Table of Contents
LEONIE looked up as her friend and associate came excitedly into the room, waving a letter about under her nose. ‘Have you won the pools?’ she teased the older woman.
‘Better than that,’ Emily Dryer said ecstatically. ‘Giles is coming down for the weekend!’
Giles was Emily’s nephew, Leonie knew that. He was senior partner in one of the most exclusive law firms in London, the pride of his doting aunt, and Leonie had heard much of him during her three months of doing the sketches for the short stories for children that Emily wrote. The two of them had met through Emily’s agent; Emily was capable of writing for children but not of illustrating the stories. Despite their forty years’ difference in ages, Leonie being twenty-two and Emily in her sixties, the two women managed to work very well together.
The nephew Giles had been talked about a lot, his virtues outlined for Leonie to enthuse over. He did sound a remarkable man, very young to be the senior partner of a six lawyer firm, their clients some of the most important people in the country. And according to Emily her nephew was much in demand by the ladies, apparently still being a bachelor.
‘He has no use for women,’ Emily had tutted after telling her this.
‘None?’ Leonie teased.
‘I won’t let you embarrass me,’ Emily had fluttered. ‘I’m sure Giles has his—friends, but never anything serious. There’s never been anyone he thought enough of to introduce to me.’
From what Leonie could gather aunt and nephew were very close, so it was feasible to assume that nephew Giles had indeed never found a woman to meet his high standards. Leonie thought he sounded like a supercilious snob, but she would never let Emily know that. Dear Emily, who had treated her like the daughter she had never had. Emily seemed to make a habit of taking people’s children under her wing, taking care of her nephew when her sister had disappeared from his life, and now Leonie was receiving the same care.
‘She was a flighty piece,’ Emily spoke of her sister. ‘She should never have married a barrister. John was much too staid for her.’
From what Leonie could gather from that nephew Giles had been deprived of his mother at an early age. Maybe that accounted for his seemingly solitary existence, his way of finding women an unnecessary encumbrance. Whatever his reason, he didn’t sound a very pleasant individual.
Consequently Leonie had taken a dislike to Emily’s nephew before she had even met him. His profession had been enough to cause her initial dislike, and Emily’s frequent assertions of what a talented barrister he was had intensified those first feelings. Leonie hated lawyers of any kind, hated their way of seeming to be on your side, and then suddenly pouncing on you. She particularly disliked one J. G. Noble, his chilling grey eyes cutting into her like a knife as he reduced her to the level of a common thief preying upon other people’s weaknesses.
But she wouldn’t think of that hateful man, suppressing the shiver of revulsion that rose within her just at the thought of him. She had managed to keep him out of her mind for several weeks now, the nights of waking up in a cold sweat as he called her ‘nothing but a leech, a leech that should be removed from all decent society’, almost becoming a thing of the past.
But she couldn’t blame Emily’s nephew for that, and Emily did look so excited about this surprise visit. Leonie would try to be pleasant about him, if only for Emily’s sake.
‘So nice of him to spare the time to visit his old aunt,’ Emily chattered on. ‘He’s such a busy man.’
Too busy, apparently, to even visit the woman who had been a mother to him since he was five years old. ‘Lawyers often are,’ Leonie said noncommittally.
‘Especially successful ones. Oh, Leonora, it’s going to be so nice having him home again!’
Emily was the only one ever to call her Leonora, claiming from their first meeting that it was much too pretty a name to shorten in that way. Leonie didn’t mind, it reminded her of the way her mother had always done the same thing.
‘When will he be arriving?’ She tried to take an interest in Emily’s much-loved nephew.
The other woman skimmed through the contents of the letter again, the writing large and angular, the signature a single G. ‘He says some time Saturday morning.’
Leonie nodded. ‘Then I’ll make sure I’m gone by about nine.’
‘Gone?’ Emily repeated dazedly. ‘Gone where?’
‘To London for the weekend. You won’t want me here when you have your nephew staying.’ Leonie frowned over the sketch she was just doing, the little boy’s dog looking more like a Shetland pony than an Old English Sheepdog. She worked better without interruptions, but dear Emily did like to sit and have a chat. If only her sketches would come as easily as Emily’s talent for storytelling. But it didn’t, her own minor talent needed much work and sheer hard slog before she had attained her now high standard. But not today, this dog just wasn’t right at all.
‘Nonsense,’ Emily quickly disabused her of the need to go away for the weekend. ‘You’re like part of the family. Besides, Giles has expressed a wish to meet you.’
Leonie’s huge pansy-blue eyes widened. ‘To meet me? Whatever for?’
‘I have no idea. He says—ah, here we are—he says “I look forward with extreme interest to making the acquaintance of your good friend Leonora”. There!’ Emily beamed. ‘Now you can’t disappoint Giles,’ she said as if that settled the matter.
Leonie could indeed disappoint him, in fact she had no choice. And she felt sure that nephew Giles’s ‘extreme interest’ was in fact only a polite acknowledgement of that fact that he knew she even existed. Leonie had seen the chatty letters Emily wrote her nephew, and she had noticed the way Emily was always quoting her. If Giles was the bumptious prig she thought he was then he wasn’t in the least interested in the opinions of his aunt’s working colleague. But poor Emily didn’t seem to realise that, insisting that Giles liked to receive her letters. The fact that she only received answers to one in every three never seemed to bother her.
‘I have to, Emily,’ she lessened the disappointment with a smile. ‘Don’t you remember, I told you weeks ago I would be away this weekend?’
Emily looked vague. ‘Did you?’
‘Yes,’ Leonie insisted patiently. ‘My