Penny Jordan Collection(4)

By: Penny Jordan

This time what? This time she wasn’t going to let him hurt her.     This time her attitude towards him would be cool, distant and totally     businesslike.

This time...

Sylvie closed her eyes as she felt the tiny shivers of     apprehension icing down her spine. The last time she had seen Ran had been when     he had unexpectedly turned up at the airport three years ago when she had been     leaving England to finish her degree course in America. She could still remember     the shock it had given her to see him there, the shock and the sharply sweet     surge of helpless pleasure and longing.

She had still been so vulnerable and naive then, a part of her     still hoping that maybe, just maybe, he had changed his mind...his heart... But     of course he had not. He had been there simply to assure himself that she was     actually leaving the country and his life.

Alex knew, of course, that she had once had a foolish     adolescent crush on his friend and employee but, thankfully, that was all he did     know; thankfully, he had no knowledge of that shaming and searingly painful,     never to be thought about, never mind talked about incident that had taken place     when she had still been at university in England.

No one knew about that. Only she and Ran. But that was all in     the past now, and she was determined that this time when she and Ran met, as     meet they would surely have to, she would be the one     who would have the upper hand and he would be the one who would be the     supplicant; she would have the power to deny and refuse him what he wanted and     he would have to beg and plead with her.

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.

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