As she closed her eyes and leaned against the door she had just closed, she could feel them starting to burn with the useless demeaning tears of her unwanted love.
What was Ran doing now—laughing inwardly at her because he knew that her jealousy, her pain, her love were all for him, or was he too wrapped up in what he thought to spare any time to consider her feelings? Had he accused her of being jealous out of his own feelings of jealousy against Lloyd?
This job, which she had taken on with such high hopes, such a surge of determination and conviction that through it she would finally and for ever slay the dragons of her tormented youthful love for him, had now turned into a hydra-headed monster which she could never hope to overcome. How on earth was she going to be able to concentrate on what she had to do when she was forced to work in such close proximity to Ran?
No. It was impossible, she acknowledged half an hour later as she sat at her desk trying to concentrate on the work schedule she had in front of her. No matter how hard she tried to visualise a situation where she and Ran could work together in harmony, her emotions untouched by his presence, all she could actually see was a situation that was going to get worse and worse as she became more and more helplessly trapped in her love and his lack of it. The best remedy, the only remedy she could honestly see that would work would be for her to go to Lloyd and ask him to find someone else to complete this project, she admitted unhappily.
It wasn’t a course she wanted to take. She prided herself on her professionalism and it would mean taking Lloyd into her confidence about her feelings for Ran—she knew, of course, that he would respect them, but even so...
If she stayed on the possibility was—no, the probability was, she corrected herself fiercely, that sooner or later she would make a mistake that could prejudice the progress of the work on the house. This was a project that was going to demand her total concentration and attention and how could she give it when all the time she was thinking about Ran, when her feelings for him were already dominating her mind and her emotions?
It wasn’t going to be easy. She hated letting Lloyd down; in fact, it felt as though in asking him to find someone else to take over this particular project for her she was letting herself down; but she feared that if she stayed the way in which she could potentially let herself down, damage herself and her self-esteem, her very self, could be far more traumatic.
The anger and contempt which Ran had displayed towards her this evening had shown how very little compassion he was likely to have for her. No, there was no other way.
It was with a very heavy heart that Sylvie prepared for bed. There would be other houses, other projects, and no one but her would ever know how much it would hurt knowing that it was someone else who would have the pleasure of restoring Ran’s ancestral home to what it must once have been, just as it would be another woman who would ultimately stand beside Ran and their children in love and pride as they went through their lives together.
* * *
Ran wasn’t sure just what had woken him up first—his training, his work, meant that he was always alert to any sound that heralded some unfamiliarity, his perceptions and senses so keenly attuned that he was aware of such changes even in his sleep.
Alert and wide awake, he lay in the darkness listening. The illuminated face of his alarm clock showed that it was just gone half past one in the morning. The house had no alarm system. Lucy, his gun dog who slept downstairs, might be getting on in years now but she would have been barking if someone had been trying to break into the house, and besides, the outside lights had not come on.
Through his open bedroom window he could hear an owl hooting as it flew past. No alien sounds disturbed the natural busyness of the country night.
He started to relax and then he heard it—a door opening upstairs. Immediately he was out of bed and, reaching for his robe, pulled it on—he slept nude—before striding across to open his bedroom door quietly.
He saw her immediately, a slim white wraith who seemed to float rather than walk down the corridor, but, ethereal though she looked, Sylvie was no ghost. Even before he reached her he knew that she was sleepwalking; all the tell-tale signs were there, and of course he knew from her girlhood exactly what to do. So why was it so hard, then, to take her gently in his hold so that he could turn her round and walk her back to her bedroom?
The best thing to do, they had all been told after the first frightening occasion when she had been found wandering the long gallery at Otel Place, totally oblivious to what she was doing, was to guide her gently back to bed, if possible without waking her; but now, as he touched her, Ran could feel her start to tremble violently, her face turning towards him, her body stiffening as he tried to turn her round. Cursing under his breath, he glanced towards his own still open bedroom door. Perhaps if he could get her in there... The old family doctor at Otel Place had recommended that she be allowed to wake up naturally rather than be abruptly woken from her sleepwalk and he had also informed them that often these bouts of ‘walking’ could be attributed to some kind of disturbance or trauma that the walker might have suffered. Ran did not need to look very far to find the cause of tonight’s disturbance, and inwardly he cursed not just Vicky but Lloyd as well.