But how do I know you’ll come home safe?
He’s not hot because he’s a dick, said Nina.Well, so’s that boy you fancied at school, Surinder reminded her.
One, that was school, and two, he’s in prison.Back at the house, Nina watched Surinder packing.Are you . . . is Marek giving you a lift down? she couldn’t help asking eventually.
Take your nap! And no, because I, for one, know when to leave well enough alone. I’m flying out of Inverness.Invernish, corrected Nina absentmindedly. A clutch of islanders had been passing through and had bought all her commercial fiction, and she’d picked up their pronunciation. Do you need a lift?
There was a honk in the farmyard. It was the Gus. Surinder ran outside and jumped up onto him, wrapping herself around his waist as he kissed her deeply. Nina sighed; she couldn’t help it. That was what she wanted. Just some lovely romance. Someone happy to see her. Why couldn’t it be Marek?
Don’t go! the Gus was saying.No, typed Nina. No vacation pay either. Or sick days. Or days off.
Boo hoo hoo, James Herriot. I’ve got a ten-page confluence scheduling report to do. And I don’t even know what that means!!!!They’d logged off and Nina had sighed and tried to go back to reading and feel better that way, but all she could find were romantic heroes that reminded her of Lennox if they were gruff and uncommunicative, or Marek if they were sweet and cheerful, until she thought she was going completely mad. She was restless, not sleepy, and decided she could take a walk—she could, she could—down her old paths without getting too maudlin about it. He wouldn’t be there, he wouldn’t stop, and even if he did, there was nothing more to say. But the exercise might help her sleep; might even give her hope that one day there would be somebody else; that not all romance was dead; that sometimes, maybe, it was just bad timing.
Parsley barked hopefully as she left, but she passed him by and scattered the chickens to wander the lanes by herself. The hawthorn was in full bloom, its scent heavy on the fresh night air. Nina pulled her coat tighter around her and walked on. It was better, she felt, better to be out and about, pondering her future, than sitting indoors in a beautiful home that did not belong to her and soon wouldn’t belong to Lennox either; that would be snatched away by a woman who did not want it; who did not want lovely Kirrinfief or the farm or the little market cross, or the banners that festooned the town square in midsummer; who didn’t want any of it; who would turn it into money and fritter it away.Crossly she dug her hands into her pockets. She could look for somewhere else around here, she supposed. But nobody had anywhere apart from a spare room above the pub, which she really didn’t want, and certainly it would be nothing like as nice. Meanwhile Orkney had said there was a lovely vacant farmhouse she could rent, all modern fixtures, super-cheap rent, and by the way, if she could bring twenty to thirty thousand other young people to help repopulate the islands while she was at it, that would be great, thanks.