Sinful Nights(4)

By: Penny Jordan

The cool male voice, edged with taunting mockery, wasn’t her father’s, and the tiny hairs on her arm stood up in prehensile alarm as she recognised it.


‘How very flattering that you should recognise my voice so quickly after all this time.’

‘They say people always remember anything connected with acute trauma,’ Sapphire snapped sharply. ‘Blake, I’ve got your letter. My father, how is he?’

‘Why don’t you come home and see for yourself, or are you still running scared?’

‘What of? You? Of course I’m coming h … back, but I can hardly arrive without warning Dad to expect me.’

‘Very thoughtful. Giving him time to kill the fatted calf is that it? I take it you’re coming alone,’ he added, before she could respond. ‘Flaws Farm only has three bedrooms remember; your father’s in one, his housekeeper’s in the other, and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how the valley will feel about one of its daughters openly co-habiting with a man she isn’t married to—to say nothing of your father’s feelings.’

Gritting her teeth Sapphire responded. ‘I’m coming alone, but only because Alan couldn’t make it. Now may I please speak to my father?’

It was only when Blake put the receiver down that she realized she hadn’t asked him what he was doing at Flaws Farm. He had sounded very much at home, and she bit worriedly at her bottom lip. She had forgotten how freely Blake was used to coming and going in her old home, and if she was forced to endure the constant sight of him how would it affect the calm control she had sheltered behind for so long?

It won’t affect it at all, she told herself angrily. Why should it? Blake had effectively killed whatever feelings she had had for him—and they had only been infatuation—a very deep and intense infatuation agreed, but infatuation nevertheless …

Five minutes later she was speaking to her father, unable to stop the weak tears rolling down her face. Normally they only rang one another at Christmas and birthdays, and it shocked her to hear the hesitancy in his voice.

‘Blake tells me you intend paying us a visit?’

‘If you’ve got room for me. I hear you’ve got a housekeeper?’ Sapphire responded drily.

‘Yes, Mary Henderson. You probably remember her from the old days. She used to nurse at the local hospital. She was widowed a couple of years ago, and her husband left a lot of debts, so she had to sell her house and look for a job. Blake recommended her to me. This is still your home Sapphire,’ he added in a different voice. ‘There’s always a room for you here.’

Without saying it he was making her aware of all the times she should have gone home and hadn’t, because she hadn’t been able to conquer her weakness; her fear of meeting Blake, and discovering that she wasn’t as strong as she had believed. What was she really frightened of though? Blake seducing her? Hardly likely—after all he hadn’t wanted her when they were married, so why should he want her now?

‘Expect me late tomorrow evening,’ Sapphire told him. ‘Alan’s lending me his car, because he doesn’t think my old VW is reliable enough.’ For some reason Sapphire found the silence that followed oddly disconcerting.

‘You’d better use the top road,’ her father said at last. ‘They’ve been doing some roadworks on the other one and there’ve been traffic jams all week just this side of Hawick.’

Mentally revising her plans, Sapphire said her goodbyes. She had planned to drive up the M6 to Carlisle and then take the A7 through Hawick and Jedburgh, rather than using the ‘top road’ which was shorter but which meant driving along the narrow winding road which crossed and re-crossed the Cheviots.

That night, too wide-awake to sleep, she acknowledged that hearing Blake’s voice had disturbed her—dangerously so. The sound of it brought back memories she had struggled to suppress; herself at fourteen watching with shy adulation while Blake worked. Fresh from university he had seemed like a god from Olympus to her and she had dogged his footsteps, hanging on to his every word. Was it then that he had decided to marry her? It was certainly then that he had started to put into practice the modern farming techniques he had learned partially at university and partially during his working holidays in New Zealand into force. Perhaps it was also then that he had first cast covetous eyes on Flaws Farm and mentally calculated the benefits to himself of owning its rich acres in addition to his own. She would never know, but certainly he had been kind and patient with her, carefully answering all her shy questions, tactfully ignoring her blushes and coltish clumsiness. She remembered practically falling off her pony one day straight into his arms, and how she had felt when they closed round her, the steady beat of his heart thumping into her thin chest. From that day on she had started to weave the fantasies about him that had taken her blissfully into their marriage.

At eighteen she had known very little of the world—had only travelled as far as Edinburgh and Newcastle and had certainly not got the sophistication to match Blake. He had left the valley when she was fifteen to join the army and had returned two years later the same and yet different; harder, even more sure of himself and possessed of a dangerous tension that sent frissons of awareness coursing over her skin whenever he looked at her.