What was she saying? Sylvie could hardly believe the lies she was hearing herself speak, but Ran seemed to have no difficulty in accepting them.
Slamming down his barely touched mug of coffee, he came towards her.
Immediately Sylvie backed away.
‘I don’t know why you’re making such a fuss,’ she told him, adding flippantly, ‘It’s no big deal after all—’
‘No...maybe not to you,’ Ran interrupted her grimly.
‘Not to you either,’ Sylvie told him. Her phone started to ring and she hurried towards it, telling him over her shoulder, ‘That will be Wayne...’
It wasn’t, and she knew that the poor double-glazing salesperson must have been astonished and probably shocked by the tone of her conversation as she overrode his sales pitch, telling him that she had done what he wanted and that she couldn’t wait to see him, to be with him properly, if he knew what she meant. Blowing noisy kisses into the receiver, she ended the call and then turned to Ran, telling him coolly, ‘Wayne’s on his way, so unless you want to stand and watch to see just how quick a learner I am...’
She was still smiling—the hurting, false, ridiculous smile she had pinned to her face as she’d challenged him—when she heard the door slam behind him, and then continued to wear it for several minutes after he had gone, despite the fact that tears were flooding from her eyes.
It was later that morning that she actually bumped into Wayne, completely by chance. In the two hours since Ran had left she had had more than enough time to dwell on what had happened and what she had said, and by the time she saw Wayne she had convinced herself that it was totally impossible for her ever to see Ran again...ever to see anyone again who was even remotely connected with him.
‘Hi there, doll,’ Wayne greeted her with a grin. ‘Looks like it’s time to say goodbye. I’m meeting up with the eco-warriors this afternoon.’
Swiftly Sylvie made up her mind, seizing on the opportunity to make her escape, not just from Ran but from everything that was associated with him—her love, her shame, and her fear that he would somehow guess that she had lied to him.
‘I’m coming with you,’ she told Wayne determinedly, adding before he could argue, ‘My stepbrother has sent me some money so I can afford to support myself.’
‘How much has he sent you?’ Wayne questioned her interestedly.
An hour later, having packed everything that she would need, Sylvie locked the door of her flat behind her and went to join Wayne, who was waiting in his car.
She was a new Sylvie now, a different Sylvie. Ran, her love for him, the life she had once led—all were in the past and best forgotten.
A NOISE in the garden outside her window brought Sylvie out of her reverie. Startled, she let her unfocused gaze sweep the moonlit darkness and then sweep it again, her body stiffening as she saw Ran turn away and disappear into the shadows.
How long had he been standing there watching her? She knew from his clothes that he must have been working, probably checking for poachers who, she guessed, were as much a potential threat here as they had often been on her stepbrother’s estate.
Shivering, she headed back to her bed. It was gone three o’clock in the morning and as she touched her face she realised that it was wet with her tears.
Why in heaven’s name did she have to be so pathetic...standing there with tears pouring down her face whilst she relived the pain of the past? Oh, but she envied Ran. Her mouth twisted into a bitter smile as she tried to imagine him ever crying a single tear over her.
What had happened to her will-power, her strength; to the promise she had made herself before coming here—that things were going to be different, that never again would Ran be allowed to treat her with the same contempt he had shown her when they had faced one another as foes, enemies, on opposite sides, when she had allowed the eco-warriors to invade Alex’s land, to destroy the pretty woodland glade that she had once worked so hard to help create...just as Ran had destroyed her love and also destroyed her?
He had hated her for that almost as much as she had hated him. She had seen it in his eyes when he’d insisted on joining the others to see her off to America.
‘Why are you here?’ she had taunted.
‘Why do you think?’ he had responded, and of course she had known. He wanted to be sure that she really was leaving.
And now she was back—back to make the unwanted and agonisingly painful discovery that some things didn’t change, that some loves didn’t die.