Yesterday's Scars

By: Carole Mortimer

CHAPTER ONE

'It's all very mysterious, isn't it?' exclaimed Linda. 'Rather exciting in a way.'

Hazel slammed her suitcase shut with a bang, disrupting all the clothes she had placed in there only minutes earlier after folding them neatly. 'There's nothing mysterious or exciting about it!' she declared crossly. I’ve been ordered home, that's all.'

'Yes, but what a home! I remember the photographs you showed us when you first came over here—it's a fantastic place. How you could ever move over here and live in this tiny apartment,' Linda indicated the two rooms that had been Hazel's home for the past three years, 'after living in that beautiful mansion, I just can't imagine. I know I wouldn't do it.'

'You might if Rafe happened to own the mansion,' Hazel said with a grimace, checking that she had all her luggage ready to leave for the airport.

Linda's eyes became even dreamier. 'Rafe Savage!' she sighed. 'There's romance just in the name. How lucky you are to have such a romantic figure for a guardian!'

'He isn't my guardian! I'm nearly twenty-one, Linda, not two years old. Rafe just happens to have looked after me since I was ten. But he's nothing but a bully,' Hazel said fiercely. 'He has no right to order me home as if I'm a schoolgirl!'

'You don't have to go, honey,' Linda pointed out.

Hazel looked sceptical. Linda obviously didn't know her cousin Rafe or she wouldn't have made such a statement. When Rafe issued an order everyone jumped to obey, including Hazel—up to a point. 'I have to go. He only allowed me to come to the States at all on condition that I returned after three years, just until my twenty-first birthday.'

Linda looked amazed. 'Don't you want to return home? It must be great living in a house like that. I bet this cousin of yours is something like the local lord of the manor, isn't he?'

Hazel thought of Rafe's arrogant bearing and the respect and loyalty with which the local people in his Cornwall home treated him. 'Yes,' she agreed slowly, 'I suppose you could say that.'

'You've never talked much about your family, Hazel, but we always knew you were a set apart from us. Besides your obviously being English that is.' She leant back in the chair. 'What made you come to the States?'

Hazel shrugged. 'I wanted to leave Savage House and anywhere in England didn't seem far enough away from the Savage influence. I've had a lovely time over here, Jonathan's been perfect to work for. And everyone has been so friendly. I've really loved it here, and I don't want to go home,' she finished miserably.

Linda laughed. 'I don't think Jonathan being perfect to work for and everyone being friendly are the reasons you don't want to leave. I think Jonathan's son Josh may have something to do with that.'

'Well...' Hazel blushed prettily. 'We were just starting to get to know each other. It isn't long since Jonathan introduced us.'

Linda frowned. 'Maybe it's as well you're leaving. He doesn't improve on better acquaintance. I've never liked him. I'm sorry, Hazel, I know how charming he can be, but I've never gotten over the callous way he let Sandra down. They were engaged, you know.'

'Yes, he told me.'

'I bet he did—his side of it' Linda looked at her wrist-watch. 'We'd better get you to the airport, it's getting late.'

'You really don't like Josh, do you?' Hazel frowned.

Linda shrugged. 'As Jonathan's nurse I've had longer than you to observe Josh. I've seen him in action plenty of times. Believe me, if he hadn't been in Europe the last couple of years you'd have got to know a lot more about him too. That pleasant companion at your farewell dinner party isn't his normal image. Oh, I don't want to talk about him any more. You take away your pleasant memories of him and forget what I just said.'

Their goodbyes at the airport were hurried; Hazel's thoughts were now firmly turned towards home. Three years was such a long time to be away from home; people changed—she herself had changed tremendously. At least, she hoped she had, or this time away had been a complete waste of time.

Her arrival in the States had been nothing like her departure of just now. Then Rafe had accompanied her, seen her safely settled before returning to his estate in Cornwall, the acres of land he owned and lorded it over. The head of the family, Rafe managed and dominated every member of his household with a firmness that only Hazel had ever seemed to resent to the point of argument. That had been a lot of the trouble between them, the way she had always fired his temper.

She doubted it would be any different now. Their arguments had been almost unbearable before she had left, in fact that had been part of the reason she had wanted to go to America. And surprisingly Rafe had offered no resistance. In fact, it had been he who made all the enquiries for her job, and on finally being accepted he had accompanied her on the flight and stayed a few days to make sure she was going to be happy there.