An excerpt from Chapter One
In the worst case, Bess wouldn’t find the missing book and would have to take a later train. In the best case, she’d find it and see James Foxden. Then to hell with the train, she laughed. As she neared the Hall, her heart began to beat faster.
To her relief she found the book immediately. It had slipped between the seat-cushion and the backrest of the window-seat on New Year’s Eve. She had finished reading it and put it down to look out of the window, as she was doing now, and – her stomach turned a somersault – James was in the courtyard standing by his car.
She scrambled onto the seat and watched him walk from the car to the house. Within seconds, he was back carrying an assortment of cases, which he strapped on the back of his car. He returned to the house as a young maid came out carrying a tartan blanket. The maid went to the passenger door of the car, opened it and, leaning in, wrapped the blanket around someone’s legs. Bess leaned closer to the window. It was James’ beautiful dance partner, from the New Year party.
‘Caught you,’ James said, looking over her shoulder to see what it was that had captured her attention so fully.
‘Sorry if I made you jump but I wanted to catch you before I left. I’m driving Annabel home to Kent but I’ll be in London tomorrow and I was thinking that, since we're both down there, perhaps we could meet up… I could telephone you and…?’
Bess opened her mouth, but couldn’t speak. There was no public telephone at her lodgings and Mrs McAllister, her landlady, didn’t allow her tenants to make or accept calls on her private telephone unless it was an emergency. Nor did she approve of them having gentlemen friends.
‘But if you would rather I didn’t call,’ James said.
‘No, it isn’t that-- It’s my landlady,’ she said feeling an utter innocent and a fool.
‘Then I’ll give you my card and if you have a free evening you can call me. We could meet in town, see a show and have a bite of supper. Go to a dance at the Lyceum or the Trocadero.’
Bess accepted the small card. ‘I’d like that.’
‘See you in London, then!’ Smiling, James offered Bess his hand.
‘Yes… London,’ she said, taking his hand.
By the time she’d formulated the word ‘goodbye’, James had left. She heard his car start up. She ran to the window overlooking the drive as the small green sports car, enveloped in a cloud of exhaust smoke, disappeared down the drive.
Bess stood in the empty library for some minutes. Did James Foxden invite her, Bess Dudley, to supper in London? Did he, or did she imagine that he held her hand for a little longer than was necessary when he said goodbye? Well, maybe she did imagine that, but one thing she did not imagine was the small white business card with James’s name and telephone number, which she was holding in her hand.
Before she burst with excitement, Bess put the card between the pages of her book and ran home.