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Мортимер Кэрол

Wish For The Moon

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CHAPTER TWO

ELIZABETH didn’t for a moment believe he really remembered that slightly overweight schoolgirl who had once been so infatuated with him that she had thrown herself at him shamelessly.

But she remembered every painful moment of that night six years ago. She had thought she had put it behind her, had believed seeing Quinn Taylor again after all this time would mean nothing to her. But she had been wrong; how could anyone forget the person who had shattered their childhood for ever?

At seventeen she had been extremely naïve, believed everything to be exactly as it appeared to be: Quinn’s kindness to her a sign that he liked her too, his friendship with Fergus just that. Instead it had merely been a cover for something much more sordid. Terri hadn’t returned to her bedroom until early the next morning!

Quinn said she reminded him of someone, but the name was all wrong. Maybe it was just a line to him, but for her it had been a traumatic experience to learn that she wasn’t little Lise Morrison at all but Elizabeth Farnham, heiress to the Farnham estate.

She had been eighteen when the man her Uncle Hector called ‘Master Gregory’, had been killed racing one of his cars much too fast during wet conditions. The people in the area had mourned the loss of the Farnham heir with the elderly man who owned most of the farms and houses they lived in. For days they had been stunned by the death, wondering what Gerald Farnham would do for an heir now that his only son had died, Gregory Farnham never having married himself.

Elizabeth could still remember her surprise—and nervousness!—when the Farnham limousine had arrived at the farm and Gerald Farnham himself had asked to see her.

His son had left a letter to be read in the event of his premature death—and with the reckless way he lived his life that had always been more than a possibility—stating that he and Claire Morrison had been lovers, and claiming Lise’s paternity.

The man who claimed to be her grandfather had shown her the letter, not attempting to shield her from the fact that her father had always known of her existence, that he had scorned her mother when she told him of her pregnancy. It hadn’t been easy to accept that, if Gregory Farnham hadn’t died the way he had, she would never have known who she really was; that the secret of her father’s identity, which her mother had chosen to take to the grave with her, would have remained a secret for ever.

Her mother had gone to live with her brother Hector when their parents died shortly after she was sixteen, and she and Gregory Farnham had met when she was only seventeen. Considering the reputation the Farnham heir had always had concerning women, Lise could only believe that her mother had been as mesmerised by his reckless charm as so many other women had seemed to be. But at only nineteen Gregory Farnham had had no intention of marrying anyone, especially some little country bumpkin who lived on one of the estate’s farms, even if she was pregnant with his child.

Her aunt and uncle had been as stunned by this revelation as she was, and she was sure they had never had any idea who her father was. Her Aunt Madge certainly wouldn’t have remained silent if she had known!

It had been too much for Lise to absorb, and she had run off, needing to be alone, to try to come to terms with the fact that she was Elizabeth Farnham and not Elizabeth Morrison.

Her poor mother, rejected by the man she had believed loved her. Not even her death had made him relent about acknowledging their child’s birth.

Maybe if she had been able to comfort herself with the certainty that Gregory Farnham had lived his life so recklessly because the woman he had loved, and foolishly hadn’t married, had died giving birth to his child, there might have been something to redeem from the heartache she was now suffering. But that would have been a fairy-tale, and her belief in those had been shattered a year ago.

In which case she had to believe that her father had been a selfish bastard who had never had any intention of recognising her as his daughter while he was still alive. To her he had just been the Farnham heir who occasionally visited the estate, driving about the narrow country lanes in one of his flashy sports cars, usually with some beautiful woman at his side.

She didn’t want him to be her father, hated the thought of that blond-haired devil having sired her. She didn’t have to accept him as her father if she didn’t want to. She knew her aunt and uncle expected her to move into Farnham Hall as her grandfather wanted her to, but she was eighteen now, could go where she wanted, be what she wanted. She didn’t have to be beholden to anyone any more—–

‘He was a bastard, wasn’t he.’

She looked up with resentful eyes, glaring at the man who now claimed to be her grandfather. He had a perfect right to be here, this river was part of his estate, but she didn’t have to stay and talk to him.

He caught her arm as she would have leapt up and run away. ‘Lise,’ he halted her gently. ‘That is what they call you, isn’t it?’ he prompted softly.

Her head went back defiantly, green eyes flashing. ‘It’s the family name for me, yes,’ she acknowledged bitterly.

He nodded his head, a man in his mid-sixties who was obviously finding it difficult to converse with a young woman. ‘If you prefer I’ll call you Elizabeth,’ he said sadly. ‘But I am your family.’ His hand tightened about her arm as she would have pulled away. ‘You know, I used to see your mother about the village and estate,’ he spoke quietly. ‘She was a lovely little thing, just like you to look at.’

‘Perhaps if she hadn’t been quite as lovely your son wouldn’t have ruined her life by leaving her pregnant with his child,’ she stormed at him.

He gave a sad sigh. ‘Gregory was always wild, but—if I had known of your existence I would have acknowledged you years ago!’ he rasped.

‘Even an illegitimate heir is better than no heir at all?’ she challenged contemptuously.

He suddenly looked old, not quite as tall, nor as arrogant. ‘I probably deserved that,’ he said heavily. ‘Having a grandchild has meant everything to me in recent years, I’ve made no secret of that. I’d like to think that Gregory was deaf to my requests that he settle down and have children because he knew there was no reason for him to do so, that he always intended telling me about you some day.’

‘You can live with your dreams if you want to,’ Lise scorned.

‘I happen to think that your son never thought of me again after writing that letter you were to receive after his death. And we both know by the date of that that he wrote it when I was three years old! Any duty he might have felt to me taken care of—and then forgotten!’

Gerald Farnham drew in a ragged breath. ‘I can’t pretend to have understood my son.’ He shook his head sadly. ‘All I do know is that you are my grandchild. And I’d like for us to get to know one another better.’

‘I—–’

‘I never denied you, Elizabeth,’ he cut in softly. ‘I never would have done.’

‘We’ll never know that, will we?’ she scoffed.

His mouth firmed determinedly. ‘I understand that you hate Gregory; I’m not feeling too pleased with him myself at the moment,’ he admitted softly. ‘But,’ he added firmly, ‘we both know the truth now. I think we owe it to each other at least to get to know one another.’

Her eyes flashed. ‘I don’t owe you anything!’

He gave an impatient sigh at her defiance. ‘Did your aunt or uncle ever give you a good spanking for being unreasonable?’ He glared back at her, green sparks visible in his hazel-coloured eyes.

It suddenly occurred to Lise how ridiculous they must look standing beside a river glaring at each other, eyes locked, jaws set. It also occurred to her that there was more than a casual similarity between them, that this man was her grandfather, her own flesh and blood.

She had begun to cry then, held firmly in his arms, offering no resistance when he led her back to the road and helped her into his car, taking her back with him to Farnham Hall.

She had been here ever since, gently guided by her grandfather to be the sort of woman who was capable of running his estate. She had felt strange at first, like the village brat who had accidentally gatecrashed a life she didn’t understand, or particularly want. But her grandfather had shown such pride in her, complimenting her effusively on each new accomplishment she made, until it had become the determination to be his granddaughter that had spurred her on to accept the new life he had provided for her.

After five years she was completely at home here, had become Elizabeth Farnham, Lise Morrison a part of her past that she remembered with affection but had no wish to return to.

She had almost forgotten she had ever known another life besides this one, even the expected arrival of Quinn Taylor back in her life not having disturbed her. She despised the man, saw no reason why she should explain that they had met before. And she had no intention of doing so!

Unfortunately for her grandfather, he seemed to have some sort of match-making idea in mind between her and the entertainer. She found it difficult even to be polite to the Canadian, didn’t feel even a spark of that attraction towards him that had once made her so dizzily ecstatic. And her grandfather was going to realise that after he had tried to throw them together a couple of more times.

She moved to her bedroom window to gaze out at the west lawn, could clearly see the blue-suited figure as he moved about the stage. She had been wrong that night six years ago when she had supposed he was more at home in his casual clothes; he looked just as relaxed and comfortable in the formal suit.

The years had been kind to him, his attraction still devastating, in fact in some ways he seemed more attractive, his features ruggedly virile. His divorce several years ago had left him free to exploit that virility to its fullest, his name constantly linked with one woman or another. Elizabeth hoped he didn’t waste his time by trying to impress her!

* * *

‘I can’t understand what all the fuss is about,’ Giles muttered at her side.

Elizabeth gave a rueful grimace, longing to agree with him, but knowing it would be impolite to their guest of honour to do so.

Her grandfather had completely outwitted her in his effort to throw her into the company of Quinn Taylor, telling her he wanted this dinner party arranged at short notice, omitting to tell her that his guest of honour was going to be the singer.

The Canadian had only been to lunch the day before, and when no dinner invitation had been forthcoming she had heaved a sigh of gratitude. It wasn’t until she descended the stairs earlier this evening to stand at her grandfather’s side to greet their hastily invited guests that she had realised Quinn Taylor was going to be there. She had telephoned round herself and invited the dozen or so other guests, little guessing that her grandfather had personally issued one to Quinn Taylor.

She should have guessed really; as he had with her father before her, her grandfather had started complaining about his lack of great-grandchildren when she reached twenty-one. And he didn’t approve of Giles as the father of those children, claimed he was too weak. She had never met a man yet who was

.

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