She got rid of their uneaten breakfasts and tidied up, but there was a dreadful feeling of apprehension at the pit of her stomach and all her movements were jerky and unco-ordinated.
As far as she was aware he’d never met her father, so what could be involved? Then her mind fastened on something he’d said the day she’d found him here. Something about men and their grievances not being parted lightly.
She’d assumed when he’d said that, and something else she remembered about never seeing eye to eye with her father, that her father’s arrogant, high-handed reputation and the ruthless businessman he could be, also by repute, were the things Jack McKinnon took exception to…
Then she remembered his reluctance—she put her hands to her suddenly hot cheeks—to have anything more to do with her after the shed incident. What had she precipitated?
When he came back she was sipping coffee, but sheer nerves made her rush into speech. ‘What’s going on? How is she? Where is she?’
There was a plunger pot on the veranda table and another mug. He poured coffee for himself in a completely unsmiling way that terrified Maggie all the more.
‘She’s booked into the resort for the time being. Maggie, believe me…’ he pulled out a chair and sank into it ‘… I would rather—climb Mount Everest— than be the one to tell you this, but since you’re here, and this has happened, I don’t seem to have any choice.’
‘No, you don’t,’ she agreed. ‘You obviously know my father!’
‘Not well,’ he said rather grimly. ‘Sylvia is the one who knows him, or knew him. They had an affair—’ He stopped abruptly at the shocked little sound she made.
‘It’s common enough,’ he said then.
‘Well, yes.’ She paused and laced her fingers together. ‘And my parents haven’t—it doesn’t exactly seem to be a joyful marriage at times, but they are together so—’ She broke off and looked at him with a painful query in her eyes.
‘Your father desperately wanted a son and your mother couldn’t have any more children.’
A bell rang in the recesses of Maggie’s mind. Something her grandmother had said to her, then never explained. Something in response to her saying she should have been a boy. Don’t go down that road, Maggie. Your mother has and… But Leila Trent had never completed the statement.
She blinked several times as she looked back down the years, and it all fell into place. The growing tension between her parents, her mother’s anguish, carefully concealed so that her growing daughter would not be affected, but now it came back to Maggie in a hundred little ways… How could she have been so blind? she wondered.
She cleared her throat. ‘Go on.’
‘Your father met Sylvia about six years ago. They fell in love—at least Sylvia assures me they did. She…’ he paused and looked out over the glittering sea with his eyes hard and his mouth set ‘… fell for him in a big way despite his being married.’
‘Did… did he offer to leave my mother and marry her?’
‘He certainly led her to expect it. Then things changed dramatically.’ He turned back to her. ‘Talking of gynaecological problems, Sylvia has had more than her fair share of them and the net result is that she’s unable to have children. When your father discovered that, the terms of his proposition changed somewhat. There was no more talk of marriage.’
Maggie went pale.
‘I guess,’ he said slowly, ‘I need to fill you in on a bit of background here. Possibly because we were both adopted—there was never any secret made of it—we had more common ground than many siblings have, Sylvia and I. We looked out for each other as we were growing up. There were times when we almost seemed to be on the same wavelength like twins. So I knew exactly how Sylvia was going through the mill with your father. And I knew she was too loving, too special to be any man’s mistress.’
‘Did she agree with you?’ Maggie asked.
He shrugged. ‘Pertinent question. Did I rush in and sort out her life as I saw fit?’