62. Home

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Valerie settled into the leather seat of her Daimler after having dropped Lydia at the office. While she rode toward Victoria Square, she reviewed the discussions. If Sylvia's rape charge had been upheld, Chloe wouldn't exist. Oh, God! She shuddered at the thought. How fickle fate. 

She turned her head to stare through the deeply-tinted window at a grey, drizzly London scrolling past. Likely wouldn't be a candidate for the Forbes List without the kick-start of the lawsuit settlements. Nestling into the deep headrest, she continued thinking. Wouldn't have met Lorne. Or if I had, we'd be on different wavelengths.

After a long contemplation of her situation, Valerie nodded to herself. Can't live in the world of what-ifs; only in the what is. She blew out a deep breath, then closed her eyes and relaxed. God, I love what is.

The waft of cold, moist air and Lester's quiet voice woke her from a pleasant daydream, and she opened her eyes to his grey-gloved hand extended through the open door in assistance. "Will you need me further today, Ma'am?"

"No..." Valerie sighed as she stepped out and examined the façade of the house. Why would I want to leave here? "No, thank you, Lester, that is all. Have a pleasant weekend."

Lester nodded. "After I've watched you inside, Ma'am."

Still not safe, is it? "Thank you."

Penny responded quickly to the door knocker, then Valerie gave a salute to Lester before she stepped inside, a tingling warmth sweeping through her as she entered. Oh, God! Home.

"Welcome home, Ma'am." Penny assisted her out of her coat and hung it in the armoire.

"Please, call me Val. Has Lorne returned?"

"He's not yet back from the office. Miss Chloe is upstairs."

Valerie glanced at her watch. Quarter past four. "Have the decorators finished?"

"All but one. She's working on ideas for Miss Chloe's study."


Penny chuckled. "Miss Moore is with them, so it should be fine."

"She's asked us to call her Edith. Where are Grace and George?"

"They're downstairs arranging their rooms. George said he's looking forward to cooking again — for more than only himself."

Valerie nodded, pointing toward the stairs. "I'll be up with Chloe." She paused on the first floor to examine the setting, lingering a long while to absorb its welcoming atmosphere. She paused again on the second floor, feeling her nethers warm as she opened the door to the suite to look at the bed and think of Lorne. Soon. She chuckled to herself. Yes, Chloe, we'll consummate here. Often. Very often.

She shook herself out of her thoughts when she realised her hand was pressed to her mound and making small circles. Oh, God!

Finally on the third floor, she called from the hallway at the top of the stairs, "Where are you, Sweetheart?"

"Here." Chloe trotted out of the rear bedroom and threw her arms around her mother. "Did it go well?"

"Yes, very." She snuggled Chloe into a tight hug. "So, I hear you're decorating again."

"Mostly Mrs Haskett, but with input from Miss Moore and me. Come see the sketches she's done on her computer. Amazing program she has. I'm going to download it and teach myself how to use it."

"What about helicopters?"

Chloe shrugged. "When I'm old enough. This I can do now."

Keep your mind off sex — for a while. "That's clever thinking."

"I know." She unwrapped from the hug and took her mother's hand. "Come see the ideas."

As they entered the back bedroom, Valerie greeted Edith and introduced herself to Leane Haskett. "I love what you've done with the master suite. Show me what you've come up with."

"Mummy, you've ended with a preposition."

"Remember Churchill, Sweetheart. Would you prefer I had said, up with which you have come?"

Chloe giggled as she turned to Miss Moore. "That's what I tried to explain, but I forgot the quote. Now I remember what Churchill had said. This is the type of English up with which I will not put."

While Chloe discussed English with her tutor, Valerie took a virtual tour through the three-dimensional models on the computer screen, and when she had finished, she looked up at Chloe and asked, "Which is your favourite, Sweetheart?"

"The second one. I like the layout of the computer station, the whole wall as a whiteboard, and the lighting array above the project table. And I love the idea of the chaise longue for reading and dreaming."

"Hmmm. Yeah, I like that one as well." She saw Edith's nod, then turned to Leane. "Right. Let's do it."

Five minutes later, after discussing details, Valerie bade farewell to the designer at the front door, then she followed her nose into the kitchen to find George rolling freshly-baked almond lace cookies into cones and tubes. "You're finding your way around, I see."

"Penny gave me a thorough familiarisation last evening before Grace and I went back over to Chester Square to begin packing up our things."

"When will you move in?"

"We did this afternoon. There's still a van's worth to come tomorrow, but we're now comfortably in." He picked up an almond disc, cut it in half and handed her a piece. "Careful, it's still hot. I'm surprised Chloe hasn't yet smelt them."

Valerie waved the half moon as a fan to cool it, then she bit off one of the points and savoured it. "Always superb. The third floor is a little far for the aroma to rise. I didn't smell them until the second floor."

"It's reached the third now," Chloe said as she led Edith into the kitchen. "Yes, please, George." She gave him a full-toothed grin.

A while later, as Valerie stood with Edith in the foyer confirming the tutoring schedule for the following week, Lorne unlocked the door and entered. "Appears I get a welcoming committee."

Valerie rose to her toes and kissed him, then she made the introductions. "She was just on her way out."

Lorne shook Edith's hand, then said, "I would like to sit and talk with you one day soon about Chloe. Her curiosity and intelligence appear to be similar to mine when I was her age, and I don't want her held back as I was."

Valerie let out a loud laugh. "Held back? You were only seventeen when you began your postgrad."

Lorne shrugged. "Eighteen the following week."

"Yes, we should discuss this. Chloe is far beyond her age in awareness, reasoning, synthesis..." Edith paused and nodded. "And in wisdom."

After they had scheduled a meeting for Monday afternoon and had closed the door behind Edith, Valerie and Lorne merged in a hug which quickly escalated. Before she completely melted, Valerie pulled her mouth away and murmured a husky, "Bedroom."

"Hmmm." He took her hand and led her toward the stairs. "Yes, let's bless our home."

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