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The Loving Stopped

J Steele

CHAPTER ONE

LIFE had been a shade dull of late. Having left the part to see! refuge in the "loa!roo#$ %hitne "onsidered that #a be she &as happ &ith her dull e'isten"e. (he &asn)t en*o ing this parti"ular part $ that &as for sure. (he &ished$ not for the first ti#e that evening$ that she had not given in to Tob +eston)s plea that she partner hi# at the event. ,-o "o#e$) he)d begged earnestl . ,I !no& ou told #e ou &ere .off/ #en &hen I as!ed ou for a date a "ouple of &ee!s ago$ but I &ouldn)t be a nuisan"e. Honestl $ I &ouldn)t.) Tob &or!ed for the sa#e fir# and$ li!e herself$ &as t&ent 0three ears of age$ but to %hitne he see#ed ears ounger. (he li!ed hi# 1uite &ell$ but onl be"ause there &as si#pl nothing in the eager0to0please *unior e'e"utive that an one "ould possibl disli!e. ,Oh$ please "o#e$) Tob had rene&ed his persuasions$ and had #ade a gaping hole in %hitne )s defen"es &hen$ loo!ing li!e a little bo lost$ he)d said in s"ared tones$ ,2al)s threatened to partner #e &ith a fe#ale fro# her &orldl 0&ise set if I "an)t bring # o&n partner3) %hitne &asn)t so "ertain about the i#pli"ation that she herself "ould not be fro# the ,&orldl 0&ise) set$ but she relented and put Tob out of his #iser . ,(o$ I)ll "o#e$) she told hi#. ,%hi"h part of London does our sister live in4) she as!ed$ and realised that she &as "o##itted to go &ith hi# &hen$ his relief evident$ he replied "heerfull $ ,Oh$ the part )s not at 2al)s pla"e3) ,It isn)t4) He shoo! his head$ and &as still "heerful as he revealed that it &as so#ething in the nature of a surprise part for the fian"5 of one of his sister)s girlfriends. Ap0 parentl $ %hitne gleaned$ so#eone b the na#e of 6leda Caufield &as engaged to so#e globe0trotting industrialist &ho &as returning to England after a three0#onth

absen"e. 6leda$ &ith 2alerie)s help$ &as dru##ing up ever one the "ould thin! of to give hi# a resounding ,&el"o#e ho#e). ,He)ll7er7li!e that$ &ill he4) %hitne as!ed8 to her &a of thin!ing$ an #an &ho had been a&a for three #onths "ould be forgiven for preferring to have his fian"5e solel to hi#self. (till$ perhaps this &as the natural &a to go on in the ,&orldl 0&ise) set. ,6leda see#s to thin! so$ and so does 2alerie$) Tob replied. ,And$ sin"e 6leda has the full "o0operation of the house!eeper at Heathlands9) ,Heathlands4) %hitne 1ueried. ,(loan Illing&orth)s ho#e in :er!shire$) Tob pro#ptl supplied. The na#e of her unsuspe"ting host passed %hitne b *ust then. ,:er!shire3) she e'"lai#ed. ,It)s no distan"e at all via the #otor&a $) Tob assured her$ and added$ ,2al has plent of roo# in her "ar. (he sa s she)ll drive us$ then I shan)t have to &at"h ho& #u"h I drin!.) %hitne had ele"ted to &ear a "ool$ loose0fitting dress &ith slender shoulder0 straps on that &ar# ;a evening &hen Tob +eston and his sister "alled for her. An notion she #ight have had$ though$ that 2alerie +eston #ust in so#e &a rese#ble her ounger brother &as &a off0bea#. For not onl &ere the the opposite in loo!s$ but$ &here Tob &as &ar# and s&eet and !ind$ his sister "a#e a"ross as being "old and as hard as nails. The had arrived at Heathlands &ithout %hitne "hanging her opinion of 2alerie +eston. ,Cir"ulate$) she had instru"ted her brother$ and &ith a s ntheti" "r of ,-arling3) she had &alt<ed up to a slightl "orpulent #an. Ta!ing possession of his ar#$ she left Tob to find their hostess and to introdu"e %hitne . ,Ho& lovel of ou to "o#e$) 6leda$ an elegant$ self0assured blonde$ purred at %hitne and$ using her left hand$ on &hi"h &as displa ed a #agnifi"ent and "olossall e'pensive0loo!ing sapphire and dia#ond engage#ent ring$ she &aved in the general dire"tion of &here ever one appeared to be helping the#selves to drin!s$ and turned to so#eone else. ,-arling$ ho& lovel of ou to "o#e$) %hitne heard her repeat. ,Ho& lovel of ou to "o#e3) %hitne #ade a fa"e at her refle"tion in the "loa!roo# #irror. It see#ed a lifeti#e a&a sin"e she had first heard 6leda Caufield #ur#ur her phone &el"o#e$ et it &as onl three hours ago. %ishing that the globe0trotting industrialist &ould soon #a!e his appearan"e so

that she "ould #a!e noises about going ho#e$ %hitne $ &ith her innate good #anners$ suddenl re#e#bered that she "ouldn)t sta s!ul!ing in the "loa!roo# for ever#ore. (o#eone else "o#ing into the s#all ante0roo# sa& %hitne tou"hing her fingers to her long$ dar! bro&n hair as if she had *ust been tid ing it. Tr ing to put so#ething of a s#ile into her large green e es$ she then nodded to the ne&"o#er and &ent ba"! to *oin a part &hi"h had deteriorated in no ti#e into a glorified ,boo<e0up). The #ain bod of the part $ she dis"overed$ had #oved in the ti#e she had been a&a $ and no& see#ed to be "on"entrated in &hat had previousl appeared to be an enor#ous hall. (he "ould see no sign of Tob $ though$ so she guessed that he &as #ost li!el still in the dra&ing0roo#. %ith the intention of going to find hi#7even though he had see#ed ver near plastered the last ti#e she had spo!en to hi#7she side0 stepped a lur"hing$ bottle0"arr ing reveller and gre& irritated that ever one there see#ed to thin! that the onl &a to have a good ti#e &as to get s#ashed out of one)s s!ull. ,I)ve got one so#e&here$) she said as pleasantl as she &as able$ &hen the lur"hing #an e'tended his sha! hold on the bottle in her general dire"tion. ,:e li!e that$ toffee0nose$) he slurred$ offended$ and &ent lur"hing on his &a . It &as then that %hitne dis"overed the #arathon tas! she had set herself in going to loo! for Tob . Five #inutes later she &as still tr ing to #a!e her &a through the #ass of bodies that g rated to #usi" "o#ing fro# a tape de"! so#e&here. (he &as &asting her ti#e sho&ing her anno &orse for drin! tried to grab hold of her$ for the &ent be ond the bounds of *ust plain irritation #a!ing for it$ she &as grabbed fro# behind individual. an"e &hen #ales &ho &ere the &ere past "aring. Her anno an"e though &hen$ esp ing a gap and b a red0fa"ed$ s&eat 0loo!ing

,Co#e on$ s&eetie$) he leered$ ,let)s dan"e$) and before she "ould get a&a fro# hi# he pla"ed his "la## hands on her bare shoulders$ #a!ing her feel do&nright ill. Careless of &ho# the "annoned into$ he had &hirled her round a "ouple of ti#es before$ giving hi# so#ething else to put his "la## hands on$ she #anaged to dig her elbo& into his solar ple'us. (he heard hi# grunt$ and she &as free. %hitne apologise$ but &ent s&iftl ahead. did not &ait around to

(he barged her &a angril through the dan"ers$ halting &hen$ having gone round a bend$ she found that she at last had so#e spa"e$ and that she had "o#e to the botto# of the stair"ase. (he forgot about the stair"ase #o#entaril $ though$ &hen she be"a#e a&are that her su""essful atte#pt to get a&a fro# the "la## 0 handed #an had not been &ithout "asualt $ and that the ba"! part of the slender strap over the right shoulder of her dress had been &ren"hed fro# its #oorings. (he &as "ross enough to &ish that she had dug her elbo& deeper into the #an)s podg flesh$ but then she forgot about hi# for a #o#ent &hen$ to her surprise$ she noti"ed that a""ess to the stair"ase had been blo"!ed off b a series of gates and hurdles. %ondering$ for all the house!eeper &as said to have "o0operated over the part $ if she &as "on"erned to !eep the part isolated to the ground floor$ %hitne turned her ba"! on the stair"ase. %hoever had had the brain&ave to gate the stairs$ it had been su""essful$ for she "ould i#agine but fe& of those asse#bled still being fir#0footed enough to "li#b to rea"h the out0of0bounds area$ even if the thought of doing so. Tu"!ing her bro!en shoulder0strap inside the top of her dress$ %hitne too! a fe& steps and peered round the bend to see that the part &as still in full s&ing. In the hope of spotting Tob $ she too! a 1ui"! s"an of the people there. The one fa"e she spotted above all others$ ho&ever$ &as that of the red0fa"ed "lo&n &hose "la## hands had been responsible for her bro!en shoulder0strap. ,Oh$ bother it$) she #uttered "rossl bet&een her teeth$ for it &as obvious that he &as sear"hing for so#eone. (eeing herself as the #ost li!el "andidate$ %hitne du"!ed ba"! around the "orner$ and sa& that her onl es"ape la in an up&ard dire"tion. Not &anting to feel those "la## hands on her again$ she lightl but fir#0 footedl set about going &here she had ever faith that that #an "ould not go. Having rea"hed the first0floor landing$ she stood ba"! in the shado&s &here the light fro# the botto# of the stairs "ould not penetrate. It &as fro# there that she revie&ed the situation. Apart fro# her feeling of revulsion at the thought of having that #an)s hands on her again$ she supposed he &as other&ise 1uite har#less. :ut it &ent &ithout sa ing that he "ould &ell prove tedious if she #et up &ith hi# again and$ fro# her point of vie&$ she)d had her share of tediu# for the evening. Realising that she preferred her o&n "o#pan to that of an of the people do&nstairs7and$ sin"e Tob had loo!ed slightl the &orse for drin! the last ti#e

she had seen hi#$ that in"luded hi#7%hitne sta ed &here she &as. Rela'ing her slender fra#e against a &all$ she heartil &ished that (loan Illing&orth$ or &hatever his na#e &as$ &ould hurr up and soon "o#e ho#e. Ho& long she stood there$ !i"!ing against the !no&ledge that until their unsuspe"ting host arrived ho#e she "ould not leave the part $ %hitne "ould not have said. All she !ne& for sure *ust then &as that$ sin"e Heathlands appeared to be in a ver isolated area$ and sin"e she had no transport of her o&n$ she &as stu"! at the part until Tob )s sister &anted to leave. +no&ing &ithout having to as! that 2alerie +eston &ould thin! she had gone out of her #ind if she as!ed her if she &as read to go et$ %hitne a&ned fro# a #i'ture of tiredness and boredo#. It &as &a past her nor#al bedti#e. Thin!ing of bedti#e "aused her to earn for her bed$ and she "ast a loo! of longing at the bedroo# door opposite &here she stood. If nothing else$ there &ould be so#e&here 1uiet to sit in there$ she "onsidered. It too! so#e effort of &ill to resist the i#pulse to go over and to tr the door0handle$ but %hitne did so$ re#e#bering that$ sin"e the house!eeper had seen fit to lo"! one or t&o of the do&nstairs roo#s$ she had probabl lo"!ed all bedroo# doors too. %hen her good #anners again de"reed that she should not sta hiding a&a upstairs until the "r of ,(urprise$ surprise3) &ent up$ %hitne left her position b the &all. (he sighed as$ &ith the intention of *oining the #=l5e$ she relu"tantl "rossed the landing. (uddenl $ though$ and &ithout her !no&n volition$ it see#ed$ she found that her hand &as "urled round the "old "era#i" of the !nob to the bedroo# door. %hat &as #ore$ her fingers see#ed in"apable of leaving that door0!nob until she had tested it. %hitne did *ust that$ and dis"overed that the door &as not lo"!ed. (lo&l $ the door opened$ but &hen she peered in$ she "ould #a!e out little fro# &hat s#all light penetrated the roo#$ save that there appeared to be one giganti"0 si<ed bed in there. :ed$ she thought &istfull $ and resisted a dreadful "o#pulsion to enter the roo# and to spend a fe& 1uiet #o#ents inside. All at on"e$ ho&ever$ a shrie! of up 0 roarious laughter rent the air and$ &arned that the part had gro&n &ilder$ %hitne a"ted entirel on instin"t$ and &as suddenl a&are that she had bolted inside the bedroo#. -e"iding she &ould ta!e a short breather$ she left the bedroo# door a*ar and$ thin!ing to ta!e her ease for onl a fe& #o#ents$ she &ent and sat on the edge of the bed.

(he had no idea &ho nor#all used this bedroo#$ but it &as not all that i#portant. (he &ould not be sta ing for #ore than a #inute. It &as good$ though$ to sit here in the 1uiet dar!ness. ;u"h too late$ she realised that she should never have given in to Tob )s persuasions to partner hi#. %eariness of the &hole &ret"hed evening &ashed over her as she li!ened the goings0on do&nstairs #ore to a rugger s"ru# than to an part she had been to before. %ithout thin!ing$ she eased off her shoes and brought her feet up on to the #attress as a fair0#inded and fresh thought dropped into her head. %as it the part &hi"h &as at fault$ or &as it her4 %as she a !ill*o $ that she had been able to find no pleasure &hatsoever in the goings0on at the part 4 %ould she feel the &a she &as feeling no& if it had been -er#ot she had partnered$ and not Tob 4 Painfull $ %hitne &ondered &hether she &ould have felt the &a she did no& about things before she had #et -er#ot. -er#ot9 Her thoughts fle& ba"! to sue #onths ago. (he had been a se"retar at Hobson)s 6arden I#ple#ents then$ and had en*o ed her &or!. Then$ one ;onda $ -er#ot (elb had started &or! there as the ne& sales #anager$ and$ as he &as introdu"ed around$ he and %hitne had #et. Fro# that first handsha!e$ fro# his first ,I *ust !no& that I)# going to en*o &or!ing here)$ %hitne had !no&n that her life &ould never again be the sa#e. Nor &as it. In no ti#e she and -er#ot &ere dating ea"h other as regularl as -er#ot "ould #anage it. For$ as he had e'plained$ ,%ere it not for # ne& *ob$ and the fa"t that I)ve so #u"h to learn$ so #u"h &or! to put in if I)# to be the best sales #anager Hobson)s has ever had$ I)d see ou ever night of the &ee!$ # pet. :ut9) ,-on)t sa an #ore$ I understand$) she had told hi#$ grateful for the t&o evenings a &ee! he "ould #anage and &ishing that she &as his se"retar so that she "ould &or! late &ith hi#. >uite si#pl $ she loved hi#. (he had been going out &ith hi# for t&o #onths &hen$ doing so#e bits of shopping one lun"h hour$ she had bu#ped into A#anda Clar!e$ the &o#an &ho &as lu"! enough to be -er#ot)s se"retar . (in"e neither !ne& the other &ell$ %hitne had #ade so#e pleasant re#ar! in passing$ and &as about to go on &hen she sa& A#anda0hesitate. %hitne had hesitated$ too$ and that &as ho&7the t&o of the# halted7she had &aited to hear &hat "o##ent A#anda had to #a!e. Onl later had she realised that she had left A#anda &ith little "hoi"e but to sa so#ething. %hat she did sa $ though$ &as to ro"! %hitne to her ver foundations. ,Is it

right$ that ou)re going out &ith -er#ot (elb 4) she had as!ed in a sudden rush. (uspe"ting that #a be A#anda &as a tin bit *ealous$ %hitne "ould none the less spea! onl the truth. ,?es$) she had told her #odestl $ ,&e)ve been going out together for so#e &ee!s no&.) %hitne had still been sear"hing for &ords &hi"h #ight ta!e the edge off an pain A#anda #ight be feeling &hen A#anda revealed that it &as not *ealous &hi"h had #ade her hesitate and as! the 1uestion she had$ but "on"ern7"on"ern for her3 And it &as not A#anda &ho felt pain$ but %hitne $ &hen -er#ot (elb )s se"retar said$ ,?ou do !no& that7he)s #arried$ don)t ou4)

,;arried3) %hitne had gasped$ her e'"la#ation revealing that she had !no&n nothing of the sort. ,He "an)t be3) she)d further e'"lai#ed. ,?ou)ve got it &rong3 ?ou)ve9)
,As! hi#$) A#anda had "ut in 1uietl $ and she had &al!ed a&a . Reeling$ not &anting to believe a &ord of it$ %hitne had gone ba"! to her offi"e to have a fairl unprodu"tive afternoon. He "ouldn)t be #arried$ &ent her thoughts. Perhaps he had been #arried$ but &as no& divor"ed. Had she not !no&n that -er#ot &as out that afternoon$ she #ight &ell have gone along to see hi# then to as! hi# outright. :ut$ sin"e he &as not in his offi"e that afternoon$ %hitne had had to s&eat it out until the evening. As lu"! &ould have it she)d had a date &ith hi# that night$ but as the ti#e for hi# to "all at her flat had gro&n nearer she had been visited b a s#all #e#or or t&o. (he had re#e#bered the ti#e she had bought a "ouple of theatre ti"!ets to surprise -er#ot over a sho& &hi"h he had e'pressed an interest in seeing. ,%ould ou believe it4) he)d groaned &hen she)d told hi#. ,I)ve a long0standing arrange#ent to7pi"! # aunt up fro# the airport on (aturda .) %hitne had started to hate the logi" &hi"h had suddenl &o!en up to as!$ &hat up0and0"o#ing thirt 0 ear0old ba"helor$ &ho had never so #u"h as #entioned having an aunt before$ used up his (aturda nights in &aiting for her at an airport4 -id he$ in fa"t$ have an aunt &ho fle& in o""asionall $ or7did his &ife not let hi# out on (aturda nights4 (he had felt si"! inside at the thought$ si"! inside too as she re"alled ho&$ as she &as hugging hi# goodb e one evening$ -er#ot #ust have thought that her #outh &as #u"h too "lose to his "ollar. ,-on)t get lipsti"! on # shirt3) he had "ried$ alar#ed. ,; $ ou are fastidious$) she had teased hi#$ and had pointed out$ ,I)# not

&earing lipsti"!7no&). :arel a&are of &hat she &as doing$ %hitne #oved fro# her sitting position on the over0large bed at Heathlands$ and la do&n. %ith her head against the pillo&s$ she dre& her !nees up to her sto#a"h as though to &ard off #ore si"!ness$ and her thoughts &inged ba"! to ho& she had opened the door to -er#ot that Thursda night. ,Hello$ pet$) he)d greeted her. ,%hat a sight ou are for sore e es3) ,Co#e in$) she had invited$ but she hadn)t been able to &ait be ond "li#bing the stairs to her flat and "losing the door after the# before$ ba"!ing a&a fro# the ar#s that &ould have grabbed her$ she had as!ed hi# bluntl $ ,Are ou #arried4) ,%hat9 4 %ho94 -on)t be9) His blustering evasion had hit at the gut of her. ,6oodb e$ -er#ot$) she had told hi# in frigid tones. Ignoring his double0ta!e at this ne& person he had not previousl #et$ she had had the door open b the ti#e he)d re"overed to tell her$ ,It)s not &hat ou thin!3) ,Are ou or aren)t ou #arried4) she had persisted "oldl $ this ne& frigid0 sounding person in "harge of her a stranger to her$ too7a stranger &ho had ta!en over fro# the nor#all 1uiet and unargu#entative person she &as #ore fa#iliar &ith. ,I7a# #arried. ?es$ I)# #arried) -er#ot had been for"ed to o&n. ,:ut I love ou.) (he "ould feel herself &ea!ening. (he &anted -er#ot to love her. That he should sa he loved her &as the fulfil#ent of all her drea#s. ,:ut ou still live &ith our &ife4) she had as!ed$ so#e of the i"e leaving her voi"e$ for$ disappointed though she o&ned she &as$ perhaps she "ould ad*ust to hi# being a #arried #an if he and his &ife had de"ided to "all it a da and &ere separated. :ut the ans&er &hi"h -er#ot had given her had not been the one she had been half0&a to e'pe"ting. ,I have to live &ith her$ for the #o#ent$) he had replied. ,?ou7have to4) ,%hile the !ids are s#all$ I "an do no other$) he had told her$ sho"!ing her into silen"e$ be"ause she *ust had not given a thought to the possibilit that he #ight have "hildren3 ,:ut as soon as the )re old enough$ I)ll be able to leave her$ and ou and I9) :ut suddenl $ %hitne &as re"overing fro# her sho"!. %hite0fa"ed at &hat she

had *ust learned$ she had abruptl stopped hi# before he "ould go an further. ,?ou and I nothing3) she had told hi#$ and$ opening the door &ide$ she had refused to hear another &ord. That night she had shed tears over a #an &ho &as *ust not &orth her tears. %hen later she had dried her e es$ though$ she)d &ondered if those tears had all been on a""ount of ever thing being over bet&een her and -er#ot$ or if perhaps so#e of the# had been be"ause &hat had happened had resurre"ted the hurt of her #other)s pain. (he had been t&ent &hen$ ans&ering the door one da $ she had been "onfronted b a &o#an of about thirt 0five ears of age. %hitne felt si"! at heart &hen she thought of ho&$ if onl she had thought to as! the &o#an her business$ she #ight have been able to save her #other fro# being utterl devastated. :ut the &ere a happ fa#il unit$ and she had seen nothing &rong in ta!ing the &o#an through to the sitting0roo# &hen she had said that she &ould li!e to see ;rs La&ford. ,I)# sorr $ I didn)t get our na#e$) she re#e#bered$ s#iling at the &o#an as she)d introdu"ed her #other. ,; na#e)s uni#portant$) she had replied$ and had then pro"eeded to render the# both spee"hless &hen she had told the# both that she &as the #istress of La&ren"e La&ford$ and had been for the past five ears. (ha!en rigid as #u"h b the length of ti#e as b the fa"t that her father had a #istress$ although at that stage she had not trul believed it$ %hitne had been all set to sho& the &o#an the door. :ut *ust then La&ren"e La&ford had arrived ho#e$ and as he entered the sitting0roo# three pairs of e es &ere dire"ted on hi#. ,%hat the9) he)d started to bluster$ his e es shooting fro# the &o#an &ho had *ust "lai#ed to be his #istress to his ashen0fa"ed &ife. ,I had to "o#e$) the &o#an had dra&n his attention ba"! to her$ and &hile$ horrified$ %hitne had loo!ed on$ her father)s #istress had revealed ho& he had pro#ised and pro#ised to leave his &ife$ but ho& she had finall got fed up &ith &aiting$ and had "o#e to his ho#e7perhaps in the hope of giving hi# a helping hand to tell his &ife that he &as leaving. :ut it didn)t turn out li!e that. For one thing$ it had appeared that La&ren"e La&ford had never had an intention of leaving his "o#fortable ho#e. Nor did he. %hat had gone on bet&een hi# and her #other after&ards$ %hitne never !ne&$ but her #other &as never the sa#e again. (he gre& vague$ forgot to do things she said she &ould do$ and %hitne had realised that$ unable to get over the sho"!$ her

thoughts #ust "onstantl have been on her husband)s betra al. Nor had she ever got over that betra al. It #ust have been on her #ind all the ti#e$ %hitne realised &hen$ so#e #onths later$ her #other$ &hile out driving$ &ith no one else involved$ had "rashed her "ar into a stationar lorr . (he had never re"overed fro# the #otoring a""ident$ and had died a fe& da s later. %hitne still loved her father$ but she no longer felt "lose to hi#. %hen shortl after&ards he had #arried again7though not to the &o#an &ho had been his #istress7%hitne had left ho#e. (he had gone to London$ had lived in a hostel and had started &or! at Hobson)s 6arden I#ple#ents. (he had been &or!ing at Hobson)s for four #onths &hen she had been lu"! in finding herself a flat. The da after she had finished &ith -er#ot (elb $ %hitne gave in her noti"e at Hobson)s. A #onth later she started &or! at Alford Plasti"s$ and one of the first people she had #et there &as inoffensive Tob +eston. ,Are ou doing an thing tonight4) he had as!ed in the first &ee! of her being there. ,?es$ I a#3) she had told hi# belligerentl $ and had "ared not a da#n then &hose feelings she hurt. A #onth later$ though$ and she &as beginning to reason that not all #en &ere the sa#e. And the #ore she got to !no& Tob $ the #ore she &as able to see his vulnerabilit . (o#eho&$ she *ust felt #ean being nast to hi#$ and she ended up hurting no one but herself. %ith thoughts of Tob ba"! in her head$ %hitne &ondered if perhaps she ought to brave the part and go loo!ing for hi#. Ho&ever$ she felt far #ore "o#fortable up here on her o&n than she had done sin"e she had first set foot inside Heathlands. Ho& #an hours ago that &as$ she thought tiredl $ the lord onl !ne&. : her "al"ulations7and it &as too dar! in the roo# to read the dial on her &at"h7%hitne guessed that it #ust be so#e&here around t&o o)"lo"! in the #orning. And the ra"!et &as still going on do&nstairs3 ;ore &eariness "rept over %hitne as she "losed her e es and tried to su##on up the &ill to go and find Tob . The trouble &as$ it &as so "o#fortable up here. :esides$ if she didn)t go do&n7&ith that uninhibited "re& do&nstairs7she)d still be bound to hear the "heer that &ent up &hen the part 0giver in "hief arrived ho#e. Feeling a shade "old$ she absentl gathered so#e of the top "over around her and then$ thin!ing that onl half a *ob$ she #anoeuvred her slender for# until she &as beneath the it.

H##$ lovel $ she #used$ ta!ing a #ental note to s#ooth the "over over before she left the roo# in a #inute. In the #eanti#e$ &hat about (loan Illing&orth4 %here on earth &as he4 Had his flight been dela ed for so#e reason4 Thin!ing of fl ing brought to #ind -er#ot)s spending one (aturda 7so he had said7pi"!ing up an aunt fro# an airport. (uddenl her head &as stuffed &ith bitt pi"tures of a fa"eless (loan Illing&orth$ of her father$ of her #other$ and of -er#ot (elb $ and as i#age after i#age fought for pre"eden"e$ suddenl $ to the ba"!ground #usi" of the rau"ous part belo&$ %hitne fell asleep. (he stirred fro# her slu#ber$ believing that she &as in the #iddle of so#e night#are. For indeed$ night#are *ust about "overed &hat she a&a!ened to. (he &as disturbed first b the sound of so#eone shrie!ing a shrill$ ,Co#e on$ ou lot$ ou !no& I told ou that the upstairs part of the house &as taboo3) The ne't #o#ent$ before %hitne had an idea of &here she &as$ so#eone had "rashed into the bedroo#$ found the light s&it"h$ and flooded the roo# &ith light. Having slept in the dar!ness to the a""o#pani#ent of loud #usi" and a general din$ the "hange fro# dar!ness to light$ the "hange fro# the "a"ophon of noise she had slept through to the sudden silen"e7the sudden hushed silen"e7brought %hitne properl a&a!e. And that &as &hen the night#are reall began3 (he &as l ing on her side &hen she surfa"ed to #ove one bare ar# and shoulder fro# beneath the bed"over under &hi"h she found herself. Then she opened her e es and$ disbelieving$ suddenl her e es &ere &ide. For$ too stunned to #ove a #us"le$ she sa& fro# the broad$ na!ed shoulders that #et her ga<e that she &as not in bed alone3 :efore she "ould get #us"ular release fro# the spas# that gripped her$ though$ her bed "o#panion #ade so#e e'asperated sound and$ thoroughl irritated$ he sat up. %hitne al#ost sat up too but$ as a gasp fro# the region of the door&a hit her ears and her e es "aught sight of her o&n bare ar#$ she &as all at on"e #u"h too "onfused to !no& if she &as as "o#pletel na!ed as her bed0fello& appeared to be$ or not. (he opted$ for the #o#ent$ to free<e. Though she did turn slightl so that she "ould see the door and see &hat that gasp &as all about. ,?ou t&o0ti#ing bastard3) assaulted her ears$ and she sa& that there &as not *ust one person standing at the bedroo# door$ but a &hole host of people surve ing her and the #an she &as in bed &ith. ,; 6od3 To thin! that$ all these #onths$ I)ve trusted ou3) the shrill voi"e shrie!ed again and$ as it isolated itself fro# the group

b the door$ %hitne re"ognised that the &o#an &ho &as berating the #an beside her &as none other than her hostess$ 6leda Caufield3 %hitne had never #et 6leda)s fian"5$ (loan Illing&orth. :ut$ as she turned her head to ta!e in the #id0thirties$ 1uite good0loo!ing hun! of a #an &ho &as sha!ing his head as though to banish all sleep a&a 7 she had a ver "ertain feeling that she *ust had3

CHAPTER T%O

%HITNE? did not have ver long in &hi"h to stud her fair0haired$ gre 0e ed host. For$ her voi"e rising$ 6leda Caufield had "eased berating her fian"5$ and had s&it"hed to venting her spleen on her. ,As for ou$ ou bit"h$) she hissed$ ,I hope ou)re satisfied that$ through ou$ # engage#ent is over3) ,?0 ou9 I didn)t9 I)#9) %hitne &as "ertain she hadn)t done an thing &rong$ but$ as though it &as all part and par"el of the night#are$ she *ust see#ed in0 "apable of getting that #essage a"ross. And then$ so#e&hat to her relief$ (loan Illing&orth &as ta!ing over. %hitne guessed that he &as #ightil disturbed that his fian"5e had *ust bro!en off their engage#ent be"ause she sa& hi#$ heedless of &ho &as about$ snat"h up the robe &hi"h had so#eho& # steriousl appeared at the end of the bed. Not 1ui"! enough to avert her e es &hen she be"a#e a&are of his intent$ %hitne "aught a gli#pse of na!ed$ #us"ular thigh as (loan Illing&orth$ shrugging into the robe as he #oved$ un"urled his long length fro# the bed. (he &as still staring$ still stunned &hen he &ent over to his fian"5e. ;ira"ulousl $ ever one *ust see#ed to #elt a&a $ and %hitne &at"hed as$ ta!ing hold of 6leda)s ar#$ (loan Illing&orth led her fro# the bedroo#. %hitne la fro<en for perhaps one #inute #ore$ then$ over&hel#ingl pleased to see that7as she had realised #ust be the "ase7she &as still full "lad$ she leapt fro# the bed. %here to go$ though4 That &as the i##ediate proble#. If (loan Illing&orth &as tr ing to get it through to 6leda that she had got it all &rong and that things &eren)t as the )d appeared &hen she had "o#e into the bedroo#$ then #atters &eren)t going to be helped if 6leda suddenl "lapped e es on her. (potting an ad0 *oining bathroo# %hitne opted to "ool her burning "hee!s in there. Ten #inutes later$ she had re"overed a good deal of her deserted "o#posure$

but she &as still hesitant about sho&ing herself before 6leda and her fian"5 had pat"hed things up. The &a things stood$ she had done enough for tonight$ albeit inno"entl . Never$ though$ had she thought to be a part of su"h a s"ene. %hat (loan Illing&orth &as doing going to bed &hen his fian"5e had laid on a &el"o#e0ho#e part pu<<led %hitne for a &hile. Then$ re"alling ho& 2alerie had said so#ething on the &a do&n about his having been overseas busil establishing so#e ne& business$ she supposed$ &hat &ith flight dela s and ever thing$ that he #ust have "o#e ho#e e'hausted. %hitne &as #arginall grateful that she "ould re#e#ber seeing neither 2alerie nor her brother Tob in the sea of interested fa"es at the bedroo# door&a *ust no&. Though &ithout a doubt the &ould have heard &hat had happened. (he sta ed in the bathroo# for another ten #inutes$ ti#e enough$ she thought$ in &hi"h for (loan to have "onvin"ed 6leda that he &as not the ,t&o0ti#er) she had "alled hi#. Opening the bathroo# door a "ra"!$ she listened. The silen"e$ the pea"e$ &as deafening. Not 1uite believing that the house "ould be this pea"eful after all the babble that had gone on$ %hitne pulled the door open another in"h or t&o. Then suddenl the pea"e &as shattered. ,If ou intend "o#ing fro# that bathroo#$ then blood &ell "o#e3) snarled a disagreeable0sounding$ all0#ale voi"e. ,I)d li!e to get so#e sleep tonight3) Nervousl $ %hitne *er!ed the door the rest of the &a open$ but she had to s&allo& hard before she left the bathroo# to "onfront the o&ner of that aggressive voi"e. The o&ner$ as she had suspe"ted$ &as (loan Illing&orth. At least$ she thought it &as hi#. ,?0 ou)re (l0(loan Illing&orth4) she 1uestioned$ finding that the broad$ hair0roughened$ other&ise na!ed "hest of the #an &ho sat up in bed &as a degree or t&o off0putting. ,In the flesh$) he ans&ered &ithout hu#our. His ga<e too! her in fro# the top of her dar! head to the tips of her shoeless toes. ,?ou #anaged to find our "lothes$ I see.) It too! %hitne a se"ond or t&o to get on to his &avelength. ,I never lost the#$) she told hi# 1ui"!l as it registered that$ for all she had not been a&are of hi# loo!ing at her$ this #an had not onl done so$ but had also registered that she had see#ed as na!ed as he. ,A"tuall $) she added pri#l $ ,but for the fa"t that so#e lout bro!e the strap of # dress earlier this evening$ I)ve not parted &ith an of

# "lothes the &hole ti#e I)ve been here. E'"ept for # hurriedl . ,Are ou bragging or "o#plaining4) he #o"!ed.

shoes$) she added

%hitne de"ided right then that she did not li!e ;r (loan Illing&orth$ and$ intent upon ignoring hi#$ she stooped do&n loo!ing for her shoes. (he found the# *ust under the bed$ and she lost no ti#e in putting the# on. (he &as a little taller than average$ but even so$ even &hile (loan Illing&orth &as sitting &hile she stood$ %hitne felt better for having added a "ouple of in"hes to her height. :elatedl though$ even &hile not li!ing hi#$ and even though she !ne& that he &as &aiting for her to leave so that he "ould get so#e sleep$ she realised that she o&ed hi# an apolog . ,I)#7sorr $) she said as levell as she "ould as she too! a step to&ards the door. ,I !no& I shouldn)t have "o#e in here and #ade free &ith our bed$ but9) ,?ou &ere alone4) he 1ueried$ #a!ing her blood pressure soar. ,Of "ourse I &as alone3) she snapped. ,?ou &eren)t en*o ing the part 4) he as!ed$ #asterl &ith the 1ui"!ness of his "on"lusions$ she observed. ,It7isn)t7er7the sort of part I)# used to$) she found herself e'plaining in the politest ter#s$ sin"e it &as his fian"5e &ho had thro&n the event. ,%hi"h &as &h ou de"ided to go to bed4) ,Not intentionall 3) she denied$ and before she "ould thin! about it$ ,I didn)t hear ou "o#e to bed$) she added. ,I tried not to disturb ou$) he replied$ and had she not !no&n better she &ould have s&orn there &as a grin at the ba"! of the re#ar! *ust d ing to get through. ,?ou !ne& I &as there3) she e'"lai#ed$ ta!ing his re#ar! at fa"e0value. ,A"tuall $) he dra&led$ ,no.) ,Oh$) she said dull $ and realised that he #ust thin! that she &as as thi"! as t&o short plan!s that she hadn)t "ottoned on to his sense of hu#our. ,%ell$ an &a $) she said$ ta!ing another step to&ards the door$ ,I)# sorr about that$ and I)#7er7 sorr that 6leda &as upset7 &hi"h is onl natural$) she inserted 1ui"!l $ ,but no& that ever thing)s all right again and ou)re engaged on"e #ore$ I)ll9) ,No& &here$) (loan Illing&orth interrupted$ ,did ou get the i#pression that I)# on"e #ore engaged to be #arried4)

,?ou)re7not4) %hitne gasped$ halting abruptl $ and ta!ing a step ba"! into the roo#. He shoo! his head$ ,Not$) he stated. ,Oh$ dear$) %hitne fretted$ as she realised that 6leda had been too upset to listen to his e'planation. ,I)# sorr $) she said again$ and$ a""epting that she "ould sa she &as sorr until she &as blue in the fa"e$ but that that still &ould not get his engage#ent #ended$ she told hi# fir#l $ ,I)ll go and see 6leda. I)ll #a!e her understand that ou &ere entirel bla#eless and that ou didn)t even !no& that I &as in that bed &hen ou9) (he "a#e to a stop &hen she realised that she should be e'plaining all this to the &o#an he loved. ,I)ll go no&$) she said deter#inedl $ and #ade to turn to&ards the door. ,%here$ #ight one as!$) his voi"e arrested her$ ,are ou going4) ,%h $ do&nstairs$ of "ourse$) %hitne told hi#. ,I)ll as! 6leda if I "an have a fe& &ords &ith her and9) ,If ou)re hoping to find # e'0fian"5e do&nstairs$ I)# afraid ou)re in for a disappoint#ent$) he "ut her off. ,(he)s gone.) ,6one3) %hitne repeated blan!l . ,:ut9) ,As the rest of her friends have gone.) ,The rest of her9) %hitne &as gasping as &hat he &as sa ing began to sin! in. ,The part $ as the sa in the song$) he told her urbanel $ ,is over.) ,Over3) ,?ou reall &ill have to !eep off the bird seed$) (loan Illing&orth #ur#ured sar"asti"all . %hitne ignored his hardl veiled suggestion that b repeating ever thing he said she &as sounding *ust li!e a parrot$ and she su##oned so#e aggression of her o&n. He &asn)t as "lever as he thought he &as. ,Over or not$) she snapped$ ,not ever one "an have left$ be"ause the people I "a#e &ith &ill have sta ed behind to give #e a lift ba"! to London.) (loan Illing&orth &as so sure of hi#self that he did not even as! &ho she had "o#e &ith. ,Ta!e # &ord for it$) he told her$ his tone short in response to her uppit #anner$ ,there)s no one left.) ,Ho& do ou !no& there)s no one left4) she 1uestioned hi# hostilel . ,:e"ause I &at"hed the last "ar leave3) he rapped.

That he had lost an s#all sign of being affable and &as no& revealing a hint of anger &as no #ore than she should e'pe"t$ %hitne realised. After all$ she had been instru#ental in "ausing his fian"5e to brea! off their engage#ent. :ut$ for the #o#ent$ %hitne had a #ore pressing proble# than helping hi# and his fian"5e get ba"! together again. ,:ut$) she "ried$ ,if Tob and his sister have gone7 I)ve no &a of getting ho#e3) The loo! &hi"h (loan Illing&orth thre& her told her that he "ouldn)t have "ared less about Tob $ or about Tob )s sister$ or about her. It &as "lear that he thought that her predi"a#ent &as nothing to do &ith hi#. :ut it see#ed that his need to "lose his e es had got to hi#. ,For 6od)s sa!e3) he bar!ed$ and obviousl seeing nothing for it but to find a solution$ he snarled$ ,6o and "lear up do&nstairs or so#ething3 I)ll see about getting ou ho#e &hen I)ve "aught up on so#e sleep.) A little ta!en aba"!$ %hitne realised that she &as going no&here until this un"ivil brute had #ade friends &ith ;orpheus. (till$ she had hardl thought she &ould be sta ing to "lear up &hen she had a""epted the invitation to the part . ,?ou &ant #e to "lear up after9) ,I don)t see &h the hell # house!eeper should do it3) he told her shortl . -a&n &as "reeping through the night s! &hen he "o##anded$ ,Put the light out on our &a $) and$ turning his ba"! on her$ "on"luded their "onversation b l ing do&n and$ she presu#ed$ "losing his e es. Hoping that he &ould a&a!e in a better #ood$ %hitne sni"!ed the light s&it"h off as she left the bedroo#. ;iserable "reature$ she #uttered under her breath$ and observed ho& ever one of the hurdles that should have prevented all but the #ost stead 0footed fro# negotiating the stairs had been re#oved. ;ore than li!el $ (loan Illing&orth had re#oved the hurdles &hen he had "o#e ho#e$ %hitne thought. (he &as &arned of the state in &hi"h she &ould find the other roo#s &hen she sa& ho& liberall stre&n &ith debris the hall &as. (he had not seriousl "onte#plated doing an of the "learing up but$ as she &al!ed through the other roo#s the guests had used$ she "ould not help but agree &ith the brute of a #an upstairs. No house!eeper should have to "o#e on dut to a house loo!ing li!e this3 Realising that she &ould &ear a tren"h to the !it"hen if she atte#pted to ta!e the used dishes there b tra $ %hitne found a trolle and &as soon hard at &or!. Her #ood during the ne't hour s&ung #an &a s. (he "ountered her belief that (loan Illing&orth &as a #iserable "reature &ith the feeling that$ &ith his &el"o#e ho#e after three #onths a&a being a bro!en engage#ent$ he had ever right to

be upset. Having "leared the hall of all the "lutter$ she de"ided to &ash up the dishes and glasses she found there before she &ent on to the ne't disaster area. There &as a dish&asher plu#bed in beside the sin!$ but it &as a #a!e she &as not fa#iliar &ith$ and %hitne de"ided against using it in "ase she turned a &rong !nob and &re"!ed the #a"hine. (he &as up to her elbo&s in soapsuds &hen she began to feel belligerent again. %ho else$ in their right #ind$ &ould s!ivv a&a at the !it"hen sin! at five o)"lo"! on a (unda #orning4 On that instant$ %hitne too! her hands out of the suds and$ rebelling$ she dried the#. Five #inutes later$ her hands &ere in the &ater again. It &as one thing to thin!$ blo& (loan Illing&orth$ let hi# do his o&n &ashing up8 but 1uite another to !eep do&n a "ons"ien"e &hi"h insisted$ ah$ but he &on)t have to do it$ &ill he4 %hitne "ould not re#e#ber seeing an sign of his house!eeper$ but it &as a fair bet that she &ould be the one lu#bered &ith the "learing up if she didn)t do it. And$ as that short0te#pered "reature upstairs had stated$ &h the hell should she4 %hitne still didn)t see &h she should be the person) to be lu#bered &ith the "hores$ but beneath all her strongl antagonisti" feeling there la a #u"h stronger feeling of guilt. For$ through her$ ho&ever inno"ent she &as$ (loan Illing&orth had lost the &o#an he loved. And %hitne !ne& ho& it felt to lose the person ou loved. That the t&o "ases &ere in no &a si#ilar #ade no differen"e to that deep0 do&n feeling of guilt$ she dis"overed. (he had been the one to thro& -er#ot over$ not the other &a around as in (loan)s "ase$ but that in no &a lessened the hurt. %hitne finished her first load of &ashing0up and left the !it"hen to begin &or! in the dra&ing0roo#. (he had *ust #anaged to get rid of the last ring0#ar! on a highl polished table &hen she too! a #inute out to loo! round at the rest of the beautiful furniture in the roo#. Feeling slightl a#a<ed that the house!eeper had agreed that that un#annered part ing horde be let loose a#ong su"h surroundings$ she suddenl realised that she probabl hadn)t had #u"h "hoi"e. (he hadn)t parti"ularl ta!en to 6leda Caufield herself$ but she had no need to see her again. As things had stood$ though$ sin"e 6leda Caufield &as due ulti#atel to be the #istress of Heathlands$ &hen the house!eeper &ould per#anentl ta!e her instru"tions fro# her$ %hitne sa& that the house!eeper had little option but to agree. Feeling guilt again for her part in depriving Heathlands of its e'pe"ted

#istress$ %hitne started on #ore &ashing0up. (he ferventl hoped that$ on"e 6leda Caufield had "ooled do&n$ (loan &ould be able to get her to see reason. At seven0fifteen$ %hitne thought she deserved a "up of tea$ and she set the !ettle to boil. (he &as in the #iddle of her first rest &hen a &o#an of about fift "a#e bris!l into the !it"hen and$ seeing her ta!ing her ease$ stopped dead. ,6ood #orning$) %hitne s#iled. ,I hope ou don)t #ind #e #a!ing free &ith our teapot. I)# %hitne La&ford$ b the &a .) ,Ho& do ou do$) the &o#an replied and$ after introdu"ing herself$ ,I)# ;rs Orton$ ;r Illing&orth)s house!eeper$) she added$ a shade &aril $ %hitne thought$ ,Are7er7there other7er7guests still here4) ,No$ onl #e$) %hitne soon put her out of her an'iet $ and$ dra&ing a thi"! veil over the happenings in that upstairs bedroo#$ added$ ,I sort of7got left behind7 &hen ever one else &ent ho#e.) ,I7see$) ;rs Orton #ur#ured$ although she didn)t reall loo! as though she did. ,;r Illing&orth has said he)ll see about getting #e ho#e$ on"e he)s "aught up on so#e of his rest$) %hitne found she &as e'plaining. ,He)s a !ind #an$) ;rs Orton offered. Perhaps he treats his house!eeper !indl $ %hitne #used$ but so far she had seen #ore of his bad0te#pered side than his !ind side. ,I thought I)d have a "up of tea$ and then I)d do so#e "learing up$) she de"ided to "hange the sub*e"t. ,Oh$ I "an)t let ou do that$) ;rs Orton protested$ all too "learl una&are that the good fairies had been slaving a&a for the past three hours. ,:esides$ I)ve *ust ta!en a loo! around$ and the house is no&here near as7er7 untid as I i#agined it &ould be.) %ith that$ and giving her the i#pression that she &ould be a shade happier to have her !it"hen all to herself$ the house!eeper set about finding the right ho#es for the dishes &hi"h %hitne had &ashed. ,I)ll ta!e # tea into the dra&ing0roo#$) %hitne told her$ not &anting to get under ;rs Orion)s feet if she &as the sort &ho &ent about her duties &ith bustling speed. ,(hall I #a!e ou so#e brea!fast4) the house!eeper relented. ,Oh no$ than!s$ ;rs Orton$). %hitne replied. ,I "ouldn)t eat a thing$) Nor "ould she. %hat she &anted #ore than food$ %hitne realised as she too! a seat on the "o#fortable0loo!ing "ou"h in the dra&ing0roo# and finished her tea$ &as eight hours of solid sleep.

(uddenl a&are of a feeling of tiredness$ %hitne pla"ed her "up and sau"er do&n on a nearb table and !i"!ed off her shoes. (tret"hing out on the "ou"h$ she thought that ;rs Orton had enough to !eep her bus else&here$ and$ sin"e it "ould &ell be #id0afternoon before (loan Illing&orth surfa"ed$ she "ould see no good reason &h she shouldn)t "at"h up on so#e of her sleep too. This ti#e &hen she "a#e round fro# sleep$ it &as not to find herself loo!ing at the broad$ na!ed shoulders of (loan Illing&orth. This ti#e$ she opened her e es to loo! straight up into his &at"hing gre e es and$ suddenl $ as she sa& hi# standing tall$ &ith his broad shoulders "overed in a "he"!ed shirt$ %hitne )s heart set up the #ost une'pe"ted thudding. ,%hat ti#e is it4) she as!ed hi# as she sat up and slipped her feet into her shoes and &ondered &h seeing hi# dressed should have affe"ted her so #u"h that she didn)t have the brain po&er to "he"! her O&n &at"h. ,6etting on for ten$) he replied$ affabl enough$ she thought$ given the &a she had ruined his future. ,Has 6leda7 our fian"5e7 our e'0fian"5e$) she 1ualified$ ,rung4) ,%h the deu"e should she4) he derided$ #a!ing her realise that perhaps she &asn)t so instantl &ide a&a!e as she had thought. ,I)# sorr $) she apologised$ and e'perien"ed a rush of irritation &ith hi#$ and &ith herself$ that he see#ed &ithout effort to have her in a "onstant state of apologising to hi#. To "ountera"t an thought he #ight have that she &ent through life grovelling$ she snapped bluntl $ ,Can &e go no&4) ,%here the hell to4) he rapped ba"!$ e1uall bluntl . ,?ou said ou)d give #e a lift to9) ,I &ant # brea!fast3) he snarled$ and see#ed about to stride off &hen he "he"!ed. ,I suppose I)d better feed ou$ too. Co#e on$) he said shortl . %hitne &as about to tell hi# &hat he "ould do &ith his food$ but as he rea"hed do&n and hauled her un"ere#oniousl to her feet she &as overta!en b a sudden feeling of breathlessness. All at on"e she &as ver #u"h a&are of hi# and the &a he to&ered over her. >ui"!l $ she too! a s#art step a&a . : the ti#e she had re"overed her e1uilibriu#$ he &as es"orting her along the hall and$ sin"e she *ust then dis"overed that she &as starving$ the #o#ent &as lost &hen she &ould have told hi# that he "ould eat b hi#self. The roo# he too! her to &as one she had not been in before$ and she guessed that it #ust be one of the roo#s &hi"h ;rs Orton had thought to lo"! before the

invasion of last night. (loan Illing&orth had an innate "ourtes $ %hitne &as to find. For$ even &hile anno ed &ith her$ as he undoubtedl &as$ he had pulled out a "hair for her at the brea!fast table and &as &aiting for her to be seated before he &ent round to his o&n "hair. ,Than! ou$) she #u#bled$ and had so#e #inutes in &hi"h to "o#pose herself &hile ;rs Orton brought in t&o plates of ba"on and egg. The house!eeper had gone out again$ and %hitne )s host &as tu"!ing into the deli"ious0s#elling repast$ as she &as$ &hen she thought that$ sin"e she had anno ed hi# the last ti#e she)d started to as! for a lift to London$ perhaps she had better use a bit of ta"t the ne't ti#e. Realising that probabl the onl reason he had turned gru#p &as that he had other things planned for that da than seeing to it that she got ba"! to her ho#e$ %hitne found that to be beholden to hi# had #ade her$ "onversel $ short on ta"t. ,(hall I4) she offered pleasantl $ tou"hing her hand to the "offee0pot handle. His terse nod #ade it harder than ever for her to find ta"t to as! hi# an thing. (he *ust hated as!ing for favours. ?et$ sin"e she didn)t &ant to spend #u"h #ore ti#e "ooling her heels at Heathlands7nor "ould he &ant her there an &a $ she &as sure of that7%hitne daintil poured the# both a "up of "offee. (he handed hi# his &ith a faint tra"e of a s#ile. ,;r Illing&orth$) she began$ !eeping her voi"e as pleasant as before. (he halted &hen she found that gre e es &ere suddenl pinning hers. As she stared at hi#$ it stru"! her that if she did not !no& better$ she &ould have s&orn there &as the ver devil dan"ing in those gre e es3 ,;r Illing&orth4) he 1ueried. Her e'pression #ust have told hi# that she didn)t "onsider she !ne& hi# &ell enough to "all hi# b his first na#e. :ut he left her stunned and gaping &hen$ "op ing her o&n pleasantness of tone$ he #ur#ured$ ,After sleeping &ith #e$ I)# still ;r Illing&orth to ou4) ,?ou7 ou9 I9) %hitne spluttered$ and she &as never #ore glad that there &as no one around to hear this "onversation. ,Co#e to thin! of it$) (loan Illing&orth &ent on &hen %hitne proved too "ho!ed to get #ore &ords out$ ,I)ve been #ore than re#iss in the na#e depart#ent # self. Tell #e$) he &ent on$ ,sin"e I &as su"h a "ad as not to as! beforehand$ &hat is the na#e of the &o#an I so re"entl had the pleasure of sleeping &ith4) -is"ounting the idea that there &as an devil dan"ing in his e es$ %hitne

realised that the onl reason for hi# bringing up the sub*e"t of the# being in the sa#e bed together &as that 6leda #ust be to the forefront of his #ind. :urned on his brain #ust be the pi"ture of hi# &a!ing up to find his fian"5e standing in the bedroo# door&a $ sho"!ed and dreadfull upset that$ after organising a surprise part for hi#$ the surprise had been to find hi# in bed &ith one of the guests. ,; na#e is %hitne La&ford$) she told hi# flatl $ and$ &hen she had been deter#ined not to apologise again$ ,I)# sorr $ I reall a#$) she *ust had to tell hi#. ,?ou)re sorr ou found the part so unutterabl boring that$ sin"e ou had no transport to leave$ ou de"ided to hide ourself a&a &here ou thought no one &ould find ou4) (he had been apologising for the sho"! she had "aused his e'0fian"5e. :ut his outline of the &a her thoughts had gone$ if not ver polite to her hostess$ &as prett near a""urate. ,I hadn)t #eant to go to sleep$) she #uttered. ,And I "ertainl didn)t !no& it &as our bedroo# &hen I9) ,It see#s to #e that ou didn)t give a da#n &hose bedroo# it &as$ or &hat7 upsetting7"onse1uen"es #ight follo& our a"tions$) (loan retorted toughl . The #e#or of her o&n upset$ her o&n pain fro# her brea! &ith -er#ot$ &as enough to !eep %hitne )s e es glued to her plate. (he had no defen"e$ she !ne& that she hadn)t. :ut she did not &ant to see the pain she had !no&n #irrored in the gre e es of the #an opposite her be"ause$ through no fault of his o&n$ his love had bro!en &ith hi#. ,Can)t9) she began hus!il $ but the &ords to as! hi# if he didn)t thin! he "ould get ba"! together again &ith 6leda *ust refused to leave her throat. %hitne "oughed to "lear a "onstri"tion$ and then found herself sa ing so#ething ver different fro# &hat she had intended. Pride$ she "ould onl sur#ise$ &as responsible for the non0grovelling person &ho raised her head fro# her plate and$ tilting her "hin a defiant fra"tion$ told hi# evenl $ ,(in"e # a"tions have resulted in su"h disastrous happenings for ou$ I don)t suppose I "an "o#plain that ou have obviousl had se"ond thoughts about helping #e get ba"! to London.) >uietl $ and &ith dignit $ %hitne pla"ed her nap!in on her side0plate. ,(o$ sin"e I have to be at # se"retarial *ob in the #orning$ I)ll than! ou for7for9 our hospitalit $ and I)ll start9) ,-id I sa I)d had se"ond thoughts4) he sli"ed in bluntl . ,No$ but9)

,Then !indl don)t *u#p to "on"lusions about &hat I thin! or ho& I thin! or an thing else about #e$) he told her "uttingl . ,I)ve told ou I)ll see about getting ou ho#e$ and that)s # intention.) %hitne did not li!e the feeling that she had *ust been &ell and trul slapped do&n for her i#puden"e. ,2er &ell$) she told hi# stiffl . ,:ut sin"e$ &hen I put this dress on esterda evening$ I didn)t thin! that I)d be spending the &hole of toda in it too$ "an ou give #e so#e idea of ho& long it &ill be before I "an get ho#e to # flat$ to a bath and a "hange of "lothes4) His ans&er &as to toss his serviette do&n on the table too. Not loo!ing the least bit friendl $ he told her disagreeabl $ ,6ive #e ten #inutes to get so#e paper&or! together$ and &e)ll be off.) ,?ou)re going to our offi"e3) she e'"lai#ed. %ithout another &ord (loan Illing&orth got up fro# the table and strode fro# the roo#$ and %hitne fell ba"! into her sour #ood. Leaving the brea!fast0roo#$ she &andered out into the hall. True to his &ord$ ten #inutes later$ (loan "a#e and found her. The brief"ase he "arried "onfir#ed$ as she had thought$ that he &ould be "alling in at his offi"e on"e he had dropped her off. @nspea!ing$ the &ent fro# the house$ and silentl he opened the passenger door of his dar!$ slee! and speed 0loo!ing "ar. In no ti#e Heathlands &as #iles behind the#. -earl did %hitne &ish she "ould put the happenings at Heathlands as 1ui"!l to the ba"! of her. Nothing but a gri# silen"e &as "o#ing fro# the #an behind the &heel$ and she supposed that she "ould hardl bla#e hi# that he)d rather be giving a lift to a &art0ridden "rone$ *ust then$ than her. As the neared London she told hi# &here she lived$ and he too! that infor#ation in &ithout a"!no&ledge#ent. %hitne loo!ed out of the side0&indo&$ and tried hard to hate hi#. :ut guilt &as "utting deeper$ and hate hi# she "ould not. (he guessed that$ for all he &as not out&ardl sho&ing it$ he &as being torn apart inside about 6leda. And$ suddenl $ her o&n pain over -er#ot &as being #ag0 nified and &as "ausing her heart to go out to (loan. %hitne &as still feeling for hi# &hen$ after she had given hi# a fe& further dire"tions$ he pulled his "ar up outside of her flat. And$ so#eho&$ although she thought she read in his e'pression that he &ould be glad if she)d get out of the "ar so that he "ould get on$ she *ust had to dela hi#.

,(loan$) she said hus!il $ the ,;r Illing&orth) &hi"h she had previousl "alled hi# lost so#e&here under her urgent need to help hi# pat"h up his bro!en engage#ent. Cooll $ he turned his head to surve her earnest e'pression. ,(loan$) she repeated 1ui"!l $ and there &as a nervous "at"h in her voi"e &hen$ e#otion ta!ing her along$ she al#ost begged$ ,if there)s an thing I "an do$ an thing at all9) Her voi"e faded to nothing as$ &ith one e ebro& slanting aloft$ (loan Illing&orth told her i"il $ ,(o#e #ight sa $ ;iss La&ford$ that ou)ve done #ore than enough alread 3)

CHAPTER THREE

TO:? +E(TON &aiting for %hitne &hen she arrived at her offi"e the follo&ing #orning$ and he &as ab*e"t in his apologies &hen he begged her forgiveness for abandoning her at the part . ,I didn)t #ean to$ I s&ear I didn)t$) he said earnestl . ,I &as ta!ing "are ho& #u"h I &as drin!ing$ too. Onl $) he ended #iserabl $ ,so#e idiot got the bright idea of la"ing # drin!s$ and7&ell$ I "ouldn)t re#e#ber ver #u"h about the part &hen I &o!e up in # flat esterda afternoon.) ,?ou7er7#ust have been in a state$) %hitne #ur#ured "arefull as she &ondered if an of &hat he re#e#bered in"luded the fa"t that (loan Illing&orth &as no longer engaged to be #arried$ and that she &as the "ause3 ,I &as in a &orse state &hen I rang # sister to as! ho& I)d got ho#e$ and she told #e that she)d driven #e ho#e$ but not ou3 I &as in a proper ste& &hen she said ho& she)d got so#e "hap to pour #e into her "ar and to go &ith her to help her at the other end$ but that she)d left ou to get a lift &ith so#eone else. ?ou did get a lift &ithout an proble#$ didn)t ou4) he as!ed an'iousl . ,Oh$ es$) %hitne replied$ still &ondering ho& #u"h he !ne&. ,Oh$ good$) he said on a relieved breath$ and added$ ,I &anted to "o#e round to our pla"e esterda to see if ou &ere ho#e safel but$ &ell$ to tell the truth$ I had a splitting head$ and I &asn)t at all sure &hat sort of re"eption ou)d give #e.) He paused$ and then as!ed tentativel $ ,The "hap &ho gave ou a lift7he &as all right$ &as he4 I #ean$) he added$ ,he didn)t tr 9) ,He &as fine$) %hitne relieved his #ind$ &hile at the sa#e ti#e she held ba"! fro# infor#ing hi# that the #an &ho had given her a lift ho#e &as the #an &ho had been his host for the evening. ,Er7&hat ti#e did ou leave$ b the &a 4) she 1uestioned Tob $ a tou"h tentative herself. ,I)ve no idea$) he replied. ,Though it #ust have been before 6leda Caufield)s fian"5 arrived$ be"ause 2alerie gave #e an earful esterda about ho&$ through

#e$ she)d #issed the best part of the part .) ,Oh$) said %hitne &ea!l $ and found that she *ust did not have the nerve to as! hi# &hat his sister had #eant b that re#ar!. Had she #eant the best part had been &hen the host of the surprise part had arrived$ or had she #eant7&ord having alread rea"hed her ears7 that the best part had been &hen 1uite a fe& of the "ro&d had surprised their host in bed &ith one of the guests4 Fortunatel $ %hitne )s boss *ust then arrived. ,6ood #orning$ ;r Parsons$) Tob greeted hi# in the sa#e good0natured &a in &hi"h he spo!e to ever one$ and$ as he re"alled that ;r Parsons had a reputation for not "aring for ti#e0&asters$ ,I)ll see ou later$ %hitne $) he s#iled$ and &ent on his &a . %hitne 1uite li!ed her &or! at Alford Plasti"s$ but it &as not too de#anding &or!$ so that throughout that da she had plent of ti#e in &hi"h to let her #ind run free. Over and over again she thought of ever thing that had ta!en pla"e sin"e she had gone to that part &ith Tob on (aturda . -earl did she &ant to !no& if (loan Illing&orth had been able to pat"h things up &ith his fian"5e$ but$ short of getting in tou"h &ith hi# to as!$ she had no &a of !no&ing. (he &as still fretting over the fa"t that through her inno"ent a"t t&o people &ho &ere in love had been "aused pain$ &hen she &ent ho#e that night. (he &as &ishing that she "ould !no& if the engage#ent had been #ended &hen$ at about eleven &hen she &as thin!ing of going to bed$ her upstairs neighbour "a#e and !no"!ed her &ell0!no&n !no"! on her door. Eri"a Fane &as a &ar#0hearted &o#an of thirt &ho$ &hile holding do&n a de#anding *ob$ &as stud ing for a degree &ith the Open @niversit . %hile effi"ient in her *ob$ and in her studies$ ho&ever$ Eri"a tended to be forgetful in other s#aller #atters. %hitne opened the door to her$ &ell used b then to the pe"uliar hours &hi"h Eri"a)s studies #eant she !ept. ,%hat "an I9 4) %hitne began$ but she stopped &hen Eri"a &aved a tin of sardines in the air. ,I)# not on the "adge tonight$ I)# returning$) she bea#ed. ,Co#e in$ if ou)ve ti#e$) %hitne invited. ,-on)t #ind if I do$) Eri"a replied$ and the ad*ourned to the !it"hen &here %hitne #ade t&o #ugs of "o"oa$ and &here Eri"a said$ ,I)# d ing to pr 7&here &ere ou on (aturda &hen$ sardines in hand$ I "a#e !no"!ing at our door4) ,Co#e and sit do&n$ and I)ll tell ou$) %hitne ans&ered. ,Cru#bs3) Eri"a e'"lai#ed &hen %hitne had given her an outline of ho& she had

"o#e to be found in bed &ith (loan Illing&orth &hen 6leda Caufield had "o#e into the roo#. ,?ou)re *ust not the t pe3) ,I)ll ta!e that as flatter $) %hitne said dril . ,:ut7 &hat "an I do4) ,As I see it$ nothing$ !iddo$) Eri"a told her. ,?ou sa ou offered to do an thing ou "an$ but$ &ell$ 1uite honestl $ if I)d "aught # feller7I should be so lu"! 7 in bed &ith so#e fe#ale$ then the last person I)d &ant to see &ould be said fe#ale. Leave it$) she advised. ,Love$ as ou !no&$ poppet$) she inserted gentl $ being the onl person in &ho# %hitne had "onfided over -er#ot$ ,is a prett po&erful e#otion. The )ll get ba"! together again$ I)# sure$ if the haven)t alread .) %hitne "arried Eri"a)s advi"e &ith her &hen she &ent into &or! the ne't da . (he &as still tr ing to "onvin"e herself that ever thing &as ba"! to nor#al on the (loan and 6leda front though &hen$ on her &a to the "offee #a"hine around #id0 #orning$ Tob +eston fell into step &ith her. ,I &as hoping to see ou$) he s#iled$ and &hile %hitne )s guilt "ons"ien"e gave a start that &ord #ust have rea"hed hi# of her being found in bed &ith (loan Illing&orth$ he &ent on to sa $ ,I)d li!e ou to go out &ith #e again$ but I don)t suppose ou &ould7&ould ou4) %hitne fa"ed the fa"t that she had a de"ided aversion to su"h a sordid phrase as her ,being found in bed) &ith an one$ and relief that Tob still !ne& nothing of &hat &as no& be"o#ing an irritant to her &as responsible$ she realised$ for her repl . ,Provided ou)re not thin!ing of ta!ing #e to an #ore parties9) she began &hen$ his fa"e lighting up li!e a bea"on in his pleasure$ Tob snapped up &hat he sa& as her a""eptan"e of a date. %hitne dated Tob several ti#es over the ne't t&o &ee!s. %hen$ at the end of their third date$ though$ he #ade an atte#pt to !iss her$ she 1ui"!l averted her head and his !iss landed on her "hee!. ,No4) he as!ed. ,No$ Tob $) she told hi# fir#l . ,I told ou9) ,I !no&$ ou)re .off/ #en$) he repeated &hat she had told hi# and$ li!e the love he &as$ he had "onfessed$ ,I tried it on$ despite &hat ou told #e. %ill ou forgive #e and "o#e out &ith #e again if I pro#ise to behave # self4) %hitne !ne& then that she li!ed Tob ver #u"h. He &asn)t as!ing &h she &as ,off #en$ he *ust a""epted that she &as. ,%ho "ould resist ou4) she s#iled. ,; #other thin!s I)# "ute$) he replied$ and %hitne laughed$ and &hen b the

end of their ne't date Tob had not so #u"h as atte#pted to hold her hand$ she !ne& that$ in a sisterl !ind of &a $ she had gro&n 1uite fond of Tob . (he &as at &or! on a Frida #orning$ al#ost three &ee!s to the da sin"e Tob had ta!en her to that part $ &hen she put do&n a pie"e of &or! she had been going over and stared into spa"e. (he &as beginning to thin! that that part &as going to haunt her for the rest of her life$ be"ause so#eho& never a da see#ed to pass &ithout (loan Illing&orth popping into her head at so#e ti#e. E*e"ting hi#$ along &ith her guilt "ons"ien"e$ fro# her thoughts$ she pi"!ed up her &or! again. For goodness) sa!e$ he)d had ti#e to e'plain ever thing to 6leda Caufield a do<en ti#es over b no&3 : no&$ she de"ided$ ever thing #ust have settled do&n bet&een the pair of the#. (he &as not going to give the# another thought. An hour later$ (loan Illing&orth &as far fro# %hitne )s #ind. %hen the phone on her des! rang she had her thoughts #ore on suppl dates than on &ho &as at the other end of the phone. Then$ suddenl $ her &or! had gone "o#pletel fro# her #ind$ and she &as sha!en to the "ore as the deep tones of an all0#ale voi"e en1uired$ ,Ho& are ou$ %hitne 4) (he had never before heard (loan Illing&orth)s voi"e over the phone$ but she nevertheless !ne& straight a&a &ho it &as. ,I)#7fine$) she replied as evenl as her sha!en senses &ould allo&. ,6ood$) he said and$ having got that out of the &a $ ,(loan Illing&orth$) he announ"ed hi#self$ and &ithout further prea#ble told her$ ,I should li!e to see ou.) ,Oh3) she e'"lai#ed$ having thought that she had got herself together again$ onl to be sha!en on"e #ore b &hat he had *ust said. ,?ou #ean9) Her voi"e faded. In a flash she &as realising that$ sin"e he did not &ant to tal! to her over the phone$ &hat he &anted to see her about #ust be e'"eedingl personal. %ith a start she realised too that her belief that his bro!en engage#ent had been pat"hed up #ust be ver &ide of the #ar!3 And$ suddenl re#e#bering her offer of doing an thing to help$ %hitne all at on"e !ne& that she "ould not &ithdra& that offer$ &hi"h (loan &as "alling in. ,Er7 es$) she told hi#$ ,all right. I9) (he had been about to tell hi# that she &as free fro# one till t&o and that she "ould #eet hi# an &here he said in her lun"h hour$ but she didn)t get the "han"e. For$ &aiting no longer than to hear her agree that she &ould see hi#$ (loan Illing&orth$ "learl a ver bus #an$ &asted no #ore of his ti#e$ but "ut straight a"ross an thing she &as adding. ,I)ll see ou tonight$ at eight. %e)ll eat so#e&here$) he said. A #o#ent later$

%hitne &as staring$ in so#e disbelief$ at the dead telephone in her hand. ,; gidd aunt3) she e'"lai#ed aloud$ and repla"ed the re"eiver$ feeling her ha"!les start to rise at the boss treat#ent she had *ust re"eived. ;utin &elled up in her as she re"alled that she had a date &ith Tob that night$ but that the lordl (loan Illing&orth hadn)t even thought to as! if it &as "onvenient &hen he)d stated$ ,I)ll see ou tonight$ at eight)3 %ishing that she had thought to ta!e his phone nu#ber so that she "ould have rung hi# ba"! and told hi# that tonight &as not "onvenient$ %hitne 1uietl si##ered against hi# for the ne't fe& #inutes. Presu#ptuous blighter3 she fu#ed. (o &hat if she had put hi# in the &rong &ith his fian"5e4 (he alread had a date for that evening3 For all (loan Illing&orth !ne&$ he "ould &ell have ruined a budding ro#an"e on her hori<on3 Thoughts of a ro#an"e in an &a "onne"ted &ith her "aused %hitne to thin! of -er#ot. And$ as sadness entered her heart$ so anger left her. -er#ot had been her one and onl fora into an thing re#otel approa"hing a serious ro#an"e7she &as definitel not read for another. %hitne pi"!ed up the phone to ring Tob )s e'tension$ having a""epted that$ after &hat she)d done to (loan)s ro#an"e$ he "ould hardl be bla#ed for not "aring a da#n &hether he s"uppered an budding ro#an"e she had going. ,Tob 7%hitne here$) she told hi# &hen he "a#e to the phone. ,Hello3) he e'"lai#ed$ and she "ould hear the pleasure in his voi"e. ,About tonight$) she began$ and then she hesitated. (he had got to !no& Tob suffi"ientl &ell b then$ and !ne& that he &as open enough to have #entioned it had he been a&are of (loan Illing&orth)s bro!en engage#ent$ and her part in it. (o#eho&$ she didn)t feel li!e giving Tob the real reason &h she "ould not see hi# that evening. ,I)# sorr $ Tob $) she resu#ed$ ,so#ething)s "o#e up and I "an)t #a!e our date tonight.) ,?ou)re not in trouble$ are ou$ %hitne 4) he i##ediatel as!ed$ "ausing her to li!e hi# all the #ore that his first thought &as al&a s for others. ,If so#ething)s &rong$ ou !no& ou "an rel on #e to9) ,There)s nothing &rong$) she 1ui"!l told hi#$ and &hen an e#barrassed pause follo&ed &hen she didn)t e'plain &h she &as "an"elling their date$ she found that she &as sa ing$ ,I)# sorr I "an)t #a!e tonight$ but if ou)re free to#orro& evening$ perhaps ou)d li!e to "o#e and have dinner &ith #e at # pla"e.) ,%ould I3) Tob *u#ped at her invitation$ adding$ in so#e relief$ ,I thought for a

#inute there that ou &ere sa ing that ou didn)t &ant to see #e ever again$ not *ust tonight.) ,?ou)re getting tou"h in our old age$) %hitne teased hi#$ and she had al#ost returned the phone to its "radle &hen$ on an afterthought$ she said$ ,Oh$ b the &a $ &here "an I get in "onta"t &ith (loan Illing&orth$ do ou !no&4) ,(in"e ou !no& &here he lives$ it has to be business$) Tob said "heerfull $ and in happ ignoran"e$ he told her$ ,?ou)ve heard of Illing&orth International8 tr there. He runs it.) %hitne put the phone do&n in so#ething of a state of sho"!. (loan Illing&orth &as head of Illing&orth International$ that vast #ultinational "o#pan 3 And she7 she had a date &ith hi# that night3 It too! %hitne until so#e ti#e after her lun"h hour to get over the sho"! of learning &ho (loan Illing&orth &as. (he had !no&n he &as an industrialist$ she re"alled$ but never had she "onne"ted hi# &ith the Illing&orth &ho presided over the Illing&orth International board. %hitne &ent ho#e that night realising that$ if so#e &isp of #e#or hadn)t stra ed to re#ind her$ &hile she &as tal!ing to Tob $ that she hadn)t !no&n &here to "onta"t (loan$ she &ould never have as!ed Tob the 1uestion she had. As it &as$ she !ne& not onl that he ran Illing&orth International but also$ sin"e the na#e Illing&orth "ould not be "oin"idental$ that he o&ned it. Pattering about her flat prior to ta!ing a bath$ she &as still thin!ing of ho& she had so un!no&ingl trotted out her 1uestion to find out &here (loan &or!ed$ &hen$ li!e a bolt fro# the blue$ so#ething suddenl hit her. (he !ne& ho& she had found out &here (loan &or!ed7 but ho& had he found out &here she &or!ed4 %hitne &as still ra"!ing her brains &hen$ half an hour later$ she la soa!ing in her bath. (he had a good #e#or of several of the things that had passed bet&een the#. And she "ould "learl re#e#ber telling hi# she did se"retarial &or!. :ut she &as positive she had not told hi# &here3 (he got out of her bath telling herself that &hether she had told (loan &here she &or!ed or &hether she hadn)t &as not all that i#portant an &a . He !ne& her address$ so$ if all else had failed$ all he)d had to do &as either drop her a note as!ing her to phone hi#$ or "all round in person to see her. The fa"t that he hadn)t forgotten &here she lived &as endorsed b the fa"t that$ &ithout as!ing for a re#inder$ he &as "alling at her address that evening. +no&ing for "ertain that (loan &ould not have telephoned her if his engage#ent to 6leda &as still on$ %hitne &as donning the dress she &ould &ear &hen$ as she

re"alled to #ind his tall$ lithe build and his good0loo!ing fa"e$ she &as suddenl visited b the #ost pe"uliar sensation. Ho& ridi"ulous$ she thought$ and$ s"orning the idea that the sensation had been an thing to do &ith e'"ite#ent at the thought of having hi# for her es"ort$ she s#oothed the folds of the pale a#ber sil! around her hips$ and stepped into her shoes. At eight o)"lo"! pre"isel $ she &as seated in an eas "hair$ read and &aiting. (he &as perfe"tl "ool$ "al# and "olle"ted. At one #inute past eight$ the outside bell to her flat rang$ and suddenl she felt de"idedl *u#p . Pi"!ing up her bag$ %hitne &ent fro# her flat$ and lo"!ed the door behind her. Then she too! a deep breath and negotiated the stairs to the ground floor. (he had herself under "ontrol as she rea"hed the outer door$ or thought she had. :ut$ *ust the sa#e$ she dis"overed that she needed to ta!e another deep breath before she pulled the door ba"!. ,A pun"tual &o#an3) (loan e'"lai#ed before she "ould spea!$ observing fro# the &a she toted her bag that he &as not going to be as!ed in to &ait. ,A beautiful and pun"tual &o#an$) he rephrased his observation. Funnil enough$ the &ords on his lips did not see# to her ears to be insin"ere flatter $ and$ as (loan too! possession of her elbo& and es"orted her to the lu'ur0 ious "ar standing at the !erb$ %hitne e'perien"ed that #ost pe"uliar sensation again. Oh$ all right$ then$ she "on"eded &hen &ith her seated ne't to hi# (loan drove off8 #a be it &as e'"ite#ent that gripped her. :ut &hat &as &rong &ith that4 ,%here are &e going4) she as!ed hi# as she a""epted that the last ti#e she had felt an &here near li!e she &as feeling no& &as &hen she had gone out &ith -er#ot. (loan !ept his e es on the road ahead as he told her the na#e of a s#art and &ildl e'pensive restaurant. ,Is that all right &ith ou4) he en1uired. ,Fine7fine$) %hitne replied$ having re"eived the distin"t i#pression that she had onl to sa the &ord and he &ould have ta!en her else&here to dine. It &as then that she realised that (loan Illing&orth &as the #ost suave and sophisti"ated #an she had ever #et. For the fa"t that he had "onve ed that i#pression$ &ithout having to state outright that he &ould ta!e her to an alternative restaurant if she preferred$ see#ed to sa it all. Perhaps$ she #used$ &hen shortl after&ards she &as sitting a"ross the table fro# hi# in the restaurant$ it &as all part and par"el of his sophisti"ation that she

in no &a felt un"o#fortable or a&!&ard at being in his illustrious "o#pan $ or in su"h s#art surroundings. (he &as not so di#$ though$ that she did not understand that he &as #ore bent on putting her at her ease than reall &anting to !no& the ans&ers to the 1uestions he as!ed her over their starter "ourse. He &as tr ing to bring her out b as!ing #ore about her. Realising$ as she did$ that he &as onl being polite as a lead0up to &hat he &anted to as! &ith regard to enlisting her aid over his e'0fian"5e$ %hitne sa& no har# in getting things on an affable footing. ,%hat "an I tell ou4) she pla ed along &ith hi#. ,I &or! at Alford Plasti"s as se"retar to a ;r Parsons$ and I9) (uddenl she bro!e off. ,Ho& did ou !no& I &or!ed at Alford Plasti"s$ b the &a 4 I)# sure I never said &here I &or!ed$ and9) ,?ou didn)t$) (loan "onfir#ed. ,%hat ou did do$ though$ &as to #ention a Tob and his sister.) ,?ou !no& Tob +eston4) Even as the 1uestion left her$ %hitne &as &ondering &h Tob had not told her if (loan had rung hi# to as! if he !ne& &here she &or!ed. Espe"iall &hen$ after brea!ing her date &ith Tob for that night$ she had #ore or less as!ed hi# e'a"tl that sa#e 1uestion in reverse7did he !no& &here (loan Illing&orth &or!ed4 :ut it &as not Tob &ho had told (loan &here she #ight be found fro# nine to five on a &ee!da $ she &as to dis"over. ,I !no& oung +eston about as &ell as I !ne& his "hal!0fro#0"heese sister$) (loan infor#ed her$ and &ent on to leave %hitne fairl open0#outhed &hen he en0 lightened her$ ,I "ouldn)t see ou being a friend of 2alerie +eston$ &hi"h left ou$ in # opinion$ as being a friend of her brother. No& &here$ I as!ed$ &ould a #an li!e hi# #eet a &o#an li!e ou4) ,?ou de"ided he)d #et #e at his pla"e of &or!4) %hitne suggested faintl . ,?ou rang hi# and9) ,I de"ided that ou both #ust &or! for the sa#e fir#$) (loan agreed. ,The tri"! &as to re#e#ber &here he &or!ed.) ,?ou didn)t ring hi# to as!9) ,I rang Alford Plasti"s and as!ed to spea! &ith ;iss %hitne La&ford.) ,?ou !no&$) %hitne said$ &hen a fe& #o#ents of digesting &hat he had said had sun! in$ ,I)# not at all surprised that ou)re the head of a large international "on"ern.) ,I thin! that)s a "o#pli#ent$ but I)# not sure$) (loan said$ and for the first ti#e %hitne &itnessed that he had the #ost fabulous grin.

Her e es &ent do&n to her e#pt plate$ and *ust then the &aiter "a#e to their table. The se"ond "ourse had been served &hen %hitne loo!ed at (loan again. ,Er7)she said$ but the 1uestion she &anted to as! &ould not sta do&n$ and she *ust had to en1uire$ ,%h $ b the &a $ "ouldn)t ou see #e as being a friend of 2alerie +eston4) For a #o#ent$ %hitne thought that he &as not going to ans&er$ but suddenl a &ar# loo! had "rept into the stead gre e es that studied her fa"e. ,?ou)re poles apart$) he replied seriousl . It &as the &ar# loo! in his e es that did it$ %hitne realised. For$ en"ouraged b that loo!$ she "ould not resist returning$ ,I thin! that)s a "o#pli#ent$ but I)# not sure.) Oddl $ her heart gave a happ s!ip &hen$ revealing that she had a#used hi#$ (loan did not #erel grin$ but laughed. (he dis"overed that she li!ed the sound. ,?ou)re right$ of "ourse$) he told her &hen his a#use#ent had faded. And &hile %hitne &as realising that she &as glad that he had not lu#ped her in the sa#e hard and brittle "lass as 2alerie +eston$ he &as sa ing$ ,I "an)t see #an $ if an of the fe#ales at that part three &ee!s ago ris!ing their nail polish to "lear up the &a ou did.) (he &as a little sha!en on t&o fronts at on"e. :ut %hitne firstl de"ided that he #ust #ean an of the fe#ales e'"ept his e'0fian"5e$ 6leda. And then$ having not forgotten that ;rs Orton had no idea of the tid ing up she had done$ she 1uestioned hi# about the se"ond. ,Apart fro# # re"eiving e'pli"it orders that ou didn)t see7er7&h the hell7 our house!eeper should "lear up$ ho& do ou !no& that I did an of it4) ,Apart fro# # being "ertain that ou &ouldn)t hesitate to tell #e &hat to do &ith # .e'pli"it orders/ if ou felt li!e it$) (loan batted ba"! at her$ ,I !ne& ou)d been hard at it fro# the #o#ent ;rs Orton reported ho& ;iss Caufield)s guests had put ever thing .to rights/ before the )d departed.) It &as the first ti#e during the evening that he had #entioned his e'0fian"5e$ but the #o#ent &hen %hitne &ould have brought up the sub*e"t of &h she &as dining &ith hi# at all &as lost$ &hen he "ontinued$ ,; #e#or of it after ever one had gone &as that it loo!ed #ore as though a tornado had &hipped through the do&nstairs$ rather than it being put .to rights/.) ,Oh$) she #u#bled as she "o#prehended his dedu"tions. ,%ell$) she said$ loo!ing for an e'"use to "over her a"tions$ ,I *ust "ouldn)t leave it as it &as for our unsuspe"ting house!eeper to find.)

,(ee &hat I #ean4) (loan #ur#ured$ and %hitne &as thin!ing that he had *ust re0endorsed his "o#pli#ent$ sa ing that she &as poles apart fro# 2alerie +eston &ho &ouldn)t have "ared a button &hat state the pla"e &as in for the house!eeper to find$ &hen (loan "ontinued$ ,(o ou &or! at Alford Plasti"s. %hat happened before that4) %hitne had to thin! fast to "at"h up &ith hi#$ and to see that he had gone ba"! to the beginning7al#ost as if he reall &as interested to !no& #ore about her. :ut$ although she &as "ertain that he "ould not possibl be that interested$ she &as e'perien"ing the pain of re#e#bering &hat had happened before she &ent to &or! at Alford Plasti"s. ,:efore Alford)s$ I &or!ed at Hobson)s 6arden I#ple#ents$) she said brightl 7 perhaps a shade too brightl . ,And before that$ I lived in Ca#bridge &ith # parents. Onl 9) her voi"e faltered ,9onl &hen # #other died$ and # father re#arried$ I thought it &as about ti#e I stood on # o&n t&o feet. (o I "a#e to London.) ,?ou didn)t get on &ith our step#other4) (loan 1uestioned. :ut suddenl $ %hitne pulled herself together. (he did not !no& &hat it &as about (loan Illing&orth$ but$ though she hardl !ne& the #an$ and though she had al&a s thought of herself as rather a private person$ here she &as giving hi# a potted version of her life histor 3 ,I got on &ith her 1uite &ell$ a"tuall $) she told hi# "ooll $ but she found that she *ust had to add$ her "ool tone gone$ ,:ut ho#e7*ust &asn)t the sa#e an #ore after # #other died.) Realising that (loan had done it again and on"e #ore had her revealing that &hi"h onl her "lose "onfidante$ Eri"a$ !ne&$ %hitne &as *ust about to pla"e the personal ball fir#l in his "ourt b as!ing ho& she "ould help hi# &ith regard to his e'0fian"5e &hen he again shoo! her &ith his po&ers of per"eption. ,%ho &as he4) he as!ed. ,%ho4) she 1ueried$ "o#pletel a&a at his repl . # stified. Her breath &as "o#pletel ta!en

,The #an at Hobson)s 6arden I#ple#ents &ho hurt ou$) he ans&ered. ,Ho& do ou !n9) she started to fire &hen she had her breath ba"!$ but sin"e she had as good as ad#itted that she had been hurt b so#e #an at her old pla"e of e#plo #ent$ %hitne tilted her "hin a proud fra"tion. ,%ho he &as is not i#portant$) she said stiffl . ,I haven)t seen hi# sin"e I left Hobson)s$ and9)

,:ut ou)d li!e to4) (loan 1uestioned$ sounding tough. ,No3) %hitne denied sharpl . (he re"alled angril that onl after she had !no&n she loved -er#ot had she found out #ore about hi#$ and she turned her anger on (loan$ telling hi#$ ,I dis"overed too late that he &as #arried$ and &as still living &ith his &ife and fa#il . Ho& "ould I &ant to see a #an li!e that &hen$ aside fro# an other "onsideration$ I !ne& the hurt # father "aused # #other &hen she learned that for ears he had been betra ing her and had been having an affair &ith another &o#an4) Oh$ 6od3 %hitne thought as her anger fi<<led out. %hat is it about this #an that has #e telling hi# # inner#ost se"rets4 (he fli"!ed a glan"e at hi#$ but she "ould read none of &hat he &as thin!ing fro# his "ool e'pression. ,?ou left our *ob at Hobson)s be"ause of hi#$ of "ourse4) he 1uestioned$ his voi"e as "ool as his loo!. ,Of "ourse$) %hitne replied$ &ith a good degree of frost in her o&n voi"e. ,Ho& long have ou been &ith our present fir#4) (loan &anted to learn. ,I haven)t seen -er#ot for nearl four #onths$ if that)s &hat ou &ant to !no&3) %hitne flared$ and "ould have "ut out her tongue. He had her doing it again3 Not onl had she given (loan a fair idea of ho& long she had been &ith Alford Plasti"s$ but she had also told hi# the first na#e of the #an she loved3 ,(o ho& does oung +eston feature in sounding tough again. our s"he#e of things4) (loan as!ed$

%hitne had$ b then$ for#ed the vie& that one ;r (loan Illing&orth &as a bit too #u"h3 :ut no& that she had told hi# about her disaster of a ro#an"e &ith -er#ot$ her pride alone de"reed that (loan should not be left under an illusion that she &as pining for her #arried love. ,Tob $) she said in #easured tones$ ,has$ in the short ti#e I)ve !no&n hi#$ be"o#e a ver dear friend. (o #u"h so$) she &ent on to stret"h the truth so#e&hat$ ,that &e no& go pra"ti"all ever &here together.) Peeping up at (loan fro# beneath her long lashes$ she sa& that he &as loo!ing fairl gri#. 6ood$ she thought$ I hope I)# boring hi# to death. ,%hi"h is &h $) she thought to bore hi# so#e #ore$ ,it &as natural that Tob should as! #e to partner hi# &hen he had an invitation to a part at our house.) ,And &hi"h is &h $) (loan said sourl $ ,sin"e ou go pra"ti"all ever &here together$ he naturall forgot to ta!e ou ba"! &ith hi# &hen the part bro!e up.) (&ine3 she fu#ed silentl . (he had forgotten that Tob $ in no "ondition to

re#e#ber an thing that night$ had been driven a&a fro# the part b his sister7 2alerie$ too$ "onvenientl forgetting her. Railing against (loan Illing&orth as she silentl did &hile the &aiter served their final "ourse$ all at on"e %hitne realised &h it &as that (loan &as so sour &ith her. And suddenl all anger and rebellion against hi# deserted her. The evening had started off far #ore pleasantl than the &a the had parted the last ti#e she had seen hi#$ she realised. (o it #ust have been in his #ind to #a!e the evening as en*o able as he "ould before he got to the "ru' of &h the &ere here7 hadn)t ;rs Orton said he &as a !ind #an4 :ut$ the &aiter no& having gone fro# their table$ and &ith tal! of that disastrous part still in the air$ %hitne &as "ons"ious that the ti#e had "o#e for hi# to open a painful &ound and enlist her aid &ith regard to hi# getting ba"! together again &ith the &o#an he loved. ,Have ou seen ;iss Caufield re"entl 4) %hitne thought to bring the #atter out into the air as a start to hi# dis"ussing &hat he had to &ith her. ,No$) he said shortl $ and loo!ed as though to sa $ &hat the devil did she thin! it had to do &ith her &ho# he sa&$ or &ho# he didn)t see$ for that #atter4 :ut %hitne had been along the sa#e avenue of hurt pride herself$ so she &as not at all offended but as read and as &illing as ever to go and see 6leda$ or to do &hatever else he thought she "ould do to help. Though unless he soon told her &hat it &as he &anted of her$ %hitne thought that he &ould never get ba"! together &ith his e'0fian"5e. ,Loo!$ (loan$) she said softl $ realising that perhaps she should have "alled hi# ;r Illing&orth$ but it &as too late no&$ ,I)# here &ith ou no& be"ause I &ant to do ever thing I "an to help.) (he sa& his s#all start of surprise at her &illingness$ but she s#iled and pressed on. ,(o &on)t ou tell #e &h ou &anted to see #e$ and &hat9) ,%h "an)t I have &anted to see ou purel be"ause I &anted to see ou again4) he "ut in "ooll . :eating do&n an absurd little flurr &hi"h his &ords had "reated inside of her$ %hitne !ne& at that point that (loan #ust be one of the proudest of #en. For$ &hile he #ust be desperate to get ba"! &ith 6leda$ %hitne suspe"ted that it &as against his "reed to as! a favour of an one. ,:e"ause I)ve a feeling ou never do an thing &ithout a reason$) she ans&ered his 1uestion. ,And$ sin"e # reason for being here is be"ause7being the "ulprit re0 sponsible for 6leda &al!ing out on our engage#ent7 I &ant to help all I "an to re0 unite ou$ I *ust !no& the onl reason ou as!ed #e to dine &as be"ause of her.)

For a long ti#e after she had finished spea!ing$ (loan *ust sat loo!ing at her. %hitne did not !no& for sure &hat he &as thin!ing$ but she had a prett shre&d idea that he &as glad she had not #isinterpreted the reasons behind his invitation out. Although it see#ed an age before he at last ad#itted it. ,?ou)re7right$ of "ourse$) he o&ned$ &ith a rueful s#ile. ,I did &ant to see ou for reasons &hi"h are7 h##7a little different$ perhaps$ fro# nor#al.) ,6leda9) %hitne stepped in to pro#pt$ ever read to help hi# out. (loan)s sha!ing his head thre& her so#e&hat. Though she &as #ore staggered than thro&n &hen he finall "a#e "lean$ and told her$ ,Not 6leda.) And &hile %hitne stared at hi#$ he told her sole#nl $ ,I)ve had to a""ept that # e'0fian"5e and I &ill never be an thing to ea"h other no&$ and9) ,:ut$) she started to protest$ , ou have to be3 ?ou belong to ea"h other3 If I hadn)t happened to be in our bed *ust at that parti"ular #o#ent$ ou and she &ould still be engaged3) (loan shrugged7#anfull $ %hitne thought. ,%hatever$) he said$ and &ent on$ ,:elieve #e &hen I tell ou that I !no& that 6leda Caufield and I &ill never #arr .) ,:ut9) %hitne tried again to protest$ onl $ as if she had not spo!en$ (loan &as going on$ ,Ho&ever$ &ith the star! fa"t being that I no longer have a fian"5e$ I have a7a #ore i##ediate "on"ern.) ,?ou7have4) she 1uestioned on a gasp. (loan nodded$ and see#ed to hesitate$ and then$ ver #other.) 1uietl $ he said$ ,; 7

,?our #other3) %hitne e'"lai#ed$ her e es shooting &ide. Again he nodded as he told her$ ,; #other &as so over*o ed &hen I told her of # engage#ent that I *ust7 dare not7tell her it)s bro!en.) Having for#ed the vie& that there &as little &hi"h (loan &ould not dare$ %hitne sat stunned for a se"ond. ,?ou #ean that our #other has reall ta!en to 6leda and &ill be9) ,In a"tual fa"t$) (loan bro!e in$ ,the t&o have never #et. :ut # #other has &aited so long for a daughter that she &ent a little over the top &hen I bro!e the ne&s of # engage#ent to her.) ,-id she4) %hitne #ur#ured faintl . ,(he did$) he ans&ered$ and &ent on$ ,The thing is$ %hitne $ that the da after

# return to England$ # #other &as7involved in a7traffi" a""ident$ and9) ,Oh$ I)# so sorr $) %hitne breathed$ realising fro# the hesitant &a he had spo!en that it upset hi# to tal! about it. And$ re#e#bering her o&n #other being involved in a traffi" a""ident$ she began fearfull $ ,Is she9) ,(he)s re"overing fro# her7ph si"al in*uries$) he told her 1ui"!l . ,:ut$ sin"e onl I !no& ho& #u"h it &ill upset her to hear that I)# no longer engaged$ I7*ust "an)t tell her. Not et.) ,Of "ourse ou "an)t$) %hitne said stoutl $ her heart going out not onl to (loan$ &ho through her fault entirel and not his7&as no longer engaged to be #arried$ but also to his poor #other. (uddenl $ though$ through her e#otional sensitivit $ %hitne realised that she had no earthl idea &h (loan had as!ed her to dine &ith hi#. He had ad#itted he had &anted to see her for reasons that &ere a little different fro# nor#al. :ut if he had a""epted that his engage#ent &as irretrievabl bro!en$ and it therefore follo&ed that he did not &ant her help in getting ba"! &ith 6leda$ &hat other possible reason$ for goodness) sa!e$ "ould he have4 ,(loan$) she said slo&l $ and she sa& that he &as loo!ing at no one but her$ ,&h $ #a I as!$ did ou invite #e to eat &ith ou tonight4) For long #o#ents he stared levell at her$ and then$ suddenl $ he replied$ ,I need a fian"5e to present to # #other &hen she)s dis"harged fro# hospital. (in"e through ou I)ve lost the onl legiti#ate fian"5e I)ve had$ I propose$ %hitne $ that ou shall ta!e her pla"e.)

CHAPTER FO@R

TI;E and again on (aturda #orning %hitne &ished that she had never uttered that phrase &hi"h had in"luded the &ords$ ,if there)s an thing I "an do9) (he hated de"eption of an !ind$ and et here she &as having agreed to de"eive (loan)s #other into believing that she &as his fian"5e3 %hitne tried to i##erse herself in her "hores$ but she found$ even as she gave her alread tid flat a thorough ,going over)$ that ph si"al &or! in no &a stopped the brain fro# thin!ing. Again she &ondered ho& she "ould ever have agreed to (loan Illing&orth)s preposterous suggestion3 :ut &ondering about it did not #a!e it go a&a . It &as a fa"t that she had agreed that$ on"e his si"! #other &as out of hospital$ she &as going to de"eive the poor &o#an. %hitne sighed. Reliving the events of the previous evening$ she didn)t see that she "ould have done an thing else but agree to de"eive her. For it see#ed that sin"e her a""ident ;rs Illing&orth had been in a "onstant state of an'iet about her son. As (loan had e'plained$ to tell her no& of his bro!en engage#ent "ould do his parent onl har#$ be"ause she &ould then start fretting about his bro!en heart. Re"alling ho& her head had *er!ed up at that last bit$ %hitne also re"alled ho& #anfull (loan &as "overing up the fa"t that he &as bleeding inside. (he had felt a&ash &ith guilt that$ through her$ he &as suffering. ,Oh$ (loan9) she had said apologeti"all $ and it had been then that he had$ figurativel spea!ing$ t&isted her ar# b re#inding her of her ,if there)s an thing I "an do9) offer. ,?es$ but I #eant in relation to 6leda9) she had tried to protest. ,And &hat &ould ou "all this$ if not in relation to her4) he had de#anded. %hitne polished furniture and plu#ped up alread plu#ped0up "ushions$ and railed i#potentl against her fate. Oh$ if onl ;rs Illing&orth had #et 6leda Caufield$ then this far"i"al s"he#e of (loan)s &ould never be able to get off the

ground. As it &as$ his poor$ frail #other &as not et &ell enough to "ope &ith the introdu"tion of a real fian"5e$ let alone a #o"! one. (loan had not e'plained &h his #other and fian"5e had never #et$ so %hitne "ould onl assu#e that the engage#ent #ust have happened shortl before he had left England to do his three0#onth spell of globe0trotting. >uite obviousl there had been no #utuall "onvenient ti#e for all three to #eet8 ti#e onl for (loan to a"1uaint his parent &ith the *o ous ne&s that her long &ait for a daughter &as "o#ing to an end. (he &as alread sensitive to his #other)s feelings$ or an #other)s feelings for that #atter$ and %hitne sighed again as$ "o##itted to go through &ith it$ she &ondered &h (loan had thought it ne"essar to ta!e her out to dinner last night4 He "ould *ust as easil have told her &hat he had to$ perhaps if not over the phone$ then in the "o#fort of her flat. That &as$ she thought sourl $ unless he had &anted to "he"! first that she didn)t eat her peas &ith her !nife before he voi"ed his outrageous plan to introdu"e her to his #other as his fian"5e. %ith the !no&ledge hanging over her that (loan Illing&orth &ould be in tou"h again &hen his #other &as &ell enough to #eet her$ %hitne gre& fed up &ith herself and &ith the thoughts that "hased around in her head. Putting a&a her "leaning #aterials$ she rinsed her hands and &ent upstairs to see! out Eri"a. ,If ou)re stud ing$ I)# not sta ing$) she told her &hen Eri"a "a#e to the door. ,Cru#bs7those beans I borro&ed fro# ou last &ee!3) Eri"a e'"lai#ed. ,I forgot all about the#$) she added$ and &ent on$ ,I)# not stud ing$ and providing ou haven)t "o#e on a bean hunt and &ill turn a blind e e to the "lutter7I onl "lean up &hen there)s an .R/ in the #onth0) she 1uipped ,7then "o#e in and have a "up of "offee &hile I tell ou # ne&s.) %hitne laughed and &ent in. Eri"a &as *ust the toni" she needed. ,(o$ I)# sitting "o#fortabl $) %hitne told her &hen Eri"a had "leared a spa"e at the !it"hen table and re#oved a pile of boo!s fro# the other !it"hen "hair$ and the both sat drin!ing "offee. ,6uess &hat4) Eri"a bea#ed$ unable to hold it in an longer. ,I)# an aunt3) ,Ni!!i4) %hitne 1uestioned$ a&are that Eri"a)s #u"h0loved ounger sister &ho lived in the ;idlands had been about to produ"e. ,I had a phone "all five #inutes ago. Isn)t it great4) she e'"lai#ed. ,;other and son both &ell$ although the poor little perisher)s been blighted &ith Eri" for his #iddle na#e.)

,%h $ that)s lovel 3) %hitne told her. ,The senti#ent is$) Eri"a agreed$ finding a sudden urgent need to blo& her nose. The e#otional #o#ent over$ ho&ever$ the tal!ed for #an #inutes on the ne& arrival$ Aa#es Eri"$ &hen Eri"a then announ"ed her other pie"e of ne&s7there &as a ne& #an in her life. ,Though &hen I)ll have the ti#e to see hi#$ lord alone !no&s$) she said$ and &as tal!ing of !illing t&o birds &ith one stone b getting hi# to ta!e her to see the ne& bab $ &hi"h "ouldn)t possibl &ait be ond ne't &ee!end$ then she suddenl said$ ,I)# hogging it all7&hat)s ne& &ith ou4) ,I7er7&ent out to dinner last night &ith7(loan Illing&orth$) %hitne "onfessed. ,(loan Illing&orth3) Eri"a e'"lai#ed &ith &idening e es. ,Isn)t he the #an &ere found in bed9) ,The sa#e$) %hitne said 1ui"!l . %hen she returned to her flat$ "onfusion had repla"ed the depression she had felt &hen she had gone up to see Eri"a. For as she had told Eri"a &here (loan had ta!en her$ and the ins and outs of &hat she had eaten$ %hitne had dis"overed in herself an ut#ost relu"tan"e to tell her friend7&ho &as the soul of dis"retion7 an thing at all about (loan)s proposal that she pla the part of his fian"5e. And if the fa"t that for on"e she had held ba"! fro# "onfiding ever thing in Eri"a &as not suffi"ient to #a!e her &onder &hat had held her ba"!$ %hitne had #ore to &onder at &hen she realised so#ething elseB that as she had told Eri"a the parts she had$ it had "o#e to her that she had found (loan Illing&orth)s "o#pan not onl sti#ulating$ but7 es7en*o able. Pu<<led as to &h she should find his "o#pan sti#ulating and en*o able &hen she &asn)t even "ertain she li!ed the #an$ %hitne suddenl re#e#bered that she had invited Tob to dinner that night. ,Oh$ help3) she breathed$ and$ "at"hing hold of her purse and her shopping bas!et$ she hared round to the shops for so#ething for the evening #eal. : ;onda she &as on #ore of an even !eel. The dinner &ith Tob had passed &ithout in"ident and$ ni"e person that he &as$ &ithout hi# oversta ing his &el"o#e. That her (unda &as spent &ith her thoughts still #ore on her Frida evening dinner "o#panion than her (aturda evening one &as no # ster to her. Espe"iall &hen$ as (unda evening approa"hed$ she "a#e to the realisation that it &as not that she found (loan)s "o#pan so sti#ulating and en*o able at all. It &as *ust that his proposition that she pretend to be his fian"5e &as su"h a #ind0blo&er that it had left no roo# in her head for her to thin! and fret over -er#ot. For the first ou

ti#e sin"e she and -er#ot had split$ so#ething had happened &hi"h had left little spa"e in her head to thin! painful thoughts of hi#. : the end of that &ee!$ though$ thoughts of -er#ot and the de"eit he had pra"tised in not telling her that he &as #arried had "rept ba"! to #ingle in &ith her thoughts on the de"eit she &as going to pra"tise on (loan)s #other7&hen (loan)s #other &as &ell enough. %hitne #ade her &a ho#e fro# her offi"e on Frida a&are that ;rs Illing&orth #ust still be ver poorl in hospital$ be"ause she had thought that (loan #ight ring her$ but not so #u"h as a peep had she heard out of hi#. Thoughts of (loan and ho& he &as probabl spending a lot of his ti#e visiting his #other in hospital o""upied %hitne during the evening. %hen she &asn)t thin!ing of (loan$ she &as thin!ing of -er#ot$ neither sub*e"t doing ver #u"h to "heer her up. At eleven o)"lo"! she de"ided to go to bed and forget about the pair of the#. At five0past eleven Eri"a galloped do&n to her flat and !no"!ed her usual tattoo on her door. ,Aust re#e#bered$) she panted$ the pen"il sti"!ing out fro# the top0!not st le of her hair denoting that she &as in the #iddle of stud ing$ ,have ou got a de"ent suit"ase I "an borro&4) ,Co#e in$) %hitne invited$ and &as$ as ever$ "heered b Eri"a$ &ho bree<ed in behind her de"laring that her suit"ase &as ,the end) and that sin"e Chris7her ne& #an0friend7"a#e fro# a fift 0pound0note "lass of fa#il $ and &as driving her to sta overnight at her sister)s ho#e$ she didn)t &ant to put the poor blo!e off should he offer to "arr her falling0apart luggage. ,Can)t stop$) she said in a rush &hen$ handing over her best suit"ase$ %hitne as!ed her if she)d got ti#e for a &ar# drin!. ,Chris is one of those pun"tual t pes$ so I)d better pa"! tonight &hen I)ve finished # ho#e&or!.) %hitne &ent out &ith Tob on (aturda $ and she spent a 1uiet da on her o&n on (unda . (he &as glad to get to &or! on ;onda $ but she began to thin!$ as ea"h da follo&ed the ne't$ that (loan Illing&orth)s state#ent that she #ust pretend to be his fian"5e #ust have been so#e fig#ent of her i#agination3 For another Frida #orning had arrived$ and she had not heard another &ord fro# hi#. It &as t&o &ee!s that night sin"e she had dined &ith hi#$ and he had startled her b &hat he had said$ she #used as she too! the "over off her t pe&riter. (he breathed a sigh of relief as she sat do&n at her des!. : the loo! of it$ she &as not going to be "alled upon to de"eive (loan)s #other. (he had no &a of !no&ing &hat

had happened to #a!e hi# "hange his #ind about &anting her to a"t the part of his fian"5e$ but 1uite "learl so#ething had. It &as not outside the real#s of possi0 bilit that he and 6leda had #ade it up$ of "ourse. %hitne )s bro& &rin!led8 oddl $ she found that last thought displeasing. (he had *ust returned fro# getting herself a #id0#orning "up of "offee &hen$ ans&ering her phone$ she &as #ade a&are that her sigh of relief had been a #ite pre#ature. ,?ou)d better let #e have our ho#e phone nu#ber$) (loan Illing&orth snarled in her ear. The sho"! of hearing hi#$ as #u"h as his disagreeable tone$ "aused %hitne to trot out her phone nu#ber before she "ould thin!. ,Ho&)s9) she began to follo& up to as! ho& his #other &as$ but$ for the se"ond ti#e &hen tal!ing to hi# on the phone$ she found that she &as tal!ing to the air. A flare of anger e'ploded in her. ,-a#n hi#$) she fu#ed$ and sla##ed the phone ba"! on its rest. (orel &ishing that she had told hi# to get lost &hen he had as!ed for her ho#e phone nu#ber$ %hitne too! so#e #inutes to si##er do&n. %ho did he thin! he &as to "all her up and then$ before she had ti#e to thin!$ snarl at her the &a he had4 Aust be"ause he didn)t &ant to dis"uss an of the vile s"he#e he had in #ind over his offi"e phone$ he9 %hitne began to "al# do&n &hen she started to see that perhaps his s"he#e &as not so vile. Perhaps it &as #ore #erel a ne"essit in this instan"e$ &ith hi# &anting to do &hat he "ould to ensure that his #other #ade a speed full re"over . Having got over her anno an"e &ith hi#$ %hitne left her pla"e of e#plo #ent that da a&are$ if she &as a&are of nothing else$ that there see#ed ever "han"e that one da soon she &ould pi"! up her phone at ho#e and find (loan Illing&orth on the other end. The &ee!end passed &ithout her ta!ing a "all fro# hi#$ although she did not sta in all the &ee!end *ust on the off0"han"e. It &as ;onda evening before the phone in her flat "hirruped for attention$ ho&ever$ and her heart started to beat errati"all as she &ent to ans&er it. Nerves$ she realised$ &ere getting to her$ for ever instin"t &as telling her &hose voi"e she &as li!el to hear. ,Hello$) she said &hen$ after ta!ing a fe& #o#ents$ she lifted the re"eiver. ,%here &ere ou last night4) (loan Illing&orth bar!ed in her ear for her pains. ,Out7on a date3) %hitne $ on the instant in"ensed b his &ords and his tone$ sla##ed ba"! at hi#. (he &as even #ore in"ensed b his repl .

,Fro# no& on ou "an forget about our bo friend$ or about dating an other #an0friend in the near future3) he rapped. ,Fro#9) ,Li!e bla<es I &ill3) %hitne fle&. ,%ho the devil do ou thin! ou are4 I)ll date an #an I please3 I)ll9) ,Not &hile ou)re engaged to #e$ ou &on)t$) he grated. ,I don)t happen to be engaged to9) ,For the purposes of # #other)s pea"e of #ind$ ou are$) he "ut in toughl . (ilen"ed for a brief &hile$ her sting dra&n at being re#inded that$ for his #other)s sa!e$ she had agreed to pretend to be engaged to hi#$ %hitne "olle"ted herself to as!$ as evenl as she "ould$ ,H0ho& is our #other4) ,Fair$) he said$ &hen he too had paused as if to "olle"t hi#self. ,%ith lu"!$) he then &ent on$ ,she)ll shortl be out of hospital and "o#ing to Heathlands to "onvales"e. %hi"h #eans that ou and I have so#e ground0&or! to put in.) ,6round0&or!4) %hitne 1uestioned. ,Of "ourse$) he said shortl . ,Of ne"essit $ together9) ou and I &ill have to go around

,%h in the &orld should &e do that4) she as!ed heatedl $ her pride up in ar#s b his ,of ne"essit ). No #an had to ta!e her an &here of ne"essit 3 ,For 6od)s sa!e3) (loan roared$ as if he too had ta!en e'"eption$ in his "ase to the fa"t that she "learl did not &ant to go out &ith hi#. ,; #other #a be a shade7 "onfused7at the #o#ent$ but she "ertainl isn)t di#. (he)ll guess straight a&a that our engage#ent is nothing but a sha#7&ith retrograde "onse1uen"es for her7if neither ou nor I "an freel tal! of the various pla"es &e)ve been together.) ,:ut9) %hitne started to protest$ onl to find that (loan)s sa ing that his #other &as a shade "onfused &as sapping her &ill to argue the #atter. ,:ut9 &hat about # bo friend4) Tr ing desperatel hard to find so#e good reason to #a!e hi# see &h she shouldn)t go out &ith hi#$ %hitne realised that her pani" &as #a!ing her as de"eitful as the ne't. :e"ause b no stret"h of the i#agination "ould Tob be "alled her ,bo friend) in the a""epted use of the ter#. ,%hat about hi#4) she ploughed on. ,He)s not going to be ver thrilled &hen I have to tell hi# I "an)t see hi# be"ause I)# seeing ou.) ,He)ll be far less thrilled$) (loan rapped ba"!$ sounding tough again$ ,should he get to hear ho& # engage#ent "a#e to an abrupt end &hen # fian"5e found ou in bed &ith #e3)

,?ou7pig3) %hitne

elled do&n the phone.

,Love ou too$ s&eetheart3) (loan snarled$ and had onl one thing to sa before he rang off. ,%e)re going to the theatre to#orro&. :e read 3) %hitne &as fu#ing &hen the phone &ent dead in her ear. One of these da s she &as going to beat hi# to it$ she)d be hanged if she didn)t3 Furious &ith hi# that he should dare to threaten to bla"!#ail her$ for that &as &hat his state#ent &as all about$ %hitne repla"ed her o&n re"eiver. ,Pig) &as too good a na#e for hi#$ she thought iratel $ having not ta!en !indl to his inti#ation that he &ould have a &ord in Tob )s ear if she didn)t go along &ith hi#. (loan plainl !ne&$ or had so#eho& dedu"ted$ that Tob &as "o#pletel una&are of ho& the part had ended that night. For the ne't half0hour$ %hitne silentl raged against (loan Illing&orth. (lo&l $ then$ she began to "ool do&n. And it &as then that she began to &onder &h the di"!ens she had pani"!ed at the thought of going pla"es &ith hi#. %h $ too$ had she tried to #a!e out that Tob &as #ore a bo friend than *ust the friend that he &as4 It &as a riddle to her. 6oing over her pani" of that ti#e again$ ho&ever$ %hitne &as startled &hen it da&ned on her that the thought of going pla"es &ith (loan had #ade her feel vulnerable3 2ulnerable$ she realised$ and a little afraid. :ut afraid of &hat4 %hen the ans&er "a#e ba"! ,afraid of being hurt again)$ %hitne thre& her theorising out of the &indo&. (he still loved -er#ot$ so ho& "ould going out &ith (loan Illing&orth hurt her4 It "ouldn)t hurt her a s"rap$ she resolved$ not if she &ent out &ith hi# a hundred ti#es it "ouldn)t. %hitne spent a restless night &ith one thought after another going through her head. (he left her bed the follo&ing #orning having ad#itted that #a be there &as so#e truth in his state#ent that his #other &as never going to believe that the &ere engaged if$ during an "onversation$ the "ould onl tal! of the one single$ solitar dinner0date the had shared. (he &ent to her offi"e !no&ing that$ for his #other)s sa!e$ and his #other)s sa!e onl $ she &ould go out &ith hi#. :ut she "a#e ho#e fro# her offi"e not li!ing hi# an better for thin!ing he "ould bla"!#ail her into going out &ith hi# be"ause of her fear of &hat he #ight tell Tob . (loan had not said &hat ti#e he &ould "all for her$ and %hitne &as too #u"h against hi# to ring hi# and as!. :ut$ to prove that she &as unafraid to go out &ith hi#$ she &as read in good ti#e. (he had thought she had herself on 1uite an even !eel as she &aited for her

bell at the front door to ring. :ut &hen her bell did sound$ she &as so *u#p that she leapt about a foot. Ta!ing up her handbag$ she se"ured her flat$ and &ent to start a travest for &hi"h she had little taste. Ho&ever$ sin"e she &as #ost assuredl definite about her inner distaste for the &hole business$ she &ondered at that part of her that felt a #ost pe"uliar thrill &hen$ as she greeted (loan on the top doorstep$ he to&ered over her$ and said "ivill $ ,?ou loo! "har#ing$ %hitne .) -earl &ishing to ans&er &ith a trite$ ,it)s *ust so#ething I thre& on)7&hi"h &asn)t stri"tl true$ for$ appetite for the evening or no$ she had still deliberated for so#e ti#e on &hat to &ear7she settled for a "ool$ ,Than! ou.) (loan &ent do&n the steps &ith her$ and on"e in his "ar the &ere soon a&a . :ut though she &as deter#ined to sta "ool &ith hi#$ %hitne "ould not den another flutter of so#ething &hi"h felt "losel a!in to pride at being es"orted b hi# &hen$ leaving his "ar$ she &al!ed &ith hi# the short &a to the theatre. ,I hope ou li!e # steries$) he #ur#ured &hen the &ere seated. ,I prefer the# to far"e$) she told hi# "oldl $ and turned to fa"e the front7 though not before she sa& a s#all #ove#ent at the "orners of his #outh as though he had found her barb a#using but &as tr ing hard to hold ba"! a grin. Fortunatel $ *ust then the pla started. It &as a good pla &ith fine a"tors$ and %hitne &as in"lined to en*o the perfor#an"e$ but she &as finding that she &as having so#ething of a *ob to forget about the #an b her side. -uring the interval the left their seats to stret"h their legs and ta!e so#e refresh#ent. Nothing if not &ell brought up$ %hitne ans&ered an re#ar! &hi"h (loan "hose to #a!e &ith the good #anners of her upbringing$ but other&ise she retained her "ool e'terior. Her "ool attitude &as still &ith her &hen the left the theatre and &al!ed ba"! to (loan)s "ar. (o$ too$ did her good #anners stand up to the test. For as the sat in his vehi"le and (loan &aited for a gap in the theatre0going traffi" so that he "ould pull out$ %hitne used the silen"e in the "ar to drop out &hat she sa& as an obligator "ourtes . ,Than! ou7) she began une#otionall . :ut she &as stopped fro# going an further &hen$ tersel $ (loan "ut in$ ,The evening isn)t over et3) ,Not over94) she e"hoed aloofl $ &hen fro# his tone she gathered the distin"t i#pression that he &as not too ena#oured of her "ool$ if polite$ #anner7&hi"h

bothered her not in the slightest. ,That)s &hat I said$) he "lipped. ,There)s a night"lub9) ,Night"lub3) she e'"lai#ed$ forgetting to be "ool for a #o#ent in her surprise. Though she &as soon draping a #antle of hauteur about her &hen$ having no in0 tention &hatsoever of being ta!en on to a night"lub$ she argued frigidl $ ,(urel that isn)t "o#pletel ne"essar .) (loan turned his head$ and in the &ell0lit area about the# %hitne fan"ied that she sa& "hips of i"e start to glitter in his e es. There &as no #ista!ing the fa"t that she had irritated hi#$ if not angered hi#$ ho&ever$ &hen he rapped$ ,Perhaps it isn)t ne"essar this evening$) and$ lest she thought she "ould breathe a sigh of relief$ threatened$ ,%e "an go to a night"lub so#e other ti#e.) And$ having su""eeded in irritating her$ if not angering her$ he too! his e es fro# her and steered his "ar into the strea# of traffi". In silen"e the drove ba"! to her flat$ &here %hitne "ould hardl &ait to get out of the "ar. (he guessed that he had been brought up so#e&here along the sa#e lines as herself &hen he got out of his "ar and es"orted her to the outside front door. The surfa"ing of his good #anners #ade her a&are that$ anno ed &ith her as he undoubtedl had been a short &hile ago$ he no& see#ed to be doing his best to retrieve the situation. ,Allo& #e$) he said pleasantl $ and$ ta!ing the front door !e fro# her hand$ he unlo"!ed the door and pushed it in&ards. Finding the light s&it"h$ he fli"!ed on the hall light$ and handed her ba"! her !e . ,Than! ou$) she said &ith e1ual pleasantness and$ the evening over as far as she &as "on"erned$ she stepped over the door&a and had a ,goodnight) read on her lips as she turned to "lose the door on her es"ort. It didn)t 1uite &or! out li!e that. For one thing$ &hen she turned (loan &as standing in the door&a $ &hi"h #ade it i#possible for her to "lose the door until he had stepped ba"!. (he loo!ed at hi# in en1uir $ but she did not trust at all the s#ile that &as suddenl there on his fa"e &hen$ &ith so#e "onsiderable "har#$ he suggested$ ,For the sa!e of authenti"it in our engage#ent$ do ou not thin! that perhaps I should see the inside of our flat4) %hat %hitne thought *ust then #ight have s"or"hed his ears had she said it. (he s&allo&ed the &ords do&n but$ forgetting that he had not long ago used the selfsa#e &ords$ in her sear"h for so#ething fairl polite$ she sent hi# a "ool$ ,(o#e other ti#e.) (loan loo!ed at her and did not see# at all put out$ &hi"h niggled her so#e

#ore. (he &as further niggled$ not to sa fu#ing &hen$ &ith a #ur#ured$ ,No& ou reall are pla ing the ga#e # &a )$ he even had the "hee! to s#ile. ,6oodnight$ %hitne $) he said$ 1uite auda"iousl she thought$ and$ stepping ba"!$ he returned to his "ar. :ut for &a!ing the household$ %hitne &ould have sla##ed the door violentl shut after hi#. :ut sin"e that option &as not per#issible she "losed the door and &ent seething up to her flat$ realising that$ for all her antagonisti" feelings to hi# she had *ust as good as agreed to go out &ith hi# again3 %hitne #ade short &or! of her ablutions that night. Inside half an hour she &as &ashed and in her night attire and &as l ing in her bed. %ret"hed$ "ursed #an$ she "hafed. Oddl $ though$ as sleep "a#e to "lai# her$ her "rossness &ith (loan started to disappear. (he &as still thin!ing of hi# and his i#pudent parting s#ile &hen$ &ith a s#ile pi"!ing at the "orners of her o&n #outh$ she fell asleep.

CHAPTER FI2E

%HITNE? &as deep in thought as she &ondered one (aturda afternoon *ust ho& 7or &hen$ for that #atter7 had she gro&n to li!e (loan Illing&orth. Casting her #ind ba"!$ she refle"ted ho& she had gone out &ith hi# #an ti#es sin"e that night *ust over a #onth ago &hen he had first ta!en her to the theatre. (he had ob*e"ted that night$ she re"alled$ to his assu#ption that she &as &illing to go on to a night"lub$ but she had been to a night"lub &ith hi# sin"e$ and$ it had to be ad#itted$ she had en*o ed the e'perien"e. In fa"t$ she #used$ she "ould not sa &ith an truth that she had disli!ed an of the pla"es she had been to &ith hi#. (he had been deter#ined fro# the outset that$ if go out &ith hi# she #ust$ she &as not going to be the #ost affable of "o#panions. (o ho& &as it that she should have done a "o#plete turn0around to have be"o#e e'a"tl that4 Cat"hing herself s#iling$ %hitne straightened her e'pression$ but onl to realise$ &ith so#ething of a sho"!$ that she s#iled #ore fre1uentl *ust latel 3 And another thing that shoo! her &as that$ &hen she tried to anal se &hat it &as about life that #ade it see# so pleasant to her$ she suddenl realised that thoughts of -er#ot &ere not so "onstantl in her #ind as the had been. %hi"h$ she thought a #o#ent later$ &as not so surprising$ be"ause she *ust didn)t have so #u"h ti#e for an in0depth thin!ing of late. (loan$ of "ourse$ and her outings &ith hi#$ &ere the reason for that. Her thoughts lat"hed on to her third date &ith hi#. He had telephoned her at her flat the night after he had ta!en her to the theatre. ,Fan" *oining #e for dinner to#orro&4) he)d 1ueried s#oothl . %ith his #other so si"!$ and &ith no 6leda Caufield sprinting ba"! to his ar#s$ %hitne hadn)t seen &hat "han"e she had of refusing. ,There)s nothing I)d li!e better$) she had told hi# sar"asti"all . ,I !ne& deep do&n ou li!ed #e$) (loan replied$ and she)d &anted to hit hi# for

ta!ing her sar"as# as sin"erit . Again he had put the phone do&n before she "ould sa another &ord$ but$ on thin!ing about it$ %hitne had had to s#ile. :e"ause if there &as one thing (loan Illing&orth &asn)t$ it &as stupid. He had !no&n darn &ell that she &as being sar"asti". (he pondered that perhaps that had been the start of her beginning to genuinel li!e hi#4 At all events$ she had lost so#e of her "ool$ star"h #anner &hen he)d "o#e to ta!e her out to dinner the follo&ing evening. ,-id an one ever tell ou that ou have the #ost sensational pair of green e es4) he)d said$ &hen he had ta!en her ho#e after a superb #eal. %hitne had ta!en the !e fro# hi# after he had opened the front door$ and had s&it"hed on the hall light. ,All the ti#e$) she had said sole#nl and$ on purpose$ she had #ade her green e es huge. (he had seen that a grin &as tugging at the "orners of his #outh. ,6oodnight$) she)d said 1ui"!l $ and he had stepped ba"!. ,6oodnight$ %hitne $) he)d replied 1uietl . (he had gone out &ith hi# again on the follo&ing (aturda . That &as the night he had ta!en her to a night"lub. That &as the night$ she re"alled$ &hen she had found out a little #ore about his li!es and disli!es. As he in turn had found out #ore about her$ she realised$ be"ause he &as a dab hand at the third degree and never see#ed to run short of 1uestions. Not&ithstanding that$ she refle"ted$ she herself had dis"overed that the had #an li!es and disli!es in "o##on. A fe& da s had passed then &ithout her seeing or hearing fro# (loan$ but she !ne& that he &ould be in tou"h. His #other$ and her &ell0being$ #eant too #u"h to hi# for it not to be so. Realising that$ together &ith being a ver bus #an$ he &as having to #a!e as #u"h spare ti#e as he "ould in order to fit in plent of hospital visiting$ %hitne had ta!en the opportunit of having no date &ith (loan to go out &ith Tob . In her boo!$ it *ust &asn)t polite to ta!e up &ith one #an and to drop the other "old. For$ on the fa"e of it$ Tob &as #ore her friend than (loan &as. ,Can ou #a!e an art galler opening this evening4) (loan had rung up to as! &hen five da s had gone b &ithout a &ord fro# hi#. ,For ou$ an thing$) she had ans&ered sourl $ and had been i##ediatel aghast that she had sounded for all the &orld as though she &as peeved that it had ta!en hi# so long to get in tou"h3 ,%hat ti#e4) she had as!ed 1ui"!l and$ having being told the ti#e that (loan &ould "all for her$ she "a#e a&a fro# the phone

&ondering at her initial rea"tion to hi#. 6ood grief3 >ui"!l she re#inded herself7 &hen$ stri"tl spea!ing$ no re#inder should have been ne"essar 7that the onl reason (loan &as as!ing her to a""o#pan hi# on these various outings &as in the interests of authenti"it . Her onl reason for agreeing to go out &ith hi# &as$ sin"e she had been instru#ental in his engage#ent)s ending$ for his poor #other)s sa!e. Having re0established that fa"t$ %hitne had got read to go out &ith (loan that evening !no&ing for "ertain that she &as not re#otel interested in hi#. (he &as still feeling bruised fro# her e'perien"e &ith -er#ot$ and she !ne& that it &ould be a ver long ti#e before she too! an interest in an #ale. (he did not even &ant (loan for a friend. -espite her #ental assertions that she did not &ant so #u"h as friendship &ith (loan$ it &as that sa#e evening that their relationship$ of ne"essit $ too! a friendlier turn9 The paintings on displa at the art galler &ere divided #ainl bet&een lands"apes and do#esti" s"enes. :ut$ having loo!ed their fill at ea"h pi"ture in su""ession and then #oved on$ the "a#e to a se"tion &hi"h "ould onl be des"ribed as ,&a 0out) art. For about thirt se"onds %hitne stood &ith (loan as the peered into the depths of the nav 0$ orange0 and red0daubed "anvas. Then she studied the "atalogue &hi"h (loan had given her and$ reading that the e'hibit &as entitled ,;irth)$ her e es &ent ba"! to the painting$ and suddenl she sa& it. E'"ited$ she turned to (loan. :ut one loo! at his disgusted ,; 6od3) e'pression$ and she !ne& that she &as alone in her dis"over . ,It)s lovel 3) she e'"lai#ed &hen$ #ore than read to #ove to the ne't painting$ (loan "aught hold of her elbo& as though to guide her on. ,%hat is4) he en1uired$ halting in his step$ but !eeping a hold on her elbo&. ,-on)t ou see it4) she as!ed$ dire"ting his ga<e ba"! to the pi"ture. ,%e)re tal!ing of this nav 0 and orange0plastered abo#ination #as1uerading under the na#e of art4) he en1uired and$ his #outh "urving$ he too! his e es a&a fro# the pi"ture and loo!ed do&n into her e'"ited shining green e es. ,Loo! again$) she urged hi#. ,Loo! at the red8 it)s a #outh$ a red$ laughing #outh.) O&ning that at first she had thought the pi"ture ,&eird)$ %hitne &as no& #u"h ta!en &ith it. ,%ell$ I li!e it$) she told hi# as the #oved on. ,And I$) (loan s#iled as the stopped at the ne't "anvas$ his e es going fro#

her e es to her s&eet #outh$ ,rather thin! I li!e ou.) There &as no ans&er to that$ %hitne dis"overed. :ut as her heart gave the #ost "ra< flutter$ ,+eep our #ind on the art &or!$) she told hi# repressivel $ and suddenl the &ere both grinning. Her heartbeats had long settled do&n to nor#al &hen (loan drove her ho#e$ but so#ething perhaps a shade &ar#er had been added to the a"1uaintan"eship. At an rate$ she felt that she "ould spea! #ore freel $ and &ithout ris! of offending hi#. Realising that his #other #ust still be in hospital or he &ould b no& have #ade the suggestion that she "o#e and see his #other at Heathlands$ the &ere nearl ba"! at %hitne )s flat$ &hen she said$ ,Is our #other an better$ (loan4) ,(he)s7about the sa#e$) he ans&ered$ and he see#ed *ust then to need to give all of his "on"entration to his driving. %hitne left it for a fe& #inutes$ but she thought that she had so#e rights too$ even if she &as getting the bla#e that (loan &as no longer engaged. %hen she thought that enough ti#e had elapsed she tentativel re#inded hi#$ ,?ou7er7 #entioned on"e that our #other &as a little7"onfused.) ,-id I4) he 1ueried$ and see#ed surprised that he had ever told her an thing so personal about his #other. ,Has her "onfusion "leared at all4) %hitne persisted$ if gentl . ,I #ean$ I !no&$) she said understandingl $ ,that so#eti#es &hen people are getting on in ears9) (he bro!e off. (he had no idea ho& old (loan)s #other &as$ but if she)d had hi# late in life she "ould be &ell over sevent b no&. And &hile she !ne& that sevent &as no age at all these da s$ ;rs Illing&orth had been in a serious #otor a""ident and #ight &ell have suffered a !no"! on her head into the bargain. ,The last ti#e I spo!e to her she7er7see#ed ver far a&a $) (loan told her as if it &as being dragged out of hi#. ,Oh$ I)# so sorr $) %hitne #ur#ured in full s #path $ her heart going out to the poor lad as a #e#or flooded in of ho& ver far a&a her #other had been in her thoughts before her death. %hen (loan see#ed relu"tant to add an thing to &hat he)d said$ though$ %hitne de"ided not to 1uestion hi# an #ore. (o he had ta!en her ho#e and$ feeling sensitive to hi#$ she had invited hi# up for a "up of "offee$ but he had de"lined$ sa ing that he)d so#e &or! to do &hen he got ho#e. %hitne had again realised ho& bus he #ust be$ and she &ould not have been surprised if another five da s had gone b &ithout a &ord fro# hi#. :ut$ the

ver ne't da he had telephoned$ and the had gone out to dinner. The had$ after that$ been fre1uent "o#panions$ but al&a s (loan had ta!en her to different pla"es. All$ she !ne&$ &ith the ai# in due ti#e of the# both being able to tal! &ith his #other at length on the various things the had done together. The fa"t that his #other #ust still be in hospital sho&ed %hitne that the a""ident #ust have been serious indeed. For$ to her "ertain !no&ledge$ she)d heard of people having all #anner of #a*or surger $ and et being dis"harged fro# hospital inside t&o or three &ee!s. As ti#e &ent on she thought that perhaps (loan #ight suggest ta!ing her to the hospital and introdu"ing her there as his fian"5e to his #other. :ut &hen he did no su"h thing$ she "ould onl assu#e that his parent &as still being troubled b "onfusion$ and that (loan still "onsidered it better to leave introdu"tions until she &as &ell enough to be re"uperating at Heathlands9 %hitne "a#e out of her reverie that (aturda and &ondered if she &ould see an thing of (loan this &ee!end. The last ti#e she had seen hi# &as Thursda $ but he had been fl ing off earl on Frida for so#e business #eeting he had s"heduled in (&it<erland$ and #ight not be ba"! until so#e ti#e on (unda . 6oing to #a!e herself a "up of tea$ %hitne suddenl found it #ost odd that it should have been (loan &ho had o""upied her thoughts for the last half0hour$ and not -er#ot. Perhaps it &asn)t so odd after all$ though$ be"ause it &as fairl re"entl that she had seen (loan$ and #onths sin"e she had seen -er#ot. Ta!ing her tra of tea ba"! &ith her into her sitting0roo#$ %hitne found she &as &ondering if (loan still thought "onstantl about 6leda. Her na#e &as never #entioned bet&een the#$ so if it still hurt that she &ould have nothing #ore to do &ith hi#$ he &as !eeping it to hi#self. :ut9 %hitne )s thoughts bro!e off &hen the pattern of Eri"a)s fa#iliar !no"! sounded on the &ood&or! of the flat door. ,?ou s#elted the teapot$) %hitne a""used &ith a s#ite as she invited her in. ,Can)t stop$ reall "an)t$) Eri"a panted. ,I)# having one of those da s &here I should have started at three o)"lo"! this #orning to get it all "ra##ed in. I)ve *ust re#e#bered$ though7 ou !no& I told ou that I)# being a god#other at Aa#es Eri")s "hristening to#orro&7&ell$) she too! a hurried breath$ ,I)ve *ust realised$ sin"e this is serious stuff$ that I haven)t got a hat I "an &ear. ?ou haven)t got one I "ould borro&$ have ou4) ,I)ve got a "ouple$ I thin!$) %hitne told her$ and &as *ust about to invite her into her bedroo# to have a tr ing0on session &hen the bell to her flat rang. %hitne )s heart a"ted in the #ost pe"uliar fashion &hen her initial thought &as

that (loan$ ho#e before he had thought he &ould be$ had "alled to see her. Ho& ridi"ulous$ she thought a split se"ond later8 not onl &as (loan still #iles a&a in (&it<erland$ but he &ouldn)t "all &ithout first telephoning an &a . ,If ou "an hang on &hile I go and see &ho that is$) she 1ui"!l told Eri"a$ ,I)ll9) Eri"a$ hopping fro# one foot to the other$ told her that she hadn)t got a #inute to &aste. ,-o ou #ind if I "o#e ba"! later4) she as!ed. ,Ever #o#ent "ounts &ith #e toda .) %hitne parted fro# Eri"a on the landing$ Eri"a to go up$ she to go do&n. %ith no idea of &ho her "aller "ould be$ %hitne pulled open the front door$ to be "onfronted b Tob &ho$ she i##ediatel sa&$ &as not his usual s#iling self. ,I thought ou &eren)t in3) he e'"lai#ed$ and$ as a tra"e of guilt s#ote %hitne that she)d had to turn do&n several invitations re"entl $ she s#iled a &el"o#e at hi#. ,I &as *ust having a "up of tea$) she told hi#. ,Are ou "o#ing up for one4) ,I should li!e to$) he a""epted$ but she thought he &as strangel 1uiet as he traipsed up the stairs &ith her. ,(o$) she en"ouraged hi# &hen$ &ith a "up and sau"er pla"ed on a table near hi#$ she sat sipping fro# her o&n "up of tea$ ,&hat brings ou to this ne"! of the &oods4) ,Er7 ou$ a"tuall $) he said$ so#e&hat diffidentl . ,Er7ho& do ou #ean4) she as!ed$ and suddenl she began to feel &ar . ,%ell$) he said$ and then see#ed to be at a loss to !no& ho& best to go on. ,-a#n$) he s&ore #ildl . ,?ou)d never !no& that I pra"tised all #orning &hat I &as going to sa to ou. :ut no&$ seeing ou$ being &ith ou$ it)s7all gone.) %hitne &as not sure that she li!ed the sound of this$ but she had gro&n fond of Tob $ and if she "ould help hi# out$ she &ould. ,%hat do ou &ant to sa to #e that needs so #u"h pra"tising$ Tob 4) she as!ed hi# 1uietl . ,I7"an)t9) he began$ and then follo&ed it up &ith$ ,At first$ I &as going to &rite to ou. Then7&ell$ then$ I !ne& that I *ust "ouldn)t &ait to hear &hat ou)d sa in ans&er. I *ust "ouldn)t bear it if ou)d de"ided to post our repl ba"!7it "ould be ages before I !ne& if ou "ared for #e the &a that I "are for ou.) (uddenl $ he stopped$ loo!ed a#a<ed$ and said disbelievingl $ ,I)ve *ust said it3 I)ve *ust told ou that I "are for ou3 That)s &hat I &anted to9) He bro!e off &hen he sa& that his *o that he)d got the &ords out &as not e'a"tl #irrored in the e'pression &hi"h

%hitne &ore. ,?ou don)t "are for #e9) he began$ but %hitne started to re"over fro# his #ost une'pe"ted de"laration7if de"laration it &as. ,I)# not sure 1uite &hat ou)re sa ing$ Tob $) she interrupted hi# 1ui"!l $ finding that she had the ut#ost diffi"ult in believing that he &as seriousl de"laring his love for her. ,I told ou before I ever &ent out &ith ou$) she as 1ui"!l added$ ,that I9) ,I !no&$) he butted in$ ta!ing a gulp of breath. ,?ou &ere .off/ #en then$ ou told #e$ so I realised that so#eone had hurt ou. %hi"h is &h $) he said on another gulp$ ,I haven)t rushed ou or7or said an thing. Onl $ &ith ou no& going out &ith so#eone else$ as &ell as #e$ I sort of too! it that ou)re not so .off/ #en as ou on"e &ere$ and$ &ell$ to be honest$ I sort of got s"ared that he #ight propose to ou before I did.) Propose3 %hitne &as aghast at the &ords that had left Tob in su"h a torrent$ and she *ust did not !no& ho& to "ope &ith it. Plainl Tob had put t&o and t&o together and had dedu"ed$ &hen she had turned do&n so#e of his invitations$ that she &as seeing so#eone else. :ut$ having loved$ and having been hurt b love herself$ she hated the thought of having to hurt hi#. ,Oh$ Tob 7Tob $) she said helplessl . :ut it see#ed that he had read all the ans&er he needed in her unhapp loo!. ,?ou don)t7"are for #e$) he said dull . ,As a friend$ I "are for friend.) ou$) she told hi# sorro&full $ ,:ut Tob $ onl as a

,I didn)t reall thin! I)d got #u"h of "han"e$) he told her. :ut$ after several #o#ents of &ringing her heart &ith his do&n"ast loo!$ he #ade great efforts to brighten up$ and added$ ,I suppose it)s 1uite so#ething that I have ou for a friend.) He lifted up his "up and sau"er and too! a long draught of tea as if he reall needed it. Then$ as though he &as feeling #ore his old self$ the old self he felt #ore "o#fortable &ith$ he said$ ,?ou)ve had so#ething on for the last three (aturda s$ %hitne . -o ou suppose that a7friend7&ould be as!ing too #u"h if he as!ed to see ou one (aturda in four4) ,?ou sho"!er3) %hitne e'"lai#ed softl $ as she realised &ith so#e surprise that &hen it "a#e to e#otional bla"!#ail$ Tob &as ever bit as "apable of using it as (loan. ,Is it too #u"h to as!4) he 1uestioned$ his little s"hoolbo "o#ing out in full for"e. lost e'pression

,I9) she hesitated. %ould it hurt to go out &ith Tob tonight4 %ith (loan still in (&it<erland9 Not that she had to !eep her (aturda evenings free for hi#. In all probabilit he &as painting Curi"h red &ith so#e elegant (&iss fe#ale and9 (uddenl %hitne &as e'perien"ing ver hostile feelings against (loan. ,I don)t see &h not$) she told Tob $ and$ as Tob )s fa"e be"a#e &reathed in s#iles$ she !ne& that she "ould not retra"t her a""eptan"e. The se"ond Tob had gone on his &a $ though$ %hitne &as &ondering &hat in "reation had "o#e over her3 The absurd thought popped into her head that #a be a spas# of *ealous had been at the ba"! of her a""epting Tob )s invitation. :ut the idea that she had felt *ealous at the thought of (loan dating so#e ,6leda e1uivalent) &hile he &as in (&it<erland &as so ludi"rous that %hitne al#ost laughed out loud. Instead she set to &or! on ousting (loan fro# her thoughts and "on"entrating her attention on Tob . In vie& of his une'pe"ted proposal of #arriage$ she had to &onder if she &as doing Tob an favours b "ontinuing to see hi#. (he "ouldn)t avoid seeing hi# at &or!$ but9 After #u"h deep thought$ she "a#e to the "on"lusion that it &ould do no har# to see Tob outside &or!ing hours. The si#ple fa"t &as7and she had loved$ so she !ne&7Tob did not love her. Not in the &a he thought he did$ an ho&. Onl re"entl he had told her ho& his sister)s ultra0sophisti"ated friends frightened hi# half to death$ so that #ore often than not he gave his sister$ and her flat$ a &ide berth. Clearl $ %hitne "onsidered$ Tob &anted love and #arriage. And perhaps it &asn)t ver "o#pli#entar to her7though be"ause she felt she reall &as his friend$ she &as unoffended7but the truth &as that Tob had felt "o#fortable and unthreatened &ith her$ and had "onvin"ed hi#self that it &as love that he felt. Having pu<<led that out to a satisfa"tor out"o#e$ %hitne "onsidered that she #ight tal! to Tob so#e&here along those lines that evening. That settled$ she then re#e#bered Eri"a$ and she &as about to go ru##aging after the "ouple of hats &hi"h she had told her about &hen suddenl the phone rang. %hitne &as not at all sure ho& she felt &hen she re"ognised (loan)s voi"e. ,?ou)re ba"!4) she 1uestioned$ not "ertain if he &as phoning fro# England or (&it<erland. ,; business didn)t ta!e as long as I thought$) he replied$ and$ &hile she &as starting to feel 1uite good inside that she had been &rong to suppose that he &as dating so#e (&iss lad $ he &as going on s#oothl $ ,%ith fair &ind I should be able

to #a!e our pla"e for eight8 &e)ll9) ,Hang on a se"ond3) %hitne "ut hi# off$ and she started to get angr on t&o fronts. First$ that she &as sure that she didn)t give a da#n ho& #an (&iss ladies he dated3 (e"ond$ his pure i#puden"e that$ no& that His High and ;ightiness &as ba"! in the "ountr $ he had loftil assu#ed that all he had to do &as to pi"! up the phone and she &ould *u#p to do his bidding. ,I)# afraid I)# not free tonight$) she told hi# a"idl . There &as a s#all pause fro# the other end$ then$ ,%h 4) he snarled toughl . %ith the greatest of pleasure$ %hitne s&eetl told hi#$ ,I alread have an engage#ent for this evening.) :ut onl to have her breath ta!en a&a &hen he de#anded bluntl $ ,%ho &ith4) As if it &as an business of his3 ,If ou #ust !no&$) she retorted sharpl $ her s&eet tone soon gone$ ,I)# going out &ith Tob +es9) (he did not get to finish. :efore she "ould blin! an e elid$ (loan)s voi"e "a#e roaring do&n the line and "aused her to brea! off. ,I)d have thought ou)d have #ore about ou than to !eep one #an)s bed &ar# &hile going out &ith another3) he rapped furiousl . It &as done. %hitne had told herself that one da she &as going to have the pleasure of leaving hi# to be the one on the other end hanging on to the phone. And that &as e'a"tl &hat she had done. Enraged &ith hi#$ she hadn)t even been a&are &hat she &as doing until she had sla##ed the phone do&n on hi#. The s&ine3 she fu#ed. The perfe"t s&ine3 Ho& dared he tal! to her li!e that4 %ell$ that did it3 Never$ ever &as she going to go out &ith ;r I)ll0#a!e0 our0pla"e0 for0eight Illing&orth again. (he)d onl gone out &ith hi# for his #other)s sa!e an &a $ and9 Oh$ bother it$ she seethed$ and &ished that she hadn)t thought of (loan)s poor$ "onfused #other. (tubbornl $ %hitne spend the ne't ten #inutes deter#ined that it &as no s!in off her nose ho& be&ildered (loan)s #other &as. (he didn)t even !no& the &o#an$ for goodness) sa!e3 To haunt her$ though$ %hitne !ept getting flashes of #e#or of her o&n dear #other$ and of her be&ilder#ent &hen her husband)s #istress of #an ears had "alled at their ho#e. %hitne re"alled the dreadful da s that had follo&ed. Her #other)s utter trust in her husband had been bro!en$ and$ her faith in hi# shat 0 tered$ she had gone around in a perpetuall stunned and da<ed state. %hitne blin!ed ba"! tears at her #e#ories of her o&n poor$ "onfused #other$

but the edge had gone fro# the anger she had felt against (loan. (he atte#pted to get her fur ba"! &hen she refle"ted that he$ not #issing #u"h$ #ust have noti"ed that she had a vulnerable spot &here #others &ere "on"erned$ and that$ having &itnessed that vulnerabilit $ he hadn)t hesitated to put the pressure on. :ut the #ore she &anted to be "ross &ith hi#$ the #ore it see#ed that she re#e#bered ho&$ but for her #a!ing free use of his bed$ (loan &ould still have a fian"5e$ and &ould not need her to a"t that part for hi#. Re"alling that not on"e had he bleated about his feelings in all of this$ %hitne &as suddenl unde"ided about &hat she should do. Not on"e had he #entioned his pain or the heartbrea! he #ust be feeling. ;anfull $ he had !ept his feelings to hi#self8 the onl feelings he had let her !no& about &ere his "on"ern for his #other. It &as probabl that "on"ern$ she suddenl realised$ &hi"h had seen hi# speeding through his &or! so that he "ould get ba"! to England to visit his #other. %ith her thoughts on"e #ore "entred on (loan)s hospitalised parent$ %hitne tried one #ore stab at getting angr &ith hi#$ but &hen that failed$ she pi"!ed up the phone and dialled Tob )s nu#ber. Tob &as going to hate it$ she !ne&$ but9 ,Hello$ Tob $) she said 1ui"!l as the ringing tone stopped$ ,It)s9) ,%hitne 3) he e'"lai#ed$ not &aiting for her to announ"e &ho she &as. ,I)ve onl *ust &al!ed in fro# our pla"e8 &hat "an I do for ou4) ,It)s7I)#9) In vie& of the pleased surprise in his voi"e$ %hitne felt &orse than ever about &hat she &as *ust about to do$ and she &as having trouble in getting started. (he too! a hold on herself. ,I)# sorr $ Tob $ I reall a#$) she said$ and plunged on$ ,but I)# afraid I "an)t #a!e it tonight$ after all.) ,?ou "an)t93) Oh$ grief$ %hitne thought$ and she al#ost told hi# then to forget that she had phoned$ and that she &ould see hi# that night as the had planned. Against that$ though$ there &as (loan7(loan)s #other. ,It)s be"ause of &hat I said this afternoon$ isn)t it4) Tob $ &ithout !no&ing it$ tore her further apart. ,?ou)ve had ti#e to thin! about it$ and ou)ve de"ided that ou don)t9) ,Tob $ Tob $) %hitne "ut hi# off before he "ould tear her soft heart further to ribbons. ,It)s nothing personal to do &ith ou. It)s *ust that so#ething7er7has "ropped up$ and I "an)t see ou as I said I &ould. :ut it)s got nothing to do &ith the 7er7friendship ou and I share.) ,?ou still &ant to be # friend4) ,Have lun"h &ith #e on ;onda $ # treat$) she told hi#. ,?ou)re on$) he brightened.

%hitne rang off$ gro&ing to thin! that suddenl life had be"o#e ver "o#pli"ated. (he ne't found (loan)s telephone nu#ber. :efore she set about ringing hi# though$ she realised that$ as et$ she had the &hole evening free and that she &as not "o##itted. (he also realised that$ fro# the &a she had sla##ed the phone do&n on hi#$ she &as going to have to sin! her pride if she did "all hi#. %hitne spent another fe& #o#ents &ondering if she reall &anted to spend the evening &ith (loan or if she &ould prefer her o&n solitar "o#pan in her o&n solitar flat. Oh$ drat the #an$ she suddenl thought angril $ and a fe& se"onds later she &as busil dialling (loan)s ho#e nu#ber. It see#ed to ta!e light ears before the phone &as ans&ered$ and her hands gre& #oist$ possibl be"ause it &asn)t ever da that she san! her pride. :ut$ *ust as she &as about to repla"e the re"eiver and tell herself$ &ell$ she had tried$ suddenl it &as pi"!ed up. ,Illing&orth$) (loan)s voi"e vibrated in her ear$ and all at on"e %hitne a&are that her heart &as thundering. &as

,(o9) she said on a "ra"!ed note$ but she had the "oolness she &as desperatel sear"hing for &hen she said #ore fir#l $ ,(o$ get our sails hoisted7I)ll be read at eight.) %ith that$ she 1uietl repla"ed the re"eiver.

CHAPTER (ID

%HEN %hitne "a#e a&a fro# the phone$ her heartbeats had evened out. (he &as a&are that the onl reason her heart had thundered &hen (loan had ans&ered the phone &as that she had been *ust about to sin! her pride. (tarting to feel a little foolish that she had telephoned hi# at all$ %hitne then began to get "ross$ not onl &ith herself$ but &ith (loan too. Regretting the da she had ever #et hi#$ regretting the da that she had ever said , es) to that &ret"hed surprise part $ she &as sorel te#pted to ring hi# and tell hi# that she &ouldn)t see hi# that evening$ after all. Realising that that &ould #a!e her feel even #ore foolish$ %hitne &ent to sear"h her &ardrobe for so#ething to &ear$ feeling ver near to thro&ing in the to&el and "alling off the &hole "harade. (he "ould never re#e#ber l ing to her o&n #other$ and she had no idea ho& she &ould "ope &hen "onfronted b (loan)s. Nor did she !no& ho& she &ould feel &hen "alled upon7if not to lie outright7then to go along &ith his introdu"tion of her as his fian"5e. (ighing$ %hitne pulled one of her favourite dresses fro# her &ardrobe$ and !ne& the futilit of !i"!ing against the situation she &as in. The fa"ts$ &hen ta!en out and e'a#ined$ left her &ith no alternative but to go through &ith it. (he had gone to that &ret"hed part . (he had fallen asleep under the top "over of his bed. (he had a&a!ened to find hi# not onl l ing there beside her$ but na!ed beneath the sheets$ &ith it see#ing as though the &ere both na!ed beneath the sheets. And$ &orst of all$ it had been his fian"5e &ho had "o#e and dis"overed the# in the bedroo# and had put the onl "onstru"tion possible on finding an undressed "ouple sharing the sa#e bed. Not sure &hi"h &as #a!ing her "hee!s burn$ the guilt pi"ture her last thoughts had brought to #ind or the #e#or of (loan)s broad and na!ed ba"! as he)d stepped fro# the bed$ %hitne shoo! su"h i#ages fro# her and sighed again. 6leda had done the onl thing &hi"h an red0blooded &o#an &ould do in the "ir"u#stan"es7she had bro!en off her engage#ent. %hi"h had left (loan$ &hen he

had 1uite obviousl been unable to get 6leda to listen to his e'planation$ in a ver &orr ing positionB that of !no&ing that his poor #other &as going to be even #ore distressed than she at present &as$ if he "ould not introdu"e his fian"5e to her the #o#ent she "a#e out of hospital. All of &hi"h$ %hitne thought disgruntledl as she too! her bath$ #eant that she &as ba"! to s1uare one. :e"ause no &a $ through her o&n thoughtless a"tions$ "ould she allo& an elderl lad to suffer &hen her son)s being engaged appeared to #ean so #u"h to her. %hitne &as dressed in a fresh0loo!ing dress of "risp green linen &hen (loan "a#e to "all for her. :ut it &as soon apparent that he did not li!e her an #ore than she li!ed hi# *ust then. Than! ou$ es$ I)# glad I too! su"h trouble to loo! presentable$ %hitne thought sourl &hen$ &ith #ore of a grunt for a good evening$ (loan returned do&n the steps fro# the front door and &ent to his "ar. ,Than! ou$) she #uttered out loud &hen inbred "ourtes sa& hi# open up the passenger door before he &ent round to the driver)s side. (itting beside hi# as he drove along$ %hitne &as of the vie& that the &hole evening "ould be spent in silen"e for all she "ared. (he "ertainl &asn)t going to be the one to start up a "onversation. Turning her head a little &hen five #inutes of ston silen"e had stret"hed and stret"hed bet&een the#$ %hitne observed that (loan &as still &earing a tight0 lipped e'pression. A good ti#e &as had b all$ she thought a"idl $ and thought that the li#it of their "onversation7should the be dining so#e&here7&as going to be ,pass the "ruet). Aust then$ though$ &hen she &as sure that she didn)t give a stra& about ho& stern0fa"ed he loo!ed$ %hitne suddenl realised that it "ould be that he)d had bad ne&s about his #other. ,?our #other9) "a#e ro"!eting fro# her then$ but she slo&ed do&n to as!$ ,Have ou seen her sin"e ou got ba"!4) For long$ long #o#ents %hitne thought that the ne&s about his #other #ust indeed be bad$ be"ause it see#ed an age before (loan ans&ered her. (he breathed a sigh of relief$ though$ &hen he told her in "lipped tones ,I)ve re"entl spo!en &ith her on the telephone.) Clearl there had been no ti#e for hi# to pa a visit to the hospital. %hitne &aited for #ore$ but there &as not an #ore. ,Oh$ I see$) she #u#bled$ and !ne& that he #ust have rung his #other as soon as his plane had landed. And as (loan "on"entrated on his driving %hitne realised that$ of "ourse$ sin"e his

#other #ust be in so#e private &ing of &hatever hospital she &as in$ it &as highl probable that she had a telephone per#anentl at her bedside. It &as highl probable$ too$ that she &as in "onstant telephone tou"h &ith her son. The restaurant &hi"h (loan too! her to follo&ed the usual pattern in that$ in the "ause of the# being able to tal! of a strea# of pla"es the had been to$ this &as so#e&here else she had not been to &ith hi# before. It &as a pleasant enough restaurant$ but perhaps la"!ed the "hara"ter of so#e of the other pla"es &here the had dined. Though$ be"ause she had learned b then that (loan$ &ithout shouting about it$ &as so#ething of a "onnoisseur of good food and &ine$ she rather guessed that the e'pertise of the "hef &as #ost li!el &hat had dra&n hi# to reserve a table there. The table the &ere sho&n to &as in a se"luded al"ove designed so that$ although it &as possible for the# to see 1uite a large portion of the restaurant$ the "ould not be easil seen$ or heard$ b other diners. %hitne too! her pla"e$ and her blea! thoughts &ere "entred on the ,fun) evening it &as going to be if the &hole of it &as spent &ith nothing but a gri# silen"e e#anating fro# her es"ort. :ut she dis"overed that her thoughts &ere a little pre#ature. Though she &as &ell into her poires au Ro1uefort starter &hen (loan$ his tone no #ore endearing$ had so#ething to sa . ,A# I supposed to be grateful that ou "an"elled our date &ith +eston4) he as!ed harshl . %hitne glan"ed up at hi#. It hadn)t ta!en too #u"h i#agination before to guess that he &as on the loo!0out for a fight$ but the aggressive thrust of his "hin no& as he &aited for her ans&er left nothing &hatsoever to the i#agination. He &as on the loo!0out for a fight7and she &as nettled enough b hi# to see no reason &h she should be the one to #a!e pea"e. ,I &ould never suppose ou to be grateful for an 0thing3) she retorted sharpl and$ although it too! so#e effort$ she tried to appear 1uite "al# and unflustered as she returned her attention to her pears stuffed &ith Ro1uefort "heese. A&are of hate0vibes "o#ing at her a"ross the table$ %hitne boun"ed a fe& of the# ba"! and ignored (loan as best as she &as able &hen the ne't "ourse follo&ed. (he had b then for#ed the opinion that$ sin"e the had visited the restaurant and sa#pled its fare together$ the purpose of the e'er"ise had been a"hieved and the #ight as &ell leave. :ut then (loan suddenl snarled$ ,No doubt ou offered hi# an alternative3) Her head *er!ed up. ,%ho4) she as!ed.

,+eston3) he rapped. ,(in"e ou)re hell0bent on !eeping hi# on a string$ ou)d have to s&eeten the pill &hen ou "an"elled tonight)s date &ith hi# b offering to see hi# so#e other ti#e.) Astounded as #u"h b the logi"al &or!ings of his #ind as b his fier"e aggression &ith her$ %hitne stared "oldl at hi#. Not for a #inute did she thin! that she &as !eeping Tob on a string$ but she supposed she had to "on"ede that the rest of (loan)s logi" &as fairl a""urate. ,%ell4) he grated$ "learl seeing hi# again4) anno ed that she had not ans&ered hi#. ,Are ou

,If ou #ust !no&$) %hitne flared$ anno ed herself at (loan)s aggression$ ,&e)re lun"hing together on ;onda . And no$) she rushed on$ the bit &ell and trul bet&een her teeth$ ,in repl to our pig of a re#ar! over the phone$ I a# not !eeping his bed &ar# &hile I)# going out &ith ou.) ,Huh3) (loan grunted$ &hi"h left her unde"ided &hether she &as #eant to ta!e it that he didn)t believe that for a #inute. ,Have ou been seeing hi# the &hole ti#e ou)ve been seeing #e4) he snarled. ,%hat if I have4) %hitne tossed ba"! hotl . ,It *ust so happens that ou)re engaged to #e3) (loan re#inded her fier"el . ,It *ust so happens$) she hissed$ ,that I)# pretending to be engaged to ou. And onl then$) she thre& in for good #easure$ ,&hen our #other is &ell enough for ou to introdu"e #e3) >uietl seething$ %hitne &ished that she had not #entioned his #other. Thin!ing about ;rs Illing&orth$ and ho& poorl she &as$ &as under#ining her anger$ and %hitne did not &ant her anger to be under#ined. -i"tatorial (loan Illing&orth &ould &al! all over her if she let hi#. (o all right$ she o&ed hi#$ but that didn)t give hi# the right to tell her that she "ould not have other #en0friends3 ,I)d have thought$) he "ontinued$ not letting up$ ,that in vie& of all that has happened$ ou)d guard ver "losel against # #other learning that ou date other #en3) ,Tob is not .other #en/3) %hitne fle&$ tr ing hard to !eep her voi"e do&n even though$ &ith their se"luded table$ and &ith the general bu<< of the other diners) "onversations$ no one "ould overhear. ,And our #other isn)t9) (he bro!e off$ defeated suddenl . For all she !ne&$ Tob "ould 1uite &ell be a"1uainted &ith ;rs Illing&orth. %ho &as to sa $ &ith the &a her lu"! &as running this ear$ that the long ar# of "oin"iden"e &ouldn)t have Tob #eeting up &ith (loan)s #other and

dis"ussing in detail his various doings of late4 Ta!ing a stead ing breath$ she began again. ,For our infor#ation$ Tob and I are *ust good friends.) ,(pare #e3) (loan uttered in disgust. ,%e are3) %hitne said heatedl . ,%e9) ,?ou)ll be telling #e ne't that he)s never held our hand3) ,%ell$ no$ but9) ,?ou)ll be telling #e ne't that he)s never so #u"h as !issed ou3) %hitne re"alled that one !iss of Tob )s &hi"h had landed on her "hee!. ,%ell$ es$ he has$) she had to o&n$ put off b the dar!$ s"o&ling e'pression on (loan)s fa"e. ,:ut9) ,(o &ho the hell are ou tr ing to !id4) he erupted$ and suddenl he &as loo!ing #ore tight0lipped than ever. ,?ou)ll be telling #e ne't$) he said$ his voi"e o#inousl 1uiet$ ,that he)s never so #u"h as tal!ed of #arriage to ou3) %hat "ould she sa 4 Heartil &ishing that she had never "lapped e es on (loan Illing&orth$ or Tob +eston either for that #atter$ %hitne regretted that she had ever pi"!ed up that &ret"hed phone to dial (loan)s nu#ber. ,He has$ hasn)t he4) (loan !ept up his aggressive 1uestioning. ,He)s proposed to ou3 And ou7 ou replied94) ,I replied$ no3) %hitne flared and$ despite having never before felt re#otel li!e hitting an one$ she felt sorel li!e lashing out at (loan *ust then. It &ent against ever thing that &as sensitive in her to reveal to a living soul the unre1uited feelings of another$ and et she *ust had3 (he parti"ularl &anted to stri!e (loan$ though$ &hen$ &ith her ad#ission that Tob had proposed and had been turned do&n still in the air bet&een the#$ he &ent on to sneer$ ,And ou have the gall to tell #e that ou and he are .*ust good friends/4) Not li!ing his tone one little bit$ %hitne al#ost hurled so#ething hot and strong ba"! at hi#. (he sta ed silent$ though &hen she realised that$ on the fa"e of it$ it loo!ed as if she &as an out0and0out liar$ and she guessed that that had *ust earned her several bla"! #ar!s in (loan)s boo!. Espe"iall &hen she had the feeling that$ apart fro# this instan"e &hen for the sa!e of his #other)s health he &as prepared to de"eive his parent for a short &hile$ he other&ise had no ti#e for lies. Tr ing to ignore the fa"t that he had been su"h a bear all evening$ %hitne #ade a "on"entrated atte#pt to eat so#e of her #ain "ourse. Her "on"entration

had slipped a little$ though$ &hen$ in the pro"ess of disse"ting a #ushroo#$ she suddenl dis"overed that she &as venturing into anal sing &h (loan &as in su"h a brutish #ood. Could it be that his business in (&it<erland had not gone &ell4 %hitne dis"ounted that theor . Apart fro# the fa"t that$ so#eho&$ she *ust "ould not see (loan failing in an thing he set out to do$ she sa& hi# as a #an &ho &ould ta!e a business disappoint#ent on the "hin$ so that fe& other than hi#self &ould !no& about it. His #other$ then4 %hitne rooted so#e #ore. It &ent &ithout sa ing that he "ared ver #u"h for his stri"!en parent. %as she &orse than he &as perhaps "onve ing4 %hitne s"rapped that theor too$ and #un"hed &ith ever appearan"e of en*o #ent at her side salad. If ;rs Illing&orth)s health had badl deteriorated$ then it &as for sure that (loan &ould not no& be dining &ith a &o#an &ho# he had no feelings for$ but &ould far #ore li!el be at his #other)s bedside. Certain$ then$ that ;rs Illing&orth had not suffered a relapse$ %hitne felt her heart suddenl give one al#ight bu#p. For$ out of no&here$ but probabl trig0 gered b the thought that (loan had no feeling for her$ the idea &as suddenl "onversel in her head that the reason &h he &as a"ting as if ever one of his toe0nails &as ingro&ing &as that he &as7*ealous3 On a refle' a"tion her head *er!ed up7and 1ui"!l do&n. Her o&n e es had "o#e into dire"t "onta"t &ith the "old$ gre steel in his$ and it &as not *ealous &hi"h she read there$ but utter disli!e. Re*e"ting the "ra< notion that (loan "ould in an &a be *ealous that she &as seeing another #an on so#e of the nights &hen she didn)t see hi#$ %hitne asserted herself enough to !no& that she "ould not be #ore pleased about that. (he definitel didn)t &ant (loan to be *ealous$ she thought de"idedl . Though$ of "ourse$ that he should be &as definitel a "ra< notion$ be"ause he &as still in love &ith 6leda Caufield. Having "hased her thoughts around$ %hitne &as feeling ver #u"h at odds &ith the &orld &hen$ "o#ing full "ir"le$ she realised &h (loan &as being su"h a "antan!erous devil that evening. %earil she "a#e to the obvious "on"lusion that (loan$ not nor#all one to hide behind lies and de"eit hi#self$ hated that trait in others. Plainl $ it &as sti"!ing in his "ra& that he thought he had found her out in a lie over Tob . ,(loan9) she said$ and had raised her e es to his again &hen a sudden shrie! of laughter fro# a &o#an &ho had *ust entered the restaurant &ith a #an attra"ted %hitne )s e es in their dire"tion$ and she halted.

(he &as never 1uite sure after&ards &hat she had been going to sa to (loan$ although it &as #ost li!el so#ething along the lines of tr ing to "onvin"e hi# that she had been telling the truth &hen she had told hi# that she and Tob &ere onl good friends. At an rate$ she rather thought she had been about to tr to "onvin"e (loan that she had not lied to hi#. :ut &hen she re"ognised the &o#an &ho had *ust "o#e in$ ever thought &ent out of her head. (uddenl $ although she had little to feel guilt about$ %hitne felt the &ar# "olour of guilt flush her "hee!s. For as she re"ognised the fe#ale as a &o#an &ho &or!ed at Hobson)s 6arden I#ple#ents$ her old fir#$ her e es lighted on the #an &ho es"orted her$ and %hitne sa& that her es"ort &as none other than -er#ot (elb 3 ,%hat93) (loan began$ his shre&d e es noting her "hange of "olour and the &a her e es had stra ed fro# hi# to so#e&here to his left. :ut %hitne &as hot$ "onfused$ and suddenl she felt 1uite si"! inside. @na&are that (loan)s e es had follo&ed hers to &here the over0loud "ouple &ere &aiting for the head &aiter to "o#e and sho& the# to their table$ %hitne !ne& onl that she needed so#e air. ,Can7&e7go4) she said *er!il to (loan$ and she &as in too #u"h of pani" then to "onsider the ni"eties of &aiting until the had ordered dessert. -ragging her ga<e ba"! to her o&n es"ort$ she observed in his uns#iling$ all0 assessing loo! that he had ta!en ever thing in and had #issed little. :ut$ *ust as #ore pani" s#ote her that it loo!ed as though he &as going to insist on sta ing to finish his #eal$ suddenl (loan &as getting to his feet. ,I)ve had about enough$ an ho&$) he #uttered$ and she guessed then that he hadn)t been en*o ing the evening an #ore than she had. Leaving his seat$ he "a#e around to her$ and she felt his hand "la#p possessivel on her elbo&. (he &as glad of his tall$ #anl strength as the #oved to&ards &here -er#ot$ &ithout bothering to lo&er his voi"e$ &as half turned to the &o#an he &as &ith and to &ho# he &as e'"lai#ing that$ although the restaurant &as e'pensive$ onl the best &as good enough for her. %in"ing$ %hitne )s sto#a"h turned over as she re"alled ho& she had been thrilled &hen -er#ot had said so#ething ver si#ilar to her. If there had been a ba"! &a out she &ould have used it. :ut suddenl -er#ot and his e'tra0#arital a"tivit &ere bang in front of the#$ and &ere blo"!ing their progress. ,-o ou #ind4) (loan)s "old$ "ultured tones suddenl a#orous glan"es. ,; fian"5e and I &ould li!e to pass.) "ut a"ross -er#ot)s

I##ediatel $ -er#ot stepped to one side but$ as he did so$ he "aught sight of

%hitne and$ "learl forgetting the &a the had parted$ *ust as he "learl forgot that he &as &ith so#eone else$ he e'"lai#ed$ ,%hitne 3) and sounded ever bit as though he &as over*o ed to see her. %hitne had no "han"e to de"ide &hether or not she &ould have ans&ered hi#$ or &hat she &ould have said. For abruptl (loan &as pushing her on&ards$ and -er#ot$ &ho &as 1uite tall hi#self$ &as overshado&ed b (loan$ and %hitne )s vision of her e'0#an0friend &as lost. ,6o and &ait in the "ar$) (loan instru"ted$ and as he handed her his "ar !e s$ so all at on"e %hitne lost a little of her inner tur#oil$ and realised that of "ourse one si#pl did not *ust &al! out of a restaurant &ithout pa ing. Onl &hen she &as sitting in (loan)s "ar as she &aited &hile he settled the bill did she blan"h at her gau"he behaviour. (uddenl she &as feeling &ea! &ith e#bar0 rass#ent at &hat she had done$ and$ as she gave a despairing groan$ she &ished for the u#pteenth ti#e that evening that she had never rung (loan and told hi#$ ,(o$ get our sails hoisted7I)ll be read at eight). Though$ as she re#e#bered the &a he had told -er#ot$ ,; fian"5e and I &ould li!e to pass)$ she felt a shade &ar#er to&ards (loan than she had all evening. There had been no need &hatsoever for hi# to refer to her as his fian"5e$ and et$ perhaps be"ause he had per"eived that her pride "ould do &ith so#e support$ fian"5e &as &hat he had "alled her. Her gratitude to hi#$ not onl for the ,fian"5e) re#ar!$ &as total. For$ &ithout as!ing 1uestions$ (loan$ after a fli"!ed glan"e at her$ had &asted no ti#e in getting her out of the restaurant. %hen she sa& hi# #a!ing his &a to&ards his "ar$ %hitne &as read to forgive hi# an thing. The fa"t that he had been i#possible for #ost of the evening &as as nought to her as she prepared to give a s#ile and to than! hi# for his one hundred per "ent support *ust no&. Her s#ile never #ade it$ nor did her ,than! ou) get uttered. One loo! at his gri# e'pression &hen$ &ithout a &ord$ he got into the "ar and set it in #otion$ &as suffi"ient to tell her that nothing had "hanged. He #ight &ell have "o#plied &ithout protest to her re1uest that the go$ but$ re#e#bering his "o##ent of ,I)ve had about enough)$ %hitne realised he &as still being i#possible7and "old &ith it. %hitne )s pride &o!e up to give her a nudge$ and she &as "ertain then that she "ouldn)t have "ared less if he never said another &ord. Her &ar#er feelings to&ards hi# &ere ver definitel in "old storage &hen$ &ith not one s llable having passed bet&een the#$ the rea"hed her flat. The &a things &ere going$ it &ould not have startled her in the slightest had

(loan forgone his usual "ourtes of going up to the front door &ith her and unlo"!ing it. Indeed$ anti"ipating that he &ould &ait no longer than for her to va"ate his "ar and then speed off$ %hitne did not &ait for hi# to "o#e round to the passenger)s side. As soon as the "ar had stopped$ she 1ui"!l opened the door and got out. (urprise nu#ber one "a#e in that before she "ould &ish hi# a "ool goodnight$ she found that (loan had left his "ar and &as standing on the pave#ent beside her. (urprise nu#ber t&o "a#e &hen$ after going up the "on"rete steps &ith her$ he too! her !e fro# her. %hen he had unlo"!ed the door and handed the !e ba"!$ the "ool goodnight she &as about to bring out of its reserve still never got uttered. For as her "hin tilted a fra"tion and she began$ ,69)$ so (loan$ &ith a deter#ined sort of glint in his e es$ interrupted her. ,It)s earl still$ and about ti#e I sa& the inside of our flat$) he told her "rispl $ and$ having eli#inated an "han"e that she #ight thin! of the e'"use that it &as too late to invite hi# in$ he #ade great "ra"!s in her "ons"ien"e &hen he told her$ ,?ou "an #a!e #e the after0dinner "offee I didn)t get before I start # drive ba"! to Heathlands.) There &ere #an things %hitne &ould have li!ed to do$ but to #a!e (loan a "up of "offee &as not one of the# *ust then. Aust then$ she &ould b far have pre0 ferred to go to her bed and bur her head under her pillo& in the hope that the #orning &ould not find her "ringing &ith e#barrass#ent at the #e#or of her pani"! a"tions in that restaurant. :ut (loan had a fair drive in front of hi# and if he &as par"hed for a "up of "offee9 ,Co#e up$) she invited$ and &as "ons"ious of hi# beside her ever step of the &a . ,Co#e in$) she said at the door of her flat$ and did not !no& &h she felt unable to have even a stilted "onversation &ith hi#. There had been ti#es &hen she had gone out &ith hi# &hen the had *ust tal!ed and tal!ed$ but this &as not one of the#. ,Ta!e a seat$) she told hi# as pleasantl as she "ould no& that the role of hostess had suddenl been thrust upon her. ,:la"! or &hite4) she 1ueried$ !no&ing that he did not ta!e sugar$ and observing that he &as #ore interested in the pi"tures on the &alls of her tid sitting0roo# than in ,ta!ing a seat). ,:la"!$) he replied evenl $ ta!ing his e es fro# a &ater"olour &hi"h she had li!ed and had saved up for. %hitne dived into the !it"hen and suddenl realised that she felt rather sha! . %as it her i#agination$ or &as (loan tense about so#ething4 Telling herself that she &as being idioti"$ she deftl #ade t&o "ups of "offee and tried to settle

her inner dis1uiet that$ although she "ould never re#e#ber feeling ill at ease &ith (loan before$ she no& felt de"idedl dis"o#fited. (loan &as still on his feet &hen$ &ith the "offee on a tra in her hands$ she *oined hi# in the sitting0roo#. (he had thought that she had got used to his height$ but she &as suddenl ver #u"h a&are of hi# to&ering over her as he "a#e and too! the tra fro# her. Hurriedl %hitne pulled out a s#all table and pla"ed it bet&een t&o eas "hairs. ,If ou)d li!e to put it do&n here$) she said politel . (he felt better able to breathe &hen$ having pla"ed the tra do&n on the table$ (loan &aited onl until she &as seated and then too! the "hair opposite her. Ho&ever$ although she had been grateful to hi# that he had a"ted on her plea to leave the restaurant$ &ithout as!ing 1uestions$ she &as soon #ade to realise that his non01uestioning "o#plian"e had been out of "onsideration for the #o#ent onl . (loan$ she &as to learn$ &as the t pe &ho insisted on !no&ing the ins and outs of ever thing3 For she had done no #ore than handed hi# his "up of "offee &hen he &as as!ing bluntl $ ,%hat &as all that about4) ,All &hat4) she atte#pted$ but one loo! at the hostile e'pression that "a#e over his features &as enough to tell her that she should have !no&n better. ,If there)s nothing else bet&een us$ at least let there be honest 3) he rapped i"il $ and &hile %hitne &as "on"eding that$ aside fro# the dishonest the &ould pra"tise in the good "ause of his #other)s return to full health$ (loan &as other&ise the soul of honest $ he had bar!ed "urtl $ ,That loud0#outh ba"! at the restaurant &as read to fall on our ne"! before ou snubbed hi#3) Loud0#outh3 (nubbed hi#3 %hitne &as tr ing to "ope &ith the fa"t that (loan "onsidered -er#ot a loud#outh &hen she realised that$ sin"e she "ould not for the life of her re#e#ber sa ing a &ord to -er#ot &hen he had e'"lai#ed her na#e$ es$ she #ust have snubbed hi#3 ,Are ou tr ing to tell #e that ou)d never #et the #an4) (loan snarled$ &hen in fa"t she had not onl told hi# nothing$ she had not even ans&ered hi#. Perhaps that &as &h (loan &as gro&ing so irate. He &as used to people *u#ping to do his bidding$ and ans&ering 1uestions &hen he put the#. ,?ou)ll be telling #e ne't that ou &anted to leave that restaurant for no other reason than that ou suddenl too! a disli!e to the de"or3) %hitne )s onl disli!e at that #o#ent &as for one over0large brute &ho &ent b the na#e of (loan Illing&orth. ,?ou !no& it &as nothing of that sort3) she found her

voi"e to tell hi# shortl . ,I *ust9 It &as *ust9) Her voi"e petered out. Her e#otions &ere private$ and she &as hating hi# intensel that$ having ba"!ed her into a "orner$ he did not appear li!el to stop until she told hi# ever thing there &as to !no&. ,-a#n ou3) she suddenl e'ploded$ &hen all at on"e his &aiting$ &at"hing silen"e got to her. ,?ou !no& all about -er#ot (elb 8 I told ou about hi#$ I !no& I did3) ,He)s the #an &ho hurt ou$) (loan stated. His voi"e had gone 1uiet$ but tough0 sounding$ and as %hitne had suspe"ted$ he had instant re"all. ,%h leave4) he "harged then. ,%h not sta and fa"e hi#4 Ah$) he said before she "ould sa an thing$ , ou &ere afraid that he #ight hurt ou again4) His e'pression dar!ened and$ &ith his "hin *utting at an aggressive angle$ (loan suddenl fired$ ,-oes that #ean ou still thin! ou love hi#4) :ut b then %hitne had no idea &hat her over&hel#ing i#pulse to leave the restaurant on seeing -er#ot had all been about. : then she "ould not even re#e#ber &hen$ if ever$ she had told (loan she loved -er#ot. And for that #atter she felt too "onfused *ust then to !no& &hether she did in fa"t still love -er#ot. :ut &hat she &as not "onfused about$ and &hat she &as ver sure of$ &as that she had had #ore than enough of (loan Illing&orth3 %hitne blatantl ignored the &a he had a"ted 1ui"!l to get her out of that restaurant &hen she had been read to pani"$ and instead she "hose to re#e#ber the "o#plete s&ine he had been for the #ain part of the evening. ;o"! fian"5e or no$ surel there &as onl so #u"h &hi"h she "ould be e'pe"ted to put up &ith4 (he got up fro# her "hair$ and in free<ing tones she hinted$ ,If ou)ve finished our "offee9) That glint she &asn)t too happ about &as again in his e es &hen$ ta!ing his ti#e$ (loan un"urled his long length. %hitne felt a shade sha! as he stood over her and she be"a#e a&are that he &as #u"h too "lose for "o#fort. :ut$ "onsidering that an step &hi"h she #ight ta!e a&a fro# hi# #ight be "onstrued as a sign of &ea!ness$ she deter#ined to stand her ground. ,Than! ou$) she began$ li!e the &ell0brought0up person she &as$ but &hen it "a#e to adding an thing to that$ she &as suddenl sun!. (he "ould hardl than! hi# for a pleasant evening$ "ould she4 The &ords &ould sti"! in her throat. ,-rive safel .) (he dropped out the platitude and then loo!ed up7and ver nearl pani"!ed again. The s#ouldering loo! she sa& in (loan)s e es #ade her "at"h her breath. He &asn)t i#pressed b her ,Than! ou)$ and he "ertainl hadn)t li!ed her platitude$ and

if she &as not #ista!en she &as his least favourite person *ust then. -espite his loo!$ &hi"h &arned that she #ight do &ell to ta!e "over$ %hitne stubbornl persisted in not #oving an in"h. (he &as #ore sho"!ed than sha!en$ though$ &hen suddenl his hands sna!ed out and he "aught hold of her in a vi"e0li!e grip. ,?ou)ve been as!ing for this all evening$) he gritted beneath his breath$ and &hile all at on"e she &as transfi'ed and$ i#agining all sorts of assault$ "ould not have #oved then had she &anted to$ une'pe"tedl his head "a#e nearer and the onl assault she re"eived &as his punishing !iss to her lips. For an astounded se"ond$ %hitne re#ained #otionless. :ut in the ne't se"ond$ anger and fur &ere roaring to life$ and she &as rea"ting li!e a &ild thing. ,-on)t ou9) she gasped as she pulled her head ba"! and bro!e his !iss. It &as all she had ti#e for. (uddenl one of his hands &as "la#ped on the ba"! of her head$ and &hile that hand held her stead $ the ne't she !ne& &as that$ &ith his other ar# around her$ (loan &as hauling her "lose up against his bod $ and his #outh &as on"e #ore over hers. -esperatel %hitne tried to brea! a&a fro# hi#. To tr to !i"! his shins$ though$ &as$ she dis"overed$ a dangerous pasti#e$ be"ause it onl resulted in #a!ing her off balan"e$ &hi"h subse1uentl resulted in (loan)s hold on her tightening #ore fir#l . Resorting to pu##elling and pun"hing &herever she "ould$ %hitne found$ ho&ever$ that &ith her ar#s so#eho& an"hored b (loan$ she #ade little progress in her efforts to get free in that dire"tion either. He &as still "ontinuing to !iss her &hile %hitne $ tr ing to thin! up so#e plo that &ould se"ure her release$ suddenl found that she &as going ha &ire. For she should have been plotting and planning ho& to #a!e (loan brea! his hold$ but all at on"e his !isses &ere gentling and$ oddl $ all her brain &as telling her &as that she did not &ant to brea! free and that she &as$ in fa"t$ #ore than happ to be in his ar#s3 %hen his lips did finall leave hers$ %hitne &as 1uiet in his ar#s. Had she been able to spea! earlier$ she &ould have "alled hi# ,s&ine) along &ith a fe& other na#es$ but$ as she loo!ed up into gre e es &hi"h no longer see#ed to be "old$ all she "ould thin! to sa &as a be&ildered$ ,(loan3) If in that one &ord$ his na#e$ she had given hi# a #essage$ then %hitne &as #indless to &hat that #essage &as7until$ gentl $ he trailed !isses fro# the "orner of her slightl parted lips and do&n the side of her throat. Then$ ,Oh$ (loan$) she "ried$ and she !ne&$ in that #o#ent$ that she &anted to

sta in his ar#s and never leave the#. At the sound of his na#e on"e #ore on her lips$ his #outh returned to hers$ and as the pressure of his lips in"reased$ %hitne pressed her bod against hi#$ &anting to get "loser$ and "loser still. (he heard the groan that es"aped hi# as their t&o bodies see#ed to #eld as one in a tre#endous heat of earning. %hitne &as in a no #an)s land of &anting &hen his hands "a#e either side of her and he pulled the lo&er half of her bod et #ore strongl against his fir# bod . ,Oh$ (loan3) she "ried breathlessl $ and as he !issed her again she !ne& that$ as she &as a&are of his need for her$ so he &as a&are of her need for hi#. Nor "ould she den it. (he &anted hi#. (he &anted hi# to #a!e love to her. (he al#ost told hi# so$ but7 so#ething disturbed her. (o#e sound. :ut onl as the sound "a#e a se"ond ti#e did it penetrate as being that of Eri"a)s fa#iliar tattoo. %hitne )s heart &as beating li!e an e'press train &hen she realised that the sound of so#eone at the door had got through to (loan$ too. :ut$ as she stepped ba"! and his ar#s fell to his sides$ she &as far$ far fro# re#e#bering &hat had happened to #a!e hi# ta!e her in his ar#s in the first pla"e. %hi"h &as perhaps &h her sho"! &as su"h that it left her spee"hless &hen$ after the &a the had *ust been &ith ea"h other$ (loan should tell her in an i"e0 "old voi"e$ ,Ta!e it fro# #e$ s&eetheart$ if ou "an turn on li!e that for other #en$ then ou sure as hell aren)t in love &ith an loud0#outh b the na#e of (elb 3) @tterl stunned$ all %hitne &as "apable of doing &as standing there and nu#bl &at"hing &hile he "rossed to her flat door and opened it. (he &as still too paral sed to #ove &hen she heard Eri"a burst into spee"h &ith$ ,Oh$ I)# sorr $ I didn)t !no& %hitne had "o#pan .) %hitne &as #a!ing rapid strides to get herself together &hen she heard hi# repl $ &ith a pleasantness that hadn)t had an airing all evening$ ,I &as *ust leaving.) (&ine$ %hitne berated (loan et again as she &ent to the door and sa& his departing ba"! as he &ent do&n the stairs. ,Co#e in$ Eri"a3) she "ried gail $ hoping he &ould hear. (he then had to &or! ver hard to #a!e it appear as though she had not for one #o#ent forgotten that Eri"a had said she &ould pop ba"! later to borro& a hat. (&ine$ %hitne hadn)t finished berating (loan &hen she eventuall la do&n in her bed that night. There had been no need for hi# to tell her she &as not in love &ith -er#ot (elb $ no need at all. Ho& "ould she be in love &ith -er#ot$ &hen she

had !no&n$ fro# the #o#ent she had fa"ed the fa"t that she &as #ore than happ to be in (loan)s ar#s$ that the onl #an she &as in love &ith &as hi#7(loan Illing&orth4

CHAPTER (E2EN

%HITNE? opened her e es on (unda #orning$ and 1ui"!l "losed the#. :ut the !no&ledge$ the staggering !no&ledge &hi"h had &o!en &ith her &ould not be shut out as easil as the da light. (he opened her e es again and fa"ed the fa"t that she &as in love &ith (loan Illing&orth. (tepping out of bed$ she prepared to get on &ith her da $ a&are no& of the &ealth of differen"e bet&een the love she had felt for -er#ot (elb $ and this all0 "onsu#ing e#otion &hi"h being ,in love) had "reated in her. %ith -er#ot$ she had retained so#e #easure of "ontrol8 &ith (loan$ there had been no "ontrol$ nor had she &ished there to be. (he #ade herself a "up of "offee$ refle"ting on her la"! of self0"ontrol &hen she had been in (loan)s ar#s last night and had &anted hi# so #u"h. :efore$ she #used$ as she stared into spa"e$ she had al&a s #anaged to retain so#e a&areness of &hat she &as doing. Last night$ she had been unthin!ingl &illing to go &herever (loan led. Re"alling that the "losest she had ever "o#e to going to bed &ith a #an had been &ith -er#ot$ %hitne no longer &ondered &hat it &as that had prevented her fro# #a!ing that final a"t of "o##it#ent &ith hi#. (he had not been ,in love) &ith -er#ot. That #orning$ %hitne supposed that she should be grateful for Eri"a)s ti#el interruption. (loan had desired her$ %hitne !ne& that$ but had not e'uberant Eri"a "o#e beating out the first fe& bars of The Tedd :ears) Pi"ni" on her &ood&or!$ %hitne had no idea &hat &ould have happened. Pride$ of "ourse$ had her &anting to believe she &ould not have let hi# #a!e "o#plete love to her. :ut %hitne &as #ore honest than that$ and she !ne& that$ her resistan"e gone$ she &ould not have ba"!ed a&a fro# #a!ing that final "o##it#ent7&ith (loan. %hi"h &as fairl galling &hen$ not #u"h later$ she re"alled the &a he had left her flat &ithout a goodnight. ,Ta!e it fro# #e$ s&eetheart$) he had said$ ,if ou "an

turn on li!e that for other #en$ then ou sure as hell aren)t in love &ith an loud0 #outh b the na#e of (elb .) (he &as on her fourth "up of "offee of the da &hen she at last s1uarel a""epted the fa"t that$ although (loan #ight have desired her$ the onl reason he had begun to !iss her &as to prove that she did not love -er#ot (elb . %hitne !ne& then that she &as going to #a!e full "ertain that (loan never dis"overed &ho it &as she did love. (he put a bright fa"e on &hen she &ent into &or! on ;onda $ but she had to ad#it that$ &ith (loan so #u"h in her #ind$ it &as no &onder to her that she had forgotten all about Tob +eston until$ at five to one$ he appeared in her offi"e door&a . ,?ou)ve forgotten3) he a""used &hen she loo!ed up in so#e surprise to see hi# &aiting there. ,No$ I haven)t3) she denied fir#l $ but she &as for"ed to do a lightning pla ba"! of the last ti#e she had spo!en &ith hi# before she "ould add$ ,Er7*ust let #e finish this$) she indi"ated the &or! in her t pe&riter$ ,and I)ll be read to ta!e ou to lun"h.) Tob &as as s&eet as he had al&a s been over that lun"h$ %hitne refle"ted &hen she &ent ho#e that night. As eager as ever to please$ he had put a brave s#ile on &hen he as!ed her out and she told hi# she "ouldn)t see hi# at all that &ee!. ,Even (aturda 4) he had 1ueried$ *ust the sa#e. Parti"ularl (aturda $ %hitne thought on re#e#bering (loan)s "utting re#ar!s over the phone last (aturda &hen she had told hi# she alread had an engage#ent for that evening. ,I)# afraid so$) she told Tob . :ut &hen she &aited all ;onda evening for a phone "all fro# (loan$ and then all Tuesda and all %ednesda evening too$ and not on"e did her phone ring$ she began to realise that she #ight not hear fro# hi# again. I #ight *ust as &ell have told Tob I)d go out &ith hi#$ she thought unhappil on Thursda evening$ setting the !ettle to boil to #a!e a &ar# drin! before going to bed$ be"ause her phone had sta ed silent all that evening too. Her pride too! a battering &hen the a&ful thought stru"! her that the reason &h (loan &as not going to ring again &as be"ause of her eager response to his !isses3 >uite "learl he had no &ish for an e#otional liaison of an !ind &ith her and #ust$ e1uall "learl $ have thought up so#e alternative for his #other)s

benefit. Re"alling$ though$ ho& his #other)s return to full health had been his pri#e "on"ern$ through ever thing$ %hitne "ould not help &ondering at that last thought. : the ti#e her !ettle had boiled$ ho&ever$ her pride had re"overed and she !ne&$ un1uestionabl $ that should he ring7and she realised that there &as ever "han"e he &ould not7then she &ould tell hi# 1uietl but fir#l that$ though she &as trul sorr about his #other$ she did not &ant the role of his fian"5e an #ore. Having de"ided$ #ost assuredl $ on her "a#paign of a"tion7*ust in "ase he did ring7%hitne &as #ore than read to &el"o#e "o#pan &hen Eri"a !no"!ed on her door. ,One hat$) she said on being invited in$ ,and one pie"e of "hristening "a!e. %hi"h$) she added$ ,sin"e I)# starving$ I thought &e "ould share &ith &hatever sort of drin! ou)re #a!ing.) Having not eaten ver #u"h herself that da $ %hitne felt she "ould do *usti"e to the "a!e. And it &as over "a!e and "o"oa that Eri"a told her the details of the "hristening and ho& her hat had been #u"h ad#ired. That topi" done &ith$ she *ust had to rush on$ ,I)ve been bursting a gas!et to tr and get all # *obs "leared up so I "ould "o#e and see ou$ but this has been # first "han"e. Tell #e$) she begged$ ,*ust tell #e that I didn)t brea! an thing up bet&een ou and that dish 0loo!ing blo!e &hen I "a#e ha##ering on our door last (aturda night. I *ust "ouldn)t live &ith # self if9) ,As (loan told ou$) %hitne 1ui"!l "ut in$ ,he &as about to leave &hen ou9) ,(o that)s (loan Illing&orth3) Eri"a e'"lai#ed. ,I)d have as!ed that night about hi#$) she &ent on thoughtfull $ ,onl $ &ell$ ou see#ed to be in a 1uiet sort of #ood on"e the front door had "losed$ and I felt I &as a bit of an intrusion$ and 9) ,-ope3) %hitne s"offed. ,If I &as 1uiet on (aturda it &as be"ause9) (o#eho&$ &ithout #eaning to$ %hitne found that in order to tr and #a!e Eri"a feel better$ she &as telling her about -er#ot (elb and his latest "o#ing into the sa#e restaurant &here she and (loan &ere dining. ,Oh$ love$) "ried Eri"a in instant s #path . ,It &ill soon stop hurting$ I)# sure.) And although %hitne no& felt #ore angr over -er#ot (elb than hurt$ she had to a""ept Eri"a)s s #path . For she found that she *ust "ould not dis"uss &ith her the real "ause for her 1uiet #ood7her dis"over that she &as in love &ith (loan. :e"ause$ li!e the passion that had flared bet&een the#$ her love for (loan

&as essentiall private. %hitne &as sleepless in her bed that night. A hundred and one things &ent through her #ind$ though &ith (loan al&a s the "entral the#e$ and she suddenl found that she &as &ondering &h seeing -er#ot (elb in that restaurant had #ade her pani" the &a she had. It did not ta!e her long to find the ans&er. (he #ust have been teetering on the brin! of dis"overing that she &as in love &ith (loan even then. (eeing the #an &ho# she thought held her heart &hile she had been out &ith the #an &ho reall and trul did hold her heart #ust have brought about a "onfusion of senses &hi"h had #anifested itself in pani". -er#ot had &ilfull de"eived her and$ a&are as she no& &as that he &as #arried and had "hildren$ &as it an &onder that she should feel bes#ir"hed that she had ever gone out &ith hi#4 :ut for opportunit and her sub"ons"ious !no&ing that it &as not true love she felt for hi#$ she #ight &ell have gone to bed &ith hi#3 %as it an &onder that nausea had risen up in her and had brought about the over&hel#ing feeling of &anting to leave the restaurant4 %hitne eventuall fell asleep !no&ing that &hatever (loan &as$ or &as not$ he &ould never de"eive her. (he a&o!e at first light$ !no&ing that she &as never going to see hi# again$ so she had better stop thin!ing about hi#. That being easier said than done$ she spent #ost of that Frida tr ing to e*e"t hi# fro# her #ind. :ut$ although her telephone sta ed silent again that evening$ he &as in her head again &hen she &ent to bed that night. It &as *ust after ten the follo&ing #orning$ &hen %hitne &as in the #iddle of "leaning her !it"hen floor$ that the phone$ &hi"h had sta ed silent all &ee!$ sud 0 denl bleeped for attention. +no&ing that she &ould be on a fool)s errand if she rushed to ans&er it$ she rinsed her hands and dried the# before going into the sitting0roo#. As though h pnotised$ she stared at the "alling instru#ent$ then$ on sha! legs$ she &ent over and pi"!ed it up. (he opened her #outh to sa hello$ but all at on"e her throat &as so dr that no sound &ould "o#e. Aust as she &as thin!ing that her "aller #ight be having the sa#e trouble$ suddenl $ and to set her heart pounding$ she heard (loan dra&l$ ,And there &as I thin!ing ou)d gone out3) 6ripping the phone hard$ %hitne had to s&allo& before she "ould spea!. ,I &as in the #iddle of &ashing the !it"hen floor$) she told hi# fairl evenl $ and sent her e es heaven&ard that$ &hen he #ust be used to the #ost sophisti"ated "onversation$ she "ould$ &ithout tr ing$ trot out the dreariest titbits. ,A"tuall $ though$) she said$ desperatel sear"hing for so#e follo&0on "onversation pie"e$ ,I)#

going out shortl .) Oh$ grief$ she in&ardl groaned$ and !ne& that love$ the fa"t that the #an she &as in love &ith &as on the other end of the phone$ &as responsible for the fa"t that her brain see#ed to have sei<ed up and that$ to her ears$ she &as sounding #ore #oroni" b the se"ond. ,I see$) (loan said$ his dra&l gone as he en1uired levell $ ,Are ou going out for the &hole da $ or &ill ou be free this evening4) Her heart did an energeti" "art&heel. (he re#e#bered ho& last (aturda (loan had arrogantl assu#ed that she &ould be free to go out &ith hi#. :ut$ "ould she assu#e that he &as as!ing her out this (aturda 4 ,Oh$ I)# onl popping out for a fe& bits of shopping$) she told hi#$ and she felt her heart #a!e another energeti" upsurge &hen he said$ ,I)d li!e ou to spend the evening at Heathlands7"an ou #a!e it4) Heathlands3 He &anted her to go to Heathlands3 (traight a&a %hitne realised that ;rs Illing&orth #ust have "o#e out of hospital and #ust be at Heathlands re"uperating. There &as not a thought in her head then of ho&$ should (loan ring$ she &ould tell hi# 1uietl but fir#l that she did not &ant to pla the role of his fian"5e an #ore. In fa"t$ she &as no longer thin!ing of his #other either &hen she replied$ ,Er7ho& do I get there4) If her hearing &asn)t &ildl ina""urate$ she thought (loan sounded #u"h relieved &hen he replied$ ,I)ll "all for ou$ naturall . (hall &e sa si' o)"lo"!4) Her heart did another #err dan"e at his &ords. It too! %hitne so#e ti#e to settle do&n after (loan)s phone "all. (he finished her "hores and too! herself off shopping$ but her spirits &ere soaring. Onl then did she realise ho& bereft she had been all that &ee! &ith no "o##uni"ation fro# hi#. (he &as ba"! in her flat &hen she appre"iated 1uite &h (loan had not been in tou"h &ith her all that &ee!. And suddenl her relief that he had not been put off b her enthusiasti" response to his love#a!ing &as absolute. Not that an thing li!e that &as going to happen again. :ut plainl the reason &h he had not been in tou"h &as be"ause he #ust have been bus in #a!ing the arrange#ents to have his #other transferred fro# the hospital to his ho#e. ;rs Illing&orth #ust have been so#e&here "lose b too$ &hen he had been #a!ing that "all$ %hitne "o#prehended. That &ould a""ount for hi# not sa ing too #u"h on the phone. :ut$ b sa ing he &ould li!e her to spend the evening at Heathlands$ &hen she had never so #u"h as set foot in his ho#e again sin"e the night of that part $ he had "onve ed *ust the sa#e the #essage that she &as to

#eet his #other. Over*o ed at the thought of seeing (loan again$ and of spending a fe& hours in his "o#pan $ %hitne found even the fa"t that she &as going to pretend to be his fian"5e in front of his #other undaunting. (he loved hi#$ she &as in love &ith hi#$ and though she &ould guard &ith all she had against (loan seeing that love$ %hitne realised that if she did slip up in an &a $ then she had the perfe"t "over in that$ for his #other)s sa!e$ she &as #erel a"ting the part. It "rossed her #ind to "onsider ta!ing ;rs Illing&orth so#e flo&ers. It &as a natural enough thing for a future daughter0in0la& to do$ she thought. Against that$ though7&hat if ;rs Illing&orth did not li!e flo&ers$ or &orse$ thought her push 4 %hitne re*e"ted the idea of ta!ing flo&ers$ and she &as read b five0thirt and &as in the throes of an atta"! of the *itters. At a 1uarter to si' she thought she had her *itters under "ontrol$ but &hen$ five #inutes later$ her flat bell &ent$ she sprang fro# her "hair as though on a pie"e of elasti". A hast loo! out of the &indo& sho&ed that it &as (loan$ or at least that &as his "ar par!ed b the !erb$ &hi"h "onfir#ed that it &as he &ith his finger on the doorbell. %hitne too! one last "he"! of her tri# shape in full0s!irted pri#rose and &hite t&o0pie"e and$ snat"hing up her bro&n shoulder0bag$ she left her flat. (he felt a &ave of &ar# "olour rush to her fa"e as she opened the front door and sa& (loan standing there. (he desperatel needed to find so#ething bright and &itt to sa to hide the fa"t that she &as re#e#bering his ardent !isses and that *ust to be &ith hi# again &as *o to her$ but the best she "ould "o#e up &ith &as$ ,%hat)s the traffi" li!e4) ,About usual for a (aturda $) (loan replied$ e eing the pi"ture she #ade in her pri#rose and &hite &ith so#e ad#iration. ,Fit4) he as!ed$ and at her nod he too! hold of her elbo& and piloted her do&n the steps and into his "ar. Her &hole bod still felt alive fro# his tou"h &hen (loan turned on the ignition and headed his "ar in the dire"tion of Heathlands. Nervous of giving her feelings a&a &ith so#e "areless re#ar!$ &hen throughout the drive (loan see#ed disin"lined to tal!$ %hitne de"ided to sta silent herself. %ith his #other &aiting for the# at Heathlands$ (loan no doubt had a lot on his #ind. %hitne gave herself up to the pure pleasure of *ust being &ith hi#. (he "ould not den a fe& pani"! #o#ents &hen he pulled up at Heathlands$ ho&ever. Too late$ she realised that she should have spent all these &ee!s leading up to this #o#ent finding out &hat #ust be do<ens of things she should !no& about (loan and didn)t.

The house see#ed 1uiet &hen he unlo"!ed the front door and stood ba"! for her to pre"ede hi# inside. ,?ou re#e#ber &here the dra&ing0roo# is$) he said$ and she &as not sure if he said that be"ause his #other #ight be in earshot$ or to re#ind her that she had been in his ho#e on"e before$ and that no& she #ust be prepared to pa for the disastrous out"o#e of that one visit. ,?es$ of "ourse$) she replied$ and$ for on"e$ she did not rebel at his bla"!#ailing re#inder. He had his reasons for doing &hat he &as doing and she7she &as in love &ith hi#$ and did not &ant this ti#e &ith hi# to stop. Full anti"ipating that ;rs Illing&orth &ould be in the dra&ing0roo#$ %hitne felt full of tension as she &al!ed into it. :ut there &as no one there3 ,?our7#other4) she 1ueried$ half turning to loo! at (loan. He see#ed to hesitate$ she thought$ but %hitne soon realised that that &as be"ause he &asn)t 1uite sure &hat her 1uestion #eant. ,(he)s7&ell$) he said$ after so#e #o#ents of de"iding that she #ust be as!ing after his #other)s health. ,No&$) he &ent 1ui"!l on$ ,"an I get ou so#ething to drin!4) ,Er7nothing for the #o#ent$) %hitne de"lined$ and as (loan indi"ated that she should ta!e her ease in one of the "o#fortable0loo!ing$ &ell0padded "hairs$ she &ent and sat do&n. (he &as about to #a!e so#e "o##ent of pleasure that ;rs Illing&orth &as #aintaining her progress to full health after her *ourne to Heathlands$ but &hat she had been about to sa so#eho& got lost &hen (loan as!ed to be e'"used for a #inute or t&o. ,%e)ll have dinner in about half an hour$) he &ent on. ,:ut before &e "an do that I #ust first obe ;rs Orton)s instru"tions and go and turn the oven on.) True to his &ord$ he &as a&a for onl a brief &hile. In that brief &hile though$ %hitne had had ti#e to realise that the house!eeper #ust be doubling up as nursing aide as &ell. (he #ust$ %hitne thought$ at this ver #o#ent be either getting (loan)s #other read to have her dinner in bed$ or helping her to dress so that she "ould "o#e do&nstairs for a short ti#e. Onl &hen (loan returned to the dra&ing0roo# did %hitne dis"over ho& &rong she had been. ,Ever thing turned on4) she as!ed hi# lightl &hen he "a#e ba"! and o""upied one of the "hairs nearb . ,Ever thing$) he replied$ and as he loo!ed at her$ a tra"e of a s#ile "a#e to his e'pression as if he li!ed &hat he sa&. %hitne li!ed the loo! he &ore. (he li!ed his s#ile8 it did funn things to her insides. And all at on"e$ &ith her e es still on his #outh$ the #outh that had !issed

hers$ she be"a#e a&are that her heart &as thundering. (he &as "ertain he "ould not hear it$ but her love for hi# had thro&n her so #u"h that she found she had bro!en into hurried spee"h$ sa ing the first thing that "a#e into her head. ,I &as unsure &hether or not to bring flo&ers$) she told hi#. For a se"ond or t&o (loan loo!ed at her blan!l . Then suddenl that tra"e of a s#ile had turned into the grin &hi"h$ she realised no&$ had been the start of her falling in love &ith hi#. ,There)s no need$) he told her$ and there &as a teasing loo! in his e es. ,;rs Orton "oo!ed the dinner8 I #erel turned the oven on.) (loan)s grin had flushed out her o&n. That he should tease her so #erril &as a pure delight to her. ,Not for ou$) she s"orned &ith a light laugh. ,I thought about bringing flo&ers for our #other$ onl 9) (o#ething in (loan)s loo! as his grin fell a&a told her that she had got it &rong so#e&here. ,?ou thought that # serious. #other &as here4) he as!ed$ his fa"e suddenl deadl

%hitne nodded$ and then$ as it "a#e to her that ;rs Illing&orth &asn)t there$ she &ondered if so#ething dreadful had happened to her. (he then re#e#bered that (loan had said his #other &as &ell$ and in an "ase he "ertainl &ouldn)t have been grinning his head off at her as he had a #o#ent ago if his parent had ta!en a turn for the &orse. ,Oh$) she said softl $ and she revealed her thoughts to hi# &hen she told hi#$ ,I thought$ &ith ou inviting #e here as ou did$ that our #other &as out of hospital. I thought$) she &ent on 1ui"!l $ hoping that (loan didn)t thin! her too #u"h of a fool$ ,&hen ou said ou had to turn the oven on$ that ;rs Orton &as upstairs helping our #other.) ,The onl person ;rs Orton is helping at the #o#ent is her daughter$) (loan told her. ,At present # house!eeper is having a lovel ti#e bab sitting for her daughter &ho lives in the ne't village.) ,Oh$) %hitne said again$ and realised that she had *u#ped to far too #an "on"lusions. (he too! it #ore slo&l this ti#e &hen$ #ore feeling her &a than as0 su#ing$ she 1uestioned$ ,(o before she &ent$ ;rs Orton "oo!ed dinner and9) ,And left ever thing read for us. All I had to do$ I &as infor#ed$ &as to set the oven at the right te#perature half an hour or so before &e &anted to eat.) %hitne opened her #outh and ver nearl said ,Oh) again. >ui"!l $ she "losed it. For &hile she &as sure that ;rs Orton had never told (loan an thing so vague as to turn the oven on for half an hour ,or so)$ the &ords ,left ever thing read for us)

had sounded beautiful in her ears. ,Perhaps I)d better7er7go and have a loo! in the !it"hen4) she suggested. %hen (loan)s grin "a#e out again$ %hitne !ne& that she &as absolutel besotted &ith hi#. And &hen$ &ith "har# that #elted her ba"!bone$ he replied$ ,I &as hoping ou)d sa that$) there &as nothing she &ould not do for hi#. The !it"hen$ as she re#e#bered$ &as the largest !it"hen she had ever been in$ but %hitne $ &ith her thoughts in a &hirl$ &as hard put to it to !eep her attention on the "asserole &hi"h &as &ar#ing up ni"el in its "ast0iron pot. Had (loan invited her to Heathlands be"ause ;rs Illing&orth had been "o#ing out of hospital$ onl her departure fro# hospital had been "an"elled at the last #inute4 %hitne dis"arded that theor &hen she re"alled that it &as onl that #orning that (loan had telephoned her and had as!ed her to spend the evening at Heathlands. He)d have !no&n b then about an "hange in his #other)s plans. It #ust all be "onne"ted &ith his parent so#eho&$ though$ she de"ided. ;ost li!el $ &ith her dis"harge fro# the hospital due an da no&$ (loan &anted to be able to let drop a re#ar! in his #other)s hearing to the effe"t that the had re"entl dined together at his ho#e. ,It)s "o#ing along beautifull $) she told (loan as she turned a&a fro# the e e0 level built0in oven$ and at the friendl loo! he gave her$ she did not "are &hat reason he had for inviting her to Heathlands. (he &as there$ &ith the #an &ho held her heart$ and$ as she re"alled ho& (loan had on"e re#ar!ed to her at an art galler ,And I rather thin! I li!e ou)$ she thought that he had gro&n to li!e her$ and she &as happ . Having de"ided to en*o her evening &ith hi#$ %hitne had no roo# in her head for as!ing herself 1uestions &hi"h$ on her for# so far$ &ould onl bring her &rong "on"lusions an &a . %hether the sha!ing off of the responsibilit of as!ing the &h s and the &herefores of ever thing had an bearing on ho& #u"h #ore agreeable she found that dinner &ith (loan$ %hitne "ould not have said. ;a be it &as *ust that$ having a""epted the fa"t that she &as in love &ith hi#$ there &as a ne& a&areness in her &here he &as "on"erned. :ut$ &hatever &as responsible$ as the ate their &a through their "old starter$ and then ploughed into the "asserole$ %hitne !ne& that she had never been happier in her &hole life. The #eal had been pun"tuated b an eas flo& of "onversation$ &ith (loan listening as if he &as reall interested in an thing she had to sa . %hen he &as not listening he &as entertaining her &ith an ane"dote or t&o &hi"h had #ade her

laugh. The &ere tu"!ing into &ar#ed0through apple pie and "rea# &hen %hitne glan"ed up and sa& that he had paused in his eating and &as &at"hing her fro# a"ross the table. (he s#iled at hi# si#pl be"ause she felt li!e s#iling. (he sa& his e es go do&n to her #outh and then$ as his e es returned to hers$ she sa& a slo&$ gentle s#ile begin on his #outh. Her heart did another of its gidd so#ersaults$ and she loo!ed at her pudding plate8 "on"entrating on her pie$ she sa& fro# beneath her lashes that (loan too had re"o##en"ed eating. ,;ore4) he as!ed &hen he observed her pla"ing her spoon on her e#pt plate. ,Not another "ru#b3) she refused lightl . ,Coffee in the dra&ing0roo#$ then$) he de"reed$ and &hen she said that she &ould #a!e the "offee$ (loan &ouldn)t hear of it. ,A&a to the dra&ing0roo#$ &o#an$) he told her sternl $ the up&ard lift at the "orners of his #outh den ing his severit . ,?ou &eren)t supposed to do a thing this evening$ et ou)ve supervised ever thing that)s "o#e out of that oven.) ,?ou e'aggerate$) %hitne told hi# "heerfull $ and$ be"ause it see#ed that he &ouldn)t have it an other &a $ she &ent off happil to the dra&ing0roo#. (he &as *oined b a tra 0"arr ing (loan so#e ten #inutes later. ,Never spilt a drop$) he boasted$ and %hitne loved hi# still #ore. The evening had gone fro# #ere en*o #ent to being en"hant#ent0filled as far as she &as "on"erned &hen$ after handing her a "up of "offee$ (loan &ent and put on so#e ba"!ground #usi". In "o#panionable silen"e the sat near to ea"h other and dran! "offee &hile #usi" &afted softl through the roo#. Earlier$ one of (loan)s ane"dotes had #ade her feel near to tears fro# laughter. :ut no&$ &ith (loan unspea!ing and see#ing to her as though he too &as finding en"hant#ent in the evening$ %hitne felt that tears &ere near be"ause ever thing &as so$ so beautiful. (he never &anted it to end. :ut it had to end. (he had long sin"e finished her "offee &hen$ &ith a start of a#a<e#ent$ she "aught sight of her &at"h and she sa& that it &as half0past ten. (taggered at the &a the ti#e had ra"ed$ she dragged her e es fro# her &at"h to feel "on"erned that before (loan "ould get to his bed that night$ he had to drive her to London and #a!e the return trip to his ho#e. ,%ashing0up$) she said$ apropos of nothing. ,%ashing0up4) he e'"lai#ed$ not &ith her at all$ &hi"h didn)t surprise her$ sin"e

she guessed that he probabl $ "ouldn)t re#e#ber the last ti#e he had had his hands in &ashing0up &ater. ,I)ve got to thin! about getting ho#e$) she told hi#$ and e'plained$ ,I *ust "an)t leave so#eone else)s !it"hen the disaster area &e)ve #ade of ;rs Orton)s.) (loan hesitated$ and see#ed as though he &as *ust about to forbid her to &ash so #u"h as a teaspoon. Then all at on"e he relented. ,%e)ll do it together$) he said$ but 1ualified gravel $ onl the s#ile in his e es as he loo!ed at %hitne giving a&a that he &asn)t serious$ ,Though I)# sure ;rs Orton &ould en*o "learing it up &hen she "o#es ba"! to#orro&.) ,I)# sure she &ould$) %hitne laughed$ and &hile she "arried the "offee tra &ith the used "ups and sau"ers into the !it"hen$ (loan &ent to the dining0roo# to retrieve an re#aining dirt dishes fro# there. As she had on"e before$ %hitne de"ided not to use the dish&asher lest she turned the &rong dials. (loan had about as #u"h idea as her ho& to set it in #otion$ but %hitne soon had a sin! full of hot suds. Never had she ever thought that there &as an thing even re#otel #agi"al about &ashing dishes$ but as one pie"e of "hina after another &as rinsed off$ #agi"al &as &hat she felt it to be. All be"ause of (loan being there to dr ea"h pie"e$ she !ne& that as she half turned to hand hi# the last of the "hina before she lifted the "ast0iron "asserole dish off the side to set to &or! on it. He had turned fro# her to pla"e the plate in his hands on the table of "lean dishes at the ba"! of her &hen %hitne stret"hed out a soap hand to the "asserole dish. (he &as in a drea# &orld &here (loan &as in truth her fian"5e$ and her attention &as an &here but on &hat she &as doing &hen his voi"e$ sounding strangel strained and for all the &orld as if he &as nervous$ suddenl startled her. ,%hitne $) he began$ ,I)ve got to t9) %hat he &as going to sa $ though$ &as une'pe"tedl "ut short b her "r of alar# as the "ast0iron dish she had *ust pi"!ed up started to slip fro# her suds fingers. Even &hile she &as re*e"ting the i#pression she)d had that (loan had sounded in an &a nervous$ for goodness) sa!e$ %hitne &as #a!ing valiant efforts to "at"h a fir# hold of the falling "asserole. :ut$ all in the split se"ond of (loan startling her and brea!ing off fro# &hat he &as sa ing at her "r of alar#$ the dish had es"aped her fingers and$ hitting the &ater heavil $ "aused %hitne to be in re"eipt of the splash0ba"!. ,@gh3) she "ried$ as &ar#$ suds &ater penetrated the front of her top right through to her s!in. :e"ause of her inner happiness$ though$ a light laugh left her

as she turned$ loo!ing for a to&el. ,?ou)re soa!ed3) (loan e'"lai#ed$ "o#ing for&ard &ith a to&el and unthin!ingl stret"hing out a hand to &here her pri#rose and &hite top &as plastered &etl to her breasts. Changing his #ind$ he handed the to&el to her and #ade the instant de"ision$ ,That)s going to ta!e for ever to dr . Co#e &ith #e$ I)ll get ou a dr shirt.) ,There)s no need$) she tried to protest$ #opping at herself &hile "on"eding that he &as right and that the top half of her t&o0pie"e &as going to ta!e an age to dr $ but #ore "on"erned &ith &hat a "lo&n she &as going to loo! in his over0large shirt &hen she onl ever &anted to loo! her best for hi#. :ut$ as though (loan &as a&are of ever one of her thoughts$ he gro&led$ ,?ou)d loo! good in an thing$ and ou !no& it$ so stop being stubborn.) ,%ell$ if ou put it li!e that9) %hitne #ur#ured$ but he &as alread leading her b the hand fro# the !it"hen. The &ere both s#iling &hen the &ent upstairs$ he perhaps fro# a#use#ent at her hu#orous &a of giving in$ and %hitne si#pl be"ause she loved the &hole feeling of togetherness &ith hi#. At the door of the roo# &hi"h she !ne& to be his bedroo#$ (loan let go of her hand and opened the door and &ent in. Her e es follo&ed hi# &hen he &ent over to his "hest of dra&ers$ but she "ould not stop her ga<e fro# going over to the huge double bed &hile he opened one of the dra&ers and e'tra"ted a shirt for her. Her thoughts stra ed ba"! to "onsider that if she had never &andered into this roo# that night of the part $ she &ould never have #et (loan. ,-on)t stand there$) he said &ar#l as he turned to see that she &as still standing in the door&a . ,?ou "an "hange in here. I)ll9) He bro!e off as %hitne $ read to obe his s#allest "o##and$ "a#e for&ard$ her e'pression drea#il gentle. ,This is &here it all began$) she said softl $ but instantl she &anted the &ords ba"!$ be"ause she *ust did not &ant to re#ind hi# of his bro!en engage#ent or of 6leda Caufield$ the &o#an he had loved$ and #ust still love. :ut$ to her ut#ost *o $ she dis"overed that she had no need to &ithdra& the &ords be"ause$ 1uite unbelievabl $ as she halted in the #iddle of the "arpet$ (loan "a#e and stopped in front of her$ and she distin"tl heard hi# repl $ ,And I$ for one$ "an)t sa that I)# sorr .) (e"onds ti"!ed b as$ loo!ing up into gre e es that see#ed to hold a &ar#

light for her$ %hitne realised that &hat he &as sa ing &as that he &asn)t sorr that he &as no longer engaged to 6leda. ,Oh$ (loan$) she gasped as it da&ned on her that his &ords #ust also #ean that he &as no longer in love &ith his e'0fian"5e$ either3 ,; 7dear$) he breathed$ and as if it &as pre0ordained$ #eant to happen$ and as if nothing "ould ever prevent it fro# happening$ he dropped the shirt he had been about to hand her on to the foot of the bed$ and the ne't #o#ent he had gathered her tenderl into his ar#s. Al#ost reverentl then$ (loan !issed her. And$ his hold gentle$ he pulled her "loser to hi#. And it &as all so beautiful for %hitne that tears &elled to the surfa"e. (loan$ (loan$ # dear$ dear (loan$ she &anted to &hisper for hi# to hear as her hands rea"hed up to tou"h his fa"e. He bro!e his !iss$ and turned his head to !iss her pal#$ and there &as su"h a tenderness about hi# that again she &anted to "r out his na#e. :ut she did not "r out his na#e. %hat she did sa $ though$ &hen he turned to loo! do&n into her upturned fa"e$ &as a "ho!ed0sounding$ ,?our shirt0front &ill be as &et as # top if9) ,Have ou heard #e "o#plaining4) he teased softl . %hitne shoo! her head$ and soon she had forgotten about her soa!ed top$ and the fa"t that (loan)s shirt &as getting da#p too. :e"ause he &as !issing her again$ and one !iss did not see# to be enough. Her ar#s &ere &ound tightl about hi# &hen she felt his hands "o#e beneath her top. His tou"h &as &ar#$ and &as see!ing$ sear"hing as his hands "aressed to her #idriff$ and then "aressed to the ba"! of her. (he felt his hands at the fastening of her bra$ and even though she had #ade no de#ur so far and had given hi# ever en"ourage#ent$ or so she thought$ she "ould onl love hi# #ore &hen$ before he undid the fastenings of her bra$ he softl en1uired$ ,All right &ith ou$ %hitne 4) Too full to spea!$ she nodded$ and she !ne& her repl had been re"eived &hen$ her fastenings undone$ she felt his hands at the na!ed s!in at her ba"!. %hen that sa#e &ar#$ gentle tou"h "aressed round to her front and he held ea"h s&ollen globe of her breasts in his hands$ %hitne !ne& that she had "onsented to an thing he as!ed of her. ,Oh$ (loan3) she "ried in delight and anguish of &anting &hen his fingers tor#ented the hardened pea!s he had "reated.

,I &ant ou$ s&eet %hitne $) (loan breathed. ,Is it the sa#e &ith ou4) ,?ou !no& it is$) she said hus!il $ and gave hi# her lips$ feeling onl the first pangs of sh ness &hen he &ent to re#ove her top. ,C0"an &e have the light out4) she as!ed$ and it see#ed that$ even if (loan &as not a&are of the reason for her re1uest$ he &as read to grant her an thing. :e"ause$ leaving her for onl a #o#ent$ he plunged the roo# into dar!ness. %hen he "a#e ba"! to her$ he &as &ithout his shirt$ and %hitne gloried in the freedo# he allo&ed her as her hands roved over his broad shoulders and she "a0 ressed her &a round to the front of his "hest. Then$ &ith the #ini#u# a#ount of fuss$ ,Put our ar#s up$ s&eet love$) (loan instru"ted her$ and in a fe& se"onds her top had been disposed of$ her bra along &ith it$ and (loan)s hair0roughened "hest &as against her sil!en s!in. Again she &anted to "r his na#e$ and #ight &ell have done$ but suddenl his lips &ere "lai#ing hers$ and his !iss &as deepening$ and %hitne !ne& then$ as her need for hi# soared to #at"h his desire for her$ that there &ould be no turning ba"!. In the dar!ness the stood together$ and in that dar!ness (loan undid her s!irt. %hitne stepped out of it &hen it slid to the ground$ and she "lut"hed on to (loan as he re#oved the rest of her "lothes. Al#ost "arried b hi# as$ "aressing her$ !issing her$ he #oved to the bed and divested hi#self of his "lothing$ %hitne !ne& onl that she &as in love &ith (loan and that this &as right for her. ,(&eet %hitne $) he breathed$ and$ as his #outh "a#e over hers$ he #oved &ith her on to the bed and pulled do&n the "overs. In an en"hanted &orld$ she !ne& nothing but the delight of the tou"h of the #an she loved as he trailed !isses do&n her throat to finall "apture her breasts. ,(loan3) she "ried as his fingers did #agi"al things to her spine. And$ ,(loan3) she "ried again &hen her need &as #ore than she "ould bear. (he &as read to beg hi# to ta!e her &hen he at last #oved his bod to her. :ut her "r of pleasure &as suddenl di#inished at the first shaft of pain. This ti#e she did not have to "all his na#e or sa an thing. For (loan i##ediatel !ne& &hat her "r of pain had been about. %hat her sh &ish to have the light out &as all about. (he !ne& it the instant his bod stilled. ,Oh$ # 693) he e'"lai#ed in an a&ed !ind of voi"e. ,Oh$ # dear7 ou)re a virgin3) :ut %hitne $ her desire for hi# greater than her pain$ &as suddenl in dreadful

fear that (loan #ight not &ant her. ,Please$) she i#plored hi#. ,?ou "an)t leave #e li!e this. I &ant ou$ I need ou.) Read to beg$ she "lung to hi#. ,Oh$ # love$) (loan "ried$ and as %hitne gripped hi# and held hi# "lose to her na!ed bod in pani" that he #ight go fro# her$ ,Oh$ # ver dear %hitne $) he breathed hoarsel $ and gentl $ his tou"h so "onsiderate that it &as al#ost ethereal$ he tenderl #ade her his.

CHAPTER EI6HT

-A%N had tiptoed through the night s! &hen %hitne stirred in her sleep. On an other (unda $ she #ight have turned over and slu#bered on$ but for so#e reason she felt "o#pelled$ this (unda #orning$ to open her e es. Pin! "olour &ashed her "rea# "hee!s as her &a!ing green e es fastened on the bare #as"uline "hest &hi"h &as onl in"hes a&a fro# her ga<e. A &ar#$ drea# s#ile pi"!ed up the "orners of her #outh$ and her e es travelled up&ards until she #et$ full on$ the gre e es of the #an &ho &as propped up on one elbo& and &ho had been observing her &hile she slept. (he did not feel sho"!ed to see hi# there8 onl $ as #e#or ra"ed in of ho& the had lain na!ed &ith ea"h other and &ere still na!ed$ a little sh . :ut her sh ness appeared to delight (loan$ for as she loo!ed at hi#$ a tender s#ile appeared on his #outh and in his e es. ,Hello$ # love$) he &hispered$ and it &as then that %hitne $ &ith an overflo&ing heart$ !ne& that (loan loved her. ,Hello$) she &hispered ba"! hus!il $ and she began to tingle ane& &hen$ beneath the "overs$ his ar# "a#e around her &aist and he pulled her na!ed bod to&ards hi# and !issed her. %ith his #outh gentl teasing her lips apart &ith tender !isses$ %hitne &as soon #ore glor ing in their na!edness &ith ea"h other than over&hel#ingl "on0 s"ious of it. ,Oh$ (loan$) she "ried sha!il $ and she !ne& #ore rapture as his hands "aressed her bod and he brought her to the pea! of desire. ,A# I allo&ed to loo! at ou no&4) he as!ed tenderl $ re#inding her of the &a she had &anted the light out last night. @nable to tell hi# es or no$ %hitne )s ans&er &as in the &a she gave hi# her lips in utter suppli"ation. 6entl $ unhurriedl $ (loan un"overed her$ and gentl he !issed her bell $ her breasts$ and her #outh. ,?ou)re #ore than beautiful$) he told her$ and as he !issed her again$ and as their

bodies tou"hed$ he loo!ed tenderl into her e es and pro#ised$ ,(&eet love$ it &ill be better for ou this ti#e.) It &as still earl &hen %hitne a&o!e for the se"ond ti#e that #orning$ but &hen she opened her e es there &as no (loan propped up on one elbo& loo!ing do&n at her. Nor &as his head on the pillo& beside her. Then she heard a sound so#e&here in the house$ and she realised that perhaps the sound of (loan #oving around do&nstairs &as &hat had a&a!ened her a fe& #o#ents ago. For so#e #inutes she la there *ust glor ing in the &a she and (loan had been &ith ea"h other. Never had she i#agined that she &ould !no& su"h total freedo# &ith hi#. To tou"h hi#$ his bod $ as he tou"hed her. %hitne supposed that she should be feeling a little sho"!ed that$ &hen she)d had no plans to spend the night a&a fro# her flat$ she should not onl do that$ but should spend the night in bed &ith (loan. :ut$ loving hi# &ith all her being$ she did not feel sho"!ed. ;ore$ she felt &ar#ed through and through and subli#el elated$ for the si#ple reason that as she loved (loan$ so (loan loved her. Of "ourse$ he hadn)t said that he loved her. Not in so #an &ords he hadn)t. :ut$ as %hitne left the bed to go to the ad*oining bathroo# to turn on the sho&er$ she !ne& that love her he did. (he had onl to re#e#ber the &a the had #ade love at da&n to !no& that. For the &a he had #ade love to her that se"ond ti#e &as$ in "ontrast to the first$ as thrilling as it &as staggering. Onl then had she realised ho&$ for her untutored sa!e$ he had !ept a rein on his passion the first ti#e. His thought then had been #ore for her than for his o&n needs$ she &as sure of it. %hi"h had to #ean that he loved her$ didn)t it4 Realising that doubts &ere starting to edge in about so#ething over &hi"h she had been prett near "ertain onl a short &hile ago$ %hitne sho&ered hurriedl . (he needed to see (loan again. (he needed to have that reassuran"e that it &as as she believed$ that he did love her. Feeling that she &ould onl have to see his fa"e to have the truth of her thoughts endorsed$ %hitne 1ui"!l dried$ and she &as soon dressed$ save for the pri#rose and &hite top &hi"h had "o#e to grief &hile she had been &ashing up last night. (he had the top in her grip &hen$ on the floor b the foot of the bed$ she espied the shirt &hi"h (loan had been about to hand her &hen he had instead gathered her into his ar#s. (he &asn)t even thin!ing &hen she dropped the gar#ent in her hands do&n on to the bed$ and got into (loan)s over0large shirt instead. Rolling up the sleeves as she

&ent$ she left the bedroo# in so#e haste$ &anting to see hi#$ and &ent s&iftl do&n the stairs. As she rea"hed the hall$ a sound in the dra&ing0roo# attra"ted her attention and$ as a stra tra"e of sh ness suddenl #ade itself felt$ she slo&ed her pa"e. :ut$ as she approa"hed the dra&ing0roo#$ she sa& that the door &as open$ and her need to see (loan suddenl be"a#e greater than her sh ness. (he had stepped inside the roo# &hen she stopped stone0dead. For the person there &as not (loan but$ bus &ith a duster$ his house!eeper. And %hitne $ &ho had never in her life before left an #an)s bed to be "onfronted b a house!eeper$ did not !no& ho& to handle it. Espe"iall &hen the loo! on the house!eeper)s fa"e #ade it plain that$ though it &ouldn)t ta!e her long to guess that she had shared her #aster)s bed$ she had not until *ust then so #u"h as !no&n that she &as in the house. ,6ood #orning$ ;rs Orton$) she tried to "heerfull bra<en it out. ,6ood #orning$) ;rs Orton #u#bled in repl $ but she had nothing else to add$ and %hitne felt #ore un"o#fortable than ever. (uddenl she &as overpo&ered b the !no&ledge that she had on (loan)s shirt$ and an abilit she had to bra<en the situation out pro#ptl deserted her. %ishing that (loan$ &ith his eas sophisti"ation$ &ould "o#e and e'tra"t her fro# this un"o#fortable #o#ent$ %hitne $ gro&ing a shade #ore un"ertain that (loan did in fa"t love her$ found that she &as loo!ing for e'"uses for &h she had sta ed overnight. ,I7er7e'pe"ted ;rs Illing&orth to be here$) she volunteered. And &hen the house!eeper loo!ed at her blan!l $ and gave ever i#pression of see#ing not to have the first idea of &h she should have e'pe"ted her e#plo er)s #other to be at Heathlands$ %hitne suddenl "aught on. ,Oh$ it)s all right$ ;rs Orton$) she s#iled. ,I !no& all about ;rs Illing&orth being7a little7"onfused.) ,Confused4) ;rs Orton repeated$ and &hile %hitne &as thin!ing &hat a lo al person she &as$ the house!eeper &ent on to give %hitne her first in!ling that so#ething &as &rong. ,If ou)re referring to ;r Illing&orth)s #other$ she)s ;rs East&ood no&$) she stated$ and &hile %hitne &as ta!ing in the ne&s that (loan)s #other had re#arried at so#e ti#e$ she &as adding$ ,:ut I don)t !no& &here ou got the idea fro# that she)s "onfused$ I)# sure I don)t. I spo!e to her # self &hen she telephoned ;r Illing&orth esterda $ and although &e didn)t tal! for ver long before I &ent to find hi# for her$ she &as as bright and alert as she ever &as.) ,Oh7I see$) %hitne said slo&l $ tr ing to get over her surprise at &hat the house!eeper had *ust said b being glad that$ b the sound of it$ (loan)s #other

&as #a!ing rapid strides ba"! to full health. ,%ell$ I)# glad that ;rs Illing9 ;rs East&ood$) she "orre"ted herself$ ,is so #u"h better after her a""ident. I9) ,;rs East&ood hasn)t been in an a""ident3) ;rs Orton infor#ed her$ and see#ed astonished that %hitne should thin! she had. (ha!en rigid$ %hitne refused to listen to &hat her intelligen"e &as tr ing to tell her. ,:ut &hen she phoned esterda $ she #ust have rung ou fro# the hospital$) she insisted brightl . ,Hospital4) ;rs Orton e'"lai#ed$ astounded. :ut %hitne &as the #ore astounded of the t&o$ though utterl stunned &as a #ore a""urate des"ription of ho& she felt &hen the house!eeper told her$ ,;r Illing&orth)s #other didn)t ring fro# an hospital$ she rang fro# her ho#e in A#eri"a.) ,A#eri"a3) %hitne e"hoed stupidl $ one part of her brain *ust refusing to fun"tion and a""ept &hat the house!eeper &as telling her. ,;rs East&ood)s husband is an A#eri"an$ so the Orton said$ as if that e'plained ever thing. de"ided to live there$) ;rs

As so#e re"eptive part of %hitne )s brain began to a"!no&ledge that (loan #ust have lied$ lied$ and lied to her$ her heart started to fra"ture. : so#e great good fortune$ though$ her plentiful suppl of pride began to stir. And as she started to hurt &ith a pain su"h as she had never !no&n$ %hitne &as a&are that onl she &as going to !no& it. Even as ;rs Orton stood there$ having ans&ered her 1uestions onl be"ause$ "learl $ she &anted to get on and tid up the dra&ing0roo# but &as too polite to dust &hile her e#plo er)s guest &as addressing her$ %hitne &as biting do&n the pain. (potting her bro&n shoulder0bag do&n b the "ou"h$ she #as!ed her hurt b going over and bending do&n to pi"! it up. ,I #ust have got it &rong about ;rs East&ood)s a""ident$) she said over her shoulder. ,;ust have$) ;rs Orton agreed$ and &ent on as %hitne dela ed in straightening up$ ,I)ve onl be"o#e a"1uainted &ith her in the ear I)ve &or!ed for ;r Illing&orth$ but I)ve never heard of ;rs East&ood having a da )s illness7and$) she added as %hitne straightened$ ,she &ouldn)t have phoned to sa that she and her husband had #ade up their #inds on the spur of the #o#ent to ta!e a "ruise$ and &ould be a&a t&o #onths$ if there &as an thing the #atter &ith either of the#.) ,(he "ertainl &ouldn)t$) %hitne agreed$ but she &as a&are that$ though out&ardl "al# and "o#posed$ she &as brea!ing up inside. Pride alone &as responsible for the s#ile she sho&ed the house!eeper as she told her$ ,I #ust be on # &a .) :ut$ along &ith pride$ rage &as starting to nip$ and latent #urderous

traits &ere beginning to #a!e the#selves felt. ,-o ou !no& &here (loan is4) she as!ed pleasantl . ,The doors of the parti"ular garage he uses &ere open and his "ar &as gone &hen # son0in0la& dropped #e off on his &a fishing$) ;rs Orton replied. ,Oh$ he)s probabl out so#e&here$ then$) %hitne said$ onl b pure grit #anaging to !eep her s#ile in pla"e as it hit her that$ b his ver "avalier attitude$ (loan &as #a!ing it see# as though she &as nothing #ore than7than a7one0night stand3 Appalled that that &as about all she &as to hi#$ %hitne )s rage &as #o#en0 taril buried and she !ne& onl that she had to get out of there$ and fast. ,It &as ni"e #eeting ou again$) she #ur#ured$ though as she &ent fro# the roo# %hitne doubted that the house!eeper &ould re#e#ber her fro# their previous #eeting. (he hoped$ &ith all she had$ that she &ould forget this #eeting too. %hitne &as in the hall and &as about to leave Heathlands &hen$ at the solid front door$ her s&a#ped feelings began to revive. (he &as alread starting to feel angr again$ &hen$ in the a"t of hit"hing her shoulder0bag further over her shoulder and si#ultaneousl stret"hing out a hand to the door$ she be"a#e a&are that she &as still &earing (loan)s shirt. And suddenl $ she &as infuriated. As she re"alled ho& she had lovingl &rapped the shirt around her &hen she had put it on$ %hitne )s rage &ent into overdrive and &as al#ost past enduring. %ithout an #e#or of ho& she had "li#bed the stairs and "a#e to be on the first0floor landing$ %hitne &ent stor#ing into (loan)s bedroo#$ her sha!ing fingers alread tearing at the buttons of the shirt. It &as i#possible for her to !eep her e es averted fro# the over0large bed$ and she hurled (loan)s shirt fro# her. (par!s &ere shooting fro# her e es as she "lai#ed her pri#rose and &hite top and$ &ithout regard to its da#p and "reased "ondition$ put it on. Out of the love she bore hi#$ she had given herself to that7that rat. :ut to hi# she &as *ust a one0night stand3 Her outraged ga<e &ent to the pillo&s &here their t&o heads had lain$ and suddenl it &as past enduring. In a flash %hitne had her bag open and her lipsti"! in her hand. %ithout needing to thin! &hat she &ould &rite$ in the ne't instant she &as over at the head of the bed. A #inute later$ she stood ba"! to ad#ire her handi&or!. 6ood$ she thought$ and hoped the ,I)ll never forgive ou$ ever) &hi"h she had splashed in lipsti"! over his pillo& &ould never &ash out.

%hitne had onl a faint re"olle"tion of ho& she got ba"! ho#e to her flat that da . (he had so#e vague re"all of having run the first half0#ile$ and then of having hit"hed a lift &ith a lorr driver. :ut &hat the lorr driver had loo!ed li!e$ or &hat$ if an thing$ the had spo!en of$ she had no idea. All she "ould thin! of$ and the thing &hi"h do#inated her thoughts that da $ &as ho& ever thing &as a lie. (he had thought that &hat she had shared &ith (loan had been shared in #utual love$ but it had not been. (he had thought there had been no need to spea! of love be"ause the &a the had given of the#selves to ea"h other had been a de"laration of love$ but she had been &rong. It had all been a lie. All of it. %hitne &ent to &or! on ;onda still tr ing to "o#e to ter#s &ith &hat a "redulous fool she had been. No &onder (loan had never as!ed her to go &ith hi# to visit his #other in hospital7his #other hadn)t *oll &ell been in an hospital3 (he hadn)t even been in England$ but &as &here he had !no&n perfe"tl &ell she &as all alongB at her ho#e in A#eri"a3 ,?es4) she snapped &hen Tob +eston had the #isfortune to stop b her offi"e that #orning. ,Oh$ I)# sorr $) he apologised$ and despite having done nothing to apologise for$ he loo!ed so do&n"ast that %hitne laid the sin of her snapp te#per at (loan Illing&orth)s door as &ell. ,Is it so#ething I)ve said4) Tob as!ed. ,No$) %hitne relented to assure hi# 1ui"!l . ,And it)s I &ho should apologise$ not ou. No&$) she spared hi# a fe& #inutes fro# her da $ ,&hat "an I do for ou4) ,I &as &ondering$ a"tuall $ if ou)d li!e to go out so#e&here tonight4 %e "ould9) ,I)# sorr $ Tob $) %hitne stopped hi# right there. ,I)#7*ust not ver "o#pan at the #o#ent. -o ou #ind if &e leave it for another ti#e4) good

,?ou)re not ill$ are ou4) he fussed$ &hen %hitne *ust &anted to be b herself. ,No$ I)# not ill$) she told hi#$ bringing all her reserves of patien"e to bear in vie& of her earlier i#patien"e &ith hi#. ,It)s *ust that7I have a fe& things I need to &or! through at present.) %ith that$ Tob had to be satisfied. :ut &hen %hitne &ent ho#e that night$ her thoughts &ent on the sa#e old tread#ill$ and she &ent to bed &ith her bitterness against (loan not one iota #ini#ised. Ho& "ould he have a"ted the &a he had4 ;e#ories of (loan haunted her on and off through the night. (he had thought -er#ot a rat for ta!ing her out &hile he had a &ife at ho#e$ but she thought that the lies &hi"h (loan had told her #ade hi# the bigger rat of the t&o.

(he hated de"eit$ and had onl s1uared her "ons"ien"e about the de"eit she &ould have pra"tised on (loan)s #other b !no&ing that it &as all in the good "ause of his parent)s return to full health. :ut &hen %hitne thought of ho& -er#ot had de"eived her$ and of ho& (loan had de"eived her$ &hat she hated #ost of all &as #en3 And he)d a"tuall had the nerve to sa to her one ti#e$ ,If there)s nothing else bet&een us$ at least let there be honest .)3 %hitne )s head &as still tee#ing &ith thoughts of (loan &hen she left her flat to go to her offi"e on Tuesda #orning. (he #ade her &a ho#e having fa"ed the fa"t that she had been deliberatel set up. The ans&er &hi"h had eluded her for the last t&o and a half da s "a#e as she put her !e in the front door. As %hitne turned her !e in the lo"!$ she realised &h (loan had a"ted the &a that he had. At first she "ouldn)t believe that he had done &hat he had out of his need for revenge be"ause$ but for her$ he &ould still be engaged to 6leda Caufield. :ut$ far0fet"hed though it see#ed$ nothing else &ould fit but that$ his love lost to hi#$ he)d set about #a!ing %hitne fall in love &ith hi# so that she too &ould !no& ho& it felt &hen the loving stopped. Oh$ he)d done it ver subtl . :e"ause it &asn)t until as re"entl as ten da s ago that he had !issed her and she had realised that she &as in love &ith hi#. He too$ she no& sa&$ #ust have realised ho& she felt about hi#. Inside her flat$ she "ringed in&ardl as she a"!no&ledged ho& gullible she had been$ for (loan had deliberatel left it a &ee! before he had got in tou"h &ith her again. A long$ long &ee! had passed$ and he #ust have !no&n that she &ould have rushed to do an thing he as!ed her &hen he eventuall telephoned. And &hat had he as!ed4 Not that she go to bed &ith hi#8 he &as too subtle for that. He)d used the opportunit of his house!eeper)s having the night off to his o&n advantage$ though$ hadn)t he4 Not that he "ould have foreseen that she &ould get herself half dren"hed the &a she had &hen the had been doing the &ashing up$ but %hitne did not doubt that (loan &ould have got her to his bedroo# one &a or another. (he sighed a sha! sigh as she re#e#bered the &a she had re#inded hi# that his bedroo# &as &here it had all started. ,And I$ for one$ "an)t sa that I)# sorr $) he)d replied$ and she had thought that he &as not in love &ith 6leda an #ore. %hi"h$ %hitne realised$ he #ight or #ight not be$ but it &as "ertain that he &as not in love &ith %hitne La&ford either. (tirring up her hate against (loan &hen thoughts of hi# and his bedroo# brought forth a flood of #e#ories of the une'pe"ted tenderness she had re"eived fro# hi#$ %hitne &as read to den ten

thousand ti#es that (loan had for an instant held ba"! on his o&n need in order to redu"e her pain to a #ini#u#. He &as a s&ine$ a rat$ and she doubted if he ever had an intention of bringing her ba"! to her flat that night. Fro# the start$ she no& plainl sa&$ (loan had intended that she should spend that (aturda night at Heathlands$ in bed$ &ith hi#. %ell$ if the ,I)ll never forgive ou$ ever) &hi"h she had splashed in lipsti"! all over her pillo& had not !no"!ed on the head an idea he #ight have that she &as in love &ith hi#$ then she onl hoped that the fates &ould be !ind to her$ and &ould give her another "han"e to get that #essage a"ross. The fates &ere &ith her$ she &as to dis"over before she &ent to bed that night$ although at first she did not full appre"iate the fa"t. (loan &as still in her head$ as she &as beginning to realise he &as going to be for so#e ti#e$ &hen so#eone "a#e tapping on her door. (he &ent to ans&er it$ !no&ing that sin"e it &as not Eri"a)s !no"!$ and sin"e the outside door &as al&a s lo"!ed$ her "aller had to be so#eone &ho lived in the building. ,Hello$ Aoseph$) she greeted the bea! $ bespe"ta"led fift 0 ear0old s"hool0 tea"her fro# the ground0floor flat. ,%hitne $ dear lad $) he bea#ed. ,(orr I didn)t "o#e up before$ but I)ve been having an argu#ent &ith # spin0dr er.) (o sa ing$ he handed her a large but fairl flat0loo!ing par"el. ,Arrived spe"ial deliver $ as I "a#e ho#e tonight$) he intoned. ,Hope it)s not too i#portant.) ,I)# sure it isn)t$) she replied$ having not been e'pe"ting a par"el$ and finding even a spe"ial deliver par"el so#ething over &hi"h she "ould not dru# up an enthusias#. ,%ho &on4) she as!ed. ,?ou or the spin0dr er4) ,The "ontest isn)t over et$) he told her$ and spent a fe& #ore #inutes in idle "hat before he added$ ,%ell$ I)d better return to things do#esti"$ though I see# to have far fe&er s"re&s and &ashers than I started out &ith.) %hitne &ent ba"! inside her flat and studied the "learl printed address label &ithout re"eiving a gli##er of enlighten#ent. Realising that there &as onl one &a in &hi"h she &as going to find out &hat the par"el "ontained and &ho had sent it$ she &ent and fet"hed a pair of s"issors and set about getting rid of the outer "overing. Three #inutes later$ she &as ro"!ed to her ver foundations. For$ enlightened$ she felt tears sting her e es so that she had to blin! the# ba"! before she "ould ta!e another loo! at the nav 0$ orange0 and red0bedaubed "anvas &hi"h she !ne& full &ell &as entitled ,;irth)$ and &hi"h she had$ in (loan)s "o#pan $ on"e ad#ired.

(he had no need to read the signature on the pie"e of notepaper &hi"h had fluttered do&n to the floor. :ut$ as she bent to pi"! it up$ her heart$ den ing that she hated (loan$ started to thud out an uproarious "la#our as she o&ned to &anting to !no& &hat he had &ritten. It did not ta!e her ver long to read &hat (loan had penned$ though as her heartbeats started to stead do&n$ it too! her longer to !no& &hat to #a!e of his ,I bought this so#e ti#e ago7I thought ou #ight li!e it). :ut &hen she did !no&$ she &as angr $ and &as hating hi# again. Her first thought &as to &rite a neat little note sa ing$ ,?ou thought &rong3) and to return the "anvas to hi#. :ut the #ore she thought about it$ the angrier she gre&. Ho& "ould he4 she fu#ed. Ho& dared he4 she raged. Aust &ho did he thin! he &as4 %hitne realised that (loan$ b "on"o"ting the stor about his #other)s illness in his endeavour to have revenge on the &o#an &ho &as responsible for his en0 gage#ent "o#ing to grief$ had sho&n hi#self to be an e e0for0an0e e #an. (he had never been #ore offended in her life$ for &hat had also *ust no& be"o#e "lear &as that he &as a #an &ho &ould be beholden to no one. He had left her &ith little "hoi"e but to go out &ith hi#. :ut ever #ove he had #ade thereafter had been "al"ulated to ulti#atel get her to fall in love &ith hi#$ &hen he &ould ta!e her to his bed. And$ b doing a disappearing a"t &hen she &ent to find hi# the ne't #orning$ he &ould thereb have re*e"ted her. %hat he had not "al"ulated on$ though7and %hitne !ne& that there had been nothing pretended about his sho"!7&as his dis"over that she &as a virgin. Pi"!ing up the s"issors$ %hitne loo!ed at the painting &hi"h she had on"e thought lovel $ and$ needing onl to re#e#ber (loan)s last he$ ,I bought this so#e ti#e ago)$ &hen it "ould onl have been esterda at the earliest$ she su##oned up the fire and furious energ needed to slash it fro# "orner to "orner. And$ finding she still had energ to spare$ she slashed the "anvas fro# "orner to "orner in the other dire"tion. The pi"ture$ she !ne&$ had &orn the pri"e tag of five hundred pounds$ but$ as she stood ba"! to surve her handi&or!$ she &ould not have "ared had it "ost t&ent ti#es that a#ount. (o (loan Illing&orth &ould be beholden to no one$ and thought to salve his "ons"ien"e b sending her the "onsolation pri<e of a five0hundred0pound painting$ did he4 %ell$ let hi# hang this on his "ons"ien"e8 she *oll &ell hoped it &eighed heavil . %hitne &as late in getting to her des! the follo&ing #orning. ;ore i#portant than being at her offi"e on ti#e &as the urgent par"el &hi"h she had had to stop

off &ith and send b spe"ial deliver . -a s passed$ but there &as still pain in her heart &hen in the late evening$ t&o &ee!s to the da sin"e (loan had ta!en her to Heathlands$ %hitne sat in her flat and &ondered &hen$ if ever$ she &as going to start to get hi# out of her #ind and heart. (he hadn)t heard another &ord fro# hi# sin"e she had returned that painting. Not that she had e'pe"ted to hear fro# hi#. In an "ase$ she pro#ised herself stoutl $ she &ould give hi# ver short shrift should he so #u"h as dare to phone. Certain &hat her rea"tion &ould be should (loan tr to get in tou"h &ith her$ %hitne "ould do nothing about the &a her glan"e &ent to the phone as if i#ploring it to ring. 6rief3 As though she "ared$ her pride assured her loftil $ but she &as glad &hen she heard Eri"a)s footsteps "o#ing do&n the stairs$ follo&ed b her tattoo on her door. %hitne felt she "ould do &ith so#e "o#pan other than her o&n. ,I)ve de"ided that all &or! and no pla #a!es Eri"a a dull girl$) Eri"a grinned as %hitne invited her in. ,There has to be ti#e for #e$ don)t ou thin!4) she as!ed as she follo&ed %hitne into the !it"hen and &at"hed &hile she put the !ettle on. ,It depends &hat ou &ant fro# life$ I suppose$) %hitne replied$ sensing that Eri"a &as feeling serious behind that grin. ,I suppose so$) she agreed$ and "onfessed$ ,I thought I !ne& &hat I &anted$ and then7I #et Chris.) ,Ah3) #ur#ured %hitne . ,Ah$ indeed$) Eri"a sighed. The "o"oa had been #ade and the &ere seated in %hitne )s sitting0roo# &hen Eri"a &ent into the depths of ho& isolated she felt on the nights she told Chris that she "ouldn)t see hi# be"ause she &as stud ing. ,Er7ho& does he feel7on the nights ou sa ou "an)t see hi#4) %hitne as!ed. ,That)s *ust it3 I don)t !no&$ and I &ish I did. He)s a s&eetie reall $) Eri"a &ent on$ ,so I shouldn)t "o#plain$ but if I sa that I)d li!e to do this$ that or the other$ he sa s all right$ and see#s to en*o the pla"es &e go together$ but9 Oh$ I don)t !no&$) she said glu#l . ,Perhaps ou)re &or!ing too hard$) %hitne suggested. ,Perhaps ou need a rest$ or perhaps need to ta!e ti#e out to get a long0distan"e vie& of things.) ,?ou "ould be right$) Eri"a agreed and putting a s#ile on her fa"e$ she as!ed #ore "heerfull $ ,Ho&)s our love0life4 I don)t see signs of Tob tonight.)

,I sa& hi# last night$) %hitne told her$ and did not have to sa an #ore. ,6etting too regular$ is he4) Eri"a "ottoned on$ adding$ ,If ou feel li!e that$ !iddo$ then he obviousl isn)t the one for ou. Oh$ b the &a $) she said suddenl $ ,there &as a pi"ture in the paper toda of that industrialist &ho ou &ent out &ith a "ouple of ti#es.) %hitne had been out &ith (loan a good #an #ore ti#es that *ust a "ouple$ though$ sin"e she had not been so open about hi# as she &as about her other dates$ Eri"a &as not to !no& that. %ell a&are$ ho&ever$ &ho Eri"a &as spea!ing of$ aside fro# (loan being the onl industrialist she !ne&$ she allo&ed several se"onds to go b before 1uer ing$ ,Oh$ ou #ean (loan Illing&orth4) And then$ be"ause she *ust "ould not hold the 1uestion ba"!$ though she did #anage to #a!e her voi"e sound onl *ust as interested as it should$ she added$ ,%hat)s he been up to4 I didn)t get a paper toda .) It &as gone #idnight &hen %hitne $ after rinsing the "o"oa #ugs &hi"h she and Eri"a had used$ "li#bed into bed to lie a&a!e and thin! about (loan. (o #u"h for an nonsensi"al thought that he #ight phone to ta!e her to tas! about that pi"ture or even7should she be so "rass as to i#agine he &ould7"all in person to tell her that one did not go around doing things li!e that to &or!s of art. Although$ fro# #e#or $ (loan hadn)t been at all i#pressed b that parti"ular painting. (hrugging aside the &ea!ening thought that in that "ase he had onl bought it be"ause she had li!ed it$ %hitne did not for a #inute regret her a"tion. (he hoped his "ons"ien"e "rippled hi#. Though$ fro# &hat Eri"a had said$ (loan had been photographed at an airport on his &a to the Far East$ and had loo!ed ,dead dish )$ so it didn)t see# as though he &as having an trouble &ith his "ons"ien"e. Apparentl (loan$ a""ording to the paper$ had no idea &hen he &ould be returning to England. Another &ee! &ent b $ during &hi"h %hitne fa"ed the fa"t that though she #ight have told herself that she hated (loan$ hate hi# she "ould not. :ut she !ne& better no& than to thin! that she #ight ans&er her doorbell one da to find hi# standing there7the last ti#e he had *ourne ed in an easterl dire"tion$ he had been out of England for three #onths3 Four &ee!s to the da sin"e she had last seen hi#$ %hitne sat herself do&n and too! herself to tas!. (he "ouldn)t go on li!e this$ not eating$ not sleeping properl . (loan Illing&orth had deliberatel de"eived her$ had lied to her7about his o&n #other37used her$ and had thro&n her aside. He &as *ust not &orth her losing so #u"h as another &in! of sleep over.

Having given herself so#ething of a ver severe tal!ing0to$ over #an hours$ %hitne &ent to &or! on ;onda #orning deter#ined that should (loan Illing&orth stra into her head then$ b the 1ui"!est route possible$ she &as going to push hi# straight out again. Events$ ho&ever$ &ere fast "at"hing up &ith her. Feeling #ore "heerful than she had of late$ she greeted Tob brightl as she "a#e upon hi# in a "orridor. (he never got to hear his repl $ for *ust then$ &ithout &arning$ ever &here started to spin and$ as she tried to "r out$ ever thing &ent bla"!. (he "a#e round fro# her faint to find that Tob $ loo!ing &orried to death$ had one ar# around her and a hand to her head$ &hile a "ouple of other people &ere lo"!ed in a debate about &hether it &ould be better to push her head do&n bet&een her !nees$ or if she should have her feet propped up on so#ething. ,I)#7all right$ no&$) she "roa!ed to &hoever &anted to hear$ feeling #ore e#barrassed than ill. ,I)ll ta!e ou ho#e$) Tob peered into her fa"e to offer. ,I don)t need to go ho#e$) %hitne told hi#. ,I)# 1uite all right$) she said$ !eeping to herself the fa"t that$ as she tried to get up$ her legs did feel a little &obbl . 6rateful that Tob still had his ar# about her$ she then had a verbal tussle &ith hi# &hen she &anted to go for&ard to her offi"e$ and he &anted to turn her about and head her to the "ar par!. ,If ou &on)t let #e ta!e ou ho#e$ then at least let #e ta!e ou to the &or!s) nurse$) he pleaded. ,Oh$ Tob $) %hitne "ried peevishl $ e#barrassed still$ and starting to feel a fraud as she began to realise that her faint *ust no& &as no #ore than her bod protesting at her la"! of interest in food *ust re"entl . (he &as in the #iddle of silentl vo&ing to push so#e brea!fast do&n to#orro& #orning if it !illed her &hen the #an she &or!ed for "a#e along and Tob $ "at"hing ;r Parsons) glan"e at the ar# he still had around her$ e'plained$ ,%hitne *ust fainted$) and that did it. All this fuss$ she thought irritabl &hen$ in her e#barrass#ent$ she &al!ed a&a fro# both #en. Tob &as soon after her$ ta!ing hold of her ar# and guiding her. :ut sin"e in truth she didn)t have #u"h sense of &here she &as going$ she found that he)d had his &a and that he had guided her to the nurse)s offi"e. ,;iss La&ford *ust fainted$) he told the solid0loo!ing$ no0nonsense nurse. ,-id she$ no&4) that lad boo#ed. ,%ell$ &e &on)t need ou$ for a start.)

Poor Tob 7%hitne sa& that he loo!ed totall ta!en aba"!$ and after he had gone she had to s#ile at his e'pression. (he &as not s#iling$ ho&ever$ fifteen #inutes later$ &hen she too left the nurse)s offi"e. Feeling stunned$ she &ent to her o&n offi"e and$ having assured ;r Parsons that she &as perfe"tl &ell$ she sat do&n at her des! reeling fro# the i#port of the 1uestions &hi"h &ere "hasing around in her head after her dis"ussion &ith Nurse :a!er. The nurse had lost her brus1ue #anner as the t&o of the# had tal!ed$ but her dire"t 1uestions had led %hitne up an avenue &hi"h7 probabl be"ause her thoughts &ere else&here so often7 she had not paused to "onsider. In an event$ it hadn)t ta!en %hitne ver long after&ards to realise that it #ight not be a bad idea if she had a pregnan" test3 At three that afternoon$ she #ade use of ;r Parsons being absent fro# the offi"e and$ having loo!ed up the nu#ber of the Pregnan" Testing (ervi"e$ she pi"!ed up the phone and as!ed the operator for an outside line. It &as a bad &ee! for %hitne . (he &ent ho#e fro# her offi"e on Frida evening having that da been a"1uainted &ith the ne&s that she &as$ indeed$ pregnant3 -esperatel did she need so#eone to tal! to that night. :ut there &as no one. No one in &ho# she "ould "onfide$ at an rate. At first she did not !no& &hether she &as glad or sorr that her love#a!ing &ith (loan had brought about the result she had *ust been told it had. As the evening progressed she started to feel slightl h steri"al$ and al#ost rushed up to Eri"a to "onfide and to as! her ho& she felt about being god#other for a se"ond ti#e. :ut then %hitne "al#ed do&n and started to get things a little #ore into perspe"tive. The dis"over had been a sho"!$ she had to ad#it that$ but the ver fa"t that she &as thin!ing in ter#s of Eri"a being a god#other brought about the realisation to %hitne that she #ust &ant her bab . Other&ise$ surel $ she &ould not even be thin!ing in that dire"tion at all$ but &ould be thin!ing in the dire"tion of having an abortion. As soon as the &ord abortion entered her head$ %hitne abruptl ousted it. (he had felt su"h an over&hel#ing rush of distaste that she !ne& that she &ould prote"t that ne& life &ithin her &ith all she had. That established$ she began to feel better than she had all &ee!. (he too! herself off to bed earl and had the best night)s sleep she)d had in an age. At brea!fast ti#e$ &ith (loan again the #ain preo""upation of her thoughts$ she de"ided that she did not &ant an brea!fast$ but her prote"tive feelings rose to

the fore on"e #ore. (he &as "arr ing (loan)s "hild$ and for the "hild)s sa!e she &ould have to e#bar! on a health diet and see to it that no #ore #eals &ere #issed. %hitne pushed do&n a sli"e of toast and$ as if to #a!e up for past dietar failures$ poured herself a &hole half0pint of #il!. And all the &hile as she sipped at her #il! her thoughts &ere on (loan$ his bab $ and &hat she should do about hi# in that respe"t. (hould she tell hi#4 %ithout hesitation her innate honest told her loud and "lear that tell hi# she #ust. Against that$ though$ &as the argu#ent$ &ould he &ant to !no&4 For long #inutes she d&elt on that 1uestion$ but$ &hen she "onsidered ho& he had lied to her al#ost fro# the #o#ent she had #et hi# she &as unable to "o#e to an fir# "on"lusion. Having eventuall finished her glass of #il!$ %hitne &as "learing a&a her brea!fast things &hen she dis"overed that she &as turning her 1uestioning ba"! in on herself. -id she &ant (loan to !no&$ she found she &as as!ing$ or &as it that$ hungr for the sound of his voi"e7 and presented &ith a ver good reason to "onta"t hi#7 her honest &as getting "onfused b her need to see or to hear hi#4 (ha!en b her fresh thoughts$ %hitne grabbed up her purse and too! herself off to the lo"al shops. (he &as bu ing an e'tra #il! suppl &hen it da&ned on her that$ sin"e nothing &as going to happen for #onths and #onths et$ she had no need to #a!e an snap de"ision. (he &as letting herself ba"! into her flat &hen she realised that$ sin"e it "ould be that she &as still rea"ting fro# the sho"! of &hat she)d been told esterda $ she #ust not do an thing hast . An &a $ &ith (loan still abroad$ and for all she !ne& li!el to be so for a fe& #ore #onths et$ she had ti#e to get over her sho"! before she de"ided &hat to do. In that$ though$ she dis"overed that she &as &rong. For she &as in her !it"hen in the late afternoon$ #a!ing herself a "up of tea$ &hen her phone rang. 6uessing that her "aller &as Tob $ she &ent to ans&er the phone$ realising that$ be"ause of her "hanged "ir"u#stan"es$ she &ould shortl have to do so#ething about hi#. :ut not *ust et$ she found out. For the voi"e that en1uired$ ,%hitne 4) as she held the phone to her ear &as not Tob )s3 ("ar"el able to breathe fro# the sho"! of hearing (loan$ %hitne sought desperatel for so#ething s#art$ so#ething intelligent$ or an thing to sa that &ould hide fro# hi# the fa"t that *ust to hear hi# had her in a state of near "ollapse.

,(pea!ing$) she #anaged$ &hi"h$ even if spo!en "ooll $ "ould hardl be said to be either s#art or intelligent$ she o&ned. :ut &hen a fe& short &ee!s ago she #ight have given hi# a tart repl and then sla##ed the phone do&n on hi#$ her need to hear his voi"e had her still gripping the phone to her ear. : then$ though$ the lies he had told her &ere far fro# her #ind$ and so too &as the ,I)ll never forgive ou$ ever) &hi"h she had splashed a"ross his pillo&. For that #atter$ she &asn)t even thin!ing of the de"ision she had to #a!e about &hether or not to tell hi# that she &as e'pe"ting his bab . For the #o#ent she had even forgotten that she &as pregnant. It &as te#per$ pure and si#ple$ &hi"h #ade her re#e#ber that fa"t$ ho&ever. :e"ause her anger &as i##ediate and furious &hen$ after so#ething of a longish pause$ (loan had the outrageous i#puden"e to repl to her "ool ans&er$ b dra&ling loftil $ ,Forgiven #e for ta!ing our virginit et4) On the instant$ the proud anger that should have been there before enfolded her. ,; virginit in e'"hange for an un&anted pregnan" hardl see#s a fair s&ap3) she bla<ed$ and then did &hat she should have done a #inute before. (he fairl "rashed the re"eiver do&n. @rgh3 That #an3 Fu#ing$ she &as too angr to sit still$ and she pa"ed the floor$ regretting &ith ever step that she had told hi# &hat she had. Not that it #attered$ she seethed$ &hen half an hour had gone b and she &as still pa"ing the floor. (he had #eant to thin! about it ver deepl before she did an thing$ but it &as all his fault3 Trust hi# to #a!e her lose her te#per3 %hitne graduall be"a#e #ore "o#posed &hen she realised that it #ade no differen"e an &a . Audging b his past re"ord$ the #ere fa"t that he had #ade her pregnant &asn)t going to "ause hi# an lost sleep. (he subsided into a "hair and the ti#e ti"!ed b as$ &ith her thoughts still on (loan$ it "a#e to her that b telling hi# &hat she had$ she "ould not have #ade it #ore of a "ertaint that she &ould never see hi# again. It see#ed$ though$ that this &as her da for getting things &rong. For *ust then her doorbell sounded. Tob $ she thought$ and$ seeing no ti#e li!e the present$ she &ent do&n the stairs prepared to let hi# be the ne't person she told about her "ondition. Rea"hing the door$ she unlo"!ed it$ and then$ turning the handle$ she pulled the door open. %hitne then "a#e "lose to fainting for the se"ond ti#e that &ee!. For her "aller &as not Tob 3

CHAPTER NINE

HO% she #anaged to sta on her feet$ %hitne "ould not have said. 6ripping hard on to the &ood&or! of the door$ she re"overed fro# the feeling of &anting to faint$ and heard (loan as!ing urgentl $ ,Are ou all right4 ?ou)re as &hite as9) ,I)# entirel &ell3) she told hi# frostil $ ba"!ing a&a &hen he too! a step for&ard and see#ed as though he &ould offer the support of his strong ar#s. (taring "oldl at hi#$ &ith her loo! as frost as her tone$ she felt relief &hen$ although he #ade no #ove to step ba"! out of the hall&a $ his ar#s dropped to his sides. ,%e have to tal!$) he said 1uietl $ and &hen she #ade no #ove &hatsoever to invite hi# up to her flat$ he de#anded$ a shade aggressivel $ she thought$ ,-o ou &ant to tal! on the doorstep4) %ithout a &ord$ she turned and led the &a up to her flat. In&ardl she &as still all over the pla"e fro# seeing hi# so une'pe"tedl $ but the fa"t that he &as there at all sho&ed her that$ having re"eived the ne&s that she &as pregnant$ he #ust7if she had got it right7&ant to a""ept so#e of the responsibilit . %hen (loan follo&ed her inside her flat &ith a purposeful loo! and fir#l "losed the door$ %hitne 1ui"!l found her tongue. ,I thought ou &ere abroad$) she said in a hostile rush. ,I "a#e ba"! esterda $) he replied$ and as!ed sharpl $ ,?ou)ve been tr ing to get in tou"h &ith #e4) ,-on)t flatter ourself3) she bristled$ and realised too late that$ in the "ir"u#stan"e of her being pregnant &ith his "hild$ to tr and "onta"t hi# #ight see# to hi# to be a natural a"tion on her part. ;ore "arefull $ though her #anner &as still hostile$ she "o##ented$ ,?ou)ve obviousl been putting in so#e ti#e at our offi"e sin"e our return.) ,%h do ou sa that4) (lightl put off be"ause &hat &as obvious to her "learl &asn)t so obvious to

hi#$ %hitne &as left to e'plain$ ,I *ust assu#ed that for ou to have got here in the spa"e of ti#e sin"e our phone "all #eant that ou)d rung fro# our offi"e. Not that it)s i#portant &here ou rang fro#$) she told hi# off0handedl $ as *ealous nipped that if he hadn)t phoned fro# his offi"e$ he #ust have phoned fro# a friend)s ho#e in London7 a fe#ale friend4 ,As ou sa $ it)s not i#portant &here I phoned fro#$) (loan replied. ,Though in a"tual fa"t I rang fro# Heathlands9) ,?ou rang fro# Heathlands3) %hitne e'"lai#ed$ startled$ realising that he had driven li!e the &ind to get there in so short a ti#e. That7or he &as ba"! to his old tri"! of l ing his head off. (loan &as nodding to "onfir# that he had "o#e straight fro# Heathlands &hen the #ost dreadful thought stru"! %hitne . (o #u"h for her thin!ing that$ if she)d got it right$ (loan had "alled round be"ause he &anted to a""ept so#e of the responsibilit 3 %ith a si"!ened sensation she realised that she "ouldn)t have got it #ore &rong. If he had indeed driven fro# Heathlands$ then the onl reason he "ould have for brea!ing his ne"! to get to her #ust be that he did not &ant to a""ept an of the responsibilit for her pregnan" . That &hat he &anted &as that she should have that pregnan" ter#inated7&ith all speed. :efore she "ould open her #outh to revile hi# though$ %hitne had to hold ba"! &hen$ not deigning to repl verball to her in"redulous ,?ou rang fro# Heathlands3)$ (loan put the blunt 1uestion$ ,Is it true4) (he did not pretend to #isunderstand hi#$ but the fa"t that he should dare to 1uestion &hat she had told hi# nettled her. ,Of the t&o of us$) she told hi# &aspishl $ , ou)re the #ore a""o#plished liar3) ,Liar3) he e'"lai#ed$ *ust as if butter &ouldn)t #elt. ,; 6od3) %hitne bla<ed. ,Ho& ou have the nerve to9) %ords failed her. ,?es3) she snapped$ ,It)s true3 I had # pregnan" "onfir#ed esterda .) (he &as building up a fine head of stea# &hen she &ent stor#ing on$ ,And if ou)ve bro!en all re"ords getting here &ith the intention of telling #e to have an abortion$ ou "an9) ,6ood 6od3) (loan snarled. ,That)s the last thing I9) He bro!e off$ and see#ed to sense that$ &ith the t&o of the# be"o#ing angrier b the se"ond$ nothing &as going to be resolved. Though &hat he &as there to resolve$ %hitne had less and less idea. Nor &as she an further for&ard &hen$ as he s&allo&ed do&n his anno an"e &ith her$ (loan loo!ed at her and then said gruffl $ ,?ou loo! as though ou should be sitting do&n.) His "on"ern as his hand tou"hed her ar# and he #oved her to a "hair &as e'asperating to her. :ut as she san! do&n into the one "hair$ &hile he availed

hi#self of the one opposite$ she o&ned that her legs had felt li!e *ell ever sin"e she had opened the door to see hi# standing there7and it had nothing to do &ith her pregnan" . ,No&$) he said after so#e #o#ents spent staring at her$ during &hi"h ti#e she had not said a &ord$ ,let)s !eep "al#$ shall &e4) ,2er &ell$) %hitne replied pri#l $ and she #anaged to sta "al# as$ *ust as if he &as "hairing so#e business #eeting$ he outlined$ ,The fa"ts$ as I see the#$ are that ou)re pregnant &ith # "hild and$ fro# our tone *ust no&$ I gather that ou$ li!e #e$ &ill not "ountenan"e an abortion. A# I right4) he as!ed evenl . (he &as not altogether sure she believed that he did not &ant her to have an abortion$ but in the absen"e of an proof$ and sin"e he appeared to be &aiting$ a shade tensel $ for her ans&er$ ,?es$) she told hi#$ , ou)re right.) A slo& tra"e of a s#ile tou"hed the "orners of his #outh at her repl $ and she stared$ fas"inated. His s#ile didn)t full #a!e it$ though$ and suddenl she had the #ost un"ann feeling that the #an opposite$ &ho #ust have "haired hundreds of high0po&ered #eetings$ &as$ at this one$ feeling as #u"h on sha! ground inside as she felt. (he forgot an su"h nonsensi"al notion$ ho&ever$ &hen$ &ith his e es stead on hers$ (loan 1uietl but fir#l responded$ ,Then$ # dear %hitne $ the obvious ans&er #ust be that ou and I7#arr .)

,;arr 3) @tterl astonished$ %hitne ver nearl "atapulted fro# her "hair in her surprise. Had her legs felt strong enough to support her$ she probabl &ould have done. :ut$ his suggestion "onfounding her "o#pletel $ all she &as "apable of doing &as staring at hi# in total stupefa"tion.
Her a#a<e#ent$ ho&ever$ &as to go soaring out of all bounds &hen (loan$ observing that she had nothing else to sa after that one &ord ,;arr 3)$ see#ed not to have observed that her silen"e ste##ed fro# nothing #ore than that she &as stru"! spee"hless$ and he "ontinued$ *ust as if he thought that ever thing &as settled3 ,It)s (aturda no&$) he ite#ised$ &hen$ du#bstru"! though she &as$ %hitne had not forgotten &hi"h da of the &ee! it &as$ ,so I suggest$ sin"e &e shouldn)t dela $ that I set the &heels in #otion at on"e for us to be #arried b spe"ial li"en"e. %ith an lu"!$) he &ent s&eepingl on$ ,&e #ight have the li"en"e through enabling us to be #arried on Tuesda $ &hen9)

,No& &ait a #inute3) %hitne #ade a "on"entrated effort to stop hi# before he "ould bulldo<e her up the aisle. ,(o#ething &rong4) he 1ueried$ for all the &orld as though he &as pu<<led b her sharp interruption.

,Ever thing)s &rong3) she e'ploded.


,I)ll agree that in an ideal situation it)s preferable to #arr first and then start a fa#il $) he "on"eded$ ,but sin"e7through no fault of our o&n7) he inserted handso#el $ , ou are7er7in &hat I believe is ter#ed .an interesting "ondition/ I thin! &e should #a!e ever haste to9) ,If it &asn)t for # interesting "ondition$) %hitne re"overed a little to hurl at hi#$ ,then there &ould be no 1uestion that there *ust &ouldn)t be an tal! of ou and I getting #arried. As it is$) she rushed straight on &hen it loo!ed as though (loan #ight have tried #ore bulldo<er ta"ti"s$ ,I have no intention of #arr ing ou$ regardless of # interesting "ondition3) 6laring at hi#$ she observed that it &as his turn to appear stunned. Though she dis"ounted the possibilit that he &as in an &a stunned$ *ust as she dis"ounted the i#pression she had that he appeared to have lost so#e of his "olour too. (he &as getting to distrust her senses entirel . ,?ou hate #e so #u"h that ou)d allo& # "hild to go through life &ithout a father4) (loan re"overed to as! her stonil . Hate hi#4 Oh$ dear 6od$ if onl he !ne&3 Fearing that she &as &ea!ening$ and !no&ing that she "ould not afford to &ea!en$ %hitne dre& on all her reserves of strength. ,I don)t hate ou$ (loan$) she told hi# "oldl . ,;a be I should hate the "on0artist ou)ve proved ourself to be$ but9) ,Con0artist4) he e'"lai#ed$ #u"h in the sa#e &a as he)d e'"lai#ed as if he hadn)t !no&n &hat she #eant &hen she had "alled hi# a liar. ,%hen have I ever "onned9) He bro!e off. ,Ah9) he said and halted. ,Penn dropped4) she 1uestioned rudel $ and &at"hed as he shoo! his head$ as though to sa that this &as so#ething he had not re"!oned on. ,(o#eho&$) he said then$ ,I don)t !no& ho&$ but so#eho&$ ou)ve found out about # #other$ haven)t ou4) ,And ho&3) %hitne spat &aspishl . ,; stars$ it #ust have been li!e ta!ing -oll ;i'tures off a t&o0 ear0old$ the &a ou too! #e in to get our revenge.) ,Revenge4) (loan repeated in"redulousl . ,%hat in 6od)s na#e are about4) ou tal!ing

,I don)t need this$ (loan$ honestl I don)t$) %hitne told hi#$ a&are of ho& gullible she had been and still &as be"ause$ li!e an idiot$ she still &anted to believe ever lie he uttered. ,?ou "a#e to see #e as soon as ou !ne& about9) Her voi"e had faded$ but it gre& strong again as she resu#ed$ ,%hether ou &ould have gone through &ith it is a #oot point$ but ou)ve done the honourable thing and offered to #arr #e. :ut no&$ &ill ou please go4) (he had ended on a sha! breath$ and she too! her e es fro# hi# to stud $ &ithout reall seeing$ the #aterial of the s!irt she had on. To her dis#a $ though$ &hen (loan #oved$ it &as not to get up and leave$ but onl so that he "ould bring his "hair nearer to hers. His "hair &as half turned and al#ost tou"hing hers &hen$ fro# about a foot a&a $ he stated 1uietl $ ,There)s far too #u"h bet&een us$ %hitne $ girl$ for #e to go7 *ust li!e that.) %hitne refused to loo! at hi# &hen$ still in the sa#e 1uiet tone$ he added$ ,I said at the outset that &e had to tal!7it &ould see# that I)ve left # side of the tal!ing a good deal too long.) ,If all ou intend to do is to fill #e up &ith #ore lies$ then I)d sooner ou didn)t$) %hitne told hi# i"il . ,I)ve finished l ing to ou$) (loan told her seriousl $ and she &anted to believe hi#. ,%ell$ ou &ould$ &ouldn)t ou4) she said a"idl $ !no&ing that she had to den that gullible strea! in her or be lost. ,?ou)ve had our revenge fro# #e being the "ause of our bro!en engage#ent$ so9) ,:ro!en engage93) (loan sounded so absolutel a#a<ed that %hitne )s head *er!ed up. (he found herself staring into sin"ere gre e es as he #ur#ured$ ,Oh$ # dear$ is that &hat ou #eant &hen ou spo!e before of #e having # revenge4) %hitne s&allo&ed hard on the suddenl dr throat. (loan "alling her ,# dear) &as doing nothing for the stiffness she &as tr ing to hang on to. ,I "an)t thin! &h else ou should fill #e up &ith all those lies about our si"! #other$ &hen in a"tual fa"t our #other is hale and heart and$ far fro# being in hospital$ not even in the "ountr 3) she told hi# shortl . ,(he is no&7in this "ountr $) (loan infor#ed her. ,:ut$ 6od &illing$ I)ll tell ou about that later. For no&$ believe it$ nothing I ever said or did &here ou &ere "on"erned &as in an &a re#otel "onne"ted &ith a revenge #otive.) Her heart flipped at the sin"erit in his voi"e. :ut she)d been fooled before. ,?ou surprise #e3) the person in her &ho &as never going to be gullible again told hi# tartl .

,At ti#es$ I surprised # self$) (loan "onfessed$ and &hen %hitne raised her e es to give hi# a daggered loo! at &hat she sa& as an ad#ission of ho& eas he had found it to lie to her$ he as!ed 1uietl $ ,Ho& long have ou !no&n4) It see#ed as if she had "arried the &eight of !no&ing around &ith her for ever$ but in a"tual fa"t$ it &asn)t all that long. ,(in"e # se"ond (unda #orning at Heathlands &hen I &ent do&nstairs and had a7a "hat7 &ith our house!eeper.) ,;rs Orton had returned fro# her daughter)s3) (loan e'"lai#ed$ startling %hitne that though he had instant re"all of the o""asion$ he see#ed not to !no& that his house!eeper had returned to Heathlands3 Though$ as %hitne re#e#bered ho& she had &o!en up to find hi# gone$ she guessed that &hatever had #ade hi# leave the house before his house!eeper)s return "ould have !ept hi# bus and a&a fro# the house all da $ so that he &ould not ne"essaril !no& at &hat ti#e ;rs Orton had returned. ,Her son0in0la& brought her ba"! on his &a earl #orning fishing$) %hitne told (loan sourl . ,Ho& else should I learn$ &hen I #entioned that I)d e'pe"ted ;rs Illing&orth to be there7as I had the previous evening$) she re#inded hi# sourl $ ,that our #other)s na#e &as not ;rs Illing&orth$ but ;rs East&ood4 Ho& else$) she as!ed$ ,should I have learned that far fro# being the "onfused lad &hi"h ou had led #e to believe she &as$ our #other had never been in an a""ident$ and had been as bright and alert as ever &hen she)d phoned fro# her ho#e in A#eri"a the da before4) %hitne had "o#e to a stor# end$ and she fli"!ed (loan an a"ri#onious loo! &hile she &aited for hi# to offer so#e defen"e or e'"use for the outrageous un0 truths &hi"h he had allo&ed her to believe. Not that$ in her boo!$ there &as an thing that &ould e'"use those outrageous untruths. :ut instead of (loan being the one to flounder$ %hitne dis"overed that she &as the one on the defensive &hen$ his e'pression softening$ he #ur#ured$ ,Oh$ poor love$ ho& vulnerable ou #ust have felt that #orning. Ho& it #ust have hurt ou to9) He bro!e off$ and suddenl there &as an added alertness in his loo! as he as!ed her urgentl $ ,%as that &h ou &rote that ou &ould never forgive #e7be"ause of our dis"over of # de"eption7and not be"ause ou thought I)d ta!en unfair advantage4) %hitne )s heart started to labour painfull $ but she found herself totall unable to sa a &ord. ,It &as the pain # de"eption infli"ted on ou and not$ as I thought$ be"ause I)d unfairl sedu"ed ou$ giving ou no "han"e to thin!7&hen ou &ould have said .No/7&hi"h #ade ou leave that #essage and run fro# Heathlands. It &as9) :ut$ fro# being a silent #ass of agitation$ %hitne )s anger had started to spiral. ,-a##it$ (loan3) she "ut hi# off$ furious &ith hi# that he had gleaned that

she had been so hurt that she had ,run) fro# his ho#e$ and furious &ith herself that her fear of hi# learning that she had given herself to hi# fro# love had #ade su"h a "o&ard of her. ,%hat &as I supposed to do &hen I found out about our deliberate de"eit4 %as I supposed to sta around &aiting for ou to "o#e ba"! to e'a"t #ore revenge4) ,Reven9) ,?es$ revenge3) %hitne stor#ed. Her te#per &ell and trul alight$ she &as not prepared to let hi# get a l ing &ord in edge&a s. ,If ou didn)t !no& before$ then ou darn &ell !ne& &hen &e7&hen &e9) she faltered before rushing on$ ,&ent to bed together that I)# not the one0night0stand t pe. Ho& the hell &as I supposed to rea"t &hen$ after &hat ;rs Orton told #e$ ever thing fell into pla"e and I realised that ou)d treated #e as a one0night stand94) ,; 6od3) (loan erupted$ loo!ing stri"!en at the &a she had seen events. ,-on)t9) :ut %hitne &as be ond giving "reden"e to ho& he loo!ed and$ &ell and trul &ound up$ she &ould not allo& hi# another &ord. ,Ho& &as I supposed to feel to !no& that ou had used #e4) she "hallenged. ,That ou9) ,@sed ou4) (loan e'"lai#ed$ starting to loo! as angr as she. ,Never3) ,I said used$ and I #eant used3) she hurled at hi# and$ her voi"e rising$ she be"a#e too angr to re#ain seated. ,?ou)d never forgiven #e for #a!ing use of our bed that night of our ho#e"o#ing part $) she &ent rushing on$ on her feet and un"aring in her fur that (loan &as standing too and that he &as to&ering over her. ,%hen our fian"5e dis"overed us sharing the sa#e bed ou de"ided that$ sin"e our engage#ent had been bro!en in the #ista!en belief that ou and I had been lovers$ ou)d have our revenge b #a!ing that a fa"t. ?ou9) ,For 6od)s sa!e3) (loan roared$ about the onl &a he "ould get in to brea! her flo&. ,%h the hell should I &ant revenge &hen # engage#ent to 6leda Caufield &as ter#inated before I "li#bed into bed beside ou that night4) ;o#entaril stunned$ %hitne &as too stu#ped to have an thing to "o#e ba"! &ith. ,:efore4) she gasped. :ut$ as plainl as if it had onl *ust happened$ she sud 0 denl had a "lear pi"ture of 6leda Caufield standing at (loan)s bedroo# door and "alling her a bit"h$ adding$ ,I hope ou)re satisfied that$ through ou$ # en0 gage#ent is over.) ,Huh3) %hitne s"orned$ and felt an al#ost irrepressible urge to hit hi#. ,That$) she stressed a"idl $ ,*ust has to be our biggest lie to date3)

,I)# not l ing.3) (loan bello&ed. ,I)#9) (uddenl he "he"!ed his anger &ith her and$ see#ing to be striving for the "al# &hi"h he had suggested that the both use$ he stret"hed out a hand and tou"hed her ar#. ,%e)re getting no&here li!e this$) he said #ore 1uietl . ,%on)t ou sit do&n again$ %hitne $ and7let #e e'plain4)
(he favoured hi# &ith an uppit loo!$ and she &as sure that she had no intention of either regaining her seat or listening to one single lie #ore fro# his glib tongue. Though as she stared "hillingl into his stead gre e es she &as all at on"e ta!en aba"! that (loan$ being the #an he &as$ &as bearing her uppit arrogan"e re#ar!abl &ell. All at on"e$ too$ she found that she had to &onder &h he thought he had to e'plain an thing. If$ as she &as still "ertain$ the onl #otive for his a"tions had been revenge$ &h $ &ith that revenge ta!en$ &ould he bother to e'plain an thing at all4 Telling herself that she &as #ore intrigued than interested$ %hitne too! her e es fro# the stead gre ness of his and seated herself in the "hair fro# &hi"h she had a fe& #inutes before *u#ped up. As she anti"ipated that he &ould$ (loan bent to the "hair pla"ed near to hers$ though before he sat do&n he #oved it that bit "loser$ and she realised that$ sitting this "lose$ neither "ould #iss a thing in the other)s e'pression. (he began to feel a fli"!er of apprehension. %hen (loan sat do&n and turned to her$ apprehension "hanged to agitation. Hiding her feelings under a "loa! of sar"as#$ she re#ained out&ardl uppit to dra&l$ ,I feel "ertain that an e'planation ou &ish to #a!e #ust surel begin .On"e @pon A Ti#e/.) (he sa& fro# the &a his *a& *utted for&ard an aggressive fra"tion that her unveiled hint that she believed he &as going to tell her onl fair 0tales had niggled hi#. :ut she &as feeling too sha! inside to feel an s#all triu#ph at having s"ored a #inor vi"tor . ,Perhaps I deserved that3) he gritted. ,Onl perhaps4) she re#ained sar"asti" to s"off. ,2er &ell$) (loan told her stiffl $ and$ ta!ing a fe& se"onds to "onsider &hat he &as going to sa $ he &ent on$ ,In vie& of # past evasiveness on7"ertain issues7 and$ es$) he agreed$ ,a do&nright lie here and there on o""asion$ I "an hardl e'pe"t ou to be an other than s"epti"al.) ,Noble7be ond &ords3) %hitne tossed in for good sar"asti" #easure. ,:ut$) he "ontinued$ her sar"as# noted and then ignored$ ,I s&ear to ou it)s the truth$ and that # engage#ent to 6leda Caufield &as bro!en before she "onfronted ou and #e in the sa#e bed.)

,Oh$ I believe ou$) %hitne lied$ 1uite &ell a&are that (loan !ne& she &as l ing$ and un"aring of the fa"t. ,:ut &hat a pit that$ if ou !ne& ou &ere no longer engaged$) she lost all preten"e as hostilit entered her voi"e$ , ou forgot to tell our fian"5e3) ,I didn)t forget to tell her3) (loan retorted sharpl . :ut$ #ore evenl $ he re#inded her$ ,That part $ as ou !no&$ &as #eant as a surprise ho#e"o#ing organised b # fian"5e after # three #onths a&a . %hat ou did not !no&$ be"ause she had .forgotten/ to tell an one$ &as that$ apprised in a phone "all fro# abroad$ e'pressl advised in a follo&ing letter$ and verball infor#ed fa"e to fa"e a fe& #inutes after I arrived at Heathlands that parti"ular night$ 6leda Caufield !ne& that she &as no longer engaged to #e.) %hitne "ould onl gasp at his barefa"ed nerve as he finished spea!ing$ and she lost no ti#e in letting hi# !no& ho& she had re"eived this$ his latest basinful of lies. ,?ou)re losing our tou"h$ (loan$) she told hi# a"idl . ,?our other lies &ere #u"h #ore plausible3 Though it "ould have been that$ &ith # o&n #other suffering "onfusion after learning of # father)s betra al$ and her subse1uent death fro# a road a""ident$ our lies &ere eas for #e to s&allo&$) she reasoned hostilel $ ,but9) ,%hitne $ oh$ # dear3) (loan uttered softl . ,?ou told #e our #other &as dead$ but ou never said ho& she had died. I &ould never have been su"h an insensitive brute as to use those sa#e "ir"u#stan"es to9) ,%ell$ it)s beside the point$) she "ut hi# off shortl as his tone$ his s #path $ and the #e#or of her dear #other all "o#bined to &ea!en her. ,I)# not li!el to believe another thing ou sa $ an &a . As if an &o#an &ould go to the trouble to organise a surprise ho#e"o#ing part for her fian"5e &hen she)d been told$ not on"e$ but t&i"e$) she s"orned$ ,that the #an she &as in love &ith and engaged to had "hanged his #ind and9) ,6leda Caufield &as never in love &ith #e$ nor I &ith her3) (loan "hopped her off$ and "onse1uentl "aused %hitne to stare at hi#. -earl &ould her *ealous heart li!e to believe that he had never been in love &ith the &o#an he had been engaged to$ but$ she realised$ that &ould not alter the fa"ts as the no& &ere$ not one iota. ,?ou)ll be telling #e ne't that ou &ere never engaged to her3) she flared$ as she a""epted that even though (loan had proved hi#self to be a trea"herous rat she "ould not help but love hi# still. ,No$) he denied #ildl . ,I &as engaged to her.) His voi"e &as #ild still &hen he

added$ ,I &as engaged to her and re"entl overseas &hen &ord rea"hed #e that she &as not being the !ind of faithful fian"5e she should have been. :ut onl &hen I realised that I &as #ore anno ed than hurt that she &as pla ing fast and loose &hile she &as &earing # ring did I !no& that I neither loved the lad $ nor &anted to #arr her.) ,Oh3) fell fro# %hitne )s lips in a breath of a &hisper$ &hen she had not #eant to "ontribute one single sound to this "onversation. :ut she found herself adding #ore$ putting in$ ,Perhaps our7infor#ant7got it &rong4) :ut (loan &as alread sha!ing his head. ,I "he"!ed the infor#ation out$ and !ne& I &ouldn)t be brea!ing her heart &hen I put through a telephone "all to her$) he replied. ,?ou rang7to brea! our engage#ent4) ,I did$) he "onfir#ed. ,Though as soon as she sa& &hi"h &a the "all &as going$ she pretended that there &as so#ething &rong &ith the line$ and that she "ouldn)t hear #e properl . :ut she !ne& then that our engage#ent &as off.) ,Are ou sure she isn)t in love &ith ou4) %hitne as!ed$ despite herself. ,Oh$ es$) he said blithel . He see#ed so un"aring of the fa"t that his e'0fian"5e did not love hi# that %hitne )s #isbehaving heart gave a happ flutter. (he even found herself as!ing$ ,%hat did ou do7after 6leda pretended not to hear ou4) ,I hung up$ and "o##uni"ated b #ail the fa"t that the engage#ent &as over.) ,Oh$) said %hitne again$ but the da s had gone &hen she believed ever thing he said &ithout 1uestion. ,Ho& "o#e$ then$ if she &as t&i"e a"1uainted &ith the fa"t that she &as no longer engaged to ou$ she organised our ho#e"o#ing part *ust as though she &as still engaged to ou4) she as!ed. ,Or didn)t she sa 4) she added &ith a distrustful loo!. (loan bore her distrustful loo! ver &ell$ she thought. He didn)t even see# in the least fed up &ith her 1uestioning$ either. In fa"t$ %hitne suddenl had the un"anniest notion that he &as prepared to sit there for as long as it too! to ensure that not one single 1uestion re#ained in her #ind3 ,A""ording to her$) he replied levell $ ,she had neither "o#prehended &hat I)d said in # telephone "all$ nor re"eived an letter fro# #e.) ,Perhaps she hadn)t$) %hitne suggested. ,It all ble& up at the start of # three #onths a&a $) (loan told her$ ,and one

telephone "all and one letter &as all she re"eived fro# #e. Inno"ent as ou are$ # dear$) he &ent on7&hen %hitne &as not so "ertain she "ould be "alled inno"ent an #ore than!s to hi#7)I)# sure ou)re not so naive as to believe that if 6leda Caufield still thought herself to be engaged to #e$ she &ould let another t&o and half #onths go b &ithout doing so#ething about it. The least she &ould have done$) he added$ ,&ould have been to "onta"t # offi"e and as! the# to send a tele'.) %hitne "learl re"alled the "onfident blonde$ and "ould not help but agree &ith hi#. ,Perhaps7 ou)re7 right$) she "on"eded$ and entirel #issed the realising that it see#ed she &as no& starting to believe hi#. (loan s#iled. ,I a# right$) he said softl $ and$ returning to that fateful night$ he said$ ,I "onfess I &asn)t in a part ing fra#e of #ind &hen I returned to Heathlands after a three0#onth$ hard0at0it stint abroad.) ,?ou &ere7angr 4) ,I &as tired$) he said$ ,and in no #ood to find # drive and la&ns "luttered up &ith "ars$ nor to hear$ fro# the unhol din "o#ing fro# # house$ that I)d got "o#pan . All I &anted as I &al!ed in that earl #orning &as # bed.) ,Oh$ grief$) %hitne #ur#ured$ re"alling ho& she herself had &anted her bed #ore than she had &anted to be part of the rau"ous part . ,?ou7er7soon found 6leda4) He nodded. ,2er soon$) he told her. ,(he #ust have read fro# # e'pression that I &as not &ell pleased$ be"ause she as!ed #e in so#e urgen" not to #a!e a fuss.) ,(o ou *ust left her to it7and "a#e7er7&ent to bed.) (loan gave her a loo! that suggested she should have !no&n better$ but he told her$ ,Fortunatel $ ;rs Orton had thought to lo"! so#e of the roo#s. I opened up # stud and too! 6leda there. It &as then that I #ade short &or! of telling her$ so that she "ould not be in an possible doubt$ that our engage#ent &as at an end$ and %hitne guessed that (loan had been prett blunt about it$ and she "ould not refrain fro# butting in$ ,%as she upset4) ,%ater&or!s did see# i##inent$) he shrugged$ that tra"e of a s#ile &hi"h %hitne loved hovering about his #outh$ ,but she "heered up "onsiderabl &hen I told her that she "ould !eep the engage#ent ring7&hi"h she &as still &earing.) As (loan #ust have spotted that 6leda &as still &earing his ring$ so %hitne re#e#bered that she herself had also spotted the "ostl 0loo!ing sapphire and dia#ond ring on 6leda)s finger7the "ost of &hi"h #ust have run into #an

thousands. ,:ut$) she had to re#ind hi#$ ,she definitel still thought she &as our fian"5e &hen she stood at that bedroo# door. (he said9) ,I !no& 1uite &ell &hat she said$) (loan interrupted her gentl . ,:ut it &as all an a"t.) ,An7a"t4) ,Of "ourse$) he said$ and$ ta!ing pit on her &ide0e ed and # stified e'pression$ he e'plained$ ,I)d finished # business in the stud &ith her &hen she as!ed #e not to #a!e a fool of her in front of her friends. (he as!ed if I)d leave it to her to tell the# that she and I &ere no longer engaged.) ,%hi"h ou did4) %hitne 1uestioned$ realising as she spo!e$ that he #ust have done. ,As I said$ I &as tired$) he replied. ,I &as &ear and #ore interested in # bed than in being bothered &hat tale she told the# about the bro!en engage#ent. I agreed to sa nothing$ provided that she e#ptied # ho#e of un&anted guests straight a&a .) ,:ut she didn)t e#pt 9) her voi"e trailed off. ,(he did not$) (loan agreed. ,I &as tired enough to sleep on the proverbial "lothes0line$ and &ent up to bed and don)t even re#e#ber getting undressed. I "ertainl hadn)t the re#otest idea that one s#all portion of # bed &as alread o""upied$) he said gentl . ,I)#7sorr $) %hitne #u#bled$ and loo!ed a&a fro# hi# &hile she "olle"ted herself together again$ be"ause reall (loan had so #u"h "har# that she felt 1uite &ithout strength. ,There)s no need to be$) he said softl $ but$ observing that she &as not read to loo! at hi# again et$ he resu#ed$ ,I thin! I &as as staggered as ou &hen$ having fallen asleep as soon as # head tou"hed the pillo&$ I &as rudel a&a!ened b # e'0fian"5e going into dra#ati"s about ho& she)d trusted #e. (he)d as!ed #e to leave it to her to announ"e to her friends that &e &ere no longer engaged. That &as her &a of doing it.) ,(aving her fa"e b leaving ou as the guilt part 3) %hitne "aught on. ,And leaving #e$ if I &anted an rest at all that night$ to get rid of that "ro&d # self$) he "o#pleted. ,Is that &here ou &ent &hen ou left the bedroo#7 to get 6leda)s guests off our pre#ises4) %hitne gasped. ,I thought ou)d gone to #a!e it up &ith her3)

,I)d had it &ith her$ and &ith all her half0stoned friends. I &anted # ho#e to # self.) ,:ut ou didn)t have it to ourself. I got left behind and9) ,?ou got left behind$ and I$) he said$ ,I &as subse1uentl turned into a liar.) ,Oh3) %hitne breathed. :ut as her brain started to &a!e up$ she e'"lai#ed angril $ ,@rgh3) realising that$ &ithout her !no&ing it$ he)d had her believing ever &ord he)d said. ,I #ust be the #ost gullible fe#ale &ho ever lived3 I believed ou3) she stor#ed. ,+no&ing da#n &ell ho& ou)ve lied to #e$ I a"tuall believed that load of rubbish ou)ve *ust fed #e3) Fu#ing$ she &ould have *er!ed to her feet$ but (loan &as s&ift to stret"h out his hands to her ar#s and to hold her still. ,It &asn)t rubbish$ %hitne $ it &as the truth$) he told her as she tried$ unsu""essfull $ to !no"! his hands fro# her ar#s. ,:elieve #e$ ever &ord that I)ve told ou sin"e I entered our flat toda has been the truth.) (pea!ing 1ui"!l $ the sooner to get her "al#ed do&n$ he s&iftl added$ ,It &as onl after I #et ou that 7 that$ &ithout "o#prehending &h initiall $ I found that for the first ti#e in # life$ I &as hiding behind lies.) Realising that she &as fighting a losing battle in tr ing to get free fro# hands &hi"h *ust &eren)t going to release her until she &as 1uieted$ %hitne san! a little further ba"! in her "hair and tried again for "al#. To her relief$ (loan let go his hold on her. ,(upposing7*ust supposing$) she pushed out fro# bet&een stiff and hostile lips$ ,that I believe$ as ou)ve said$ that our engage#ent &as bro!en before ou "a#e ho#e that night. %h $ if it &asn)t for purposes of revenge$ did ou phone #e at # offi"e so#e &ee!s later4 %h $ !no&ing I)d onl agreed to dine &ith ou that night be"ause I &anted to help in an &a I "ould$ did ou then fill #e up &ith that dreadful stor of our #other)s a""ident4) ,I spent the t&o &ee!s follo&ing our first dinner date &ondering the sa#e thing # self$) (loan ad#itted$ and sent her heartbeats into rapid a""eleration &hen he revealed$ ,Prior to our first date$ I)d gone through al#ost three &ee!s &ith the #e#or of ou insisting on intruding on # ever da . At the end of those three &ee!s$ &hen a""ording to # &a of thin!ing ou should have been "o#pletel out of # head7but &eren)t7I thought I)d better ta!e another loo! at ou.) ,?ou #a!e it sound li!e so#e "lini"al e'er"ise3) %hitne denied her fast0beating heart to tell hi# tartl . ,It &as never that$) (loan #ur#ured$ and #ade her heart pound &ith rene&ed vigour &hen he &ent on$ ,I soon realised that # onl #otive for as!ing ou out &as

that$ purel and si#pl $ I &anted to see ou again.) Her throat felt so "ho!ed that it &as a &onder to %hitne that her voi"e should "o#e out so "learl &hen$ as if onl #arginall interested$ she said$ ,Is that so4) (loan nodded$ as he told her$ ,I &as brought do&n to earth &ith a resounding "rash &hen ou suddenl sho&ed that our reasons for sharing dinner &ith #e that night &ere nothing to do &ith an re"ipro"al feeling that ou &anted to see #e again$ too.) ,(et ou ba"! on our heels$ did it4) she as!ed hi# a"idl $ &hile &ishing that her gidd heart &ould behave as sensibl as her head$ &hi"h *ust !ne&$ #ost definitel $ that this &as the longest garden path she had ever had the #isfortune to be led up. ,Naturall I see no& that ou &ere being nothing but honest &hen ou told #e that night that ou and 6leda &ould never #arr $) she &ent on &itheringl . ,Naturall $ too$) she snapped$ as she re"alled so#e of their dis"ussion that night$ ,having seen that I a#7&as7a little sensitive &hen it "o#es to a #other)s suffering$ ou *ust "ouldn)t resist #a!ing up the stor ou did about our #other.) ,I "an)t den it$) (loan replied. ,Though if it)s of an help$ I &ent through the ne't t&o &ee!s being stunned at the liar ou had #ade of #e.) ,%ell$ I *ust !ne& it &ould end up being all # fault3) %hitne flared. ,%ho else should I bla#e4) he as!ed$ unnerving her b ta!ing hold of her hands in her lap$ and loo!ing steadil into her e es. ,Through ou$ pride and the instin"t to !eep # head do&n have seen #e lie &hen never in # life have I lied$ or found the need to &eave su"h blatant falsehoods to an fe#ale.) ,That)s the sort of ba"!0handed "o#pli#ent I adore$) %hitne told hi# faintl $ the sour note she had sear"hed for not to be found an &here. (he tried to snat"h her hands fro# his grasp$ but he &ould not let the# go. Then suddenl she &as not sure if it &as he &ho &as gripping her hands$ or she &ho gripped his$ &hen all at on"e he "onfessed$ ,?ou)ve got #e so all over the pla"e$ %hitne La&ford$ that it doesn)t surprise #e that I)# getting it all &rong and don)t !no& &hat the hell I)# doing or sa ing.) (he !ne& the feeling$ it applied to her$ but surel not to hi#3 (taring at hi#$ she tried desperatel hard for so#ething brittle$ or sar"asti"$ or for an thing at all &hi"h &ould "on"eal the fa"t that she &as starting to fall apart at the sea#s. :ut her voi"e &as not sar"asti"$ brittle or hard &hen all she #anaged to sa &as a "ho! 0sounding$ ,It7er7sounds painful.)

,It is$ believe #e$ it is$) he told her$ and see#ed about to go on$ &hen he hesitated. Not too long ago she had been 1uite positive that she &ould never again believe another &ord he said. ?et$ &hen she &ell !ne& that he "ould be hesitating &hile he thought up fresh lies$ the #ost idioti" idea dropped into her head that he &as hesitating be"ause$ for so#e reason$ he &as unsure of hi#self3 :ut$ even !no&ing *ust ho& idioti" her idea &as7be"ause she had never #et a #an &ho &as so "olossall "onfident over *ust about ever thing7%hitne found she &as still &aiting and still read to listen &hen$ ta!ing a stead ing breath$ (loan "ontinued$ ,It see#s$ no&$ that I)ve been in a perpetual state of alternating happiness$ anguish and apprehension sin"e the first ti#e I #et ou$ # dear.) -esperatel $ she sought for so#e trite or stinging "o##ent. :ut$ as he had des"ribed #an of her o&n feelings sin"e she had #et hi#$ all she "ould #ur#ur &as$ ,?ou7er7have4) ,I &as irritable at first$) he &ent on$ ,and &ith *ust "ause$ sin"e I)d "o#e ho#e to find that # house had been invaded. :ut$ after "at"hing up on so#e #issed sleep$ I "a#e do&nstairs to find ou asleep on # "ou"h.) ,I7re#e#ber$) she said *er!il $ and at the tender s#ile that "a#e to his #outh at her *er! tone$ %hitne re#e#bered too ho& breathless she had felt that #orning &hen (loan had rea"hed do&n to that "ou"h to haul her to her feet. That sa#e feeling of breathlessness returned &hen he said softl $ ,I loo!ed do&n at our gentle$ sleeping e'pression and !ne& then that so#ething &as hap0 pening to #e.) ,?ou7did4) In the grip of she !ne& not &hat$ an feeling that he #ight be l ing to her &as gone as %hitne loo!ed into the sin"ere gre of his e es. ,Er7&hat &as it4 -id ou !no&4) she as!ed fro# a dr throat. ,I didn)t !no& then$) he replied. ,All I !ne& &as that so#e alien for"e &as at &or!$ urging #e to go and fet"h a blan!et to #a!e sure that ou &eren)t "old.) ,Oh$) she said$ and s&allo&ed. ,:ut7 ou didn)t fet"h a blan!et.) ,I &as about to &hen ou stirred and opened our e es. And$ es$) he &ent on$ , our e es reall &ere the fabulous green I thought I had drea#ed$ and I !ne& then that I &anted to get to !no& ou better.) (uddenl $ %hitne lost her feeling of being #es#erised. ,It didn)t sound li!e it3) she retorted shortl . ,Fro# &hat I re"all$ no sooner had I got # e es open than ou &ere biting # head off.) ,If ou re"all that$ %hitne $) he said #ildl $ strangel $ not rising to her sharp

tone$ ,then ou)ll also re"all that no sooner had ou opened our e es than$ &hen I &as half0&a to planning to spend the da &ith ou$ all ou "ould thin! of &as to get a&a fro# #e. All ou &anted to do &as to get ba"! to this flat.) ,I9) she said$ and had no defen"e$ although she &as not altogether sure &h she should thin! she needed one. :ut (loan &as going on. ,Can ou &onder that after su"h treat#ent I should stand out against "onta"ting ou4) ,:ut ou did "onta"t #e3 ?ou rang9) ,I folded "o#pletel $) he o&ned$ ,&hen t&ent head.) da s later ou &ere still in #

,I9 ?ou9) %hitne tried again. ,?ou reall did &ant to see #e for7#e3 I #ean$) she hurried on &hen that sounded double -ut"h to her$ though that didn)t totall surprise her$ ,I thought ou onl &anted to see #e be"ause7er7so that I "ould tr and help &ith our bro!en engage#ent. Ah3) she said$ and even though she felt that she &as tal!ing nineteen to the do<en$ she &as suddenl beset b nerves$ b sho"! and b e#otions &hi"h she "ould not put a na#e to$ for she "ould not stop the &ords bubbling fro# her. ,:ut ou)d alread bro!en our engage#ent7 ou$ I #ean$ not 6leda7so ou "ouldn)t have &anted our engage#ent #ended an &a . (o9) %hitne slo&ed do&n and brought out the onl thing that her intelligen"e had left her &ith)9 ou #ust have &anted to go out &ith #e9) Abruptl $ she bro!e off$ then sho"! and nerves and ever thing else &as leaving her$ be"ause he *ust had to be leading her up the garden path. ,?ou rat3) she hurled at hi#$ an!ing her hands out of his unsuspe"ting "lasp. ,?ou l ing$ trea"herous s&ine3) she berated hi#$ &hile (loan$ blo"!ing an "han"e she had of getting to her feet$ stared in astonish#ent at this sudden "hange in her. ,Of "ourse ou &anted to see #e3) she raged. ,And naturall $ ou al&a s fill up the fe#ales ou &ant to see &ith all that guff about our #other3) she stor#ed. ,No$ I don)t) (loan replied angril . ,?ou)re the onl 9) ,Oh$ I get it3) %hitne flared hostilel . ,I)# spe"ial$ a# I4 I)# the9) ,?es$ ou are$ da#n ou3) (loan shouted. ,?ou)re so spe"ial to #e that$ as I told ou$ I don)t !no& &here the hell I a# an #ore.) ,%ell$ I93) Again deter#ined that she &as not going to listen to another l ing &ord$ (loan)s repl onl then san! in. Her voi"e &as #u"h less angr &hen$ nervous again$ she tried for a "ool note$ to sa offhandedl $ ,Reall 4) ,Reall 3) (loan "onfir#ed$ his tone "ool too$ though a &ar#th began to "reep in as

he &ent on$ ,%hat in thunder &as I supposed to do4 There &as I out to dinner &ith a fe#ale &hose "o#pan I &as en*o ing$ &hose beaut I ad#ired$ and &hose "onversation$ sense of hu#our$ her &hole being$ had #e #ore and #ore fas"inated as the evening &ore on. :ut a fe#ale$ I &as #ade to realise as our dinner date dre& to a "lose$ &ho had not a""epted # invitation fro# an feeling that she &ould li!e to see #e again too$ but$ far fro# being interested in #e$ &as tr ing to get #e ba"! &ith so#e other &o#an.) Put li!e that$ it didn)t sound ver flattering to hi#$ %hitne had to ad#it. ,?ou "ould hardl bla#e #e for that$ though$) she boun"ed ba"!$ having #ore than enough to be going on &ith that (loan had said he had ad#ired her beaut and had en*o ed her "o#pan . ,A""ording to &hat I believed7and ou hadn)t told #e differ0 entl 7) she a""used$ ,I &as the reason for our engage#ent being bro!en in the first pla"e. And$) her brain &o!e up to prod$ ,&hether ou &anted to !eep the truth of &ho ended our engage#ent to ourself or not$ and regardless of # 7er7 indifferen"e7to ou9) she faltered$ biting off the &ords she so nearl had added 7 ,at the ti#e)7and hardened her heart &hen she sa& so#ething that loo!ed li!e a fli"!er of pain "ross his features at her state#ent that she &as indifferent to hi#. ,%hat possible reason7if &e rule out revenge7"an ou have for l ing$ and for !eeping on l ing$ about our #other4) she resu#ed to "hallenge. ,Pride$) (loan replied straight a&a . ,Pride$ I thin!$ #ade #e tell that first lie fro# &hi"h all else follo&ed. Pride not to let ou !no& that it ran!led that ou &eren)t dining &ith #e out of an &ish to spend so#e ti#e in # "o#pan . ?ou)d #ade that ver plain.) ,Oh$) %hitne #ur#ured softl $ finding that her heart &as no&here as hard as she &ould have li!ed it to be. ,I)d definitel de"ided that if ou felt li!e that then$ devil ta!e ou$ I &asn)t going to ring ou again.) ,%as that &h ou sounded so disagreeable &hen ou rang #e at the offi"e and ordered #e to give ou # ho#e telephone nu#ber4) %hitne as!ed$ and &as full of love for hi# &hen he nodded. ,I)# sorr $) he apologised. ,I)d *ust given in after t&o &ee!s of being deter#ined not to. Pride &as *oined b instin"ts of self0preservation &hen$ having #ade use of our ho#e nu#ber in vain$ I &as assaulted b enraged feelings of *ealous &hen I rang the ne't night$ onl to have ou tell #e that the reason ou hadn)t ans&ered our phone the night before &as be"ause ou &ere out &ith so#e other #an.) ,?ou7&ere *ealous4) %hitne as!ed$ her heart starting to beat so violentl that

she "ould hardl breathe. ,I)ve been al#ost insane &ith it$) (loan "onfessed. ,Even &hen # instin"ts of self0preservation refused to allo& #e to see &h I &as so *ealous$ I &anted to #a!e sure that ou dated no one else but #e.) ,Oh7(loan3) %hitne gasped on a &hisper$ and$ even &hile she &as a&are that there &as still so#e e'plaining to be done$ she *ust "ould not hold ba"! fro# as!ing$ albeit haltingl $ ,%hat7is it that7 ou)re sa ing4) For long$ endless #o#ents (loan sat and loo!ed deepl into her e es. ,I)# sa ing$) he began then$ ,that$ &hile I)ve been too proud to let ou see ho& it #attered to #e that ou didn)t "are &hether ou &ent out &ith #e or not$ I haven)t been too proud to lie to ou. I)# sa ing$) he "ontinued$ ,that fear that ou &ould refuse to go out &ith #e again sa& #e perpetuating that lie.) (loan)s e es &ere still fi'ed on hers &hen$ as if to gain strength fro# so#e ph si"al "onta"t &ith her$ he rea"hed for her hands. He &as holding the# in his large$ &ar# "lasp &hen$ ver 1uietl $ he told her$ ,I)# sa ing$ si#pl $ # dear$ dear %hitne $ that7I love ou.) ,Oh93) she sighed on a gossa#er breath$ and she s&allo&ed hard. ,?ou &ouldn)t9) she began to as! on a bro!en$ hus! note$ ,9 lie to #e$ over a th0thing li!e that$ &ould ou4) ,It #eans so#ething to ou$ then3) he e'"lai#ed in so#e urgen" . ,; loving ou #eans so#ething9) (uddenl he "he"!ed. ,I)# sorr $) he apologised. ,I)ve said ou)ve got #e all over the pla"e$ and it)s true.) He then see#ed to thin! that he had not earned the right to !no& ho& she felt until he had "onvin"ed her of his o&n feelings$ for$ holding her hands #ore fir#l in his grip$ he i#plored$ ,Trust #e$ %hitne $ please tr to trust #e3 I !no& I)ve done nothing but give ou "ause not to believe a &ord I sa $ but if ou believe nothing else7 believe that I love ou &ith ever thing that)s in #e.) There &as no #ista!ing his sin"erit $ and %hitne felt as if her heart &ould burst. A great and over&hel#ing *o bro!e in her$ and she not onl &anted to trust hi#$ but ever instin"t &ithin her told her she should. ,Oh$ (loan$) she said sha!il $ ,I don)t !no& &hat7 to sa .) Loo!ing seriousl into her &ide and shining green e es$ (loan too! a et fir#er hold on her hands. ,?ou "ould tr $ for a start$) he said throatil $ ,telling #e that ou don)t7hate #e.) ,I don)t hate ou$) she &hispered. ,?ou "ould tell #e that ou7li!e #e a little$) he instru"ted.

,I li!e ou7a lot$) %hitne told hi#. ,?ou "ould tell #e$) he said$ and %hitne a"tuall sa& hi# ta!e so#ething of a nervous s&allo& before he &ent on$ ,that ou7love #e7*ust a ver little7perhaps4) ,Oh$ (loan$) %hitne "ried$ and she &as so e#otionall #oved *ust then that she &as ver "lose to tears$ ,I love ou$ &ith all that)s in #e.) %hat she e'pe"ted to happen then$ she "ould not have said$ but she had not e'pe"ted that (loan should tighten his grip on her fingers$ and should "hallenge her hoarsel $ ,?ou7&ouldn)t lie to #e7to get our o&n ba"!4) :ravel she &ithstood the bruising pressure of his grip on her hands$ and in the taut silen"e that follo&ed she "ould read the tor#ent in his e es as he &aited for her ans&er. ,I &ould never lie to an #an over a thing li!e that$) she 1ui"!l told hi#$ and$ using the &ords he had used on her$ she &as suddenl #ade even #ore a&are of ho& sin"erel he had #eant the#$ &hen she sin"erel pleaded$ ,Trust #e$ (loan.) Perhaps t&o #ore se"onds elapsed$ &ith (loan "rushing the fingers that la in his hold$ though sa ing nothing. Then$ ,Oh$ # love$ # life3) he "ried$ and so#eho& 7%hitne never 1uite !ne& ho& it &as a"hieved7the hands that had been threatening to fra"ture hers had suddenl lifted her. And in one #ove#ent$ or so it see#ed$ he had #oved her so that the ne't she !ne& &as that she &as on his lap in his "hair and he &as holding her tightl up against his heart. ;inute after #inute ti"!ed b &hile (loan alternatel held her and put her fro# hi# to loo! into her fa"e. ,%hen4) he as!ed. ,%hen did ou !no&4) ,I !ne& that night ou first !issed #e$) %hitne $ her trust in (loan gro&ing in leaps and bounds$ replied openl . ,That night3) he e'"lai#ed in"redulousl . ,:ut I)d been a s&ine that night3) ,It7er7had been a prett disastrous evening$) she understated softl $ and &as in seventh heaven &hen (loan)s fabulous grin "a#e out. ,That)s putting it #ildl $) he #ur#ured. ,:ut it &as all # fault$) he shouldered the bla#e. ,I)d bro!en all re"ords to get # &or! in (&it<erland done so I "ould get ba"! to ou$) he re"alled. ,:ut &hen I phoned ou$ &hat do ou do but tell #e ou)ve a date &ith +eston4 Then$ in the restaurant$ &hile I)# still not over # *ealous about hi#$ lo and behold$ ou e'0lover$ (elb $ &al!s in.) ,He &as never # lover3) %hitne said 1ui"!l . ,%ell$ not in the a""epted use of the &ord.)

,I !no& that no&$ # love$) (loan said tenderl $ ,but I didn)t !no& it then. ?ou)d spo!en so#e ti#e previousl of having found out too late that he &as #arried$ and I *ust assu#ed ou #eant ou)d been lovers.) ,I #eant onl that I)d fallen for hi#$ not !no&ing he &as #arried$) %hitne told hi# 1ui"!l . ,:ut in a"tual fa"t$ I didn)t !no& at all &hat it felt li!e to fall in love$ until9) her voi"e started to fade ,9 until I #et ou$) she ended hus!il . ,; s&eet love$) (loan breathed$ and all &as 1uiet in the roo# for so#e #inutes &hen$ holding her "lose$ he tra"ed !isses over her fa"e$ &ith his lips at last "o#ing to rest over hers. :ut soon he &anted to loo! into her fa"e again$ and as their !iss bro!e$ ti#e passed &hile "ontent in ea"h other)s ar#s$ the ga<ed at ea"h other. ,%hen did ou4) %hitne as!ed. ,+no& that I &as in love &ith ou4) (loan as!ed$ so #u"h on her &avelength no& that he &as able to pi"! up easil &hat she &as as!ing. ,I)d !no&n for so#e ti#e$ but in vie& of # re"ent es"ape fro# one engage#ent$ I &as suspi"ious of an thing &ith a .love/ label on it. :ut I$ too$ # dear$) he told her$ ,&as soon to dis"over that I didn)t !no& &hat it &as li!e to fall in love7until I #et ou.) ,?ou didn)t trul love 6leda4) ,No& that I !no& &hat real love feels li!e$ I "an &holeheartedl sa that I &as never re#otel in love &ith her. ; love for ou$ no&$) he &ent on$ ,had #e hiding behind a barrier of self0preservation. :ut that barrier started to "ru#ble for #e on the night that I !issed ou and found out for # self that ou &eren)t in love &ith (elb .) ,?ou !ne& that ou loved #e7that sa#e night3) ,I thin! I !ne& before then$ but I &asn)t read to a""ept it. In a"tual fa"t$ it too! #e fro# that (aturda night to the follo&ing Frida night to fa"e the !no&ledge that I &as utterl and "o#pletel in love &ith ou. And also$) he &ent on$ ,to fa"e the fa"t that ou &ere going to pla hell &hen I told ou of # de"eption &ith regard to # #other)s a""ident.) ,?ou7intended to tell #e4) ,Of "ourse$) (loan replied stoutl . ,: (aturda #orning$ though$ I &as in 1uite a state.) ,?ou &ere4) (loan nodded as he told her$ ,Part of #e &as "linging hard on to the #e#or of

ho& ou)d rea"ted7er7 favourabl to # !isses$ and ho&$ one parti"ular dinner date e'"luded$ &e)d see#ed to be happ in ea"h other)s "o#pan on #ost o""asions. Could it be$ I started to hope$ that #a be ou)d learned to "are in so#e s#all &a for #e4) ,%hat did ou de"ide4) %hitne as!ed hi# softl . ,; head &as so full of doubts and fears that I "ouldn)t "o#e to an "on"lusion &hi"h &asn)t hit on the head b so#e other thought a #inute later$) he o&ned. ,(o that in the end all I !ne& for sure &as that I #ust "onfess ever thing to ou$ and see ho& things &ent fro# there.) ,Ah$) said %hitne as so#e light started to da&n. ,%as that &h to dine at Heathlands that (aturda night4) ou invited #e

,It &as$) he agreed. ,:earing in #ind that the last ti#e I)d been in our flat$ our neighbour had "o#e banging on the door$ regardless of the hour$ I de"ided to get ou &here I stood no "han"e of being interrupted.) ,Fortunatel $ our house!eeper had the night off$) %hitne too! up. ,I gave her the night off$) he told her$ ,and dropped her off at her daughter)s on # &a to "olle"t ou.) ,?ou &ere ver 1uiet on the &a do&n$) %hitne re"alled. ,I had a lot on # #ind$) (loan ad#itted$ and *ust "ould not resist saluting her #outh &ith a loving !iss. ,I &as full deter#ined to tell ou ever thing$) he resu#ed &hen$ their !iss bro!en$ so#e se"onds had elapsed &hile he regained his thread. ,:ut I be"a#e #ore and #ore en"hanted b ou as the evening &ore on$ and I dis"overed in # self a #ight aversion to "onfessing an thing and so ruining &hat &as turning out to be a perfe"t evening. Then all too soon ou &ere tal!ing of &ashing up and of going ho#e$ and I !ne& I "ould dela no longer.) ,:ut ou did$) %hitne said gentl $ sensitive to hi# no&$ and able to see ho& it had been. ,I didn)t #ean to$) he revealed. ,I still needed ou in # ho#e$ fro# &here ou "ouldn)t easil run a&a $ &hen I told ou. I still didn)t &ant an interruptions &hen on"e I began. And that$) he said$ ,is the onl reason &h I agreed to ou doing the &ashing up. I &as about to start "onfessing ever thing$) he &ent on$ but he had no need to finish. ,%hen I dropped that dish and got soa!ed$) %hitne finished for hi#. 6entl he !issed her. ,?ou !no& the rest$ s&eet love$) he &hispered. ,I !no& I &as &rong to #a!e love to ou before I)d e'plained ever thing. :ut the situation

&as upon #e before I "ould thin!$ and$ oh$ # love$ to have ou in # ar#s sent ever sane and logi"al thought out of # head. I loved ou$ &as in love &ith ou$ and$ dared I believe it$ it felt as if ou loved #e a little too. I)# not super0hu#an$ darling.) 6entl $ %hitne rea"hed up and !issed hi#$ for it see#ed to her then that$ if she had been in an agon of #ind sin"e she had last seen hi#$ (loan had also !no&n that sa#e agon . ,Forgive #e4) he as!ed softl . ,?ou !no& I do$) she &hispered$ but she *ust had to as!$ ,%h $ (loan$ did ou leave #e to &a!e up in that big bed alone4) ,Oh$ # dear$ I)ve hurt ou so #u"h9) He bro!e off$ but he 1ui"!l resu#ed to tell her$ ,I never #eant that ou should !no& a #o#ent)s hurt that da . %e)d #ade love at da&n and I &as "ertain that to have given of ourself the &a ou had #ust #ean that ou "ared for #e. ?ou had fallen asleep again$) he told her$ ,and ou loo!ed ever bit as beautiful asleep as ou do a&a!e. I sta ed loo!ing at our dear fa"e for so#e #inutes and felt al#ost "o#pelled to &a!e ou and tell ou I loved ou.) ,Oh$ ho& I &ish that ou had$) %hitne &hispered. ,No #ore than I$) (loan breathed$ and he loo!ed adoringl do&n at her. ,:ut in # love for ou$ I found a ne& sort of "aring$) he &ent on. ,I &anted to &a!e ou$ but so#ething held #e ba"!. Through #e$ through our love#a!ing$ ou &ere e'hausted. I deter#ined then that ou #ust rest and$ "ertain that ou &ouldn)t &a!e for hours$ I then had the insane idea to go loo!ing for a perfe"t red rose.) ,A7red rose4) %hitne 1ueried. ,-a##it$) (loan breathed$ ,I)d never felt li!e that before. I &anted ou to &a!e and find a red rose on the pillo& ne't to ou. I &anted to be there &hen ou turned our head and sa& the rose. I &anted to be there to see if ou &ould s#ile that &ar# drea# of a s#ile ou had s#iled earlier. And$ if s#ile ou did$ I &anted to be there to tell ou of # love and to as! ou to #arr #e.) ,?ou &ere going to9 Oh$ # poor (loan3) %hitne "ried$ realisation hitting her right then that she #ust have hurt hi# *ust as #u"h as he had hurt her. ,It)s all right$) he shushed her. ,Ever thing)s all right no&.) ,:ut I hurt ou$) she said "ontritel . ,As I deserved to be hurt$) he a""epted$ and$ after telling her that it had ta!en hi# longer than he)d anti"ipated in tra"!ing do&n a perfe"t red rose on that earl

(unda #orning$ he &ent on$ ,Though I &as #ore totall "rushed than #erel hurt &hen$ tiptoeing into # roo# &ith # boot $ I found not onl that ou &ere gone$ but there$ on the pillo& &here I)d been all set to pla"e the rose$ &as the #essage ou had left.) ,Oh$ ho& "an ou ever forgive #e4) %hitne &ailed in so#e tor#ent. ,Easil $ # love$) (loan 1ui"!l assured her$ and !issed her$ and told her ho& he had sprinted to his "ar and had started to "hase after her. ,:ut ou "hanged our #ind4) ,I hadn)t got ver far &hen I realised that I)d better pull over$ and thin! it all out. It &as then that I &as hit b a sensitivit that I didn)t !no& I had$ and I began to be besieged b the fear that if I &ent "hasing after ou$ ou)d re*e"t #e outright. I)d thought$) he s#iled tenderl $ ,that ou #ust have "ared so#ething for #e to have given ourself the &a ou had. :ut to have &ritten that ou)d never forgive #e$ ever$ see#ed to #e to be all the proof I needed that ou not onl did not "are for #e but that ou bla#ed #e entirel for &hat had happened and &ere no& bitterl regretting having given ourself to #e.) ,I #ight have been regretting it then$) %hitne told hi# softl $ ,but onl be"ause of &hat ;rs Orton had told #e. I gave # self to ou &illingl $ and in love$) she told hi# sh l . ,(&eet %hitne $) he breathed$ and pla"ed featherlight !isses on her e es. ,6od !no&s &here I &ent for the rest of that da $ for I)ve no idea$) he resu#ed as if$ no& that the &ere tal!ing$ she #ust !no& ever thing. ,All I !ne& &as that &hen ou had to be #ine$ ou *ust did not &ant to !no&. I then sent ou the painting &hi"h ou)d li!ed so #u"h7hoping to establish so#e point of "onta"t7 and !ne& the depths of despair &hen it "a#e ba"! &ith its o&n #essage.) ,I)# so sorr $) %hitne #ur#ured$ and *ust had to as!$ ,?our note said that ou)d bought that pi"ture so#e ti#e ago$ but94) ,It &as no lie$ # love$) he told her. ,I pur"hased the pi"ture the da after I)d loo!ed do&n into our e'"ited$ shining green e es in that galler . It &as the first ti#e in # life that I &as "ons"ious of # heart a"tuall starting to thud.) ,Honestl 4) she as!ed$ but she &as not reall doubting his &ord. ,Honestl $) he replied. ,I thin! I &as in love &ith ou then$ but &asn)t prepared to ad#it it.) %hitne s#iled happil $ and he &ent on$ ,An ho&$ I returned to the galler and bought the painting and &as *ust going to give the# our address for deliver $ &hen suddenl I got "old feet.)

,?ou7"old feet4) %hitne teased. ,Hell$) (loan grinned at her teasing$ ,I)d *ust e'tra"ted # self fro# one engage#ent8 I &asn)t read to get involved again. ,:ut ou are read no&4) ,?ou)ve #ade #e s&eat long enough$ oung &o#an$) he told her #o"!0severel . ,?ou "an have no idea of the #an ti#es I rea"hed for the phone to ring ou &hen that pi"ture "a#e ba"!.) ,:ut ou didn)t ring.) ,I "ouldn)t$ not then$) he said. ,I *ust "ouldn)t bear to have the &ords .I hate ou/ added to that .I)ll never forgive ou/. Then$ ever thing ble& up on the business I &as setting up abroad$ and I had to *et off to sort it all out. And onl &hen that &as settled did I have the "han"e to ta!e a long loo! at # life$ # present un0happiness. I *ust !ne&$ %hitne $ that I "ouldn)t ta!e another #onth li!e the last one. I de"ided that I)d have to do so#ething about it.) ,(o ou de"ided to phone #e &hen ou &ere ba"! in England$) %hitne do"u#ented$ loving the "o#fort his strong0#us"led ar#s afforded. ,I de"ided to phone ou$) (loan agreed. ,Though first$ and bearing in #ind that ou had sho&n a #ar!ed sensitivit &ith regard to # #other$ I put through a "all to her on her "ruise ship and told her that I needed her #ost urgentl at Heathlands.) ,%0&hat4) %hitne gasped. ,%0&h 4) she spluttered. ,I needed to have so#e reason to "onta"t ou. A reason &hi"h$ if ever thing &ent &ell$ &ouldn)t see ou put the phone do&n on #e the se"ond ou !ne& &ho it &as. I had it all rehearsed$ &hat I &ould sa $) (loan &ent on. ,And as soon as # #other and her husband had flo&n in and had arrived at # ho#e$ then &ith the &ords$ .; #other is at Heathlands and parti"ularl &ants to see ou/ on the tip of # tongue$ I dialled our nu#ber.) %hitne )s e es &ere sau"er0&ide as he "ontinued$ ,:ut no sooner did I hear our #u"h earned0for$ #u"h #issed$ and heart0palpitation0#a!ing voi"e than I forgot ever &ord of &hat I had rehearsed. Instead I found that I &as as!ing a 1uestion &hi"h &as #ore i#portant to #eB &hether ou had forgiven #e et. ?our repl $ # true love$ !no"!ed #e for si'.) ,?ou7er7#ust have driven li!e a de#on to have got here so 1ui"!l $) %hitne breathed. ,Possibl $) he "on"eded. ,I don)t re#e#ber #u"h of the drive. ?ou)d used the &ord .un&anted/ about our bab $ and I #ust have been half "ra< $ but all I "ould

thin! of &as that ou #ight be thin!ing of having an abortion and that I had to get to ou fast or # one faint "han"e of getting ou to #arr #e #ight be gone.) ,Oh$ (loan$) %hitne "ried$ and she felt e#otional tears stinging her e es again. ,:ut ou don)t have to #arr #e$) she thought she should tell hi#. To her delight$ she &as s&iftl #ade to see that an su"h suggestion &as #ightil fro&ned upon. ,Oh$ for 6od)s sa!e$ don)t start giving #e night#ares at this stage3) he told her for"efull . ,Aust pro#ise #e$ %hitne $ that ou)ll #arr #e as soon as I "an arrange it for one da ne't &ee!. Pro#ise #e$) he insisted$ &hen she did not ans&er hi# 1ui"!l enough. ,If ou put it li!e that$) she responded. ,Though I have to tell ou that on"e # &ord is given$ I never brea! a pro#ise.) ,(a after #e$) (loan instru"ted$ ,I pro#ise9) ,I pro#ise$) %hitne obliged. ,That I9) ,That I$) she repeated. ,%ill #arr (loan Illing&orth9) ,%ill #arr (loan Illing&orth.) ,As soon as it "an be arranged.) ,As soon as it "an be arranged$) she "o#plied$ and s#iled$ si#pl be"ause (loan s#iled. ,No& !iss #e$) he further ordered. ,I hope ou)re not going to be as boss as this &hen &e)re #arried$) %hitne returned "heerfull . ,I)ll be putt in our hands$ and ou !no& it$) (loan #ur#ured$ and "lai#ed her lips.