and she "ould do all that she could to avoid him. The +ress
)hristmas $all "as going to be a problem% !lan al"ays attended that% all the local
'celebrities' did% and by then he could be a +arliamentary candidate here. $ut by
then Kate should be feeling stronger and &ark could still be "ith her. If &ark had
gone and she couldn't get him back she might have to fall sick as an e1cuse for
not turning up% but she "ould "orry about that nearer the time.
0he came out of the office around midday on 2riday% on her "ay to an intervie"
in another to"n% and she had her key in her car door "hen !lan said% '*ello%
Kate.'
0he "ent rigid% although "hen he said% 'I've got to talk to you%' she managed to
dra"l%
'4hat's there to talk about "hen your letter said it all( !nd "hat the letter didn't
say% )elia has.'
'I don't "ant you to get the "rong impression%' !lan protested incredibly.
'$ecause I "as sincerely in love "ith you. 4hat happened bet"een )elia and me
"asn't planned. It "as like lightning striking.'
0he raised her eyebro"s in mock irony. 'There's no beating the old lightning
strike% is there(' !nd she remembered the storm on her first night in the to"er%
that great flash of lightning and thunder like the roll of cannons. !nd &ark's arms
around her.
!lan cleared his throat. '6ou'll return my manuscript% of course(' and she nearly
burst out laughing% because that sounded like a small boy peeping over the
garden "all asking for his ball back. /ot that !lan looked like a small boy. *e
looked like an embarrassed man.
'.f course%' she said. '4hat "ould I be doing "ith it( $y the "ay% I sho"ed it to a
critic and he said it read like a politician% pompous and long'"inded.' !nd she had
the satisfaction of seeing him flush angrily as she drove a"ay.
It "as a very small satisfaction. *er stomach "as churning and her head "as
spinning. The meeting "ith !lan had left her feeling as if she had been beaten
up. 0he couldn't think straight. 0he could hardly see straight. 0he "as in no state
to be driving a car% nor to be doing recorded intervie"s this afternoon.
$ut she damn "ell had to. 0he turned off the main road into a side street "here
she could park for a fe" minutes and sat behind the "heel forcing herself into
calmness.
0he "ould not think of !lan. 0he "ould think "ork. !nd &ark. 0he could see
&ark in her mind's eye% cynically amused5 and she began to smile "ryly because
he had said that about the book. 0he might even tell him tonight that !lan had
asked for his masterpiece back% although on second thoughts she "as not sure
she could say !lan's name "ithout "incing% and &ark "ould find that suspicious.
$ut she could get on "ith the job in hand% and she arrived on time and
everything there "ent "ithout a hitch.
This "as an item for a "oman's hour programme% a diamond "edding couple
"ho "ere a glo"ing e1ample of si1ty happily shared years. Kate found them
delightful% and she "as sure her listeners "ould. They had some good tales
about the 'old days' and a canny sense of humour that made it all real and do"n
to earth. 4hen Kate asked% '4hat "ould you say is the best thing about your
marriage(' the "oman said% 'Kno"ing there's al"ays somebody there for you%'
and the "ay they looked at each other brought a lump to Kate's throat.
That "as the #uote she "as remembering as she "alked home from the office.
Kno"ing &ark "as around had made all the difference this "eek. 0he could not
imagine ho" she "ould have managed "ithout him. 0he called as she opened
the front door and kne" at once that the house "as empty. This "as the first time
she had arrived home first% he "ould be back soon% but it gave her a cold
foretaste of "hat the future held.
0he turned on lights% taking off her coat% going through the old routine as she
had done countless times over the years. $ut for months she had believed that
!lan "as there for her some"here. That had been an illusion% and so "as &ark%
if she "as honest "ith herself% because he "ould go as surely as !lan had% if less
brutally. !nd then% possibly for the rest of her life% she "ould be alone.
0he "ent upstairs to her room and stood at the "indo" looking do"n. ,ven the
street seemed empty and she thought% loneliness is standing by the "indo" in an
empty house looking do"n an empty road.
)oming face to face "ith !lan had shaken her badly% and no" she sat at her
dressing'table% opening the dra"er "ith the letters. *e had said he'd loved her%
that it had not all been pretence. 0o "hen did the lightning strike( $et"een "hich
t"o letters(
0he had them in dated order and she began to read from the first% trying to
remember the background of each "hen !lan "as calling her '&y o"n darling'.
0ome"here the loving promises became hollo"% but until the very last letter they
"ere all in the same style. Just fe"er to"ards the end. There "as no "ay of
telling true from phoney. !nd ho" could he go on "riting like this "hen he no
longer meant a "ord of it(
Kate did not believe that lightning had struck. *e had never been that impulsive.
0he had admired his analytic mind% but "eighing up "here his best advantage
lay could also be calculating and selfish. 4hen he realised that he could have
)elia )hambers and her father's backing he had soon fallen out of love "ith Kate
and into this grand passion for )elia.
To hell "ith Kate. Kate could do him no harm. !nd "hat a gullible fool he must
think her% "ith all that guff about being sincerely in love "ith her but "hat "as
happening "ith )elia "as bigger than both of them. Too right it "as. /othing
came much bigger than !lan's ambitions.
4ell% he could have his book back. In the morning. Delivered to his office. !nd
that "ould be the end of any communication bet"een him and Kate.
0he "as carrying the briefcase do"nstairs "hen there "as a knock on the front
door and she thought% &ark's forgotten his key. 0he opened the door beaming
and "as struck dumb. '&ay I come in(' said !lan.
*e "alked past her% and she couldn't stop him because for a fe" seconds she
"as stunned. In the hall he looked at the briefcase and asked% 'Is it9'
0he got control of her voice as angry blood rushed to her head% and she thrust
the book at him% '6our manuscript( 6es% it is. *o"'s that for service( I can't say I
"as e1pecting you% but you certainly timed it right.'
'Thank you.' *e spoke "ith "hat sounded like genuine gratitude and regret. 'I
hope "e can still be friends.'
0he could have screamed at him% but she "anted him out of here before she lost
all self'restraint and started gibbering. Then he asked% 'Do you still have my
letters('
*e kne" she kept them9they had joked about it. *e had called her s"eet and
sentimental% and she felt no" that she could never be either again. !nd "hy "as
he "orrying about the letters9because the reporter in her had caught the
nervous note in that casual #uery.
0he leaned against the "all% arms folded% and said% '6es% I still have them.'
'&ay I99' he had to s"allo" before he could get his voice back. '&ay I have
them('
'4hy(' 0he "as the investigative journalist% "atching him closely. '4ho cares
about a fe" old love letters( /ot )elia% surely('
It "as fascinating reading his face% and seeing that it "as not because of )elia
he "anted to get his hands on his letters. 0o "ho might care( !nd the ans"er
"as obvious. The last thing !lan needed "as publicity about the "ould'be'&+
"ho believed in the old saying% promises are like piecrusts% made to be broken.
*ere he "as "ith )lifford )hambers' bimbo of a daughter% "hile so very recently
he "as s"earing eternal devotion to another girl. ,ven the threat of a smear
campaign "ould do for his chances of selection% he'd never get past the short list.
Kate said softly% '4henis the final board( Buite soon no"% isn't it('
'6ou "ouldn't9you couldn't%' he croaked% but the letters "ere proof of double
dealing and bad faith% and she said%
'I don't think I'll hand them over just yet.'
'*o" much(' It "as the "orst thing he could have said% fanning her fury.
'&ake me an offer%' she said silkily.
'I can't believe it!' *e believed he could manipulate Kate into causing no trouble%
because she "as so civilised% sostupid.
'$elieve it%' she said.
'$ut this is blackmail.'
'/o" you have it.' 0he grinned like an idiot. '3o a"ay and have a think and see
"hat figure you come up "ith.'
0he got him out easily. *e stumbled out% and she shut the door on him% and
turned to see &ark in the unlit kitchen% and that "as the last stra". 0he "ished
he had not "itnessed that ugly little scene% she "ished it had not happened. $ut
it had% and she "as at the end of her tether.
'Don't you start!' she shrieked.
*e came out into the hall. '/one of my business%' he said% and she sensed the
stillness in him and "ondered "hat it "ould take to shock him or shake him. 'Just
one thing%' he said. '6ou mentioned coming into money% great e1pectations%
buying the to"er. 4as this "hat you had in mind('
'$lackmail( .f course%' she said% 'I do it all the time% it's a lovely little earner. 8ock
up your letters "hile I'm about.'
Then she ran upstairs and slammed her bedroom door% bla7ing "ith fury against
the "hole "orld. If &ark thought that of her he "as no friend% she "ould be better
off "ithout him. Tomorro" he "ould probably s"an off any"ay% but tonight she
could handle no more.
0he paced her room% then got into a nightshirt% and into bed% tossing and
brooding until e1haustion ran through her like a drug dragging her do"n into
sleep.
0he remembered% of course% as soon as she "oke. Daylight "as breaking and
she "as cooler and calmer. 0he had done no more than !lan deserved9let him
s"eat% although she "ould eventually destroy or return his letters. !nd she could
understand ho" it must have sounded to &ark% hearing her literally asking for
money% especially after that nonsense about buying the to"er. 0he "ould e1plain
to him because that "as just a misunderstanding and she did not "ant to lose
him.
0he could hear the radio% so &ark "as up% and she "ould make her peace over
a cup of coffee before she "ent to "ork.
0uddenly she jack'knifed up in bed% hurtling out and yelling as she almost fell
do"nstairs% '4hat time is it('
'Just after seven%' he called up from the kitchen% and Kate collapsed at the
bottom step "ith her head in her hands.
'.h 3od% I'm too late!'
'2or "hat('
'4here's your car(' she asked.
'p the road.'
'&ine's in the s#uare% I forgot to move it last night.' 0he dragged herself into the
kitchen. '*ave you ever faced a market trader "ho finds your car in his pitch(
They took the last one apart% someone hadn't read the notice.'
&ark grinned. '6ou do mean the driver('
'0top laughing%' she groaned. 'It's too late to do anything no". It's right in the
middle% by the bandstand. They can't even push it on to the pavement% they'll
have the stalls up all round it. I must get into "ork "ithout being spotted.'
'6ou might nip do"n as you are and flutter your eyelashes.' 0he glared and he
laughed% 'I must say% as a native of this to"n I'd have e1pected you to remember
the local customs.'
0he had never forgotten before% and she snapped% 'It's partly your fault. I lost my
temper "ith !lan and talked a lot of rubbish% but it "as you "ho got me really
mad% believing the rubbish.'
'There you are% then9there's your e1cuse. The man I spent the night "ith sent
me out of my mind.'
':ery funny!'
'3et dressed and "e'll stroll along.'
Kate thought about that briefly% then said plaintively% '+lease don't crack any
jokes or they could flatten my &ini.'
'I appreciate that.' &ark put on an over'solemn face that "ould have had her
giggling any other time. 'This is a very serious matter.'
/o% it "as not% but it "as horribly a"k"ard and embarrassing% and left to herself
she "ould have left it alone. 0he "ould get a parking ticket and a fine% and if the
traders decided it "as an obstruction and called the police she could be in more
trouble because she "as suddenly not sure if her &.T had run out. $ut there
"as nothing she could do about that.
0he dressed in record time and said% 'I don't think it's going to make things any
better. I'll just be turning up to get slagged off.'
'Don't be defeatist.' *e took her arm and she had to go "ith him% along the road
to "here the market "as already filling the s#uare. 0talls "ere up and most of
them had most of their stock on sho". ,arly'bird customers "ere out% and Kate
felt her mouth go dry as she approached the spot "here her bright red &ini "as
at the centre of some red and furious faces.
The middle'aged man and "oman "ho "ere 3lamma'3ear "ere the most
indignant of the lot% because the &ini "as taking up half their display area% and
the man's oaths rang out to a chorus of affront and sympathy. They didn't kno" it
"as Kate's car% but she looked so guilty that the "oman turned on her
demanding% '6ours% is it( 6ou ought to kno" better!'
They had been coming here for years. They kne" "ho she "as and "here she
"orked. 'I'm so sorry%' she said contritely.
'/ot as sorry as us%' said the man. '0tuff piled up like pigging jumble isn't going to
sell.' It "as mostly lingerie% and in heaps it did lose its seductiveness.
'4hy don't you make the car part of the stall(' suggested &ark. *e came up "ith
a scarlet slip. '-ed for danger%' and he fi1ed it like a flag on the aerial. 0omebody
laughed% 'It's eye'catching%' and someone else said% '&ine's a &ini%' and looked to
see "here they could string some very brief briefs.
'4e need some sticky tape%' said the "oman% and the stall opposite produced a
roll% and some coloured pens and postcards for notices% and Kate slipped a"ay%
telling herself that she didn't care "hat they did. They could leave the car "hen
the market closed and she "ould never again forget that from eleven p.m. on
2riday evening the s#uare "as out of bounds for parking.
0he "as in the studios all day% doing live broadcasts and making arrangements
for ne1t "eek% but nearly everybody "ho came in "as laughing over Kate's sober
little car being decked out in a selection ranging from see'through night"ear to
"inter'"arm knickers. 0ome of the notices "ere raunchy% and during the
afternoon the local press took pictures% coming in to ask Kate if she "anted to
stand beside it.
'3et lost!' she said crossly. '!nd if you sho" my number I'll sue you. This is
strictly 3lamma'3ear's baby.'
'They've "ritten ;0mall but 0e1y; on the boot%' said the photographer% and Kate
rolled her eyes and "ondered if &ark had taken any pictures himself. The "hole
thing had been his idea% and although it "as turning into a bright little advert for
3lamma'3ear she "as not going near her car until it "as stripped do"n again.
$y si1 o'clock "hen Kate finished "ork the stalls had been dismantled and the
traders had driven a"ay. )inema and theatregoers "ere moving into parking
spaces in the s#uare as she "alked to"ards her car.
&ark and $aldy joined her% and that "as nice. 'I got an offer of fifty #uid for it%' he
said.
'6ou've got to be joking!'
'6ou didn't see it at its best. It looked like a bordello on "heels.'
'That must have been very traumatic for it. I hope there'll be no lasting effects.'
It "as shiny in the lamplight and she dug into her handbag for her keys. '4e
opened it%' he said.
'6ou're a bundle of talents.'
'0o they tell me. Talking of lasting effects%' he dre" her to"ards the back of the
car% 'apologies from the 3ear family% but that seems here to stay.'
The boot read '0mall but 0e1y'% and Kate ho"led% 'I'm not driving around labelled
"ith that!'
'0o do "e paint it out ourselves or do you have a friendly neighbourhood
mechanic('
During the day she had checked her &.T form in her "allet and it "as due for
rene"al on Tuesday% so she had to get the car into a garage over the "eekend.
'!nyho"%' she said% 'it isn't true. I'm not small.'
'/o% you're not.' *e grinned his la7y grin. '$ut the rest's bang on.'
'I kno" that%' she said. 'I just don't advertise it.'
$ut half an hour at the garage took the smile off her face. -emoving the slogan
and retouching the paint"ork "as easy% but they could not issue a road"orthy
certificate because her brakes "ere dodgy. 8inings and cylinder had to be
replaced and they could not guarantee getting the "ork done before the middle
of ne1t "eek.
'$ut I can't be "ithout my car!' Kate "ailed. 'I need it for "ork%' and she might
have persuaded the garage o"ner to let her jump the #ueue% but &ark said%
'That's no problem% you can use mine.'
'!re you sure( I've never driven a $&4.'
'/othing to it%' he said. '4e'll do a trial run tomorro".'
0he had never driven anyone's car but her o"n. $efore the &ini she had had a
&orris &inor. &ark's car "as much flashier and more po"erful% but she "as sure
that after a little tuition she "ould be able to handle it and enjoy the e1perience.
0he had all tomorro" to practise. 0he liked driving% she had a clean licence% and
she "as looking for"ard to him teaching her ho" to drive his car.
*er car had been spotted by all her friends "ho had gone round the market.
0everal phoned during the evening to share the joke and ask if she "as hiring it
out for commercials. 'It's in a state of shock%' she told them. '.ff the road for a day
or t"o recuperating.'
Trish came over% smiling "idely. 0he had bought some black satin undies
threaded "ith red ribbon after seeing them displayed over Kate's bonnet. 'I'll be
"earing them on 4ednesday as one of 0imon's birthday presents%' she gurgled.
'6ou haven't forgotten the dinner party% you did promise('
Kate said she "as looking for"ard to it% and Trish said% '0ee you both% then.'
!fter Trish left Kate asked% '4ill you come "ith me(' and "hen &ark looked
unenthusiastic she teased% '6ou haven't met anybody since you came do"n here
9you "ouldn't be on the run('
'4ho isn't(' *e "as joking too. '/o% but I did tell you I'm not much of a partygoer.'
'It isn't a party.' /ot like Ilse's gatherings of local society. 'Just a fe" friends round
a table% having a meal together% but she's got her numbers balanced and there
should have been eight of us.'
The invitation had been made "hen Kate's partner "as al"ays !lan 2oster. 0he
"ondered ho" long it "ould be before he got in touch again about the letters%
and her heart felt heavy% although she kept her voice light.
'It "as going to be !lan and me. I don't "ant to let Trish do"n and I don't much
"ant to go alone.'
*e #uirked a sardonic eyebro". '!nd if her table has an odd number the curse
could fall on it('
'4ho kno"s( *etty might stumble in and fill the empty chair.'
'*etty doesn't travel "ell. 0he comes up beautifully% but she doesn't get far
afield. $ut all right% I'll come% and "e'll have their photographs ready.' Trish had
"anted them for 0imon's birthday% and Kate "as elated.
'4here are you getting them developed(' she asked.
'I found some"here.' There "ere a couple of shops in to"n% and she said
happily%
'4e'll have a lovely time% you'll see% and some delicious home cooking.' 0he had
an almost irresistible impulse to fling her arms round him% although going over to
Trish and 0imon's "ith him "as a small thing to give her this surge of delight.
!s she put her hands on his shoulders and said% 'Thank you%' it "as like the
other time% "hen he found the "ine glasses for her.
:ery like% because he laughed and said% 'It's not that big a deal%' and took both
her hands in his and still smiling held her at arm's length.
0he dre" her hands a"ay and looked at them ruefully% changing the subject. 'I
hope I can handle your car.'
'.f course you can. 6ou'll take to it like a duck to "ater.'
'The last time I took to "ater I got in above my head.' %
'-ely on $aldy and me%' he said. '4e'll keep you afloat.'

0unday morning da"ned fine% crisp and bright% and they drove out of to"n into
#uieter roads so that Kate could practise in comparative safety. It "as a super
car% she "as looking for"ard to turning up on assignments in this% skimming
do"n the motor"ays and getting "herever she "as going in half her usual time.
4hen they stopped at a self'service station to fill up "ith petrol% and she "as left
in the car "hile &ark "ent off to pay% she peered at the dashboard trying to "ork
out "hat all the dials meant. There "as a small 0unday morning #ueue in the
station% confectionery% cigarettes and ne"spapers "ere also on sale here% and
she opened the glove compartment and gasped as a letter literally fell into her
hands.
0he didn't think she had been prying% but "hen she looked for &ark he "as still
behind several other customers and she glanced do"n at the folded letter and
read% 'Dearest% I'm lying here in my lonely little bed remembering our incredible
"eekend.'
0he shoved it back as hastily as if it "as dusted "ith poison% then took it out
again very carefully to read the signature% '8ove you%love you% Denise.'
.ne thing "as sure. The incredible "eekend had not been spent doing the
tourist sights% and jealousy lanced her like a thin sharp knife. 0hehad been
prying% starting to read and then looking for a signature% and it "as no surprise%
because &ark "as the last man you "ould mistake for a monk% and although he
had been "ith Kate in a fashion for over three "eeks that didn't mean he "as not
in touch "ith Denise.
0o "ho "as she( 4hat did she look like( *ad there been a #uarrel( Did that
e1plain his black mood on the night of the storm% and the casual non'committal
"ay he had taken up "ith Kate(
The stab of jealousy had gone deep% and she "atched him come out of the
building and "alk across the forecourt "ith that panther'like stride and kne" she
had "anted him for "hat seemed a long time. 0he could hear her heartbeats%
fast and deafening% as he came nearer% and "hen he slipped into the driving seat
beside her% her fingers clasped and tightened.
0he had thought he "ould be a dangerously accomplished lover% so it "ould be
safe and sensible to keep things bet"een them the "ay they "ere for as long as
she could. $ut the letter had stirred her imagination so that she "as picturing that
"eekend in slo" erotic motion.
0he sa" his hands on the "heel and felt them stroking her% "hile the slight
controlled movements of his body seemed to reach her skin and set fire to her
blood. It "as lust pure and simple% but violent enough to play havoc "ith her
senses.
.ut of the garage forecourt &ark dre" up beside the road and adjusted the
driving seat. '&ove over%' he said% and came round to her side of the car.
Kate s#uirmed herself behind the "heel. It "ould have been better if she had
had some time to get over the shock of finding out ho" much she "anted this
man. 4hen he touched her no" the little thrills she had felt before "ere turning
into mega'volts% so that she almost shot out of her seat and had to bite her lip to
listen to the instructions he "as giving her.
0he "anted to say% 'I've got the shakes%' but of course she couldn't% so she
turned on the ignition and started the car% moving slo"ly a"ay. 4hen she
"obbled over the controls he put a steadying hand on hers and she nearly jerked
them into the ditch.
*e grabbed the "heel and straightened the car% and looked hard at her% and no"
there "as more reason than ever "hy she couldn't meet his eyes. 0he sat back%
letting him lean over and guide the car to a halt.
'0o much for the first lesson%' she said shakily.
'4hatis the matter('
0he couldn't pretend she "as not tense "hen she "as t"itching "ith nerves% but
she tried to laugh. 'I'll be all right once I get the hang of it.'
'It's the bit in bet"een that I'm "orrying about%' &ark said drily. 'I'm not sure I
"ant you driving my car before you get the hang.' 0he had just been reading an
intimate letter% and under the disturbing directness of his ga7e her face flamed%
making her look hot and bothered. 'Tell you "hat%' he said% taking pity on her% 'I'll
chauffeur you. I'm going no"here in particular for the ne1t fe" days% so I'll drive
you around.'
'That "ould be9very helpful%' she stammered.
'-ight% then. 8et's move over again.'
*e "as out of his door and she got out of hers as $aldy "atched them both "ith
mild interest. The driver's seat "as readjusted and by no" Kate "as calming
do"n. $ut she could never again fool herself that she "as not eager to make
love "ith &ark. !ching for him% longing to lose herself in his arms "ithout thinking
about tomorro" or ne1t month or anybody or anything else.
This hunger must have been building up in her. 0he had repressed it and she
"ould control it% but% although &ark didn't kno"% for Kate their relationship had
changed.
4hen he said% 'I thought you "ere a natural driver%' she babbled%
'It's a po"erful car. Too much engine po"er seems to make me nervous.' 0he
pulled a "oeful face. '$ut thanks for the ta1i offer% that "ould suit me perfectly.'
'It "ould suit me too.' *e touched her hair gently% tucking a lock% that had fallen
over her eyes% behind her ear% and that "as enough to make her senses reel.
0he thought% I am not falling in love. I am never going to fall in love again. $ut if
you and Denise should have #uarrelled% and it should be over bet"een you% that
"ould make me very happy...
)*!+T,- 0IC
/othing"as seen to have changed. &ark and Kate spent 0unday out together%
and although Kate "as consumed "ith curiosity over the letter she could hardly
say% '$y the "ay% I told you to lock up your letters% so "ho's Denise('
:ery briefly she had the cra7y idea of sniffing and en#uiring% 'Do you have a
tissue(' opening the glove compartment and making the letter fall out% and
"aiting for his reaction. $ut she didn't think she "ould get one. 0he thought &ark
"ould replace the letter and tell her nothing. If she asked bluntly% '4ho's it from('
she "ould be asking for a brush'off% because he "as not a man to tolerate
trespassers beyond the bounds he set himself.
Three "eeks together and sometimes she thought she kne" him "ell% but most
times she "as a"are of a barrier she had never breached. $eyond that she
might not even like him% but the chemistry "as fierce and she "as not going to
fight it. If she and &ark became lovers she could pay for it later% but if she let him
go "ithout taking all the joy that their closeness offered her regret "ould be sure
and bitter.
They had al"ays been near a se1ual relationship. It had al"ays seemed up to
Kate to make the small move from friends to lovers% still smiling maybe% still
fooling% "ith no promises for the future.
4ell% she "ould settle for that. 4hat use "ere promises( !lan's letters had been
full of them. 0he "anted &ark and she thought he "anted her. /ot enough to
pressure her% but surely he "ould take "hat she offered% and that "as enough to
fill her "ith an e1cited shyness like a young girl at the start of her first affair.
0he "ent to her o"n room that night. If he had kissed her "hen he said
goodnight she could have pressed closer% but he didn't. *e said% '0leep "ell%
Katy%' and she couldn't get out the "ords% '4ill you sleep "ith me('
0he had to be less sophisticated than she thought% because shyness "as
inhibiting her. $ut she fell asleep dreaming herself into his arms% and "oke ne1t
morning kno"ing that the chill of daylight "as not cooling the fever in her blood.
0o% she "as no different from the other "omen "ho simpered "hen they met
him. 0he fancied &ark $randon. *er advantage "as that for a little "hile they
"ould be living together% and sleeping together before long.
$y the end of this "eek% she promised herself% "e "ill be lovers. If it didn't
happen soon she "ould make it happen. 0he "ould only have to fling her arms
around him% giving the caress% offering the rest5 and she could do that naturally
enough saying thank'you for something.
.n 4ednesday% after Trish's dinner party% it could be for the photographs%
because she "as almost sure they "ould be good and Trish and 0imon "ould be
pleased "ith them. It "ould be an enjoyable evening and Kate "ould be looking
her best. &ark had called her sensational "hen she dressed up for Ilse's party%
only this time "hen she stepped out of her se#uinned sheath dress she "ould be
more sensational than ever. 0imon's thirty'something birthday "ould be a night to
remember% not only for 0imon and Trish in her flirty scarlet ribbons.

Kate "as glad she had failed the test on his car% because on &onday &ark "as
ferrying her around. ! year ago gales and heavy sno"falls had s"ept across the
area% bringing do"n po"er lines% immobilising traffic. *omes% schools and
factories had been blacked out% motorists trapped in iced'up convoys. There "as
no sign of sno" yet% but Kate "as follo"ing last year's reports for a
programme%When the ights Went !ut.
The &idlands usually escaped the "orst of the "inter "eather% the bli77ards had
been early and freakish% and most of those "ho had been badly hit reminisced
no" as if they had rather enjoyed themselves.
'It "as like the $lit7%' said one old lady happily. ',verybody helping everybody
else. Those "ho'd got open fires did the cooking. The young ones had barbecues
in the sno". .il lamps and candles% and "e "rapped ourselves up against the
cold.'
! year ago Kate had talked to a mother of four young children% in an isolated
house "ithout po"er or "ater% "ho had been on the verge of a nervous
breakdo"n but "ho no" spoke of it as though it had brought out her pioneering
spirit.
/obody "anted a recurrence% but as it "as eight years since the previous
free7e'up they felt fairly safe and% looking back% it had been an adventure.
&ark kept out of the "ay "hile Kate "as intervie"ing% "alking around "ith $aldy%
or staying in the car% and each time she came out to join him and move on% her
spirits rose. !s she settled into the passenger seat% "ith a map and the ne1t
address on her knee% she said% 'I could get used to this. 4hat are your terms for
long'term ta1i service('
*e smiled across at her. 'Too much. 8ong'term I'm a bad risk.'
That "as probably a "arning% but she talked nonsense back. 'I couldn't afford
you at any price% and it's more fun being ferried for free.'
0he "ouldn't "orry about the long term. 0he "ould just enjoy today and look
for"ard to tomorro"% and 4ednesday "as the day and the night after that.
0he said% 'If "e'd been driving do"n this road a year ago today "e'd have been
heading into the bli77ard% and just over the hill a lorry "ould have jack'knifed and
"e'd soon be in a #ueue of traffic stretching for miles and stuck for three days
and t"o nights. :illagers brought them food out% but most of them dossed do"n
in their cars.'
'4e "ouldn't have fro7en "ith $aldy around%' said &ark% and she thought% I
"ouldn't have minded too much. *uddled that close for that long "ould have had
some marvellous moments.
/e1t day Kate "as sent out in the radio car so she had no transport problem%
and on 4ednesday she got her &ini back "ith its repaired brakes and its
road"orthy chit.
0he came home to &ark on 4ednesday% keeping her fingers crossed until she
sa" his car parked in the s#uare. 0he "as later than usual. *er schedule "as
fle1ible% but tonight she had "anted plenty of time to get ready for the party and
she almost ran up the road.
*e "as "atching a ne"s programme on T:% sitting "ith the dog at his feet% and
she called from the hall% '6ou haven't forgotten about tonight(' 0he had
mentioned it again during breakfast% of course he hadn't forgotten% but there "as
a fe" seconds' silence% "hile she hoped he "as not having second thoughts%
before he said%
'I'll be "ith you. There's no rush% is there('
Just over an hour% and Trish "ouldn't mind if they turned up as they "ere. $ut
this "as the night that Kate planned her seduction scene% and s"eater and skirt
and hair blo"n all "ays "ere not going to give her the confidence she needed to
feel irresistible.
0he said% 'I'll call do"n "hen I'm through "ith the bathroom. 6ou don't have to
pretty up% but I shall.'
0he chose the black se#uinned dress again. 0he felt good in it and &ark had
liked it. They made a good pair% he had said last time she "ore it% and she had
smiled% but tonight she might say that "ithout smiling because this time she "as
in earnest.
They "ere good together in all the superficial "ays. 0he had never kno"n
anyone she got along "ith so easily. $ut deeper% under the skin% she "as sure it
"ould be incredible. Just thinking of love'making "ith &ark nearly had her
s"ooning. 0he closed her eyes and s"ayed% "rapping her arms around herself.
Then she sat do"n at her dressing'table and although she had only just finished
fi1ing her hair and her face% she stared hard at her reflection% checking for fla"s.
0he thought she "as satisfied. 0he had to be% because this "as the best she
could do and less than a month ago she had believed she "as beautiful.
The letters that told her so "ere still in the dra"er. 0ome time she "ould have to
take them out and get rid of them. /ot hand them back. That could mean another
scene% maybe seeing !lan again. There "as no open fire in the house so she
couldn't burn them% but she could tear them up and dustbin them. 0he didn't "ant
to read them again% she didn't even "ant to touch them because the pain "as still
there% and maybe this craving she had for &ark "as only to sho" herself she
"as still desirable.
*e tapped on her door and she called% ')ome in%' turning to smile% then gasping%
'4o"!'
*e "as "earing dark grey trousers and jacket% superbly cut5 grey shirt and grey
silk tie. ! complete change from his usual casual clothes% he no" looked
distinguished enough to chair any company board meeting.
0he croaked% '6ou never brought that in the duffle bag('
'I shopped. I didn't realise I "as staying so long.'
0he rushed to remind him% 'I stayed a fortnight in your to"er5 you haven't had
t"o "eeks yet. 6ou're very "elcome to stay on.'
'Thank you%' he said% 'but that "ouldn't be very practical%' and before she could
argue% 'If you're ready I've something to sho" you.'
0he follo"ed him do"nstairs and she sa" "hat it "as. ! large envelope and
photographs "ere on the lo" table in front of the settee. 0he sat do"n beside
him and he handed her a black and "hite five'by'eight'inch shot of a church
corbel% a fat smiling face "ith a monk's fringe of hair. It "as "eathered and "orn%
but there "as a slyness about it that made Kate say% 'I "ouldn't trust him far.
4here is he('
'6our local% 0t 3iles.'
The church dated from the &iddle !ges and every arch"ay had its supporting
sculpture. Kate must have seen them all% but she had never looked this closely. It
"as as though the photographer had caught him una"ares% and she asked%
'Does he al"ays look like this('
'.nly "hen the north light gets him%' said &ark.
The photographs he had taken around the area@ buildings% streets% vistas% all had
something original and striking about them. 4hen people "ere included they
"ere so alive that she could almost see them breathing. .ne% taken in the market
last 0aturday% had &rs 3ear $lu'Tacking a pair of panties to the "indscreen of
the &ini "ith a malevolent grin% and Kate burst out laughing because it "as a
vivid "arning to parkers not to leave their cars around on market mornings.
'They're brilliant%' she said.
'Thank you.'
!s she turned to the pictures of the t"ins she "as lost for "ords. ,very one
seemed a masterpiece. In each &ark had caught their impish spirits. In one they
"ere glaring at each other% in another their smiles sho"ed the bond bet"een
them. The rapport included $aldy% and that "as a beautiful study% the "ide'eyed
children and the dog's great dark head.
0he said at last% 'Trish "ill be beside herself "hen she sees these. They're
superb% terrific'
'Thank you again.'
'6ou're good% aren't you('
'6es.' !nything else "ould have been the falsest of modesty% and the pictures of
her over the )hinese takea"ay sho"ed again ho" skilled he "as. 0he "as
beautiful here% a model girl for the glossies% and she asked%
'&ay I keep them( I'm never going to get a better ego'trip than these.'
0he had told him that the last one "ould not be up to much% and he had said%
'4e'll see.' '8ook at me% Kate%' he had said% and as al"ays she had found it hard
to do that. *er lids had drooped over her eyes and her mouth had curved in a
tight'lipped smile.
It "as not like the others% "hich "ere shining and gorgeous. The candlelight
seemed to play more part% emphasising shado"s. 'Katy by )andlelight%' he said.
'The &ona 8isa smile% a girl "ith secrets. 4hat are your secrets% Katy('
*er light laugh sounded nervous. 'I don't have secrets% I'm a simple soul. *o"
about you('
'4hat you see is "hat you get%' he said cheerfully% "hich "as no ans"er at all%
although "hat she "as seeing "as pretty impressive. '0hall "e go(' he said.
'*o" about $aldy('
'*e'll be all right.'
'*e kno"s you'll be back('
'That's right.'
This time she said it aloud% '8ucky for him%' then she put the t"ins' photographs
into the envelope and picked up the package that "as aftershave for 0imon.
0he couldn't get over the "ay &ark looked. That "as an e1pensive suit% it had to
change his image. *e "as as rela1ed as ever% but Kate "as feeling very slightly
less comfortable "ith him.
)lothes shouldn't be doing that% it had to be the stunning photographs. 0he had
been unprepared for them being so good it "as scary. !nd she had been right
about those piercing eyes% they could see "hat anyone else might miss% so it "as
as "ell she had instinctively shied a"ay from eye contact.
$ut "hen he put a hand under her elbo"% as they crossed the road% she "as
suddenly hollo" "ith longing. That isn't changing% she thought "ryly% I still "ant
him like cra7y.
The lights "ere all on in Trish's "indo"s and the door opened before Kate could
get her finger off the bell. 0imon's birthday guests "ere old friends@ Trish's sister
and her husband% the science master from the +oly "here 0imon taught maths
and the girl he "as marrying some time. !nd Kate.
&ark "as the ne"comer. They had all accepted !lan 2oster and Kate Kersha"
as a steady item. /o" Kate "as living "ith another man "ho had kept a very lo"
profile since she came back from holiday "ith him.
The men "ere interested. 2oster "as up'and'coming in politics% "ell off and a
catch. They "ondered vaguely "ho Kate "as replacing him "ith.
$ut the t"o "omen "ere agog. Trish had described &ark to them as '! really hot
number% the sort "ho sends shivers do"n your spine just looking at you.' !s Kate
and &ark stepped into the house and Trish said% 'I "as just coming over to fetch
you%' ,mma her sister% and 8i7% cro"ded into the hall behind her.
Trish and 0imon's house "as the same design as Kate's but three'bedroomed
"ith a "ider hall% and the main room% seen through the open door% about t"ice
the si7e of Kate's living'room. They all had pre'dinner glasses in their hands% and
Trish said% 'This is &ark%' "ith a glance at the girls that said% Didn't I tell you(
Kate "as telling herself% this is "hat I "anted. &y friends meeting &ark and
being impressed. 0he stood back during the handshakes and the initial hellos
"hile they "ere all si7ing him up% and it couldn't have been better. The men "ere
obviously deciding he "as someone to be reckoned "ith% and 8i7 and ,mma
"ere looking as though the party had suddenly taken off.
$oth girls "ere spoken for and very content "ith their lot% but Trish had been
right% Kate's ne" man did put an edge on things. Into a pleasant predictable
evening he brought a thrilling "hiff of danger. *e "as so lean and dark% and taller
than the other men. *eloo"ed dangerous% and there "as no one in the room "ho
"as not intrigued.
Kate "atched the little cro"d around him. /obody "ould be pitying her tonight
because !lan "as not "ith her% but it "as not unalloyed triumph. ,veryone
thought &ark "as her lover% and she "ould have liked to put a hand on his arm
and face them "ith a 'he's mine' smile. There "as nothing to stop her doing that%
but it "ould have been pretence% because she had no claim on him at all% and
she "as suddenly unsure if getting herself into his bed tonight might cost her too
dearly in the end.
0he "as feeling possessive right no" "hile all "as platonic bet"een them. !fter
she had made love "ith him she might find out "hat jealousy really meant.
'!ll right% Kate(' Trish asked beside her% and Kate smiled brightly.
'0ure I am. .nly it "as rather a rush% I "as "orking late. *appy birthday% 0imon.'
0he presented him "ith the aftershave% "hich he un"rapped and enthused over.
'*o" did you kno" it's my favourite('
0he had asked Trish% but she laughed% '.h% I've got a nose for a good
aftershave. !nd here's "hat Trish ordered for an e1tra present.' 0he gave Trish
the envelope.
'The photographs(' Trish sounded apprehensive. '6ou should have seen the last
lot%' she said to &ark. '$ut thank you very much.'
0he took them out% staring at the first% then the second% then saying huskily% '.h%
my! .h% they're lovely9oh% darling%loo"!' and handing them to 0imon.
.f course they all kne" the t"ins9"ho "ere "ith grandparents tonight9and
they all thought the pictures "ere brilliant. Kate "as touched to see Trish's eyes
misting "ith motherly pride as she ga7ed fondly at the one "ith the dog. 'I don't
kno" "hich is my favourite% they're all super. I must settle up before you go.'
&ark shrugged payment a"ay. '*appy birthday%' he said% and Trish blushed.
'.h% "e couldn't! I mean% they're beautiful% but I "asn't angling for a freebie "hen
I asked Kate9'
'Thanks very much%' said 0imon promptly.
'Do you do "eddings(' asked 8i7. '/ot that "e've fi1ed a date yet% but "hen "e
do can "e get in touch('
&ark said% 'Do that%' and Kate "as the only one "ho kne" by the #uirk of his
mouth that this "as amusing him. .f course he "ould be long gone before 8i7
and !ndre" named the day% but that didn't make Kate feel like smiling.
The meal "as delicious% starting "ith chilled cucumber soup% then lasagne and a
rather spectacular salad for the vegetarians% ,mma and 2ergus% andtournedos
"ith mushrooms for the rest.
!s Kate had e1pected% &ark "as a great asset to this party. *e "as funny and
rela1ed and apparently outgoing. It "as Kate "ho told them about the &artello
to"er% but then he ans"ered all their #uestions about it% and in a smaller "ay
Trish and 0imon had done the same kind of thing.
Just after they got married% a great'aunt of 0imon's had left him a tumbledo"n
cottage in 6orkshire "hich they had renovated% using for holidays ever since.
Kate had been there and she "ould probably go again% but the to"er "as up for
sale. It might have been her one and only visit% and she said "istfully% 'I couldn't
bear to sell the to"er if it "as mine. It's a fantastic old place% full of history and
atmosphere.'
'Is it haunted(' ,mma leaned for"ard in her chair% she loved ghost stories% and
Kate remembered "hat &ark had said about photographing ghosts.
'Is it(' she asked.
'They do say%' said &ark solemnly% 'that a dark shapeless figure has been seen
sitting at a table% and% nearby% feet "ithout legs.'
'4hat is it(' gasped ,mma. '4hat "as it all about('
'4ho kno"s(' said &ark% and Kate "ondered if her coat and shoes "ere still
"here she had left them% and decided it "ould be a shame to laugh and spoil it
for ,mma.
In the kitchen% bet"een the main course and the raspberry meringue pie and
praline icecream% the girls cornered Kate to find out '*o" long is he staying('
'*e's self'employed%' she said blandly. '*e "orks from the shop during the
summer and freelances during the "inter. *e can stay as long as he likes.'
&ark had said that "ould not be practical% but it could be. '8odging "ith you(' 8i7
probed archly% and Kate smiled "hat &ark had called her &ona 8isa smile. '*e
more than pays his "ay% but I "ouldn't call him a lodger.'
That satisfied them. They carried in the dishes and settled do"n again%
convinced that Kate had struck lucky and come up "ith a super replacement for
!lan.
/o one "as driving home. !ndre" had booked a midnight ta1i% ,mma and
2ergus lived in "alking distance. 0o the "ine flo"ed and the party fi77ed% and
"hen they sat "ith 3aelic coffees it "as a mello" gathering of friends.
Trish smiled across at Kate% because this had been one of her best dinner
parties ever and Kate's ne" man "as proving a star turn. 6ou can bring him any
time% Trish "as signalling% he's a charmer.
Kate thought so too. 0imon "as holding forth no"% telling a rambling tale about a
pompous guest lecturer at the college "ho had forgotten his notes and given
completely the "rong speech. &ark "as the only one "ho had not heard this
before. !ndre" had been there and helped the story along% and it "as funny% and
&ark "as laughing as he listened.
Kate looked at him% thinking ho" pleasant it all "as% glad that &ark "as enjoying
his evening. !nd hewas# no doubt about that% but not #uite as the others "ere.
They "ere all slightly lit and he "as cold sober.
0he blinked% because he had drunk as much as she had and he "as being very
good company. ,verybody liked him. They thought they "ere accepting him and
including him. .nly Kate kne" that he "as a smiling outsider% taking no real part
in all this mateyness.
0he also kne" that he "as the toughest man here and she "as probably no
closer to him than anyone else round this table% and her gaiety "as doused like
cold "ater on a little flame.
Then as 0imon's story ended 2ergus picked up a bottle of the good red "ine that
"as only half empty. '4e can't be leaving this.' *e looked at the glasses. 'Trish('
0he nodded and he poured for her. 'Kate( !lan('
'/o% thank you%' said Kate% and 2ergus jumped% sprinkling "ine liberally over the
pretty pink cloth as his "ife kicked him under the table.
That caused a small furore. Trish "as no fusser% but it "as her favourite
tablecloth and red "ine "as notorious for staining. 0o the cloth "as "hipped off
and given first aid in the kitchen% and by the time that "as done the ta1i had
arrived. !ndre" and 8i7 gave ,mma and 2ergus a lift% and Kate and &ark "ere
left% the last of the guests.
Trish dre" Kate aside to "hisper% 'Do you think he noticed% 2ergus calling him
!lan('
Kate shrugged. 'There's not much gets past that one% he doesn't miss a thing.'
'I hope he's not the jealous kind%' Trish muttered.
'It doesn't matter%' said Kate. '*e "ouldn't mind.'
/or "ould he mind% and that did matter% to Kate.
'4e "ere thinking before you came%' said Trish% raising her voice to reach the
men. '&y mum had the t"ins tonight% so 0imon's mother's having them for us
over the "eekend and "e're going up to the cottage. 4hy don't you t"o come on
0aturday and stay till 0unday or &onday morning( There's a spare room and a
bed going spare.'
Kate said #uickly% '&ay "e let you kno"(' Then she thanked Trish for a lovely
evening and a lovely meal% and &ark thanked them both% and Trish and 0imon
looked at each other as they "atched Kate and &ark crossing the road.
'0he didn't "aste much time% did she(' said 0imon. '!nd here you "ere "orrying
that !lan 2oster "as going to break her.'
'4ell% he didn't% did he(' said Trish. '0o ho" about this one('
'I "ouldn't like to get on the "rong side of him%' said 0imon.
The door on the other side of the road opened. Kate and the tall dark man "ere
silhouetted in light as Trish closed her o"n door% happy for Kate but still just a
little concerned for her too.
$aldy thre" himself at &ark "ith frantic enthusiasm% then "elcomed Kate as an
afterthought. 'It "as a good evening% "asn't it(' she said. '6ou liked them% didn't
you('
'It "as% and I did.' *e seemed to mean that% and no" they "ere alone and going
upstairs in the ne1t fe" minutes. $aldy needed a short "alk. &ark let him out
through the back door% beyond the patio% and Kate sat on the bottom of the stairs
and "aited.
0he did "ant to sleep "ith &ark. It had been easy enough to plan ho" she
"ould get round to it% but ho" did she kno" ho" he "ould react to an outright
offer( *e might not fancy a change in their relationship. 0e1 could be a tie of
sorts. *e might feel it might hold him% and he might not "ant that.
/o" the moment had come and she "as nervous. 0till basically insecure% she
"as half prepared for another rejection% and "hen she heard him in the house
she took a deep gulp of air and got shakily to her feet.
0tanding there% she breathed deeply again and started% '4e could make a night
of it.'
*e steadied her% smiling do"n at her. '6ou're "orking tomorro"% you need your
sleep. !nd I never take advantage of a lady in her cups.'
*e "as making a joke of a brush'off% and so must she. 'That is a very priggish
attitude%' she said.
'/ot the first time% any"ay.' It could have been "orse. Then he asked% '!re "e
going a"ay at the "eekend('
'If you like.'
'I'd like that.'
'&e too%' she said% and "ent ahead upstairs% undressing and cleaning off her
make'up and getting into bed% glo"ing "ith delight. This "as not a rejection. This
"as a commitment% for a little "hile.
0he lay% "aiting for sleep% her flushed cheek against the cool cotton of the pillo"%
and her last dro"sy thought "as that the "ay her feelings for &ark "ere going
"as almost like falling in love.

Kate's bright idea about the photographs came as she "as "alking to "ork ne1t
morning. If &ark had been "ith her she "ould have discussed it "ith him% of
course% but he "as still back at the house% and any"ay she could see no reason
"hy he should object.
0he "as taking the pictures into the studios to sho" her "orkmates% and she
passed the local ne"spaper office9"ith its "indo" of current affairs% snapped
mostly by staff photographers9 "hen she sa" her &ini. It made a good picture
as a lingerie display% but the one of &rs 3ear% sticking up panties and grinning
like a "itch% had the master touch.
&ark "as freelancing% and that "as one photograph that should definitely have
sold. It still could% and if Kate found an outlet here for his "ork he might be more
likely to stay% certainly to keep in touch.
0he kne" all the staff on the$espatch and she got straight in to see the art
editor% "ho looked up from his desk to say% '*ello% Kate% "hat can "e do for you('
'I've brought you some pictures.' This "as a "eekly% coming out on 0aturday% so
there "as time to catch the ne1t edition% and she took it out of her briefcase and
handed it over.
8a"son Trout "as "ell named9rather fishlike% "ith pale protuberant eyes% and
no" his mouth opened and closed. Then he chuckled% '/ot bad at all.'
'These are local scenes.' 0he sho"ed him the rest% only holding her o"n
pictures back.
*is eyebro"s "ent up and do"n as he gave several grunts of approval. Then he
said%
'6ou didn't take them('
'/ot me% no. I've got a friend staying "ith me% a freelance. !re you interested('
')ould be.' *e "asn't fooling her. 0he kne" she "ould have to prise his plump
fingers off them. '!sk him to come in and have a chat.'
'-ight.' 0he had no time to start talking terms% that "ould be up to &ark. 0he
"ould ring home and tell him that the local +ress "as drooling over his "ork and
if he strolled into the office in the s#uare he "ould probably make a killing.
$ut it "as a little "hile before she could make the call% and then her home
number rang unans"ered. !nd during the day% she tried several times% but "hen
she finished "ork &ark's car "as parked% so he "as back from "herever he had
been.
The pictures of Kate had been oohed and aahed over by the "omen "ho
"orked "ith her. 0he could have got commissions for portraits there% but of
course she could promise nothing. 0he "ould tell &ark and he "ould decide
"hat he "anted to do% and the ne"spaper should be a good market% because
the$espatch covered the county and beyond and "as a classy little number.
4hatever came of it all she hoped she had done the ground"ork for &ark
$randon to start operating in her area% and she let herself into the house
"ondering "hat ne"s to give him first.
$aldy came into the hall from the living'room as &ark came out of the kitchen.
'*ad a good day(' asked Kate.
'6es. 6ou('
'$usy.' 0he hung her coat in the closet. 'I sho"ed all of them your pictures.' !
shuttered look came over his face. ',verybody raved about them%' she said
happily. '!ll the girls at "ork "ant you to photograph them% and the art editor on
the$espatch can't "ait to meet you.'
4hen he looked at her no" she recognised the man "ho had turned on her that
first night% "hen she had intruded on him during the storm. ! fierce impatience
reached her so that she moved back a step% almost as if she "as dodging a blo".
*is voice "as toneless. '!nd "ho asked you to tout my stuff around('
'/obody.' *e kne" that% but "hat harm had she done( 'I'm sorry% I thought9'
'*alf the trouble in the "orld%' he said grimly% 'is caused by idiots "ho are
sorry but they thought9' and ho" could she have imagined there "as
friendship bet"een them "hen he "as so contemptuous of any help she could
give him(
0he thought she "as doing him a favour and she had e1pected him to be
pleased. Talk about male arrogance! )alling her an idiot% rounding on her as if he
had caught her going through his private papers!
The letter signed Denise came into her mind and she thought% 6ou're "elcome to
him. *e's a Jekyll and *yde.
0he said% trying for cutting dignity% '2orget the "hole thing. I promised nobody
anything.' 0he might have gone on to say that this "as the last time she "ould
interfere in anything remotely concerning him. !nd if he "as clearing off
tomorro" she "ould not give anybody his address. In fact she "ould guarantee
to forget it.
$ut a stupid lump "as rising in her throat% and she "ent up the stairs t"o at a
time% because the rebuff had been such a shock. It "as "orse because she
surely kne" "hy. &ark did not "ant her help% nor anybody's% from the sound of it.
$ut that "as not all. *e had seen through her scheme to keep him here and he
"as having none of it. 8ast night she had been scared of rejection% but the
thought of the "eekend at the cottage% sharing a room% sharing a bed% had kept
her happy and hopeful.
4hich "as fine by him% until she came home tonight "ith long'term plans. *e
had "arned her he "as a bad long'term risk% but she had gone right ahead% and
no" he "as making it brutally clear that his future "ould not be including her.
0he "as shaking "ith disappointment and hurt and anger. ! cra7y cocktail that
made her head s"im so that her knees buckled and she flopped do"n on the
stool in front of her dressing'table and gripped the table edge to steady herself.
4hen she "as calmer she "ould go do"nstairs% because this "as her house
and in it she kept out of nobody's "ay. *e might apologise% he had been
appallingly boorish% and although he "as accepting no help from her he might
have cooled do"n.
If he had she "ould say '2orget it%' although neither of them "ould. There "as no
#uestion of that "eekend together no". /o #uestion of anything. *e could hardly
have reacted more savagely if he had knocked her do"n% and she stared at her
"hite'faced reflection.
/o "onder she looked sorry for herself! Three times unlucky% she had to be a
born loser. !nd a fool% because she had been "ell on the "ay to falling in love
"ith &ark. 0he had learned nothing from the pain !lan had caused her so
recently% although she only had to open that dra"er and read a fe" letters to
remind herself she "as a loser and that she should stop being a fool.
0he pulled a dra"er open no"% took the top letter out of its envelope and began
to tear it up% letting the pieces fall do"n into the dra"er. !fter a fe" minutes it
"as almost rela1ing% like playing "ith "orry beads% and she "orked rhythmically%
scattering a coarse confetti over the remaining letters.
4hen she heard the knock on the front door she hesitated% before she closed
the dra"er and got up to ans"er it. 4hoever "as there she "ould plead a
headache% and the ne1t fe" days "ould e1plain "hy% "hen &ark $randon left
to"n.
$ut the door belo" "as already open. &ark had ans"ered it% and from the top of
the stairs Kate heard a male voice bello"ing% '4ell% I'll be beggared9Tad $rand!
4hat's all this% then% Kate's fun and games('
'0omething like that.' &ark... Tad... "hoever% "as laughing% and 8a"son Trout
reeled in% still "hee7ing.
'$loody good pictures. )an't afford your prices% though. +ity!'
'*ave them on the house%' said &ark% "ho "as not &ark to the people "ho kne"
him% and Kate stepped back into her room% sitting do"n again% this time on the
bed.
*er mind "as clearing "onderfully. 0uddenly everything made sense. *e "as
no undiscovered genius. *e "as an international name. .f all the photographers
in the shop the beauty #ueen "as probably the only one he had taken himself%
and no "onder he ble" "hen Kate had sho"n his "ork around to"n. The last
thing he "anted "as publicity.
Trish "ould be thrilled% but hardly surprised% to hear she had a free set of some
very e1clusive and e1pensive photography% and Kate "as calming do"n rapidly%
to the stage "here all the heat seemed to have gone out of her.
$ut he should have told her. !ll right% he "anted no fuss% no reminding of the
killing fields% the madness and mayhem% that made up his "orking life5 and if she
had kno"n she "ould have never tried to drag him to parties% much less offered
his photographs to a pressman "ho had met him before.
*e should have trusted her. If he had not told her at the beginning there had
been countless times since "hen he could have said "ho he "as% and she "ould
have recognised the name. !nd if he had "anted to stay incognito she "ould
have understood "hy.
*e had just called her an idiot% but he "as the one "ho had made her act
idiotically% keeping her in the dark "hen there "as no reason for it% e1cept that it
must have been amusing him.
0he heard the front door close% so 8a"son Trout had not stayed long. *e "ould
be chuckling all the "ay back to the office% over the pictures he'd got for nothing%
and the joke of Kate not kno"ing "ho she'd got staying in her home.
0he came do"nstairs demanding resentfully% '4hy didn't you tell me you're a top
pro(' 0he follo"ed him into the living'room. 'I feel sucha fool!' and her voice rose
so shrilly that he dra"led%
'!ren't you overreacting( I'm not a serial killer. I'm a bloke "ith a camera "ho's
got about. 4hat's the problem('
0he could hardly believe her ears. 'The problem is that I didn't"now. I bring you
here and it looks as if "e're living together!' *is eyebro"s rose. *e "ouldn't care
"hat it looked like% but she did% and she spaced her "ords for emphasis. '!nd I
don't even kno" your name.'
'Thaddeus &ark $randon.'
'Tad $rand. Does anyone call you &ark('
'/o.'
'Then "hy did you let me('
'6ou seemed to fancy it% and my surname is $randon. There "as a time "hen
my father disapproved of my kind of "ork.'
'There's a fascinating thing% I'm learning something ne" about you all the time.
4ell% the joke's on me again%' Kate said bitterly.
'4hat joke('
0he stood "ith her head thro"n back and her arms folded. '2irst there's +hilip%
"ho takes a slo" boat to !ustralia the day before the "edding.'
'4hy !ustralia(' he asked as if that had any bearing on anything% but she
ans"ered automatically%
'*is mother packed him off% they'd got relations there. Then !lan% "ho "as t"o'
timing me% only I "as too thick to see it. !nd no" my very good mate the "ell'
kno"n photographer% "ho must be laughing his socks off because9' no"
she "as almost shouting '9I didn't even kno" his bloody name!'
'0o "hat(' *e sounded as if she "as thro"ing a childish tantrum. '4hy should it
matter "hat name I "ork under( 4hat difference does it make('
'The difference that they're all going to be sorry for me being made a fool of
again!'
*e still looked as if she "as talking nonsense% and so she "as to someone like
him. '6ou don't understand "hat that means% do you(' she cried. '+eople pitying
you.'
0he "ent to the patio "indo"% not seeing anything in the darkness outside but
because it "as easier to talk "ith her back to him. '4ell% I'm an e1pert in it% right
from "hen my father "alked out on us and my mother soaked up sympathy like a
sponge. 0he loved it. 0he "as al"ays sighing and looking sad% and I used to
cringe and hate it. I "as seventeen "hen she died% and after +hilip jilted me
everyone "ent straight back to calling me poor Kate. !s if it "as my name.
/obody but you ever did call me Katy% but everybody called me poor Kate.
'.f course they kept telling me it "asn't my fault +hilip had gone% just as they did
"hen my father "ent. $ut there's a kind of gloating behind pity after a "hile% that
it isn't happening to them. That's "hen you kno" they're beginning to "onder if it
is your fault.'
*e "as standing just behind her. 0he could see his reflection in the dark glass.
'!nd it "as going to start up again "hen I lost !lan%' she said% #uietly no"% 'only
you came back "ith me% so it didn't.'
In the silence follo"ing that he said% '6ou asked me back here so that your
friends shouldn't feel sorry for you('
0he might have denied it if she had not been too drained for anything but a
muttered '6es.'
'6ou do have secrets% Kate%' and "hen she turned he raised an eyebro".
'4orking% "as it('
'.f course.'
'3lad to be of service%' he said drily as hot colour flared on her cheekbones.
'I talk too much.' 0he felt "retched. 'I sound so sorry for myself.'
'6es% you do.' 0he had not e1pected him to understand% but then he said #uite
gently% '6ou're not the only "alking "ounded%' and she stared at him as the "ords
sank in% kno"ing them for the truth. )oming from a man "ho had seen the "orld
at its "orst it made her o"n troubles seem less than terrible% and she felt
bitterness slipping a"ay% releasing her from the past.
!t the same time the future stretched ahead% flat and dreary. 0he might have
had a chance "ith &ark $randon "ho had a small studio and "as unkno"n
outside his home to"n.
4ith Tad $rand there "as no hope at all. The competition "ould be
immeasurably beyond anything she had to offer.
)*!+T,- 0,:,/
'4hatdo I call you% &ark or Tad(' Kate "ondered.
'I'll ans"er to either.'
!fter a moment she said% 'I think I'll stay "ith &ark%' and he said%
'!nd I shall stay "ith Katy.'
The name% he meant% not the girl% but it "as a small sharing% names that nobody
else used% and she smiled% '/ot poor Kate('
')ertainly not.' *e sat do"n in his usual chair and she kne" that for her that
"ould be &ark's chair long after he had gone. 'Do you "ant to tell us about it('
The dog's bright eyes and the man's hooded eyes "ere on her as she sat on the
sofa opposite% "rapping her arms around herself% keeping her voice steady.
'There's not much more to tell. I "ent on holiday because I had time off and he
"as going to !merica on business.'
0he had gone to the to"er and surely that "as meant% because finding &ark had
had so much more impact on her than losing !lan. 'It "asn't to give us time to
think about each other%' she said. '*e "as already having an affair "ith another
girl% but I hadn't a clue about that until I phoned back here and a friend told me.'
0he shook her head at her o"n stupidity. 'I "as actually% e1pecting him to
announce our engagement! There's this emerald and seed pearl ring that
belonged to his grandmother that I tried on. In secret% but I thought it "as a
rehearsal.' 0he "ent on shaking her head% slo"ly. '+earls are for tears% aren't
they% and aren't emeralds unlucky('
'I "ouldn't kno".'
'4ell% they should be. !nd that's it. Jilted again.' 0he pulled a "ry face. '0illy sort
of "ord. It sounds old'fashioned% :ictorian% but there's still plenty of it going on.'
'4ho is he(' he asked.
'!lan(' .f course. '4ell% his name's !lan 2oster. 6ou sa" his photograph% the
half'a'&ars'bar man. The family business is engineering% #uite a big concern%
and as I told you he's into politics. *e could be our local candidate for +arliament
ne1t time round. *e's got it all planned% he's very ambitious.'
'4as that his attraction for you(' &ark "as lounging in the deep chair% looking
and sounding la7y% dra"ing the confidences out of her so that she admitted%
'+robably. I "as so insecure after my father and +hilip that !lan seemed like a
rock.' 0he remembered the rocks of the cause"ay and the "aves s"eeping over
her and &ark getting her ashore...
'4as there anyone else for you(' he "as asking.
'/o.' $ut she had not met &ark then. *er sigh "as because &ark hardly "anted
her at all% not because !lan had found another lover.
'0o "ho did he e1change you for(' he asked bluntly% and that "iped the
"istfulness from her face.
'! better bet9a real asset. *er father has plenty of local political pull. *is name's
)lifford )hambers.'
'!h!'
'6ou've heard of him('
'I've met him.' Three long seconds ticked in her head before he added% '!nd
)elia.'
0he gulped% '4hat9did you think of her('
':ery pretty.'
$efore she could stop herself she had snapped% 'If you like $arbie dolls.'
'6es%' he "ent along "ith that. )elia )hambers% blonde and pertly perfect% did
have a doll'like #uality5 and suddenly Kate felt so hostile to"ards her that it "as
all she could do not to say% '0he's a spoiled little dim"it.' Instead she said% ')elia
"as at that party for your first day here. If "e'd gone along she'd have recognised
you.'
0omebody "as bound to eventually% but she "as glad it had not happened right
a"ay. 0he had enjoyed their time alone together. /o" she "ould be sharing him%
and she tried to be professional. '&ay I intervie" you(' she asked. '-adio Danilo
can al"ays use a visiting celebrity.'
'/o% you may not.'
'.ff the record% then.' 0he had told him all manner of things. /ot the secret deep
in her heart% that she loved him% but she had talked about everything else. '6ou
o"e me some ans"ers.'
'0uch as('
'*o" about that shop% "ith your father's name over it( 4ho does run it('
'$ill 8atymer% he "orked for my father. /o" he and his "ife live "here "e used
to live% over the shop. I still have a room there.'
'6ou live in the to"er('
'0ome of the time% "hen I'm in ,ngland. &ostly it's out of suitcases.' *e grinned
reminiscently. '4hen I first started I lived "ith the travellers for about si1 months.'
! man "ithout roots and the dog "ho "aited for him. Kate said% '0ometimes%
"hen you're a"ay% "ould $aldy stay "ith me('
'*e might like that.'
'4here did he come from('
'$eirut.'
0he dre" in a breath before she said% '6ou're good "ith lame dogs.'
'/ot particularly. +atience "as never my strong suit.'
*er reporter's techni#ue "as helping her to sound calm and reasonable "hen
"hat she really "anted to do "as go over there and get so close that he "ould
have to put his arms around her% and say% Talk to me about anything% or don't talk
at all% I don't care% but please hold me.
'4hat did you tell 8a"son Trout(' she asked.
'/othing. *e thought you'd taken the pictures along because they "ere local. *e
took it for granted you kne" "ho I "as% he thought the joke "as on him.'
'Do you mind very much% me blo"ing your cover('
0oon he "ould go off on his ne1t assignment% but until then she very much
"anted him to stay "ith her% and "hen he laughed and said% '4hat the hell%
"hat's it matter(' she laughed too% because that must mean a fe" days more.
The phone rang and she said% '*e's had time to get back to the office. It could be
for you.'
+eople "ho kne" him "ould start ringing Tad $rand% and "hen &ark stood up
and said% '8et's go%' Kate scurried for her coat and her bag.
ntil no" "hen they had eaten out she had mostly kept clear of places she had
gone to "ith !lan. 0he had been scared of painful memories% but tonight it "as
as though years had passed since !lan 2oster had been part of her life% and she
said% 'I kno" "here "e'll go. It's on the canal% about five miles a"ay. They do a
good carvery and a super salad bo"l'
0he and &ark shared a little table and concentrated on each other so that most
of the time it seemed to Kate that nobody else "as there. 8eaving the restaurant%
she passed the table she had occupied on her last visit% sitting opposite !lan
listening to his talk about "hen they "ere married.
That "as not much more than t"o months ago. *e must have been involved
"ith )elia then and cheating on Kate. $ut all she felt no" "as distaste% as if
something underhand and unpleasant had happened to another girl a long time
ago.
The phone "as still ringing "hen they let themselves back into the house%
although it "as probably not the same caller. '8et it ring%' said &ark.
')an you do that('
',asy.'
It "as late. 0he could "alk upstairs and ignore it% and she said% 'I used to be
good at shutting out "hat I didn't "ant to see or hear.'
'*ear no evil.' *e touched her earlobes in a fingertip caress% then her temples.
'0ee no evil%' and as she looked at him she "as afraid he "ould read her eyes
and she turned to"ards the phone and reached for it.
'Kate( It's !lan%' said !lan.
0he gave a croak that "as almost laughter. '/ot about the letters again('
'/o9I kno" you didn't mean that. $ut I'm "orried about you. This man you
came back "ith from holiday9I've just heard "ho he is.'
The ne"s had carried. If Tad $randhad been a serial killer it could hardly have
spread faster. 'I've never met him myself% but he's got a rough reputation%' !lan
"as saying. 'I don't think you understand9'
'4hat do you mean%rough?' $eside her &ark% "ho had guessed the caller%
grinned. Tough% she thought% but more a man of the "orld than you "ill ever be.
'I mean a hell'raiser% a "omaniser.'
'4ho could have told you he "as a "omaniser(' she en#uired s"eetly. ')elia('
and she hung up "hile !lan "as spluttering. 'That%' she said unnecessarily% '"as
!lan.'
'I didn't think you "ere holding anyone else's letters. !m I the rough and randy
character('
'0o he says. *e's just heard "ho you are and he felt he should "arn me.'
':ery considerate of him.'
'*a!' said Kate. '!re you a "omaniser('
'6ou should kno".' /ot "ith her% she "ished he had been.
'4ell%' she said lightly% 'that seems to be the rumour that's going around%' and
&ark laughed.
'Trust a politician to get his facts "rong. 3oodnight% Katy.'
0he said goodnight and closed her bedroom door% and "ondered if Denise kne"
"here he "as% if he had phoned Denise% met her even "hile he "as here% and
again she "as lacerated "ith jealousy.
A A A
/e1t morning she needed no time at all to adjust to the idea of &ark being
Tad $rand. The astonishing thing "as that she had not suspected something of
the sort. *e could never be a nonentity. .f course he "ould be outstanding in
"hatever he did. 0he "ould have been happier for selfish reasons if he had been
less "ell kno"n% but it "as easy to believe that his "as a success story.
If she cared "hat others thought% bringing Tad $rand home "ith her "as a
brilliant move% nobody "ould be calling her poor Kate after that. $ut she didn't
care. 0he had sloughed off the past% she "as starting afresh% and over breakfast
she asked% '!re "e still going to the cottage this "eekend( .nly no" they kno"
"ho you are you could get a better offer.'
'Do you "ant to go(' 0he nodded. 'Then "e "ill.' !nd she "ished she could take
the day off "ork% because she "anted to be "ith him all the time.
The ne1t best thing "as "alking together to"ards the studios and kno"ing he
"ould be "aiting for her tonight. This morning as they passed Ilse's bouti#ue in
the s#uare Kate heard her name called and Ilse came hurrying out% grabbing
Kate's arm and eyeing &ark. 'I never did get to meet9' she dropped her voice to
a seductive purr% 'Tad% isn't it(' and Kate said%
'That's right% and this is Ilse.'
&ark "as remembering the naming of the puppet9because Kate kne" a co"
called Ilse. *is dark eyes gleamed "ith laughter as he said gravely% '4hat a
charming name.'
Ilse fluttered her lashes. 'Thank you. 6ou missed my party% didn't you% but I'm not
going to let you get a"ay% so "hen "ill you come over( .ne evening ne1t "eek('
'I'll ring you%' Kate said firmly.
'.r shall I ring you(' said Ilse% still looking at &ark.
'Is she(' asked &ark as they "alked a"ay.
':ery much so%' said Kate.
*e grinned. '.ne co" called Ilse's enough% "e'll give this one a miss.'
They reached &ark's car and Kate asked% '4here are you going('
'8ooking up some friends.'
*e had never said that before% but he must have like'minded colleagues and
friends all over% and he could be tiring of just Kate for company.
'4ill you come back or "ill you be staying the night "ith them(' 0he hoped she
sounded casual. $efore long he "ould stay "ith others% but please% not tonight.
'I'll be back%' he said. '!nd don't forget the market in the morning. Don't leave
your car here.'
'/ot me%' she said. 'They don't "rite ;0mall but 0e1y; on me t"ice.' *e kissed
her smiling lips and she "ent on smiling as she "alked across the road and
through the doors of -adio Danilo.
In the foyer /icola caught up "ith her. '!ren't you the dark horse(' said /icola.
'/o "onder you "eren't letting anybody meet him!' 0he kept pace "ith Kate%
going up the stairs. 'Did you kno" him before( 6ou never just picked him up on
holiday('
'It "as just ho" I told you.' Kate smiled a smug smile. '$orn lucky% aren't I('
'6ou can say that again!' /icola said emphatically and enviously% but Kate "as
not so sure. &eeting &ark and getting on so "ell "ith him "as the best thing that
had ever happened to her. 2alling hopelessly for him could prove one of the
toughest% but this morning she "as the girl "ho had good reason to be smiling.
&ost of her "orkmates kne" Tad $rand by name. They "ere all in the media
business and he "as a top photographer and% like 8a"son Trout% they presumed
that Kate had been helping him keep a lo" profile. 4ell% it "as out no" and some
of them had met him before% the ne"s editor for one% "ho said% '3ive my best to
Tad% tell him I'd like to have a drink "ith him.'
'I "ill%' Kate promised% and "hen she got another couple of messages she made
notes and thought% I'm turning into a social secretary here.
0he "as busy all day. The run'up to )hristmas had started and she "as
covering plans for the days ahead% in schools and stores% church fetes%
pantomime rehearsals. &ark "ould surely be gone before )hristmas and she
"as going to miss him terribly% but he "ould be home tonight% and "hen "ork
"as through she got a"ay as #uickly as she could.
2rom 3ina and 3eorge's "ine bar across the s#uare a photographer from
the$espatch hailed her. '*ey% Kate% hold on a minute!' 4hen he reached her he
said% '$y yourself( 4here's Tad('
'I don't kno". *e "as meeting some friends.'
*arry $ush% "ho had a youngish face under gri77led grey hair% said% '-emember
me to him. 4e've "orked together.'
'I'll tell him%' she said.
It had been lovely coming home and kno"ing that for the ne1t t"elve hours it
"as going to be just her and &ark. *e "as there before her tonight. $aldy came
to meet her and &ark "as in the kitchen% only a fe" steps a"ay in the tiny house.
4hen she closed the front door she had shut out the rest of the "orld% but
tonight she might as "ell have left the door "ide open.
'I've got a page of messages for you%' she said. '4hat I don't understand is "hy
you "eren't spotted before% because it seems that everybody I "ork "ith kno"s
you.'
'I doubt that%' he said.
'*o" about *arry $ush and our ne"s editor% Joe &urphy('
'6es.'
'6ou could have bumped into them any time.'
'I could have% but I didn't.' *e had not been in to"n much and she had chosen
out'of'the'"ay places "hen they had eaten out.
'4ell% they kno" you're here no"%' she said. '!nd they all "ant to meet you.' 0he
rummaged in her bag for her notebook. '*o" does it feel to be famous('
'To a limited audience. *ere's a message for you.'
There "as a torn sheet of paper on the hall table that Trish had pushed through
the letterbo1 earlier. '4e're just off%' Kate read. Taking all the food "e'll need% so
don't bother bringing anything but yourselves. 0ee you tomorro" as soon as you
can get a"ay. +.0. 4ho the heck's Tad $rand('
That made Kate smile% and &ark grinned and for a moment she "as happy and
safe% enclosed in a magic circle. $ut the circle broke "ithin minutes. 0he had
gone upstairs to change out of a skirt that had got splashed "ith poster paint this
afternoon in a nursery school% "hen she heard the door knocker.
$y the time she "as into a pair of black trousers and had come out on to the
landing the little hall belo" seemed cro"ded "ith the Tad $rand fan club. 0he
"ondered if the "ine bar had emptied and they had all follo"ed her up here% that
"ouldn't have pleased the proprietors. 0he sa" *arry $ush% and a sound
engineer from -adio Danilo "ho had sent a message to Tad% and Jenny and a
fe" more% and as she "alked do"nstairs *arry asked% '!ll right% Kate( Don't mind
us dropping in% do you('
If &ark had "anted that she "ould have pleaded a prior engagement and got
them out fairly #uickly% but he looked pleased to see them% greeting some by
name% being introduced to the rest as they all trooped through into the living'
room.
'It "as *arry's idea%' said Jenny. '*e said he "as coming to see him and so did
Tony% so "e trailed along. 'Isay# though% he is gorgeous!'
'The host "ith the most%' #uipped Kate% accepting the unavoidable. '8ooks as if
"e're having a party.'
The impromptu get'together "as a great success. Those "ho kne" Tad "ere
recalling "hen they'd met% trotting out names of friends and ac#uaintances.
0tories "ere told and capped. They all seemed to be making themselves at
home% and Kate% "ho "as a hospitable girl although she "ould rather have had
&ark to herself% "ent into the kitchen and started cutting sand"iches.
0he handed these around and brought out a bottle of "ine and sat on the floor%
her back to the "all% her feet tucked in% "atching her uninvited guests enjoying
themselves.
&ark... Tad... did it. ,ven "hen he "as sitting still he seemed to give out an
electric current that "as charging them up% and she had the "eird sensation that
if he had left the room they "ould all be s"itched off like a light going out.
They "ere in no hurry to leave. Jenny "ent first% looking at her "atch and
"ondering "here the time had gone. Then% slo"ly% most of the others. $ut a hard
core of men lingered until Kate "ondered ho" much longer they "ere staying.
0he "ished they "ould go or she "ould have no time at all alone "ith &ark
tonight. If he had been her lover she could have turned to him% "hen the last
visitor left the house% and they could have made up for the hours they had been
kept apart. !s it "as% there "ould be time for nothing% e1cept to go to her o"n
bed and dream of tomorro" night% "hen at last and gloriously she and &ark
"ould be completely together.
0he still had her packing to do% only an overnight bag% but she could do that no".
0he "ent upstairs and pulled her small suitcase from under the bed% folding in
oyster satin pyjamas and a change of clothing for 0unday. 0he left it open for
make'up and toiletries% and caught herself ya"ning and realised ho" tired she
"as.
0he "ould hear "hen they "ere leaving and she "ould go do"n% but until then
she "ould rela1 on the bed. Today had seen the end of her one'to'one
relationship "ith &ark. 2rom no" on outsiders "ould be cro"ding in% some of
them "ith stronger claims on him than she had ever had.
$ut I love him% she thought% and it "as the heart's truth% filling her "ith such
"armth and tenderness that for a little "hile she felt safe and secure and utterly
content. Then the fantasy shattered% because he had said nothing about loving
her. *e liked her% he "ould enjoy having her% but that "as as far as it "ent. !nd if
she tried to e1plain ho" she felt he "as bound to "onder if discovering he "as
Tad $rand "as influencing her.
The last thing she "as "as star'struck% and she "ished no" that she had
admitted before that he "as like no other man she had ever met and she "as
cra7y about him.
! scrap of paper on the floor under the dressing'table caught her eye% part of the
letters she "as tearing up last night% and she got off the bed and picked it up5 it
had a flashy '! on it that "as !lan's signing'off signature. 0he might as "ell finish
tearing them up% then she could dump them in the dustbin.
There "ere still about half a do7en unripped% and by coincidence the ne1t one
she took out of its envelope had been "ritten just after that "eekend at Trish's
cottage. !lan and Kate had gone up there alone and !lan had not been very
impressed% because the cottage "as rugged% although the "eather had been
glorious.
In this letter he said that being "ith her had more than made up for the
plumbing% and she remembered the cistern that used to flush itself in the night.
This "as a longish letter% going overleaf% and she read it "alking round the room
so that she "as standing by the "indo" "hen the door opened and &ark looked
in to ask% '!re you all right('
'.f course.'
'4hat are you doing up here('
'4aiting for them to go.' *e could see the letter in her hand% and "hen he said
derisively%
'.ne of the famous letters( 6ou're not still reading them(' she made a hopeless
move to hide it% by ramming it into her trouser pocket. 0he did that so jumpily that
"hen she jerked her hand out the letter came "ith it and fell at her feet% and he
picked it up in "hat seemed like slo" motion.
*anding it to her% he read the opening line aloud9al"ays the same until the last
9'&y o"n darling'% and hearing &ark say that choked her. 0he had to gulp for
air% and he said impatiently% 'If you still "ant the man% go and get him.'
'Idon't.' 0he couldn't have got !lan back and she didn't "ant him% but she could
understand ho" a man of action like &ark "ould have no patience "ith inaction.
'Then cut your losses and stop moping.' *e thought she had come up here to
read the letters% and she started to stammer% 'I9' but he "as not listening% '!nd if
"e're heading off for the 6orkshire Dales tomorro"%' he said% 'for goodness' sake
cheer up. They're bleak enough this time of year. 3o up there feeling depressed
and you'll end "ith a nervous breakdo"n.'
'/o% I "on't%' she said.
'3lad to hear it. !re you coming do"n('
'!re they staying the night( I think I'll go to bed.'
'3ood idea.' *e smiled suddenly. '3o to sleep% Kate% and remember "hat you
told me. ,verything looks brighter in the morning.' 0he kne" no" the kind of
memories that had been haunting him on the night of the storm% and she doubted
if they had seemed brighter in the morning.
It "as ironic% him thinking she "as up here moping over !lan. Tomorro" she
"ould make it clear that she "as not depressed% and that their "eekend together
"as going to be fantastic.
0he "as getting into bed "hen she heard them leaving and somebody
shouted up the stairs% '/ight% Kate% see you in the morning.' 0he lay a"ake%
although she "as not e1pecting &ark to come to her room. /or did he. 4hen she
heard his bedroom door close she sighed% and after a "hile she slept.

$reakfast "as as usual% coffee and toast% taken "alking around in Kate's case
because they "ould be leaving as soon as she finished "ork. This afternoon% she
hoped% later if she "as delayed. 0he "as packed% and leaving the house in order%
so that she only had to collect her case and they could take &ark's car and head
for the motor"ay.
*e didn't "alk "ith her to "ork this morning% and she dashed to the$espatch
offices to get a ne"spaper. The pictures "ere on the front page and most of the
stallholders had ac#uired a copy. '/ice one of &a 3ear%' they called% "aving
papers at her% and "hen she got into the studios it "as the same. They all had
seen the photographs and they all thought they "ere magic% and Kate bathed a
little in reflected glory% because Tad "as brilliant and she "as proud of him.
The trip to 6orkshire "as general kno"ledge too. 0omebody last night had
asked Tad "hat he "as doing on 0unday and been told that he and Kate "ere
joining the 0aunderses in their cottage. Kate "as teased about that% but she
didn't care. It "as all friendly and% on the female side% usually envious. 3ood luck
to you% everybody "as saying.
'6ou "ent up there "ith !lan% didn't you(' Jenny recalled. 'I thought "hat he did
"as a"ful.' Then her big bro"n eyes glo"ed. '$ut I'm so glad you've found
somebody really super.'
I found him% Kate thought% I "as lucky there% but keeping him is the problem. 0he
"as lucky again at lunchtime "hen the ne"s editor told her there "as nothing to
keep her here% she could leave early for the "eekend% and she almost% not #uite%
kissed him. Then she took off before anybody had second thoughts.
&ark "as not at home% but he "ould be back before long. 0he brought her case
do"n into the cottage and boiled the kettle for a #uick coffee. 0he had
the$espatch "ith her and she sat on the sofa to look at the pictures again and
skim the rest of the ne"s. 0ome of these stories might be follo"ed up by radio
intervie"s% local broadcasting and press often shared scoops% and she "as
"ondering "hat she could do about a "oman "ho said a flying saucer had
landed in her orchard and taken off again "hen the phone rang for the first time.
It "as a girl "ho kne" that !lan had dumped Kate% and had just heard that the
man "ho "as staying "ith Kate "as a big name and "anted some more details.
Kate told her a fe"% then said that she had to go because they "ere off for the
"eekend% and "hen ,sther asked% '4here(' she said% 'p north% goodbye for
no"%' and hung up.
The second call came almost as soon as she sat do"n again. 'Is Tad there(' a
"oman's voice asked% and Kate said insincerely%
'0orry% no.'
'Tell him Denise rang.' 6ou'll be lucky% Kate thought. '!ll right% is he('
'2ine.'
The "oman "as young and smiling% you could tell by the voice. '*e usually takes
off bet"een assignments to un"ind. Kate% is it('
'6es.' 8ots of people "ould kno" by no". *e had been "ith friends yesterday%
and she "ondered "hat he had told them about her.
Denise "as still smiling. '6ou're the light relief this time% so have fun "hile it
lasts.'
'I "ill%' said Kate. 0he didn't kno" "ho hung up first% but the phone "as on its
cradle and she "as facing her o"n pale reflection in the oval "all mirror. 6ou
kne" that% she told it. 6our little highs and lo"s are keeping his mind off grimmer
things for a "hile. /o "onder he "asn't taking you up all the "ay to 6orkshire if
you "ere likely to be gloomy all the time. 0o smile% girl% smile...
0he smiled% a t"itch of the lips at first% then "ider to a beam that did look
remarkably cheerful.
/o one else rang% although it "as over an hour before &ark returned% surprised
to see her till she e1plained% 'I got off early. -eady(' There could be other calls
any time% each one taking him a little further from her. 4hen they came back they
"ould be "aiting% but once she "as out of here and into his car no one could get
at him till &onday morning.
*e had brought a carrier bag in "ith him% full of goodies% although Trish had said
there "as no need for them to bring anything. They packed that in the car "ith
their cases% and $aldy spra"led on the back seat "hile Kate climbed in beside
&ark% and the car moved a"ay leaving them all behind.
It "as easy to act cheerful% because she "as. They listened to local radio until
they "ere out of range% and then they had music playing and she smiled
"henever &ark looked at her. 0he chatted about the market traders and the
photograph and described her morning amusingly. 0he made him smile and she
had him laughing. *e "anted good company% someone funny and bright% and
Kate could be all of that.
0ome time she "ould have to 'remember' that Denise had phoned% and that "as
all she needed to say. /ot that Denise had told her she "as the 'light relief% nor
that she "as determined to be the best and the brightest so that he "ould think
of her fondly and "ant to be "ith her again. !nd never% ever% that she had read
the letter in the glove compartment about the incredible "eekend that Tad and
Denise had spent together. ,ven in the car they "ere not really alone% not "ith
that letter sitting there.
Kate gave directions "ith the help of a map to"ards the end% and at one
crossroads reminisced% '8ast time "e lost our "ay here.'
'4e(' *e had slo"ed do"n as she hesitated.
/o" he turned to her and she said lightly% '!lan "as "ith me. *e said it "as my
map reading% and I guess it "as% because "e ended up a mountain.'
'*appy days%' dra"led &ark% and she said again%
'I guess%' because she had thought they "ere.
0imon's great'aunt's cottage had once been a small general store. The plain
glass "indo"s "ere large and a bell still rang over the front door. It opened on to
the pavement% in grey stone "ith a grey slate roof% although red "indo" frames
and door brightened it.
!s the car dre" up the door opened and 0imon and Trish came out "ith
"elcoming smiles. $ags "ere carried into the room that had been a shop% but
"as no" furnished "ith comfortable old'fashioned bargains% and had a coal fire
burning in the black'leaded grate.
Kate remembered !lan's dismay "hen he had stepped in here% and "ondered
ho" it "as looking to &ark. Trish "as saying% as if she didn't #uite kno" ho" to
handle this% '0imon's been telling me you're a big shot.'
'Don't believe him%' said &ark% 'I'm not%' and Trish said%
'$ut you've got to be. !nyone "ho can make the t"ins look that good has got to
be the best%' and everyone smiled% and after that it couldn't have been cosier.
&ark admired everything they had done here "hen they sho"ed him around.
They had "orked hard% stripping do"n "alls and "ood"ork% re"iring and
plastering% putting in fitted cupboards and shelves. The plumbing "as ne1t% as
soon as they could afford it% and &ark's enthusiasm "as genuine% and Trish
"hispered to Kate% 'Isn't henice! /ot a bit big'headed% is he( !nd 0imon says
he's famous.'
There's no conceit in him% thought Kate% but he kno"s his "orth. *e is his o"n
man% and that's the trouble% because I "ant him to be mine.
4hen their cases "ere put beside the bed she "ould be sharing "ith &ark she
couldn't look at him% and she said #uickly% 'I don't kno" "hat's in the carrier% but
shouldn't "e be opening it(' and led the "ay do"nstairs to the kitchen table%
"here the bag spilled out some delicious edibles and a couple of bottles that
0imon drooled over.
Trish had a meal ready% and it turned into a feast% "ith them all sitting round the
glo"ing fire and Kate being the life and soul of the party. 0he felt good% she really
did% and "hen they started discussing "here they "ould go tomorro" she said%
'The Trough of -oland is beautiful% but it could be chilly this time of year. 4hen I
"ent it "as hot% the sun "as shining...' *er voice trailed and everybody kne" she
"as talking about her summer stay "ith the man "ho had thro"n her over for
another girl. 0he "ould have gone on to babble something to fill the silence% but
Trish leaned for"ard and said earnestly%
'.h% Kate% it's lovely to see you so happy%' and Kate trilled "ith laughter.
'.f course I'm happy. !ren't "e all( 3ood food% good friends% and "ith any luck
at all good "eather in the morning.'
0he sounded shrill% but 0imon and Trish didn't notice. They "ent on "ith their
suggestions for tomorro"% and Kate nodded and smiled and felt &ark "atching
her "ith dark speculative eyes.
There "as a limit to gaiety. 0he "ould have enjoyed the ride up here and this
get'together "ith Trish and 0imon% and she desperately "anted to sleep "ith
&ark tonight. $ut she had hyped herself up after that phone call% playing the role
of good companion "ith no let'up until she felt like an actress "hen the curtain
"as falling% still smiling and animated but drained and empty inside.
$edtime needed organising. *ot "ater bottles had to be filled% because there
"as no heating up there and a"ay from the fire it "as chilly. The girls took the
bathroom first% and Kate got into her satin pyjamas and sat "ith blankets and
eiderdo"n up to her chin% hugging one bottle and "ith her feet on the other.
8ast time there had been a heat"ave so that even a sheet had seemed
oppressive. 8ast time she had been alone in the house "ith !lan. Tonight she
could hear the men do"nstairs% doors opening and closing.
This "as a pretty room% "ith pink rosebuds on the "allpaper and curtains% and
so small that the lo"'"att bulb lit it brightly% and "hen &ark came in% "earing
dark pyjama trousers% bare'footed% bare'chested% his tanned skin gleamed like
bron7e.
*e put the clothes he "as carrying on a chair and Kate asked% '4here's $aldy('
'$y the fire. 4e came to an arrangement.'
'Doesn't he approve of ladies in your bed(' she teased% but a pulse "as beating%
tightening her throat.
'It's a #uestion of space.'
It "as a big old'fashioned brass'knobbed bed% and she glanced do"n at the
pillo" beside her. 4hen !lan had been "ith her she had thought she "ould die
for him% but no" she could hardly remember "hat he looked like. 0he began to
chatter% 'The "ater bottles take most of the room. It's like being on a "ater bed.
.nly I never have% have you('
'/o.' &ark turned out the light and dre" back the curtains. 0ilhouetted for a
moment in the "indo" and then a dark shado" coming to"ards her% and a lean
hard body lo"ered on to the bed.
0he "as sitting up still% shaking "ith the violence of her o"n heartbeats% as he
put an arm around her% dra"ing her to him. 0he "ent a"k"ardly% bumping her
nose on his collarbone% then breathing in the faintly musky male "armth of his
damp skin.
It "as the most erotic aroma she had ever encountered% a slo" and sensuous
foreplay on her senses% so that she rela1ed as the "armth began to tingle in her
o"n blood. *e stroked her hair gently and the rhythmic touch ran throbbing
through her veins until her head fell back and she lay "ith closed eyes in the
circle of his arms.
*is ne1t% more intimate move "ould have triggered a rapturous response% and at
first she thought the clamour "as the hammering of her heart. .nly for a fe"
seconds% of course% because &ark "as saying% '4hat the hell is that(' and it "as
Trish and 0imon's anti#ue plumbing thundering out a midnight sonata.
Do"nstairs $aldy "as barking% and 0imon shouted% '0orry about this!'
'It's the plumbing%' said Kate. 'It gets airlocks. 8ast time I "as here it "ent off
about t"o in the morning and "e nearly fell out of bed.'
0he "ished she had not said that% and a giggle she couldn't contain bubbled up
into laughter and &ark said drily% 'It isn't that funny.'
0he clapped a hand across her mouth because this "as not laughter% it "as
nearer hysteria% and "hen he said% '4e shouldn't have come here%' she shivered
and "aited until the pipes and the dog "ere #uietening do"n before she asked%
'4hy not('
'$ecause Trish is "rong9you're not happy. 6ou've been on a nervous high ever
since "e set out. Talking non'stop got you through the day.' *is arm lay light on
her shoulders and he sounded cynically amused. '*o" "ere you getting through
the night in this bed( $y closing your eyes and thinking of !lan('
'No!' Kate shook her head% her facial muscles clenching% and he lifted her chin so
that she "as staring up at him and asked her% '!m I al"ays going to have trouble
getting you to look at me(' *is eyes seemed darker than the shado"s% she could
read nothing there% but his touch had been tender and "ould have been
passionate% and she begged%
'+lease make love to me.'
'.n the "hole I don't think that "ould be a good idea.'
*e could have been turning do"n a drink% and she lashed out% '6ou could al"ays
think of Denise!' and "hen one of his eyebro"s arched slightly she muttered%
'There "as a phone call just before "e left. I'm sorry% I forgot.'
*e seemed to believe her. *e said% '$ut of course you had other things on your
mind%' as if she had been thinking of !lan and there "as no room for anything
else.
The clanging pipes "ere silent no". $aldy had decided the intruder had been
routed and the night "as #uiet. '3o to sleep%' said &ark. *e lay do"n himself%
arms clasped behind his head. 'They're going to have us traipsing for miles
tomorro".'
0he couldn't sleep beside him like this% but she had managed to ruin everything
for tonight% maybe for ever. 0he turned on her side% her face averted% silent tears
sliding do"n her cheeks% breathing steadily so that he "ould think she slept until
at last she did.
)*!+T,- ,I3*T
4henKate a"oke she "as alone and it "as broad daylight. .thers "ere up. 0he
could smell bacon frying and felt faintly nauseous.
*o" could she have slept so heavily that &ark could slip out of bed and get
himself and his clothes out of the room( *e "as a #uiet mover% and he probably
had had practice in early and silent retreats% but it "as not a good start to the
day. 0he "ould much rather have "oken him and lain dro"sily together for a fe"
minutes% slo"ly talking themselves a"ake.
4ell% she "as a"ake no"% and her first meeting "ith &ark "ould be in front of
0imon and Trish. /o chance of saying% 'I "asn't thinking about !lan yesterday.
4hy should I% "hen the only man on my mind is you('
0he tied the "aist girdle of her robe and "ent do"nstairs9the lino "as cold to
her bare feet9to the door that opened into the kitchen. Trish "as at the gas
stove "ith a frying pan% 0imon "as at the table "ith a guide book% and both
beamed at her as she stood tousle'haired in the door"ay. There "as no sign of
&ark or $aldy% and Trish en#uired archly% '0leep "ell('
'!fter the pipes shut up%' said 0imon.
',r9yes% thank you.' Kate could feel herself blushing and kne" ho" they "ere
interpreting that% and asked #uickly%
'4here's &ark('
'4alking the dog%' said Trish.
Kate% "ondering if he "as also phoning Denise% said% 'I'd better get dressed%' and
"ent back upstairs.
0he "as not at her best% in spite of touches of colour on lips and cheekbones
and a flick of mascara. *er hair shone and her smile could be bright% but she had
a rival "ho "as so sure of Tad'as'she'called'him that any other girl "as a joke.
!lmost surely he "as talking to Denise no"% "hile Kate dressed for a day's
trekking over the Dales and felt do"nright drab.
They had returned "hen she came do"n. $aldy "agged his tail and &ark's
smile reached her like a caress% light and s"eet. '6ou should have "oken me%'
she said.
'I hadn't the heart. 6ou looked so comfortable.' *e put an arm around her and
she thought% no" I am comfortable.
'4e thought "e'd do the lead mining trail%' 0imon told her. '!nd take in the old
)orpse 4ay9 do you kno" it('
'/o%' she said% 'but it sounds a load of laughs.'
!s it happened% it "as. They had a super day. The remains of the old mines
"ere fascinating% and they "alked the narro" road do"n "hich the d"ellers in
the hills had carried their dead to the church in the valley% and the Dales "ere
beautiful. They picnicked from a hamper in the car% and ended "ith a meal in a
seventeenth century inn before they drove back to the cottage.
In the car Trish said% 'Thanks for staying "ith us. I'm sure you'd rather have been
on your o"n% but being "ith you has made this one of our best days ever up
here.'
Kate could believe that% because everything "as better "hen &ark "as around.
*is energy and humour "ere infectious% so that 0imon and Trish had been in
high spirits and very good company themselves all day long. Kate had enjoyed
herself too% although she "as al"ays a"are of the dangerously comple1 man
behind the easy charm.
'Thank you% both of you%' &ark "as saying no".
'!ny time you "ant to get a"ay on your o"n%' said 0imon% 'the cottage is here.'
&ark thanked him again. '6ou're "elcome to the to"er%' he said. 'Kate could give
you directions. $ut I can't say ho" long for% I've just had an offer for it.'
It had to be recently% and "hyshould he tell her right a"ay( It "as none of her
business. $ut it meant that she "ould never go there again% and she held do"n a
sigh and said% '! good offer('
'6es%' said &ark.
'That's good%' said Kate% and looked out at the hedgero"s rushing past the car
and thought that time seemed to be hurtling her on at the same di77y rate and
getting her no"here.

$ut the "orking hours on &onday dragged by. 0he had not had much sleep the
night before% but only because Trish and 0imon "ere driving back overnight as
0imon had to be at "ork by half'past eight5 and as Kate "as due in at nine it
made sense that she and &ark should leave at the same time. 0o they drank
coffee and talked into the early hours and then drove back% and the only bed
Kate had cra"led into last night had been her o"n bed in her o"n house.
In the office everyone believed her "hen she said she had had a "onderful time
and% as far as it "ent% she had5 but nothing had #uite gone the "ay she'd hoped
and time "as running out. &ark "as not involved enough to make any sort of
claim% and unless she could find the nerve to declare outright that she "as cra7y
for him he "ould be leaving and she "ould be left "ith enough frustration and
regret to "arp all the happy memories.
It "ould not have surprised her to find company "aiting "hen she got home from
"ork on &onday% but no sooner had it registered that &ark "as alone than he
"as telling her% 'I've just accepted an invitation for tonight% and I'd like you to
come "ith me.'
.f course% she thought "earily. 0o long as you're here there'll al"ays be
somebody "anting the pleasure of your company. '4here(' she asked.
')lifford )hambers rang. *e has a fe" friends in.' That meant )elia and probably
!lan. &ark "as "atching her closely% and she gave a small shrug and asked% 'Do
you kno" him "ell('
'4e've met% at official functions mostly.'
'!nd they both "ant to see you again.' *e'd accepted% so he must "ant to see
them. '4hat time('
'!s soon as "e can get along.'
'3ive me a fe" minutes%' and she hurried upstairs.
.nly a fe" days ago the prospect of facing !lan and )elia together had reduced
her to jelly. 0he didn't "ant to go to the )hamberses' home tonight% but she
"asn't dreading it. 0he "ould have felt the same about anybody "ho "as using
up her time "ith &ark. That they "ere a thumping nuisance% but that "as all. 0he
rushed through a repair job on her appearance because the sooner they arrived%
the sooner they might get a"ay.
0he had never before been invited through the gates in the high "hite "alls% on
a hillside just outside the to"n% but she kne" "here )lifford )hambers and his
daughter lived. The gates "ere open and lights "ere on in most of the mullioned
"hite'shuttered "indo"s as &ark dre" up in the broad gravelled courtyard that
fronted the house.
! soberly clad "oman opened the door and )lifford )hambers himself "as
coming up behind her. 4ith his smooth silvered hair% patrician% slightly florid
features and confident manner% he looked "hat he "as% an elder statesman
"hose "ords still carried "eight.
Kate kne" he could be a pompous chauvinist% but% "ith a friendly hand on the
younger man's shoulders% his "elcome for &ark "as "arm. 'Tad m'boy% ho" long
have you been in to"n( I only heard today you "ere here.' *is "ell'preserved
smile s"itched to Kate. ')ome in%' he said effusively% 'come in.'
They "ere already in the house% but he meant the dra"ing'room% and before
they could get do"n the long hall )elia had stepped out% stood for a second% then
came running and s#uealing to"ards them.
'I couldn't%elieve it!' If her father's "elcome had been cordial hers "as ecstatic. 'I
told Daddy he had to get you round right a"ay before you vanished again.' 0he
had slipped a hand through &ark's arm and "as looking up at him% her pretty doll
face "reathed in smiles. 'I didn't kno" you kne"9er9Kate%' she said. '$ut then
you kno" everybody% don't you('
'That's the media business for you%' Kate dra"led. '4e cover the "orld.' &ark
grinned across at her% but )elia didn't seem to hear% and the )hamberses
ushered their guests into their elegant dra"ing'room.
Kate got an immediate impression of gracious living% but she "as "atching )elia
"ith &ark% so that it "as a fe" moments before she even noticed that !lan "as
not here. The t"o men% sitting "ith drinks beside them% "ere from )lifford
)hambers' inner circle. Kate kne" them slightly% and the "ives "ith them% and
they all smiled briefly at her and greeted Tad $rand9"ho "as top of his league
"ith an a"ard'"inning talent9as one of their o"n. They "ere delighted to meet
him% "hile Kate% sitting "ith a dry sherry% "as almost ignored.
0he told herself that "as not bothering her because this "as as good as a play5
and she sat back% slim legs crossed% fingering the stem of her glass% "atching the
performance.
Tad "as the star. !ll the talk and attention "as centred on him% and he handled it
like a professional. 8istening and "atching% Kate felt she kne" the tricks he "as
using to charm the company% especially )elia% "hose eyes lit eagerly every time
he turned to her.
$ut she's so shallo"% thought Kate% pampered and cute andstupid# so "hy are
you taken "ith her( !nd the rest of them bore you% so "hat are "e doing here%
"hy did you say you'd come(
)elia "as "ell on the "ay to a king'si7e crush on him% and that had to be
flattering% although Kate "ould not have thought &ark "as susceptible to flattery.
$ut )elia "as so pretty% bouncing off her chair "ith e1citement% and Kate began
to "onder if !lan's main attraction might have been the secrecy of their affair.
/o" everything "as in the open the thrill might have gone out of it for )elia.
Tad $rand "as e1citement personified% but if she had ideas of trading !lan in for
him she "as going to get slapped do"n so hard that she could be seeing stars
for a long% long time. 2ury rose in Kate and her fingers tightened% "hite'knuckled%
round her glass. 0he put that do"n #uickly before she broke it% and )elia's voice
reached her through a ringing in her ears. 0he felt like a time'bomb about to
e1plode. '6ou "ill be here for the +ress $all% "on't you(' )elia "as cooing. 'The
+ress $all's al"ays such fun. /e1t "eek% isn't it('
This "as the first time she had addressed Kate% almost the first time anyone
had. Kate said% '! "eek on 2riday%' and &ark said%
'I may be here.' Then he glanced at his "atch. '/o" I'm afraid "e must be going.
It's been a pleasure.'
*as it not( Kate thought sourly% and she "as on her feet at once.
They "ere seen out "ith great affability. 4ell% Tad "as. Kate "as included
because she "as "ith him% but "hen someone said% '4e hope to see you again%'
that didn't mean Kate.
.n their "ay back &ark turned on the car radio and Kate pretended to listen to
one of her colleagues because she couldn't trust herself to speak. ! fe" more
minutes and she "ould have asked "here !lan "as% and had )elia tried on his
grandmother's ring yet(
0he "ould have made a fool of herself% but jealousy "as ripping her up% and
"hen she turned the key in her front door she hurried ahead upstairs. '*ang on%'
said &ark. 'They "eren't that boring.'
0he stopped at the top as he follo"ed her and they faced each other on the
narro" landing.'&oring?' she shrilled. ')elia "asn't boring% she "as scintillating!'
/o" she couldn't shut up. '4ell "orth turning up for% "as )elia. It "as her you
"anted to see again% of course.'
'/o%' he said. 'I "anted to see !lan 2oster. It seemed time that I met the man.'
'.h.'
'!nd I might be able to help you there.' !rms folded% eyes glittering under dark
bro"s% he looked like the devil again. 'It "ouldn't be hard to change )elia
)hambers' mind% such as it is% about !lan 2oster or anything else. 4ould you like
that to happen( *o" about this +ress $all( Do you "ant a public
announcement('
*e could do that. )elia "ould leave !lan for him. It "ould be sadistic and cold'
blooded% unless he "as prepared for an affair "ith )elia% and that "as
impossible. 0he put her hands to burning cheeks and shrieked% 'No!'
'If you don't "ant that% "hat do you "ant(' 0omeho" his fingers "ere "ound in
her hair% pulling her head back% and his voice "as soft and savage. '*e's still on
your mind. 6ou're still reading his letters% taking him "ith you up to the cottage%
and into our bed.'
0he cried out% 'I "asn't thinking of !lan. I "as9' she gulped and began to
gabble. 'It "as your phone call. Denise said you al"ays took off bet"een
assignments to un"ind% and I "as your escapism this time% taking your mind off
things. I "as trying9' she gulped again '9trying to keep you amused.'
'4ell% it didn't "ork.' *is voice "as ragged no". '2or your information% your
rela1ation value is nil. I'm going out of my mind over you.' *e looked haggard%
desperate% and the "ords spoke themselves.
'I love you.'
'4hat('
0he couldn't look a"ay from the da77ling directness of his eyes. 0he said% '!ll
along% I think. /ot like !lan. /ot like anybody or anything else that's ever
happened to me. That's "hy I "as scared to look at you% because you'd see ho"
I "as feeling and tell me it couldn't make sense. /ot so #uickly% so completely.'
The hands in her hair had gentled% cradling her face. 'It makes sense%' he said
huskily. ',very step of the "ay from the beginning% because it's ho" I feel.' 0he
could hear the beating of her heart% his heart. '.h% Katy%' he said% and folded
strong arms around her% holding her to him.
0he couldn't stop looking into his eyes. 0he put her arms around his "aist and
hugged hard% and the closeness and hardness of him reached her through the
barrier of clothing. *er fingers% or his% undid the buttons of her coat. It fell as they
moved through the open door to"ards the bed% stripping someho" but never% it
seemed to Kate% breaking the eye'contact% as though they had found each other
at last and could not bear to look a"ay.
Kicking off shoes% leaving a trail of clothing% she slid bet"een cold sheets% and
he moved "ith her% his breath on her lips. It "as almost dark in here% but she
could see every plane and hollo" of his face% and she kne" the body that "as
naked against hers as if it "as part of her and only together "ere they "hole.
Their lovemaking "as a singing ecstasy% from the murmuring joy of &ark's
fingers brushing the nape of her neck to the unbelievable crescendo of her lover
"ithin her and every throbbing nerve "elcoming and holding him. 0he screamed
in tune "ith that% then floated gently do"n "hile the music played on% happier and
safer than she had ever been before.
0he "as lying in the "arm circle of his arms% fitting so snugly that it made her
smile. 0he looked up% opening her eyes but not moving her head% and he smiled
at her and said% '*ello% my love.'
'6ou "ouldn't be snoring('
'*ardly.'
It "as $aldy% of course% sound asleep on the rug beside the bed% and she asked%
'Did he sleep all through9"ell% you kno"('
'I "ouldn't kno". There could have been a pack of "olves ho"ling in here and I
"ouldn't have noticed. *e probably "ent to sleep about the same time you did.'
'I "ent to sleep(' It had been the loveliest rest and the best of all a"akenings.
0he couldn't be jealous of anyone any more% but she heard herself asking% '4as
there )elia('
')ertainly not.'
'$ut there "as Denise.' !nd others.
'8ike there "as !lan.' 4hich meant they "ere history% and a moment later% '6ou'd
better marry me.'
'!re you joking('
'8ook at me% Katy.' 0he could see his soul in his eyes% and it took her breath
a"ay that he should care so much for her so that she could only stammer%
'4hy('
*e grinned% and she started smiling again "hen he said% '$ecause if you don't I
shall fi1 it that your car gets parked in the s#uare every 2riday night. I'm a dirty
fighter.'
'I believe that.' 0he rested her cheek on his shoulder and breathed in. '$ut you're
a lovely lover% and you smell so good.'
'I'm addicted to you too% so tell me ho" I'm going to manage "ithout you even
"ith my ring on your finger(' 0he "ould hate the partings% but she "ouldn't think
about them no". Then he said% '0ometimes you could come "ith me.'
.f course she could. 0he "as a journalist% she could "ork "ith him.''es#' she
said. '6ou've got your very o"n *etty5 I'll turn up every"here.'
*ome "as "here he "as% her life "as "here he "as. 'I suppose%' she said%
'you're selling the to"er('
'Don't you "ant me to('
'I'd like to go back. Doesn't it earn its keep in holiday lets('
'6ou "ere the first. &y friends use it% I use it. $ut I "anted you to stay. !s I told
you9right from the beginning.' *e looked do"n at her% lying in the crook of his
arm. 'If you "ant it%' he said% 'make me an offer.'
Kate pulled a face. '&e( I'm only a "orking girl "ho's about to chuck in her job to
go s"anning around the "orld.'
'4e're not talking cash here.'
'.h!' *er eyes lit "ith laughter and love. 'In that case.' 0he reached up to pull
him do"n and just before she kissed his mouth he said%
'It's yours.'

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