Second Chance with the Millionaire

By: Penny Jordan

Fanny didn’t really care for the country and spent as much time as she could in London, staying with friends. Neither was she particularly maternal, allowing Lucy to take day-to-day charge of her half-brother and sister. Fortunately the three of them got on well together, but it was typical of Fanny’s nature that she should not consider that a single woman of twenty-five might not want the responsibility for a stepmother and two children.

The one thing she would miss about the Manor was the library, Lucy reflected half an hour later as she went downstairs. Her book, although fiction, relied heavily on information she had discovered among the family papers and diaries and she was hoping that Saul would allow her to use these for her work. She could of course simply take them and he would be none the wiser, but her own strict code of ethics would not allow her to do that. The unhappy, shy teenager, who had allowed her older male cousin to bully her into being unkind to their colonial relative, had long since been superseded by a woman who knew her own mind and how to stick to her own decisions and assessments.

She grimaced faintly as she stepped into the kitchen. This was one room she would not miss. Large and old-fashioned, it was ill-lit and ill-equipped, unlike the kitchen at the Dower House which had been installed by one of their tenants.

After her father’s death, in an attempt to cut back on costs, Lucy had been obliged to let Mrs Jennings, who had acted as their cook-cum-housekeeper, go. She had been eager to retire and more than happy with the generous cheque Lucy had given her, but Fanny had not stopped grumbling, complaining that it was too much to expect her to provide meals for all of them.

Because of this Lucy had discovered that she was the one doing the cooking, something which in other circumstances she might not have minded, but which in addition to all her other responsibilities had the effect of making her heart sink every time she entered the kitchen.

Tonight they would have to make do with beans on toast, she decided ruefully, anticipating Oliver’s objections to this meagre fare. Tomorrow night she would make it up to them, she decided, but for tonight a snack would have to do. She wanted an early start in the morning and was already far too tired to start preparing a large meal.

This physical and mental exhaustion was something which seemed to have dogged her since her father’s death, exacerbated by the discovery of Oliver’s true parentage. In many ways it shocked her that her father should have been so imprudent, and what of Oliver himself? Telling herself that now was not the time to start worrying about the future, she started laying the table.

Tara came in just as she was finished.

‘Mummy says she’s got a headache,’ she informed Lucy, ‘and she wants to have her supper in her room.’

Stifling the exasperated sound springing to her lips, Lucy said nothing. She tried to be patient with Fanny, telling herself that after all her stepmother had lost a husband, while she had merely lost a father who had not been particularly close to her. She could still remember the acute devastation of losing her mother, whom she had truly loved, and if Fanny was experiencing just one tenth of the anguish she had experienced then, then she did indeed deserve her sympathy and patience.

Fanny wouldn’t want beans on toast anyway. Perhaps if she boiled her a couple of eggs…

‘Go and tell Oliver to wash his hands and come down to eat, will you, Tara?’ she instructed the younger girl. ‘I want you both to have an early night tonight because we’ve got a lot to do tomorrow.’

‘Yes. I’ve already told Harriet all about her new paddock,’ Tara responded importantly. ‘Do you think she’ll really like it there, Lucy? She’ll miss Cinders, won’t she?’

Cinders was the small tabby cat who lived in the dilapidated stables; suppressing a smile, Lucy said seriously, ‘Oh, I think we can take Cinders with us.’

‘But you said that we couldn’t take anything that belonged to the Manor.’

So she had, but privately Lucy could not see that her cousin was going to object too much to the removal of one small cat, and, as Tara had said, her pony was very attached to the little animal.

‘Is he really horrid, Lucy?’

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