: TO BUY A BRIDE Roberta Leigh

10-16-2019, 06:02 PM


Roberta Leigh

Jealousy stabbed Philippa as she thought of Rose and Luke together. Jealousy--and a deep sense of loss.

Loss of what? Of Luke? Was she so possessive that she couldn't bear to think of him with another woman even though she didn't want him herself?

But she did want him! The realization stunned her. It was an annihilating admission that destroyed the whole fabric of pretense she'd constructed from the day she had married Luke.

PHILIPPA ELLWOOD was walking by the lake when she heard the throaty roar of a sports car and knew that her brother Geoffrey had arrived. But she did not hurry back to the house to see him, for when he drove down from London like this he usually stayed the night. She reached the widest part of the lake and paused to look out over the dark green water. Her eyes mirrored its colour as her stillness mirrored its tranquillity. But the tranquillity of the lake was perpetual, while hers was merely a surface calm, an air of detachment she had cultivated to hide far less detached feelings.
Idly she picked up a stone and sent it skimming across the water. She watched until the last ripple had disappeared, then turned and went back the way she had come, a tall girl, boyishly slim, with soft dark hair combed carelessly back from a wide smooth brow. Her features were too irregular for beauty, the mouth too wide, the nose tip-tilted and her teeth white and gleaming, with a small but perceptible gap in the middle. Her eyes were her finest feature, being large and river green. They were framed by long lashes and smooth winging eyebrows, but she was careless of their beauty as she was careless of herself in general, and this unawareness of what she had to offer tended to make others unaware too. But Philippa cared little that she was left unnoticed at the age of twenty-six; her days were too busy for her to be aware of the passing time, her nights too exhausted for her to feel the need of anyone.
Crossing the grass towards the house, she enjoyed - as she always did - the sight of grey stone against blue sky. So it had stood for two hundred years and would remain so for another two hundred if she had any say in the matter. She went up the steps and into the hall. Her step on the oak floor brought out a young man from the room on her left. In the dimness - the only light came from a mullioned window halfway up the staircase - he looked a mirror image of the girl, which was not surprising since they were twins.
"Hello, Geoffrey." Philippa went over and kissed his cheek.
"I knew you'd be down by the lake," he smiled. "Beats me why it fascinates you."
"I'm a water sprite," she said lightly, and went ahead of him into the sitting room. Originally it had been their mother's sewing room, and though it had lain idle after her death - when Philippa and Geoffrey had been six - it had eventually become their own personal hideaway, one which they had shared together as they had shared everything in the years that followed. She turned to look at him. "I didn't expect you down today. Is anything wrong?"
"Why should you think that?"
His casual tone was belied by the look in his eyes and she felt a resurgence of the unease which she had experienced many times in the last few months. She perched on the arm' of a chair and swung one long slim leg. Its shape was obscured by her faded jeans, but the hand that held her skirt was narrow, the fingers slender and indicative of good bone structure and line.
"Why have you come down, then?" she asked. "You don't usually bother in the middle of the week."
"It was a nice evening and I fancied the drive."
She knew he was lying, but did not persist in her questioning. Like her, Geoffrey could be obstinate and one had to wait until he was in the mood to speak.
"Let's change and go for a ride," she said.
He hesitated, and the instinct that had told her something was wrong now became positive. Geoffrey loved riding, and for him to pause before answering meant that there was something serious on his mind. It had to be personal, for there was nothing wrong with the business, which had gone surprisingly well since he had taken it over at their father's death five years ago. Occasionally she had been scared that it had gone too well and that something would happen to destroy it. No wonder Geoffrey teasingly referred to her as Pessimistic Phil. It was a strange characteristic to find in a girl given to the open air life; usually the great outdoors went with peace of mind and carefreeness.
"O.K.," Geoffrey sighed. "Give me ten minutes to change."
When he returned, casual in jeans and sweater, he looked more than ever her twin and, warmed by the similarity, she twined her arm through his as they went to the barn where their two horses were stabled. At one time there had been a dozen horses and two grooms to look after them, but her mother's death twenty years ago had heralded a decline in their standard of living. Philippa had never known if her mother's death had precipitated her father's disinterest in his business, or whether it would have happened in any event. But there was no doubt that the sudden loss of the woman he loved had turned his thoughts inward and made it increasingly difficult for him to face life. His death from a heart attack, when she and Geoffrey were eighteen, had left them with only each other to rely on, for two wars had decimated the Ellwood family, and those who remained had emigrated to more favourable climes and taxable conditions.
Geoffrey had also been eager to go, but Philippa had made him realise that his destiny lay in running the family engineering company, many of whose members had been with them all their lives; many of whose fathers and grandfathers had worked there before them.
In the eight years that followed, the Ellwood fortunes slowly started to improve, and though money was still hard to come by, their way of life had become easier. Only in the past few months had she noticed the return of a strained look to her twin's face, though at the moment he looked surprisingly carefree as he cantered beside her on Pointer, whose own mother had been the first horse she had ever ridden.
They rode for several miles without speaking and then, by mutual consent, drew to a stop beside the lake. Geoffrey jumped down, helped her to the ground and slapped the horses on their buttocks to send them off to the barn.
"They're hot," she said.
"I'll follow them soon and rub them down." He settled himself on a bench. "Sit down, Phil. I want to talk to you."
Sensing this was why he had come here today, she did as he ordered.
"It's bad news, Phil," he said. "I don't quite know how to tell you."
"At the beginning," she said casually. "That's generally the best place."
"I'm not sure where the beginning is. It might have been with Dad, it might be with me."
Mention of her father decided her that Geoffrey's problem lay with the business. "Tell me about it, Geoffrey. Maybe I can help."
"Not this time. Only one person can do that - and he won't." Geoffrey jumped up and walked to the edge of the lake. "That's the awful part about it, Phil. He can, but he won't."
"Who can? You aren't being awfully clear, Geoffrey."
He shook his head and sat beside her again. "I need money, Phil. A lot of money. Without it I'm ruined."
"I thought the company was doing well. The last report showed -"
"The company's doing fine," he interrupted. "I'm the one who needs the money."
"I see. I didn't realise it was personal."
"It's both," he said abruptly. "Business and personal. Oh, lord, I don't know how to tell you." He buried his head in his hands and was silent.
Watching him, Philippa had a foreknowledge of disaster. "Tell me," she said gently. "Nothing can be as bad as all that."
"Yes, it can," he muttered. "I borrowed money from the company to invest in stocks. It was only going to be a temporary thing - buy one week and sell the next - but things went wrong."
"They generally do when you play with borrowed money," she said drily. "What happened?"
"The worst thing possible. I borrowed more and sent good money after bad."
"Didn't you know you'd be found out?"
"Why should I think that? It's our company."
"It's a public company," she retorted, "and it's public money." She paused. "How much did you take?"
"Borrowed," he corrected. "Fifty thousand pounds."
Shock seemed to suspend her in a vacuum and, had her life depended on it, she could not have spoken. This was worse than anything she had anticipated. Fifty thousand pounds was a sum that neither of them could ever raise, no matter where they went or whom they asked.
"Why?" she said. "Why?"
"Because it was a good thing," he said savagely. "Damn it, Philippa, use your brain."
"I wish you'd used yours! Don't you know enough not to gamble with money that isn't yours? You did the same two years ago. It was the biggest luck in the world that those shares went up and you managed to get out in time."
"I made a profit too," he reminded her, "and I was certain the same thing was going to happen now. Don't you turn on me, Phil. I've no one else to talk to."
"I'm sorry," she said. "Is there no chance that the shares will go up again?"
"Thomson thinks they will - he's the stockbroker who put me in on the deal - he still believes the shares will zoom up in a year."
"Can't you hide things for that long?" She thought of Edwin Block, the company accountant whom they had both known since they were children. "I'm sure Mr. Block can jiggle things around. Borrow from Peter to pay Paul. That's the sort of thing big companies always do, isn't it?"
"We might have been able to do it if we weren't being taken over."
"Taken over? Since when?"
"Since yesterday. I was going to tell you about it when I came down next weekend, but this morning, when I realised the implication of the takeover, I didn't know what to do."
"I still don't follow you. Can't you be more explicit?"
"Is it explicit enough to say I might be spending the next ten years in prison?"
"Geoffrey, don't!"
"It's on the cards." He drew a deep breath. "The takeover bid was delivered to us at midday yesterday. We had an immediate board meeting and there was a unanimous decision to accept it."
"Why? I thought you were making a go of things."
"I'm just about keeping the company's head above water. Dad left a lot of debts and we're still under-capitalised. It's been a nightmare of a struggle."
"You should have told me," she whispered. "I didn't know things were quite so bad."
"There was no point in telling you. There was nothing you could do to help."
"We could have sold the house."
"And sold your heart with it?" he said bitterly. "Why do you think I've been struggling to make a go of things? If it weren't for you I would have emigrated years ago."
"If only you had told me how bad things were," she sighed.
"You mustn't blame yourself," he said violently. "I'm the man and I should have made my own decision. I suppose when it came right down to it, I wanted to stay here as much as you. Now it looks as if we've both had it."
"What will happen?"
"Marine Investments will start examining our books. It won't take their auditors more than five minutes to find out what I've done."
"It wasn't criminal," she cried. "After all, it's our company."
"It's a public company," he reminded her, "and I borrowed the money without putting up any security."
"We have the Manor."
"It will fetch nothing on the open market. It means a lot to us because it's our home, but to anyone else it would be a white elephant."
"Then what can we do? Perhaps if you were to go to Marine Investments and tell them the truth, they would -"
"I've already done so. I was hoping Rickards would give me time to make good the loss; that for old times' sake he would give me the leeway I need."
"Do you know him, then?" she asked, puzzled.
"We both do. It's Luke Rickards," he continued. "He used to help in the stables when we were kids. He's older than us, of course, but I remember him teaching me how to rub down a horse. He was even crazier about them than you were!"
"You mean he's the manager of the company that's taking you over?"
"Luke Rickards is Marine Investments," Geoffrey replied. "From stable boy to tycoon in fifteen years. Talk about the wheel of fate!"
Philippa tried but failed to see Luke as a tycoon, for her memory of him was far too strong to let any other image impose upon it. How old had she been when they had first met - five or six? She knew that at the time she had thought him grown-up, though he could not have been more than fourteen. His seriousness and quietness had made him appear older than his age, as had his gentle patience when he had walked her round the paddock on her pony. She could hear her voice now as she had run into the stables each day looking for him. "Luke, Luke!" she would call in her childish treble, and he would come quietly towards her, a pale-looking boy with an ash-fair thatch of hair. The whole of one long, hot summer he had schooled with her in the art of jumping and then, in the winter, her mother had died and she had been sent away to school. During the holidays she had only seen him fleetingly, though she remembered one occasion when he had called at the house to collect his mother, who had still come each week to do the family mending. But as a thirteen-year-old she had been uneasy with the quiet-voiced stranger in his ill-fitting blue serge suit and badly cut hair.
She was sixteen before she had seen him again, an angry, tempestuous sixteen with puberty quickening her temper and a schoolgirl crush on Geoffrey's best friend, Elliott. It had been Elliott who had precipitated her last disastrous encounter with Luke.
She had been home from school for the weekend and she and Elliott had gone riding. It was a hot day and they had cantered for miles, with Elliott setting the pace and she happy to follow him, overwhelmed that he should be spending his time with her. Philippa had been too involved with her own feelings to think of the horses, and only when they returned to the stables did she notice that Elliott's mare was lame and that he had ignored it. But Luke - coming down the drive on some unspecified errand - had taken one look at the horse and curtly told Elliott to dismount. Annoyed at being spoken to in this manner - and also because he felt guilty, no doubt Elliott had refused and cantered towards the stable. Hardly had he dismounted when Luke had set upon him, thrashing him with a systematic, cold-blooded fury that had caught Elliott by surprise. Though he tried to fight back he had been no match for the bigger man and Philippa, unable to bear the sight of his bloody face, had rounded on Luke with her riding crop. The leather thong had snaked across his pale cheek, leaving a vivid weal in its wake, but she had been too incensed to care and had hit out at him again and again, stopping only as he flung Elliott to one side and tore the whip from her hand.
"No one hits me like that." His voice had been soft yet full of menace and, as he pulled the whip from her hand and held it aloft, she had cowered away, waiting for him to hit her in return. Instead he threw it behind her and his voice had lashed her more painfully than any leather could have done.
"You're a spoilt little fool," he had concluded. "You don't deserve to keep animals if you don't know how to treat them."
"I know how to treat you" she had flared. "And you're no better than an animal! If you set foot in these grounds again, I'll have the police on you."
His laugh had been unexpectedly mocking, as had the low
bow which accompanied it. "You need have no fear of that, my lady of the Manor. I'll never set foot here again. I'm off to a country where a man is assessed on his brains, not his bank balance."
"Your brains are in your boots," she had cried. "You're a clod and a bore, and you'll never be anything else!"
He had not laughed at this, but had stared at her in silence, his face suffusing with colour. "Thanks for those kind words," he said slowly. "They were just what I needed to forget you."
He had turned then and strode away, leaving her to rush to Elliott's side. He had been too stunned by Luke's blows to take in what had happened, and she had not enlightened him. But even now, ten years later, she still remembered Luke's parting words and wondered what they had meant.
"Rickards has my future in his hands." Geoffrey broke into her thoughts.
"What did you hope he would do?" she asked.
"Give me a chance to pay back the debt. Those shares will go up, Phil. I'm positive about it."
"Evidently Luke Rickards isn't."
"He says he isn't, but I think he's lying. He's using me to ... Oh, lord, I don't know how to tell you."
"Tell me what? What else is there for me to know? If you've thought of another way out, for heaven's sake tell me."
"I can't," he muttered. "It's unthinkable."
"What is unthinkable?" she persisted. "Do stop hedging."
He hesitated and then blurted out: "Rickards offered to lend me the money personally, provided I - that you ..."
"You mean he wants this house?" Her voice rose. "You haven't let him believe the Manor is worth that much, have you?"
"He knows exactly what the house is worth," Geoffrey muttered. "He pretty well knows down to the last penny what we're worth."
"Then if he doesn't believe the shares will go up again, how does he expect you to clear the debt?"
"He doesn't want to be repaid in money."
"Then with what?"
"With you."
For a split second Philippa was sure she had not heard her brother correctly. But the sight of his shamefaced expression told her this was no misunderstanding of words.
"Luke Rickards wants me?" she whispered. "But why? It's more than ten years since I've seen him. I was a child."
"You were sixteen," Geoffrey muttered. "And he has a very strong picture of you in his mind."
The picture that Luke Rickards must have flashed into her own mind and she recoiled from it, as he had recoiled from the leather whip which had lashed against his face.
"No," she thought, "he can't mean what he said to Geoffrey. It must be a joke." Yet looking at her brother's face she knew it was true; knew also that Luke Rickards realised the seriousness of Geoffrey's position and had used it to put forward a proposition that he would never otherwise have dared to do.
"He can't be serious," she stormed. "I would no more marry him than I would - than I would -" she stared wildly around her - "than I would jump in the lake!"
"I'll be the one who'll jump in the lake," Geoffrey said heavily. "I can't face the scandal, Phil. I'll have to pack up and go."
"Some place where they can't extradite me." He glanced up, his face ravaged. "I can't face prison, Philippa."
"Don't talk like a fool," she said scornfully. "It hasn't come to that yet."
"We won't be able to stop it. Anyway, I'd rather leave the country than have you marry a man you don't love. He had no right to suggest it."
Philippa stared out over the grey-green water. It was calm and smooth and in no way mirrored the bitter anger churning inside her. Geoffrey might say that Luke Rickards' suggestion was ridiculous, but he had come down and told her about it, nevertheless: a clear indication that though he might be horrified at the prospect of his sister marrying a man she did not love, he was subconsciously hoping she would.
She glanced at her brother, crouching forward in a womblike position, as if he were trying to regress to the safety of the past. What would she do if Geoffrey carried out his threat and left the country? Would she follow him or stay on here? Yet she could not stay in a house she could not afford to maintain. It was hard enough to do so out of the substantial salary Geoffrey earned from running the company, and if this money were no longer available then the Manor would have to be sold no matter how meagre the price it fetched. And what would she do then? Live in some hot foreign city and try to put down fresh roots? It might be easier for Geoffrey to do because he had the incentive - it was either that or go to prison - but for her it would be impossible. Still, to let Geoffrey face his future alone was equally impossible.
"You can't do it," she stated. "You would hate to leave here."
"I'd hate prison even more. And that's what will happen. Rickards' auditors are working on the books now and by this time tomorrow they'll know the truth."
"And then what?"
"Then they'll officially tell Rickards, and he'll have no option but to report it."
"But you didn't steal the money. You were going to pay it back."
"I gambled with cash that wasn't mine. It's no good trying to whitewash what I did. I behaved like a fool and I must pay the penalty."
"Or I must," she said quietly.
"No!" he said at once. "I won't let you. I should never have told you of Rickards' suggestion. It's just the sort of selfish thing I would do. I'm a coward and I should have known better than to come running to you."
"You've always come to me with your problems," she said, trying to smile. "Old habits die hard."
"Well, here's where the habit stops." He pressed a clenched fist into his palm. "I'm getting out, Phil. If you want to come with me, I'll be more than happy to have you - but I can't stay here."
"You can and you will." Geoffrey's apology, unexpected and sincere as it was, had helped her to make up her mind. "If I were to do as Luke Rickards wants, what would happen to you?"
Geoffrey's fist unclenched. "Nothing, I suppose. He would put back the money I'd taken and the matter would be closed. I don't know if he would let me go on working in the company. I didn't think to ask him. I mean, his whole suggestion was so fantastic I never tried to think it out."
"But at least you'd be free," she said quietly. "You would have a chance of starting again."
"I can't let you sacrifice yourself for me."
"It would be just as much of a sacrifice for me if I had to leave here," she cried. "Ellwood is our home. Doesn't it mean anything to you?"
"Of course it means something. Why do you think I borrowed the money and tried to get rich? It wasn't to buy polo ponies or have a good time. It was to stop the house from falling round our ears!"
She jumped to her feet. "It's settled, Geoffrey. I'll marry Luke Rickards - if he still wants me after he's met me again."
"He won't change his mind," Geoffrey muttered. "From the way he spoke I had the feeling he's dreamed of marrying an Ellwood all his life. I don't think it's you, Phil, but what you represent for him. The rich girl in the Manor. The haughty little bitch who hit him with her crop."
She caught her breath. "Is that what he said?"
"Not in so many words, but it was implicit in the things he didn't say." Geoffrey pressed his hands to his temples. "I can't let you do it. You would ruin your whole life."
"What am I doing with my life at the moment?" She waved an arm in the air. "Existing like a vegetable in a rundown old house."
"You don't need to do that if you don't want to. I've begged you to live in London with me during the week. You have a good brain, Phil, I'm sure you could find an interesting job."
"In a boutique or driving rich tourists around the countryside?" Her smile was wry. "I'm not trained for anything, Geoffrey. Dad brought me up as if I were an heiress and I've never been able to forget it."
"That's not true," her brother said vehemently: "You stay down here in order to keep the house going. You don't need to kid me about the way you work. You're landgirl and charlady rolled into one. Look at your hands." Before she could stop him he caught one and held it out. "Those aren't idle hands." He touched the rough skin and short nails. "If you put as much effort into earning a living as you do in keeping this place going, you'd earn a fortune."
"I don't want a fortune." She snatched her hand away from him. "I just want to keep our home."
"We won't succeed," Geoffrey said bluntly. "Sooner or later we'll have to sell it."
"Perhaps I'll be able to persuade Luke Rickards to give us a helping hand," she commented drily. "There's no point in marrying the lady of the Manor if she doesn't have a manor!"
There was a momentary lightening of Geoffrey's expression, but it dulled as he considered the full implication of. his sister's words. "I can't let you do it," he said again.
"You can't stop me." She forced a smile to her lips and hoped he would not see that her eyes were bleak. "Anyway, I'm sick of penny-pinching too. It's time I started on the mink and diamonds circuit!"
"Don't talk like that. You know you don't mean it."
"Not all of it," she admitted, "but I do mean some of it. I'm twenty-six, Geoffrey. That's not old for a man, but it isn't young for a woman."
"I'm sure you could have got married." His glance was curious. "I often wondered if there was anything between you and Elliott."
She did not answer. It was strange that Geoffrey should have mentioned Elliott when the thought of Luke Rickards was so clear in her mind. Did Elliott ever think of that afternoon so long ago when he had unleashed the fury of a cyclone? And like a cyclone, the fury had died as suddenly as it had erupted, leaving behind the quiet village boy she had always known. No, known was the wrong word to use. She had seen Luke and spoken to him, but she had never known him. Her first childish memory of him had been of his silently leading her pony; talking softly to the animal but never to her. There were other memories too. Fleeting ones of Luke getting bigger, his long arms dangling out of sleeves that were too short for him, to the final memory of that day ten years ago when he had come back into her life and had as suddenly gone out of it. Shortly afterwards Elliott had gone too, emigrating to America to live with a childless uncle who had made him his heir. But a year ago he had returned, as charming as ever but with considerably more sense and more money.
He spent the occasional weekend with her and Geoffrey at the Manor, and though she knew he would have liked to see her more often, she had never given him any encouragement. Her whole life had been absorbed in keeping the estate together, leaving her with little energy to think of a life for herself. Only now, with an unwelcome proposal from a most unwelcome man, did she see how cloistered these past years had been and wonder ruefully what Luke Rickards would make of them.
As though guessing her thoughts - which as her twin he often did - Geoffrey said: "If you've definitely made up your mind, I would like to telephone Rickards and let him know."
"A good idea," she said loudly. "Ring him at once."
Without a word Geoffrey turned and strode away, and Philippa watched him, forcing her mind into a blank.

PHILIPPA was in her bedroom when she heard Luke Rickards arrive. She did not need to look out of her window to know it was him, for his car sounded exactly as she had imagined it would, purring quietly up the rutted drive to draw to a gentle stop at the foot of the shallow steps that led to the heavy front door.
"He's coming here tonight," Geoffrey had announced less than two hours ago as he had walked back across the lawn to the lake after telephoning Luke Rickards. Seeing the shock on her face, he had awkwardly patted her shoulder. "I tried to put him off, but he insisted. Anyway, if you're going ahead with it, the sooner you meet him the better. Otherwise you'll build him up into some ogre in your mind."
"I already have." She saw her brother's disquiet and said quickly: "I'm sure I'll change my mind when I see him again. After all, we've - we've known him for years. We could almost call him a friend of the family."
"Some friend!"
"He's putting up fifty thousand pounds to save you from prison," she reminded him.
"And buying you in exchange! Oh, Phil, I can't let you do it."
"I'm doing it as much for me as for you," she said firmly, and waved her roughened hands in front of his face. "I'm tired of looking like this too! I'm going to grow my nails and paint them red, wear diamonds on my fingers and a jewelled hoop in my nose for Luke to lead me by!"
"Don't joke about it," Geoffrey muttered. "He may do exactly that!"
Philippa remembered these words as she stood in front of the wardrobe and considered what to wear. It did not require much deliberation, for her choice was abysmally small: a black silk jersey dress, five years old, or a chiffon one whose colour almost matched her eyes. It had been a birthday present last year from Geoffrey and she wore it only on special occasions. Deciding that to wear it tonight might look as if she were trying to create an impression - and determined that Luke Rickards should not think she was dressing up for him - she chose the black, even though she knew its starkness robbed her of all her colour and that its long fluid lines, while moulding her figure, also made her look too thin. Quickly she stepped into it and zipped it up, then went to the dressing table to put on some earrings; small pearl ones which, together with a necklace, were the only jewels she had to remind her of her mother.
Carelessly she brushed her hair away from her face, glad it had a natural wave and did not need much attention. Because she looked inordinately pale she carefully applied rouge to her cheeks. The vivid colour looked artificial and made her look even paler, and she rubbed it off with a tissue and decided to go down as she was. After all, Luke Rickards was not marrying her for what she looked like but what she stood for: Philippa Ellwood of Ellwood Manor, last female of a family that had lived in the village of the same name for more than three hundred years. Was he thinking of how the wheel had come full cycle? she asked herself as she went along the corridor and down the stairs. Was he remembering his mother's weekly visits here, when she had sat in the sewing room at the top of the house, mending the silks and linens with delicate little stitches that could hardly be seen by the eye? And was it all those minute and blinding stitches that had determined him to buy himself an Ellwood as his wife?
With a deep breath she pushed open the drawing room door and went in.
For a moment she thought the room was empty, for there was no sign of Geoffrey and the man in the corner was so still that she was unaware of him until he moved. Then her heart started to pound and she was glad she was leaning against the door, for its firmness gave her support. At last, after an absence of ten years, she was face to face with Luke Rickards.
Her first thought was that he was not the way she had imagined him to be. Then she knew that this was untrue and that, had she been able to envisage him without bias, she would have envisaged him exactly like this: tall, big - burly almost - with a smooth pale face and smooth pale hair. There was nothing about him that could be considered warming; even his eyes were a light slate grey. He came towards her, moving with the same quietness she had always remembered. For a big man he was surprisingly well coordinated and she was fleetingly reminded of a puma, large and softly moving; pale and silvery blond yet with muscles of steel and a killer instinct.
One hand clenched at her side, one hand held out, she went forward to meet him. "Good evening, Mr. Rickards, I hope you had a pleasant journey?"
"Yes, thank you." His voice was exactly like his appearance - quiet and soft, yet extremely distinct. There was faint irony in it too, as though he found her politeness amusing.
"Would you care for a drink?"
"Not yet." His words stopped her as she went to turn to the sideboard. "We have things to talk over first, Miss Philippa."
These last two words caused her to swing round completely. There was no mistaking his irony now, nor the expression on his face. How dared he mock her like this? Because she knew he had done it deliberately she was able to control the temper that spurted up in her.
"I was a child when you called me that," she said, coolly indolent. "I would have thought you'd forgotten it by now."
"One never forgets the past." His voice was expressionless again. "Nor would I want to. It's the memory of the past that has helped me to become a success."
"Working class boy makes good?" She was still cool, still indolent. "Really, Mr. Rickards, I didn't think you would be as obvious as that."
"There's nothing obvious in being true to one's background."
"Or in striving to better it?"
"By marriage, you mean?"
She nodded and, not wishing to verbalise her feelings, turned her back on him and went to the sideboard. Her hands were shaking as she picked up a sherry decanter and she was careful to rest the lip of it on the edge of the glass so that he should not hear it rattle. Holding the sherry in her hand, she turned to face him again, glad of the distance between them. But no distance could dim the strength he exuded. It was not an obvious strength, but a quiet, almost negative one that manifested itself by its very absence; as if the quietness was a cloak which he wore as a cover. What would happen when the cloak was removed and the elementary force of him was revealed? Philippa shivered and quickly took a sip of sherry. She must not let her imagination play her false. It was essential to keep her wits about her, for she had no doubt that there was going to be a battle between them.
"Please come and sit down, Miss Ellwood." Luke Rickards' voice was no longer ironic but quiet and businesslike.
But then why shouldn't it be when he was discussing a business proposition? Obeying his request, she sat down on the nearest chair and, as if knowing she had deliberately avoided the settee in order not to be near him, he crossed the carpet and came to sit in a chair a few feet away from her.
"I understand from your brother that you've agreed to marry me?"
"Only because I don't want him to go to prison."
"I didn't think you were doing it for love of me."
"I'm not," she flashed.
"Nor out of hate either."
"I don't hate you."
"I have the feeling that what you feel for me at the moment is very akin to it."
"I despise you," she said coldly. "As I would despise any man who has to buy himself a wife."
If she had expected him to react to the insult she was disappointed, for he shrugged and crossed one leg over the other.
"I don't have to buy a wife, Miss Ellwood. I have merely elected to do so."
"Because it gives you satisfaction to buy a woman you could never otherwise have had?"
"Couldn't I?" he said softly.
The question made her look at him in disbelief. But he meant what he said and his gaze was steady, his strange, light eyes as colourless as water. "You can't mean that seriously, Mr. Rickards."
"I do. Had we been able to renew our acquaintance under more auspicious circumstances, you might very well have liked me as much today as you did when you were a child."
"You're talking of years ago," she protested.
"You were very charming at eight. I have fond memories of teaching you to ride and not to pull at your pony as if it were a toy dog."
"That's eighteen years ago," she said. "We've both changed since then."
"I have other memories too," he continued.
"I wondered when you would get around to that!" She was in control of herself again and made no effort to keep the scorn from her voice. "That's why you offered to help Geoffrey, isn't it - so that you could pay me back for what I did?"
For several seconds he was silent, but she was unable to read his expression, for his lids were lowered and gave his face the look of a mask. "I was thinking of different memories," he said softly. "I'd forgotten that particular incident."
"Don't expect me to believe you. That's the reason you're here. It's your only way of hitting out at me, the way I did to you. But at least my action was done in temper because you were hurting a friend of mine. Yours is done in cold blood."
"You must think what you will," he said, and went over to the sideboard to pour himself a whisky. He took a sip of it and made a face. "The quality isn't as good as the crystal."
"A gentleman wouldn't make that comment."
"But I'm not a gentleman." His voice was as soft as a breeze through the reeds. "And since you already have a well-defined image of me, I felt' it would be unfair to try and change it."
"I have no image of you," she said angrily, and jumped up. "I see you the way you are; the way you always were!"
"I doubt if you ever saw me, Miss Ellwood, except as a servant of yours, like my mother."
"Must you talk like something from Lady Chatterley's Lover?" she said crossly. The minute she spoke she regretted the words, for his face creased into a smile. It was the first animation that had come into it and she noticed how it changed his features and took years from his age. How old was he? Thirty-six or thirty-seven?
"I don't see myself as a gamekeeper, Miss Ellwood." He broke into her thoughts. "But I'm willing to try if you're willing to be Lady Chatterley!"
Face flaming, she looked away. He was very quick and she must guard her tongue if she did not want to be wounded by him. "I suggest we get down to business, Mr. Rickards. That's why you have come here."
Setting his whisky on to the sideboard - he obviously did not consider it worth finishing - he came to stand in front of her. His hands hung down at his sides. Large hands, she noticed, the skin pale and smooth. Whatever way he had made his fortune, it had not been through manual labour.
"You know the full story about your brother, of course?" Luke Rickards said.
"Today." She frowned. "I didn't know about it before, Mr. Rickards, if that's what you're implying."
"I was not implying anything. I merely wanted to get the facts straight."
"You want to know if I condoned what my brother did?"
"I wanted to know if you too suffered from self-delusion. From the belief that tomorrow something will always turn up to save today."
"The Micawber syndrome?"
One side of his mouth twitched. It was too slight a movement to be called a smile and was merely an acknowledgement of her sharpness. "I suppose you could put it that way," he said quietly.
"Geoffrey was positive the shares would go up," she retorted. "He isn't a thief."
"What else do you call taking money that doesn't belong to you?"
"He was going to put it back. It was a calculated risk and it didn't come off. I'm sure you have taken risks that failed."
"If ever I took a risk it was with my own money - not with money that belonged to my shareholders. Don't you know that's what your brother did, or don't you care?"
"Of course I care!" She was almost crying with temper. "But I didn't know until a couple of horns ago and there was nothing I could do except.... There was nothing I could do."
"Except sacrifice yourself."
"I'll do anything to keep my brother out of prison. That doesn't mean I condone what he did, only that I feel everyone should be given a second chance."
"Even murderers?"
"Even murderers - when they've served their sentence."
"But you will be the one to serve your brother's sentence," came the reply.
"I'm doing what has to be done," she said. "You must be glad I'm a fool."
"Then be wise with speed." He saw her puzzlement. "A quotation from a seventeenth-century poet. 'Be wise with speed; a fool at forty is a fool indeed.' "
Her head tilted at his words. "How speedily, Mr. Rickards?"
"A month from today."
Her hands shook and she clasped them together. Four weeks of freedom left. How short a time it was! "I'm surprised you're willing to wait so long," she said from lips that were stiff. "Aren't you afraid I'll change my mind in that time?"
"You're not the type to break your word once you've given it."
At least he knew her well enough for that She felt some of her tension ebb, but it returned as he said: "If we marry without an engagement it may cause comment, particularly as our names have never been linked."
"And naturally you want everything to appear normal."
"I thought you would prefer it too." Again he had scored off her. "However, if you wish to put the date forward, I'm happy to oblige. I'm always at the service of a beautiful woman."
His use of the verb 'serve' made her aware of all the other implications behind this marriage. Was it one he wished to consummate? The very idea appalled her and she must have given an audible gasp, for she saw him tilt his head enquiringly. Yet no matter how embarrassed she was, she had to bring her fears into the open, for not even for Geoffrey's sake could she bear to let this man touch her.
"I couldn't ... I don't know the sort of marriage you have in mind, Mr. Rickards, but if you're thinking of - of -"
"Our marriage is a business arrangement," he interrupted coldly. "Nothing more."
"Why do you want such a marriage?" she asked involuntarily.
"You said you knew why."
"I spoke in temper," she said honestly. "But I really would like to know your reason."
There was a long silence. He was standing by the fireplace. It was large, yet he managed to dwarf it, not only because of his height but his broadness, which made him seem even bigger. Irrationally Philippa was reminded of a bulldog, for he gave the same impression of immense strength.
"I have no time to devote to a marriage," he said at last. "Not a real marriage, I mean. And if you want a woman to believe you love her you must spend time with her. With us it's a business arrangement. You will run my home and act as my hostess, and in return I shall provide you with everything you want."
"I want nothing for myself," she said immediately. "I just want you to help Geoffrey."
"I appreciate that's why you're marrying me," he agreed, "but I also expect you to fulfil your other obligations - not physical ones," he added, seeing her colour rise, "but social ones - and to fulfil those you must dress the way my wife would be expected to dress."
"I think you'd be happier with a talking doll!"
"She would not be able to answer me back as amusingly as you!"
Since Philippa had hoped to hurt rather than amuse him, she was annoyed, and by the time she had recovered her equilibrium she had decided it was better to ignore his comment. Again the silence lengthened between them and she felt him eyeing her. She must look totally different from the way he had remembered her. A little girl on a pony, with a childish treble and winning ways. Whereas now her voice was waspish with dislike of him and her ways had been far from winning. Almost as if he knew her thoughts his next words echoed them.
"You've changed, Philippa."
Her heart thumped at his use of her Christian name, but he did not seem to realise he had said it. Even as a boy he had never called her that. It had always been Miss Philippa and deferentially spoken. And now here she was agreeing to be his wife and share his home; to bear his name but never his children.
"Are you sure you won't regret the marriage, Mr. Rickards?"
"Not if you keep your word." One pale eyebrow lifted as he spoke, but she would not have seen the movement had he not turned his head and its silvery faintness caught the light. "As my wife you will have a moral as well as a social obligation to fulfil."
Her face flamed. "I won't flaunt my lovers in your face!"
His smile was unexpected and she thought it a pity he did not smile more often, for laughter lines crinkled around his eyes and his face lost its heavy impassiveness.
"That is one aspect of your life that doesn't worry me, Philippa. You're too fastidious a woman to have lovers." He paused, then said: "Are you not going to make the same stipulation about my own behaviour?"
"I don't care what you do, Mr. Rickards."
"Thank you for your frankness," he said drily. "I appreciate it."
"Then let me be frank and ask what will happen if I do fall in love? Am I to be tied to you for the rest of my life?"
"We can talk about that when the situation arises."
As though on cue, Geoffrey came in. He looked discomfited as he saw Luke Rickards standing close to his sister, but as she smiled at him he looked less strained.
"It's all settled, Ellwood," Luke Rickards folded his arms across his chest. "Your sister and I are going to marry in a month."
"You don't believe in wasting time."
"At thirty-six I've already wasted too much time."
Geoffrey flashed Philippa a look before turning to the man. "What happens now?"
"I will tell my auditors that I knew about the money you borrowed from your company and that I personally guarantee it."
Geoffrey's breath came out in a deep sigh. "Thanks, Rickards. You don't know what a strain this has been for me."
"I hope it's been sufficient to stop you repeating your behaviour," came the crisp reply. "If you want to play the Stock Market, don't do it with money you haven't got."
"But fortunes are made that way," Geoffrey protested.
"More are lost," Luke Rickards said instantly. "And in this instance I rather suspect your sister feels it's her freedom that has gone."
Geoffrey went scarlet and Philippa angrily rushed to his defence. "Geoffrey didn't want me to marry you. I'm the one who decided to do it."
Luke Rickards' expression held disbelief, though he did not put it into words and Philippa, anxious to end the conversation, stood up, hoping he would see the gesture as time for him to leave.
A raised eyebrow signified that he did, and from the doorway he spoke to her. "I want to buy you an engagement ring before we announce it to the press. It would be more convenient for me if you can arrange to spend several days in London."
"When?" she asked. "If you give me my orders, I shall do my best to carry them out."
His look was long and steady. "Monday will be fine. It will at least give you a few days to recover your equanimity. Goodnight, Philippa."
"I'll see you to your car," Geoffrey said, and followed him out, leaving Philippa alone to contemplate the character of the man with whom she had agreed to share her life.

"MARRY Luke Rickards!" Elliott Granger regarded Philippa in astonishment. "I didn't know you even knew him!"
"You don't know everyone in my life," she said lightly. "After all, you were out of it for years."
"Don't remind me." He leaned across the table and caught her hand.
They were dining in a local restaurant, an old mill where the food was exceptional enough to bring visitors from London. Philippa had not expected to see Elliott this week, but news of Rickards' takeover of Ellwood Engineering had prompted him to call.
"Did you know him before he started negotiating to buy you out?" he was asking.
"I knew him when I was a child," she said. "So did you."
Elliott frowned thoughtfully and she was not sure he had taken in the last part of her reply. Like Luke he was tall and fair, but there the similarity ended, for his fairness verged on the golden and his eyes were brown and expressive. He had a volatile charm and an easy sense of humour, allied to a faint snobbishness that not even a long sojourn in America had eradicated. Indeed the only imprint America had left on him had been in his bank balance for - apart from the money his uncle had bequeathed him - he was exactly the same as when he had gone.
"I can't believe it's true," Elliott exclaimed. "You're having me on, aren't you, Phil? You can't seriously be going to marry this perfect stranger."
"He isn't a stranger. I haven't seen him for years, but I did know him years ago. So did you," she repeated.
"I can't remember meeting him."
"It was ten years ago. He went for you because you rode Bessie when she was lame and I hit him with my crop."
Elliott's mouth dropped open. "You don't mean Luke Rickards and your stable boy are one and the same?"
"He was never our stable boy," she said quietly, "and you should know better than to judge people by their birth. It's what they make of themselves that's important."
"And Rickards certainly made plenty," Elliott sneered. "Is that why you're marrying him?"
Philippa pushed back her chair, but before she could rise, Elliott put out his arm to stop her. "Forgive me, Phil. I know you wouldn't do it for yourself, but you're determined to save the Manor and to keep Geoffrey's inheritance intact. And if that's why you're marrying Rickards -"
"It's not!" The last thing in the world she wanted was for anyone to know she was getting married because of her brother. "I'm marrying because I'm tired of penny-pinching. It has nothing to do with Geoffrey."
"I'm sorry you felt I wasn't rich enough for you," he said in a hurt voice. "I'm not in Rickards' league, but I would have kept the wolf from the door."
"Oh, Elliott!" She was instantly contrite for having been tactless. "I've known you for so long that I think of you as family."
"You knew Luke Rickards as long too," he said coldly.
"But he was never a friend - the way you were."
"I was willing to be more than a friend, Philippa, you know that. But you gave the impression that you never wanted to get married. You were a bit like the Sleeping Beauty."
"There are certainly loads of cobwebs in my castle," she said lightly.
"And will Rickards' money provide the vacuum cleaners?"
Philippa looked away. Elliott's question had brought another one into her mind and she wished she had thought of it earlier. Would Luke Rickards want to make the Manor his home or did he have one of his own? It was ludicrous to think she knew so little about him; neither how he had made his money nor how he spent it. She only knew what he was doing with fifty thousand pounds of it. Hurriedly she picked up her wine glass.
"If you're going to go on making snide remarks, Elliott, I would rather we changed the subject."
"I'm hurt and annoyed. You can't blame me for being snide. But if I promise to be a good boy from now on, will you tell me what decided you to marry Rickards after all this time, or have you been secretly pining for him for years?"
"We met by chance," she said, "and it sort of - it sort of went on from there."
"When's the lucky day?"
"We're getting married in a month."
"He doesn't believe in wasting time, does he?" commented Elliott dryly.
"There's no point in waiting."
"Not if you want to have a family."
Philippa caught her breath. She was glad she had set her glass down, for Elliott's remark had brought home to her the falseness of the life she would soon be living; spending her days - her years - with a man who had bought her as if she were a slave in the market place.
"I suppose Geoffrey must be delighted." Elliott was speaking again. "There's nothing like having your sister as the wife of your new boss."
"I'm not sure that Mr. Rickards - Luke - is going to be Geoffrey's boss. Geoffrey hasn't decided whether or not to stay with the company after the takeover."
"If he doesn't, he can always come and join me. We can always make room for a chap of Geoffrey's type."
"He hasn't the qualifications to be an estate agent. You need to be a surveyor, don't you?"
"Not at all. You need to have charm and tact and the ability to sell. Tell Geoffrey to have a word with me if he's interested."
Philippa made a suitable non-committal remark. It was all very well for Elliott to talk glowingly of being an estate agent when the firm was his own, but it would be another matter for Geoffrey, who would have to work for him. Yet if he did decide to leave Ellwood Engineering, what else could he do except work for someone? He had not been brainy enough to go to university and had joined the family firm as soon as he had left school, assuming, as she herself had, that he would work there for the rest of his life. It was because of this belief that he had tried to find more money for the business by gambling on the Stock Market, an unhappy event which was now leading to her unhappy commitment to a stranger.
A stranger. It was odd to think of Luke Rickards that way. But she could not think of him by his Christian name, for the quiet boy she had liked as a child had been replaced by a big, silent man whom she felt she would never know.
Pleading a headache, she persuaded Elliott to take her home earlier than usual and, once they reached the Manor, was sufficiently contrite to ask him in for coffee. He came into the kitchen with her while she made it and leaned against one of the large cupboards.
"This is a barn of a place, Phil. The whole thing needs modernising."
"Or selling," she said. "Sometimes I think Geoffrey and I are crazy to try and keep it going."
"Beats me how you manage," he commented.
"We keep three-quarters of the rooms closed and battle unendingly to keep the rest from mouldering away."
"You'll have servants by the score once you're married." He came towards her. "You can't be serious about Rickards, Phil. Tell him it was a mistake and marry me"."
"I can't."
"Why not? I don't believe you love him. You've never even spoken of him until tonight."
"I'm marrying him," she repeated. "It's no good going on about it, Elliott. I won't change my mind."
He looked as though he wanted to argue with her, but her expression made him think better of it and he stepped back and went to the door. "I don't think I'll stay for coffee after all. 'Bye, Phil."
Philippa remained in the kitchen until she heard him drive away, then went into the sitting room and huddled in a chair. Poor Elliott, she could not blame him for being angry. In his position she would have felt exactly the same. True, she had never given him cause to believe she loved him, but she had never clearly stated that she didn't. Sighing, she leaned back in the seat and closed her eyes. Not until tonight, when she had told Elliott about Luke Rickards, had her marriage to him taken on reality. Until then it had seemed something that was going to happen to another girl, but now she knew it was going to happen to her; that it was her freedom she was giving up in exchange for her brother's.
"Oh, Geoffrey!" she cried silently, and felt the tears ooze from beneath her closed lids.
Geoffrey came down to the Manor for the weekend. He was more light-hearted than he had been for years, had Philippa needed a reason to keep her word to Luke Rickards, it was given to her that Saturday and Sunday. For the whole of Saturday she and Geoffrey worked in the garden, trimming the bushes that overgrew along the drive and pulling up some of the larger, more determined-looking weeds. It required far more than two pairs of hands to make the grounds anything like presentable, but even cutting back the wilderness immediately around the house did much to improve its appearance. On Sunday they made a bonfire and burned as much of the rubbish as they could, then later in the afternoon they set to work inside the house: cleaning windows, scrubbing floors and polishing the heavy oak balustrade that wound up the stairs and along the minstrels' gallery. It was a house crying out for money to spend on it, and the effort she and Geoffrey were making suddenly struck her as pointless.
"I feel like Canute trying to hold back the tide," she exclaimed, throwing down her duster. "Maybe we should sell this place after all."
"If you've changed your mind about marrying Rickards...."
"It has nothing to do with him. Anyway, you've already told me that the Manor wouldn't fetch enough to pay back what you borrowed."
"Then why talk about selling ?"
"Because it will always be a drain on you. And as long as it is, you'll be tempted to -"
"No, I won't," he interrupted. "Nothing will tempt me to play with money I haven't got. I've learned my lesson on that score, Phil."
"Then how do you intend to manage here?" The suspicion that had been in her mind since she had dined with Elliott was now voiced. "Does Luke want to move in here with us?"
"Here?" Geoffrey grinned. "He has a super place of his own the other side of Little Marsh."
Little Marsh was a village some five miles away, prettier even than Ellwood.
"A big house? " she asked.
"It's Marley. You might remember it."
Philippa swallowed hard. Marley was an Elizabethan gem which she had loved from the moment she had been taken there to tea by her nanny years ago. It had belonged to a Colonel Marley then, an old man who died while she was at boarding school. She vaguely remembered her father telling her the house had been boarded up to await the arrival of the new heir. But the years had passed and no heir had turned up, only a lot of relatives who had put the house on the market and shared the proceeds of the sale between them. Could the buyer have been Luke?
Geoffrey confirmed that it was, saying Luke had remembered Marley from his boyhood and, seeing it advertised in Country Life, had put in a bid for it.
"He brought in builders to make sure everything was in order and then he let the house remain empty until last year when he decided to live there. I understand he spent a fortune on it."
"A fortune to him or to us?" she asked drily.
"To us," Geoffrey smiled. "Lord knows what Rickards would call a lot of money these days. I doubt if he even thinks about it any more."
Philippa sat back on the stairs, tired of polishing the banisters. "Tell me what you know about him, Geoffrey."
"Not much more than you do, and certainly nothing about his personal life."
"Then what do you know about his business one? How did he become so successful?"
"He won a scholarship to university and qualified as an engineer."
"I hadn't realised that."
"Dad once mentioned it," Geoffrey said carelessly. "After he qualified he got a job in Scotland. The owner was a brilliant engineer called McDougall. He was badly injured in a crash and Rickards took over for him. It must have been around about then that he came down to Ellwood to take his mother to live with him in Scotland."
Philippa tried to remember what the woman had looked like, but could only recall a shadowy figure.
"That was probably the time you hit him," Geoffrey went on.
"You mean he was an engineer then?"
Geoffrey grinned. "I suppose to you he. was always the stable boy!"
"He was never a stable boy," she said irritably. "I do wish you wouldn't say that. He used to come here because he liked to be with the horses."
"There's no need to jump down my throat, old girl. And you don't need to defend him to me, either."
"Sorry," she apologised.
"That's all right. You're marrying the man and you don't want him belittled." Geoffrey picked up her duster and started to polish where she had left off. "Anyway, McDougall died after a couple of years and left the business to his daughter and Rickards. She was married and I rather think McDougall had planned to leave her the business entirely, but her husband - who also worked for the company - was injured in the same crash as McDougall and was a total invalid."
"So Luke had it all?"
"He ran it all," Geoffrey corrected, "but he only owned half. Then six years ago he devised some new type of screw, one of those simple inventions that makes you wonder why no one thought of it before. It revolutionised the engineering industry and turned Rickards into a multi-millionaire overnight. From then on he's never looked back. He bought out McDougall's daughter and amalgamated the company with another one. Marine Investments is a big umbrella which covers dozens of different industries."
"I can't imagine him as an inventor." Philippa took the duster away from Geoffrey. "I always thought they were absentminded and untidy."
"He's more than an inventor," Geoffrey said. "He has a first-class business brain too."
The words brought her back to her twin's future and she asked him what he was going to do.
"Rickards won't let me stay at Ellwood Engineering," he said, avoiding her eyes. "He doesn't trust me not to put my hands in the till again."
"Did he say so?" she asked indignantly.
"He didn't need to."
"Elliott says you can have a job with him."
"I've already got a job in one of Rickards' factories in Bristol."
"But that's miles away."
"Not much further from here than London, and it will give me a new start - which is probably better."
Philippa thought of Luke taking Geoffrey out of a company whose name he bore and putting him into one where he would be a total stranger. It would be just like him to make him start as an office boy too.
"It's only a small firm," Geoffrey continued, "but it's a brand new factory on a new estate. We employ less than a hundred men, but all of them are hand-picked and we'll be turning out specialised machines - really intricate stuff."
"But you need experience for that."
"I did two years' engineering," Geoffrey reminded her, "and Rickards suggested I go to night school and finish my course."
This was exactly what her father had said when Geoffrey had abruptly left university, but she wisely made no comment and went on polishing the banister.
"I'll be running the whole place," Geoffrey said, "and making all the decisions. It will be the first time I've really been on my own. When I went into the family company I inherited the family directors. This time I can pick my own Board."
Philippa found it incredible that Luke Rickards was willing to let Geoffrey run a company entirely on his own and, because he had not struck her as a man who had faith in other people, she wondered what lay behind his action. Did he hope that by making Geoffrey stand on his own feet he would fall down more quickly and could thus be got rid of without any sense of guilt? This seemed much more logical than to think he had any genuine belief in her twin's ability. But to voice either of these thoughts would totally destroy her brother's confidence, and she determined to put the question directly to Luke Rickards when next they met. There was no need for him to destroy Geoffrey again in order to ensure her bondage. Once she was his wife she would not break her bargain unless he himself wanted to do so.
"I'll go up to London with you tomorrow," she said aloud. "Luke wants me to stay in town for a couple of days."
"So he told me."
"When did you see him?"
"He's at our factory every day."
"Did he pay back the money?"
Geoffrey nodded and pulled her to her feet. "We've done enough work for today. Let's have a drink."
In the sitting room she was aware of the shabbiness that the late spring sunshine brightly highlighted. "If I'll be living only a few miles from here I'll be able to pop over and keep an eye on the place."
"Martha will still be here," he said, referring to their old housekeeper who had remained with them despite their inability to pay her the high wage she could have commanded elsewhere.
"Martha won't be able to keep this place going on her own."
"She'll manage well enough for me." He glanced around the room, though with a less discerning eye. "If I can't see my way clear to restoring the house in a couple of years, I'm going to sell it regardless of what price I get."
"You'll never do that," she cried. "It's your home."
"Home is the operative word, Phil. And if I can't afford to keep it as a home, then I won't keep it as a millstone round my neck."
"I suppose you're quoting Luke Rickards," she said angrily.
"He's said nothing to me about the house," Geoffrey replied, and came to stand in front of her. "I'm still prepared to leave the country, Phil."
"Abscond, you mean," she said bitterly. "If the family name doesn't mean anything to you, it still means something to me."
"What good will it do the name if I stay here and go to prison?"
"At least you'd be facing your crime like a man instead of running away like a coward!"
Instantly she had spoken she regretted the words. "I'm sorry, Geoffrey. I didn't mean that. You know I don't want you to go to prison, but I don't want you to run away either. That's why I'm marrying Luke. You made a stupid mistake and I'm not going to let you ruin your life because of it."
"But you're ruining yours."
"I'm not," she said quickly. "I think I'll be - I think I'll be quite happy with Luke. He - he likes horses and - and a man like that can't be all that bad!"
No remark could have been more conducive to Geoffrey's peace of mind, and he gave a relieved sigh and rubbed his hand across his face. "Just as long as you're absolutely sure," he said. "Once the ring is on your finger there'll be no turning back."

TRUE to her promise to Luke, Philippa went to London with Geoffrey on Monday. He shared a flat with a friend in Kensington. It was large enough to accommodate her for a few days but too small for her ever to have made it the permanent weekly home which he had frequently suggested.
She had soon unpacked her small case - it was surprising how few good clothes she had to bring with her - and debated whether or not to go out shopping. But if Luke telephoned her and did not get a reply, he would assume she had not come to London, as he had asked. The logical course was to telephone him, but she was reluctant to do this. If she were his fiance in the true sense of the word it would be the natural thing to do, but their engagement and marriage was a bargain and, until she knew all the rules relating to it, she was determined not to do anything which he might construe as being outside their arrangement.
She was still thinking about this when his call came through.
"So you did come to London," he said by way of greeting.
"You asked me to."
"I thought that might be the reason why you wouldn't do it." Humour tinged his voice and she was annoyed by it.
"I have no choice but to obey you, Mr. Rickards."
"Luke," he said. "We've known each other long enough to be on Christian name terms."
"I feel I don't know you at all."
"If you could call the stable boy Luke," he said quietly, "you can do the same to your future husband."
Ignoring this, she said coldly: "When do you want to see me?"
"I would like to meet you for lunch. One o'clock at Wiltons. I'll send the car for you."
"I can take a taxi," she said quickly.
"My car," he repeated, and hung up so abruptly that she was left with the receiver purring in her hand.
Wiltons. It was not the sort of restaurant she had anticipated him frequenting. She had imagined him in the more obvious hotels or smart Mayfair clubs rather in a quiet place whose exceptional food and service was known only to the elite. "What a snob I am," she thought scornfully, and returned to her bedroom to take out her suit and blouse from the wardrobe. Both had seen better days, but they bore the name of a top designer and she took them into the little kitchen to press the pleats of the skirt into sharpness and to remove the wrinkles from the blouse. An ordinary working girl probably had a better wardrobe than she did, Philippa mused as she got out the ironing board. Still, her lack of clothes was due more to disinterest than scarcity of money. It was odd how she had allowed the preservation of Ellwood Manor to become her whole life. It had been stupid too, for when everything was taken into account it was only timber and stone.
Carefully she laid the suit and blouse on the bed, then went into the bathroom to wash and set her hair. She was not trying to make herself beautiful for Luke Rickards, but it was time he realised that Philippa Ellwood of Ellwood Manor was a presentable young woman who, in the final analysis, would never be his.
At twelve-thirty his car came to collect her and, anticipating a Rolls-Royce, she was surprised to find it was a small silver grey Mercedes.
"Much better for London traffic," the chauffeur explained when she commented on its size. "And don't let the look of it fool you. It goes like a bomb when you put your foot down."
"Please don't," she said quickly as he gave every indication of doing so. "We have plenty of time."
"Eighteen minutes," the man said. "Mr. Rickards hates being kept waiting."
"Have you worked for him long?" she asked.
"Eight years."
"Wasn't Mr. Rickards in Scotland then?"
"That's right. I was in the toolshop at McDougalls, but after a back injury I had to change jobs and he offered me this one. I've been with him ever since."
"Don't you mind living in London?"
"I'll go anywhere with Mr. Rickards," he said quietly, and Philippa lapsed into silence, not wanting him to think she was gossiping about his employer.
The Mercedes drew up outside the restaurant at the same time as Luke stepped out of a Cadillac and smiled goodbye to a portly-looking man in the back. He came towards Philippa and helped her on to the pavement. He was relaxed and looked younger in a light grey suit. The colour emphasised his broadness and she thought again what a bear of a man he was. It was the first time she had seen him in the daylight and hair which she had thought silver-grey was now seen to be ash-blond. Most girls would give a fortune to have hair that colour. The notion made her smile and, seeing it, he took it as a greeting.
"You look very nice," he said. "That greeny tweed suits you."
She shrugged. "It's as old as the hills."
"We'll have to remedy that."
For a split second she did not understand him, then her cheeks flamed. "I don't want your charity," she said in a low but furious voice.
"It isn't charity if a husband takes care of his wife."
"I'm not your wife!"
"You soon will be." He guided her into the restaurant. "Soon enough for me to start giving you things now," he continued as they waited momentarily to be shown to their table.
Though she saw the common sense of his remark it did not lessen her feeling of shame at being the recipient of his largesse, and she forcibly reminded herself that Geoffrey was an even greater recipient; fifty thousand pounds' worth. That was a lot of largesse.
"What will you have to drink?" Luke asked as they sat down.
"Orange juice, please."
He gave the order, then leaned back in his chair. Sunlight filtered through the window, bathing him in a lemon gold radiance that gave lustre to his pale skin. With his fair colouring it was probably the nearest he got to sunbathing, she decided, and wondered if he had time for a holiday or if his life was a continual round of business. He must have worked extremely hard to have achieved such success so quickly. Or had it been luck? Memory of Luke as she had first known him stirred in her mind and she dismissed the idea of luck. That invention of his must have come about after a great deal of hard work. Dislike him though she did, it would be foolish to deny his ability.
"I always enjoy coming here," he said conversationally. "They do the best lobsters in the country."
"If that's an invitation," she said, making an effort to be polite, "then I must decline it. I don't like lobster."
He looked disappointed but did not comment on it. Instead he picked up his drink and raised it in her direction. "To us, Philippa. May our association be a long and happy one."
She took a nervous sip of her orange juice and wished she had asked for something alcoholic: she might need the confidence it would have given her.
"We have lots to talk about," he continued, "so I suggest we give our order right away."
As if on cue, the menu card was placed before them and Philippa glanced at it briefly. "Melon and sole," she said, and shook her head at Luke's suggestion that she have vegetables or a salad.
He gave no sign of noticing her casual attitude and took his time about deciding what to order for himself, then deliberated with the wine waiter before settling on a Sauternes. Only then did he give her his full attention, and she clasped her trembling hands on her lap, glad that the table hid them from sight.
"I've set the day for our wedding and arranged the honeymoon," he said.
"Honeymoon!" she exclaimed. "Isn't that a waste of time?"
"It's the accepted thing to do."
"I didn't think you'd worry about conforming. You strike me as a man who -" She stopped and bit her lip.
"The sort of man who what?" he asked. '
She looked at him and decided to be blunt. "The sort of man who makes his own rules."
"I do."
"Then why bother with a honeymoon?"
"Because I actually do want to go away with you! It will give us a chance to get to know each other. I expect to be busy for the next few weeks and I won't be able to spend as much time with you as I would like."
"Why should you like?" she demanded. "You're marrying me to have a hostess. Why pretend otherwise?"
"Is it wrong for me to want to be friends with you? You never used to dislike me, Philippa. If I remember rightly, you used to follow me around when you were a little girl."
"When I was a little girl," she repeated. "But now I'm a big one."
"And just as distinctive," he said drily. "Though I have the impression you were far happier then than you are now."
"I had a lot more to be happy about then. My parents were alive and I had everything I wanted."
"You can still have everything you want."
"My parents again? I wasn't thinking in terms of money." Her reply was biting and she saw the colour creep into his skin.
"I apologise, Philippa. That was a singularly stupid remark for me to make. Of course money can't bring you back your parents, but at least it can give you the life you should have had."
"By what right should I have a special kind of life? I thought that you would believe in people only having what they work for."
"You will be working," he said blandly. "Running my homes won't be easy."
Quickly she took this chance of changing the conversation. "How many homes do you have?"
"Two. Marley and my .house in town. We'll go there after lunch. I would like you to see it. You'll probably want to alter a few things."
"I'm sure everything is the best that money can buy."
"I've tried to make it so."
He was still bland, but a small vein pulsed in his cheek and she knew that she had succeeded in annoying him. A faint excitement stirred in her as she realised he was not as inviolate as he wanted her to believe. She cast her mind down the years, remembering the odd occasions when, after taking her for a ride, he had let her stay with him in the stables while he had rubbed down the horses or fed them. He had teased and joked with her then and been totally unlike the reticent boy he appeared in front of the grown-ups. It was as if, even then, he had been unwilling for people to see him as he was. She was certain he was exactly the same today and would have given a great deal to know if his guardedness was born of shyness or disregard for the opinions of others. Yet he ran a successful business and, from all Geoffrey had said, was well liked in the city. None of this indicated shyness or disregard for others.
"Will I pass?" With a start she heard his question and knew he was commenting on her pensive air.
"I'm the one facing the test," she said abruptly. "I hope I dance well enough." His brows rose enquiringly and she saw he had not followed her. "You're paying the piper and calling the tune," she explained.
His mouth thinned. "Women have a regrettable tendency to bore one with their repetitiousness. I was hoping you would prove different."
The cleverness of his attack surprised her and she knew he could not have chosen a better way of stopping her. Annoy him, irritate him and enrage him; these were all the things she wanted to do. But bore him? Never!
"I'll try not to repeat the reason for our marriage," she said stiffly.
"I hope you will also stop thinking of it."
"That will be impossible. You can't expect me to forget I'm marrying you to - to help Geoffrey."
"To prevent him from going to prison, you mean," he said bluntly. "Don't run away from facts."
"Would you really send him to prison?" she burst out "Have you never done anything you regretted - something that was wrong?"
"I've never taken money that did not belong to me."
"He was going to pay it back," she insisted.
"He should have given some thought to what would happen if he couldn't." Luke stopped speaking as the first course was set before them and only as the waiter moved away did he resume. "Anyway, I wouldn't have sent him to prison. The Director of Public Prosecutions would have done that."
"But you would have sent him the information."
"I would have had no other choice."
"Except marry me and then help Geoffrey!"
"Did you expect me to give him fifty thousand pounds?"
"He would have paid you back. I'm sure the shares will go up again."
"And if they don't? Or do you think I earn my money so easily that I should throw it away on stupid young men?"
"You're talking about my brother," Philippa choked.
"My future brother-in-law," he reminded her. "But that doesn't mean I have to condone what he did. He was a fool and he knows it for himself. If anyone else had bought out your company, Geoffrey would have been for the high jump."
She could not deny what he had said, but curiosity prompted her next remark. "What would have happened if Geoffrey hadn't had a sister?"
"There are enough questions to answer in one's life without wasting time on hypothetical ones," said Luke. "Geoffrey does have a sister and I'm going to marry her." He picked up his fork and she took the hint and did the same.
As they began their main course Luke returned to the " subject of their future. They were to be married in a register office - for which she was grateful, for she would have balked at a church ceremony with a man she did not love - and this would be followed by a small reception in his home. Then they would leave for a two-week honeymoon in Venice. Afterwards their life would be divided between town and country, with weekends spent at Marley.
"You may want to stay there longer from time to time," he added. "It's a lovely place. I'll drive you over to see it next weekend."
"Are you sure you won't regret marrying me?" she said impulsively. "You have so much to offer that I think you're making an awful mistake."
"That's the first compliment you've paid me," he said with a slight smile. "But I don't believe I'm making a mistake. I'm sure you'll make me an admirable wife."
"You should have a real one - and children too. After all, you have a great deal to give them."
"Money," he shrugged. "I can always leave that to charity."
"Wouldn't you like a son to carry on your name?"
"Are you offering yourself?"
Philippa recoiled with a gasp and, seeing the wicked glint in his eye, knew she had walked into a trap of her own making. "Of course not," she said stiffly. "I was - I was only trying to make you see what you'll be missing."
"I've already weighed up the pros and cons, Philippa, and I can promise you I won't have any regrets. As I said before, to maintain a real marriage takes time and effort, and I have neither to spare. My arrangement with you will suit me admirably."
This was the second time he had told her this and she determined that from now on she would never comment on his folly in marrying her. But one thing she had to make clear again.
"If you change your mind, Luke, I expect you to let me know."
He gave a slight movement of his head, though she was not sure if it was one of accord or disagreement.
Lunch over, they returned to the car and, expecting to be driven to the flat, she was surprised to find herself being ushered into Cartier's. Naturally Luke would expect her to wear an engagement ring and naturally he would want it to be the best. Docilely she sat as tray after tray of rings were set before her. "You choose," she said expressionlessly, and though she knew her lack of response displeased him, she found she could not pretend otherwise.
"My choice may not be yours."
"Does it matter?"
His lips tightened and for the first time she noticed how finely cut they were.
"Not diamond," he said to the assistant. "I would like an emerald."
Philippa watched Luke deliberate. She could imagine him devoting the same attention to his work and then thought wryly that this was his work too: the buying of a bride.
"How about this, Philippa?" He caught her left hand and slipped a ring on to her finger. It was a large square-cut emerald with two thin baguettes set either side to enhance its colour. It could not have been more simple in style and relied for its impact on the magnificence of the jewel.
"It's very nice, Luke."
"I'm glad you like it so much," he said drily.
She flushed and then looked away, unable to bring herself to show any enthusiasm for a piece of jewellery that signified her loss of freedom.
"We might as well buy the wedding ring while we're here," he continued, and this time did not make the mistake of asking her to choose, deciding for himself what he wanted to have.
If the assistant was surprised at her lack of interest he was too well trained to show it, though he expressed admiration at Luke's choice: a wide band of white and yellow gold, delicately plaited together. Luke slipped the emerald on to her finger again, but put the wedding ring in his pocket.
"We must get you some other jewellery," he murmured, "but I'll leave it until you're in a more receptive mood."
"I don't need any jewellery," she protested.
"You need it for me," he replied as he led her back to the car. "I appreciate that today it might have been embarrassing for you to choose some things, but I'll expect you to show more interest in future. We've made a bargain, and that doesn't only mean carrying it out, but carrying it out in its proper spirit."
"I haven't entered into this sort of bargain before," she said abruptly. "You'll have to tell me what you expect of me."
His eyes looked into hers and she noticed how pale they were. So colourless that, like a chameleon, they took on the colour of their surroundings. Now they reflected the silvery grey light of an overcast spring day.
"You know what I expect of you, Philippa. I want you to be natural with me."
"If I were natural with you," she said vehemently, "I would never talk to you! You're making me marry you, Luke, but you can't make me like you."
"Pretend," he said softly. "Your class are good at pretending."
"Perhaps I should give you orders," she retorted. "That would really put us back on the old footing!"
For an instant he was astounded, then his face broke into a wide smile, the eyes narrowing and crinkling at the corners, the lips parting to show strong white teeth.
"I'm not embarrassed by my past, Philippa, so you won't hurt me by referring to it."
"Did you never resent being poor?" she asked.
"I never noticed it. I had food to eat, books to read and your father's horses to groom and ride!"
"I had the feeling you resented your mother having to work," Philippa said stiffly.
"I hated it like hell. But I didn't hate the people who gave her the work - just the fact that she had to do it."
"What happened to your father?"
"He was killed in a road accident when I was five."
There was nothing to say to this and since he did not add anything more, they were silent until they stopped outside his house, a tall elegant one off Grosvenor Square.
"There aren't many private homes left around here," he explained, "but we bought a block of property in the area and this came into it."
She followed him up three shallow steps and into a rectangular hall, discreet and faintly gloomy, though as he walked across it and opened a door, it was flooded with light from the room beyond: a large room elegantly furnished with settees and armchairs and some lovely antique pieces.
"Come along," he said abruptly. "I'll show you around."
"Is that necessary?"
"This is going to be your home. You must tell me if you want to alter anything."
"I'll only know that when I live here."
Without answering he walked towards the stairs, and with the distinct feeling that she had been given an order, she followed him. The house was on four floors and had six bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, as well as dining room and drawing room and study.
"The kitchen and all the utility rooms are on the lower ground floor," Luke explained, "and there are staff quarters above the garage in the mews."
"It's a very big house," Philippa commented, and then, because she knew he was waiting for her to say more, added: "It all seems quite perfect. I don't think I'll want to alter anything except perhaps move some of the furniture around."
"You have carte blanche to do as you like here."
"Only here?" she asked with raised eyebrows. "What about your house in the country?"
He gave her a thoughtful look. "Marley is a house that needs love. If you don't care for it, you can't look after it."
She was annoyed at his tone. "You speak of it as if it's your child!"
"Don't you feel the same about Ellwood Manor?" he asked.
"That doesn't mean it's right. Geoffrey ruined his life because we were both too proud to sell up and get out."
"There's nothing stupid in wanting to protect your heritage," Luke said.
Philippa shook her head. "People should live in the present and the future. It's pointless to live in the past. Unfortunately I didn't realise it until it was too late."
"Too late for what?"
"I'm now tied to you."
The simplicity of her words made them the more poignant and Luke straightened his shoulders and tilted his head in a stiff movement. "You hate me, don't you?"
Once before he had asked her the same question and she had said then that she despised him. But it was not an answer she could continue to give. He was too successful and he had achieved his success too honestly for her to say that again and mean it.
"No, Luke, I don't despise you. I feel nothing towards you. It's myself I despise."
His eyes stared into her green ones, then his lids lowered. It was as if the shutter of a camera were clicking and as his lids lifted Philippa saw that his expression was blank. She had the impression that a new roll of film had been unwound and that he was looking at her in a new way and with a different emphasis. The illusion was fanciful, but it remained with her as she followed him down the stairs and out of the house.
"Jack will drive you wherever you want to go," he said, stopping by the door of the car.
"I want to look around the shops," she replied. "I'd rather be on my own." Half expecting him not to listen, she was surprised when he nodded.
"Very well. I'll collect you at eight o'clock this evening."
Half turning to leave him, she stopped and looked back. "Do we have any more to talk about?" she asked.
"We'll be dining with some friends of mine. It's time I showed off my beautiful fiance."
She thought of his friends - rich and successful as he was - and knew a momentary despair. Then, aware of him watching her, she nodded acknowledgement and walked away. Only as she rounded the corner and he was no longer in sight did she pause and breathe deeply. Her body felt weak, as though she had not eaten for a long time. It was ridiculous to let him disturb her in this way. After all, she would be spending the rest of her life with him. The thought was like a douche of cold water and she gave an audible gasp that caused a passer-by to stare at her.
Her whole life! It was impossible. She could not spend the entire span of her existence with a man she did not love. She should never have agreed to it. She turned and hurried back, but even before she reached the corner she stopped and knew she could not round it. Geoffrey's future depended on her marrying Luke Rickards and she had no choice but to keep her promise to him.

As Philippa dressed for her first dinner with Luke Rickards she was glad she had brought the green chiffon with her. It was surprising he had not already asked her to buy herself some new clothes in order to project the image he wished to give of her, and his silence on the subject invested him with more tact than she would have given him credit for. Even as she registered these thoughts she knew they were untrue. Many years had elapsed since she had last seen Luke, but even as a boy he had never been tactless. A man who exuded his confidence so quietly, who wore his success with such deliberate casualness, was one who had made a fetish of doing and saying the right thing.
She was ready for him long before he arrived and coming into the sitting room, faced Geoffrey's appraisal.
"That dress suits you. It makes your eyes look like emeralds."
"Are they as nice as this one?" she asked casually, and held out her hand.
He looked at the ring for a long moment, then sighed. "I wish I didn't feel you were sacrificing yourself for me."
"Don't be so conceited," she said lightly. "Luke's a very attractive man."
"Is he?"
"Don't you think so?"
"I don't look at him the way a woman does. But I suppose most women would find him handsome. They generally go for big blond types."
"And tall dark ones," she said, smiling back and enjoying the sight of him, fleetingly seeing him dressed in prison garb and knowing a strong surge of gladness that this would never happen. "I do hope you'll make a success of things," she said impetuously. "Luke's giving you this chance and you mustn't let him down."
"I won't put my fingers in the till - if that's what you mean!"
She was shocked. "I didn't mean that at all. You're not a thief, Geoffrey. What happened to you could have happened to anyone."
"Then stop worrying about whether I'll do it again."
She was relieved that a ring at the bell saved her the necessity of answering and, flinging her a look, he went to answer it, returning to the room with Luke.
Philippa had never seen him in a dinner jacket and the fine black suiting exaggerated his paleness. In the electric light his hair once more looked silver, the eyebrows fawn silk arcs below a high smooth forehead. His strange pale eyes were glittering and quickly she averted her own from them, glad when Geoffrey chose that moment to offer him a drink.
Luke shook his head, murmuring that he would have a drink too much anyway before the evening was out. "I'd like to leave now," he concluded, looking at Philippa, and she picked up her black silk cloak and said she was ready.
"What are you doing, Geoffrey? " she asked as she reached the door.
"Luke's given me some homework," he replied, and pointed to a bulging briefcase on the floor.
"When you take over the running of a new company," Luke said, "it's essential to know everything about the people who are working for you."
"I'm not complaining," Geoffrey answered instantly, "just telling Philippa why I've got my nose to the grindstone." He grinned across at his twin. "But don't worry, old girl, I won't wear it down to the bone."
"That's a fear that never bothered me," she retorted, and went out.
"I keep having to remind myself that Geoffrey is the same age as you," Luke remarked as he followed her down the stairs. "You tend to behave as if he's a child."
"You don't know me well enough to reach any assumption," she said, and flung him an irritable look. The movement made her stumble and his hand shot out to steady her. It was the first time he had touched her and she was surprised by his strong grip. How large and masculine he was, diminishing her own tall slenderness so that she felt like a child again. She glanced at his hand - his fingers pale on her skin - and he released his hold at once and allowed her to continue her descent.
"I'd better tell you about the people you will be meeting," he said as they settled back in the car, a larger one this evening but also silver grey. "It's the chairman of my company and his wife, the two lawyers who deal with my private affairs and my accountant." His mouth curved. "He is the most trusted of my friends and the one who knows most about me."
"I thought I was going to meet your personal friends," she could not help saying.
"These are my personal friends." Luke's tone was dry. "I have no family, Philippa. There was only my mother."
"Was?" she queried.
"She died a couple of years ago."
"I'm sorry, I didn't know."
"Why should you? I don't expect you to keep track of your seamstress."
"That isn't fair!" she said angrily. "Your mother stopped working for us years ago. You know that."
"Yes, of course," he said. "I'm sorry."
"No, you're not." She was too angry to be polite. "You talk about me being a snob, yet you're much worse. You're an inverted snob! You love thinking of yourself as the poor little boy who made good. That's why you want to marry me - the daughter of the big house. Perhaps that was always your ambition!"
"Perhaps it was."
His tone was so equable that it reduced her anger to nothing. How hard it was to quarrel with this man!
"I had no right to speak to you like that," she murmured.
"I don't mind you losing your temper. At least it shows you're capable of some feeling."
"I'm capable of a great deal of feeling!" she snapped.
"I know."
His words were so soft they were almost like a whisper, and she pretended not to hear them and concentrated instead on the evening ahead of her. Luke would expect her to behave as if she were genuinely his fiance and would be angry if she let him down. Indeed, she dared not do so. He was in the rider's seat and she must remember it. Equally important, she must also learn not to resent it, lest it show.
Despite her fears to the contrary, Philippa liked Luke's friends. They were indeed his friends, as he had said, for watching them with him she knew that though business might have brought them into his life, it was genuine liking that kept them there on a personal level.
"We gave up thinking Luke would ever get married," Mary Wardle said to her halfway through the evening. She was the wife of the accountant whom Luke regarded as his closest friend and, like her husband, exuded a bluff Yorkshire warmth.
"Luke's not that old," Philippa said lightly.
"But he's bypassed so many opportunities," the woman replied, "and after Rose ... Anyway, I'm delighted he's finally taken the plunge."
Philippa smiled non-committally, at the same time wondering who Rose was. Had Luke been engaged before?
"Rose who?" she asked.
"Rose McDougall. Not McDougall really - she's been married for years - but I always think of her by that name. I suppose it's because her husband worked for old McDougall." Mary Wardle shook her head. "But why are we talking about Rose? I shouldn't even have mentioned her name. Frank will be furious with me."
"Why should he?" Philippa glanced across the room to where Luke was in conversation with Frank Wardle and another couple. They were in a private suite at the Berkeley and the dinner had been as faultless as if it had been cooked at home by a chef. If Luke could entertain like this, why on earth did he need her to be his hostess? She pushed the thought away and looked at the woman beside her.
"I'd like to know about Luke's past," she told Mary. "It will help me to understand him."
"I heard you knew him years ago."
Philippa coloured faintly. "I was a child and he - he used to - to teach me to ride."
"I bet he loved that. He enjoys teaching anybody anything. He has a great thirst for knowledge and ah even greater gift for imparting it. If he hadn't had an even greater gift for making money he would have made a wonderful teacher."
Philippa tried and failed to see Luke as a teacher. He fitted too easily into the trappings of wealth to be moved into academic surroundings.'
"Tell me about Rose," she said lightly.
"There isn't much to tell. She was McDougall's daughter and was already married when Luke joined the firm."
"The way you spoke I thought they were in love."
"Rumour," Mary Wardle said, and glanced across to her husband as though fearful he might overhear what they were saying. "I was being too fanciful about it - probably because I always thought Luke would have been much better for Rose than her husband was. But after the accident they were both tied."
"In what way ?" asked Philippa.
"Well, old McDougall died soon after the crash and Rose's husband was left a cripple by it. I could have seen her leaving him if he'd been able to stand on his own feet, but not while he had to be pushed around in a chair."
The words were a shock to Philippa and brought a vivid picture of Luke and an unknown woman - who strongly resembled a ministering angel - bending solicitously over a wheelchair.
"What happened?" she asked. "I mean, afterwards."
"Nothing. Luke ran the company and Rose stayed at home to look after her husband." Mary Wardle glanced again at her husband. "It was over years ago, dear, and probably Luke never loved her anyway. Frank is always telling me I'd make up a romance between a pair of hot and cold water taps!"
Philippa laughed and humour eased away any embarrassment that might have been a residual of the woman's indiscretion. But for the rest of the evening she could not forget what Mary Wardle had said, and wondered if unrequited love was the reason behind Luke's decision to make a businesslike marriage. Had he said goodbye to happiness because the woman he wanted was irrevocably tied to a cripple? It seemed a far more valid reason than to believe his own explanation that he had no time to devote to a woman. Luke was the sort of man who would make time to do what he wanted and, if what he wanted happened to be a particular woman, then he would cherish her above all else. Dismay caught her up. Why on earth was she thinking of him like this? She had said often enough that she did not know him, yet here she was giving him thoughts that she ' would not even give to a man she knew as well as Elliott. Surreptitiously she glanced at Luke and, as if aware of it, he turned and stared in her direction, then with, a murmur to the man by his side, he came across to her.
"The evening has been a strain for you," he murmured. "You look tired."
"I suppose you mean I'm looking plain and peaky!"
He smiled. "You could never look plain, Philippa, don't you know that?"
"Then you haven't met the right men or looked in the right mirror."
"I've never bothered with my appearance," she shrugged.
"What an unwomanly thing to say!" he teased. "I hope you don't mean it. All women should look in the mirror and admire themselves."
"I didn't realise you advocated narcissism," she commented.
"If you have no regard for yourself," his reply was quick, "then what regard can you have for others?"
She thought over the question and gave a slight smile. "I'm not going to argue with you, Luke, you're too clever for me."
He took out a slim black crocodile cigar case and extracted a small cigar. He lit it with a slow deliberation and as he inhaled deeply Philippa said: "Tell me about Rose McDougall."
Not by a flicker of a muscle did he betray any surprise, and though she admired his control she could not help being dismayed by it. If he could look so imperturbable at her sudden reference to the woman he loved, what hope did she have of penetrating his armour? Yet why should she want to penetrate his facade? It was surely better to know nothing of him. In that way she could more easily remain detached.
"What do you want to know about Rose?" he asked.
"Nothing. I shouldn't have mentioned her. Forget it."
"I assume Mary Wardle spoke about her?"
"Don't tell her you know," Philippa enjoined. "I promised I wouldn't say anything to you."
"Do you usually break your promises? "
She flushed but met his gaze. "I'm here with you, aren't I?"
"Yes, you are. So I apologise for what I said." Luke flicked some ash from his cigar. "Why are you curious about a woman you don't know?"
She realised he was not going to forget her question and decided to answer it. "I thought that if I learned about her it would make you seem more human to me."
His look was as long and steady as a probe. "If you need proof that I'm human, I'm quite willing to give it to you."
Only with an immense effort was she able to stare into his face, determined not to let him know he was embarrassing her. The last thing in the world she wanted was to become aware of him as a man or to have him become aware of her as a woman.
"That was not part of our agreement, Luke."
"Thank you for reminding me." His lids flickered. "To return to Rose. She's married and lives in Scotland with her husband. He was injured in the crash that killed her father and -"
"Is it true you wanted to marry her?" Philippa cut in.
"That's a double-edged question." His voice was mocking. "If I say no, you'll think I'm being gallant to you, and if I say yes you'll always imagine me with a broken heart. Let's change the subject and come and talk to our guests."
Knowing herself defeated, she allowed him to lead her over to his two solicitors - two brothers married to two sisters - who all exuded the same air of contentment.
"You are truly the dark lady of the sonnets," Hugh Jefferson commented admiringly. "My brother and I never thought we would learn your identity."
"No more talking about me," Luke intervened, before Philippa could reply. "I gave this party for you to get to know my fiance, and so far the poor girl has been inundated with stories about my life."
"It's much more interesting than mine," Philippa said easily, and looked at the older lawyer. "Luke hates talking about himself, so if I want to learn about him, I have to ask his friends."
"You've known him longer than any of us," Hugh Jefferson said. "We're looking to you to tell us of his murky past! He wants us to believe he spent the first twenty years of his life as a poacher!"
"I'm hardly likely to have told that to Philippa." Again Luke interrupted before she could reply. "After all, it was on her father's land that I did most of my poaching!"
"And now you're marrying the daughter of the squire," said Mrs. Jefferson senior. "It really is most romantic of you, Luke. To have loved her all these years and now finally to get what you want!"
"Luke always gets what he wants." Philippa was determined to speak this time and she knew Luke understood her allusion, for she saw him stiffen slightly, as if he was afraid she would say too much. "But if he weren't determined," she went on, "he wouldn't be where he is today."
"Aye, you need a lot of perseverance to be an inventor."
It was the younger Jefferson speaking. He was the first person - apart from Geoffrey - who had referred to Luke in this way, reminding her that he was not only a business tycoon but a man who had invented a brilliant idea and had then successfully marketed it.
"I can't think of Luke as an inventor," she confessed. "He isn't absentminded enough."
"He's single-minded, though," Hugh Jefferson chuckled. "That's a much more necessary qualification. And I'm glad he is, because it brought him you." .
Several more people had joined them and, without being aware of it, Philippa found herself detached from Luke but still standing next to Hugh. She looked at him and remembered his earlier remark.
"Why did you call me the dark lady of the sonnets?" she asked.
"Because like Shakespeare's dark lady, you have also inspired a man." Shrewd eyes surveyed her. "You don't know what I'm talking about, do you?"
"I'm afraid I don't."
"Well, I won't be giving any secrets away now, if I tell you. After all, you're marrying Luke, so you already know he loves you!" The lawyer's look was benign. "Luke has always talked about his childhood as if it were something precious to him, and his most treasured memory was of you. He said he spent all his holidays at Ellwood Manor; swimming in the lake, poaching in the streams, looking after the horses and being captivated by a dark-haired child that he'd loved from the time he was a lad."
Incredulously Philippa stared at him. "You're 'making it up!"
"It's true, my dear. I'm sure Luke will tell you for himself. That's partly why he bought your family company. It was foundering and he wanted to save it. I think it was his way of paying back a debt he felt he owed. As you know, from the business point of view it was an exceptionally bad deal."
"I know," she lied. "But I still can't see why he did it."
"For you, of course," said the lawyer. "The Ellwood Engineering Company represented you, and when he heard it was in difficulty he put in a bid for it."
It was such an impossible thing to imagine that Philippa could still not believe it. But then why should she? Luke had obviously concocted the whole story as a reason for marrying her. What could be more romantic than for a poor boy to make good and then to marry the lady of the manor? Naturally he wanted his friends to think it was love come true; to believe Philippa Ellwood was his willing and doting bride.
But the lawyer had got one thing wrong. Knowing he could not marry Rose, the girl he genuinely loved, Luke had decided to make his earlier, childhood dreams come true. It was not love for herself that had been in Luke's mind since he had been a boy, but an obsessive urge to possess through acquisition what he had been unable to possess through heritage. And how carefully he had laid his plans. First he had acquired Marley, a home even more ancient and beautiful than Ellwood. Then he had no doubt plotted ways and means of coming back into her life. But why hadn't he done it in a normal way? He was educated and rich. He could have called on her and Geoffrey any time. She tried to visualise how she would have reacted to him had he done so, but the present was too strong and painful for her to contemplate what might have been, and she realised the hopelessness of conjecture.
"Luke is a fine man," Hugh Jefferson said gruffly, and Philippa pushed away her chaotic thoughts and pretended she was giving him her attention.
"You know him better than I do," she said carefully. "I only knew the boy, you know the man."
"The man is the boy. If you remember that, Miss Ellwood, you will have the key to Luke's character."

THE month to Philippa's wedding went by so quickly that it was upon her almost before she realised it. Her engagement to Luke had received wide publicity, not because the Ellwoods of Ellwood Manor meant anything to the public, but because Luke did. Reading the articles written about him - with particular attention to the ones in the more lurid newspapers - she obtained an interesting insight into the life he had led since leaving the village. There was even a picture of the screw he had invented, though to her untutored eye it looked the same as any other.
Apart from the few days she had spent in London with Luke, she had seen very little of him. However, he had kept his promise and taken her to see Marley one weekend. She had been enchanted with the house, though she had deliberately hidden the fact from him. But he had ignored her lack of enthusiasm and she had wondered if he cared at all for her opinion. Perhaps he had only taken her to Marley to show her what could be done to a house if enough money was spent on it and to highlight the decayed ruin that her own home had become.
She wondered if Geoffrey was right to wait a few years longer before deciding to sell it, but when she commented that he might merely be staving off the inevitable, he had stubbornly refused to agree with her.
"If I can put it into good order," he said, "it won't cost a fortune to keep it going."
"You'll need a fortune to put it in order!"
"Luke has recommended me a firm that might help," he said slowly. "They renovate and convert old houses like ours."
"Convert them to what?"
"You aren't thinking of turning the Manor into flats!" She could not hide her horror.
"That would be better than selling it completely. They wouldn't be flats in the real sense of the word. A house like this can probably be split into three .separate sections - three houses, if you like. The west wing would make one, the east wing with the old ballroom would make another and then you'd have the centre part as the third house."
She tried to see merit in his idea, but it was still too new for her to accept it. "How long have you had this in mind, or is it something Luke put into your head?"
"It was his idea, as a matter of fact, but I think it's a good one and I'm going to explore it." His look was anxious. "Provided you agree."
"It's your house, Geoffrey. You're the male twin."
"Don't be daft. The Manor isn't entailed. It belongs to both of us."
"Some inheritance," she said, looking at the damp patches on the drawing room walls and comparing them with the carefully restored timbers and beautifully polished beams of Marley. "You must do as you want here, Geoffrey. Do anything that will stop it from becoming a rope around your neck."
"At least you have Marley," he said, "so I won't feel I'm turfing you out of your home." His look indicated more than he said and she knew he was waiting for her to give him further reassurance that she did not regret her decision to marry Luke. But she could not utter such a lie and, not wishing him to guess the truth, mumbled that she was going to make some coffee and went out.
Her wedding - when the day finally arrived - was almost an anti-climax. Luke had changed his mind about having a reception afterwards and, apart from Geoffrey and the Wardles at the register office, there were no people present.
Philippa was glad it was May and that the weather was warm enough for her to wear a light dress and jacket. Heaven alone knew how she would have managed if it had been winter, for she could not see Luke appreciating her moth-eaten fur coat.
Expecting him to ask her what she was going to wear and even to proffer a cheque to buy the sort of clothes he expected his wife to be seen in, she had been surprised when he made no reference to it whatever, though she knew that the sight of her as she had gone up the steps of the register office had given him a surprise. Though going to him a pauper she had vowed not to go dressed as one, and putting her head together with the local village dressmaker had successfully managed to alter an outfit that had once belonged to her mother. Renovated and cleaned, the ivory silk dress and matching sleeveless coat looked as though it had stepped out of the latest pages of Vogue.
"They don't make material like this any more," the little dressmaker had gushed.
"Only in Italy at thirty pounds a yard," Philippa had said drily, and thought of this as she walked out of the register office with Luke's wedding ring on her finger. Cameras clicked and she smiled obediently before she was bundled into a car with Luke, with Geoffrey and the Wardles following behind in another one.
"I tried to keep the wedding as quiet as I could," Luke apologised. "I thought it would be better to have a reception when we come back from our honeymoon. Then you'll be able to supervise it for me."
"My first duty?" she said.
"I hope it will be your first pleasure."
She gave him an oblique look, but he appeared not to notice it. He too looked more festive than usual in an impeccably tailored suit of light grey and a pale blue shirt.
"I've never seen you in anything but white ones," she exclaimed.
"Don't you like it?" His concern was so out of character that she laughed.
"You're a picture of sartorial elegance."
"So are you. I've never seen you in that dress before."
"Naturally not."
Her tone made him immediately contrite. "Forgive me, Philippa. Of course you would want to wear a new dress for your wedding, but I wasn't sure you would -"
"Be able to afford one," she finished. "I might not be rich, Luke, but Geoffrey and I aren't on the breadline!"
He went unexpectedly pink. It made him look younger and reminded her that though he acted like an austere middle-aged man, he was only thirty-six. Too young to be a celibate, she thought involuntarily. Yet if their marriage was not going to be a genuine one, where would he go for love? She remembered the unknown Rose and realised that Luke would not be looking for love. That remained in Scotland. He would only be looking for sex, and that would be easy for him to find. She only hoped he would be discreet about it and felt an uprush of anger that she should be thinking along these lines when she was only a bride of a few moments.
"You're wearing a lovely dress, Philippa," he commented, his words bringing her back to what they were talking about.
"It belonged to my mother."
Instantly his face softened. "I'm glad you wore something of hers. I have the fondest memories of her. She was always so gay and charming; like a dark moonbeam."
"What an odd description!"
"I could hardly call her a silver one," he said. "Her hair was as dark as yours." His eyes narrowed as though to get a picture into focus. "You're very like her, you know. You have the same fine bones and graceful way of walking."
"Geoffrey has never seen any similarity," she remarked.
"Geoffrey sees you with different eyes," he said suavely. ' "Brothers are apt to do that."
Because she was moved by what he had said and resented that he could play on her emotions, she wanted to hurt him. "How do you see me, Luke? As a valuable piece of property you've bought?"
"As a sharp-tongued little vixen!" His soft voice had a rasp to it. "You must learn to control your temper, Philippa, or you might see mine!"
He had never spoken to her with such sharpness and she was too taken aback to reply. Before she could gather her wits they arrived at the Berkeley and as he helped her out of the car, he kept his hand beneath her elbow.
"I'm sorry if I hurt you," he murmured, his eyes suddenly much darker grey.
"Only people I care about can hurt me," she replied evenly and, pulling her arm free of his, walked ahead of him into the hotel.
It was not until six hours later - when they had reached their suite at the Danieli - that .she was finally alone with Luke. Dusk was already casting mauve shadows over the water of the Grand Canal as she stood by the window of the sitting room that divided their two bedrooms. Venice was an inappropriate choice for Luke to have made. It was a city for lovers, not for those who were only pretending to love. It would have been much more fitting for them to have spent their honeymoon in Zurich, a town of bankers where hearts only beat fast at the thought of money and hard and soft currency flowed in the veins in place of warm, pulsating blood. Depressed, Philippa turned back into the room and stared at the beautiful bouquet of flowers on the bureau.
There was a slight sound and she looked round as Luke came out of his room. He had taken off his jacket and looked big and muscular, in his shirt sleeves. He also looked less controlled, as if in divesting himself of his jacket he had divested himself of part of his armour. It was odd that the word 'armour' should come into her mind: it was almost as though she subconsciously felt he kept a protective shield between himself and the rest of the world. Did he do so because he was afraid that having once given his love, he was determined not to be made vulnerable again? She longed to know whether he was still in love with Rose and what she looked like. It was common knowledge that men were always attracted to the same type of women, and she had a picture of someone as tall and slim as herself, with large eyes and dark hair. Hurriedly she moved across to her own bedroom, but his voice stopped her.
"I thought we might take a stroll and then come back here for dinner," he said, "or perhaps dine out somewhere."
"Whatever you wish," she said politely, and knew her swift agreement had irritated him, for his eyes flashed like ice, though he said nothing as she went swiftly into her bedroom. She still wore the ivory silk dress and she took it off and hung it in the wardrobe before going into the opulent marble bathroom. What a far cry it was from the ancient tub she used at the Manor!
"Will you be ready in an hour?" She gave such an audible gasp as she turned and saw Luke behind her that he looked contrite.
"I'm sorry, Philippa. I knocked on your door, but you obviously didn't hear me."
"I didn't expect you to come into my bedroom," she replied.
"You needn't be afraid of me."
"I'm not," she said coldly. "I'm sure you don't go back on your word any more than I do."
He gave a faint sardonic smile and walked out without making any comment.
When she entered the sitting room he was already waiting for her and he looked approvingly at her pale green knitted dress and jacket.
"You have excellent taste," he commented. "If you like, I'm sure you could get on to the list of best dressed women."
"I'd cut my throat if I did!" she said acidly. "I despise women who consider that sort of thing important."
His teeth flashed in a smile. "Even so, we must talk about your clothes. I'll make you an allowance, of course."
"Of course," she said smoothly. "That's part of the bargain, isn't it? I not only have to act the part, I must look it too."
"Exactly." His lids came down over his eyes, which made his expression difficult to read. He really was the most enigmatic man, she thought crossly, and wondered if she would ever be able to get beneath his skin other than by accident.
"You look as if you'd like to hit me," he said with unexpected perception.
"I would."
He came close to her. "Then do so and get it out of your system."
Her head tilted the better to see him. He was so near that she could discern silvery flecks in his grey irises; that was why they could look like chips of ice when he was angry or like woodland smoke when he was moved by tender memories - as when he had spoken of her mother. The thought of this robbed her of anger and she backed away from him.
For more than an hour they wandered through the cobbled streets and narrow alleyways. Occasionally Luke took her hand as they crossed over a bridge, but for the most part they walked side by side in a silence that gradually became amicable as the beauty of this jewel of the Adriatic seeped into their bones.
Though Philippa had been to a finishing school in Switzerland, she had never been to Venice and, dreaming in her teens of going there, had never believed she would do so with Luke Rickards. The knowledge that this was exactly what she was doing was so unbelievable that she turned and looked at him and surprised him looking curiously at herself.
"I can see you're going to be an avid tourist, Philippa. You have a rapt look on your face."
"Because it's so beautiful here." They had reached San Marco Square, its gilded facade subtly lit by floodlights that served to heighten its enchantment. "Don't you feel the magic of it, Luke? Can you imagine what it was like hundreds of years ago when it was the trading post of the world?"
"When Shylock walked across the Rialto Bridge and Antonio waited for his ship to come into the harbour?"
"I can think of nicer things than that," she replied. "Let's begin with the Doges."
"That's much nicer," he said with solemnity. "They only ruled with sword and poison."
She smiled. "You're determined to paint Venice black."
"Only to stop you from painting it too gold." From a cafe across the square came the sound of violins and Luke raised one eyebrow at her. "Care for a drink?"
"I'd rather have dinner. I haven't eaten all day."
"Nor have I. And you've reminded me that I'm starving." He guided her purposefully under the arcade and turned into a sparsely lit alley that soon brought them out by the Grand Canal. "All roads lead to heaven," he exclaimed, and quickened his pace.
"You're walking as if you know where you're going," she said.
"I do. To Luigi's, where you'll sample the best scampi in the city."
"I didn't know you'd been to Venice before," said Philippa.
"I haven't. But while you were making yourself beautiful, I was making myself known to the head porter." He patted his pocket. "I have a list of restaurants and shops."
She could not help being impressed by his thoroughness. "Are you always so meticulous?"
"I suppose I must be. Even as a youngster I always liked to have everything planned."
"I didn't - I still don't. I must say you make me feel very unco-ordinated."
"You give the impression of being the most serene person in the world."
"Inside I'm a bubbling cauldron of seething passions."
"Are you?" His voice was deep and she was suddenly conscious that he was still holding her hand. Her fingers trembled beneath his and, as he felt it, his grip tightened. There were no people around them, just some lights from a hotel balcony and the glow of a swaying lamp perched atop a gondola that glided past them on the water.
She was intensely conscious of Luke's nearness, of the swift rise and fall of his chest and the ripple of muscles beneath the fine silk sweater that she glimpsed beneath his jacket. She must be more careful what she said. Despite his assertion that their marriage would be a business arrangement only, Luke was a man of deep emotion, probably the deeper because it was tightly controlled. It had been naive of her not to have realised this before. After all, she had glimpsed his own seething passions ten years ago when he had thrashed Elliott.
"I'm hungry," she said tremulously.
"How remiss of me!" Instantly he started to walk again, casually dropping her hand as he did, and putting his own deep into the pockets of his jacket.
In the month since Luke had come into her life, Philippa had only dined alone with him on a couple of occasions, and even then, several people had come up to their table to talk to them. He had a great number of acquaintances, many of whom made it obvious that they would like to be closer. It was not surprising when one considered that Luke was not only rich but also highly intelligent, and she was constantly surprised by his wide-ranging knowledge. Unlike most of the business men she had met, his horizons were not bounded solely by his commercial interests but extended to politics, philosophy and a lively concern with the arts.
Tonight, sitting opposite him at a small table in a charming, family run restaurant where the patron beamed as he served, them and his wife winked at them conspiratorially as if she guessed that they were honeymooners, Philippa felt a greater sense of intimacy with Luke than at any time since he had come back into her life. He was more relaxed than she had ever seen him, his face far more animated as he consulted with the patron about the meal and then proceeded to enjoy it. There were no friends of his here to come up and disturb them: they were alone in a city of strangers. She caught her breath. It was hard to believe that the man opposite her was her husband: that she had placed her life into his keeping and that, as far into the future as she could foresee, she would be dependent on him. The knowledge nagged at her, its undertone of subservience making her angry with herself.
"You're looking rather belligerent," Luke commented, pausing in the act of winding some spaghetti around his fork. "I hope it isn't caused by the unmanageable pasta!"
She shook her head. "I was wondering whether I'll be content just to act as your hostess. It seems such an aimless existence."
"It needn't take up all of your time. As long as you're with me in the evenings and at weekends, the days are your own to do with as you like."
"The trouble is I don't know what I like," she sighed, "I haven't been trained for anything. My father believed that girls should stay at home until they married, after which they became their husbands' responsibility."
"Would you like to train for anything?" he asked.
The question surprised her. "I wouldn't like to be a secretary and I'm not academic enough to start studying again."
"You know a lot about antiques and paintings, don't you?"
"Of course," she said as if it were the most natural thing in the world. "I'm quite a dab hand at restoring pictures too, and I can recognise reproduction antiques with my eyes closed."
"Then I assume it was you who took care of the furniture at the Manor?"
She nodded. "We've had to sell quite a lot of stuff, but I was careful to hive off the more showy pieces. You'd be surprised how little some of these big London dealers know."
"No, I wouldn't. I've had some dealings with them myself."
"I bet you beat them at their own game," she smiled. "I can't see anyone scoring off you."
"Do you condemn me for that?"
Aware that he saw her remark as a criticism, she flushed. She had not meant it as such but had merely been stating a fact. Luke exuded such self-confidence that she could not imagine him being bested at anything to which he put his mind.
Not waiting for her to answer, he said: "Why don't you take a training course at Sotheby's? I'm sure they would accept you."
"What does it entail?" she asked doubtfully.
"You have to attend for a year and you're taught art appreciation and a more specific knowledge of antiques, china, glass and the whole current trend of buying and selling. If you qualify, they'll take you on to work for them. Or you could even set up on your own. I fancy you'd do rather well running a highly select antique shop."
"You need a lot of money to start a good one."
"Money is no problem."
The thought of being even more dependent on him robbed the idea of its initial interest and she shook her head. If she worked she wanted to do so freely, without being deeper in Luke's debt.
"I would only loan you the money," he said, guessing her thoughts. "The whole thing would be done on a business basis."
"Let's talk about it when the time comes," she said. "I have to be accepted first."
"You will be," he assured her. "Get that spaghetti inside you. You're far too thin."
"The correct word is slender." She held up her arms. "I have small bones."
"You'll never be fat," he agreed. "But at the moment you're more thin than slender."
Feeling that to continue the subject might lead to some embarrassing comments from him, she began to eat. The spaghetti was delicious, with a rich meaty sauce subtly flavoured with basil. After this came large scampi, the flesh white and firm yet melting in one's mouth, and the meal concluded with enormous peaches, their flesh as golden as their skins.
Later, she and Luke strolled back through the lamplit streets towards the hotel. There was a faint mist in the air and it shimmered across the Grand Canal and hazed the lights of the passing gondolas, turning the slim figures of the men who stood in the prows into insipid ghosts.
"How about taking a gondola?" Luke suggested and, before Philippa could say no, raised his hand to a swarthy young gondolier standing dejectedly beside his gleaming craft.
The knowledge that he had some customers brought a beaming smile to the man's face and he made a great production of helping Philippa aboard and seeing her comfortably settled among the cushions. Luke sat beside her and they headed out into the canal. She -did not know what instructions Luke had given, but they glided past the hotel and turned in the direction of the narrower waterways that crisscrossed the city like a cobweb. Tall stone buildings loomed up on either side of her, their windows narrow slits of lemon-shaded light which spilled out too faintly into the darkness to make more than a small glimmer on a peeling wall. Even the lamp-posts failed to dispel the gloom and served only to dramatise the mist that curled tenuous fingers over the cobbled pavements. Behind them the gondolier began to sing, a soft plaintive melody that had no beginning and no end. He crooned of life and love, of tears and laughter, and all the while the gondola glided across the water, gentle waves slapping against its sides as they turned from one narrow canal into another.
Heightened senses made Philippa conscious of Luke's closeness and the pressure of his shoulder against hers. She moved slightly to put some distance between them, but the cushion on which she was sitting slipped and slid her closer to him. The hard muscle of his thigh pressed into hers. He did not move, but she felt his inner tension and had the impression that he was like a coiled spring, immobile but ready to quiver into life at the faintest touch. Carefully she inched back from him. Her hands were clammy and she rubbed them down the sides of her dress, annoyed that she was weak enough to be moved by the romance of this picture-book situation. For that was all it was: a sham that had nothing to do with normal life.
She turned to say something to Luke, not knowing what, only wanting to break the silence between them. He turned at the same time and the simultaneous movement brought their faces close together.
"Luke," she said nervously. "I -"
"Don't speak," he whispered. "Don't say a word."
And then she had no chance to do so, for his arms came around her and his mouth was warm and strong on hers, its pressure forcing her lips apart. She felt the gentle movements of his hands as they caressed her body, moving along her spine, touching the smooth line of her hips, the soft curve of her stomach, and then coming up to the fuller curve of her breasts. With a sureness of touch the buttons of her bodice were undone and Luke's mouth lifted from hers to come down on the creamy smoothness of her breasts. An electric current shivered through her and she gave a convulsive movement that served to excite him more, for she felt the nip of his teeth.
"You're hurting me!" she cried.
"Never that. I want to love you ... to love you." His voice was thick and muffled, reminding her of the embarrassed boy who had blushed like a beetroot when she had run round the paddock after him, who had swung her up on to his shoulders and carried her across the lawn to her nurse; who had touched his hand to his head as he had said good bye and who had always lowered his eyes when she had spoken to him. And this self-same boy was now holding her in his arms, touching her flesh and lusting after her body. The memories of her childhood fought with the desires of womanhood, but the memories won and shame washed over, making her writhe with disgust.
"Let me go," she cried. "Don't touch me!"
His hands were stilled by the anguish in her voice and he raised his head and looked into her face. What he saw there brought hardness to his own and the passion that had stiffened his body ebbed.
"I'm sorry," he said tonelessly. "I thought you wanted me to kiss you."
Because she knew she had, she was unable to lie to him. "It was becoming more than a kiss," she said huskily.
"Did that surprise you? You're a beautiful woman, Philippa, and you're my wife."
"Because of Geoffrey," she said at once. "Not because I wanted to be."
"Of course." He moved away from her and half turned his head.
Quickly she fastened the buttons of her dress. Her fingers were shaking so much that even this simple task was difficult, made more so by the tingle that still lay across her skin where he had touched her. But as Luke remained silent and the gondola continued its slow progress over the water, she grew calm and in control of herself, and by the time they reached the Danieli and Luke helped her on to the quay she was able to look at him in her usual expressionless way, as if he were truly the man with whom she had made a business bargain and not someone of whom she was painfully and frighteningly aware.
"It won't happen again, Philippa," he said as they entered their sitting room and he walked across to his bedroom door.
"Put it down to the night and the music and the fact that I don't get married every day."
"Nor do I," she said, anxious for him not to think she always responded to a man in this way. "Perhaps we shouldn't have come to Venice. It has far too much phoney glamour."
"Even if we'd been in Siberia I don't think anything could have stopped me from wanting you tonight."
His bluntness made her face flame and he watched the colour rise and fade. "But it won't happen again," he reiterated. "You have my word on that."

LUKE kept his word, and for the remainder of their stay in Venice Philippa could not fault his behaviour. On the contrary, she occasionally found herself wishing he were not quite so distant and would then be angry with herself for her inconsistency.
She tried to forget the passionate interlude on the gondola, but could not stop herself from remembering the shame that had engulfed her and had forced her into pushing him away. Was it snobbery that had made her do so? Yet she did not consider Luke to be beneath her. In every way he was her equal, if not her superior. By his own efforts he had achieved a position in society which Geoffrey had not been able to do with all the help in the world. For this reason alone, Luke should command her respect; yet instead he aroused her animosity.
Again and again she wondered why she should dislike him, for she was honest enough to admit it was not solely due to his having forced her to marry him. Such a reason would have satisfied her a few weeks ago, but it no longer provided an acceptable answer. The antagonism she felt for him had a more basic reason. Perhaps when they were back in England and leading a more normal life - with Luke away from her each day and not her constant companion as he was here - she might find it easier to discover a logical conclusion for her reaction to him. For the moment she must live with it and make sure that no temporary passion disrupted their relationship.
Slowly the days passed: idle, easy-going days, spent partly on the Lido, swimming and sunbathing, or walking through the galleries and the museums - entranced by the magnificent paintings - or just wandering through the city, savouring the special limpid beauty that was particular only to Venice.
Four days before they were due to return home, Luke received a call which made it necessary for him to go to Rome. He took it for granted that Philippa did not wish to accompany him and said he hoped to return either very late that night or first thing in the morning.
"You won't mind being left, will you?" he asked.
"Of course not. I'll do some shopping."
"Ah yes, shopping." He smiled and she noticed again how much younger he looked when he did so. They were having breakfast on the balcony of their room, and in the sunlight she saw that he had acquired a faint tan. He was too fair-skinned to go bronze, but he had a faintly golden look that made his hair look even more silvery fair than usual. It was a good thing his lashes were dark, and she noticed suddenly how thick they were. Realising she was staring at him, she looked quickly away, but felt his own eyes upon her, those pale grey eyes that she found so disturbing.
"You've been remarkably good about shopping," he continued.
"I haven't done any," she said indignantly.
He chuckled. "That's what I meant! Most women would have had their noses glued to the windows, but you walk past them all with never a look."
"Most men are bored by shopping," she explained, "and I didn't feel I knew you well enough to try your patience that far."
"You don't know me at all," he said softly, and then, crumpling his napkin, pushed back his chair. "As von will be alone today, you can go shopping with a clear conscience. I believe they have some excellent boutiques here."
"Excellent prices too," she said drily, and was immediately sorry she had spoken as she saw his eyes narrow.
"You don't need to worry about money, Philippa. Buy whatever you like."
"Do you want me to get anything specific?" she asked calmly.
"Anything that takes your fancy. I've arranged for us to stop off in Paris anyway. I rather fancy my wife dressing at Dior."
"He isn't my style," she said promptly.
"Well, some place like it," he said so vaguely that she could not help being amused.
"Any jewel as long as it's a diamond," she murmured.
He took the point and smiled. "Do I sound a clothes snob, Philippa?"
"You sound like a man who wants to have his wife on the best-dressed list."
"You said you would hate that," he replied, "and I wouldn't want you to do anything you didn't like."
As though the words reminded him that he had forced her to marry him, he looked embarrassed. It was the first time he had done so and she remembered she had once longed to find a way of getting under his skin. This was obviously the best way of doing it: keep reminding him that he had bought her; that she was his wife by force and not by choice.
"I'll arrange with the desk to meet all your bills," he said abruptly, and strode out before she could reply.
Philippa found it strange to be alone in Venice. The city suddenly became more alien and she was far more alive to her own thoughts and feelings than she could ever remember being.
She debated whether or not to go to the Lido, but recollecting the hot-eyed leers of some of the Italian males on the beach, decided that to go there without Luke's protection would be asking for trouble. Instead, armed with a guide book, she wandered round the museums, visiting a new one and re-visiting a couple she had seen before, to absorb the magic luminosity of Titian and the intricate detail - allied to calm - of Gaudi and Canaletto.
She lunched alone at the Danieli, sitting at a table on the rooftop terrace. She was the only woman by herself and she regretted that she had not gone to a small cafe. Perhaps tonight she would go back to the restaurant to which Luke had taken her on their first evening here. If the patron remembered her and saw her come in alone, he would think she and Luke had quarrelled. A lovers' quarrel, she thought, and quickly dismissed it. Instead she wondered why Luke had been called away. He had spoken very little about his business affairs, though during their stay here she had gained more insight into his personal thoughts. Certainly enough to know that his air of calm was a veneer to hide a deep strength of feeling and a strong compassion for all things weaker than himself. It went well with her earliest memories of him. He had loved animals and children, and again she thought what a pity it was that in marrying her he had said goodbye to children of his own. He would have made a wonderful father: strong yet kind, firm yet gentle. Everything that would also make him a wonderful lover. Quickly she set down her fork. What on earth had put such a thought into her mind! She was behaving like a schoolgirl: thinking more about Luke because he was absent than she would have done if he had been sitting opposite to her. Quickly she signalled for her bill and left the restaurant. She would do as Luke said and go shopping. She would buy everything that took her fancy and spend his money as though it were going out of style. That would give him a shock or two!
A young Italian smiled at her boldly, making her realise that her own face was animated with pleasure - as if she were enjoying the plans she had just been making. Frowning at him - a look which he received unabashed - she set off towards San Marco Square and the elegant shops that lined the arcades on three sides of it.
For the first hour she was conscious of the price of everything she looked at, but then she stopped looking - even stopped asking - and bought whatever appealed to her. And how much there was to appeal! The French might have the best style and chic in the world, but the Italians had the best colour; they also had the gift of joy and humour which they seemed able to stitch into the very clothes they made. The leather goods too were magnificent, supple as satin and in the same jewelled colours. Her purchases mounted as she went from shop to shop, and only when she returned to her hotel and saw the piles of packages heaped in the sitting room did she experience a shiver of apprehension that Luke might be angry. She dismissed the thought at once, knowing it was her own guilt at spending his money that made her think like this. Well, what was a few hundred pounds when he had expended fifty thousand to get her? It was a bleak thought and it chilled her. No wonder she felt ashamed at finding him attractive!
Yet as she undid her packages and stowed them away, she tried to see beyond his actual behaviour to the reasons that had prompted it. Was it solely the compulsive urge of a nobody to become a somebody? But Luke was already a somebody. Without a penny to his name he had become worth more than any of the rich young men with whom she had grown up. Unbidden, Elliott came into her mind with his charm and superciliousness, his arrogant belief that he had the right to command others. Luke had arrogance too and could probably give orders with the best of them, but he had taken orders as well and had earned his present success by the sweat of his brow.
Her conversation with Mary Wardle came to mind and she felt slightly ashamed that she should remember it now, yet all her thoughts had led her here and it would have been dishonest not to have admitted - at least to herself - that she was intensely curious about Luke's past and would like to know if he owed his success to the McDougall family. From here it was a short step to thinking of Rose McDougall, the woman who had made it impossible for Luke to have a real marriage. This thought reminded her of the passion he had shown when he had held her in his arms. How easy it would have been for her to have returned that night to the hotel and become his wife in the full sense of the word. But that would not have given them a relationship. Closeness of body without closeness of mind was meaningless.
Sighing, she concentrated on re-admiring her purchases. The wardrobe was crammed with clothes and the pile of bills in her hand looked inordinately large. Resolutely she refused to tot up the total and went across the sitting room to put them in Luke's bedroom. She had not been in here before and she paused on the threshold as if she were an interloper. The room was identical to her own, yet had an indefinable masculine air about it, as if it had taken on the personality of its occupant. The bed had been turned down for the night and Luke's pyjamas lay across the pillow, the jacket open and ready for him to put on. It was made of dark blue silk and Philippa could imagine it against his fair skin. Quickly she averted her eyes and they came to rest on the dressing table. His brushes were set out on it, plain tortoise-shell ones, but obviously very expensive. Again she conceded the innate good taste which pervaded everything he did and touched. Even his choice of a wife showed the same distinction. Unconsciously she tossed her head at the idea and it gave her the impetus to slap the bills down on the bureau before walking out.
True to the promise she had given herself she dined at the small restaurant to which Luke had first taken her. But she regretted the choice because it brought him too vividly to mind, and she was glad when she could pay her bill and leave.
He had not yet returned to the hotel and the suite was empty. Philippa wandered on to the balcony and looked out across the canal. The water buses were still running and one came to a noisy stop almost directly in front of her window. She could hear laughter and shouting and saw several couples walking below her, bodies close, arms entwined. Irritably she stepped back into the room and closed the French doors, then went to her bedroom and undressed.
Her wrist watch showed one o'clock when she heard steps in the sitting room. They moved stealthily and her heart raced. What a fool she had been not to lock the door! If Luke had arrived he would have had the sense to get the receptionist to open it for him. Steps sounded again and she slipped out of bed and tiptoed to the door. Before she could reach it, the handle slowly turned. She stopped dead, watching it as though mesmerised. Inch by inch the door opened and the shadowy figure of a man came into view. Her scream was instinctive, stifled only as the figure stepped forward and the light showed silver blond hair.
"I'm sorry," Luke said swiftly. "I wasn't sure if you were asleep. I only wanted to make sure you were safe."
"Why shouldn't I be safe?"
"I'm sorry," he said again, and as his glance moved over her she realised she wore only a filmy green nightdress. Quickly she stepped back to the bed and then abruptly stopped. Movement would displace the chiffon folds and make her gown more transparent than it was.
"Don't be embarrassed," he said quietly, his eyes never leaving her face. "No woman as beautiful as you need ever have any fear of letting a man see her."
"It isn't fear," she said coldly, "it's modesty." Even to her own ears the word sounded distinctly old-fashioned, and she was not surprised when she saw his lips twitch.
"Will it make you feel better if I go and put on my pyjamas?"
"Don't be silly!" But his humour had done the trick and her embarrassment lessened.
"Go into the sitting room while I put on a dressing gown," she said, and he obediently turned and did as she asked. Following him a moment later she saw him staring at the mound of empty boxes stacked in the corner.
"I've been shopping," she explained.
"So I gathered." He eyed her again. "Is that outfit part of it?" he said.
"I didn't buy night things. Only clothes you would see."
Too late she realised what she had said, for his lips were twitching again, but he made no comment and sank down on to the settee. Only then did she notice that he was paler than usual and she sensed his tiredness.
"Would you like something to eat?" she asked tentatively. Luke shook his head and then winced. Seeing it, she stepped closer and noticed the blueness of his eyelids.
"Aren't you well, Luke?"
"I have a headache. It's tension. It will go when I've relaxed." He put up his hand and rubbed the back of his neck, still keeping his eyes closed.
"My father used to get that too," she said and, stepping behind him, put her hand on the back of his head. "I was generally able to massage it away. I might be able to do the same for you."
As she spoke her hands moved rhythmically. His hair was soft on her palms and had the texture of silk. The nape of his neck was smooth too, though it was slightly damp to her touch. Slowly she continued' to massage the muscles and gradually felt his body slacken as he relaxed. For what seemed an endless time she remained behind him. His breathing was even, his eyelids still closed, and she dropped her hands away from him and tiptoed round to see if he was asleep. As she reached his side and leaned slightly forward his lids lifted and his eyes stared intently into hers. Then his hands shot out and gripped her wrist, pulling her forward so that she stumbled and fell on to his lap. Quickly she tried to stand up, but his arms came around her waist and imprisoned her.
"Don't be scared of me, Philippa. I won't hurt you."
Close to him she could smell the richness of brandy and cigars and it increased her nervousness. "You're drunk!"
"Just pleasurably fogged!"
"I thought you'd been working," she said indignantly.
"I was - up to the very last minute before I came into the hotel." His grip tightened on her, though he was still resting back against the settee. "Emilio Fabri flew back with me in his plane, and his hospitality is of the alcoholic variety."
"I've never heard of him."
"Engineering," he said simply, and left it at that.
Philippa remained silent, aware he was still holding her and unwilling to struggle in case it aroused him. But she could not remain on his lap, for she was uncomfortably conscious of the warmth of his body and the hardness of his muscles beneath her.
"You have magic fingers, Philippa," he murmured. "My headache's gone."
"You'll feel even better when you've had a good sleep."
"Yes, nanny."
"It's true." She avoided his eyes. "You should go to bed."
"I'd like to."
She tried to pretend she did not know what he meant, but it was impossible to prevent the colour that crept into her cheeks.
"Please let me go, Luke," she said in the gentlest possible voice.
Slowly his hands released their hold on her. "You look like a drift of apple blossom in that nightgown." His voice was a mere thread of sound, yet it wrapped itself sinuously around her and made her feel how dangerous his proximity was. "Don't judge me too harshly for wanting to pick you."
"Good night," she said quickly. "I'll see you in the morning."
Not waiting for him to answer, she ran back to her room and closed the door, leaning against it and holding on to the handle as though for support. Why was her heart beating so fast and her body trembling as though with fever? Luke meant nothing to her. She was as immune to him as she had been to all the other men she had met. But her trembling gave the lie to her belief and she knew that had she remained on Luke's lap she would have been able to forget that he loved another woman and would have allowed him to make love to her.
She shivered and crept back to bed. Thank heavens he had not guessed how she felt. It was the lateness of the hour and the fact that she had been able to ease his headache that had aroused a protective urge in her; and it was this that had blossomed into passion. It had nothing to do with logic or reason. Lust was a far truer description. In the morning, when light dawned, reason would dawn with it and she would see her feelings for Luke for what they were. She glanced at her watch, anxious for the hours to pass and the morning - and freedom from passion - to arrive. Yet even as she saw the time she was afraid that time would not cure her of what she felt. Somewhere deep in her heart was the knowledge that another day might bring her greater problems.
"I've been alone all day and miserable because of it," she muttered, as if the sound of her voice could calm her. "And Luke is terribly good-looking. I would be peculiar if I wasn't aware of him."
But the words did not ring true and she turned restlessly on the pillows. She was twenty-six, old enough to have been married for years. It had been wrong to devote herself to taking care of a house when she should have been taking care of a man and children. It was this knowledge that was making her so vulnerable to Luke's masculine virility. Any man would have made her feel desirous of love. Desperately she tried to gain comfort from this belief, but part of her mind knew that she was lying to herself.

PHILIPPA found it a relief to return to London. In the bustle of resuming his business activities Luke became a more distant figure, which gave her time to get her feelings for him under control. She had finally acknowledged that the emotion he aroused in her was not something that would disappear with daylight, for many mornings had dawned since she had first discovered this and her desire was no nearer to diminishing. Indeed it increased the more she saw him, and only the knowledge that he had forced her to marry him marred what would otherwise have been a total appreciation of his character. It was the only flaw as far as she could see, and she found herself analysing it continuously, wondering why someone who exuded so much confidence should have needed to marry the lady of the Manor.
What a pity Rose McDougall had not been free. Married to the woman he loved, his obsession to return to the past would not have impelled him to use Geoffrey as a lever to obtain Geoffrey's sister. 'Yet if he hadn't wanted me,' she thought dejectedly, 'he would never have put up the money to save Geoffrey.' As always, her analysis brought her no peace of mind, and she pushed it away and vowed not to think of it again, knowing full well that she would.
In an effort to occupy herself she decided to follow Luke's advice to do something constructive with her spare time. She went to Sotheby's and after an interview was accepted for their course. Unfortunately she had missed the starting date and would have to wait until October before joining the next group. That meant she had the entire summer free, and though she would have enjoyed the leisure had she been living at the Manor, here she found that time hung heavily on her hands. The London house did not require her attention and the small garden was adequately cared for by a specialist firm. Only the weekends at Marley gave her any pleasure and she became more and more reluctant to leave it on a Monday morning.
"Now that the weather is good," Luke said one Sunday afternoon when they had been married for six weeks, "there is no reason for you to come back to London with me."
"I thought it was part of my duty to act as your hostess?"
"Only when I need you."
His voice was unusually clipped and Philippa looked at him surreptitiously. This was the first weekend since their return from Venice that they had not had a house full of people, and she wondered if this was deliberate or had happened by accident. There was something worrying him, for his usual tranquillity had been replaced by a restlessness which had made him go for a long walk on Saturday and Sunday afternoon and kept him prowling round the drawing room in the evening.
"I'll be more than pleased to stay here," she said quietly. "Is it all right for me to do something with the garden?"
"You don't need my permission." This time he made no effort to hide his irritability and she made no effort to hide her surprise at it.
Seeing it, he pulled in his lower lip and then ran his tongue over the edge of it. "I had some upsetting news on Friday," he murmured. "Someone I knew very well had become extremely ill."
"I'm sorry. You should have told me before."
"It would have done no good, and you didn't know them."
"Are they - have they recovered?"
"No. He died this morning. It was Ian Hamilton, old McDougall's son-in-law."
"Hamilton!" Surprise made Philippa echo the word, for Luke took it to mean she did not know whom he meant.
"The son-in-law of the man who gave me my start."
She looked away, trying to absorb the shock of what she had learned. If Ian Hamilton was dead that meant Rose was free to marry Luke. Except that he was no longer free to marry her. No wonder he looked upset! How he must be wishing he could turn back the clock by six weeks, and how much deeper his bitterness must be because he knew he had not even married for liking or companionship but to satisfy some warped obsession.
Unwilling for the silence to continue, she said hesitantly: "Was Mr. Hamilton's death unexpected?"
"Yes. He's been in a wheelchair since the car crash, but you know how it is. You expect someone to die and then when they hang on to life, you assume they always will."
"Do they - are there any children?"
Philippa lowered her eyes to her hands on her lap. Now that they were speaking of the past she had the chance to question him a little. But she must do so carefully if she did not wish to arouse his ire.
"Is Mrs. Hamilton the same age as her husband?"
"She's thirty-two." Luke glanced across the room. "But she looks more your age. She's the type who'll never look old."
Philippa tried to force away her irritation at this comment. "You were fond of her, weren't you?"
Luke's eyes narrowed, almost as if he were remembering the conversation they had once had on the same subject. But he merely nodded and pushed back his chair to go and stand by the window. He was casually dressed in dark slacks and lemon sweater, and he looked like a Viking. Only his expression was dark, and it grew darker as he looked out on the lawn with unseeing eyes.
"I will be flying up for the funeral," he murmured, "so it's as well that you will be staying on here."
There was no reply she could make to this and she remained silent. She felt he had more to say, but when he spoke his words came as a shock.
"I'll be bringing Rose back with me. She has no family to keep her up in Scotland."
"Surely she won't want to leave her home so soon? I mean, her husband has just died."
"I should think that's an excellent reason for her to leave it." As if a weight had been removed from his shoulders, Luke looked considerably brighter and sat down again. "Rose will enjoy staying at Marley. She has the same appreciation of old things that you have."
"You want her to stay with us - with me?" gasped Philippa.
"Why not? If you intend to remain in the country for the good weather it would be awkward for her to stay with me alone in town."
"I didn't think she would stay with us at all," Philippa said faintly. "Wouldn't a hotel be better?"
"We have six bedrooms in London and twelve here," he said coldly. "I see no problem in putting up one person."
"As it happens to be the woman you're in love with!" she flashed.
"I never said I was in love with her."
"You've never denied it."
"So you jump to the conclusion that I am?"
"It wasn't much of a jump. I know Mary Wardle is a gossip, but she isn't a fool."
"No, she's not a fool," he agreed.
"Then why not admit you're in love with Rose Hamilton? " Philippa said crossly. "I don't care if you are. In fact it's a relief."
His eyes kindled into glowing grey flames. "Is it?"
"Naturally. It might stop me hating you so much if I know you're also unhappy."
For the second time in a matter of moments he pushed back his chair and stood up.
"I didn't think you still hated me, Philippa."
"Then you must be singularly insensitive. What else do you think I could feel for a man who forced me to marry him? I'm tied to you because of Geoffrey, but at least now I have the satisfaction of knowing you're tied too!" Her voice rose. "What does it feel like, Luke, to know that if you hadn't rushed into marriage with me you would be free to marry the woman you've been in love with for years!" He remained silent and her temper increased. "Why don't you answer me?"
"Because I'm sure you would prefer to use your imagination," he replied and, turning on his heel, strode out.
Philippa did not see Luke again that evening and she was still in her bedroom when he left for London the next morning. She knew he would ignore her unwillingness to have Rose Hamilton as her guest and, looking at it logically, she could not blame him. After all, in the normal course of events she would have been pleased to have other companionship. But not the woman he loved. Temper made her fling down the brush she was using. How dared he bring Rose here? She picked up a comb and ran it through her hair. Its teeth scraped against her scalp and tears of pain filled her, eyes.
"Damn!" she cried, and flung down the comb. "Damn, damn, damn!"
In an effort to forget her anger she worked all day in the garden. The area around the house was carefully tended, but the main lawns were allowed to grow wild and had a graceful disorder which she appreciated. There was a vegetable garden here too; row upon row of salad stuffs as well as a notable herb garden. There was also plenty of fruit, much of it cultivated in the greenhouses, several lines of which glinted in the early summer sunlight. If Geoffrey could spend on the Manor one tenth of what Luke had spent on Marley he would be able to turn it into a showplace too. The knowledge of it did not bring its usual quota of bitterness, for though Philippa was furious with Luke she could not deny that he worked hard to achieve his success.
Because Geoffrey was in her mind she went back into the house and telephoned him. She had not seen him since her marriage and she asked him to come over the following weekend.
"As a matter of fact I was thinking of doing so," he admitted. "I can do with a break."
"How are things going?" she asked.
"Not too badly." His voice was stilted and she guessed he was not alone.
"We must talk about it when I see you," she said, and he murmured agreement and hung up.
She looked at the receiver with annoyance, for she had wanted to tell him about Rose Hamilton. Still, there was no point. He would see her for himself when he arrived.
Curiosity about Rose stirred in her and she tried and failed to get a visual image of the woman, marvelling that she felt such an antagonism toward someone who remained so nebulous. 'I'm being a dog in the manger,' she conceded. 'I don't want Luke myself, but I can't bear anyone else to have him.'
Yet how could Rose have him when he was already married? She thought about this at considerable length that evening. Logically there was no reason why Luke could not get their marriage annulled. She did not know much about the law, but she was sure that within a matter of months they could be free of one another. Of course Luke would not regain the money he had expended oh Geoffrey, but to a man of his wealth it would not matter and, compared with the happiness he would find with Rose, was a small price to pay for it.
If Luke did this, then Philippa herself would be free to return to Ellwood. She waited to get a thrill of pleasure at the prospect and when it did not materialise, tried to analyse why. Was it because she already regarded the Manor as Geoffrey's home and not her own, or was there a deeper, more basic reason that stemmed from a feeling of freedom that she was no longer tied to the past? Yet Marley was a house whose roots went back even further and she loved every one of them. But then Marley was a truly historic house which had enough interest to be opened to the public. She was certain Luke would never agree to this, for in the short time since their marriage she had come to know he disliked personal publicity of any sort. Indeed he shunned any kind of ostentation and went out of his way to maintain secrecy not only about what he did, but whom he saw. Only by accident had she discovered that he lunched once a fortnight with the Prime Minister, who sought his advice on industrial problems. Mary Wardle had told her this and when Philippa had questioned Luke about it he had looked inordinately displeased and changed the subject. Such lack of pride did not go with the image she had originally built up of a man who - because he could not marry the woman he loved - had chosen to marry someone of ancient name and lineage. Such a man would have pride and conceit; would make sure his friends knew about his wife's background. Yet the few dinner parties they had given since their marriage had been select affairs where nothing had been discussed except politics, and certainly no reference had been made to the Ellwoods of Ellwood Manor.
For several days Philippa had no word from Luke. There was plenty to occupy her both inside and outside the house, but the evenings were long and made her realise how much she missed Luke's conversation. He worked hard, but he did not bring his problems home with him and, on the few occasions he had discussed them with her, she had the impression it was more because he wanted to satisfy her curiosity than because he felt the necessity of sharing a burden. Considering the size of the organisation he headed it was amazing how relaxed he was, and she wondered if it were a facade or if it were genuine. Her inability to answer this forced her to admit how difficult it was to assess Luke. He gave the impression of being easy to understand, but she knew this was far from the truth. The very simplicity he exuded hid something considerably more complicated.
On Wednesday evening he telephoned her. He had not done so since their marriage and because his voice was disembodied she was conscious of its timbre. He did not have the same drawling tones as her brother or the sharp incisiveness of Elliott, but a slower way of speaking, each word carefully enunciated without being pedantic.
"I wanted to let you know I'll be coming down tomorrow with Rose," he said.
"Is she with you now?" Philippa asked before she could stop herself.
"She's arriving tomorrow."
"I wasn't expecting you until the weekend. I thought you'd be too busy to come before then."
"I am busy, but I want to see Rose settled at Marley. I'll have to return to London on Friday morning."
"Is seems a lot of driving," she commented.
"Not really." He appeared to recognise her annoyance and be slightly amused by it, and knowing this, her voice was sharp as she asked him what room he would like Rose to have.
"I'll leave that to you," he replied.
"A part of my duties?"
"If you want to put it that way."
"What other way is there to put it?"
"I'll see you tomorrow," he said, and put down the receiver before she could say another word.
Philippa's anger was left in mid-air and with no one to vent it on she wandered from one room to the other. This house was far too large for her and Luke. It needed a family to bring it to life. Children's voices should echo in the timbered halls and childish feet pound up and down the wide staircase. Instead of which Marley was a mausoleum.
Crossing the hall, she went up to the first floor. She and Luke occupied the two main suites on the south side of the house: a large bedroom each with its own balcony and bathroom and an octagonal-shaped sitting room in between, where the master and the mistress would supposedly meet for breakfast each morning or share a snack before going to bed at night. But the room had never been used by them, for she and Luke shared nothing - neither sitting room nor bed.
Her cheeks flamed and she was furious that such thoughts had come into her mind. Yet it was not surprising they had. She was a warm-blooded woman, not a doll, though she had lived like one ever since she could remember. She reached her bedroom and on an impulse went into Luke's room. Like the one he had occupied at the Danieli, this one had also taken on his personality, but more so since it was his own room entirely. The decor was spartan, with silver grey brocade at the window and a deeper grey carpet on the floor. The furniture was beautiful in its antiquity: Georgian pieces that would have graced a palace, though the bed itself was a king-size one and modern. Moving her eyes away from it, Philippa focused them on his dressing table. There was a silver-framed photograph on it and she went over to see who it was. A woman's face looked back at her, almost a mirror image of Luke's, though the mouth was slightly fuller. But the hair was the same silver blond and the eyes the same curiously light grey. She knew immediately that it was Luke's mother, taken when she was much younger than Philippa could remember having seen her. She picked up the photograph and studied it intently. The expression on the woman's face was sad, as if already the years had not dealt kindly with her. If this was the image Luke carried in his mind, no wonder he had been impelled towards financial success. It was a pity his mother was not alive to share it with him.
She put the photograph back' and, too restless to go to bed, wandered into several other rooms to decide which one to give to Rose Hamilton. Deliberately she chose one at the opposite end of the house, a long way from Luke. Again her mind shied away from thoughts she did not want to acknowledge and she marched down to the library and searched among the shelves for a handful of up-to-date novels. Luke was a voracious reader and each weekend since their marriage he had brought a pile of the latest books to Marley. Holding several, Philippa went upstairs and arranged them on the bedside table in Rose Hamilton's room, almost as if the woman would be living here with them. Yet perhaps her continuous presence in Luke's mind had meant she was living here already and what was now going to happen was the embodiment of Luke's wishes.
'I'm the one who is in the way,' she thought grimly, 'and it serves Luke right!'
The following day Philippa found it impossible to concentrate on anything. Working in the garden failed to hold her interest, despite being forced to go through the greenhouses with the head gardener who was anxious to be told her preferences in the way of fruit and hothouse vegetables.
"I don't have any preferences," she said, unwilling at this stage to impress her own desires on Marley. "Just go on doing the same as you did before." Sensing the man's disappointment, she added: "I'm fond of peaches, though."
"We grow some of the best in the country," he said triumphantly.
"Then you can pick me a dozen for the weekend."
"The asparagus is ripe too," he added.
"I'll ask the chef how much he wants," Philippa said. "It's best if he tells you himself."
"He's always telling me." The gardener looked mutinous. "Sometimes I've a mind to put locks on these greenhouses. He's always snooping around seeing what's ready for picking."
"He doesn't want it for himself," Philippa smiled. "He likes giving my husband some special delicacy when he comes down."
"Well, as long as it goes to the main table I don't mind," said the gardener, and Philippa hid a smile as she left him and wandered back across the lawn.
Luke had not said what time he would be arriving, but she was sure he would not keep Rose hanging around London until he had finished work for the day, and her supposition was proved correct when, at four o'clock, his car rolled up the drive.
She was in the drawing room, the French windows open to the terrace. She had debated whether to change from trousers and shirt into a dress, but had decided this might look as though she were trying to create an impression or, even worse, that she considered Rose a rival against whom she had to compete. For this reason she still wore trousers, but beautifully tailored ones in purple linen with an emerald green silk shirt that made her eyes glow like jewels. A matching ribbon held her glossy black hair away from her face and she felt it ripple down her neck as she stood up nervously and tossed her head before hurrying through the windows and across the terrace.
Luke was already out of the car and bending to help a woman emerge. As she watched, he lowered his head solicitously. There was an expression of concern on his face that gave Philippa an unexpected pang. Luke had never given her such a look. In fact, now she came to think of it, he never looked at her with any expression she would care to define. It was almost as though he kept the shutters closed upon himself when he was with her.
She sauntered down the steps and across the grass to where the car was parked. By now a servant was unloading the cases and Luke drew his guest forward.
Philippa looked at Rose Hamilton and immediately knew why Luke had fallen in love with her. There was a gentleness about her that was strongly reminiscent of the photograph that stood on his dressing table. This young Scotswoman's colouring was quite different from his mother's, but both exuded the same aura of sadness allied to tranquillity. But there was no sadness in Rose Hamilton's voice as she held out her hand and gave Philippa a warm smile.
"It's so kind of you to let mc come and stay with you, Mrs. Rickards. I feel guilty at accepting Luke's invitation, knowing you've only been married a short while."
"You have no need to feel guilty," Philippa said politely. "Luke and I have just - have just reached the stage where we might start quarrelling if we don't have someone else around."
"I can't believe that. It takes two to quarrel, and Luke would never allow himself to be one of them!"
"I've changed since you've known me," Luke interposed as he guided Rose towards the drawing room. "I'm not as good-tempered as I was!"
Philippa rang for tea, mouthing polite platitudes about the journey and the tedium of travel as the trolley was wheeled in. Rose Hamilton refused anything to eat but thirstily drank two cups of tea.
"You should eat something," Luke told her with a frown. "You're far too thin."
Philippa's hand jerked on her cup. Luke had said the same to her in Venice.
"I've lost a stone in the last couple of months," Rose admitted, "but I'm sure I'll gain it back now."
"You should have told me Ian was so ill." Luke still looked perturbed. "I might have been able to ease the burden."
"There was nothing you could have done. It wasn't a question of money or attention. We had a wonderful nurse for him, but he was unhappy when I was out of his sight. It was very wearing to be tied to him."
"Were you married long, Mrs. Hamilton?" Philippa did not intend to be left out of the conversation any longer, and as though sensing this, Rose gave her a contrite look.
"Twelve years. I met Ian when I was still at school."
"You shouldn't think about the past," Luke interposed.
"Why not? I have no regrets about it."
"You should concentrate on the future. Ian would want you to do that."
"Yes," Rose sighed, "he would. In the last few months he often spoke about it. He wanted me to come south." She smiled at Luke. "He said you would help me to start again." Once more the woman gave Philippa a half-apologetic glance. "I'm afraid I've always relied on Luke. I suppose it's because when he first came to work for my father things were very difficult for us, and Luke put everything right. Dad used to call him the miracle worker."
"You make him sound as if he was wrongly named," Philippa replied. "Perhaps he shouldn't have been called after one of the Apostles but after the Saviour Himself."
There was a shocked silence, but Luke came into the conversation with his usual calm. "What my wife is trying to say is that I did a saving act on her family company too. More so in fact, because I bought it out completely."
"Is that how you met each other?" Rose asked.
"We've known each other for years." Philippa gave Luke no chance to reply, though she was not quite sure what she wanted to establish. "You could almost call us childhood sweethearts."
"How silly of me!" Rose flung out her hands in an apologetic gesture. "I didn't associate your name Ellwood with the village where Luke was born. Then you must be the little girl whose horses he looked after."
Philippa nodded and, glancing at Luke below her lashes, saw a tight smile on his mouth. "I didn't know you told Mrs. Hamilton about me, darling," she drawled.
"I have no secrets from Rose."
His reply put Philippa in her place, reminding her of the intimacy that undoubtedly existed between him and this lovely but tired-looking Scotswoman.
"I'm sure you would like to go. to your room." She stood up and Rose Hamilton gave an appreciative nod and followed her out.
She exclaimed admiringly at the sight of her room and immediately went to her window to look at the view. "It's so lovely here." She turned to look at Philippa and the light behind her aureoled hair, finding chestnut flecks in the soft brown. Her eyes were brown too but dull, as though too many sleepless nights had seeped away their colour.
"I'm sure I'm going to love being here, but I meant what I said before, about not wanting to be in your way."
"You won't be in the way," Philippa replied, and wished she could feel less pity and more antagonism for this slim, brown-haired woman who gave the impression of having just come through a storm that had left her battered. "I understand from Luke that your father gave him his first chance, and if there's anything I can do to -"
"Don't you believe Luke's nonsense," Rose interrupted with a smile. "Dad gave Luke his first job, but not his first chance. He'd already invented half a dozen successful things before he came to us. My father always felt it strange that he wanted to bother running a factory when he could have stayed in his workshop creating new ideas, but Luke always insisted that he worked best if he found the problem for himself and then set about solving it. That's how he sees himself, you know. Not as an inventor but as a solver of problems."
"Then it's a pity he stuck to engineering," Philippa retorted, and only knew how tart her voice had sounded as she saw Rose Hamilton's look of surprise.
"Luke has to know that a problem is there, before he can solve it," the woman murmured.
There seemed unusual point behind the words and Philippa mulled them over as she went to her own room. Rose could not have meant anything by them, for she did not know the true situation that existed between herself and Luke. Or did she? Philippa frowned. Had Luke told Rose the real reason for his marriage? She could not imagine him doing it, yet decided he might prefer to disclose the truth than have Rose believe he had fallen in love with another girl. The knowledge that this might be so made Philippa feel raw and exposed and she chided herself for it. What did it matter if Rose Hamilton did know the truth? The woman had been unhappy enough for the last few years and it would only add to her sorrow if she were to think Luke had stopped loving her when the knowledge of his love had sustained her through the difficult years of looking after a sick husband. Indeed, it was because she still believed in Luke's love that she had come to London.
Once again Philippa conjectured when Luke would tell her he wished to annul their marriage. It would serve him right if she made it difficult for him. But to do this would also make it difficult for herself and would serve no useful purpose. Sooner or later he would marry Rose, and when he came and said he wanted his freedom, she would not allow her bitterness to prevent her from giving it to him.

LUKE returned to London early on Friday morning and Philippa was left alone to entertain .her visitor. Rose was down earlier than she had anticipated, explaining that she was used to getting up and found it embarrassing to be waited on.
"In the last few years I have been the one to do the waiting," she said.
"You must have had a very difficult time," Philippa acknowledged.
"It was far more difficult for Ian. He felt so vital that he couldn't quite believe he would never walk again."
"I suppose you saw different specialists?"
"So many that we lost count. Whenever Luke went abroad and heard of a new kind of treatment he would find out about it. But nothing could be done. It was a great release to Ian when he died." There was a pause. "It was my release too, though admitting it makes me feel guilty."
"I'm sure you did everything that you could for your husband," Philippa replied instantly.
"That's what Luke said. And coming from him, I was able to believe it." Rose gave a faint smile. "But then you know how honest he is. He doesn't believe in false modesty or false guilt. He insisted on my leaving Edinburgh and making a new life for myself among different people."
"I hadn't realised you would be staying south." Philippa was unable to hide her surprise and jumped up quickly, reluctant to continue this conversation. "Would you like to go for a walk?"
Rose nodded and the two of them left the house. Philippa was glad Rose did not chatter but seemed content to enjoy the beauty of the day and the peaceful scenery. She too wore a shirt and trousers, but she was much slighter than Philippa and looked as though a breeze would blow her away. No wonder Luke wanted her to remain in London where he could keep an eye on her until they were free to marry. Again Philippa wondered when he would tell her he wanted his freedom. She hoped he would do it soon. Waiting for it to happen was nerve-racking.
"Do you stay at Marley the whole time?" Rose asked.
"This is the first week I haven't gone back to London with Luke," Philippa said.
"I don't blame you. I wouldn't ever want to leave this house if it were mine. It's a pity Luke can't manage to get down every night."
"He probably would if -" Philippa bit her lip. She had been about to say if he were in love.
"If there were children, you mean?" Rose murmured. "I'm sure you're right. Once you have a family you might even find him working at home."
Philippa's cheeks flamed and Rose stopped and put out a tentative hand. "Now I've embarrassed you. I'm so sorry. I didn't realise you would be. Most girls these days aren't embarrassed by things like that."
"I'm not embarrassed," Philippa lied. "It's just that I - I don't associate Luke with having a family." She knew immediately that she had said the wrong thing, for Rose Hamilton regarded her with astonishment."
"Luke dotes on children. He always has."
"We've never talked about it." Philippa resumed walking, more quickly this time so that Rose was forced to half run
to keep up with her.
"I have embarrassed you," the woman apologised. "Please forgive me."
"There's nothing to forgive." Philippa deliberately changed the subject by leading Rose to the greenhouses. "We grow the best peaches in the country. At least that's what the gardener told me."
"You talk as if you're a stranger here," Rose laughed.
"I am."
"But you've known Luke all your life!"
"We lost touch with each other years ago," Philippa said stiffly. "Didn't he tell you?"
Either Rose did not want to answer or she did not hear the question, but when she spoke it was to make some knowledgeable remark on the humidity in the greenhouses. Despite her air of gentleness she had an astute mind and Philippa was sure she saw much more in Luke's marriage to her than she was admitting. Yet if this were the case, why was she pretending to believe Luke had been her childhood sweetheart and was now her loving husband? It might be a question of conscience, of course. Recently widowed, she could be reluctant to face up to her love for another man until sufficient time had elapsed for her to be able to do so without feeling guilty.
They remained out of doors until lunch time, after which they lounged on the terrace, chatting desultorily and for the most part content to allow long silences between them. Rose fell asleep and Philippa watched her, surprised by her lack of antagonism. Still, why should she dislike Rose just because Luke wanted her? As she had reminded herself only yesterday, to be a dog in the manger was an unlovely characteristic. Rose opened her eyes and, sitting up, smoothed her soft brown hair. Her hands were large and ungainly, and seeing Philippa's eyes on them, she smiled and flexed them.
"I used to massage Ian," she explained, "so ugly or not, I put them to good use."
"I've got big feet," Philippa said.
Rose chuckled. "It's sweet of you to try and give yourself a fault, but it isn't necessary. I've never been conceited about myself."
"I don't see why not," Philippa said honestly. "You're very pretty."
"I was," Rose agreed, "but not any more." She stretched her arms above her head. "What a gloriously .easy day we're having! A week of this and I'll become lazy."
"I'm sure it wouldn't do you any harm to rest for a few weeks."
"You sound like Luke," Rose smiled, and stood up. "Will we be alone for the weekend, or do you usually have visitors?"
"Luke tries to keep most of his entertaining to London," Philippa replied, "but my brother is coming over. He's my twin."
"How lucky you are! They say twins are very close to each other."
"Geoffrey and I are, but I can't say I've ever considered it lucky," said Philippa. "It can often be irritating to have someone around who can guess what you're thinking."
"More irritating for a man, I should think! The ones I know always like to assert their independence."
"That's certainly true of Geoffrey," Philippa agreed. "He gets livid because I often know what he's planning to do before he's even mentioned it." As she spoke Philippa remembered that there had been one plan of Geoffrey's that he had managed to keep to himself, though it had had the unhappy outcome of making her Luke's wife.
The arrival of tea served as a happy release from her thoughts and afterwards she took Rose on a tour of the house. Like herself, the woman immediately sensed the atmosphere it exuded, and Philippa wondered if Rose knew that Luke had bought Marley in the hope of eventually bringing her to live in it. According to Geoffrey, Luke had owned the house for several years before deciding to re-modernise it and make it his home, and it seemed to her that he had deliberately waited in the hope that Rose would be free and they would be able to do it together. Could he have grown tired of waiting and given himself a deadline? It was the sort of thing she could well imagine, for she and Geoffrey had done the same thing as children. If I do this, then such and such will happen. Had Luke played that game too? If I decorate the house then Rose will be free. If I turn it into a home then the woman I love will be able to share it with me. But the game had not played itself out properly. Luke had continued to live alone until eventually his loneliness had driven him into a loveless marriage. Yes, it was loneliness that had made him turn to her, Philippa decided, not a snobbish desire to marry an aristocrat. Only the ordinary human fallibility of loneliness.
Geoffrey arrived at Marley before Luke. In the weeks since she had seen him he had become more mature and even looked broader and stronger, though this could have been due to his hair which was shaggy and badly in need of cutting, as well as to his casual jeans and sweater. When he had worked at Ellwood Engineering Geoffrey had never worn clothes like this.
Seeing her surprise, he linked his arms through hers and gave her a brotherly hug. "The factory I'm at is small and everyone mucks in and does whatever is necessary;"
"I shouldn't think that helps your authority," she commented.
"You'd be surprised." They had reached the drawing room and he stopped. Only then did Philippa remember she had not told him they had a visitor and she made the introductions.
The presence of another woman temporarily stilled Geoffrey's effervescence, but within half an hour he was full of himself again, recounting amusing anecdotes about the people who worked with him.
"Do you manage to get back to Ellwood each night?" Philippa asked.
"So far, but it might not be possible in the winter if the roads are bad. I'll probably rent a small flat m Bristol."
"Have you started night school yet?"
"Have a heart!" he groaned. "I have to get the factory established first. I doubt if I'll be able to resume my studies until October."
"That's when I start at Sotheby's," Philippa said.
"Listening to you two makes me feel an absolute sloth!" said Rose. "I'll have to start thinking what I'm going to do."
"Why bother doing anything?" Geoffrey asked.
"For my own satisfaction. I think it's important to feel you aren't wasting your life. Sometimes I -" She stopped and looked at the door, her face creasing into a smile of pleasure as Luke came in. He greeted Philippa in his usual quiet way, but gave Rose a light kiss on the cheek and chose to sit beside her on the settee.
Watching them, Philippa was conscious of how right they looked together and felt a pang of loneliness, as if she had been excluded from something of "which she wanted to be a part. 'But I don't want Luke,' she thought. 'I never have.' But memory played her traitor and she recalled Venice and her response to his kisses. She had wanted him then and would have given him what he had wanted, if he had persisted in his demands. Shame made her jump to her feet.
"Come on, Geoffrey, I'll show you to your room. I'm sure Luke and Rose have a lot to talk about."
Rose looked surprised at Philippa's remark and Luke looked decidedly irritated, but Philippa was beyond caring and, linking her arm through her twin's, led him out.
Only when they were walking along the upstairs corridor did Geoffrey show his own surprise. "What's the matter, Phil? Don't you like Rose Hamilton?"
"Should I?"
"More to the point, why shouldn't you?"
"Luke's in love with her," Philippa said flatly.
"Don't talk rot. If that were so, he wouldn't have married you."
"He didn't think Rose would be free."
Geoffrey still looked so sceptical that she told him all she had learned about Rose and Luke from Mary Wardle.
"What bad luck for him," he commented finally, "to have married you and then find that the woman he loves is free."
"Thanks!" Philippa's tone was so ironic that Geoffrey gave her a quick hug.
"Sorry, old girl, but there's no point beating about the bush, and it isn't as if you're in love with him. If you were, I would have been more tactful."
"Of course I'm not in love with him," she flashed. "But no woman likes to feel her husband regrets marrying her."
"He isn't your husband really," Geoffrey said, and then looked faintly uncomfortable. "I mean, I didn't think he -er-"
"I haven't been to bed with him, if that's what you want to know." She cut through his embarrassment with the sharpness of a sickle through corn. "But that still doesn't mean I enjoy knowing. I'm not wanted."
"Luke hasn't given me the impression that he doesn't want you."
"As this is the first time you've seen him since our marriage - and Rose has only been free in the last couple of weeks you're hardly in a position to judge."
"Has he said anything to you about wanting his freedom?"
"Then what are you worrying about?"
"Because I don't want to be tied to him if I can possibly escape." Geoffrey changed colour and she realised that he saw her comment as an attack on him. "I would marry Luke again tomorrow if I were faced with the same decision," she added quickly, "and I know very well I'm morally obligated to stay with him. But now Rose is free it seems ludicrous for him to remain tied to me. After all, you'd think he'd be so anxious to marry her that he'd be happy to forget the money he paid to buy me!"
"He didn't buy you," Geoffrey protested.
"Don't bother glossing over the truth. He wanted a wife with a good background - preferably one from his own past - and you made it possible for him to get it."
"If Luke wanted a wife who would give him kudos, he could have done much better than you," Geoffrey said with brotherly candour.
Philippa knew the truth of this, but still felt there was justification for her own belief. "It isn't that Luke wanted to marry a socialite so much as he wanted to marry someone whom he felt had once looked down on him."
"I'm sure he never felt anything of the sort. Luke isn't the type to worry what other people think about him."
Realising the futility of continuing the argument, she opened the door of the room she had allocated him. "I think you'll find everything you need here."
"It looks fine." He wandered over to the dressing table.
For the first time she looked at him closely and, no longer full of her own emotions - talking about them had temporarily lessened their impact on her - she noticed an air of surprised excitement about him. "What's happened, Geoffrey? You look as if you're ready to go off like a rocket."
"I feel it. I planned to tell you next week, when I'd had a chance of thinking it all out, but it will affect your life even more than my own, and you're entitled to know now." He pulled at the lobe of his ear. "Remember those shares I bought, the ones that caused me to crash?"
"I'm hardly likely to forget them," Philippa said dryly.
"Well, they've turned up trumps."
"You mean they're rising?"
"They've risen. And your using the word 'rocket' was a good description. The shares have blown their top! I've made a fortune, Phil. Got back the original fifty thousand I invested and trebled it."
For a split second she was too dumbfounded to feel or think, then awareness of what all this meant exploded her into joy. "That's fabulous news, Geoffrey. So your gamble paid off!"
"Late in the day, I'm afraid, but now that Rose is free, Luke shouldn't want to hold you to your bargain."
"Luke's never breathed a word about the Stock Market," she muttered. "But he must surely know about your shares?"
"Of course he does. It was a huge Australian gold strike - everybody knows about it." Geoffrey grinned happily. "For the first time in my life I've got money in the bank. It's a marvellous feeling."
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
"Repay Luke first of all, then set about restoring Ellwood."
"Will you still go on working for him?"
Geoffrey met her curious gaze with unusual seriousness. "Yes, Phil. I enjoy what I'm doing there. I don't have the same kind of responsibility that I had in our own company - but it's better in a way, because I know Luke is behind me if things go wrong."
She could understand how this would engender confidence in him; Luke was the type who would make anyone feel secure. She moved to the door. "When will you tell him about the money?" she asked abruptly.
"As soon as I get the chance this weekend. Tonight if I can. I know you're anxious about it." He looked contrite. "Once I've paid him back I'm sure he'll set you free."
She nodded, wishing she knew why the thought of her freedom - which she desperately wanted - did not give her the pleasure she had always anticipated it would.

GEOFFREY had no chance to talk to his brother-in-law that evening, for Luke did not suggest they remain together at the table after dinner, but immediately accompanied Rose and Philippa back to the drawing room.
Philippa was on tenterhooks, but Geoffrey seemed less put out by it and was quite content to chat to Rose who, considering she was so recently bereaved, looked surprisingly happy. But then her husband's death had obviously been a welcome release and she saw no reason to pretend otherwise.
"Will you be staying south or going back to Scotland?" she heard Geoffrey ask her.
Rose flashed Luke a glance. "I'll stay in London."
"I thought Scots were never happy to live outside of Scotland," Geoffrey grinned.
"My mother was English," said Rose, "so perhaps that explains it!"
"Seen anything of Elliott?" Philippa asked her brother, irritated that he should be devoting his time to a woman she was trying hard not to like.
"As a matter of fact I spoke to him this morning. I said I was spending the weekend with you and he suggested we got together. He's staying at his mother's place this weekend, so he isn't far away."
Philippa glanced at Luke, who was sitting quietly in a winged chair smoking a cigar. It was difficult to imagine him as a dynamic tycoon and creative inventor, which everyone assured her that he was. To her he always appeared aloof and contained; a stranger playing the role of husband. But not always quite so aloof ... Conscious that Geoffrey was still waiting for her to answer him, she said: "Why don't you ring him up and ask him to come over tomorrow? Unfortunately I can't promise him a ride." This time she looked directly at Luke. "I'm surprised you don't keep horses here."
"That's something I've been meaning to discuss with you. But even if we had any mounts here I'm not sure I would be willing to let your friend ride them. From what I remember of him, I wouldn't trust him with a shire horse!"
"That's a very unfair thing to say," she expostulated. "Talk about women always nagging on the same subject! Elliott knows perfectly well how to handle a horse. What happened ten years ago was an accident."
"You mean when. Luke pulled him off his horse and hit him?" Geoffrey questioned, grinning broadly.
Philippa stared at her twin with exasperation but, glancing at Luke, saw he was also grinning.
"So your friend told you about it, did he?" he murmured to Geoffrey.
"He even showed me the bruises!" Geoffrey replied. "Perhaps it isn't such a good idea for me to ask him over,"
"I don't see why not." Luke's shoulders lifted. "Philippa is always advising me to forget the past."
"Then I'll call him," said Geoffrey.
"I'll do it," Philippa intervened. "I haven't seen Elliott since my marriage and I feel awfully guilty about it."
"Elliott would like to think you feel guilty because of your marriage," her twin chuckled.
"You talk too much." She jumped to her feet. "Give me the number."
Elliott was delighted to be invited to Marley and arrived at noon the following day. He wore casual country tweeds and fitted into his surroundings with the ease Philippa always associated with him. He was even successful at hiding his dislike of Luke, and a stranger watching the two men would have thought them the best of friends. It made Philippa realise Luke was just as adept at hiding his feelings, and she decided he could be likened to an iceberg, with the greater part of his character submerged. But she could tell he did not like it when Elliott put his arm casually around her shoulder, though he gave no sign that anyone other than herself would have recognised. But then she noticed many things about Luke that other people did not see. His stillness, for example, had a habit of becoming even more exaggerated when he was annoyed, as though he had to remain motionless in order to maintain his control; as he was doing at this moment while Elliott was holding her fingers clasped in his.
"I didn't realise we'd be such close neighbours," Elliott said. "Even in London I only live round the corner from you."
"I understand you're an estate agent," Luke commented.
"Industrial property mainly," Elliott replied, and mentioned the name of his firm.
"It has an excellent reputation," said Luke.
"We're also expanding. We do as much in Europe as we do over here."
"Does that mean you'll be travelling a lot?" Philippa asked.
"I've been toying with the idea of moving to Paris."
"Why the hesitation?" Luke asked.
Elliott glanced at Philippa and then murmured that there were many things to consider. She saw by the tightening of Luke's lips that he knew of the reason for Elliott's indecision. But it didn't matter if he did. It was not part of their bargain that she should try and love him. Releasing her hand from Elliott's, she took a slight step in Geoffrey's direction and her brother, responding as always to her moods, gave her an imperceptible shake of his head to let her know he had not yet managed to speak to Luke.
"I promise to do it before I leave," he whispered softly so that only she could hear. "But I want to choose my time carefully."
"You don't need to be afraid of him!" Her voice, though low, was angry, and she turned her attention back to Elliott.
He remained at Marley for the whole of Saturday and divided his time equally between Rose and Philippa. Only as he was preparing to leave did his parting remark indicate his familiar relationship with her. "I have some things to talk over with you, Phil. Will you be in town this week?"
"Yes." She was surprised at the promptness with which she answered, for until this moment she had not made up her mind whether to remain at Marley while the weather was good. But all at once she had no intention of remaining here alone with Rose or of letting Rose return to London and be alone with Luke.
"I'll be in town," she repeated. "I can meet you any day."
"Tuesday, then. I'll pick you up at one."
Because Luke was watching her, Philippa gave Elliott a beaming smile and accompanied him out to his car. He paused beside it and looked back at the rose-red walls of Marley.
"It's a beautiful house, Phil. I can see why you wanted to marry Luke."
"It had nothing to do with the house," she said, and abruptly stopped, remembering Elliott had no idea of the real reason for her marriage.
"But you didn't marry him for love," Elliott persisted. "Dash it all, I'm not blind. Anyone with half an eye can see you aren't the blossoming young wife."
"I'm past the age of blossoming," she said tartly.
"You don't act as if you're in love with him," Elliott persisted.
"I've known Luke too long to gush over him."
"But you waited till you were twenty-six before marrying him." It was a sharp comment and he followed it home with another one. "There's more to your marriage than meets the eye, Phil. I was almost sure of it before, but I'm positive now."
"When did you change your name to Sherlock Holmes?" she asked sarcastically.
"When I walked in and saw Rose Hamilton," he said promptly. "Is she the reason that you look so miserable? She wouldn't be a bit of Luke's past come back to haunt him, would she?"
Philippa forced herself to smile. "Go home before you start fantasising any more."
"All right," he said. "I won't persist in probing - at the moment. I'll see you Tuesday, Phil. We'll talk about it then."
"No, we won't. Not unless you want to have lunch by yourself!"
Pretending not to hear her, he revved up noisily and roared away into the dusk.
Late on Sunday afternoon Geoffrey left to drive back to Bristol and told Philippa he had finally managed to speak to Luke.
"What did he say?" she asked.
"That he was delighted things had worked out well for me."
"And the money he loaned you? When are you going to repay him?"
"He said he'll have to talk to his personal accountant. He didn't loan me the money, Phil. He took over my debt to the company so I'll have to repay him in a way that won't create a tax problem for him."
"It all sounds unnecessarily complicated. Are you sure he isn't being difficult?"
"Of course I am. Luke never believed those shares would be worth anything. That's why he ... Anyway, he says he's sure he'll be able to work out something. It will just take time, that's all. But at least he knows he's going to be repaid, so from your point of view you can talk to him whenever you wish."
She nodded and, re-entering the house, hovered in the hall. She wanted to get Luke alone yet did not wish to deliberately ask him to leave Rose. The low hum of conversation she could hear through the half-opened door of the drawing room gave no indication that he planned to move, and she went back into the room and sat down. Rose was sewing some tapestry, the needle with its tail of rose pink wool moving methodically in and out". Her hands looked more graceful as they held the half completed cushion cover, and her profile was serious as she bent her head to look at what she was doing. Whatever they had been talking about while Philippa was out, they now stopped, and deliberately made an effort to include her in their conversation, but it served to make her feel more de trop and after a while she murmured that she was going for a stroll and went out.
Geoffrey's visit - coupled with Elliott's - had added to her restlessness, making her more aware than ever that in entering into a loveless marriage, she had shut herself off from life. It was a monstrous situation to be in and she marvelled that she could ever have done it. She increased her pace, cutting across the lawns to where the garden grew wilder. For nearly half an hour she wandered the paths, coming out time and again to unexpectedly beautiful corners of the grounds: a sundial set amidst a sea of pink tea roses; a fountain bubbling gently to itself in a shaded hollow; a delicately carved stone seat nestling in a bower of lavender whose scent filled her nostrils with sweetness. How beautiful it was here! Too beautiful to be only partly occupied. Marley needed a family and children to live in it. Luke's children, who would be sturdy-limbed and flaxen-haired.
She quickened her pace and strode down a narrow path bordered by a tall box hedge. Expecting to emerge on to lawns, she found the path continuing. There was another turn ahead of her and she took it, but this too was bordered by high box and with a mutter of annoyance she knew she had walked into the maze. Luke had mentioned it to her the first weekend they had come to Marley and she remembered he had said it had been placed on the site of the original maze which had been planted when the house had been built in 1600. Unless she was careful she could wander in here for hours. Refusing to panic, she tried to take her bearings and then walked on again.
Twenty minutes later she confessed herself beaten and coming across a wooden bench - it was the third time she had seen it, unless there were two others like it - she sat down and wondered if there was any way of attracting help. It was ridiculous to be lost in her own maze! Despite herself she could not help being amused and felt her mouth curve into a smile. At least it would make an interesting dinner party story.
"Are you sitting there in frustration or admiration?" a quiet voice asked, and she lifted her head to see Luke.
He wore a silver grey pullover that almost mirrored the colour of his eyes. It was a long time since she had seen him without a jacket and she noticed how broad his shoulders were. Though a big man he was not fat and his largeness came from bone and muscle. He strolled towards her and she saw the muscles ripple along his thigh. She remembered the first time she had met him when she had likened him to a puma, and the thought returned with greater intensity. He really was an exceptionally handsome and dangerous animal.
"There's a very simple way of getting out of here," he continued, "but I never show it to anyone until they've been trying to escape for an hour. You have twenty minutes to go!"
"Do you mean you've been outside all the time, waiting?"
"Only for the last fifteen minutes."
"How did you know I was in here?" She glanced up at the hedges high above her head and then, looking at him, saw he was smiling.
"I heard you swearing quietly to yourself. Sounds carry in the country air."
"You don't need to tell me that," she said shortly. "I'm a country girl myself."
"I know." His voice was soft. "I remember everything about you, Philippa. I always have."
"Childhood memories," she shrugged. "They're not the sort that can be relied upon."
"Summer days that never rained and winters that were never cold." He dug his hands into the pockets of his trousers and the material stretched tautly, making her conscious again of how big and strong he was.
"I suppose many of our memories do play us false," he mused. "And not only our childhood ones."
"Where's Rose?" she asked, and only realised the connection between his words and her question as she saw one of his eyebrows lift. It was, she noticed, a beautifully arched eyebrow, the hair a darker blond, though not as dark as the lashes that framed his eyes.
"My memories of Rose haven't played me false - if that's what you're wondering," he said mildly. "My image of her has never changed since the moment I met her eight years ago."
"And you've loved her ever since," she said again, and waited for him to comment. "I gather Geoffrey's told you his news," she said into the silence. "It's wonderful, isn't it?"
"Yes." He sat on the bench beside her and it creaked beneath his weight. Even sitting he was tall, his head several inches above hers, so that she had to tilt her own back in order to look into his face.
"You'll take the money from him, won't you, Luke?"
"Of course. It will take a bit of arranging, but it can be done."
"Then I'll be free, won't I?" she said slowly, drawing out the words in the hope that he would speak before she came to the end of the sentence. But he said nothing and realising she would have to continue, she clasped her hands firmly on her lap and did so. "Now that Geoffrey can pay you back for your - for your kindness - and generosity in helping him, there's no need for us to remain together. I mean, it won't be necessary, will it?"
"I still need a woman to act as my hostess," he replied. "Why should you think that has changed?"
"It obviously has," she said with a toss of her head, "even though you're trying to pretend it hasn't. When you asked me to marry you, you didn't know Rose would soon be free. I'm not blaming you, Luke. As it happens, it's all turned out for the best. Our marriage can be annulled and you can marry Rose."
"Am I to assume that will leave you free to marry Elliott?"
"I'm not sure," she said truthfully.
"I think you are." Luke's voice was quiet but firm. "You had plenty of opportunity to marry him before I came back into your life, and the fact that you didn't -"
"He was in America for years," she interrupted. "He'd only been back a year when I married you."
"A year is a long time, Philippa. If I loved a woman it wouldn't take me that long to marry her."
"The woman would have some say in it too, wouldn't < she?"
"That's what I mean. And the fact that you were single when I met you tells me you weren't in love with him."
"I wasn't ready for marriage then," she said. "Now I am."
"But now you are married."
Something in his voice set her heart pounding. "What do you mean by that?"
"What I say. Now you are married. You're my wife, Philippa, and though the thought displeases you, I have no intention of setting you free."
"But you can't want us to continue together! Not now that Rose is -"
"Ian has only been dead a month," Luke said heavily.
Philippa's anger came out on a sigh of exasperation. "Don't tell me you're worried about the proprieties! And even if you are - and you and Rose want to wait - there's still no reason for us to be tied together. Geoffrey can repay you and I can be free."
"I wasn't aware that that was part of our bargain."
Shocked, she stared at him, the belief that she had misunderstood him disappearing as she saw his expression. "You don't mean you - you want us to continue this farce?"
"That is exactly what I mean. And as far as my friends are concerned, it's no farce. They think we have a real marriage and I intend them to go on thinking that way."
"But they'll know the truth when you and Rose -"
"Please leave Rose out of it," he said firmly.
"How can I, when she's the sole reason for -" Too late Philippa realised her mistake, for he pounced on the words.
"The sole reason for your wanting to leave me? Do you mean that if it were not for Rose you wouldn't be asking me to let you go?"
She shook her head. "You know very well this whole thing has been a mistake. My wanting to be free has nothing to do with Rose."
"Then what has it got to do with?"
"You!" She flung out her hands. "We'll never be happy together, Luke. It's silly to pretend."
"You agreed to marry me. You were willing to pretend then."
"That was before I realised how difficult it was going to be. You should - Marley should be a proper home to a family... the sort of family you would be able to have if you - if you married for love."
"Stop talking about me," he said quietly, "and give me your own reasons for wanting to be free."
"Do I need to tell you the reasons? You aren't a fool, Luke. Do you honestly think I can be happy married to you?"
"Because of my past?"
She was uncertain to what past he was referring. Was there something in his life which she did not know and which he assumed that she did?
"My mother worked for your parents," he said quietly. "Is that something you can't forget?"
His question was so ludicrous that she half smiled. "What a stupid thing to say! What sort of person do you think I am?" He did not answer and her mood changed back to anger. "I'm not a snob, whatever else you may think of me. I don't give a damn that your mother worked for us. I'm only sorry I can't remember her more clearly."
With a lithe movement he stood up and, afraid he was going to leave her here, she also jumped to her feet. But he did not move away and remained staring down at her.
"You are my wife, Philippa, and I have no intention of letting you go."
"You must! If you won't, I'll go to a lawyer myself and get our marriage annulled."
"You might find that difficult to prove."
"To prove?"
His eyes travelled slowly down her body. "You've been riding since you were a child, and you were always a tomboy. It's more than likely that, medically speaking, you are not virgo intacta."
Her face flamed. "You wouldn't dare pretend that - that - You couldn't be so hateful!"
"I'm sorry if you find it hateful that I should want you to remain my wife."
"Of course it's hateful," she stormed. "You're doing it out of spite." With an effort she controlled her temper, knowing that if it came to an argument she would not win against this quiet, implacable man. To make him see her point of view she had to be subtle, devious even.
"Please, Luke, it would be so simple to say the whole thing was a mistake. After all, we've only been married a couple of months and this sort of thing sometimes happens. The longer we leave it the more people will talk."
"Whenever we were to get an annulment, people would talk."
"You make it sound as if you never intend to end our marriage!"
"I'm not sure I do."
"Why?" she cried. "I don't understand you."
"You never have," he said, and walked away.
Afraid of being left, she hurried after him. "Luke, wait!"
"The discussion is closed, Philippa." He continued to stride on, purposefully turning left and right and left again, then seeming to double back but actually to emerge outside the maze. "Now you're free," he said.
"Only of the maze," she replied bitterly. "For a reason that I can't fathom you appear to get satisfaction out of keeping me tied to you. I suppose it's some form of sadism."
"Oh, yes," he agreed. "I'm a very sadistic man."
Before she could reply he turned his back on her and strolled indolently away, leaving her alone with her anger and incomprehension.

PHILIPPA returned to London with Luke and Rose the next day. He had not referred to their conversation in the maze and she knew with certainty that he considered the subject closed. He intended to keep her his wife for as long as it suited him, and whether this was for a year - until Rose had served the full term of her widowhood or until some other factor prompted him - she had no means of knowing.
For most of the return journey Luke directed his conversation to Rose, and Philippa felt the woman glancing at her uncomfortably from time to time. She obviously guessed they had quarrelled and though she tried to include Philippa in the conversation, Luke deliberately made this impossible.
It was with relief that Philippa saw the London house and she was through the front door and into the hall before Luke caught up with her.
"I thought we would go to the theatre tonight," he said. "I'm sure Rose would like to see some plays. Perhaps you will arrange it?"
"Please don't go on my account," Rose interrupted. "If I'm going to stay here without being embarrassed, then I mustn't feel you're treating me as a guest."
"But you are a guest," Luke smiled, "and a very welcome one. Now be a good girl and tell Philippa what you'd like to see tonight." He touched his lips to her cheek, smiled perfunctorily at his wife and returned to his car.
"Oh dear," said Rose. "Luke's made me feel very uncomfortable."
"You don't need to be." For the life of her Philippa could not inject any warmth into her voice. "Luke and I quarrelled last night and he's trying to show me he's the master."
"It's so unlike him," Rose murmured. "He's usually so kind and gentle."
"With you, perhaps." Philippa moved to the stairs, then impulsively swung round. "I don't understand him any more. I thought he wanted to be free to marry you, but when I..." She saw Rose shiver and intuition filled her and drove away her anger. "Please don't be embarrassed, Rose. I know about you and Luke."
"What do you know?" Rose asked, keeping her face averted.
"That you've been in love with each other for years but that you couldn't leave your husband because of his accident."
"Who told you?"
"Not Luke," Philippa said quickly. "He's been like an ostrich about the whole thing. It was Mary Wardle."
"The good Mary!"
"Yet Luke won't agree to an annulment," Philippa cried.
"Why are you so anxious to have one?" asked Rose. "Aren't you happy with him?"
"It isn't a question of happiness. I should - we should never have married."
"Many girls would be delighted to have Luke as a husband."
Remembering he was the man Rose loved, Philippa held her peace, but not so Rose, who persisted in her defence of him.
"Ian has just died. It's too soon for me to talk about - to even think of another man. It would be disloyal. If Luke says he - if Luke doesn't talk about it either then it's because he thinks the same way I do."
The explanation gave meaning to Luke's behaviour, and some of Philippa's bitterness receded.
"At least you're explaining things to me," she said jerkily, "which is more than Luke has condescended to do."
"Most men dislike talking about their innermost feelings."
"I wasn't aware Luke had any!"
"Oh, my dear, you don't mean that." Rose saw Philippa's look of surprise and blushed, as if she realised she had given herself away.
Instantly Philippa had a mental image of Rose in Luke's arms, held close to him, the way he had held her closely in Venice. Jealousy stabbed her - a red-hot wave of jealousy which she had never before experienced. Had Luke kissed Rose with the same passion, or had there also been gentleness in his touch? He was a man of deep emotion - she knew that, even though she pretended to deny it - and she could not imagine him being content to want Rose for years without being able to possess her. She thought of them together, bodies close, mouth upon mouth; everything forgotten except the anguish of unappeased desire. Her jealousy rose higher and with it came another less easily defined emotion, one that brought with it a deep sense of loss.
But loss of what? Of Luke? The thought was incredible and she tried to dismiss it. Why should she care about losing Luke when she disliked him so much? Was she so possessive that she could not bear to think of him with another woman even though she did not want him herself?
But she did want him! The realisation of this stunned her. She wanted Luke to make love to her; to hold her and cherish her the way he so obviously cherished Rose. 'I'm crazy!' she thought wildly. 'He means nothing to me.' Yet she knew he meant everything, and that when he eventually let her walk out of his life, she would still be his prisoner; locked to him by her love.
It was an annihilating admission and destroyed the whole fabric of pretence which she had laid over her emotions from the day she had married him. Now it was ripped away, she was face to face with the truth. She loved Luke; had loved him for a long time without being aware of it.
The past slipped into focus and she saw him as she first remembered him: a tow-haired boy of twelve, gentle with horses and children but obdurate with the adults who tried to tell him what to do. Quick images flashed through her mind, one coming so fast upon the other that it was like looking at a film clip. How many different pictures she had of Luke, but how easily they had been overlaid by the last and most painful picture of all: the one which had been etched into her mind and had burnt out all the other memories so that she had only been able to see him as the violent male who had pulled Elliott from his horse and thrashed him.
The anger she had experienced then returned to her, only this time she understood it and knew she had wanted to find a reason for hating Luke. Painfully she forced herself to accept something which - at sixteen - she had fought against. She had loved him even then. Had loved him and hated herself for it. She remembered how her teenage heart had raced at the sight of his silver fair hair and broad shoulders and how she had writhed with shame at feeling her body's response, and had loathed him for arousing it in her. Because of that, she had wanted to hate him, and rushing to Elliott's defence had given her the chance of doing so.
"What is it, Philippa? You've gone so pale." Rose's voice seemed to come from a long way off and with an effort Philippa brought her mind back to the present.
"I'm fine," she mumbled. "But I think I'll lie down for a while." With her hand on the banister, she turned. "I'm not angry with you, Rose, and I don't want you to feel uncomfortable while you're staying here."
"It's kind of you to say so," Rose's eyes shone with tears. "Don't do anything to hurt Luke. I know you don't love him, but-"
"You're the only one who can hurt him," Philippa said abruptly, and ran up to her room.
It was noon before she remembered Luke had asked her to get some theatre tickets, and though she rang several agencies she could not obtain any that were worth while having. Unwilling to have him think she had disobeyed his request, she telephoned his office to speak with his secretary, and was disconcerted to be put directly through to him. His voice as always was quiet and melodious, quickening slightly as he realised who it was. Hastily she explained her reason for calling.
"I should have told my secretary to do it," he admitted, "but I -" His voice trailed away.
"But you wanted to show your authority over me by ordering me to do something for you," she concluded for him.
"On the contrary, Philippa. As you're my wife I felt you would like to know you were needed."
"You only need a whipping boy!" she said, and put down the receiver.
Her body was trembling and she forced herself to breathe deeply, hoping it would restore her to calmness. If talking to him over the telephone affected her like this, how would she react when she actually saw him? The thought that he might sense her turmoil was almost enough to make her pack her clothes and run away, and only the knowledge that to do so might give her away even more kept her where she was.
But that evening when she met him in the drawing room, no one would have guessed her inner tension. She was every inch Philippa Ellwood of Ellwood Manor, and she hoped he would notice it. He certainly seemed aware of some difference in her demeanour, for his look was appraising, taking in the unusual effort she had made with her appearance: hair pulled back from her face and coiled in a soft chignon on the nape of her neck; black silk dress - stark and dramatic - relieved from sombreness by the gleaming skin of her shoulders and throat, and eyes like glowing jewels, their brightness caused by the tears she had resolutely determined not to shed.
"Will I do?" she asked coolly.
Before he had time to answer, Rose came in, also in black, though it was the softness of chiffon and it swirled around her as she moved, so that with her soft, fly-away hair and pale, heart-shaped face she looked like the lady of the mist, ethereal and haunting.
"With two lovely women to escort," Luke murmured, "I'm going to be greatly envied this evening."
"What tickets did you get?" Philippa cut in.
He named a sophisticated comedy that had received excellent reviews.
"I would have thought you'd already seen it," said Rose. "But we provincials always tend to think that Londoners rush out to theatres and restaurants every night."
"Nothing could be further from the truth," Luke smiled. "It's you visitors who are the gadabouts. London theatres are too full of tourists to have room for Londoners!"
Rose laughed, but Philippa found it impossible to join in. Her body tingled with the awareness of Luke and her heart, which had started to pound the moment she had walked into the room and seen him, was still beating erratically. She would be able to act normally tomorrow. It was only because her emotions were too new and not fully absorbed that she was behaving like a schoolgirl.
"I hope you're feeling better," Rose asked.
"I'm fine," Philippa said quickly, and saw Luke's eyes come to rest on her again.
"I didn't know you'd been ill," he said.
"I wasn't. I just had a headache this morning."
"Are you well enough to go out?"
"Of course." She tossed her head. If he hoped she would stay at home he had better think again. She had offered him the chance of an immediate future with Rose and if it did not suit him to accept it yet, then he would have to get used to a threesome.
"I'm fine," she repeated, and reached for her wrap, the mink jacket Luke had given her the day they got married.
"I have something to give you," he said abruptly, and glanced at Rose. "Will you excuse us a moment, my dear?"
He walked across the hall to his study and Philippa followed him, watching as he went over to his desk and from a drawer took out a heap of glittering green and diamond fire.
"For you," he said. "Please wear them."
She picked up the emerald and diamond earrings and the circle of stones that made up the necklace. Even her untutored eye told her they were worth a king's ransom. She put the earrings on, but found it impossible to do so with the necklace, for the sleeves of her dress were too tight for her to lift her arms. Mutely she held the necklace out and he stepped behind her, slipped it round her neck and fastened it. She felt the coolness of his fingers on her skin and gave a shiver.
"I'm sorry if I repel you," he said quietly.
Not trusting herself to speak, she stepped away from him and peered at herself in the mirror above the mantelpiece. "They're beautiful." She saw him come to stand behind her and resolutely stared at him in the glass. "Am I just keeping them warm for Rose?"
"Pearls suit her more than emeralds," he said.
Instantly she thought of Rose's delicate, creamy skin.
"Emeralds are hard and brilliant - the way you see me." Her voice rose. "It's a good thing you aren't a woman, Luke. I wouldn't know what jewels to get you!" Head on one side, she stared at him. "Granite or marble, I think."
"Michelangelo found depth and warmth in marble," Luke said quietly. "But then you're no Michelangelo."
Giving him the last word, she walked out.
Throughout the evening Philippa was so conscious of Luke near her that it was like a physical pain. The knowledge that she could put out her hand and touch him - and that she dared not do so for fear he would guess her thoughts - only intensified it, and the headache she had pretended to have earlier that day became a reality.
As they left the theatre Rose commented on her pallor and the bruised look about her eyes. "I honestly don't think we should go on to dinner, Luke," she said. "I'm sure Philippa would prefer to return home and go to bed."
"Don't let me spoil your evening," Philippa put in hurriedly. "I'll drive to the restaurant with you and then the chauffeur can take me home."
"We'll all go home," said Luke.
"I'd rather you didn't. I'll be perfectly all right on my own."
He did not argue, though she felt him watching her as they drove towards the Berkeley. She kept her lids lowered and pretended to be resting her eyes, only opening them as they reached the restaurant and he helped Rose out and then leaned back into the car.
"Are you sure you don't want me to come back with you? Rose won't mind having supper at home."
"I'll be fine on my own." She still did not look at him but heard his faint sigh and then the soft closing of the door.
Once she was alone in the car, the tears she had been holding at bay trickled down her cheeks. She wiped them away, but more followed and she knew that the chauffeur noticed them as he stepped outside the house and helped her to alight.
"Is there anything I can get for you, madam?" he enquired. "There's a chemist open all night at Piccadilly."
"I have some aspirins," she murmured. "I won't need anything else."
Once in her room lethargy came over her. Her limbs were heavy and every movement was an effort. She realised it was a sign of the depression which she had been holding at bay and she wondered if it would always remain with her as a sign of her love for Luke. It was a grim thought and she tried to rationalise it away. One learned to live with unhappiness and eventually she would come to terms with her own: to accept that the man she loved, loved another woman; to give her life without him and possibly - in time - to put someone else in his place. Elliott? It was "difficult to think of him in romantic terms and certainly not as a replacement for Luke. How weak he was by comparison with the big blond man who was her husband. Her husband. How complete those words could be, yet how empty they were.
With a moan she buried her head in her hands and began to cry again: soft, whimpering sounds like the snuffling of an animal in pain.
"I knew you were feeling much worse than you admitted," a quiet voice said, and she jerked back with a gasp to see Luke in front of her.
"What are you doing here?" she mumbled, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
"I came to see how you were."
"But Rose -"
"We met the Wardles in the restaurant and Rose was quite happy to have supper with them and leave me free to come home."
"Still pretending to be the good husband!" she flared.
"I'm not aware that I've ever been a bad one."
"You won't set me free." She started to cry again, knowing she did not want to be free.
"Would you like me to help you undress?" He ignored her tears. "I'm sure you'll feel better once you're lying down."
His offer to help her made her back away from him. The movement set her temples throbbing and she put her hands to her head.
"You're ill," he said.
"Did you think I was pretending?" she demanded.
"Not exactly. But I thought it was more temper than genuine pain."
"Temper?" she echoed, still backing away from him.
"At not getting your own way with me. If you want your freedom a year from now, Philippa, I'll give it to you, but not before."
"You mean it won't suit you to give it to me before?"
"If you want to put it that way."
"What other way can I put it? I suppose it's quite convenient to have me around. It means Rose can stay here with us without any gossip. But don't try anything funny, Luke. If you start having an affair with her I'll -"
"Get undressed," he interrupted, and though his voice was quieter than before, she knew it was the quietness of controlled anger.
"I'll get undressed when you leave my room."
He went to the door. "I'll be in to see you in fifteen minutes. Make sure you're in bed by then."
"Yes, squire."
At this he swung round sharply. "Why do you call me that?"
"It's what you'd like to be, isn't it? Squire of the Manor. That's why you married the squire's daughter!"
The banging of her bedroom door was her only answer and, glad that she had managed to penetrate his control, she undressed. She was huddled between the sheets, her head aching, her body shivering, when Luke came back. He held a small tray with a glass and some tablets on it.
"I assume you haven't taken any pills of your own?" he asked.
"I - I couldn't find any."
"Take these."
"What are they?"
"Not poison." He bent towards her. "Come, Philippa, don't be so suspicious of me. I don't want to hurt you."
"You are hurting me by keeping me here," she cried, and he drew back, his expression bleak again.
"Take the pills. They'll make you feel better."
She did as he said, and put the" glass back on the tray that he was still holding. "How long is Rose going to stay here?"
He was not expecting the question, for she saw the tray jerk in his hands. "Why are you so worried about Rose?" he asked. "Don't you like her?"
"Do you expect me to like my rival?"
"I didn't know you regarded her as your rival. Surely that would only apply if you wanted me yourself."
The pertinence of his comment made her regret her question, but since it was impossible to retract it, she was forced to explain herself. "No woman - whether she wants the man in question or not - likes to have her successor living in her home. It was monstrous of you to bring Rose here."
"She'll be leaving at the end of the week. Her flat will be ready by then."
"What flat?"
"The one she's renting."
"Why didn't you tell me before? You had no right to let me think you were going to let her live here."
"I wasn't aware that I gave you that impression. Your imagination must have been working overtime, and since you enjoy believing the worst of me "
"You wanted me to think it," she repeated.
"Lie down and go to sleep, Philippa. You'll feel better in the morning."
"I won't change my opinion of you."
"I don't suppose you will. In your own way you're as rigid as I am."
She closed her eyes and kept them shut until she heard the soft tread on the carpet and then the click of the door. But even when she opened her eyes again tears, blurred her vision and she could see nothing except the depths of her own misery.

PHILIPPA would never have believed that her love for Luke could awaken memories she had never realised existed until now. They must have lain dormant in her subconscious, waiting for just this moment, and she could not help wondering if her inability to fall in love had been caused by the fact that, like the Sleeping Beauty, she had been waiting for the right man to come and awaken her. But not an unknown prince from a distant country but" one who had been her hero when she was a child.
How simple it all was now that she was able to accept her love for this quiet, detached stranger. For Luke was indeed a stranger to her today; as different from the Luke she had played with as a child as if he had never existed. Yet he had existed, and she relived the past halcyon days of the childhood she had shared with him.
Even Luke's mother was more easily visualised, with the same controlled features as her son and the same quiet way of speaking. Philippa remembered her moving quietly around the Manor, collecting tablecloths and napkins and the delicately embroidered blouses her mother had favoured so much, Philippa's own smocked dresses too, all of which had been taken to the sewing room on the top floor. Here, under the cold north light, they had been delicately repaired with stitches so minute that they were barely discernible by the human eye. What patience Luke's mother had shown! Philippa remembered she had sometimes sat in the sewing room watching her, but she could not recollect any conversation.: Perhaps, like Luke, the woman had not believed in speaking too much. But Luke had spoken. It was odd that she had always remembered him as being quiet, for now that she gave it thought, she recollected many occasions when she had raptly listened to the stories he had told her. Animals had always figured largely in them - animals and plants. He had had a wonderful gift for giving them human characteristics.
Her mother's death had brought this idyllic existence to an end. She had been sent to boarding school and, returning only for the holidays, had seen Luke infrequently. Because of this she had become formal with him, partly due to shyness and partly to the fact that she was growing away from childhood into womanhood and, as such, becoming aware of his maleness. Then there had been a long gap when she had not seen him. She knew now that this must have been the years he had spent at university, though at the time - as a selfish teenager concerned with her own growing - she had not given it much thought until the day when she had gone riding with Elliott. How dramatically Luke had come back into her life! A big blond young man who had used his strength to diminish the boy she had thought herself in love with and had, at the same time, lost his own place in her heart, for to have acknowledged what she had felt for him would have been shaming.
If only she could still stifle those feelings; but they flourished like the green bay tree, growing so much stronger each day that it became an intolerable effort to act normally with him.
Noticing the way she tried to avoid him, Luke stayed in his study on the evenings when they did not entertain. It was only when friends came to the house that he acted the attentive husband, and she would stand by his side and welcome them, wearing a smile as bright and hard as the jewels which he seemed constantly to be lavishing on her.
"The Wardles have invited us to spend the weekend with them," he said one evening a month after Rose had moved to her own flat. "They've asked us before, but I've been able to make our excuses."
"I don't mind spending the weekend with them," she said indifferently. "What's the problem?"
"We'd be staying at their country cottage." His look was faintly wry. "They only have two bedrooms there."
Instantly she understood what his expression meant. "Then you'll have to refuse again."
"I'd rather not." He moved in his chair. They were sitting in the drawing room after dinner and she had been surprised that he had joined her instead of either going out or to his study. Now she knew the reason. "As I said before, if we keep refusing they'll think it strange."
"Does it matter if they know the truth? They're great friends of yours, Luke. They know you love Rose."
"They know you're my wife," he said tonelessly. "We would only have to share a room for two nights and there are twin beds in it. I assure you I wouldn't leave my own for the warmth of yours."
"You wouldn't find any warmth in it!" She jumped up. "If the Wardles want to see us for the weekend let them come to Marley. I won't go to their cottage with you, and that's final!"
Expecting him to continue the argument, she was disconcerted when he immediately gave in, and thinking about it later she suspected he had deliberately been baiting her to test her reaction.
When he next referred to the Wardles it was to say they were coming to Marley the following weekend and that Rose would be joining them. He rarely referred to Rose, and Philippa hardly saw her. The last time had been when Rose had invited them to dinner, a quiet affair with a couple of other friends. She had noticed how familiar Luke had been in the flat, knowing where the drinks were, where the glasses were kept, and showing other signs of being a frequent visitor there. Jealousy had raged in Philippa like a tiger, clawing at her stomach and making it impossible for her to eat. But she had forced the food down and forced herself to pretend a composure she did not feel. The invitation was not repeated, and beyond occasionally mentioning that he was going to the flat, Luke did not refer to Rose either.
The only good news she had was when Geoffrey told her he had finally been able to repay Luke. The knowledge that her twin was no longer indebted to him gave her the impetus to repeat her request for her freedom, and her fury had known no bounds when he refused as adamantly as he had done before.
"I can't make you out," she cried. "If Rose was still married it would make sense, but to keep me tied to you when you could be with her is crazy!"
"Then just accept the fact that you don't understand it and stop nagging me." For the first time since their marriage she saw him in a temper. At least for Luke it was temper, though in any other man it would merely have been irritation. "I've already told you when I'll let you go, so tell Elliott to stop pushing you into making demands that I've no intention of meeting."
"Wanting my freedom has nothing to do with Elliott!" she snapped.
"You surprise me. I had the distinct impression that you would marry him when you were free."
She nodded, preferring him to think this than to know that at the moment she could not contemplate marrying any man. She held out her hands to him. "Please give me my freedom."
He did not mention the subject again and she let the matter rest Now that her childhood memories of him had returned she had a far better understanding of his character and knew that to persist in demanding her freedom would turn him more obdurately against it; he must not be made to feel she was putting pressure on him.
The knowledge that he might be persuaded to annul their marriage forced Philippa to assess what she would do in the future. She had no intention of returning to Ellwood. She would find somewhere to live in London and follow the art and antiques course at Sotheby's. It was expensive, but Geoffrey could afford to pay for it. Remembering the years she had worked as an unpaid servant at the Manor, she had no compunction in letting him do so. Besides, once she qualified she would be able to get a worthwhile job in a milieu where she would feel at ease. Only the thought of living in the same city as Luke filled her with dread. How much better it would be if she did not have the fear of turning a corner and seeing him; of entering a restaurant and finding him at another table or of inadvertently driving past his house and being able to visualise him there with Rose. Her imagination worked overtime, filling her mind with pictures that increased her jealousy. For someone who had never surrendered to a man she was horrified at her ability to envisage it movement by movement, touch by touch..
It gave her a great sense of release to go to Marley. She chose to go a few days ahead of Luke, using the excuse of good weather, but even when she was alone in the house, his presence filled it and she felt closer to him here than she did in London. It was because she knew he loved Marley and because she could picture him here as a family man and husband. During the day she managed to fight off such fantasies, but in the evenings they pursued her like tormenting demons, and signs of her sleeplessness lay on her face and her body as she waited on the terrace late on Friday afternoon for Luke to arrive with the Wardles and Rose.
Restlessly she moved from the chair to the balustrade, a slender figure verging on thinness. The hollows in her cheeks were noticeable and her waist was small enough to be spanned by a man's hands. In an effort to hide her pallor she had put on more make-up than usual and the vivid colour gave her a sultry appearance and drew attention to her rich dark hair. She had let it grow longer in the last few months and it hung in a silky bob to her shoulders.
Mary Wardle, tactless as ever, was the first to comment on Philippa's changed appearance. "I suppose it's the fashion to be thin as a rake," she said, kissing her and looking at her critically, "but you're carrying it to extremes, darling. What are you thinking of, Luke?" she asked. "Letting Philippa get so thin?"
"I wasn't aware that she had," he replied.
"Then you must be blind or else lost your sense of touch !"
Philippa went pink and refused to look at Luke, though she glanced at Rose and wondered if the Scots girl was annoyed by Mary Wardle's words. But as always Rose gave no sign of jealousy and Philippa was not sure if it was due to lack of feeling or complacency.
"I'll show you to your rooms," she said brightly. "Dinner is at eight-thirty, but there'll be drinks in the drawing room from six o'clock onwards."
"It's so good to be here again." Frank Wardle spoke for the first time. "I saw this house when Luke first bought it, but I must say I didn't recognise its potential the way he did."
"It took more than recognition of potential," his wife said. "It also took persistence." She smiled at Philippa. "Luke was five years getting Marley the way he wanted it."
"And now it's perfect," Philippa remarked, and went towards the French windows. The Wardles followed her and she gave a quick look at Rose. "I've given, you the room you had last time you were here, so I won't need to show you where it is."
"That's very thoughtful of you." Rose made no move to rise and Philippa was forced to leave her and Luke together as she led the Wardles through the drawing room. But then what did it matter when they would soon be together all the time?
Saturday was a perfect day and Luke decided to have a picnic lunch on his motor launch. Philippa was glad of the informality, for it was less of an effort to be with him on such occasions. When meals were formal she was more aware of him and consequently on her guard, a fact which gave her a tight knot of tension in her stomach. It was not surprising she was getting thinner each day; the wonder was that she hadn't totally disappeared.
Luke was gayer than she had ever seen him, and in shorts and open-necked shirt he looked like a Viking. Somehow the analogy displeased her. Vikings were blond vital men, spontaneous and full of laughter as well as temper, while Luke was too silver-fair and controlled - despite his good humour of the moment. No, she mused, he was a man who defied description, for he did not follow an established pattern. Once Luke had been made, the mould had been broken. The thought was fanciful, but then so many of her recent thoughts were, and she knew that the strain of the last month was telling on her. Loving Luke had made her realise her own fallibility; had awakened emotions she had not known she possessed and had shaken her confidence to its core. He had turned her world upside down and she was still reeling from it.
She made an effort to enter into the gaiety around her, Frank and Mary Wardle were splashing happily in the river like a couple of porpoises and Rose was surprisingly bikini- clad and sunbathing. Philippa's critical gaze could not fault the woman's figure and seeing Luke's eyes rest on it she was filled with such rage that she could cheerfully have gone across and boxed his ears.
After lunch they all relaxed, with the boat drifting idly on the river and the sun beating down on the deck. Philippa found it impossible to sleep and at four o'clock, when there was still no sign of movement, she decided to swim ashore and go for a walk along the bank. It was a foolish thing to do, but she was impelled by a desire to get away from everyone, particularly from Luke, who was resting on a sun mattress only a yard away from her. A soft breeze played against his hair, lifting one fair strand. His whole body was inert, his face relaxed, and she marvelled that he could sleep so easily.
Quietly she dived into the river. She was an excellent swimmer and the water was so refreshing that she remained in it for a long while before going to the bank. Shaking drops of water from her body, she sat on the grass. It tickled her skin, but its fragrance was pleasing and she lay full length and closed her eyes. The sun was as bright as ever and its rays warmed her limbs. Gradually she relaxed and her body grew languorous.
"Luke," she whispered silently. "Luke ..."
She shivered as a cool breeze blew against her skin and with a start she sat up. She must have fallen asleep. She looked across the water, her eyes widening as she saw that the launch had gone. Jumping to her feet, she ran along the bank to see if Luke had moored further upstream. But the long stretch of river was empty. Another breeze blew against her, colder this time, and she shivered and hugged herself. It was only then that she saw the sky was heavy and grey where before it had been bright blue. The temperature had dropped too and her skin was already showing goose bumps. Conscious that she was clad only in a damp bikini, she started to walk along the bank.
Where on earth was the boat, and why hadn't anyone seen her? It was not difficult to guess what had happened. Lying in the tall grass her body had been hidden and her absence from the deck would have been construed to her having gone below deck to rest in her cabin. It might be an hour or more before anyone elected to go in search of her. By then the boat could have returned to Marley or be further up the river. Thinking about it, she remembered Luke saying they might go a few miles west and moor at a river restaurant that had recently opened and which he had been advised to try. If this was what he was doing, they could well reach the restaurant before anyone realised she was not on board. It was easy to imagine the consternation that would follow this discovery. She smiled sourly at the thought. It would serve them right if they started to worry about her. It would teach them a lesson for not looking for her earlier.
But of course she would suffer too. Indeed she was already doing so, for she was shaking with the cold as well as dismay at being forced to wander practically naked along a stretch of deserted water that was as strange to her as if it were darkest Africa.
She was not sure if it would be quicker to head back to Marley or to go in the direction of the restaurant, and she decided to walk to the next bend in the river: if she could not see the boat she would make for Marley. She had no idea how far away it was and wished she had taken more note of their speed and how far they had come. All she knew was that they had been moving gently upstream for several hours. Another gust of cold air blew against her and she quickened her pace, hoping that if her circulation got going she would feel warmer. But it was difficult to walk fast without any shoes. Even along the bank the ground was hard and she had to watch carefully to make sure she did not cut her soles on sharp pieces of flint. There was still no break in the clouds and she had the uncomfortable feeling that they were growing denser rather than lessening. All she needed was to be caught in a storm.
Hard on this fear came the rain. Slow plopping drops which fell like cold fingerprints on her body, then falling more quickly until they were soaking her completely. The wind was no longer intermittent but continuous, blowing her hair around her head like a black cloud and pressing the damp fabric of her bikini against her skin. She was shivering uncontrollably and she debated whether or not she would be warmer if she jumped into the river. But this was not the South of France where the water on bad days was frequently warmer than the atmosphere. Here the river was cold even on the hottest day and at this moment would be even colder than when she had entered it an hour ago. Or was it two hours ago ? Angry tears filled her eyes. What a stupid fool she had been to leave the boat without telling anyone and then to compound the felony by falling asleep.
She began to walk again as fast as she could, head down- bent against the rain. The climate might be British, but this downpour was tropical in its intensity. She sneezed, then sneezed again. Her nose was running and she wiped it with the back of her hand. What a sight she must look! She was crying in earnest now, little gulping sobs that she could not control. Her body was shaking with the cold, though the soles of her feet were burning with pain. Despite the care she had taken in walking, she had trodden on several flints and the skin was bleeding, making each step progressively more difficult.
After what seemed an interminable length of time she reached the bend in the river where she had vowed to take stock of the situation. As she had anticipated, the launch was nowhere to be seen and without hesitation, she started to run back the way she had come. Her foot caught against an unusually large piece of gravel and she gave a cry and stepped back. The ground behind her was slimy with mud and she slipped and fell heavily, so that for a moment she was too shaken to move.
"What am I going to do?" she cried. "I can't walk any more!"
But she had no choice other than to walk and she dragged herself up and stumbled on. She was too cold even to feel the cold. It was as if ice had seeped into her veins and frozen all feeling. Perhaps her blood was already starting to congeal and would eventually stop. Was that what happened when people froze to death?
"Don't be crazy!" she said loudly. "People don't freeze to death in England. They might in Scotland perhaps, but not here."
The thought of Scotland reminded her of Rose, sitting beside Luke in his boat, smiling at him and warmed by his love. Philippa's tears of pain and fright became tears of self- pity and she cried harder still. Again she stumbled and this time fell forward, saving herself from hitting her face by the quick outward thrust of her hands. An agonising pain shot through her wrist and a wave of nausea gripped her throat Sweat broke out on her forehead and mingled with the rain and for a few moments she sat on the ground, too much in pain to move. Gradually it eased into a dull throb, though she was afraid to flex her fingers in case it re-awakened the pain. She had either broken her wrist or strained it, and she held her hand against her breast in some effort of self-protection. Staggering upright, she forced herself to move forward. Each step was an agony on feet that left red blood marks with each imprint on the earth, but she was scared to sit down in case she could not summon the strength of mind to resume walking.
On and on she went. It seemed like hours, though she vaguely felt it was only a couple. But surely if she had been walking for that length of time she should have reached a familiar part of the river? She stopped and with her good hand pushed her hair out of her eyes to take a clear look at where she was. But the heavy rain and the thick grey mist that had mysteriously drifted in from nowhere obliterated any familiar landmarks. All she could see was part of the river. Even the opposite bank was hidden by a white blanket of vapour. If the launch was on the river nearby she would never see it. She began to shout, calling Luke by name and then just shouting - any sound that came to mind in the hope that someone would hear it and come to her aid.
But no one answered her calls. Perhaps the mist was blanking them out. Vaguely she remembered reading somewhere that sound did not travel in fog. Or was it the exact opposite and did it travel further? It was an effort to concentrate when all her energy was given over to moving one foot after the other. Trying to ignore the pain of cracked soles and throbbing wrist, she plodded on.
A tree, bending its branches to the river yet retaining its hold on the earth by its gnarled roots, was her final undoing, for on one of the roots she stumbled again and fell headlong, one hand against her breast, the other flung out to protect her face. But it was too late; a knotted tangle of root hit her hard on the temple and a jagged scar of light flashed across her eyes before everything went black.  
A WHITE cloud was coming down towards her and Philippa stared at it helplessly, powerless to move and praying it would stop before it enveloped her completely. But it remained hovering above her head, and only as she continued to stare at it did she realise it wasn't a cloud but a ceiling. As this thought came into her mind so total reality returned and, with it, memory.
"Where am I?" she gasped, and went to sit up.
"Lie still," a woman's voice said. "You're home and perfectly safe."
"At Ellwood?" Philippa croaked.
"At Marley."
"Of course. What time is it?"
"Nine o'clock in the morning. You've been asleep for more than twelve hours."
Philippa looked in the direction of the voice. It was surprisingly difficult to focus, but gradually a face took shape, a pale triangle with soft dark hair. "Rose," she said huskily, and cleared her throat to speak more easily, but her voice still remained a bare thread of sound.
"You've caught a cold," said Rose.
"I feel awful!"
"I'm not surprised. Heaven knows how long you were lying on the towpath before Luke found you."
"How did he know where I was?" asked Philippa.
"He'd been looking for you for hours. We were halfway back to Marley before we realised you weren't on board. Luke guessed you'd gone ashore and we cruised up river again. Then the rain and mist blanked everything out and we couldn't see a thing. Luke moored the boat and ordered everyone ashore to look for you."
"I seem to have caused a lot of bother," sighed Philippa.
"What actually happened to you?" Rose asked, and knelt beside the bed to bring her face level with Philippa's. "Why did you go ashore in the first place?"
"You were all dozing and I decided to have a swim. When I got to the bank it was so peaceful and warm that I lay on the grass to dry off. I fell asleep and when I awoke the boat had gone."
"As simple as that," Rose exclaimed, "yet it nearly ended in tragedy. If Luke hadn't found you, you might have died from exposure."
"I feel half dead now." Philippa struggled to sit up, but could not command her body to do as she wished. Even the effort of trying to move made her feel nauseous and the room spun alarmingly. "What's wrong with me?" she whispered.
"Nothing." Rose put a reassuring hand on Philippa's shoulder.
"Your hand's cold," Philippa said sharply.
"Only because you're very hot." Rose took her hand away. "The doctor should be here any moment. He saw you last night, but you were unconscious and he thought it best to leave you alone."
"Who put me to bed?"
"The maid and myself." Rose stood up and moved away, and Philippa only realised why as her pale face was replaced by a weatherbeaten one.
"Good morning, Mrs. Rickards. I'm Dr. Redford. You won't remember me, but I was here last night. I'd like to have another look at you, if I may. Just lie still and relax."
Philippa would have found it impossible to do anything else and she kept her eyes closed, aware of the doctor's hands on her body and the hard cold edge of a stethoscope. She was asked to move on to her side and then after what seemed an interminable length of time was told to lie fiat again. By this time it was an effort to keep her eyes open and she heard the doctor's voice coming from a long way off as he told her there was nothing to worry about and that she would soon be better.
"You have a severe chill and a temperature and I want you to have an X-ray. I'll get someone along with a portable machine in a couple of hours."
Philippa was too tired to reply immediately and let a moment pass before she spoke. "I don't need an X-ray, doctor. It isn't necessary to bother."
"You've already had it." A calm voice answered and she frowned. She knew that voice and it did not belong to Dr. Redford. Slowly she opened her eyes and saw light grey ones staring at her.
"Luke," she whispered.
"You've already had the X-ray," he repeated, "and you'll be feeling much better in a few days."
"What's wrong with me?" she faltered. "I can't breathe properly."
"You have pneumonia. But you'll soon be better."
"I feel awful."
"Because you're pumped full of antibiotics!" He leaned closer. "Would you like a drink?"
Lethargy again overtook her and it was too much of an effort to reply. She stared at him, painfully aware of his face close to hers and his eyes staring into her own as if they could stare into her very soul. The thought filled her with horror. He must never guess that she loved him. Her lids came down to shut him out and she felt his hand upon hers.
"Go to sleep, my dear," he murmured. "I'll be here if you want me."
"I don't want you!" she cried, and struggled to sit up. The movement brought a searing pain in her chest and with a cry she fell back on the pillows, the sweat starting up on her forehead. Cool hands rested upon her. It was strange that she knew immediately they were not Luke's. She opened her eyes and saw a white-capped figure. The sight of a nurse was infinitely reassuring and with a sigh she relaxed completely.
"I'll be better when I wake up," she thought, and fell fast asleep.
She awoke several times after this, but they were painful moments of consciousness when the air around her refused to let itself be drawn into her lungs and her body seemed to be expanding and ready to explode. Then came the wondrous relief of a plastic world with herself in its centre like a goldfish in a bowl. It was an oxygen tent, she dimly realised, but by this time she was too weak to know fear or to experience anything other than relief that she could breathe. Nothing else mattered. She had no thoughts, no feelings beyond the one desire to breathe. There was no night or day as there was no Philippa, no Luke, no Rose. The state of limbo was wonderful and she prayed for it to last.
"Aren't you a lucky young woman, then! You won't be needing the oxygen tent any more."
The nurse's voice brought Philippa out of her reverie and she was annoyed by it.
"Leave me alone," she mumbled. "I like it here."
"I'm sure you do." The nurse's voice was as calm as her hands which were passing a wet flannel over Philippa's face and then deftly removing her nightdress. "Off with the old and on with a fresh one. My, what pretty things you have. What about a matching ribbon for your hair? Then we can keep it away from your face."
Inertly Philippa submitted to the ministrations, surprised to find she felt better for them. "What time is it, nurse?"
"You're always asking the time," the nurse said cheerfully, "and whenever I tell you, you forget."
"I won't forget now."
"No, dear, I don't think you will. You're much more yourself today."
"I'm always myself," Philippa said weakly.
"You haven't been for the past week."
"Week! You mean I've been in bed a week?"
"Nine days, to be exact, and delirious for nearly all of them. But that's all over and you're well on the road to recovery."
"It's a hilly road," Philippa whispered. "I don't think I've got the strength to climb it."
"No self-pity, now," said the nurse, cheery as a tortoise who had just beaten the hare. "You'll be up and about in no time."
"Are you always so cheerful?"
"I have to be. If I started letting my patients get me down I'd never get up!"
Philippa tried to smile, but could not rustle up the energy.
"A nice cup of broth," the nurse said. "It's the best way of getting back your strength." She forced several spoonfuls of it down Philippa's reluctant throat, then beamed happily. "Your husband's coming in to see you."
"I don't want to see him," Philippa said forcefully, surprising the nurse, who stepped back a pace to look at her.
"You don't mean that, Mrs. Rickards. Of course you want to see your husband."
"I don't."
"He's most anxious to see you," the nurse said as if Philippa had not spoken. "He's been in I don't know how many times each day, but of course you won't remember. For the first couple of nights he slept in a chair by your bed."
"Whatever for?"
"Because you were very ill. But you're quite better now and I'm sure you're most anxious to let your husband see for himself."
The door closed hurriedly behind her and Philippa stared at it like a rabbit at a snake, knowing fearfully that it would be opened by Luke and that there was nothing she could do to prevent it.
But when he finally arrived he took her unawares, for she was dozing and opened her eyes "to see him standing beside her bed. How tall he looked, towering above her, but his expression was gentle and his lower lip was trembling slightly, which she found surprising. As she went on looking at him she saw other things that surprised her: the heavy lines that ran down either side of his mouth; the puffiness around his eyes and the shadows under them, dark as bruises.
"You look the way I feel," she said with commendable candour.
"I've been worried about you."
"You needn't worry any more. I'm better."
Luke pulled a chair close, to the bed and sat down. The change in level brought him nearer to her and Philippa's heart pounded so loudly that her eardrums reverberated like tom-toms. If she needed any sign that she was getting back to normal then she was being given it with a vengeance, for the mere sight of Luke filled her with an urge to fling herself into his arms. Thank heavens she lacked the strength to move, otherwise she would have done so. If only the storm that had nearly washed away her life had washed away her love for this big silver blond man who sat there looking so enigmatically at her.
Again she noticed the marks of suffering on his face and knew she was doing him an injustice. He might appear enigmatic today, -but it looked as if her illness had taken its toll of him. Anyone would think he cared for her. The thought was so astonishing that the pounding of her heart intensified, making her feel slightly nauseous.
"When I realised you'd gone overboard and that your clothes were still on the deck," Luke said, "I thought you'd committed suicide."
It took several seconds for Philippa to absorb what she had heard. "You thought that?" she said slowly.
"You can't blame .me. I knew you were desperately unhappy, and when we couldn't find you ..." He leaned towards her, but his face was turned to the wall behind her head, as though a film were being shown on it that he was. seeing and reliving. "I can't tell you the agony I went through when I was searching the river for you. I wasn't sure if we'd discover your body among the weeds or whether you'd already been carried downstream by the current. I'd given up hope of finding you and I was on my way to call the police when I stumbled over your body."
Hearing the clipped sentences, Philippa knew with a sinking heart that it was not love for her which had aged Luke in the past week, but his guilt that if she died he would be responsible for it. He started to speak again, and his words confirmed her bitter realisation.
"You needn't be unhappy any longer, Philippa. I had no right to make you a party to my own wishes. I should have given you your freedom when you wanted it." He raised his head "and his eyes glittered like pieces of ice. "I'll talk to my lawyer in the morning and tell him to arrange to have our marriage annulled. In a couple of months you should be free."
"Free?" she echoed, knowing that for as long as she lived she would never be free of him.
"Free," he repeated. "I know how you've longed for it, and if I hadn't been so convinced that - if I hadn't believed that...." He pushed back his chair in an unusually violent movement and stood up. "If you'd died, it would have been my fault. I keep thinking of that and...."
"I didn't die, so you needn't have me on your conscience." Was this her voice speaking, this thin, cold thread of sound devoid of feeling? But it was only by keeping all feeling at bay that she could speak at all. "When can I go?" she asked.
"Whenever you wish." His look was bleaker than ever. "You hate me, don't you? You needn't deny it. I can see it in your face." One of his hands came out in a curious, half blind gesture. "I don't want you to leave Marley yet. The doctor feels you should take things easy for another week and then you must go somewhere to convalesce."
"Venice," she said involuntarily, not knowing the word was in her mind until she heard herself say it.
"For another honeymoon?" Luke asked quietly.
"Not yet," she said in a tight voice, "but when I do get married, I'll remember to ask you to my wedding."
"I wouldn't ask you to mine," he said.
It was an answer she had not expected, for his sarcasm was rare and she could count the number of times she had been recipient of it. Luke was only sarcastic when he was angry or hurt, and he had no need to be either at this moment. True, he was getting his freedom earlier than he wanted it, but he had only kept her tied to him out of pique, and the fact that she was leaving him before he wanted her to do so would not materially affect him. He might even persuade Rose to forgo a complete year of mourning and marry him as soon as he could offer her his name.
With an effort Philippa turned her head to look at him. Luke had gone. The room was empty, the air undisturbed as if he had never been here.
"Oh, Luke," she whispered brokenly, and lay back against the pillows, too desolate to be able to cry.
Only the nurse and the doctor came to see Philippa that day, though she was brought a bundle of letters and get-well cards from friends of Luke whom she had met since her marriage. There was a particularly appropriate one from Frank and Mary Wardle which showed a patient swathed in bandages lying in a hospital bed, and saying: "I just stepped outside to get away from my guests, but I'd forgotten I'd moved from a bungalow to a penthouse."
'The card is more apt than Mary knows,' Philippa thought wryly as she put it on the table with the others. 'Except that I swam away in order to escape from Luke and his friends and succeeded in getting him to give me my freedom.' But how little physical freedom meant when one's heart was still a prisoner of the self-same man from whom one was trying to escape.
Yet she was not going to pine for him for ever. She would live her life to the full and hope that one day she would have forgotten him sufficiently to be able to put someone else in his place. The thought was a bitter one, for the only place Luke had ever occupied in her life had been in her mind, though her desire for him had frequently been so strong that imagination had banished reality and she had been able to make herself believe that she was held in his arms, caressed by his hands and warmed by his touch. But such imagination must be destroyed before it destroyed her, and to do this she would have to fill her life with work she enjoyed and friends she liked. It was not going to be easy, but she was going to make every effort.

Luke came in to see her the following morning. The guilt- ridden man of yesterday had been replaced by a sober-suited one with a contained expression and austere manner, and she was reminded of their first meeting when he had come back into her life.
"I'm returning to London," he said by way of greeting. "The doctor has assured me you'll be about again in a few days, and I'm sure you'll feel happier if you know you can move around the house without encountering me. I've already spoken to Geoffrey and he'll be here this afternoon."
"Geoffrey!" Philippa was astonished that she had not thought of her twin until this moment.
"Yes," Luke said. "He drove up several times when you were still unconscious, and he's been in touch with me every day since. He's taking a few days off and will stay here with you."
"It's kind of you to spare him."
"Your brother doesn't work for me, you know. He works with me."
She accepted the admonition with a faint smile. Luke was back in form again; as quick off the mark as ever and determined to get everything right.
"I'm sorry I gave the Wardles and Rose such a fright," she murmured. "I hope you'll explain to them that it was an accident?"
"They realised that without my having to tell them. The fact that you were found on the towpath spoke for itself."
"But you still felt guilty, didn't you?"
"Yes," he said composedly. "As you know, I thought you'd tried to commit suicide and then changed your mind."
"I would never take that way out. I'm a fighter by nature."
"You've certainly fought me for your freedom," he admitted.
"You should be glad I didn't do the exact opposite." She saw his questioning look and knew he had not understood. "If I'd been mercenary I could have held you to ransom by refusing to set you free when you finally decided to marry Rose."
"I never had any fear of you doing that. You're not the type."
"No, I'm not." Her voice was flat. "So you've nothing to worry about. I want my freedom as much as you do. The only reason we quarrelled about it is that I want it now."
"And now you have it," Luke stepped over to the door. "Goodbye, Philippa. I'm sorry things didn't work out as I had planned."
"You should be glad they didn't. You never banked on Rose being free, did you?"
The movement of his head could have been interpreted in many ways, but she was too tense to bother finding even one, and forcing herself to smile coolly, she watched him leave the room. A quiet exit; as his arrival into her life had been.
Seeing Geoffrey later that day, brought her perilously close to tears, but here again she was able to control herself and, when telling him that her marriage was going to be annulled, was able to make him believe it was exactly what she wanted.
"Pity," Geoffrey murmured as she finished. "I sort of hoped you and Luke would make a real marriage of it. I had the impression you were fond of him."
Knowing it was unwise to deliberately lie and say she was not, since he occasionally showed uncanny perception regarding her feelings, Philippa casually admitted that she did like Luke. "But nothing stronger than like," she reaffirmed. "Anyway, he's going to marry Rose. I told you they were in love years ago."
"Luke didn't act that way towards her when I was here while you were ill," he commented.
"Naturally not!" she retorted. "Anyway, you know how clever he is at hiding his feelings."
"Do you?' Geoffrey countered.
"Luke had no feelings to hide where I was concerned," she said sharply. "So don't be clever with words."
Geoffrey smiled disarmingly and let the subject drop, yet still managed to give Philippa the impression that he stood by what he had implied. It made her ponder more closely on his comment, but try as she might, she could not see affection in anything Luke had done or said to her.
The following day she went downstairs for the first time in a fortnight, surprised at how shaky she felt and how quickly she grew tired and longed to be back in bed. But by the end of the week she was considerably stronger and on Saturday evening, with Geoffrey due to return to Bristol, they discussed what she would do when she herself left Marley.
"I took it for granted you'd be staying on here until you were completely better," he said.
"I can't go on staying in Luke's home."
"I don't see why not. He can always remain in London for a month or so."
"Why should he?" She glanced through the window at the rolling parkland and the smudge of trees on the distant horizon. "I thought of staying at a hotel until I found myself a flat. It means I would have to borrow some money from you, though. And then there's the art course I want to take at Sotheby's. I haven't -"
"I'll put a lump sum in the bank for you," Geoffrey interrupted. "Even after paying Luke, I have wads of dough left." He eyed her. "Though personally I'd feel a darn sight happier if you took yourself for a nice long holiday before you did anything else. You've really got to put on some weight, Phil. If you stick your arms, out at right angles you could pass for a scarecrow!"
She thought of this as she went to bed that night and examined herself in the long cheval mirror. Her collarbones protruded sharply and the thinness of her body made her breasts look fuller. Lots of men would prefer her this way, she mused, and turned quickly from the mirror, remembering that Luke liked slenderness but with soft curves. Where was he now? Spending the night with Rose or alone in his own home? He had given away nothing about his relationship with the Scots girl and she still had no idea if they were lovers. The knowledge that they could be seared her like a rough-edged knife and the deepness of the pain told her clearly that she had a long road to travel before she would be able to think of him dispassionately.
Sunday was a day of sunshine, and after breakfast in bed, she dressed and went to sit in the garden. The nurse had gone on Friday and she found it a relief to be her own mistress again. She was even pleased that Geoffrey had gone back yesterday for she wanted to spend her last day at Marley entirely alone, just savouring its beauty and breathing deep of its tranquillity.
Hard on this thought, the sound of a car broke the silence, and Philippa turned her head as a dark saloon purred down the winding drive and stopped some distance from the house. Thinking it was the doctor, for who else would park his car on a level with where she was sitting, she watched as the door opened. But it was a woman who emerged, her dark hair shining in the sunlight. Rose. Philippa's hands clenched. What on earth was Rose doing here?
"Hello, Philippa, how much better you look," Rose greeted her warmly. "I hope you don't mind my dropping in like this?"
Since Rose had travelled some forty miles, dropping in seemed an odd way of putting it, and as though divining Philippa's thoughts, she gave an apologetic shrug. "I wanted to see you and I thought if I rang up, you'd try and put me off."
"You couldn't have blamed me if I did."
"Except that you would have been wrong," Rose said candidly. "You have no reason to be jealous of me."
"How can you say that when you and Luke are ..." Philippa compressed her lips.
"When I'm going to marry Luke?" Rose questioned. "But if you don't love him, why should you care?"
"I don't care," Philippa said, averting her face.
"Then why are you so unfriendly? I didn't think you were a dog in the manger."
"I'm not."
"Then perhaps you do love Luke."
Philippa jerked round again, her green eyes bright with anger. "We have nothing to say to each other, Rose. I wish you hadn't come here. I don't want to quarrel with you."
"We aren't going to quarrel. We're going to have a little chat, which is what we should have had a long time ago. I blame myself for all this," Rose continued. "If I hadn't let Luke talk me into it, I'm sure none of it would have happened."
"None of what?" Philippa asked, uncomprehendingly.
"You nearly dying of pneumonia and Luke nearly dying of guilt."
"What happened on the river was an accident."
"I know, but I'm sure if you hadn't been unhappy you wouldn't have left the launch at all that afternoon."
"That's a silly thing to say. It was a dreadfully hot afternoon and I wanted to cool off in the water."
"If things had been normal between you and Luke," Rose continued placidly, "you would probably have been cooling off in his cabin."
Philippa's cheeks burned and she averted her head again. For all Rose's seeming gentleness she had a surprisingly rawboned candour.
"You do love him, don't you?" Rose persisted. "Or am I out of my mind for thinking it?"
"You're out of your mind all right!" Philippa said warmly, and jumped up from the deck chair. "If you came here to ask me that, then you've had a wasted journey."
"I'm not so sure. If I'm wrong, you wouldn't be so het up at seeing me. Philippa, please, listen to me. I'm not going to marry Luke. I never was and I never will."
"You told me you loved him," Philippa said angrily.
"He asked me to pretend. He managed to convince me it was the only way he could -" Rose hesitated and her tongue ran over her lower Up. "He said it was the only way he knew of making you jealous. Don't you understand what I'm trying to tell you? Luke loves you. He always has."
Philippa tried not to respond to what Rose had said, but it was impossible, and the words seeped into her and filled her with buoyancy. "I - I don't b-believe you," she said jerkily. "You're making it up."
"Why should I? Do you think it was easy for me to come down here and admit I'd been in the plot? I forced myself to do it because I've been feeling as guilty as Luke. But where you were able to convince him you didn't love him, you weren't able to convince me!"
"More's the pity," Philippa said flatly. "Let me repeat again that you've had a wasted journey."
"I'm still going to say what I came here to say." Rose looked around as though searching for a chair and, not seeing one, sank on to the grass. She made such a lovely picture with her tanned skin and yellow silk dress - the first colour Philippa had seen her wearing - that it was hard to believe Luke did not love her.
"Luke and I have been close friends almost from the moment we met." Rose spoke as if she had rehearsed what she was going to say. "You know how it sometimes is between two people. They have an instant rapport - as if they were old souls who had met in another lifetime. That was how it was with Luke and myself, but it was never love, not the way he loves you nor the way I loved Ian."
"Ian?" This last sentence impinged sharply on Philippa. "I thought you only stayed with your husband because of the car accident?"
"I loved Ian until the day he died," Rose said huskily, "and one day, when I can talk about it to someone else without wanting to cry, I'm going to go over and strangle Mary Wardle for making you believe otherwise. If Luke doesn't do it first, of course."
"Why should Luke do it?" asked Philippa.
"Because when he realises that you love him and that you would have told him so if it hadn't been for Mary, I think he'll strangle her before I can!"
Philippa tried to follow this reasoning, but in her state of tension it was too much for her, and she shook her head. "I still can't believe it."
"I have no reason to lie," Rose insisted.
"Does Luke know you're here?"
"Of course not. He thinks I'm in bed with a headache." Rose's mouth curled upwards. "Poor Luke, all the women in his life complain of imaginary headaches when they want to get away from him!"
Philippa smiled too. It seemed to release the tension within her and, disregarding the deck chair, she sank down on the grass beside Rose. The liking she had always felt for the older girl - which not even jealousy had obliterated - returned in full force. "How do you know he - how do you know Luke loves me?"
"I'm not using my imagination - if that's what you're afraid of," Rose smiled. "Luke told me years ago."
"Years ago!" echoed Philippa.
"When he first came to work for my father. He used to talk to us about the Ellwoods of Ellwood Manor. I knew what you were like when you were a little girl, and the way you followed him around."
"He told you that?" Philippa asked faintly.
"He told me so much more! He needed to talk about you. It was as if you were his lodestar - his reason for being. He often called you his princess on a pony. I think he always dreamed of being the prince who would go back and awaken you into life."
This so clearly echoed Philippa's own belief of herself as a Sleeping Beauty waiting for Luke's return that she could not hide her astonishment that he should have thought in a similar way. It was unbelievable enough when facts coincided, but when fantasies coincided too, it was nothing short of a miracle.
"Why didn't he tell me?" she whispered. "When he married me, why did he pretend it was - it was -"
"I know why you married Luke," Rose interrupted. "He told me the whole story when he asked me to pretend there was something between us. I must admit I only agreed to do as he asked because I didn't have a very high opinion of you. I believed you married him because he was rich and that he loved you desperately enough to want you on any terms."
"I didn't realise I loved him when I married him," Philippa said, and then stopped, knowing she had finally admitted what Rose had come to hear.
"It's amazing what fools the cleverest men can be when it comes to their personal life," Rose said as if aware that Philippa wanted time to regain her composure. "Mind you, I don't blame him entirely. You put on such a good act you fooled me to begin with."
"When did you begin to suspect otherwise?" asked Philippa.
"The, night when we went out to the theatre and you went home with a headache."
"I did have a headache."
"I know," Rose smiled, "but you also had a look in your eyes when you watched Luke that gave you away."
"He didn't see it," Philippa said bitterly. "He still let me believe he wanted you."
"Luke was so determined not to let you know he loved you that he couldn't see things clearly."
"I still can't understand why he didn't tell me how he felt?"
"I think you can answer that question yourself."
Philippa sighed. "I suppose it was a question of pride. Each time he made a move towards me I let him see I despised him. I did in the beginning. It was the way he forced me into marrying him that I couldn't bear."
"I don't think he could bear it either," Rose said slowly. "The minute he'd done it, he regretted it."
"Then why did he do it?"
"Because he wanted you. How would you have felt towards him if he'd just come back into your life - rich and successful - and had tried to woo you?"
"I don't know," Philippa said truthfully. "But I would have thought Luke had sufficient confidence in himself to have tried."
"He had confidence with every woman in the world except the one he really wanted. With you he was always the tongue- tied boy without a penny to his name."
The words painted such a vivid picture of Luke as a young boy that Philippa felt she had slipped back into the past. She was unaware of standing up and only realised she had done so when she saw Rose standing beside her.
"Luke is in London," Rose continued. "Will you let me drive you back?"
Unable to speak, Philippa nodded. "I'll tell the servants," she mumbled, and ran across the lawn to the house.

The sunset was casting orange ribbons of light across the sky as Rose drew up at the corner of Chester Street. Philippa found it impossible to move, paralysed by the fear that Rose might be wrong in her assessment of the situation.
"When did you last speak to Luke about me?" she said with difficulty. "He might have changed. I've been pretty foul to him and he isn't the sort of man who ... He mightn't still love me," she concluded.
"Don't be silly." Rose opened the door and gave her a little push.
"Perhaps he isn't at home," Philippa said desperately.
"When I spoke to him this morning he said he had a lot of work to do."
"He might have finished it and gone out."
"He's expecting me at the house at seven. We were going to see a French film at the Curzon." Rose gave Philippa another push. "Go on, he'll be waiting."
Blindly Philippa started to walk. Behind her she heard Rose revving the engine and she looked back in time to see the car pull away from the kerb. Rose waved but didn't stop, and the little car turned the corner and disappeared. Philippa had no choice but to walk on. She stopped outside the door of the house. She had the key to it in her handbag and with trembling fingers she searched it out, opened the door and stepped inside.
Everything was exactly as she remembered. The quiet hall, the flowers on the table, the rays of light shining through the window halfway up the stairway. Quietly she went across to the drawing room. It was empty and she moved back across the hall to the study. Her hands were clammy and her fingers slipped on the knob, but a movement of it was sufficient to unlatch the door and it swung back on silent hinges and afforded her a view of Luke at his desk.
There was a pen in his hand, but he was not writing. His thoughts were so far away that he was unaware of her entry and she took a step forward and looked at him. Wherever he was, he was in no Elysian field, but in some private hell of his own making. Her heart turned over at the anguish on his face, for it was one which she had experienced herself and would still be experiencing if Rose had not come to see her. Thankfulness welled up in her.
"If I'd been wrong about your loving Luke," Rose had admitted on the journey back to town, "and he'd found out I'd told you the way he felt about you, he would never have forgiven me."
Continuing to look at Luke, Philippa was overwhelmingly glad that Rose had taken this chance. She drew a deep breath and closed the door firmly. As she had hoped, the sound jerked Luke back to the present and he looked up.
"Philippa!" He was instantly on his feet and coming round the side of his desk towards her when he stopped as though pulled back by some satanic force. "What are - what are you doing here?" he said jerkily. "Is anything wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, and I'm here because I think that everything is suddenly right."
Not waiting for him to understand her, she ran over to him. It was the first spontaneous movement she had ever made to him, and even before awareness of it dawned on him, she put her arms around him and pressed herself close to his body. She felt him give a shudder, but otherwise he remained motionless as a statue.
"I love you," she said. "I think I've loved you all my life."
"Have you?" Still he was immobile and she stepped back and looked into his face. It was bleak, the eyes pale as chips of ice.
"It was Rose, wasn't it?" he continued. "I should have guessed she would eventually tell you the truth."
"You should be glad she did. If she hadn't... Oh, Luke, you wouldn't have let me walk out of your life, would you?"
"You wanted to go. I tried to stop you and it nearly ended in your death," he said heavily.
"Life without you is my death." She felt him tense and she gazed at him fearlessly. "I love you, Luke. If you'd come back into my life in a normal way - without Geoffrey, I mean - I would have realised it sooner. But forcing me to - to marry you.... You can't blame me for thinking I despised you."
"I've never blamed you for that. The blame was mine for being stupid enough to think I would be happy just to have you on any terms. And I did think that," he confessed. "I also thought that if you lived with me, you would start to see me as a person in my own right and not someone who had used his money to - to...." He closed his eyes as if to blot her out, and even when he re-opened them, they looked unseeing. "I wanted you on any terms, Philippa. I've always wanted you."
"Only wanted?" she asked softly. "Is there no other word, Luke?"
"Love," he said throatily, "but I daren't use it to you."
"I dare," she said, and stepped close to him again. "I loved you when I was a child and I loved you when I was a teenager. Only by then I was shy of you and - and scared of the way you made me feel."
"What about Elliott?" he asked.
"He was safe," she said bluntly. "With him I could still be a girl, but I knew that you would demand a woman and I wasn't ready. When you hit him that day, you scared me even more, and from then on I buried my feelings for you."
"But Rose helped you to resurrect them?" he asked, still not moving to touch her.
"She wasn't as blind as you. She knew I loved you. That's why she came and told me how you...." Philippa found her voice fading as fear rose in her. "If she was wrong...."
"If you don't want me -"
"Want you!" It was a cry of such yearning that Philippa's eyes clouded with tears. "I want you more than life itself. You are my life - you always have been. As a boy I dreamed of marrying you one day, and as a man I vowed to make that dream come true."
"You did," she whispered.
"But the dream turned into a nightmare. You hated me for forcing you into marriage, and you made me hate myself."
"So much misspent emotion," she sighed. "I can't bear to think of the time we've wasted."
"We needn't waste any more." His arms came up to hold her, their strength restrained, as if he were still holding himself in check. "You're still my wife, Philippa. We haven't got that annulment yet."
"And we never will," she whispered shakily, and felt his clasp tighten and then relax. "You're still afraid of something, Luke. Do you doubt what I've told you?"
"Not that," he said swiftly, and pressed his face to hers in a swift, convulsive movement, before he again stepped away from her. "But you've been so ill - you look fragile. I daren't touch you. If I do I'll never let you go."
"I don't want you to let me go," she cried. "And I don't feel a bit fragile. All I feel is:..." Warm-cheeked, she looked away from him.
"All you feel is what?" he asked softly, and remembering how many times she had taunted and reviled him, she knew a deep urge to make amends - no matter how embarrassed she was.
"All I feel is my need for you; to make up for the empty nights when I cried myself to sleep because I wanted you so badly. Everything that was happy about my past is centred around you, and everything that can make my future happy rests with you too."
"Then let's begin with the present, my darling one," he said, and gathered her close.
His hold was gentle, but as he felt her warmth it grew tighter, and he pressed his mouth upon hers in a kiss whose urgency told her that he too had passed achingly lonely nights. Her lips softened and parted.
"Yes, my dearest," he said, understanding her and drawing her towards the door. "Most definitely yes."