The Greek Demands His Heir(4)

By: Lynne Graham

So what if she was still the modern-day equivalent of a Victorian charity child or poor relation within their home? That was a comparatively small price to pay for regular meals and a comfortable bedroom, she told herself firmly. She always reminded herself of that truth whenever her uncle’s family demanded that she make herself useful, which generally entailed biting her tongue and showing willing even if she didn’t feel willing. Sometimes though she feared she might explode from the sheer effort required to suppress her temper and watch every word she said.

‘Well, then, I suppose I’m going to be stuck with you,’ Jenna lamented, sounding far younger than her years. ‘I can hardly go on a girlie holiday alone, can I? And none of my mates can get time off to join me. Believe me, you’re my very last choice, Grace.’

Grace compressed her soft full mouth and pushed her rippling fall of fiery hair back from her taut brow where a stress headache was beginning to tighten its grip. Her cousin’s best friend, Lola, who had originally planned to accompany Jenna, had broken both legs in a car accident. Sadly that was the only reason that Grace was being invited to take Lola’s place and, equally sadly, Grace didn’t want to accompany Jenna even though it was a very long time since Grace had enjoyed a holiday.

The unhappy truth was that Jenna didn’t like Grace. Jenna had never liked Grace and even as adults the cousins avoided spending time together. A much-adored only child, Jenna had thoroughly resented the arrival of another little girl in her home and Grace wasn’t even sure she could blame her cousin for her animosity. The Donovans had hoped that their daughter would see Grace as a little sister, but perhaps the fact that only a year separated the two girls in age had roused competitive instincts in Jenna instead and the situation had only worsened when Grace had unfailingly outshone Jenna in the academic stakes and eventually gone on, in spite of her disrupted education, to study medicine.

‘I’m afraid at such short notice Grace is your only option.’ Della directed a look of sympathetic understanding at her daughter. ‘But I’m sure she’ll do her best to be good company.’

Jenna groaned. ‘She barely drinks. She doesn’t have a boyfriend. She doesn’t do anything but study. She’s like a throwback to the nineteen fifties!’

Della sent Grace an exasperated look. ‘You will go with Jenna, won’t you?’ she pressed. ‘I don’t want to go to the expense of changing the name on the booking only for you to drop out.’

‘I’ll go if Jenna really wants me to...’ Grace knew when to beat a strategic retreat because crossing Della Donovan was never a good idea.

While she continued to live below the Donovans’ roof and paid only a modest amount of rent, Grace knew she had to toe the line in any family crisis, regardless of whether or not it suited her to do so. As a child she had learned the hard way that her compliance was taken for granted and that any kind of refusal or reluctance would be greeted with the kind of shocked reproach that screamed of ingratitude.

For that reason the cash fund she had been hoping to top up to help her through term time would have to take a setback. More worryingly though, could she even hope to still have a job to return to if she took a week off at the height of summer when the bar was busy? Her boss would have to hire a replacement. She suppressed a sigh.

‘We’re so lucky I thought to renew your passport when I was still hoping to take Mum away for a last holiday...’ Della’s voice faded and her eyes filmed over at the recollection of her elderly parent’s passing.

‘I haven’t really got any clothes for a beach holiday,’ Grace warned mother and daughter, conscious that Jenna was extremely snobbish about fashion and very conscious of appearances.

‘I’ll see what I can find you from my cast-offs,’ Jenna remarked irritably. ‘But I’m not sure my stuff will stretch to your big boobs and even bigger behind. For a wannabe doctor, you’re very laid-back about having a healthy body image.’

‘I don’t think I can fight my natural body shape,’ Grace responded with quiet amusement, for she had grown past the stage where Jenna’s taunts about her curves could inflict lasting damage. Yes, Grace would very much have liked to be born able to eat anything she liked and remain naturally thin but fate wasn’t that kind and Grace had learned to work with what she had and exercise regularly.

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