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FROZEN HEART

 

Jane Donnelly

 

Would he still want revenge?

Because of something Pattie had written about Duncan Keld for the gossip columns, a beautiful model suffered the most publicized and painful rejection London had ever witnessed. And Pattie’s boss received a very black eye.

So when her editor assigned Pattie the task of interviewing Keld a year later, she was understandably nervous — especially once she found herself marooned with him at his Yorkshire lodge. He was as cold as ice.

But Pattie didn’t realize that she would be in even greater danger from Duncan once the ice melted.

 

He didn’t let go of her at once

He went on holding her, looking into her face as though he planned on doing a sketch from memory. He grinned. “What would your boyfriend do if he knew you were stuck out here with me?”

Pattie shrugged. “If he did know, what could he do, if even a snowplough can’t get through?” Duncan seemed to be considering, and she asked dryly, “What would you do? Drop in by helicopter or swoop down on skis ?”

“One or the other.”

Pattie believed him, and she felt a stab of jealousy. “Who would you pluck out of here ?”

He shook his head at her, smiling, and she was glad. She didn’t want a name. She didn’t want to hear about the woman he would come rushing to rescue.'

 

CHAPTER ONE

The
photograph made her choke over her coffee. The coffee was hot, just perked, and Pattie Ross had been sipping when she turned to the gossip page in her morning paper and saw the fair-haired girl, on the arm of a man, smiling. Then she took in a great scalding gulp that made her gasp and splutter and brought tears to her eyes.

‘Romance is in the air again,’ announced the caption coyly, ‘for 23-year-old Jennifer Stanley whose wedding to Nigel Poynton, son of millionaire landowner Lord Poynton, was called off a year ago, with the invitations out and the bride’s dress made. At the time the lovely Jennifer was terribly distressed, so it is good to see her happy again with her new fiancé, librarian Wilfred Jarvis.’

It certainly is good, thought Pattie. She had never met Jennifer Stanley, but she had played a part in that wedding cancellation. All in a day’s work, everybody had said. Well, no, not everybody—all her colleagues and most of her friends—but Pattie had felt guilty at the way her small scoop had turned out. It had influenced her life as well as Jennifer’s. She had been offered a job on a magazine just before, she had been considering it, and shortly after Jennifer Stanley was left in the lurch Pattie Ross had resigned from her newspaper post and gone to work on a women’s magazine.

She had never admitted even to herself that the Jennifer Stanley story had tipped the balance of her decision. But seeing the photograph brought back some very unpleasant memories.

It
was
good to see that Jennifer Stanley had found happiness, but rather ironic for this to be appearing in the column that had caused her so much public humiliation and hurt. The man looked nice and Pattie wished them well, and turned the page and finished drinking her coffee, and skimming the news, in the ten minutes she allowed herself for breakfast each morning.

She was a well-organised girl. She washed her coffee cup and saucer and made her bed before she left, as she always did. She never came back from the office to an untidy flat, even if she had entertained late in the night before. She did the chores automatically, then slipped into her camel trench coat and picked up tan gloves and tan shoulder-strapped holdall.

In the mirror by the door she made an attractive picture. She was slim, her dark hair fell round her face in smooth wings from a centre parting. Her face was oval, her features were regular and her skin was lightly tanned from a weekly solarium session.

She looked exactly as she expected to look, and wanted to look, a successful career girl; but today she found that she was frowning. She had woken feeling unsettled. She could have understood it if it had been spring, that was a restless season although Pattie had never done anything really crazy even in springtime. It was winter now, cold and bleak in the world outside, but she did have one small problem, and maybe that was unsettling her.

She was starting a holiday this afternoon, she had two weeks owing to her. Michael Ames, her boyfriend, was a chartered accountant and he was off to the Cotswolds to see various clients, staying in a comfortable hotel. If Pattie went too she could laze around, take walks, spend evenings with Michael and friends he had down there. That had been the arrangement until a few days ago when she had looked around her flat and decided it was in a desperate need of freshening up.

Michael said he couldn’t see it. The oyster white walls of the living room looked like new to him, and Michael was as fastidious as Pattie herself. They were very alike. People remarked that they even looked alike and asked if they were related. When they first met, six months ago at a party, they had found that their tastes coincided in all manner of ways. It had been lovely. Everything they talked about they agreed on, and they had stayed together all evening as though they couldn’t bear to lose sight of each other. Except for a few minutes when Michael went to the bar and Pattie overheard a girl say, ‘Michael’s been in love with himself for years and now he’s found a mirror image,’ and a man chortled, ‘Remember what happened to Mick Jagger?' Pattie hadn’t repeated that to Michael. She hadn’t realised till then that they looked like brother and sister, and since that party she and Michael had developed a very satisfactory relationship.

She admired him tremendously. He was very good at his job and Pattie liked that, she liked efficiency; and he was always elegant, perfectly turned out, and she found that reassuring, because she had a horror of scruffiness. Her friends approved of him and his mother said that Pattie was a charming girl.

She couldn’t have faulted Michael on anything. They rarely argued and they never rowed, and although he was put out at first, about Pattie stopping behind to paint her flat, he finally admitted that perhaps there were cooking fumes on the kitchen ceiling. Professional decorators cost the earth these days and if Pattie wanted to do it herself it was her holiday and her apartment. He didn’t offer to help when they got back, he never got his hands dirty.

So she would be buying paint this afternoon, and spending the next week applying it to the walls, when she could have been sitting by great log fires and dining off haute cuisine food. With Michael with her all the time he was not with clients. He had stressed that his schedule allowed plenty of leisure and if she changed her mind it had to be before midday, because he had to leave at twelve.

The flat didn’t look bad. It was immaculate by most standards, although new coats of paint would lighten it a little. Pattie stood looking around at the cool colours: whites, greys, pale pastel blue in the bedroom, and wondered how it would be if she filled one wall with a sunburst paper or painted it geranium red, and smiled at herself because it would be completely out of character. It wouldn’t go with her, it wouldn’t go with the furniture.

I’ll go with Michael, she decided. I’ll look in at the office, then come back and pack a bag. Perhaps it’s a break I need, a change. She pushed aside the thought that the Cotswold jaunt would mean a change of scene and a change of food, but being with Michael would be like reading a book she knew by heart. There would be no surprises there. . .

Pattie’s desk in the Features Department where she worked was clear. The other desks in the room were usually cluttered, but she worked better among order, and as she was starting her holiday today she had made a particular effort to leave no loose ends.

The article she had finished yesterday was on the features editor’s desk and Roz Rickard, features editor, was trying out a new blusher, squinting sidewards at herself in a mirror propped up against her husband’s photograph. She was a redhead, with smoky blue eyes that looked shortsighted and vague, but in fact she was sharp as a needle.

‘Do you like the colour?' she asked Pattie.

It looked like a purplish bruise and Pattie looked doubtful, and Roz shrugged, ‘I didn’t buy it. It’s one of Dinah’s.’ Dinah was the beauty editor, new cosmetics of all sorts and shades were constantly arriving for her department. ‘Not me, I think,’ said Roz. ‘Well, are you off to the Cotswolds?’

Pattie hesitated. ‘I don’t know.’

‘Go on,’ urged Roz. ‘Go and have some fun, Michael’s a poppet.’ She wiped off the blusher streak with a cleanser pad, and added mischievously, ‘Not a riot, but a poppet.’

‘Who wants a riot?’ said Pattie, and for some reason the image of her living room wall came into her mind, in a riot of bright jungle colours, although she knew that she could never live with that kind of wallpaper. She shivered a little and put her hands on the radiator. Pattie had the desk by the radiator, she felt the cold more than most, but today it was bitter and the walk from her space in the car park to the entrance to the building had chilled her to the bone. ‘How is it?’ she asked, nodding towards her article. ‘Fine,’ said Roz. ‘Yes, super. Although perhaps we’re overdoing the happy families.’

Pattie did a regular feature called ‘Man of the. Month’, interviewing men whom her readers would have liked to meet. Glamorous, handsome, successful men. Most of them were in show business, and all of them were eager to be interviewed because it was good publicity. The photographs accompanying the article were always flattering, and Pattie always turned in a story that made the reader feel she was there, being chatted up by the month’s charmer.

It wasn’t as easy as that, of course. Pattie was a good interviewer. She asked the questions and guided the talk, and when it came to putting it down on paper cut out the waffle so that they all sounded intelligent and witty and stimulating, although some of them had been thick as two planks.

This one she had quite enjoyed. He was an actor and an amusing talker. He had made her smile and she was fairly sure the readers would chuckle with her, and there were some delightful shots of him taken with his blonde wife and two small blonde children.

The phone rang on Roz’s desk. She answered and held it towards Pattie. ‘Can I help you?’ said Pattie.

‘What did you have in mind, dear?’ said a male voice that she recognised so that her expression became wry while he went on to ask, ‘Have you read the Column this morning?’

Willie Dyson meant his column. He really didn’t believe there was any other. He was the gossip-writer and Pattie had been on his team before she came here. She quite liked Willie, although he was a malicious little man, but she was very glad she didn’t work with him any more.

‘Yes,’ she said.

‘The Jennifer Stanley story?’

‘Oh yes.’

‘Nice little follow-up, wasn’t it?’ he said smugly. ‘It’s just twelve months since the wedding was called off,’ and Pattie gasped. ‘You’ll see that the Honourable Nigel wished her well,’ Willie chattered on. ‘We tried to get a quote from Duncan Keld all day yesterday, but we couldn’t get hold of him. Nice to know everything’s turned out all right, isn’t it? She’s a pretty little thing.’

‘You have the hide of a rhinoceros!’ shrieked Pattie, making Roz sit up and take notice, and as Willie protested in injured tones she put down the phone.

‘And what was that all about?’ asked Roz.

‘This.’ Pattie produced her morning paper, unfolded it and turned to Willie’s page, pointing to the photograph. ‘Remember her?’

‘Ye—es,’ Roz read, with furrowed brow.

She knew the background. Jennifer Stanley was a devastatingly pretty but priggish girl who had nearly married the son of a multi-millionaire. The forthcoming wedding had received some press coverage and Jennifer kept on talking about waiting for Mr Right, and insisting there had never been a man in her life before the Honourable Nigel Poynton. So that when a girl sitting by Pattie in the Birmingham to London express said she had worked with Jennifer, for a few weeks the year before last, Pattie listened without revealing that she was a journalist.

A sketch of Jennifer’s wedding dress was on the women’s page of a morning paper that day and Jennifer was stressing that she was wearing pure white, and asking scornfully how many brides were entitled to do that these days, and Pattie’s travelling companion said, ‘She isn’t, for one. All this holier-than-thou stuff!'.

It was a freaky thing to happen, a chance meeting in a million, and Pattie suspected that the girl was spinning a line, but next morning she mentioned it at the editorial conference. ‘I don’t suppose there’s any truth in this, but I met a girl yesterday who said that Jennifer Stanley, who’s getting married next week, once had an affair with Duncan Keld.’

‘With
who?’
Willie had squeaked, his little eyes gleaming.

‘Yes, that one,’ said Pattie. ‘A girl I met on the train works in this bookshop, where she said Jennifer had a summer job when she was down from college, and he was signing books there.’

‘Which bookshop?’ Willie demanded, and Pattie told him.

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