Authors: Susan Lewis
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Romance
Also by Susan Lewis
and available from Mandarin
Dance While You Can
This book is sold subject to the condition
that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise.
be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated
without the publisher’s prior consent in any form
of binding or cover other than (hat in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed
on the subsequent purchaser.
A Mandarin Paperback
First published in Great Britain 1992
by William Heinemann Ltd
This edition published 1992
by Mandarin Paperbacks
Michelin House, SI Fulllham Road, London SWS 6RB
Mandarin is an imprint of the Octopus Publishing Group,
a division of Reed International Books Ltd
Copyright Š Susan Lewis 1992 i lie author-lias asserted her moral rights
A SIP catalogue record for this title
is available from the British Library
ISBN 0 7493 1180 0
Filmset by Deltatype Ltd, Ellesmere Port
Printed and bound in Australia
by Griffin Paperbacks, Adelaide, South Australia.
This book is dedicated to my father
I should like to express my gratitude to Madame La
Comtesse du Petit-Thovars for the help she gave in the
preparation of this book. For inviting me into her home
and allowing me to base the story around the ancestral
home of the Petit-Thouars - though I must stress that no
characters in the book are based on her family. My thanks
also to Richard Hazlewood for the help and advice he
gave, not to mention the many introductions. Also to
Monsieur et Madame Rutault and Madame Amos.
Most especially of all I should like to thank Pamela
Brunet and her husband Amede for the research and
translations they carried out on my behalf.
And lastly my love and thanks to my family and friends for
their unwavering support following the death of my
‘Are you feeling nervous, cherie?’
Claudine’s gaze moved slowly from the passing French
countryside to rest upon her father. It was over an hour since
they had boarded the train in Paris, but this was the first time
either of them had spoken. As their eyes met, Claudine’s full
mouth curved into a secretive, almost self-mocking smile, and
Beavis smiled too as he watched his extraordinary daughter
sweep a hand through the tumbling raven hair that bounced
unfashionably around her shoulders, and stretch out her long
legs to settle them on the seat beside him.
She didn’t answer his question, but leaned her head back
against the cushion and returned her attention to the
Yes, she was nervous. Who wouldn’t be, in her shoes? But
apart from the occasional tug she gave to the feather which
curled over the brim of the hat lying in her lap, there was
nothing in her manner to indicate either the unease or the
excitement that randomly coasted between her heart and
her stomach. She looked up ahead and saw the front of the
train as it rounded a curve in the track, steam billowing from
the funnel in a chain of ephemeral white clouds. Again she
smiled, then looking back to her father, who was still
watching her, she started to laugh.
‘Are you surprised that we’ve come this far?’ she asked.
‘If I am, I shouldn’t be.’
He arched his brows comically and pulled at his
moustache. ‘You know perfectly well what I mean.’
‘That nothing is more irresistible to your harebrained
daughter than territory where angels - perhaps even fools fear
‘But, Papa, it was your idea,’ she reminded him.
‘So it was. I’d almost forgotten,’ he chuckled. Then, more
seriously, he added, ‘But we don’t have to be here, cherie.’ He often used the French term of endearment, even when they were speaking English - it was a habit he had fallen into
during twenty-seven years of marriage to a Frenchwoman.
‘It’s not too late,’ he continued, ‘we can turn back to
England, you have only to say the word.’ For all sorts of
reasons, that would now be extremely difficult, but he felt
obliged to say it all the same.
‘Oh, Papa! To have come all this way and then not
actually see him! I should die of curiosity.’
Satisfied with her answer, Beavis returned to his newspaper.
But it took only a few minutes for him to realize that
he was reading the same paragraph over and over again. His
mind was full of his daughter and the meeting that would
take place two days from now at the Chateau de Lorvoire.
He took out a cigarette and lit it, filling their first-class
compartment with the bitter-sweet smell of Turkish
tobacco. As Claudine inhaled the aroma she closed her
eyes, reminding him of her mother, and for the first time
since her death Beavis was grateful that Antoinette wasn’t
there to express her thoughts on what he was doing. Not that
he harboured any doubts about bringing Claudine to
France - on the contrary, he firmly believed that his plans
for his daughter were in her own best interest - but he
couldn’t help feeling that Antoinette might have handled
things with a little more subtlety.
But what was he supposed to do? As a man, he had no
experience in handling these matters; all he knew was that,
at twenty-two, it was high time Claudine was married.
Everyone told him so, particularly his sister-in-law, Celine.
During Claudine’s debutante year in London Celine had, of
course, done her best to introduce Claudine to as many
eligible young men as possible - and no doubt several
ineligible ones too, if he knew Celine, but at the time
Claudine had had other ideas, and she and Dissy, her best
friend, had taken themselves off to New York to stay with a
girl they had shared a room with at finishing school, Melissa
von Meriry. Beavis knew the von Merity family, so he had
agreed to the plan. He hadn’t been prepared for Claudine to
spend almost three years in New York, and he most
certainly hadn’t been prepared for the fierce independence
she had acquired during her stay there - which, together
with her inherent sense of humour and her undeniable
beauty, had turned her into a force even he found difficult to
She had returned to London six months ago, in time to
see in the New Year - 1937. In that time Dissy had married
Lord Poppleton, and Claudine, as Celine had told him in no
uncertain terms, had been left to run wild. He knew that
Claudine had received several proposals of marriage, both
in New York and in London, but for reasons known only to
herself she had refused them all. So, not unnaturally, he had
been more than surprised when she seemed to welcome the
suggestion first put to him by his old friends the Comte and
Comtesse de Rassey de Lorvoire, that their two families
Celine’s response, on the other hand, had come as no
surprise at all. She had never, she told him, in her worst
nightmares, imagined he would be capable of even considering
marrying his precious daughter to a man like
Francois de Lorvoire. Beavis, who was well aware of
Parisian society’s views on the Lorvoires’ eldest son, had
listened patiently to everything Celine had to say and then
told her, quite calmly, that his mind was made up. After
which he had extracted her promise that, should Claudine
raise no objection to the marriage, she, Celine, would do
nothing to dissuade her.
Yet now, with the hurdle of Claudine’s agreement so
easily surmounted, he couldn’t help wondering why his
daughter had shown such readiness to accept the proposal.
She knew nothing about Francois de Lorvoire, yet she
appeared almost eager to marry him. He was intrigued to
know why. She had a will of iron, and he wouldn’t have
relished the prospect of fighting her if she had set her mind
against the idea. He wondered, too, about the shattering of
her illusions yet to come… But Claudine would handle it;
he was quite resolved that Francois was the right husband
for her, he admired the man - no matter what Celine might
say. Though how Antoinette would have felt about the
match did, in truth, unsettle him somewhat.
Able to read her father’s face only too well, Claudine put
aside her hat and leaned forward to take his hand. Her blue
eyes were dancing, but her voice was gentle as she said,
‘Papa, I know you’re thinking about Maman and what she
would say if she knew what we were about. But try to
remember, darling, that I am a grown woman now, I can and
do - make decisions for myself. You know I wouldn’t be
here if I didn’t want to be.’
Beavis’ face clouded for a moment. Then, with a touch of
irony, he said, ‘That is precisely what baffles me, cherie. Why, when you’ve had so many offers from men who are eminently suitable, are you so willing to give yourself to a
man you’ve never even met?’
‘Because it is what you want, Papa,’ she answered, her
eyes gravely wide.
His answering look told her that he didn’t believe a word
of it, and laughing, she threw back her head, curled her feet
under her, and resting an elbow on the window ledge, was
once again intent upon the passing landscape.
She was amused by her father’s bewilderment, knowing
that he had been fully prepared to assert his parental
authority on this matter had it proved necessary. Of course,
had she not wanted the marriage herself, she’d have fought,
and won… She knew he was surprised by her compliance,
but thankfully he hadn’t questioned her too closely, so she had not found herself compelled to lie. And lie she would have done, rather than tell him why she was willing to marry
Francois de Lorvoire - a man whom, as Beavis had quite
rightly pointed out, she had never met.
Of course, she had heard a great deal about the de Rassey
de Lorvoire family as she grew up. Her father and the old
Comte had been firm friends ever since they served
together in the Great War, and Antoinette Rafferty and
Solange de Lorvoire, Francois’ mother, had corresponded
for many years and had frequently spent time together in
Paris. But Claudine had never met the de Lorvoires; she
had been at school, or too busy with her horses at Rafferty
Lodge to accompany her mother on her shopping sprees.
And, curiously, she didn’t recollect any mention ever being
made of Francois, who was fourteen years older than she
was, and would surely have been cutting a figure in society
long before her mother died. That fact rather amused her
now, for what little she had managed to learn about Francois
during the last few weeks suggested that whatever there was to say about him had probably been considered too shocking for her young ears.
In fact, his reputation was proving to be thoroughly
intriguing. Just this past week she had discovered that one
had only to mention his name in polite Parisian circles to set
the conversation alight with any kind of unsavoury rumour.
Take the other night, at the home of Constance and Charles
Delaforge. She had gone alone, since Beavis had business
to attend to, and had casually mentioned that she was
looking forward to meeting the Lorvoire family at the
weekend, their eldest son Francois in particular, because
she had heard so much about him. From the look on the
faces around her, she might just have let forth a stream of profanities. Constance had glared, Charles had started muttering under his breath, then suddenly the old duchess
sitting beside her had drawn herself up, and cried in a voice
pinched with distress, ‘I forgive you, Claudine, but only
because you cannot know what anguish it causes me to hear