voice, but not the impatience. âThis is my house, usually called a villa here in the South of France. I inherited it and now itâs my home. My new home,â I added, with a pang of longing for my small just-sold London flat where I had been happy enough, if lonely, for a few years.
âWho gave it to you?â she demanded, suspicion written all over her tear-mottled, though pretty face.
âWho the hell cares, itâs where youâll spend the night, if youâre lucky and behave yourself better. If not, I promise Iâll pack you off back to that husband who stole all your money and dumped you.â
âI didnât have much to be dumped for.â She looked wistfully at me. âIâm ashamed to be dumped for only a couple of thousand, I mean he could have done better than that, couldnât he?â
Filled with sudden pity, I flung an arm around her shoulders and hugged her closer. âListen, girl, men can behave like bastards sometimes, but that doesnât mean all of them are. Nor does it have anything in the least bit to do with you, or who you are. He was just a scoundrel, a shameless cheat and men like him usually get what they deserve in the end. Iâm only sorry you wonât be there to give him a good punch in the nose.â
Sounding as firm as I could and as though I believed what I said, I answered, âOf course not. Heâll try it again with some other woman and sheâll punch him where it hurts and probably see that he ends up in jail.â
âOhh,â she began to wail again, tears streaming.
âWhat now?â I was exasperated. What the fuck was I doing in this situation anyway?
âIâll be married to a jailbird,â she sobbed. âMe. A jailbirdâs wife.â
âNo, you wonât. Youâll divorce him. Trust me, Iâll see to that, in fact Iâll get onto it right away. Shouldnât be surprised if we got it annulled, under the circumstances.â
To my surprise, she cheered up immediately and began to look around and take in her whereabouts.
âBut how lovely this is.â She wiped off her sunglasses, which had become misted with tears, and stuck them back up on top of her head. Apparently this was where she usually wore them, unlike the rest of us who use them to protect our eyes from the sun. Youth, I decided from my fortiesâ vantage point, was not too smart.
The cat made a sudden appearance, leaping into the car and onto my lap with a howl of delight. Itâs so nice, if sometimes noisy, to be loved by a Siamese. She gave me her usual head-butt and I kissed her ears and Verity leaned over to touch her.
âSo soft,â she said admiringly. âSo beautiful.â
And then the canary flew up onto the catâs head and perched there, tilting back its own tiny head and singing with pure joy. And the dog, not to be outdone in the greetings department, scrabbled its claws on the car door, no doubt scratching the paint, but who the hell cares when love is involved. These were mine, my loves, they shared my life, they gave me a life.
âHow I envy you,â young Verity said. All tears were gone and she was shaking her long golden hair loose and smiling and petting the dog. Then she really looked at the villa and said, âThis is Jerushaâs place.â
Of course Chad Prescott did not own the villa. It was Aunt Jollyâs and, as her heir, obviously now mine, though it was named for all the romantic qualities I do not possess. How otherwise have I managed to marry three men then have them leave me? Had I left them, it would be one thing; but for three to leave me, is quite another. The implication is, and as I know everybody believes, that there must be something wrong with meâeither Iâm tight with my money, or itâs the sex. They say itâs always one or the other.
In fact it was neither; the husbands simply