Read Accidental Engagement Online

Authors: Cally Green

Accidental Engagement (9 page)

‘Who is it?’ she called.

‘Mark. Can I come in?’

She went over to the door and opened it. He was looking very handsome.

His hair was rumpled, as though he had been running his hands through it, and his
eyes looked softer than usual - it must be the evening light.

‘I’ve come to apologise.’ He was looking genuinely repentant for his earlier ill humour, and took her hand as if he could say what he was feeling so much better without the use of words.

Anna felt a pulse of energy ripple over her at his touch, making her skin tingle.

There was a moment when he seemed to wrestle with himself, as if trying to come to term
s with some inner problem,
and then he said, ‘This is a night for lovers. Come and look at the stars.’

She smiled, her tension relaxing as she realised that, whatever his problem, he had resolved it, at least for n
ow. He was being charming again.
C
harming and sexy and desirable. And as they went out onto the terrace she felt confident that, whatever the darkness of her past, her future with Mark was bright.

They evening air was cool and caressing. The sky above was a velvety black, punctuated with brilliant points of light.

‘What do you want to apologise for?’ she asked as they walked together, hol
ding hands. It felt comfortable and
companionable. It felt right.

‘For the argument. And for the lack of a ring. I should never have left you open to Serena’s jibes. There’s a jeweller’s I know of, it’s out of the way but well worth going to. They have a lot of unusual rings there, more creative than the sort found in town.’ His eyes crinkled into a smile. ‘Somehow a gold band with a jewel in the middle of it seems too ordinary for someone whose fingers can create paradise on earth.’

‘You enjoyed the music?’ she asked, pleased.

‘It was exquisite.’ He turned to face her and his smile faded, his mood becoming more intense. He cupped her face in his hands and for one exhilarating moment she thought he was going to
kiss
her. ‘Like you.’ He seemed to wrestle with himself for one last time, as though he felt he ought not to be saying these things, but the moon was full and the stars were out, and she knew that his feelings would not be denied. ‘I see you in emeralds,’ he said softly, his hands dropping to hold her own, ‘but the choice is up to you.’

Questions about his earlier angry words seemed meaningless now. What did it matter that he had accused her of pretending? That he had said she knew as well as he did that there was no ring? They had obviously had an argument centred around the ring in the past but the white band on her finger showed that at some time there had been one, and whether he had taken it back, or whether she had flung it back at him, seemed suddenly unimportant. Right now she wanted no more than she had. A moonlit night, Mark’s arms around her . . . Well, perhaps one thing more . . . She turned her face up to his.

He raised his hand and gently pushed her hair back from her face. ‘You’re sure you want to do this?’ he asked.

‘Positive,’ she breathed.

He put his finger under her chin. Bending his head to hers, he touched her lips.

His kiss was slow and sensuous and she felt herself melting into it, the combination of strength and tenderness leaving her weak at the knees. She clung to Mark more tightly, her arms winding themselves around his neck and her hands pressing his head forwards so that his mouth moved even more closely over her own. It was blissful and arousing all at the same time. And when the soft warmth of his tongue began to part her lips she felt a surge of energy that threatened to rob her of every restraint.

How far had their relationship gone? she wondered, before all rational though was banished as his hand trailed down to her breast. She gasped at the intensity of the sensation, feeling its effects throughout every inch of her body . . .

. .
and her gasp seeme
d to change something in him,
as though it had awakened him to the fact of what he was about to do.

She felt a feeling of loss as he pulled away from her, her whole body aching for him. She wanted him to go on kissing and caressing her, and looking into his eyes she could tell he wanted it too.

‘You’re still sore from your injuries,’ he said, his eyes never once leaving her own.

But regardless of her injuries, and regardless of the moods that seemed to overtake him from time to time, she knew that it would not be long before he made love to her . .
. and that it would be worth the wait.

C
hapter Five

 

‘It seems you have an admirer.’ Serena’s father spoke indulgently.

Serena, glancing out of the window, pulled a scornful face as she saw Geoffrey Watson getting out of his Jaguar.

‘Now don’t be like that,’ said her father mildly. ‘Geoffrey Watson’s a harmless young man.’

Serena, about to declare that Geoffrey Watson was as boring as he was poor, bit back the words just in time. The Watsons were old friends of her father’s, and she knew it would only make him angry if she gave way to her true feelings. Composing herself, she received Geoffrey with a good grace, whilst her father received him with genuine warmth.

‘And did you enjoy our party?’ Mr Leverington asked, listening patiently to Geoffrey’s effusive reply. ‘Good, good. Well, I’ll leave you two young people together. I have to see Potter about the roses. He wants me to have climbers, but I’d rather have ramblers.’ He gave an attractive smile. ‘At the moment, I don’t know which of us is going to get our own way.’

Mr Leverington left the room and Serena allowed her mask of civility to drop, openly examining her nail polish whilst Geoffrey stammered out a few polite sentences about the party and about how charming she had looked.

Serena didn’t listen. She would have to entertain Geoffrey for a reasonable length of time, or her father would ask her why he had left so soon, but she did not feel herself to be under any obligation to entertain him. He had paid the call. He could be the one to use up his energies on entertaining her.

‘ . . . wondered if you could tell me what I ought to do.’

Serena, lost in a daydream in which Anna’s accident had been fatal, became aware that Geoffrey had stopped speaking. Unfortunately, as she had not been listening to a word he had been saying she had no idea how to reply. She covered it up, however, by turning the tables on him and saying, ‘What do
you
feel you should do?’


Well. Part of me thinks it’s none of my business -’

‘Then stay out of it,’ said Serena, returning her attention to her nails.

Geoffrey did not reply. She was forced to look at him again. ‘Well?’ she asked.

He looked embarrassed. ‘It’s just that . . . I thought that . . . . with him being your friend . . . well, that you’d want him to know.’

Serena studied him for a minute.
With him being your friend
. Who could Geoffrey be talking about?

‘I think you ought to start again. At the beginning.’

‘B
ut I’ve already told you . . . ’
Geoffrey protested.

‘Again,’ said Serena, uncurling herself and leaning towards him.

He sighed. ‘ . . . and so when I saw her with Mark, well, naturally, it came as a bit of a shock.’

Serena’s eyes hardened. ‘Anna? When you saw Anna with Mark?’

Geoffrey nodded.

‘Go on.’

‘Well, I wondered, then and there. Ought I to tell him?’

‘Tell him what? I just want to make sure I’ve got it clear.’ Serena was suddenly paying close attention, and Geoffrey was flattered.


Well, that Anna isn’t a concert pianist,’ he said expansively. ‘His fiancée’s a fraud.’

 

‘A ring?’ Mr Harvey, a small, dapper man, bowed from the waist. ‘But of course.’ He turned to look at Anna. ‘I’m sure we will find something that is to your taste. But if not, we can always make one. We have a fine selection of stones, and we can design a band to your own specifications, or supply you with a choice from our best designers.’

Anna looked at the trays and trays of rings that had been brought out for her inspection. There was nothing mass produced here, like the rings she had seen on jeweller’s pads in shop windows, and like . . .
the memory eluded her, and she did not chase it. There was too much to look at, and too much to think about. Her memories would have to wait.

The trays were laid out on a large table. So far there were about a dozen. Each one held six rows of three rings, all embedded in velvet. As he spoke, Mr Harvey displayed yet another tray. 'Perhaps these will do to be going on with. Emeralds, I think you said?’

‘Yes.’ Mark’s reply was brief.

Anna was relieved that he had suggested emeralds. Somehow, the thought of a diamond had given her a chill. But emeralds . . . warm, green emeralds . . . yes, she would enjoy wearing a ring like that.

The choice was enormous. The trays were all different, but within each tray the rings were largely the same. Some held rings with stones the size of nuts. Others had emeralds set amidst other gems. Some were in white gold, others in yellow or red.

‘Not that one,’ said Anna, dismissing the tray which held the largest jewels. They were too showy for her tastes.

Mark’s eyebrows lifted in surprise, as though he had expected her to choose the most expensive ring on offer.

‘And not that one,’ she said, rejecting another tray whose rings were in yellow gold. Somehow she had a bad feeling about yellow gold . . .

Mr Harvey nodded. He was beginning to realise that Anna had definite tastes, and to see what they were.

‘Something bright,’ she said, running her eyes over the other rings.

‘Like a butterfly,’ said Mark.

She looked at him in surprise.

‘When you played yesterday, it reminded me of a butterfly. Bright and iridescent.' His eyes crinkled into a smile. ‘That’s how I see you. Elusive, and somehow not quite of this world. You should have a ring to match.’

‘Ah!’ Mr Harvey’s eyes lit up. ‘I will not be long.’

He hurried out of the room.

‘I wonder what he’s
bringing us,’ said Mark with a
questioning smile.

‘Something he’s proud of,’ laughed Anna. ‘I wonder what it can be?’

Their question was soon answered. Mr Harvey was as good as his word, and before many minutes had passed he returned. To their surprise, he brought a young man with him. The young man, tall and thin, with long-fingered artistic hands, held something on a small cushion.

‘This is Stuart, one of our most gifted designers. He has just finished a ring that I think might interest you.’

Stuart put the cushion on the table, and Anna saw a truly exquisite ring. The band was made of twined red and white gold and was set with emeralds, sapphires and rubies which threw out brilliant flashes of colour as they caught the light.

‘That’s the ring,’ said Mark, echoing Anna’s thoughts as she picked it up and turned it in her hand.

‘What ring size are you?’ asked Mr Harvey.

Anna hesitated. ‘I’m not sure.’

‘It looks about the right size,’ said Mr Harvey judiciously. ‘Why not try it
on?’

Anna was about to slip the band over her finger when Mark took it out of her hands. ‘Allow me.’ Holding her hand, he slipped it onto her finger.

‘It’s too big,’ said Anna with a sigh.

Mr Harvey was unperturbed. ’That is easily remedied. The adjustment is only small. I can have it done by tomorrow, and send it round by courier.’

‘Do that,’ nodded Mark.

Anna hid her disappointment. She was loath to part with the ring for a minute, let alone a day, but she slipped it off and handed it to Stuart.

‘One day only,’ said Mr Harvey, seeing her reluctance, ‘and then you will have it for the rest of your life.’

Mark’s face seemed to darken, as
though
he doubted Mr Harvey’s words. Doubted and regretted them. But Anna was pleased to see that his mood had lifted by the time they left the jewellers.

‘How tired are you?’ he asked her as they left the jeweller’s some little time later.

‘I’m fine,’ she answered. ‘Why?’

‘I thought you might like to do a bit of sightseeing. We’re not far from
Sherwood Forest
.’ He threw her a smile that made her spirits dance. ‘We can
pretend we’re Robin
Hood
and
Maid
Marion.’

‘That would have been a good idea for the charity ball,’ said Anna. ‘We could have gone in fancy dress.’

‘It’s been done. But you said “would”. Does that mean you’ve decided what to wear?’

‘Yes.’ The dress for the charity ball had been something Anna had chosen without Mark. She had been on a shopping trip with Emmy and Claire that morning, whilst Mark had dealt with a problem that had cropped up concerning the opening of the
Midlands
branch of his business, and she had steadfastly refused to tell him what it was like.

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