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Page 60 of Just Desserts (Holland Springs 4)

“Of course you must.” Frowning, she shoved her hands in her pocket and walked faster, splashing through puddles of water. She slowed down again when her boots slipped on a rock. On and on she walked, phone clenched in her hand, and mind on everything and nothing.

Here she was in a foreign land, unable to trust the man she thought she loved. Here she was in a foreign land, possibly pregnant by a man who’d admitted he was obsessed with her.

Though his choice of words had echoed hers.

He’d been mocking her, she realized.

Suddenly, a large shape began to emerge. All imposing lines and turrets rising out of the fog, like a fairy tale castle. Daisy forgot all about mocking, obsessions, pregnancy, and love.

All that was needed was a fancy carriage a la Cinderella racing up the gravel drive.

“Hawkfell Hall,” Ivan intoned. “Mr. Romanov’s family estate.”

“He doesn’t live here?” Her jaw dropped. Why in the world would he not want to live here?

“Not since he was seventeen.”

As she drew closer, busses and cars came into view. People loading and unloading. Some in formal wear while others were dressed casually, smart phones at the ready. A family posing in front of an intricate fountain had their picture taken by a photographer. Snacks were sold in a medieval-looking building.

A bride and groom kissed under an ornamental tree while the bridesmaids and groomsmen threw flower petals in the air.

He’d turned his house into a tourist attraction and wedding venue? I’ve finally sold the house I’d shared with my father…

Well, she guessed his father would think he’d sold it all right.

She paused by a beautifully painted sign, describing the grounds and the house. Private quarters are still maintained by the 10th Earl of Spenserfield in the North Wing. An odd pang hit her in the chest. Why didn’t he live here, at least in the part that was still private?

“The generous Earl of Spenserfield, my arse,” an older gentleman said, adjusting his cap. “Traitor to God and Crown more like it.

His companion shushed him. “The current earl is a distant relative of Chetham. He didn’t sell us to the Nazis.”

“Ha!” another cut in. “So distant even I could be the earl.”

“If you had that much money, you could’ve bought the title for yourself.”

The trio wandered off, joining a tour group.

Curious, Daisy bought a ticket and did the same.

Visually, the interior was beautiful, something out of a period movie, with high ceilings, large paintings, and ancient hardwood floors that went on for miles. Everything in the house screamed old money and an even older history.

“This portion of the Hall was used in Persuading My Lady. A bit of trivia—the earl’s twin brother had the leading role in the film,” their tour guide revealed.

After a ninety-minute tour, the guide asked them to follow the exit signs out of the house.

Reluctantly, Daisy followed instructions, keeping with the group even as she spotted the door marked Private. She could pull up the insane amount of pictures on her phone of them to convince the powers-that-be she was the tenth earl’s fiancée, but decided against it.

If he’d wanted to show her this part of his life, he could have, but he hadn’t. So she would respect his decision and his privacy. Even if she thought he didn’t deserve any of it.

Sighing, she marched past the door and outside, blinking at the sun that had finally chosen to come out from behind the clouds. Quickly finding an empty bench, she pulled out her phone and debated on texting Sebastian. She scanned the area, unable to locate Ivan. Most likely, he was hidden in the shadows somewhere, watching over her.

Her mind wandered to the results of the tests she’d taken The results.

The RESULTS.

At least while she’d been a tourist, her mind had been occupied, but now in the spring air, she watched families with babies. Every baby ever made caught her eye.

All. The. Babies.

Her vision blurred. Her eyes watered. Her breathing became shallow. Was she having a panic attack? Clutching her phone, she almost doubled over.

She let out a shaky breath and closed her eyes, letting the breeze cool her while she concentrated on the sound of bees buzzing and birds singing and—

“You are incredibly difficult to contact.”

Eyes popping open, Daisy turned to find a well-dressed woman sitting beside her. She had pale blond hair and eyes the color of the flowers that dominated every bed on the estate. Daisy peered at her closer. The woman looked awfully familiar.

She really needed to stop closing her eyes out in public. “Are you talking to me?” Daisy asked.

The woman smiled. “Who else?”

She didn’t look insane, but Daisy couldn’t be too sure. “Um, you look like a nice, reasonable person, but I can’t help you with whatever you want. Maybe you should ask someone with a uniform.” She stood, pocketing her phone. “Have a nice day.”

“Would you like to tour the private wing of the Hall?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s marked private, because it’s private.”

“You’re nearly family, darling,” the blond said, “and as the future Dowager Countess of Spenserfield, I insist you let me give you a behind-the-scenes tour.”

Daisy blinked. “You’re Lady Francesca?” This was the woman who’d been emailing her, wanting to meet?

“Who else?” Lady Francesca mocked with a little smile. “Now about that tour—shall we? We have much to talk about, namely Sebastian.”

“I don’t think so. If you want to talk to your son, then go to his house and do it instead of dancing on your ex-husband’s grave.”

“And which house would Sebastian be occupying right now, darling? Or did he leave you here all alone?”

“We’re living in the village, on Chippleway Stre—”

“Of course he’d pick that one.” Lady Francesca’s eyes narrowed. “Thank you for the invitation. I’ll go there straightaway.”

The fine hairs on Daisy’s nape stood up. “But I didn’t invite you,” she called after her, but it was of no use.

Sebastian’s mother ignored her and went on her way without stopping.

Rubbing her temples, Daisy exhaled. She’d had enough drama for one day. Sebastian could deal with his mother without her.

***

Sebastian shut the door and crossed his arms, leaning against the wall. “Why are you here?”

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