The Ultimate Surrender(4)

By: Penny Jordan

Cautiously Polly nodded. Marcus had recently been made the head of his department, travelling daily to the company’s UK offices in the city and returning each evening to the luxurious apartment he retained in the small commuter village where his and Richard’s family roots were. And she had learned, through listening to his conversations with Richard, that he spent a lot of time having meetings with his overseas colleagues.

‘Well, apparently Marcus’s boss has just come back from a prolonged visit to their American parent company in the States and he’s told Marcus that over there the trend is for visiting execs and their wives to stay as house guests with their US counterparts. Apparently he’s very keen to introduce the same sort of system over here. Marcus would get a special expenses allowance to cover all the costs but, as he was saying to me, it would be virtually impossible for him to provide the standard of hospitality that would be needed as an unmarried man living alone in a service flat. That’s when he realised what a perfect solution it would be for all of us…’

‘What would be?’ Polly asked him in bewilderment. The baby had started kicking quite hard and her head was still full of flu, and what she really wanted more than anything else was to go to bed—a nice warm bed in a nice warm bedroom…not the horrid, lumpy, uncomfortable bed she and Richard shared in their cold, damp room.

‘What I’ve just said,’ Richard told her. ‘What a terrific idea it would be if the three of us moved into Fraser House and you and I…well, you, I suppose, really,’ he admitted a little ruefully, ‘looked after Marcus’s colleagues…you know…tidied up their rooms, cooked their meals—that sort of thing,’ he told her vaguely. ‘And Marcus would pay us for doing it. Oh, and of course he’d be living there as well, and I suppose you’d have to cook for him too, although he’d still be away some of the time…’

‘Richard…’ Polly stopped him faintly.

‘What is it? Aren’t you feeling well?’ he demanded anxiously as soon as he saw how pale and shocked she was looking. ‘It isn’t the baby, is it? It isn’t time yet…’

No, it wasn’t the baby, although the shock to her system of what he had just outlined could well have caused her to go into premature labour, Polly reflected a little later on as she tried and failed to find the words to tell him how impossible what Marcus was suggesting was. For one thing she just couldn’t see how Marcus—immaculate, lordly, impatient Marcus—was ever going to be able to live side by side with a small baby…never mind side by side with her.

Then, during the night, the ceiling above their bedroom fell in, sending plaster and water cascading everywhere causing Richard to say worriedly that there was no way they could continue to live where they were, especially since he was having to leave in the morning to spend the next ten days working on a private commission for his father’s regiment. He had been asked to paint the regiment’s mascot—an elderly goat which was ‘stationed’ at regimental headquarters near Aldershot.

While Polly still wandering round the flat in a daze, trying to remove bits of fallen plaster from her carefully washed and ironed inherited baby things, Richard was on the telephone to Marcus. Marcus arrived shortly after surveying both the flat and Polly in grim silence before announcing that the place was totally unfit for anyone to live in, never mind a pregnant child.

‘I am not a child,’ Polly retorted, flinching as though he had struck her, reminding him through gritted teeth, ‘I am nineteen years old.’

‘Like I said…a child,’ Marcus returned scathingly, before he instructed, ‘No, leave those and just go and get in the car.’

Much as she longed to object to his high-handedness, Polly thought better of it, which was how she found herself somehow or other installed at Fraser House, its 'For Sale’ sign firmly removed and a team of cleaners produced from out of nowhere to attack the neglect of the months it had been empty.

It was the kitchen which converted Polly to Marcus’s seemingly impossible idea. Large and surprisingly well equipped, considering the age and solitary lifestyle of the General, it possessed a deliciously warm range and a central heating system which produced gallons of scaldingly hot water—something which had been in very short supply at the flat. And then, of course, there was the garden, large enough for an army of children, and the bedrooms—in need of a fresh coat of paint, perhaps, but each of them with the most wonderfully sturdy country-style furniture and enough cupboards and dressing rooms for every single one of them to have its own en suite bathroom, which Marcus told her firmly was an absolute necessity for his executives and their wives.

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