‘It wasn’t his fault.’ Georgia quickly defended the dog, seeing it. ‘I...I should have kept an eye on him.’
She tensed as she saw the way Piers’s mouth was curling with contempt and derision, but he made no comment, simply sitting down and starting to look through the letters he had in his hand.
One of them was from the estate agent, and Piers frowned as he read it. The agents were pressing him to make a decision on the farmhouse he had viewed, reminding him that another would-be purchaser had expressed an interest in it.
Piers discovered that he had suddenly lost interest in acquiring any kind of large potential family house... What need did he have for one after all? A modern apartment would surely be far more convenient, and, if necessary, he could rent separate office accommodation.
He was glad that he had come to his senses before he had done anything so foolish as being tempted to put in an offer for the farmhouse, he told himself grimly.
* * *
After a couple of hours during which Piers and Georgia occupied themselves in different parts of the house—Piers doing some work whilst Georgia had an intensive training session with Ben—they accidentally found themselves in the kitchen together, having lunch. Little was said as they ate their respective meals.
As the silence between them stretched into a tautness that made Georgia’s nerve-endings tingle with apprehension, she wondered unhappily how much of Piers’s obvious antipathy towards her was actually caused by Ben’s crime of destroying his shoe and how much by Piers’s own regret about what he had said to her the previous evening. Well, if he thought she was silly enough to have taken any of what he had implied seriously...
Her head lifted proudly and, standing up, she called quietly to Ben, ‘Come on, boy, time for our walk.’
‘No...’ Piers’s sharp denial cut through the hostile atmosphere of the kitchen like a gunshot.
‘No,’ he repeated, ignoring the way Georgia’s hand crept protectively towards the dog’s collar. ‘I’ll take him. Let’s just see how much improvement you have been able to make with this so-called training you’ve been giving him. Not very much at all, if the events of the last few days are anything to go by,’ he added sardonically.
Georgia’s heart started to beat uncomfortably fast.
It was true that Ben was responding to what she was teaching him, but it was also true that he was a very independently minded dog, a free spirit of the canine world, so to speak, who, regrettably, had been used to being the pack leader for so long that he was reluctant to give up his role without something of a tussle.
Human beings, as he had made more than plain to Georgia over the last few days, were there to feed him and be protected by him; he had a very male and macho attitude towards that part of his canine heritage, as Georgia had noticed on their walks; for whenever a strange man happened to walk past them Ben immediately became very much the protective male dog guarding one of his pack. But it had to be admitted that human beings were not, in Ben’s considered opinion, his superiors in the pack pecking order, an assumption which Georgia had been doing her best to alter skilfully. However, she was becoming increasingly aware that Ben needed rather more than mere training. What Ben actually needed was a visit to a pet psychologist. However, she could well imagine Piers’s reaction were she to put this suggestion to him.
‘I...I don’t think he’s quite ready for that yet,’ she said instead, only to have Piers openly jeer at her as he asked her silkily,
‘What exactly are you trying to say? That I was right all along and that the dog is untrainable?’
‘No dog is untrainable,’ Georgia defended swiftly. ‘And Ben is a very intelligent animal.’
‘An intelligent animal who needs a new home,’ Piers agreed.
Fear and anger flashed through Georgia’s eyes.
‘You’re determined to get rid of him, aren’t you? You won’t even give him a fair chance. Have you any idea what it could do to him emotionally to be re-homed? Have you no feelings, no compassion...no perception? Have you no—?’
‘I’ve got a pair of ruined handmade shoes and a list of complaints that—’ Piers began sardonically, but Georgia cut through them all, her protective female urges coming to the fore as she sensed Ben’s growing danger.
‘Is that all that matters to you?’ she demanded heatedly. ‘Material possessions, other people’s opinions? Your godmother loves Ben; she—’
‘She only took him on because of you,’ Piers interrupted her furiously, ‘so don’t talk to me about feelings, because that was a piece of deliberate and cold-blooded manipulation and—’