Live one day at a time, that was her present motto; just get through each minute, each hour, just go on telling herself that ultimately it was going to get better, that once the work on Haverton Hall was finished and she was out of Ran’s orbit she would be able to rebuild her defences and, with them, her own life. That was what she told herself, but deep down inside she wasn’t sure she truly believed it.
* * *
‘We’ll have to call at the Rectory first,’ Sylvie warned Lloyd as she drove north. ‘I don’t have the keys to Haverton Hall with me.’
‘That’s fine by me,’ Lloyd assured her. ‘How are you and Ran getting along, by the way?’
‘He’s a client of the Trust,’ Sylvie pointed out severely.
‘So you haven’t fallen in love with him, then,’ Lloyd teased her. Somehow Sylvie managed to force a responsive smile. Lloyd meant no harm. He took a paternal interest in her and often told her, only semi-jokingly, that it was time she fell in love. He had no idea about the real state of affairs between her and Ran, the real state of her heart, her emotions.
‘Say, this is really beautiful countryside,’ he commented as they drove through Derbyshire.
‘But still not as beautiful as Haverton,’ Sylvie teased him.
Immediately he was off, enthusing about the house and its architecture.
Sylvie’s heart sank when she pulled up outside the Rectory and saw that Ran’s Land Rover was there. There was another car outside as well and Sylvie’s heart dropped even further when she recognised it. Perhaps with her away and the opportunity to have the house to themselves, Ran and Vicky had decided on a change of venue and had spent the night together here.
Ran had given her a set of keys to the Rectory, and rather than disturb him she used them to unlock the door, but to her discomfort, as they walked through the hall, Ran and Vicky were just coming downstairs.
‘Hi there,’ Lloyd began genially, but before Ran could say anything his telephone began to ring.
‘Excuse me a moment, will you?’ he said apologetically, leaving the three of them together as he hurried into the library to answer the telephone.
‘I don’t think we’ve met,’ Vicky began coyly, ignoring Sylvie to smile provocatively at Lloyd.
‘Lloyd, Vicky Edwards.’ Sylvie introduced them mechanically. ‘Lloyd is my boss and—’
‘So you work for the Trust as well, do you?’ Vicky commented.
‘Lloyd is the Trust,’ Sylvie told her, thoroughly exasperated by the other woman’s manner.
‘Oh...how very interesting,’ she responded softly, immediately crossing the hall to Lloyd’s side, turning her back on Sylvie. ‘You must tell me more...’
Quite how Vicky managed to invite herself to join them when they went to Haverton Sylvie wasn’t quite sure, but invite herself she most certainly had.
Lloyd obviously didn’t share her own dislike of her, she recognised as she saw the bemused male appreciation with which he was regarding the older woman.
By the time Ran rejoined them Vicky was purring seductively to Lloyd.
‘So you’re staying at the Annabelle. I’ve heard it’s the last word in luxury...’
‘It sure is,’ Lloyd agreed enthusiastically. ‘My suite is really something else, isn’t it, Sylvie?’
‘Yes, it is,’ Sylvie agreed colourlessly. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Ran switching his concentration from Lloyd and Vicky to her, frowning as he did so.
It wasn’t her fault that his lady-friend, his lover, was showing an interest in Lloyd... Sylvie had seen women expressing such an interest before, of course; Lloyd was an extremely wealthy man and a very, very charming one. In the past he had often made a joke of their pursuit of him, warning Sylvie that it was part of her job to keep them at bay. For his age he was extremely fit and physically he looked attractive. He still had a full head of silver hair and his eyes held a warm twinkle, but to prefer him to Ran... Or was it perhaps his bank balance that was attracting the other woman? Sylvie wondered unkindly.
In the end, all four of them drove over to Haverton Hall in Ran’s Land Rover, with Vicky pulling a small face as she coaxed Lloyd to sit in the back with her.
‘This really is the most uncomfortable old thing, Ran,’ she complained, adding to Lloyd in a sugary sweet voice, ‘I keep telling him he should buy himself a decent four-wheel drive. In all the years I’ve known Ran, he’s never owned a decent car. You Americans make such wonderful ones...so luxurious and comfortable...’
‘Well, I guess we have the country for them,’ Lloyd agreed with a smile. ‘You and Ran are old friends then?’