Rafferty's Legacy, страница 1
Rafferty's Legacy by Jane Corrie
Would their life be ruined by this feud?
"Promise not to have anything to do with Patrick Rafferty," Carl asked. Teresa, loving him, wanted to agree. Yet how could she refuse to see her newly found uncle? It was only then that she learned about the feud that had plagued their families for generations. And
she knew that whatever had been held against her family would inevitably be leveled against her. How could there be any future happiness for her and Carl?
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OTHER Harlequin Romances by JANE CORRIE
1956—THE IMPOSSIBLE BOSS 2020—RAINBOW FOR MEGAN 2038—SINCLAIR TERRITORY 2053—GREEN PADDOCKS 2072—THE BAHAMIAN PIRATE 2087—DANGEROUS ALLIANCE 2098—RIMMER'S WAY
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Original hardcover edition published in 1977 by Mills & Boon Limited
Harlequin edition published April 1978
Copyright © 1977 by Jane Corrie. All rights reserved.
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TERESA COTTAM gazed lovingly at the tall fair man by her side, then down at the engagement ring he had slipped on her third finger not ten minutes ago, in front of a crowd of well-wishers.
It was hard for her to believe that so much had happened in such a short time, and most of it, she thought with a stab of sorrow, catastrophic.
Her gaze went back to Carl again; but he had changed all that, he had turned her world of loneliness into a place of light and hope. As she stood beside him accepting the congratulations of his friends, people she hoped she would soon know, her mind went back to the time she had first met the tall Australian by her side.
Even now, in the midst of so much happiness, Teresa was still able to feel the pain of that first meeting, and the news she had had to give him when he arrived at her home inquiring after her brother, and how she had to tell him that Rob had died in an air crash not two weeks previously, and not only her brother, but her mother also—in fact, all the family she had.
When Carl had given her his condolences, he asked if he might visit her again when she was more able to receive visitors, and Teresa had thought that he was just being kind and never dreamt that he meant it. But he had, and a fortnight later he re-
turned, and kept on returning. She learnt later that his original call had been a courtesy call, for he was captain of an Australian rugby team, and had met Rob, Teresa's brother, while on a tour of England.
It was through Rob's sporting connections that he had met his death, for he had wanted to watch an international game being played in France; a game he would have been taking part in had it not been for an ankle injury sustained the previous week. Had he taken the same flight as the rest of his team, Teresa would still have had a family, instead of finding herself utterly alone; but her mother had decided she would accompany her son, the attraction being a weekend in Paris, and had tried to inveigle Teresa into going with them, but Teresa had already made arrangements for that weekend and was staying with a friend of hers while her parents spent the weekend in Scotland visiting an elderly aunt of theirs. If Teresa's friend Jane had not had such a dread of spending two nights alone in their rambling old home, or if she had decided to join her parents on the duty visit, Teresa would have been on that fateful flight too; and there had since been black times when she wished she had been.
Carl's possessive arm stealing round her waist jerked her out of her musings, and her lovely green eyes met his blue ones, her heart leaping at the look of love in his. 'Happy, girl?' he asked softly.
Teresa's answer was in her eyes. 'You know I am,' she whispered.
'I'll take you up on that look later,' he said with a grin.
She was still looking at him, thinking for the
hundredth time how handsome he was, and how" lucky she was to have such a man fall in love with her, when she saw his easy-going smile fade, and a look of hardness replace the smile. Following his glance, she wondered what could have brought about such a swift and, she thought with surprise, furious reaction from him.
The small man now threading his way past the guests towards them wore an ill-pressed suit, and one, Teresa felt, that was only brought out for special occasions, for it was of a rather outdated style and contrasted blatantly with the well-dressed assembly.
Her eyes passed on to his face; he looked old, yet there was a springiness in his step that belied this conclusion, although his features were wrinkled and he was tanned a deep brown from exposure to the sun. His hair had once been a fiery red, as her hair had been until she had used a toner on it, sick of the quips she had had to put up with from the truck drivers who worked at the same firm she had been employed at; a distribution depot not far from her home.
Teresa had the strangest feeling that she ought to know this man, yet her memory remained blank, and as he drew nearer she saw that his eyes were a light blue, and there were several gaps in his front teeth when his smile widened as he reached them.
The silence puzzled Teresa, for the man's appearance had stopped everyone talking, and it seemed that all eyes were on him, waiting in silent expectancy.
On reaching Carl and Teresa, the man held out
one gnarled hand towards Carl, and with a wicked grin remarked in a voice that held an Irish lilt to it, 'Welcome to the family, boy. 'Tis a miracle, it is ! ' and turning to Teresa, held out his other hand to her. 'Oi'm your Uncle Patrick, girl,' he explained, and then gave her a hard stare from those blue eyes of his. 'Can't make out why your mam didn't tell me you were coming, or'—his glance went back to Carl standing stiff as a ramrod beside her—`that you were marrying an Elton.' His grin widened. 'Guess I wouldn't have believed it, anyway.'
Teresa felt there had been a spark of maliciousness in this last remark, and held her hand out to his. 'You must forgive me,' she began hesitantly, remembering a little belatedly that her mother had spoken of a family connection in Australia, but there had been no contact for years, and Teresa had presumed that whatever connection there had been had died out.
She also realised with a pang that she would have to tell him about her mother and her brother, but decided it might be better to impart the sad news to him in private, and waited for a lead from Carl.
Carl's lead was hardly a helpful one, for utterly ignoring the man's still outstretched hand, he said in a voice Teresa hardly recognised, 'I don't recall inviting you to this party.'
Teresa gave a shocked, 'Carl !'
Her newly-acquired uncle, however, showed no
such startled reaction, but only shook his head sadly
and tut-tutted, "Tis a mighty
Teresa was utterly confused, and when Carl said
in an icy voice, 'I think we'd better adjourn to a more private spot,' she felt she couldn't get out of the room fast enough. It was as if there was a time bomb ticking beside them that at any moment might blast the room apart.
In frigid silence Carl led the way to his office at the back of the sumptuously appointed homestead, leaving a bewildered Teresa and a doleful-looking uncle to follow, although she had a distinct impression that the sad look on her uncle's face completely masked another emotion, and again she felt that in an odd way he was vastly enjoying himself.
Carl's first words were addressed to Teresa. 'Do you admit that this man is your uncle?' he demanded.
Teresa's gorgeous eyes widened: for goodness' sake, she wondered, what heinous crime had her uncle committed to cause this commotion? 'I suppose he must be,' she said slowly. 'I mean,' she added hastily, not wishing to offend the poor man who had claimed her as his niece, 'I must be related to him, mustn't I? I do know Mother used to speak of a family connection in Australia, but that was years ago.' She looked at her uncle. 'You never kept in touch,' she accused him gently, `so naturally I wouldn't have thought of contacting you.'
Her uncle's blue eyes rested on the rich mahogany desk, then came back to Carl, who was watching him with cold eyes. 'Your mam's name was Maureen, right?' he asked Teresa, not bothering to answer her accusation but intent only on proving their relationship. 'And your Granddad's name was Daniel Rafferty, right?'
Teresa nodded affirmatively, and did not see the grim set of Carl's mouth at the confirmation.
Flinging a look that could only be described as triumphant towards Carl, he muttered, 'Not that I needed to prove it; she's a Rafferty okay; one look at those eyes and I'd have known her anywhere—although,' he added woefully, 'only the Dear knows what the child's done to her hair.'
With an indignant gasp, Teresa answered quickly, 'I had to do something; it's not funny being continually addressed as Red!'
Carl walked to the door of the office and held it open, and looking at Patrick Rafferty, said harshly, 'You've had your fun, now get out.'
The small man shrugged, not a bit offended at the curt dismissal, and looked at Teresa. 'I'm kin, girl,' he said in that soft lilting voice of his. 'I don't blame you if you want to disown me—only just you remember I'm around if you don't fit in.' With that, he left without a backward glance at either Teresa or Carl.
'Teresa, I want you to promise not to have any dealings or contact with Patrick Rafferty,' Carl ordered in a tightly controlled voice.
Teresa looked at him, hardly able to believe her ears; he was looking out of the windows with his back to her, and she saw the way he held himself stiff and straight with no sign of relaxation even though they were now alone. 'I feel I ought to warn you,' he went on in a cold impersonal voice, 'that if you disobey me there will be no chance of happiness in our marriage.'
Her shocked senses tried to sort out the implica-
tions of this ultimatum, for that was what it had been, even in her befuddled state she had grasped that much. In other words disown her uncle, for there was no doubt that Patrick Rafferty was her uncle. She looked back at Carl, still gazing out at the paddocks beyond the homestead waiting for her answer.
He was only an arm's length away yet Teresa felt he had moved miles away from her, and a feeling of desolation crept over her, making her want to throw herself at him.
What was Patrick Rafferty to her anyway? Blood relation, yes, she wasn't denying that, but who had been the one to lift her out of the darkness and give her life meaning? Carl—it was Carl's shoulder that she had wept on, and Carl who had gently dried her tears and filled her days with thoughts of the future as his wife; of the ranch he owned, and the homestead she would become mistress of.
Teresa did not hesitate. Her hand reached out for his, certain that she wouldn't even have to speak, for he would see her answer; it was there in her eyes.
At the touch of her hand Carl looked down at her. His fingers did not close around hers but left them clinging to his, and Teresa felt a tremor of shock pass through her as her eyes met the blue enigmatic ones of his. There was no love there now; it was as if he were seeing her with different eyes—as a Rafferty, she thought bewilderedly, and she knew with heartbreaking certainty that whatever her answer would have been, he would always see the Rafferty connection there. She didn't understand why the name was so abhorrent to him, and she felt that it
wasn't just her uncle but the name Rafferty that had sent her new-found happiness crumbling into ashes at her feet.
With a spurt of surprise she acknowledged one essential fact—Carl had never loved her! It was her looks that he had fallen for, for Teresa was a beauty by any standards, and had she needed confirmation on this point the countless men who had pestered her for dates would have given it to her.
Carl was just like all the others, she thought with a pang of sorrow; it was the wrapping he had fallen for, not the person she was. He had seen her as a beautiful possession he had commandeered for his home—something he had picked up abroad, she thought wildly; and that something had turned out a fake—not only a fake, but a Rafferty, and that he couldn't take.
Whatever he held against her kith and kin would, at some time or another, be levelled against her, and Teresa knew what her answer had to be.
Without looking at the ring on her finger she slipped it off and put it on the desk in front of her; there was no need for words here either, her action had said it all.
She watched dully as his gaze went to the ring now sitting in solitary glory on the table, then back to her partially blank eyes.
`I brought you over,' he said stiffly. 'I'll make arrangements for your return home, if that's what you'd prefer.'
Where was home? Teresa thought blankly. She had no home; nothing except an uncle nobody seemed prepared to want to know.
Her expression must have shown her thoughts,
for he said harshly, 'You're not considering joining that old devil, are you? Because if you are, I'd advise strongly against it. He can barely scrape a living as it is. I'll fix you up with work here. It's the least I can do under the circumstances.'
Teresa found herself wanting to laugh hysterically at his reluctant admission of his commitment to her, but she swallowed the urge to give way to hysteria. Her pride kept her on an even keel, and she even managed a small, if bitter, smile at him. 'Thank you, I'd rather not put you to that trouble. It appears I'm lucky in having a relative, even if he is a Rafferty,' and on these words she made for the door, feeling unable to cope with any further debate on her future, and did not even turn round at Carl's shouted, 'Teresa—wait ! '
She made straight for her room, and for the first time since she had arrived two days ago, did not stand and admire the beautifully furnished bedroom she had been given, but got out her case and started packing.
One part of her was fully conscious of what she was doing; she wanted enough clothes to last her for as long as it took her to get settled in her uncle's home, or in an hotel in the nearby small township; the rest, she told herself wearily, could follow on later.
That same part of her—the one that knew exactly what was happening, as against the other part of her that couldn't accept as yet that her world lay in ashes—also knew no surprise that Carl had not followed her and pleaded with her to stay, telling her that it had all been a shock to him, and that no matter who she was, he still loved her; for that part of
her knew everything, and knew he wouldn't, he was too relieved that he had been released from such an embarrassing connection.
When her case was packed, Teresa slipped on her light coat and collected her handbag, and without a backward glance left the room and made her way down to the front of the house and let herself out of the front door.
A shape detached itself from a covered porchway. It was her uncle; and he had
Teresa never clearly remembered reaching her uncle's home. She knew he talked a lot about this and that, as if he realised the need to keep her mind off certain matters, and when they drew up in front of a small chalet-style house, badly in need of a coat of paint, her uncle climbed out and remarked a little shamefacedly, "Tis a little on the shabby side, girl, but you'll be mighty welcome here.'
At that particular time Teresa wouldn't have minded if the place had been a log cabin; she was past any comments on the matter, only knowing that as her uncle had just said, here she was welcome, and at Sunset Ridge, the Elton homestead, she wasn't.
BARELY noticing the shabby furniture and curtains that could do with a wash, Teresa allowed herself to be led into what appeared to be a sitting-room, only there was hardly any space in which to sit. Each chair was loaded down with either papers or books, and on one, what looked suspiciously like a pile of clothes was waiting to be ironed.
At least, she told herself dully, she would not only be welcome there, it looked as if she was needed too, and it didn't look as if she would have much time to mope. For that she was grateful, for she had gathered that her uncle was a bachelor who suffered the casual ministrations of one Mrs Hanney, who would come and sort out the place when the mood was on her, which, Teresa surmised, did not happen often.