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Had it been a mistake to come back?
Jack Tremayne parked his car and switched off the engine. He sighed as he stared across the bay. The view was all too familiar. He had grown up in the small Cornish town of Penhally Bay and had lived here until he had gone away to med school. He had sworn that he would never return either, yet here he was, about to start a new life right back in the very place he had escaped from.
It had been two years since he had last visited the town and he hadn't missed it one little bit. There had been nothing here for him since his mother had died. His relationship with his father, Nick Tremayne, had always been a stormy one. Nothing Jack had done had ever been good enough for his father.
It had been almost as bad for his twin sister, Lucy, and his brother, Ed: they had never lived up to their father's overly high expectations for them either. However, it had been Jack who had borne the brunt of Nick Tremayne's displeasure, Jack who had rebelled against Nick's suffocating need to control his children's lives.
Leaving Penhally Bay had been the best thing Jack had ever done. Living and working in London had suited him perfectly. He had loved the buzz he'd got from working in the city as well as the opportunities it had afforded him to pursue a hectic social life. He would have happily remained there if life hadn't thrown up an unexpected obstacle.
Jack's gaze moved away from the view and he felt panic well up inside him as he glanced into the rear-view mirror. Little Freddie was fast asleep in his seat so that was a blessing. Jack had been dreading the long drive to Cornwall and it had been every bit as bad as he'd feared. Freddie had cried, non-stop, for hours before he had finally fallen asleep as they had been passing through Exeter.
Jack had felt so helpless as he had listened to him, but there again he'd felt helpless from the moment he had been told about Freddie. Finding out that he was a father had been a big enough shock, but to suddenly discover that he was solely responsible for the child's future had thrown him into a complete spin. How on earth was he going to manage to raise a child on his own?
He took a deep breath and opened the car door before he drowned in his own fear. Hunting the key out of his pocket, he unlocked the cottage door. The first thing on the agenda was to get Freddie inside and make him something to eat. Lucy had promised to stock the fridge, and a quick check of the kitchen showed that his sister had been as good as her word. There was even a casserole all ready and waiting for him to heat up. Brilliant! At least he wouldn't have to test out his decidedly shaky culinary skills.
Jack quickly unloaded the cases out of the boot and stacked them in the hallway. The cottage had been used as a holiday let for the past few years, and the furniture was pretty basic, but it would do for now. Once he got settled then he could think about furnishing the place properlyif he stayed, of course.
He groaned. He had to stop giving himself an escape clause. The only way he was going to be able to cope with fatherhood was if he had a lot of support, and the best person he could think of to help him was Lucy. Lucy would know what to do when Freddie woke up screaming in the night. She would know how to calm Freddie down when he started rocking backwards and forwards, locked into some terrifying world of his own. The psychiatrist Jack had consulted had explained that it would take time for the little boy to recover from the trauma he had suffered, and that was exactly what Jack intended to give him:time and a lot of loveif Freddie would let him.
His heart ached as he lifted the little boy out of the car and carried him indoors. Maybe he was hoping for too much, but he was desperate to forge some kind of a relationship with his son. At the moment Freddie tolerated him and that was all. If Jack hugged him or kissed him, Freddie didn't respond. He never laughed or smiled, only cried. It was as though the child's emotions had been switched off by the trauma of losing his mother in such terrible circumstances and, quite frankly, Jack had no idea how to switch them back on again.
After lying Freddie on the sitting-room sofa, Jack went into the kitchen and put the casserole in the oven. Lucy had left a note on the worktop to tell him what setting to switch the oven to and he grinned as he followed her instructions. Lucy was certainly under no illusions as to his culinary expertise!
He filled the kettle, then hunted a bag of coffee out of the cupboard and ripped it open, grimacing when a shower of grounds spilled onto the worktop. He was just looking for a cloth to wipe them up when there was a knock on the door and he smiled in delight. Lucy had promised to call round and he couldn't wait to see her and his new little niece.
'Hi! That was good timing,' he began as he opened the front door. He stopped abruptly when he saw the pretty blonde-haired woman who was standing on the pavement, smiling politely at him. He had no idea who she was but she definitely wasn't his sister.
'Sorry,' he apologised ruefully when he saw her smile waver. 'I thought you were someone else.'
'Lucy asked me to give you this.' She handed him a plastic container of milk. 'She's been held up at the surgery so she said to tell you that she won't be able to call round to see you until this evening.'
'Oh, right. Well, thanks for telling me. And thanks for this, too,' he added, holding up the milk.
'You're welcome,' she replied, and turned to leave.
Jack frowned as he stared after her retreating figure. He wasn't sure if it was something he'd said, but she had seemed in rather a hurry to get away. He'd had the distinct impression, in fact, that she had been eager not to engage him in conversa tion. How odd.
He was still puzzling it over as he went back inside. Freddie had woken up now so Jack hurried into the kitchen and poured him a beaker of milk. He took it back to the sitting room and crouched down in front of the sofa.
'Hey, tiger, how're you doing? Are you thirsty? Here you go.'
He handed the little boy the beaker, sighing as he saw how Freddie drew back into the corner of the sofa, as far away from him as possible. Still, at least he had stopped crying, and that was a definite improvement.
He went and checked on the casserole, which was hot enough by then to eat. He spooned it onto a couple of plates, found some cutlery and placed everything on the table, then went to fetch Freddie. However, as he helped the little boy onto a chair Jack felt the same sense of helplessness overwhelm him again. He was afraid that he wasn't equipped to be a fatherafraid of making a mistake, afraid that he would make his son's life worse instead of better. All he could do was his best, but he was very aware that it might not be enough at the end of the day.
Just for a second his thoughts flickered back to the woman who had brought him the milk and he frowned. Obviously, she'd been less than impressed by him, too.
Stupid, stupid woman!
Alison Myers could feel her face flaming as she hurried along the road. She couldn't believe she had reacted that way when Jack Tremayne had opened the door. She'd had it all planned out, tooshe would introduce herself, hand over the milk and pass on Lucy's message. Instead of which she'd ended up behaving like some sort of. .of gauche teenager! What on earth had got into her? Was it the fact that the sight of Jack in the flesh had left her feeling so tongue-tied that it had been impossible to trot out all the usual pleasantries? Oh, please!
Alison was still berating herself when she let herself into the tiny cottage where she lived with her three-year-old son, Sam. It was ten minutes before five and she had a few minutes to spare before she needed to collect Sam from the childminder's house. Hurrying into the kitchen, she switched on the kettle and dropped a teabag into a mug. A cup of tea should help to settle her nerves, although it would take more than a cup of tea to rid of her of this embarrassment. Jack Tremayne must think she was the rudest person he had ever met!
Alison's hazel eyes darkened with mortification as she drank the tea. She knew that she was making far too much of what had happened but she couldn't help it. Jack Tremayne had become an almost legendary figure in her life. When she'd been going through the dark days following her divorce she had read a lot of magazinesthe gossipy sort which ran stories about all the celebrities. Immersing herself in
the tales of other people's lives had helped to take her mind off what had been happening in hers, and Jack had featured prominently in many of the stories. Pictures of him and his girlfriend, India Whitethornheiress to the multi-billion-pound Whitethorn Holidays empirehad been plastered over all the magazines.
Alison wasn't sure what it was about Jack that had appealed to her mostapart from the obvious, of course. Tall, dark, wickedly handsome and incredibly sexy, she couldn't have been the only woman who had made a point of looking out for him. However, it had been more than just his looks that had attracted her. Although he'd always seemed to be smiling in the photographs, there'd been a vulnerability about his expression that had touched a chord. She'd had a feeling that, despite all the glitz and the glamour that had surrounded his life, Jack had been far from happy. To her mind, at least, it had seemed as if there'd been a bond between them.
Alison groaned as she realised how ridiculous that was. She and Jack were poles apart! So maybe he had come back to Penhally Bay, but that had been out of necessity rather than choice, as Lucy had explained. Now that he had a son to care fora child he had known absolutely nothing about, to boothe'd decided that he needed his family around him. If it weren't for little Freddie, in fact, Jack would probably never have set foot in Cornwall again.
The thought was unsettling for some reason, but a quick glance at the clock soon drove it from her mind. Draining the last of her tea, Alison headed off to fetch Sam. There was nothing like a lively three-year-old to keep one's thoughts on track.
Jack had just settled Freddie down for the night when Lucy arrived. She grinned at him as he let her into the cottage.
'I never thought I'd see the day when you swopped the high life for domesticity, Jack,' she teased him, looking pointedly at the small T-shirt that was draped over his shoulder.
'Needs must, kiddo,' he drawled, giving her a bear hug.
Lucy hugged him back, then regarded him sternly. 'You are looking after yourself properly? I know how hard it is to look after a child, and fatherhood has never been exactly top of your agenda, has it? It would be all too easy to forget that you need to take care of yourself as well as Freddie.'
'Nag, nag, nag,' Jack muttered, grinning at her. 'You haven't taken your coat off yet and here you are, giving me a lecture.'
Lucy aimed a playful cuff at his ear. 'Just be thankful that someone cares about you, you ungrateful wretch!'
'I am. Honestly,' Jack said, with more feeling than he realised. He cleared his throat when he saw Lucy look at him. His sister was the only person alive who could get him to open up, but he wasn't sure if it was what he wanted to do. Apart from the fact that Lucy had her own family to think about now, he needed to take charge of his life.
He'd led a charmed existence in London. The parties, the premieres, the dinnersas an eligible bachelor Jack had been inundated with invitations to all the top events, but now he had to move on, take responsibility for his son. The one thing he didn't intend to do was have the same kind of distant relationship with Freddie that his own father had with him.
It felt odd to realise how important that was to him. Jack summoned a smile, not wanting to share the thought even with Lucy. 'So how come you're on your own? I was hoping to get a look at my new little niece.'
'That was the plan, but then I ended up going into the surgery to help out.' Lucy took off her coat and dumped it over the back of the sofa. 'Dad got stuck at a call, and Dragan was called out too, so I offered to take the minor surgery clinic this afternoon.'
'Keeping your hand in?' Jack suggested, holding up the bottle of wine he'd opened. 'Fancy a glass?'
'I'd love one but I don't think Annabel will appreciate it. One of the drawbacks of breastfeeding. She gets to taste every thing I do!'
Lucy grinned at him, her face alight with such happiness that Jack couldn't help feeling envious. It was obvious that his sister had taken to her new role as a mother like the proverbial duck to water, and he couldn't help comparing her attitude to India's. From what he had gathered, India had played at being a mother to Freddie as and when it had suited her. She had been more than happy to relinquish her responsibilities when she had grown tired of the role.
He pushed the thought aside because he didn't want to dwell on it. It upset him when he thought about what Freddie had been through, and it was pointless wishing that he had done something to prevent it. He had known nothing about the baby because India hadn't told him. She had simply used him to get pregnant. The only point in her favour was that she had left instructions with her solicitor that he should be told the truth in the event of her death.