His bid for a bride(6)

By: Carole Mortimer




It had been late at night as Skye and her father had driven back to their London hotel after yet another unsuccessful business meeting in the south of England, the rain beating blindingly against the windscreen, visibility almost nil. So much so that her father hadn’t seen the truck coming the other way, hadn’t realized it was driving on the wrong side of the road, either. Until it had been too late…



Her face was now as white as the pillow she lay back on, her eyes still haunted by those last terrible moments as she once again looked at Falkner. ‘Would you please just go away and leave me alone?’ she pleaded brokenly.



He reached out a hand to her, that hand dropping ineffectually onto the bed as she flinched away from him. ‘Skye, I know how it feels to be in pain. Who should know better than me?’ he rasped harshly. ‘But I—hell, I wish there was an easy way to say this, but ultimately I know that there isn’t.’ He shook his head impatiently. ‘You know they held the inquest three days ago?’



Skye nodded her head without turning. She had given her statement to the police several days ago—she couldn’t remember how many days, they all seemed to have merged into one big, painful blur—knew that a verdict of ‘accidental death’ had been decided upon.



‘Skye, your father’s funeral is arranged for the end of this week,’ Falkner told her gently.



No!



All the memories, those terrible final moments, fell in on top of her, her father’s warning cry as he’d swerved to avoid the oncoming truck, the terrible sound as the two vehicles had collided, the eerie silence that had followed.



Skye had regained consciousness as someone, a stranger, had pulled her from the car, the pain in her head and side so extreme that she’d thought she might faint again. Except…



‘My father,’ she had cried as she’d sat up. ‘You have to help my father.’



But even as she’d called out she had known it was already too late for her father, his side of the car completely crushed where he had swerved to avoid the collision, making it impossible to believe that anyone could have survived in such a tangled mess.



And no one had…



At the hospital there had been even more strangers to reassure her that her father’s death would have been instantaneous. That he wouldn’t have known anything about it. Finally, when it had become apparent that Skye’s grief was inconsolable, that his injuries had been such that it was a blessing he hadn’t survived.



A blessing.



How could it possibly be ‘a blessing’ that her father, the person she loved most in the whole world, had died so suddenly, so tragically?



And now Falkner Harrington, yet another stranger, had come to tell her that her father was to be buried in four days’ time…



Skye didn’t even glance at Falkner now. ‘Go away,’ she told him.



‘I can’t do that,’ he told her regretfully. ‘And one day you’ll thank me for not doing so—’



‘I doubt that very much,’ she snapped.



‘Skye, in four days’ time, at his own request, your father is being laid to rest beside your mother, and I’m here to take you home—’



‘I’m not going to any funeral, in four days, or any other time!’ She turned on him fiercely, eyes blazing deeply blue as she attempted to sit up, the pain in her head and side instantly pulling her back down again. ‘I’m not going, Falkner,’ she repeated flatly as she turned away.



‘Oh, yes, you are,’ he told her firmly as he stood up to tower over her. ‘You know, as well as I do, that it was always your father’s wish to be buried beside your mother in Windsor. Skye,’ he groaned as she looked even more stricken as he once again mentioned the childhood loss of her mother, ‘I admit, I can’t even begin to take in the enormity of how you feel at the moment—my own parents are, thankfully, still both very much alive and living in Florida. But I have lost a very dear friend, a friend that I’m going to miss very much,’ he murmured huskily. ‘I also know that dear friend would have wanted me to look after his daughter,’ he added softly.



Skye’s expression was scathing as she turned to him. ‘If you’re such a “friend”, then where were you this last six months, when my father so obviously needed all the friends he had?’



Falkner straightened, his expression enigmatically unreadable. ‘I was there, Skye—’



‘I didn’t see you,’ she scorned.