Old Desires Online - Liz Fielding Page 0,1

demanded.

‘Nothing. I’m here for Mary.’ The measured control in his voice did nothing to disguise a tightening of the skin across the hard bones that moulded his cheeks.

‘Well?’

‘I’m not in the habit of discussing business on the doorstep.’ Sensing her resistance he took half a step back. ‘If you wish, you may telephone that number from my car and verify my bona fides.’

‘That won’t be necessary.’ She had no doubt that he was exactly who he said he was. ‘If you were some kind of conman you’d have made rather more effort to be pleasant.’ Her reluctance to invite him in had more to do with a barely understood antagonism than fear. She did not want him in her home, but since he wasn’t going anywhere until he’d said his piece, she stood back. ‘You’d better come in.’

Holly indicated the sitting room which had always seemed so warm and welcoming, but she saw it now through his eyes. The worn patch on the carpet by the door, the shabby sofa, velvet curtains so old that the blue had faded to grey along the edges. Her home. Exactly as she liked it and he would just have to put up with it. But he didn’t seem to notice his surroundings, his whole being intent only on her.

‘Would you like some coffee?’ she asked, quickly, in an effort to distract him rather than from any belated desire to be hospitable. He refused, but took the chair she indicated.

Holly perched nervously on the sofa opposite him and waited. He sat forward in the slightly sagging armchair, his beautifully kept hands between his knees, long fingers meshed together. It seemed forever before he began but she waited. He had a force of presence that would make anyone wait to hear what he had to say.

‘Mary died the night before last,’ he said at last, his voice warmer as he spoke her name. She realised then, that for him Mary’s death had been a real loss and wondered what exactly their relationship had been. Mary had been younger than her mother, or so it had appeared to her seven-year-old eyes.

There was a severity about Joshua Kent that made it difficult to judge his age. The smooth cap of hair was dense and black without a shadow of grey, he moved with the supple athletic grace of a man very much at the height of his power while his full lower lip suggested strong passions held, for the moment, by iron self-control. If he smiled...

Holly stopped the thought.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said, softening a little as she noticed dark smudges beneath his eyes that suggested a recent lack of sleep. ‘What happened?’

‘It was very sudden, a great shock to her friends, though I suspect not to Mary herself. Her affairs were left with the precision of someone who knows she won’t have time for last minute details.’ He looked up then and any suggestion of warmth was obliterated by his frost-bitten expression. ‘Except, apparently, for you.’

‘Me?’

He nodded briefly. ‘Her funeral is the day after tomorrow...’

A chill hand feathered her spine and Holly shuddered. Lilies, black hats, black cars and the mournful scent of damp earth and chrysanthemums.

‘No.’ Straight dark brows drew together in a frown and she realised she had spoken the word out loud. ‘I’m sorry, Mr Kent,’ she said, as she realised how that must sound. ‘I really cannot—’

‘It was Mary’s dying wish that you were present, Miss Carpenter. She made me promise to take you myself. That’s why I’m here.’ His mouth was drawn into a hard uncompromising line. ‘I have no intention of breaking my word.’

Her dying wish?

She frowned. ‘But I only met her once. Why...?’

His look was pure disdain. ‘Because she asked it of you. Isn’t that enough?’ He stood up. ‘A small enough request under any circumstances. The bare minimum under these I would have thought. However, I’ll make it easy for you, Miss Carpenter.’ He stared down at her. ‘You are a beneficiary of her will and I am sure you will wish to be there to hear that document read after the service.’ He ignored her gesture of protest. ‘I’ll pick you up here tomorrow morning at ten. Arrangements have been made for your accommodation. Afterwards —’ his lip curled derisively ‘–should you wish to return here, I will make whatever arrangements you prefer.’

Holly leapt to her feet, stretching to every slender inch of her five feet seven. It did not feel nearly enough against the towering figure of