‘Yes—peace. I suppose that’s ultimately what we all want.’ Surprisingly, he acquiesced, ‘So tell me…what other things besides music do you enjoy?’
‘Oh, there isn’t any lack of occupations. It’s just having the time to do them that’s the problem.’
‘Well…’ Georgia’s smile was as disarming as that of a little girl who’d just been told she was to be a bridesmaid for the first time. ‘Reading is a great passion—I love to lose myself in a good book…I also enjoy a bit of gardening myself from time to time…tiny though our little plot is! I also love hiking and swimming and going to the movies. Can I have a couple more?’ She sucked in a deep breath and laughed. ‘Taking long rambling walks with Hamish, and— finally!—spending time with my brother of course.’
‘You must be greatly looking forward to seeing him at the weekend.’
‘Oh, yes!’ Her eyes sparkled with undisguised longing. ‘I’ve missed him very much!’
Keir was mesmerised by the animation in her face.
‘How long has it been since you last saw him?’
‘At least three months. He came back home one weekend at the end of May for a brief visit. You were in New York on business—I remember him telling me.’
Keir remembered too. He’d been meeting with officials regarding Robbie’s car accident. His rental car had been hit side-on by a drunken driver. He hadn’t had a chance of saving himself. Keir’s gut clenched hard as iron.
‘Have you and Noah always been so close?’ he asked, the pain ebbing a little as he forced himself to concentrate on Georgia’s answer.
‘We lost our parents one after the other in the same year. Noah was fourteen and I was just five years older. We have no other living family, so I was determined to take care of us both.’
Her cheeks had turned an impassioned pink, and Keir absorbed what she had told him with a sense of shock—for a moment his own pain at the memory of Robbie’s death was banished.
‘That was an amazingly brave thing to do at nineteen,’ he said with admiration.
Georgia’s eyebrows flew up to her hairline. ‘It wasn’t brave at all! What else would I have done? Let them take him away from me? My own little brother? Let him go to strangers who wouldn’t love him like I do?’ Her hazel eyes sparkled with unshed tears. ‘I could never have lived with myself if I’d done that! And my parents would have turned in their graves! Families should stick together…especially when times are tough. Don’t you agree?’
THERE WAS NO DOUBT in Keir’s mind that she meant emotionally and not just physically. But since his own parents had never been there for him or his brother in that way he could not immediately give Georgia an answer.
His mother had drunk herself to death when Keir was just eleven—no doubt to escape the foul black tempers of his father which had become increasingly worse and more threatening as the years had gone on.
Robbie had been terrified of the old man, and Keir had defied him as much as he’d been able to—he’d— worn the bruises to prove it—but nothing had made any difference to how James Strachan treated his sons. Not until he’d become ill himself and seen the gates of death beckoning. By which time, of course, it had all been too late. How Moira Guthrie had stayed working for such a man—never mind nursing him after he’d got ill—Keir had never understood. He’d asked her once, and her reply had frankly stunned him.
‘I saw that he had good in him,’ she had asserted, in— her quiet yet forthright way, and Keir had had to acquiesce that the woman had far more forbearance and forgiveness in her than he could ever hope to have.
For himself, he couldn’t ever foresee a time when he would be able to forgive James Strachan his transgressions. The man had simply not been fit to be a father.
A muscle throbbing at the side of his temple, Keir grimaced before answering Georgia’s question. ‘In an ideal world I suppose families should stick together,’ he remarked. ‘But as we both know this world is far from ideal, and people who have no business even contemplating having children sadly do, and screw up their kids’ lives as well as their own.’
And God only knew what pretty Georgia Cameron— with her passionate adherence to family loyalty and love would have made of his completely un-natural— family! He shuddered to think.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, would you please find your seats as the concert will resume in three minutes’ time…’
Relieved by the instruction that meant their conversation— had to come to an end—because it was touching upon things that made him uneasy—Keir inclined his head briefly towards his companion. ‘Time to get back.’
Seeing a look that might have been concern in her pretty eyes and steeling himself against it, Keir took Georgia’s glass, deposited it beside his own and, unable— to resist the opportunity to touch her, put his hand beneath her elbow to steer her back towards their seats.
‘All the worry and stress has gone from your eyes.’
Her relaxed stroll coming to a stop on one of the myriad footpaths throughout the gardens, Georgia turned to regard her tall, blond, blue-eyed brother, and— couldn’t suppress the effervescent bubble of happiness— that rose up inside her at the sight of him.
He’d arrived at Glenteign only last night for the weekend and she had been thrilled to see a familiar, smiling— face.
‘This place has done wonders for you…I can see that.’ Looking thoughtful, Noah reached out and fingered a curling tendril of her chestnut hair. ‘You’re a different girl…and you’ve lost that grey London pallor!’
‘Who wouldn’t love it here?’
Turning slightly away from him, Georgia leant forward to smell the scent of a drowsy yellow rose, drooping— heavily on its stem beside the footpath. The path was resplendent on all sides with foliage, plants— and flowers—some past their best, since September was swiftly approaching, but still lovely all the same.
Roses had always been her favourite. She supposed it was because her mother had loved them so, and had always brought one or two into the house from the garden to light up a room when she was feeling a little melancholy. Even though she and Noah had been on their own for years now, Georgia still found it hard sometimes to realise that their mother was no longer there…her father too. They had been such wonderful, loving parents.
For some reason just at that moment the memory crept into her mind of what Keir had said at the concert. Something about not living in an ideal world, and how some people should never have children because they not only screwed up their own lives but their kids’ as well. Was that what had happened to Keir and his brother Robbie?
Her brow creased with renewed concern. She’d already concluded that the Laird of Glenteign was not exactly the happiest of men. Sometimes she glimpsed such singular sadness in his riveting blue eyes that she longed to be able to banish it for good… But she knew it was a very dangerous impulse, and one that should definitely be curbed if she didn’t want to find herself not just hurt but out of a job too…
‘And what about the Highlands? What about where you’re working now?’ she asked Noah, determined— to focus on her brother’s visit above all else while he was there. ‘Do you like it as much as Glenteign?’
‘Oh, it’s beautiful enough, all right—and the couple I’m working for are very down-to-earth…despite— being landed gentry! But I enjoyed perhaps some of the best months of my life working here.’ Noah lapsed into a reflective stroll again and Georgia joined him. ‘Keir was great to work for. Easy to discuss my ideas with, and very fair. I enjoyed his company. How are you finding him, Georgie?’
‘Oh…’ She shrugged to deflect attention from the hectic colour that she knew had rushed into her cheeks at the mention of her boss. ‘There were a few awkward moments at first, but now we’re getting along just fine. He’s off to New York on business again on Monday, so we’ve been very busy the past few days trying to do as much as possible before he goes.’
It was odd, but when Keir had announced the day after the benefit concert that he was going away, Georgia’s stomach had turned strangely hollow. No one she’d ever worked for had had such a peculiar effect on her before.
‘Oh, well…You’ll enjoy being your own boss for a while, won’t you?’
‘Yes, I’m sure I will.’
Georgia wondered what Noah would think if he knew that the big masculine study where they worked together already seemed strangely desolate even with the idea of Keir not being there with her. The man was such a presence that the big house would not seem the same without him.
‘Anyway…’ Linking her arm in his, Georgia grinned. ‘Guess what’s for dessert at dinner tonight, in— your honour?’
‘Not apple crumble?’
‘I asked Moira if she could arrange it as a special treat.’
‘Be still my beating heart!’