Read That Tender Feeling Online
Authors: Dorothy Vernon
THAT TENDER FEELING
THAT TENDER FEELING
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data available
This eBook edition published by AudioGO Ltd, Bath, 2012.
Published by arrangement with the Author
Epub ISBN 9781445824727
Copyright Â© 1984 by Dorothy Vernon
All the characters in this book are fictitious. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely
All rights reserved
Cover illustration Â©
The arrival of the solicitor's letter containing the news that Aunt Miranda had bequeathed Hawthorn Cottage to Ros in her will brought its share of friction. Ros's fiancÃ©, Jarvis Trent, thought the only sensible course was to put it up for sale. He had pointed out that if it had been within easy traveling distance, it might have had a certain appeal as a country retreat; but it was so far away, buried way up in Yorkshire, that it wasn't feasible to hang on to it. Ros wanted to keep it, even though she knew that Jarvis was right and she was being impractical. She had a nostalgic yearning to recapture the happy days of her childhood that had been spent under Aunt Miranda's roof. A roof that now leaked.
The electrical wiring was pronounced unsafe, and the plumbing, so investigation revealed, had finally surrendered to old age. In the end, common sense prevailed, and Ros reluctantly bowed to her fiancÃ©'s judgment and agreed to let the cottage go.
On reaching that decision, Ros discovered that no one wanted to buy an inconveniently situated cottage in such a deplorable state. So, once again, Jarvis chipped in with his opinion.
âUnless you want to give the cottage away, it might be as well to invest in repairs and modernization.'
She had put the sale of the cottage in the hands of a real estate agent, and as the agent's recommendation merely endorsed Jarvis's advice, Ros gave instructions for the necessary work to be carried out.
The day she received notification that the work had been completed was also the day she was unavoidably held up. She phoned Glenis, her roommate, explaining that she hadn't a chance of getting home by the time Jarvis arrived to collect her for their date. Would Glenis be a love and keep him happy until she arrived? Glenis obligingly said she would. Ros wasn't as delayed as she had anticipated, and she walked in to find Jarvis being entertained in a way that was rather too warm for her to stomach. They had their arms wrapped round one another and were kissing passionately. It wasn't a light, impulsive kiss that could be forgiven; they were making a heavy session of it.
She looked at them in stunned disbelief; then her volatile temper surged up out of the grip of shock, and she let fly with her tongue, blasting them to high heaven.
She couldn't believe it of Jarvis. She swallowed hard, endeavoring to compose herself, expecting Jarvis to stutter out some abject words of apology. Instead, he turned on her and lashed back, in bitter accusation, âThat was a sneaky entrance.'
She gaped at him in astonishment. âI've always had a soft tread. I didn't think I'd need to come in stamping my feet and making a lot of noise.'
If he'd looked the tiniest bit shame-faced, perhaps the outcome would have been different. But he jutted his chin at her; his whole stance was belligerent. âIt's no more than you should expect. Hasn't it ever occurred to you that if there isn't enough warmth on the home front, a man will warm his hands elsewhere?'
Glenis had at least had the decency to disappear into her bedroom, and so only Jarvis witnessed the deep blush staining Ros's cheeks, the held-back brightness in her eyes. Their lovemaking had always been temperate. They had never embraced with the total abandonment of the clinch she had just burst in on. Yet she had felt secure in Jarvis's affection, content to let the deeper passion come later. It wasn't a viewpoint that Jarvis shared, but he'd seemed to have come to terms with it.
Miserably, she twisted her engagement ring from her finger and held it out to him. She wasn't being melodramatic. Even only half assessed in her mind, the action seemed the only thing to do, despite the pain it caused her.
âIt surely doesn't have to come to this, Ros?'
The way he looked at her was very nearly her undoing. She had known Jarvis for four years, at first hankering after him like a schoolgirl with an outsized crush on someone who was totally out of reach. He hadn't gotten around to noticing her in the way she'd wanted to be noticed until shortly after her twentieth birthday. Two years later, just six months ago, coinciding with the time her career took a sharp upward turnâone piece of good fortune really did seem to attract anotherâhe had asked her to marry him, and she had felt as if the sky had opened and dropped a handful of stars into her lap. Two of them had been in her eyes as she had uttered a breathless yes. She didn't want it to end like that. She still loved him. Love is a hardy little plant that doesn't wither at the first bad spell. However, his infidelity, in her own flat with her own roommate, had killed something else that merits equal importance when contemplating marriage, and that was trust. Perhaps he hadn't killed it off at that, but merely stunted it. She needed time to tell.
âLet me think about it, Jarvis. Meanwhile, take your ring back.'
âYou can't mean this, Ros. You're taking one tiny incident and enlarging it out of all sense of proportion.'
âOne incident, Jarvis? I think not.'
At that, he had the grace to look away, but he stood his ground, not offering to leave. Having failed to bring her around, he decided to let his fingers take up the battle. They reached forward to stroke down the tautness of her cheek before she realized what he was about or had time to move away.
âNo, Jarvis, not that way,' she said, avoiding the more dangerous pursuit of his arms.
She couldn't bear to let him touch her, not with what she had just witnessed still burning a hole in her mind. Even if she forgave Jarvis eventually, she didn't think she would ever be able to erase that scene from her thoughts.
At last, he went. The moment the door closed behind him, Glenis emerged from her room. In Jarvis's presence, she had looked ill at ease; now her expression was gloating. âAll men are heels, Ros,' she purred in a voice as smooth as cream.
âSome women are cats,' Ros retorted angrily.
They had professed to be friendsâso much for friendship! She wouldn't have sneaked behind Glenis's back to make up to one of her boyfriends, and there were so many of them that one wouldn't have been missed. She was never short of somewhere to go or an escort to take her. She had more men dancing attendance on her at any one time than there were days in the week, yet she hadn't been able to keep her eyes off Ros's one and only.
Ros didn't doubt for a moment that Jarvis hadn't been more than willing, but she was certain that Glenis had started the flirting. She had been around long enough to see how Glenis went to work on her victim of the moment. The pouting lower lip, the glance from under half-lowered lids, the straining buttons on her tight-fitting blouse and, should all else fail, the provocative way she had of sliding the palms of her hands over her thighs.
Whatever happened, irrespective of whether she patched it up with Jarvis, she was sure of one thing: she could no longer share a flat with Glenis. The moment she could make other arrangements for herself, she would pack her bags and go. Later, she was to wonder why her searching brain didn't stumble on the idea of taking up residence in Aunt Miranda's cottage immediately. There it was, with its repaired roof, new electrical wiring and up-to-date plumbing, just waiting for someone to occupy it, and hadn't the estate agent told her there would be little chance of attracting a buyer before spring? Apparently, rural cottages hadn't a lot to shout about until the first tender daffodil lifted its golden trumpet. But the cottage was over two hundred and fifty miles away, and her thoughts were contained nearer home, and so she didn't think about it straightaway. She couldn't seem to concentrate on anything beyond Jarvis's infidelity. It wasn't just the kiss, but to put it delicately, there had been a certain disarray about their persons that screamed at familiarity and told her she hadn't come upon a lone incident. It had been monstrous of them to carry on behind her back. Her anger was a constriction in her throat, an ache behind her eyes. As she lay down to sleep, bitter tears of disillusionment scorched her cheeks, scarring her belief in things she had taken for grantedâcodes of honor and common decency.
The idea of going to the cottage came to her on waking the next morning. There was no problem as far as her work was concerned. She had made a career for herself in cooking, writing about it and demonstrating it. She could work wherever there was a kitchen, and she was as portable as her typewriter. It struck her that there would be, in fact, a definite advantage in working in the solitude of the cottage, away from all distractions.
Pushing away her barely touched breakfastâher usual good appetite seemed to have deserted herâshe went to phone her agent.
âMiles? Ros, here.' Without preliminaries she said, âI'm going to Yorkshire, to the cottage.'
âThat was a sudden decision! When do you intend to go? And for how long?'
âFirst thing tomorrow morning.' That would give her time to pack and tie up any loose ends. âAnd for an indefinite period.'
âBut it's winter.'
âYes,' Ros said, looking out the window at a gray, fog-fretted world. âThat hasn't escaped my notice. Is it relevant?'
âIt will be colder up north. You might even be snowed in.'
âI was thinking about your commitments.'
âI haven't forgotten. I've got the last recording to do for the television series.'
âAnd before that you've got a book-signing session.'
âYes, on New Year's Day. I'll get back for those.'
âWhat if you can't? What if you really do get snowed in?'
Miles was a dear, but he did tend to fuss. âYou'll have to bring a big shovel and dig me out,' she scoffed gently. âI know you seem to have gotten it into your head that it's a scatterbrained notion, but think about it. Amid all that lovely peace and tranquillity, I'll be able to shoot ahead with my new book.'
âSounds as if you've finally gotten Jarvis to have a re-think about keeping the cottage,' Miles said on a note of inquiry.
She didn't want to broadcast the broken engagement in case it wasn't permanent, but Miles was discreet.
âNot exactly. I'm having a re-think about Jarvis.'
âIs that so?' His interest sparkled life into his voice. âI can't say I approve of your going all that way away, but the re-thinkâI approve of that. So I'm not going to say another word to dissuade you. Am I right in thinking that the cottage isn't connected by phone?'
âAunt Miranda didn't believe in telephones.'
âThat, I take it, is a negative reply. However, I'm firmly convinced that the magic of the telephone will have penetrated even the wilds of deepest Yorkshire, so even if I can't phone you, at least you can phone me.'
His caring was a comfort to Ros. Miles was a bachelor in his late thirties, and though Ros was fond of him, she had never thought of him in romantic terms. On the other hand, he was much too magnetic and vital to be seen as a father figure. In any case, she already had a perfectly good father. True, he had always tended to be an absentee one, never on hand when she needed his support. At that moment, she had no idea where he was. The world was his oyster, and he could be anywhere. But at the same time, no one could take his place.
âI care about you, Ros. I want to know that you're all right.'
âThank you for your concern, Miles. I appreciate it. I'll keep in touch, I promise. I'll give you a ring from somewhere when I get there to let you know that I've arrived safely.'