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Authors: Anne Weale

Summer's Awakening

BOOK: Summer's Awakening
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Summer's Awakening by Anne Weale

 

Warm, passionate and desperate for love

Summer Roberts was shy and insecure, denied normal loving relationships by a lifelong battle with her weight. Computer tycoon James Gardiner's entry into her sheltered world was devastating in more ways than one

through his kindness and unintentional cruelty she emerged a slender, beautiful woman, sure of herself and sure of her love....

 

 

"If you ask me to marry you, I might say yes."

James laughed, and then slowly his expression changed until he was watching her with an intent narrowed gaze, which she found even more unnerving than his conversation. "What makes you think I would refuse?"

Summer searched for a flippant reply. Thank God he had no idea it wasn't a joke to her. If he had been serious, it would have been her dream come true.

But, of course, he couldn't be serious....

The lines on page 127 reprinted by kind permission of the Society of Authors as the literary representative of the estate of A. E. Housman and Jonathan Cape Ltd., publishers of
The Collected Poems of A.E. Housman.

From "Into my heart an air that kills" from "A Shropshire Lad" — Authorised Edition-from
The Collected Poems of A. E.
Housman.
Copyright 1939,1940, © 1965 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Copyright © 1967,1968 by Robert E. Symons. Reprinted by permission of Holt, Rinehart and Winston, publishers.

ISBN 0-373-97010-2

Copyright © 1984 by Anne Weale. All rights reserved. The Worldwide design trademarks consisting of a globe surrounded by a square and the word WORLDWIDE in which the letter "O" is represented by a depiction of a globe are trademarks of Worldwide Library.

Printed in U.S.A.

PROLOGUE

Most fat people need to be hurt badly before they do something about themselves.


Jean Nidetch,
The Story of Weight Watchers

 

She woke in a panic, her aunt's loud commanding voice still ringing in her ears as she sat up, fumbling for the light switch.

It was only after the light had revealed the flower-printed Pratesi sheets and her bare arm, golden-brown from weeks in the sun, that she was able to shake off the vivid reality of her nightmare.

With a shuddering sign of relief she sank back on the down-filled pillows in their expensive cotton cases. Her aunt was dead. She was free. The years of servitude were over.

Until her arrival in Florida, she had never heard of Pratesi, the luxurious Italian bed-linen bought by kings and sheikhs, movie stars and millionaires. Now, after almost three months in the beautiful Spanish-style house on Bay Shore Road, she was accustomed to such things.

A few hours earlier her dinner had been served on gold-rimmed plates made by Lenox, the only major producer of fine china in the United States and suppliers to four of the nation's Presidents. She could remember the controversy when a 4,372-piece set, commissioned by Mrs Ronald Reagan, had been delivered to the White House at a cost of more than two hundred and nine thousand dollars.

Now Lenox china and Baccarat crystal were part of her own changed life-style; and it was amazing how quickly one became accustomed to the best.

For a while she lay looking at her bedroom, contrasting the spacious elegance with the small, cold, northfacing room she had slept in throughout her teens. Since her return to America, her father's country and the setting of her happy childhood, she had tried to forget the intervening years of exile. But now and then
a
bad dream, such as the one she had just had, would revive some of the painful memories stored in her subconscious mind.

But the most wounding memory had nothing to do with her aunt, nor was it one she could push to the back of her mind. There was never a day when she didn't remember that crushing humiliation and the man who had inflicted it on her.

The bedside clock showed half past one. Before turning out her light, a couple of hours ago, she had been reading an article by a beauty editor about the mental and physical benefits of an experience called sensory isolation which involved floating in ten inches of heavily salted and therefore very buoyant water in
a
dark and sound-proof flotation tank. According to the editor, who had tried it, the experience was marvellously relaxing.

Feeling wide awake and restless, she wondered if floating in a heated swimming pool under
a
starlit night sky might be equally soothing.

A few moments later she was in her white-carpeted bathroom, pulling off her nightdress. She had been in and out of the pool all day and her bathing-suit was hanging from the shower tap. Before reaching for it, she paused for a moment to look at herself in the full-length mirror.

A tall girl with sun-streaked blonde hair, long brown legs and a curvy figure which she would have liked to be slimmer, but which she wasn't displeased with.

She thought: Why do I need a bathing-suit? Nobody's going to see me. I can swim as I am.

It was March, and at night the house was centrally heated. By contrast, the air in the garden made her shiver and hurry to the pool. A little vapour rose from its glass-calm surface, a sign that the water would be warmer than the air.

She dropped her towel on a chaise-longue, stepped out of her thongs and loosened her terry-cloth robe. The garden was completely private, flanked by the spacious grounds of two other mansions.

Naked, she stepped into the pool, descending the submerged steps until, with a sigh of pleasure, she sank into the water like a woman relaxing into the arms of her lover.

As a little girl, she had been brought
up
on fairytales and poetry. As she swam up and down the long pool, snatches of moon-poems came to her.

 

A ship, an isle, a sickle moon—

With few but with how splendid stars

The mirrors of the sea are strewn

Between their silver bars.

 

Presently she rolled on to her back, feeling her hair drifting like seaweed in the water. The air was cool on her wet breasts. She felt like a mermaid, star-gazing.

'Do you make a habit of skinny-dipping in the small hours?'

The mocking male voice rang out from somewhere behind her, making her slack body jerk in a convulsive and panic-stricken movement to bring herself upright and turn to see who had spoken.

He was by the side of the pool, wearing a long white robe with a hood hanging from the shoulders. Just for an instant, with his arms crossed inside the wide sleeves, he looked like a tall monk standing there.

Then she recognised him.

The man who had once made her normally calm, quiet nature seethe with violent, angry emotions. The only person for whom she had ever felt hatred.

The last man in the world she wanted to find her naked, alone, at night, in his swimming pool.

PART I: CRANMERE

Between its impressive main gateway and the great English country house known as Cranmere Park, a three-mile-long drive, lined by beech trees, wound its way through acres of pasture grazed by a herd of white Charolais.

Designed in 1710 by Sir John Vanbrugh, the architect of Blenheim Palace, Seaton Delaval and a number of other historic mansions, the house had been sited on a rise to command fine surrounding views. The last mile of drive was uphill so that when, on a blustery morning in November, Summer Roberts pedalled her bicycle into the stable-yard behind the house, she was pink-cheeked and out of breath.

Leaving the bicycle in a coach-house still filled with the horse-drawn vehicles used by earlier generations of the Lancaster family, she followed a gravelled path which led round the east front of Cranmere to what was known as the Garden Door.

This opened into a wide corridor where, on a row of strong pegs, hung a motley collection of ancient Burberrys, oilskin waders, game-bags, tweed Norfolk jackets and heavy wool jerseys; together with all kinds of headgear and, ranged in a row on the mud-resistant flagged floor, many different sorts of footwear from Wellington boots to rubber galoshes.

On the opposite wall, grouped round the doors to the lavatory and the room where flowers were arranged, was a fine set of early sporting prints which, in a less splendid household, would have hung somewhere more important than the downstairs cloakroom.

Probably none of the Lancasters had realised that the prints were rarities. Although in recent years two of Cranmere's most important oil paintings had been auctioned at Sotheby's, the great house was still full of treasures, many of them unrecognised except by Summer and Lady Emily who were interested in such things.

At the inner end of the cloakroom was a door leading to the Great Hall. Before passing through it, Summer paused to remove her outdoor clothes and to change her warm, fleece-lined boots for a pair of brown leather Oxfords which she kept at Cranmere as house shoes.

She was twenty-two—an age at which most young women spent time and money making the best of themselves. But she had been actively discouraged from giving any thought to her appearance.

Among her assets were long-lashed, intelligent grey eyes, a flawless complexion and a beautiful low-pitched speaking voice. But as she never used makeup and still wore her long thick fair hair in the pigtail dictated by her aunt—although now it was wound like a Catherine-wheel and pinned to the back of her head—her best features were usually less noticeable than her worst ones.

From lack of money and other difficulties, she dressed very badly in drab, shapeless, serviceable clothes. Today she was wearing a loose navy corduroy pinafore over a grey roll-necked jersey and thick ribbed wine-coloured hose. Her house shoes and boots were brown. Her shoulder-bag was black—the leather-look plastic beginning to wear thin in places.

Although she had passed through the Great Hall every day for the past eighteen months—except for the week when her aunt had had her second stroke—she never failed to be impressed by its lofty magnificence. A modification of Vanbrugh's dramatic design
for
the entrance to Castle Howard, the Yorkshire seat of the Earl of Carlisle, the hall at Cranmere was lit by windows in a cupola eight feet above the black and white marble floor.

On her way to mount the Grand Staircase, she checked when
a
voice said, 'Good morning, Miss Roberts.'

'Oh... good morning.'

Somewhat surprised to see the late Marquess of Cranmere's butler in this part of the house at this hour, she would have continued on her way had he not said, 'If I might have a word with you...'

'Certainly.' Something in his manner made her add, 'Is anything wrong, Mr Conway?'

Although the Marquess and his family had always referred to and addressed the head of the household staff by his surname alone, Summer felt it would have been inappropriate for her to follow their example. She was not a servant as such, but she was an employee, and the butler was a man in his late sixties, old enough to be her grandfather.

'No, no, nothing's wrong,' he assured her. 'It's merely that his Lordship arrived late last night. He wishes to see you, Miss Roberts. You'll find him in the library.'

'His Lordship?' For a moment, she was nonplussed.

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