An Innocent Bride

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Aunt Thirza had been everything to Katrina Gibbs, but her death left Katrina with little money and no marketable skills. Katrina did have two things, though—her aunt's small cottage in Dorset, and the friendship of Simon Glenville, the wonderful doctor who had cared for Aunt Thirza.

Simon loved Katrina, and he thought Katrina loved him, too, but so much had happened to her he wasn't sure this innocent, gallant girl was aware of it. When the time was right, he would propose, ...

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An Innocent Bride

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Aunt Thirza had been everything to Katrina Gibbs, but her death left Katrina with little money and no marketable skills. Katrina did have two things, though—her aunt's small cottage in Dorset, and the friendship of Simon Glenville, the wonderful doctor who had cared for Aunt Thirza.

Simon loved Katrina, and he thought Katrina loved him, too, but so much had happened to her he wasn't sure this innocent, gallant girl was aware of it. When the time was right, he would propose, they'd plan a wedding and he would cherish her all their days….

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780263161762
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Series: Romance Series
  • Pages: 217
  • Product dimensions: 8.34 (w) x 8.18 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The road was narrow, high-hedged and overshadowed by trees, and, like so many English country lanes, it wound its way in a series of haphazard curves through the quiet countryside, free of traffic and pleasantly warm in the sunshine of a spring morning.

The man behind the wheel of the dark grey Bentley drove unhurriedly, enjoying the peace and quiet, reflecting that there were still quiet corners of rural England which one came upon by chance. There had been no village for some miles, and the last of the solitary cottages along the road he had passed a mile back; there had been no cars… As he thought that a motorbike came round the next curve, travelling fast and in the middle of the road, flashing past the Bentley with inches to spare, just missing it.

The driver of the Bentley swore quietly as he took the next bend in the road, to slide to a halt and get out of his car. The contents of a shopping basket were strewn across the road, a bicycle, no longer recognisable as such, was tossed to one side of the verge, and sitting near it was a girl.

She appeared unhurt but in a fine temper.

'That idiot—did you see him? On the wrong side of the road, driving like a maniac'

The man, walking towards her, thought what a splendid creature she was: a big girl, with quantities of dark brown hair and a face whose beauty wasn't easily forgotten.

He reached her side, a giant of a man, no longer young, his pale hair grey at the temples, but handsome, with a high-bridged nose and a thin, mobile mouth.

'Yes. I saw him. Are you hurt?'

He bent to look at her and saw the blood oozing from a cut on her leg.

'Stay still for a moment; I'll fetch my bag.'

When he returned shesaid, 'You're a doctor? A fortunate meeting.'

He was gently cleaning the wound. 'Indeed, yes, but in hardly fortunate circumstances. This will need your doctor's attention. Where else are you hurt? You weren't knocked out?'

'No. I'm a bit sore here and there.'

'The best thing is for me to drive you to your home and get your own doctor to see you. You live near here?'

'About a mile down the road. Rose Cottage—it's on the left-hand side, and another half-mile or so to the village.'

He had bandaged her leg, cleaned the scratches on her arms and legs and brushed the bits and pieces from her hair. 'You will have some nasty bruises,' he told her. He closed his bag, bent and picked her up without apparent effort, and carried her across to his car.

As he settled her in the seat she said worriedly, 'You shouldn't have done that. I'm heavy.'

She wasn't altogether pleased when he said casually, 'But you're a big girl, aren't you?'

He smiled at her. He had a nice smile, kind and at the same time impersonal. And it was quite true; she was a big girl. She sat, on the edge of tears now, watching him gather up the contents of her shopping basket and then pick up the mangled wreck of her bike and put it tidily on the grass verge. The sight of it was too much, and tears were trickling down her dirty cheeks when he got into the car beside her.

He took a quick look, offered a very large, very white handkerchief, and said in a voice as kind and impersonal as his smile, 'You'll feel better once you've had a good cry. There's nothing like it for relieving the feelings.'

He sat patiently while she sobbed and snuffled, then finally mopped her face, blew her nose and muttered, 'I'll wash your hanky and send it to you.' She looked at him from a blotchy and still beautiful face. 'My name's Gibbs—Katrina Gibbs.'

He shook the hand she held out. 'Simon Glenville. Is there anyone at home to look after you?'

'Well, no, but there will be soon—around one o'clock.'

He picked up the car phone. 'I'll ring the police and your doctor. You shouldn't be alone until there is someone to keep an eye on you.'

He was already talking into the phone. 'The police will be along shortly. Now, your doctor's name—do you know his number?'

'Yes. He has a morning surgery in the village; he's there three days a week. He'll be there today.'

She hardly listened when he phoned again, for she was suddenly tired and sleepy. Shock, she supposed; she would be all right once she was home—a cup of tea and perhaps half an hour's nap on her bed…

Rose Cottage was no more than a few minutes' drive. It was small, with red brick walls and a rather shabby thatched roof. It stood sideways on to the road, and a wooden gate opened onto a brick path leading to its front door, solid under the thatch of the porch.

Dr Glenville stopped the car and got out. He said briefly, 'Stay there—have you a key to the door?'

'On the left-hand side there's a narrow ledge above the door…'

The key was large and heavy; Dr Glenville reflected that it was certainly too cumbersome to carry around in a woman's handbag as he opened the door. It gave directly onto the living room, which was small and rather overcrowded with furniture. A half-open door ahead of him gave him a glimpse of the kitchen beyond. There were two other doors too, so he opened the one nearest to him—another small room, the dining room presumably—and when he lifted the latch of the other door he found a narrow curved stair.

He went back to the car, opened Katrina's door and lifted her out.

'I can walk.'

'Better not until your doctor has had a look at you.'

As he thrust back the stairs door with a foot Katrina said urgently, 'You can't carry me up.'

She could have saved her breath. He didn't reply, and on the tiny landing above, still breathing easily, he asked, 'Which door?'

'On the right.' She added sharply, 'Do put me down…'

He didn't reply to that either, but laid her tidily on the narrow bed in the little room, took off her sandals and covered her with the patchwork quilt folded across its foot.

'Lie still and close your eyes,' he said, and at the thump on the door knocker he said, 'That will be the police or your doctor. I'll be back.'

'This is ridiculous,' said Katrina peevishly, but she closed her eyes and was asleep before he had reached the bottom of the stairs.

It was the police—at least, a constable, who was rather stout, with a cheerful round face, his bike leaning against the hedge by the gate. 'Had a message,' he observed, eyeing the doctor. 'I live in the village. I'm to have a look and see what's amiss. Miss Katrina's not hurt?'

The doctor held out a hand. 'Dr Glenville. I found Miss—er—Katrina in the road. A motorbike knocked her over, smashed her bicycle to bits, I'm afraid. I've phoned her doctor—she's resting on her bed. I expect you need a statement, but could it wait until she's been examined? She's rather shocked, and has been bruised and cut.'

'You saw the accident, sir?'

'No, but the motorbike missed me by inches coming round the bend, and I found the young lady sitting in the road. A mile back.'

'I'd best go and take a look. You didn't get the number, I suppose?'

'No. He was going at speed. I had to move the bike to the side of the road in case it caused a further accident.'

'You'll be here, sir?'

'Yes, I'll stay until her doctor gets here. You'll want a statement from me, won't you?'

'I'll go and take a look right away and send in a report.'

The doctor went to his car, unlocked the boot, took his case into the cottage and went into the kitchen. He supposed that he had better stay until whoever it was who would be back at one o'clock returned. He was in no great hurry to get home, and the girl shouldn't be left alone.

He prowled around the kitchen, which was almost as large as the living room, with a tiled floor and cheerful wallpaper. There was a door leading to a long garden with a small window beside it. It was open and sitting beside it, composed and dignified, was a small black and white cat.

The doctor tickled it under its chin and, rightly interpreting its fixed stare, he found a saucer, the milk in the slip of a pantry, and offered it.

The cat scoffed it daintily, got down from the window and walked out of the kitchen and through the open door to the stairs, and the doctor, raised by a loving mother and an old-fashioned nanny, put the milk back where he had found it, washed the saucer and folded the teacloth tidily over its rail. Childhood teachings don't die easily.

Footsteps coming up the garden path sent him to the door. The man about to enter was middle-aged, grey-haired, with a long thin face and a stoop. He said at once, 'Dr Glenville?' He held out a hand. 'Peters—thank heaven you were able to help Katrina. Is she upstairs?'

'Yes. The village constable came; he's gone to take a look round. I'll wait here for a bit, shall I?'

'I'd be obliged if you could. Did you form any opinion? Nothing serious?'

'It seems not, but I haven't examined her—just bandaged a cut on her leg and made sure that she hadn't been knocked out.'

Dr Peters nodded. 'I'll go on up.'

Presently he came downstairs again and joined Dr Glenville sitting on the wooden bench outside the door. 'I can't find much wrong—she tells me that she didn't lose consciousness at all. She's a healthy young woman; I don't think there's much harm done. All the same, I don't like to leave her on her own. She needs to rest for an hour or so, don't you agree? Knowing Katrina, she is quite capable, once our backs are turned, of coming downstairs to dig the garden or Hoover the house. She lives with her aunt, Miss Thirza Gibbs, who has gone into Warminster to see her dentist. Won't be back until the bus gets in round one o'clock.' He frowned. 'I wonder if the vicar's wife would pop over?'

'If it is of any help, I will stay,' said Dr Glenville, and wondered as he said it why on earth he had suggested it. 'I'm on my way back to town, but the rest of the day is my own.' He added, 'I have beds at St Aldrick's, so I have rooms in town, but I live at Wherwell.'

Dr Peters said, 'St Aldrick's's—you're the chap who wrote that article in the Lancet—the haematologist. I'm delighted to have met you, though I would wish for a more sociable occasion. But can you spare the time?'

'Certainly I can. Do you wish me to say anything to the young lady's aunt?'

'Miss Thirza? Would you? And tell her that I'll call in later today or tomorrow morning.' He smiled a little. 'She is a very forthright person—so, for that matter, is Katrina.'

Left on his own, the doctor trod upstairs, paused at the open door to ask if he might go in and crossed to the bed.

'Dr Peters has gone, but I'll stay until your aunt gets back. Would you like a cup of tea?'

Katrina sat up in bed and regretted it; she had the beginnings of a headache. Not surprising, really, with all the fuss… 'I can't think why you're still here,' she said rudely. 'There's no need. I'm not a baby and there's nothing wrong with me at all. Do please go away. You've been most helpful, thank you.'

The doctor studied her face. 'Would you like a cup of tea?' he asked again, in the mildest of voices.

She nodded, her eyes closed. She was behaving badly; she opened her eyes, anxious to apologise, but he had gone.

The doctor pottered round the kitchen looking for things while the kettle boiled. It was a pleasant little room, with cheerful curtains at the window, a small table against one wall and two chairs. The cooking stove was old but immaculate, and the cupboards were models of tidiness. But there wasn't a great deal in them—the basic necessities, no tins or packets—and no fridge, although there was an old-fashioned pantry with stone shelves, which was very cool.

He made tea, and since the cat was staring at him in an anxious manner he looked around for its food. There were no tins, but there was a covered saucepan on the stove with what looked like some kind of stew in it. He filled a saucer and offered it, found a mug and went back upstairs. A pity that Mrs Peach couldn't see him now, he reflected—a housekeeper of the old-fashioned school, she considered that no one who employed her should lift a finger while she or Peach, her husband and his houseman, were within reach.

Katrina sat up as he went in. He put the mug down, tucked a cushion behind her and offered the tea. This time he didn't go away, but sat on the edge of the bed, steadying the mug in her hands, which were shaking.

'Headache getting better?' he asked, and when she carefully nodded he added, 'Is there anything I can do while I'm here? Phone someone?'

She said bleakly, 'We haven't got a phone.' She finished the tea and felt better. 'I'm sorry to have been so rude and ungrateful.'

'It's of no consequence.'

He sounded so casual she wished she hadn't said anything. I don't like him, she reflected crossly. He's being kind and helpful and all that, but that's because he's a doctor, and it wouldn't do if he were to jump into that great car of his and drive off.

The doctor, aware of her edginess towards him, decided that, although she was one of the prettiest girls he had seen for a long time, she had a decidedly sharp tongue and had all the obstinacy of the proverbial mule. Probably had an unhappy love affair, he thought idly, and it's soured her. A pity.

He went back downstairs and poured himself a mug of tea, and sat drinking it with the little cat curled up on his knee. What might have been the beginnings of a friendly relationship between them had become indifference on both their parts. Now and again, going through life, one met someone with whom one was incompatible, he reflected, allowing his thoughts to wander to the work waiting for him.

Presently he went quietly upstairs again and found her asleep, her hair an untidy cloud all over the pillow, her mouth a little open. There were scratches on her cheek and there was a bruise developing on one arm. She was a big girl, but now she looked like a child. The doctor studied her at some length, wondering why she chose to live so remotely. But that was none of his business.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2013

    vintage betty

    as in all Betty Neels books, sweet romance! LOVE it, such a fun escape....

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