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A BINDING

CONTRACT

Alison York




What a strange, ironic, topsy-turvy world,

Julia couldn't help thinking. Warren Kane had been part of her
past, and now it seemed that he was back to stay.

Only this time, Julia Sinclair was to be tied to him in a contract
from which there seemed no escape. For Warren Kane had said, "I
shall pursue you quite relentlessly until you have settled things to
my satisfaction."

Would she be able to accomplish everything, Julia wondered--or
would the price of her failure be her submission to his every
desire?



CHAPTER ONE
IT WAS quiet in the little single room of the Chipping Ferris
Cottage Hospital where Julia Sinclair sat watching the frail, elderly
man she had come to visit. The subdued sounds of hospital life
around their little island of calm were distant and dream-like.
Harcourt had fallen into one of the exhausted, sudden dozes that
punctuated his struggle with language after his stroke.
Julia's golden-brown eyes were full of concern as she watched
him. How frustrating it must be, she thought, to know exactly what
you wanted to say and yet hear it coming out in a sequence of
wrong words. Doubly so when manipulation of words had been
part of your stock-in-trade. Just now Harcourt had been trying to
ask her something about the agreement for the take-over of his
ailing solicitor's practice by Price Roberts and Co in Kixton, the
nearby market town.
'Must get that. . .programme signed, 'he had said, frowning with
annoyance as he'd realised but had been incapable of correcting his
error.
'The contract? No hurry,' Julia had told him gently. 'Concentrate on
getting well first. Maggie and I are sorting everything out that
needs to be seen to.'
'Contract,' he'd repeated. 'Contract.' Then, angrily, 'Damned stupid
words!'
Julia had reached to squeeze his hand and gradually he'd relaxed
and let his silver-grey head rest against the back of the wing-chair,
smiling at her to reassure her that his anger had been against
himself and not her, then his eyes had closed and he'd escaped
briefly into the less taxing world of sleep.


There was no real urgency about the contract. All the official
discussion and drawing-up had been dealt with before Harcourt's
stroke, so there was only the brief formality of the signing once
Harcourt felt up to seeing James Price. The clients with current
casesand there were not many of thosehad already been put
into the hands of the Price Roberts partners. Julia and Maggie,
Harcourt's secretary, were going through all the remaining files
and that job would soon be completed. The practice had dwindled
over the past ten years, since the death of Harcourt's wife, into a
very sleepy one-man affair.
It had been different in the old days when Julia's parents had lived
in Chipping Ferris and Harcourt had been such a good friend on
both personal and business fronts. Then Harcourt had done the
work of three men, though still running his independent practice.
Later, he had found time to be a replacement family for Julia when
her mother and father had gone out to New Zealand, their
emigration coinciding with the start of her law degree course in
London. Each holiday she'd spent in England, he had given her
work in his officean invaluable help both to her progress
through her course and to her student finances.
Now she was qualified. She had served her two years' articles
period in a busy Kixton practice, and for the past two weeks had
been free to help in the winding-up of Harcourt's business.
Julia frowned, her pretty, serene face wearing the change of
expression uncomfortably, for she was a naturally happy person.
What worried her now was that, at this moment, when Harcourt
badly needed support, she was due to go out for a promised
extended holiday with her parents.
'Don't take up the offer for a good six months, will you?' her
mother had pleaded anxiously when Julia had told her over the


phone that the firm where she had served her articles was keen to
keep her permanently. 'Remember, we've always said we'd have a
good stretch of time together once your training was completed.'
Julia couldn't disappoint her parents. She had to go, though she
was a little wary that they might apply pressure to get her to stay
permanently, which she was not so far inclined to do. But walking
out on Harcourt seemed like desertion. He was so isolated these
days. No wife for the past ten years. No children ever. At seventy-
odd, inevitably, friends thinning out. And now the complication of
fragile health.
Harcourt drew in a deeper breath and she realised that he was
waking up. He smiled at her, a lop-sided smile, touchingly
attractive.
'Still here? What an old dodderer I am. Good for. . .' The word
eluded him again.
'Good for plenty,' Julia said firmly. 'Don't you dare say "nothing".'
'Still think it,' he said, adding after a moment and betraying the
extent of his worry, 'What about the contract, then?' A thumbs-up
sign marked the fact that he had got it right.
'I think we could leave it a day or two longer.' Julia made a sudden
decision. 'HarcourtI phoned my parents last night and told them
I would be delaying my trip out to see them until you are home
again.' It wasn't quite true. She wouldn't be telling them of her
decision until tonight, but this way cut out distressing arguments
from Harcourt. She saw the flicker of relief before he masked it
with a disapproving scowl.
'That woman. . .quite contrarywho was she?'


'Mary. And don't be rude!' Julia got up and kissed him on the
forehead. 'I must go now or Maggie will think I'm running lunch
into dinner. Anything you want tomorrow?'
'Only a dictionary.'
As Julia left him, he was momentarily cocky that his joke had
come complete with the right words.
The hospital's hard-working matron looked up from the papers on
her desk as Julia passed the open door of her office.
'What do you think of him?' Julia asked, pausing.
Matron took off her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose.
'Stuck in a bit of a trough, I think. No real reason for itno
physical reason, that is. I've seen far worse-affected cases than Mr
Thomas make astonishing progress.'
'So what's holding him back?'
'A combination of things, not the least of which is the fact that we
simply don't have the funds for effective therapy. Once a week
isn't enough. But, apart from that, I get the feeling that Mr Thomas
feels a bit of a failureunnecessarily, I'm sure. Something to do
with its being the end of his working life. . .then his health letting
him down. And he hasn't got much to hope for in the way of
family support, has he?'
'No family at all,' Julia said. 'I'm the nearest to it.'
'And doing a good job.' Matron smiled. 'Don't worry. He'll pull
through. It's only a matter of time.'


And time, regrettably, was the one commodity in short supply,
Julia thought as she drove back into Chipping Ferris and parked in
the squarewhich was, strictly speaking, more of a triangle. There
were mellow three-storey Georgian houses on two sides, several of
them business premises now, and a church dating back to shortly
after the Norman Conquest on the third side, next to which was the
grassy playing area of the village schoolset back and fairly new,
though thankfully still built in the warm golden local stone.
Harcourt's office was in the centre house of the side to the left of
the church. Maggie, faithful to the last, must have spent some of
her lunch hour polishing the brass plate with its italic script,
because it was much brighter than when Julia had arrived for work
that morning.
The older woman looked up as Julia walked into the front office.
'How was he?'
'Much the same. He sent his love. Any messages?'
'Two.' Maggie pulled a memo pad out from under the pile of
envelopes she was addressing. 'James Price rang to say he'll be
passing through later this afternoon. He's going to call in and see
how things are. I told him the times of your appointments and he
said he'd be later than the last one.' She pulled a disapproving face.
'The second call was distinctly less pleasant.'
Julia raised her eyebrows. 'I don't like the sound of that. Who was
it?'
'Mr Kane. The great Warren Kane himself. You know who I
mean?'
'I know him. Who doesn't?' Julia said. The 'Kane's' logo, gold
lettering on a royal blue background in a gold oval, was well


publicised, and as someone with local connections Warren Kane
aroused interest in Chipping Ferris. Originally familiar as old Mr
Kane's nephew and a bit of a tearaway, it was rumoured, he had
achieved wider fame with the establishment of an ever-growing
and highly successful chain of health centres. Julia knew one or
two people who had the necessary amount of spare money to
cosset themselves with a week in the plush surroundings, and she
hadto be fairheard nothing but good reports. Apart from
excellent health-linked facilities, part of the day at each centre was
devoted to cultural activities of some kind, a pleasant change from
the average blindly body-fixated routine.
That, however, did not incline Julia to look favourably on Warren
Kane. She not only knew him by reputation. She had had brief,
traumatic, personal contact with him, and she remembered it now,
as Maggie spoke, as vividly as though it had happened yesterday.
Strange, when it was all of ten years since they had confronted
each other. She had pushed the memory of that humiliating
occasion firmly to the back of her mind, and yet now, at the
mention of his name, the resentment was all there, boiling up,
fresh as the day it had first been aroused.
'What did he want?' she asked Maggie.
'Harcourt's blood, poor lamb, by the sound of it. It's something to
do with Wyngates, I gathered. Too much to expect that Mr Big
wouldn't want to start stirring things up now that he's inherited the
place. To quote the man's own words, there's been a "mega cock-
up"and, according to his tone, he holds Harcourt responsible. He
wasn't too pleased when I said he'd have to discuss it with you.'
'He's not the only one to be a bit less than pleased,' Julia said
grimly. 'We can do without further complications right now.'


'I said you'd call him later this afternoon. I don't know whether it
registered or not. He hung up rather abruptly,' Maggie said. She
glanced sideways as someone passed the discreetly curtained
window. 'The Bedfords are here. At least that's a straightforward
will for you to deal with.'
Julia made for the far door. 'Give me a couple of minutes, will
you?'
She went through the inner hall, which was large enough to act as
waiting-room, between Maggie's and Harcourt's office, which
looked out on the back garden. From the hall, with its leather
chairs and magazine table on which lay a selection of monthlies of
the County and Country variety, stairs led to the upper two floors,
converted into a comfortable flat where Harcourt lived. That was
another problem. The place would be far too large for him to live
in when the hospital released him and there was no business
occupying the ground floor. And two flights of stairs were a
double hazard. . .
Julia stifled thoughts of Harcourt and tidied herself quickly in the
little cloakroom. One thing at a time, she told herself as she
brushed the jacket of her grey suit and ran a coral lipstick over her
lips the one touch of defiant colour in a smart but necessarily
sober working appearance.
After the Bedfords came Miss Miller with a worry about the lease
of her rented cottage, followed by a young couple who were
buying a house in the newer end of the village, which had
developed along the start of the Kixton road. When she had shown
them out, Julia came back to the desk and prepared to dial the
Wyngates number, which Maggie had scribbled on the memo pad.


She was annoyed to find how keyed up she was at the thought of
speaking to Warren Kane. Ridiculous! she told herself. She was
used to dealing with people in the grip of strong feelings. Why
should one more man who'd lost his cool be any different from the
rest?
But, before she could lift the receiver, Maggie's face was peering
round the door and she was hissing softly, 'He's herein the front
office. Warren Kane. What shall I do?'
'You'd better show him through,' Julia said, far more calmly than
she felt.
She listened to the two sets of approaching footsteps, Maggie's
light and tapping against the measured, heavier tread following her
across the oak floor of the inner hall, and against their beat she was
aware of the quickened rhythm of her heart forming an irritating
counterpoint.
'Mr Kane, Miss Sinclair,' Maggie said with unaccustomed
formality, retreating quickly once the introduction was over.
Julia stood. 'Good afternoon, Mr Kane. Do sit down.'
He returned her greeting briefly, the deep-set, vivid blue eyes she
remembered so well giving her a more-than-business survey, but
he ignored the invitation to sit and walked over to the window. He
looked out at the garden, then turned and leaned against the wall,
one hand in the pocket of his trousers, pulling aside his suit jacket
so that Julia could see that though he had broadened since their
first meeting there was no spare flesh under his close-fitting dove-
grey shirt. Nor had his hair a trace of grey in its glossy darkness. It
still looked as though, given the chance, it would rebel into the
rough forward fall she had once thought so attractive as she'd
dreamily spied on him when she'd been a young girl. That, though,


was before that memorable encounter which had annihilated all
traces of his attractiveness for her.
Their eyes met in the silence, and Julia was thankful to see no
trace of recognition in his. Not surprising, perhaps. Who would
connect a pony-tailed, skinny teenager, wearing a much-loathed
brace on her teeth, with the businesswoman she now was, elegant
in pristine white silk shirt and suit that made up in cut for what it
inevitably lacked in colour.
'So where is the estimable Mr Thomas?' he asked, after a pause
that could only have lasted seconds yet had seemed a very long
one.
'He's out of the office this week, I'm afraid,' Julia said. She was
unwilling to be more informative. 'Can I help you?'
Again that thorough inspection of her. 'Who are you? I thought
Harcourt Thomas ran a one-man business.'
'I'm here temporarily.' Again Julia was reluctant to tell him the real
circumstances.
'Then in that case you are hardly likely to have all the firm's
business at your fingertips, are you?' His disturbing blue eyes
narrowed suspiciously. 'How long has Thomas been out of the
office? Since my phone call, perhaps?'
Julia managed to answer calmly, 'Mr Thomas has been away for
the past two weeks.' She indicated the chair in front of her desk
again. 'I understand you have a problem. If you'd like to sit down
and put me in the picture, I'll do my best to help.' Little though you
deserve it with your ill-mannered approach, she thought. He hadn't
changed in that respect.


This time he did sit down. 'How long have you been here
"temporarily"?' he asked. In spite of the wide mahogany desk that
separated them, she found his nearness threatening.
'I've been loosely connected with the business for the past six
years,' she told him.
'You don't look old enough.'
She felt the colour creeping up her cheeksthe penalty of her fine
skin. 'For part of that time, admittedly, I worked here as a student,
but I assure you, Mr Kane, that I am a fully qualified solicitor now
with two years' experience in a busy practice behind me.' This
wasn't Julia Sinclair, solicitor, speaking, she realised. It was young
Julia, misjudged and condemned out of hand all those years ago
and still smarting from it. She stood up. 'But if you would rather
take your problem to someone else, I won't detain you.'
He looked up at her, unmoved. 'Sit down. My problem's here.
Harcourt Thomas caused it. I'm not going anywhere else. If you're
my only option, I'll deal with you.'
'As you wish.' She sat down again and looked steadily at him, her
brown eyes holding his, refusing to betray how much his presence
in her officeher temporary officeput her on edge.
'You know Wyngates?'
'The old prep school? Then a management centre for a few years?
Yes, I know it.'
'I now own the place. You're aware of the nature of my business
interests?'


His cool assumption that she was bound to have heard of him
needled Julia. She allowed a delicate pause, then raised her
eyebrows apologetically. 'I'm sorry. . . Should I be?'
She might as well have spared herself the effort. What she did or
did not know was a matter of supreme indifference to him. He was
quite ready to hold forth on his achievements and enlighten her.
'I operate a chain of health centres under the name "Kane's". The
first one opened in London nine years ago. There is now a Kane's
centre in five prime areas of the British Isles. I propose to make
Wyngates the sixth. This area is commercially viable now that the
M40 has opened it up.'
Julia refrained from looking impressed.
'The conversion of the property should now be underway,' he went
on, leaning forward. 'My uncle, from whom I inherited Wyngates,
and with whom, in fact, I have jointly owned the place for a
number of years, was aware and approved of what I intended to
do, so I was able to have plans drawn up and seek the necessary
financial backing well in advance of his death last month.'
His matter-of-fact reference to old Mr Kane's death shocked Julia.
Where was the family feeling, the sadnesseven if only token
of bereavement?
It was feeling of another kind that crisped his voice. 'You will
imagine my displeasure,' he continued, 'to be informed, when I put
in a planning request to start work on a golf driving range, squash
courts and larger swimming-pool, that part of Wyngates landan
important partis to be taken from me in the course of a road-
straightening scheme.'


'Rushbrook Lane?' Julia said. 'It's been on the cards for years. The
council's ongoing project for the silly season. Nobody believes it
will ever happen.'
'On the contrary,' he corrected. 'It's the council's dead-cert project,
scheduled for three months' timeright through my tennis-courts.'
The picture was growing clearer. 'I can see how vexing this is for
you,' Julia said, 'but I presume you will be quite generously
compensated for the loss of land.'
He made a dismissive gesture. 'Compensation is only part of the
issue. I'm more concerned about the delay all this is going to
cause. It means waiting for new plans to be drawn up. Waiting for
the council to consider them. Waiting for the place to become a
viable concern.'
'Forgive me, Mr Kane,' Julia said calmly, 'but shouldn't the
planning department have been consulted at an earlier stage?'
'And forgive me, Miss Sinclair,' he replied with heavy irony, 'but I
must point out that I was not born yesterday. Discussion took place
with the planning department years ago. We established when we
applied for change of use for Wyngates from school to
management centre that there would be no objection to a further
change to health centre in due course. The planning request was a
formality.'
'Then if the council knew of your ultimate intention, why were you
not informed of the possibility of the road-straightening affecting
Wyngates?'
'Apparently we were. Over nine years ago when the scheme was
first proposed. All landowners affected were approached. The


council has a form signed by my uncle to the effect that there was
no objection to the work being carried out in due course.'
'Then surely,' Julia said gently, 'your uncle should have informed
you of this. It seems to have been an omission on his part rather
than the council's.'
Warren Kane got up impatiently and went over to the window
again, his back towards Julia, broad shoulders stiff with
resentment.
'My uncle, fond though I was of him, was an absent-minded old
man,' he said, obviously not quite able to complete the definition
as he would have liked. He swung round. 'And he had another to
match him in the shape of Harcourt Thomas.'
Julia sprang to Harcourt's defence. 'If Mr Kane Senior signed the
consent form, I don't see how Mr Thomas can be blamed.'
'Perhaps if you saw the letter I was shown in the planning
departmenta covering letter from Harcourt Thomas, showing
that he was fully aware of what was going onthen you would see
a little more clearly. When I became joint owner of Wyngates, it
was glaringly obvious that my uncle was no longer fully capable of
dealing with matters, and from that moment it was made clear to
Mr Thomas that one of his important functions was to make sure
that I was aware of all that was going on. In fact -' he strode to and
fro a couple of times 'I've had a mountain of unnecessary bumf
from him over the years. But about the one thing that mattered he
was silent as the grave. The man should have retired years ago.'
'If you felt like that about the situation,' Julia said reasonably, 'it
might have been better to change solicitors.'


'I have my own people, of course. It was only a question of the
Wyngates business.' He added, surprisingly, as he sat down, 'My
uncle had always used Thomas. Old dogs don't like new tricks. He
would have felt that I was overriding him if I'd done that. He was a
capable man in his time. I had no intention of rubbing his nose in
the fact that he no longer was.' He looked coldly at Julia, as though
repenting of his momentary display of compassion. 'People who
set themselves up to do a job, however, should be equal to it.
Harcourt Thomas obviously was not.'
Julia answered carefully. 'I can't express an opinion on that, of
course. The matter will have to be looked into from the practice's
point of view.'
Warren Kane laughed shortly and without mirth. 'A typical
lawyer's cagey answer.'
Julia did not let herself rise to the taunt.
'So when can I expect to have the privilege of speaking to this
invisible man?' he went on.
'I'm not sure when he will be back.' Warren Kane seemed
impatient enough to be capable of storming the hospital, and she
was certainly not going to point him in that direction.
'You must know how long your "temporary" services are required,
surely?'
'The arrangement was a loose oneI am here for an indefinite
period.'
'But I am not, Miss Sinclair.' He thumped the desk as he spoke,
making her jump. 'I have a working schedule, a backer breathing


down my neck, a list of firms with work dates gone to pot, thanks
to this cock-up. And somebody is going to answer for it.'
'I shall certainly look into it,' Julia told him. 'But this error is over
nine years old. In no way do I accept that Harcourt Thomas is
implicated, and I must say that I can't see how getting to the root of
it is going to help your present regrettable position.'
'It's going to help the way I feel about it.' His hair was definitely
less well-groomed than it had been on his arrival, and the blue eyes
were icy. 'I don't think you quite understand my attitude, Miss
Sinclair. My interest is not in detective work. It is in correction. I
have no intention of letting this matter slide because it dates from
over nine years ago. If I can attribute my success in business to
any one thing, I'd put it down to the fact that I let nobody get away
with anything. What people contract to do for me, they do.
Harcourt Thomas is in no special category. He is responsible for
his own actions. He will have to make good his mistake like all the
rest.'
Julia felt a chill of fear tingle up her spine. She had no doubt that
he meant it. And equally she had no doubt of the effect it would
have on Harcourt if this business blew up in his face at such a
stage in his recovery.
'If he made a mistake,' she stressed. 'But I assure you that I will go
through the files tonight, Mr Kane. And if I find that any blame
attaches to the practice, I shall of course be perfectly frank with
you.'
'As far as I'm concerned there is no "if" about it. All you are doing
is proving to yourself what I already know.' The chair grated
harshly on the floor as he got up to leave. 'You've been very cagey,
Miss Sinclair,' he said, looking right into her mind, it seemed. 'If


you are covering up for the fact that Thomas is retiring, thinking
that he can slide out of his responsibilities that way, let me
disillusion you. Whoever takes on his business will find they have
inherited a whole lot of trouble. The matter will not die a
convenient death.'
'I shall get back to you as soon as possible,' Julia said tightly,
following him to the door.
'Do that.'
As he strode off through the hall towards the front office, Julia
realised that James Price was sitting in the chair over in the
window alcove, looking after the departing Warren Kane as she
was.
'Hello, James,' she greeted him. 'I'm sorry to have kept you
waiting. Come along in now. Will you have some tea?'
He rose and followed her into the office. 'That would be very
welcome. Are you sure I won't be holding you up too much?'
'Not at all. No one else is due to come in today.'
As she buzzed through to Maggie to arrange tea, Julia's mind was
racing madly. How long had James been sitting there? Had Maggie
closed the office door properly when she'd shown the Kane man
in? And, even if she had, could it be possible for anyone to sit just
outside where James had been and not hear that strong, deep voice
making its accusations?
She had known James Price for a long time. She had watched him
in court when she had accompanied Harcourt as a student, and
over the past two years while she had been working in Kixton she
had met him socially several times. He was a quiet, deceptively


amiable-seeming bachelor in his mid-thirties, but the amiable
calmness he cultivated masked a dogged determination to win his
case that had proved the downfall of many a more flamboyant
opposing solicitor.
'Wasn't that Warren Kane?' he asked, breaking into her thoughts.
'Yes. Do you know him, then?'
'I used to play tennis with him one summer years ago. He wouldn't
remember me. I was only brought in to make up the numbers. Is he
thinking of settling at Wyngates, then? I would have thought
Chipping Ferris was too quiet a place for someone with as many
irons in the fire as he has.'
'Not settling, exactly,' Julia said. 'I believe he has ideas for
Wyngates, but I'll leave it to him to make them public. At the
moment we're just concerned with tidying up his uncle's estate.'
She watched James covertly while she said that. He merely nodded
in a non-committal way, then Maggie brought in the tray which
she must have started to prepare the moment James arrived.
'Sohow was Harcourt today?' James asked. 'Is he feeling up to
visitors yet?'
Julia smiled apologetically. 'Not exactly, I'm afraid. The words are
still coming out wrongly from time to time. I think he'd rather be
more sure of himself before facing people. I don't count as
"people", of course.'
'Is he worried about the business being between two stools, as it
were? Would popping in just to get the contract completed help at
all? Could he manage that?'


Julia considered. Harcourt was certainly keen for completion, and
it was only a formality at this stage, after all. But this Warren Kane
business had come as an unexpected spanner in the works. She
would prefer to have that out of the way before Harcourt's business
was completely signed over to Price Roberts.
'I think another day or two's delay might be a good idea, to leave
him in his peaceful limbo a bit longer and let his hand get a little
steadier,' she said, knowing that Harcourt could sign his name with
perfect easefar more easily than he could count on speaking it at
the moment.
'Fine. No particular hurry as far as we're concerned. Everything is
being taken care of.' He leaned towards the desk and helped
himself to more tea. 'You'll be going to the "do" on Saturday, of
course?' he asked, changing the subject.
The 'do' was the annual fund-raising ball in aid of the Cottage
Hospital where Harcourt now was.
'Of course. I've got a personal interest in it this year,' Julia said.
'Would you like me to pick you up this time, since Harcourt won't
be doing his usual proud escort job?'
'Thanks for the offer, James. That would have been nice, but I've
promised to look after the raffle so I have to go along early and
pretty up the table.'
'Fair enough. As long as you keep me a dance or two.'
'I'll do that.'
They went on to talk business, and there was no further mention of
Warren Kane. The fact that James had been ready to sign the


contract seemed to indicate that he hadn't been aware of exactly
what was going on in her office. If he had heard Warren Kane
threatening to take his grievance to whoever took over Harcourt's
business, surely he wouldn't have appeared so eager.
Julia saw James out a quarter of an hour later, far more tired than
she usually was at the end of a working day. She had Warren Kane
to thank for that, she supposed.
Maggie came through with the excuse of bringing the post to sign.
'Was he as hard to handle as he looked?' she asked, and it was
obvious she was not referring to James Price.
'A bit stroppy,' Julia said. She didn't really want to go into details
with Maggie. Maggie was the most loyal of employees, but she
loved a good gossip. Chipping Ferris was such a small place, and
anything connected with Warren Kane so newsworthy that
Harcourt's gaffe, if it had truly been one, could be all round the
village in no time. 'There was some letter or other he hadn't got a
copy of,' she said vaguely. 'I told him I'd look it out and photostat
it tonight. A fuss over nothing, really. There's no need to hang on
for these, Maggie,' she went on, pulling the letters towards herself
and beginning to sign them. 'I'll put them in the box when I leave.'
She got down the Wyngates files when Maggie had gone, and
decided that they were too bulky to go through in the office and in
her present state of tiredness.
Life had taken on a rather different face in the course of the
afternoon, and she seemed to be in the centre of a fine old web of
deception. At the moment she didn't quite know what she would
do if Harcourt proved to be responsible for the hitch in Warren
Kane's plans, and the man persisted in seeking vengeance. All she
knew was that she must at all costs prevent his tackling Harcourt


about it. And she must also stop Price Roberts getting wind of it.
That was certainly enough to be going on with.
She ran a comb through her glossy dark bob before leaving for
home, reflecting that it was fiendishly unfair how one half-day
could change you from looking twenty-four to thirty-four going on
pension age. Damn Warren Kane for coming back into her life and
showing every sign of wreaking havoc in it. She would do her
level best to make sure that he stayed on her personal scene not a
second longer than necessary.
And that's a promise, she told her reflection in the . brass plate as
she locked the front door.



CHAPTER TWO
FOLLY COTTAGE was perhaps the thing that bound Julia most to
England.
Named in the twentieth century, perhaps because of its position
only a garden's width away from the Avon, its eighteenth-century
builders had not been quite so foolish as the name suggested. The
garden sloped sharply down to the river bank, so that the cottage
itself sat high above the water-level and was as dry and cosy as
could be.
Built of rough golden limestone, it had tiny, diamond-paned
windows and a roof of mellow red tiles almost hidden under green
lichen, with a matching tiled canopy over the front door, which
Julia now unlocked with the feeling of pleasure entering her
cottage always gave her.
She stood for a moment in the little living-room, looking at the
photograph of her parents over the fireplace. It was now six
o'clocksix o'clock tomorrow morning in New Zealand. Too
early to ring them yet. An eight o'clock call would find them both
up and her father not yet left for work.
The Anne Sinclair of the photograph was a frail shadow of the
woman now thriving in New Zealand. It was her unexpected bad
health that had caused such an upheaval in the Sinclair family in
the year of Julia's sixteenth birthday. Up to that point Anne had
worked hardfar harder than she ought to have done, perhaps.
Unable to extend her own family after the complications of Julia's
birth, she had fostered a sequence of children, determined that
Julia should not have a lonely childhood and equally determined
that the love she and her husband felt they could have showered on


a house full of their own children should find recipients who were
in need of it.
It had been a happy, lively home, so the illness that had turned
Anne into an invalid had been all the more shattering. Julia had
been sent to boarding school to do her sixth-form years, Anne
being determined that the shadow of her illness should not
overhang her daughter's, life, and John had nursed his wife through
trauma after trauma until the offer of a partnership from an
accountant friend who had set up his own business in New Zealand
had come out of the blue. Anne's doctors had advised that the
change of climate could be the answer to her problems, and so the
decision to emigrate had been made.
At that point, Julia had been offered and had accepted a university
place. If she had gone out to New Zealand with her parents she
would still have wanted to read law, and would have been away
from home for much of the year. There would also, no doubt, have
been complications and delays. It had been decided, regretfully,
that she should stay on in England, going out each year to spend
the long vacation in New Zealand.
From the proceeds of the sale of their big house next to Wyngates,
Anne and John had bought Folly Cottage so that Julia had her own
base in England.
From October to June the cottage was hers alone. In the
intervening three months, while she was in New Zealand, her
personal treasures were put away and the cottage was given over to
holiday lets. Julia hated sharing it with unknown strangers, but the
proceeds were undeniably useful to boost her student grant and, in
the past two years, her restricted earnings as a fledgling solicitor.


She ran upstairs now to her yellow and white bedroom under the
eaves, taking off her suit as she went. Once the working day was
over, Julia was glad to be able to dress in the bright colours she
preferred. Now she hung up her suit, and after a quick shower put
on a favourite pair of scarlet trousers and a matching shirt.
It was a warm September, and a salad followed by strawberries
from the fruit farm just outside Kixton was all she wanted in the
way of evening meal.
She got through to her parents without a hitch, and, though they
were disappointed about the delay to her departure, they
understood the reason for it and sent love and good wishes to
Harcourt. Julia didn't go into the latest problem over Wyngates.
She didn't want to sour the phone call with Warren Kane's name. It
would feature quite enough in her thoughts for the rest of the
evening.
By eight-fifteen she was beginning the tedious business of going
through the Wyngates files, while outside the evening drew in until
the windows of Folly Cottage glowed with light as Julia read on.
By nine-thirty she had a clear and depressing picture which
confirmed what Warren Kane had said. It did indeed look as
though Harcourt had very uncharacteristically slipped up over the
road-widening scheme. All the correspondence showing that he
had been fully aware of it was there, now sorted out into a separate
folder. All that remained was to see what Warren Kane's reaction
to an admission of guilt on behalf of the practice would be.
Julia also knew from a close study of dates just why Harcourt had
lapsed from his usual meticulous attention to detail at that
particular time. Whether her explanation would affect what
Warren Kane thought, though, was very much open to question.


She sighed and looked at the clock. The sooner she arranged to see
him, the better. If she left it until tomorrow, he would probably be
at the other end of the country and she would be stuck with the
affair hanging over her head. She went over to the phone, a letter-
head in her hand, and dialled the Wyngates number.
'Warren Kane.' The deep voice in her ear sent a ripple of
apprehension down her spine. There was the staccato rattle of a
typewriter in the background, and for a moment she pictured him
with the phone tucked between shoulder and cheek while he
carried on typing, but then she realised that it was the even speed
of a word-processor printer that she could hear.
'Mr Kane? This is Julia Sinclair. We met this afternoon at Mr
Thomas's office.'
'Yes,' he said, barely waiting for her to finish speaking. 'I'm hardly
likely to forget that. I presume you are telephoning at this time of
day to announce a change of tune?'
Julia controlled the urge to hang up on him. 'This afternoon I said I
would investigate your complaint. I have done that, now, and I
thought this might be the best time to catch you to arrange to
discuss the matter further.'
'Do you have to speak like a legal document?' he asked with
mocking interest.
'This is a legal matter. The language can't help but go with it.' Julia
hoped her fragile patience didn't come over in her voice.
'A simple admission of guilt would fit the bill, I rather think.'
'I have nothing to be guilty about, Mr Kane,' she reminded him
firmly. 'I am looking into your problem, which does not concern


me personally, perhaps I should point out, instead of causing you
further delay until Mr Thomas is available.'
'All rightall rightno need to get on your high horse,' he said
dismissively. 'Sowhat have you got to say?'
Julia was not going to start explaining over the phone. 'I'd prefer to
see you tomorrow morning, if that's possible.'
'What's wrong with now, since you've already broken into my
evening?' He was still, apparently, deaf to her suggestion that she
was doing him a favour.
'I have things to show you,' she said. 'It really would be better if
you could make a short time available tomorrow.'
'It would certainly have to be a short time.' He sounded as if he
was flicking over the pages of an appointments book. 'I'm pretty
well tied up all day.
On the dot of nine, maybe? At Thomas's office? That seems to be
the only chance.'
Julia swallowed nervously. There was one other thing she wanted
to swing her way. 'If I came to Wyngates,' she suggested
persuasively, 'it would probably save you a little time, since you
have such a busy day.'
'How obliging of you, Miss Sinclair,' he said smoothly. 'It would
also rule out the possibility which I'm sure concerns you more
than my convenienceof dirt being dished on your own doorstep.
However, it would suit me very well. Shall we say eight forty-five,
then? Here at Wyngates?'


Julia was thankful that he couldn't see her pink cheeks. 'Thank
you. I'll be there.'
She was about to hang up when his voice halted her hand. 'And
Miss Sinclair -'
'Yes?'
'When it comes to business, I am quite impervious to feminine
charms, so don't get your hopes too high, will you?'
This time she did put the phone down with a clatter that she hoped
would make his ear sting for minutes.
The years had certainly not mellowed him. He was every bit as
autocratic as he had threatened to be in his twenties when they had
first crossed swords. For a moment, irritatingly, her memory
flashed her a picture, not of that particular meeting, but of the
shabby tennis-courts at Wyngates, brought to dazzling life during
Warren Kane's visits to his uncle. A secret observer, she hadn't had
eyes for any of the othersonly for Warren himself, long-limbed,
graceful in play, devastatingly handsome to her teenage eyes. She
had gone to sleep each night thinking of him, and the image of his
lean, suntanned face, his thick, rebellious hair, his vivid, laughing
blue eyes had haunted her dreams. Even if she had come out from
her leafy hiding place, he wouldn't have seen her, of course. Not
really seen her. He and his assembly of young gods hadn't seen
undersized, under-endowed teenagers as she had been at that time.
And when circumstances had made him see her that one ghastly
time, look what had happened. She had hated him that night, and
she could certainly see no reason to think more kindly of him now.
But she had allowed him to needle her far more than was wise just
now. She would have to guard her temper and her tongue, for
Harcourt's sake.



The sun roused Julia from a deep sleep she had been late falling
into, dazzling on her face through the gap she had left in the
curtains. She pulled on her jade tracksuit and went for a jog round
her usual circuit, along the river path and back eventually down
the undulating lane linking the cottage to the B-road half a mile
away.
Maggie and her husband lived in the next cottage along Vanners
Lane, a quarter of a mile from Julia's. As she ran past, Maggie was
just drawing back the curtains, yawning hugely.
'You disgusting fitness freak!' she called down.
Julia slowed her pace sufficiently to answer. 'Didn't sleep too well
last night. I've a call to make on my way in, Maggie. See you
around ten, I imagine.'
Maggie's cat, Jenkins of the one ear, named after the sea captain
who had suffered a similar loss at the hands of the Spaniards,
darted out from the hedge and ran on ahead of Julia for a yard or
two, then pretended to have remembered something and walked
back towards the cottage, black tail erect.
'Poseur!' she told him. They were old friends.
In spite of her run she had little desire for breakfast. The feeling in
the pit of her stomach was very different from hunger. She forced
down a small dish of muesli then finished getting ready, trying to
boost her courage by listening to the 'Today' programme on Radio
Four as she dressed, but her mind didn't seem able to concentrate
and the presenters' jokes fell on deaf ears.


Two minutes before time she was parking her little 2 CV in front
of Wyngates' heavy oak door. An unknown housekeeper let her
innot a local woman. No doubt Warren Kane had an army of
staff ready to follow him round the country and pander to his every
want. Mr Kane was in the conservatory, the housekeeper said
chattily. He liked to have breakfast in there since it had the best of
the morning sun.
He was sitting at a glass-topped cane table, surrounded by
matching cane chairs with chintz cushions, and he was, as
yesterday, well-groomed Savile Row groomed. His hair was
slightly damp from his morning shower, she noticed as he rose to
greet her. This morning he was urbane verging on pleasant, and
Julia did not trust him an inch.
'Sit down,' he told her. 'You'll have coffee? It's freshwaiting for
you.'
'Thank you. White, no sugar,' she told him. It might be a useful
prop to help her through the interview, and the smell was tempting.
He served her, then frowned, looking down at her. 'You know, I
keep thinking I know you from somewhere,' he said, frightening
the living daylights out of her.
'I've a very average face,' she said. 'There must be hundreds like it.'
'Oh, no. . .' he said, leaning back in his chair and looking
assessingly at her. 'You have several highly memorable features.
Eyes the colour of beech leaves in autumnmost unusual. Hair
that grows from a very individual, obstinate swirl in the middle of
your foreheadand drives your hairdresser mad if she attempts to
fight it, I imagine.' His eyes moved slowly over her face. 'And skin
many a woman would pay a fortune to haveand not succeed in


buying. Though it has its disadvantages. There must be times when
you would prefer it not to give away exactly what you're feeling.'
Julia stirred her coffee busily. Already it was proving its
usefulness as a focus for her eyes. 'All this,' she said with an effort
at facetiousness, 'comes strangely from the man who, last night,
made sure I knew how little value he attached to feminine charms.'
'I said I was impervious to themnot that I was unaware of them.
Do take your jacket off if it's too warm for you in here,' he added
with oblique but deliberately taunting reference to her treacherous
skin once again.
Julia made a strong effort to get a firm hold of herself. There
should be a world of difference between a gob-smacked teenager
and a much wiser woman in her mid-twenties, but so far she
seemed to have reverted to the star-struck state. She dragged her
mind back to business and picked up her briefcase to rest it on the
table, but as yet she did not open it.
'I think the first thing I'd better do is tell you exactly where Mr
Thomas is at the moment,' she said. 'It must have seemed as
though I was being unnecessarily secretive yesterday. You'll be
receiving a letter later this week, as will all his clients, so a day or
two's advance warning doesn't really matter. Harcourt is in hospital
suffering from a fairly severe stroke.'
He was perfectly still now, concentrating on her words and their
implications. 'I see. I'm sorry to hear that. How badly is he
affected?'
'Quite badly. Speech confusion, restricted movement. . .and of
course a general feeling of having been hit by a double-decker
bus.'


'Is he being well looked after?'
'Very well.'
'And he's recovering?'
'So I am told. But it's slow. He's not young.'
'Of course.' There was a pause, while Julia dared to let herself
relax slightly. His reaction had been sympathetic, concerned even.
Not for long. 'Of course,' he reflected, 'that's the position now.
When he slipped up over my affairs, he was both younger and
more fit. Sowhat have you come up with in the course of your
last night's research?'
Julia took the papers out of her briefcase and began to go through
them, handing them to him as she spoke.
'You were right. Harcourt was certainly aware of Mr Kane's
agreement to the road-straightening scheme. This letter is from the
planning department to Mr Kane, and here at the foot of it is the
pencilled note he added to Harcourt asking him to deal with it. He
says, "Form signed and enclosed for you to deal with. See to the
valuation they ask for. No doubt they'll play around with the
scheme until well beyond my time, if I know the council."'
'Rather prophetic,' Warren Kane said as he took the letter and read
through it.
'And this,' Julia said, after a glance to check his expression, 'this is
Harcourt's covering letter to the planning department when he
forwarded the signed "No Objection" form. He says, by the way,
that, since there is no fixed date for the scheme, any valuation of


the land had better be done at a more relevant time. I presume that
nothing has been done about that?'
'Obviously.' He read through the second letter then referred again
to the first. 'I see from the dates on these two letters that they were
written very shortly after I entered into joint ownership of
Wyngatesat some considerable cost, I might add. The place had
got pretty run down in its last years as a school, and it was only
thanks to the capital I injected that it was possible to have it
brought up to a high enough standard for the management training
people to consider it. No doubt, in your travels through the
archives last night, that fact did not escape your notice?'
All Julia's hopes were on what she now had to say. She was forced
to acknowledge to herself that Warren Kane still seemed set on
'correction' 'revenge'whatever he liked to call it. It was time to
pull out all the stops.
'I'm not trying to cover up the fact that a lapse occurred,' she said.
'But when I began to wonder how such a thing could have
happened when Harcourt was normally so scrupulously careful, I
realised that there was an explanation.'
He smiled, but it was not a pleasant smile. There was no warmth in
it, only watchful scepticism. 'Ah! Now comes the great whitewash,
I presume.'
Julia's eyes reproached him. 'No whitewash, Mr Kane. I said
"explanation". Both these letters were written in September, ten
years ago. In that month, in that year, Harcourt's wife died.
Harcourt was devastated. I was only a child, but I remember it
vividly. It was the first time I had encountered adult grief.'
He considered her words for a moment, looking at her, and she
could see her twin selves in his eyes. 'While I might feel a definite


sympathy for a man's circumstances,' he said at last, 'in no way do
I condone the negative effect of his reaction to them on my own
affairs. Private and working life should be kept in separate
compartmentsthat's the first rule for anyone setting up in
business.'
Stalemate. He had listened, he had considered, but he was
absolutely unbending.
'Surely you can see how awful it would be to bring all this up and
fling it in accusation at someone in Harcourt's state of health?'
Julia pleaded.
'Undesirable, I agree.'
'Not only would it worry him beyond beliefand at present that
just must not happen,' she said, pressing home what appeared to be
a slight advantage, 'but it would bring back to his mind all the
unhappiness of that time. Surely you don't want to do all that to a
lonely, tired old man.'
'Who persisted until a couple of weeks ago in running a business
where similar errors could affect other clients as adversely as they
have affected me.'
Julia pressed on, doggedly determined. 'He won't work again. He
knows that. It's all arranged. The practice is going to be taken
over.'
'Then surely there is a solution to satisfy you. Harcourt Thomas
left in peace. My complaint taken to the new people. I'm sure,' he
added with irony, 'that if they have as strong an urge to protect the
man as you have, they'll accept responsibility without a second
thought.'


'As you would, I suppose, if you were in their position,' Julia said
disbelievingly.
'Wellsomebody has to.'
They stared at each other, his eyes firm, hers growing desperate.
'You know perfectly well that Harcourt would be brought into it. It
would be no better than tackling him directly. I do not want him to
be faced with something that would be better forgotten. mere are
enough present complications to wrestle with.'
'As I know only too wellas far as my own case is concerned,' he
said sharply, shifting his chair in irritation.
'Mr Kane -' Julia leaned forward on the table, passionate in her
defence of Harcourt 'Harcourt Thomas has, somehow, to get
back the will to live and to cope with life. Look at him now. His
self-confidence is at a low ebb. His strength likewise. He has
nobody to help him. And look at yourself. You are young, rich,
powerful, with a business empire establishedto quote your own
wordsin "five prime areas of the British Isles". Can't you be big
enough to forgive and forget a ten-year-old error that, when all is
said and done, is only delaying briefly what you want to do at
Wyngates? The council will compensate you for the land. All it's
going to cost you is a bit of reorganisation, a bit of patience, and a
certain amount of human kindness.'
He stood up suddenly, his eyes cold. 'I think it is time to add to
your knowledge of the situation, Miss Sinclair. Come with me.'
Still breathing deeply from the intense plea she had made, Julia got
up and followed him out of the conservatory. Without speaking, he
led her across the wide lawns and through the rose and water


gardens to the old tennis-courts with their screen of thick, high
laurel hedges shielding them from Rushbrook Lane.
He stopped there, still not speaking, allowing her time to take in
what she was seeing. The old tennis-courts, she had thought as
she'd worked out the direction in which he had been taking her.
Only here, in front of her, were three spanking-new green-surfaced
tarmac courts, enclosed in immaculate, high green wire netting.
They were freshly marked out and ready for play. Only no one
would ever play on them, because the newly routed Rushbrook
Lane would go right through them in three months' time. Beyond
the courts was a little clubhouse, part stone, part wood. Certainly
not the sort of building that took apart at its seams for easy
removal elsewhere.
'Oh, dear. . .' Julia said helplessly.
'"Oh, dear" indeed!' Warren Kane mocked savagely. 'Add up the
cost of all you see, Miss Sinclair, and then tell me exactly how
much human kindness I should need to swallow all that and keep
smiling. I'll give you a few figures to be going on with. I've just
paid between forty and fifty thousand pounds for the facelift to the
courts. Add on another twenty for the clubhouseand take it from
there.'
'Why on earth didn't you wait?' she said, only to have him
practically jump down her throat in reply.
'Because I had no knowledge of any reason to wait. That's the
whole point of my case against Thomas. And don't tell me the
council will compensate me for all this lot.' He waved an angry
arm. 'You know as well as I do that, once intention to purchase has
been notified, the landowner knows that anything he puts on the


land in question will have to come down and nobody will pay him
a penny for it.'
Julia bit her lip in concentration. There had to be something
some way out of this mess. Nothing was beyond solution. 'You
could appeal against the road,' she said. 'You, as present owner of
the land, haven't agreed to it.'
'Save your breath,' he said shortly. 'What kind of solicitor are you
if you can suggest that as a solution? In the first place, it would be
a waste of time. I could protest and appeal till doomsday, and
they'd still slap a compulsory purchase order on the land. In the
second place, if I object to delay to my plans, how much more
delay do you think an appeal would cause? Even if it were worth
doing it would be self-defeating.'
He looked at his watch and swore under his breath. 'I'm going to be
late. I think we've said all we have to say.' He began striding away
from the tennis-courts. Julia ran after him and grabbed him by the
sleeve.
'I'm not going to let you hurt Harcourt like this, do you hear?'
He looked down into her flushed face and the golden-brown eyes
blazing up at him, and he stopped. 'What is it between you and
thisI was going to say "elderly protector", but it's the other way
round, isn't it? What has he got to keep you hanging round after
himall through the years when you should have been having
your fun with people of your own age? Surely you -'
She lashed out to hit his face as he looked down at her, implying
with voice and eyes something that dirtied an innocent friendship
that had meant so much to her. He was too quick for her, though,
and caught her wrist in mid-air, grabbing the other one for safe
measure.


'Don't ever say anything like that again,' she spat at him. 'Harcourt
is my friend. Have you no friends who would fight to the death for
you?'
His blue eyes seemed to soften as he looked searchingly at her
upturned face. 'None quite like you,' he said, letting her go and
brushing down his jacket as though she might have left the debris
of her anger on it.
'What makes all this worse,' she said helplessly, attempting
conciliation, because her loss of temper wasn't going to get her
anywhere, 'is the fact that I'm due to go out and join my parents in
New Zealand. I can't leave Harcourt with a mess like this to sort
out, can I?'
'How long are you going out there for?' he asked, as though the
question had special relevance.
'I don't know,' she said impatiently. 'Six months officially, but who
knows? I may decide to stay. My parents would certainly like me
to. I should be there now. I'm only hanging on here because of
Harcourt's illness. And now this.'
His face closed resolutely again. 'I'm sorry if my minor problems
inconvenience you, Miss Sinclair. But someone is going to have to
pay.' He began walking through the water garden.
Julia dodged round in front and stopped him. 'Listenplease
listen!' she said urgently.
'I've listened far longer than I intended.' He stopped because the
path was narrow and she was barring it. Short of stepping into the
lily pool to walk round her, stopping was his only option.
'There is something I could do. . .' she said.


'Dip into your piggy bank and come up with the odd seventy
thousand? Be realistic.'
'I am being realistic, if you'd only listen.'
He threatened to move forward, but she held her ground. 'To be
perfectly frank, Miss Sinclair,' he said shortly, 'I've had enough of
this loyalty kick of yours. Words cost nothing. All your fine-
sounding pleas for Harcourt Thomas leave me cold, because you're
not the one who is going to pay for them. I amif you get your
way. Noware you going to get out of my path or do you want
me to dump you in the pond? One way or the other, I'm leaving for
my first appointment.' He shot back the cuff of his immaculate
white shirt to consult his watch. 'And I'm already fifteen minutes
late.'
'I'll pay for Harcourt's mistake,' Julia said, her face doggedly
determined, one hand outstretched to stop his advance. 'Ohnot in
kind. I'm not stupid. But in action. You need someone to represent
you against the council. I'm a solicitor, and I care about the issue.
Let me be your representative.'
A scornful smile played briefly on his face. 'You rate your services
highly if you balance them against what I stand to lose.'
'And you overstate your loss. There will be a substantial sum in
compensation. I could ensure that the council paid more than
adequately.'
'That would happen anyway. And it would be for the land, not for
what I've regrettably spent on it.'
But he was listening to what she said. He had stopped trying to
edge her out of his way now. Julia summoned up all her resources.


'There were tennis-courts on the land when the council surveyed it.
They would have to compensate you for those.'
He frowned. 'Broken-down, pitted wrecks of courts. They'll be
well aware of that when they calculate their compensation.'
'But you are having to reconstruct elsewhere. They'll have to take
that into account. Pleaselet me do it. I know most people in the
planning department to begin with. That's the first step on the way
to a satisfactory settlement. And you'd have no legal costs. Please.
. .'
He looked down at her, and she caught the flicker of a different
expression in his eyes. Could it be reluctant admiration? 'You're a
persistent little devil, aren't you?'
'And I would be with the council, believe me!'
He pushed his hands deep in his pockets and turned to look out
over the rosy lilies on the pond while Julia held her breath and
watched his stern profile. Then he faced her again.
'If you did take this on, it would be for the whole thing. If you
claim you're going to compensate me, I'd hold you to it. I'd not
settle for less than full compensation, one way or another. Are you
prepared for that?'
Julia swallowed. For the past half-hour the issue had been
dominant. Saving Harcourt worry was all. But now she was
realising again who this man was with whom she was entering into
an agreementan agreement she didn't really know how she was
going to honour.


'I'm prepared to give you my services until you are satisfied,' she
said, then, realising the ambiguity of her words, she added,
blushing, 'My legal services.'
'Why, Miss Sinclair!' he mocked. 'What other kind of services did
you think might interest me?'
'I only thought we should fully understand each other,' she
maintained firmly. To hell with her flushed cheeks. 'After all,
you've only got to read The Merchant of Venice to know how
important the interpretation of words can be.'
'And you men and women of the law are only too good at
manipulating them,' he said. 'How do I know that you will keep
your word in this particular case?'
Julia held out her hand. 'I'll give you my hand on it. I shall keep
my promise.'
He studied her face, then looked down at the slender, pink-tipped
fingers and, albeit with a trace of reluctance, took them in his. His
clasp was firm, and he did not let her go quickly. Instead, he
paused, and raised her hand in salute to his lips, looking at her all
the time with those burning blue eyes.
'And there's my pledge that I will keep you to it,' he said. Briskness
took over. 'See yourself outand report back as soon as you have
something to report. The sooner, the better.'
She made an effort and stopped her thoughts spinning wildly
away. 'I can arrange for the valuation to be done?' she called after
him.
'Anything you think necessary. Only see to it yourself. I can't be
tied down to times for appointments with any old local Tom, Dick


and Harry.' He disappeared through the shrubbery into the rose
garden.
As though the world had been silent and had suddenly come to
life, Julia became aware of the garden sounds around herbird-
song, the gentle plunking trickle of water from the shell fountain in
the middle of the lily pool, the rustle of leaves. . .and the thudding
of her own heart.'
She realised that she was holding the fingers of her right hand so
that the back of it, which Warren Kane had so unexpectedly
kissed, was uppermost. Slowly she brought it down to her side and
hid it in the fold of her skirt. But as she walked back to the house
to collect her briefcase, she was still aware of the gentle imprint of
his lips burning on her skin.
She hoped, desperately, that she was equal to the task for which
she had fought, and which, suddenly, seemed so enormous and so
frightening.



CHAPTER THREE
'You look tired,' Harcourt said as Julia was leaving after her
lunchtime visit two days later.
'And you're speaking my lines!' she told him. 'You're the invalid.
I'm fine.'
'Too much work. My work.'
She came back from the door and gave his shoulder a gentle,
reproving shake. 'Nonsense. The work's pretty well finished.
Maggie and I just sit gossiping and drinking coffee all dayand
some old philanthropist actually pays us for doing it. He's the one
you should be worrying about. If he's mad enough to do that, he
needs all the worry he can get.'
A lop-sided smile rewarded her. 'Maybe on Monday, then, James
Price could come and. . .view?'
'Visit? Would you like him to do that?'
'Like?' Harcourt looked sceptical. 'Not exactly. But it's time.'
From his point of view, maybe. But from hers, Monday was too
soon. She wouldn't have all the answers by then. Julia squeezed his
shoulder reassuringly. 'Leave it until Sunday to decide. See how
you feel then. James isn't pressing for you to do anything. He
knows it will all be done in due course.'
He sighed with a touch of relief. 'If you say so.'
* * *


Saying was one thing. Saying was easy. She had said plenty, and
with supreme confidence, to Warren Kane, but getting down to
sorting out his problems was a different matter altogether.
If she looked tired to Harcourt, Julia thought, it was from the
amount of persuasive power she had been exerting during the past
couple of days over the Wyngates business.
The land had been valued and the sum quoted was highly
satisfactory, without causing eyebrows in the council house to rise
too dramatically. There would be no problem over thatbut
Warren Kane had pointed out that that figure was irrelevant.
On the subject of the tennis-courts, Julia's friendly contacts in the
planning department had answered very cautiously indeed. The
state of the courts at the time of notification to purchase was well
documented. They were classed as 'almost unusable', and the
official with whom she had discussed the question said, off the
record, that he doubted that any useful offer would be made. 'He
was going to have to spend a lot of money on those courts,' he told
Julia. 'Nobody is going to agree to the handing out of money on
the scale your man seems to expect. Does he think we're a charity
or something?'
She had worked on him to the best of her ability, but now it was
going to be a matter of waiting until the appropriate committee had
met and deliberated. In the meantime she would be doing her best
to find a precedent to add power to her arm. Warren Kane wouldn't
like having to wait around, but she had better let him know what
had happened so far, she supposed.
The housekeeper answered the phone. Mr Kane was away all day,
she told Julia, but he had left word that, if Miss Sinclair phoned, he
would see her over dinner at Wyngates that evening.


Julia hesitated. 'I really only need a short time with him. If you tell
me what time Mr Kane will have finished eating, I'll come to the
house for then.'
The housekeeper sounded as though it was as much as her job was
worth to make any variation to the suggested order of things. 'He
may have other arrangements for later on this evening, Miss
Sinclair. He did specifically say "over dinner"and he always
means exactly what he says.'
For entirely different reasons the words brought no comfort to
Julia. 'Very well. What time shall I be there?'
'Mr Kane always eats at seven-thirty unless he makes other
arrangements.'
Mr Kane is a fussy, habit-ridden dictator, Julia thought irritably.
'I'll make sure I don't keep him waiting,' she said sweetly.

The brief conversation must have weighed on her mind, because
she drove up the drive to Wyngates much too early, and, not
wanting to be reproached by the housekeeper for her fifteen
minutes' shortfall, she parked out of sight of the house's main
windows and on impulse walked along the path that led to the
orchards.
It was a warm evening, the sunlight lying in golden pools on the
grass and throwing long, dancing shadows of the laden trees.
Comice pears, plums and apples filled the air with sweet scent.
The shrubbery around Julia's old home had grown up to such an
extent that the house was scarcely visible from here, but the
dogwood busha huge one nowmarked the spot where she and


her foster-brothers and -sisters used to squeeze through the fence.
Julia's aim had been to get nearer the tennis-courts with their
attractions. The others had had their sights set on the forbidden
fruits of the orchard.
The 'fosters', as Julia privately called them, had been a lovable
bunch of hell-raisers that particular year, the year when she and
Warren Kane had first crossed paths. More than once the
Wyngates gardener had chased them out of his territory. More than
one warning had been issuedthe last one being duplicated to
Julia's parents, who had added their threats of dire punishment to
the ones coming from Wyngates.
The fruit stealers, knowing when they had reached the limit of
everyone's indulgence, had not offended again, but Julia, who had
been entirely innocent at least, of the offence in questionhad
been accused of theft and given short, sharp shock treatment
without the opportunity to explain herself.
Which tree had it been that her kitten, too young to be allowed to
wander, had clawed its way up that night?
Julia walked over in what she thought was the right direction, her
mind firmly locked into the past. Yesthis was the one, its
branches heavy with the russet and gold of Cox's apples. They
were still her favourites. In fact, the dress she was wearing this
evening was one whose dreamy, flower-print colours were
reminiscent of the fruit she had been accused of stealing, so at least
the experience had not given her a hang-up of that nature. When it
came to the man, though, she was not so sure of her subconscious.
She ran a hand over the rough bark, gazing up at the branches
where Cleo had hidden, well out of the trouble her four wandering
paws had caused. Julia had been standing here, looking up just like


this reaching up for a hold to haul herself up after Cleo, in
factwhen Warren Kane's voice had made her jump out of her
fourteen-year-old skin.
'Looking for something?' he'd said unpleasantly, suddenly there in
front of her, closer than he had ever been, his magnificence taking
her breath away and leaving her agape like a fish. 'Could it be
more of our apples, after all the warnings you lot have been given?'
He had jumped to a totally wrong conclusion, but she hadn't been
able to get out the words to answer him, and as he'd warmed to his
subject he'd given her no further chance.
'Tell me,' he'd gone on, 'just how far does your lack of respect for
property go? Would you, for instance, put your hand in my pocket
and steal the money in it? Would you walk into the house up there
and help yourself to whatever took your fancy? Do you go in for
shoplifting? NowI bet that little occupation gives you a kick! No
skulking round when you're pretty sure there'll be no one to see
you, but pocketing things right under the shopkeeper's nose. . . The
spice of excitement added to the attraction of illegal acquisition. . .'
On and on he'd gone with his scathing, adult sarcasm, shrivelling
her into confusion so that she'd ended up looking as ashamed and
guilty as though she really had come into the garden to plunder his
fruit trees.
If it had been anyone else but him, she would have retained
sufficient self-possession to state her case, to coax Cleo out of
hiding in proof, to reject the unfair condemnation. But the fact that
it was her idol had complicated her reaction. She had felt fear and
humiliation and anger, but she had also felt sheer, shaking outrage
that she should be so misjudged by the man she had secretly
worshipped and it was the latter emotion that had choked her
words before they could have been uttered.


When he'd come to the end of his tirade, her only desire had been
to hide herself from him, and, as she'd run stumbling for the gap in
the fence, his following laughter at her ignominious retreat had
been the last nail in the coffin of young love. In that instant, love
had turned to loathing. She'd hated him, and from that moment on
she'd done her best never so much as to look in the direction of
Wyngates.
Cleo had found her own way home, the innocent trigger of an
experience for which Julia had not held a grudge against her. But
the memory of Warren and the way he had looked at her and
finallymost humiliatinglylaughed at her, had gone on hurting
a long, long time.
And now she was actually working for that very man. What a
strange, ironic, topsy-turvy world it was.
* * *
'Looking for something?'
The same voice, the same words, and exactly the same place.
There was also the same disproportionate stab of panic going
through Julia. An automatic reflex, fuelled by past memories,
made her spin round so quickly that the slender heel of her bronze
shoe caught on the uneven turf and she lurched, losing balance,
right into Warren Kane, who had silently come up behind her on
the soft grass.
His arms gripped her and he laughed down into her face, but there
was no echo of the past mockery. This time his laughter was
surprised, gently amused. 'Hey! Steady!' he said. 'I didn't mean to
startle you like that.'


Her shoe had come off, and, letting go of her arms, he stooped and
slipped it back on to her foot again while Julia suffered agonies of
doubt. Had he remembered? Was that why he had used those very
words? Or had he merely spoken the kind of meaningless platitude
that anyone might use in the circumstances?
'I was miles away just then,' she said, testing him.
'So you appeared to be. What were you doing? Trying to guess the
weight of the crop?'
She began to breathe a little more easily. He hadn't realised who
she was. It shouldn't have mattered so much after all this time, but
it did. 'Just looking at the trees. I was rather early.'
'And I was late. I saw you on my way up the drive. What a very
pretty dress you are wearing.' His eyes, frankly admiring, took in
the deep, round neckline and figure-hugging bodice, the graceful,
soft folds of the skirt. 'It's the first time I've seen you out of
uniform, so to speak.'
Oh, no, it isn't, Julia thought. You've seen me in jeans and
sweatshirt with my hair in a pony-tail, only that time you didn't see
the real me at allonly a cause of displeasure.
She managed a smile. 'I must say that I do get sick of good black
suits, but it has to be. I couldn't go into court in anything like this
and expect to be taken seriously.'
'Whereas in your good black you are a very frightening person
indeed,' he said with mock solemnity. 'Shall we go in now? I'll
give you a drink and crave your indulgence for a few minutes
while I shower and change.'


As they walked towards the house, Julia felt uncomfortably aware
of his physical presence as she had certainly not been in the heated
dialogue of their last meeting. It had been stupid of her to go to the
very place that would awaken memories she could well do
without. As he stood back to let her go ahead of him on a narrow
part of the path, she felt her flesh tense as though he might once
again break into mocking laughter at her unprotected back view.
'You got my copy of the land valuer's survey?' she asked, trying to
get her mind away from the physical and on to a business plane.
'I did, but I have no desire to talk about it yet. I've had a hell of a
day, and to crown it I drove back from London on roads that
seemed to be in the course of construction rather than completed.
Our business can wait until I have more enthusiasm for it.'
In the house, he showed her into a pleasant sitting-room with doors
open on to the garden at the rear, and went over to a music centre.
'All classical, I'm afraid. Anyone in particular interest you?'
'Schubert, maybe. Anything of his you like.'
After a moment or two, the rhapsodic sound of violin and piano
flooded out.
'Sonata in A major,' he said.
'D 574.'
He raised his eyebrows and nodded approval of her recognition of
his choice. Patronising creature, Julia thought.


'What would you like to go with it?' he asked, going over to the
drinks table. 'I see Margaret has got a bottle of Moselle on ice.
How about a glass of that?'
'I'd like that.' Julia watched him remove the foil and draw the cork.
Unbidden, a trace of her past admiration floated into her mind to
haunt her. Whatever she might think of his actions and words and
attitudes, he was still decidedly easy on the eye as he concentrated
on pouring the wine into two fragile crystal glasses, then came
towards her.
'All power to that legal brain of yours,' he said, handing her one of
the glasses and drinking deeply from his after raising it to her.
'And now I'll leave you briefly. I shan't keep you waiting long.
Help yourself to more of the Moselle when you're ready.'
Julia prepared herself for an enjoyable, unobserved look at the
room she was in. She had never been inside the house before, and
she was interested to see it.
'I should have told you -' Warren Kane said, reappearing in the
doorway, and once again as he spoke she jumped out of her skin.
The Moselle slopped over and down the front of her dress. He
pulled a folded handkerchief from his pocket and seemed to be
about to use it on her person. Julia stood up quickly and took it
from him with an embarrassed murmur of thanks.
'I was going to say,' he said, as he watched the mopping-up
operations, 'that the cloakroom is across the hall if you should
want it. What an unfortunate effect I seem to be having on you this
evening. I hope it isn't a bad omen.'
'I think I'd better finish cleaning-up across the hall, then,' Julia said
with an attempt at dignity, which she immediately spoiled by
almost running past him from the room.


What a fool she was being this evening, she told herself as she
sponged the wine from her dress. If she had still been a fourteen-
year-old, she could not have been more gauche. He must think her
an absolute idiot. This absolutely had to be the end of the
nonsense. If he judged her by the way she had behaved so far
tonight, he wouldn't think her fit to represent a flea, never mind the
affairs of so important a man as Warren Kane.
'How's the dress?' he asked, his return to the sitting-room
coinciding with the end of the Schubert, which had had the desired
effect of calming Julia.
'Fine.' She smiled. 'And that was definitely my last trick for this
evening.'
'I'm glad to hear it.' He looked down at her, his blue eyes mildly
amused. 'You know, just because a controversial business matter
has brought us together and will no doubt go on featuring quite
strongly in our meetings, I see no reason for that to dictate a bad
relationship between us. Some of the people I've fought hardest
have been the ones I've most admired.'
'Even if the outcome of the fight hasn't been exactly what you've
wanted?' Julia asked.
'Ahbut that doesn't often happen, I must warn you. What about
you? Can you accept a bad outcome with good grace?'
Julia's golden-brown eyes looked steadily at him. 'I think I'm
inclined to be the sort of person who goes on negotiating until a
mutually satisfactory solution is reached.' A sudden memory
triggered her attractive smile. 'I saw an American sit-com that
beautifully illustrated the value of compromise the other night.
Two kids were fighting over a blanket, and the mother snatched it


away, saying, "OK. Fight to the death and the winner gets the
blanket!"'
He laughed. 'And for that diplomatic illustration of the dark side of
winning, you deserve your dinner. Shall we go through? We're in
the conservatory again. The dining-room seems far too large for
two, and in any case I'm particularly fond of my semi-tropical
corner.'
His hair was damp from the shower, and he had changed into dark
fawn trousers and a fine oatmeal cashmere jersey. It was the first
time she had seen him 'out of uniform' too, Julia thought, deciding
as she passed through the door he held open for her that the scent
of clean, soap-washed skin was as nice as any produced by the
glossy toiletries he no doubt indulged in when he had more time to
be bothered with them.
Dusk was falling and the conservatory was a far more mysterious
place than it had been in the sunlight of her morning visit.
Edwardian globe lamps shone through the leaves, and the glass-
topped table was now covered with a burnt-orange linen cloth on
which shining white and gold china reflected the gentle glow of
three white candles in a gilt candelabrum. Although Warren Kane
seemed to have washed away the tension of his day, he was still in
no hurry to get down to business.
'How did you get to know old Thomas, then?' he asked, after an
initial enquiry about Harcourt's health.
'He was a family friend. He used to -' She had been going to say
that Harcourt dealt with all the legal side of the fostering her
parents had done, but that would have been far too informative.
'He used to look after my parents' business before they emigrated.'
'Why didn't you go with them? How old were you at the time?'


'Eighteen. Going on nineteen, actually. And I didn't go because I
had a university place waiting for me.'
'And I expect there was something more than a university place
keeping you here. A boyfriend?'
'Strangely enough, a woman can find career prospects every bit as
absorbing as a man,' Julia told him. 'It was law, not callow youths,
that attracted me.'
He sat back, twisting his glass of Bordeaux round in his fingers. 'I
guess that attitude didn't last long with all those legal students
around. Men still predominate in that discipline, I think.'
'Truebut half of them were dull and boring, while the more
exciting ones had a touch of the rogue about them. None of them
held my attention more than briefly.'
'What a wise young lady!' he said, his eyes mocking her over the
rim of his glass.
'And you are an even wiser man, I presume?' she said, feeling that
the inquisition had been too one-sided so far. If he wanted a bit of
light-hearted conversation, so be it, but she wasn't going to be the
one on the receiving end of all the questions. 'I haven't heard any
mention of a Mrs Kane,' she went on, 'and I believe you have
several years' advantage over me in the life partner stakes. Do I
take it that your work has been all-absorbing too?'
'Not quite,' he said smoothly. 'I've had my share of brief
encountersnone with a fraction of the power of the one in the
golden oldie. Did you see it the other night on television?'
'I did.' Julia was surprised to hear that he had watched such a
tender, emotional film. 'In one way it dates, but in another it comes


up fresh every time, doesn't it?' She had gone through quite a few
tissues by the end of ityet again! It must be ghastly, she felt, to
fall so deeply in love with someone and know that it was
impossible for there to be a happy ending.
They talked on through the beef ragout that followed the smoked
salmon starter. Margaret cleared away the main course dishes and
served them bowls of delicious strawberries in Cointreau, leaving
coffee and cheese on the small side table. It was only then that the
conversation showed signs of turning to business, by which time
they were Julia and Warren to each other, and, perhaps partly due
to the strength of the wine, Julia was almost forgetting that it was
not a purely social occasion.
She was allowed to savour her strawberries in peace, but by the
time she had relished the last drop of juice there was no denying
that the social side was over. Warren was leaning towards her on
the table, arms loosely folded, eyes fixed expectantly on her.
'So,' he began. 'What have you got to tell me? The valuation seems
fair enough. No quibble about thatbut then, I didn't expect there
to be any. The problems lie elsewhere, don't they?'
Now for the crunch, Julia thought, steeling herself. 'I'd better go
and fetch my papers,' she said.
'And I'll get Margaret to clear everything but the coffee things,
then we won't be interrupted.'
When she came back, the pool of light round the table made her
think of somewhere prepared for an interrogation. She told herself
she was starting to be silly again and went straight into an account
of her findings.


'I haven't got any definite figures to present to you so far apart
from the end valuation, but I have had quite a long talk with one of
the senior men in the planning department on the subject of the
tennis-courts.'
'And I can guess from the hesitation in your voice that you haven't
got many words of comfort on that score,' Warren said.
'We really won't know until the committee has met -'
'Committees!' he cut in scornfully. 'If anything is more ably
designed to slow progress and put off decision-making than a
committee, I have yet to encounter it.'
'Local authority dictatorship might be a far worse prospect,' Julia
said reasonably. 'And in this case the progress is going to be fairly
quick. They meet next week, and they'll be ready to talk figures
then. Incidentally, I was given to understand that they would rush
through your amended plans, so there'll be no delay on that score.
However -'
'I thought there would be a "however",' he said with grim
satisfaction.
'However,' she repeated, feeling that she was fighting against a
tidal wave of opposition, quite unnecessarily, since she was as
eager as he was to get a solution that satisfied him, 'I must say that
my contact didn't hold out any strong hopes of full compensation.'
'As I thought.' He seemed in some infuriating, contrary way almost
pleased about it. Julia had to damp down exasperation at his
attitude.
'He said, strictly off the record, that he thought the best settlement
you could expect would be the difference between the cost of


resurfacingwhich they know would have to be doneand the
cost of new courts sited somewhere else on your land.'
'And that, if it's the best you can come up with, would leave a fine
old deficit to make upfor someone to make up,' he amended
pointedly.
'Which is why I spent the latter half of this afternoon looking into
something which might do just that,' Julia said, taking another
paper from her case and trying not to look too pleased with the
brainwave she had had late in the day. 'It depends very much on
what you intend doing with the marshy strip of ground at the
southern end of your land where it joins up with Alan Dexter's
fields.'
'Not a lot, obviously. From my point of view it's useless. What has
that got to do with anything?' He sounded rather tetchy now, and
she hurried on.
'Alan Dexter badly needs pipes laid on to bring water to those
fields. He's been wanting to go over to salad crops for a long time,
but his land down there is a pretty prohibitive distance from the
mains.'
'How on earth do you know all this?'
'I just do. People talk. I listen. This time what I've heard seems as
though it could come in useful.'
'The connection escapes me at the moment. Carry on, if you must.'
'Mr Dexter had someone from Kixton doing a bit of dowsing in the
hopes that there might be an underground natural supply, and
apparently there is, but not on his land. It's just over the boundary


on yours, quite near the surface, hence the marshy ground. If he
could be allowed to tap into it -'
'Nobody asked my permission to go trespassing over my land
playing around with sticks,' Warren said, cutting into the flow of
her enthusiasm.
'Ohcome off it!' Julia protested. 'It was only a few yards over the
fence. You can hardly call that trespassing.'
'In the same way that you could hardly call stringing someone up
on a short rope hanging them? The principle is the same in both
cases, I would have thought.'
'Wellregardless of niceties,' Julia said, feeling that it wouldn't
take long for her impatience to match and then outstrip his, 'that
was nothing to do with me. I only heard about it after the deed was
done. And some good could come of it.'
'Hm!' he snorted. 'I very much doubt that.'
'Because you haven't let me finish. I was going to say that if you
let him tap into the underground stream there, no doubt he'd pay
you well for the favour. It would save him thousands, after all.'
'Have you ever known a farmer ready to pay out?' he asked
sceptically. 'And it would cause endless complications. I don't
know that I want other people working on my land at the very
same time as all my own work is going on. There'll be quite
enough merry hell without Dexter's Heath-Robinson team joining
in.'
There was a silence.
'And now you're going to sulk, I suppose,' he said.


Julia's eyes flashed fire in the way that had caused one boy who'd
angered her to say that she had a touch of the lioness about her
when she lost her temper. 'I do not sulk. But I was certainly
thinking that you don't seem to be giving me a fair chance to
recoup your losses.'
'Just because I don't agree to the first hare-brained scheme you
come up with?'
'It isn't hare-brained. You haven't even given yourself time to think
about it properly. All you've done is go off on side-tracks about
trespassing and workmen clashingworkmen who won't even be
working on the same groundso heaven knows why there should
be any complications of that kind.'
He picked up a bowl of fruit and held it out towards her. 'Have one
of these. It'll give you something to gnash your teeth on.'
She looked from the fruit to him, momentarily speechless with
fury, and in that fiery second she saw a flash of enlightenment
kindle in his eyes. Slowly, staring incredulously at her, he put the
bowl down.
'WellI'll be damned!' he said. 'I knew I'd seen you before
somewhere, and that "if looks could kill" expression settles it.
That, plus the connection with these.' He picked an apple from the
bowl and turned it over in his hand, and Julia, sick with shock,
could tell that any minute now he would be roaring with laughter
at her. 'You're the apple-scrumper, aren't you? Parents emigrating.
. . The folk next door, weren't they? Why on earth didn't I make
the connection before?'
Julia was going hot and cold with humiliation. Here it was, the
moment she had dreaded, pouncing on her when she least expected
it. 'I don't know what you're talking about,' she said shakily.


'Oh, yes you do! Let me refresh your memory. A skinny little kid
with a pony-tail and a thing like a mousetrap on her teeth. We
didn't exactly hit it off, did we? I seem to remember giving you
something of a dressing-down.' Now he was really laughing.
'And utterly unfairly!' she stormed, ten years of nursed resentment
welling up to give her strength as she leapt to her feet. 'I didn't
touch a rotten one of your pukey apples!' she raged, amazed to
hear herself lapsing into the language of a fourteen-year-old and
powerless to stop it. Out it all poured as though she had rehearsed
itthe fosters, Cleo, his heinous jumping to conclusions.
'Good Lord! I certainly got to you, didn't I? Don't tell me you've
been festering away about it all these years!' He looked at her with
amusement that he didn't make the least effort to hide. 'I shall have
to re-vamp my attitude towards you. I don't want to bruise your
tender little feminine ego any further!'
Julia looked contemptuously at him. 'That remark stinks of
chauvinist piggery.' She began to gather up her papers. 'There
doesn't seem much point in prolonging this particular conversation.
You'll need time to snigger and get over it.' She shot another
withering look at him. 'At least the food was pleasant. Please thank
Margaret for that.'
He stood, stretching languidly. 'And is this all it takes for you to
give up on your great friend Harcourt? I thought you were made of
sterner stuff.'
'Who says I'm giving up on Harcourt?' she was quick to answer.
'I'm going home to think of something else, since you've rejected a
perfectly good scheme out of hand.'
'Who says I've rejected it?' he asked innocently.


'I shall of course reflect on itgive it the necessary thoughtful
consideration.'
'Well, you could have fooled me on that possibility,' she said,
marginally mollified.
'You don't have to run awayagain.' He stressed the word in case
she'd missed it as he followed her through the shadowy palms.
'I'm not running. I'm walking,' she answered curtly.
At the glass door through to the house he reached over her
shoulder and prevented her opening it.
'When I was a child,' he said, 'I used to play with a little girl who
had an old-fashioned nanny. Perhaps it won't surprise you too
much to hear that Tania and I foughtendlessly. Nanny Williams
had an unfailing remedy for every battle. I always had to kiss
Tania better.'
Before Julia could anticipate his move and back away, he had
leaned down and kissed her on the mouth, quickly and lightly. 'Old
habits die hard,' he said blandly, then he slid his hands under her
arms and pulled her towards himselfwhile she, papers in one
hand and briefcase in the other, was powerless to resistand
embarked on a much more thorough embrace.
Once I would have given the earth for him to do this, Julia thought
wildly before a strange madness flooded through her, making her
wonder for a moment whether it was nowor thenor whether
she was in this world or the next.
He released her, smiling at her confusion, oozing male self-
satisfaction. '"If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well,"so
Nanny Williams always told us.'


Julia called down a fate Nanny Williams little deserved as she
fumbled the door open. 'What makes you think that little
performance helps matters?' she flung over her shoulder at him.
'A little thing called animal instinct,' he said smugly. 'You can't
kiss a girl without knowing exactly how she's reacting to it. Her
mouth softens if she's enjoying it, and you can feel the reaction of
her body against yoursnot as obviously as the male's, of course,
but -'
'You can cut out the lecture on the biology of the human race,'
Julia told him scathingly. 'As far as I'm concerned, my connection
with you is purely cerebral.'
At the front door he made her pause again, refusing to open it.
'You stand on your dignity far too much,' he told her. 'All those
involved sentences and dreary words and dull clothes have got into
your blood. Let me kill two birds with one stone. I'd like to give
you a really first-rate night out on Saturday. Call it a little
something to wipe out those bad memories you've gotand a
chance to practise letting your hair down.'
'I already have a date for Saturday,' Julia told him coolly. 'So even
if I had the slightest wish to take up your offer, I couldn't.'
He ignored the insult, opening the door. 'Another time, then. To
quote your own little anecdote, sharing the blanket can be a whole
lot cosier than having it all to yourself and shivering.'
Julia cast an exasperated glance over her shoulder as he followed
her out to the car. 'Aren't you twisting the point of that story to suit
your own ends, rather?'
'It's a habit of mine.' He opened the door of the little 2 CV and
stood looking down at her after she had got in, his eyes empty of


amusement now. 'I need hardly say, I imagine, that all this
tomfoolery doesn't in any way alter the seriousness of the main
issue between us. I never joke about business.'
'I'm sure you don't,' Julia said bleakly as she switched on the
ignition.
'We'll meet again soon, obviously. Goodnight, Julia.'
She nodded briefly, but didn't answer as she drove off.
Running away again, he would call it, she supposed. She changed
gear unkindly, as though the poor little car were to blame in some
way.



CHAPTER FOUR
THE Charity Ball was a fairly sedate affair, with a band and
selection of music to suit the ages of the majority of ticket-buyers
and a buffet that younger and more vigorous dancers would have
found it hard to cope with.
If the atmosphere was sedate, at least the setting was out of this
world. The Laceys had lived at Barfield Hallplain Barfield to the
localssince Elizabethan times when the house was built, hanging
on by the skin of their teeth in the twentieth century by opening the
house to the public and keeping only one wing for their personal
use. The open days were hard work, but bearable as a means of
keeping a much-loved roof over the family's heads. The Charity
Ball was hard work too, but there was nothing Mr and Mrs Lacey
liked better than seeing the long gallery thronging with dancers
while the band perched aloft in the minstrels' gallery. The Barfield
gardens were uniquea lovely sunken garden packed with a riot
of herbaceous plants making a scented sun-trap near the house,
while beyond a crumbling, picturesque wall lay the arboretum in
which trees of every kind surrounded by velvety-fine turf were a
constant delight through the changing seasons.
Each year, no matter how tight finances were, Julia went to town
on her ball dress. She felt that Barfield deserved it. This year she
had settled for a glowing turquoise blue moir silk with a wide,
square neckline and extravagantly bouffant sleeves. A new
hairdresser in Kixton had done something very clever with her hair
after listening to Julia's description of the dress. He had taken it up
in a naughty-looking froth of curls on the crown and teased
forward feathery wisps of hair at each side to give a hint of period
look that somehow matched the dress.


Harcourt, when she had called in to give him a preview of her
finery early in the evening, had said that she'd reminded him of
one of the long gallery paintings of a Georgian Lacey ancestor,
and had told her to look out for it. In spite of his hints that he
would love to see her in her gown, Julia had agonised for quite a
time over the wisdom of calling in and reminding Harcourt that
this year he wouldn't be proudly leading her on to the dance floor
for her first dance of the evening before surrendering her to
younger partners. She had been so glad that she had come to the
hospital, though, when Harcourt had brought out of his pocket a
little black velvet box containing turquoise, topaz and diamond
drop-earrings which had been his wife's, and which he had
arranged for the bank manager to bring out of the safe deposit
specially for the occasion. How awful it would have been if his big
surprise, so carefully planned, had not come off.
'Oh! They're beautiful!' she'd said, turning from her reflection to let
him look at her when she had fixed them in her ears. 'Just the sort
of sparkling, delicate thing I needed. None of my jewellery looked
right, somehow, so I was going to do without. But, Harcourtare
you sure you really want me to wear them? What if I lose one?'
'You can do whatever you like with them. I'm not putting them in
the vault again. They're yours now. At least someone will have
given them an airing since the first young lady who owned them
last century. Eleanor, I suspect, always felt they were not quite
hercut?'
'Style?' Julia had supplied. 'Well, they're certainly mine. I love
them. Thank you so much, Harcourt. You're a poppet. I'll tell you
all about the ball tomorrow.'


She'd left him with a satisfied, proud smile on his face, a smile that
had banished for a time at least the hopeless expression she hated
seeing.

The raffle table was set against the carved oak main staircase at
Barfield. There was the usual basket of fruit, a selection of wines
and spirits, one or two pieces of rather nice crystal, a stoneware
cactus garden and various items supplied by local craftsmen and
women.
Julia was well placed to intercept everyone as they arrived, and she
did a roaring trade in strips of tickets. When the numbers got too
hot for her to handle, especially when it was a case of catching
everybody, Mrs Lacey stood at the long gallery doorway, adding a
gentle reminder about the raffle to her welcome.
Julia had just finished dealing with one big party when Mrs Lacey
came over to the table. 'I have another customer for you, Julia. I
don't suppose you have met Mr Kane.' Julia found herself looking
into Warren's eyes, and was as surprised as he. 'Julia Sinclair,
Warren Kane,' Mrs Lacey was going on, blissfully unaware of the
atmosphere. 'Julia is one of our regular supporters, Mr Kane, and
dying to sell you some tickets, I'm sure. I'm going to dash through
and see that the caterers are getting organised while there's a bit of
a lull out here, Julia.' She hurried away, still not realising that her
introduction had been superfluous.
'Well, this is a surprise,' Warren said. 'What are you doing here?'
'You heard what the lady said. I'm doing what I do every year. I
told you I had a date for tonight.'


'And I told you I wanted to give you a good night out. Isn't fate
obliging? Here we are in the same place after all.'
Julia was feeling decidedly odd under his scrutiny. She moved the
prizes around unnecessarily. 'Except that you're here to play,
presumably, and I'm here to work.'
'You don't look ready for worknot in the least.' His eyes
wandered over the golden skin of her shoulders and the swell of
her breasts against the shining turquoise. 'In fact, if I told you what
you did look ready for, Miss Sinclair dear, you'd no doubt try to
slap my face againso I'll just say how beautiful and how totally
un-solicitor-like you are this evening.'
'Oh, don't be such a smoothie, Warren,' Julia said impatiently,
aware that she was beginning to blush and hoping that her
heartbeat was not as visible as it felt. How ridiculous to be so
affected by his teasing, when she knew very well that it was only
one side of the coin and that the reverse side revealed absolute
ruthlessness. 'How many tickets can I sell you?'
He took a large-denomination note from his pocket. 'Give me a
couple. I don't want any change.'
Even if it was for the hospital, she wasn't accepting any
patronising gestures of masterful largesse from him. Ostentatiously
she counted out the number of tickets his note would legitimately
buy.
'At least you stand a fair chance of getting a return on your money,'
she said with sweet-surfaced venom as she gave him the pale pink
strips.
He folded them and slipped them in the pocket of his dinner-
jacket. 'Somebody should have given you a few good hidings in


your formative years, I think,' he told her briefly before
disappearing into the long gallery.
Julia felt ashamed of herself. Why on earth was she behaving like
this when common sense ought to dictate civility at least, if she
couldn't manage warmth. She was supposed to be appeasing the
man, for heaven's sake, and at the last two meetings with him she
had behaved in a way more likely to make him scrap the
agreement she'd talked him into.
Mrs Lacey came hurrying back from the supper-room. 'All's well.
We've got new caterers this year, so it's always a bit of a worry
until you see what they produce. How did you get on with the
famous Warren Kane?'
'I sold him ten pages of tickets,' Julia said evasively.
'Really? The man's generous with his money, I must say. Do you
know how much he's donated to the hospital funds? Silly question!
Of course you don'tand I shouldn't tell you, but I'm going to.'
She whispered a stunning figure in Julia's ear, at the same time
adding a proportionate amount to the guilt Julia was already
feeling.
Another crowd of guests came laughing into the hall. While she
dealt with them, at the back of her mind Julia was mulling over
what Mrs Lacey had told her. How could a man be so demanding
one minute and so generous the next? She sighed, causing the man
whose change she was handing over to ask if she was all right.
'Fine!' she told him brightly, inwardly resolving that she would
feel a whole lot better once she had brought herself to apologise to
Warren for that cheap, inappropriate crack she had made about his
raffle tickets. However much he might have angered her in the
distant pastand heaven knew it was time she let that silly


business dropand however much she might deplore his
determination to get his money out of someone for Harcourt's
mistake, at least he had done nothing tonight to justify her
rudeness. The reverse, in fact.
She asked Mrs Lacey to stand in for her for five minutes and
picked her way through the crowds in the long gallery, looking for
Warren. She had no idea if he had come with someone, or if he
was alone. A mental picture of the way he looked in his beautifully
cut dinner-jacket and immaculate shirt and tie flashed into her
mind. So many men looked uneasy when they dressed for an
occasion like this. Their shirts didn't lie smoothly or their bow-ties
sat at an angle. Warren had looked both comfortable and elegant,
and, with those stunning eyes of his to crown his good looks, there
would be plenty of willing partners.
She spotted him suddenly, dancing with the Dexter girl, an airline
stewardess, who was looking up at him with every appearance of
having found the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow, her
blonde head tilted provocatively.
Julia watched for a few minutes. She didn't really know the Dexter
girl, but she felt quite strongly now that if she did, she wouldn't
like her much. The girl was laughing, letting her head fall forward
as though in self-deprecation so that her forehead rested against
Warren's cheek, and he was smiling at something she had said. It
appeared as though they knew each other very well from the easy
way they danced together. Warren looked to be a very good
dancer, and, disregarding for a moment who he was, Julia wished
that she could be dancing with him instead of being stuck on the
raffle stall until the supper interval.
She had just decided that it was pointless trying to speak to Warren
if he was with the Dexter girl when the music came to an end and


she watched Anita Dexter being returned to the family party, after
which Warren walked away. With a lifting of the heart that she
attributed to relief that she was going to be able to get her apology
made after all, Julia threaded her way round to him.
'Could I have a quick word with you?' she said nervously, coming
up behind him.
He turned and looked at her without any noticeable change of
expression. 'If you can dance at the same time. I wasn't expecting
to see you in here.'
The band had just started to play a real oldie, which came up every
year'Moon River'and a murmur ran round the room as
middle-aged couple after middle-aged couple greeted it as 'our
song'.
'I can't, really,' Julia said. 'Mrs Lacey is only standing in for a tiny
break for me.'
'Rubbish.' He swept her on to the floor. 'Whatever you are wanting
to say might just as well be said on the hoof. This is good, vintage
stuff. Definitely not to be wasted.'
Julia tensed as he held her close, and missed a step. 'Sorry,' she
said.
He looked down at her. 'Relax. You're taut as a bow-string.'
'That's because I have an apology to make,' she said, addressing
the button below his bow-tie and avoiding his compelling eyes. 'I'll
feel better when I've got it over with.'
'Apologise? The battling Miss Sinclair?' he said sceptically. 'I
never thought I would live to see such a day.'


'Well, you have. And I doapologise, I mean, for what I said out
there in the entrance hall. Mrs Lacey has told me about your
whacking great gift to the Cottage Hospital funds. Needless to say,
I would rather like the ground to open up and swallow me.'
He was silent for so long that Julia thought he was going to reject
her apology, but, when he spoke, his displeasure was directed at
Mrs Lacey, not at herself.
'Our gracious hostess could do to cultivate a little more discretion,'
he said drily.
'She doesn't normally come out with information like that. I expect
it seemed so very generous to her with your being new to the area.
Anyway, I'm glad she did tell me, because it gives me a chance to
take back my stupid words -'
'Why don't you put the brake on a few more?' he cut in. 'Julia
Sinclairwill you stop wasting a perfectly good dance by
babbling on in that way. The band is doing us the favour of
refraining from singing banalities. Kindly do likewise with your
spoken ones.'
His hand moved to hold her closer, and Julia let the music and his
expert guidance take over. She had always made fun of ballroom
dancing, preferring her own generation's way of performing to
rather than with a partner, but this gentle, synchronised drifting
round the floor had something, she decided. It gave her the illusion
of being not only physically but mentally close to Warren. The
music seemed to have taken the two of them and made them one,
cancelling all the differences, smoothing out the hostility. She
wanted to close her eyes and let it go on forever.
Warren spoke, bringing her back to earth. 'You don't really have to
go back out there, do you?'


'Until the supper interval. After that I've finished.'
'Who brought you?'
'I always come with Harcourt. Not this year, of course.'
'You'd better point out a few possibles for me to dance with until
supper, then.'
She remembered Anita, and instantly the spikiness was back in
her. 'You looked to be doing very well without any
recommendations, as far as I could see,' she said.
'The Dexter girl?' He pursed his lips and frowned, considering. 'A
bit of a bimbo, really.'
Julia felt her feminist hackles rise, but at the same time found she
was not at all averse to hearing this judgement. 'How can you
possibly have any idea what anyone is like after one dance with
them? You don't know her at all,' she said.
'I know what I like. And who. No doubt there's no shortage of men
eager to show off Miss Dexter's undoubted assets. Personally, I
like a bit more psychological meat on my women.'
He caught the flash of fire in Julia's eyes as the saxophone played
the final notes of 'Moon River', and grinned as he spun her round.
'And now you'd better run along,' he said, adding, 'Be nice to the
customers.'
'Ohyou!' Julia said, departing in a hoity-toity rustle of silk and
bounce of curls to the hall.
*


She had a boring time until the supper interval, with just the odd
one or two people drifting in late. There was nothing much to do in
the gaps between arrivals but tap her feet and look through the
doors into the long gallery. Warren didn't miss a dance and had a
variety of partners, including Mrs Lacey, who looked just as taken
with him as everyone else appeared to be. When Julia saw that he
was dancing with Anita Dexter again she had the strongest urge to
push in and tap the girl on the shoulder and say, 'He thinks you're a
bit of a bimbo.' That would wipe the fawning smile from her face
and the flutter from her eyelashes. It would also cut short the
Prince Charming act he was putting on.
The draw was always held before supper, and Julia went and stood
in the doorway to watch. Mrs Lacey had a list of prizes, and as
each ticket was drawn the winner came forward and signed
opposite the gift of his choice. Inevitablyunder the rule of much
gets moreone of Warren's numbers was called out. Julia wanted
to know what he had chosen, but she got caught up with the job of
seeing that the cash-box and prizes were safely removed into the
Lacey's private quarters until the end of the ball, and had to remain
curious.
When she came back into the hall, people had melted away into
the supper-room. She supposed she should follow suit, but she felt
at a bit of a loose end with no official partner. There were plenty of
people she knew and whom she could join, but James Price, whom
she had rather expected to see, since he had offered to call for her,
had so far been invisible.
'Julia!' She stopped in the supper-room doorway and turned at the
sound of her name. Warren was coming in from the terrace, alone.
'You don't want to go in there,' he said. 'I've found somewhere far
better. Come with me.'


'I rather had it in mind to get something to eat,' Julia told him.
'Don't worry. You're going to.' He took her arm and led her
towards the french windows and on to the terrace. 'I think it's
warm enough outside, but just in case you don't agree -' he picked
up a white stole from the back of a chair 'take this.'
'You can't do that!' Julia exclaimed. 'It belongs to someone else.'
'And we're going to bring it right back after supper.' He was
arranging it round her shoulders. 'Don't fuss.'
Julia whipped the stole off and returned it to a chair. 'I'm not going
to be accused of stealing.'
'Maybe not. But someone else is. That's the wrong chair.' He
relocated the stole. 'Don't blame me if you're cold.'
'It would be perfectly warm in the supper-room,' she said
childishly.
'And noisy and crowded. Just wait until you see the place I've
found.'
'People will miss me.'
'And me. I expect they'll draw the obvious conclusions. Come on.'
He seized her hand, and ran her down the shallow stone steps of
the terrace and across the camomile lawn to a white ironwork table
and chairs just within the strips of light that fell from the long
gallery windows. There was the flare of a match as he lifted a glass
shield and lit the candle underneath it, then Julia could see in this
additional light that there were plates of salmon and assorted
salads from the buffet, goblets of wine, and tall glasses that she


knew held Mrs Lacey's Summer Ball specialityRaspberry
Auchrannie, a heavenly concoction of toasted shortbread crumbs,
raspberries, yoghurt, Drambuie and cream.
'How on earth did you manage all this?' she asked as Warren
pulled out a chair for her and dusted it with his handkerchief.
'I listened to Mrs Lacey telling me that she and her husband Jove
to eat out heredo so regularly, in fact. Then I made eyes at one
of the waitresses, who brought all the stuff out on a tray and
promised to clear it away afterwards, too.'
'You really are an impossible man,' Julia told him.
He put a glass into her hand and touched it with his own. 'Possible,
Julia. Very possible.' He put down his glass and exchanged it for
his knife and fork. 'Now. . .let's take advantage of our privacy. You
can give me the low-down on all the daughters of Chipping Ferris
I danced with tonight. Begin with the rather spectacular redhead in
the black and silver dress. You must have noticed itit's rather
economical on fabric, shall we say.'
'You mean the one it would only take a slight puff of wind to blow
off her?' Julia said. 'She's Miranda Featherstone. Divorced, and
about to cause another, so I hear.'
'Good! Good!' he said, amusement in his voice. 'I knew I could
count on you to give me the absolute truth.' He went on to elicit
information on several of the local beauties, about whom Julia
found she had not one good thing to say.
'I notice you don't appear to have danced with the chairman of the
council's daughter,' she said, not without malice. The girl in
question was rather plain, painfully shy and decidedly overweight.


'Oh, but I did,' Warren corrected her. 'That was how she introduced
herself, as though she had no existence in her own right. I told her
that she really should get some contact lenses. Have you noticed
what beautiful eyes she has behind those thick glasses?'
He was constantly surprising her with the unexpected things he
said and did. 'Didn't she mind your saying that?' she asked.
'Not in the least. I don't believe, actually, that anyone had ever told
her what lovely eyes she had. I think she'll do something about it.'
'What a blessing you are come among us, Mr Kane,' she said
mockingly.
'I hope so, Miss Sinclair,' he replied. 'I hope so.'

They were walking round the sunken garden trying to analyse the
different scents from the herbaceous borders after what seemed
like no time at all when the music started up again.
'Listen. . .' Warren said. The band was playing 'Dancing in the
Dark'. Out in the garden, in the moonlight, the music didn't sound
corny or dated. It sounded inviting, hypnotic. 'Wellsince they've
put the idea into our heads. . .' he murmured, pulling her gently
into his arms.
Julia rested her head on his shoulder, watching the ghostly flower
borders, silver and scented in the pale, mysterious light, float past
as they circled dreamily on the camomile lawn that yielded up its
fragrance with every step they took.
Neither of them spoke for the duration of the number. Words
would have tarnished the magic. Without being quite aware of how


it happened, Julia found that both her arms were curved round
Warren's neck, her face turned to press into the warm hollow under
his chin, while his hands rested with possessive heaviness on the
curve of her hips. When the music ended and a flutter of applause
drifted across the garden, it seemed inevitable and natural that
Warren should turn her face up to his and kiss her, and that she
should melt into his kiss, willingly, eagerly.
There were voices near the house, then people coming out on to
the terrace to cool down between dances, and reluctantly they
moved a little apart.
'That old song will never be the same again,' Warren said softly. 'I
shall think of this garden, and of you, whenever I hear it.'
'And of raspberry and Drambuie flavoured kisses. . .' Julia said,
wondering at once if that was the sort of thing one should say, or
whether she was just a bit squiffy and too uninhibited for her own
good
'The perfect flavour, I thought,' Warren said, so that was all right.
'Think how inappropriate curry and poppadom would be!'
She took him through to the tree garden where they walked in and
out of pools of moonlight and dark, velvety shadow, and Warren,
his fingers loosely linked in hers, seemed as aware as Julia was
that sight and smell were enough and words superfluous.
It was only as they turned to walk back towards the lights of the
house that Julia began to wonder how the past hour had come
about. How on earth could she, who had nursed so long a
grievance against this man at her side, who feared him for what he
might do to Harcourt, whose every instinct should be to fight
himhow on earth could she have been so supremely relaxed and
even enchanted in his company?


On the pretext of fiddling with a lock of hair, she released her
fingers from his as they walked up the steps of the terrace. Then
she saw James Price in the open doorway of the long gallery,
talking to someone. She quickly stifled her initial impulse to greet
him. If she did, she would have to introduce Warren, and who
knew what might come of that?
'I'll go in through the main door,' she said quickly, turning left
along the terrace. 'I want to have a quick tidy-up.'
Instead of continuing straight ahead, Warren followed suit to go
with her. 'I think I detect a slight Cinderella atmosphere about
you,' he said, looking hard at her. 'It's nowhere near midnight and
you've still got both of those ridiculous shoesand I intend doing
a lot more dancing. . .so I'll keep an eye on you.'
'Julia!' The call came from behind them, and Julia's heart sank.
James had seen her. Now she was going to have to introduce him
to Warren, who was looking at her with every sign of knowing
how reluctant she was.
'Hello, James,' she said, holding up her face for his kiss. 'Where
have you been all evening?'
'Friends called unexpectedly on their way to the coast, and they'd
made a special detour, so I couldn't rush them off the doorstep. I
looked for you in the supper-room.' He glanced enquiringly
towards Warren. 'I presume you were well taken care of?'
Julia steeled herself. 'We ate outside. Do you two know each
other? Warren KaneJames Price.'
'I believe we met on the tennis-court several years ago,' Warren
said, shaking hands and lulling Julia into a sense of false security


until he went on to add, 'And now, if rumours are correct, you are
taking over Harcourt Thomas's practice. Is that so?'
Julia had not sent out notification of who was taking over from
Harcourt as yetand not to Warren, for obvious reasons. She
might have guessed he would find out. She was too tense to
attempt to steer the conversation out of danger.
'Eventually,' James was saying pleasantly. 'I think he looked after
Mr Kane Senior's affairs, didn't he? Shall we have the pleasure of
representing you now that you've taken over Wyngates?'
Warren's eyes looked briefly in Julia's direction. 'I don't know how
much of a pleasure it would be. My affairs tend to have their
complications. But it's certainly a possibility.'
He was skirting so closely round the only thing that would cause
him to use Price Roberts rather than his own London-based
solicitorsnamely, the need to pursue someone else for the
compensation he felt Harcourt owed him. Julia dreaded that any
minute now he would be broaching the subject. Suddenly her
blood circulated again and she went into action.
'Men! Do you have to talk business at an occasion like this?
There'll be time enough for all that later, surely.' Her eyes held
Warren's and flashed a clear meaning at him.
'You're absolutely right.' James laughed. 'How about catching up
on the dances you promised me, Julia?'
'Or if you want to tidy upI believe that was the original
intention,' Warren said, 'I'm sure James and I can find something to
talk about while we wait.' He was being deliberately wicked,
threatening that a moment or two alone with James could be
useful.


'Unless I look too dreadful, James, I'd sooner go along and dance,'
Julia said, linking her arm through his and ignoring Warren.
'You look absolutely lovely, as I'm sure you've been told many
times this evening. You're sure I'm not crashing in in the
proverbial way?' he said, looking enquiringly at Warren.
'Not at all,' Warren said smoothly. 'Julia and I have a very open
arrangement, haven't we?'
And no prizes for guessing what he meant by that, Julia thought
angrily as she and James joined the dancers. Common sense was
telling her now that of course Warren wasn't going to broach the
subject of the Wyngates affair before he was well and truly
accepted as an inherited responsibility by Price Roberts. She had
let herself be panicked into the idea that he might. And once he
had sensed her mood, he had played with her like a fisherman with
a long-awaited catch.
'He seems an amiable enough fellow,' James said with bad timing,
steering her carefully round the mayor, who was a former ballroom
dancer and took up more than his share of floor. 'The sort who
appeals to your sex, too, I imagine. I hope I'm not too unpopular
for stealing you away?'
'Stop interrogating, James,' she told him. 'I've seen you wheedling
information out of too many people in court to fall for it. In any
case, I'm dancing with you, aren't I?'
He grinned at her and lapsed into humming the tune the band was
playing. James was a good enough dancer, but Julia found herself
thinking that it was nothing like dancing with Warren. She and
James stayed firmly on the ground. Perhaps it was because with
Warren she so often found herself hitting the depths that the 'highs'


were so contrastingly good. There was no accounting for the
waywardness of human emotions.
She stayed with James for three dances, aware out of the corner of
her eye that Warren did not dance but stood near the window
watching, and sometimes talking with various people. At the end
of the third dance she saw him straighten up from the wall against
which he had been casually leaning, and thought that he might be
coming towards her.
'I think I will go and tidy up now, James,' she said hurriedly.
'Maybe I'll see you later.'
Maggie was in the cloakroom applying lipstick.
'How have I managed not to see you so far?' Julia asked. 'And what
happened to you when I was selling raffle tickets, which is more
important?'
'We arrived when Mrs Lacey was doing the honours. Bad timing.
If we'd got them from you, you could have wangled us a prize.'
Maggie put her lipstick away and gave Julia a significant look. 'As
to why you haven't seen anything of us, perhaps your attention has
been too firmly fixed on a certain dishy client. I saw you making
off into the garden with him.'
Julia pulled a face. 'Being made off with is more like it. I didn't
have much choice in the matter.'
'Bossy, is he? Bob would agree with that. He's doing some work at
Wyngates, you know. I only found out tonight when we saw you
with the Kane man.' Bob, Maggie's husband, was a painter and
decorator and had got quite a reputation in Chipping Ferris for
being a good, sound worker who employed men of similar calibre.
'He says our friend Mr Kane is breathing down their necks at the


end of every day, with eyes like a hawk for the slightest flaw not
that there are many of those. You know Bob.'
'I can imagine how he feels,' Julia said, tweaking a curl back into
place.
'But doesn't he look good?' Maggie said mischievously, preparing
to leave. She went half out of the door, then popped her head back.
'Come along to lunch tomorrow and tell me how the evening ends
with him.'
'What makes you think it's going to?'
'It could be the fact that he's hanging around in the hall, loitering
with definite intent, I'd say.' She laughed at Julia's expression and
disappeared.
Julia looked despairingly at herself in the mirror. Well, I can't stay
in here forever, she thought, straightening her shoulders.
Warren fell in beside her as she walked through the hall. 'You
seemed a little disturbed when James Price approached us,' he said
innocently.
'And you know exactly why,' she told him as they moved smoothly
and without a relevant word being spoken, into the waltz that was
being danced. She shot a look up at him. 'I didn't know you were
aware of the fact that James was taking over the practice.'
'It's in my interest to know everything that might affect my
business,' he said. 'But what did you expect me to do, Julia? Tell
him he might have to fork out a thousand or two, thanks to
Harcourt, and then ask if he'd like me as a client? Really!'
'I was momentarily confused,' she said.


'I should think so.'
His light, teasing tone deceived her. 'In any case,' she said, gaining
confidence, 'I'm beginning to think I've taken you far too seriously
about this affair. You are not the monster you tried to make
yourself out to be. You've proved it this evening, whether you like
it or not that I know about it, with your gift to the hospital.'
He took advantage of a bit of open floor to lead her into a
sequence of steps that, if she had thought about it, she would have
found impossible to follow. As it was, they sailed through them
quite effortlessly.
'Ahbut you are confusing two separate cases. Very separate,' he
emphasised, picking up the thread of the conversation. 'One, which
I would prefer not to talk about, was a gift, voluntarily given. The
other is quite different. Something is being taken from me, and
someone is to blame for it. I assure you, my dear Julia, that you
have no more reason tonight to think you are going to get out of
the bargain we made than you had the moment we made it. I shall
pursue you quite relentlessly until you have settled things to my
satisfaction.'
She looked up into his face, reading absolute seriousness there. His
hand moved slightly on her back, drawing her closer. 'But I also
assure you,' he said, lowering his voice and bending his head so
that his cheek brushed against her forehead, 'that you will not find
the process altogether unpleasant.'



CHAPTER FIVE
MAGGIE'S lunches were always of the substantial kind and Julia
came away feeling, after her homemade lentil soup, roast beef and
Yorkshire puddings and calorie-packed apple pie with cream, that
she needed either a good exercise session or, at the other end of the
scale of possibilities, a couple of hours' siesta. There was no
chance of either. She had promised to go along and tell Harcourt
about last night.
She let herself into the cottage, and at once her eyes went to the
window-ledge, where there was something that would always act
as a reminder of last night's ball.
There had been plenty of partners eager to dance with her in the
second half and, although she had not been able to avoid Warren's
company entirely, at least she had managed always to have an
excuse to go off with someone else after a dance with him.
She had arranged to have the last waltz with James, who'd asked
her, since the suggestion had come from her, whether he should
read any particular significance into it.
'You'd run a mile if I said yes!' she'd told him comfortably. 'You're
the most firmly confirmed bachelor around.'
Warren must have collected his prize and departed, she'd decided
when she'd gone through to check whether any prizes had been
forgotten. That decision had been premature, though, because
when Julia had gone out to her car, he had appeared before she had
pulled the driver's door shut and had dropped a parcel on her lap.
'I think you should have this,' he'd said briefly. 'There's something
appropriately symbolic about it.'


'Warren!' she'd called after him, meaning to give the object,
whatever it was, back to him. She wanted no gifts from him. But
he had disappeared into the darkness.
She'd pushed the package aside on to the passenger seat and had
driven home, trying to add up the number of times he had needled
her into prickly annoyance during the course of the evening. She'd
preferred to forget the other times when he had aroused feelings of
quite a different kind in her.
Of course, curiosity had made her open the parcel behind the
drawn curtains of Folly Cottage, where she had found that it
contained Warren's choice of raffle prize. It was the work of a
local wood-carver a turtle-dove, its head turned so that its beak
had disappeared among its feathers in the 'sleep' position. It was
delightful, very touchable with its simplified curves. . .and, of
course, it was extremely symbolic. Dovespeace. She'd given a
rueful laugh as she'd put it on the window-sill. What peace had he
imagined it could represent between the two of them? If he had
chosen a tiger with its teeth sunk in the neck of its prey, his
symbolism would have been more appropriate. All the same, she
hadn't been able to prevent her hand reaching out to run over the
smooth, shining wood every time she'd passed it.
She touched it nowthen, at a sound from outside, looked through
the window to see the dove's giver getting out of his car, as though
in magic response to her touch, and opening the garden gate.
Seconds later he was at the door.
'So this is where you live,' he said, looking with interest through
into the cottage. 'Are you going to ask me in?'


Silently Julia stepped back. He had to duck his head to come
through the low doorway. Once inside, he straightened up and
looked around.
'Charming. How long have you had it?'
'Since I was eighteen. And, in case you're wondering, I'm not
selling. I'd die rather than let any developer get his hands on it. It's
perfect as it is.'
'I couldn't agree more.' He walked over to the window overlooking
the lane, the one where she had put the turtle-dove, and his fingers
ran over the nestling head and along the plump, curved sides in an
exact echo of the way Julia kept touching it. 'Do you like this?' he
asked.
'Very much,' she said reluctantly. 'Though I really don't see why
you should give it to me. You won the prize.'
'But I chose it with you in mind.' He looked quizzically at her.
'You're not going to throw it back at me?'
'No. I accept itwith thanksas a very attractive work of art.'
'But not as a symbol?'
'Look, Warren,' she said sharply, 'will you stop playing games?
What have you come to see me about?'
He had crossed the room restlessly, looking like a caged animal
within the tiny confines of her cottage, and was now gazing out of
the back window at the river.
'This really is a lovely spot.' He turned. 'I haven't come to see you
about anything. I merely felt that I would quite like simply to see


you. There are precious few people I can drop in on round here as
yet. It's a lovely day. I thought we might have a run up into the
hills and have a walk.' He crossed the room again and picked up
the dove. 'A peaceful walk,' he said with a smile.
If only I could trust him a fraction of an inch, Julia thought,
tempted in spite of herself. 'And talk business?' she said.
'Certainly not. Though you do have a persistent tendency to drag
business into everything. Here I am, merely thinking it too good a
day to waste indoors, thinking that you work too hard for your own
good and that a breath of hilltop air wouldn't come amiss -'
'No matter how flattering a case you make out for yourself,' Julia
interrupted, 'I already have an arrangement for this afternoon. I
can't go anywhere.'
'Ah! James, the unknown quantity, got in first, did he? Too bad. In
that case, I'll bow out with due speed.'
Inexplicably, though she had not been at all pleased to see him
arrive, Julia now discovered in herself an illogical reluctance to let
him go so easily and so apparently willingly. She found herself
following him to the door, where he turned unexpectedly so that
they were both far too close together in the tiny entrance hall.
'It's nothing at all to do with James, actually,' she said. 'I'm going
to see Harcourt. I promised to tell him about the ball.'
'Everything about it?' He was looking down at her, eyebrows
raised, blue eyes daring her to remember what he was
remembering. He waited just long enough to see the colour appear
in her cheeks, then laughed and opened the front door, taking her
arm to indicate that she should go through it. 'In that case, I'll come
with you to jog your memory and see how the old bounder is


getting on. We've got an acquaintance that goes back a number of
years, after all.'
Julia panicked. 'You can't do that. He's only allowed one visitor
he hasn't seen anyone apart from me.'
'Then you can visit while I wait for you in the car, and after that
we'll go up into the hills. Any more arguments? Apart from the
real onethat you'd throw fifty fits if I went within shouting
distance of your precious Harcourt!'
At least, by going with him, she told herself hypocritically as they
drove along the lane, she knew that he was not sneaking into the
hospital unknown to her to worry Harcourt. If she left him sitting
outside in the car and drove off with him afterwards, nothing bad
could come of it, could it? That was the only reason she was here
in this car. Of course it was.
As they passed Maggie and Bob's cottage, Maggie was out on the
lawn. Having been told only minutes before by Julia that no
further social arrangements had been made or were likely to be
made with Warren Kane, it was not surprising that Maggie's jaw
dropped a little to see the pair of them sailing past.
'You can tell her that I took you completely by surprise,' Warren
said, demonstrating that he missed nothing and was quite capable
of making a dozen out of two plus two.
'I'm sorryI don't know what you mean,' Julia said, only to
receive a sceptical laugh in reply.

When she came out of the hospital, the second side of the Mozart
symphony he had put on was just drawing to a close. Warren


waited for the last triumphant chord, and then asked, 'How was
he?'
Julia sighed. 'Not at all well today. He was having a lot more
trouble with his speech, and he seemed very depressed.' Privately
she thought that it was almost as though the effort Harcourt had
made to arrange the 'surprise' earrings for her had drained him of
all energy.
'Did you speak to anyone about him?'
'Briefly. They say the same thing every time, and there's no answer
to it. He needs more therapy, but there just aren't enough funds
available.'
'Can't he see someone privately?'
Julia looked pityingly at him. 'The health authority isn't the only
thing to be short of funds. Harcourt's practice was never very
lucrative. He's got the property, and that must be worth quite a lot
nowadays, but I imagine there isn't much in the way of available
money. In any case, he doesn't believe in privilege. He's been solid
left all his life. He wouldn't dream of joining a private medical care
association. I expect you find that hard to understand.'
'Fine feelings are all very well, until it comes to a time like this,'
Warren said, changing gear for the steep hill they were going up.
'But you've made out a very good case for my being kind to your
protg or is it protector? I'm damned if I know which way
round it is.'
Julia shifted impatiently in her seat. 'I haven't been making out any
case at all. You asked a question and I answered it, with no ulterior
motives whatsoever.'


'Are you cold?' he asked politely, foxing her with the sudden
change of subject.
'No. Why should I be? It's a hot day.'
'Just wondered. The air must be a bit thin up there where you are,
on that high horse of yours.'
She sighed again. 'Oh. . .wellI fell for that one, didn't I?'
'Took it like a dream.' He grinned at her, and as they passed the
Castle Inn he slowed down and pulled off the road on to the verge.
'This will do, I think. Know where we are?'
'On Edge Hill, aren't we?' The humour of it struck her suddenly.
'An ancient battleground. Did you do it deliberately?'
'Who? Me? Now, would I? I give you symbols of peace,
remember.'
'You give me a very hard time!' she corrected.
'Not this afternoon, I promise.'
They got out of the car and crossed the road to King John's Lane.
'You realise that we're walking in the steps of the Royalists,
maybe?' Warren said as they entered the ancient holloway. 'Just
imagine, we could be the tail-end of King Charles' army, marching
down to meet the Parliamentarians in the field below.'
'Except that you would never be the tail-end of anything,' Julia
said. 'You'd have been up front shouting everyone on.'


'Mind the mud.' He stretched out a hand to help her where a
wayward stream threaded over the track. Julia jumped across, sure-
footed in her trainers.
'It's a good job I was dressed suitably for a walk like this,' she said,
pushing up the sleeves of her white cotton sweater.
'If you hadn't been, I've got a pair of Margaret's Wellingtons in the
boot. I thought I might have to whip you away fairly quickly
before you changed your mind, so I came prepared.'
'You see what I mean about you?' Julia told him. 'Even a simple
Sunday afternoon walk is a matter for strategic planning.'
'It's the Venture Scout in me,' he said, looking as far removed from
a scout as anyone could possibly be. He was wearing a royal blue
tracksuit flashed with white and grey across the shoulders. Out in
the clear, bright light of the hilltop, his skin was a healthy bronze
and his eyes a vivid blue halfway between that of the sky and that
of his tracksuit. He looked a perfect advertisement for one of his
own health centres.
They branched off across the fields, and at the first swinging gate
set in the hedge Warren went through ahead of Julia instead of
letting her precede him. Julia soon found out why, when, on the
pretext of moving the heavy gate for her, he leaned over it, aiming
a kiss at her which she dodged.
'Kissing gate,' he said innocently. 'What else could I do?'
Julia, who felt that she had nearly fallen into yet another trap,
walked stolidly on.
'You didn't act the offended maiden last night,' he said from behind
her.


'That was last night. This is broad daylight -'
'The cows don't seem unduly agitated.'
'And kissing is a two-way thing,' she completed.
'I'm well aware of that. And so were you, last night.' He caught her
hand. 'Don't be such a legal frosty-face. Loosen up, can't you?
Look at all this sky and trees and grassall crying out for a bit of
natural behaviour.'
She allowed herself a small smile. 'You sound like Wordsworth
and I always did think he went a bit over the top.'
They walked on, arguing poetry, following the path as it wound
through fields and back over towards the hill. The last part of the
slope steepened as the terrain changed from Lower Lias to
marlstone, with rocks protruding through the grass and thistles,
and just below the beech woods at the top they were ready for a
rest, breathless from both argument and climb.
Away from the path there was a hollow of soft grass, sheltered
from the hilltop breeze but open to the magnificent view. Warren
flung himself down on the turf and lay back, looking up into the
dense blue of the sky, while Julia sat hugging her knees, looking
from hill to hill. Cotswolds, Malverns, Lickeys, Wrekin, Burton
Dasset Beacon, they marked the horizon in a semi-circle,
illustrating the value of Edge Hill in the ancient message chain. A
beacon lit up here would be seen and echoed from the surrounding
vantage-points, and news of danger or invasion flashed around the
land.
She could see Warwick Castle, where once those signals might
have been received and acted upon. And in the field below there
was the ridge marking the hundred-thousand-year-old shore of the


huge lake that had once filled the valley. The hills would have
been islands then, in that long-gone Ice Age.
'What are you thinking?' Warren asked, propping himself up on
one elbow.
She turned, coming back from the past. 'Just that I love this
country,' she said. She stretched out her legs and leaned back on
her elbows. 'Look at all of it. . . Don't you sometimes feel like that?
That this is your place, where your roots are, where you belong?'
'And yet,' Warren said, 'you talk of going to New Zealand. Why?'
The reminder gave her a strange, doomlike feelingnot at all the
kind of feeling that ought to greet thoughts of a visit to well-loved
parents. And it was not a feeling that had troubled her before. Yet
there was no mistaking the heaviness that weighted her heart now.
'Because my family is out there,' she said. 'And they'd like to see
more of me. I owe it to them.'
'You owe too much to too many people, it seems to me. What
about Julia Sinclair? What do you owe her? Why is she always last
in the queue? Surely you should be following your own choice of
path by now instead of the one everybody else picks out for you.'
'That's not true. I do want to go out to Wellington, but. . .' She was
mortified to feel a lump developing in her throat, preventing her
from going on. What on earth was the matter with her?
'But you feel you're going to be blackmailed into staying out there
perhaps? And, being the sucker you are, you'll fall for it.'


Her golden-brown eyes gave him a reproachful, tear-shiny look.
He gave a muttered exclamation and put an arm round her, pulling
her down to lie in the hollow of his shoulder.
'Don't look like thatlike a puppy I've just kicked. I'm only trying
to tell you that you have a right to your own life. People aren't
nearly as dependent on you as you imagine them to be.'
They were quiet for a moment and lay listening to the comfortable
throbbing hum of a bumble-bee as it investigated the grasses
around their heads. Julia caught herself enjoying far more than she
should the feel of his warm flesh against the side of her cheek, and
the steady drumming of his heartbeat. She couldn't quite summon
up sufficient resolution to move away, but she managed a token
response to his argument.
'I suppose,' she said, turning her face to look at him, 'that you're
not acting true to form and attempting to dictate what you think
should be the terms in my life? This isn't Warren Kane,
entrepreneur, taking charge. . .taking control. . .taking over?'
He made a sudden movement and rolled over towards her so that
her head was in the crook of his arm and he was looking down into
her face, so close that she could see the blend of colours that added
up to the blue of his eyes, and the silky length of the dark
eyelashes that framed them. She felt dizzy, as though she didn't
know whether she was drowning in his eyes or losing contact with
the earth and floating up into the blue sky that dazzled in the
background.
'I think it would be a very pleasant thing to take you over, Julia
Sinclair. . .' he said softly, studying every inch of her face before
his mouth met hers. There was a momentary stab of shame that she
should make no move to avoid his kiss, then the sounds of insects,


breeze in the grass and birds in the beechwoods faded as she
experienced again the same consuming flare of pleasure she had
felt last night in the garden at Barfield.
He sensed it at once, and gave a low murmur of approval deep in
his throat as his right arm pulled her close. The persuasion of his
mouth intensified, and with a superhuman effort Julia twisted her
head away briefly to say breathlessly, 'WarrenI don't -'
'But you do. And very expertly,' he muttered impatiently, before
silencing her again in a way that she seemed incapable of not
responding to. This time, in direct denial of the words she had tried
to say, she found her arms locked round his neck and a fire as
intense as any the beacon had known burning deep inside her.
But fires on the beacon meant danger.
She squirmed away, pushing hard against him, and reluctantly he
let her go. They sat up, separated by a yard of crushed grass, both
breathing hard as they looked at each other.
'That isn't part of the contract, Warren,' she said at last.
He picked up a loose stone and flung it violently down the hill,
bounding and striking against the rocky outcrops.
'Only you, my little legal tome, could change track in mid-course
to such an extent,' he said.
'Rubbish. What connection was there between what you were
trying to achieve just then and the initial conversation? A pretty
mammoth leap was made thereand I wasn't the one to do it. If
you want to carry on discussing the rights and wrongs of my going
to New Zealand, fair enough. I'll even start us off again.' She flung
a challenging look at him. 'I think I should go because I simply


happen to feel that other people's desires should be taken into
consideration.'
He didn't attempt to bridge the gap between them, but the way his
eyes held hers made her feel as much a captive as if she were
pressed between him and the warm earth again.
'You are not giving much consideration to my particular feelings at
this moment,' he said pithily.
Her bravado was deserting her, but she tried to hang on to it. 'Your
idea of good business relations happens to be very different from
mine,' she said.
'Damn business. Forget it for once, can't you? That's for Monday
to Friday, What the hell are you so scared of? All rightso you're
going to New Zealand. You've got your escape route planned, if
you like. Where's the harm in a pleasant little relationship before
you leave?'
A pleasant little relationship. . .Well, that put it all in perspective,
didn't it? The words hurt Julia more than she would have believed
possible. The contrast between their lightness and the intensity of
feeling that had blazed through her when he'd kissed her reinforced
the warning of danger that had followed hot on the heels of her
reaction to him.
'Some day you're going to have to grow up,' he was going on. 'You
can't remain everybody's good little girl forever.'
Julia felt anger fizzing up inside her as she stared out over the
hills. 'I should never have let myself be talked into coming with
you this afternoon.'


'Because you're scared?' he taunted. 'You've never had a real
relationship with a man, have you, Julia? An honest, flesh-and-
blood affair.'
She could feel herself providing him with his answer as it painted
itself across her cheeks. 'Thankfully, no,' she said defiantly. 'I
would expect there to be the involvement of heart and mind in
what is apparently your idea of a real relationship. And if I have to
wait a year or two more before I meet someone whose ideas
coincide with mine, then I'll do just that.'
'And to bell with anyone whose path you happen to cross during
that time.'
She looked incredulously at him. 'Don't tell me that's a note of self-
pity in your voice? That's definitely the wrong role to sit easily on
your shoulders, Warren. I know far too much about what makes
you tick to be taken in by it.'
'Do you?' His voice was dangerously calm but she was incapable
of heeding this new danger.
'I do. You want to succeed at all costswith everything. Every
relationship is a challenge, every business deal a battle to be won.
You are not going to be let down by anyone. You're not going to
lose out. The great Warren Kane will sail through to victory every
time. Wellnot with me.'
She had got up as she spoke, and now he too leapt to his feet, his
eyes glittering dangerously.
'Fine words, Julia, dear. But you're forgetting something. Words
have to be backed by actions. And your actionsor, should I say,
reactionsgive you away one hundred per cent. I could kiss that
cross, pouting mouth right in the middle of its flow of insults, and


your pride might try to keep you going, but your body sure as hell
would let you down. Right down, where the real person hidden
inside that sanctimonious shell of yours is panting to be.'
Because she knew it was true, Julia denied it all the more fiercely.
'You forget something as well. You forget that a man set on
collecting his debts with all the rapacity of a modern-day Shylock
is fundamentally incapable of involving anyone's emotions.'
That shot went home, and she had the satisfaction of seeing him
turn away, momentarily unready to reply. Eventually he spoke,
coldly. 'What a criminal waste of a good day. I think all the signs
indicate that we should go home. So if you're ready. . .'
'More than ready,' she said briefly.
They followed the path through the woods in silence. Part-way
round the contour of the hill there was a place where rubbish had
been tipped. Bags and bottles and rusty tin cans sprawled down the
slope, desecrating the beauty of the place.
That's what we did too, Julia thought with crippling shame. We
came to this lovely place and we scarred it with insults and harsh
voices and -
Warren had stopped, and with a muttered curse he bent down and
gently tilted up a stopperless plastic bottle. A tiny vole, weak and
exhausted from its vain attempts to climb the sloping shoulders of
the bottle, slid out and lay with heaving sides on the ground. He
picked it up with incredible tenderness and took it over to the
longer grass, away from the lethal man-scattered rubbish. Julia
watched him, close to tears.
Warren's expression hardened again as he rejoined her.


'Will it live?' she asked with a catch in her voice.
'It might. There's no knowing. Fragile things are so easily killed.'
He wasn't thinking only of the vole, and she knew it. She suddenly
thought that perhaps there had been something else trying to grow
into life that afternoon, something equally fragile. Between them
they had killed it as surely as the plastic death-trap would have
killed the vole.
When they reached Chipping Ferris she told him to drop her at the
top of the lane so that she could walk down to the cottage. He
stopped the car, but the doors were under electronic control and he
didn't at once release them.
'Monday tomorrow, and there's work to be done,' he said. 'I'm sure
you don't imagine that a trifling difference of opinion lets you out
of it. So far there's been more talk than action. How about getting
down to some serious negotiating with Alan Dexter about that pipe
scheme? I'm sure you're as eager as I am to bring matters to a
satisfactory conclusion.'
'As long as I have your permission,' she said, looking straight
ahead through the windscreen.
'You've got it. And when do we hear from the council?'
'They meet on Wednesday evening.'
'I shall be away until Thursday afternoon. I'll expect you to report
on both matters at seven on Thursday. I'll see you then.'
'Briefly,' Julia said.
He released the doors and she got out. It seemed pointless to thank
him for what had turned out to be an unpleasant experience for


both of them. She walked off down the lane and heard the car
reverse then roar off.
Bob had joined Maggie in the garden. Desire to get away from
Warren had made Julia forget that she might have to run the
gauntlet of neighbourly interest before reaching Folly Cottage.
They were having tea on the lawn and called out to her to join
them for a cup. In no mood for conversation, Julia refused, but
Maggie came running over to the hedge, not about to let her get off
so easily.
'Who told me that the great Kane was out of her social scene,
then?'
'I can't help it if he suddenly decides he's at a loose end and turns
up out of the blue. In any case, Maggie,' she said with unusual
sharpness, 'it was hardly worth hanging around all afternoon to
give me the third degree, was it?'
Maggie's pleasant face dropped. 'I wasn't!' she protested. 'We've
been having a weeding blitz. Damn it all, Julia! Look at the day.
Isn't everybody out in the fresh air?'
Julia waved a hand in front of her contrite face as though trying to
rub out her bad-tempered words. 'I knowI know. Forget I said
that, Mags. I'll see you tomorrow, via the right side of the bed, I
hope. That was a lovely lunch you gave me, and I don't deserve it.'
Maggie watched her go down the lane and then came back to Bob,
a little smile of illumination playing round her lips.
'What are you grinning about?' Bob asked her over the top of the
Mail.
'I think Julia's in love!' she told him.


*
The phone rang as soon as Julia unlocked the cottage door.
'Hello, darling. How are things?'
Her mother's warm, caring voice was the last blow to her confused
feelings and Julia suffered the final indignity of crying down the
phone and hearing her tears register across the world in New
Zealand.



CHAPTER SIX
THE river was quiet and still now that the daytime visitors had left
and were no doubt choking up the roads bonnet to boot on their
way home.
Julia rowed steadily on in the old boat she had inherited with the
cottage whose name it bore, and which an annual paint job had
managed to keep going. Her shoulders were aching, but at least the
fever of thoughts triggered off by her conversation with her mother
was beginning to calm down into something like sensible order.
Mrs Sinclair had listened to all her daughter's worries about
Harcourt, and at the end of the outpouring had surprised her by
saying more or less what Warren had saidthat Julia was getting
over-involved in a situation she couldn't really do much about.
'Harcourt needs time and lack of pressure, darling. It could even be
that seeing you so often, and knowing that you are marking time
until he is better, makes him feel even more frustrated. He can't
hurry his recovery, but he knows he must because you are making
it a condition of getting on with your own life. Do you see what I
meanor do I just sound rather unkind? I don't mean to.'
'So you're telling me that I should just. . .quietly withdraw?' Julia
said after a moment's thought.
'Oddly enough, that's not the first such advice I've been given.'
'Really? Who else told you so?'
'One of Harcourt's clients. I'm. . .doing some work for him. You'll
probably remember him. Old Mr Kane's nephew from Wyngates.'


'I certainly do remember him. He was rather gorgeous.' Mrs
Sinclair chuckled. 'If I remember correctly, you had rather a thing
for him, didn't you?'
Julia wished she had never brought the subject up. 'I never told you
I had!'
'You didn't need to. It stuck out a mile.'
'And you always did know too much for comfort,' Julia said.
'Anyway, all that was a long time ago. Now I'm only concerned
with the problems I've got to sort out for him. I've been seeing him
this afternoon, actually.'
'And sorting out whacking great problems, judging by their effect
on you at the start of this conversation,' her mother said shrewdly.
Julia decided on strategic withdrawal. 'This call must be costing
you the earth. I promise I'll try to fix a definite date for coming out
by the middle of next week. You've made me think about that, at
least.'
'And you've given me other things to ponder over,' her mother said
thoughtfully.

Realising how far upstream she had come from Chipping Ferris,
Julia turned the boat round and began to row back, her progress
easier now that she was rowing with the flow of the river.
If her sensible mother thought it was time to leave Harcourt, then
perhaps she should steel herself to do just that. Once she had
sorted out the council's compensation offer on Wyngates and got
as fair a figure as possible from Alan Dexter, there really wasn't


much more she could do. Warren would have to either take it or
leave it. Surely his common sense would tell him that alienating
local people for a comparatively small sum just wasn't worth it?
She ought to be feeling better now that she had a clear plan and a
deadline for winding things up here. She shipped the oars and let
the river carry her along. She ought to be feeling better, but she
didn't. She felt torn and vulnerableand she had to face up to the
reason why.
Up on Edge Hill she had told herself that it was love for England
that made her reluctant to leave. But she was now forcing herself
to admit that it had not just been feeling for the land that had
moved her so much. It had been because Warren Kane had been
walking through the English countryside with her, because he had
been lying under that clear, bright sky at her side, because he had
tried to kiss her in funand if not her mind, certainly all the rest
of her was far from averse to his having a more serious shot at it.
So what did that make her? She didn't like him. He was Harcourt's
enemy and therefore hers. She hated what he was doing, and yet. .
. The garden at Barfield recreated itself in her mind, Warren's arms
holding her close.
She began rowing again, banishing treacherous memory with hard,
muscle-straining physical effort. She knew that to him she was
only an amusing fool, ready to take on the battle to restore his
money to him, and perhaps to provide a little light relief at the
same time. He thought she was crazy to be doing what she was
doinghe'd even told her sobut, as long as she was ready to
save him trouble, he would let her. And the moment she had done
her job she would be out of his mind, out of his company, out of
his life.


Anyone could feel physical attraction. The man was attractive
had always been attractive. The important thing was to remember
that and not be deceived into thinking she was suffering from
anything more lasting than a few randy hormones. She had only to
concentrate on his behaviour as opposed to his person, and her
zany ideas would quickly die the death.
Behaviour like his donation to the hospital? Like the dove he had
given her? Like the way he had held the vole in his hands and had
taken it so carefully away from danger? Her mind betrayed her as
strongly as her body had done, flashing contradictory memories at
her.
'Once more,' Julia told herself firmly, 'I'll see him once more on
Thursday, and then I'm leaving. Away to New Zealand and back to
sanity.'
The klaxon of a late boatload of trippers towards which she was
blindly rowing warned her that she needed to concentrate on the
present and leave the past and the future to take care of
themselves. Folly rocked wildly in the boat's wake, then continued
more carefully downstream back to the cottage.
* * *
There was little time to think of personal matters during the next
four days.
Harcourt insisted on signing the contract for the sale of his practice
on Monday, and Julia, who sat in on his meeting with James Price,
was relieved at the amount of good that came out of it. Price
Roberts were keen to keep the office in Chipping Ferris open,
which meant that Maggie was guaranteed her job there if she
wanted it. They were also willing to buy the property from
Harcourt and give him a lifetime lease on his first-floor flat, which


left him a substantial amount of capital to provide income and
perhaps buy a smaller, sheltered property if he felt in due course
that he needed to do that. The meeting left Harcourt exhausted, but
at the same time Julia could see in his eyes that he was relieved at
the way things were working out.
On the strength of these and other developments, Julia booked her
flight to New Zealand for the eighteenth of Septemberseven
days after her final meeting with Warren. The need for secrecy
seemed over now, and it was thanks to a casual conversation with
Maggie's Bob, in the course of which Julia had told him about the
new clubhouse that was doomed to be destroyed along with the
resurfaced tennis-courts at Wyngates, that she heard of and was
able to pursue a most lucky possible arrangement with a firm Bob
had come across. If Warren agreed to it, it would bring the
financial problem as near a solution as she was likely to get it. The
Dexter arrangement was on. All she needed was just a little more
than expected from the council, and she would have achieved a
minor miracle.
* * *
On Thursday evening Julia left the office for Folly Cottage early,
so that she could change and put on her metaphorical armour
before going to Wyngates.
She toyed with the idea of keeping her business suit onafter all,
it was a purely business meeting but in the end opted for a gold
linen dress that always made her feel good. She needed all the help
she could get to draw a satisfactory line under the Wyngates affair.
All her carefully psyched-up confidence rocked a little on its
foundations when Warren opened the door instead of Margaret.
She had expected a more gentle ushering in to his presence.


'Well, come in,' he said calmly. 'This isn't the lion's den. I think
you'll survive.'
'How did your trip go?' She followed him into the sitting-room and
took the chair he indicated.
'Exhaustingly. I'm going to have to get that private plane. I can't
keep adequate tabs on so many parts of the country otherwise.
Drink?'
'I'd rather not. But go ahead if you want something.'
'I already have.' He picked up a half-empty glass from the
mantelpiece to show her, and sat in the chair facing hers. 'Well
what good news have you got for me?'
Julia opened her briefcase and took out his file. 'Quite a lot. The
council were very fair indeed.' She told him their offer, and he
punched the figure into a pocket calculator, looking expectantly at
her.
'And what about Dexter? Is he still interested?'
'Very.' She told him Alan Dexter's offer and saw that figure added
to the first. His expression remained calm and non-committal.
'Not badbut not exactly good.'
'I haven't finished yet.' She picked out another paper. 'This isn't
going to bring in any money to reduce the balance I'm working on,
but it's going to save you a lot of additional expenditure if you
approve.' She was feeling more nervous by the minute. There was
something not right about his manner. He should be more
impatient, but he was just sitting there waitingand she didn't
know what he was waiting for. Something he was going to pull out


of the hat, she guessedand what she had to say wasn't going to
affect anything much, one way or the other. His attitude was
making her very nervous.
'Go on, then,' he prompted.
She cleared her throat. 'It's about the clubhouse. Someone I know. .
.Bob Cooper, actuallyhe's working on your interior decorating,
so you know he's sound. . .well, he put me on to this idea. He
knows this firm just expanding into the recreational buildings
field. They're in need of prestige publicity. I had an off-the-record
word with them, and if you would agree to their advertising"As
constructed at Kane's Health Centre, Chipping Ferris"they
would put up one of those buildings wherever you want it on your
land.' She passed him photographs. 'And here's the offer in
writing.' The final paper changed hands.
He studied pictures and offer carefully. 'Very enterprising. But
how do I know that it's safe to have my name linked to their
product?'
'They put up pool-side changing-rooms for the Laceys at Barfield,
and they gave me a couple of other local addresses. You can go
and look at their work.'
'Then why don't they use the Laceys for their prestige publicity?'
'The Laceys are localyou have national recognition.'
He looked at her challengingly. 'And what if I just prefer to have
the firm who supplied the original building do the work again?'
She returned his look with equal challenge. 'Then if it came to a
settlement in court, you wouldn't be regarded with much favour.'


'It seems, my dear Julia,' he said at length, 'that you have the
makings of a far more crafty solicitor than was apparent at first
sight.' She heard the busy click of the calculator keys.
'Not crafty,' she said. 'Everything I have done has been fair. This
too, I consider.'
He finished his calculation. She knew what the figure on the
screen would be. A deficit of just over a thousand poundsand
she had started off having to recoup seventy thousand. What kind
of man would turn awkward about that sort of bargain?
'I never imagined you would get so close,' he said. 'I must
congratulate you.'
'Neither did I,' Julia said with feeling, beginning to scent hope in
the air.
'But,' he went on, 'I know you are going to be worried about this
small balance remaining. Don't concern yourself. I think I can deal
with it.'
He was going to write it off! Julia thanked him, and began to
gather up her papers, longing to be away. But she was wrong. He
hadn't finished.
'I'm quite willing to accept a little work you can do for me this
weekend in final settlement. Then we can both feel completely
satisfied.' He smiled the smile of the tiger.
Julia could hardly believe her ears. He really did intend going on
until he had had every last scraping of his pound of flesh. He'd got
something worked outthe card he had been holding right from
the start of tonight's meetingand now he .was playing it.


Resentment and temper rose up in her. She swallowed both back
with difficulty, knowing her control was not going to last.
'What is this "little work" you have it in mind for me to do?' she
asked carefully. She was expecting some legal matter to attend to,
and his next words took her completely unawares.
He leaned back comfortably, smugness written all over him. 'You
can help me with a party down at the Cornish Kane's this weekend.
There'll be four of us. Business entertainingquite important.'
She let her briefcase drop with a thud on to the carpet, and her
voice had a dangerous tremor as she said incredulously, 'You can't
possibly be serious.'
'I'm perfectly serious.'
'You are asking me to act as a sort of hostess for you?'
He smiled and nodded. 'In a way, I suppose. Yes.'
Julia stood up very straight, ramrod-stiff with anger. 'No way at
all, Warren. Do you imagine I'm some agency girl you can book to
socialise with? You've already made your own interests pretty
clear. Maybe you even plan on hiring me out to the rest of the
party to make sure you get your full thousand pounds' worth!'
He too got up. 'Just a minute. I anticipated that you would
deliberately misunderstand.' He went over to a desk and picked up
a copy of a letter. 'You've got hold of the wrong end of the stick.
This is straightforward business entertaining, and very much
connected with the business you've been dealing with. I'm
entertaining the man, along with his wife, who is putting up the
capital for Wyngates, for the weekend, as a small sweetener for the


delay he's having to put up with. Here's a copy of his reply to the
suggestion.'
She was so wound up with anger that the words only danced on the
page. 'Thanks for the offer. . .Marisa and I. . .weekend of the
twelfth to fourteenth of September. . .'
'The answer is no. Decidedly no,' she said. 'Anything I have done
over the past days has been for Harcourt and in my capacity as
solicitor. You don't hire me for whatever purpose takes your fancy,
Warren. You are going to have to be satisfied with what I've done
for you, like it or not. I consider that I've saved you considerable
delay and money. If it's not enough, then there's not a damned
thing more I intend doing about it.' She grabbed her briefcase and
was across the room in seconds.
'May I remind you of our bargain?' he said, his voice changed. 'Has
the goodwill for Harcourt run out?'
She spun round in the doorway. 'Harcourt would despise you for
your attitude. Any normal, sane person would.'
She slammed out of the house and into her car. Her fury took her
at boiling-point along to the main road. There she was caught up in
a long, crawling tail-back behind a tractor and was physically
forced to slow down. The slowing down affected her thoughts, and
the sheer foolishness of giving way to temper as she had done sank
home. What had she done? What on earth had she done?
All right, he was a grasping devil for sticking out for every penny
of what he was owedbut he had said all along that he would do
just that, and, as he had reminded her, it was part of an agreement
which she had accepted. Why, when she was so near to satisfying
him after such unbelievable good fortune, had she jibbed at the last
fence? Oh, she was a fool, an utter fool. And what might he be


capable of doing in retaliation? Most people would consider a
weekend at Kane's a bonus, not a hardship. And here she was,
jeopardising everything she had been fighting for. It just wasn't
worth it.
There was a lane coming up on the left, and she swung into it,
reversing into a field entrance so that she could turn round and
head back to Wyngates to eat her wordsif Warren would let her.
She was back at the T-junction, waiting for a chance to turn out
into the main road, when she realised that Warren's car was
crossing right in front of her, with Warren staring grim-faced
straight ahead, unaware that she was there.
She flicked the opposite indicator on and shot out into the road in a
gap that really wasn't quite big enough, so that the car she had
squeezed in front of honked angrily at her. She was going to
follow Warren wherever he was going. She had to correct this
stupid situation she had got herself into.
She kept her eyes on his Maserati Spyder three cars ahead, cursing
when it managed to shoot round the tractor and roar off. It seemed
minutes before the traffic situation let her overtake the tractor
herself, and when she did she could see nothing of Warren's dark
blue car. She put her foot down and made the little Deux Chevaux
do its uttermost, but eventually she had to accept the futility of
chasing an invisible target heading for an unknown destination.
She pulled into a lay-by and tried to think logically.
There was nothing to be gained by going back to Wyngates with
Warren not there. She didn't think she could reverse the situation
in a note. She had to see him in person and make out a suitable
case for herself.


She had not seen Harcourt at lunchtime because she had been
rushed off her feet tying up the ends before her meeting with
Warren. She would call in and see him now, since she was not far
from the hospital, then with a bit of luck Warren would be back.

The Cottage Hospital car park was only small, so Julia saw the
blue Maserati at once and her heart thudded violently. She didn't
want to believe that it was Warren's car, but it was too much to
hope that owners of two identical convertibles should be visiting at
the same time. The numberplate was final proof when she was
close enough to read it. She always remembered numbers.
She felt almost paralysed with shock. There could only be one
reason for him to have come here, racing hot-foot from their
meetingand she had pushed him into it. The idea that he was
capable of such a thing hurt her on more than one level. How
could he do this to Harcourt? Only it wasn't entirely Harcourt she
was agonising over. It was the fact that Warren should be capable
of such vindictiveness. She had not, in spite of all her harsh words,
believed him a man who would go to such lengths. He drove a
hard bargain, yes. But a hurtful one? And for so little, by his
standards.
She got out of the car and went towards the hospital entrance, not
knowing what she was going to do or how she could make the
situation any better. But it was of her making, and she couldn't
back away from it.
She walked along the empty corridor towards the end of the
hospital where Harcourt's room was, and she was almost opposite
the matron's office when she heard Warren's voice coming from
the half-open door.


It was such a relief to think that she mightjust mightbe in time
to stop him seeing Harcourt that she didn't hover diffidently,
waiting for him to come out. She blundered straight into the office
and said, 'WarrenI've got to speak to you.'
He turned in her direction, his eyes registering how taken aback he
was, and Julia realised that Matron too looked uncomfortably
startled to see her.
'I'm sorry,' she said, including both of them in her apology, 'but it's
important. Please, Warren.'
Matron half rose. 'My dearyou're white as a ghost. Are you all
right?'
Then Warren was at her side, his hand gripping her arm. 'I'd better
take you out while you can still make it. I'll be in touch if
necessary. . .' he said over his shoulder to Matron as they left.
When they were out in the car park he unlocked the Maserati,
which was nearest the entrance, and made Julia sit in it, getting in
beside her.
'That was a bit dramatic, even by your standards. Are you going to
pass out on me?'
'No.' She turned impulsively towards him. 'You haven't been in to
see Harcourt yet, have you?'
He looked hard at her, registering the fear at the back of her
golden-brown eyes. 'Harcourt? What makes you think I was going
to see him?'
'I thought. . .' Her eyes fell. She was ashamed of her suspicions,
and at the same time such sweet relief was beginning to flood


through her. When she'd mentioned Harcourt's name, Warren had
looked genuinely surprised. She looked quickly up into his face
again. Either that, or he was a superb actor. 'I thought that because
I flew off the handle and refused to go down to Cornwall, you
were going to -' She stopped. 'Well. . .you can imagine what I
thought.'
'I can?' he said stiffly. 'I hardly care to. If you think me capable of
jetting off in temper to take it out of a sick man, then I'm decidedly
not flattered. Perhaps I've been overdoing the driving spirit.'
'You were right to be angry,' she hurried to say.
'We had a bargain. I should have stuck to it. I don't know what
made me hit the roof like that. I was coming back to tell you so
when I saw your car passing me at the road junction, and I tried to
follow you but you disappeared. So I thought I would see Harcourt
and then go back to Wyngates and hope you wouldn't stay out too
long. But then your car was here and I panicked and thought. . .'
Her voice tailed away.
'There could be any number of reasons for my calling in here,' he
said calmly. 'You were quick to tell me at the ball that you were
aware of my interest in the hospital. I could be calling in to discuss
how my gift was used. I could be negotiating an arrangement for
medical supervision when Wyngates opens as the sixth Kane's.
You really shouldn't jump to conclusions like that, Julia.'
'Which?' she asked, part of her still needing to be absolutely
convinced. 'Which were you doing?'
His keen blue eyes held hers. 'I'm not going to tell you. You will
have to learn to be a better judge of character and not demand
incontrovertible proof of everything.'


She put out a hand and touched his arm impulsively. 'I'm sorry.'
He looked down at it, then up at her. 'I should think you are. So. .
.what was it you wanted to say with such urgency?'
Julia withdrew her, hand and examined her nails with
thoroughness. 'I don't really think there's much point in saying it
now.'
He shot his hands through his hair in sudden frustration. 'What the
hell, woman! If it was worth all that careering around doing car
chases and then storming Matron's office, you might have the
grace to come out with it now. Not to mention the consistency.'
Julia's spirits were doing odd things, switchbacking up and down.
She felt silly, and yet at the same time tremendously exhilarated.
Was it because Harcourt was still, thankfully, unaware of the
trouble that had been circling round him for the past tumultuous
days, or was it because Warren was not the villain she had, for that
inexpressibly dark moment, thought him capable of being? She
didn't know and she didn't care. All that mattered was that the
world had rocked frighteningly on its axis, but was secure again.
'I was going to say. . .' She lost courage. 'But of course, you won't
want me to, now.'
'Julia! You are talking in riddles. Spit it out!'
'All right. I wanted to tell you that of course I will do the sensible
thing and see out this saga to the bitter end. If you want help with
your guests this weekend, then I will be there.'
'A complete volte-face?'
'If you like to put it like that.'


'What I would like more than anything,' he said forcefully,
surprising her with his tone, 'is for there to be at least this one
weekend when we can enjoy the time in each other's company
without this eternal minefield going off all around us.'
'No more mines from me this weekend,' she promised. 'As far as
your backer is concerned, though, I presume you are not altogether
looking forward to being on hand to listen to complaints. Is that
why you want me there? To dilute the company a bit?'
Warren leaned forward and opened the glove-box absent-
mindedly, took nothing out of it, and closed it again, as though
thinking about his answer. 'The Bacciochis are a nice pair,' he said
at last. 'I've spoken to Enrico in considerable detail, and he
understands the situation. But -' he shot a glance at Julia 'I
would certainly like you to be there. The centre's in a lovely spot
right on the coast in a little cove like something out of
Frenchman's Creek. You'll enjoy the place, if not the company.'
'I'm sure most people would jump at the chance,' she said
awkwardly.
'Ah, but, my fiery Julia, you are not most people.'
Something in the tone of his voice made her look at him again, and
suddenly the car seemed very small. She looked away quickly.
'Much more trouble, I expect you are thinking.'
'And now you are jumping to conclusions again.'
She drew in a big breath. Somehow she seemed short of air. 'Not
for much longer, anyway.'
'You really are going, then? No change of plan?'


She shook her head. 'No. I've booked my flight.'
'You're a stubborn devil, aren't you? When for?'
'Next Thursday.' Talking about it made her feel very miserable,
and she tried to counter it with flippancy. 'Don't worry. I'm not
going to disappear before I've discharged the last of my debt.'
'And then you will fly east and banish all thoughts of Wyngates
and Chipping Ferris.'
'I don't forget anything as easily as that.' And certainly not you, she
added inside herself. She looked at his lean, handsome face, the
dark, glossy hair she had to restrain herself from pushing back
from his forehead, as though to imprint it on her memory. He
caught her doing it.
'I must go in and see Harcourt now,' she said hurriedly, her cheeks
no longer white but tell-tale pink. 'What time do you want to leave
for Cornwall?'
'I'll pick you up at ten. No more U-turns.'
'You can count on it.' Julia slipped out of the car and watched him
drive away. She told herself she had done the sensible thing. A
small, cynical interior voice asked her who she thought she was
kidding. She went in to see Harcourt.

Maggie came round later that evening when Julia was in the thick
of packing and when her wet hair was wrapped in a towel until she
had time to blow-dry it.


'Any chance of your feeding Jenkins for me this weekend?' Maggie
asked. 'Bob's brother has invited us over to the Forest of Dean out
of the blue. They've got somebody's cottage.'
'Sorry. I'm away too,' Julia told her. 'Tomorrow morning, actually.
I was going to ring you.'
Maggie looked interested. 'Two last-minute invitations,
apparently.'
'Mine's business.' She avoided Maggie's bright, curious eyes,
adjusting the towel, then decided she couldn't very well not say
anything more in explanation. 'Warren Kane wants me to do some
work for him at the health centre in Cornwall.'
'Jammy madam! If some kind providence would send me business
like that, I'd be on my knees giving thanks!' Maggie looked at
Julia's uneasy face and decided prudently against further comment.
'Oh, well, Jenkins will just have to go to the cattery. He'll be hell to
live with next week. And they've forecast storms for this weekend,
too. At least there'll be plenty to occupy you indoors, I imagine.'
'I told youit's work,' Julia said hurriedly.
'Oh, yesof course,' Maggie said with mock solemnity, unable to
resist the temptation. 'Work, indeed! In the sauna and the massage-
room and the whirlpool -'
'Belt up, Maggie!' Julia told her threateningly.
Maggie gave her warm, rolling chuckle and backed away with a
final, 'Don't do too much of it, whatever it is!' when she was out of
reach.



CHAPTER SEVEN
MR AND MRS SINCLAIR had to be told of her plans before she left
for Cornwall, and Julia phoned them early on Friday morning. One
good thing about going out to New Zealand, she thought as she
waited to be connected, was that she wouldn't be spending so
much on her telephone bill. There was no one she would want to
be constantly phoning in the reverse direction. The fact that she
immediately thought of Warren was ridiculous, as the only reason
to speak to him would be for business, and that necessity would be
a thing of the past after this weekend.
Mrs Sinclair was delighted to hear of her daughter's imminent
arrival. 'So what are you doing with your last weekend in
England?' she asked eventually.
The last weekend. How sad that sounded. 'Going to Cornwall to
finish off the work I told you I was doing for Warren Kane.'
'That's a name that suddenly keeps cropping up,' her mother said.
'Is it going to be a pleasure or a pain, then?'
'A bit of both, I expect,' Julia said. 'The place is worth visiting, I'm
sure. He can be difficult. . .but then again, he's sometimes
quite...nice.' 'Nice' struck her as a most inadequate adjective.
'Is he important?' her mother asked with interest.
Julia deliberately misunderstood. 'He's a big name over here. He
has five very classy health centres and adds regularly to the
number -'
'I meant important to you.'
'Ohit's only business, but that's always important, I suppose.'


'You forget,' Mrs Sinclair said calmly, 'that I know every inflexion
of that voice of yours. I'll get the truth out of you when it isn't
costing one or the other of us a fortune. Off you go. Enjoy
yourself. See you Fridayand we'll meet you at the airport, of
course.'
Julia put the phone down, wishing that everyone would stop trying
to read more than there was into her dealings with Warren Kane.
She dialled the estate agent's number and checked whether there
had been progress in arranging a six months' let for Folly Cottage
from the end of the following week. Could she do that so calmly,
she asked herself with satisfaction, if she really cared about going
away?
She dashed round the cottage checking windows and doing a final
tidy-up before changing into linen trousers and a matching striped
shirt. As she fastened the darker suede belt round her waist, she
noticed that she was using a notch tighter than usual. Had the
Wyngates business had that effect on her? It was a good job it was
so nearly over. She brought down her case and put it by the door,
with the white loose jacket she was taking lying on top of it, then
found other unnecessary things to do to pass the time.
At five to ten she was standing by the window, watching for the
blue Maserati, her fingers lightly stroking the dove. 'Good
behaviour this weekend!' she promised it. The car came into view
and Julia could no longer deny the ripples of excitement running
up and down her spine.
Warren came up to the door to help with the luggage. He looked
very much in holiday mood in his pale maize trousers and white
sweater, and before he picked up her case he stood looking down
at her.


'One word before we go. This is to be a weekend entirely without
stress. No battles or disagreements. All obligations metand your
presence the final settlement. Agreed?'
Julia gave a little nod. 'Absolutely. I don't get so many weekends
in luxurious seaside settings that I can afford to spoil them.'
'Good.' He went on looking at her. 'At least we are going to part
good friends.'
She had been talking about parting, even thinking about it quite
composedly. But somehow when Warren said it with such matter-
of-factness it sent an unpleasant feeling through her.
'You have reservations?' he asked, sensing her tremor of
uncertainty.
'Nono, of course not.' She summoned up her brightest smile. 'I'm
really looking forward to seeing the sea. Just a bit of a kid, really.'
His eyes wandered slowly over her, taking in curve and hollow.
'Hardly that, but the enthusiasm sounds promising. Let's go.' He
handed her her jacket and picked up the case, and Julia, tearing
herself away from the hold his eyes seemed to have over her,
walked off towards the lane.
'It might be an idea to lock the door, don't you think?' Warren
reminded her.
Sheepishly she came back and closed up the cottage, telling herself
that she was going to have to do better than that.
'Anything else you've forgotten?' he asked when she rejoined him
at the car.


'I hope not.' She did a mental check, remembered Harcourt, and
frowned guiltily. Should she be feeling so darned happy?
'You've thought of something?' Warren had noticed, and slowed
momentarily.
'No. I was just hoping that Harcourt would be all right this
weekend. I couldn't even ask Maggie to go in and see him in my
place. She's away too.'
'Just allow yourself time off. He'll be well taken care of.'
'You sound very definite about it.'
'I am. Take my word for it.' The certainty in his voice was
persuasive. Julia allowed herself to relax into the comfortable seat
and watch the panorama of villages and countryside. They went
through the busy centre of Evesham then out into the country
again, with Bredon Hill sunning itself on the right as they headed
for the M5 leading to the West Country.
'Tell me what you want me to do this weekend,' Julia asked after a
while, when they had settled to a steady seventy miles an hour on
the motorway.
'Just be there, be yourself, and take everything as it comes.' The
answer came quickly, but it was hardly satisfactory.
'I'd find it more helpful if you could be a bit more specific,' she
said.
'It doesn't always pay to be specific,' he said oddly. Then he looked
down at her and back at the road. 'I really am just hoping that
having you here will make the weekend achieve what I'm hoping it


will achievea little happiness and contentment for all
participants.'
'Well, at least you can fill me in a bit about the Bacciochis. Have
you known them long?'
'Long enough.' He smothered a slightly impatient sigh, but went on
pleasantly enough. 'He's a typical Italian, I suppose you'd say.
Dark, good-looking, very charmingand very clever. Marisa is
the sort of wife you'd expect him to have, but as agreeable as she is
pretty. They've led a pretty cosmopolitan life, but it hasn't seemed
to spoil them.'
Two paragons, evidently. She had a sudden thought. 'What about
language? I don't know any Italian.'
'You won't need it.' He put his foot down and the Maserati shot
into the fast lane to overtake a continental lorry. 'How about trying
the radio? Or a cassette. Take your pick. And there's chocolate in
the glove-box.
Evidently that was enough talking for now. 'I can take a hint,' Julia
said equably. 'But you don't have to choose another kind of noise
to replace mineor resort to gobstoppers!'
He reached out and squeezed her hand, laughing. 'No offence
intended.'
'None taken.' She closed her eyes. His hand remained where it was
for a little while, long fingers comfortably curled round hers, until
a tail-back of traffic where the carriageway was reduced to one
lane because of roadworks called for two-handed driving. Warren
muttered something uncomplimentary about the roadworks. Julia
found herself in secret agreement.



The pretty little village on the edge of Dartmoor well off the main
road where they detoured for a late lunch had a welcome sleepy
calm after the noise and movement of the motorway and main
roads. The Ring of Bells was centuries old with its pink-washed
walls and thatched roof. Inside there were rough stone walls and
big oak settles, and a cold buffet table to set the mouth watering.
There was also a welcome absence of Muzak. Just the burr of
country voices as background music.
Julia chose fresh salmon and a little of every salad on offer, since
all looked too good to pass over. Warren opted for the rare roast
beef, with crusty bread and a jacket potato with butter and chives.
'What are you thinking?' he asked when he came back from the bar
with a spritzer for Julia and a local ale for himself. Julia snapped
out of her reverie.
'Just that, although I feel I know you very well, there's an awful lot
that I don't know about you. One uncle isn't much in the way of
family background.'
'You feel you know me well?' He looked rather disbelieving but
not displeased.
'Well, you must admit that the past weeks have been fairly intense.
. .and we do go back a long way,' she added.
He grinned, and Julia realised with pleasant surprise that the
original meeting had now lost its horrors. And about time too, she
told herself.
'So how about filling in the gaps?' she continued, boldly.


'What would you like to know?' He was making businesslike
inroads on the delicious-looking beef.
'Close family, childhood, school and after,' she replied promptly.
'All right.' He put down his knife and fork. 'An unglamorous story,
but I'll make it brief. Childhood the usual blinkered affair, so that it
was something of a surprise when my mother disappeared with a
family "friend". Boarding-school for obvious reasons. Father made
such a hash of his business by letting everyone make a sucker out
of him that he's ended up running nothing more ambitious than a
village post office in the wilds of Northumberland. I must in all
fairness add that he's remarried and seems perfectly happy. My
mother's idyll didn't last long. She had three years with her man,
then went into hospital for a routine, quite trivial op and died under
the anaesthetic. Her heart was physically suspect, as well as
emotionally, it seems.' He paused briefly. 'How does that satisfy
you as a potted biography?'
There was a little silence while Julia wished she had never brought
up what was a far from happy subject. 'I'm sorry,' she said at last.
'Sorry it was like that, and sorry I made you talk about it.'
He carried on eating. 'It was a long time ago, too long ago to be
painful, anyway. And that's how it was. It hardly seems to have
anything to do with the life I lead today.'
'I can see that,' Julia said with feeling. 'It certainly explains a lot.'
She realised too late that she was on far too intimate ground. She
would have done far better to have let his statement pass, because
now he was looking at her with curiosity.
'What exactly do you mean by that?'


Having started the subject, she had to answer. 'Well. . . I can see
why you are so determined not to let anyone get away with
anything in business.' He was still looking interrogatively at her.
'And. . .it's obvious why you've taken so long to get yourself a
wife.' Her heart was thudding away like a mad thing.
'Is it, now?' He went on watching the play of colour on her
transparent skin.
'I mean. . .if your mother does that, any woman must suddenly
seem capable of being similarly untrustworthy. It can't make it
easy to fall in love.'
If only he would stop looking at her like that. Even when she was
studiously examining her plate she could feel those intense blue
eyes burning on her.
'I think. . .' he said, deliberately dragging out the pause so that she
was on tenterhooks '. . .that we'd better have two of those delicious
raspberry meringues that I saw on the buffet table. This
conversation needs something to lighten it, don't you agree?' He
picked up the plates and disappeared, while Julia sat going hot and
cold with a blend of shame and amazement that she should have
clumsily directed the conversation into such personal channels.
She hurriedly thought up three changes of topic that she could
embark on, but when Warren returned with the meringues he
started describing the coastal area where Kane's was situated, and
against all her expectations she became so interested that her
embarrassment ebbed away.

He did return to the subject briefly a little later, however. They had
walked through the village and looked round the church, and, as
they came out into the sunny porch again, Warren spoke her name.


She paused, letting him draw level with her. He put an arm round
her shoulder and said, 'Recovered now?'
She avoided his eyes. 'Recovered from what?'
'From your session as a psychiatrist. It really didn't matter, you
know. I didn't mind talking about it. I was even mildly pleased that
you expressed any curiosity at all.'
'Were you?' She risked a quick glance and he gripped her chin with
his hand, not allowing her to turn away again.
'And I'm really quite unscathed by it all. Want me to prove it?'
'Warren -' She had just time to say his name before his mouth
closed on hers and instantly the desire to protest or wriggle away
from him died the death. She wanted only to melt against him like
this, softness against strength, and to feel this contentment deeper
than she had ever known flooding through her.
As the kiss ended his hand moved to press her face against his
shoulder, and he just held her, his head resting on hers. All around
them Julia was aware of continuing time flowing from the ancient
stones of the church, from the gently creaking centuries-old trees
that surrounded it, and from the mossy gravestones with their
English names and loving messages. She had a strong sense of
wanting to belong to someone like him and some place like this.
She didn't want to go to the other end of the earth. She wanted to
stay here, right where she was.
Warren craned his head to look into her face. He put his finger to
her eyelashes and caught the tear she was trying to brush away on
the tip of one finger, turning it this way and that to catch the fire of
the sun.


'This is hardly the effect to flatter a man,' he said gently.
Julia rubbed an impatient hand across her eyes. 'Why did you have
to bring me to such a typically English place and remind me of
what I'm going to be leaving behind? You should have taken me to
lunch in a motorway cafe. I could say goodbye to one of those
with all the cheerfulness in the world. And there wouldn't be a
porch like this for you to catch me unawares in.'
He laughed, leaving his arm round her shoulder as they moved
away. 'Look at the hollow in the step,' he pointed out. 'We're far
from the first pair to take advantage of the place.'
'You were taking advantage,' Julia said firmly. 'I was being taken
advantage ofthere's a difference.'
'Not from where I was standing.' Warren tapped her on the
shoulder. 'Come on. Time we were making a move.'

It was late afternoon when they arrived at Porthaian Cove after a
journey not remarkable for its speed.
The Cornish Kane's was set back from the coast in a garden rich
with cedars, maples and magnolias.
The house was white and rambling, surrounded by smooth emerald
lawns over which peacocks wandered. Through the trees the open
sea sparkled.
After a brief word with the receptionist, a bright and pretty
redhead whom Warren addressed, as Anthea, Julia's eyes worked
overtime as he took her through the cool marble-floored hall and
up to the penthouse suite which was reserved for them. As the


open wrought-iron lift soared upwards, she saw luxuriously
carpeted corridors and banks of flowering plants.
'I'm not sure I've the right sort of wardrobe for this place,' she said
nervously, watching someone in a pink satin neglige reminiscent
of Hollywood disappear into a bedroom.
'Typical unnecessary female reaction,' Warren said calmly. 'You're
quite likely to spend more time out of your clothes than in them
when we're in the house. Quite respectably, of course. Here we
are.'
The section of top floor at which the lift had stopped was
apparently theirs only. Warren opened the door into the penthouse.
'Come on a quick tour before I show you your room. This is the
loungeoverlooking the cove, which we couldn't see from ground
level.'
Julia couldn't miss it. The whole of one wall was glass, opening on
to a balcony garden and commanding a perfect view of the steep-
sided cove with its scattering of bright-sailed boats. She had a
quick impression of white leather furniture and thick-piled carpet,
interesting-looking paintings, shelves of books. . .and then she was
whisked through the rest of the suite.
'My room -' Warren was opening doors as they went along the
corridor 'dining-room. . .kitchen . . .not that we'll be using that
except for the odd drink. Food can come up in this if we want to
eat in privacy, but the restaurants are pleasant.' He moved the
service lift up and down on its ropes. 'This is the main guest room.'
He didn't open that door. 'And this is yours. You have your own
bathroom, as we all do.' There was a distant knock on the main
door. 'Ahthat'll be our cases.'


Alone in her room, Julia looked round incredulously. The white
carpeting continued throughout the suite, but in here there were
touches of sunny gold and bronze in the fabrics, and the mouldings
of the white fitted units were delicately gold-ornamented. Nothing
had been forgotten. There was a yellow robe behind the door, and
when she opened the wardrobe she found a yellow tracksuit,
sweaters, shirts, shorts, headbands, all waiting for her use.
'Your kind of colour, I thought.' Warren brought in her case and
put it on the ottoman at the foot of the bed.
'You really are amazing!' Julia said.
'That opinion has been expressed before, on occasions,' Warren
said with no attempt at modesty. 'What causes you to see the
light?'
'All this!' Julia waved an expressive arm. 'One room in one huge
place, but such a wealth of planning has gone into it and every
detail is so perfect. I can't imagine how you make sure that this,
and four other places, keep running like clockworkperfect
clockwork. All thatand still you find time to track down
comparative trifles like the Harcourt affair.'
'I should have known there would be a sting in the tail of the
compliment,' Warren said drily. 'Ever heard of the horseshoe-nail
that cost the horse, the rider, the battle and the war?' At the door he
paused. 'Come and have a drink on the terrace when you're ready,
and I'll tell you what we plan to do. You can count on it being
something amazing, of course.' With a grin that managed to be at
the same time big-headed and yet tremendously attractive, he
closed the door.
He was different this weekend, Julia thought as she established her
ownership of the room by distributing her belongings. From the


moment they'd set off, he had been more as she used to imagine
him being when she'd dreamed over him long ago. Masterful, of
course, urbanebut amusing, surprisingly honest, and. . . She
remembered the church and did a bit of mental dallying, reliving
the memory. It was a very potent memory, in the course of which
she found that she had to sit down, since her legs seemed reluctant
to go on supporting her.
She had been kissed by quite a few people, some of whom were
decidedly interested in more than kissing, but none of them had
affected her as Warren did. She thought of the touch of his hand on
her face and the incandescent effect it had on her, and imagined
what it would be like if Warren too showed signs of being
interested in more than kissing.
She heard him calling her name at a highly X-certificate point in
her fantasy. The voice seemed to come from outside rather than in,
and, thanking Providence that Warren was not a mind-reader, she
went out on to her balcony to see if she could see the terrace
garden, to find that the penthouse had a connecting walkway all
round it, and she could reach the place where Warren was standing
holding up a glass in invitation without going back indoors.
'Champagne!' she exclaimed as the bubbles tickled her nose.
'Shouldn't we have waited for that?'
'Rather too long to wait, I'm afraid. That's what I wanted to tell
you.' Warren handed her a sheet of Kane's, Cornwall stationery
with the typed message, 'Mr and Mrs Bacchiochi unexpectedly
delayed. Arriving Saturday, 7.00 p.m.'
Julia had an unexpected and surprising reaction to this. 'Oh, dear.
Why, I wonder?' she said, stalling for time.
'Could be any number of reasons. He's a busy man.'


'But they're missing half the weekend. What a pity.' And what a
hypocrite I am, she thought, because I'm not the least bit sorry. She
drank her champagne as though it were lemonade, and Warren
leaned forward to top up her glass. Julia realised that he was
looking at her with a strangely considering expression.
'I'm not so sure it is a pity,' he said slowly. 'To be absolutely
truthful, I find the experience of spending time with you without
any secondary hassle going on rather enjoyable. I can view the
next twenty-four hours quite optimistically. How about you?'
All that, coinciding as it did with what she was feeling too, made
Julia take another incautious gulp of champagne. She felt as
though tiny bubbles were popping all along her bloodstream and
fizzing in her heart and in her head. It was a delicious sensation.
'Well?' Warren prompted.
She had a strong urge to be truthful too. 'I think -' She made the
mistake of looking up, and instantly felt as if she were drowning in
those knowing blue eyes. 'I think we'll have a wonderful time,' she
said recklessly, flinging her arms wide. 'Absolutely wonderful!'
Warren smiled. 'And is that your own opinion, or the
champagne's?'
'Both,' Julia said solemnly, then leaned forward conspiratorially.
'But mostly mine.' She gave him a brilliant smile, and his own
smile broadened.
'You're a continual source of surprise, aren't you?' he said. 'So
demure and cool and restrained at times, and yet -'
The pursuit of truth drove her relentlessly on. 'OhI'm not at all
restrained, really,' she said. 'I've always thought I'd like being with


you ever since I first saw you. I used to watch you a lot, you know,
that summer when you first visited your uncle. I watched you play
tennis and walk around the grounds, and you never knew I was
there. But I was, and I thought about you a lot, and I always felt
that. . .' What on earth was she babbling on about? She made a
valiant attempt to retrieve the situation. 'Well, you moved so well.
You had those long legs. . . You still have, in fact. And you
swooped around on the tennis-court, and I thought you looked as
though you'd be good at everything.' That sounded decidedly
suspect. 'Sport,' she corrected hurriedly. 'Every sport.' She looked
at Warren with comic dismay as he now openly laughed at her.
'Does champagne always do this? I've actually never had it before,
believe it or not. Students can't afford the stuff, you know. It seems
to make me talk a lot.'
'I like the effect,' Warren said, 'but perhaps it would be politic not
to offer you any more. Now let's plan. Feel up to it?'
Julia nodded. The rush of madness to the head and tongue seemed
to be steadying down. 'I've unpacked my thingsand I do have
one posh outfit with me, so I won't let you down.'
'In that case, we'll give the posh outfit an airing tonight,' Warren
said. 'I don't think we want to join the crowd downstairs, do we?
And I don't think we'd better eat up here.' He didn't give reasons
for either opinion. 'Could this gear of yours be described as a
dining and dancing outfit?'
'Very much so.'
'In that case, I know exactly where to take you. Go and get
yourself ready. And, Julia -' he caught her hand as she hesitated '
don't lose the champagne sparkle, will you? It suits you.'
She blushed. She thought, fiercely. Warren thought, irresistibly.


Champagne or not, Julia told herself as she went to change, things
would never be quite as they were after that little exchange. Nor
did she want them to be, she discovered, coming to an abrupt halt
in the middle of rushing around her room. She had gone right back
to the sort of feelings she had had for Warren as a teenager, only
they were far more powerful now. How strange. How
frighteningand yet how utterly wonderful. Was this how
everyone felt when they were in love? Was she in love? In spite of
Harcourt? In spite of knowing she was going away and it couldn't
amount to anything?
She banished thoughts of going away and whipped herself into
activity again. All she knew was that fate had given her the next
twenty-four hours, and she was going to accept this gift of the gods
and revel in it. The questions and any other after-effects could
wait.
She showered and got ready in a dream, and when she had finished
she looked at herself in the mirror. It was like looking at a stranger.
The girl in the mirror glowed, her skin luminous with something
that came from within. Her eyes were shining gold, echoing the
amber of her softly layered chiffon skirt. The cinnamon, closely
fitting silk jacket she wore was voluptuously rich with fine gold
Indian embroidery and delicate beading. When she'd bought the
outfit, Julia had had no occasion in mind for it. She had just
thought it looked special.
She fingered the embroidery, then turned, watching the gentle
movement of the skirt.
Well, so it was special. And now was its special hour.



The evening was as magical as Julia had imagined. Warren told
her she looked like an Indian princess, and certainly the exclusive
club where he took her to eat and dance was a setting fit for any
exotic foreign or native 'royal'. Overlooking the coast, the dining
terrace had one side on this warm night open to a garden of
flowering shrubs and palm-trees, decked with tiny white lights.
Beyond the dull gleam of a marble balustrade, the sea sparkled
with dark seductiveness under the moon.
Afterwards, Julia couldn't remember what they had eaten or what
they had said. She only knew how happy she had been, how
comfortably right she had felt in Warren's company and in his
arms as they'd danced.
She had a faint stir of warningor was it excitement?as they
soared up through the silent floors of the centre to their roof-top
eyrie, hand in hand, not speaking, and then let themselves into the
penthouse, which, though part of the centre where so many slept,
yet had its dangerous privacy. But Warren made no attempt to
force anything. He offered her a drink, which she prudently
refused, and then just pulled her into his arms and kissed her a
long, satisfying goodnight.
'Just think,' he said softly, 'if only I'd met you for the sake of
meeting you, and not for tiresome business reasons, we could have
been spending evenings like this long ago.'
Julia rubbed her cheek against the small hours' roughness of his.
'All that seems like another lifetime. I feel as though we've always
known each other.'
He smiled down into her face, his eyes caressing her. 'Do you?
Then that makes two of us.' He kissed the tip of her nose. 'And
now get some sleep. Tomorrow you can sample the joys of


Kane'shave that body you've worked so hard on the dance-floor
cosseted and soothed a little. How does that sound?'
Julia looked at him. 'But what will you be doing?' She didn't care
that the implication of her question was obvious. She didn't want
to be separated from him for a moment of this precious twenty-
four hours.
His reply sent her to bed reassured. 'I'll be right there with you.
Goodnight, princess.'
While the rest of the guests dallied over the exotic fruits of the
breakfast tables, Warren and Julia had the sauna then the various
pools to themselves. And, when the first swimmers drifted in to
join them, they left to lie on twin beds in a private, sea-green
room, having the most hypnotic, wonderful massage with aromatic
oils. Julia found it the most intimately arousing experience of her
lifein spite of the fact that she was sharing it with not only
Warren but with the two blessedly silent girls whose hands were so
wonderfully soothing.
At first she lay watching Warren's brown, smooth back as the girl's
hands worked over his powerful shoulders, down his spine and
round his ribcage. She closed her eyes and imagined that the hands
were hers, then that it was Warren's hands passing over her own
skin on such seductive, aromatic paths.
'Are you going to sleep?' he asked suddenly.
Julia's eyes flew open and met his for one confused, revealing
moment, then she turned her face hurriedly away.
'No. Just going into a trance,' she mumbled into the pillow, but the
look in his eyes had convinced her that he knew exactly what she
was thinking, and the familiar wave of colour followed her next


thoughtthat perhaps his own mind had been working on similar
lines to hers.
Later they took his boat round into a quiet, almost deserted little
creek and had a long, lazy picnic, after which they sunbathed on
the cabin roof, talking dreamily, until Julia saw the hands of
Warren's watch and wondered with a start where the day had gone.
'Shouldn't we be getting back?' she said reluctantly. 'Your guests
will soon be -'
'Damn the Bacciochis!' Warren said forcefully, rolling over and
pulling her fiercely against his warm body, nuzzling his face into
her neck. 'I want this to go on forever.'
Julia felt a sweet sense of power as well as pain as she gently held
him away from her to look into his eyes. 'Well, it can't. You have
obligations.'
'Damn you and your obligations too!' he said with shocking
emphasis, then he gave a rueful little laugh, kissed her quickly on
eyes, nose, and more lingeringly on her lips, after which he leapt to
his feet and gave her a hand to pull her up too. 'All right, then.
Back to Kane's.'
He was quiet as they made their way back, seeming preoccupied.
Julia felt a numbing sense of sadness that it was over, this
unexpected island of time they had shared so wonderfully. In
contrast with the previous night, she felt leaden-limbed as she
bathed and changed ready for the much-delayed meeting with the
Bacciochis.
She was almost ready when Warren knocked on her door, only
needing to slip off her gown and pull on the cream silk jersey dress


she was wearing that evening, but Warren's voice sounded urgent
as he spoke her name so she didn't keep him waiting.
He was no more ready than she was. He was tousle-haired from his
shower, and was wearing a white cotton robe, his feet pushed into
towelling mules.
'I've got to speak to you,' he said, looking so unlike himself that
Julia instinctively reached out her hands to grasp his.
'What is it?' she asked.
'There's something I must tell you. I've -' The shrilling of the
telephone cut into his words. 'What are they trying to do to us?' he
asked desperately, then, gripping her hand like a vice, he pulled
Julia along towards the lounge, saying, 'Come with me while I
answer that damned thing. I've got to speak to you the second I get
rid of whatever fool is calling.' Then they were in the lounge and
he was snarling a curt 'Yes?' into the phone while Julia stood, a
willing prisoner, at his side.



CHAPTER EIGHT
AT FIRST Julia was more preoccupied with what had gone before
the phone call than with what Warren was saying, but suddenly
she realised that his voice had become hushed with the alert
quietness of tension. He let go of her fingers and gripped the
receiver with both hands, his knuckles white.
Then the questions began to register, and she realised that this was
no casual phone call. It brought badvery bad news. Something
awful had happened, something that concerned Warren deeply.
His last words before putting the phone down were, 'I'll be there as
soon as I possibly can.'
For a moment he stood staring down at the telephone, his mind
obviously centred on what he had heard. Then he muttered a
smothered 'Oh, hell!' and turned his eyes on Julia with the
expression of someone who had forgotten she was there.
'What is it, Warren?' she asked fearfully.
'A fire. At the London Kane's. Contained now, but one floor
gutted, and two people missing at the roll-call. I'll have to go.'
'What can I do? Pack your things?' Julia was following him as he
moved towards his room, galvanised into action after the shock of
the news.
'Shaving gear. In the bathroom. Toothbrush. Anything else you
think of from there. This, and this.' He tossed garments on to the
bed. 'Use the bag in the end wardrobe.' As he spoke he was pulling
on his clothes, oblivious of Julia's presence in spite of the rapid-
fire instructions he was hurling at her.


'Food?' she queried. 'You haven't eaten. Shall I ring down for them
to pack sandwiches for you?'
'I. don't want anything. Shan't want food until I know what's
happened.'
'Car keys?' she asked, looking around on the dressing-table and
bedside cabinets.
'Lord knows.' He gazed round desperately and she wanted to hug
him, but knew that that was the last thing the circumstances called
for.
She had a sudden recollection of their movements when they came
in last nighthow long ago that seemedand ran into the hall.
'Here, on the little table by the door,' she called, and dashed out to
press the button summoning the lift. Warren came out, stuffing a
tie into his jacket pocket, the overnight bag slung on one arm.
'Tell them downstairs, will you, Julia? I won't stop to speak to
anyone.' Suddenly he really did see her, and he pulled her towards
him, kissing her fiercely. 'This is the last ending I planned for this
weekend. I'll be back as soon as I can. Just wait for me, love. I'll
phone you when I get the chanceit may not be until tomorrow
morning.'
'Go carefully, Warren.' Julia stood there while the lift purred
downwards, her eyes closed, the touch of him and the sound of
him all around her. She wanted so much to be with him, helping
him to do what he had to do and to bear what had to be borne, but
she realised without having it spelled out for her that this was
something he alone could deal with.
She breathed a little prayer for his safety, knowing the speed with
which he would be hurtling towards London, then she went back


into the penthouse and finished dressing, trying to bring her mind
to bear on what little she could do to help here. Warren hadn't
mentioned the Bacciochis. He would have taken it for granted that
she would look after them, and that she certainly would do to the
best of her ability.
She went back into Warren's room and tidied away the signs of his
hasty departure. She buried her face in his robe before hanging it
up. It was still warm from his wearing it, and the warmth
prolonged for a little while longer the sense of his physical
presence.
When she was dressed she summoned the lift again and went down
to Reception to speak to Anthea at her desk. The girl was
concerned, and sensibly thought of the practical implications for
her own environment.
'I'll see that we have a fire drill tomorrow morning. I know the
alarm system was only checked last week, but the routine's the
same for every Kane's, and it didn't prevent this ghastly business in
London. Poor Mr Kane. He must be so worried. Did they say how
they think it started?'
'I don't think they got round to discussing anything but the bare
facts,' Julia said. 'He's going to ring through when he can. We'll
know more then.' The rows of keys reminded her that she had
locked herself out of the penthouse. Anthea provided a spare key.
'I'll go back and wait for the Bacciochis, then,' Julia told her. 'I
don't suppose there's been any further news of their arrival?'
'The who?' Anthea's alert face looked puzzled.


'The Bacciochis. You knowthe people who were expected
yesterday but were held up. You sent up a message from them
saying they thought they'd be here by seven today.'
Anthea frowned. 'That wasn't me. Maybe it came through when
Marianne was on duty.'
'It was just after we arrived, actually,' Julia remembered.
'Then it ought to have been taken by mebut I certainly don't
remember. . .What was the name again?'
Julia repeated it, and Anthea looked through the bookings. 'Funny.
There's nothing registered under that name.'
'They'll be staying in Mr Kane's suite. Does that mean, perhaps,
that they didn't have to be registered?' Julia asked.
'No. It's an iron rule.' She pointed out Julia's name. 'Seehere you
are, and Mr Kane. Friday to Sunday. We must have all names
scrupulously recorded for all kinds of reasonsone of the most
important being the kind of thing that's happened in London.' She
looked up and smiled. 'Anyway, it's nothing serious. The bedroom
will be ready, apart from towels and a final check. I'll ask the
housekeeper to see to that. And I'll let you know the minute they
arrive. Do you intend eating in the penthouse or in the restaurant?'
Julia thought for a moment. 'In the restaurant, I think. I don't
actually know these people, so the more diversion the easier it will
be for me.'
She took the lift back to the top floor, puzzled by the mystery of
the Bacciochis but not unduly perturbed. Who knew or did not
know the details of their visit was a very small matter compared
with what was happening in London.


A maid came up in a short while with an armful of towels and a
duster, and after she had gone Julia settled down to wait for the
arrival of the unknown guests.

Seven, seven-thirty, then eight o'clock came and went, and Julia
began to feel very anxious. She couldn't bear the thought that she
might have another disaster to report to Warren -when he called
her, but she was beginning to think that she ought to consider
checking with the police.
At ten past eight the phone rang and she flew to the desk. Anthea
announced that Mr Bacciochi was on the line.
'Good evening,' said the pleasantly accented, deep voice. 'Enrico
Bacciochi here. May I speak with Mr Kane?'
Julia's relief spilled over into words. 'Oh, Mr Bacciochi! I'm so
glad to hear you. Are you both all right?'
An amused chuckle answered her. 'We are both in excellent health;
but who are you, may I ask, signorina?'
'I'm sorry. Julia Sinclair. . .a friend of Mr Kane's. I should have
said at once, but I've been waiting for you since seven and I was
beginning to feel that you must have had an accident on your way
down.'
'No accident, Miss Sinclair, apart from the little family problem
that delayed us. But certainly a misunderstanding on your part, I
fear. We were not expected to be on our way down to Cornwall,
pretty though that part of the country may be, I know, so your
concern has been unnecessary. Perhaps if I could speak to Mr
Kane?'


'Not expected?' Julia repeated, bemused, then hurried on to answer
Mr Bacciochi's request. 'I'm sorryMr Kane isn't here. That must
be why the misunderstanding arose.' But how could it be? she was
thinking. It was Warren himself who had said so definitely first
that the Italian couple had been expected in Cornwall, and then
that their arrival had been delayed. And there was the letter she
had seen at Wyngates. They were the reason she was here in
Cornwall, weren't they? She forced herself to deal with the thing
she could explainWarren's absence. 'There's been an accident at
Kane's in London. A fireand Mr Kane had to go dashing off
there.'
'A fire? In London?' The accent intensified. 'In that case our delay
was indeed fortunate. I should explain, Miss Sinclair, that my wife
and I were to spend the weekend at the London Kane's. Mr Kane
had gone to the trouble of obtaining theatre tickets for usfor the
almost unobtainable Lloyd Webber productionand then my
wife's younger brother, who is at Oxford, chose this very weekend
to announce that he is under threat of being "sent down" as you so
quaintly say. So, of course, family had to take precedence over
pleasureand in this case, I must hasten to admit, do us the favour
of keeping us away from a very unfortunate experience.'
'That certainly is a relief,' Julia said faintly, sinking deeper and
deeper into confusion.
'Of course, I informed the receptionist in London as soon as I knew
that we would not be arriving,' Mr Bacciochi said. 'But it was not
until this evening that I had time to telephone Mr Kane's Wyngates
numberand found that he was supposedly in Cornwall. But what
goes on in London? Have you any news?'


'Not yet. I imagine Mr Kane will barely have arrived. All we knew
before he left was that two people were unaccounted for. We just
hope that there will be a simple, harmless explanation.'
'You will please tell Mr Kane that that is our hope, too. And Miss
Sinclairwill you also make our sincere apologies for all his
wasted plans for us this weekend? Tell him that we hope to enjoy
his hospitality at a later date.'
'I will. Thank you for calling,' Julia said.
She sat, going over it all, her hand still on the phone after she had
put it down, her mind beginning to wander along very
uncomfortable pathways.
She had certainly not misunderstood Warren. The whole point of
her being here was to help entertain the Bacciochis at his quite
clearly stated suggestion. Neither had she invented their letter, nor
the message that they had been delayed. The wording of the letter
Warren had shown her flashed into her mind, and she frowned,
going over it, realising something that had at first escaped her
observation. Cornwall had not been mentioned. She had an almost
photographic memory, and, though she had been too angry to
concentrate on the wording at the time with her surface mind, she
pictured it quite clearly now. Thanks for the invitation for the
weekendwhere definitely not specifiedtwelfth to fourteenth of
September. . .Enrico and Marisa were delighted to accept.
Soif she had not misunderstood, the obvious, unpleasant
conclusion was that Warren, for some reason she did not as yet
want to think too hard about, had deliberately misled her, and only
her, because the staff here in Cornwall had certainly not been
brought in on the actnot until she started asking questions, that
was.


Julia realised that she was staring at a typewriter on the desk, and
beyond it at a stationery rack with Kane's, Cornwall stationery in
it. There, right in front of her, was the means of cooking up the
message Warren had shown her concerning the Bacciochis' late
arrival. She pictured him, coolly sitting down at this desk, while
she had been oohing and ahing like a silly schoolgirl over her
room. Then he had watched her swallow his deceit like some
gormless, mindless fish taking a morsel of tempting bait.
Oh, yes. . . Her mind speeded up, churning out self-condemnation,
allowing no excuses. She had done exactly what he'd meant her to
do all along the line. And why? Because secretly, even while she
had been protesting so loudly at Wyngates, she had been very
much attracted by the idea of a weekend in his company.
Look at the way she had rationalised herself into a U-turn on the
subject. It was all for Harcourt's sake, wasn't it? In a pig's eye, it
was! She hadn't been thinking of Harcourt once she'd embarked on
this weekend, had she? She had been thinking of Warren, and of
Warren onlyjust as he had intended she should do. To take the
fishing image to its humiliating conclusion, she had been played
like a prime catch, pulled insidiously closer and closer to the end
of the line. And the end of the line was that she should be served
up for Warren's delightonly the dish missing.
Julia got up and stormed wildly round the penthouse, blindly
walking to and fro with rage that had to spill out one way or
another. Look how he had turned up this evening at her bedroom
door, nicely worked up with some new cock and bull story about
the Bacciochis' troubles, no doubt. And she would have taken it all
in, with that lifting of the heart that had greeted the first news of
their delayed arrival. . .only too glad to have him to herself for
another night.


She thought at some length about that night. No doubt he had had
very different plans for it from the chaste, gentlemanly goodnight
kiss of last night's parting. What a stupid, immature sucker she had
been.
And what about this London business? Was it genuine, or not?
Well, she could have a go at finding out. She pulled out a piece of
Kane's Cornwall stationery and looked at the addresses in small
print at the foot of the page. The London telephone number was
there, and someone answered immediately, not sounding at all as
though there was anything wrong.
'I'm anxious about a relative,' Julia invented quickly. 'I've heard
that there has been a fire, and -'
'Of course,' the receptionist cut in reassuringly. 'Just give me the
name of the person you are concerned about, and I will let you
have the number of the hotel to which he or she has been
transferred.'
Quietly Julia replaced the receiver. Genuine, then. Not part of the
machiavellian plan. How tough on clever Warren that the
Bacciochis' real problems had interrupted the ones he had invented
for them. If that hadn't been the case, she might have been
agonising here for him, just waiting for him to get back so that she
could obligingly fling herself into his open arms.
In any case, she had been right on the spot when the phone call had
come, and his reaction had been genuine, she was sure. He had
seemed extremely concerned about the two missing people. She
brooded for a while on that point, not willing to allow him human
compassion in her present frame of mind, until sudden
illumination provided the answer. Of coursethe Bacciochis
again. Two people missing, and, for all Warren knew with the


Bacciochis there in London, possibly they were the two in
question. No wonder he had been so shattered. The prospect of
losing his backer for Wyngates was certainly more likely to knock
him for six than the loss of a mere paying guest.
Her stomach rumbled with an echo of her anger, and Julia realised
that rage had not taken her appetiteit had increased it. Well,
there was no point in starving.
She picked up the day's menu from Warren's desk with a childish
desire to choose the most costly items on it, rang down to the
restaurant to place her order, then sat nursing her anger until it
came. Perversely, once she was confronted by trout with almonds
and an artistically presented garnish of vegetables, she found that
she could only appreciate the look of the plate. The first couple of
mouthfuls tasted like ashes and threatened to choke her. It was her
fault, not the food's, and she toyed with the rest, pushing it around
the plate until eventually she rang and asked for it to be taken
away.
It was dark now, and she wasn't fool enough to pack her case and
try to get home from this distant part of the West Country at this
time of night, tempting though it was to put this whole sordid
weekend behind her.
It hadn't seemed sordid, though, had it? Not up to tonight. She had
genuinely believed that Warren was growing to care for her as
much as she had been admitting to herself that she cared for him.
Misery, masked up to now by anger, flooded through her, quickly
establishing itself as the predominant feeling that was going to
haunt her for the rest of the night and for who knew how long
afterwards.


There was only one place she wanted to bein bed, gone to
ground like an injured animal. There was a telephone extension in
her room. If Warren phoned, she could take his call there. She
found herself anxiously hoping that he wouldn't drive back tonight,
exhausted on dangerous roadsthen cursed herself for being all
kinds of fool to be thinking along such charitable lines after what
he had done.
The phone rang just after ten, setting her heart racing, but it was
only Anthea's opposite number, Marianne, whom Julia had not yet
seen.
'I'm sorry to disturb you, Miss Sinclair, but I understand you are
hoping for a call from Mr Kane some time tonight?'
'Only a slight possibility of one,' Julia said, thinking that 'hoping'
was not the right word. 'Dreading' was more apt.
'I'm just ringing to check if you want to have it put through any
timeor do you prefer not to be disturbed after a certain time? It
can be a little startling if the phone goes in the night. I'll leave
whatever message you wish for the night porter when I go off duty
at twelve.'
'I'll take a call at any time,' Julia decided, knowing that she
wouldn't sleep much in any case, and that delaying the
approaching clash between herself and Warren wouldn't make it
any easier to live through.
'Is there anything else you want?'
A magic carpet to take her home? A fairy wand to wave and wipe
out the past weeks since Warren had come into her life again?
'No, nothing. Thank you for asking,' Julia said dully.


'Thank you, Miss Sinclair. Goodnight.'

A good night it was not. The threatened weekend storms seemed to
have realised at last that they had overlooked Cornwall, and a
fierce wind blew up and howled around the house. No rain
materialised, but lightning flashed continuously and there was the
sullen rumble of thunder, neither intensifying nor fading, just
lurking disturbingly in the wings.
Julia only fell into a dream-plagued sleep when the sky began to
grow light, and after a succession of minor nightmares it was
almost a relief when the trill of the phone brought her bolt upright
in her bed just after eight. Anthea was back on duty.
'Your call from Mr Kane, Miss Sinclair,' she said brightly.
'Julia.' Warren's deep voice did unkind things to her heart. 'I'm
sorry I couldn't get through to you before now, but it's been quite a
night.'
'I'm sure it has. How are things?' Platitudes were safest. She
needed to pull herself together a bit more before telling him
exactly what she thought of him.
'Could be worse. . .much worse. The top floor and penthouse are
done for, but the bad damage was limited to that section of the
building. The rest will need a mammoth redecorating and cleaning
job, of course, to get rid of the filth and the smell. But the big thing
is that no one was hurt.'
'What a relief that must have been!' He didn't detect the sarcasm in
her voice. Either he was too tired or too caught up in his own
problems.


'I'll say it was. The two who were missing were night-duty staff
who should have been in bed or just getting up, but they'd gone out
on an unofficial razzlewithout signing the book, of course. They
turned up in time for duty and got quite a surprise.'
'Not the only ones,' she said caustically, but he just wasn't
listening.
'Listen, Julia. I've someone to see at eight-thirty and I've got to
have a bath and clean myself up before then, so I can't stay on the
phone. I'm desperately sorry, love, but -'
'Don't "love" me!' she burst out, getting his attention at last.
'What was that?'
She back-pedalled. 'I said, "No need to be".'
'But there is. I was counting on last night and today. . .but it's no
good. I shall be tied up here all day, damn it to hell!'
'I presume you'd like me to get back home under my own steam?'
she said, anticipating his next statement.
'Just what I was getting round to suggesting. In fact I spoke to
Anthea about it before being put through to you. There's a small
car we keep for the use of special guests. Will you drive yourself
home in it? When you're readyno need to rush off.'
'It'll be a pleasure.'
'And could you take the rest of my stuff? Then I'll go straight back
to Chipping Ferris from here. I'll pick up my case from your place.'
'You won't need to. I'll drop it off at Wyngates.'


At last the terseness of her answers got through to him. 'Juliayou
sound a bit odd. Did I wake you? Have you been terribly bored?'
The knowledge that her escape route was fixed loosened Julia's
anger. 'Wellit might have been a fraction more interesting if the
Bacciochis had actually turned up to be entertained,' she said
pointedly.
There was silence, then a sudden expulsion of breath down the
phone. 'Oh, hell. . .' Warren said. 'I'd forgotten about them.'
'But I don't doubt you remembered them very intensely all the way
to London,' she said. 'I mean two people missing, and the
thought that your backer could be one of them! That's bad. His
wife was less important of course. What does it matter what
happens to a woman, here or there?'
'That's unworthy of you, Julia,' he had the gall to say.
'Is it? I didn't think worthiness came into any of this weekend,
actually. And don't forget that I have first-hand experience of your
love of money.'
Another pause, then Warren said warily, 'You know, obviously,
that the Bacciochis were supposed to be here at the London
Kane's.'
'Oh, yes, I know. Your friend Enrico enlightened me on that
subject. What a terribly inconvenient time you're having, Warren.
First that tedious fire spoiling your plans, and then Enrico spilling
the beans and exposing your little game for the sordid business it
is.'
'I'm not sure that I know exactly what you are implying.'


'Then I'll spell it out for you. You not only want your rightsyou
want a nice little form of interest on top of them, don't you? You
don't intend being satisfied with all that slog I did on your behalf.
You want me on top of it. You bring me down here, wine me and
dine me, butter me upand may I say what a good job you made
of that particular process, Warren. I really did go along with you
all the way, sucker that I am. But all you wanted was another notch
on your belt at the end of the weekend, wasn't it?'
'Oh, hell's bells! You've got it all wrong, Julia. I can explain -'
'No need to. I reached all the right conclusions. You louse! You
scheming, deceitful louse!'
'Julia! Will you listen to me? I had my reasons -'
'Like hell you did! And they stink. Well, you know what you can
do, Mr Superstud Kaneyou can go and -'
Julia must have shocked him with her suggestion, hot on the heels
of which she slammed down the phone. She certainly shocked
herself in retrospect, and she hoped fervently that Anthea was not
listening in.
Before she could develop cold feet about speaking to the girl
again, Julia buzzed through to Reception and confirmed that she
would be leaving shortly, establishing where the car she was to use
would be and letting Anthea know that she didn't wish to have any
more calls put through to her room. To make the situation quite
clear, she added, 'And if Mr Kane calls back, please tell him that I
have already left.'
There was the slightest of pauses, then a quiet 'Very well, Miss
Sinclair.' Anthea's training had obviously prepared her to deal
tactfully with awkward situations.


Julia ordered a continental breakfast to be sent up to the penthouse,
ate a little of it and drank two cups of coffee, then she packed both
sets of belongings, flinging Warren's things unfolded into his case
and telling herself that her tendency to weepiness sprang from
tiredness and rage, not from any more tender feelings.
From the moment she had opened her eyes the wind had been
hurling bursts of rain against the windows in the penthouse, and
the skies looked leaden and threatening. It was hard to believe that
the previous day had been so sparkling blue and gold, and it was
obviously not going to be a picnic of a journey home. It wouldn't
have been anyway, Julia told herself, sinking into the depths of
depression after her peak of vulgar anger. Not even if the sun had
shone and a crowd of angels had hung over the car playing their
harps for every inch of the way.
There was a strange howling noise in Reception as Julia made the
briefest possible job of her goodbye to Anthea. It came from the
wind finding gaps in the swing-doors of the entrance, she realised,
and when she went out to the car she had to lean into the violence
of the storm to avoid being blown over.
The porter, who had brought down the cases and stowed them in
the boot, warned her to be careful, shouting over the background
cacophony. 'There's a fair bit of trouble all over the country,
according to the radio,' he said. 'Trees down and floods threatening
in places. If I were you, miss, I'd keep the radio on. I've tuned it to
the South West local station. You'll get the travel warnings, then.'
Julia thanked him and started up the engine. As soon as she was
out from under the canopy of the main entrance, she needed the
windscreen wipers on double speed to deal with the torrential rain
that was coming down now, and she felt the little Renault shudder


against the buffeting gale-force wind as she rounded the house and
left its shelter for the open drive.
People seemed to be wisely indoors and the minor Cornish roads
and lanes were quiet, but traffic was piling up on the main road,
slowed down by bad visibility and the torrent of water cascading
along the surface. Although she was in a slowly moving, stopping-
and-starting queue of cars, the curtains of rain streaming down the
windows gave a feeling of tremendous isolation to Julia, so that
she had plenty of time to think and to contrast this miserable
journey with the outward one.
She was still smarting under the pain of having been so deceived
by Warren. She had been such a fool, thinking how charming, how
warm and nice he had been. It had really seemed to her that,
against all the odds, something special had been developing
between them, but now it was clear that all he had been doing was
softening her up for his cynically planned all-male purpose. He
had worked on her until she had been malleable enough to allow
herself to be formed into the weekend plaything he'd fancied. If
that awful fire had not put paid to his plans, who knew what might
have happened in the remaining twenty-four hours? And the most
humiliating thing about it was that she would have gone to him so
gladlythat was a measure of the charm he had exerted. She had
been quite, quite duped by his act, and it hurt, abominably.
The motorway, when she joined it at Exeter, was worse than the
A-roads, with triple rows of cars inching along and inexplicable,
long halts when there was no movement at all. By the time she had
covered the pitifully short distance to the service station between
Wellington and Taunton, it was after midday, and Julia's feet
ached from constant pressure on clutch, brake and accelerator. She
pulled off the road into the car park and dashed through the driving
rain to the shelter of the cafe, where she sat drinking cup after cup


of coffee and toying with a sandwich, hoping that a long break
would somehow work a miracle on the weather and on the road.
'Waiting for it to ease off, love, are you?' the woman at the cash
desk asked, seeing Julia pass her with a third cup of coffee. 'You'll
be lucky! I think this one's going to be a journey you'll remember,
isn't it?'
Her words were prophetic. When Julia eventually went out to the
car, it spluttered and choked but refused to start. The repair shop
was over the bridge on the other side of the motorway, and she
was not the only person with problems. She had to wait her turn in
the queue of breakdowns. Two further dreary hours dragged by
before a mechanic pronounced the rain to have been the culprit,
then after frustratingly little attention from him the Renault was
roadworthy again.
The rest of the journey was no better than the first half. By the
time she had dropped Warren's case off at Wyngates, Julia was
sick with tiredness, every muscle aching and her eyes gritty from
staring at the road. It had been nine-thirty when she'd left
Cornwall. She had been between six and seven hours on the road
and had spent four hours at the service station. Unbelievably, it
was still bucketing down, with the wind seeming no nearer
blowing itself out.
She parked up near the cottage door and got inside as quickly as
possible. The river, she saw from the back windows, was
trembling on the rim of its banks, as was to be expected, but house
and car were secure on their mound. Once she had changed into a
comfortable tracksuit and the lamps and electric fire were lit, the
cottage began to work its soothing charm on Julia and she actually
dozed over her soup and toast, surfacing at almost ten o'clock to


find it was completely dark and the wind was still noisy and
violent.
Now that her tiredness had melted away a little, Julia was
determined not to give herself time to be self-pitying. Only by
refusing to think about what had happened could she keep
functioning. First on the list of priorities was a call to check on
Harcourt. She felt guilty to think how little she had thought of him
this weekend.
'You had the wrong message, bird,' she told the carved wooden
dove on the window sill by the telephone as she dialled the
Cottage Hospital number. 'Totally wrong.'
The line was atrocious once she got through, the girl on the
hospital enquiry desk sounding as if she were speaking from Outer
Mongolia.
'Mr Thomas!' Julia shouted, once she had given her name.
'Harcourt Thomas. How is he?'
There was a moment's crackle-free clarity.
'Oh, Miss Sinclair!' We've been trying to get in touch with you all
weekend, but -' Whistling and crackling drowned the rest of the
sentence.
'I can'thearyou,' Julia said, carefully separating the words.
'Pleasespeakloudly.'
There was another fierce gunfire rattle, then the voice broke
through again, distorted, but just audible, its message all the more
shocking for its faint, unreal sound.


'gone, I'm afraid,' Julia heard disbelievingly. 'On Saturday
morning. It all happened suddenly. He -'
Another burst of sound drowned her words, followed by absolute
silence.
Julia, stunned by what she had heard, pressed the button rapidly up
and down, desperate to ask for the words to be repeated, hoping
against hope that their awful meaning would miraculously change.
But there was only the thick silence of total breakdown. Redialling
the number brought no response. She could imagine only too well
from the news flashes she had heard throughout the journey home
what had happened. A falling branch or treeshe had seen
manyhad brought the wires down somewhere between the
cottage and the hospital.
'Oh, Harcourt!' She sank on to the arm of the nearest chair, arms
tightly folded against her body, hugging her grief, afraid to let it
go, imagining what must have happened.
Another stroke, almost certainly. It had always been on the cards,
but it was something she had tried not to think about and to turn
Harcourt's thoughts away from.
Had he known? She prayed desperately that he had not. The
thought of such a dear friend dying alone with no one who really
cared about him close by was unbearable.
And where had she been on Saturday morning while all this had
been happening? She had been away in a mindless, worthless
Cloud-cuckoo-land, besotted by a man who cared for nobody but
used everyone. For this final injury, more than anything else, she
could never forgive himnor, for that matter, herself.


Heavily she got up and prepared to face the stormy night again.
There was nothing else for it but to go over to the hospital. She
wouldn't rest until she knew what had happened. She doubted very
much that she would rest when she did.



CHAPTER NINE
IT WAS perceptibly calmer out of doors, with only a fine drizzle
falling and the wind almost gone.
This time the Renault started up instantly. Julia had left the drive
gates open, and she was on the point of backing out into the lane
when over her shoulder she saw the dark, oily sheen of flood-water
glittering under the reversing light.
She should have known, she told herself, getting out and going to
look. This was what always happened when the river silently
spread itself out over the stretch of low land. She even called
Vanners Lane 'The Moat', since that was what it became after
extremes of weather such as the whole country had had today. Had
she been less tired and the weather less mind-deadeningly awful
when she got back, she would have left the car in a certain field
gateway between her cottage and Maggie's, the only procedure that
guaranteed her access to Folly Cottage when the Avon was in
flood. Now she and her transporttwo cars, to add insult to injury,
because her own was in the garagewere trapped on the Folly
Cottage island until the water-level subsided.
There was one faint chance. If Maggie and Bob were back, they
would lend her their car when they knew the circumstances. Julia
peered along the stretch of dark water filling the lane between its
banks, and decided against rolling up her tracksuit bottom and
wading through on the chance of her neighbours' being there. She
knew only too well that the water at times reached above thigh-
height on her.
She went back into the cottage and up into her bedroom where,
from its tiny side window, she could usually see the lights from


Maggie's. Even if they had gone to bed there would still be a
landing light burning. Maggie didn't like to sleep in total darkness.
But total darkness there was. So they were riot back yet. Julia
remembered the cat, thankful that he was safe in the detested
cattery. If she hadn't gone to Cornwall she would have been
responsible for Jenkins and at this moment worried about his
safety, as well as bowled over about Harcourt.
Harcourt. . . The name stabbed at her cruelly, bringing a following
wave of frustration that she could do nothing now, however slight
and futile, to prove to herself and to the world that she cared.
If only she had told him or told the matron where she had been this
weekend. But the whole web of deception she had maintained
around the Wyngates issue meant that she had just told Harcourt
she was going to see friends, without being specific about who or
where.
Julia went downstairs and picked up the phone again, but it
remained obstinately mute in her hands. So that was that, until
morning, then. Maggie and Bob, she was sure on reflection, would
have stayed on and not risked travelling in the storm. Maggie
knew that there was no great urgency to be back in Harcourt's
officeall the old files had been gone through and the new owners
had not as yet got going on plans for Chipping Ferrisand Bob
was his own boss and could decide on his own movements.
She sat by the fire, thinking miserable thoughts about Harcourt and
funeral arrangements. She would have to see to that, she supposed,
and she had no experience of such matters. Poor Harcourt had
grown into such a social recluse since the death of his wife, and
there were no relatives left that Julia knew of apart from a nephew
in America who had been vaguely mentioned but with whom


contact was lost now, and who had been a bit of a drop-out
anyway.
The car! She had left its lights on and it was still down near the
gates. Julia dashed out and moved it up near the cottage again. As
far as she could see, the water was not still rising. With a bit of
luck, and if the improvement in the weather held, it would begin to
fall and she might be able to get the car through tomorrow. If not,
at least in daylight she could paddle and walk the length of the lane
and pick up public transport on the main road. At this time of
night, even if she could get there, there would be nothing.
She made tea and drank the whole teapotful, still wide awake at
the end of it, her mind restless and teeming with thoughts.
'Do something!' she told herself, getting up. There was the
unpacking to be done. . .a bit of hand washing. . .and she could
start packing away the personal possessions she would want to put
safely into storage before the cottage passed into another
temporary owner's hands. She tried to feel satisfaction that at least
she had some definite plans made, but nothing really shifted the
weight of misery inside her.
Midnight chimed on her little grandmother clock, and still Julia
felt inadequately numbed by her activities. She was standing in the
middle of the living-room, looking around for something else to
do, when a knock on the door made her shoot into the air.
'Maggie!' she exclaimed, instantly relieved as she realised that
there was only one person who would see the lights still burning
and come to check up on her at this time of night, using the
fisherman's waders she kept for such emergencies.


All the same, Julia opened the door cautiously, having slipped the
chain on first. She was glad that she had, because it was not on
Maggie that the strip of light fell, but on Warren.
'Go away!' Julia shouted, slamming the door.
'Julia!' He knocked imperiously again.
'I don't want to speak to you.' Her heart was hammering, but not
with fear. She was angryso angry that he should have the sheer
nerve to come knocking on her door after what he had done.
'You're going to, whether you like it or not. Come on, Julia. Don't
be stupid. It's too late to fool around and I've had too rough a day.'
He knocked again, and harder.
'The door's stood up to worse batterings than you're capable of
giving it. Don't waste your time.' She stood staring at it, until a
sudden change to banging on the window made her jump again.
'Then I'll smash your window. I'm coming in to talk to you. You
can choose the means of access. I'll count to ten. Onetwo -'
Julia heard the grim intent in his voice and drew back the chain.
The cottage windows were leaded and diamond-paned, no two
diamonds even in size and the glass centuries old. She knew
Warren was capable of carrying out his threat, and she wanted
neither damage to Folly Cottage nor the inevitable delay while she
found someone to mend it. Slowly she opened the door.
Warren's foothis bare footwas in the door before she had
opened it more than six inches.
Rigid with hostility, she looked at him. He must have taken off his
shoes to wade through the flood, and they dangled by their laces


from one hand. No doubt if she hadn't opened the door he would
have battered the window with them. His eyes looked wild enough
for anything.
He had rolled his jeans up to his knees, but they were dark and wet
to mid-thigh. His red sweater was shining with a million fine
raindrops, as was the hair which fell in damp disorder over his
forehead. He looked like some crazy pirate, but he was aware of
what he was doing, as his next words showed.
'Get me something to wipe these, will you?' He pointed to his
muddy feet as he stood just inside the door on the mat.
Julia disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a damp J-
cloth. She watched in icy silence as Warren wiped away the worst
of the mud, sat on the stairs to put on socks which he extracted
from his shoes, and finally the shoes themselves.
'Now we can talk,' he said.
Julia answered coldly, 'What is there to say? There's nothing I
want to hear.'
His eyes searched her face. 'Juliayou're jumping to all the wrong
conclusionsI admit, with some justification. But I can explain,
and you must give me the chance to do so.'
She turned away from him impatiently. 'To be quite honest,
Warren, I couldn't care less about your explanations. You made a
fool of me, but I made the job easy for you. It doesn't matter any
more.'
'I was not trying to make a fool of you -'


'Whatever you were trying to do and whatever whitewashing
explanations you have had time to cook up, I mean it when I say I
don't care any more. There's only one thing that really gets me
nowand that's the fact that, while I was contributing to the
amusement of your weekend, Harcourt was dying. Alone. And all
because of you. I hate you for that.' Julia's voice broke as she said
that, and she stared into the glowing bars of the fire, trying
desperately hard not to break down.
'What did you say?' Warren had moved forward so that he could
look into her face. His voice was different.
She brought her eyes up to meet his defiantly. 'You heard what I
said. No doubt you're trying to find a way round that. But there
isn't one, Warren. Harcourt died while we played games.' Her lip
curled scornfully. 'Different games, of course, because I wasn't in
on the nature of them, was I? And how that must have amused
you.'
'What makes you think he is dead?' The blue eyes, unabashed,
stared into hers.
'I rang the hospital. I was told so.'
He frowned. 'Which hospital?'
'What do you mean, "which hospital"?' Her voice rose in growing
anger. 'The Cottage Hospital, where he was, of course. Ohstop
fooling around and just go, Warren.' Julia attempted to pass him
but he gripped her arm and prevented her.
'Tell me exactly what was said. And I'm not fooling, Julia. I'm
hoping to be able-to tell you that you're under the biggest
misapprehension of your life. Just tell me the exact words. Or if


you won't I'll get them directly from source.' He went to pick up
the phone.
'You haven't a hope. The lines are down. I was cut off while I
spoke to them. But if it gets rid of you any more quickly, the girl
said Harcourt had gonesuddenly on Saturday morning.' Again
that constricting pain, that threat of total breakdown. 'They'd tried
to contact me, but of course I was engaged on more important
matters.'
'Julia, listen to me.' Warren gripped her shoulders and looked hard
at her.'" 'Gone" doesn't only mean "dead". It can mean "gone
away", "moved to another place", and, in this case, that is exactly
what it does mean.' He gave her a little shake to emphasise what he
was saying. 'Harcourt is in a private clinic in Cheltenham. I spoke
to them on my car phone this evening. They said he had settled in
well. Have you got that? He is not dead.'
With a suddenness that took away all her strength, Julia burst into
tears.
'Oh, Juliacome here!' Warren put his arms round her and let her
cry out the anguish she had suppressed.
Eventually, realising whose shoulder she was crying into, and
whose voice was murmuring soothing endearments into her hair,
Julia pushed half-heartedly against his chest. 'How do you know
all this?' she said, her tear-stained face looking up at him. She was
afraid to accept that what he'd said was true, and dreaded yet more
deception.
'I know, because I arranged it. You said the old boy wasn't getting
enough therapy. In this place he'll get as much as he needs, as and
whenever he's wanting itand when he isn't, for that matter.'


'You arranged it?' There was no understanding in her brimming
eyes. 'How could you?'
'In the usual wayby speaking to people here and there. You
wanted to know what I was doing at the hospital that night, didn't
you? Well, now you know one of the options I didn't suggest to
you at the time.'
'I don't understand,' she said, too bemused still to object when
Warren took out his handkerchief and gently wiped her face. 'Why
didn't you tell me?'
'And provide you with yet more reason not to come to Cornwall
with me? You'd have been glued to Harcourt Thomas's side like a
mother hen to make sure he was all right at the new place.'
Anger fizzed up inside her. 'Have you no shame? How can you
talk about it like that and be so blatant about your sneaky
schemes? Is everything just a game to you?'
'I wouldn't call relations with you a game. A struggle, certainly.'
For a second his eyes threatened to work their old magic, but she
refused to let them.
'I don't understand you at all.' She moved away and stood half
turned from him.
'Ask me to explain, then, and I will.' He sat down on the chair near
the fire, and she saw steam begin to rise from the knees of his
jeans where the flood-water had soaked them.
'You were certainly eager to get on with your explaining, wading
through like that. Did you expect me to give you a welcome? And
you're going to catch your death of cold.' She saw that he was
grinning. '


'Miss Sinclair! If I were a less honourable man, I could take that as
an invitation to take my trousers off.' He saw her icy expression.
'Come on! The panic's over. Where's your sense of humour?'
'Oh, shut up! You can get pneumonia for all I care. I'm merely
remarking on the stupidity of your behaviour.' There was a pause,
then she turned round to face him. 'Is it really true, what you said
about this place at Cheltenham?'
'Perfectly. I'll write down the address for you and the telephone
number. I'll even take you there tomorrow.' He reached for the
telephone pad and scribbled on it. Julia read the address and
looked suspiciously across at him.
'I've heard of this place. It must cost a packet. How on earth is
Harcourt affording it? He said private care was quite out of the
question when I asked him about it.'
Warren tapped the pencil against his teeth, frowning, then he
reached over and put it back by the phone. 'He isn't affording it,' he
said reluctantly. 'I am.'
'You?' Her eyes stretched to express total incredulity. 'OhI can't
believe that. He wouldn't allow you to. He's too proud.'
'Julia.' His voice was firm and brooked no opposition. 'I assure you
that Harcourt's expenses at the Friary are my concern. And if you
are thinking of doing anything so vulgar and unfeeling as
questioning him on the subject, I hope you will reconsider. Let it
be sufficient that I did persuade him to accept, after considerable
difficulty. You surely don't want to rub his nose in the fact.'
'You impossible, twisted mass of contradictions!' Julia exploded,
flinging herself into the chair opposite his and glaring at him.
'Where on earth is the reason behind your behaviour? You go after


Harcourt, via me, like Napoleon and his army until you get what
you think he owes you, then you promptly proceed to spend lord
knows what proportion of what you've recouped from him to keep
the man in private nursing care! Explain that, if you can.'
'Right.' He leaned forward, hands clasped, elbows resting on his
knees, gazing steadily at her. 'It's simple. It wasn't Harcourt I was
going after "like Napoleon and his army", as you put it.' He smiled
faintly, then his face grew serious again. 'No, my sweet Julia. It
was you.'
There was a second's silence, then Julia replied tetchily, 'Well, I
know that, of course. That was what we arranged to protect
Harcourt. So what's new?'
He watched her, a wry half-smile playing round his lips. 'You're
going to have to be a bit more perceptive, Julia, if you're going to
put on a good show in court. Nodon't explode again.' He looked
round. 'Actually, if you've any beer, I wouldn't object to a drink. I
haven't had anything since lunchtime.'
'You're stalling,' Julia accused. 'Afraid you won't get anything if
you wait until you've trotted out your feeble excuses, are you?'
'Just thirsty. But don't bother if -'
'Oh, don't act the martyr. You can have a beer. I'd give a dog a beer
after a journey like the one you've had, if it was anything like
mine.' She stomped off into the kitchen and came back with a pint
tankard and a can. Warren popped the can and drank directly from
it while she watched the movement of his throat.
'That's better. Thank you. Now I'll go on. I don't want you to say a
word until I've finished.' He raised his eyebrows and she nodded


briefly, her expression implying that there was little she would
wish to say.
'When we first met in that office of Harcourt's, I registered that
you were very prettyI'd have had to be blind not to be aware of
thatthat you were very cool, and that you could possibly mean
trouble when it came to sorting out the hiccup over Wyngates.
That was about it. I was too fed up about the whole ham-fisted
business to register any more than that.' He leaned back, stretching
out his long legs. 'But when you came to see me next day and we
talked at greater length, I began to think less about Wyngates and
its troubles and more about this elegant little solicitor who was
standing between me and Harcourt Thomas like Horatio defending
the bridge. It occurred to me as we talked that I hadn't met many
people in my life who cared about anything as much as you
apparently cared about Harcourt. I admired you for it.'
Julia snorted sceptically.
'No, wait. Let me finish.' His hand moved, brushing away her
potential interruption. 'I was tempted right then to say "He's an old
man, he's ill, he made a mistake. So what? I'll get over it. Let's
forget the whole pesky business." But I realised that, if I did, that
was probably the last I would see of this golden-eyed, intense
young lady. And I wanted to see more. I wanted to find out if it
was genuine, this capacity to feel so passionately about a Mend. It
occurred to me that it would be rather nice to have loyalty like that
on my side. I'd certainly never experienced its equal. So I decided
that the best way to ensure that I saw more of you was to keep this
vendetta you thought I was indulging in on the boil.'
'So you're telling me now that you were playing games all along?'
Julia fired at him.


'Not games, I assure you. Before long I was treading the
damnedest, most awkward tightrope. Be too vile and you'd not be
able to stand the sight of me. Be too soft, and you'd find me totally
lacking in credibility. But by this time other people were
involvedthe council lot and Alan Dexter and heaven knows how
many more. There was external pressure to keep up the charade.
And, with every meeting, I was becoming the most involved of
them all.' He looked at her. 'I knew that you were planning to go to
New Zealand, and the thought of it panicked me.' He looked down
at the floor between his knees. 'I am not familiar with the
sensation, Julia. Up to that point in my life I'd prided myself on
being pretty tough, on knowing what I wanted and going all out to
get it. For the first time, now, I knew what I wanted more than
anything I'd ever desiredyou. It was the strongest feeling I had
ever had. But with it came a secondary, equally overwhelming
feelingfear of losing you. And, likewise, it resembled no fear I
had ever experienced.'
Julia was sitting very still, her eyes fixed on him. Was this some
new ploy? Was he the sort of man who had to get his girl at all
costs after the strategies of the pursuit? Was that all it was? And
yet, he had lookedstill lookedserious enough. Diffident, even.
And for someone with Warren's veneer of toughness and assurance
that was certainly something new. She wanted to believe him,
against all the dictates of common sense, but she was scared rigid
to let herself fall back into that trap again. He had told her to be
quiet and listen. She went on doing so.
He cleared his throat and continued. 'I thought that if I could get
you to myself once the hassle about Harcourt was over, there was
enough going for us for me to be able to win you over. I thought. .
.imaginedcertainly I wanted desperately to believethat you
were not exactly indifferent to me by that time, in spite of the
handicap I'd given myself.' He looked up at her, this time more


searchingly, and Julia, with the greatest difficulty, because the
more he told her the more her heart was racing, maintained her
guarded expression.
'I knew, though,' he went on, 'that you would never agree to go
away with me on your own. So I cooked up the idea of needing
help with Enrico and Marisa. Your reaction to that made me think
I'd really blown it. In absolute desperation I shot off to fix
Harcourt's transfer, which I'd already talked to him and to Matron
about.'
'He said nothing to me. Why?' Julia interrupted suspiciously.
'Because I told him not to.' Warren grimaced. 'Matron too.
Everybody was deceiving everybody at that point when you burst
into Matron's office. I was actually going to come after you and
present you with a fait accompli. I'd tell you what I'd done for
Harcourt and convince you what a nice chap I really was. That was
the theory. Pathetic, isn't it? Then you did your extraordinary U-
turn and I thought. . .' He leaned forward, his eyes burning into
hers. 'I began to think at that point that you really, deep inside,
wanted to be with me. That it wasn't just for the sake of keeping
the terms of the contract between us that you decided to come with
me. It was partly for your own sake that you changed your mind.
Was it like that, Julia?'
Julia could feel her self-control evaporating. She was believing
him. She wanted to shout and sing and leap around the room. She
wanted to, and yet she was afraid. She managed to hang on for a
second longer. 'If you are telling me a pack of lies, Warren,' she
said in a low voice, her finger tracing the seam of the colour stripe
on her tracksuit sleeve and her eyes following it because she dared
not look at him, 'then I swear I'll kill you.'


'But if it's true? And I swear it is?' The air was vibrant with the
intensity she could feel coming from him.
There was happiness flooding along her veins with the
overwhelming suddenness of her earlier tears at the news that
Harcourt was alive and well. She couldn't control it any longer.
Slowly she raised her tell-tale eyes to his.
'Then. . .read your answer.' The message in their warm golden
depths was unmistakable, and her hands, reaching out towards
him, no longer under the control of her will, confirmed it.
In an instant he had pulled her to her feet and she was crushed in
his arms. The past twenty-four hours of misery and suspicion were
melting away in the first blaze of unshadowed happiness either of
them had known.
When they began to talk again, Warren pulled Julia down on to his
knees and she curled against him, delighting in the freedom to
touch and be touched in the way she had secretly longed for. Now
she really could push her fingers through that rebel lock of hair
that fell forward over his forehead. She luxuriated in the sensation,
then brought her hand back down the side of his face with
sensuous slowness, tucking her fingers inside the damp, woolly
warmth of the neck of his sweater, and suddenly realising again
how he still bore the effects of the storm on his clothing.
'You shouldn't be sitting here in these wet things,' she said.
Instantly she remembered his previous response to that particular
subject, and the colour his kisses had already brought to her cheeks
deepened.
Warren's finger traced the pink ebb and flow down her cheek and
neck. His smile showed he knew what she was thinking. 'There'll
be time enough for all that. For now, I'm satisfied to know that we


both feel as we do. Though I'm sure to be compromising your
reputation in any case.' Reluctantly he looked at his watch. 'One
o'clock. I suppose I'm going to have to face the floods againand,
I must confess, without a trace of the enthusiasm I felt when it
meant coming towards you.' He nuzzled a kiss in the hollow of her
neck, and another. Julia made no bid to move.
'I still can't believe all this is true,' she said dreamily. 'I feel sure
that I'm going to wake up tomorrow morning and find it's a
figment of my imagination.'
'I'll tell you something you can do to prove it to yourself,
tomorrow, then. You can ask Harcourt how I made him keep quiet
about moving to Cheltenham.'
'How did you?' Julia sat up so that she could look into his face.
'I told him that giving me the chance to take you away for the
weekend was his last chance as well. If it worked, he'd have you
around, living on his doorstep, to fuss over him permanently.
Being the wily old dog he is, he quite saw the point of that.'
Julia hugged him fiercely. 'He's not the only wily one.'
Her particular wily one kissed her, several times.
'So what about this New Zealand business?' he asked eventually,
holding her away so that he could look at her. 'You're not going to
walk out on me now, surely?'
A shadow fell over Julia's face. 'I've got to. I promised. For a short
visit, at least.'
'Then I'm coming with you.' The tone was quite definite.


'I thought you were the dynamic businessman with every second
spoken for and delay the biggest nightmare!'
'I'm the businessman with priorities, and you happen to be the top
one. I'm not letting you out of my sight until we're married.'
Julia's lovely smile lit up her face. 'That's the first time you've
actually mentioned marriage.'
'What the hell did you think I had in mind?' He squeezed her with
mock severity. 'Did you imagine that this was just a lead-up to
persuading you to act as my permanent solicitor?' He considered
for a moment. 'Actually, you could do both, don't you think? What
a bargain you're turning out to be, Miss Sinclair.'
Half-past one chimed without any time seeming to have passed at
all.
'I know!' Warren said, as though his mind had not been on entirely
other matters. 'With a bit of luck, someone might be home for
lunch in that house the other side of the world you're so set on
visiting. Why don't you give them a call and tell them they can
expect two people dropping in, not just one?'
They went over to the phone, and Julia dialled her parents' number.
It was Mrs Sinclair who answered.
'Julia! You're not ringing with another cancellation, I hope,' she
said anxiously.
'No. The reverse, actually.' Julia took a deep breath, her eyes fixed
on Warren's face. 'I've got something to tell you. You remember
I've spoken to you about Warren Kane?'


Warren's eyebrows rose, and he looked smug to hear he had been
talked about.
'A-a-a-a-a-h!' Mrs Sinclair's voice rose and fell on a note of great
illumination. 'So now we're getting to the heart of the matter, are
we?'
Warren's arm tightened round Julia's waist, and she smiled up at
him as she answered, 'I think that's the perfect way to put it.'

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