Sinful Nights(8)

By: Penny Jordan

Molly Sutcliffe. Oh yes, Sapphire remembered her. Molly had been one of Blake’s girlfriends in the old days. Five years older than Sapphire, and far, far more worldly. She had to grit her teeth to stop herself from making any comment. It was no business of hers what Blake did with his life. As she had already told him she had known they would have to meet during her stay, but not like this, in the enforced intimacy of the kitchen of what had once been their home. Not that she had ever been allowed to spend much time in here. The kitchen had been the province of Blake’s aunt, a formidable woman who had made Sapphire feel awkward and clumsy every time she set foot in it.

‘What happened to your aunt?’ she questioned him, trying not to remember all the small humiliations she had endured here in this room, but it was too late. They all came flooding back, like the morning she had insisted on getting up early to make Blake’s breakfast. She had burned the bacon and broken the eggs while his aunt stood by in grim silence. Blake had pushed his plate away with his food only half eaten. She was barely aware of her faint sigh. The ridiculous thing had been that she had been and still was quite a good cook. Her father’s housekeeper had taught her, but being watched by Aunt Sarah had made her too nervous to concentrate on what she was doing; that and the fact that she had been trying too hard; had been far too eager to please Blake. So much so that in the end her eagerness had been her downfall.

‘Nothing. She’s living in the South of England with a cousin. I’ll tell her you’ve been enquiring about her next time I write,’ Blake mocked, glancing at the heavy watch strapped to his wrist. ‘Look I’d better ring your father and tell him you’re okay. I’ll run you over there in the morning and then see what we can do about your car.’

‘No! No, I’d rather go tonight. My father’s a sick man Blake,’ she told him. ‘I’m very anxious to see him.’

‘You don’t have to tell me how ill he is,’ Blake told her explosively, ‘I’m the one who told you—remember? Don’t expect me to believe that you’re really concerned about him Sapphire. Not when you haven’t been to see him in four years.’

‘There were reasons for that.’ Her throat was a tight band of pain, past which she managed to whisper her protest.

‘Oh yes, like you didn’t want to leave your lover?’ His lips drew back in a facsimile of a smile, the vulpine grin of a marauding wolf. ‘What’s the matter Sapphire? Did you hope to keep your little affair a secret?’

‘Affair?’ Sapphire sat bolt upright in her chair.

‘Yes … with your boss … the man you’re planning to marry, according to your father. What took you so long?’

‘It’s only five months since I got the divorce,’ Sapphire reminded him stiffly.

‘But you could have got an annulment—much, much faster … Why didn’t you? Or was it that by the time you realised that you could, that the grounds no longer existed?’

It took a physical effort not to get up and face him with the truth, but somehow she managed it.

‘My relationship with Alan is no concern of yours Blake,’ she told him coolly. ‘I’m sorry I’ve put you to all this trouble, but I’d like to get to Flaws as soon as possible.’

‘Meaning you’d like to get away from me as soon as possible,’ Blake drawled. ‘Well my dear that may not be as easy as you think. In fact I suspect that when I ring your father now and tell him you’re here, he’ll suggest you stay the night.’

‘Stay the night? Here with you, when the farm’s only five miles up the road, don’t be ridiculous.’

She glared at him, her eyes flashing angrily.

‘You know it’s probably just as well that you and I have had this opportunity to talk Sapphire. Your father’s perked up a lot since you told him you were coming back. He hopes you and I will bury our differences and get back together.’

Stunned, Sapphire could only stare at him. ‘You must be mad,’ she stammered at last. ‘We’re divorced … my father …’

‘Your father is a very sick man, still as concerned about the future of his family’s land as he was …’

‘When you married me so that you could inherit it,’ Sapphire broke in. ‘You took advantage of my naiveté once Blake, but I’m not a seventeen-year-old adolescent in the grips of her first crush now. We’re divorced and that’s the way we’re going to stay.’

‘Even if that means precipitating your father’s death?’

She went white with the cruelty of his words. ‘His death, but …’

‘Make no mistake about it, your father’s a very sick man Sapphire. Very sick indeed, and worse, he’s a man with no will left to struggle. You know that he’s always wanted to see the two farms united. That was why he wanted us to get married in the first place.’

‘If he’s so keen for you to have the land, why doesn’t he simply give it to you?’ Sapphire asked him angrily.