Authors: Anna Jacobs
Table of Contents
CHANGE OF SEASON
THE CORRIGAN LEGACY
A FORBIDDEN EMBRACE
AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN
LICENCE TO DREAM
MARRYING MISS MARTHA
MISTRESS OF MARYMOOR
REPLENISH THE EARTH
SEASONS OF LOVE
THE WISHING WELL
WINDS OF CHANGE
SHORT AND SWEET
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First world edition published 2012
in Great Britain and in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright Â© 2012 by Anna Jacobs.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Winds of change.
1. Love stories.
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-268-9 (Epub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8160-1 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-423-3 (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
Miranda Fox had the dream again that night. She dreamed of freedom and went striding off towards the horizon in a delicate flush of dawnlight to meet the daughter she'd given away at birth. She held her close â a young woman now, not a baby. Where had all those years gone? As always her daughter's face was indistinct, but she too had wavy ash-brown hair and wasn't tall.
Joy and energy pulsed through Miranda and she laughed aloud for sheer happiness. Then her half-brother Sebastian intruded on her dream, standing over her with folded arms, looking at her scornfully â as usual. The feeling of joy faded and the shackles of duty gripped her so tightly that when her daughter slipped from her grasp and walked away into the mist, even in a dream she could only watch sadly.
Then Sebastian grabbed her arm, dragged her back in spite of her struggles and she became Minnie again, because her family insisted on shortening her name.
Only her mother had ever used her full name, but her mother had died forty-two years ago when she was five. Her father had found another wife within six months, making his third marriage and creating his third child â to his disappointment another daughter. But Regina's mother had left him after five years, not daring to take her daughter with her because Judge James Fox was a powerful man.
From then on, he had eschewed women and had nothing good to say about them. He boasted that he'd brought up his three children on his own, with the help of a series of housekeepers, and had created a son and heir anyone would be proud of. He never expressed pride in his two daughters.
Miranda woke suddenly, staring round the bedroom for a moment, feeling as if she was in an alien place. She'd slept later than usual. What had woken her? She sighed as she realized it was her father calling for help in getting to the commode chair next to his bed. He'd turned ninety-four two days ago and was as cantankerous as they came. Someone had to take care of him and Sebastian had made sure it was her.
What kept her going was her father's promise that after he died she'd be looked after and would be a woman of independent means. It wouldn't make up for all the tedious, lost years, but it'd help. And he never broke his promises.
He hadn't always been this bad-tempered. She remembered another father, intelligent and quite good company as long as things went his way. But she'd lost that man during the past year or two and a querulous stranger had taken his place, a stranger who didn't always remember things clearly.
âI'm ready to die,' he grumbled as she helped him. âWhat's it coming to when my daughter has to pull my trousers up?'
âI'm happy to help you.'
âIt's still not right.'
No, she thought. Her whole life wasn't right. What he and her brother had done to her wasn't right. But you couldn't change the past.
Her days had now blurred into a round of small tasks, small thoughts and even smaller hopes. Besides, she knew her father would have gone mad in a nursing home â and driven everyone else mad, too. She'd been locked away once herself and wouldn't put anyone else in that terrible situation. So she waited to be released from this duty with as much patience as she could summon up.
Mid-morning she caught sight of herself in the hall mirror and grimaced. Her hair was scraped back into a tangled clump, the grey streaks at her temples showing all too clearly. Her expression was grim and she looked older than her years. She tried to smile and when she failed, turned away from that unflattering reflection.
Her father spent the morning in his sitting room, which had once been the spare bedroom. When she peeped in, he was staring into space, which wasn't like him. âAre you all right, Father?'
âOf course I'm all right. Stop fussing. Can a man not have a peaceful think in his own home?'
Just before one o'clock, he moved slowly along the corridor, leaning on his Zimmer frame, his breath coming in gasps with the effort. But he refused to let her take him in a tray and would not use a wheelchair, let alone even contemplate one of the little motorized vehicles that would allow him to go outside again.
Five minutes after he'd taken his place, Miranda brought in the quiche she'd made for lunch.
He was drumming his fingers impatiently. âYou're late. You know I like to eat at one sharp.'
She knew better than to argue that five minutes made little difference. He set a great store on what he called maintaining standards. âThe food's here now. Quiche. Your favourite.'
Before she could even set it down, he pressed one hand to his chest, tried to speak and leaned sideways, starting to fall slowly.
She dumped the tray on the table, but before she could get round to catch him, he'd fallen to the floor.
He didn't cry out as he hit the carpet or move from the twisted, awkward position.
She stood stock still for a moment, her breath catching in her throat, then knelt to feel for the pulse in his neck. Was he . . . could he be . . . ?
No pulse. No life in his eyes.
For a moment she could only stare at him in shock. Then she reached out to close the staring eyes.
She didn't feel sad or weep. Her father had had a long life, dominating the whole family until a couple of years ago, when Sebastian, also a lawyer, had taken on that role.
No, her main emotion was relief, huge waves of it washing over her.
She was free at last!
Oh, she had so many plans, so much lost time to make up for. Her father had promised to leave her enough to buy a home of her own and to live on. She wasn't going to rush into anything but would take time to explore the possibilities for an interesting and fulfilling life.
She kept telling herself forty-seven was the new thirty-seven, but she didn't really believe that. She felt nearer to fifty-seven.
Then guilt crept in and her moment of euphoria vanished. How could she think like that? For all his faults, he was her father.
âGoodbye,' she said softly and went to phone her half-brother at his rooms. âSebastian? It's Father. He's just died, I'm afraid.'
âWhat? Are you sure?'
âOf course I am.'
âDon't touch anything. I'll come round at once. Oh, hell, I can't! I've got an important client coming in ten minutes, only time I could fit her in. Look, I'll be round in an hour, hour and a half max. Don't touch anything.'
âShall I call the doctor?'
âNo! Leave everything to me.'
She put the phone down and went to change her clothes. A rose-coloured top didn't feel right on such a day. Her father had hated to see her in bright colours anyway, muttering comments like âMutton dressed as lamb'.
When she was more sombrely clad, she hesitated in the doorway of her father's bedroom. She'd been itching to clear it out for years. The drawers and shelves were crammed with decades of rubbish and old clothes because he would never throw anything away from his magpie hoard.
The top drawer was slightly open. Her father usually kept that particular drawer locked. She went to shut it, but saw something beneath the papers: a box. She recognized it at once. Her mother's jewellery box. Why was it here? Her father had told her years ago that he'd put it in the bank for safety, because some of the pieces were quite valuable.
The jewellery was hers, left to her by her mother, and was nothing to do with her half-brother and sister. She clutched the box to her chest, happy to see it again.
Guilt kicked in once more. He wasn't even cold and she was going through his things.
But the box and its contents
hers. She'd have claimed them years ago if her father hadn't made such a fuss about looking after them for her. And anyway, what chance had she ever had to wear expensive jewellery? None, that's what. She'd always been shy, had dated a few guys in her teens, had had that one disastrous relationship and never had the chance to go out with anyone else since.
Feeling like a thief, she took the box into her bedroom and went through it. Two of the most valuable pieces were missing. Where could they be? She went back to check her father's drawers, but the matching diamond brooch and necklace weren't there.
She hesitated, unable to face going through the whole room. If the jewellery was there, they'd find it when they cleared out her father's things. She'd better put the box away safely. Where? In the end, she put it into her suitcase on top of the wardrobe, locking the case carefully and putting the key in her purse. Once he found out two pieces were missing, Sebastian would want to whisk the rest of the jewellery away for safe keeping but she wouldn't let him. From now on, she intended to look after her own life and possessions.
She sighed, not looking forward to Sebastian arriving. He was so like their father, both of them chauvinists, and while there was some excuse for a ninety-four-year-old man having that attitude, there was no excuse for a man of fifty-two, who'd been born in an era of women's liberation and should know better. Perhaps being a lawyer had made him so conservative, or perhaps it was his elderly father's influence, or maybe he'd simply been born that way. How his wife put up with him, she didn't understand, because Dorothy was an intelligent woman.