|Primary Characters:||Barbara Havers, Peter Lynley, Thomas Lynley, Simon St James, Deborah St James|
|Description:||Deborah St James finally walks out, tired of being treated like a child. That means Thomas Lynley moves back in with his old friend, rather than facing his empty house, after Helen’s death. Old emotions are stirred up.|
Barbara Havers sat staring at her computer screen, not really seeing the text she’d written perhaps ten minutes ago. The coffee in her mug had been standing there since her last break two or three hours ago, but she was hardly aware of it.
For the past six weeks, she and her temporary partner, Winston Nkata, had been trying to track down a killer who had shot dead two bank employees and a security guard, and still managed to make his escape. The study of the surveillance tapes had given them nothing. A contributing factor to their inability to solve the case, might be the fact that the robber had been wearing a mask.
In any case, now that they’d finally caught their man, and without any shots fired, the report seemed a slightly lower priority.
It felt as if Barbara hadn’t slept for a week. Any longer now and she would fall asleep in her chair. If so, she wouldn’t be the only one. She had a feeling Winnie would be at least as tired. In Barbara’s opinion, men needed more sleep than women.
With an effort she managed to force her eyelids open and she turned and faced the man who had called her name. For a second, she’d believed that it was her old partner, Tommy Lynley. But Lynley was on a prolonged leave of absence, after his wife’s death and even if he hadn’t been, Barbara had finally realized that Lynley didn’t consider her a close friend, as she’d come to assume.
The man who had called her name was another colleague, a new man, who had transferred to London from Sheffield.
“I said, the lads are going out for a couple of beers. It wouldn’t be much of a celebration if the heroes of the day, didn’t join us.”
A few beers, some crisps – Barbara’s stomach, which hadn’t called much attention to itself during the long hunt for the killer, suddenly came to life. Some fish and chips – Then she shook her head to clear it. Eating wouldn’t do her much good if she couldn’t remain awake.
“No, thanks, Huseyn. Too tired. Maybe tomorrow?”
“Suit yourself. Winnie?”
“Sorry. I’d better get home. See you all next week, when I’ve had some sleep.”
A few of the other officers laughed, but they were already looking forward to their night out. It was Thursday and everyone liked the idea of starting the weekend early. Especially now that they had the perfect excuse.
Barbara had reached out for her coffee mug, to empty it and rinse out the dregs, when she heard her name again.
“Watch out, Barb – drink that, and you’ll get an ulcer.”
“Thanks for your concern.”
Winston Nkata was standing over her, a sleepy grin on his face.
“Want a lift?”
Did she? At this hour, it wouldn’t take her more than half an hour to get home, if she took the tube. On the other hand, Winnie’s driving would get her there in about the same time. Besides, she knew he lived in that direction anyway.
“I’d appreciate it.”
She grabbed her coat and followed the tall dark-skinned man outside.
At least she knew someone would be waiting for her. Not so long ago, she had more or less preferred to work all night, rather than coming home to her empty flat.
Her boyfriend Peter Lynley had left briefly to be with his brother in this crisis, but Tommy Lynley had never had much use for his younger brother and it hadn’t taken him long to tire of Peter’s doglike devotion. That, rather than Lynley’s callous treatment of her, was what had finally convinced Barbara to give up on him.
When her brother was still alive, she’d adored him, just like Peter adored his older brother. In her case, her brother had returned her feelings, at least to some extent. Lynley never seemed to have appreciated Peter’s affection.
Winston Nkata, who had driven Barbara home on a few other occasions, had no trouble finding the way. He dropped her off in the street outside her home, waited a few minutes, until he saw the light go on in her window, then continued home.
Peter was up waiting for her. She’d told him time and time again, not to do that. There was no telling how long it would be, even on a good night. Which this was, come to think of it. On an early night, was what she’d had in mind.
But there was no denying that it warmed her heart to see her boyfriend’s face light up and the way he jumped up, filled with enthusiasm. It was as if he could never see enough of her. That was something Barbara had never been used to in the past. Most of the time, people would look past her, hoping for someone better, at least that was how she had seen it.
“Hello there. I was just about to ring you on your mobile.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. We caught our killer, but then I had to stay and type in my report.”
“That’s wonderful. I don’t understand why they don’t promote you. Your talents are wasted on the CID.”
Normally, this sort of praise made Barbara uncomfortable, but just like Peter liked to look at her, she loved watching his face, especially when he was animated like he was now.
“I’ll bet you say that to all the girls.”
“Only the ones who are truly amazing. Come here. Are you hungry?”
“That’s probably wise of you. I don’t even like my cooking.”
“You wouldn’t like mine either.”
“True. So let’s sleep.”
“You know exactly what to say to a girl, when she comes home at -”
She glanced at the wall clock and started when she realized it was close to three in the morning. Where had the time gone? The last she knew it had been eleven fifteen and she was just going to type in a few more lines. It was always possible that the clock was wrong, or in fact that it had stopped.
Still, judging by how she felt, it could easily be six or seven. Fortunately, she didn’t think anyone would expect her quite that early. She could take a few hours and get some much needed rest.
Peter pulled her into his arms and for a second, she considered delaying sleep a little while longer, but she noticed that he was practically asleep on his feet. What she’d had in mind would have to wait.
They stretched out on the bed together, pulled the covers up and that was more or less the last thing either of them remembered until the sun got in their eyes, several hours later.
Tommy Lynley blinked and realized he’d been seated in front of the tv in his old friend Simon Allcourt St James’ house, staring at a screen that was flickering in black and white, but didn’t display any image. He became aware of holding on to the remote control, so hard his fingers had turned white. Where had this day gone? He’d assumed it was morning, but outside the windows it was already getting dark.
Putting the remote control down, he tried to get up, but found that his legs had fallen asleep. He tried again, and was more successful.
If he was going to sleep, he might as well go and lie down in the guest room. He didn’t get far. A tail-wagging dachshund met him in the doorway and right behind her, St James’ butler Joseph Cotter.
“Lord Asherton -”
“My lord, dinner is ready.”
“Thank you, Cotter.”
Peach, the dachshund, gave up on him and went off, presumably in search of her mistress.
She found her seated at the table, where her father was now serving dinner. Her husband, Simon St James, was sitting across from her.
Deborah St James, nee Cotter, was frowning. If Lynley had been more alert, he might have picked up on her mood. As it was, he barely acknowledged his friend’s presence.
This place was just as bad as his home in Cornwall. Everywhere he went reminded him of Helen. He might as well have surrendered himself to his mother’s and sister’s care. The first week, his brother had been there as well, hovering anxiously around him until Lynley couldn’t take it any longer.
As if Peter had ever been much use to anyone. Mother was more patient with him, and though he had found it absolutely ludicrous at first, he knew that his former partner Barbara Havers clearly saw something more in him, but personally, Lynley could never stomach much time around his brother.
St James was unusually quiet himself, but that too, escaped Lynley’s attention. Joseph Cotter, who knew what was behind the charged silence between husband and wife, could have told him that this time, it was something far more serious than Deborah’s fertility problems.
This time, he feared his daughter’s marriage was beyond saving. As a butler, he would never have dreamed of attempting to force his opinion on his employer, though he usually allowed himself to treat his master a little more familiarly, after all his years in service to the St James’ family. In any case, he didn’t think there was much to say anymore. It looked as if Deborah had at last grown up.
After much consideration, Lynley decided to speak to his host. He wasn’t in such a bad way he’d forgotten his manners.
“St James – Deborah – I – this is no good. I truly appreciate your hospitality, but it’s time I sorted out my life. Tomorrow, I’ll be moving out.”
Deborah gazed sadly at him. She and Helen had been such good friends.
“But you can’t. Dad, tell Tommy he can’t move back into the house. It’s too soon.”
She glared angrily at her father, for his admonishing tone. Did every man in the world consider her so extremely immature? Ignoring him, she went on.
“Tommy, please -”
“It’s alright, Deborah, I won’t be going home. In fact, I might sell the place. For now, I’ll just be at the club.”
The club? Was she the only one to find that just a bit – dated? Like in an old detective novel.
“Oh, I see. That’s alright then.”
She nodded impatiently and left the table without excusing herself, which of course, was her prerogative, as the lady of the house. For how long that state of affairs would last, Cotter wasn’t sure. All in all, it was a very unfortunate situation.
St James ambled back into his lab, as soon as his guest had vanished into the guestroom. He finished some work for CID, then tried to think of something else to do, to put off the inevitable encounter with his wife. This time, it seemed Deborah wouldn’t come round. She was being unreasonable, and if she continued this way, she might as well leave.
He didn’t know when she’d changed from the lovely, lovely little girl she’d been when he first met her, into this sullen, touchy young woman. Perhaps he just had to face the fact that it was over, no matter how little he liked the thought.
The day after Lynley left, St James and Deborah had their last and worst row. All day, Deborah had been sulking, trying to avoid her husband as best she could. Towards evening, St James felt he had had more than enough of her childish behaviour.
When she came into their bedroom, not as he had assumed, to go to bed, but merely to pick up her night things, he finally lost his temper.
“Oh, come on. This has gone on long enough. If you have something to say to me, just say it. Don’t you think you’re a little too old to carry on like this? If you really had a legitimate complaint, you’d tell me, wouldn’t you? This is just pique, pure and simple.”
“If there had been any point in speaking to you, as an equal and not as my lord and master, I would have, you’re right about that. Unfortunately, it’s too late now. I’ve finally seen that this isn’t going anywhere.”
Soemthing in her tone made St James pay attention.
“What are you saying?”
Deborah hesitated. She hadn’t intended to tell her husband like this. This way, he had the advantage of being the master of his own house. No, she’d planned on choosing a neutral place. Somewhere away from his territory. But his supercilious ways just annoyed her too much.
“I’m saying this can’t go on. It’s over. I’m not the young woman you thought you married. The me I am today, can’t accept being bullied into silence by ‘big brother’. I need space to grow.”
“And you can’t do it here, is that what you’re saying? You’re not even willing to give me a chance?”
“Simon, I’ve given you all the chances you’re going to get. It didn’t work. We’re still no closer to a solution. I’ll have to find somewhere for myself.”
“Where you can grow?”
Deborah pressed her lips together. Simon’s manner was just too overbearing. Why hadn’t she seen that sooner?
As she was walking out of their – no, his, at least according to her – bedroom, carrying a bundle of her clothes, St James stared in disbelief after her.
The following morning, Deborah was up so early, Simon had barely finished his daily ritual of putting on his leg braces. He had heard her walking back and forth out there, presumably getting her things together. When he was finally done, and fully dressed, he walked into the kitchen, expecting to see some traces of her breakfast.
He was stunned to find that it hadn’t been touched since last night. It took him a while to realize that Peach was missing. That led him to search for Alaska, and he found it missing too. So she’d taken her surrogate children. He should have expected that.
Eventually, he went downstairs to see Cotter.
“Is Deborah here?”
“Where – do you know where she’s gone?”
“I’m sorry, sir, she wouldn’t tell me. I did ask her.”
If he hadn’t been so furious with her, St James might have worried, but as it was, he stormed upstairs, as fast as he was capable of walking, leaving his butler, Deborah’s father, standing there, a look of concern on his face.
Barbara Havers woke up slowly. After their big catch, she and Winston Nkata had been allowed to sleep in a little more often. Not that their work ever was exactly restful.
The smell of coffee tempted her out of bed. When she stepped into the kitchen, she saw that Peter was making toast. He had set the table and even – Barbara was touched – fried some eggs.
“Peter, you’re a marvel.”
Her boyfriend turned and faced her, a contented grin on his face. Something told her he wasn’t used to being praised. It hurt to imagine the lonely boy, growing up, seeking the approval of his elders.
“Wait until you’ve tasted the toast. It looks a bit dark to me.”
“You’ve obviously never seen the charred results of my attempts. Come here.”
She put her arms around him and would have been standing there for much longer if the smell of burning toast hadn’t alerted them to what was going on.
Peter ran to scrape out the burned pieces of bread and Barbara put on her slippers and went outside to get the paper. To her astonishment, someone was sitting on her doorstep. All she could see was a shock of red hair and the only one she knew with hair that colour was –
The woman turned and faced her.
“I’m sorry. Do you think I could stay here for a while? I’ve left Simon and – well, I don’t know anyone else to turn to. Everyone else belongs to his crowd.”
Barbara had no idea how she’d fit even one guest into her flat which her former gov – Lynley – had once described as ‘compact’, let alone three. The dachshund she’d seen at the St James’ house was there, wagging her tail at her and at Deborah’s feet a cat carrier told her the cat was there too.
But Deborah’s way of putting it – ‘his crowd’ instantly made Barbara react with solidarity. Remembering that Deborah was actually the daughter of a servant, made her forget her reservations.
“Of course. Stay as long as you like. It will be a little crowded though.”
“I know. You and Peter. I’m sorry. We’ll try to be as inconspicous as possible.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll manage.”
Barbara went to get her paper, then ushered Deborah and her pets inside.
“Peter – can you make a bit more coffee and toast?”
“Absolutely, my love. Did the chilly air make you hungry?”
“We have a visitor. Three actually.”
Peter looked out into the tiny hallway and stared.
“Hello, Peter. I’ve left Simon.”
“I see. Well, come on in. We have toast and coffee and – I’ll see what I can do for the little ones.”
Ten minutes later, all three humans were crowded around the table, having breakfast. The dog was happily eating baked beans on toast and the cat was licking the oil off some sardines, looking quite content.
While they ate, Deborah explained the situation. Barbara nodded. Not that it was any of her business, but she had noticed that St James tended to treat his wife rather like a younger sister. Though Barbara knew her own track record wasn’t good when it came to relationships, she knew she would have had a hard time accepting being patronised.
Eventually, after Barbara had suddenly remembered a meeting she was expected to attend, she got up, and hurried into the bedroom.
She called over her shoulder to her guest.
“You’ll have to manage on your own, I’m afraid. I need to go to work and so does Peter.”
Peter smiled at Deborah and explained.
“I never finished my degree, but I was able to get a job at a pizza place. Just doing the dishes, but it’s a job.”
“I wish I had one.”
“If you’ll settle for something simple, I’ll ask around. Someone at work might know of something. In a shop or an office -”
“That would be wonderful.”
Barbara emerged from her bedroom, wearing a rather unbecoming sweater. Her hair was a bit tousled but it was too late to do something about that now. Fortunately, she’d spotted the mismatched shoes before she left the room.
She ran off to catch a train that if she was lucky would get her to work with about three minutes to spare.
Peter, who didn’t start until later, was able to walk leisurely to work.
When the door had closed behind him, Deborah curled up on the couch, her face buried in her hands. The enormity of what she’d done was just beginning to sink in. But she didn’t regret her decision. It was the right one, she knew that. Right now everything just felt so – bleak.
Barbara was lucky. She was able to sit down in her seat before her boss walked in. Trying to look efficient, she twirled her pen. There was a pad of papers in front of her, and an alert look on her face. At least she hoped so.
In any case, her boss didn’t have any complaints. This time. Usually, there would be one or two hints dropped, about her clothes or her hair, or at times about her way of addressing her superiors. But so far so good.
After the meeting, everyone filed out, but when Barbara walked past the secretary’s desk, it was empty. She caught up with Winston and asked him about it.
“Whatever happened to Susan?”
“She’s getting married. Someone said she’s moving to Florida.”
“Really? Florida? Right. That’s the first I heard of it.”
“It’s the first everyone heard of it. Apparently, she just gave notice today and left.”
“Ouch. When will we get a replacement?”
Suddenly, Barbara had an idea. What if –
“Hm. I think I’ll go and see Nickerson.”
“Oh? Do you have someone in mind as our next secretary?”
“As a matter of fact, I do.”
“Great. Anyone I know?”
“Well, it’s a friend of a friend. Deborah St James.”
Winston whistled softly.
“Blimey. Mylady’s going slumming for a while?”
“Shut it, Winnie. She’s left her husband and needs a job.”
Winston nodded sympathetically. If she was on her own, she’d certainly need a job.
Nickerson was actually quite pleased with Barbara’s suggestion. Given the employment situation at the moment, it would have been hard to find a replacement so soon.
Deborah, who didn’t have any work experience would be hired on a temporary basis.
When Barbara told her, she was delighted. She threw her arms around Barbara’s neck and hugged her enthusiastically. Barbara exchanged glances with Peter, over Deborah’s shoulders, but didn’t comment. After all, she was pleased too, to have been able to help her guest.
After Deborah moved out, St James briefly considered going away on a trip. His next thought was to stay at the club for a while. Somehow, spending his evenings with Deborah’s father would be a little hard to stomach.
He briefly considered sending Cotter off on a trip, perhaps to the south of France or anywhere sunny and warm this time of year, but decided that his old butler would see through his seemingly generous gesture and be offended.
In the end, he settled on asking Lynley back. His friend, recently widowed and himself, perforce separated from his wife, might as well make the bst of the situation together.
He wasn’t sure if Lynley would accept his invitation, but it was worth a try. To St James’ surprise, his old friend agreed to return right away.
Less than an hour later, Lynley rang the doorbell. Cotter answered the door and found the guest who had left only the other day, standing on the front steps.
“Good afternoon, my lord. Shall I take those?”
Without waiting for a reply, Cotter picked up Lynley’s two cases and vanished to the domestic regions of the house.
St James stood in the doorway of his study, watching his friend.
“It was very kind of you to come back on such short notice.”
Lynley scuffed his shoes, for some reason feeling rather awkward. Of course there was absolutely no reason for that.
“Oh, well, you know – I’m sorry. About Deb -”
“Yes, yes. Why don’t you come inside? I was just about to have a bite to eat. Cotter insists on regular meals. It’s rather tedious of him, but there it is.”
Somehow, though St James had very little work to do, and Lynley none, they passed the time easily, sitting quietly in the old study.
St James was absorbed in a book and Lynley in his own gloomy thoughts.
Their companionable silence was only broken several hours later, when Cotter appeared in the doorway, announcing that dinner was ready.
The devoted butler hovered anxiously above the two young men, hoping to make sure they polished off their plates.
Lynley found this as touching as it was annoying. He wondered idly how St James felt about the situation. It was no wonder his friend had baulked at spending his evenings under his father-in-law’s solicitous eye.
In fact, now that poor St James was on his own, this arrangement had every chance of being a success. Both in need of companionship, both dreading the long hours of solitude when the mind would wander and settle on every little painful memory of their missing loved ones.
It didn’t take the two men long to settle in to some sort of routine. After all, they had once met at boarding school and living in a dorm-like environment came naturally to them. Not that St James’ comfortable house bore any resemblance to their rather shabby accommodations in school.
After a week, St James at last managed to think of an excuse to send Cotter away. One of his numerous family members sprained an ankle and was in desperate need of domestic help. St James jumped at the opportunity. At the moment, he would rather not have anything to do with anyone who reminded him of Deborah.
Cotter might or might not have seen through the excuse, but as he was always loyal to the Allcourt St James family, he wouldn’t have dreamed of questioning his employer’s orders.
To St James’ considerable relief, Cotter packed his backs and left. When the door had closed behind him, St James belatedly remembered his guest.
“I say, you won’t mind, will you? You and I can look after ourselves, can’t we?”
Lynley, who was an enthusiastic, though not particularly successful amateur cook didn’t feel concerned. There were restaurants, weren’t there?
“Of course. I’m sure we will be just fine.”
They took advantage of Cotter’s absence the very same evening, when they by mutual agreement, decided to do without a proper dinner. St James, who was still numb inside after Deborah’s departure, found that he was perking up a little. Having the house to himself, or close enough, would be rather liberating. Not that Cotter wasn’t a thoroughly good sort. It was just that a man sometimes liked to be left alone.
He and Lynley fried a few eggs and consumed considerable amounts of cheese, accompanied by a lovely claret.
It seemed Lynley was at last beginning to look a little like his old self. Remarkable how some time in peace and quiet and without the disruptive influence of others could heal the mind.
Lynley wondered at his friend’s apparent change of mood. Raising one eyebrow, he gazed inquiringly at St James.
“What are you smiling about?”
St James shrugged apologetically. How on earth could he sit here and enjoy himself when his wife was lord knew where, trying to ‘grow’. Still, he was feeling more cheerful, there was no doubt about it.
“Oh, you know, it just hit me – what an old tyrant Cotter is. Always ‘eat this’, ‘do this’ and so on. It’s rather invigorating to make one’s own decisions, don’t you agree?”
Lynley nodded thoughtfully.
“Mm. You have a point. Of course, far be it from me to criticise a man with Cotter’s excellent cooking skills. His bouillabaisse -”
St James’ face darkened slightly. There was that, of course. Cotter did make such delicious meals. But that wasn’t the point. It was nice to just do as he pleased for a change. Living under Cotter’s eye was a bit like being in school. No doubt it was good for you, but perhaps not as – diverting – as being on one’s own.
“You’re right, but still -”
In fact, St James did have a point. Though Lynley dreading being alone, he also couldn’t stand it when someone from work or someone like Cotter, fussed about him all the time. He needed time to heal, not all that attention, no matter how benevolent. It reminded him strongly of his mother.
“Good for you. Let’s make the most of it. I”m sure old Cotter will be back soon, as energetic and devoted as always.”
After their impromptu meal, the two men adjourned into the living room, where St James put on a CD. Mahler. As he recalled it, his friend enjoyed it quite as much as he did.
It was still only about nine thirty. Lynley was beginning to consider going out for the evening. A pint at one of the more exclusive pubs might be just the thing.
“How about going out to a pub?”
St James was pleasantly surprised. In all the time Lynley had been staying with him, he hadn’t once displayed any signs of wanting to go out for a meal or a drink. In fact, his morose immobility had begun to concern his host.
“That’s a splendid idea.”
So they went to one of Lynley’s favourite places and ended up staying later than they had first intended. There was a huge, roaring fire. A real one, not one of those pathetic fake ones. The ale was excellent and the companionship erudite. Many postgraduate students and lecturers frequented it, as well as barristers and other quiet customers.
It was past midnight when they returned to St James’ house, in a better mood than for a long time. Lynley realized that he’d missed his friend more than he’d been aware of, during his ill-fated marriage to Helen. St James really was a good sort. Such a dreadful shame about the accident and now Deborah.
It seemed St James felt much the same way about his friend. When they had hung up their coats, St James hesitated a moment, then decided to make his suggestion.
“How about a nightcap?”
Lynley had no objections.
St James limped over to the bar and with some effort managed to pour his guest and himself generous amounts of Scotch. Lynley knew better than to offer his assistance, so he remained seated on the couch.
They sipped their drinks in silence, savouring the taste and the company.
Lynley felt himself relax. He let his eyes roam around the room, not really seeing anything, until his eyes settled on a framed photograph on the mantlepiece. He recognized it and instantly his cheerful mood dissipated. It had been taken last Christmas. Helen was with him and they were standing with St James and Deborah, smiling, completely carefree.
St James immediately sensed the change. His friend’s face became a tense mask and his hands clutched the glass so hard, it was a miracle it didn’t shatter. Following his friend’s gaze, St James saw what had caused the transformation and he cursed himself for not removing the photo. He could easily have done so, but it hadn’t occurred to him.
Unable to think of anything to say to console his friend, he placed his hand on Lynley’s arm. At first there was no reaction. Then suddenly, the glass shattered after all and the whisky splahed onto Lynley’s lap. Worse, his fingers were cut quite badly and blood was seeping out of the cuts onto his trousers and the rug.
Awkwardly, St James forced himself up, gazing around for a tissue or anything he might use to stem the bleeding. There was nothing so he had to go all the way to the kitchen to get some.
When he returned he hastily wrapped the tissues around his friend’s hand. Seemingly barely aware of the pain or the attention, Lynley was trapped inside his memories, which must hurt far worse than any cuts.
Clumsily, St James sat down beside his friend. At the moment, his own loss seemed trivial compared to Lynley’s. Deborah was fine, at least he assumed so. Even if she wouldn’t be back in his life, she would continue to be fine. Whereas Helen –
He placed his arm around Lynley’s shoulders, expecting at any second to be pushed away. But Lynley didn’t seem aware of his touch. Encouraged by this, St James began to pat his friend’s arm, then when he encountered no resistance, his back.
There was something soothing in the slow, regular strokes and eventually, Lynley began to respond. Some of the tension left him and he allowed himself to be held. He buried his face at St James’ shoulder and burrowed closer.
Something about this was beginning to feel familiar. At one time, many years ago, when they were teenagers, St James and Lynley had been close, for want of a better word. It was something neither man ever referred to or touched on even in his mind, but somehow, the closeness didn’t feel at all awkward.
Lynley looked up and faced the other man. What he saw in his eyes made his own breathing pick up. When their lips met neither man resisted. Stretched out on the couch, they continued making their reacquaintance. In every move, there was a sort of breathless desperation, but in each other, they found something responding to their own need. They stubbornly refused to consider the consequences.
St James awoke to feel pain shoot through his legs. Why was he lying like this, on the couch and not in his own bed? An instant later, he registered that he wasn’t alone. Someone was pinning him down. His head hurt too, reminding him of last night’s drinking, but what else had happened?
His eyes felt as if they’d been glued shut and there was a vile taste in his mouth. All familiar symptoms of late night drinking. But that didn’t explain why he was on the couch and certainly not the heavy weight pinning him down.
He couldn’t believe the weight pinning him down was that of his slender wife – estranged wife – but he couldn’t help hoping against hope, that it was.
Someone coughed and groaned, then changed position. Feeling the athletic body pressing into him, St James suddenly remembered everything. His throat constricted and he tensed up, trying instinctively to get away. Not again. Not now. They weren’t boys anymore. This sort of thing was simply –
Slowly, Lynley came awake. He wasn’t in his bed – or – the bed he’d slept in for the last couple of months. Worse, he wasn’t alone. He was lying on top of someone – not a woman. With that realization, the memories of last night returned. This just couldn’t – How could he possibly have –
Scrambling to get off the couch and away from this room, he spared no thought for St James. All he could think about what making his escape. Not only to the guestroom, but out of the house. Back to his own or anywhere, as long as he didn’t have to face his friend and what they’d done. His mind in turmoil, Lynley fled. Simon would never forgive him. He’d think –
St James slowly and painfully got to his feet. The braces were still on and that contributed to their cramped and sore condition. What a fool he’d been. Their youthful folly should never have been allowed to resurface. No one could know about this. No one. Would all their years of friendship be lost, over one moment of indiscretion? He had no answer for the question that kept echoing in his mind.