City Girl

A Novel

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About The Book

In the tradition of Maeve Binchy, internationally bestselling author Patricia Scanlan delivers a charming and witty story about the strength and power of friendship.

Whatever life holds, friends come first.

A beautiful blonde, a quiet brown-eyed girl, and a redhead looking for adventure: meet Devlin, Caroline, and Maggie.

Their staunch three-way friendship is born while sharing a house in Dublin and, over the years and their turbulent love lives, soon becomes the only certainty they have. That, and their membership of the city’s most prestigious health center for high-profile women: City Girl. Through bad times and good, this place will be their refuge.

Full of warmth, wit, and wisdom, City Girl is a brilliant family drama from the bestselling author of With All My Love and A Time for Friends.

Excerpt

City Girl One
She knew she was pregnant. No doctor had confirmed it yet but she knew, just as thousands before her had known and thousands after her would instinctively know that their bodies were no longer theirs alone, their wombs no longer just parts of their anatomies but vibrant living things that for nine months would dictate to and rule over the host body.

Devlin felt an awful fear deep in the pit of her stomach. Her period was five days overdue. But she was on the pill, it was impossible to get pregnant on the pill.

‘No it’s not. Maggie Ryan got pregnant on the pill,’ a little voice in her mind whispered maliciously. Devlin sat up in bed.

‘Oh Jesus God please don’t let me be pregnant. Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God-pray-to-Jesus-for-me,’ she babbled, deriving some comfort from the prayer of her childhood to which she now turned only in moments of deep distress. She waited a moment, as if expecting her period to appear miraculously; maybe it had come in the night. Devlin inspected her knickers; they were as pure and virginal as the driven snow and frustration rose in her. Getting out of bed she paced the floor of her bedroom.

‘It’s not fair, I don’t want to be pregnant. Why should it happen to me? God Almighty I only did it once and I didn’t mean to. Colette and Brian have been doing it for over a year every night of the week. How come you didn’t pick on them? Oh God please let my period come!’ she prayed silently, hopefully.

She had to get out of the flat; being on her own was driving her crazy. Caroline had gone away with Richard for a long weekend. She supposed she could go home but the thought of facing her parents in her present state chilled her; she knew guilt would be written all over her face. Lydia, her mother, would probably start picking on her and she just couldn’t face it right now. Panic assailed her and she sat down on the bed. There must be something she could do.

‘I mean for heaven’s sake it’s my body, my body, my body.’ She whispered the words like a mantra, rocking backwards and forwards on the bed and hugging herself. A thought struck her. She flew downstairs, almost breaking her neck in her haste to get to the sitting-room.

Yes! Oh thank God! Grabbing the half-empty bottle of gin Devlin didn’t even bother with a glass. She flew back upstairs almost crying. Rushing into the bathroom she turned on the taps of the bath. Why didn’t I think of this before? she chided herself.

‘That’s abortion,’ a mean little voice was saying in her brain.

‘Don’t listen. Don’t think about it,’ she muttered feverishly as she waited for the hot water to explode through the pipes. The water remained stubbornly cold. She checked the immersion heater which was switched off, and cursed angrily. Viciously she snapped it on, frustration and misery written all over her face, knowing that the water wouldn’t heat for at least fifteen minutes.

I suppose I could start on the gin, she mused doubtfully. Devlin wasn’t too sure exactly what gin was supposed to do. She knew a scalding hot bath was supposed to bring on an overdue period and maybe you were supposed to put some gin in the bath as well. Well, there was no harm in trying it both ways. Taking a big slug of gin she spluttered and gasped as tears came to her eyes.

Devlin caught sight of herself in the mirror, naked except for the treacherously white briefs, her slim body tanned golden after a holiday on the Algarve. Blonde hair bleached by the sun lay tousled around her face and aquamarine eyes, big and frightened, glittered with tears as she stared at the gin bottle clutched in her hand.

‘This has to be the pits,’ she groaned and depression enveloped her in a cloud of torment. She took another slug of gin. It didn’t feel so bad this time so she took another.

An hour later Devlin sat in her very hot bath to which she had added a measure of the gin just in case. The bathroom was steamed up and the sweet cloying smell of the gin seemed to be everywhere. She was very very drunk and starting to feel extremely sick.

Just as well Caroline’s gone away for the weekend; she’d be horrified, Devlin thought woozily. Caro, her flat mate, was easily shocked and very innocent. She’d probably faint if Richard put his thing near her, that was, she thought nastily, if Richard had a thing.

Oh God! She was going to be sick. Drunkenly she stood up in the bath swaying in the steamy heat and barely making it to the toilet. She noisily retched feeling that everything inside her was coming up. The violence of the attack left her dizzy and weak and grabbing a towel she wrapped it around herself and crawled into the bedroom on her hands and knees. Somehow she managed to haul herself into bed, where she passed out. It was three hours before she came to from her drunken stupor and she felt as though there was a fireworks display going off in her head. For a while Devlin just lay there not daring to move, not even sure if she was dead or alive. Then the telephone rang. Harsh, piercing, the sound penetrated her throbbing head with a savage intensity. Sticking her head under the covers she tried to ignore the sound and eventually it went away. Silence descended once more and she dozed off to sleep. When she woke again she felt much improved, although her mouth tasted vile and her head was muzzy and heavy.

Dragging herself out of bed she made a cup of very strong coffee and decided to go down to the seafront. She had to think and the sea had always calmed her. Catching sight of the calendar in the small kitchen of their flat, Devlin stopped in front of it, grimacing ruefully. This day three weeks ago she had been on a beach in Portugal with not a care in the world and here she was feeling decades older, having just experienced the most awful shock in her entire life. She looked at her watch. Three fifteen. It was on this day two weeks ago at around this time that Colin had impregnated her. Colin Cantrell-King MB, MD, FRCOG, gynaecelogist to Dublin’s gentry Employer and impregnator of Devlin Delaney.

Heavy-hearted, Devlin tidied away her coffee cup in the untidy but friendly little kitchen that she shared with her best friend Caroline Stacey. They had been lucky to get such a nice flat after the awful grotty hole they had first moved into in Rathmines. What a rip off that had been. The shower hadn’t worked properly; you were either scalded or frozen to death. The beds were lumpy, the walls damp and the landlord was a right gurrier. They had stuck it a month before they were off again scouring the evening papers where they found this jewel of a flat in a big old house on the Sandymount seafront overlooking Dublin Bay. It was clean and airy and they had a bedroom each as well as a sitting room and kitchen. It suited them both perfectly and was fairly close to their working locations.

Looking out the kitchen window, Devlin could see that it was a beautiful late summer’s day. In the distance the distinctive ESB towers at Ringsend were bathed in sunlight and children danced up and down in the warm puddles of water left by the outgoing tide, screaming with pleasure as they wriggled their toes deep in the wet squelchy sand. The Shelly banks! That’s where she’d go: down to the ‘Shelliers’ to watch the tugs tow in the huge cargo ship that had just appeared as a dot on the horizon of the bay.

Leaving the flat she began to walk towards Ringsend, turning right before she got to the village so that she was heading down past the attractive new homes built on land triumphantly reclaimed from Dublin Bay, down towards the Glass Bottle Co. and then on to the river, that long blue winding vein that flowed right through the belly of the city and on out to sea. Devlin sniffed the air that was laden with the smell of Dublin and the sea and began the long walk down the Pidgeon House Road towards her destination. On her right, small terraced houses faced the panorama of dockland. Cranes, containers, small boats ploughing up and down the river and gulls circling and screeching. Soon the tugs would be heading out down the river to meet the big ship coming to its journey’s end. Her pace quickened; she wanted to be there to see it all.

Deliberately she emptied her mind of all worrisome thoughts. Only this was important now. Don’t think about anything else. Not that you’ve taken the day off work because you couldn’t face the thought of going in when Colin wasn’t there. Don’t think that you’ll be in the house alone until Caroline gets back. Don’t think . . . don’t think!

Down past the ruined dwellings of the coastguards, past the coalyards. Her tense face relaxed briefly into a smile. Once she’d been to a party on a ship in the days when Ireland had possessed a National Shipping Company. She’d been dating one of the second officers from Irish Shipping and one day his ship had sailed proudly into its mother port having traversed the wide powerful Atlantic. She had seen the pride on his face as he stood uniformed and smart on the gangway to meet her for the party the crew were throwing. It had been a wonderful party and she had seen the pink gold sun rise over the city of her birth from the impressive bridge of the vessel. They had been good times, before unemployment had become rampant and an air of hopelessness had enveloped the towns and cities of the country as jobs got fewer and the dole queues swelled like big malignant growths.

Almost before he knew it, her good looking sailor had been made redundant, as the government had liquidated the shipping company, leaving some of its crews under arrest in foreign ports, its workforce destined for the dole and the liquidator earning thousands a week. The arrested crews had eventually been repatriated and Devlin had marched down O’Connell Street one Saturday with them and their wives and mothers. The men were proud and dignified in their braided uniforms and white-topped caps. All they wanted was justice and their dues but sure who had listened to them? The ordinary man and woman in the street wished them well but they were only one protest group among many on the streets of Dublin.

Devlin felt a bitterness rise within her. Frank had emigrated to America and how could she blame him? She too had seen the long queues waiting at the dole office once a week. Not that she had ever really wanted for money – her parents were well off—but how people without any other means existed on social welfare was beyond her.

Glumly she walked on down past the power station, around the dump where birds scavenged like something out of a Hitchcock movie, then down the road where the sea lapped up against the rocks and she could see Sandymount, where she had come from. On she walked, the wind rippling her thick blond hair, the sun caressing her still tanned face, oblivious of the children with their mothers, the lovers sitting in their cars, the old men smoking their pipes chatting and reminiscing with their lined weatherbeaten faces, keeping a close eye on the fast approaching cargo boat. She passed the fishermen and boys hooking their mackerel and bass with excited grunts of satisfaction and sat down halfway along the narrow finger of the South Wall that penetrated the bay for two miles. She concentrated on the nautical activity in front of her as the two small tugs pushed and pulled the enormous ship up the river. The powerful throb of the engines, the white-capped wash breaking against the wall over which her legs dangled and drenching her with spray made her forget the huge black shroud of worry that enveloped her. Fascinated she watched as the ship glided majestically past her, so near that she could see the men on deck. All too soon it was gone, up into the heart of the decaying dockland and out of her sight. If only she could get on a ship and sail out of Dublin, leaving all her worries behind her.

She’d have to tell Colin. He would know what to do; he was always so firm and decisive, exuding an aura of calm authority. It was one of the things she found so attractive about him. Then she remembered. He wouldn’t be back for a few days. He had gone to Paris with his wife.

Misery attacked her again, so physical that she could feel it stabbing her like a knife in the heart. Colin had told her that his was a marriage of convenience when Devlin had said that she didn’t go with married men. He had laughed and told her that he loved her innocence. Why hadn’t she listened and believed the nuns when they had warned about ‘married men’ and ‘rampant lusts.’ Had she listened she wouldn’t be in her present predicament. She remembered how Sister Dominica had been so pleased for her when she had heard that Devlin had secured a job as private secretary to Mr Cantrell-King.

‘A wonderful man, my dear. You know several of the sisters have had little jobs done by him.’

Theirs was one of the better off religious orders. Southsiders, of course.

‘And my dear, you know he gives very generous donations to the Order every so often. You’re a very lucky girl indeed, Devlin. Come now, let us go and give thanks to the Lord. It’s not easy getting jobs these days.’

Devlin had given thanks not only to God but to her Dad, who happened to be Colin Cantrell-King’s bank manager. When Colin mentioned that his secretary was leaving to get married, Gerry Delaney told him that Devlin had recently been made redundant from her secretarial post in a small arty publishing firm but that she was well qualified.

‘Excellent! Send her along for an interview,’ Colin had instructed.

Devlin, desperate for a job that would get her out of her mother’s hair, had prepared very carefully for the interview, making sure that she looked well groomed and elegant but not overdressed for the occasion. Usually she took interviews in her stride but she was nervous as she faced the tall good-looking man in front of her. Her mother was driving her crazy with her constant nagging and drink-induced rages. She need not have worried. She did an impressive interview and her references were excellent. She was given the job along with a generous salary. CCK, as she had privately christened him, was an extremely busy gynaecologist, whipping out wombs that needed whipping out and some that didn’t! Delivering babies, some that were wanted and some that were not. Comforting menopausal and premenstrual tensioned females and charging hefty amounts to the many affluent fur-coated private patients who came from all over the country, day in day out, to his rooms in Fitzwilliam Square.

Devlin got to know them all. Some would pour out all their woes to her. Others looked down their haughty noses at her and demanded to be seen instantly. The coldness would melt instantly when Colin appeared at the door of the waiting room with a warm smile and reassuring handshake.

‘Ah Mrs Cochrane! Good to see you. Come in now and tell me what’s bothering you.’

Invariably eyelashes would flutter and tremulous voices would waft down the hall as he led them to his surgery, sometimes winking at Devlin behind their backs. He was an immensely charming man, only forty but at the height of his career. He had, of course, inherited a large practice from his father and was a prominent member of Dublin’s high society, seen at many social gatherings around the city. He knew her father well. An ex-rugby player, he hadn’t an ounce of flab on his tall muscular body and the faint traces of grey at his temple lent him a distinguished mature air that Devlin found exceedingly attractive. All his patients were madly in love with him.

Devlin, who was twenty, had always dated men of her own age or men in their middle twenties. Her only experience with older men was trying to avoid their sweaty roving hands in the dimly lit, faintly seedy night clubs they always ended up in on their Saturday nights on the town. She was an outgoing girl with a broad circle of friends and aquaintances who lived a relatively untroubled and carefree existence. Her only experience of the hardship of life occurred when she had been made redundant for a brief period, and rather than give up the freedom of flat-dwelling and return home to the uncomfortable atmosphere her mother’s behaviour caused, she had survived, well cushioned by a generous allowance given to her by her father. But it was not the same as having a salary.

At present, it was nothing for Devlin to go into town on a Saturday and spend a small fortune on clothes. She loved her little weekend sprees. After a lie-in, Saturday would be spent shopping in Grafton Street with friends. She might treat herself to a little something from Benetton or Pamela Scott or if she was really in the money she’d hit Brown Thomas. Strolling past the colourful street artists, past the cheerful flower sellers she and her friends would meander along to Captain America’s to grab a quick lunch before she had her hair done in one of the many exclusive, expensive hair salons. Then it would be time to drop into the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre with its bright airy plant-filled ambience, to browse through the shops for a while before relaxing over a cup of coffee. Her biggest decision might be whether to buy the snazzy little suit from Private Collection or a Lainey Original. Devlin loved shopping in Grafton Street with its winding elegance, its stores filled with up-to-the-minute fashions. There was a buzz about Grafton Street that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the city.

Then hurrying back to her little Fiesta parked on the Green, she would drop her friends home and drive like the clappers to get home herself to prepare for the night’s activities. By half past eight a crowd of them would be found drinking in the Shelbourne. Later they would stroll down to the Bailey or Davy Byrne’s for last orders, then head off to a disco where they would bop the night away before ending up in one of the city’s many night clubs. Dawn would frequently be upon them before Devlin’s tired head hit the pillows and Sunday would be spent recuperating after the excesses of the night before. But by midafternoon, revived and refreshed, she would meet the gang to go stock-car racing in Mondello, or to watch a rugby match in Wanderers. Sunday night she would go to the pictures or for a meal with whatever boyfriend happened to be in tow.

Looking back she would realize what a charmed and sheltered life she had led and how she had so matter of factly taken it as her due. When she started to work for Colin she had no steady relationship, unusually for her. But Frank, her most recent boyfriend, had emigrated and so she was ripe to fall prey to the overpowering charms of CCK.

At first he had been businesslike but friendly, asking her if she was settling into her job, urging her to ask him or Nurse McGrath if there was anything she wished to know. Gradually Devlin had settled down and taken control of all the secretarial aspects of the practice. Being quick and efficient she took pride in seeing that everything ran smoothly. One day Colin told her he would like to take her and Nurse McGrath to lunch and brought them in his luxurious metallic grey Merc to a quiet little Italian restaurant off Stephen’s Green, where they gorged themselves on pasta cooked as only the Italians know how. He had been all charm and after several glasses of wine Devlin had lost her slight awe of him.

From then on she was much more relaxed in his company. At work he would come out to her office between appointments and sit against the edge of her desk chatting casually. He might tell her about a difficult operation he had to perform, and confide that the Moore woman was an awful pain in the neck or that such and such was having an affair with so and so and what was her attitude to broken marriage and divorce? Devlin found him easy to talk to and she never took exception to his probing questions about her boyfriends and lifestyle, because she sensed his underlying interest. Because she was young, beautiful and very immature the challenge of exciting the interest of a very suave, older man was more than a little thrilling.

Her friends, who had called on the pretext of seeing her but really to assess whether he was in fact the dish Devlin made him out to be, ended up agreeing wholeheartedly with her. He was much nicer than some of the geeks they encountered in the fleshpots of Leeson Street. Their obvious envy added immensely to Devlin’s pleasure.

One day Colin strode into the office and found her pale and cranky.

‘What’s wrong with you, for heaven’s sake?’

The query was laced with concern. Devlin blushed with embarrassment . . . and pleasure.

‘Nothing . . . I just don’t feel well,’ she said offhandedly, unwilling to tell him that she was suffering from severe and crippling period pains. She had often wondered what attracted so many men to gynaecology. After her own experiences in that area she would decide it was because of their immense envy that they could never reproduce and give birth as women did every day, every living minute of time the world over. The only way they could exercise their power was by controlling women’s pregnancies from the moment of conception and being there for the births. ‘Now push when I tell you . . .’ or by removing the life giving organ: ‘I’m sorry, it’s got to be taken out.’ If they couldn’t themselves reproduce, being in control was the next best thing. It was a well-known fact that there were far more male gynaes than female.

Later, much later on Devlin would realize just how much Colin had manipulated her but then, in her naïveté she had been pathetically grateful when he had just nodded wisely, gone into his office, written a note and given it to her.

‘Devlin pet, in this day and age there’s no need to suffer from period pains. Haven’t you ever heard of the pill? Now take this to the Well Woman Centre when you’ve finished your period and they’ll look after you. Hmm?’

She nodded in a frenzy of embarrassment. Laughing, Colin chucked her under the chin.

‘Devlin, you fool, I’m a gynaecologist for heaven’s sake! Don’t be embarrassed with me. Now take the afternoon off, go home and lie down for a while and take these.’ He handed her some tablets. ‘And go and get yourself seen to.’

He was smiling down at her, his eyes so warm and exciting and crinkling up at the sides in the most attractive way. Her heart melted at his kindness and swam around inside her on a tide of ecstasy as she drove home.

‘He cares! He cares . . . ooohh he cares,’ she hummed to herself, letting herself into the flat.

From then on the nature of their relationship changed. Subtly it became more intimate and there were more lunch dates, only this time Nurse McGrath did not accompany them. Colin confided to her that his marriage was on the rocks, that he and his wife only kept up appearances for the children’s sakes. The picture he painted was a bleak and lonely one and Devlin felt a mixture of pity and admiration for him, plus a strong sense of desire.

After all, she reasoned with herself, the poor man needed the comfort of loving arms. If his wife was so cold and frigid, always out socializing, never home to cook his meals after a hard day in the operating theatres of Dublin’s hospitals and private clinics, it was only to be expected that he would seek companionship elsewhere.

I mean it’s not as if you were setting out to cause trouble deliberately in his marriage, the trouble is already there, she comforted herself. She was in fact a little scared. Devlin had never really had a fully-fledged relationship with any man, sexual or otherwise. True, she had dated many boyfriends but it was really only social dating, being part of the crowd. She had indulged in a certain amount of fumblings and fondlings in the back seats of cars but she had never slept with anyone, fear of her mother and fear of pregnancy being the major deterrents when it came to losing her virginity. Unlike many of her peers she had led a sheltered life. The only daughter of an affluent banker and his wife, she had lacked for nothing materially. Having been educated in an exclusive Dublin school, she mixed with the young upper class set commonly known as ‘Yuppies’ or the ‘Yaws.’ ‘Why do you call them the “Yaws”?’ she had asked Maggie, who was living in the same house as herself and Caroline.

Maggie had grinned cheerfully at her and said in her down-to-earth no bullshit manner: ‘Because they say “Yaw” instead of “yes” and if I catch you at it . . . !’ She had shaken her finger warningly at the amused Devlin. Trust Maggie who wasn’t the slightest bit affected to bring her down to earth every so often. Devlin would have denied that she was a snob, but unknown to herself she contributed to a subtle social snobbery that was rampant within their social class. Had Colin been an Indian doctor or a working class man she would never have considered an affair with him. Unconscious though she was of them the prejudices of her upbringing were too strong.

Having an affair with a married man was not something to go public about either. Ireland might have entered the Nineties but by European standards Dublin was a small intimate city where it was almost impossible to go anywhere and not meet people you knew. Although sometimes it seemed to Devlin that everybody in Dublin was having an affair and everyone else knew about it but didn’t let on. It had often amazed her how husbands and wives who were both conducting liaisons would appear together at Mass on Sundays, the very picture of unity, or at some social bash, while that very night they would fornicate happily.

The hypocrisy of it sickened her and yet here she was contemplating doing the same. How confusing life was. Sometimes she felt she was a split personality. Her desire to love and be loved by Colin was intense, yet at the back of her mind lurked the shadow of her strict Catholic upbringing. The little voice of her conscience reproached her frequently and although a nun had once warned the class that the worst thing that could happen to Catholics was for them to lose their conscience she wished heartily that it would disappear for the duration of her relationship with Colin.

And then there was her mother! Lydia would go crazy if she ever suspected that her daughter was even contemplating something so sordid as an affair. There had been a huge row when Devlin had said she was going to move into a flat.

‘What are you moving into a flat for?’ she had stormed, her tone of voice suggesting that Devlin was deliberately going to live with the lowest of the low. It had been bad enough when she had started going to discos and pubs. There would be the interrogations the next morning, lectures about the hour she had come in at and dire warnings about burning the candle at both ends. It amazed Devlin that her mother would concern herself so. Usually she was so busy with her charitable works and hectic social life and running her immaculate home that she never really bothered about what Devlin was doing. It was only since Devlin had started working that she had begun to take such notice of her daughter’s activities. Gerry, her father, would try and mediate between them but Lydia would turn on him in fury and another row would start.

‘You’ll end up just like . . .’ her mother had shouted at her once, stopping suddenly at the expression on her husband’s face.

‘That’s enough, Lydia!’

Devlin had never heard her father sound so stern. ‘Just like who?’ she had asked, puzzled and angry.

‘Just don’t come into this house with any bad news, Madam, that’s all I’m saying.’

‘Mum!’

Devlin was shocked at her mother’s implication. Didn’t her mother realize that she was practically the only girl in her class who still hadn’t had sexual relations with anyone? Most of the girls she had gone to school with and still kept in touch with were sleeping with their boyfriends. Two of her classmates had become unmarried mothers with one of them handing her baby up for adoption, forced to do so by her parents, and the other kicked out of home completely. Devlin was under no illusion about what Lydia would say were she ever so unlucky as to be in that predicament. Sick of the rows, she moved out.

All this she tried to explain to Colin but he always seemed to come up with the most logical arguments in favour of an affair, arguments that made her reasoning seem flawed and foolishly childish.

Once they’d had a shouting match and Colin’s patience had really worn thin. ‘For Christ’s sake, Devlin, will you grow up!’ he yelled at her. ‘You can’t stay a damned virgin all your life. What a criminal waste, for crying out loud.’ He took her in a savage grip and marched her over to the mirror in the foyer. ‘Look at yourself!’ She turned away. ‘Go on. Look! Why are you wasting your beauty? Your youth? Just because of what some frigid old nuns told you. You can’t hang on to mammy’s apron strings for the rest of your bloody life. You’ve got your own life to lead. My God, Devlin, you were made for loving, you’re twenty years old.’

His eyes were hard, angry and frustrated. She bit her lip to stop it from trembling and he said in disgust, ‘Don’t start bawling for God’s sake. Do you know something, Devlin, you’re the typical Irish female. The body of a woman, the mind of a child, not able to make a decision on your own about whether to love someone or not. If that’s your religion and your attitude to life you’re welcome to it. Wrap yourself in your little cocoon, you stupid little girl and let me give you a word of advice,’ he glowered at her. ‘You shouldn’t flirt and tease if you’re not prepared to carry it through.’

‘It’s easy for you to talk,’ Devlin retorted. ‘You’ll never have to worry about your next period. You’ll never have to worry about getting pregnant.’ Her voice was bitter, hurt. Devlin had never seen him angry before and she wasn’t sure she liked it.

‘You’re on the pill, aren’t you?’ he retorted coldly. ‘You won’t have to worry either so don’t give me that hard-done-by female crap. If you feel like taking control of your own life let me know. Otherwise, Devlin, let’s keep our relationship purely business.’

He slammed out the door and into his office, not even giving her the satisfaction of making a response, and she felt a strong desire to imitate Scarlett O’Hara and throw something at his treasured le Brocquy. Her fingers curled around a heavy glass ashtray but her courage deserted her. The painting was worth a small fortune and seeing as she was going to the Algarve the following week she could not afford to replace it. Reluctantly she let go of the ashtray but compensated by pounding hard on her typewriter for the rest of the afternoon.

The following day Colin arrived in, cool and business-like as if their confrontation had never taken place. He did not look at her, dictated briskly and she was glad Nurse McGrath was away on holiday. At least she didn’t have to endure her poking and prying. It was with relief that she welcomed the temp who was taking over from her for the two weeks she would be away, because when Friday finally came she felt drained and mentally exhausted.

Colin had called her into his office at five o’clock when the last patient had gone and handed her an envelope. ‘Enjoy your holiday,’ he said drily. ‘Who knows, you might be overcome by passion and come back a fully-fledged member of the human race. I believe Portuguese men are very charming and virile. Maybe one of them might succeed where I’ve failed.’ Devlin tried to swallow the deep sense of hurt that engulfed her. Deliberately moving around his desk, she looked him straight in the face, held the envelope that she knew contained her holiday bonus between finger and thumb and disdainfully dropped it into the waste basket. Head held high, she turned on her heel and walked out. To hell with you! she thought unhappily.

Devlin drove home in the heavy rush-hour traffic of a Friday evening, the roads clogged with the big buses taking people back home to the country, clogged with weary city-dwellers escaping the fumes and dirt of the city as they drove bumper to bumper to spend the weekend in the wide open comforting spaces of the countryside. Heavy-hearted, depressed, she negotiated her way through the barely controlled chaos that surrounded her as cyclists, bikers, motorists and pedestrians jockeyed for position. To her left meandered the Grand Canal, the evening sun glittering on the calm surface that was untroubled by the lanes of fume-belching traffic. Already people sat in seats shaded by bright multi-coloured umbrellas, outside some of the canal-side pubs, drinking cool frothy glasses of dark rich Guinness, and Devlin swallowed, hot and thirsty and envious of their happy weekend joie de vivre.

‘Blast Colin,’ she muttered grumpily as she glared at two lovers entwined, oblivious, on Patrick Kavanagh’s memorial seat by the Baggot Street lock gates. The lights were out at Baggot Street Bridge and she wanted to scream with frustration as she jammed on her brakes for the umpteenth time to avoid a cheeky cyclist.

When she got home, in a rare bad humour, she found Caroline in a tizzy of excitement. It was Caro’s first foreign holiday. Devlin had previously been to Greece and the South of France but Caroline was new to it all and was engaged in a packing marathon. ‘Well, if we’re going out every night I’ll need fourteen different outfits and then there’s day wear and beach wear!’ Caroline explained reasonably.

‘Oh Caroline, you goose! Haven’t you ever heard of mix ’n match? Go and put the kettle on and I’ll sort out this lot for you.’

Although Caroline was two years older than Devlin it didn’t seem like it. If Colin thinks I’m a child, he should see Caro. She’s a baby compared to me, Devlin mused as she started to sort out the chaos that confronted her.

There were four of them going on holiday – Caroline, herself and two of Devlin’s friends – but right now all she wanted to do was to go to bed. She had a thumping tension headache and the thoughts of packing only irritated her.

As the evening progressed her headache lightened. Cases were packed and plans were made and the kettle was constantly on the boil as vast quantities of tea were consumed. Devlin had just had a bath and was sitting with her hair wrapped turbanwise in a towel with yet another mug of tea in her hand when the doorbell rang. Half-expecting it to be Caroline’s boyfriend, Devlin stayed where she was. Richard had seen her often enough in her dressing gown, although she faintly suspected that he was taken aback by her lack of inhibition. Caroline would certainly never parade around in her dressing gown in his presence. Richard was so straight-laced and prissy he irritated Devlin, but Caroline seemed happy enough with him and that was what mattered. Her friend’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

‘Dev, Mr Cantrell-King is here to see you for a minute.’

Behind her she could see Colin’s broad outline and her heart gave a crazy lurch. Maybe he was going to tell her not to bother coming back. Defiantly she stood up.

‘Sorry to disturb you, Devlin,’ he was saying smoothly. ‘Could I speak to you for a moment?’

‘I have some packing to finish. Excuse me.’ Caroline, always courteous, disappeared. Colin shut the door and stood before her. ‘I’m sorry, Devlin,’ he gave a smile. ‘I guess I’m behaving like a love-sick teenager. Forgive me?’

A burden was lifted; Devlin’s heart danced.

‘I’m sorry too.’ She touched his face lightly with her fingertips. ‘A lot of what you say is true.’ For a brief moment she thought she saw a flicker of triumph in his eyes but she dismissed it as he bent his head and kissed her long and lingeringly and sensually. She returned his embrace ardently, utterly happy.

‘I’ll be mad with jealousy while you’re gone,’ he murmured against her earlobe. ‘Promise you won’t lose your heart to any romantic Alfredo.’

‘I promise,’ she whispered, burrowing her face against his chest and wishing she could hold the moment for ever, loving the male musky scent of him.

He drew an envelope out of his pocket and smiled down at her. ‘I think you forgot this!’

Devlin laughed. ‘I was so mad . . .’

‘I know you were, my hot tempered little witch,’ he murmured, as he drew her close to slide the envelope into her dressing gown pocket, his hand lingering against the softness of her body through her robe. She trembled.

‘I’d better go before I forget myself. This is not how I plan to seduce you,’ he smiled warmly at her. ‘Be good! I’ll see you in two weeks, Devlin.’

Her face, innocent of make up, freshly scrubbed and pink after her bath, lit up like a Christmas tree. Impulsively she threw her arms around his neck and whispered, ‘I’ll miss you, Colin.’

‘I’ll miss you too, you little baggage. I wish I could chuck up everything and come with you.’ He grinned at her. ‘I’ll tell you one thing: if I was with you, you’d never get a tan; I’d have you in bed all day.’ The doorbell rang, saving Devlin’s blushes and, laughing, Colin walked out into the hall just as Richard was walking in. Hastily Devlin made the introductions.

She couldn’t put a finger on it but she just couldn’t take to Caroline’s boyfriend and she felt the feeling was mutual. Not that he was ever anything but suavely charming and polite to her. The two men talked casually for a minute or two as it seemed they were already acquainted and then Colin was gone. Richard and Caroline were in the lounge so Devlin was alone, hugging her happiness to herself.

He had actually come and apologized . . . and at such a late hour! And what’s more, the cheque in the envelope was for a hundred pounds! He had to care as much as she did. In one way she wished the holiday was over. Still, now that her mind was at ease she decided that she was going to have the best holiday of her life.

Devlin raised her face to the warm evening sun, blind to the people strolling along the seawall and only vaguely conscious of the seagulls circling, screeching and bawling raucously above her. It had been a great holiday, she thought sadly, and now all the good was gone from it. Now that she was almost sure she was pregnant. Never again would she be so carefree and happy as she had been for two weeks in the Moorish heaven where time stood still and nothing was more pressing than deciding whether to drink by the pool or by the sea, or selecting which outfit to wear and who to date. Oh it had been a fantastic holiday all right! In spite of herself she grinned.

About The Author

(c) Toni Tynan

Patricia Scanlan was born in Dublin, where she still lives. All of her books have been #1 international bestsellers, most recently With All My Love, A Time for Friends, and Orange Blossom Days. Patricia is the series editor and a contributing author to the Open Door series. Find out more by visiting Patricia’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/PatriciaScanlanAuthor.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (February 2, 2016)
  • Length: 464 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501134494

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