Silvery leaves shimmered in the distance. Snow, like a white fluffy blanket covered the expansive grounds below. Julian had invited her to go for a walk with him before dinner but, she had declined. She disliked the cold and much preferred to be there in the library where it was nice and warm.
Julian was such a wonderful guy. They had known each other since university and had become very good friends. This was the first time he had invited her to his family home, situated in the lovely English countryside. She had looked forward to seeing it because he had told her so much about it. He lived in London but he frequently visited the old stomping ground.
She wasn’t sure of the kind of reception she would have received from his family but, much to her relief, his parents and older sister had been very warm and welcoming. They asked her a lot about herself and her parents who had recently moved from New York to Miami because they couldn’t stand the cold weather any more.
“Have they ever visited you here in England?” Mrs. Waverley had asked her.
“Yes. They’ve been here a couple of times and always in the summer.”
“I don’t suppose I could blame them,” Mr. Waverley said. “The winters have been very cold lately.”
Mrs. Waverley and their daughter, Joan agreed. For the next several minutes they talked about the cold winters and how pleasant it must be to live in a place which was warm all year round.
Then, as they were about to go into the dining-room for dinner, Julian’s older brother, Jared walked in. After the exchange of greetings and hugs, Julian introduced her to Jared. As they stood facing each other, she noticed the way his eyes traveled over her as if sizing her up. He was very tall, possibly 6’2” and extremely attractive. “Hello,” he said, taking the hand she offered.
“Hello,” she replied, nonplussed because when she felt his large fingers close around hers in a firm handshake, she felt a spark. Did he feel it too? She thought she saw something register on his face before a guarded expression came over it.
Just then, Mrs. Waverley reminded everyone that dinner was ready and encouraged them to make their way to the dining-room.
Jared released Loraine’s hand and turned to follow his parents and Joan out of the drawing-room.
As Julian and Loraine followed the group, he remarked, “I’m surprised Vivien didn’t come too.”
“Who’s Vivien?” Loraine asked.
Why did it disappoint her that Jared had a girlfriend? It was foolish to think that a man with his looks would still be single.
Dinner was a lively and pleasant affair. The food was typically English. Afterwards, everyone retired to the drawing-room but Loraine went to the library with Julian. She stood there looking at the shelves filled with books. “Whose books are these?” she asked.
“Have you read any of them?”
“Yes. I’ve read all of the mystery and detective books.”
“What about your mother and Joan? What type of books do they like to read?”
“My mother doesn’t read books. She can’t find the time, she said. So, she prefers magazines instead. Joan likes reading Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Catherine Cookson.”
“He reads mostly non-fiction.”
“Oh.” She went over to one of the shelves and browsed.
“I’m going to get another slice of cake,” Julian said. “Would you like another one too?”
She shook her head. “No, thanks.”
He left and she continued browsing the books. She saw one that looked interesting and she took it down. She read the back. When Julian returned, she would ask him if she could borrow it. She moved away from the bookshelves and went over to the window to look out. And that was where she was presently when she heard footsteps behind her. Thinking it was Julian, she turned and her heart skipped a beat when she saw Jared walking towards her.
“Where’s Julian?” he asked.”
He went to get another slice of cake.”
“How long have you and he been dating?”
“We’re not dating,” she was quick to inform him and saw his eyebrows rise.
“You’re not?” he seemed very surprised.
“No. We’re just friends.”
“Oh. I thought you were his girlfriend.”
“Julian’s a sweet guy but we’re just friends.” Why was it so important to her that he knew that there wasn’t anything between his brother and her? Why would it matter to him when he himself had a girlfriend?
“What’s that you have there?” he inquired, indicating the book she was holding.
“It’s American Marriage. I thought it looked very interesting and was going to ask Julian if I could borrow it.”
“That sounds like one of Joan’s books.”
“I’ll ask her, then.”
“Do you read a lot?”
“Yes, especially during the winter because I hardly go anywhere due to the cold.”
“Most people don’t like the cold. I don’t mind it. There are lots of things you can do in winter besides reading.”
“Bowling, ice skating, catching a West End show, relaxing in a pub or enjoying afternoon tea.”
“Are these the sort of things you enjoy doing with your girlfriend?” Now, why had she asked him that?
His eyebrows arched and he was about to say something when Julian walked in. He looked from one to the other. “Am I interrupting something?” he asked.
Jared shook his head. “No,” he said. “We were just talking about winter activities. Excuse me.” His gaze shifted to Loraine before he turned and walked out of the room.
Julian went over to the armchair and sat down. Loraine watched as he ate the slice of cake. Then, she turned and looked out of the window again.
Source: Travel and Destinations