Penny Jordan Collection(10)

By: Penny Jordan

‘But you live at the Rectory,’ Sylvie commented quickly.

Immediately Ran’s eyebrows rose and he told her laconically, ‘It’s got ten bedrooms, Sylvie, excluding the upper attics—more than enough space for both of us, I should have thought.’

‘Does this Mrs Elliott live in?’ Sylvie asked him stiffly.

Ran stared at her for a moment and then burst out laughing.

‘No, she doesn’t,’ he told her coolly, ‘although I’m not sure why it should make any difference. You and I have lived under the same roof before, after all, Sylvie, and if it’s the thought of any unplanned nocturnal wanderings that’s worrying you...’ He gave her a wolfish grin and to her fury actually reached out and patted her tauntingly on the arm as he told her, still laughing, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll make sure I get a lock put on my door so that you don’t come wandering in...’

Sylvie was too speechless with anger to be able to respond.

‘What’s wrong now?’ Ran challenged her mock-innocently. ‘There’s no need to be embarrassed at the fact that you occasionally sleepwalk... Of course, it might be an idea to make sure you go to bed wearing something, but I’ll warn Mrs Elliott and...’

He stopped as Sylvie made a female growl of frustration deep in her throat.

‘That was years ago, when I was a child,’ she told him defensively, ‘and it only happened once... I don’t sleepwalk now...’

What was she doing? What was she saying? Why was she letting him do this to her? Sylvie ground her teeth. Yes, once, when she had been initially disoriented and upset at her mother marrying again, she had actually sleepwalked, and might, in fact, have suffered a nasty accident if Ran hadn’t happened to see her on his way up to bed. But it had happened once, that was all, and, even after she had eventually developed a massive crush on him, surreptitiously creeping into his bedroom had been the last thing on her mind then. She had been far too unworldly, far too naive even to think of such a thing.

‘No! Then what are you worrying about?’ Ran challenged her, his expression suddenly hardening as he demanded, ‘If it’s the fact that you’ll be living under my roof whilst Lloyd is in New York—’

‘Your roof?’ Sylvie interrupted him quickly, suddenly recognising a way of turning the tables on him and regaining control of the situation, of showing him who was boss. She gave him an acid-sweet smile. ‘The Rectory may have been yours, Ran, but as part of the estate it is now owned by the Trust and—’

‘Not so.’ Ran stopped her even faster than she had him. ‘I have retained ownership of the Rectory and the land. I intend to farm it and to develop the fishing and shooting rights.’

Sylvie was momentarily caught off guard. It was most unusual for Lloyd to allow something like that. He normally insisted on buying whatever land went with a property, if only to ensure that as much of its natural background and surroundings as possible were retained.

‘If you’d like to follow me we can drive over to the Rectory now,’ Ran offered coolly.

Immediately Sylvie shook her head. ‘No... I want to see over the house first,’ she told him crisply.

Ran stared at her and then looked at his watch before telling her softly, ‘That will take at least two hours, possibly longer; it’s now five o’clock in the afternoon.’

Sylvie raised her eyebrows. ‘So...?’ she challenged.

Ran shrugged.

‘I should have thought after a transatlantic flight and the drive here from the airport that you’d have wanted a rest before touring the house, if only so that you can view it with a fresh eye and a clear head.’

‘You’re out of touch, Ran,’ Sylvie told him with a small, superior smile. ‘These are the nineties. Crossing the Atlantic for a power breakfast and then re-crossing it for another meeting is nothing,’ she boasted.

Ran shrugged again and then waved one hand in the direction of the main doorway as he drawled laconically, ‘Very well...after you...’

As he walked towards the door behind her, Ran paused. The sight of her had given him much more of a shock than he liked. He had prepared himself for the fact that he would be meeting her as a woman, and not as the girl he had watched boarding the flight for America, but womanhood came in many different guises and took many different forms. However, none of them could possibly come anywhere near causing the kind of devastating effect on his senses that Sylvie’s was creating.

Her hair, long and thick, hung down to her shoulders in an immaculately groomed swathe of molten honey-gold. Just looking at it, at her, made him ache to run his fingers through it, to watch its silken weight sliding through his hands...

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