Wide awake now, she flung back the bedclothes and, reaching for her cotton robe, pulled it on. Her throat ached with suppressed tears and her mouth felt dry. Perhaps if she went downstairs and made herself a cup of tea it might help to soothe her back to sleep.
Where was Ben now? Was he still in the car or...? As she reached the kitchen she came to an abrupt halt. Piers was already there, standing in front of the window, watching the slow fingers of the false dawn stroking across the sky.
As she switched on the light he turned round, his mouth hardening when he saw her. Quite plainly her company wasn’t welcome to him, Georgia acknowledged, and she tried not to betray the fact that her senses were telling her that beneath the robe he had pulled on he was probably completely naked.
What on earth was she doing, thinking about something like that at such a time? The inappropriateness of her thoughts coupled with their sensuality made her face burn with shamed self-consciousness.
There was poor Ben, dognapped and in heaven alone knew what kind of danger and fear, and here she was thinking...longing...fantasising...
‘I just came down for a cup of tea,’ she told Piers jerkily. ‘I couldn’t sleep.’ Involuntarily both of them looked towards Ben’s empty bed.
Piers could feel a raw, tight feeling at the back of his throat. This afternoon when he had been walking Ben they had chanced to cross the path of a very attractive brunette walking her dog. Ben had turned to Piers, and Piers could have sworn the look the dog gave him was totally that of one heterosexual male to another. Stupid, of course. A dog was just a dog, and there was no way he, Piers, had ever allowed himself to be sentimental about animals and certainly no way he had ever fallen into the trap of imbuing them with human characteristics.
Georgia could feel her eyes filling with tears.
‘Do you think the police will find him?’ she asked Piers eagerly, unable to keep the longing for reassurance out of her voice.
Piers swallowed and responded far too heartily.
‘Oh, yes, I’m sure they will. Sooner or later whoever has taken the car is either going to abandon it or drive into a garage to fill it with petrol, and when they do...’
Almost as though on cue the telephone suddenly rang, but for a moment neither of them made to answer it.
Piers didn’t believe a word of what he had just told her; Georgia could see it in his eyes. He was afraid of answering the phone, of hearing what might be said, as she was herself, but just as she thought he was going to let it ring without answering it Piers strode across the room and picked up the receiver.
‘Yes. I see,’ Georgia heard him saying grimly. ‘Well, yes, I’m sure it is, but right now I’m not so concerned about that. What about...?’
‘No...he wasn’t there; the garage owner didn’t see any sign of him,’ the police officer on the other end of the line told Piers.
‘Have you questioned the lads?’
‘No. Both of them are too drunk to question, but they’re in custody and once they’ve sobered up...’
As Piers hung up and turned to Georgia she guessed what he was going to say.
‘They’ve found the car,’ he told her gruffly. ‘They tried to fill it with petrol and then drive off without paying, but the garage owner called the police, who managed to catch up with them.’
‘Ben?’ Georgia asked anxiously, but she already knew the answer before she saw Piers shaking his head.
‘No sign of him,’ he told her heavily, avoiding looking at her as he advised her, ‘The police aren’t going to question the two youths who took the car until they’ve sobered up, so why don’t you go back to bed for what’s left of the night and try to get some sleep? You won’t be doing yourself any good, nor Ben either, by staying down here worrying,’ he pointed out gently.
And no doubt he didn’t want to have to cope with her misery or endure her company, Georgia guessed as she dutifully headed towards the stairs.
Five minutes later, though, back in her bed, she knew that sleep was going to be impossible. Ben... Where was he? What had happened to him? Just the thought of him being exposed to the busy traffic of a motorway made her heart stand still. She had taught him to sit and wait before they crossed any road, but... But a motorway wasn’t a road...
Only by gripping her bottom lip between her teeth was Georgia able to hold back the small cry of anguish bubbling in her throat, and she was still biting into it, trying to suppress her fear, when Piers rapped briefly on her bedroom door seconds later and then came in carrying a cup of tea.
‘Somehow I didn’t think you’d be asleep,’ he told her wryly as he indicated the tea he was carrying and told her, ‘Tea, the universal British panacea—so they say...’