Wife for a Day(10)

By: Kate Walker


It was a large house, full of intriguing little corridors and unexpected corners, and by the time they had inspected every nook and cranny it was completely dark. The thunder had receded to a low grumble in the distance and the lightning no longer blazed across the sky. The ending of the storm had left quite a chill in the air, and when they returned to the elegant sitting room Lily couldn’t suppress a faint shiver at the noticeable drop in temperature.

‘You’re cold.’ Ronan frowned his concern. ‘Shall I light a fire before we have supper?’

Lily’s eyes followed the direction of his gesture towards the large open fireplace, topped by a wooden mantelpiece and framed by Victorian flowered tiles, and the shiver became more exaggerated, turning into a shudder of genuine fear.

‘No! Thanks,’ she added hastily.

‘But it is a lot cooler in here, and it would be romantic to sit by the light of the flames.’

The light of the flames…

In her mind Lily unwillingly found herself dragged back into the past. She could see another room, one so very different from the spacious green and gold one in which she stood. She could see the cosy, slightly shabby décor and furniture, the Christmas tree standing in one corner, the paper chains on the walls. And on the mantelpiece cotton wool had been arranged to look like a snow scene, with miniature houses, fir trees, Santa Claus and a tiny sleigh pulled by model reindeer.

Below, in the grate, the crackle of the log fire. Before its flames stood a small, fair-haired figure, his hand outstretched towards a candle, freezing at her cry of warning. She had managed to stop Davey that time. But later… Later there had been the sudden flare of flames licking at the cotton wool, catching on the chains, leaping to the curtains, and suddenly all was fire, all alight, all…

‘Lily?’

Jolted back to the present, she could only blink in confusion for a moment, until she realised who it was who stood before her, that it was Ronan who had spoken her name. And then it was an effort to force a smile.

‘No fire, thanks. It’s not that cold. All I need is a hot drink to warm me up—that and someone’s arms around me.’

Some day she must tell Ronan the full story of that terrible night. She hadn’t been able to bring herself to tell him exactly how her parents had died.

But not tonight. It wasn’t the time or the place. It would spoil the atmosphere, ruin this special evening she had waited for—for an age, it seemed.

‘Is there any food in this palace of yours?’

‘But of course. I told you everything would be perfect. Come with me.’

He led her across the hall and into the large farmhouse kitchen, which was the only room in the house they hadn’t yet visited. There, under covers on the scrubbed pine table, was a wonderful selection of all her favourite foods, carefully prepared and beautifully served on the finest china.

‘Help yourself.’

To Lily’s surprise she found that she was genuinely hungry. That morning she had been too on edge to eat anything substantial, and at the reception a blend of happiness and excitement had destroyed her appetite, so that now she was definitely ravenous. Picking up a plate, she selected several savoury treats and nibbled at them eagerly, nodding her thanks when Ronan set a glass of perfectly chilled wine on the table beside her.

‘This is wonderful!’ she exclaimed when her mouth was no longer full. ‘Everything tastes so good.’

Suddenly supremely conscious of the way he had seated himself opposite her and was watching closely, not eating anything himself, she looked across at him questioningly, meeting those intent grey eyes that now seemed so dark, their irises almost twice their normal size.

‘Aren’t you hungry? This Brie is quite perfect. Try some…’

Breaking off a small piece, she held it out. But, instead of taking the fork from her, Ronan leaned forward until his face was only inches away from hers, opening his mouth for the morsel as a hungry child might.

With a smile, Lily placed the creamy cheese on his tongue, then found herself transfixed, unable to look away, as he chewed, then swallowed carefully. His eyes didn’t leave hers as he let his tongue slide out and slowly lick the taste from his lips.

‘What else would you recommend?’ he asked, his voice newly husky, an octave deeper than before.

‘The bread…’

A small, crusty piece, liberally spread with butter, followed the cheese, but this time Lily used her fingers to feed him. Her heart kicked against her ribs as she felt the warmth of his mouth close about their tips.

‘Some smoked salmon…and asparagus…and…’