Sinful Nights(10)

By: Penny Jordan

‘I’m not frightened of anything Blake,’ she managed to reply coolly, still holding herself rigid within the grip of his hands. The warmth of his breath lifted her hair, and she was so acutely aware of him that it was a physical agony. Why, oh why had she come back? She had thought herself strong enough to cope, but she wasn’t. Blake still had the power to upset and disturb her. He made her feel just as awkward and insecure as he had done when she was seventeen. ‘I just don’t want you touching me.’

‘Frightened I might make you forget all about your London lover?’ The soft goading tone of his voice was too much for her. Drawing in her breath on a sharp gasp she said coldly. ‘That would be impossible.’ She turned away as she spoke, leaning into the Land Rover. Blake’s fingers continued to dig into her waist and then he was lifting her, almost throwing her into the seat with a force that jolted the breath from her body and made her aware of her aching bruises.

He didn’t speak until he was in the Land-Rover beside her, his eyes fixed on the fog-shrouded lane as he said softly, ‘Don’t challenge me Sapphire—not unless you want me to accept your challenge. You’ve come back from London with some fine haughty airs, no doubt meant to keep country bumpkins like myself in their place but it wouldn’t take much for me to forget mine Sapphire. There’s one hell of a lot of anger inside me towards you, and believe me it would give me great pleasure to give it release.’

Why should Blake be angry? Resentment burned through Sapphire as they drove towards Flaws Farm. She was the one who should be that; and not just angry but bitter too. Blake had never wanted her; he had callously used her adolescent adoration of him, had ruthlessly exploited her feelings, and now he was saying he was angry. He could say what he liked, but there was no way she was going to agree to his outrageous suggestion that they re-marry. Did he think she was totally without intelligence? She knew what he wanted well enough—the same thing he had always wanted. Her father’s land. The Seftons and the Bells hadn’t always been friendly to one another, and the border reiver had spawned a race of men who all possessed his reckless touch of acquisitiveness. There had been several Seftons who had cast covetous eyes on Flaws farm and thought to make it theirs, but so far none had ever succeeded.

Now she was being foolish, Sapphire chided herself. Blake was no border reiver, for all that he had inherited his wild ancestors’ darkly Celtic looks, and it was true that her father admired and respected him, but surely not to the extent of wanting her, his daughter, to put herself within his power once more?

Sapphire darted a glance at Blake. He was concentrating on his driving, his profile faintly hawkish, his hands assured and knowing as he turned the wheel. There was nothing indecisive or unsure about Blake, she acknowledged. That was what she had admired so much in him as a teenager, and even now, watching him she was conscious of a faint frisson of awareness, a purely feminine acknowledgement of his masculinity. Stop it, she warned herself as they turned into Flaws Farm Lane. Stop thinking about him.

When the Land Rover stopped, she glanced uncomfortably at him. ‘Are you coming in with me?’

‘Do you really want me to?’ he asked mockingly, before shaking his head. ‘No, unlike you Sapphire, I’m not hard enough to raise hopes in your father’s heart that I can’t fulfil. Your father means a lot to me,’ he added, startling her with his admission. ‘I’ve always admired him, even patterned myself on him as a youngster I suppose—my own grandfather was too cold and distant—he never ceased mourning my father. I’d give a lot to see your father happy.’

‘And even more to make sure that you get Flaws land,’ Sapphire threw at him bitterly, ‘even to the extent of marrying me. I fell for it once Blake, I’m not going to fall for it again.’

It was only as she struggled across the yard that she remembered about her luggage, still in Alan’s car. It was too late to turn around and call Blake back now, he was already reversing out of the yard. Sighing, Sapphire found the familiar back door and unlatched it. The kitchen was much as she remembered it. Her father used to employ a housekeeper to look after the house, but she had retired just after Sapphire’s marriage. For a while he had managed with daily help from the village, but now it seemed he was employing someone else.

The door to the hall opened as Sapphire stepped into the kitchen and a woman entered the room. For a second they stared at one another and then the woman smiled tentatively, offering her hand. ‘Mary,’ she introduced herself, ‘and you must be Sapphire. Your father’s been worrying about you.’

There was just enough reproof in the calm, softly burred voice for Sapphire to flush and feel at a disadvantage. Mary was somewhere in her late thirties, plumpish with smooth brown hair and warm eyes. The sort of calm, serene, capable woman she had always envied.

‘I’m sorry about that.’ Quickly she explained how she had been delayed, warmed by the quick sympathy in the hazel eyes.