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When a family is forced to leave its beloved home, the sense of injustice never dies... Middlemere is a compelling tale of one family and their quest for independence from acclaimed author Judith Lennox. Perfect for fans of Dinah Jefferies and Kate Morton. The Coles have lived in Middlemere for half a century. When, in 1942, they are threatened with eviction, they flee the house. But not before eight-year-old Romy, hiding in a cupboard, sees her father shot dead. Years later Romy, now almost nineteen, is quick, clever and single-minded. She schemes to restore the family fortunes, to rescue her mother from drudgery and to protect her brother, Jem, a charming scoundrel who is always in trouble. Most of all, she longs to escape the poverty and narrowness of her surroundings. A chance meeting with Mirabel Plummer, owner of the exclusive London hotel, The Trelawney, is about to change Romy's life for ever... What readers are saying about Judith Lennox: ' Ideal escapism ' '[Judith Lennox] is the ultimate storyteller... her stories are compelling and beautifully descriptive of both characters and feelings' 'Ms Lennox's writing is truly amazing, and creates characters that remain with me after the last page is turned'
Release date: May 7, 2015
Print pages: 560
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From the moment she had woken that morning, the day had felt wrong. A verse from a song her father sometimes sang ran through her head. The men in the forest, they once asked of me, How many wild strawberries grow in the salt sea? Romy had always thought it a silly song. Strawberries did not grow in the sea, did they? Yet the strangeness of today made her think of the upside-down world of the song, where nothing was right, nothing was as it should be. I answered them back with a tear in my eye, How many ships sail in the forest? Yes, the day was topsy-turvy. But she hadn’t been scared. Hadn’t been frightened. Not until her father took out the gun.
The gun was kept in a tall cupboard on the upstairs landing. From her hiding place, Romy watched her father fit the key into the lock and open the door. His strong, callused fingers ran along the shotgun’s twin barrels and then paused, as if betraying a momentary uncertainty. Then he cracked open the stock and slid in two cartridges.
Romy was hiding in the green cupboard at the far end of the landing. This cupboard was small and cramped, so she had to kneel, to fold herself up to fit. She could hear the voices calling from the garden, and by peering through the spyhole made by a missing knot of wood, she could see her father. When they couldn’t find something, Mum always said: Look in the green cupboard. Things that were old and broken beyond repair found their way into the green cupboard: a single gaiter with all the buttons torn off, a teapot with a cracked spout and missing lid. As she knelt in the darkness, jigsaw pieces pressed into Romy’s knees and feathers leaked from an old pillow, settling around her like soft grey snowflakes. Though she was wearing her coat and scarf, she felt cold. When her teeth began to chatter she was afraid that her father might hear. If he knew she was in the house, he would send her away with Mum and Jem. And she needed to stay here with him.
The men in the forest, they once asked of me … Romy shivered. She had been woken that morning by the sound of her parents shouting. Her father’s voice had been angry and defiant; her mother’s shrill and tear-stained. Then everyone seemed to have forgotten not only breakfast but also school. There was no porridge, no bread. The stove had gone out. No one had fetched any water. Jem was half-dressed, in vest and shorts, one shoe on and one shoe off. Romy hurried him into his second shoe and tied the laces, then yanked his jersey so hard over his head that he yelled she was pulling his ears off.
The clock on the mantelpiece had told her that it was half-past eight. Past going to school time. Though she tried to feel pleased about the extra minutes at home, she found that she felt worried. Mum and Dad seemed to have forgotten about school. It was almost as though school didn’t matter. Romy wondered what could have happened to make school, which Dad always said was the most important thing, not matter.
So she had stood in the kitchen, dressed in her outdoor clothes, her stomach rumbling with hunger, watching her mother cry and listening to her father shout, and then, when no one was looking, she had sneaked upstairs to the green cupboard. She liked the green cupboard. It was where she hid when she was feeling sad, or when she was in trouble and didn’t want to be found. She’d hid in the cupboard after she had dunked Annie Paynter in the water trough; it cheered her up now to remember the dirty water streaming from Annie’s yellow curls. And she hid in the cupboard when there were jobs to be done – peas to pick or coal to fetch. Mum always found her, though. Jem didn’t like the cupboard because it was too small and dark and it made him think of ghosts.
After a while she heard her mother yell, ‘Don’t think I’m staying here to see you carted off to prison!’ And Dad shouted back, ‘Take the kids with you then! Can’t have kids under my feet when they’re trying to take Middlemere away from me!’ And then, a few moments later, Mum said, ‘Where’s that dratted girl?’ And Jem answered, ‘Romy’s gone to school.’
Then the door slammed and it was all nice and quiet for a while. Romy ate the apple she had filched from the basket on the dresser. She would stay in the cupboard all day, she decided. It was better than school anyway, especially on a Friday. The girls had to do needlework on a Friday, which Romy hated. She preferred doing sums to sewing aprons and knitting mittens. There was something clear and sharp and perfect about sums: you got the hang of the rules and then they were right every time. Whereas, no matter how hard she tried, the aprons and mittens seemed always to end up shapeless and tangled.
She was beginning to feel better, to believe that the world had come right again, when the noises started. The sudden battering and hammerings returned her with a jolt to the upside-downness of the early morning. Straining to hear, she made out locks being turned, bolts being shot home. Then there was a different noise, a loud grinding. She realized that her father was dragging the heavy farmhouse furniture across the kitchen floor. Opening the door a crack, she peered outside. She could hear in the distance the rumble of a car, coming down the track that led to Middlemere from the road. Then she heard her father’s footsteps running upstairs. She pulled the cupboard door quickly shut.
The car came to a halt outside the house. Fists beat on the front door and voices called out, but Romy’s father remained on the landing. Boots crunched on the frosty ground as the visitors walked round to the back of the house. Romy heard men’s voices. Angry voices. It was then that her father took the gun out of the cupboard.
Romy didn’t often feel frightened. She wasn’t afraid of spiders, like Annie Paynter was, and she wasn’t afraid of ghosts, like Jem. She hadn’t even been afraid when the German plane had emptied its bomb-load over Inkpen Hill and she had seen the bright gouts of fire along the ridge where Combe Gibbet stood.
She put her eye to the hole in the door. She saw that her father had tucked the gun under his arm and that he was opening the landing window. Bitter, freezing air fell into the house. Romy shivered again. Through the open window she could hear the voices clearly. Muffled by the cold and mist, they drifted up from the garden.
‘Come on out, Mr Cole! No more nonsense, now!’
‘Listen here, Sam, this won’t do you no good, you know.’
‘You won’t take my house from me!’ Her father was leaning out of the window, shouting down to the garden. ‘You won’t take Middlemere!’
‘The committee has the right—’
The gun barrel struck the sill with a clatter of metal on wood. ‘It has no right. No right at all! Get off my land, Mark Paynter!’
Mark Paynter was Annie Paynter’s dad. He had visited Middlemere after the incident with Annie and the horse trough. Short and plump and full-faced, his pink scalp showing through his brown hair, Mr Paynter had then worn a suit and shiny shoes. Romy remembered how he had slipped and slid in the muddy yard, red-faced and awkward.
He didn’t sound awkward now. He sounded bossy, Romy thought, like the big girls at school. As though he was enjoying telling her dad what to do.
Mr Paynter said, ‘Don’t be a fool, Cole.’
‘Get off my land!’ Romy’s dad shouted.
‘It’s not your land any more,’ said Mr Paynter. ‘It belongs to the County War Agricultural Executive Committee, so stop making trouble and do as you’re told. You’ve been given every chance. We won’t wait for you no longer.’
‘Put that gun away, Sam!’ called the other man. ‘You’ll only make things worse for yourself.’
Romy’s father fired both barrels. The sharp crack of the explosions echoed against the hills and crows rose shrieking from the trees. Inside the green cupboard Romy whimpered and clamped her hands over her ears.
‘I’m not going nowhere, Mark Paynter.’ The used cartridges fell to the floor. ‘And you’ll get off my land if you know what’s good for you. I’m giving you fair warning – next shot won’t be for the trees. Don’t want to spoil your smart clothes, do you? Now get out and don’t come back!’
‘I shall fetch the police! Don’t think you’ll get away with this! I shall—’
The window slammed shut, muffling the voices. Through ringing ears, Romy heard her father muttering to himself, and his fast, heavy breathing. He was leaning against the wall, his eyes closed. She wanted to run to him, to try to make it better somehow, but her legs were shaking and, besides, she knew that if she were to show herself, he would be angry with her. She wasn’t supposed to be here; she was supposed to be at school. Can’t have kids under my feet. Can’t have kids under my feet when they’re taking Middlemere away from me.
The silence persisted. The men had gone away, Romy told herself. She sat back in the cupboard, weak with relief. The men had gone away and Dad would put the gun back in the cupboard and everything would be all right again. No one could make them leave Middlemere. How could they? Middlemere was their home. Dad had stopped the men taking Middlemere away, and everything would be all right again and the world would stop being topsy-turvy.
Yet her father remained beside the window, holding the gun, the expression on his face a mixture of resolve and fear, and she did not yet sneak out of the cupboard and run to him and say: Dad, I’m here, I stayed with you. She remembered, a cold trickle of fear, that Annie Paynter’s dad had said: I’m going to get the police. What if the police put her dad in prison? How would they manage? Who would look after the cows and the sheep?
Romy tried to reassure herself. Perhaps the police would help them. Perhaps the police would stop Mr Paynter coming back. She sat back on the heap of feathers, resting her head on her knees, closing her eyes, rocking gently to and fro, singing very quietly to herself. The men in the forest, they once asked of me, How many wild strawberries grow in the salt sea?
After a while, the silence began to seem more alarming than the shouting. The farm was rarely quiet during the day. Ma was always clattering about, cooking and cleaning and baking bread or making butter, or shouting to Jem and Romy to get ready for school or to come and help with chores. There were the ever-present sounds of the animals, the cows and the pig and the horse, and the dog, his paws clicking on the cobbles as he followed Romy’s father across the yard. And the wind, soughing in the trees when the autumn gales got up or rustling through the corn when it stood ripe and ready to be harvested in late summer. And, over and above it all, her father’s voice as he guided the carthorse across the field, or gave orders to the boy, or called greetings to Romy and Jem as they made their way along the short cut at the edge of the field to the farmhouse after school.
If she concentrated very hard, she could imagine that it was summer and that she and Jem were walking along the path. She could smell the sun-baked earth and the honeysuckle in the hedgerow. She felt happy and safe because she was coming home to Middlemere. Sunlight filtered through the tall beech trees and the meadow was golden with buttercups. The dark pool beneath the trees glittered. Jem was at her side and she was keeping an eye on him, just as she always did. She was Jem’s big sister; she was eight and a half and he was only seven, so she had to keep an eye on him … Cocooned in the darkness, Romy drifted off to sleep.
The sound of a car engine woke her with a jolt. She could not for a moment remember where she was. She had no idea how long she had slept. She stretched out her stiff limbs, listening. There were two cars this time. She knelt up, pressing an anxious eye to the spyhole. The small, pale circle of light showed her that her father was still standing beside the window, looking down at the garden. Romy shifted, cramped and uncomfortable in the cupboard. It made her think of church, kneeling on one of those little embroidered stools, all scrunched up between the pews. She wasn’t used to going to church like all the other children were. She didn’t know what to do; was convinced, as they all trooped in a long crocodile from school to parish church, that she would make a fool of herself.
Not that she was bothered if they laughed at her. She’d sort ’em out if they did. But Miss Pinner was fond of the cane and didn’t mind using it on the girls as well as the boys. And then Romy’s dad would hear of it and he’d come to the school to give Miss Pinner what for, and some of the girls, the girls whose dads were grocers and butchers, not farmers, girls like Annie Paynter, who wore pressed cotton dresses and had their hair in curls, would make fun of him. For the length of string that tied up his coat instead of a belt. For the way he spoke, the things he said.
A voice called out, so loud it made Romy jump. ‘Mr Cole, this is the police.’ There was a distorted, metallic quality to the voice that frightened Romy. She pictured it issuing from the throat of some great, lumbering, mechanical beast.
Her father flung open the window. ‘Get off my land!’
‘Come down here, Sam Cole, and let’s talk peaceable.’
‘Nothing to talk about. They’re not taking my farm from me.’
‘It’s not your farm now,’ Mark Paynter called up. ‘It belongs to the County War—’
‘Get off my land! And don’t come back!’
‘This is a police matter now,’ boomed the metallic voice.
‘They’re trying to take my home away from me,’ Sam Cole cried out. ‘It’s them you should be after! They’re thieves! Trying to put a man out of work and his family onto the streets!’
‘Don’t give us no more trouble now, Sam. If you behave yourself and come out peaceable like, then we might be able forget about the matter of discharging the offensive weapon.’
Through the spyhole, Romy saw her father take two cartridges from his pocket and slide them into the gun barrel.
‘I’m not leaving my house.’
‘Come down here now, Cole, and we can sort this out.’
There was a silence, then Sam Cole said, ‘This is my home. This is my land.’ His voice had altered, and the words seemed flat, tired, squeezed out through a dry throat. ‘Middlemere’s been farmed by my family for nigh on forty years. No one’s going to take it from me. Not you, Mark Paynter, nor any bloody committee, nor any policeman, come to that. Don’t think I won’t use this gun. You’ll take this house from me over my dead body.’
The way her father spoke made Romy remember the week that Maisie had died. Think there’s a God, do they? Dad had said, as they had walked out of the churchyard after the funeral. A God that makes little babies die like that. And he had looked so tired, far more tired than he ever was after a long day’s work in the fields, all the colour drained from his face, his large frame hunched, almost shrunken.
The gun clattered onto the sill once more. The metallic voice fell silent. In spite of the cold, Romy saw that there was sweat on her father’s forehead. His hands, clutching the gun, trembled. The urge to run to him was almost irresistible. He wouldn’t be cross, would he? Not really cross. He was never so cross that he smacked her. Mum sometimes smacked her, but Dad never did. He’d roar at her, but she was used to that, wasn’t she?
But if he knew she was here then he’d send her outside, send her to school, she knew that he would. There was a part of her that wished she were at school, bored and safe, doing her needlework. But how could she leave him all alone?
She paused, her hand on the cupboard door, irresolute. Then a sudden loud thump – a shocking, reverberating impact – seemed to make the house itself shake. Romy’s fingers slid from the door and she pressed her clenched fists against her face as she tried not to cry. She heard her father curse, heard his hobnailed boots on the treads as he ran downstairs. She couldn’t think what was making the terrible noise. She imagined great big wolves prowling around the house, their claws battering at the door, their red eyes glittering as they raised up their heads and howled.
The noise stopped. Her father came back upstairs. Flinging open the landing window, he yelled, ‘You won’t get rid of me that easy, Mark Paynter! I told you – over my dead body!’
Silence again. Romy scrubbed the tears from her face with her sleeve. She was cold and hungry and desperate for a pee. She tried to pray. That was what they did at school when something bad happened. They had prayed when Harry Fort had caught diphtheria and they had prayed when Lizzie Clark’s brother’s ship had been torpedoed by the Germans. Romy closed her eyes very tightly and pressed her palms together, and recited ‘Our Father’ and ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’ and a prayer they said at church, which Romy liked because it was all about sheep, and made her think of the high hills and her father’s flock, cropping the scrubby grass.
She had got to, We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, when the noise began again. She could not tell where it was coming from. It seemed to surround her, loud and threatening: the wolves again, angry and vengeful, clawing at her home. Out in the corridor, her father glanced quickly from side to side as he strode along the landing. He was standing outside the cupboard in which Romy was hiding. If she had opened the door, she could have reached out her hand and touched him.
But he turned suddenly, heading for the attic stairs. The noise was coming from the roof. I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down. Romy pictured the wolves moving the slates aside, sliding through the rafters to prowl around the attic, their slavering jaws showing their long, pointed teeth.
The shotgun fired again. A high-pitched scream echoed through the house.
Tears ran down her face and Romy shook with fear. Her dad had shot a man, had shot him dead, perhaps. Her dad was a murderer. She’d come across the word for the first time not long ago. Murderer. There was a scary, horrible sound to it. Though she closed her eyes, the awful word echoed over and over again. Murderer. She remembered the way the pig squealed when her father put the knife to its throat. She remembered the scent of pig’s blood, warm and metallic. She knew what happened to murderers. One of the big girls at school had told her: They hangs ’em on the gibbet. They hangs ’em till they’re dead.
Why hadn’t she stopped him? Why hadn’t she run after him and begged him to put away the gun? She crouched in a little ball in the corner of the cupboard, her small, wet fingers squeezed into fists. She heard the crash of breaking glass. She wanted Jem, she wanted Ma. She began to sing to herself once more, crooning like Ma used to croon to Maisie. The men in the forest, they once asked of me …
Outside in the garden, there was more shouting and the sound of running feet. Her father came back to the landing. Romy watched him through the spyhole. His breath came in great noisy gulps and his eyes were wet and teary. He ran his hand over his face. He was talking to himself, his voice low and tremulous. ‘Take my home away from me, would you? Throw my family out into the streets? Not over my dead body. Not over my dead body.’
Downstairs the crashes and thumps became louder and louder. They were going to break the house down. I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll—. They were going to smash the windows and break down the walls until there was nothing left of Middlemere. And then they would take her dad away and they would hang him dead. ‘Dad,’ she cried out, but the word was lost in the noise. Now there were footsteps on the stairs, heavy, purposeful footsteps, as though an army was marching through Middlemere. Romy pressed her eye to the spyhole, but could not stop trembling, so that everything she saw was jerky and discontinuous.
Her dad was sobbing now. He was breaking open the gun, sliding out the spent cartridges and putting in two more. His fingers slipped and slid on the smooth metal. Romy flung open the cupboard door. ‘Dad,’ she cried again. Then he fired the gun.
The men in the forest, they once asked of me, How many wild strawberries grow in the salt sea?
Romy began to scream.
It was the spring of 1953 and Caleb Hesketh and Alec Nash were in London, celebrating the end of their national service. Earlier that evening they had ceremonially burned their demob charts. The pieces of paper had been divided into squares, each square representing a day of national service, all triumphantly blacked in. There had been seven hundred and thirty squares. Two years of their lives.
Two years in which the old army adage of Keep your head down, keep your mouth shut had been Caleb’s motto, too. It had served him as well during national service as it had at school. And when he had had to open his mouth he had adopted whichever voice suited the circumstances – the rural drawl of his childhood for the army, something smarter, classier, for school. It was easier that way; it meant you didn’t get picked on.
Not that he had been unhappy, either at school or in the army. He was good at adapting, at fitting in. Two years ago, arriving at training camp in windswept Catterick, he had known that he could take it. The army, he had suspected, would be much like boarding school, cold and uncomfortable, with rotten food and people always telling you what to do. He could cope with that. So could the working-class lads who had already put in a couple of years on a building site or in a shipyard. It had been the grammar-school boys, the boys who had never left home before, who had wept into their pillows that first night.
Caleb’s national service had been spent shuffling pieces of paper in a series of dreary camps. Tedium had been his enemy, not danger. There had been, he often thought, something rather farcical about his military career, especially when you compared it with his father’s.
Caleb’s father had been a carpenter. The Depression had hit Archie Hesketh badly, taking from him the small business he had built up in the West Country. Though he had left the village in which he had been born to search for work, nothing had lasted, and the family had struggled to make ends meet. Yet Caleb’s memories of his early childhood were not of poverty and deprivation, but of laughter and companionship. His father had been a gentle, quiet man, who had never once raised his voice to his small son, who had been endlessly patient with him, pushing him on the swing in the park, teaching him to ride a bicycle and reading him bedtime stories.
On the outbreak of war in 1939 Archie Hesketh had joined up to serve in the British Expeditionary Force. In May 1940, pursued by enemy fire, he had fled the beaches of Dunkirk in an old paddle steamer. He had been posted to North Africa the following year and had died a hero’s death at Tobruk in early 1942. Caleb had been nine years old when the telegram had arrived informing them of his father’s death. He had felt a mixture of confusion and disbelief, and for a long time afterwards he had clung to the private conviction that a mistake had been made, that his father had been taken prisoner, perhaps, or was hiding in the desert. As for his mother, he still remembered how she had moved about the tiny cottage in which they had then lived, her expression lost, her hands moving aimlessly, as though her usual props – her optimism, her cigarettes and cups of tea, and the cheap, pretty fripperies with which she filled the house – had for the first time failed her.
His memories of his father had seemed to solidify with time, frozen into a series of snapshots and anecdotes. Not long after his father’s death, Caleb had been sent away to boarding school, the beneficiary of a scholarship for the sons of men from his father’s regiment. He had coasted through school, just as, more recently, he had coasted through national service. Leaving school, he had briefly considered enlisting as a regular soldier, but national service had soon put him off that. He had inherited neither Archie Hesketh’s willing acceptance of authority nor his capacity for heroism. Realizing this, Caleb had felt slightly discomfited, slightly disappointed in himself.
Though he could have applied for a commission, could have escaped the noisy egalitarianism of the barracks for the supposedly more civilized constraints of the officers’ mess, he had not done so, remaining resolutely in the ranks, mostly because he had doubted whether he could afford officers’ mess bills, but also because it had been a relief to stop pretending for a couple of years. A relief to stop pretending that he was something he wasn’t. As a scholarship boy at a minor public school, assuming the accent had been the easiest part. Not opening up himself to ridicule because of his lack of both money and background had been much harder work.
Now, at last, he had finished for ever with both school and army. Tonight he was celebrating the beginning of the rest of his life. The night seemed full of promise – of adventure, perhaps, or love. An escape from routine and tedium. A chance, after so long, to choose his own direction.
In a pub in Piccadilly Caleb and Alec ran into a chap who had been a few years ahead of them at school – Caleb remembered that his room had always smelt of burnt toast. They latched on to Burnt Toast’s crowd, drifting through the cold, dark, rainy evening. Drinking beer with whisky chasers in a cramped little bar in Soho, they shouted over the music to a blonde and a brunette. The blonde was called Helen, the brunette Doris. Helen attached herself to Alec, Doris to Caleb. Caleb wondered whether it was always like that, whether people matched themselves, fair to fair, dark to dark.
Doris’s hair was set in rigid waves. Her face was powdered to a pale, plastery matt, and her pneumatic bosom joggled against Caleb’s chest as they danced. She was from Yarmouth, she said. Come down to London to seek her fortune (a giggle). ‘And have you found it yet?’ he asked, and she looked blank, slightly confused.
‘I want to be a beautician,’ she explained. ‘I’m very good at nails.’
They bought chips and ate them walking through the streets. Doris ate all her chips and most of Helen’s. Squeezed into a smoky pub, she drank the gin and oranges that Caleb bought her and told him that she was thinking of going blonde. ‘Men always notice blondes,’ she said matter-of-factly. ‘They get first choice.’ Caleb wondered whether to be offended and decided not to bother. When, out in the cold night air, Doris’s face went green beneath the powder and she was sick into the gutter, Helen took her under her wing and led her off in search of a taxi back to their hostel.
Caleb and Alec found themselves in another bar, the sort of bar where you bought the hostesses enormously expensive drinks. Caleb smiled politely and shook his head when a girl approached him. He was running short of money. Even Alec, faced with an astronomical bill for a glass of champagne for a freckly redhead, looked slightly hunted. When no one was looking they ducked outside and wandered through a bombsite, perching on the remains of a wall, letting the drizzle cool their hot faces.
Triumphantly Alec flourished a scrap of paper. ‘It’s the address of a party.’
The party was in a tall, thin house in a street off the King’s Road. The front door was ajar, and music and light spilled onto the pavement. Slipping inside, they found themselves in a long hallway with a black-and-white tiled floor. Guests were sitting on the stairs, one or two to each tread. Bottles and glasses glinted, and on the ceiling a chandelier swayed, catching the light.
Caleb roamed round the house, looking. He liked to look at things – at houses, people, gardens, the sea, whatever. This house was splendid in a shabby way. The furnishings were of dark, polished wood, the curtains worn velvets rather than the bright patterns that Caleb’s mother favoured. A careless elegance clung to the guests; their jewels were real, Caleb guessed, their dresses, even if decades old, from Paris or Rome.
He found a glass of something abandoned on a bookshelf and drank it as he explored. Oil paintings of stern, moustachioed gentlemen looked down at him from the corridors; he caught sight of his reflection in a gilt mirror and quickly ran a hand through his short, black hair. He wondered whether he should have worn evening dress. Almost every other man was in evening dress. Not that he possessed a dinner jacket. In fact, he had only one suit, the one he was wearing now, which he hadn’t worn since he was eighteen and which was miles too small for him, and –
A voice said, ‘Who are you?’
He spun round. She was slender and tall – only a couple of inches shorter than Caleb himself – and she had wavy chestnut hair. Her eyes, which were almond-shaped, were the same shade as her sapphire blue dress.
‘Caleb Hesketh.’ He held out his hand.
‘Have we met before?’ She frowned. ‘I don’t think so. I would have remembered.’
He said honestly, ‘We may have come to the wrong party.’
She smiled. ‘I think you’ve come to exactly the right party. I’m Pamela Page. This is my party.’ She looked down at his glass. ‘What are you drinking?’
‘I’ve no idea. It
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