A spellbinding new tale of family secrets, lost loves and second chances is out this week from #1 international bestseller Lucinda Riley, and I have a little sneak peek for you.
Posy was in the middle of pruning the roses when she saw a Red Admiral alight on the purple flowers of the vervain, supping on the last of the nectar before the impending winter. Its wings were open to display its striking black, red and white pattern, and Posy watched it, fascinated, its presence taking her back to another, long-ago moment . . . She jumped when she heard her mobile ringing from her trouser pocket, and just managed to whip off her gardening glove to answer it before it stopped.
‘Mum, it’s Nick.’
‘Nick! Darling boy, how are you?’
‘I’m fine, Mum, you?’
‘Yes, I’m very well indeed, Nick, thank you.’
‘Listen, are you doing anything on Wednesday? I thought I might drive up and take you out for lunch.’
‘But . . .’ It took a few minutes for Posy’s brain to compute this information, ‘Nick, are you saying you’re in England?’
‘Yes, London, to be precise. I’ve had some business I wanted to sort out before I came to see you. I’ve done that now.’
Posy was torn between sheer happiness that Nick was back on British terra firma and maternal jealousy that he’d not let her know until now. ‘Well of course, I would absolutely love to see you.’
‘Fantastic. I’ll be there by noon and we’ll go to a restaurant of your choice. I’ve got a lot to tell you.’
And I’ve got a lot to tell you, mused Posy silently. ‘That would be splendid, darling.’
‘Okay, Mum, all news when I see you. Bye.’
Posy leant back in the weak October sun, thinking with joy of Nick, home after all these years . . .
She was then aware of the sound of a car snaking up the long drive towards the front of the house.
‘Dammit! Who on earth can that be?’ she asked herself, eager to get the roses pruned before the winter frost set in. The Red Admiral, perhaps irritated by all the noise, had fluttered off.
She decided it was probably the nice chap who brought the parish magazine round once a month. She’d normally ask him in for a cup of tea, but today, she’d pretend she was out and he could simply push it though the letter box.
She jumped. The voice was very close and she looked up to see Freddie striding towards her.
‘Hello,’ she said, shielding her eyes from the sun and, despite herself, wishing she’d put some lipstick on earlier.
‘Forgive me for barging in on you like this. I did knock a number of times – the front door bell doesn’t work, by the way – but I saw your car and took a guess you were in the garden.’
‘I’m . . . it’s fine, and yes, I must get that damned bell fixed,’ she agreed.
‘It’s a beautiful house, Posy. I presume it’s Queen Anne from the symmetrical perfection of it.’
‘It is, yes.’
There was a short silence as Posy waited for Freddie to explain why he was here. She certainly wasn’t going to ask.
‘I . . . Posy, do you fancy a cup of tea?’
‘No, but I could certainly do with a glass of water.’ She stood up and watched Freddie surveying the gardens around him.
‘My God, Posy! This is quite incredible! Have you really made this all by yourself?’
‘Apart from the laying of the pathways and the gardener who mows the lawns and does the trimming and weeding in the summer, I have, yes. Mind you, it’s taken almost twenty-five years. I started when the boys went to boarding school.’
‘Do you ever open it to the public?’
‘I used to, yes, during the annual village fête. I’ve also had a couple of photographers here taking pictures for their design magazines, which was gratifying, but to be honest, I was only thinking this morning that it needs far more attention than I have the energy to give it these days. I’ve created a monster that needs to be fed and watered constantly.’
‘Well, it’s a glorious monster, Posy, however demanding,’ he said as they walked along the path back to the house, passing the copper beech, still resplendent in its glorious colours.