Authors: Penny Jordan
I when you'd already told me that the only man you could ever love was your precious Saul?'
'I knew in Tuscany that it was just a silly crush that had burned itself out, but I'd made such a big drama out of it that I couldn't bring myself to let it go. And then you took me to bed and I realised that you were right...that I had just been a girl...but after our afternoon together I woke up a woman, and it was as a woman that I began to realise that I loved you,' Louise told him softly.
'I couldn't repeat all the mistakes I'd made with Saul...I couldn't embarrass you and humiliate myself by putting you through all the stupid things I'd done to try and get Saul's attention—I didn't even
to. I could see just how ridiculous...how selfish and, yes, childish in many ways my behaviour had been. I knew then how different real adult love was from my teenage fantasy of what love was, which I had woven around my feelings for Saul.
I'd believed that if I just tried hard enough I could
Saul love me. With you... With you I
that the only way your love could be mine was if you gave it to me freely, and I knew you would never do that...'
'You knew wrong, then, because you already had it,' Gareth whispered rawly to her. 'Oh, Lou, when I think of the time we've wasted, the days, the years, the nights we've spent apart when we could have been together.'
'Especially the nights,' Louise agreed wickedly, her mouth curling up at the corners, but she still blushed a little bit as she saw the way he was looking at her.
'It's been a long time,' he told her huskily. 'And there hasn't been anyone else for me since then, Louise...'
'There hasn't been anyone else for me either,' Louise told him a little shyly, adding shakily, 'What you...what we did...the way I felt, was so...so good...so right...that I couldn't...I didn't... I was afraid of spoiling the memory of it, because I knew no one else could ever make me feel the way you had done.'
'No one else?' Gareth quizzed her gently. 'Not even Jean Claude...?'
Louise burst out laughing.
'No one else,' she confided. 'And
not Jean Claude...'
'Gareth, what is it? What are you doing?' she demanded as he suddenly turned away from her and reached for the telephone, quickly pushing the buttons and wrapping his free arm around her to stop her from moving away from him as he started to speak into the receiver.
'Paul, it's Gareth Simmonds here. Look, I'm not going to be around for the next few days—an urgent family matter... Yes... Well, the committee doesn't have another meeting until next month, I know... Can you check through my diary and cancel all my appointments for the next week, please? Oh, and by the way, can you ring the airport and book me two seats on the first available flight for Pisa? You can ring me back on this number,' he added quickly, giving Louise's telephone number and then replacing the receiver before she could say a word.
'Tuscany,' she said, her eyes starting to shine.
'Tuscany,' he agreed.
'No buts. Pam will be able to manage without you for a couple of days.' Gareth informed her masterfully, and then groaned as he added ruefully, 'I'm not quite sure how
going to manage to keep my hands off you until we reach the villa... You do realise, don't you, that it's a good two-hour drive from the airport and—?'
But it might not be empty, and you could—'
'If it isn't empty then I shall bribe whoever is staying there to move out,' Gareth informed her determinedly. 'And besides...my family's villa
empty at the moment. It might not be quite the same—'
family's villa? With the pool...' Louise interrupted him. 'The pool where I saw you swimming that day the Fiat broke down...?'
'Uh-huh...the very same one.'
Louise closed her eyes and gave a small, femininely ecstatic sigh.
'I want to go
she told him happily. 'Oh, yes,
I want to go
Gareth. I want it to be
'Of course... But why...?'
A small smile curved her mouth as, leaning forward, she whispered to him, 'Because that's where I realised for the first time just what a very, very sexy man you are, and that's where, when I saw you getting out of the pool in those trunks, I couldn't help wondering just how you'd look without them, and that's where...'
'Okay, I think I get your drift,' Gareth told her softly.
'Well...?' Gareth asked Louise lazily, smiling sexily at her as he leaned over her sun lounger to kiss her awake.
'Well, what?' she asked him, sitting up and taking the drink he had brought her.
They had arrived at the villa in the early hours of the previous morning. Louise had wanted to go straight to bed, but Gareth had demurred.
'Let's wait until this afternoon,' he had suggested meaningfully, and, her stomach knotting with sharp, sensual excitement, Louise had agreed.
It...it...had been worth waiting for
than worth waiting for, and today her body still felt relaxed and softly heavy with sensual satisfaction.
'Well, do I look just as good without my shorts as you hoped?' Gareth teased her.
Last night Gareth had persuaded her to go skinny- dipping with him, and afterwards they had made love beside the pool in a tangle of damp limbs and soft, warm towels.
'Oh, every bit as good...' she confirmed. 'But you can always prove it to me again if you want to,' she teased him provocatively.
to,' Gareth assured her.
'I hope everything is going to work out all right for Jack,' Louise murmured, her eyes darkening a little as she thought about her young cousin. 'I feel that we've
been guilty of not realising how much his father's disappearance has affected him.'
have been difficult for him,' Gareth agreed sombrely. 'But you handled the whole situation very well. You're going to be a very good mother, Lou...'
'But not yet,' she told him. 'Or at least not until we're married...'
'No, not until we're married. You'll make a lovely winter bride with your colouring...'
'A winter wedding...' Louise murmured.
'I have to warn you that I have at least a dozen nieces who will all want to be bridesmaids...'
Louise giggled. 'Oh, not a dozen, surely!'
'Well, four,' Gareth amended. 'You
want to marry me, don't you, Lou?' he asked her, his face and voice suddenly very serious.
'Oh, yes,' Louise assured him huskily. 'Oh, yes, Gareth. Yes...yes...yes...' she moaned, as his mouth covered hers and the sun lounger rocked perilously beneath their combined weight.
'Louise is going to marry Gareth Simmonds,' Joss informed his great-aunt Ruth solemnly as he sat in her drawing room eating the fresh scones she had just baked.
'So I understand,' she agreed, smiling over his head at her American husband, Grant. They had only been married a few years themselves, even if their love went back over several decades.
'I like him. He understands things...' Joss told them seriously. 'Maddy was crying again yesterday, when I went to see Gramps. Why does Max have to be so horrid to her?'
Ruth sighed as she looked at him.
'I'm afraid that Max is just like that, Joss,' she informed her great-nephew sadly. 'Some people are, and when they are I'm afraid it takes a miracle to change them.'
'But miracles do happen,' Joss pointed out gravely. 'Look at you and Uncle Grant.'
'They do, yes,' Ruth agreed.
'I hope one does happen to Max...for Maddy's sake,' Joss added.
Ruth looked at him calmly.
'I shouldn't build your hopes on it, Joss,' she warned him. 'Not where Max is concerned.'
'I still can't totally believe it,' Katie told her twin, shaking her head slightly. 'You and Gareth in love and getting married...'
'What Mum finds harder to believe is that I'm going for the whole traditional wedding bit, complete with dress and bridesmaids,' Louise informed her sister wryly. 'We're getting married Christmas week, and spending Christmas Day at home with the family. Then New Year in Scotland, with Gareth's family, before we go off on honeymoon.'
Katie was in Brussels with Louise, and Gareth had promised to take them both out for dinner.
'You like his family, then?' Katie asked her twin.
'Oh, yes,' Louise confirmed enthusiastically. 'A small part of
still can't quite believe it, either, Katie, I feel so...so special...so...so lucky... so...'
'So loved?' Katie suggested gravely.
Louise frowned. Was that a small shadow she could hear in her twin's voice, see in her eyes, and, if so, why?
'Katie...' she began, but her sister was already getting to her feet and picking up their empty wine glasses.
'It's six o'clock,' she warned Louise. 'We're going to have to start making a move if we're to be ready for Gareth when he calls for us at seven-thirty.'
'You are going to be there, aren't you?' Louise demanded as she followed her into the kitchen. 'At the wedding, I mean... No last-minute trips to the back of beyond to inspect some irrigation scheme or anything...'
'It's documents that I inspect, Lou, not irrigation schemes,' Katie reminded her lightly. 'And, yes, I shall be there.'
She was glad that she had been alone when she had taken Louise's ecstatic telephone call to tell her that she and Gareth were going to be married. Louise had put her silence down to the fact that she had been so surprised by her news... Well, she
been surprised, but...
Louise wasn't the only one who could love inappropriately and unwontedly. Not that Katie had ever imagined that Gareth might feel something for
but then neither had she suspected that he was actually in love with her twin.
Anyway, whatever foolish dreams she might once have had had been packed away quietly and for ever now, along with all the other things that belonged to her childhood and the past. And, yes, of course she would be at their wedding, and she would smile for them and
them. How could she not? How could she not be happy for her twin? And how could she not grieve a little for herself?
'We'll never be alone, Katie,' Louise had once told her. 'We'll
have each other.'
But Louise had been wrong and now she
alone. Alone and lonely and hurting.
'You know that Gareth actually knew right from the start when you attended his lectures in my place that you weren't me?' Louise burbled happily as Katie quietly washed her used glass. 'He could tell the difference between us because he loved me...'
'Yes, you told me,' Katie acknowledged calmly, her hand trembling a little as she put the clean glass down.
'I love him so much, Katie,' Louise told her sister softly. 'I just wish that you... I want you to be as happy as I am...I want you to have someone to love and be loved by.'
'I'm happy as I am,' Katie told her, and promised herself that one day, very soon, it would be true.