Second Chance with the Millionaire

By: Penny Jordan



It was far too large to be maintained as a private home, unless of course one was a millionaire, which her father had been far from being.

By anyone else’s standards, the Georgian Dower House was a very elegant and spacious dwelling, and much, much more manageable. She herself, the eldest of her father’s three children and the one who had lived in the Manor the longest, was the least reluctant to leave it. Perhaps because she had long ago outgrown childhood, and could see all too clearly the headaches attached to owning the Manor.

The oldest part of the house was Elizabethan, its pretty black and white frontage hiding a warren of passages and dark, tiny rooms with sloping floors.

A Stuart Martin had added the panelling and more imposing entrance hall with its Grinling Gibbons staircase, but it had been left to a Georgian ancestor to completely overshadow the original building by adding a complete wing and restructuring the grounds so that a fine carriageway swept round to an impressive portico in the centre of this new wing, leaving the Elizabethan part of the house as no more than a mere annexe to this fine new development.

Now damp, seeping in through the damaged roof, was causing mould to darken the fine plasterwork in the ballroom on the second floor, the creeping tide of deterioration so slow that it was not until quite recently, looking at the place through the eyes of her cousin Saul Bradford, that Lucy realised just how bad it was.

Really the house was more suitable for a hotel or conference centre than a private home, and she privately had little doubt that Saul would sell it just as soon as possible.

She remembered quite well from his one visit to the Manor how derogatory and contemptuous he had been of her home. They had met only once—over twelve years ago now, and the meeting had not been a success.

She had found him brash and alien, and no doubt he had found her equally alien and unappealing. They had neither of them made allowances for the other. She had still been getting over the shock of her mother’s death in a riding accident—she had always been closer to her mother than her father—and Saul, although she hadn’t known it, had been sent to them by his mother so that he would be out of the way while she and his father fought out a particularly acrimonious divorce.

She sighed faintly, grimacing inwardly. It was too late now to regret the various snubs and slights she had inflicted on a raw and unfriendly American boy all those years ago, but she did regret them and had for quite some time—not because Saul was her father’s heir, but simply because with maturity had come the realisation that Saul had been as hurt and in need of comfort as she had herself and it grieved her to acknowledge that she had allowed herself to be influenced in her manner towards him by someone who she now recognised as a vindictive cruel human being.

At twelve she had not been able to see this, and in fact had been held fast in the toils of a mammoth crush on her cousin Neville.

Still, it was too late for regrets now, but not too late hopefully to make amends. Despite the antipathy her father had felt towards Saul, and which he seemed to have passed on to his son and widow, Lucy was determined to make life as uncomplicated as she possibly could for her American cousin and to give him whatever help he needed.

It was not as though, by inheriting, he had deprived her of anything after all—she had known very early on in life that the Manor was entailed; but Oliver, whom her father had spoilt dreadfully, seemed to be finding it difficult to adjust.

Privately Lucy thought the adjustment would do him no harm at all. In the last couple of years she had begun to detect signs in him that her father’s spoiling and his mother’s complete inability to institute any form of discipline were changing him from a pleasingly self-confident little boy into an unpleasant, self-centred preteenager.

Fortunately she was fond enough of her half-brother and sister for her father’s charge that she look after them not to be too onerous a burden. Fanny, however, was another matter. Although they got on well enough, there were times when Lucy found it exasperating to have a stepmother who behaved more like a dependent child.

‘I don’t want to go to the Dower House.’

Tara’s bottom lip wobbled again, tears glistening in the dark brown eyes.

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