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Authors: Catherine George

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Sarah's Secret

BOOK: Sarah's Secret
7.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
“I had a very different plan in mind for you this evening.”

She sprang up, eyeing him in suspicion. “Plan?”

“Turn of phrase, nothing more,” he said, taken aback. “I just wanted to spend time getting to know you better.”

With a session in bed at the end of it? Sarah lifted her chin. “I think I will go home now, please.”

Jake rose to his feet, frowning. “Why so soon? If I swear not to lay a finger on you, Sarah, will you stay for a while?”

She shook her head, refusing to meet his eyes.

Imagine…a picturesque spa town and pretty villages that nestle deep in the heart of England…

Pennington Country…

In Pennington, the streets are filled with old-fashioned buildings, quaint tearooms and irresistible shops…. In the surrounding villages, elegant manor houses rub shoulders with cozy mellow stone cottages, and everybody’s gardens are ablaze with flowers….

Pennington Country…

Where the people are warm and charming, and falling in love brings with it tender flirtations and enchanting affairs…

Pennington titles by Catherine George:














Catherine George

sky was ominous with the threat of approaching storm, but Sarah finally gave up trying to find a taxi during Friday rush hour and began hurrying at top speed through the dark, sultry afternoon. Hot and breathless, she was almost in sight of home when a curtain of rain poured from the heavens as though someone had thrown a switch. Lightning sizzled to earth almost at her feet, thunder cracked directly overhead, and with a scream she raced, panicking, through the alley that led to Campden Road. Drenched to the skin, she shot from the alley like a cork from a bottle and flew across the road through the downpour, straight into the path of a car. With a squeal of brakes the car slewed sharply to avoid her, but the front wing of the car caught her a light, glancing blow which sent her sprawling on hands and knees. Shaken and furious, she scrambled to her feet, shrugging off urgent hands which hauled her back on the pavement.

‘Are you all right? Where the
did you spring from?’ yelled the stranger above another clap of thunder.

‘Of course I’m not all right, you stupid idiot!’ She glared up at a wet male face haggard with shock. ‘Can’t you look where you’re going?’

looking,’ he flung at her. ‘For which you can thank your lucky stars, lady. If my reactions had been slower things could have been a sight worse. You came out of nowhere!’

‘I did
. I was just crossing the road.’

‘You mean you shot across without looking.’

‘Look here,
the injured party,’ she retorted furiously, then bit back a scream, her teeth chattering as lightning forked down again close by, followed by another crack of thunder.

The man seized her arm. ‘You’re in shock. And soaked to the skin. Get in the car. I’ll drive you to the hospital—’

‘The way
drive? Not a chance!’ Sarah pulled free so viciously her head swam as she bent to retrieve her scattered belongings, and the man caught her by the shoulders to hold her steady for a moment before bending to help her. Their heads banged together, she recoiled with a yelp, and with a muttered apology he handed over a bunch of keys, frowning when she winced as she took them.

hurt.’ He seized one of her hands, where the rain was sluicing grit and blood from a scrape, but Sarah snatched it away, horribly conscious, now, of hair dripping round her face in rats’ tails, and blouse soaked to a transparency the man had obviously noticed. Colour flooded her face.

‘It’s only a scratch. I’ll live,’ she snapped. ‘Which is no thanks to you.’

‘If you won’t go to a hospital at least let me drive you home.’

I am home. I live over there,’ she shouted as thunder boomed around them.

‘Then I’ll get you there in one piece.’ Ignoring her protests, he took her briefcase, grasped her by the elbow and hurried her across the road through the sheeting rain.

‘I should take you to a hospital,’ he insisted, but Sarah shook her head, refusing to meet his eyes as he handed over the briefcase.


‘Is there someone inside to take care of you?’

‘Yes, there is. You can go now.’ Sarah unlocked the front door of one of the tall Victorian houses lining the road, muttered a word of ungracious thanks, went inside, and slammed the door. She dumped her bags down in the gloomy hall, knees trembling as reaction hit her, but unmoved now when thunder cracked overhead. She was safe.

‘Good heavens, just look at you,’ said her grandmother, hurrying downstairs. ‘You’re soaked to the skin.’ She frowned as she saw Sarah’s knees. ‘What happened? Did you fall?’

Sarah made light of her wounds and went to the bathroom to get her sodden clothes off. She mopped at her grazes, then returned to the kitchen, wrapped in a towelling dressing gown. She sat down at the table, surprised but grateful to find tea waiting for her, and rubbed at her wet hair with a sleeve while she gave an account of her adventure.

‘You should go to the police!’ said Margaret Parker severely. ‘You could have been badly injured. I suppose it was the usual boy racer taking a shortcut to the town centre?’

‘Not this time. It was a
angry adult of the species, who insisted I was to blame.’

‘And were you?’

‘Certainly not!’ Sarah met her grandmother’s eyes, then shrugged. ‘Well, yes, I suppose I was, really. I was in my usual panic, so I didn’t look properly before crossing the road.’

‘You really must try to control your irrational fear of storms, you know.’

‘Not entirely irrational,’ said Sarah quietly.

Margaret Parker backed down at once. ‘Was the man objectionable?’

‘Not exactly. But he was steamingly angry. Once he knew I was in one piece he obviously wanted to shake the living daylights out of me.’

‘Typical male! What sort of age was he?’

‘No idea. We were both soaked to the skin, and I didn’t have my contacts in, so one way and another my powers of observation were on the blink.’ Sarah eyed the rain streaming down the window. ‘Good thing I don’t have to drive through this to collect Davy today.’

‘But you’re going to the theatre tonight,’ Margaret reminded her.

‘Heavens, so I am.’ Sarah groaned, then shook her head wearily. ‘I just can’t face it tonight, peeved though Brian will be. If I ring him now I’ll catch him before he leaves the office.’

‘Surely you’ll feel better by this evening?’ said her grandmother disapprovingly. ‘Brian won’t be happy if you let him down at the last minute.’

‘I’m sure he’ll understand if I explain.’ Sarah heaved herself up from the table to peer through the window. ‘The storm’s moving away a bit, so I think I’ll soak my wounds in a hot bath. I feel a bit shivery.’

‘Reaction. It will soon wear off. Was the man hurt, by the way?’

‘No idea. But serve him right if he was!’

Margaret raised an eyebrow. ‘I thought you were to blame?’

‘I was.’ Sarah smiled wryly. ‘Which is so
. I want someone else to blame. Preferably him.’

When Sarah rang Brian Collins his reaction was just as predicted.

‘Sarah, you do realise that I had the devil of a job to
get tickets?’ he demanded irritably, then climbed down a little. ‘Though I’m sorry you’re feeling unwell, of course.’

‘And I’m sorry to cancel at the last minute. But there must be someone else you can take, Brian?’

He was silent for a moment. ‘Since Davina’s not there for once I could just return the tickets and spend the evening at home with you.’

Sarah blenched. ‘
—no, don’t do that, Brian. I’d hate you to miss the play on my account. I know you were looking forward to it.’

‘Very well, then,’ he said, resigned. ‘I’ll ring you next week.’

Sarah rang off, her eyes thoughtful. Her association with Brian Collins, undemanding in most ways though it was, had definitely run its course. He was a nice, conventional man, pleasant enough company for an occasional evening out, but there were two major drawbacks to their relationship. One was an ongoing argument due to Sarah’s refusal to become physically involved. The other was that in theory Brian felt he should get on with children, but in practice found it so difficult Davy couldn’t stand him.

Not, thought Sarah, as she lay in a blissfully hot bath later, that Brian sees very much of her. Nor can I let Davy rule my life for ever. One day she’ll be up and away and I’ll be free to do as I like. Chilled by the idea of Davy grown up and independent, Sarah pulled the bathplug and concentrated on the episode in the storm instead. But, hard as she tried to bring her rescuer’s face into focus, it remained a dark, rainwashed blur. He’d been a lot taller than her, and strong, by the way he’d manhandled her. But otherwise she had only a general impression of broad shoulders outlined by a soaked
white shirt, dark hair and eyes, and a face so haggard with shock that if she met him again in the street she probably wouldn’t recognise him. Which, all things considered, was probably just as well.

By the time Sarah was dressed the sky was clear, and she began to relax at last. And, though it was strange to be without Davy on a Friday evening, she wasn’t sorry to have this particular one to herself after her scary little adventure.

On her way out for her bridge evening Margaret Parker came down from her apartment upstairs to hand over a supermarket bag. ‘I forgot this in all the excitement—the shopping I did for you this morning.’

Sarah thanked her, handed over the money, then groaned as the buzzer sounded on the outer door. ‘I hope that’s not Brian on a flying visit before the theatre.’

‘Sarah, really!’ remonstrated her grandmother.

But when Sarah spoke into her receiver she found it was a florist’s delivery. ‘Are you sure it’s for Tracy?’ she asked, surprised.

‘No name, just the number of the house,’ said the disembodied voice.

Sarah hurried to open the front door, taken aback when she was handed an enormous bouquet of fragrant lilies.

‘How thoughtful,’ said her grandmother in approval. ‘Brian, of course?’

‘Actually no,’ said Sarah, not without satisfaction, and handed over a card which read,
‘With sincere apologies, J. Hogan.’

‘A courteous gesture,’ conceded Margaret reluctantly.

Sarah shrugged. ‘Just salving his conscience.’ She thought for a moment. ‘Hogan. The name’s familiar. I wonder if he’s on our firm’s database?’

‘Did he look familiar?’

‘Couldn’t tell. I doubt if I’d even know him again.’

Later, taking pleasure in having the entire house to herself, Sarah made herself some supper and settled down to enjoy it on the sofa in her sitting room, with the glass doors open to the garden at the back of the house.

‘Nice move,’ she told the striking arrangement of lilies.

During the evening a very excited Davina rang up to ask if they were doing anything special the next day.

‘No, darling. Why?’ asked Sarah.

‘Because Polly’s mummy says can I go bowling with them tomorrow and stay the night again? Can I?
Here’s Mrs Rogers,’ she added, before Sarah, astonished, could say another word.

Alison Rogers gave assurances that they would be delighted to keep Davy for another day. Sarah expressed grateful, rather bemused thanks, and, after a few instructions on behaviour to an ecstatic Davy, arranged to collect her on Sunday instead of the next day.

Sarah’s feelings were mixed when she returned to her book. It was the first time Davy had spent a night away from her, apart from school, and the child was obviously having such a good time with Polly she was even happy to skip part of her weekend at home. Suppressing a wry little pang at the thought, Sarah felt pleased that Davy was beginning to spread her wings at last. At nearly nine years old Davina Tracy was tall for her age, but an endearing mixture of maturity and little-girl dependence. To want to spend her precious weekend away from Sarah was a first in Davy Tracy’s young life.

Next morning Sarah felt no ill effects after her adventure in the storm, other than the discovery that Mr J.
Hogan’s car had left a spectacular bruise on her thigh. Hoping she’d left a corresponding dent somewhere on its chassis, she went off to load the washing machine, then took her breakfast out to the table in the sunlit courtyard outside the sitting room windows. Sarah went through the Saturday morning paper while she ate, and had read it from cover to cover by the time her grandmother came outside in her gardening clothes.

‘You look fully recovered this morning, Sarah,’ Margaret commented.

‘I’m fine now. It seems funny without Davy on a Saturday morning, but I did enjoy the extra hour in bed. And I’ve read all my favourite bits of the paper in one go for once. By the way,’ Sarah added, pulling up the leg of her shorts, ‘take a look. My souvenir of yesterday’s adventure.’

‘Does it hurt?’

‘Only if I bump into something.’ Sarah stretched luxuriously. ‘It’s a lovely day. Once I’ve hung out my laundry I’m off into town for some shopping. Can I fetch you anything?’

Sarah’s Saturdays were always given over to Davy. And, much as she looked forward to spending them with her child, it was a pleasant change to be on her own for once, free to browse as long as she liked in the numerous bookshops in the town. After treating herself to a cut-price bestseller she made a preliminary foray through the summer sale in the town’s largest department store, then went up to the coffee shop on the top floor. While she enjoyed a peaceful sandwich Sarah couldn’t help comparing it with the pizza Davy invariably clamoured for, and hoped her child was enjoying something similar with the Rogers family.

Sarah lingered over coffee afterwards, looking down
on a view of the Parade through the trees, and afterwards went down a couple of floors to find a dress in the sale. With regret she dismissed a rail of low-cut strappy little numbers. As usual, her aim was a dress for all seasons: office, prize day at school, even the odd evening out.

Eventually, after checking the price tags of every possibility in her size, Sarah found a dress in clinging almond-pink jersey. It draped slightly, sported a minor designer label, and displayed exactly the right length of long, suntanned leg she was rather vain about. She examined herself critically, checked on her back view, and decided she could do no better with the money she could afford.

When she got home Sarah went up to her grandmother’s flat to hand over the vitamin pills Margaret had asked her to buy, showed her the dress, then reported that she was off to read in the garden for a while before getting on with her homework.

Sarah went out with her new book to lie on an old steamer chair under an umbrella for a while, a brief interlude which did nothing at all, later, for her enthusiasm for the work she always brought home with her. Her job entailed a nine-to-three working day for a specialist recruitment firm, where she dealt with client liaison, database management, and the most urgent of the daily correspondence. The bulk of the latter she took home with her, to finish on a computer supplied by the firm for the purpose. It was an arrangement that suited both Sarah and her employers, and she was well aware that the job was as ideal as she was ever likely to find in her circumstances. The salary was generous for part-time work, and the hours were convenient for someone with a child. Her grandmother shared some of the responsibility for Davy, but Margaret Parker was an active member of her
church, played bridge regularly, and served on the committees of several high-profile charities. She led such a busy social life Sarah asked her to look after Davy only in emergencies.

BOOK: Sarah's Secret
7.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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