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Seduction Never Lies

By:Sara Craven

Seduction Never Lies
Sara Craven

       CHAPTER ONE

OCTAVIA DENISON FED the last newsletter through the final letter box in  the row of cottages and, with a sigh of relief, remounted her bicycle  and began the long hot ride back to the Vicarage.

There were times, and this was one of them, when she wished the  Reverend Lloyd Denison would email his monthly message to his  parishioners instead.

'After all,' as Patrick had commented more than once, 'Everyone in the village must have a computer these days.'

But her father preferred the personal touch, and when Tavy came across  someone like old Mrs Lewis longing for a chat over a cup of tea because  her niece was away on holiday, and who certainly had no computer or even  a mobile phone, she supposed wryly that Dad had a point.

All the same, this was not an ideal day for a cycle tour of the village on an old boneshaker.

For once, late May had produced a mini-heatwave with cloudless skies  and temperatures up in the Seventies, which had also managed to coincide  with Greenbrook School's half-term holiday.

Nice for the kids, thought Tavy as she pedalled but, for her, it would be business as usual tomorrow.

Her employer, Eunice Wilding, paid her what she considered was the  appropriate rate for a young and unqualified school secretary, but she  expected, according to the local saying, 'her cake for her ha'penny'.

But at the time the job had seemed a lifeline in spite of the poor pay.  One small ray of light in the encircling darkness of the stunned grief  she shared with her father at her mother's sudden death from a totally  unsuspected heart condition.

He'd protested, of course, when she'd announced she was giving up her  university course to come home and keep house for him, but she'd read  the relief in his eyes, swallowed her regrets, and set herself to  rebuilding both their lives, cautiously tackling the parish tasks that  her mother had fulfilled with such warmth and good humour, while  discovering that, in Mrs Wilding's vocabulary, 'assistant' was another  word for 'dogsbody'.

But in spite of its drawbacks, the job enabled her to maintain a  restricted level of independence and pay a contribution to the Vicarage  budget.

In return, she was expected to put in normal office hours, five and a  half days a week, with just a fortnight's holiday taken in two weekly  instalments in spring and autumn, and far removed from the lengthy  vacations enjoyed by the teaching staff.

And half-term breaks did not feature either, so this particular  afternoon was a concession, while Mrs Wilding conducted her usual staff  room inquisition into the events of the past weeks, and outlined the  progress she expected in the next half.

It was her ability to achieve these targets that had made Greenbrook  School an undoubted success in spite of its high fees. Mrs Wilding  herself did not teach, calling herself the Director rather than the  headmistress, but she had a knack for picking those that could, and even  the most unpromising pupils were given the start they needed.

When she eventually retired, the school would continue to flourish  under the leadership of Patrick, her only son, who'd returned from  London the previous year to become a partner in an accountancy firm in  the nearby market town, and who already acted as Greenbrook's part-time  bursar.

And his wife, when he had one, would also have a part to play, thought  Tavy, feeling an inner glow that had nothing to do with the sun.

She'd known Patrick all her life of course, and he'd been the object of  her first early teen crush. While her school friends giggled and  fantasised over pop stars and soap actors, her sole focus had been the  tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed Adonis who lived in her own village.

Although it might as well have been one of the moons of Jupiter for all  the notice he took of her. She could remember basking for weeks in the  memory of a casual 'Thanks' when she'd been ball girl for his final  match in the annual village tennis tournament. Could recall the  excitement building as the university vacations approached and she knew  he would be home, but also crying herself to sleep when he spent his  holidays elsewhere, as he often did.

But then real life in the shape of public examinations and career  choices intervened and took priority, so that when she heard her father  mention casually to her mother that Patrick was off to the States for  some form of post-graduate study, the worst she had to suffer was a  small pang of regret.

Since that time, he'd come back only for fleeting visits, and the last  thing Tavy expected was that he would ever return to live in the area.  Yet six months ago that was exactly what had happened.

And the first she'd known of it was when his mother brought him one afternoon into the cubbyhole which served as her office.                       
       
           



       

She'd said rather stiffly, 'Patrick, I don't know if you remember Octavia Denison...'

'Of course, I do.' His smile seemed to reach out and touch her, as  she'd seen it do so often to others in the past. But, until that moment,  never to her. 'We're old friends.' Adding, 'You look terrific, Tavy.'

She'd felt the swift colour burn in her face. Fought to keep her voice  steady as she returned, 'It's good to see you again, Patrick.'

Knowing that she had not bargained for precisely how good. And feeling a swift stab of anxiety in consequence.

After that, he seemed to make a point of popping in to see her whenever  he was at the school, perching on the corner of her desk to chat easily  as if that past friendship had really existed, and she hadn't simply  been 'that skinny red-haired kid from the Vicarage' as one of the girls  in his crowd had once described her, loudly enough to be overheard.

Tavy had remained on her guard, polite but not encouraging, her  instinct telling her that Mrs Wilding was unlikely to approve of such  fraternisation. Not even sure that she approved of it herself, even if  the bursarship gave him an excuse for being there.

So, when Patrick eventually invited her to have dinner with him, her refusal was immediate and definite.

'But why?' he asked plaintively. 'You do eat, don't you?'

She hesitated. 'Patrick, I work for your mother. It wouldn't be-appropriate for you to take out the hired help.'

Besides I need this job, because finding another in the same radius is by no means a certainty...

He snorted. 'For heaven's sake, what century are we living in? And Ma will be cool about it, I guarantee.'

But she remained adamant, only to discover that he was adopting a  similar stance. And, finally, at the third time of asking, and in spite  of her lingering misgivings, she agreed.

It occurred to her while she was getting ready, searching the wardrobe  for the one decent dress she possessed and praying it still fitted, that  she hadn't actually been out with a man since those few short months at  university when she'd had a few casual but enjoyable dates with a  fellow student called Jack.

Looking back, she could see that these might have developed into  something more serious, if Fate hadn't intervened with such devastating  cruelty.

Since then nothing-and no one.

For one thing, there were few single and available men in the  neighbourhood. For another, coping with her job, plus the cooking and  housework at the Vicarage and helping out with parish duties left her  too tired to go looking, even if she'd had the time or inclination.

She could only hope that Patrick hadn't tuned into this somehow and invited her out of pity.

If so, he'd kept it well-hidden during an evening it still made her  smile to remember. He'd taken her to a small French restaurant in Market  Tranton where they'd begun with a delicious garlicky pâté before moving  on to confit du canard, served with green beans and a gratin  dauphinois, with a seriously rich chocolate mousse to complete the meal.  All washed down with a soft, fruity Bergerac wine.

A meal from the Dordogne region, he'd told her, and probably the only  one she'd ever taste, she thought later, as she drifted off to sleep.

After that, they'd started seeing each other on a regular basis,  although when they encountered each other in working hours, it was  always strictly business. And in spite of his assurances, Tavy wasn't at  all sure that her employer was actually aware of the whole situation.  Certainly Mrs Wilding made no reference to it, but maybe that was  because she considered it unimportant. A temporary aberration on  Patrick's part which would soon pass.

Except it showed no sign of doing so, although so far he'd made no  serious attempt to get her into bed, as she'd half expected. And,  perhaps, wanted, having no real wish to remain the only  twenty-two-year-old virgin in captivity.

And while she knew she could not expect her father to approve, he'd  been enough of a realist to impose no taboos in his pre-university  advice. Just a quietly expressed hope that she would always maintain her  self-respect.

So, sleeping with a man with whom she shared a settled relationship  could hardly damage that, she told herself. In many ways it would be an  affirmation. A promise for the future.

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