Authors: Linda Sole
Recent Titles by Linda Sole from Severn House
The Sarah Beaufort Mystery Series
MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE
JUSTICE IS SERVED
A DIFFERENT KIND OF JUSTICE
The Country House Series
GIVE ME TOMORROW
A BRIGHT NEW DAY
WISH DOWN THE MOON
The London Series
THE TIES THAT BIND
THE BONDS THAT BREAK
THE HEARTS THAT HOLD
THE ROSE ARCH
A CORNISH ROSE
A ROSE IN WINTER
A SONG FOR ATHENA
writing as Anne Herries
A WICKED WENCH
The Civil War Series
LOVERS AND ENEMIES
LOVE LIES WEEPING
THE SEEDS OF SIN
LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH
A Family Feud Saga
First world edition published 2008
in Great Britain and 2009 in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9â15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright Â© 2008 by Linda Sole.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
1. World War, 1939-1945 - Great Britain - Fiction 2. Great
Britain - Social life and customs - 1918-1945 - Fiction
3. Domestic fiction
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-249-8 (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-6711-7 (cased)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
mily stood for a moment at the top of the stairs listening to the music. Someone had put a Glenn Miller record on rather loudly, and the big band music reverberated throughout the house. It all felt so wrong, so very wrong with Daddy so recently dead. Oh, damn it, she didn't want to do this, she really didn't. For a moment her eyes filled with tears and she could feel the sense of loss strong and bitter inside her. Why did he have to die? He was still young, only in his early fifties.
She shook her head, her soft brown hair falling across her face. Emily was wearing her hair loose that afternoon, because she was forced to put it up out of the way for work, though it suited her better down. But there was no time to think about your looks when you were manning the phones for the Fire Service. She had changed shifts with another girl to get this afternoon off, and now she wished she hadn't, but Frances had refused to let her get out of it.
âYou've got to come to my party. You're my sister!'
âBut I'm on duty Â .Â .Â .'
âYou can change if you want to. You know you can.'
So of course she had given in. She sighed, knowing that she would have to go down soon or Frances would come and fetch her. It was her elder sister's twenty-first birthday and she was entitled to her party. Every last detail had been planned for months and the family had decided to go ahead despite being in mourning.
Except that it seemed to Emily that she and Connor were the only ones grieving for their father. Her younger brother was at school, and she had told him not to hurry home that evening, because he wouldn't have liked to walk into this, and would probably go out again at once. Daniel would be upset when he knew, of course, but he'd been ill for weeks now and they wouldn't let her see him at first, and then she hadn't felt like going to visit, had felt she couldn't face him. She had written to him about their father, of course, but there had been no reply.
She dreaded to think what Daniel would say if he knew about the party. She was sure he would never have agreed to it. Daniel would have thought it too soon, as Emily did herself.
She had five siblings: two brothers, Henry and Clay, were older than Daniel, both married and living in their own houses; then came Frances; Emily herself; and Connor. And then there was her father's wife, Margaret, a much younger woman he had married while Daniel was away. Dan had never met Margaret, though of course he had been told about the wedding, which had taken place after a whirlwind affair.
Emily's frown deepened as she thought about her stepmother. Margaret had agreed instantly to the party going ahead, though she might have been expected to reject the idea. Robert Searles was hardly in his grave and yet his widow's laughter could be heard echoing through the house. She clearly wasn't going to let her husband's death upset her for too long, Emily thought resentfully.
Oh, she must stop this. Her father was dead and she had to get over it. She had to move on, think about her own life.
She had never liked Margaret! Emily had tried hard to accept her father's second wife, but she had never really approved of her. In Emily's opinion, Margaret was too greedy, too calculating. She was attractive, with honey-blonde hair, green eyes that reminded Emily of a cat, and a wide mouth on which she wore far too much red lipstick.
Margaret had made Robert's life less lonely during his last few months â Emily was honest enough to admit that. For that reason she had struggled to keep the peace between them even when under severe provocation, but she could not feel warmth or affection towards her stepmother.
Sighing, Emily began to walk down the stairs. She was a pretty girl, just eighteen, slim, of medium height with softly waving brown hair that looked red in a certain light, and melting chocolate eyes. She didn't want to but knew she had to make an appearance at her sister's party. It wasn't just a birthday party, after all: Frances was going to announce her engagement to Marcus Danby â and perhaps a part of Emily's reluctance was that she had always liked Marcus herself.
She wasn't in love with him, of course. It was just that his dry sense of humour amused her. Marcus was serving in the air force, and his leave had happened to fall this weekend, which had worked out well for Frances. Lucky Frances! But then, she always seemed to fall on her feet. At least, it seemed that way to others. Emily wasn't exactly envious, but she wished that some of her sister's luck would rub off on her.
She paused to glance at herself in the large gilt-framed mirror at the bottom of the stairs, fluffing out her hair again. Rathmere was in the main street of Stretton Village and one of the best in the area. In fact, only Stretton Park was bigger and better, and that belonged to Mr Samuel Danby. Marcus was his eldest son, and everyone agreed that it was a perfect match between the families.
Emily caught a glimpse of her sister through the open door of the large front parlour. Frances certainly looked happy and beautiful. Emily felt a pang of envy, mixed liberally with warm affection and admiration. Her sister always got exactly what she wanted, and she had wanted Marcus since she was a schoolgirl in pigtails. Well, she had got it all now, and whether Emily approved of holding this party so soon after her father's death or not, there was little she could do about it.
âAh, there you are, child,' Margaret said, coming out of the large front parlour into the hall. âWhat on earth have you been doing?'
Margaret's eyes flicked over her stepdaughter disapprovingly. The dress Emily had chosen was grey with a white collar, elbow-length sleeves and white cuffs, perfect for a girl in mourning but hardly suitable for a party. Margaret herself was dressed in green silk, a pretty afternoon dress that would have graced any London drawing room. It was her colour and made her look younger than her thirty-five years.
âYou could have chosen something smarter for this afternoon, Emily.' The disapproval was strong in her voice.
âIt's what I felt like wearing.' Emily couldn't keep a note of accusation out of her voice. âAfter all, it is only a month since Daddy died, isn't it?'
Margaret's gaze narrowed. âI hope you're not going to spread gloom. This is your sister's special day. Please don't spoil it for her.'
âI can go and change if you like.'
Before Margaret could reply, Frances came swooping down on them. Her face was glowing with happiness as she flashed her left hand under Emily's nose. She was dressed in a pretty blue outfit that suited her fair good looks down to the ground, and she looked beautiful.
âIsn't it wonderful? I'm just so lucky.'
The ring was a band of five large white diamonds set in platinum; expensive and just what Emily would have expected from the heir to Stretton Park.
âIt's lovely, Frances,' she said. âAnd yes, you are lucky.'
âI know,' Frances trilled. âMarcus says we'll get married next time he's home on leave.'
âAnd when will that be?'
âIn a couple of weeks. We'll have to do it by special licence, of course, but I've got my dress and there's no chance of a proper cake, anyway. We'll have a cardboard one as a decoration and make do with what we can scrounge for the tea Â .Â .Â .' She stopped and frowned as she saw Emily's face. âWhat's wrong?'
âDo you think you should? Isn't it too soon after Â .Â .Â .' Emily swallowed hard. âYou know Â .Â .Â .'
âYou mean because Dad is dead?' The light died in Frances's eyes. âDon't be so mean, Emily. I was trying not to think about that today. Besides, I can't bring him back whatever I do.'
âYou could wait for a while Â .Â .Â .'
âYou don't know what you're asking. You've never been in love.' Frances screwed up her mouth. âSo many of them are getting shot down. It could be Marcus next Â .Â .Â .'
âOh, Frances,' Emily said, looking contrite. âI hadn't thought of that. I am so sorry.'
âYour trouble is that you never think before you speak,' Margaret said. âYou're just too selfish.'
âDon't say that to Emily.' Frances instinctively defended her sister. âShe wasn't being selfish. She's right about it being too soon after Dad's death â but we don't want to wait, and I'm sure he would say it was all right.'
âYes, he would,' Emily agreed, and smiled as Frances put an arm about her waist. They were united in their dislike of Margaret, though neither would say anything bad about their stepmother openly. âIt's just me being silly.'
âLet's forget it for now. We'll talk later,' Frances said. âCome and meet someone, Emily. Marcus has brought a friend along â he's rather nice.'
Emily arched her fine brows. Frances was always introducing her to Marcus's friends with just that phrase. She found most of the young men trotted out for her benefit either dull, priggish or just not her type. However, the latest in a long line of candidates was more interesting than most.