When he finally withdrew his lips, she knew that her cheeks were surely glowing as pink as any chrysanthemum.
‘What was that for?’ she asked, her voice soft.
‘Because I missed not being in bed with you last night. Would you have minded me coming in and waking you up?’
‘I wish you had.’ Her face troubled for a moment, Georgia let herself revel in the feelings of safety and protection that Keir’s strong arms so tantalisingly engendered. ‘I had a couple of really disturbing nightmares,— and I couldn’t go back to sleep after the second one.’
‘Oh?’ Now it was Keir’s turn to look troubled. He brushed back some soft chestnut hair from her smooth forehead, his gentle touch eliciting a small explosion of delicious tingles up and down her spine. ‘What were they about? Want to tell me?’
‘No. I think it would upset me too much.’
And there was still the small matter of her pregnancy— to discuss…Georgia sighed and started to free herself from his embrace. She walked across the elegantly varnished wooden floor to the other side of the room, pulling the opened sides of her soft grey cardigan together across her pink T-shirt and black skirt as if suddenly feeling the cold.
‘I need to tell you something…’
‘Sounds very serious!’
There was the ghost of a smile on his compelling mouth, and he shrugged his shoulders as if she might possibly be exaggerating just how serious the matter was. For an instant, Georgia wanted to delay telling him the news, and instead encourage this unusually happy mood he seemed to be in. But, as great as the temptation was, she knew she couldn’t put her confession— off any longer.
‘It is serious, Keir. I think I’m pregnant.’
The previously teasing light in his eyes seemed ominously to go out.
Georgia’s hand subconsciously went to her stomach, as though to protect herself. ‘I haven’t done a test yet, but the signs are all there.’
‘I’m sorry, but you’ll have to give me a few moments here…’ His hand absently touching the side of his temple, Keir appeared genuinely stunned. ‘I always used protection,’ he said, shaking his head slightly. ‘How can that be?’
He doesn’t believe me, Georgia thought, and for a long, interminable second she was sucked into a vortex of pure blind panic. Her own inexperience suddenly made her very afraid.
‘I don’t know.’ Her hands curled into the material of her skirt and her mouth went dry as chalk. ‘Perhaps we weren’t always as careful as we might have been? Sometimes that can happen…’ Her voice trailed off, and she hardly knew how she confronted the shock that clearly marked his handsome face.
‘How long have you known?’
‘I only found out yesterday…My—my breasts were tingling, and I suddenly realised that my period was over a week late. They’re always so regular, and I should have noticed…But I—I haven’t exactly been thinking straight these past few days.’ Her glance was clearly distressed, and she pulled it away from the disbelief she was convinced she saw on his face, looking anywhere but at him.
‘Well, clearly we have to address this—don’t we?’
‘Address it?’ Georgia’s knees began to feel weak. He sounded so cold…so unemotional…so detached. It was like a nightmare.
‘We have to come to some decision about what we’re going to do.’
Was he going to suggest a termination? Now she really did feel as though her legs wouldn’t hold her upright. As shocking as the realisation that she was pregnant was, not to mention the glaring hard fact that her life was about to change beyond all recognition because of it, she knew she would never voluntarily— travel down that particular road of anguish. She was certain, too, that when Noah found out he would not want that for her either.
‘You’re upset,’ she said, her voice cracking a little as she looked up at him again. Her heart longed to bring back the seductive humour he had so captivated her with only a few short moments ago, but she thought that perhaps she would never be treated to such an event again. The assessingly clinical glance Keir gave her in return did nothing to reassure her.
‘Upset? That’s an understatement! How did you expect me to react, Georgia?’
‘Well, how do you think I feel?’ Georgia burst out, her— eyes sparking with sudden fury. ‘What do you imagine being pregnant means for me, Keir? I’m a single woman, supporting myself as well as helping my brother build up a business! How do you think a baby is going to affect my ability to earn a living? My God, you men can be so bloody selfish sometimes!’—
Before he could answer her, Georgia ran to the other side of the room, pulled opened the door and rushed out.
The Strachan family portraits that gazed back at her from their gilt frames on the corridor walls seemed to mock her distress as she quickly passed them, as if to say, Did you really think that someone like you could be part of this great family?
In that moment Georgia was certain that she’d lost her ability to trust another human being for ever. She’d hardly known how Keir was going to react to her news, but she honestly hadn’t expected him to act so coldly. It occurred to her that perhaps he thought she was trying to trap him somehow, because of his wealth and position, because of Glenteign. Maybe he thought she’d seen a chance to stop working so hard and live a far easier life? The thought was apt to make her want to lie down and die.
As she hurried, dazed, back down the grand staircase,— Moira was coming up the other way. She carried a pile of folded laundry in her arms, and she didn’t hold back on the warm, genuinely fond smile she bestowed on the younger woman.
‘Hello, lassie! Where are you off to in such a hurry? Is everything all right?’ She peered closer at Georgia’s stricken preoccupied face.
‘Are you sure?’ Moira’s frown told Georgia she didn’t believe her. Glancing round to check that Keir wasn’t following her, and feeling secretly heartsick that he wasn’t, Georgia sighed. ‘I’ve got a bit of a headache, actually. I think I’ll take a walk down to the beach and get some fresh air, try and clear it. I won’t be long.’
‘You do that, my dear, and take your time. When you get back I’ll make you a lovely cup of tea. That’ll soon help put everything to rights again.’
‘Thanks, Moira…you’re very kind.’
Although the temperature was a little warmer today, there— was a distinct crispness in the air. Before she knew it Georgia would be home again. Keir’s permanent— secretary, Valerie, would be reinstalled at Glenteign, and everything would be just as it had been before Georgia had ever set eyes on the estate—or— the charismatic man who owned it.
Inhaling a long, shaky breath, she started to walk down the almost deserted beach. Save for an elderly man, who watched his pet terrier dart in and out of the foaming sea, she had the wide sandy shoreline with its craggy rock formation to herself. Folding her arms across her grey cardigan, her long black skirt billowing about her ankles, she finally allowed the feelings she’d been desperately trying to keep at bay until she got there free rein.
All this time…All this time and she’d never known she could love a man as she loved Keir. She’d given herself to him because she loved him. Her virginity— hadn’t been such a burden that she would have given it to just any man she was attracted to. And now she was going to have his baby. By rights she should be feeling on top of the world. Except for Keir’s hurtful reaction to the news of her pregnancy Georgia told herself she would be. But now she knew that despite their passionate connection, and her love for him, there was no future for them as far as he was concerned.
Probably one day, soon after she had gone, another— woman—a woman from a similarly privileged— background to his—would see his face next to hers when she woke in the morning in their bed. Another woman would come to know that sometimes— he was haunted by his past, would learn to forgive him for his occasional black moods…And another woman would lie in his arms, her head against his chest, and feel loved and protected as she’d never felt loved and protected before…
Georgia pulled herself up short. But Keir didn’t love her. That was the whole point. If he had cared for her in the slightest then he wouldn’t have behaved like some aloof, distant stranger towards her when she’d told him she was carrying his baby. He would at least have reassured her that he would stand by her, come— what may…wouldn’t he?
She had no indication of who was behind her until the golden Labrador flew past her in a flurry of sand and wet fur. He stopped just ahead of where she stood, panting hard, his long tail wagging, his black eyes as bright and liquid as a seal’s as he gazed happily up at her.
Immediately bending low to pet him, Georgia felt her heart lift at the sight of the animal, despite her sorrow. Turning her head, she looked up the beach, expecting— to see Lucy or perhaps Euan jogging towards her. Both young people had taken quite a shine to the Labrador, and occasionally walked him for Georgia. But the tall, dark figure walking towards them wasn’t either of Glenteign’s younger staff members.