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‘Yes, of course.’

‘You look tired.’

‘Well, it’s getting late, isn’t it?’ She could have bitten her tongue then because she didn’t want the evening to end; and it didn’t. There was quite a crowd in Joe’s tonight and most of them stayed on, giving Duncan a send-off, so that Pattie’s eyes were heavy-lidded by the time Duncan drove her home. Outside her house he said, ‘Goodbye, love.’ ‘Goodbye.’ There had been no suggestion of her meeting him tomorrow, which would be his last day and on which he had business appointments, or seeing him off at the airport.

He reached across and opened her door, and the cold air came in and she knew that he wasn’t going to take her in his arms even now. He was smiling at her. ‘It’s been nice knowing you,’ he said.

‘Yes.’ She nodded stiffly, like a puppet. ‘It’s been super. I shall miss you.’ She got out of the car and he didn’t stop her or follow her. The car engine was still running. ‘I’ll be home tomorrow evening,’ he said. ‘Any time after eight. Come round if you feel like it,’ and the car slipped smoothly into gear and roared away into the night, leaving her shaking.

Until now she had thought she had no part in tomorrow, that tonight was her goodbye, but now he was suggesting she went to him tomorrow night. He wouldn’t come for her, but if she chose she could knock on his door or ring his bell. Pacing her room, she talked to the rock cat. ‘It’s all up to me, isn’t it? He could have made it easier for me, he only had to reach out, any time. I couldn’t have held him off again, and he must have know that. This has been a sort of seduction, keeping everything platonic, hardly touching me, because I want him now more desperately than ever, and I shall go tomorrow night, of course I shall, but he could have made it easier.’

She knew she was a fool. One night and then he would catch his plane, and by the time he returned he would probably have forgotten Pattie Moss. Or near enough. But she wouldn’t forget Duncan Keld because he was in her blood, part of her. She had hardly given Michael a thought since he stalked out of her flat, and yet at one time she had imagined she loved Michael. She knew different now, and it was ironic that Michael should phone next morning . . .

He hadn’t been in touch, but he chose today, having read in the gossip column that Duncan Keld was leaving England, researching another book, and that Pattie had insisted they were just good friends. Michael knew that Duncan and Pattie had been around together, but he had missed Pattie and he was prepared to start up again. Not on the old terms at once, of course, but a meeting might show if they had any hopes of eventually getting back on the old familiar footing.

He said, ‘I see your friend from the hunting lodge is leaving the country. That should leave you with some free time. What are you going to do now?’

Pattie remembered an ancient film she had seen, probably on TV, where an old woman, whose lover had died or gone years before, was asked what happened afterwards, and who had turned empty despairing eyes on her questioner and replied, ‘There was no afterwards.’

Pattie felt a little the same way herself, as though a black wall blocked out all her tomorrows, but she said brightly, ‘Oh, I’ll think of something. Sorry, I don’t have time to talk, but I’ve got a hundred things to do right now,’ and added with a touch of mischief, ‘Remember me to your mother,’ before she put down the office phone.

She hadn’t told anyone she would be seeing Duncan tonight. She was quite busy and she kept fairly cheerful in front of them all. So Duncan was off, she had never expected him to stay. He would be phoning, writing, and so would she, and it wasn’t all that big a world these days. Roz suggested that Pattie came home with her for dinner and she felt a hypocrite declining, pretending she had already fixed to meet another friend.

Nobody knew she was going to Duncan. There was no reason why they shouldn’t, it wasn’t a secret, but she couldn’t talk about it and she couldn’t have said whether the prospect filled her with joy or despair. She was going because she couldn’t keep away, but he could keep away from her. He had shown that every night since they met again. It would be a kind of defeat for her, turning up, because she knew and he knew that if she did she would stay till morning.

She packed a toothbrush in her handbag, and some small cosmetic items. If there should be other folk around, and she had made a mistake and Duncan did intend to bring her back, an overnight bag would have been dreadfully embarrassing. She had booked a taxi, and in the ten minutes or so before it was due to arrive she rang the Bruntons.

Janet answered and Pattie said, ‘I’ve been meaning to get in touch,’ that was true, she had, ‘To thank you for everything, and now Duncan tells me you’ve got my car up. I do appreciate that.’

Janet gave her the garage run-down on the car repairs, which all things considering didn’t sound too bad, and then she said, ‘Oh, we found your medallion. The chain’s broken, but apart from that it’s OK.’

‘Oh,
marvellous
!’

‘We posted it to Duncan a couple of days ago.’ He might have received it this morning, if not surely it would arrive tomorrow. Pattie said again how grateful she was and Janet asked ‘How are you and Duncan getting on?’

‘Fine,’ said Pattie. ‘But he’s off to New Zealand tomorrow, so this is our last evening,’ and Janet said, as if she sympathised,

‘Yes, well, that’s Duncan, he never stays in one place long. Give him our love, won’t you?’

‘I will,' Pattie promised. Their love and hers. Only theirs was friendship and hers was passion and longing, but anyway she now had a good excuse for arriving at his apartment. She had come for her talisman.

She rang his bell and he answered. Her heart lurched when she saw him and she thought, it will always be like this. He will always be able to set my pulses racing as though a fever has hit me. She gabbled breathlessly, ‘I phoned Janet Brunton and she said they’d found my charm and she posted it to you a couple of days ago—has it come yet?’

‘Sorry.'

‘Oh dear,' she said. ‘Wouldn't it be the limit if it got lost in the post?' They were walking up the staircase to Duncan's apartment. She couldn't hear any sound from up there, so perhaps there was no one else, and she was glad. She didn’t think she could have gone on putting on a brave face, talking small talk.

As they came through the door, into the big empty room, he asked, ‘Was that all you came for?' and she said simply, ‘I was coming anyway.'

‘Know something?' She heard him starting to smile. She hadn’t looked straight at him till then, but now she did, and he said, ‘We could have passed on the way, I was coming to you.' Pattie took the two steps between them and his arms went round her. She was scared she was going to burst into tears. She pressed her face into his shoulder and she was shaking like a leaf and he said quietly, ‘It's all right now. It's always going to be all right.'

No, not always. Not from tomorrow. But while she was in his arms it was so right that nothing else mattered. ‘I don't care,’ she said, ‘I can’t let you go without telling you I love you. Without showing you I do. I’m sorry about Jennifer Stanley.’

‘What’s she got to do with it?’ He sounded as though Jennifer Stanley had no place in this conversation, and Pattie certainly didn’t want to talk about her, but she had to explain,

‘Well, she came round to my flat. She said she didn’t hold any grudge against me because she was marrying a man who really loved her now, but that you blamed me still.’

Duncan swore, briefly but vividly. Then he said, ‘I felt guilty enough about Jennifer myself. I took it out on you, but I blamed myself.’

‘Did she ’ Pattie’s voice had a hushed horror, ‘did she try to kill herself?’

‘She did take an overdose, but she knew she was going to be found in time. I saw quite a lot of her last summer, I felt responsible for her.’

That was a story the gossip hounds had missed. It was going to hurt, but she had to ask, ‘Were you lovers last summer?’ and when he said, ‘No,’ she knew he was telling the truth. ‘But I
was
sorry for her,’ he went on. ‘I still am, although she’s a greedy woman. Being jilted like that was a savage blow to her pride, but it was losing a rich man that really cut her up. The man she is marrying isn’t going to provide such a cushy life style.’

So that was why she came round to poison my mind, Pattie thought with a flash of perception. Telling me you hated me still. She was the one who hated me. She wanted to keep us apart as her little revenge.

She said slowly, ‘She said you’d never really forgiven me for that story. That when you finished fancying me you’d get rid of me so fast.’

‘My darling idiot,’ said Duncan, ‘I don’t fancy you.’

‘You don’t?’

His arms were still around her, not holding her crushingly close any more but she was still within the circle of them, and he wasn’t joking, there was no smile in his dark eyes. ‘I’m burned up for you,’ he said huskily. ‘You rip the heart out of me every time I look at you.’

‘Then why did you get rid of me so fast when the Bruntons came? Why didn’t you ask me to stay just a little longer?’

‘I nearly did.’ His grin was rueful. ‘Then I thought, this is crazy, you’re up here to work, man, there goes your distraction. What are you thinking of, trying to stop her?’

‘Your work, of course.’ Of course his work always came first. ‘And you got on so well after I’d gone.’

‘I didn’t get on at all after you’d gone.’ Pattie gulped, then goggled listening to Duncan telling her unbelievably, ‘I couldn’t work for thinking of you and missing you and wanting you. I shifted tons of snow looking for that talisman of yours, that’s what I did, and it kept on snowing and I never found the bloody thing. So then I thought I might as well get back down here. I hired one of Barney’s men to keep digging, and I found it is possible for me to work so long as you’re not too far away.’

‘This isn’t true,’ she said, but if it was how wonderful it would be. ‘If you followed me here why didn’t you get in touch? If I hadn’t gone to that exhibition ’

‘I was waiting for your talisman. I wanted to bring it to you and say, “Remember me as well when you wear this.” I didn’t expect you at that exhibition. When you walked in I nearly grabbed you and held on to you, but I knew a photographer was around and I was far from sure you’d welcome being grabbed.’

‘I would have done,’ she said. ‘Oh, I would!’

‘You didn’t show it. I was murderously jealous of Michael. I arranged for the carving to arrive that evening and hoped it would stir something.’

Her lips curved. ‘You did? Well, it worked. But didn’t you know that after the lodge I’d sort of lost interest in Michael?’

‘You said that what happened at the lodge didn’t count,’ he reminded her, and she hated herself for her destructive defensiveness. She could have had this man, his loving, for long nights before this night. This was the last, and she would weep for the wasted ones. She wailed, ‘Now you tell me, when you’re going tomorrow!’

‘Not without you.’ He kissed her as she clung to him until the room started to swim around her. Then he said, ‘If you hadn’t come tonight I was coming for you. I can’t do without you, I want you for good. Tomorrow we’ll go and see a man about a wedding.’

‘A
wedding?'
she echoed.

Duncan tilted her chin, a fist beneath it, smiling, but it was an uneasy smile, and he was pleading although he sounded masterful. ‘I’ve had enough of waiting for you to make up your mind. This we do my way. We get married.’

‘That should be fun,’ Pattie said softly and shakily, and she saw the joy hit him and knew how much he must love her, and happiness blazed for her like a thousand stars.

‘It will be,’ he said. ‘I promise you it will be. Fun and a whole lot more.’

‘Will we live here?’ She was whispering.

‘Some of the time.’

‘I’ll like that,’ she said. ‘At least I think I will. But I haven’t seen it all yet. I haven’t seen the rooms up there.’ A staircase led to what had been the attics and now must be the bedrooms.

‘You’ll like them.’ They stood so close, smiles stilled on their lips as passion rose to incredible intensity, and she slipped her arms around his neck, whispering again,

‘I remember, there was a time you carried me upstairs.’

‘I remember too,’ said Duncan, and he lifted her, her heart thudding against his heart, and carried her, and as they reached the top of the stairs began to kiss her . . .

BOOK: Unknown
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