Autumn was upon them. There were signs everywhere,— both on the estate and in the picturesque surrounding— areas. She saw it each day in the rolling pastures and heather-clad mountains when she walked out early in the morning with Hamish. She saw it in the burnished leaves lying underfoot, and sensed it in the distinct nip in the air. Georgia also registered the changes coming in the magical dawn mists that covered everything in a blanket of icy ethereal silver.
It was a water-colourist’s paradise, and some of the scenes she saw would stay in her mind and heart for ever, but not knowing what would happen, and almost dreading the prospect of going home again—even— though she knew she had to—Georgia felt like a small sailing craft in the middle of a vast, unpredictable— ocean, with nothing to protect her but God’s grace from a possible storm at sea that would capsize her.
For the first time in her life she was in love. So in love that there was only one topic that never tired of recurring in her mind…Keir. She had never wanted anything in her life more than him. In the past all she’d wanted to do was provide a sense of security and happiness for Noah. She had hardly dared allow any personal wants or needs to come into the picture at all. Her deepest hopes and dreams had been put on hold for so long that she’d almost forgotten that she’d ever dreamed them. But now, with Keir, they had surfaced in glorious Technicolor to taunt her.
Leaning over the stunning old-fashioned clawtoothed— bath in her bathroom one evening, Georgia trailed her fingertips in the steaming scented water. Satisfied that the temperature was just right, she went to the equally old-fashioned and beautiful gilt mirror there, and pinned up her tumbling chestnut hair in front of it before removing her light pink cotton sweater, then her lacy white bra. Folding the items over the white rattan chair next to her, she straightened— again. Just as she did so, she experienced a wave of acutely hot tingling in the tips of her breasts. The sensation was almost painful.
Wincing in surprise, Georgia studied her body carefully in the reflection before her—as carefully as a scientist staring down a microscope at some fascinating— sample on a slide. The dusky pink area around her nipples appeared significantly darker, and even with her own surprised gaze she could see that her breasts definitely looked a little larger. Cupping them, she felt a sharp stab of shock slice dizzyingly through her as she realised that they felt heavier too. Staring into the mirror as though transfixed, Georgia’s clear hazel eyes easily registered the repercussions— of shock that were ebbing through her.
‘It can’t be…can it?’
Moving to the rattan chair, she sank down into it, her— arms crossed protectively across her chest as if to ward off even the possibility that she might be pregnant—because even with her lack of experience in these matters Georgia realised that that was her state. But how could she be pregnant?
Staring at the pink wall, with its tasteful cream border patterned with tiny pink roses just above the steaming bath, she made herself remember in detail all the times that she and Keir had made love. It wasn’t difficult. There were days when she seemed to be able to think of little else. She wasn’t on the pill—not yet—but he had always used protection…even— when passion consumed them and threatened— to make them reckless. Something must have happened that they’d somehow overlooked. Georgia had read that sometimes it could, even with the safest protection.
She shook her head with a groan. Why hadn’t she paid better attention to her periods? They were always so regular, and the fact that she was at least eight days overdue should have told her that something— was amiss. But her mind had been all over the place, and she hadn’t even noticed. Now what was she going to do? She wasn’t in a position to have a baby! Financially and practically, every which way, it— wasn’t a possibility. She had a home to run, bills to pay, Noah’s business to support whenever she could. It just wasn’t feasible that she could do all that and raise a child as well! If she attempted it she could potentially lose everything she had worked so hard to attain.
But, inevitably, the biggest question in Georgia’s mind was Keir. What on earth was he going to say when she told him that she was pregnant with his baby? At this moment in time she didn’t even know if he’d planned on seeing her again after she left Glenteign…let alone if he desired a proper committed— relationship with her. Even the prospect of a relaxing scented bath to ease away the stresses and strains of the working day did nothing to release the tension inside her as she wondered just how she was going to break the news…
GEORGIA DIDN’T FIND the opportunity to speak to Keir that evening, because after dinner he told her that he’d had an impromptu invitation from a friend to join him for drinks at his club in Dundee. Inevitably he would be back late, so she had tentatively— suggested that it might be better if he slept in his own room that night and she in hers. Albeit reluctantly,— Keir had agreed.
She’d made the suggestion less because of the fact that he might disturb her coming in late, and more because she’d convinced herself that it was probably wise to get some proper rest and sleep on things before broaching the subject. Her decision promoted the most disturbed night she’d had since coming to Glenteign—barring the night of the storm.
Nightmares of a baby crying and harsh voices telling it to be quiet, then a small boy curled up in the corner of an empty, dusty room, as if hiding from some lurking dark threat had sheened her body in icy perspiration when she’d woken, her face wet with tears, and she’d been struggling all morning to try and shake off the shroud of melancholy that inevitably lingered. And, as well as suffering the ravages of her nightmares, it was hard to think straight when the secret she carried had the potential to impact on her own and Keir’s life so dramatically.
Georgia just had no clue how he would take the news at all. Now, watching him across the room from her desk as he put down the telephone receiver on his umpteenth call of the morning, she felt her heart slam almost sickeningly against her ribs as she decided that now was as good as any moment to break it to him. But still she hesitated. Eyeing him with a profound stab of longing, she concluded that he looked almost too beguiling for words, in a navy blue cable-knit sweater and black corduroy jeans, his slightly mussed dark hair reminding— Georgia of a schoolboy who had rushed out of the door in the morning without remembering— to comb it.
In her mind’s eye she could see him as a young boy. With those amazing azure eyes of his and that perfect face, he must have been the most beautiful, adorable— child. It was inconceivable that his father had ill treated him as he had. It was inconceivable to Georgia that any adult could mistreat a child. Children were so precious…
The earnestly felt thought brought her anxiously back to her own astonishing news.
‘I was wondering if you had an enjoyable evening last night, at your friend’s club?’
Georgia grimaced at her own unhelpful diversion. Just where was her courage this morning?
Nonplussed, Keir glanced distractedly towards her. ‘It was fine. Nothing remarkable.’ But his expression— had suddenly became more animated, as if recalling something of far more interest than whether or not he’d enjoyed the evening at his friend’s club. ‘I was going to show you some paintings—remember?’ — He was on his feet and opening the study door before Georgia could gather her wits and waylay him.
‘Paintings?’ She frowned.
‘The illustrious Glenteign family legacy,’ he mocked with an enigmatic smile. ‘Let’s get out of here before that bloody phone rings again!’
That day he showed her around rooms she’d never looked into before. There were so many of them— anterooms and apartments full to the brim with paintings and priceless artefacts, all lovingly kept dusted and cleaned by Glenteign’s devoted housekeeper and her staff. To Georgia, following Keir around like some enthusiastic and interested tourist, it was really like having access to your own personal museum.
‘Look at this.’
He touched her elbow and diverted her attention from a regal-looking portrait of one of his many ancestors— to the stunning gold harp leaning, against the door to yet another undiscovered room.
‘Oh, how lovely!’ Georgia declared, moving swiftly towards it. ‘Did someone in your family play it?’
He was smiling inscrutably, and she glanced up at him in confusion.
‘Touch it,’ he suggested.
As Georgia bent low to obey him, she realised it wasn’t a real golden harp at all and she reached out to confirm it in amazement.
‘It’s what they call a “trompe-l’oeil.” It’s a painting…an illusion…of a three-dimensional object that looks completely real. As children, me and Robbie were fascinated by it.’
As she straightened up to her full height again, Georgia saw the delight in Keir’s face at her obvious pleasure in the illusion, and her heart swelled anew with love for him. Her feelings must have revealed themselves for a moment, because the next thing she knew he was pulling her into his arms and kissing her with a slow-burning hunger that made her toes curl.