A British romance from Rosina Lesley with a happy ever after ending.
Catherine Long has a habit of running away from her problems - and one of the biggest problems she's ever had to face goes by the name of James Grant. He was a great support to her and her younger sister Felicity when their father passed away, but when Catherine started developing feelings for this older, married benefactor, she fled to take up residence in her grandmother's country cottage. Except now James has arrived in the village to redevelop his uncle's grand house into a hotel and their lives suddenly seem so intertwined, there's no place left to run for Catherine.
Catherine risked another look at him as he looked down into his glass. There were a few silver threads in the straight dark hair that hadn’t been there a few years ago, and the brown face was thinner, deeper grooves worn between nose and mouth, more lines round the eyes. She sighed and contemplated her own glass. The same could be said of her, she supposed, except that you could hardly say her face was thinner – or any other part of her, come to that. A small sigh escaped her.
‘And why the sigh?’ James’s voice was soft and she experienced a strange sensation somewhere in the region of her solar plexus that had nothing to do with the wine.
‘Would you like to sit on the terrace?’ He straightened up. ‘The sunset is spectacular.’
He probably orders it, Catherine thought, trailing in his wake as he led the way to white wicker chairs by the glassed-in balustrade.
‘So Felicity’s working, is she? Doesn’t time fly. I wouldn’t have thought she was old enough.’
‘We left Sussex when she went to college and that’s nearly three years ago.’ Catherine looked at him defiantly, awaiting his response.
‘So you did.’ He twirled his brandy glass between his fingers, his thoughtful gaze resting on her flushed face. ‘Running away, I thought. Weren’t you?’
‘Certainly not. From what?’ Catherine snapped.
‘Come on, Cat, we both know the answer to that one.’ James leant back and crossed his legs, the movement causing Catherine to look sharply away.
‘I sold the cottage so that we could buy a flat near to where Felicity went to college. It worked out cheaper than having to support her in digs.’
‘And was far more expensive than a cottage in West Sussex.’ James was not smiling now. ‘Panic measures, Cat. And you know it.’
‘All right, if you know so much about it, why should it have been panic measures? Why did I run away?’ Catherine raised an eyebrow, outwardly calm.
‘Because the situation between us had become untenable – for you, at least. And don’t say “What situation?”’ he went on, as she opened her mouth angrily to interrupt. ‘That would be merely foolish, because we both know what happened and neither of us have faulty memories – and, let’s face it, we would need exceedingly bad memories to forget that.’
Catherine closed her mouth with a snap and transferred her gaze to the sea and James’s spectacular sunset. In fact, it was almost over now, orange and purple and turquoise falling over the edge of the world, leaving deep blue velvet in its wake.
‘Why wasn’t the situation untenable for you too?’ she asked, when the silence had stretched to the point beyond endurance.
‘Oh, it was. But I think I could have resolved it without running away.’ James leant forward and turned her face towards him with a long finger.