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Мортимер Кэрол

Wish For The Moon

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CHAPTER ONE

‘MISS ELIZABETH?’

She looked up from the letter of acceptance she had been writing in answer to a dinner invitation for next week, nodding coolly to the maid. ‘Yes, Mary?’ she prompted distantly.

‘Cook just wanted to be sure that the number for lunch is still four.’ The young maid looked at her eagerly.

Elizabeth put down her pen, smiling ruefully. ‘Assure Cook that so far my grandfather’s guests haven’t cancelled their luncheon appointment,’ she drawled, glancing at the gold watch her grandfather, Gerald Farnham, had given her for her twenty-first birthday two years ago. ‘And as it’s after eleven now I think we can all safely assume that they aren’t going to either,’ she added teasingly.

Mary blushed. She was only four years younger than her mistress, but so much younger in her outlook on life. ‘Fancy Quinn Taylor coming here for lunch,’ she breathed ecstatically, her eyes glowing with anticipation.

Elizabeth gave a dismissive shrug. ‘One assumes he still has to eat like us lesser mortals,’ she derided, glancing down at the half-finished letter. She didn’t particularly want to go to the Prestwicks’ for dinner, but Giles, the man she was currently dating, would want to go.

‘But he’s actually coming here,’ Mary repeated excitedly, in no hurry to return to the kitchen.

Elizabeth was well aware of the fact that the singer was coming here, that even now the west lawn of the estate was having a stage and lighting erected on it in preparation for the concert her grandfather had agreed to let Quinn Taylor perform there.

A pop concert wasn’t the sort of thing her grandfather would usually have agreed to, but the amount of money offered in return for the use of Farnham Hall for the televised concert had been too good for him to turn down. And her grandfather was all for making money where possible, she acknowledged ruefully. Besides which, he had tied the Quinn Taylor organisation up in so tight a contract that the west lawn and surrounding estate would probably be in a better condition when all the people and equipment were gone than it had been before they arrived! Her grandfather was nothing if not a good businessman.

Entertaining the pop singer and his manager for lunch wasn’t something Elizabeth exactly relished doing, but her grandfather had believed it would make for good relations between them. She had a sneaking suspicion he might also be a Quinn Taylor fan!

Apparently the singer had arrived in England late last night and expected to begin rehearsing the show this afternoon; her grandfather had decided that the least they could do was offer him lunch before he began. She just hoped she didn’t have to suffer through having him ask the entertainer for his autograph!

‘Shouldn’t you go and assure Cook that so far Mr Taylor hasn’t cancelled the arrangements?’ she drily prompted the young maid.

Mary looked at her consideringly. ‘I’d be a nervous wreck if I were the one shortly to be having lunch with Quinn Taylor,’ she sighed dreamily.

‘Well, you aren’t,’ Elizabeth said more sharply than she intended, sighing as Mary looked hurt by her attitude. ‘I’m sorry, Mary,’ she dismissed. ‘But there are several other things I would rather be doing today than having lunch with Mr Taylor.’

‘I’d give a whole year’s wages just to be able to say I spoke to him,’ Mary said longingly.

Considering that the wages paid to the household staff at the Hall were some of the highest in the area, Mary’s sacrifice wouldn’t be a small one, and all for the opportunity to talk to a man who probably didn’t deserve her hero-worship in the first place.

She gave the young girl a rueful smile. ‘Tell Cook I said you were to help serve lunch today—without sacrifice of wages,’ she added teasingly.

Mary’s face lit up as if the lights on a Christmas tree had just been switched on. ‘Really?’ she gasped disbelievingly.

‘As long as you don’t mind going off for your own lunch now so that you can be back in time,’ she nodded.

Mary’s eyes were wide brown orbs. ‘I don’t mind not having any lunch at all if I can just get to see Quinn Taylor close up,’ she said weakly.

Elizabeth smiled. ‘Run along and get your lunch now. You wouldn’t want to faint at Mr Taylor’s feet, now would you?’ she teased, suddenly sure that the enchanted girl would enjoy nothing better than fainting in Quinn Taylor’s arms. ‘On second thoughts, perhaps you would,’ she acknowledged drily. ‘But don’t, hm?’ she prompted gently.

‘No, Miss Elizabeth.’ The young girl left with a dreamy smile to her lips.

Elizabeth shook her head, gazing out of the window of the morning-room to where she could see the west lawn in the distance as the crew frantically worked to finish the staging in time for the concert at the weekend.

All that work and adoration for a man who undoubtedly had a good voice, but who was still just a man after all. Personally, she didn’t understand what all the fuss was about, although the thousands of Quinn Taylor fans who were said to be going to attend the concert obviously thought that they did.

But she wasn’t the only one who wasn’t exactly overjoyed about the invasion planned for the weekend; Giles was disgusted that her grandfather could even be thinking of allowing such a thing at the Hall. She smiled a little as she remembered that her grandfather hadn’t been too thrilled by the criticism. If Giles had serious thoughts about becoming her husband and Gerald Farnham’s grandson-in-law then he would do well to learn that her grandfather disliked criticism of any sort, was just as likely to do something he wouldn’t normally have done just because someone suggested he shouldn’t.

And she was pretty certain that Giles did have serious intentions of asking her to marry him. What her answer to him was going to be when he did ask she hadn’t yet decided. Oh, he was a nice enough man, quite good-looking with his curly blond hair and dark brown eyes that could look so soulful, but she wasn’t sure yet whether or not she was in love with him.

But there was no rush to decide, they had only been going out together for a few months. She was certainly in no hurry to marry anyone.

‘Darling, isn’t it time you changed for lunch?’ her grandfather prompted softly from the doorway. ‘Our guests should be arriving in half an hour or so, and for some reason it seems to take you women at least that long to change a few clothes,’ he added drily.

Elizabeth turned to smile at her grandfather, giving up any idea of being able to deal with her mail any further today. None of it was that important anyway. ‘I thought I looked fine as I am,’ she drawled, standing up to cross the room and kiss him on one leathery cheek.

At almost seventy her grandfather still stood straight and tall at just over six feet, his hair deeply thick and iron-grey, hazel eyes twinkling down at her with affection as he held her at arm’s length to take in her appearance.

‘You look charming—as usual, my dear,’ he said lightly, about the pink floral dress. ‘But I had something a little more—formal in mind, for the mistress of the house,’ he added encouragingly.

‘I doubt a Canadian pop-singer knows the difference between a Laura Ashley and a St Laurent,’ she said drily.

Her grandfather gave her a reproving look. ‘That wasn’t worthy of you, Elizabeth,’ he told her softly.

‘No,’ she sighed heavily, putting her arm through the crook of his as they walked out into the large entrance-hall. ‘I just wish you had excused me from this luncheon as I asked you to,’ she grimaced. ‘I have no idea what we’re going to talk about. It isn’t even as if I’m a fan,’ she shrugged.

‘No doubt the man talks about himself all the time,’ her grandfather derided.

She looked up to return his smile. ‘If he does it will save me having to try and make conversation!’

‘Minx!’ he chuckled.

She ran lightly to the foot of the wide stairway. ‘I promise to try not to embarrass you.’

‘Elizabeth,’ he stopped her as she reached the gallery at the top of the stairs. ‘You could never, ever embarrass me,’ he told her gruffly.

She gave him a warm smile, blowing him a kiss before hurrying to her bedroom.

She and her grandfather were so close, and that closeness was another reason she was in no hurry to think about marriage; she was all her grandfather had now, since his son, her father, had been killed five years ago while racing his car at over a hundred miles an hour. She and her grandfather had been drawn together after the tragedy, their affection for each other something really special. A husband would surely try to intrude upon that special relationship; Giles had already shown signs of impatience at the amount of time she chose to spend at home.

After years of knowing exactly what was right to wear for each and every occasion, she was suddenly at a loss as to what one wore to have lunch with a pop-singer, disgarding one outfit after another in her wardrobe as either too formal or too casual. What could she wear to have lunch with Quinn Taylor and his manager?

It wasn’t like her to be so indecisive. Surely she wasn’t as affected by the man’s expected arrival as everyone else seemed to be? Certainly not, she instantly answered herself, she was just irritated at having to put herself out for the man!

She chose her outfit at random from the row of day clothes in the full-wall-length wardrobe and was just zipping the green skirt over her slender hips when she heard the sound of a car in the driveway; she tucked the matching pale green blouse into the narrow waistband before moving to glance out of the window. If it was Quinn Taylor he was early, but perhaps no one had bothered to explain to him that it was just as rude to arrive early as it was to arrive late.

The Rolls-Royce that had just come to a stop in front of the house was certainly impressive enough—if one were the type to be impressed by such an obvious show of wealth, which Elizabeth certainly was not.

She watched curiously from the window as instead of the chauffeur alighting from behind the wheel as she had expected, a tall dark-haired man in his late thirties, instantly recognisable as Quinn Taylor, stepped out on to the gravel driveway. Even if he hadn’t been, it was obvious that the short, slightly plump man who was getting out of the passenger side certainly wasn’t the singing star, which meant he must be the manager, Bruce Simons.

The shorter man walked around the car to join Quinn Taylor, pointing across the grounds to the west lawn where work was visibly in progress.

Elizabeth observed them curiously, noting that Bruce Simons seemed slightly ill at ease in the brown suit he wore, obviously especially for the occasion, pulling at the restriction of the collar of the tan shirt as it obviously irritated him.

Quinn Taylor turned to grin at him as he said something, wearing his navy blue suit with ease, even from this distance his eyes distinguisable as a deep startling blue. He seemed relaxed, confident, motioning to the other man that they should go into the house now.

Elizabeth stepped back from the window as they turned towards the house; the last thing she wanted was to be caught staring at them like some star-struck idiot!

She should be getting downstairs, her grandfather wouldn’t be pleased if she weren’t downstairs at his side to greet their guests. One thing she had learnt about her grandfather over the years, he granted her every indulgence, but good manners meant everything to him. He was going to expect her to be especially polite to a man he admired so much.

She brushed the shoulder-length bell of her hair with quick strokes, aware that she looked coolly elegant, her eyes sparkling brightly.

Petersham was just showing their guests into the drawing-room as she descended the stairs, and she turned coolly towards them as she sensed someone’s gaze on her, her gaze meeting, and clashing, with that of Quinn Taylor.

His eyes widened speculatively, a slow sensuous smile curving his sculptured lips. And then, as he continued to meet her challenging gaze, puzzlement darkened his eyes.

Elizabeth finished descending the stairs with confident dignity, crossing the entrance-hall to smile politely at their guests. ‘Thank you, Petersham,’ she dismissed the butler lightly. ‘I’ll take our guests through to my grandfather. Would you like to come this way, gentlemen,’ she invited politely, her smile bright—and completely meaningless, sensing that Quinn Taylor’s gaze was still on her.

‘I’m Elizabeth Farnham, by the way,’ she told them distantly as she ushered them into the room where her grandfather stood waiting for them. ‘Mr Simon, I believe you know my grandfather already.’ She smiled at the plump man, aware that he had been the one to do all the negotiating with her grandfather. ‘Mr Taylor, my grandfather, Gerald Farnham,’ she introduced. ‘I don’t believe you need any introduction yourself,’ she added drily, moving slightly away from the group to observe them uninterestedly.

Her grandfather was obviously enthusiastic about meeting the singer for the first time. As she had suspected, he was a secret fan, mentioning several of the entertainer’s songs that he particularly liked.

‘I’m afraid our introduction was a little rushed earlier.’ A silkily soft voice broke into her rueful musings.

She looked up to find Quinn Taylor had left the other two men talking quietly together to cross the room to her side. She met his gaze questioningly, smiling politely.

‘Elizabeth Farnham,’ she provided again as he looked at her searchingly.

‘Elizabeth…’ he repeated softly, shaking his head. ‘No, it doesn’t—fit,’ he murmured slowly.

She gave a lightly dismissive laugh. ‘I can assure you it suits me very well,’ she challenged.

He looked slightly embarrassed. ‘I’m sorry.’ He gave a tight smile. ‘I didn’t mean to appear rude. It’s just… You remind me of someone, it’s almost as if I should know you, and yet the name Elizabeth doesn’t ring any bells in my memory.’ He shook his head, staring at her intently.

‘I’m sorry,’ she drawled dismissively, moving to join her grandfather, putting her arm through the crook of his, glancing back curiously at Quinn Taylor. He still stared at her. ‘Mr Taylor seems to think I may have a double somewhere,’ she told her grandfather with a light laugh.

He turned to the younger man. ‘I refuse to believe there’s another woman as beautiful as Elizabeth anywhere in the world,’ and he gazed down at her proudly.

Quinn Taylor strode fluidly across the room. ‘I didn’t say you have a double, Miss Farnham,’ he bit out, obviously not appreciating her mockery at his expense. ‘I said you remind me of someone.’

‘Surely it’s the same thing?’ she dismissed uninterestedly. ‘I can assure you that if we had met before I would surely have remembered it—even if you are so ungallant as to suggest you can’t remember where you met this woman I look so much like,’ she added challengingly.

Impatience flickered in his eyes, at himself—and her. ‘Perhaps I was mistaken,’ he rasped. ‘You don’t appear to be the sort of woman a man would easily forget.’

‘I certainly hope not,’ she drawled huskily.

It was a most unnerving feeling having someone watch her so closely as she ate, and yet she knew, without acknowledging it, that Quinn Taylor watched her constantly during lunch.

Just as Mary watched him. The poor girl helped serve the meal in a complete daze, even dropping the spoon on the floor when Quinn Taylor turned to thank her for taking his empty soup bowl away. The accident cost Mary a quelling glance from Petersham, making her especially careful throughout the rest of the meal.

She really was star-struck, poor girl, gazing after Quinn Taylor adoringly as they finally left the dining-room to have coffee in the drawing-room.

‘Brandy, gentlemen?’ her grandfather offered, not bothering himself when the other two men declined. ‘Any problems, Quinn,’ he told the other man effusively as he sat down to light himself one of the cigars he so enjoyed and which Elizabeth was always warning him were no good for him, ‘and I want you to come straight to me.’ He puffed on his cigar. ‘I’d be glad to help in any way that I can.’

She could instantly tell that her grandfather didn’t just like the man’s music, he liked the man too. When her grandfather decided he liked some one he would do anything he could to make things easier for them, but woe betide anyone he took a dislike to!

Quinn smiled his lazily charming smile, seeming to be giving her a respite from his constant attention. ‘Everything seems to be running smoothly, thanks, Gerald.’ The two men had quickly come to a first-name basis. ‘Although perhaps there is something Miss Farnham could help me with.’ The two of them hadn’t reached the same easy familiarity!

She stiffened, her gaze cool. ‘Yes?’

‘The perfume you’re wearing,’ he said softly. ‘Perhaps you could give me the name of it before I leave,’ he explained as her brows rose questioningly. ‘I’d like to buy someone some like it as a present.’

‘Of course,’ she agreed distantly, wondering how many ‘someones’ he intended buying the expensive perfume for. Since his divorce several years ago he had gained the reputation of escorting some of the most beautiful women in the entertainment business. ‘I’ll write the name down for you before you leave,’ she drawled.

He gave an inclination of his head. ‘I’d be grateful.’

Elizabeth broke the intimacy of his gaze by turning towards her grandfather. ‘Perhaps Mr Taylor would like to go over to the west lawn now and see how the work there is progressing,’ she suggested lightly. ‘I’m sure he must be anxious to see what arrangements have been made.’

‘He’s barely had time to drink his coffee, child,’ her grandfather looked at her in surprise.

She blushed. ‘I only—–’

‘Your granddaughter is right, Gerald,’ Quinn Taylor’s drawling voice came to her rescue. ‘I only have a couple of days’ rehearsal before the concert.’ He stood up, stretching lazily. ‘I don’t feel much like working after that delicious lunch you just gave us,’ he acknowledged ruefully. ‘Maybe I can return the hospitality some time, tomorrow, perhaps?’ He was looking at Elizabeth as he made the suggestion. After angering her grandfather by more or less suggesting it was time for the singer and his manager to leave, she prudently held her tongue about bluntly refusing Quinn Taylor’s invitation. But she certainly had no intention of spending any more time in his company than she had to, she didn’t like the way he kept staring at her.

To her relief it was Bruce Simons who came to her rescue, pointing out to the singer that the schedule was a little tight for tomorrow.

Blue eyes gleamed as Quinn Taylor seemed to know of her relief at the reprieve. ‘Maybe we can make it dinner,’ he murmured slowly. ‘Could I contact you both about it tomorrow?’ he asked her grandfather.

He might contact them, but by the time he did she would make sure she had a legitimate excuse—one that would satisfy her grandfather!—for not attending. Quinn Taylor made her feel uncomfortable, and she wasn’t about to expose herself to any more of his company than she had to.

‘It’s been a delight to meet you, Miss Farnham.’ He took her hand lightly in his as they stood outside. ‘I’m sure I will remember who it is you remind me of,’ he added softly, once again giving her that searching look.

‘Let’s hope that when you do remember, it is a pleasant memory,’ she drawled mockingly.

He smiled, his teeth white and even against his bronzed skin. ‘I’m sure it must be,’ he said huskily.

Elizabeth politely but firmly extricated her hand from within his grasp, knowing by the way his fingers tightened momentarily that he didn’t want to release her. She clasped her hands together in front of her. ‘We mustn’t keep you from your rehearsal any longer,’ she said pointedly.

‘No,’ he acknowledged ruefully, strolling around to the driver’s side of the car with long easy movements. ‘I’ll see you both again soon.’

It sounded more like a threat than a politely made parting comment. But she knew her grandfather would want to accept this man’s invitation, whereas she didn’t believe it was necessary for them to meet again, for dinner tomorrow or anything else, now that they had politely done their duty.

They stood at the top of the steps watching the car as it disappeared in the direction of the west lawn, her grandfather’s arm about her shoulders as they went back into the house.

‘You weren’t very polite to him, darling,’ her grandfather finally reproved, as she had known he would.

‘His approach wasn’t very original,’ she derided. ‘That “you remind me of someone” routine must be years old,’ she dismissed scathingly.

‘It used to work when I was a young man,’ he frowned. ‘OK, point taken,’ he smiled as she gave him a pointed look. ‘But it didn’t seem like an approach to me.’

‘Perhaps not,’ she shrugged. ‘But I didn’t like the way he kept staring at me through lunch.’

Her grandfather smiled again. ‘He did seem rather taken with you, didn’t he?’

‘There’s no need to sound so smug,’ Elizabeth snapped. ‘Quinn Taylor is certainly not my type!’

‘Because he sings for a living?’ her grandfather frowned. ‘Darling, the man is an artist, not some hack who can’t pitch a note!’

Elizabeth knew exactly who Quinn Taylor was, and what he was. The Lise Morrison part of her would never forget that he had taken to his bed the girlfriend of a man who had called him friend.

Or that he had once broken her heart.

.

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