Jess veered off to chase a rabbit as Amy pulled up in front of an imposing pair of wrought iron gates. The gates were open this morning, and she wondered why as she gazed at the house beyond them. The Robinson's house had been on the market for six months or more, and two days ago the SOLD sign had been pasted on the board.
Amy sighed. She'd nurtured a ridiculous notion of going to her boss and asking him what the repayments on the house would be if she took out a loan to buy it. Not only ridiculous but idiotic. The price would be way out of her range. And probably about ten times more than she and Tony could afford if they pooled their resources. Somebody had been able to afford it. Lucky devils!
Amy had adored the house since she'd been about seven, and had never questioned why. She just loved the double-storied building of red brick, with gabled attic windows, white shutters and tall chimney. The garden each side of the curved driveway had always seemed like a fairyland to her with flower-laden rockeries and arches made of trailing vines.
One divine day when all three of them had been admiring it from afar and Amy had announced her fascination with the house, Andrew had promised, "I'll buy it for you when I get rich."
They'd been caught once sneaking into the back garden to steal apples from the gnarled old trees there. The old gardener had let them off with a scolding as long as they promised not to take anything but the fallen fruit in future. For years they'd gone back each season to pick up the fruit. Often they would lie in the grass beneath a tree, with the sun dappling their young bodies, while they munched on apples until they ended up with stomach cramps.
Tony had taken over the promise to buy the house after Andrew had defected to the city. He'd been really sorry when the house had come onto the market, bemoaning the fact that they would never be able to afford it. So much for childhood fancies and promises. Amy sighed and put her foot on the pedal in readiness for continuing her ride. Jess let out a soft bark, and Amy caught sight of the man approaching them at a fast jog.
As Andrew drew level with her he pushed his wet hair back carelessly. "Not still in love with the old place, are you?" he asked.
Amy was amazed that he remembered her childhood dreams. "Not exactly in love with it. But I have to admit I'm jealous. I gave up expecting to own it years ago." She shrugged. "Not much point in wishing for the unattainable." In more ways than one. She'd learned that lesson the hard way. "It would be interesting to know just who's bought it though."
"You mean you don't know." He found something amusing, and she wondered what the joke was. Perhaps she had dirt on her face. It would be just like him to see it and not tell her. She'd be damned if she would ask him what was so funny.
"Believe it or not, no."
The small smile still hovered on his lips. She looked away, in case he thought she was staring at his mouth. Which she had been, of course. "I would have thought it would be common knowledge by now," he said. "News usually travels like wildfire around Yewbank."
Amy bit her lip. "Word is that someone from Melbourne has bought it." Wistfully she glanced toward the house. "I expect it's a wealthy tycoon after a country hideaway. I guess we'll soon find out."
"Guess so." His smile faded, to be replaced by a small frown. "About last night..."
Amy looked away. "You don't have to apologize," she hastily assured him.
"I wasn't about to." He pulled his right foot up behind him to stretch the calf muscle, while she felt stupid for assuming he was sorry for what he'd said. "I think I proved a point, though, don't you?"
"Which point was that?" she snapped.
"The one about you knowing very little about life in general, and nothing of love."
Amy wanted to give him a shove to topple him off his high horse. "I suppose you know everything there is to know. The arrogant Mr. Bowen the elder thinks he could teach me the facts of life, does he?"
"Now that would be an entirely fascinating project." He changed feet to stretch the other calf. "By the way." He bent to retie a shoelace that had come undone. "I thought you'd be thrilled to learn that after careful consideration I've decided to take on the coaching task for next season."
"You have?" Amy stared at him. "That is entirely thrilling news." She tried to inject as much sarcasm as she could into that sentence.
"Isn't it? In fact I've been magnanimous enough to think about going as far as agreeing to become player-coach."
"So, it looks as if we'll have the pleasure of your illustrious company for a few months." Her heart was beating a tattoo inside her chest, and it took all her willpower to keep her excitement to herself.
"My dear Amy--" His grin sent shivers up her spine. "--you may even enjoy my company indefinitely."
"What an undeniably magnificent prospect." Which it was of course, even though she kept her tone dry, hoping he would never once suspect that it was just that--a perfectly wonderful prospect.
The drizzle turned to steady rain, and his shirt was getting very wet. Moisture soaked his dark hair, then began to drip down his forehead. The shirt clung to him like a second skin, showing off the dark hairs on his broad chest. Amy pulled her hat lower over her ears. "Hadn't you better get moving before you catch your death?" And before she did something foolish--like catch the drops forming on his chin with her tongue?
He shook his head, sending drops of water flying. "If I'm about to coach and play for this renowned team I may as well start to condition myself." Jogging on the spot, he laughed when Jessie came out of the bushes and stood shaking herself exuberantly. As he bent to pat the dog, he said carelessly, "Tony's coming to the city with me on Friday."
"He is?" She wondered why, but would wait and ask Tony.
"Yes. I have some business to finalize, and we thought it would be a good chance to get away for a couple of days--before training starts in earnest." That answered the question for her.
"Sounds like a good idea."
"How would you like to tag along for the ride?" He grinned mischievously. "I'm sure your mother wouldn't object--with me as your chaperone."
Amy said a rude word beneath her breath, and he tutted. "My mum trusts me," she said impatiently. "And please stop talking down to me as if I'm a teenager!"
Startled, she drew back when he ran a wet hand down her cheek. "If you insist on wearing clothes that make you look like a tomboy, how can I be off thinking you're still the shrimp who made my life hell?" The laughter in his voice told her he was joking, and her scalp tingled when he gave her one of his rare, soft smiles. "Well, coming or not?"
Amy nodded mutely. She was sure she should find some excuse for refusing but her brain had gone numb.
"Good." He jogged a couple more times on the spot then turned to head off. When a couple of paces away he said over his shoulder, "By the way, bring a dress along with you. It will make a nice change to see you in a skirt."
When she didn't answer, he stopped and looked at her. Amy was glad for the rain that hid her blushing cheeks. He'd almost caught her with her tongue sticking out at his back.
"You do own a dress, don't you?"
Amy plonked her hands on her hips and glared at him, but before she could come back with a retort he had jogged off, muscular legs moving with powerful ease.
"I'll be blowed if I'll go along with them. Why would I want to put up with his sarcastic humour?" she asked Jessie as she pedalled off. That was nonsense of course, she knew without a doubt she would accompany the brothers to the city.
Tony had visited Andrew's home in the city many times, and Amy was forced to wonder what had prompted him to invite her along this time.