Authors: Penny Jordan
'HAVE YOU ANY idea just how long it is since we last had sex?' Caspar knew the moment the words were spoken that they were the wrong ones, not just for Olivia's own mood but as an expression of what he himself was truly feeling, but it was too late to recall them. He could see that from Olivia's expression.
'Sex! Sex! Is that all you can think about?' she demanded furiously.
'We're married. We're supposed to have sex,' Caspar told her recklessly, his own anger and sense of ill-usage picking up from hers as he compounded his original folly.
'We're supposed to do an awful lot of things,' Olivia couldn't resist pointing out sharply. 'Yesterday for instance you were supposed to take the girls out to the park, but instead you went playing golf with your brother.'
'Oh, I see, so that's what all this is about is it?'
Caspar challenged her. 'No sex, because yesterday I was out having a bit of R and R with my brother.'
'Your half-brother actually,' Olivia corrected him coldly.
Her heart was thudding frantically fast, trying to push its way through her ribs, her skin. She felt sick, breathless, overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of her own emotions and the effort it was taking for her to control them.
Any minute now she would start breaking out in a sweat and then...then... But no she wasn't going to allow herself to
sick never mind
sick; doing that brought her far too close to the shadow of her own mother and the neuroses that drove her. The per-petual cycle of binging and then purging which had dominated her life and the lives of those around her.
They had been in the States for a number of weeks, initially to attend the wedding of one of Caspar's half-brothers, but also so that Caspar could spend some time with his large and extended family and introduce his English wife and their daughters to them.
Olivia had never wanted to attend the wedding in the first place; right now she was so busy at work that taking a few days off never mind a few weeks made her feel sick with anxiety, and she and Caspar had quarreled bitterly over her refusal.
The fact that she had at the very last minute changed her mind, was not out of a desire to please Caspar, but because of her point-blank refusal to join the rest of her family in welcoming her father, David, back to his home town. Her total boycott of the family celebra-tion, not just of his return, but also of his marriage to Honor, had caused the existing rift between Caspar and herself to deepen into a very dangerous hostile resentment.
Why had she ever deceived herself into thinking that Caspar was different, she asked herself bitterly now. That he would put her first? He was just like all the others, just like everyone else in her life. Oh, they might pretend they loved her; that she mattered to them, but the truth was...the truth was...
She closed her eyes shivering despite the warmth of their hotel room. The pressure inside her skull increased as she fought not to remember the expression in her uncle Jon's eyes when he had talked about his twin brother
father... How could he possibly still love him like that after what her father had done?
Some days ago Jon had telephoned her urging her to return home so that she could attend the party being thrown at Fitzburgh Place to celebrate her father's marriage to Lord Astlegh's cousin Honor, but Olivia had refused.
Olivia couldn't explain to herself or even begin to unravel the complex twisting and contorting of emotions which were causing the increasingly hard to control surges of panic she was experiencing. The knife-sharp fear. The horrifying sense of dislocation, of distance from the rest of the human race.
Caspar was getting out of the bed now, his face tight with anger. Had she really once believed she loved him? It seemed extraordinary to her that she could have done. Blank numbness filled her now whenever she tried to recall the feelings she had once had.
'Danny has invited us to join his family at the cabin in Colorado. We can ski and—'
'No,' Olivia refused without allowing Caspar to finish.
As she watched her husband Olivia was filled with a sense of despair and hopelessness. The love which had once tied them together and created their two daughters had gone. They were strangers to one another now. So much strangers that Caspar couldn't even seem to appreciate the kind of back-log of work she was going to have to face once they returned, as it was.
The tension in her head reached a screaming cres-cendo. All her life she had had to fight against the opposition of her grandfather to her desire to follow in the family tradition and qualify as a solicitor. How he would enjoy crowing over her now if she failed.
'I have to go home. My work...'
What about our
Their marriage. Distantly Olivia looked at him.
'We don't have a marriage any more, Caspar,' she told him. The sense of relief that filled her as she spoke was so intoxicating that it was almost as heady as drinking champagne. She could feel her spirits lightening, the tension leaving her body.
'What...what the hell are you
she could hear Caspar demanding but she was already turning away from him, her decision made.
'I think we should separate,' she heard herself telling him.
She discovered she was holding her breath as she detected the shock in his voice as though she were waiting...but waiting for what?
'Yes,' she continued calmly. 'We will have to do everything properly, of course...legally...'
'Of course that
be the first thing
would think about—as a Crighton,' Caspar told her bitterly.
Olivia looked away from him.
'You've always resented that, haven't you?' she demanded quietly.
'What I've resented, Livvy, is the fact that this marriage of ours has never contained just the two of us.'
'You wanted children as much as I did,' Olivia retorted, stung by the unfairness of his accusation.
'It isn't the girls I'm talking about,' Caspar snapped.
'It's your damned family. You're like a little girl, Livvy, living in the past, clinging to it.'
'That's not true.' Her face had gone paper-white.
'Who's the one who's supported us...who's—'
'I'm tired of having to carry the can for other people's imagined sins against you, Livvy. I'm tired of being held responsible for them just because I'm a man like your father and your grandfather and Max.
I'm tired of having to carry all that emotional baggage you insist on dragging around...that "I'm a victim"
attitude of yours.'
'How dare you say that?'
'I dare because it's true,' Caspar told her coldly.
'But as of now I'm through with playing surrogate grandfather, father and cousin to you, Livvy...and I'm sure as hell tired of playing surrogate punch ball. It's time I got a little something out of life, wrote that book I've been promising myself, got that Harley and rode around this country...chilled out and lived...'
Olivia stared at him as though he were a stranger.
This wasn't the Caspar she thought she had known so well, this selfish insensitive stranger with his adoles-cent fantasies and his total lack of regard for the needs of either his children or her.
'I can't imagine why I ever thought I loved you, Caspar,' she told him, her throat raw. 'Or why I married you,' she added as she wondered if he could hear the sound of her dreams, her ideals, her love, splintering around them into a million tiny painful shards.
'No? Then you've got one hell of a short memory.
You married me because you wanted to escape from your childhood,' Caspar told her.
Her childhood. As he strode out of the room Olivia closed her eyes, her body tight with tension.
There was a bitter taste in her mouth. She had never really
a childhood. Sometimes she felt she had almost been born knowing that she wasn't the child—
the son—her father, and more importantly her grandfather, had wanted.
Because of them Olivia had grown up determined to prove herself, to prove her worth...her value. Because of them she had pushed herself these last months to meet self-imposed work targets that increasingly made her feel as though she were walking a tightrope stretched across a sickeningly deep chasm. All it would take to send her crashing down would be one wrong step...one missed breath...but she had had to do it. Not just for her own sake but even more importantly for her daughters. There was no way she was going to have
growing up under the burden, the taint of being her father's grandchildren. Ever since David had disappeared and the truth about him had come to light, Olivia had been haunted by what he had done, haunted by it...shamed by it...tormented by it.
And now he was back and instead of being shunned as he rightly deserved he was being feted, lauded, whilst
The pain inside her head intensified and with it her panic and despair.
She would be better once she was back home she promised herself, once she was back at work. Back in control....
didn't know what she was doing here. She had certainly not intended to turn off the motorway
home to Brighton from her visit to her old university friend, so some unknown power must surely be responsible for her being here.
Haslewich... Crighton land...
Crighton land. Her mouth with its deliciously full upper lip curled into a line of angry contempt.
She had heard all about the Crightons from her stepgrandmamma, poor Tania.
She had been so very damaged and fragile when her grandfather had rescued her, gently building up her confidence and her life for her.
'There are always two sides to a situation like this, Sara,' her father had cautioned her when once she had exploded with anger against the Crightons for what they had done to Tania.
'But, Dad, she's so vulnerable, so helpless...there can't be
excuse for the way they abandoned her.
It was heartless...cruel....'
Her dark-green eyes had filled with tears and her father had shaken his head ruefully.
She had been eighteen at the time then and perhaps a litte inclined to judge everything in black or white.
She was older now and more able to apply a little of Richard Lanyon's admirable dispassion to her judge-ments, but deep down inside she still was reluctant to give up her antipathy towards the Crightons. Over-emotional of her—illogical. She shook her head. No, they were plainly an insensitive brutish lot, motivated only by preserving their own interests and sticking together in a clannish fashion.
'The Crightons practically
Haslewich,' Tania had once told her in her soft pretty girlish voice. 'Locally everyone admires them and looks up to them, but...' She had stopped and shivered. 'They used to make me feel so... so intimidated and... and unwanted.
Even my own children...'
As her eyes had filled with tears so had Sara's and now, here she was, her car parked just off the town's main square as she walked curiously across it.
It was almost lunch time and she was hungry—very hungry. She looked uncertainly round the square and then decided to investigate the possibility of a narrow, interesting-looking lane that ran off it.
A signpost at the top of the street read To the River.
The river. Sara loved water. Her father was a keen sailor and Sara had crewed for him as a girl.
She was halfway down the street when she saw the restaurant. A quick glance inside showed that it was busy and the smells wafting from the kitchen were certainly enticing.
Making up her mind Sara pushed open the door and then stopped in bemusement as a harassed-looking middle-aged woman pounced on her asking anxiously,
'Er, yes,' she replied automatically, frantically wondering how on earth the woman could possibly know her.
'Oh, thank goodness for that,' the older woman exclaimed. 'The agency have let us down so many times but they promised me this time... It's this way,' she added beckoning to Sara to follow her as she wound her way through the busy tables.
Feeling rather as though she had stepped straight into a page from
Alice Through the Looking Glass,
Sara followed in her wake.
Once they had reached the rear of the restaurant the woman pushed open the door telling Sara as she indicated for her to precede her into the room it led into,
'I must apologise for the mess. We've been so hectic.
I've tried to keep up to date with the paperwork, but it just hasn't been possible. Still, now that you're here... Oh, and the computer's working again, thank goodness. I think the news that we'd got our Michelin threw it into as much of a state of excitement as it did us. Of course, now we're being inundated with requests for tables which is marvellous. Or at least it would be if we weren't committed for the next three Saturdays to weddings. Not that we don't want them, we do...but...' As she paused for breath Sara looked round the small cluttered office.