- January 2011 -
MILLS & BOON CHERISH
- January 2011 -
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DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER DUET
Sensible Dee is amazed when pilot Mark chooses to pay attention to her! He’s known as a risk-taking rogue with a thirst for adventure! But quiet, intelligent Dee offers Mark a chance to be himself.
Can this unlikely couple forge a love to last a lifetime?
“Quiet everybody! They’re coming.”
The photographer got into position at the bottom of the stairs, ready to capture the stars of the evening as they appeared above; Mark and Deirdre, known to everyone as Dee. They were in their eighties, white-haired, thin and frail looking, but holding themselves erect, with smiling eyes.
They descended the stairs arm in arm, seeming to support each other equally, until the moment Dee stumbled and clung to her husband for safety.
“Careful my love,” he said, guiding her to a chair. “What happened?”
“Nothing, I tripped on the carpet.”
“Are you sure you’re all right? You’d better have a cup of tea.”
“Tea?” she said in mock outrage. “Today? I want a good strong sherry.”
He hurried to get her a glass and Lilian, their daughter, regarded them with delight.
“Look how he dances attendance on her,” she sighed. “After all these years. So many husbands become indifferent.”
“I’ve never known Grandpa indifferent,” Pippa said. “In fact he sometimes smothers Grandma with his concern. He’s so scared that she’ll go first.”
“You know the saying. There’s always one who loves and one who lets themselves be loved,” Lilian reminded her. “No prizes for guessing which is which with those two.”
Even as she spoke Dee’s voice rose, full of affectionate laughter.
“Darling, I’m all right. Will you stop fussing?”
Everyone heard that, but only she heard his murmured response, “No, I won’t, and you know that I won’t. You’ve been telling me for years to stop fussing over you, and I’ve never listened yet, so why don’t you just give up?”
“I never give up where you’re concerned,” she whispered back. “You should know that by now.”
“I do know it. I rely on it.”
He touched her face gently. It had never been a beautiful face, but it had always been rich in warmth and generosity, qualities that the years had left untouched. Watching them, the family knew that what he’d first seen in her years ago, he saw there still.
Then Stacey, the journalist, got to work, talking to camera.
“…one of the last of a dying breed…heroes of World War II, who gave their all for their country…how proud we are that one of them is still among us…”
“Is he going to witter on like that for ever?” Mark growled under his breath.
“Hush,” Dee murmured. “Let your family take pride in you.”
“My family know nothing about it,” he insisted.
“How can they? They weren’t born then. Don’t blame them for that.”
Out of sight they squeezed each other’s hands.
Now Stacey turned her attention on them. “Mr Sellon, is it true that you courted your wife for years before you persuaded her to marry you?”
“Oh yes,” Mark said. “She wasn’t won easily. I really had to work hard to impress her.”
Everyone smiled at this. Only the most perceptive noticed the look of surprise on Dee’s face.
“But how romantic!” Stacey exclaimed. “The lover who yearns hopelessly from afar. Mrs Sellon, why did you make him wait so long?”
“I’m not sure now. We weren’t the same people back then.”
“Would you do it any differently now?”
Dee’s lips twitched. “Oh yes,” she said. “I’d make him wait much longer.”
The evening moved on, everyone feeling that it was a triumphant success. In the centre of the spotlight Mark and Dee seemed to be enjoying themselves, but as he slipped his arm about her waist he murmured,
“When will they go?”
“Soon,” she promised.
They smiled at one another and the camera clicked. The picture appeared in the local paper next day. Neither of them noticed it being taken.
At last it was all over. The guests departed, and Lilian accompanied her parents up to their room.
“How is Pippa coping?” Dee wanted to know. “I worried about her this evening. A wedding anniversary. How that must have hurt her! If her wedding had gone ahead it would have been her own first anniversary soon.”
“I know, but you’d never guess it, she seems so bright,” Lillian sighed. “Oh, I could kill that man for what he did to her.”
Pippa’s entry silenced the topic. Together they helped the old people to bed, kissed them good night and retreated to the door.
“You’re not too tired after all the goings-on?” Pippa asked.
“Tired?” Mark echoed. “We’re only just starting. We’re going to get revved up, then swing from the chandeliers and indulge in some mad lust in the market square. You youngsters! You don’t know how to enjoy life. Ow! No need to beat me up.”
Dee, who’d delivered the lightest tap on his shoulder, chuckled. “Behave yourself!” she commanded.
“You see how she treats me,” Mark sighed. “I expect you bully your men folk too, and they wonder where you get it from. They should see what I put up with. Ow!”
As the two old people collapsed with laughter Lilian drew her daughter away.
“Let’s leave them to it. Honestly, they’re like a couple of kids.”
“Perhaps that’s their secret,” Pippa said.
“Yes!” Lilian said thoughtfully. “They do seem to have a secret, don’t they?”
They went downstairs to get on with the clearing up.
In the darkness Mark and Dee listened to the fading footsteps.
“We’re very lucky,” she mused, “that our family takes such care of us.”
“True, but I hope they don’t come back,” he admitted. “Right now I want to be alone with you. What are you giggling for?”
“I was remembering the first time you ever said that to me. I was so thrilled. Suddenly every dream I’d ever had was coming true.”
“But it wasn’t, was it?” he reminded her. “I was a dreadful character in those days. I can’t think what you saw in me.”
“Well, if you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you,” she teased. “We had our troubles, but we reached home in the end. That’s all that matters.”
“Yes, we reached home and shut the door against the world,” he mused. “And ever since then we’ve kept each other safe. Sixty years you’ve put up with me! I can’t imagine how!”
“Neither can I, so stop fishing for compliments. And by the way, what game were you playing tonight?”
“Game? I don’t know what you mean.”
“All that talk about how you had to court me for years and work to impress me. You know that’s not what happened.”
“Yes it is.”
“It most certainly is not. Don’t you remember – ?”
He stopped her with a gentle finger over her mouth. “Hush! I remember what I remember, and you remember what you remember, and maybe it’s not the same thing, but does that matter?”
“No, I suppose not,” she said thoughtfully. “I suppose we’ll never know now which of us has remembered it right.”
“Both of us and neither of us,” he said.
She smiled. “You’re very wise tonight.”
“I’ll swear that’s the first time you’ve ever called me wise.”
Mark turned out the lamp and they settled down together in the darkness. She felt his arms go around her, while her head found its natural place on his shoulder.
“Bliss,” he mused. “This is what I’ve been waiting for all evening. Everyone is kind to us, but they don’t understand. They just never know.”
“No,” she murmured. “Only we know, but only we need to know.”
“Goodnight, my darling.”
After a moment she heard the change in his breathing that meant he was asleep. But she wasn’t ready to sleep. The evening had revived sixty years of memories, and now they seemed to be there, dancing in the darkness.
The old man beside her disappeared, leaving only the dazzling young hero of long ago. How stunned she’d been by her first experience of love, blissful if he smiled at her, despairing because she knew he could never he hers.
Slowly she raised herself on one elbow to look down on him in gentle adoration. He awoke at once.
“What is it?” he asked quickly. “Is something wrong?”
“Nothing,” she reassured him, settling back into his arms. “Go to sleep.”
Content, he closed his eyes again. But she did not sleep. She lay looking into the distance, remembering……
From the book HIS DIAMOND BRIDE by Lucy Gordon.
Copyright 2010 by Lucy Gordon
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
~ a taste of italy at home ~