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Authors: Anne Hampson

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‘I’m so glad,’ breathed Emma with a smile. ‘You had me really worried, Louise, and you certainly did seem to be shattered by your feelings for him.’

‘I know, and I feel so ashamed at saying I wanted to die.’

Emma could laugh now.

‘Go along, love, and get it over with. Tell him you’re coming home with me next Saturday.’

‘He’ll be furious.’ Louise seemed to have lost the courage she’d had a few moments ago. ‘He makes me tremble when he looks at me with that particular glint in his eyes and sets his mouth.’ She bit her lip, paused a moment and then, looking at her sister, ‘You wouldn’t—er—do it for me, would you, Emma?’

‘You really want me to?’ Emma was by no means averse to the task since it would afford her excep
tional satisfaction to tell Paul she was taking Louise with her.

‘If you would—I know it’s asking a lot, and he’ll most likely frighten you as well—’

‘Stop worrying,’ broke in Emma to reassure her. ‘I‘ll manage him all right.’

‘Thanks,’ gratefully and with a drawn breath of relief. ‘You’re a brick, Emma. I’m so glad my parents adopted you.’

A smile lit Emma’s lovely eyes.

‘So am I,’ she returned and went along to Paul’s study.

He glanced up as she entered after knocking once.

‘Can you give me a few minutes?’ she asked and moved further into the room.

Paul’s eyes swept over her entire figure,

‘It seems I have no option,’ was his dry rejoinder. ‘What is it? If it’ll take long then have a chair.’

‘Thank you.’ Although she sat down, she said at once, ‘I’ve come to tell you that Louise is coming home with me next Saturday.’

A silence followed, intense, electrically charged as if a fire was about to break out.

‘This is your doing, of course.’

‘I did try to persuade her, yes, but it so happens that she herself made the decision.’

‘Well, she would have to, wouldn’t she?’ Again the smooth, fine-toned voice was dry.

Emma coloured up.

‘I don’t think there is any more to say; so I’ll go—’

‘In a moment!’ Imperious the tone and the flip of a hand which was an order for her to sit down again even though she had only half risen from the chair
anyway. ‘You do realise that I am entitled to at least one month’s notice?’

‘Well, you can’t have it,’ Emma told him shortly. ‘Louise is breaking her contract, so the question of notice is not all that important.’

‘I am supposed to find another nanny in a week?’

‘Sarogni is very good with Jeremy. She’ll take good care of him until you find a replacement for my sister.’

He looked at her hard and long, his jaw flexed, mouth tight.

‘Why didn’t Louise come herself?’

‘If you want the truth: you frighten her.’

At this a twist of amusement affected the firm line of his mouth.

‘But I don’t frighten you, apparently?’

She looked at him, even now vitally affected by his powerful male magnetism, his mastery and commanding personality.

‘I’m not afraid of you, no,’ she stated at last.

‘Not at this moment, and in these particular circumstances,’ he agreed slowly, ‘but in other circumstances . . . what then, Emma? I can put fear into you, can’t I? Fear of both yourself and me.’

Her colour heightened; she stood up, not really surprised to find her legs were weak.

‘I’ve said what I came to say, so I’ll go.’ She stopped a moment then added, ‘Do you still want us to dine with you and your family?’

‘Of course. Why ask?’ That he was suppressing anger was plain. He had failed, both in keeping Louise and Emma herself. And failure was not a thing to which he was used.

‘I naturally thought you’d be so annoyed that you’d prefer us not to dine with you.’

‘I know you believe I have many faults,’ he began, ‘and you are probably right. However, one of my faults is not pettiness.’ His voice was almost harsh, and censure edged the words. ‘I did admit that should your sister decide to leave, I could do nothing about it.’ He paused frowningly. ‘I felt so sure she would not leave,’ he murmured thoughtfully. ‘Some change has come about apparently?’

Emma hesitated, but not for long.

‘She no longer cares anything about you,’ she informed him and at the same time watching closely for any change of expression, but his face was a mask.

‘I’m glad,’ was all he said, and the note of finality in his voice was quite sufficient for Emma to take the hint and make an immediate departure.

Chapter Six

‘What are you wearing?’ Louise asked when, after putting Jeremy to bed and Emma had read until he fell asleep, the two girls were having a quiet few moments in Louise’s little sitting-room.

‘I don’t know.’ She thought of the sexy, citrus green dress but felt it would not be quite the thing. She was thinking of Paul’s mother; she did not want to shock her . . . or was it that she did not wish to give a wrong impression?

‘You have that lovely pan velvet skirt with the gold trimming on the pockets and hem,’ Louise reminded her. ‘Your white blouse would go with it—you did bring that pretty evening one with the high collar that ties at the back?’

‘Yes, I brought that one. I think I agree with you that the two together would make an attractive outfit.’

‘The skirt’s long and full—it falls so softly in folds that widen out from the waist.’

‘What are you wearing?’ Emma wanted to know once her own needs had been catered for.

‘A dress you haven’t seen because I bought it here, at the boutique in Curepipe where Mrs. Winnick used to go. It’s a sort of midnight blue and the material’s a bit like taffeta. It’s stiff, and the skirt’s fairly full so it sticks out. I like it and so did Mrs. Winnick. It has a fairly low neckline and small puff sleeves.’ She had still not met the three visitors, but Emma had described them all to her. ‘This girl you mentioned—I expect, from the sound of her, that she’ll be dressed up to the nines.’

‘I agree if the clothes she was wearing at teatime were anything to go by. She certainly has money. I’d make a guess that what she had on came originally from Paris.’

‘Well, you and I must take particular care—not to compete, of course,’ she added with a wry grimace, ‘but to hold our own if possible.’

There was still half an hour or so before it was time to dress, and as Louise suddenly decided to wash her hair which, being very short and not very thick, would easily be dried in time, Emma decided on a stroll in the gardens. She loved the neat and spacious grounds of the chateau and had discovered several shady and secluded places where she could sit quietly and know there was little chance of her being disturbed. It was to one of these that she found herself proceeding and on reaching it she sat down
on the little, rustic seat and relaxed. She was far happier than she was a few days ago when Louise was so distressed. But despite her satisfaction at the idea of getting away in less than a week’s time, Emma was conscious of a weight pressing on her like lead. No use pretending she did not know the cause. Paul’s handsome face seemed always to be before her mental vision, and his magnetism drew her so that there were times when, like her sister, she could have sought him out on some pretext or other, just to be near him.

Was it love?

You didn’t fall in love with a man like that! His undisguised contempt of women was more than enough to put any of that sex off . . . or was it?

Some men possessed that certain something which was irresistible; hence, the good times they had in consequence, strewing broken hearts along the way with about as much concern as if they were watching petals falling from a tree.

Louise had been drawn to him, but what she felt turned out to be nothing more than a crush. Emma knew that what she herself felt was something rather more deep than that . . . though just how deep she was not inclined to discover.

Of one thing she was sure: the sooner she left the Chateau Fanchette and its owner, the better.

She had been sitting there, lost in reverie, for about five minutes when she became aware of voices drifting to her from somewhere behind the little arbour. Paul and his mother, and they seemed to be standing still, as if they had paused in their stroll.

‘Don’t you think she is more beautiful than ever, Paul?’

‘Without a doubt she is.’ There was a noticeable lack of expression in Paul’s voice, as if he would hide his feelings from his mother.

‘I think you should be considering marriage soon. . . .’ She changed to French, but Emma could get the gist of what she was saying. ‘This philandering’s been going on quite long enough. Besides, I would dearly love to have grandchildren around me before I get too old to have patience with little ones.’

Paul laughed, and Emma could easily imagine his attractiveness, for she herself had caught her breath whenever he had laughed.

‘Rita is the one you have to blame, my dear. She effectively illustrated just what women are—’

‘Women?’

‘Present company excepted,’ he laughed. ‘You know what I mean.’

‘You loved her rather too well, my son. It is dangerous to love as deeply as that. Yet . . . what am I saying? It is possible to be loved as deeply, and then you are both lucky. But you—you left yourself open to hurt—’

‘Shall we not discuss it, Mother,’ broke in Paul somewhat crisply, ‘It all happened five years ago, and as far as I am concerned it’s forgotten.’

‘But its effects remain; you’re a philanderer with no respect for women. You suspect them all of an ulterior motive if they show the slightest interest in you.’ There was a small pause; Emma felt she should move away, but if she did so now, she was bound to be seen, and she would rather not have those two
know she had overheard their conversation about a girl called Rita whom Paul had once loved . . . too deeply. ‘All women are not gold diggers, dear. Eileen’s a sweet girl who’ll make you a good wife. You did care for her once—not so long ago, in fact, and I had high hopes of a marriage. What happened? Eileen won’t tell me, so now I’m asking you?’

‘I was never serious with her. Oh, I agree she has all it takes to be the wife of a businessman who has at times to entertain, but—’

Then why not consider it?’ his mother broke in.

‘Consider what?’

‘Don’t be obtuse!’ The woman’s tones were cool and edgy now. ‘Marriage—you know very well what I mean!’

Paul was quiet for a space and then he laughed.

‘I appreciate your concern, Mother, but I am quite happy with my bachelor life. Freedom is precious, and one would be a fool to give it up . . . especially when women are so cheap.’

‘I am exasperated with you, my son! You haven’t told me what happened between you and Rita.’

‘I said we’d not discuss Rita. However, if it will assuage your curiosity, I shall tell you. Rita, while engaged to me, went off for a week-end with an ex-fiancé. Until then I had no idea she had been engaged before; she never thought to tell me.’ Paul’s tones were bitter. ‘Are you now satisfied that I had reason to throw her over?’

‘I didn’t realise. . . . All I knew was that the break caused you much pain, but I believed it was
she
who’d jilted
you.’
There was a long silence, and Emma began to think they had walked on, but just
as she was about to rise she again heard Madame Fanchette’s voice. ‘You were very young, though—too young, perhaps. The experience has made you bitter and wary. And it has turned you into a womaniser of the worst kind.’

‘There is only one kind of womaniser,’ argued Paul with a laugh, ‘the kind that likes to take women to bed, who likes variety—’

‘Stop it! I dislike you intensely when you talk like this! I’ve brought Eileen with me on purpose—’

‘I gathered that, Mother.’ Paul’s voice was dry.

‘I’m not matchmaking, Paul, but I do want you to bring this nonsense to a stop! Eileen’s a charming girl who cares for you, so do please me by being nice to her.’

‘I have no intention of being otherwise.’

‘But . . . she’s no appeal . . . ?’

‘Not in that way.’ A little pause and then, ‘Mother, I am no different from any other man when it comes to being-chased, for want of another word. If ever I do marry, it’ll be to a woman who lets
me
chase
her.’

‘You put it crudely, but I do understand what you mean. However, my son, with your looks, and all the rest that Nature gave you, women will always run after you.’

‘Can we change the subject?’ said Paul a little stiffly, and it was his mother’s turn to laugh.

‘You never did like my remarking on your—’

‘If having grandchildren is so important to you,’ broke in Paul shortly, ‘then why not confine your efforts to Pierre?’

‘He’s young; you are almost twenty-nine.’

‘I think,’ said Paul abruptly changing the subject,
‘that we ought to be getting back to the house. It’s a quarter past seven.’

Emma waited until she heard the voices become indistinct before getting up from her seat, her expression pensive as she went over what she had heard.

Paul deeply in love . . . that was certainly an eye-opener, for she had branded him hard, unable to feel deeply for anyone. And he’d been let down, hence, his attitude towards women. The fact of their running after him had undoubtedly helped in his general estimation of their character. He was satisfied with his bachelor existence, but if ever he did marry, it would be to a woman who did
not
run after him, a woman whom he could woo in the old-fashioned way, it would seem. Yes, Emma had certainly discovered traits which she had never for a moment believed he could possess. She had thought he was ever conscious of his looks, his attraction for women, but underneath that debonair and egotistical self-assurance there was a modesty which to Emma was very appealing. It would be a lucky woman who eventually won him for a husband—if ever any woman did succeed in doing so, that was.

Walking slowly back to the chateau, Emma continued to dwell on what she had overheard and what conclusions she had come to as a result. She smiled to herself: never would she have believed that she’d have considered Paul’s wife as lucky!

But she
had
decided that, once he was married, Paul would be the faithful kind; she reflected and realised that her thoughts were becoming rather muddled.

BOOK: Spell of the Island
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