‘I don’t see why not. Of course you can check out the site as often as you like, but Maisie could organize all the samples—fabrics, carpet, paint—to be sent here.’
She stared at him again, transfixed.
He waited for a moment, then added, ‘I’ve also set aside some land that can be divided into plots for keen gardeners.’
Why that did it, she wasn’t sure, but all of a sudden, although it was a huge project, it beckoned her in a way that lifted her spirits immediately.
She opened her mouth to say the first thing that popped into her mind—What a pity you don’t love me, Jack—but at the last moment she amended it to, ‘Why are you doing this?’
‘I told you. Your welfare is important to me, as well as the kid’s.’
She fell asleep with tears on her cheeks that night because that unbidden, out-of-context thought—what a pity you don’t love me, Jack—had revealed to her that she still hungered for his love; perhaps she always would. Why it had popped into her mind, she wasn’t sure. Because he’d taken her advice to heart on garden plots for retirees? That didn’t make much sense. Or did it? Could they become quite a team in every respect but the one that mattered most and it broke her heart to think of it?
Her life changed, her outlook in most respects changed from then on, however. During the last few months of her pregnancy she became very busy and found it fulfilling. She did pop out in some directions, but she did also glow, at times, at last.
She also got closer to Jack and the McKinnon empire. She accepted an advisory position on his board, although she demurred at first on the grounds of the speculation it might produce along the lines of whose baby she was carrying.
‘That’s no one’s business but our own, Maggie,’ he said decidedly. ‘Anyway, no one knows of our connection. I haven’t told anyone.’
‘Not even Maisie?’
‘Not even Maisie, although she may suspect, but she’s the soul of discretion. Have you told anyone?’
‘Who the father is? No.’
They eyed each other until he said, ‘Well, then? It could be the start of a new, more suitable career for you as a single mother.’
Maggie opened her mouth, but, much as she would have loved to refute this for reasons not at all clear to her, she couldn’t deny it was something she should give thought to.
‘You could be right,’ she said eventually.
She got to know his sub-penthouse, which was where he did his business entertaining. It was elegant but restrained and she got the feeling that if he felt really at home anywhere, it was Cape Gloucester.
She experienced the dynamic businessman he was at firsthand and knew that she and her mother had been right: he could be as arrogant and ruthless as her father, but he did temper it so that all his employees were devoted to him and his partners in any ventures respected him highly.
Sylvia came to see her out of the blue one day.
‘I got Jack’s permission to do this,’ she said as she stood on the doorstep.
Still blinking with surprise, Maggie said, ‘You didn’t need his permission! Uh—come in. I didn’t know you knew…’
‘I didn’t until a couple of days ago when I came up to tell him some news of my own. I do find,’ Sylvia said wryly when they were settled in the lounge, ‘that it’s not a good idea to cross Jack these days. Actually, it never was, because even as a kid he had an infuriating habit of being right about most things.’
‘I know the kind.’ Maggie looked heavenwards.
‘I suppose you do. You got sandwiched between two such men, didn’t you?’
The reference to her father chilled Maggie a little and perhaps Sylvia sensed it because she went on in a sudden rush. ‘I was as much to blame as your father was. I knew he was married. I should never have got involved.’
Maggie thawed, she couldn’t help it, but she also said honestly, ‘I wondered about that. Still, these things happen, I guess.’
‘Something else has happened to me. I’ve fallen in love again when I thought it could never happen to me.’
‘Not a married man?’
‘Not a married man, but he will be married to me shortly.’