Sinful Nights(9)

By: Penny Jordan

‘Because he wants to think some day that a child of ours—carrying his blood as well as mine—will inherit Bell land.’

‘Oh so it isn’t just marriage you want from me,’ Sapphire stormed, ‘it’s a child as well? I wonder that you dare suggest such a thing when …’

‘When?’ Blake prodded softly when she stopped abruptly. ‘When you couldn’t bring yourself to touch me when we were married,’ she had been about to say, but the pain of that time still hurt too much for her to be able to talk about it.

‘When you know that I’m planning to marry someone else,’ she told him coolly. ‘Blake, I don’t believe a word of what you’ve just said. My father must know that there isn’t a chance of you and I getting together again. For one thing, there’s simply nothing that such a relationship could offer me.’

‘No.’ His eyes fell to her breasts, and although Sapphire knew that the bulky wool of her jumper concealed them, she was acutely aware of a peculiar tension invading her body, making her face hot and her muscles ache.

‘I would have said that being able to give your father a considerable amount of peace of mind would be a powerful incentive—to most daughters, but then you aren’t like most daughters are you Sapphire?’ he asked savagely. ‘Or like most women for that matter. You don’t care who you hurt or how much as long as you get what you want. Look, I don’t want to be re-married to you any more than you want it, but I doubt it would be for very long.’

He watched her pale, and sway, with merciless eyes. ‘Your father knows already how little time he’s got, and whether you want to admit it or not he’s very concerned about the future of his land—land which has been in his family as long as this farm has been in mine. Would it hurt either of us so much to do what he wants—to remarry and stay together until …’

‘Until he dies?’ She hurled the words at him, shaking with pain and anger. ‘And for how long do you estimate we should have to play out this charade Blake? You must know, you certainly seem to know everything else.’

‘I was the closest thing to family he has left,’ Blake told her simply, ‘Naturally his doctor …’ he broke off, studying the quarry tile floor and then raised his head and it seemed to Sapphire that she had been wrong in her original estimation that he hadn’t changed. Now he looked older, harder, and she knew with an undeniable intuition that no matter what lies he might tell her about everything else, Blake did genuinely care for her father. Despair welled up inside her. Her father dying … Remorse gripped her insides, her throat tense and sore. She badly wanted to cry, but she couldn’t let Blake see her break down.

‘Six months or so Sapphire,’ he said quietly at last. ‘Not a lot to ask you to give up surely? And you have my word that afterwards … that we can part quickly and amicably. This time our marriage will be dissolved.’

‘And the farm … my father’s land?’

‘I’d like to buy it from you—at the going rate of course, unless your London lover wants to try his hand at farming?’

Just for a moment Sapphire taxed her imagination trying to picture Alan leading Blake’s life. Alan would hate it, and she couldn’t keep on the farm and work it herself. Even so, all her instincts warned her against agreeing to Blake’s suggestion.

‘It’s a ridiculous idea, Blake,’ she told him at last, taking a deep breath.

‘You mean you’re too selfish to acknowledge its merits,’ he countered. ‘I thought you might have grown up Sapphire; might have come to realise that there are other things in life apart from the gratification of your own wants, but obviously I was wrong. Come on,’ he finished curtly, ‘I’ll take you to Flaws.’

He strode across the kitchen, thrusting open the door without waiting to see if she was following him. Wincing as she got up from the ache in her ankle, Sapphire hobbled to the door. Cold air rushed in to embrace her in its frosty grip. Across the cobbled yard she could make out the bulky shape of the Land-Rover. Blake opened the door and started up the engine. He must be able to see that she was having difficulty walking, Sapphire fumed as she was caught in the beam of the headlights, but he made no effort to help her.

It was only when she reached the Land Rover that he finally got out, walking round to the passenger side to open the door for her. When his hands suddenly gripped her waist she froze, her whole body tensing in rejection, her stiff, ‘don’t touch me,’ making him tense in return. She could feel it in the grip of his fingers, digging through the wool of her jumper to burn into her skin. ‘What the hell …’ For a moment he seemed about to withdraw and then he spun her round, the proximity of his body forcing her back against the cold metal of the Land Rover. ‘What is it you’re so afraid of Sapphire,’ he mocked, his gold eyes searching her too pale face. ‘Not me, surely.’ His eyes narrowed. ‘As I remember it I barely touched you. So it must be yourself.’