‘Given that I’ve had a lot of time on my hands lately to reflect on things,’ she heard Hal reply, ‘you and the estate haven’t been far from my mind. Yes, I would like to come back one day and take over the reins, with a wife and children of my own by my side...but just not right now. I’ll know when the time is right.’

 ‘Any idea when that might be?’

 There was a pause, and then Hal sighed. ‘No, Dad. I’m afraid you’re just going to have to be patient.’

 With her heart clamouring distressingly, Kit took a deep breath in and shakily curved her hand round the doorknob....

 * * *

 Dropping her holdall onto the end of the elegantly dressed half-tester bed in the room Mary had shown her into, Kit drew her hands down over her face and sighed heavily. She felt emotionally wrung out and weary to the bone. Even though she’d got through the rest of the evening without regretting that she’d agreed to Hal’s request to take him back to his ancestral home, because it looked as if his father and he were honestly resolved on healing the rift between them, she was in utter turmoil about the discussion she’d heard between Hal and his father about him returning home one day to Falteringham House and assuming the ancestral role he’d be inheriting with a wife and children by his side.

 Her memory of the conversation was upsettingly fixated on Sir Henry’s enquiry as to whether Hal was seeing any ‘nice’ or ‘suitable’ girls at the moment. Nothing could have made her feel more out of place. Not just out of place, but heartsick, because she was in love with a man who was so clearly out of her league that it was pure fantasy to imagine even for an instant that she might have a future with him. Unfortunately Kit wasn’t one of those ‘nice’ and ‘suitable’ girls that Hal’s father wanted for his son. And, that being so, she would probably nurse her hurt and regret at not being able to be with Hal for ever.

 You’re such a fool, Kit... How could you have been so stupid? You’re your mother all over again!

 Furiously berating herself, she buried her face in her hands and cried and cried until she felt she couldn’t cry any more. There wasn’t a single place in her body where she didn’t ache for Hal. Everything about him—the way he looked and smiled, the warm, sensual scent of his body, even the way he teased and provoked her to distraction—had ensured Kit would be an addict for him for life. It was as though he’d put her under a spell that she’d never be free of, no matter how hard she might try.

 But, since she couldn’t have him, the only thing she could look forward to was the prospect of the little bolthole she’d been working towards for most of her life. Making it into a reality. Perhaps when she had that she might at least have the satisfaction of achieving the one thing that she’d set out to do to make her life better. As for having a meaningful relationship... It was something that wasn’t even remotely likely. Not now. Not when Hal Treverne had ruined any chance that she’d ever be whole enough for anyone else again.

 Slipping off her shoes, she wearily tugged her sweater over her head and threw it onto the bed. Then she turned and headed for the bathroom. Usually a long hot soak in the tub was her therapy of choice to help soothe her and put things into perspective when she’d had a bad day. But, knowing that wasn’t going to be the case tonight, she opted for a shower instead. After that she intended to go straight to bed.

 At Sir Henry’s suggestion she would take the opportunity to have an early night because he and his son had ‘a lot to talk about’. She wasn’t to worry, he’d said, because he would help Hal to his bedroom and see that he got his medication if he needed it. There was no need for them to disturb her. Every word of that little speech had sliced through Kit’s heart like a sharpened scythe, because it had only served to remind her that she was already becoming superfluous to Hal’s needs. The fact was he had access to a raft of people he could call upon for help if he wanted to. His wealth pretty much saw to that. Would he even miss her when the time came for her to leave? Kit speculated forlornly.

 Underneath the hot spray of the shower, she disproved the belief that she had no more tears left to cry and helplessly, despairingly, cried again.

 When she finally emerged from the glass cubicle she felt shaken and drained to the core. She didn’t even feel as if she had the energy to dry herself. Scared at how powerfully she seemed to be unravelling, she determinedly switched her focus to the practicalities of getting ready for bed. To that end, she brushed her teeth, properly dried her hair, then unpacked her holdall to retrieve the cosily warm pyjamas she’d brought with her. They were a lot more practical than the silk chemise she’d worn the night Hal had seduced her, but the sight of them did little to help alleviate her sorrow. They were just another reminder that she’d never know another night of passion with the man she loved again.

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