ROMANCE IN FRANCE

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Chapter 11

It was a few weeks later. Alice’s second birthday and Yvette and Jemma were busy preparing jellies and cakes for a small celebration when they heard a car pull up outside the kitchen door.

‘Somebody doesn’t like walking,’ remarked Yvette, raising an eyebrow at Jemma as she stirred the cake mixture around the bowl she held. ‘It must be a customer for the Caravan Park,’ said Jemma, wiping her hands and heading towards the door. ‘Mark didn’t say anything about anyone coming to stay in one of the caravans today though.’ With a puzzled frown on her face, she scanned the calendar by the door. The dates were all marked on the calendar for when people were expected to arrive for their holidays. ‘I’m sure I would have remembered if we had someone arriving, especially on Alice’s birthday, huh, just as I thought. We haven’t got a date marked down on the calendar for anyone to arrive on Alice’s birthday Yvette,’ said Jemma, perusing the calendar intently.

She put her hand to the knob to open the door, when it was thrust back sharply nearly knocking her off her feet. She gazed inquiringly at the dark haired young woman who sat in a wheelchair in the doorway. Stood behind her was a tall dark haired young man dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform.

The dark haired young woman glared viciously at Jemma. ‘Who, are you?’ she asked rudely. The voice was malevolent and she stared indignantly at Jemma who stood blocking the doorway.

Jemma stared back at her, astounded at her attitude. ‘I might ask you the same question. Are you here to rent a caravan?’ Jemma said, politely but firmly, prepared to accept the young woman’s attitude if she was. ‘She probably can’t help being the way she is,’ thought Jemma kindly.

‘No!’ said the woman furiously. She half turned in her wheelchair and waved her hands imperiously at the chauffeur behind her. ‘Push me over this damn step, you!’ she said spitefully, directing the young man to push her into the house.

Jemma stood her ground determinedly. The young man gave her a thin smile and put his head on one side to look at her appealingly. Jemma straightened her spine and stood stiffly in the doorway. She was responsible for the home and she wasn’t about to let anyone into the house without an explanation, even if she were a cripple. The woman stared at Jemma angrily trying to intimidate her, her face suffused with rage and frustration.

‘Who was this damn chit of a girl, to stop her entry?’ Sonya pushed at the wheels of the chair furiously trying to push the wheels over the step. ‘She would sack this damn chauffeur when she got home.’ Sonya’s thoughts were venomous as she pushed at the wheels of her chair. Her face was full of hate and clearly expressed the rage and frustration she felt.

‘I want to see my, daughter!’ said Sonya viciously; staring hard at Jemma her hands gripping the side of her chair were white with tension.

Jemma’s face blanched as she realised whom the woman was.

A look of pure vindictiveness appeared on Sonya’s face, which caused Jemma to take a step back fearfully, whereupon Sonya swiftly took the advantage. ‘Push me over this step, damn you,’ turning her head to gaze viciously at the poor chauffeur a look of pure hatred in her eyes.

Reluctantly Jemma took another step backwards and looking hopefully towards Yvette for help said. ‘Could you make a drink for them Yvette, please? I’ll see if I can get Carl, or Mark, on the phone.’ She ran quickly to the office, thanking God as she did so that Alice was fast asleep upstairs having her afternoon nap.

She rang Carl’s mobile number as thoughts raced frantically through her brain. Hoping, praying she was doing the right thing. She didn’t see much of Carl lately, he was always so busy, but she didn’t want to have to ring Mark unless she had to.

‘If Mark met his wife in this kind of state, he may not be able to handle the situation,’ thought Jemma worriedly. She knew how much he loved Alice and she knew also that it had taken a long time for him to get over the accident, and come to terms with his situation. ‘It would probably upset him all over again,’ she thought miserably. She stood, impatiently, waiting for Carl to answer the phone.

‘Please be there Carl,’ she whispered to herself, the worry making her chew her bottom lip ferociously.

‘Robinson Vineyard, can I help you,’ said Carl politely.

She explained the situation to him as quickly as she could. ‘Where’s Alice?’ he asked brusquely.

‘Having her afternoon nap,’ answered Jemma quickly.

‘Don’t! Let that damn woman near her!’ his voice sounded thick like treacle. ‘I’ll be there as quick as I can.’ The phone made a crackling sound as if he were already running.

Jemma put the phone down and hurried back to the kitchen.

Yvette lifted an eyebrow inquiringly at Jemma, as she entered the kitchen, in an unspoken question. Jemma returned her look with a quick nod and Yvette then walked across the kitchen to hand Sonya the cup of tea she had made.

Sonya had seen the exchange of glances and swivelled her chair round to watch Jemma as she entered the kitchen a sardonic expression on her face. Taking the tea off Yvette she banged the cup and saucer down angrily onto the breakfast bar at the side of her, spilling some of the contents into the saucer.

’So!’ she said, looking Jemma up and down as if she were something dirty, the look of malice never leaving her face, her whole attitude left nothing to the imagination. ‘What did, the high and mighty Carl have to say?’ she asked, tossing her head primly.

‘He’ll be here as quick as he can,’ said Jemma mildly. Her green eye’s stared back at Sonya like cool clear water but inside Jemma seethed angrily at the way this woman treated her. She knew the calmer she appeared to be, the more it would rile the woman who stared at her so vindictively. Why the woman seemed to take such pleasure in being so vindictive towards her, Jemma didn’t know.

‘He will! Will he!’ said Sonya, spittle flying from her mouth. ‘Where is my, daughter?’ she said, again deliberately stressing the, my. A cynical smile twisted her lips as she watched Jemma, who valiantly fought to control her temper. ‘I want to see her! Now!’ said Sonya, her voice hissing like a snakes.

‘Alice is having her afternoon nap,’ replied Jemma calmly. Her voice remained amazingly cool considering how desperately hard she was trying to swallow her pride, and control the anger she felt at this woman’s treatment.

‘Then go and wake her. You!’ she said, pointing her finger imperiously at Jemma. ‘Go! And get her now!’ Sonya’s body moved violently with each word, so that the chair nearly pulled out of the chauffeur’s hands.

Jemma was just about to say she would do no such thing, when Pup entered the kitchen.

He had wandered in through the patio doors after hearing strange voices raised in the kitchen, flying through the door yapping and snarling viciously. Even though Pup hadn’t grown a great deal, his quick entrance and snarling face appearing at Sonya’s feet startled her into action. She flung her leg out of the wheelchair to kick the dog. ‘Get that mangy creature away from me!’ she screamed violently, then quickly straightened the blanket as she saw Carl and Mark walk through the kitchen door.

She lifted the malevolent face to look at the two brothers. ‘Ah!’ she said with great emphasis. ‘The Robinson Brothers,’ she purred viciously, her voice emphasising the hate and contempt she held them in. ‘Perhaps you can inform this, Person,’ she said, waving her hand dismissively at Jemma as if she were a piece of dirt. ‘To remove this filthy creature, and then kindly bring my, daughter to me.’

Mark looked over at Jemma and gave her a sympathetic smile, apologising with his eyes for the woman’s insulting behaviour.

Carl turned to look at Jemma his face impassive. ‘Please take Pup, into the garden Jemma, and don’t worry, everything will be all right,’ he said quietly.

The poor chauffeur still stood behind Sonya’s chair, looking first at one foot and then the other, clearly embarrassed and not knowing what to do with him self. Yvette who still stood working at the melamine worktop in the far corner of the kitchen kept quiet and carried on relentlessly with her baking.

‘Now Sonya,’ said Carl, his voice was flat and deadly quiet, full of determination. ‘You can’t see Alice, because she is having her afternoon nap.’

‘She’s my daughter and if I want to see her, I will!’ snapped Sonya glaring viciously into the impassive brown eyes of Carl.

‘You! Disowned her!’ Was Carl’s quiet reply, as he stared deeply into the blue eyes defying her? ‘Said you couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to look after her. You agreed to let her stay with us; you didn’t want anything more to do with her. We paid you a great deal of money to keep you in the style you wanted to live. You, robbed us blind,’ said Carl. ‘And, you didn’t want poor little Alice.’

She tried to butt in, but Carl kept going, his voice dogmatic completely over-riding her. ‘You did everything you could to get rid of her. Except abortion,’ he said emphatically and that was only because Mark wouldn’t let you kill her.’ He heard Yvette’s soft gasp.

‘Now, leave this house Sonya, and don’t you, ever, come back again,’ said Mark angrily as he moved to stand closer to his brother. He glared at the woman he had once loved, staring her down. He knew in his heart that he no longer cared for her at all. The last vestige of any feelings for her left him, as he glared angrily into the hate filled face of the woman he had once loved.

‘She’s mine! You won’t keep her,’ she said; Glaring viciously at the two brothers who stood united again. All the rage and frustration she felt shone wildly in the glittering blue eyes. ‘I’ll take her from you,’ she screamed resentfully. ‘Why! Should you have everything and I’ve got nothing,’ she said, spitting the words out of her mouth like snake spitting venom at them.

The brothers looked at each other, fear for Alice clearly visible in their eyes. They both knew the kind of person she was. How she could manipulate people and make them believe she was the person who had been wronged.

She grabbed the wheels of the chair and swung it round viciously, dragging it out of the chauffeur’s hands, narrowly missing Mark’s bad leg as he stepped out of the way. The chauffeur followed her reluctantly, as laughing like a demon she pushed the wheelchair across the kitchen.

Then she stopped in the doorway and turned to face them. ‘I’ll have it all,’ she said her face choleric. ‘The house, the vineyard and Alice you’ll see. You’ll see. You see if I don’t!’ and leaving them with those terrible words ringing in their ears she signalled the chauffeur and he pushed her out of the house still laughing like a maniac.

Yvette had heard everything she could hardly believe her ears. ‘Poor little Alice, that woman was a demon, they couldn’t possibly let that woman have her she was mad,’ thought Yvette.

Jemma ran quickly back into the kitchen when she heard the car leave. She still carried Pup in her arms and her face expressed her worry. She watched the brothers as they wandered slowly into the office. Their shoulders had sagged as if under a great weight, and their faces were drawn and worried, each lost; deep in his own thoughts.

Yvette relayed the rest of what had happened to Jemma while she stood and listened intently, clutching Pup’s small warm body close to her as if for support. ‘She can’t do that! Can she’ exclaimed Jemma, staring at Yvette her eyes wide and frightened.

’I’d believe a person of her kind, capable of anything!’ said Yvette emphatically, as she placed her baking in the oven. ‘And our employers, they seem to me to be pretty upset by the whole affair too!’ she said, nodding her head towards the office door which the two brothers had shut tight after their entry.

That night, Jemma wrote a long letter to her mother. Telling her about the appearance of Alice’s mother and explaining to her what a dreadful person she seemed to be. She desperately needed to talk to someone about it and this was the next best thing. A couple of day’s later she received a note from Chancy, who replied immediately, writing to tell Jemma that if the brothers agreed, she could bring Alice home with her and stay with them if it would help. Jemma gave the message to Mark and Carl who said they were very grateful for her mothers concern and would certainly take up the offer if it became necessary. Then they explained to Jemma that they had received assurances from their lawyer that there was nothing Sonya could do about it, unless she resorted to kidnapping. Mark then asked her to be specifically on her guard if any strangers ever approached them whenever she took Alice out for her walk, or to the village.

After the dreadful episode with Sonya, Jemma felt it her duty to be vigilant. She always took Pup with her wherever she went. She knew that he would bark, if anyone came within range, soon making her aware of strangers. Pup and Alice now took it in turns to sit in the pram on their walks to the village and back, as Alice sometimes liked to walk. It amused people that lived along the route to the village to see the dog sitting in the pram and they would smile and wave to the threesome.

For a couple of month’s after Sonya’s visit everyone was on their guard, then things seemed to settle down again and life returned to normal. Michael occasionally demanded a more personal relationship, but Jemma insisted she wasn’t interested in becoming anything more than just a friend.

One morning a few weeks later, Jemma received a letter from her friend Abbey. It appeared that she and Craig had broken off their engagement. Jemma read between the lines. She knew how hurt and upset Abbey would be. Craig and Abbey had been a two-some since going to school together.

At dinner that evening everyone at the vineyard sat discussing the Caravan Park and its different consequences on their lives. Everything at the moment appeared to be going well, as Jemma knew, because the brothers were pleased to report the growth in the business daily. Jemma played nearly as big a part in the running of the Caravan Park as they did meeting the customers and organising the visits to the winery.

’I’d like to ask a favor please,’ she smiled appealingly at the brothers across the table.

The two brothers looked up, both men willing to grant anything she asked. After all she felt like one of the family. It was her idea that had helped them in getting the vineyard back on its feet.

‘My friend Abbey has fallen out with her boyfriend,’ she said, and smiled at them hesitantly. ‘I wondered if I could ask her to come over here. Would you let her stay at the vineyard with me, for a couple of week’s holiday? It would give her a break,’ she said, looking at them hopefully.

Both men agreed instantly.

‘Ask your friend over any time you like, we have plenty of room, you can make one of the back bedrooms up for her,’ said Carl.

‘Yes, it will be a nice change for you to have a friend to talk to. Make it a month if she can, you must have a lot of catching up to do,’ said Mark, smiling warmly at her. Abbey wrote back saying she would love to come and few weeks later Mark drove Jemma to the railway station to meet her friend. Abbey stepped off the train, and the two friends wrapped their arms around each other. ‘It’s lovely to see you,’ they both said in unison, then burst out laughing.

Mark stepped forward to pick up the cases and Jemma introduced them. Mark couldn’t quite believe his eyes when he met Abbey. She was the absolute opposite of Sonya. He hadn’t thought he would ever be attracted to the type of girl Abbey seemed to be and was surprised at the instant attraction that flared up between them. She was a pale blonde girl, of slight build and a kind face, with very large pale blue eyes. She smiled at him; the blue eyes widening even more if that were possible, as Jemma introduced her to Mark.

Abbey’s impression was one of surprise too. As Jemma introduced her to Mark she became aware of her attraction to him she had thought Craig the one and only, their feelings having developed since they were in school. He had meant everything to her, and when he had suddenly started an affair with someone else it had left her devastated and quite ill for a few months. Now in an instant her feelings had changed too. She could see the feint white scars that crossed his face and knew from Jemma’s letters that he must be the brother who was Alice’s father, the one who had had a terrible accident and instantly her tender heart felt for him.

Jemma caught hold of Abbey’s arm and began pulling her towards the car. ‘Come on Abbey. I want you to see the winery and meet Pup and Alice, she’s the most beautiful child and I know you’ll just love her.’ They sat in the back seat of the car and chatted happily about things and people back home. Jemma asking Abbey if she had seen her mother and Abbey replied that she had brought Jemma some things for her, that her mother had sent.

They reached the house and Jemma climbed out of the car. Pup came bounding up. He was never happy when Jemma left him behind and always made a great fuss when she came home. She knelt down and picked him up. ‘Come on then softy,’ she said, he licked her hands giddy with happiness. He had grown quite a bit, but he was still small enough to be picked up. His fur had lengthened and he looked vaguely like a small Sheltie Collie.

‘Ahh! Exclaimed Abbey he’s lovely!’ She stretched out a hand to pat him and Pup licked Abbey’s hands too thoroughly content to have his mistress home again. Yvette greeted them with a cup of tea. Alice trotted across the floor towards them her arms held out for Jemma’s customary kiss, then slowed down and hid behind Yvette’s skirts shyly when she caught sight of Abbey, who was following Jemma through the door. She wasn’t quite sure of a stranger coming into the house, but Jemma caught her up into her arms and kissed her cheek.

‘This is Abbey, Alice,’ she said turning to face her friend, the child in her arms. ‘Can you say Abbey, for me Alice?’ said Jemma, smiling encouragingly at her.

‘Bey,’ said Alice, staring curiously at the stranger with her big blue eyes wide.

‘What a little sweetie you are,’ said Abbey, gathering Alice to her. Mark came in with Abbey’s cases. Seeing the two golden heads together, he thought with surprise how easily Abbey could pass as the child’s mother.

Later that night, after the evening meal, which Jemma and Abbey had prepared between the non-stop gossiping, the four adults retired to the sitting room with their glasses of wine and Pup, curled up in his basket, content to listen to the voices of the happy chattering people.

‘We’ll go down on the beach tomorrow,’ said Mark. ‘We can take a picnic. Alice, will love it, and since no one has had a day out this year yet, it will make a pleasant change for all of us,’ he said, looking meaningfully at Carl.

‘We’ll enjoy that too, won’t we Abbey?’ said Jemma, smiling eagerly at her friend, noticing with interest that her friend hardly took her eyes off Mark. Carl had also noticed Mark’s obvious interest in Abbey, and felt surprised at his behaviour. He’d watched him ogling her all through their evening meal in disbelief, and now he was suggesting days off and picnics.

‘Yes,’ said Abbey, gaily; ‘Its ages since I was at the beach. We can show Alice, how to make sand castles.’ The conversation changed to discussing the good times they had enjoyed at picnic’s and times at the beach, with everyone joining in the chatter, each with their own special reminiscence’s and memory’s of their beach adventures.

Later, Jemma took Abbey upstairs leading her to a room at the back of the house that overlooked the gardens and the caravan park. These rooms were all self contained with en-suite showers, the brother’s grandmother having had them done for when the family visited.

Abbey gave her friend a hug; ‘Thank-you Jemma, for inviting me. It’s such a beautiful place, and the brothers are really kind to have me. You’ve all made me feel so welcome. This room is really lovely and the view is great. It’s so good, to see you again Jemma.’

Jemma smiled, patting her friend’s back gently as she clasped her arms around her. ‘I’m just happy you could come. I’ve been so looking forward to seeing you again. I hope you have a good holiday. Now, go to bed and sleep well. We can have some fun tomorrow. Goodnight Abbey.’

‘Goodnight Jemma, and thanks again.’

Jemma made her way back along the landing to Alice’s room, peeping in the door to check all was well before going to bed. She was looking forward to the weeks ahead.

Sunday, was a memorable day. The sun came up after the first mists of the day, leaving the sky an incredible blue. They filled the picnic basket to the brim; with chicken legs cooked in garlic and butter, salad, crusty bread rolls, and all manner of good things to eat and drink. The journey didn’t take long, because the little bay lay only a matter of a few miles away from the vineyard.

The small bay was quite deserted when they arrived. The silver sand lay clean and sparkling in the bright morning sunshine. The sea was a splendid deep blue green way out to the horizon. Delicate waves of clear water slid up over the silver sands and made an idyllic picture of peace and harmony.

Everyone took off their shoes and socks and made trails of footprints across the unblemished silver sand, pretending they were the first inhabitants to have ever walked on the deserted beach. They placed the picnic basket, towels and buckets and spades in the lee of the cliff, and then made a dash for the water, the two men swinging Alice between them. Everyone including Pup, joined in the fun of making sand castles, with water filled moats and flags flying. The afternoon rang with spontaneous laughter that became actually hilarious at times. Eventually, exhausted by the fun and excitement, Alice fell asleep in Mark’s arms.

The adults sat talking quietly. Watching the sun, as it began to sink, finally going down on the horizon and leaving in its wake a glorious sunset. Everyone sat and watched reverently until the very last minute. The darkness eventually forced them to retreat homeward, tired and happy but slightly regretful, as no one wanted such an enjoyable day to end.

The first fortnight of Abbey’s holiday flashed past, like a train passing in the night, no one realised it had gone. The men worked diligently in the winery and the girls seemed to have so much to do and talk about. On the third Sunday of Abbey’s holiday the girls took Alice to the beach again and the three of them spent the whole day, swimming and playing in the warm clear blue sea. Afterwards they helped Alice to build a sandcastle with the warm silver sand, returning to have a late dinner with the brothers, who were too busy working to have the time off.

After dinner Mark asked Abbey if she would like to go for a walk with him to see the winery. Abbey agreed instantly. The attraction bubbling between them for three weeks had gradually built to a crescendo and they both felt the need to be together somewhere private.

Mark proffered his arm and they left the room gaily, arm in arm and smiling happily.

Carl rose from his seat. A studied frown on his face as he walked across the room to look out of the window and watch the happy couple walk away arm in arm.

‘I think my brother likes your friend Abbey,’ said Carl. His back was to Jemma who sat on the settee staring unseeingly into the empty fireplace. Her mind concentrating on the attraction for each other that had seemingly sprung up between Abbey and Mark.

‘Yes, I was thinking the same thing. I think they will be good for each other,’ replied Jemma, smiling dreamily to her self. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if Abbey hasn’t fallen in love with Mark. She talks about him all the time, whenever we’re together. She started going out with Craig, when they were in school together. She thought, she loved him, and then in May she found out he was two timing her. She hasn’t told me a great deal about what happened, but my mother said she was ill for a while.’

‘Mark, had a similar kind of experience with Sonya, only it was after they were married and I’m afraid it became worse after Alice was born,’ he said sadly. ’It was as if she were paying him back for making her give birth to Alice. She was always off somewhere, either a party, or dancing, anything and anywhere, spending money like water. Back to the partying and the extravagant affectionate people she enjoyed mixing with. She always had to be the centrepiece of every function; the men were attracted to her like a magnet. Mark, well, no matter how he tried, he could never be enough for her.

The night the accident happened, they’d accepted an invitation to a party. It was about this time of year, the winery exceptionally active. Mark was feeling tired with all the work and he was beginning to find she disgusted him with her antics with the men. He told her it was time they were leaving and took hold of her arm trying to pull her away. She of course was actually enjoying his despair and told him to leave without her if he was going. She didn’t believe he would.’ Here Carl shrugged his shoulders. ’I think Mark, had become disillusioned with her by then and was becoming to realise what kind of a mistake he had made. He came home, and had gone to sleep when she phoned telling him she wanted him to collect her. Mark, told her to get a taxi, but she threatened to go home with one of his friends and sleep with him. I forget exactly who he was. Anyway, to cut a long story short, Mark got the car out and went back to the party for her. When he arrived, she demanded that he take her friend home first. The so-called friend was in a drunken stupor and at first Mark, refused. Then Sonya kicked up such a fuss, screaming and shouting that people in the nearby houses came out to see what was happening. Poor Mark, he said he felt so ashamed, he just bundled them both into the car. By the time they arrived at the house, the man was incapable.

Mark had to practically carry him into the house and when he came out again, Sonya was in the driving seat and she refused to budge. Mark’s not the type of person to use force on a woman and the abusive way she spoke to him annoyed him. He said he walked around the car three or four times to calm himself down then spent ages trying to persuade her she was in no fit state to drive, but he finally gave up in the end. She drove them into a tree.’

‘What an awful woman, but if it was her fault, how did she get away with taking everything?’ asked Jemma puzzled.

‘For one thing, Mark needed rid of her I think. We both wanted to keep Alice, of course, and this was the only way. She’s a wicked woman. Even though the doctors said that they could find no possible reason why she couldn’t walk, indeed couldn’t find anything wrong with her, she exploited it to the full. She said that she couldn’t walk and no one has been able to prove otherwise.’ Jemma thought back to a few weeks ago, when she had first seen Sonya; seeing the sequence of events as it flashed before her mind’s eye, the way she had seen Sonya lift her leg and lash out at Pup with her foot. She kept the memory of the incident to herself, not wanting to upset Carl.

He had moved over from the window and had come to sit on the other end of the settee during the conversation. Relating the incident confidentially to her had helped in relieving some of the pent-up emotion he felt.

He lifted his head; his eyes meeting the beautiful green one’s that looked back at him with love and compassion.

Jemma realised as she looked into Carl’s brown eyes that she loved him and her love changed the colour of her eyes to a deeper hue.

Carl felt himself drawn towards the deep green pools. His body moved lethargically dreamily, as if strong undercurrents had him in tow towards the soft tender lips that waited for his kiss.

Jemma sat mesmerized by the look of longing in the brown eyes, waiting for the moment, her heart beating fast. It never came. Pup barked. Mark and Abbey entered the house and Carl and Jemma came instantly apart as the moment vanished. Mark marched straight through the kitchen and hall to the sitting room; too wrapped up in his own emotions to notice the soft exciting undercurrents that pervaded the room, and were suddenly whisked out of the participants reach by his entrance.

‘Hi, you two, what have you been up to? Abbey’s putting the kettle on,’ he said, and then he walked across the living room and made himself comfortable in one of the chairs, before he turned to gaze at them with a radiant look on his face.

Carl shook himself mentally pushing away his feelings, quickly changing, instantly and alert to the aura of happiness that surrounded his brother. ‘More to the point what have you two been up to?’ said Carl. He grinned conspiratorially at Mark ‘You look very pleased with yourself.’

’Just showing Abbey, around the winery,’ said Mark complacently trying hard not to give anything away and little realizing that his facial expression concealed nothing.

’Get on well with Abbey, don’t you Mark?’ said Jemma, quickly hiding her own feelings as she smiled broadly at him. They had acquired a brother and sister kind of relationship over the last few months and since Abbey’s appearance at the vineyard he had suddenly seemed much younger.

’Who wants tea?’ Abbey asked, walking into the room. She carried a tray in front of her with the teapot and cups on and Mark stood up quickly taking the tray from her and placing it on the table. The talk changed to everyday topics and before long everyone was ready to retire. Jemma was the first to leave popping into Alice’s room on her way to make sure she was all right. Pup followed in her footsteps. He still liked to sleep on the end of Jemma’s bed at night.

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