Page 6 of Just One Night

Immediately Sylvie opened her eyes. What on earth had got into     her? That kind of warped, vengeful thinking was, to her mind, as foolish and     adolescent as her youthful infatuation with Ran had been. She was above all that     kind of thing. She had to be; her job demanded it.     No, she would make no distinction between Ran and all the other clients she had     had to deal with. The fact that Ran had once cruelly and uncaringly turned down     her pleas for his love, for his lovemaking, the fact     that he had once rejected and demeaned her, would make no difference to the way     she treated him. She was above all that kind of     small-mindedness. Proudly she lifted her head as she continued to listen to     Lloyd enthusiastically telling her the virtues of his latest ‘find’.

* * *

Ran stared grimly around the unfurnished, dusty and     cobweb-festooned hallway of Haverton Hall. The smell of neglect and the much     more ominous dry rot hung malodorously on the still, late afternoon air. The     large room, in common with the rest of the Hall, had a desolate, down-at-heel     air of weariness which reminded him uncomfortably of the elderly great-uncle who     had owned the property when Ran was growing up. Visits to see him had been     something which Ran had always dreaded and, ironically, he could remember how     relieved he had been to discover that it was not he but an older cousin who     would ultimately inherit the responsibility for the vast, empty, neglected     house.

But now that cousin was dead and he, Ran, was Haverton’s owner,     or at least he had been until a week or so ago, when he had finally and     thankfully signed the papers which would convey legal ownership of Haverton and     all the problems that went with it into the hands of Lloyd Kelmer.

His initial reaction when he had unexpectedly and unwontedly     inherited the place had been to make enquiries to see if any of the British     trusts could be persuaded to take it over, but, as their representatives had     quickly and wryly explained, the trusts were awash with unwanted properties and     deluged with despairing owners wanting them to take on even more.

Faced with the prospect of having to stand aside and watch as     the house and its lands fell into an even greater state of decay, Ran hadn’t     known what on earth he was going to do—his inheritance had been the house and     the land; there hadn’t been any money to leave for its upkeep—and then Alex had     happened to mention the existence of an eccentric American billionaire whose     main vocation and purpose in life was the buying up and restoring of old     properties which he then opened to the public, and Ran had lost no time in     getting in touch with him.

To his relief Lloyd had flown over to England to view the house     and promptly declared that he loved it.

That relief had turned to something very different, though,     when he had received a fax from Lloyd advising him that his assistant, Ms Sylvie     Bennett, would be flying over to Britain to act as his representative over the     repair and renovation of the property. He could, of course, have simply chosen     to turn his back, walk away, and leave someone else to liaise with Sylvie, but     Ran wasn’t like that. If he had a job to do he preferred to see it through for     himself, no matter how unwanted or potentially problematic that task might     be.

Potentially problematic! A bitter     half-smile curled his mouth. There was nothing potential about the problems that Sylvie was likely to cause him...     Nothing potential at all.

He had heard scraps of news about her over the years, of     course, mainly from Alex and Mollie. Sylvie had completed her degree course and     majored summa cum laude... Sylvie was living in New York and looking for a     job... Sylvie had got a job... Sylvie was working in Venice... In Rome... In     Prague... Sylvie... Sylvie... Sylvie...

Alex and Mollie weren’t his only sources of information,     though. Only the previous winter in London, Ran had unexpectedly bumped into     Sylvie’s mother, Alex’s stepmother, predictably just outside Harvey Nichols.