Chapter 7

"You'll be a fool if you don't. Aaron is on the mend and now is the time when you should be with him. If you love him you'll do everything you can to make him aware of you."   

"I couldn't."

"Rubbish! I'm not asking you to fight another woman. I'm just telling you to make sure you're there when he starts to realize he's still a man with a man's desires."

Once again colour stained her face. "You make it sound so - so clinical."

"If I made it romantic you'd blush even more! For such a forthright girl you're decidedly behind the times." She smiled at this and he went on more confidently, "Take my advice, Kate, and leave things as they are."

"When you put it like that I can't very well refuse."

As February gave way to March, Kate allowed her present way of life to continue and gradually she found that what Sir Angus had said about his son's emotional reawakening was true, for as his health increased so did his dependence on Kate. Yet a subtle change was apparent in his attitude towards her, a growing awareness of her appearance - which occasionally drew compliments from nun - and of her intelligence which he delighted in testing.

Each evening he would wait for her to go to his room so that she could be by his side as he made the difficult descent to the dining-room, and even when she knew he could easily have walked down the stairs alone, he still insisted on waiting for her to come for him.

But despite his progress she was unprepared when she entered his room one late March evening to find him standing with only the aid of a stick.

Frightened, she hurried forward. "Are you sure you're not overdoing it, Aaron?

"I've got Menders-Jones' approval," he retorted. "You don't think I would leave myself open to your bullying!" He caught her arm. "Come on. It should be easier to negotiate the stairs now."

Throughout dinner he was in excellent form and watching him it was hard to believe he was the same bitter young man she had first met. Yet had it not been for his accident they might never have met at all, and momentarily she pondered on the problem of fate and pure chance. But why waste time trying to analyse the impossible? What did it matter whether fate or chance had put opportunity her way, giving her - as Sir Angus had so rightly said - a chance to find a happiness she had never expected?

As though reading her thoughts, Sir Angus glanced at her and as their eyes met he lifted his wine glass in a silent gesture.

When dinner was over they moved into the library for coffee, but on the threshold Sir Angus pleaded tiredness and bidding them a quick good-night, left them alone.

Knowing the reason for his behavior, Kate found it difficult to hide her embarrassment, but Aaron appeared totally unaware of it and plied her with questions about the office, for he had grown into the habit of using her in order to keep up with the day-to-day events of the Company.

"You've got a less biased view than my father," he had explained when he had first started to question her a few months ago. "And because of that you see things more clearly than he does."

"I'm sure Sir Angus would appreciate that remark!"

"He already knows what I think," Aaron had grinned. "So until I'm up and about myself, I'll have to rely on you."

Kate had done her best to comply with his request and had always found him an attentive and questioning listener. But tonight he was more restless, and unexpectedly - when she was half-way through her account of his father's latest confrontation with one of his largest shareholders - he waved his hand to stop her talking.

"Not any more, Kate. In another month I'll be well enough to join the rat-race myself. For the next few weeks I'm going to be on holiday."

Disappointment filled her like lead, weighing her down with depression. But when she spoke her voice was bright and she was thankful for it. "Where will it be? Madeira, 'Florida, Bermuda?"

"I'm not ready for those places yet," he replied.

"Besides, I'm not even sure I'd enjoy them anymore." His eyes, almost dark in the glow of the firelight, looked puzzled. "The accident's changed me, Kate. I don't know why, but I feel differently about things."

"You've settled down," she said sedately.

"That's a remark guaranteed to make me react violently against it!"

"You'd react just as violently if I'd made the pretense of disagreeing with you!" Unable to bear his proximity, she stood up and walked over to the curtains, making a pretense of straightening them. "Of course you've changed! You wouldn't be human if you hadn't. But it'll be interesting to see if you change back again when you're completely well."

There was a creak of springs, then movement across the carpet, so that when he spoke she was not surprised to find his breath against her face.

"Do you think I will, Kate?" His hand was on her chin, turning her face so that she was looking directly at him. "Sweet Kate," he said, and leaning forward placed his lips on hers.

It was a moment she had dreamed of, a moment she had analyzed so deeply that she had been certain how she would react. But now that the dream was reality her carefully planned behavior dissolved, and putting her arms around his neck she drew him close, responding with a passion which took him by surprise. Momentarily he drew back, and then he caught her closer and kissed her again and again, the fierceness in his embrace indicating the months of unaccustomed celibacy.

It was Kate who drew away first, and refusing to look at him, she moved across to the grate, busying herself with adding unnecessary coal.

"Running away from me?” he asked in amusement.

"Not at all," she replied without turning round.

"Then stop messing about with the fife and sit next to me!"

She stood up and dusted her hands. He was back again in the corner of the settee, his head tilted towards her, a faint smile lifting the corners of his mouth.

"Come and sit next to me," he repeated. "Then I'll believe you aren't scared."

 Slowly she did as he bid. "No girl is scared of a man these days."

"You are," he said promptly. "You're not a girl from this day and age, Kate, you're an anachronism."

She smiled. "You once called me a little nun."

"You weren't so nun-like a moment ago," he teased, and went to kiss her again.

But this time she drew back, knowing instinctively that it was important not to give way to him. Common sense told her that his desire was only propelled by physical need, and determined not to let him know how desperately she longed for it to be otherwise, she pretended to a lighthearted-ness she did not feel

"Have a heart, Aaron," she mocked. "You're not very good for my blood pressure!"

"You're exceptionally good for mine!" Once more he went to pull her close, but with a quick movement she stood up.

"No love?" he asked quizzically.

 "No lovemaking," she retorted.

His eyebrows raised and with a sense of triumph she knew he had noticed the difference in her own use of the word "love".

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