Perhaps Alex was right; perhaps it was time that he looked around for a woman to settle down with, and perhaps once this business was finished and Sylvie was finally out of his life that was exactly what he would do... Perhaps...
SYLVIE frowned as she started to double-check what she had just been reading. In a detailed account for the work involved in treating both the wet and dry rot to Haverton Hall, she had only just noticed that slipped in at the back was an additional sheet reporting on some dry rot infestation in the Rectory, Ran’s private property, and with it was a brief note confirming that the work on the Rectory would be put in hand before the contractors started working on Haverton Hall itself.
Sylvie could feel her heart starting to thump heavily with a mixture of anger and pain as she re-read the sheet. It wasn’t unknown for the owners of the properties the Trust took over to try to drive as hard a bargain as they possibly could. It had fallen to Sylvie on more than one occasion to tactfully inform very grand personages that odd pieces of furniture they had listed as antiques had turned out, on further inspection, to be in fact extremely good copies and therefore not worth the value which had originally been attributed to them. On such occasions a very large supply of tact plus an even larger helping of erring on the side of generosity was called for, but for some reason the possibility of having caught Ran out in such a way evoked within her such strong and confusing emotions that she had to get up from her makeshift desk in front of her bedroom window to pace her bedroom floor whilst she mentally rehearsed exactly how she was going to confront him with her discovery of what he had done. The sum involved wasn’t particularly large—and, had Ran gone about things in a different way, she knew perfectly well that the Trust would probably have large-mindedly and generously offered to bear the cost of the work on the Rectory. It was the fact that he had tried to cheat them...to deceive and trick her...that Sylvie found so unacceptable, the fact that he probably thought he had deceived her, the fact that he was probably secretly laughing at her behind her back. Well, he wasn’t going to be laughing when she confronted him, she decided angrily.
A knock on her bedroom door stopped her in her tracks, her body tensing as she called out tersely, ‘Come in,’ whilst mentally deciding how to mount her attack. But when the door opened it wasn’t Ran who walked into her room but the housekeeper, Mrs Elliott.
‘Oh, Mrs Elliott,’ Sylvie faltered.
‘Ran asked me to check with you what you would like for dinner this evening,’ the woman told her. ‘He landed a fine wild salmon this morning and he said it was a particular favourite of yours...’
Sylvie closed her eyes.
Damn Ran. What was he trying to do to her reminding her, of things, of a past, she would much rather forget?
‘That’s very kind of you, Mrs Elliott,’ she told the other woman crisply, ‘but I shall be eating out this evening.’
Previously she had not given the least thought to where she might eat her evening meal, and she knew that her behaviour in refusing Ran’s salmon was both illogical and slightly childish, but she hadn’t been able to help herself.
Where was Ran anyway...strategically keeping out of her way? Well, he couldn’t do that for ever, and she certainly intended to tell him what she had discovered and to demand an explanation of his misuse of the Trust’s funds. No doubt he had imagined that he could slip the bill for the work on his own property through with the bill for the cost of the work on Haverton Hall without anyone being any the wiser. Well, he was going to learn very quickly his error. Which reminded her—she really ought to go up to the house and have a word with whoever was in charge of the company he had hired to deal with the dry rot. Sylvie pursed her lips. By rights the contract ought to have been put out to tender, but she had to admit that by acting so promptly and getting both the report compiled and the work started Ran had saved her a good deal of groundwork—and enabled work to be done on the Rectory at the Trust’s expense?
Ten minutes later Sylvie was on her way downstairs when she heard voices in the hallway, and as she rounded the curve of the staircase she could see Mrs Elliott talking with a tall, elegant woman in her late thirties.
‘So you’ll tell Ran that I called,’ she was saying to Mrs Elliott.
‘Yes, I will, Mrs Edwards,’ the other woman was responding respectfully.
Thoughtfully and discreetly Sylvie studied her. Tall, slender, expensively dressed, immaculately made up, she was the type of woman whom Sylvie could remember Ran favouring and she immediately guessed that she must be Ran’s current woman-friend. There was certainly that very confident, almost proprietorial air about her that suggested she was far more than simply a mere visitor to the house. She turned away from Mrs Elliott and then saw Sylvie, her expression changing slightly and becoming, if not challenging then certainly assessing, Sylvie recognised as she continued on her way downstairs.