‘If you give me the keys to your Discovery, I’ll go and get it for you,’ Ran told her promptly. ‘Just give me ten minutes to make a couple of phone calls.’
As she handed over the keys to her car Sylvie wondered where it was he was going to be spending the evening and with whom.
Ran was a very masculinely attractive man; even she had to admit that.
‘I doubt that Ran will ever marry,’ Alex had once commented.
‘Why not?’ Sylvie had questioned curiously, her adoring teenage heart thumping frantically at the thought of being married to Ran, of being his wife, of sharing his life, his bed... A delicious shiver of anticipatory pleasure had run through her as she’d willed her stepbrother to say that there was a mysterious someone in Ran’s life, far too young for him as yet, a special someone...herself...
But instead, disappointingly, prosaically, Alex had told her, ‘An estate manager’s salary and tied accommodation in a small cottage are hardly up to the standard or style of living that the women Ran dates are used to, and he’s far too proud to want to live off his wife...’
‘The women...?’ Sylvie had flared unhappily, whilst her mother, who had been listening to their conversation, had chipped in disparagingly.
‘Ran would be far better off marrying some farmer’s daughter, a girl who’s been brought up for that kind of lifestyle...’
Sylvie remembered how Alex’s eyebrows had risen at this display of snobbery from her mother. But now, of course, Ran’s prospects had changed. She knew how much Lloyd had paid him for the house and the estate. There had been death duties and other commitments to meet, of course, but even so he would have been left with a sizeable sum, much larger than the inheritance she had received from her father, which her over-anxious mother had been convinced would make her a target for potential fortune-hunters.
Yes, with the money he had at his disposal, and the living he would no doubt make out of the land, Ran would financially have a great deal to offer a woman.
Not that a man’s financial status had ever counted for anything with her. Love in a cottage might be an ideal, a daydream, a fantasy now relegated to her childhood, but secretly Sylvie still adhered to the belief ‘Better a humble home where love is than a mansion without it’—and, of course, there had never been any doubt in her mind whatsoever that when it came to the material things in life what Ran had to offer the woman he loved...
The woman he loved.
She bit her lip as Ran started to walk away from her. Once he had gone she stared out of the bedroom window. It overlooked the formal gardens to one side of the house. Like the house, they had an air of neglect; of being unloved. Sylvie’s vivid imagination soon filled the neglected borders with lush herbaceous plants and restored the overgrown rose garden to what must have been a haven of peace and perfume.
The air in the bedroom felt stale, but when she tried to open one of the sash windows all she managed to do was to break one of her nails. Cursing herself under her breath, she winced as the pain inside her head increased. Perhaps she had been rash in refusing Ran’s offer of some headache tablets.
Quickly she opened the bedroom door and hurried back down the stairs.
She found Ran in a huge ill equipped kitchen at the back of the house. As she pushed open the door he was heading towards it carrying a tray of tea.
‘Who’s that for?’ Sylvie demanded suspiciously.
‘You,’ Ran told her promptly. On the tray Sylvie could see a small packet of a familiar brand of headache tablets. The temptation to tell him that she didn’t want either his tea or his tablets was so strong that she had to fight hard to ignore it. Where on earth had such perversity come from—and when she had come downstairs especially to ask him for them?
‘I can manage it for myself,’ she told him ungraciously, and she held out her hands for the tray. The look he gave her made her flush but doggedly she stood her ground. Even so, she doubted that he would have handed the tray over to her if the telephone in the hallway had not rung.
As he went to answer it Sylvie headed for the stairs.
‘Vicky...’ she heard him saying warmly, and then, ‘Yes...it’s still on... I’m looking forward to it too,’ he confirmed, his voice dropping and deepening. ‘Look, I have to go...’
Sylvie was halfway up the stairs when she heard him replacing the telephone receiver.
‘Sylvie—’ he began.
But she cut him short, turning round and telling him crisply, ‘Don’t let me delay you if you’ve got a date, Ran. I’ve got plenty of work to read up on.’
‘You need to sleep off your headache,’ Ran told her curtly.