Dana walked into the study and went over to the massive bookcase. She placed the book she had borrowed back on the shelf and stood there looking at the names of the other books. She was about to reach for the volume containing all of Jane Austen’s writings when she heard what sounded like a dog growling.
Startled, she swung around and her eyes widened when she saw a big and beautiful black, copper and whitish dog sitting at the feet of…her eyes traveled up long knees covered in tan colored trousers, a white shirt until she found herself staring into the face of a very attractive man with dark brown hair with touches of grey. He was watching her.
“I-I didn’t know that anyone was in here,” she stammered.
He smiled. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “Heathcliff and I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
Her eyes shifted to the dog. “Heathcliff?” she repeated. “His name is Heathcliff?”
“You can blame Avery for that. Heathcliff is his dog.”
“He’s a beautiful dog. What breed is he?”
“He’s a Bernese Mountain Dog. By the way, I’m Avery’s Dad.” He got up from the armchair and went over to her, his hand extended. He was tall and athletic and looked a lot younger than she expected. He was probably in his early fifties.
“I’m Dana,” she said as they shook hands. “I’m pleased to finally meet you, Mr. Faulkner,” she said, smiling shyly. “Avery has told me so much about you.”
“I have heard a lot about you too. Avery’s not here. He had to run some errands but he should be back in an hour or so. You’re welcome to wait here in the study, if you like or you can go for a walk with Heathcliff and me.”
She looked at Heathcliff who came over to stand beside Mr. Faulkner. “Are you sure he won’t mind me tagging along?” she asked warily. He was a huge dog. She didn’t have anything against dogs but some of them made her nervous.
Mr. Faulkner’s lips twitched. “No, he won’t mind,” he assured her. “It’s not everyday that we have a pretty young woman accompany us on one of our walks.”
She smiled. He thinks I’m pretty. “Well, I guess it’s a good thing that I’m wearing jeans and comfortable shoes. I would be more than happy to go for a walk with Heathcliff and you.”
“Very good. Let’s go, then.”
Dana followed him and the excited Heathcliff out of the study. Before they left the manor, Mr. Faulkner informed Nigel that they were going for a walk in case Avery came back before they did. It was a glorious day. A comfortable summer day with a cool, gentle breeze and all around her and as far as the eye could see was picturesque land, a myriad of bright hues of green, yellow and the tops of the cottages tucked snugly among the foliage. They headed straight for the moors, Heathcliff racing ahead of them, tail wagging.
“Now, I think I understand why his name is Heathcliff,” she said. “In the novel, Wuthering Heights it was where the character, Heathcliff felt most comfortable to be himself. He felt more at home in the wild moors than at the house. It’s the same with Heathcliff. Look at him scampering about the place as if he owned it. He’s not at all the same animal I saw sitting in the study a few moments ago.”
Mr. Faulkner smiled. “Yes, he loves it out here and that’s why I bring him here every day.”
She drew a deep breath. “I can’t blame him. It’s beautiful out here. It beats living in the city.”
“Don’t you like living in the city?”
“I like it more for convenience. I can easily get around using public transportation and I live close to work and amenities. I only drive my car when I’m going out of town. I enjoy the drive here to Yorkshire. It feels nice leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind even if it’s just for a while.”
“I can understand where you’re coming from. Years ago after I graduated from Oxford, I left this estate and moved to London. A couple of years later, I met the woman who was to become my wife at my best friend’s wedding. Holly and I got married a couple of months later. A year before Avery was born, we moved back here to Yorkshire after my parents left the estate to me and moved to Basel, Switzerland.”
“So, Avery is a country boy,” she remarked, smiling.
“Yes, we both decided that raising children in the countryside would best. I don’t know if Avery told you this but he had a younger sister. Her name was Lily. She was a lovely child and was fair like her mother. Unfortunately, when she was only eight, she died of Leukemia. We were devastated. Before she died, Holly used to visit the grave on Lily’s birthday. This May she would have been twenty-one.”
“Yes, Avery told me about her and he showed me a picture of her. You’re right, she was a splitting image of your wife. It must have been tough for you when Mrs. Faulkner died.”
“It was. When she complained of having the worst headache in her life, I took her to the hospital. She suffered from migraines but this headache seemed out of the ordinary. It was hard to really tell what it was. It could have been a toxic headache caused by the over the counter painkillers she was using for her migraines. In retrospect, the only warning sign was when Holly said that it was the the worst headache she had ever had. Hours later the doctor came out and told me that she died due to complications from a ruptured brain aneurysm. I sat there for a long time in a daze before I came home here to tell Avery the terrible news. The manor seemed so empty without her. For a long time after, I would walk into the study or the drawing-room and expect to find her there. It took a long time for me to get over the shock of losing her. Although, she died five years ago, I still miss her, especially on her birthday and around Christmastime.”
“You never really get over losing someone you love. My father died when I was six but I still miss him and wish that he were here. We were very close and I always promised myself that when I got married it would be to a man like my father.”
“Aren’t you a bit young to be thinking about marriage?” He stopped and turned to face her.
She looked up at him. “I’m not that young,” she replied. “I’m twenty-five.”
“At my age, twenty-five seems very young.”
“If you don’t mind me saying so, you look a lot younger than I expected.”
He smiled. “I’ll take that as a compliment. It’s not every day that woman in her twenties tells a fifty-three year old man that he looks young for his age.”
She wondered what he would do if he knew that she was attracted to him. As they walked, she gave him sidelong glances and thinking Avery’s good-looking but his father is extremely good-looking and sexy. “Avery mentioned that you’re retired. What made you decide to retire early?”
“I have more time now for doing the things I enjoy such as writing, lecturing, travel, playing golf and going sailing.”
He could afford to retire because he was wealthy, she thought. As for her, she would have to work until she reached the retirement age which seemed like a long, long time from now. “Do you ever get bored?”
He shook his head. “No. There’s always something to do.”
“When I retire, I’d probably travel. There are other parts of Europe I would like to visit.”
“You don’t have to wait until you retire to travel. Avery and a group of friends are leaving in a couple of weeks for San Sebastian where they will be spending the entire month of July. Why don’t you go with them?”
She shrugged. “I can’t be away from the office for that long,” she said. Besides, San Sebastian sounds expensive.
“Well, while Avery’s away, you’re welcome to come to Yorkshire and spend time with Heathcliff and me.”
She smiled. “I’d like that,” she told him and thought that beat flying off to San Sebastian.
He glanced at his watch. “We’d better be heading back,” he suggested. “Avery’s probably back by now.” He called to Heathcliff who came bounding over to him.
When they got back to the manor, Avery met them in the courtyard. Heathcliff ran over to him and he squatted to ruffle his fur and got slobbered in the face. “Easy boy,” he said to him before he stood up. He looked first at his father and then at Dana. “I see that you met Heathcliff and my father,” he said with a grin. “Did you enjoy traipsing about the moors with them?”
She nodded. “I did. Now I know why you love the moors so much. I can spend all day out on them.”
“Well, I don’t think I’ll be missing them while I’m enjoying the sea, mountains, city and countryside of San Sebastian. Are you sure you won’t change your mind and come?”
She shook her head. “Sorry, I can’t but I’m sure you’ll have a great time anyway.”
“Will you stay for dinner?” he asked.
“I wasn’t planning to–”
Mr. Faulkner turned to her, “Please do,” he urged. “It would be a shame for you to leave now when you can stay and have dinner with us.”
“All right, I’ll stay for dinner. Thank you.” You’re reason why I’m staying. She watched him walk toward the manor, after excusing himself, with Heathcliff close at his heels. When he was gone, she turned to Avery. “I like your father,” she said. “He’s very nice, pleasant and easy to talk to.”
“Yes, he’s terrific. I wish he would go out more often, though. He spends too much time here on the estate. It’s been five years since Mother died. I think it’s time he considered dating.”
“He seems quite content with his life, doing the things he enjoys. Dating might not be on his list of priorities right now and I think you should respect that.” She knew she was saying this because she didn’t like the idea of Mr. Faulkner dating anyone.
“I suppose you’re right. Well, enough about my father, let’s go and sit in the garden until it’s time for dinner.”
She went with him to the immaculately kept garden with its fountain and sat down on the grass with her legs stretched out in front of her. The warmth of the sun felt great on her face. She wanted to talk more about his father but decided that it probably wasn’t a good idea. Instead she talked about his upcoming trip and other things. The time went by quickly and soon it was time for dinner.
Dinner turned out to be a very pleasant affair and she found herself laughing at the stories Mr. Faulkner told her about Avery when he was a child until he begged his father to talk about something else. After dinner, they retired to the drawing-room where they played Charades, Monopoly and then Dana sat back and watched father and son play Chess. Two hours passed and it was time for her to leave.
“Thank you for a wonderful evening, Mr. Faulkner,” she said as they shook hands. “It was a pleasure to meet you.”
“The pleasure was all mine, Dana,” he replied with a smile which made her heart flutter.
“Goodbye, Heathcliff,” she said as she reached down and patted him on the head. Avery followed her out of the drawing-room and to her parked car. “Goodnight, Avery.”
He held the door open for her and she quickly got in. “Goodnight, Dana. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
She waved at him before driving off. I’ll be back here in July, she thought.
July came and every afternoon, she drove to Yorkshire and Mr. Faulkner and she would go for walks on the moors or sit in the study or in the garden and have dinner. On the weekends, they would go for picnics or drives to other parts of the countryside. One Sunday morning, he took her sailing on his yacht and they had lunch on the deck. She had never been sailing before so it was quite an exhilarating and terrifying experience because she wasn’t very good swimmer.
It was a Saturday afternoon and they were in the study when he got up from the armchair to look out of the window. “It looks a bit grey but we can still go for a walk.”
She joined him at the window. “But Nigel said that it’s going to rain.”
“We can go and come back before it does. Let’s go.”
“What about Heathcliff?”
“I’d like it to be just the two of us this time.”
They left the dog sleeping on the rug and hurried down the hallway. They met Nigel on the way. “Nigel, we’re going for a walk.
“But, Mr. Faulkner, it’s going to rain any minute now. If you and Miss Brown get caught in it you will be soaked to the skin.”
“Don’t worry, Nigel, I’m sure we’ll be back before it rains.”
Nigel opened his mouth to suggest that they take umbrellas but they were gone. Shrugging his shoulders, he turned and went to check every room to sure that the windows were closed.
The sky looked overcast now as they went across the moors and she had a terrible feeling that Nigel was right about the rain. There were heavy black clouds looming above them and it was windy. Avery had mentioned to her a long time ago about the summer storms in Yorkshire and she prayed that she wasn’t about to be caught in one. Just then, she saw lightning in the distance and then the loud clap of thunder, making her almost jump out of her skin. She looked frantically about her. They were too far from the house to make it back before the rain came. And came it did, a few minutes later. It swept across the moors.
“It’s really coming down, isn’t it?” He commented.
“We should have listened to Nigel. He told us that it was going to rain.”
“Yes, I should have listened to him. Come, I know a place where we can go for shelter until the rain stops.” Taking her by the hand, they ran across the moors as the rain pummeled them.
They came upon an abandoned and rundown farm house and went inside. The front door was missing but most of the windows were boarded up. They went to an area of the house where the rain couldn’t get in and waited there. Dana listened as the rain beat down mercilessly on the roof. “Is this a summer storm?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. But from the looks and sound of it, we could be here for a while. I’m sorry, Dana,” he said, turning toward her. “We could be in the study now, dry and relaxing instead of being here in this farmhouse, soaked.”
She looked up at him. “It’s okay,” she said. “I think it’s romantic.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Romantic?” The place was in a terrible state. The walls were dirty and peeling, there wasn’t much of a floor where they were standing and a couple of beaten up chairs. This was hardly what he would call a romantic setting.
“Yes.” She wanted to reach up and touch his face. What she was feeling must have been evident on her face because she saw his eyes darken and his expression change. Her heart began to pound wildly against her ribs and she moved closer to him. “I think it’s romantic–the two of us here, alone in an abandoned farmhouse on the moors because we got caught in the rain. No one knows we’re here. Something can happen between us and no one would know.”
He swallowed hard. “Do you want something to happen between us?” he asked tightly, his heart racing.
She nodded, her eyes dropped to his lips and she moved closer.
Muttering under his breath, he quickly closed the distance between them and reaching up, he cupped her face between his hands, his eyes meeting hers in a scorching gaze before he bent his head and kissed her. Dana pressed against him and closed her eyes when she felt his lips moving hungrily on hers. She put her arms around his waist and kissed him back.
Outside the rain continued to fall, beating against the window. The grey light streaked through the window bathing them as they stood there exchanging wild kisses. He broke off the kiss to stare down into her upturned face, his breath harsh and unsteady. He wanted her so badly. With supreme effort, he released her and turned away. “We can’t do this,” he muttered thickly.
She went up behind him and put her arms around his waist, burying her face in his back. “I want you, Emmett,” she murmured huskily. “And I know you want me too.”
He closed his eyes. “Yes, I want you, Dana, I want you so much I can’t think straight but I’m almost twice your age.”
“I don’t care, Emmett. I want to be with you.”
“And I want to be with you,” he groaned, turning around to face her. “But not here in this abandoned farmhouse. Let’s go back to the manor.”
“But it’s still raining.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “We’re already soaked. At least at the manor we can get out of these wet clothes.”
“All right,” she agreed. The wet clothes were sticking to her making her feel uncomfortable. She couldn’t wait to get out of them. They made their way gingerly to the front door and dashed through the rain, across the moors and to the manor.
Thankfully, Nigel wasn’t around. They went straight upstairs to Emmett’s room and stripping, they went into the bathroom and took a long, hot shower together. Afterwards, they put on his toweling robes and she sat at his feet while he dried her hair. When he was done, he set the towel aside, got up from the chair and pulled her to her feet.
Their eyes met as he untied the sash and slid the robe off her shoulders. It fell at her feet. He removed his and they were standing there, facing each other. He picked her up and carried her over to the bed where they made love while outside the rain continued to fall. She ended up spending the night. The rain ended early the following morning. After breakfast, she went home and returned in the afternoon. This time she brought an overnight bag with her so she could spend the weekend with Emmett.
They became lovers and spend every waking moment together. They went sailing, to concerts, the opera, museums, dinner and on day trip to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath. Dana was delirious with joy because she got to be with the man she was madly in love with and do fun things with him. This was turning out to be the best summer of her life.
Emmett stood at Dana’s bedroom window looking out at the flickering lights of the city in the distance. Tomorrow Avery was coming back from his trip and he was filled with mixed feelings. He was happy to have his son back but he knew it would change things for Dana and him. They wouldn’t be able to see each other as often and openly as they had been for these past weeks.
He heard the phone ringing in the living-room and wondered who could be calling so late. He heard Dana stir behind him and then minutes later, he felt her arms go around his waist. “What are you doing out of bed?” she asked sleepily, burying her face in his bare back.
“I couldn’t sleep,” he admitted. “I guess it’s being in the city again with all its sounds. Your phone was ringing.”
“Whoever it is will leave a message. Let’s go back to bed.”
He turned to face her when she released him. She took his hand and led him over to the bed. After they got under the covers, she turned on to her side and gazed down at him. “I love you, Emmett,” she murmured huskily. “I love you so much.”
He reached up and gripped her head, pulling it down to his. “I love you too,” he moaned against her lips. They made love and then fell asleep in each other’s arms.
When she woke up the next morning, he wasn’t there. After pulling on a dressing-gown she went to look for him and found him in the kitchen making breakfast. He turned when he heard her and smiled. “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” she kissed him before she sat at the table and watched him. “Something smells really good.”
“What you’re smelling is my specialty—Grilled Tomatoes with Fried Eggs and toast.” He had already set the table. He put a plate in front of her along with a glass of Orange Juice and a cup of tea before doing the same for himself. “I hope you enjoy it,” he said when he sat down. “I haven’t made breakfast since Holly died.”
Touched that he made breakfast, she took her first bite. “This is delicious,” she exclaimed.
He smiled. “Thank you.” Then his expression became serious. “I hope this will be the first of many breakfasts I make for you.”
She reached out and touched his hand. “I hope so too.”
After breakfast, they showered together and he left. She was going to see him later at the manor but first, she had a busy morning ahead of her.
Around noon, Emmett was in his study, sorting through the mail when his phone rang. It was Avery. “Hello, Son,” he said. “I don’t have to ask if you had a good trip. I could tell from your postcard.”
“Yes, San Sebastian was amazing. We all had a great time. Have you seen Dana? I’ve been trying to reach her since last night.”
Yes, I know. I was with her when you called. “Is it urgent that you get in touch with her?”
“Well, I have something very important to say to her. I’ll pop round to her flat later.”
Emmett wondered what it was that Avery wanted to say to Dana. Was he going to tell her that he wanted to get back together with her? They used to date when they were attending university until Dana decided to end it. He always wondered why Avery never brought her to the manor to meet him while they were dating. Did Avery think that he would object to their relationship because she was black? He should know better than that.
“Dad? Are you still there?”
“Yes—yes, I’m still here. Sorry. What were you saying?”
“I’m going to drop by and see you later.”
“All right. I will see you later.” He hung up and sat there, staring at the phone. What was he going to do if it turned out that Avery wanted to renew his relationship with Dana? What would happen if he found out that she had been seeing his father? It would destroy his faith and trust in both of them. And it could ruin his relationship with his son forever.
Emmett dragged his fingers through his hair in despair. Why did he have to go and do a foolish thing like fall helplessly in love with his son’s ex-girlfriend? Being with her these past several weeks had been the happiest times in his life. She brought joy and excitement to his otherwise staid life. And now…he had to end their relationship for Avery’s sake. He closed his eyes, his expression one of torment. He would end it today when she came by the manor.
Hours later, he instructed Nigel to send Miss Brown to the study and that he didn’t want to be disturbed. As he sat in the armchair, waiting for her, memories of their time together flooded his mind. He would never forget the first time they kissed and he knew that he would go to that abandoned farmhouse again.
He stiffened when he heard her come into the room and close the door. Heart racing, he stood up and his eyes were restless as she hurried over to him, her eyes dancing and a big smile on her beautiful face. For a moment, he wanted to forget the whole thing and just take her in his arms. “Dana, we need to talk,” he said quietly and saw the smile disappear.
Frowning, she asked, “What’s wrong, Emmett?” She could see now that he was upset about something. And she realized that he hadn’t pulled her into his arms and kissed her like he usually did. Instead, he stood with his hands shoved deep in his pockets, his body stiff and his expression tense. Something was definitely wrong.
“I don’t quite know how to say this,”
He was scaring her now. “Just say it.”
“Dana, we have to end our relationship.”
His words were like a blow she didn’t see coming even though she knew that something was up and it took several minutes for her to catch her breath and ask, “But why?”
“I’m too old for you.”
“When we were in that farmhouse, you said the same thing but afterwards you told me that you wanted to be with me.”
“Yes, I did. I still do but it doesn’t matter what I want, especially when it will hurt Avery. He still cares for you, Dana.”
“So, Avery’s the real reason why you want to end our relationship?”
“Yes. I don’t want to hurt him.”
“But, I love you,” she cried in a trembling voice, tears welling in her eyes.
He turned away and closing his eyes, he muttered tightly, “And I love my son.”
That cut through her like a knife, and stifling a sob, she turned and ran from the room, past Nigel who was walking down the hallway.
After she disappeared, Nigel went to the study where he found Emmett slumped over his desk with his face buried in his hands. “Is everything all right, Sir?” he inquired.
Emmett glanced up at him, his face pale and drawn. “No, Nigel,” he muttered. “And it will never be all right again because I just made the biggest mistake of my life. I chased the woman I love out of my life.”
Dana ran blindly down the steps and straight into Avery who managed to keep his balance as he caught her by the shoulders to steady her. “What on earth is the matter?” he asked.
“I…want…to… go…home,” she sobbed and tried to pull away but his grip tightened.
“You’re in no shape to drive,” he told her. “I’ll take you home.” With his arm around her shoulders, he led her over to where her car was parked and helped her in. He reached in and strapped her in before closing the door and walking around to the driver’s side. He glanced at her as he fastened his seat belt. What on earth happened in there? He had never seen her in such a state. She was slumped against the seat, her body racked with sobs. He grabbed a box of tissues and placed it on her lap. As he pulled away from the manor, he thought he saw his father looking out from the window of the study.
He allowed several minutes to go by and when the sobs had subsided, he gently pressed her. “What happened at the house, Dana? Did my father say something to upset you?”
“I–I’d rather not talk about it…” her voice trembled and ended in a sob. She pressed a wad of tissues against her mouth to stifle another sob as fresh tears fell.
Avery didn’t ask her any more questions but he suspected that his father had something to do with it and he planned to have it out with him as soon as he returned to the manor. For the rest of the drive, he didn’t say anything. He took her up to her flat and spent some time with her until he was comfortable leaving her alone. He left, called for a cab and went to the manor.
An hour later, he went into the study and over to his father who turned when he heard him and asked, “What happened between Dana and you? She came running out of the house, hysterical when I arrived. I had to take her home because she was in no condition to drive.”
Emmett’s face was pale and drawn. It was no use denying the truth. “While you were in San Sebastian, Dana and I had been seeing each other.”
“I know that, Dad,” he said much to his father’s astonishment. “Nigel told me.”
Emmett looked aghast, still trying to recover from his shock. All this time Avery knew about Dana and him. “Nigel told you?” he repeated.
“Before I left for my trip, I asked him to keep an eye on you. I would have asked Dana to do it but I thought she would be too busy. And one day when I called and you weren’t here, imagine my surprise when he told me that you and she had gone sailing and that you had been spending a lot of time together. He even mentioned that Dana spent many nights here at the manor and that he had never seen you happier.”
“I was so sure that you would be angry with me because you and Dana used to date.”
“Dad, that was a long time ago. Dana and I are just very good friends.”
“But, today, you said that you had been trying to reach her because you had something important you wanted to say to her. So, I thought that you still had feelings for her and wanted to get back together.”
“No, I wanted to tell her that I met a terrific girl on the trip. Her name is Isabella…”
Emmett went behind his desk and sank heavily down in the chair. Groaning, he buried his face in his hands. Alarmed, Avery rushed over to him and put his hand on his shoulder.
“Dad, are you all right?” he asked.
Emmett looked up at him. “I ended my relationship with Dana because I didn’t want to hurt you,” he muttered tightly. “I love her and I let her go.”
“You broke up—? So, that’s why she was in such a state. I’m so sorry, Dad. I wish I had told you about Isabella and then none of this would have happened. It’s just that I wanted Dana to know about her first because she was always telling me that one of these days, I would meet the girl of my dreams.” He looked at his father’s face and his heart almost broke. “Dad, I feel badly about what happened with Dana. Why don’t you go over to her place right now and tell her that you made a terrible mistake? If you like I could take you there myself. It’s the least I could as this is entirely my fault.”
Emmett nodded and got up from the chair. He followed Avery out of the room.
Dana was curled up on the sofa, hugging a cushion when she heard the doorbell. She got up and went to answer it. When she saw Emmett standing there, she immediately opened the door. Before she could say anything, he blurted out, “Dana, I made a terrible mistake. Can you ever forgive me?”
Eagerly, she reached out and pulled him into the flat, slamming the door shut. “Yes,” she cried. “I forgive you for breaking my heart because you’re here now to put the pieces back together. Oh, Emmett, I thought I would never see you again.”
His eyes darkened on her face. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying but to him she looked exquisite. Reaching up he cupped her face between his hands. “I love you, Dana and I want to spend the rest of our lives showing you how much.”
Smiling, she put her arms around his waist, watching, transfixed as his face drew closer to hers and murmured, “I love you too, Emmett,” before his lips touched hers.