And The Bride Wore Prada. Katie Oliver

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Название And The Bride Wore Prada
Автор произведения Katie Oliver
Жанр Контркультура
Серия Marrying Mr Darcy
Издательство Контркультура
Год выпуска 0
isbn 9781474024617

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wasn’t one of them.

      ‘Good thinking, babes,’ he told her instead, and leant forward to kiss her.

      Helen heard the sound of smooching, followed by more smooching, and Gemma’s giggles. She winced. Dear God, but this was excruciating...

      ‘C’mon, Gems,’ Dominic growled, ‘let’s go upstairs and christen our bedroom again.’

      ‘But, Dom,’ her voice was scandalized ‘we can’t! It’s practically the middle of the day! We’re supposed to mix and mingle with the others. They’ll wonder where we’ve gone to—’

      ‘Screw ’em,’ he said, and smacked her on the bottom. ‘They can mix and mingle with each other for a bit. Let’s you and I go and make a baby.’

      When they’d disappeared up the stairs to their rooms, Helen re-emerged from the shadows and wondered what she ought to do. She needed to call Tom, and soon; but she hadn’t anything to tell him, really.

      Besides, she couldn’t very well call him on the house phone, in the middle of the great hall of Draemar Castle.

      As she hovered indecisively at the foot of the staircase, Wren appeared, striding briskly towards the baize door that led to the kitchen.

      She came to a stop. ‘Oh, hello! Helen, isn’t it? Had you any luck getting hold of a towing service?’

      Helen shook her head. ‘They can’t send anyone until at least tomorrow. Or later, if the snow we’re expected to get arrives tonight.’

      ‘Oh, what a nuisance...I’m so sorry. Of course you must stay here with us,’ she decided. ‘We’ve plenty of room.’

      ‘I don’t want to be a bother—’ Helen began.

      ‘Nonsense, it’s no bother. I won’t hear of you staying at the gatehouse with Colm. He won’t welcome the company, and I’m sure you’ve no wish to spend another evening being glowered at.’

      Helen laughed. ‘Not especially, no. Dreadful man, isn’t he?’

      ‘Well, he has his moments, I suppose,’ Wren allowed, ‘and he is a hard worker. Nevertheless, if he were clean-shaven and attired in proper evening kit, I vow he’d make a very credible Mr Rochester. Or Mr Darcy, come to that. He’s very much the broody, mysterious, nothing-much-good-to-say type, isn’t he?’

      ‘Yes,’ Helen agreed. ‘Yes, he is.’

      ‘We’re about to meet in the drawing room for a tour of the castle,’ Wren went on, ‘if you’d care to join us?’

      Helen nodded. ‘I’d like that very much. Thank you.’

      And as Wren excused herself and resumed her path to the kitchens, Helen made her way across the hall to the drawing room to join the others.

       Chapter 9

      Later that day, after Dominic and Gemma re-emerged from their rooms, Tarquin and Wren led everyone on a tour of the castle, through the keeping room, buttery, bottlery, kitchens, dungeons, and great hall, and down the formidable length of the long gallery, until they trooped, exhausted, back to the drawing room for afternoon tea.

      ‘I can’t believe your father actually rode his horse up the staircase,’ Natalie said as she sank into a chair.

      ‘It’s true.’ Tarquin followed them inside. ‘There are still hoof marks on the treads. Grandfather gave him a good hiding for it, believe me.’

      ‘What I don’t understand,’ Gemma ventured as she accepted a cup of tea from Wren and balanced it on her lap, ‘is why butter wasn’t kept in the buttery? You said it’s where ales and meads were stored; so why not call it the ‘meadery’ or the ‘winery’? Makes no bloody sense to me.’

      He nodded. ‘It’s all a bit confusing, isn’t it? Butter was kept in the larder, and bottles – ‘butts’ to use the Latin term – of ale and mead were stored in the buttery.’ His smile was wry. ‘One couldn’t drink the water back then, apparently.’

      ‘Yes,’ Rhys agreed, ‘I’ve heard the meat was so spoiled it had to be drowned in herbs and sauces.’

      ‘That’s a common misconception,’ Tarquin replied, ‘but it isn’t true. Animals were slaughtered and eaten within a few days, and the meat was likely fresher than what we buy at the market today. Spices were expensive; a cook wouldn’t waste them on rancid meat. I doubt it would’ve masked the taste, at any rate. So beef and mutton and pork were layered with salt to preserve it, or soaked in salt brine, or smoked and hung up to dry.’

      ‘You’re so knowledgeable, Tark!’ Natalie exclaimed, impressed. ‘I’d no idea.’

      ‘You have to remember, I grew up here,’ he replied, and shrugged. ‘Tour groups were always trooping through the castle – still do, on occasion ‒ which my father absolutely abhors. I used to tag along, when I wasn’t away at school. I learnt the tour guide’s script off by heart.’

      ‘This place must’ve been great fun for hide-and-seek,’ Gemma remarked. ‘All those rooms, and dungeons, and nooks and crannies...’ She shuddered and sipped her tea.

      ‘Well, the east and west wings were closed off when I was a boy,’ Tarquin said. ‘And my sister and I were strictly forbidden to play in the dungeons. So that limited our battlefields and hiding places considerably.’

      Helen, who stood admiring a collection of family photographs on a table near the fireplace, picked up one of the framed pictures. A handsome young man with the Campbell family’s dark-ginger hair and a wide, engaging smile looked back at her.

      ‘Who’s this?’ she asked, curious. ‘He looks rather like you, Tarquin.’

      He rose and came to stand beside her, and took the picture from her hands. ‘Ah. That’s Andrew. My oldest brother.’

      ‘Phwoar, he’s gorgeous,’ Gemma approved as she got up and joined them, peering at the photograph over Tarquin’s shoulder. ‘Is he married? Does he live nearby? Will we meet him?’

      Tarquin set the photograph back down, his expression unreadable. ‘I’m afraid not. He died, Miss Astley, years ago. He drowned off the coast of West Africa. His body was never recovered.’

      An awkward silence descended over the room. Gemma went pale. ‘I’m so, so sorry,’ she began, stammering with embarrassment. ‘I didn’t know—’

      ‘Of course you didn’t,’ Wren said soothingly as she came up and slipped her arm around Gemma’s shoulders. She led her back to the sofa, and the warmth of the fireplace. ‘How could you possibly know?’

      ‘I remember reading about it in the papers,’ Rhys said. ‘Terrible tragedy. It must’ve been a difficult time for you and your family, Tarquin.’

      ‘It was a long time ago.’ With a shrug, Tark turned away from the table and returned to his seat by the fire, and stretched his legs out. ‘Eighteen years, to be exact. I was ten when it happened, and Andrew was twenty. He’d been away from home for a couple of years, traveling. He was always a great one for traveling. So we weren’t close. It devastated my father and mother, of course.’

      ‘I can imagine,’ Helen murmured. ‘It must be a horrible thing to lose one’s child.’

      ‘What happened, exactly?’ Natalie asked Tarquin, her face creased in concern. ‘Why was your brother’s body not recovered?’

      ‘Well, the beaches of the Sierra Leone are amongst the best in the world, unspoiled and vast, but the waters are rife with strong currents. Andrew was sailing when his boat capsized. He was an excellent swimmer, and he struck out for shore; but he got caught in a riptide, and was dragged out to sea.’

      For a moment, the only sound was the snap and hiss of the flames in the fireplace.